Yakima Diocese Will Collect $$$ for Political Campaign to End Marriage Equality

Diocese of Yakima

The Diocese of Yakima, Washington State, has announced that it plans to take up special collections  to support efforts to defeat the state’s referendum to enact marriage equality in November.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports:

“Labor Day weekend marks the official beginning of what the three Catholic dioceses in the state are calling Preserve Marriage Month. In Yakima that means organizing an educational program and fundraising campaign to inform parishioners about Catholic teaching on marriage and church opposition to Referendum 74, which would affirm the state’s same-sex marriage law.

“Bishop Joseph Tyson sent a letter to pastors in all 41 parishes Friday asking that they announce a special financial appeal at Masses sometime during the next two weekends. Money collected will go to Preserve Marriage Washington, a statewide group seeking to defeat Referendum 74.”

The money collected will go directly to a political organization working to repeal the state’s newly-minted marriage equality law.  The dollars will not be considered tax-deductible or a contribution to the church:

Bishop Joseph Tyson

“Bishop Joseph Tyson sent a letter to pastors in all 41 parishes Friday asking that they announce a special financial appeal at Masses sometime during the next two weekends. Money collected will go to Preserve Marriage Washington, a statewide group seeking to defeat Referendum 74.

“. . . . He proposed that pastors suggest not only that parishioners inform themselves and others about the referendum, to be voted on in November, but also that they ‘can contribute to the campaign by using the envelope in this week’s bulletin to make a generous donation to Preserve Marriage Washington.’ “

The envelope reportedly is addressed to Preserve Marriage Washington.

Monsignor Robert Siler, the diocesan chief of staff, said:

“To be clear, this is basically a contribution to a political campaign, and these are not considered tax-deductible church donations.”

Of course, not all Catholics support such a fundraising campaign:

“Dr. Kevin Walsh of Toppenish is uncomfortable with what he views as picking only a few issues from papal encyclicals about social justice and raising them to the level of national causes.

” ‘It’s an example of church leadership using the pulpit for what they see as a moral issue, but it’s isolated. It’s not part of a package to make life better for everybody,’ he said.

“Walsh added,’I think it’s misguided. We should be struggling toward inclusion instead of excluding people.’ “

The diocese has not set a fundraising goal for the collection.  Perhaps that was done as a strategic move so that they don’t end up in the embarrassing position of falling way short of the goal–which would be proof of what polls are consistently showing:  although Catholic bishops oppose marriage equality, Catholic people in the pews are overwhelmingly supportive of it.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

New Zealand Member of Parliament to Catholic Bishops: “Love is love”

In New Zealand, a gay Member of  Parliament has publicly chastised the members of his nation’s Catholic hierarchy because of their opposition to a proposed law to enact marriage equality.

Kevin Hague

Criticism of the bishops came from Kevin Hague, a Green Party MP, who was responding to a recent letter that the prelates wrote to members of Generation Y (people in their 20s), urging them to oppose marriage equality.

GayNZ.com reported the story which is based on a blog post that Hague wrote on Frogblog, the New Zealand Green Party’s blog.   The following are excerpts from that post:

“It’s not a surprise that the NZ Catholic Bishops have chosen to oppose Louisa Wall’s Bill for marriage equality. After all, they opposed Homosexual Law Reform, they opposed human rights protection on the grounds of sexual orientation and they opposed Civil Unions. I’m beginning to sense a theme.

“The Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter  is addressed to “Kiwis of Generation Y” and is entitled ‘From the Beginning of Creation’. I won’t take apart the whole letter but believe it could charitably be described as confused. Essentially the Bishops assert that the Church should not be able to define marriage, but then proceed, as the Church, to tell not only Church-going Catholics but also (explicitly) the entirety of Generation Y what they should think about the issue and the Bill. They also assert that it is not for legislators to define marriage, saying instead that ‘civil law reflects and protects human nature’.

“I respond by saying that there is overwhelming evidence that ‘human nature’ is, in fact, a very broad spectrum, which includes homosexual and bisexual orientation. “

Hague points out that the bishops’ message to New Zealand’s young adults is likely to be falling on deaf ears:

“Overall, twice as many New Zealanders support this change as oppose it. But for Generation Y, to whom the Bishops’ letter was addressed, four times as many support as oppose it.”

Hague offers an alternative message that he wishes the bishops would have said:

“Even though the Church also apparently believes that:

‘Every sign of unjust discrimination in their [homosexual persons] regard should be avoided,’ (2258 in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church)

the New Zealand Bishops have nonetheless opposed every initiative proposed to reduce or eliminate discrimination. How refreshing it would have been if the Bishops had, instead, said ‘marriage is both a civil contract and, in the eyes of the church, a sacrament. It is our constant belief that the latter has to be between a man and a woman since the validity of sacramental marriage has to be established by consummation. However, over the years the idea of marriage as a civil contract has developed in many ways (the easy availability of divorce for example). Any opposition to gay marriage, therefore, should be debated on its civil merits without regard to the Church’s religious position which will not be directly affected: is it necessary for justice to all? Is it in any way damaging to the civil contract? We have in the past made clear that while the church disapproves of homosexuality, the individual homosexual must not be discriminated against in any way.’ ”

Hague’s final message to the bishops is a simple sentence:

“Love is love.”

Hague closes his blog post with a video of an Australian commercial which went viral earlier this year.  I’ll let the video speak for itself:

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Catholic John Doe Fears for His Church Job Because of Marriage Equality Contribution

The Minnesota Catholic hierarchy’s strong support of the state’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-gender marriage has prompted the government’s campaign finance board to take an extraordinary measure to protect a Catholic contributor to the organization working for the amendment’s defeat.

 A blogger for the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

“A man, now known only as John Doe, told the Minnesota campaign finance board that he believes he would be fired from his Catholic employer if it became known that he gave money to the group opposing the marriage amendment.

“The campaign finance agency believed him and therefore, in an unusual move, granted him anonymity, despite his $600 contribution to Minnesota United for All Families.

“The agency’s decision exposes the strong feelings rampant about the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and a rift about it even inside the Catholic Church.

“The Church has strongly supported the move to pass the amendment, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars for the campaign backing it and told clergy not to dissent from its pro-amendment stance.”

The campaign finance agency used the case of Trish Cameron from earlier this summer to support its decision:

“In making its decision, release Friday, the state campaign finance agency examined the case of Trish Cameron, a former teacher at a Catholic School in Moorhead. Cameron told agency officials that she had revealed to her supervisors during a private annual self-evaluation that she personally objected to the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, although she would said she would not bring that belief into the classroom.

” ‘A week later,’ the campaign finance agency wrote, ‘Ms. Cameron was asked to resign.’

“Doe, the contributor to Minnesota United for All Families, had similar reasons to fear, he said.

” ‘Mr. Doe argues that because his job requires him to represent the Catholic organization’s positions to others from time to time, if his opposition to the marriage amendment was known, it would cause immense strain in his working relationships. Mr. Doe believes that this strain may be enough that his employment would be terminated,’ the agency wrote.

“Minnesota law allows exemptions from the requirement to disclose the names and employers of contributors if such disclosure would cause specific harm.”

The full text of the campaign finance board decision is available here.

While it is praiseworthy that the campaign finance board has taken this measure to protect this man’s employment, it is a sad commentary on the state of our church when a person is forced into anonymity to express a moral decision.  Only free and open discussion will allow church leaders to be able to discern the voice of the Spirit moving in the community.  The bishops should hold a moratorium on firing church employees who freely express their political decisions so that a true dialogue can happen in the church.

Trish Cameron’s comments about her own case are worth citing here.  The following is an excerpt from an interview with Minnesota Public Radio:

“Cameron believes she represents a segment of the Catholic Church no longer willing to simply accept what the church leaders say without discussion. Cameron said she has heard from many Catholics who tell her they are also struggling with the same-sex marriage issue.

” ‘We want to talk. This matters in our life. To some of us it’s extraordinarily painful. To some of us it’s really confusing,’ she said. ‘I have teenagers with close friends that are openly gay and those friends matter to them.’

“Cameron also said that she and other parents are afraid that the battle over same-sex marriage will alienate their children from the church.

” ‘After generations of being planted and rooted in the Catholic faith, we’re afraid we can’t hand this faith comfortably to them,’ she said.

“Cameron said she is not asking the church to sanctify same sex-marriage. But she does want church officials to talk about the issue. She worries they have slammed the door on dialogue.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Catholic School Board in Canada Allows Gay-Straight Alliances

The Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board, Ontario, Canada, has relented and agreed to allow gay-straight alliances use the name “gay-straight alliance”  in state-supported Catholic schools.  The decision comes after over a year of wrangling with government officials about the use of the name.  The provincial government passed Bill 13 in the spring requiring that a gay-straight alliance be established if a student requests one.

The Windsor Star reports:

“The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board has backed off its hardline stance against allowing gay-straight alliances now that the province has made accepting them law as part of Bill 13, passed in June.

“Secondary school principals and vice-principals will be undergoing training later this month on how to implement and structure such clubs, which will only be formed when a student asks for one.

” ‘We fully understand what the law says and we’ll be compliant with the law,’ said superintendent of education Mike Seguin.

” ‘So we’re prepared to do everything we can to make sure we have a safe and inclusive environment in that context.’

“In May the board said it would not heed the wishes of Premier Dalton McGuinty and allow the clubs to be called gay-straight alliances. Instead, board chairwoman Barbara Holland maintained the clubs would be called social justice equity clubs unless a law deemed otherwise.

“But with the passage of Bill 13, ‘An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters,’ on June 5, the province made law the allowance of clubs to call themselves gay-straight alliances in all school boards.”

The Catholic school board will also continue with its social justice equity clubs, according to Seguin:

“We decided to make social justice equity clubs mandatory in all of our secondary schools. And we did that by policy over a year ago. Those will continue because it’s our view that it’s better to address the needs of all people who are marginalized in different ways. Whether it’s people based on body type or special needs and so forth because we see bullying takes on a face that is very complex.”

Dallas Mahaney

The decision was met with excitement and enthusiasm from students eager to form gay -straight alliances.  CBC.ca reports:

” ‘There’s a lot of homophobia at our school and I think it would benefit our school a lot to have a safe environment for everyone,’ said Dallas Mahaney.

“The 16-year-old Saint Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School said he’s comfortable with being gay. He hopes the alliance will help destroy homophobia.”

According to a separate Windsor Star article, one student hailed the move as a way to end the interminable bullying she has received:

For several months almost daily at school, Adriana Unis endured bullying for who she is.

“I was in one class where they told me to kill myself,” the 15-year-old St. Joseph’s high school student said Wednesday about the taunts of a couple of boys last semester. “It was because I was gay. They were saying because I was a lesbian my parents should have killed me.”

Adriana Unis and Jouvon Evans

Unis said she had heard insults before, but those words hurt.

“I’m kind of used to it, I guess, but it was still upsetting,” she said.

Unis did not know what to do. She vaguely told a teacher about it, saying only that she was having some problems with kids, but nothing much was done.

That’s why she’s thrilled the provincial government has passed Bill 13, Ontario’s antibullying legislation, which requires schools to create gaystraight alliance clubs if a student requests one.

And one person with great experience with gay-straight alliances is looking forward to the establishment of these clubs:

“Jouvon Evans, who facilitates Windsor Pride’s School’s Out program, mentoring about 15 high school students on how best to run gay-straight alliances, said interest is increasing with such clubs.

“She said Bill 13 will go a long way to helping reduce bullying and promoting self-confidence.

” ‘People know there’s a comfortable space where they can turn to,” Evans said. “And they can rely on the teachers and the administration.’

“Though Evans said there can sometimes be a temporary spike in bullying when gay-straight alliances are created, she said homophobia soon drops after such clubs are launched with the backing of the school.”

Knowing the benefits that such a club can provide, one has to wonder why all Catholic schools, in all of Canada and the U.S., too, don’t establish such clubs.  Their presence in a school environment, where both homophobia and sexual identity questions run high, is a perfect way to enact Catholic teaching about the dignity of sexual minorities and about the need to eradicate prejudicial attitudes and behaviors.  Let’s hope and pray that Ontario’s example will lead the way!

–Francis DeBernardo–New Ways Ministry

Most recent  Bondings 2.0 posts on this topic:

June 14, 2012:  Follow-up on New Ontario Law Allowing GSAs in Catholic Schools

June 6, 2012:  Ontario Legislature Passes Gay-Straight Alliance Law Despite Catholic Pressure

May 26, 2012:  Majority Favors Gay-Straight Alliances in Ontario’s Catholic Schools

April 28, 2012:  Catholic Support for Gay-Straight Alliances: ‘It’s what our faith calls us to do.’

For additional articles on the topic, search the category “Canada” .

Cameroon Archbishop Issues Inflammatory Anti-Gay Statement


Archbishop Simon-Victor Tonye Bakot

The Catholic archbishop of Yaounde, Cameroon, has made anti-gay statements just the week before the African nation stages a national anti-gay rallying day.

Gay Star News reports that Archbishop Simon-Victor Tonye Bakot made his comments last week:

“The Catholic Archbishop of Yaoundé stated last weekthat he believes homosexuality is opposed to the ideal of human reproduction and is a danger to the family unit, ‘an affront to the family, enemy of women and creation.’

“He argued that the Catholic Church preaches the virtues of tolerance towards gay people, paedophiles, bestiality and other perversions, which he lumps together.

“But he says: ‘This does not mean that Catholic morality endorse homosexual behaviour and the life style that it inspires.’

“For him homosexuality is ‘shameful, a disrespectful criticism of God who has chosen to create man and woman’.

The original French-language news report upon which the Gay Star News account is based can be accessed here.

The archbishop’s comments come as the nation anticipates a national rally in Cameroon designed to promote anti-gay sentiment on August 21st.  A separate Gay Star News story describes the event:

“The Rassemblement de la Jeunesse Camerounaise association (Cameroonian Youth Rally, or RJC) announced that it will ‘celebrate’ a gay hate day. . .

“The association doesn’t want to hear about gay pride, instead it announced on Thursday (12 July) that 21 August will be ‘celebrated’ as the national anti-gay day of Cameroon. . .

The existence and combat of the alleged ‘gay mafia’ is one of the principal concerns of the RJC which proudly announces its homophobia publicly.

“The association promises that 21 August, will be celebrated yearly, stating it aims to glorify homophobia with a parade to take place through the Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital city.

“During a recent televised debate, Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka, spokesperson for the RJC, stated that ‘homosexuality is a crime against humanity.’

“There are no official association to help LGBT people in Cameroon, which has one of Africa’s most severe anti-gay laws.”

Vatican officials are quick to correct bishops and other church leaders when they present a “too liberal” view of church teaching on homosexuality.  The pope should at least be equally strict in correcting this archbishop, whose rhetoric distorts church teaching and has the potential for promoting violence in such an inflammatory situation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Gay Leader is Forced Out of the Boy Scouts

Catholic leaders in the  Archdiocese of Louisville are in involved in a case of a Boy Scout leader being forced out of his Scoutmaster role in a Catholic parish because he is gay.

Greg Bourke

The Courier-Journal newspaper reports that Greg Bourke, the adoptive father of a son and a daughter, and a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes parish, Louisville,

“was forced to resign last week, about three months after he wrote to Boy Scouts of America executives, told them he was an ‘openly gay person’ and asked, ‘Am I welcome or not?’

“Bourke, who has lived with his partner for 30 years and has worked 18 years as a systems analyst for Humana Inc., had to resign under a Boy Scouts policy, enacted in 1991 and reaffirmed last month, that bars gays from being Scout leaders or members.”

Bourke recentkly informed the local Scout Council of his orientation:

He also said he and his partner attend Our Lady of Lourdes and it is widely known that they are gay.

“He contacted Scouting officials in part, he said, because he was no longer comfortable hiding his sexual preference in his role with the Boy Scouts when he was open about it everywhere else, including at Humana, where he has been involved in an organization of gay and lesbian employees.

‘I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep a low profile and stay ‘in the closet’ with the Boy Scouts,’ he said in a June 22 letter. . .”

Catholic officials initially refused to request Bourke’s resignation.  Our Lady of Lourdes pastor Fr. Scott  Wimsett and archdiocesan Scouting liasion Fr. Jeff Gatlin both supported Bourke’s disclosure of his orientation.  Later, however, higher archdiocesan officials decided to support the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy:

“In a statement,[Cecelia Price, archdiocesan spokesperson] confirmed that the Boy Scouts contacted Wimsett and Gatlin and that both responded that they believed it was up to the Boy Scouts to enforce its policies.

“Price said the archdiocese later concluded that the charters signed by church pastors require them to conduct Scouting programs according to policies set by the Boy Scouts of America, as well as Catholic Church policies.

“Her statement also said that ‘it is the expectation of the Church that adult leaders — whether heterosexual or with same-sex attraction — in any ministry strive to lead chaste lives and seek to both accept and witness to the full teachings of the Church on chastity and charity, including teachings on the sanctity of marriage.’ ”

Bourke stated that he decided to resign to protect his parish’s Scouting charter:

“Bourke, who initially refused to quit, said in an interview that he decided he had no choice after the . . .  pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes, told him Thursday that the parish might lose its Scouting charter unless he left.

“Bourke, who has been a registered Scout volunteer for five years and an assistant troop leader since 2009, said he thinks the Boy Scouts’ policy is ‘hateful’ and ‘outdated,’ but he didn’t want to put the church’s charter at risk.”

Interestingly, Bourke will remain a leader in his daughter’s Girl Scouts’ troop since the Girl Scouts of America do not have a parallel anti-gay policy.  Local Girl Scouts’ leaders condemned the Boy Scouts’ decision:

Co-leader Kim Haydon said in a July 23 email to [Boy Scouts officials] Mazzuca and Oxley that to ‘discount all that he has done for our youth only because he is gay is absurd. Shame on you and your small mindedness.’ ”

Other local leaders also supported Bourke:

“ ‘He upheld the highest ideals of Scouting,’ said Donald E. Overton, a fellow assistant Scoutmaster in Boy Scout Troop 325 and an Episcopal priest.

“Rick Tonini, chairman of the St. Matthews Fire Protection District, described Bourke as ‘a dignified leader and role model’ who led troop members door to door each year helping the fire department raise money for the WHAS Crusade for Children.

“And Brooke Hinkle, whose son, Seth, was in Bourke’s Cub Scout pack and Boy Scout troop, said, ‘Greg made Seth the person he is,’ teaching him responsibility. . . .

“Tom Clark, who leads [Our Lady of Lourdes’] Cub Scout pack and earned his Eagle Scout badge in 1974 as a member of Troop 325, said in an Aug. 9 email to Oxley that ‘if you continue to pursue your efforts to remove Greg Bourke, you can expect my Eagle Scout badge to be returned to you and my resignation as an adult scouter.’ ”

“Clark also said he would ‘welcome the opportunity for my son to be associated with Greg Bourke.’ ”

“Hinkle said her son, a freshman at Trinity High School, was angry and disappointed when he found out why Bourke was on the way out, asking, ‘Why do I want to be a part of this program?’

“ ‘To him,’ she said, ‘Greg is a leader.’ ”

With testimony like that, one wonders how much reason is guiding the Boy Scouts’ policy.  Kudos to the two priests who refused to participate in this policy’s enforcement.  Their actions are a testimony to the fact that such decisions should be made at a local level, and not by some higher authority.  This is the Catholic social justice principle of subsidiarity which says that decisions should be made at the most appropriate local level.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Radio Series Explores LGBT Issues from a Range of Religious Traditions

A unique and comprehensive series on a public radio program is exploring LGBT issues from a variety of faith traditions.

Interfaith Voiceshosted by Loretto Sister Maureen Fiedler, is offering “Gay in the Eyes of God:  How 12 Traditions View Gay and Lesbian People,”  a 12-part look at theology, spirituality, and lived reality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and issues.

Sister Fiedler describes the program on a National Catholic Reporter  blog:

Sister Maureen Fiedler

“Public opinion about homosexuality is changing rapidly, and civil law is not far behind. Gays and lesbians are increasingly open about their relationships and accepted. In some states, they now can marry legally and adopt children.

“But among those who are people of faith — with a few exceptions — gay men and lesbians wrestle with how to be faithful to their religious traditions while living fully the human reality in which they discover themselves. . . .

“This series offers much more than scriptural or theological conversations, although those are included. We hear the often poignant stories of gay and lesbian people struggling with who they are as they try to stay faithful to their respective traditions.”

Catholics are represented by four different people and perspectives:

Celestine and Hilary Ranney-Howes

“When we deal with Catholicism, we hear the story of Hilary and Celestine Ranney-Howes. This couple was heterosexually married — one man and one woman. . .  [Hilary, who married as a man, came to understand her] true identity was female, and she became a transsexual woman. Normally, such a change would lead to divorce, but Hilary’s wife, Celestine, realized she loved the person, not the gender, so they stayed together as a lesbian couple. Today, they worship in an “intentional eucharistic community” in the Washington, D.C., area where they feel accepted. [Hilary and Celestine led a focus session at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in Baltimore this past March; some of their interview was conducted at that conference.]

Sister Jeannine Gramick
Eve Tushnet

“For our Catholic segment, I also interviewed Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a founder of New Ways Ministry, and Eve Tushnet, a young lesbian who believes she must remain celibate to be a faithful Catholic. Gramick explained the range of Catholic theological views on this subject, including the official view, and Tushnet said that she turned to works of Catholic mysticism for support in her lifestyle. Gramick noted that change is possible in Catholicism, but she does not expect it any time soon.”

The series also includes segments on evangelicalism (airing this week), the Black Church,Islam, Judaism, origins of the LGBT religious movement, Eastern religions, and other topics.

The series, which was made possible by a grant from the Arcus Foundation, began earlier this summer.  Each installment can be listened to on the radio show’s website.  Additional installments will be added to the archive as the series progresses.

Interfaith Voices is heard on 62 public radio stations across the nation, so check your local listings for when the program airs in your area.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry