Young Adults See Complexities of Sexuality That Their Catholic Schools Cannot

June 18, 2015

Jake Midura’s test, posted to social media

Young Catholics understand sexuality is complex and are among the most LGBT-affirming groups in our church. Unfortunately, some of the Catholic schools which they attend are not necessarily up to speed.

This dissonance causes controversy in too many instances. In one case, a Manchester, New Hampshire high school student contested a problematic question on homosexuality marked incorrect on his test. Jake Midura, a gay teen who just finished his junior year at Trinity H.S., posted the multiple choice question, which asked why homosexual acts are immoral.  (See the choices in the graphic at the right.)

Midura answered “D. none of these.”

The school, however, said the correct answer was “C. they are not open to life.” A statement from Trinity High School Principal Denis Mailloux confirmed this, saying teachers needed to “teach the truth in love,” reported NH 1.  Diocesan School Superintendent Fr. John Fortin admitted homosexuality is more complex than that question, but defended the school’s choice because the test conforms to the bishops’ guidelines.

In another case, a school in Melbourne, Australia suppressed students’ project on same-sex marriage for not being “balanced.” Two high school students were told at the last minute that they could not present their project to students, according to 3AW News Talk. Mark Sheehan, principal of Catholic Regional College (a secondary school) said the decision had little to do with the subject, saying any other unbalanced report would have been suppressed, too. Yet, one local labor leader criticized the decision  as “political censorship.” The school also later admitted it did  not handle the issue well.

Young people’s support of LGBT issues, which is readily apparent in these stories, is backed by recent data from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).   Millennials view sexuality and gender as much more complex than older generations do. While only 7% of those surveyed openly identify as LGBT, few of them are ready to condemn this community, reported the National Catholic Reporter:

” ‘Millennials seem reluctant to make blanket black-and-white moral pronouncements about issues they see as complex,’ [PRRI CEO Robert] Jones said. . .So to the extent that religious authorities or doctrines are seen to make black-and-white statements, Jones said, ‘millennials are going to have a problem.’ “

Catholic leaders have not avoided black-and-white statements when it comes to LGBT issues. Indeed, some clergy and bishops have been among the most extreme anti-gay voices in recent years. Catholic education in the United States, though strongly inclusive at the college level, remains impaired by promoting attitudes which students see as anti-LGBT.

Recent data from the Pew Forum showed marked declines in Christian, particularly Catholic, membership in the United States. Some claim this is because Catholicism is anti-LGBT, anti-woman, and anti-modern, and younger people reject these views. I agree with author Kaya Oakes, however, in sensing something different. She wrote at Religious Dispatches:

“Rather than placing mercy and compassion at the forefront of its message, the American Catholic church in particular has become caught up in the culture wars, with a relentless and alienating focus on antiquated notions of sexuality and upholding “traditional marriage” that are deeply unappealing to Millennials and Gen Xers in particular. . .

“[This] may indicate a level of discernment and thoughtfulness about what is non-negotiable in people’s search for a way of believing. The identity of being a seeker is no longer one that might result in a lifelong adherence to a single faith. . .

“Religion for many is becoming a lived and constantly shifting experience rather than a series of handed-down gestures and prayers.”

Younger Catholics understand that homosexuality, and sexuality generally, is not reducible to simple answers circled on a test question. In recognizing the complexity inherent in human lives and experiences, Millennials are doing theology, whether consciously or not. This phenomenon builds upon the long-recognized fact that personal relationships strongly move people towards LGBT acceptance.

Young adults, as well, tire of “balanced” views when they see the “other side” as representing intolerance and prejudice. They have a strong desire, perhaps to a fault at moments, for radical acceptance in their churches and faith-based institutions like their schools. When religious communities fail to live out such acceptance, Millennials are thoughtful and committed enough to Gospel principles to leave in obedience to their consciences, if that is what is demanded.

In their complex views, younger Catholics follow the footsteps of former Sagniaw Bishop Ken Untener. Addressing New Ways Ministry’s 1992 Symposium, he said:

“We need to take seriously the evaluation that homosexuality is a complex question, yet I do not believe we always do. We have to be careful not to make life too simple. The Pharisees made that mistake. . .Jesus did exactly the oppose. . .Jesus treated life as very complex.”

The dissonance today between the Millennials’ more complex understandings of sexuality and gender and the Phariseeism of those charged with guiding them in faith and in education mean church leaders have a choice. Either recognize life’s complexities, by rejecting simple answers, and instead foster honest conversations.  If they don’t, they risk becoming entirely irrelevant to young Catholics who really could use the best and truest parts of Catholic tradition to help guide their lives.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Bishops’ Infighting (and Honesty) Intensifies as 2015 Synod Approaches

June 17, 2015

African bishops discussing family life today

Intensifying divides among Catholic bishops are becoming increasingly apparent as preparations for the 2015 synod continue. More and more bishops are speaking about whether and how the church should improve its pastoral care of families, particularly for same-gender partners and their families.

Below, Bondings 2.0 provides a briefing on recent developments, and links are provided for more information, if desired.

African Bishops Meet

African bishops gathered in Accra, Ghana for a consultative meeting in advance of the 2015 Synod of Bishops. Convened by the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), nearly fifty prelates discussed the state of family life on the continent and what African Catholicism offers to the synod.

Several speakers attacked marriage equality, including Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, who told those gathered marriage is “being attacked by all forms of ideologies” to “destroy the family in Africa.” There were repeated calls for Africa’s bishops to “speak with one voice,” reported Vatican Radio.

One voice not included in this African meeting, but which should be considered, is Uganda’s Father Anthony Musaala who is calling for a ‘Sexual Refugee’ program to aid LGBT people fleeing nations where they face elevated levels of violence and discrimination.

European Responses

The National Catholic Reporter detailed European responses from national episcopal conferences, saying overall:

“Europe’s fractious and divided church looks set to play a key role when the synod convenes in October.”

As they had previously done, the bishops of England and Wales solicited input from anyone interested in responding to their online survey, though these results remain unreleased.

Switzerland’s bishops released a summary of 6,000 Catholics’ responses from 570 reports composed after parish conversations, saying overall that church teachings were “complicated, incomprehensible and idealistic.” On homosexuality specifically, spokesperson Walter Müller said most Catholics want formal recognition of same-gender relationships. He added that they:

“[W]ish the church and synod to take reality into account, and to stop defining it as inadequate, irregular, defective and wounded…Only a small minority of answers expressed the wish for a narrow observance of the church’s current doctrine with its strict discipline.”

German bishops, lay people, and theologians have echoed such sentiments in their calls for respect and for recognition of same-gender couples. After Ireland’s referendum in favor of equal marriage rights, Germany’s Cardinal Walter Kasper has said same-gender marriage matter should be the “central issue” of the synod.

France’s bishops reported on 10,000 respondents.  The only information about their answers came from Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré of Montpellier, vice president of the French bishops conference, who said Catholics in his country would like this consultation process to become regularized.

Belgium’s bishops said church teachings on the relevant issues are “hardly understood, even among churchgoing Catholics, and also not practiced,” admitting that a February survey was intended to gain ‘real’ results as intended by Pope Francis.

Poland’s bishops are, alternatively, resisting any of the frankness or close look at reality found in the above statements. These bishops claim recent survey results are “unanimous and unambiguous” that Poles oppose any reforms in Catholic teaching, reported the National Catholic Reporter.

Poland’s Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan directly refuted the merciful approach of Germany’s bishops, calling instead for those with “homosexual tendencies” to seek therapy. Gadecki chaired a recent meeting of Eastern European prelates in Slovakia, strengthening their opposition to any pastoral proposals for LGBT people or the divorced and remarried.

Interestingly, a government survey from March claims 75% of Polish Catholics desire reform because they disagree with the bishops’ teachings on sexuality. The church’s own information agency KAI reports 61% of people expect “significant changes in church teaching” from Pope Francis.

Joint African-European Seminar

Uniting African and Eastern European bishops, a seminar titled “The Joy of the Family” was held in Mozambique in late May to strategize for the synod, reported Aleteia. SECAM and the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE) avoided LGBT issues in a closing statement, but several speakers negatively addressed the matter.

Archbishop Edgar Parra Pena, the apostolic nuncio to Mozambique, said Ireland’s passage of marriage equality was a “sad situation” that must be resisted. Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, president of CCEE, indirectly attacked the pastoral proposals from Cardinal Walter Kasper and his German-speaking peers by rejecting experience as a locus of theological reflection.

This meeting is similar to a study day for French, German, and Swiss bishops and theologians late last month, though in that case they strategized about how to expand pastoral care for LGBT people and divorced/remarried Catholics.

Progress Already Made

Not all these developments are positive for LGBT advocates, as those bishops opposed to homosexuality and marriage equality organize against any positive changes in church teaching and practice.   Some recent history provides an important lesson. At Vatican II’s outset,  conservative factions operating under Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani who tried to stem any and all change.

Thankfully, the Spirit intervened then, as now. The dialogue around once silenced issues and even the disagreements occurring among prelates are welcome signs. This is what Pope Francis has desired through this synodal process and it is the seeds from which reform and renewal will keep growing. The process itself is not the easiest and includes setbacks, but even before the synod begins progress has been achieved.

What matters most now is that pro-equality Catholics continue making their affirming voices known to Pope Francis, to the hierarchy, and to the entire People of God.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Guam Archbishop: Marriage Equality the “Road to a Totalitarian System”

June 15, 2015

Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron

Responding to the recent enactment of marriage equality in Guam, the U.S. territory’s archbishop said it would “destroy the basic fabric of society” and is the “road to a totalitarian system.”

Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Agana, head of Guam’s Catholics who make up 85% of the South Pacific island’s population, said the judicial decision which legalized marriage for lesbian and gay couples was a “defeat for the whole of Humanity.” He added further in his response statement:

“The recognition of a same-sex union, as marriage, destroys the basic fabric of society, and will destroy human beings in the process. . .The battle is not over; there is not yet the definitive word. . . For me, many words will still be said about this issue. This is still a controversial and complicated issue for our contemporary culture.”

The archbishop also expressed his “tremendous sadness” at the “tsunami of secularization” that has overtaken culture and continued, according to the National Catholic Reporter:

“Apuron called the government’s claim it has a right to acknowledge same-sex relationships ‘is the first step in collapsing the vital distinction between the state and society.’

” ‘This is the road to a totalitarian system. Why? Because now we will see that the state — the government — will require and demand that the church accept its redefinition of marriage, by way of anti-discrimination laws,’ he stated.”

Apuron issued his statement following a District Court judge’s decision in the case of a couple, Loretta Pangelinan and Kathleen Aguero,  who were originally denied a marriage license. Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood struck down the territory’s marriage ban on same-gender marriages, and Guam’s government promised in May to respect such a decision, reported Yahoo News.

Loretta Pangelinan and Kathleen Aguero

Guam is the first U.S. territory to enact marriage equality, joining 36 states and the District of Columbia in expanding equal rights. A Supreme Court’s decision later this month could legalize it nationwide. Pangelinan and Aguero are both Catholic, but have insisted their case involves a civil matter, telling Marianas Variety:

“We’re standing up for our right. . .It has nothing to do with the church or anything. It’s our right to marry the person we love, which is each other.”

As Catholics advancing equality, their case is a wonderful sign of the Gospel being enacted in the world. Archbishop Apuron’s response to this civil decision is both hyperbolic and pastorally imprudent.

To make extreme claims such as he does only intensifies divisions in the church and contributes to harmful prejudices against LGBT people, especially at this point in history. Marriage equality is close to becoming law nationwide. This battle is largely finished in the U.S., and advocates of love have won whether the archbishop and his anti-gay colleagues admit to reality or not.

This is not the first time Apuron has made harsh anti-gay remarks. When Guam’s legislature weighed a marriage bill in 2009, he said homosexuality was “intrinsically unhealthy” and the government would forfeit its moral authority to govern if the bill passed. Hopefully, however, these most resent assertions on LGBT matters will be his last.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


“Francis Bishops” Question U.S. Church’s Priorities, But Is This Real Change?

June 14, 2015

Bishops gathered in St. Louis, MO

Rare public controversial discussions erupted at the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in St Louis this past week, as newly appointed prelates questioned whether the bishops’ recent priorities aligned with Pope Francis.

Particularly criticized was the U.S.bishops’ religious liberty campaign which is at the forefront of their opposition to LGBT rights.

Although these discussion are a hopeful sign for progress in the church, other events raises questions about whether the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is really changing.

A Thursday morning discussion about conference priorities for 2017-2020 prompted a flurry of concerns, causing Chicago’s Archbishop Blaise Cupich to request a full discussion of the various items. Committee on Priorities and Plans Chair Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle claimed this unusual debate was planned, but the National Catholic Reporter observed:

“Even with that [Sartain’s] explanation, one by one, numerous bishops voiced concern with the perception and direction of the priorities.”

Bishops questioned whether they had focused sufficiently on poverty and economic justice, along with issues championed by the pope like immigration, climate change, and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

Some bishops wondered aloud why, in the age of Francis, the Committee had not proposed newer and bolder priorities. Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, who said they appear to be “the same thing we’ve always done.” Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianpolis said the drafted priorities “were quite closely a restatement of the priorities that this body has adopted in the past.”

Overall, their comments revealed a growing disillusionment with previous agendas that were largely limited to opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception. It was during this part of the discussion where the criticisms of the religious liberty campaign as a response to LGBT equality initiatives arose.

Bishop Robert McElroy

San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy, expressing his desire for Francis’ priorities to be “amped up” in the U.S., said a clearer and more Catholic articulation on the topic was necessary. He requested an understanding of religious liberty “that is ‘nuanced’ and essentially three tiers: the individual conscience, religious communities and secular employers,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.

In addition, Archbishop Cupich added his own comments on the priorities:

“Cupich in his own comments said he found it ‘stunning’ that the priorities’ only use of the word ‘advocacy’ came in regard to religious freedom, and he raised the immigration issue as another area where advocacy is warranted. . . He said he thought they might also want to consider whether religious freedom should be a singular priority or better fit within the scope of evangelization.

“It is a concern. We need to make sure that religious freedom is protected, but whether or not it is above the status of poverty is I think something for further debate.”

Yet, the three-day meeting also included troubling signs that many U.S. bishops were clearly disregarding Pope Francis’ exhortations and stuck on opposing LGBT justice.

The bishops heard from right-wing couples about improving pastoral care around marriage. There was no acknowledgment of same-gender relationships in this discussion, an issue which Cardinal Walter Kasper has said should be the “central issue” at the synod this fall.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 11.26.24 PM

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Those present also heard from embattled Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, addressing the conference in his role as chair of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. Noting the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision, Cordileone stated:

“Nothing the court says can change what marriage truly is, and we will continue to promote and defend it…We may have to suffer this lie about marriage in the law, but we must not participate in it or keep silent about it.”

This line received sustained applause from those gathered, according to the National Catholic Reporter. Cordileone also warned about alleged discrimination anti-LGBT people will face as marriage equality expands and promised to continue pressing for broad religious exemptions, including yet another Fortnight for Freedom this year. Attempting to claim Pope Francis for his cause, Cordileone cited the pontiff’s critiques of yet undefined “gender ideology.”

Archbishop Kurtz praised Cordileone for “courageous leadership,” ignoring the thousands of Bay Area Catholics who have protested the archbishop’s leadership in recent months, most recently for attacking trans* people as undermining faithNCR columnist Michael Sean Winters questioned the other bishops’ silence around Cordileone’s controversies, writing:

“I also wish one of the bishops had manifested the courage to confront the sometimes offensive, sometimes bizarre comments of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, entrusted with the “defense of marriage” by the conference, especially when it came to the subject of transgendered [sic] people…My heart grieves for what they must endure to be sure, although there was little sense of sympathy coming from His Grace of San Francisco.”

Little compassion came from Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore as well who said, in a post-meeting interview, that Catholic social service providers may halt operations serving the poor if LGBT rights become law, reported Crux.

I have several reactions to this news from the bishops’ meeting. First, I am thrilled to see bishops openly critical of the narrow and misguided priorities dictating the bishops’ conference activities in recent years. Pope Francis is providing cover for bishops pushing the American hierarchy to be in greater solidarity with the poor and the marginalized, setting aside cultural issues like LGBT rights about which the conference has obsessed. If the Supreme Court rules for nationwide marriage equality, the bishops should drop their campaigns quickly and take up the actual Gospel work towards which the pope and his appointees are calling the USCCB.

Second, it seems that this is an uncertain moment. The priorities are not settled and conservative bishops controlling the process seem ill-inclined to make the radical shifts for which some are calling. Cordileone’s statements about Christians being persecuted in America are demeaning to those actually suffering for their faith in other parts of the globe.  It is sadly disappointing that Lori does not see how devastatingly unjust and shameful it is each time the church shutters social services to the poor because LGBT employees or clients seek equal protections under civil law. Even though some of their peers interject with fraternal corrections, it is unclear where the wider conference would ultimately line up.

Still, slow as it may be emerging, this minor debate in an otherwise mundane spring meeting is proof the much celebrated “Francis Effect” may finally be breaking into the American hierarchy.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Caitlyn Jenner, The Archbishop, Fr. Barron, and Me

June 11, 2015

Philadelphia City Hall against a superimposed trans* flag

Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out via Vanity Fair and the ensuing national conversation has triggered some foolish responses from Catholic clergy.

Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 reported on San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s comment, for which he was widely criticized, that trans* identities undermine faith .  Now, Fr. Robert Barron has weighed in Jenner’s story on his widely-read blog.

Barron likened Jenner’s transition to a modern form of Gnosticism, a heresy which denigrates the material in favor of the spiritual and emphasizes escape from the body. Barron sets up transitioning as an act in which the body and soul are pitted against one another, in which the body is a “prison for the soul.” Of this, he writes

“This schema is, to a tee, gnostic —and just as repugnant to Biblical religion as it was nineteen hundred years ago…Until we realize that the lionization of Caitlyn Jenner amounts to an embracing of Gnosticism, we haven’t grasped the nettle of the issue.”

Discussing that post on his Facebook page, Barron analogized trans* people to pedophiles.  In a response to the first commenter about the Jenner post, Barron said:

“Friend, just as a thought experiment: would you tolerate someone who chose pedophilia as a lifestyle? If the answer is no, which it must be, then you can’t really believe your own argument that everyone has a right to choose any lifestyle that suits him or her.”

From such a comment it is clear that it is not Caitlyn Jenner and other trans* people who have not “grasped the nettle” of this matter, but rather Fr. Barron. In setting up gender transitions as he does, Barron’s own confusion is on display. The pedophilia reference is dismissed for its absurdity.

Comments by Fr. Barron, Archbishop Cordileone, and others in church leadership who refuse to respect trans* people reveal their profound ignorance about gender issues. Malice may influence some responses, but more often it seems like these Catholics are ill-equipped to discuss transgender issues because either time, opportunity, or will has kept them from properly educating themselves.

Last weekend, I joined nearly 5,000 people for the 14th Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference to help my own education. Though a secular event, God’s love flowed through the halls of the Pennsylvania Convention Center as people gathered to learn self-respect and respect for others. Hope marked the event. Through hundreds of workshops, countless conversations, and the fellowship of friends old and new, I learned an overwhelming amount. I learned most of all how very much there is for me to learn as a cisgender person and ally.

To foster more education, I am inviting Archbishop Cordileone, Fr. Barron, and other Catholic clergy to join me at the 2016 Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference.

This is an invitation to listen and encounter by humbling ourselves, rather than to pontificate. I believe that if skeptical Catholics spend time genuinely coming to know the experiences of trans* people, they could see  that the journey around gender identity is a saintly one. It is the search to be one’s truest self on which all humans embark.

In response to Fr. Barron, I would say that the decision to present and live as or transition to one’s authentic gender identity is the very opposite of Gnosticism. These are acts of integration, allowing some to be embodied in their reality in ways authentic to the person God is calling them forth to be. It is incarnational, not gnostic.

Attending the conference would also help skeptics come to know that trans* people are among those God loves most in our world, for they experience severe levels of violence and discrimination. This is especially true for those who are people of color. While affirming Caitlyn Jenner, many at the conference pointed out how atypical her life is and note the voluminous barriers that prevent many trans* people from living openly as their authentic self. Increasing the church’s practical solidarity with trans* communities would be a response to a sign of the times we cannot ignore.   Our response as a church should be one of education and justice.

On a positive note, it looks like only 23% of Catholics share Archbishop Cordileone’s and Fr. Barron;s disapproval. A recent poll shows 59% of Catholics already accept trans* people or do not consider their identities to be a moral issue, reports The New Civil Rights Movement. Hopefully, by this time next year, that second number will be increasingly higher, and the first one significantly lower,  as more and more Catholics come to understand trans* issues clearly.

To learn more about the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Australia’s Bishops Use Schoolchildren in New Campaign Against Marriage Equality

June 10, 2015
Screenshot 2015-06-09 at 3.15.14 PM

Cover page of the bishops’ document

On the heels of Ireland’s passage of marriage equality, and while other bishops are thinking of ways to speak about marriage in less strident rhetoric,  Australia’s Catholic bishops have launched a campaign for “the very soul of marriage,” employing educators and schoolchildren in Catholic schools as their messengers.

In an 18-page document disseminated through Catholic schools, the bishops call marriage equality a “serious injustice” according to the Goalburn Post.

Titled “Don’t Mess With Marriage,” the document warns against the perceived dangers of same-gender marriages and says it is “unjust, gravely unjust” to allow same-gender couples equal rights to marriage. They continue:

“If we are right in this assertion and if the civil law ceases to define marriage as traditionally understood, it will be a serious injustice and undermine that common good for which the civil law exists.”

Speaking of family and friends with “same-sex attraction,” their preferred language for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, the document says:

“They need love and support like anyone else. But pretending that their relationships are ‘marriages’ is not fair or just to them. . .Same-sex friendships are of a very different kind: to treat them as the same does a grave injustice to both kinds of friendship and ignores the particular values that real marriages serve.”

The bishops also claim religious liberty will be impaired and that children will be negatively affected:

” ‘Messing with marriage’, therefore, is also ‘messing with kids’. It is gravely unjust to them.”

This line is particularly curious, given that several bishops are using Catholic schools to distribute the document, with children as young as six or seven being given the document to bring home to their parents. It also messes with the conscience rights and religious liberty of educators and administrators at Catholic schools forced to promulgate such prejudice or risk their job.

In the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn, Archbishop Christopher Prowse confirmed that the document was sent to 56 primary and secondary schools which educate nearly 25,000 students. He hopes it will be shared in parishes and other Catholic agencies as well, reported ABC News.

In the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Archbishop Denis Hart had “Don’t Mess With Marriage” distributed in dozens of schools, with the added request that principals personally ask parents to oppose marriage equality and write to their members of Parliament, reported the Sydney Morning Herald. Some principals, however, are refusing both requests out of concern for the pastoral effects they may have on LGBT students or those coming from non-traditional families.

In the Diocese of Darwin, where students at St. Paul’s Catholic Primary School received the document, NT News and The Guardian asked church officials who made the decision to distribute the document in that fashion.  Each official or office punted it to another office.

Daniel Alderman of the LGBT group Rainbow Territory, responded to the bishops’ campaign, saying:

“I don’t see what their argument is, this is about equality. . .Bigotry perpetuates hate and as a Catholic one would expect that they would be forgiving and loving.”

Michael Bayly

One would expected the Catholic Bishops of Australia Conference to imitate Christ’s witness of forgiveness, love, and reconciliation, but they have chosen otherwise. Michael Bayly of The Wild Reed , an Australian by birth, called their actions a “new low.” His analysis, worth reading in its entirety, stated:

“As Ireland so resoundingly showed, the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s days of lording it over people’s sexual and relational lives have pretty much past. And thank God for that.

“And yet they persist with their statements and documents dominated by demeaning language and pseudo-science. . .In short, the arguments being put forward by the Australian bishops against marriage equality (and, by extension, against a renewed and reformed theology of sexuality) are the same tired old arguments we’ve being hearing for years, arguments that have been roundly and compellingly rebuked time and again…Not surprising, they are arguments that have also been rejected by the Catholic people, most recently in Ireland. . .

“Let’s be clear: the Australian Catholic bishops’ so-called ‘struggle for the very soul of marriage’ is nothing more than a politically-motivated ploy in their ‘culture war’…It is a reprehensible and insensitive ploy, one that has no place in Catholic schools as it is more concerned with promulgating a discriminatory ideology than it is with embodying God’s spirit of inclusion and compassion present within the Catholic faithful.”

Australian legislators are just a few votes away from passing equal marriage rights, according to News.com.au, and a marriage equality bill has recently been introduced in the legislature. Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s government has not yet allowed a conscience vote that would allow supportive parliamentary members of the ruling Coalition’s parties to vote in favor of the bill. Still LGBT advocates hope for marriage equality by year’s end.

Until then, Australian bishops should know that using schoolchildren to promote their campaign is not ethical or prudential, especially given the local church’s recent problems with clergy sexual abuse and its cover ups.

The bishops down under should follow Irish prelates who have noted that their nation’s referendum instituting marriage equality was a “reality check” and increased “the sum of happiness” in Ireland. There is much wisdom in these remarks–wisdom learned the hard way that need not be constantly repeated as more and more nations advance LGBT rights.

Australia’s bishops should attempt to mitigate the damage they have already done to the church through this campaign by ending it.

For Bonding 2.0’s full coverage of Australia’s Catholic LGBT issues, click here, and for our coverage of the Irish referendum and reactions to it, click here

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


San Francisco Archbishop on Caitlyn Jenner: Trans* Identities Undermine Faith

June 7, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner

San Francisco’s archbishop said trans* people threaten the Catholic faith, adding another controversy to what many see as a record which has harmed the church’s relationship with LGBT people.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone used his address at a New York gathering on traditionalist liturgy last week to comment indirectly on the Vanity Fair cover story about Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce Jenner) and the national conversation now happening about gender identity. Cordileone criticized “gender ideology,” the ambiguous term used by some Catholic prelates for LGBT matters. The National Catholic Reporter quoted some of his comments:

“The clear biological fact is that a human being is born either male or female…Yet now we have the idea gaining acceptance that biological sex and one’s personal gender identity can be at variance with each other, with more and more gender identities being invented…

“When the culture can no longer apprehend those natural truths…then the very foundation of our teaching evaporates and nothing we have to offer will make sense.”

The archbishop suggested this development was “a reversion to the paganism of old,” bringing with it “postmodern variations on its themes, such as the practice of child sacrifice, the worship of feminine deities or the cult of priestesses.” Cordileone predicted more gender identities would be “invented” in the future:

“Cordileone said a friend recently pointed out to him that a major university advertised housing “‘for a grand total of 14 different gender identities.’

“I’m sure even more will be invented as time goes on,” he said, prompting laughter from the audience of about 200…’Those initials keep getting longer and longer,’ he added, referring to debates over whether the LGBT acronym — for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — should include other categories.”

What Archbishop Cordileone does not understand is that being born male or female is not a “clear biological fact” in many cases.  Cordileone, who heads an archdiocese with one of the world’s largest LGBT communities, needs to learn more about the people God has entrusted to his pastoral care.

Bay Area Catholics have organized against Archbishop Cordileone’s approach to LGBT issues for nearly six months now. They have even called for his resignation in a full-page newspaper ad signed by more than 100 of San Francisco’s most influential Catholics. San Francisco’s Catholics have criticized his recent comments on trans* people as well, reported the National Catholic Reporter:

  • Micaela Presti, alumna and parent at Marin Catholic High School: “The language the archbishop used at this conference was ill-considered, hurtful and lacking in knowledge and compassion.”
  • Jim McGarry, a retired religious studies teacher: “My first reaction is to say the name of a person, which is Gwen Araujo [a transgender teen murdered in 2002]…He’s adding to persecution of people like Gwen.”
  • Ted DeSaulnier, the former religion department chair at Archbishop Riordan High School in San Francisco: “The transgendered [sic] youth who attend the high schools of San Francisco will have one more burden to overcome in the prejudice against them: Their very existence threatens the foundation of our Catholic faith.”
  • Fr. John Coleman, associate pastor of St. Ignatius Parish: “Whatever you think about transgender issues, I find it really hard to say it is ‘a threat to the faith.”

Dan Morris-Young, in a lengthy National Catholic Reporter piece, said “conflict has marked the tenure of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone since his arrival in San Francisco in 2012.” Morris-Young described a striking difference of opinion in the city:

“The Bay Area has become an epicenter for colliding visions of what being Catholic means, the role of conscience, church teaching on sex and sexuality, the core role of Catholic schools, the understanding of revealed truth, and how authority should be exercised.

“In short, Catholic identity.”

He quoted Catholics who have been deeply troubled by the archbishop’s actions and statements. Thomas Sheehan, a Stanford University professor, says Cordileone has an “arrogant, condescending attitude, almost bullying.”

Nick Andrade, a friend and adviser to the archbishop who is also a partnered gay man says, predicted a dire future if Cordileone’s continues to insist on using harmful language about homosexuality like “gravely evil” and “intrinsically disordered”:

“…some young man is going to kill himself, and that is not what you want at all. Therapists will tell you that that is exactly what can happen, that some kid is going to kill himself because he has been told he is gravely evil.”

Toinette Eugene, a founding member of the National Office for Black Catholics, says this affects all Catholics concerned with justice and equality:

“From the perspective of the ordinary person in the pew…I think that dealing and dialoguing more directly and pastorally with the constituencies who represent the cultural, social, racial and sexual diversities of the archdiocese is a critical priority.”

Even Cordileone’s priests are troubled, according to Fr. John Coleman, S.J. of St. Ignatius Parish. They are hurt by administrative decisions like the archbishop’s decision to use conservative priests from outside the archdiocese for key positions. and at times failing to care for priests who are ill or who pass away. These and other actions have led to all time lows in morale among the archdiocesan clergy, reported NCR, with Coleman adding:

“I have never known an archbishop of San Francisco with so much public opinion, elected officials, good Catholic businessmen, school teachers and students against him — as well as such lack of support from priests.”

Thankfully, these Catholics understand what genuine faith and the Gospel look like concretely. They are advocating for a church that is, in the words of Pope Francis, “home for all.” These Catholics understand that human diversity does not undermine faith, but enriches it and all who partake in the community. They understand that LGBT acceptance and justice are integral to Christ’s call for us, and they are pushing our church towards it. Religious Studies teacher Jim McGarry writes:

“Doctrinal development matters. Discrimination against homosexuals is wrong. Persecution of homosexuals is real…If church teaching is not part of the protection of a vulnerable population, it is part of the persecution. Civil rights for gays must be understood and incorporated into the Catholic tradition — theologically, just as opposition to slavery finally was promulgated. This inclusion of civil rights in moral teaching may or may not imply other developments of doctrine on this issue, but this first, true step must be fully taken — to the point of support for civil marriage as a human right — in a world where violence against gays, lesbians and transgender people is still the norm.”

“Mercy does not mean acquiescence or procrastination. We do not condemn our opponents but we do not wait for them. We pray that they will eventually come along. The long arc of Church history suggests that they will.”

Indeed, Archbishop Cordileone’s ill-spoken gender identity comments reveal the need for LGBT advocates to invite him along on the journey towards greater affirmation and inclusion. I hope to offer one such invite to the archbishop and his peers in a Bondings 2.0 post later this week.

As a starter, I suggest that he reads these powerfully insightful essays from Janet Mock and Laverne Cox regarding Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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