Priest Bans Gay Man from Singing at Grandmother’s Funeral

When Connor Hakes’ grandmother died, he wanted to honor her with a song at the funeral. But because he is a gay man, the parish priest denied Hakes’ request to sing, adding more pain to an already painful time.

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Connor Hakes

Hakes’ family are longtime parishioners at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Decatur, Indiana. Generations of the family, including his grandmother, were part of the community there, and Hakes had even sung at the church before, reported WANE.

But Fr. Bob Lengerich, pastor, banned Hakes from singing at the parish until the “present situation” was resolved, though he did not, in the letter explain what the “present situation” is.  One of the issues mentioned in the letter that would ban people from liturgical roles was “openly participating in unchaste same-sex relationships.”

Father Lengerich made his thoughts known in a letter to the grieving grandson. The letter also said that scandal is caused by someone “openly advocating” for same-gender relationships. He claimed there were “several LGTB parishioners who have openly declared their intentions to embrace a homosexual lifestyle” and therefore do no receive communion at Mass, nor serve in any parish liturgical ministries.

The priest told Hakes that he could sing to honor his grandmother “as long as it is outside of the Mass and outside of the Church,” even suggesting the post-burial luncheon as a possible moment. He concluded the letter saying the parish did want Hakes present and did “want to enter into a real dialogue and conversation.”

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Fr. Bob Lengerich

Hakes claimed that Fr. Lengerich based his claims about the gay man’s sexual life on a picture posted to Facebook several years ago of Hakes celebrating Pride. The grandson told WANE that Lengerich “had judged me and really formed an opinion about me without ever communicating with me. . .All of a sudden I felt very ostracized” from the parish that had always welcomed him.

The family has filed complaints with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, which is now involved to seek healing after the divisive incident. Hakes said he prays that Lengerich’s heart will soften to allow the priest to become “a better leader for the Catholic Church.” Hakes is also very clear about where his grandparents would stand on the matter and what Christian discipleship entails, reported PinkNews:

“Both my Grandma and Grandpa would be disgusted by their parish. Their compassion and empathy was abundant, no matter who you were. They saw beyond race, religion, sexuality, and social class. They loved everyone. That is what [it] means to be a Christian. That is what it means to be Catholic.”

Whatever his intention, Fr. Lengerich’s offer of dialogue and conversation falls flat when framed wihin the context of the priest denying Hakes the opportunity to honor his deceased loved one. Why didn’t he enter into dialogue and conversation before making a decision? It  is particularly disturbing that Lengerich somehow dug up a years-old photo of Hakes, and then seems to have inferred from it that Hakes was in a same-gender relationship. Certainly, there are more productive uses for Lengerich’s time and energy as a priest.

Once again, a priest who should be a source of consolation and unity has added to a grieving family’s pain and divided a parish community. Denying LGBT people the ability to participate in mourning rituals or denying them Communion at a funeral Mass are not infrequent events sadly. If church ministers cannot even be merciful and welcoming in these most painful moments, how can the church expect LGBT people and their families to show up at any other moment?

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 30, 2016

 

 

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Vatican Nuncio and Mexican Cardinal Strike a Different Note on LGBT Issues

Throughout the past autumn, Bondings 2.0 has been reporting on the same-sex marriage debate in the heavily Catholic nation of Mexico.  As we reported,  Mexican bishops, supported by Pope Francis,  led the opposition to the campaign for making marriage equality, which already exists in several Mexican states, a reality throughout the entire nation.

Earlier this month, the proposal for marriage equality was defeated with a vote of 18-9 by the Commission on Constitutional Matters in the lower house of the Mexican legislature. Yet, despite the loss, the experience may be a positive turning point for the Mexican Catholic hierarchy in terms of taking steps, however small, towards respect for LGBT people.

Archbishop Franco Coppola

Key to this change is the Vatican’s nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Franco Coppola, appointed in July 2016 by Pope Francis .  In response to the marriage equality proposal,  Coppola called for a more civil discussion of this, and other controversial topics.  The Catholic Herald  reported:

“Amid the activism, comments on same-sex marriage from the new apostolic nuncio to Mexico appear to suggest the Vatican would prefer a less confrontational approach.

” ‘Mexicans, rather than confronting each other, making proclamations or marching, have to sit down at the table and talk to each other,’ Archbishop Franco Coppola told reporters.

” ‘When we are speaking of the constitution, it has to become something that all Mexicans, or at least a great majority of Mexicans, can share.’ “

The Pilot reported that some observers see the archbishop’s comments as a Vatican decision to soften anti-gay rhetoric:

“Some media, such as the Spanish newspaper El Pais, interpreted the remarks as the Vatican ‘de-authorizing the anti-gay marches.’ “

Earlier in the marriage equality debate, Coppola also spoke words of reconciliation and outreach to gay and lesbian people.  The Yucatan Times reported:

“. . . [T]he apostolic nuncio, Franco Coppola, said it is necessary to recognize gay rights as any other citizens’ rights.

” ‘The doctrine of the Church is the doctrine of the Church, but we have to adapt it so we can offer answers to men and women of different times,’ the new representative of the Vatican in Mexico told reporters.”

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera

Coppola is not the only Catholic leader in Mexico who has softened his rhetoric.  Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico City and Primate of Mexico, recently apologized for negative comments he made about the sexual acts of some gay men, and he invited “people attracted to the same sex” to meet with priests, acknowledging that church ministers need education.

The PanAm Post reported:

“In the past, Cardinal Carrera maintained that he would not apologize for his rhetoric toward the LGBT community even if it was considered offensive by some people, but something seems to have changed in him, as he recently came out on behalf of the Archdiocese of Mexico and asked for forgiveness if at any moment they had used ‘inadequate expressions’ to refer to the gay community, saying ‘you should know that it was never my intention to offend anyone.’  “

The cardinal also stated:

” ‘You have asked me about people attracted to the same sex coming to the vicarage to discuss the subject, and I not only see it as an agreeable idea, but as a necessary one,’ he said. ‘Priests shouldn’t be expected to know all that there is to know; many times, they must also be taught about a topic.’ “

The statements made by Coppola and Rivera Carrera are good first steps.  Perhaps the extremism of the Mexican debate on marriage equality made them realize that the hierarchy’s rhetoric was too heated and pastorally harmful.  Perhaps the example of Pope Francis has awakened them.  At a minimum, let’s hope that Rivera Carrera learned his lesson not to be so focused on particular sexual acts, as if they defined the totality of a person or a relationship.

These small steps of openness need to be built upon, and the next time Mexico looks at a marriage equality proposal, perhaps the nation’s bishops will conduct themselves more civilly. If they don’t these recent statements will sound like a noisy gong and clanging bell.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 29, 2016

Related article:

PinkNews.co.uk: “Catholic Church in Mexico apologises after saying ‘man’s anus is not designed to receive’ “

QUOTE TO NOTE: U.S. Bishops Were Virtually Silent on Trump

computer_key_Quotation_MarksIn a scathing essay which excoriates Catholics who supported Donald Trump for U.S. President, Boston College theologian Stephen Pope also took to task U.S. bishops who were mum about so many of Candidate Trump’s statements which were directly opposed to Catholic teaching, particularly social teaching.

In a particularly strong passage, Pope compares the bishops’ reluctance to speak out against Trump with their loud and strong rhetoric about marriage equality and religious liberty.  In his Commonweal essay entitled “Not the Time for Reconciliation: First Confront the Danger of Trump,” he states:

Donald Trump

“. . .American bishops showed a stunning lack of leadership at a time when it was needed most. Some bishops publically expressed concern with Trump’s description of Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers. To their credit, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Bishop Kevin Farrell, and some other bishops expressed public concern over Trump’s immigrant-bashing rhetoric, but they did not offer a direct and sustained criticism of the substance and tone of his campaign as a whole. . . . Yet no bishop had the courage of Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore to denounce Trump in no uncertain terms as a ‘walking affront to the Gospels.’ Most obtuse was Archbishop Charles Chaput’s assessment of both major-party candidates as ‘equally problematic.’ Truly problematic are prelates who raise their voices against same-sex marriage, but not against overt racism and misogyny. Or bishops who defend the religious liberty of Catholic institutions regarding contraception, but not the freedom of persecuted Muslim refugees who wish to immigrate to our shores.

“In his post-election statement, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, outgoing president of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that he ‘looks forward to working President-elect Trump’ on issues of life, immigration and refugees, religious persecution, and marriage. Kurtz said nothing about poverty or climate change—concerns Pope Francis has made central to his papacy.

To read the entire essay, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 28, 2016

Five Years–And Counting!!!

Time really does fly when you’re having fun!  I can’t believe that it was five years ago today that I sat down at my computer at New Ways Ministry and typed into Google the words “how to start a blog.”  I spent the day learning about platforms and scheduling, and by the time 5:00 p.m.rolled around, I had my very first post for a blog I dubbed Bondings 2.0.  The Bondings part of the name was taken from New Ways Ministry’s paper newsletter, published continuously since 1978.  The 2.0 part was a nod to the fact that this was a social media version of Catholic LGBT news.

I started the blog that day with the hope that I would post something three times a week.  However, I so much enjoyed the work of blogging that I found myself posting every single day.  And for the past five years, we have put up at least one post (sometimes two or three) every single day.  This isn’t just bragging about our epistolary stamina.  The fact that there is something to post every single day for five years attests to the fact that Catholic LGBT news and opinion has blossomed and is one of the main stories of our contemporary world.

One of the main joys of this work is that I get to interact with wonderful people:  our readers!  Your comments on individual posts have helped to open my eyes to perspectives and information that are truly enlightening.  I’m grateful, too, to the many readers who send me “tips” in the form of news links to articles I might have missed.

I also have been blessed with great co-workers over the years who have kept this blog vibrant.  Of course, at the top of this list is Bob Shine, a tireless writer and investigator who does the lion’s share of the work in producing posts week in and week out.  And of course, my colleagues at New Ways Ministry who have written several posts over the years–Sr. Jeannine Gramick, Matt Myers, Cynde Nordone, Glen Bradley–have also added to this great conversation.

Last, but not least, are our guest contributors, too many to mention by name, but whose writings have brought new dimensions to this ongoing conversation.  Our latest guest contributor debuted yesterday, in an Advent Scriptural reflection series written by young LGBTQ theologians.

Only twice a year do we come to our readers and ask for financial support for this project.  Tomorrow is “Giving Tuesday,”  a day set aside to make holiday donations to non-profit organizations and charities.  We would be deeply honored if you could assist this blog project by making New Ways Ministry one of your charitable donations this year.   You can donate by clicking here, filling out the form, and writing “blog” in the comments box at the end of the form.  You don’t have to wait until Tuesday to make your donation.  Do it today so that you don’t forget!   Of course, your donation is tax-deductible.

If you prefer not to donate on-line, you can call our office 301-277-5674, during business hours, Eastern U.S. time, and we can take your credit card information over the phone.  Or you can send a check made to “New Ways Ministry” to 4012 – 29th Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20712.  However you decide to donate, your gift is tax-deductible.

At this anniversary time, we also like to let folks know about our criteria for approving “Comments” to individual blog posts.  Some of the criteria are very common to many blogs and some are particular to ours. Here are the guidelines that we use:

Common to many blogs;
1. No obscenities or anything offensive
2. No personal attacks or name-calling
3. Be relevant to the material posted
4. Argue politely
5. Avoid sarcasm
6. Nothing that is patently self-promotional
Particular guidelines for our blog:
1.  Nothing that would be pastorally harmful to our readers (e.g.,  “you are going to hell,”  “God hates gays,”  etc.)
2.  No condemning people–even people who are anti-LGBT
3.  No blanket calls to leave the Catholic Church, or invitations to join other churches (e.g, “All LGBT people should leave Catholicism,”  “I don’t know why you all don’t become Protestant”).

Blogging has been a wonderful adventure these past five years!  Each day, we learn something new.  We look forward to many more adventurous years with you in the future!  Thanks so much for being a part of this online community!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 28, 2016

Let No One Be Left in the Field

For the four Sundays of Advent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections on the day’s Scripture readings by LGBTQ theologians and pastoral ministers studying at Boston College.  The liturgical readings for the First Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122:1-9; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44.  You can read the texts by clicking here.

Craig Ford
Craig Ford

Today’s reflection is  by Craig A. Ford, Jr., a doctoral candidate in Theological Ethics at Boston College.

At first glance, Advent might seem to be a season designed to mess with our notion of time. Advent, we hear frequently, is about waiting, about expecting. These words, at least for me, don’t strike up images that imply a lot of activity: waiting and expecting, for me, conjure up scenes in which activity is temporarily suspended–like sitting in a doctor’s office, or waiting on a crucial email you need from a colleague in order to complete a project.

On the other hand, everything about our daily lives during this time of year seems to be in a state of consumer frenzy, amplified by the compulsion to shop and buy presents, to prepare dinners, to host parties, to send out Christmas cards. This madness is the furthest possible thing from waiting; it seems, instead, like racing.

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Jean-Francois Millet, “The Angelus”

But, if we let the readings for this first week of Advent grab our attention for a few moments, I think we’ll see that the impression of Advent as a sort of liturgical waiting room is inaccurate. And they certainly don’t advocate for Advent to be a time consumed in buying the latest and the greatest new gadgets. Instead, today’s scriptures point out that we need to be engaged in different sorts of activities.

This alternative impression comes into view most clearly when we go through the readings backwards. Jesus’ words to us in the Gospel invite listeners not into a story where people are sitting on their hands, but instead into a story where people are going about the daily rhythms of their lives completely oblivious to the Gospel’s demands. From here, the arrival of the reign of God is dramatized as the sudden disappearance of some of those closest to us. “Two men will be out in the field,” Jesus says, “One will be taken, and one will be left” (Matt. 24:40).

But no one should be left in the field. Our job as Christians is to include everyone, and this is the activity in which Advent demands that we engage.

What does this sort of work entail? It entails our going about the business of opening ourselves to each other. It entails the courage not to retreat into ourselves beyond the demands of self-care. (We should never discount self-care, including everything that’s required in order for us to feel healthy and be willing to extend ourselves in service to others once again, such as cups of coffee with friends, long walks, and disconnections from social media.) Our work entails trying to live a non-exclusive Gospel, where we become ambassadors of welcome to each other. Paul summarizes this in the second reading as the act of putting on Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14), which we know from elsewhere in Scripture is identical to taking in, providing for–in a word, loving–our neighbor (1 Jn. 4:20).

This work is not easy. And for those who us who identify as LGBT, as queer, or as gender non-conforming Catholics, this type of activity will seem downright unfair. After all, why should we expect to open ourselves up to others such as our own bishops who continue to use the hurtful language of the truth about man and woman, and the unique bond of marriage they form”? (What such a statement obscures is the actual truth that no relationship hallowed by the presence of love can afford to be excluded from the Church, the very community animated by love, the bond of the Holy Spirit.)

Moreover, the prospect of President-elect Donald Trump in the United States exacerbates these negative messages, as Trump’s presence in the public forum has validated the homophobic and transphobic sentiments of some of his supporters. These supporters, in turn, are making these sentiments public in a way that causes many of us to fear for our safety, especially if we live in states marked by that do not have policies protecting LGBT, queer, and gender non-conforming persons.

But this work of opening ourselves to all is nevertheless the call of the Gospel. This is the work of Advent, of waiting for the arrival of Christ. We must pray for God to strengthen us in this work. For lying on the other side of this work is the presence of justice and the presence of peace. The illustration of Isaiah has captured many hearts: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares; and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again” (Is. 2:4). Will it capture ours?

We queer Christians know that we cannot afford to perpetuate exclusion. This Advent, may we dedicate ourselves to no longer leaving anyone–friend or foe, beloved or bigot–in the field.

La Salle Brothers in Philippines Start LGBT Group; Other International News

While much attention has been given to LGBT rights in the U.S following the election and the U.S. bishops’ meeting, there are several developments internationally to report. Today’s post includes four updates with links to news reports if you would like to read further.

Catholic School in Philippines Starts LGBT Group

A La Salle Brothers school in the Philippines approved BHIVE, an LGBT-oriented group at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, reported the Manila Standard. It is the first school in the Brothers system in that country to take such a step.

csb-facadeCarmelita Lazatin, the College’s Vice Chancellor for Lasallian Mission and Student Life explained that diversity “has always been one of its richest resources for learning and innovation,” and that BHIVE would help “explore the reach of the words ‘inclusive’ and ‘education.'”

John Carlo Lazo, a BHIVE leader, said this approval comes after a five-year process, but now hopes to open “new opportunities for conversation,” as well as providing a safe space for LGBT students.  The school is located on several campuses in Manila.

Fiji Archbishop Calls for Respect of LGBT People

Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva in Fiji affirmed the need to respect communities marginalized for their sexual or gender identity, reported The Fiji Times. Chong cited Pope Francis for addressing LGBTI people himself, saying “everyone is the same” and should therefore be respected.

In 2015, Chong, while commenting on pornography, said that the church must provide a”proper positive education on human sexuality,” which teaches that “sexuality is for the purpose of relationships, the physical side of our sexuality is secondary to the emotional relationship.” Chong said further:

” ‘Each person has to develop to be a mature sexual person, whether it’s through masculine or feminine and even homosexuals, they have their own sexual orientation which is a gift from God and through their sexual orientation, they relate to people.’ “

Zambian Bishops Impede HIV/AIDS Prevention

LGBT advocates in Zambia criticized both the nation’s prison system and Catholic officials for the promotion of abstinence as a solution to the higher than average rates of HIV infection found among prisoners, reported AllAfrica.  Catholic officials stated that the distribution of condoms as a prevention measure would be considered as promoting homosexual activity.

Fr. Paul Samasumo, speaking for the Zambia Episcopal Conference, said the church supported  a policy of using only abstinence education as a prevention method, and the prisons have done so.

Prevention efforts have also been hampered due to the criminalization of homosexuality, a holdover from British colonial rule. Being convicted of same-sex activity carries a punishment of up to 14 years in prison.

English Bishop Cautions Against ‘Ideology of Gender’ in Schools

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England wrote a letter to Catholic educators on how to handle gender identity questions in schools, framed by him as “the ideology of gender which underlies transgenderism.” He urged schools not to be “swayed or fall victim to the errors of our times.”  It appears that his own understanding of trans realities and questions of gender seems limited.

For all the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog using the provided “Follow” box in the upper right hand corner of this page. Contact info@newwaysministry.org with questions and news tips.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 26, 2016

 

 

Are Synods Actually Helpful for LGBT Catholics and Their Families?

Following the Vatican’s 2015 Synod on the Family, a handful of dioceses worldwide have convoked their own local synods to discuss issues in and plans for their local church. These gatherings have been heralded for advancing episcopal collegiality and participation of the laity, parts of Pope Francis’ vision for the church.

But while that may be so, the Synod on the Family was described as a “disappointment” by some LGBT advocates and local synods’ treatment of sexuality has been mixed. It is therefore a live question in the church whether these synods are actually helping LGBT Catholics and their families.

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Participants conversing at Detroit’s synod.

The Archdiocese of Detroit held its “Synod ’16: Unleash the Gospel” last weekend, part of its evangelization efforts in which thousands of Catholics have participated through some 240 Parish Dialogue Gatherings and nights of prayer.

More than 11,000 responses were distilled into 46 propositions for the consideration of the synod’s 400 delegates, reported the National Catholic Reporter. Top priorities included lifelong faith formation, building parishes marked by loving encounters, empowering Catholics to live active faith lives, and, according to diocesan newspaper The Michigan Catholic:

“Build a framework for mutual accountability between pastors, parishes, schools and the Central Services. To build a foundation for this, heal wounded relationships, build trust and practice transparency. . .

“Build cultural competency among individuals, parishes and archdiocesan leadership to acknowledge and break down barriers that divide us — including race, ethnicity, sex and socioeconomic status.”

The Archdiocese has faced financial and organizational difficulties in recent years, including a declining Catholic population, difficulties in many ways tied to Detroit’s citywide troubles. But the synod also acknowledged the splits within the church community. Auxiliary Bishop Michael Byrnes, who oversaw synod preparations, told NCR:

“‘I’m really, really grateful to build within our parishes a capacity to welcome the other. . .I mean we were naming things of ethnicity, of race, gender and sexual orientation. . .It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’re dealing with. And now this is going to take a while to grow but that was named in the last session and got a lot of support. . .

“‘[Archbishop Allen Vigneron has] a huge vision, this isn’t just about becoming more pious, this is really about taking action for social, neighborhood transformation. . .We can’t just stop at “Jesus save me, so that I can go to heaven.” It has to be “Jesus, save me, so that I can help heal the world.”‘”

Themes of healing and reconciliation where divisions exist in the church and with the surrounding community were prominent at the gathering. While LGBT issues were not specifically mentioned in news reports, it would be surprising if these topics were not raised at Saturday morning’s session on the family.

dsc_0777
Archbishop Vigneron at Mass during the Synod

But what is perhaps most remarkable are the statements from Archbishop Vigneron, a conservative bishop with an anti-LGBT record that includes remarks which compared breaking up a same-gender relationship to the Exodus liberation, seeking to deny Communion to Catholics who support marriage equality, and banning a Fortunate Families event  from church property.

Vigneron told the National Catholic Reporter the synod sought “a radical overhaul of the Church in Detroit” to “transform the very culture of our Archdiocese — how we work, how we pray, how we minister, everything — so that in everything we do, we are more effective witnesses to the Gospel.” Citing the writings of Pope Francis as the inspiration, the archbishop said he would be “listening and contributing and being part of this whole process.” Afterward, he commented to The Michigan Catholic:

“‘We talked a lot about hospitality and about how we need to be welcoming to them, but also about reconciliation. . .There are people who are hurt, and we need to work together to heal those hurts.'”

These statements from Vigneron have a strikingly different tone from his previous statements and, while they do not address LGBT issues specifically, they seem to hint at a new understanding on his part of the ways the church has excluded and even hurt Catholics.

Archbishop Vigneron should now take the next step of sitting down with LGBT Catholics and the Catholic parents of LGBT children to hear their stories and be open to the ways the Spirit speaks through them to him and to the Archdiocese. Doing this before he releases a pastoral statement on the synod, expected Pentecost 2017, could greatly improve what will likely become a guiding document in Detroit. Including sexual orientation and gender identity in the synod’s commitment to accountability and cultural competency on the part of church ministers is one way he could be tremendously helpful.

So while issues of gender and sexuality were not explicitly addressed or reported in Detroit last weekend, unlike the diocesan synod in San Diego under Bishop Robert McElroy where LGBT topics came up organically, they will likely be affected by the synod.

Just how that happens, however, is unclear. Could the synod’s findings reinvigorate attention to a heteronormative and nuclear understanding of family or will other family arrangements including same-gender relationships be pastorally accompanied?

And the larger question remains: are these synods helping LGBT people and their families, indifferent about them, or even pastorally damaging?

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 25, 2016