Students’ Resistance to Archbishop Cordileone Exemplifies Best of Catholic Education

February 24, 2015

Students lead vigilers in song and silence on Ash Wednesday

In San Francisco, hundreds of Catholics gathered on Ash Wednesday to protest the morality clauses for school teachers that the archdiocese has added recently. Singing and praying outside St. Mary’s Cathedral, the group held a candlelight vigil after sunset.

Students led this second major rally, organizing under the hashtag #TeachAcceptance, and were joined by parents, church workers, concerned Catholics, local teachers’ unions, and others.

Bay Area Catholics and their allies are persisting in their demands for justice following the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s announcement of new morality clauses in teaching contracts  that prohibit, among other items, public support of LGBT people.

Bondings 2.0‘s previous coverage of the new clause is available here.

One of the latest rally’s organizers, high school senior Mairead Ahlbach, told the National Catholic Reporter that students were:

” ‘learning and living the Catholic values of acceptance and love…We hope the archbishop hears this. [Jesus] would be here next to us.’ “

During intercessions, other students prayed for teachers, parents, those who are marginalized, and an openness of heart for Archbishop Cordileone. 14-year-old Hannan Regan told The Huffington Post:

” ‘The message we’re trying to get across is that we support all of our teachers, no matter their gender, sexuality, religion or race…The majority of students are very concerned about our teachers and all we want to do is show our love and support.’ “

Parents echoed those sentiments, including Vincent Campasano, a married gay man with a son in one of the affected Catholic high schools, who said the clause instills a “sense of fear.” He continued:

” ‘We object to this type of language. We are afraid we are going to lose teachers, good teachers, some of the best in the world, because of that fear that I mentioned earlier.’ “

Students rallying for #TeachAcceptance

Teachers and parents expressed concern for students when these new policies are implemented, especially LGBT youth. Veteran teacher Jim McGarry, who taught in area Catholic schools for over 25 years, said the archbishop’s decision may force LGBT youth to remain closeted and doubt their dignity and worth:

“At the same time, McGarry said he believes the vast majority of students ‘cannot and will not turn their backs’ on their gay peers. Students are very aware of the violence to which their LGBT friends can be exposed, he said, and many ‘have seen gay friends of theirs beaten up.’

” ‘The church needs to be “putting its arms around, providing extra layers of protection’ for the gay community, not turning its backs on them as he feels the new handbook statements could encourage, he said.”

Local clergy have privately and publicly questioned the wisdom of this new morality clauses as well. Fr. David Ghiorso said to the National Catholic Reporter:

” ‘This is a wonderful church in the archdiocese…[but] I struggle with understanding what is transpiring…We can be so much better than what is happening presently in this local church.’ “

The action on Ash Wednesday follows a previous rally of more than 200 people at the cathedral. Bay Area Catholics are promising more actions in coming weeks. A online petition has gathered more than 6,300 signatures. You can sign it here.

Archbishop Cordileone added to the already tense controversy in his response to a letter from Bay Area lawmakers who asked the archbishop to remove the morality clauses which they called “discriminatory and divisive.” According to Crux, The eight state legislators represent in those areas where Catholic schools will be affected. In his response, Cordileone defended the right to fire church workers by asking legislators:

” ‘Would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those you stand for, and who shows disrespect for you and the Democratic Party in general?’ “

The National Catholic Reporter  added that the archbishop claimed the legislators’ view was a misunderstanding.

Cordileone’s explanation only fanned the flames, however, according to SF Gate columnist C.W. Nevius:

“Here’s the concern the teachers have. What if a high school student comes to one of them in confidence and says he or she is having questions about their sexuality. That they think they may be gay and are worried about how to handle it in their life.

“What should the teacher say, that homosexuality is a mortal sin? That they must never think of a lasting, loving relationship? That marriage is out of the question? Because that’s Cordileone’s party line.

“And if the teacher should cave in and counsel the student with some actual sympathetic advice, tell him or her that it may be difficult but a normal part of human existence, what would the consequence be? Because it sounds, from Cordileone’s letter, that the teacher would be fired.”

Further actions on this controversy are coming from organized labor. They are concerned about Archbishop Cordileone’s suggestion that educators in Catholic schools would be designated as “ministers” and deprived of employment non-discrimination rights.

Cordileone addressed the San Francisco Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers Local 2240 in early February, but according to the National Catholic Reporter few faculty members were appeased. Union representatives are presently in contract negotiations and though the archbishop signaled he was flexible on the ministerial designation, no positive steps have been announced in the weeks since.

The California Federation of Teachers expressed its support for the local union and concern for the archbishop’s actions in a February 13th statement, saying the autonomy of religious institutions should be respected but “those views must be questioned and confronted when they fundamentally violate the constitutional rights of individuals who work in these schools.”

At the same time as the debate about the new morality clause intensifies, a related controversy shows the potential impact new teaching contracts could have. Elementary students at The Star of the Sea School received an examination of conscience pamphlet from the parish’s priest (the same priest who made headlines for banning female altar servers) asking them about their sexuality, including topics like masturbation, sodomy, and sterilization.  Many students, no older than 10 or 11, were mystified. Columnist C.W. Nevius connected this bizarre incident with the teaching contracts:

“And [Cordileone] doesn’t think that has a chilling effect on the teachers? Or that when teachers at Star of the Sea, a Catholic school in the Richmond, had grave reservations about a pamphlet including some questions about sex that was given to students they supposed to keep silent and let students read a document that was clearly inappropriate?…

“The fact is the teachers were right about that pamphlet in the first place. And they shouldn’t have to check their conscience at the door when counseling students — even (gasp!) if some of them turn out to be gay. It’s unfair, unethical and a misrepresentation of a religion that celebrates a loving, accepting God.”

Archbishop Cordileone’s decision to scrutinize church workers’ lives according to a narrow understanding of Catholic identity and Christian faith is deeply troubling and an unfortunate move for the archdiocese. However, the witness of students and teachers to resist discrimination and exclusion is a clear indication that the church–the People of God–are far more adherent to the Gospel and willing to struggle for LGBT justice.

To lend your support, connect with the #TeachAcceptance movement on Facebook, Twitter, or the online petition. You can also sign up online to volunteer through the Google form here.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of these and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can also find a full listing of the more than 40 incidents where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equal rights made public since 2008 here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


LGBT Groups, Politicians Criticize NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade for Lack of Irish Identity

February 23, 2015

LGBT people boycotting the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade in a previous year.

LGBT and political leaders are again criticizing New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade for the way it has permitted openly gay contingents.

Though the host committee announced last September that it would welcome an LGBT-specific group of marchers, critics question the Irish credentials of that group, OUT@NBCUniversal, an LGBT employees group at the media giant which broadcasts the parade.  The critics expressed their desire that LGBT groups with Irish links be welcomed too.

According to CBS New York, these critics include several local politicians, who announced their own boycott of the 2015 event:

” ‘The issue has never been about having a gay group in the parade — it has always been about having an Irish gay group in the parade,’ openly gay Council Member Dan Dromm said Tuesday…

” ‘It is clear that last year’s decision was just to placate the parade sponsors,’ said Council Member Rosie Mendez. ‘Until my Irish queer brothers and sisters can march in this parade, I will not be marching at all.’

” ‘Until the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is really and truly inclusive of all I will not march in it,’ City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement. ‘Half measures will not suffice for a parade that should be open to everyone regardless of who they are or whom they love…Proud Irish New Yorkers should not be forced to hide their identities – period.’ “

Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who himself boycotted the parade in 2014, has not announced his plans for this year’s event. However, sources indicate he will again refuse to march unless a more inclusive plan is announced.

LGBT advocates are claiming the host committee’s ban on openly LGBT Irish contingents effectively remains in place. Brendan Fay of the Lavender and Green Alliance, which has applied to march, are hoping for a last minute decision to open the parade. Fay told The Irish Voice:

” ‘We have a month to go…The doors are still open and 2015 could be a celebration we can all be proud of. With the line of march yet to be published there is still time for both sides to reach an agreement. We at Lavender and Green Alliance have been working for decades for an inclusive Irish parade. My motto is “It’s always a yes until it’s a no.” ‘ “

Emmaia Gelman of Irish Queers told the Wall Street Journal:

” ‘To suggest again, for the 25th year, that we have to closet ourselves in order to be allowed into the parade is outrageous.’ “

Advocates are presently appealing to the parade’s 2015 Grand Marshal, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, as well as political leaders to help negotiate a more welcoming policy.

However, the parade host committee’s response has yet to budge. Top official Hilary Beirne endorsed OUT@NBCUniversal’s Irish credentials and said inclusion would be taken “one step at a time,” but this decision should “not necessarily” be understood as a wider welcome to openly LGBT contingents in coming years.

In September 2014, Bondings 2.0 said the inclusion of LGBT groups in New York City’s and Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parades greatly improved these celebrations “in the spirit of Catholicism’s long tradition of social justice — and perhaps most pertinent here, the Irish charism of unbounded and warm hospitality.” Parade organizers in New York should redouble their efforts to welcome all by listening to affected communities who claim the host committee’s efforts are insufficient.

For our continuing coverage of St. Patrick’s Day controversies in New York City and elsewhere, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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

February 21, 2015

Ryan Murtha

The spring semester has brought many positive developments for LGBT inclusion at Catholic colleges and universities in the United States. Below, Bondings 2.0 features some of the highlights with links provided to read more.

Villanova University

A member of Villanova Unitiversity’s swim team came out as gay to applause — and Chipotle — in January, in yet another positive moment of LGBT college athletes being welcomed in Catholic higher education.

After winter break, Ryan Murtha told his teammates at the suburban Philadelphia school about his sexual orientation.  OutSports reported:

“When he was done speaking, Murtha looked up at his teammates. Some stared back at him, others looked down. The room was silent. No response…

“One teammate broke the silence with clapping. Then another. It was like a scene from a movie, with the entire team eventually joining in the celebration, cheering. They circled around Murtha and hugged him, assuring him that he was the same guy they’ve loved since he arrived on the team, and this wouldn’t change a thing.”

To celebrate, the team headed to Chipotle, Mexican fast-food chain restaurant. Hurdles remain for Murtha whose Catholic parents are struggling to accept him as a gay son .  Additionally, he is now barred from serving the Boy Scouts, an organization he has been dedicated to for most of his life. However, Murtha’s coming out will help the atmosphere at the more conservative Villanova where LGBT inclusion is a positive, but ongoing effort according to an article in student newspaper, The Villanovan , .which reported:

“At first glance, the University might not seem like the ideal place for an organization like the Gay-Straight Coalition. It’s small, with only around 6,500 undergraduate students. It is religious, with prominent Augustinian and Catholic roots. And it is conservative, or at least more so than the average public university. But nevertheless, the GSC has been operating at the University with the help of Kathleen Byrnes, the Associate Vice President of Student Life, since 2003. The group has around 40 active members, more than 100 on its email list and hosts several prominent events each semester. These events range from the ‘That’s So Gay’ student-led panel, where Villanovans discuss what it’s like to be openly gay on campus, to LGBT Awareness Week, where members raise awareness about homophobia and violence against those in the LGBT community. “

Georgetown University

The Washington Blade reports that an openly gay Republican is running as one of six candidates for student president at Georgetown University, in the District of Columbia. Tim Rosenberger would become the school’s second gay president in two years, following Nate Tisa’s election in 2013. He is running on a platform of fairness, saying in an interview:

“I think I can make Georgetown more supportive and fairer for all students…I want to see everyone, even people who don’t fit the very traditional Catholic mold, do well here and succeed.”

In a related story, Georgetown students also rallied for transgender rights as part of a student coalition in Washington, D.C. acting in response to the suicide of Leelah Alcorn. Campbell James of GU Pride told The Hoya:

“What we as Georgetown students can do to help counter the high rates of trans suicide is to make sure that we are supportive of our friends, family and fellow students who may identify as trans by making sure we use appropriate language choices and by allowing these individuals to feel comfortable being themselves.”

Marquette University

Marquette University administrators are seeking to  fire tenured Professor John McAdams for harassing a graduate student. Bondings 2.0 reported in December about a graduate student who came under fire for passing over a student’s comments about same-sex marriage because she felt they were irrelevant to the course material. McAdams harshly criticized the teacher on his personal blog, which led to her leaving the university after tremendous harassment. The incident is making waves in higher education as some defend Marquette’s decision while others claim it attacks academic freedom.

University of Notre Dame

The Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s has announced the creation of the  first LGBTQ scholarship, awarding two out undergraduates $2,500. The deadline to apply is March 1, 2015.  The scholarship would be awarded to a student at one of the two South Bend, Indiana, institutions, which are closely connected academically.

Thus far into 2015, it seems LGBT inclusion is hitting a very positive note in Catholic higher education. To read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of Catholic higher education, see the “Campus Chronicles” category to the right or click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


How Can the Church Improve Its Welcome to Trans* People?

February 20, 2015

Jennifer Mertens

As the church’s acceptance of gay and lesbian people improves, more Catholics are wondering about a similar welcome by the church for the trans* community. This pastoral question is critical, given the high rate of self-harm and suicide among transgender youth, a reality highlighted by suicide of teenager Leelah Alcorn at the beginning of this year.

Moved by Alcorn’s final words of her suicide note to “Fix society. Please,” National Catholic Reporter columnist Jennifer Mertens takes up this matter of whether or not the Catholic Church can welcome trans* people. She writes:

“In particular, Leelah’s story poses significant pastoral, theological and moral challenges for the Christian community. The suicide note from Leelah, who was raised in a fundamentalist Christian household, recounts an experience of Christianity in which gender variance was communicated as being ‘selfish and wrong.’ This stance exacerbated a social isolation and despair from which she concluded: ‘The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living.’ “

These challenges include “a linguistic framework suddenly experienced as inadequate” when it comes to gendered language and pronouns, as well as faith’s role in how family and friends respond to a transgender loved one. Gender identity is a new concept for many people and, for some, difficult to understand. Mertens is clear, however, that the pastoral needs demand Catholics become invested in learning about this new reality:

“Catholics must engage these questions with a courageous and receptive heart. Such engagement demands a commitment to dialogue, one that springs from God’s own dialogue with humanity as modeled in the Incarnation…

“As the Catholic church builds a relationship of dialogue with transgender people, it is important to remember that perfect love rests in God alone. As we seek to imitate this love in our dialogue with one another, may we humbly begin with asking: ‘Teach me, friend, how to love you.’ “

Mertens suggests “reaching out, listening, and seeking to understand transgender people.” Scientific evidence from the medical community and the lived experiences of families are also sources of information and increased understanding for the church.

Mertens concludes by urging Catholics to engage in practical and public solidarity with trans* people,especially youth, who suffer higher rates of discrimination and violence. She writes:

“A constructive first step can be taken insofar as the church stands in public solidarity with the suffering of transgender people. This solidarity embodies an authentic Gospel witness that reaches out to the marginalized members of our human community. An initial openness to affirming this solidarity has been signaled by the local archdiocese in Leelah’s city [of Cincinnati].”

The Archdiocese released a statement on Alcorn’s death that prayed for all, while remaining neutral about the teen’s gender identity. Mertens also reports that Dan Andriacco, an archdiocesan spokesperson, said the Catholic Schools Office would review “transgender” for inclusion in its discrimination and bullying policies.

Cincinnati’s response is atypical, and it is worth noting this is the same archdiocese which implemented enhanced morality clauses in teaching contracts last year, barring church workers from publicly supporting LGBT rights. Pope Francis is ambiguous too, warmly welcoming a transgender man from Spain to the Vatican recently, but also harshly critiquing the amorphous concept of ‘gender theory’, which may or may not include gender identity.

What is clear is that society’s intolerance of the trans* community causes a tremendous amount of suffering and violence, and Catholics must find new ways to welcome them into the church with, as Mertens writes, “a courageous and receptive heart.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


For Ash Wednesday: How to Pray with St. Francis and St. Clare

February 18, 2015

“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”

As I joined other New Ways Ministry pilgrims in Assisi a couple of days ago to visit the holy sites associated with Saints Francis and Clare, I easily imagined St. Francis singing the Psalmist’s words.

St. Clare and St. Francis

The rolling hills and quiet streets and green olive trees seem to sing along in praise to their Creator. But what compels this sense of wonder and awe? Prayer and penance.

Prayer and penance permeated the lives of Francis and Clare. My first reaction to this statement is that they must have led terribly dull and depressing lives. However, all the historical sources show the exact opposite – that Francis and Clare were joy-filled and pleasant people. So, perhaps I need to change my understanding of prayer and penance if I am to accept that they are pathways to joy.

I look to Franciscan Sr. Ilia Delio for help. Delio, an awesome interpeter of the Franciscan tradition, writes the following about prayer:

“Prayer is the relationship with God which opens the eyes of believers to the sanctity of life — from earthworms to humans, to quarks to stars. Everything that exists reflects the goodness of God. Prayer is the breath of the Holy Spirit within us that opens our eyes to the divine good which saturates our world.”

Delio also writes the following about penance:

“The wisdom of Francis makes us realize that God loves us in our incomplete humanity even though we are always running away trying to rid ourselves of defects, wounds and brokenness. If we could only see that God is there in the cracks of our splintered human lives we would already be healed.”

During this Lenten season, I am going to try my best to take Sr. Ilia’s words to heart.

–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry


New Cardinals Have Mixed Records on LGBT Issues

February 15, 2015

The Vatican is busy this week, full of prelatess gathered for a consistory and the creation of twenty new cardinals appointed by Pope Francis (along with a visit from New Ways Ministry’s pilgrims!). Today, Bondings 2.0 reviews what some of all these new cardinals might mean for LGBT issues in the church.

First, Pope Francis seems to be shifting the College of Cardinals through his globally diverse appointments. These new cardinals will impact not only the next papal election, but more immediately through their increased influence in local churches. The Advocate researched the appointees, fifteen of whom will be eligible to vote in the next conclave and five who are already past the voting age of 80. While most had not spoken publicly about LGBT issues, four are on the record, though split in their approach.

Archbishop John Atcherley Dew

Most positively, Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington, who heads both the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania, spoke favorably of more pastoral language regarding lesbian and gay people at last October’s synod. He wanted the language to express “hope and encouragement.” It is also worth noting he called the church’s ban on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics a “source of scandal” as early as 2005.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who replaced Cardinal Raymond Burke as head of the Apostolic Signatura, has made ambiguous remarks about respecting conscience.  In 2013, when the Vatican criticized a 2013 European Court of Human Rights ruling protecting equality laws. Mamberti said:

“Every person, no matter what his beliefs, has, by means of his conscience, the natural capacity to distinguish good from evil and that he should act accordingly. Therein lies the true freedom.”

Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel

Among the cardinal-designates, there were two negative records identified by The Advocate. Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Ethiopia, head of the Association of Member Conferences in Eastern Africa, said in 2014:

“We strongly condemn same sex unions and other deviations that go against human nature and natural laws. We urge for the protection and defense of family at all costs as that is the beginning and pillar of human life and society.”

Archbishop Alberto Suárez Inda

In Mexico, Archbishop Alberto Suárez Inda of Morelia had the harshest comments which exhibit a pastoral deafness, saying:

“It’s one thing to tolerate conduct contrary to what is commonly accepted; it’s another to want to legitimize that which goes against nature itself… I know many cases of children and young people who are deprived of a father or a mother … because of this, they have a great emptiness and are sometimes traumatized for life.”

It is worth noting that this crop of cardinals is being celebrated for its diversity in particular, with media like The New York Times and The Washington Post leading with this fact. The direct benefits for greater LGBT welcome and acceptance are unknown, but the church’s theology and pastoral ministries always benefit from expanded and diverse participation. Indeed, many of Pope Francis’ appointees come from the Global South and possess an acute sense of caring for those on the margins and being a “voice for the voiceless.” For the most part, these are pastorally-inclined bishops in the style of Pope Francis.

This reality means that LGBT advocates have an opportunity to open cardinals’ eyes more and more to the discrimination and violence faced by sexual and gender diverse minorities, as well as the tremendous goodness and gifts these communities offer the church and the world. Touched by the Spirit and moved by mercy, this shift in ecclesial leadership could signal a moment of growing openness to creating a church that is truly, as Pope Francis wants, a “home for all.”

A full listing of the cardinal-designates is available here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


On St. Valentine’s Day, Young Adult Catholics Consider Relationships

February 14, 2015

As the world celebrates relationships and friendships on today for St. Valentine’s Day, Bondings 2.0 offers a few highlights from the thoughtful and progressive insights of another blog called Young Adult Catholics.

Young Adult Catholics, a project of Call To Action, features posts from progressive members of the church in their 20s and 30s. A variety of issues are covered, but more often than not the posts return to sexuality, gender, and LGBTQ issues. For instance, delfin waldemar bautista (lower case is delfin’s usage) recently considered the question, “Are queer relationships compatible with Church Teaching?” He writes, in part:

“Many queer couples firmly believe that achieving a Christian partnership based on Christian values is achievable—their relationships are based on mutual love, mutual sharing, faithfulness, mutual commitment to pleasure…mutuality in its various forms and expressions.

“We believe in and live by ‘intimate and chaste union'; we practice and strive for self-giving to each other by caring for the other when sick and supporting each other’s adventures (such as working 3 jobs to support the other while in divinity school); we experience pleasure and enjoyment through our bodies by affirming each other’s beauty, balding, flat-footedness, and pudginess; and have transmitted life by affirming, celebrating, and challenging each other’s lives and personhood in fullness (even when we may not agree with each other)—our relationship has been life-giving to us and to those we welcome into our casa.”

In a post about family, Lacey Louwagie questions why some families are considered holy by the church and others remain excluded. She writes:

“[The priest who spoke against same-sex marriage] couldn’t offer clarification, of course, because as more GLBTQ people come out and more straight people can put faces on the ‘issue,’ all of the old excuses stop holding up so well. All the ready defenses crumble, so that the best you can do is make vague statements about your disapproval and hope that no one calls you on it…

“Progressives love to grab hold of Pope Francis’ now iconic ‘who am I to judge?’ comment as a signal of real change in the church. But the truth is, until the church holds its officials accountable for their hurtful choices, until the church rethinks its teachings on homosexuality and reexamines the meaning of love in all its complexity, diversity and simplicity, the church that our ‘non-judgmental’ pontiff leads is passing judgment every single day.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 10.17.12 PMFinally, Rachel Christian discusses how the suicide of Leelah Alcorn touches upon the need for Catholics to be allies and advocates for and with LGBT youth. Writing about the importance of good relationships that help others experience God’s love made real through human beings, she writes:

“[Leelah] needed God’s love, not God’s ‘help’ to reverse her transgender identity…Leelah did not know God’s love. In fact, she did not feel loved by anyone, especially her parents. They isolated her from her friends by making her transfer schools and taking away her phone and social media access…She needed to know her parents loved her, which to her and most LGBTQ youth means acceptance. She needed a community that embraced her fully. And more than that, Leelah needed to know that God loved her…

“Let’s be the Christians Jesus calls us to be—welcoming the outcast and sharing with them the good news of God’s all-encompassing love.”

To read more LGBTQ-related blog posts from Young Adult Catholics, visit youngadultcatholics-blog.com — and a “thank you” to those in their 20s and 30 struggling to find a path in the Catholic community without compromising the need for justice and intimate love.

Enjoy St. Valentine’s Day by celebrating and sharing love!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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