Maryland House Passes Marriage Equality Bill

For information on the vote, click here.

Statement of  Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

New Ways Ministry thanks and congratulates Maryland’s House of Delegates for passing marriage equality legislation today, insuring that human dignity is honored, discrimination is eradicated, and ALL Maryland families are protected.

“Throughout the years of debate on this bill, New Ways Ministry has maintained, along with the majority of Catholics, that marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples is the proper Catholic thing to do.  It is a simple matter of social justice, which is one of the highest values that our faith professes.  We were proud to publicly testify for this bill in legislative hearings.

“The bill in Maryland still has to be voted on by the state Senate, where it was passed last year.  No senator has said that he or she will be changing a vote from last year.

“Martin O’Malley, the state’s Catholic governor, has vowed to sign the bill.  Mr. O’Malley has worked ardently for the bill’s passage. We are proud that this man of faith has stood up to do the right thing for our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters. We hope that his witness emboldens other Catholic lawmakers to follow his path of courage.

“Please keep Maryland in your prayers, as the bill takes its final steps to becoming a law, which will make Maryland the eighth state (plus the District of Columbia) to enact marriage equality.”

New Ways Ministry is a 35-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for lesbian/gay Catholics and the wider church and civil communities.  For more information, visit:


Who’s to Blame if Gay Priests Arranged for Hitmen to Kill Them?

Rev. Rafael Reatiga and Rev. Richard Piffano

The Associated Press reported an unusual story out of Colombia, South America, as allegations arose this week that two gay priests there who were killed last year were not the victims of a robbery, but had hired the gunmen to kill the both of them.

The strange details of the case suggest that suicide may have been the motive:

“Rev. Rafael Reatiga asked his parishioners to pray for him and gave the choirmaster a list of songs for his funeral shortly before he was found shot to death together with another Roman Catholic priest, a Colombian prosecutor said Tuesday.

“Authorities initially suspected robbery when Reatiga’s body was found along with that of Rev. Richard Piffano, 37, in a car in southern Bogota on Jan. 27, 2011.

“But on Tuesday prosecutor Ana Patricia Larrota said investigators had determined that it was suicide by hitmen in the year-old case: the two priests hired gunmen to kill them after Reatiga discovered he had AIDS.

“The priests gave members of a criminal gang the equivalent of $8,500, said the chief investigator of the prosecutor’s office, Maritza Gonzalez, as two of the four alleged assassins appeared before a judge for processing.”

Reatiga also supposedly had syphilis, and witnesses say that he was often seen in gay establishments in Bogota, the capital city.

This story, whether true, false, or somewhere in between, is doubly tragic.  The deaths of the priests are one tragedy.  The second tragedy is that gay priests must continue to hide their sexual orientation due to official pressure from Catholic officials.

In 2005, when the Vatican issued an instruction to bishops around the world not to admit gay men to ordination or the seminary, many commentators, including New Ways Ministry, said that the effect of this rule would be to force gay candidates and priests further into the closet.  Instead of preventing gay men from becoming priests, this instruction would have the dangerous and damaging effect of forcing them to lie about their sexuality, prevent them from integrating their sexuality into their  spiritual and personal lives in holy and healthy ways, and result in significant personal damage to these men, the people they serve, and the entire church.

If indeed the allegations that one of these priests had sexually transmitted diseases, that the two maintained a clandestine social life, and that in desperation they ordered their own deaths, prove to be true, then church leaders who promote homophobia in the clerical life share a large portion of the responsibility for these tragedies.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry