The Best Catholic LGBT News of 2014

thumbs upAs the year 2014 comes to a close, Bondings 2.0 takes a look back at the worst and the best news in the Catholic LGBT world.  If  you want to keep up-to-date on the latest news about the ups and downs of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community, please consider subscribing to this blog.  To do so, enter your email address in the “Follow blog via email” box at the top of the column on the right-hand side of this page, and press “Follow.”  You will then receive an email every time the blog is updated, usually once a day.  You’ll never miss out on the latest news and opinion in the Catholic LGBT world! 

Yesterday, we surveyed the worst Catholic LGBT news of 2014, and today we end the year looking at the best news:  all the good things that have occurred and the advances that have been made.

Yesterday, we also commented on the news story that Belgian Bishop Johan Bonny became the first bishop in known history to explicitly call for the Catholic Church to bless committed lesbian and gay couples.  While in my mind, that could easily take the prize as the BEST Catholic LGBT news of 2014, unfortunately, it came after we had already polled our readers, and so it was not considered in the voting.  I can’t speak for the entire readership of Bondings 2.0, but I don’t think I would be too far off to say that this story certainly deserves an “honorable mention.”

A few days ago, we asked our readers to choose five stories in the “worst” category and five in the “best” category.  Each category had 15 items, and there was an option to “write in” other topics that we might have missed.  The following is the ranking of the top ten items from the “best” category, in descending order,  with the percentage of votes each item received:

1. Both lay guests and bishop participants speak positively about lesbian and gay lives and ministry at the Synod of Bishops in October, revealing a previously unknown progressive school of thought among church leaders. Throughout the year, more and more Catholic leaders support legal rights for same-gender couples.  17.59%

2. Pope Francis appoints Archbishop Blase Cupich to the Archdiocese of Chicago, signaling a new type of more pastorally-oriented “Francis bishops.” Other U.S. bishops soften their rhetoric on LGBT issues, in a seeming emulation of the pontiff. 15.86%

3. The heavily Catholic Republic of Ireland emerges as a leader in supporting LGBT rights. Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmid Martin says: “Anybody who doesn’t show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that—they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people. 12.07%

4.  In an interview with a New Ways Ministry staffer, Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley acknowledges that the trend of firing LGBT and ally personnel from Catholic institutions is a situation “that needs to be rectified.”  10.34%

5. Catholic students, parents, and supporters demonstrate in response to the continuing trend of LGBT and ally personnel being fired from Catholic institutions.  8.97%

6.  San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who heads the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, holds two meetings with representatives of New Ways Ministry and DignityUSA.  5.52%

7. LGBT organizations are given permission to march in both New York City’s and Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parades in 2015.  5.17%

Three-way tie

8.  A Catholic parish in New York City honors the 44-year long commitment of a lesbian couple who are parishioners by featuring a profile about them in the parish bulletin. 4.48%

9.  The School Sisters of Notre Dame reverse an earlier decision and decide to allow lesbian couples to announce their weddings in the alumni newsletter. The Sisters of Mercy re-name a high school soccer field after a married lesbian alumna. 4.48%

10.   Catholic high schools and colleges begin to implement policies which support transgender students. 4.48%

As for analyzing, the results of the poll, I think it is easy to see the “Francis effect” in these events and numbers.  Almost all the responses had to do with something Pope Francis either directly or indirectly affected.  I think his example is inspiring Catholics at all levels to be more courageous in their support of LGBT people.  As one Bondings 2.0 reader and commenter, Casey Lopata, stated with his poll ballot:

“With Pope Francis leading the way by example, the positive remarks about gay people by bishops at the Synod together with more Catholic leaders supporting legal rights for gay people demonstrates that the grassroots supportive efforts of ordinary Catholics have been seen and taken seriously by institutional leaders within the Catholic community. At the same time grassroots supporters, emboldened by the words and actions of Francis, are increasingly becoming more active and in their public advocacy for justice for LGBT people within Catholic structures. As a result, opponents are squeezed between these two movements and find less and less support for their negative positions. May the Spirit lead us to make the most of this momentum in 2015!”

Although no one added any “write-in” suggestions, several other readers also added comments to their poll responses:

Chet Thompson:  “The five that I marked seem to me to be the most important and need DAILY Prayer. BUT we need to continually work to turn around the Homophobia that we have endured ESPECIALLY over the last 30 years!!!”

Brian Kneeland: “There were some real positives – but there certainly needs to be many more in the coming year!”

Diane Rapozo: “All of the above mentioned are important. Thank you.”

Alice Zachmann, SSND: “Thanks for the opportunity to share. I chose the ones that took courage to carry out…my personal opinion! Keep up your great ministry!”

2014 has been quite a year!  It’s been a pleasure and a blessing to share it with all our readers and commenters!  2015 is already sure to be another exciting 12 months, with the already scheduled World Meeting of Families in September, the second Synod in November, and Pope Francis appointing cardinals in February.  And who knows what else the Holy Spirit has in store!  Whatever it is, we look forward to the opportunity to share it with you in the coming year.  Stay tuned!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



In Historic First, Belgian Bishop Calls Church to Bless Lesbian & Gay Couples

For the first time in known history, a Roman Catholic bishop has explicitly called for the Church to recognize and bless committed same-gender relationships.   New Ways Ministry strongly applauds this bold and courageous move.

Bishop Johan Bonny

Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium, made his comments in an interview with De Morgen, a Belgian newspaper that was published on December 27, 2014.  He called for the Church to recognize the faithfulness and commitment of same-gender couples in the same way that the Church recognizes the relationships of heterosexual couples.   A news story about the interview in The National Catholic Reporter contained excerpts translated into English, including:

“There should be recognition of a diversity of forms. We have to look inside the church for a formal recognition of the kind of interpersonal relationship that is also present in many gay couples. Just as there are a variety of legal frameworks for partners in civil society, one must arrive at a diversity of forms in the church. … The intrinsic values are more important to me than the institutional question. The Christian ethic is based on lasting relationships where exclusivity, loyalty, and care are central to each other.”

Bonny acknowledged that the pontificate of Pope Francis, which has offered greater openness to LGBT issues, has motivated to speak his mind.  On whether the Church will eventually bless lesbian and gay couples’ relationships, he said:

“Personally, I find that in the church more space must be given to acknowledge the actual quality of gay and lesbian couples; and such a form of shared-life should meet the same criteria as found in an ecclesiastical marriage.… And we have to acknowledge that such criteria can be found in a diversity of relationships and one needs to search for various models to give form to those relationships.”

Bonny also stated that he still considers that heterosexual marriage should maintain its unique place in the Church:

“This relationship will continue to retain its own particular sacramental character and liturgical form. But this particularity does not have to be exclusive nor does it have to close the door on a diversity of relationships whose inner qualities the church can acknowledge.”

“Indeed, we need to seek a formal recognition of the kind of relationship that exists between many gay and lesbian couples. Does that recognition have to be a sacramental marriage? Perhaps the church could much better reflect on a diversity of forms of relationships. One has the same kind of discussion about civil marriages. In Belgium the same model (for civil marriages) exists for man-woman relations as well as for same-sex relations.”

Bishop Bonny’s statements are the first time a bishop has explicitly called for ecclesiastical recognition of same-gender couples, but it is not the first time that a bishop has shown support for such ideas.  In the 1990s, Bishop Jacques Gaillot of Evreux, France, was removed from his diocese, in part because he blessed a gay couple’s relationship.  Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia, has called for the Church to revamp its sexual ethics in a more progressive way, and in a way which would open the possibility of recognizing and blessing same-gender relationships.  Many bishops and other church leaders have recently been calling for legal recognition of same-gender couples, though none has gone so far as to ask for recognition from the Church for these couples.

Bonny was in the news in September 2014 when he released a paper in advance of the synod on marriage and family, in which he called for greater openness to gay and lesbian couples, divorced and remarried people, and cohabitating partners.

The National Catholic Reporter article quoted  Professor Rik Torfs, a canon law scholar and the rector of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, who noted the import of Bonny’s remarks:

“Do not underestimate the significance of this. Bonny advocates a change from principles long held as unshakable, something no bishop could have done under the dogmatic pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.”

New Ways Ministry strongly applauds Bishop Bonny’s call for ecclesiastical recognition of same-gender couples. His request is based on the fact that the moral qualities of faithfulness, loyalty, and care which characterize lesbian and gay couples are the very same principles which characterize the unique form of heterosexually married couples.  These principles are the same ones which the majority of Catholic theologians today say should be the basis of the Church’s sexual ethics, instead of basing these ethics on a procreative standard and the outdated concept of male-female complementarity.

Gay and lesbian Catholics and their supporters will surely welcome Bishop Bonny’s call, as this call has been expressed for many decades now, though previous papacies have tried to silence it.  It comes at a time when the entire Church is focused on the idea of marriage and family as we discuss these issues in this year between the synods.  Bishop Bonny’s statements will have a profound effect on this discussion because he is raising an idea which has too long been suppressed, but which many in the Church have desired.  He gives voice to a major segment of Catholicism which has previously been voiceless.

Courage breeds courage.  Let’s pray that other bishops will follow Bishop Bonny’s example and speak out for recognizing the holiness in the committed relationships of lesbian and gay couples.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

The Worst Catholic LGBT News of 2014

thumbs downAs the year 2014 comes to a close, Bondings 2.0 takes a look back at the worst and the best news in the Catholic LGBT world.  If  you want to keep up-to-date on the latest news about the ups and downs of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community, please consider subscribing to this blog.  To do so, enter your email address in the “Follow blog via email” box at the top of the column on the right-hand side of this page, and press “Follow.”  You will then receive an email every time the blog is updated, usually once a day.  You’ll never miss out on the latest news and opinion in the Catholic LGBT world! 

Today we look at the worst news of 2014, and tomorrow, we will report on the best items.

A few days ago, we asked our readers to choose five stories in the worst category and five in the best category.  Each category had 15 items, and there was an option to “write in” other topics that we might have missed.  The following is the ranking of the top ten items from the worst category, in descending order,  with the percentage of votes each item received:

TIE 1. The firing of LGBT and ally church workers continues throughout the year, with little sign of ending.   12.7%


TIE 2. Four U.S. Catholic dioceses add morality clauses to teacher contracts which explicitly forbid support of marriage equality and other forms of LGBT justice. 12.7%

3. In St. Louis, a lesbian couple is denied communion at the funeral of one partner’s mother. In Montana, an elderly gay couple is denied communion at a parish. In Michigan, a gay parishioner and music minister is expelled from parish activities.  12.3%

4.  The Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the Family pulls back from the favorable language towards lesbian and gay people in its mid-term report and returns to language framed around opposition to marriage equality.  9.4%

5. Liberia’s Archbishop Lewis Zeiglier of Monrovia signs a Liberia Council of Churches’ statement linking Ebola as God’s punishment for homosexuality.  9.13%

6.  A hospitalized gay man in Washington, DC is denied the sacrament of the anointing of the sick by a priest chaplain.  7.94%

7. The advance materials for the 2015 World Meeting of Families, to be held in Philadelphia and visited by Pope Francis, reveals negative messages regarding LGBT people.  7.54%

8. Springfield, Illinois’ Bishop Thomas Paprocki says marriage equality supporters should be disciplined like children.  6.35%

9. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision threatens to redefine religious liberty in a dangerous way for LGBT concerns.  5.56%

10. Although Pope Francis has asked church leaders not to obsess on issues such as gay marriage, the U.S. bishops, at their annual meeting, re-affirm opposition to marriage equality.  4.76%

No one wrote in any additional items on the ballot.  A few of those polled did add some commentary:

Brian Kneeland: “The anti-LGBT work by the church needs to stop and a real pastoral approach adopted by Church leaders!”

Alice Zachmann, SSND: “It was difficult to choose. Each one failed to pass the test,’WHERE THERE is LOVE, THERE IS GOD.’ ”

Casey Lopata: “Until the hierarchy and other institutional Catholic leaders come to accept that gay and lesbian people are NOT defective heterosexuals (but have a God-given sexual orientation on a continuum of natural sexual orientation variations), discriminatory statements and actions will continue.”

The fact that the top two vote-getters are both employment-related shows that this topic is of great concern.  Other than that, it is hard to discern any other pattern in the voting.  However, if you see a trend based on the results above, please inform us of it in the “Comments” section of this post.

Stay tuned for the BEST Catholic LGBT news tomorrow!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Taiwanese Catholic University Worried LGBT Event “Will Turn Everyone Gay”

Miao Po-ya

Taiwan’s only Catholic university removed posters advertising a gay speaker amid fears that students would become gay by attending the event. The cancellation decision comes amidst a national debate about expanding LGBT equality.

The Good Club and the Gender Studies Group at Fu Jen Catholic University hosted Miao Po-ya last month for a talk titled “My Coming Out Experience.” Po-ya heads the Alliance to End the Death Penalty, but is also an openly gay man.

According to Gay Star News, students were originally told the poster was removed because of flaws in their event application, but later they learned:

” ‘The section’s teaching assistant then admitted that someone had complained about the poster and he had sent someone to take it down…After further inquiries, he said, “The title of this poster is too provocative and made school authorities and conservative people discontent and uncomfortable.” ‘ “

An administrator said further, “Traditional people are afraid that this lecture will turn everyone gay” and banned controversial activities. However, Good Club president Chan Ting-qi questioned the school’s action and said the institution should defend students against discrimination.

This decision comes as national debate over LGBT rights is heating up, even though Taiwan stands out among East Asian nations as already having taken steps for LGBT equality. Legislators are currently considering a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, the first legislature to do so in East Asia. The bill proposes to insert gender-neutral language in existing law to remove references to husband and wife or mother and father. As expected, there is staunch religious opposition to the proposed bill. In addition, the Ministry of the Interior recently announced transgender Taiwanese citizens can change their registered identity without proof of gender-confirmation surgery.

Though less than 2% of the population, Taiwanese Catholics, including Fu Jen University administrators, should help lead efforts against discrimination rather than perpetuating false and harmful anti-gay beliefs evident in the incident over Miao Po-ya’s lecture.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

LGBTQ Children in Catholic Families: A Deacon’s View of Holy Family Sunday

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Today’s post is written by a guest blogger: Deacon Ray Dever of St. Paul Catholic Church, Tampa, Florida.

On this first Sunday after Christmas, the Church observes the feast of the Holy Family.  And with that observance inevitably comes reflection on the nature and meaning of the Catholic family today.  Many within the Church still seem to hold an idealized and increasingly inaccurate vision of what a Catholic family looks like, in spite of the growing diversity of the families that comprise the people of God.  As one who would count my own family among that diversity, the topic of Catholic family holds considerable personal interest for me.

In the fall of 2013, at the beginning of our son’s sophomore year at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, he came out as transgender.  In doing so, she became one of only three openly trans* students at Georgetown at the time.  This happened just a few weeks after the now famous Pope Francis interview that made “Who am I to judge?” part of our vernacular.  And with those events, my family found ourselves plunged into all the questions and issues that Catholic families with LGBTQ children face. [Editor’s note:  The term “trans*” is used as a “catch-all” word for the diverse forms of gender identities (other than the traditional male/female binary) that exist in humanity.]

In our case, there was at least one notable difference.  Besides being a husband, father, and professional engineer, I’m a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church, having been ordained in 2009.  When the topic of married clergy comes up, many Catholics are taken aback when they’re told that the Church already has married clergy, mostly in the person of the approximately 18,000 permanent deacons in the US.  I can’t imagine what they would think if they realized there are Catholic clergy whose families include LGBTQ children!

Our journey has probably not been very different than the journey of any family with an LGBTQ child.  It really began with our daughter descending into a deep depression during high school.  We would learn more about depression and mental illness, about suicidal ideations and self-injurious behavior, about therapists and anti-depressant medications than we ever could have imagined or wanted.  That journey would eventually lead to questions of gender identity that were intimately connected with her mental health struggles.

When our daughter came out, my wife and I experienced the full range of thoughts and emotions that any parents do in that situation – shock at the news, a lack of understanding of gender issues, conflict with what the Church teaches about human sexuality, confusion and guilt about what we should do as parents, profound sadness at what felt like the loss of our son, fear and worry for what the future would hold for her.  There were arguments, sleepless nights, and prayers – lots of prayers.

We slowly came to the realization that we hadn’t lost the person who had been our son.  In fact, in many respects we got our child back, as she embraced her gender identity and emerged from the depths of depression.  All the creativity, humor, empathy, and intelligence that make her an exceptional person are still there and are shining through stronger than ever.  And I’d like to think that the acceptance of her immediate and extended Catholic family have played some part in that positive transformation.

However, family support for LGBTQ children is obviously not the rule, and is often problematic for Catholic families in particular, given the mixed and often confusing messages they hear from the Church regarding LGBTQ issues.  A few months ago I had the privilege of visiting with the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Catholic chaplain’s office at Georgetown.  While I was surprised and gratified by the warm welcome that I received as an interested, supportive parent of an LGBTQ student, I was saddened to hear that I was the exception and that there were far too many stories of families rejecting their LGBTQ children and of causing tremendous pain and family divisions.

While I am certainly not qualified or authorized to speak for the Church on LGBTQ issues, I have been commissioned by the Church through ordination to proclaim and to preach the Gospel.  And if one thing is crystal clear in the public ministry and teachings of our Lord, it is that everyone is included in His love and mercy and forgiveness, and that we are all called to do the same.  For those Catholic families with LGBTQ children that are struggling with what they should do, I would suggest that they look to the Holy Family.  Look to the love embodied in the Incarnation, a love like no other, and embrace your children.  As the Church calls us to do first and foremost, follow your conscience, love own another, and especially love your children.

–Deacon Ray Dever, St. Paul Catholic Church, Tampa, Florida

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Columnist: Conservative Catholics Cannot Expect Gay People to Disappear

Damon Linker

2014 was a landmark year for LGBT rights in the United States as marriage equality grew rapidly and polling showed record high rates of acceptance. In the church, Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops opened up discussions of LGBT issues which were unprecedented. And along the way, conservative Catholics have strongly resisted each new development.

For the good of LGBT people and the good of the church, a new approach is needed going forward, says columnist for The Week Damon Linker. He writes:

“I have also made the case that opposing gay marriage is not prima facie evidence of anti-gay bigotry. I still believe that — though a recent egregiously anti-gay article in the conservative Catholic magazine Crisis is enough to inspire some doubts.”

Linker’s article was a response to recent publicity gained by lesbian and gay Catholics who choose celibacy which, in their opinion, helps them conform to the hierarchy’s articulation of Catholic teaching around homosexuality. Bondings 2.0 has covered this topic, which feature figures like Eve Tushnet and Joshua Gonnerman. Linker rightly suggests that conservative Catholics would treat celibate gay people as “heroes or saints” for adhering to church teaching and acting counter-culturally.

However, that is not always the case as the Crisis piece by Austin Ruse reveals. Setting aside Ruse’s ad hominem attacks against Tushnet and Gonnerman, he suggests these “New Homophiles” are wrong in serious ways. According to Linker, Ruse thinks they are wrong for the following reasons:

“First, they affirm a gay identity. Second, they think that this identity gives them distinctive spiritual gifts. Ruse thinks both assumptions are false, because they treat homosexuality as something fixed or given, and even as something positive in certain respects. The truth, for Ruse, is that homosexual desires are the problem — and they shouldn’t be granted any from of validity. On the contrary, they should simply be overcome, transcended, cured. Like a disease.

“This is nothing new. Variations on this view have been espoused by anti-gay bigots for a very long time. But that doesn’t make it any less grotesque. Especially for a Christian.”

Linker criticizes those Ruse and others like him for forcing lesbian and gay Catholics into a “stark choice…leave the church for good or somehow make their homosexual desires vanish. Exile or erasure.” This position forces LGBT Catholics to meet a higher standard than their heterosexual counterparts, while contributing to poor theology which ignores “a mountain of scientific evidence” and many experiences. Linker concludes:

“That’s why Tushnet and Gonnerman irk Ruse so intensely — because despite their manifest devotion to the church, and willingness to endure the deprivations of celibacy for the sake of their faith, they nonetheless insist on treating their homosexual desires as givens that may possess a particle, a grain, a tiny scrap of dignity, rather than as traits that deserve to be denied, explained away, or consigned to oblivion.

“In the end, the problem for Ruse and like-minded Catholic conservatives is that homosexuals refuse to disappear…

“If the Catholic Church hopes to avoid seeing the gates of hell prevail against it, it will have to follow their example — and make abundantly clear who the real ‘bad Catholics’ are.”

I would add that Ruse and other Catholics who treat homosexuality so disparagingly that lesbian and gay Catholics who do not choose celibacy but remain faithfully committed to the Catholic Church provide the same powerful witness. Their lives, their relationships, their families, and their existence in our faith communities challenge the anti-gay elements within the church at least as much as those who choose celibacy do.

Further, violence and discrimination due to one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity is an all too prevalent reality in our world, even in places where legal equality is expanding. Whether celibate or not, LGBT Catholics are wonderfully present in our church and our world, and Catholics must find newer ways in 2015 to extend a welcome and provide opportunities for dialogue. I affirm Linker’s point that the institutional church must clearly condemn voices like Ruse that are viciously anti-gay, even if differences remain about legal rights or affirmation of same-sex relationships.

If you are interested in Bondings 2.0‘s ongoing coverage of the debate around celibacy and homosexuality in the Catholic Church, click here.

Also, if you have not already done so, take a moment to vote for the best and worst Catholic LGBT stories of 2014 by clicking here. The results will be forthcoming before the New Year!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

What Was the Best and Worst of Catholic LGBT News in 2014?

2014 has been quite a year!   Synod debates, church worker firings, the “Francis effect,” anti-gay laws, students speaking out for equality–and much, much more!

On the last two days of the year, Bondings 2.0 will review the news of the past year in the Catholic LGBT world by posting “The Worst of 2014″ and “The Best of 2014.”

Please help us prepare these posts by taking a moment to take the two one-question surveys below.  You can choose up to FIVE responses to each question.  One of those responses can be “Other” where you can write-in your own selection.  Please respond by 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday, December 29th.

If your memory needs refreshing about what happened this past year, just use the tools in the right hand column of this blog to find stories that have been reported on here.  You can search by clicking on a category, by using a search term, or by reviewing posts by month.

Thanks for your help with this project!  We look forward to reading your responses!