Dismissed Lesbian Educator Refuses Catholic School’s Monetary Offer

August 27, 2015

Lauren Brown

Update: The board of St. Mary’s Academy has changed the school’s employment policies as a result of this incident. For more details, see Bondings 2.0‘s updated coverage by clicking here.

A Catholic school in Oregon withdrew a job offer to a lesbian woman after finding out about her sexual orientation and relationship with a woman.  Additionally, according to documents released by the prospective educator, the school asked her to sign an agreement not to sue the institution and not to speak about the contract withdrawal.

Administrators at St. Mary’s Academy, an all-girls high school in downtown Portland, informed Lauren Brown they would not be honoring the contract they agreed upon in April,  and they offered her a year’s compensation if she would agree not to file legal action against the school and also to remain silent about the contract’s withdrawal. Brown rejected the hush money, telling Willamette Weekly:

“To sign a contract that’s going to affect the rest of my life, and my passion for advocating for LGBT youth and LGBT people—there’s no way I could sign that. . .I could never live with myself.”

You can read the documents Brown released by clicking here.

Other details about the incident are in dispute. Brown claims that in July she informed Principal Kelli Clarke about her relationship with a woman:

“Brown says she asked Clark in that phone call what she should say in her [staff] biography, since she has a girlfriend. Brown also asked: Would she be allowed to bring her girlfriend to school events? What if she got married? She says Clark told her that was uncharted territory, but that Clark would support her. 

“Brown says Clark called back July 30 with a different message: ‘It may not work out.’ . . .

“Brown met with Clark and [school president Christina] Friedhoff at St. Mary’s on Aug. 4. She says the meeting lasted more than three hours, with both women pressuring her to sign a separation agreement that offered her six months’ salary in return for a promise not to sue the school or talk about why she lost the job.”

That agreement even dictated, verbatim, what Brown could post to social media about the firing and mandated that she reply to inquiries by saying, “I learned that my intent to enter into a same-sex marriage is in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic church.”

A St. Mary’s lawyer tells a different story. The school claims Brown notified them of her upcoming marriage in the fall and the school sought the separation agreement to explicitly identify her “intent to enter a same-sex marriage” as the reason. That language for social media and inquiries was requested by Brown, says the school.

In a letter to the community, Friedhoff stated that the school’s sponsoring congregation, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, as well as the board, support the school’s decision.  Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample also expressed support for the administration with his own statement, reported on in The Oregonian.

Brown said that she rejected the money so St. Mary’s students, some of whom, assuredly, would be part of the LGBT community, would “not be ashamed of who they are” and to point out that even in Portland there is discrimination.

Statue on campus decorated in protest by current students

Brown has hired an attorney and is considering her legal options, but as with many recent firings in the U.S. there is already a growing public support for her situation. Jeanna Frazzini of Basic Rights Oregon said this support is to be expected because Catholic education imbued so many with a sense of justice and inclusion:

“Some of my dearest colleagues in social justice came out of St. Mary’s. . .When folks at the school hear about what’s happening, they’ll be concerned—and they’ll want to see significant changes.”

Students, alumni, and Portlanders are uniting on Twitter around the hashtag #FightForSMA and decorated a campus statue in rainbow garb to protest the firing. More action may emerge as classes resume next week.

Back to school was always an exciting time for me, as was the end of school. This excitement has been tempered in the last few years because these times now mean an uptick in educators and church workers losing their jobs in LGBT-related disputes. Lauren Brown could have greatly contributed to St. Mary’s Academy, a self-described “diverse community,” in her position as college counselor.

Instead, students will only know Brown as the victim of administrators who are putting the letter of the church’s law over any concern for social justice. What a sad lesson to begin a new school year on.

Thankfully, Brown is teaching these young women a far more essential lesson about not comprising your identity or integrity.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the almost 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

 –Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

New Location and New Opinions on LGBT Catholic Events in Philadelphia

August 26, 2015

An important location update about the eviction from a Philadelphia Catholic parish of New Ways Ministry’s gender identity workshop and Equally Blessed’s World Meeting of Families programs, which we reported on last week, is included in the middle of this blog post.

News of the evictions of New Ways Ministry’s gender identity workshop and Equally Blessed’s World Meeting of Families programs being evicted from a Philadelphia Catholic parish spread around the country last week. (You can see a selection of links to various news outlets reporting on the issue at the end of this post.) During all the conversations that I had about the evictions with various people, three thoughts came to mind that put these actions into various ironic perspectives.

DSC_0223 (1)

New Ways Ministry pilgrims pose in St. Peter’s Square following the Ash Wednesday 2015 papal audience where they received VIP seating.

The first occurred when I was sending a reporter a photograph of New Ways Ministry that she saw on our Facebook page and wanted to use.  It was a photo of New Ways Ministry pilgrims proudly holding our organization’s banner in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City (see photo at right).  The occasion was Ash Wednesday, 2015, the day that our pilgrimage group was seated in VIP seats we received from the Vatican for the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square.

As I looked at the photograph, a thought dawned on me:  “The Vatican gave us VIP seats for a papal audience and yet now we are being evicted from a Catholic parish in Philadelphia. Something is wrong here.”

Was the Vatican’s example of welcome not enough for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to follow?

The second irony came when I was talking to a reporter and explaining that Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, was born and raised in Philadelphia, and that it was in that city where here ministry to the LGBT community began back in 1971, over 44 years ago.

I thought: “How sad that our church has changed so radically in the past 44 years!  How sad that someone with such strong roots in the Catholic world of this city can now have her ministry so unceremoniously evicted.”

Fortunately, all the programs-affected by the eviction–New Ways Ministry’s gender identity workshop and Equally Blessed’s World Meeting of Families projects–have now been re-located to Arch Street United Methodist Church,  55 North Front Street,  Phialdelphia 19107, and the same schedule of dates and times remains intact.

A third irony is that these events, which had not been well-known beforehand, have now received national attention and very strong local attention in the Philadelphia area.  More people now know about these programs than we would have been able to reach with our limited advertising means.  God certainly does work in mysterious ways.

Kelly Stewart

In a column in The National Catholic Reporter Kelly Stewart commented about the idea behind this third irony.  She stated:

“[T]here is a danger in talking about the ‘opportunities’ afforded by exclusion. I do not mean to minimize the seriousness of institutional homophobia or to suggest that progressive Catholics search for ‘silver linings’ in the grim picture that is the WMOF 2015 event agenda. My point is that, even when they have been barred from participation in the meeting or forced to relocate from Catholic to Protestant churches, LGBT Catholic groups have still helped shape conversations about family, sexuality, and gender identity in valuable ways.”

Stewart’s main purpose in her column raises a more important question:

“To the extent that the WMOF [World Meeting of Families] is a forum for discussing the lives of Catholic families, LGBT families should, of course, be able to participate fully. But to the extent that the WMOF is a rally to defend the patriarchal ideal of family against the specters of feminism and homosexuality, LGBT Catholics might want to consider embracing their outsider status. . . .

“The WMOF is . . .dedicated to defending the privileged status of a narrow, patriarchal ideal of family against the outside ‘threats’ of feminist and LGBT theology and politics. LGBT Catholics and the people who care about them should consider embracing their position as outsiders — and the possibilities that position holds for building more just, respectful, and equitable models of relationships.”

James-Rowe cropped

James Rowe

In a blog post on Believe Out Loud, James Rowe takes a different perspective on the World Meeting of Families and the recent eviction of LGBT groups from a Catholic parish.  He stated:

“. . . [C]ontrary to how the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Archbishop Chaput himself have chosen to treat the LGBT Catholic community thus far, I can take comfort and pride in the fact that my LGBT Catholic colleagues and their families are still going to Philadelphia in September, whether Archbishop Chaput wants us there or not.

“And when we arrive in Philly, we will continue to place value on the entire Catholic family, whether Archbishop Chaput wishes to recognize us as his Catholic brothers and sisters or not.

“And when we arrive in Philly, we will talk about how we can help the Catholic Church and even Archbishop Chaput himself become the Church and its people that Jesus truly intended them to be, whether Archbishop Chaput wants to listen to us or not.”

Jim Smith portrait

Jim Smith

Jim Smith, Associate Director of DignityUSA, wrote a blog post for the National Catholic Reporter commented on the value of having LGBT families at the WMF.  Writing as a representative of the Equally Blessed coalition, Smith compared these families to the woman in Scripture (Luke 7:36-50) who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair, while religious leaders look on and condemn her:

“In just a few weeks, throngs of Catholics will enter the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. These people will bring the same tears of love and faith brought to Jesus so many years ago. Fourteen families from our Equally Blessed coalition will be among them: parents of transgender or gay children who have been challenged over thousands of days and nights to love those kids unconditionally, who know viscerally what it means, in the words of the prophet Micah, ‘to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly’ in their parental roles; gay couples with children who live by the promise to raise those children ‘according to the love of Christ’; transgender, intersex and gay persons themselves who are coming through a fire of marginalized existence into the freedom of God’s beloved, finally knowing their ;sin; is not who they are and whom they love, but what chases us all — greed, fear, hate, hubris.”

One thing is for sure:  the World Meeting of Families is going to be an important moment in U.S. Catholic history and in the discussion of LGBT issues in the Catholic Church.

You can read more information and register for New Ways Ministry’s workshop, “Transforming Love:  Gender Identity from Catholic Perspectives,”  by clicking here and downloading a PDF of the brochure.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Philly.com:  “LGBT groups are told: Can’t use church space for events during World Meeting”

Reuters: “Philadelphia archdiocese cancels LGBT program ahead of pope visit”

Crux: “Gender identity workshop booted from Catholic parish in Philly”

Advocate.com: “Philadelphia Catholic Parish Reneges on Hosting LGBT Events”

Religion Dispateches: “Archbishop Boots LGBT Catholics From Philly Church”

National Catholic Reporter: “LGBT groups criticize decision to eject them from church near World Meeting event”

Newsworks.org: “When Philly Catholic church closes door to gay and lesbian event, coalition finds sanctuary with Methodists”

Huffington Post: “LGBT Group Rejected By Philadelphia Archdiocese Won’t Back Down”

Washington Post: “LGBT equality groups getting shut out of Pope Francis meeting in Philadelphia”

Christian Today: “What’s actually happening with LGBT Catholics in Philadelphia?”

NJ.com: “Ahead of papal visit, LGBT workshop cancelled by Philadelphia parish”

Chicago Archbishop: ‘We Must Be Open to New Avenues & Creativity When It Comes to Families’

August 25, 2015

Archbishop Blase Cupich

Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich called for the church to improve its welcome of non-traditional families in his homily last Sunday, offering a beautiful reflection as the church prepares for October’s Synod of Bishops to discuss marriage and family issues.

Preaching on Ephesians 5, a troubling text given its exhortation that “wives be submissive to your husbands,” Cupich said the text is actually quite subversive because it exhorts that husbands to be subordinate to their wives as well. This mutual submission between spouses is a teaching the early Church “would have found quite astonishing, if not revolutionary.” The archbishop explained:

“Christ was doing something utterly new in the human family, changing how people understand their relationships with each other as family. With the upcoming synod, it is clear that the Holy Father is calling the Church to examine our categories of expression about what we believe and be open to new avenues and creativity when it comes to accompanying families. All of this has much to say to us in Chicago, that we not settle for solutions that no longer work, expressions that no longer inspire and ways of working that stifle creativity and collaboration.”

Though Cupich did not mention families with LGBT members, it is not a stretch to see how this message clearly applies to their situations.

Cupich was preaching in Holy Name Cathedral the at Mass for Investment of the Pallium. where Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Viganó presented the Chicago archbishop with the pallium, a small woolen stole worn metropolitan archbishops to signify their unity with the papacy. This pallium Mass was the first in a new model of investiture instituted by Pope Francis whereby archbishops receive the vestment in their local archdiocese rather than in Rome, reported Michael O’Loughlin of Crux. This is part of Pope Francis’ attempts to decentralize church power and affirm local communities’ participation.

Much of the homily centered around the papacy however, presenting messages of Pope Francis by citing both Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si. In my view, what Cupich was really doing was calling the archdiocese to be a truly catholic church that is “home for all” where all are welcome. Citing Pope John XXIII, the archbishop told those at Mass:

“He called the entire Church to a fresh appreciation of the ancient teaching of the medicine of mercy in an era when many in the Church preferred the narrow path of severity and condemnation. . .It is the pope’s ministry that draws us out of a narrow provincial view that reduces our experience of Church to just what is happening in my parish, my diocese, my country. . . .[The pope in his travels] introduces us to our brothers and sisters in places we never visited, reminding us of what it means to be Catholic, a Church whose universality must be reflected in every particular Church.”

Cupich’s words are worth noting not only for the message given to the congregation gathered, including twenty bishops, but for their broader significance given this church leader’s rising significance. He was Pope Francis’ first major episcopal appointment in the United States, coming with a largely positive record on LGBT issues that was further confirmed when he said last yearon CBS’ “Face the Nation” program that all families deserve legal protection

Yet, Cupich’s remarks are forward looking because he is expected to be appointed a special delegate to the Synod and his weight as a voice in the American Church will only grow.

His comments starkly contrast with those of some of his peers. This is especially true in Illinois, where Bishop Thomas Paprocki, who once held an exorcism against marriage equality, recently announced a restrictive new policy of Catholic school admission which casts a supsicious eye on lesbian and gay parents,  and where a priest of the Diocese of Peoria mailed his entire town an anti-gay letter paid for with church funds.

As for the October synod, Pope Francis is hoping for a miracle, and his appointments are raising the stakes that something positive for LGBT families might just happen. Judging from Cupich’s words, he is open to the Spirit’s guidance and to new ways of accompanying families. He commented on the Risen Christ “always doing something new” before quoting Evangelii Gaudium:

“Jesus can always break through the dull categories with which we would enclose him, and he constantly amazes us with his divine creativity. . .[to the point that] new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs, and words with new meaning for today’s world.”

New paths and more eloquent signs are desperately needed when it comes to the church’s response for non-traditional families, like those with LGBT members or led by same-gender couples. Let’s hope more bishops share Cupich’s desire for mercy and creativity in the coming weeks.

To read Archbishop Cupich’s fully homily, which I highly recommend, click here.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of the 2015 Synod on the Family, click here. To receive regular updates in the coming months on the Synod and ALL Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to the blog (for free) by typing your email address in the “Follow” box in the upper right-hand corner of this page, and then click the “Follow” button.

–Bob Shine, 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



Illinois Priest Sends Entire Town Anti-Gay Letter, Calls it a “Public Service”

August 23, 2015

Fr. Timothy Sauppé’s letter

Thousands of Illinois residents received an unsolicited public notice about the “homosexual culture war” from a Peoria diocesan priest earlier this month, but Fr. Timothy Sauppé is refusing to apologize for his action and words, as criticism in his community grows.

The August 11th letter sent to all addresses in the 61883 ZIP code (Westville, IL) opened with the following:

“I am Fr. Sauppé, pastor of St Mary’s Catholic Church & the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! The US Supreme Court has issued a new ‘civil right’ recognizing same-sexed ‘marriages.'”

The referenced parish is St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Westville, and the letter continued by attacking same-sex relationships, reported Commercial-News.

When contacted by the press, the priest defended his letter, written “to evangelize and to protect St. Mary’s Catholic Church from future attack” according to the parish website. Sauppé told Commercial-News:

“As pastor, I’m not only over Catholics, but I’m over everyone within my parish boundaries and a lot of those people don’t know about the other side to this issue.

“So I was doing a public service to them by explaining that we have a constitutional right not to condone [same-sex marriage].”

He further denied claims the letter was political and said anyone objecting to his actions is a “religious bigot.”

The letter’s reverse side advertised local events with several organizations listed as cosponsors, though these groups deny any affiliation. Westville Lions Club president Darren VanDuyn told reporters:

“I was furious because we are a diverse group of people and I didn’t want to be tied to this belief that we don’t all share this opinion of. . .I know a lot of good people from St. Mary’s and Sauppé’s opinions just don’t represent the church as a whole. . .This is the action of one individual. Throw the flyer away and be done with it.”

While throwing the flyer away is a good first step, this is not Fr. Sauppé’s first, and, unless he is stopped, likely not last inappropriate act when it comes to homosexuality.

Fr. Sauppé

In a homily shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling last June, the priest claimed “they will come after the Catholic Church” by challenging churches’ tax exempt status and by forcing ministers to perform same-gender weddings.

In a post on the parish website, “Identifying & Preparing For The Homosexualist Agenda,” he said marriage equality’s expansion is linked to a new age of persecution that will “tear at the Mystical Body of Christ, as surely as did the Roman flagellum, thorns, and nails on the historic body of Christ.”

Fr. Sauppé’s tirades are not limited to opposing LGBT equality. He made headlines in 2013 with the claim that couples’ use of contraception had put the parochial school out of existence. Glancing at the parish website and a quick Google search clearly shows he holds extremist views on many topics.

The Diocese of Peoria, in which Westville is located, has at least one previous precedent of extremist Catholic rhetoric. In 2012, Bishop Daniel Jenky compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, causing some to question whether he broke election laws.

Regardless of what Sauppé says, his actions are neither a public service nor evangelical. They are precisely the opposite, and they stymie the well-being of both civil society and the church.  Sauppé owes the people of Westville a profound apology for using church funds to mail anti-gay materials to their homes and businesses. Otherwise, he is simply doing the church a great disservice by fostering prejudice and fear.

To reconcile with the community after apologizing, he could educate himself like reading what some of the People of God would say to Pope Francis about LGBT issues, which have a lot more to do with love and inclusion than condemnation. He could take the further step of meeting with local LGBT people and their families, including Catholics, and follow Pope Francis’ lead in trying to create a church that is “home for all” at the Westville parish.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

What The People of God Would Say to Pope Francis

August 22, 2015

A few days ago, we asked Bondings 2.0 readers what you would say about LGBT issues in the Church if you found yourself face to face (or on the phone) with Pope Francis.

Many people responded in the ‘Comments’ section of that blog post, as well as on New Ways Ministry’s social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

The results are best read as a crowd-sourced meditation, the voice of the People of God making known their joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties. Today, we present a sampling of those responses.

As expected, gratitude for Pope Francis’ more inclusive and merciful witness was widely expressed. Lynne thanked the pope for “leading us in love and compassion…Christ-like leadership” and James said Francis is “giving his utmost to the world,” manifesting grace and words of encouragement.

In hospitality mirroring Francis’ openness, readers shared their stories, particularly those of their families:

  • Patty:“God created me as I am: gay. God loves me as I am: gay. To exclude me is to exclude one of God’s good creations, something Jesus never would have done!
  • Scott: “Look into the eyes of my 9 month old son and tell me why Jesus would be against him having 2 loving fathers who are able to protect and commit to a life together bringing him up in a loving family unit.”
  • Diane: “Do I pray less, or act less welcoming to my daughter’s sweet and loving girlfriend? Do we judge her as unworthy to be an included and active member of our family? To do so would destroy our family, and yet that is exactly what our beloved Church does.”
  • Deb: “Holy Father, our gay children are dying at their own hands, our trans children are being murdered. Please help us share the message…we are all God’s children and we are all his beloved! Parents need to hear this too. Love your babies from the cradle to the grave.”

Most prevalent were attempts to bring problematic situations regarding pastoral care and church teaching to Pope Francis’ attention. Some went so far as setting Jesus’ model of ministry against the hierarchy’s present behavior:

  • John: “Love of God and Neighbor are the 2 great commandments. We are not being loved or included in that, but vilified. Welcome us to the table as Jesus did and does!”
  • Christine: “Holy Father, the dogma of the Church has smothered the intent of Jesus, ‘To love one another as I have loved you.’ Please save our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters from suffocating unto their deaths under the weight of judgement by this dogma.”

The negative actions of local ministers and the language of church documents seemed to undermine some of the pope’s more inclusive gestures. Felix, a partnered bisexual from the Dominican Republic, said the church’s rejection still hurts terribly even though he is sure God knows of his relationship’s goodness:

“I have been a very devout Roman Catholic my entire life. . .yet, last mass I attended the priest made some very harsh remarks on the decision of the Supreme Court, which made me feel so guilty I didn’t even feel like I should be inside a church. At times I feel as if I’m no longer part of the body of Christ, and it hurts a lot, because I love God, I love the Catholic Church, but I don’t feel part of any of it anymore.”

Pain caused by church ministers was repeated in other stories and led to several calls for action by Pope Francis:

  • Jenny: “Are you OK with the fact that there are Catholic LGBT people who want to worship as they did their whole lives, but are at the point that they can no longer step into a Sunday Eucharist Celebration without first trying to find out if they will be insulted and dehumanized by the homilist?”
  • Michael: “You must change the teaching that describes gay people as ‘intrinsically disordered’ . . . We are not intrinsically disordered; like everyone else, we were created in the image and likeness of God.”
  • Julie: “Holy Father, take a picture with one trans person. It would mean worlds of acceptance, be like alms for my people, who are in so much pain. Trans people are among the people Christ welcomed to His table, among the poorest, suffering for who they are; let no one bar us from His Church.”
  • Harry: “I would ask the Holy Father to tell bishops and priests to be gentle and forgiving. I would ask him to tell them to be less judgemental and to show the mercy of Jesus foremost. A simple smile and a gesture of warmth does far more to promote the Gospels than legalistic, cold and rude declarations.”

The request most offered over and over and over was simply for Pope Francis to listen to LGBT people and their loved ones:

  • Brian: “I would urge him to sit and speak with the leaders of our many Catholic LGBT organizations who are theologically sound, wonderfully intelligent and not afraid to speak truth. Talk, listen, share, learn! It would help us all – and then you could spread what you learn to the bishops of this country so they stop spewing hatred!
  • Marie:  “I ask simply that you meet and listen to the Equally Blessed families that are on pilgrimage to the Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. It is so painful to hear the pastor of this City of Fraternal Love has forbidden practicing Catholics from enjoying the hospitality of their own church while in Philadelphia.”

One reader, Colleen, reversed the situation a bit and suggested LGBTQI people and allies should start acting more and more with unconditional love so “then Pope Francis will know that he can join us as an ally to love as we have been loved.”

Unconditional love and listening seem to be very good starts for Pope Francis and all of us to keep building up a church that is home for all and an world where all are welcome.

Didn’t have a chance to offer your own thoughts on what you would say to Pope Francis about LGBT issues in the church? Leave them in the ‘Comments’ section below and add to this ongoing communal meditation.

If you have more to say, consider writing up your thoughts for Bondings 2.0‘s project, “Where Do We Go From Here? The Road to the Synod 2015.” You can submit 500-800 word pieces to info@NewWaysMinistry.org and find more information about it by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

San Francisco Teachers Approve New Archdiocesan Contract by Slim Majority

August 21, 2015

Students participate in vigils supportive of Catholic school teachers earlier this year

By a slim majority, teachers at San Francisco’s Catholic high schools passed a new contract which doesn’t classify them as “ministers,” but still allows them to be fired for certain forms of “personal conduct” off the job. This is the latest step in a months long struggle between Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Bay Area Catholics for justice in the church, including LGBT inclusion.

The 90-80 vote concludes tense negotiations between the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers, Local 2240, which focused on whether teachers’ personal lives could be grounds for termination. An article in the National Catholic Reporter explained:

“While the contract does not describe the teachers as ‘ministers,’ a term that would have allowed the archdiocese to fire teachers for any reason, it includes phrases about ‘personal conduct’ and ‘teacher conduct on and off the job.’

“To fire a teacher because of personal conduct, however, the archdiocese will need to prove that the conduct adversely affects the classroom. The contract also includes grievance procedures for teachers if they are in a dispute with their employer.”

Teachers were clearly divided over whether to accept the new contract. Those in favor, like Archbishop Riordan High School religion teacher Ted DeSaulnier, were pleased Cordileone “compromised.” DeSaulnier said the contract now provides union members “more protection while rolling back any contractual language that might give the archbishop any advantage in initiating the concept of the ministerial exemption.”

Ish Ruiz

Others, like Sacred Heart High School religion teacher Ish Ruiz, objected to the contract’s interference in their personal lives. The contract’s preamble includes phrasing that teachers’ “personal conduct will not adversely impact their ability to teach” and “teacher conduct on and off the job” can affect their employment, language that potentially might be used to fire somoeone for being married to a same-sex spouse or endorsing marriage equality, as has happened to a large number of church workers who have lost their jobs in recent years.

Archbishop Cordileone’s initial draft of the contract, which classified teachers as “ministers,” can be seen as part of a larger agenda that included stricter morality clauses in the teacher handbook and a new Office of Catholic Identity Assessment earlier this year.

The teacher handbook required teachers to affirm a number of highly specific moral issues, including: opposition to contraception; condemnation of homosexual acts, masturbation, pornography; upholding heterosexual marriage as the only legal option; condemnation of artificial reproductive technology and cloning. Some observers had dobuts about the archbishop’s committee tasked with revising the handbook. After widespread criticism, the language was toned down slightly to its final form.

Cordileone’s decisions have already forced out one dedicated teacher. In July, social studies teacher Abi Basch resigned from Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, much to students’ deep disappointment.

Taken together, the archbishop’s actions have drawn sustained protests from thousands of Bay Area Catholics centered around the #TeachAcceptance movement. In April, more than 100 influential local Catholics signed an open letter to Pope Francis calling for Cordileone’s resignation because, they said, he caused grave harm to the local church. There have also been public vigils at the cathedral and online advocacy through a Facebook group and awebsite. Parents have written letters of support to students and many objected to the archbishop’s comment that transgender people “undermine the faith.”

Now that the contract is approved, Catholics must be watchful to prevent the targeting of LGBT and ally employees. Hopefully, the harm done to the San Francisco church will end and it can now be a time for reconciliation and healing.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the almost 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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