U. of Dallas Student to President: Apologize for Speaker or Admit That LGBT Students Are Unwelcome

University of Dallas commencement

University of Dallas president Thomas W. Keefe is being asked to apologize anti-gay remarks made at the Catholic school’s commencement ceremony earlier this month.

In an open letter, newly graduated Maxwell Adam Frazier called on Keefe to make amends for the the Texas school’s commencement address by conservative activist and alum Brent Bozell, which Frazier described by the student as an “aggressive and politically charged tirade.”

Bozell’s speech suggested Christians were persecuted because LGBT rights were advancing, as he cited:

“Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson publicly quotes Scripture and is suspended from his television show for being un-Christian. The state advocates the destruction of the family and the sacrament of marriage as a moral good. A Christian minister appears on CBS to defend the sanctity of marriage and is labeled the leader of a ‘hate group’. . .

“When the government orders you as the owner of a small bakery to facilitate the perversion of the sacrament of marriage, you must refuse and be prepared to face criminal prosecution.”

These remarks were met with a standing ovation from those at commencement and tacit approval of administrators like President Keefe who did nothing to challenge Bozell’s extremist rhetoric. This speech and the administration’s response encapsulate Frazier’s experience as a gay student at UD, as he wrote in the letter:

“Bigoted students are empowered. They are given a voice, and their homophobia goes unchallenged by the tolerant students. These cancerously homophobic students are not only accepted but applauded and hailed as heroes. The tolerant students are complacent and happily unaware of the homophobia. It’s almost a willful ignorance. They don’t notice the homophobia right in front of them but rather join their peers in applauding the bigot out of conformity. Those that notice, those that care, aren’t given a voice. Your LGBT students and their allies are not empowered to make a positive change at this university. Your homophobic and toxic students couldn’t begin to ask for more power. There is no dialogue. We are not welcome, we are not wanted.”

Frazier described the campus climate as “homophobic and toxic”:

“We only recently were removed from the dreaded list of top twenty homophobic schools, but from my experience here that news was sour. The only way that could have happened is for the other schools to have become exceedingly more homophobic, as my non-academic life at UD cannot be described as anything but homophobic and toxic.”

Frazier believes the University of Dallas must choose whether to change or be honest that LGBT students are unwelcome. To not enact change and still invite LGBT people is to “deceive and mislead” prospective students who will suffer due to the campus’ hostile atmosphere. He said the University is faced with a difficult choice:

“So we are at a bit of a crossroads: either UD needs to make a change or it needs to honestly declare ‘we do not love our gay students. We do not care that they feel safe or welcomed. We would be better off without them, and we find no reason to accommodate for their existence, let alone their attendance. Their security, success, and spirituality simply mean less to us.’ “

Brent Bozell

Frazier suggested there be an apology for Bozell’s speech, which ruined an otherwise celebratory day for many, and that the school should consider revoking his honorary degree.  UD  also should establish a gay-straight alliance to support students, he added. A GSA is not political, nor does it oppose Catholic teaching for it would function as a space for “those who wish to be understood and those who wish to understand.”

To sign Frazier’s petition calling on President Keefe to make an apology, visit it at Change.org by clicking here. For other commencement news, visit our recent coverage here. To read more about news of LGBT issues on Catholic campuses, click on “Campus Chronicles” in the “Categories” box in the right hand column of this page, or you can click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Influenced by Catholic Upbringing, Artist’s “Queer Icons” Offer Windows to God

Bruce & Tenzin. 2012, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle, 11×14, image size 8×10. Gabriel Garcia Roman

For many Christians, icons are windows to God. They make the Ultimate accessible through divinely-inspired human artistry. Worldly subjects–almost exclusively holy people and their environments–draw readers outward and upward, beyond what is present, towards what is Holy.

Artist Gabriel Garcia Roman’s icons of queer and trans* people of color achieve similar ends for me, employing real people alive today to draw me into greater worship of God. His “Queer Icons” have another purpose too, which is to raise the profiles of these leaders so that young people can gain a sense of hope and security.

The “Queer Icons” closely mirror traditional iconography in their appearance, mixing a range of artistic influences, such as 15th century Dutch artist Jan Van Eycke and contemporary South African photographer Zanele Muholi. In a news article on The Huffington Post, Garcia Roman explained:

” ‘The subjects in “Queer Icons” are people of color, who maintain separate, individual identities within the queer community…These explorations of the edges of genders take place in the nuances of the contemporary urban world. A simple eye shape, an angle of a mouth, the tilt of the head — indicate a queering of conventional forms and roles … Much like traditional religious paintings conferred a sense of safety, calm and meditation into a home, the works in this series aspire to a similar sense of refuge, drawn from the inner grace of the subjects out onto a world that might not always be safe.’ “

Julissa. 2014, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle and silkscreen, 11×14, image size 8×10. Gabriel Garcia Roman

The subjects are Garcia Roman’s friends and acquaintances, all united by a trait found in every icon: a halo. His art is strongly reflective of his Mexican Catholic upbringing. Garcia Roman was inundated with devotional imagery filled with halos, which “combined suffering and strength on the dark walls of his church.” An  NPR story further offered his thoughts on his background:

” ‘Because I grew up Catholic in a Mexican community in Chicago, my first introduction to art was religious art…I’ve always thought of the halo as something very powerful — it’s like a badge of nobility,” he says.

“And because Roman’s subjects are activists and artists who do good for the community, ‘I wanted to represent them as saints,” he says.”

Yet, Garcia Roman’s saints are not passive, as he told a reporter from Mic:

” ‘Saints are usually depicted as martyrs, noble and selfless individuals working for the betterment of the world, but also I wanted to portray them as fearless warriors. They are looking right at you and challenging you.’ “

Mesmerizing is an apt description of the “Queer Icons,” which you can find more of on Garcia Roman’s Tumblr and Instagram (@gbrlgrcrmn) accounts. Photographs, silkscreens, and the handwritten words of spoken word artists and writers combine on his canvases with ample color and intrigue to stir the viewer to contemplate what they are seeing.

You’re invited to spend time prayerfully “reading” the icons below to see what Garcia Roman’s artistry and the lives of those depicted say to you. Perhaps, like me, these icons will be a window for you to worship the God who made all people wonderfully in both the divine image and in a wide diversity we can always learn to respect, cherish, and delight in more and more.

Queer Icons Collage
Bakar. 2015, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle and silkscreen, 11×14, image size 8×10. Gabriel Garcia Roman
Zachary. 2012, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle, 11×14, image size 8×10. Gabriel Garcia Roman
Queer Icons 2 Collage
Left: Vivian. 2014, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle, 11×14, image size 8×10. Gabriel Garcia Roman Center: Emanuel. 2015, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle and silkscreen, 11×14, image size 8×10. Gabriel Garcia Roman / Poetry by Queer Icon Emanuel Xavier. Right: Erica. 2014, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle, 11×14, image size 8×10. Gabriel Garcia Roman
Jahmal. 2014, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle, 11×14, image size 8×10. Gabriel Garcia Roman

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Bishop: Referendum Not ‘Defeat for Humanity,’ But Increases Human Happiness

Bishop Willie Walsh

An Irish bishop criticized Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s claim that Ireland’s passage of marriage equality was a “defeat for humanity,” saying the comment was inappropriate and not likely approved by Pope Francis.

Bishop Willie Walsh, Emeritus of the Diocese of Killaloe, spoke with Irish broadcaster RTE and contested Parolin’s conclusion as inconsistent with Pope Francis’ more inclusive style. Walsh told the interviewer:

“I was quite uncomfortable with that statement. I mean there has been lots of disasters in the world but I certainly would not support the belief that the referendum was among them.

“To suggest that over a million people who went to the polls and voted yes were so false in their judgment that it was a disaster for humanity is not something I can accept . . .

It is an inappropriate statement… [and] not one I think that represents the mind of Pope Francis despite it coming from a very senior Church figure. It is a very heavy judgement on the whole issue.”

According to the Irish Times,Walsh refused to say whether he supported equal marriage rights, saying only:

“[O]ne could hardly look at the celebrations and say it didn’t increase the sum of human happiness [in Ireland].”

Walsh has previously spoken out positively on LGBT and other controversial issues in the church. Speaking at a 2010 reception, Walsh referred to gay people when he said the church must “be always conscious of the fact that very often we in the church have hurt them and hurt them deeply and I am saddened by that…”

Fr. Seán McDonagh of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland echoed Walsh’s criticism of Parolin, reported the Irish Times, saying the referendum’s outcome was “no surprise,” and that it would add to the discussion of LGBT issues at this October’s synod of bishops.

DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke also condemned Parolin’s comment, saying in a statement:

“Unfortunately, Cardinal Parolin’s comments demonstrate exactly the kind of inflexibility and arrogance that have driven so many people from the Church…It is very hurtful and insulting to supporters of marriage equality to be spoken of as having unchristian, even inhuman, values…Their vote was no ‘defeat for humanity,’ but a victory for the fundamental Catholic values of love, inclusion, and the inherent dignity of all people.”

National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson suggested a connection between Parolin and Pope Francis, a “good cop, bad cop” situation. She asserted:

“Francis clearly agrees with Parolin’s ‘defeat for humanity’ opinion on the outcome of Ireland’s same-sex marriage vote. . . But rather than respond directly to Ireland himself, this time, Pope Francis is putting the harsher, condemnatory language in the mouth of his secretary of state while he does the work of evangelizing the youth about the truth and beauty of the church’s teachings on marriage.

“Parolin is taking on the old-fashioned role of Vatican scold while Francis takes the new, more merciful, catechetical approach. But ultimately, both men agree with the institutional church’s opposition to marriage equality. Both men believe same-sex relationships violate the traditional understanding of natural law and gender complimentary.”

In Manson’s scenario, Francis and Parolin ultimately fail at evangelizing marginalized Catholics because they, especially those who are LGBT identified, will not tolerate a church which welcomes them while withholding equality for all. This perspective is juxtaposed to the one of LGBT advocates excited by Pope Francis’ pastoral outreach to LGBT Catholics, such as his “Who am I to judge?” comment or the granting of VIP seats to LGBT pilgrimages at a papal audience.

Whatever the strategy may or may not be, let us hope that Bishop Walsh’s words make their way to Rome. Opposing marriage equality is one thing, but using hyperbolic and harmful language is indeed inappropriate.

The good news is that Ireland’s Catholics are truly increasing happiness, not merely in their own country, but around the world by advancing LGBT rights and welcome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Vatican’s ‘Defeat for Humanity’ Statement Shows Church Officials Have Not Learned from the Irish Example

Reactions to Ireland’s historic referendum vote to establish same-gender marriage in that nation have brought responses from around the globe.  The latest reaction came from the Vatican Secretary of State who said it was “Not a defeat for Christian principles, it was a defeat for humanity.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Religion News Service noted that Cardinal Pietro Parolin made this comment while speaking on Vatican Radio, and that he also noted “The Church must take account of this reality, but in the sense of reinforcing its commitment to evangelization.”

This reaction from a high Vatican official differed from those of someone closer to Ireland, Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who had stated that he thought the Church needed to consider the views of young people on this and other issues:

“I think really the church needs to do a reality check right across the board, to look at the areas in which we’re doing well and see have we drifted away completely from young people.”

Martin also acknowledged that gay and lesbian people would see the new legal option “enriching as the way they live”–a far cry from calling it a threat to humanity.

Parolin’s remarks seem to be part of a shift from the more positive rhetoric that Pope Francis had been employing in regard to LGBT issues. More recently, however, Pope Francis has made it clear that he opposes marriage equality initiatives. His speech at a Vatican-sponsored conference on “sexual complementarity” last fall, and an address about marriage and family during his visit to the Philippines are two examples. Yet, as a Guardian analysis of Parolin’s remarks pointed out:

“Parolin differed from the pope in one respect: the Argentinian pontiff has also used the phrase ‘defeat for humanity,’ but he was talking about war, not the legalisation of gay marriage.”

The heightened rhetoric of Parolin, though, is not only harmful because it is so harsh, but because it shows that Vatican officials have not yet absorbed the lesson of Ireland.  Throughout this past week, commentators have remarked on the significant change that this vote represents.  Even Archbishop Diarmuid Martin referred to it as a “social revolution.”

For instance, the Irish victory has emboldened other nations to go forward, with leaders in Italy and Germany calling for  similar votes.  In Germany, though many in the ruling Christian Democratic Union party  and the Green party are calling for marriage equality, Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken against it. Following Ireland’s example, Greenland’s parliament voted to adopt Danish laws on marriage equality.  The Irish victory has re-introduced the topic of marriage equality into Australia’s parliament. While Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister opposes the discussion, Bill Shorter, an opposition leader asked:

“If the Irish people can vote in favour of marriage equality, the question has to be asked, what is Tony Abbott’s problem with it?”

Indeed, Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist, has pointed out something that we have noted on this blog for a long time:  that Catholic people and Catholic nations have been in the forefront of the LGBT equality movement around the globe.  In speaking of Irish and other Catholic voters, Bruni said:

“They aren’t sloughing off their Catholicism — not exactly, not entirely. An overwhelming majority of them still identify as Catholic. But they’re incorporating religion into their lives in a manner less rooted in Rome.

“We journalists too often use ‘the Catholic Church’ as a synonym for the pope, the cardinals and teachings that have the Vatican’s stamp of approval.

“But in Europe and the Americas in particular, the church is much more fluid than that. It harbors spiritually inclined people paying primary obeisance to their own consciences, their own senses of social justice. That impulse and tradition are as Catholic as any others.”

With such momentum underway on the part of many nations and Catholic populations, Parolin’s extreme language will only continue to alienate people from Catholicism. It seems that he hasn’t learned that such language only pushes people further away. In Ireland, Fr. Brendan Hoban, a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in that country, observed that strong opposition messages from the bishops there worked against the hierachy’s goal.  Hoban stated in an Irish Times article:

“It was clear from the beginning that the bishops’ decision in policy terms to campaign for a blunt No vote was alienating even the most conservative of Irish Catholics. . . . [The referendum results highlighted] the gap between the church and a significant number of its people… It is so out of tune with the needs of the people.”

In the same article, Fr. Tony Flannery, another co-founder of ACP observed how the bishops’ strategy was not only a political, but a pastoral mistake. He said:

“[T]he day of doctrinaire Catholicism is over in this country. The people are no longer willing to listen to speeches and sermons on morality from the church.

“What was ‘particularly sad was to see the bishops in total opposition to a mass movement of the younger generation.’

“The very people whom the church should be trying to listen to, and trying to learn a way of communicating effectively with, were the ones they were driving further away with all their pastorals in each diocese.”

Instead of ramping up the negative rhetoric, bishops and church officials should focus on another form of communication which LGBT Catholics and supporters have requested for decades: dialogue.  Indeed, that was the message of Dave Donnellan, secretary of “Gay Catholic Voice of Ireland,” the LGBT Catholic organization in the Emerald Isle.  In a statement responding to the referendum vote, Donnellan spoke of the joy the members of his organization felt, but also added:

“As gay Catholics this profound joy was, however, tinged with deep disappointment that our own Church opposed this change. Whilst Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s comment that the Catholic Church needs a ‘reality check’ was noted, if this ‘reality check’ does not involve sitting down and having a dialogue with LGBT Catholics in his own diocese then it is of little value.”

If the Irish example teaches anything, it should teach church leaders that dialogue is the answer to how to proceed regarding not only marriage equality, but all LGBT issues.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

(Editor’s note:  There has been so much written on the landmark Irish referendum ushering in marriage equality that it has been hard to keep up with all of it.  Expect another post in a few days with more responses and analysis.)

Related articles

New York Times: “Vatican Official Denounces Ireland’s Vote for Same-Sex Marriage”

Crux: “Vatican: Irish marriage vote was a defeat for humanity”

Gay City News: “After This, No Exile: A Gay Priest Reflects on Ireland’s Declaration of Independence”

Religion Dispatches: “Did Ireland Just Bury the Catholic Church?”

Crux: “Irish voters were not swayed by their Church”

Huffington Post: “The Irish Referendum and the Future of Catholicism”


Join Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet in Supporting ‘Bondings 2.0’

Eric Stonestreet

Today marks 3 and 1/2 years since New Ways Ministry started this blog.  It’s amazing how much we have grown in that time, especially in readership.

While we are proud of all of our readers, we recently learned about a particular reader who we would like to highlight.   Do you watch ABC-TV’s Modern Family? It’s an Emmy-award-winning sitcom which explores contemporary family issues, including a gay couple with an adopted child.

We recently learned that Eric Stonestreet, the actor who plays Cam, one of the gay fathers, has taken notice of Bondings 2.0. Stonestreet, who himself has won two Emmy awards for the show, was recently interviewed on HuffPost Live, and in the course of his conversation, he mentioned a topic that was featured on our blog. To illustrate, the HuffPost Live producers showed our blog post on the screen while Stonestreet spoke of the content.  How exciting to see Bondings 2.0 featured so prominently on such an influential news show!  You can catch the visual and Stonestreet’s comments by clicking here, and scrolling to the 7:50 minute mark and watch and listen for about a minute or so.

We know that Stonestreet had seen the story on Bondings 2.0 previously because the actor had tweeted the link to our blog post to his followers on the same day we published it, about a week before the HuffPost Live interview.The post that caught Stonestreet’s eye was the May 16, 2015, item when we reported on a Vatican official praising Modern Family for its realistic depiction of contemporary issues.

Tweet from @EricStonestreet
Tweet from @EricStonestreet

While we are proud to know that Stonestreet likes us, we are even prouder of our readers, subscribers, and commenters who are regularly a part of what makes this blog a respected source of news and opinion on Catholic LGBT issues. Journalists, researchers, scholars, and advocates have all told us that they turn to Bondings 2.0 to learn about the evolving relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community.

What gratifies us most are the many comments we receive in notes, emails, phone calls, and personal conversations from the great mass of readers who tell us that this blog helps them keep up with the news and provides them with some things to reflect on for their spiritual journeys.  Many folks have told us that reading this blog has become an important part of their morning ritual. Truly, all of these messages are incredibly encouraging for us, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be helpful.

Every six months, on the anniversary of the blog (November 28) and the half-year anniversary (May 28), we make an appeal to our readers for financial support for the blog.  If you are able to send a gift to help New Ways Ministry keep this project vibrant, we would greatly appreciate it.  We don’t ask for contributions at any other time of the year.

You can donate by clicking here, and you will be brought to New Ways Ministry’s website donation page.  When you fill out the donation form online, please type “blog” in the comments section of the form so that we know that is why you are contributing.   You can also mail a check made out to “New Ways Ministry” to our offices at 4012  29th Street, Mount Rainier, MD  20712.  Or call us during business hours at 301-277-5674, and we can take your credit card donation over the phone.  However you decide to contribute, your donation is tax-deductible.

Another way you can show your support is by telling your friends about the blog and encouraging them to subscribe by entering an email address in the “Follow” box at the top of the right hand column of the blog page and clicking the button.  If you yourself are not a subscriber, you might want to do the same.  As a subscriber, you will receive an email every time the blog is updated, usually once a day.  That way, you will never miss out on the latest news.

Thank you in advance for your support.  We wouldn’t be a blog without the great community that we have out there.  Thanks for all that each of you is doing, in your own ways, big and small, to build bridges between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

European Bishops Strategize for Positive LGBT Outcome at October’s Synod

Cardinal Marx speaking at the 2014 Synod

Three of Europe’s top prelates gathered with colleagues in Rome earlier this week, reflecting on how they could implement more pastoral responses to contemporary family issues at the upcoming Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October.

About fifty bishops and lay theologians gathered at the Pontifical Gregorian University for the closed day of study and reflection, invited by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, Bishop Markus Büchel of St. Gallen, and Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseilles. The three are the respective episcopal conference presidents of Germany, Switzerland, and France. According to Catholic News Service, the purpose of the gathering was to:

” ‘enrich thinking about the biblical and theological foundations of the themes and clarify the issues at the heart of the current debates on marriage and family’ “

A statement from the Swiss bishops explained how this goal played out during the daylong meeting:

“[R]eflection on a theology of love to which sexuality is understood as a precious gift of God for the expression of love. What is needed is a further development of the theology of love, which is linked to the tradition of the moral-theological distinctions and integrates new insights of anthropology such as sociology.

“The third part of the study day focused on the challenge to accept and theologically understand the biography of the gift of one’s own life: in a socially and highly complex pluralistic society, individuals take a greater responsibility for shaping their own lives. Often they no longer follow traditional patterns. The personal life plans and the judgment of individual conscience play a greater role…

“All presentations and the discussions were able to show the beginnings of a localization of marriage and family in the Church and world. At the same time the study day has made it clear that further discussion on the future of marriage and family is necessary and possible, and is enriched by a further intensive theological reflection.”

Those gathered expect the issues of LGBT and divorced/remarried Catholics to resurface in October, and they find the church’s current approaches insufficient. La Croix quotes one participant as summing up the day’s reflections in a few words:

“The strongest words were mercy, hospitality, forgiveness, support, gradualness, divine pedagogy. The words we objected to: regulations, formalism, strictness.”

Scripture scholar Annie Marie Pelletier spoke highly of the day, telling La Stampa:

“It is a real sign of the times…I was struck by the freedom of speech and the richness it brings. . . .[W]e have shown that the real problems are those fully in the life of the Church in contemporary society, with the idea that we will have a credible word – and faithful to Christ – only if we approach these topics by listening…

“[I]n order to remain faithful to the tradition, we must say things differently. This is true fidelity to tradition and is obviously more expensive than imagining the tradition and repeating the same thing.”

According to a report from Queering the Church which translated an article from the French newspaper Liberationparticipating theologians also included:

“French Jesuit Thomasset Alain [who] believes that the ‘Christian conscience’ has the right to enter into conflict with the Magisterium in ‘responsible dissent’. . .

“The German moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff  [who] is campaigning for, among other things, a new approach that [emphasizes that] homosexuals ‘deserve support and a positive response’ from the Church.”

This meeting follows both the German and Swiss bishops’ recent calls for reform, as well as Cardinal Marx’s personal advocacy on behalf of LGBT people. Marx, a close adviser of Pope Francis, has called for the church to see the whole person in discussing sexuality and admitted church teaching develops over time. German bishops recently announced a new policy of not firing LGBT church workers who come out or marry a same-gender partner.

Commenting on German Catholics’ replies to the Vatican’s second synod questionnaire distributed last autumn, the German bishops’ report said many respondents identified a divide between the Vatican’s idealized family and the reality of Catholics’ lives today.  Respondents criticized the absence of questions on homosexuality and contraception. German bishops also noted “very high” expectations that the Synod would overcome this divide, reports The Tablet, with Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden suggesting Vatican officials would be “well-advised to get down to a really committed, sound and communicative preparation.”

Switzerland’s bishops similarly summarized the responses from 6,000 Catholics in their nation. The bishops called sacramental marriage a “model minority” (according to an unofficial translation) and say Catholics want the church’s pastoral initiatives to respond to realities, including:

“Partnerships for gays and lesbians should have a place in the church, so this is a further request to the Church. Although equality with the ecclesiastical marriage is rejected by a majority, there is still a high level of support to a blessing of these partnerships.

This past week’s meeting at the Gregorian University is a clear sign the bishops are listening to Catholics who love the church but are extremely dissatisfied with its pastoral approaches to LGBT people and other marginalized communities. Such a meeting could not have occurred under the two previous papacies, but Pope Francis is allowing space for genuine encounter, dialogue, and visioning to happen. While it is still possible that the synod may become a case of crushed expectations. there are still signs of life and renewal all over this global church if only we pay attention — and Cardinal Marx’s strategy meeting is certainly one of those prominent signs.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of the 2015 Synod on the Family, click here or subscribe to the blog in the upper right hand corner for regular Catholic LGBT updates in the coming months.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

S.F. Parents and Students Say Revised Teaching Handbook Is Still Problematic

Archbishop Cordileone’s critics continue protests of the proposed teachers’ handbook.

After months of protest, the Archdiocese of San Francisco has revised the enhanced morality clauses proposed for teachers’ handbook for Catholic high school teachers. These revisions are not quieting tensions in the archdiocese that seem far from resolved.

The new draft, prepared by five archdiocesan high school theology teachers, removes the pastorally damaging language about homosexuality primary to critics’ opposition. A preamble explains that the document is a “short compendium of some important teachings,” reports the National Catholic Reporter, and adds:

“The Gospel cannot be reduced to a list of truths no matter how comprehensive because the Gospel is a person, the anointed one, Jesus of Nazareth, who is Lord.”

In the larger document, the language regarding sexuality emphasizes chastity and the bishops’ understanding of marriage. It addresses homosexuality only in implicit terms, stating:

“The Church makes a distinction between someone’s desires and someone’s actions. Desires/attractions are neutral to the extent they are spontaneous and not willed. Having an attraction to someone isn’t sinful, yet not every human desire should be acted upon.”

Closely mirroring the Catechism, the revised statement also adds that all are to be respected and loved “regardless of sexual attraction.”It does not, however, stop the archdiocese’s attempts to reclassify school employees as ministers which would make them exempt from the protections of non-discrimination laws.  Indeed, Paul Hance who is a union leader as well as history teacher, said lawyers believe the revised statement pushes the ministerial classification in even stronger terms. He added:

“What would happen if the archbishop gets his way? We would have termination without legal recourse…Our rights are not negotiable; our profession is teaching, not ministry.”

Credit: Concerned Parents and Students

Those affiliated with “Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance,” the group defending Catholic school teachers and opposing Cordileone’s revisions, rejected the new draft. Since the morality clauses were first added in February, more than 80% of Catholic high school faculty and staff signed a petition rejecting the old versions, and it doesn’t seem the new revisions have won over new supporters for Cordileone’s policies.

In the press release which the parent and student group issued, Kathy Curran, a mother, spoke about the harmful language and ideas that she sees remaining in the revised document:

“The language is still harmful to our children and is an attempt to camouflage his original agenda and fundamentally alter the character and culture of Catholic education in our high schools.”

Former teacher Kathleen Purcell, who lost her job at a Catholic school in the neighboring Oakland Diocese when she crossed out the objectionable sections when signing her 2014-2015 contract, said:

“Under the revised handbook language, teachers would not be able to dissent or discuss ideas that conflict with the Archbishop’s understanding of Catholicism without risking their jobs. This fundamentally alters the character of our schools. Teachers whose jobs are under threat if they step outside the line cannot provide a safe environment for students to learn.”

Others spoke at press conference last Monday, sampled here:

  • Jessica Hyman, a graduating senior: “We will not be fooled into thinking Archbishop Cordileone is changing anything. We can thank our teachers for bestowing us with the knowledge to see past this trickery. The language is softer, but the message is still hurtful and wrong.”
  • Jim Jordan, a high school teacher: “[The pause is] a small victory for us in that there will be no handbook change this year, which means we’ve stemmed the tide for the moment…[Cordileone] is not backing down at all, merely slowing down.”
  • Jim McGarry, organizer with Concern Parents and Students: “Even muted, the Archbishop’s rhetoric of judgment and selectivity about and atomization of the moral life of our students and their families is not simply a storm to be weathered. It is the precipice of a disaster.”

Advocates for church workers rallied outside the San Francisco chancery last week, while dialogue and negotiations between the archdiocese and teachers’ union continued. Teacher Sal Curcio is quoted in Cruxexpressing cautious optimism:

“The good news here is that there have been some changes to this document, so it seems as if the archbishop is willing to listen, to a certain degree…We wish he would listen more, and we wish he would really communicate with us more.”

A cover letter from Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone accompanied the revised statement, and it said, in part:

“Despite these worthy goals [outlined by the archbishop], several unintended consequences have resulted that have created the tensions we have been experiencing. I honestly did not foresee the reaction that ensued, and I apologize for this lack of foresight on my part.”

Cordileone also a year’s deferral before implementing the handbook’s new language, saying to teachers that he would use the year to “help you better understand the ‘what’ and, especially, the ‘why’ of the full range of church teaching.” The teachers are well aware of the bishops’ articulations; they just happen to have a different approach to how that teaching should be applied in their professional lives and schools.

Supporters of Cordileone are organizing too, hosting a website and a rally attended by the archbishop. They claim he is being “demonized” and a “witch hunt” is underway, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

In April, more than 100 influential San Francisco Catholics signed a full page open letter calling for Cordileone’s resignation, while traditionalist nuns abandoned their Marian High School classrooms because they were upset that students were participating in GLSEN’s Day of Silence, an anti-bullying event.

Controversy is not new for Archbishop Cordileone. A recent article in the National Catholic Reporter documented that his time in San Francisco has been marked by “divisive action” which harms the local church profoundly. The article’s list of the archbishop’s actions are too numerous to name here. You can read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of his response to LGBT issues for the past few years here.

To lend your support for San Francisco’s Catholic school teachers, connect with “Concerned Parents and Students: TeachAcceptance” on their websiteFacebook, Twitter, or the online petition. You can also sign up online to volunteer through the Google form here.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the almost 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry