Archbishop Kurtz Has An Opportunity to Back His Words With Action

Photo Tom Wright, U.S. Catholic

U.S. Catholic magazine’s newest issue is running a major story on lesbian and gay Catholics, entitled “Pride and Prejudice: The uneasy relationship between gays and lesbians and their church.” 

Writer Kristen Hannum does an excellent job of analyzing many of the important issues that affect lesbian and gay Catholics, and she even-handedly allows all parts of the Catholic debate on these issues to speak. (Stay tuned:  in the coming days, we will report on two sidebar articles that accompany this comprehensive piece.)

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

One of those quoted in the article, Louisville’s Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, has a prime opportunity to back up his words with actions.  Hannum quotes him expressing strong support for Catholic teaching on respecting human dignity:

“ ‘Every conversation should emphasize dignity,’ says Kurtz, past chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage. The archbishop praises the USCCB’s Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination, which begins with general principles, the first of which is respecting human dignity, that (quoting from the Catechism) ‘persons with a homosexual inclination must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.’ ”

Archbishop Kurtz has a wonderful opportunity to put that quote into action right in his own backyard.   Louisville’s Courier-Journal newspaper carries a story about a protest this past Sunday at the city’s Catholic Cathedral:

“The event was organized by the Fairness Campaign, a gay-rights group. The legislation it supports would ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations but would not legalize gay marriage, said Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman. . . .

“Supporters of the legislation are seeking the backing of Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, whom they met with about a year ago to discuss the issue, Hartman said.”

The bill needs greater support from city leaders, and Archbishop Kurtz now has an opportunity to stand up for the church’s teaching on human dignity.  When he was the chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, he spoke up a lot about the church’s teaching on sexuality as it applied to lesbian and gay people.  In the U.S. Catholic  article he says that both teachings need to be expounded:

“ ‘Both are to be emphasized, the dignity and the Catholic vision for sexuality,’ says Kurtz.”

If he needs assistance in formulating his position, he can turn to one of his priests, who presides at liturgy in the diocesan cathedral.  According to the Courier-Journal:

“The Rev. Joseph Fowler, a retired priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville, participated in the Fairness Campaign event before helping officiate at the Mass at the cathedral.

“He said he supports the anti-discrimination legislation because ‘there is a dignity to each person that we recognize.’

“Asked how he reconciles his support with Catholic teaching, Fowler said, ‘The church does not say it’s wrong to be a homosexual.’ ”

Let’s hope and pray that Archbishop Kurtz speaks up for human dignity with strong passion.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic U. and Notre Dame Unite to Work for Gay-Straight Alliances

Two of the country’s most visible Catholic colleges–the University of Notre Dame and The Catholic University of America–have joined forces to work towards getting official recognition for a gay-straight alliance on each campus.

Notre Dame’s Alex Coccia and Catholic’s Ryan Fecteau, leaders on their respective campuses, issued a joint statement on February 21st on behalf of  Notre Dame’s 4 to 5 Movement and Catholic U’s CUAllies.  They announced that the two schools

“stand in solidarity as they move forward with gay-straight alliance proposals. Together, they share one message: ‘Let’s make it official.’ “

The statement offers stark statistics for why institutional support and recognition are needed:

‘Now more than ever before, the gravity of gay-straight alliances on college campuses is unequivocal. Among 15 to 24-year-olds, suicide remains the third leading cause of death (National Adolescent Health Information 2006). In addition, suicide stands as the second leading cause of death on college campuses (CDC 2008). An overwhelming 86.2% of LGBT students experienced harassment at school (GLSEN National School Climate Survey). Tragic stories of discrimination, harassment, and suicide run weekly on front pages and evening newscasts. The University of Notre Dame and The Catholic University of America face these same troubles.”

The statement grounds the call for gay-straight alliances on clear Catholic teaching:

“While both universities incorporate a Catholic mission and tradition, this coalition believes that a gay-straight alliance fits hand-in-hand with Catholic principles. Both universities can remain grounded in their faith and at the same time offer protection and acceptance for LGBT students. More than half of Catholic universities and colleges in the United States agree and have instituted LGBT student groups. This includes DePaul University, the largest Catholic university in the country. An important testament to the Catholic identity of these universities would be the recognition of gay-straight alliances focused on embodying a necessary spirit of inclusion in accordance with the Catholic Church’s social teaching of universal acceptance, and addressing aversive homophobia towards gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning persons and their Allies.”

Last week, the Student Senate at the University of Notre Dame passed a resolution in support of a gay-straight alliance on campus, with 21 students voting in favor, none opposed, and two abstaining.  The Observer, the campus student newspaper reported that:

“Joanna Whitfield, vice president of the Progressive Student Alliance, said after the meeting she was glad Senate took time to discuss the resolution and the effects it would have on the student body.

” ‘I think that this resolution affirms that Notre Dame really is inclusive to all its students,’ Whitfield said. ‘Students really want to further inclusion and they really want to help out GLBT students on this campus … We’re also really happy that it’s the Student Senate, so it does show that the students really do support this movement.’ “

On CUA’s campus, student leader Fecteau sent a February 10th letter to Catholic University’s president, John Garvey, requesting official recognition for a gay-straight alliance, in which he summed up what such a group can do for college students:

‘A LGBT organization that promotes affirmation and safety is a clear and succinct expression of promoting the dignity of everyone at The Catholic University of America. Mr. President, we are not asking for an organization with politically charged motivations. We are not asking for an organization that receives a dime of University funds. We are not asking for an organization that undermines the teachings of the Church that many of us attend.

“We are asking for the recognition of love and acceptance as persons, and as members of this University. We are asking for an organization that brings together LGBT and ally students. We are asking for hope.”

Individually. each campus had been doing great work towards gay-straight alliance recognition, under the highly effective leadership of both Coccia and Fecteau.  Working together, their call for such recognition becomes all the more powerful.  This model of working together is one that could be replicated not only on college campuses, but in parishes that seek to develop ministry programs for LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

NEWS NOTES: February 21, 2012

Here are links to some items you might find of interest:

1) More evidence that lay Catholics and their bishops differ strongly on support for marriage equality comes from a new poll reported by The New York Times in an article “Support Is Found for Birth Control Coverage and Gay Unions.”  Though the poll surveyed the general electorate, they report findings for different sub-groups, such as Catholics:  “More than two-thirds of Catholic voters supported some sort of legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships: 44 percent favored marriage, and 25 percent preferred civil unions. ”

2) In “Spectrum continues quest to abolish stereotypes on campus,” Loyola University Maryland’s student newspaper, The Greyhound, reports on upcoming semester plans for activities by their LGBTA organization.

3) If California’s Proposition 8 case makes it to the nation’s highest court, the “Gay marriage fight may hinge on Supreme Court’s Anthony Kennedy,” a Catholic, reports The Charlotte Observer.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Marriage Equality is a Pro-Life Issue; Censorship

Sometimes the relevant part of a news story is simply a single quotation or two.  When that’s the case, we will share those quotes with you through this feature, “QUOTE TO NOTE.”


A Washington Post article entitled “Maryland House almost didn’t pass gay marriage bill” recounts the story of how the challenges the bill faced as it came down to the final vote.  A quote from one of the Republican Delegates who voted for the bill shows that support came from many different political perspectives:

“Friday’s tally would have fallen short without at least one Republican vote as well. After weeks of outreach, O’Malley got two: Robert A. Costa of Anne Arundel County and A. Wade Kach of Baltimore County.

“Kach told his colleagues that in January he had been certain he would vote against the bill. It wasn’t until a hearing a week before the vote that he changed his mind, after testimony from gay couples with children.

“ ‘As a pro-life Republican, I believe it’s my responsibility to make sure children are taken care of,’ he said. ‘I left that hearing a changed person.’ ”


A Philadelphia Inquirer article, “Curtains at Villanova for gay performance artist,” reports that Villanova University, an Augustinian school, has cancelled a week-long workshop by renowned performance artist, Tim Miller. In response, Miller lamented the restraints on freedom of expression:

“While the cancellation was not ‘unimaginable’, he noted that Villanova once staged Angels in America, the groundbreaking, Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the AIDS epidemic.

” ‘Times have changed,’ he said. ‘We’re in a much more coercive, censorious time.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Catholic LGBT Organization Helps Win Court Case for Internet Freedom

Students in the Cadmenton R-III school district of Missouri can now have access to information about LGBT resources on the Internet, thanks to a federal court decision last week that ordered school officials to stop censoring websites.   DignityUSA, a national Catholic organization of LGBT people, was one of several plaintiffs in the case, including PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and Campus Pride.

The court case was raised by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.  A Windy City Times news story quotes from the court’s opinion where the judges expressed concern that the Internet filtering system

” ‘systematically allows access to websites expressing a negative viewpoint toward LGBT individuals by categorizing them as “religion,” but filters out positive viewpoints toward LGBT issues by categorizing them as “sexuality.” ‘ Although the  [school] district argued that it would unblock individual websites upon request the court held that ‘students may be deterred from accessing websites expressing a positive view toward LGBT individuals either by the inconvenience of having to wait twenty-four hours for access or by the stigma of knowing that viewpoint has been singled out as less worthy by the school district and the community.’ “

In the same news report, an ACLU attorney praised the decision as providing constitutional freedom, while protecting students from sexually explicity sites:

” ‘The court correctly recognized the constitutional rights of all students to viewpoint-neutral access to information,’ said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project. ‘It is absolutely possible to protect children from sexually explicit content while also protecting their First Amendment rights. Like thousands of other school districts across the country, Camdenton R-III will now begin using a filtering system that blocks pornography without discriminating against LGBT-related content.’ “

Congratulations to DignityUSA and all the plaintiffs in this case for working towards the free flow of information–particularly for helping young people accessing reputable information about LGBT issues and reality!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Maryland’s Governor to Speak at New Ways Ministry’s National Symposium!

Governor Martin O'Malley

New Ways Ministry is proud to announce that Maryland’s Catholic Governor Martin O’Malley will be one of hundreds of Catholics participating in our Seventh National Symposium, From Water to Wine:  Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, March 15th-17th, Baltimore, Maryland!

Governor O’Malley, who has supported Maryland’s marriage equality bill, will be part of this grand gathering of pro-LGBT Catholics on Friday, March 16th. Spread the word! Bring a friend! Please note that registration for Friday only is an option.

As we have been reporting over the last two days, the latest news from Maryland is that the marriage equality bill just passed the state’s House of Delegates!  Its passage in the Senate is virtually guaranteed since it passed there last year easily, and no Senator has announced a vote change. Of course, Governor O’Malley has pledged to sign it.  For a news summary of the bill’s passage, click here. For New Ways Ministry’s response to the passage, click here.

At the Symposium, Governor O’Malley will be joining a stellar line-up of other Catholic national and international speakers on LGBT issues.

Don’t miss the chance to celebrate Maryland’s becoming the eighth state to enact marriage equality with our state’s Catholic governor at the Symposium!

Because of the postal holiday for Presidents’ Day, the regular registration fee has been extended to the following day, February 21st. You can view symposium details and registration materials by clicking here .

Don’t miss this historic opportunity to meet and thank Governor O’Malley, to network with other pro-LGBT Catholics, to hear dynamic and inspiring speakers, and to celebrate LGBT equality!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Good News in Maryland, Bad News in New Jersey

Governor Martin O'Malley is congratulated by Maryland Delegates after the historic marriage equality vote. (NY Times photo)

Yesterday, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a marriage equality bill, virtually guaranteeing it would become law, since the bill is likely to pass the Senate, and Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, has promised to sign it.

Yesterday in New Jersey, however, Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic, vetoed that state’s marriage equality bill which had passed both Assembly and Senate.  The legislature has until January 2014 to override the veto.


The Baltimore Sun report rightly noted O’Malley’s role in the bill’s success in Maryland, and quoted him saying:

“We are a good people. We all want the same things for our kids.”

The Washington Blade’s story carried a quote from O’Malley that reflected the Catholic social teaching principle behind the issue of marriage equality:

“Today, the House of Delegates voted for human dignity.”

Earlier this week, The Baltimore Sun carried a news report on a talk O’Malley gave in which he described the evolution of his thinking on marriage equality.  New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick is quoted in that article about her thoughts to O’Malley’s support of the issue. Sister Gramick said:

“I’m proud of him for being a Catholic and for witnessing real Catholic values. … I’m so glad he’s supporting the marriage equality bill.”

Last night, Bondings 2.0 posted New Ways Ministry’s response to the vote, along with a link to The Washington Post article about the news.

Even after the bill would become a law, the struggle would still not be over, as opponents have promised to mount a referendum campaign


Governor Chris Christie (NY Times Photo)

In The New York Times account of Christie’s veto, they explain that

“The governor’s veto was conditional, asking the State Legislature to amend the bill, so that rather than legalizing same-sex marriages, it would establish an overseer to handle complaints that the state’s five-year-old civil union law did not provide gay and lesbian couples the same protections that marriage would.

“Mr. Christie also affirmed his call for the Legislature to put a referendum on same-sex marriage on the ballot in November. . . .

“At the same time, Mr. Christie repeated what the State Supreme Court said in 2006 — that same-sex couples deserve the same benefits enjoyed by married couples. Answering testimony that same-sex couples in civil unions had more trouble than married couples in matters like obtaining mortgages and making health care decisions, the governor said he wanted to set up a new ombudsman to make sure gay and lesbian couples did not suffer discrimination.”

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, responded in the Times story to the ombudsman idea by calling it

““the equivalent of gold-plating a separate water fountain for a specific class of people.”

In a posting two days ago, Bondings 2.0 noted that Washington State’s Catholic governor Christine Gregoire, who this week signed a marriage equality bill into law, sent a letter to fellow Catholic Christie, offering to discuss her evolution on the issue. Christie had not responded.

In their editorial column, the Times opined about “Governor Christie’s Misguided and Intolerant Veto,”

“Sadly, there was no surprise to Gov. Chris Christie’s veto on Friday of the same-sex marriage bill that cleared New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate this week. Mr. Christie had said all along that he would block the measure as soon as it reached his desk. That does not change the message of intolerance or lessen the pain for gay residents and their families. Mr. Christie compounded the insult when he dismissed the Legislature’s support for the rights of gay people as merely ‘an exercise in theater.’ The only one who deserves that accusation is Governor Christie, who is clearly pandering to his own conservative base. . . .

“This isn’t about theater and shouldn’t be about politics. Marriage equality is a basic right.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry