The Impact Fr. Martin’s New Book Is Already Having

The Catholic LGBT sensation of the summer has definitely been the publication of Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s book, Buidling a Bridge:  How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.   Even before its publication in mid-June, and continuing up to today, I have been receiving daily emails about the book–reviews, inquiries, suggestions for how to use it–and the pace doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Why has this book made such a splash, when there have been many other books about Catholic LGBT issues published over the past few decades?  It’s hard to say for sure, but I can think of several possibilities.

First, I think it is important to notice who the author is: a priest.  While there have been numerous books about Catholic LGBT issues written by theologians, advocates, scholars, and people in the pews, it has been a very long time since a priest has authored such a book.

Moreover, while some priests have written about pastoral care or theological subtlety, I can’t think of any who has tackled the thorny issue of the relationship between the institutional church and the LGBT community. I think that the topic of developing a good relationship between these two groups is comparable in intensity to the highly emotional topic of sexual ethics.

Another reason for the book’s popularity is that it has been put out by a major publishing house, HarperOne.  This gives the book more of a mainstream audience than most Catholic LGBT books which are usually published by religious or LGBT presses.

Of course, Fr. Martin’s renown plays a role in the book’s popularity, too.  Already well-known as one of the top contemporary spirituality writers, Fr. Martin is also much sought after by the news media as a commentator on Catholic news topics.  While his fame certainly plays a role in the book’s distribution, it’s also important to remember that Fr. Martin also took a major risk in deciding to address an issue which is fraught by controversy in the Church.

While there have been plenty of reviews of Martin’s book, it’s important to note that not all of them have been positive.  Reviewers from both progressive and conservative Catholic camps have faulted him for not writing about sexual ethics.  While the first group hoped he would be critical of church teaching about sexual relationships, the second group hoped he would have defended it more.

Some of these reviews, however, miss the main point of the book: Fr. Martin is analyzing the relationship between the institutional church and the LGBT community, not the sexual ethics teaching.  The sexual ethics teaching is, of course, important, but it is not the only issue that stands between better relations between the institutional church and the LGBT community. Much healing and reconciliation needs to be accomplished, and Martin is correct that “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”–a quote from the Catechism which are Martin’s three themes of bridge-building–need to form the basis of that healing and reconciliation.

Fr. James Martin

As I have been traveling to various Catholic meetings and speaking with Catholic people who work in the institutional church across the country this summer,  almost every person I meet has told me how inspiring Fr. Martin’s book was to them.  That bit of evidence, unscientific but absolutely true, tells me that the most important audience for this book are church professionals.  That is exactly the group that needs to hear Fr. Martin’s message the most, and my experience tells me that he has been wildly successful in that regard.  The news earlier this week that Cardinal Cupich endorsed Martin’s recommendation that church leaders should use the identifying terms for the LGBT community which its members prefer is evidence that the book is having an impact in the hierarchy.

I’ve also met two groups of pastoral ministers in two different parts of the country who, independent of each other, both had the same idea:  they want to send Martin’s book to diocesan and parish leaders, including their bishops.  I believe that Fr. Martin’s message can soften the hearts of church leaders in a way that others have not been able to do.

You don’t even have to open the book to see the impact that it can have on the hierarchy.  On the back of the dust jacket are blurbs recommending the book from two cardinals (one a Vatican official) and a bishop.  What’s even more intriguing is that they are in the company of two advocates from the Catholic LGBT community–theologian James Alison and New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeanine Gramick–who also strongly recommend the book.  If anyone needs evidence that this book can build bridges, it’s right there in the fact that this disparate company of folks have been able to find common ground.

Not commented on by mostly all reviewers is the second part of Martin’s book, which is a collection of prayers, guided scripture reflections, and spirituality material.  It’s a shame that this section is not noted by reviewers because it contains some very moving, helpful, and insightful material.  If the first part of the book is the plan for building a bridge, this second part can serve as the material for that work.  It would be wonderful if church leaders sat with LGBT people and reflected with them on some of the topics presented in that second half.

While people may legitimately differ on the details of Martin’s suggestions for how each side of the debate shows “respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” what I think is beyond dispute is that this book is having an immense impact on the discussion of the Catholic LGBT debate.  It has reached influential people in the Church who are in positions to make important decisions about pastoral care programs, local policies, and bridge-building opportunities.

The success of Fr. Martin’s book is the fact that he has gotten the discussion started again, and he has done so at a time when it is ripe for the wider church.  His book may not please all advocates on left and right, but he is reaching two gold-mine audiences: the mainstream of the Catholic Church and its leaders.

At New Ways Ministry, we believe in bridge-building, and have been striving to do this activity for 40 years.  One thing we have learned is that bridge building happens “by little and by little.” Fr. Martin’s book is one more little step in the right direction.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 31, 2017

 

 

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NEWS NOTES: Parish Supports Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” Charity; Other News

Here are some items that may be of interest:

News Notes1) The Gay Fellowship of Blessed Sacrament Church in New York City recently hosted a dance party, “Moving with the Spirit.” Proceeds from the event benefited the Born This Way Foundation, Lady Gaga’s charity for youth empowerment named after her LGBT-related song “Born This Way,” and the Ali Forney Center in New York City that helps shelter LGBT youth experiencing homelessness.

2) Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, criticized Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s latest discriminatory action that seeks to deny Communion to LGBT people, allies, and others in the church. Duddy-Burke said of the video in which he defends his decision, “What we seek is not for others to be subject to banishment and exclusion, as we too often have been.” She added, “Banning people from the sacramental table and. . .from the rituals that provide comfort and consolation at the time of death, are egregious violations of . . . pastoral responsibility.”

3) The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement critical of the nation’s Bill C-16 law passed in June which adds gender identity and gender expression as protected classes in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. The bishops’ response was moderate, opening with a statement that transgender people deserve “compassion, respect, and love” because they are made in God’s image.

4) A right-wing Catholic organization in Chile clashed with police after bringing two buses with anti-LGBT messages on their sides into Santiago. LGBT groups were present to counter-protest, bringing their own “diversity bus,” after which the 300 or so people gathered began to fight. Police had to intervene with tear gas and water cannons to get the crowd to disperse.

5) An author in England claimed a Catholic school cancelled an educational event with her because she is a transgender woman. Juno Dawson was scheduled to speak about her latest book, Margot and Me, at Brownedge St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Preston. Buzzfeed reported that the school “had previously been widely commended for its work on LGBT issues.” The school said the cancellation occurred because of the book’s content, though it was not specified what the offending content was.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 30, 2017

 

CATHOLIC LGBT HISTORY: Gay-Friendly Catholic Parishes List Is Published

“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 of Bondings 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. 

Gay-Friendly Catholic Parishes List Is Published

Twenty years ago this month,  New Ways Ministry published its first list of “Gay-Friendly Parishes,”  Catholic faith communities that had begun the process of becoming welcoming of gay and lesbian people.

The list had 33 parishes named in 14 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.  Also included in that list were seven colleges whose Catholic student communities were known to be gay-friendly.  Today there are well over 200 parishes listed, and a separate list for “Gay-Friendly Catholic Colleges and Universities” contains over 100 schools.

The late Father Robert Nugent, SDS, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, initiated the list based on the contacts he had around the country with pastors and pastoral associates who were doing outreach to the LGBT community.  Many of those parishes were communities who had attended gay/lesbian ministry workshops offered by Fr. Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s other co-founder.  Fr. Nugent, who had worked many years in parish ministry, was eager to make parishes places where gay and lesbian people felt welcome and could participate openly in community life.  Developing the list was one way of letting the Catholic community know that a movement was growing.

Other motivations also existed to start the list.  It allowed gay-friendly parishes to know that they were not alone in their outreach efforts.  Additionally, it allowed them to network with one another, supporting one another in this new ministry.  Finally, it also helped LGBT Catholics know about communities where they would be welcome.

The gay-friendly parish list received a couple of “boosts” recently when Fr. James Martin, SJ, publicized our list on his Facebook page, asking his followers to suggest parishes they knew of.  Similarly, The National Catholic Reporter featured New Ways Ministry’s gay-friendly parish list on their “Field Hospital” blog, which chronicles contemporary parish life.

Fr. Nugent’s method of collecting parishes was by “word of mouth.”  Twenty years later, New Ways Ministry still learns about new gay-friendly parishes in much the same way.  In the National Catholic Reporter story, New Ways Ministry Executive Director Francis DeBernardo explained how he learns about new additions to the list:

“People tell us.”

DeBernardo went on to explain the composition of the list:

“To be listed, parishes must welcome gay Catholics in a public way, via a bulletin announcement or a project or support group that invites gay Catholics and their families to participate.

” ‘We know our list is not comprehensive,’ DeBernardo said. There are many more parishes where gay Catholics are made to feel welcome. But the criterion used for admission to the list requires a public welcome. ‘It has to be more than a known feeling.’ “

He also acknowledged that while the list is not foolproof, it is very close to being so:

“DeBernardo cannot guarantee that the list is 100 percent accurate. But he claims that it is nearly so. Occasionally, a pastor, director of religious education or social justice minister will leave a parish and that church will become a less welcoming place as a result.

” “But it’s 95 percent accurate,’ said DeBernardo. ‘Once there has been public acknowledgement, it’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube.’ “

DeBernardo believes that the recent increase in parishes becoming gay-friendly is likely a result of the influence of Pope Francis:

” ‘I see a lot of parishes being a lot more courageous,’ said DeBernardo. ‘Anecdotally, people are telling me they are freer to do ministry than before.’

 “The pope, he said, ‘has empowered by his lead and example.’ Being a gay-friendly Catholic parish is now much less likely to be seen as a contradiction.”

When New Ways Ministry first published the list in the Summer 1997 edition of its newsletter, Bondings, it was accompanied by an article reprinted from The Maryland Gazette about St. Bernadette’s parish, Severn, Maryland, which had inaugurated a gay outreach ministry.  The founder of that ministry was quoted about the group’s purpose:

” ‘We see ourselves as a welcoming community opposed to discrimination,’  said Ann McDonald, pastoral associate at St. Bernadette Catholic Church.

” ‘We don’t feel like we’re doing anything radical,’ Ms. McDonald said.

” ‘The (Catholic) church has made strong statements against injustice,’ she said.  ‘Yet this is a population we’ve ostracized.’ “

Twenty years later, the ministry at St. Bernadette’s is still alive and well, and, like many parishes on the list, they are still welcoming LGBT people, overcoming the past ostracization.

If you know of a gay-friendly parish, please let us know by providing the parish name, city and state, and website.  Send the information to: office@NewWaysMinistry.org or phone 301-277-5674.  To view the current list, click here.

For Bondings 2.0’s series “All Are Welcome” which chronicles developments in Catholic LGBT ministry as well as providing resources, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 29, 2017g

Bishop Doubles Down on Denying Communion to Gays, Lesbians, and Others

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield has doubled down on his June decree barring married lesbian and gay people from the life of the church. In a video responding to critics, he said there are also many other people who should not present themselves for Communion.

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Screenshot from Bishop Paprocki’s video

The video, released July 9, applied Canon 916 from the Church’s Code of Canon Law to a number of groups the bishop considered to be “conscious of grave sin.” Catholic News Service reported that groups targeted by Paprocki include:

“[T]he divorced and remarried without an annulment. . .An exception would be where the couple agrees to live as brother and sister, as long as there is no public scandal. Similarly, if there is no public scandal, two men who live chastely with each other as friends or as brother and brother, or two women who live chastely with each other as friends or as sister and sister, may receive Holy Communion if there is no public scandal.”. . .

“Those politicians and judges who helped to make same-sex marriage legal and who aid and abet abortion, for example, by voting for taxpayer funding for abortion, should not receive Holy Communion unless they repent, go to confession and amend their lives.”

Paprocki’s video is a response to critics of his “Decree Regarding Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues,” which bars married lesbian and gay people from parish and liturgical ministries and even says ecclesiastical funeral rites should be denied to them (though not if, in Paprocki’s words, such a Catholic were to “repent and renounce their marriage”).

The bishop said it was “astounding” that “there would be such an outcry” about the Decree. which  That outcry, Paprocki said, shows “how strong the LGBT lobby is” in society and in the church. The Decree was released on the first anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando in which 49 LGBT people were killed.

Paprocki pushed back specifically against Fr. James Martin, SJ, who used social media to publicly criticize the Decree. The bishop said Martin “gets a lot wrong” because his Decree is a “rather straightforward application of existing Catholic doctrine and canon law,” not discrimination.

In addition to those listed above, Paprocki named several other groups who should not present themselves for Communion. These include people who have “sexual relations outside of a valid marriage,”  people who have had or assisted in abortions, people using artificial contraception, and anyone who misses Mass on Sundays. He added:

“These are just a few examples. . .Those who do receive Holy Communion while conscious of grave sin compound the moral offense by committing the sin of sacrilege.”

The Decree is not Bishop Paprocki’s first damaging act against LGBT people and their families. Last year, he implicitly criticized Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich for suggesting that reception of Communion is to be determined by each person according to their conscience. When Illinois passed marriage equality in 2013, Paprocki held a public exorcism because of the law, and he had previously suggested that supporters of marriage equality should be disciplined like children.

As expected, Catholics have continued to implicitly and explicitly criticize Paprocki.  In San Jose, Bishop Patrick McGrath released a memo to pastoral ministers in the diocese saying their response to the faithful should be “compassionate and pastoral,”and that they “will not refuse sacraments or Christian Burial to anyone who requests them in good faith.”

Elsewhere, Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry wrote an open letter to Paprocki; fourteen church reform organizations sent him a letter expressing their shock and disappointment; and Women-Church Convergence sent a pastoral letter to the faithful in the Springfield diocese.

Bishop Paprocki’s Decree has already done tremendous damage, and caused the very scandal he ostensibly sought to avoid. He should not be doubling down on harming people. His words har not only people in the Diocese of Springfield affected directly by them but many people across the United States who hear about them. It is time for church leaders to follow Bishop McGrath’s example and publicly, even if indirectly, join Paprocki’s critics.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 28, 2017

Related Article

New Civil Rights Movement: “Catholic Bishop Decrees Lawmakers Who Voted for Same-Sex Marriage Should Not Receive Communion

 

 

Priest Asks Church About ‘What Happens Next’ After LGBT People Are Welcomed?

With an increased welcome for LGBT people in the Catholic Church, one priest is asking what comes next after hospitality is shown and doors are opened?

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Fr. Alexander Santora

Fr. Alexander Santora, pastor of Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph parish in Hoboken, New Jersey, cited as good news both Cardinal Joseph Tobin’s welcome of LGBT pilgrims to the Newark Cathedral and Fr. James Martin, SJ’s new book on LGBT issues. But, in a piece for NorthJersey.com, he raised new questions about “what happens next?”:

“How will the LGBT community come back to a church that has no positive theology on homosexuality and no consensus on how to even begin to fashion one? Even if preachers and priests refrain from repeating the tired shibboleths against gay men and lesbians, what will they hear in church? Where do they find comfort in the Scriptures proclaimed from the pulpit? And how will the local parish minister to them?”

Santora not only asked questions, but provided an initial answer for how hospitality at parishes can evolve into deeper accompaniment. He said parishes need to be holding local community discussions that include both LGBT people and parish leaders. Questions explored could include:

“What are the perceived hurts? What struggles do gays search for help from church? How can they heal the rifts within their families who do not support them?

“But taking Martin to heart, gay men and lesbians need to hear how church leaders search for ways to make sense of the lived gay experience, which are varied and stereotyped. Honest, two-way listening and affirming are needed.”

Pope Francis has said the church must “make sense of the ‘night’ contained in the flight of so many,” and “know how to interpret, with courage, the larger picture” of why Catholics leave the church. This reality must be part of any discussion.

Santora also said evolving parish work on LGBT issues needs to be informed by contemporary theological and scientific research. These insights shed light on how to pastorally implement church teaching in the manner favored by Pope Francis, which emphasizes conscience.

Using the Archdiocese of Newark as an example with its several Catholic colleges, Santora said “[s]urely there are theologians who can lead a summit on where we go in light of the latest scientific research as it applies to the LGBT community.”

Santora recommended that theological research at local levels begin with John McNeill’s The Church and the Homosexual, published originally in 1976:

“Though [McNeill’s] Jesuit superiors initially gave its imprimatur, the Vatican forced them to rescind it and silence McNeill, who eventually was bounced from the Society of Jesus.

“He continued writing, but he also served as a psychotherapist to the gay community up until his death at the age of 90 in 2015. His book tackled the real implications of a fixed orientation, which requires a new moral and theological paradigm. His reasoning offered gay men and lesbians hope and affirmation to lead a moral life.”

Santora’s recommendations are good, and there are certainly more ways by which hospitality becomes walking together in parishes. Such actions, in his words, “put flesh on the vision of Francis.”

It is a hopeful sign that the bridge-building which Catholics began as early as the 1970s, and have continued along the way, is being picked up by church leaders in a new way today. It’s now up to the faithful to act in the ways  Santora and others are advocating, and to help move the church from welcome to inclusion.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 27, 2017

Related articles by Fr. Alexander Santora:

NJ.com:  Bringing gays and the church closer together”

NJ.com: “N.J. cardinal offers historic welcome to LGBT community”

 

Pope Francis Offers Support for Nun’s Ministry with Transgender Women

Pope Francis has written a supportive note to a Catholic sister who works with transgender women.

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Sr. Monica Astorga, right, and Romina

Sr. Monica Astorga ministers to transgender women in Argentina, particularly those women who are in sex work or have substance abuse issues. Crux reported on her most recent interaction with Pope Francis, whom she has known for many years:

“Astorga wrote an email to Francis last Thursday, to update him on the new developments in the ministry she does in the southern Argentine province of Neuquen. It didn’t take long for her to hear back from the pope: She told Crux his answer came in the next day, on Friday.

“Astorga had written to the pope to inform him that the city had given her a plot of public land, where she planned to build 15 one-room homes for the transgender women she works with.

“‘I have you and the convent close to my heart, as well as the people with whom you work, you can tell them that,’ Francis wrote in his message.”

Pope Francis had visited Astorga in 2009 when he was then-archbishop of Buenos Aires. At the time affirmed her work, telling the sister in a note, “don’t leave the frontier work you were given” because transgender women were the “lepers of today.” In that 2009 note, Crux reported, the future pope notably used female pronouns for the trans women.

Church leaders, including the local ordinary, Bishop Virginio Bressanelli, have supported Astorga’s ministry, even when the local community has rejected and even harassed some of the women Astorga helps.

The ministry began over a decade ago when Astorga first encountered a trans woman, Romina. Bondings 2.0 covered her work in 2015, which you can read about here. The nun described the experience of meeting Romina:

“I listened to her for two hours without being able to say a word. . .I invited her to search for others who wanted to leave prostitution, and she came back five days later with four more. I invited them to pray, and then asked them to tell me their dreams. . .I felt stabbed when Katy told me, “I want a clean bed where I can die.”‘”

The ministry has cared for 90 transgender women in various ways, including housing, addiction recovery, and employment help. Astorga also keeps growing the ministry:

“[S]he’s received a house where some of the transgender women live on a temporary basis, and she’s now working on building a home for the elderly managed by transgender women, because they ‘have a special sensibility but also the strength needed.’. . .her ministry is now growing beyond those who look for her in the convent. She’s been added to several Facebook groups around the world by transgender women in similar situations.”

Sr. Astorga’s faith and Carmelite community have helped her branch out into this ministry, but she also notes the role that trans women’s faith has had on her, saying:

“They’ve always told me that ‘without believing in God, we wouldn’t survive. Each night, before going out on the street, we light a candle and ask God to take care of us.’ “

Trans women, especially those involved in sex work, are extremely vulnerable in Argentina, as in many places around the globe, where there are high rates of abuse and violence against them. But Astorga presses onward, and offers these wise words that should  inform the global church’s respond to trans people:

“I always say that to accompany one of them, we have to listen to them from the heart.”

Pope Francis’ note to Sr. Astorga is a positive mark for the pontiff’s mixed record on transgender issues. Last fall, the pope responded to a reporter’s question about how he would care pastorally for a person who is gender dysphoric. Francis answered by saying 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.”

In that same interview, however, Francis’ joked that the press should not report “the Pope blesses transgenders.” He criticized as well, as he has done repeatedly, undefined concepts of “gender theory” and “ideological colonization.” The pope told a strange anecdote of a father who found out his child was being told in school that gender could be chosen.

When Pope Francis follows the path of Sr. Astorga, listening from the heart to trans voices, his response is always pastoral. The pope’s trans-negative moments seem to come when he stops listening from the heart and, despite his own critiques of such thinking, speaks about ideological theories that are entirely separated from lived realities.

It is good that Pope Francis wrote to Astorga and affirmed her ministry; it would be great if he learned from her witness, too.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 26, 2017

 

 

 

Catholic Parents’ Story Reveals the Love, Struggles of Having Transgender Child

Time and again, it is the love of Catholic parents for their LGBT children that continues to define healthy relationships, both in families and with the Catholic Church. The story of Teresa and Bill (pseudonyms), and their transgender daughter, Grace, is no different.

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Bill and Teresa

In Australia’s Catholic Leader newspaper, Grace, 50, told the story of how she came out as a trans person to her parents nearly two decades ago. Then presenting as a male, Grace had come home to give her parents an article, “Boys Will Be Girls,” and then she told them, “I’ve decided I want to live as a woman.” The report continued:

“Bill stood up from the couch, looked his son in the eye, and wrapped his arms tightly around him.”. . .

“‘I see this as a blessing because, to me, that particular day, when that news came, I just know that I did not have to think about it (giving his son a hug). . .I knew it was love in me that made me do it.’

“‘It said to me that even though I may not always show it, I actually do love my children unconditionally as any parent should – that there wasn’t anything they could say or do – I might disagree with them, which I still do – but it doesn’t stop you loving them.'”

A previous blessing helped  informed that moment. Bill had taken a bioethics course six months before, and it had dealt with transgender healthcare issues from various perspectives. Bill said he still thought gender-confirming surgeries were “going a bit far,” but he affirmed the reality gender dysphoria, the controversial mental health diagnosis sometimes given to trans people.

Grace transitioned a year and a half after coming out to them, and informed them that she chose her new name because, in Bill’s words, “she was looking for the grace to become a woman.”

What most troubled Bill and Teresa was the church’s response to their daughter. She could not find “any sympathy or understanding within the Church,” and left. Teresa said she doubts Grace will ever return. The Catholic Leader continued:

“Teresa said she struggled to reconcile the Church’s position on gender dysphoria with her own Catholic faith, though it has not made her less faithful.

“‘I get very upset about their ignorance, that they don’t seem to listen to all the new psychology information that has come out about gender dysphoria, and most still seem to see that people who want to change their gender are mentally unstable,’ she said.

“‘I really wanted to do something about it and shake them and say, “Listen to them – don’t you understand that your position is so antiquated?”‘”

Bill also challenged the church’s response, saying “people with no knowledge of embryology” are making scientific claims they should be more cautious about. Gender identity, he said, is different than sex characteristics. Bill and Teresa rejected the idea that gender is a choice. Bill said:

“‘I even heard the Pope say it’s not a matter of choice; I also say it’s not a matter of choice – it’s just a fact. . .For a transgender person, it’s not saying “I choose to be this”, or “I choose to be that”, but “I am, I am a woman but I have been given an XY chromosome”– but that is semantics.'”

Though supportive of Grace, it is important to note Teresa and Bill are still struggling with aspects of trans equality. They have fears that children are transitioning too early, and hesitations about widespread use of gender-confirming surgeries.

This story of Teresa, Bill, and Grace, notably published in the Archdiocese of Brisbane’s diocesan newspaper, reveals the tensions with which many Catholic parents often grapple. Fitting together the realities of their LGBT children and the church’s weak response is not easy. On the other side of this grappling, parents often become some of the most committed advocates for equality in the church.

Whether Teresa and Bill can be considered fully-affirming advocates or people still grappling with trans issues is not clear in the story, but what is clear is that they are refusing to settle with failed pastoral care and simplistic answers.

Editor’s Note:  Fortunate Families, a ministry of Catholic parents with LGBT children, is seeking a new part-time executive director. If you or someone you know might be interested in the position, you can find more information here or by contacting Michael Duffy at michaelduffy.duffy@gmail.com

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 25, 2017