Pilgrimage of Mercy Stressed Reconciliation Between LGBT People and Bishops

Last month’s “Pilgrimage of Mercy,” sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association of Notre Dame and St. Mary College, was a plea for extending mutual mercy between the LGBT community and the institutional Catholic Church.

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Piligrimage organizer Greg Bourke welcomes the participants. (All photos in this post by Glen Bradley/New Ways Ministry)

The march, which began in New York City’s Central Park, paused for a prayer rally at Columbus Circle, and concluded by participating in the Sunday liturgy at St. Paul the Apostle parish, attracted about 50 participants.   Greg Bourke, a gay Notre Dame alumnus who organized the event, explained to The Observer the intention of the program:

” ‘What we wanted to show with this pilgrimage is that being merciful and forgiving is an interactive process,’ Bourke said. ‘We extended our forgiveness and mercy to the Catholic Church, and we ask for those same things in return.’

“Bourke said the rally was meant to be ‘an expression of faithful LGBTQ Catholics.’

” ‘There are many of us, and Pope Francis has started to push that door open for us,’ he said, referring to the statements the pope has made on LGBTQ issues.”

He expressed a similar sentiment to The National Catholic Reporter:

“We are both seeking mercy from our church, and in return we offer mercy and forgiveness to all those in our Church who have not been so gracious to us in the past,” said Bourke.

The idea of LGBT people and the institutional church showing mutual respect to one another was the theme of Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s talk when he accepted New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award last Sunday.  You can read his talk by clicking here.

Bourke also recalled Notre Dame’s legendary president, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, as an inspiration for the event:

” ‘By supporting the civil rights movement among conservative circles, he [Hesburgh]was ahead of the curve in many ways,’ Bourke said. ‘Now, he is respected and admired for that courage.’

“Bourke said a main theme in the day’s speeches was the need for mutual reconciliation. 

” ‘We all need to give a little and work better at understanding each other,’ he said. ‘We need to find that area we can agree on.’ . . . 

” ‘We need someone willing to take a controversial stand, someone within Catholic leadership and the Catholic community,’ Bourke said. ‘Notre Dame could do that.’ “

The event was modeled on a similar Pilgrimage of Mercy in Louisville, Kentucky, held earlier this year.

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Phil Donahue addresses the pilgrims.

At the New York event, legendary television talk show host Phil Donahue was one of the speakers at the prayer rally.  Other speakers included: Jack Bergen, of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College; Chris Hartman of Catholics for Fairness; Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry executive director; Fr. Warren Hall, an openly priest from the Newark archdiocese who was recently because of his support for LGBT issues; Dave Swinarski, a St. Paul’s parishioner and a leader of their OUT at St.Paul’s LGBT ministry; and Holly Cargill-Cramer and Rosemary Grebin Palms of Fortunate Families.

Legendary television talk show host Phil Donahue was one of the speakers at the prayer rally.  Other speakers included: Jack Bergen, of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College; Chris Hartman of Catholics for Fairness; Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry executive director; Fr. Warren Hall, an openly priest from the Newark archdiocese who was recently because of his support for LGBT issues; Dave Swinarski, a St. Paul’s parishioner and a leader of their OUT at St.Paul’s LGBT ministry; and Holly Cargill-Cramer and Rosemary Grebin Palms of Fortunate Families.

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Francis DeBernardo speaks at rally. Pilgrim Leonard Discenza listens in background.

At the rally, DeBernardo called for greater conversation between bishops and LGBT people:

“This morning, all of us gathered here renew our call to our church, and especially to our church’s leaders, the U.S. bishops, to reject homophobic and transphobic words and deeds of the past, and instead to reach out in a spirit of mercy to LGBT Catholics who are an important but often under-recognized blessing to our Church.  And we ask LGBT Catholics to show mercy to church leaders for past harm, to offer forgiveness and reconciliation to them, just as Jesus offered forgiveness and reconciliation to Peter who denied him three times.

“In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we ask the bishops to remember the words of Pope Francis, spoken in a homily soon after his election in 2013, when he said that from Jesus ‘we do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation.’  This year of mercy is a time to begin the conversation. It’s a time for both the church’s bishops and LGBT Catholics to sit down together in humble and honest dialogue. May the Spirit of God open minds, hearts, ears, and mouths so that this dialogue can take place with understanding and charity.”

The Pilgrimage was co-sponsored by the following organizations: Catholics for FairnessGLAAD, HRC, New Ways Ministry, Equality Blessed, Dignity/USADignity/New York, Freedom for All Americans, Out At St Paul, Fortunate Families and Believe Out Loud.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 3, 2016

 

Courage Ministry Instituted in Archdiocese of Louisville

The Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, has instituted a Courage ministry which is intended to help gay and lesbian people lead chaste lives.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that the institution of such a group is not without controversy.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

While Archbishop Joseph Kurtz maintains that the group’s goal is “both to promote the dignity of every human being and promote chaste living,” others see that Courage may hurt more than it helps.

The Courier-Journal notes:

“Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, a Louisville gay-rights group, said he’s a confirmed Catholic who has avoided the church for years because of its stance on homosexuality.’It’s repressive and really unhealthy for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, to suggest one can suppress an entire part of who they are,’ Hartman said.

New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo is also quoted, noting that Courage does not employ a complete approach to the gay or lesbian person, but focuses solely on potential sexual activity:

“ ‘Courage views the homosexual orientation as a defect and as a burden rather than as a gift to be embraced and as an integral part of someone’s personality,’ DeBernardo said.

“Pastoral care, DeBernardo said, is ‘not about teaching’ but ‘about working with the person you have in front of you, in the situations they find themselves in.’ For many gays and lesbians, he said, their biggest struggles involve ‘alienation from family or integrating into society and church life.’ ”

The Archdiocese of Louisville has several gay-friendly parishes which take a more comprehensive approach to pastoral care.  The news article describes one:

“The Cathedral of the Assumption, for example, describes itself on its home page as ‘an oasis of prayer, a beacon of social justice, and a family where no one needs to be invisible because of their race, social or economic background, marital status or sexual orientation.’ ”

Courage as a ministry has been controversial because  it uses a twelve-step model to try to help people remain chaste, thus treating sexual orientation as if it were an addiction.

Moreover, even though Courage officially does not require a person to try to change his or her sexual orientation, some chapters have offered such “therapy” as an option. The Courier Journal reports:

“[Angelo] Sabella [assistant to the director of Courage] said Courage does not itself conduct therapy that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation — an approach that the American Psychological Association says is unlikely to succeed and poses ‘some risk of harm.’ The state of California in September prohibited therapists from using change therapy with minors.

“But Sabella said the group has invited advocates for change therapy to talk with Courage groups to let participants know about it. ‘It’s not for everybody,’ he said, but he did not rule out a divinely fostered change in orientation.

“ ‘If a soul really is desiring with his heart and puts forth the amount of effort and by God’s grace, maybe that person will experience opposite-sex attraction at some time, but who’s to say?’ Sabella said.

“But that view itself is harmful, DeBernardo said.

“ ‘By taking that negative view, they almost guarantee that people are going to come to want to change their orientation,’ he said.”

Bondings 2.0 commented previously on the Courage ministry back in January of this year when the Archdiocese of Hartford instituted a group.  The comment we made back then still applies:

“The main problem I see with the Courage ministry is that it primarily views lesbian/gay people in terms of sexual activity.  This approach does not consider lesbian/gay people as whole people, but narrowly defines them in terms of sex.

“Lesbian/Gay people are so much more than their sexuality, and ministry with them should address the totality of their lives.  For example, lesbian/gay people  have often suffered alienation, marginalization, and oppression, and these factors need to be addressed, too.  They are also people who have come to a remarkable and wondrous discovery about themselves that is very different from the majority of the population–a difference which should be celebrated.  Lesbian/Gay people may have experienced harsh messages from church authorities which may have affected their relationship with God which may need healing.  Most importantly, lesbian/Gay people have spiritual gifts which they long to bring to the church community, so ministry with them could focus on opportunities for them to share these gifts.

“In short, a ministry which primarily focuses on the possibility of sexual activity is a very stunted ministry.    It is a model of ministry which ignores a great deal about the human person and how they can be integrated into a community.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry