“The Lost Flock” Film Profiles LGBT Ministry in Baltimore

February 4, 2016

The good work done by the LEAD Ministry of St. Matthew’s Church in Baltimore has been profiled before on this blog, but a new video series gives even greater insight into the ways this ministry serves the people of God. Filmmaker Eric Kruszewski produced “The Lost Flock,” the seven-part series on LEAD, which stands for LGBT Education and Affirming Diversity.  He told Out Magazine:

“I was raised Catholic, but have not practiced my faith in years. And before this project, I had never heard of Saint Matthew Catholic Church. . . It was clear that there was something special within this congregation.”

Though not an LGBT Catholic himself, Kruszewski hoped the documentary could “accurately capture their thoughts, feelings and experiences” and advance the discussion about acceptance of sexual and gender diversity in the church.

The series covers diverse perspectives when it comes to LGBT identities in the church. One part documents the baptism of a same-gender couple’s daughter, with one of the dads saying that St. Matthew’s is a place which honors their relationship and which supported them during the adoption process.

In another, a lesbian woman named Gigi describes first being disowned by her adoptive parents but then coming to see God through her partner, Ashley, and through the church community which quickly welcomed her.

In a third part, Henry, who comes from Kenya where homosexuality is criminalized, explains why he participates with the LEAD Ministry. He says the LGBT communities need support like anyone else, and further:

” ‘I always ask myself: What would I do if one of my daughters or one of my sons came out? Do LGBT people need to be accepted? To be heard? Yes. We have got to find a way to give them everything they need.’ . . .Gay or straight. We are together.”

But “The Lost Flock” is not simply positive stories. It also explores the harsher realities of LGBT Catholics’ experiences. In a segment about Rachel and Vania Christian dos Passo, the film highlights that their marriage cannot be recognized in the church and for this reason, Vania explains:

“We made a serious decision to leave the church. We want to have a family where our children don’t feel pointed out because we are gay. . .W still go to LEAD because its family for us. But unfortunately we have to live this exile until one day, maybe in another lifetime, gay people will be equally recognized in the church.”

Then there is Carolyn’s story, the Catholic mother of two gay children, Renee and David. Though there were no difficulties with Renee’s coming out, her husband was unable to accept David’s sexual orientation and kicked their son out of their home. Carolyn now says she wants the same opportunities for my gay and straight children in the Catholic Church.” She says further that it was this idea that “was the foundation for LEAD” and expresses her own growth since joining LEAD as a Catholic led by her conscience.

Those profiled have helped foster the safe and affirming space that is LEAD.  Supporting the ministry is Fr. Joe Muth, the pastor, who, in his own video segment explains why, as a Catholic priest, he supports this LGBT work, saying:

“I don’t think the institutional church realizes how hurtful they are to homosexual people when they come across so harshly on that issue. The institutional church says, in a sense, you can be a part only so far.”

Muth acknowledges that LEAD struggles with being an LGBT support and outreach group, while at the same time worrying about being closed down by higher church officials. Despite that threat, these Catholics have managed to build up a more and more affirming community. They host parish events and have even participated in Baltimore’s Pride celebrations the last few years. As Bondings 2.0 has written previously, LEAD is a model for the Catholic Church when it comes to LGBT pastoral care.

To learn more and view all seven videos that compose “The Lost Flock,” click here. To read Bondings 2.0‘s previous coverage of the LEAD Ministry, click here.

To learn more about some of the hundreds of parishes across the U.S. which offer a welcome to LGBT people, click here.

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature on this blog that highlights Catholic parishes and faith communities that support and affirm LGBT people. 

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


ALL ARE WELCOME: Baltimore Parish’s LEAD Ministry a Model for the Church

December 2, 2015

602308_131686610305044_1264130716_n.jpgThe ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature on this blog that highlights Catholic parishes and faith communities that support and affirm LGBT people. 

Conversations about LGBT inclusion in the church often focus on bishops’ words and actions, particularly those of Pope Francis. But most church reform happens elsewhere, fostered by local communities. Today’s post lifts up one parish where faithful Catholics are building a church that is “home for all.”

The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) recently featured St. Matthew Church in Baltimore as part of their series “The Field Hospital,” focusing on the parish’s LGBT ministry.

The LEAD Ministry, an acronym for LGBT Educating & Affirming Diversity, has grown tremendously since its origins in 2009. Its mission statement explains:

“St. Matthew LGBT Ministry (LEAD) commits to modeling a community of faith and spirit that works toward openness and understanding; LEAD strives to offer justice, healing, and wholeness of life for all God’s people. We believe that the unique diversity of the Community of St. Matthew will continue to grow and demonstrate a unity of faith that transcends our differences and celebrates the gifts we are from God, our Creator.”

Led by Fr. Joe Muth, pastor for 25 years, St. Matthew’s “prides itself on inclusion”with parishioners from more than 45 nations. While the LEAD Ministry contributes to that overall vibrancy, it also provides a safe space for LGBT Catholics who’ve felt excluded by church. NCR noted that many share how they were unwelcome at parishes and rejected by family:

“Those finding a safe nest with LEAD continue to come forth with their stories: a woman who was disowned by her family after coming out as a lesbian. Another unable to talk for decades about sexual orientation with her lesbian sister. Another participant talked about her niece, who came out to her when she was 12, and who committed suicide when she turned 58. Such stories, say participants, can make support groups like LEAD a matter of literal life-or-death.”

Vania and Rachel Christian dos Passos, a married couple, are LEAD members living in the church’s tension around same-gender relationships. Vania said LGBT Catholics want to participate fully in the church, not just accept “crumbs from the table.” For now, the married couple attend a United Church of Christ congregation while being involved at St. Matthew. Rachel explained:

“LEAD is a safe space for us to be our authentic selves. . . [until] LGBT couples can be equal to straight couples in the eyes of the Catholic church.”

There is an evangelical component to the LEAD Ministry, too. Members not only support Catholics and welcome non-practicing Catholics home, they welcome other Christians and spiritual seekers. Gweyn Brown, who has a lesbian daughter, said LEAD meetings “could be a light for people outside the Catholic faith.”

The Ministry hosts monthly meetings and wider parish events, which have included a conversation on how families are impacted when a member comes out,  and also a screening of “Saint of 9/11” about Fr. Mychal Judge.  NCR‘s report continued:

“Committed to what participants call a safe place to gather, LEAD has been public in its witness. Its participation in this year’s Baltimore Gay Pride Parade elicited comments from onlookers surprised to see formal Catholic participation in an archdiocese led by Archbishop William Lori. . .”

Although there have been some discussions with the Archdiocese of Baltimore, a cordial relationship exists between the ministry and the local hierarchy. Bishop Denis Madden, an auxiliary, has met three times with members and leaders even met once with Archbishop William Lori once. Madden told NCR he was “impressed by…good people” who enact locally Pope Francis’ more welcoming style.

The LEAD Ministry emerged following a presentation about Maryland’s marriage equality law. Carolyn Scheide, who has two gay children, asked how the parish could respond. From there, parishioners worked with Fr. Muth, parish leaders, and New Ways Ministry’s Next Steps program to develop the LGBT ministry that bears tremendous fruit today. You can more about the ministry’s history here.

You can also view journalist Eric Kruszewski’s video series on the LEAD Ministry, titled “The Lost Flock,” by clicking here. His videos feature interviews with several members and Fr. Muth.

There is a clear lesson evident in the LEAD Ministry’s good work, which I have witnessed firsthand, and that lesson is this: the Catholic Church is renewed and reformed most fully when the faithful own their faith and act upon it.

Put another way, Pope Francis’ call for mercy and inclusion will be meaningless without groups like the LEAD Ministry. The pope’s greatest contributions will likely be his episcopal appointments and the space which he is creating to go to the margins of our own church for ministry.

Reading about St. Matthew is an occasion to ask ourselves anew: What am I doing to build up a Catholic Church that is inclusive and just and a home for all?

Do you want to do something to help further LGBT equality in society and the Catholic church but are not sure what you should do or could do?  If so, then you are a candidate for New Ways Ministry’s Next Steps program.

Next Steps is a weekend program designed to help people plot out a course of practical, feasible actions to further LGBT equality and justice that they can perform in their home communities.  For more information, contact New Ways Ministry at info@newwaysministry.org, call (301) 277-5674, or click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Baltimore Parish Deserves Praise, Not Accusation, for Pride Month Celebration

June 24, 2014

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’s June 17th post is entitled “Catholic Church’s ‘Pride’ Event Smells Like False Advertising.”  In it he creates suspicion that the LGBT outreach ministry at St. Ignatius parish, Baltimore, may not be as welcoming as it makes itself out to be.

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.

My skepticism, however, is further reinforced by the fact that this so-called ‘Pride’ event was advertised on the archdiocesan website. The head of the Baltimore Archdiocese is none other than William Lori, a high-profile opponent of marriage equality who has spoken at events sponsored by the Family Research Council anti-gay hate group and chairs the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. If his name looks familiar it’s because he’s the prelate who said, just last week, that the American bishops would fight same-sex marriage for generations, if necessary.”

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

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.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Catholic Communities Featured Prominently in Two Pride Parades

June 22, 2013

PrideAround the globe, June is traditionally celebrated as Pride month in the LGBT community.  It is common for cities, large and small, to host parades, festivals, and other events to acknowledge the contributions of LGBT people and to let folks know about the supportive resources and organizations within the local community.

LGBT-friendly religious groups also take part in Pride celebrations, though having a Catholic presence in these events is a rare occurrence.  Sometimes the presence of a Catholic group sparks controversy, as happened last week in Portland, Oregon, when a St. Andrew Parish marched in the city’s Pride parade, even though their archbishop told them not to do so.

On the east coast of the U.S., another Catholic parish also marched in its city’s Pride parade:  St. Matthew’s in Baltimore, Maryland.  The parish’s LGBT ministry was lauded by the LGBT community for their presence and leadership.  The More Light Presbyterians website had these accolades for their Catholic friends:

When the Gay Pride parade kicked off in Baltimore on June 15, a number of faith communities were present – and Presbyterians were an important part of the event.  Faith Presbyterian – one of the organizers of the effort – and Brown Memorial Park Avenue– were proudly marching behind the banner, FAITH COMMUNITIES OF BALTIMORE with PRIDE – as was First & St. Stephens United Church of Christ.  But the largest number came

St. Matthew's contingent in  Baltimore's Pride Parade

St. Matthew’s contingent in Baltimore’s Pride Parade

from St. Matthews Roman Catholic church – the real instigator of the effort.  Long before we started actively recruiting walkers, St. Matthews had paid all the entry fees (Faith paid for the banner)!  Their goal was to have 100 walkers – I think the final number was 115!  Their enthusiasm was contagious as we planned the event.  Their LEAD ministries – their program to welcome LGBTQ’s – is an important part of the life at St. Matthews – and fits well with Faith’s participation in MORE LIGHT Presbyterians.  Faith and St. Matthews are long-time friends – both are active participants in the events of the Loch Raven (Blvd) Ministerium.  In fact the two churches are planning to do anti-bullying workshops together in the fall.  And we’re already talking about Gay Pride 2014!

Dignity/Washington's contingent in the Capital Pride Parade

Dignity/Washington’s contingent in the Capital Pride Parade

In nearby Washington, DC,  another Catholic community was also celebrated in their city’s Capital Pride Festival.    Dignity/Washington, which marked 40 years of service last year, received the Festival’s “Larry Stansbury Award for Exemplary Contributions to Pride.”   The  Capital Pride Festival’s website details Dignity/Washington’s many contributions to the local community, particularly their contributions to Pride celebrations:

“Dignity/Washington has participated in every LGBT March on Washington. Dignity/Washington was one of the earliest organizations to take part in the local Pride celebrations and has been a Capital Pride participant for over three decades.  Dignity/Washington became a Capital Pride Community Partner in 2007, even before the Capital Pride Alliance came into existence.  In 2008, Dignity/Washington was one of the organizations that supported the decision to award the Capital Pride Alliance the right to produce the celebration.  Dignity/Washington donated free space at the Dignity Center to the Capital Pride Alliance in the first few years after the Alliance came into existence. “

Heather Mizeur

Heather Mizeur

At their Pride liturgy, Dignity/Washington hosted Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur, a Catholic lesbian woman who is considering a run to become the state’s governor.    Mizeur was instrumental in getting Maryland’s marriage equality law passed.

Congratulations to both St. Matthew Parish and Dignity/Washington for being recognized for their wonderful and important contributions!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Are LGBT Catholics At Home In the Church?

May 27, 2013
David Gibson of Religion News Service

This spring, several Catholic bishops made positive comments about LGBT people within Catholicism, including remarks by Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Easter and several Vatican officials endorsing civil unions.

In light of actions contradicting the welcoming message, David Gibson of Religion News Service poses an interesting question to several Catholics in recent headlines, “Can gay Catholics find a home in the Catholic Church?” He writes of the tensions:

“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.”

Francis DeBernardo
Francis DeBernardo

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.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


New Ways Ministry Is Honored by Brother, Help Thyself

January 28, 2013

Brother, Help Thyself,”  a fund-raising coalition of LGBT groups in the Baltimore-Washington,DC area   distributed their annual grants this past weekend, and New Ways Ministry was the grateful recipient of a generous grant of $8,125.

The money will be used for two upcoming projects and a new piece of office equipment:

1)  a workshop day in the Baltimore-Washington area on transgender issues;

2) a retreat day in the Baltimore-Washington area for people living with HIV/AIDS and people who minister with them;

3) a new photocopy machine to replace our cranky 16-year old one.

Mark Clark (left) presents the Billy Collison Award to New Ways Ministry's Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.

Mark Clark (left) presents the Billy Collison Award to New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.

During the ceremony, New Ways Ministry was surprised to learn that we also received “Brother, Help Thyself’s” (BHT) cherished “Billy Collison Award.”  The award, named in memory of a BHT volunteer who served in a variety of leadership positions for the group, as well as being an active volunteer in the DC area.  The award is given “For representing the LGBTQ community so well and with so little, thus truly embodying Bill Collison, a true champion of the underdog.”

In presenting the award to New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, and Executive Director Francis DeBernardo, BHT Treasurer Mark Clark said:

“New Ways Ministry does what some might assume cannot be done–build bridges between the official Roman Catholic church hierarchy and the LGBT community, training people to minister to those who want to be fully themselves in their spiritual tradition and in their sexuality.”

Mark Clark accepting the Anthony J. Bacharach Award.

Mark Clark accepting the Anthony J. Bacharach Award.

In accepting the award, DeBernardo said he was “dumbfounded, humbled, and honored,” and that New Ways Ministry pledged to keep the spirit of Billy Collison’s altruism for the underdog alive.

At the close of the day, BHT Treasurer Mark Clark was himself the recipient of the Anthony J. Bacharach Award for distinguished volunteer service to BHT and several other DC-based LGBT organizations, including New Ways Ministry and Dignity.

New Ways Ministry is so grateful to the tireless work of the members of Brother, Help Thyself.  Their unrelenting generosity is helping so many LGBT organizations in the Baltimore-Washington area.  The work they do benefits so many and makes our world a better place.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


MD Catholics Light Up Marriage Equality Message at Basilica & in Newspapers; Baltimore Pastor’s Pro-Equality Sermon Is Removed from the Web

November 5, 2012

Maryland Catholics who support marriage equality had a busy weekend showing their support for their state’s referendum on the issue which will be on the ballot tomorrow.

Catholics for Marriage Equality vigil outside Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption.

On Saturday evening, November 3rd, about 40 Catholics in the state stood outside the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption holding lighted signs which read “Catholics for Marriage Equality.”

On Friday, November 2nd, a half-page ad appeared in The Baltimore Sun signed by over 340 Catholics expressing their support for the state’s Question 6, which will ratify the marriage equality law passed in the spring.   The same ad appeared in The Star Democrat, a newspaper on the state’s Delmarva peninsula.  The ad’s statement read:

“As Catholics, we believe that all God’s children are created equal and have inherent dignity. We believe every member of our family and our community should enjoy the same opportunities, freedom, and fairness in life. Therefore, we support the Civil Marriage Protection Act signed into state law on March 1, 2012. The Civil Marriage Protection Act preserves religious freedom and protects civil liberties in a manner that respects the diversity of our great state.

“As Catholics, we will follow our consciences and vote FOR Question 6 on November 6, 2012 to support the Civil Marriage Protection Act.”

The statement was a condensed version of a pledge to support marriage equality.  The full text of the pledge can be found on the Catholics for Marriage Equality Maryland website.  You can visit the website to make a donation to the Catholic campaign to support marriage equality.

A news story on Washington DC’s Metro Weekly website quoted two of the ad’s organizers:

” ‘Catholic lay people in Maryland are voting their consciences to make sure that our state’s laws treat all people equally and fairly, and that all families in Maryland are strengthened and protected,’ said Francis DeBernardo, a spokesman for the coalition and the executive director of New Ways Ministry, a coalition partner, in a statement announcing the ad.

“The statement also quoted Ryan Sattler, one of the ad’s signatories: ‘While we respect our church’s leaders, we disagree with them about this issue of public policy. Our Catholic faith impels us to work for justice and dignity for all people, and supporting marriage equality is the right way to secure those values, and that is why as Catholics we are proud to be voting for Question 6.’ “

This weekend it also became known that the online video and audio recordings of a Baltimore Catholic pastor who preached in support of marriage equality had been taken down.

Who withdrew the video and audio recordings of Father Richard Lawrence’s October 28th sermon at St. Vincent dePaul parish?  Dan Rodricks, a Baltimore Sun reporter has a theory:

I inquired about what had happened, but the pastor declined to comment and I haven’t heard back from St. Vincent’s. I assume Lawrence’s superiors might have had something to do with the removal of the video. The same day it disappeared, a message about “the teaching role of priests” appeared on the archdiocesan web site. “

As part of that statement, Archbishop William Lori said:

“Preaching the word of God requires subordination of personal views to the word of God as taught by the Catholic Church. This was my promise when I became a priest, as it is the promise of every priest at his ordination. … No bishop, priest or deacon has the right to use the pulpit to advance his personal opinions. … May all priests, including myself, be mindful of their obligation to preach the Gospel even when it is unpopular with prevailing culture.”

Rodricks commented:

“None of this surprised me — not Father Lawrence’s courage in speaking from conscience, not the church’s predictable position against such a challenging expression from the pulpit. The church feels empowered to press its views about a civil matter, to lobby and to influence representatives, to campaign, to be a player in the democratic process that culminates in Tuesday’s election. And yet the church is itself no democracy; it refuses to hear dissent, even from one of its most eloquent and faithful servants speaking about a matter of civil justice.”

The actions of Maryland Catholics described at the beginning of the post, and the fact that Fr. Lawrence had received a standing ovation from his congregation, reveals that the laity do not agree with suppressing discussion of this issue in the church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


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