Amid Increasing Tensions, LGBT Group in Mexico Outs Allegedly Gay Priests

September 29, 2016
A participant holds up a placard during the Gay Pride Parade in Mexico City

LGBT advocates demonstrating in Mexico City. Using the hearts on the sign to represent the word “love,” the message reads “I am gay and I love myself.”

A leading LGBT organization in Mexico publicly named nearly forty Catholic priests and religious as gay, the latest move in the country’s escalating debate over LGBT rights.

The National Pride Front released the names of 38 priests and religious who are allegedly in same-gender relationships, reported The Telegraph. Front spokesperson Cristian Galarza explained the decision to release these names:

” ‘Everyone deserves the right to be in the closet. . .But when you come out and condemn homosexuality, condemn gay marriage, and try to influence a secular state, you’ve lost the right to the closet.’ “

The Front said they were not condemning the relationships, but the double standards of church leaders in them who then forcefully oppose marriage equality. The list included ranking church officials and, according to Galarza, not only consensual relationships but “also cases of sexual abuse.”

The decision to publish this list has not only been criticized by conservative opponents of LGBT equality, but by LGBT groups who are upset that anyone would be forcibly outed. Enrique Torre Molina of All Out told The Telegraph: 

” ‘They can spin it anyway they want, but they’re ultimately using someone’s sexual orientation as a tool against that person, which is exactly what the LGBT movement is not about. . .If anyone knows how tough it can be to have your sexual orientation used against you, it is a gay or lesbian person.’ “

The list’s publication came ahead of demonstrations against LGBT rights last weekend, organized by the church-backed National Front for the Family. Because some LGBT groups opposed the release of the list of allegedly gay clergy and religious,  the organizations skipped counter-protests organized by the National Pride Front.

Some counter-protestors, however, used the demonstrations as an opportunity to practice a different approach to their opponents: dialogue. La Jornada reported:

“For example, a group of people, young and old, straight and gay, stood in front of the Gate of the Lions armed with posters, water bottles, and benches.

“Two poster boards carried by Saúl Espino, one of the first to stand in place, summed up their motives: Our goal is to deactivate hate through dialogue and give a voice, history, and face to diversity. The other sign: I’m a Catholic and I’m gay. I want to talk with you!”

Marriage equality and other rights for LGBT people are hotly contested issues in Mexico after President Enrique Peña Nieto announced in May that he would be pushing Congress to approve such laws.For further context, see Bondings 2.0’s coverage of Mexico earlier this week by clicking here.

While legislative movement has stalled, opposition from anti-LGBT groups has swiftly increased. Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the Mexican church warned of a “gay dictatorship” and approved of reparative therapy. Certain LGBT groups have responded in kind, filing discrimination complaints against dioceses and church leaders in several states.

In my previous post on Mexico, I said de-escalation was needed from both sides so that dialogue could replace divisive statements. De-escalation is especially important because of the release of this list, which is to be condemned in the strongest terms. There is no justification for forcibly outing any person, even priests and religious who may be actively opposing LGBT rights and relationships. The question of gay and bisexual men in the priesthood is a personal, as well as a public matter. The church’s negative treatment of them has caused much suffering. It is also deeply troubling that acts of sexual abuse were included in this list given conservative efforts to conflate homosexuality and abuse.

LGBT advocates should not be adding to the pain which LGBT people in ministry and survivors of clergy abuse have already had to endure by uncritically publishing this list. Rather,  LGBT advocates should always and everywhere overcome the prejudices and fears driving LGBT-negative figures by responding with love and compassion.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

Religion Dispatches, “Global LGBT Recap


Gay Student Banned from High School Dance Files Lawsuit

September 27, 2016
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Lance Sanderson

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 26, 2016

A Catholic high school in Tennessee is facing a discrimination lawsuit from a gay former student banned from attending a formal dance in 2015.

Lance Sanderson’s lawsuit claims Christian Brothers High School (CBHS) in Memphis violated multiple non-discrimination laws when it prohibited him from bringing a same-gender date to the school’s homecoming dance last year. NBC News reported:

“With his lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Circuit Court, Sanderson is seeking up to $1 million from CBHS on several state and federal claims — including breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent training and a violation under Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments.”

Sanderson was suspended when he returned to CBHS  on the Monday following the homecoming dance which he elected not to attend. School officials told him at the time that they did not “appreciate the unwarranted publicity.” Sanderson’s supporters had organized under #LetLanceDance, and a Change.org petition gathered nearly 28,000 signatures, but to no avail. Facing bullying from administrators and students alike, Sanderson completed senior year through online coursework and missed graduation. He is now studying at DePaul University, a very supportive Catholic institution in Chicago.

The lawsuit claims CBHS’s decision about Sanderson’s male date request was discriminatory, as was their subsequent actions. The suit includes new details about the aforementioned events, too. Sanderson’s lawyers pointed out the CBHS code of conduct explicitly includes sexual orientation among protected classes, so that all students will “feel safe, secured and accepted.” This was not the case, however:

“Days before the homecoming dance, however, the school began to broadcast daily messages over the intercom that students were not allowed to bring boys from other schools as dates.

“With each announcement, the lawsuit states, Sanderson ‘felt bullied by both the school administration and by some of the students.’

” ‘As a private school, CBHS held itself out to be nondiscriminatory with regard to sexual orientation,’ Sanderson’s attorney, Manis, said. ‘In our eyes, it seems very clear those were hollow words … They were not interested in treating [Sanderson] the same as other students.'”

Most significantly, Sanderson is claiming violations of Title IX, the federal civil rights law which prohibits sex discrimination in education. This law traditionally focused on equality in education for women, but has been interpreted under President Barack Obama’s administration to protect LGBT students, too. If successful, Sanderson’s lawsuit could build upon the 2015 favorable ruling involving a private institution, Pepperdine University, thus establishing a stronger precedent. NBC reported:

“Notably, Pepperdine — like CBHS — is a private institution that receives additional federal funds, and Sanderson’s legal team is hoping that case will serve as an important precedent for theirs.

” ‘We have confirmation that CBHS receives federal funding and also potentially state funding for certain programs at the school,’ Howard Manis, one of Sanderson’s lawyers, said. ‘That makes them responsible for following the letter of the law under Title IX.’ “

Having graduated and begun college, Sanderson’s lawsuit is not about directly rectifying the situation for him at CBHS. His appeal last year to administrators, in a letter where he said he had not “done anything wrong” nor “hurt anybody” but simply wanted to be treated equally, went unheard. Sanderson told NBC that he is taking action now because he really does not “want anyone else to go through what I went through this year.”

Even if we leave the legal issues involved in discrimination cases and religious entities to the lawyers, it should be clear that Catholic institutions, because of their religious values, should not discriminate. This is especially true when they explicitly claim to welcome marginalized communities, as CBHS did in its code of conduct.

Rather than waiting for the lawsuit to play out, at great time and expense for all involved, school officials should offer an apology and take concrete steps to ensure no discrimination against LGBT students, faculty, or staff will occur in the future. And at this year’s homecoming, they should welcome Lance and let him dance as one of their newest alumni.

 


Community Rallies to Support Fr. Warren Hall

September 25, 2016

By Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, September 25, 2016

Catholics and other members of the Hoboken, New Jersey, community gathered to support Fr. Warren Hall, a gay Catholic priest who was recently suspended from ministry by Newark Archbishop John Myers.

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A local clergywoman speaking at the rally

According to NJ.com, parishioners, LGBT community members and other locals gathered in a rally organized by Hoboken Pride and Jersey City Pride to show their support for Fr. Hall. The rally took place at Stevens Park in Hoboken, New Jersey.

In 2015, Hall was assigned by Myers to be a parochial vicar at both St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church in Weehawken, New Jersey, and Saints Peter and Paul Church in Hoboken, after he was dismissed from his position as the Director of Campus Ministry at Seton Hall University for supporting the NOH8 campaign. One reporter said that the suspension from priestly ministry came after Hall openly supported unofficial LGBT events at the World Youth Day last July, as well as PFLAG New Jersey, Gays Against Guns and New Ways Ministry.

Hall also publicly supported counselor and coach Kate Drumgoole, who was fired from Paramus Catholic High School for being in a same-gender marriage. As New Ways Ministry reported earlier, Paramus Catholic’s alumni organized and signed an open letter condemning the school’s decision and showing support for Drumgoole. After receiving the letter, the school announced that two top administrators have been suspended.  

Hall spoke at the rally thanking the organizers and attendees while reinforcing his stance against Paramus High School’s dismissal of Drumgoole. NJ.com quoted him:  

It seems to me she was fired because of her sexuality… We don’t see schools letting people go because they’re divorced and remarried or living with someone

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Laura Knittel of Hoboken Pride

Laura Knittel of Hoboken Pride, also spoke at the rally saying:

Change is here, it can happen, it has happened, it will happen… Let’s pray for the archbishop. Father Warren, you’re work has just begun in a whole new chapter of your life.

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Michael Billy of Jersey City Pride

Michael Billy of Jersey City Pride noted:

We the people have a god-given right to stand up for what we know is right… This archbishop is vastly out of touch with what is going on in the world.

Joyce Flinn, a parishioner at Saints Peter and Paul and a supporter of Hall, spoke about Archbishop Myers’ decision, telling a reporter, “This is a terrible outrage… I appeal to this archbishop to retire.”

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Fr. Hall being interviewed at the rally

Hall explained in a video interview (see below) from NJ.com that while he understood the rationale behind Myers decision, which was reported as being based on breaking the vow of obedience, Hall insisted that he never actually spoke against the church or church teaching.

In the video, Hall explained:

I think by being involved with the groups I was involved with, who are viewed by the archbishop and some church leadership as being opposed to Catholic teaching, I think in that regard they believe i am being disobedient because in a letter or notice that the archbishop sent out last year, you know, he made clear that groups that have positions opposite of the Catholic Church, we should not be involved with.

Hall clarified:

However, my belief in that is that my involvement with those groups were for positive reasons: PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gay Children. I went to those groups to talk about how God loved their children and that we should welcome their children. And so I think I see why I’m accused of being disobedient. But I don’t believe it’s disobedience because the message that I brought to those groups, in every case, was not anti-catholic.

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Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco

According to NJ.com, Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco, a gay man and parishioner of Saints Peter and Paul Church, read Mary Oliver’s poem, “Sunrise.”

You can die for it —

an idea,

or the world. People

have done so,

brilliantly,

letting

their small bodies be bound to the stake,

creating

an unforgettable fury

of light.

DeFusco concluded with his own words, saying, “Thank you, Father Hall.”

While instances of retaliation against LGBT workers in Catholic organizations and LGBT-supportive priests continue, the support of communities to those discriminated against is truly encouraging. When Catholics gather together in support of their LGBT and LGBT-positive family, we find new life in our faith. For those who support Fr. Warren Hall or other dismissed church workers, being at a rally or signing a petition is an authentic way to live their faith.


Polish Bishops Warn Against “Sinful Fancies” as Catholics Seek LGBT Rights

September 23, 2016

przekazmysobieznakpokoju-655Polish Catholic bishops are strongly  criticizing a  new reconciliation campaign designed to build bridges between the Church and the LGBT community.

Earlier this month, the “Let’s Exchange a Sign of Peace” campaign was launched by several Polish LGBT groups, including the “Campaign Against Homophobia” and “Faith and Rainbow.” The campaign, which has the support of Catholic media, features billboards “depicting clasped hands — one with a rainbow bracelet and the other with a Catholic rosary,” reported the National Catholic Reporter.

There are plans, too, for meetings across Poland between Catholics and LGBT advocates, to remind the country’s faithful that foremost in church teaching is “the necessity of respect, openness and willing dialogue with all people, including homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals [sic].” These efforts have been joined by a group of Catholic parents with LGBT children who appealed earlier this year for  Pope Francis to speak out against the hatred their children experience.

Poland’s bishops are pushing back against these mounting efforts. The Polish Episcopal Conference released a statement “attacking Wiez, Znak and Tygodnik Powszechny [Catholic media outlets] by name, and rejecting claims that the Polish church was homophobic.” It said specifically of the ad campaign featuring hands held in a sign of peace:

“But if extending hands to others means accepting the person, it never means approving their sin. . .Members of a community gathered in the liturgy have a permanent duty to be converted, and meet Gospel demands by turning away from their sinful fancies. We fear this action, extracting the extended hand gesture from its liturgical context, assumes a meaning incompatible with the teaching of Christ and the church.”

This statement was backed by individual statements from Cardinals Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw and Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, the latter of whom said Catholic LGBT advocates were “falsifying the church’s unchangeable teaching.”

But, importantly, several Catholic media outlets in Poland remain committed to being spaces where questions of gender and sexuality can be openly discussed, and progress is happening. Dominika Kozlowska, editor of Znak, said “the bishops’ reaction is only a first step — what matters is that they’ve now felt it necessary to take up a position on LGBT issues,” including acknowledging, even in a rudimentary but novel way, that LGBT people deserve to be respected.

Catholics will keep the conversation going, Kozlowska said, urged on by the example of Pope Francis who visited the country in July for World Youth Day celebrations. Continuing the conversation necessarily includes church leaders, as NCR reported:

“Having refused to recognize homosexuality as a genuine orientation, and seen it only as something sinful, Poland’s Catholic bishops now have to consider the subject more carefully.

” ‘The institutional church must start offering adequate pastoral support for this part of our society, rather than just treating these issues ideologically,’ the Znak editor told NCR. ‘I think Francis is offering a way out of the deadlock, by proposing new ways of thinking, acting and speaking, and giving a new quality to church reflections. This is something quite new for Poland, and conservatives and progressives here should all learn from it.’ “

Editors from the three Catholic publications criticized by the bishops said they were not pushing a political agenda, but questioning whether LGBT people’s pastoral needs were being met. They wrote in a joint statement:

” ‘Our involvement as media patrons of this campaign was aimed solely at stressing those elements of church teaching which are little known and disseminated in Poland. . .Polish Catholics have now received a clear call from their pastors to treat homosexual brothers and sisters with dignity and respect. If our involvement in this campaign was improperly understood, perhaps this was a felix culpa, or fortunate mistake.’ “

Studies reveal that Poles are asking more questions and breaking away from issues once considered settled in the highly Catholic country. Faith and Rainbow, a group for LGBT Christians, prompted conversations at World Youth Day by hosting an LGBT Welcome Center. These latest efforts at conversation and at reconciliation should be welcomed by the bishops, instead of  allowing LGBT people and their families to be  marginalized in the church and in Polish society.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 


Gay Music Director Fired from Rhode Island Parish

September 22, 2016
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Michael Templeton

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 22, 2016

Yet another gay church worker has been fired for exercising the right to civil marriage, this time in Rhode Island.

On Monday, Michael Templeton was fired as Music Director for the Church of St. Mary in Providence. Templeton described the meeting during which he was fired as “bizarre, unprofessional, and inappropriate,” reported Go Local. He said further of the meeting, which included the parish’s pastor and a diocesan official:

” ‘What I can tell you about the conversation, is that from what I’ve read, it’s consistent with the other situations I’m aware of around the country — that they say because of the public nature of your ministry, and the inconsistency of your life choices, that we are requiring your resignation. . .

” ‘What I can say is that I am aware of Catholic educators and administrators around the country facing this — I’ve seen this happen to some colleagues in the music ministry, and they’re all heartbreaking stories. . .These are people giving their best, they’re faith-filled Catholics. It chips away a little each time.’ “

Templeton, who had worked at the Church of St. Mary for more than five years, said he was transparent about his relationship and then his 2015 marriage. He said he has “worked hard to live a life of integrity, which means never hiding,” and until now has been able to “do things that I love with the talents and gifts I have,” including music ministry in the Catholic communities for the past twenty-four years.

From 2006 through 2012, the Church of St. Mary had been administered by Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province. Templeton has been involved with Franciscan ministries since attending St. Bonaventure University, Olean, New York, and had worked at another Providence church for a time before coming to the Church of St. Mary. St. Mary’s parish had developed a reputation as a welcoming community, Templeton explained:

” ‘I came to St. Mary’s for what it is and who they welcome, whether they come from reformed lives of addiction, or come from divorce and are remarried, whatever the reason.  I want to be clear — I did not resign, I was relieved of my duties.’ . . .

” ‘My heart breaks because this brings to light what “safe” means to people. I feel this action represented more than me in my role. It represents people who have been marginalized and thought of as “less than” for a whole host of reasons.'”

The Diocese of Providence took over the administration of the parish from the Franciscan Friars two years ago. The administrative shift means the parish is now overseen more directly by Bishop Thomas Tobin, who has a very LGBT-negative record.

Parishioners and the local community have rallied around Templeton, who said he was “overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.” He added:

” ‘Friends from high school, college, have all left amazing messages.  I’m not a media person, I’m not seeking attention. I just want to open the conversation again. I hope people keep their faith, hold their heart, and keep the conversation going on this.’ “

Templeton posted on Facebook that the incident is “one moment in time and life surely goes on. God is good.” His message now is clear, reported Go Local:

” ‘People need to follow their heart. I feel strongly I give the best I can and what that means is bringing people closer to God through music. . .I pray for those people to follow their heart and conscience. The God I believe in is a merciful God. The Pope has called us to a year of mercy and I invite people to heed that call.’ “

Michael Templeton has exhibited a grace and concern for the faith community that was seemingly absent in church officials’ decision to fire him. He joins the more than 60 church workers who have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes in recent years.    During this year of mercy, may the God of mercy be with those like Templeton who have been treated unjustly and wrongly.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 60 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.


‘Homosexuality and Social Justice’: Archdiocese Listens to Gays and Lesbians

September 19, 2016

“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s series to educate readers of the rich history—positive and negative—that has taken place over the last four decades regarding Catholic LGBT equality issues.  We hope it will show people how far our Church has come, ways that it has regressed, and how far we still have to go.

Once a  month, Bondings 2.0 staff will produce a post on Catholic LGBT news events from the past 38 years.  We will comb through editions ofBondings 2.0’s predecessor: Bondings,  New Ways Ministry’s newsletter in paper format.   We began publishing Bondings in 1978. Unfortunately, because these newsletters are only archived in hard copies, we cannot link back to the primary sources in most cases. 

1982: San Francisco’s “Homosexuality and Social Justice” Report

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 19, 2016

In September 1982,  a group working for the Archdiocese of San Francisco released a major report entitled “Homosexuality and Social Justice” which proposed many progressive policies, including the idea that the Roman Catholic disapproval of gay sexual relationships was itself a social justice issue.

The 150-page report was prepared by the Task Force on Gay/Lesbian Issues of the Commission on Social Justice of the archdiocese, offered 54 recommendations and insights for church leaders.  According to the September 16, 1982 edition of The Monitor, the archdiocesan newspaper, Task Force Chairperson Kevin Gordon commented on the historical significance of the report, saying:

“This is a moment of incredible opportunity or incredible vulnerability, especially since this report comes out of San Francisco.  If not here, then where?

“We have before us a real critical moment.  We should seize the moment now.”

Indeed words like “critical” and “incredible” were not overstated.  According to The Monitor, the Commission on Social Justice began the deliberations on the report in May 1981 “to respond to an increase of anti-gay/lesbian assaults in San Francisco, and tensions within the predominantly Latino Mission District and the predominantly gay/lesbian Castro District–which border each other.”  The Commission unanimously accepted the report, which covered topics such as:  “homosexuality, social justice, and violence,”  “language–moral and political dimensions,” “spiritual lives of homosexuals,” “family,” and “homosexuals in priesthood and religious life.”

The report made 54 recommendations, some which were controversial then, and some which would still be controversial.  One significant feature of the report was that it did not accept the magisterial distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior, seeing such a distinction as irrelevant to the lives of gay and lesbian people.  The report stated:

“In listening to and learning from the real voices and real experiences of the lesbian women and gay men of San Francisco, the present Task Force did not find any sizeable population espousing an orientation/behavior distinction, that is, holding to lifelong venereal abstinence outside of marriage as being a particular value.  The values were more often attested to were the courage to search for meaning , and to report on that search.

“The Task Force heard people say over and over:  we do not experience our active sexual lives as evil, but as good, worthy of human beings, and often beautiful.  Like anything human, they are imperfect, with ambiguous and demonic aspects, selfishness, dishonesty, etc.  But our active sexual lives and loves stand out in our experience as essentially good and spirit-filled.”

But perhaps the most controversial aspect of the report was its introductory section, of which The Monitor said:

“In an introductory section subtitled, ‘The Church as Oppressor,’ the Report states that the Roman Catholic Church does not have a viable sexual ethic, not only regarding homosexuality, but also regarding contraception, divorce and remarriage and premarital sexuality.

“It says: ‘. . . the question is whether the Roman Catholic Church really has a viable and embodied sexual theology to begin with.  If the Roman Catholic Church is ever to regain credibility in matters sexual, it will need to develop an appropriately sophisticated sexual ethic beyond what it has at present.

” ‘At present its positive ethical guidance is essentially fashioned for sacramentally married people in procreative unions.  For all the others, for instance, the 50 million single people in the United States over 18, sexual options are few, if any.”

The Monitor  highlighted some of the key recommendations:

  • that Archdiocesan agencies examine how Roman Catholic agencies themselves might be conduits of oppression to lesbian women and gay men through their own attitudes and practices in parishes, schools, diocesan offices, chanceries, seminaries, religious communities and in the Catholic media.
  • that Catholic agencies develop internal programs to combat homophobia and sexism.
  • that Catholic agencies both critique and work with the criminal justice system to eliminate anti-gay/lesbian violence.
  • that organizations such as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gay (PFLAG) be given space and welcome within a parish community.
  • that the Archdiocese in concert with parish churches and other community agencies assist lesbian/gay parents and their children in working through the split-up of marriages, the restructuring of family units. . ..
  • the end of sexual orientation screening for parochial school jobs, adoption, and foster care.
  • the encouragement of gay student groups at parochial schools.
  • the admission of “self-accepting” gay and lesbian people to the priesthood and religious life.

Dr. Thomas Ambrogi, the director of the Archdiocesan Commission on Social Justice, explained that the report was “not an official statement of the Archdiocese itself, ” and that the Commission had “semi-autonomous status and . . . acts on its own initiative and conscience in studying issues in the light of the Catholic social tradition.”  Still, a Time magazine article dated October 11, 1982, had this to say about the archdiocese’s response to the report:

“Though Archbishop [John] Quinn] remained silent, the first reaction from the archdiocese emphasized the task force’s good intentions rather than accusing it of doctrinal errors or sins of naiveté. Said an editorial in the archdiocesan newspaper The Monitor: “We do not agree with many of the report’s findings and recommendations.  On the other hand, we respect the report for what it is–a working document, voicing the real feelings of real people who have had the courage to speak out.’ “

Some of the other Task Force members offered their reflections on the publication of the report:

Sister Frances Lombaer, OP:  “I previously had little knowledge of the concerns of the gay/lesbian community.  Now I’ve had the chance to hear the voices of faith-filled lesbian women and gay men and to learn of the violence that they have experienced on so many levels.  So I feel the document is important if it can contribute to the dialogue within the Archdiocese.

Father Jack Isaacs: “It’s important for the Church to be there –to listen to people directly–not be outside saying things about people.  Usually, we jump immediately to a conclusion that blots out what people are really saying instead of working it out with them.  Much in the area of homosexuality needs to be rethought.  The Social Justice Commission likes to think of itself as prophetic but it is part of the institutional Church.  The Report is one of the first papers on this topic accepted by an official Church body–an accepting f a prophetic statement by the institution.

    *     *     *     *     *     *

Editor’s reflection:

As I sifted through the news articles about this historic Report, I was struck by a few things: 1) the courage of the Task Force to speak so honestly, courageously, and boldly; 2) that an archbishop and archdiocese were courageous enough to listen to criticism; 3) that what we think of as Pope Francis’ new openness to listen, encounter, and dialogue, was actually alive and well over 30 year before he arrived in Rome.  Wouldn’t it be great if more dioceses and archdioceses would today commission similar reports on ministry and responsiveness to the LGBT community?

 

 


Alberta’s Catholic Schools Receive Poor Grades on LGBT Policies

September 18, 2016
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Results from “Making the Grade” report

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 18, 2016

Catholic school districts in Alberta received poor grades for their LGBT policies, according to a new report from the organization “Public Interest Alberta.”

Professor Kristopher Wells authored the report, “Making the Grade,” after conducting an analysis of the LGBT policies for four school districts. Wells, who directs the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, studied the Grand Prairie Catholic Schools and the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools as part of the report. The Edmonton Journal reported further:

“Wells evaluated four policies based on six criteria, including whether it complied with provincial legislation, protected students and staff members’ privacy, and spelled out how schools will support transgender and non-binary people.

“He said shortcomings include apparent restrictions on requesting gay-straight alliances in some Catholic school districts. Grande Prairie and St. Albert Catholic districts both have policies saying the groups will ‘normally’ be established at the Grade 7-to-12 levels, that the principal has to agree to the club’s name, and must approve any material going before the group.

“The report also said some districts did not include protections for students’ families or staff who are gender diverse, and failed to spell out how transgender people will be directed to bathrooms or change rooms, and join sports teams.”

Both Catholic districts received a D, but have pushed back against Wells’ report. Karl Germann, superintendent of Grand Prairie Catholic Schools, said the provincial Ministry of Education had approved its policies on inclusion. Germann said students are “loved and cared for,” in addition to legal compliance. David Keohane, superintendent of Greater St. Alberta Catholic School District, claimed the report was incomplete.

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Professor Kristopher Wells

Wells criticized the lack of a unified policy in the province, which makes finding and understanding a given district’s policies on gender and sexuality confusing. He told the Edmonton Journal:

” ‘Unequivocally, any student who walks through any school in this province should be entitled to the same supports, the same resources, the same protections regardless of where they go to school.’ “

Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, suggested the Ministry of Education post every district’s policies in a central and accessible place.Every school system in Alberta had to submit their LGBT policies for review last March. Thus far, the Ministry and Minister David Eggen have not released which districts have LGBT policies which are legally compliant and which are insufficient.

In related news, the leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party, David Swann, has said school districts which do not meet new LGBTQ standards should potentially have their funding and charters withdrawn. He told CBC:

” ‘The legislation, supported by every provincial party, and the policies set forth by the government, were created to provide kids with the right to be who they are. . .No organization, especially a school, should have the ability to take those rights away.’ “

Swann also said reparative therapy should be banned. His comments come after a Baptist leader said LGBTQ policies should and would be refused as they violate religious freedom.

Disputes about implementing policies supportive of LGBTQ students in Alberta have been ongoing for two years now. All 61 districts in the province submitted draft policies last March, but preceding these submissions there were debates in several Catholic systems. Particularly intense were disputes among the Edmonton Catholic School Board, whose meetings erupted in shouting and eventually necessitated outside mediation.

Alberta’s bishops weighed in, too, with one describing the LGBT guidelines as “totalitarian,” though the bishops eventually met with Minister Eggen. It should also be noted that the Greater St. Albert Catholic School District has spent nearly $400,000 defending its discriminatory firing of transgender teacher Jan Buterman.

The disputes in Alberta have been detrimental to students, faculty, parents, the church, and the wider community. Wells’ failing grades for these two districts may be deserved, but they should not be the case. Catholic education should receive straight A’s when it comes to welcoming and supporting its students–especially LGBTQ students. The good news is that it is never too late to reverse bad policies and renew a commitment to ensuring every student can flourish in Catholic schools.