“Fortnight for Freedom” Fails to Rouse Catholics to Oppose LGBT Equality

July 12, 2015

For the fourth year in a row, the U.S. Catholic Bishops declared a “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21st to July 4th–a time for Catholics to pray and organize to protect supposed threats to religious freedom.  For the fourth year in a row, this project has failed to find an audience among Catholics in the pews, who don’t agree with the bishops that their religious liberty is threatened.

Many Catholics think that claiming religious liberty is threatened is a way for religious leaders, such as the bishops, to oppose a number of governmental initiatives, including marriage equality.  By saying that marriage equality will harm the Catholic Church’s ability to practice its faith works as a red herring.  As Father Thomas Reese recently pointed out in The National Catholic Reporter,  the U.S. bishops have made accommodations with other civil laws that do not match their beliefs, so, morally, they can do the same with marriage equality.

It’s surprising that the bishops’ campaign did not pick up more speed this year than in the past since the Supreme Court decision for marriage equality came right in the middle of their Fortnight.  But perhaps it’s not surprising, since many Catholics welcomed the decision and don’t see it threatening their freedom.  As Paula Ruddy, writing at The Progressive Catholic Voice blog wrote:

“American Catholics have been formed in the values of two traditions – the value of community in the Roman Catholic tradition and the value of individual liberty in the U.S. democratic tradition. Most of us have learned to value both, to integrate the two more or less successfully. We try to avoid both the excesses of “group think” and the excesses of ‘go-it-alone’ individualism. We have to do this without the support of our institutional church.”

That sentiment was shared by Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, and Reverend Barry Lynn, president of Americans United, in an op-ed they co-authored for The Baltimore Sun at the very beginning of the Fortnight campaign.  O’Brien and Lynn pointed out that American Catholics want a nation where everyone’s needs are met and everyone’s consciences are respected:

“The American public has arrived at a consensus that it’s not OK to be mean and nasty. They don’t think it’s OK to take taxpayer money to diagnose someone with HIV and not give that person — through condoms, medication and counseling — the ability to live and love as HIV positive. It’s not OK when refugees from Latin America, or those who are victims of sex trafficking or sexual abuse, are denied emergency contraception that could prevent pregnancy — especially when they are not even referred to another provider who can give survivors what they need. The American public does not agree when an employer either refuses to hire you because you want to marry your same-sex partner, you want contraceptives covered by your insurance or you would like to use IVF to have the baby you’ve always wanted.”

The real danger is that real religious freedom is threatened by the unholy alliance between pulpit and government. O’ Brien and Lynn stated:

“[T]he real threat we see is an all-time low in political commitment to, and understanding of, the idea of separation of church and state.”

O’Brien underscored this problem in a separate op-ed that he wrote for Crux:

“Real religious freedom is freedom of and freedom from religion. Neither party seems to understand that you don’t get to impose your beliefs onto somebody else — your freedom stops at the end of your nose.”

Or, as Ryan Hoffman, communications director for Call To Action, said it in a post on the organization’s website:

“Real ‘religious freedom’ upholds an individual’s decision to live in accordance with their sexual identity and religious values. Discrimination on the basis of such is not a Catholic value.”

Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow with Political Research Associates, framed the problem this way in an essay on LGBTQNation.com:

“The narrative is usually framed in terms favorable to the Christian Right: casting religious freedom versus LGBTQ rights. But there is more to it as the battle for the definition of a religiously plural society rages hotter than meets the eye. . . .

“The Christian Right, in both its evangelical and Catholic expressions, is seeking to co-opt the great tradition and constitutional doctrine of religious liberty as a front to advance their particular cultural and religious agenda at the expense of everyone else.  But there is a broad-based pushback from many sectors, both religious and non-religious, to preserve and advance religious freedom for all, and not just the self-selected few.”

If Catholic bishops continue to take a narrow view of religious liberty, they will, in effect, be making the Catholic religion a more narrow and marginalized sector of society.  Mark Silk, a contributing editor at Religion News Serviceargued against the idea that it is beneficial for religious institutions to shrink down in order to preserve their identity in a way that is totally separate from mainstream society.  In a blog post, Silk pointed out an important historical example:

“[I]t’s hard to see an American future where, as the early Christian intellectual Tertullian put it, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.’ What a number of latter-day Christian intellectuals are hoping for, instead, is what American Conservative blogger Rod Dreher is calling the Benedict Option, by which he proposes that Christians in America take as their model Benedictine monasticism after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West. . . .

“Dreher’s idea is that just as European civilization re-emerged from these ‘islands of sanity and serenity,’ so a religious civilization can eventually re-emerge from contemporary Christian communities that hold to traditional values and beliefs.

“It’s a pretty lousy analogy, actually. The heavy business of keeping peace and order, and effecting the transition from Roman emperors to the likes of the Frankish King Clovis, was done by popes such as Gregory the Great and aristocratic (and married) Gallo-Roman bishops. Monasteries did preserve a good deal of ancient Roman culture — among other things, monks copying out enough naughty Latin literature to keep latter-day classicists in business. But the idea that people outside the cloister forgot what it meant to be a human being, while small communities of celibate men (and women) didn’t, is romantic nonsense.

“More importantly, however, the monastic model served Western Christendom badly in important ways during the era of extraordinary economic and institutional growth that began after the Viking invasions ended in the 11th century — not least by making celibacy obligatory for priests serving communities in the world, and consequently devaluing the religious lives of married folks.”

After four years of failed Fortnights, U.S. bishops should learn that Catholics in the pews do not see their religious freedom threatened.  So much wasted money on a campaign which looks more like a political strategy against policies the bishops don’t like than a humanitarian effort to preserve an ideal.   In other parts of the globes, people’s religious freedom is severely threatened, and they pay for it with their lives.  The U.S. bishops would do better by funding programs to oppose those oppressive measures instead of trying to convince Catholics here that there is a monster under the bed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



Wife of Fired Teacher Appeals to Pope Francis for Reinstatement

July 11, 2015

The wife of Margie Winters, who was fired from a Philadelphia-area Catholic elementary school because of her marriage, is appealing to Pope Francis to rectify the injustice that the former director of religious education experienced from the school’s administration.

Margie Winters and Andrea Vettori

The New York Daily News reported that Andrea Vettori sent a letter to the pontiff in which she appealed to him to reinstate her wife, Margie, to the job she held at Waldron Mercy Academy for eight years.  The news article quoted excerpts from the letter:

“I ask you, I beg you, I implore you to ask God to reveal to you the next steps. Not just for Margie and myself, but for the injustices that have been done in the name of our faith against gay and lesbian members of the Church throughout the United States and the world whose only ‘sin’ was to be true to the love God placed within them.”

The entire text of Vettori’s three-page letter can be found at the end of the Daily News article.   In it, she describes the couple’s faith life, relational commitment, and community involvement, noting that one is a lay Associate and one is a Companion of the Sisters of Mercy who operate the school. Indeed, the letter states that it was their involvement with the Mercy Sisters where

“we fell in love–with God, with our sisters, with one another.”

Vettori pleaded with Pope Francis

“to intervene on our behalf and countless other faithful Catholics so that we may not be condemned to live a life exiled from a Church that we so love and want to serve.”

In conclusion, she asked for the pope to allow the couple to meet with him when he visits Philadelphia at the end of September for the closing of the World Meeting of Families.

Meanwhile,  responses to the Winters’ firing have begun to proliferate.  An online GoFundMe appeal with a goal or raising $25,000 has raised $9,000 already.  In addition to the Stand With Margie Facebook page, a Twitter hashtag, #StandWithMargie, has been established.

Philly.com reported that more than 200 parents from the school met this past week to show support and gratitude for Winters and to discuss ways to respond effectively.  The news article also states that it was a disagreement with a parent about whether to teach Pope John Paul’s “Theology of the Body” to the elementary school students.  While the parent proposed this work, Winters felt that it was too mature for younger children, and in fact the principal agreed with her.

Weighing in on the firing was Benjamin Brenkert, who last year resigned from the Jesuits to protest the unjust firings of LGBT people from Catholic institutions.  In a Daily Beast essay which explores some of the philosophical assumptions of magisterial teaching on sexuality, Brenkert said that in firing Winters, the school was

“unequivocally informing LGBTQ persons that they cannot under any circumstances contribute to the spiritual or intellectual formation of children.”

Additionally, the Human Rights Campaign spoke out in support of Winters.  Lisbeth Melendez-Rivera, director of Latino/a and Catholic Initiatives stated:

“We call on the school to reinstate Margie Winters, and look to the day when Catholic leaders like [Archbishop] Chaput have the strength and courage to embrace our lives, to allow us to earn an honest living, and to participate in the education of our children.For guidance, [Archbishop] Chaput should look to the pews, where there’s more support for LGBT non-discrimination laws and marriage equality than even among the general public.”

As these cases multiply and become more frequent, church leaders will soon have to see how, just on a practical level, this policy is unsustainable.  Instead of increasing love and justice, these firings cause people to become further alienated from Catholic Church structures.

In their efforts to promote a narrow vision of church teaching, focused solely on sexuality, Catholic leaders are forgetting the wider picture of the love and justice which the church should be promoting.

In the words of Andrea Vettori in her letter to Pope Francis:

“Jesus said ‘you will know my disciples by the fruit.’ I would say look at the fruit of our lives.”

For the recent history of this terrible trend of firing, click here for Bondings 2.0’s chronicle.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Related articles:

NBC Philadelphia: “Community Rallies Behind Beloved Educator Fired for Same-Sex Marriage”

Patch.com: “Supporters Of Fired Gay Catholic School Teacher Raise $5K”

EzzcoNews.com: “Philadelphia educator, fired from Catholic school because she’s gay, appeals to Pope Francis for audience during his upcoming visit to the City of Brotherly Love”

Final Installment of Catholic Responses to Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling

July 10, 2015

Here’s what (we hope) is the final installment of immediate Catholic reactions to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. Since the Catholic debate on this issue is not over yet, Bondings 2.0 will, of course, continue covering any ensuing controversies based on this decision as they develop.  [All previous Bondings 2.0 Catholic reaction compilation posts can be found at the end of this post.]

Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan, Writer and Political Analyst, The Dish:

Sullivan, one of the first people to propose the idea of gay marriage as a serious legal possibility (and certainly the first Catholic pundit to do so), provides a poignant brief memoir of the struggle to arrive at the Obergefell v. Hodges victory.  I found this to be, perhaps, his most stirring passage:

For many years, it felt like one step forward, two steps back. History is a miasma of contingency, and courage, and conviction, and chance.

But some things you know deep in your heart: that all human beings are made in the image of God; that their loves and lives are equally precious; that the pursuit of happiness promised in the Declaration of Independence has no meaning if it does not include the right to marry the person you love; and has no force if it denies that fundamental human freedom to a portion of its citizens. In the words of Hannah Arendt:

“The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right compared to which ‘the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one’s skin or color or race’ are minor indeed. Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs.” (from a blog post on The Dish)

Matthew Boudway

Matthew Boudway, Associate Editor, Commonweal:

Boudway categorizes the Obergefell v. Hodges case:

“. . . [It] was not about Constitutional theory or the burdens and perils of democracy. Nor was it about sex. It was about honoring people who promise to take care of each other and encouraging them to keep that promise.”

Yet, he disagrees with the outcome because on procedural grounds:

“Wherever possible, the Supreme Court should try to get out of the way, so that voters and their elected representatives can do the difficult work of democracy. If we want to change the definition of civil marriage so that it can accommodate gays and lesbians, there is nothing in the Constitution to prevent us, but neither is there anything to compel us. Why pretend otherwise?”  (from a blog post on Commonweal)

Margery Eagan

Margery Eagan, Columnist, Cruxnow.com:

” ‘The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,’ wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy explaining, if inadvertently, a big part of the problem for the Catholic hierarchy. They can’t recognize that injustice, even in 2015, because they live apart, isolated from, and largely ignorant of, the real, changed world.

“They do not see the gay parents chaperoning the apple-picking field trip in kindergarten. They do not see the son of those parents grow up to captain the football team and marry his college sweetheart. They do not see the life-long devotion of gay couples, in sickness and health, or in the mundane particulars of everyday life. Cooking, cleaning, planting the garden, mowing the lawn, driving the carpool, helping with the homework, wanting the best for their families, just like everybody else.”  (From a column on Crux)

Bill Baird and John Kennedy

Bill Baird and John Kennedy, Retired Gay Catholic Married Couple in Santa Rosa, California:

” ‘It’s important to realize how many people are not happy about the decision,’ Baird said, ‘so we have to find a way to work together to promote marriage equality. . . .’ 

” ‘We’re lucky here in the Bay Area, but in many parts of the country you can be fired for being gay, and landlords may refuse to rent to a lesbian or gay couple,”’Baird said.

” ‘There really is a lack of protections for gay people, and while we’re delighted by the ruling, there is still a lot of education to do,’ Kennedy said.”  (From a feature article in Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

Christa Kerber

Christa Kerber, Catholic laywoman, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania:

Our Church teaches a preferential treatment for the marginalized. It teaches the dignity of all human beings. It teaches the primacy of conscience — the idea that it is our obligation to prayerfully consider tradition and doctrine, as well as our experience and the experience of those around us, in discerning what is moral and just.

My conscience has been formed with the help of family, friends, teachers, clergy, theologians, and strangers. Most of all, it has been formed through my relationship with God and my Church. . . 

I hope and pray that Church leaders will hear and understand the majority who support those in loving same-sex relationships. Love is of God and adults who have formed their consciences in faith are very capable of making good decisions about how to express their love for other human beings. (From an op-ed essay on Philly.com)

Archbishop Blase Cupich

Archbishop Blase Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago:

In an earlier post, we noted Archbishop Cupich’s reconciliatory statement following the Supreme Court decision.  Cupich’s follow-up comments in an interview with The National Catholic Reporter about the statement are also worth noting.  The archbishop stated:

“My concern is that we don’t lurch in one direction or another in terms of reaction, but that we really have a sense of serenity and maturity and keep ourselves walking together.

” ‘I think that’s the most important thing,’ the archbishop said, using the example of a family that discusses issues they face together.

” ‘When they have [a] crisis, when they have something new happening, a good, mature, serene family says, “OK, take a breath, everybody. We’re all in this together. We’re going to help each other,” ‘ he said.”  (From a news story in The National Catholic Reporter)

Local Catholics

In Boston and northern New Jersey, reporters visited local Catholic parishes to gather a wide variety of reactions which are chronicled in these two articles:

Boston Globe: “Boston churches split over Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling”

NorthJersey.com: “North Jersey Catholics divided on marriage ruling”

Catholic legal analyses

America magazine enlisted a variety of Catholic legal scholars and analysts to respond to the decision.  Their opinions and topics are diverse.  The legal arguments are difficult to summarize, so, instead of attempting to do so, we will just provide links to the complete essays.

Ellen K. Boegel, Associate Professor, Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, and Homeland Security, St. John’s University, N.Y.:Same-Sex Marriage Decision Resolves One Question, Raises Many Others

Teresa S. Collett, Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis:  The Supreme Court’s Jurisprudence of Privacy”

Thomas C. Berg, the James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis: “Religious Liberty Concerns After Supreme Court’s Call on Same-Sex Marriage”

Richard W. Garnett, the Paul J. Schierl / Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law , University of Notre Dame: “Hard Questions from Chief Justice on Same-Sex Decision”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Related article:

dotCommonweal: Calm, collected.”


Previous blog posts of Catholic commentary on Supreme Court marriage equality ruling:

July 7: Orthodox Catholic Offers Important Lesson for LGBT Supporters

July 6: Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese Spells Out Falsehoods and Possibilities in Marriage Equality Responses

July 5: Tending to Christ’s Blood: The U.S. Church’s Post-Marriage Equality Agenda

July 4: Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Catholic Values

July 1: Father Martin’s Viral Facebook Post on ‘So Much Hatred From So Many Catholics’

June 30:  Here’s What Catholic Bishops Should Have Said About Marriage Equality Decision

June 29: Catholics Continue to React to Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling

June 28: Some Catholic Reactions to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality

June 27: A Prayerful Catholic Response to the U.S. Supreme Court Decision

June 26: New Ways Ministry and U.S. Catholics Rejoice at Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision


Catholic School Fires Lesbian Who Is ‘Perfect Example of Living a Religious Life’

July 9, 2015

A Catholic elementary school educator in the Philadelphia area has been fired because she legally married another woman in 2007. This first-known firing case since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality across the nation almost two weeks ago has an unusual religious exemption twist to it.

Margie Winters

Philly.com reported that Nell Stetser, the principal of Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion, a Philadelphia suburb, sent an email to the parents of schoolchildren saying that Margie Winters would not be coming back in September for a ninth year of directing religious education at the school. Though this is just being made public, the firing took place on June 22nd, before the Supreme Court’s decision.

According to an article on PhillyMag.com, the principal praised Winters’ professional abilities while explaining the decision to fire her:

“Like you, I truly value Margie and appreciate her amazing contributions to our religious education and outreach programs. Margie certainly has enriched the lives of everyone in the WMA family. As WMA’s principal, however, my duty is to protect our school’s future. In the Mercy spirit, many of us accept life choices that contradict current Church teachings, but to continue as a Catholic school, Waldron Mercy must comply with those teachings.”

The contradiction of only being able to “continue as a Catholic school” by firing someone who has made “amazing contributions to our religious education and outreach programs” and who “has enriched the lives of everyone” is glaring.

As has happened in other similar cases, what particularly stings about this case is that administrators knew of the marital relationship for a long time, but seem to have only taken action when public complaints have been raised.  What kind of exemplary moral leadership are administrators exhibiting when they at first personally accept a person, but then turn against her when the pressure is put on them.

Winters described the understanding that she had with the school’s administrators:

“Winters said she and her wife ‘kept a really low profile’ about their relationship at the school.

” ‘I actually had a conversation with the principal a few weeks after I was hired to say, how should I handle this,’ said Winters, adding that she was advised that she could be open about her life with the faculty but to avoid discussing it with students’ parents.

“So that’s what I’ve done,” she said. “I’ve never been open. And that’s been hard.”

According to Winters, two parents who learned about her marriage complained, one to the school administrators and one to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.   A spokesperson for the archdiocese has denied that the local hierarchy has been involved in the school’s firing decision.

According to Philly.com:

“Winters said she thought the school’s connection to the archdiocese played a role in that decision. The school, she said, worried that its ‘Catholic identity would be in jeopardy.’

“Stetser said in a statement that she could not discuss personnel matters.

” ‘The primary consideration that guided my decision-making process was to sustain the Catholic identity of Waldron Mercy Academy,’ Stetser said.”

What is amazing in this case, again, like in many others, is that “Catholic identity” seems only to come into play if a sexual matter is involved.  Is Catholicism becoming a one-issue religion?

What may be unique about this case, however, is the possible lack of religious exemption protection.  The local township has an anti-discrimination law which exempts religious institutions from it, except if they are “supported in whole or in part by government appropriations.”

Waldron Mercy Academy

State Sen. Daylin Leach, the local representative for the school’s district, said that according to the Waldron Mercy website, the institution has received more than $270,000 in two years from Pennsylvania’s Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program. Additionally, 70 students since 2005 benefited from another state program, the Educational Improvement Tax Credit.

Leach told Philly.com that accepting so much state money might exclude the school from the religious exemption.

It will really be a shame for Catholicism if the only way to motivate schools to stop firing LGBT people is to legally and financially penalize them.  Catholic schools should adhere to a higher moral standard of treating people with respect, fairness, and equality.

Not all involved in the school’s community accept this decision. Philly.com quoted a parent who is organizing a response to object to the firing,  Nancy Houston stated that the school’s decision is

“not something we’re going to accept quietly.”

“Winters ‘makes kids love religion,’ Houston said. ‘She’s a perfect example of living a religious life.’

A Facebook page entitled “Stand With Margie” has been established for people to voice support for Winters.

And Winters herself hopes that there may be an important lesson to be learned from the publicity surrounding her firing:

“People of faith need to know what is happening in the name of their church.”

Though fired from her job, it seems that Winters is still teaching religious education.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry





DignityUSA Calls for “Sacramental Equality” at National Convention

July 8, 2015

DignityUSA, a national organization of LGBT and Ally Catholics, held their biennial convention in Seattle this past weekend, where they unanimously passed a resolution calling for “sacramental equality” in the Catholic Church.

The resolution states:

“DignityUSA and its members call on the leaders and members of our Roman Catholic Church to ensure that all of the sacraments of our Church be administered regardless of the gender identity, sexual orientation, or relational status of the person(s) seeking the sacrament.”

In a press statement accompanying the resolution DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke explained the need for such a resolution:

“We [LGBT Catholics] can’t be fully equal if we are barred from any of our Church’s sacraments.

“Right now, we are officially banned from marriage and ordination, and often denied other sacraments, as well.

“We hear stories all the time of people told they cannot have Communion because they are gay, in a same-sex relationship, or civilly married. Many priests refuse to baptize the children of same-sex couples. A gay man in Washington, DC was denied ’last rites’ after suffering a heart attack. These incidents cause pain and alienation for us, and for our families, and create division within our Church.”

Duddy-Burke acknowledged that the hope for sacramental equality may take a while and a lot of effort to achieve.  She stated:

“We know that it is going to take a lot of work, and probably many years, to achieve this goal. But having gained civil marriage equality in the US, we know that the miraculous is possible. We believe that rethinking how sacraments are administered will be good for everyone in the Catholic Church, because it will help us to live our belief in the intrinsic dignity and equality of every person as created and loved by God.  This broadened understanding of the sacraments would apply not just to LGBT people, but to everyone, including women and married men and women seeking ordination, for example.”

The Dignity convention in Seattle, which had as its theme “God’s Love: Enduring as the Mountains, Endless as the Sea,” took place July 2-5, 2015, and attracted members and supporters from across the nation. Convention participants listened to plenary talks from Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of NETWORK and the organizer of “Nuns on the Bus” campaigns; Paul Coutinho, a scholar and international speaker on spirituality; and Dan Savage, nationally syndicated sex advice columnist and author.

New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick participated in the convention as a breakout session leader, discussing the topic “Loving Our Opponents Without Losing Our Ground.”  She also hosted a caucus session on current events in the Catholic LGBT world, and a small reception for convention participants who had been past pilgrims on New Ways Ministry’s LGBT-friendly Catholic pilgrimages around the globe.

The next Dignity convention will take place July 6-9, 2017, in Boston, under the theme “A Place at the Table.”

New Ways Ministry heartily supports DignityUSA’s quest for sacramental equality, and we will continue working to help make that dream a reality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



Orthodox Catholic Offers Important Lesson for LGBT Supporters

July 7, 2015

On Bondings 2.0, we don’t often feature the writings of Catholics who identify as conservative or traditional.  We do so when we think that their message is one which will possibly edify our readers.

Patrick  C Beeman

Patrick C. Beeman

Today, we are featuring a response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision on marriage equality by Patrick C. Beeman, a Catholic physician and writer from St. Louis who identifies as an orthodox Catholic.  His essay, featured on The National Catholic Reporter website, has important lessons for both liberal and conservative Catholics.

Beeman’s essay focuses on the way some traditionalists have responded to the Supreme Court decision.  He states that following the courts announcement:

“My social media feeds are littered with responses like ‘God have mercy on us all’ and ‘a crime against God and nature.’ How easy to forget that the tongue — and the compulsion to use one’s Twitter app — is a restless evil full of deadly poison.”

Beeman, who appears to support church teaching opposing marriage equality, is concerned about the style of argument that his fellow travelers employ.  He is afraid that they will “only lend credence to the caricature of the church as a mob of narrow-minded and sour-faced doctrinaires.”

Noting that “Catholic balance” is a virtue that “lies somewhere between mercy and Christian charity on the one hand and doctrinal fidelity and truth on the other,”  Beeman wonders why conservative Catholic opposition seems to forget this balance.  He illustrates by noting the trend of criminalizing same-sex behavior around the globe:

“When the nonbeliever has a better track record than the believer on matters of justice, something is wrong. Shouldn’t it outrage any decent human being that in some countries, a homosexual act is a capital crime? Regardless of whether or not one believes it to be sinful, both sides should be equally opposed to the backward absurdity of a culture that would permit killing another person for a sexual sin. For my part, I am glad perfect marks in the area of sexual ethics are not a requirement for continuing. I suspect it would be ‘Game over’ for many of us if that were the case.”

And he did not forget other forms of oppression and discrimination which are closer to home:

“And what of the subtler forms of social, familial, ecclesiastical and economic discrimination that have been perpetrated against gay people and are only now beginning to dissipate? We should be unsettled when a child is kicked out of his home because he came out as gay to his father. That is not the Catholic response. That is the response of misguided fidelity to the truth — bigotry? — which can only have the effect of injuring the faith of the vulnerable. And that kind of response deserves a millstone if anything does.”

Beeman recognizes that supporting the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics does not give one license to ignore the Church’s teaching on human dignity:

“Those of us who identify as orthodox Catholics need to start making reparation for our part in alienating gay people from the church. I’m not saying we should abandon the church’s teaching on sexual ethics. But we ought to make quite certain we are applying it carefully and charitably. . . .

“Hence, if you opposed the redefinition of marriage, you must show magnanimity in defeat. But even more so: Draw a sharp distinction between the issue of gay marriage and whether or not gay people should be treated equitably in the marketplace, legal system or in society at large. The latter is a question of human dignity. If you are Catholic, it concerns you, whether you opposed gay marriage or not.”

In the essay, Beeman, who presumably disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision, seems to be in close agreement with ideas proposed by two Catholic commentators who supported the decision and who were featured on Bondings 2.0:  Father Thomas Reese, SJ,  and Bob Shine.  I admire Beeman’s ability not to let one disagreement on LGBT issues blind him to his obligations in other areas concerning LGBT people.

More importantly, though, I admire Beeman’s tone of moderation in this essay.  Though primarily addressing his fellow conservative Catholics, I think that all Catholics can learn a lesson that though we may be passionate about a topic, even a topic laden with issues and consequences of great concern, we should never let our passion get the best of us.  We should always treat our opponents with respect and Christian charity, remembering that they, too, are our neighbors.

[You can read Beeman’s full essay, which was paired with one by Arthur Fitzmaurice, Resource Director, Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, by clicking here.]

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

QUOTE TO NOTE: Pope Francis: Pray for a Synod Miracle

July 6, 2015

computer_key_Quotation_MarksThe National Catholic Reporter noted that during his second speech on his visit to Ecuador, Pope Francis asked the million-plus outdoor Mass congregation to pray for a “miracle” at the synod on the family to be held at the Vatican in October.

Without mentioning specifics, Pope Francis said:

“I ask you to intensify your prayer for this intention so that what still seems to be impure to us, to scandalize us, or frighten us, God … can transform it into a miracle. Families today need this miracle.”

Pope Francis in Ecuador

The pontiff also said that the purpose of the synod was “to mature a true spiritual discernment and find concrete solutions to the many difficult and important challenges families must confront in our times.”

It is hard to say what Pope Francis is referring to, but it is obvious that he has high hopes for the synod’s deliberations and outcomes.

UPDATE: According to a news story on Crux Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, explained the pope’s “miracle” quote to reporters this way:

“The pope hopes this Synod will help people to move from situations of sin to a state of grace; he’s not referring to anything specific.”

While it is comprehensible that the pope may have deliberately chosen not to be specific, I find it hard to believe that the pope was referring to sin and grace in this poetic quote.  “Impure” may be a reference to sin, but not when it is in the context of “what seems to be impure,” implying that we might find out it is, in fact, not impure. Also the references to things which “scandalize” or “frighten” does not fit Lombardi’s explanation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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