Witness to Resurrection! Support Gay Priests!

Tomorrow, Holy Thursday, bishops around the world will be joining in celebrating the Chrism Mass with the priests of their diocese, blessing oils for use in the sacraments and remembering their call to priesthood.

It’s a good time to pause to remember that a good portion of those priests and bishops gathered in cathedrals tomorrow will be gay men,  many of them having to hide their identities from their confreres and parishioners, family and friends.  These situations are often personally challenging and difficult for men who have given their lives in service to others.  What makes these situations even more poignant is the fact that, given the growing evidence that Catholics overwhelmingly support LGBT equality, it would be very likely that many of these priests would be welcomed and supported by their parishioners and friends if they shared their identities with them.

A recent essay on Huffington Post describes a grassroots initiative for lay people to begin to show their support for gay priests.  Rev. Gary Meier, an openly gay priest who works as a mental health counselor describes “The 4th Day Initiative,” the brainchild of Barbara Marian and Jerry Powers, the Illinois parents of a lesbian daughter.  Meier wrote:

“. . . [O]ver a year ago, I began corresponding with Barbara [Marian] and Jerry [Powers] from Illinois. Our communications resulted in what Barbara and Jerry call the ‘4th Day Initiative’ which seeks to promote visible faith allies by encouraging churchgoers to wear white strips to mass which are symbolic of the burial linens that Lazarus was wearing when Jesus tells the community to ‘Unbind him and let him go.’ (John 11:1-14)

“Here’s an adaptation and summary of what they wrote: The church has many faith allies and perhaps they get their inspiration in the biblical account of the raising of Lazarus, found in the Gospel according to St. John 11:1-44. According to the story, Jesus begins his miracle by turning to those mourning the death of Lazarus, and telling them, ‘Take away the stone.’ When Lazarus rises from the dead at Jesus’ command and comes out of the cave still bound in his burial linens, Jesus again turns to the mourners and bids them, ‘Unbind him and let him go.’

Meier describes how this Gospel story can be interpreted to apply to the context of gay priests and their parishioners, families, and friends:

“Lazarus, beloved friend of Jesus and brother of Mary and Martha, represents every one of our gay clergy, trapped and bound by denial and concealment.

“The central action of wearing white strips declares the readiness of people in the pews to support our gay clergy and church employees in their emergence from the tomb of hollow holiness.

“The mourners in the Lazarus story stand in for Catholics in the pews who experience turmoil, grief and anger in response to the rejection, devaluing, shaming, bullying and firing of gay clergy and personnel. . . .

“The wearing of white strips of material is a powerful visual statement of solidarity with their priests and church employees.”

Barbara Marian offered the following comment to Bondings 2.0 to encourage Catholics to support the “4th Day Initiative”:

Barbara Marian

“In every movement towards justice ‘coming out’ changes everything. It always has and always will.  To support our priests the people in the assembly must come out first.

“Catholics coming out at Mass is the most powerful and effective action we can take because it evokes and demands deeper conversation and dialogue about and with our clergy and church employees.
“We must push with all our might to roll away the stone!  We are called to open the Church to Easter’s new life through our show of support for the LGBT community.
“I believe that attitudes and policies in the Church will not be transformed unless and until the people of God come out of the cave into the light as we act together to include, value and embrace our gender- and sexually-diverse brothers and sisters.”
As we prepare to celebrate the gift of the priesthood and the glorious feast of Easter, let us remember the gay priests and bishops in our midst.  To testify to our support for them and to the transforming power of new life, consider wearing some white strips of cloth on your lapel when you go to church this Easter.   You’re sure to spark transformative conversations with your friends and neighbors, and you’ll send a visible sign of support to gay priests, bishops, and all LGBT church personnel.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 12, 2017
At New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis,  scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, Chicago, Barbara Marian will co-lead a focus session on “LGBT Parish Ministry.”  At the same meeting, Warren Hall will lead a focus session on “Gay Men in the Priesthood and Religious Life.”  For more information and to register, visit www.Symposium2017.org.    

Catholic LGBT Things to Do Before 2016 Ends!

Don’t let these deadlines pass without acting!

newwayssymp-logoREGISTER at the early bird rate for New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss:  LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.”  The deadline for a discounted early bird rate is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2016.  You won’t want to miss this exciting event, which will include a Meet-up for Bondings 2.0 readers!  Click here for more information!  Click here to register!

13114249825_e879cef180_bSIGN “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations,” a statement in support of gay priests and seminarians which will be sent to Pope Francis, Vatican officials, the USCCB president, and gay priests that are known to New Ways Ministry.  The deadline is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2016.  Sign the statement by clicking here.

thumbs upVOTE for what you think were the best and worst Catholic LGBT news events of 2016. Bondings 2.0‘s annual poll is a way for readers to weigh in on the major events that transpired over the last 12 months.  The deadline is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2016. Cast your vote by clicking here.  Results will be posted on December 30th and 31st.

James Martin croppedREAD and CIRCULATE the newly-released Spanish language version of Jesuit Father James Martin’s “A Two-Lane Bridge/Un Puente de Dos Direcciones,” a groundbreaking talk on Catholic LGBT issues, which he gave upon receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award earlier this year.  You can access the talk by clicking here.

follow-1277026_640KEEP UP TO DATE on Catholic LGBT news and opinion by subscribing to Bondings 2.0!  Subscribing is simple:  Go to the top of the right-hand column of this blog page.  You’ll see the “Follow” box.  Enter your email address in the box and click the button.  You’re done!  You’ll receive an email every time the blog is updated, usually once a day.  You can also manage how often you’d like to hear from us.  Resolve to stay informed in 2017!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 28, 2016

Did the Vatican Ban Gay Priests or Not?

Since the publication of the Vatican Congregation for Priests’ “The Gift of Priestly Vocation” a few weeks ago, most commentators have noted that the document reaffirms a 2005 ban on the ordination of gay men.  Yet Fr. Louis Cameli, a theologian, wrote an article in L’Osservatore Romanothe Vatican newspaper, this past week in which he says the Vatican document does not issue a blanket ban on gay men being ordained.

[Editor’s note:  Fr. Cameli’s text was originally published in Italian.  An English language translation of his article can be found at the end of an America magazine article which reported on the publication of Fr. Cameli’s thoughts.]

Fr. Cameli believes that the text’s language is nuanced and needs interpretation.   I believe the problem with the Vatican document is that the language is not nuanced, but sloppy, and thus, dangerous.  The problem is not one of subtlety, The authors use terms that are incorrect or that have vague definitions.

For Fr. Cameli, the key language from the 2005 document, which is quoted in this latest text, reads:

“. . . [T]he Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question [‘persons with homosexual tendencies’], cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’ Such persons find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”

The theologian argues that of the three criteria mentioned–practicing homosexuality, possessing deep-seated homosexual tendencies, supporting ‘gay culture–the first and third are clear-cut, with the second one needing some deeper interpretation.

As for the first,  Fr. Cameli notes that since celibacy is required of priests, sexual activity is not permitted.  But the text does not speak of sexual activity but of men who “practice homosexuality.”

But, what does it mean to “practice homosexuality.”  Obviously, the Vatican and Fr. Cameli are using this term to mean sexual activity.  They do not realize that “homosexuality” refers to many more characteristics than sexual activity.  “Homosexuality” also refers to one’s sexual orientation, regardless of whether one acts sexually. Sexuality, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, refers to a variety of factors in a person:  emotions, desires, fantasies, interactions, as well as physical actions.  Being homosexual also involves a large number of social stigmas and pressures to be overcome. So, when is a person considered to be “practicing” homosexuality?  The Vatican document takes this broad term and gives it a narrow definition of  referring to sexual activity.

As for supporting ‘gay culture,’ Fr. Cameli interprets this phrase to mean “an environment and a movement that advocates moral stances at variance with Church teaching.” But this definition is not explicit in the document and does not conform to the way that ordinary people understand “supporting ‘gay culture.”  The mere fact that the Vatican document puts “gay culture” in quotation marks indicates their negative evaluation of the concept.

In fact, gay culture has a lot in common with church teaching:  the values of being true to oneself, of being courageous, of listening to the voice of God within a person, of loving and living as a full human being, and many more aspects.  In such instances, Church leaders should definitely want priests to support gay culture.

The question of what “support” of gay culture entails is also problematic When a pastoral minister reaches out to a gay person, is that support of gay culture?  When a person supports the equality of an LGBT person before the law, is that grounds to deny a person admission to seminary? If a person speaks out against LGBT youth being bullied, would that prevent this person from being ordained?

The Vatican’s imprecise use of language in this document is as dangerous and harmful as the imprecision of the term “objective disorder” to refer to homosexual orientation.  More and more bishops are requesting such language be retired by the Church because of it is misleading and causes negative effects.  Yet, we see that style continues in this latest document.

As for the second criteria, Fr. Cameli acknowledges that the Vatican’s phrase “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” is vague, but he offers four examples of men to whom it might apply:  1) men who consider “being gay” the central factor of their identity; 2) men who are obsessed or preoccupied with their homosexual identity; 3) men whose sexuality creates “a blockage in one’s relational capacities,” meaning that they can’t relate to women well or who relate to men too erotically; 4) men who have a pervasive “sense of inevitability about acting on homosexual inclinations.”

I would agree with Fr. Cameli that such men would not be suitable candidates for the priesthood.  However, I do not see how the term “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” can be interpreted to apply to the types of men that Fr. Cameli suggests it does.  To most people, “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” would mean the presence of a homosexual orientation, plain and simple.  It does not refer to problems with one’s sexuality.

The cause for the mental and emotional reactions Fr. Cameli describes is not “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”  Instead, such behavior reflects certain men’s lack of maturity in integrating their sexuality into their personality.  These problems can exist in heterosexual priests, as well as homosexual priests.  They are not the exclusive province of homosexuality.

This lack of precision in language raises a question: why doesn’t the Vatican use the term “homosexual orientation”?  Why doesn’t the Vatican state its concern with men whose sexuality is not maturely integrated into their personality, regardless of their orientation?  That would have made this document so much clearer.

If the Vatican did not want to ban gay men from the priesthood, why didn’t they say so in clearer terms?   What gay man reading this document will think that the Vatican welcomes him?

Instead, the Vatican used specifically vague and misleading language that is not understood by the rest of the world.  That is the main fault with this document.  Fr. Cameli blames the media for too blunt an interpretation of this document.  I disagree.  The blame lies with Vatican officials who continue to use antiquated, uninformed language.  They should know better.  For over 40 years, bishops, theologians, pastoral ministers, and lay people have been calling for church officials to use more accurate language about homosexuality.

If church leaders continue to use inaccurate language about homosexuality, the only things that one can surmise from such behavior is that they do not understand the subject they are discussing or they are content with promoting a negative evaluation of LGBT people.  Neither alternative is responsible.

If you would like to show your support for gay priests, you can sign New Ways Ministry’ statement “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations” by clicking here. This statement is a wonderful way to let Catholic leaders know that Catholic lay people welcome and support the gay priests in their midst.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 21, 2016


Let’s Find Out the Real Number of Gay Priests in the Church

“It is time for the bishops to commission a reputable survey to determine what percent of their priests are gay. They should also do a survey to determine the reaction of their flock to the reality of gay priests.”

That’s one of the conclusions that Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, columnist for The National Catholic Reporter has come to after hearing about the Vatican’s reaffirmation of a ban on gay priests.  He explained his position in a blog post entitled “Yes, there are lots of good gay priests”

Reese was forthright in his condemnation of the Vatican document, noting:

“The idea that gays cannot be good priests is stupid, demeaning, unjust, and contrary to the facts. I know many very good priests who are gay, and I suspect even more good priests I know are gay.”

The fact that the Vatican continues to issues statements against gay priests (Pope Benedict XVI had issued one in 2005) creates an unhealthy atmosphere in the Church.  Reese explains that the existence of such negative instructions cause seminarians and priests “to lie about their sexuality — not a healthy thing, especially with your spiritual director.”  He continues:

“In an era when seminarians are being encouraged to live more healthy emotional lives, they should not be forced to lie about who they are. In such seminaries, the faculty and administrators either play inquisitor or turn a blind eye to sexual orientation. As a consequence, some psychologists evaluating candidates for the priesthood refuse to list sexual orientation in their reports, lest it be found by someone and used against the man.

“Like the military of old, the seminary and priestly culture becomes one of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ “

One of the real problems the Church faces in regards to gay priests is knowing just how many there are in the priesthood.  As someone who has traveled in church circles for most of my adult life, and who, for the past 22 years has spoken with clergy all over the country, anecdotal evidence convinces me that the number is at least 50% and most likely much more.  I say this not based on the number of priests that I have met who are gay, but from reports from priests, both gay and straight, and both pro-gay and anti-gay, who tell me what their estimates are based on their knowledge of local clergy.

Father Thomas Reese, SJ
Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Reese notes that bishops have often been opposed to finding out the actual number of gay priests:

“Before he died, I asked the sociologist Dean Hoge, who had done numerous surveys of priests, and he said that the bishops would never allow him to ask the question in any of his surveys. The bishops did not want to know, or they were afraid of the numbers being publicized in the media.”

But there are a wide variety of other motivations for keeping the lid on the phenomenon of gay priests.  Reese explains:

“Bishops and religious superiors continue to advise gay priests and religious to stay in the closet. Some fear too much publicity about gay priests will drive away heterosexual vocations, but today it is more likely that heterosexual young people will be driven away by homophobic prejudice. Others fear that gay priests will be shunned by their parishioners or looked upon with suspicion because gays have been falsely blamed for the sexual abuse crisis. And in today’s world, such priests and religious would likely be attacked in right-wing media, including social media. “

All of this leads Reese to call for a reputable survey to find out both the number of gay priests, and Catholic lay people’s acceptance of them.   While I don’t have a good answer for the first question, I think I have a pretty good idea of what the answer to the second question might be. Having spoken with scores of gay priests over the last two decades,  a number of whom are out to their congregations, not one has ever told me that the response has been negative.  Yes, one or two parishioners might have a

Having spoken with scores of gay priests over the last two decades,  a number of whom are out to their congregations, not one has ever told me that the response has been negative.  Yes, one or two parishioners might have a problem and might leave the parish, but the overwhelming response has been acceptance and love.  And this is from priests who serve in various parts of the country in an amazingly diverse set of parishes.  And the number of supportive Catholics will continue to expand as greater acceptance of LGBT people continues to rise in the future.

You can show your support for gay priests by signing New Ways Ministry’ statement “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations” by clicking here,  reading the statement, and signing your name.  This statement is a wonderful way to let Catholic leaders know that Catholic lay people welcome and support the gay priests in their midst.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 12, 2016

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


” ‘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”


Support Gay Priests! Sign “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations” Statement!

To respond to the Vatican’s recent reaffirmation of a ban on gay priests and seminarians, New Ways Ministry is launching a signature campaign for Catholics to show support for the gay men who serve them pastorally through ordained ministry.  You can read the full text of the statement, and sign it, by clicking here.

13114249825_e879cef180_bThe statement, entitled “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations,” expresses the idea that Catholics are well aware that gay men are already serving very faithfully and successfully in the Church. Moreover, the statement attests to the fact that Catholics are grateful for the ministry and witness of gay priests, and it makes note of the unique perspective and gifts that they bring to the Church.   The title of the New Ways Ministry statement “corrects” the title of the Vatican document which condemns gay priests, “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation.”

In addition to describing the blessing that gay priests offer the Church, the statement offers the following affirmation:

“To our gay priests and seminarians, we say, ‘Thank you! Despite what the Vatican has said about you, we offer you our total support. You are welcome in this church. You are one of us. You are wonderfully made.’ “

You can read “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations” in full, and sign it, by clicking here.  The deadline for signing the statement is December 31, 2016.  Copies of the the statement and the signers’ names will be sent to:

  • Pope Francis
  • Cardinal Beniamino Sella, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy
  • Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • The many gay priests that New Ways Ministry is in touch with.

We also encourage you to alert the gay priests and seminarians that you know to see the support which they have received from Catholics around the world. Do so after the deadline of December 31, 2016, so that they can see the full list.

We want this statement to let Church leaders know that Catholics welcome the ministry of gay men in the priesthood and do not want a ban on their admission to seminaries and ordination. We also want this statement to let gay priests know that Catholics stand with them through this latest attack on their dignity and integrity.

Please share the statement with friends of yours so that they can sign it, too.   Send them this URL:


Use your social media and email contacts to spread the word!

–Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 9, 2016



New Ways Ministry Responds to Pope Francis’ Ban on Gay Men from the Priesthood

The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response to the news that Pope Francis has approved a document entitled “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation from the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, which reaffirms Pope Benedict XVI’s 2005 ban on gay men from entering the Catholic priesthood.

Pope Francis has a lot of explaining to do by approving the newest Vatican instruction that reaffirms a 2005 ban on gay men becoming priests.  Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” statement in 2013 was made in response to a question about gay men in the priesthood, and that response indicated very plainly that he did not have a problem with a gay priest’s sexual orientation, as long as “he searches for the Lord and has good will.”

The newest document, entitled “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” contains three sections about gay men as candidates for the priesthood, and all of the messages are negative.  The writers of the document seem to have closed their eyes to the fact that thousands upon thousands of gay men are already serving faithfully and effectively in the Catholic priesthood.  Indeed, without gay men, the Church would not be able to operate.  (Add to that the multitude of lesbian women who serve in diverse ministries in the Church, whose service allows so much good to happen.)

Bishops and many heads of men’s religious orders have ignored the 2005 document, realizing the gifts that many gay men bring to the priesthood and church ministry.  It is likely that these and many other leaders will simply ignore the bad advice of this most recent document.

Had the document not been approved by Pope Francis, it could easily be dismissed as the work of over-zealous Vatican officials.  But the pope’s approval of this text is a great disappointment to many people—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual supporters—who held out greater hopes for this pontiff who had done so much to open church discussion on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity.  So much of the language about gay men is simply a restatement from the 2005 document issued by Pope Benedict XVI.  In his three-and-a-half years as pontiff, Francis has shown that he has moved away from Benedict’s approach to issues of sexuality.

It’s not too late for the pope to retract this document. That would be a healing balm to many who are surely going to be pastorally hurt by this step, and many others who are sure to leave the Catholic Church because of it.

At the very least, Pope Francis owes it to the Church, the world, and, not least, the LGBT community to explain exactly where he stands, given the blatant contradiction between “Who am I to judge?” and this most recent document.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 7. 2016