Here are some items that you might find of interest:
1) At an ordination in Rome, Pope Francis told 19 priests “With baptism, you unite the new faithful to the People of God. It is never necessary to refuse baptism to someone who asks for it!” According to The National Catholic Reporter’s Joshua McElwee, these words “may be interpreted to rebut Catholic priests who refuse to baptize children of same-sex couples.”
2) The bishop of Northampton, England, has removed three members of a hermit community from a local presbytery after they refused to continue distributing vicious anti-gay material, according to The Tablet.
4) Some graduating seniors at LeMoyne College, a Jesuit school in Syracuse, N.Y., will be protesting the school’s commencement speech this year, which is to be given by N.Y.C.’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, according to TWCnews.com. Dolan’s record of being critical of LGBT equality is part of the motivation for the students’ protest.
5) At the annual March for Marriage in Washington, DC, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke against marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples, calling it “the greatest social experiment of our time,” according to The Catholic Sun. Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, also attended the rally and gave the opening prayer.
I generally don’t like to criticize other bloggers, but when a gay-friendly Catholic parish has been wrongly accused of anti-LGBT behavior, I think it is important to set the record straight (so to speak). Such is the case with a blog post by John Becker, who writes at The Bilerico Project. I often find Mr. Becker’s commentaries challenging and thought-provoking, but in a recent post, he oversteps the mark by making a claim that needs to be corrected.
Becker became aware of an event advertisement on the Archdiocese of Baltimore website that stated:
“Embracing God’s Gifts, St. Ignatius’ Gay & Lesbian ministry, is inviting you to join us on Friday, June 13th at 7 PM in the Chapel of Grace, where we will give thanks to God for the gift of family. Through music, readings, prayer and a spirit of gratitude, we will gather to celebrate being members of God’s family. Please contact Gordon Creamer… if you are interested in participating in the planning process. All are welcome and please bring a friend! A light Reception will follow in Ignatian Hall.”
Becker noted that a link on the site led to a page which included the following description of the parish ministry:
“As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, we are called to celebrate and share the gifts of diversity of sexuality in our church today. Our organization, Embracing God’s Gifts, has been formed as an instrument for recognizing these gifts and incorporating their goodness and use into the life of our parish. Our mission is to create opportunities for the spiritual enrichment, support and inclusion of all diverse individuals, while being informed by church teaching, and to promote awareness and community building among them. We will accomplish this through a variety of endeavors that foster support, communication and social activities. We invite all to participate in this group with open-mindedness and compassion.”
These two announcements aroused Becker’s suspicion, particularly the phrase about “church teaching.” He stated:
“Now I realize that the flyer says the group is informed by church teaching, not that it necessarily upholds it. I contacted Gordon Creamer, the aforementioned Embracing God’s Gifts organizer at St. Ignatius Parish, and left a message asking him what exactly the program tells gay and lesbian Catholics about themselves and their sexuality. I also asked whether it has any affiliation with Courage, the Catholic ‘ministry‘ that uses a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous to encourage LGB Catholics to suppress their sexuality and live totally celibate lives. If Creamer responds, I’ll let you know.
I can understand Becker’s surprise and confusion, especially since he wasn’t able to be in touch with Gordon Creamer, who leads St. Ignatius’ LGBT ministry. I wish Becker would have postponed writing about the announcement until he did learn more about the ministry. The parish has long been a welcoming and accepting home for LGBT people in Baltimore. Run by the Jesuits, they hosted a Dignity chapter there for many years, even after Dignity chapters had been expelled from Catholic property in most other dioceses.
Gordon Creamer is an excellent minister and someone who has taken many courageous steps to reach out to LGBT people to let them know that there are segments in the Catholic Church that welcome and affirm them.
Becker’s comparison of Creamer’s ministry to Courage is totally wrong. That is not what St. Ignatius’ parish ministry is about. Courage views a gay or lesbian orientation as a defect. Nothing about the Courage model of ministry would include “Embracing Our Gifts,” as St. Ignatius identifies its ministry. Moreover, I don’t know of any parish ministry that uses the Courage model as a form of outreach, unless, of course, it is a parish that explicitly advertises itself as such. Finally, no Courage group would mask one of their events as a Pride activity, even surreptitiously.
Becker was not the only blogger who was suspicious of this announcement. Joe Jervis at “Joe. My. God.” pondered:
“There’s no mention of celibacy or ‘ex-gay’ therapy at either of the two links above, but it’s entirely possible that either or both are part of the ministry at St. Ignatius.”
I acknowledge that Archbishop Lori has a strong record of opposing marriage equality on both the local and national levels, and so seeing an event advertised on the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s website might cause one to raise an eyebrow. But, again, further digging would have revealed what I have learned from many Catholic LGBT advocates in Baltimore: that Archbishop Lori seems to be open to pastoral ministry that integrates LGBT people into the parish community.
The fact that Gordon Creamer and the St. Ignatius community were able to have this event advertised on the archdiocesan website is a sign of a major step forward that needs to be celebrated, not an indication of pastoral deceit lying in wait.
I sympathize somewhat with Becker’s befuddlement. Catholic leaders have for so long been so opposed to positive LGBT initiatives that it is difficult for us to change our expectations when something good actually does happen. Witness the incredulity that many people experience with the positive statements Pope Francis has made. Unfortunately, it’s a sad commentary that so many people think that Catholic=anti-gay. Understandable, but sad. And it’s an image that we must work hard to correct.
Indeed, the untold story for decades now is that Catholic parishes across the U.S. have been welcoming LGBT people and benefiting from their presence in the faith community. Few journalists and political LGBT advocates are aware of this quiet growth on the grassroots level of the church. I often tell people that one of the greatest joys of my work at New Ways Ministry has been that I have been privileged to witness and experience the courageous work of so many Catholic pastoral ministers and communities as they affirm and advocate for LGBT people and their families.
You can see the varied communities who do this outreach by checking out New Ways Ministry’s list of gay-friendly Catholic parishes. If you know of any other parishes that pro-actively welcome LGBT people, please let us know about them through the “Comments” section of this post.
So, let’s say a “Hallelujah!” for the sign of progress that the archdiocesan website announcement indicates. And let’s say a prayer of thanksgiving for people like Gordon Creamer and the St. Ignatius community who do the important and courageous day-to-day outreach to LGBT people to let them know that God, and their faith community, loves them.
On Monday evening, the US Senate voted to move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would provide fair hiring protections for LGBT people. On the same day, Catholic bishops expressed their opposition to the bill and amplified their defense of ‘just’ discrimination.
In a letter to Senators, three bishops heading up the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty defended their opposition to a law that bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bishops who signed the letter are Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore.
AmericaMagazine explained the bishops’ letter with a summary of the bishops’ objections to non-discrimination legislation, writing:
“[The letter] notes, for example, that the bill: (1) lacks an exception for a ‘bona fide occupational qualification’…(2) lacks a distinction between homosexual inclination and conduct, thus affirming and protecting extramarital sexual conduct; (3) supports the redefinition of marriage, as state-level laws like ENDA have been invoked in state court decisions finding marriage discriminatory or irrational; (4) rejects the biological basis of gender by defining ‘gender identity’ as something people may choose at variance with their biological sex; and (5) threatens religious liberty by punishing as discrimination the religious or moral disapproval of same-sex sexual conduct, while protecting only some religious employers.”
Such arguments range from false to offensive to absurd, especially as many Catholics endorse employment, housing, and other protections for LGBT people. Journalist Michael O’Loughlin questions what positive impact opposing non-discrimination bills and policies
“What’s that now? Are US bishops taking Pope Francis’s message of focusing on poverty rather than homosexuality to heart? Are Catholic bishops going on-the-record in support of the marginalized and oppressed? Is this a sign of a new era in US Catholicism, the one heralded by lefty Catholics who have expressed unabashed hope in the new pope?
“Nah. Keep reading.
“Catholic bishops apparently feel that discriminating against LGBT people in the workplace is not only just, but in fact, not being able to do so threatens their religious liberty.”
O’Loughlin considers what might be motivating the bishops in regard to this issue:
“Catholic bishops relied on lawyers rather than pastors in their decision to come out against the bill…
“Fear is at the root of the bishops’ opposition to LGBT advances in general and ENDA in specific. Fear that society is changing so quickly. Fear that the church is losing its influence in forming morality. Fear that the church is being pushed to the margins.
“It’s remarkable to me that some bishops here have learned so little over the past 8 months. The world is hungry for moral clarity. Look how people have responded to Pope Francis. He talks morality constantly, and the world listens and reflects…If Catholic leaders here in the US feel they find themselves on the defensive, increasingly marginalized and perhaps even deemed irrelevant, at what point do they begin to reconsider their message and priorities?”
“We write to make it clear that the bishops do not speak for the majority of your Catholic constituents, many of whom believe, as we do, that the religious exemptions in the current draft of the legislation are not too narrow, as the bishops contend, but far too broad…
“Nor is it clear that the bishops’ views are in accord with the Pope’s. Responding in August to questions about gay priests, Pope Francis said: ‘If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?’ The pope, in other words, has no plans to discriminate against the gay men who, in secular terms, might be thought of as his employees…
“Our nation’s history teaches us that sometimes the church moves a recalcitrant society toward a deeper respect for the dignity of every human being, but that sometimes those roles are reversed. Unlike our bishops, a significant majority of U.S. Catholics support legislation that guarantees LGBT people equal protection under the law.”
ENDA’s future looks grim in the House, further raising questions about why US bishops felt the need to reaffirm their opposition to a bill which very possibly will fail. However, their letter highlights the urgent need for Catholics in the pews to pre-empt Congress and implement non-discrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity in their Catholic schools, parishes, and other workplaces. For more information on how to accomplish this goal, please click here.
For more than two weeks, my email inbox has been swamped with messages from folks sending me links to articles and essays responding to Pope Francis’ Jesuit magazine interview, in which he chastised church leaders for being too obsessed with gay issues. Early on, we tried providing you with some of the best of the responses, and you can read those here, here, here, and here.
But as I sifted through all these emails, one group that has remained pretty silent on the matter have been the U.S. bishops themselves. Now, I admit that I did not do a major web search for every U.S. bishop to see what he might have said about the interview. Yet, their remarks did not seem prominent in most of the news stories that I saw on the topic.
What is more surprising is that while almost everyone else in the U.S., Catholic and non-Catholic alike, were pleasantly surprised and astonished by what they detected as a new tone from the papacy, the few bishops who did make public responses tended to downplay any innovation on the part of Pope Francis. Their responses reflect a strong ambivalence about the pope’s new direction.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was one of the first bishops to respond. As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he is the spokesperson for the conference, and so many media outlets were interested in what he had to say.
In aNew York Times interview, he called the pope’s words “a breath of fresh air,” yet then went on to stress continuity, not change, in the papal message:
“ ‘One of the lines that nobody seems to be paying attention to was when he said I’m a loyal son of the church,’ he said. ‘He knows that the highest and most sacred responsibility is to pass on the timeless teaching of the church.’ “
What’s odd is that most people saw as more significant Pope Francis’ admission of himself as a sinner, which he described as the most “accurate” description of himself. Furthermore, while Dolan sees the pope’s job as passing on “timeless teaching,” Pope Francis in the interview emphasized the development of church teaching through history.
And while most commentators noted the compassionate and merciful tone in the pope’s words, Dolan seemed to see some sort of loophole for church leaders to continue to criticize:
“What he’s saying is that we have to think of a more effective way to do it, because if the church comes off as a scold, it’s counterproductive. If the church comes off as a loving, embracing mother, who periodically has to correct her children, then we will be effective.”
Dolan also tried to shift the reason why bishops speak so much about abortion and homosexuality to the media. On Top Magazinereported that Dolan mentioned the following in a television interview, responding to a reporter’s question about whether bishops were obsessed about these topics:
“I wonder if we all spend too much time talking about that. I mean you guys would admit that’s usually the things you ask me about, right? So, I don’t know if it’s just the church that seems obsessed with those issues. It seems to be culture, society,”
Like Dolan, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago also seemed to want to shift the cause for “obsession” to the general society, not to the bishops. In The Chicago Tribune, he stated:
“If the society is obsessed with those issues, then the church will respond. If the society doesn’t bring them up, the church won’t respond.”
Also like Dolan, George wanted to retain some form of judgmentalism for church leaders. He stated:
“Everybody is welcome,but not everything we do can be acceptable. Not everything I do, and not everything anybody else does. . . .
“His position was, ‘Don’t judge a person.’ It wasn’t anything about saying, ‘Don’t judge an action as moral or immoral.’ It was taken to say we shouldn’t judge the activity.”
Bishop David O’Connell tried to downplay any change that might be reflected in the pope’s words. In a CNN interview, he said:
“I think it is a slight departure . . . .This was an interview. This was not an instant of papal pronouncement or teaching, . . .This pope is accustomed to speak off the cuff, and to speak in a very common way with people, and I think that’s what you saw in this interview.
“He really was just sharing some of his thoughts and reflections.”
Madison, Wisconsin’s Bishop Robert Morlino offered perhaps the most stubborn refusal to recognizing any change in the papacy. In an email sent to Channel 3000, Morlino stated:
“The Pope is clearly offering his good pastoral counsel about our being, first and foremost, ministers of Jesus’ love and mercy. This is something that every member of Christ’s Church should take to heart and make part of their evangelization efforts. Given the confusion about Pope Francis’ statements that has emerged from the media coverage to date, I think it’s inopportune to offer extensive observations which will probably be subjected to like misinterpretation. I think that, analogous to the “spirit of Vatican II”, a distorted “spirit of Pope Francis” is being concocted which is equally, if not more misleading. For me, it is not prudent to respond further to the Holy Father’s remarks at this time.”
Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, was enthusiastic in his praise for the pope’s comments, though some wondered about the sincerity of his praise since only a short time before the papal interview, he had written in his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed” in the new pope for not mentioning abortion enough. Tobin told The Providence Journal:
“I enthusiastically welcome the balanced and inclusive approach our Holy Father is bringing to the pastoral ministry of the church. . . .
“Being a Catholic does not mean having to choose between doctrine and charity, between truth and love. It includes both.”
Perhaps the most genuine response from a bishop came from Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Maryland. Lori, an ardent and vocal opponent of marriage equalitly, who is also the U.S. bishops’ point person on religious liberty, told the Associated Press:
“Every time I make a statement about one of these things, I will certainly take another look at it and ask, ‘Does this really lead people back to the heart of the Gospel?’ “
I consider this response most “genuine” because it alone acknowledges that bishops may not have been considering this question about the gospel before uttering statements in the past.
John Allen, a Vatican analyst for The National Catholic Reporter, recently commented on why it might take a while before Pope Francis’ “imprint” will be seen among the American bishops. He posits that Pope Francis seems to be taking his time making changes in the Vatican administration, which could influence the type of bishops appointed. Additionally, since few American bishops are at or near retirement age of 75, it might take a while before Pope Francis has an opportunity to replace them.
Yesterday, we posted comments from bishops and dioceses that tended to downplay Pope Francis’ gay-positive remarks. Today, we will look at comments from these church leaders that were either mixed in their reactions or that welcomed the difference that the pope seemed to be emphasizing.
Most of the comments from yesterday tended to stress that nothing had changed because of the pope’s comments. In the category of “mixed” responses, we can see that some leaders stress continuity in substance, but acknowledge that there has been a tone shift. Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, stated to RadioIowa.com:
“The Holy Father made some comments that really were not terribly surprising. He just, in essence, repeated what the church taught, has taught for a long time and has written in the catechism of the Catholic Church but he put it in his own, more personal, direct manner.”
In Erie, Pennsylvania, a diocesan official also emphasized the pope’s new tone and approach, in an interview with ErieTVNews.com:
“Father Chris Singer, Chancellor of the Diocese of Erie said, ‘Pope Francis once again has challenged us in his unique refreshing style what is at the core of the church’s teaching and that is that every man and woman is made in the image of God and God meets them where they are at.’ Singer added, ‘So Pope Francis has not made a change at all, he’s just reminding us to treat all people with respect, to meet them where they are and help them to grow in holiness and that’s exactly how Jesus lived.’ “
Also in the “mixed” category were those bishops who acknowledged something positive about the pope’s comments, but also seemed to want to tone down what they pope’s message was. In The San Francisco Chronicle, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of that city, exemplified this well:
“First, Cordileone praised the Pope Tuesday for ‘reiterating the Church’s love and welcome to all people,’ and said the Church should be a ‘welcome’ and ‘safe’ place for people ‘who experience same sex attraction,’ (and says the Church needs to do a better job on ‘following through’ on being that welcoming place).
“But Cordileone also wanted to clarify one point:
“ ‘While the Church does not judge individuals, the Church does judge actions,’ Cordileone said. To wit: ‘Any sexual act’ outside the boundaries of a male-female marriage, be it gay or straight, is ‘sinful.’”
While it was refreshing to see Cordileone acknowledge that the church has to do a better on welcoming LGBT people, it is disappointing that he uses “same-sex attraction” and the distinction about judging people versus judging acts.
The distinction on judging also featured prominently in the comments of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. On NBC’s Today show, Cardinal Dolan stated:
“It’s been a pretty clear teaching of the church based on the words of Jesus that we can’t judge people; we can judge actions.”
Dolan’s message tried to stress the positive about the papal remarks, but he also stressed the sexual ethics teaching. On one hand, he said:
“What the pope is saying [is] don’t forget forget there is another element to God’s teaching. Namely, that we treat everybody with dignity and respect, that we don’t judge their heart and that we love and respect them.”
But on the other hand, he said:
“Homosexual people deserve love respect and dignity, while homosexual acts are immoral.
“The church’s teaching, which is based on the Bible and God’s revelation, is that sexual love is reserved only between a man and woman in the life-long, life-giving relationship of marriage and any relations outside of that, hetero or homo, would be less than God’s intention. That hasn’t changed.”
“ ‘The Holy Father is not going to make up church doctrine at a news conference.’ But he added that the church teaches understanding and compassion and that the doors are open.”
On the more positive side were some bishops who further commented on the pope’s new approach to gay and lesbian issues. Fox21News.com, in Colorado Springs, carried comments from that city’s Bishop Michael Sheridan, which encouraged a more accepting outlook:
” ‘He speaks to individual people he speaks on a clear level, so it doesn’t surprise me he would stand strong,’ Bishop Sheridan said.
“The Pope’s words mark a sharp shift in tone, but the Bishop said it’s not a change in the church’s teaching.
” ‘Every single human being, heterosexual, homosexual, old, young, is deserving of love and of respect and all human rights, etc,’ Bishop Sheridan explained. ‘This is the clear teaching of the church.’
“Bishop Sheridan said this is how it’s been all along, just maybe not how it’s been perceived.
” ‘It’s a shame, unfortunately, some individual people, Catholics and non-Catholics, do not act that way. But that isn’t what the church says it says we owe respect and love to every human being,’ he affirmed.”
Bishop David Walkowiak of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was even stronger in mirroring the pope’s accepting words. In an article on MLive.com, he offered encouragement to follow the pope’s lead of respecting human dignity and was not afraid to criticize the older approach to these issues:
“ ‘The church has not said much about homosexuality and when it has it’s reiterated the teachings,’ said the Most Rev. David Walkowiak, bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids that includes more than 180,000 Catholics in 11 West Michigan counties. ‘That is helpful. It’s true. But the tone is usually one which is not a source of encouragement or a source of support.
” ‘We’re hoping that the pope’s tone sets a hope and an attitude that if you come to the church you will be respected, you will be welcomed, you will receive the support of the sacraments. My hope would be that people with same-sex attraction would feel more encouraged to walk into a Catholic church.’
“Walkowiak said the pope’s comment responded specifically to a question about gay priests, who ‘are called to celibacy’ regardless of their sexual orientation. But the pope’s ‘sympathetic’ remarks signal a more pastoral tone on gays in general, if not a change in church doctrine on homosexuality, he said.
“ ‘Certainly, the church’s teaching is not going to change during a press conference on a trans-Atlantic flight,’ Walkowiak said. But ‘he reminded us that whomever you’re interacting with, they should be welcomed and treated with sympathy and compassion and love,’ he said.
” ‘(Practicing gays) need to be accorded respect, compassion and support,’ Walkowiak said. ‘That’s the Christian outlook of how to treat people.’ “
Albany, New York’s Bishop Howard Hubbard also emphasized the new pastoral tone of the papacy, in his interview with the Times-Union:
” ‘Pope Francis’ comments on homosexuality in general and specifically on accepting candidates for the priesthood who have a homosexual orientation reveal the pastoral tone and approach he has taken since assuming his responsibilities as the spiritual leader of our Roman Catholic Christian community,’ Albany Roman Catholic Bishop Howard J. Hubbard said Monday.
“Hubbard said Francis’ statements reflect the church’s teaching about the ‘sacred dignity and worth of every person, regardless of one’s sexual orientation.’ “
Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh also emphasized the new pastoral approach that Pope Francis is taking. In the Post-Gazette, he stated:
“He is saying things that the church has already said, but he is saying them in ways that people can understand. Pope John Paul II was a philosopher. Pope Benedict XVI is a theologian. Pope Francis is a pastor. … He tells us that you have to know your people, you have to know what their struggles are.”
Reading yesterday’s and today’s posts together, you can get the impression that some bishops want things to remain the same, others are mixed, and still others are welcoming the new attitude in the church that Pope Francis seems to want.
“It’s still not clear what the second step [after Dolan’s positive remarks] in this fraught process might be, or even if there is a second step. And there are signs that things may only get more complicated…
“Moreover, as Americans — and American Catholics — grow increasingly accepting of homosexuality, and as foes of gay rights grow increasingly determined, conflict at the parish level seems inevitable. The uneasy ‘Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell’ policy that once allowed gay and lesbian Catholics to take church positions is clashing with their increasing visibility in the form of marriage licenses or wedding announcements.”
Gibson details the firings of Nicholas Coppola and Carla Hale, while Bondings 2.0 has reported on these and several other cases in recent months that are making LGBT-Catholic relations strained. Gibson quotes Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, who questions how these actions fit with other Catholic principles about justice.
“’How just is it to fire someone whose life or practices are not in accord with official church teaching?’…
“’Where do you draw the line?…Do you get fired if you have remarried without an annulment? Do you get fired if you don’t attend Mass on Sunday regularly? Do you get fired because you are a Protestant who does not recognize the Catholic hierarchical structure?’”
Yet, not only are LGBT advocates within the Catholic Church worried, priests and others in ministry recognize the increasing frequency of these conflicts at local levels:
“’The fact is that it is going to get worse,’ said the pastor of a large Midwest parish who has had to fend off complaints about a lesbian member of his staff. As critics become more insistent, and as gay and lesbian Catholics become more public, he fears the resulting controversies will take a serious toll on the church.
“’We have to come to some kind of pastoral accommodation,’ he said.
Fr. Joe Muth
New Ways Ministry hosts a listing of gay-friendly parishes, which has grown to over 200 from just 20 a decade ago that are making pastoral accommodations. One parish with extensive experience doing LGBT ministry is St. Matthew’s in Baltimore, led by Fr. Joe Muth
“Gays and lesbians ‘just move into the regular life of the church’ at St. Matthew’s, Muth said, as he believes is perfectly normal.
“But he also said they are aware of the ‘sensitivity’ of their presence, so they have made a concerted effort to reach out to other groups in the parish, and the parish has also made sure to include one of Baltimore’s bishops in meetings.
“That dialogue has been invaluable, he said, and he has received few complaints or protests.”
Fr. Muth acknowledges that the framework is troubled, and limitations on engaging marriage equality or having LGBT ministers in public relations remain due to the bishops’ pressure. Gibson continues:
“In fact, the patchwork nature of the responses is part of the problem, say gay advocates. ‘It’s not that there is a witch hunt out there,’ said DeBernardo. ‘But there are witch hunters. … For the most part I don’t think bishops go after these folks. They don’t create controversy; they only respond to controversy.’
“At the moment, there are no guidelines to help pastors and parishioners deal with these issues, and there doesn’t seem to be an effort to develop anything comprehensive’…
“’Right now it’s a step-by-step process of helping people to be church,’ said Muth, of St. Matthew’s in Baltimore. ‘That’s the way I see it.’”
This piecemeal approach to solving the increasing number of parish conflicts does not seem sufficient to some, and leaves us asking LGBT Catholics, family, friends, and allies the very same question with which Gibson titled his article: Can gay Catholics find a home in the Catholic Church?
Share your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below about if it is possible, and how you remain Catholic.
Lauren Markoe writes in The Washington Postabout the bishops’ rejection of this legislation that strengthens and funds federal initiatives to further protect domestic violence and human trafficking victims. The 2013 re-authorization added explicit protections for victims regardless of their “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” which is the source of Republican legislators, as well as the bishops’, concerns. Markoe writes:
“[The bishops] are opposing the newly authorized Violence Against Women Act for fear it will subvert traditional views of marriage and gender, and compromise the religious freedom of groups that aid victims of human trafficking…
“That language disturbs several bishops who head key committees within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that deal with, among other issues, marriage, the laity, youth and religious liberty.”
The bishops signing the statement include Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. Several of these bishops previously opposed marriage equality and LGBT civil rights in prominent ways, making this letter only the latest in the narrative against full equality.
In 2010, during the last re-authorization vote in the Violence Against Women Act, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supported the legislation as an effective measure to reduce gender-based violence. At that time, emphasis on Catholic teachings around human dignity, justice, and non-violence played a central role in the decision to support the legislation. The recent action of these five bishops re-orients episcopal judgement on the bill to sexual ethics exclusively.
Will the bishops continue to make their view on sexual ethics the only litmus test for all social policy? Such a position would be socially disastrous.