Pilgrimage of Mercy Stressed Reconciliation Between LGBT People and Bishops

Last month’s “Pilgrimage of Mercy,” sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association of Notre Dame and St. Mary College, was a plea for extending mutual mercy between the LGBT community and the institutional Catholic Church.

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Piligrimage organizer Greg Bourke welcomes the participants. (All photos in this post by Glen Bradley/New Ways Ministry)

The march, which began in New York City’s Central Park, paused for a prayer rally at Columbus Circle, and concluded by participating in the Sunday liturgy at St. Paul the Apostle parish, attracted about 50 participants.   Greg Bourke, a gay Notre Dame alumnus who organized the event, explained to The Observer the intention of the program:

” ‘What we wanted to show with this pilgrimage is that being merciful and forgiving is an interactive process,’ Bourke said. ‘We extended our forgiveness and mercy to the Catholic Church, and we ask for those same things in return.’

“Bourke said the rally was meant to be ‘an expression of faithful LGBTQ Catholics.’

” ‘There are many of us, and Pope Francis has started to push that door open for us,’ he said, referring to the statements the pope has made on LGBTQ issues.”

He expressed a similar sentiment to The National Catholic Reporter:

“We are both seeking mercy from our church, and in return we offer mercy and forgiveness to all those in our Church who have not been so gracious to us in the past,” said Bourke.

The idea of LGBT people and the institutional church showing mutual respect to one another was the theme of Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s talk when he accepted New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award last Sunday.  You can read his talk by clicking here.

Bourke also recalled Notre Dame’s legendary president, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, as an inspiration for the event:

” ‘By supporting the civil rights movement among conservative circles, he [Hesburgh]was ahead of the curve in many ways,’ Bourke said. ‘Now, he is respected and admired for that courage.’

“Bourke said a main theme in the day’s speeches was the need for mutual reconciliation. 

” ‘We all need to give a little and work better at understanding each other,’ he said. ‘We need to find that area we can agree on.’ . . . 

” ‘We need someone willing to take a controversial stand, someone within Catholic leadership and the Catholic community,’ Bourke said. ‘Notre Dame could do that.’ “

The event was modeled on a similar Pilgrimage of Mercy in Louisville, Kentucky, held earlier this year.

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Phil Donahue addresses the pilgrims.

At the New York event, legendary television talk show host Phil Donahue was one of the speakers at the prayer rally.  Other speakers included: Jack Bergen, of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College; Chris Hartman of Catholics for Fairness; Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry executive director; Fr. Warren Hall, an openly priest from the Newark archdiocese who was recently because of his support for LGBT issues; Dave Swinarski, a St. Paul’s parishioner and a leader of their OUT at St.Paul’s LGBT ministry; and Holly Cargill-Cramer and Rosemary Grebin Palms of Fortunate Families.

Legendary television talk show host Phil Donahue was one of the speakers at the prayer rally.  Other speakers included: Jack Bergen, of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College; Chris Hartman of Catholics for Fairness; Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry executive director; Fr. Warren Hall, an openly priest from the Newark archdiocese who was recently because of his support for LGBT issues; Dave Swinarski, a St. Paul’s parishioner and a leader of their OUT at St.Paul’s LGBT ministry; and Holly Cargill-Cramer and Rosemary Grebin Palms of Fortunate Families.

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Francis DeBernardo speaks at rally. Pilgrim Leonard Discenza listens in background.

At the rally, DeBernardo called for greater conversation between bishops and LGBT people:

“This morning, all of us gathered here renew our call to our church, and especially to our church’s leaders, the U.S. bishops, to reject homophobic and transphobic words and deeds of the past, and instead to reach out in a spirit of mercy to LGBT Catholics who are an important but often under-recognized blessing to our Church.  And we ask LGBT Catholics to show mercy to church leaders for past harm, to offer forgiveness and reconciliation to them, just as Jesus offered forgiveness and reconciliation to Peter who denied him three times.

“In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we ask the bishops to remember the words of Pope Francis, spoken in a homily soon after his election in 2013, when he said that from Jesus ‘we do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation.’  This year of mercy is a time to begin the conversation. It’s a time for both the church’s bishops and LGBT Catholics to sit down together in humble and honest dialogue. May the Spirit of God open minds, hearts, ears, and mouths so that this dialogue can take place with understanding and charity.”

The Pilgrimage was co-sponsored by the following organizations: Catholics for FairnessGLAAD, HRC, New Ways Ministry, Equality Blessed, Dignity/USADignity/New York, Freedom for All Americans, Out At St Paul, Fortunate Families and Believe Out Loud.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 3, 2016

 

Would Pope Francis Condemn or Defend LGBT Church Workers?

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 15, 2016

The recent, terrible trend of Church employees being fired because of LGBT issues raises many questions about justice, equality, and human rights in the Catholic community. An Associated Press reporter also identified another important tension that this trend highlights. Michelle Smith noted that this trend also shows “the confusion that permeates some U.S. Roman Catholic parishes over Pope Francis’ words on homosexuality.”

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Michael Templeton

Many of Bondings 2.0’s readers have often wondered in their comments why Pope Francis, who seems concerned with pastoral outreach to LGBT people, has not become involved in the too many examples of church workers being fired because of a pastor’s or bishop’s disapproval of LGBT issues. Reporter Smith examined this question using the recent case of Michael Templeton, a Providence, Rhode Island, parish music director who was fired for marrying his male partner.

Smith notes that in this case:

“Francis is being cited by both the music director, Michael Templeton, and by Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin, known for taking a hard line on church teaching about marriage and abortion. Tobin has criticized Francis, writing after the pope’s summit on the family two years ago that ‘Francis is fond of “creating a mess.” Mission accomplished.’ “

The pope’s positive statements on LGBT people have been mixed with traditional orthodox defenses of heterosexual marriage, thus making the positive statements “a Rorschach test open to interpretation,” observes Smith. The reporter summed up this problem with a quote from a theological expert:

” ‘Pope Francis has not said, “Here’s what you should do in a parish where you have a music director who has married his partner of the same sex,”  said the Rev. James T. Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College. ‘Pope Francis is articulating general principles: forgiveness and mercy and not harsh judgment. But how you handle a particular case like this, he has been very reluctant to weigh in on it.’

“That means a gay Catholic’s fate depends on his diocese or individual pastor.”

Bishop Thomas Tobin
Bishop Thomas Tobin

As Bondings 2.0 reported previously, Bishop Tobin had released a statement citing Pope Francis’ statements and actions to defend the firing of Templeton.  (Yet, not all of Tobin’s supposed precedents are relevant.  For instance, the bishop said Francis fired Msgr. Kryzstof Charamsa of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for coming out as gay and acknowledging he was in a relationship.  Yet, more likely is that the prefect of the CDF fired Charamsa, and, in any case, the examples are not parallel since Charamsa was ordained.)

Smith offered a few recent examples that show the mixed messages that Francis has been giving:

“Francis underscored his emphasis on mercy over defending orthodoxy with his first U.S. picks for cardinals, announced Sunday, choosing bishops who have taken a more welcoming approach to gays and others who have felt alienated from the church.

“Asked this month about how he would minister to transgender Catholics, Francis responded: ‘When someone who has this condition comes before Jesus, Jesus would surely never say, “Go away because you’re gay.” ‘

“At the same time, he recently supported Mexican bishops working against a push to legalize same-sex marriage.”

The mixed messages may be indicative of how far–or not–Francis wants to go.  Smith cited Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry:

“Before Francis, ‘people were afraid to even say the words gay or lesbian,’ DeBernardo said. ‘I do think he’s taken an important step that could lead to further steps. I’m not certain, I don’t think he will make a change in church doctrine, but I think he is laying the groundwork for future changes.’ “

Pope Francis may not opine directly about a specific church worker firing or even the trend of firings now being experienced, but a close reading of his writings clarifies how he might respond. In Evangelii Gaudium, the pope warned against pastoral workers who exhibit a “spiritual worldliness,” manifest in one form as the “self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism” of church officials who act as if they are superior to others. Francis commented:

“A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.”

Where a church worker is fired for their gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, or political beliefs, church leaders have harmfully analyzed and classified that person strictly according to their gender and sexuality. Right-wing Catholics have expended themselves inspecting and verifying, and then publicly outing and shaming too many LGBT people in the church.

For those who think Pope Francis has made a mess of the Church, like Bishop Tobin has expressed, they would do well to ponder the words of Cardinal-elect Kevin Farrell who recently said, “If you find Pope Francis ‘confusing’ – you have not read or do not understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

In Evangelii Gaudium and elsewhere, Francis condemns church ministers whose foremost attitude is not mercy. Foremost for the pope is to see every person as beloved by God, and he consistently attacks each and every effort which reduces the mystery of the human person to something less than a child of God.

Like all of us, Francis is human and he is clearly grappling to understand sexuality and gender, confined as he may be by his own limitations and contexts. His outreach to LGBT people is as notable as it is imperfect, but on this point we can be clear: one can find no support for discriminating against LGBT church workers in the pastoral witness of Pope Francis.

 

New Ways Ministry and U.S. Catholics Rejoice at Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision

The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to enable marriage equality to be enacted throughout the nation.

New Ways Ministry rejoices with millions of U.S. Catholics that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples! On this historic day, we pray in thanksgiving that justice and mercy have prevailed and that the prayers and efforts of so many have combined to move our nation one step closer to fairness and equality for all.

With this Supreme Court victory, Catholics recommit themselves to working to make sure that all LGBT people are treated equally in both church and society.  While we are delighted with this victory, there is still much work to be done to ensure those goals.

Catholics have been at the forefront of working for equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples. The overwhelming majority of U.S. Catholics have consistently been in favor of marriage equality, and have put their support into action in legislative, judicial, and electoral campaigns.

Their Catholic faith has inspired them to make sure that their lesbian and gay family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers receive equal treatment by society. The Supreme Court’s decision embodies the Catholic values of human dignity, respect for differences, and the strengthening of families.

While the U.S. Catholic bishops have consistently opposed marriage equality measures on all fronts, Catholic people in the pews have had a different perspective from their leaders.   The lived faith of Catholic people has taught them that love, commitment, and sacrifice are the essential building blocks of marriage and family. Their daily experiences interacting with lesbian and gay couples and their families has taught them that these relationships are identical to heterosexual marriages in terms of the essential qualities needed to build a future together, establish a family, and contribute to social stability and growth.

The U.S. bishops now need to reconcile themselves to the new social reality of marriage equality, as it is poised to spread to all 50 states. They can do so by entering into a dialogue with lesbian and gay Catholics to learn more about the reality of their lives and how their faith inspires their relationships. The bishops should declare a moratorium on firing lesbian and gay church employees who have married legally. These firings have been a scandalous trend with effects that are harmful not only to the people involved, but to the life of the Church.

Today begins a time for Catholic supporters and Catholic opponents of marriage equality to reconcile with one another and work to build up their local faith communities so that together they can work for a world Pope Francis envisions: one of justice and mercy.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

New Ways Ministry’s LGBT Catholic Pilgrims Get VIP Seats at Papal Audience

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New Ways Ministry pilgrims pose in St. Peter’s Square following the papal audience with Pope Francis.

In what is surely the most official welcome from Church officials that New Ways Ministry has received in its 38-year history, a pilgrimage group of 48 LGBT Catholics and supporters led by our co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, received VIP seating at the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, on Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

Sister Jeannine had written to Pope Francis in December 2014, asking him to meet personally with the group when they visited Rome as part of their ten-day pilgrimage to Florence, Assisi, and the Eternal City.

Two weeks before departure on February 12th, she received a letter from Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household, letting her know that he had reserved tickets for the group for the Ash Wednesday audience.  She assumed that these were the general seating tickets. On the night of February 17th, when the group picked up the tickets at St. Peter’s, they learned that they were VIP seating.

When the group arrived at St. Peter’s Square in the morning, we were guided by papal ushers to the level of the Square where the pope sits.  All were astonished!    While we were not able to shake the pope’s hand personally, it is very significant that the Vatican responded so positively to an LGBT group by giving us such a prominent place at the audience.
When the pope passed by our group, we all sang “All Are Welcome,” a popular hymn which calls for an inclusive church.  We also called out several times that “We are LGBT Catholics!”
Pope Francis greets pilgrims at the Ash Wednesday audience.
Pope Francis greets pilgrims at the Ash Wednesday audience.

Although Sister Jeannine Gramick has led two other pilgrimages to Rome under the two previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, their presence was ignored at the papal audiences.

A Religion News Service story in The Washington Post noted that it was not just Vatican recognition that was significant, but that several other Church leaders helped the process along the way:

“. . . Archbishop Georg Ganswein, head of the papal household and the top aide to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, responded to New Ways’ request for a papal meet-and-greet by reserving tickets for the group at Francis’ weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square. It’s not a private meeting — which is tough for anyone to get — but it’s not nothing.

“The pope’s ambassador to Washington forwarded a similar request to Rome. Even San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone — point man for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ battle against gay marriage — had written a letter to the Vatican on their behalf.

“Last December, Cordileone had a constructive meeting with Frank DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, a co-founder of New Ways and a longtime advocate for LGBT inclusion in the church. But they were still surprised by the archbishop’s willingness to write a letter for them.”

Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo in St. Peter's Square following the Ash Wednesday audience.
Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo in St. Peter’s Square following the Ash Wednesday audience.

Gibson also noted that a British cardinal has given similar prestigious recognition to an LGBT Catholic pilgrimage which is also in Rome this week:

” . . . British Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster sent a warm blessing to a group of LGBT Catholics from London who are joining up with New Ways in Rome. ‘Be assured of my prayers for each and every one of you,’ Nichols wrote. ‘Have a wonderful pilgrimage. God bless you all.’ “

Reuters story published on Huffington Post captured the response of New Ways Ministry’s leaders just after they left the papal audience:

” ‘What this says is that there is movement in our Church, movement to welcome people from the outside closer to the inside,’ Gramick said in St. Peter’s Square. . . . “DeBernardo said Catholic gay and lesbian couples and other non-traditional families should be invited to the meeting, known as a synod, to speak to the bishops about their faith and their sexuality.”

An Associated Press video also reported their reactions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhM3UMRl830 Several of the LGBT pilgrims were visibly moved by the welcome they received and by the experience of seeing the pope in person.  Several noted that they felt this was one more step in the progress–albeit, slow–that LGBT Catholics have been making in the Church for several decades.  All agreed that this day will never be forgotten.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Associated Press: “Gay Catholics Get Vatican Welcome, but No Papal Shout-Out”

New York Daily News:  “American gay Catholic group welcomed to Vatican”

Was Synod 2014 a “Turning Point” or “Clash of Factions”? What Will Synod 2015 Be?

The upcoming synod on marriage and family to take place at the Vatican in 2015 was in the news this week because the discussion document was released, and bishops around the world were once again asked to consult with the laity about matters pertaining to the synod’s topic.

Pope Francis

But this week there was also a looking back towards the October 2014 synod.  At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about the recent meeting and said that the meeting did not include a “clash of factions,” as media reports indicated.  Religion News Service provided excerpts from the pope’s comments on the past synod:

“ ‘Some of you have asked me if the synod fathers fought,’ Francis said. ‘I don’t know if they “fought,” but they spoke forcefully. This is freedom. This is just the kind of freedom that there is in the church.’

“In a bid to set the record straight, the pope acknowledged the extensive media coverage of the global gathering in October and likened it to ‘sports or political coverage.’

“ ‘They often spoke of two teams, pro and con, conservatives and liberals,’ the pope told thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

“ ‘There was no clash between factions … but a dialogue between the bishops, which came after a long process of preparation and now continues, for the good of the family, the church and society. It’s a process.’ ”

Jesuit commentator Father Thomas Reese had a different interpretation of the meeting.  He stated that differences of opinion clearly existed among the synod participants, making this synod very different from those in recent memory.  Reese said:

“Rather than advising the pope, these earlier synods often simply quoted the pope to himself. They were a way of bishops showing their loyalty. Francis gave the bishops freedom to speak.”

Indeed, in the document that was released this week, that landmark meeting in October was described as a pastoral “turning point” for the Church, the Associated Press noted.

Both New Ways Ministry and DignityUSA criticized this week’s document because of using the term “homosexual tendencies,” and because of lack of focus on families headed by gay and lesbian couples. In addition to each group’s statements, an Advocate.com article contained additional comments from the leaders of these two organizations.

 

Ryan Denson, writing at AddictingInfo.com has a different point of view, though, about the document and the upcoming synod.  He sees the identification of a “turning point” as significant, and that the Catholic Church may be on the road to becoming more open to LGBT people and those who are divorced and remarried.  Denson wrote:

“Baby steps are turning into leaps as Pope Francis and the Vatican urge the world’s bishops to be guided, not just by doctrine, but by the Pope’s compassionate message which includes a ‘turning point’ inspired by meetings at the Vatican. The new message seeks to provide better pastoral care for gays and divorcees across the globe . . . .

“[I]n other words, the Vatican is asking the bishops and other clergy members to act like Jesus, who loves and respects all, and not act like arrogant, judgmental religious zealots. Instead of focusing on outdated dogma, Pope Francis is truly teaching the Gospels, and with the ousting of several prominent homophobic priests, the Vatican is starting to realize that he means business.

“The bottom line is this: the Pope is currently facing vocal opposition from those who view the church as an exclusive club where the unsaved and unworthy are not welcomed. He wants to change this. And he has made it very obvious that he does.”

ThinkProgress.com also looked on a more positive side to the survey released.  They quoted several progressive Catholic leaders, who have a more optimistic view of the synod, the questionnaire, and the process.  Bob Shine of New Ways Ministry was one of those more optimistic voices:

“ ‘Language about tendencies is problematic,’ Shine, who oversees young adult ministries for New Ways, told ThinkProgress in an email. ‘That said, I think the intentions of reaching out to and providing pastorally for LGBT people and their families is what is really guiding this process … Pope Francis has encouraged genuine dialogue during this whole synodal process.’ ”

Other Catholic leaders said likewise:

“ ‘Regardless of the wording, the survey itself is a step in the right direction towards providing better pastoral care of LGBT people, as is the Vatican asking for wider inputs from ‘all levels’ for the 2015 synod on the family,’ Stephen Seufert, state director of the progressive Catholic group Keystone Catholics, told ThinkProgress. ‘Both the survey and the Vatican document released yesterday relating to the 2015 synod are indications of a church that wants to focus less on rigid, uncompromising doctrine and more on providing greater pastoral care.’

“James Salt, executive director of the left-leaning advocacy group Catholics United, echoed Seufert.

“ ‘The fact that they are explicitly asking this question is a sign of progress,’ he said. ‘Rather than retreating to a position of doctrine, they are reflecting the changing world that we live in.’ ”

Clearly, marriage and family are high on Pope Francis’ agenda.  This week, he announced that he will be speaking on these topics in a series of talks at his weekly general audiences at the Vatican.  Bondings 2.0 will keep an eye on important messages, especially those relating to LGBT people.

So, what do you think?  Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the upcoming 2015 synod?  What did you think of the document that was released this week?  Are you surprised to hear Pope Francis say that the 2014 synod was not a contentious discussion?  Leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

Praying for Synod and for New Ways Ministry’s Presence in Rome and Portugal

One week from today, Pope Francis will open the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops to discuss the topic, The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.  For Catholic LGBT advocates, there has been great anticipation of the event, perhaps mainly because Pope Francis asked the bishops of the world to consult the laity on marriage and family topics, and, even more so, because pastoral care of families headed by same-gender couples was one of the areas for which input was sought.

Today has been set aside as a day of prayer for the Synod, and Pope Francis has composed a Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod.   You can access this prayer, and other prayer intentions for the Synod, by clicking here.   Of course, we ask that you include in your prayer for the Synod that the concerns of families with LGBT members or those headed by same-gender couples will be heard and responded to pastorally by the bishops.

When the Synod opens on Sunday, October 5th, New Ways Ministry representatives will be in Rome.  Both Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder, and Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, will be traveling there to participate in several events surrounding the Synod, and also with the hope that they will be able to provide a pro-LGBT voice in the public discussions of the Synod that the media will offer.  In addition, DeBernardo will travel to Portugal for the first international meeting of Catholic LGBT groups.

Joining them, too, in Rome will be Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia.  Bishop Robinson spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012, where he called for a total re-vamping of the Church’s system of sexual ethics.

The following are the various events that these three people will participate in:

  • “The Ways of Love: International Conference on pastoral care with homosexual and trans people,” Friday October 3, 2014, at the Waldensian Faculty of Theology, Aula Magna, via Pietro Cossa 40, Rome.  For more information, and to see the line-up of speakers, click here.    (For a previous blog post about this event, click here.)
  • “Lets’s witness our hope,”  a forum for Italian Christian LGBT groups, Saturday and Sunday, October 4-5, 2014, at Centro Pellegrini Santa Teresa Couderc, Via Vincenzo Ambrosio 9, Rome.  For more information about this event, click here.
  • “The Path from the 2014 Synod to the 2015 Synod: The Pastoral Challenges for Welcoming LGBT people,” a lecture by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, Wednesday, October 8, 2014,  Via Marianna Dionigi, 59, Rome.  This lecture is sponsored by Nuova Proposta, a Christian LGBT organization in Rome.  For more information, click here.
  • “When Identity Becomes a Crime: Criminalization of Homosexuality Globally,” an international conference, Saturday, October 11, 2014, 4:30-6:3o pm, at the Capitoline Museum, Sala Pietro da’ Cortona, piazza del Campidoglio 1, Rome. The speakers will be Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan LGBT activist, Jules Eloundou, a human rights defender from Cameroon, André du Plessis, UN program and advocacy director for ILGA World, and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s executive director. Dr. Michael Brinkschröder, a co-president of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, will moderate.  Bishops participating in the Synod are invited to attend.   The event is sponsored by the City of Rome and Dutch Ministry’s Department of Education, Science & Culture.

While in Europe, New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo will also travel to Portugal to attend a meeting of Catholic LGBT groups from around the globe who are gathering to discuss the inauguration of a world-wide association for those who work for LGBT equality in the Church.  The meeting will be held in the city of Portimão on October 6-8, 2014.

28 organizations from 16 different countries will be attending this first World Congress of Catholic Homosexual Associations.   Organized by Rumos Novos,  a Portugese Catholic gay and lesbian group (whose name, incidentally, translates as “New Ways”), this meeting’s theme will be “Building Bridges.”  According to the meeting’s website:

“This congress invites us to look with serenity and deepness towards our Church and our life, allowing that on ‘both sides of the bridge’ light can brighten the view of all, often distorted  by prejudices, fears and sorrows.”

DeBernardo will be a speaker at the conference, addressing the topic of the gifts that LGBT people bring to the Church.

José Leote, the coordinator of the conference, in an interview with Algarve Daily News, said the meeting’s participants will send a letter to Pope Francis.  They will ask the pope, among other things, that gay and lesbian people will experience “integration at all levels of the Church and the possibility of working in parishes without the stigma of sexual orientation.”

The Portugal News described the two-pronged parts of this meeting:

“The congress will take part in two phases, the first being a public phase and open to anyone interested, and a second part reserved for representatives of the associations in which the basis of the future World Organisation is to be set.”

While New Ways Ministry asks for your prayers for the Synod, especially that LGBT concerns will be heard, we also ask your prayers for Sister Jeannine and Francis DeBernardo, as they journey to these events.  Please pray that God will bless them with wisdom, courage, and fortitude during these important events.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

LGBT Advocates Will Explain ‘Ways of Love’ to Synod of Bishops

As you probably already know, in October this year, the Vatican will be hosting a world synod of bishops to discuss marriage and family issues.  Just days before that  meeting begins, an international group of Catholic supporters of LGBT people will be meeting in Rome, along with representatives of the Waldensian Church and of the civil society, in order to discuss about how to renew the pastoral care with a view of fully including the LGBT people, and same-gender couples and families.

The conference, entitled “The Ways of Love: International Conference for a Pastoral Care with Homosexual and Transsexual People,” will take place on Friday, October 3, 2014, in Rome.   At the close of the conference, an appeal for appropriate pastoral care for LGBT people will be made to the bishops meeting in the synod.

A keynote speaker at the event will be Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary bishop from Australia who is the author of the book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church.  Bishop Robinson was a featured speaker at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012, where he called for a total re-vamping of the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality.

In addition to Bishop Robinson, the other speakers will be:

 James Alison, Catholic theologian and priest. Originally from the United Kingdom, he residesin Brazil and has worked extensively on homosexuality and Catholic faith, in particular on Catholic consciousness and gay consciousness;
Antonietta Potente, theologian and Italian Dominican nun based in Bolivia. She will offer a reflection on a new approach of the Gospel to the LGBT people;
Letizia Tomassone, Waldensian pastor, President of the Commission on Faith and Homosexuality of the Baptist, Methodist, and Waldensian Churches in Italy. She will tell about the path that these Churches have undertaken before openly including the LGBT people and couples;
Joseanne Peregin, President of the Christian Life Community in Malta and mother of a homosexual man. She will tell about the feelings and the fears that Catholic parents may have when it comes to homosexual children.

In anticipation of this conference, the website for the meeting has been posting interviews with some of the conference organizers, an international group of people from five continents.   Below is a sampling from some of those interviews, describing the needs of LGBT Catholics and the hopes for the syond.  Clicking on each name will bring you to the page with the entire interview with that person.

Michael Clifton, David et Jonathan, France:

“When the PACS (Civil Union bill) was introduced in 1999, the Roman Catholic Church’s reaction was quite hysterical, with demonstrators chanting ‘Les pédés au bûcher!’ (‘Burn the faggots!’). When last year (2013) the present government introduced a law allowing marriage and adoption for same-sex couples, there were once again enormous demonstrations, sometimes violent.

“The Church paid for special trains and buses to carry demonstrators to Paris and in churches the faithful were asked to pray for the demonstrators. But officially no members of the hierarchy took part in these demonstrations: some of them just went along before the demonstrations to congratulate and encourage the demonstrators.

“The archbishops of Paris and Lyon made quite strong public statements, likening homosexuality to, for example, zoophilia. Since the law has been enacted, the climate has become quieter and rumours are going around that a large number of the bishops regret the excessive language of last year.

“Even so, the bishop of Bayonne, earlier this year, went to Russia to congratulate Putin on his energetic persecution of homosexuals. On the other hand, two or three bishops have made definite attempts to set up some dialogue with homosexual groups and there is also some contact with influential theologians.”

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, USA

“I think this synod is a great opportunity for bishops to discuss LGBT people, relationships, and families. It is the first time the bishops are covering the topics of marriage and family in a synod since the question of legal marriages for gay and lesbian couples has become a reality. Many bishops from around the world have already publicly acknowledged that most Catholics do not accept the moral condemnation of loving, committed lesbian and gay relationships.

“If these bishops are honest, I think they will realize that this rejection of the church’s teaching is not because people don’t understand it, but because Catholics of good faith have reflected prayerfully on their experiences of lesbian and gay people and couples and have witnessed something holy in their lives and commitment.

“It’s also the first synod under Pope Francis. I think the bishops know that people around the world have responded positively to Francis’ new, welcoming approach to LGBT people. I think they will realize that any negative statements from the synod about lesbian and gay couples will alienate a great number of Catholics in the pews.”

Gianni Geraci, Progetto Gionata, Italy:

“Pointing out new ways where the ecclesial communities and homosexuals can meet and discover a new meaning for the announcement of the Gospel is what is needed. The idea is to follow in Abram’s footsteps, who wasn’t defeated by fear, who didn’t stand still in Harran where his father took him, who didn’t want to know in advance where the Lord was taking him, who didn’t ask for reassurance but only God’s promise to keep him under His blessing. (Gen. 12:1, 2).

“Homosexuals’ experience is deeply connected to Abram’s vocation: just like him, they need to face a horizon they don’t know, go down a road of which the final destination is unknown and the challenge of turning their homosexuality into sanctity without role models or points of reference. Just as happened to Abram, they will hear their old friends ask: ‘Why are you doing this? Live your life and give up unrealistic ambitions. Don’t walk roads you are not familiar with.

“But just as Abram did, they will hear God’s promise echo in their hearts: it is absurd to human reasoning (‘I will make you into a great Nation’, the Lord said to him when he was seventy-five and with no children because of his wife’s barreness) and it is demanding (‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household’). This promise, apart from His blessing (‘I will bless you’), has no warranty (‘Go to the land I will show you’). There is only an undefined destination that the Lord will point out on the way. Yet it is God’s promise.”

The conference is sponsored by the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups and financially supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of the Netherlands.  It will be held at the Waldensian Faculty of Theology, Rome.

In addition to the three people quoted abover, other conference organizers include:

Francesco Boschi (REFO, Italy); Michael Brinkschroeder (European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, Netherlands); Marianne Duddy-Burke (DignityUSA, United States); David Musonda (Dette Resource Foundation, Zambia); Innocenzo Pontillo (Progetto Gionata, Italy); Andrea Rubera (Nuova Proposta, Italy); Diane Xuereb (Drachma LGBT, Malta).

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry