World Youth Day Is a Perfect Moment for Pope Francis’ LGBT Apology

July 30, 2016

98944ae5-b1c9-4290-a9ca-ca630ec8e7b1Tomorrow, Pope Francis concludes his visit to World Youth Day in Poland by celebrating a closing Mass. This moment would be perfect for him to act on his call for the church to apologize to LGBT people and other marginalized groups.

There are at least three reasons why World Youth Day is an ideal moment for a papal apology.

First, World Youth Day has in the past been a time for apology and for reconciliation. Pope Benedict XVI apologized to Australian victims of clergy sexual abuse in 2008, saying to attendees in Sydney that he wished to “acknowledge the shame which we have all felt. . .I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering.” He also met privately with four victims and celebrated Mass with them. Pope John Paul II apologized in Paris during World Youth Day 1997 for the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572, where Catholics killed thousands of Protestants.

It would also not be the first World Youth Day during which Francis himself offered reconciling words, including on LGBT issues. In 2013, the pope said his famous “Who am I to judge?” line during an interview on the return flight from Rio. He expanded these words to “Who are we to judge?” in another in-flight interview this past June, in his call for the church to apologize.

Second, church teachings on sexuality and gender are foremost areas with which Catholics wrestle. This is especially for younger Catholics, who are increasingly affirming of LGBT rights and who are coming out in greater numbers. Critics have accused Pope Francis of tailoring messages to his audiences, but in this case, he should do just that. Eve Tushnet, a lesbian Catholic woman, offered insightful comments about what an apology on behalf of the church could and should be. She framed her thoughts around the Act of Contrition, writing at Vox:

“Even attempts to offer nuanced reflections on Christian relationships with gay communities often assume that repentance is the gay person’s role, forgiveness the Christian’s. The pope has overturned this model.

“The pope demonstrates that right relationship with God and others requires admitting fault even, and especially, toward those we have been trained to view as less moral. He has taken the lowest place at the banquet and offered his own moral authority as a mantle to cover gay people who have been harmed.”

Tushnet said, too, that Pope Francis has asked Catholics to “notice our sins” so they can be avoided in the future and amends can be made. An apology to LGBT people would even bring the church closer to God, she wrote, but only if reconciling work is carried out:

“Amends should cost us: our time and money and blood, our comfort and prior assumptions, perhaps our physical safety as we seek to serve LGBTQ people who are targeted for violence. Catholics sometimes worry that supporting gay people in need will be misunderstood as changing church teaching. But what kind of witness does our failure to support God’s LGBTQ children present?”

Acknowledging the church’s mistreatment of LGBT people would be refreshingly honest, would call the Catholic church to encounter and to dialogue with LGBT communities, and might even allow Francis to offer an unqualified and evangelical welcome to LGBT youth worldwide. But if apologizing on behalf of the Catholic church is not desirable or feasible, Pope Francis could also offer a personal apology, suggested Michelangelo Signorile of The Huffington Post:

“One thing, however, that the pope could easily do is apologize for his own harsh and, yes, violence-inciting words about gays when he was Cardinal Bergoglio in Argentina in 2010. As the Argentine government was moving to legalize marriage for gays and lesbians, Bergoglio was quietly lobbying for civil unions instead, having spoken to at least one gay activist, realizing that the rights gays were deprived of were real and knowing that he and the church couldn’t support marriage.

“When that didn’t work, and the government made it clear it was moving forward on marriage. . .He issued an ugly, earth-scorching attack against gays, equating gay marriage and adoption by gay couples with the work of the Devil, and declared that gay marriage was a ‘destructive attack on God’s plan.’ “

It is harsh words like these for which Pope Francis is calling the church to apologize, said Signorile. A personal apology would not only be a powerful sign that Francis is committed to reconciling with LGBT communities, but would be a model for other church leaders to imitate.

box_strona_glowna_enThird, apologizing would enact World Youth Day 2016’s theme of the fifth Beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” In this case, as Tushnet noted, it is not the church which is merciful towards LGBT people but rather recognizes the ways by which LGBT people and their loved ones have tirelessly shown mercy towards a church which victimizes them without remorse.

This reversal and this witness from the pontiff, Latin for bridge builder, not only acknowledges sins but calls Catholics to be converted towards Gospel inclusion. It could radically reorient how LGBT issues are handled in the global church. And if Pope Francis wanted to model even further how all Catholics should act, he could go to the margins of World Youth Day and visit the LGBT Pilgrims’ Haven, which has organized LGBT-related programming throughout the week. Let us pray that Pope Francis will seek to obtain mercy and offer healing words of apology at World Youth Day.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


One Year Later, Boy Scouts Stronger With Gay Leaders – Except Catholic Troops

July 27, 2016

boy_scouts_gay__0A year ago, the Boy Scouts of America ended its ban on openly gay leaders despite opposition from the Catholic hierarchy and other religious figures. Reports now reveal a Boy Scouts organization that has not been harmed, but, indeed strengthened by the decision. These benefits, however, have been more limited in Catholic contexts.

The Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) National Executive Board overturned the ban last August, a follow-up to its 2013 decision allowing openly gay Scouts. In the proceeding months, the Albuquerque Journal reported:

“Youth membership is on the verge of stabilizing after a prolonged decline, corporations which halted donations because of the ban have resumed their support, and the vast majority of units affiliated with conservative religious denominations have remained in the fold — still free to exclude gay adults if that’s in accordance with their religious doctrine.”

Outgoing BSA president, Robert Gates, even hoped in a May speech that there would be “positive national growth for the first time in decades.” But one area where Scout numbers have not grown is Catholic-affiliated groups, which have seen a decreased membership since the decision.

As for whether or not openly gay leaders, volunteers, and employees are joining up or coming out, there are not reliable statistics. And there are no numbers on whether and, if so, how many openly gay leaders have been rejected by religiously-affiliated councils, who are allowed to do so because of a religious exemption. But  a number of Catholic officials have repeatedly given the impression that gay leaders are not welcome.

Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, South Carolina, who heads the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, said the BSA “has been wonderfully supportive” of church-affiliated councils and that he “knows of no instances where a Catholic unit — there are more than 7,500 — has taken on an openly gay adult leader since the policy change.”

Last year, Catholic officials criticized the BSA decision publicly, and Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck even disaffiliated the entire diocese from the organization. But, by Guglielmone’s own count, only about 20 Catholic parishes across the U.S. have withdrawn their support of BSA troops.

There is one reported instance where a gay man was rejected from leading a BSA troop. Greg Bourke, initially ejected as a scoutmaster in 2012, reapplied after the ban had been lifted but was again turned down by Louisville’s Archbishop Joseph Kurtz. Bourke, who along with his husband Michael were among the plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell case which led to national marriage equality in the U.S.   The couple was named “Persons of the Year” in 2015 by the National Catholic Reporter for their role in the court case. The couple also help lead Catholics for Fairness in Kentucky. Most recently, they challenged a Catholic cemetery which rejected their tombstone design.

Other religious traditions, including the Mormons, Baptists and some mainline Protestant churches, had warned against the BSA decision, too. But the Journal said, a year out, most churches have chosen to remain affiliated with the BSA, some exercising their religious exemption to continue excluding gay leaders.

Catholic leaders should pay attention to this new reality. After much hand wringing from religious leaders about allowing openly gay members and leaders into the Boy Scouts, none of their fears (often premised on false information) have come true. In fact, the opposite has happened. By becoming more inclusive, the Boy Scouts have become stronger and more capable of enacting their mission. This development has been attractive to many youth, their families, and returning BSA supporters who had withdrawn from the organization because of discriminatory policies.

The principled decision to overturn bans on LGBT people in Scouting has also been the practical one. And Scouting now offers something to the Catholic Church: there are clear parallels for how LGBT issues could impact the rest of parish life, if only church leaders would allow themselves to see new horizons.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Lesbian Student Ejected from Catholic Prom Welcomed by Neighboring School; More Updates on Previous Stories

July 26, 2016
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Aniya Wolf, left, and her date at prom

At Bondings 2.0, we often find that there are almost always too many Catholic LGBT news stories and perspectives to cover.   Not to mention the fact, that some of the best stories often have important follow-ups.  Today’s post covers developments in stories which our blog has previously covered.

Lesbian Student Ejected from Prom Welcomed by Neighboring School

Aniya Wolf, a lesbian student ejected from her Catholic school’s prom for wearing a suit, was welcomed by William Penn Senior High School in York, Pennsylvania, suit and all. Principal Brandon Carter said the school does “embrace all” students and had welcomed its own students many times in attire which was comfortable for them.

Wolf had been removed from the prom of Harrisburg’s Bishop McDevitt High School because, school officials claimed, female students were required to wear a dress. Wolf showed up in a suit purchased for the occasion, which she was finally able to wear to Penn’s prom. Her mother, Carol, told The Washington Post:

” ‘This is Aniya. . .This is who Aniya has been since she’s very young. And she would not look right in a dress. She looks great in a suit.’ “

This is not the first instance where gendered clothing in Catholic education has caused tremendous pain and public controversy, but it hopefully might be one of the last.

Bolivia Passes Transgender Law Against Bishops’ Opposition

Despite heavy opposition from Catholic bishops, Bolivian legislators passed a transgender rights bill in late May that President Evo Morales then signed into law.

The law affords transgender people the right to alter government records in accordance with their gender identity, reported TeleSurReuters reported that a recent study shows that Bolivia becomes now only one of five nations in the world to constitutionally protect the rights of LGBT people, the others being Britain, Fiji, Malta, and Ecuador. Legislators had been pressured by some Bolivian Catholics to reject the law, according to The Washington Post:

“Predictably, the gender identity law has met with stiff resistance, not least from the Catholic Church. There have been protest marches, particularly in Santa Cruz, the conservative city that is Bolivia’s economic motor. Writing in Bolivian newspaper El Diario, theologian Gary Antonio Rodrígues Alvarez even warned that the concept of ‘hate,’ as used to define crimes committed against gays because of their sexuality, is ‘highly dangerous.’ “

Bolivia’s bishops specifically criticized the law, according to Crux, because it “wasn’t publicly debated, and didn’t receive the necessary consensus.” It did not, in their opinion, “solve the underlying problems.” The bishops did affirm the church’s opposition to discrimination.  This recent response from the bishops softens slightly language from Bishop Aurelio Pesoa, president of the nation’s episcopal conference, who said in December that the law “aims to subvert one of the foundations of our human lifestyle” and was “a clear attempt of cultural colonization.”

Florida Implements LGBT Youth Protections Opposed by Bishops 

A policy which bans the bullying and harassment of LGBT foster children in group homes has finally been reinstated by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), after it was withdrawn for a time as a result of religious opposition, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said the process was “basically just listening to all involved,” and the decision had now been made about “how you best protect young people who have already been abused and neglected and who are the most vulnerable in our system.” An ombudsperson position has been created to monitor discrimination. The new policy explicitly bans “reparative therapy.”.

This policy was again criticized by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops who said in a statement the policy “goes too far” and does not consider other children’s well-being if they must share space “with someone who ‘identifies’ as the same gender, but remains biologically different.” The Conference, in conjunction with partner religious organizations, had successfully had the policy reversed late last year. Bondings 2.0 said, at the time, that the Conference’s treatment of this issue was “misguided and ill-informed.

To keep current on all the latest Catholic LGBT news and information, subscribe to Bondings 2.0 by entering your email in the box you can find in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Recommit to Bridge Building after Orlando Tragedy

July 25, 2016
Australians Hold Candlelit Vigils For Victims Of Orlando Nightclub Shooting

Memorial for Pulse Nightclub victims

Many bridges still need building when it comes to LGBT people, their families, and the Catholic Church. Where can Catholics turn for models of bridge building, especially after the mass shooting in Orlando which left 49 people dead and 53 more wounded?

Lay people and religious have offered some compassionate models of how this reconciling work can be done. For instance, the Sisters of St. Agnes in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin organized a vigil shortly after Orlando. Sister Sally Brickner told the Fond du Lac Reporter that 150 vigil attendees “really do feel that discrimination is wrong . . . hate crimes are wrong.” This vigil was the most well attended of any which the sisters have held for other causes, revealing both the deep need for such an action by a Catholic group.

The Orlando incident and the sisters’ response helped to shine the spotlight on two Wisconsin parishes that offer welcoming ministries. The same article which reported the sisters’ vigil took a look at the week-to-week ministry that goes on in Catholic parishes that welcome LGBT people. At Holy Family Catholic Community in Fond du Lac, a group called All God’s Family meets every couple of months. There, according to pastor Fr. Ryan Preuss, lesbian/gay people and their families share their stories and discuss how they engage church teaching. Barbara Lent, the group’s coordinator, told the Reporter:

” ‘Everyone’s the same. . .It’s just who you love. You really have a right to love who you want to love. . .Sometimes [change] takes time, but you got to keep doing it.’ “

Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Menomonee Falls hosts Gay and Straight in Christ, about which founder Ann Castiglione said:

” ‘It’s just important that everyone be welcome in our church. . .[LGBT people don’t] feel welcome, so we’re trying to do something about that in our little corner of the world.’ “

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, explained to the news reporter the background motivation that inspires such groups:

“Catholic support of LGBT people is done because the people are Catholic, not in spite of being Catholic.”

DeBernardo, however, was critical of bishops who “have been very negative in their approach to LGBT issues.”

The majority of U.S. bishops’ responses to Orlando seriously challenges their claims of engaging LGBT people with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Just a handful of bishops acknowledged the targeting of an LGBT nightclub, and even fewer admitted the church’s complicity in encouraging anti-LGBT prejudices. In its editorial on the mass shooting, the National Catholic Reporter stated:

“The massacre in Orlando was a heinous hate crime, a moment screaming out for moral outrage, for the words to match the horrific reality. What the Catholic community in the United States received from the president of its bishops’ conference was a three-sentence serving of sanctimonious boilerplate that, except for the use of the term ‘violence,’ might have been referring to a natural disaster or a plane crash. . .

“It is good to have the language of a few members of the hierarchy who understand that intolerance breeds contempt and violence, but we can’t and don’t need to wait for bishops to speak. The laity are leading the bishops on this issue, and with a strong, persistent voice, we can and must advocate against discrimination based on sexuality and gender in society and in our church.”

It is not too late for more bishops to engage positively with LGBT people and their families, in the church and outside of it. Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden wrote about Orlando in the Catholic Herald, saying:

“Just as heart wrenching as the deaths themselves, I am troubled that the victims were specifically targeted because of their sexual orientation. No human being should ever suffer the hate of others. Hate is an affront to God.

“As Christians we are subject to the Law of Christ. “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is His new commandment. ‘One another’ includes gay people. A Catholic who demonstrates hate toward a person — because of his or her sexual orientation, religion, or the color of his or her skin — needs to seek the forgiveness of God. From where does such hate originate? And, why are homosexual persons too frequently its victims?

“Our LGBT sisters and brothers are as much made in the image of God as I am. Their sexual orientation does not make them less in the eyes of God. As someone who is loved by gay relatives and friends, and who loves them equally, I fear that they too could be victims of such hatred.”

In a letter to those Catholics who gathered for prayer about Orlando, Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver expressed particular sadness because the victims were “targeted for being identified with the LGBT community.”

The lesson about building bridges after Orlando may be that acts are more necessary than words if the church is going to be in real solidarity. This is a point driven home by Caitlin Opperman, a queer Latina student at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, who write in campus newspaper The Hoya:

“We cannot forget Pulse was an LGBTQ club. We cannot forget it was Latin night. We cannot forget Latinxs, specifically Puerto Ricans, were most affected by this tragedy. We cannot let people use this massacre as an excuse to engage in Islamophobia. We cannot stay silent on the issue of gun control. We have to acknowledge that masculinity is toxic. We have to accept that queer people of color need safe spaces. But most of all, we need to act. Silence and inaction perpetuate violence against members of my communities and other oppressed groups. We are living in fear. We are out of safe spaces. We need more than thoughts and prayers.

“To the 49 beautiful queer folks whose lives were taken on June 12, rest in power. Que en paz descansen [Rest in peace]. I hope wherever you are, you keep dancing.”

The National Catholic Reporter’s editorial emphasized that lay people need to lead the way if church leaders remain unresponsive.  The editors said that Catholics do not “have to wait for approval or direction from on high to know what to do in this extreme circumstance.” They continued:

“The Catholic community knows a hate crime when it sees it and should do all it can to promote understanding and tolerance. . .The Catholic community, making the case from the church’s social justice tradition and the inherent Christian concern for the common good, can become a formidable influence in challenging the status quo. Standing together, we can say no to a culture of gun violence. We can say yes to gender justice and inclusivity.”

How have you or your faith community responded with a yes to justice and inclusivity after Orlando? How have you witnessed bridges being built between LGBT people and church leaders? Please let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Are Debates over Pope Francis’ “The Joy of Love” a Healthy or Harmful Sign?

July 23, 2016

pope-francis-amoris-laetitiaThree months after its release, how to interpret and implement Amoris Laetitia remains one of the most contested issues in the Catholic church today. But this ongoing dialogue, and at times intense debate, could itself be very welcome news.

The Vatican recently defended Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family through two of its affiliated publications, according to Crux.

Earlier this week, historian Rocco Buttiglione wrote a front page column in L’Osservatore Romano responding to the exhortation’s critics who claim it is not a magisterial document and that it diverges from tradition.

Elsewhere, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna gave an interview to La Civilta Cattolica in which he said Amoris Laetitia  is not merely consistent with but evolves doctrine on family issues.

Critics have included Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, and  Cardinal Raymond Burke, who said the exhortation was a “personal” document from the pope. Several dozen Catholics wrote a letter to 218 church leaders asking for Pope Francis to “respond to the dangers to Catholic faith and morals” which they perceive in the document. Their names have finally been made public by the National Catholic Reporter.

Much of the debate has centered around whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics should be admitted to Communion. The larger debates, however, are about establishing this document as part of the magisterium and, therefore, the assent that is due to it from Catholics.  Additionally, the practical ways the document should impact pastoral care and church disciplines is also a major issue.

Theologian Massimo Faggioli said the present divide around Amoris Laetitia is between those Catholics whose “constrained view” leads them to focus on church law and discipline, and those Catholics who focus on a “renewed emphasis on conscience” as new theological and pastoral questions arise. Writing in Commonweal, Faggioli reflected on the differences in ecclesial reception between Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and Pope Francis’ exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. He noted, in particular, the way which bishops have responded to these two documents.

After Humanae Vitae, a document equally if not more controversial because it retained the magisterium’s ban on artificial contraception, bishops engaged with one another and high level officials, and even questioned it publicly. Collective responses were issued by episcopal conferences and theologians, and the debates have not yet ceased. In my opinion, this experience is largely what caused Pope John II and Pope Benedict XVI to suppress dialogue in the church and to tie episcopal appointments to matters of sexuality for thirty-some years.

After Amoris Laetitia, Faggioli wrote, the situation is quite different. Instead, there is an “episcopal, magisterial individualism” by which each bishop responds to the document almost in isolation and without collegial discourse among their regional and national peers. Faggioli concluded:

“It is clear by now that a culture of discussion and discernment must be rebuilt among the episcopal leadership of the Catholic Church, starting from the national and continental bishops’ conferences. The reception of The Joy of Love requires a true commitment to a collegial and synodal church, not just mere affect.”

Differences now being expressed about Amoris Laetitia may be the first fruits of a new period in the church, a return to episcopal debates publicly played out.  Thomas Groome, a Boston College theology professor, made this point in his response to Amoris Laetitia, telling The Guardian

” ‘The fact that he’s [Pope Francis] allowing us to talk about these things is a breakthrough. . .It was presumed it was already decided and anybody that was raising this was obviously contrary to the church.’ “

Catholic publications have repeatedly picked up on this theme of Pope Francis inviting dialogue and difference. The National Catholic Reporter‘s editors wrote:

“Francis offers the Catholic community two challenges: To live as a community with parrhesia, speaking and listening to one another with courage and humility, and then to translate the openness of papal actions and documents into pastoral discourse and compassionate action in the parishes.”

The Tablet editorial highlighted the shift to a dialogue in their headline: “Power of conscience puts laity at centre of change.”  They further editorialized:

“It would be right to describe the publication of Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis as a minor earthquake, though one preceded by plenty of warning tremors. And while the Catholic Church’s foundations may have been shaken, the walls and roof are still standing. Francis was well aware when he was elected Pope that the basic weakness in the Church’s mission to evangelise was its reputation as a stern and unforgiving teacher in the field of sexual and marital ethics, something that touches people’s lives most intimately. Put simply, it did not sound like the gentle voice of a loving mother. Francis had to respect as far as possible the content of the teaching. But he could change the one thing that may matter more than content for ordinary Catholics – its tone.”

The editors of Commonweal responded:

“This is not a recommendation of laxity or relativism. It is a recognition of human complexity and an endorsement of subsidiarity, a principle not restricted to politics. Only (properly trained) local pastors can be familiar enough with the members of their flock to undertake the kind of ‘practical discernment’ necessary to apply the church’s rules without deepening the wounds caused by divorce or abandoning the already abandoned.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said the flourishing of open and honest discussions in the church is an “unintended, but very welcome” aspect of Francis’ papacy. She wrote in The Huffington Post:

“[Pope Francis’] acceptance, even encouragement, of the expression of divergent opinions represents a dramatic shift in tone from a pontiff. . .After nearly 30 years during which agreement with official Church teaching seemed monolithic among Catholic leadership, having these differences of opinion out in the open is a very hopeful sign. Now we can acknowledge that, just as there is diversity among lay Catholics in views of LGBTQ people, the same is true of those responsible for developing and implementing Church policy. While those willing to question current teaching and practice still represent a minority of Church leaders, their voices are being heard, and it is likely that others may join them in the months ahead. This could help shift the focus from the utterings of Pope Francis to a recognition that there is a community of leaders responsible for Catholic teaching and policy. And as more and more Catholics, grassroots and leadership alike, stand up for the civil and ecclesial rights of LGBTQ people and families, the cultural and political identity of Catholicism as firmly opposing gay and transgender rights will quickly crumble, further weakening efforts to maintain oppressive structures.”

While it is clear that the dialogue and debate are now happening, what is less clear is what the impact will be. Some bishops, like Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn or Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich, have welcomed the document wholeheartedly. Others, like the critics mentioned above or Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, will be obstructionist. For the rest of the faithful, this renewed dialogue and debate in the church is largely welcomed, but this path will require far more engagement from all Catholics to discern how Amoris Laetitia should impact the life of the church, especially when it comes to LGBT people and others marginalized in the church.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Priest Subjected to Homophobic Attacks Cleared of All Accusations

July 19, 2016
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Fr. Pedro Corces

A Catholic priest who was subjected to homophobic attacks has been cleared of accusations leveled against him by a handful of right-wing Catholics.

The Archdiocese of Miami’s two month investigation of Fr. Pedro Corces found that “no sexual impropriety had occurred,” according to the Miami Herald. Archbishop Thomas Wenski notified parishioners of the findings through a July 5 letter, in which he noted:

“During these past weeks and days, I have received many letters from many people telling what a positive influence Father Corces and his ministry have played in their lives. Father has many gifts to share with God’s people but running a parish does not seem to be one of them.”

However, the archbishop did criticize Corces’ management style, saying the priest created the “perception among some of inappropriate behavior.”  Wenski said that Corces will be re-assigned to non-administrative ministry, which the archbishop said was the priest’s request.

The controversy around Corces arose when a small group of right-wing parishioners and school parents at St. Rose of Lima Church, Miami Shores, accused him of, among other improprieties, having relationships with four male individuals that included a deacon and a maintenance worker at the church and school.

Organized under the name “Christifidelis,” the accusing group made their attacks in a 129-page report, compiled after a private investigator stalked the priest for weeks. That report included repeated derogatory phrases against parish personnel, at one point calling maintenance workers at the parish “promiscuous gay practitioners.” Wenski called this report “false” and “old, long discredited gossip” in May, but still asked Corces to resign then, which the priest did, despite grassroots support from friends, parishioners, and other Catholics in the area.

Silvia Muñoz, a friend of Corces since 1987 and who previously said the priest “embodies mercy,” offered an important note in the Miami Herald about the priest’s attackers. Just ten families in a parish of 2,000 families constituted Christifidelis, or less than 0.5%, and the leader of the attacks against Corces was not a parishioner.

Muñoz’s point clarifies further that this attack was not about accountability in the church, but about the ability of some Catholics’ harmful prejudices to go unchecked in the church. Failure to address sexuality in healthy and honest ways means it remains a weapon that can be used against church workers and all Catholics whose sexual identity causes them to be marginalized. So-called evidence gathered through questionable and invasive means becomes the fodder from which self-appointed moralists launch their attacks.

The increasing assault on church workers has infected every level of the U.S. church, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which fired a top official last spring for simply tweeting about LGBT issues. More than 60 church workers have lost their jobs since 2008, often because they were forcibly outed.

Wenski recently made news by denying that church teaching on gay issues played any role in the homophobia which motivated the Orlando shooting at a gay nightclub. Last month, in a homily tied to the U.S. bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom,” the archbishop essentially denied homophobia in the church. He said nowhere in Catholic teaching “do we target and breed contempt for any group of people,” ignoring the harmful language church leaders and documents employ against LGBT people. Wenski even criticized his peer, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, for admitting the church’s complicity anti-LGBT prejudices which led to the Orlando mass shooting in which 49 people were killed at an LGBT nightclub.

Reconciliation is much needed in the parish, the school, and the archdiocese. Wenski prayed for such reconciliation in his letter to parishioners, but prayer must be complemented by action Wenski could use the painful incident involving Fr. Corces to bring about healing. Following Pope Francis’ recommendation, the archbishop could offer an apology to LGBT people and others the church has harmed, including its own ministers. He could affirm the church’ teachings against LGBT discrimination. He could support Fr. Corces by publicly standing with him in his next assignment, as a way to show that attacks on church workers, LGBT or otherwise, will not be tolerated.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis’ Call to Apologize Can Begin with Him — Or Us

July 16, 2016
PAPAL VISIT ARMENIA

Pope Francis addressing the Orlando shooting during an in-flight interview

Headlines celebrated Pope Francis’ recommendation that the church apologize to lesbian and gay people, as well as other communities it had marginalized and harmed. But we can’t forget that the pope did not actually apologize and, as of yet, has not done so. So how can the church move forward?

Many people have welcomed the pope’s recommendation for apology as progress, including the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. Their statement called the comments an “historical milestone” and read, in part:

“His first personal statement to the LGBTQI community, since the Orlando shooting, brings light and hope not only for us but also to our families. . .Even if Pope Francis` words were brief, their content is powerful. After three years, the Pope amplifies his famous sentence “Who am I to judge?” (2013) to “Who are we to judge?”, extending his original message from a personal reflection to an open call for the whole Church. This is a statement that cannot be underestimated. It shows his vision for the Catholic community.”

Other responses have been more negative towards the pope’s statement. Mac McCann editorialized about the pontiff’s remarks in the The Dallas Morning News, writing:

“In the mean time, let’s stop praising Pope Francis as if he’s done anything for gay rights. Instead, let’s start praying that Pope Francis actually does something, anything, for the LGBT community. Because, in the end, politely supporting homophobia is still supporting homophobia.”

What many agree upon is that any apology must be backed by action. Dignity/Boston president Peggy Hayes told The Boston Globe:

” ‘I was taught by nuns that it’s not enough to say ‘I’m sorry,’ we had to make amends, and firmly commit to try as hard as we could not to make that mistake again. . .I need to see that change of heart.’ “

Thankfully, many voices are offering suggestions about how the pope and others in the church could apologize and make it meaningful. Michelangelo Signorile of The Huffington Post suggested the pope could apologize “for his own harsh and, yes, violence inciting words about gays” as cardinal-archbishop in Argentina. As Cardinal Bergoglio, he “was quietly lobbying for civil unions” when the country considered marriage equality in 2010. But, Signorile wrote:

“When that didn’t work, and the government made it clear it was moving forward on marriage, Bergoglio did what the Vatican expected of him and which, like a politician, he knew he likely had to do if he were ever to have a shot at becoming pope in Benedict’s Vatican: He issued an ugly, earth-scorching attack against gays, equating gay marriage and adoption by gay couples with the work of the Devil, and declared that gay marriage was a ‘destructive attack on God’s plan.’

“Those kinds of words are the kind that killers of gay people take solace in. Those are the words that empower those who bash gays, and those who fire gays from their jobs. And those are the kinds of words that Francis clearly is saying the church must apologize for. If it’s not those words, after all, then what exactly is Francis referring to?”

Instead of waiting for “the church” to apologize, Signorile opined, the pope could begin by saying “I apologize” right now.

Taking a different perspective was Melinda Selmys of Catholic Authenticity who wrote about an obligation the Catholic faithful have, where appropriate, to apologize for the church’s anti-LGBT actions. She wrote:

“If, as Christians, we want to proclaim a Gospel that is based on repentance for sin, we need to demonstrate that repentance. If our priests are frustrated that the lines for the Confessional are increasingly non-existent, perhaps it’s time to examine what kind of confession and contrition the hierarchy is modeling. When Catholics have corporately sinned, Catholics must offer apologies. . .

“The Pope has now made the first step towards apologizing for the Church’s homophobia, for Christian contributions to discrimination, bullying and hatred shown towards gay people. . .I hope, sincerely, that the rest of the Catholic community will join him in seeking to repent, and to make amends for the harm that Christians have done to their LGBTQ siblings. May this be the first of many apologies; a first, and necessary step on the road to reconciliation.”

Similarly, the GNRC quoted above called on Catholics to become involved in building on the pope’s words with a concrete action:

“For the GNRC, the Pope’s call to the Church to ‘apologize’ to LGBTQI Catholics is a great opportunity for all of us to become part of the solution. Following this spirit, we propose as a concrete step, to establish and develop an official commission at the Vatican to formalize that discussion.”

Whether a personal apology or a Vatican commission or something in between, Pope Francis’ recommendation, insufficient though it may be, is a cornerstone upon which more progress can be built. This pope does not wish to perpetuate a church where top-down authority dictates how Catholics think and act.

Pope Francis’ call to apologize may be an invitation for real change to emerge from the grassroots. If this is true, then every Catholic must examine their conscience for ways they might have contributed to anti-LGBT prejudices and every Catholic must also consider the ways by which they can contribute to the healing and reconciliation of divided LGBT and religious communities in our world.  Such a universal call includes church leaders, especially bishops, to participate in this apology process, too.  But, as has been the case many times in the past regarding LGBT issues,  it is more likely that lay people will have to lead the way.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, which will offer a very simple and practical step that Pope Francis can make his call for apology a tangible reality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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