Catholics to Cardinal Dolan: Meet with LGBT Youth

Joseph Amodeo

Last week, Bondings 2.0 reported that Joseph Amodeo, a member of the junior board of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, resigned his position in protest of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s insensitivity to LGBT concerns, and particularly how such insensitivity impacts negatively on LGBT youth.

Yesterday, Amodeo renewed his opposition to Dolan’s insensitive remarks by launching a petition asking Dolan to meet with LGBT y0uth.   A essay by Amodeo explains his reasons for starting this campaign:

“As Catholics and others listen to the messages coming from those in positions of power in the Church, I hope they will realize that the heavy-handed approach to LGBT issues is not shared by all Catholics. Although those in the hierarchy may have the pulpit, there are far more pews than there will ever be pulpits. As Catholics speak out and call upon the Church to live out its call to be a beacon of social justice and love, those in the hierarchy will begin to see another way in which Christ has risen — he has risen from the silence and has cried out for equality. We can only hope that those in the Church leadership will turn and listen to our voices, so as to see that our prophetic witness is merely asking them to look into our hearts and see the people God has created us to be.

“For this reason I have decided to launch a petition on to be presented to Cardinal Timothy Dolan to let him know that Catholics stand in solidarity with the homeless LGBT youth of the Ali Forney Center and all LGBT youth in need. Through this action, the voices of gay and straight Catholics will unite, will break through the silence, and will call upon those in positions of power in the Church to see that the people of God will not allow the cries for help of God’s children to go unheard and unanswered. So please join me in signing this petition, so that we might invite Cardinal Dolan into a dialogue about this important issue that faces us all.”

You can sign the petition by clicking here.

Amodeo’s essay begins with a powerful story which illustrates how Catholic lay people are in the forefront of religious groups in their support of LGBT justice and equality:

“A little over eight years ago, I came out as a gay man to my family and friends. Amid this revelation, I continued to practice my faith as a Roman Catholic. It was at this time in my life that I came to witness the overwhelming support that Catholics have for LGBT people. In my role as a religion teacher, a priest once informed me that a parent had expressed concern over having a gay man teach religious education. The priest called a meeting of the parish on a weeknight and asked that anyone who had concerns related to my teaching should speak up publicly. The night of the meeting, I entered a packed Church and slowly made my way to a pew where I sat next to my father. As the meeting began, one-by-one congregants rose and expressed their real concern: why this was even an issue. The reality is that my experience from nearly a decade ago is representative of the vast majority of Roman Catholics. We live in a Church that is called to welcome and affirm people’s humanity and identity without exception. It was in reflecting on this faith experience that I had such a difficult time reconciling Cardinal Dolan’s comments with the Catholic faith that I live and experience every day.”

Show that you are one of those Catholics who know that our faith compels us to work for LGBT justice and equality. Sign the petition today!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Gay Catholic Resigns Board Position Over Cardinal’s Remarks

Joseph Amodeo

A gay Catholic man resigned his position on the junior board of Catholic Charities of the New York Archdiocese because of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s recent insensitive remarks in response to a plea for help for homeless LGBT youth, reports ABC News from an Associated Press article.

Joseph Amodeo, 24, sent a resignation letter to Charities’ Chief Development Officer and to the board’s staff person which he published in an April 5, 2012, blog post.     The resignation comes in response to Dolan’s comments about an open letter request to the Cardinal from Carl Siciliano, the executive director of N.Y.C.’s Ali Forney Center, a shelter and social service agency for homeless LGBT youth, to cease from anti-LGBT rhetoric:

“Certainly you must see your responsibility in fostering a climate where parents turn on their own children, for you have been a loud and strident voice against the acceptance of LGBT people as equal members of our society. When you compare being gay to being an alcoholic, as you did in interviews with the local media, you cause parents who give credence to you to see their LGBT children in terms of sickness and addiction. When you equate the state of New York with Communist China for granting its LGBT citizens marriage equality, you make the acceptance of LGBT people seem menacing and evil. You recently wrote to President Obama threatening “a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions” because of the Obama administration’s decision not to support a federal ban on gay marriage. I hope that you understand that thousands of LGBT teens will be wounded in this conflict you have decided to escalate.

“When you use your position as a religious leader to fight the acceptance of LGBT persons as equal members of our society, you inevitably make many parents less able to accept their own LGBT children.”

Dolan’s response to Siciliano included the following paragraph:

“For you to make the allegations and insinuations you do in your letter based on my adherence to the clear teachings of the Church is not only unfair and unjust, but inflammatory. Neither I nor anyone in the Church would ever tolerate hatred of or prejudice towards any of the Lord’s children. In the future you ought to be more careful about personally attacking the character of those who espouse beliefs different than your own.”

Amodeo’s resignation letter makes reference to both the Cardinal’s response and to the anti-LGBT rhetoric coming from him:

“The comments that His Eminence has made regarding same-sex couples, the LGBT community in general, and his recent in-action in response to the Ali Forney Center’s plea for pastoral assistance, has left me with no other choice but to resign. Contrary to His Eminence’s response to Ali Forney’s Executive Director, Mr. Siciliano’s comments were not inflammatory, they were truth; they were a call for help; and they were expressive of the cry in the wilderness that LGBT people have been making for far too long. As a religious and pastoral leader for millions of Catholics, his voice is needed as together we work to create homes that are safe, affirming and welcoming for LGBT youth. The LGBT community is not asking the Cardinal to change Church teaching, but rather to exercise the Church’s social justice teachings. I hope the day will come when things will be less about “clear teachings” and more about what is truly right and just in the eyes of Truth itself.”

Amodeo was careful to point out that his disagreement was with the Cardinal,not with Catholic Charities:

“This resignation should not be seen as casting an aspersion on Catholic Charities, but rather an ethical dilemma of a personal nature related to Archdiocesan leadership. As someone who believes in the message of love enshrined in the teachings of Christ, I find it disheartening that a man of God would refuse to extend a pastoral arm to the Ali Forney Center and the hundreds of LGBT youth that are housed, fed, educated and provided free health services.”

The example of this gay Catholic man is a great witness to the rest of the church.  His criticism is both pointed and respectful.  He has a specific gripe and makes that known strongly without showing disrespect for the rest of the church and the faith.  But, most importantly, he did what few others seem willing to do in the church: he stood up for his beliefs.  If other Catholics who support LGBT rights would follow suit, we would see much greater movement towards a church of justice and equality for LGBT people.  Silence and inaction are two of our greatest enemies.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Homeless for the Holidays

“LGBT kids are eight times more likely than straight youth to be homeless,” said Carl Siciliano, founder of the Ali Forney Center, a shelter for homeless LGBT youth in New York City.

Siciliano is quoted in a story on entitled “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Kids Struggle on the Streets.”

The statistics in the ABC-TV report boggle the mind:

“Resources for homeless LGBT youth are scarce and shelters are at capacity, especially in New York City where the Ali Forney Center estimates 3,800 youth are homeless, about 1,600 of them LGBT. But they have only 250 beds for youth . . ., and state and city funding has been drying up.”

“About 20 to 40 percent of youth who leave home . . . to live on the streets identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.”

“In one study, 26 percent of teens who came out to their parents were told they must leave home. Others said they were physically, sexually or emotionally abused. The task force added that LGBT youth also reported that they are threatened, belittled and abused at shelters, not only by other residents, but by staff, as well. “

Can you send a donation to a homeless shelter that works with LGBT youth?  Can you get your parish, or some committee or group in your parish, to raise funds for such a place? The report says that besides the Ali Forney Center in New York, there are only two other such shelters:  the Ruth Ellis Center, Detroit, and the Jeff Griffith Center, part of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. While these are the only shelters, many other cities offer services and programs for homeless LGBT youth.  The Ali Forney Center’s website provides a list of resources around the country.

If you want to do something locally and no shelter exists in your area, you can donate to an LGBT youth support program near you.  All major cities, and even most smaller ones, have such a place which helps to prevent young people from ending up in perilous situations.

We’re coming close to Christmas, a time when giving to charities that work with youth is an especially meaningful thing to do.  If we want our church to change, we have to start the change on the grassroots level.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry