A Question of Language: ‘Same-Sex Attraction’ vs. ‘Gay or Lesbian’

The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) recently featured an interview with Fr. Philip Bochanski, the new director of Courage, a ministry which promotes celibacy as the only path for gay and lesbian Catholics.  The article states that the priest reported that “the organization feels supported by Pope Francis’ encouragement to accompany those ‘with same-sex attraction’ on their spiritual journeys.”  Bochanski is quoted as saying that Francis’ language of accompaniment, “is very useful for us. It recognizes the approach we take.”

Fr. Philip Bochanski

It is noteworthy that Courage is taking direction in their pastoral work from Pope Francis, who is seen by many as having initiated on new openness on LGBT issues in the Church.  But, as the NCR article points out, the leadership of Courage does not follow Pope Francis when it comes to language about LGBT issues. The reporter stated:

“[The Courage] approach includes using a language that some might consider arcane. Unlike Francis, Courage does not use the term ‘gay, preferring the phrase ‘same-sex attraction.’ Still, the pope’s Amoris Laetitia apostolic exhortation on the family also uses the more formal same-sex attraction language.”

The language difference is not insignificant.  First of all,  for many gay and lesbian people, the term “same-sex attraction” is offensive because it does not adequately describe themselves or their personal experiences.   To call someone “a person with same-sex attraction” sounds very much like referring to someone who has a disease or condition which is different than the natural way that things should be.   Gay and lesbian people, however, do not experience their sexual identities as something irregular, but as something natural to themselves.

When Jesuit Father James Martin received New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award last autumn, he noted in his acceptance speech that the Catechism calls people to treat lesbian and gay people with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  He noted that it is a sign of respect to address people in the way in which they identify themselves.  Fr. Martin elaborated:

“. . . [R]espect means calling a group what it asks to be called. On a personal level, if someone says, ‘I prefer to be called Jim instead of James,’ you naturally listen. It’s common courtesy. And it’s the same on a group level. We don’t say ‘Negroes’ any longer. Why? Because that group feels more comfortable with other names: ‘African-Americans’ or ‘blacks.’ . . . Everyone has the right to tell you their name.

“Names are important. Thus, church leaders are invited to be attentive to how they name the L.G.B.T. community and lay to rest phrases like “afflicted with same-sex attraction,” which no L.G.B.T. person I know uses, and even “homosexual person,” which seems overly clinical to many. . . .And if Pope Francis can use the word gay, so can the rest of the church.”

In the NCR article, Bochanski is quoted as saying “A person is not defined by a sexual orientation.”  But referring to oneself as gay or lesbian does not mean that one defines oneself by that designation.  It is merely descriptive of one feature of person’s constitution.  If a man describes himself as “a tall guy,”  it doesn’t mean that he defines himself by his height.

Another problem with the use of the “same-sex attraction” language is that for many people it actually seems to emphasize sexual activity more than “gay” or “lesbian” do.  Many gay and lesbian people view their identities as being about so much more than their attractions, which is only one part of their sexuality.  Their sexual identities are also about their relationships, emotions, and personal interactions.  Their sexual identities also have a social dimension, by which I mean that lesbian and gay people have often been made to feel different or stigmatized in mainstream culture which is predominantly heterosexual.

For the NCR article, I was asked about the difference between New Ways Ministry and Courage:

” ‘The difference in approach has less to do with celibacy and more to do with the understanding of sexual orientation,’ he said.  New Ways Ministry sees gay orientation as a gift from God, not a problem that needs to be overcome, said DeBernardo.

” ‘Courage has often taken a 12-step approach to sexual orientation, seeing it as a defect in a person. We don’t believe that is an authentically helpful response.’ “

In one respect that difference is encapsulated in the difference between the terms “a person with same-sex attraction” and “a gay or lesbian person.”

The good news from this article is that Courage has officially separated itself from reparative therapy.  The reporter stated:

“Courage has evolved, taking a different position on what some call reparative therapy, through which gays are encouraged to become heterosexual. In the 1990s, Courage literature was encouraging, stating, ‘for those who really want it, reparative growth is a possibility and happens regularly.’ “

“Courage is now officially neutral on reparative therapy which, while popular in some evangelical Christian circles, is controversial in the wider counseling community.”

Even better than remaining neutral on the topic would be for Courage to condemn it outright since it has proven to be pastorally and psychologically harmful for so many people.

The article also noted another development in Courage’s policy:

“Bochanski said he is open to discussion with other ministries to Catholic gays, including New Ways Ministry, an organization which holds that gays can be sexually active and still maintain their Catholic faith. But the difference in approach makes such dialogue difficult, he said.”

It is good to know that Courage is open to dialogue.  We here at New Ways Ministry would welcome such an opportunity.  We do not see that our differences would make dialogue difficult.  Dialogue is, after all, precisely about differences.  We believe dialogue would help us understand one another better, and help our organizations minister more effectively to LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, January 11, 2017

 

 

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

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

sextro-pic
Elizabeth Sextro

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

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

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

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

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

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

8699-b
Ernest Kotkov, “Virgin Mary with the Infant”

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

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

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

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

–Elizabeth Sextro, December 18, 2016

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

Baltimore Parish Deserves Praise, Not Accusation, for Pride Month Celebration

I generally don’t like to criticize other bloggers, but when a gay-friendly Catholic parish has been wrongly accused of anti-LGBT behavior, I think it is important to set the record straight (so to speak). Such is the case with a blog post by John Becker, who writes at The Bilerico Project.  I often find Mr. Becker’s commentaries challenging and thought-provoking, but in a recent post, he oversteps the mark by making a claim that needs to be corrected.

Becker’s June 17th post is entitled “Catholic Church’s ‘Pride’ Event Smells Like False Advertising.”  In it he creates suspicion that the LGBT outreach ministry at St. Ignatius parish, Baltimore, may not be as welcoming as it makes itself out to be.

Becker became aware of an event advertisement on the Archdiocese of Baltimore website that stated:

“Embracing God’s Gifts, St. Ignatius’ Gay & Lesbian ministry, is inviting you to join us on Friday, June 13th at 7 PM in the Chapel of Grace, where we will give thanks to God for the gift of family. Through music, readings, prayer and a spirit of gratitude, we will gather to celebrate being members of God’s family. Please contact Gordon Creamer… if you are interested in participating in the planning process. All are welcome and please bring a friend! A light Reception will follow in Ignatian Hall.”

Becker noted that a link on the site led to a page which included the following description of the parish ministry:

“As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, we are called to celebrate and share the gifts of diversity of sexuality in our church today. Our organization, Embracing God’s Gifts, has been formed as an instrument for recognizing these gifts and incorporating their goodness and use into the life of our parish. Our mission is to create opportunities for the spiritual enrichment, support and inclusion of all diverse individuals, while being informed by church teaching, and to promote awareness and community building among them. We will accomplish this through a variety of endeavors that foster support, communication and social activities. We invite all to participate in this group with open-mindedness and compassion.”

These two announcements aroused Becker’s suspicion, particularly the phrase about “church teaching.”  He stated:

“Now I realize that the flyer says the group is informed by church teaching, not that it necessarily upholds it. I contacted Gordon Creamer, the aforementioned Embracing God’s Gifts organizer at St. Ignatius Parish, and left a message asking him what exactly the program tells gay and lesbian Catholics about themselves and their sexuality. I also asked whether it has any affiliation with Courage, the Catholic ‘ministry that uses a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous to encourage LGB Catholics to suppress their sexuality and live totally celibate lives. If Creamer responds, I’ll let you know.

My skepticism, however, is further reinforced by the fact that this so-called ‘Pride’ event was advertised on the archdiocesan website. The head of the Baltimore Archdiocese is none other than William Lori, a high-profile opponent of marriage equality who has spoken at events sponsored by the Family Research Council anti-gay hate group and chairs the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. If his name looks familiar it’s because he’s the prelate who said, just last week, that the American bishops would fight same-sex marriage for generations, if necessary.”

I can understand Becker’s surprise and confusion, especially since  he wasn’t able to be in touch with Gordon Creamer, who leads St. Ignatius’ LGBT ministry.  I wish Becker would have postponed writing about the announcement until he did learn more about the ministry.  The parish has long been a welcoming and accepting home for LGBT people in Baltimore. Run by the Jesuits, they hosted a Dignity chapter there for many years, even after Dignity chapters had been expelled from Catholic property in most other dioceses.

Gordon Creamer

Gordon Creamer is an excellent minister and someone who has taken many courageous steps to reach out to LGBT people to let them know that there are segments in the Catholic Church that welcome and affirm them.

Becker’s comparison of Creamer’s ministry to Courage is totally wrong.  That is not what St. Ignatius’ parish ministry is about.  Courage views a gay or lesbian orientation as a defect. Nothing about the Courage model of ministry would include “Embracing Our Gifts,” as St. Ignatius identifies its ministry.  Moreover, I don’t know of any parish ministry that uses the Courage model as a form of outreach, unless, of course, it is a parish that explicitly advertises itself as such.  Finally, no Courage group would mask one of their events as a Pride activity, even surreptitiously.

Becker was not the only blogger who was suspicious of this announcement. Joe Jervis at “Joe. My. God.”  pondered:

“There’s no mention of celibacy or ‘ex-gay’ therapy at either of the two links above, but it’s entirely possible that either or both are part of the ministry at St. Ignatius.”

I acknowledge that Archbishop Lori has a strong record of opposing marriage equality on both the local and national levels, and so seeing an event advertised on the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s website might cause one to raise an eyebrow.   But, again, further digging would have revealed what I have learned from many Catholic LGBT advocates in Baltimore:  that Archbishop Lori seems to be open to pastoral ministry that integrates LGBT people into the parish community.

The fact that Gordon Creamer and the St. Ignatius community were able to have this event advertised on the archdiocesan website is a sign of a major step forward that needs to be celebrated, not an indication of pastoral deceit lying in wait.

I sympathize somewhat with Becker’s befuddlement.  Catholic leaders have for so long been so opposed to positive LGBT initiatives that it is difficult for  us to change our expectations when something good actually does happen.  Witness the incredulity that many people experience with the positive statements Pope Francis has made.   Unfortunately, it’s a sad commentary that so many people think that Catholic=anti-gay.  Understandable, but sad.  And it’s an image that we must work hard to correct.

Indeed, the untold story for decades now is that Catholic parishes across the U.S. have been welcoming LGBT people and benefiting from their presence in the faith community.   Few journalists and political LGBT advocates are aware of this quiet growth on the grassroots level of the church.   I often tell people that one of the greatest joys of my work at New Ways Ministry has been that I have been privileged to witness and experience the courageous work of so many Catholic pastoral ministers and communities as they affirm and advocate for LGBT people and their families.

You can see the varied communities who do this outreach by checking out New Ways Ministry’s list of gay-friendly Catholic parishes.  If you know of any other parishes that pro-actively welcome LGBT people, please let us know about them through the “Comments” section of this post.

So, let’s say a “Hallelujah!” for the sign of  progress that the archdiocesan website announcement indicates.  And let’s say a prayer of thanksgiving for people like Gordon Creamer and the St. Ignatius community who do the important and courageous day-to-day outreach to LGBT people to let them know that God, and their faith community, loves them.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

Courage Workshops Face Protests in Detroit and Santa Rosa

Catholics protest the Courage workshops at Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit.

Catholics in Detroit braved the cold to protest Courage International’s presence at a local seminary, where the controversial ministry was offering seminars to discuss its view of homosexuality with priests, seminarians, and pastoral ministers. This protest is yet another incident where Catholics stood up for LGBT inclusion in the Church against Courage, which also drew criticism in Santa Rosa, California, recently from both conservative and progressive Catholics.

Courage was invited by the Archdiocese of Detroit to offer two seminars at the archdiocese’s Sacred Heart Seminary, according to the Detroit Free Press. About two hundred people came to hear about Courage’s 12-step style program for gay and lesbian people to live celibate lives.

Outside the seminary, Catholics witnessed against Courage’s harmful ministry and advocated for LGBT inclusion in the Church. PrideSource reports:

“When Tom Nelson and Linda Karle-Nelson learned that Sacred Heart . . . in Detroit was holding classes on how to minister to potential LGBT members of congregations by asking that they be celibate, the couple knew they had to do something. They rallied supporters through various inclusive faith-based organizations and held a prayer vigil in front of the church. The Nelsons also went inside for the class.

“Friday was for clergy and Saturday was for parents, educators and therapists,’ Karle-Nelson said. ‘We had 20-25 people each day doing a peaceful prayer out front. We had very positive signs and a very positive message “standing on the side of love.” ‘…

“[Nelson said,] ‘The reason Linda and I go to these things is because it is important. In our work with PFLAG and Fortunate Families we see the consequences first-hand. They are blind to how it affects LGBT people when they judge and discriminate.’

” ‘We see broken families. We see kids that are close to suicide and in depression. We see families that are torn apart. A large number of homosexual people do not come out of the closet.’ “

The Nelsons said that the seminar included psychologists telling participants that homosexuality was not natural, but the result of childhood trauma or bad parents. Karle-Nelson told the Detroit Free Press that Courage’s position demands lesbian and gay people deny who they really are. She believes these seminars were really an effort to build anti-marriage equality support in the Archdiocese if this issue arises in Michigan. The Nelsons were previously awarded for their advocacy as Catholic parents of LGBT children, and have helped lead protests in the past when the Archdiocese has failed the LGBT community.

Meanwhile, conservative Catholic media criticized Courage for hosting Joseph Sciambra at a program in Santa Rosa, California. Sciambra is a former gay pornography actor who no longer identifies as gay and endorses what many believe is a a form of ‘reparative therapy.’ According to The Press Democrat, he has said being gay is “tantamount to imprisonment of the soul within the disorder” and that certain gay sexual activities release “into the world these rare demonic entities.” Conservative voices criticized Courage for hosting someone formerly involved in the pornography industry. The news report on the program also contained local progressive Catholics who objected to the Courage approach.

In both Detroit and Santa Rosa, the Catholics standing for LGBT people’s dignity would likely the words of Tom Zerafa, who was part of the protests in Detroit and told The Times Herald:

“I’m out here this week on behalf of the GLBT community. Our relationships are valid. Our relationships are full, they’re life-giving, they’re affirming. Our sexuality is a gift of God and it should not be tampered with. Our sexuality is also not just a gift from God, but it’s a way that we give back our lives to God and to humanity.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Was Banning the Legion of Mary the Best Possible Response to Their Anti-Gay Message?

National University in Galway, Ireland

A state-run university in Ireland has banned a campus chapter of the Legion of Mary from the school after the group posted posters inviting students to become part of the Courage movement, a Catholic ministry to lesbian and gay people which promotes chastity and has been known in some instances to promote reparative therapy to attempt to “change” a person’s sexual orientation.

Officials from the National University in Galway said they made their decision because of the school’s “pluralist ethos” and its policy of “protecting the liberty and equality of all students and does not condone such behaviour” according to The Journal.ie.

RTE.ie reported that the poster’s message invited students with ” ‘same sex attractions’ to ‘develop an interior life of chastity … to move beyond the confines of the homosexual label to a more complete identity in Christ.’ ”

The Guardian news report offered some background as to why the university came to its decision:

“The university said it had reviewed the actions of the society in the context of the college’s code of conduct and policies governing harassment. It said this led to the immediate suspension of the Legion of Mary, which is understood to have only a few members in its college society.

“The societies chairperson at the university, Patrick O’Flaherty, said he had been contacted by a number [70] of students who were upset or felt threatened by the content of the poster.

“In a statement, the university said it would not condone the production and dissemination of any material by students that discriminated against other students.”

The Legion of Mary’s response to the university’s action is curious.  On one hand, according to RTE.ie:

“Representatives of the Legion did not respond to an invitation to attend a meeting to consider the issue.”

Yet, on the other hand, the same news story reported:

“However, after the suspension was imposed, a committee member did write to the group apologising for any distress that had been caused.

“She said the content on the document had been taken directly from a website. It was not aimed at attacking any person or group of people and was not intended to hurt or offend.”

Yet, the group also had a bit of a rocky history in regard to its application to become a recognized society on campus, according to RTE.ie:

“The group had applied for status as a college society in September of this year and at one point had around 100 members.

“As part of the application to become a fully-fledged society, its committee was asked to provide information as to its aims and objectives.

“This did not happen. Concerns about the lack of clarification contributed to the decision to suspend the society.”

London’s Telegraph newspaper published an essay on this controversy by Padraig Reidy, a senior writer at the Index on Censorship. While Reidy is not sympathetic with the Legion of Mary’s views on homosexuality, he defends their right to express their views on a campus.  He wrote:

“. . . [W]e are in a curious position where a non-violent, non-intimidatory message from an orthodox Catholic position has been banned from a university campus. Without a trace of irony, the university claims that it is ‘committed to protecting the liberty and equality of all students.’

“The university Legion of Mary has said it was not their intention ‘to offend or upset any person or group of people.’ It probably wasn’t. In their own weird little way they probably genuinely think they’re offering real ‘support’ for gay people.

“But it doesn’t matter whether I, or the university authorities, agree with their idea of support or not. The issue at stake here is that they have peacefully put forward their views, without threat or abuse, and have still been punished, with even evidence of the Legion’s student society status removed from NUI Galway’s website.

“Universities are meant to be places where people learn to argue and find their way as adults. How this can happen when students are “protected” from even the slightest controversy, I really don’t know. Believers in intellectual and religious liberty should start praying for the Towers of Ivory.”

There are a lot of issues in this story which can be seen as black and white.  Was the university correct in banning the group or was this censorship, as Reidy claims?  Did the punishment fit the offense?  Was it LGBT students or Catholic students who were experiencing discrimination?

While I do not condone the message of the Legion of Mary’s posters, I wonder if perhaps there could have been a teachable moment here.  The fact that the Legion of Mary apologized shows there might be some opportunity for discussion with them. Perhaps a meeting between the Legion of Mary students and LGBT students would have helped to develop toleration and respect.  The recent example of Providence College, a Catholic school in Rhode Island, is instructive here.  When that school’s administration cancelled a public lecture by a pro-marriage equality speaker,   students on campus organized an evening of discussion and dialogue about the case, which resulted in a re-invitation to the speaker for the spring semester.

As the world mourns the death of Nelson Mandela, let us remember one of the greatest institutions he established was South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up for victims of apartheid to tell their stories, but also to foster healing for that wounded nation.   I think the Catholic community, and all communities that struggle with LGBT issues, such as the National University in Galway, would do well to follow Mandela’s model.

–Francis DeBernardo,

 

Group Asks Cardinal Not to Say Mass for Catholic Conference

A controversy is brewing in Chicago this week, as the annual national conference of the Courage ministry opens today.  Courage is a Catholic ministry to lesbian and gay people which stresses celibacy, and which sometimes has been accused of encouraging reparative therapy to change sexual orientation.

Cardinal Francis George
Cardinal Francis George

The controversy this week focuses on Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, who is scheduled to preside at Mass for the gathering.  Faithful America, an organization that describes itself as “a fast-growing online community dedicated to reclaiming Christianity from the religious right and putting faith into action for social justice,” has launched a petition campaign to ask Cardinal George not to preside at Mass because of Courage’s associations with reparative therapy.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Faithful America’s Executive Director Michael Sherrad explained that the Courage program includes  two speakers who are identified with the reparative therapy movement:

“. . . the forum includes Dr. Timothy Lock and Dr. William Consiglio, who is described on the conference website as a part-time ‘Christian Psychotherapist,’ specializing in the area of Sexual Orientation Resolution Therapy.

‘Consiglio also is the author of the book “Homosexual No More.” Lock’s presence at the conference is being highlighted on the website of the controversial organization National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality [NARTH], which identifies Lock as a member.

“The association’s website says ‘clients have the right to diminish their homosexuality and to develop their heterosexual potential. The right to seek therapy to change one’s sexual adaptation should be considered self-evident and inalienable.’ ”

Courage’s leader has denied that his group has any connection with reparative therapy:

“Executive Director Father Paul Check says the organization provides spiritual support for Catholic men and women with ‘same-sex attractions’ who desire to live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

“The conference plans to hold a ‘Therapist Seminar’ scheduled for Friday. But Check said while the Courage community has members of the mental health profession, ‘their work for us and with us is not directed towards a change of sexual inclination or desire’ and emphasized that’s not the organization’s mission.”

Sherrad feels that Cardinal George’s appearance at the conference gives credence to reparative therapy:

“. . . priests and therapists will be trained in dangerous and debunked techniques that don’t cure homosexuality but do contribute to suicide and depression.

“By appearing at this conference and celebrating mass there, Cardinal George is implicitly endorsing practices that cost the lives of gay and lesbian youth.”

Sister Maureen Fiedler
Sister Maureen Fiedler

Faithful America is not the only entity opposing the cardinal’s appearance at the meeting.  Sister Maureen Fiedler, SL, who blogs at The National Catholic Reporter, wrote last week:

“Regardless of the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s teachings on homosexuality, Cardinal George should dissociate himself from these bogus and harmful medical techniques.

“In fact, he might tell Courage to get some real courage and cancel the speakers from NARTH.”

In response to the controversy,  Cardinal George sent an email to the Sun-Times, explaining his decision:

 “Courage is an organization of homosexually-oriented Catholics who support one another in their quest for holiness as homosexuals. I haven’t seen their program, but their literature speaks only of spirituality, not of therapy.

“When national Catholic organizations meet, the local Bishop is often asked to offer Mass for them. That’s the only reason I’ll be there. (It’s called loving your neighbor.)”

Cardinal George routinely goes to great lengths to distance himself from any group that supports marriage equality, because, he says, of his adherence to Catholic principles about sexuality.  Since reparative therapy is not endorsed by the Catholic hierarchy or the Catholic laity, he should either avoid this conference or be willing to appear at Catholic conferences whose organizations support marriage equality.  If “loving your neighbor” is what is motivating him to attend this conference, he should show the same love to those who approach LGBT issues from a more progressive perspective.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

‘Courageous Conversation’ Effort Seeks Change in Parishes

Courageous Conversations imageThe struggle for LGBT legal equality advances in the wake of the Supreme Court’s two decisions this week and yet, for Catholics, creating equality in our Church remains unachieved. Equally Blessed, a coalition that works for equality and justice for LGBT people in church and society, is asking Catholics to engage in ‘Courageous Conversations’ to create such change.

Catholics are routinely identified in polling as supportive of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people because of a deep commitment to justice. Support comes because of Catholic faith, not in spite of it and the ‘Courageous Conversation’ effort aims at breaking the silence around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity within Catholic communities. To quote Equally Blessed:

“As Catholics, we continue to take an active role in our communities, creating the kind of parishes and schools that we feel nurtured in and called to. This involves cultivating relationships by reaching out to those around us and illustrating why our faith calls us to tell our stories and those of our loved ones.

“Opening up in your community can be intimidating. Catholic institutions are often seen as unwelcoming to people who support the rights and dignity of LGBT people, but we know that many parishes and Catholic schools of all levels are supportive of LGBT Catholics and allies.”

New Ways Ministry strongly urges participation in having a ‘Courageous Conversation’ this week to break the silence. Engage with those in the pews next to you, your pastor, parish leaders and staff, school administrators, land others. If you are unsure where to start, Equally Blessed provides a few tips and a resources page available here. Start with those you already have a relationship with, be honest and personal with them, and above all make a concerted effort to listen.

What might be the outcome of these conversations? Equally Blessed provides a few words about the impact a ‘Courageous Conversation’ can have:

“ ‘Sometimes when we share stories, we do see an “Ah Ha” moment or a change of heart, sometimes it is not a complete turnaround but just a willingness to reconsider because they see the whole person.’ –Rosa

“ ‘[When we began our ministry] two and one half years ago, we could not have held a Pride weekend at St Matthew. But over these 2 1/2 years, we have taken many small steps to get where we are today. Just this past weekend, it was PRIDE weekend at our parish. Rainbow flags welcomed you, an 11′ banner announced the Pride Parade date, we sold Pride T Shirts, and members spoke after Communion asking all St Matthew parishioners to walk with us.’ – Ryan”

You can also become involved on social media by sharing this campaign on Facebook, Twitter (use the hashtag #CourageousConversation), etc. For a graphic and link to Equally Blessed’s resources, visit the New Ways Ministry Facebook page here or the Twitter profile here.

The member organizations of Equally Blessed are Call To ActionDignityUSAFortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry