CAFOD Not Truthful about Why It Cancelled Lecture, Claims Fr. James Martin

News that several organizations cancelled lectures by Fr. James Martin, SJ, has sparked an intense conversation this last week. The lecture cancellations, which you can read about here and here, occurred because of Martin’s new book on LGBT issues in the church, Building a Bridge. The online attacks against the priest which led to the cancellations have come from right wing Catholic groups, which are now being given increased attention as the church grapples with how to respond to them, though at least one U.S. bishop has chastised them.

MartinInclusionCAFOD Statements Not Truthful

Fr. Martin explained that he had to “correct the record” about the reasons why CAFOD, the English bishops’ international humanitarian aid agency, cancelled a lecture by the priest scheduled for this October. Martin offered his account of events on his Facebook page.

Chris Bain, CAFOD’s director, told The Tablet that the organization “did not withdraw the invitation for Fr Martin to speak at our refugees and migration event, which was postponed, but our correspondence was not clear.” Martin would be welcome to speak at the rescheduled event next spring. Martin has said this description of events is “not entirely accurate.” He explained:

“‘There was some vague talk of ‘perhaps some time in the future. . .but it was very clear that the 2017 talk was cancelled. And it was clear why: concerns and fears over negative publicity surrounding my LGBT book. . .In the case of the Cafod lecture in London, it was not a response to any campaign but fear that my presence itself would garner negative attention, after the group had recently faced other similar problems.'”

CAFOD has claimed their decision to reconsider inviting Martin was necessary as the organization “had a duty to consider how to proceed in the best interests of Cafod’s work.”

Martin Offers Support for Institutions

In another Facebook post, Fr. Martin offered his support for the institutions and organizations which have cancelled scheduled lectures. He said CAFOD, Theological College, and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre are “fine Catholic institutions” and were “victims of those terrible websites” that have attacked Martin. The priest encouraged Catholics to keep supporting their ministries, and wrote:

“The situations were so terrifically fraught with fear for these organizations: fear of protests, fear of violence, fear of bad publicity, fear of angry donors, fear of lost donations, fear of offending, and on and on. When two of the organizers called me, I could hear the anguish in their voices.”

Responding to Internet Trolls

Both Martin, in a Facebook post, and the editors of America, in an editorial, have commented on how Catholics might respond to the right wing websites which have launched attacks against the priest. The editorial in America said, at one point:

“It is likewise a mistake to ignore or dismiss those whose so-called evangelization takes the form of online attacks, and whose goal seems to be a purge of Catholic voices who do not meet their standards of purity. Those who lead such efforts are claiming a kind of parallel magisterium, substituting their own outrage for the judgement of those who occupy the church’s legitimate teaching office.

“They must be confronted, and church leaders—especially those whose viewpoints may differ from those of the persons under attack—should speak up strongly and clearly against these attacks and attempts at intimidation. The communion of the church needs to be defended—not from the peril of theological discussion but rather from that of being monitored and policed by the loudest and least loving voices among us.”

Gehring on the “Real Scandal”

John Gehring of Faith and Public Life wrote an essay in Commonweal about the real scandal happening when it comes to right wing attacks in the church. He said:

“When a group of zealots who show no sense of Christian decency and consistently target faithful people have more sway over a seminary than the cardinals and bishops who endorsed Martin’s book, it raises serious questions we can’t dismiss.”

Gehring referenced Martin’s popularity with younger Catholics who, rather than clinging to the culture wars, are focused on social justice. Lecture cancellations based on nasty attacks mean “[t]he already-thin thread barely connecting these young Catholics to the institutional church just got thinner.” Gehring added, “Self-inflicted wounds are hard to heal.”

Gehring also commented specifically on the Theological College controversy, which had the odd twist that The Catholic University of America, which oversees the seminary, claimed in a statement that the school for future priests somehow had independent authority. Noting the University would host right wing businessperson Charles Koch for a business school conference this month, Gehring concluded:

“A seminary at the only Vatican-chartered university in the country tells a priest who espouses orthodox views that he can’t speak, but the business school at the same university rolls out the red carpet for a wealthy patron of a political network that fights against a Catholic vision for the common good? It makes you wonder what the real scandal is.”

Paulist Fathers Offer Support

Calling Martin a “friend and neighbor of the Paulist Fathers,” the order said its members “were shocked and disappointed” by Theological College’s decision. The statement continued:

“Moreover, this incident exposes the ugliness and intolerance in our Church and society that is in desperate need of reconciliation and healing. . .[Theological College leaders] have sent a dangerous message to the future priests they train that encouraging dialogue and accompaniment with those on the periphery is unacceptable.”

This incident though bad could “prompt desperately needed charitable conversation and dialogue among the faithful on sexuality and spirituality.” You can read the Paulists’ full statement here.

Thankfully in these present controversies, support has poured in for Martin. But right wing attacks are nothing new for LGBT Catholics and their allies who have endured them for years. Going forward, we hope there will be a new solidarity against all those who seek to divide the church, especially those people and groups who target LGBT people and their families.

For continued updates on the Fr. Martin controversy and other Catholic LGBT news, subscribe to Bondings 2.0 in the upper right hand corner of this page.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 21, 2017

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Support Pours in for Fr. Martin After Lecture Cancellations

Support for Fr. James Martin, SJ, has been strong after lectures by him were cancelled due to pressure from right-wing websites that criticize Martin for his new book on LGBT issues in the church.

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Fr. James Martin, SJ

Last Friday, Martin posted on his Facebook page that Theological College in Washington, D.C. had cancelled a scheduled talk by him. He also reported that two other talks in October, one for the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in New York City and one for CAFOD, the English bishops’ humanitarian aid program were canceled. All of these talks were about encountering Jesus and not LGBT issues.  For New Ways Ministry’s statement on the cancellation at Theological College, click here.

Martin said the cancellations were “a result of anger or fear over my book ‘Building a Bridge,’ about LGBT Catholics.” He continued:

“In the case of Theological College, the fears were of angry protesters disrupting their Alumni Day. In the case of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre Dinner, it was anger from some members over the topic of LGBT Catholics. In the case of Cafod lecture in London, it was not a response to any campaign but fear that my presence itself would garner negative attention, after the group had recently faced other similar problems. In none of these cases was the local ordinary–in each a cardinal–in any way advocating for the cancellation of the talk. The impetus was purely from those social media sites.

“I have asked each organization to be honest about the reasons for these cancellations. That is, I told them I did not want to lie and say, “I withdrew” or “I declined” or “I was afraid to come.”

“So I share with you as much as I can in the interests of transparency, which we need in our church. And to show you the outsize influence of social media sites motivated by fear, hatred and homophobia.”

Rightwing websites instigated the attacks on Martin, referring to him as “homosexualist” and “sodomy-promoting,” according to the National Catholic Reporter. Theological College’s rector, Fr. Gerald McBrearity, cited the “increasing negative feedback from various social media sites” because of Building a Bridge as the reason why cancellation was “in the best interest of all parties,” reported Crux.

Interestingly, The Catholic University of America’s president, John Garvey, distanced the school from Theological College’s decision. The seminary is “under the auspices” of the university, but acted apart from direct oversight in deciding to cancel the lecture, according to a statement.

Martin’s supporters rose quickly to his defense, including an outpouring of such support on social media. Jesuits Fr. John Cecero, S.J. and Fr. Timothy Kesicki, Martin’s superiors, along with the editor-in-chief of America, where Martin works, all released supportive statements. Despite the cancellations and with such support, Martin is undeterred, saying of the rightwing websites:

“[They] traffic in hatred and they foment fear. . .Perfect love drives out fear, as we learn in the New Testament. . .But perfect fear drives out love. But I’m not deterred or even disturbed.”

To ask Theological College to reverse its decision disinviting Fr. Martin, write to:

Reverend Gerald McBrearity, Rector

Theological College

401 Michigan Avenue, NE

Washington, DC 20017

Phone:  202-756-4907

Email:  olkiewicz@cua.edu

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 19, 2017

Related Articles

New York Times, Jesuit Priest Stands Up for Gay Catholics, Faces Backlash

America, Jesuit writer James Martin disinvited from talk at a prestigious seminary

Washington Post, “Popular priest disinvited from Catholic University’s seminary after protests over his LGBT book

 

Gender Ideology, Transgender Reality: A Deacon Parent’s Perspective

Deacon Ray Dever

Today’s post is written by a guest blogger: Deacon Ray Dever of St. Paul Catholic Church, Tampa, Florida

One morning this past spring, I found myself somewhere I honestly never could have imagined I would be: sitting in a dreary courtroom in Washington DC with my firstborn. We were patiently awaiting her turn before a judge.

It was a long way from the familiar, comfortable surroundings of my home and my Catholic parish in sunny Tampa Florida.  And it was an even longer way from a place I was almost ten years ago, a place of almost total ignorance of LGBTQ issues.  The issue that morning was a legal name change for my 23-year old transgender daughter, a recent graduate of Georgetown University.  The name change was another milestone in her challenging journey towards living as her authentic self.  While this milestone was certainly positive for my daughter, it forced me to reflect once again on the enormous and painful disconnect between the reality of the lives of transgender individuals and the rampant misinformation that often dominates discourse about transgender issues in both the Church and the public square.

In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis expressed concern with “an ideology of gender”, which he imagines to be an ideology that seeks to eliminate sexual differences in society, thereby undermining the basis for the family.  (There have been numerous, thoughtful discussions of the confusion around so-called gender ideology, including here on Bondings 2.0.  You can read some here, here, and here. )  Independent of Amoris Laetitia, individuals in the Church hierarchy have issued blanket condemnations of trans individuals, occasionally citing discredited or marginal information sources as “science” to support their positions.  I have nothing but respect for the good intentions that undoubtedly underlie these statements, but my personal experience is that these statements have fueled misunderstanding and bigotry, and not love,  truth, and life that are the essence of Jesus Christ.

These church discussions of “ideology of gender” do not ring true for anyone with any significant first-hand knowledge of trans individuals.  Such people would be baffled by the suggestion that the trans people they know, or the presence of trans individuals in society, are somehow the result of an ideology of gender.  Long before there were gender studies programs in any universities or the phrase “gender ideology” was ever spoken, transgender people were present, recognized, and even valued in many cultures around the world.

Trans individuals are not people who have been indoctrinated into some ideology that convinces them they can simply choose their own gender. They don’t just decide one morning to start dressing differently.  They are transgender by virtue of some combination of biological and psychological factors that scientists are just beginning to understand.  The only choice that trans individuals have in the matter is the challenging choice to embrace who they are and to live their lives openly as their authentic selves, in the face of rejection, discrimination, bigotry, and even violence that they know they will have to endure.

In the public sphere, recent efforts to curtail legal protections for the transgender community, including all the nonsense around bathroom bills, are further evidence of how pervasive the misunderstanding and confusion about gender identity continues to be.  Given the wide availability of information and testimonials,  there really is no excuse for that kind of thinking.  The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, who together represent over 300,000 doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists,  have each affirmed the reality of transgender individuals, and have issued documents opposing all forms of discrimination against them and providing standards of health care for them.  The United Nations has opposed legal discrimination and violence that trans individuals suffer in many parts of the world.  Companies and organizations we all do business with every day–from Apple to Wal-Mart–recognize trans individuals with equal employment opportunity policies and inclusive health insurance.

Since I wear the two hats of parent of a transgender woman and permanent deacon in the Church, my reaction to gender identity controversies is both personal and pastoral.

From the personal perspective, I share the concerns of all parents for the well-being of their children, including their adult children.  These concerns are amplified when an LGBTQ individual is involved.  Our prayers and hopes for our children are colored by the reality of the discrimination they will likely face for the rest of their lives.  The probability of being a victim of violence or committing suicide is greater for the LGBTQ community than for the general populace, and even greater for the transgender community in particular.  My family is always a bit on edge when we go out together, constantly worried that unfriendly stares and remarks might escalate to a confrontation, and that a confrontation could become violent.  Nobody should have to live that way.  All that transgender individuals want is simply to live their lives as who they are, with the same rights and freedoms that the rest of us enjoy.

My pastoral perspective is informed by the call that all permanent deacons share: to bring the Church into the world and to bring the problems of the world back to the Church.  Well, here’s one such problem:  the community of faith includes transgender people who are marginalized, unjustly condemned, and suffering simply because of who they are, and that marginalization and suffering extends to their family and friends.  Every time that a trans (or gay, lesbian, bisexual) kid is rejected by their family in the name of faith and ends up homeless and struggling to survive, we as a people of faith need to take responsibility.  We can’t just sweep it under the rug and hide behind some vague Church document or isolated scripture passage.

In its discussion of gender ideology, Amoris Laetitia warns against falling into the sin of trying to replace the Creator.  I definitely agree.  But I think this warning begs the question:  are we guilty of that sin when we look at a transgender person and we have the hubris to deny what God has made?  I pray that the Church will be open to learning and embracing the truth about transgender individuals, who have the same inherent value and dignity as all human beings.  Perhaps we all need to have a little more humility and a little more faith in what God has created here on earth.

–Deacon Ray Dever, September 18, 2017

Related posts:

To review all Bondings 2.0 posts on gender ideology, click here.

Seminary Cancels Fr. Martin’s Talk Due to Criticism of His LGBT Book

The following is a statement by Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response to the decision by a national Catholic seminary to disinvite Fr. James Martin, SJ, due to criticism of his new book on LGBT issues.

Theological College, a national seminary in Washington, D.C., has delivered a devastating blow to the Catholic Church, academic freedom, and pastoral outreach to LGBT people by canceling the speaking engagement of Jesuit Father James Martin because some social media sites have criticized his book, Building a Bridge, which encourages dialogue between the institutional church and the LGBT community.

The decision is an impotent one in which the seminary’s leaders reveal that they are powerless to stand up to commentators whose views are beyond the mainstream of Catholic thought. It reveals cowardice on the part of the seminary’s administrators who do not have integrity to withstand pressure from outside forces, and instead opt for censorship instead of discussion.

Fr. James Martin, SJ
Unless it reverses its decision, Theological College’s renown as an academic institution is irreparably damaged.  Worse yet, the decision does great damage to the tenuous relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community which Fr. Martin’s book has already been strengthening. Scores of Catholic parishes and colleges have welcomed Fr. Martin to speak since the publication of Building a Bridge.

It is astonishing that the seminary leaders did not side with the two cardinals and a bishop who praised Fr. Martin’s book as it was being published.  One of those cardinals, Kevin Farrell, is the head of Congregation for Laity, Family, and Life at the Vatican.  Indeed, Fr. Martin himself is a Vatican consultor on communications.  What could possibly motivate the seminary rector, Fr. Gerald McBrearity, to feel that he could not let a speaker with the impressive credentials and Vatican approval that Fr. Martin has to speak in an academic setting?

This decision is ludicrous for two other reasons.  First,  Fr. Martin was not scheduled to speak on the book in question or on the area of LGBT issues. He, instead, was speaking on his book about the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. Second, by his own acknowledgement, and the reviews of many scholars, Building a Bridge is a mild book, whose most strong claim is that Church leaders should treat LGBT people with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”–ideals which are demanded by Catholic doctrine in the Catechism.

Theological College’s statement said that Fr. McBrearity made the decision “in the interest of avoiding distraction and controversy.”  Based on those criteria, the decision is an epic failure as, in fact, it will attract more controversy than Fr. Martin’s speaking appearance would ever have done. It tarnishes the reputation of the school and of the Catholic Church in the U.S.  It makes Catholic leaders look censorious and small-minded.  Indeed, almost everyone in the Catholic Church has been discussing LGBT issues over the past decade.  Why should a book whose aim is reconciliation on this topic be cause for barring a celebrated author from speaking?

Since its publication early this summer, Fr. Martin’s Building a Bridge was reaching a wide audience of church leaders, including many bishops.  In my travels to several Catholic professional and ecclesial conferences these past few months, everyone said they had read, were reading, or intended to read the book.  All who had read it spoke of its great value. Instead of being a danger to the church, all saw it as a great gift. Despite this setback, the conversation on LGBT issues in the church to which Building a Bridge has given new life will still continue.

Fr. Martin is experiencing the rejection of many who speak out prophetically.  It is the same rejection experienced by millions of Jesus’ followers and, indeed, by Jesus Himself. For the sake of Fr. Martin, for Catholic academics, and for LGBT Catholics, we pray this sorry and shameful action by Theological College will soon be reversed.

To ask Theological College to reverse its decision disinviting Fr. Martin, write to:

Reverend Gerald McBrearity, Rector

Theological College

401 Michigan Avenue, NE

Washington, DC 20017

Phone:  202-756-4907

Email:  olkiewicz@cua.edu

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 16, 2017

 

Canonizing Father Mychal Judge, the Saint of 9/11

Today the U.S. and the world mourn the tragic loss of life that took place on September 11, 2001, as a result of several horrific terror attacks in New York, Washington, DC, and rural Pennsylvania.  Only God’s love can heal the fear, pain, and loss that so many experienced because of that day.

Judge Final (1)Where was God on 9/11, one might ask?  One answer is that God was at the World Trade Center when it was attacked. God’s Love was present in the person of Father Mychal Judge, OFM, the New York City Fire Department chaplain.  As the towers were being devoured by flames and people were rushing out as fast as they could, some realizing that the only “escape” from the inferno was to jump to their deaths from the uppermost floors, Fr. Judge rushed in to minister to victims and to the other brave first responders. He raced into a deathtrap so that others could know that even in this horror, God was with them.

Fr. Judge is a model for all Christians who believe Jesus’ teaching that “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).  He is a particular model for the LGBT community since a big part of his ministry was reaching out to this group which had been so marginalized and stigmatized.  He raced into their lives, too, letting them know that God was with them.

He did the same for alcoholics and other addicts, for people suffering from HIV/AIDS, for people in parishes who struggled with the daily challenges that life presents.

Fr. Judge is lovingly remembered by many as “The Saint of 9/11.” Now is the time to make that title official by working to canonize him in the church.

New Ways Ministry has been in touch with Fr. Luis Fernando Escalante who works with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  Fr. Escalante is gathering testimonies that are part of the first step toward canonization.  He needs to hear first-person accounts from people who knew Fr. Judge and whose lives were touched by his ministry.

Did you know Father Judge through his parish work, his Fire Department ministry, his LGBT outreach, his solidarity with those suffering from addictions, his compassionate service to those with HIV/AIDS, his hospitality to the homeless, or in some other way?  Were you a personal friend or colleague of Fr. Judge?  Have you prayed to him since his death and believe that his intercession has caused a miracle in your life?  Do you know communities of people who were close to him with whom you can share this information?

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, which will spread this message far and wide.  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.  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. To read this information in Spanish, click here.  To read this information in Italian, click here.
  6. Pray for the canonization of Fr. Judge.

While the canonization is a process overseen by the institutional church, it is initially dependent on the motivation and contributions of the grassroots church.   Please share this information as widely as possible, so that we can find many people who have a story to tell.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 11, 2017

 

Related Bondings 2.o posts:

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

Movement to Canonize Fr. Mychal Judge Takes Off, But More Help Is Needed”  

“Saint of 9/11: Remembering Fr. Mychal Judge as a Gay Priest”

AIDS Memorial in New York May Be Dismantled Due to Parish Closing

A Catholic parish in New York City that contains the one of the first public memorials to HIV/AIDS victims is being closed, and there are questions about what will happen to the church building which contains this memorial as well as other historic artifacts.

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AIDS Memorial in St. Veronica’s Church

Michael O’Loughlin of America reported on St. Veronica’s Church in Greenwich Village, which is scheduled to close this year. The church was, in O’Loughlin’s words, an “unlikely focal point” for gay men and their loved ones in the 1980s. The relationship between the gay community and the Catholic Church at the time was almost non-existent. He continued:

“But three decades later, with the AIDS crisis under control and changes in attitudes toward religious practice, about 200 people gathered inside that building on July 23 to bid farewell to the Church of Saint Veronica. Even as the church prepares to shutter for good, questions remain about what will happen to its many artifacts, including a humble AIDS memorial that historians say is one of the first public memorials to victims of the plague years in New York.”

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, said St. Veronica’s location on Christopher Street positioned it at “the center of the L.G.B.T. community in New York,” and therefore it was “impacted quite heavily by the AIDS crisis.”

Berman described the parish’s evolving response to the crisis surrounding it. In 1985, Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s nuns, opened one of New York’s first AIDS hospice centers in the rectory. In 1990, Monsignor Kenneth Smith, pastor, connected with the local gay community to see what support he could offer. He shared with America that few clergy would accompany people dying from AIDS, but that did not stop his ministry:

“‘It was like to ministering to anyone else who’s dying from a disease. If you were a priest, you’d understand what I mean. . .They’d go to a hospital. I visited them in the hospital. I administered the sacraments. I’d be with them when they died. I would celebrate their funerals.'”

According to parishioner Terri Cook, St. Veronica’s efforts stood out because elsewhere the institutional church in the city “had shut out most of the AIDS victims.” She added that “[t]he cathedral was sealed to them.” Even at the Greenwich Village church, parishioners were not universally accepting of the Missionaries’ and Monsignor Smith’s ministries. Continuing to accompany people with HIV/AIDS against harsh critics was “extremely difficult,” Smith said.

The AIDS memorial opened in 1991, accompanied by an interfaith prayer service for people dying from AIDS that happened each year until 2015. O’Loughlin wrote:

“A few years later, in 1991, the church installed the memorial, a series of plaques with the names of men who died from the disease drilled into the choir loft. A small table with fresh flowers and a lone candle completed the memorial.

“For many, this out-of-the-way memorial, somewhat hidden up in a choir loft, was one of the few places where they could grieve the deaths of loved ones. Ms. Cook said she often witnessed individuals climbing the rickety wooden steps leading up to the memorial.

“‘It was the saddest thing you’ve ever seen. You just wanted to cry,’ she said, recalling the mothers, in particular, mourning the loss of their dead sons.”

Because it has protected status as an historic landmark, the church building will remain largely as it is but there is no clear vision about what happens to it besides preservation. Local Catholics “are appealing to the Vatican to keep St. Veronica’s open as a worship site,” and this would hopefully include retaining the AIDS memorial. If the church does close entirely, Joseph Zwilling of the Archdiocese said of the memorial’s items, “items of sacred, historical, or financial value are assessed and stored for possible future use in other churches.”

The parish is terrific model for what Pope Francis has called for the church to practice: encounter and accompany marginalized communities. Fr. Smith and parishioners observed the immense AIDS-related pain around them in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and then responded with compassion and without judgement to what was most needed.

The HIV/AIDS memorial has both historical and spiritual value that should be preserved. More widely, the people of St. Veronica’s witness remains instructive for our church today. This model is precisely how every parish and every Catholic institution should be responding to the needs of LGBT communities today. Whether or not St. Veronica’s closes, there is no reason Catholics elsewhere should not learn from the Gospel work that had been done there and enact it in their own communities.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 25, 2017

Neo-Nazi Poster Targeting LGBT People Linked to Catholic Priest

[Editor’s Note: Today’s post includes an anti-gay slur that may be difficult for some readers.]

8828212-3x4-700x933Hate speech against LGBT people has appeared in Australia’s intensifying debate over marriage equality, which Australians will vote on in a non-binding plebiscite this fall. ABC is reporting that in Melbourne, a poster had apperared which contains language that  is linked to both neo-Nazis and a U.S. Catholic priest who is a university scholar:

“The anti-LGBTI poster, seen in Heffernan Lane [in Melbourne], says ‘Stop the fags’ with an image of two hands holding rainbow coloured belts and a child sitting with its head down.

“The poster includes statistics credited to Donald Paul Sullins, a priest at Catholic University of America whose research has been widely discredited.

“The sign, which has been shared widely on Twitter, includes claims: ’92 per cent of children raised by gay parents are abused. 51 per cent have depression. 72 per cent are obese.'”

Only one such poster has appeared in the city, according to the Melbourne City Council, which promised to remove any offensive material that may appear in the future.

Sky News reported that the poster seemed to originate from a neo-Nazi website. It cited a 2016 study by Sullins entitled “Invisible Victims: Delayed Onset Depression among Adults with Same-Sex Parents.” That study is considered illegitimate and has “little or no credibility” as the work of a “noisy fringe,” according to sociologist Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University. The Week reported further:

“Of 79 studies looking at children raised in same-sex households gathered by Columbia Law School, all but four found no significant difference in outcome for children of gay parents compared to their peers in heterosexual households.

“Nathaniel Frank, the head of the Columbia project, says that the four dissenting studies – including Sullins’ 2016 paper – were all authored by religiously motivated authors. ‘Their transparent efforts to commandeer an entire social science field to advance a religious agenda makes their scientific claims – and them – into laughing stocks. . .'”

While Sullins stated, “I strongly denounce the pejorative language and fearmongering in the poster,” Sullins defended his research by saying “the statistics it cites are essentially accurate.” The journal in which the study was published is, however, greatly distancing itself from Sullins. On the journal’s website, the editors highlighted an extensive and critical Letter to the Editor which the journal had published against Sullins’research.  The journal’s publisher also included a disclaimer about the research on their webapge.

The New York Times reported that in Sydney a pamphlet in Chinese and in English was distributed which claimed, “Homosexuality is a curse of death in terminating the family line” and included a number of damaging myths about the LGBT community and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Government officials and campaigners on both sides of the issue quickly condemned the hate speech. Bill Shorten, head of the Labor party, said opponents of the plebiscite “feared exactly this kind of hurtful filth would emerge” and that “[t]his kind of garbage isn’t ‘debate’, it’s abuse.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a Catholic who is pro-marriage equality but chose to continue with the questionable plebiscite, condemned the posters saying, ” I deplore disrespectful, abusive language” and that this is a time to “put your arms around” distressed friends.

Former PM Tony Abbot, also a Catholic and a key opponent of marriage equality, urged Australians to not be “distracted by a handful of extreme and unpleasant posters or flyers.”

Thus far, Australia’s bishops have been silent. Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart last week threatened to fire church workers who entered into civil same-gender marriages. The question is why is he not now condemning hate speech against LGBT people, given that such harmful language is strongly condemned in church teaching.

Though the bishops may remain opposed to marriage equality, they should follow recent advice from Munich’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx. He said the church focus more on the ways it has failed to stop discrimination against lesbian and gay people rather than stopping marriage equality. With hate intensifying in the debate leading up to this plebiscite, this would be a very good shift in focus for all Catholics .

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 24, 2017