Archbishop Cordileone Skips March for Marriage to Deal with Protests at Home

Teachers and union members rally at the San Francisco archdiocese’s offices

San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was not among those attending last weekend’s March for Marriage, a national gathering in Washington, DC of activists opposed to marriage equality, opting to remain at home and deal with the continually escalating crisis in his archdiocese.

Archbishop Cordileone, who heads the American bishops’ Subcommittee for the Defense of Marriage, was originally scheduled to appear at the National Organization for Marriage’s event, as he had done so last year,though that appearance sparked tremendous controversy.

About 5,000 people attended last Sunday’s March for Marriage scheduled ahead of Tuesday’s oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court in a conglomeration of marriage equality cases. Those in attendance included Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the USCCB’s chair of religious liberty, and Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the U.S.

The Human Rights Campaign released an open letter to Pope Francis objecting to Vigano’s appearance as a breach of diplomatic protocol, an interesting move given the Vatican’s potential denial of a gay ambassador from France.

An archdiocesan statement explained Cordileone’s absence in the following way, according to the San Francisco Chronicle:

” ‘While he remains involved in national issues, Archbishop Cordileone will not be attending the march…His highest priority in the coming days is a productive dialogue with Catholic-school teachers and families here in San Francisco, whose concerns are very important to him.’ “

The statement references the outcry from Catholics in the Bay Area which has erupted in response to enhanced morality clauses in teaching contracts announced by the archbishop in February. Brian Cahill, the former director of San Francisco’s Catholic Charities, described the tenseness of the current situation in the SF Archdiocese:

” ‘I suspect just because things have heated up so much that he has changed his mind…Everywhere I go — even at a Catholic Charities fundraiser the other day — I run into people who say, “How can I sign something like the ad in The Chronicle?” ‘ “

Cahill is referencing a full-page ad signed by more than 100 influential Catholics calling for Cordileone to resign following weeks of actions and a petition which has gained the signatures of 80% of high school faculty. The latest protest happened on Monday when more than 200 people, including leaders from more than two dozen unions, protested outside archdiocesan offices, reported the National Catholic Reporter. Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation told attendees:

” ‘The church has told us that it honors all civil rights and labor rights…You cannot profess social justice if within your own walls you refuse to practice it. We call on the archbishop to adhere to the principles of social justice.’ “

Teachers expressed their concern for students and the school communities as a driving factor in these protests as well. Peggy Farrell, an arts teacher at Junipero Serra High School, said:

” ‘We are with these kids, some fragile, hurt, lonely and questioning…This contract and handbook language drives a wedge…The only way to heal this broken relationship is to drop the language.”

Archbishop Cordileone admitted his surprise at the outcry, telling Crux that while he knew the contract language would be controversial, he did not believe it would be so “to this degree.” He also expressed hope that differences could be resolved by sitting down and talking out the new contracts. Yet, even while he stayed away from the March, organizers for San Francisco’s teachers assert there has still been no outreach from Cordileone or the archdiocese.

In the coming days, the archbishop might want to take the advice of John J. Savant, a professor emeritus at Dominican University of California.  In a National Catholic Reporter essay, Savant described the mission of Catholic educational institutions as being modeled on the radically inclusive model of Jesus’ ministry:

“If the Catholic school is, in its very functioning, to be a representation of the loving, merciful Christ — in a sense, Christ writ larger — it must embrace all in her employ, even those who may not accept all of her teachings. For our model here, we need look no further than Christ himself, whose compassion and service were indiscriminate; whose embrace was so often bestowed upon the marginalized, upon those not so orthodox in conviction or behavior, not observant of prescribed practices. This is the Christ whose denunciations were far more directed toward leaders obsessed with power and control than toward the multitudes seeking assurance beyond rule-keeping, meaning beyond moral rectitude. This was the Christ who urged, above all else, the community of love before the rule of the righteous.”

By not doing so, he added, Catholic education ends up confusing students, instead of providing clarity:

“We can imagine the moral confusion that young students might feel when the counsels of inclusion and compassion are somehow dismissed in the interest of orthodoxy. It will be difficult for them to understand how exclusive and restrictive policies can engender the moral freedom for which Christ spent his mission and gave his life.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Weekend for Fired Church Workers Encourages Solidarity, Justice, Faith

Image from U.S. Catholic magazine. See end of this post for link to an important survey on church worker firings.

I was blessed this past weekend to take part in a national meeting of Catholic church workers who have been fired or are being threatened with firing because of a variety of issues, including their support for LGBT equality.  The meeting, the first of its kind, brought together about 30 people from across the nation who are concerned about this disturbing trend.

Here on Bondings 2.0,  we have been chronicling the plight of lesbian and gay people fired for legally marrying, trans people fired for transitioning, allies who would not renew their contracts because of added morality clauses that would prevent them from supporting LGBT family and friends.

This meeting, held at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, included people in those situations, but also included people fired for support of various other issues of church reform. The event was co-sponsored by Call to Action, Catholics for Choice, DignityUSA, Human Rights Campaign, and New Ways Ministry.

Ellen Euclide

Crux reported on the event, interviewing lead organizer, Ellen Euclide from Call To Action, who noted that the program discussed “discrimination, at-will employment, morality clauses, and how we might build some power to push for just employment practices in the workplace.”

It was a blessing and privilege to be with this group of people to share stories, discuss strategies, and pray together.  When we gathered for our closing liturgy on Sunday, we reflected on the readings of the day, which included the following lines from Psalm 118:22:

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By Yahweh has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.

The same verse was echoed in the first reading, Acts 4:8-12.

The truth of those words came through over the weekend, as I witnessed how those who have been rejected by church leaders are now working together to renew the church in a more just and inclusive manner.   Though their experiences have certainly been painful, they are using their pain to work to prevent the same thing from happening to others, and to help the Church live up to its best ideals.

I learned some other important lessons from participating in this group.  First, I realized how important  it was for these church workers who have lost their jobs to be with others who have been fired or are threatened with being fired.  I have noticed that one reason that these firings can happen so easily is that isolation works against those who are fired.  It is usually one person in a city or diocese, not a group.  However, there is strength in solidarity, and when people join together with others in the same situation, great transformation can take place.

Hearing the stories of support that these workers received from their students, parishioners, and local communities, I realized that the firings harm not only church workers but the entire church, who lose the gifts and talents of these dedicated workers. Ellen Euclide, in a Call To Action blog post about the weekend, pointed out another way the Church is harmed by these actions:
“Discrimination, lack of access to contraception, low pay and job insecurity are some of the many reasons that our parishes, schools and nonprofits are losing the gifts and talents of committed workers like those who gathered in Chicago this weekend.  While the church leadership is enacting unjust employment policies, Catholic people in the pews have been supporting fired church workers across the country. The firings harm not only church workers but the entire church. This policy is not sustainable and will only lead to more and more Catholics leaving the church, especially young people.”
Another event like this past weekend’s is being planned for the fall of this year.  The more organized that church workers become, the better that they will be able to support one another and guide the church to more just employment practices.
I left the meeting with a feeling of confidence that, as a Church, we are going to be able to reform these policies to reflect Catholic teachings of the rights of workers and the treatment of all people equally.
(U.S. Catholic magazine is conducting a reader survey entitled “Should Catholic organizations fire employees who stray from church teaching?”   Click here to read background information, followed by the survey.)
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Support for Marriage Equality at U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court photoNew Ways Ministry’s Matthew Myers, associate director (left), and Francis DeBernardo, executive director (right), joined hundreds of marriage equality supporters today outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, today.  They were there to show Catholic support for marriage equality while inside the nine justices listened to oral arguments on cases which could potentially make marriage for lesbian and gay couples legal nationwide.  The Court’s decision is expected by the end of June.

For more background on the Court cases, click on these three posts:

April 28, 2015:  “On Marriage Equality, Sweeping Changes Possible But Much Remains the Same for Catholics

April 27, 2015: “What Makes Catholic Justice Kennedy Advocate for Lesbian & Gay Equality?

April 21, 2015: “Supreme Court Marriage Equality Case Will Be Led by Catholic Gay Couple

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry




On Marriage Equality, Sweeping Changes Possible But Much Remains the Same for Catholics

Artistic rendering of oral arguments during an appeal of California’s Proposition 8.

Today’s oral arguments heard by the U.S. Supreme Court could be some of the last steps to establishing a nationwide right for same-gender couples to marry, a decision likely determined by Catholic Justice Anthony Kennedy’s swing vote. Either way, after oral arguments are concluded and a decision is announced by the end of June, much will remain the same for Catholics.

America covered the issues at play when the Supreme Court initially agreed to hear these cases in January, highlighting the two questions under consideration: whether there is a nationwide legal right to same-gender marriage and whether states must recognize such marriages made legal in other states.

In the America essay, St. John’s University legal scholar Ellen K. Boegel explained that because there are two questions, this “leaves open the possibility for a split ruling” depending on how justices interpret the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection’s clause, where states would be required to recognize other marriages without granting licenses of their own. A piece in U.S. Catholic covered the five major arguments, coming from both sides, that will likely be voiced during oral arguments tomorrow:

1)  The precedent of a 1972 Minnesota case, Baker v. Nelson which denied a gay couple access to marriage “for want of a substantial federal question.”

2) The question of states’ rights:  “a tug of war between the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection, and the rights of states—and, by extension, voters—to make their own laws.”

3) The place of procreation in marriage. Some say that the state is involved in marriage to guaranteed stable parenting for children, and that lesbian and gay people do not procreate with one another.  Others say extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples can reduce the amount of children in foster care by creating a larger pool of adoptive families.

4) The question of whether it is better for children to be raised in families headed by heterosexual couples.  No legitimate studies show this option is more successful, and courts have not clearly settled this question yet.

5) The power of history and tradition in the institution of marriage.  Though we have seen many developments in the institution socially over the centuries, the power of history and tradition can be a powerful argument, some legal scholars say.

This potentially historic decision is still a few months away, but certain ecclesial realities will remain for LGBT and ally Catholics after the Supreme Court decides. First, Catholics will sustain and hopefully grow existing high levels of support for marriage equality and LGBT rights with New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo telling Crux:

” ‘Even if the Supreme Court should decide negatively in this case, Catholic lay people will continue their work to make sure that their lesbian and gay friends and relatives receive equal treatment under the law.’ “

Combative stances towards marriage equality on the part of many U.S. bishops will remain in place, as well as the lack of nondiscrimination policies and laws to protect LGBT church workers, almost 50 of whom have publicly lost their job since 2008. Phrasing these as “fired because you’re married” incidents, The Advocate reports:

” ‘Any time there are civil rights advances and increased visibility … we will have some adverse reactions,’ adds Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, who as a lawyer and activist has fought for LGBT rights, particularly marriage equality, for more than 20 years. That’s not a reason for the marriage equality movement to back off, but it is a reminder that there will still be work to be done even when there are equal marriage rights nationwide, he says.’ “

Further, the question of religious liberty remains unsettled even as a recent victory in Indiana has somewhat chilled conservative hopes for such laws.  This issue has not gone away, and 27 states still have bills under consideration.

There are also internal questions for the church about how same-gender couples and their families will be provided pastoral care and better integrated into parish communities.  Additionally, Catholics who oppose marriage equality will have to make peace with this new reality as this societal shift begins to take root everywhere. While the global church is adjudicating these questions during the synodal process and next fall’s World Meeting of Families, American parishes may soon have to find just and inclusive solutions if marriage equality becomes legal nationwide.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related article “Will Justice Kennedy Go All the Way on Same-Sex Marriage?”

What Makes Catholic Justice Kennedy Advocate for Lesbian & Gay Equality?

Justice Anthony Kennedy

On Tuesday of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments in the marriage equality cases that it will rule on by the end of the court’s session at the end of June.  Although there are nine justices on the court, six of whom are Catholic, much attention will be focused on one of them, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has often been described as the “swing vote” on a court which often hands down 5-4 decisions.  Kennedy sometimes votes with the conservative wing and sometimes with the progressive wing.

In three previous cases concerning lesbian and gay people (Romer v. Evans; Lawrence v. Texas; and Windsor v. United States), Kennedy’s vote was instrumental to form a majority in favor of more equality for this community.  In addition, he wrote the majority opinions for all three cases.

How did Anthony Kennedy get to a place where he supports equality for lesbian and gay people? At the time of Windsor v. United States, the decision which overturned key sections of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Bondings 2.o speculated  that his Catholic upbringing may have influenced his support of human dignity and equality.  We pointed to what we thought was one of the most Catholic statements in the opinion he authored:

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

A recent Associated Press story published on The Huffington Post examined Kennedy’s background and found another possible reason for his support of equality:

“The Irish Catholic boy who came of age in Sacramento after World War II is an unlikely candidate to be the author of the Supreme Court’s major gay rights rulings.

“But those who have known Justice Anthony Kennedy for decades and scholars who have studied his work say he has long stressed the importance of valuing people as individuals. And he seems likely also to have been influenced in this regard by a pillar of the Sacramento legal community, a closeted gay man who hired Kennedy as a law school instructor and testified on his behalf at his high court confirmation hearings in Washington.”

Gordon Schaber

The closeted gay man was Gordon Schaber, a California law school dean, who hired Kennedy to teach at McGeorge School of Law, Sacramento, and who became his mentor.  Though there is no evidence that they ever discussed gay legal issues, many people who knew them said that Schaber had a strong influence on Kennedy.

The Huffington Post story also considered other theories of why Kennedy votes pro-gay:

“Another longtime friend, former California Gov. Pete Wilson, said Kennedy always has evaluated people as individuals, not as members of a group. Kennedy, he said, sees everyone ‘based on their merits.’

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested in an interview last summer that one reason for changes in public opinion in favor of same-sex marriage was that, as gay Americans became more comfortable talking about the topic, people learned that they had gay friends and relatives, ‘people you have tremendous respect for.’ She was describing what sociologists call the contact theory, the idea that the majority group’s interactions with a minority will break down stereotypes and enhance acceptance of the minority group.”

Though a Catholic, Kennedy’s views on same-gender relationships are clearly not those of the hierarchy, yet he still seems influenced by Catholic discourse which promotes human dignity. In Lawrence v. Texas, the case which struck down anti-sodomy laws, he wrote:

“It suffices for us to acknowledge that adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons. When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring.”

We see the same expression of Catholic, though not hierarchical, values expressed in Windsor v. United States:

“It seems fair to conclude that, until recent years, many citizens had not even considered the possibility that two persons of the same sex might aspire to occupy the same status and dignity as that of a man and woman in lawful marriage.”

A recent Seattle Times article noted the pivotal role that Kennedy will play on Tuesday:

“ ‘Everybody in that courtroom will be waiting to hear what Justice (Anthony) Kennedy has to say,’ said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & AIDS Project.

“Kennedy, 78, is a big reason same-sex marriage advocates enter the Tuesday oral argument feeling cautiously optimistic.”
And while I will be one of those keeping a keen eye on how Kennedy responds in oral arguments on Tuesday so as to try to predict the outcome of the decision, I will also be keeping a keen ear open to hear if his Catholic upbringing seems to influence the language and arguments that he uses in the court, and, possibly in any opinion or commentary that he might write on the case.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Related post
Bondings 2.0: Supreme Court Marriage Equality Case Will Be Led by Catholic Gay Couple

World Deserves More Than Rumors About the French Ambassador to the Vatican

Two weeks ago, on April 12th, we published a post with the headline “Did the Vatican Reject France’s Openly Gay Ambassador?” which noted that the Vatican has yet to credential a new French ambassador who is openly gay. Speculation abounded around the topic, but with neither the Vatican nor the French government would make a statement about why Laurent Stefanini has yet to be approved by the Holy See.

Pope Francis

Two weeks later, we still don’t know the definitive answer, although this week there has been plenty of unconfirmed reports that Pope Francis met Stefanini and told him that he was not approved.  The U.K.’s Daily Mail reported:

” ‘There was a meeting between the Pope and Mr Stefanini,’ government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told a regular briefing, confirming a report by satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine but dismissing the newspaper’s assertion that his candidacy had been finally rejected during the April 18 meeting.

” ‘Nothing has changed: France has proposed a candidate and for the time being we are waiting for the Vatican’s reply after the usual discussions and review of his candidacy.’ “

The reason for Stefanini not being approved might not have anything with him, though, and may have to do with the Vatican’s displeasure with the French government for having legalized marriage equality two years ago. The Daily Mail article stated:

“Earlier this month the French Catholic daily La Croix cited an unnamed source as saying the Vatican considered it a ‘provocation’ that France’s Socialist government, which in 2013 legalised gay marriages, had proposed a homosexual for the post.”

Laurent Stefanini

Based on French news reports, The Guardian newspaper reported that the pope indeed did inform the ambassador-nominee that no approval was forthcoming:

“In a meeting over the weekend, the pontiff allegedly cited his displeasure with a controversial 2013 gay marriage law in France as part of his reason for the decision, according to the report in satirical title Le Canard Enchâiné.

“Pope Francis also allegedly said he did not appreciate the manner in which France had tried to put pressure on the Vatican by nominating a man – 55-year-old Laurent Stéfanini – who French officials knew would be controversial given the church’s views on homosexuality. The Vatican declined to comment to the Guardian about the veracity of the report or whether a meeting took place.”

Yet a Religion News Service story reported only a part of the French newspaper’s account was true:

“ “There was a meeting between the Pope and Mr Stefanini,’ government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told a regular briefing, confirming a report by satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine but dismissing the newspaper’s assertion that his candidacy had been finally rejected during the April 18 meeting.”

Still, a separate Religion News Service  story offered a different view of the meeting:

“Another French media report said that the unusual meeting between Stefanini and Francis — a pope rarely gets directly involved in the appointment of an ambassador — was friendly and lasted 40 minutes, and ended with the two men praying together.”

The same story also offered the following details about the nominee:

“55-year-old Stefanini is described as brilliant and a devout Roman Catholic who secured support for his candidacy from Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris. He is also a known quantity at the Vatican, having served as a top official at the French embassy to the Holy See a decade ago.”

The upshot of all these reports ends up being that it is impossible to decide which details of this story are true. Unless the Vatican and/or the French government (and Stefanini) offer more accurate and detailed information, the world cannot be sure of the truth of any of these and other reports.

The Vatican, though, has a lot more to lose than the French government about why no action has occurred.  Pope Francis’ reputation as being progressive on LGBT issues is very much at stake.  Regardless of the repercussions, though, the Vatican has a responsibility to make a statement to clarify this situation.   If they don’t then their continued silence will no doubt be interpreted as confirmation of the rumors that their unwillingness to confirm Stefanini is motivated by gay issues. Stefanini, the French government, and the rest of us deserve better from the leadership of the Catholic Church.  At the very least, we deserve to know the Vatican’s truth about the rumors that have circulated.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Case of German Lesbian Fired from a Catholic School Poses Moral Questions

The disturbing trend of Catholic institutions firing lesbian and gay church workers because they choose to legally marry their partners is spread across the U.S.    Even more disturbing, though, is that we have now seen examples of this discriminatory trend popping up in other countries, as well.  Last year we reported on a gay volunteer being dismissed from a Catholic relief organization in the U.K., and a lesbian teacher being fired from a Catholic school in Italy because rumors had spread about her orientation.

The Caritas kindergarten in Holzkirchen, Bavaria, Germany

This past week in Germany, it became public that a lesbian kindergarten teacher at a Catholic institution in Holzkirchen, a small Bavarian town, was made to sign a severance agreement after she informed her employer that she was making plans to legally marry her female partner. reported the story, noting that because of a confidentiality agreement between the teacher and school, the teacher’s name was not made public.   There are similar factors to cases in the U.S.  Like most cases here, the article reported that the crucial issue is a contract morality clause:

“The Catholic charity, Caritas, which runs the school, refers to Article Four of the ‘fundamental order of ecclesiastical duties in an ecclesiastical setting, with which everyone who works for a religious agency is familiar. This document states that all employees are expected to ‘recognize and follow the principles of the Catholic faith and ethical teaching.’ This is considered particularly relevant in the cases of educational and executive personnel.”

And like most cases here, the article reported that “The parents are also at a loss to understand the reasons for her having to leave.”

But the German situation is slightly different, too, from most U.S. cases.  In Germany, all kindergartens, even those sponsored by religious groups, receive public funding, so the church-state issue is more complex.   Another unusual twist in this story is that Caritas, the employer, offered the fired teacher “a post that did not entail any educational or executive duties but she refused the offer.”  It raises the interesting suspicion that they just did not want her in a position that would influence children, and that the moral gravity of her situation is actually somewhat relative, and not absolute.

Because the fired teacher is not speaking publicly, some local politicians have come to her defense:

“Ulrike Gote, a Green Party’s spokeswoman in the state of Bavaria, accuses the Catholic Church of ‘hypocrisy.”

” ‘The Church should actually be delighted that someone wants to marry their partner,’ Gote says. ‘These are the kinds of double standards that we have had to deal with for a very long time.’

“The mayor of Holzkirchen, Olaf von Loewis of the Christian Social Union, who is a practicing Catholic, also has difficulty accepting the stance his Church has taken towards homosexual relationships.

” ‘I am very familiar with the rules and regulations of the Church as an employer,’ Loewis says. ‘And I deem them to be wrong.’ “

As I read these similarly sad and tragic stories over and over again,  two questions always come to my mind:

1) Why is homosexuality, and in particular, committing to a legal marriage, the main reason that people are being dismissed from jobs in these morality clause cases?  There have been pregnancy-outside-of-marriage stories, but these, thank God, have been few.  The cardinal sin these days for church employers seems to be gay and lesbian people committing themselves in love to their spouses.  The fact that this issue has been singled out over all others should be proof enough that this is not about morality, but politics.

2) Though principals and church administrators often use the line that the morality clauses have to be enforced to set examples for children, do they ever think of the example that they themselves set in firing someone from a job they love, that they have been performing well, that they receive praise from those they serve, and that is their livelihood?  What lesson do children learn from such actions?

Church leaders need to start being self-reflective about their actions and policies.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Editor’s note:  There were many articles in German about this case on the web, but was the only one in English that I found.