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

 

 

New Ways Ministry Launches Symposium Website!

New Ways Ministry has launched a website with information and registration materials for its Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss:  LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis,” scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, Chicago.

newwayssymp-draft_03-01By going to www.Symposium2017.org, you will find all the information you will need about speakers, program, schedule, travel and hotel discounts–and even a form to register online!

Sign-up by December 31, 2016 to receive a substantial discount on the registration fee!

The Eighth National Symposium is looking to be the best one ever!  With Pope Francis in the Vatican, we are living in a new moment in our Church.  We’ve seen the opening of a dialogue on LGBT issues, but we’ve also seen that repressive practices and policies continue, too.  How to make sense of this new situation?

The program is designed for church leaders and ministers, parents, LGBT people, members of religious communities, and all who are interested in building a more welcoming and inclusive Catholic Church.

Our plenary speakers will cover some of the most pressing topics of our day:

  • Lisa Fullam, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, will discuss “Sexual Ethics and Same-Sex Marriage”
  • Leslie GriffinUniversity of Nevada, Las Vegas, Law School, will examine “Religious Liberty, Employment, and LGBT Issues”
  • Rev. Bryan Massingale, Fordham University, will speak about “Pope Francis, Social Ethics, and LGBT People”
  • Frank Mugisha, Sexual Minorities Uganda, will report on “The Catholic Church, Criminalization Laws and the LGBT Experience in Uganda”
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Lisa Fullam
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Leslie Griffin
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Rev. Bryan Massingale
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

 

 

 

 

 

In addition, the weekend includes some exciting prayer experiences:

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Bishop John Stowe
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Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
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Sr. Simone Campbell

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to these main events,  the symposium includes break-out sessions on the following topics:

  • transgender and intersex family issues
  • youth and LGBT topics
  • gay priests
  • lesbian nuns
  • LGBT ministry in the Hispanic community
  • parish outreach
  • LGBT church worker justice

And, of course, there will be opportunities to network with hundreds of Catholics from many different parts of the U.S. and the globe about the challenges and joys of advocating for LGBT people.

Our website, www.Symposium2017.org, has all the information you need to plan your participation at the symposium.  If you have any additional questions, please contact our office at info@NewWaysMinistry.org or (301)277-5674.

Register today to reserve a space and to get a great discount!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 6, 2016

 

 

 

Five Years–And Counting!!!

Time really does fly when you’re having fun!  I can’t believe that it was five years ago today that I sat down at my computer at New Ways Ministry and typed into Google the words “how to start a blog.”  I spent the day learning about platforms and scheduling, and by the time 5:00 p.m.rolled around, I had my very first post for a blog I dubbed Bondings 2.0.  The Bondings part of the name was taken from New Ways Ministry’s paper newsletter, published continuously since 1978.  The 2.0 part was a nod to the fact that this was a social media version of Catholic LGBT news.

I started the blog that day with the hope that I would post something three times a week.  However, I so much enjoyed the work of blogging that I found myself posting every single day.  And for the past five years, we have put up at least one post (sometimes two or three) every single day.  This isn’t just bragging about our epistolary stamina.  The fact that there is something to post every single day for five years attests to the fact that Catholic LGBT news and opinion has blossomed and is one of the main stories of our contemporary world.

One of the main joys of this work is that I get to interact with wonderful people:  our readers!  Your comments on individual posts have helped to open my eyes to perspectives and information that are truly enlightening.  I’m grateful, too, to the many readers who send me “tips” in the form of news links to articles I might have missed.

I also have been blessed with great co-workers over the years who have kept this blog vibrant.  Of course, at the top of this list is Bob Shine, a tireless writer and investigator who does the lion’s share of the work in producing posts week in and week out.  And of course, my colleagues at New Ways Ministry who have written several posts over the years–Sr. Jeannine Gramick, Matt Myers, Cynde Nordone, Glen Bradley–have also added to this great conversation.

Last, but not least, are our guest contributors, too many to mention by name, but whose writings have brought new dimensions to this ongoing conversation.  Our latest guest contributor debuted yesterday, in an Advent Scriptural reflection series written by young LGBTQ theologians.

Only twice a year do we come to our readers and ask for financial support for this project.  Tomorrow is “Giving Tuesday,”  a day set aside to make holiday donations to non-profit organizations and charities.  We would be deeply honored if you could assist this blog project by making New Ways Ministry one of your charitable donations this year.   You can donate by clicking here, filling out the form, and writing “blog” in the comments box at the end of the form.  You don’t have to wait until Tuesday to make your donation.  Do it today so that you don’t forget!   Of course, your donation is tax-deductible.

If you prefer not to donate on-line, you can call our office 301-277-5674, during business hours, Eastern U.S. time, and we can take your credit card information over the phone.  Or you can send a check made to “New Ways Ministry” to 4012 – 29th Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20712.  However you decide to donate, your gift is tax-deductible.

At this anniversary time, we also like to let folks know about our criteria for approving “Comments” to individual blog posts.  Some of the criteria are very common to many blogs and some are particular to ours. Here are the guidelines that we use:

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,”  “God hates gays,”  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, “All LGBT people should leave Catholicism,”  “I don’t know why you all don’t become Protestant”).

Blogging has been a wonderful adventure these past five years!  Each day, we learn something new.  We look forward to many more adventurous years with you in the future!  Thanks so much for being a part of this online community!

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

Counting Our Blessings and Giving Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving to all Bondings 2.0 readers! We hope that you have much to be thankful for this year.

At New Ways Ministry, we are particularly grateful for all those people around the globe who support us spiritually, financially, and in many other ways great and small.  We are also thankful for all our blog readers and commenters.  Your thoughts and reflections make this site a wonderful place for discussing Catholic LGBT issues.

Our tradition on Bondings 2.0 for Thanksgiving is to gather thoughts of gratitude New Ways Ministry’s volunteers, board members, and staff. Their reflections are below.

What are you thankful for this year, especially items that may pertain to Catholic LGBT issues? We invite you to share your items in the “Comments” section of this post.

Glen Bradley, Staff Associate:

I am thankful for all the inclusive and supportive people in my life who helped me find God’s love for everyone, including myself.  I am also thankful for all the safe spaces that our LGBTQ+ siblings and allies build with great devotion, particularly those prophetic spaces in Catholicism.

Mary and Joseph Byers, Board Members:

This Thanksgiving, as all other Thanksgivings and always,  we are grateful for our blended family of gay sons and straight daughters.  They are a blessing to us and each other.  Together they bring joy to our family and a shining example to others.

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director:

This year, I am thankful that so many Catholics are speaking out about LGBT equality.  I’ve worked in this field for 24 years, and I can’t remember a year when so much discussion has happened as in this past year.  We may not have achieved our dream of full equality in church and society, but I think we have reached a point where the discussion cannot be stopped.

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, Co-Founder:

I am grateful that Pope Francis recently named three U.S. cardinals who smell like the sheep and are not afraid to defend their sheep. I’m thinking, in particular about Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s new Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, who said he does not agree with Archbishop Chaput’s guidelines that exclude LGBT people from church ministries and same-gender couples from Communion. These “Francis bishops” give me hope for the future of the Church and LGBT ministry.

Brother Brian McLauchlin, SVD, Volunteer:

I am grateful for Church hierarchy who are willing to speak out on behalf of LGBT people and issues.  Bishop McElroy of San Diego, for instance, who named the anti-gay prejudice in connection to the Pulse nightclub massacre.  In general, I think Bishop McElroy is someone who would be willing and able to dialogue on LGBT issues.  Also, I am grateful that noted members of the clergy, like James Martin, SJ, speak out in favor of LGBT people.  I pray that next year, I will be even more grateful that more and more bishops and members of the hierarchy will address LGBT issues and open themselves up to constructive dialogue.
Robert Shine, Social Media Coordinator:
I am grateful for:
1. Younger LGBTQ theologians who are helping to guide the church into healthier and more liberating understanding of gender and sexuality;
2. Transgender Catholics who call our church to greater fidelity to the Gospel by courageously sharing their stories and educating others on trans realities;
3. Catholic youth and young adults who reject treatment from church leaders that is anything but fully equal and respectful of LGBTQ people, and seek a church that is “a home for all.”

Vern Smith, Volunteer:

I am thankful for those individuals who, when treated with bigotry and injustice by the church hierarchy, have spoken out and told their stories.  Many have lost their jobs or their ministries merely because they were married or came out as LGBT+.  I have heard so many painful, touching, and courageous stories by those who experienced terrible treatment by their official church.  They are powerful, important stories that must be heard. I am so thankful that the spirit has moved them to speak out honestly, in their own voices, bringing light to the implications of hierarchical actions.

Cristina Traina, Board Member:

I am grateful for :

1.LGBTQ Catholic groups, both local and national, especially the group at my parish, St. Nicholas, in Evanston, Illinois.  Thanks to you all for your faithfulness, joy, hospitality, and visible involvement in parish life;

2. Catholic theologians and ethicists, because throughout Catholic history major changes in official teaching have come after they have laid the groundwork for it;
3. Gay and lesbian parents, whose matter-of-fact involvement in the church life is a quiet witness of hope.

Pilgrimage of Mercy Stressed Reconciliation Between LGBT People and Bishops

Last month’s “Pilgrimage of Mercy,” sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association of Notre Dame and St. Mary College, was a plea for extending mutual mercy between the LGBT community and the institutional Catholic Church.

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Piligrimage organizer Greg Bourke welcomes the participants. (All photos in this post by Glen Bradley/New Ways Ministry)

The march, which began in New York City’s Central Park, paused for a prayer rally at Columbus Circle, and concluded by participating in the Sunday liturgy at St. Paul the Apostle parish, attracted about 50 participants.   Greg Bourke, a gay Notre Dame alumnus who organized the event, explained to The Observer the intention of the program:

” ‘What we wanted to show with this pilgrimage is that being merciful and forgiving is an interactive process,’ Bourke said. ‘We extended our forgiveness and mercy to the Catholic Church, and we ask for those same things in return.’

“Bourke said the rally was meant to be ‘an expression of faithful LGBTQ Catholics.’

” ‘There are many of us, and Pope Francis has started to push that door open for us,’ he said, referring to the statements the pope has made on LGBTQ issues.”

He expressed a similar sentiment to The National Catholic Reporter:

“We are both seeking mercy from our church, and in return we offer mercy and forgiveness to all those in our Church who have not been so gracious to us in the past,” said Bourke.

The idea of LGBT people and the institutional church showing mutual respect to one another was the theme of Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s talk when he accepted New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award last Sunday.  You can read his talk by clicking here.

Bourke also recalled Notre Dame’s legendary president, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, as an inspiration for the event:

” ‘By supporting the civil rights movement among conservative circles, he [Hesburgh]was ahead of the curve in many ways,’ Bourke said. ‘Now, he is respected and admired for that courage.’

“Bourke said a main theme in the day’s speeches was the need for mutual reconciliation. 

” ‘We all need to give a little and work better at understanding each other,’ he said. ‘We need to find that area we can agree on.’ . . . 

” ‘We need someone willing to take a controversial stand, someone within Catholic leadership and the Catholic community,’ Bourke said. ‘Notre Dame could do that.’ “

The event was modeled on a similar Pilgrimage of Mercy in Louisville, Kentucky, held earlier this year.

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Phil Donahue addresses the pilgrims.

At the New York event, legendary television talk show host Phil Donahue was one of the speakers at the prayer rally.  Other speakers included: Jack Bergen, of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College; Chris Hartman of Catholics for Fairness; Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry executive director; Fr. Warren Hall, an openly priest from the Newark archdiocese who was recently because of his support for LGBT issues; Dave Swinarski, a St. Paul’s parishioner and a leader of their OUT at St.Paul’s LGBT ministry; and Holly Cargill-Cramer and Rosemary Grebin Palms of Fortunate Families.

Legendary television talk show host Phil Donahue was one of the speakers at the prayer rally.  Other speakers included: Jack Bergen, of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College; Chris Hartman of Catholics for Fairness; Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry executive director; Fr. Warren Hall, an openly priest from the Newark archdiocese who was recently because of his support for LGBT issues; Dave Swinarski, a St. Paul’s parishioner and a leader of their OUT at St.Paul’s LGBT ministry; and Holly Cargill-Cramer and Rosemary Grebin Palms of Fortunate Families.

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Francis DeBernardo speaks at rally. Pilgrim Leonard Discenza listens in background.

At the rally, DeBernardo called for greater conversation between bishops and LGBT people:

“This morning, all of us gathered here renew our call to our church, and especially to our church’s leaders, the U.S. bishops, to reject homophobic and transphobic words and deeds of the past, and instead to reach out in a spirit of mercy to LGBT Catholics who are an important but often under-recognized blessing to our Church.  And we ask LGBT Catholics to show mercy to church leaders for past harm, to offer forgiveness and reconciliation to them, just as Jesus offered forgiveness and reconciliation to Peter who denied him three times.

“In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we ask the bishops to remember the words of Pope Francis, spoken in a homily soon after his election in 2013, when he said that from Jesus ‘we do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation.’  This year of mercy is a time to begin the conversation. It’s a time for both the church’s bishops and LGBT Catholics to sit down together in humble and honest dialogue. May the Spirit of God open minds, hearts, ears, and mouths so that this dialogue can take place with understanding and charity.”

The Pilgrimage was co-sponsored by the following organizations: Catholics for FairnessGLAAD, HRC, New Ways Ministry, Equality Blessed, Dignity/USADignity/New York, Freedom for All Americans, Out At St Paul, Fortunate Families and Believe Out Loud.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 3, 2016

 

“There Is No Place for Homophobia,” Pope Francis Told Gay Former Student

Pope Francis explicitly rejected homophobia in his pastoral ministry, according to the pope’s former student and friend Yayo Grassi.

 

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Yayo Grassi

In impromptu remarks during New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award Ceremony on Sunday, Grassi, who made headlines in 2015 because of his personal meeting with Pope Francis in Washington, DC,  shared about his relationship with the pope and Francis’ approach to homosexuality, saying:

 

“I have known Pope Francis since he was my teacher, my professor in high school when I was seventeen years old. I know that he knew then that I was gay, and we have been friends ever since. I visited him in Rome and then we visited when he came to Washington. He met who was at the time my boyfriend both times, and he’s always asking about him.”

Grassi and his partner met with Francis in Washington, D.C. during the 2015 papal visit to the United States last fall. This private meeting was made public after it was alleged the pope had met with and blessed Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who had denied marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Grassi told reporters at the time he felt he needed to defend his friend, the pope, from unfair criticism.

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Fr. James Martin, SJ, and Yayo Grassi

Grassi also told attendees at the New Ways Ministry event (which honored Jesuit Fr. James Martin for promoting dialogue in the church on LGBT issues) about an exchange he had with the pope, when Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina:

“When the gay marriage law was being discussed in the Senate in Argentina, I read on the internet that then-Cardinal Bergoglio was very much against it and that he had said really painful and hateful things about the approval of the law. I was very surprised. I was very surprised more than anything else because knowing him, and knowing how much love there is in his heart, it was difficult for me to understand that he would do such a hateful thing. . .

“So I wrote him a quite extensive letter. I sent him an email telling him how much I admire him, how important he was in my life, and how much he did for me. How he had brought forward through his education the most open and progressive thought in my life. And then I went on saying, I will never be able to thank you, so you might think its a very strange way to thank you if I tell you I’m very disappointed by the way you treated the gay [marriage] law.”

Cardinal Bergoglio replied to Grassi’s letter in two days. He first asked forgiveness because of the hurt his former student felt and continued, as paraphrased by Grassi:

“Believe me I never said any of those things. The press picked up from two letters that I sent to the nuns asking them not to give any kind of opinion on this, and they were distorted and they were put as my words.”

Concluding his brief remarks, Grassi offered what he considered to be “the most beautiful thing. . .the most amazing thing” about Pope Francis, which came at the end of that reply letter:

“[Bergoglio in 2008] ends his letter, besides asking me to pray for him as he always does, saying, ‘Yayo, believe me, in my pastoral work, there is no place for homophobia.’ And that is the first time that I realized what an amazing person he was. He not only said, ‘Who am I to judge?’, there is something very important that he said later, he said ‘Who are we to judge?’. . .The we was the whole church, and the whole humankind.”

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Yayo Grassi offering his thoughts at the Bridge Building Award ceremony

Fr. Martin’s address was about bridge building, an invitation to a two-way bridge on which LGBT communities and the institutional church can dialogue. You can read a report on the address here. What Grassi’s experiences with Pope Francis reveal is a model for just how the institutional church can be changed by encounter and by friendship.

Equally important, however, is the necessity for church leaders to explicitly and unequivocally reject homophobia in the church and in society. It would be a wonderful step towards building bridges if the supreme pontiff in the church, Pope Francis, were to publicly declare what he told Grassi privately, that “in my pastoral work, there is no place for homophobia.”

Watch Yayo Grassi’s full remarks below or by clicking here.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 1, 2016