Proposed Review of San Francisco Teachers’ Handbook Brings Confusion

February 26, 2015

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has announced that its revisions to the high school teachers’ handbook will be reviewed and refined by a committee of theology teachers from the schools, but how far their recommendations will be allowed to reach is not well understood.

Earlier this month, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone proposed a long list of loyalty oaths, primarily focusing on areas of church teaching regarding sexuality (including LGBT issues), be added to the publication.  A number of protests by teachers, parents, and students have erupted.

A certain amount of confusion about what Archbishop Cordileone wants this committee to do exists, based on a conflict between what some press outlets reported and what archdiocesan statements have said.

SFGate.com reported:

“Under pressure from parents, students and staffers at the San Francisco Catholic Archdiocese’s schools, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said Tuesday that he is re-examining strict guidelines he proposed for teachers that would require them to reject homosexuality, use of contraception and other ‘evil’ behavior.”

Yet a statement from Fr. John Piderit, Archdiocesan Vicar for Administration and Moderator of the Curia, indicated that the committee would be doing much less than re-examining:

“The Archbishop has not repealed anything.  He is adding explanations, clarifications, and material on Catholic social teaching, via a committee of religion teachers he is establishing.  The committee is to expand some areas of the material to be included in the faculty handbook, and clarify other areas by adding material.  Nothing already planned to go in is being removed or retracted or withdrawn.”

Crux reported that Cordileone is asking the committee to “recommend to me an expanded draft” and “adjust the language to make the statements more readily understandable to a wider leadership.”

One critical area that does seem to indicate some change from Cordileone is in regard to his proposal that teachers be classified as “ministers.”   Such a classification would exempt them from labor law protection.   The statement from Fr. Piderit indicates that there will be a revision in this language:

“With respect to the use of the word ‘ministers,’ the Archbishop only said that ‘ministers’ is no longer being considered. That is all the Archbishop said.  The word currently being used is ‘ministry.’ Nonetheless, the Archbishop did say that he would work hard to find language that satisfies two needs.  One is the need to protect the rights of the teachers in the Catholic high schools to have complaints fairly treated.  The other is the right of the Archdiocese to run Catholic schools that are faithful to their mission.  Language must be identified that meets both needs.  Even if a substitute for ‘ministry’ is found, the substitute must guarantee that the teachers in the Catholic archdiocesan high schools promote the Catholic mission of the institutions.”

A letter Cordileone sent to teachers explaining the formation of the committee was published in Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper.  In one section he encourages their participation in the process and thanks them for their concern:

“. . . [A]fter speaking with your union negotiators, I have decided to form a committee consisting of theology teachers from the four Archdiocesan high schools to recommend to me a draft which, while retaining what is already there, expands on these statements and adjusts the language to make the statements more readily understandable to a wider readership. I will also leave to their discretion how to include the proper wider context within which to understand these points of doctrine. . . . Each of you may approach them with your thoughts, concerns and suggestions which they can then take under consideration as they prepare their draft. It is my hope that this can all be completed prior to the beginning of the next academic year.

“After my address to you on February 6, a number of you spoke to me seeking advice on how to effectively present the Church’s teaching in a compassionate and compelling way to your students who may be struggling in these areas and perhaps even feeling rejected or unwelcomed by the Church because of them. I was moved by your sincerity and commitment. Please know that I have already begun to look into resources that we can make available to you to assist you in this most important work.”

While Cordileone’s statement to the teachers is reconciliatory, his charge to the committee seems very narrow.  Based on what they are being asked to do, the committee may or may not be able to make recommendations to substantially change the material in the handbook which many find damaging.  Moreover, the language that the archdiocese develops to describe a teacher’s “ministry” will need to be parsed theologically and legally to see what the ramifications in both areas are.

How the committee responds to its charge will be critical in determining the next step of this controversy.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

National Catholic Reporter: “Controversial San Francisco handbook to be reviewed, expanded by theology teacher committee”

 


New Marianist Booklet Helps Catholic Educators Discuss LGBT Issues with Youth

February 25, 2015

blog marianist pictureA new resource to help Catholic educators discuss LGBT issues with students has been published by a committee of the Marianist community.

Addressing LGBT Issues With Youth:  A Resource for Educators is an 11-page PDF booklet which provides “strategies for assuring that our institutions and ministries promote understanding, respect and acceptance for all young people, regardless of their sexual orientation,” according to the LGBT Initiative page of the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative website.   The Collaborative describes itself as:

“a joint initiative of the Marianist Lay Network of North America, the Society of Mary (brothers and priests) and the Marianist Sisters. . . . It is a network that provides mutual support, resources, leadership for peace and justice, and links to other peace and justice groups.”

The document stresses the importance of creating safe space for LGBT students and provides a number of suggestions for educators can become “caring and supportive adults who will talk with them and guide them.”

The need for such a resource is described in the booklet’s first section:

“LGBT youth need reassurance from people who represent their faith if they are to integrate their self-understanding into their faith commitment. Catholic teaching often is misrepresented or misunderstood, which can cause turmoil for those who may conclude that God doesn’t love them. . . .

“While bullying affects a wide range of students, LGBT students or those perceived to be LGBT endure particular ridicule. . . .

“If adults don’t support their students, if they ignore bullying, if they remain silent when they should speak up, what is an LGBT youth to conclude? That he or she is not loved and valued, a flawed human person.”

The booklet situates its message within the Catholic tradition of non-discrimination towards LGBT people, which is taught in the Catechism.  Additionally, the rationale for their approach is supported by various bishops’ documents calling for pastoral care of LGBT people.  The Marianist charism itself is also referred to as a source of backing.  One of the “Characteristics of Marianist Education” that is quoted states:

“Educate persons to accept and respect differences in a pluralistic society. As the people of the world come increasingly into contact with one another, differences among them become more apparent. If the world of the future is to be peaceful, students of today must learn how to appreciate cultural difference and how to work with people unlike themselves.”

The booklet provides tips for how teachers can show support to LGBT students, but it also adds suggestions for how to educate the entire school community–administrators, faculty, parents–about sensitivity to LGBT people.  One significant section offers practical answers for how to answer critics who would oppose this type of approach.

The resource suggests a variety of practical ways to transform a school into a safe space, including updating the curriculum, adopting inclusive policies, establishing support groups, and ways of talking about LGBT issues in the classroom.

The booklet neither condones nor condemns sexual relationships, but does note that this topic is not connected to the idea of creating a safe space:

“Supporting LGBT students does not condone sexual activity any more than support ing heterosexual students condones sexual activity. Your care and support simply honors the dignity of each person and provides a place where he or she is accepted and valued.”

Connected to this topic of sexual relationships is an important concluding section on the Catholic Church’s call to all individuals to develop and follow their consciences.

Many Catholic educators can benefit from the suggestions offered in this resource.  If all Catholic schools adopted such an approach, our church and its educational system would be a much more welcoming place for LGBT students.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Rainbows, Deserts, Wild Beasts, and Angels

February 22, 2015

On the Sundays of Lent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections by New Ways Ministry staff members. The liturgical readings for the First Sunday of Lent are: Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Peter 3: 18-22; Mark 1:12-15.   You can access the texts of these readings by clicking here.

I have always liked that the rainbow flag is a strong symbol of LGBT equality and justice. It is such a colorful, happy symbol.  And it is strongly connected to how Christians view the symbolic power of the rainbow. In today’s first reading, God tells Noah that the rainbow will serve as the symbol of God’s never-ending love for us.  God says:

“I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.
When I bring clouds over the earth,
and the bow appears in the clouds,
I will recall the covenant I have made
between me and you and all living beings,
so that the waters shall never again become a flood
to destroy all mortal beings.”

Rainbows help me to remember that no matter what hardship or tragedy or injustice we experience, God will be with us, loving us, and helping us find new ways to continue in spite of negative forces.

Today’s gospel reading has a similar message.  It is a short passage, only three verses long, but filled with an important message.  In two sentences, St. Mark packs a profound theological lesson:

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.”

In his book, Following in the Footsteps of Jesus, Year B, José Pagola, one of my favorite Scripture interpreters, provides the following insight into these lines:

“According to the evangelist, ‘the Spirit sent him out into the desert.”  He doesn’t go on his own initiative.  The Spirit sends him out until he finds himself in the desert. Success is not going to come easily to him. Rather, trials, insecurity, and dangers await him. But the desert is at the same time the best place to listen to the voice of God in silence and solitude. . . .

“Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert. . . . He will appear no more in the whole Gospel of Mark, but Jesus sees him in all those who want to lead him astray from his mission, including Peter.

“The brief account finishes with two strongly contrasting images: Jesus ‘was among wild animals,’ but ‘angels attended to him.’  The wild animals, the most dangerous in all creation, evoke the dangers that will always threaten Jesus and his plan.  Angels, the best beings in creation, evoke the nearness of God who blesses, takes care of, and protects Jesus and his mission.”

If you are an LGBT person or someone who works for LGBT equality, then you are most likely someone who has great familiarity with being in the desert.  Work for justice and equality is often a painful, desolate, discouraging experience, and one where temptations to give up, give in, or just becomes cynical and bitter abound.

I take hope from Pagola’s reading of this passage, however. Like all people, I have experienced “the desert” several times in my life.  I usually think of it as a negative experience, but Pagola’s interpretation reminds me that the desert can be a place not just of isolation, suffering, and temptation, but a place where God speaks to us most intimately.  It’s a place where we can find our deepest, truest selves.  A place where we can experience God’s care even though we may feel that we are being attacked.

I’ve been working in LGBT ministry and advocacy for over 20 years.  While I’ve seen some remarkable advances both in civil society and the church, it can also sometimes feel like the desert as I ask “How long, O God, before justice is made real?”   What I need to do is to turn that experience around.  Instead of focusing on what is not happening, I should instead focus on what God is doing for me in this desert time, how I am growing personally, how I am meeting incredible people, and how God is building something new–usually something so new that I often don’t recognize it.

While LGBT equality is not a reality in the Catholic Church, I am thankful for the desert experiences I’ve had because they have helped me see that God is working in mysterious ways in my life and in the life of the Church.  While we still have much work to do to educate the hierarchy, in the past 40 years, we have seen incredible growth in support from the laity.  More importantly, we have seen that in the desert, the laity have had to become more mature Christians than they might otherwise have been.  Sometimes the exile or desert experience that progressive Catholics have felt over the past few years has forced them to rely on prayer, community, and the development of their individual consciences.  In doing so, they have actually formed the model of the church that they want to see.  Without the desert experience, this would not have happened.

The rainbow is a wonderful sign of God’s love, and it is easy to see how its beauty and diversity of color symbolize divine love.  I think we also have to start to see that the desert can also be a sign of God’s love, if we look at it as an opportunity for listening to God’s word more intimately.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Ways Ministry’s LGBT Catholic Pilgrims Get VIP Seats at Papal Audience

February 19, 2015
NWM Rome 2015

New Ways Ministry pilgrims pose in St. Peter’s Square following the papal audience with Pope Francis.

In what is surely the most official welcome from Church officials that New Ways Ministry has received in its 38-year history, a pilgrimage group of 48 LGBT Catholics and supporters led by our co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, received VIP seating at the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, on Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

Sister Jeannine had written to Pope Francis in December 2014, asking him to meet personally with the group when they visited Rome as part of their ten-day pilgrimage to Florence, Assisi, and the Eternal City.

Two weeks before departure on February 12th, she received a letter from Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household, letting her know that he had reserved tickets for the group for the Ash Wednesday audience.  She assumed that these were the general seating tickets. On the night of February 17th, when the group picked up the tickets at St. Peter’s, they learned that they were VIP seating.

When the group arrived at St. Peter’s Square in the morning, we were guided by papal ushers to the level of the Square where the pope sits.  All were astonished!    While we were not able to shake the pope’s hand personally, it is very significant that the Vatican responded so positively to an LGBT group by giving us such a prominent place at the audience.
When the pope passed by our group, we all sang “All Are Welcome,” a popular hymn which calls for an inclusive church.  We also called out several times that “We are LGBT Catholics!”
Pope Francis greets pilgrims at the Ash Wednesday audience.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at the Ash Wednesday audience.

Although Sister Jeannine Gramick has led two other pilgrimages to Rome under the two previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, their presence was ignored at the papal audiences.

A Religion News Service story in The Washington Post noted that it was not just Vatican recognition that was significant, but that several other Church leaders helped the process along the way:

“. . . Archbishop Georg Ganswein, head of the papal household and the top aide to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, responded to New Ways’ request for a papal meet-and-greet by reserving tickets for the group at Francis’ weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square. It’s not a private meeting — which is tough for anyone to get — but it’s not nothing.

“The pope’s ambassador to Washington forwarded a similar request to Rome. Even San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone — point man for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ battle against gay marriage — had written a letter to the Vatican on their behalf.

“Last December, Cordileone had a constructive meeting with Frank DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, a co-founder of New Ways and a longtime advocate for LGBT inclusion in the church. But they were still surprised by the archbishop’s willingness to write a letter for them.”

Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo in St. Peter's Square following the Ash Wednesday audience.

Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo in St. Peter’s Square following the Ash Wednesday audience.

Gibson also noted that a British cardinal has given similar prestigious recognition to an LGBT Catholic pilgrimage which is also in Rome this week:

” . . . British Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster sent a warm blessing to a group of LGBT Catholics from London who are joining up with New Ways in Rome. ‘Be assured of my prayers for each and every one of you,’ Nichols wrote. ‘Have a wonderful pilgrimage. God bless you all.’ “

Reuters story published on Huffington Post captured the response of New Ways Ministry’s leaders just after they left the papal audience:

” ‘What this says is that there is movement in our Church, movement to welcome people from the outside closer to the inside,’ Gramick said in St. Peter’s Square. . . . “DeBernardo said Catholic gay and lesbian couples and other non-traditional families should be invited to the meeting, known as a synod, to speak to the bishops about their faith and their sexuality.”

An Associated Press video also reported their reactions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhM3UMRl830 Several of the LGBT pilgrims were visibly moved by the welcome they received and by the experience of seeing the pope in person.  Several noted that they felt this was one more step in the progress–albeit, slow–that LGBT Catholics have been making in the Church for several decades.  All agreed that this day will never be forgotten.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Associated Press: “Gay Catholics Get Vatican Welcome, but No Papal Shout-Out”

New York Daily News:  “American gay Catholic group welcomed to Vatican”


Take the Catholic Church to Mardi Gras!

February 17, 2015

Today is Fat Tuesday–Mardi Gras, in French–the close of the carnival season of celebration and revelry which leads up to Ash Wednesday (tomorrow) and the penitential season of Lent.  The Mardi Gras season has its roots in medieval Catholic Europe, and it has evolved in a variety of ways in various cultures (Carnevale in Italy; Fastnacht in Germany; Carnival in Brazil), but common to all is the spirit of over-the-top excess and indulgence, all of course, as a way to prepare for a period of spiritual renewal.

Another feature of these celebrations is highlighting “topsy-turvy” role reversals.  The king becomes the pauper and the pauper becomes the king.  Women dress as men, and men dress as women. Opposites switch places. The powerless become the powerful.  It’s a time of thinking differently than the usual, dominant order dictates.

So, it is not surprising that the LGBT people become so heavily involved in Mardi Gras celebrations. Part of the spirit of the season is that oppressed groups become liberated and elevated to high esteem–a long-time hope for many in the LGBT community for many years.

On the Pop Theology blog hosted by Patheos.com, Richard Lindsay reflected on how the outrageous excess of Mardi Gras celebrations seem to serve a communal or spiritual purpose for LGBT people.  He begins with a detailed description of a fabulous event, a gay Mardi Gras ball:

“I still don’t believe what I witnessed this past weekend. Blinking my eyes in the daylight, I can conjure memories of feathers, explosions of confetti and lights sweeping a bouncing crowd of revelers. There was royalty—kings and queens decked out from tiara to toes in glitter. There was pounding, dance-inducing music. And drag—what drag! Maybe more queens in red carpet gowns and gravity-defying wigs than I have ever seen in one room, even having lived in the gay Meccas of San Francisco and New York City.”

His essay goes on to describe even more outrageous details of costumes and sets, but his real purpose is to note that there is a deeper meaning and purpose to all this revelry, even to the point of providing a sort of secular spirituality for those excluded from churches:

“What’s difficult to remember in the midst of all the wildness is that Mardi Gras started as a religious festival—the lead-up to Lent, the most solemn 40 days of the Christian year. So many members of the Krewe are spiritual refugees, rejected by their churches for being gay or queer. The queen of last year’s ball, who has graciously ruled Apollo for the last year, is the son of a Pentecostal pastor. When you hear him speak about the friendship and love he receives from the Krewe, you realize his church missed out on a powerful preacher.

“Yet somehow the Krewe has captured the holy moment through a queer lens. To be in the midst of the ball is to stand on holy ground. To be near the royalty as their attendants push them through the crowd is to brush up against rhinestoned divinity. To reach your hands out to catch the beads they throw is to become a supplicant, grasping for a relic from a sparkling saint.”

Though I have never been to a real Mardi Gras celebration, I love the spirit of the season.  And while I’m happy that this joyous revelry helps people feel a sense of their worth and of their belonging to a larger community, I have to admit that I am a bit sad that not all people can yet find those values in communities of faith.

Can Catholic churches celebrate Mardi Gras?  To do so would require that we step out of our hallowed orthodoxies for a while, that we would be able to make fun of ourselves, that we allow ourselves to imagine life in a different, perhaps more fabulous, way.  We would have to give up our seriousness–and by this, I mean even our progressive seriousness–and revel in the comic side of life.  We would need to celebrate not what makes us different, but what makes us all comically and equally the same.

I think the LGBT people in our faith communities can help us to celebrate Mardi Gras in a rich and spiritual way, if we would only welcome them into our communities.  Celebrating Mardi Gras is not just an excuse for riotousness, but it can help us appreciate better the sense of conversion to which Lent calls us.

Lindsay concludes his essay with an important lesson about Mardi Gras and LGBT people:

“But what irony, that the queer community that was once despised and rejected, that thirty-nine years ago practiced their rites in secret for fear of harassment, now hosts the social event of the year. As it is written in 1 Peter 2:7: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.’ And even more important than the one-upmanship of having the most incredible Mardi Gras celebration outside of New Orleans or Rio or Sydney, is the community and fellowship which has emerged: ‘Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.’ (1 Peter 2:10, NRSV).”

Mardi Gras can help us see the world in a topsy-turvy sort of way, as Jesus did:  where enemies become friends, where the first become the last, where sorrow becomes joy, and where dying becomes rising to new life.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Pope Francis’ Homily to New Cardinals Echoes Themes Dear to LGBT People

February 16, 2015

Pope Francis delivering homily to cardinals

While Pope Francis may not have spoken about LGBT themes in his Sunday homily to the Cardinals gathered in Rome for a consistory this past weekend, his message certainly can be easily applied to this community which has too often been ignored or ostracized by Church leaders.  His talk is filled with echoes of how LGBT people have too often been mistreated in church and society. (You can read the full text by clicking here.)

Speaking about Sunday’s Gospel where Jesus heals a leper (Mark 1:40-45), the pope exhorted the new cardinals to conduct a ministry of outreach to the marginalized.  He began by noting:

“Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalized!”

While Pope Francis did not mention LGBT people by name, the details of his description of marginalization will surely ring true to many of these people who have experienced suffering and oppression during their lifetimes:

“Imagine how much suffering and shame lepers must have felt: physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually! They are not only victims of disease, but they feel guilty about it, punished for their sins! Theirs is a living death; they are like someone whose father has spit in his face (cf. Num 12:14).

“In addition, lepers inspire fear, contempt and loathing, and so they are abandoned by their families, shunned by other persons, cast out by society. Indeed, society rejects them and forces them to live apart from the healthy. It excludes them. So much so that if a healthy person approached a leper, he would be punished severely, and often be treated as a leper himself.”

The allusion to LGBT people is particularly strong, since so much of the oppression and marginalization that they experience is due to church institutions, structures, and leaders.  Pope Francis criticizes such ritualistically pure actions:

“Jesus, the new Moses, wanted to heal the leper. He wanted to touch him and restore him to the community without being “hemmed in” by prejudice, conformity to the prevailing mindset or worry about becoming infected. Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences! For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!

“Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal! He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp (cf. Jn 10).”

Church leaders, he adds, must make it their priority to go beyond their comfort zones and approach people they might not otherwise be inclined to associate with:

“The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement. . . . The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the ‘outskirts’ of life. . . .

“Dear new Cardinals, this is the ‘logic,’ the mind of Jesus, and this is the way of the Church. Not only to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock at our door, but to go out and seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant, freely sharing what we ourselves freely received. ‘Whoever says: “I abide in [Christ],” ought to walk just as he walked’ (1 Jn 2:6). Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, it alone is our title of honour!”

While in other talks,  Pope Francis has revealed that he does not support marriage equality, there was one section from his homily today, which could easily be applied to an argument in support of marriage equality.  Too often, we hear from marriage equality opponents the false threat that extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples will harm heterosexual couples. Pope Francis’ logic in the following section shows that such thinking is inconsistent with Gospel values:

“In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law. Indeed, Jesus frees the healthy from the temptation of the ‘older brother’ (cf. Lk 15:11-32), the burden of envy and the grumbling of the labourers who bore “the burden of the day and the heat” (cf. Mt 20:1-16).”

Let me be clear that I do not think that Pope Francis is criticizing the gay-marriage-threatens-straight-marriage argument.  What I am saying is that the logic and Gospel values he extols in this homily contradict the type of thinking that such an argument carries.

And, as I mentioned, I don’t think that the pope was necessarily speaking of LGBT people in this homily. The descriptions he offers, however,  very much apply to the LGBT experience.  I believe that Pope Francis was discussing all sorts of marginalization experienced by a wide variety of human groups.

Pope Francis has not been as forthright about supporting lesbian and gay relationships as was once thought by many.   But his call to new cardinals to reach out to the marginalized can be thought of as making it possible for church leaders to initiate much greater outreach to LGBT people than they have been doing.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

National Catholic Reporter: Francis tells cardinals not to be ‘closed caste,’ seek contact with marginalized”


Parishioners Support Swiss Priest Asked to Resign for Blessing Lesbian Couple

February 13, 2015

Although a Swiss bishop has asked a Catholic pastor to resign from his parish, after learning that the priest had blessed a lesbian couple, the parishioners of the community are supporting the cleric.

Reverend Wendelin Bucheli

According to Gay Star News:

“Wendelin Bucheli, a priest in the municipality of Bürglen in the west of Switzerland, gave his blessings to a lesbian couple in October 2014 after discussing it with other members of the clergy.

Bucheli gave careful consideration to the action, and decided that blessing a couple was the right thing to do:

” ‘There was no considerable difference between this blessing and a wedding ceremony,’ the priest told Swiss newspaper Urner Wochenblatt, speaking about the occasion last October.

“Bucheli said he carefully considered his options before discussing the matter with a Jesuit priest.

“His main question was: ‘Can I give this blessing in the name of God and would it be his will?’, to which, so Bucheli, the answer was yes.

” ‘These days people give blessings to animals, cars and even weapons,’ he said, ‘why shouldn’t you give your blessing to a couple deciding to walk through life with God by their side?’ “

Not surprisingly, the local bishop did not approve of the action:

“Vitus Huonder, bishop of the diocese of Chur where Bucheli currently works, did not agree with the priest’s actions.

“He spoke to the priest and the bishop of Bucheli’s home diocese of Lausanne, Huonder said they want the pro-gay religious leader gone by summer at the latest and returned to his former pasture.

“Huonder’s spokesman Guiseppe Gracia told the Urner Wochenblatt: ‘His actions created attention, even across state borders, and angered many believers.’

“He claimed Bucheli’s actions could have ‘clouded the church’s teachings on marriage and family.’ “

But parishioners have come to the priest’s defense, organizing a petition, which, in a few days, has garnered over 3,000 signatures.  TheLocal.ch reported on the community’s response:

“ ‘We stand behind priest Bucheli,’ Peter Vorwerk, vice-president of the parish council is quoted as saying.

“Christianity is based on charity so it is difficult to understand why the church should deny someone the blessing of God, he said.”

Fr. Bucheli has declared his intention not to resign:

“Bucheli defended his blessing of the lesbians and said he would not submit his resignation.

“He said it was his jobs as a ‘shepherd’ to address the weak, the injured and the marginalized, he said in an interview with the Nueue Urner Zeitung published on Wednesday.

“In a joint press release issued by the priest and the parish council, Bucheli reiterated that he wanted to stay in the village.

“ ‘I feel comfortable in Bürglen,’ he said.

“ ‘My work is not finished and I see no reason to leave the community at this time.’ “

Reverend Richard Estrada

In a somewhat related story, a Claretian priest in California, has resigned from the priesthood because he can no longer accept official Catholic teaching on LGBT and women’s issues.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Father Richard Estrada, a longtime immigrants’ rights advocate, has moved to the Episcopal Church, and said he could no longer tolerate the Roman Catholic practices regarding these minorities:

“For decades, Estrada saw the pain of gay and lesbian parishioners who were ashamed of their sexuality, and of women who he felt were treated as second-class citizens. He saw the Catholic Church evolving on those issues, but the changes felt too slow.

” ‘I saw a lot of people who were struggling,’ he said. ‘I just felt like I don’t fit anymore. Maybe I’ve grown, or shrunk or whatever, but I just don’t fit. And I haven’t fit. So let’s be honest.’ “

As we continue to pray for change in the Roman Catholic Church on LGBT issues, let’s remember especially our priests who speak out and act for equality and justice.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,229 other followers