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

 

Catholic LGBT Things to Do Before 2016 Ends!

Don’t let these deadlines pass without acting!

newwayssymp-logoREGISTER at the early bird rate for New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss:  LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.”  The deadline for a discounted early bird rate is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2016.  You won’t want to miss this exciting event, which will include a Meet-up for Bondings 2.0 readers!  Click here for more information!  Click here to register!

13114249825_e879cef180_bSIGN “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations,” a statement in support of gay priests and seminarians which will be sent to Pope Francis, Vatican officials, the USCCB president, and gay priests that are known to New Ways Ministry.  The deadline is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2016.  Sign the statement by clicking here.

thumbs upVOTE for what you think were the best and worst Catholic LGBT news events of 2016. Bondings 2.0‘s annual poll is a way for readers to weigh in on the major events that transpired over the last 12 months.  The deadline is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2016. Cast your vote by clicking here.  Results will be posted on December 30th and 31st.

James Martin croppedREAD and CIRCULATE the newly-released Spanish language version of Jesuit Father James Martin’s “A Two-Lane Bridge/Un Puente de Dos Direcciones,” a groundbreaking talk on Catholic LGBT issues, which he gave upon receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award earlier this year.  You can access the talk by clicking here.

follow-1277026_640KEEP UP TO DATE on Catholic LGBT news and opinion by subscribing to Bondings 2.0!  Subscribing is simple:  Go to the top of the right-hand column of this blog page.  You’ll see the “Follow” box.  Enter your email address in the box and click the button.  You’re done!  You’ll receive an email every time the blog is updated, usually once a day.  You can also manage how often you’d like to hear from us.  Resolve to stay informed in 2017!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 28, 2016

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

There must be always
remaining in every life,
some place for the singing of angels.

Some place for that
which in itself
is breathless and
beautiful.

Old burdens become lighter
deep and ancient wounds
lose much of their old hurting.

Despite all the crassness of life,
all the hardness and
harsh discords,
life is saved by
the singing of angels.

–Howard Thurman

A merry and blessed Christmas to you from New Ways Ministry!

 

Support Gay Priests! Sign “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations” Statement!

To respond to the Vatican’s recent reaffirmation of a ban on gay priests and seminarians, New Ways Ministry is launching a signature campaign for Catholics to show support for the gay men who serve them pastorally through ordained ministry.  You can read the full text of the statement, and sign it, by clicking here.

13114249825_e879cef180_bThe statement, entitled “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations,” expresses the idea that Catholics are well aware that gay men are already serving very faithfully and successfully in the Church. Moreover, the statement attests to the fact that Catholics are grateful for the ministry and witness of gay priests, and it makes note of the unique perspective and gifts that they bring to the Church.   The title of the New Ways Ministry statement “corrects” the title of the Vatican document which condemns gay priests, “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation.”

In addition to describing the blessing that gay priests offer the Church, the statement offers the following affirmation:

“To our gay priests and seminarians, we say, ‘Thank you! Despite what the Vatican has said about you, we offer you our total support. You are welcome in this church. You are one of us. You are wonderfully made.’ “

You can read “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations” in full, and sign it, by clicking here.  The deadline for signing the statement is December 31, 2016.  Copies of the the statement and the signers’ names will be sent to:

  • Pope Francis
  • Cardinal Beniamino Sella, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy
  • Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • The many gay priests that New Ways Ministry is in touch with.

We also encourage you to alert the gay priests and seminarians that you know to see the support which they have received from Catholics around the world. Do so after the deadline of December 31, 2016, so that they can see the full list.

We want this statement to let Church leaders know that Catholics welcome the ministry of gay men in the priesthood and do not want a ban on their admission to seminaries and ordination. We also want this statement to let gay priests know that Catholics stand with them through this latest attack on their dignity and integrity.

Please share the statement with friends of yours so that they can sign it, too.   Send them this URL:

http://bit.ly/ThankGayPriests

Use your social media and email contacts to spread the word!

–Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 9, 2016