How a Vatican Priest Learned to Build Bridges from LGBT Catholics

Of the many different reviews and assessments of Fr. James Martin’s new book, Building a Bridge, this summer, none was more personal than Fr. Thomas Rosica’s, CSB.

Fr. Rosica is the head of Salt and Light Media,  a Catholic Canadian ministry which provides education, information, and inspiration through television, radio, print, and online materials. He also serves as the English language media liaison for special events at the Vatican.  In that former role, he became well-known in U.S. Catholic media during the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

In a blog post on Salt and Light Media website, Fr. Rosica introduces his comments on Fr. Martin’s book by telling telling a story about the trepidation he initially experienced a few decades ago as he prepared to deliver a week-long mission at Most Holy Redeemer parish, San Francisco, which by then had already become known as having a mostly gay congregation.  Rosica explained that he thought the parishioners would be dismissive of Catholic ideas, and he also worried if he would have a relevant message to the many parishioners who at the time had HIV/AIDS. As he explains it:

“They knew what it meant to live on the fringes of society. I remember my reticence in accepting the invitation from the then-Archbishop’s office – thinking that no one would really come and listen to a Gospel message of hope and joy in the midst of a devastating epidemic, or that those who would come would have many difficulties with Church teaching. I was uncomfortable with the thought of being protested, dismissed or rejected by what I had believed to be left-wing radicals and Church dissidents in California!”

But Rosica said he experienced a “surprise”:

“What I experienced at Holy Redeemer Parish that week was a very powerful and moving week of prayer, dialogue and openness to the Word of God. If ever I felt to be a bridge-builder and healer, it was that week. . . . .I heard many touching stories from the elderly men and women of various ethnic backgrounds [at the parish] and their gay friends who ministered together to HIV/AIDS patients at home or in hospices, worshipped together, and served the homeless poor together in the neighbourhood. As part of that week-long mission, I spent hours hearing confessions and visiting those who were sick and alienated from the Church for various reasons. I shall never forget the moving celebration of mass and the anointing of the sick that drew hundreds to the Church one summer evening.”

Rosica said he learned a powerful lesson from the experience:

“Many of the gay persons who I met that week revealed a deep spirituality and faith. And most interesting of all, the people I met asked that we, as ministers of the Church, be people of compassion and understanding, and not be afraid to teach the message of the Gospel and the Church with gentleness and clarity even in the midst of ambiguity of lifestyle, devastation, despair and hostility. As a Church and as pastoral ministers, we still have a long journey ahead of us as we welcome strangers into our midst and listen to them.”

What I consider the most important sentence of his reflection is this one:

“Authentic teaching can only begin when we welcome others and listen to their stories.”

That sentence, so filled with true Catholic wisdom, serves as the transition to Rosica’s reflection on Fr. James Martin’s book.  He notes that the book has received many vicious attacks.  I don’t think he was discussing reviews which have had some criticism of specific points in the book, but other screeds whose tone and approach are angry and destructive.  Rosica writes:

“I shook my head in bewilderment several times as I read venom and vitriol in some of the critiques. It is one thing to critique and raise questions. It is another to condemn, disparage and dismiss. I sensed palpable fear and anger in some of the negative commentaries. I made it a point to read the book in one sitting last weekend. I was astounded that what I read in commentaries, blogs, some bishops’ messages, had very little to do with what I considered to be very mild, reflections offered by a well-known Jesuit priest who simply invited people to build bridges with those who are on distant shores. . . . Some of the criticisms reveal more about those writing them, about their own deep fears, confusion, uncertainties, anger and frustration, than they do about those for whom this book is written.”

Rosica focuses in on one of Martin’s major points: the use of proper language to refer to sexual and gender minorities.  In doing so, he notes that Martin’s proposal for more humane language is actually one that bishops around the world have also suggested:

“At the last Synod of Bishops on the Family, I was inside the Synod and watched how some courageous bishops and Cardinals of the Church challenged their brother bishops and Synod delegates to be attentive to our language in speaking about homosexual persons. . . .I am especially grateful to New Zealand Cardinal John Dew who made a fervent plea to examine our ecclesial language of ‘intrinsically disordered’ to describe homosexual persons. Such vocabulary does not invite people into dialogue nor does it build bridges. No matter how well-intentioned scholastic theology tries to describe the human condition, some words miss the mark and end up doing more harm than good. Reality is more important than lofty theological or philosophical ideas.” [Editor:  Link to blog post in this section was added by Bondings 2.0 staff for informational purposes.]

Rosica concludes with a plea for Catholics who criticize other Catholics to do so civilly and constructively.  His powerful words are instructive for all of us:

“To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ without having a passion to build bridges, enter into dialogue and listen to others is to fail in our mission. To preach the Gospel and claim to be a faithful Catholic while using blogs, videos and messages to disparage, condemn and denigrate attempts at building bridges has nothing to do with Christianity. To use clerical status, episcopal authority, or other forms of leadership to dismiss, disparage or slam the efforts of those who simply want to reach those on the peripheries is not befitting of shepherds, pastors or servants of the Lord. It has nothing to do with the Gospel! It is not who we are!”

Fr. Rosica’s message should be heeded not just in regards to discussions of Fr. Martin’s book, but in all Church discussions about LGBT issues.  As Fr. Rosica noted,  authentic teaching will only develop when we listen to each other’s stories.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 24, 2017

 

 

 

QUOTE TO NOTE: ‘People should be called the way that they want to be called’

Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich endorsed the idea that church leaders should call LGBT people by the terms which such people use to identify themselves.

America magazine’s Michael O’Loughlin reported on the cardinal’s comments, made in response to a reporter’s question following a talk the prelate gave at the City Club of Chicago this week. Cupich said:

“We have always wanted to make sure that we start the conversation by saying that all people are of value and their lives should be respected and that we should respect them.

That is why I think that the terms gay and lesbian, L.G.B.T., all of those names that people appropriate to themselves, should be respected. People should be called the way that they want to be called rather than us coming up with terms that maybe we’re more comfortable with. So it begins with that.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich

O’Loughlin pointed out the timeliness of the cardinal’s remarks:

“The cardinal’s comments come at a time when some Catholic leaders are considering how to engage the L.G.B.T. community. America editor-at-large James Martin, S.J., argues in his new book Building a Bridge that gay and lesbian people should be referred to by those names, noting that Pope Francis himself has used the term gay.

“But critics have said that using those terms in place of phrases such as ‘individuals who experience same-sex attraction’ is a capitulation to secular culture.”

O’Loughlin also reported:

“Later that evening, Cardinal Cupich appeared on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” to discuss gang and gun violence in the city. He declined to comment on a newly promulgated document in nearby Springfield, Ill., in which Bishop Thomas Paprocki told priests that gays and lesbians in same-sex marriages should not receive Communion or be given Catholic funerals.”

” ‘That is not our policy,’ Cardinal Cupich said, adding, ‘as a matter of practice, we don’t comment on the policies of other dioceses.’ “

Cardinal Cupich already has a strong record of being welcoming of LGBT people.  He was one of the few U.S. bishops to make a statement of sympathy and solidarity to the LGBT community in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre last year.  At the 2015 synod on the family, he stated that he thought synod bishops should have heard the voices of lesbian and gay couples at the meeting, and acknowledged that he did exactly that in his own pre-synod listening sessions.  He also spoke out against denying communion to lesbian and gay people, recommending that pastoral ministers respect individuals’ consciences.

On the negative side, Cupich upheld the firing of Colin Collette, a married gay man who was a music minister at a Chicago-area parish.

Still, progress is made step-by-step, little-by-little, and Cupich’s latest comments are another move in the right direction.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry,  July 20, 2017

 

It’s Time to Canonize Fr. Mychal Judge: Seeking Personal Testimony

(Para leer in español, clique aquí.

(Per leggere questo in italiano, clicca qui.)

The time has come to begin the initial research to make Franciscan Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, a canonized saint in the Catholic Church.  And we need the help of people like you to spread the word about such a possibility so that we can gather evidence about Fr. Judge’s life and ministry.

Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM

On September 11, 2001, Fr. Judge, who was a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, rushed into the World Trade Center building with other first responders, after terrorists had flown planes into the skyscraper towers.  As a result of his sacrifice, he died, and is now often referred to as “Victim Number One” of that tragic day which witnessed the deaths of close to 3,000 people, with over 6,000 more injured.

He was also known as an unofficial chaplain in the gay community, providing pastoral care and support wherever and whenever he could.  He ministered, selflessly, too, with HIV/AIDS patients and with people suffering from addictions.

Pope Francis paved the way for Fr. Judge to be considered for canonization this past week when he added a new possible pathway to sainthood:  the heroic giving of one’s life for others.

The pope issued a motu propio on July 11th entitled “Maiorem hac dilectionem.” The Latin title is derived from St. John’s Gospel: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The National Catholic Reporter explained why this development is significant:

“Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, Secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said the addition is meant ‘to promote heroic Christian testimony, (that has been) up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues.’

“For centuries, consideration for the sainthood process required that a Servant of God heroically lived a life of Christian virtues or had been martyred for the faith. The third, less common way, is called an equivalent or equipollent canonization: when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to a holy man or woman, the pope can waive a lengthy formal canonical investigation and can authorize their veneration as saints.

“While these three roads to sainthood remain unchanged, they were not adequate ‘for interpreting all possible cases’ of holiness, the archbishop wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, July 11.

“According to the apostolic letter, any causes for beatification according to the new pathway of “offering of life” would have to meet the following criteria:

  • Free and willing offer of one’s life and a heroic acceptance, out of love, of a certain and early death; the heroic act of charity and the premature death are connected.
  • Evidence of having lived out the Christian virtues — at least in an ordinary, and not necessarily heroic, way — before having offered one’s life to others and until one’s death.
  • Evidence of a reputation for holiness, at least after death.
  • A miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession is needed for beatification.”

Last week, I spoke with Fr. Luis Fernando Escalante, an Argentinian priest living in Rome, who serves as a postulator for the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes.  Fr. Escalante said that Fr. Judge clearly fits this new category of a heroic giver of one’s own life.

In order to propose that Fr. Judge be investigated by the Congregation to be considered for canonization, an immense amount of research first must be done.  What is needed are first-hand accounts from people who knew Fr. Judge personally or who have had any correspondence with him or have other significant documents that will give a clearer, more detailed picture of his life, spirituality, and ministry.  Extremely important is any information regarding a possible miracle attributed to Fr. Judge’s intercession.

Fr. Escalante emphasized that this new category for canonization requires only an ordinary living out of Christian virtues, not an extraordinary effort.  So, any stories that you or your contacts may have about Fr. Judge, even if they are seemingly ordinary, are needed.

Here is what you can do:

  1. 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.  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.
  2. 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).
  3. Persons who have testimony about Fr. Judge need only make an initial contact.  They do not need to explain the nature of their interaction or experience with him in the initial contact.   Follow-up material will be sent to them to elicit the type of information that is needed.
  4. Ask other organizations to which you belong who also might know people who encountered Fr. Judge to share this information.
  5. Pray for the canonization of Fr. Judge.

This opportunity depends on YOU!  The only way that we can make Fr. Judge’s canonization a reality is through a mass effort to find people who knew Fr. Judge.  People who have been involved in Catholic LGBT activities are very likely to have met him or perhaps to have prayed to him for a miracle.  That is why we are asking you to share this information.   Of course, those who knew Fr. Judge from other activities–his parish work, his NYC Fire Department chaplaincy, his ministry to HIV/AIDS patients and addicts–are also sought.

An official request for the Cause of Fr. Judge’s canonization can only be submitted after a great deal of this initial research is gathered.  This may take many months, perhaps even a year or more.  Only through a mass effort to build a network of individuals and organizations who are searching for the necessary evidence and information will we be able to get to even the first step of the canonization process.

For the sake of this heroic priest who literally gave his life for others, please spread the word!

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 17, 2017

Related:

For more information on the life of Fr. Mychal Judge, click here.

To read Bondings 2.0 blog posts that mention Fr. Mychal Judge click here.

A Pastoral Approach to the Celibacy vs. Relationship Debate

In London’s Catholic Herald, Msgr. Keith Barltrop offers sound advice to pastoral ministers working with lesbian and gay people, particularly in the area of the celibacy vs. relationship debate.

Barltrop, who is Cardinal Vincent Nichols’ representative to the LGBT Catholics Westminster group which meets at the Farm Street Jesuit parish in the Mayfair section of London, is also a chaplain to the Courage group in that city.  He is thus in a unique position of participating in a parish-based ministry which welcomes all, and a one-on-one spiritual direction ministry which aims at helping lesbian and gay people lead chaste lives.

Msgr. Keith Barltrop

Barltrop begins by observing that lesbian and gay ministry is not different from other forms of ministry in the church:

“Pastoral care of homosexual people is essentially the same as all ministry: seeking to communicate the unconditional love of Christ and his Church, and to accompany people on their journey towards holiness. But in practice this particular ministry encounters powerful feelings of pain and anger which can cause difficulties.”

[Barltrop, who in the past has advocated that the Church accompany transgender people through their processes of transition, mostly limits the discussion in this article to lesbian and gay people.]

Yet, he does observe some important distinctions:

“LGBT people often feel hurt by the Church, either because of the way its teaching comes across, or through concrete experiences of rejection, or both. Those from non-Western cultures are sometimes even in danger of their lives, while some other Catholics seem threatened by the very existence of gay people and react angrily towards attempts to accommodate them within the Church.”

Barltrop also makes the important distinction that a wide variety of opinions and attitudes about personal sexual involvement exists among lesbian and gay Catholics.  Some seek intimate, committeed sexual relationships, some seek casual sexual involvement, others seek to lead chaste lives.    Despite these different perspectives, Barltrop finds a common thread:

“. . . [O]ne thing is common to virtually all LGBT Catholics today: they will not take the Church’s teaching on trust, but must learn from experience. Even those who hold a very traditional attitude have likely arrived at it through many experiences.

“This being so, ministers to gay Catholics need two main resources: a moral theology that can face the critical scrutiny of life experience; and a well-grounded spirituality of discernment. These can help LGBT Catholics look honestly at their behaviour, see where it is leading them and discover alternatives where indicated.”

Barltrop’s recommendation is a holistic moral theology that, like Pope Francis, emphasizes discernment over rules:

Fr. Servais Pinckaers, OP

“The moral theology I have found most helpful in this ministry is that of the Belgian Dominican Servais Pinckaers, who shows that from biblical times to St Thomas Aquinas, Catholic moral theology was essentially based on the search for true happiness, on earth and in heaven, and on the cultivation of virtues leading to it – a happiness deeper than mere pleasure, and consisting above all in communion with God and his holy people.

“A theology based on observing rules was a later distortion, and led by reaction in the 1960s to an equally unhelpful liberalism.

“In Pinckaers’ perspective, moral theology does not just define what one is allowed to do, or the minimum one must do, but joins hands with spirituality in promoting the search for holiness through loving God and neighbour to the uttermost. Ignatian discernment of spirits is the obvious spiritual partner for such a theology.”

I could quibble with some items in Barltrop’s argument, such as when he says that lesbian and gay people feel rejected by the church  “because of the way its teaching comes across.”  While that may be true for some,  I think there are two things amiss in that statement:  1) It’s not just the way the “teaching comes across,” but the substance of the teaching itself which causes feelings of rejection; 2) Many gay and lesbian people feel rejected because, well, they have been rejected directly by messages that they are not welcome.

But, generally, I find his argument, and especially his conclusion, to be very helpful.  Indeed, I think that many lesbian and gay Catholics have already gone through such a moral/spiritual process as they navigated and negotiated their seemingly conflicting identities of being Catholic and homosexual.  Unfortunately, many of these Catholics have had to go through that process without the support of pastoral ministers because for too long, too many pastoral ministers had subscribed to the distorted theology of observing rules.  Barltrop’s alternative is one of accompanying instead of dictating.

Conservative Catholics will probably not like Barltrop’s proposal because it doesn’t provide an answer that can be applied in all situations.  While I am not familiar with Pinckaers’ writing, it seems that by focusing on the goal–happiness through “the search for holiness through loving God and neighbour to the utmost”–he puts the discussion of morality in a different context, one that mirrors more the ministry of Jesus, who addressed people’s individual needs and situations rather than focusing on whatever the current interpretations of the Law were.

To read the entire text of Baltrop’s commentary, click here.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 11, 2017

 

 

Cardinal Tobin and Pope Francis on LGBTQ Issues: Half-Empty or Half-Full?

In a recent interview with the Crux website, Newark’s Cardinal Joseph Tobin elaborated on his decision to welcome a recent LGBTQ pilgrimage to his archdiocese’s cathedral.  His explanation aligns very clearly, for better or worse, with many of Pope Francis’ messages about LGBT issues.

The interviewers elicited from Tobin a statement of welcome to LGBTQ people, a statement about LGBT lives, and a statement of fidelity to church teaching about sexual morality.

Cardinal Tobin and Pope Francis

First, the welcome.  Tobin stated:

My intention was to welcome. I would justify that with the words of somebody like Benedict XVI, who would frequently say: ‘If we proclaim the Gospel first and foremost as a moral code, then we’ve destroyed the Gospel, it becomes something else.’ It doesn’t mean that our moral choices aren’t important, but they’re a response to the previous announcement of good news, the encounter.

Then, concerning LGBT lives, the cardinal said:

I don’t presume that every person who identifies him or herself as LGBTQ is sexually active. If they’re attempting to live a chaste life, then they certainly need the support of the believing community, a chance to pray, and to know that they’re welcomed within the body of Christ.

And he also acknowledged his support of church teaching:

If anybody asks me, I preach what the Church preaches, and teach what the Church teaches, and believe it with great serenity. But I also feel that it’s my job to welcome people. When I received the crozier in St. Peter’s in Rome, what I did was say a prayer that says, ‘You’re to be attentive to the hearts of the people entrusted to you.’ I feel these people were entrusted to me too.

Tobin’s remarks are a complex series of statements.  Like Pope Francis,  he emphasizes welcome. What is good is that he prioritizes welcome over morality.  The “announcement of good news, the encounter” is what is important to both men.  Though they don’t ignore morality, they don’t see it as primary in terms of initiating pastoral outreach.

This tension between morality and welcome is evidenced in the third section of his comments where he professes his support for church teaching.  He places that support, however, within the context of welcome once again.  He sees that LGBT people are part of the people “entrusted” to him.  He has a responsibility toward them.  He can’t ignore them.

His middle comment about LGBTQ lives is a bit more ambiguous than his other comments.  On the one hand, he acknowledges that he doesn’t see sexual or gender minorities primarily in terms of being sexually active.  That is a good step.  It means that he recognizes that there is more to being an LGBTQ person than sexual activity.  LGBTQ people have whole lives, and, often because of their sometimes stigmatized identities, those lives often experience an undue amount of oppression and discrimination. At the same time, their lives also evidence an amazing amount of courage and honesty.  All of these shadings are lost when church leaders think of LGBTQ people on in terms of sexuality.

Tobin goes on in that section seemingly to place a greater value on LGBTQ people who live chaste lives.  He identifies only them as needing “the support of the believing community.”  That is wrong.   ALL LGBTQ people need the support of the believing community. Without exception.

The cardinal’s comments seem to encapsulate the identical tension that is so often present in Pope Francis’ discourse about LGBTQ people.  Pope Francis emphasizes welcome and encounter. Pope Francis places welcome above morality.  Pope Francis certainly supports church teaching about sexual morality, sometimes going so far as to speak out passionately against marriage equality initiatives around the globe.

So, in assessing both Cardinal Tobin and Pope Francis, the question comes down to:  Do we see their efforts in regard to LGBTQ people as a glass half-empty or a glass-half full?  I admit that I tend to see the latter choice.  Neither the cardinal nor the pope are expressing positions of full equality of LGBTQ people.  But they are certainly steps ahead of where their predecessors have been.

So what do you think:  half-empty or half-full?   Leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 10, 2017

 

Hanging from a Thread, Vatican Sex Orgy Story Circles the Globe

I didn’t want to write this post.

For the past week, my inbox has been filled with stories from all over the globe and the internet about an alleged gay sex and drug orgy at the home of a prominent Vatican official.  Despite the multiplication of these stories, they are all based on one Italian newspaper article which is thin on evidence, and rests mainly on a single thread of rumor.

When the story made it into The Times of London, I thought there was probably more  substantial evidence supporting the allegation.  Alas, even The Times simply repeated the weakly supported evidence from the first story.

So, I debated all week whether to report and comment on this story here.  I finally felt that since many Bondings 2.0 readers have probably heard about it from other sources, I should probably say something.

My reluctance is not because I don’t think that such a story is possible.  Priests, bishops, cardinals are human, and experience human desires and frailty.  Like many people, they may not always make choices that work best at answering their needs or advancing their personal, professional, and ministerial goals.

So, is it possible that such an orgy happened? Yes, but not because it is a bizarre thing, but because it is a very human thing.  As I say that, I am not defending orgiastic behavior, but just noting that though we tend to think of it as beyond the pale of normality, I would daresay that every one of us has sometimes engaged in behavior which others might be shocked at hearing. And I’m not just talking about sexual behavior here, but the entire spectrum of human activity. Who among us doesn’t have something in our past that we would rather people do not know?

Not surprisingly, conservative Catholic news sites are using this thin story to criticize Pope Francis’ administration.  Similarly, many secular news sites are using it as a way to brand church leaders with hypocrisy on gay issues.

Another problem I have with this story is that as it gets spread, it seems to get bigger.  Headlines which originally noted that the accusations of misbehavior were alleged have morphed into headlines asserting the misbehavior as solid fact.  That is not honest journalism, and it is certainly not Christian behavior.

While I think that people’s curious minds are one thing that feeds the life and vitality of such a story, I think another factor here is the intense secrecy that surrounds both the Vatican and the sexuality of priests.

If church leaders were more honest and transparent about their decision-making, there would be less curiosity about the possibility of Vatican intrigue and surreptitious activity.

If Catholic clergy were more honest about their sexuality and acknowledged themselves more as sexual beings, people would wonder less about the possibility of sexual activity of men who vow celibacy.

Silence and secrecy are two strategies which seem to be favored by the Vatican and other high-ranking church leaders and institutions.  Unfortunately, these strategies do more harm to the church than help.  Simple honesty would clear up so much misunderstanding, and it would certainly stave off the expansion and multiplication of rumors.

And, of course, the end of silence and secrecy–especially around sexuality– would benefit so much more than the Church as an institution, but would greatly benefit all its members, too.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 8, 2017

 

New Study Examines Religious Acceptance of LGBT Equality

I was all ready to say “Ho-hum” when I read the opening paragraphs of a Huffington Post news story about a new study which finds that Catholic people are more supportive of LGBT issues than most people generally think.  I’ve read this story so many times before, I was ready to say. For at least a half-dozen years, almost every survey that has appeared about religion and LGBT topics shows that Catholics lead the way among religious groups on supporting equality measures.

But, just as I was about to click through to another story (in the old days, I would have said “turn the page to another story”), I noticed that the reporter said the researcher of this new study was attempting to answer “why, despite the fact most world religions have proscriptions against homosexual practices, some nations are much more tolerant than others.”

Okay, now I wanted to read on.

The new book-length study, Cross-National Public Opinion About Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes Across the Globeis the work of Amy Adamczyk, a sociologist at the City University of New York.  Adamcyzk’s study says that several factors influence tolerance and support of lesbian and gay issues, including that while faith is an important factor, so are cultural elements.  The Huffington Post reported one piece of information that I thought was fascinating:

“One recent study found that gay Polish immigrants in Chicago were much more likely to retain their Catholic identity than gay men in Warsaw who were raised Catholic.

“Only one of the 27 gay men raised by two Catholic parents in Warsaw remained Catholic. Ten of the 23 men in Chicago were still Catholic.

“The perceived hostile environment in Poland forced many gay men to make a hard choice and declare themselves atheists, researcher Hubert Izienicki discovered in in-depth interviews.

” ‘In contrast, the gay respondents in Chicago find themselves in a religiously pluralistic and immigrant society, which allows them to retain their religious tradition and Catholic identity alongside their identity as gay men,’ he reported.”

When democracy is spread, the new political culture can sometimes weaken the hold that religious institutions which oppose equality have over people.  The following evidence was offered:

“. . . [In] nations such as predominantly Catholic nations such as Spain and Brazil, which have moved from authoritarian governments to democracies, the changes in acceptance have been considerable.

“In the early 1990s, 38 percent of Spanish adults and 70 percent of Brazilian adults said homosexuality is never justified. In the current decade, just 8 percent of Spaniards and 36 percent of Brazilians hold similar views, Adamczyk noted.”

Pointing to the recent news story of Newark’s Cardinal Joseph Tobin welcoming an LGBT pilgrimage to the local cathedral, Adamcyzk said that personal messages from religious leaders have an important role to play in promoting equality: “It really helps when religious officials come out and say we’re tolerant,” she said.

Adamczyk’s study also shows that strong polarization between religious and LGBT issues is not only harmful socially, but personally:

“What does not work is polarization, where some gay rights groups or religious communities view each other with hostility, cutting off the possibility of dialogue and often adding to the mental health struggles of people seeking to reconcile their religious and sexual identities.”

This last point highlights the need for bridge-building between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church–an idea receiving a lot of attention lately due to Fr. James Martin’s new book Building a Bridge.

One final quotation from Adamczyk tells me that this researcher is not only a highly-skilled researcher and analyst, but someone who recognizes that there is a lot involved in this study that is more than just numbers and graphs:

“No matter how one describes the conflict, on every side of the divide we find individuals and communities that try to make sense of their lives and live with integrity towards their own values, towards the people that matter to them, and towards what is sacred in their lives.”

Yes, in the end, the debate about LGBT equality in church and society is less about culture wars and more about human dignity, love, and the divine.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 7, 2017