Springfield Diocese Sets Restrictive Expectations for Parents of Catholic School Children

August 24, 2015

A same-gender couple’s attempt to register their child in a Catholic school in the diocese of Springfield, Illinois, has resulted in a new diocesan policy which, according to a local newspaper account “could call into question parents’ lifestyles, especially if they go against Catholic teaching, and takes a new approach toward a more Protestant tradition of tithing.”

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Springfield’s State Journal-Register reported this past weekend that Bishop Thomas Paprocki sent a letter to local pastors and principals on July 20th, informing them of the new “Family School Agreement” which would require non-Catholic families to attend Sunday Mass and contribute financially.  According to the news report, the Agreement also stipulates the following for all parents, Catholic and non-Catholic:

“. . . the expectation that parents, adoptive parents or legal guardians of children enrolled in Catholic schools meet with their parish pastor if they are ‘not living in accord with church teaching.’

“That would take in persons who are divorced and remarried but haven’t been granted an annulment, unmarried couples living together, and people who are in same-sex marriages or partnerships.”

The newspaper said it obtained a copy of Paprocki’s letter, which mentioned that it was the case of a same-sex couple attempting to register their child in the spring was one of the reasons for instituting this policy.  In 2013, Paprocki made headlines for conducting an exorcism on the same day that the governor of Illionois signed marriage equality into law.

In terms of tithing, the newspaper reported the following details about the Agreement:

“The discipleship and stewardship components of the Family School Agreement mandate that the entire family, even if some members aren’t Catholic, participate in weekly Mass and on holy days of obligation, and it ‘obliges’ families to try to tithe at least 8 percent of their income to the parish church in addition to paying school tuition.”

Jonathan Sullivan, the diocesan director of catechetical services, which is responsible for overseeing the schools, acknowledged that 8% is an “aspirational” figure.  He also said that the Agreement might be revised for the following year.  The agreeement was modeled on a similar one in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas.

An anonymous source who attended an August 7th diocesan meeting of pastors and principals said that objections were raised to the tone and substance of the Agreement.  Some schools have not required parents to sign the Agreement.  No pastor or principal was willing to speak with the reporter, however.

The penalty for not adhering to the Agreement can be severe, according to the newspaper:

“Parents and students who actively promote ‘a moral or doctrinal position contrary to Catholic teaching’— supporting ordination of women priests, for instance — would be considered in violation of the Family School Agreement. The agreement says that could lead to the expulsion of the student.”

John Freml

John Freml, who is a graduate of Springfield Catholic schools and serves as the coordinator for the Equally Blessed coalition and a local Call To Action chapter, offered a pastoral critique of the new policies:

” ‘What parents in their right minds would idly sit by while a religion teacher is forced to tell their children that something is wrong with their family?’ . . . This is not the kind of church that Pope Francis has called for, and Paprocki should reread what the pope has said about how the church should treat children of same-sex parents.”

Though Sullivan said that the diocese “isn’t trying to coerce people” to convert to Catholicism, the new policy will most likely be felt that way by many parents.  It will encourage the saddest and lowest form of “religious” behavior: going through the motions without an internal assent.

The new policy seems in line with a philosophy that Paprocki expressed in defending his exorcism, referenced above. In an interview in 2014 he stated:

“. . . [S]ometimes, like any good parent will tell you, that sometimes you have to discipline your child, sometimes you have to say no. And sometimes, you even have to punish.

“And when a parent does those things, they’re not being hateful towards their children, they’re actually being very loving by correcting them and showing them the right way to do things.”

In a sense, the new policy is setting up requirements for what people have to do to receive the Church’s ministry. That is not a Catholic thing to do.  Catholic schools around the nation and the globe educate millions of non-Catholic students, as well as millions of Catholic students whose parents may disagree with the magisterium of the Church. Setting up a requirement for what people have to do to receive services from the Church goes counter to what millions of Catholics around the world are doing.  Catholic education should be an expression of the Church’s desire to serve the world, not a reward for going through pro forma steps.

According to the Springfield diocese, school enrollment there has been decreasing.  This new policy will surely speed up that decrease, as parents will choose other alternatives that respect their human dignity and individual consciences–two principles of Catholic teaching which the schools should be demonstrating.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Philly Archbishop Evicts LGBT Events Scheduled for World Meeting of Families; New Ways Ministry and Equally Blessed Respond

August 18, 2015

New Ways Ministry’s workshop,  “Transforming Love:  Gender Identity from Catholic Perspectives” workshop, which was scheduled to take place at St. John the Evangelist parish, Philadelphia, on September 26, 2015, has been evicted from the space by Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Philadephia Archdiocese.

The Moderator of the Curia of the archdiocese phoned the parish’s pastor, Fr. John Daya, OFM Cap, to tell him that the archbishop had seen a brochure for the program and did not want it to take place. Fr. Daya informed New Ways Ministry of the decision.

Additionally, programs that were also scheduled at the parish by the Equally Blessed coalition have also been cancelled.  The parish was to be a hospitality center for the Equally Blessed pilgrims, 14 families with LGBT members, who are attending the week-long World Meeting of Families.   The Equally Blessed coalition consists of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.

Organizers are working on re-scheduling both the New Ways Ministry and Equally Blessed programs to the nearby Arch Street United Methodist Church, Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Inquirer carries a news story today about the cancellations, and you can read that account by clicking here.  The following are two statements, one from New Ways Ministry and one from Equally Blessed, in response to the cancellations.

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

nwm-logo-highres.jpgNew Ways Ministry is very disappointed that our workshop, “TransForming Love:  Exploring Gender Identity from Catholic Perspectives,” was removed from St. John the Evangelist parish, Philadelphia.  We were informed about the decision by the pastor, Fr. John Daya, after he had been told by the Moderator of the Curia of the Philadelphia Archdiocese that Archbishop Charles Chaput was not allowing the workshop to take place.

I am very sorry that Archbishop Chaput did not seek to speak with New Ways Ministry about the nature of the program, which consists of transgender and intersex persons and a family member telling their personal and faith journeys.  There is a lack of information in the Catholic Church about gender identity, and this workshop was designed to provide information based on personal experience.  There was no plan to have a theological discussion about gender identity.

The workshop fills a void at the World Meeting of Families, which comes to a close just before New Ways Ministry program is scheduled, Saturday, September 26, 2015.  No speakers at the World Meeting will address the topic of gender identity, yet this is an issue that is being faced by more and more Catholic families and communities in the U.S. 

St. John’s parish had seen fit to offer space for the program based on their pastor’s and community’s belief that “All are welcome” in the parish.  It is very disappointing that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia did not have the same spirit of Christian hospitality.   

How are LGBT people supposed to feel welcome in the Catholic Church when church officials will not allow them to speak?

#     #     #     #

 Statement of the Equally Blessed coalition

Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed, a coalition of Catholic organizations committed to equality for LGBT Catholics and their families, is saddened, frustrated, and deeply disappointed not to be able to host our educational and outreach events at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church during the upcoming World Meeting of Families. Archbishop Chaput’s order that a New Ways Ministry workshop on gender identity not be held at the church, creating a subsequent need to relocate Equally Blessed’s activities which were also scheduled to be held there, run contrary to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” and the belief most Catholics have that our Church must embrace LGBT people and families.

Unfortunately, this is yet another instance of the kind of exclusion LGBT Catholics and supporters have endured for decades. Bishops have refused to allow us to meet in our own Churches, retreat centers and colleges. In every instance, we have been blessed to find gracious welcome from members of other denominations and communities, just as we have from Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. The Spirit has provided for us and will continue to lead us forward.

While we know the Church is the people of God and not a building, it is still very painful to be told we or our loved ones are not welcome in our own home. Actions like the Archbishop’s strengthen our resolve to keep working for the day when Catholicism is truly a Church for all people. We are excited that our pilgrimage will move forward as a witness to a Church where all are welcomed, valued, and empowered.

The official World Meeting of Families program provides no realistic presentation about the reality of LGBT Catholics and our families. In step with the intentions of the upcoming Synod on the Family, we believe Catholics need space and time to talk openly and honestly about how to reconcile Church teaching and the need of our LGBT family members to live full, authentic lives. The upcoming Equally Blessed pilgrimage will provide avenues for this dialogue.

As Catholics who love our Church and our families, we appreciate the support we’ve received and look forward to giving witness to a church for everyone at the 2015 World Meeting of Families.

#     #     #     #

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Justice Voices Decry New Morality Directives for High School Teachers

February 7, 2015

The San Francisco Archdiocese’s revised moral conduct code for its high school teachers has been receiving a lot of attention from progressive Catholics in San Francisco and across the U.S.

Protesters at St. Mary Cathedral, San Francisco

A protest was held at St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco, to protest the directives issued by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone this week.  KTVU News reported:

“A group of students and teachers braved a steady rain Friday to stage a protest over a new faculty handbook for San Francisco’s Catholic high schools that includes clauses calling on teachers to lead their lives consistent with church teachings.

“About 100 people dressed in black, including some students and parents, attended the vigil and rally on the steps of St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“They stood in silence on the route teachers took morning mass from St. Mary’s to Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory school. There were also speeches, a song and a prayer.

“Organizers say Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s plan will ‘lead their schools away from the true spirit of their Catholic heritage: justice, compassion, inclusivity and welcome.’ “

Additionally, a group of San Francisco Catholics have written an open letter calling on Cordileone to retract the directives.  They are also asking Catholics “to withhold our dollars from all Catholic institutions unless they stand in opposition to these repressive and regressive actions.”

The group is seeking people to sign their names to the open letter, which they plan on printing in The National Catholic Reporter.   The statement says, in part:

“The requirement that teachers and administrators sign a binding contract and operate under a faculty handbook that articulates a selective set of doctrines focused on sexual ethics, condemnation of the LGBTQ community, and restrictions on women’s healthcare and marriage represents a coercive exercise reminiscent of morality oaths and inquisitions of times past.

“The Archbishop’s action creates a repressive environment in which not only dissent, but any critical thought, robust exchange of ideas and genuine dialogue are discouraged and punishable by loss of livelihood.

“Rather than ‘clarify Catholic social teaching’ or foster unity Archbishop  Cordileone’s actions sow fear and division and inspire intolerance.

“The tenets propounded by Archbishop Cordileone do not reflect the gospel principles of love and inclusivity. Nor do they reflect the central tenets of the Catholic tradition which uphold the primacy of conscience and the principle that the church is all of us (Vatican II).

“Most U.S. Catholics believe very little of what is in the Archdiocesan document and actively reject much of it.”

To receive a copy of the full statement, send an email request to: emp3@ibew1245.com.

Other Catholic voices also condemned the new directives.

Brian Cahill

In a National Catholic Reporter blog post, Brian Cahill, the former executive director of San Francisco’s Catholic Charities, outlines “What is really toxic in the new San Francisco teacher handbook.”   Cahill questions one of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s major premises:

“Cordileone stated that Catholics who endorse contrary views ‘create toxic confusion about our fundamental values.’ But if Catholic couples, in the spirit of the pope’s recent comments, limit the number of children they have, is that toxic? If you are a little girl who is only here because science helped her mom and dad conceive her, is that toxic? If you are a 10 year old abused child and the only adoptive parents who want you are a loving, qualified gay couple, is that toxic? If you think that the civil rights of gays and lesbians should be protected, is that toxic?”

Similarly, Bay-area resident Christine Haider-Winett, writing a San Francisco Examiner op-ed for the Equally Blessed coalition, sees the new directives as the “Catholic Church infringing on personal lives.”  This imposition, she stated, is a terrible lesson for children in Catholic schools:

“Perhaps the most disturbing part is the hierarchy’s claim that this is for the good of children. What our children need are good teachers and safe, affirming environments in which to learn and grow. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender role models and open, accepting communities are essential not only to the safety of our children, but to their growth and overall well-being. As research indicates, kids who are LGB or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity are up to four times as likely to commit suicide as their straight peers. Being in a community that rejects them increases that risk astronomically.

Equally Blessed Logo“What are Catholic school students to think when they see a beloved teacher fired for getting married? Or hear she lost her job for getting pregnant using alternative methods?

“Some argue that the teacher should have stayed in the closet, or pursued his or her call to teaching in another setting. What are our children to learn from such arguments? What are our children to make of such an example? More importantly, what is a student who is questioning his or her sexual or gender identity to do when confronted with the high costs of coming out? After all, they’ve seen the scars this leaves behind.”

In a news article in Bay City Newstwo Catholic activists pointed out some of the problems with the new language:

“Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, director of Latina/o and Catholic Initiatives for HRC [Human Rights Campaign] Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program, said in a statement released today that by ‘imposing what amounts to an anti-LGBT purity test, the archbishop is closing the door on dedicated professionals, many of them faithful Catholics, gay and straight, whose moral codes do not embrace discrimination. . . .

“Tim Lennon, the San Francisco Bay Area Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement today in response to the announcements that SNAP would ‘love to see Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone put this kind of energy and effort into telling staff to share everything they know or suspect about clergy sex crimes and cover ups with law enforcement.’

“Lennon said he believes most Catholic parents care more about the physical safety of their kids than about the private behavior of teachers.”

Yet, while discussion is blossoming all over, one group that has been told to remain silent is the faculty and administrators of one of the affected institutions, Junipero Serra H.S., in San Mateo.  The Daily Journal reports:

“Teachers and administrators at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo were ordered to keep quiet about a controversial new document from the Archdiocese of San Francisco that dictates homosexuality and masturbation are ‘gravely evil,’ the Daily Journal has learned.

“Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s document applies to faculty handbooks at four Bay Area Catholic high schools including Riordan and Sacred Heart in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield and Serra.

“Tuesday night, Serra President Lars Lund sent a letter to parents indicating the archbishop’s words might garner media attention.

Despite the silencing, Lund seemed determined to send a positive message to parents and families, stating:

“We are proud of our culture of inclusiveness and of the diverse backgrounds of our students, faculty, alumni and families. . . .

“We will continue to be a remarkably supportive environment that promotes compassion and respect for all members of our community.”

Support for teachers and students by administrators will be critical at this time which is so fraught with anger and resentment.  But so are voices of justice needed to speak out for a Catholic Church that welcomes all.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Raw Story: “Calif. Catholic schools impose ‘purity test’ over ‘gravely evil’ gay sex and masturbation”

Bilgrimage: “Archbishop Cordileone’s New Anti-Gay Handbook for Catholic Schools: A View from the Belly of the (Evangelical) Beast”

 

 

 


Belgian Bishop’s Call to Bless Gay & Lesbian Couples Elicits Positive Feedback

January 2, 2015

Response to Bishop Johan Bonny’s historic call for the Catholic Church to recognize and bless the committed relationships of lesbian and gay couples has been slow, but very positive.  The Belgian bishop made in his remarks in an interview published on December 27th in De Morgen newspaper, and it was made known to the English-speaking world in a National Catholic Reporter news story.

New Ways Ministry provided a response in its blog post on December 30th.  As evidence of the great interest in this story, that blog post, in under 8 hours, became the fourth-most viewed blog post of Bondings 2.0’s  three-year history, beating out posts which have been public for months and years.  Obviously people are interested in this news.

Perhaps the Christmas holidays have impeded the distribution of this important news, though, and so there has been little commentary about it.  Still, the reaction we have seen has been positive.  The Huffington Post began their article on the bishop’s comments by stating:

“A Belgian bishop is bravely standing up for love.”

Father James Martin SJ

Father James Martin SJ

Rev. James Martin, SJ, renowned Catholic author and commentator, offered this response in the HuffPost story:

“His comments recall the initial report from the Synod on the Family, which said that committed gay relationships have ‘gifts and talents’ to offer the Christian community. (That language was removed from the final report.) So we shouldn’t overemphasize what Bishop Bonny is saying: after all, he’s only one bishop. On the other hand, we shouldn’t underemphasize it either: it’s quite revolutionary.”

The Equally Blessed Coalition, which is comprised of four national Catholic organizations (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Equally Blessed LogoMinistry)which work for justice and equality for LGBT people also responded very positively to the news.  In a statement released on December 31, they said the bishop’s words were “bold and beautiful” and

“. . . .reflect what many Catholics have already witnessed from their lesbian and gay family members and friends. LGBT Catholics and their many Catholic allies know that the Spirit of God is not bound to Church teaching, and has moved freely and with power in the lives and loves of gay and lesbian people. The Equally Blessed Coalition joins Bishop Bonny in asking that the Church confirm this truth in her sacramental expressions.”

Jim Smith, Associate Director of DignityUSA, spoke further for the Equally Blessed coalition, saying:

“Though pushback is sure to come, the Equally Blessed Coalition calls on all bishops who privately acknowledge the beauty of Bishop Bonny’s declaration to publicly support his invitation to the Church. God is very much alive in both straight and gay families. It is the time for our Catholic bishops and all church leaders to come out of that doctrinally rigid closet and stand with this brave bishop.”

William Lindsey

William Lindsey, who blogs at Bilgrimagenoted the practical, moral, and compassionate factors of Bonny’s remarks:

“And it’s better — more honest, not to say more moral — to acknowledge that many gay relationships aim at and achieve the ethical ideals proclaimed by the church, ideals of exclusivity, loyalty, and care. It’s better to strengthen those committed relationships than to refuse to acknowledge that they are there, and cruelly to exclude those living in such relationships from the Catholic community.”

We will continue to update you as other insightful comments appear, as well as keeping you informed on any further developments in this story.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

MassLive.com: “Belgium Bishop Bonny’s call for blessing of gay unions in Catholic Church called historic”

International Business Times: “Catholic Belgian Bishop Calls For ‘Formal Recognition’ Of Gay Couples In The Church”

 


Praying for All Marriages During National Marriage Week

February 9, 2014

LoveIsLoveToday is “National Marriage Day,” part of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Marriage Week which spans from last Friday through next Friday, St. Valentine’s Day.

While the bishops have asked Catholics to participate in support of their anti-marriage equality campaign, other Catholics are affirming the goodness of marriage — and that means all marriages, which deserve equal recognition and dignity.

The Equally Blessed coalition, which consists of  Call to ActionFortunate FamiliesDignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry, has released a statement further explaining these events:

“The National Marriage Week campaign’s limited scope creates an unwelcoming Church for the thousands of US Catholics in same-sex marriages who live their lives as shining examples of love in the face of discrimination. By encouraging local parishes to observe ‘National Marriage Day’ during Sunday mass, the bishops are once again using the liturgy as a weapon to further alienate LGBT Catholics and their supporters.

“This campaign only serves to show how out of touch the bishops are with the values of everyday Catholics. While the bishops continue to abuse their power by pouring money and effort into thinly veiled anti-equality campaigns like National Marriage Week, the majority of US Catholics continue to support equality for LGBT families. Catholics know that all marriages based on love and respect are sacred and we implore the bishops to follow the laity’s lead and cease this attack on LGBT families.”

Equally Blessed, has prepared a “Prayer for All Marriages” which LGBT-affirming Catholics are being asked to pray today and throughout the week with their family, parishes, and local communities. You’re encouraged to show your support through stories and photos of how you have prayed and emailing these to coordinator@equally-blessed.org. You can find more resources by clicking here and the prayer is provided below:

Loving God, 
You who created each of us in Your own image 
and who called us together in community, 
 
We give You thanks for the gift of marriage 
and for the many couples 
whose love and commitment to each other reminds us 
of Your never-ending love for humanity. 
 
We thank You for all the different types of marriages in our world: 
young couples beginning a life together, 
 as well as couples celebrating decades of love, 
re-married couples and those who found each other later in life, 
couples whose marriages are recognized by our state and our Church, 
and same-sex couples who are denied that recognition 
but who continue to bravely model love and commitment in the face of discrimination. 
 
We thank You for the many kinds of families 
 that are strengthened by these marriages: 
families of biological children and adopted children, 
blended families and families of choice, 
as well as couples without children who work together 
 to nurture communities of love and justice. 
 
This week, as many are observing National Marriage Week, 
we ask You to pour Your blessings onto every marriage 
regardless of gender or sexual orientation. 
Make each marriage one of love, respect and peace. 
Guide each couple as they strive to be an example of your love in the world 
and surround them with family and friends 
 who honor and celebrate their commitment. 
 
Help us support marriage and family in all of its diversity 
and guide us as we speak out against oppression in our Church. 
Lead us toward the day when all loving unions will be seen as sacred 
and all couples will have the support and recognition of their faith communities. 
 
We pray this in the name of Jesus, who called us to love one another as we love You, 
Amen

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


U.S. Catholic Bishops Invited to New Dialogue on LGBT Issues

November 14, 2013

Equally Blessed LogoThe U.S. Catholic bishops have been invited to open a new and more positive chapter in their relationships with LGBT Catholics and and their supporters.  The invitation came in the form of a letter from the leaders of Equally Blessed, a coalition of four national Catholic organizations (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) that work for justice and equality for LGBT people.

The letter, addressed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have been meeting in Baltimore this week, invites the church’s leaders to put past events behind them and start a forward-thinking dialogue with LGBT people and supporters. The Equally Blessed leaders wrote:

“Now is the time for us all to adopt a new approach in dealing with issues of human sexuality, especially in dealing with LGBT people, as Pope Francis seems to be calling us to do. It will take time to rebuild trust between members of the Conference and those who have been damaged by its past policies. But, if Jesus came that we all might be one, then healing must begin. So we implore you to sit down with us, to listen to voices from the margins of the Church, and to speak with us candidly about your own concerns. We offer an outstretched hand of invitation.”

The letter writers suggested several areas of common-ground where the bishops can collaborate with them:

“The bishops and LGBT Catholics and their allies have many opportunities to show where our Church is united in its commitment to the dignity of the human person. The bishops have many opportunities to reach out to LGBT persons without violating Church teaching. The USCCB could issue an unambiguous statement declaring that bullying children because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable. Parishes and diocesan offices could be encouraged to make concerted efforts to include LGBT people in their outreach ministries and other agendas.  The Church could make an effort to create pastorally sensitive ministries that would deal with the problem of LGBT youth homelessness and suicide. Together, we are sure we can find other ways to send out positive and mercy-filled messages.”

The Equally Blessed leaders stressed that this is an opportune time for such a dialogue:

“At this pivotal moment in the life of our church, we, the leaders of the Equally Blessed coalition, invite you into a deeper relationship with LGBT Catholics, their families and their friends. We seek, first of all, simple conversation with you. Rather than speaking about LGBT people, or, worse yet, against LGBT people, we urge you to sit down and speak with LGBT people. We ask you to convene local and national conversations in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families and their friends can tell you about their faith and their commitment to the Church.  The spirit of respect and openness that these conversations could foster would be balm on the wounds of LGBT Catholics and those who love them.”

Invoking the spirit of the new papacy, the LGBT equality leaders stressed that it’s time for a different way for the bishops to approach the topic of sexuality:

“At a time when Pope Francis is urging the church to move beyond what he calls its “obsession” with sexual issues, we, faithful Catholics committed to equality and justice within the Church we love, pray that you will hear our voices and respond with mercy.”

The letter was signed by the following organizational representatives:  Call To Action: Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director; DignityUSA: Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director; Fortunate Families: Casey Lopata, Co-Founder, Deb Word, President; New Ways Ministry: Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


As ENDA Passes to Senate, U.S. Bishops Renew Anti-LGBT Rights Campaign

November 6, 2013

On Monday evening, the US Senate voted to move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would provide fair hiring protections for LGBT people.  On the same day, Catholic bishops expressed their opposition to the bill and amplified their defense of ‘just’ discrimination.

In a letter to Senators, three bishops heading up the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty defended their opposition to a law that bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bishops who signed the letter are Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore.

America Magazine explained the bishops’ letter with a summary of the bishops’ objections to non-discrimination legislation, writing:

“[The letter] notes, for example, that the bill: (1) lacks an exception for a ‘bona fide occupational qualification’…(2) lacks a distinction between homosexual inclination and conduct, thus affirming and protecting extramarital sexual conduct; (3) supports the redefinition of marriage, as state-level laws like ENDA have been invoked in state court decisions finding marriage discriminatory or irrational; (4) rejects the biological basis of gender by defining ‘gender identity’ as something people may choose at variance with their biological sex; and (5) threatens religious liberty by punishing as discrimination the religious or moral disapproval of same-sex sexual conduct, while protecting only some religious employers.”

Such arguments range from false to offensive to absurd, especially as many Catholics endorse employment, housing, and other protections for LGBT people. Journalist Michael O’Loughlin questions what positive impact opposing non-discrimination bills and policies

“What’s that now? Are US bishops taking Pope Francis’s message of focusing on poverty rather than homosexuality to heart? Are Catholic bishops going on-the-record in support of the marginalized and oppressed? Is this a sign of a new era in US Catholicism, the one heralded by lefty Catholics who have expressed unabashed hope in the new pope?

“Nah. Keep reading.

“Catholic bishops apparently feel that discriminating against LGBT people in the workplace is not only just, but in fact, not being able to do so threatens their religious liberty.”

O’Loughlin considers what might be motivating the bishops in regard to this issue:

“Catholic bishops relied on lawyers rather than pastors in their decision to come out against the bill…

“Fear is at the root of the bishops’ opposition to LGBT advances in general and ENDA in specific. Fear that society is changing so quickly. Fear that the church is losing its influence in forming morality. Fear that the church is being pushed to the margins.

“It’s remarkable to me that some bishops here have learned so little over the past 8 months. The world is hungry for moral clarity. Look how people have responded to Pope Francis. He talks morality constantly, and the world listens and reflects…If Catholic leaders here in the US feel they find themselves on the defensive, increasingly marginalized and perhaps even deemed irrelevant, at what point do they begin to reconsider their message and priorities?”

Equally Blessed LogoEarlier this fall, the Equally Blessed coalition spoke for Catholics who want to follow Pope Francis priorities in protecting all people and focusing on the pressing issues of these times, like poverty and immigration. Their letter to the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions said, in part:

“We write to make it clear that the bishops do not speak for the majority of your Catholic constituents, many of whom believe, as we do, that the religious exemptions in the current draft of the legislation are not too narrow, as the bishops contend, but far too broad…

“Nor is it clear that the bishops’ views are in accord with the Pope’s. Responding in August to questions about gay priests, Pope Francis said: ‘If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?’ The pope, in other words, has no plans to discriminate against the gay men who, in secular terms, might be thought of as his employees…

“Our nation’s history teaches us that sometimes the church moves a recalcitrant society toward a deeper respect for the dignity of every human being, but that sometimes those roles are reversed. Unlike our bishops, a significant majority of U.S. Catholics support legislation that guarantees LGBT people equal protection under the law.”

The Equally Blessed coalition consists of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.

For background information on ENDA, check out the Human Rights Campaign’s information page on the bill.

ENDA’s future looks grim in the House, further raising questions about why US bishops felt the need to reaffirm their opposition to a bill which very possibly will fail. However, their letter highlights the urgent need for Catholics in the pews to pre-empt Congress and implement non-discrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity in their Catholic schools, parishes, and other workplaces. For more information on how to accomplish this goal, please click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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