Dublin Archbishop: I’m No Expert on Family; Anti-Gay Groups’ Language is “Obnoxious”

March 23, 2015

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin displayed a humility rarely seen by someone of his office, admitting last week he knew little of the realities of family life today. He also criticized the language used by anti-marriage equality campaigners in Ireland, saying plural societies must respect gay and lesbian people.

Speaking on “The Teaching of the Church on Marriage Today,” at the Iona Institute, Martin answered critics who question the bishops’ credentials in pronouncing on marriage and family life, reports The Independent. These critics, including former Irish president Mary McAleese, doubt “rightly” because, Martin continued:

“I have no experience and understanding…I must be honest and say that I am also lacking in knowledge of more fundamental day-to-day realities of the sexual, marital or parental experiences in a family.”

The Iona Institute is a think tank actively involved in the ‘No’ campaign against marriage equality in Ireland.

Elsewhere in his talk, the archbishop criticized anti-LGBT groups during his speech . PinkNews quotes Martin as saying:

” ‘I have consistently said that the debate must be carried on respectfully without the use of intemperate language…

” ‘I do however feel obliged to say that I have received in recent time correspondence from people who support a “no” vote in the referendum in which the language used is not just intemperate but obnoxious, insulting and, unchristian in regard to gay and lesbian people.

” ‘If people use such language to support a position they feel is Christian, then all I can say is that they have forgotten something essential about the Christian message.’ “

While opposed to marriage equality, Martin said society must ensure equality before the law. The Independent reported:

“Dr. Martin suggested that a pluralist society could be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation had their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference.

” ‘I’m not saying that gay and lesbian people are unloving or that their love is somehow deficient compared to others, I am talking about a uniqueness in the male-female relationship,’ he said.”

Archbishop Martin has also called for a “conscience clause,” should the referendum pass, to allow lay people who are opposed to marriage equality to express objections, such as denying business services for lesbian and gay weddings, without breaking equality laws. LGBT organizations are calling such clauses a “license to discriminate,” reports Yahoo News.

Though opposed to marriage equality, Martin has also made a name for positive statements on LGBT issues. Just last week he and another archbishop openly condemned Irish Bishop Kevin Doran’s comparison of homosexuality to Down’s syndrome and spina bifida. He has previously said church teaching is “disconnected from real experiences of families” and had been used “in a homophobic way” to do great harm. There are also no reports that he sacked a Dublin priest for coming out and openly endorsing marriage equality during Mass a few months back.

Criticism of anti-LGBT voices from any church leader is rare and this is not Archbishop Martin’s first time calling for a more respectful tone from the church on LGBT civil rights. Rarer still is the humility displayed by Martin that he is no expert on marriage and family. That is unprecedented in all of the discussions during last year’s synod and those that are leading up to this year’s meeting. The archbishop seems to be willing to follow Pope Francis’ requests to bishops to be close to their flocks.

This latest admission of non-expertise will hopefully allow for a greater opening space for those with expertise in family life — like married couples and LGBT people — to speak their truths during next fall’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and the Synod on Marriage and Family in Rome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Following Jesus by Bringing Beauty Into the World

March 22, 2015

On the Sundays of Lent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections by New Ways Ministry staff members. The liturgical readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent are: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51: 3-4, 12-15; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33. You can access the texts of these readings by clicking here.

“The world will be saved by beauty.” Several years ago I saw this quote on a poster at a Catholic Worker house. I’m told that it’s from The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I think he’s on to something.

There’s something transcendent when you’re in the presence of beauty. Imagine the last time you experienced an epic natural landscape, admired a skillful work of art, or were in the presence of a lovely person. How did you feel? In the presence of such beauty, I sometimes feel like my soul is opened up and overwhelmed by the sight, blurring the edges between myself and the universe, making me feel a little intoxicated… it’s like briefly touching the infinite with my finite senses, if such an experience could be adequately expressed. And I think that gives us some insight into today’s Gospel.

Beauty is the key to understanding Jesus’ statement: “I will draw everyone to myself.” Jesus lived a profoundly beautiful life — perhaps not in a visual sense of beauty, but insofar as he showed us how to live a fully human life. He demonstrated compassion to the most vulnerable and marginalized members of society. He affirmed the best in people while encouraging them to overcome the worst. He shared and forgave and laughed and loved. The beauty of Jesus’ life attracts and amazes us, just as a mountain landscape or piece of timeless artwork does. That beauty inspires us to imitate his example because we too wish to be beautiful. That means overcoming our frailties and limitations, and claiming our shared identity as beloved sons and daughters of God. And that’s how beauty saves us.

To follow Jesus is to know and imitate the beauty of his life. Good disciples are signposts along the way who point others to Jesus. They are like Phillip and Andrew who, when approached by the foreigners in today’s Gospel, show the way to Jesus. As LGBT Catholics and allies, do our own actions point others to Jesus or away from him? Do we bring beauty into the world by imitating the example of Jesus? Do we practice compassion and forgiveness? Seek out the most marginalized and vulnerable?

The struggle for LGBT equality in our church and society can be disheartening at times. But you have an opportunity right now to inspire and encourage fellow blog readers by answering one or both of these two questions:

1) How do you, like Jesus, bring beauty into the world?
2) How do you see others following Jesus by bringing beauty into the world?

Write your response in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Leave Mass Over Bigoted Homily, but Not All Priests Oppose Marriage Equality

March 21, 2015

Gaelic footballer Eámon McGee, left, supporting the ‘Yes’ campaign

Catholics in Ireland walked out of Mass recently after a priest made prejudiced and personal attacks during a homily against marriage equality, about which the Irish are set to vote in a referendum later this spring.

Fr. John Britto, a Carmelite from India, encouraged parishioners at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Annagry, County Donegal, to deny same-gender couples the right to marry by voting ‘No.’ He also attacked local Gaelic footballer Eamon McGee, who has publicly supported the ‘Yes’ campaign, recently telling the Irish Examiner:

” ‘I don’t know would I be more ashamed that I didn’t vote or the fact I voted against it. It comes down to equality and one less difference in society…It’s not that I have any friends who are gay or any close family members but it’s a social issue.’ “

In response to Fr. Britto’s homily, more than a dozen attendees stood up and walked out, including family members of the woman for whom Mass was being offered on the first anniversary of her death. One parishioner who left told The Independent:

” ‘He (the priest) is entitled to his view but it didn’t go down well. After the Mass some members of the congregation approached the family of the woman being remembered to say they only stayed because of them, otherwise they would have walked out too.’ “

Former altar boy and longtime parishioner Noel Sharkey, who assists the ‘Yes’ campaign there also commented:

” ‘As a Catholic and a gay man from the area, I think it’s essential that we engage on this issue in a respectful and tolerant way, and I ask people to avoid using hurtful or upsetting language. Yes Equality Donegal asks people to focus their attention on the key principles of love and equality as they make their mind up on this important issue.’ “

Fr. Britto, however, denies these claims and refuses to clarify what happened, saying only:

“I didn’t see anybody leaving. I didn’t see that…I won’t talk to the media because the media will only twist what I have to say; I speak to the people in church and I only the speak the truth and the Word of God.”

It was reported that the priest issued an apology to McGee, but Fr. Britto denies apologizing for any of his homily, reports The Independent.

Fr. Iggy O’Donovan

On a slightly more positive note, an Augustinian priest from County Limerick announced he would vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum. Fr. Iggy O’Donovan wrote an op-ed for the Irish Times in which he stated:

” ‘It is possible to have deep and passionately-held convictions without seeking to have those convictions imposed by the State on fellow citizens who do not share them…respect for the freedom of others who differ from us is part and parcel of the faith we profess. For these and for other reasons I will be voting Yes.’ “

In a later radio interview, Fr. O’Donovan clarified that he does not endorse marriage equality and would never preside at a same-gender wedding, but he could not judge others and how they choose to live their lives. He ventured that other priests would likely vote ‘Yes,’ too.

With about ten weeks until Irish polls open, the ‘Yes’ campaign is launched and the debate over marriage equality is intensifying.

The damage by negative statements from church leaders such as Fr. John Britto or Bishop Kevin Doran, who said gay couples were not parents and compared homosexuality to Down syndrome, is enormous. Catholic clergy would do well to temper their anti-LGBT viewpoints, which are increasingly not accepted by an Irish Church already devastated due to the sexual abuse crisis and other problems, and keep these thoughts out of Mass. If they wish to make their opinions known on the issue, like Fr. Iggy O’Donovan, doing so in another venue, and in a way that is respectful of and sensitive to LGBT people, should be the foremost considerations.

Marriage equality coming to Ireland could be a moment of renewed belief in marriage, love, and family in this traditionally very Catholic nation. Church leaders should choose to prevent divisive pastoral harm in the lead up to the referendum.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Challenging the Basis for Catholicism’s Sexual Ethics

March 20, 2015

A University of Notre Dame philosophy professor has challenged the reasoning that church officials use to dismiss church employees because of LGBT issues, in particular, for marrying a same-gender partner.

Professor Gary Gutting

In a blog post on The New York Times website, Professor Gary Gutting says that it is time for church leaders to

“undertake a thorough rethinking of its teachings on sexual ethics, including premarital sex, masturbation and remarriage after divorce. In every case, the old arguments no longer work (if they ever did), and a vast number of Catholics reject the teachings. It’s time for the church to realize that its sexual ethics are philosophically untenable and theologically unnecessary.”

Gutting’s argument goes to the central part of what underlies the church’s opposition to same-gender sexual relationships and marriages: natural law theory.  His explanation is one of the clearest and simplest that I have read, so I will excerpt it here, but also recommend that those interested read his entire essay.

Gutting begins with a short description of natural law theory and shows how it actually can support same-gender relationships:

“The primary arguments derive from what is known as the ‘natural-law tradition’ of ethical thought, which begins with Plato and Aristotle, continues through Thomas Aquinas and other medieval and modern philosophers, and still flourishes today in the work of thinkers like John Finnis and Robert George. This tradition sees morality as a matter of the moral laws that follow from what fundamentally makes us human: our human nature. This is what the archbishop was referring to when he said that homosexual acts are contrary to natural law. This has long been a major basis for the church’s claim that homosexual acts are immoral — indeed ‘gravely sinful.’

“The problem is that, rightly developed, natural-law thinking seems to support rather than reject the morality of homosexual behavior. Consider this line of thought from John Corvino, a philosopher at Wayne State University: “A gay relationship, like a straight relationship, can be a significant avenue of meaning, growth, and fulfillment. It can realize a variety of genuine human goods; it can bear good fruit. . . . [For both straight and gay couples,] sex is a powerful and unique way of building, celebrating, and replenishing intimacy.’ The sort of relationship Corvino describes seems clearly one that would contribute to a couple’s fulfillment as human beings — whether the sex involved is hetero- or homosexual. Isn’t this just what it should mean to live in accord with human nature?”

Sister Margaret Farley, a Catholic moral theologian, has made the same argument from an ethical point of view, pointing out that the goodness of a relationship should be judged by its relational qualities, not on the basis of any particular sexual act which may occur between two people.

Gutting doesn’t stop there, however, but goes on to critique natural law theorists’ rejection of the morality of same-gender relationships by showing that they do not provide a “satisfactory response” to two critical questions:

“First, why, even if nonreproductive sex were somehow less ‘natural’ than reproductive, couldn’t it still play a positive role in a humanly fulfilling life of love between two people of the same sex? Second, why must nonreproductive sex be only for the selfish pleasure of each partner, rather than, as Corvino put it, a way of building, celebrating, and replenishing their shared intimacy?”

Most importantly, he points out an assumption about lesbian and gay sexuality that seems to be underlying natural law theory:

“The natural-law argument might make some sense to those who see homosexuals as dominated by an obsessive desire for pleasure, to which they subordinate any notion of fidelity or integrity. The courageous uncloseting of many homosexuals has revealed them as people like most everyone else, searching for and sometimes achieving a fulfilling human life through rich and complex relationships. Since the official church, under Pope Francis, is more than ever open to this sensible view, the time is overdue for a revision of its philosophical misunderstanding of homosexual acts.”

Turning to Scripture and revealed truth, Gutting examines the natural law premise that both reason and revelation must agree with one another.  This kind of thinking usually requires reason to submit to revelation, but Gutting points out that this has not always been the case, and does not have to be the case when discussing homosexuality.  For example, in the cases of Galileo, Darwin, and the abolition of slavery, the Church accepted the testimony of reason, thus requiring new understandings or interpretations of Scripture.  Gutting concludes:

“The condemnation of homosexuality could plausibly be treated in the same way. The argument would then be that rational reflection strongly supports the claim that homosexual acts are not in general immoral, while there’s no need to conclude that God’s revelation says otherwise. This points the way to the church’s acceptance of homosexual acts as part of a morally fulfilling human relationship.”

Gutting began his essay by talking about how Archbishop Cordileone (and others) are using natural law theory to defend the firing of employees who support or are part of committed lesbian and gay relationships.   The fact that natural law is now affecting not just moral judgments, but is influencing the practical realm of employment, raises the urgency to review these types of arguments and to find ways that they can be life-giving, not damaging, to all people.

I’m thankful that Professor Gutting has started the discussion to help find those new ways.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Peruvian Archbishop’s Apology for Anti-Gay Slur Makes Thing Worse

March 19, 2015
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A Peruvian archbishop recently did three things that members of the hierarchy rarely do:  1) he used a derogatory slang word for gay men in an interview;  2) he apologized for doing so; 3) in apologizing, he made matters even worse.  [Editor’s note: this blog posts repeats the offending word in texts quoted from newspapers.]

Archbishop Luis Bambarén

The Peruvian Times reported that Archbishop Luis Bambarén, retired from the Chimbote diocese in Peru, referred to one of that nation’s lawmakers as a “maricon,” the Spanish equivalent of “faggot.”  The bishop made that statement against Carlos Bruce, a national legislator, who was championing a bill, which was defeated, that would have established legal civil unions.

The Times offered this quote from the archbishop in a statement he made opposing the bill:

“Congressman Carlos Bruce is making a fool of himself with all of this, appearing – excuse me for the term –  like a faggot in the middle of everything. He himself has said he is gay. Gay is not the Peruvian word, the word is faggot .” [The archbishop’s statement was originally in Spanish; this text is a translation from The Peruvian Times.]

Carlos Bruce

Bruce’s response was measured, and he asked for an apology:

“Bruce responded that the bishop’s comments ‘reflect the hate that is typical of homophobia,’ and said he was disappointed a representative of the Catholic Church, apparently lacking arguments, now resorts to insults.

“Bruce added that Bambarén’s statement is not in line with the position of Pope Francis. ‘It bothers me that he insults 3 million Peruvians who share with me the same orientation,’ Bruce said. ‘I hope he apologizes.’ ”

And, in fact, Bambarén did apologize.  According to The Times, the archbishop wrote in a statement:

“ ‘I respect and embrace those born homosexual and ask the same of their families and society,’ the statement said. ‘If homosexual people felt offended, I apologize and I pray for them.’ ”

But, according to La Republica, the bishop also added a few more sentences to his statement:

” ‘I have respect for all individuals. I never insult anyone and hatred has never taken place in my heart. Therefore I have not intended to offend anyone. But if someone is gay and boasts about his situation publicly, then in our Peruvian language it is not the same, it is not an offense.’ “

Presumably, the archbishop means that it is not an offense to use “maricon” if the person admits he is gay.  Just his use of the word “boast” indicates that he has a negative view of someone revealing his orientation.

Bruce responded by saying that he did not accept the apology.  According to Diario Correo, Bruce said:

” ‘I do not accept this apology, I respect him, he is a bishop of the Catholic Church when you apologize, apologize, not in these terms,’ ​​he told reporters.

“Carlos Bruce said after reading the statement of Bishop Emeritus of Chimbote, he was sure that Luis Bambarén will continue saying ‘faggot’ to anyone who publicly say he’s gay.

” ‘I’ve read the document presented by the Archbishop Bambarén, . . .  and really the writing of this document leaves much to be desired.’ “

Bambarén’s half-hearted apology reveals that he has not learned anything from this incident.  His statement is the equivalent of “That’s what everybody calls them,”  an excuse that holds no merit and for which children are often reprimanded.

An apology is in order, similar to one made by an Irish bishop recently for his insensible statements about gay parents and comparing a homosexual orientation to Down’s syndrome and spina bifida.  And just like happened to that Irish bishop, a reprimand from Bambarén’s superiors and brother bishops is needed.

–Francis DeBernardo, 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

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 Boston.com.

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


Catholic High School Swiftly Deals with Religion Teacher’s Anti-Gay Tirade

March 17, 2015

Patricia Jannuzi’s Facebook post

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

A Catholic high school in New Jersey placed a teacher on administrative leave last week after her anti-gay comments on social media became public and drew criticism from celebrities and alumni alike.

Patricia Jannuzzi, a religion teacher at Immaculata High School, Somerville, wrote on her Facebook page that gay people “want to reengineer western civ (sic) into a slow extinction” and should not be afforded 14th Amendment protections, an idea which she called “bologna.”

Administrators at the school released a letter on Friday announcing that Jannuzzi was now on leave and she had deleted her Facebook account at their request. Msgr. Sean Brennan, pastor, and Jean Kline, principal, said the comments were “completely inconsistent with our policy and position as a Catholic Christian community.” MyCentralNewJersey.com reports the letter continued:

“Immaculata ‘is a community that follows the example of Jesus Christ in welcoming all people.’

” ‘We will do everything we can in this trying time to make clear that the philosophy of Immaculata High School is one of inclusion rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ…taking every necessary step to reinforce established guidelines and promote a clear understanding of acceptable use of social media and to refresh sensitivity awareness consistent with Christ’s teachings.’ “

Susan Sarandon

This reaction comes after more than 1,000 alumni signed a petition asking Immaculata to address “the systemic problem of homophobic undertones.” Petitioners included Scott Lyon, the gay nephew of actress Susan Sarandon, and Greg Bennett, a 2004 alum who starred in television’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

Sharing a letter from Lyons, Sarandon said, “High school is a tough time anyway…Students don’t need teachers making it even more difficult.” Lyons’ letter to Jannuzzi said, in part according to MyCentralNewJersey.com:

” ‘You have a responsibility as a teacher to lead by example and the words that you have been throwing out there are detrimental to the well being and health of the youth that you inspire…I am certain that the pope himself would take issue with your extreme point of view on homosexuality.’ “

Meanwhile, anti-LGBT activists are rallying around Jannuzzi who they claim is a victim whose religious liberty is violated by the school’s censure. In reality, LGBT youth are particularly at risk for mental health issues, self-harm, and suicide in the vulnerable teenage years, and the church’s educational efforts should provide a welcoming, affirming place for students to mature and live into the people God calls them to be.

Immaculata administrators made a decision in the best interests of their students, faculty, staff, and parish community by standing up to prejudiced and uninformed remarks. It is important to recall last Sunday’s Gospel though, which calls all of us to love everyone, including those who oppose LGBT equality. Though justice is being enacted, it is essential for this also to be a moment of reconciliation which can hopefully educate Jannuzzi, the Immaculata community, and all those affected in a positive manner.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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