Why Being in Love Leads Us to Seek Justice and Equality

Can the erotic power of being in love so often transform us to more radically seek justice? This question drives David A.J. Richards’ book, Why Love Leads to Justice?, which was recently reviewed for the National Catholic Reporter by this Bondings 2.0‘s Associate Editor, Robert Shine. The reviewer starts off:

“Being in love and being loved by someone are the heights of human experience, unleashing the erotic part of us in a most profound and powerful way. Love is the crucial good most of us seek, the fire that fuels us, and the God whom many of us worship. We believe in love.

“Why, then, do most of us so desperately seek to restrain and restrict love? And what would happen if we stopped policing intimacy through civil laws and cultural taboos, enforcing them as if they are a set of Love Laws? What if we just let love run wild through our lives?”

51noegiw18l-_sx329_bo1204203200_The book, wrote Shine, is an “interdisciplinary exploration about erotic power and ethical resistance to patriarchy,” explored through the lives of artists and activists such as Benjamin Britten, W.H. Auden, Bayard Rustin, and James Baldwin. Critiquing the book for a lack of female protagonists, Shine suggested Why Love Leads to Justice could be a foundation for further exploration of other boundary transgressive relationships. He wrote:

“Patriarchy is fundamental to injustice because, in Richards’ words, it ‘destroys the search for real relationships with other persons, as the individuals they are,’ and it demands exacting violence against any resisters. It afflicts all people through attendant oppressions, such as homophobia and racism, and it brutalizes the powerless and the privileged alike. Patriarchy is ‘a threat to love itself.’ . . .

“But in the very love threatened, we find the roots of resistance because ‘breaking the Love Laws can have an emancipatory ethical significance, empowering ethical voices of resistance.’ By loving across boundaries, by being beloved and experiencing the power that erotic intimacy has, by knowing love’s disarming vulnerability and unknowable mystery, we are led to true freedom.”

Of particular interest to LGBT Catholics and their allies is Shine’s juxtaposition of Richards’ book with the Church’s “Love Laws”:

“I have witnessed firsthand this phenomenon in Catholics whose intimate love breaks the Catholic church’s own Love Laws. The faithful people who are in queer relationships or second marriages, who practice contraception or accompany a partner transitioning genders, who say they have experienced God’s love more robustly through boundary-breaking intimacy.

“Through love, these Catholics find a voice to defy the ecclesial patriarchy that bans the ordination of women, condemns same-gender love, and leaves open the wounds of clergy sexual abuse. Too many church leaders cause harm because Catholic programs of formation have stifled education about the erotic.”

Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 know both how often and how widespread this type of repression happens. But also on display in these daily updates is the power of love to transform the church and the world, a point also made in the book which, Shine said, “deeply affirmed my belief in love, specifically the radical power of the erotic.”

The review, which you can read here, concluded with a challenge, an offer for readers to examine their own lives and whether a “failure to let love run wildly through [their] lives” is impairing their work for justice. Shine ends with a provocative question:

“Yes, love is patient, and love is kind. But if it is not also radically free and resisting injustice, is it really love at all?”

How would you respond to the book’s central that love leads to justice? Has love led you or someone you know to seek LGBT equality in the church? Or has church leaders’ stifling of certain types of love impaired you or someone you know from being able to do this work?

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, March 3, 2017

New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis, is scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, Chicago, Illinois. Plenary speakers:  Lisa Fullam, Leslie Griffin, Rev. Bryan Massingale, Frank Mugisha. Prayer leaders:  Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Bishop John Stowe, OFM, Conv.  Pre-Symposium Retreat Leader:  Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS.  For more information and to register, visit www.Symposium2017.org.

Find Answers to “Controversial” Pope Francis at Upcoming Symposium

Pope Francis

If there is one word that best describes the reactions of LGBT and ally Catholics towards Pope Francis, I think it is “controversial.”  I use this word in its traditional usage meaning that there are two sides to the issue.  For some LGBT Catholics and supporters, he has been a savior and messiah, opening a new era in the church’s approach to issues of sexuality and gender.  For others, Pope Francis is simply, “more of the same,” not changing anything, and, in some cases, because his appearance is “kinder and gentler,” he may actually be making things worse.

And, of course, between these two poles, there are a variety of middle positions.  Some are happy with the pope’s calls for mercy towards LGBT people.  Others want him to also call for justice for LGBT people.

Whatever your take on Pope Francis, if you want to learn more about how he might be advancing LGBT issues positively or negatively, you should consider attending New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis , on the weekend of April 28-30, 2017, in Chicago.

If you are a regular reader (or even a casual one) of Bondings 2.0, then you know that Pope Francis raises more questions than provides answers in regard to LGBT issues.  The symposium will be an event where participants can gain information and perspectives to begin to form some of those answers for themselves.

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Bryan Massingale

Are you interested in how Pope Francis is affecting the Church’s social ethics in regard to LGBT issues?  Come to the symposium to hear Fr. Bryan Massingale,  Fordham University theologian.

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Lisa Fullam

Will Pope Francis make a change to Catholic sexual ethics?  Listen to the ideas of Lisa Fullam, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley theologian.  The question of religious liberty, especially in regard to LGBT employees of Catholic institutions, has a lot of people wondering.

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Leslie Griffin

The question of religious liberty, especially in regard to LGBT employees of Catholic institutions, has a lot of people wondering.  Leslie Griffin, University of Nevada at Las Vega legal scholar, will provide some insight into these dilemmas.

Frank Mugisha of Uganda poses in front of a painting of Robert F. Kennedy, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
Frank Mugisha

Why hasn’t Pope Francis spoken out on the terrible scourge of laws which criminalize LGBT people around the globe?  You’ll get a first-hand answer to that from Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, who is at the center of this struggle.

In addition, there will be focus sessions on:

  • Hispanic Catholic Culture and LGBT Issues
  • Gay Men in the Priesthood and Religious Life
  • Youth, Young Adult Ministry, and LGBT Questions
  • Transgender and Intersex Identities and the Family
  • LGBT Parish Ministry
  • Lesbian Nuns: A Gift to the Church
  • Challenges of LGBT Church Workers

Prayer Opportunities

The symposium experience is not all about the intellect.  Unique prayer opportunities will also be available:

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    Simone Campbell, SSS

    Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, the “Nun on the Bus,” will lead a pre-symposium retreat day on Friday, April 28th, on the theme of the spirituality of justice and mercy.

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    Bishop John Stowe

    Bishop John Stowe, OFM, Conv, diocesan bishop of Lexington, Kentucky, will offer scriptural reflections during two of the symposium’s prayer services.

  • Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
    Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

    Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, will lead a special Saturday afternoon prayer service.

Networking

Perhaps the most valuable experience of the symposium is the opportunity to network with other Catholics who are working for a church and society that are more inclusive of LGBT people.  In addition to meeting people informally, the symposium also provides the opportunity for “Open Space,”  where participants can suggest and plan a gathering time/space for particular topics. Let’s have an Open Space session as a meet-up for Bondings 2.0 readers! For more information, click here.

Who should attend?

Everybody!  Well, as long as you have an interest in Catholic LGBT discussions, you will find the symposium to be a rewarding event.  New Ways Ministry has designed it to be accessible and relevant particularly to pastoral ministers, LGBT persons, leaders of men’s and women’s religious communities,  families and other allies, and others involved in church ministry either as a volunteer or a professional.

newwayssymp-draft_03-01Can I afford it?

Yes!  Though the time for early-bird registration is over,  you can still get the discounted early-bird rate if you put four registrations in one envelope and mail them, with payment, to New Ways Ministry by March 27, 2017.   Additionally, discounted hotel rooms and airfares are available.

What will I gain from the experience?

Over the years, we’ve learned that everyone’s symposium experience is unique.  For some, it is a starting point on a new direction in ministry or advocacy.  For others, it is an opportunity to affirm their sexuality and gender identity in a Catholic context.  Many people have developed lifelong friendships at symposiums.  Many others have experienced the event as a further step on their spiritual and intellectual journeys.

What if I don’t know anyone else who will be going?

No worries!  Symposiums are friendly, communal events.  Those who have taken part in past symposiums are quick to welcome “first-timers” and those who are attending on their own.  You will not be alone at the symposium!

Where can I get more information like rates, deadlines, schedule?  How can I register?

The symposium website, www.Symposium2017.org, has all the information that you will need. You can even register there online, as well as click through to reserve a hotel room and make a plane reservation.  If you have any further questions,  feel free to call New Ways Ministry, phone:201-277-5674, or email us, info@NewWays Ministry.org.

How can I help spread the word about the symposium?

Share the website link with your friends on email and social network sites!  Or share the link to this blog post with them! Contact New Ways Ministry if you would like to receive paper copies or a PDF copy of the symposium brochure.

See you in April at the Symposium!  You won’t want to miss it!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, February 15, 2017

 

 

 

 

Balancing Justice and Mercy in Pope Francis’ Teaching

Two key buzzwords of Pope Francis’ papacy have been “justice” and “mercy.”  Time and again, the first Latin American pope has called world leaders to enact justice for the victims of poverty, war, and social oppression.  And just as frequently, he has called church leaders to extend mercy to those who seek God, but whose lives may not conform in every way to the doctrinal purity that was emphasized by the previous two popes.

Among many people who have been observing Pope Francis’ words and deeds about LGBT issues, there has been a fervent hope and desire that he would meld justice and mercy when dealing with internal church matters.  Yes, LGBT Catholics need mercy from church leaders, but they also seek justice, too.  Many have expressed that Francis would direct calls for justice to church leaders, just as he has done to world leaders.

A new essay on the Vatican Insider website by British theologian Stephen Walford shows, in part how Francis has already made this connection between justice and mercy in his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. The focus of the essay is about the exhortation’s treatment of allowing divorced/remarried Catholics to receive communion, but, of necessity, to analyze this topic, Walford occasionally argues about the larger questions of justice and mercy.  [The essay is comprehensive in scope, so I will only focus on a few excerpts here.  For those readers with more theological interests, I suggest reading the entire essay by clicking here. A “hat tip” to the UK’s Martin Pendergast for alerting me to this essay.]

After an extensive introductory section on theological and pastoral issues involved in the formation and respect for conscience,  Walford raises an interesting distinction between justice and mercy:

“If there is one major criticism of those who oppose the Holy Father –and this includes some priests and bishops unfortunately – it is an apparent lack of interest in trying to understand the situations of real people. It probably explains why the practice of discernment is so widely ridiculed. To get to the heart of these situations is to open oneself to the possibility that maybe there is more to the story than a legal answer will allow. Personally, I have a suspicion this is why the devotion to the Divine Mercy in the form presented by the Lord to St. Faustina seems to be frowned upon among many traditionalists-certainly in English speaking countries. The justice of God is easier to accept – we have the rules, if we fail we know the consequences; in essence, safety from the awful anger of almighty God. But of course, that is not the way to form a deep friendship with Jesus. Mercy on the other hand implies a God who desires to reach out and lift up; to not ask many questions, rather just see the joy of reconciliation.”

Walford observes, however, that pastoral care that is grounded only in a rules-based approach to Catholic teaching is neither justice nor mercy.  In disputing an American canon law scholar’ argument which values a rules-based approach to the question of the reception of communion, Walford offers a Scriptural example where justice and mercy are united:

“I would humbly suggest to Dr Peters that throwing the law book at all these situations as if pastoral application is not possible is not the way of Jesus. In the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, we know Jesus addressed the Pharisees first. He didn’t dismiss the Law of Moses at all; he simply invited whoever was without sin to throw the first stone. (In fact we could say that he applied a ‘new’ canon to that law with that question). As the Pharisees left the scene one by one, only one was left; the Lawgiver himself-that is a law of love and mercy. Jesus himself was now the only one who had a right (with his new pastoral application!) to stone her to death. But of course he didn’t because the law would have condemned her immediately, and possibly to eternal damnation if no repentance had been shown and no other mitigating factors had rendered her less guilty. No, Jesus wasn’t interested in that outcome, he didn’t even ask if she was sorry; and if she was not repentant, he being God, knew that also. Still the fact remains he ignored the rule and penalty of the law in order for a higher good to possibly come about. He told her to go and sin no more because that was fundamentally more important for her soul than the correct application of the law which would have ended any chance of spiritual ascent.”

And in his conclusion, Walford offers an important interpretive lens with which to read the apostolic exhortation and the pontiff:

“Humility is the key to accepting what may be for some a genuine difficulty in understanding Amoris Laetitia, or indeed the entire charism of Pope Francis.”

Walford’s essay reminds us that the church’s teachings on justice, mercy, sin, and conscience are more complex than we sometimes acknowledge them to be.   If you are interested in these types of questions, and particularly how they apply to LGBT issues, I invite you to attend New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss:  LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis,” April 28-30, 2017,  Chicago, Illinois.   Among the topics to be examined in the light of justice, mercy, and LGBT issues will be social ethics, sexual ethics, church employment questions, criminalization laws, youth and young adults, transgender and intersex topics, Hispanic communities, gay priests and brothers, lesbian nuns, and parish ministry.   For full details and registration form, visit www.Symposium2017.org. Register today!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, January 25, 2017

 

 

Sr. Jeannine Spreads Message of LGBT Equality in Poland

While most people in the United States were enjoying turkey with all the trimmings last Thanksgiving Day, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, was feasting instead on pierogi (dumplings), golabki (stuffed cabbage leaves), kapusta (sauerkraut), and babka (bread). Far from flouting custom, she was honoring tradition and her ancestral roots by spending Thanksgiving Day in Poland.

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In Poland, Sr. Jeannine holds a sign which reads ” I support LGBT people because we are all children of God.”

She was invited for a week-long speaking tour about Catholic LGBT issues, sponsored by the country’s leading LGBT equality organization, “Campaign Against Homophobia,” and its main Christian groups, “Faith and Rainbow” and “Tolerado.” She gave three public presentations, 14 interviews with radio, TV, or print journalists, a retreat for LGBT Christians, and spoke personally with countless individual Poles, including the Secretary General of Poland’s organization for nuns’ communities.

Traveling to Poland’s three leading cities–Warsaw, Krakow, and Gdansk–Sister Jeannine spread the message that she has been spreading for over 45 years: God has unconditional love for LGBT people and it is the church’s job to make that love real by working for justice and equality.

In the homeland of Pope John Paul II, journalists naturally questioned Gramick about her opinions on both the former pope and his current successor. Initially, she said, she had great enthusiasm for John Paul when he was elected. She felt great pride because of her own Polish heritage, but that quickly dissipated. While he called for justice in the secular arena, he was adamantly opposed to any discussion of injustice within the church’s walls. Moreover, she disagreed with John Paul’s views about sexuality, expressed in his talks on the “Theology of the Body,” stating that his notions about gender complementarity made no sense at all to women.

Concerning Pope Francis, she is more optimistic.  In an interview with Queer.pl, she said,

“I think his emphasis is in the right place. He is emphasizing the heart, not the head. He speaks often about dialogue and getting to know LGBT people, even though he maintains that he will not change church teaching (on sexual ethics). I believe that it is most important to first talk with people and thus open people’s hearts. Change (in sexual ethics) will come after there is a change of heart.”

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After one of her speaking appearances in Poland, Sr. Jeannine greets members of the audience.

In an interview with Kobieta.wp.pl, Sister Jeannine described what motivated her to become involved in this ministry. She began her work in 1971 when she met a young gay man who had left the Catholic Church. After many discussions with him and his friends, she realized that Catholics needed to be educated about LGBT lives. She explained:

“I wanted to give a voice to those in the Church who could not speak for themselves. I believe LGBT people, just as any of the faithful, should have their rightful place in this institution…

“I’ve always been interested in those who are overlooked by society. If you read the Bible, you know that Jesus came to defend the outcasts. Another issue for me is conscience. Sometimes your conscience guides you to differ with the church hierarchy…the only thing that should concern us is love and helping others.”

When asked by Queer.pl about her impressions of LGBT issues in Poland, Sister Jeannine responded:

“I’m very surprised, in a positive sense, about what I’ve seen and experienced in Poland. There is more talk about LGBT people than I had anticipated. I’ve seen great acceptance among Catholics, even among priests. They are beginning to understand that this is an important issue of human rights.”

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During one of her talks, Sr. Jeannine holds up New Ways Ministry’s list of LGBT-friendly parishes in the newsletter “Bondings.”

She noted that Catholic lay people in the U.S. and many other nations are much more supportive of LGBT people than the Catholic hierarchy. She felt that the “hierarchy of the Church is responsible for the administration of the community, but they should also feel a responsibility to listen to the people.”

The Campaign Against Homophobia and Faith and Rainbow, two organizations that sponsored Sr. Jeannine’s speaking tour in Poland, launched a nationwide reconciliation campaign last September.  “Let’s Exchange a Sign of Peace” posted billboards all over Poland depicting a handshake in which one hand wore a rosary around the wrist and the other wore a rainbow bracelet. While Polish bishops decried the efforts, the Polish citizenry responded quite positively. Many prominent Catholics and several Catholic publications supported the effort.

Sister Jeannine’s lecture series built on so much of the enormous work already done by these organizations and their supporters—efforts that Sister Jeannine feels will bring about many blessings. When asked about the situation in the U.S. in the future, she responded that the mission may become more difficult to accomplish in the new presidential administration, but like her friends in Poland, she is ready to keep on working. To Weekend.gazeta.pl, she said:

“Good work will go forward because the hearts and minds of people who support the LGBT community have been changed. These hearts and minds were opened and are no longer shut. We will not step back. It will be much harder. But we can handle it. We have to.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, January 17, 2017

 

 

The Best Catholic LGBT News of 2016

On this last day of 2016, we look back at the best Catholic LGBT news stories of the past 12 months.  Each year, Bondings 2.0 asks its readers to vote for the best and worst events that occurred since January.  Yesterday, we reported on what our readers chose as the worst Catholic LGBT stories.  Today, we offer our readers’ choices for the best of the past year.

So, here’s the list, with number one receiving the most votes and number ten receiving the least:

  1. Pope Francis calls on the entire Christian church to apologize to LGBT people and others who have been marginalized over the years by church structures. Following the pope’s call, an Australian parish hosts the first Liturgy of Apology to the LGBT community.
  2. America magazine, a Jesuit publication, publishes an editorial naming the firing of gay and lesbian church employees as “unjust discrimination.”
  3. Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation following the Synod on the Family, promotes the primacy of conscience when applying church doctrine to one’s life, and stresses pastoral accompaniment for people who disagree with church teaching.
  4. Italy legalizes civil unions for lesbian and gay couples despite opposition from the Vatican and the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
  5. In the wake of the shooting massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, many Catholic leaders, including several bishops, offer statements of solidarity with the LGBT community.
  6. Transgender issues make great strides in Catholic education, including supportive policies on college campuses, a high school which developed a policy to welcome transgender students, and the Sisters of Mercy announcing that they will continue to employ a newly-transitioned transgender teacher at their San Francisco high school.
  7. Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the newly created Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, rebukes his brother bishops in the United States for failing to engage Amoris Laetitia during their annual meeting.
  8. The Catholic Theological Society of America presents the John Courtney Murray Award, its highest honor, to Orlando Espin, an openly gay, married Latino scholar.
  9. The president of the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco, a priest, publicly congratulates the school’s lesbian coach of women’s basketball on her marriage.
  10. For the first time in its 100-year history, LGBT groups were officially welcomed and recognized at Catholic Day, a high-profile, biennial conference in Germany, attended by over 30,000 Catholics.

I will offer a few of my impressions of the choices readers made.  I’m not surprised at the number one choice.  Pope Francis’s call for apologies to the LGBT community is probably the single most powerful action that could affect the Catholic Church’s relationship with sexual and gender minorities.  Sadly, only a few have followed his example.  Still, his call for such apologies offers a precedent worth celebrating.

The choice for second place is also no surprise.  The scourge of firing LGBT church workers has caused damage to many sectors of our Church.  It is good to see a credible and reputable source such as America calling for an end to this practice, and using Catholic principles to support its recommendation.

When I offered readers 15 nominees for best stories and 15 nominees for worst, I mentioned that I put two items in both categories.  The publication of Amoris Laetitia brought mixed reviews from Catholic LGBT leaders, so it was mentioned in both categories.   When the Orlando massacre happened, many U.S. bishops ignored the LGBT dimension of the incident, but the ones who did speak out did so forcefully, so this item was also listed in both places.

Both stories made both final lists.  On the list of worsts,  Amoris Laetitia ranked #7, while on the list of bests, it ranked #3, perhaps indicating that readers saw the document as more positive than negative.  The response to Orlando ranked #5 on both lists, perhaps indicating that Catholics were as equally pleased by the positive reactions as they were disappointed by the absence of LGBT mention.

Do you notice any significances in this list of bests?  If so, offer your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

One last detail.  When readers were asked to vote for stories, they were also given a choice to add their own nominees.  Only one reader did so.  The post that was mentioned was a beautiful Advent reflection,  A Woman of Courage Brings Emmanuel, “God With Us”, by guest blogger Elizabeth Sextro.

So, as we complete this year, let’s remember this list of 2016’s achievements and build on them in 2017!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 31, 2016

 

The Worst Catholic LGBT News of 2016

As is the tradition here at Bondings 2.0, on the last two days of the year, we present the results of our reader survey of the best and the worst Catholic LGBT news stories of the past 12 months.

Thanks to all of our readers who responded to the survey, naming their five best and five worst stories of the 15 “nominees” presented in each category.  To end the new year on a high note, we will offer the results of the survey of the “best” stories on December 31st.

Today, we offer our readers’ choices for the ten worst Catholic LGBT events of 2016:

  1. The Vatican’s Congregation for Priests reaffirms a 2005 ban against gay seminarians and priests.
  2. A gay man is denied permission to sing at his grandmother’s funeral in Decatur, Indiana.
  3. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia issues guidelines which exclude, among other Catholics, people in same-gender relationships from pastoral or liturgical roles. 
  4. Pope Francis repeats warnings against “gender ideology” and marriage equality, rhetoric that begins to be picked up by bishops around the globe.
  5. Most U.S. bishops who issue statements on the massacre at an Orlando gay nightclub fail to mention the LGBT dimension of the attack. One bishop in Florida later publicly criticizes a colleague for acknowledging the church’s role in perpetuating homophobia.
  6. Dominican Republic church leaders, including the cardinal, harass and make derogatory comments about U.S. Ambassador Wally Brewster, a married gay man.
  7. Amoris Laetitia disappoints LGBT advocates by not mentioning same-gender relationships and offering negative comments on gender transition.
  8. Catholic bishops in Malawi repeatedly make negative comments against LGBT people, despite continued acts of violence and discrimination against this group. In a pastoral letter on the Year of Mercy, they call for jail sentences for lesbian and gay people.
  9. The Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, issues education guidelines which threaten expulsion for students whose views and actions about sexual orientation and gender identity are positive, including the act of coming out.
  10. Openly gay priest Warren Hall is suspended by Archbishop of Newark, which cites Fr. Hall’s advocacy for LGBT people. 

I offer some analysis of these results.   The top three vote-getters all involved liturgical participation, perhaps showing that for Catholics, liturgy is at the heart of our faith.  Any restrictions placed on liturgical participation hits us the hardest.

Two of the selections involve missed opportunities that church leaders had to do something positive:  the publication of Amoris Laetitia and bishops’ statements on the Orlando massacre. Church leaders should take a lesson from this that their silence can be as hurtful and harmful as any negative statement they might make.

In terms of church leaders speaking negatively, in the case of the Dominican Republic item, it should be remembered that the resignation of the cardinal of that island nation, who was a primary antagonist against the U.S. ambassador, was immediately accepted by the Vatican. Unfortunately, in the case of the Malawi bishops’ anti-LGBT rhetoric, no such Vatican intervention is known of.

Pope Francis’ statements about gender ideology and the Malawi bishops’ call for jail sentences for lesbian and gay people are the only examples of involvement by church leaders becoming strongly involved in anti-LGBT political debates.  (Not that more of such things didn’t happen, but they perhaps were not as prevalent as in previous years.)  This could indicate that bishops with an anti-LGBT agenda have recognized that they cannot win political debates.  This theory may be supported by the fact that in three of the items that made the list–the Vatican gay priest ban, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia liturgical rules, and the Diocese of Little Rock educational guidelines–we see church officials trying to control their own bailiwicks instead of the public sphere.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s list of the BEST Catholic LGBT stories of 2016!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 30, 2016

 

When the Catholic Press Association Sided With New Ways Ministry

History-Option 1“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s  feature to educate readers of the rich history—positive and negative—that has taken place over the last four decades regarding Catholic LGBT equality issues.  We hope it will show people how far our Church has come, ways that it has regressed, and how far we still have to go.

Once a  month, Bondings 2.0 staff will produce a post on Catholic LGBT news events from the past 38 years.  We will comb through editions ofBondings 2.0’s predecessor:  Bondings,  New Ways Ministry’s newsletter in paper format.   We began publishing Bondings in 1978. Unfortunately, because these newsletters are only archived in hard copies, we cannot link back to the primary sources in most cases. 

Catholic Press Association Sides With New Ways Ministry

On December 12, 1981, The St. Louis Globe Democrat carried a story with the headline “St. Louis Review violated press code, Catholic group says.”  The first paragraph of the story explains the controversy:

“The Catholic Press Association, a professional organization of 265 Catholic publications including the St. Louis Review [the archdiocesan newspaper] and most of the country’s diocesan newspapers, has cited the Review in violation of the association’s code for not giving a Catholic group of homosexuals “ample opportunity to defend themselves in the pages of our publications.”

The story states that New Ways Ministry filed the complaint with the Catholic Press Association (CPA) “against the Review and the Hawaii Catholic Herald . . . when the diocesan papers refused to publish New Ways’ response to an Oct. 17, 1980, column by James Hitchcock. . .  a St. Louis University professor of history and a noted Catholic conservative whose weekly column is syndicated in the Review and four other Catholic diocesan papers.”

Hitchcock had written a Sept. 19, 1980, column which mentioned New Ways Ministry, saying that it did not follow church teaching.  New Ways Ministry responded with a letter to the editor that was published in the Review on Oct. 3, 1980.  The news article explains the next development:

“Then Hitchcock devoted his Oct. 17 column to New Ways, citing what he thought was evidence of New Ways’ not following church teaching.  . . . New Ways wanted to respond to Hitchcock’s column but this was denied by Monsignor O’Donnell [the editor]. . .”

The news account states:

“Afer a 10-month study of the controversy and correspondence between New Ways Nd the diocesan papers, the association’s board approved a recommendation Oct. 15, 1981, from its three-member Fair Publishing Practices Code Committee to cite the violation against the Review and the Hawaii Catholic Herald. . . “

According to a December 11, 1981, article in The St. Louis Review that reported the CPA’s decision, the newspaper’s editor, Msgr. Edward O’Donnell, said:

“I’m disappointed the CPA doesn’t respect the judgment of an editor.

“My judgment was simply that both sides of the issue had heard enough about this particular squabble.  I don’t see how any outside organization can assume the responsibility of overruling such an editorial judgment and call itself a professional journalist’s organization.”

The St. Louis Review published a letter to the editor from New Ways Ministry’s co-director, Fr. Robert Nugent, in response to Msgr. O’Donnell’s comment.  It stated in part:

“As Roman Catholic ministers who have been officially assigned to this ministry by our provincial superiors we believe that much more is involved than a ‘squabble,’  as Msgr. O’Donnell terms it, when our reputations as credible ministers are impugned by a Catholic columnist and we are denied an opportunity to reply.

“Mr. Hitchcock says he requested information from us about our position on homosexuality, but neglects to mention that his request came after he made his charges.  Since the burden of proof for his accusations rested with him we felt no need to provide him with information.  He made the charges.  Either he had some substantial and convincing proof or he was simply on a witch-hunting expedition.  Apparently he had no proof.

“Contrary to Msgr. O’Donnell’s remark that “both sides of the issue had been presented” we felt they hadn’t.  Thurs our course to the CPA committee who ultimately agreed with us.”

This 36-year old journalistic controversy is enlightening because it raises the question whether the Catholic press today, especially the diocesan press, gives fair attention to LGBT issues.  So, dear readers, what has been your experience with the Catholic press, especially the diocesan press?  Have you ever written a letter on LGBT issue? If so, was it printed?  When the Catholic paper you read carries stories on LGBT issues, does it fairly represent all sides of the issue? You can offer your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

Be sure to vote for the Best and Worst Catholic LGBT News of 2016. You can vote by clicking here. Voting closes at 5:00 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time on Thursday, December 29th.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 28, 2016