Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, has told Catholics to ignore Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s recent statement discouraging pro-marriage equality Catholics from receiving communion.
Gumbleton, who is a long-time supporter of LGBT people, said in a MyFox2 interview:
“Don’t stop going to communion. You’re okay.”
Gumbleton explained his position from a pastoral point of view:
“If you look at it from a pastoral point of view where you’re trying to reach out to people, trying to draw them in, then the last thing you want to do is impose a penalty or make them feel like they have to impose a penalty upon themselves.”
His explanation also was based on the importance of Catholics using their own consciences to make decisions about receiving communion, something that Bondings 2.0 stressed in our reporting of Vigneron’s statement:
“Gumbleton says it’s a matter of conscience, which is deeply personal.
” ‘Not everybody’s going to come to the same conclusion at the same time, so we have to keep on working with people and trusting people that they’re trying to do the right thing,’ he remarked.
“Gumbleton read from a pastoral letter penned years ago at a bishop’s conference called ‘Always Our Children.’
“Judging the sinfulness of any particular act is a matter ultimately between God and the individual person.”
“He also says that an individual person must choose whether or not to receive communion.
” ‘Their conscience is the ultimate voice they have to follow,’ Gumbleton explained. ‘A person coming up to communion has a right to make their own decision about am I in a state of grace?… Am I ready to receive? Well, that’s for the person to decide not for the minister or not for any bishop.’ “
Bishop Gumbleton is the 1995 recipient of New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award. He has served on New Ways Ministry’s Board, and has spoken at several of our national symposiums and other programs.
Kudos to Bishop Gumbleton for speaking so forthrightly about the role of conscience–something that too few bishops seem able to do. Thanks to him, too, for promoting good pastoral directives about who gets to decide about who will receive communion.
As Pope Francis settles in after initial celebrations, onlookers from all perspectives and places begin to dissect his legacy in Argentina to derive how he may lead from Rome. Bondings 2.0 will provide readers with a variety of commentary and information on Pope Francis as his papacy commences, starting today with an examination of his record on LGBT issues while archbishop.
Most notably, Cardinal Bergoglio presided over the Argentine Church in its failed attempt to stop marriage equality legislation in 2010 when equal rights for marriage were extended to all couples. The then-cardinal spoke of marriage equality in apocalyptic language. He perceived equal rights as a threat to existing families and used the term “war” when referring to the nation’s marriage equality debate.
Katie McDonough at Salon compiled some of Pope Francis’ sharpest critiques of marriage equality, which speak for themselves and include:
“‘Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God’…
“Look at San Jose, Maria, Child and ask them [to] fervently defend Argentina’s family at this time. [Be reminded] what God told his people in a time of great anguish: “This war is not yours but God’s.” May they succor, defend and join God in this war.’”
Pope Francis, as archbishop in Argentina, also spoke strongly against the adoption of children by same-gender couples, which he labeled a form of discrimination and abuse:
“‘At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.’”
On a positive note, Pope Francis is widely revered for his commitment to the marginalized in society. National Catholic Reporter reveals that as Cardinal Bergoglio, he kissed and washed the feet of twelve AIDS patients in 2001 as a show of his “deep compassion for the victims of HIV-AIDS.”
As mixed as this record may be, not all view his record Argentina as the final word now that Cardinal Bergoglio is Pope Francis. Writing in Time, Tim Padgett is keeping his hopes up:
“I want to believe that his history as an advocate for the poor will bring him to see that today’s church is spending an inordinate amount of time, energy and ultimately moral credibility persecuting homosexuals, feminists and other “heretics” while it’s de-prioritizing, at least in the public’s eye, its core Christian (and human) mission of compassion and redemption.”
Whether Pope Francis will experience a shift as he assumes the papacy is known to God alone, but many in the LGBT community hold out for positive movement now that the former pope, Benedict XVI, has retired. Bondings 2.0 will report more thoroughly on signs of hope over the weekend, and further reactions from the Catholic LGBT community and organizations.
Comments calling same-sex marriage “morally defective” by retired Scottish Archbishop Mario Conti are the latest in month-long attacks by Catholic prelates responding to British and Scottish government plans to legalize marriage equality.
Writing in The Tablet against the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill during a period where Scottish officials gather public input, Archbishop Conti said:
“…it is unhelpful, unnecessary and indeed profoundly unwise for political action to do quite the opposite, namely to attempt through the law, by equating homosexual unions with heterosexual marriage, to render moral what is in itself morally defective.”
Previously, the English bishops have spoken forcefully against government plans to legalize marriage equality in England and Wales. Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell wrote a harshly-worded letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron in early December questioning Catholics’ ability to trust him and making a comparison that Cameron is equitable to the anti-Christian Roman emperor, Nero.
Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham’s warning that not adhering to traditional gender roles as a result of marriage equality laws would have unforeseen consequences for society;
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster declaring, in a letter read during Masses, the government’s move as undemocratic, “shambolic,” and something that would make George Orwell proud;
Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury using his Christmas homily to compare the British government’s efforts on marriage equality to Communist and Nazi totalitarian regimes.
Such unwelcomed messages at Christmas time distort the holiday for many, evident in comments by Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, to The Guardian:
“’We do think it’s very sad that an archbishop should sully the day of the birth of Jesus by making what seem to be such uncharitable observations about other people. Some of us are mindful of Luke 2:14, which reminds us that Christmas Day is a day of peace and goodwill to all men. Perhaps Archbishop Nichols should have spent a little more time in bible study.’”
With marriage equality successfully enacted in Washington State, a former Catholic in Seattle reflected at Salon.com on the growing chasm between episcopal outreach and lay organizing that emerged during this campaign over marriage equality. His article has the intriguing title “No One’s Listening to the Pope.”
Growing up, Dominic Holden emerged in a local church led by Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen where African-American civil rights history was widely active and the Vatican’s attempted removal of Hunthausen for Seattle’s hosting of a 1,000-plus member DignityUSA liturgy triggered massive lay outcry.
After coming out and with changes in the Seattle church, Holden left Catholicism which contains a hierarchy he identifies with anti-equality efforts, evident in the silencing and spending practices of those like Archbishop John Neinstedt in Minnesota or Archbishop William Lori in Maryland.
However, in Washington State he notices a promising movement amongst lay Catholics:
“But here in Seattle, the archbishop is facing a confrontation.
“When conservative activists in Washington sought to suspend and overturn a marriage equality law for same-sex couples in January, Archbishop Sartain started strong…Sartain was clearly spoiling for a fight.
“And he got one, but not the one he expected. It’s not clear that Sartain knew what he was in for. After all, Sartain has only been appointed about 14 months before — by a pope who, it must be acknowledged, may have a vendetta against Seattle’s gay-friendly congregations that rebuffed him 30 years prior — and what Sartain got was an outright revolt from the pews.”
Holden notes the vigorous efforts of Washington State Catholics leading up to yesterday’s vote with Catholics for Marriage Equality raising $38,000, publicly witnessing at Mass and the pride parade, running newspaper advertisements, and challenging the Yakima Diocese for illegal contributions. Elsewhere, 63 former priests from the area came out publicly in support of the referendum and pastors, including at the Cathedral in Seattle, refused to allow anti-equality campaigners into their churches.
“…who said circulating the petitions in his parish ‘seems to me inappropriately coercive.’
He added in a statement to his congregation: ‘Although the Archbishop has the right and responsibility to speak and educate the community about legislation, I believe that this level of involvement around the issue of civil marriage is ill-considered, and risks placing the Church on the side of injustice and the denial of civil rights.’ He continued to counter Sartain’s efforts just last month by telling parishioners in an email that ‘authority never supplants conscience.’”
All of this, accompanied by a diminished public effort by bishops in Washington State over Referendum 74, leads Holden to one conclusion:
“I’ll speculate: the flock is taming the shepherds.
“It seems that Sartain and his counterparts have a real crisis on their hands…The problem for bishops shapes up like this: Priests and laity alike are declaring their intent to ignore the bishops’ moral authority on the so-called conscience issues of marriage and contraception, which represent the bishops’ primary political agendas. The risk for bishops isn’t that these Catholics will leave the church like I did…The risk is that they will stay in the church and empower other parishioners to stand up to the bishops on these and other issues, from married priests to the ordination of women.
“Catholics are setting an example for elections to come. They’re refusing to let the hierarchy speak for them, and even reining them in, just as they did back when I was a kid. Given that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has proven it can shift national policy, God bless the laity for keeping them in check. They’re the only people who can.”
In light of a victory in Washington State for marriage equality where Catholics played a key role, Holden’s positive conclusion about these events seems correct. Continued lay involvement that helps to correct and contain the bishops, while presenting a different image of Catholicism in the public sphere is not going away. Hopefully, it has just begun.
As the campaign to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality winds down in Minnesota, the role that Catholics will play in this decision continues to be strong.
In an Associated Press story entitled “Minnesota gay marriage fight cuts deep for Catholics,” there were several quotable gems about the struggle in that state, especially because Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul has been so vocally opposed to marriage equality.
One Minnesota Catholic responded to the archbishop’s aggressive stand on the issue:
” ‘Here I thought we were supposed to feed the hungry and clothe the naked,’ said Terrence Glarner, a retired venture capitalist and lifelong St. Paul Catholic who said he’s stopped donating money to church causes if he thinks it would go into funds accessible by the archdiocese. Glarner, a former seminary student, said he’s known many gay priests, church employees and churchgoers over the decades who are hurt by the decisions of the hierarchy.”
Jenny Haigh, another Minnesota Catholic, described an unusually addressed letter she received from Nienstedt, as well as explaining why so many Catholics are supporting marriage equality and opposing the constitutional amendment:
“As members of a St. Paul Catholic Church, Haigh and her partner, Aileen Guiney, recently got a letter in the mail from Nienstedt asking them to vote for the marriage amendment. It was addressed to ‘Ms. and Ms. Aileen Guiney.’
‘Haigh said the church has always been like an extended family. She said the message from the top of the hierarchy belies the values learned in her own Catholic education.
” ‘There are a lot of Catholic people that support same-sex marriage not in spite of their faith, but because of it,’ she said.
Fighting marriage equality has been on the agenda for several bishops across the U.S. this week. Three different bishops had strong words against marriage equality, and a fourth launched a fund-raising campaign to broadcast advertisements designed to ban marriage equality in his state.
Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George used the occasion of a Mass celebrating the golden anniversaries of 400 married couples to issue a not-so-veiled statement against marriage equality.
“Without mentioning gay marriage specifically, George also spoke briefly about the Catholic Church’s opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage, saying the institution of marriage is something that ‘comes to us from God,’ not from the church or from the government.”
Addressing the married couples whose anniversaries were being celebrated, George mad an even stronger condemnatory statement:
“There must surely be ways in our civil society, where we can honor friendships, where we can respect other people, without destroying the nature of marriage. It is very important, for your whole lives, give witness to what marriage truly means. And while civil laws might change – if they do – then society will be the worse for it.”
When he made a similar statement earlier this summer during the Chik-Fil-A controversy, Bondings 2.0 offered a long list of ways that Cardinal George could begin to honor LGBT people and their relationships.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
San Francisco’s Archbishop-designate Salvatore Cordileone’s Los Angeles Times interview went viral this week, particularly because of his comment that gay and lesbian people in relationships should not receive communion:
“During a July news conference, Cordileone was circumspect when discussing the ‘cultural challenges’ his new diocese would present — which he said revolved around ‘issues of family life and, essentially, come down to our understanding of the human person, the purpose of our human sexuality, what God calls us to do and how he calls us to live and how he calls us to love.’
“But in a recent interview at the headquarters of the Oakland diocese, where he has served as bishop for three years, Cordileone was more direct: Gays and lesbians who are in sexual relationships of any kind, he said, should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, the central ritual of Catholic life.
” ‘If we misuse the gift of sexuality, we’re going to suffer the consequences,’ he said, ‘and I firmly believe we are suffering the consequences.’ “
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY
As if taking a cue from the same playbook as Cordileone, Newark’s Archbishop John Myers also used non-participation in communion as a way to promote his anti-marriage equality position.
This week, Myers issued a pastoral letter urging Catholics to vote against marriage equality. A NorthJersey.com article provides details of the letter, which included a directive not to receive communion addressed to any Catholic who does not support the hierarchy’s view on marriage. You can read the full text of Myers’ letter here. The relevant excerpt on communion:
“It is my duty as your Archbishop to remind you that Catholics who do not accept the teaching of the Church on marriage and family (especially those who teach or act in private or public life contrary to the Church’s received tradition on marriage and family) by their own choice seriously harm their communion with Christ and His Church. I urge those not in communion with the Church regarding her teaching on marriage and family (or any other grave matter of faith) sincerely to re-examine their consciences, asking God for the grace of the Holy Spirit which ‘guide [us] to all truth’ (John 16:13). If they continue to be unable to assent to or live the Church’s teaching in these matters, they must in all honesty and humility refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they can do so with integrity; to continue to receive Holy Communion while so dissenting would be objectively dishonest.”
In a separate NorthJersey.com article on reactions from Catholics to Myers’ statement, a number of Catholics disagreed with him, especially young people:
“. . .[T]he reactions on Tuesday of students at Seton Hall University, the state’s largest Catholic college, reflected a recent Pew Research Center poll showing that a majority of lay Catholics — 53 percent — support gay marriage and that the number rises to 72 percent among Catholics between the ages of 18 and 34.
“In an informal survey, 15 of 21 students said they are not opposed to gay marriage. Several said they go to church and would continue to accept Holy Communion despite their disagreement with the church hierarchy on the matter. ‘I think that’s outrageous,’ said Kristina Ripp, 18, a freshman from Wood-Ridge, when told about parts of the statement. ‘Our generation is more accepting. I think it’s going to make people quit the faith. They might not want to go back to church because they won’t feel accepted.’
“Ripp and more than a half-dozen other young Catholics said they would continue to go to church but questioned whether other young people might be alienated by the apparent gulf between young Catholics and church leaders.”
The bishops of Minnesota have involved themselves even further into the political debate about marriage equality in their state by initiating a fund-raising campaign for advertisements.
“Minnesota Roman Catholics will receive a letter this week from the state’s bishops, urging them to donate money for television ads asking voters to say yes to a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
“For many of the more than 400,000 Catholic households expected to get the letter, it marks the first time they’ve been asked by church leadership to make a financial donation to Minnesota for Marriage, the chief group campaigning for passage of the marriage amendment Nov. 6.”
A political scientist noted that such an effort by the bishops is extraordinary:
“In trying to reach every Catholic household in Minnesota, the mailing is ‘unusual’ compared to Catholics’ roles in marriage amendment campaigns in other states, said John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron (Ohio), who studies politics and religion.
” ‘I can’t think of anything as direct and as explicit,’ Green said. ‘I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it legally, but certainly I’m sure it’s very controversial. Catholic leaders have been involved in fundraising. I know of examples where they have reached out to parishioners, but I’ve never heard of anything quite this comprehensive.’ “
Catholics are playing a major role in the marriage equality debate in Minnesota, where this November, voters in the state will go to the polls to vote on proposed constitutional amendment to ban marriage between people of the same gender. Bondings 2.0 has reported several times on the issue, particularly the good work that the group Catholics for Marriage Equality–Minnesota has been doing. (Links to previous posts can be found under the heading “Minnesota” in “Categories” listing in the right-hand column of this blog . →)
MinnPost.com recently featured the role that Catholics are playing in the debate in an article entitled “Conflicted Catholics: Consciences wrestle with church actions on marriage amendment.” The personal stories explain not only the division that the proposed amendment is causing among Catholics, but the faith journeys that many individuals and faith communities are experiencing by becoming involved with the campaign to promote equal marriage rights for all.
The article profiles Lisa Vanderlinden, the mother of a gay son, whose family moved to a parish which has a public outreach to LGBT people. Their former parish, she explains, has become heavily involved in work to support the ban on marriage equality:
“In keeping with orders from Archbishop John Nienstedt, a prayer is now said during Sunday services affirming marriage as the union of one man and one woman. A committee has been formed to work in favor of a proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution banning same-sex marriage that will appear on the November ballot.
“And a percentage of every dollar parishioners give goes to the archdiocese, which recently donated $650,000 to the group pushing for the ballot initiative.”
But Vanderlinden and her family have taken a different Catholic approach:
“ ‘The Catholic hierarchy would like the public to believe that it is the only voice of the people,’ she said. ‘Since Vatican II that’s not true. Our teaching says we must speak our conscience even when it conflicts with church authorities. . . .’
“ ‘The silencing that’s going on is incredible,’ said Vanderlinden. ‘I know a lot of people are not giving money anymore. I know a lot of people are not going to church anymore.’ ”
Laura Kuntz, another Twin Cities Catholic, found that the archdiocese’s increasing political involvement to defeat marriage equality was having a detrimental effect on her identification with the Church. And then, she got involved with Catholics for Marriage Equality–Minnesota:
“A year and a half ago when Nienstedt circulated a DVD calling for a same-sex marriage ban, Kuntz and her husband stopped giving to their church, because it was obligated to tithe 8 percent to 10 percent of their donation to the archdiocese.
“Two months ago, there were a series of communications about the marriage amendment in the church bulletin, including the announcement of a committee to manage communications about the amendment.
“ ‘My heart just stopped,’ she said. . . .
“At some point after she shared her feelings with a few fellow parishioners, she got a call from someone she describes only as a diocesan employee, who told her about a group called Catholics for Marriage Equality. Throughout Lent, the group held vigils outside the chancery in St. Paul. For Kuntz, participating brought comfort.”
Some Catholic individuals and parishes are protesting by not reciting the prayer against marriage equality that the archdiocese has instructed communities to use at Masses:
One of the authors of the blog The Progressive Catholic Voice, Paula Ruddy is unconvinced the prayer is being said in very many parishes. “I don’t know anyone whose parish is pushing this,” she said. It doesn’t matter whether the priest agrees with it or not, the issue is introducing a potentially divisive element to a worship service.
“One of my friends said their deacon was asked to give it as part of the homily,” she said. “He said, ‘It’s not that I am opposed to it, but I don’t want to do something so controversial.’ ”
Her fellow blogger Mary Beckfeld has friends in four western suburban parishes who say the prayer is not being said there, either. A friend of hers was asked to read it on Good Friday and refused. Her pastor’s response: “Do what your conscience tells you.”
Ron Joki, a gay man who converted to Catholicism, speaks of the role that conscience plays in his decision to remain part of the church and to be involved in the struggle to secure marriage equality rights:
“Joki sees no contradiction between his sexual orientation and his faith. ‘There are many ancient rules in the Bible that no longer serve us, that were cultural,’ he said. ‘We are not breaking the important rule, which we interpret as the basic rule of loving God and loving our neighbors.’ ”
“He’s comfortable with the approach some liberal parishes are taking of engaging in discussions about the church’s support for the amendment, but making sure multiple viewpoints are represented. ‘God speaks to us in our conscience,’ Joki explained. ‘We need to be respectful of all sides.”
Joki sees the work of the Spirit in the differing voices present in the church on this issue:
“ ‘The spirit works in many levels, not only at the top of the hierarchy but at every level,’ Joki said. ‘Many of the people the church now recognizes as saints, as heroes of the church, were originally people who were renounced and condemned.
“ ‘Sometimes, the opinions that are the last to change are at the top.’ ”
What are some of the lessons I’ve learned from the experience of these Minnesota Catholics?
1. Follow your conscience.
2. Seek out a supportive community.
3. Work together with others to enact justice.
4. Respect all, even those who disagree with you.
5. Change comes from the bottom and rises to the top.
6. The church doesn’t always immediately recognize its saints who are working for justice.