Canadian Professor Gives Catholics a Lesson on Courage and Faith

In December 2014, Bondings 2.0 reported on a controversy in the Alberta province of Canada concerning Bill 10, a proposed law which would give local school boards the final say on whether a gay-straight alliance (GSA) could be established by students in a school.  This is especially important for Catholic schools in Alberta, which are state-funded, and run by Catholic boards.  The bill would make it more difficult for students to establish a GSA.

Alberta’s Premier delayed a vote on the bill so that a wider debate could happen among parents, school board members, administrators, students, and faculty.

But it seems that the hoped-for debate has not taken place. At least that’s the feeling of one University of Alberta professor, who recently penned an open letter calling on the Catholic school boards to start discussing the matter openly.

Dr. Kristopher Wells

Dr. Kristopher Wells of the university’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies challenged the trustees to start speaking, but he suspects their silence is caused by the fact that even though a recent poll showed that 80% of Albertans support GSAs, the two bishops of the province would like to see the controls put in place that Bill 10 offers.

660News.com quoted from Wells’ letter:

“What we’re asking is for that curtain of silence to be lifted. We certainly have seen the pastoral letters from the bishops in Edmonton and Calgary but our democratically elected trustees have yet to speak and talk about how they understand GSAs and if they’ll support them.

“They can’t bring the issues forward out of fear for precautions and certainly the premier has promised consultation and we feel like democratically elected trustees should be part of that consultation, and we should be hearing from them, that’s their jobs.”

The Vauxhall Advance quoted Wells’ allegations that it is fear imposed bishops which caused the silenced discussion and interference with democracy:

“Catholic school trustees are not speaking out. We know that, for example, Catholic students have been silenced, parents have been silenced, along with trustees, teachers, and administrators on these LGBQT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer and Transgender/Transsexual) issues in schools. So what does that say about democracy if so many people are prevented from speaking out on these issues? I think for many of the Catholic trustees, and teachers in particular, there’s a great fear of retribution, where they’ve been told to stop speaking out.

“We’ve seen the letters from the Catholic bishops who refuse to support gay-straight alliances in schools. The fact that we have this ongoing censorship, I think as a public we have to ask if democratically-elected Catholic trustees are forbidden to voice their views, or speak on behalf of their constituents, is democracy being served? Do voters and their views not count?”

Wells noted that in the past the trustees did not always side with the bishops on other issues of controversy such as HPV vaccines:

“Science, reason and the evidence moved trustees to make decisions that would support students in their schools, and we’re asking for the same kind of consideration here on this issue surrounding gay-straight alliances — let the science, let the research, and let the evidence speak, and let’s have discussions, rather than this curtain of silence being dropped on trustees, with no dialogue, no debate, and certainly no democracy being served.”

This development is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in our Catholic Church when lay people are afraid to speak their opinions because of fear of the hierarchy.  Fortitude/courage is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives this description:

“Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.”

And Canon 212 of the Code of Canon Law states:

Ҥ2.The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

“§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.”

Pope Francis has clearly signaled that debate and discussion should not be foreign to Catholic circles. That is the method of discernment that the Church should exercise.

The road to LGBT equality in the Catholic Church would be much easier if more Catholics found the courage to speak their beliefs to their pastors, bishops, and other leaders.  We should all pray to always have that kind of courage.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Widen the Synod Circle with Diverse Voices

“WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?” is  Bondings 2.0′s series on how Catholics–the hierarchy and laity–can prepare for the Synod on Marriage and Family that will take place at the Vatican in October 2015. If you would like to consider contributing a post to this series, please click here

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Since before the synod in 2014, New Ways Ministry, along with other Catholic reform organizations, has been calling for Vatican leaders to include diverse families, including those headed by LGBT people, to offer testimony about their faith journeys and relationships to the bishops assembled at these important meetings. Now, New Ways has joined with 31 other national and international Catholic organizations to encourage Catholics around the U.S. and the globe to sign an online petition asking the Vatican “to widen the circle of people invited to participate in the upcoming Family Synod 2015.”

The petition states:

“We urge the Vatican Synod office to make every effort to include a wide diversity of Catholics, especially those from the constituencies being discussed including divorced and remarried people, co-habitating couples, interfaith families, impoverished families, single parents, families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, same-sex couples, and families torn by the violence of war and abuse. These women and men can share their lives and stories in a way that creates greater understanding among the bishops who will, in the end, make critical recommendations about the Church’s priorities and pastoral practices for years to come.”

The deadline for signing the petition is March 3, 2015.     In addition to mailing and emailing  the petition, a representative of the coalition of endorsing groups will hand deliver the petition to Cardinal Baldisseri at the Office of the Synod of Bishops in Rome.   The list of the 32 endorsers can be found at the end of the petition.

The coalition has a website, OurCatholicFamily.org, which includes other ways that people can influence the synod organizers to plan a more open synod:

  1. Host a listening and discussion session at your parish or faith community to examine the issues that members face concerning marriage, family, and sexuality.  The website has resources for facilitating such a meeting.
  2. Meet with your local bishop.  The website offers a template of a letter requesting such a meeting, as well as a list of tips for speaking with your bishop.
  3. Contact the synod delegates and share your family’s story with them. The names of the U.S. delegates, along with some background on them, can be found by clicking here.  Their addresses, as well as addresses for Vatican officials, can be found by clicking here.

A press release from the coalition offered the following perspectives:

“Pope Francis wants a synod that is characterized by a ‘culture of encounter.’” said Sheila Peiffer, Coordinator of Catholics Organizations for Renewal, a leadership forum of US organizations inspired by Vatican II.  “He wants the synod fathers to recognize ‘the Lord’s gratuitous work, even outside customary models, ’” she said.  “That is a powerful mandate that is only achievable if Catholics whose experience has a direct bearing on the issues being discussed are invited and heard at the synod.”

Listening to Catholics who know the issues being discussed from the inside, from experience, is essential for meaningful dialogue,” said Deborah Rose-Milavec, Executive Director of FutureChurch, an organization promoting the rights and responsibilities of all Roman Catholics.  “That kind of listening and dialogue will create greater understanding among the bishops whose final recommendations to Pope Francis will likely impact our Church’s pastoral practice for years to come,” she said.

The coalition is also maintaining a list of potential speakers that are being recommended to the synod.  Those which have New Ways Ministry connections are:

Reverend Joseph A. Brown, S. J., a professor of Africana Studies at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and a speaker on African-American Catholics and LGBT issues at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity/USA, a speaker at New Ways Ministry’s Fourth National Symposium in 1997. She is being recommended with her wife, Becky Duddy-Burke.

Deacon Ray Dever of St. Paul parish, Tampa, Florida, who recently penned a Bondings 2.0 blog post about his family’s acceptance of his transgender daughter.

Hilary Howes, a transgender woman, who with her wife, Celestine Ranney-Howes, spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012 about their Catholic marriage, before, during, and after Hilary’s gender transition.

Mary Hunt, a feminist theologian, who co-founded and co-directs the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual. Mary served on New Ways Ministry’s Board in the 1980s. She is being recommended with her wife and ministry partner, Diann Neu.

Tom and Linda Karle-Nelson, parents of gay sons, who helped establish Fortunate Families, a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT children.  The Karle-Nelsons are frequent participants at New Ways Ministry programs.

If you choose to write to your bishop, or to synod delegates and Vatican officials, you might consider sending your own recommendations for who would be a good speaker.  If you have some suggestions you would like to share with our readers, please post them in the “Comments” section of this post.

New Ways Ministry is proud to support all these efforts, and we hope and pray that the synod in the fall of 2015 will be much more representative of the Church than the synod in 2014 was.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

Catholic Schools Inspire Resistance to Injustices Against Church Workers

This week is National Catholic Schools Week, a celebration of the church’s educational efforts in the U.S. There is much to be celebrated, but it is also an opportune moment to consider the firing of LGBT and ally church workers.

Last year, Bondings 2.0 reflected on fair employment practices in Catholic schools during this week. Since then more than twenty church workers have lost their jobs in LGBT-related disputes.

This year, we are highlighting the many instances in which those educated by Catholic schools organize resistance against these unjust actions. Students have walked out of their schools in protest, held rallies to support beloved teachers, and even held a national day of action last January.

Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly, an alumna of Marian High School, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, which fired lesbian science teacher Barb Webb last year, wrote a perceptive article in The New York Times about those formed by Catholic education who are now challenging the church about LGBT justice. She writes:

“The sense of shame I felt for the halls I once walked in dissipated as I joined both graduates and nongraduates of Marian in a social media movement supporting Ms. Webb. I wasn’t the only member of our community to be angered — far from it . While I have had a distant relationship with the Catholic Church for a few years now, I was one of many who had hoped for better from two establishments — my school and the church I grew up in and still loved. The values of the Catholic Church will always be within me and are passed onto our children.”

Jones-Ly writes about her own time at Marian, specifically recalling a paper arguing for same-sex marriage that received a failing grade for not expressing the “view of the Catholic Church.” These experiences, coupled with nearly 50 dedicated church workers disputing employment actions from 2008 to now because of LGBT issues, leave this alumna questioning Catholic education today:

“While my paper affected my class grade, it wasn’t damaging enough to alter my life. Ms. Webb seems to have made some of the same assumptions I did when I turned in that paper — that a church that counts among its most important principles the command that each of us “love thy neighbor” would place blind adherence to doctrine over an individual member of the community’s welfare…

“The school, and the church, would likely say that the firing of Ms. Webb wasn’t ‘personal’ either. But when I consider my children, the religion in which to raise them, and our coming choice about whether to send them to Catholic school, I find myself wishing the church would be more personal, and take into account the people who are part of it, and the global community of which we are a part today.”

These firings were identified by Bondings 2.0 readers as the worst Catholic LGBT news in 2014 and are a growing crisis for the American Church. On its face, threatening employees with the loss of their job unless they violate their conscience or suppress their identities and relationsships is antithetical to the Gospel. These firings also act as a vaccine against the Catholic faith and could lead the Catholic Church to become a shrinking cult as younger members leave more and more. As the tremendous good of Catholic schools is celebrated this week, it is essential to consider how the church’s educational ministries can more credibly and inclusively engage LGBT issues.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of these and other LGBT-related disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or click here. You can also find a full listing of the more than 40 incidents made public since 2008 by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Pope Francis Reportedly Meets with Transgender Man Rejected by Parish

Diego Neria Lejárraga

According to a Spanish newspaper report, Pope Francis recently held a private meeting at the Vatican with a transgender man and his fiancee.

Diego Neria Lejárraga had written to the pope about being rejected by his faith community after undergoing gender confirming surgery.  Neria explained: “After hearing him on many occasions, I felt that he would listen to me.”

Neria told the newspaper Hoy, from the Extremadura region of Spain, that Pope Francis had initially responded to his letter with  a phone call, and the pontiff told Neria that the letter “touched his soul.”

According to The Huffington Post, the private meeting last week was a result of this December exchange on the phone. A spokesperson from the Vatican, Fr. Manuel Dorantes, would not confirm the meeting, however.

In the Huffington Post article, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, questioned the Vatican’s silence but said he would not be surprised if the meeting had happened. He said the meeting did not necessarily indicate a stance of papal “acceptance,” but it was definitely a very positive indication of the way that Francis wants the church to respond:

” ‘The Vatican’s reluctance to verify the meeting is another indication of why I don’t think their attitude can yet be called ‘acceptance’…

“This pope, through his many gestures of meeting with those who society and the church treat as outcasts, has made it his mission to lead by example, and to send a strong message of welcome and hospitality to all people, regardless of their state in life. . . .

” ‘Pope Francis is an intellectual who values discussion…I think that his meeting with the transgender man was a gesture not only of pastoral care, but of genuine interest in learning about the transgender experience from a firsthand source.’ “

Speaking to the Washington Blade, Marianne Duddy Burke, executive of DignityUSA, called the meeting”a very significant event” and continued:

“For the pope to meet with a transgender man about to be married, and for that meeting to result in this man feeling more hopeful about his place in the Church, shows a concern for those at the very margins of our church…I hope the pope listened carefully to this man’s experience, and will speak about what he heard.”

Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, director of Latino and Catholic Initiatives for the Human Rights Campaign, affirmed this view, saying the meeting was an “extraordinary event.”

Pope Francis has communicated with LGBT communities before, including a letter to the Florence-based Catholic group Kairos. This outreach was one of the things that inspired Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, to ask the pope if he would meet with a group of LGBT Catholic pilgrims next month in Rome.

Neria told the Spanish daily Hoy that he had long struggled because of his identity, saying “My jail was my own body…Because it absolutely didn’t correspond with what my soul felt.” Transitioning at 40, the man said rejection and condemnation led by the church still left him trapped. Priest mades comments to him such as, “How do you dare to come here with your condition” and “You are the devil’s daughter.”

Neria’s encounter with the pope was entirely transformative and set the man at peace, reports The Washington Post

“Neria told Hoy when he got before the pope, he asked whether, after his transition, whether there a ‘corner in the house of God’ for someone like him. And he said Francis then embraced him.”

Indeed, it has been these personal moments during Francis’ papacy which most clearly reveal his desires for the church and direction for ministry to LGBT people. DeBernardo tells People magazine:

“A pope’s influence is more from his personal example than from any doctrinal edicts…That’s why this meeting is very powerful and can really help to bring about a lot of good.”

If the Vatican confirms the meeting with Neria, the impact of Pope Francis’ witness that being a disciple of Christ means welcoming all would be that much more powerful. Hopefully, the pope will continue encountering many more LGBT people before next fall’s Synod on Family Life, and these meetings could inspire him to permit LGBT people to speak of their experiences of faith, relationship, and identity to the synod bishops.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

New Film Considers Life of a Gay Man After Being Fired from a Catholic School

When I first saw the trailer for the new film, Love Is Strange, a few weeks ago, I thought that the producers could advertise it with the tagline:  “Ripped from the headlines of Bondings 2.0!”  But then I got real about how well-known this blog is.   LOL!

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in “Love Is Strange”

Still, the main premise of this new film starring John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, and Marisa Tomei is indeed on a topic about which we report and comment frequently on this blog:  a gay employee being fired from a Catholic institution when it is found out that he has legally married his lifelong partner.

Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) are an aging gay couple who marry in New York City after having been committed to one another for 39 years.  George, a music teacher at what to all appearances is a Manhattan Catholic school, is soon fired, however, when the administrators at the school learn of the marriage.  What follows is a sometimes touching, but more often sad, story of what can happen to a couple, and their extended families, when a main source of their livelihood is taken from them.

Ben and George end up having to sell their apartment, and when they do not receive the amount they had expected from the sale, they are forced to live separately with their respective family members (one of them played by Tomei).  The impact of this abrupt change on their relationship and on their relatives comprises the bulk of the film’s story line.

As far as I know, the film did not have a long or wide theatrical release. in the U.S.  It is available as a Netflix DVD, which is how I viewed it.

My hope and expectation for this film is that it would examine a bit of the crisis that occurs because of an unjust decision by a religious institution.  The writers and director, however, take the movie in a different direction, making it more of a family drama than a story concerned about injustice to LGBT people.

There are two scenes which focus on the employment issue.  The first is the firing itself, which takes place in a priest-administrator’s office, and highlights the hypocrisy present in the decision.  In defending himself, George points out to the priest that his relationship was well-known for many years to the faculty and students at the school, and that even his plans for marrying were known publicly for months, with no repercussions until after the actual marriage itself.

Perhaps the most religious dialogue of the movie are the two lines which end the conversation between the priest and George.  The priest closes the conversation by saying, “Let’s pray.  I don’t want this to make you question your faith.”    George’s response is the strong declaration: “I still believe in Jesus Christ as my savior.”

The second segment that deals with the firing is a memory montage of George’s music teaching, as the voice-over narration is the text of a letter that he wrote to the parents, explaining why he was fired.  He encourages the parents to have a conversation with their children to see if they think that justice was served in this situation.  He also urges parents to tell students not to ever hide who they are or to fear what they think.

As a story about how an elderly gay couple must navigate their relationship through a rocky patch of economic woes and forced separation, Love Is Strange is a moving film.  As the story of the faith and justice questions involved when a gay person is fired from a church job, the film only barely scratches the surface.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

Will Pope Francis Meet With Sister Jeannine Gramick and LGBT Catholics?

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Since becoming pope in March 2013, one of Pope Francis’ most endearing habits has been making phone calls or writing notes to ordinary people, and even sometimes meeting with them in a personal encounter.

Sister Jeannine Gramick
Sister Jeannine Gramick

So, is it too much to hope that he might meet with friends of New Ways Ministry when Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder, leads a pilgrimage of LGBT and ally Catholics to Rome in February?

Well,  knowing from first-hand experience that stranger things have definitely happened,  and that God truly does move in mysterious ways, Sister Jeannine has written to Pope Francis asking him if he had some time in his busy papal schedule to meet with these 50 people who are traveling to Italy to visit shrines, churches, and monuments in not only the Eternal City, but Florence, and Assisi, as well.

In her December 23, 2014, letter to the pontiff, Sr. Jeannine wrote, in part:

“I am one of your multi-billion+ fans! On my computer is a round decal with your picture and the words, ‘This Pope gives me hope!’  On my car is a bumper sticker that says, ‘I ♥ Pope Francis.’ . . .

“In February, I will be leading a pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi, and Florence for 50 Catholics, who are lesbian/gay or are parents, family members or friends of lesbian/gay Catholics. They are so very heartened by your words of mercy and welcome. They believe, as you say, that receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is spiritual nourishment that we need to grow in our love-relationship with God, not a prize to be awarded those who are worthy.

“We will be in Rome from February 17 to February 20 and plan to attend your general audience on Ash Wednesday. The pilgrims would like to meet personally with you for a few minutes, either after your general audience, or at another time at your convenience.

“Would it be possible for you to meet personally with these faith-filled Catholics who have felt too long excluded from their Church?”

Back in the 1990s, when on a flight from Rome to Munich to pray at the tomb of her religious congregation’s foundress, Sister Jeannine serendipitously ended up on the same flight as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), who at the time was directing an investigation of Sister Jeannine’s ministry with lesbian and gay people. The two shared a delightful conversation, and Sister Jeannine has stated that it helped her see the human side of a man whom many considered to be her greatest adversary.  Indeed, on his part, Cardinal Ratzinger acknowledged several times during their talk that this chance meeting had to be the work of Providence.

So, who knows how Pope Francis will respond?  As everyone knows, he has already made several important statements and gestures in regard to greater Catholic openness towards LGBT people, including writing a personal note to Kairos, a Catholic LGBT group in Florence, Italy.

And just yesterday, a Spanish-language news report announced that it seems Pope Francis recently met with a transgender man and his fiancee from Spain in a private audience at the Vatican. The story reports that Diego Neria Lejárraga wrote to the pontiff a month ago describing the ill-treatment he received from fellow parishioners. Bondings 2.0 will provide more details as the story emerges.

The members of Sister Jeannine’s pilgrimage will be meeting with members of Kairos when they visit that beautiful Renaissance city.  Five years ago, she brought another group of pilgrims to Florence and established a friendly relationship with the Kairos leaders and members.

This year, the American group will also be meeting with members of Nuova Proposta, a Catholic LGBT group in Rome, and Sister Jeannine will be giving a talk to the Italian members.

The 10-day pilgrimage coincides with a similar journey being made by LGBT Catholics from Westminister in London, England, under the leadership of longtime pastoral advocate, Martin Pendergast.  The British pilgrims and American pilgrims will meet several times for liturgy and socializing.

Because Sister Jeannine’s pilgrimage group is visiting both Rome and Assisi, and since the present pope has often alluded to St. Francis of Assisi, the pilgrimage is entitled “Rebuild My Church:  St. Francis and Pope Francis.”  In addition to visiting and praying at holy sites and meeting with Catholic LGBT Italians, the pilgrims will also reflect on the ways that they can rebuild the church in their local communities.

Please keep Sister Jeannine and all the pilgrims in your prayers during February.  Bondings 2.0  will update you on any special events that happen during the trip.  And, if Pope Francis does grant the pilgrims a private audience, you will read it here first!  Stay tuned!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

Amid Conflicting Statements, Catholic Healthcare System Considers Granting Benefits to Same-Sex Couples

Conflicting statements have led to a growing controversy about whether the nation’s sixth largest Catholic healthcare system in the U.S. will begin offering benefits to employees in same-sex marriages this spring.

Last week, Missouri’s Springfield News-Leader reported that Mercy Health System, which has 40,000 workers across seven states, would begin offering benefits to employees in same-sex marriages to comply with shifting employment and healthcare regulations. The newspaper quotes Mercy spokesperson Sonya Kullmann:

” ‘As a Catholic health ministry, Mercy has followed the Church’s position on this issue in the past…However, in line with recent changes in government regulations, we will extend benefits to all legally married spouses effective this spring.’ “

However, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch later cited a Mercy statement which says the system is only “exploring how best to expand health care benefits for our co-workers, their dependents and loved ones…to help address their varied family situations…” According to an update from the Springfield News-LeaderMercy is not responding to inquiries about the differing statements.

However, this discrepancy has not stopped Catholic officials from condemning even the possibility that LGBT employees be granted equal benefits. Bishop James Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau condemned the healthcare organization’s action, stating: “no believing Christian worthy of the name should violate God’s law because of ‘regulations.'” Crux reported that the bishop continued:

“Our ancestors refused to abandon the faith even when subjected to the cruelty and torture of the Roman Empire, but in our age unspecified ‘regulations,’ government funds, and fear of public ridicule is sufficient in order to secure the compliance of some,”

According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Archdiocese of St. Louis weighed in on Mercy’s potential move by criticizing the federal government for putting Catholic businesses in a tough spot.

“ ‘It is simply inconsistent to claim to be a Catholic institution while publicly acting against Church teaching…Today, however, Catholic institutions face sanctions from the American government for fidelity to their Catholic identity.’

“The statement added that failure to comply with federal regulations would result ‘in crippling penalties that would gravely impact Mercy’s employees and patient care.’ “

Bishop Johnston and the Archdiocese of St. Louis do not yet understand how valuing and protecting LGBT employees benefits the common good.  Was it their harsh rhetoric that caused Mercy administrators to pause on their decision to extend benefits?

The Springfield News-Leader pointed out that local competitor CoxHealth, a secular healthcare provider, began offering such benefits last fall as a means of “attracting and retaining the best talent.” Mercy would not be the first church-affiliated system to offer equal benefits. For instance, Catholic Health Initiatives began offering such benefits earlier this month to employees in the 19 states in which it operates, saying in a statement:

” ‘CHI believes that health care is part of the common good and is considered a basic human right…And so it was important to make health benefits accessible to employees, their dependents and loved ones within the employee’s family where possible. The goal of expanding coverage overall will continue to align more closely with the desired culture of supporting diversity and families. This change also serves the purpose of eliminating any perceived inequity of benefits by some employees and will help CHI to attract and retain talented employees, regardless of their sexual orientation or personal situation.’ “

The same article also offers other examples of Catholic institutions finding alternative ways to provide benefits to same-sex couples:

“St. Louis-based SSM Health — which has facilities in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Illinois and Missouri — opened employee health plans to ‘legally domiciled adults’ in 2003, according to spokesman Steve Van Dinter.

” ‘Through this innovative and compassionate program, we have been able to extend health care coverage to hundreds of adult spouses, parents, children, and friends who reside with an employee and are not otherwise insured,’ Van Dinter said in an email.

“To qualify as a legally domiciled adult under the plan, the individual must reside in the same home with the employee, be a member of the employee’s household and be 19 years old or older. The first page of a Google search for “legally domiciled adult” is predominantly Catholic institutions explaining their benefit policies, including Loyola University Maryland, Georgetown University, Denver-based SCL Health and the University of San Francisco.”

” ‘As a Catholic health ministry founded by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, SSM Health believes that access to health care coverage is a basic good,’ Van Dinter said.”

Additionally, according to a National Catholic Reporter article from October 2014,  22 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. offer benefits to employees’ same-sex partners, as will the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana.

Mercy administrators should make the just choice for their workers and patients by extending benefits to same-sex couples, a choice which both upholds Catholic identity and adheres to government regulations. In the American system where benefits, especially health insurance, are tied to employment, ensuring employees and their families are adequately cared for is an act of justice. Indeed, Pope John XXIII was one of the first voices to declare healthcare a human right in his 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris. Expanding access to quality care for all, especially marginalized groups like LGBT people, is the action of a “believing Christian worthy of the name.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry