Displacement, Solidarity, Home: Reflections from the Symposium

Today’s post is from Alfred Pang, a doctoral candidate in Theology and Education at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, who offers a reflection based on his experiences at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium this past April.

solidarity20hands201000x560“What has been your experience growing up as an LGBT person?” This question was posed to participants at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium during the “Youth, Young Adult Ministry and LGBT Questions focus session led by Dr. Michael Maher. The purpose of his question was to draw out generational differences in perception around being an LGBT person in the U.S.

Being Singaporean Chinese, I was naturally confounded by such a question premised on a cultural and political history which I did not share growing up. The following thoughts fleeted through my mind: What should I share? Where do I find my place at this conversation table? How will my voice be received?

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Alfred Pang

I was also wrestling with a deeper question: When and where did my personal history as a Catholic gay man begin? On the one hand, in coming out more publicly in Boston, I experienced a rebirth of myself. On the other hand, within this space of liberal American Catholicism that has been instrumental in helping me integrate my faith and sexuality, I found myself confronted by a felt-sense of displacement both ethnically and nationally.

Remaining with the weight of my intersectional identities, I finally spoke, “I come from Singapore, and my earliest image of a gay man while I was growing up had been a Caucasian white man. I grew up in a culture of silence around my sexuality as a way to preserve family harmony, which is a value for me. I do not identify fully with the particular history of sexual minorities in the U.S.,  but I also find myself not knowing a lot about the collective experience of LGBT persons in my country, Singapore.”

It was this sense of being an international/cultural ‘other’ that led me to my next symposium focus session, this one led by Dr. Elsie Miranda on “Hispanic Catholic Culture and LGBT Issues.” Dr. Miranda made a point which resonated immediately with me: coming out to our gender and sexual identities is a privilege. I understand this to mean that the conditions allowing for the public visibility of LGBT people are not possible for all in all cultural contexts. This is due to the complexity of gender and sexuality intersecting with race, culture, class, religion, and nationality , all of which can oppress and privilege at the same time.

This complexity was attested to in Dr. Frank Mugisha’s keynote address on the final day of the symposium. Carrying a gentle presence, Dr. Mugisha, a Ugandan gay Catholic and an LGBT rights advocate, spoke firmly and plainly against the anti-gay laws in his country. He criticized, too, the complicity of some African Catholic bishops in criminalizing homosexuality.  Mugisha had highlighted the cultural differences of gay people in the U.S. and Uganda when he wrote in a The New York Times  op-ed essay“The right to marry whom we love is far from our minds. Across Africa, the ‘gay rights’ we are fighting for are more stark — the right to life itself.”

Dr. Mugisha has consistently criticized the extreme religious rhetoric around sexuality American Evangelical Christians export to Africa. Mugisha noted that homophobia, not homosexuality, is the Western import in Africa, and that this fear is realized in violent preaching against same-gender relations.

Dr. Mugisha’s testimony illustrated the intricacy of intersectionality in the struggle for LGBT rights as human rights. Yet, our ability to transform situations for justice is not hampered by these complexities. Listening to Dr. Mugisha reminded me of what education theorist Paulo Freire once wrote: “We are transformative beings and not beings for accommodation.”[1]

Dr. Mugisha’s story connected me back to the situation in Singapore, where sex between consenting adult men is still criminalized under Section 377A of the Penal Code. Although this law is not strictly enforced, it stands as a sign of conditional tolerance for LGBT persons. The threat of imprisonment is real, which in turn feeds their invisibility as a community. Listening to the daunting and risky work of Dr. Mugisha has made me recognize the privilege of being ‘out’ here publicly and freely in Boston. Such privilege is not owed to me, but built on the backs of people who, across time and place, have put their lives on the line to speak the truth of our sexual lives as integral to the one humanity created in God’s loving image and likeness.

Where does this leave me as a gay Catholic Singaporean living in the U.S.? Standing in the borderland of the local and global, I wrestle to find a sense of home. Yet, perhaps this sense of homelessness is part of witnessing to global solidarity.  As Richard Giannone writes in his memoir Hidden: Reflections on Gay Life, AIDS, and Spiritual Desire, “Home – come to think of it – is never stationary. Home gathers together breathing spaces and temporary havens on the horizon for me to tiptoe toward or lunge beyond to the peaceful Zion of the heart.”[2]

“What has been your experience growing up as an LGBT person?” This question lingers on, and the witness of Dr. Mugisha has helped me make sense of the displacement with which I wrestled throughout the symposium. I hear in this question now the challenge of standing in global solidarity with my LGBT siblings-in-Christ. It seems to me that in my felt-sense of dislocation both ethnically and nationally, I am also invited to remain at the periphery of the local and global, at the cross-cultural borderland of intersectional identities.

Ultimately, I have been challenged to let go of the “border controls” around my heart that make it difficult for me to be at home with myself and others in the world.

The symposium, whose title included the phrase “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss” reminded me that this kiss happens when I embrace God’s unconditional love, widening the geography of my heart, stretching its contours to keep receiving and walking with my LGBT siblings-in-Christ as a pilgrim church. Justice and mercy shall meet in our global advocacy for LGBT rights, in the perseverance to seek that most fundamentally human right to life. Where justice and mercy shall meet is in the hope that recognizes the fierce grasp of God’s love that never lets us go, a sheltering presence in which we find a home.

Alfred Pang, June 10, 2017

[1] Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Heart, trans. Donaldo Macedo and Alexandre Olivera (New York: Continuum, 1998), 36.

[2] Richard Giannone, Hidden: Reflections on Gay Life, AIDS, and Spiritual Desire (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012), 168.

Lesbian Catholic Reviews Fr. James Martin’s New Book on LGBT Issues

As Jesuit Father James Martin launches his new book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” he explained in a Washington Post essay why he wrote the book in the first place. Also published in the Post a few days later was lesbian Catholic writer Eve Tushnet’s review of the book.

y450-293Martin began his essay by noting that, after 49 people were killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando last year, there was near silence from the United States’ 250 or so bishops about the victims’ LGBT identities. Martin said this silence was “revelatory,” continuing:

“The fact that only a few Catholic bishops acknowledged the LGBT community or even used the word gay at such a time showed that the LGBT community is still invisible in many quarters of the church. Even in tragedy its members are invisible.”

Martin lamented the “great divide” he witnesses in the church between LGBT Catholics and institutions, suggesting his ministry has included ways to heal the divide. He continued:

“But after the shooting in Orlando, my desire to do so intensified. . .So when New Ways Ministry, a group that ministers to and advocates for LGBT Catholics, asked just a few weeks after the Orlando tragedy if I would accept its ‘Bridge Building Award’ and give a talk at the time of the award ceremony, I agreed. The name of the award, as it turned out, inspired me to sketch out an idea for a ‘two-way bridge’ that might help bring together the institutional church and the LGBT community.

“My aim is to urge the church to treat the LGBT community with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (a phrase from the Catechism of the Catholic Church) and encourage the LGBT community to reciprocate, reflecting those virtues in its own relationship with the institutional church.”

To read about Fr. Martin receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge-Building Award last October, where he spoke first about this latest LGBT venture, click here. You can also watch Fr. Martin’s video explanation of why he wrote Building a Bridge below or by clicking here.

But Eve Tushnet, in her review for the Post, says Martin’s work “is not the book I’ve longed for” on Catholic LGBT issues. Her main criticism is that Building a Bridge never addresses sexual ethics, and a corollary critique that there is no mention of lesbian and gay Christians who are celibate. Tushnet wrote:

“For example, why is this conversation so hard in the first place? ‘Building a Bridge’ doesn’t raise the question of why LGBT people and the Catholic Church so often seem like two separate, hostile camps. The Catholic sexual ethic is this book’s embarrassing secret. It’s never mentioned, and so the difficulties the teaching itself poses for gay Catholics in our culture are never addressed.

“I’m deeply sympathetic to the attempt to have a conversation about gay people and the church that never mentions sex or chastity; too often even the most “respectful” statements from the Catholic Church hierarchy have a strong flavor of “Jesus loves you, but here’s how you’ve got to behave.” But I’m not sure it’s wise to write as if all the church is asking is for gay people simply to be nicer.”

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Eve Tushnet

While Tushnet may have wanted a book that dealt with sexual ethics and celibacy, that is not the intended scope of Martin’s book. His focus is on the process of dialogue, not theological questions. The relationship needs to improve to even begin to address the thornier questions.

Tushnet does rightly point out that more should be asked of church leaders than just respect and sensitivity. They should offer as well, “repentance and amends for the ways in which they’ve made so many churches hostile to gay members, treating us as problems to be fixed or silenced.”

Having stated these criticisms, Tushnet also acknowledged the value Building a Bridge has for the church. The priest’s “Prayer for When I Feel Rejected,” based on Psalm 139, is very moving for her, and she believes it can help LGBT Christians know God’s love for them more deeply. Tushnet concluded her review:

“If Martin’s book, with its biblical reflections on God’s loving creation of us and Jesus’ unconditional welcome, can help LGBT people and our families experience and trust God’s tenderness, he will have laid the foundation stone for social change and spiritual renewal.”

For more information about Building a Bridge, or if you would like to order a copy, visit Fr. Martin’s website by clicking here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 6, 2017

The Ups and Downs of LGBT Issues in the Age of Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ election in 2013 prompted a new conversation on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church, one which has sometimes been challenging to keep pace with given its many developments. That is why, at different intervals, Catholics have paused to take stock of where the conversation is, and where it is going.

ce1b24b3c799d95b5dec38dbd927102c03b016d3_2880x1620New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium this past April was one such pause. John Gehring of Faith in Public Life wrote about the event, which focused on LGBT Catholics in the age of Pope Francis.  In an essay for Commonweal, he described it as a “complex conversation.” Gehring wrote:

“The most painful stories I heard came from gay and lesbian Catholics who have been fired from Catholic schools or other Catholic institutions. . .Margie Winters, a long-time religious education director at Waldron Mercy Academy in Philadelphia, was fired in 2015 after a disgruntled parent outed her marriage to another woman. ‘I loved and still love that community because it’s a part of my heart,’ Winters said at the Chicago conference. ‘It was like a death. This kind of firing is a trauma. The sense of exile has been hardest for me.'”

Gehring also attended a focus session on family issues, commenting, “Bishops who can cite the fine print of the church’s teaching on sexuality should also be listening more closely to the raw, honest stories of Catholic parents.” Gehring quoted presenter Deacon Ray Dever, who was speaking about his transgender daughter, Lexi:

“The hard part is seeing one of your loved ones endure self-hatred. . .When the word suicide comes into play, your life changes. We wanted to get her through her junior year alive. There are so many families who reject their LGBT kids and that’s tragic, especially when that is done in the name of faith. I’m no expert but what these families need to hear is God created these kids just the way they are and that God loves them.”

Included in his Commonweal piece was Gehring’s account of another meeting, this time at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit school. Catholic educators joined by other experts met there to discuss how LGBT students could be better supported in church-affiliated education. Gehring explained:

“Michael Duffy, director of the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education at the university, pulled together the meeting in part because of his experience at some Catholic workshops and conferences, where discussions about LGBT issues have often been unhelpful and narrowly defined.”

Also taking stock of LGBT issues in the age of Francis is America’s national correspondent, Michael O’Loughlin. He wrote an article specifically on how the U.S. church is evolving on such issues.

One notable shift has been friendlier bishops like Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, Newark’s Cardinal Joseph Tobin, and Bishop John Stowe, O.F.M. Conv. The last of these bishops offered two Scriptural reflections at the Symposium in April, which were very well received. Asked by O’Loughlin why he agreed to speak at the event despite intense criticism, Stowe replied:

“Pope Francis talks about a culture of encounter, and that requires a lot of listening. . .What I’ve seen among gay Catholics in my own diocese is a real desire to live their faith and the challenge to do so within a church that is not always accepting or labels them as disordered.”

Subscribers and regular readers to Bondings 2.0 know there is no shortage of LGBT Catholic news, enough for daily (and sometimes twice daily) posts. Gehring is spot on calling this a “complex conversation” because there are so many ups and downs in this age of Pope Francis. What is clear is there is new energy for this conversation, and church leaders are increasingly willing to listen.

For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of the Symposium, visit the “Symposium 2017” category to the right or click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 4, 2017

The Open Closet and Self-Censorship

The weekend after New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss:  LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis,”  I was reading an op-ed essay in the New York Times,  and my mind reeled back to that meeting held in Chicago on the last weekend of April.

I was surprised that the essay would conjure up a memory of the symposium, since, on the surface, the text had nothing to do with Catholic or LGBT issues.  Yet, on another level, I saw the essay was, in fact, speaking to the core of the Catholic LGBT conversation–or, perhaps, I should say lack of conversation.

The op-ed essay in question was entitled “How Censorship Works,” and it was written by a Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist, whose name had recently been removed from several of his works by government officials at exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai.  The essay is an insightful analysis of the ways that censorship operates in a contemporary culture which seems to prize and valorize free expression.

What the essay reminded me of was a section of Fr. Bryan Massingale’s talk at the New Ways Ministry Symposium.  The National Catholic Reporter captured the important quotation:

“What underlies the church’s ‘hesitant, resistant and even hostile stance’ toward justice for lesbians and gays, the theologian said, is its fear that legislation protecting the rights of homosexual persons would also “lead to social approval of forbidden and immoral sexual behaviors.”

“The more operative concern, Massingale added, is that such legislation would bring on greater visibility of homosexual persons who would be negative models for youth.

“The situation leaves the church in an often contradictory corridor or ‘open closet,’ Massingale said, one in which gays ‘are to be accepted sensitively and compassionately, as long as there is little or no public acknowledgment of their sexual identity, “lifestyle” or “culture.” ‘ “

The “open closet” which operates in the Catholic Church around LGBT issues is actually a form of censorship.  While it may not be explicit censorship in which books and speakers are banned (though that happens, too), it is a more subtle form of censorship in which people are persuaded not to bring up what are deemed “inappropriate” topics.  This second, more subtle kind of censorship, operates more insidiously by getting people to censor themselves, without there seeming to be some overt requirement to do so.

In the op-ed essay, the artist Ai explains this kind of censorship:

“The most elegant way to adjust to censorship is to engage in self-­censorship. It
is the perfect method for allying with power and setting the stage for the mutual
exchange of benefit. The act of kowtowing to power in order to receive small pleasures may seem minor; but without it, the brutal assault of the censorship system would not be possible.”

Unfortunately, self-censorship is rampant in the Catholic Church, particularly on LGBT issues. For many years now, poll after poll has shown that Catholics in the U.S. overwhelmingly support LGBT issues.  Yet how many people make their views known to their pastors and bishops?  This behavior is especially true of Catholics who have institutional positions in the Church.

To clarify, I am not saying that all LGBT people in the church should come out.  The decision to come out as an LGBT person is a highly personal and even spiritual one, and I respect every person’s right to decide whether and how they will express their identity.  What I am saying, however, is that we would be living in a much different church if  Catholic people, both LGBT and allies, would voice their opinions more openly.

And I want to be clear, too, that I sympathize with those involved in institutional church positions who do not speak out.  I recognize that many factors impinge on their decision not to do so, not least of which often involve their livelihoods.

What I am asking, however, is that all Catholics examine how much self-censorship is involved in their decision to be quiet about LGBT issues.  I think we will find that it operates more than we realize.  I acknowledge that I, too, fall victim to self-censorship at different times.  It happens usually when I think that bringing up LGBT issues might make people too uncomfortable or that they will think that I am pushing an agenda.

Censorship of any kind–whether the “open closet,” self-censorship, or overt censorship– is doing a lot of harm not only to LGBT people, but to our church as a whole.  Ai describes some of the personal and institutional harms that censorship causes.  It is harmful to an individual’s development:

“The harm of a censorship system is not just that it impoverishes intellectual life;
it also fundamentally distorts the rational order in which the natural and spiritual
worlds are understood. The censorship system relies on robbing a person of the self-perception that one needs in order to maintain an independent existence. It cuts off
one’s access to independence and happiness.”

It is harmful to those who acquiesce to self-censorship:

“For people who accept this passive position toward authority, ‘getting by’
becomes the supreme value. They smile, bow and nod their heads, and such
behavior usually leads to lifestyles that are comfortable, trouble free and even cushy.
This attitude is essentially defensive on their part.”

It robs the organization of any opportunity to grow or develop, becoming locked in a rigid, authoritarian posture:

“It is obvious that in any dispute, if one side is silenced, the words of the other side will go unquestioned.”

The personal and social consequences can be devastating:

“Censoring speech removes the freedom to choose what to take in and to express to
others, and this inevitably leads to depression in people. Wherever fear dominates,
true happiness vanishes and individual willpower runs dry. Judgments become
distorted and rationality itself begins to slip away. Group behavior can become wild,
abnormal and violent.”

Just imagine if everyone in our church who supported LGBT equality spoke our truth to friends, politicians, church leaders.  While such a possibility can’t happen overnight, it can begin if people take small steps, mention thoughts, feelings, and beliefs gently and gradually.  Practice makes perfect.  Everyone can do something.  What step will you take to end self-censorship and to end the “open closet”?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 1, 2017

 

 

In Community, We are Nourished for the Journey

One of my highlights at New Ways Ministry’s Symposium last month was encountering blog readers, some of whom I knew and others whom I met for the first time. I love the community that has developed around the blog, and it is this community that sustains Bondings 2.0 in a multitude of ways!

Closing mass
Attendees at the Symposium’s Closing Mass

Twice a year, Frank and I turn to you for financial support. We cannot provide high quality content about Catholic LGBT issues each and every day without your generosity. We need your support to keep this critical conversation on LGBT issues in the church going.

Click here to show your support for this community and keep it growing!

I was humbled at the Symposium to hear from so many of you about how the blog has been a helpful and nourishing resource these past five and a half years. This positive feedback (and your comments and emails throughout the year) in turn nourishes Frank and me when writing posts each day becomes tiring. I want to share with you a few testimonies we have received from readers:

“Bondings 2.0 has become a critical tool in keeping abreast of LGBT issues and a motivator for redress and affirmative change.”

“Thank you for providing a safe space for civil dialogue that is informative, insightful and inspiring.”

“Bondings 2.0 and all of the New Ways team have been a great blessing in my life. You are the sunshine at dawn and the rain on dry fields.”

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Symposium attendees, including fired church worker Colleen Simon, share their stories at table discussions

Click here to sustain Bondings 2.0 with your donation of $5, $10, or more as you are able!

However you support the blog—a financial contribution, sharing it with friends, leaving a comment—Frank and I are deeply grateful. Happy 5 ½ years to our companions on this journey towards LGBT equality!

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 28, 2017

SYMPOSIUM: Frank Mugisha: Stand Up, Speak Out for Global LGBT Human Rights

When I had the honor to introduce Dr. Frank Mugisha at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium a few weeks ago, I described him as a “prophet in our midst.” Why this is the case came through in his address on criminalization laws and the LGBT experience in Uganda, according to the National Catholic Reporter:

“Frank Mugisha still thinks twice before going down certain streets, into malls or nightclubs in his native Kampala, Uganda. Mugisha lives as an openly gay man in a country whose Parliament tried in 2009 to introduce a bill seeking the death penalty for homosexual acts. The bill has cost some Ugandans their life and has made many live in fear, not show up for work, and hide from family and friends. . .”

Frank MugishaThese threats, however, have not altered Mugisha’s determination to see LGBT rights expanded in Uganda and worldwide. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and winner of several other prominent human rights awards, Mugisha leads Sexual Minorities Uganda, the nation’s leading LGBT rights organization.

Mugisha shared with Symposium participants how much Uganda’s LGBT community appreciated Pope Francis’ message of love for all people during his 2015 visit to several African nations. Mugisha had contacted the Vatican to ask for a meeting with the pontiff when he visited the country.  He said an assistant to Francis told Mugisha that a visit would not be possible, but that the pope planned to make clear to Uganda’s religious and political leaders that anti-gay rhetoric is unacceptable.

Though he did not speak publicly on LGBT issues, the pope’s message of love nonetheless challenged Catholics in a nation where the church remains both powerful and quite homophobic. Some church officials are still organizing to bring back the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Act.  He told The National Catholic Reporter that a Ugandan prelate’s new book argues transgender people can be changed. But while Pope Francis visited, Ugandan church leaders remained quiet on the subject.

Mugisha shared how dangerous it still is to be an LGBT person in Uganda, saying, “We live every day in fear.” Last fall, he was arrested along with other people celebrating Pride, about which he explained, “We were put in police custody. Tortured. Forced to bathe in filthy water.”

Asked during a question and answer period how he sustains himself with prayer, Mugisha, a Catholic, replied, “Before I go to bed, I pray about things I care about. I ask God for help. I ask God to listen.”

Mugisha concluded with an exhortation to Symposium participants, encouraging them to be in contact with local solidarity groups as the best means of ensuring global LGBT human rights.  He stated:

“I encourage you to think of any way you can support an LGBT person. Take it personally. Stand up. Speak out.”

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 25, 2017

 

Fr. Bryan Massingale to LGBT Catholics: “Refuse to Be Silenced. Continue to Speak Our Truth.”

“We ain’t what we oughta be. We ain’t what we want to be. We ain’t what we gonna be. But, thank God, we ain’t what we was.”

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Fr. Bryan Massingale

Fr. Bryan Massingale began his talk on “Pope Francis, Social Ethics, and LGBT People” with these words of an unknown Black preacher, which were often quoted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Massingale, a theologian at Fordham University, New York, addressed participants at New Ways Ministry’s 8th National Symposium, and asked them this key question:

“What does it mean to be an LGBT Catholic in an age of Pope Francis?”

The National Catholic Reporter offered further details on his talk:

“Those who came to the Chicago symposium brought with them both ‘hope and frustration,’ Massingale said: hope that more understanding and acceptance of gays and lesbians was on its way into the church and frustration because that time has not yet arrived.

“The priest, who left Marquette last year to teach theology at Fordham University, pointed to a new tone in the church toward gays, a tone he characterized as ‘cautious, tentative, tense, at times ambiguous and contradictory, and yet nevertheless real.'”

Massingale affirmed that beneath the rhetorical shifts, there is genuine doctrinal development happening. Church officials’ “hesitant, resistant and even hostile stance” to LGBT rights comes from their fear that legal protections would lead to approval of sexual behavior they deem immoral. Their deeper fear is the impact such acceptance would have on youth. NCR reported:

“The situation leaves the church in an often contradictory corridor or ‘open closet,’ Massingale said, one in which gays ‘are to be accepted sensitively and compassionately, as long as there is little or no public acknowledgment of their sexual identity, “lifestyle” or “culture.”‘. . .

“Massingale, a priest of the Milwaukee archdiocese, shared a note he had received in 2002 from Rembert Weakland, who earlier that year had resigned as archbishop of Milwaukee after a man he’d had an affair with two decades earlier and he had paid to $450,000 to keep it quiet made the relationship public. Weakland wrote: ‘On the gay issue, the level of fears is so high that the official teaching of the church skates so very close to the edge of a new ‘theology of contempt.'”

Biden - Human DignityAgainst the “open closet” and Magisterium’s troubled approach to lesbian and gay people, Massingale said Pope Francis was focusing on LGBT people’s personhood, not their sexual conduct.  Massingale added his own commentary, saying, “[LGBT people] are equally redeemed by Christ and radically loved by God.”

As an ethicist, Massingale affirmed the right LGBT people have to participate fully in society in and the church, and the necessity for the Magisterium to extend its existing support for human rights to include LGBT communities:

“To insist on private acceptance and compassion for LGBT persons – that is, saying “I love the sinner” – without a commitment to defending LGBT human rights and creating a society of equal justice for all, is not only contradictory; it is inherently incomprehensible and ultimately unsustainable.”

A vibrant question and answer period followed Massingale’s address, during which he shared a story from his own life. After the U.S. bishops released “Always Our Children,” he called his mother. She asked Massingale for his thoughts on the document, and he replied by asking her what she thought, as it was addressed to her. She answered quickly, “I don’t need permission to love my child.”

Massingale closed with a powerful call for LGBT Catholics and their families to keep working for equality:

“Refuse the refusal. Refuse to be silenced. Continue to speak our truth even when we know it’s not going to be welcome.”

Fr. Massingale has himself been increasingly outspoken for LGBT inclusion and human rights. While at Marquette University, he celebrated monthly Masses for members of the LGBTQ communities on campus because, he says, it is important they “have a Mass where they feel welcome and that God does love them.” He challenged Pax Christi USA members at their 2013 annual conference to increase the organization’s defense of LGBT rights, as both a human rights concern and a necessary part of attracting younger Catholics. Massingale also joined other Catholic theologians and officials in condemning proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda. Most recently, he has said the church cannot abandon transgender Catholics.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 24, 2017