What Were the Best and Worst Catholic LGBT News Items of 2012?

best worstAs the year draws to a close, it’s natural to look back and reflect on all that has passed in the previous 12 months.  Publications will soon be starting to include year-end surveys of the “best” and “worst” of 2012 in their respective fields, so Bondings 2.0 wants to do the same for the Catholic LGBT world.  So we ask our readers:  what were the best and worst Catholic LGBT news items of 2012?

It’s going to be a challenge to select the most important ones to highlight. It’s been a packed year with numerous major news stories concerning the relationship of Catholicism and LGBT activities.

Below are two poll questions, followed by 15 possible answers, plus the choice “Other” for you to write in your own suggestions. We ask that you pick your top FIVE answers to each question.

If you would like to refresh your memory of what happened this past year, just use the tools in the right hand column of this blog to find stories that have been reported on here.  You can search by clicking on a category, by using a search term, or by reviewing posts by month.

Please take a moment to complete these two poll questions.  We will publish the results, along with our own choices during the last week of the year.  Thank you for participating!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Midwest Bishops’ Political Letters Cite Marriage Equality as a Litmus Test Issue

Bishop David Ricken

Catholic parishioners in the Diocese of Green Bay received a letter last week from their bishop, David Ricken, warning them against voting for positions he claims are “intrinsically evil.” The letter included five non-negotiable issues, including what Ricken referred to as “homosexual ‘marriage,’” that made candidates ineligible for Catholics voters. TheNorthwestern.com reports Ricken also told those in his diocese voting for candidates who support those five issues would make them complicit and jeopardize their souls.

Bishop David Kagan

After a similar letter was released by Bishop David Kagan of the Diocese of Bismarck claiming Catholics could not vote for anyone supportive of marriage equality, North Dakotan Catholics reacted against what they saw as electioneering. National Catholic Reporter reports that Tim Mathern, a state senator from Fargo, replied to the bishop’s letter by emphasizing the primacy of conscience in Catholic morality and the by questioning the Church’s tax-exempt status if bishops engage in explicit partisanship. Mathern writes:

“To direct parishioners toward or away from one particular political party is a misuse of faith and trust. Sitting in the pews, parishioners have every reason to expect that the message will be relevant to current events and issues of conscience. However, endorsement of a political candidate, either by inference or direct statement, serves to disenfranchise, discourage, and even,to some, harm. Such an act bends religious faith toward service of a political party.”

With Catholics playing central roles in political races from presidential down to ballot questions, the bishops continued partisanship, including against marriage equality, will continue to divide Catholics nationwide.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Marriage Equality Debate Heats Up with 45 Days until Elections

With under 50 days left in the 2012 election season, campaigns on both sides of the marriage equality debate are bolstering their media outreach in four states, and Catholic voters are taking center stage.

In Minnesota, marriage equality advocates made their case for voting no on the constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman by releasing an advertisement earlier this week:

The spot features John and Kim Canny, a Minnesotan Catholic couple married for 13 years with three children and identified as Republican voters. The couple admits the issue of same-sex marriage did not arise for them until a lesbian couple and their son moved into the neighborhood. The ad, the work of Minnesotans United for All Families, continues:

“‘They were the most wonderful neighbors,’ Kim says in the ad. ‘It taught all of us in our little suburban world.’
“‘We did have some good discussions,’ John says. ‘In our daughter’s world, her normal is so much different than ours. It didn’t faze her at all.’“Kim says, ‘It’s okay to take a second look,’ and John adds, ‘And when you do, vote no.’”

Minnesotans United for All Families bought ads on a number of local television stations for $255,000 to be aired leading up to the election.

Catholic voters exist on both sides of the marriage equality debate, as evidenced by the Twin Cities’ Archbishop John Nienstedt joined other religious leaders in a rally supporting the amendment. Nienstedt is an outspoken advocate for what he refers to as ‘traditional marriage’ and the Catholic Church in Minnesota has donated a half million dollars towards this effort.

Catholics who oppose the bishops’ position have been organizing around the state against the amendment. Minneapolis Catholic Ed Walsh told KARE 11 News:

“’I understand where the bishop is coming from but I just feel he’s making a mistake…Committed loving relationships are the life blood of our community.’”
Fr. Mike Tegeder

The laity are not alone, as several clergy have joined the campaign for equality. Rev. Mike Tegeder is vocal about his opposition to the amendment in Minnesota:

“’I support the catholic teaching of marriage, but we’re not talking about catholic teaching on marriage. We’re talking about civil marriage,’ he said.
“And he believes civil marriage should be a right for everyone. While many priests disagree with him, he claims others are on his side.
” ‘I know there are a lot of priests who feel it’s a difficult issue for them to speak out on,’ he said.”

A media campaigns in Washington State has been cranked up, as well.

Support for Referendum 74, which would legalizae marriage equality, tops 50% and leads the opposition by double digits in recent polling. Outfunded opposition groups will now be aided by ad buys from an out of state group that was involved in the successful victory to pass California’s Proposition 8 in 2008.

As the November 6 election date approaches, Bondings 2.0 will continue to update on marriage equality developments in each of the four states.

-Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Convention Speeches by Catholics Spark Controversy

Prominent Catholics took to the podiums at both the Republican National Convention (RNC) and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this year, leaving other Catholics tasked with interpreting the speeches. Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, addressed the DNC last Wednesday, while Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York gave benedictions for each party.

Dolan’s prayers are stirring up already-present Catholic controversies because of the differences in remarks aimed at Republicans and at Democrats, the latter receiving 156 additional words.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

The Huffington Post reports on some of those added words:

“And making what seemed to be a allusion to same-sex marriage, which President Barack Obama and the DNC have endorsed, Dolan said: “Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God. Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.

“Dolan mentioned morality at the RNC, but not remaking ‘institutions [God] has given us.’ At the RNC, he said, ‘May we know the truth of your creation, respecting the laws of nature and nature’s God, and not seek to replace it with idols of our own making.’”

The Advocate notes changes Dolan made for the Democratic convention, including the above potential reference to marriage equality:

“Dolan used no such language about ‘remaking institutions’ in his prayer to the RNC last week. Republicans approved a platform calling for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and the affirmation of DOMA, positions more in line with Catholic Church teaching.”

Mainstream commenters quickly identified this discrepancy in language as condemning the Democratic Party’s adoption of marriage equality and LGBT rights as part of its platform.

In the Catholic community, however, there is debate about how much can be read into Dolan’s remarks. Chuck Colbert reports in the Windy City Times on differing opinions:

“One view is that Dolan offered a subtle theological take on gays as freaks of nature, even idolaters in advocating-same-sex marriage.

“’The reality is that gay people, too, are part of God’s nature, and therefore we are a part of the laws of nature. We need to remind Cardinal Dolan and the Church that God created gay people to be fully who we are; we are not a “mistake,”’explained [Charles] Martel [of Catholics for Marriage Equality] over the telephone and in e-mail correspondence….

“…Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, a pro-gay group for LGBT Catholics, their friends, families, and the Church, viewed the prayer favorable light.

“’Cardinal Dolan does not mention anything about LGBT issues, which I think is a good thing,’ explained DeBernardo. ‘Some people may think that his mention of natural law refers to lesbian and gay people or our society’s move towards marriage equality, but I do not agree. Lesbian and gay people are well within the bounds of nature’s law and the desire to live as a committed couple is a perfectly natural thing to do.’”

However, as Colbert reports, some view Dolan’s remarks as moderate and hopeful:

“’From a LGBT Catholic perspective I see this as indication that in the cultural wars Dolan is recognizing public opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to his far right position on the cultural hot button issues, and this might be an indication that he is trying to move his position to a more moderate one. What can I say I believe in the Holy Spirit,’ [Joe] Murray [of the Rainbow Sash Movement] added.”

As for Dolan’s comments at the DNC, New Ways Ministry’s DeBernardo had this to say:

“Cardinal Dolan seems to be alluding to the institution of marriage in his reference to remaking ‘those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.’  What he fails to grasp is that marriage equality laws do not re-make the institution of marriage, but simply expand the institution to include all couples who want to commit in love to one another and carefully protect all families within our society.”

Sr. Simone Campbell

Sr. Simone Campbell addressed the Democrats in a heavily pastoral manner drawing from her time with ‘Nuns on the Bus’ earlier this year:

“In June, I joined other Catholic sisters on a 2,700-mile bus journey through nine states to tell Americans about the budget Congressman Paul Ryan wrote and Governor Romney endorsed….

“[A woman in Pennsylvania] wishes they, and the rest of the nation, would listen to one another with kindness and compassion. Listen to one another rather than yell at each other. I told her then, and I tell her now, that she is not alone.

“This is what we nuns on the bus are all about: We care for the 100 percent, and that will secure the blessings of liberty for our nation. So join us as we nuns and all of us drive for faith, family and fairness.”

Given both Dolan’s history and the benediction texts from each convention, how are his remarks to be interpreted? Are the bishops seeking a more pastoral tone like that of the sisters? What do you think of Sr. Campbell’s comments? Please post your comments below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry