Where Do You Find Hope for the Church in 2015?

As many of you may know, I am currently pursuing graduate studies in theology at Boston College. Last semester, a professor framed an entire course as a way of answering 1 Peter 3:15 which says:

“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”

That question sticks with me as the new year begins. With 2015 underway, Bondings 2.0 wonders what sources of hope Catholic LGBT advocates look to for the coming year. What is the reason for our hope?

One possibility is the church’s bishops, whose corporate identity is shifting under Pope Francis. He recently announced twenty new cardinals to be incardinated in February, whose names you can find here. Of this Joshua McElwee writes at the National Catholic Reporter:

“Continuing to diversify global representation in the most select body of Catholic prelates, Pope Francis announced Sunday that he will be creating 20 new cardinals from 18 different countries — with several from places never before included in the elite group…

“While historically cardinals have come from certain larger cities known for their Catholic populations or global importance, Francis has sought to diversify representation in the group — choosing men from places long underrepresented or even not represented in the College of Cardinals.”

Beyond the global diversity, John Allen of Crux notes these cardinal-designates include “a couple of high-profile moderates but no one with a clear reputation as a doctrinal or political conservative.” None of those named have been featured on Bondings 2.0 since we began in 2011, which is to say their records on LGBT issues specifically may be sparse. Additionally, no Americans were named and only one was a Vatican official. Clearly, Pope Francis’ choices reinforce his preference for bishops who are foremost pastors rather than hardened cultural warriors on LGBT rights and other sexual issues.

As 2014 ended, several church leaders were sources of hope for LGBT advocates. For example:

Perhaps your source of hope does not depend on clerical leaders. You may feel like Heidi Schlumpf who says she has “stopped pinning my hopes on prelates.” Writing in the National Catholic Reporter about the transition in the Archdiocese of Chicago from Cardinal Francis George, who “inspired fear,” to Archbishop Blase Cupich, who is being celebrated in progressive circles, she explains:

“The reporter in me should have been more excited when the announcement came in September that Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash., would be the next archbishop of Chicago. But I stopped pinning my hopes on prelates a long time ago…I’m not pessimistic, but neither am I hopeful. I have learned the hard way not to put my faith in church leaders. I prefer good ones to bad ones, but they are not the most important people in the church to me.”

Instead, Schlumpf would likely consider herself among the many Catholics whose hope for the church rests in the laity

Since December began, Catholics laity in the U.S. and other parts of the world have stirred our hopes by standing up for LGBT justice as a constitutive part of Christian faith. This witness includes:

  • An Indiana Knights of Columbus council’s decision to welcome a same-sex couple to their banquet facilities after pro-LGBT voices, including Knights, protested initial discrimination;
  • Gay Catholic Voice Ireland and others mounting a pro-equality campaign as that nation considers a referendum on marriage;
  • Students teaching adults about LGBT justice — from 6th grade through college, and being sure to include trans* rights in these efforts;
  • LGBT Catholics in New York who spearheaded efforts to save one parish amid that archdiocese’s massive closings.

So where are you placing your hope for 2015? Is it in Pope Francis and church leaders who are becoming more pastoral and merciful? Is it in the lay people who continue witnessing to an inclusive Gospel? Is it a combination of the two or something else entirely? Let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

8 Responses to Where Do You Find Hope for the Church in 2015?

  1. Robert Simon says:

    Dear friends from New Ways Ministry,
    We need leaders to carry out the voice of Jesus in the XXIst century.The pope and the bishops should be the main leaders. They were not in the XXth century with some rare exceptions. I hope pope Francis will give us a new generation of bishops. Leaders could also come from the laitybut Catholics are trained to listen to priests only in churches. They are trained not to listen to anybody who is not a priest and would like to talk about faith. This was particularly effective in France. We do not have prominent theologian.
    In the last 2 years something new happened : after the letter that monseigneur Vingt Trois, archbishop of Paris and the conference of French bishops asked to be read in all parishes on August 15th, 2012 against same sex families , some very conservative catholic people organized a strong movement against same sex marriage : la manif pour tous. This movement probably has the financial support of American conservative foundations and may be Russian money. It has also the support of extreme right people in France. This movement focuses on what they call traditionnal values. They look backward. This is not for me the voice of Jesus for the XXIst century.
    Progressive catholics have to be heard. This is why some NGOs are preparing an event called Council 50. This event will take place in November 2015 in Rome. http://www.council50.org/c50/
    People who support New Ways Ministry should support Council 50.
    Council 50 is my hope for the Catholic Church.

  2. Friends says:

    My (perhaps whimsical and metaphorical) hope is that the Holy Spirit merely took a bit of a nap after the salutary reforms of Vatican II — figuring that the Church was now in good hands — but He has now woken up amazed and annoyed, to find that the Church under Benedict once again betrayed the true mission imparted to it by Jesus. Why do I say “once again”? I’ll simply pass along the following link, with some trepidation, but I believe it’s a salutary history for us to discover, and to learn from:

    http://www.spirituallysmart.com/nazi.html

    Our folks can draw their own conclusions about what took place in the Roman Catholic Church in Europe, in the 1930s. The photos are absolutely astounding. May it never, ever happen again.

  3. When I hear the word “diversity” in the Church, I think of the many shades of class, sexual orientation and other markers of our identities. More than Third World cardinals being appointed, I would find great hope in some female, gay and working class people being appointed as cardinals. It isn’t necessary to be male or even a bishop to be appointed a cardinal. This is the moment for Pope Francis to appoint some women into this body that can truly represent the Church. And surely there are some gay cardinals now. Why not truly diversify by naming some new ones who are out and proud about their sexual orientation? Now that would give me hope in 2015!

  4. I find hope from this newsletter. I am better prepared to speak with my family and friends about lgbt issues from our faith perspective because of everything I learn from 2.0. I am so thankful to find your news everyday. I am so thankful to share in the loving spirit of God’s hand reaching to all his people. Bondings 2.0 has been a spiritual lifeline for me and I start each day with prayerful reflection on your posts to fortify my day. I have seen too many to count subtle changes in the way people around me open up about lgbt issues whenever I am given the blessed opportunity to discuss their unexamined indoctrinations and share my love for my gay son as a cradle catholic mom. Thank you so much for being there for me and for those I bring the good news to! I believe. I love you all!

  5. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM says:

    I find hope in the history of the RCC. I believe that when Jesus is quoted, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” Jesus was recognizing the breakthrough of a very human Simon who so often just didn’t get it, but joyfully, eventually, after all the chaos, still knew the Christ. And that humanity is the rock, foundation, of the Church. I find hope in this very human RCC. I know the Holy Spirit has been with us and remains with us despite the very stupid things we have done (supporting slavery; denying that aboriginal people have souls; the Crusades; the Inquisition, etc). Even during the worst times, the Holy Spirit shines through members of the RCC who have proclaimed the Good News and calls its members back to righteousness despite the powers of hell in our midst. This gives me hope. This is why I stay. Through the RCC, I know that God delights in my humanity just the way I am. And I delight in my Beloved and vow to be one of the voices defying the powers of hell.

  6. Tom Gaudet says:

    What gives me hope for the Church in 2015 is the way in which the sisters of the LCWR continue to take a contemplative approach to their ordeal with the Vatican. In 2012, when the news of their condemnation broke, they could have easily just broken with the Church and moved on. But no, under the leadership of Sister Pat Farrell, OSF, they agreed that contemplation would be the best way to discern the Spirit at work even in this! It seems to me that the sisters have a lot in common with us LGBT Catholics. They have been scrutinized, criticized, and unjustly punished for being who they are- women of the Gospel trying to follow the Christ life in service to those in need. The sisters and their model of contemplative listening give me hope for a way through the injustice with which the Church leaders have treated us LGBT Catholics. The Spirit is on the move and no one, not even the most devoted traditionalist, can stop her!

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