QUOTE TO NOTE: ‘People should be called the way that they want to be called’

Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich endorsed the idea that church leaders should call LGBT people by the terms which such people use to identify themselves.

America magazine’s Michael O’Loughlin reported on the cardinal’s comments, made in response to a reporter’s question following a talk the prelate gave at the City Club of Chicago this week. Cupich said:

“We have always wanted to make sure that we start the conversation by saying that all people are of value and their lives should be respected and that we should respect them.

That is why I think that the terms gay and lesbian, L.G.B.T., all of those names that people appropriate to themselves, should be respected. People should be called the way that they want to be called rather than us coming up with terms that maybe we’re more comfortable with. So it begins with that.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich

O’Loughlin pointed out the timeliness of the cardinal’s remarks:

“The cardinal’s comments come at a time when some Catholic leaders are considering how to engage the L.G.B.T. community. America editor-at-large James Martin, S.J., argues in his new book Building a Bridge that gay and lesbian people should be referred to by those names, noting that Pope Francis himself has used the term gay.

“But critics have said that using those terms in place of phrases such as ‘individuals who experience same-sex attraction’ is a capitulation to secular culture.”

O’Loughlin also reported:

“Later that evening, Cardinal Cupich appeared on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” to discuss gang and gun violence in the city. He declined to comment on a newly promulgated document in nearby Springfield, Ill., in which Bishop Thomas Paprocki told priests that gays and lesbians in same-sex marriages should not receive Communion or be given Catholic funerals.”

” ‘That is not our policy,’ Cardinal Cupich said, adding, ‘as a matter of practice, we don’t comment on the policies of other dioceses.’ “

Cardinal Cupich already has a strong record of being welcoming of LGBT people.  He was one of the few U.S. bishops to make a statement of sympathy and solidarity to the LGBT community in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre last year.  At the 2015 synod on the family, he stated that he thought synod bishops should have heard the voices of lesbian and gay couples at the meeting, and acknowledged that he did exactly that in his own pre-synod listening sessions.  He also spoke out against denying communion to lesbian and gay people, recommending that pastoral ministers respect individuals’ consciences.

On the negative side, Cupich upheld the firing of Colin Collette, a married gay man who was a music minister at a Chicago-area parish.

Still, progress is made step-by-step, little-by-little, and Cupich’s latest comments are another move in the right direction.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry,  July 20, 2017

 

It’s Time to Canonize Fr. Mychal Judge: Seeking Personal Testimony

The time has come to begin the initial research to make Franciscan Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, a canonized saint in the Catholic Church.  And we need the help of people like you to spread the word about such a possibility so that we can gather evidence about Fr. Judge’s life and ministry.

Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM

On September 11, 2001, Fr. Judge, who was a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, rushed into the World Trade Center building with other first responders, after terrorists had flown planes into the skyscraper towers.  As a result of his sacrifice, he died, and is now often referred to as “Victim Number One” of that tragic day which witnessed the deaths of close to 3,000 people, with over 6,000 more injured.

He was also known as an unofficial chaplain in the gay community, providing pastoral care and support wherever and whenever he could.  He ministered, selflessly, too, with HIV/AIDS patients and with people suffering from addictions.

Pope Francis paved the way for Fr. Judge to be considered for canonization this past week when he added a new possible pathway to sainthood:  the heroic giving of one’s life for others.

The pope issued a motu propio on July 11th entitled “Maiorem hac dilectionem.” The Latin title is derived from St. John’s Gospel: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The National Catholic Reporter explained why this development is significant:

“Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, Secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said the addition is meant ‘to promote heroic Christian testimony, (that has been) up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues.’

“For centuries, consideration for the sainthood process required that a Servant of God heroically lived a life of Christian virtues or had been martyred for the faith. The third, less common way, is called an equivalent or equipollent canonization: when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to a holy man or woman, the pope can waive a lengthy formal canonical investigation and can authorize their veneration as saints.

“While these three roads to sainthood remain unchanged, they were not adequate ‘for interpreting all possible cases’ of holiness, the archbishop wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, July 11.

“According to the apostolic letter, any causes for beatification according to the new pathway of “offering of life” would have to meet the following criteria:

  • Free and willing offer of one’s life and a heroic acceptance, out of love, of a certain and early death; the heroic act of charity and the premature death are connected.
  • Evidence of having lived out the Christian virtues — at least in an ordinary, and not necessarily heroic, way — before having offered one’s life to others and until one’s death.
  • Evidence of a reputation for holiness, at least after death.
  • A miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession is needed for beatification.”

Last week, I spoke with Fr. Luis Fernando Escalante, an Argentinian priest living in Rome, who serves as a postulator for the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes.  Fr. Escalante said that Fr. Judge clearly fits this new category of a heroic giver of one’s own life.

In order to propose that Fr. Judge be investigated by the Congregation to be considered for canonization, an immense amount of research first must be done.  What is needed are first-hand accounts from people who knew Fr. Judge personally or who have had any correspondence with him or have other significant documents that will give a clearer, more detailed picture of his life, spirituality, and ministry.  Extremely important is any information regarding a possible miracle attributed to Fr. Judge’s intercession.

Fr. Escalante emphasized that this new category for canonization requires only an ordinary living out of Christian virtues, not an extraordinary effort.  So, any stories that you or your contacts may have about Fr. Judge, even if they are seemingly ordinary, are needed.

Here is what you can do:

  1. Share this blog post (or simply the request for information about Fr. Judge) with your social media, email, and personal contacts.  Ask them to share this information with others by the same means.  We need this to go viral to find people who knew Fr. Judge, who feel they have experienced his intercession in a possible miracle, or simply want to support and help the preliminaries of his Cause.
  2. Refer anyone who has first-hand information about Fr. Judge to contact New Ways Ministry by email (info@NewWaysMinistry.org), phone (301-277-5674), or postal mail (4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20712).
  3. Persons who have testimony about Fr. Judge need only make an initial contact.  They do not need to explain the nature of their interaction or experience with him in the initial contact.   Follow-up material will be sent to them to elicit the type of information that is needed.
  4. Ask other organizations to which you belong who also might know people who encountered Fr. Judge to share this information.
  5. Pray for the canonization of Fr. Judge.

This opportunity depends on YOU!  The only way that we can make Fr. Judge’s canonization a reality is through a mass effort to find people who knew Fr. Judge.  People who have been involved in Catholic LGBT activities are very likely to have met him or perhaps to have prayed to him for a miracle.  That is why we are asking you to share this information.   Of course, those who knew Fr. Judge from other activities–his parish work, his NYC Fire Department chaplaincy, his ministry to HIV/AIDS patients and addicts–are also sought.

An official request for the Cause of Fr. Judge’s canonization can only be submitted after a great deal of this initial research is gathered.  This may take many months, perhaps even a year or more.  Only through a mass effort to build a network of individuals and organizations who are searching for the necessary evidence and information will we be able to get to even the first step of the canonization process.

For the sake of this heroic priest who literally gave his life for others, please spread the word!

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 17, 2017

Related:

For more information on the life of Fr. Mychal Judge, click here.

To read Bondings 2.0 blog posts that mention Fr. Mychal Judge click here.

QUOTE TO NOTE: How Gay Bars and Churches are Safe and Sacred Places

When Orlando, Florida newspaper columnist Justin Mitchell visited the Pulse Nightclub memorial this past June, it stirred him to remember the 49 victims who were killed there. It also stirred him to reflect on how gay nightclubs and churches can be quite similar spaces.

club-church-amsterdamMitchell, writing in the Sun Herald, described his journey as a gay man who was raised Catholic. There were positive moments in youth group when church elevated him in prayer, and there was also “the moment I fell out of love with mass” as pastors criticized marriage equality. There was the progressive church in college that welcomed him, and then the rejection by a former parishioner in his hometown. All of this came back to Mitchell as he watched prayer candles burn at the Pulse memorial. He reflected:

“The point of all of this, though, is that I lit that prayer candle and was brought back to my days in church. Because what many don’t realize is that a gay bar is exactly like church in many ways for the LGBTQ+ community. They both are safe spaces where its members can let go and be vulnerable. They can share their most suppressed feelings, whether it’s holding a man’s hand or praying to the man upstairs. It’s a place where, above all, you don’t feel like anything bad is going to happen to you.”

Many people around the world remembered the Pulse anniversary last month. Catholics lamented one bishop’s decree released on that very day which bans married lesbian and gay people from the most important aspects of church life.

As we move forward, these violations (and others that come to mind) of safe and sacred places are our propellants to work even harder so that there will be places like clubs and churches where all are welcome to be who they are.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 15, 2017

Catholic Groups Object to Bishop Paprocki’s Anti-Gay Decree

Weeks after an Illinois bishop announced pastoral guidelines that bar people in same-gender marriages from church life, Catholics continue to object while the bishop has begun responding to critics.

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Reform organizations’ letter to Bishop Paprocki

Catholic Church reform organizations sent a letter to Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield to express their disappointment about his decree which would, among other prohibitions, bar Catholics in same-gender marriages from having funerals. The letter read, in part:

“As communities of Catholics, we were shocked and gravely disappointed at the decree you recently promulgated. . .The Church, at its best, is a haven, a source of spiritual nourishment in a sometimes harsh world. In times of confusion, loss and grief, the Sacraments are especially valued for the strength and grace they provide to all who wish to avail themselves of them. It is disheartening to us as Catholics that our family would forego such cherished ideals in favor of mean and unkind policies.”

The organizations wrote they “decry the rancor and derision that has become such a pervasive part of public life and community,” and expect the church to be a refuge in troubled times. The fourteen organizations include Call to Action, DignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry. Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, who has written an open letter to the bishop which you can read here, commented to WGLT 89.1:

“The reaction has run the gamut from anger to shock to real disgust at such a Draconian prohibition against lesbian and gay people, especially in this era of Pope Francis where more and more Catholic leaders are making gestures of welcome. . .People feel there are so many other areas the church declares as sin that are not included in this prohibition, such as greed, militarism, racism and support for the death penalty.”

Women-Church Convergence, a coalition of Catholic feminist groups, released its own pastoral letter to the people of Springfield to “offer words of comfort” to LGBTQI persons and their families. The letter read, in part:

“The Decree misses the signal importance of public, joyfully celebrated baptisms of babies, young people, and adults as they become part of our community. It ignores the welcome table that is the Eucharist. And, it dishonors the dead who are denied church funerals not because of sin but because of love. Let especially your young people hear us sing atop our voices, ‘All are welcome.'”

In a statement, Deborah Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch said Paprocki’s “harsh tactics defy the Gospel and deny the God’s own people the love, care, and acceptance that we are called to offer one another.”

While the National Catholic Reporter noted that few bishops are willing to offer criticism of another publicly, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego did support San Jose’s Bishop Patrick McGrath who released a communique to pastoral ministers in his diocese that said all Catholics would be welcome to the sacraments. McElroy commented:

“‘I think that is the appropriate policy that I would hope the priests would observe, especially in the times of funerals, but more broadly in the sense of regular pastoral action in support of men and women who are in all states of lives and who have all sorts of challenges. . .Our fundamental stance has to be one of inclusion in the church, especially during a time of burial.'”

Bishop Paprocki (1)
Contact Bishop Paprocki about his decree

In the face of criticism from many quarters, Bishop Paprocki is speaking out in defense of his decree through a diocesan statement, a column in the diocesan newspaper, and an interview. NCR reported about the interview:

“. . .Paprocki states that he was surprised by the attention the decree received as it is ‘a rather straightforward application of existing Church teaching and canon law.’ He also said he has ‘received many supportive comments and assurances of prayer,’ including ‘positive reactions’ from the priests in the diocese.

“When the online news magazine asked about Martin’s Facebook post, Paprocki said, ‘Father Martin gets a lot wrong in those remarks.'”

Paprocki also clarified that his decree applied not to lesbian and gay people generally, but specifically to those persons who had entered into civil same-gender marriages. He added that even someone in such a marriage could be fully admitted to the sacraments “if they repent and renounce their ‘marriage.’ ”

Responding to DeBernardo’s open letter, which suggested people would leave the church because of such exclusive policies, Paprocki told Catholic World Report “the real issue is not how many people will come to church, but how to become holy, how to become a saint.” The bishop added, “It is disappointing when people leave the Church, just as it surely must have been disappointing for Jesus when people walked away from Him.”

Such clarifications are doing little to pacify the bishop’s critics. The look to his lengthy LGBT-negative record for proof that this decree is but one instance among many harmful actions. You can read about Paprocki’s full record by clicking here.

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John Freml

John Freml, a married gay Catholic in Springfield, told WGLT 89.1 he was “disappointed and very hurt” by the decree. But, Freml added, the church is not simply the bishops but the entire people of God. He was supported while coming out at a Catholic high school, and he and his husband have found welcome at their parish where “we didn’t make any effort to hide who we were.”

To read more Catholic reactions to Paprocki’s decree, click here and here.

New Ways Ministry continues to recommend you contact Bishop Paprocki, and we encourage you to communicate honestly, personally, and civilly with him. 

Contact information:

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Catholic Pastoral Center

1615 West Washington Street

Springfield, Illinois 62702-4757

Phone: (217) 698-8500

Email:  tjpaprocki@dio.org

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 13, 2017

Sharing of Stories Is Key to DignityUSA Conference

This past weekend, I was privileged to be with the DignityUSA community at their conference in Boston. The theme, “A Place at the Table,” lent itself to the power of shared stories, many of which were expressed in the formal sessions and the more informal hallway conversations.

e3202eb004In one session, transgender members of Dignity and one mother of a trans child shared stories of being faithful Catholics. Skylar Kelley, a panelist who uses they/them pronouns, explained what it means to identify as non-binary. They also shared how being assigned female at birth remains a part of their history that should not be erased. In light of the fact that some church leaders have been publicly speaking against trans lives, each panelist’s reflection on “Why stay in the church?” was a powerful testimony of faith.

In another session, Krzysztof Charamsa, a former priest and theologian who worked at at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and who came out as a gay man right before the 2015 Synod on the Family began, spoke personally and theologically.  He shared his coming out story as he addressed the institutional church’s treatment of homosexuality. He told those gathered, “When you want your community to change, you must change.” More pointedly, he echoed Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium saying, “We need to confront ideas with Christ, Christ who lived in this world.” Charamsa said clearly that this work is done well when LGBTQI Catholics who remain the church offer their witness.

Stories were central during a Saturday morning plenary which featured Jamie Manson of the National Catholic Reporter, Louis Mitchell of TransFaith who is a Congregationalist minister, and Walter Robinson of the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team which broke open the clergy sexual abuse in the early 2000’s.

Mitchell spoke to the cost of noticing another person’s story, and the vulnerability required to share one’s story. He made a special appeal for attendees to take seriously the stories of transgender women of color who are “not victims, sex toys, HIV statistics, or some bad RuPaul joke,” but human beings with the fullness of dignity.

Speaking about self-care, Manson discussed how the work of seeking justice in the church can be lonely and even lead to despair at times. But, she added:

“What pushes me forward more often than not is that people are suffering, and they’re suffering at the hands of this institution. And they’re suffering in the Global South. . .It is the church that isn’t speaking when our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are being imprisoned for who they are.”

Another story shared was the history of Always Our Children, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata. founders of Fortunate Families, led a conversation about how the document came to be and its effect on the church. It is document, they said, that shattered the silence around homosexuality in the church, opened up new possibilities based on the lived experiences of lesbian and gay people, and helped empower parents and pastoral ministers.

These highlighted instances are just a few examples of the many stories shared over the weekend. What kept coming to mind as I listened to speakers and Dignity members was how I wished church leaders could be there, sitting in the back rows, simply listening.

What they would hear are real stories, the grounding realities of LGBT Catholics and their families.  While some of these stories were about the trials of being marginalized by church and by society, others were also about how and why faithful Catholics live out their faith in community. All of these are stories that our church very much needs to hear.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 9, 2017

Hanging from a Thread, Vatican Sex Orgy Story Circles the Globe

I didn’t want to write this post.

For the past week, my inbox has been filled with stories from all over the globe and the internet about an alleged gay sex and drug orgy at the home of a prominent Vatican official.  Despite the multiplication of these stories, they are all based on one Italian newspaper article which is thin on evidence, and rests mainly on a single thread of rumor.

When the story made it into The Times of London, I thought there was probably more  substantial evidence supporting the allegation.  Alas, even The Times simply repeated the weakly supported evidence from the first story.

So, I debated all week whether to report and comment on this story here.  I finally felt that since many Bondings 2.0 readers have probably heard about it from other sources, I should probably say something.

My reluctance is not because I don’t think that such a story is possible.  Priests, bishops, cardinals are human, and experience human desires and frailty.  Like many people, they may not always make choices that work best at answering their needs or advancing their personal, professional, and ministerial goals.

So, is it possible that such an orgy happened? Yes, but not because it is a bizarre thing, but because it is a very human thing.  As I say that, I am not defending orgiastic behavior, but just noting that though we tend to think of it as beyond the pale of normality, I would daresay that every one of us has sometimes engaged in behavior which others might be shocked at hearing. And I’m not just talking about sexual behavior here, but the entire spectrum of human activity. Who among us doesn’t have something in our past that we would rather people do not know?

Not surprisingly, conservative Catholic news sites are using this thin story to criticize Pope Francis’ administration.  Similarly, many secular news sites are using it as a way to brand church leaders with hypocrisy on gay issues.

Another problem I have with this story is that as it gets spread, it seems to get bigger.  Headlines which originally noted that the accusations of misbehavior were alleged have morphed into headlines asserting the misbehavior as solid fact.  That is not honest journalism, and it is certainly not Christian behavior.

While I think that people’s curious minds are one thing that feeds the life and vitality of such a story, I think another factor here is the intense secrecy that surrounds both the Vatican and the sexuality of priests.

If church leaders were more honest and transparent about their decision-making, there would be less curiosity about the possibility of Vatican intrigue and surreptitious activity.

If Catholic clergy were more honest about their sexuality and acknowledged themselves more as sexual beings, people would wonder less about the possibility of sexual activity of men who vow celibacy.

Silence and secrecy are two strategies which seem to be favored by the Vatican and other high-ranking church leaders and institutions.  Unfortunately, these strategies do more harm to the church than help.  Simple honesty would clear up so much misunderstanding, and it would certainly stave off the expansion and multiplication of rumors.

And, of course, the end of silence and secrecy–especially around sexuality– would benefit so much more than the Church as an institution, but would greatly benefit all its members, too.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 8, 2017

 

Reviewing Fr. James Martin’s “Building a Bridge,” Part I

Fr. James Martin’s new book on LGBT issues, Building a Bridge, has created quite a buzz in the Catholic Church.  It is currently the #1 bestseller in the category of Gender & Sexuality in Religious Studies category on Amazon.com.  The book is based on an address Martin gave upon receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award last fall. With the current buzz has come many reviews, three of which Bondings 2.0 will feature this week.

Today’s post engages theologian David Cloutier’s review in Commonweal. His piece is titled “The Ignatian Option,” a reference to Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option” that proposed opponents of LGBT equality begin to remove themselves from the secular world as equal rights expand.

Cloutier applauded Martin as someone who has “consistently sought to convey the riches of Catholic Christianity in both a style and a language that is as accessible as possible in a pluralist, post-Christian culture.” In doing so, Martin “does not sacrifice sophistication in aiming at accessibility.” About Building a Bridge specifically, Cloutier commented:

“Lest this approach be taken as a mere plea for more civility, Martin insists that the greater end is that each group will actually get to know the other. ‘You can’t be sensitive to the LGBT community if you only issue documents about them, preach about them, or tweet about them, without knowing them,’ he writes. Similarly, Martin insists on prayer from the LGBT community for the bishops. His book is not meant to outline where the conversation might go but to set the necessary conditions for a conversation. This seems a reasonable initial goal of ‘accompaniment,’ allowing for an ecclesial practice that is faithful to the church’s basic claim that gays and lesbians are ‘always our children’—and always children of God.”

David Cloutier

Cloutier also named three ways by which, in his words, the bridge was “shaky.” First, he disagrees with “Martin’s initial characterization of the LGBT community as a ‘group,'” given the problems which arise in generalizing discussions and the differing issues facing transgender people. Cloutier continued:

“This overly tidy solution about naming leads to the second concern, which is whether this book is written for a socio-political context that no longer exists. At times, I imagined myself reading Building a Bridge in the early 1990s, when as a young Catholic at a very secular liberal arts college, I was learning to negotiate (hopefully with respect, compassion, and sensitivity!) LGBT issues for the first time. But on this issue, the early 1990s seem like ancient history. The idea of generous bridge-building is more difficult when anti-discrimination lawsuits lurk in the wings. Moreover, Catholics have observed decades of church-dividing strife among Protestant churches unable to make this sort of a bridge work, and Martin never hints at why Catholic bridge-building won’t end up in the same place.”

Finally, Cloutier criticized Martin for not forthrightly addressing sexual ethics, writing:

“[H]e elides the fact that the issue at the core of the LGBT community is the challenge to church teaching. I presume this omission of the question of sex is intentional, but there is a sense of ‘let’s pretend’ that seems bothersome. . .Proponents of both sides might point out that the core problem is not how to bring together a marginalized group and an awkward church leadership. It’s really about two clashing views on the fundamental truths of justice and love. Each side has core beliefs about what these claims should mean, and we need to confront why those claims are at odds.”

Cloutier, who trends conservative, called for a conversation on the bridge that would involve chastity and involuntary celibacy, to “come to discern it as a potential gift, rather than an obvious curse.” Interestingly, he wondered whether church leaders should ‘come out,’ but do so only towards the end of “communicating the possibilities of holiness in following the path of Christ” because of their celibate state. He concluded:

“Again, [the clash between Catholics] is no different from what Catholics should expect from tough conversations on issues like economics and the environment: there is a clash of fundamental moral visions that must be engaged. If we’re going to have a conversation, we might not start with that clash. But any bridge is going to have to cross these troubled waters at some point. And perhaps then we’ll see if we need a new St. Ignatius or a new St. Benedict.”

You can read coverage of lesbian Catholic author Eve Tushnet’s review by clicking here. To read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage about Fr. James Martin’s involvement on LGBT issues, click here.   You can order Fr. Martin’s book by clicking here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 3, 2017

Related Articles

Publisher’s Weekly, In New Book, Priest Urges Church to Welcome LGBTQ Catholics

Religion News Service, “The necessity of LGBT bridge-building