Religious Superiors Call for Rethinking about Gay Couples; Cardinal Burke Calls Them ‘Murderers’

March 28, 2015

Cardinal Raymond Burke

Germany’s religious superiors of men’s and women’s communities released a statement that calls for a more expansive understanding of sexuality and, specifically, a rethinking of the church’s treatment of same-gender couples. Meanwhile, the U.S.’s Cardinal Raymond Burke compared these couples to “kind murderers” in his most recent interview.

The German Conference of Religious Superiors prepared the eight-page statement for that nation’s bishops as part of their broader preparations for the upcoming Synod of Bishops. In it, the 430 superiors, who represent the country’s 22,800 religious, note that most lesbian and gay people feel unwelcome. The National Catholic Reporter quoted from the document:

” ‘Christians of homosexual orientation talk to us quite openly about how they feel that they are just not accepted,’ the statement said.

“Many gay people aspire to a Christian lifestyle and to lifelong, faithful partnerships, but they cannot accept that the church requires them to remain celibate. More and more Catholics in city parishes no longer think that blessing gay partnerships would push Christian marriage into the closet, the statement said. They deplore that so many gay people are leaving or have long since left the church because they feel unaccepted, it continued.”

More generally, the statement appeals to church leaders to trust the faithful, who understand sexuality as “important and precious” while jettisoning unhealthy ideals from the past. The superiors state:

” ‘The faithful in the core sectors of our communities specifically appeal to those responsible in the church to put greater trust in them…They would certainly welcome more help in decisions of conscience but are critical of pastors who interfere with a heavy hand’. . .

” ‘Our church must be an inviting church. Public interest in the questions of marriage, family and sexuality have been aroused by the Episcopal Synod’s dialogue process. Let us humbly and courageously use this opportunity to find new, long overdue answers to these questions together…This is a good pastoral chance to do so — let us use it with the strength that God gives us!’ “

Directly challenging the more progressive and inclusive views of the German leaders is Cardinal Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis. In his recent interview with a conservative Catholic news outlet, Burke spoke about the discussions around marriage and family arising around the synod process. Burke, who was removed by Pope Francis from a high-ranking Vatican position last year, expressed lament at the “confusion” created by these discussions and the fact that situations, like Bishop Johann Bonny’s call for the church to bless same-sex unions, have gone “undisciplined.”

At one point, he denigrated faithful same-gender partners, people who are divorced and remarried, and non-married cohabiting couples.  When the interviewer mentioned that such people sometimes display kindness, generosity, and dedication, Burke responded:

“It’s like the person who murders someone and yet is kind to other people.”

Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter took Burke to task:

“No, Your Eminence, it is NOT like that. A person who is gay and tries to find a companion with whom to live life, or a woman whose first marriage failed and she is trying to make a new life, these people are not like a murderer. And, in +Burke’s twisted view of the world, it is the murderer who can confess her sins and be re-admitted to communion…It is twisted.”

Mark Silk of Religion News Service notes that it is unlikely Burke will be welcomed to participate in this October’s Synod and is stuck lobbing criticisms from outside the walls through his ceremonial post with the Order of Malta.

These widely divergent statements from the Germans and Burke indicate the growing tension among church leaders on sexuality issues. There are those, like the German religious superiors, capable of admitting the church’s past and present failures in pastoral care; they desire new ways of being church and being ministers emphasizing welcome and mercy. Then there are those like Cardinal Burke clinging to outdated, indeed harmful, theologies, and more appropriately at times, ideologies, which fail to account for the dignity of every person, the goodness of all families, and modern thought.

For the former group, LGBT advocates should give thanks and build upon this new openness. For the latter, we must pray that God’s Spirit imbues them with the humility and courage called for by the German superiors to enter a new age of confidence in the People of God.

While it is easy, and admittedly quite tempting, to write off Cardinal Burke’s extremist rhetoric, we must remember he and those who follow his leadership are members of our church, too. If we pray that all may be truly welcome, our prayer must include Burke and his followers, even when they carry a damaging extremism. This does not excuse their prejudice, but rather, it should encourage us to re-double our efforts to educate those who are harmed and stunted by homophobia and other damaging prejudices.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

Crux: Cardinal Burke: Gays, remarried Catholics, and murderers are all the same


Filipino Bishops Reverse Position on LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill

March 25, 2015

Archbishop Socrates Villegas in preparations for the papal visit

In a reversal from their earlier position, the Catholic bishops of the Philippines have endorsed an LGBT non-discrimination bill, with only one reservation.

Earlier this month, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines sent a pastoral guidance letter to dioceses endorsing non-discrimination as a “Christian imperative,” reports Gay Star News. Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the conference’s president, said further:

” ‘Insofar as the proposed piece of legislation renders illegitimate the relegation of persons with sexual orientation and gender identity issues to citizens of a lower category enjoying fewer rights, the CBCP cannot but lend its support to this proposed legislative measure.’

” ‘We must however reiterate that none must be demeaned, embarrassed, or humiliated for reasons of sexual orientation and gender identity.’ “

This support comes as legislators are about to pass a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity bill, which the bishops opposed in 2011. During a committee hearing earlier this year, a representative of the conference actually opposed this current bill saying some forms of discrimination were acceptable. The only caveat desired by the bishops now is that they retain full control of who is admitted into the priesthood, reserving the right to discriminate including due to sexual orientation.

The bishops’ initial opposition to protecting the rights of all people has clearly changed.  Perhaps it is due to Pope Francis’ recent visit and his ongoing emphasis on mercy and the dignity of all persons: the Francis Effect. Now, Archbishop Villegas is telling Filipino Catholics that sexual orientation and gender identity are gifts from God and, as such, are not chosen. What other fruits can we expect for LGBT equality in this heavily Catholic nation?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: March 24, 2015

March 24, 2015

News

Here are some items that may be of interest:

1.Police are investigating homophobic messages spray painted on the parking lot of a Canadian high school, a follow-up to hateful online comments dating back to last fall. The graffiti appeared the day after students at St. Anne Catholic High School in the Windsor-Essex Catholic School district wore t-shirts to support LGBT community members, reports The Windsor StarAdministrators promised to act in response, with the school district board expressing its own shock and disgust, according to CTV Windsor.

2. Cosmopolitan has covered the firing of LGBT church workers, profiling Christina Gambaro and Olivia Reichert who were fired from the teaching positions at Cor Jesu Academy in St. Louis, in 2014. You can read about their incident and more than 40 others by clicking  here.

3. Fired gay teacher Lonnie Billard told Buzzfeed he would no longer participate in the Catholic Church, which he called a “bigoted organization, and instead would seek another Christian church with his partner.  Billiard was fired from a Charlotte, North Carolina high school in 2014.

4. National Catholic Reporter columnist Heidi Schlumpf listed LGBT issues among the top five things that give her hope in 2015. She writes, in part:

“While there’s still work to be done, the work of past generations is truly paying off. While the institutional church is lagging on this issue, polls find that the majority of lay Catholics, especially younger Catholics, support gay marriage.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Dublin Archbishop: I’m No Expert on Family; Anti-Gay Groups’ Language is “Obnoxious”

March 23, 2015

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin displayed a humility rarely seen by someone of his office, admitting last week he knew little of the realities of family life today. He also criticized the language used by anti-marriage equality campaigners in Ireland, saying plural societies must respect gay and lesbian people.

Speaking on “The Teaching of the Church on Marriage Today,” at the Iona Institute, Martin answered critics who question the bishops’ credentials in pronouncing on marriage and family life, reports The Independent. These critics, including former Irish president Mary McAleese, doubt “rightly” because, Martin continued:

“I have no experience and understanding…I must be honest and say that I am also lacking in knowledge of more fundamental day-to-day realities of the sexual, marital or parental experiences in a family.”

The Iona Institute is a think tank actively involved in the ‘No’ campaign against marriage equality in Ireland.

Elsewhere in his talk, the archbishop criticized anti-LGBT groups during his speech . PinkNews quotes Martin as saying:

” ‘I have consistently said that the debate must be carried on respectfully without the use of intemperate language…

” ‘I do however feel obliged to say that I have received in recent time correspondence from people who support a “no” vote in the referendum in which the language used is not just intemperate but obnoxious, insulting and, unchristian in regard to gay and lesbian people.

” ‘If people use such language to support a position they feel is Christian, then all I can say is that they have forgotten something essential about the Christian message.’ “

While opposed to marriage equality, Martin said society must ensure equality before the law. The Independent reported:

“Dr. Martin suggested that a pluralist society could be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation had their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference.

” ‘I’m not saying that gay and lesbian people are unloving or that their love is somehow deficient compared to others, I am talking about a uniqueness in the male-female relationship,’ he said.”

Archbishop Martin has also called for a “conscience clause,” should the referendum pass, to allow lay people who are opposed to marriage equality to express objections, such as denying business services for lesbian and gay weddings, without breaking equality laws. LGBT organizations are calling such clauses a “license to discriminate,” reports Yahoo News.

Though opposed to marriage equality, Martin has also made a name for positive statements on LGBT issues. Just last week he and another archbishop openly condemned Irish Bishop Kevin Doran’s comparison of homosexuality to Down’s syndrome and spina bifida. He has previously said church teaching is “disconnected from real experiences of families” and had been used “in a homophobic way” to do great harm. There are also no reports that he sacked a Dublin priest for coming out and openly endorsing marriage equality during Mass a few months back.

Criticism of anti-LGBT voices from any church leader is rare and this is not Archbishop Martin’s first time calling for a more respectful tone from the church on LGBT civil rights. Rarer still is the humility displayed by Martin that he is no expert on marriage and family. That is unprecedented in all of the discussions during last year’s synod and those that are leading up to this year’s meeting. The archbishop seems to be willing to follow Pope Francis’ requests to bishops to be close to their flocks.

This latest admission of non-expertise will hopefully allow for a greater opening space for those with expertise in family life — like married couples and LGBT people — to speak their truths during next fall’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and the Synod on Marriage and Family in Rome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Leave Mass Over Bigoted Homily, but Not All Priests Oppose Marriage Equality

March 21, 2015

Gaelic footballer Eámon McGee, left, supporting the ‘Yes’ campaign

Catholics in Ireland walked out of Mass recently after a priest made prejudiced and personal attacks during a homily against marriage equality, about which the Irish are set to vote in a referendum later this spring.

Fr. John Britto, a Carmelite from India, encouraged parishioners at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Annagry, County Donegal, to deny same-gender couples the right to marry by voting ‘No.’ He also attacked local Gaelic footballer Eamon McGee, who has publicly supported the ‘Yes’ campaign, recently telling the Irish Examiner:

” ‘I don’t know would I be more ashamed that I didn’t vote or the fact I voted against it. It comes down to equality and one less difference in society…It’s not that I have any friends who are gay or any close family members but it’s a social issue.’ “

In response to Fr. Britto’s homily, more than a dozen attendees stood up and walked out, including family members of the woman for whom Mass was being offered on the first anniversary of her death. One parishioner who left told The Independent:

” ‘He (the priest) is entitled to his view but it didn’t go down well. After the Mass some members of the congregation approached the family of the woman being remembered to say they only stayed because of them, otherwise they would have walked out too.’ “

Former altar boy and longtime parishioner Noel Sharkey, who assists the ‘Yes’ campaign there also commented:

” ‘As a Catholic and a gay man from the area, I think it’s essential that we engage on this issue in a respectful and tolerant way, and I ask people to avoid using hurtful or upsetting language. Yes Equality Donegal asks people to focus their attention on the key principles of love and equality as they make their mind up on this important issue.’ “

Fr. Britto, however, denies these claims and refuses to clarify what happened, saying only:

“I didn’t see anybody leaving. I didn’t see that…I won’t talk to the media because the media will only twist what I have to say; I speak to the people in church and I only the speak the truth and the Word of God.”

It was reported that the priest issued an apology to McGee, but Fr. Britto denies apologizing for any of his homily, reports The Independent.

Fr. Iggy O’Donovan

On a slightly more positive note, an Augustinian priest from County Limerick announced he would vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum. Fr. Iggy O’Donovan wrote an op-ed for the Irish Times in which he stated:

” ‘It is possible to have deep and passionately-held convictions without seeking to have those convictions imposed by the State on fellow citizens who do not share them…respect for the freedom of others who differ from us is part and parcel of the faith we profess. For these and for other reasons I will be voting Yes.’ “

In a later radio interview, Fr. O’Donovan clarified that he does not endorse marriage equality and would never preside at a same-gender wedding, but he could not judge others and how they choose to live their lives. He ventured that other priests would likely vote ‘Yes,’ too.

With about ten weeks until Irish polls open, the ‘Yes’ campaign is launched and the debate over marriage equality is intensifying.

The damage by negative statements from church leaders such as Fr. John Britto or Bishop Kevin Doran, who said gay couples were not parents and compared homosexuality to Down syndrome, is enormous. Catholic clergy would do well to temper their anti-LGBT viewpoints, which are increasingly not accepted by an Irish Church already devastated due to the sexual abuse crisis and other problems, and keep these thoughts out of Mass. If they wish to make their opinions known on the issue, like Fr. Iggy O’Donovan, doing so in another venue, and in a way that is respectful of and sensitive to LGBT people, should be the foremost considerations.

Marriage equality coming to Ireland could be a moment of renewed belief in marriage, love, and family in this traditionally very Catholic nation. Church leaders should choose to prevent divisive pastoral harm in the lead up to the referendum.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


St. Patrick’s Day Parades Increasingly Inclusive, But Still Controversial

March 17, 2015

Protesters at NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade

If you haven’t already done so, please answer our ten-second poll on Pope Francis’ LGBT record by clicking here

Amid St. Patrick’s Day festivities this week, three cities’ parades made headlines in the ongoing debate over whether LGBT groups should be allowed to march in these traditional events. Here are three updates from this year’s celebrations.

New York City

The parade in New York City included an openly LGBT contingent , a move which left many still dissatisfied.  The group from “Out@NBCUniversal” included about 100 LGBT and ally employees of the network which broadcasts the parade, and they were the only group welcomed after last September’s decision to make the event more inclusive.

Boycotters of New York’s festivities included Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and other local politicians as well as LGBT advocates. De Blasio explained his reasons at an inclusive parade in Queens earlier this month:

” ‘A lot of people feel, I think rightfully, that that is too small a change to merit a lot of us participating who have wanted to see an inclusive parade.’ “

Irish Queers member John Francis Mulligan told The New York Times:

” ‘This is only significant in that it’s a back-room deal between NBC and the parade’s organizers…There’s no transparency about how this decision was made, no one ever responded to our application to march, and Out@NBCUniversal isn’t even an Irish group.’ “

The first LGBT contingent in NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The Irish Queers were among groups protesting the parade. Reuters reported that they held signs with messages such as “Who said St. Patrick was straight?” and “Let Irish Gays Into Irish Parade.”

NBCUniversal chief diversity officer Craig Robinson was sympathetic to these concerns, saying they were “sad not to be marching with our gay brothers and sisters today” but that if they refused, no LGBT groups would be marching. He added that “It was never our goal to the the only group marching.”

In response to critics, the vice chairman of the parade’s organizing committee, John Lahey, gave a press conference, about which The Christian Science Monitor reports:

“The inclusion of the LGBT group from NBC was a ‘gesture of good will of historic proportion’…He added that the parade had always included gays and lesbians, however, as they participated freely with other groups.

” ‘The purpose of this parade is not inclusiveness as an end, it’s a parade to celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.’ “

Grand Marshal Cardinal Timothy Dolan said he hoped the parade could continue to be a source of unity, even while facing harsh criticism for participating from anti-gay groups.

Perhaps the best perspective from New York, however, comes from annual attendee Joseph Bertuglia who said,

” ‘I think St. Patrick would love everyone and would be happy…Even Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?” So why should anybody else?’ “

Boston

Boston’s parade last Sunday included two LGBT contingents, but lacked the Knights of Columbus. Last Friday, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which is the parade’s organizer, announced that Boston Pride would be allowed to march in addition to the already accepted group, OutVets, reported Boston.com.

For the first time in several years, the parade included Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, and other politicians who had boycotted the event for its exclusive policies, reported The Chicago Tribune. However, a Catholic school with a 25-year history in the parade withdrew. In addition, the Knights of Columbus’ State Council  eventually announced their own boycott in a statement, which called the parade “politicized and divisive.”

Norfolk, Virginia

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe leads the Norfolk St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

In Virginia, a Knights of Columbus council, which organizes the annual Norfolk parade, also became a focus of controversy, but for an opposite reason:  they decided to include a pro-LGBT politician. Local leaders were criticized for selecting Governor Terry McAuliffe as grand marshal. His support for same-sex marriage was a key reason why local groups, the Virginia Catholic Conference, and the Knights’ national organization all released public criticism.

Virginia’s bishops released a statement condemning the local council’s decision, and the state level Knights of Columbus promised an investigation into how McAuliffe was chosen.

In a letter to parishioners at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Fr. Dan Beeman, pastor, said he was “shocked and saddened” at the McAuliffe choice, so he withdrew the parish from celebrations. The local Ancient Order of the Hibernians and several Catholic schools also withdrew in protest, reported The Washington Post.

Though this year’s parades show signs of progress in welcoming openly LGBT marchers, the celebrations of the holiday still remains controversial. National Catholic Reporter columnist Ken Briggs offers a third way with his suggestion that it is time for St. Patrick’s Day to become a private affair, writing:

“St. Patrick’s Day, therefore, serves no significant purpose in its present form, except for profits, whether or not gays and lesbians march in the big parades. Keep it where there is real passion for things Irish, where it may still have meaning as something other than superiority, but let it become an ordinary occasion for leveling the playing field.”

For Bondings 2.0‘s ongoing coverage of St. Patrick’s Day parade controversies, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic High School Swiftly Deals with Religion Teacher’s Anti-Gay Tirade

March 17, 2015

Patricia Jannuzi’s Facebook post

If you haven’t already done so, please answer our ten-second poll on Pope Francis’ LGBT record by clicking here

A Catholic high school in New Jersey placed a teacher on administrative leave last week after her anti-gay comments on social media became public and drew criticism from celebrities and alumni alike.

Patricia Jannuzzi, a religion teacher at Immaculata High School, Somerville, wrote on her Facebook page that gay people “want to reengineer western civ (sic) into a slow extinction” and should not be afforded 14th Amendment protections, an idea which she called “bologna.”

Administrators at the school released a letter on Friday announcing that Jannuzzi was now on leave and she had deleted her Facebook account at their request. Msgr. Sean Brennan, pastor, and Jean Kline, principal, said the comments were “completely inconsistent with our policy and position as a Catholic Christian community.” MyCentralNewJersey.com reports the letter continued:

“Immaculata ‘is a community that follows the example of Jesus Christ in welcoming all people.’

” ‘We will do everything we can in this trying time to make clear that the philosophy of Immaculata High School is one of inclusion rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ…taking every necessary step to reinforce established guidelines and promote a clear understanding of acceptable use of social media and to refresh sensitivity awareness consistent with Christ’s teachings.’ “

Susan Sarandon

This reaction comes after more than 1,000 alumni signed a petition asking Immaculata to address “the systemic problem of homophobic undertones.” Petitioners included Scott Lyon, the gay nephew of actress Susan Sarandon, and Greg Bennett, a 2004 alum who starred in television’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

Sharing a letter from Lyons, Sarandon said, “High school is a tough time anyway…Students don’t need teachers making it even more difficult.” Lyons’ letter to Jannuzzi said, in part according to MyCentralNewJersey.com:

” ‘You have a responsibility as a teacher to lead by example and the words that you have been throwing out there are detrimental to the well being and health of the youth that you inspire…I am certain that the pope himself would take issue with your extreme point of view on homosexuality.’ “

Meanwhile, anti-LGBT activists are rallying around Jannuzzi who they claim is a victim whose religious liberty is violated by the school’s censure. In reality, LGBT youth are particularly at risk for mental health issues, self-harm, and suicide in the vulnerable teenage years, and the church’s educational efforts should provide a welcoming, affirming place for students to mature and live into the people God calls them to be.

Immaculata administrators made a decision in the best interests of their students, faculty, staff, and parish community by standing up to prejudiced and uninformed remarks. It is important to recall last Sunday’s Gospel though, which calls all of us to love everyone, including those who oppose LGBT equality. Though justice is being enacted, it is essential for this also to be a moment of reconciliation which can hopefully educate Jannuzzi, the Immaculata community, and all those affected in a positive manner.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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