Pope Receives Bishop Jacques Gaillot–A French Bishop Who Blesses Gay Couples

September 2, 2015

Bishop Jacques Gaillot, who was removed from his diocese in France in 1995, in part for blessing the union of a gay couple, was received at the Vatican by Pope Francis, ending two decades of exclusion from official church activities.

Bishop Jacques Gaillot–received at the Vatican, at long last!

Bishop Gaillot, who has the head of the northern French diocese of Evreux until being demoted by Pope John Paul II, spoke with Pope Francis about many marginalized groups.  According to Agence France Presse (AFP)he “defended the rights of homosexuals, divorced people and migrants.”

According to the news report, Gaillot recounted his conversation with Pope Francis to the AFP reporter :

” ‘I don’t want to ask anything of you, I told the pope, but a whole people of the poor are happy that you are receiving me, and feel acknowledged too,’ Gaillot said.

” ‘I spoke to him about… the sick, the divorced, gay people. These people are counting on you.’

“The 79-year-old said he had told the pope how he had recently blessed a divorced couple as well as a homosexual couple, saying ‘he listened, he is open to all those things. He said that to bless is to speak well of God to people.’ “

And Pope Francis affirmed his ministry, according to the French bishop:

“Gaillot said he now devotes much of his time to helping and defending migrants and the pope, he said, told him ‘continue, what you do (for the downtrodden) is good.’ “

Since being deposed as Bishop of Evreux, Gaillot has remained active  by maintaining a website, Partenia.org, where he defended marginalized groups.  Partenia is the name of a now defunct ancient diocese which existed in the early centuries of Christianity in Algeria.  An Ouest-France  news report (with an English translation provided by a Bondings 2.0 reader) noted:

“Trying to convey something of the unprecedented nature of the situation and of pope Francis’ sense of humour Gaillot said, ‘the pope told me with a smile: I speak to the bishop of Partenia.’ “

The same news report also pointed out:

“The meeting took place at Pope Francis’ request, who left two messages on Gaillot’s answering machine during the Summer, before writing to formally invite him to the Vatican.”

Perhaps the most significant part of Gaillot’s account of describing his blessing of gay couples to Pope Francis:

” ‘I am in civil cloth and I just bless them. This is not a marriage, it is a blessing. We have the right to give the blessing of God, after all we also bless houses! The pope listened, he seemed open to all that. At that particular moment, he specifically said that to bless people also involves to speak well of God to those people,’ said the French prelate.”

The Wikipedia.org article on Gaillot described some of the actions which lead to his ouster over two decades ago, including the blessing of a gay couple:

“In 1988, during a closed-door session of the assembly in Lourdes, he advocated the ordination of married men to the priesthood. After the proceedings had finished Gaillot spoke to the press about the discussions held and also promoted his own viewpoints. By promoting a revision of clerical celibacy and the use of condoms, he caused considerable tension with the French bishops’ conference, the situation being exacerbated by the fact that in speaking to the media about the session, Gaillot had violated convention regarding assembly conclaves. He later defended his previous actions, remarking that ‘I never broke the vow of celibacy … I only questioned it. But that’s worse.’ Also that year, Gaillot took the unprecedented step for a Roman Catholic bishop of blessing a homosexual union in a ‘service of welcoming,’ after the couple requested it in view of their imminent death from AIDS.”

This Wikipedia article also noted that Gaillot expressed public support for marriage equality when France legalized it in 2012.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bishop Gaillot in Rome in the year 2000.  The occasion was the conference on religion and homosexuality at the first World Pride event.  I gave the opening address to the meeting, and, saving the best for last, Gaillot was to give the closing speech.  Unfortunately, the day before the conference, he received word that the Vatican ordered him not to give the speech.  Bishop Gaillot was unflustered.

The unusual thing about this Vatican action was that the hotel which was hosting the conference was a five-minute walk from the Vatican, yet the order, which came from Pope John Paul, was first sent to the Congregation of Bishops, who then called the president of the French bishops conference in Paris, who then called the then-current Bishop of Evreux, who then made a phone call from France to Bishop Gaillot in Rome.   Everyone laughed, including Gaillot, that if the pope wanted to give him this order, he could have simply walked a few blocks to speak with him in person.

Fifteen years after this strange communication incident, the new pope in Rome showed how important ordinary communication with a fellow human being is–especially for the necessary Christian act of reconciliation.  The Ouest-France news report described the very ordinary, humble and human way Gaillot’s visit with Pope Francis occurred:

“Gaillot, 79, in a black suit but without any pectoral cross, said he was greatly surprised by how informally Francis received him in the Vatican: ‘I was in one of the common room of St Martha’s House (where the Pope resides), a door opened and the pope simply came in. The meeting was carried out as if I was family, without any protocol. He truly is a free man. At one point, he stood up and said: Do you have a photographer? As I had none and there was none around who was available, we took (a photo) with a cell phone.’ “

An ordinary encounter between two human beings.  How our church leaders need to do so much more of this!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


U.S. Catholics Like Pope Francis, But They Differ With Him on Marriage Equality

August 31, 2015

One benefit of a papal visit is that the media focuses its attention on the Catholic Church for a while. With Pope Francis set to arrive here in under a month, the media have ramped up their coverage of our church and its various controversies. Of course, LGBT issues are right up there among the key topics covered.

Pope Francis

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), in partnership with Religion News Service released the results of a survey this past week in which Americans, and particularly American Catholics, were asked about the papal visit and what they think about church teachings and policies.

The main overall finding was that 67% of Americans and 90% of American Catholics give the pope a favorable rating.  But when it comes to knowing or agreeing with some of his policies, there are some discrepancies, said Robert Jones, president and CEO of PRRI. In an article published in The National Catholic Reporter, Cathy Lynn Grossman analyzed some of the report’s data:

“The majority share his top priorities — on concern for the poor, the environment and the economy. But the flock veers from the shepherd on doctrine, particularly on sexuality and marriage.

“However, on question after question, Jones said, 1 in 5 Catholics said they didn’t know the pope’s views. And when they think they do, they’re sometimes wrong.”

The issue of same-sex marriage received specific attention in the survey.  Grossman reported:

“Consider the confusion over same-sex marriage. Francis has not changed the Catholic church’s official position opposing its legalization. Yet many U.S. Catholics (38 percent) believe he supports it. . .

The confusion might be because people like to believe the pope — famous for his  ‘Who am I to judge’ comment — thinks as they do: 49 percent of Catholics who support same-sex marriage mistakenly think the pope does as well.”

In other areas of LGBT issues,  U.S. Catholics showed strong support for equality, as has been the case for a several years now:

The Catholic church preaches against homosexual behavior. But PRRI finds most U.S. Catholics either don’t know or don’t heed that teaching:

  • 53 percent of Catholics say they don’t think same-sex marriage goes against their religious beliefs.
  • 60 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
  • 76 percent favor laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination.
  • 65 percent oppose a policy that would allow small-business owners to refuse, based on their religious beliefs, to provide products or services to gay and lesbian people.

According to the PRRI summary of the report, U.S. Catholics think Pope Francis has a better understanding of their needs than the U.S. bishops do:

“By a margin of 20-percentage points, American Catholics are more likely to say Pope Francis (80 percent), as opposed to U.S. Bishops (60 percent), understand their needs and views well.”

The survey also polled former Catholics, and while it showed that they think favorably about Pope Francis, the same positive evaluation is not given to the U.S. bishops.  According to the PRRI summary of the report:

“Nearly 2 in 3 (64 percent) of former Catholics hold a positive view of the pope and 59 percent say he understands U.S. Catholics well, but only 35 percent say the same for the American bishops. That aligns with their sour view of the institutional church: Only 43 percent hold a positive view.”

LGBT issues were not the only focus of the survey.  Attitudes on economics, environment, immigration were among the other issues surveyed. You can read the entire report here or PRRI’s summary of the report here.

In one sense, there is no surprise in this survey. We have known for years now that Catholics overwhelmingly support LGBT issues.  Just review the posts  in our Statistics category to read about the overall increasing trend of support over the last few years.

To me the two most important facts are:

  1. U.S. Catholics incorrectly assume Pope Francis agrees with them on same-sex marriage
  2. U.S. Catholics–and former Catholics–believe Pope Francis understands them better than the U.S. bishops do.

These data should be wake up calls to both laity and hierarchy in the U.S. Catholic Church.  Laity need to have a more realistic view of Pope Francis’ position on same-sex marriage–though as we have pointed out before, even as recently as yesterday, Pope Francis can send mixed signals on this issue.

The greater challenge, though, will be for U.S. bishops to recognize that Pope Francis’ gracious, welcoming style and his openness to dialogue and discussion are factors that U.S. Catholics admire and would like to see more of in their Church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

Associated Press: “Ahead of pope’s visit to US, some friction over LGBT issues”

Think Progress: “On Almost Every Major Issue, Catholics Are More Progressive Than The Average American”

 

 

 


Pope Francis’ Remark About Children’s Book Raises Question of His Support for Lesbian and Gay Families

August 29, 2015

Pope Francis

Pope Francis is once again making headlines for a message which may have contained a positive comment on families headed by lesbian and gay couples.

The reason that the above sentence contains may is because, as has happened before, the pope’s comment is somewhat cryptic and open to interpretation, not to mention that the Vatican is downplaying any gay-positive intent.

Through a message by one of his staff members at the Vatican Secretariat of State, Msgr. Peter B. Wells, the pope sent a message of encouragement to an Italian author, Francesca Pardi, who recently penned a children’s book about families which has been controversial in Italy because some of its characters are gay penguins and lesbian rabbits youngsters.  Pardi sent the book, along with other books with gay and lesbian themes, to the Pontiff in June.

According to a news report in The Guardian, the significant part of the letter from the Vatican stated:

“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values.”

The book’s Italian cover. (translated: “Little Egg”)

While this may not seem to be a ringing endorsement of the book, entitled Piccolo Uovo (translation:  Little Egg), it is certainly a strong affirmation of Pardi and her work, which has been the center of a literary-political storm in Italy.  The Guardian story notes:

“The book. . .was met with disapproval by Venice’s new mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, who in June banned Piccolo Uovo and about 50 other titles from schools. The decision led more than 250 Italian authors to demand their own books be removed from the city’s shelves, a move one writer described as a ‘protest against an appalling gesture of censorship and ignorance.’ “

In fact, when Pardi sent the book to the pope, she included a letter describing the negative criticism that she received. Catholics are a large part of the “We Defend the Family Committee,” a nationwide group against lesbian and gay families,  which has been one of the leaders of the campaign against Pardi’s book. In part, she told the pope:

“Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us.We have respect for Catholics … A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

So, while the pope did not make a direct statement about the lesbian and gay content of the book, he did take the position of affirming the book which has been embroiled in a public controversy, and one which involves Catholics.

The Guardian also reported that a Vatican official offered an explanation for the pope’s comment which indicates that it was not meant to be affirming of families headed by lesbian or gay parents:

“The Vatican said the closing blessing of the private letter was addressed to Pardi and not in support of teachings which went against church doctrine on ‘gender theory.’ “

Hmmmmm.  Sounds like a bit of hair-splitting to me.

Francesca Pardi

Pardi, herself has interpreted the message very positively, while also very realistically.  The Guardian reported:

“Pardi said she had not expected a reply and was surprised to receive the letter at her Milan home. ‘It’s not that I think that he’s for gay families, because there’s the Catholic doctrine, but we mustn’t think that we don’t have rights,’ she said.”

Pardi also told the International Business Times that she saw the blessing as an opening for greater dialogue:

” ‘I was very touched by it,’ Pardi told IBTimes UK. She explained that the letter was not supportive of gay rights but nevertheless marked an important change in the Church attitude towards homosexuals. ‘Obviously he [Francis] doesn’t agree with homosexuality and if he ever was to make such an opening he would never do so in a private letter to me!’ she said. ‘However, only to consider me as an interlocutor worth respect is a tremendous step forward. I read it as an opening towards people and dialogue, a message of tolerance.’ “

Because Italy does not have marriage equality or protections for lesbian parents with children, Pardi married her wife in Spain, and the couple had their four children in the Netherlands, according to Jezebel.com.

So how do we interpret this latest cryptic message from Francis? While I try to be cautious of over-interpreting his statements in a positive light, I can’t help but think that he, and his staff, have to know what they are doing and how the public will react to their comments.  He has had too many ambiguously positive LGBT statements over the past few years for this to be merely accidental.

At the same time, let’s not rush to assume that Pope Francis is supporting marriage equality.  His clear negative statements about legalizing marriage for lesbian and gay couples are a clear indication that he opposes such initiatives.

I think that Pope Francis is showing Catholics that they can interact politely with people with whom they disagree.  He is not presenting content to the debate, but modeling how the debate can take place. As I’ve said before, that, in itself is a step forward. I believe that once the debate about LGBT issues can occur civilly in the Church, then we are on our way to taking steps towards greater justice and equality.

As I’ve also said before, though, we have to recognize this phase as a first step, and not relax into complacency.  There is still much work to be done to achieve full equality of LGBT people in the Catholic Church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

People: “Pope Francis Praises Author of Children’s Book That Includes Lesbian Rabbits and Gay Penguin Parents”

Huffington Post: Pope Francis Gives Blessing To Author Of Gay Children’s Book”

New York Daily News: “Pope Francis sends letter lauding LGBT-themed children’s book banned by Venice mayor”

A Plus: “Pope Francis Again Proves He’s A Revolutionary By Praising A Children’s Book Conservatives Hate”

Daily News Analysis India: “Breaking taboos: Pope Francis blesses lesbian children’s author who writes on same-sex families”

 

 

 


Let’s Have a World Meeting of ALL Families

August 28, 2015

Today’s post is written by a guest blogger: Deacon Ray Dever of St. Paul Catholic Church, Tampa, Florida.

In recent months, a steady stream of documents, talks, and other communications from the Catholic Church have been issued on the topic of the family–all in anticipation of and preparation for the World Meeting of Families that will take place in Philadelphia in September and the subsequent Synod of Bishops on the family to be held in Rome in October.  Pope Francis, the Pontifical Council on the Family, and various associated organizations and individuals in the Church have been engaged in an ongoing catechesis and wide-ranging discussion on the family.

Like many of us, I’ve done my best to keep up with and to reflect on these almost daily pronouncements.  And as I do so, it’s been difficult to not become disheartened by what seem to be recurring themes that focus on a narrow ideal of the Catholic family, and that ignore or devalue the reality of the diverse, faithful families that comprise the Body of Christ today.  And the ongoing discussions and debates about what will and will not be on the meeting agendas, and who will and will not be allowed to participate in the meetings, unfortunately seem out of touch with the lived reality of families today.

As any Catholic clergy or lay minister can tell you, the families that one encounters every day in pastoral ministry in the Church are enormously diverse.  The idea that there is some kind of ideal Christian family that comprises the majority of our congregations is quite simply a fiction.  And with my own situation as ordained Catholic clergy, married with a transgender daughter and with two other daughters who are strong LGBTQ allies, I would definitely count my own family among that diversity.  So as I add my thoughts to these ongoing reflections on the topic of Catholic family, my perspective is both pastoral and deeply personal.

I wonder what people envision when they hear Pope Francis speak about heroic families, as he did in his general audience of June 10, 2015.  In that address, Pope Francis lauded the heroism of parents who work during the day to support their families and then continue the work of selflessly caring for their families at night, dealing with sick children and all the other exhausting, daily challenges of family life.  It’s easy for most of us to identify with that scenario, as that is the reality of life in any loving, faithful family.

But who exactly does the Church think these heroic families praised by the Pope are?  Are they only ideal families headed by a Catholic man and a Catholic woman, whose first and only marriage took place in the Catholic Church?  The answer to that question is self-evident to anyone who is part of the faithful families that comprise our congregations.  Of course not!  Of course there are a wide variety of heroic families in the pews every Sunday, heroic in every sense of the Pope’s words – faithful families headed by the divorced, the remarried, unmarried couples, couples of different faiths, and single parents.  And yes, even families like mine with LGBTQ children, and families headed by same-sex couples.

parent of transThese families certainly aren’t perfect, but it would be useful to remind ourselves that none of the families in the pews are perfect (including the families of deacons).  But we should also be mindful of our foundational belief that the members of those families are all created in the image and likeness of God, and that all have an inherent value and dignity as a result.  Jesus didn’t spend his time on earth only ministering to perfect Jewish families – he ministered emphatically to everyone.  All faithful families deserve a seat at the table if the Church is going to be serious about addressing the reality of family life in the Church today.

Pope Francis has made quite clear his vision of Church as a field hospital, healing the wounds of all the faithful.  And he has challenged those who minister in the Church to be like shepherds who smell like their sheep, shepherds whose hands are dirty from dealing with the reality of the messy lives of the faithful.  I don’t see how the Church can follow this vision and get to know, evangelize, and minister to the families that comprise its flock, if most of them are left outside the closed doors of the meeting rooms in Philadelphia and Rome.

As I reflect on all this from the context of my own extended family, I can’t help but think of my own father, who passed away in 1965 when I was still in high school.  He was a hard-nosed, fun-loving, athletic Irish-American, who was fiercely loyal to his family, the Catholic Church, and his country.  He served on an attack transport in the Navy in World War II, in both the Mediterranean and the Pacific, participating in some of the bloodiest island invasions in the war.

I sometimes wonder what he would think of all the changes in society and the Church that have occurred since the 1960s.  As foreign as many aspects of life today might have been to him if he could see them, there is one thing that I know for certain.  If anyone were to suggest to him that my family had some second-class status in the Church, or was even unwelcome in the Church, because we have a transgender daughter whom we love and support, or if anyone had anything negative to say about his transgender granddaughter, he would have been in their face in a heartbeat.

I know that kind of passion runs deep in the committed, loving families that are doing their best, week in and week out, to follow the faith, and if the Church chooses to exclude or demean them, it does so at its own peril.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire the Church to open the doors and to truly have a world meeting of all families.

–Deacon Ray Dever, St. Paul Catholic Church, Tampa, Florida

Previous Bondings 2.0 blog post by Deacon Ray Deaver:

December 28, 2014:  “LGBTQ Children in Catholic Families: A Deacon’s View of Holy Family Sunday


New Ways Ministry Congratulates St. Mary’s Academy on Adoption of Employment Non-Discrimination Policy

August 27, 2015

The following is the statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response the news that a Catholic high school has adopted an employment non-discrimination policy about sexual orientation and marital status.

New Ways Ministry thanks and congratulates St. Mary’s Academy, Portland, Oregon, for not only reversing their decision to dismiss a counselor who they learned was a lesbian, but to adopt a non-discrimination policy which welcomes gay and lesbian employees, including those who are legally married.

St. Mary’s policy sets a precedent for Catholic institutions across the nation and around the globe who are faced with the new reality of gay and lesbian people who are more open about their sexual orientations, and the even newer reality of the legalization of marriage for gay and lesbian people.  To the Catholic Church’s shame, since 2008, over 50 employees have lost their jobs at Catholic institutions because of LGBT issues—most of them involving marriage.  These 50 are only the cases which have become public.

(For a list of the known employees fired, click here.)

Since 2013, New Ways Ministry has been advocating for Catholic institutions to adopt non-discrimination policies protecting people from being fired because of sexual orientation, marital or relational status, and support for marriage equality.  Such policies are easily supported by the authentic Catholic teachings on social justice and conscience. Though a number of institutions have had discussions in regard to such policies, St. Mary’s Academy is the first known Catholic employer to adopt one.

Equally impressive for St. Mary’s Academy is the speed with which the school reversed its decision.  One day after the dismissal became public, the school’s board met and voted to continue hiring the counselor and to adopt the non-discrimination policy.  This speed saved the school community of parents, students, teachers, alumni much grief, as witnessed by the countless strong and pain-filled protests that other institutions have faced because of similar employment disputes.

The St. Mary’s case had been particularly egregious because in addition to withdrawing its contract, the school had asked Lauren Brown, the employee, to remain silent about their decision.  Brown said that as a matter of integrity she could not be silent, and so she made her story and pertinent documents available to the press. Her example shows that openness and transparency are ways of achieving justice.  The burgeoning protest by students, alumni, and parents surely also played a role.

New Ways Ministry prays that other Catholic workplaces will follow the example of St. Mary’s Academy in adopting non-discrimination policies.  In doing so, they will be living up to the best ideals of the Catholic faith’s promotion of human dignity and equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Location and New Opinions on LGBT Catholic Events in Philadelphia

August 26, 2015

An important location update about the eviction from a Philadelphia Catholic parish of New Ways Ministry’s gender identity workshop and Equally Blessed’s World Meeting of Families programs, which we reported on last week, is included in the middle of this blog post.

News of the evictions of New Ways Ministry’s gender identity workshop and Equally Blessed’s World Meeting of Families programs being evicted from a Philadelphia Catholic parish spread around the country last week. (You can see a selection of links to various news outlets reporting on the issue at the end of this post.) During all the conversations that I had about the evictions with various people, three thoughts came to mind that put these actions into various ironic perspectives.

DSC_0223 (1)

New Ways Ministry pilgrims pose in St. Peter’s Square following the Ash Wednesday 2015 papal audience where they received VIP seating.

The first occurred when I was sending a reporter a photograph of New Ways Ministry that she saw on our Facebook page and wanted to use.  It was a photo of New Ways Ministry pilgrims proudly holding our organization’s banner in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City (see photo at right).  The occasion was Ash Wednesday, 2015, the day that our pilgrimage group was seated in VIP seats we received from the Vatican for the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square.

As I looked at the photograph, a thought dawned on me:  “The Vatican gave us VIP seats for a papal audience and yet now we are being evicted from a Catholic parish in Philadelphia. Something is wrong here.”

Was the Vatican’s example of welcome not enough for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to follow?

The second irony came when I was talking to a reporter and explaining that Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, was born and raised in Philadelphia, and that it was in that city where here ministry to the LGBT community began back in 1971, over 44 years ago.

I thought: “How sad that our church has changed so radically in the past 44 years!  How sad that someone with such strong roots in the Catholic world of this city can now have her ministry so unceremoniously evicted.”

Fortunately, all the programs-affected by the eviction–New Ways Ministry’s gender identity workshop and Equally Blessed’s World Meeting of Families projects–have now been re-located to Arch Street United Methodist Church,  55 North Front Street,  Phialdelphia 19107, and the same schedule of dates and times remains intact.

A third irony is that these events, which had not been well-known beforehand, have now received national attention and very strong local attention in the Philadelphia area.  More people now know about these programs than we would have been able to reach with our limited advertising means.  God certainly does work in mysterious ways.

Kelly Stewart

In a column in The National Catholic Reporter Kelly Stewart commented about the idea behind this third irony.  She stated:

“[T]here is a danger in talking about the ‘opportunities’ afforded by exclusion. I do not mean to minimize the seriousness of institutional homophobia or to suggest that progressive Catholics search for ‘silver linings’ in the grim picture that is the WMOF 2015 event agenda. My point is that, even when they have been barred from participation in the meeting or forced to relocate from Catholic to Protestant churches, LGBT Catholic groups have still helped shape conversations about family, sexuality, and gender identity in valuable ways.”

Stewart’s main purpose in her column raises a more important question:

“To the extent that the WMOF [World Meeting of Families] is a forum for discussing the lives of Catholic families, LGBT families should, of course, be able to participate fully. But to the extent that the WMOF is a rally to defend the patriarchal ideal of family against the specters of feminism and homosexuality, LGBT Catholics might want to consider embracing their outsider status. . . .

“The WMOF is . . .dedicated to defending the privileged status of a narrow, patriarchal ideal of family against the outside ‘threats’ of feminist and LGBT theology and politics. LGBT Catholics and the people who care about them should consider embracing their position as outsiders — and the possibilities that position holds for building more just, respectful, and equitable models of relationships.”

James-Rowe cropped

James Rowe

In a blog post on Believe Out Loud, James Rowe takes a different perspective on the World Meeting of Families and the recent eviction of LGBT groups from a Catholic parish.  He stated:

“. . . [C]ontrary to how the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Archbishop Chaput himself have chosen to treat the LGBT Catholic community thus far, I can take comfort and pride in the fact that my LGBT Catholic colleagues and their families are still going to Philadelphia in September, whether Archbishop Chaput wants us there or not.

“And when we arrive in Philly, we will continue to place value on the entire Catholic family, whether Archbishop Chaput wishes to recognize us as his Catholic brothers and sisters or not.

“And when we arrive in Philly, we will talk about how we can help the Catholic Church and even Archbishop Chaput himself become the Church and its people that Jesus truly intended them to be, whether Archbishop Chaput wants to listen to us or not.”

Jim Smith portrait

Jim Smith

Jim Smith, Associate Director of DignityUSA, wrote a blog post for the National Catholic Reporter commented on the value of having LGBT families at the WMF.  Writing as a representative of the Equally Blessed coalition, Smith compared these families to the woman in Scripture (Luke 7:36-50) who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair, while religious leaders look on and condemn her:

“In just a few weeks, throngs of Catholics will enter the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. These people will bring the same tears of love and faith brought to Jesus so many years ago. Fourteen families from our Equally Blessed coalition will be among them: parents of transgender or gay children who have been challenged over thousands of days and nights to love those kids unconditionally, who know viscerally what it means, in the words of the prophet Micah, ‘to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly’ in their parental roles; gay couples with children who live by the promise to raise those children ‘according to the love of Christ’; transgender, intersex and gay persons themselves who are coming through a fire of marginalized existence into the freedom of God’s beloved, finally knowing their ;sin; is not who they are and whom they love, but what chases us all — greed, fear, hate, hubris.”

One thing is for sure:  the World Meeting of Families is going to be an important moment in U.S. Catholic history and in the discussion of LGBT issues in the Catholic Church.

You can read more information and register for New Ways Ministry’s workshop, “Transforming Love:  Gender Identity from Catholic Perspectives,”  by clicking here and downloading a PDF of the brochure.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Philly.com:  “LGBT groups are told: Can’t use church space for events during World Meeting”

Reuters: “Philadelphia archdiocese cancels LGBT program ahead of pope visit”

Crux: “Gender identity workshop booted from Catholic parish in Philly”

Advocate.com: “Philadelphia Catholic Parish Reneges on Hosting LGBT Events”

Religion Dispateches: “Archbishop Boots LGBT Catholics From Philly Church”

National Catholic Reporter: “LGBT groups criticize decision to eject them from church near World Meeting event”

Newsworks.org: “When Philly Catholic church closes door to gay and lesbian event, coalition finds sanctuary with Methodists”

Huffington Post: “LGBT Group Rejected By Philadelphia Archdiocese Won’t Back Down”

Washington Post: “LGBT equality groups getting shut out of Pope Francis meeting in Philadelphia”

Christian Today: “What’s actually happening with LGBT Catholics in Philadelphia?”

NJ.com: “Ahead of papal visit, LGBT workshop cancelled by Philadelphia parish”


Springfield Diocese Sets Restrictive Expectations for Parents of Catholic School Children

August 24, 2015

A same-gender couple’s attempt to register their child in a Catholic school in the diocese of Springfield, Illinois, has resulted in a new diocesan policy which, according to a local newspaper account “could call into question parents’ lifestyles, especially if they go against Catholic teaching, and takes a new approach toward a more Protestant tradition of tithing.”

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Springfield’s State Journal-Register reported this past weekend that Bishop Thomas Paprocki sent a letter to local pastors and principals on July 20th, informing them of the new “Family School Agreement” which would require non-Catholic families to attend Sunday Mass and contribute financially.  According to the news report, the Agreement also stipulates the following for all parents, Catholic and non-Catholic:

“. . . the expectation that parents, adoptive parents or legal guardians of children enrolled in Catholic schools meet with their parish pastor if they are ‘not living in accord with church teaching.’

“That would take in persons who are divorced and remarried but haven’t been granted an annulment, unmarried couples living together, and people who are in same-sex marriages or partnerships.”

The newspaper said it obtained a copy of Paprocki’s letter, which mentioned that it was the case of a same-sex couple attempting to register their child in the spring was one of the reasons for instituting this policy.  In 2013, Paprocki made headlines for conducting an exorcism on the same day that the governor of Illionois signed marriage equality into law.

In terms of tithing, the newspaper reported the following details about the Agreement:

“The discipleship and stewardship components of the Family School Agreement mandate that the entire family, even if some members aren’t Catholic, participate in weekly Mass and on holy days of obligation, and it ‘obliges’ families to try to tithe at least 8 percent of their income to the parish church in addition to paying school tuition.”

Jonathan Sullivan, the diocesan director of catechetical services, which is responsible for overseeing the schools, acknowledged that 8% is an “aspirational” figure.  He also said that the Agreement might be revised for the following year.  The agreeement was modeled on a similar one in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas.

An anonymous source who attended an August 7th diocesan meeting of pastors and principals said that objections were raised to the tone and substance of the Agreement.  Some schools have not required parents to sign the Agreement.  No pastor or principal was willing to speak with the reporter, however.

The penalty for not adhering to the Agreement can be severe, according to the newspaper:

“Parents and students who actively promote ‘a moral or doctrinal position contrary to Catholic teaching’— supporting ordination of women priests, for instance — would be considered in violation of the Family School Agreement. The agreement says that could lead to the expulsion of the student.”

John Freml

John Freml, who is a graduate of Springfield Catholic schools and serves as the coordinator for the Equally Blessed coalition and a local Call To Action chapter, offered a pastoral critique of the new policies:

” ‘What parents in their right minds would idly sit by while a religion teacher is forced to tell their children that something is wrong with their family?’ . . . This is not the kind of church that Pope Francis has called for, and Paprocki should reread what the pope has said about how the church should treat children of same-sex parents.”

Though Sullivan said that the diocese “isn’t trying to coerce people” to convert to Catholicism, the new policy will most likely be felt that way by many parents.  It will encourage the saddest and lowest form of “religious” behavior: going through the motions without an internal assent.

The new policy seems in line with a philosophy that Paprocki expressed in defending his exorcism, referenced above. In an interview in 2014 he stated:

“. . . [S]ometimes, like any good parent will tell you, that sometimes you have to discipline your child, sometimes you have to say no. And sometimes, you even have to punish.

“And when a parent does those things, they’re not being hateful towards their children, they’re actually being very loving by correcting them and showing them the right way to do things.”

In a sense, the new policy is setting up requirements for what people have to do to receive the Church’s ministry. That is not a Catholic thing to do.  Catholic schools around the nation and the globe educate millions of non-Catholic students, as well as millions of Catholic students whose parents may disagree with the magisterium of the Church. Setting up a requirement for what people have to do to receive services from the Church goes counter to what millions of Catholics around the world are doing.  Catholic education should be an expression of the Church’s desire to serve the world, not a reward for going through pro forma steps.

According to the Springfield diocese, school enrollment there has been decreasing.  This new policy will surely speed up that decrease, as parents will choose other alternatives that respect their human dignity and individual consciences–two principles of Catholic teaching which the schools should be demonstrating.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


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