Sharing of Stories Is Key to DignityUSA Conference

This past weekend, I was privileged to be with the DignityUSA community at their conference in Boston. The theme, “A Place at the Table,” lent itself to the power of shared stories, many of which were expressed in the formal sessions and the more informal hallway conversations.

e3202eb004In one session, transgender members of Dignity and one mother of a trans child shared stories of being faithful Catholics. Skylar Kelley, a panelist who uses they/them pronouns, explained what it means to identify as non-binary. They also shared how being assigned female at birth remains a part of their history that should not be erased. In light of the fact that some church leaders have been publicly speaking against trans lives, each panelist’s reflection on “Why stay in the church?” was a powerful testimony of faith.

In another session, Krzysztof Charamsa, a former priest and theologian who worked at at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and who came out as a gay man right before the 2015 Synod on the Family began, spoke personally and theologically.  He shared his coming out story as he addressed the institutional church’s treatment of homosexuality. He told those gathered, “When you want your community to change, you must change.” More pointedly, he echoed Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium saying, “We need to confront ideas with Christ, Christ who lived in this world.” Charamsa said clearly that this work is done well when LGBTQI Catholics who remain the church offer their witness.

Stories were central during a Saturday morning plenary which featured Jamie Manson of the National Catholic Reporter, Louis Mitchell of TransFaith who is a Congregationalist minister, and Walter Robinson of the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team which broke open the clergy sexual abuse in the early 2000’s.

Mitchell spoke to the cost of noticing another person’s story, and the vulnerability required to share one’s story. He made a special appeal for attendees to take seriously the stories of transgender women of color who are “not victims, sex toys, HIV statistics, or some bad RuPaul joke,” but human beings with the fullness of dignity.

Speaking about self-care, Manson discussed how the work of seeking justice in the church can be lonely and even lead to despair at times. But, she added:

“What pushes me forward more often than not is that people are suffering, and they’re suffering at the hands of this institution. And they’re suffering in the Global South. . .It is the church that isn’t speaking when our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are being imprisoned for who they are.”

Another story shared was the history of Always Our Children, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata. founders of Fortunate Families, led a conversation about how the document came to be and its effect on the church. It is document, they said, that shattered the silence around homosexuality in the church, opened up new possibilities based on the lived experiences of lesbian and gay people, and helped empower parents and pastoral ministers.

These highlighted instances are just a few examples of the many stories shared over the weekend. What kept coming to mind as I listened to speakers and Dignity members was how I wished church leaders could be there, sitting in the back rows, simply listening.

What they would hear are real stories, the grounding realities of LGBT Catholics and their families.  While some of these stories were about the trials of being marginalized by church and by society, others were also about how and why faithful Catholics live out their faith in community. All of these are stories that our church very much needs to hear.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 9, 2017

NEWS NOTES: Church Official Calls Non-Discrimination Laws a “Sword” Against Equality Opponents; Other News Updates

Here are some items that may be of interest:

News Notes1. Non-discrimination laws aimed at protecting LGBT people are “used as a sword by LGBT activists to go after those who disagree with their ideological beliefs on human sexuality,” according to the Nebraska Catholic Conference’s Executive Director, Tom Venzor. Writing in the Southern Nebraska Register, Venzor criticized state bill LB173 that would have made sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes.

2. Dignity/Chicago recently celebrated its 45th anniversary, reported the Windy City Times. Members gathered for Mass and a celebration where DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke spoke, and the group honored Lambda Legal. Ramon Rodriguez, Dignity/Chicago’s board president, told attendees, “Our work is far from done. . .we are only as good as how we tackle the current and future needs of our community.”

3. High school student Riley Collins created a radio essay on “My Catholic mom and her two queer sons,” which addressed the tensions in his family between his Filipino mother’s grappling with having two gays sons and the sons’ distanced relationship from the Catholic Church.

4. A film about a Venezuelan transgender activist and legislator was reportedly barred from two church-affiliated colleges: the Catholic University Andrés Bello and the Catholic University Santa Rosa. Producers of the film “Tamara” claimed the schools told them they could not host a screening because it was “transsexual propaganda.” The colleges denied these allegations, reported ArtsFreedom.

5. A Roman Catholic farmer in Michigan alleged that he was barred from a farmers’ market because he does not support marriage equality. Steve Tennes of Country Mill Farms is now suing the city of East Lansing, which operates the market. The city’s mayor, Mark Meadows, said the ban is because Tennes refused to host a same-gender wedding at his facility, and the city does not contract with vendors who discriminate.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 25, 2017

Catholic Supports Dictator’s Views on Marriage; More News Updates

Here are some items that may be of interest:

1) A ranking church official in Zimbabwe has affirmed LGBT-negative comments made by the country’s aging dictator, Robert Mugabe, a Catholic. The Archdiocese of Bulawayo’s vicar general, Fr. Hlakanipha Dube, said the church was grateful for the government’s support of limiting marriage to heterosexual couples only, according to Chronicle. In 2015, Mugabe told the United Nations in 2015: “We are not gays. . .Same-sex marriages have no place in Africa. Such behaviour is worse than pigs and dogs.”

News Notes2) A spring newsletter from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association highlighted its new partnership with Egale Canada Human Rights Trust to help teachers in Catholic schools be more supportive of gender diverse students. These efforts include an awareness project, “Drawing the Line – Against Transphobic Violence,” and LGBTQ training workshops for teachers.

3) A teacher in India was allegedly fired because he is gay, a charge officials at St. Joseph’s Autonomous College (a high school) deny. The teacher, Ashley Tellis, said the school’s principal told him students “were disturbed by my ‘personal opinions.” The principal, Victor Lobo, claimed Tellis was fired for breach of contract, reported The New Indian Express.

4) A controversial bishop in Switzerland who has made anti-gay comments in the past has resigned on the occasion of his 75th birthday. In 2015, Bishop Vitus Huonder of Chur cited Scripture passages that suggest lesbian and gay people should be executed, and said a priest who blessed a lesbian couple should resign.

5) The Vatican has named Fr. James Martin, S.J. as a consultor to its Secretariat for Communications, a department newly created under Pope Francis. Martin authored the forthcoming book, Building A Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, based on his address upon receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award in October 2016.

6) Marking the National Weekend of Prayer for Transgender Justice last month, Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, wrote a piece in The Huffington Post about why she supports the cause as a lesbian Catholic.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April ??, 2017

Equality for Catholic Women Is Inextricably Linked to LGBT Equality

“Is it possible for a woman to be both a feminist and a Catholic?” This question is central for Celia Viggo Wexler’s book, Catholic Women Confront Their Church: Stories of Hurt and Hope, said Gail DeGeorge in a review of the book for the National Catholic Reporter. It is a similar question to one many Catholics have asked, “Is it possible to be an LGBT person and a Catholic?”

41itqzvovdl-_sy344_bo1204203200_These questions are not just similar: they are deeply interrelated. Indeed, the cause of women’s equality in the church is inextricably linked to the cause of LGBT equality, and vice versa.

DeGeorge described the genesis of the book and its title:

“[Wexler] is not a theologian or historian, she writes, nor does she intend the book to be a definitive work about the views of Catholic women. She seeks instead to inspire conversations among women who, like her, are ‘torn between the faith they love and the institutional church that often sets their teeth on edge.’ . . .

“There is a reason, Wexler says, that she titled the book Catholic Women Confront Their Church rather than their ‘faith.’ For these women and so many others, it’s not a matter of confronting their faith, but rather confronting an institution that is led exclusively by men.”

Among the nine Catholic women that Wexler profiled are two involved with LGBT advocacy: Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of DignityUSA, and Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK who is most known for her leadership of “Nuns on the Bus.”

Other women in the book include: Teresa Delgado, a Latina feminist theologian; Frances Kissling, founder of Catholics for Choice; and Diana L. Hayes, a theologian who was the first African American woman to earn a pontifical doctorate.

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Marianne Duddy-Burke

The chapter on Marianne Duddy-Burke follows the contours of her journey as a devout Catholic and lesbian woman. Wexler explained at one point:

“Catholicism is just too important to Duddy-Burke to abandon. So she’s found a different space to practice her faith, a space outside the norms of the institutional church. The Catholicism she practices, she contends, more authentically follows the gospel. . .

“Whatever steps Pope Francis may take to soften the church’s position on same-sex marriage and LGBT issues, she believes that real change has to come from the people in the pews, not the church hierarchy. And she continues to immerse herself in a Catholicism that embraces the sacraments and service to the poor and marginalized.”

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Sister Simone Campbell

Sr. Simone Campbell’s advocacy for LGBT people has increasingly been a part of her larger efforts for social justice. Her organization, NETWORK, is linked with New Ways Ministry in a particular way: the two organizations were singled out by the Vatican in its 2012 investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for allegedly promoting “radical feminism.” Campbell offered the following wisdom, as reported by Wexler:

“One might have thought that the public denunciation. . .would have signaled to the sisters to lie low until the flap blew over. But Campbell did not express any sense of remorse. ‘When you don’t work every day with people who live at the margins of our society, it’s so much easier to make easy statements about who’s right and who’s wrong.’ Campbell said, ‘Life is way more complicated in our society, and its probably way easier to be eight thousand miles away in Rome.’ . . .

“‘I wish I knew what was in their [the Vatican leaders’] brains. . .The leadership doesn’t know how to deal with strong women.'”

In her latest supportive act for LGBT Catholics, Campbell will lead “Justice and Mercy: Our Faith Challenge?“, a retreat preceding New Ways Ministry’s 8th National Symposium this week. For information, please click here.

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Teresa Delgado

Teresa Delgado is a feminist theologian who is both Puerto Rican and a survivor of sexual violence, influenced by liberation and womanist theologies. These aspects of her identity have, in her words, “allowed me to speak in a way that is authoritative around issues of sexuality and faith.” While not explicitly focused on LGBT issues, her work to integrate sex and faith has obvious implications. Wexler wrote:

“Delgado has remained a Catholic despite her deep reservations about the church’s approach to sexual issues, and its misogyny. She regrets that an institution that developed a nuanced ethical position on the concept of a ‘just war’ has failed to explore the nuances of sexual ethics. Within her classroom, where she teaches Christian sexual ethics, she faces students deeply confused about how to apply Catholic principles to their sex lives. Her goal, she says, is to offer them a safe place to discuss their feelings, and to share her own insights about navigating these moral dilemmas.”

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Celia Viggo Wexler

Reading the stories of these nine Catholic women is moving, and Wexler’s advice, especially for younger women, is compelling by the end: “Don’t give up on Catholicism just yet. Make it work for you. Fight for it.” DeGeorge’s concluding words will ring true for readers:

“In conclusion, she notes the dangers facing a church that is unwilling to allow women a greater role and voice. . . .[The reader will] come away with a deeper conviction that there is a place for visionary feminist women in the church. Wexler’s book deserves to be read widely, especially among parish-based women’s groups and young women who struggle with their Catholic faith.”

To read Gail DeGeorge’s full review in the National Catholic Reporter, please click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 26, 2017

Catholics Respond Strongly Against Vatican’s Ban on Gay Priests

This past week’s announcement by the Vatican that the Congregation for Priests has reaffirmed the 2005 ban on gay men being ordained priests has caused quite a storm of criticism from Catholics in the pews.  Here on Bondings 2.0 alone, the Comments from two of our posts on the topic have been numerous, insightful, and angry.  It’s worth taking a moment to read the comments from the first post and the second post.

To add your own voice to protest the Vatican’s ban, please sign New Ways Ministry’s statement “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations.”

In addition to New Ways Ministry’s response to the Vatican’s document, other Catholic organizations concerned with LGBT and sexuality issues have also strongly critiqued the ban on gay priests.  The following are excerpts from some of the statements, with links to the full statements:

Call To Action:

” ‘Call To Action remains deeply disappointed in the Vatican’s on-going rejection of the LGBT community,’ said David Saavedra, Transitional Co-Director of Call To Action, an organization of Catholics working for justice in the Church.

” ‘This document not only reaffirms old Vatican policies, it reaffirms the harmful rhetoric against seminarians and priests who are gay and already successfully serving the Church. Moreover, the document’s language and implications harm the entire Church that is denied the gift of ministry from the good and holy service of gay men who may be turned away,’ said Saavedra.”

For full text of Call To Action’s statement, click here

DignityUSA:

” ‘This document is extremely disappointing in its approach to gay men called to be priests,’ said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, an organization of Catholics committed to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the Church and society. ‘It is not at all what anyone expected from the “Who am I to judge?” Pope.’ “

” ‘These guidelines are a tremendous insult to the thousands of gay men who have served and continue to serve the Church with honor and dedication. They undermine decades of commitment by these men, and they fail to acknowledge that God calls a great variety of people to the priesthood,’ said Duddy-Burke.”

For full text of  DignityUSA’s  statement, click here.

Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC):

“We, the GNRC, stand for inclusion and justice for LGBTI lay people and their families in the Church. We also declare that all religious men and women that followed God’s call to dedicate their life for the construction of the Church deserve the same treatment. ‘There have been tragic instances within our GNRC family where some members who had previously been in seminaries, sadly had to give up on their chosen vocation after their sexual orientation was discovered. And in a few cases, they were very publicly exposed,’ states Ruby Almeida Co-chair of the GNRC and Chair of Quest (England).”

Pushing LGBTI people out of the Church, rather than them being treated with respect and dignity whilst on their vocational calling, has set a dark and reactionary tone. ‘The Church states in many documents that LGBT should live in celibacy, without needing to express their sexuality, yet later says that priesthood is not an alternative. This double-bind message distorts the credibility of the church. And we should not miss the language of a subtle homoerotic seduction into an intimate and exclusive relationship between the priest and Christ that the Congregation for the Clergy uses several times in the document,’ explains Dr. Michael Brinkschroeder Co-chair of the GNRC and project-manager of Homosexuelle und Kirche (Germany).

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) brings together organizations and individuals who work for pastoral care and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning, and intersex (LGBTQI) people and their families

For full text of GNRC’s statement, click here.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests director David Clohessy (SNAP):

“Scapegoating some adults protects no children. Behavior, not orientation, is what matters.

“Half of our 20,000 plus members are women who were sexually assaulted as kids by priests, nuns, bishops and seminarians. It’s just wrong to assume or claim that most victims of child molesting clerics are boys.

“This will almost certainly have no impact whatsoever on the church’s continuing child sex abuse and cover up crisis. Those who hope this will make kids safer will be disappointed.”

Bondings 2.0 will report on other significant reactions to the Vatican document as they become available.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 10, 2016

Related articles:

Religion News Service: Outcry greets Vatican decision to reaffirm ban on gay priests”

Huffington Post: “The Pope Just Approved A Very Troubling Document On Gays And Priesthood”

The Advocate: “Pope Reiterates Catholic Church’s Ban on Gay Priests”

The Washington Blade: “Catholic Church reaffirms gay priests ban”

 

Prayer Vigil Will Remember Orlando Victims & Call on Bishops to Speak Out

LGBT Catholics and their supporters will gather in vigil at the U.S. Bishops Conference November meeting to remember the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre and to call on the bishops to acknowledge the reality of LGBT lives.

dignity-button
A button minted for the prayer vigil.

The vigil, sponsored by DignityUSA, will be held on Tuesday, November 15, 2016, 10:30 AM – 2:00 pm, outside the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, 700 Aliceanna Street, Baltimore. Maryland.  The demonstration’s twin themes are “A Vigil to Remember the Pulse Victims And Our Murdered Transgender Kin” and “A Call to our Bishops to Dare to Speak our Names:
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Gender Queer”

An announcement from DignityUSA explained the purpose of the vigil:

“The Catholic Bishops response (or lack thereof) to the Pulse [the name of the Orlando nightclub] shooting demonstrated that most Bishops still refuse to even say the words ‘Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer’ and refuse to acknowledge the reality of LGBT lives. The bishops have also ignored the crisis of violence against our transgender siblings. In response, DignityUSA is calling on the bishops to ‘call us by name.’ “

Participants at the rally will pray the rosary. Many will be holding rainbow rosary bead sets. More information can be found on the event’s Facebook page.  For more information, send email to allenr@dignityusa.org .

With few exceptions, most of the U.S. bishops who responded to the nightclub shooting in which 49 people were killed did not make mention of the fact that the targeted victims were LGBT people. In his official response to the shooting, U.S. Bishops Conference President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz did not mention the LGBT factor in the incident and made only a general call to an “ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every single person.”

San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s statement made the LGBT people even angrier than statements that made no reference to the the victims’ gender identity or sexual orientation.  He said: “[R]egardless of race, religion, or personal lifestyle, we are all beloved children of God.”

Even Orlando’s local Catholic leader, Bishop John Noonan, of Orlando did not acknowledge the gay and lesbian dimension of the attack in his response. A diocesan Vigil to Dry Tears, which took place soon after the event, had no evidence that the victims were members of the LGBT community.

There were exceptions, of course.   Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich was one of the first to speak up, addressing the regular Sunday Mass of the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach:

“For you here today and throughout the whole lesbian and gay community, who are particularly touched by the heinous crimes committed in Orlando, motivated by hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture of violence, know this: the Archdiocese of Chicago stands with you. I stand with you.”

Similarly, Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernadino, California, said in his response statement that he wanted to “make clear our condemnation of discriminatory violence against those who are gay and lesbian, and we offer our prayers to that community.”

Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida,  indicted the Catholic community as partly responsible for anti-gay violence:

“[S]adly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.

San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy made a similar statement, saying:

‘This tragedy is a call for us as Catholics to combat ever more vigorously the anti-gay prejudice which exists in our Catholic community and in our country.”

The Catholic community in the pews, and around the world, however, were much more supportive of LGBT people in the wake of the shooting.  The following blog posts recount some of their actions and statements :

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 5, 2016

 

 

 

 

NEWS NOTES: September 6, 2016

News NotesHere are some news items that you might find of interest:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.”