Join Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet in Supporting ‘Bondings 2.0′

May 28, 2015

Eric Stonestreet

Today marks 3 and 1/2 years since New Ways Ministry started this blog.  It’s amazing how much we have grown in that time, especially in readership.

While we are proud of all of our readers, we recently learned about a particular reader who we would like to highlight.   Do you watch ABC-TV’s Modern Family? It’s an Emmy-award-winning sitcom which explores contemporary family issues, including a gay couple with an adopted child.

We recently learned that Eric Stonestreet, the actor who plays Cam, one of the gay fathers, has taken notice of Bondings 2.0. Stonestreet, who himself has won two Emmy awards for the show, was recently interviewed on HuffPost Live, and in the course of his conversation, he mentioned a topic that was featured on our blog. To illustrate, the HuffPost Live producers showed our blog post on the screen while Stonestreet spoke of the content.  How exciting to see Bondings 2.0 featured so prominently on such an influential news show!  You can catch the visual and Stonestreet’s comments by clicking here, and scrolling to the 7:50 minute mark and watch and listen for about a minute or so.

We know that Stonestreet had seen the story on Bondings 2.0 previously because the actor had tweeted the link to our blog post to his followers on the same day we published it, about a week before the HuffPost Live interview.The post that caught Stonestreet’s eye was the May 16, 2015, item when we reported on a Vatican official praising Modern Family for its realistic depiction of contemporary issues.

Tweet from @EricStonestreet

Tweet from @EricStonestreet

While we are proud to know that Stonestreet likes us, we are even prouder of our readers, subscribers, and commenters who are regularly a part of what makes this blog a respected source of news and opinion on Catholic LGBT issues. Journalists, researchers, scholars, and advocates have all told us that they turn to Bondings 2.0 to learn about the evolving relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community.

What gratifies us most are the many comments we receive in notes, emails, phone calls, and personal conversations from the great mass of readers who tell us that this blog helps them keep up with the news and provides them with some things to reflect on for their spiritual journeys.  Many folks have told us that reading this blog has become an important part of their morning ritual. Truly, all of these messages are incredibly encouraging for us, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be helpful.

Every six months, on the anniversary of the blog (November 28) and the half-year anniversary (May 28), we make an appeal to our readers for financial support for the blog.  If you are able to send a gift to help New Ways Ministry keep this project vibrant, we would greatly appreciate it.  We don’t ask for contributions at any other time of the year.

You can donate by clicking here, and you will be brought to New Ways Ministry’s website donation page.  When you fill out the donation form online, please type “blog” in the comments section of the form so that we know that is why you are contributing.   You can also mail a check made out to “New Ways Ministry” to our offices at 4012  29th Street, Mount Rainier, MD  20712.  Or call us during business hours at 301-277-5674, and we can take your credit card donation over the phone.  However you decide to contribute, your donation is tax-deductible.

Another way you can show your support is by telling your friends about the blog and encouraging them to subscribe by entering an email address in the “Follow” box at the top of the right hand column of the blog page and clicking the button.  If you yourself are not a subscriber, you might want to do the same.  As a subscriber, you will receive an email every time the blog is updated, usually once a day.  That way, you will never miss out on the latest news.

Thank you in advance for your support.  We wouldn’t be a blog without the great community that we have out there.  Thanks for all that each of you is doing, in your own ways, big and small, to build bridges between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Swiss and Swedish Incidents Reveal the Need for LGBT Education for Clergy

May 23, 2015

Switzerland and Sweden have recently shared a similar sad experience.  In each country, a local Catholic church leader ended up apologizing and retracting incorrect negative statements made publicly about lesbian and gay people.  The cases highlight how bishops and priests so desperately need to be educated about the basics of LGBT lives.

A Swiss bishop has done a flip-flop regarding a statement he made to a French-language newspaper in which he claimed that a homosexual orientation can be “cured” through psychological or prayer interventions.

Bishop Jean-Marie Lovey

LGBTQNation.com reported on the prelate’s original statements:

“Jean-Marie Lovey, one of Switzerland’s most prominent Catholic Bishops, said on Tuesday that he is persuaded that ‘homosexuality can be cured’ by prayer or ‘psychological healing.’

“Lovey, who is the Bishop of Sion, in southern Switzerland, told the Swiss daily Le Nouvelliste that gay people sometime feel their sexuality to be ‘like an injury or suffering. We must therefore, honor their desire for change.’

“ ‘Regarding the fundamental question – “can a homosexual person change?” – there is a domain which you be sure of: prayer,’ said Lovey.

“ ‘In nature, the human being is gendered, masculine-feminine. And is not fully human unless he lives this complementarity. It is a question of natural morality,’ he said. ‘Homosexuality can be cured.’ ”

A few days later with another newspaper, Le Matin, Lovey corrected his original statements.  SwissInfo.ch reported on this second interview, which had also originally been conducted in French:

In Thursday’s Le Matin interview the bishop said he was very surprised by the heated reactions to his comments, both on social media and by gay and lesbian organisations, which he said were ‘misunderstood’.

“ ‘I don’t consider homosexuality to be an illness. But I do know people whose homosexual tendencies were fleeting, without claiming this is the case for everyone. I used the term “cure” for a person who was homosexual and who talks in these terms about his personal experience,’ said Lovey.”

In the first interview,  the bishop did state that he felt that being did not diminish a person’s human dignity, and so gay people should be respected.

Father Ingvar Fogelqvist

This Swiss incident echoes a similar one which happened in Sweden in April. TheLocal.se reported that a priest in that country made mis-informed comments about the psychology of lesbian and gay people, but then, later, apologized and corrected his remarks.  The news article stated:

“Preaching to the Catholic parish of Ärkeängeln Sankt Mikael in Växjö, priest Ingvar Fogelqvist allegedly told students at a confirmation class that certain gay people could be ‘cured’ of their ‘psychological disorder’ while other forms of homosexuality are incurable.

“The priest added that gay people, as well as those who suffer from impotence or other health problems, should not take on the responsibility of family life. . . .

“When contacted by The Local Fogelqvist was not immediately available for comment, but in a press release. . . he later apologized for his comments and said they had been taken out of context.

“ ‘My wording in the interview is clumsy, and I would therefore like to apologize to anyone who may have felt hurt by what I have said. Some of the quotes have also been taken out of context. It was not my intention in any way to express myself in an offensive way against homosexuals,’ he wrote.

“ ‘What I meant by incurable was that homosexuality can be a permanent sexual orientation and is not to be regarded as an illness that can be cured,’ he added.

While it is good that Bishop Lovey and Father Ingvar Fogelqvist  corrected themselves, I hope that they and other bishops  and priests learn from this incident an important lesson: they need to educate themselves about basic scientific knowledge and theological developments about LGBT people.  As educated people, bishops and priests should not be making such ill-informed comments.  It indicates their lack of knowledge about sexual orientation and the lives of LGBT people.

Lovey, like many bishops who have made negative comments about lesbian and gay relationships, has acknowledged that respect for LGBT people is a main tenet of church teaching.  The most basic form of respect is to not speak about a person or group of persons without the most basic knowledge of their reality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: ‘No, You Didn’t.’ ‘Yes, I Did.’

May 19, 2015

computer_key_Quotation_MarksDr. Carys Massarella, a highly respected emergency room physician at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario, is a transgender woman.

Dr. Carys Massarella

In an interview with CHCH radio in which she discussed her journey of transition, which she did while working at the Catholic hospital, noting:

“I must say, my American colleagues…every time I tell them I did this at a Catholic hospital they are like ‘no you didn’t’ and I’m like ‘yes I did.’ ”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: How He Evolved on LGBT Equality

May 18, 2015

computer_key_Quotation_MarksThis past spring, the Missouri legislature has been debating a non-discrimination law based on sexual orientation and gender identity. During one of the hearings, Rep. Galen Higdon, a retired sheriff’s deputy from St. Joseph, said to a witness testifying against the bill:

“I don’t understand why you would object to someone’s private life.”

Representative Galen Higdon

This response came as a surprise to most because Higdon is a politically and religiously conservative Catholic.  St. Louis Today caught up with him to explain how he arrived at his position of support. The reporter described his response:

“Higdon, 60, indicated that, like much of the country, his position toward gays is complicated and evolving.

“Catholic and married for 41 years with three daughters and five grandchildren, he said he still believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“But when a gay couple rented an apartment he owned and told him, ‘we’re just going to use one room’ of the two bedrooms, he assured the couple he had no problem with their living arrangement.

“ ‘I’m not going to live there,’ Higdon said he told them. ‘It was the neatest my flat was ever kept,’ he added.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Nun and Priest Join With Other Irish Catholics Set to Vote “Yes” for Marriage Equality

May 14, 2015

 

Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy

In under ten days, Irish voters will decide on approving marriage equality in one of the world’s most historically Catholic nations. If approved, this will be the first popular vote to legalize same-gender marriages in the world — but what is also remarkable about Ireland’s story, regardless of the outcome, is how many Catholics are publicly endorsing LGBT rights.

Religious Sister of Charity Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy announced she will be voting “Yes” for marriage equality. Speaking at an unrelated conference on austerity policies, Kennedy said of the vote:

” ‘I have thought a lot about this…I am going to vote Yes in recognition of the gay community as full members of society. They should have an entitlement to marry. It is a civil right and a human right’…

” ‘I have a big commitment to equality for all members of society. It’s what my life has been about. We have discriminated against members of the gay and lesbian community for too long. This is a way of embracing them as full members of society.’ “

Sr. Kennedy works closely with those in Ireland experiencing homelessness, reports The Irish Times, and spoke against austerity measures because of the devastating impact they actually have had on families and will continue to have for years to come.

Fr. Gabriel Daly

Top theologian Fr. Gabriel Daly also urged Catholics to vote “Yes,” in an article published by Doctrine and Life, a publication of the Dominicans. Daly, a former theology professor at several universities, said the matter is “an issue for the State, not for the church.” He continued, as reported in The Irish Times:

” ‘Marriage as a sacrament is the proper concern of the church. If the Yes vote succeeds in Ireland, it will be for the church to decide whether to co-operate or not…[I am] unimpressed by the claim that allowing gay men and lesbian women to marry members of their own sex necessarily has an effect on the Christian idea of marriage…Christians are perfectly free to carry on without any threat to their customary understanding of marriage.’ “

Fr. Daly said Catholics could vote for marriage equality “with good conscience,” but did add that adoption of children by same-gender parents is a separate issue.

These endorsement are only the latest in a series of Catholic voices over the last year.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick speaking for equality in Ireland

Sr. Jeannine Gramick speaking for equality in Ireland

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, spoke in Ireland about supporting marriage equality several weeks ago saying “You can be Catholic and support civil marriage marriage for lesbian and gay people.

Former Irish president Mary McAleese, an outspoken critic of the church’s anti-LGBT policies and mother of a gay son, also promised to vote “Yes” for the good of Ireland’s children. Equality campaigners are appealing to Irish voters’ Catholic roots by emphasizing the good this will do for their loved ones, asking them to bring your family with you to the voting booth on May 22.

Fr. Martin Dolan of Dublin came out to parishioners during Mass in January, saying “I’m gay myself” as he called upon the church community to support LGBT rights. He was widely supported by his parish, which applauded him, while facing no public consequences from the archbishop as many feared he would.

Augustinian Fr. Iggy O’Donovan wrote a pro-marriage equality article, saying “respect for the freedom of others who differ from us is part and parcel of the faith we profess” and he knows more priests will vote “Yes” than many believe. Meanwhile, Irish parishioners have walked out of a Mass when the pastor preached an anti-gay homily.

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Ireland’s bishops have been less friendly, threatening at one point to stop performing civil marriages altogether if the referendum is approved. However, in a rare display of humility, Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin admitted he is no expert on family life today. He also called anti-equality activists’ language “obnoxious,” said an “ethics of equality” was needed in the debate over LGBT rights, and, in the rarest of moves, joined Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh in publicly critiquing a fellow bishop who compared homosexuality to Down’s Syndrome.

New polling reported by Buzzfeed shows 78% of voters planning to vote “Yes” on May 22, but pro-equality campaigners are redoubling their efforts over fears support could drop in the final weeks due to confusion being sown by anti-LGBT activists. Regardless of the outcome, this movement in Ireland is revealing the best of Catholicism when it comes to LGBT justice and shows a way to dialogue publicly about divergent views while upholding the dignity of sexual and gender diverse persons.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Some Silver Linings in Employment Cases, Though Dark Clouds Remain

May 5, 2015

A few weeks backBondings 2.0 reported and commented on employment disputes over LGBT issues at Catholic schools in the neighboring states of Iowa and Nebraska.  Though neither case has been resolved with a gay teacher being allowed to work, some unexpected results have occurred.

Iowa

In Des Moines, Iowa, where Tyler McCubbin, a substitute teacher, had a full-time job offer revoked when it was learned that he was engaged to a man, student organizers at his former school, Dowling Catholic H.S., have succeeded in getting a gay-straight alliance established and officially recognized and supported.

Tyler McCubbin

The group, called “One Human Family” was proposed by four students on the day after McCubbin’s dispute was announced.  According to The Des Moines Register, Dowling President Jerry Deegan wrote to parents announcing the organization’s formation:

” ‘Pope Francis has challenged us to be sensitive and provide a caring, compassionate, respectful environment for all of our students on their faith journey.’ He went on to say the club will support students who may identify or have questions about same-sex attraction.

” ‘Some will believe that One Human Family will not be progressive enough while others may believe the formation of this club is misguided,’ the letter said. ‘As the president of Dowling Catholic, I will always strive, along with our faculty, to make certain all students are given the support, respect, and guidance during their formative years. This club will add to that effort in a positive way.’ “

McCubbin had stated that he was hopeful that such an organization would be established to support LGBT students at the school. Student leaders were very pleased with the administration’s recognition.  The Register quoted two of them:

” ‘I’m really excited to get this started,’ said Grace Mumm, a sophomore who organized the walkout, which sparked national media coverage. ‘I have a lot of confidence that the school is going to cooperate with us really well, and we’ve been working really closely with them.’ . . . .

” ‘I feel really great,’ said Junior Liam Jameson, who started a petition that garnered 1,700 signatures in favor of the club. ‘I’m sure we’re going to get some backlash, but it’s a big step forward for students at Dowling and in the community in general.’ “

In an editorial after the gay-straight alliance was announced, The Des Moine Register praised the students’ efforts for compassion and equality, and noted the importance of such an organization:

“A Catholic institution may have the legal right to deny employment to a teacher who does not follow church canon, but all schools should provide a welcoming and safe environment for all students.”

I would add that just because a Catholic institution may have a legal right, it doesn’t mean that it is moral or just to exercise that right by firing competent teachers.

Nebraska

matthew eledge

Matthew Eledge

In Omaha, Nebraska, where Matthew Eledge was fired from his job teaching English and coaching the speech team at Skutt Catholic H.S., students recently used the school’s fundraising walk for financial aid programs to show support for him and express displeasure at the administration’s decision.

KETV reported that during the annual “Hawk Walk,’ students donned T-shirts emblazoned with the messages:  “I Support Mr. Eledge”  and “Love one another as I have loved you,” a passage from the gospels.

The students’ petition to reverse the administration’s decision has collected over 95,000 signatures in less than a month.

Skutt H.S. students support Matthew Eledge at school fundraiser.

The Huffington Post interviewed one of the students who organized the action:

“Darya Kaboli-Nejad, a senior at the school, said that about 100 Skutt students purchased the shirts. She told HuffPost that Eledge has changed her life forever ‘through his teaching and actions.’

” ‘To be honest, I didn’t think the T-shirt campaign would get Mr. Eledge a job back at Skutt,’ Kaboli-Nejad told HuffPost in an email. ‘But my goal is for this unfair situation to never occur to another human being again. The ultimate dream is to impact one person’s life. If this campaign can get enough attention, then maybe one day, one person out there will remember how much hurt and pain this caused Mr. Eledge and his friends and family, that they will stand up for what they know is right and just.’ “

In a BuzzFeed interview, Eledge explained some of his motivation for going public and also his gratitude to supporters:

“Eledge said he was reluctant at first to address the issue because he wanted to make sure he wasn’t just speaking with his ‘ego.’

“However, he said, he’s come to realize that his story has ‘represented something way bigger.’

“Eledge said both he and Elliot are ‘more than anything totally and 100% moved and humbled and in awe of the way people are reaching out.’

“ ‘The support from the community has made me feel very loved and accepted,’ he said.”

The responses in both cases show how the Catholic community’s quest for justice and equality for LGBT people may take some necessary detours, but that the work will go on, no matter what kind of obstacles are placed in the way.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic University Open to Lawsuit Under New D.C. Non-Discrimination Law

May 4, 2015

The District of Columbia’s new law barring LGBT discrimination by religiously affiliated schools went into effect yesterday, opening the door for Catholic University of America students to challenge that school’s decade-long denial of an LGBT student group.

D.C. City Council passed the Human Rights Amendment Act last year, which, in part, repealed an existing law commonly known as the “Armstrong Amendment.” For decades, this amendment has exempted religious schools from the District’s extensive non-discrimination laws regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

It has been the legal grounds on which President John Garvey repeatedly denied recognition of CUAllies, an LGBT student group at Catholic University. Now these grounds no longer exist. Even a congressional move to repeal the new DC Human Rights Amendment Act failed recently.  CUAllies’ leadership is weighing options, according to MetroWeekly:

“Following Congress’s decision, Natasha Backman, a graduating senior at Catholic and the head of CUAllies, expressed hope that the prohibition on discrimination would encourage university administrators to work more collaboratively to reach an understanding with CUAllies as to its official status and ability to access university resources.

“Backman isn’t naive — she pointed out that university administrators at Catholic have relished being confrontational and are quick to react to any perceived slight or action that they feel defies Church teaching — and nor has she taken any options off the table when it comes to legal action.”

CUAllies member Steve Morris, a sophomore who also heads the College Republicans on campus, commented:

” ‘We have seen the school’s lack of logical and moral case catch up with their lack of legal case for denying CUAllies recognition…The only people who have anything to fear from debate are those who can’t stand strong in their beliefs.’ “

The University, however, is holding firm. The administration’s spokesperson, Victor Nakas, said CUA is ready for a court battle and would “expect to prevail” under First Amendment protections. President Garvey, in a Washington Post opinion piece co-authored with Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl, echoed this promised legal challenge.

The Human Rights Amendment was passed alongside the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, which prevents religious employers from discriminating based upon an employee’s reproductive decisions. Implementation of both laws was delayed given the U.S. Congress’ 30-day review, during which Republicans introduced disapproval resolutions against both laws that would have nullified them. House leadership did not vote on the Human Rights Amendment and a similar resolution introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) went nowhere in that the chamber, reports The Washington Blade.

Catholic bishops wrote letters supporting nullification efforts, grounding their arguments in an apparent attack on religious liberty that these laws perpetuate. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton suggested that Republicans may attack the new non-discrimination laws during this summer’s appropriations process, as they have previously done when disagreeing with D.C. City Council legislation.

President Garvey and fellow administrators should pause in this moment, considering their students’ needs as the foremost priority rather than pursuing further congressional intervention or legal challenges. Sacrificing students’ well-being for partisan campaigning is what really undermines the school’s Catholic identity, not the fostering of a welcoming and inclusive campus environment.

As a former CUAllies leader, I have firsthand experience about how hostile the campus can be for LGBTQ students and how few pastoral resources exist. D.C.’s new law is a perfect moment to reset relations with CUAllies and set a new course at Catholic University. In the absence of such outreach, however, the 1980’s lawsuit forcing Georgetown University to care for LGBT students should be instructive for CUAllies leadership. This time, there is no religious exemption behind which Catholic University can hide as it shirks its Gospel commitments.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of CUAllies and other LGBT efforts in Catholic higher education, see the “Campus Chronicles” category to the right.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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