Alberta’s Catholic Schools Receive Poor Grades on LGBT Policies

September 18, 2016
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Results from “Making the Grade” report

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 18, 2016

Catholic school districts in Alberta received poor grades for their LGBT policies, according to a new report from the organization “Public Interest Alberta.”

Professor Kristopher Wells authored the report, “Making the Grade,” after conducting an analysis of the LGBT policies for four school districts. Wells, who directs the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, studied the Grand Prairie Catholic Schools and the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools as part of the report. The Edmonton Journal reported further:

“Wells evaluated four policies based on six criteria, including whether it complied with provincial legislation, protected students and staff members’ privacy, and spelled out how schools will support transgender and non-binary people.

“He said shortcomings include apparent restrictions on requesting gay-straight alliances in some Catholic school districts. Grande Prairie and St. Albert Catholic districts both have policies saying the groups will ‘normally’ be established at the Grade 7-to-12 levels, that the principal has to agree to the club’s name, and must approve any material going before the group.

“The report also said some districts did not include protections for students’ families or staff who are gender diverse, and failed to spell out how transgender people will be directed to bathrooms or change rooms, and join sports teams.”

Both Catholic districts received a D, but have pushed back against Wells’ report. Karl Germann, superintendent of Grand Prairie Catholic Schools, said the provincial Ministry of Education had approved its policies on inclusion. Germann said students are “loved and cared for,” in addition to legal compliance. David Keohane, superintendent of Greater St. Alberta Catholic School District, claimed the report was incomplete.

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Professor Kristopher Wells

Wells criticized the lack of a unified policy in the province, which makes finding and understanding a given district’s policies on gender and sexuality confusing. He told the Edmonton Journal:

” ‘Unequivocally, any student who walks through any school in this province should be entitled to the same supports, the same resources, the same protections regardless of where they go to school.’ “

Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, suggested the Ministry of Education post every district’s policies in a central and accessible place.Every school system in Alberta had to submit their LGBT policies for review last March. Thus far, the Ministry and Minister David Eggen have not released which districts have LGBT policies which are legally compliant and which are insufficient.

In related news, the leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party, David Swann, has said school districts which do not meet new LGBTQ standards should potentially have their funding and charters withdrawn. He told CBC:

” ‘The legislation, supported by every provincial party, and the policies set forth by the government, were created to provide kids with the right to be who they are. . .No organization, especially a school, should have the ability to take those rights away.’ “

Swann also said reparative therapy should be banned. His comments come after a Baptist leader said LGBTQ policies should and would be refused as they violate religious freedom.

Disputes about implementing policies supportive of LGBTQ students in Alberta have been ongoing for two years now. All 61 districts in the province submitted draft policies last March, but preceding these submissions there were debates in several Catholic systems. Particularly intense were disputes among the Edmonton Catholic School Board, whose meetings erupted in shouting and eventually necessitated outside mediation.

Alberta’s bishops weighed in, too, with one describing the LGBT guidelines as “totalitarian,” though the bishops eventually met with Minister Eggen. It should also be noted that the Greater St. Albert Catholic School District has spent nearly $400,000 defending its discriminatory firing of transgender teacher Jan Buterman.

The disputes in Alberta have been detrimental to students, faculty, parents, the church, and the wider community. Wells’ failing grades for these two districts may be deserved, but they should not be the case. Catholic education should receive straight A’s when it comes to welcoming and supporting its students–especially LGBTQ students. The good news is that it is never too late to reverse bad policies and renew a commitment to ensuring every student can flourish in Catholic schools.

 

 


Czech Bishop Speaks Out Against LGB Parents, Needs of Czech Orphans Overlooked

September 17, 2016

By Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, September 17, 2016

In response to the Czech Republic’s court decision to affirm the adoption rights of an individual in a same-gender partnership, Bishop Vaclav Maly—chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Czech Bishops’ Conference—stated:

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Bishop Vaclav Maly

“The model of the family, constituted by a man and a woman, has been proved over thousands of years and shown by numerous expert studies to serve a child’s physical and psychological needs best,” according to an article in The Tablet.

According to NBC News, in June 2016 the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic struck down a law which kept people in legally recognized same-gender partnerships from adopting children. The Czech Republic is a mostly agnostic nation, but Catholicism is the largest denomination. The nation has seen little change from their landmark decision in 2006 to create a “registered partnership” class for same-gender couples. Registered partnerships are similar to marriages but with fewer rights, such as–until recently–not having the right to adopt children. The previous law, however, did allow single LGB people or same-gender couples not in a “registered partnership” to adopt as it only restricted those in “registered partnerships.” The court’s June 2016 decision allows one member of a registered partnership to adopt but still does not yet allow both partners to hold joint custody.

In his statement, Bishop Maly said recent increases in child abuse and neglect require increased dialogue on the country’s adoption system. But while Maly’s observations are accurate, research shows LGB adoptive parenting may, in fact, be part of the solution to this problem.

According to SOS Children’s Villages, the world’s largest charity working with orphaned and abandoned children, the Czech Republic relies on institutionalized care (e.g., orphanages) for orphaned and disadvantaged youth instead of foster care systems. Institutionalized care, according to Dr. Victor Groza, the Grace F. Brody Professor of Parent-Child Studies at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, causes problems with developmental, physical, psychological, social and brain health. Dr. Groza stated, “The regimentation and ritualization of institutional life do not provide children with the quality of life, or the experiences they need to be healthy, happy, fully functioning adults.” They are also unable to form strong and lasting relationships with adults, leading to severe problems with socialization, primarily building trust and lasting relationships amongst adults and children alike.

Not only is the Czech system inherently harmful to children because it is institutionalized, but, as SOS Children’s Villages claims, Czech institutions also fail to meet the children’s basic needs because the facilities are too large, not adapted to individualized care, do not allow children to make any choices of their own, and provide only minimal to contact with the outside world, including their siblings.

Dr. Petra Vrtbovska from the Prague Institute for Foster Care provided a descriptive diagnosis of Czech child-support services:

“In the Czech Republic children’s homes still look very, very old-fashioned. There are still thirty, forty or fifty children in one big building… They are moved from one section to another, from one institution to another and combined with the original trauma this type of life-style leads to future disasters. Most of these young people are seriously disturbed. They have got clothes and they are not hungry but emotionally and socially these young people are not able to function which creates an enormous ongoing trauma in them.”

Apart from the emotional damage Czech institutional care inflicts on children, the system also has a wider impact on Czech society as a whole, says Vrtbovska:

“It is also very difficult for society because these people end up in the streets, on drugs, in psychiatric clinics, prisons… so it creates very big problems on both sides. But I always tend to pity those poor young people more because they suffer enormously and society should do something about it when they are young. It is very difficult to do something about it when they are twenty-five.”

SOS Children’s Villages adds, “when the children leave these institutions, they are not ready to live independently… 41% end up committing a crime.”

Vrtbovska also found that many children are overlooked by adults seeking to adopt. She explained, “there are a lot of couples here who want to adopt children but these people usually want healthy, white, newborn babies… Roma children account for 60% of all residents in care facilities.” Children with disabilities or from migrant or Roma backgrounds go overlooked.

Vrtbovska attributes this discrepancy to:

“a hidden prejudice against Romany kids – the racist belief that every Roma kid will steal, every Roma kid is lazy. So there is prejudice…. Romany children [who] end up in an orphanage have little chance of ever finding a new family.”

https://newwaysministryblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/depressed-child-012.jpgAmongst this Czech childcare crisis, Bishop Maly insisted heterosexual parents are the only safe option for children who would supposedly be endangered by same-gender parents. However no such proof is found in the Czech Republic’s system, a system hampered by prejudices based on race and physical ability from both caretakers and prospective adoptive parents alike. Heterosexual couples applying for children have yet to supply a sufficient number of homes for these children. Same-gender couples could offer the needed homes.

According to the What We Know Project, the Columbia Law School’s Public Policy Research Portal, “research forms an overwhelming scholarly consensus, based on over three decades of peer-reviewed research, that having a gay or lesbian parent does not harm children.” While four studies concluded opposite-gender parenting is better than same-gender parenting, the What We Know Project discredited these as, “so misleading as to be inaccurate,” since they did not establish key controlled variables between opposite-gender parents and same-gender parents.

On the other hand, the What We Know Project found 74 studies showing no significant differences in child development, educational outcomes or health between same-gender and opposite-gender parents. CNN reported that the most recent study—which was released in April of 2016 in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics—concluded, “children of same-sex parents are just as healthy emotionally and physically as the children of different-sex parents.”

Other studies have shown same-gender adoptive parents tend to be more involved in parenting, adopt more disadvantaged children and allow open relationships with birth parents. In a Live Science interview, Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist at Clark University, Massachusetts, who researches same-gender couple parenting, said:

“Gay parents ‘tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents… Gay parents, rarely become parents by accident, compared with an almost 50% accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals.”

In the same Live Science article, Brian Powell—Co-Director of the Preparing Future Faculty program at the Indiana University Bloomington’s Department of Sociology—there is one disadvantage:

“If same-sex marriage does disadvantage kids in any way, it has nothing to do with their parent’s gender and everything to do with society’s reaction toward the families.”

Bishop Maly’s statement, while intending to support Czech children needing adoptive parents, ignores the enormous potential same-gender couples offer. The bishop suggested a “deeper understanding of humanity” is needed by society. Maly should reflect on his own words before speaking on topics he has yet to fully research or understand. Perhaps this situation is an opportunity for our hierarchy to discover that prioritizing outdated family models over the needs of our flock can only lead to one end: separation of church and reality.


Officials Placed on Leave After Catholic School Fired Lesbian Educator

September 16, 2016
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President James Vail

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 16, 2016

Top officials at a Catholic high school which fired a lesbian educator have been placed on leave, according to the Archdiocese of Newark, though why this has happened is unclear.

Paramus Catholic High School President James Vail and Principal Stephanie Macaluso were placed on leave Monday amid uncertain circumstances. Archdiocesan spokesperson Jim Goodness only referenced a “personnel matter,” reported NJ.comand said top archdiocesan education officials would be supervising the school for now.

There is speculation, however, that the removal of Vail and Macaluso may be tied to the firing of lesbian educator Kate Drumgoole. The Record reported that some students suggested Vail and Macaluso had supported the educator against the Archdiocese. Drumgoole was fired last January after an estranged family member leaked to school officials photos of the educator’s wedding to her wife, Jaclyn Vanore.

The Archdiocese may have influenced the decision to fire Drumgoole. Archbishop John Myers is on record supporting the dismissal, saying the educator’s marriage could “create confusion and uncertainty in the moral formation” of students. His Vicar General said the couple’s marriage was “odious.”  But Goodness pushed back against this most recent personnel decision and Drumgoole’s firing, saying, “If you try to link everything together it might not be accurate.”

Christine Robert, a parent at Paramus Catholic, said the handling of this incident “shocked and unnerved” her:

” ‘Once again the archdiocese manages to mismanage a situation and create friction with the very people who spiritually and financially support it. . .All we want is a little respect. We know because of privacy laws that they can’t give details, but give us an idea of what’s going on.’ “

The firing became public in August when Drumgoole filed a lawsuit against the school and archdiocese, and an alumni letter supporting her received more than 3,000 signatures in just a day. Later, Fr. Warren Hall was suspended from priestly ministry in part because of his public support for Drumgoole and LGBT Catholics. They are among the more than 60 church workers who have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes since 2008.

Like other church worker incidents, the firing at Paramus Catholic has caused divisions in the community and harm to those involved. Commentaries have sharply criticized the school and the archdiocese, pointing out that while the school may be legally exempt from state non-discrimination laws, it is not exempt from the New Testament.

Transparency is a prerequisite for justice and reconciliation to be possible, and placing top administrators on leave without any explanation only hinders that cause. It would be especially tragic if more church workers lose their jobs for defending a peer against unjust discrimination. The Archdiocese of Newark should clearly and publicly explain why President Vail and Principal Macaluso have been placed on leave tor the good of all involved, the Paramus Catholic community, and the credibility of the church.

 


Parish Welcomes Lesbian Couple Back to Music Ministry with Inclusive Mass

September 15, 2016
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St. Michael’s Church, Athy

Catholics in Ireland welcomed a lesbian couple back to their parish after a right-wing parishioner pressured the couple to leave last year.

Jacinta O’Donnell and Geraldine Flanagan had resigned as choir leaders for St. Michael’s Church in Athy, County Kildare. Last week, they returned to the parish and resumed their roles with overwhelming support from the local community. The couple was interviewed by radio station KFM and said they received public support that “overwhelmed and humbled” them. O’Donnell told The Journal:

“We will never be able to sufficiently thank you, the people of our congregation, the people of our town Athy, for your love, your support and your prayers. Buoyed by all of this support, we as a choir will be returning to sing at 6pm Mass in Athy tomorrow evening. . .It is our wish that the focus should now turn to the love of God and his mercy.”

The couple married in July 2015, after which the editor of a right-wing Catholic newspaper publicly criticized them and contacted them through a “very personal text.” Facing pressure, they resigned from the music ministry, as well as from leadership positions with Lay Dominicans Ireland.

O’Donnell said their whole purpose in serving in the music ministry was to “enhance the Eucharist,” but, during the dust-up last year they felt that perpetuating the controversy fueled by this right wing editor “would be really futile and would negate anything we’re trying to do.” So, they made the “very difficult decision” to resign, despite being supported by the pastor, Fr. Frank McEvoy, and fellow parishioners.

The Mass welcoming O’Donnell and Flanagan back was quite the liturgical celebration, reported The Irish Times. Parishioner Sandy O’Rourke-Glynn posted a video on Facebook, which you can view below.  O’Rourke-Glynn commentedd, “I have never enjoyed a mass as much – 5 priests, 8 altar servers, a full choir and a packed church.”

The Mass is a positive ending for an ugly incident. This is not the first time right wing members of the church have targeted LGBT people, and it is likely not the last. Recent examples include the forced resignations of Catholic News Service editor Tony Spence and Catholic Relief Services’ Rick Estridge, as well as denial of communion to Barbara Johnson, at her mother’s funeral. But the community in Athy has exhibited Irish hospitality, especially the Catholics at St. Michael’s Church who lived their faith by standing up for inclusion and justice against right-wing attacks. And by loving one another and remaining faithful to God, Jacinta O’Donnell and Geraldine Flanagan certainly enhanced the Eucharist last Saturday. Thankfully, they can now do so at many Masses to come.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


New Jersey Catholic High School Rejects Transgender Student

September 14, 2016
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Mason Catrambone with his parents, Frank and Annmarie

A Catholic high school in New Jersey has rejected a transgender student, and school officials are making shaky claims that Catholic identity was the reason behind their decision

Camden Catholic High School accepted Mason Catrambone last spring. Trouble arose when his parents informed administrators in August that their son was transitioning. In two meetings held, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

“The family say they told school officials at two August meetings that Mason would be willing to use the restroom in the nurse’s office, and change into gym clothes there as well.

“They did insist that Mason — who is not yet undergoing any treatment or surgical procedures — be able to wear a boy’s uniform.”

According to a joint statement from Principal Heather Crisci and the Diocese of Camden, those requests could not be met because of the school’s Catholic identity. Fr. Joseph Capella, director of Catholic identity at the school, cited natural law to defend the decision, saying “we believe we are not the creators, and at no point in our lives can we move toward being that.” Capella later said that because of the high school’s religious affiliation, “some will choose another learning environment.”

Mason, who came out as transgender this past May, said school officials “can’t look past what I’m going through, and see me as a human being. . .I’m not a transgender. . .entity. I’m not some diabolical plan to impose my transgender evilness on them.”

Mason explained how he sees the situation:

“I didn’t lose Camden Catholic. Camden Catholic lost me.”

Mason’s parents, Frank Catrambone, Sr. and Annmarie Kita, who learned about Mason’s gender issues four months ago, stand by their son. They taught Mason that “you stand up for yourself, and speak for yourself,” as he is doing now.  When they learned the news from their child, Annmarie said she was “in complete disbelief,” but the family discussed it and the parents educated themselves. Frank said despite there being a “mourning period,” the high rate of transgender youth suicides because of family rejection motivated them to respond positively:

“I heard that, and there was not a choice to make. The only thing to do was to love and support Mason.”

They are disappointed Mason will not begin at Camden Catholic this fall. A 1971 alum, Frank said he had been “very, very excited that my kid was going to have the same opportunity” there. Annmarie said the school “could have tried hard to find a way” for Mason to attend.

For now, Mason is attending an online cyber high school and raising awareness about his rejection. He told NBC Philadelphia that he wants his story shared, and says, “I felt like I was rejected even though I knew the students of Camden Catholic would accept me as one of their peers.” A Change.org petition supporting Mason has received more than 1,300 signatures so far.

Camden Catholic and the Diocese of Camden are attempting to describe the rejection of Mason as a choice the family made.  The decision, however, was the school’s to make. School officials failed to prioritize a student’s well-being, to educate themselves about gender identity issues and thereby provide appropriate supports for a transgender student. Fr. Capella’s claims about natural law theory rejecting transgender identities is debatable, and it is certainly not official church teaching.

The school officials’ decision is having repercussions in the wider Church community. Walter Browne, who attends Mass weekly with his family though is not Catholic, wrote a letter to the editor of the Inquirer which said, in part:

“Just last week, I was listening to the Gospel in which Jesus was sitting with the ‘outcasts,’ much to the consternation of the Pharisees. Now we have that same Church, at Camden Catholic, turning away a teenager who wants the benefits of the love and logic of Jesus. Just who have become the Pharisees now? Why reject anyone – gay, straight, divorced, transgendered [sic]? We all need the healing power of community and love. Open the doors to everyone.”

As more transgender youth come out, more and more Catholic schools have had to face the issue. The Diocese of Little Rock amended its 2016-2017 education policies to threaten LGBT students with expulsion if their gender identity or sexual orientation even “have the potential of causing scandal.” Earlier this year, a Catholic high school in Rhode Island attempted to ban transgender students, but reversed the decision after tremendous alumni outcry. And some Catholic bishops have vocally opposed President Barack Obama’s efforts to keep transgender youth safe and supported in public schools.

Catholic educators who oppose transgender students should educate themselves. If they do, they will find that there is no defined Catholic teaching on transgender identities or diverse gender expressions. They will find that some church leaders, like the United Kingdom’s Monsignor Keith Barltrop who heads LGBTQI outreach for the Archdiocese of Westminster, have actually called for the church to support trans people who transition. They will find that these issues are not settled. They will realize that their responsibility is to respond with the compassion and care that Jesus himself offered, always attentive to the well-being of the person in front of them.

The school year has only just begun. It would not be too late for Camden Catholic officials to learn something, apologize to Mason and his family, and welcome him with open arms.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

Philly.com:  “Petition backs transgender 14-year-old rejected from Camden Catholic”

 

 


VP Candidate Tim Kaine Says Catholic Church Will Accept Marriage Equality

September 13, 2016

New Ways Ministry heartily thanks Vice Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine for speaking with hope about the Catholic Church’s eventual acceptance of same-gender marriage. Kaine, a practicing Catholic, spoke the truth when he said that we should “celebrate” and not “challenge” God’s “beautiful diversity of the human family.”

According to Michael O’Loughlin of America magazine, Kaine, who describes himself as “a traditional Catholic,” addressed the Human Rights Campaign gala dinner, telling them “his support for same-sex marriage is driven in part by his Catholic faith, and that he expects the church could change its views like he did.”  O’Loughlin quoted the relevant parts of Kaine’s speech, in which the politician recounted how he changed his view to come to accept marriage equality.  Starting from a position of opposition, Kaine emerged as one of the Senate’s first supporters of same-gender marriage:

Tim Kaine speaking at Human Rights Campaign dinner

“Part of that reasoning came from his lifelong Catholic faith, which teaches that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. But Kaine’s opposition to same-sex marriage was challenged by relationships with friends and pressure from his children.

” ‘I knew gay couples as friends,’ he said. ‘I knew them to be great neighbors, I knew them to be great parents to beautiful kids.’

” ‘But I had a difficult time reconciling that reality with what I knew to be true from the evidence of my own life, with the teachings of the faith that I had been raised in my whole life,’ he said.

“Kaine said his family also helped convince him to back same-sex marriage, and he became one of the first U.S. senators to lend his support to the cause.

” ‘My three children helped me see the issue of marriage equality as what it was really about, treating every family equally under the law,’ he said.

But Kaine also had to wrestle with faith questions, but he noted that he believes that the Catholic Church will eventually come to embrace marriage for lesbian and gay couples:

“Kaine, who attends a primarily African-American Catholic parish in Richmond, Virginia, acknowledged that his “unconditional support for marriage equality is at odds with the current doctrine of the church I still attend.”

” ‘But I think that’s going to change, too,’ he said to applause, invoking both the Bible and Pope Francis as reasons why he thinks the church could alter its doctrine on marriage.

” ‘I think it’s going to change because my church also teaches me about a creator in the first chapter of Genesis who surveys the entire world including mankind and said it is very good, it is very good,’ he said.

” ‘Pope Francis famously said, “Who am I to judge?” ‘ Kaine continued, referencing the pope’s 2013 comment when asked about gay priests in the church.

” ‘To that I want to add, who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human family?’ Kaine asked. ‘I think we’re supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it.’ “

Kaine’s sentiments are shared by millions of Catholics across the U.S. who heartily support marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples, as poll after poll continues to show, including a recent Pew Research Center poll showing 70% of U.S. Catholics support marriage equality. As Kaine’s statement illustrates, Catholics support marriage equality because they are Catholic, not in spite of being Catholic. Their training in the Catholic faith has taught them to respect difference and diversity, to value love and commitment, and to support and strengthen strong family ties.

Church history has shown time and again that important changes in the Church have always arisen from the bottom to the top, and not the other way around. So, it is only a matter of time before the church hierarchy begins to accept and affirm what Catholics like Tim Kaine already know: that love is love, and that all love is holy, for God is love.

Kaine’s candid admission that his own acceptance of marriage equality has been a journey for him was a courageous statement.  His experience of knowing families headed by lesbian and gay couples helped him see that they deserved equal treatment. This pattern of acceptance has been true for many Catholics, as they come to be aware of their gay and lesbian family members, co-workers, neighbors, and friends.

Catholic bishops and other church leaders need to follow Kaine’s example by opening their eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to the experiences of lesbian and gay couples and their families. Instead of being locked in an ivory tower, Catholic bishops need to do what the rest of the country and the world has been doing for decades: dialogue with lesbian and gay people so they can see they are not an enemy to be fought, but children of God, as are all human beings.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

WJBDRadio.com: “Tim Kaine: Donald Trump Is ‘No Friend’ of LGBT Community”

RawStory.com: “Tim Kaine says Catholic Church may change same-sex marriage stance”

 


TV Talk Show Host Phil Donahue Headlines ‘Pilgrimage of Mercy’ for LGBT Catholics and Supporters

September 12, 2016

Former television talk show host Phil Donahue will be one of the featured speakers at a  “Pilgrimage of Mercy” sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s (GALA-ND/SMC) on Sunday, October 2, 2016, 11:00 a.m., beginning in New York City’s Central Park.  The 1.5 mile pilgrimage walk and peaceful rally is a way to for LGBT Catholics and supporters to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis.

Phil Donahue

Donahue, who is a 1957 alumnus of the University of Notre Dame and the host of the groundbreaking Phil Donahue Show, will be joined at the rally by Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon, two of the plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell case which granted marriage equality nationwide; Father Warren Hall, an openly gay priest who has been a strong advocate for LGBT equality and who was sanctioned by his local archbishop for such efforts, Francis DeBernardo, executive direcctor of New Ways Ministry; Joe Vitale, another Obergefell plaintiff; along with several GALA-ND/SMC members and leaders from other Catholic LGBT organizations  (complete list of speakers is below).

The pilgrimage begins at 11:00 a.m. at the entrance to Central Park at East 69th Street and Fifth Avenue. (Participants are asked to gather by 10:50 a.m.)  The rally will be held at Columbus Circle (West 59th Street and Central Park West).  For more information and updates, click here. To register for the pilgrimage, click here.  The pilgrimage’s Facebook page can be accessed by clicking here. For church groups and organizations which would like to join the pilgrimage, send email to jack.bergen@yahoo.com.

Following the rally, the pilgrimage will continue with a walk to St. Paul the Apostle Church, concluding at 12:15 p.m.  Participants are invited to attend the parish’s 12:30 p.m. Spanish language mass.  The pilgrimage will go on rain or shine.

A GALA-ND/SMC press statement explained the purpose of the pilgrimage:

“The pilgrimage is inspired by Pope Francis declaration last fall, ‘We are in the midst of an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic faith,’ decreed Pope Francis, during which we are to be ‘merciful like the Father’ and perform acts of mercy and forgiveness to all.”

“The goal of the pilgrimage is to call upon The University of Notre Dame, and Catholic bishops across the US, to join in a show of mercy and compassion for LGBT Catholics, who continue to be marginalized by the Catholic Church.”

Michael DeLeon and Greg Bourke

Jack Bergen, chair of the alumni group, commented further on the purpose of the event:

“The University of Notre Dame, through the leadership of Fr. Ted Hesburgh CSC, has had a long history of leadership in supporting civil and human rights.  We ask that they demonstrate that same type of leadership now when it comes to welcoming LGBT Catholics into their community and be more inclusive of LGBT students and alumni.”

Co-sponsoring the event are a number of Catholic and LGBT organizations: Catholics for FairnessGLAAD, HRC, New Ways Ministry, Equality Blessed, Dignity/USADignity/New York, Freedom for All Americans, Out At St Paul, Fortunate Families and Believe Out Loud.

Bourke and DeLeon will be leading the pilgrimage walk.  Commenting on the inspiration for the pilgrimage, Bourke said:

“After the devastating event in Orlando this summer, Pope Francis sympathetically told his worldwide flock “I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they (LGBT people) must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally. It is a great honor to be able to bring a successful movement, Catholics for Fairness, to New York City and partner with so many willing supportive organizations to promote a fully inclusive Catholic Church.”

Currently, the roster of rally speakers is as follows:

Following the walk at 4:00pm, GALA ND/SMC will be holding their Second Annual LGBT Student Scholarship Benefit at ND Alum Phil Donahue’s ’57 apartment.  The Scholarship helps LGBT students who attend Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.  For information on this event, go to: NYC LGBT Scholarship Benefit (registration is limited).  You can contribute to the scholarship fund by clicking here:  ND/SMC LGBT Student Scholarship Fund.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry