LGBT Catholics Must Start “Stonewall” in Church, Says Former Vatican Official

Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 featured excerpts from an interview with former Vatican priest Krzysztof Charamsa who came out as a partnered gay man before the 2015 Synod on the Family.

CharamsaStonewallThe previous post covered Charamsa’s thoughts on the Vatican’s panic over “gender ideology,” the deficiency at the Vatican of knowledge about gender and sexuality, church officials’ odd language about homosexuality, and the roots of church leaders’ opposition to equality for LGBT people and women.

Today’s post offers excerpts from Charamsa on Pope Francis, positive aspects of theology today, and what his hopes are for LGBT Catholics. You can read the full interview in the online journal Religion and Gender by clicking here. To read more about Charamsa’s story, click here.

Thoughts on Pope Francis

Charamsa said he is disappointed with Pope Francis who, in his first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, expressed a desire to engage reality rather than abstractions but has done the opposite when it comes to gender and sexuality. Charamsa opined:

“Pope Francis is an old, homophobic man. Homophobic in a quotidian sense, as some- thing which, in Catholic or Christian families, is transmitted through the mother, the grandmother. He for sure has inherited this mentality, but my hope at the beginning of his pontificate was that he would be able, as a man of state, in a new position, to open his mind. He was a great fan of Cardinal Carlo M. Martini, the Archbishop of Milan, who has reflected on sexual minorities positively. But when you begin a new job, you must have collaborators. The pope cannot study gender studies, he cannot read much… he needs institutions who do that for him. So when collaborators come to this pope and say, ‘Gays are Nazis’, day after day, it is easy to think that perhaps it is true, just like his grandmother used to say bad things about these gays.”

Charamsa also described Francis as “a political man without collaborators” who may have simply admitted he can do nothing to move the church forward on homosexuality. This admission, Charamsa said, would be “the victory of the masculinist system of the Vatican” that separates out ideas from reality.

This calculation may also explain why Pope Francis did not condemn anti-LGBT criminalization laws while in Uganda, a failure to act that Charamsa called “horrible.” For Charamsa, the political calculations were the primary if not sole intention behind the Havana Declaration,signed by Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, that blasted marriage equality and other LGBT rights.

Redeeming a Theology of the Body?

Charamsa offered interesting thoughts about how theological currents on anthropology, sexuality, and gender could be redeemed by pro-equality advocates:

“I think it is possible to reconstruct a Catholic theology of body that takes the complexity of LGBTIQ issues into account. For theology this would be an enrichment that reforms our traditional, heteronormative, vision of marriage, which, in the light of Christian sources, must be open also for same sex couples. God has created us for love and this is an essential message for our faith, revealed in Genesis. In the confrontation with gender studies, we must correct many aspects of traditional doctrine about marriage.”

The problem today is not necessarily with a theology of the body, as a more embodied theology would be healthy, but the ways by which gender complementarity and arguments about bodies’ shapes and functions are taken to ideological extremes. Charamsa said this is “a very dangerous ideological intervention” that “does not permit reflection about modern advances in knowledge and human rights, sexual human rights”:

“We have closed our eyes for a very complex and mysterious identity, which is a human person, when we shield ecclesial reflection from the development of modern knowledge. This is a reduction of the human body to something immutable and prefixed. We have canceled the dynamic of knowledge and human reason and impose our partial historical visions as universal and eternal. This has been our error many times in the past, and we continue it today.”

But theology of the body could become beneficial if it were to positively engage contemporary knowledge and allow for a little more epistemological humility. Charamsa rejects outright, however, complementarity that is being used in the war against “gender ideology.”

Dangers of the Present Moment

The dangers with an ideological war against “gender ideology” is that the goal is to “ridiculize, present as inferior, and then destroy” people either psychologically or even physically. Charamsa expounded:

“So the Islamic State has its reasons to eliminate those persons who are dangerous to society, African states have their reasons to impose the death penalty for gay people. The Vatican agrees with this! For the Catholic Church, states and nations have the right to eliminate persons who are dangerous. Sexual minorities are seen as dangerous. One journalist in Amsterdam said to me: ‘Do you know that Cardinal Amato told me that two men who love each other are in society like two terrorists with a bomb?’ This cardinal was my boss in the Congregation. I don’t know his experience of homosexuality and I don’t want to know it. But this is the perception: when you design and create your enemy and stigmatize him as so dangerous, you have every right to eliminate him. And this is our homophobia. But homophobia is nothing when you think about lesbophobia or transphobia or intersexphobia.”

Hopes for the Future in Coming Out

There is hope, however, that LGBT Catholics can effectively challenge these horrific stances of some church officials. Charamsa said his decision to come out was to help move the church away from an emotional and reactive place, and he encouraged others to come out, too:

“We must compel the Church to begin dialogue and the first condition is to accept that gays exist not as object, but as subjects with dignity and without shame. In order to force the Church to consider us as human persons I think coming out is essential. It was my call and that of every gay priest. We are not criminals to exterminate. The criminal is the system that offends and eliminates us. . .The problem is that sexual minorities in the Church should begin a Stonewall Revolution, which will force the Church authorities to think and leave a paranoiac fear of LGBTIQ-persons behind.”

Charamsa also affirmed the work already underway in gender and sexuality studies as “a way of thinking that is connected to life, concrete life, to people who gain awareness of their own dignity and identity, and begin to see the possibility to be themselves.” He added:

“From a Christian point of view, one might say that this is a very Christian movement, a truly evangelical movement. This is the Gospel: ‘work in progress’ to understand our nature and our call to be and love! Because the understanding of the Gospel is made by people, concrete people who seek to understand themselves in the light of God’s revelation, but not without reason.”

Charamsa has a sense of urgency about these efforts. Unlike the Church’s later acceptance of scientific developments that it once rejected, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Church cannot fail for centuries before making a correction. Real lives are at stake, and people “can’t wait for three hundred years.”

What Charamsa’s interview revealed to me is that church officials lack any sort of foundation in sexuality and gender studies today, even while they write and pronounce on these issues. Rule by fear and panic can only lead to disaster. Even Pope Francis, it appears, is not immune from the Vatican’s machinations.

But there is also tremendous hope in Charamsa’s words. It is easier to help someone come to understand something about which they are ignorant or afraid than to heal malice in the heart. Charamsa’s courageous decision to come out and keep speaking out can be a model for gay priests and religious, and LGBT Catholics everywhere.

To read the interview in full, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 21, 2017

Pope Congratulates, Blesses Gay Couple on the Baptism of Their Adopted Children

Pope Francis, through an aide, has sent his congratulations and apostolic blessing to a legally married Brazilian gay couple on the occasion of the baptism of their three adopted children.

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The Reis-Harrad family with the parish priest after the three children’s baptism.

According to Business Monkey News (the only immediately available English language news story), Toni Reis and David Harrad received a letter from Monsignor Paolo Borgia, advisor to the Secretary of State Vatican, which read in part:

“Pope Francisco wishes you congratulations, calling for his family abundance of divine graces, to live constantly and faithfully the condition of Christians.”

The couple, who were married in 2011, and they adopted three children–Alyson, Jessica, Felipe–between 2012 and 2014.   They wrote to the pope in the spring of 2017, informing him of the upcoming baptism of their children, who are now young teens.  They live in the city of Curitiba in Brazil’s Paraná state.

Reis posted a photo of the letter on his Facebook page.

20620900_1908359132785962_6362050348424843834_nThough the Vatican is downplaying the significance of the letter, saying the pope responds to many of the personal letters he receives, its impact on pastoral care cannot be underestimated.

Pope Francis knows the impact that his messages, even personal ones for private occasions, will have around the world.  He is savvy enough, based on his history of making headlines with LGBT-positive statements, to know that his gesture would be made public.

The way I see it, Pope Francis is giving a clear message to bishops, priests, and pastoral ministers around the world about how they should treat families headed by gay and lesbian couples.  His message is “welcome and bless.”

I am not under any illusion that Pope Francis approves, theologically, of same-gender marriages.  Indeed, he has publicly opposed laws intended to spread marriage equality.

But, he has consistently promoted a positive pastoral response to LGBT people and their families. He seems to recognize that there is a difference between political reality and personal reality, and he is courageous enough to respond positively to the personal reality, even if it conflicts with his political ideas.

Our bishops need to follow his example.  Of course, the first to come to mind is Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, who made headlines last month because of his draconian barring of married lesbian and gay people from most of parish life.  As we’ve noted before, Bishop Paprocki could learn from Bishop Patrick McGrath of San Jose, California, who instructed his priests to “not refuse sacraments or Christian Burial to anyone who requests them in good faith.”

The words of Toni Reis should ring in the ears of bishops and LGBT people around the world:

“It is a great advance for an institution that burned gays during the Inquisition and now sends us an official letter congratulating our family. I am very happy, as I can die in peace.”

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, August 9, 2017

 

Pope Francis Offers Support for Nun’s Ministry with Transgender Women

Pope Francis has written a supportive note to a Catholic sister who works with transgender women.

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Sr. Monica Astorga, right, and Romina

Sr. Monica Astorga ministers to transgender women in Argentina, particularly those women who are in sex work or have substance abuse issues. Crux reported on her most recent interaction with Pope Francis, whom she has known for many years:

“Astorga wrote an email to Francis last Thursday, to update him on the new developments in the ministry she does in the southern Argentine province of Neuquen. It didn’t take long for her to hear back from the pope: She told Crux his answer came in the next day, on Friday.

“Astorga had written to the pope to inform him that the city had given her a plot of public land, where she planned to build 15 one-room homes for the transgender women she works with.

“‘I have you and the convent close to my heart, as well as the people with whom you work, you can tell them that,’ Francis wrote in his message.”

Pope Francis had visited Astorga in 2009 when he was then-archbishop of Buenos Aires. At the time affirmed her work, telling the sister in a note, “don’t leave the frontier work you were given” because transgender women were the “lepers of today.” In that 2009 note, Crux reported, the future pope notably used female pronouns for the trans women.

Church leaders, including the local ordinary, Bishop Virginio Bressanelli, have supported Astorga’s ministry, even when the local community has rejected and even harassed some of the women Astorga helps.

The ministry began over a decade ago when Astorga first encountered a trans woman, Romina. Bondings 2.0 covered her work in 2015, which you can read about here. The nun described the experience of meeting Romina:

“I listened to her for two hours without being able to say a word. . .I invited her to search for others who wanted to leave prostitution, and she came back five days later with four more. I invited them to pray, and then asked them to tell me their dreams. . .I felt stabbed when Katy told me, “I want a clean bed where I can die.”‘”

The ministry has cared for 90 transgender women in various ways, including housing, addiction recovery, and employment help. Astorga also keeps growing the ministry:

“[S]he’s received a house where some of the transgender women live on a temporary basis, and she’s now working on building a home for the elderly managed by transgender women, because they ‘have a special sensibility but also the strength needed.’. . .her ministry is now growing beyond those who look for her in the convent. She’s been added to several Facebook groups around the world by transgender women in similar situations.”

Sr. Astorga’s faith and Carmelite community have helped her branch out into this ministry, but she also notes the role that trans women’s faith has had on her, saying:

“They’ve always told me that ‘without believing in God, we wouldn’t survive. Each night, before going out on the street, we light a candle and ask God to take care of us.’ “

Trans women, especially those involved in sex work, are extremely vulnerable in Argentina, as in many places around the globe, where there are high rates of abuse and violence against them. But Astorga presses onward, and offers these wise words that should  inform the global church’s respond to trans people:

“I always say that to accompany one of them, we have to listen to them from the heart.”

Pope Francis’ note to Sr. Astorga is a positive mark for the pontiff’s mixed record on transgender issues. Last fall, the pope responded to a reporter’s question about how he would care pastorally for a person who is gender dysphoric. Francis answered by saying he had “accompanied people with homosexual tendencies,” even since being elected pope. He also spoke about meeting a transgender man, Diego Neria Lejárraga, in 2015. In his response, the pope used the man’s correct pronouns, and said at one point, “He that was her but is he.”

In that same interview, however, Francis’ joked that the press should not report “the Pope blesses transgenders.” He criticized as well, as he has done repeatedly, undefined concepts of “gender theory” and “ideological colonization.” The pope told a strange anecdote of a father who found out his child was being told in school that gender could be chosen.

When Pope Francis follows the path of Sr. Astorga, listening from the heart to trans voices, his response is always pastoral. The pope’s trans-negative moments seem to come when he stops listening from the heart and, despite his own critiques of such thinking, speaks about ideological theories that are entirely separated from lived realities.

It is good that Pope Francis wrote to Astorga and affirmed her ministry; it would be great if he learned from her witness, too.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 26, 2017

 

 

 

Cardinal Tobin and Pope Francis on LGBTQ Issues: Half-Empty or Half-Full?

In a recent interview with the Crux website, Newark’s Cardinal Joseph Tobin elaborated on his decision to welcome a recent LGBTQ pilgrimage to his archdiocese’s cathedral.  His explanation aligns very clearly, for better or worse, with many of Pope Francis’ messages about LGBT issues.

The interviewers elicited from Tobin a statement of welcome to LGBTQ people, a statement about LGBT lives, and a statement of fidelity to church teaching about sexual morality.

Cardinal Tobin and Pope Francis

First, the welcome.  Tobin stated:

My intention was to welcome. I would justify that with the words of somebody like Benedict XVI, who would frequently say: ‘If we proclaim the Gospel first and foremost as a moral code, then we’ve destroyed the Gospel, it becomes something else.’ It doesn’t mean that our moral choices aren’t important, but they’re a response to the previous announcement of good news, the encounter.

Then, concerning LGBT lives, the cardinal said:

I don’t presume that every person who identifies him or herself as LGBTQ is sexually active. If they’re attempting to live a chaste life, then they certainly need the support of the believing community, a chance to pray, and to know that they’re welcomed within the body of Christ.

And he also acknowledged his support of church teaching:

If anybody asks me, I preach what the Church preaches, and teach what the Church teaches, and believe it with great serenity. But I also feel that it’s my job to welcome people. When I received the crozier in St. Peter’s in Rome, what I did was say a prayer that says, ‘You’re to be attentive to the hearts of the people entrusted to you.’ I feel these people were entrusted to me too.

Tobin’s remarks are a complex series of statements.  Like Pope Francis,  he emphasizes welcome. What is good is that he prioritizes welcome over morality.  The “announcement of good news, the encounter” is what is important to both men.  Though they don’t ignore morality, they don’t see it as primary in terms of initiating pastoral outreach.

This tension between morality and welcome is evidenced in the third section of his comments where he professes his support for church teaching.  He places that support, however, within the context of welcome once again.  He sees that LGBT people are part of the people “entrusted” to him.  He has a responsibility toward them.  He can’t ignore them.

His middle comment about LGBTQ lives is a bit more ambiguous than his other comments.  On the one hand, he acknowledges that he doesn’t see sexual or gender minorities primarily in terms of being sexually active.  That is a good step.  It means that he recognizes that there is more to being an LGBTQ person than sexual activity.  LGBTQ people have whole lives, and, often because of their sometimes stigmatized identities, those lives often experience an undue amount of oppression and discrimination. At the same time, their lives also evidence an amazing amount of courage and honesty.  All of these shadings are lost when church leaders think of LGBTQ people on in terms of sexuality.

Tobin goes on in that section seemingly to place a greater value on LGBTQ people who live chaste lives.  He identifies only them as needing “the support of the believing community.”  That is wrong.   ALL LGBTQ people need the support of the believing community. Without exception.

The cardinal’s comments seem to encapsulate the identical tension that is so often present in Pope Francis’ discourse about LGBTQ people.  Pope Francis emphasizes welcome and encounter. Pope Francis places welcome above morality.  Pope Francis certainly supports church teaching about sexual morality, sometimes going so far as to speak out passionately against marriage equality initiatives around the globe.

So, in assessing both Cardinal Tobin and Pope Francis, the question comes down to:  Do we see their efforts in regard to LGBTQ people as a glass half-empty or a glass-half full?  I admit that I tend to see the latter choice.  Neither the cardinal nor the pope are expressing positions of full equality of LGBTQ people.  But they are certainly steps ahead of where their predecessors have been.

So what do you think:  half-empty or half-full?   Leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 10, 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

Pope Francis: The Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone

Earlier this week, Pope Francis gave a surprise TED Talk on “Why the Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone.” The pope covered many topics in the seventeen-minute address, including appeals for inclusion and love. Francis said “we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone,” and continued:

Pope Francis Ted Talk“How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion. How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word,were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.”

Pope Francis also called for a “revolution of tenderness,” which is “the love that comes close and becomes real.” He explained what this revolution will require of people:

“In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity. . .Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude. Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The ‘you’ is always a real presence, a person to take care of.”

LGBT Catholics, their loved ones, and allies may experience a dissonance reading these words. Pope Francis’ mixed record on issues of gender and sexuality may weaken his strong call for inclusion. But this address could also be the foundation from which Catholics can build greater inclusion of LGBT people.  Catholics, especially church leaders should apply the pope’s principles to the ways they approach LGBT people and topics.

Is Pope Francis’ call for inclusion and equality harmful or helpful? What would you like to see from him on LGBT issues? Leave your reactions in the “Comments” section below.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 29, 2017

Does Pope’s Anti-Bullying Message Apply to the Church and LGBT Youth?

TODAY IS MARCH 27th: LAST DAY TO REGISTER TO AVOID A LATE FEE!

New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis, is scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, Chicago, Illinois. Plenary speakers:  Lisa Fullam, Leslie Griffin, Rev. Bryan Massingale, Frank Mugisha. Prayer leaders:  Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Bishop John Stowe, OFM, Conv.  Pre-Symposium Retreat Leader:  Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS.  For more information and to register, visit www.Symposium2017.org.   REGISTER BY MARCH 27th to avoid a late fee. 

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Pope Francis exhorted youth to avoid bullying others last week, saying they must “promise Jesus to never bully.” But given the pope’s mixed record, does his message mean not to bully LGBTQ youth, too?

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Pope Francis at a youth gathering in Milan

Francis made the remarks at a youth rally in a Milan stadium filled with nearly 80,00 mostly young people. He was answering a catechist’s question about how educators, students, and families could communicate better. Crux reported that he told adults to be on the lookout for bullying, and then he addressed the youth:

“‘I ask you, in silence: in your schools, in your neighborhoods, is there someone that you mock? That you make fun of because they look a little funny, because they are a little fat? That you like to embarrass and hit because of this?

“‘Think about this. This is called bullying. . .Understood? Promise me: never, never make fun of, never mock a friend, a neighbor, etc. Do you promise this?'”

It is good that the pope, a former teacher,  is concerned about the bullying which afflicts many youth worldwide.  Francis might consider a call to end bullying against particularly vulnerable demographics, including LGBTQ youth. But if he is really serious about helping to end bullying, he should examine the ways the Catholic Church can and has perpetuated it.

Though it is not universally true that Catholic officials have ignored or allowed bullying, a quick survey of incidents reveals how much harm church leaders have caused:

  • In England, a transgender student was shot with a BB gun by another student after the transgender student faced months of bullying at his Catholic school;
  • Parents have accused schools of ignoring the bullying against their children, including the parents of transgender student who was shot with a BB gun and the parents of New York teenager who died by suicide.
  • Bishops in Colombia thanked the government for dropping a resource aimed at helping educators know how to combat bullying against LGBT people;
  • An anti-bullying workshop was cancelled in Ireland after school officials said it did not present the unspecified “other side” of the issue;
  • The parents of a gay teenager who died by suicide in Colombia claimed it resulted after the school’s principal outed their son in front of others at the Catholic school;
  • Updated policies in the Diocese of Little Rock threatened students with expulsion if they come out as LGBTQ.

Catholic schools have also banned a gay student from a dance, expelled a lesbian student from prom for not wearing a dress, and refused to accommodate a trans student who was transitioning. Supportive Catholic educators have been fired in New Jersey, including Warren Hall who was fired for posting about the NOH8 campaign. [Note: Hall will be presenting a workshop on gay priests and religious at New Ways Ministry’s 8th National Symposium this April. Click here for more information.]

In some of these incidents, educators and church officials acknowledged a mistake or worked to rectify the situation.  These, however, are not the only courses of action. There are concrete examples of how Catholic education can work against bullying and promote the flourishing of every student:

  • Teacher in Ontario’s Catholic schools marched in Pride in show of solidarity with their LGBTQ students;
  • Catholics have participated each year in National Coming Out Day and the anti-bullying initiative Spirit Day;
  • A priest in New York even declared 2014 the “Year of Lady Gaga,” (she attended Catholic schools) showing students how to have courage in their lives.

Students and their families are increasingly looking for not only welcome, but support for LGBTQ youth. Michael Maher, who authored the 2001 book Being Gay and Lesbian in a Catholic High School, has commented that since he began studying this issue, such expectations have increased dramatically. [Note: Maher will be offering a workshop on youth and young adults at New Ways Ministry’s 8th National Symposium this April. Click here for more information.]

The problem of bullying is a question of life and death. Bullying leads to self-harm and death by suicide, and the presence of so many LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness attests to the impact bullying by family and friends can have.

These realities of suffering should move Pope Francis to amplify and specify his call to stop bullying. 2017’s diocesan- level World Youth Day programs, as well as the preparations for the 2018 synod on youth offer prime opportunities for him to do so. Before these steps, Francis should sit with his own directive to the youth in Milan, and see how it relates to LGBTQ youth and the church:

“‘Think in silence if you [bully], and if you are able to promise this to Jesus: Promise Jesus to never bully.'”

To explore all of Bondings 2.0’s coverage of youth and young adult issues, see our “Schools & Youth” and “Campus Chronicles” categories to the right.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 27, 2017