Here are some items that you might find of interest:
1) Vin Testa, the president of Dignity/Washington, a ministry by and for LGBT Catholics, gave a TEDx talk at Salve Regina University, Rhode Island, his alma mater. The talk, entitled “Allowance vs. Acceptance,” focuses on the LGBT Catholic experience. You can watch the talk by clicking here.
2) Jacob Rees-Mogg, a British Parliament Member who is a Catholic, has received strong criticism from his colleagues for voicing opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, using his religious beliefs as the basis for his remarks, reports Crux. Rees-Mogg has been identified as a possible successor to Prime Minister Theresa May as head of the Tory Party.
3) Krzysztof Charamsa, a former official at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who came out publicly as gay, was interviewed this summer by CBC-Radio Canada’s Megan Williams. As part of his comments, Charamsa claimed that a great deal of homophobia in the Catholic Church is caused by priests he described as “self-loathing, homophobic and homosexual.”
4) A prominent San Diego hotelier has publicly regretted his $125,000 contribution to California’s Proposition 8 campaign, which, for a time, outlawed marriage equality in the state, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Doug Manchester explained the religious basis for his contribution: “I was asked by the Catholic bishop of San Diego, and I am Catholic, to contribute and I did. And my family was opposed to it. And I want to clarify the issue: that was a huge mistake and I have more than done everything to rectify that mistake.”
5) Xorje Olivares, a Latinx media personality, gave an interview to Cassius about growing up as a gay Catholic Mexican-American. The interview also ventures into his spirituality and why he continues to remain a part of the Catholic Church.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 23, 2017
Today’s post is written by a guest blogger: Deacon Ray Dever of St. Paul Catholic Church, Tampa, Florida
One morning this past spring, I found myself somewhere I honestly never could have imagined I would be: sitting in a dreary courtroom in Washington DC with my firstborn. We were patiently awaiting her turn before a judge.
It was a long way from the familiar, comfortable surroundings of my home and my Catholic parish in sunny Tampa Florida. And it was an even longer way from a place I was almost ten years ago, a place of almost total ignorance of LGBTQ issues. The issue that morning was a legal name change for my 23-year old transgender daughter, a recent graduate of Georgetown University. The name change was another milestone in her challenging journey towards living as her authentic self. While this milestone was certainly positive for my daughter, it forced me to reflect once again on the enormous and painful disconnect between the reality of the lives of transgender individuals and the rampant misinformation that often dominates discourse about transgender issues in both the Church and the public square.
In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis expressed concern with “an ideology of gender”, which he imagines to be an ideology that seeks to eliminate sexual differences in society, thereby undermining the basis for the family. (There have been numerous, thoughtful discussions of the confusion around so-called gender ideology, including here on Bondings 2.0. You can read some here, here, and here. ) Independent of Amoris Laetitia, individuals in the Church hierarchy have issued blanket condemnations of trans individuals, occasionally citing discredited or marginal information sources as “science” to support their positions. I have nothing but respect for the good intentions that undoubtedly underlie these statements, but my personal experience is that these statements have fueled misunderstanding and bigotry, and not love, truth, and life that are the essence of Jesus Christ.
These church discussions of “ideology of gender” do not ring true for anyone with any significant first-hand knowledge of trans individuals. Such people would be baffled by the suggestion that the trans people they know, or the presence of trans individuals in society, are somehow the result of an ideology of gender. Long before there were gender studies programs in any universities or the phrase “gender ideology” was ever spoken, transgender people were present, recognized, and even valued in many cultures around the world.
Trans individuals are not people who have been indoctrinated into some ideology that convinces them they can simply choose their own gender. They don’t just decide one morning to start dressing differently. They are transgender by virtue of some combination of biological and psychological factors that scientists are just beginning to understand. The only choice that trans individuals have in the matter is the challenging choice to embrace who they are and to live their lives openly as their authentic selves, in the face of rejection, discrimination, bigotry, and even violence that they know they will have to endure.
In the public sphere, recent efforts to curtail legal protections for the transgender community, including all the nonsense around bathroom bills, are further evidence of how pervasive the misunderstanding and confusion about gender identity continues to be. Given the wide availability of information and testimonials, there really is no excuse for that kind of thinking. The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, who together represent over 300,000 doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists, have each affirmed the reality of transgender individuals, and have issued documents opposing all forms of discrimination against them and providing standards of health care for them. The United Nations has opposed legal discrimination and violence that trans individuals suffer in many parts of the world. Companies and organizations we all do business with every day–from Apple to Wal-Mart–recognize trans individuals with equal employment opportunity policies and inclusive health insurance.
Since I wear the two hats of parent of a transgender woman and permanent deacon in the Church, my reaction to gender identity controversies is both personal and pastoral.
From the personal perspective, I share the concerns of all parents for the well-being of their children, including their adult children. These concerns are amplified when an LGBTQ individual is involved. Our prayers and hopes for our children are colored by the reality of the discrimination they will likely face for the rest of their lives. The probability of being a victim of violence or committing suicide is greater for the LGBTQ community than for the general populace, and even greater for the transgender community in particular. My family is always a bit on edge when we go out together, constantly worried that unfriendly stares and remarks might escalate to a confrontation, and that a confrontation could become violent. Nobody should have to live that way. All that transgender individuals want is simply to live their lives as who they are, with the same rights and freedoms that the rest of us enjoy.
My pastoral perspective is informed by the call that all permanent deacons share: to bring the Church into the world and to bring the problems of the world back to the Church. Well, here’s one such problem: the community of faith includes transgender people who are marginalized, unjustly condemned, and suffering simply because of who they are, and that marginalization and suffering extends to their family and friends. Every time that a trans (or gay, lesbian, bisexual) kid is rejected by their family in the name of faith and ends up homeless and struggling to survive, we as a people of faith need to take responsibility. We can’t just sweep it under the rug and hide behind some vague Church document or isolated scripture passage.
In its discussion of gender ideology, Amoris Laetitia warns against falling into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. I definitely agree. But I think this warning begs the question: are we guilty of that sin when we look at a transgender person and we have the hubris to deny what God has made? I pray that the Church will be open to learning and embracing the truth about transgender individuals, who have the same inherent value and dignity as all human beings. Perhaps we all need to have a little more humility and a little more faith in what God has created here on earth.
–Deacon Ray Dever, September 18, 2017
To review all Bondings 2.0 posts on gender ideology, click here.
Today’s post is from guest blogger Sandra Worsham, author of Going to Wings, the memoir of her coming out as a Catholic lesbian. (published by Third Lung Press, August, 2017, available at independent bookstores and on Amazon.com)
“The struggle of the gay Christian’s complicated effort to reconcile sexuality and faith is often overlooked by church leaders and more secular gays. But it is a complex, and deeply engaging journey.” –George Hodgman, author of Bettyville
It has taken me seventy years to write my “coming out” memoir, Going to Wings,because I had to live it in order to write it. When I was twenty-seven years old, I tried to tell my mother that I was gay. That day of “The Telling” was a dividing point in my life. My mother’s reaction was so bad that I couldn’t follow through with my decision to be public. She said that she would have to move away, that she couldn’t live in our town if I was going to be gay.
From that day forward, and for the next thirty years, I tried to change myself. I decided that day that I would not be gay and that I would be “as good as I could be.” I would never have to feel guilty again. That period was the beginning of my leaving the Baptist Church and becoming a Catholic. The Catholic Church, I believed then, would tell me in no uncertain terms what was right and what was wrong. Not to be gay would be “right.” At age twenty-seven, I gave myself to the Catholic Church. For twenty-five years I played the organ for the Saturday night vigil, and I cantored the Psalm. Singing the Psalms was my way of praying. And I formed a close celibate relationship with my good Catholic friend, “Teeny.”
After my mother, and later, Teeny, died, I realized that for all those years, I had buried a part of myself. I got on Match.com and met someone. I began to explore all of me, even the part that I had hidden. I met Letha and, on Valentine’s Day, 2010, we were legally and spiritually married at the Second Congregational Church in Bennington, Vermont. That summer we had a wedding reception at our home in Milledgeville, Georgia, complete with a tiered cake and a guest list of over fifty people, straight and gay. I didn’t send my parish priest an invitation, but someone in the church showed him hers. She needed the priest to tell her that it would be “all right” if she attended. He told her no, that her attendance would signify approval. Then he called me into the rectory and fired me from playing the organ. This priest, who had only been at our church for a few months, didn’t know me, and he didn’t know about my many years of faithfulness to the church. Yet, I hung my head in shame and left the rectory.
As I left, he called out to me, “You and Letha are welcome to worship with us.”
I stopped and turned, “Can I receive the Eucharist?”
“Well, no, not that,” he said.
Letha and I tried to find a church together. But on the Sundays that she didn’t go with me, I knew that no church was going to give me the close feeling I had to Jesus that I had found in the Catholic Church. Yet, I was not welcome to receive communion, and I could no longer play the organ. Finally, after several years of trying other churches, I went back to talk to the priest. I told him that I was angry with him, that I needed to forgive him, and that I wanted to come back. I told him that I wanted to receive the Eucharist. He asked me if I could go to one of the surrounding churches, but not to ours. “Where you went wrong,” he said to me, “was making it public.”
I talked with Sister Jeannine Gramick from New Ways Ministry who told me that the priest could not refuse me if I came to him in the communion line. “They are not supposed to presume,” she said. She told me that my going to communion might make the priest feel uncomfortable but that he would get used to it. I talked with the priest again before I went back to communion, not in the confessional, but in a face-to-face conversation. I told him that I had missed mass for a long time. I told him that I had tried to join the Reformation. I did not refute my marriage, I did not express sorrow for being in a gay relationship, and I did not ask his permission to receive the Eucharist.
Sister Jeannine told me that I had a mission: the more people I told about being gay, the more tolerant people would become. But she warned me that things would not be easy, that the servant could not expect more than the Master. Many times when I go to mass, the priest seems to rise up like a big black shadow with wide bat wings, obscuring my view of the altar. I keep reminding myself that there is hope in Pope Francis.
Letha and I are happy. We have a good marriage. I sit in my chair and read and write. She draws intricate designs on a pad. I’ve written my story as a book, Going to Wings which has been published, and the enthusiasm and support have been overwhelming. I have told my story, and Letha designed the cover.
What about the title Going to Wings? On Tuesdays we meet our friends for dinner at The Brick, a restaurant in downtown Milledgeville, Georgia. When they first invited us to come to “Wings,” I thought, Cool! An expression of new-found freedom!
“Nope!” they said. “The chicken wings are cheap on Tuesdays.”
But for me, “Going to Wings” means a lot more than that.
The following is a statement by Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response to the decision by a national Catholic seminary to disinvite Fr. James Martin, SJ, due to criticism of his new book on LGBT issues.
Theological College, a national seminary in Washington, D.C., has delivered a devastating blow to the Catholic Church, academic freedom, and pastoral outreach to LGBT people by canceling the speaking engagementof Jesuit Father James Martin because some social media sites have criticized his book, Building a Bridge, which encourages dialogue between the institutional church and the LGBT community.
The decision is an impotent one in which the seminary’s leaders reveal that they are powerless to stand up to commentators whose views are beyond the mainstream of Catholic thought. It reveals cowardice on the part of the seminary’s administrators who do not have integrity to withstand pressure from outside forces, and instead opt for censorship instead of discussion.
Unless it reverses its decision, Theological College’s renown as an academic institution is irreparably damaged. Worse yet, the decision does great damage to the tenuous relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community which Fr. Martin’s book has already been strengthening. Scores of Catholic parishes and colleges have welcomed Fr. Martin to speak since the publication of Building a Bridge.
It is astonishing that the seminary leaders did not side with the two cardinals and a bishop who praised Fr. Martin’s book as it was being published. One of those cardinals, Kevin Farrell, is the head of Congregation for Laity, Family, and Life at the Vatican. Indeed, Fr. Martin himself is a Vatican consultor on communications. What could possibly motivate the seminary rector, Fr. Gerald McBrearity, to feel that he could not let a speaker with the impressive credentials and Vatican approval that Fr. Martin has to speak in an academic setting?
This decision is ludicrous for two other reasons. First, Fr. Martin was not scheduled to speak on the book in question or on the area of LGBT issues. He, instead, was speaking on his book about the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. Second, by his own acknowledgement, and the reviews of many scholars, Building a Bridge is a mild book, whose most strong claim is that Church leaders should treat LGBT people with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”–ideals which are demanded by Catholic doctrine in the Catechism.
Theological College’s statement said that Fr. McBrearity made the decision “in the interest of avoiding distraction and controversy.” Based on those criteria, the decision is an epic failure as, in fact, it will attract more controversy than Fr. Martin’s speaking appearance would ever have done. It tarnishes the reputation of the school and of the Catholic Church in the U.S. It makes Catholic leaders look censorious and small-minded. Indeed, almost everyone in the Catholic Church has been discussing LGBT issues over the past decade. Why should a book whose aim is reconciliation on this topic be cause for barring a celebrated author from speaking?
Since its publication early this summer, Fr. Martin’s Building a Bridge was reaching a wide audience of church leaders, including many bishops. In my travels to several Catholic professional and ecclesial conferences these past few months, everyone said they had read, were reading, or intended to read the book. All who had read it spoke of its great value. Instead of being a danger to the church, all saw it as a great gift. Despite this setback, the conversation on LGBT issues in the church to which Building a Bridge has given new life will still continue.
Fr. Martin is experiencing the rejection of many who speak out prophetically. It is the same rejection experienced by millions of Jesus’ followers and, indeed, by Jesus Himself. For the sake of Fr. Martin, for Catholic academics, and for LGBT Catholics, we pray this sorry and shameful action by Theological College will soon be reversed.
To ask Theological College to reverse its decision disinviting Fr. Martin, write to:
Reverend Gerald McBrearity, Rector
401 Michigan Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20017
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 16, 2017
“The Nashville Statement,” the Evangelical anti-LGBTI manifesto which made headlines recently, has been roundly denounced by many religious leaders in other Christian denominations. Instead of persuading others to join their bandwagon, the authors of the document seem to have repelled many religious-minded people. Their over-the-top reach to use Scriptures, natural law, and what they believe they know of the mind of God has backfired and they have ended up isolating themselves more than accomplishing anything else.
Catholic gay writer Andrew Sullivan critiqued “The Nashville Statement” (“NS”) recently in an essay for NYMag.com entitled “The Religious Right’s Suicidal Gay Obsession.” His thoughts provide some good ways to argue against the kind of rhetoric that the statement exemplifies. This is especially important to note since, though no Catholic leaders signed the statement, the same rhetoric often appears in Catholic discourse about LGBTI issues.
Sullivan starts off with a familiar argument: why pick only on LGBTI people? He writes that after one reads “NS”:
“. . . [Y]you immediately wonder if the statement is going to condemn divorce or contraception or multiple successive marriages or pornography or masturbation or countless other questions of sexual morality that heterosexuals grapple with. And you can search the document for any thoughts on these questions. In fact, it has almost nothing to say to 97 percent of humanity on sexual matters.
“What it does instead is condemn the 3 percent.”
I have never read a satisfactory response to this kind of argument. I don’t believe there is one.
But Sullivan goes deeper, hitting on the core of the “NS’ ” structure, which, he observes is to make LGBTI people invisible. He points out that the authors try to deny that LGBTI identity exists:
“[The Nashville Statement] erases our self-understanding entirely. Money quote: ‘We deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.’ It is not just what we do that these Evangelical leaders object to; it is who we are. Our very ‘self-conception’ is a defiance of God’s will. We sure aren’t part of nature, even though scientists have observed variations on the sexual norm in countless other species.”
What I found most interesting about Sullivan’s commentary is that he uses the example of intersex people (those born with both male and female biological characteristics) as the linchpin to topple all of “NS’ ” arguments. Sullivan writes:
“When nature produces intersex people, the Evangelicals therefore have a bit of a problem. It’s very hard to simply say that intersex people have chosen some kind of sin by being neither male nor female, because their identity cannot simply be ascribed to their minds and souls, but to their bodies. Nature, i.e. God, surely made them. So what does the statement say? ‘We affirm that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers. They are acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful followers of Jesus Christ and should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.’ I’m afraid to say I actually chuckled at this obvious cop-out. Even when confronted with the undeniable visible fact that God does not always create human beings who are clearly male or female, they simply say: Well, they are. Pick one.”
Sullivan very pointedly sums up the blindness inherent in this kind of thinking:
“What Evangelicals cannot seem to accept is the possibility that for the vast majority of humankind, male and female self-conception does indeed come completely naturally, that it is clearly integral to humanity’s reproduction and rearing of the next generation, that the sexes are indeed complementary rather than interchangeable … but that this is not the entire story. A small minority does not quite fit this rubric. God’s creation — a function, we now know, of evolution and natural selection — is more complex, and more wonderful and diverse, than most of us used to understand.”
I would add that a number of Catholic leaders also have problems accepting this reality.
Sullivan concludes by noting that the Evangelical thinking in “NS” is basically “suicidal,” because the younger generation is so far ahead of this anti-LGBTI mindset:
“I believe that for an entire generation, this question is a litmus test for whether Christianity really is about love, and whether the Gospels (which have nothing to say about homosexuality) should even get a hearing. I can date my own niece’s and nephew’s rejection of Christianity to the day the priest urged them to oppose equal rights for their uncle. That’s why Evangelicalism is dying so quickly among the young. The latest PRRI surveyshows that only one in ten Evangelicals are now under 30. It is no accident that the generation that has come to know gay and transgender people as people also finds it hard to dehumanize us in the way the Nashville Statement does, and see a church leadership that still treats us in this fashion as inimical to their own, yes, Christian values. And they are right to. This is what the signers of the Nashville Statement do not quite grasp. They just signed one of the longest suicide notes in history. Because what they’re saying is not merely callous. It is manifestly untrue.”
By extension, Catholic leaders who continue using the same or similar arguments in their statements about LGBTI issues are hurting not only LGBTI people (which is bad enough) but the whole possibility of reaching the next generation. Unlike Evangelical thinking, Catholic leaders have a long social justice tradition in their belief system which supports equality and justice and can easily be applied to LGBTI topics and people.
If nothing else, the Nashville Statement should serve as a wake-up call to Catholic leaders who still maintain an anti-LGBT stance to mend their ways before it is too late for the church.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 13, 2017
Today the U.S. and the world mourn the tragic loss of life that took place on September 11, 2001, as a result of several horrific terror attacks in New York, Washington, DC, and rural Pennsylvania. Only God’s love can heal the fear, pain, and loss that so many experienced because of that day.
Where was God on 9/11, one might ask? One answer is that God was at the World Trade Center when it was attacked. God’s Love was present in the person of Father Mychal Judge, OFM, the New York City Fire Department chaplain. As the towers were being devoured by flames and people were rushing out as fast as they could, some realizing that the only “escape” from the inferno was to jump to their deaths from the uppermost floors, Fr. Judge rushed in to minister to victims and to the other brave first responders. He raced into a deathtrap so that others could know that even in this horror, God was with them.
Fr. Judge is a model for all Christians who believe Jesus’ teaching that “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). He is a particular model for the LGBT community since a big part of his ministry was reaching out to this group which had been so marginalized and stigmatized. He raced into their lives, too, letting them know that God was with them.
He did the same for alcoholics and other addicts, for people suffering from HIV/AIDS, for people in parishes who struggled with the daily challenges that life presents.
Fr. Judge is lovingly remembered by many as “The Saint of 9/11.” Now is the time to make that title official by working to canonize him in the church.
New Ways Ministry has been in touch with Fr. Luis Fernando Escalante who works with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Fr. Escalante is gathering testimonies that are part of the first step toward canonization. He needs to hear first-person accounts from people who knew Fr. Judge and whose lives were touched by his ministry.
Did you know Father Judge through his parish work, his Fire Department ministry, his LGBT outreach, his solidarity with those suffering from addictions, his compassionate service to those with HIV/AIDS, his hospitality to the homeless, or in some other way? Were you a personal friend or colleague of Fr. Judge? Have you prayed to him since his death and believe that his intercession has caused a miracle in your life? Do you know communities of people who were close to him with whom you can share this information?
Here is what you can do:
Share this blog post (or simply the request for information about Fr. Judge) with your social media, email, and personal contacts. Ask them to share this information with others by the same means, which will spread this message far and wide. We need this to go viral to find people who knew Fr. Judge, who feel they have experienced his intercession in a possible miracle, or simply want to support and help the preliminaries of his Cause.
Refer anyone who has first-hand information about Fr. Judge to contact New Ways Ministry by email (info@NewWaysMinistry.org), phone (301-277-5674), or postal mail (4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20712).
Persons who have testimony about Fr. Judge need only make an initial contact. Follow-up material will be sent to them to elicit the type of information that is needed.
Ask other organizations to which you belong who also might know people who encountered Fr. Judge to share this information.
To read this information in Spanish, click here. To read this information in Italian, click here.
Pray for the canonization of Fr. Judge.
While the canonization is a process overseen by the institutional church, it is initially dependent on the motivation and contributions of the grassroots church. Please share this information as widely as possible, so that we can find many people who have a story to tell.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 11, 2017
The National Catholic Reporter recently carried an extended quotationfrom Pope Francis, which he spoke at a jubilee for priests on June 2, 2016. Though not about LGBT issues, I thought it had an important lesson for people involved in Catholic LGBT ministry and advocacy. Pope Francis said:
“Mercy makes us pass from the recognition that we have received mercy to a desire to show mercy to others. We can feel within us a healthy tension between sorrow for our sins and the dignity that the Lord has bestowed on us. Without further ado, we can pass from estrangement to embrace, as in the parable of the prodigal son, and see how God uses our own sinfulness as the vessel of His mercy. Mercy impels us to pass from personal to the communal. We see this in the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, a miracle born of Jesus’ compassion for His people and for others. Something similar happens when we act mercifully: the bread of mercy multiplies as it is shared.”
When I read this quotation, I couldn’t help but thinking about all the amazing people I have met (and continue to meet) in my work with the Catholic LGBT community. The story of almost every single one of them begins in fear or shame as they discovered their orientation or identity, or came to terms with accepting and affirming the orientation or identity of a loved one.
But that is not where the story ends. God sent mercy into the life of these people and their lives were transformed forever.
But the story doesn’t even end there. Having experienced God’s mercy, these people have felt compelled to share it with others. And so they have made outreach to other LGBT people or loved ones of LGBT people a ministry of mercy.
They have moved, as Pope Francis eloquently puts it “from estrangement to embrace.” They have developed from “personal to communal.” Their outreach multiplies God’s mercy, just as Jesus in the Gospel multiplied bread and fish.
Another lesson for Catholic LGBT people and allies can be found in this quotation. This statement can remind us that if we want change, we must be the change (as the old saying goes). It reminds us that renewing or reforming the Church is not done only by changing policies and theology (though that is important work) but by acting mercifully toward one another. If we sometimes think our actions are futile, this quotation can remind us that what is important is not what we accomplish, but how much we treasure and share God’s mercy.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry September 10, 2017