Trans* Advocacy Happening Among Some Traditionally-Inclined Catholics

August 30, 2015

Transgender topics are increasingly being discussed in Catholic circles, including in more traditional members of the church. In this post, Bondings 2.0 offers a survey of recent news with accompanying links for further reading.

Two incidents highlight how lay people are holding clergy accountable for transphobic remarks–a sad yet necessary task when ignorance and prejudice are too readily displayed by those in leadership.

Anthony Garascia

Earlier this summer, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone claimed it is “the clear biological fact” is that people are born male or female. This remark was deemed “misguided and harmful” by Tony Garascia, a licensed therapist and the new president of Fortunate Families.  In an op-ed for The Advocate, Garascia criticized the archbishop for failing to understand gender dysphoria:

“What Cordileone needs to understand is that people do not wake up one day and decide to change their gender, and that being transgender is deeply rooted in who they are from an early age. There is simply a disconnect between the inner experience of the individual concerning how they identify as female or male, and their biology. . .

“One wonders if Cordileone has in fact ever met with transgender people, listened to their stories, their pain, and their attempts to live authentically and integrate who they really are into how they function in the society. If he took the time to meet with trans people and consult mainstream researchers and clinicians, he would find that transgender people look to their faith and their churches for acceptance, often feel alienated from their places of worship, face great psychological distress, and are at a greater risk than others for suicide due to rejection.”

Drawing from his own professional experience and the Family Acceptance Project, Garascia highlighted the harm that negative religious attitudes from both clergy and parents can inflict upon trans* youth. These attitudes lead to real harm, and the author suggested Cordileone should also consult experts along with trans* people and their families:

“If he would only listen, he would understand that this is not about ‘gender politics’ but about treating others with dignity and respect.”

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a blogger for Patheos, also attacked trans* people, particularly Caitlyn Jenner, in a blog post linking them to demons. His ill-informed commentary was thankfully rebutted by Melinda Selmys, who herself experiences gender dysphoria though does not identify as transgender. She wrote on her own blog at Patheos:

“Although he doesn’t quite come out and say it directly, the strong implication is that transgender people remake themselves in the image and likeness of a demon. . .

“Every single trans person who reads this is going to hear ‘your identity is demonic.’ They are going to see themselves compared to a Satanic statue, and they are going to receive the message loud and clear that this Satanic symbolism is somehow representative of them. Whether it is Fr. Longenecker’s intention or not, what this actually communicates is a demonization of trans people and a rejection of their humanity.

“Such demonization, on the basis of symbolism, is not scriptural. It represents a confusion between symbols and persons, and it treats Caitlyn Jenner – and by extension her trans brothers and sisters – as nothing more than an icon of evil. It’s scandalously uncharitable, and it’s not actually based on any sound consideration of what causes gender dysphoria, or of why people identify as trans.”

Selmys, whose writings are generally more conservative, has been writing more frequently about gender diverse identities lately. Her blog, Catholic Authenticity, recently featured an interview worth reading with a Catholic trans woman, Aoife Assumpta Hart. Interestingly, though Hart disagrees with the positions of many LGBT advocates about sexuality and gender, she decided to transition and credits it with saving her life and her faith:

“Transition saved my life; it was the only treatment that, after decades of inescapable self-horror, finally allowed me to feel as if I inhabited a body in which I could belong.

“My life pre-transition was like a burning labyrinth with no centre and no exit. Transition was like like falling in love for the first time: falling in love with myself. Rage dissipated, unbearable uncertainties and colossal self-hate dissipated. In its place came clarity, patience, awareness, compassion. My heart opened: I asked myself to forgive myself. And I learned how to love all over again. This was a necessary step in my path to returning to the Church. When I existed as a fraught incongruency, how could I love myself? And how can one love God but not love one’s very own self? . . .

“We are Catholics as well – sinners, strugglers, survivors. I appraised my life situation after my suicide attempt and knew that transition would enable me to attain a peace I had never known. And in this peace I found prayer … and in prayer I knew love. Thank God.”

Even more conservative is the defense of transgender identities recently posted at the blog of the right-wing Witherspoon Institute. The author’s argument will seem quite deficient to most trans* advocates, but it is worth noting because it is a defense posted by an institution established with a goal to oppose marriage equality. Jennifer Gruenke concluded:

“I am not arguing that introspective reports of sex are infallible. But according to some studies, a majority of people who undergo sex reassignment surgery are happy with the decision. There is a real danger of misdiagnosing someone as transgender and doing surgery that does them harm, and conservatives have been correct to raise this concern in the face of those who are prepared to affirm every request. In giving the impression that this is a decisive reason against every desired sex-reassignment surgery, though, some conservatives have overstepped. Trying to change a legitimate self-perception of gender also does harm.”

What are takeaways from these developments? I think there are at least two.

First, Catholics across the church’s belief spectrum are freely thinking about gender identity matters in the absence of any defined teaching. Most, thought not all, are informing themselves through both the church’s tradition and the lived realities of gender diverse persons and their families. Where too often discussions around homosexuality become bogged down, gender identity is freely debated and even more traditionally-inclined Catholics feel free to challenge church officials whose comments do harm. In short, good theology and good pastoral practice can be nourished as they did around sexuality in the years following Vatican II.

Second, Pope Francis’ legacy will likely be defined by how willing lay people and clergy are to take up his call for a merciful and inclusive church in their local communities. When it comes to trans* people, it seems more and more Catholics of all kinds are waking up to the need for improved pastoral outreach given the suffering gender diverse communities experience–like the 20 trans* women murdered in the United States already this year. These conservative efforts are, in my opinion, incomplete and could be damaging in some cases, but they are notable for their mere existence. This does not mean they will suffice, but they are providing space for collaboration and common life-saving and faith-growing efforts to take shape.

We must continue to build upon this development, including more ministries like that of “Sr. Monica” whose work with transgender Catholics was recently highlighted by Religion News Service. She was profiled for Catholic Sisters Week last year which you can read about here. The LGBT Religious Archives Network reported on trans* Catholic advocate Hilary Howes’ comments on this sister’s ministry:

“I have been inspired by her dedication and follow-through in making things happen while remaining almost invisible herself.”

None of this means that attaining full inclusion and justice for trans* communities in the church and in the world will be quick or easy work, but there are hopeful signs from many quarters including one top English official’s claim that the church should support those who decided to transition. These forward steps should not be too easily forgotten even when a bishop reveals his ignorance or a priest lashes out from prejudice. Instead, turn to leaders like Deacon Ray Dever who has a transgender daughter and wrote earlier this week about the need to welcome all families into the church’s life.

For those attending the World Meeting of Families, or anyone who wants to come to Philadelphia at the end of September, consider attending New Ways Ministry’s half-day workshop on gender diverse families entitled TransForming Love: Exploring Gender Identity from Catholics Perspectives, on Saturday, September 26, 2015, 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at Arch Street United Methodist Church, 55 North Broad Street, Philadelphia.  For more information, click here.

For more updates on trans Catholic issues, check out our “Transgender” category in the column to the right.  

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

BREAKING NEWS: In Quick Victory, Catholic School Reverses Position in Firing of Lesbian Teacher

August 27, 2015

Lauren Brown

In a landmark decision for LGBT employees at Catholic institutions, St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon, has altered its employment policies to be more inclusive, in response to what was a growing backlash against administrators’ decision to withdraw an employment contract with a lesbian counselor, Lauren Brown. Bondings 2.0 reported on this incident earlier today and you can find more details here.

In a Wednesday night meeting of the school’s board, members voted to expand employment policies to welcome gay staff and administrators will attempt to reconcile with Brown, whose job offer was rescinded after she came out as a lesbian woman to school officials.

A statement on Facebook from St. Mary’s President Christina Friedoff said, in part:

“Effective immediately, St. Mary’s has added sexual orientation to its equal employment opportunity policy.

“St. Mary’s is a diverse community that welcomes and includes gay and lesbian students, faculty, alumnae, parents and friends, including those that are married.”

[New Ways Ministry’s official response to these decisions can be found by clicking here.]

Mounting pressure from students, alumni, and the local community triggered the board meeting, wherein the school reversed its position less than 48 hours after a previous letter from Friedoff defending the firing was sent. Yesterday, about twenty students protested at the school and others took to social media through the hashtag #FightForSMA to express their disapproval. Anna Lee, a senior, told The Oregonian:

“I was confused, then I started to get angry. . .There’s an unspoken rule of acceptance. The teachers make us feel safe, and we can confide anything.”

Another student, senior Katie Ferrarini, told KPTV that the decision to discriminate against Brown was “surprising” because their entire junior year religion class focused on social justice and it was made clear discrimination was unjust. Indeed, one alumna speaking to NewNowNext said:

“The irony is the school’s mission is so much about social justice. They trained us to fight this.”

Also worth noting is a critical statement from Tim Boyle, CEO of Columbia Sportswear, and his wife, Mary, a 1967 alumna of St. Mary’s who are among the school’s most generous benefactors. The Boyles were “extremely disappointed” and said the school’s decision “was wrong and should be reversed,” reported Willamette Weekly.

What happened at St. Mary’s Academy is a remarkable success, which has not happened in the more than 50 public incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their job in LGBT-related employment disputes. First, Lauren Brown refused to be silenced through a payout and was a credible witness for young women at St. Mary’s of living with authenticity and integrity. Now, community members came together as church, using their different leverage points to enact lasting positive change from a wounding injustice.

New Ways Ministry has been advocating for Catholic institutions to adopt non-discrimination policies like the one St. Mary’s Academy has.  Let’s pray that other schools, parishes, and church institutions will follow their example.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the almost 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Dismissed Lesbian Educator Refuses Catholic School’s Monetary Offer

August 27, 2015

Lauren Brown

Update: The board of St. Mary’s Academy has changed the school’s employment policies as a result of this incident. For more details, see Bondings 2.0‘s updated coverage by clicking here.

A Catholic school in Oregon withdrew a job offer to a lesbian woman after finding out about her sexual orientation and relationship with a woman.  Additionally, according to documents released by the prospective educator, the school asked her to sign an agreement not to sue the institution and not to speak about the contract withdrawal.

Administrators at St. Mary’s Academy, an all-girls high school in downtown Portland, informed Lauren Brown they would not be honoring the contract they agreed upon in April,  and they offered her a year’s compensation if she would agree not to file legal action against the school and also to remain silent about the contract’s withdrawal. Brown rejected the hush money, telling Willamette Weekly:

“To sign a contract that’s going to affect the rest of my life, and my passion for advocating for LGBT youth and LGBT people—there’s no way I could sign that. . .I could never live with myself.”

You can read the documents Brown released by clicking here.

Other details about the incident are in dispute. Brown claims that in July she informed Principal Kelli Clarke about her relationship with a woman:

“Brown says she asked Clark in that phone call what she should say in her [staff] biography, since she has a girlfriend. Brown also asked: Would she be allowed to bring her girlfriend to school events? What if she got married? She says Clark told her that was uncharted territory, but that Clark would support her. 

“Brown says Clark called back July 30 with a different message: ‘It may not work out.’ . . .

“Brown met with Clark and [school president Christina] Friedhoff at St. Mary’s on Aug. 4. She says the meeting lasted more than three hours, with both women pressuring her to sign a separation agreement that offered her six months’ salary in return for a promise not to sue the school or talk about why she lost the job.”

That agreement even dictated, verbatim, what Brown could post to social media about the firing and mandated that she reply to inquiries by saying, “I learned that my intent to enter into a same-sex marriage is in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic church.”

A St. Mary’s lawyer tells a different story. The school claims Brown notified them of her upcoming marriage in the fall and the school sought the separation agreement to explicitly identify her “intent to enter a same-sex marriage” as the reason. That language for social media and inquiries was requested by Brown, says the school.

In a letter to the community, Friedhoff stated that the school’s sponsoring congregation, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, as well as the board, support the school’s decision.  Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample also expressed support for the administration with his own statement, reported on in The Oregonian.

Brown said that she rejected the money so St. Mary’s students, some of whom, assuredly, would be part of the LGBT community, would “not be ashamed of who they are” and to point out that even in Portland there is discrimination.

Statue on campus decorated in protest by current students

Brown has hired an attorney and is considering her legal options, but as with many recent firings in the U.S. there is already a growing public support for her situation. Jeanna Frazzini of Basic Rights Oregon said this support is to be expected because Catholic education imbued so many with a sense of justice and inclusion:

“Some of my dearest colleagues in social justice came out of St. Mary’s. . .When folks at the school hear about what’s happening, they’ll be concerned—and they’ll want to see significant changes.”

Students, alumni, and Portlanders are uniting on Twitter around the hashtag #FightForSMA and decorated a campus statue in rainbow garb to protest the firing. More action may emerge as classes resume next week.

Back to school was always an exciting time for me, as was the end of school. This excitement has been tempered in the last few years because these times now mean an uptick in educators and church workers losing their jobs in LGBT-related disputes. Lauren Brown could have greatly contributed to St. Mary’s Academy, a self-described “diverse community,” in her position as college counselor.

Instead, students will only know Brown as the victim of administrators who are putting the letter of the church’s law over any concern for social justice. What a sad lesson to begin a new school year on.

Thankfully, Brown is teaching these young women a far more essential lesson about not comprising your identity or integrity.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the almost 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

 –Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Chicago Archbishop: ‘We Must Be Open to New Avenues & Creativity When It Comes to Families’

August 25, 2015

Archbishop Blase Cupich

Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich called for the church to improve its welcome of non-traditional families in his homily last Sunday, offering a beautiful reflection as the church prepares for October’s Synod of Bishops to discuss marriage and family issues.

Preaching on Ephesians 5, a troubling text given its exhortation that “wives be submissive to your husbands,” Cupich said the text is actually quite subversive because it exhorts that husbands to be subordinate to their wives as well. This mutual submission between spouses is a teaching the early Church “would have found quite astonishing, if not revolutionary.” The archbishop explained:

“Christ was doing something utterly new in the human family, changing how people understand their relationships with each other as family. With the upcoming synod, it is clear that the Holy Father is calling the Church to examine our categories of expression about what we believe and be open to new avenues and creativity when it comes to accompanying families. All of this has much to say to us in Chicago, that we not settle for solutions that no longer work, expressions that no longer inspire and ways of working that stifle creativity and collaboration.”

Though Cupich did not mention families with LGBT members, it is not a stretch to see how this message clearly applies to their situations.

Cupich was preaching in Holy Name Cathedral the at Mass for Investment of the Pallium. where Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Viganó presented the Chicago archbishop with the pallium, a small woolen stole worn metropolitan archbishops to signify their unity with the papacy. This pallium Mass was the first in a new model of investiture instituted by Pope Francis whereby archbishops receive the vestment in their local archdiocese rather than in Rome, reported Michael O’Loughlin of Crux. This is part of Pope Francis’ attempts to decentralize church power and affirm local communities’ participation.

Much of the homily centered around the papacy however, presenting messages of Pope Francis by citing both Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si. In my view, what Cupich was really doing was calling the archdiocese to be a truly catholic church that is “home for all” where all are welcome. Citing Pope John XXIII, the archbishop told those at Mass:

“He called the entire Church to a fresh appreciation of the ancient teaching of the medicine of mercy in an era when many in the Church preferred the narrow path of severity and condemnation. . .It is the pope’s ministry that draws us out of a narrow provincial view that reduces our experience of Church to just what is happening in my parish, my diocese, my country. . . .[The pope in his travels] introduces us to our brothers and sisters in places we never visited, reminding us of what it means to be Catholic, a Church whose universality must be reflected in every particular Church.”

Cupich’s words are worth noting not only for the message given to the congregation gathered, including twenty bishops, but for their broader significance given this church leader’s rising significance. He was Pope Francis’ first major episcopal appointment in the United States, coming with a largely positive record on LGBT issues that was further confirmed when he said last yearon CBS’ “Face the Nation” program that all families deserve legal protection

Yet, Cupich’s remarks are forward looking because he is expected to be appointed a special delegate to the Synod and his weight as a voice in the American Church will only grow.

His comments starkly contrast with those of some of his peers. This is especially true in Illinois, where Bishop Thomas Paprocki, who once held an exorcism against marriage equality, recently announced a restrictive new policy of Catholic school admission which casts a supsicious eye on lesbian and gay parents,  and where a priest of the Diocese of Peoria mailed his entire town an anti-gay letter paid for with church funds.

As for the October synod, Pope Francis is hoping for a miracle, and his appointments are raising the stakes that something positive for LGBT families might just happen. Judging from Cupich’s words, he is open to the Spirit’s guidance and to new ways of accompanying families. He commented on the Risen Christ “always doing something new” before quoting Evangelii Gaudium:

“Jesus can always break through the dull categories with which we would enclose him, and he constantly amazes us with his divine creativity. . .[to the point that] new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs, and words with new meaning for today’s world.”

New paths and more eloquent signs are desperately needed when it comes to the church’s response for non-traditional families, like those with LGBT members or led by same-gender couples. Let’s hope more bishops share Cupich’s desire for mercy and creativity in the coming weeks.

To read Archbishop Cupich’s fully homily, which I highly recommend, click here.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of the 2015 Synod on the Family, click here. To receive regular updates in the coming months on the Synod and ALL Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to the blog (for free) by typing your email address in the “Follow” box in the upper right-hand corner of this page, and then click the “Follow” button.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Illinois Priest Sends Entire Town Anti-Gay Letter, Calls it a “Public Service”

August 23, 2015

Fr. Timothy Sauppé’s letter

Thousands of Illinois residents received an unsolicited public notice about the “homosexual culture war” from a Peoria diocesan priest earlier this month, but Fr. Timothy Sauppé is refusing to apologize for his action and words, as criticism in his community grows.

The August 11th letter sent to all addresses in the 61883 ZIP code (Westville, IL) opened with the following:

“I am Fr. Sauppé, pastor of St Mary’s Catholic Church & the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! The US Supreme Court has issued a new ‘civil right’ recognizing same-sexed ‘marriages.'”

The referenced parish is St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Westville, and the letter continued by attacking same-sex relationships, reported Commercial-News.

When contacted by the press, the priest defended his letter, written “to evangelize and to protect St. Mary’s Catholic Church from future attack” according to the parish website. Sauppé told Commercial-News:

“As pastor, I’m not only over Catholics, but I’m over everyone within my parish boundaries and a lot of those people don’t know about the other side to this issue.

“So I was doing a public service to them by explaining that we have a constitutional right not to condone [same-sex marriage].”

He further denied claims the letter was political and said anyone objecting to his actions is a “religious bigot.”

The letter’s reverse side advertised local events with several organizations listed as cosponsors, though these groups deny any affiliation. Westville Lions Club president Darren VanDuyn told reporters:

“I was furious because we are a diverse group of people and I didn’t want to be tied to this belief that we don’t all share this opinion of. . .I know a lot of good people from St. Mary’s and Sauppé’s opinions just don’t represent the church as a whole. . .This is the action of one individual. Throw the flyer away and be done with it.”

While throwing the flyer away is a good first step, this is not Fr. Sauppé’s first, and, unless he is stopped, likely not last inappropriate act when it comes to homosexuality.

Fr. Sauppé

In a homily shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling last June, the priest claimed “they will come after the Catholic Church” by challenging churches’ tax exempt status and by forcing ministers to perform same-gender weddings.

In a post on the parish website, “Identifying & Preparing For The Homosexualist Agenda,” he said marriage equality’s expansion is linked to a new age of persecution that will “tear at the Mystical Body of Christ, as surely as did the Roman flagellum, thorns, and nails on the historic body of Christ.”

Fr. Sauppé’s tirades are not limited to opposing LGBT equality. He made headlines in 2013 with the claim that couples’ use of contraception had put the parochial school out of existence. Glancing at the parish website and a quick Google search clearly shows he holds extremist views on many topics.

The Diocese of Peoria, in which Westville is located, has at least one previous precedent of extremist Catholic rhetoric. In 2012, Bishop Daniel Jenky compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, causing some to question whether he broke election laws.

Regardless of what Sauppé says, his actions are neither a public service nor evangelical. They are precisely the opposite, and they stymie the well-being of both civil society and the church.  Sauppé owes the people of Westville a profound apology for using church funds to mail anti-gay materials to their homes and businesses. Otherwise, he is simply doing the church a great disservice by fostering prejudice and fear.

To reconcile with the community after apologizing, he could educate himself like reading what some of the People of God would say to Pope Francis about LGBT issues, which have a lot more to do with love and inclusion than condemnation. He could take the further step of meeting with local LGBT people and their families, including Catholics, and follow Pope Francis’ lead in trying to create a church that is “home for all” at the Westville parish.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

What The People of God Would Say to Pope Francis

August 22, 2015

A few days ago, we asked Bondings 2.0 readers what you would say about LGBT issues in the Church if you found yourself face to face (or on the phone) with Pope Francis.

Many people responded in the ‘Comments’ section of that blog post, as well as on New Ways Ministry’s social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

The results are best read as a crowd-sourced meditation, the voice of the People of God making known their joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties. Today, we present a sampling of those responses.

As expected, gratitude for Pope Francis’ more inclusive and merciful witness was widely expressed. Lynne thanked the pope for “leading us in love and compassion…Christ-like leadership” and James said Francis is “giving his utmost to the world,” manifesting grace and words of encouragement.

In hospitality mirroring Francis’ openness, readers shared their stories, particularly those of their families:

  • Patty:“God created me as I am: gay. God loves me as I am: gay. To exclude me is to exclude one of God’s good creations, something Jesus never would have done!
  • Scott: “Look into the eyes of my 9 month old son and tell me why Jesus would be against him having 2 loving fathers who are able to protect and commit to a life together bringing him up in a loving family unit.”
  • Diane: “Do I pray less, or act less welcoming to my daughter’s sweet and loving girlfriend? Do we judge her as unworthy to be an included and active member of our family? To do so would destroy our family, and yet that is exactly what our beloved Church does.”
  • Deb: “Holy Father, our gay children are dying at their own hands, our trans children are being murdered. Please help us share the message…we are all God’s children and we are all his beloved! Parents need to hear this too. Love your babies from the cradle to the grave.”

Most prevalent were attempts to bring problematic situations regarding pastoral care and church teaching to Pope Francis’ attention. Some went so far as setting Jesus’ model of ministry against the hierarchy’s present behavior:

  • John: “Love of God and Neighbor are the 2 great commandments. We are not being loved or included in that, but vilified. Welcome us to the table as Jesus did and does!”
  • Christine: “Holy Father, the dogma of the Church has smothered the intent of Jesus, ‘To love one another as I have loved you.’ Please save our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters from suffocating unto their deaths under the weight of judgement by this dogma.”

The negative actions of local ministers and the language of church documents seemed to undermine some of the pope’s more inclusive gestures. Felix, a partnered bisexual from the Dominican Republic, said the church’s rejection still hurts terribly even though he is sure God knows of his relationship’s goodness:

“I have been a very devout Roman Catholic my entire life. . .yet, last mass I attended the priest made some very harsh remarks on the decision of the Supreme Court, which made me feel so guilty I didn’t even feel like I should be inside a church. At times I feel as if I’m no longer part of the body of Christ, and it hurts a lot, because I love God, I love the Catholic Church, but I don’t feel part of any of it anymore.”

Pain caused by church ministers was repeated in other stories and led to several calls for action by Pope Francis:

  • Jenny: “Are you OK with the fact that there are Catholic LGBT people who want to worship as they did their whole lives, but are at the point that they can no longer step into a Sunday Eucharist Celebration without first trying to find out if they will be insulted and dehumanized by the homilist?”
  • Michael: “You must change the teaching that describes gay people as ‘intrinsically disordered’ . . . We are not intrinsically disordered; like everyone else, we were created in the image and likeness of God.”
  • Julie: “Holy Father, take a picture with one trans person. It would mean worlds of acceptance, be like alms for my people, who are in so much pain. Trans people are among the people Christ welcomed to His table, among the poorest, suffering for who they are; let no one bar us from His Church.”
  • Harry: “I would ask the Holy Father to tell bishops and priests to be gentle and forgiving. I would ask him to tell them to be less judgemental and to show the mercy of Jesus foremost. A simple smile and a gesture of warmth does far more to promote the Gospels than legalistic, cold and rude declarations.”

The request most offered over and over and over was simply for Pope Francis to listen to LGBT people and their loved ones:

  • Brian: “I would urge him to sit and speak with the leaders of our many Catholic LGBT organizations who are theologically sound, wonderfully intelligent and not afraid to speak truth. Talk, listen, share, learn! It would help us all – and then you could spread what you learn to the bishops of this country so they stop spewing hatred!
  • Marie:  “I ask simply that you meet and listen to the Equally Blessed families that are on pilgrimage to the Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. It is so painful to hear the pastor of this City of Fraternal Love has forbidden practicing Catholics from enjoying the hospitality of their own church while in Philadelphia.”

One reader, Colleen, reversed the situation a bit and suggested LGBTQI people and allies should start acting more and more with unconditional love so “then Pope Francis will know that he can join us as an ally to love as we have been loved.”

Unconditional love and listening seem to be very good starts for Pope Francis and all of us to keep building up a church that is home for all and an world where all are welcome.

Didn’t have a chance to offer your own thoughts on what you would say to Pope Francis about LGBT issues in the church? Leave them in the ‘Comments’ section below and add to this ongoing communal meditation.

If you have more to say, consider writing up your thoughts for Bondings 2.0‘s project, “Where Do We Go From Here? The Road to the Synod 2015.” You can submit 500-800 word pieces to and find more information about it by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

San Francisco Teachers Approve New Archdiocesan Contract by Slim Majority

August 21, 2015

Students participate in vigils supportive of Catholic school teachers earlier this year

By a slim majority, teachers at San Francisco’s Catholic high schools passed a new contract which doesn’t classify them as “ministers,” but still allows them to be fired for certain forms of “personal conduct” off the job. This is the latest step in a months long struggle between Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Bay Area Catholics for justice in the church, including LGBT inclusion.

The 90-80 vote concludes tense negotiations between the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers, Local 2240, which focused on whether teachers’ personal lives could be grounds for termination. An article in the National Catholic Reporter explained:

“While the contract does not describe the teachers as ‘ministers,’ a term that would have allowed the archdiocese to fire teachers for any reason, it includes phrases about ‘personal conduct’ and ‘teacher conduct on and off the job.’

“To fire a teacher because of personal conduct, however, the archdiocese will need to prove that the conduct adversely affects the classroom. The contract also includes grievance procedures for teachers if they are in a dispute with their employer.”

Teachers were clearly divided over whether to accept the new contract. Those in favor, like Archbishop Riordan High School religion teacher Ted DeSaulnier, were pleased Cordileone “compromised.” DeSaulnier said the contract now provides union members “more protection while rolling back any contractual language that might give the archbishop any advantage in initiating the concept of the ministerial exemption.”

Ish Ruiz

Others, like Sacred Heart High School religion teacher Ish Ruiz, objected to the contract’s interference in their personal lives. The contract’s preamble includes phrasing that teachers’ “personal conduct will not adversely impact their ability to teach” and “teacher conduct on and off the job” can affect their employment, language that potentially might be used to fire somoeone for being married to a same-sex spouse or endorsing marriage equality, as has happened to a large number of church workers who have lost their jobs in recent years.

Archbishop Cordileone’s initial draft of the contract, which classified teachers as “ministers,” can be seen as part of a larger agenda that included stricter morality clauses in the teacher handbook and a new Office of Catholic Identity Assessment earlier this year.

The teacher handbook required teachers to affirm a number of highly specific moral issues, including: opposition to contraception; condemnation of homosexual acts, masturbation, pornography; upholding heterosexual marriage as the only legal option; condemnation of artificial reproductive technology and cloning. Some observers had dobuts about the archbishop’s committee tasked with revising the handbook. After widespread criticism, the language was toned down slightly to its final form.

Cordileone’s decisions have already forced out one dedicated teacher. In July, social studies teacher Abi Basch resigned from Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, much to students’ deep disappointment.

Taken together, the archbishop’s actions have drawn sustained protests from thousands of Bay Area Catholics centered around the #TeachAcceptance movement. In April, more than 100 influential local Catholics signed an open letter to Pope Francis calling for Cordileone’s resignation because, they said, he caused grave harm to the local church. There have also been public vigils at the cathedral and online advocacy through a Facebook group and awebsite. Parents have written letters of support to students and many objected to the archbishop’s comment that transgender people “undermine the faith.”

Now that the contract is approved, Catholics must be watchful to prevent the targeting of LGBT and ally employees. Hopefully, the harm done to the San Francisco church will end and it can now be a time for reconciliation and healing.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the almost 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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