Sr. Jeannine Gramick Calls on Irish Population to Vote for Marriage Equality

April 19, 2015

A Catholic nun is calling on Irish citizens to vote for marriage equality this May, the latest in a series of voices hoping to legalize same-gender marriages in the country through a nationwide referendum.

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister JeannineGramick, SL, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, has been in Ireland this past week for a gathering of Catholic Church reformers. She also has been meeting Catholic LGBT organizations there.  In an interview with The Independent, she commented on the upcoming referendum:

” ‘You can be a Catholic and vote for civil marriage for lesbian and gay people because it is a civil matter – it has nothing to do with your religion.’ “

She added that the bishops were “like little children” with their threats that priests would stop performing civil marriages, adding:

” ‘I think [the bishops] would be punishing heterosexual couples in the sense of making it more difficult for them as they would have to have two ceremonies and it wouldn’t hurt the gay population.’ “

In a radio interview, Gramick also said she imagines a future where priests are married to either men or women. You can listen to an audio file of this interview by clicking here, and scrolling down to the bottom of the text of the interview to find the audio file.

Mary McAleese, the former president of Ireland who has been an outspoken advocate for church reform, added her support for a “Yes” vote. Invoking the 1916 Easter Proclamation (which established the Republic of Ireland), she framed the referendum as a matter of good for children, telling The Irish Times

” ‘[My husband and I] believed it to be about Ireland’s gay children…We owe those children a huge debt as adults who have opportunities to make choices that impact their lives, to make the right choices, choices that will allow their lives grow organically and to give them the joy of being full citizens in their own country…We want, in the words of the proclamation, the children of the nation to be cherished equally.’ “

Challenging the language of “intrinsically disordered,” McAleese added:

” ‘The danger of calling it intrinsically disordered and at the same time calling for the love, Christian love for those who live the homosexual life meant people have been forced into the shadow, have been forced into self doubt, deeply conflicted.

” ‘[It] is a terrible thing for a young person who has grown up, for example in the church, and have been told they are loved absolutely to discover at 15,16 or 17 that all the language they have heard – particularly the homophobic language that they may have heard, the locker room language – applies to a person like them and applies to them.’ “

However, the Association of Catholic Priests, founded by Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, has refrained from taking an official position on the marriage referendum due to a variety of opinions in the organization.

The referendum, scheduled for May 22, could be the first time globally that marriage equality is affirmed in a popular referendum and, according to The Boston Globe, both sides say the “Yes” side is likely to win. One anti-LGBT leader has admitted that marriage equality could “win by a landslide,” but this has not stopped the Catholic bishops from mounting a campaign against the measure.

Regardless of the outcome, Tánaiste [Deputy Prime Ministr] Joan Burton of Ireland’s Labour party has already made clear that there will be no “right to discriminate” clauses written into Irish law that would allow businesses to deny service to LGBT people. This is a direct response, reports The Independent, to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s request for such clauses if marriage equality passes.

Finally, much of the debate in Ireland is playing upon Catholic values so ingrained in this historically Catholic nation. The ad below from “Yes” campaigners is a prime example, asking voters to “bring your family with you” on May 22:

Elsewhere campaigners talk of justice and faith, such as this video from two Catholic parents making their own appeal for equality.

It seems that in Ireland, as all over the world, Catholics are once again voting for marriage equality because of their faith and not in spite of it.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


With a Call for Compassion, Jesuit Scholastic Comes Out as Gay

April 18, 2015

Because we know that so many priests and members of religious communities are gay and lesbian, and since so many of them choose to remain private about their sexual orientations, it is news when one of them decides to come out publicly.

Damian Torres-Botello, SJ

Damian Torres-Botello, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from Chicago, who went public about his orientation yesterday in an essay on The Jesuit Posta blog by young Jesuits.  Entitled “This I Believe: Created in God’s Image, the essay is primarily a call to the Church to be more inclusive and compassionate, and Torres-Botello only comes out as subtle example of the diversity of our religious home.

He begins with a reflection on current challenges the Church faces in regard to accepting minorities, including LGBT people:

“As Catholics, we have a sense of the Church being a truly universal home, a place where all are welcome, as the name Catholic would indicate. Yet within that sense of universality there are many who feel the Church is not a welcoming home for them. Teachers have been terminated from jobs, children with disabilities have been refused sacraments, and many divorced men and women continue to feel unwanted. You don’t have to look hard to find similar stories from African-American Catholics,Latino Catholics, Catholic women, and former Catholics alike. And all of this tension has caused people to leave the church, and in some cases, lose their faith.”

Torres-Bottello notes, however, that these problems only exist because we fail to take seriously a simple, basic truth of our faith:

“Yet here’s the truth I know and believe: I am created in God’s image and likeness, just as God creates us all. It is actually that simple. But sometimes we take that image and likeness and complicate it.”

After acknowledging that entering the Jesuits did not force him “into the closet after seventeen years of accepting myself as gay,” he observes:

“I am more than my skin color, my sexual orientation, and my economic class. It restricts God’s image and likeness if I only see myself as those three aspects. Defining myself purely on what I am limits who I am and how I can be of service. Even allowing these characteristics to dictate my life would prevent me from engaging the world as a wholly integrated human being. Besides, I prayed, and discerned, and made a choice. I made a commitment to live the vows of consecrated chastity, poverty, and obedience because of my belief in Christ, the mission of the Church, and the people of God. I share my struggles openly just as I share my joys. Like my parents did with each other, transparency helps me live my vows honestly so that I am always available to live out my calling as a Jesuit.”

Originally published on The Jesuit Post, the essay was also re-blogged on America magazine’s website, with the following detail in the author’s bio:

“This article was approved for publication by his Jesuit superiors.”

Father James Martin SJ

Father James Martin SJ

In a separate blog post on America’s  website, Jesuit Father James Martin, celebrated spiritual author, commented on the significance of this detail:

“A little background: Jesuits, like members of other religious orders, take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. For most Jesuits, obedience is often the easiest of the vows: basically, carry out the job to which you have been missioned. But in some cases obedience is brought to bear on more sensitive topics. And over the last few decades no Jesuit, as far as I know, has been permitted by his superiors to “self-identify” as gay in a public way.”

Martin examines some of the reasons, both personal and spiritual, that may prevent a Jesuit superior from granting permission for a member to come out as gay, but at the same time, he notes that this example is a welcome change:

“So the decision of Damian’s superiors to grant him permission is notable. It is the first time that I can think of that a Jesuit has been permitted to do write about being gay. So I’m proud of two things today: Damian’s courage and honesty, and that of his superiors.”

Torres-Botello’s reflection is a reminder not only that we already have many dedicated LGBT people serving in the Church, but it is also a signal that the younger generation of these ministers will be more visible and vocal than the predecessors were, understandably, able to be.   His announcement bespeaks a future Church where all will be welcome, accepted, cherished.

His closing sentence shows us the way to help propagate that kind of church:

“I pray as a Church we discover tender compassion for each other to love the God that dwells in us all.”

Benjamin Brenkert

Amen to Damian!  Let’s pray that his witness will help pave the way for a church where all of its LGBT ministers–clergy, religious, lay–are welcome and accepted, and, at the very least, not fired, as so many lay church workers have been over the past few years, due to LGBT issues.

Let’s remember thankfully, too, the gay Jesuits who came out in the 1970s, and also Benjamin Brenkert, who recently left the Society of Jesus because he could no longer remain closeted or accept the firings of LGBT church employees.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


100+ Catholics Appeal to Pope Francis for San Francisco Archbishop’s Removal

April 17, 2015

Ad, as it appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle

Calling for Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to be replaced, more than 100 San Francisco area Catholics released an open letter to Pope Francis expressing their discontent with the archbishop’s leadership. Their concerns were primarily related to his negative focus on LGBT issues.

In a full page ad published in The San Francisco Chronicle, the signatories criticize an archbishop with a “single issue agenda” who “has fostered an atmosphere of division and intolerance.” Foremost among the ad’s criticisms is Cordileone’s introduction of morality clauses, focusing on sexual issues in teacher contracts. The signatories write further:

“The absolute mean-spiritedness of his required language for the Archdiocesan high school faculty handbook sets a pastoral tone that is closer to persecution than evangelization. Students, families and teachers have been deeply wounded by this language, yet the Archbishop refuses to withdraw his demands…

“Instead of your famous words “Who am I to Judge,” Archbishop Cordileone repeatedly labels the behavior of our fellow brothers and sister (and their children) as ‘gravely evil’…The Archbishop has isolated himself from our community…The City of Saint Francis deserves an Archbishop true to our values and to your teachings.”

Those undersigned represent a diverse and influential group of Catholics. Dan Morris-Young of the National Catholic Reporter described the signatories:

“Referring to themselves as ‘committed Catholics inspired by Vatican II,’ signers include well-known philanthropists in the archdiocese, members of school and university boards, the former director of Catholic Charities CYO, high-profile attorneys and physicians, major figures in the business and corporate world, and officials of trusts, foundations and charitable organizations.”

Among these leaders, The Chronicle notes, is Brian Cahill, former executive director of San Francisco’s Catholic Charities, who has previously written in favor of LGBT rights by saying Cordileone’s positions would turn the church into a “shrinking cult.” In a more recent piece, Cahill suggested that the contract struggle is all about the meaning of Catholic identity. Other signers echoed similar sentiments, with business owner and major donor Larry Nibbi saying:

” ‘The crux of our worry is that the faithful are going to become very disenchanted and stop going to church because they don’t like the message, and the message is not the way they lead their lives.’ “

Those involved with the ad had first attempted dialogue, reaching out to national and curial officials for relief, but when no action was taken they decided to release the ad, reports The Chronicle

Publishing the ad is the latest in a string of 2015 actions by Bay Area Catholics, which have included hundreds demonstrating at the cathedral and hundreds more participating in a town hall hosted by the University of San Francisco,a Jesuit school. The National Catholic Reporter quoted Cahill telling attendees at the forum:

” ‘Cordileone, who with his imported crew of orthodox, smugly ideological and intentionally provocative zealots, is trying to shove his sex-obsessed version of Catholic identity down the throats of Catholic high school students and teachers.’ “

Elsewhere, students, parents, alumni, and church workers are organizing around #TeachAcceptance, which includes a Facebook group and website. Parents have written letters of support to students and one parent, Dennis Herrera, wrote recently about how Cordileone’s activities reveal just how essential Pope Francis’ leadership and the Synod of Bishops focused on family life could be to this situation.

In a statement responding to the ad, the Archdiocese said it was a “misrepresentation” of Catholic teaching, the teacher contracts, the archbishop, and San Francisco Catholics.

I see the actions of Bay Area Catholics as fitting examples of what living the Gospel means today. The thousands who have turned out to protest, dialogue, and register their support for church workers are true representations of what it means to be Christian.

Pope Francis should listen to the voices of the people in this local church and respond to their call. Yet, even if Archbishop Cordileone remains, I take solace in this emerging reality that reveals just how alive and formative the Holy Spirit is in San Francisco’s Catholics.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

National Catholic Reporter: “Under San Francisco’s new handbook language, could gay marriage lead to a dismissal?

Think Progress: “How San Francisco Catholics are Pushing Pope Francis


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Jesuit Schools Gather to Discuss LGBT Issues on Campus

April 16, 2015

Students and campus personnel from Jesuit colleges and universities across the U.S. gathered at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, last month for a weekend conference about LGBT issues at their school.

Image from dotCommoweal.org

Entitled “IgnatianQ,” the meeting was organized by GU Pride, Georgetown’s LGBTQ student organization, but was also supported by the university’s administration, campus ministry, and LGBTQ Resource Center, the first of its kind on a Catholic campus.  In an interview with The Hoyathe campus newspaper, Thomas Lloyd, president of GU Pride, explained the need for such a meeting:

“IgnatianQ is a very unique space. There are very few people who understand what it means to do LGBTQ work in a Jesuit context and there are unique challenges, concerns but also rewards … for me personally doing LGBTQ work has been how I’ve made my meaning. . . .

““I’ve always said the most important part of LGBTQ work in this [Jesuit] context is to affirm that we have a duty to LGBTQ students because our context demands it. It’s part of supporting the whole person. It’s part of being a universal church and a universal community, and a university community,”

In another Hoya article, Fr. Greg Schenden, SJ, campus chaplain, echoed the Jesuit grounding of this conference:

“The purpose of this student-led conference is to help students from Jesuit universities grow in their faith and appreciate their worth as human beings. These values are central to the Jesuit commitment to cura personalis — care for each person in their uniqueness.”

Jesuit values were the focus of one of the keynote speakers, Dan Cardinali, who is an openly gay 1988 alumnus of Georgetown and now the director of Communities in Schools, the largest dropout prevention organization in the country.

According to a news report on the conference in The Hoya, Cardinali described his struggle with sexuality while a student, and then explained how, while he lived as a Jesuit for a while after graduation, he came to understand a positive Catholic approach to LGBT people:

“As a Jesuit, I was gifted with a set of opportunities to give back to the world. It prepared me for what I do now. I realized that being gay and being Catholic … can go together, as long as we believe in the dignity of [the] human person. Overtime, we would be able … to have the courage that [it] takes to make changes. . . .

“If you believe that God is in the world, and that he never abandons, it is our life journey to discover that. There are tools to discover that, and once we made that discovery, it will prepare us for the world in unimaginable ways.”

Elizabeth Donnelly

Other speakers included Elizabeth Donnelly, a Catholic philanthropist who offered her experience on speaking about women’s equality in the church as a model for speaking on LGBT issues; Deacon Ray Dever, a father of a transgender woman, who described his family’s experiences in a Bondings 2.0 blog post last December; and Lisbeth Melendez-Rivera, the director of Catholic and Latino/a Initiatives at the Human Rights Campaign.

Among the participants at the conference were a group from Santa Clara University, a California Jesuit school.  A news story in their campus newspaper,  The Santa Clara, summarized the experience of their delegation to the event:

“Students had the opportunity to collaborate and brainstorm ways to get more support, resources, visibility and acceptance for LGBTQ groups at their respective schools. This allowed representatives to network and share strategies for improving student engagement.

“ ‘It was cool to see how progressive some universities are and how some universities didn’t have any resources at all,’ said sophomore Adrian Chavez. ‘Santa Clara seemed to fall more in the middle of it, leaning progressive.’ ”

The Georgetown meeting was the 2nd annual gathering of its kind. The first meeting was held at Fordham University last year, under the theme, “Finding God in the LGBTQ Jesuit Campus Community.” The theme of the this year’s meeting was, ““Forming Contemplative Communities to Ignite Action.”

Georgetown sophomore Samuel Boyne, a participant at IgnatianQ, summed up his reaction to the meeting for the campus newspaper:

“I think that IgnatianQ was an essential event to host at Georgetown. As a school dedicated to educating its students on being men and women for others, the messages for which the conference stands for coincides with our Jesuit values. Specifically, as it is vital for students to come together in an environment like this to discuss the intersection of faith and the LGBTQ community. . . . Overall, the opportunity to speak openly about these issues is a definite step forward.”

Catholic college campuses are among the most important leaders of LGBT equality in the Catholic Church.  The IgnatianQ conference is just one more example of how they are paving the way for a brighter future.

To read more about news of LGBT issues on Catholic campuses, click on “Campus Chronicles” in the “Categories” box in the right hand column of this page, or you can click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles

dotCommonweal: “Ignatian LGBTQ & Ally conference turns two”

The Hoya: Georgetown to Host IgnatianQ

The Georgetown Voice: “Georgetown to host allied Catholic universities at second annual IgnationQ conference”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Priest Blesses Same-Gender Couple’s Engagement in Malta; Archbishop Remains Calm

April 15, 2015

Fr, Montebello, left, with the couple, Nicholas John Vella and Edward Borg Bonaci, after the ceremony.

A priest in Malta will not be reprimanded for blessing rings at a commitment ceremony between two men. Those involved in this incident are revealing what the intensified mercy called for by Pope Francis earlier this week might look like when it comes to LGBT issues.

Dominican Fr. Mark Montebello attended the engagement ceremony of Nicholas John Vella and Edward Borg Bonaci last week, and while present blessed their rings. Photos of the event, including Montebello’s presence, appeared on Facebook and this moment was soon reported on by The Malta Independent. A Facebook group emerged almost immediately in support of the priest and has gained nearly 1,500 supporters.

However, once news of the event broke, Montebello was summoned, along with his Dominican provincial, by Malta’s Archbishop Charles Scicluna. They met for an hour on Tuesday, the outcome of which was reported by The Malta Independent with the following excerpt from the archdiocesan statement:

” ‘During the cordial meeting, the Archbishop encouraged Fr Mark to continue his outreach to gay people, and requested that he continue to follow Church practice and discipline in his ministry, especially in the celebration of sacred rites and Church rituals.

” ‘Fr Mark thanked the Archbishop and the Vicar General for their support and agreed that in his pastoral ministry to gay people he would continue to follow Church practices and discipline.’ “

What lessons can we gain from this incident?

First,  set against the potential punishments other bishops might have imposed upon Montebello, the archdiocesan statement has a strong positive side. It is valuable in that it respects the priest in question, even affirming his ministry to the LGBT population and encouraging him to keep going. No punishment besides a request from the bishop is meted out.

Second, while there is no validation of Montebello’s actions in blessing a same-gender relationship, it is interesting to note the statement restricts its request to “Church practice and discipline” rather than making a doctrinal appeal, about the nature of marriage or homosexuality. In Archbishop Scicluna’s estimation, it seems this is clearly a very low-level issue, and its impact is limited. He is not obsessed with stopong LGBT rights at all costs, behavior for which Pope Francis has criticized other bishops.

Third, the identities involved matter because they are a priest and prelate already open to mercy when it comes to sexual and gender-diverse people. In a country that is officially Catholic, with more than 90% of citizens belonging to the church, such figures are tremendously powerful in advancing LGBT justice. Montebello and Scicluna were both nominated for awards last year by the Malta Gay Rights Movement, and though they declined, they are helping this cause more than not.

Fr. Montebello is clearly a committed advocate for LGBT rights, declaring his support for marriage equality and civil unions as early as 2005, when he said “there needs to be a change in vision” and promised to bless same-gender relationships if asked. This recent incident is merely the fulfillment of that commitment.

Archbishop Scicluna has a more complicated record, repeatedly denying that same-gender couples can marry and opposing a civil unions law in Malta that ultimately passed. He has also said that Pope Francis was “shocked” at the idea of gay couples adopting, though this comment was never confirmed. Yet, Scicluna also apologized to lesbian and gay people for harm done by the church and publicly criticized a lay man’s harsh letter against same-sex relationships. He even participated in the International Day Against Homophobia last year.

Between the two, a divide over the goodness of same-gender relationships remains. Fr. Montebello seems to understand Archbishop’s Scicluna’s words that “Love is never a sin. God is love” better than the archbishop himself. It is refreshing, however that Scicluna is allowing a priest the flexibility and trust so essential to do ministry on the margins and, when there is disagreement, always ensuring that mercy is foremost.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Did the Vatican Reject France’s Openly Gay Ambassador?

April 12, 2015

Did the Vatican reject an ambassador because he is an openly gay man?

News reports that the Holy See has not accepted the new French ambassador are spreading quickly, but due caution is necessary before conclusions can be drawn. If true, however, this is a troubling sign for a papacy which, so far, has had a pretty good record on LGBT issues.

Laurent Stéfanini

Though nominated in January, Laurent Stéfanini, France’s choice as Ambassador to the Holy See has not yet received official recognition from papal officials, and the Vatican Press Office is refusing to comment on this delay.

The Guardian  reported that an anonymous source inside the Vatican, said that Stéfanini met with Archbishop Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio to France, in February. Reportedly, the nuncio asked Stéfanini, who has previous experience at the French embassy at the Holy See, to decline the nomination because he was openly gay. Further rumors, reported in the French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, claim that it was Pope Francis himself who sought to replace Stéfanini.

What then to make of this potentially tragic scenario which, if true, could undermine much of the progress Pope Francis made on LGBT issues? Michelle Boorstein writes at The Washington Post that Stéfanini is a qualified candidate with support from many, including church leaders, but there may be greater politics at play. She writes:

“No matter what’s going on privately at the Vatican over the appointment, the decision to appoint an openly-gay ambassador to the Vatican (even one as experienced in Paris-Vatican diplomacy as Stéfanini) was interpreted by some Vatican watchers as both a provocation and a challenge to the Vatican by the French government.

“That being said, the appointment reportedly had the support of the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, who is said to have written a letter to the pope in support of the nomination.”

Also necessary to consider is that the Vatican has previously rejected nominated ambassadors for their personal lives, often related to their marital status. The Post reports:

“In 2008, France tried and failed to appoint several candidates to the same job after its previous ambassador died. ‘The first candidate was divorced … another Protestant, and the last not only homosexual but … stably united with an official companion,’ Italian paper La Repubblica reported at the time.”

Official sources at the Vatican and the French Embassy are remaining quiet, leaving these reports grounded in unnamed Vatican sources. The Vatican should be transparent about the reasons for this delay and, if they are rejecting France’s nominee, be clear about the reasons why an otherwise qualified person is being denied.  At the very least, the Vatican should confirm or deny whether Stéfanini’s sexual orientation is at issue.

There is no clear link to Pope Francis, and given his previous statements on gay people, this rejection would seem uncharacteristic of him. Remaining silent about the charges leveled, however, only leads to potentially damaging misinformation and France, along with worldwide Catholics, are owed an explanation.

Though reports about this matter are plentiful, prudence dictates that no hasty conclusions be drawn about why Stéfanini has not yet been credentialed as France’s ambassador yet. At this point, though, the Vatican’s silence is as harmful as rejection. Let us hope it is for reasons other than his identity as created by God.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Gay Teacher Case in Omaha Affects Community, Statehouse, and Future

April 11, 2015

Matthew Eledge

In Omaha, the repercussions of Skutt H.S.’s decision not to renew the teaching contract of gay teacher Matthew Eledge are reverberating in the local community, the statehouse, and, perhaps even into the future.

The Catholic school made the employment decision when they learned from the English teacher and speech coach that he plans on marrying his partner, a man.  Immediately, students, parents and alumni organized a petition drive–with over 45,000 signatures in two days–to support Eledge.  But perhaps the most interesting developments are yet to come, as Eledge has stated that, as far as he knows, he is still employed by the school to finish out the academic year.

KETV reported that Eledge told them

“. . . that he respects the school and the Archdiocese.

“Eledge also said, while he’s scared and nervous, he is also humbled by the outreach from alumni, parents and the community.”

The case had repercussions at the Nebraska statehouse in Lincoln. KETV stated:

“Some state lawmakers sounded off during debate on the Legislature floor. . . .

” ‘No one should be fired or judged on the ridiculous standard of whom they love,’ Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks said.”

If you would like to see a copy of the Archdiocese of Omaha’s teacher contract, click here.

The case illustrates the importance of laws outlawing LGBT discrimination, though with the inclusion of religious exemptions, these laws would still not be applicable to Catholic institutions. In an Associated Press article, Steven Willborn, a University of Nebraska employment discrimination law professor said that a 2012 Omaha law and a proposed state law are both not applicable to Eledge’s case because of religious exemptions.

Wilborn was not without hope, though.  The article reported:

“Any reversal would be more likely to come from a public opinion backlash, Willborn said, such as seen recently in Indiana when that state’s lawmakers passed a religious objections law that critics said would sanction discrimination against gays and lesbians.

” ‘Of course, the public opinion that would matter most at Skutt would be what their parents and supporters and donors think,’ Willborn said.”

The inclusion of a financial factor in Willborn’s analysis raises an important question.  Throughout the last few years as we witnessed the over 40 employment disputes over LGBT issues in Catholic institutions, we have seen Catholic people protesting these unjust decisions from a faith perspective.   The most significant feature of these protests has been the outpouring support from young people.

While Catholic school leaders need to question the justice of their actions in regard to dismissing employees over LGBT issues, they also need to think about the practical consequences for the future of these institutions.  Will this next generation of Catholic students consider sending their children to schools which discriminate against LGBT people?  If they don’t, how much longer will Catholic schools survive?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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