The Best Catholic LGBT News of 2016

On this last day of 2016, we look back at the best Catholic LGBT news stories of the past 12 months.  Each year, Bondings 2.0 asks its readers to vote for the best and worst events that occurred since January.  Yesterday, we reported on what our readers chose as the worst Catholic LGBT stories.  Today, we offer our readers’ choices for the best of the past year.

So, here’s the list, with number one receiving the most votes and number ten receiving the least:

  1. Pope Francis calls on the entire Christian church to apologize to LGBT people and others who have been marginalized over the years by church structures. Following the pope’s call, an Australian parish hosts the first Liturgy of Apology to the LGBT community.
  2. America magazine, a Jesuit publication, publishes an editorial naming the firing of gay and lesbian church employees as “unjust discrimination.”
  3. Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation following the Synod on the Family, promotes the primacy of conscience when applying church doctrine to one’s life, and stresses pastoral accompaniment for people who disagree with church teaching.
  4. Italy legalizes civil unions for lesbian and gay couples despite opposition from the Vatican and the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
  5. In the wake of the shooting massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, many Catholic leaders, including several bishops, offer statements of solidarity with the LGBT community.
  6. Transgender issues make great strides in Catholic education, including supportive policies on college campuses, a high school which developed a policy to welcome transgender students, and the Sisters of Mercy announcing that they will continue to employ a newly-transitioned transgender teacher at their San Francisco high school.
  7. Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the newly created Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, rebukes his brother bishops in the United States for failing to engage Amoris Laetitia during their annual meeting.
  8. The Catholic Theological Society of America presents the John Courtney Murray Award, its highest honor, to Orlando Espin, an openly gay, married Latino scholar.
  9. The president of the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco, a priest, publicly congratulates the school’s lesbian coach of women’s basketball on her marriage.
  10. For the first time in its 100-year history, LGBT groups were officially welcomed and recognized at Catholic Day, a high-profile, biennial conference in Germany, attended by over 30,000 Catholics.

I will offer a few of my impressions of the choices readers made.  I’m not surprised at the number one choice.  Pope Francis’s call for apologies to the LGBT community is probably the single most powerful action that could affect the Catholic Church’s relationship with sexual and gender minorities.  Sadly, only a few have followed his example.  Still, his call for such apologies offers a precedent worth celebrating.

The choice for second place is also no surprise.  The scourge of firing LGBT church workers has caused damage to many sectors of our Church.  It is good to see a credible and reputable source such as America calling for an end to this practice, and using Catholic principles to support its recommendation.

When I offered readers 15 nominees for best stories and 15 nominees for worst, I mentioned that I put two items in both categories.  The publication of Amoris Laetitia brought mixed reviews from Catholic LGBT leaders, so it was mentioned in both categories.   When the Orlando massacre happened, many U.S. bishops ignored the LGBT dimension of the incident, but the ones who did speak out did so forcefully, so this item was also listed in both places.

Both stories made both final lists.  On the list of worsts,  Amoris Laetitia ranked #7, while on the list of bests, it ranked #3, perhaps indicating that readers saw the document as more positive than negative.  The response to Orlando ranked #5 on both lists, perhaps indicating that Catholics were as equally pleased by the positive reactions as they were disappointed by the absence of LGBT mention.

Do you notice any significances in this list of bests?  If so, offer your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

One last detail.  When readers were asked to vote for stories, they were also given a choice to add their own nominees.  Only one reader did so.  The post that was mentioned was a beautiful Advent reflection,  A Woman of Courage Brings Emmanuel, “God With Us”, by guest blogger Elizabeth Sextro.

So, as we complete this year, let’s remember this list of 2016’s achievements and build on them in 2017!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 31, 2016

 

The Worst Catholic LGBT News of 2016

As is the tradition here at Bondings 2.0, on the last two days of the year, we present the results of our reader survey of the best and the worst Catholic LGBT news stories of the past 12 months.

Thanks to all of our readers who responded to the survey, naming their five best and five worst stories of the 15 “nominees” presented in each category.  To end the new year on a high note, we will offer the results of the survey of the “best” stories on December 31st.

Today, we offer our readers’ choices for the ten worst Catholic LGBT events of 2016:

  1. The Vatican’s Congregation for Priests reaffirms a 2005 ban against gay seminarians and priests.
  2. A gay man is denied permission to sing at his grandmother’s funeral in Decatur, Indiana.
  3. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia issues guidelines which exclude, among other Catholics, people in same-gender relationships from pastoral or liturgical roles. 
  4. Pope Francis repeats warnings against “gender ideology” and marriage equality, rhetoric that begins to be picked up by bishops around the globe.
  5. Most U.S. bishops who issue statements on the massacre at an Orlando gay nightclub fail to mention the LGBT dimension of the attack. One bishop in Florida later publicly criticizes a colleague for acknowledging the church’s role in perpetuating homophobia.
  6. Dominican Republic church leaders, including the cardinal, harass and make derogatory comments about U.S. Ambassador Wally Brewster, a married gay man.
  7. Amoris Laetitia disappoints LGBT advocates by not mentioning same-gender relationships and offering negative comments on gender transition.
  8. Catholic bishops in Malawi repeatedly make negative comments against LGBT people, despite continued acts of violence and discrimination against this group. In a pastoral letter on the Year of Mercy, they call for jail sentences for lesbian and gay people.
  9. The Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, issues education guidelines which threaten expulsion for students whose views and actions about sexual orientation and gender identity are positive, including the act of coming out.
  10. Openly gay priest Warren Hall is suspended by Archbishop of Newark, which cites Fr. Hall’s advocacy for LGBT people. 

I offer some analysis of these results.   The top three vote-getters all involved liturgical participation, perhaps showing that for Catholics, liturgy is at the heart of our faith.  Any restrictions placed on liturgical participation hits us the hardest.

Two of the selections involve missed opportunities that church leaders had to do something positive:  the publication of Amoris Laetitia and bishops’ statements on the Orlando massacre. Church leaders should take a lesson from this that their silence can be as hurtful and harmful as any negative statement they might make.

In terms of church leaders speaking negatively, in the case of the Dominican Republic item, it should be remembered that the resignation of the cardinal of that island nation, who was a primary antagonist against the U.S. ambassador, was immediately accepted by the Vatican. Unfortunately, in the case of the Malawi bishops’ anti-LGBT rhetoric, no such Vatican intervention is known of.

Pope Francis’ statements about gender ideology and the Malawi bishops’ call for jail sentences for lesbian and gay people are the only examples of involvement by church leaders becoming strongly involved in anti-LGBT political debates.  (Not that more of such things didn’t happen, but they perhaps were not as prevalent as in previous years.)  This could indicate that bishops with an anti-LGBT agenda have recognized that they cannot win political debates.  This theory may be supported by the fact that in three of the items that made the list–the Vatican gay priest ban, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia liturgical rules, and the Diocese of Little Rock educational guidelines–we see church officials trying to control their own bailiwicks instead of the public sphere.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s list of the BEST Catholic LGBT stories of 2016!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 30, 2016

 

When the Catholic Press Association Sided With New Ways Ministry

History-Option 1“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s  feature to educate readers of the rich history—positive and negative—that has taken place over the last four decades regarding Catholic LGBT equality issues.  We hope it will show people how far our Church has come, ways that it has regressed, and how far we still have to go.

Once a  month, Bondings 2.0 staff will produce a post on Catholic LGBT news events from the past 38 years.  We will comb through editions ofBondings 2.0’s predecessor:  Bondings,  New Ways Ministry’s newsletter in paper format.   We began publishing Bondings in 1978. Unfortunately, because these newsletters are only archived in hard copies, we cannot link back to the primary sources in most cases. 

Catholic Press Association Sides With New Ways Ministry

On December 12, 1981, The St. Louis Globe Democrat carried a story with the headline “St. Louis Review violated press code, Catholic group says.”  The first paragraph of the story explains the controversy:

“The Catholic Press Association, a professional organization of 265 Catholic publications including the St. Louis Review [the archdiocesan newspaper] and most of the country’s diocesan newspapers, has cited the Review in violation of the association’s code for not giving a Catholic group of homosexuals “ample opportunity to defend themselves in the pages of our publications.”

The story states that New Ways Ministry filed the complaint with the Catholic Press Association (CPA) “against the Review and the Hawaii Catholic Herald . . . when the diocesan papers refused to publish New Ways’ response to an Oct. 17, 1980, column by James Hitchcock. . .  a St. Louis University professor of history and a noted Catholic conservative whose weekly column is syndicated in the Review and four other Catholic diocesan papers.”

Hitchcock had written a Sept. 19, 1980, column which mentioned New Ways Ministry, saying that it did not follow church teaching.  New Ways Ministry responded with a letter to the editor that was published in the Review on Oct. 3, 1980.  The news article explains the next development:

“Then Hitchcock devoted his Oct. 17 column to New Ways, citing what he thought was evidence of New Ways’ not following church teaching.  . . . New Ways wanted to respond to Hitchcock’s column but this was denied by Monsignor O’Donnell [the editor]. . .”

The news account states:

“Afer a 10-month study of the controversy and correspondence between New Ways Nd the diocesan papers, the association’s board approved a recommendation Oct. 15, 1981, from its three-member Fair Publishing Practices Code Committee to cite the violation against the Review and the Hawaii Catholic Herald. . . “

According to a December 11, 1981, article in The St. Louis Review that reported the CPA’s decision, the newspaper’s editor, Msgr. Edward O’Donnell, said:

“I’m disappointed the CPA doesn’t respect the judgment of an editor.

“My judgment was simply that both sides of the issue had heard enough about this particular squabble.  I don’t see how any outside organization can assume the responsibility of overruling such an editorial judgment and call itself a professional journalist’s organization.”

The St. Louis Review published a letter to the editor from New Ways Ministry’s co-director, Fr. Robert Nugent, in response to Msgr. O’Donnell’s comment.  It stated in part:

“As Roman Catholic ministers who have been officially assigned to this ministry by our provincial superiors we believe that much more is involved than a ‘squabble,’  as Msgr. O’Donnell terms it, when our reputations as credible ministers are impugned by a Catholic columnist and we are denied an opportunity to reply.

“Mr. Hitchcock says he requested information from us about our position on homosexuality, but neglects to mention that his request came after he made his charges.  Since the burden of proof for his accusations rested with him we felt no need to provide him with information.  He made the charges.  Either he had some substantial and convincing proof or he was simply on a witch-hunting expedition.  Apparently he had no proof.

“Contrary to Msgr. O’Donnell’s remark that “both sides of the issue had been presented” we felt they hadn’t.  Thurs our course to the CPA committee who ultimately agreed with us.”

This 36-year old journalistic controversy is enlightening because it raises the question whether the Catholic press today, especially the diocesan press, gives fair attention to LGBT issues.  So, dear readers, what has been your experience with the Catholic press, especially the diocesan press?  Have you ever written a letter on LGBT issue? If so, was it printed?  When the Catholic paper you read carries stories on LGBT issues, does it fairly represent all sides of the issue? You can offer your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

Be sure to vote for the Best and Worst Catholic LGBT News of 2016. You can vote by clicking here. Voting closes at 5:00 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time on Thursday, December 29th.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 28, 2016

 

Catholic LGBT Things to Do Before 2016 Ends!

Don’t let these deadlines pass without acting!

newwayssymp-logoREGISTER at the early bird rate for New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss:  LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.”  The deadline for a discounted early bird rate is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2016.  You won’t want to miss this exciting event, which will include a Meet-up for Bondings 2.0 readers!  Click here for more information!  Click here to register!

13114249825_e879cef180_bSIGN “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations,” a statement in support of gay priests and seminarians which will be sent to Pope Francis, Vatican officials, the USCCB president, and gay priests that are known to New Ways Ministry.  The deadline is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2016.  Sign the statement by clicking here.

thumbs upVOTE for what you think were the best and worst Catholic LGBT news events of 2016. Bondings 2.0‘s annual poll is a way for readers to weigh in on the major events that transpired over the last 12 months.  The deadline is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2016. Cast your vote by clicking here.  Results will be posted on December 30th and 31st.

James Martin croppedREAD and CIRCULATE the newly-released Spanish language version of Jesuit Father James Martin’s “A Two-Lane Bridge/Un Puente de Dos Direcciones,” a groundbreaking talk on Catholic LGBT issues, which he gave upon receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award earlier this year.  You can access the talk by clicking here.

follow-1277026_640KEEP UP TO DATE on Catholic LGBT news and opinion by subscribing to Bondings 2.0!  Subscribing is simple:  Go to the top of the right-hand column of this blog page.  You’ll see the “Follow” box.  Enter your email address in the box and click the button.  You’re done!  You’ll receive an email every time the blog is updated, usually once a day.  You can also manage how often you’d like to hear from us.  Resolve to stay informed in 2017!

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

Conscience, Yes. But a Common Understanding of It in the Age of Pope Francis? Not Yet.

Be sure to vote for the Best and Worst Catholic LGBT News of 2016. You can vote by clicking here. Voting closes at 5:00 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time on Thursday, December 29th.

A bedrock principle in Catholic morality is the primacy of conscience, a teaching recovered by Vatican II and now being further advanced by Pope Francis. But disputes about what conscience means and how it should be applied have intensified after the release of the pope’s apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, this past April.

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Pope Francis

Theologians Michael G. Lawler and Todd A. Salzman offered their reflection on conscience in the National Catholic Reporter. They called the pope’s thoughts on conscience “one of the most important teachings in the apostolic exhortation.” In one paragraph they sketched the main question on conscience in Catholic thought:

“Stated succinctly, is conscience subjective and internal and truth objective and external, whereby the subjective and internal conscience must obey and conform to the objective and external truth? Or does conscience include both the objective and subjective realms, whereby conscience discerns and interprets its understanding of objective truth and exercises that understanding in the subjective judgment of conscience?”

Salzman and Lawler stated the question even more simply, citing theologian Fr. Joseph Fuchs: “Does a truth exist ‘in itself’ or ‘in myself’?” Their analysis is far longer than can be described here, but for anyone inclined to read more, which I highly recommend, you can find it here.

What I will highlight here is their commentary on Pope Francis and his teaching on conscience not only in Amoris Laetitia, but in his earlier exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Salzman and Lawler said the pope’s “model of conscience. . .provides a faithful and merciful guide for couples who are in irregular situations and empowers them to follow their inviolable conscience on this important issue.”

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Todd A. Salzman

Pope Francis, they noted, has said “realities are more important than ideas,” and that ideas cannot be separated from reality but rather the two must be dialectically related.This approach contrasts sharply with some bishops’ interpretation and implementation of Amoris Laetitia. The theologians identified specifically the restrictive pastoral guidelines of Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, which, among other sanctions, bar people in same-gender relationships from parish and liturgical ministries.

Salzman and Lawler proceeded by pointing out the “vast disconnect” between the ideas informing the Magisterium’s teaching on sexual ethics and the realities of Catholics’ lives whereby:

“[T]he majority of educated Catholics judge these norms are detached from reality, and Catholics are following their consciences to make practical judgments on these and other moral matters.”

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Michael G. Lawler

Instead of division, Pope Francis seeks a harmony between ideas and reality. Conscience, the pope says, must be listened to in making up one’s mind about how to act on moral issues and then it must be followed. To not act in accordance with one’s conscience is “a sin.” Without affirming relativism, the pope is offering an “affirmation of objective truth that recognizes plural and partial truths that must be discerned by conscience informed by, among other sources, external, objective norms.”

The theologians cite Pope Francis himself to define the limitations of Amoris Laetitia and affirm the necessary role of conscience to complete its reception. They wrote:

“There is an ‘immense variety of concrete situations’ and situations can be so vastly different that his document, the pope confesses, cannot ‘provide a new set of rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases’ (Amoris Laetitia, 300). The only moral solution to any and every situation is a path of careful discernment accompanied by a priest and a final judgment of personal conscience that commands us to do this or not to do that (Amoris Laetitia, 300-305). Only such an informed conscience can make a moral judgment about the details of any and every particular situation.”

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David Cloutier

Another theologian, David Cloutier, responded to Salzman and Lawler in a piece for Commonweal. He objected to certain points in their article, and made a larger point that he believes continuing battles about conscience and church authority d0 not help the church, nor do such battles “address the real substance of the particular issues of Amoris Laetitia or the larger challenges of Catholic morality.”

While I question much of Cloutier’s argument, which seeks to restrict understandings of conscience in moral theology, he made an interesting point about setting conscience within the context of community:

“I personally would like to read Pope Francis’s teaching in the eighth chapter of Amoris Laetitia as about a Church that practices Vatican II’s universal call to holiness, even in very difficult and conflicted situations. . .The pope rightly is pushing for a community that is serious and deep in its encounter with Christ and His call to the Kingdom [sic], but does not confuse that ‘holiness’ with a kind of individual athleticism and perfection. . .It is not about jurisdictional arguments. To the contrary, the universal call to holiness is supposed to liberate us from a legalistic account of the morality of the Catholic laity that hinged on applying and authorizing various rules and exceptions. It does so not by ignoring or pretending away difficulties under the guise of personal autonomy, but by pushing us more deeply into ecclesial community so that we can face them together, honestly.”

I think the challenge of Amoris Laetitia’s reception and the larger question of conscience is not Cloutier’s zero-sum structure where conscience recedes while practice of the virtues in community grows. Rather, it is a question of more fully and comprehensively receiving Vatican II, whose teachings include conscience, the universal call to holiness, and many other connected issues for Christian living. This process of reception today means rethinking existing paradigms, even postconciliar ones, and envisioning new possibilities. This process and its fruits are “both/and” realities.

If Cloutier is correct, then what Pope Francis is affirming in his vision of a more inclusive ecclesial community whose members are mature Christians. This kind of church is already being lived into by LGBT Catholics and other people who have been excluded. Precisely because they have been excluded and condemned, such Catholics have had no choice but to form their consciences and live according to them. this process has often been lived out by others in communities at the church’s peripheries, too. Where the institutional church under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI looked backwards, advocating regressive ideas about conscience and authority, marginalized Catholics took Vatican II’s teachings to heart and looked forward.

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Bishops gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican II

Pope Francis is, if nothing else, very much a priest formed by the Council. His exhortations, along with his other teachings and daily witness, very much incarnate the Christian life Vatican II imagined for the entire faithful. Like all of us, Francis is imperfect and he shows a particular deficit in his knowledge of gender and sexuality. But unlike his predecessors, he is humble enough to admit he is imperfect; his teaching often poses questions rather than providing answers.

This coming week, I will offer a more thorough analysis of Pope Francis’ engagement with LGBT issues in 2016, and I would invite readers’ own thoughts then. For now, I express this hope for the church in 2017:  May the faithful, especially institutional leaders and ministers, be concerned more about questions than answers, respect for conscience than blind obedience, and unity in diversity than purity through division.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 27, 2016

Pope Francis: An LGBT Year in Review

During his annual pre-Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia last week, Pope Francis sharply criticized Vatican officials for opposing his efforts at ecclesial reform. Some prelates, he said, possessed a “malevolent resistance. . .[that] sprouts from twisted minds and presents itself when the devil inspires bad intentions.”

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Pope Francis at the Christmas liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica

The National Catholic Reporter reported that Francis said such resistance “finds refuge in tradition, in appearances, in formality, in the known, or in the desire to make everything personal without distinguishing between act, actor, and action.”

These remarks are, perhaps, the pope’s most strident acknowledgment that his efforts at reform and renewal are extremely unwelcome by some church leaders. And Francis continued, “It is necessary to reiterate with force that the reform is not an end in itself but is a process of growth and most of all, conversion.”

But what has reform and renewal meant for Pope Francis when it comes to LGBT issues? Are the pope and the entire church experiencing growth and conversion? Or is Pope Francis himself part of a resistance to greater gender and sexual inclusion? Today’s post reviews what the pope has and has not done on LGBT issues in 2016.

The year began with the release of a book-length interview with the pope entitled The Name of God is Mercy. In it, Francis expanded on his now famous 2013 “Who am I to judge” remark. He said lesbian and gay people are, before all else, people with wholeness and dignity who must be welcomed. He importantly offered no condemnation or moral evaluation in regard to sexual ethics, which would have almost certainly been included by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Later in January, in a speech to the Roman Rota, Pope Francis said “there can be no confusion between the family as willed by God, and every other type of union.” Some observers understood these remarks as an intervention to the debate over civil unions going on in Italy at the time. Other observers said the remarks were more about divorced Catholics and annulments, and noted that Francis did not directly intervene in Italian politics about “non-negotiable values” as his predecessors had done.

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Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill

In February, Pope Francis issued a statement with Russian Patriarch Kirill, after their historic meeting, that strongly condemned marriage equality. The leaders said they “regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as [marriage]” and that marriage was “being banished from the public conscience.”

In April, Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) following the two-year process of the Synods on the Family. The exhortation offered some hope, but not much joy for LGBT people and their families, who were largely left out of the document. To read Bondings 2.0’s ongoing coverage about the exhortation, including many reactions and analyses, click here.

In June, Pope Francis called for the church to apologize to lesbian and gay people. He said “the Church must not only ask forgiveness from the gay person who is offended, but she must also ask for forgiveness from the poor too, from women who are exploited, from children who are exploited for labour.” A parish in Australia held a precedent-setting liturgy of forgiveness in response to the pope’s remarks.

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Pope Francis

In July, in a private meeting with Poland’s bishops during his Apostolic Visit there, Pope Francis claimed,  that children were being taught in schools they could choose a gender. He also endorsed remarks by Benedict XVI who said the present era was an “epoch of sin against God the creator.” LGBT advocates pushed back strongly against these comments when they became public a few weeks after the meeting.

In September, the pope weighed in on Mexico’s highly contentious debate over marriage equality, saying during the Angelus one Sunday that he joined the country’s bishops in their efforts “in favor of the family and of life, which at this time require special pastoral and cultural attention worldwide.” Bishops in Mexico have claimed persecution by the state (though these comments must be interpreted in the context of the actual and quite violent persecution against the church in the early 20th century)” and have supported “ex-gay” therapy.

In October, Pope Francis spoke about LGBT issues during one of his in-flight interviews, comments which received mixed reactions from LGBT advocates. First, the pope responded to a question about how he would care pastorally for a person who is gender dysphoric. Francis shared that he had “accompanied people with homosexual tendencies,” even since being elected pope. He also spoke about meeting a transgender man, Diego Neria Lejárraga, in 2015. In his response, the pope used the man’s correct pronouns and said at one point, “He that was her but is he.”

But these more positive remarks also included Francis’ joke that the press should not report “the Pope blesses transgenders.” He criticized as well undefined concepts of gender theory and ideological colonization, and told the strange anecdote of a father who found out his child was being told in school that gender could be chosen. The day before these comments while speaking to clergy in Georgia, Pope Francis had decried the “world war to destroy marriage.

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Pope Francis

As much as Pope Francis himself has weighed in on LGBT issues himself, his name has been invoked by other Catholics in their own comments.

In October, Providence’s Bishop Thomas Tobin said Francis would support the firing of gay music director Michael Templeton. And a Vatican official tweeted that the pope was saddened to find out two former nuns had entered a civil union in Italy, an unconfirmed judgment based solely on the pope’s facial expressions.

Most recently, in December, it was reported that Pope Francis had approved a document on priesthood that reaffirmed a 2005 ban on gay men entering the priesthood.

In a larger trend this year, bishops appear to have been encouraged by Pope Francis’ criticism of  “gender theory” and “ideological colonization” in the context of LGBT issues. You can read several examples of such statements by bishops by clicking here.

But Pope Francis has also been invoked by many LGBT Catholics and allies in work to build a more inclusive church and seek equal rights.

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Yayo Grassi at New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award ceremony.

Yayo Grassi, a former student of the pope’s who remains close with Francis, shared a positive appraisal during New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award Ceremony in October. Following an address by Jesuit Fr. James Martin, Grassi, whose meeting with Pope Francis during his visit to the United States made headlines, said that in Argentina, as Cardinal Bergoglio, the pope disavowed harsh comments against marriage equality attributed to him as misrepresentations by the media. He had actually been writing to nuns in private correspondence to ask them not to use harsh rhetoric. Grassi also said the pope stated:,”In my pastoral work, there is no place for homophobia.

But as much as Pope Francis has said and as much as others have invoked him, there are glaring silences for which any analysis must account. When Pope Francis visited Poland for World Youth Day this summer, a group of Catholic parents with LGBT children asked him to speak against widespread homophobia still present in their society, including violence targeting gay people.  He did not. And the pope has still remained silent about criminalization laws targeting LGBT people, even when church leaders like Malawi’s bishops strongly support such policies.

As you reflect on Pope Francis and LGBT issues, here are a few posts from the past year to read which discuss general papal trends:

Examining the Two Faces of Pope Francis on LGBT Issues” by Vernon Smith

For LGBT Rights, Is Pope Francis a Partisan or Not?” by Robert Shine

Putting Pope Francis’ ‘Ideology of Gender’ Comments in Context” by Cristina Traina

Exploring Pope Francis’ Mixed Messages on LGBT Issues” by Francis DeBernardo

Finally, I offer a concluding note from my own consideration of Pope Francis. More and more, I read his treatment of LGBT issues within the wider context of his papacy and his vision. Pope Francis is clearly limited in his understandings of gender and sexuality, likely stemming from both his own lack of knowledge, and by relying on advisors at the Vatican with a more conservative agenda.

As many have observed, Pope Francis’ actions often speak far louder than his words. These movements to return to Jesus, in their firm commitment to more fully and fervently living out Christian discipleship, can only help the cause of LGBT equality in the long term. None of these positives, however, excuses or lessens the harmful impact of his LGBT negative comments in which he does real damage to people’s lives.

Most importantly for me, Francis has been far more faithful than his immediate predecessors to the teachings of Vatican II. He prioritizes a church of mercy and welcome, a church foremost committed to justice for marginalized and vulnerable people, and a church where honest conversation is practiced to strengthen the faithful’s unity amid tremendous diversity. This vision was present in his Christmas homily, in which he speaks about the honored place of people on the margins:

“The mystery of Christmas, which is light and joy, questions and unsettles us, because it is at once both a mystery of hope and of sadness.  It bears within itself the taste of sadness, inasmuch as love is not received, and life discarded.  This happened to Joseph and Mary, who found the doors closed, and placed Jesus in a manger, “because there was no place for them in the inn” (v. 7).  Jesus was born rejected by some and regarded by many others with indifference. . .

“The shepherds grasped this in that night.  They were among the marginalized of those times.  But no one is marginalized in the sight of God and it was precisely they who were invited to the Nativity.”

So, what are your thoughts about Pope Francis? Do you evaluate him more positively or more negatively as 2016 concludes? What are your hopes for the pope and the church for 2017? Let us know in the “Comments” section below.

Be sure to vote for the Best and Worst Catholic LGBT News of 2016. You can vote by clicking here. Voting closes at 5:00 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time on Thursday, December 29th.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 27, 2016

 

Vote for the Best and Worst Catholic LGBT News Events of 2016!

Bondings 2.0 needs our readers’ help!

On the last two days of 2016, December 30th and December 31st, we will publish a list of the “Worst Catholic LGBT News Events of 2016” and the “Best Catholic LGBT News Events of 2016.”

To make that list, we need our readers’ help.  We’ve assembled two polls below for the “Best” stories and the “Worst” stories.  Each list contains 15 “nominees,” based on the blog staff’s assessments of which stories seemed to generate the most comments, had the most impact, and seem to have potential for further change.

We ask you to vote for 5 candidates for the “Best” stories and 5 candidates for the “Worst” stories.  You don’t have to rank them.  Just select the ones you want to single out from the list. When we print the lists on December 30th and 31st, we will rank the stories based on the number of votes received for each.

You can also choose the “Other” option and write in your own candidate.

Please respond by the 5:00 p.m., Eastern U.S. Time,  on Thursday, December 29th.

If your memory needs refreshing about what happened this past year, just use the tools in the right-hand column of this blog to find stories that have been reported on here.  You can search by clicking on a category, by using a search term, or by reviewing posts by month.

One note:  you will notice as you read the list that two events–the publication of Amoris Laetitia and the Catholic response to the Orlando massacre–are mentioned in both “Worst” and “Best” categories, for different reasons.   That’s because many people responded very strongly and differently to both stories.

Thanks for your help in compiling these lists!  We look forward to reading your selections!

–Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 26, 2016