Mexican Bishops Warn of “Gay Dictatorship;” Defend Reparative Therapy

September 26, 2016
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Members of the Mexican episcopate

Tensions over LGBT rights have been increasing in Mexico over the past two months, with Catholic bishops there taking a strong stand against marriage equality. The debate in that nation has elicited some strident rhetoric from both sides, with strong charges of persecution by their opponents from each side.  And, Catholic bishops have received the endorsement of a powerful Catholic voice in their anti-marriage equality campaign: Pope Francis.

The rhetoric of persecution has now enjoined the bishops in a battle about the much-disproven field of reparative therapy, which the bishops have endorsed.

Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination (Conapred), a governmental agency, recently denounced reparative or “ex-gay” therapy, responding to an article in Catholic media titled “No one is born gay.”

The country’s bishops reacted negatively to Conapred’s denunciation, reported Pink News. Fr. Hugo Valdemar, a spokesperson for the bishops, said:

“There is persecution against the Church. . .It is something very serious, the state now determines the sexual behavior of citizens and forbids any attempt to return to normalcy.

“The state prohibits parents from helping their children to solve their sexual doubts and prohibits homosexuals from changing, but if they want to change their sex they fund that atrocity, it’s something diabolic.”

Valdemar said there would be a “gay dictatorship” soon under which people who disagree with LGBT rights would be imprisoned.

Debates over LGBT rights have intensified in recent weeks after President Enrique Peña Nieto said in May that he would push Congress to pass marriage equality, adoption rights for same-gender partners, non-discrimination protections, and allowances for people to self-identify their gender on official documents. Just ten of Mexico’s 31 states do not have bans on same-gender marriages in place. Peña Nieto’s federal effort seeks to override such bans, and implement LGBT protections universally.

However, LGBT advocates have challenged the president’s commitment, suggesting that his announcement in May might have caused more harm then good. After Peña Nieto’s party suffered losses in June elections, LGBT issues have been sidelined by parrty leaders. But his announcement did stir intense opposition from the Catholic hierarchy and other groups opposed to LGBT rights.

The anti-equality group National Front for the Family has organized dozens of rallies across Mexico, according to Animal Politico. Reports from ABC News said about 215,000 people turned out for anti-marriage equality rallies this past weekend, following up on earlier protests on September 10th. The National Front is primarily supported by the Catholic hierarchy in Mexico with key bishops offering their support in an August 12th letter.

Fr. Valdemar attempted to withdraw such direct support by the bishops later in August, saying moral support for the marches offered by church leaders was in favor of marriage and family, not opposed to any specific legislation or community of people. Church leaders have led marches or rallies in at least eleven states between the September 10th and September 24th demonstrations.

Following the September 10th rallies, TeleSur reported that Conapred released a statement implicitly critical of the bishops’ involvement, saying the denial of equal marriage rights is “an affront to [gay couples] dignity and their integrity.” The statement said further:

” ‘Encouraging discrimination against people because of their sexual and gender orientation or status, as well as trying to exclude families that do not replicate the traditional nuclear model, through expressions and speeches that may incite hatred and violence, as has happened in recent months, violates the human rights of all people.’ “

Pro-equality organizations have organized their own rallies, including one on September 11th which ended at the cathedral in Mexico City. There the National Pride Front of Mexico, an umbrella group for 70 LGBT organizations, launched a campaign calling for the removal of the city’s archbishop, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera. Spokesperson Patria Jimenez explained the Front was appealing to Pope Francis because, TeleSur reported:

” ‘We want to stop the speeches of violence. We respect freedom of expression and we have open arms. The Church says that it preaches love for your neighbor, but today we see that it promotes hatred.’ “

Rhetoric about marriage equality LGBT rights has been heated and hyperbolic from both sides. Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo of Cancun said he would “go to prison to defend the family” where he said “some charitable soul would go to visit me, especially in this year of mercy.”

On the other side, La Jornada reported a national strategy put forth by the group Equality Mexico to file discrimination complaints against the Catholic Church in multiple regions. For instance, LGBT coalition Red Positiva filed a discrimination complaint with Conapred against Bishop Elizondo. Crux reported:

“The complaint filed also claimed the bishop was opposing article 130 of the Mexican Constitution, which dictates that religious ministers can’t oppose the law nor call the faithful to do so in any public event or religious ceremony.”

Victor Aguirre Espinoza and Fernando Urias Samparo, the first same-gender couple to marry in the state of Mexicali, filed a complaint against the Catholic Church with the governor there. They claim church leaders have violated Article 8 of the Law of Religious Associations, which the plaintiffs allege means religious organizations cannot intervene in politics and must the respect human rights of all people, reported La Voz de La Frontera.

Elsewhere, two LGBT groups filed a complaint against the Archdiocese of Tijuana, specifically alleging that Archbishop Francisco Moreno Barrón had incited hate speech. Equality Mexico filed a complaint against the Archdiocese of Mexico City with the Ministry of the Interior. Complaints are expected in Chihuahua, Yucatán, Hidalgo, and Sinaloa as well.

Finally, Crux reported that Pope Francis offered support for Mexico’s bishops following the Angelus yesterday, saying

” ‘I join willingly the Bishops of Mexico in supporting the efforts of the Church and civil society in favor of the family and of life, which at this time require special pastoral and cultural attention worldwide.’ “

Francis has refrained from entering debates about legal protections for same-gender couples in many countries, including the United States and Italy. But he involved himself when LGBT issues were being debated in Slovakia and Slovenia. This bifurcated response is puzzling.

Mexico is the world’s second largest Catholic nation with nearly 100 million people, or more than 80% of the population, identifying as Catholic. But opinions are equally divided on marriage equality. 40% of Mexicans support equal rights, 40% oppose them, and 10% have no opinion per polling in early September, reported Vanguardia.

When considering what is happening in the country on LGBT rights, one must be keep in mind that Mexico has a troubled and violent history between the church and secular government, including anti-clerical laws in the early 20th century which led to many churches being closed and the oppression and even murder of priests. While laws have changed and tensions lessened, the legacy of these decades lingers. Furthermore, church ministers are targeted today as part of the country’s drug-related violence.

These realities may cause prelates to make extreme claims like the church is being persecuted or suggestions they would be jailed. But church leaders should be more responsible in their rhetorical actions, instead of using hyperbolic and inflammatory terms like “gay dictatorship.” Actual violence in the past and today makes it especially troubling that church leaders and LGBT advocates have both used such charged language in this debate. Where the church should be a unifying force for the promotion and expansion of human rights for all people, including LGBT communities, it is instead acting as a source of unnecessary pain and conflict.

De-escalation from both sides would be advisable, as it would likely allow dialogue to replace divisive tactics. Dialogue could produce laws which are respectful of every person’s dignity and the rights of religious institutions. Such laws would ultimately advance the common good, and that is the cause to which all sides should ultimately commit themselves.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Community Rallies to Support Fr. Warren Hall

September 25, 2016

By Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, September 25, 2016

Catholics and other members of the Hoboken, New Jersey, community gathered to support Fr. Warren Hall, a gay Catholic priest who was recently suspended from ministry by Newark Archbishop John Myers.

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A local clergywoman speaking at the rally

According to NJ.com, parishioners, LGBT community members and other locals gathered in a rally organized by Hoboken Pride and Jersey City Pride to show their support for Fr. Hall. The rally took place at Stevens Park in Hoboken, New Jersey.

In 2015, Hall was assigned by Myers to be a parochial vicar at both St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church in Weehawken, New Jersey, and Saints Peter and Paul Church in Hoboken, after he was dismissed from his position as the Director of Campus Ministry at Seton Hall University for supporting the NOH8 campaign. One reporter said that the suspension from priestly ministry came after Hall openly supported unofficial LGBT events at the World Youth Day last July, as well as PFLAG New Jersey, Gays Against Guns and New Ways Ministry.

Hall also publicly supported counselor and coach Kate Drumgoole, who was fired from Paramus Catholic High School for being in a same-gender marriage. As New Ways Ministry reported earlier, Paramus Catholic’s alumni organized and signed an open letter condemning the school’s decision and showing support for Drumgoole. After receiving the letter, the school announced that two top administrators have been suspended.  

Hall spoke at the rally thanking the organizers and attendees while reinforcing his stance against Paramus High School’s dismissal of Drumgoole. NJ.com quoted him:  

It seems to me she was fired because of her sexuality… We don’t see schools letting people go because they’re divorced and remarried or living with someone

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Laura Knittel of Hoboken Pride

Laura Knittel of Hoboken Pride, also spoke at the rally saying:

Change is here, it can happen, it has happened, it will happen… Let’s pray for the archbishop. Father Warren, you’re work has just begun in a whole new chapter of your life.

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Michael Billy of Jersey City Pride

Michael Billy of Jersey City Pride noted:

We the people have a god-given right to stand up for what we know is right… This archbishop is vastly out of touch with what is going on in the world.

Joyce Flinn, a parishioner at Saints Peter and Paul and a supporter of Hall, spoke about Archbishop Myers’ decision, telling a reporter, “This is a terrible outrage… I appeal to this archbishop to retire.”

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Fr. Hall being interviewed at the rally

Hall explained in a video interview (see below) from NJ.com that while he understood the rationale behind Myers decision, which was reported as being based on breaking the vow of obedience, Hall insisted that he never actually spoke against the church or church teaching.

In the video, Hall explained:

I think by being involved with the groups I was involved with, who are viewed by the archbishop and some church leadership as being opposed to Catholic teaching, I think in that regard they believe i am being disobedient because in a letter or notice that the archbishop sent out last year, you know, he made clear that groups that have positions opposite of the Catholic Church, we should not be involved with.

Hall clarified:

However, my belief in that is that my involvement with those groups were for positive reasons: PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gay Children. I went to those groups to talk about how God loved their children and that we should welcome their children. And so I think I see why I’m accused of being disobedient. But I don’t believe it’s disobedience because the message that I brought to those groups, in every case, was not anti-catholic.

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Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco

According to NJ.com, Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco, a gay man and parishioner of Saints Peter and Paul Church, read Mary Oliver’s poem, “Sunrise.”

You can die for it —

an idea,

or the world. People

have done so,

brilliantly,

letting

their small bodies be bound to the stake,

creating

an unforgettable fury

of light.

DeFusco concluded with his own words, saying, “Thank you, Father Hall.”

While instances of retaliation against LGBT workers in Catholic organizations and LGBT-supportive priests continue, the support of communities to those discriminated against is truly encouraging. When Catholics gather together in support of their LGBT and LGBT-positive family, we find new life in our faith. For those who support Fr. Warren Hall or other dismissed church workers, being at a rally or signing a petition is an authentic way to live their faith.


Critique of Birth Control Ban Paves Way for Okaying Same-Gender Relationships

September 24, 2016

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 24, 2016

Sometimes, you have to be grateful for the opposition.  They are often the best source for learning important news about positive Catholic LGBT items—though, of course, they don’t see these news items as very positive. This week, I learned about an important statement by an international group of moral theologians and physicians only because I read a news story about a group of conservative scholars who opposed the statement.  News about the progressive statement did not, at first, make big news, so it had not come to my attention until the conservative group opposed it.

The progressive statement to which I am referring is known as the Wijngaards Declaration, and its focus is to oppose the magisterial condemnation of what is referred to as “artificial contraception.”  The declaration takes its name from the Wijngaards Institute, a London-based Catholic think tank, which organized and released the statement.   The report, whose official title is “Promoting Good Health and Good Conscience: The Ethics of Using Contraceptives,” does a careful and specific critique of Humanae Vitae (HV), the 1968 encyclical which re-affirmed the magisterial opposition to couples using birth control.  A summary of the 20,000-word report can be found by clicking here (and it is very readable, so highly recommended).

While the declaration does not mention LGBT topics directly, it is important for Catholic advocates of LGBT issues to be aware of because it contains some critical theological arguments that could be used to advance the Church’s approval of same-gender relationships.

First, a little background as to how these ideas are connected.  In Catholic teaching on both birth control and same-gender relationships share an important common argument:  the magisterium’s claim that the natural order dictates that all sexual activity be open to procreation.  So birth control is not permitted because, depending on the method, it prevents the union of sperm and egg.  Likewise, homosexual relationships are not permitted because they are biologically non-procreative.

The Wijngaards Declaration very convincingly challenges HV’s idea that the natural order reveals that all sexual activity is designed for procreation.  In simple, though technical, language, the Declaration points out an important error in HV’s argument:

“HV’s argument is that because the biological ‘laws of conception’ reveal that sexual intercourse has a ‘capacity to transmit life’ (HV §13), each and every act of sexual intercourse has a ‘procreative significance’ (HV §12) and ‘finality’ (HV §3), and an ‘intrinsic relationship’ to procreation (HV §11).

“This misinterprets the biological evidence. The causal relationship between insemination and, on the other hand, fertilization, implantation, and ultimately procreation, is statistical, not necessary. The vast majority of acts of sexual intercourse do not have the biological ‘capacity’ for procreation, and therefore they cannot have procreation as their ‘finality’ or ‘significance.’ “

Their critique dispels the notion that all sexual activity is “naturally” procreative.  By pointing out that a great number of acts of sexual intercourse do not result in procreation indicates that it is not in God’s design for sexual activity to so intimately connected to procreation that all sexual activity must be open to it.

The report also argues that Scriptures reveal that it is not a requirement for all sexual activity to be open to procreation.  Instead, other motivations exist which would make sexual activity morally approved.  The report states:

“The Bible identifies a variety of morally worthy non-conceptive motives for engaging in sexual intercourse. This is confirmed by evolutionary biology and modern sociological surveys, among other disciplines.

“Those non-conceptive motives for sexual intercourse include pleasure, love, comfort, celebration and companionship. They are morally worthy even without the concurrent occurrence of either a ‘procreative significance’ of the biological ‘laws of conception,’ or the agents’ procreative intention.”

A third critique refutes the argument from authority that church officials often use to condemn birth control and same-gender relationships.  This argument from authority is often stated along the lines that the Church has always condemned these activities, so there can be no change towards approving them.  The Wijngaards report observes that this kind or reasoning raises the teaching on birth control (and, by extension, this could also apply to same-gender relationships) to the level of an infallible teaching—which it clearly is not.  The report states:

“. . . [A]ccording to Catholic theology, for a doctrine – including a moral doctrine – to be able to be defined infallibly and thus irreformably it must be either revealed or required for the defense or explanation of revealed truth (Cf. CDF: Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973), DH 4536 [AAS 65 (1973) 401]). If it is not, then it cannot be defined infallibly.

“The teaching that using ‘artificial contraception is an intrinsic wrong always and everywhere is not revealed, nor has it ever been shown to be essential for the truth of the Christian revelation. Accordingly, it cannot become the object of an infallible definition.

“Hence, the appeal to a supposed constant tradition of magisterial teaching on the subject cannot by itself settle the question and foreclose the discussion, because the requirements for an infallible definition are not met.”

The report also argues that the use of contraceptives helps the common good by promoting women’s health, by preventing the spread of HIV, and by providing for better care for children and their development, among other things.  This argument for the promotion of the common good has also been used by theologians to argue for the approval of same-gender relationships. In the latter case, theologians argue that since healthy and committed same-gender relationships provide increased personal benefits to the spouses, the common good also benefits because the spouses can often better contribute their gifts to society.

In the conclusion, the Wijngaards report notes that the reasoning they applied to contraception can be applied to other topics, including some related to LGBT issues.  They note that the process of consulting science and reason, as well as paying attention to people’s experiences must also be followed in the future development of church teaching on sexual matters.  The report states:

“In societies such as the Catholic Church there are many specialized and complementary domains of expertise. The collaboration between those different domains is important for the common good of the society.

“Therefore, we recommend that the Catholic magisterium seek the opinion of Christian theologians and experts in other relevant disciplines with regard to the ethics of using modern non-abortifacient contraceptives for the purposes of family planning.

“We also recommend that their opinion be sought on the other areas of Catholic sexual ethics which will likely be affected by a revision of the present teaching banning the use of contraceptives for family planning, namely the negative evaluation of masturbation, homosexual relationships, and in vitro fertilization.

“Regardless of the consultation process adopted, the opinions gathered should be independent, representative of the majority view of the pertinent academic communities, and made public.”

Of the 143 international Catholic scholars who signed the report, seven of them have spoken at New Ways Ministry’s educational events:  Christine Gudorf, Joseph Selling, Gregory Baum, Sidney Callahan, Rev. Charles Curran, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, and Susan Ross.

The Wijngaards report is a major step forward in the discussion of Catholic sexual morality.  Its implications reach far beyond just the discussion of birth control.  Perhaps that is part of the reason why the conservative backlash against it was so swift.  It is as if they seem to recognize that a change in this one area of teaching could affect a myriad of change in other areas as well.  Wouldn’t that be great?

 


Polish Bishops Warn Against “Sinful Fancies” as Catholics Seek LGBT Rights

September 23, 2016

przekazmysobieznakpokoju-655Polish Catholic bishops are strongly  criticizing a  new reconciliation campaign designed to build bridges between the Church and the LGBT community.

Earlier this month, the “Let’s Exchange a Sign of Peace” campaign was launched by several Polish LGBT groups, including the “Campaign Against Homophobia” and “Faith and Rainbow.” The campaign, which has the support of Catholic media, features billboards “depicting clasped hands — one with a rainbow bracelet and the other with a Catholic rosary,” reported the National Catholic Reporter.

There are plans, too, for meetings across Poland between Catholics and LGBT advocates, to remind the country’s faithful that foremost in church teaching is “the necessity of respect, openness and willing dialogue with all people, including homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals [sic].” These efforts have been joined by a group of Catholic parents with LGBT children who appealed earlier this year for  Pope Francis to speak out against the hatred their children experience.

Poland’s bishops are pushing back against these mounting efforts. The Polish Episcopal Conference released a statement “attacking Wiez, Znak and Tygodnik Powszechny [Catholic media outlets] by name, and rejecting claims that the Polish church was homophobic.” It said specifically of the ad campaign featuring hands held in a sign of peace:

“But if extending hands to others means accepting the person, it never means approving their sin. . .Members of a community gathered in the liturgy have a permanent duty to be converted, and meet Gospel demands by turning away from their sinful fancies. We fear this action, extracting the extended hand gesture from its liturgical context, assumes a meaning incompatible with the teaching of Christ and the church.”

This statement was backed by individual statements from Cardinals Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw and Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, the latter of whom said Catholic LGBT advocates were “falsifying the church’s unchangeable teaching.”

But, importantly, several Catholic media outlets in Poland remain committed to being spaces where questions of gender and sexuality can be openly discussed, and progress is happening. Dominika Kozlowska, editor of Znak, said “the bishops’ reaction is only a first step — what matters is that they’ve now felt it necessary to take up a position on LGBT issues,” including acknowledging, even in a rudimentary but novel way, that LGBT people deserve to be respected.

Catholics will keep the conversation going, Kozlowska said, urged on by the example of Pope Francis who visited the country in July for World Youth Day celebrations. Continuing the conversation necessarily includes church leaders, as NCR reported:

“Having refused to recognize homosexuality as a genuine orientation, and seen it only as something sinful, Poland’s Catholic bishops now have to consider the subject more carefully.

” ‘The institutional church must start offering adequate pastoral support for this part of our society, rather than just treating these issues ideologically,’ the Znak editor told NCR. ‘I think Francis is offering a way out of the deadlock, by proposing new ways of thinking, acting and speaking, and giving a new quality to church reflections. This is something quite new for Poland, and conservatives and progressives here should all learn from it.’ “

Editors from the three Catholic publications criticized by the bishops said they were not pushing a political agenda, but questioning whether LGBT people’s pastoral needs were being met. They wrote in a joint statement:

” ‘Our involvement as media patrons of this campaign was aimed solely at stressing those elements of church teaching which are little known and disseminated in Poland. . .Polish Catholics have now received a clear call from their pastors to treat homosexual brothers and sisters with dignity and respect. If our involvement in this campaign was improperly understood, perhaps this was a felix culpa, or fortunate mistake.’ “

Studies reveal that Poles are asking more questions and breaking away from issues once considered settled in the highly Catholic country. Faith and Rainbow, a group for LGBT Christians, prompted conversations at World Youth Day by hosting an LGBT Welcome Center. These latest efforts at conversation and at reconciliation should be welcomed by the bishops, instead of  allowing LGBT people and their families to be  marginalized in the church and in Polish society.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 


Gay Music Director Fired from Rhode Island Parish

September 22, 2016
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Michael Templeton

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 22, 2016

Yet another gay church worker has been fired for exercising the right to civil marriage, this time in Rhode Island.

On Monday, Michael Templeton was fired as Music Director for the Church of St. Mary in Providence. Templeton described the meeting during which he was fired as “bizarre, unprofessional, and inappropriate,” reported Go Local. He said further of the meeting, which included the parish’s pastor and a diocesan official:

” ‘What I can tell you about the conversation, is that from what I’ve read, it’s consistent with the other situations I’m aware of around the country — that they say because of the public nature of your ministry, and the inconsistency of your life choices, that we are requiring your resignation. . .

” ‘What I can say is that I am aware of Catholic educators and administrators around the country facing this — I’ve seen this happen to some colleagues in the music ministry, and they’re all heartbreaking stories. . .These are people giving their best, they’re faith-filled Catholics. It chips away a little each time.’ “

Templeton, who had worked at the Church of St. Mary for more than five years, said he was transparent about his relationship and then his 2015 marriage. He said he has “worked hard to live a life of integrity, which means never hiding,” and until now has been able to “do things that I love with the talents and gifts I have,” including music ministry in the Catholic communities for the past twenty-four years.

From 2006 through 2012, the Church of St. Mary had been administered by Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province. Templeton has been involved with Franciscan ministries since attending St. Bonaventure University, Olean, New York, and had worked at another Providence church for a time before coming to the Church of St. Mary. St. Mary’s parish had developed a reputation as a welcoming community, Templeton explained:

” ‘I came to St. Mary’s for what it is and who they welcome, whether they come from reformed lives of addiction, or come from divorce and are remarried, whatever the reason.  I want to be clear — I did not resign, I was relieved of my duties.’ . . .

” ‘My heart breaks because this brings to light what “safe” means to people. I feel this action represented more than me in my role. It represents people who have been marginalized and thought of as “less than” for a whole host of reasons.'”

The Diocese of Providence took over the administration of the parish from the Franciscan Friars two years ago. The administrative shift means the parish is now overseen more directly by Bishop Thomas Tobin, who has a very LGBT-negative record.

Parishioners and the local community have rallied around Templeton, who said he was “overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.” He added:

” ‘Friends from high school, college, have all left amazing messages.  I’m not a media person, I’m not seeking attention. I just want to open the conversation again. I hope people keep their faith, hold their heart, and keep the conversation going on this.’ “

Templeton posted on Facebook that the incident is “one moment in time and life surely goes on. God is good.” His message now is clear, reported Go Local:

” ‘People need to follow their heart. I feel strongly I give the best I can and what that means is bringing people closer to God through music. . .I pray for those people to follow their heart and conscience. The God I believe in is a merciful God. The Pope has called us to a year of mercy and I invite people to heed that call.’ “

Michael Templeton has exhibited a grace and concern for the faith community that was seemingly absent in church officials’ decision to fire him. He joins the more than 60 church workers who have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes in recent years.    During this year of mercy, may the God of mercy be with those like Templeton who have been treated unjustly and wrongly.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 60 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.


Pope Francis’ Negative Rhetoric Begins to Be Echoed Around the Globe

September 21, 2016

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 21, 2016

On Bondings 2.0, we often report on the way that Pope Francis’ positive approach to LGBT issues is affecting the way that bishops around the world have been speaking about such topics.  An article on Crux, however, tells an opposite story: that Pope Francis’ negative comments about “gender theory” and “ideological colonization” are encouraging bishops around the globe to speak similarly when marriage equality or transgender rights are discussed.

Reporter Inés San Martin looked at examples of bishops’ statements coming from Colombia, Mexico, and Spain to make the case that the pope’s ideas about gender are taking root in episcopal discourse.

Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez

In Colombia, Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota and Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, the papal envoy to that nation, have recently protested the revision of school textbooks which will include discussions of  gender identity, sexual orientation, and LGBT parenting.  Salazar’s rhetoric closely echoes statements by Pope Francis:

“ ‘We reject the implementation of gender ideology in the Colombian education, because it’s a destructive ideology, [it] destroys the human being, taking away its fundamental principle of the complementary relationship between man and woman,’ Salazar said.

“The cardinal also said that the Church respects people with a different sexual orientation, and that as an institution it’s looking for constant opportunities for dialogue.

“ ‘Individual rights can’t go against the rights of the community,’ Salazar said. ‘What we need to accomplish is a deep respect of everyone without the imposition of ideologies.’ “

(As an aside, I would be very interested in knowing what opportunities for dialogue the cardinal seeks.  It would seem that discussing the new textbook revisions with LGBT people and with the people who are supporting the changes would be an ideal opportunity for dialogue.  It makes one wonder why he has not done so.)

The efforts of the churchmen were successful.  According to the news article:

‘The cardinal, together with the papal envoy in the country, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, met with president Santos and Parody the day after the rally. Soon after their meeting, the president said in a press conference that the country had no intention of promoting gender ideology, and promised the textbooks would be re-written.’

Cardinal José Francisco Robles

In Mexico, where marriage equality is currently an issue of national debate, Cardinal José Francisco Robles of Guadalajara, who is also president of the nation’s bishops’ conference, has also used Pope Francis’ concept of “gender ideology” to bolster opposition to the proposed federal law.  Robles stated:

“The future of humanity is played in marriage and the natural family is formed by a heterosexual couple.

“The proliferation of the mentality of gender ideology moves with a flag of acceptance, promoting the values of diversity and non-discrimination, but it denies the natural reciprocity between a man and a woman.”

Bishop Demetrio Fernandez

The example from Spain concerns remarks made by  Bishop Demetrio Fernandez in opposition to a proposed law which would criminalize hate speech against LGBT people.  Fernandez called the proposed law “an attack on religious freedom and freedom of conscience.”  In a later interview, he strongly echoed what are probably the harshest language Pope Francis has used to discuss an LGBT topic.  In an interview, the pontiff compared gender theory to nuclear arms. Fernandez statement echoing this metaphor is:

“[G]ender ideology is an atomic bomb that wants to destroy Catholic doctrine, the image of God in man, and the image of God the Creator.”

It is definitely disturbing that bishops are echoing the pope’s negative language on these topics.  More disturbing, though, is the fact that the pope’s and these bishops’ words reveal an immense lack of information on gender and transgender people.  For instance, the Crux article quotes Pope Francis as saying “gender theory is an error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion,”  and that this view of gender is one reason why “the family is under attack.”

If the pope and bishops would listen to LGBT people’s experience, they could understand that what they claim is “theory” and “ideology” is actually a very human and holy phenomenon.  They would also realize that LGBT advocates are not attacking anything, but just trying to help people live whole and full lives. Far from attacking the family, the experience of families with LGBT members shows that acceptance of these realities can promote family harmony, unity, and strength.  LGBT people are not enemies of the church, but faithful members who can help it grow.  Since LGBT people’s experiences are lived realities, it seems that the only people promoting “theory” and “ideology” in these discussions are the those who insist that gender binaries are set in stone.

 

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Related posts:

Bondings 2.0: Putting Pope Francis’ “Ideology of Gender” Comments in Context

Bondings 2.0:  Pope Francis’ Remarks on Gender in Schools Deemed Ambiguous, Out of Touch

Bondings 2.0:  Pope’s Lament About Children and Gender Identity Reveals Serious Blind Spot

 


‘Homosexuality and Social Justice’: Archdiocese Listens to Gays and Lesbians

September 19, 2016

“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s series to educate readers of the rich history—positive and negative—that has taken place over the last four decades regarding Catholic LGBT equality issues.  We hope it will show people how far our Church has come, ways that it has regressed, and how far we still have to go.

Once a  month, Bondings 2.0 staff will produce a post on Catholic LGBT news events from the past 38 years.  We will comb through editions ofBondings 2.0’s predecessor: Bondings,  New Ways Ministry’s newsletter in paper format.   We began publishing Bondings in 1978. Unfortunately, because these newsletters are only archived in hard copies, we cannot link back to the primary sources in most cases. 

1982: San Francisco’s “Homosexuality and Social Justice” Report

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 19, 2016

In September 1982,  a group working for the Archdiocese of San Francisco released a major report entitled “Homosexuality and Social Justice” which proposed many progressive policies, including the idea that the Roman Catholic disapproval of gay sexual relationships was itself a social justice issue.

The 150-page report was prepared by the Task Force on Gay/Lesbian Issues of the Commission on Social Justice of the archdiocese, offered 54 recommendations and insights for church leaders.  According to the September 16, 1982 edition of The Monitor, the archdiocesan newspaper, Task Force Chairperson Kevin Gordon commented on the historical significance of the report, saying:

“This is a moment of incredible opportunity or incredible vulnerability, especially since this report comes out of San Francisco.  If not here, then where?

“We have before us a real critical moment.  We should seize the moment now.”

Indeed words like “critical” and “incredible” were not overstated.  According to The Monitor, the Commission on Social Justice began the deliberations on the report in May 1981 “to respond to an increase of anti-gay/lesbian assaults in San Francisco, and tensions within the predominantly Latino Mission District and the predominantly gay/lesbian Castro District–which border each other.”  The Commission unanimously accepted the report, which covered topics such as:  “homosexuality, social justice, and violence,”  “language–moral and political dimensions,” “spiritual lives of homosexuals,” “family,” and “homosexuals in priesthood and religious life.”

The report made 54 recommendations, some which were controversial then, and some which would still be controversial.  One significant feature of the report was that it did not accept the magisterial distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior, seeing such a distinction as irrelevant to the lives of gay and lesbian people.  The report stated:

“In listening to and learning from the real voices and real experiences of the lesbian women and gay men of San Francisco, the present Task Force did not find any sizeable population espousing an orientation/behavior distinction, that is, holding to lifelong venereal abstinence outside of marriage as being a particular value.  The values were more often attested to were the courage to search for meaning , and to report on that search.

“The Task Force heard people say over and over:  we do not experience our active sexual lives as evil, but as good, worthy of human beings, and often beautiful.  Like anything human, they are imperfect, with ambiguous and demonic aspects, selfishness, dishonesty, etc.  But our active sexual lives and loves stand out in our experience as essentially good and spirit-filled.”

But perhaps the most controversial aspect of the report was its introductory section, of which The Monitor said:

“In an introductory section subtitled, ‘The Church as Oppressor,’ the Report states that the Roman Catholic Church does not have a viable sexual ethic, not only regarding homosexuality, but also regarding contraception, divorce and remarriage and premarital sexuality.

“It says: ‘. . . the question is whether the Roman Catholic Church really has a viable and embodied sexual theology to begin with.  If the Roman Catholic Church is ever to regain credibility in matters sexual, it will need to develop an appropriately sophisticated sexual ethic beyond what it has at present.

” ‘At present its positive ethical guidance is essentially fashioned for sacramentally married people in procreative unions.  For all the others, for instance, the 50 million single people in the United States over 18, sexual options are few, if any.”

The Monitor  highlighted some of the key recommendations:

  • that Archdiocesan agencies examine how Roman Catholic agencies themselves might be conduits of oppression to lesbian women and gay men through their own attitudes and practices in parishes, schools, diocesan offices, chanceries, seminaries, religious communities and in the Catholic media.
  • that Catholic agencies develop internal programs to combat homophobia and sexism.
  • that Catholic agencies both critique and work with the criminal justice system to eliminate anti-gay/lesbian violence.
  • that organizations such as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gay (PFLAG) be given space and welcome within a parish community.
  • that the Archdiocese in concert with parish churches and other community agencies assist lesbian/gay parents and their children in working through the split-up of marriages, the restructuring of family units. . ..
  • the end of sexual orientation screening for parochial school jobs, adoption, and foster care.
  • the encouragement of gay student groups at parochial schools.
  • the admission of “self-accepting” gay and lesbian people to the priesthood and religious life.

Dr. Thomas Ambrogi, the director of the Archdiocesan Commission on Social Justice, explained that the report was “not an official statement of the Archdiocese itself, ” and that the Commission had “semi-autonomous status and . . . acts on its own initiative and conscience in studying issues in the light of the Catholic social tradition.”  Still, a Time magazine article dated October 11, 1982, had this to say about the archdiocese’s response to the report:

“Though Archbishop [John] Quinn] remained silent, the first reaction from the archdiocese emphasized the task force’s good intentions rather than accusing it of doctrinal errors or sins of naiveté. Said an editorial in the archdiocesan newspaper The Monitor: “We do not agree with many of the report’s findings and recommendations.  On the other hand, we respect the report for what it is–a working document, voicing the real feelings of real people who have had the courage to speak out.’ “

Some of the other Task Force members offered their reflections on the publication of the report:

Sister Frances Lombaer, OP:  “I previously had little knowledge of the concerns of the gay/lesbian community.  Now I’ve had the chance to hear the voices of faith-filled lesbian women and gay men and to learn of the violence that they have experienced on so many levels.  So I feel the document is important if it can contribute to the dialogue within the Archdiocese.

Father Jack Isaacs: “It’s important for the Church to be there –to listen to people directly–not be outside saying things about people.  Usually, we jump immediately to a conclusion that blots out what people are really saying instead of working it out with them.  Much in the area of homosexuality needs to be rethought.  The Social Justice Commission likes to think of itself as prophetic but it is part of the institutional Church.  The Report is one of the first papers on this topic accepted by an official Church body–an accepting f a prophetic statement by the institution.

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Editor’s reflection:

As I sifted through the news articles about this historic Report, I was struck by a few things: 1) the courage of the Task Force to speak so honestly, courageously, and boldly; 2) that an archbishop and archdiocese were courageous enough to listen to criticism; 3) that what we think of as Pope Francis’ new openness to listen, encounter, and dialogue, was actually alive and well over 30 year before he arrived in Rome.  Wouldn’t it be great if more dioceses and archdioceses would today commission similar reports on ministry and responsiveness to the LGBT community?