We have a great line-up of plenary and focus session leaders, plus two bishops and an inspirational nun to lead us in prayer. And, most importantly, we have the energy of the hundreds of LGBT and Ally Catholics who will be attending the event, discussing the topics, sharing opinions, and networking with one another.
Your faithful bloggers, Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine, are, of course, here at the event. Over the next few days, we will be busy with symposium activities, so we won’t be posting blogs about the event–yet. However, have no fear! Bondings 2.0 will continue through the weekend with posts on other topics.
Starting next week, we will begin posting information from the symposium itself, so stay tuned! For more information about the program, click here.
And if you are a member of the Bondings 2.0 community who is attending the symposium, please introduce yourselves to us at the event. We love to get real-time, in-person feedback from readers!
—Francis DeBernardo, Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 28, 2017
This weekend, Catholics are gathering in Chicago for New Ways Ministry’s 8th National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.” Today’s post reflects on Sister Margaret Farley’s groundbreaking work, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics. Farley, whose justice-oriented sexual ethic has greatly advanced the conversation on LGBT issues in the church, addressed Symposia in 1992, 1997, and 2007. She also received New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award in 2002.
Unsurprisingly, the 2010 Notification that Margaret Farley received from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about her book, Just Love, missed not only the forest for the trees; it missed the trees for the minutiae of their bark.
Far from engaging Farley’s vision, intentionally laid out as she weaves tradition with contemporary knowledge, the Notification issued is a poor, proof-texted engagement. But a reader more receptive to Farley’s work easily sees not only the forest, but the horizon to which this theological giant is leading, and gratefully joins the path towards it.
Questions of sexuality and gender have progressed rapidly in the decade or so since Just Love was published. Yet Farley’s insights, deeply drawn from her first section on traditions, still speak to new and emerging issues. [To read a summary of Just Love’s ethical principles, click here.]
One example of these issues is the Synod on the Family. The synod process made clear how inexperienced many Catholic bishops are at negotiating cross-cultural ethics.The Synod also raised an old question in a new way: In a truly global church, can the Vatican really pronounce on universal norms beyond the most fundamental of principles? In other words, are issues of family life, sexuality, and society today too complex and diverse for a one-size-fits-all approach?
Emerging churches, particularly in Africa, have resisted more permissive stances on sexuality with claims of “ideological colonization,” a term notably used by Francis, the church’s first pope from the Global South. Farley identifies the troubling dynamic driving many such claims: sexual control has been central to Western colonization and postcolonial regions are still grappling with this damaging legacy. Acknowledging these traumas is absent from magisterial discourse today, even as theologians have welcomed such necessary dialogue through international conferences such as Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church.
Another emerging issue is gender and its relation to sexuality, now hotly contested in many contexts due to the expansion of transgender rights. Farley’s technical treatment of intersex and trans identities needs some updating given new research in this area, but, more significantly, she remains open to the realities of such persons, writing that “[n]o one ought to pass judgement on any configurations of gender [emphasis added].” This outward-looking stance paired with compassion means her larger points retain their integrity.
No statement of Farley’s is more relevant for today, when “gender wars” are rapidly and harmfully intensifying, than when she observes that “[g]ender wars would cease if we saw that we are not ‘opposite’ sexes but persons with somewhat different (but, in fact, very similar!) bodies.” Farley’s sexual ethic, with its roots in justice, is wonderful for slowly shifting the conversation beyond a primary concern with whom one has physical intimacy (raising questions of sexual and/or gender identity) to a primary concern about how one has sexual intimacy (raising questions of bodies, abilities, pleasures, and participants).
Finally, though Just Love can and should speak to many emerging questions, conversations about consent could benefit greatly from her just sex framework. To the detriment of healthy sexual relationships, consent has been reduced to saying “no,” or under affirmative consent thinking, the absence of an active and enthusiastic “yes.” While such models are being used to educate youth and young adults, particularly in higher education, as correctives against society’s historical failure to address sexual violence, they are not adequate.
Despite their good intent, such models are actually doing harm because they employ a mechanical understanding of sexual acts that excludes context and relationality. Farley is clear that free consent and respect for bodily autonomy are minimal norms for just sex, but she is equally clear that sexual justice means more. She insists that sexual acts cannot be separated from the contexts in which they happen, and the foremost context is relationality. Incorporating Farley’s theory of sexual justice into understandings of consent would both help curb sexual violence and promote healthier relationships.
Ten years on, it is clear that Just Love’s relevance has only grown, and that Christian ethical reflection has yet to receive fully its wisdom. Farley’s writing is precise and thorough, reflecting the years she spent laying the foundations for her sexual ethic. Behind her clear argumentation are complex layers of meaning with which the reader must repeatedly grapple. Her closing section on contexts for just love, addressing matters like same-gender relationships and persons who are divorced and/or remarried, is really the springboard Farley provides for Christians to employ her framework in their own research, contexts, and lives.
But what may be most clear of all is that Vatican’s fears were, in one way, fully warranted. Just Love is a truly radical text, which, received more and more fully by Christians, has and will continue to alter radically our lives and the life of our churches. It lays before us a road to full equality for LGBT people, one recognizing the beauty of diverse sexual and gender identities, the goodness of same-gender sexual intimacy, and the gift that every family is to our church.
In a ruling released last week, a federal judge has said a Catholic parish was legally justified in firing a gay church worker. The Washington Blade reported:
“In a seven-page decision, U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras determined Tuesday the Holy Family Parish, which is under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Chicago, had the right to terminate Colin Collette because the worker’s position was ministerial in nature.
“‘By playing music at church services, Collette served an integral role in the celebration of mass,’ Kocoras said. ‘Collette’s musical performances furthered the mission of the church and helped convey its message to the congregants. Therefore, Collette’s duties as Musical Director fall within the ministerial exception.'”
Collette sued Holy Family and the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2015 claiming employment discrimination under federal, state, and county laws. It was hoped Collette’s case would add to the small, but growing number of legal victories for church workers who have lost their jobs over LGBT issues.
Judge Kocoras did not, however, rule on whether Collette was discriminated against by the parish; he ruled on whether the firing was protected under the so-called “ministerial exemption.”
According to the Blade, the judge’s actions preceding the ruling show he “entertained the idea Collette’s position wasn’t ministerial in nature and therefore protected under the civil rights law.” But that was not where Kocoras ended up, as he explained in the ruling:
“[A] position can be found to be ministerial if it requires the participant to undertake religious duties and functions. . .Here, Collette worked with church volunteers to choose the music that would enhance the prayer offered at mass. Choosing songs to match the weekly scripture required the group, including Collette, to make discretionary religious judgments since the Catholic Church does not have rules specifying what piece of music is to be played at each mass.'”
Collette was fired in 2014 as Holy Family’s music minister because his engagement to longtime partner and now husband, Will Nifong, became known to church officials. The firing was traumatic for the parish, where Collette had served for 17 years. Some 700 parishioners attended a town hall about it and there welcomed Collette with a standing ovation. One parishioner expressed anger and disappointment at the treatment of Collette, saying: “Everybody was welcome…That’s become a lie.”
The firing is problematic not only for the parish, but for the Archdiocese as well. Archbishop Blase Cupich has said the consciences of LGBT people must be respected, and even endorsed legal protections for families headed by same-gender partners. Yet, the Archdiocese has continued to defend the firings of Collette and another gay church worker, Sandor Demkovich.
This latest ruling should not be celebrated by church officials because, while it may be legal justice, it has not advanced social justice. Archbishop Cupich could, however, freely choose to act for the common good by apologizing to Collette and taking the lead in reconciliation efforts at Holy Family.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 25, 2017
If you would like to learn more about the issue of LGBT church workers in Catholic institutions, consider attending
Leslie Griffin, a professor of law, will give a plenary session talk on “Religious Liberty, Employment, & LGBT Issues” at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis, scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, Chicago, Illinois. During one of the focus sessions, three people affected by the firings, Colleen Simon, Margie Winters, and Andrea Vettori will give personal testimony about “The Challenges of LGBT Church Workers.” For more information, visit www.Symposium2017.org.
A new Catholic book on LGBT issues, whose main text is based on a talk given at a New Ways Ministry event, has been praised by the Vatican official in charge of family life, a U.S. cardinal who is close to Pope Francis, and a bishop who is leading the call for greater pastoral care for LGBT people. Their dust jacket blurbs join one by Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder
Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, by Rev. James Martin, SJ, will be published June 13, 2017, and its dust jacket contains high praise comments from Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery of Laity, Family, and Life; Cardinal Joseph Tobin, picked personally by Pope Francis to lead the embattled Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey; and Bishop Robert McElroy, head of the San Diego Diocese, who has made LGBT inclusion one of his regular themes; and Sister Jeannine.
The main portion of the book is an adaptation of the talk Fr. Martin gave when he received New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award at the end of October 2016. In addition, the book, which is to be published by HarperOne, will also contain prayer aids and other pastoral material.
David Gibson, a veteran Church observer who writes for Religion News Service, broke the news about this high praise from Church officials for a gay-friendly book. In the course of the article, Gibson noted that the praise from church officials for a book which had its origins in a New Ways Ministry program, signaled a momentous shift:
“A co-founder of New Ways Ministry is Sister Jeannine Gramick, whose views were considered so far outside the bounds of Catholic teaching that she was barred by the Vatican and her order from speaking about homosexuality. She transferred to another order and has continued to minister and speak and write on the topic. . . . That she is endorsing the same book as senior church leaders is an indication of the sea change under Francis.”
Fr. Martin told Religion News Service that he sees the praise from these high Church officials as signaling greater sensitivity on LGBT issues:
“I was delighted that Cardinal Farrell and Cardinal Tobin found the book helpful. To me, it’s a reminder that many in the hierarchy today support a more compassionate approach to LGBT Catholics.”
The following quotations are from the comments on the book’s dust jacket:
Cardinal Kevin Farrell:
“A welcome and much-needed book that will help bishops, priests, pastoral associates, and all church leaders more compassionately minister to the LGBT community. It will also help LGBT Catholics feel more at home in what is, after all, their church.”
Cardinal Joseph Tobin:
“In too many parts of our church LGBT people have been made to feel unwelcome, excluded, and even shamed. Father Martin’s brave, prophetic, and inspiring new book marks an essential step in inviting church leaders to minister with more compassion, and in reminding LGBT Catholics that they are as much a part of our church as any other Catholic.”
Bishop Robert McElroy:
“The Gospel demands that LGBT Catholics must be genuinely loved and treasured in the life of the church. They are not. [Fr. Martin] provides us with the language, perspective, and sense of urgency to replace a culture of alienation with a culture of merciful inclusion.”
Sister Jeannine Gramick:
Gibson’s reporting summarized the main text of the book concisely:
“In his talk, as in the book, Martin called on church leaders and all Catholics to treat gays and lesbians with greater respect and sensitivity. . . .But he also called on gays and lesbians to be more considerate and respectful of the hierarchy, saying both sides must listen to each other and learn from each other.”
New Ways Ministry presented Fr. Martin with the Bridge Building Award last year because of his past achievements in promoting dialogue between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church. Yet, with the publication of this book, and the praise for it from church officials, shows his bridge building gifts are continuing to grow.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 8, 2018
TODAY IS MARCH 27th: LAST DAY TO REGISTER TO AVOID A LATE FEE!
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. REGISTER BY MARCH 27th to avoid a late fee.
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Pope Francis exhorted youth to avoid bullying others last week, saying they must “promise Jesus to never bully.” But given the pope’s mixed record, does his message mean not to bully LGBTQ youth, too?
Francis made the remarks at a youth rally in a Milan stadium filled with nearly 80,00 mostly young people. He was answering a catechist’s question about how educators, students, and families could communicate better. Crux reported that he told adults to be on the lookout for bullying, and then he addressed the youth:
“‘I ask you, in silence: in your schools, in your neighborhoods, is there someone that you mock? That you make fun of because they look a little funny, because they are a little fat? That you like to embarrass and hit because of this?
“‘Think about this. This is called bullying. . .Understood? Promise me: never, never make fun of, never mock a friend, a neighbor, etc. Do you promise this?'”
It is good that the pope, a former teacher, is concerned about the bullying which afflicts many youth worldwide. Francis might consider a call to end bullying against particularly vulnerable demographics, including LGBTQ youth. But if he is really serious about helping to end bullying, he should examine the ways the Catholic Church can and has perpetuated it.
Though it is not universally true that Catholic officials have ignored or allowed bullying, a quick survey of incidents reveals how much harm church leaders have caused:
In England, a transgender student was shot with a BB gun by another student after the transgender student faced months of bullying at his Catholic school;
Parents have accused schools of ignoring the bullying against their children, including the parents of transgender student who was shot with a BB gun and the parents of New York teenager who died by suicide.
Bishops in Colombia thanked the government for dropping a resource aimed at helping educators know how to combat bullying against LGBT people;
An anti-bullying workshop was cancelled in Ireland after school officials said it did not present the unspecified “other side” of the issue;
The parents of a gay teenager who died by suicide in Colombia claimed it resulted after the school’s principal outed their son in front of others at the Catholic school;
Updated policies in the Diocese of Little Rock threatened students with expulsion if they come out as LGBTQ.
Catholic schools have also banned a gay student from a dance, expelled a lesbian student from prom for not wearing a dress, and refused to accommodate a trans student who was transitioning. Supportive Catholic educators have been fired in New Jersey, including Warren Hall who was fired for posting about the NOH8 campaign. [Note: Hall will be presenting a workshop on gay priests and religious at New Ways Ministry’s 8th National Symposium this April. Click here for more information.]
In some of these incidents, educators and church officials acknowledged a mistake or worked to rectify the situation. These, however, are not the only courses of action. There are concrete examples of how Catholic education can work against bullying and promote the flourishing of every student:
Teacher in Ontario’s Catholic schools marched in Pride in show of solidarity with their LGBTQ students;
A priest in New York even declared 2014 the “Year of Lady Gaga,” (she attended Catholic schools) showing students how to have courage in their lives.
Students and their families are increasingly looking for not only welcome, but support for LGBTQ youth. Michael Maher, who authored the 2001 book Being Gay and Lesbian in a Catholic High School, has commented that since he began studying this issue, such expectations have increased dramatically. [Note: Maher will be offering a workshop on youth and young adults at New Ways Ministry’s 8th National Symposium this April. Click here for more information.]
The problem of bullying is a question of life and death. Bullying leads to self-harm and death by suicide, and the presence of so many LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness attests to the impact bullying by family and friends can have.
These realities of suffering should move Pope Francis to amplify and specify his call to stop bullying. 2017’s diocesan- level World Youth Day programs, as well as the preparations for the 2018 synod on youth offer prime opportunities for him to do so. Before these steps, Francis should sit with his own directive to the youth in Milan, and see how it relates to LGBTQ youth and the church:
“‘Think in silence if you [bully], and if you are able to promise this to Jesus: Promise Jesus to never bully.'”
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 wasrecently 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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Transgender and Intersex Identities and the Family
LGBT Parish Ministry
Lesbian Nuns: A Gift to the Church
Challenges of LGBT Church Workers
The symposium experience is not all about the intellect. Unique prayer opportunities will also be available:
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.
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, retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, will lead a special Saturday afternoon prayer service.
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.
Can 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