Uganda Anti-Gay Legislation Stirs Student Action at Yale and Notre Dame

The Ugandan Parliament will reportedly vote on the “Kill the Gays” bill in coming days and this development has stirred two university communities to take action against the infamous legislation.

In Connecticut, the LGBT Coalition at Yale Divinity School commenced a petition drive calling on Christian religious leadership worldwide to speak publicly against the legislation. The group’s statement addresses Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York among other religious leaders, and reads, in part:

“We urge you to call on your Ugandan counterparts to resist coopting Christian language in support of such a hateful cause. Claiming defense of religious values can never be an adequate justification for the degradation of human life. As we all know, faith in a loving God is wholly inconsistent with support for such cruel and malicious policies…

“Regardless of your place on the spectrum of theological opinion regarding homosexuality, please reject the unconscionable measures proposed in this bill which are antithetical to any conception of Christian morality.”

Alumni of the University of Notre Dame are similarly asking that institution’s administration to condemn the Ugandan bill with their own petition drive. The sponsors cite the University’s deep relationship with Uganda through study abroad programs and commitment to act justly with partner nations when engaging in educational initiatives.

Others, including several students interviewed by campus newspaper, The Observer, speak to the Catholic identity of the University as a driving impetus. Katie Day, class of 2009 and participant in a research project in Uganda, claims she’s “mystified” by the silence of Catholics and especially the praise of Uganda’s Catholic bishops for the bill. She told The Observer:

“‘As the universal Church, Catholic leaders elsewhere in the world need to let the Ugandan Catholic Church know this bill is completely contradictory to our faith’s core beliefs,’ she said. ‘I cannot think of anything more dehumanizing and degrading than this bill.’

“Day said Notre Dame’s mission statement pledges that the University looks to nurture in its students, ‘a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.’

“‘As the students and alumni of Notre Dame stand up to the injustice of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, we are fulfilling this part of Notre Dame’s mission,’ Day said.”

If you would like to sign either petition, Bondings 2.0 provides links below, as well as our previous coverage on Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Petition to Religious Leaders from the Yale Divinity School LGBT Coalition

Petition to Fr. Jenkins at the University of Notre Dame

Previous Posts

November 14, 2012: Catholic Leaders Must Speak Out Against Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill

August 13, 2012:  Former Ambassador to the Vatican Speaks Out Against Ugandan Discrimination

July 25, 2012:  Catholics Among Christian Leaders Supporting LGBT Rights in Uganda

July 25, 2012:  New Report Identifies Catholic Suppport for Africa’s Anti-Gay Movement

June 15, 2012: More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill


Why Aren’t the Bishops More Persuasive?

Commonweal magazine’s November 23, 2012 issue has an excellent article entitled “Morbid Symptoms–The Catholic Right’s False Nostalgia,” by Eugene McCarraher, an associate professor of humanities at Villanova University.

In the article, McCarraher reviews four books by conservative Catholics and analyzes their ideology.  It’s an excellent survey of the faults in conservative Catholic thinking, and I recommend reading it in its entirety.

One passage caught my eye in particular.  In the section of the article devoted to reviewing Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s book, A People of Hope:  Archbishop Timothy Dolan in Conversation with John L. Allen, Jr. , McCarraher makes the following observation:

“The galling truth is that many American Catholics—perhaps a majority—do not fully share the bishops’ view of what constitutes the fulfillment of human nature. They do not believe that same-sex intercourse and the use of contraceptives are “unnatural,” and therefore do not see gay marriage or contraceptive coverage as threats to religious liberty.

“Of course many laity are dissenting from the magisterium, and doing so in part because the bishops’ credibility has been so drastically diminished. We all know why; there’s no need to belabor the sexual-abuse scandal with its record of episcopal obfuscation and self-pity, or before that the damage done by Humanae vitae. Although Dolan acknowledges the disenchantment in the pews, he’s clearly impatient with the subject. Bishops, he tells John L. Allen Jr., have to ‘get over this sense of being gun-shy’ in the wake of all the revelations. Conceding that he and his colleagues must speak with ‘graciousness, and a sense of contrition,’ he adds that ‘we have to mean it.’ But do they really mean it? The impression of many attentive Catholics is that they’d rather pound the crosier on the floor. Dolan himself insists on ‘the uniquely normative value of the magisterium of the bishops,’ as though that ‘value’ remains self-evident.

There are excellent reasons to find the bishops’ recent dudgeon unconvincing. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed plenty of outrages to human dignity in this country: the official legitimation of torture and assassination; the prosecution of a war condemned by not one but two popes; the growing attacks on governmental support and compassion for the destitute, often under cover of ‘subsidiarity.’ The bishops’ responses to these outrages have been muted at best. Why so little prophetic ardor to battle these iniquities? Why no ‘fortnights for dignity’ to rally the faithful against state-sponsored violence abroad? Or haven’t the bishops noticed that the United States has been at war for the better part of the past twenty years?

McCarraher’s analysis is spot on.  To extend it to the realm of LGBT issues, I would add that if the bishops spoke up more about some of the real world issues concerning LGBT people–bullying, discrimination, violence, alienation from religious institutions–they would be more respected and persuasive.

For example, they have been shamefully silent on the issue of the anti-homosexual bill which has been discussed in Uganda’s parliament for several years now, and which could be passed into law as early as next week.  This bill would impose the death penalty for certain lesbian and gay people, and harsh penalties for even the slightest acknowledgement of one’s homosexuality.  Why don’t the bishops see this as a pro-life issue and speak as forcefully against this bill as they do about abortion?

Cardinal Dolan’s advice to bishops to just entrench themselves more firmly in bunkers of isolation from the real world is a dead end.

The bishops’ insistence on such a narrow agenda of items and their unwillingness to speak out when LGBT human rights are trampled upon will continue to make them non-credible authorities long after the sex abuse crisis is a dim memory.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



Survey: How Can We Make Bondings 2.0 Better?

Since Bondings 2.0 has reached its first year milestone, we thought it would be a good idea to learn a little more about you, our readers, so that we can better provide you with news, information, opinion, and reflection.

We’ve written a short survey to get your feedback about your interest in the blog.  The survey should take about five minutes to complete, and it is anonymous and confidential. You can access the survey by clicking here.

The survey will give us a better idea of how you access and use the blog, what you like about it, and what you would like to see us do differently.Your answers will help us as we plan and prepare posts for the coming weeks, months, and year ahead.

Thank you for your interest and support of this blog, and thank you in advance for providing us with information to make reading the blog a better experience for you.

If you would like to make a financial contribution to keep this blog viable in the coming year, please use our online donation form, or send a check made out to “New Ways Ministry” to our office at 4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20712.  All contributions are tax deductible. To learn more about the importance of donating and about a premium gift for donors, please click here.

Thank you for your generosity.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Happy Anniversary!

Today marks the first anniversary of Bondings 2.0!

One year ago today, I came to the New Ways Ministry office and typed the words “how to start a blog” into Google, and by the end of the day, I had a blog post. A few more days followed the same pattern of just taking a stab at writing, and before I knew it, I had not just blog posts, but an actual blog!

When I started, I didn’t know which direction the blog would go in other than that I wanted it to contain material that would interest people who follow Catholic LGBT issues.  Over the past year, we have kept to that direction with a  mixture of news stories, opinion pieces, personal reflections, and spirituality.

Our aim evolved into providing readers with important information, but also with a perspective designed to build up the Catholic Church and the growing movement of Catholics who support LGBT equality and justice.  For the past full year, we have posted something every single day, some times twice or three times a day, when the news was lively.  I mention this not as a point of pride, but as evidence to the fact of how important the relationship between the Catholic Church and LGBT issues is.  There has been something important to write every single day about this relationship, and it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down any time soon.

What does our blog contain?  In addition to daily updates of news, opinion, theological and spiritual reflections, we also have developed some occasional features:

  • ALL ARE WELCOME:  a series which focuses on Catholic gay-friendly faith communities
  • NEWS NOTES: an occasional feature which provides brief summaries of news articles with links to the original sources
  • QUOTE TO NOTE: an occasional feature which provides witty or insightful quotations from news articles
  • CATHOLIC LGBT CALENDAR: a listing of Catholic LGBT events around the U.S. and the globe
  • CAMPUS CHRONICLES: a series which focuses on Catholic LGBT issues on college campuses.

Some interesting data about the blog and our readers:

I started out as the sole contributor to this blog, but since its beginning, we have had a few guest contributors, and we have added a new regular contributor, Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry’s Coordinator of Young Adults and Social Media.   Bob covers general news stories, as well as news about LGBT issues on Catholic college campuses.

One year ago, I started out on this venture, not really knowing what I was doing.  (Some might justly argue that I still don’t know what I’m doing!)  I started out having fun, learning a new skill, and, building on some older skills.  I thought I was helping to build a resource of information and opinions for people interested in Catholic LGBT issues.

It seems, however, thanks to the magic of social media, that what has emerged is a community of people who are eager to share ideas and perspectives, passions and reflections.  I have benefited immensely by the experience of being a part of this community, and I look forward to continuing the conversation with all of the wonderful readers and commenters.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

For Giving Tuesday, Keep Bondings 2.0 Going Into the Next Year!

As mentioned in the previous post, Bondings 2.0 completes its first full year today!  Response to this blog has been so overwhelmingly positive that we are delighted to keep it going.  Your readership and advocacy make the work to produce this blog easy and enjoyable.

It has been a thrilling experience to prepare and present news, opinions, and reflections on Catholic LGBT news to you, our readers.  We’ve done so consistently every single day for the past 366 days (2012 was a leap year).And we intend to keep on going! We seek your assistance to make sure that this blog can continue.

A blog is an inexpensive item to produce in terms of materials and distribution.  However, the cost comes in terms of the staff time it takes to produce, post, and publicize the material. Today is “Giving Tuesday,” a day set aside to remind us all about the possibility of donating to charities and causes that are important to us.  Today, we come to you, the readers, to ask for your financial support of this blog.  We like to think of this venue sort of like public radio or television:  the content is here for all to partake of at no cost. Yet there needs to be, of necessity, the loyal supporters who regularly use the service whose financial contributions allow the material to be available for all.

If you find the material on this blog helpful to you, and if your financial means allow, we ask that you consider making a contribution to this blog by clicking here.  You will be brought to New Ways Ministry’s donation page.  Please fill out the information requested and write “blog” in the “Comments” section of the form so that we know how you want your contribution to be used.

Alternatively, you can mail a check made out to “New Ways Ministry” to office at 4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20712.

However you decide to contribute, your donation is tax-deductible.

Just like public radio or television, we would like to offer you a premium for your donation to the blog.  If you contribute $50 or more, we will send you a free copy of our publication Homosexuality: A Positive Catholic Approach, a good way to understand LGBT issues in the Catholic Church from the perspective of thinkers and pastoral ministers who are working for equality and justice.

And just like the pledge drives on public radio and television, we’d like you to think of what a bargain your donation is!  For $50, less than $1 per week, you are helping not only yourself, but loads of other folks each day, to keep up with the important Catholic LGBT news and opinion.

Whether or not you are able to donate, we appreciate your support, and we hope you will continue to read the blog and participate in the discussion by commenting on posts. We thank you for your involvement in Catholic LGBT issues and we praise God for all the good that you are doing to make our church and our world more equal and just places.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Awesome Sights and Mighty Signs: A Reflection on the End of the World

Today marks the 366th day of the Bondings 2.0 blog, which means that tomorrow will be the blog’s first anniversary!  (2012 was a leap year, so there were 366 days in it.)

Anniversary times, beginnings and endings, are always good times to reflect and ponder.  The mood of this time of the liturgical year prods us to reflections about end times and new beginnings.  Last Sunday, we celebrated the feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the liturgical year.  This week, the scripture readings for Mass are all about the end times.  Next Sunday we will begin Advent, a season of joyful expectation.

Today’s Gospel passage, Luke 21: 5-11, offers some items to ponder for those who work and wait for LGBT equality in church and society.   If you are involved in such work, you probably often feel like Jesus’ early followers who asked him when the end times were coming and what signs would precede it. Jesus answers them, rather cryptically:

” ‘See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
“I am he,” and ‘The time has come.”
Do not follow them!
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.’

“Then he said to them,
‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.’ “

Though “end of the world” talk is often scary and doom-ridden, for Christians, we know that the end of the world will usher in God’s reign of justice, the thing for which we most long.  What I see as one message Jesus offers us in this passage is that we should not be upset by cataclysms and catastrophes that happen to us as we wait for this reign of justice to be realized.

Jesus notes that there will be things that terrify us, but that we must remember that these are not the end of the story.  While we may witness battles and earth-shaking events, we also need to wait to see “awesome sights and mighty signs.”

I’m no prophet, so I can’t interpret what those sights and signs will be.  Indeed, I believe they will be different for different people.  Anything that reminds us that the struggles we are involved in are not the end of the story is one of those signs.

Our job is to remain courageous (“do not be terrified”) and keep firm in our faith that God will bring about the reign of justice for which we long, and work, and pray.

Stay tuned for Advent, coming next Sunday, when we will enter a period that celebrates our waiting in joyful hope for the Redeemer to enter our world.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


“Ubi Caritas, Deus Ibi Est”–An Argument for Marriage Equality

A commentary on marriage equality from Catholic lay people appeared this weekend in Michigan which contains some arguments worth noting.

In the Detroit Free Press, George Van Antwerp, a resigned priest who has since married heterosexually, makes the case for marriage equality by noting the Latin saying, “Ubi caritas, Deus ibi est,”  which he translates  as “Look for love, and there you will see God.”  (The strict translation is “where there is kindness/love, there is God.”)

Van Antwerp argues that even those who agree with the magisterial teaching that the church should not approve of same-gender marriages should be ashamed at hierarchical involvement in the last election cycle:

” . . . even if one believes that our church’s position should not change, surely you can understand why I would be outraged that our church, during this past election, organized against same-sex marriage.

Who are we to limit God? Can people outside our tradition not come to know God in ways we have not? Seeking to legislate that there should be only heterosexual marriage is a bit like trying to legislate Sunday as the Sabbath and enforcing that all people, regardless of belief, observe it.

Of course, it was not “the church” which organized against marriage equality, but only the church hierarchy.  The church, properly defined as the entire people of God, actually organized for marriage equality.  An essay in The Washington Post by Sharon Groves, the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Director, details how faith communities made the difference in the four states where marriage equality was on the ballot this year, noting particularly the contribution of Catholics:

“In all four states, we also saw an increase in pro-equality Roman Catholic organizing. Following a model established in Maine, a loose federation of Catholics for Marriage Equality emerged in all four states and in bold, yet theologically sound ways gave permission to Catholics to follow their conscience even if it meant going against the bishops. In Minnesota, a priest in favor of marriage equality cited Pope Benedict on the limitations of ecclesiastical authority, ‘Over the pope . . . . stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.’ Using conscience as their touchstone, Washington State mobilized thousand of Catholics and raised money to run a powerful ad in major newspapers across the state showcasing Catholic support. Similar impressive efforts occurred in all three other states.”

Van Antwerp examines his own personal experience to make the case for marriage equality:

“Why am I writing this? Why do I feel so strongly? It is because, as a former priest, I know what it is like to feel that, much to my surprise, God was not asking for my celibacy as the church suggested. And, as an 85-year-old grandfather, I know that one of my grandkids might grow up to be gay or lesbian and that they, like me, might feel that the church’s call to celibacy limits where God is leading them.

“And, whether it is my grandchildren or not, I know that there are sisters and brothers, parents and children within our church and outside of it who are saying that God is right there in the midst of their love for one another. When the issue next comes up on a ballot or over coffee, I hope you’ll speak up for the acceptance of gay marriage within our legal system, even if you don’t believe we should allow it in our churches.”

In making the distinction between civil and sacramental marriage, Van Antwerp shows how the hierarchy’s opposition to marriage for lesbian and gay couples is discriminatory:

“Ultimately, the political issue before us is not a question of whether same-sex marriage is sacramental. Rather it is a question of whether it should be legal.

“With that in mind, I would urge us to take a step back for a moment and remember that as a church, we are not seeking to ban heterosexual marriages that do not fit in our religious schema. No bishop has suggested that you quit receiving Communion if you aren’t working to make sure the marriage chapels in Vegas be outlawed, or fourth or fifth marriages forbidden by the state.”

The testimony of this married man who served his church for many years as a priest is practical and theologically sound.  It shows that our church needs to hear voices from many quarters as it develops its teaching on marriage and LGBT issues.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry