Good Friday: Utmost Poverty, Utmost Love

April 3, 2015

“Crucifixion” by William H. Johnson

Even though he was full of divine power, Jesus believed that changing stones into bread, seeking popularity, and being counted among the great ones of the earth were temptations. Again and again Jesus opts for what is small and hidden and poor, and accordingly declines to wield influence.

His miracles always serve to express his profound compassion with suffering humanity. Never are they attempts to call attention to himself…. It becomes plain to us that God has willed to show love for the world by descending more and more deeply into human frailty.

The more conscious Jesus becomes of the mission entrusted to him, the more he realizes that that mission will make him poorer and poorer. And finally he hangs on a cross, crying out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Only then do we know how far God has gone to show us his love.

For it is then that Jesus not only reached his utmost poverty, but also showed us God’s utmost love.

–Henri Nouwen, Letters to Marc About Jesus

Holy Thursday: Pausing to Consider Christ’s Love

April 2, 2015

“If we but paused for a moment

to consider attentively

what takes place in this Sacrament,

I am sure

that the thought of Christ’s love for us

would transform

the coldness of our hearts

into a fire of love and gratitude.”

                                         – St. Angela of Foligno

Image: “Last Supper – John the Beloved and Christ” by Ann Chapin

How Did Pope Francis Do on His LGBT Report Card?

April 1, 2015

On March 13th, the second anniversary of Pope Francis’ election, Bondings 2.0 initiated a week-long survey entitled “What Grade Would You Give Pope Francis on LGBT Issues?”    We thought you might like to know about the results.

665 readers of this blog responded to the survey,  and the percentages for each grade were as follows:

A         14%

B         34%

C         28%

D         11%

F          2%

Incomplete    7%

                                                                           Other              4%

Since “B” received the most votes, with “C” being a close second, I think we could fairly say that our readers gave Pope Francis a “B-.”  Since our readers tend to be people who are deeply concerned about Catholic LGBT issues, I think that this poll reflects that segment of the population, not all Catholic people or all LGBT people.

One interesting thing to note, however is that the number of people who gave him an “A” (14%) is almost equal to the total of those who gave him a “D” (11%) or an “F” (2%).  It seems that those who think who is doing an excellent job on LGBT issues are equally balanced with those who are very disappointed in his performance on these issues.

Some of the folks who graded him “Other” wrote their comments to explain their choices.  Here are some of their remarks:

” The 2015 Synod will be key.”

“With improvement needed.”

“He negates much of the positive done.”

“I would give him a “C” on LGB issues, an “F” on trans issues. Very different responses.”

“He needs to chip away at the flaws in the “official” theology of human sexuality.”

“Actions speak louder than words. So far just a few good words.”

“Same as all popes.”

In my view, “B-” is a good grade, but it is one that shows there is room for improvement, as well as usually showing that the grader believes that the student actually can improve, if more effort and work were done.  At least, that is how I always viewed “B-” grades, both when I was a teacher and a student. As a teacher, I used to use a “minus” grade as a way to encourage students to work a little harder, and to let them know that I believed that they could do better.

So it seems to me that people are happy with the track that Pope Francis is on regarding LGBT issues, but that they would like to see him improve, and they believe that he can improve.

What do you think that “B-” means? Offer your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



Religious Superiors Call for Rethinking about Gay Couples; Cardinal Burke Calls Them ‘Murderers’

March 28, 2015

Cardinal Raymond Burke

Germany’s religious superiors of men’s and women’s communities released a statement that calls for a more expansive understanding of sexuality and, specifically, a rethinking of the church’s treatment of same-gender couples. Meanwhile, the U.S.’s Cardinal Raymond Burke compared these couples to “kind murderers” in his most recent interview.

The German Conference of Religious Superiors prepared the eight-page statement for that nation’s bishops as part of their broader preparations for the upcoming Synod of Bishops. In it, the 430 superiors, who represent the country’s 22,800 religious, note that most lesbian and gay people feel unwelcome. The National Catholic Reporter quoted from the document:

” ‘Christians of homosexual orientation talk to us quite openly about how they feel that they are just not accepted,’ the statement said.

“Many gay people aspire to a Christian lifestyle and to lifelong, faithful partnerships, but they cannot accept that the church requires them to remain celibate. More and more Catholics in city parishes no longer think that blessing gay partnerships would push Christian marriage into the closet, the statement said. They deplore that so many gay people are leaving or have long since left the church because they feel unaccepted, it continued.”

More generally, the statement appeals to church leaders to trust the faithful, who understand sexuality as “important and precious” while jettisoning unhealthy ideals from the past. The superiors state:

” ‘The faithful in the core sectors of our communities specifically appeal to those responsible in the church to put greater trust in them…They would certainly welcome more help in decisions of conscience but are critical of pastors who interfere with a heavy hand’. . .

” ‘Our church must be an inviting church. Public interest in the questions of marriage, family and sexuality have been aroused by the Episcopal Synod’s dialogue process. Let us humbly and courageously use this opportunity to find new, long overdue answers to these questions together…This is a good pastoral chance to do so — let us use it with the strength that God gives us!’ “

Directly challenging the more progressive and inclusive views of the German leaders is Cardinal Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis. In his recent interview with a conservative Catholic news outlet, Burke spoke about the discussions around marriage and family arising around the synod process. Burke, who was removed by Pope Francis from a high-ranking Vatican position last year, expressed lament at the “confusion” created by these discussions and the fact that situations, like Bishop Johann Bonny’s call for the church to bless same-sex unions, have gone “undisciplined.”

At one point, he denigrated faithful same-gender partners, people who are divorced and remarried, and non-married cohabiting couples.  When the interviewer mentioned that such people sometimes display kindness, generosity, and dedication, Burke responded:

“It’s like the person who murders someone and yet is kind to other people.”

Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter took Burke to task:

“No, Your Eminence, it is NOT like that. A person who is gay and tries to find a companion with whom to live life, or a woman whose first marriage failed and she is trying to make a new life, these people are not like a murderer. And, in +Burke’s twisted view of the world, it is the murderer who can confess her sins and be re-admitted to communion…It is twisted.”

Mark Silk of Religion News Service notes that it is unlikely Burke will be welcomed to participate in this October’s Synod and is stuck lobbing criticisms from outside the walls through his ceremonial post with the Order of Malta.

These widely divergent statements from the Germans and Burke indicate the growing tension among church leaders on sexuality issues. There are those, like the German religious superiors, capable of admitting the church’s past and present failures in pastoral care; they desire new ways of being church and being ministers emphasizing welcome and mercy. Then there are those like Cardinal Burke clinging to outdated, indeed harmful, theologies, and more appropriately at times, ideologies, which fail to account for the dignity of every person, the goodness of all families, and modern thought.

For the former group, LGBT advocates should give thanks and build upon this new openness. For the latter, we must pray that God’s Spirit imbues them with the humility and courage called for by the German superiors to enter a new age of confidence in the People of God.

While it is easy, and admittedly quite tempting, to write off Cardinal Burke’s extremist rhetoric, we must remember he and those who follow his leadership are members of our church, too. If we pray that all may be truly welcome, our prayer must include Burke and his followers, even when they carry a damaging extremism. This does not excuse their prejudice, but rather, it should encourage us to re-double our efforts to educate those who are harmed and stunted by homophobia and other damaging prejudices.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

Crux: Cardinal Burke: Gays, remarried Catholics, and murderers are all the same

NEWS NOTES: March 24, 2015

March 24, 2015


Here are some items that may be of interest:

1.Police are investigating homophobic messages spray painted on the parking lot of a Canadian high school, a follow-up to hateful online comments dating back to last fall. The graffiti appeared the day after students at St. Anne Catholic High School in the Windsor-Essex Catholic School district wore t-shirts to support LGBT community members, reports The Windsor StarAdministrators promised to act in response, with the school district board expressing its own shock and disgust, according to CTV Windsor.

2. Cosmopolitan has covered the firing of LGBT church workers, profiling Christina Gambaro and Olivia Reichert who were fired from the teaching positions at Cor Jesu Academy in St. Louis, in 2014. You can read about their incident and more than 40 others by clicking  here.

3. Fired gay teacher Lonnie Billard told Buzzfeed he would no longer participate in the Catholic Church, which he called a “bigoted organization, and instead would seek another Christian church with his partner.  Billiard was fired from a Charlotte, North Carolina high school in 2014.

4. National Catholic Reporter columnist Heidi Schlumpf listed LGBT issues among the top five things that give her hope in 2015. She writes, in part:

“While there’s still work to be done, the work of past generations is truly paying off. While the institutional church is lagging on this issue, polls find that the majority of lay Catholics, especially younger Catholics, support gay marriage.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

St. Patrick’s Day Parades Increasingly Inclusive, But Still Controversial

March 17, 2015

Protesters at NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade

If you haven’t already done so, please answer our ten-second poll on Pope Francis’ LGBT record by clicking here

Amid St. Patrick’s Day festivities this week, three cities’ parades made headlines in the ongoing debate over whether LGBT groups should be allowed to march in these traditional events. Here are three updates from this year’s celebrations.

New York City

The parade in New York City included an openly LGBT contingent , a move which left many still dissatisfied.  The group from “Out@NBCUniversal” included about 100 LGBT and ally employees of the network which broadcasts the parade, and they were the only group welcomed after last September’s decision to make the event more inclusive.

Boycotters of New York’s festivities included Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and other local politicians as well as LGBT advocates. De Blasio explained his reasons at an inclusive parade in Queens earlier this month:

” ‘A lot of people feel, I think rightfully, that that is too small a change to merit a lot of us participating who have wanted to see an inclusive parade.’ “

Irish Queers member John Francis Mulligan told The New York Times:

” ‘This is only significant in that it’s a back-room deal between NBC and the parade’s organizers…There’s no transparency about how this decision was made, no one ever responded to our application to march, and Out@NBCUniversal isn’t even an Irish group.’ “

The first LGBT contingent in NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The Irish Queers were among groups protesting the parade. Reuters reported that they held signs with messages such as “Who said St. Patrick was straight?” and “Let Irish Gays Into Irish Parade.”

NBCUniversal chief diversity officer Craig Robinson was sympathetic to these concerns, saying they were “sad not to be marching with our gay brothers and sisters today” but that if they refused, no LGBT groups would be marching. He added that “It was never our goal to the the only group marching.”

In response to critics, the vice chairman of the parade’s organizing committee, John Lahey, gave a press conference, about which The Christian Science Monitor reports:

“The inclusion of the LGBT group from NBC was a ‘gesture of good will of historic proportion’…He added that the parade had always included gays and lesbians, however, as they participated freely with other groups.

” ‘The purpose of this parade is not inclusiveness as an end, it’s a parade to celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.’ “

Grand Marshal Cardinal Timothy Dolan said he hoped the parade could continue to be a source of unity, even while facing harsh criticism for participating from anti-gay groups.

Perhaps the best perspective from New York, however, comes from annual attendee Joseph Bertuglia who said,

” ‘I think St. Patrick would love everyone and would be happy…Even Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?” So why should anybody else?’ “


Boston’s parade last Sunday included two LGBT contingents, but lacked the Knights of Columbus. Last Friday, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which is the parade’s organizer, announced that Boston Pride would be allowed to march in addition to the already accepted group, OutVets, reported

For the first time in several years, the parade included Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, and other politicians who had boycotted the event for its exclusive policies, reported The Chicago Tribune. However, a Catholic school with a 25-year history in the parade withdrew. In addition, the Knights of Columbus’ State Council  eventually announced their own boycott in a statement, which called the parade “politicized and divisive.”

Norfolk, Virginia

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe leads the Norfolk St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

In Virginia, a Knights of Columbus council, which organizes the annual Norfolk parade, also became a focus of controversy, but for an opposite reason:  they decided to include a pro-LGBT politician. Local leaders were criticized for selecting Governor Terry McAuliffe as grand marshal. His support for same-sex marriage was a key reason why local groups, the Virginia Catholic Conference, and the Knights’ national organization all released public criticism.

Virginia’s bishops released a statement condemning the local council’s decision, and the state level Knights of Columbus promised an investigation into how McAuliffe was chosen.

In a letter to parishioners at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Fr. Dan Beeman, pastor, said he was “shocked and saddened” at the McAuliffe choice, so he withdrew the parish from celebrations. The local Ancient Order of the Hibernians and several Catholic schools also withdrew in protest, reported The Washington Post.

Though this year’s parades show signs of progress in welcoming openly LGBT marchers, the celebrations of the holiday still remains controversial. National Catholic Reporter columnist Ken Briggs offers a third way with his suggestion that it is time for St. Patrick’s Day to become a private affair, writing:

“St. Patrick’s Day, therefore, serves no significant purpose in its present form, except for profits, whether or not gays and lesbians march in the big parades. Keep it where there is real passion for things Irish, where it may still have meaning as something other than superiority, but let it become an ordinary occasion for leveling the playing field.”

For Bondings 2.0‘s ongoing coverage of St. Patrick’s Day parade controversies, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Just a Few Days Left to Give Pope Francis a Grade on LGBT Issues!

March 16, 2015

Since Friday, March 13th, the second anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the papacy, Bondings 2.0 has been conducting a poll on what our readers think of his record on LGBT issues.

If you haven’t done so yet, please take a few seconds to assign a grade to Pope Francis’ LGBT record by assigning a grade to him below.

The poll closes at the end of the day on Wednesday, March 18th.


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