NEWS NOTES: Baptisms, Hermits, Movie, and Protests

May 11, 2015

News NotesHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1)  At an ordination in Rome, Pope Francis told 19 priests “With baptism, you unite the new faithful to the People of God. It is never necessary to refuse baptism to someone who asks for it!”  According to The National Catholic Reporter’s Joshua McElwee, these words “may be interpreted to rebut Catholic priests who refuse to baptize children of same-sex couples.”

2)  The bishop of Northampton, England, has removed three members of a hermit community from a local presbytery after they refused to continue distributing vicious anti-gay material, according to The Tablet

3) On America‘s blog, Nathan Schneider gave a positive review to “Owning Our Faith,” a short film produced by the LGBT ministry at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, Manhattan.   Bondings 2.0’s very favorable review can be found by clicking here.

4)  Some graduating seniors at LeMoyne College, a Jesuit school in Syracuse, N.Y., will be protesting the school’s commencement speech this year, which is to be given by N.Y.C.’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, according to TWCnews.com.  Dolan’s record of being critical of LGBT equality is part of the motivation for the students’ protest.

5)  At the annual March for Marriage in Washington, DC, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke against marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples, calling it “the greatest social experiment of our time,”  according to The Catholic Sun.  Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, also attended the rally and gave the opening prayer.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


On Mother’s Day: A Synod of Moms to Advise the Pope

May 10, 2015

I never get tired of telling people that Catholic parents of LGBT people are among the most dedicated and consistently strong advocates for equality in the church.  As people who have strong attachments to both their children and their faith, parents serve as natural “bridges” between the LGBT community and the institutional church, a job that is extremely important in the work of reconciliation between these two groups.

By Mary Cassatt

Today is Mother’s Day, so it is appropriate to reflect on the role that mothers have played in the Catholic LGBT movement.  I was reminded of their influence this week when I read a story about a Canadian mother in Edmonton, Alberta, who has filed a complaint to the local Catholic school board there because her seven-year old transgender daughter was not allowed to use the girls’ restroom.

GlobalNews.ca quoted the mom’s concern:

“It’s not just for my daughter. It’s for every transgender child out there. These children have double the stressors in their life that a [cis]gender child would have. I’m trying to eliminate any type of roadblocks for them.” [Editor’s note:  “Cisgender” is the term used to describe people whose internal gender corresponds with their anatomical features.  “Cis-” is a Latin prefix meaning “on the same side as.” It’s another way of saying “non-transgender.”]

The mother’s response reminded me of an attitude that I have seen demonstrated by many mothers, including my own, my peers who are mothers, and the many moms of LGBT people I have met in my ministry.  Moms don’t see themselves as just mothers of their own children, but in some way, of all children they encounter.

How many of you have ever seen mothers in a park or playground supervising other children for the youngsters’ safety, sometimes children they do not even know?  How many times have you seen a mother cry real tears when they see news on television of a child who has been hurt or harmed in some way?  Mothers all seem to have an innate sense of responsibility and love for all children, not just those who are in their family.

And the same is true of mothers of Catholic LGBT people.  Long after these moms have raised their children into independent adults, they still take on the responsibility, exercised with love, for making the path easier for other LGBT people.  It’s not uncommon for such mothers to work to make their parishes and schools LGBT-friendly even when their own offspring have moved out of the neighborhood and perhaps belong to other parishes or attend other schools.

I have met hundreds of mothers of LGBT people in my 21 years with New Ways Ministry.  I cannot think of a single case where a mother did not tell me that when she first learned of her child’s identity, her first reaction was fear–fear that her child may be harmed physically, emotionally, spiritually by narrow-minded and prejudiced people. A mom’s natural instinct is to protect.

A traditional medieval theological axiom says that “Grace builds upon nature.”  I’ve seen that proven real time and again when I see a mother’s natural love for her LGBT child be extended to all LGBT children and other oppressed groups.

It is often said that God did not make a mistake in creating LGBT people.  Their natural attractions and senses of identity are, in fact, just that:  natural.  But for me, that naturalness is not the only sure sign of God’s love and positive intentions for LGBT people.

An equally important sign of God’s love is the natural love that mothers show for their LGBT children.  That’s the best sign of divine love for sexual and gender minorities which should be emulated by all members of our church, especially our leaders.  We would have a very, very different church if Pope Francis would call a synod of mothers to advise him on marriage and family life than by having a synod of bishops do so.

On this Mother’s Day, I pray that mothers will lead our Church on the issue of LGBT equality and inclusion.  I pray in particular to Mary, the mother whose natural love for her Child Jesus, surely taught him many of the practical and human realities that inspired His preaching.  And I pray in gratitude for all mothers–lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, transgender–whose love educates and forms their children to work for a better world for all.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Dublin Archbishop Calls for an “Ethics of Equality” in Marriage Debate

May 8, 2015

Ireland’s upcoming referendum on marriage equality has evoked the expected opposition from the Catholic hierarchy in that nation, sometimes approaching an extremist tone, such as publicly considering that Catholic priests would not be allowed to perform any wedding ceremony–heterosexual or homosexual–if the electorate approves legal marriage for lesbian and gay couples.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Yet, recently, the archbishop of Dublin has offered a more reconciliatory tone.  While he still opposes the marriage equality law, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has also called for “an ethic of equality” which would include legal protections for gay and lesbian committed couples.

London’s Tablet reported on the archbishop’s comments, made at All Hallows’ College, Dublin, during an address to diocesan communications specialists. You can read the entire text of his talk on the Archdiocese of Dublin website. I will excerpt some of the main points in this blog post.

The main point of Martin’s talk is to defend the issue of complementarity as essential to marriage and social and human stability.  For most of his talk, he explains his reasons for this defense.  He also argues for the importance of theological input into social and political debates.  If one were to read only this section of the talk, one might think that this was his only point, but towards the end of his talk, his subject he considers the situation of lesbian and gay people.

After discussing Pope Francis’ example of openness to lesbian and gay issues, he examines the idea of equality:

“An ethics of equality does not require uniformity. There can be an ethic of equality which is an ethic of recognising and respecting difference. A pluralist society can be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation have their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference, while respecting the uniqueness of the male-female relationship.”

Martin also critiqued people who cite Pope Francis in a positive way when they discuss Catholic support for marriage equality, saying that the pontiff has clearly expressed his defense of heterosexual marriage and complementarity. Of these Catholics, Martin said:

“I find it interesting that many of those supporting the yes campaign object to the use of religious language, but they are not shy in quoting Pope Francis in support of their arguments, although I feel that their knowledge of Pope Francis’ repertoire is somewhat restricted.”

He presented the pontiff’s view of same-gender marriage and LGBT people, noting that neither conservatives nor progressives are completely happy with the nuanced position:

“In the debates around same-sex marriage in Argentina, Pope Francis was unequivocal in his judgment about its non-admissibility, yet he consistently told people not to judge any individual. Many find that a position of that kind is untenable: certain things, they will say, are simply wrong and to be condemned and there is no way in which we can countenance any response except repentance and change of life style. Others will say that the only way in which the Church can show mercy is by changing its teaching. Pope Francis espouses neither of these positions in isolation.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin

More important than the content about same-gender relationships, however, is the Dublin archbishop’s discussion of traditional hierarchical discourse about marriage equality. In the same week that Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the Primate of Ireland warned that religious freedom would be endangered by passage of marriage equality, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin took a more reconciliatory approach.

Diarmuid Martin, who in the past has acknowledged that church leaders and others have too often spoken negatively to and about LGBT people, admitted that he may not been as credible by some:

“I know that the harshness with which the Irish Church treated gay and lesbian people in the past – and in some cases still today – may make it hard for LGBT people to accept that I am sincere in what I am proposing.”

Noting that hierarchical language has often been “insensitive and overly judgemental,” Martin advised:

“The Church has to learn to voice its criticism clearly and without fear, but it must always do so in language which respects her Master.”

He recognized that the harsh language has been one of the biggest ways that bishops have failed in getting across their view of marriage:

“The problem in many ways is that the Church has often in the past presented its message poorly. What is a message of love was presented in language that was harsh. What was rational argument was presented as a dogma which all should accept. The truth about Jesus Christ can only be proclaimed in love.”

Martin has made the case for a more civil debate about LGBT people before and has called on church leaders to be more courteous and respectful in their discussions.

Ireland’s referendum will be held on May 22nd.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

 

Irish Times: “Churchgoers give their views on marriage referendum”

Belfast Telegraph: “Catholic bishops urge ‘No’ vote in Republic of Ireland’s marriage equality referendum”

The Independent: “Voting No to same-sex marriage is not homophobic, say bishops”

The Journal: “Senior Archbishop warns: Church could face legal action for opposing gay marriage”

Irish Times: “Interfering with definition of marriage not a ‘trivial matter’ “

The Independent: “Catholics fear being labelled homophobic – Primate”


Advice to Catholic Bishops: Follow Mormon Leaders’ Example on Religious Freedom

May 6, 2015

The question of religious freedom has been a hot-button issue this past spring, fueled by the Indiana debacle, and the fact that close to thirty other states are considering numerous religious freedom bills, many of which, as we saw in Indiana, are lightly veiled efforts to allow any person claiming religious motivations to discriminate against LGBT people.

Bishop John Wester

But the one important compromise that occurred this year was the Utah bill which simultaneously protected religious liberty and outlawed LGBT discrimination.  This law’s passage was also noteworthy because the Mormon Church, which has a long anti-gay past, and has one of the most powerful political forces in the state, ended up supporting the measure.  Less well-known, though, is the fact that the Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City (just recently appointed to be Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico), also ended up supporting the bill, though support came late in the process.

The National Catholic Reporter’s Father Thomas Reese, SJ, a political scientist by training, examined the involvement of these two powerful, traditionally anti-gay, institutions in a column recently, noting that the Mormons’ leadership in this area could be an example to Catholic bishops in other states.  Reese recounts the timeline of Catholic involvement in the Utah process:

“The Catholic diocese of Salt Lake City was not part of the negotiations over the legislation, but it had for the last two years supported nondiscrimination legislation in the state. According to Jean Hill, the diocese’s lobbyist, the diocese supported the legislation at the conclusion of the process when it was being voted on by the legislature and going to the governor for his signature.

” ‘From our perspective as a Catholic diocese,’ said Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, ‘we felt that this legislation honored the rights of both the LGBT community as well as the religious community. It allowed us to have our beliefs in the public square and to have people in the LGBT community not being discriminated against in such basic things as housing and employment. We felt it was in line with our Catholic social teaching.’

“After the legislation was signed into law, the diocese issued a statement saying that the legislation ensures ‘that all people in Utah have equal access to at least two essential services — housing and employment — while also protecting religious freedom.’

” ‘The teachings of our church are clear — God loves each of us, regardless of, or perhaps because of, our flaws, sins or failings,’ the statement continued. ‘If we believe we are all created and loved by our God, we can do nothing less than support a bill that protects individuals from discrimination when seeking a place to live or a means of supporting themselves. The bill strikes a fair and just balance between providing for these basic needs and protecting the rights of people of faith to exercise their beliefs.’ “

Wester also acknowledged that was very successful in the Utah example was not just the product, but the process. The significant thing, he said was

“. . .that members of the community can come together, obviously representing different constituencies, and can dialogue and can try to work something out in a respectful, courteous manner that will allow for all parties to feel that they have been listened to. I thought that was significant. You don’t have to be constantly haranguing one another.”

Too often, too many Catholic bishops opt for an adversarial relationship, and not a collaborative one.  Such a posture makes it seem that they do not want to give up their status as “victims” in these scenarios, and are hoping for an all-or-nothing outcome.

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Father Reese offers the bishops a warning and some advice:

“Time is running out for the bishops. They need to take the initiative in supporting legislation banning discrimination against gays while protecting their religious liberty concerns. They have to stop being simply negative. Too much of their talk is legalistic when it should be pastoral. They need to speak like pastors. They need to sit down with gay rights leaders and try to work out a deal.”

And he continues to go even further than just religious freedom laws, chastising the bishops for supporting the firings of LGBT employees from church institutions:

“No matter what kind of exemptions are provided to church institutions, the bishops still need to rethink their attitude toward their gay employees. It is totally inconsistent to punish gays for violating the church’s teaching on sex if the church does not also punish heterosexual employees for sexual sins.

“The church employs Catholics and others who have been divorced and remarried, and it even gives benefits to their new spouses. Church institutions also do not normally fire unmarried employees who are having sex. No one thinks that these actions by the church imply its endorsement of its employees’ lifestyles. Treating gay employees the same as heterosexual employees would not make people think the church has changed its teaching. “

In his conclusion, Reese provides the bishops with language that they should be using, instead of the negative stonewalling which has been their political style in these cases:

“It is time for bishops to stand up and say, ‘There is nothing Christlike about discriminating against gay people, firing them from their jobs, turning them down for housing, so let’s work to protect them, and let’s also get some of the protections we need.’ It is time for the bishops to follow the Mormons.”

The Mormon leadership and the Catholic Church leadership infamously joined together to pass Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage bill in California.  If they were able to work together then, they should be able to do the same when it comes to protecting religious freedom and non-discrimination.

The issue of religious freedom will be with us for a while.  The bishops would do well by examining this successful process in Utah.  Most importantly, they need to remember that they are bishops of all Catholics–both LGBT and heterosexual–so, while protecting religious freedom, they also have a duty to prevent discrimination.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles

Crux: With Mormons addressing LGBT issues, Catholics and Baptists press on

Huffington Post: “When Will Religious Leaders Start to Act Like Religious Leaders: Reflections on the LDS Press Conference”


Some Silver Linings in Employment Cases, Though Dark Clouds Remain

May 5, 2015

A few weeks backBondings 2.0 reported and commented on employment disputes over LGBT issues at Catholic schools in the neighboring states of Iowa and Nebraska.  Though neither case has been resolved with a gay teacher being allowed to work, some unexpected results have occurred.

Iowa

In Des Moines, Iowa, where Tyler McCubbin, a substitute teacher, had a full-time job offer revoked when it was learned that he was engaged to a man, student organizers at his former school, Dowling Catholic H.S., have succeeded in getting a gay-straight alliance established and officially recognized and supported.

Tyler McCubbin

The group, called “One Human Family” was proposed by four students on the day after McCubbin’s dispute was announced.  According to The Des Moines Register, Dowling President Jerry Deegan wrote to parents announcing the organization’s formation:

” ‘Pope Francis has challenged us to be sensitive and provide a caring, compassionate, respectful environment for all of our students on their faith journey.’ He went on to say the club will support students who may identify or have questions about same-sex attraction.

” ‘Some will believe that One Human Family will not be progressive enough while others may believe the formation of this club is misguided,’ the letter said. ‘As the president of Dowling Catholic, I will always strive, along with our faculty, to make certain all students are given the support, respect, and guidance during their formative years. This club will add to that effort in a positive way.’ “

McCubbin had stated that he was hopeful that such an organization would be established to support LGBT students at the school. Student leaders were very pleased with the administration’s recognition.  The Register quoted two of them:

” ‘I’m really excited to get this started,’ said Grace Mumm, a sophomore who organized the walkout, which sparked national media coverage. ‘I have a lot of confidence that the school is going to cooperate with us really well, and we’ve been working really closely with them.’ . . . .

” ‘I feel really great,’ said Junior Liam Jameson, who started a petition that garnered 1,700 signatures in favor of the club. ‘I’m sure we’re going to get some backlash, but it’s a big step forward for students at Dowling and in the community in general.’ “

In an editorial after the gay-straight alliance was announced, The Des Moine Register praised the students’ efforts for compassion and equality, and noted the importance of such an organization:

“A Catholic institution may have the legal right to deny employment to a teacher who does not follow church canon, but all schools should provide a welcoming and safe environment for all students.”

I would add that just because a Catholic institution may have a legal right, it doesn’t mean that it is moral or just to exercise that right by firing competent teachers.

Nebraska

matthew eledge

Matthew Eledge

In Omaha, Nebraska, where Matthew Eledge was fired from his job teaching English and coaching the speech team at Skutt Catholic H.S., students recently used the school’s fundraising walk for financial aid programs to show support for him and express displeasure at the administration’s decision.

KETV reported that during the annual “Hawk Walk,’ students donned T-shirts emblazoned with the messages:  “I Support Mr. Eledge”  and “Love one another as I have loved you,” a passage from the gospels.

The students’ petition to reverse the administration’s decision has collected over 95,000 signatures in less than a month.

Skutt H.S. students support Matthew Eledge at school fundraiser.

The Huffington Post interviewed one of the students who organized the action:

“Darya Kaboli-Nejad, a senior at the school, said that about 100 Skutt students purchased the shirts. She told HuffPost that Eledge has changed her life forever ‘through his teaching and actions.’

” ‘To be honest, I didn’t think the T-shirt campaign would get Mr. Eledge a job back at Skutt,’ Kaboli-Nejad told HuffPost in an email. ‘But my goal is for this unfair situation to never occur to another human being again. The ultimate dream is to impact one person’s life. If this campaign can get enough attention, then maybe one day, one person out there will remember how much hurt and pain this caused Mr. Eledge and his friends and family, that they will stand up for what they know is right and just.’ “

In a BuzzFeed interview, Eledge explained some of his motivation for going public and also his gratitude to supporters:

“Eledge said he was reluctant at first to address the issue because he wanted to make sure he wasn’t just speaking with his ‘ego.’

“However, he said, he’s come to realize that his story has ‘represented something way bigger.’

“Eledge said both he and Elliot are ‘more than anything totally and 100% moved and humbled and in awe of the way people are reaching out.’

“ ‘The support from the community has made me feel very loved and accepted,’ he said.”

The responses in both cases show how the Catholic community’s quest for justice and equality for LGBT people may take some necessary detours, but that the work will go on, no matter what kind of obstacles are placed in the way.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Weekend for Fired Church Workers Encourages Solidarity, Justice, Faith

April 29, 2015

Image from U.S. Catholic magazine. See end of this post for link to an important survey on church worker firings.

I was blessed this past weekend to take part in a national meeting of Catholic church workers who have been fired or are being threatened with firing because of a variety of issues, including their support for LGBT equality.  The meeting, the first of its kind, brought together about 30 people from across the nation who are concerned about this disturbing trend.

Here on Bondings 2.0,  we have been chronicling the plight of lesbian and gay people fired for legally marrying, trans people fired for transitioning, allies who would not renew their contracts because of added morality clauses that would prevent them from supporting LGBT family and friends.

This meeting, held at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, included people in those situations, but also included people fired for support of various other issues of church reform. The event was co-sponsored by Call to Action, Catholics for Choice, DignityUSA, Human Rights Campaign, and New Ways Ministry.

Ellen Euclide

Crux reported on the event, interviewing lead organizer, Ellen Euclide from Call To Action, who noted that the program discussed “discrimination, at-will employment, morality clauses, and how we might build some power to push for just employment practices in the workplace.”

It was a blessing and privilege to be with this group of people to share stories, discuss strategies, and pray together.  When we gathered for our closing liturgy on Sunday, we reflected on the readings of the day, which included the following lines from Psalm 118:22:

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By Yahweh has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.

The same verse was echoed in the first reading, Acts 4:8-12.

The truth of those words came through over the weekend, as I witnessed how those who have been rejected by church leaders are now working together to renew the church in a more just and inclusive manner.   Though their experiences have certainly been painful, they are using their pain to work to prevent the same thing from happening to others, and to help the Church live up to its best ideals.

I learned some other important lessons from participating in this group.  First, I realized how important  it was for these church workers who have lost their jobs to be with others who have been fired or are threatened with being fired.  I have noticed that one reason that these firings can happen so easily is that isolation works against those who are fired.  It is usually one person in a city or diocese, not a group.  However, there is strength in solidarity, and when people join together with others in the same situation, great transformation can take place.

Hearing the stories of support that these workers received from their students, parishioners, and local communities, I realized that the firings harm not only church workers but the entire church, who lose the gifts and talents of these dedicated workers. Ellen Euclide, in a Call To Action blog post about the weekend, pointed out another way the Church is harmed by these actions:
“Discrimination, lack of access to contraception, low pay and job insecurity are some of the many reasons that our parishes, schools and nonprofits are losing the gifts and talents of committed workers like those who gathered in Chicago this weekend.  While the church leadership is enacting unjust employment policies, Catholic people in the pews have been supporting fired church workers across the country. The firings harm not only church workers but the entire church. This policy is not sustainable and will only lead to more and more Catholics leaving the church, especially young people.”
Another event like this past weekend’s is being planned for the fall of this year.  The more organized that church workers become, the better that they will be able to support one another and guide the church to more just employment practices.
I left the meeting with a feeling of confidence that, as a Church, we are going to be able to reform these policies to reflect Catholic teachings of the rights of workers and the treatment of all people equally.
(U.S. Catholic magazine is conducting a reader survey entitled “Should Catholic organizations fire employees who stray from church teaching?”   Click here to read background information, followed by the survey.)
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Catholic Support for Marriage Equality at U.S. Supreme Court

April 28, 2015

Supreme Court photoNew Ways Ministry’s Matthew Myers, associate director (left), and Francis DeBernardo, executive director (right), joined hundreds of marriage equality supporters today outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, today.  They were there to show Catholic support for marriage equality while inside the nine justices listened to oral arguments on cases which could potentially make marriage for lesbian and gay couples legal nationwide.  The Court’s decision is expected by the end of June.

For more background on the Court cases, click on these three posts:

April 28, 2015:  “On Marriage Equality, Sweeping Changes Possible But Much Remains the Same for Catholics

April 27, 2015: “What Makes Catholic Justice Kennedy Advocate for Lesbian & Gay Equality?

April 21, 2015: “Supreme Court Marriage Equality Case Will Be Led by Catholic Gay Couple

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


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