Trans* Advocacy Happening Among Some Traditionally-Inclined Catholics

August 30, 2015

Transgender topics are increasingly being discussed in Catholic circles, including in more traditional members of the church. In this post, Bondings 2.0 offers a survey of recent news with accompanying links for further reading.

Two incidents highlight how lay people are holding clergy accountable for transphobic remarks–a sad yet necessary task when ignorance and prejudice are too readily displayed by those in leadership.

Anthony Garascia

Earlier this summer, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone claimed it is “the clear biological fact” is that people are born male or female. This remark was deemed “misguided and harmful” by Tony Garascia, a licensed therapist.  In an op-ed for The Advocate, Garascia criticized the archbishop for failing to understand gender dysphoria:

“What Cordileone needs to understand is that people do not wake up one day and decide to change their gender, and that being transgender is deeply rooted in who they are from an early age. There is simply a disconnect between the inner experience of the individual concerning how they identify as female or male, and their biology. . .

“One wonders if Cordileone has in fact ever met with transgender people, listened to their stories, their pain, and their attempts to live authentically and integrate who they really are into how they function in the society. If he took the time to meet with trans people and consult mainstream researchers and clinicians, he would find that transgender people look to their faith and their churches for acceptance, often feel alienated from their places of worship, face great psychological distress, and are at a greater risk than others for suicide due to rejection.”

Drawing from his own professional experience and the Family Acceptance Project, Garascia highlighted the harm that negative religious attitudes from both clergy and parents can inflict upon trans* youth. These attitudes lead to real harm, and the author suggested Cordileone should also consult experts along with trans* people and their families:

“If he would only listen, he would understand that this is not about ‘gender politics’ but about treating others with dignity and respect.”

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a blogger for Patheos, also attacked trans* people, particularly Caitlyn Jenner, in a blog post linking them to demons. His ill-informed commentary was thankfully rebutted by Melinda Selmys, who herself experiences gender dysphoria though does not identify as transgender. She wrote on her own blog at Patheos:

“Although he doesn’t quite come out and say it directly, the strong implication is that transgender people remake themselves in the image and likeness of a demon. . .

“Every single trans person who reads this is going to hear ‘your identity is demonic.’ They are going to see themselves compared to a Satanic statue, and they are going to receive the message loud and clear that this Satanic symbolism is somehow representative of them. Whether it is Fr. Longenecker’s intention or not, what this actually communicates is a demonization of trans people and a rejection of their humanity.

“Such demonization, on the basis of symbolism, is not scriptural. It represents a confusion between symbols and persons, and it treats Caitlyn Jenner – and by extension her trans brothers and sisters – as nothing more than an icon of evil. It’s scandalously uncharitable, and it’s not actually based on any sound consideration of what causes gender dysphoria, or of why people identify as trans.”

Selmys, whose writings are generally more conservative, has been writing more frequently about gender diverse identities lately. Her blog, Catholic Authenticity, recently featured an interview worth reading with a Catholic trans woman, Aoife Assumpta Hart. Interestingly, though Hart disagrees with the positions of many LGBT advocates about sexuality and gender, she decided to transition and credits it with saving her life and her faith:

“Transition saved my life; it was the only treatment that, after decades of inescapable self-horror, finally allowed me to feel as if I inhabited a body in which I could belong.

“My life pre-transition was like a burning labyrinth with no centre and no exit. Transition was like like falling in love for the first time: falling in love with myself. Rage dissipated, unbearable uncertainties and colossal self-hate dissipated. In its place came clarity, patience, awareness, compassion. My heart opened: I asked myself to forgive myself. And I learned how to love all over again. This was a necessary step in my path to returning to the Church. When I existed as a fraught incongruency, how could I love myself? And how can one love God but not love one’s very own self? . . .

“We are Catholics as well – sinners, strugglers, survivors. I appraised my life situation after my suicide attempt and knew that transition would enable me to attain a peace I had never known. And in this peace I found prayer … and in prayer I knew love. Thank God.”

Even more conservative is the defense of transgender identities recently posted at the blog of the right-wing Witherspoon Institute. The author’s argument will seem quite deficient to most trans* advocates, but it is worth noting because it is a defense posted by an institution established with a goal to oppose marriage equality. Jennifer Gruenke’s concluded:

“I am not arguing that introspective reports of sex are infallible. But according to some studies, a majority of people who undergo sex reassignment surgery are happy with the decision. There is a real danger of misdiagnosing someone as transgender and doing surgery that does them harm, and conservatives have been correct to raise this concern in the face of those who are prepared to affirm every request. In giving the impression that this is a decisive reason against every desired sex-reassignment surgery, though, some conservatives have overstepped. Trying to change a legitimate self-perception of gender also does harm.”

What are takeaways from these developments? I think there are at least two.

First, Catholics across the church’s belief spectrum are freely thinking about gender identity matters in the absence of any defined teaching. Most, thought not all, are informing themselves through both the church’s tradition and the lived realities of gender diverse persons and their families. Where too often discussions around homosexuality become bogged down, gender identity is freely debated and even more traditionally-inclined Catholics feel free to challenge church officials whose comments do harm. In short, good theology and good pastoral practice can be nourished as they did around sexuality in the years following Vatican II.

Second, Pope Francis’ legacy will likely be defined by how willing lay people and clergy are to take up his call for a merciful and inclusive church in their local communities. When it comes to trans* people, it seems more and more Catholics of all kinds are waking up to the need for improved pastoral outreach given the suffering gender diverse communities experience–like the 20 trans* women murdered in the United States already this year. These conservative efforts are, in my opinion, incomplete and could be damaging in some cases, but they are notable for their mere existence. This does not mean they will suffice, but they are providing space for collaboration and common life-saving and faith-growing efforts to take shape.

We must continue to build upon this development, including more ministries like that of “Sr. Monica” whose work with transgender Catholics was recently highlighted by Religion News Service. She was profiled for Catholic Sisters Week last year which you can read about here. The LGBT Religious Archives Network reported on trans* Catholic advocate Hilary Howes’ comments on this sister’s ministry:

“I have been inspired by her dedication and follow-through in making things happen while remaining almost invisible herself.”

None of this means that attaining full inclusion and justice for trans* communities in the church and in the world will be quick or easy work, but there are hopeful signs from many quarters including one top English official’s claim that the church should support those who decided to transition. These forward steps should not be too easily forgotten even when a bishop reveals his ignorance or a priest lashes out from prejudice. Instead, turn to leaders like Deacon Ray Dever who has a transgender daughter and wrote earlier this week about the need to welcome all families into the church’s life.

For those attending the World Meeting of Families, or anyone who wants to come to Philadelphia at the end of September, consider attending New Ways Ministry’s half-day workshop on gender diverse families entitled TransForming Love: Exploring Gender Identity from Catholics Perspectives, on Saturday, September 26, 2015, 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at Arch Street United Methodist Church, 55 North Broad Street, Philadelphia.  For more information, click here.

For more updates on trans Catholic issues, check out our “Transgender” category in the column to the right.  

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


New Ways Ministry Congratulates St. Mary’s Academy on Adoption of Employment Non-Discrimination Policy

August 27, 2015

The following is the statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response the news that a Catholic high school has adopted an employment non-discrimination policy about sexual orientation and marital status.

New Ways Ministry thanks and congratulates St. Mary’s Academy, Portland, Oregon, for not only reversing their decision to dismiss a counselor who they learned was a lesbian, but to adopt a non-discrimination policy which welcomes gay and lesbian employees, including those who are legally married.

St. Mary’s policy sets a precedent for Catholic institutions across the nation and around the globe who are faced with the new reality of gay and lesbian people who are more open about their sexual orientations, and the even newer reality of the legalization of marriage for gay and lesbian people.  To the Catholic Church’s shame, since 2008, over 50 employees have lost their jobs at Catholic institutions because of LGBT issues—most of them involving marriage.  These 50 are only the cases which have become public.

(For a list of the known employees fired, click here.)

Since 2013, New Ways Ministry has been advocating for Catholic institutions to adopt non-discrimination policies protecting people from being fired because of sexual orientation, marital or relational status, and support for marriage equality.  Such policies are easily supported by the authentic Catholic teachings on social justice and conscience. Though a number of institutions have had discussions in regard to such policies, St. Mary’s Academy is the first known Catholic employer to adopt one.

Equally impressive for St. Mary’s Academy is the speed with which the school reversed its decision.  One day after the dismissal became public, the school’s board met and voted to continue hiring the counselor and to adopt the non-discrimination policy.  This speed saved the school community of parents, students, teachers, alumni much grief, as witnessed by the countless strong and pain-filled protests that other institutions have faced because of similar employment disputes.

The St. Mary’s case had been particularly egregious because in addition to withdrawing its contract, the school had asked Lauren Brown, the employee, to remain silent about their decision.  Brown said that as a matter of integrity she could not be silent, and so she made her story and pertinent documents available to the press. Her example shows that openness and transparency are ways of achieving justice.  The burgeoning protest by students, alumni, and parents surely also played a role.

New Ways Ministry prays that other Catholic workplaces will follow the example of St. Mary’s Academy in adopting non-discrimination policies.  In doing so, they will be living up to the best ideals of the Catholic faith’s promotion of human dignity and equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Springfield Diocese Sets Restrictive Expectations for Parents of Catholic School Children

August 24, 2015

A same-gender couple’s attempt to register their child in a Catholic school in the diocese of Springfield, Illinois, has resulted in a new diocesan policy which, according to a local newspaper account “could call into question parents’ lifestyles, especially if they go against Catholic teaching, and takes a new approach toward a more Protestant tradition of tithing.”

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Springfield’s State Journal-Register reported this past weekend that Bishop Thomas Paprocki sent a letter to local pastors and principals on July 20th, informing them of the new “Family School Agreement” which would require non-Catholic families to attend Sunday Mass and contribute financially.  According to the news report, the Agreement also stipulates the following for all parents, Catholic and non-Catholic:

“. . . the expectation that parents, adoptive parents or legal guardians of children enrolled in Catholic schools meet with their parish pastor if they are ‘not living in accord with church teaching.’

“That would take in persons who are divorced and remarried but haven’t been granted an annulment, unmarried couples living together, and people who are in same-sex marriages or partnerships.”

The newspaper said it obtained a copy of Paprocki’s letter, which mentioned that it was the case of a same-sex couple attempting to register their child in the spring was one of the reasons for instituting this policy.  In 2013, Paprocki made headlines for conducting an exorcism on the same day that the governor of Illionois signed marriage equality into law.

In terms of tithing, the newspaper reported the following details about the Agreement:

“The discipleship and stewardship components of the Family School Agreement mandate that the entire family, even if some members aren’t Catholic, participate in weekly Mass and on holy days of obligation, and it ‘obliges’ families to try to tithe at least 8 percent of their income to the parish church in addition to paying school tuition.”

Jonathan Sullivan, the diocesan director of catechetical services, which is responsible for overseeing the schools, acknowledged that 8% is an “aspirational” figure.  He also said that the Agreement might be revised for the following year.  The agreeement was modeled on a similar one in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas.

An anonymous source who attended an August 7th diocesan meeting of pastors and principals said that objections were raised to the tone and substance of the Agreement.  Some schools have not required parents to sign the Agreement.  No pastor or principal was willing to speak with the reporter, however.

The penalty for not adhering to the Agreement can be severe, according to the newspaper:

“Parents and students who actively promote ‘a moral or doctrinal position contrary to Catholic teaching’— supporting ordination of women priests, for instance — would be considered in violation of the Family School Agreement. The agreement says that could lead to the expulsion of the student.”

John Freml

John Freml, who is a graduate of Springfield Catholic schools and serves as the coordinator for the Equally Blessed coalition and a local Call To Action chapter, offered a pastoral critique of the new policies:

” ‘What parents in their right minds would idly sit by while a religion teacher is forced to tell their children that something is wrong with their family?’ . . . This is not the kind of church that Pope Francis has called for, and Paprocki should reread what the pope has said about how the church should treat children of same-sex parents.”

Though Sullivan said that the diocese “isn’t trying to coerce people” to convert to Catholicism, the new policy will most likely be felt that way by many parents.  It will encourage the saddest and lowest form of “religious” behavior: going through the motions without an internal assent.

The new policy seems in line with a philosophy that Paprocki expressed in defending his exorcism, referenced above. In an interview in 2014 he stated:

“. . . [S]ometimes, like any good parent will tell you, that sometimes you have to discipline your child, sometimes you have to say no. And sometimes, you even have to punish.

“And when a parent does those things, they’re not being hateful towards their children, they’re actually being very loving by correcting them and showing them the right way to do things.”

In a sense, the new policy is setting up requirements for what people have to do to receive the Church’s ministry. That is not a Catholic thing to do.  Catholic schools around the nation and the globe educate millions of non-Catholic students, as well as millions of Catholic students whose parents may disagree with the magisterium of the Church. Setting up a requirement for what people have to do to receive services from the Church goes counter to what millions of Catholics around the world are doing.  Catholic education should be an expression of the Church’s desire to serve the world, not a reward for going through pro forma steps.

According to the Springfield diocese, school enrollment there has been decreasing.  This new policy will surely speed up that decrease, as parents will choose other alternatives that respect their human dignity and individual consciences–two principles of Catholic teaching which the schools should be demonstrating.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


In Australia: Rainbow Colors Celebrate Acceptance, Pride, and Faith

August 15, 2015

Today’s post is written by a guest blogger:  Tim Smyth, of Sydney, Australia.

Six banners, each one the color of one of the bands of the rainbow, hang in St. Joseph’s Catholic parish, Newtown, Sydney, Australia, as a sign both of the welcome that the parish has for LGBT people, as well as of the appreciation the LGBT community has for the parish’s ministry of inclusion.

IMG_1409

Rainbow banners in St. Joseph’s Church

The banners were donated by Acceptance, an Australian LGBT Catholic group founded in Sydney in 1973. It is one of the world’s oldest Catholic LGBT organizations. In its early years, members met in various places around inner Sydney with priests celebrating Mass with members in homes and halls. In December 1990 the pastor at St Canice’s parish in the inner city invited Acceptance to celebrate a Christmas Mass in the church.

Reflecting changing demography, Acceptance moved to the inner western suburb of Newtown in 2006. The parish of St Joseph’s, Newtown, has a long history of working for social justice and has made Acceptance very welcome as part of this parish ministry.

Each week, the Parish Bulletin proudly states “we welcome all to pray regardless of race, creed, culture, gender or sexual orientation”.

The Friday night Parish Mass is a special ministry to LGBT Catholics and welcomes Acceptance members, their family and friends each week. Acceptance members also participate in the parish team, music, liturgy preparation for Sunday Mass, reconciliation and other feasts, and many other activities of the parish.

As a tangible sign of appreciation for this welcome and ministry, Acceptance donated 8 banners to the parish. They were hung in the church for the first time at the annual World AIDS Day Mass, December 1, 2011, and have been up for most of the time since then. In 2012, they went on a short “tour” to a gallery and to an exhibition celebrating the International Day against Homophobia.

banners 1

A close-up of four of the rainbow banners

The banners were made by Melinda Maybury, a member of Acceptance. She completed a degree in Applied Art, majoring in textiles in 1995. Melinda was keen to participate in this project as it combined her faith, love of textiles, and being part of Sydney’s LGBT community.

The six banners are the colours of the rainbow. They remind us that the rainbow in the Old Testament is a powerful symbol of God’s covenant with people of faith.

Each banner displays a Gospel value – faith, hope, love, peace, justice and compassion. These gospel values inspire and nurture our faith community in Newtown.

The rainbow colours, of course, are also the colours of LGBT pride worldwide.

The rainbow colored banners are joined by two other important banners in the church. All of them together represent the past, present and future of the parish.

One of the other banners acknowledges and celebrates the indigenous traditional owners of the land on which the church is sited, the Gadigal clan of the Aboriginal Eora nation. The Aboriginal people are the world’s oldest living culture, extending back over 40,000 years.

This banner is in the colours of the Aboriginal flag – black, red and yellow. Black represents the Aboriginal people; red, the red earth of Australia and the spiritual relationship with the land; and yellow, the sun, the giver of life and protector.

Designed by Harold Thomas, the Aboriginal flag was first flown in July 1971. In 1995 the Australian Government proclaimed the flag as an official ‘Flag of Australia’.

Hanging opposite in the church is a banner in the colours of the St Joseph’s School – yellow and blue. This banner acknowledges the faith community that built our parish and our schools, a heritage stretching back to 1869.

Melinda and her female partner are happy to report that their son began his education in 2015 at a local Catholic school. Sending him there was an important but risky decision for them. Yet, their rainbow family, like any other, has been accepted as full members of the school community. “We didn’t want our son to have special treatment, but we have been blessed with Acceptance in more ways than one.”

Acceptance members seek a world without homophobia and a world where LGBT people can celebrate both who their identity and their faith.

We are proud and honoured that our parish community celebrates Eucharist with these symbols of God’s covenant, Gospel values, and the ministry of welcome and acceptance.

–Tim Smyth
Tim Smyth is a member of St Joseph’s Parish Team and of Acceptance. For more information on Acceptance visit www.gaycatholic.com.au


Rankings Omit Catholic Colleges from LGBT-Friendly List, But Also Fail to Tell Full Story

August 10, 2015

DePaul University students marching in Chicago’s Pride Parade

College classes are still a few weeks away, but the Princeton Review’s annual rankings of Most- and Least-LGBT friendly campuses are already published. No Catholic colleges were ranked among the top twenty LGBTQ-Friendly Schools, but two were among the top LGBTQ-Unfriendly Schools: the University of Dallas (UD) and The Catholic University of America (CUA) at #15 and #20, respectively.

But, as I have written in past years (2013 and 2014), rankings like the Princeton Review’s cannot capture the full story when it comes to Catholic higher education and LGBT issues.  Getting the story right is important given that the church’s higher educational mission in the United States alone reaches around a million students at more than 220 colleges and universities.  And, in fact, looking at some summer happenings on campuses may show that Catholic higher education in the United States may see its most LGBT-positive year yet.

For example, DePaul University in Chicago is not only the nation’s largest Catholic college but also one of its most LGBT-positive. It continued building on that strong record in recent months, sponsoring marchers in the city’s Pride parade for the second year in a row and joining Campus Ministry with LGBTQ Student Services to host a conversation on healthy sexual relationships last May.

In the area of trans* inclusion, more Catholic colleges are increasing their welcome for trans* students. Conversations about gender identity are springing up on campuses more frequently. For example, Loyola University New Orleans hosted an event with transgender advocate and actress Laverne Cox last spring.

Trans* Catholic Nick Stevens wrote positively about attending Fontbonne University, St. Louis, during the years whwen he not only transitioned but entered the Catholic Church as well. He wrote for HRC Blog and for Time earlier this year about his experiences, including this observation:

“Admittedly, the Catholic Church isn’t historically known as the most welcoming place for the LGBT community. But I found many Catholics who continued to love me and walk beside me in my journey. . .Besides my family, my biggest supporters came from the community I formed during college. A Catholic university, Fontbonne allowed me to become a leader in an inclusive and diverse environment.

“As the student body president, I interacted with a lot of people on campus, which created a very difficult coming out process. I was afraid that many of those I befriended or worked with at Fontbonne would reject me. Luckily, that wasn’t the case at all. Even the president of the college accepted and welcomed my transition.”

Stevens also wrote about being transgender and Catholic for the New York Times, detailing further the affirmation he received from many church members including his traditional-leaning grandmother of whom he wrote:

“In her words and actions, she communicated to me the fundamental truths of our faith: that God made us to be who we are, and if we aren’t being true to ourselves, then we aren’t being true to God.”

Georgetown University was celebrated in 2013 for admitting two openly trans* students, among many other steps made toward equality. The Georgetown Voice,  the student newspaper, recently ran an article featuring the school’s LGBT achievements, while also noting that there is still room for some improvement.

UD appeared at #10 in 2013, then disappeared from the list in 2014. Earlier this spring, a new graduate’s open letter asked administrators to apologize for a commencement speaker’s anti-gay tirade or simply admit LGBT students are unwelcome. The letter called the campus climate “homophobic and toxic,” saying further that “bigoted students are empowered.”

CUA has been an anti-LGBTQ regular, appearing in the Princeton Review’s rankings at #18 in 2013 and #12 in 2014. The administration repeatedly rejected a student LGBT group or any positive outreach through student affairs and campus ministry. A recent change in D.C.’s Human Rights Law may make CUA open to a lawsuit if the administration discriminates against an LGBT student group.

Catholic colleges like UD and CUA should look to the University of Notre Dame for help rather than waiting for legal challenges to force change. Notre Dame appeared at #5 and #9 on the Least-LGBTQ Friendly lists the past two years but was dropped this year. This shift is likely the result of the school’s pastoral plan for LGBTQ community members, “Beloved Friends and Allies” which, though imperfect, is a major step forward.

As another school year approaches, I repeat my now annual call for Princeton Review and other ranking systems to look closer at Catholic higher education. I wrote in a similar post last year:

“What these rankings fail to account for is this disparity between the hierarchy’s teaching and the lived reality of most Catholics. The rankings do not acknowledge the attempts to heal and divide communities…They do not consider cases, like at Creighton University, where school officials stood up to conservative critics within the church about a music concert by a pro-gay performer. Ultimately, they fail to consider how passionately and firmly students and staff have stood up for LGBT inclusion — and have succeeded in so many instances.”

Finally, the church’s educational mission is something of which we, as Catholics, can be deeply proud, but which also requires our constantly vigilant attention if we are to sustain it equitably. Every Catholic should consider how they might encourage and enable Catholic education, from primary schools to graduate programs, to open the doors wider and cherish more sincerely the contributions of LGBT students and educators.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


On Resisting Passivity: Charleston, Laudato Si’, and LGBT People

August 7, 2015

Today’s post is from guest blogger, Dr. Jerry Fath, whose bio can be read at the end of the essay.

Emanuel AME Church, Charleston

The senseless murders at the Charleston, South Carolina AME Church startled many because they raised the ongoing issues of racial prejudice, gun violence, and how people from all walks of life, become innocent victims of terror, hate, and discrimination. How many tragedies and how many deaths will it take to open our hearts and minds to search for remedies that address these divisive issues?

Tragic events should be the beginning of a dialogue addressing the tensions that crowd our society. Unfortunately, civil authorities continue to disappoint by polarizing and politicizing tragic events to the point of gridlock. In reality, social problems are a moral responsibility for all, not just politicians. Hate, hostility, and violence continue to fray the fabric of our society. There is a long way to go in the quest for equality.

Almost on the same day as the tragedy of South Carolina, a new encyclical, Laudato Si’, by Pope Francis was released. Though focused on the environment, his message resonates to other social areas of our lives. He clearly challenges each of us to move away from living in the shadows of fear and apathy, and look closely at the inseparable bond between nature and humanity, inequalities of people, and the marginalization of the poor and the disenfranchised. His powerful message goes far beyond the climate. It is a wake-up call, rooted in the gospels, that focuses our attention not just on a world problem but ones that contaminate our own lives.

Pope Francis

The pope is calling for each one of us to resist passivity, the contagion of apathy, and cynicism. This indifference lulls people back into a slumber where the conspiracy of silence prevails. Francis is imploring us to respond with action – action grounded on the rediscovery of our multiple God-given gifts and talents, and a determination to use them to build new cities and nations by reconnecting humankind. Accepting personal responsibility and accountability for renewing the face of the earth is a baptismal call. Francis exhorts us to become challenged by the Gospel as a first step toward dialogue to establish freedom and peace for all.

The LGBT community is very much a part of this challenge. The recent Supreme Court decision on marriage equality was a major victory that could not have happened without the unwavering, unified voices of many men and women. . Courage to celebrate diversity is clearly visible when watching members of PFLAG, as well as many churches and other religious denominations, march in Pride parades. Religious folks, particularly Catholics, have ceased waiting for hierarchical approbation and taken creative stances to empower people with principle, compassion, and grace to bear witnesses for equality and justice.

Some politicians and celebrities have also made headlines by coming out and decalring support for social issues. But let us not forget the many others like the Matthew Shepards who have risked life, employment, and severed family relations for personal integrity and internal peace. There are countless others who have lost significant family relationships, and their lives, either by suicide, hate crimes, or enslavement to substances. There is still a long way to go in the quest for equality.

Pope Francis writes in his encyclical: “We must regain the conviction that we need one another,that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.” Surely the words of Francis reflect the admonition of the letter of St James, “faith without good works is dead”!

The ultimate goal of renewing the face of the earth, working towards solutions to social issues, and building a city of God may not be achieved in our lifetimes, but hopefully we can go to God convinced that, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “I have done all that is mine to do.”

–Dr. Jerry Fath
Jerry FathDr. Jerry Fath is a Maryland based psychotherapist with extensive experience working with the Catholic and LGBT communities. He can be reached at jpfath1@verizon.net.


Lifting Up the Holiness of LGBT Families at Philly’s World Meeting

July 22, 2015

The World Meeting of Families, a Vatican-sponsored gathering of thousands of families from around the globe at the end of September, has already had controversy associated with it about LGBT issues.  For one thing, it will only have a minor nod to gay issues on the program (a celibate gay man and his mother will be part of a panel).

Equally Blessed LogoBut a group of families with LGBT members will be at the WMF to share their faith journeys and to represent, unofficially, the religious experience that these families have had.  And you can help support this effort by donating to support their work at this important international gathering.

Equally Blessed, a coalition of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry, is sponsoring a dozen families to be a visible presence of LGBT love at the WMF.  According to the webpaged devoted to this project the pilgrims have a unified mission:

“By embracing the spirit of prophetic non-violence, we will witness to our fellow World Meeting of Families (WMF) participants by…

  • Having one-on-one conversations with a wide range of WMF participants
  • Engaging the media
  • Being a visible presence at WMF events, especially by distributing materials that affirm LGBTQ Catholics
  • Witnessing through vigils or rallies with the message that we are all Equally Blessed.”

The pilgrims will participate in the educational and prayer activities of the WMF, and they plan to share their stories with other participants and with the Church officials who will be in attendance.  In this way, they hope to make sure that LGBT families’ lives are not forgotten in these discussions.

You can be a part of this program by supporting the pilgrims with prayer and with financial support.  To make a donation, please click here.

In anticipation of their pilgrimage to WMF, many of the pilgrims are keeping blog journals of their preparations.  They will also be blogging during the WMF so that you can learn about their experiences each day as they happen.  You can access the blog pages by clicking here.  Reading through these blog entries will help you get a better sense of the personal stories of these families, and I’m sure some of you will find echoes of your own experiences in theirs.

Equally Blessed members have joined with 26 other Catholic organizations to send a letter to Pope Francis requesting that he meet with LGBTQI Catholics and their families during his visit to the U.S. The letter points out:

“Our Church’s teaching and pastoral practices surrounding homosexuality are causing an enormous pastoral crisis, as well as upholding systemic, institutionalized discrimination against LGBT people and our families. In the U.S. and around the world, we are experiencing alienation from the Church, higher rates of poverty and violence, and discrimination in employment, housing, educational opportunities, and access to health care.”

The pilgrimage is not the only way that LGBT issues will be present in Philadelphia during the WMF.   Other groups are sponsoring events and programs “outside the walls” of the WMF, but nearby in Philly.

New Ways Ministry will host a half-day workshop on gender diverse families entitled TransForming Love: Exploring Gender Identity from Catholics Perspectives, on Saturday, September 26, 2015, 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at St. John the Evangelist Parish Center, 1212 Ludlow Street, Phialdelphia.  For more information, click here.

We have heard of several other programs being organized by other groups, but details are not yet settled. Bondings 2.0 will continue to update you on any news of other Catholic LGBT-related events at WMF as we hear of them.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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