Catholic Church’s Future Crisis Is Being Fueled by Today’s Anti-LGBT Messages

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 30, 2016

If you peruse through New Ways Ministry’s posts on this blog, one recurring opinion that you will encounter is how much harm negative messages from Catholic leaders harm LGBTQ people and their allies.  A new report, however, also identifies another victim of anti-LGBTQ language and policies coming from church leaders:  the Church itself.

This past week, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released a report about the growing number of “nones” in the U.S.:  people who profess no religious affiliation or have renounced a previous religious affiliation.  So, when asked about their religious identity, the simplest answer would be “none.”  The new PRRI report shows that the “nones” have increased from 5% of the population in 1972 to 25% of the population in 2016, and that currently almost 40% of adults ages 18-29 identify as “nones.”

When the survey respondents (who were interviewed in August 2016) were asked why they were religiously unaffiliated, 29% said that it was because of the negative messages they heard from religious institutions about LGBT issues.  Significantly for the Catholic Church, that number is appreciably higher.  Indeed, it is one of the most significant reasons they leave the Church, and they do so in greater proportions than any other religion.  The report stated:

“Notably, those who were raised Catholic are more likely than those raised in any other religion to cite negative religious treatment of gay and lesbian people (39% vs. 29%, respectively) and the clergy sexual-abuse scandal (32% vs. 19%, respectively) as primary reasons they left the Church.”

Rejection of anti-LGBT messages rates higher than the clergy sex abuse crisis as a reason for leaving the Catholic Church, 39% vs. 32% statistically.

In the overall survey (not just Catholics), the number one reason for leaving was “stopped believing in the religion’s teachings,” with the number two answer being “family was never that religious growing up.”  The third highest answer for all respondents was “negative religious teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people.”  Given the fact that the first two reasons are highly existential ones, meaning that they cut to the core of intimate personal belief and early formation, the fact that LGBT issues comes in closely behind the number two reason becomes even more significant.

The Catholic Church has been the denomination hardest hit by people disaffiliating from their faith.  The PRRI report states:

“While non-white Protestants and non-Christian religious groups have remained fairly stable, white Protestants and Catholics have all experienced declines, with Catholics suffering the largest decline among major religious groups: a 10-percentage point loss overall. Nearly one-third (31%) of Americans report being raised in a Catholic household, but only about one in five (21%) Americans identify as Catholic currently. Thirteen percent of Americans report being former Catholics, and roughly 2% of Americans have left their religious tradition to join the Church. White evangelical Protestants and white mainline Protestants are also witnessing negative growth, but to a much more modest degree (-2 percentage points and -5 percentage points, respectively).”

Those numbers should be a wake-up call to Catholic Church leaders who continue promoting anti-LGBT policies and messages.  If they are unable to see how they are harming others with their actions and words, they should take note of how they are harming the institution as a whole.  Instead of worrying about religious liberty, they should be worrying about institutional survival.

One of the most significant details about this data is that it reflects 18-29 year olds.  In a survey, the behavior and opinions of the younger generation are reliable indicators of what behavior and opinion will be like in the future.  And the survey also indicates that it is unlikely that these young people will return to the church to marry and have children.  The report shows that 58% of the respondents have said they totally reject religion, while only 22% indicate some positive view about religion, and 18% who say they have faith, but not part of a religious group. The Church is failing its next generation by failing to develop a way to speak authentically to young people’s most urgent questions of justice and equality.

Michael Peppard, a Fordham University theology professor who blogs at dotCommonweal, offered some insightful analysis of what might be behind this exodus of young people from the church:

“Most religious people make moral evaluations through a combination of appeals to revelation, reason, and experience. What do scripture and tradition say? What does my logical thinking conclude? And what have I personally experienced that puts flesh on the bones of those arguments? In the case of the moral status of homosexuality, it seems clear that a tipping point was reached in the past decade, whereby people’s reason and personal experience have overwhelmed the appeal to revelation.”

And Peppard offered a good suggestion for Church leaders:

“What is the upshot for church leaders? Any comment a leader makes about gays and lesbians—from a magisterial pronouncement to a small remark in a pulpit or classroom—must be chosen with these high stakes in mind. With regard to how gays and lesbians are spoken of in church settings, there is no margin of error. Any expression of negativity and ostracization from the pulpit will be heard from the pew as an irredeemable affront to friends and family—or one’s very self. And next week, that same pew will be empty.”

While I agree with Peppard,  I think church leaders need to do more than just watch their language.  They need to be pro-active in offering affirming and welcoming LGBT messages, and they need to back up those messages with pro-LGBT policies and practices, such as working for equality, supporting non-discrimination in employment, and fighting anti-LGBT initiatives.  If they don’t start soon, their buildings will soon be empty.

 

Critique of Birth Control Ban Paves Way for Okaying Same-Gender Relationships

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 24, 2016

Sometimes, you have to be grateful for the opposition.  They are often the best source for learning important news about positive Catholic LGBT items—though, of course, they don’t see these news items as very positive. This week, I learned about an important statement by an international group of moral theologians and physicians only because I read a news story about a group of conservative scholars who opposed the statement.  News about the progressive statement did not, at first, make big news, so it had not come to my attention until the conservative group opposed it.

The progressive statement to which I am referring is known as the Wijngaards Declaration, and its focus is to oppose the magisterial condemnation of what is referred to as “artificial contraception.”  The declaration takes its name from the Wijngaards Institute, a London-based Catholic think tank, which organized and released the statement.   The report, whose official title is “Promoting Good Health and Good Conscience: The Ethics of Using Contraceptives,” does a careful and specific critique of Humanae Vitae (HV), the 1968 encyclical which re-affirmed the magisterial opposition to couples using birth control.  A summary of the 20,000-word report can be found by clicking here (and it is very readable, so highly recommended).

While the declaration does not mention LGBT topics directly, it is important for Catholic advocates of LGBT issues to be aware of because it contains some critical theological arguments that could be used to advance the Church’s approval of same-gender relationships.

First, a little background as to how these ideas are connected.  In Catholic teaching on both birth control and same-gender relationships share an important common argument:  the magisterium’s claim that the natural order dictates that all sexual activity be open to procreation.  So birth control is not permitted because, depending on the method, it prevents the union of sperm and egg.  Likewise, homosexual relationships are not permitted because they are biologically non-procreative.

The Wijngaards Declaration very convincingly challenges HV’s idea that the natural order reveals that all sexual activity is designed for procreation.  In simple, though technical, language, the Declaration points out an important error in HV’s argument:

“HV’s argument is that because the biological ‘laws of conception’ reveal that sexual intercourse has a ‘capacity to transmit life’ (HV §13), each and every act of sexual intercourse has a ‘procreative significance’ (HV §12) and ‘finality’ (HV §3), and an ‘intrinsic relationship’ to procreation (HV §11).

“This misinterprets the biological evidence. The causal relationship between insemination and, on the other hand, fertilization, implantation, and ultimately procreation, is statistical, not necessary. The vast majority of acts of sexual intercourse do not have the biological ‘capacity’ for procreation, and therefore they cannot have procreation as their ‘finality’ or ‘significance.’ “

Their critique dispels the notion that all sexual activity is “naturally” procreative.  By pointing out that a great number of acts of sexual intercourse do not result in procreation indicates that it is not in God’s design for sexual activity to so intimately connected to procreation that all sexual activity must be open to it.

The report also argues that Scriptures reveal that it is not a requirement for all sexual activity to be open to procreation.  Instead, other motivations exist which would make sexual activity morally approved.  The report states:

“The Bible identifies a variety of morally worthy non-conceptive motives for engaging in sexual intercourse. This is confirmed by evolutionary biology and modern sociological surveys, among other disciplines.

“Those non-conceptive motives for sexual intercourse include pleasure, love, comfort, celebration and companionship. They are morally worthy even without the concurrent occurrence of either a ‘procreative significance’ of the biological ‘laws of conception,’ or the agents’ procreative intention.”

A third critique refutes the argument from authority that church officials often use to condemn birth control and same-gender relationships.  This argument from authority is often stated along the lines that the Church has always condemned these activities, so there can be no change towards approving them.  The Wijngaards report observes that this kind or reasoning raises the teaching on birth control (and, by extension, this could also apply to same-gender relationships) to the level of an infallible teaching—which it clearly is not.  The report states:

“. . . [A]ccording to Catholic theology, for a doctrine – including a moral doctrine – to be able to be defined infallibly and thus irreformably it must be either revealed or required for the defense or explanation of revealed truth (Cf. CDF: Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973), DH 4536 [AAS 65 (1973) 401]). If it is not, then it cannot be defined infallibly.

“The teaching that using ‘artificial contraception is an intrinsic wrong always and everywhere is not revealed, nor has it ever been shown to be essential for the truth of the Christian revelation. Accordingly, it cannot become the object of an infallible definition.

“Hence, the appeal to a supposed constant tradition of magisterial teaching on the subject cannot by itself settle the question and foreclose the discussion, because the requirements for an infallible definition are not met.”

The report also argues that the use of contraceptives helps the common good by promoting women’s health, by preventing the spread of HIV, and by providing for better care for children and their development, among other things.  This argument for the promotion of the common good has also been used by theologians to argue for the approval of same-gender relationships. In the latter case, theologians argue that since healthy and committed same-gender relationships provide increased personal benefits to the spouses, the common good also benefits because the spouses can often better contribute their gifts to society.

In the conclusion, the Wijngaards report notes that the reasoning they applied to contraception can be applied to other topics, including some related to LGBT issues.  They note that the process of consulting science and reason, as well as paying attention to people’s experiences must also be followed in the future development of church teaching on sexual matters.  The report states:

“In societies such as the Catholic Church there are many specialized and complementary domains of expertise. The collaboration between those different domains is important for the common good of the society.

“Therefore, we recommend that the Catholic magisterium seek the opinion of Christian theologians and experts in other relevant disciplines with regard to the ethics of using modern non-abortifacient contraceptives for the purposes of family planning.

“We also recommend that their opinion be sought on the other areas of Catholic sexual ethics which will likely be affected by a revision of the present teaching banning the use of contraceptives for family planning, namely the negative evaluation of masturbation, homosexual relationships, and in vitro fertilization.

“Regardless of the consultation process adopted, the opinions gathered should be independent, representative of the majority view of the pertinent academic communities, and made public.”

Of the 143 international Catholic scholars who signed the report, seven of them have spoken at New Ways Ministry’s educational events:  Christine Gudorf, Joseph Selling, Gregory Baum, Sidney Callahan, Rev. Charles Curran, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, and Susan Ross.

The Wijngaards report is a major step forward in the discussion of Catholic sexual morality.  Its implications reach far beyond just the discussion of birth control.  Perhaps that is part of the reason why the conservative backlash against it was so swift.  It is as if they seem to recognize that a change in this one area of teaching could affect a myriad of change in other areas as well.  Wouldn’t that be great?

 

Pope Francis’ Negative Rhetoric Begins to Be Echoed Around the Globe

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 21, 2016

On Bondings 2.0, we often report on the way that Pope Francis’ positive approach to LGBT issues is affecting the way that bishops around the world have been speaking about such topics.  An article on Crux, however, tells an opposite story: that Pope Francis’ negative comments about “gender theory” and “ideological colonization” are encouraging bishops around the globe to speak similarly when marriage equality or transgender rights are discussed.

Reporter Inés San Martin looked at examples of bishops’ statements coming from Colombia, Mexico, and Spain to make the case that the pope’s ideas about gender are taking root in episcopal discourse.

Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez

In Colombia, Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota and Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, the papal envoy to that nation, have recently protested the revision of school textbooks which will include discussions of  gender identity, sexual orientation, and LGBT parenting.  Salazar’s rhetoric closely echoes statements by Pope Francis:

“ ‘We reject the implementation of gender ideology in the Colombian education, because it’s a destructive ideology, [it] destroys the human being, taking away its fundamental principle of the complementary relationship between man and woman,’ Salazar said.

“The cardinal also said that the Church respects people with a different sexual orientation, and that as an institution it’s looking for constant opportunities for dialogue.

“ ‘Individual rights can’t go against the rights of the community,’ Salazar said. ‘What we need to accomplish is a deep respect of everyone without the imposition of ideologies.’ “

(As an aside, I would be very interested in knowing what opportunities for dialogue the cardinal seeks.  It would seem that discussing the new textbook revisions with LGBT people and with the people who are supporting the changes would be an ideal opportunity for dialogue.  It makes one wonder why he has not done so.)

The efforts of the churchmen were successful.  According to the news article:

‘The cardinal, together with the papal envoy in the country, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, met with president Santos and Parody the day after the rally. Soon after their meeting, the president said in a press conference that the country had no intention of promoting gender ideology, and promised the textbooks would be re-written.’

Cardinal José Francisco Robles

In Mexico, where marriage equality is currently an issue of national debate, Cardinal José Francisco Robles of Guadalajara, who is also president of the nation’s bishops’ conference, has also used Pope Francis’ concept of “gender ideology” to bolster opposition to the proposed federal law.  Robles stated:

“The future of humanity is played in marriage and the natural family is formed by a heterosexual couple.

“The proliferation of the mentality of gender ideology moves with a flag of acceptance, promoting the values of diversity and non-discrimination, but it denies the natural reciprocity between a man and a woman.”

Bishop Demetrio Fernandez

The example from Spain concerns remarks made by  Bishop Demetrio Fernandez in opposition to a proposed law which would criminalize hate speech against LGBT people.  Fernandez called the proposed law “an attack on religious freedom and freedom of conscience.”  In a later interview, he strongly echoed what are probably the harshest language Pope Francis has used to discuss an LGBT topic.  In an interview, the pontiff compared gender theory to nuclear arms. Fernandez statement echoing this metaphor is:

“[G]ender ideology is an atomic bomb that wants to destroy Catholic doctrine, the image of God in man, and the image of God the Creator.”

It is definitely disturbing that bishops are echoing the pope’s negative language on these topics.  More disturbing, though, is the fact that the pope’s and these bishops’ words reveal an immense lack of information on gender and transgender people.  For instance, the Crux article quotes Pope Francis as saying “gender theory is an error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion,”  and that this view of gender is one reason why “the family is under attack.”

If the pope and bishops would listen to LGBT people’s experience, they could understand that what they claim is “theory” and “ideology” is actually a very human and holy phenomenon.  They would also realize that LGBT advocates are not attacking anything, but just trying to help people live whole and full lives. Far from attacking the family, the experience of families with LGBT members shows that acceptance of these realities can promote family harmony, unity, and strength.  LGBT people are not enemies of the church, but faithful members who can help it grow.  Since LGBT people’s experiences are lived realities, it seems that the only people promoting “theory” and “ideology” in these discussions are the those who insist that gender binaries are set in stone.

 

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Related posts:

Bondings 2.0: Putting Pope Francis’ “Ideology of Gender” Comments in Context

Bondings 2.0:  Pope Francis’ Remarks on Gender in Schools Deemed Ambiguous, Out of Touch

Bondings 2.0:  Pope’s Lament About Children and Gender Identity Reveals Serious Blind Spot

 

‘Homosexuality and Social Justice’: Archdiocese Listens to Gays and Lesbians

“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s series 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. 

1982: San Francisco’s “Homosexuality and Social Justice” Report

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 19, 2016

In September 1982,  a group working for the Archdiocese of San Francisco released a major report entitled “Homosexuality and Social Justice” which proposed many progressive policies, including the idea that the Roman Catholic disapproval of gay sexual relationships was itself a social justice issue.

The 150-page report was prepared by the Task Force on Gay/Lesbian Issues of the Commission on Social Justice of the archdiocese, offered 54 recommendations and insights for church leaders.  According to the September 16, 1982 edition of The Monitor, the archdiocesan newspaper, Task Force Chairperson Kevin Gordon commented on the historical significance of the report, saying:

“This is a moment of incredible opportunity or incredible vulnerability, especially since this report comes out of San Francisco.  If not here, then where?

“We have before us a real critical moment.  We should seize the moment now.”

Indeed words like “critical” and “incredible” were not overstated.  According to The Monitor, the Commission on Social Justice began the deliberations on the report in May 1981 “to respond to an increase of anti-gay/lesbian assaults in San Francisco, and tensions within the predominantly Latino Mission District and the predominantly gay/lesbian Castro District–which border each other.”  The Commission unanimously accepted the report, which covered topics such as:  “homosexuality, social justice, and violence,”  “language–moral and political dimensions,” “spiritual lives of homosexuals,” “family,” and “homosexuals in priesthood and religious life.”

The report made 54 recommendations, some which were controversial then, and some which would still be controversial.  One significant feature of the report was that it did not accept the magisterial distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior, seeing such a distinction as irrelevant to the lives of gay and lesbian people.  The report stated:

“In listening to and learning from the real voices and real experiences of the lesbian women and gay men of San Francisco, the present Task Force did not find any sizeable population espousing an orientation/behavior distinction, that is, holding to lifelong venereal abstinence outside of marriage as being a particular value.  The values were more often attested to were the courage to search for meaning , and to report on that search.

“The Task Force heard people say over and over:  we do not experience our active sexual lives as evil, but as good, worthy of human beings, and often beautiful.  Like anything human, they are imperfect, with ambiguous and demonic aspects, selfishness, dishonesty, etc.  But our active sexual lives and loves stand out in our experience as essentially good and spirit-filled.”

But perhaps the most controversial aspect of the report was its introductory section, of which The Monitor said:

“In an introductory section subtitled, ‘The Church as Oppressor,’ the Report states that the Roman Catholic Church does not have a viable sexual ethic, not only regarding homosexuality, but also regarding contraception, divorce and remarriage and premarital sexuality.

“It says: ‘. . . the question is whether the Roman Catholic Church really has a viable and embodied sexual theology to begin with.  If the Roman Catholic Church is ever to regain credibility in matters sexual, it will need to develop an appropriately sophisticated sexual ethic beyond what it has at present.

” ‘At present its positive ethical guidance is essentially fashioned for sacramentally married people in procreative unions.  For all the others, for instance, the 50 million single people in the United States over 18, sexual options are few, if any.”

The Monitor  highlighted some of the key recommendations:

  • that Archdiocesan agencies examine how Roman Catholic agencies themselves might be conduits of oppression to lesbian women and gay men through their own attitudes and practices in parishes, schools, diocesan offices, chanceries, seminaries, religious communities and in the Catholic media.
  • that Catholic agencies develop internal programs to combat homophobia and sexism.
  • that Catholic agencies both critique and work with the criminal justice system to eliminate anti-gay/lesbian violence.
  • that organizations such as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gay (PFLAG) be given space and welcome within a parish community.
  • that the Archdiocese in concert with parish churches and other community agencies assist lesbian/gay parents and their children in working through the split-up of marriages, the restructuring of family units. . ..
  • the end of sexual orientation screening for parochial school jobs, adoption, and foster care.
  • the encouragement of gay student groups at parochial schools.
  • the admission of “self-accepting” gay and lesbian people to the priesthood and religious life.

Dr. Thomas Ambrogi, the director of the Archdiocesan Commission on Social Justice, explained that the report was “not an official statement of the Archdiocese itself, ” and that the Commission had “semi-autonomous status and . . . acts on its own initiative and conscience in studying issues in the light of the Catholic social tradition.”  Still, a Time magazine article dated October 11, 1982, had this to say about the archdiocese’s response to the report:

“Though Archbishop [John] Quinn] remained silent, the first reaction from the archdiocese emphasized the task force’s good intentions rather than accusing it of doctrinal errors or sins of naiveté. Said an editorial in the archdiocesan newspaper The Monitor: “We do not agree with many of the report’s findings and recommendations.  On the other hand, we respect the report for what it is–a working document, voicing the real feelings of real people who have had the courage to speak out.’ “

Some of the other Task Force members offered their reflections on the publication of the report:

Sister Frances Lombaer, OP:  “I previously had little knowledge of the concerns of the gay/lesbian community.  Now I’ve had the chance to hear the voices of faith-filled lesbian women and gay men and to learn of the violence that they have experienced on so many levels.  So I feel the document is important if it can contribute to the dialogue within the Archdiocese.

Father Jack Isaacs: “It’s important for the Church to be there –to listen to people directly–not be outside saying things about people.  Usually, we jump immediately to a conclusion that blots out what people are really saying instead of working it out with them.  Much in the area of homosexuality needs to be rethought.  The Social Justice Commission likes to think of itself as prophetic but it is part of the institutional Church.  The Report is one of the first papers on this topic accepted by an official Church body–an accepting f a prophetic statement by the institution.

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Editor’s reflection:

As I sifted through the news articles about this historic Report, I was struck by a few things: 1) the courage of the Task Force to speak so honestly, courageously, and boldly; 2) that an archbishop and archdiocese were courageous enough to listen to criticism; 3) that what we think of as Pope Francis’ new openness to listen, encounter, and dialogue, was actually alive and well over 30 year before he arrived in Rome.  Wouldn’t it be great if more dioceses and archdioceses would today commission similar reports on ministry and responsiveness to the LGBT community?

 

 

VP Candidate Tim Kaine Says Catholic Church Will Accept Marriage Equality

New Ways Ministry heartily thanks Vice Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine for speaking with hope about the Catholic Church’s eventual acceptance of same-gender marriage. Kaine, a practicing Catholic, spoke the truth when he said that we should “celebrate” and not “challenge” God’s “beautiful diversity of the human family.”

According to Michael O’Loughlin of America magazine, Kaine, who describes himself as “a traditional Catholic,” addressed the Human Rights Campaign gala dinner, telling them “his support for same-sex marriage is driven in part by his Catholic faith, and that he expects the church could change its views like he did.”  O’Loughlin quoted the relevant parts of Kaine’s speech, in which the politician recounted how he changed his view to come to accept marriage equality.  Starting from a position of opposition, Kaine emerged as one of the Senate’s first supporters of same-gender marriage:

Tim Kaine speaking at Human Rights Campaign dinner

“Part of that reasoning came from his lifelong Catholic faith, which teaches that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. But Kaine’s opposition to same-sex marriage was challenged by relationships with friends and pressure from his children.

” ‘I knew gay couples as friends,’ he said. ‘I knew them to be great neighbors, I knew them to be great parents to beautiful kids.’

” ‘But I had a difficult time reconciling that reality with what I knew to be true from the evidence of my own life, with the teachings of the faith that I had been raised in my whole life,’ he said.

“Kaine said his family also helped convince him to back same-sex marriage, and he became one of the first U.S. senators to lend his support to the cause.

” ‘My three children helped me see the issue of marriage equality as what it was really about, treating every family equally under the law,’ he said.

But Kaine also had to wrestle with faith questions, but he noted that he believes that the Catholic Church will eventually come to embrace marriage for lesbian and gay couples:

“Kaine, who attends a primarily African-American Catholic parish in Richmond, Virginia, acknowledged that his “unconditional support for marriage equality is at odds with the current doctrine of the church I still attend.”

” ‘But I think that’s going to change, too,’ he said to applause, invoking both the Bible and Pope Francis as reasons why he thinks the church could alter its doctrine on marriage.

” ‘I think it’s going to change because my church also teaches me about a creator in the first chapter of Genesis who surveys the entire world including mankind and said it is very good, it is very good,’ he said.

” ‘Pope Francis famously said, “Who am I to judge?” ‘ Kaine continued, referencing the pope’s 2013 comment when asked about gay priests in the church.

” ‘To that I want to add, who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human family?’ Kaine asked. ‘I think we’re supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it.’ “

Kaine’s sentiments are shared by millions of Catholics across the U.S. who heartily support marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples, as poll after poll continues to show, including a recent Pew Research Center poll showing 70% of U.S. Catholics support marriage equality. As Kaine’s statement illustrates, Catholics support marriage equality because they are Catholic, not in spite of being Catholic. Their training in the Catholic faith has taught them to respect difference and diversity, to value love and commitment, and to support and strengthen strong family ties.

Church history has shown time and again that important changes in the Church have always arisen from the bottom to the top, and not the other way around. So, it is only a matter of time before the church hierarchy begins to accept and affirm what Catholics like Tim Kaine already know: that love is love, and that all love is holy, for God is love.

Kaine’s candid admission that his own acceptance of marriage equality has been a journey for him was a courageous statement.  His experience of knowing families headed by lesbian and gay couples helped him see that they deserved equal treatment. This pattern of acceptance has been true for many Catholics, as they come to be aware of their gay and lesbian family members, co-workers, neighbors, and friends.

Catholic bishops and other church leaders need to follow Kaine’s example by opening their eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to the experiences of lesbian and gay couples and their families. Instead of being locked in an ivory tower, Catholic bishops need to do what the rest of the country and the world has been doing for decades: dialogue with lesbian and gay people so they can see they are not an enemy to be fought, but children of God, as are all human beings.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

WJBDRadio.com: “Tim Kaine: Donald Trump Is ‘No Friend’ of LGBT Community”

RawStory.com: “Tim Kaine says Catholic Church may change same-sex marriage stance”

 

TV Talk Show Host Phil Donahue Headlines ‘Pilgrimage of Mercy’ for LGBT Catholics and Supporters

Former television talk show host Phil Donahue will be one of the featured speakers at a  “Pilgrimage of Mercy” sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s (GALA-ND/SMC) on Sunday, October 2, 2016, 11:00 a.m., beginning in New York City’s Central Park.  The 1.5 mile pilgrimage walk and peaceful rally is a way to for LGBT Catholics and supporters to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis.

Phil Donahue

Donahue, who is a 1957 alumnus of the University of Notre Dame and the host of the groundbreaking Phil Donahue Show, will be joined at the rally by Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon, two of the plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell case which granted marriage equality nationwide; Father Warren Hall, an openly gay priest who has been a strong advocate for LGBT equality and who was sanctioned by his local archbishop for such efforts, Francis DeBernardo, executive direcctor of New Ways Ministry; Joe Vitale, another Obergefell plaintiff; along with several GALA-ND/SMC members and leaders from other Catholic LGBT organizations  (complete list of speakers is below).

The pilgrimage begins at 11:00 a.m. at the entrance to Central Park at East 69th Street and Fifth Avenue. (Participants are asked to gather by 10:50 a.m.)  The rally will be held at Columbus Circle (West 59th Street and Central Park West).  For more information and updates, click here. To register for the pilgrimage, click here.  The pilgrimage’s Facebook page can be accessed by clicking here. For church groups and organizations which would like to join the pilgrimage, send email to jack.bergen@yahoo.com.

Following the rally, the pilgrimage will continue with a walk to St. Paul the Apostle Church, concluding at 12:15 p.m.  Participants are invited to attend the parish’s 12:30 p.m. Spanish language mass.  The pilgrimage will go on rain or shine.

A GALA-ND/SMC press statement explained the purpose of the pilgrimage:

“The pilgrimage is inspired by Pope Francis declaration last fall, ‘We are in the midst of an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic faith,’ decreed Pope Francis, during which we are to be ‘merciful like the Father’ and perform acts of mercy and forgiveness to all.”

“The goal of the pilgrimage is to call upon The University of Notre Dame, and Catholic bishops across the US, to join in a show of mercy and compassion for LGBT Catholics, who continue to be marginalized by the Catholic Church.”

Michael DeLeon and Greg Bourke

Jack Bergen, chair of the alumni group, commented further on the purpose of the event:

“The University of Notre Dame, through the leadership of Fr. Ted Hesburgh CSC, has had a long history of leadership in supporting civil and human rights.  We ask that they demonstrate that same type of leadership now when it comes to welcoming LGBT Catholics into their community and be more inclusive of LGBT students and alumni.”

Co-sponsoring the event are a number of Catholic and LGBT organizations: Catholics for FairnessGLAAD, HRC, New Ways Ministry, Equality Blessed, Dignity/USADignity/New York, Freedom for All Americans, Out At St Paul, Fortunate Families and Believe Out Loud.

Bourke and DeLeon will be leading the pilgrimage walk.  Commenting on the inspiration for the pilgrimage, Bourke said:

“After the devastating event in Orlando this summer, Pope Francis sympathetically told his worldwide flock “I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they (LGBT people) must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally. It is a great honor to be able to bring a successful movement, Catholics for Fairness, to New York City and partner with so many willing supportive organizations to promote a fully inclusive Catholic Church.”

Currently, the roster of rally speakers is as follows:

Following the walk at 4:00pm, GALA ND/SMC will be holding their Second Annual LGBT Student Scholarship Benefit at ND Alum Phil Donahue’s ’57 apartment.  The Scholarship helps LGBT students who attend Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.  For information on this event, go to: NYC LGBT Scholarship Benefit (registration is limited).  You can contribute to the scholarship fund by clicking here:  ND/SMC LGBT Student Scholarship Fund.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

As Archbishop Hunthausen Turns 95, Remembering Him as a Precursor to Pope Francis

Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen turned 95 in August, and he was hailed by writers for the National Catholic Reporter and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as a forerunner of the activist, pastoral, and socially-conscious style of church leadership that has been championed by Pope Francis.  Not least among Hunthausen’s qualities that are similar to the pontiff was his readiness to offer words of welcome to LGBT people.

Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen

Hunthausen retired as archbishop of Seattle in 199o, leaving a long legacy of courageously speaking out on issues which sparked controversy such as nuclear weapons, LGBT equality, communion for the divorced/remarried, general absolution, and lay decision-making.  In a 2015 article for the National Catholic Reporter, Kenneth Briggs summarized the proud history of stands that Hunthausen took, which eventually earned him the ire of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II:

“Thirty years ago, Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen was figuratively clapped in irons and thrown into the dungeon by now pope emeritus Josef Ratzinger, with the explicit approval of John Paul II. Not for committing crimes of theft or child abuse, which went unpunished then and mostly now, but for demonstrating values and practices that Pope Francis appears to approve in whole or in part.

“In his 1985 indictment of the Seattle archbishop, Ratzinger summed up accusations gathered in his investigation whose point man in the U.S. was Archbishop James Hickey of Washington, D.C. Among the charges: that Hunthausen had allowed divorced Catholics without annulments to take communion; gave lay people unauthorized influence in shaping programs as “a kind of voting process on doctrinal or moral teachings”; permitted intercommunion at weddings and funerals, calling it “clearly abusive”; and supported a homosexual group to meet in the cathedral, which risked ignoring the Magisterium’s judgment that same-sex acts were “an intrinsic moral evil, intrinsically distorted and self-indulgent.” In addition to welcoming the gay group to the cathedral, he’d stood up for homosexual dignity in the Seattle Gay News in 1977.

“He was also chastised for giving the green light to general absolution.

“Not mentioned but clearly decisive in this offensive was the archbishop’s staunch protest against nuclear arms in general and the Trident submarine base near Seattle. He had joined anti-Trident demonstrations and refused to pay half of his federal income tax.”

America magazine ran a review of a biography of Hunthausen last year where they spelled out the upshot of the Vatican’s investigation of Hunthausen:

“The Vatican’s reaction was to appoint an auxiliary bishop with special faculties, Donald Wuerl. Hunthausen sought the advice of the Rev. James Coriden, the best canon lawyer in the United States, who told him he did not know what to advise because the Vatican seemed to be making up the rules as it went along. Bishop Wuerl gained final authority over six areas: liturgy, marriage, clergy and seminarians, ex-priests and any issues related to health care and homosexuals. In effect, the archbishop was symbolically stripped of office.”

Last month’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer article provided some important details on some of Hunthausen’s LGBT involvement:

“Hunthausen spoke for the human rights of gays and lesbians, in the pews and in society.  Using an article in the Catholic Northwest Progress, he decried ‘the terrible impact that discriminatory patterns in society have upon individuals and the total community.’

“Hunthausen let the LGBT Catholic group Dignity close its annual conference, being held in Seattle, with a mass in his cathedral.  It was one of the ‘sins’ that brought Cardinal Hickey of Washington, D.C., out here on a Vatican-ordered investigation. The investigation came under the auspices of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, who would become Benedict XVI.

“The long ago Dignity mass came to mind after the Orlando massacre.  An anti-violence march wound from St. Mark’s Cathedral to St. James, with Mayor Ed Murray and young LGBT activists taking the pulpit of St. James for readings. The cathedral’s pastor, the Very Rev. Michael Ryan, served as chancellor of the Seattle Archdiocese under Hunthausen.”

One other detail about the Dignity mass incident was that Hunthausen had planned on welcoming the conference members to the Cathedral personally.  However, he had been summoned to appear in Rome at the same time that the Dignity group was meeting.  Undaunted, Hunthausen provided an audio tape recording of his welcome which was played at the beginning of the mass.

Briggs was explicit in comparing Hunthausen to Francis:

“His [Hunthausen’s] stands sound a great deal like the kind that harmonize with the church Pope Francis inspires, one which forgives, treats those who fall outside strict doctrinal with tolerance and bestows mercy on those who might be considered unworthy under other regimes. Openness to homosexuals, broader welcome to communion, a greater, equal role for lay people, a witness to faith determined by compassion and attention to suffering rather than law and order: the overlap between Francis and Raymond would appear to be astounding.”

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer article drew similar parallels:

“The advent of Pope Francis has brought back the virtues for which Hunthausen was beloved by Western Washington Catholics, so much so that the Vatican backed off from its effort at public humiliation and stripping the archbishop of his powers.

“As an example, Pope Francis has named a panel to explore letting women serve in the role of Catholic deacons, as they did in the early church.  Under Hunthausen, the Archdiocese of Seattle halted ordaining new deacons until the role of women in the diaconate was addressed.

“Hunthausen was a pastor in his diocese, living simply and reaching out — always reaching out.”

When Hunthausen retired, he returned to his hometown of Helena, Montana, where he now lives in a retirement home with his brother Jack, also a priest, according to a biographical article in the Helena Independent Record.  The article mentioned that he now needs 24 -hour physical care, but that his mind is still as sharp as ever.  This sharpness is evident in a quote from Hunthausen about Pope Francis that America magazine reported last year:

“Francis is doing the things I tried to do!”

Archbishop Hunthausen, on many levels and for many issues, has been a prophet.  It is more than pleasing to note that he sees his legacy finally being carried out at the highest levels of our church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry