The Best Catholic LGBT News of 2016

On this last day of 2016, we look back at the best Catholic LGBT news stories of the past 12 months.  Each year, Bondings 2.0 asks its readers to vote for the best and worst events that occurred since January.  Yesterday, we reported on what our readers chose as the worst Catholic LGBT stories.  Today, we offer our readers’ choices for the best of the past year.

So, here’s the list, with number one receiving the most votes and number ten receiving the least:

  1. Pope Francis calls on the entire Christian church to apologize to LGBT people and others who have been marginalized over the years by church structures. Following the pope’s call, an Australian parish hosts the first Liturgy of Apology to the LGBT community.
  2. America magazine, a Jesuit publication, publishes an editorial naming the firing of gay and lesbian church employees as “unjust discrimination.”
  3. Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation following the Synod on the Family, promotes the primacy of conscience when applying church doctrine to one’s life, and stresses pastoral accompaniment for people who disagree with church teaching.
  4. Italy legalizes civil unions for lesbian and gay couples despite opposition from the Vatican and the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
  5. In the wake of the shooting massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, many Catholic leaders, including several bishops, offer statements of solidarity with the LGBT community.
  6. Transgender issues make great strides in Catholic education, including supportive policies on college campuses, a high school which developed a policy to welcome transgender students, and the Sisters of Mercy announcing that they will continue to employ a newly-transitioned transgender teacher at their San Francisco high school.
  7. Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the newly created Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, rebukes his brother bishops in the United States for failing to engage Amoris Laetitia during their annual meeting.
  8. The Catholic Theological Society of America presents the John Courtney Murray Award, its highest honor, to Orlando Espin, an openly gay, married Latino scholar.
  9. The president of the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco, a priest, publicly congratulates the school’s lesbian coach of women’s basketball on her marriage.
  10. For the first time in its 100-year history, LGBT groups were officially welcomed and recognized at Catholic Day, a high-profile, biennial conference in Germany, attended by over 30,000 Catholics.

I will offer a few of my impressions of the choices readers made.  I’m not surprised at the number one choice.  Pope Francis’s call for apologies to the LGBT community is probably the single most powerful action that could affect the Catholic Church’s relationship with sexual and gender minorities.  Sadly, only a few have followed his example.  Still, his call for such apologies offers a precedent worth celebrating.

The choice for second place is also no surprise.  The scourge of firing LGBT church workers has caused damage to many sectors of our Church.  It is good to see a credible and reputable source such as America calling for an end to this practice, and using Catholic principles to support its recommendation.

When I offered readers 15 nominees for best stories and 15 nominees for worst, I mentioned that I put two items in both categories.  The publication of Amoris Laetitia brought mixed reviews from Catholic LGBT leaders, so it was mentioned in both categories.   When the Orlando massacre happened, many U.S. bishops ignored the LGBT dimension of the incident, but the ones who did speak out did so forcefully, so this item was also listed in both places.

Both stories made both final lists.  On the list of worsts,  Amoris Laetitia ranked #7, while on the list of bests, it ranked #3, perhaps indicating that readers saw the document as more positive than negative.  The response to Orlando ranked #5 on both lists, perhaps indicating that Catholics were as equally pleased by the positive reactions as they were disappointed by the absence of LGBT mention.

Do you notice any significances in this list of bests?  If so, offer your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

One last detail.  When readers were asked to vote for stories, they were also given a choice to add their own nominees.  Only one reader did so.  The post that was mentioned was a beautiful Advent reflection,  A Woman of Courage Brings Emmanuel, “God With Us”, by guest blogger Elizabeth Sextro.

So, as we complete this year, let’s remember this list of 2016’s achievements and build on them in 2017!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 31, 2016


The Worst Catholic LGBT News of 2016

As is the tradition here at Bondings 2.0, on the last two days of the year, we present the results of our reader survey of the best and the worst Catholic LGBT news stories of the past 12 months.

Thanks to all of our readers who responded to the survey, naming their five best and five worst stories of the 15 “nominees” presented in each category.  To end the new year on a high note, we will offer the results of the survey of the “best” stories on December 31st.

Today, we offer our readers’ choices for the ten worst Catholic LGBT events of 2016:

  1. The Vatican’s Congregation for Priests reaffirms a 2005 ban against gay seminarians and priests.
  2. A gay man is denied permission to sing at his grandmother’s funeral in Decatur, Indiana.
  3. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia issues guidelines which exclude, among other Catholics, people in same-gender relationships from pastoral or liturgical roles. 
  4. Pope Francis repeats warnings against “gender ideology” and marriage equality, rhetoric that begins to be picked up by bishops around the globe.
  5. Most U.S. bishops who issue statements on the massacre at an Orlando gay nightclub fail to mention the LGBT dimension of the attack. One bishop in Florida later publicly criticizes a colleague for acknowledging the church’s role in perpetuating homophobia.
  6. Dominican Republic church leaders, including the cardinal, harass and make derogatory comments about U.S. Ambassador Wally Brewster, a married gay man.
  7. Amoris Laetitia disappoints LGBT advocates by not mentioning same-gender relationships and offering negative comments on gender transition.
  8. Catholic bishops in Malawi repeatedly make negative comments against LGBT people, despite continued acts of violence and discrimination against this group. In a pastoral letter on the Year of Mercy, they call for jail sentences for lesbian and gay people.
  9. The Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, issues education guidelines which threaten expulsion for students whose views and actions about sexual orientation and gender identity are positive, including the act of coming out.
  10. Openly gay priest Warren Hall is suspended by Archbishop of Newark, which cites Fr. Hall’s advocacy for LGBT people. 

I offer some analysis of these results.   The top three vote-getters all involved liturgical participation, perhaps showing that for Catholics, liturgy is at the heart of our faith.  Any restrictions placed on liturgical participation hits us the hardest.

Two of the selections involve missed opportunities that church leaders had to do something positive:  the publication of Amoris Laetitia and bishops’ statements on the Orlando massacre. Church leaders should take a lesson from this that their silence can be as hurtful and harmful as any negative statement they might make.

In terms of church leaders speaking negatively, in the case of the Dominican Republic item, it should be remembered that the resignation of the cardinal of that island nation, who was a primary antagonist against the U.S. ambassador, was immediately accepted by the Vatican. Unfortunately, in the case of the Malawi bishops’ anti-LGBT rhetoric, no such Vatican intervention is known of.

Pope Francis’ statements about gender ideology and the Malawi bishops’ call for jail sentences for lesbian and gay people are the only examples of involvement by church leaders becoming strongly involved in anti-LGBT political debates.  (Not that more of such things didn’t happen, but they perhaps were not as prevalent as in previous years.)  This could indicate that bishops with an anti-LGBT agenda have recognized that they cannot win political debates.  This theory may be supported by the fact that in three of the items that made the list–the Vatican gay priest ban, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia liturgical rules, and the Diocese of Little Rock educational guidelines–we see church officials trying to control their own bailiwicks instead of the public sphere.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s list of the BEST Catholic LGBT stories of 2016!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 30, 2016


When the Catholic Press Association Sided With New Ways Ministry

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. 

Catholic Press Association Sides With New Ways Ministry

On December 12, 1981, The St. Louis Globe Democrat carried a story with the headline “St. Louis Review violated press code, Catholic group says.”  The first paragraph of the story explains the controversy:

“The Catholic Press Association, a professional organization of 265 Catholic publications including the St. Louis Review [the archdiocesan newspaper] and most of the country’s diocesan newspapers, has cited the Review in violation of the association’s code for not giving a Catholic group of homosexuals “ample opportunity to defend themselves in the pages of our publications.”

The story states that New Ways Ministry filed the complaint with the Catholic Press Association (CPA) “against the Review and the Hawaii Catholic Herald . . . when the diocesan papers refused to publish New Ways’ response to an Oct. 17, 1980, column by James Hitchcock. . .  a St. Louis University professor of history and a noted Catholic conservative whose weekly column is syndicated in the Review and four other Catholic diocesan papers.”

Hitchcock had written a Sept. 19, 1980, column which mentioned New Ways Ministry, saying that it did not follow church teaching.  New Ways Ministry responded with a letter to the editor that was published in the Review on Oct. 3, 1980.  The news article explains the next development:

“Then Hitchcock devoted his Oct. 17 column to New Ways, citing what he thought was evidence of New Ways’ not following church teaching.  . . . New Ways wanted to respond to Hitchcock’s column but this was denied by Monsignor O’Donnell [the editor]. . .”

The news account states:

“Afer a 10-month study of the controversy and correspondence between New Ways Nd the diocesan papers, the association’s board approved a recommendation Oct. 15, 1981, from its three-member Fair Publishing Practices Code Committee to cite the violation against the Review and the Hawaii Catholic Herald. . . “

According to a December 11, 1981, article in The St. Louis Review that reported the CPA’s decision, the newspaper’s editor, Msgr. Edward O’Donnell, said:

“I’m disappointed the CPA doesn’t respect the judgment of an editor.

“My judgment was simply that both sides of the issue had heard enough about this particular squabble.  I don’t see how any outside organization can assume the responsibility of overruling such an editorial judgment and call itself a professional journalist’s organization.”

The St. Louis Review published a letter to the editor from New Ways Ministry’s co-director, Fr. Robert Nugent, in response to Msgr. O’Donnell’s comment.  It stated in part:

“As Roman Catholic ministers who have been officially assigned to this ministry by our provincial superiors we believe that much more is involved than a ‘squabble,’  as Msgr. O’Donnell terms it, when our reputations as credible ministers are impugned by a Catholic columnist and we are denied an opportunity to reply.

“Mr. Hitchcock says he requested information from us about our position on homosexuality, but neglects to mention that his request came after he made his charges.  Since the burden of proof for his accusations rested with him we felt no need to provide him with information.  He made the charges.  Either he had some substantial and convincing proof or he was simply on a witch-hunting expedition.  Apparently he had no proof.

“Contrary to Msgr. O’Donnell’s remark that “both sides of the issue had been presented” we felt they hadn’t.  Thurs our course to the CPA committee who ultimately agreed with us.”

This 36-year old journalistic controversy is enlightening because it raises the question whether the Catholic press today, especially the diocesan press, gives fair attention to LGBT issues.  So, dear readers, what has been your experience with the Catholic press, especially the diocesan press?  Have you ever written a letter on LGBT issue? If so, was it printed?  When the Catholic paper you read carries stories on LGBT issues, does it fairly represent all sides of the issue? You can offer your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

Be sure to vote for the Best and Worst Catholic LGBT News of 2016. You can vote by clicking here. Voting closes at 5:00 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time on Thursday, December 29th.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 28, 2016


Catholic LGBT Things to Do Before 2016 Ends!

Don’t let these deadlines pass without acting!

newwayssymp-logoREGISTER at the early bird rate for New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss:  LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.”  The deadline for a discounted early bird rate is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2016.  You won’t want to miss this exciting event, which will include a Meet-up for Bondings 2.0 readers!  Click here for more information!  Click here to register!

13114249825_e879cef180_bSIGN “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations,” a statement in support of gay priests and seminarians which will be sent to Pope Francis, Vatican officials, the USCCB president, and gay priests that are known to New Ways Ministry.  The deadline is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2016.  Sign the statement by clicking here.

thumbs upVOTE for what you think were the best and worst Catholic LGBT news events of 2016. Bondings 2.0‘s annual poll is a way for readers to weigh in on the major events that transpired over the last 12 months.  The deadline is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2016. Cast your vote by clicking here.  Results will be posted on December 30th and 31st.

James Martin croppedREAD and CIRCULATE the newly-released Spanish language version of Jesuit Father James Martin’s “A Two-Lane Bridge/Un Puente de Dos Direcciones,” a groundbreaking talk on Catholic LGBT issues, which he gave upon receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award earlier this year.  You can access the talk by clicking here.

follow-1277026_640KEEP UP TO DATE on Catholic LGBT news and opinion by subscribing to Bondings 2.0!  Subscribing is simple:  Go to the top of the right-hand column of this blog page.  You’ll see the “Follow” box.  Enter your email address in the box and click the button.  You’re done!  You’ll receive an email every time the blog is updated, usually once a day.  You can also manage how often you’d like to hear from us.  Resolve to stay informed in 2017!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 28, 2016

Vote for the Best and Worst Catholic LGBT News Events of 2016!

Bondings 2.0 needs our readers’ help!

On the last two days of 2016, December 30th and December 31st, we will publish a list of the “Worst Catholic LGBT News Events of 2016” and the “Best Catholic LGBT News Events of 2016.”

To make that list, we need our readers’ help.  We’ve assembled two polls below for the “Best” stories and the “Worst” stories.  Each list contains 15 “nominees,” based on the blog staff’s assessments of which stories seemed to generate the most comments, had the most impact, and seem to have potential for further change.

We ask you to vote for 5 candidates for the “Best” stories and 5 candidates for the “Worst” stories.  You don’t have to rank them.  Just select the ones you want to single out from the list. When we print the lists on December 30th and 31st, we will rank the stories based on the number of votes received for each.

You can also choose the “Other” option and write in your own candidate.

Please respond by the 5:00 p.m., Eastern U.S. Time,  on Thursday, December 29th.

If your memory needs refreshing about what happened this past year, just use the tools in the right-hand column of this blog to find stories that have been reported on here.  You can search by clicking on a category, by using a search term, or by reviewing posts by month.

One note:  you will notice as you read the list that two events–the publication of Amoris Laetitia and the Catholic response to the Orlando massacre–are mentioned in both “Worst” and “Best” categories, for different reasons.   That’s because many people responded very strongly and differently to both stories.

Thanks for your help in compiling these lists!  We look forward to reading your selections!

–Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 26, 2016

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

There must be always
remaining in every life,
some place for the singing of angels.

Some place for that
which in itself
is breathless and

Old burdens become lighter
deep and ancient wounds
lose much of their old hurting.

Despite all the crassness of life,
all the hardness and
harsh discords,
life is saved by
the singing of angels.

–Howard Thurman

A merry and blessed Christmas to you from New Ways Ministry!


LGBT Christmas in Ireland: “We Are All the Same in God”

At Dublin, Ireland’s 18th Annual LGBT Christmas Carol Service , the guest speaker was Ursula Halligan, Political Editor with TV3. Ms. Halligan, a Catholic,  came out publicly as a lesbian a few days before Ireland’s successful marriage equality referendum last year.  In the op-ed essay where she came out, she made the following observation about voting for marriage equality:

“As a person of faith and a Catholic, I believe a Yes vote is the most Christian thing to do. I believe the glory of God is the human being fully alive and that this includes people who are gay.”

Ursula Halligan and Brian Glennon before the Advent Service

Halligan further spoke about her life, faith and sexuality on Ireland’s Anton Savage radio program.

The LGBT Christmas Carol Service is sponsored by a coalition of  Irish LGBT equality and church reform groups: BeLonGChanging Attitude Ireland; Dublin Gay Men’s Chorus; LGBT Helpline; LOOKGay & Lesbian Equality Network;  All Are Welcome Catholic MassOWLSUnitarian Church, DublinWe Are Church Ireland.  

The service was held at Unitarian Church, Stephen’s Green, Dublin, on December 10, 2016.  The prayers were led by Brian Glennon, who originated the Carol service for the LGBT community 18 years ago.

The following is the text of Ms. Hallgian’s reflection at the prayer service:

Thank you Brian. My goodness you are in fine voice tonight!  Now, I know it’s Christmas. And what do we do at Christmas?
We go home.
And that’s why I’m here with you tonight. I wanted to be at home with my family at Christmas time. I wanted to say a big thank you to the LGBT community for the love and support you’ve showered on me since I wrote my piece in the Irish Times.

Up until May 2015 I never knew I had such a wonderful family. (I certainly never knew they had such beautiful singing voices!) And for you and me, it’s all been about voice; hasn’t it?
You and me; we’ve shared a common journey.
We had to find our voice.
We had to find our inner truth.
We had to find the courage to speak it.
To throw away the masks.
To be real.
To be true to our selves.

Ursula Halligan

It took me a long time to find my voice but I am so glad I did.
Because as Martin Luther King said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”  We shrivel up as human beings if we don’t speak our truth; if we don’t
speak from our conscience. And for me, as a person of faith, conscience is the voice of God that echoes in the depths of each one of us.  Our truth comes from the God within us; not from any institution. 

And if God doesn’t have a problem with us, why should anyone else?

Last year the people of Ireland threw their arms around us and set us free to be equal citizens with everyone else.  It was a magnificent act of love. 
And it is all about love.
We come from love. We are love. We go back to love.
God is love.

It was love that first prompted me to speak up because I believed our love is as good as anyone else’s love. Love is love.  There is no inequality in love. And that’s why it saddens me that the church I belong to and love has yet to accept us the way the Irish people have.

It is important for our flourishing as human beings that we have a vibrant faith community that welcomes and loves us; a place where we can be ourselves without fear or constraint. A place where we are affirmed; where we’re told we’re ok. We need to hear the good news of the Gospel in a place that totally respects us for who we are, exactly as we are. We need to look after one another.

Over the years, thanks to the Unitarian Church here on Stephens Green; to you Reverend Spain and to wonderful Catholics such as Brian Glennon and others, the LGBT community has been trying to grow its own faith community to meet that need. You have kept the candle burning in the darkness.

But I have a dream that one day all the churches will fling open their doors to their LGBT brothers and sisters. That a blaze of warmth and love will welcome us home. That we will be granted equality in marriage and treated the same in every respect with others in the church. That we will be accepted and loved in our wholeness as human beings. That anything that divides the people of God, even labels like “Gay” and “Straight” will be replaced by brother and sister.

Because we are all one.
Just like our love.
We are all the same in God.