Would Pope Francis Condemn or Defend LGBT Church Workers?

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 15, 2016

The recent, terrible trend of Church employees being fired because of LGBT issues raises many questions about justice, equality, and human rights in the Catholic community. An Associated Press reporter also identified another important tension that this trend highlights. Michelle Smith noted that this trend also shows “the confusion that permeates some U.S. Roman Catholic parishes over Pope Francis’ words on homosexuality.”

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Michael Templeton

Many of Bondings 2.0’s readers have often wondered in their comments why Pope Francis, who seems concerned with pastoral outreach to LGBT people, has not become involved in the too many examples of church workers being fired because of a pastor’s or bishop’s disapproval of LGBT issues. Reporter Smith examined this question using the recent case of Michael Templeton, a Providence, Rhode Island, parish music director who was fired for marrying his male partner.

Smith notes that in this case:

“Francis is being cited by both the music director, Michael Templeton, and by Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin, known for taking a hard line on church teaching about marriage and abortion. Tobin has criticized Francis, writing after the pope’s summit on the family two years ago that ‘Francis is fond of “creating a mess.” Mission accomplished.’ “

The pope’s positive statements on LGBT people have been mixed with traditional orthodox defenses of heterosexual marriage, thus making the positive statements “a Rorschach test open to interpretation,” observes Smith. The reporter summed up this problem with a quote from a theological expert:

” ‘Pope Francis has not said, “Here’s what you should do in a parish where you have a music director who has married his partner of the same sex,”  said the Rev. James T. Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College. ‘Pope Francis is articulating general principles: forgiveness and mercy and not harsh judgment. But how you handle a particular case like this, he has been very reluctant to weigh in on it.’

“That means a gay Catholic’s fate depends on his diocese or individual pastor.”

Bishop Thomas Tobin
Bishop Thomas Tobin

As Bondings 2.0 reported previously, Bishop Tobin had released a statement citing Pope Francis’ statements and actions to defend the firing of Templeton.  (Yet, not all of Tobin’s supposed precedents are relevant.  For instance, the bishop said Francis fired Msgr. Kryzstof Charamsa of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for coming out as gay and acknowledging he was in a relationship.  Yet, more likely is that the prefect of the CDF fired Charamsa, and, in any case, the examples are not parallel since Charamsa was ordained.)

Smith offered a few recent examples that show the mixed messages that Francis has been giving:

“Francis underscored his emphasis on mercy over defending orthodoxy with his first U.S. picks for cardinals, announced Sunday, choosing bishops who have taken a more welcoming approach to gays and others who have felt alienated from the church.

“Asked this month about how he would minister to transgender Catholics, Francis responded: ‘When someone who has this condition comes before Jesus, Jesus would surely never say, “Go away because you’re gay.” ‘

“At the same time, he recently supported Mexican bishops working against a push to legalize same-sex marriage.”

The mixed messages may be indicative of how far–or not–Francis wants to go.  Smith cited Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry:

“Before Francis, ‘people were afraid to even say the words gay or lesbian,’ DeBernardo said. ‘I do think he’s taken an important step that could lead to further steps. I’m not certain, I don’t think he will make a change in church doctrine, but I think he is laying the groundwork for future changes.’ “

Pope Francis may not opine directly about a specific church worker firing or even the trend of firings now being experienced, but a close reading of his writings clarifies how he might respond. In Evangelii Gaudium, the pope warned against pastoral workers who exhibit a “spiritual worldliness,” manifest in one form as the “self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism” of church officials who act as if they are superior to others. Francis commented:

“A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.”

Where a church worker is fired for their gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, or political beliefs, church leaders have harmfully analyzed and classified that person strictly according to their gender and sexuality. Right-wing Catholics have expended themselves inspecting and verifying, and then publicly outing and shaming too many LGBT people in the church.

For those who think Pope Francis has made a mess of the Church, like Bishop Tobin has expressed, they would do well to ponder the words of Cardinal-elect Kevin Farrell who recently said, “If you find Pope Francis ‘confusing’ – you have not read or do not understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

In Evangelii Gaudium and elsewhere, Francis condemns church ministers whose foremost attitude is not mercy. Foremost for the pope is to see every person as beloved by God, and he consistently attacks each and every effort which reduces the mystery of the human person to something less than a child of God.

Like all of us, Francis is human and he is clearly grappling to understand sexuality and gender, confined as he may be by his own limitations and contexts. His outreach to LGBT people is as notable as it is imperfect, but on this point we can be clear: one can find no support for discriminating against LGBT church workers in the pastoral witness of Pope Francis.

 

Prayers, Please

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 13, 2016

New Ways Ministry comes to you, our readers, with a request for prayers for a dear friend of our ministry and of LGBT Catholics. We learned yesterday evening that Professor Leslie Griffin, a leading scholar on the intersection of religion and law, was brutally attacked while jogging in her home city of Henderson, Nevada, and is now in the hospital in critical condition.

Professor Leslie Griffin

Professor Griffin, who holds the William S. Boyd Chair of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Law School,  has written extensively on questions of religious liberty. She has defended the rights of religious institutions, but also the rights of LGBT people and other minorities who suffer discrimination because of an institution’s religious identity.  She has also worked on several cases defending people unjustly treated by religious institutions. Professor Griffin is scheduled to be a keynote speaker at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis,” at the end of April 2017.  She will be speaking on the topic “Religious Liberty, Employment, and LGBT Issues,” an area in which she has done much academic and practical research.

According to police reports, Professor Griffin was attacked while jogging near her home, and her attacker lifted her in the air and threw her to the ground.  The brutality of the attack is beyond words.  A good samaritan passing by came to her aid and helped convince the assailant to speak with the police.

In addition to her academic credentials in the field of law, Professor Griffin also has a PhD in Religious Studies from Yale University. She has been an associate professor of moral theology at the University of Notre Dame before turning to the study of law.  While at Notre Dame in the 1980s, she met New Ways Ministry’s co-founder Fr. Robert Nugent, SDS, while he was studying there, and became a decades-long friend and supporter of our ministry.

New Ways Ministry is heartbroken to learn the terrible news of the attack on Leslie Griffin.  Feeling helpless, as many do in similar situations, we turn to prayer. And we turn to you, our friends, for prayers for this  woman who has dedicated her life building a just church and world.  Leslie is a gentle soul, with a big heart, and who despite her academic accomplishments, is a humble and unassuming personality.

Please keep Leslie and her family in prayer.  Please pray for her full and speedy recovery. Please pray, too, for her assailant. Thank you.

Related articles

AboveTheLaw.com: “Law Professor Left in Critical Condition After Brutal Attack”

News3LV.com: “UNLV law professor in critical condition after brutal attack in Henderson”

 

Spirit Day 2016: Catholics Should Go Purple!

By Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, October 8, 2016

New Ways Ministry encourages all of our readers to join us in participating in this year’s Spirit Day on Thursday, October 20th, 2016.

Spirit Day is an international event organized by GLAAD to raise awareness of anti-LGBT bullying and bias in schools. The first Spirit Day was in 2010, when 1.6 million Facebook users in 2010, according to ABC, joined GLAAD by integrating purple into their social media posts.

According to GLAAD, LGBT students experience high rates of bullying from both their peers and their school teachers and staff. In most cases, when bullying was reported the school staff did not intervene. The following  GLAAD visuals show specific statistics from this year’s Spirit Day Resource Kit.

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Our Catholic Context

In an America magazine post days before the 2012 Spirit Day, Fr. James Martin, SJ, encouraged all Catholics, regardless of their views on LGBT equality, to take heed of Spirit Day. He told readers:

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that gays and lesbians should be treated with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity,’ and that ‘every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’ … For Catholics overall it is an opportunity to demonstrate their ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity’ for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and thus heed the call of the Catechism.”

A New Ways Ministry Campaign

New Ways Ministry has published a brochure (see below) for Catholic schools, colleges, and universities explaining Spirit Day, why Catholic schools need to participate, and connecting the mission of Spirit to the call from the Catechism. We hope that Catholic educational institutions will use this resource to both better understand the problem their LGBT students face and to take action on Spirit Day and beyond.

Click here to download a PDF of the brochure.

Participate Now!

Pledge to go purple for #SpiritDay
Wear purple on Thursday, October 20, 2016.
Join #SpiritDay on Facebook
Join New Ways Ministry’s new hashtag campaign: #LGBTmercy
Use these too:
#SpiritDayAtCatholicSchool, #SpiritDay, #SpiritDay2016, @NewWaysMinistry, @GLAAD
Tweet to your school about #SpiritDay
Tweet the pope! @Pontifex
Check out the #SpiritDay Resource Kit
Learn how to stop anti-LGBT bullying with GLAAD’s kit for students and the kit for parents and educators.
Sign up to be a #SpiritDay partner
Download the #SpiritDay App
Spread the Word
On Spirit Day, use GLAAD’s  pre-made print-outs, available here or below.

 

New #LGBTmercy Campaign Focuses on LGBT Catholics’ Good Works

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 2, 2016

LGBT Catholics, their families, and their allies are gathering in New York City today for a “Pilgrimage of Mercy.” And around the world every day, LGBT Catholics perform works of mercy for the needy in their communities.  These works sometimes get overlooked by church leaders who don’t take notice of the good that LGBT people do. #LGBTmercy, a new campaign by New Ways Ministry, highlights the many ways by which LGBT Catholics and those who support them act mercifully.

Today’s Bondings 2.0 post invites readers to participate in this campaign, while also highlighting one lesbian woman whose Catholic roots have propelled her to do good.

#LGBTmercy

Building on the Vatican’s #BeMercy initiative in early September, which asked Catholics to share information about the works of mercy they perform, #LGBTmercy recognizes the many gifts and contributions which LGBT Catholics, their families, and their allies offer to the church and to the world.

You are invited to participate in this campaign in three ways:

  1. Post on social media the acts of mercy yourself or others have done and use the hashtag #LGBTmercy
  2. Submit photos and/or text about the acts of mercy yourself or others have done to info@newwaysministry.org.
  3. Send this blog post to your family and friends, and ask them to help spread the good news of #LGBTmercy

New Ways Ministry will begin posting photos, videos, and text submissions in early November, leading up to  Christ the King Sunday, November 20th,  when the Year of Mercy concludes.

One Lesbian Woman’s Story

Covenant House, a leading non-profit with Catholic roots that aids youth experiencing homelessness, has named a lesbian woman as interim director of its newest shelter, which is located in Chicago, reported the Windy City Times.

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Teresa Cortas

Teresa Cortas, who herself has Catholic roots, began working with Covenant House after graduating college. She spent a year in Anchorage, Alaska, and then Los Angeles, before eventually ending up in Chicago. There, she worked with homeless populations and with HIV-positive women and children for nearly two decades.

Early on, Cortas worked with youth around her age who were questioning their sexual identity and some who had suffered for coming out. She had journeyed herself, and explained that in adolescence church teachings had “essentially ‘shut down’ the exploration of her own sexuality.” Cortas grappled with questions of faith and sexuality while attending The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC,saying:

” I was sorting out what my attachment was to the faith. . .as opposed to ‘is there a faith separate from the church and, if so, what does that look like?’ I lived a lot in my head. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I really began to realize who I was. Prior to that, even though I was approached by many women, it never really occurred to me.

“Then it was conversations of ‘God punishing drug addicts and homosexual men’. . .At the time, I was confused because you could have said the same thing about God giving a person cancer to punish who they were. I was also intrigued to find out more about the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic.”

Cortas eventually came out to her traditionally Catholic family, her parents expressing concern she would get HIV/AIDS or be damned for leaving the church. While she no longer identifies as a practicing Catholic, Cortas still struggles with being forced to leave because “the church has asked me not to be” a member.

Years later, Cortas’ connections with the church have made possible a Covenant House shelter in Chicago. She knew President Kevin Ryan from college and had connected with former president Sr. Mary Rose McGeady. DC, in her earlier work. Cortas pushed them to bring a shelter to Chicago, and now that it has finally happened, she expressed hope and readiness about this new venture:

“Is it going to be an easy process? Not at all. . .I think Chicago has extraordinary youth agencies. My experience with them has been phenomenal. The problem is there is not enough. There is not enough space. The number of homeless kids . . . is astonishing and unacceptable and we have to do something about that.”

Cortas added that it “takes a lot of courage for us to be something other than our families. . .I don’t think enough LGBT [people] realize that. But when you do, you can really begin to fight.”

 

A New Look for New Ways Ministry’s Bondings 2.0 Starts Today!

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 1, 2016

Starting today,  Bondings 2.0 will have a new look.  We hope that this new look will enhance your reading experience. Nothing has changed editorially  in terms of content.  We will still be striving to provide our readers with the best and most important Catholic LGBT news and opinion from around the globe.    Please let us know what you think through the “Comments” section of this post.

Now is a good time, too, to review some of blog’s policies concerning “Comments.”  We welcome and encourage comments from readers.  The blog’s editors view this venue as a community of discussion, not just a place for us to provide information.  To keep the discussion safe for all, we have developed a set of guidelines which we use to moderate comments from readers.  Some of these guidelines are very common to many blogs and some are particular to ours:

Common to many blogs:
1. No obscenities or anything offensive
2. No personal attacks or name-calling
3. Be relevant to the material posted
4. Argue politely
5. Avoid sarcasm
6. Nothing that is patently self-promotional

Particular guidelines for our blog:
1. Nothing that would be pastorally harmful to our readers (e.g.,  “you are going to hell,”  “gays are evil,”  etc.)
2. No condemning people–even people who are anti-LGBT
3. No blanket calls to leave the Catholic Church, or invitations to join other churches (e.g.. “I can’t believe any sane LGBT person remains Catholic” or “If you don’t like what the Catholic Church teaches, you should just go and find a different church.”)

We also would like you to know that the editors welcome submissions for guest blog posts from our readers.  Posts should be between 650-900 words and should be on topics which are both Catholic and LGBT in content.  We welcome all sorts of genres:  opinion pieces, news reports, spiritual reflections, personal stories, and other forms, too.  You can send any submissions to director@NewWaysMinistry.org.

Please know that if you ever want to support this blog financially, it’s as easy as clicking on the “Contribute” tab at the top of this page and filling out the donation form.  In the comments section of this form, please write the word “blog,” so that we know where you want your donation to go.  We appreciate any gift you would like to make.  If you want to contribute now, just click here.   If you want to donate by check, please send a check made out to “New Ways Ministry” to 4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20712.  To contribute over the phone, please call 301-277-5674.  All contributions are tax-deductible.

You can also support the blog by letting your friends know about it.  Please encourage them to follow the blog by entering their email address in the “Follow” box at the top of the column on the right side of this page.

Finally,  please know that we greatly appreciate your support, in whatever form it takes, and we are inspired by the many diverse ways that you are helping to build a more welcoming, just, and equal church for LGBT people. Your energy and interest is what inspires us to do the work of providing you with blog posts every day. God bless you!

Fr. James Martin to Receive New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award

For an updated version of this page, please click here. 

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Fr. James Martin, SJ

New Ways Ministry is proud to announce the presentation of our Bridge Building Award to Father James Martin, SJ, in recognition of his ministry of communication which has helped to expand the dialogue on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church.

The award will be presented at a ceremony on Sunday, October 30, 2016, 2:00-5:00 p.m., at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 1726 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, Maryland, 21208 (near Baltimore).  Immediately following the presentation Fr. Martin will offer remarks.  An hors d’oeuvre reception will conclude the event.


For information on attending the award ceremony for Fr. Martin, click here

For information on honoring Fr. Martin on this occasion, click here.


Fr. Martin serves as Editor At Large for America magazine, the national Jesuit opinion journal.  In addition, he is one of the most widely recognized Catholic personalities on social media, with a Facebook following of close to half a million people.  Fr. Martin has used his communication skills and channels to allow for an extensive discussion of LGBT issues among Catholics of varying ideologies.

To read all of Bondings 2.0 blog posts which refer to Fr. Martin, click here.

New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award honors those individuals who by their scholarship, leadership, or witness have promoted discussion, understanding, and reconciliation between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church. The award was first given in 1992 to Father Charles Curran, a renowned moral theologian. Other awardees were: Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (1995);  Sister Margaret Farley, RSM (2002); Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata (2005); John J. McNeill (2009).

The October 30th award ceremony and reception are open to the public. A suggested donation is $35 per person (all are welcome regardless of ability to donate). If you would like to attend the event, please click here, and fill out the form by October 20th.

If you would like to honor Fr. Martin’s achievements in a special way, New Ways Ministry invites you to have your name or your organization’s name listed in the program booklet for the event.  You may choose to be listed in one of the following categories:

  • Patron ($1,000 donation)
  • Benefactor ($500 donation)
  • Supporter ($250 donation)
  • Contributor ($100 donation)
  • Friend ($50 donation)

To have your name or organization’s name listed, please click here and fill out the form by Ocvtober 7th.

If you have any problems with the online form, please contact New Ways Ministry at 301-277-5674 or info@NewWaysMinistry.org.

Father Martin is the author and editor of numerous books including Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus, and The Abbey: A Story of Discovery. His 2014 publication  Jesus: A Pilgrimage was a New York Times bestseller and won both a Christopher Award and a Catholic Press Association Award. Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life was named as one of “Best Books” of 2011 by Publishers Weekly.

His book on Jesuit spirituality The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, a New York Times bestseller, was awarded a 2010 Christopher Award, and was also a number one bestseller in Catholic books.  His memoir My Life with the Saints (Loyola, 2006), which received a 2007 Christopher Award, was named one of the “Best Books” of 2006 by Publishers Weekly, and also received a First Place award from the Catholic Press Association.  Together on Retreat: Meeting Jesus in Prayer is an e-book that uses the technology of the e-reader to lead readers on a guided retreat.

For further information call (301) 277-5674 or email info@NewWaysMinistry.org

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Gay Priest Already Fired from Job, Now Suspended from Ministry by Archdiocese

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Fr. Warren Hall

Fr. Warren Hall, an openly gay priest who was fired from Seton Hall University last year, has now been suspended from ministry in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, reported Religion News Service.

Hall was informed that his priestly faculties were being revoked because, according to Newark Archbishop John Myers, his actions were”confusing the faithful.” These actions have included support for unofficial LGBT events at World Youth Day this past July, along with support for PFLAG New Jersey, Gays Against Guns, and New Ways Ministry.

Hall has also publicly supported fired lesbian educator Kate Drumgoole, whom Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey fired last January after her same-gender marriage became known to school officials.

Hall himself was fired as the Seton Hall’s director of campus ministry in May 2015 after posting a NOH8 Campaign photo of himself on social media. He later came out as a gay man, and was assigned to assist at two parishes in New Jersey. Hall commented to RNS:

” ‘The problem is that we have an archbishop who doesn’t believe you can be gay and Catholic. . .Since my firing from Seton Hall and coming out last year I felt an obligation to use this as an opportunity to more directly let people know of God’s love for all of us and that gay Catholics should stay in the church and work for more wider acceptance. . .I do not feel I ever preached or taught anything contrary to the Gospel (and) this is true from my entire 27 years of ordination.’ “

Myers, who turned 75 this year, has already submitted his resignation letter to Pope Francis.  Additionally, the Vatican had already assigned a coadjutor to assist him in administering the archdiocese.  Both Myers and the Archdiocese are defending their suspension of Fr. Hall as consistent with a priest’s vow of obedience.

The following is the statement of New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo on the suspension of Fr. Warren Hall:

“By all accounts, Fr. Warren Hall has been a caring, compassionate, and faithful Catholic priest. But there’s one more important adjective to describe him: courageous. He has courageously stood by the LGBT community, taking personal risks to let them know that God loves them unconditionally.

“Fr. Hall first leaped into the pages of the news in 2015 when he was fired from his chaplaincy at Seton Hal University. His supposed crime: on Facebook, he supported the NOH8 campaign, an LGBT equal rights crusade with a strong anti-bullying focus.

“Later he took a more personal and courageous step by coming out publicly as a gay man. Throughout the media blitz that ensued, he also continually professed his love for the Church and for his priesthood. Fr. Hall has ministered to and with LGBT people in the New York City metro region, being a sign of hope and welcome to many.

“Archbishop Myers’ decision to remove Fr. Hall’s faculties exposes a weakness: by doing so, the archbishop is saying that his church fears associating with LGBT people—a fear which is contrary to the gospel. Myers’ authoritarian style, evidenced by his years as archbishop of Newark, is one that is on the wane in the U.S. church, and around the globe.

“Fr. Hall’s ministry with LGBT people is in line with the Church’s own authentic teaching that its ministers must reach out to all those who have been marginalized. He is in line with Pope Francis’ more pastoral and welcoming approach towards LGBT people.

“It is painful that Fr. Hall has had to suffer such an unjust penalty from an archbishop who is soon to be replaced because of his looming retirement. Our God, who is a God of surprises and blessings, surely has some good in store for this priest who has been such a good and faithful servant to the Church community.

“New Ways Ministry is proud that earlier this summer Fr. Hall agreed to lead a workshop on the topic of gay men in the priesthood and religious life at our organization’s Eighth National Symposium on Catholicism and LGBT People, to be held in Chicago, April 28-30, 2017. Because of this latest ordeal, his presentation will further show his strength of character, faithfulness to God, and devoted service to those shunned by dictatorial Church leaders.’

To DeBernardo’s statement I would add that there does not seem to be much good in removing a faithful priest from celebrating the Sacraments or being a positive face for the church in Newark.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry