Remembering Gay Holocaust Victims, As Pope Prepares to Visit Auschwitz

July 28, 2016

With World Youth Day 2016 taking place in Krakow, Poland, it is only natural that both pilgrims and pope will visit the remains of the Auschwitz concentration camp, which is only a short distance from where events are taking place.

Train tracks leading to Auschwitz concentration camp

I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz in 2003, when New Ways Ministry led an LGBT Catholic pilgrimage to Poland.  It was a visit that will stay with me until I die.  The eerie silence of the place is both appropriate and chilling.  Almost all visitors there did not breathe a word while walking around, stunned by the awareness of the reality that took place where they were walking.  If people did speak, it was in hushed whispers.

I have been to dozens of shrines all over the globe, but Auschwitz is probably the most sacred spot I have ever visited.

Pope Francis, who is visiting the camp tomorrow, July 29th, has already said that he anticipates the stop to be primarily a spiritual exercise.  Crux reported on his plans for the visit:

“When Pope Francis goes on a silent pilgrimage to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp this Friday, it will be his first time in the former Nazi concentration camp that stands as the universal symbol of totalitarian horror.

“That is one reason he won’t be giving a speech. He wants to go alone and say nothing. ‘I would like to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds – only the few people necessary,’ he told journalists on the flight back from Armenia.

” ‘Alone, enter, pray,’ he said. ‘And may the Lord give me the grace to cry.’

“The only proper human response – as so many visitors find – to the mystery of such evil is recollection and silent prayer. Francis’ decision to say nothing has been deeply appreciated by the Chief Rabbi of Poland.”

Jewish people were certainly the most victimized group of Nazi atrocities, with up to six million perishing, approximately 1 million of them at Auschwitz.  But among the other groups targeted, gay men were probably the ones next in line to receive such the most vicious treatment, though the number of victims was much smaller.  Even before the camps were established, gay men were arrested in Germany in alarming numbers.  According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum’s website:

“An estimated 1.2 million men were homosexuals in Germany in 1928. Between 1933-45, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested as homosexuals, and of these, some 50,000 officially defined homosexuals were sentenced. Most of these men spent time in regular prisons, and an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 of the total sentenced were incarcerated in concentration camps.”

(Curiously, although the Nazis closed some lesbian bars,  lesbian women were not systematically arrested, according to the Museum web page.  Wikipedia.org said that the reason lesbians were not targeted was that they were “considered easier to persuade or force them to comply with accepted heterosexual behavior.)

A concentration camp inmate’s uniform with the pink triangle to identify gay prisoners.

Another Holocaust Museum’s webpage says that gay men were singled out for particularly cruel treatment.   The website states:

“Prisoners marked by pink triangles to signify homosexuality were treated harshly in the camps. According to many survivor accounts, homosexuals were among the most abused groups in the camps.

“Because some Nazis believed homosexuality was a sickness that could be cured, they designed policies to ‘cure’ homosexuals of their ‘disease’ through humiliation and hard work. Guards ridiculed and beat homosexual prisoners upon arrival, often separating them from other inmates. Rudolf Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz, wrote in his memoirs that homosexuals were segregated in order to prevent homosexuality from spreading to other inmates and guards. Personnel in charge of work details in the Dora-Mittelbau underground rocket factory or in the stone quarries at Flossenbürgand Buchenwald often gave deadly assignments to homosexuals.”

On yet another web page from the Holocaust Museum, it states:

“Nazis interested in finding a ‘cure’ for homosexuality conducted medical experiments on some gay concentration camp inmates. These experiments caused illness, mutilation, and even death, and yielded no scientific knowledge.”

Wikipedia.org notes that because of ill treatment by both guards and even other prisoners, gay inmates died at a higher rate than other groups:

“A study by Rüdiger Lautmann found that 60% of gay men in concentration camps died, as compared to 41% for political prisoners and 35% for Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Even after the Nazis were defeated and the camps were liberated, gay prisoners continued to be mistreated.  The Holocaust Museum web page states:

“After the war, homosexual concentration camp prisoners were not acknowledged as victims of Nazi persecution, and reparations were refused. Under the Allied Military Government of Germany, some homosexuals were forced to serve out their terms of imprisonment, regardless of the time spent in concentration camps. The 1935 version of Paragraph 175 [the law which criminalized homosexuality] remained in effect in the Federal Republic (West Germany) until 1969, so that well after liberation, homosexuals continued to fear arrest and incarceration.

“Research on Nazi persecution of homosexuals was impeded by the criminalization and social stigmatization of homosexuals in Europe and the United States in the decades following the Holocaust. Most survivors were afraid or ashamed to tell their stories. Recently, especially in Germany, new research findings on these ‘forgotten victims’ have been published, and some survivors have broken their silence to give testimony.”

Pope Francis’ promise to be silent at Auschwitz is an appropriate gesture.  As he prays for the millions of victims there, let’s hope he will include the gay victims of the Holocaust.  I hope, too, that he will pray for the victims of contemporary laws around the globe which criminalize LGBT people and subject them to cruelly harsh punishments.  The Nazi Holocaust is over, but other nations and groups have continued their atrocities in other forms.  In addition to political bodies which criminalize LGBT people, medical authorities continue the Nazi legacy by using destructive “reparative” psychological therapy on LGBT patients.

Let’s hope, too, that someday a pope–or even some other Catholic leader–will visit the site of the Orlando gay nightclub shooting, and pray silently there for those victims and all victims of anti-LGBT oppression and violence.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Lesbian Student Ejected from Catholic Prom Welcomed by Neighboring School; More Updates on Previous Stories

July 26, 2016
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Aniya Wolf, left, and her date at prom

At Bondings 2.0, we often find that there are almost always too many Catholic LGBT news stories and perspectives to cover.   Not to mention the fact, that some of the best stories often have important follow-ups.  Today’s post covers developments in stories which our blog has previously covered.

Lesbian Student Ejected from Prom Welcomed by Neighboring School

Aniya Wolf, a lesbian student ejected from her Catholic school’s prom for wearing a suit, was welcomed by William Penn Senior High School in York, Pennsylvania, suit and all. Principal Brandon Carter said the school does “embrace all” students and had welcomed its own students many times in attire which was comfortable for them.

Wolf had been removed from the prom of Harrisburg’s Bishop McDevitt High School because, school officials claimed, female students were required to wear a dress. Wolf showed up in a suit purchased for the occasion, which she was finally able to wear to Penn’s prom. Her mother, Carol, told The Washington Post:

” ‘This is Aniya. . .This is who Aniya has been since she’s very young. And she would not look right in a dress. She looks great in a suit.’ “

This is not the first instance where gendered clothing in Catholic education has caused tremendous pain and public controversy, but it hopefully might be one of the last.

Bolivia Passes Transgender Law Against Bishops’ Opposition

Despite heavy opposition from Catholic bishops, Bolivian legislators passed a transgender rights bill in late May that President Evo Morales then signed into law.

The law affords transgender people the right to alter government records in accordance with their gender identity, reported TeleSurReuters reported that a recent study shows that Bolivia becomes now only one of five nations in the world to constitutionally protect the rights of LGBT people, the others being Britain, Fiji, Malta, and Ecuador. Legislators had been pressured by some Bolivian Catholics to reject the law, according to The Washington Post:

“Predictably, the gender identity law has met with stiff resistance, not least from the Catholic Church. There have been protest marches, particularly in Santa Cruz, the conservative city that is Bolivia’s economic motor. Writing in Bolivian newspaper El Diario, theologian Gary Antonio Rodrígues Alvarez even warned that the concept of ‘hate,’ as used to define crimes committed against gays because of their sexuality, is ‘highly dangerous.’ “

Bolivia’s bishops specifically criticized the law, according to Crux, because it “wasn’t publicly debated, and didn’t receive the necessary consensus.” It did not, in their opinion, “solve the underlying problems.” The bishops did affirm the church’s opposition to discrimination.  This recent response from the bishops softens slightly language from Bishop Aurelio Pesoa, president of the nation’s episcopal conference, who said in December that the law “aims to subvert one of the foundations of our human lifestyle” and was “a clear attempt of cultural colonization.”

Florida Implements LGBT Youth Protections Opposed by Bishops 

A policy which bans the bullying and harassment of LGBT foster children in group homes has finally been reinstated by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), after it was withdrawn for a time as a result of religious opposition, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said the process was “basically just listening to all involved,” and the decision had now been made about “how you best protect young people who have already been abused and neglected and who are the most vulnerable in our system.” An ombudsperson position has been created to monitor discrimination. The new policy explicitly bans “reparative therapy.”.

This policy was again criticized by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops who said in a statement the policy “goes too far” and does not consider other children’s well-being if they must share space “with someone who ‘identifies’ as the same gender, but remains biologically different.” The Conference, in conjunction with partner religious organizations, had successfully had the policy reversed late last year. Bondings 2.0 said, at the time, that the Conference’s treatment of this issue was “misguided and ill-informed.

To keep current on all the latest Catholic LGBT news and information, subscribe to Bondings 2.0 by entering your email in the box you can find in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Around the Globe, LGBT Progress in Catholic Education is Slow, But Happening

July 22, 2016

handsCatholic education is a foremost way by which the church influences the world, educating millions of students, Catholic and non-Catholic, globally. Given this impact, how church officials address LGBT issues matters significantly and is therefore, frequently, a source of contention. But when done well, Catholic education can do much good for LGBT youth and their peers. This Bondings 2.0 post highlights how the complexities are playing out in several countries.

Scotland

The Catholic Church in Scotland will begin training its teachers for gender and sexuality competency inclusive of LGBTI concerns, reported Pink NewsA church spokesperson said the church has a “zero tolerance approach” to end discrimination, continuing:

” ‘The Church is working with the Catholic Head Teacher association to ensure that all teachers have adequate knowledge, understanding, and training and feel confident in addressing all aspects of relationships education, including LGBTI matters, in an appropriate and sensitive way.’ “

This commitment comes as the whole nation of Scotland  focuses on inclusion in schools, led by the campaign Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) and endorsed by all major political parties. Sixteen years ago, legislators repealed Section 28 which had barred gay-positive education in schools. The repeal did, however, not address what material should be taught. TIE’s objective now, according to The Heraldis “calling for mandatory teaching of LGBTI issues in schools to end discrimination and bullying” to save lives and equalize all students.

Questions remain about how the church’s stated commitment will be concretely enacted, given negative church teachings on homosexuality, For instance, working only through Catholic organizations may limit engagement with actual LGBT people and their families. KaleidoScot noted:

“The ‘appropriate and sensitive’ way to deal with such matters would arguably be through engagement with the very people directly affected, and liaison with teaching unions and other non-Catholic organisations would surely inform the Church’s thinking. The statement also fails to give any commitment to the teaching of LGBTI matters in Catholic schools. Furthermore, in some respects, the Church spokesperson’s statement suggests that it fails to see the need for significant changes in the way its schools operate.”

It remains to be seen what the Scottish Catholic Church’s commitment to training teachers will mean; hopefully, it will involve liberating education rather then relying on past methods which have suppressed LGBT students and staff.

Australia

In Australia, politicians are debating the Safe Schools Program to assist LGBT students, and the discussion has emerged in Catholic circles.

Peter Norden, a professor at RMIT University and a former Jesuit priest, said failing to support LGBT youth may violate international law.  Norden  published an article in the Australian Journal of Human Rights saying church teaching about homosexuality can harm young students. According to The Age, he wrote :

” ‘In many ways, same-sex attracted students are being asked to remain voiceless and invisible in some Catholic schools. . .For students that are same-sex attracted, they can be treated like second class citizens.’ “

Australian Catholic schools, which educate a fifth of the country’s students, may violate the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child, Norden said. This Convention guarantees free expression, protection from violence, and dignified education. But a 2006 study of Catholic school students by Norden found high rates of self-injury and suicide, calling into question whether church officials were attending to LGBT youth’s needs:

” ‘You would hope an organisation that values empathy, mercy and engagement might have cause to review their situation.”

LGBT organizations have expressed concerns with Catholic education which, as in the United States, has religious exemptions for how it operates. Micah Scott of the Minus 18, an LGBTI youth organization, told The Age:

” ‘Many topics, including sexual and gender diversity, are unspoken. It sends a message to already vulnerable young people that who they are is institutionally forbidden, and that they should be ashamed of their identity.’ “

Catholic officials have pushed back on these claims, including Ross Fox who directs the National Catholic Education Commission and Stephen Elder, chief executive of Catholic Education Melbourne, who said schools were already focusing on eliminating bullying and unsafe behaviors.

On the other hand, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s election document listed the Safe Schools Program as one of the top four issues about which Catholics should be concerned, two others being religious liberty and marriage. The document says the Program “introduces children and teens to the concept of ‘gender fluidity’ and includes activites such as role-playing being in a sexually active same-sex relationship.”

Intrachurch conflicts were apparent, too, during a panel at the National Catholic Education Commission Conference held in June, reported The Record. Panelists largely opposed a proposed plebiscite on marriage equality, including Bishop Greg O’Kelly of Port Pirie who said the church should not campaign on the issue, but also that same-gender marriages have “submerged” the rights of children. But Carmel Nash, deputy chair of Catholic School Parents Australia, said though the church’s teachings should be respected, “many parents have probably, rightly or wrongly, moved on from the at view” and they should be respected having done so, too.

Canada

Alberta’s Catholic schools have been wracked by LGBT controversy for over a year. The Edmonton Catholic School Board ‘s consideration of a transgender policy led to one meeting become a “shouting match” last fall.  Additionally, the Board approved“just discrimination” in schools as a draft policy last December.

A new independent report questions whether the Board remains viable, noted the CBC. Donald Cummings, a consultant and the report’s author, described the Edmonton Boards governance challenges as “systemic, deep and resistant to change.” He said third-party mediation would be necessary to resolve problems. Alberta’s Education Minister, David Eggen, has intervened and assigned a deputy minister to oversee improvements by and greater accountability for the Board.

Catholic educators worldwide are increasingly being asked to grapple with LGBT inclusion and support, as more students come out and at younger ages, and more faculty and staff enter into same-gender relationships or marriages.

But one Canadian school in Toronto, Loretto College School, revealed a powerful way forward that helps entire communities. Jenna Tenn-Yuk, a spoken word artist, reported on Health and Wellness day at the all-girls high school. During  the day’s assembly, the school’s chaplain and six other staff affirmed LGBT students and championed gay-straight alliances. Tenn-Yuk wrote on her blog:

“Staff were standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ students at the front of the school. . .I was deeply moved and quite emotional before I had to speak. I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is happening right now. How would my life be different is this happened at my Catholic high school?’ . . .

“There was so much light and warmth in the room and it was an honour to be in that space. This is the start of something beautiful and will impact generations of students to come.”

That light and warmth should be what every student in Catholic education experiences, especially those who are marginalized like LGBT students. This post shows that while progress is, in many ways, being made, much work remains.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


LGBT Welcome Center for World Youth Day in Poland

July 20, 2016

LGBT youth and their supporters will have a safe place to meet each other and share faith perspectives at World Youth Day in Poland, thanks to Faith and Rainbow, a Polish LGBT Christian organization, and the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, an ecumenical organization.

13438908_1128332957225446_5699180952132394142_n“Pilgrim’s Haven,” which will be housed in a cafe in Krakow’s Kazimierz Jewish quarter, will offer hospitality, as well as a program of presentations and discussions for pilgrim’s attending the week-long World Youth Day (WYD) program which is sponsored by the Vatican and hosted by the Polish bishops.  The Pilgrim’s Haven is not an official part of the program, but organizers feel that it fills an important purpose since there is no other place for LGBT pilgrims and supporters to connect.  WYD will take place July 26th-31st, and hundreds of thousands of young Catholics are expected to attend.

Misha Czerniak, one of the organizers, told Queer.pl (article in Polish):

“We wanted to create so-called. ‘safe space’ where people who participate in World Youth Day can talk, discuss topics of faith, orientation, or gender identity in the situation safe, friendly and accepting. Such a space missing in the WYD.”

Czerniak said that members of Faith and Rainbow contacted Bishop Damian Muskus, auxiliary of Krakow who is overseeing WYD, but they were told that the Pilgrim’s Haven could not be part of the program.  Still, the Polish LGBT group will invite the Polish bishops to stop by to meet with youth who gather there. Czerniak said that organizers had cordial meetings with Krakow’s Bishop Grzegorz Rys and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz.   He hoped that these bishops’ kindness “will inspire Pope Francis to make positive statements about LGBT people.”

Pilgrim’s Haven has a Facebook page, which includes a schedule of events in Polish and English.  The first presentation at the center will be a screening of “In Good Conscience:  Sister Jeannine Gramick’s Journey of Faith,”  a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Barbara Rick, which chronicles the life and LGBT outreach of New Ways Ministry’s co-founder (whose heritage, coincidentally, is Polish).

On successive days, two films by Brendan Fay will be shown:  “Remembering Mychal” about New York Fire Department chaplain Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, who was openly gay and who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11;   “Taking a Chance on God” about John McNeill, the theologian who first critiqued the church’s ban on gay/lesbian sexual expression.

Krakow’s central square with St. Mary’s Basilica

Among other events, Marcela Kościańczuk, a religion scholar who is a member of Faith and Rainbow, will offer several pastoral presentations, and Michael Brinkschroder, a Catholic theologian and sociologist who has served as co-president of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups,  will discuss spirituality and advocacy topics.

Pilgrim’s Haven can be found in Ogniwo Cafe, located at Paulińska 28, in Krakow.

In addition to the schedule of presentations, the Facebook page describes the opportunities that the Pilgrim’s Haven will offer:

“The point is open for those who wish to rest a bit from the heat and the crowds. Several lay and clergy volunteers will also be available and ready to listen, to talk about issues of faith, sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as to offer advice and counselling, or to pray together.
We invite LGBT believers as well as non-Catholics or those who do not belong to the Church but want to spend some time together with us.”
At World Youth Day in Brazil in 2013, a group of LGBT and ally pilgrims attended the programs and struck up conversations with youth from around the world.  Their received many positive reactions.  Their participation was sponsored by the Equally Blessed coalition which is made up of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry.
Pope Francis will be in Krakow for five days for the WYD program, and will close the event with a Mass on July 31st.  It was on his return flight from his first WYD program that he uttered his famous “Who am I to judge?” statement, which was his first indication that LGBT issues would be treated differently under this papacy than they had been in the past.
Wouldn’t it be great if Pope Francis made history again during this WYD by visiting the Pilgrim’s Haven and greeting the LGBT youth there?  While security issues alone may not allow that to happen, perhaps the pontiff could simply address concerns of LGBT youth in his public remarks during his five days at the event.  LGBT issues are a high social justice priority for the next generation, and Pope Francis has already shown that he is willing to address these topics in a new and candid way.  World Youth Day would be a great opportunity for him to expand on his call for an apology to the LGBT community, and for him to continue to call for the members of our church to dialogue with individuals who have been historically ostracized from the church.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Related article:

Die Zeit:  “Homosexual Christians want to participate at Catholic World Youth Day in Poland” (article in German)

 


Vatican Accepts Resignation of Dominican Cardinal Infamous for Anti-Gay Remarks

July 6, 2016
cardenal-nicolas-de-jesus-lopez-rodriguez

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez

The Vatican has accepted the resignation of a cardinal in the Dominican Republic whose anti-gay record has sparked repeated controversies on the island nation and beyond.

Like every bishop, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of Santo Domingo submitted his letter of resignation on his 75th birthday five years ago. Pope Francis has just accepted it and named his successor. Catholics and LGBT advocates alike have made repeated calls for the cardinal to retire since he began his high-profile anti gay remarks in 2013.

López has attacked LGBT communities, and specifically gay U.S. Ambassador James “Wally” Brewster and his husband, Bob Satawake, on multiple occasions. He used an anti-gay slur to refer to the ambassador in 2013 and said Brewster should “take his gay pride elsewhere.”  Last December the cardinal said that Brewster was “wife to a man” and should stick to housework. The Washington Blade reported that López once described LGBT tourists as “social trash” and “degenerates.”

López’s visibility has diminished since late 2015, referenced in Dominican media as “the cardinal’s lone silence.” His resignation now comes a day after Santo Domingo Pride celebrations concluded, and many LGBT advocates expressed relief. Cristian King of Trans Siempre Amigos told the Washington Blade“I feel a great piece of mind.”

López will be succeeded by Archbishop-elect Francisco Ozoria Acosta of San Pedro de Macorís. Austin Ivereigh of Crux noted that, with this move, Pope Francis has appointed a “low-profile pastor from a small diocese” into the symbolically powerful position of Primate of the Americas.

Archbishop-elect Francisco Ozoria Acosta

Ozoria is not well known, even in the Dominican Republic. He acknowledged this fact to the media, saying “I’m sure this has been a surprise to you all. . .most surprised of all was me.” But he is above all a pastor, reported Ivereigh. He studied and then taught pastoral theology before becoming a parish priest and, later, a pastorally-oriented bishop. Ozoria identified himself as a “passionate follower of the Second Vatican Council, above all of the ecclesiology of communion” and invoked the Council’s affirmation of the universal call to holiness to stress how all baptized Catholics should participate in the life of the church. Leslie Torres, director of Televida, a Catholic television channel in the Dominican Republic, offered this description:

” ‘He’s a pastor who’s approachable, humble and straightforward, with a great capacity for listening and dialogue. . .[he is] able to look at his people with a big heart.’ “

LGBT advocate and politician Deivis Ventura also praised Ozoria. He called the archbishop-elect “a man who is known for his moderation and prudence in the management of religious and social issues,” reported the Washington Blade. Ozoria reflects the mixed-race identities of most Dominicans, and has controversially championed migrants’ rights. Ventura was certain the archbishop-elect “will show a distinct vision of the church.”

This shift in pastoral priorities is significant in at least three ways for LGBT Catholics in the Dominican Republic and abroad.

First, in accepting his resignation, the Vatican did not acknowledge the harm that Cardinal López has caused. There is no evidence this move is linked to his anti-LGBT behavior, a notable omission given its pattern and severity.  It is especially disappointing given Pope Francis’ expressed desire for the church to apologize to lesbian, bisexual, and gay people it has harmed.

Second, Pope Francis’ appointment of Archbishop-elect Ozoria emphasizes the pope’s commitment to church leaders who are foremost pastors serving God’s people, with love through dialogue. That Ozoria has a reputation for listening and dialogue, and was even welcomed by a prominent LGBT advocate are hopeful signs.  We hope this is another sign that the pope is intent on replacing hard-line conservatives with pastoral listeners.

Third, López’s resignation and Ozoria’s succession are positive steps, but they do not eliminate a Dominican hierarchy whose alienation of LGBT people, and specifically Ambassador Brewster, has been deeply problematic. Bishop Victor Masalles, an auxiliary of Santo Domingo, recently led protests against the Organization of American States’ meeting for its alleged promotion of “ideological colonization.” He said previously that Ambassador Brewster was “abusing power,” sentiments echoed in the Dominican Episcopal Conference’s letter against the diplomat. A Catholic school in the capital posted three signs just before Holy Week this year announcing it had banned Brewster and his husband from campus.

These incidents reveal the deep wound that López’s lengthy tenure has afflicted on LGBT people and on the Dominican church. Thankfully, he has been removed from leadership, even though it could have been done sooner. Archbishop-elect Ozoria should begin a reconciliation process after being installed in September. He might start by listening to Pope Francis’ recommendation and offer an apology to those people the church under Cardinal López had hurt.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Cardinal Cleared of Hate Crime Charges; Time for Healing to Begin

July 1, 2016

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares

The controversy that erupted when a Spanish cardinal said the “gay empire” was harming the family has come to an end as a court in Valencia dismissed the hate crime accusations brought by an LGBT organization and other progressive groups.

Crux reported:

“The criminal proceedings against Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Valencia were dismissed without further investigation because the magistrate saw no ‘criminal intent’ nor an appeal to ‘hatred and violence’ in the homily delivered by the prelate on May 13.”

Separate charges of perpetrating hate crimes wer brought against Cañizares, Crux reported, and all were dismissed:

“The criminal complaint dismissed on Thursday had been filed by The Spanish Network of Help to Refugees, that also accused Cañizares of xenophobia for questioning if all the immigrants arriving to Spain were ‘clean wheat.’

“A second process, started by the Valencian LGBT association Lambda together with 55 other organizations, has also been dismissed.”

The “war of words” that this controversy set off went several rounds, with the rhetoric of both sides escalating with each exchange.  At one point, a progressive organization posted a graphic on Facebook showing two traditional Spanish Madonnas engaged in a a kiss.  The cardinal launched a campaign of protest against this illustration.

Not all LGBT groups supported the use of such an image, though, reported Crux:

“Among those criticizing the depiction was Lambda, that released a statement saying that ‘to be respected, you have to show respect.’ “

And Cañizares offered a somewhat positive response to the fact that not all LGBT people supported the use of the image:

“Although he didn’t mention anyone by name, Cañizares did thank those who ‘giving voice to their diversity, condemned this offence because it doesn’t represent them.’ “

This moment seems like an opportune one for reconciliation between these two groups.  They found a moment of common ground.  It would be wonderful if they reached out to one another for a dialogue so that another battle of press statements doesn’t occur.

I think the words of the Lambda organization are key:  “to be respected, you have to show respect.”  That is such an important lesson for both sides of this debate to take to heart.  A meeting with one another would be the first example of respect for one another.  Pope Francis has been urging church leaders to “encounter” those on the margins, to go out beyond their comfort zones and reach out to people that they normally would not speak with.

Cardinal Cañizares could effect a great deal of healing for so many if he would reach out to Lambda for a dialogue.  Lambda would also do well to accept such an offer, or, indeed, make an invitation, too.  Untold graces could flow from such a respectful encounter.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Fired Lesbian Teacher Wins Discrimination Case Against Catholic School in Italy

June 28, 2016
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Students at L’Istituto Sacro Cuore

A Catholic school in Italy has been found guilty of discrimination for firing a teacher based on speculation about her sexual orientation.

A labor court fined L’Istituto Sacro Cuore (The Sacred Heart Institute) in Trent 25,000 euros, reported Religion News Service (RNS), payable to the former teacher. The Institute must pay an additional 1,500 euros to both a labor union and civil rights association. Alexander Schuster, the anonymous teacher’s lawyer, celebrated the ruling as protecting church workers’ rights to privacy, saying:

” ‘The use of contraceptives, choices such as cohabitation, divorce, abortion, are among the most intimate decisions a person can make and must not concern an employer.’ “

The teacher, for whom reports used the pseudonym “Silvia,” claimed that, in a meeting with Sister Eugenia Libratore, the school’s headmistress and mother superior of the religious order which runs the Institute, Silvia was asked about her relationship with a woman with whom she lives. The headmistress said she had heard rumors about Silvia being a lesbian woman, and sought to clarify the teacher’s relationship in the interests of ‘protecting the school environment.’

Under scrutiny, Silvia refused to answer any questions in that meeting and rejected Libratore’s suggestion that the headmistress could “turn a blind eye if [Silvia] was willing to ‘solve the problem.'”

Silvia later came out as a lesbian women who is in a partnership after her teaching contract was not renewed by the school. Thoughs Silvia was a veteran teacher whose job performance was deemed “adequate and professional,” Libratore defended the firing on the grounds that Catholic identity “must be defended at all costs.” At the time, Silvia described her firing as “medieval.”

The labor court ruled that assuming a church worker’s sexual orientation in an  employment evaluation is discrimination. RNS noted:

“Going further, the court argued it was a case of collective discrimination, because the incident would have a damaging effect on anyone potentially interested in working at the school.”

Italy made employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation illegal in 2003. When Silvia was fired in 2014, the Italian government’s Education Minister Stefania Giannini became involved in the case. Some 20 senators supported Silvia.

Victories in cases of discrimination against LGBT church workers and their allies are rare. Of the more than 60 church workers who have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes since 2007, only a handful have won legal cases, had church institutions reverse their decision, or had church institutions defend LGBT employees.

Silvia’s win in Italy is a positive step, especially in a country where the Catholic hierarchy still heavily influences politics. This year, despite ecclesiastical opposition, Italian legislators advanced LGBT rights by passing a civil unions law. More firings could be on the horizon as more couples enter legal partnerships and marriage.  Church leaders could end this firing scourge by prioritizing the gifts and contribution that these church workers bring, and by respecting the privacy of their lives outside the workplace.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of 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 more than 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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