Parents Implore Pope to Put an End to Homophobia in Poland

August 19, 2016

We’ve often commented on this blog that the Catholic parents of LGBT people are among the strongest advocates in the Church for equality and justice.  Parents’ groups have been speaking boldly and effectively around the globe, perhaps most notably here in the U.S. through the organization Fortunate Families, and in Malta through the organization Drachma Parents.

A new set of parental voices has joined this growing chorus, this time from the very Catholic nation of Poland.  When Pope Francis visited there last month for World Youth Day, a group of parents of 16 gay Poles wrote to the pontiff, asking him to help put an end to the “widespread” homophobia which they say exists in their nation.

NDTV.com reported on the parents’ letter:

“Pointing to a recent string of ‘attacks on offices of organisations working with homosexuals, burning of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) symbols, and beatings of non-heterosexuals,’ the group implored Francis to intervene.

” ‘Instead of compassion for families, society is engulfed by a wave of homophobia,’ the group said in an open letter, which was published by several Polish newspapers and magazines in the past week [end of July].

” ‘Only the voice of Your Holiness can prevent future tragedies,’ they told Francis, who famously remarked ‘Who am I to judge?’ about gays earlier in his papacy.”

The news report described other important passages from the letter, including the experience of LGBT Poles, and the failure of the Polish church to protect the dignity of LGBT people:

” ‘On a daily basis, our children face hate attacks, verbal assaults and even physical violence only because they were created that way by God,’ said the parents, who did not publish their full names for fear of reprisals.

 ” ‘Why is there so much homophobia among Polish Catholics?’ they asked, quoting passages from Church teachings that call for gays and lesbians to ‘be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.’

” ‘Why aren’t priests reminding people in their sermons that LGBT people are also God’s children and only God can judge them?’

” ‘Jesus himself never said anything about the love between people of the same sex,’ the letter said.”

Unfortunately, Pope Francis did not address LGBT issues in any of his public addresses at World Youth Day, though he did refer negatively to gender issues in a private meeting with Polish bishops.

One Polish gay advocate feels that Francis’ more positive messages on LGBT issues is having an influence on the minds and attitudes of Catholic Poles.  NDTV.com reported:

” ‘It’s not yet at the point in history when the Catholic Church in Poland would be ready to agree (to officially recognise LGBT groups) — we are not yet there,’ [said] Misza Czerniak, an LGBT activist.

“He however acknowledged that ‘Francis has changed the tone and the vocabulary that is used when speaking about LGBT people in the Church, and we are extremely grateful for that.’

” ‘And what is a big sign of hope for us, is that the Polish church is gradually learning from him.’ “

Catholic parents of LGBT people are the true prophets in our Church.  Their journeys of acceptance and love, their experience of understanding new realities, are exactly the same journey that the entire Church, especially the hierarchy, need to learn.  Parents have a lot to teach church leaders about unconditional love, and about treating all people equally as brothers and sisters.  Their strong voices in support of their LGBT children are a true gift to our Church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry.


Bishops in Colombia Kill Anti-Bullying Education Program

August 18, 2016
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President Juan Manuel Santos

A proposed anti-bullying program in Colombia will not go ahead as planned, following a meeting between the country’s president and Catholic bishops.

Colombia’s Ministry of Education, in conjunction with two United Nations agencies, had prepared a document, titled “Discrimination-Free School Environments,” to handle sexual and gender diversity training for educators. But, after meeting with three Catholic bishops, President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the document would not be implemented, reported The Catholic Herald.

In reply to the president’s announcement, the Colombian Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement that it “received with satisfaction the announcement of the National Government and the Department of Education that they will not promote or implement gender ideology in the country.” The bishops did note that all human beings should be respected regardless of identities, including their “sexual orientation.”

The meeting between the president and the bishops was held one day after thousands of Colombians demonstrated against the document, which had been released on the website of the United Nations Children’s Fund. The bishops’ statement said these protests were “an exercise by the parents of their right to be assisted in educating their children in accordance with their convictions and values.” But the church-encouraged protests were, in part, inspired by pornographic images released to the public that were falsely attributed to the document. There are claims the images were released by the Office of the Inspector General, Alejando Ordonez, who is a traditionalist Catholic, though he denied them.

Colombia Reports explained the anti-bullying document was merely aimed at giving teachers “the tools to teach children about sexual diversity and show how this can reduce bullying,” an idea first proposed after a gay Colombian teenager, Sergio Urrego, died by suicide two years ago. The document was part of larger efforts to update sexual education programs and protect LGBT people, led by Education Minister Gina Parody, who is herself a gay woman.

Church leaders, however, remain powerfully connected to the Colombian government and opposed to nearly any acceptance of sexual and gender minorities. The bishops’ voices joined other LGBT-negative critics in the country who condemn, without any specificity, “gender ideology” and make claims of “colonization” against those people seeking to expand LGBT rights.

LGBT rights have, however, expanded slowly in Colombia. For instance, in June, citizens were granted the right to change legal documents to match their gender identity. Earlier in the year, the Constitutional Court legalized marriage equality.

Despite this most recent bad news in Colombia, early August has been a positive time for LGBT rights in Latin America. As of this month, transgender people in Bolivia and Ecuador are now able to have their government records match their gender identity, reported Americas QuarterlyBelize’s Supreme Court overturned an anti-homosexuality law, ending the last criminalization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in Latin America, according to Out Magazine.

As LGBT acceptance expands, bishops in Colombia and elsewhere should not partner with anti-LGBT movements to suppress human rights. Avoiding this strategy is most important when it comes to anti-bullying initiatives targeting youth. Yesterday’s post on Bondings 2.0 about teenager Daniel Fitzpatrick’s suicide, as well as the memory of Sergio Urrego in Colombia, are sufficient evidence of the harm caused when schools are not safe places for all students. Given these high stakes, pastoral leadership demands more from bishops than empty slogans.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


In Wake of Student’s Suicide, Catholic Parents Call for Safe Schools

August 17, 2016
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Daniel Fitzpatrick

Catholic parents of LGBT children are expressing their sorrow over a teenager’s suicide in New York, as well as their commitment to ensuring Catholic education is safe for all students.

Daniel Fitzpatrick died by suicide on August 11, having faced intense bullying from classmates at Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Brooklyn. He left a note in which Fitzpatrick said, “I gave up. The teachers didn’t do anything. . .I wanted to get out.”

The Board of Fortunate Families, an organization by and for Catholic parents of LGBT children, released a statement on Monday saying it was “saddened to hear” about Fitzpatrick’s death:

“We on the board of Fortunate Families are painfully aware that any child who is badgered and bullied is at greater risk for isolation, marginalization, depression, and sadly, suicide. Catholic Social Teaching holds that all of our children are persons who deserve life, dignity, respect and the freedom to live their potential to the fullest. All our children deserve to be educated in environments that embody that social teaching.”

A board member who lost a child to suicide acknowledged that suicide is the second leading cause of death in young adults and that suicides are deeply painful for the families and communities left behind. As they bury their son and brother, the Fitzpatrick family is considering, too, how to end bullying. A crowdfunding page which sought to raise money for unexpected funeral expenses has now raised more than $120,000. The family said they wish to use these funds to “give Daniel a proper memorial, as well as shine a bright light on the bullying that killed him. . .and allow for his legacy to live on.”

The student’s father, Daniel Fitzpatrick, posted a heart-wrenching video to Facebook. He spoke lovingly about his son, and affirmed his own commitment to intervene against bullying if he encounters it, including against LGBT youth:

“No parent should have to bury their child. No child should have to go through what my son went through. . .Bullying unfortunately is an epidemic. It ain’t right. . .If I ever see any child in my life from now on and I witness them and I see doesn’t matter if its boy, girl, straight, bi, transgender now. If they’re bullied, I will knock them out.”

Though Fitzpatrick did not identify as an LGBT person as far as anyone knew (he was bullied about his weight and his grades), his death is a moment for Catholic educators to reflect on the myriad ways in which schools are made unsafe. This includes problems for students of diverse sexual and gender identities, and students who may be questioning their identities. The Fortunate Families Board continued:

“We call on all involved in Catholic education to re-double efforts to prevent bullying and assist each child to reach their full potential, regardless of physical attributes, academic achievements or other characteristics which may make a student seem ‘different.’

“Although too late for Daniel, we are glad to see that the Brooklyn Diocese is re-examining its bullying prevention policies and training, and we pray that these also apply to students bullied because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Catholic education intends to form young people through faith to live flourishing lives, and to live authentically as themselves in service to others. As such, the church’s educational ministries should be sanctuaries for young people to come to know themselves, discern deep questions, and feel God’s love. Mercy and inclusion should be the hallmarks of every Catholic school. Earlier this week, educator Kevin Welbes Godin of Egale Canada wrote about the work Ontario’s teachers have done to create safer Catholic schools for LGBT students.

That good work is happening elsewhere, but is not widespread enough yet, and it is not happening quickly enough. As another school year begins, and we pray for Daniel Fitzpatrick and his family, let us each consider how we – as parents, as students, as teachers, as alumni, and as the faithful – might contribute so that Catholic education is safer and more inclusive of all God’s children.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


California’s SB 1146 Raises Tough Questions for Catholic Education

August 16, 2016
Ricardo Lara

Senator Ricardo Lara

Because of opposition from church leaders and others, a Catholic legislator in California withdrew portions of an education bill that would have eliminated religious exemptions from state non-discrimination laws.

Democratic State Senator Ricardo Lara will introduce SB 1146 this week without a clause eliminating non-discrimination exemptions for religious schools, reported Crux. Exemptions are currently in place, but if the bill had passed in its original form, all institutional recipients of Cal Grant funding, state education aid which helps low-income students, would have been required to have non-discrimination policies inclusive of LGBT people.

In its current form, the bill will still mandate reporting on whether institutions have received exemptions from federal Title IX protections and whether students had been expelled for violating morality codes.

Several religious leaders, including Catholic Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, had opposed the earlier version of SB 1146. Gomez authored a Crux op-ed with Pentecostal leader, Bishop Charles Blake,  suggesting the bill would violate religious liberty. A handful of Christian schools organized under the newly-formed Association of Faith-Based Institutions. These schools were primarily concerned with the Cal Grant funding provision. Conservative groups nationally have weighed in against the bill, too, fearful this type of legislation would spread nationally.

But opponents do not speak for all religious people in the state. Senator Lara, the bill’s sponsor, is himself an openly gay Catholic. He posted an explanation of his actions on Facebook:

“As a gay Catholic man, nobody has the right to dictate how I worship or observe my religion. And no university should have a license to discriminate, especially those receiving state funds. That’s why I will update my bill to ensure that Title [IX] universities disclose their exempt status publicly and require that universities notify the California Student Aid Commission if a student has been expelled due to their moral conduct clauses. These provisions represent critical first steps in the ongoing efforts to protect students from discrimination for living their truths or loving openly.

SB 1146 raises challenging questions about how to adjudicate the non-discrimination of LGBT people and the protection of religious liberty.  In The Atlantic, Alan Noble warned against absolutizing either of these values.  He called for a solution which allows a “thick diversity” in the United States so that all can flourish:

“No response to these scenarios [of LGBT students at religious schools] can erase all the conflicts and heartbreak between students, families, and academic communities, but through a model of communication, mutual respect, and dignity, schools can create a healthier environment for everyone.

“Both conservatives and liberals tend to approach the issue in absolute and uncompromising terms, but there ways to resolve this conflict that will allow for both religious freedom and protections for LGTB students while minimizing further litigation. By increasing transparency about Title IX exemptions and codes of conduct, easing the transfer process for students who cannot abide by the codes of conduct, and taking a strict stance on bullying and abuse, religious schools can retain their distinctive mission while protecting students.”

Noble made a point that cannot be forgotten in these debates. He noted that “[m]ost students voluntarily select . . . colleges because they want to be educated in a community that shares their values. . .they tend to be motivated by the centrality of their faith to their identity.”

Instead of legal battles, which may ensue anyway, religious institutions could reform themselves so they might better protect LGBT students. Noble said schools should clearly advertise what kind of community they uphold. He also wants the government to provide equal funding to students who choose religious schools which may have religious and exceptions.  His final hope was::

“. . . [R]eligious schools should help students who enroll and later decide they can no longer attend in good conscience. These students should be able to transfer to another school with the administrative, emotional, and practical support of the religious school. In addition, religious schools must be vigilant about dealing with bullying and abuse and create an environment in which students who have suffered feel safe to report these incidents without fear of expulsion or retribution. Many religious schools are working toward these kinds of practices; the challenge for all of them is to go beyond policies and rhetoric to ensure the safety of all students.”

This type of work has already been undertaken by many Catholic schools, particularly in higher education and particularly in California. Reading through the “Campus Chronicles” series on this blog, one sees the many efforts that students, staff, and administrators are making to not only welcome LGBT community members, but to support hem too. Though religious exemptions are available to them, many Catholic institutions have chosen freely to implement non-discrimination policies protective of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and/or marital status. More religious institutions should follow this model, appealing to faith values of inclusion and justice, rather than waiting for the State to impose inclusion.

SB 1146 may be voted on by the end of August. Whatever the outcome, the questions surrounding it are sure to continue in California and elsewhere.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 


In Ontario, Catholic Teachers Pave the Way for LGBTQ Inclusion

August 15, 2016
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Kevin Welbes Godin

Today’s post is by guest blogger Kevin Welbes Godin.

For the past four years, I have served as Equity and Diversity Coordinator at Egale Canada, a national LGBTIQ2S equality organization.  My work has primarily been with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), the world’s largest Catholic teachers’ union, helping them to better serve their LGBT students.

While the slogging is still tough in Catholic schools, definite gains are being made for LGBTQ youth.  Egale Canada has faithfully supported the training of Catholic teachers and has touted this service as “one of a kind” in the world.  Contrary to what some conservative Catholics may think, many members of the LGBTQ community have been supportive of the work Catholic teachers are doing to create safer and accepting schools for LGBTQ students.

Many Catholics, including myself, still expect our Catholic hierarchy to lead. After all, it is a bishop’s role to teach. Many educated, concerned Catholics have questioned local Catholic authorities as to why there is such a roaring silence that plays into structural homo/bi/transphobia in schools.  Perhaps Church overseers are choosing to be silent toward our LGBTQ brothers and sisters because they see the rest of us so willing to take the lead?  Even if unconsciously, I wonder if the spirit of Vatican II is swirling in the minds of episcopal gents as many Catholics refuse to let stubborn, rigid language and rules ruin and even take people’s lives?   It would be good to hear from our Bishop-teachers, though, right?   They still exercise the power when they choose to.

Ontario Catholic teachers have resoundingly told me that LGBTQ inclusion–creating safer schools and curriculum–is a priority.  OECTA members participated in Egale Canada’s “Every Teacher Project.”  Have a look at the report by clicking here.  This research tells a good story of where Catholic educators want the Catholic school system to move.  Here are some of the key findings:

What the classroom teacher sees as a need, doesn’t always get reflected as a priority for a  school board.

Religious schools are often assumed to be sites that are hostile to LGBTQ-inclusive education, but educators from Catholic schools were only slightly less likely to approve of LGBTQ-inclusive education (83% vs. 85% of respondents from secular schools), and slightly more likely to be opposed to it (6% vs. 4%). This suggests that the relationship between educators’ perspectives on the issue and the official perspectives of their schools is not a straightforward one.

Catholic teachers want to do the job of LGBTQ inclusion, but…

 Educators from Catholic schools were much less likely to feel comfortable discussing LGBTQ issues with their students (57%) than those from secular schools (76%), even though, as noted earlier, they were almost as likely to approve of LGBTQ-inclusive education (83% vs. 85%). This suggests that their discomfort has more to do with their school context than with their personal values.

Teachers know what they need and the kind of leadership necessary to support their work with LGBTQ inclusion.

 When asked why they did not practice LGBTQ-inclusive education, very few Catholic school educators cited their own religious beliefs. Their biggest reason for not practicing LGBTQ-inclusive education was insufficient training (29% vs. 17% from secular schools), followed by fear-based reasons concerning lack of leadership.

Even without leadership, Catholic teachers are boldly standing in solidarity with their LGBTQ students. Among their accomplishments:

Many Catholic schools have established Ontario’s legislated Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA).

Recently, I was invited to a Catholic high school assembly that openly proclaimed the need to be more inclusive of its LGBTQ students and staff.  While the chaplain prophetically spoke gospel truth to institutional power, students rallied and advocated for a school GSA, and the school administrators led the line in signing the rainbow flag.

Catholic student leaders keep the system accountable.

Across the province of Ontario, I’ve seen courageous student leaders, fueled by a deep passion, and tired of being invisible, raise their voices to challenge lackadaisical Catholic school boards. They urge these boards to support  LGBTQ students and keep them safe.  Catholic student trustees continue to make LGBTQ inclusion a priority on their school boards.

Many OECTA local units, especially the Toronto Secondary Unit, stand in solidarity with LGBTQ members.

Marching in Pride parades, advocating for LGBTQ member human rights, and speaking strongly to other Catholic partners all need to continue.  The time has arrived, and sitting on our hands and exercising a complicit silence can no longer be the norm if Catholic schools in Ontario are to viably speak to its students and teachers and remain authentic to the gospel mandate to love.

All sorts of resources and new social and cultural initiatives have been added to schools.

School libraries showcase books on diverse families (same-sex families). School hallways advertise pink shirt days and safe space initiatives.  A Catholic high school outside Toronto crowned Prom-Queens!  Rainbow flags are expressly being waved inside and outside schools.  These and more continue to be signs that LGBTQ inclusion is countering the nervous, nibbled-knee responses that have darkened the Spirit in the past.

Catholic teachers have recognized the “signs of the times” and are acting accordingly, and quickly, to support the dignity and well-being of LGBTQ students.  The problem is with those who wait, doing nothing,  while the suicide rate of LGBTQ youth is four times the average.  Gratitude is to those who take the prophetic, bold steps to seize the moment and stand with the most vulnerable.

Courage will still be needed to stand in the face of hate, and dignity will be needed to sway those who prefer a splintered community.   As we forge ahead, let us raise each other up, stand arm in arm, and wholehearted welcome the part of the Body of Christ that is LGBTQ.

Yes, the slogging still remains tough, but as Canadian singer Bruce Cockburn said, “nothing worth happening comes without some kind of fight.”  Continue on… there’s no turning back now.

–Kevin Welbes Godin

 


The Murder of Paul Broussard: A Catholic Bishop Speaks Out

August 14, 2016

History-Option 1

“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s new feature to educate readers of the rich history—positive and negative—that has taken place over the last four decades regarding Catholic LGBT equality issues.  We hope it will show people how far our Church has come, ways that it has regressed, and how far we still have to go.

Once a  month, Bondings 2.0 staff will produce a post on Catholic LGBT news events from the past 38 years.  We will comb through editions ofBondings 2.0’s predecessor:  Bondings,  New Ways Ministry’s newsletter in paper format.   We began publishing Bondings in 1978. Unfortunately because these newsletters are only archived in hard copies, we cannot link back to the primary sources in most cases. 

1991: “The Murder of Paul Broussard”

In 1991, the gay-bashing death of a young Houston banker sparked a strong reaction from the local Catholic bishop in which he stated that to hate homosexuals “is to offend God.”

Paul Broussard was brutally beaten by ten youths–nine of whom were high school students–when he and his friends were leaving a nightclub in the Montrose section of Houston, known as a gay neighborhood, in the early morning hours of July 4, 1991.  Broussard was just blocks away from his home.  He was fatally stabbed twice during the attack.

First responders were slow to arrive at the scene, which was seen as a common practice for incidents in the Montrose neighborhood at that time because of fear of the AIDS virus.  The medical examiner indicated that “delay in treatment” was a cause of Broussard’s death.  In the days that followed, the city’s police chief declared that he had no intention of solving the crime, sparking days of protest marches at the mayor’s home by the gay community.  The protests went on to become the largest gay rights demonstration in Houston’s history.  Eventually, the attackers were apprehended and plea bargained to receive prison time.

Paul Broussard

On August 9th of that year, in the midst of all this turmoil, Houston’s Bishop Joseph Fiorenza took the unprecedented step of speaking out to condemn the brutality of this attack.  No bishop had ever spoken up against a gay bashing in such a public way. In a column in The Texas Catholic Herald entitled “The Death of Paul Broussard,” Fiorenza stated:

“To hate homosexuals is to offend God whose creative love gives life to every person and it is a violation of the Church’s teaching that every human being has immeasurable value and dignity which is to be respected by others. “

Fiorenza provided a theological basis for this claim:

“. . . [I]t is a religious truth that every person, regardless of lifestyle, is a child of God , formed in His image.  The ‘image of God’ in every person, whether a homosexual, a bisexual, or a heterosexual, is what gives dignity and worth to each individual, and is the reason that every person is th subject of human and civil rights.”

The bishop also got more specific in his instructions about how to eradicate the homophobia which caused such cruel acts:

“Any hatred of homosexuals or jokes about gay bashings or calling homosexuals by common epithets is clearly a violation of our responsibility to love as Christ loves every human person.  To hate or to violate another person, no matter whoo he or she is, continues the cyle of violence that can lead to other Paul Broussards’ being brutally killed just because they were thought to be homosexuals.  Please God, this will never again happen in our community. “

Bishop Fiorenza

Fiorenza also explained some recent experiences which brought the Broussard murder into a clearer focus for him:

“Shortly after Paul’s murder, I visited Central Europe and Berlin where I saw evidence of neo-Nazi anti-semitism   We must not forget that the demonic evil of Nazism also targeted homosexuals for the gas chambers.  Hitler wanted them eliminated.  God forbid that the Nazi hatred for homosexual would ever infiltrate into our community.  It is possible, however, if we are not alert to its dangers, and if we fail to teach the God-given dignity and worth of every human person.”

In an interesting move, the bishop also acknowledged that the failure to proclaim this teaching was part of the problem which caused gay bashing:

“. . . [O]ur tradtional mediating institutions [religious congregations, schools and homes] have failed society if anyone thinks ‘gay bashing’ is an acceptable form of diversion. Or what is worse, if any member of our religious congregations and schools has developed a hatred for homosexuals.”

He stressed that  the church’s teaching about human dignity needed to be proclaimed more strongly:

“The Church has always made an important anc clear distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual genital activity.  The Church has not and does not condemn those with a homosexual orientation.  Furthermore, every religious faith teaches that homosexuals are to be respected and loved as brothers and sisters in the human family and any attack upon them is a violation of religious principles.

“In view of the tragic death of Paul Broussard, it is timely for all faiths to recall this teaching to that it will be clearly understood and hopefully prevent a repeat of deaths resulting from ‘gay bashing.’ “

Bishop Firorenza’s example stands as a witness which should motivate Catholic bishops around the world to speak out against violence inflicted on the LGBT community.  This lesson is particularly important for the bishops who continue to support laws which criminalize and severely penalize LGBT people.  The teaching on human dignity is clear and unambiguous.  Application of this teaching to these situations should be similarly clear and unambiguous.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Catholic Priest: Church Cannot Abandon Transgender Catholics

August 13, 2016
bryan

Fr. Bryan Massingale

The church must not abandon transgender Catholics. This is Fr. Bryan Massingale’s message in his new column published by U.S. Catholic, and it is a poignant message in view of Pope Francis’ recent remarks about gender identity.

Massingale. a professor of theology at Fordham University, New York, begins his essay by referencing a transgender panel discussion in which he participated earlier this year. Hosted by the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the largest annual gathering of Catholics in North America, that panel featured to young trans Catholics sharing their stories. Massingale commented on it:

“I was struck by their heartfelt conviction that accepting their true gender identities led them to a deeper and more authentic relationship with God. Hearing their stories of pain and triumph was one of the most privileged moments I have had in 33 years of being a priest.”

But Massingale notes that he questioned his own participation in the event, especially when friends and family asked him about the risks that identifying with LGBT people can have in the church. He explained:

“Space does not allow me to give my full response. But one reason why I chose to be present is because I have a lot to learn. To be blunt, I was at the panel precisely because of my ignorance and discomfort. Transgender issues were never addressed in either my moral theology courses in the seminary or in my graduate studies in Christian ethics. I—and most priests—have not been trained to specifically minister to transgender members of our parishes or to the concerns of their families.

“My personal ignorance is also shared by the church as a whole. There is much that we do not understand about what is technically called ‘gender dysphoria,’ or the lack of congruence between one’s physical body and gender identity. This ignorance leads to fear, and fear is at the root of the controversies in today’s so-called ‘bathroom wars.’ And there lies a major challenge that transgender people endure and that the faith community has to own: the human tendency to be uncomfortable and fearful in the face of what we don’t understand. It’s easier to ridicule and attack individuals we don’t understand than to summon the patience and humility to listen and to learn.”

The church cannot abandon trans Catholics because, Massingale explains, “Jesus would be present to, among, and with transgender persons.” His table ministry with society’s outcasts teaches Christians that we will be judged on “our compassion for the despised and disdained.” Lack of understanding of or comfort with people does not mitigate the obligation the church has to include them and minister to them.  Massingale also cited the compassionate side of Pope Francis:

“During Pope Francis’ visit last fall, he repeated on at least five occasions: ‘Jesus never abandons us.’ This is the deepest reason why I chose to be with Anna and Mateo, who spoke so eloquently for so many of our transgender fellow Catholics. Jesus does not abandon us. If we claim to be his followers, we cannot abandon them.”

You can read Fr. Massingale’s full essay by clicking here.

Fr. Massingale has himself not abandoned LGBT Catholics. While at Marquette University, he celebrated monthly Masses for members of the LGBTQ communities on campus because, he says, it is important they “have a Mass where they feel welcome and that God does love them.” He challenged Pax Christi USA members at their 2013 annual conference to increase the organization’s defense of LGBT rights, as both a human rights concern and a necessary part of attracting younger Catholics. Massingale also joined other Catholic theologians and officials in condemning proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

Fr. Massingale will continue his call for inclusion and justice in the church when he will be a keynote speaker for New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.” Early registration has now opened if you are interested in attending, and you can find more information by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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