A Woman of Courage Brings Emmanuel, “God With Us”

For the four Sundays of Advent, Bondings 2.0 is featuring lectionary Scriptural reflections by LGBTQ theologians and pastoral ministers studying at Boston College.  The liturgical readings for the Second Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 7:1-014; Psalm 24:1-6; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24.  You can read the texts by clicking here.

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Elizabeth Sextro

Today’s reflection is from Elizabeth Sextro, a master’s student at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

“We are told of meek obedience. No one mentions / courage.”                -Denise Levertov, Annunciation

Deuteronomy states that if a woman in ancient Israel were to become pregnant out of wedlock, “the men of her town [should] stone her to death” (22:21). In the reading from Matthew’s gospel today, Mary’s community would likely assume that she had sex and became pregnant by another man, after already being betrothed to Joseph. Joseph is portrayed by Matthew as being a righteous man since he decided he would “divorce [Mary] quietly,” instead of exposing her as an adulterer.

We hear, however, very little about the woman in the story: no one speaks to Mary directly, no one asks her what happened, and certainly no one in her community would offer their support to her. Perhaps our reflection today could be to uplift the voice of the scared, confused, and ostracized thirteen-year-old girl who is told that she is to bear a son.

Approaching conversations about Mary tends to make me nervous. Historically, as Elizabeth Johnson reveals in her book Truly Our Sister, theologians and scholars have tended to strip Mary of her very humanity by turning her into a symbol. She is idealized as the “handmaid,” the virgin, the quintessential mother, and the ultimate model of femininity.[1] Johnson’s project is to retrieve the person of Mary: the human being, just like you and me!

Our Gospel reading, however, does not reveal much about her. We know, of course, that Mary was Jesus’ mother. But before she was ever a mother, she was just a girl: a Jewish girl from Galilee, living in the village of Nazareth. Although Johnson gives us a much more complete picture of her historical life, I am fascinated by Mary’s incredible courage. To borrow from Denise Levertov, nobody ever talks about the fact that getting pregnant could have had her killed. We talk about a virgin, so meek and mild, but what of her courage?

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Ernest Kotkov, “Virgin Mary with the Infant”

So the story goes: an angel appeared to this young girl and asked her to be the one to bear the “Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us,” a very fitting wordplay since God would quite literally be within Mary. But we would be remiss to think of God becoming human without a price. Mary’s fiat, Mary’s “yes,” most likely turned her into a social pariah. Why would she agree to that?

I don’t want to idealize Mary for saying “yes”: I am with Johnson in that it is more theologically helpful to view her as our “sister.” Rather, I hope to say that Mary as an embodied woman experienced fear like the rest of us and responded to that fear with courage. God sometimes asks us to do things that are unpopular, that make us outcasts, that could figuratively stone us to death. Standing in solidarity with marginalized communities of people is a one-way ticket to being outcast, but isn’t this exactly what Jesus was all about? Jesus deeply loved and connected with the poor, the women, the lepers, the blind, the common people who had no power in society.

Mary sacrificed her social capital in order to bring God to us. God is “with us” as a human only because of Mary’s incredible courage. We need not idealize this courage or see it as unattainable. Rather, we have the opportunity to emulate it.

At a time in the United States when people of color, Muslims, women, people with disabilities, the poor, undocumented immigrants, and people of the LGBTQIA community are being specifically targeted, it is essential that we find the courage to speak out against injustice. Just as Mary’s courage brought God into the world, so too can our courage bring about change in unjust social systems. It is not so outlandish to suggest that we, too, are called to bring God into our social structures, which are often violent. Like Mary, we too are called to bring God into the world.

–Elizabeth Sextro, December 18, 2016

[1] Johnson, Elizabeth, Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints, (New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003), 22-36

The Wolf and the Lamb: Coming Out and the Promises of Advent

For the four Sundays of Advent, Bondings 2.0 is featuring lectionary Scriptural reflections by LGBTQ theologians and pastoral ministers studying at Boston College.  The liturgical readings for the Second Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8,12-13, 17; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12.  You can read the texts by clicking here.

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John Winslow

Today’s reflection is from John Winslow, a former Jesuit Volunteer and current M. Div. student at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

In Advent, we do not only reflect on the coming of Christ in the Incarnation as a historical moment but also as a contemporary reality. We reflect on how Christ is being made manifest to us and for us in the present moment.

We hear today, in a passage from the prophet Isaiah, that the “wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,” that “the leopard shall lie down the kid;” and that “the calf and young lion shall browse together.” We hear the message that a relationship paradigm based on a never-ending cycle of violence and exploitation will end. Christ’s coming undoes one of nature’s most fundamental relationships: that of predator and prey. In Christ, the life of one will no longer depend upon the death of another. In Christ, all of creation “shall be glorious.”

As LGBTQ Catholics, the relationship between the wolf and the lamb is one we know intimately. Growing up, the only feeling I associated with my sexuality was fear: overwhelming, mind-numbing, constant fear. It was closer to me than my bones. It was woven into every word I spoke, like a second language I never knew I was learning but woke up speaking fluently one day.

As LGBTQ Catholics, we often feel pulled in at least two different directions. We do not fit neatly into any of the boxes or categories that contemporary society has created for us. To those who support our God-given LGBTQ identities, our Catholicism is often seen as backward and inexorably tied to cultural conservatism. Meanwhile, our LGBTQ identities are often demeaned and demonized by our faith communities – sometimes the very faith communities that raised us.

And the struggle is not simply instigated by groups external to ourselves. For many of us, the struggle is also a constant, exhausting war of self-attrition: sometimes feeling at peace with ourselves as queer, and sometimes feeling at peace with ourselves as Catholic, but rarely feeling completely at peace with both.

For many people – especially those in the LGBTQ community – the idea that a Roman Catholic priest would somehow be anything other than condemning of my sexuality, much less actually compassionate and helpful, is baffling. Most people laugh when I tell them that the best coming out advice I ever received was from a priest. To be fair, I, too, never imagined I would say, “I came out to my family on Holy Thursday via email because a priest told me to.”

And yet, it is true. I would never have come out without the ongoing love, support, and counsel of many Catholics – women religious, seminarians, lay people, and, yes, priests. The night before Holy Thursday of my junior year of college, I stayed up reading through the journal I had been keeping on and off since age fourteen. I read through accounts of family vacations, and memories of adventures during my semester abroad. I read through my list of firsts: my first kiss with a boy, my first time telling someone I was gay, my first sexual experience. I read through the manic biblical scribblings, the raging prayers and questions. I touched fingers to the tear stains on the poem I wrote about my first crush.

I thought about how desperately I longed for peace–a peace the world seemed incapable of giving.

Of things that would surprise me, receiving “peace” was not at the top of the list. Quite frankly, it’s not something that I ever thought I would find – certainly not after coming out.

And yet, reading through my life, with that priest’s advice on coming out dancing through the back of my head, I realized that coming out was not about doing anything. Rather, coming out was like the wolf and the lamb embracing one another in love, letting something seemingly impossible simply happen the way it was always meant to. And when I did come out, it was the most profound experience of peace that I had ever known.

This Advent is an opportunity for us to remember that Christ’s peace is not just one that will come at the Parousia, the Second Coming. No, Christ’s peace is offered to us daily, a peace that can give us rest. Regardless of the condemnations of the Magisterium, or the sudden emboldening of homophobia and transphobia spreading across the United States after the election, or the vitriol of our families, we are in fact loved in all that we are. When we embrace ourselves in all of our integrity, we find Christ embracing us, too. And it is this embrace that will give us peace.

–John Winslow, December 4, 2016

Let No One Be Left in the Field

For the four Sundays of Advent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections on the day’s Scripture readings by LGBTQ theologians and pastoral ministers studying at Boston College.  The liturgical readings for the First Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122:1-9; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44.  You can read the texts by clicking here.

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Craig Ford

Today’s reflection is  by Craig A. Ford, Jr., a doctoral candidate in Theological Ethics at Boston College.

At first glance, Advent might seem to be a season designed to mess with our notion of time. Advent, we hear frequently, is about waiting, about expecting. These words, at least for me, don’t strike up images that imply a lot of activity: waiting and expecting, for me, conjure up scenes in which activity is temporarily suspended–like sitting in a doctor’s office, or waiting on a crucial email you need from a colleague in order to complete a project.

On the other hand, everything about our daily lives during this time of year seems to be in a state of consumer frenzy, amplified by the compulsion to shop and buy presents, to prepare dinners, to host parties, to send out Christmas cards. This madness is the furthest possible thing from waiting; it seems, instead, like racing.

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Jean-Francois Millet, “The Angelus”

But, if we let the readings for this first week of Advent grab our attention for a few moments, I think we’ll see that the impression of Advent as a sort of liturgical waiting room is inaccurate. And they certainly don’t advocate for Advent to be a time consumed in buying the latest and the greatest new gadgets. Instead, today’s scriptures point out that we need to be engaged in different sorts of activities.

This alternative impression comes into view most clearly when we go through the readings backwards. Jesus’ words to us in the Gospel invite listeners not into a story where people are sitting on their hands, but instead into a story where people are going about the daily rhythms of their lives completely oblivious to the Gospel’s demands. From here, the arrival of the reign of God is dramatized as the sudden disappearance of some of those closest to us. “Two men will be out in the field,” Jesus says, “One will be taken, and one will be left” (Matt. 24:40).

But no one should be left in the field. Our job as Christians is to include everyone, and this is the activity in which Advent demands that we engage.

What does this sort of work entail? It entails our going about the business of opening ourselves to each other. It entails the courage not to retreat into ourselves beyond the demands of self-care. (We should never discount self-care, including everything that’s required in order for us to feel healthy and be willing to extend ourselves in service to others once again, such as cups of coffee with friends, long walks, and disconnections from social media.) Our work entails trying to live a non-exclusive Gospel, where we become ambassadors of welcome to each other. Paul summarizes this in the second reading as the act of putting on Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14), which we know from elsewhere in Scripture is identical to taking in, providing for–in a word, loving–our neighbor (1 Jn. 4:20).

This work is not easy. And for those who us who identify as LGBT, as queer, or as gender non-conforming Catholics, this type of activity will seem downright unfair. After all, why should we expect to open ourselves up to others such as our own bishops who continue to use the hurtful language of the truth about man and woman, and the unique bond of marriage they form”? (What such a statement obscures is the actual truth that no relationship hallowed by the presence of love can afford to be excluded from the Church, the very community animated by love, the bond of the Holy Spirit.)

Moreover, the prospect of President-elect Donald Trump in the United States exacerbates these negative messages, as Trump’s presence in the public forum has validated the homophobic and transphobic sentiments of some of his supporters. These supporters, in turn, are making these sentiments public in a way that causes many of us to fear for our safety, especially if we live in states marked by that do not have policies protecting LGBT, queer, and gender non-conforming persons.

But this work of opening ourselves to all is nevertheless the call of the Gospel. This is the work of Advent, of waiting for the arrival of Christ. We must pray for God to strengthen us in this work. For lying on the other side of this work is the presence of justice and the presence of peace. The illustration of Isaiah has captured many hearts: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares; and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again” (Is. 2:4). Will it capture ours?

We queer Christians know that we cannot afford to perpetuate exclusion. This Advent, may we dedicate ourselves to no longer leaving anyone–friend or foe, beloved or bigot–in the field.

National Coming Out Day and the Complexities of Catholic Higher Education

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 11, 2016

Today is National Coming Out Day, celebrating the ongoing process of coming out that is a part of many LGBT people’s journeys. Catholic colleges have in recent years marked this day with educational programs and celebrations, but recent events at Boston College reveal the challenges that still exist even at Catholic schools considered LGBT supportive.

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Boston College students at the march

Nearly 200 students and faculty marched through Boston College’s campus last week, a move to “break the silence” that LGBTQ people alongside communities of color and people with disabilities experience on campus, reported campus newspaper The Heights. [Disclosure: I am a graduate student at Boston College, a Jesuit university.]

Graduate Pride Alliance president Dylan Lang explained in a statement, “We are here and we will not be silent, so it is time to make changes to better the lives of LGBTQ+ students at Boston College NOW.”

The march directly responded to a gay slur written on a campus sign and the perceived silence of administrators about the incident. It was also tied to larger issues identified by many students relating to LGBT identities, racial justice, and people with disabilities. Dean of Students Tom Mogan did release a statement saying the College “does not tolerate acts of hate, bias and prejudice on our campus such as this.”

Marchers ended with a rally near where the slur had appeared, and students shared their experiences on campus of being excluded. Zoe Mathison, an affiliate campus minister, attended the event and acknowledged Campus Ministry does not do enough on these issues, telling The Heights:

“There is this confusion that Jesus does not care about these issues and that he would not stand up for queer lives or black lives.”

There are, however, some positive developments at Boston College. This week, the GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC) is hosting its first Pride Week that expands on National Coming Out Day to celebrate LGBT identities and educate allies. The focus this year is on intersectionality, explained GLC chair Anne Williams, and will address “how sexual orientation and gender identity intersect with race, class, ability, etc.”

Last week, the Episcopalian Chaplaincy hosted openly transgender priest Rev. Cameron Partridge for a lecture.  Additionally, the student government passed a resolution calling on College administrators to establish an LGBTQ center.

But the contrast between many students’ experience and some LGBT supports reveals how complex LGBT issues in Catholic higher education can be. An editorial in The Heights described this challenge well:

“The vandalized sign should stand as a reminder that issues of prejudice and LGBTQ rights have not been solved on this campus. There are still problems, and LGBTQ students deserve support from the administration. Queer Peers [a mentoring program], while it was shut down for a while, is back in a larger context, which is one step in the right direction. But to fully support LGBTQ students, the administration should support efforts that LGBTQ students have expressed the need for, like Ignatian Q and an LGBTQ resource center.”

Student Christian Cho forcefully appealed to the College’s Catholic identity as the basis for not only allowing existing programs, but intentionally enacting more supports:

“BC can and should fully support LGBT students and their allies in their journeys to live the gospels of love and justice by actively financing LGBT-led initiatives like Ignatian Q and Queer Peers. Homophobia that lurks within the minds of bigots can be replaced with love, but only if the environment encourages that kind of conversion. I have seen love manifest itself through that kind of enlightenment, but it will take courageous leadership from an administration not afraid to boldly follow Pope Francis into the new paradigm he has set for us.”

Catholic colleges and universities in the United States have been institutions at the forefront of promoting LGBT inclusion in the church, but as National Coming Out Day is celebrated, it should not be forgotten there is still much work to do.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

Related Article

The Boston Globe, “Protest denounces BC’s response to gay slur on campus

 

Are Already Absent LGBT Voices Being Further Silenced in Conversations About ‘Amoris Laetitia’?

 

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Craig Ford

Have Catholics’ analyses of Amoris Laetitia, the recently published exhortation on family by Pope Francis, been dismissive of LGBT communities’ reaction and concerns?

Craig Ford, a theology doctoral student at Boston College, claimed on the blog Catholic Moral Theology that liberal Catholics who are not LGBT have too often jettisoned queer and transgender concerns to uphold a belief that Pope Francis is bringing progress to the Church.

“[Q]ueer relationships seem to be beside the point,” Ford wrote in post that not only challenges his academic colleagues in theology but other Catholics who identify as LGBT advocates and allies. Ford noted that when liberal Catholic pundits comment on homosexuality and related issues in the document, these pundits frequently suggest:

“[LGBT people’s] disappointment with respect to development of doctrine on these issues should be tempered by our understanding of Francis’ goals, or by an understanding of Francis’ style, or by the overall context of Francis’ papacy. . .This sort of reaction to issues involving queer persons is positively insulting, particularly when it comes from queer persons’ strongest allies: presumably straight, well-meaning, liberal theologians.”

Dismissing LGBT concerns in this way has helped liberal theologians uphold the idea that there is an “arc of a progressive future towards which Francis is (hopefully) steering the church,” Ford asserted. Such a reading of Amoris Laetitia allows a heterosexist view  drawn from Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, employed by Pope Francis in the new document, to pass unchallenged in liberal analyses. Ford also wrote that reactions from people who are otherwise quite supportive of LGBT equality have suppressed Amoris Laetitia’s problematic treatment of gender identity. He continued:

“[Liberals] decided not to critique Francis’ deployment of what is used to malign the entire field of gender studies—the term ‘gender ideology’. Instead, we sit by with great hope and expectation while Francis and other bishops continue to shame and marginalize the beautiful existences of trans- and genderqueer persons [Ford cited AL section 56 as evidence].”

Ford wondered why liberal theologians who are not queer or trans have allowed Amoris Laetitia’s clear failure on LGBT issues to be treated less critically. In a critique applicable to all LGBT allies, Ford challenged his colleagues in academic theology:

“The entire point of the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable is to remind all Christians that, among others, the concerns of queer persons are never beside the point.”

Sadly, not only this latest apostolic exhortation but the entire synodal process preceding it have too often treated LGBT people and their experiences of family as “beside the point.” No LGBT Catholics addressed the assemblies, and access to pre-synodal questionnaires were quite limited globally, further restricting LGBT Catholics’ input.

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Annie Selak

Annie Selak, also a theology doctoral student at Boston College, is curious about the missing voices in Amoris Laetitia and what impact greater input from these voices, like LGBT Catholics, might have had. She wrote in the blog Political Theology Today:

“There are many statements and examples in Amoris Laetitia that are not incorrect, but rather miss the mark in fully capturing the realities faced by families. . .voices from people who experience the lifestyles under discussion would enrich the document, and thus add to the robust teaching of the church. What might it look like for church documents to include voices of people throughout the world, most especially those marginalized whose voices are too often excluded?”

Selak proposed the integration of narrative (or story-telling) into church documents as “one way of rooting theology in lived experience and representing a diverse range of voices” and continued:

“The potential use of narrative in church teaching would not be an example of universalizing a particular instance, but rather a method that emphasizes the continued revelation of God in the lives of the people. . .A greater incorporation of voices through narrative can serve to enhance our experience of God’s continued revelation and build connections in the global church.”

If LGBT Catholics themselves addressed the synods, what impact would they have had in the outcome of those meetings and in the ensuing papal document? How would Amoris Laetitia‘s disappointing, even dismissive, approach to LGBT issues be different if Pope Francis had listened more closely to the marginalized persons of the church he leads? What if the stories of LGBT people and their families had been embedded in Amoris Laetitia’s lengthy reflections on family life?

One U.S. prelate, Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich has stated that he would have liked to hear the voices of LGBT people at the synod.  At a synod press conference, Bondings 2.0’s Francis DeBernardo asked Cupich if he felt it would have been better if the bishops heard these voices during their meetings.  Cupich’s reply:

“Yes, it may have been.  I know that myself, when I did the consultation in my diocese, I did have those voices as part of my consultation, and put that in my report, and so maybe that’s the way they were represented.  But I do think that we could benefit from  the actual voices of people who feel marginalized rather than having them filtered through the voices of other representatives or the bishops.  There is something important about that, I have found personally.”

These are questions that liberal and progressive Catholics should be careful not to ignore. If the document is to be a starting point for LGBT issues, an idea Bondings 2.0 explored a few weeks ago, then the first steps must be to include LGBT concerns as central in our analysis and to include more LGBT voices moving forward.

What do you think? Have LGBT voices been further excluded and even silenced by the reactions and commentaries of liberal Catholics? How can LGBT narratives be more included in the church’s reflections on family? You can leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

You can read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of Amoris Laetitia and reactions to it by clicking hereYou can read New Ways Ministry’s response to the document by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

Transgender Support Growing in Catholic Higher Education

1375111113093Boston College students are advancing a trans-inclusive non-discrimination policy for their Jesuit-sponsored school. Below, Bondings 2.0 reports on this news and other LGBT developments, two of which reveal Catholic higher education’s growing commitment to support trans* community members.

Boston College May Include Trans* Nondiscrimination Protections

Boston College’s GLBTQ Leadership Council, a segment of student government, has prepared a report about adding gender identity and expression to the College’s non-discrimination policy. BC administrators will decide ultimately whether to insert new language or not, reported campus newspaper The Heights, which noted:

“Despite this, the proposal still remains a good first step toward its goals and, even if rejected, acts as a symbolic gesture declaring UGBC’s [Undergraduate Government of Boston College] stance when it comes to this issue.”

Widespread support among college students for more expansive LGBTQ protections will hopefully weigh on administrators’ response. Existing BC policies already include sexual orientation as a protected class. Among Catholic colleges, Georgetown University (GU)  has been the first to explicitly protect trans* students, faculty, and staff from discrimination, and the school has made some of the most progressive strides in this regard. The Heights article concluded that Boston College could, along with GU, help set a precedent for Catholic schools on trans* inclusion.

Georgetown University Hospital Dispute

A news story from The Georgetown Voice, the campus newspaper of the Washington, DC Jesuit university, highlighted difficulties that trans* students often face in receiving quality healthcare. Willem Miller, a trans junior, waited a week before going to the University’s health services because he felt uncomfortable seeking treatment there. About his hesitation, The Voice reported:

“This trepidation toward Georgetown’s health care institutions is common among the members of the small population of out transgender and gender nonconforming students. One member of this community, Lexi Dever (COL ‘16), a transgender woman and a Student Assistant for the LGBTQ Center, initially expressed her apprehension about these services in absolute terms “[I have] never [visited]the Student Health Center, I’ve never called GERMS, and I have no intention of those things changing,” she said. Dever, like Miller, attributes this steadfast hesitance to a belief that these institutions are not suited to meet the specific needs of transgender students.”

These students identified a lack of trans-specific resources or training as reasons why Georgetown University’s health services were inadequate. The article also noted a discrimination complaint against MedStar Georgetown University Hospital filed with the D.C. Office of Human Rights by a trans woman, Alexa Rodriguez, who was allegedly denied surgery last year because of her gender identity.

Systemic issues about inadequate healthcare for trans* communities are widespread, Since Georgetown University has made strong efforts to welcome openly trans* students, hopefully the school will address these healthcare challenges as part of the Jesuit model of caring for the whole person.

Loyola Marymount Provides Safe Space for LGBT Mormons

A weekend conference for an organization of LGBT/SSA [Same Sex Attracted] Mormons and families was hosted  recently by Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Entitled “Knit Together in Unity and Love,” the mid-January gathering aimed to support LGBT-affirming Mormons, provide an inclusive community, and encourage participants to “make valuable contributions” both inside and out of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Catholics and Mormons can celebrate that this collaboration not only advances LGBT equality, but ecumenical relations too.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley: LGBT Church Worker Firings “Need to be Rectified”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley seated among other panelists at Crux event. (photo credit: The Boston Globe)

In a one-to-one conversation following a public speaking engagement, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that the firing of church workers because of LGBT issues is a situation that “needs to be rectified,” becoming the first prelate to speak against this trend.

Earlier in the evening, the cardinal publicly spoke positively of the need to include and minister to the LGBT community in light of Pope Francis’ new vision for the church.

O’Malley’s public appearance on Thursday, September 11th, was at a launch event for Crux, the Boston Globe’s new website for “all things Catholic.” The program was held at the Jesuit-run Boston College. O’Malley was part of a panel of experts discussing the papacy of Pope Francis.

At the end of the event, after the crowd had dissipated, I had the opportunity to thank Cardinal O’Malley one-on-one for his compassionate remarks earlier in the evening about the LGBT community.

As we spoke, the cardinal told me that we must first convince people we love them before talking about the Ten Commandments. I pointed out that it has been hard to convince LGBT Catholics and their allies of this love when so many church workers have had LGBT-related employ-ment disputes with Catholic schools and parishes. Responding to my comment, Cardinal O’Malley said this trend was a situation that “needs to be rectified.”

O’Malley also indicated that not all church positions require a Catholic marriage.  Most of the employment disputes involved same-sex couples legally marrying, announcing an intention to marry, or publicly acknowledging a long-term committed relationship.

Earlier, in a period when panelists answered audience questions, Cardinal O’Malley answered a question which I had submitted:

Given Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy and welcome, can we expect improved pastoral care and inclusion for those who are LGBT, especially when almost 20 US church workers have been fired in 2014 for their sexual orientation, gender, or marital status?

The cardinal’s answer is in full below, and you can also watch it at Crux by clicking here and starting the video at 1:29:00:

“I think the Holy Father’s notion of mercy and inclusion is going to make a big difference in the way that the church responds to and ministers to people of homosexual orientation. The Holy Father is talking about reaching out to the periphery and very often this is a group that is on the periphery. It is not necessarily that the church is going to change doctrine, but, as somebody said, the Holy Father hasn’t changed the lyrics, but he’s changed the melody. I think the context of love and mercy and community is the context in which all of the church’s teachings must be presented, including the more difficult ones. The same could be said about abortion and so many others. It is only when people realize that we love them that they will be open to hear the truth we want to share with them.”

You can read a full account of the event from Michael O’Loughlin of Crux found by clicking here. Other panelists that evening were Hosffman Espino of Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, John Allen, Jr. of Crux, Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard University, and Robert Christian of Millennial.

Cardinal O’Malley’s inclusive statements are typical of his merciful leadership style in Boston, leadership which led Pope Francis to appoint him to to a unique papal advisory council of eight cardinals, positioning him as the American prelate closest to the pope. O’Malley himself was considered to be a papal candidate before Francis’ election, and one resigned Catholic priest listed Boston’s cardinal as the most gay-friendly of the candidates.

What struck me most last Thursday was the cardinal’s willing admission that terminating church workers due to their sexual orientation or marital status is indeed problematic.  Catholic prelates have, at best, remained silent, and, at worst, supported discriminatory actions, in the more than forty public instances where a church employee left over LGBT issues. Cardinal O’Malley’s statement that these firings “need to be rectified” is an episcopal echo of the tens of thousands of Catholics and people of faith who have long stood by mistreated LGBT and ally church workers. Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will recognize that even as the resignations and firings increase, so too do the rallies, petitions, and online outreach in solidarity with fired teachers like Barb Webb, Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro.

I hope Cardinal O’Malley will use his prominent position to help end situations where LGBT and ally church workers face discrimination and exclusion. It could be a major step in incarnating a church where all are truly welcome. As it is, the cardinal’s kind words and frank admission are a wonderful start — and for them, I am most grateful.

Cardinal O’Malley is the first bishop to acknowledge that these employment actions are a problem.  Let’s hope and pray that he will not be the last.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry