Australian Archbishop Walks Back Church Worker Remarks

It seems the center of Catholic LGBT news right now is Australia, where a non-binding plebiscite over marriage equality has ignited an intense debate in which Catholics are heavily involved.

archbishop-tim-costelloe
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe

Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 reported that Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart had threatened to fire church workers who entered same-gender civil marriages, should marriage equality be legalized in the future. Now, a fellow archbishop has clarified the archbishop’s comments.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission, claimed Archbishop Hart’s comments had been misreported. Costelloe said individual bishops would decide how to handle such cases should marriage equality become legal. He continued, according to The Christian Post:

“Normally such issues would be addressed, in the first instance, in discussions between the staff member concerned and the local leadership of the school. The aim would be to discover a way forward for the school and the staff member that preserves the Catholic ethos of the school.”

Other Catholic leaders have weighed in on the issues surrounding Australian marriage equality.

The St. Vincent Health Association responded to Archbishop Hart’s comments with its own statement. The Association, sponsored by Sisters of Charity of Australia, appealed to those people it served through its healthcare ministries:

“We want to acknowledge this may be a difficult time for many of our staff, their families and friends. We want to be absolutely clear: all our LGBTQI employees have the full support of St Vincent’s Health Australia. We value you. We recognise you and are grateful for your contribution and care. This will never change.

“St Vincent’s has a long tradition of embracing diversity in our workforce. We will continue to support all our staff in whatever marriage choices they make in the future. All of our staff, whatever their life experiences and backgrounds, have a significant part to play in helping us serve the people who come to us for care. Our staff from the LGBTQI community are no exception.”

Elsewhere, the Edmund Rice Centre published a guide to aid Catholics in their participation in the plebiscite. The Centre is a ministry of the Christian Brothers, who also sponsor many schools in Australia. The guide  begins:

“The survey [a.k.a. plebiscite] asks only one question: ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’ It is not about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, gender identity, ‘Safe Schools’ or political correctness.

“For the Edmund Rice Centre, an organisation inspired by Catholic Social Teaching and the Charism of Blessed Edmund Rice, the issue of marriage equality is about human rights and anti-discrimination. Rights for all people, including those who identify as LGBTQI, are guaranteed in various United Nations human rights conventions.”

The guide continued by debunking myths about marriage equality, and concluded succinctly:

“Marriage equality is not a threat to freedom of religion or freedom of speech. It is simply a question of whether same-sex couples can enjoy the same rights as opposite sex couples. Love is love. It is as simple as that.”

Finally, historian and writer Paul Collins authored an open letter to Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher who has opposed marriage equality. Collins, who serves on the advisory board for Australian Catholics for Equality, wrote:

“Like many Australian Catholics, I am disturbed by your identification of your personal views on marriage equality with those of the Catholic Church. No one questions your right to hold such views, but many are concerned when you identify them—or allow others, such as journalists—to identify them with the teaching of the Church.”

Collins proceeded to detail how church teaching on marriage has developed over time. He said the archbishop’s thoughts on marriage “are really drawn from an early-twentieth century, bourgeois notion of marriage which found a slightly more modern, post-World War II expression, in the nuclear family.” Collins concluded the letter:

“The saddest thing is that you have linked Catholicism with some of the most reactionary and unattractive political forces in the entire country. You may agree with such people, but please don’t identify our church with them. . .My request is that you take these issues into consideration before you go on the record again claiming that your views represent those of Australian Catholicism. They don’t.”

To reading Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of how Catholics have been involved in ongoing Australia’s marriage equality debate, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 26, 2017

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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

Fall 2017 Features Many Exciting LGBT Catholic Events–and You’re Invited!

There are many exciting Catholic LGBT events happening this fall. Today’s post highlights a few of them, and provides links for more information if you would like to attend and/or spread the word about them.

calendarIf you have other Catholic LGBT events of which Bondings 2.0’s editors should be made aware, please leave a comment below or email office@newwaysministry.org.  We will try to let folks know about them via our social media.


Following Jesus in Holy Honesty

New Ways Ministry is sponsoring a retreat for gay priests, brothers, deacons,  and all diocesan clergy personnel, congregational leadership, and formation personnel. The title of the program is “Following Jesus in Holy Honesty.”  The retreat facilitator is Fr. Steve Wolf, pastor of Immaculate Conception parish, Nashville, Tennessee.

Fr. Wolf describes the program:

“For gay priests, brothers and deacons, the retreat is designed to develop better self-understanding, spirituality, friendships, and relationship with the institutional Church.

“For diocesan clergy personnel, congregational leaders and formation ministers, the retreat will develop better understandings of the personal and spiritual journeys of gay men in clerical and religious life.

“Retreatants will explore ways gay clergy and religious answer the call to beloved celibacy, keeps searching for God in good will, ministers to anger, resentment, and fear as did Jesus, and accepts the grace of a kind of symbiosis of the incarnation and resurrection as an apostle in the world.”

Monday-Wednesday,  November 13 – 15, 2017

Siena Retreat Center
Racine, WI (near Milwaukee Airport)

If you are a gay priest, brother, or deacon, please consider attending the retreat to gain support and insights from the facilitator and others. . If you know anyone who fits this description, please let them know about it.

Similarly, if you are diocesan clergy personnel, a congregational leader, or a vocation/formation minister of any sexual orientation, please consider attending to learn more about the gifts and needs of gay clergy and religious.   If you know of men who are involved in these kinds of ministry, please let them know about the program and encourage them to attend.

For more information, click here.


Justice and Mercy Under the Trump Administration

The East Coast chapters of Call To Action USA have joined together to prepare a conference around the theme “Justice and Mercy Under the Trump Administration.”  In addition to keynote speakers Sister Simone Campbell, Dr. Greer Gordon, and Sister Patty Chappell, there will be two workshops on LGBT topics entitled  “LGBTQ and the Welcoming Church” and “Transgender, Intersex Identities, and the Family.”

Friday-Saturday, October 20-21, 2017 

DoubleTree by Hilton – BWI Airport (near Baltimore, Maryland)

For more information, click here.

 


All Are Welcome: The Way You Are

The LGBT Initiative Team of the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative is hosting a faith-filled and affirming retreat weekend  entitled “All Are Welcome: The Way You Are.”  The program is for LGBT persons, allies, friends, family members and those who minister with the LGBT Catholic community. Presenters will speak on topics such as finding your true self, creating welcoming spaces, and recognizing your call.

The LGBT Initiative Team of  the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative describes itself as responding “to the Church’s call to be welcoming and compassionate by offering effective
pastoral care and spiritual support for LGBT Catholics and their families. We foster dialogue, education and understanding among the diverse communities and institutions affiliated with the Marianist family. Our goal is to fully welcome our Marianist LGBT members into all aspects of our communities.”

Friday-Sunday, October 27-29, 2017

Sisters of Charity Retreat Center
Cincinnati, Ohio

For more information, click here.


Rolling the Stone Away

An ecumenical team is bringing together an unprecedented array of elders, saints, and prophets of the interfaith community’s work for LGBT justice and equality.  The purpose of the gathering is to preserve history, share stories, and dialogue on issues today. Many Catholics will be participating, as well as attending.  Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, will be one of the speakers.  You can read about Catholic participation by clicking here.

Tuesday-Thursday,l October 31 – November 2, 2017

Saint Louis, MO

For more information, click here.


“Hear a Just Cause” Assembly

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), a growing international coalition of organizations and individuals who work for LGBTQI justice and equality in church and society, will be hosting their Second Assembly under the theme “Hear a Just Cause” (Psalm 7:1).  New Ways Ministry will be represented there.

Thursday – Sunday, November 30 – December 3, 2017

Dachau, Germany (near Munich)

For more information, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 23, 2017

If Marriage Equality Becomes Law, Archbishop Threatens to Fire Married Gay and Lesbian Church Workers

An Australian Catholic archbishop has threatened to fire any church employee that enters into a same-gender marriage, should the option for such a marriage become legal soon in that nation.  The threat comes as Australia prepares to host a postal plebiscite which could result in the country’s Prime Minister calling for a vote on the measure in Parliament.  [Bondings 2.0 reported on the plebiscite last week, and you can review that post by clicking here.]

The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

Archbishop Denis Hart

“Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart. . . pointedly warned the church’s 180,000 employees they were expected to uphold its teachings ‘totally,’ and defiance would be treated ‘very seriously.’ “

” ‘I would be very emphatic that our schools, our parishes exist to teach a Catholic view of marriage,’ he said. ‘Any words or actions which work contrary to that would be viewed very seriously.

” ‘Our teachers, our parish employees are expected totally to uphold the Catholic faith and what we believe about marriage. People have to see in words and in example that our teaching of marriage is underlined.’ “

Hart is the chair of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  His remarks were supported by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, chair of the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education.

Hart’s comments highlight the skewed view that some prelates have taken about the question of same-gender marriage.  Does he really think that a Catholic view marriage is the main reason that Catholic parishes and schools exist?  Don’t they also exist to teach salvation, God’s love, justice in the world, respecting the equality of all, and so many other things?  When did marriage become the litmus test for authentic Catholicism?

Does he really believe that church employees must “totally uphold the Catholic faith”?  What about other employees whose lives do not reflect church teaching on charity, on kindness, on justice for the oppressed, on care for the poor, not to mention many other sexuality issues?

Fr. Frank Brennan

While religious liberty protections may allow the Catholic hierarchy the freedom to fire such employees, that doesn’t mean that they must do so.  That’s the position of Fr. Frank Brennan, an Australian priest who is the chief executive of Catholic Social Services Australia.  Writing in The GuardianBrennan defended the hierarchy’s right to fire married lesbian and gay employees, but he recommended that they shouldn’t.  Speculating that the nation will legalize marriage equality, he wrote:

“Once the Marriage Act is amended, should a church school be able to decline to offer married quarters to a teacher in a same sex marriage? I would answer ‘yes,’ though I would hope a church school would be open to the employment of a gay teacher living in a committed relationship. Equally I would continue to allow a church school to make a free choice as to who best to employ as a teacher.

“Given the lamentable history of homophobia, I would think a good church school would be pleased to employ an openly gay teacher who respects and espouses the school’s ethos. Free choice is often better than legal prescription when trying to educate in the ways of truth and love.

“Should a church aged care facility be able to decline to offer married quarters to a couple who had contracted a same sex marriage? I would answer ‘yes,’ though I would hope a church facility would be open to providing such accommodation in Christian charity if it could be done in a way not to cause upset to other residents. After all, same sex marriage is a very modern phenomenon and I would favour ongoing tolerance of the residents in aged care facilities run by a church, wanting to live out their last days with individuals and couples in relationships such as they have long known them.

“However, even in Catholic aged care facilities, we need to admit that not all couples are living in a church recognised marriage, and it is no business of other residents to know if they are. We need to allow everyone time to adapt with good grace, provided only that we can be certain that appropriate services are available elsewhere if a church feels unable to oblige on religious grounds.

[Editor’s note:  Brennan first publicly supported marriage equality in 2013.]

Brennan’s argumentation points out a dimension sorely lacking in Hart’s statements:  situations are complicated and often involve intersecting values that must be weighed.  Why don’t Catholic leaders consider the other demands and truths of church teaching such as charity and justice? Why does sexuality have to trump all other Catholic values?

In addition to Brennan, another Catholic leader has indicated that the archbishop’s threats may not be enacted.  The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

Suzanne Greenwood

“Catholic Health Australia, the country’s largest non-government, non-profit health group, distanced itself from those threats.

“Chief executive Suzanne Greenwood . . .[said] she would not expect doctors and nurses to adhere so strictly to the church’s teachings, though conceded it may be different for teachers.

” ‘We’re not converting people to Catholicism,”‘ she said. ‘It’s not really relevant to the jobs people are performing within the care environment at a hospital or an aged care facility.

” ‘It’s not like people are currently screened [for sexuality or marital status]. I would see absolutely no reason why that would change.’ “

Terry Laidler

And Terry Laidler, a psychologist who is a former priest, took a more pointed stand against the threats to gay and lesbian employees.   In an essay for The Sydney Morning Heraldhe wrote:

“Consistent the archbishops may be, but they are entirely out of touch with society generally, and with their own staff and people.

“Hart and Costelloe should not be surprised at the cries of hypocrisy that have echoed in mainstream and social media when they have appeared to threaten people’s livelihoods like this while those in leadership positions like theirs have previously proved inept or craven in ridding the very same institutions of child predators.”

Part of the archbishops being “out of touch,” Laidler pointed out, is that 60-70% of Australian Catholics support marriage equality.  And worse than being out of touch, is the harm that the archbishops’ words can have:

“. . . .[T]hey appear so lacking in insight into how their words would affect a young LGBTI man or woman considering contributing to our nation as a teacher.”

The possibility exists that in at least one part of Australia, Tasmania, married lesbian and gay church employees would be protected against discrimination and firing.  NT News reported:

“Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said the state’s anti-discrimination laws meant the church and other religious organisations would not be able to sack employees in a same-sex marriage if the latter was legalised.

” ‘Tasmanian law makes it very clear that there can be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or relationships status, including in faith-based schools or hospitals,’ Mr Croome said.”

The Catholic Church should not have to be coerced by civil law to practice fairness and equality.  Those values should spring from the hearts and souls of Catholics, and we hope they would spring especially so from their leaders.   As Bondings 2.0 has reported before, the German bishops have found it in their hearts to protect lesbian and gay church employees in committed unions.  When will the bishops of other countries follow their shining example?

Francis DeBernardo, August 22, 2017

Related article:

Gay Star News: Australian Catholic churches threaten to fire people who marry same-sex partners”

Global Network of Rainbow Catholics To Hold Second Assembly

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), a growing international coalition of organizations and individuals who work for LGBTQI justice and equality in church and society, will be hosting their Second Assembly in Munich/Dachau, Germany, in the late fall of this year.

 

 

 

 

The Assembly will gather Catholic advocates, both LGBTQI and allies, under the theme and title “Hear a Just Cause” (Psalm 7:1) on November 30-December 3, 2017,  at the  International Youth Guest House (Jugendherberge Dachau) in Dachau, a suburb of Munich.

A GNRC invitation letter describes the purpose of the meeting:

“After decades of an ‘ice age’ on LGBTQI issues, Pope Francis has opened up the church for new approaches in pastoral work with LGBTQI people, while the moral doctrine seems to remain sealed. This situation creates tensions and controversies: Some parishes, dioceses and regions use this new opportunity for creating more inclusive and welcoming spaces, while others react even more hostilely to societal progress such as equal marriage. In the midst of these contradictions, it is more important than ever for the Catholic Church to “hear a just cause”.

“Since its creation in October 2015, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) brings together groups and organisations, which provide pastoral care and work for justice for LGBTQI people. The Network strives for inclusion, dignity and equality of this community in the Roman Catholic Church and in the wider civil society. The GNRC held its 1st Assembly in October 2015 in Rome at the conference, ‘Ways of Love,’ with 80 participants from 30 countries. To this date, the GNRC represents 25 allied groups across all continents. . . .

“The assembly has two goals: 1) to consolidate the organisational development of GNRC and 2) to define strategies in key areas such as

  • dialogue with leaders of the Catholic Church.
  • promoting best practices of pastoral work with LGBTQI people and their families
  • campaigning for a Catholic statement against criminalization of LGBT people
  • confronting the anti-gender rhetoric within the Catholic Church.”

As part of the Assembly, participants will visit the Concentration Camp Memorial in Dachau,
Christmas market in Munich, Mass at the “Bürgersaalkirche” in Munich, and a Bavarian dinner gathering.

You can apply to attend the Assembly by clicking here.  For more information about GNRC, click here.

New Ways Ministry was involved with the genesis of GNRC, having been present at the inception meeting in Rome in October, 2014, and the First Assembly in Rome in October, 2015.  New Ways Ministry Co-founder Sister Jeannine Gramick spoke at the conference day of the Assembly in 2015, and Executive Director Francis DeBernardo has served on the GNRC Steering Committee for the past two years.    DignityUSA and the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith office also sent representatives to the 2015 Assembly.  For a full list of international organizations which have been involved in GNRC, click here.   To see the list of Steering Committee members, click here.

After participating in the 2015 Assembly, I wrote the following as part of a reflective blog post on the meeting:

“One thing I learned from participating is how different Catholicism is around the globe and how different the LGBT experience is.  It helped me to see that in the United States, Catholic lay people have many opportunities to participate in the life of the church–even though we are still denied participation in many decision-making processes.  I also realized how privileged the U.S. LGBT community is.  Again, we still have work to do in terms of full equality in employment and other areas, but the level of repression, violence, and state oppression against LGBT people is much greater in many places around the globe.”

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics holds promise for a strong voice for LGBTQI equality and justice in the Church.  If time and finances are available for you, please consider attending this important meeting.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, August 18, 2017

What Did a Cardinal Tweet About Book On Reparative Therapy?

A top African cardinal recently tweeted about a book on reparative therapy and another book that claims the LGBT movement is totalitarian. What exactly is his message in doing so, and what could the pastoral implications be?

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 12.15.05 PM.pngIn early August, Cardinal Wilfred Napier of Durban, South Africa tweeted about the book, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach. He linked to quotes from the book in three tweets, and in one of the tweets commented before the quote’s beginning:

“Just started reading this challenging work on a subject of great importance. ‘And most of all I want to express m. . . ‘” [Ed. note:  The tweet ended abruptly.]

The book is authored by Josepn Nicolosi, a founding member and former president of  National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a reparative therapy advocacy group the . It was published in 2012, and is based on ideas that have long been discredited by mainstream professional communities.

In July, Napier tweeted about another book,  The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom by Gabriele Kuby, which is also highly critical of LGBT people. Its dust jacket description includes the following:

“From the [LGBT] movement’s trailblazers to the post-Obergefell landscape, she documents in meticulous detail how the tentacles of a budding totalitarian regime are slowly gripping the world in an insidious stranglehold. Here on full display are the re-education techniques of the new permanent revolution, which has migrated from politics and economics to sex.”

Several anti-gay figures have also endorsed Kuby’s book, including Austin Ruse of the Center for Family and Human Rights (classified as a hate group) and leaders with the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom. Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 explored how these extreme right wing figures and groups have helped import homophobia to Africa, even advocating for harsher criminalization laws.

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 12.28.27 PM.pngFinally, Napier retweeted a derogatory image against transgender persons posted by another user. It is a chart of differing gender identities, around which male and female are circled and labeled as “genders.” The other near three dozen identities are circled and labeled as “mental disorders.”

Why is Napier giving a tacit endorsement to these books and this chart by tweeting about them with little to no commentary?

His promotion of them is even more problematic given the Catholic magisterium’s own ambiguity about reparative therapy and what Vatican officials have termed “gender ideology.” The Catechism says the “psychological genesis” of homosexuality is unknown, though admits there is a “non-negligible” number of people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” The U.S. bishops’ document Always Our Children addresses the issue of  reparative therapy more directly, but is ambiguous about support for it:

“You can help a homosexual person in two general ways. First, encourage him or her to cooperate with God’s grace to live a chaste life. Second, concentrate on the person, not on the homosexual orientation itself. This implies respecting a person’s freedom to choose or refuse therapy directed toward changing a homosexual orientation. Given the present state of medical and psychological knowledge, there is no guarantee that such therapy will succeed. Thus, there may be no obligation to undertake it, though some may find it helpful.”

Given these statements, Cardinal Napier could be promoting Nicolosi’s book and feel he is defended by church teaching. Doing so, though, is certainly not within the limits of contemporary discourse on these issues, which has overwhelmingly rejected reparative therapy as pseudoscience and where the diagnosis of gender dysphoria remains highly controversial.

What is more problematic for me is not Napier’s ideas engagement with alternative viewpoints or even an engagement of ambiguous doctrine. The problems arise when reading his tweets through a pastoral lens. The harm reparative therapies have caused pastorally and psychologically is well-documented, which has led to a dozen or so countries and at least eight U.S. states to ban it in some or all forms. Of particular concern is forcing children to engage in such therapy, given the long term harm it can cause them. All of these realities seem to suggest it would be pastorally inappropriate to speak positively about Nicolosi’s writings.

Additionally, Napier is a culture warrior. Though not a signatory, he supported five cardinals’ submission of dubia to Pope Francis about perceived doctrinal issues with Amoris Laetitia. His Twitter feed includes many statements and retweets that place him clearly in the right wing of the church, and he emerged as a strong reactionary voice at the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family. Read with this knowledge as context, his tweets about reparative therapy, the LGBT movement as totalitarian, and gender diversity as mental disorders read all the more threateningly.

I cannot know what is in Cardinal Napier’s heart or on his mind when tweeting quotes from Nicolosi’s book or linking to Kuby’s book, and especially not when retweeting the gender diversity chart. Still I have one invitation I humbly propose for the cardinal.

Cardinal Napier once claimed he could not be homophobic because he did not personally know any lesbian or gay people. He may not know when he has met an LGBT person, though it is almost assured that he has encountered members of these gender and sexual minority communities.

As a pastor, Napier would be wise to stop reading junk science and spend his time going out to meet with and listen to the stories of LGBT people and their families. That would be the real “challenging work on a subject of great importance,” and it would be the Christ-like path, too.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 17, 2017

Catholics Central in Debate on Australia’s Upcoming Marriage Equality Vote

Catholic voices remain influential in Australia’s ongoing struggle to pass marriage equality, the latest step of which has been the government’s announcement of a “postal plebiscite.”

image-20150914-4693-1pamqlh
Malcolm Turnbull

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a Catholic, announced the non-binding vote last week. Elected in 2015, Turnbull is a pro-marriage equality candidate who agreed to adhere to a planned plebiscite drafted under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who opposes marriage equality. In keeping with this agreement, Turnbull has not allowed a vote on marriage equality in Parliament despite there being overwhelming support for passage.

Turnbull has said the “postal plebiscite,” a voluntary survey mailed to all Australians, will inform him on how to proceed.  The plebiscite’s question is “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” If the “yes” votes win, it would mean that Turnbull will hold a Parliamentary vote and allow legislators to vote their consciences on a marriage equality bill.  If the “no” votes win, there would be no parliamentary vote held, and the stalemate now in place would continue. To learn more about the vote, click here and here.

Beyond Turnbull, there are several other Catholic voices in the debate. First, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has affiliations with Opus Dei, is advocating a “no” vote. He said LGBT advocates are engaging in “moral bullying,” reported PinkNews, and that voting no would stop political correctness.

He also expressed bewilderment about why same-gender couples wanted marriage rights when in his eyes they are perfectly equal without either marriage or adoption rights. Abbott has links to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a U.S. organization that, among other agendas, promotes the criminalization of lesbian and gay people.

Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, is a partnered lesbian woman who has for years sharply criticized him for not supporting her legal right to marry.

Less hostile, but still opposed to marriage equality is Bishop Les Tomlinson of Sandhurst. Reiterating the need for all people to be respected, he said in a statement reported on by the Bendingo Advertiser:

“‘As the secular society seeks to answer the question as to whether it redefines marriage, I pray that we treat each other with respect and not resort to emotive or insulting language or behaviour.

“‘By restricting ourselves to emotional arguments, we ignore exploring the deeper effects of changing the definition and restrict ourselves to a superficial level of debate.'”

Paul Hegerty, a former Catholic priest, pushed back against Australian Catholics opposed to equal marriage rights. He claimed they had “hijacked” his religion, and pointed out that a majority of Christians support marriage equality. Hegerty wrote in the Courier Mail:

“I want religious freedom in this country and for my convictions to be heard in the public debate. Like many others I don’t want people opposed to marriage equality to hijack my spirituality and misrepresent it as some basis for denying other people their rights. People like me don’t want to impose our faith on others, including co-religionists who disagree with us. We get that Christianity seems ridiculous to many. We’ve known since the beginning that we Christians can look stupid. As one of our founders put it, we are fools. But we still want our voice to be heard as citizens of this country.”

Hegerty explained some of the reasons why Australian Catholics endorse LGBT equality, adding:

“And at the end of the day, we act on how we understand the fundamentals that Jesus gave us. . .It’s about how we treat others. Being kind to people is not an optional extra, it’s how we relate to God. As he taught, if we can’t love those we do see, how can we love God we can’t see? A famous parable of his summed it up — it has phrases that have a core place in the hearts of Christians: ‘When I was hungry, you fed me.’ ‘When I was sick, you visited me.’ So we hear Jesus today saying, ‘When I was LGBTQI, you got out of the way and let me get married.'”

There are many reasons why the nation’s citizens are outraged about the postal plebiscite, not the least of which is its $122 million price tag, but most of all because Australians are long past ready to take this step towards greater LGBT equality. For too long, Catholic politicians like Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott have joined church leaders in stymieing the rights of LGBT Australians. It is time for them to join their fellow Catholics in supporting marriage equality not in spite of their faith, but because of it.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 16, 2017