Support Pours in for Fr. Martin After Lecture Cancellations

Support for Fr. James Martin, SJ, has been strong after lectures by him were cancelled due to pressure from right-wing websites that criticize Martin for his new book on LGBT issues in the church.

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Fr. James Martin, SJ

Last Friday, Martin posted on his Facebook page that Theological College in Washington, D.C. had cancelled a scheduled talk by him. He also reported that two other talks in October, one for the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in New York City and one for CAFOD, the English bishops’ humanitarian aid program were canceled. All of these talks were about encountering Jesus and not LGBT issues.  For New Ways Ministry’s statement on the cancellation at Theological College, click here.

Martin said the cancellations were “a result of anger or fear over my book ‘Building a Bridge,’ about LGBT Catholics.” He continued:

“In the case of Theological College, the fears were of angry protesters disrupting their Alumni Day. In the case of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre Dinner, it was anger from some members over the topic of LGBT Catholics. In the case of Cafod lecture in London, it was not a response to any campaign but fear that my presence itself would garner negative attention, after the group had recently faced other similar problems. In none of these cases was the local ordinary–in each a cardinal–in any way advocating for the cancellation of the talk. The impetus was purely from those social media sites.

“I have asked each organization to be honest about the reasons for these cancellations. That is, I told them I did not want to lie and say, “I withdrew” or “I declined” or “I was afraid to come.”

“So I share with you as much as I can in the interests of transparency, which we need in our church. And to show you the outsize influence of social media sites motivated by fear, hatred and homophobia.”

Rightwing websites instigated the attacks on Martin, referring to him as “homosexualist” and “sodomy-promoting,” according to the National Catholic Reporter. Theological College’s rector, Fr. Gerald McBrearity, cited the “increasing negative feedback from various social media sites” because of Building a Bridge as the reason why cancellation was “in the best interest of all parties,” reported Crux.

Interestingly, The Catholic University of America’s president, John Garvey, distanced the school from Theological College’s decision. The seminary is “under the auspices” of the university, but acted apart from direct oversight in deciding to cancel the lecture, according to a statement.

Martin’s supporters rose quickly to his defense, including an outpouring of such support on social media. Jesuits Fr. John Cecero, S.J. and Fr. Timothy Kesicki, Martin’s superiors, along with the editor-in-chief of America, where Martin works, all released supportive statements. Despite the cancellations and with such support, Martin is undeterred, saying of the rightwing websites:

“[They] traffic in hatred and they foment fear. . .Perfect love drives out fear, as we learn in the New Testament. . .But perfect fear drives out love. But I’m not deterred or even disturbed.”

To ask Theological College to reverse its decision disinviting Fr. Martin, write to:

Reverend Gerald McBrearity, Rector

Theological College

401 Michigan Avenue, NE

Washington, DC 20017

Phone:  202-756-4907

Email:  olkiewicz@cua.edu

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 19, 2017

Related Articles

New York Times, Jesuit Priest Stands Up for Gay Catholics, Faces Backlash

America, Jesuit writer James Martin disinvited from talk at a prestigious seminary

Washington Post, “Popular priest disinvited from Catholic University’s seminary after protests over his LGBT book

 

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Fr. James Martin Responds to Vile Attacks with Integrity and Solidarity

Fr. James Martin, SJ, has received a variety of different responses to his recent book on LGBT issues in the Catholic church (Building A Bridge). One recent exchange on social media revealed just how harsh and childish some critics can be, and how well Martin is choosing to respond.

James Martin cropped
Fr. James Martin, SJ

Austin Ruse, who writes for the alt-right website Breitbart and is president of a right-wing organization (which used to be identified as Catholic but has since become secular) that opposes LGBT equality, attacked Martin on Twitter recently. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Ruse used harsh anti-gay slurs, and said the priest was leading lesbian and gay people to hell.

Ruse’s comments were a response to another Twitter controversy during which the conservative website CatholicVote.org had tweeted, “And then this Dominican showed up and started beating @JamesMartinSJ like a rented mule. The crowd went wild.”

But against such vile language and even the implicit threat of violence, Fr. Martin has responded with integrity and solidarity. He explained his decision to respond on Facebook:

“I almost never engage with hateful social media comments. But this time was different. For me, it represented, in the first place, the crossing of a line by a prominent Catholic website (the encouragement of violence even in a joking way is beyond the pale); and in the second, a teachable moment brought about by a slur (‘pansy’), about homophobia in our church, even in high echelons.”

In another Facebook post, Martin acknowledged that LGBT people face “hatred and contempt” every day and he hoped that through the support of community he would try to”make them feel like beloved children of God.”

Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter defended Martin as a “gifted spiritual writer” and “gentle soul,” while calling Ruse a white nationalist “fire-eater.” He stated:

“To most American Catholics, Martin is one of the sons in whom we take the most pride, a churchman who helps others grow in their relationship with the church and with its head, Jesus, a priest who makes ancient traditions accessible to modern readers. And, to those of us who have known him as a colleague, the private Fr. Martin shines with the same wit and holiness and pastoral solicitude as the readers encounter in his writing. He is a treasure and his works will be read long after the fire-eaters have been forgotten.”

MartinInclusion.jpgWinters’ defense of Martin is especially important since the columnist disagreed with parts of the priest’s book.  Winters said Building a Bridge was “not my favorite book” on homosexuality, and like other reviewers quibbled with Martin’s decision to forgo any discussion of sexual ethics. Winters also said he thinks there are theological hurdles to the LGBT discussion and “some of those hurdles may prove insurmountable.”

 

A wide spectrum of reviewers have critiqued Building a Bridge, from Jamie Manson of the National Catholic Reporter to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. But despite these critiques, Martin’s book is having an impact on the church. He has used it to breathe new life into the conversation on LGBT issues in the church, and has likely opened the eyes (and possibly hearts) of Catholics who might be less affirming of LGBT people. If nothing else, he is using his high profile platform to help eradicate in the church the kind of hate speech used by Ruse and those faithful like him. For his efforts, Winters is right: Martin will surely be remembered long after his vile critics are forgotten.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 14, 2017

Transgender Woman’s Ministry Continued Long After She Left Priesthood

If you have not heard of Nancy Ledins, who passed away in July at age 84, her story is very much worth reading if you are concerned with Catholic LGBT issues.

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Nancy Ledins leading worship

Ledins, then presenting as a man, was an ordained Roman Catholic priest for ten years. A member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, she left the priesthood in 1969 to get married to a former woman religious. Eventually the couple divorced around the time that Ledins transitioned in 1979.

In news accounts and profiles of Ledins after her transition, the perennial question of whether she was still a Catholic priest arose. Reporter John Dart of the Los Angeles Times explored this question in 1980. He wrote at the time, as reported by the Charlotte Observer this year:

“‘[Ledins] might be the first woman priest in Roman Catholic history in a technical sense. . .since she never sought to be returned officially to lay status, has never been summarily notified of such by the church and, by the usual understanding of church law, is still a priest – though not a legally functioning one.'”

The National Catholic Reporter’s (NCR) coverage agreed with this assessment, saying the first woman priest came about not through a bishop but through a surgeon. Incidentally, Ledins’ had her gender-confirming surgery on Holy Thursday when the church celebrates the institution of the priesthood.

Church officials never formally responded to Ledin’s situation, and Ledins has never challenged that silence. She told NCR that though technically ordained, “there is probably a canon somewhere that spells my demise as a priest” if she tried to celebrate the sacraments. Still, on the 55th anniversary of her ordination, Ledins prayed:

“‘Lord Father, my special thanks for the gift of ordination and ministry over the years. . .And thank you for letting me be here. Amen and amen. Alleluia.'”

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1980 Los Angeles Times piece on Ledins

Beyond any canonical questions, the spiritual testimony Ledins offered about her journey is what is most impactful. She knew in childhood that she wanted to be like her sister, saying, “I didn’t know what to call it, but I felt it.” The stress led to depression for many years. The Observer reported that after Ledins’ transition, she “was shot at, had her car bombed and was sent dead animals in the mail.”

Nonetheless, she powerfully affirmed the decision to transition. In a 1978 letter to her parents, Ledins wrote:

“‘For the first time in my life, I am running into and not from. What a healthy feeling!. . .I am now very very glad to be alive. . .My bucket of tears (and there were many) are over. The sunshine is real.'”

Years later, Ledins finally returned to pastoral ministry leadership, serving at a North Carolina church that is affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA and the United Church of Christ. Half of the congregation’s members are LGBT people. Ledins’ passing in July led many people to share the pastoral experiences they had with her. Rev. Marsha Tegard said of Ledins:

“‘She was just so welcoming and just kind of embraced me as someone just starting out on my journey. . .She told me, “It’s OK to be you. God loves you. You have a place in the Kingdom.”. . .I believe Nancy blazed the trail for people like me.'”

Another member of the congregation, Maddison Wood, said hope was found “in the lines of Nancy’s face” because “she had lived – not just survived, but lived – to old age.”

Regardless of Nancy Ledins’ canonical status in the Roman Catholic church, she was a Christian minister leading people to God until her death. Judging from her fellow congregants’ accounts, it was precisely Ledins’ courage and authenticity that made her such an impactful minister. The comment she made about her transition is a true Resurrection message: “I am now very very glad to be alive. . .The sunshine is real.”

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 12, 2017

 

British Catholics Host Gathering on LGBT Issues in the Church

British Catholics joined together last month for a national conference on LGBT issues, a gathering that was marked by “joy” according to one organizer.

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Bruce Kent, Quest chair Ruby Almeida, and Sr. Jeannine Gramick

Quest, a pastoral support group for LGBT Catholics and their families, sponsored the conference, which was titled “Act Justly, Love Mercy.” The group’s website featured highlights from the weekend, and these included:

“Two talks by Sr Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, and a notable pioneer in LGBT ministry. These talks, and the Q&A sessions that followed, raised numerous important topics meriting further exploration – which will be discussed further in later posts. [Editor’s note:  More details about Gramick’s thoughts later in this Bondings 2.0 post.]

“A highly entertaining talk by Bruce Kent, notable for his work in peace activism, who reminded us that there are important areas of justice beyond LGBT issues, that all Catholics should be concerned with – and that obviously includes a responsibility for us as LGBT Catholics, towards the wider world as well.

“Moving and inspirational liturgies, for Mass and morning and evening prayers. By great serendipity, the Gospel for the closing Mass included the parable of the mustard seed.”

Terence Weldon
Terence Weldon

Ruby Almeida, the chair of Quest, said the conference was marked by a great deal of joy.

Terence Weldon, who blogs at Queering the Church, reported on Gramick’s talks as well as his interview with her. Questioners asked Gramick how they could advance positive change in the church. She emphasized personal relationships, and the need for LGBT Catholics and their allies to continue to take the initiative in reaching out to church leaders.

In response to Weldon’s question about Pope Francis and church doctrine. Gramick answered that the pope’s actions de-emphasized the importance of doctrine, particularly those teachings related to sexual ethics. Francis prefers to emphasise Jesus and his offer of salvation. Weldon commented on Gramick’s response:

“In this way, the message that Pope Francis is sending to LGBT Catholics, is more powerful than the hurtful doctrine that has so dominated what we have heard from the institutional church in the past. The question then arises, while the hurtful and damaging doctrine remains in place, who are we who are LGBT Catholics, to respond? Sr Jeannine offered here an analogy from American football (or from rugby, where it works equally well: Pope Francis is playing defence, against the damage of existing doctrine. To see real change, it is up to us to run with the ball.” [Editor’s note:  Sr. Jeannine attributes the football analogy to Father Bryan Massingale, a U.S. theologian who offered that image at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium in April 2017.]

The July conference is but one of Quest’s many initiatives to help support LGBT Catholics and their families in Great Britain.  Congratulations to Ruby, Terence, and the entire group for a successful event!

For more information about Quest, click here. For Terence Weldon’s blog, Queering the Church, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 3, 2017

 

 

 

Hate Speech in Australia Marriage Debate a Moment for Catholic Reflection

The Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry (RCIA), a coalition of LGBTI affirming Catholic groups and pastoral organizers, this past week released a statement of concern about harsh messages that have begun appearing in the lead up to the nation’s non-binding plebiscite on marriage equality this fall.

rcia-logo-official-v1On last Thursday, Bondings 2.0 reported on a neo-Nazi poster bearing hate speech that appeared in Melbourne. The poster cited a Catholic priest’s discredited research that claims children with same-gender parents suffer disproportionately higher rates of abuse and addiction than those raised by heterosexual parents.

We also reported on Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart’s threat that he would fire church workers who entered civil same-gender marriages should that become a legal option. Archbishop Timothy Costelloe has since clarified those remarks, though not before a major Catholic healthcare provider released a statement affirming its LGBT employees.

Though Australians overwhelmingly support marriage equality, the plebiscite has instigated an increasingly harmful debate. That is why RCIA released both a peaceful guide for forming one’s conscience on the issue, and appealed for civility and respect especially from church leaders. Its statement said, in part:

“We are acutely aware that suggestions that LGBTI people are in some way campaigning against the rights of other Australians is both deeply hurtful and victimizes the already marginalised. Because of this, some LGBTI Catholics feel disheartened. They are disappointed and confused that some of their spiritual leaders seem not to realise the pain they cause by their language.

“Many have expressed shock and distress over the disturbing collaboration by some church leaders with the Coalition for Marriage whose position implies LGBTI people are to blame for demanding their civil rights. For many this has been very difficult and has caused harm. As is always the case, harm experienced by LGBTI people is also reflected in their families, friends, colleagues and allies.”

The voting guide asked Catholics to form their consciences by thinking about church teachings on inclusion and non-discrimination. It also rejected claims that marriage equality would threaten the church’s teaching on sacramental marriage or impair religious freedom. The guide included these points as well:

“v)  To reflect on what social justice means in the context of the appalling history of violence and abuse against LGBTI persons both in the church and in civic society. . .

“vii)  Consider the human rights of LGBTI people to have equal access to society’s civil institutions including civil marriage.

“viii)  To consider as Catholic Christians how you can protect and support LGBTI persons and their loved ones from discrimination, prejudice, harm and abuse.”

At least one bishop has endorsed the idea that Catholics should vote and follow their conscience. Bishop Michael McKenna of Bathurst said, as quoted in the Daily Liberal:

“Catholics will be informed by their beliefs in marriage according to their faith and that will lead some to vote no but others might say that this is what I believe as a Catholic but for various reasons vote yes. . .I think there are different opinions about changing the law on marriage among all people.”

Two weeks agoBondings 2.0 reported on the central role which Catholic voices are playing in Australia’s ongoing debate over marriage equality. In a moment when right-wing extremism is resurgent in the world, these damaging incidents in Australia are a moment to pause for reflection, and focus on appeals to conscience.

Church officials like Archbishop Hart, along with other prominent Catholics like former prime minister Tony Abbott, a marriage equality opponent, should ask what their impact is on LGBT people’s lives when they promote harmful misinformation and discredited science. They should consider the message of Bishop McKenna that respects the agency of Catholics who properly form and live by their conscience.

All Catholics should consider whether the Church’s mission is to stymie equal human rights for all people or to firmly resist hate in every place and in every moment where it surfaces. Do we really want to be a church where bishops threaten devoted LGBT church workers while remaining silent about hate speech targeting LGBT people?

As we reflect on these questions, and as Australian Catholics form their consciences on marriage equality, the Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry gives us these words to pray for Australia and every place where extremists are a threat to LGBT people:

“We pray that the weeks leading up to the survey will be a time when respect and listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit will reign over rhetoric and ideology that can damage the human spirit in each person.”

Amen.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 28, 2017

AIDS Memorial in New York May Be Dismantled Due to Parish Closing

A Catholic parish in New York City that contains the one of the first public memorials to HIV/AIDS victims is being closed, and there are questions about what will happen to the church building which contains this memorial as well as other historic artifacts.

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AIDS Memorial in St. Veronica’s Church

Michael O’Loughlin of America reported on St. Veronica’s Church in Greenwich Village, which is scheduled to close this year. The church was, in O’Loughlin’s words, an “unlikely focal point” for gay men and their loved ones in the 1980s. The relationship between the gay community and the Catholic Church at the time was almost non-existent. He continued:

“But three decades later, with the AIDS crisis under control and changes in attitudes toward religious practice, about 200 people gathered inside that building on July 23 to bid farewell to the Church of Saint Veronica. Even as the church prepares to shutter for good, questions remain about what will happen to its many artifacts, including a humble AIDS memorial that historians say is one of the first public memorials to victims of the plague years in New York.”

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, said St. Veronica’s location on Christopher Street positioned it at “the center of the L.G.B.T. community in New York,” and therefore it was “impacted quite heavily by the AIDS crisis.”

Berman described the parish’s evolving response to the crisis surrounding it. In 1985, Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s nuns, opened one of New York’s first AIDS hospice centers in the rectory. In 1990, Monsignor Kenneth Smith, pastor, connected with the local gay community to see what support he could offer. He shared with America that few clergy would accompany people dying from AIDS, but that did not stop his ministry:

“‘It was like to ministering to anyone else who’s dying from a disease. If you were a priest, you’d understand what I mean. . .They’d go to a hospital. I visited them in the hospital. I administered the sacraments. I’d be with them when they died. I would celebrate their funerals.'”

According to parishioner Terri Cook, St. Veronica’s efforts stood out because elsewhere the institutional church in the city “had shut out most of the AIDS victims.” She added that “[t]he cathedral was sealed to them.” Even at the Greenwich Village church, parishioners were not universally accepting of the Missionaries’ and Monsignor Smith’s ministries. Continuing to accompany people with HIV/AIDS against harsh critics was “extremely difficult,” Smith said.

The AIDS memorial opened in 1991, accompanied by an interfaith prayer service for people dying from AIDS that happened each year until 2015. O’Loughlin wrote:

“A few years later, in 1991, the church installed the memorial, a series of plaques with the names of men who died from the disease drilled into the choir loft. A small table with fresh flowers and a lone candle completed the memorial.

“For many, this out-of-the-way memorial, somewhat hidden up in a choir loft, was one of the few places where they could grieve the deaths of loved ones. Ms. Cook said she often witnessed individuals climbing the rickety wooden steps leading up to the memorial.

“‘It was the saddest thing you’ve ever seen. You just wanted to cry,’ she said, recalling the mothers, in particular, mourning the loss of their dead sons.”

Because it has protected status as an historic landmark, the church building will remain largely as it is but there is no clear vision about what happens to it besides preservation. Local Catholics “are appealing to the Vatican to keep St. Veronica’s open as a worship site,” and this would hopefully include retaining the AIDS memorial. If the church does close entirely, Joseph Zwilling of the Archdiocese said of the memorial’s items, “items of sacred, historical, or financial value are assessed and stored for possible future use in other churches.”

The parish is terrific model for what Pope Francis has called for the church to practice: encounter and accompany marginalized communities. Fr. Smith and parishioners observed the immense AIDS-related pain around them in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and then responded with compassion and without judgement to what was most needed.

The HIV/AIDS memorial has both historical and spiritual value that should be preserved. More widely, the people of St. Veronica’s witness remains instructive for our church today. This model is precisely how every parish and every Catholic institution should be responding to the needs of LGBT communities today. Whether or not St. Veronica’s closes, there is no reason Catholics elsewhere should not learn from the Gospel work that had been done there and enact it in their own communities.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 25, 2017

Catholics Will Participate in Ecumenical LGBT Gathering This Fall

Leaders of the Catholic LGBT movement will join with other Christians this fall for an exciting conference on the history and future of the interfaith movement for equality.

home-featured-image-2Organizers of “Rolling Away the Stone: Generations of Love and Justice” say it will bring together an “unprecedented array of elders, saints and prophets.” The gathering hopes to preserve the stories of early LGBT Christian leaders, host dialogue about present issues, and raise the visibility of the many movements for LGBT equality in Christian churches.

More specifically, “Rolling Away the Stone” will explore how faith communities were involved with HIV/AIDS, marriage equality, and aided theological development. It will be happening October 31st to November 2nd in St. Louis.

Several Catholic leaders will participate, including DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke who is on the ecumenical planning team. Others include:

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, who began pastoral outreach to the lesbian/gay community in 1971. In addition to helping to found Dignity chapters in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., she started New Ways Ministry in 1977, with the late Father Robert Nugent, to be a national bridge-building ministry between the sexual minority community and the Church. . She has continued writing, speaking, and educating on LGBT Catholic issues since then. Sr. Jeannine was censured by the Vatican in 1999, but in conscience chose not to collaborate with her own oppression and continued her ministry.

Mary Hunt is a married lesbian theologian who co-founded, with her wife Diann Neu, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER) and participates in the Catholic women-church movement. She is a prolific scholar, having written several books and many articles at the intersection of feminism and religion. She has written chapters in books that include Sexual Diversity and Catholicism, Queer Christianities: Lived Religion in Transgressive Forms, Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religion: Problem and Prospect.

Jamie Manson is the only out queer women in Catholic media, serving as books editor at the National Catholic Reporter where she also writes the award-winning column, “Graces on the Margins.” Manson studied theology, specifically sexual ethics and spirituality, with Margaret Farley at Yale Divinity School. She also speaks and gives retreats on and for LGBTQ Catholics, young adults, and the church.

Brian McNaught is a married gay Catholic writer and speaker who engaged in a seventeen day hunger fast in 1974 to protest his column being dropped from a Catholic newspaper after he had come out. Two bishops in Detroit promised to support gay Catholics as a result of McNaught’s fast. He also helped found Dignity/Detroit, worked in Dignity’s national office, and help secure the passage of a pro-gay resolution at the 1976 Call to Action conference. He authored several books, including A Disturbed Peace – Selected Writings of an Irish Catholic Homosexual.

Bernard Schlager is the Executive Director at The Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies (CLGS) at Pacific School of Religion, and is a professor, as well.

Nickie Valdez is a married lesbian Catholic who, after coming out in the early 1960’s, helped found the LGBT Catholic organization Dignity, Inc., as well as Dignity/San Antonio, the oldest LGBT organization in that city. She has also worked with several other LGBT organizations in San Antonio.

This historic gathering, which is bringing together dozens of LGBT Christian leaders needs your support. They are seeking financial assistance not only from individuals, but from faith communities. You can find out about the multiple ways to give (financial support, airline miles donations, volunteering, etc.) by clicking here.

If you have any questions, can contact the conference’s Development Coordinator (and gay Catholic advocate), Ryan Hoffmann, at ryan@rollingthestoneaway.org or 888-207-2935.

Thank you for your generosity!

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 5, 2017