- Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic, made headlines last month when he officiated at a same-gender wedding. Several church officials criticized him for the action. DelawareOnline.com reports that a small group of Catholics staged a protest at the Diocese of Wilmington’s (Delaware) chancery, calling on Bishop Francis Malooly to “repudiate Joe Biden or resign.” Biden is from Delaware.
- A Bondings 2.0 blog post by Cristina Traina about Pope Francis’ comments on the “ideological colonization” of gender was picked up and re-distributed by Religion News Service. Traina revised the article for the new publication.
- Diane DeBernardo, who has participated in several New Ways Ministry pilgrimages, was the subject of a National Catholic Reporter personality profile that examined, among other things, her involvement in starting her parish’s LGBT outreach ministry. She is also the sister of New Ways Ministry Executive Director Francis DeBernardo.
- DignityUSA, an organization of LGBT Catholics, recently called on U.S. Senator Marco Rubio not to appear at an Orlando conference of anti-LGBT groups, which took place on the two-month anniversary of the Orlando nightclub massacre, reported Miami New Times.
- Fr. Mike Tegeder, a Minnesota priest who was a strong supporter of LGBT rights, has passed away from lung cancer. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune said he was “a vocal critic of former Archbishop John Nienstedt and the church’s attempts to block gay marriage, opposition that threatened Tegeder’s status as priest at his two Minneapolis churches, St. Frances Cabrini and Gichitwaa Kateri. He kept his bus driver’s license up to date in case he was dismissed from the priesthood.”
Three months after its release, how to interpret and implement Amoris Laetitia remains one of the most contested issues in the Catholic church today. But this ongoing dialogue, and at times intense debate, could itself be very welcome news.
The Vatican recently defended Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family through two of its affiliated publications, according to Crux.
Earlier this week, historian Rocco Buttiglione wrote a front page column in L’Osservatore Romano responding to the exhortation’s critics who claim it is not a magisterial document and that it diverges from tradition.
Elsewhere, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna gave an interview to La Civilta Cattolica in which he said Amoris Laetitia is not merely consistent with but evolves doctrine on family issues.
Critics have included Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, and Cardinal Raymond Burke, who said the exhortation was a “personal” document from the pope. Several dozen Catholics wrote a letter to 218 church leaders asking for Pope Francis to “respond to the dangers to Catholic faith and morals” which they perceive in the document. Their names have finally been made public by the National Catholic Reporter.
Much of the debate has centered around whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics should be admitted to Communion. The larger debates, however, are about establishing this document as part of the magisterium and, therefore, the assent that is due to it from Catholics. Additionally, the practical ways the document should impact pastoral care and church disciplines is also a major issue.
Theologian Massimo Faggioli said the present divide around Amoris Laetitia is between those Catholics whose “constrained view” leads them to focus on church law and discipline, and those Catholics who focus on a “renewed emphasis on conscience” as new theological and pastoral questions arise. Writing in Commonweal, Faggioli reflected on the differences in ecclesial reception between Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and Pope Francis’ exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. He noted, in particular, the way which bishops have responded to these two documents.
After Humanae Vitae, a document equally if not more controversial because it retained the magisterium’s ban on artificial contraception, bishops engaged with one another and high level officials, and even questioned it publicly. Collective responses were issued by episcopal conferences and theologians, and the debates have not yet ceased. In my opinion, this experience is largely what caused Pope John II and Pope Benedict XVI to suppress dialogue in the church and to tie episcopal appointments to matters of sexuality for thirty-some years.
After Amoris Laetitia, Faggioli wrote, the situation is quite different. Instead, there is an “episcopal, magisterial individualism” by which each bishop responds to the document almost in isolation and without collegial discourse among their regional and national peers. Faggioli concluded:
“It is clear by now that a culture of discussion and discernment must be rebuilt among the episcopal leadership of the Catholic Church, starting from the national and continental bishops’ conferences. The reception of The Joy of Love requires a true commitment to a collegial and synodal church, not just mere affect.”
Differences now being expressed about Amoris Laetitia may be the first fruits of a new period in the church, a return to episcopal debates publicly played out. Thomas Groome, a Boston College theology professor, made this point in his response to Amoris Laetitia, telling The Guardian:
” ‘The fact that he’s [Pope Francis] allowing us to talk about these things is a breakthrough. . .It was presumed it was already decided and anybody that was raising this was obviously contrary to the church.’ “
Catholic publications have repeatedly picked up on this theme of Pope Francis inviting dialogue and difference. The National Catholic Reporter‘s editors wrote:
“Francis offers the Catholic community two challenges: To live as a community with parrhesia, speaking and listening to one another with courage and humility, and then to translate the openness of papal actions and documents into pastoral discourse and compassionate action in the parishes.”
The Tablet editorial highlighted the shift to a dialogue in their headline: “Power of conscience puts laity at centre of change.” They further editorialized:
“It would be right to describe the publication of Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis as a minor earthquake, though one preceded by plenty of warning tremors. And while the Catholic Church’s foundations may have been shaken, the walls and roof are still standing. Francis was well aware when he was elected Pope that the basic weakness in the Church’s mission to evangelise was its reputation as a stern and unforgiving teacher in the field of sexual and marital ethics, something that touches people’s lives most intimately. Put simply, it did not sound like the gentle voice of a loving mother. Francis had to respect as far as possible the content of the teaching. But he could change the one thing that may matter more than content for ordinary Catholics – its tone.”
The editors of Commonweal responded:
“This is not a recommendation of laxity or relativism. It is a recognition of human complexity and an endorsement of subsidiarity, a principle not restricted to politics. Only (properly trained) local pastors can be familiar enough with the members of their flock to undertake the kind of ‘practical discernment’ necessary to apply the church’s rules without deepening the wounds caused by divorce or abandoning the already abandoned.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said the flourishing of open and honest discussions in the church is an “unintended, but very welcome” aspect of Francis’ papacy. She wrote in The Huffington Post:
“[Pope Francis’] acceptance, even encouragement, of the expression of divergent opinions represents a dramatic shift in tone from a pontiff. . .After nearly 30 years during which agreement with official Church teaching seemed monolithic among Catholic leadership, having these differences of opinion out in the open is a very hopeful sign. Now we can acknowledge that, just as there is diversity among lay Catholics in views of LGBTQ people, the same is true of those responsible for developing and implementing Church policy. While those willing to question current teaching and practice still represent a minority of Church leaders, their voices are being heard, and it is likely that others may join them in the months ahead. This could help shift the focus from the utterings of Pope Francis to a recognition that there is a community of leaders responsible for Catholic teaching and policy. And as more and more Catholics, grassroots and leadership alike, stand up for the civil and ecclesial rights of LGBTQ people and families, the cultural and political identity of Catholicism as firmly opposing gay and transgender rights will quickly crumble, further weakening efforts to maintain oppressive structures.”
While it is clear that the dialogue and debate are now happening, what is less clear is what the impact will be. Some bishops, like Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn or Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich, have welcomed the document wholeheartedly. Others, like the critics mentioned above or Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, will be obstructionist. For the rest of the faithful, this renewed dialogue and debate in the church is largely welcomed, but this path will require far more engagement from all Catholics to discern how Amoris Laetitia should impact the life of the church, especially when it comes to LGBT people and others marginalized in the church.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
Bishops in the Philippines responded to the Orlando massacre by sharply condemning anti-LGBT violence.. Their statement joins other Catholic reactions to and reflections about the Orlando attack.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) released a statement, signed by Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen Dagupan, that immediately identified the shooting as a “hate crime.” The Conference continued, according to GMA Network:
“First, this was a hate-crime — the murder of persons because of disgust for their sexual orientation. Bearing in the depth of his or her soul the image of the Creator, no human person should ever be the object of disgust. . .
“No matter that we may disapprove of the actions, decisions and choices of others, there is absolutely no reason to reject the person, no justification for cruelty, no reason for making outcasts of them. This is a project on which we, in the Philippines, must seriously embark for many are still forced to the peripheries because the norms of ‘decent society’ forbid association with them.”
Noting the Jubilee Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis, CBCP’s statement said that, “As important as it is to be right, it is far more important to be merciful!” They called for more dialogue, and for the government and all Christians to protect LGBT lives because the unity in Christ outweighs any differences. Their statement sharply contrasts with responses from many of their episcopal counterparts in the U.S. who failed to recognize the Orlando shooting as targeting LGBT people.
Terence Weldon, writing for Quest, a U.K. group for LGBT Catholics, also queried how Catholics can concretely respond, expanding the discussion to include the entire faithful:
“What are we to do, ourselves, to combat the homophobia that is is fostered within some sectors of the Catholic Church and its practice?
“We must never forget that ‘the Church’ is far, far more than just the bishops and priests, but includes all of us. When Catholic teaching tells us to oppose and condemn any form of violence or malice, in speech or in action, against homosexuals, that is a command to all of us, as individuals and collectively, as an organization. How have we responded up to now, to that command? How can we do so, in future? Is there room for improvement, in our response?”
One way the church has responded positively to the massacre in Orlando is through efforts by Catholic Charities of Central Florida to help victims and their families, reported the National Catholic Reporter. Catholic Charities has provided bilingual staff and pastoral care providers who have assisted with translation, immigration matters, burial arrangements, and counseling.
Frank Bruni, a columnist for The New York Times who is gay and Catholic, wrote that now is a time for solidarity with LGBT people. Bruni implored anti-LGBT politicians to act for solidarity, using words that could be equally applicable to the U.S. bishops, whom Bruni criticized in the column:
“Just show up. And by doing so, show that the absence of ‘gay’ or ‘L.G.B.T.’ in your statements immediately following the Orlando massacre. . .isn’t because you place us and our concerns behind some thick pane of glass with a Do Not Touch sign that stays up even when blood and tears pool beneath it. . .You want to show our enemies what America stands for? Then stand with us.”
John Freml, coordinator of the Equally Blessed Coalition, wrote in The State Journal-Register that in his Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Thomas Paprocki had been silent thus far. Freml commented:
“The silence of our own bishop, and the refusal of other Catholic bishops to even name the LGBT community, not only contributes to the continuing invisibility and marginalization of LGBT people in our church, but it quite literally results in their deaths. I am baffled at how our bishops can call themselves ‘pro-life,’ when their actions have clearly demonstrated that they do not value all human life equally.”
In the Equally Blessed coaltion’s statement on Orlando, they noted:
“While we struggle against the forces of homophobia in our church and in our society, we must also remain steadfast in our opposition to racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia in all its forms.”
LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, an outreach effort by the diocese of Westminster (London), expressed their solidarity in a statement, recalling their own origins as a response to an episode of anti-LGBT violence:
“Having ourselves been born, as a worshiping community, out of the 1999 Admiral Duncan Soho bombing when three people were killed and 83 people injured, we know only too well that such violent attacks on our communities are never far away.
“LGBT targeted hate-crimes must be recognised for what they are: assaults on the precious dignity of each human being as ‘wonderfully created as God’s work of art’ (Psalm 139). We call upon religious leaders of all faith traditions to recognise the reality of the Orlando outrage. We specifically call upon our Catholic leaders to acknowledge how the language of some official documents on sexual orientation can, in fact, incite and support those who commit such violence.”
LGBT Catholics Westminster’s statement called on Pope Francis and the Vatican to respond with concrete actions combatting anti-LGBT violence and discrimination, including “support the global decriminalisation of homosexuality, with an end to the use of the death penalty and torture for LGBT people.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, released a letter to Pope Francis about church leaders’ problematic responses. In the letter, which followed up the organization’s initial statement, Duddy-Burke wrote:
“To fail to explicitly acknowledge [victims’ LGBT identities] strips the victims, the survivors, the injured, the grieving of an essential component of their humanity. It sends a message to their loved ones and families that this part of their identity should not be named, affirmed, and celebrated as they are remembered.
“It also means that you and many other Catholic leaders have missed yet another important moment to explicitly and unequivocally condemn violence directed towards LGBT people. Vague references to ‘respect for the dignity of all people’ or other such phrases are sinfully inadequate, whether in response to the horror in Orlando, or when addressing the persecution faced by LGBT people anywhere in the world.”
Fr. Joseph McShane, president of Fordham University, New York, affirmed in a statement that solidarity with communities affected by the massacre, including LGBT ones, was not only consistent with the University’s Jesuit and Catholic identities, but necessary because of these identities :
“As a Jesuit university (and hence a university whose entire life and mission is inspired by the Gospel and its challenge to live in love), Fordham joins people of good will around the world in condemning the Orlando attack. In addition, however (and precisely because of our Jesuit identity), the University offers its heartfelt support to the LGBT and Latino communities both on campus and throughout the country. It also offers its equally heartfelt prayers to the families and friends of those who died so senselessly on Sunday morning.”
To read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of the Orlando massacre and Catholic responses to it, please click here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s new feature 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 of Bondings 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.
Since this is a new experiment, we would appreciate hearing from you in the “Comments” section if you think an occasional feature such as this is helpful to you. For other posts in this series, click here.
1990: Prelate’s order made priest wonder what has happened to the Church
After the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued its “Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” in 1986, many U.S. bishops began expelling chapters of DignityUSA from the use of church property. The ostensible reason was that the bishops believed that the groups did not follow church teaching on gay and lesbian sexual relationships. One of the chapters which eventually was expelled from church property was Dignity/Washington in the nation’s capital, which had been meeting at the Dahlgren Chapel of the Jesuit-run Georgetown University.
Fr. Timothy Healy, SJ, was the president of the university at the time, and he personally delivered the expulsion notice to the Dignity community at a liturgy. Fr. Healy, who has since passed away, was one of the leading college presidents and intellectuals of his day. From Georgetown University, he went on to another prestigious position: the president of the New York Public Library system. In 1990, Fr. Healy gave the John Courtney Murray Forum Lecture at Fordham University, New York. During that talk, he said that he felt his expulsion of the Dignity chapter was “obscene” and made him wonder “what happened to my Church.”
A Religion News Service story published in The Catholic Messenger, Davenport, Iowa, on May 31, 1990, with the headline “Prelate’s order made priest wonder what has happened to the Church,” reported on the lecture and the comment. The story began:
“The Jesuit priest who formerly headed Georgetown University said he questioned what has happened to the Catholic Church the day he was forced to tell an organization of homosexuals that it could no longer have Mass on campus.”
The story continued:
“Fr. Healy said the university chapter of Dignity, an organization of homosexuals, had been holding Sunday Masses for 15 years when he received a formal order in 1987 from Archbishop James Hickey of Washington, D.C. that the Mass had to be discontinued.”
But delivering the news was not the end of the story for Fr. Healy:
“Although he obeyed the order, he said he was haunted by a contrasting memory of 30 years earlier. As a young priest spending some time in Spain, he was asked to assist in hearing confessions for two nights in Valencia when ‘the cathedral was reserved for “las carteladas,” the city’s prostitutes. . . .
The memory of that confessional experience of listening to people who were outcast from society was with him the night he delivered Hickey’s order to the Dignity community. He said of that night:
“For the first time in my life as a priest I felt what I was doing at that altar was obscene, and with the Spanish memory strong in my mind I wondered what had happened to my Church.”
One wonders what Fr. Healy would think about the last few decades of the Church, where under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, we have witnessed an even tighter closing of the doors and shunning of anyone whose thinking might differ one iota from official doctrine. How rare it was in 1990 for a church leader to admit that he had been wrong about a negative policy regarding lesbian and gay people.
Fr. Healy’s comments were made in his lecture titled “Probity and Freedom on the Border,” which the news story described as a talk which
“. . . discussed the function of the Jesuit university as a meetingplace of Church and world. As a forum, the university, he said, ‘is full fed and draws upon the best of science, the humanities, the social sciences and the arts.”
The story continued to expand on Healy’s opinion:
“But some Church officials, like those in Galileo’s time, ‘solemnly refused to look through the telescopes for fear of what they might see,’ he said. In two recent cases the document on in vitro fertilization [a CDF instruction condemning artificial means of conception] and the first draft of a universal catechism, officials in charge of those efforts ignored Church-related academic institutions.
“Referring to the in vitro fertilization document, Fr. Healy said, ‘With five major Catholic medical centers at its disposal, Rome consulted none of them. The result is, of course, a faulty document.’ “
Healy’s comments about Catholic campuses are extremely relevant today. As Bondings 2.0 reports in our “Campus Chronicles” series, Catholic colleges and universities are often leading the way in terms of policies and programs which support LGBT students, faculty, and staff.
And despite the expulsions in the late 1980s, Dignity chapters and DignityUSA continue to thrive, bringing justice and pastoral care to those still considered outcasts.
Catholics in the future will look back on the days of struggle for Catholic LGBT equality in the 1980s and 1990s, and even up to today, and ask a similar question to Healy’s: “What happened to our Church?”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Jesuit Fr. James Martin again affirmed LGBT inclusion, saying transgender people using restrooms according to their gender identity “seems a fairly simple thing to do.” Meanwhile, U.S. bishops intensified their criticism of expanding transgender equality.
In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Martin was asked about the federal government’s new directive mandating transgender students be allowed to use gender-segregated facilities, like restrooms and locker rooms, according to their gender identity. Martin responded:
“I don’t know a whole lot about that issue, but I would say that I don’t understand the problem with letting transgender people use bathrooms that they feel comfortable in. Personally, I think it’s overblown and that people’s responses are really strange. I don’t know that much about transgender people but that’s all the more reason for us to try and treat them with dignity.
“I thought the comment from Attorney General Lynch was beautiful, that we are with you, we’re going to try to help you. Just as the church needs to treat gay and lesbians with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity,’ which is in the catechism, it should be the same with transgender people. And letting them use the bathroom seems a fairly simple thing to do.”
Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo and Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, representing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committees on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and on Catholic Education, called the federal directive “deeply disturbing” in a statement. They said the directive failed to balance “legitimate concerns about privacy and security” and “short-circuits” ongoing conversations about gender. Malone and Lucas quoted Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia which says youth must “accept their own body as it was created.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, pushed back against the bishops’ statement and their use of Pope Francis to justify discrimination:
“We believe, as do many Catholics, that our transgender kin reflect the immensity and diversity of God’s creativity. They challenge us to humbly re-examine traditional beliefs about sex, gender, identity, and human relationships, and to acknowledge the limitations of our current understanding in these areas. We urge the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to engage in dialogue with transgender youth and adults, as well as their families, so they can better understand the pastoral and practical needs of these communities.”
Fr. Martin also commented on Pope Francis’ impact on LGBT issues generally. Martin said it is “hard to overstate the impact” that Francis’ papacy has had in welcoming LGBT people. But the Jesuit priest criticized the institutional church for not providing more outreach to LGBT people, and offered three points to enhance pastoral care and improve ecclesial inclusion:
“First, by listening to their experience. Usually LGBT people are preached at instead of listened to. Second, by going out [of] their way to make them feel welcome. Third, by including them in leadership positions as anybody else would be, as Eucharistic ministers and lectors and things like that. But the first thing is listening to them. What is their experience?”
What is readily apparent from these Catholic responses to the federal directive protecting transgender students in public schools is who has listened to and come to know LGBT people–and who has not. Too many bishops have not asked themselves nor informed their ministry with the question proposed by Martin, “What are the experiences of LGBT people?” Pope Francis’ own deficiencies on matters of gender and sexuality, readily apparent in Amoris Laetitia, seem to stem from a failure to ask this question more publicly and proactively.
LGBT non-discrimination protections, for students and for everyone else, can be readily defended using Catholic teaching. But personal stories and relationships are perhaps more powerful sources for our theology and our advocacy today. So before another top Vatican official condemns trans identities as “demonic” or more U.S. bishops keep opposing LGBT civil rights, perhaps a pause for listening and for dialogue would be an appropriate next step. After that, respecting LGBT people should easily become a “fairly simple thing to do.”
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
Yesterday’s release of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family whose title translates as The Joy of Love, has provoked a tremendous amount of news reports and commentaries that will surely continue as this more than two-hundred page text is digested further.
Today, Bondings 2.0 provides an initial round-up of reactions as they relate to LGBT issues. You can read LGBT-related excerpts from Amoris Laetitia by clicking here. You can read New Ways Ministry’s response by clicking here.
Fr. James Martin, S.J. tweeted that Amoris Laetitia offered a welcome to LGBT people and set issues around sexuality and gender within a global context, saying, in two separate tweets:
“To LGBT friends: Pope says ‘before all else’ you are respected, and inveighs against violence against you–a huge challenge to Africa, e.g.”
“Good to remember that
#AmorisLaetitia is addressed to the whole world. So his comments on LGBT people are challenging to many cultures.”
Martin also highlighted the renewed emphasis on conscience present in the document. You can read Martin’s “10 Takeaways from Amoris Laetitia” in America.
“While the Pope acknowledges the complicated issues facing Catholics on the margins. . .[he] ultimately reinforces existing harmful church teaching that characterizes LGBTQI people as unable to reflect the fullness of God’s plan for humanity. Specifically, the Pope continues to condemn same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex parents, and he refuses to acknowledge the complexities of gender identity.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said many had “hoped for much more” and continued in a statement:
“While the Pope acknowledges the Church has been too rigid in other areas, there is no repentance when it comes to LGBT people. We need to see changes in teaching and practice before we can move forward. . .Clearly, Church officials, up to and including Pope Francis, still have little idea of the reality of LGBT people’s faith, lives, and family situations.”
Call to Action said in a statement that, despite the pope’s call for clergy to “see Grace at work in all life’s complicated and complex forms,” the organization was:
“. . .deeply concerned this document results in an institutional and ecclesial status quo that does not make real substantive changes in Catholic structures and practices (e.g., an end to the unjust firings of LGBT Church Workers and discrimination against women, to name only a few examples).”
Terence Weldon of Queering the Church was similarly dissatisfied with the document’s approach to LGBT issues, but saw hopeful elements as it “created the conditions for change”:
“Closer examination however, reveals some cause for optimism, certainly in the longer term. What is not said may be more important than what is explicitly stated. Most notably, there is no reference at all to the offensive term ‘objectively disordered’, or any hint of opposition to same-sex relationships (as long as they do not claim to be “marriage”). Although there is a forthright objection to same-sex marriage, this is not listed among the many problems and dangers that are said to threaten actual families, or even the institution of marriage itself.”
Commenting on Pope Francis’ renewed emphasis on the “internal forum,” Weldon added:
“Drawing on a passage from the great theologian Thomas Aquinas, the conclusion we may reach is that even though those who remarry after divorce, or who live openly in same-sex relationships, may appear to be living in conditions of objective sin, their particular circumstances may negate that conclusion.”
Michael Sean Winters, columnist at the National Catholic Reporter, commented on several aspects including the following point relevant for LGBT Catholics and their families:
“[T]he Holy Father does not believe the pastor, still less the magisterium, should tell people what to do, but that a pastor should accompany people so that they can discern God’s activity and calling in their own lives. The pastor encourages spiritual maturity, not memorization of a hodgepodge of canonical requirements.”
Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., also writing for the National Catholic Reporter, defined success for Amoris Laetitia differently than other commentators. Though he critically engaged the text’s content, he concluded:
“This is a papal document well worth the time to read and reflect on. Parts are dull; parts inspire and delight; parts will give hope; and parts will infuriate. If it brings the conversation about families out of the synodal hall and down to the parish and families themselves, then it will be a success.”
In the days to come, there will surely be many conversations at all levels of the church about how to understand Amoris Laetitia and what it means concretely in Catholics’ lives. Bondings 2.0 will be engaging these conversations and keeping our readers updated.
In the meantime, what are your first reactions to this exhortation? You can leave them in the ‘Comments’ section below.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
Employment non-discrimination protections for LGBT people are among the final obstacles to full legal equality in the United States. Such legislation is hotly disputed locally, while federal action has stalemated until at least after the 2016 elections.
Below are three recent news stories about Catholic involvement in LGBT nondiscrimination issues. Two of these stories highlight the good work being done by Dignity communities.
DC Catholics Protest Church Worker Firing
Catholics stood in solidarity with fired gay cantor Jeffrey Higgins outside the church which expelled him, Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, Maryland. Organized by Dignity/Washington in partnership with DignityUSA, the action coincided with Sunday Masses. Higgins, who was joined by his husband, Robert, and mother, Maria, explained to The Washington Blade:
” ‘We’re standing here to make sure that people in the parish know what happened, that I was fired from my job for being gay and married.’ “
Maria Higgins expressed profound sadness about the firing, but she felt “very proud of Jeffrey and Robert” and was “very proud to stand here.” Despite LGBT non-discrimination protections in Maryland, the Archdiocese of Washington has defended this discriminatory firing under the “ministerial exemption” which allows religious institutions to disregard employment laws when it comes to the hiring and firing of church ministers.
Higgins is counted among the more than 60 church workers who have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes since 2008. DignityUSA Board Member Allen Rose, who helped organize the rally outside Mother Seton, said of this situation:
” ‘They seem to have picked people who are gay and who get married as the dividing line. It’s unfortunate.’ “
Florida Bishop Opposes Inclusive City Ordinance
Episcopal attacks on LGBT employment rights are lodged not only within the church, but in civil society, as well. In the latest example, Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine, Florida, wrote to Jacksonville, Florida’s city leaders to oppose an amendment which would include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in the city’s non-discrimination laws.
Estevez’s letter to Mayor Lenny Curry and the City Council, reported by The St. Augustine Record, sought widespread “conscience exemptions.” He sought not only that religious institutions, but unaffiliated nonprofits and private businesses, as well, be able to discriminate against LGBT people. He added further that no entity, exempt or not, should be forced into “acceptance of homosexual expression or activity in the areas covered by the proposed legislation.”
Claiming Catholic teaching which does not exist, the bishop said the church does not “condone or cooperate in any aspect of the alteration of a person’s birth gender.” On these grounds, Estevez opposed entirely any inclusion of gender identity and/or expression as protected categories.
Dignity Members in Indiana Back Non-discrimination Bill
Dignity/Indianapolis members released a statement supportive of full LGBT non-discrimination protections in Indiana. State legislators are seeking to correct last year’s deeply criticized religious freedom bill which drew national headlines. The Dignity statement reads, in part:
“It is a terrible reality that discrimination in housing, education, and employment continue to expose LGBTQ Hoosiers to injustice and inequality in our state.
“Inspired by our Catholic faith, we recognize the equal dignity of all persons. We embrace our church’s teaching that shelter, education, and employment are universal and inviolable rights to be afforded to all. And we believe that LGBTQ persons should in all circumstances be treated with respect, never subject to discrimination.”
The statement specifically targeted any proposal that would advance LGB protections without similar provisions for trans communities. In the end, Dignity/Indianapolis invited all Catholics, people of faith, and people of goodwill to join their advocacy for civil rights.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
While it is important to keep tabs on what our bishops are doing, the real story here is the goodness that is happening. Catholics’ action for LGBT justice, especially in regards to church worker firings, is ever increasing in the U.S. Each time a firing happens, there is a greater likelihood that local communities will stand beside the church worker and say “not in our name.”
Catholics have taken to heart Pope Francis’ early exhortation to “make a mess” in our local dioceses for the cause of truth and justice. To that I say, Amen!
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry