Counting Our Blessings and Giving Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving to all Bondings 2.0 readers! We hope that you have much to be thankful for this year.

At New Ways Ministry, we are particularly grateful for all those people around the globe who support us spiritually, financially, and in many other ways great and small.  We are also thankful for all our blog readers and commenters.  Your thoughts and reflections make this site a wonderful place for discussing Catholic LGBT issues.

Our tradition on Bondings 2.0 for Thanksgiving is to gather thoughts of gratitude New Ways Ministry’s volunteers, board members, and staff. Their reflections are below.

What are you thankful for this year, especially items that may pertain to Catholic LGBT issues? We invite you to share your items in the “Comments” section of this post.

Glen Bradley, Staff Associate:

I am thankful for all the inclusive and supportive people in my life who helped me find God’s love for everyone, including myself.  I am also thankful for all the safe spaces that our LGBTQ+ siblings and allies build with great devotion, particularly those prophetic spaces in Catholicism.

Mary and Joseph Byers, Board Members:

This Thanksgiving, as all other Thanksgivings and always,  we are grateful for our blended family of gay sons and straight daughters.  They are a blessing to us and each other.  Together they bring joy to our family and a shining example to others.

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director:

This year, I am thankful that so many Catholics are speaking out about LGBT equality.  I’ve worked in this field for 24 years, and I can’t remember a year when so much discussion has happened as in this past year.  We may not have achieved our dream of full equality in church and society, but I think we have reached a point where the discussion cannot be stopped.

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, Co-Founder:

I am grateful that Pope Francis recently named three U.S. cardinals who smell like the sheep and are not afraid to defend their sheep. I’m thinking, in particular about Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s new Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, who said he does not agree with Archbishop Chaput’s guidelines that exclude LGBT people from church ministries and same-gender couples from Communion. These “Francis bishops” give me hope for the future of the Church and LGBT ministry.

Brother Brian McLauchlin, SVD, Volunteer:

I am grateful for Church hierarchy who are willing to speak out on behalf of LGBT people and issues.  Bishop McElroy of San Diego, for instance, who named the anti-gay prejudice in connection to the Pulse nightclub massacre.  In general, I think Bishop McElroy is someone who would be willing and able to dialogue on LGBT issues.  Also, I am grateful that noted members of the clergy, like James Martin, SJ, speak out in favor of LGBT people.  I pray that next year, I will be even more grateful that more and more bishops and members of the hierarchy will address LGBT issues and open themselves up to constructive dialogue.
Robert Shine, Social Media Coordinator:
I am grateful for:
1. Younger LGBTQ theologians who are helping to guide the church into healthier and more liberating understanding of gender and sexuality;
2. Transgender Catholics who call our church to greater fidelity to the Gospel by courageously sharing their stories and educating others on trans realities;
3. Catholic youth and young adults who reject treatment from church leaders that is anything but fully equal and respectful of LGBTQ people, and seek a church that is “a home for all.”

Vern Smith, Volunteer:

I am thankful for those individuals who, when treated with bigotry and injustice by the church hierarchy, have spoken out and told their stories.  Many have lost their jobs or their ministries merely because they were married or came out as LGBT+.  I have heard so many painful, touching, and courageous stories by those who experienced terrible treatment by their official church.  They are powerful, important stories that must be heard. I am so thankful that the spirit has moved them to speak out honestly, in their own voices, bringing light to the implications of hierarchical actions.

Cristina Traina, Board Member:

I am grateful for :

1.LGBTQ Catholic groups, both local and national, especially the group at my parish, St. Nicholas, in Evanston, Illinois.  Thanks to you all for your faithfulness, joy, hospitality, and visible involvement in parish life;

2. Catholic theologians and ethicists, because throughout Catholic history major changes in official teaching have come after they have laid the groundwork for it;
3. Gay and lesbian parents, whose matter-of-fact involvement in the church life is a quiet witness of hope.

When the U.S. Bishops Rejected the Language of “Objective Disorder”

History-Option 1“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s  feature to educate readers of the rich history—positive and negative—that has taken place over the last four decades regarding Catholic LGBT equality issues.  We hope it will show people how far our Church has come, ways that it has regressed, and how far we still have to go.

Once a  month, Bondings 2.0 staff will produce a post on Catholic LGBT news events from the past 38 years.  We will comb through editions ofBondings 2.0’s predecessor:  Bondings,  New Ways Ministry’s newsletter in paper format.   We began publishing Bondings in 1978. Unfortunately, because these newsletters are only archived in hard copies, we cannot link back to the primary sources in most cases. 

November 1990: When the U.S. Bishops Rejected the Language of “Objective Disorder”

In mid-November 1990, the U.S. bishops issued a 185-page document entitled “Human Sexuality:  A Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning,” designed to set the course for Catholic education on sexual topics.

Davenport, Iowa’s Catholic Messenger newspaper carried an article on the document with the headline “Bishop asks: Are we credible on sex?”   The article explained:

“Passage came only after debate which highlighted underlying questions about the Church’s credibility on artificial contraception, the proper pastoral approach to homosexual persons and long-standing controversies between educators and some Catholic parents over sex education in schools.”

On the topic of homosexuality, the debate centered around the use of the language “objective disorder,” a term which had only been recently coined in 1986 in the Vatican’s “Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.”

The news article reported:

Cardinal John O’Connor

“. . .[A] spirited discussion on homosexuality was set off by an amendment proposed by Cardinal John O’Connor of New York and Bishop Raymond Lessard of Savannah, Ga.  They asked for the addition of language from a 196 statement by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to state that a homosexual orientation is ‘objectively disordered.’ “

Not all bishops agreed with this proposed addition.  The newspaper continued:

“Auxiliary Bishop Peter Rosazza of Hartford, Conn., objected, saying that phrase in the doctrinal congregation document ‘has caused untold damage in the homosexual community.’

Archbishop John Quinn

“Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco agreed but said the problem arises because ‘the statement is misunderstood.’

” ‘It is a philosophical statement; about tendencies and their objects, not a statement about persons, he said.  ‘Every individual has disordered tendencies–to anger, to greed, the seven capital sins.’

“But because the Vatican statement ‘is read’ as meaning that the person with the tendency is disordered, it has presented a pastoral problem that ‘is difficult to overcome,’ he said.”

The newspaper account said that several other bishops joined in the discussion on both sides of the debate, but that ultimately they rejected the O’Connor-Lessard amendment to include “objective disorder” in the document.

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin

Instead, an alternative was proposed by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago and Archbishops Quinn and Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile, AL.  The article explained the new, accepted language:

“The approved amendment said that a homosexual ‘orientation in itself, because not freely chosen, is not sinful.’ It added a footnote quoting the doctrinal congregations’ reference to such a tendency as ‘objectively disordered’ and an explanation, drafted by Archbishop Quinn, of the meaning of that phrase in the Vatican document.”

The headline of the story, “Bishop asks: Are we credible on sex?” referred to another debate about the document’s language on contraception.  Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, Michigan, questioned a passage which said that the logic on contraception teaching is “compelling.”  He questioned the use of that term “knowing in fact that the logic is not compelling–not compelling to people in general, not compelling to many bishops.” He continued:

“When we speak that way, some would compare us to a dysfunctional family, unable to talk openly about a problem that everyone knows is there.”

Bishop Kenneth Untener

Untener made a case for the sensus fildelium–the Church doctrine that says that the sense of the faithful about a particular teaching must be taken into account by the magistgerium. He reported that he asked his 23-person diocesan pastoral council to give their anonymous opinions on how the  “Human Sexuality” document treated the topic of artificial contraception.  The vote was 22 to 1 against the document’s content. Untener explained to the bishops:

“You must understand these are not dissidents. They are farmers and city people, men and women, middle-aged and older.

“I don’t know what would happen if you did the same with your pastoral council . . .  your presbyterate (priests).  I don’t know what would happen if we did it with each other right here.  . . . “

Though speaking on artificial contraception, the same logic could easily apply to LGBT issues. Two years later,  Bishop Untener would apply similar thinking to the issue of homosexuality when he was a speaker at New Ways Ministry’s Third National Symposium on Lesbian/Gay Issues, in Chicago.

At the 2014 and 2015 Vatican synods on family life, we saw that bishops from around the world were publicly questioning the use of the language of “objective disorder.”  It’s worth remembering that the U.S. bishops had for a long time been reluctant to use that language in their own documents.  They did not use it in their 1997 pastoral letter “Always Our Children” addressed to parents of lesbian/gay people, until the Vatican directed them to add the language in footnotes for a revised version one year later.

More importantly, it’s important to remember that bishops meeting can, have, and should be opportunities for debate and discussion.  We have seen some of that spirit already some some the bishops appointed by Pope Francis, who have raised challenging questions at bishops’ meetings. Bishop Untener’s example also shows that the opinions of lay people, especially those affected by a church teaching, should also be part of the discussion.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 22, 2016

A Tale of Honesty, Courage, Community: A Catholic College Athlete Comes Out

Once again, a collegiate athlete has come out as gay.  Once again, the athlete is a student at a Catholic school.  [Editor’s note:  See related blog posts at end of this report.]

Chase Boyle

Chase Boyle, a senior at Mount St. Mary’s University, Emmitsburg, Maryland, is on the track and field team at this Division 1 school.   He shared his coming out story in a first-person essay on  The title, “Athlete at Catholic college finds being gay and religion do mix,” reveals the theme of the story, a happy blending of Boyles gay identity with his Catholic faith.

Boyle describes his school, affectionately referred to as “The Mount,” as being a very traditionally Catholic institution:

“We had mass for our opening convocation, team chaplains, team Bible study, theology classes, and classes with seminarians. Even our class rings were given out in a ceremony where the priest blessed them before we received them. “

Because of the school’s strong Catholic identity and his role as a varsity athlete, Boyle says he “thought that being gay wouldn’t mix well with my life at Mount St. Mary’s.”  But a national tragedy that happened in another part of the U.S. this past summer gave him a new perspective on his life:

“It was in the wake of the Pulse Night Club Shooting [in Orlando, Florida] this June that my eyes were opened about the life I was living. If I were to die tomorrow people would not know who the real Chase Boyle really was? I knew that if I was going to live each day to the fullest I had to come to terms with who I am and face my fears instead of letting those fears control my life.”

Returning to school, Boyle “eventually decided enough was enough.” He gathered the courage to have conversations with his teammates and classmates,  all of whom were supportive.  These small steps helped him to take a larger step of talking with a church representative.  He chose Fr. Jim Donahue, a theology professor who is faculty moderator of the school’s Allies Club.  Boyle poignantly recounts the experience:

“It was already hot because the air conditioning was broken and the sweat was beading up on my forehead, but my hands were dead cold. We sat and I began to tell him my coming out story from this summer and how I was at a crossroads in this process being back at my Catholic university. He told me how happy he was for me and that he could see how happy it was making me that I was coming out. We discussed so much and it was such a rich conversation that gave me so much insight into his perspective.”

The acceptance he experienced gave him an insight into the nature of prejudice, as well as the double stigmas LGBT Catholics face:

“I learned a very valuable lesson that day. I learned that it is just as easy for me to stereotype someone because of their Catholic faith as it is for someone to stereotype me because of sexuality. It was easy for me to think that because I meet someone who is Catholic that they will hate gay people and condemn me for being gay.”

Chase Boyle in action

Boyle also had the additional challenge of coming out not only as a gay man and a gay Catholic, but as a gay athlete.  He describes the quandary that his status as a somewhat public figure in the collegiate athletic world put him in:

“I compete in the throwing events in the field section of track and field with a specialty in the hammer and weight throw. If you have ever seen a throwing event being contested in the Olympics you would probably have a good idea of what I am describing. The throwers are all massive, muscular and macho men. . . .

“I am a thrower and have found a decent amount of success doing what I do. I am indoor conference champion in the weight throw and an outdoor conference champion in the hammer throw along with breaking school records in both events along the way.”

“I had thought that my sexuality would contradict my accomplishments I had worked so hard to achieve. I am a team captain and worked to get to where I am and the last thing I wanted was to be a distraction to my teammates and to make them uncomfortable.”

Coming out stories never grow old because each one is so unique.  Their power is in the fact that they highlight two very powerful human qualities which all people struggle with at some level: honesty and courage.  In Boyle’s case, as with many LGBT Catholics, there is also the added dimension of faith.  Boyle concludes his personal essay with:

“I am out, happy and successful at a place where I mistakenly thought I could never fit in as a young gay man. I wanted to share my story because I hope that even in the smallest of ways I can help someone in need by letting them know that they are not alone.”

As this conclusion shows, coming out stories also create another beautiful human experience: community.

[Editor’s note:  Boyle included several electronic ways of contacting him at the end of his article, including an email address:]

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 19, 2016

Related Bondings 2.0 posts on gay athletes at Catholic schools: 

CAMPUS CHRONICLES: First Out Gay Student College Athlete Is at Catholic School

Catholic H.S. Wrestler Becomes Bridge Builder by Coming Out as Gay 

CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Chipotle Celebration Follows Catholic Teammate’s Coming Out  

Gay Coach Will Keep His Job at Catholic High School 

Fordham Student’s Coming Out Sparked by Nun’s Anti-Gay Lecture



Transgender Awareness Week: Promote Wholeness for All in Our Church

This week, November 14th-20th is Transgender Awareness Week in the United States–a time to educate and raise consciousness of transgender issues in society.  Of course, we in the Catholic Church need similar education and consciousness-raising.

A new article in The National Catholic Reporter gives readers a new awareness of why, as the headline reads, “The church must promote wholeness for transgender people.” Three theologians, , set the context for their examination of the topic:

“A significant number of people who are part of the church or engage its ministries are struggling with their gender identity, striving to live authentically and find a place in their churches and communities. In local parishes, transgender individuals attend weekly services. They seek to have roles in the ministry of Word or Eucharist. Some work or volunteer in the social ministries of the church, while others receive aid from these services.

“The presence of transgender people within the church and its ministries raises important questions. As a church that seeks to respond to the signs of the times and reach out with openness to vulnerable and marginalized people, we need to think about how we are engaging transgender people and what kind of environment we want to create for those struggling with gender identity.”

They note that in the Gospels, Jesus is always reaching out to the marginalized and stigmatized, “restoring them to wholeness and bringing them back into the fullness of community life.”  The choose the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-42) as an example of Jesus’ inclusive ministry:

“Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman offers two important insights for the church. First, Jesus reaches out with openness to people on the fringes. Second, Jesus is not fixated on what separates one from community; rather, his focus is on the Samaritan woman’s overall good or well-being and his actions are directed toward helping her grow in faith, restore broken relationships, and participate more fully in community. . . .

“This story is but one example from the Gospels that suggests a church seeking to be Christ-like and to mediate God’s love of humanity must reach out first with openness and compassion, not judgment, to transgender people, who are trying to live authentically. Transgender people . . . make a courageous and difficult decision to transition, often knowing that it may lead to rejection, exclusion and hurt.”

They offer an example of what even the smallest of welcomes would look like on a parish level:

“In imitation of Jesus, the first impulse of the church must be to promote greater wholeness for transgender individuals by listening, caring, supporting and offering community. This means, at a minimum, offering very basic gestures of welcoming respect, such as using a person’s preferred pronoun and addressing a person with their preferred name, recognizing their intent to live as the person they believe God created them to be, and refraining from judgments that might exacerbate struggles with gender identity.”

And for those concerned with magisterial teaching, they offer this information:

“There is no definitive teaching on transgender issues. Even if there were, it could not support treating such individuals in ways that make them feel like outcasts who are beyond the purview of God’s love and the church’s welcome embrace.”

But the theologians, who all have backgrounds in bioethics, also go into the more serious and profound medical questions regarding transgender health and transition surgery.  They acknowledge the complexity of the issue, especially when it is examined in the light of natural law theory, the Church’s traditional basis for such moral questions.  But, they also offer a challenge to this way of thinking:

“If we evaluate transition-related therapies with the natural law approach employed in prominent matters of sexuality and bodily integrity, we run the risk of focusing excessively on the physical and, especially, functional dimensions of transgender persons and could neglect their overall good and need for wholeness and belonging. Additionally, these principles are most easily applied to surgeries, especially sex reassignment surgery, which only a minority of transgender people undertake. These principles are not readily applicable to less invasive forms of treatment, such as hormone therapy, which has proven to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of gender dysphoria.”

In place of natural law theory to settle the question of the question of the morality of transition therapies, they offer a Gospel-centered perspective, which looks at the whole person, not just the physical level:

“People who transition are seeking to overcome what they experience as an impediment to living, loving and interacting from an authentic place. They are aiming toward the kind of wholeness and integration in body, mind and spirit that Jesus also affirmed in his teaching and healing ministry.

“If we think about the human person holistically and if we strive in imitation of Christ to help people flourish as whole, embodied persons, we might feel compelled to think differently about transition-related therapies. Rather than fundamentally altering a transgender person’s God-given nature or destroying reproductive function, we might see such therapies as fundamentally aligning the person’s body with their sense of self and restoring the person to greater wholeness.”

In their conclusion, they bring out both the similarities that transgender and cisgender people share with one another, as well as the gifted challenge that transgender people offer the larger community:

“Like all people, transgender individuals come to the church and its ministries in need of acceptance, compassion, love and care. They are often seeking shelter and support on the all-too-often lonely and confusing journey on which they find themselves.

“Because the causes of gender dysphoria are not well understood and transgender persons may challenge our conception of sex and gender, our first inclination might be to judge, even condemn. However, the Gospel calls us to love and be of service to these vulnerable and often marginalized individuals who are striving to be true to who they believe they are and are called to be.”

How we treat those who are marginalized is often an important test of how we are living the Gospel. The theologians conclude:

“As a church and through its ministries, we are called to reach out to transgender persons with a love through which God’s healing and reconciling presence may be revealed. If we fail in this task, we fail the test of the Gospel.”

I’ve only excerpted the bare-bones highlights of this informative and enlightening article.  I strongly encourage Bondings 2.0 readers to spend some time to read the whole thing.  You can access it by clicking here.   It would be a good way to celebrate Transgender Awareness Week.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 16, 2016

Dutch Cardinal’s Gender Request May Be Impossible to Fulfill

A Dutch cardinal has asked the Vatican for what is seemingly impossible to do.  He wants the pope to write an encyclical or other high-end church document condemning so-called “gender theory.”  The reason that this is impossible to do is that nobody really understands what church officials mean when they talk about gender theory.  It’s like a monster under the bed.  It sounds scary, but does it really exist?

In a recent interview with Catholic News ServiceCardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht, Netherlands, said:

“It (gender theory) is spreading and spreading everywhere in the Western world, and we have to warn people.

“From the point of moral theology, it’s clear — you are not allowed to change your sex in this way.”

Of course, even though gender theory is a red herring, it’s obvious what the cardinal is referring to is gender transition.   And it might be good for the Vatican to issue a document about gender transition, but it should be a document which supports it, not condemns it.

Cardinal Willem Eijk

Like so many other church leaders in the past year, including Pope Francis, Cardinal Eijk reveals that he does not understand what gender transition is all about.  For Eijk and others, they view gender transition as a choice, and what’s worse, they seem to consider it a frivolous choice.

The cardinal’s words reveal that he does not have a clear understanding of gender transition. The Catholic News Service article reported that Eijk wants to “counter the spread of the new theory that gender can be determined by personal choice rather than by biology.”  The article further reported:

He said even Catholic parents were beginning to accept that their own children can choose their genders partly because “they don’t hear anything else.”

The problem with this line of thinking is that people are not choosing their genders.  They are responding to self-discoveries where they come to realize that the gender they were assigned at birth, based on their genitalia, is not the gender that they recognize that they are.  Instead of being a “choice vs. biology” situation, when a person decides to transition, it is often based on biological facts such as hormones, genetics, and psychological and emotion compositions.

Obviously, if the cardinal sees gender transition as a choice, and a frivolous one at that, he has not sat down and spoken with transgender people, and has not come to realize the often painful struggles they experience before reaching the fulfilling joy of living their true gender.

Eijk made his remarks in an interview before delivering the Anscombe Memorial Lecture at Blackfriars, a Dominican house of studies in Oxford, on the theme, “Is Medicine Losing its Way?”

Eijk’s further comments show that he thinks that people are not clearly understanding Church leaders.  The article reported:

” ‘It is like euthanasia and assisted suicide,’ Cardinal Eijk continued. ‘When people first began to discuss them they were unsure,’ but many people have now become so acquainted with such practices they are now deemed ordinary.”

However, as with many gender and sexuality topics in the Church, people do understand the magisterium’s position clearly.  They just don’t accept it because it does not account for more complex understandings of gender and sexuality which people have come to realize.  More importantly, the teaching does not fit with people’s lived experiences.  People aren’t believing “gender theory” the way they accept an academic theory.  Instead, they have accepted “gender reality” because of the many ways they have come to see that newer ideas about gender and sexuality help them live more healthy and holy lives.

Eijk explained that even though the Church’s teaching may not be popular, he believes it should still be taught, and that the result will be, as in Pope Benedict XVI’s vision, a smaller, “purer” Church. Eijk stated:

“It will be a tiny church, but a convinced church, and it will be willing to suffer.”

The Catholic Church has historically been a “big tent” church, until prelates appointed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI started realizing they were losing “culture wars,” and opted instead for this minimized vision.

The 2014 and 2015 synods on the family brushed against questions of gender, but they did not take them up for a full examination.  So, yes, I agree with Eijk that the magisterium should study this issue.  But it should be a study which includes opinions on many sides of the issue, that takes into account new understandings of gender instead of immediately condemning such views before even knowing what they say.  Most importantly, any study of this sort needs to listen to the voices of people who experience gender outside of what has been the traditional, and often stultifying, binary.

So many of the Church’s vexing discussions from a truly open and unbiased examination of gender.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 14, 2016


How the Gender Binary Affects So Much of Catholic Thinking

So much of the discussion surrounding LGBT issues is in some ways part of a larger discussion in the Church about gender in general.  So it is instructive sometimes to take a step back and look at the larger questions about gender.

Natalie Imperatori-Lee

The topic of gender in the church was put into the spotlight earlier this week when Pope Francis stated that he understood that Pope John Paul II’s ban on women’s ordination was a final statement on the matter.  In response to that declaration, Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, New York, penned a blog post on America magazine’s website entitled “It’s Not a Complement: The Pitfalls of a Gendered Theology of the Church.”

Imperatori-Lee uses as her starting point the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, who heavily influenced Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  Her aim is to look not just at gender roles for individual persons, but at how the concept of gender influences the structure of the Church as a whole. Key to this idea is Balthasar’s distinction between what he calls the “Petrine” and the “Marian” dimensions of the Church  (relating, respectively to St. Peter and Mary, the Blessed Mother):

“For Balthasar, the Petrine dimension centers on leadership and initiative, while the Marian dimension has more to do with receptivity and fruitfulness—and these distinctions are rooted in the biological distinctions of men and women. In fact, he takes the difference in sexual organs between men and women as the basis for many of the characteristics of his complementarian view of humanity, and by extension, of the church. Coupled with the spousal metaphor (the church as the ‘bride’ to Christ), this complementarity also casts the laity in the Marian role and the clergy and hierarchy in the Petrine office. This is potentially problematic, as it rests on the passivity and submission of the ‘Marian’ principle (the laity) to the Petrine (the clergy).”

One problem with this kind of thinking is that it puts the gender metaphor at the center of how the Church is imagined.  Imperatori-Lee states:

“Of course, our tradition is replete with gendered language for God, and with complementarian understandings of God and humanity. But this is not the only way in which the church has been imagined. Theologians, citing Scripture, have called the church a ‘Mystical Body,’ ‘the People of God’ and ‘the Sacrament of Salvation.’ “

A main reason that this kind of thinking is damaging, she points out, is that it is not based on good science.  Here is one area where Imperatori-Lee’s argument is especially helpful to LGBT concerns. She states:

“Science has revealed that a person’s sexual biology is far more intricate than the sex organs that are visible on a person’s body. Genes and hormones coursing through the bloodstream affect the development and expression of a person’s ‘biological’ sex. Some women and men have three chromosomes (XXY); others have female sex organs but, on balance, more male sex hormone than female sex hormone. All of this is to say that human biology is infinitely more complex than the ‘It’s a boy!’ or ‘It’s a girl!’ statements from new parents (or their doctors or midwives) might lead us to believe. Scientifically, even biologically, there are many factors that contribute to ‘maleness’ and ‘femaleness.’ Any claim that there are only two kinds of humans, male and female, is simplistic. Similarly, even if ‘femaleness’ is biologically anchored, what counts as ‘feminine’ is culturally constructed and varies through time and place. For one community, femininity might mean being shy and retiring; for another, a person who is proudly beautiful and wears makeup and attention-getting clothing might be viewed as very feminine.”

Science is not the only area that contradicts Balthasar’s kind of thinking.  The writer also points out that sociological knowledge shows this type of thinking to be deficient:

Sociopolitically, rigid complementarity cheats both men and women of their full humanity. To assume that women make up for what men lack, or vice versa, reifies stereotypes of masculinity and femininity by dictating the relative strengths and weaknesses that people are to have if they are true to their genders. This ideology proceeds as if all men and all women were alike, instead of the variety of persons we meet daily. Our human experience contradicts the assertion that all men are aggressive or that all women are overly emotional. As the mother of two sons, I can attest that each human is different from the other in interests, abilities and talents and that my boys are more different than alike—and they came from the same gene pool and have the same upbringing! We can also affirm, from our experience with others, that not all men and women fit into this complementary mold, and that human relationships are infinitely more complex than ‘she makes up for what I lack.’ At the very least, human relationships are based in reciprocities that change over time.”

The issues that Imperatori-Lee raises about using the male-female binary metaphor to describe church structure and governance are also clearly at the heart of the way Catholicism looks at LGBT issues.  Instead of looking at individuals, who have unique gifts, identities, attractions, the Church tries to mold all individuals to fit into this male/female category, and then base a whole lot of ethical considerations based on that artificial construct.  It makes one wonder why that male/female category holds such importance?  Of course, one answer is that by maintaining it, the Church also maintains a system of male power.  But, I wonder if there are other reasons, too.

The reason I’m interested in finding answers to this dilemma is because, as Imperatori-Lee points out, the male/female image rules so much in our Church.  She concludes hear essay:

“Pope Francis may or may not have ruled out the possibility of seeing women priests in the Catholic Church on the plane from Sweden this week. But in reaffirming the Marian and Petrine construct of the church, he (intentionally or not) sent a message about the people of God that truncates our imaginations and limits our possibilities for full human flourishing. And that’s a bigger issue than who stands at the foot of the altar.”

If you have any ideas on this matter, please share them in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 11, 2016


San Diego’s Diocesan Synod on Family Touches on LGBT Topics–Part II

YesterdayBondings 2.0 reported on how LGBT topics were addressed at San Diego’s diocesan synod on the family, basically b recommending greater pastoral outreach, and greater education about conscience development.  While LGBT topics were only tangentially discussed at the meeting, there is a sign of hope that they will be aired more fully at the diocese’s next synod in 2018.

The reason for that optimistic outlook is that the diocese has already set the topic for that synod: young adults.   And as surveys and general knowledge show,  LGBT issues are a big concern for this demographic, and are some of the main reasons that many youth leave the Church.

A discussion at San Diego’s diocesan family synod

At least one diocesan official has already acknowledged the importance of  LGBT concerns for the younger generation.  The National Catholic Reporter spoke with Fr. John Dolan, vicar for clergy and pastor of two San Diego parishes, about the synod process, as well as about LGBT outreach:

” ‘There are two different forms of doing church,’ he said. ‘One is very dialogical, from a dialogical sense, and the other is from a monological sense. And we have dealt with that monological world: Things come from on high, they get shelved in some pastor’s corner, then there’s some thought that comes down, but ultimately it’s all “We’re going to tell you what to think.” ‘

“Dolan, whose two parishes overlap the Hillcrest area — understood to be the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual center of the city of San Diego — added that the lack of attention to that population at the current synod was ‘the elephant in the room.’

” ‘Young adults have an acceptance of the LGBT experience. It is simply a part of their world, and they look at us, and say, “What is the problem?” ‘ Dolan said.”

Interestingly, Bishop Robert McElroy, who initiated the synod process in San Diego, said he was surprised the LGBT topics were so strongly voiced by the delegates at the family synod which just ended.  He told The National Catholic Reporter:

Bishop McElroy at the synod

” ‘There were a number of surprises, but … a great surprise to me was where the LGBT question would come up,’ McElroy told NCR. ‘In the five issue areas I had laid out, evolving from Amoris Laetitia, it wasn’t easy to see where it properly falls in. It doesn’t exactly fall into marriage, and it doesn’t exactly fall into children, although certainly how you deal with that [gay and lesbian] question with kids is very important, and young adults and teenagers.’

“He continued, ‘But where it came up, which is so interesting to me, it came up in the spirituality of marriage.’ “

The synod delegates recommended that the diocese establish an office of family spirituality, and that outreach to LGBT people be a part of that office’s ministry. McElroy explained the group’s recommendation to him included that the name be inclusive of LGBT and other non-traditional families.  He said they told him:

“[D]on’t call [it] your Office of Marriage and Family Life, call it the Office of Family Spirituality.”

“And they had a pyramid … which was a very inclusive notion of what family means. And they said, ‘This is not a sociological declaration … our Catholic spirituality of family says family for us includes this.’ People who are gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual, whatever … they’re part of our own families, this is part of what family life means.”

One of the theological advisers to the diocesan synod,  Emily Reimer-Barry, chair of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego, acknowledged that LGBT voices themselves were not heard at the meeting which just ended.  The National Catholic Reporter captured her thoughts:

“Reimer-Barry agreed that at present, the LGBT community and specifically those in same-sex marriages are substantially excluded. But she said she felt inspired by McElroy’s opening homily, in which ‘he looked at the story of Mary and Joseph in Matthew’s Gospel as refugees who were looking for safety. Judgmentalism must be banished. The church is not for the pure, but for all.’

” ‘Divorced, married civilly, a member of family being deported,’ Reimer-Barry continued. ‘So many instances of families hurting in our context. Just reiterating church sayings is not enough. Focusing on the church as a field hospital and mercy, from Pope Francis’ recent exhortation, is just a really provocative way to think about being the church here in San Diego.’ “

Bishop McElroy can and should remedy that omission for the next synod, where LGBT issues will certainly be a front-burner topic.  He has already made some important gestures to the LGBT community generally, and to the Catholic LGBT community in San Diego, in particular. The Union-Tribune reported that Monsignor Richard Duncanson, pastor of Rancho Santa Fe’s Church of the Nativity, acknowledged that the local church must start a conversation about LGBT issues, noting:

“How do we deal with people in irregular unions–the gay and lesbian loving relationships? How do we recognize the good there without recognizing this as a marriage?”

The newspaper also reported that LGBT Catholics stand ready to be part of such a discussion:

Patrick Ambrosio

“This is a welcome conversation, said Patrick Ambrosio, vice president of the San Diego chapter of Dignity, a national LGBT Catholic group.

“Dignity was founded in San Diego in 1969. Yet contact between the local group and its home diocese had been virtually non-existent until recently.

“Last summer, Ambrosio said, the diocese invited Dignity to attend a ‘Catholics Night’ at a Padres home game.

” ‘That’s one of the first communications we’ve ever received,’ Ambrosio said. ‘Ever.’ “

The synod on youth in 2018 will be a great opportunity to discuss LGBT issues for the San Diego Catholic Church.  But why wait that long?  The diocese has already made a welcoming invitation to LGBT Catholics to a baseball game.  Can church leaders take the next step and now invite them to sit down and dialogue with one another on important pastoral concerns?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 10, 2016