Catholic Justice Voices Decry New Morality Directives for High School Teachers

February 7, 2015

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

Protesters at St. Mary Cathedral, San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To receive a copy of the full statement, send an email request to:

Other Catholic voices also condemned the new directives.

Brian Cahill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

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

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




Reflecting on ‘Coming Out’ to Celebrate National Coming Out Day

October 11, 2013

Today, October 11, is National Coming Out Day and though widespread acceptance of LGBT people is common, the process of coming out remains both difficult and sacred for many. Bondings 2.0 provides excerpts from several coming out accounts published recently that deal with coming out and Catholicism.

First, there is Jonah Saribay, a gay man from a traditional Filipino Catholic family, who shared his story in Honolulu Civil Beat about the coming out process, and how marriage equality could affect this. The news site reports:

“During Saribay’s sophomore year at Farrington High School in 2010, he was conflicted. He had hidden his sexual orientation for years — and then, for a while, tried to convince himself and his friends that he was bisexual.

‘I was so unhappy that I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live. I was gay, and I wanted to live my life as a gay man.’

Toward the end of that school year, he finally found the courage to tell his parents something that he had long known about himself. And when he did, he was in for a surprise: They were fine with the news and they said they loved him unconditionally.

The greatest challenge, he recalled, was ‘accepting myself. I was trying for years to get out of my own shell.’ “

Set amid a piece on Hawaii’s potential passage marriage equality, Saribay believes legalized marriage for same-gender couples would ease coming out for other LGBT youth by advancing the type of social acceptance he received even in a conservative Catholic family. Passing marriage equality could also curtail all-too-frequent bullying and harassment aimed at youth for their sexual orientation or gender identity. You can read more about how Hawaii’s educational system is working towards these goals already and the state’s push for equal rights on the Civil Beat website.

Second is the story of Derek Schell, who is the first openly gay male player in NCAA Division II basketball and who wrote an account of his coming out for OutSports this week. In the essay, Schell touches upon his Catholic schooling and Christian faith, as well as his renewed passion for the sport. After expressing the pain he underwent as young person growing up in a conservative area of the US, he writes about the decision to come out and how grateful he is to have made it, saying:

“In experiencing opposite ends of the spectrum in homophobia and in unconditional love, I have learned so many things from so many different types of people and haven’t been limited to just one way of thinking. It has been a blessing in disguise…Not only is life too short to dwell on other people’s expectations for you, but it is your decision to choose your attitude and how you react to your surroundings…

“Sometimes the darkest times in life are only doorways to the best moments of your life, the ones you were meant to experience and live to see…My challenge to you, whoever is reading this, is to be honest with yourself and how you’re feeling. God doesn’t make mistakes. Don’t keep saying you’re fine. You can be who you are and still be an athlete. You can do all the things you want to do and live a beautiful life that you’ve imagined for yourself. Find your peace of mind knowing you are giving your best self to the world. Be brave. Be love. But most of all, be you.”

Lastly, Daniel Reynolds, a staff member at The Advocate, writes about how his Catholic identity positively influenced his coming out experience. An altar server from age seven, Reynolds speaks about the belief in miracles he was imbued with when learning the faith and continues:

“As I grew older and taller, and my white robes began to cover less and less of my legs, I began to realize that I was attracted to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (in the biblical sense, indeed). At the time, it was a horrifying revelation. As I prepared for confirmation, the sacrament that asks a young person to pledge himself or herself to the church, I considered my sexuality to be an insurmountable obstacle in admission to the fold…

“It was around this time that something miraculous occurred.

The miracle was Antioch, a youth group Reynolds attended semi-annually where taboo topics were discussed over weekend retreats, leading him to come out eventually:

“For the first time in my life, I had entered a circle where I was entrusted with the secrets of others. Through Antioch and my church, I received one of the most powerful and most influential lessons of growing up — the cognizance that other people struggle with pain, and the responsibility of a community to help its members overcome it.

“Until Antioch, I had only shared the secret of my sexual orientation to one or two close friends…I began to realize that sharing my story would serve a purpose. In my heart I knew that other people in my group must be going through the same struggle, or they knew or were related to a person in the same situation. With this in mind, I decided that I would come out to my church. I believed that it was what God wanted me to do.”

Reynolds came out to his church and was warmly welcomed by the hundred people in attendance including his priest.  Now, the criticism Reynolds receives is often from the LGBT community who cannot understand his participation in the Catholic Church. While validating these criticisms, Reynolds concludes:

“But the truth is, the Catholic Church is a large part of the reason I am an openly gay man today. It has helped me to become a better person. Perhaps my experience is the exception rather than the rule, but I can’t help but believe that the love and support I received in the room that day — and that I continue to receive from my Catholic friends — outweigh the words of old strangers in Rome. I have yet to find sufficient reason to abandon the faith that has guided my parents, grandparents, ancestors, and myself toward a brighter star…

“For a gay Catholic, the words of the new pope are reason to be hopeful. Perhaps, in my lifetime, the church will recognize the sanctity of same-sex marriage. Perhaps not. In the meantime, I have to reach my own new balance of faith and love. I am gay. I am Catholic. And after all, miracles happen every day.”

Writing in the Winona Daily News, John Rupkey asks each of us, gay and straight, an important question on this day. Calling to mind both the wounds a homophobic hierarchy inflicts on the LGBT community and the wounds born by closeted gay priests, he address the laity:

“Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day. I would like to suggest that on that day the non-gay people of God consider coming out in support of gay people. Coming out doesn’t mean shouting from a soap box. The first step in coming out is coming out to yourself.

“When asked if he approved of homosexuality, Pope Francis replied with a question: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?”

“On Oct. 11, how will you answer that question?”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Is Pope Francis the New Beyonce?

September 20, 2013
Pope Francis

Pope Francis



The pope compared to Beyonce′?

Yep, that’s right., a website and blog for women, declared Pope Francis “the coolest Pope ever” and compared him to Beyonce′, the superstar pop singer, who sang at President Obama’s second inauguration ceremony.  Erin Gloria Ryan wrote:

“Twitter is exploding with Papal adoration today. It’s bizarre.

“Francis is basically the Beyoncé of organized religion.”

Pope Francis’ interview in America magazine has triggered a deluge of positive responses from Catholics, Catholic organizations, and LGBT leaders. New Ways Ministry’s response was posted on this blog yesterday.   Here’s a sampling of some responses from others.

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, appeared yesterday on MSNBC talking about the pope.   You can view her interview here.  In the segment she is asked for her reaction to the pope’s remarks.  In part, she stated:

“Actually I cried when I first began to read it because in the beginning he is asked who are you…He was stunned by the question, but after a moment of reflection, he said, to describe himself, ‘I am a sinner.’ His humility is just overwhelming. He realizes no person is perfect, and yet, as is so clear in his message, God loves each and every one of us. . . .
“He wants to make it clear these [abortion, marriage equality, contraception] are not essential. He’s trying to get us back to the Gospel, to the real essential message of Jesus. The essential message is that Jesus came to proclaim God’s love, God’s love for each and every person, no matter if we agree with them or not.”

Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed (coalition of four Catholic organizations–Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry which work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society):

“The pope’s statements are like rain on a parched land for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their supporters. We yearn for the day when the Catholic hierarchy can simply acknowledge the holiness of our lives and our relationships, as the majority of Catholics in the United States already do, and we pray that this pope will move us closer to that goal. In the meantime, Pope Francis has sent a clear signal that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and organizations like the Knights of Columbus need to end their multimillion dollar campaign to marginalize LGBT people in the church and the wider society and commit themselves to gaining a deeper understanding of the lives, beliefs and ministries of LGBT people, their families and their friends.”

Father James Martin SJ

Father James Martin SJ

Fr. James Martin, SJ (noted spirituality author and associate editor at America magazine), from the blog “In All Things” :

“During his in-flight media conference from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro this summer, Pope Francis made headlines when he uttered his now-famous words, ‘Who am I to judge?’ when asked a question about gay priests in the church.

“At the time, several commentators opined that the pope’s words were not only uninteresting (since the pope did not change any church teaching on homosexuality), they were also limited, applying only, they said, to gay priests.  But in our interview, Francis speaks at some length about gay persons in general, and even notes that his comments during the in-flight conference referred to gay persons, not simply gay priests: “During the return flight I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.’

“The new interview continues his open and pastoral stance towards gays and lesbians.  Notice, too, the gentle tone of the rest of his response to the question posed by the interviewer: ‘Here we enter into the mystery of the human being.  In life, God accompanied persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation.  It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.’  While none of this changes church teaching, the Pope’s words have changed the way that church speaks to and about gay persons.  And that is new.

“There is a reason why many gay Catholics have told me that they feel more welcome in the church these days.  There is a reason why people like Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Mumbai, recently told his priests to be more ‘sensitive‘ when speaking to gays and lesbians.

“Pope Francis leads with mercy.  Mercy has been from hallmark of his papacy from its earliest days.  The America interview shows a gentle pastor who looks upon people as individuals, not categories.

Fr. Martin’s blog post is an excellent read, analyzing a variety of the pope’s statements in the very extensive interview he gave.

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA (national organization of LGBT Catholics):

“We find much to be hopeful about, particularly in the Pope’s firm desire that the Church be a ’home for all people,’ and his belief that God looks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with love rather than condemnation.

“LGBT Catholics and allies will rejoice in the Pope’s call for Church leaders to focus on being pastors rather than rule enforcers. We hope that the bishops will heed this call and immediately end their anti-LGBT campaigns, the firings of church workers for who they are, the attacks on people who challenge or question official teachings, and the exclusive and judgmental rhetoric that comes too often from our pulpits. The Pope is unambiguous. Leave the bully pulpit, and accompany your people. . . .

“This could be a moment of deep renewal for our Church, and for its LGBT members. We hope, pray, and work to ensure this is so.”

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin (blogger at Religion News Service), from “Faith Fix”:

“As a Catholic, who happens to work in the church, and who writes extensively about the church, and who is also gay, I am fairly desensitized to the veiled bigotry employed by so many Catholic leaders. Sure, the cardinals and bishops who seem obsessed with issues of homosexuality usually begin their statements recalling the Catechism of the Catholic Church that reminds us all people are to be treated with dignity. But in the next breath, their words turn to sin, disorder, unnaturalness, and general judgment and condemnation. Under Pope Benedict XVI, combined with rapid advancements for LGBT people in the West, the church’s attitude and language toward gay people reached a nadir. . . .

“Pope Francis is so revolutionary, so engrossing, because he is living out Gospel values of love, mercy, and compassion. These values are often antithetical to those of the world, so it moves us when people in power embody them.

“People sometimes ask how I can remain in the church when it’s so hostile to gay people. I explain that the church is simply an instrument I use to understand and attempt to live out the Gospel. Pope Francis recognizes this. The Gospel is so much bigger than we often give it credit for, which is why Francis rejects those who would reduce it to a few hot-button social issue. . . .

“And the pope is simply reminding us that we all are in need of God’s forgiveness, and how much better it is for us to accompany one another on this journey with love. And mercy.  If the pope has the humility to ask, ‘Who am I to judge?’, can’t we?”

Jim FitzGerald

Jim FitzGerald

Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director, Call To Action (Catholic justice organization):

“. . . We are heartened by Francis’s openness and candor, willingness to dialogue with all, and his attempts at transparency and consultation. We’ve long held more inclusive, open conversations to be healthy for our Church. . . .

“We were encouraged to hear Pope Francis speak of continued discernment and reform. As this spirit of change begins to reach up towards all levels of our Church, we look forward to working with all those who seek to embody a more accountable, inclusive, and just Church.  While there is more work to do, we remain hopeful transformation is afoot.”

Chad Griffin

Chad Griffin

Chad Griffin, Director, Human Rights Campaign (LGBT political action organization):

“With these latest comments, Pope Francis has pressed the reset button on the Roman Catholic Church’s treatment of LGBT people, rolling back a years-long campaign at the highest levels of the Church to oppose any measure of dignity or equality. Now, it’s time for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to catch up and drop their opposition to even the most basic protections for LGBT people. Otherwise, they risk being left far behind by American Catholics and this remarkable Pope.”

Jon O'Brien

Jon O’Brien

Jon O’Brien, President, Catholics for Choice:

“We welcome what Pope Francis said today when he called for the Catholic church to be ‘home for all’ and not a ‘small chapel’ focused on doctrine and limited views on moral teachings. . . .

“We truly hope that this is just the start; that Pope Francis doesn’t only talk the talk, but also walks the walk. We hope he takes steps to ensure that his more open view of how the church should deal with people trickles down to his brother bishops around the world. . .”

We will keep you posted on further reactions as they become available to us.

–Francis DeBernardo and Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Understanding Transgender Issues Starts with Good Questions

August 27, 2013

Jonathan Merritt

As legal issues and theological debates grow around transgender issues, people of faith are speaking out in greater numbers for full protection and equality. Recent pieces by several authors are fine contributions for Catholics to reflect further on how the Church and its members can better understand and support trans Catholics.

Writing for Religion News Service, Jonathan Merritt asks Christians to complicate their thinking around transgender matters because they are far more complex than how anti-LGBT voices depict them. Stemming from his experiences with a fellow church member who is a trans man, the author speaks to the deficiency Christians (and one can safely add Catholics) have in thinking and speaking about transgender people. He writes:

“I suspect many Christians are like me and haven’t considered all the theological, ethical, and scientific intricacies of this issue. Perhaps we are afraid that what we discover will stretch the bounds of our thinking. My unsettled thoughts about how to reconcile Kris’s gender identification with my Christian faith tempt me to shrink back from my friendship with Kris. And yet, I’m so glad I haven’t. Our conversations challenge my thinking and force me to ask new and difficult questions of myself. Kris and I may not end up agreeing on everything, but we press on in our friendship anyway. And I think we’re both better for it.

“The transgender issue is an important one and Christians must grapple with it in all its messiness and complexity. So let’s not pretend that any armchair theologian should be able to figure it out. Kris deserves better. And so do all of our transgender neighbors.”

Sharon Groves, the director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith program, writes in The Washington Post about a positive contribution transgender members bring to communities of faith, namely the opportunity for wider reflection on creation, God, and oneself. She first writes a series of questions:

“[What if] we actually took seriously the question of what it means to be human and, more expansively, what it means to live into our full humanity? What if rather than saying that biology is destiny we actually explored the ways in which we all experience our own gender identities and expressions? What if we learned about the lived experiences of our transgender peers?”

Groves asks Christians to willingly engage in a respectful, open-minded questioning by encountering transgender people, their stories, and broader religious questions as a way forward. Fundamentally, understanding transgender community members will also involved understanding oneself in a deeper way on issues of gender, as she writes:

Sharon Groves

“The core teachings of Christianity are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. We cannot love God fully if we don’t do the work of trying to understand who God is for each of us. When we look at the most moving and transformative religious writing – from Augustine to Thomas Merton – there is a sense of openness and curiosity to the experience of God.  We can’t love God if we don’t try to glean how God works in our lives.

“Similarly, we can’t really love our neighbors if we cast off all curiosity about who they are and their experience of life in the world. And finally, if we remain uninterested in ourselves – about how we come to know our gender–then we can’t really love the difference that shows up in our neighbors…

“To live our lives with true compassion and caring, we need to move beyond slogans and ask the deeper questions about gender and the diversity of experiences.   But to do that, one must ask the right question and be open to a multitude of answers.”

In a sign of hope for the Catholic Church, Governor Jerry Brown of California, who is a Catholic, recently signed a groundbreaking law protecting transgender students in that state. The law allows transgender students to use bathrooms and play on the sports teams which match their gender identity most fully. However, comments by an administrator in Nebraska’s Catholic schools opposing a similar law in that state prove that work remains in securing equality for transgender people.  At least one previous story on Bondings 2.0 reveals the pressures trans church employees feel, as well as their fears of discriminatory firings.  Another story shows the support that Catholics can express for transgender people.

A positive first step is for every Catholic to deepen their understanding of transgender issues by questioning their existing beliefs, educating themselves, and encountering trans people in their communities. Share your thoughts and resources on how Catholics can better understand transgender issues in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Students, Alumni, and Commentators Support Fired Catholic H.S. Teacher

August 10, 2013
Student and alums protest outside the school.

Student and alums protest outside the school.

Los Angeles’ Daily News reported:

“Several hundred students, alumnae and supporters of Ken Bencomo rallied in Glendora on Thursday morning, protesting Bencomo’s firing from St. Lucy’s Priory High School after he married his longtime same-sex partner in July.”

According to Los Angeles.CBSLocal.comBrittany Littleton, an alumna who organized the protest said:

“I believe very strongly in equal rights and in justice, but aside from that, Mr. Bencomo is an amazing teacher.”

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune carried a story

about the protest, which included a comment from an alumna’s mother who jointed the demonstration:

 Melissa Magdaleno, an alumna, protest's the teacher's dismissal.

Melissa Magdaleno, an alumna, protest’s the teacher’s dismissal.

“The school has an obligation to make good choices and to stand up and be courageous, and I don’t think they’re being courageous in this decision,” Terry Monday said. “I think they’re hiding behind Catholic doctrine and not demonstrating the values that they try to teach the girls.”

Bondings 2.0 reported on the firing when news broke last week.  You can read the report here.

In addition to the protest, the firing has sparked a bit of commentary all over the country.  In a Washington Post “On Faith” essay, Sharon Groves, Director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, put the firing in the context of Pope Francis’ recent gay-positive comments, and wonders how the school can defend their action in terms of their Catholic faith:

“To be clear, it was an act that contradicted their mission statement’s call to respond compassionately to the needs of the community. Ken’s officials hid behind their “Catholic faith” to justify their position. But there isn’t one way to be Catholic.”

Groves points out the variety of ways that Catholics strongly support LGBT people:

Sharon Groves

Sharon Groves

“Ask the faithful Catholics — who organized as Catholics — in every state where marriage equality had a possibility of passing. Ask my friend Rosa Manriquez, who proudly raised two lesbian daughters and two grandchildren according to the core tenets of Catholic social teaching — to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Ask the countless Catholics living with the pain of exile but holding a deep longing for the church, as the Catholic hierarchy routinely denies their humanity.”

And, she points out, this support doesn’t stop at the level of the pews:

“And while the true intent of his Pope Francis’ words this week remains unclear, we were offered a morsel of hope. We were offered the possibility of a world where claims of a singular ‘Catholic faith’ aren’t used as an excuse for judgment, shaming and injustice.

“ ‘Do not judge’ is a mantra for us all to embrace, regardless of our faiths. But especially for my Catholic friends who hold St. Francis and Pope Francis so dear, now is the time for a real commitment to these words. We must all do better.”

In The Los Angeles Times, Michael McGough, a columnist questions the church-state issues that this firing raises.  Should churches be allowed to discriminate in employment, he asks.   He explicates the issue this way:

“This would make a good case study for law students. Does the teacher’s right to be free from discrimination trump the school’s right to safeguard its theological convictions about marriage by dismissing a teacher whose life is at odds with that teaching?

“California has a law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which may or may not cover a situation in which an employee is dismissed because he has entered a same-sex marriage. On the other hand, the law doesn’t apply to “a religious association or corporation not organized for private profit.”

“Then there’s the 1st Amendment. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Lutheran church could fire a ‘called teacher’– one who had received a commission as a ‘minister of religion’ – without running afoul of anti-discrimination laws. But it’s not clear whether a lay teacher at a Catholic school would be in the same category.”

Ken Bencomo

Ken Bencomo

McGough concludes:

“With the spread of same-sex marriage,  courts are going to be drawing lots of lines in this area. Maybe they will say that a Catholic school can dismiss a teacher who is in a same-sex marriage because teachers are role models,  but it can’t discriminate against a bus driver or a bookkeeper. Or perhaps a Catholic college that serves adult students from a variety of religious backgrounds belongs in a different category from a parish elementary or high school.”

For Eduardo Moises Peñalver, a blogger at  Commonweal magazine, a Catholic lay journal of opinion, the legal question is not as important as the moral question in this case:

“I want to separate the question whether Catholic institutions have the right to do this sort of thing from the question whether they should, on either moral or prudential grounds.  I am not aware of divorced and remarried teachers getting fired.  The axe always seems to fall on those who are somewhat more easily marginalized:  unmarried pregnant teachers, gay teachers, etc. “

For a related post on the problem that Catholic institutions are encouraging by firing their LGBT employees, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Two Catholic Hospitals Commended for LGBT Equality

July 12, 2013

bible with stethoscopeIt looks like Catholic hospitals may be a new place for hope for equality for LGBT people in the church.  Yesterday, we reported on St. Peter’s Healthcare System in New Jersey partnering with Rutgers University to assist families with LGBT members.  Today, we learned that two Catholic hospitals have been commended for their non-discrimination policies and practices.

U.S. News and World Report offers details about the two hospitals, which are geographically close to one another:

“Two Catholic health systems say they won’t tolerate discrimination against gay patients and their families, according to a report released Thursday.

“MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C. and Bon Secours Health System in Marriottsville, Md., – both Catholic healthcare facilities – were commended in the ‘Healthcare Equality Index 2013,’ which was published by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest gay rights group in America.”

HRC evaluates hospitals on four criteria:

  1. patient non-discrimination
  2. visitation policies inclusive of same-sex spouses and partners
  3. non-discrimination in employment
  4. training of staff in LGBT patient-centered care, including five senior hospital administrators in those programs.

HRC’s Health and Aging Director Shane Snowdon commended these hospitals for their service and integrity:

“Religiously affiliated institutions say… ‘I get that this is about health care, and that it’s not about politics or morality or religion.’ Next year, to make a fearless prediction, I think we’re going to see a lot more.”

Bon Secours Health System (BSHSI) released a statement on their website about the designation, which included a statement from David T. Binder, vice president and general counsel for BSHSI and member of the BSHSI Diversity and Inclusion Council:

“The Diversity & Inclusion Council is very proud that Bon Secours Health System has been recognized for the second year in a row as a Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality.  Our acute care facilities independently met the core criteria for LGBT patient-centered care related to patient non-discrimination, equal visitation policies, employment non-discrimination, and training in LGBT patient-centered care.  We believe that this leadership status underscores our commitment through our Code of Conduct and policies to be a fully inclusive environment for patients and employees.”

Additionally, U.S. News and World Report quoted Peggy Moseley, a spokesperson for BSHSI, which said that hospital’s  “tradition is to honor the inherent dignity of each person, and to demonstrate respect for all.”

Congratulations to these two Catholic hospitals!  May many more soon follow their lead!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

LGBT Advocates React to Election of Pope Francis

March 16, 2013
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Seemingly everyone has posted their thoughts about Pope Francis since his election last Wednesday evening, discussing everything from his country of origin, how the conclave played out, and where he may lead the Church. Prominently featured in these discussions is the new pope’s previous views on Catholic LGBT issues, sparking reactions from relevant organizations and commentators. Bondings 2.0 provides a sampling below.

Outspoken LGBT advocate and New Ways Ministry friend, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton told the Detroit Free Press that Pope Francis seems promising:

“‘It sounds like to me he’ll be open to the dialogue. He seems to have rapport with the people in his diocese…It seems to be the right direction.’

“Gumbleton said Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio brings to mind the papacy of John XXIII, which ushered in the Second Vatican Council, modernizing Catholic services and promoting the use of more laypeople in parish life…

“’St. Francis tried to live the radical gospel view of Jesus — simplicity, poverty — and he didn’t want a hierarchy. All of those signs look very promising,’ he said.”

Professor Tina Beattie

Joshua McElwee at National Catholic Reporter provides insights from leading Catholic theologians across the world on the election, with many perceiving a willingness to listen to and respect the laity’s role in the Church. From Tina Beattie, a professor at the University of Roehampton:

“For me this morning, if this man remains as attentive as he has been to the voice of the poor, if he makes it a listening as well as a teaching Church, a Church of the people rather than of the Curia, then I for one will keep quietly cheering and thanking God.”

Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator

From Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, a Jesuit provincial in East Africa and theologian, believes that this new papacy will be marked by a refocusing on the People of God and not just the pope as those responsible for the well-being and growth of the Church:

“I want to believe that considering the humble and down-to-earth background of Pope Francis I the church is in capable hands — not just the pope’s alone, but the hands of the entire people of God across the globe.

“Francis’s first gesture of asking the people to pray to God for him may signal the beginning of a more authentic and humble recognition of the priesthood of the people of God and the responsibility we all bear for the church of God in the world.”

Many organizations released statements as well in the wake of Pope Francis’ election, which were compiled by Windy City Times. DignityUSA released a statement by Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke expressing cautious encouragement given the cardinals’ choice:

Marianne Duddy-Burke

“‘We recognize that sometimes this new job on which he embarks can change the man called to it…We invite him to take the time to learn about our lives [of LGBT individuals, their loved ones, and families], our faith, and our families before he makes any papal pronouncements about us, and we stand ready to enter into dialogue with him at any time.’”

The Human Rights Campaign called for the new pope to join the existing reality of American Catholics’ efforts for LGBT equality:

“’We hope the new Pope understands the time for religious-based bigotry is not only over, but must be denounced. Demonizing LGBT people and their families from this powerful platform not only fails to keep faith…but it does real psychological damage to millions of LGBT people around the world.’”

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, was quoted in The Baltimore Sun:

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo

“[Francis DeBernardo] said in a statement that he hopes the change in the church’s leadership will bring about a change in approach. Many have left the church over its harsh rhetoric toward gays and lesbians…

“‘Pope Francis has the opportunity to repair much of this hurt and alienation by offering sincere pastoral outreach to LGBT people and their families,’ DeBernardo, who was traveling in El Salvador, said in a prepared statement. ‘A welcoming gesture from the new pope in the first month of his papacy can go a long way to express God’s love for all humanity.’”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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