Will Pope Francis Meet With Sister Jeannine Gramick and LGBT Catholics?

January 26, 2015
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Since becoming pope in March 2013, one of Pope Francis’ most endearing habits has been making phone calls or writing notes to ordinary people, and even sometimes meeting with them in a personal encounter.

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick

So, is it too much to hope that he might meet with friends of New Ways Ministry when Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder, leads a pilgrimage of LGBT and ally Catholics to Rome in February?

Well,  knowing from first-hand experience that stranger things have definitely happened,  and that God truly does move in mysterious ways, Sister Jeannine has written to Pope Francis asking him if he had some time in his busy papal schedule to meet with these 50 people who are traveling to Italy to visit shrines, churches, and monuments in not only the Eternal City, but Florence, and Assisi, as well.

In her December 23, 2014, letter to the pontiff, Sr. Jeannine wrote, in part:

“I am one of your multi-billion+ fans! On my computer is a round decal with your picture and the words, ‘This Pope gives me hope!’  On my car is a bumper sticker that says, ‘I ♥ Pope Francis.’ . . .

“In February, I will be leading a pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi, and Florence for 50 Catholics, who are lesbian/gay or are parents, family members or friends of lesbian/gay Catholics. They are so very heartened by your words of mercy and welcome. They believe, as you say, that receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is spiritual nourishment that we need to grow in our love-relationship with God, not a prize to be awarded those who are worthy.

“We will be in Rome from February 17 to February 20 and plan to attend your general audience on Ash Wednesday. The pilgrims would like to meet personally with you for a few minutes, either after your general audience, or at another time at your convenience.

“Would it be possible for you to meet personally with these faith-filled Catholics who have felt too long excluded from their Church?”

Back in the 1990s, when on a flight from Rome to Munich to pray at the tomb of her religious congregation’s foundress, Sister Jeannine serendipitously ended up on the same flight as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), who at the time was directing an investigation of Sister Jeannine’s ministry with lesbian and gay people. The two shared a delightful conversation, and Sister Jeannine has stated that it helped her see the human side of a man whom many considered to be her greatest adversary.  Indeed, on his part, Cardinal Ratzinger acknowledged several times during their talk that this chance meeting had to be the work of Providence.

So, who knows how Pope Francis will respond?  As everyone knows, he has already made several important statements and gestures in regard to greater Catholic openness towards LGBT people, including writing a personal note to Kairos, a Catholic LGBT group in Florence, Italy.

And just yesterday, a Spanish-language news report announced that it seems Pope Francis recently met with a transgender man and his fiancee from Spain in a private audience at the Vatican. The story reports that Diego Neria Lejárraga wrote to the pontiff a month ago describing the ill-treatment he received from fellow parishioners. Bondings 2.0 will provide more details as the story emerges.

The members of Sister Jeannine’s pilgrimage will be meeting with members of Kairos when they visit that beautiful Renaissance city.  Five years ago, she brought another group of pilgrims to Florence and established a friendly relationship with the Kairos leaders and members.

This year, the American group will also be meeting with members of Nuova Proposta, a Catholic LGBT group in Rome, and Sister Jeannine will be giving a talk to the Italian members.

The 10-day pilgrimage coincides with a similar journey being made by LGBT Catholics from Westminister in London, England, under the leadership of longtime pastoral advocate, Martin Pendergast.  The British pilgrims and American pilgrims will meet several times for liturgy and socializing.

Because Sister Jeannine’s pilgrimage group is visiting both Rome and Assisi, and since the present pope has often alluded to St. Francis of Assisi, the pilgrimage is entitled “Rebuild My Church:  St. Francis and Pope Francis.”  In addition to visiting and praying at holy sites and meeting with Catholic LGBT Italians, the pilgrims will also reflect on the ways that they can rebuild the church in their local communities.

Please keep Sister Jeannine and all the pilgrims in your prayers during February.  Bondings 2.0  will update you on any special events that happen during the trip.  And, if Pope Francis does grant the pilgrims a private audience, you will read it here first!  Stay tuned!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


What Pro-Gay Catholics Can Learn from Evangelicals About LGBT Issues

January 5, 2015

One of the most popular LGBT religion books to be published recently is Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian.  A young evangelical author, Vines’ received wide attention for his work both in the religious and secular press.  It appeared just as a movement seems to be growing in the evangelical church for greater acceptance of LGBT people–a movement which has some important lessons for Catholics who work for LGBT equality.

Bondings 2.0’s Bob Shine reviewed Vines’ book for The National Catholic Reporter, and he noted the importance of the work for Catholic advocates:

“God and the Gay Christian has value for the literate scholar of LGBT issues, the parent struggling to accept their newly out gay child, and the Christian striving to reconcile belief in Scripture with a desire to accept LGBT people. Vines’ writing is scholarly without being prohibitively academic.

“Catholics will find it beneficial to further understand how homosexuality relates to Scripture in an affirming way, though Vines’ engagement with the Catholic tradition is understandably marginal. Parish-based LGBT ministries would do well to study this work, and church justice advocates might even ship a copy to their local bishop.”

Shine notes that Vines’ book is not only analytic, but personal, and provides an important message for all Christians, not just evangelicals:

‘The book is the product of Vines’ own family’s struggle to accept him as a gay Christian, which comes after the author and his father concluded a yearlong study of homosexuality through their theologically conservative and scripturally based perspective. His conclusion is clear: Same-sex relationships are not only permissible within a conservative Christian paradigm, but must be affirmed as blessed and intended by God. Further, marriage equality is the pro-family, pro-God belief.”

And there is one lesson that Shine notes in Vines’ book that is one that we all need to keep re-learning every day:

“. . .[O]ne senses a secondary mission in God and the Gay Christian: the reconciliation of affirming and non-affirming Christians, which is the terminology Vines uses for proponents and opponents of same-sex relationships.”

Change in the religious world on LGBT issues would also have an important impact on the rest of the world:

“. . . Vines offers one final, important thought: The stakes are high when it comes to God and the gay Christian. Religious rejection inflicts tremendous suffering on LGBT people, including alarming rates of self-harm and suicide among youth. He writes in the conclusion:

‘When we tell people that their every desire for intimate, sexual bonding is shame-           ful and disordered, we encourage them to hate a core part of who they are. And                 when we reject the desire of gay Christians to express their sexuality within a life-             long covenant, we separate them from our covenantal God, and we tarnish their               ability to bear his image.’

“. . . .Given the power that both evangelical Christianity and Catholicism possess to influence global culture and politics, I pray many will read God and the Gay Christian — particularly those who struggle to accept same-sex relationships. Vines lays the foundation for Christians to create inclusive church communities where all are  welcomed as made in God’s image.”

You can read Bob Shine’s entire book review by clicking here.  A Religion News Service story about Vines’ ministry project can be found by clicking here.   A sampling of evangelical reaction to Vines’ ministry can be found by clicking here and here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


The Best Catholic LGBT News of 2014

December 31, 2014

thumbs upAs the year 2014 comes to a close, Bondings 2.0 takes a look back at the worst and the best news in the Catholic LGBT world.  If  you want to keep up-to-date on the latest news about the ups and downs of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community, please consider subscribing to this blog.  To do so, enter your email address in the “Follow blog via email” box at the top of the column on the right-hand side of this page, and press “Follow.”  You will then receive an email every time the blog is updated, usually once a day.  You’ll never miss out on the latest news and opinion in the Catholic LGBT world! 

Yesterday, we surveyed the worst Catholic LGBT news of 2014, and today we end the year looking at the best news:  all the good things that have occurred and the advances that have been made.

Yesterday, we also commented on the news story that Belgian Bishop Johan Bonny became the first bishop in known history to explicitly call for the Catholic Church to bless committed lesbian and gay couples.  While in my mind, that could easily take the prize as the BEST Catholic LGBT news of 2014, unfortunately, it came after we had already polled our readers, and so it was not considered in the voting.  I can’t speak for the entire readership of Bondings 2.0, but I don’t think I would be too far off to say that this story certainly deserves an “honorable mention.”

A few days ago, we asked our readers to choose five stories in the “worst” category and five in the “best” category.  Each category had 15 items, and there was an option to “write in” other topics that we might have missed.  The following is the ranking of the top ten items from the “best” category, in descending order,  with the percentage of votes each item received:

1. Both lay guests and bishop participants speak positively about lesbian and gay lives and ministry at the Synod of Bishops in October, revealing a previously unknown progressive school of thought among church leaders. Throughout the year, more and more Catholic leaders support legal rights for same-gender couples.  17.59%

2. Pope Francis appoints Archbishop Blase Cupich to the Archdiocese of Chicago, signaling a new type of more pastorally-oriented “Francis bishops.” Other U.S. bishops soften their rhetoric on LGBT issues, in a seeming emulation of the pontiff. 15.86%

3. The heavily Catholic Republic of Ireland emerges as a leader in supporting LGBT rights. Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmid Martin says: “Anybody who doesn’t show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that—they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people. 12.07%

4.  In an interview with a New Ways Ministry staffer, Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley acknowledges that the trend of firing LGBT and ally personnel from Catholic institutions is a situation “that needs to be rectified.”  10.34%

5. Catholic students, parents, and supporters demonstrate in response to the continuing trend of LGBT and ally personnel being fired from Catholic institutions.  8.97%

6.  San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who heads the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, holds two meetings with representatives of New Ways Ministry and DignityUSA.  5.52%

7. LGBT organizations are given permission to march in both New York City’s and Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parades in 2015.  5.17%

Three-way tie

8.  A Catholic parish in New York City honors the 44-year long commitment of a lesbian couple who are parishioners by featuring a profile about them in the parish bulletin. 4.48%

9.  The School Sisters of Notre Dame reverse an earlier decision and decide to allow lesbian couples to announce their weddings in the alumni newsletter. The Sisters of Mercy re-name a high school soccer field after a married lesbian alumna. 4.48%

10.   Catholic high schools and colleges begin to implement policies which support transgender students. 4.48%

As for analyzing, the results of the poll, I think it is easy to see the “Francis effect” in these events and numbers.  Almost all the responses had to do with something Pope Francis either directly or indirectly affected.  I think his example is inspiring Catholics at all levels to be more courageous in their support of LGBT people.  As one Bondings 2.0 reader and commenter, Casey Lopata, stated with his poll ballot:

“With Pope Francis leading the way by example, the positive remarks about gay people by bishops at the Synod together with more Catholic leaders supporting legal rights for gay people demonstrates that the grassroots supportive efforts of ordinary Catholics have been seen and taken seriously by institutional leaders within the Catholic community. At the same time grassroots supporters, emboldened by the words and actions of Francis, are increasingly becoming more active and in their public advocacy for justice for LGBT people within Catholic structures. As a result, opponents are squeezed between these two movements and find less and less support for their negative positions. May the Spirit lead us to make the most of this momentum in 2015!”

Although no one added any “write-in” suggestions, several other readers also added comments to their poll responses:

Chet Thompson:  “The five that I marked seem to me to be the most important and need DAILY Prayer. BUT we need to continually work to turn around the Homophobia that we have endured ESPECIALLY over the last 30 years!!!”

Brian Kneeland: “There were some real positives – but there certainly needs to be many more in the coming year!”

Diane Rapozo: “All of the above mentioned are important. Thank you.”

Alice Zachmann, SSND: “Thanks for the opportunity to share. I chose the ones that took courage to carry out…my personal opinion! Keep up your great ministry!”

2014 has been quite a year!  It’s been a pleasure and a blessing to share it with all our readers and commenters!  2015 is already sure to be another exciting 12 months, with the already scheduled World Meeting of Families in September, the second Synod in November, and Pope Francis appointing cardinals in February.  And who knows what else the Holy Spirit has in store!  Whatever it is, we look forward to the opportunity to share it with you in the coming year.  Stay tuned!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


What Was the Best and Worst of Catholic LGBT News in 2014?

December 26, 2014

2014 has been quite a year!   Synod debates, church worker firings, the “Francis effect,” anti-gay laws, students speaking out for equality–and much, much more!

On the last two days of the year, Bondings 2.0 will review the news of the past year in the Catholic LGBT world by posting “The Worst of 2014″ and “The Best of 2014.”

Please help us prepare these posts by taking a moment to take the two one-question surveys below.  You can choose up to FIVE responses to each question.  One of those responses can be “Other” where you can write-in your own selection.  Please respond by 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday, December 29th.

If your memory needs refreshing about what happened this past year, just use the tools in the right hand column of this blog to find stories that have been reported on here.  You can search by clicking on a category, by using a search term, or by reviewing posts by month.

Thanks for your help with this project!  We look forward to reading your responses!


SURVEY 2014: Who Are You? What Do You Like?

December 4, 2014

It has become our tradition here at Bondings 2.0 to mark our blog’s annual anniversary in three different ways.  First, we note the changes and successes for the blog that we have witnessed in our anniversary day blog post. Second, we invite you to consider making a financial contribution to the blog’s viability.   Third, we like to gather from you, our readers, some information about who you are, what you like and don’t like about the blog, and how we can improve this medium as a source of information, opinion, advocacy, and community.

Today, we ask you to consider taking a moment to help us with this last task by filling out a very short survey form which you can access by clicking here. The survey should take less than five minutes to complete, and it is anonymous and confidential.

The survey will give us a better idea of how you access and use the blog, what you like about it, and what you would like to see us do differently.Your answers will help us as we plan and prepare posts for the coming weeks, months, and year ahead.

Thank you for your interest and support of this Catholic LGBT blog, and thank you in advance for providing us with information to make reading the blog a better experience for you.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


So Much to Be Thankful For!

November 27, 2014

“If “thank you” is the only prayer you say, that will be enough.”

                                                                                  –Meister Eckhart

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 very thankful for many things this year.  We are particularly grateful for all our blog readers and commenters who make this site a great place for discussion!

New Ways Ministry’s staff members have each offered their top three gratitude items 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.

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director:

  1. The many people who support New Ways Ministry by donations, prayers, support, information, hospitality and encouragement.
  2. Catholic LGBT people and their families who continue to help to build a church of justice and equality, even when the odds seem impossible.
  3. The open discussion on LGBT issues that was started at the synod in October.  How wonderful to know that we have so many supportive Catholic leaders around the globe!

Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder:

  1. Three positive paragraphs about LGBT people were announced after the first week of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome, but they did not receive the necessary 2/3 majority vote. I am grateful that Pope Francis added the three paragraphs to the official version to be discussed before the Bishops take up the issue again in October 2015.
  2. Kathleen Purcell was let go from her teaching job in an Oakland, California, Catholic high school for crossing out sections of the new teachers’ contract, which demanded that employees’ personal and professional lives conform to Catholic teaching. I am thankful for the courage and witness of Kathleen Purcell and others like her who put their beliefs about justice into action.
  3. So many LGBT people, their families and friends, congregations of women religious, and other justice-seeking people have supported the work of New Ways Ministry during the past year with their prayers, their time, and their financial support. I am so very grateful for all of them.

Matt Myers, Associate Director:

  1. Pope Francis and his deep concern for the poor and marginalized.
  2. LGBT employees of Catholic institutions.
  3. The innumerable Catholics who are working, in big and small ways, to create a welcoming and inclusive Church for LGBT people.

Bob Shine,  Social Media Coordinator:

  1. For real conversations among Catholics and open disagreements between bishops during the global church’s ongoing discernment about marriage and family life, especially those courageous voices calling for change.
  2. For a growing awareness of and commitment to trans justice among Catholics, especially students who are reforming more of Catholic educational institutions and the Filipino church’s response to Jennifer Laude’s murder.
  3. For the emerging generation of ministers I’m blessed to study alongside for whom LGBT justice is a given pursuit and constitutive aspect of being a disciple of Jesus.

Detroit Archbishop Bans Parents’ Group Because of Speaker Choice

November 22, 2014

Francis DeBernardo, left, at World Pride 2012 in London. British Catholic gay advocate Martin Pendergast, right, helps him carry the New Ways Ministry banner.

Michigan LGBT advocates will proceed with a planned meeting for Catholic parents of LGBT children today after being barred from the Catholic parish that was set to host it.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron banned Christ the King parish in northwest Detroit from hosting the Fortunate Families support group because Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry is scheduled to speak. According to organizer Linda Karle-Nelson, the parish hosted a similar gathering last year and this change of venue greatly disrupts the event. She told The Detroit Free Press:

” ‘It’s really been a problem trying to get the information out to people who have registered and those who might want to walk in…The reason we invited Frank DeBernardo, is he just returned from Rome and the Synod on the family, and he was going to share his perspective and where do we go from here…The pope has asked for reactions and to weigh in.’ “

DeBernardo, who heads New Ways Ministry, noted how far Vigneron’s action is from Pope Francis’ welcoming style and added:

” ‘I feel bad for the message that it sends to Catholics that there can’t be discussion of an issue of great importance to them and their families — how to stay in better communication with their church and their gay and lesbian children.’ “

Linda Karle-Nelson and Thomas Nelson

Christ the King’s pastor, Fr. Victor Clore, is also baffled by the archbishop’s decision, telling the Free Press:

” ‘I’ll give you a quote from one of my parishioners, who said: “It amazes me how Pope Francis eagerly and happily engages those who openly deny the divinity of Christ, yet (New Ways) DeBernardo is deemed unworthy to enter our church’…

” ‘That’s pretty much my feeling, too…It’s treating people as if they were children.’ “

Archbishop Vigneron’s record on LGBT issues has not been positive. In the past, he has warned that pro-marriage equality Catholics should not receive Communion (though his auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton thought otherwise) and is on record saying Pope Francis “didn’t say anything different” on homosexuality.

In contrast, Karle-Nelson and her husband, Tom, were awarded by PFLAG for their pastoral efforts within the church through Fortunate Families. They have led protests at the Detroit chancery and stood by Dignity/Detroit when its 39th anniversary celebrations came under fire from the archdiocese.

Fox 2 News of Detroit quoted DeBernardo explaining a bit about the content of his talk:

“Pope Francis has demonstrated openness on these issues and he has called for greater discussion of them as we saw in the synod at the Vatican last month. I wish the Archdiocese of Detroit had inquired more deeply about the substance of my talk. They would have found that it is very Catholic on its content.”

His talk is about how the recent synod on marriage and the family discussed gay and lesbian people.  In the talk, he quotes almost entirely from bishops and cardinals, as well as the pope.

Please keep the Fortunate Families group in your prayers today as they meet at an alternate location. These dedicated parents and family members are answering Pope Francis’ call to create a church that is “home for all” through dialogue and welcome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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