Sr. Jeannine Gramick Asks, “What Can We Do to Lessen Anti-LGBT Prejudice?”

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) earlier this month with a reflection on her ministry in an international context.

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IDAHOBIT poster from Italy

Writing for The National Catholic Reporter’s “Global Sisters Report, Gramick suggested, “perhaps the tide is turning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.” Gramick wrote:

 

“The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is particularly strong in Europe and Latin America, where it is commemorated with public events such as marches, parades and festivals. In Cuba, Mariela Castro [niece of Fidel Castro] has led massive street parades on May 17 for the past three years. The day can also include arts and culture-based events, such as a music festival called “Love Music – Hate Homophobia” in Bangladesh. Albanian activists arrange an annual bike ride through the streets of the capital on May 17.”

She also saw hope in the number of religious services held to mark IDAHOBIT, including several Catholic vigils. You can find out more information about these services by clicking here.

Still, while the tide may be turning in favor of LGBT equality, it has definitely not turned fully. IDAHOBIT celebrates the day–May 17, 1990–when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality as a mental illness. But in today’s world, Gramick explained, “the erroneous diagnosis of mental disorder persists, causing much fear and confusion about lesbian and gay people, with often tragic results.” IDAHOBIT then is not only a celebration of the past but a time for action towards a more just future, especially against transphobia.

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Sr. Jeannine Gramick, center, with Polish LGBT activists and journalists

To highlight the “already/not yet” reality of LGBT rights today, Sr. Gramick discussed her trip to Poland at the end of 2016. (You can read more details about the trip by clicking here.) She struck a hopeful note, despite the country’s strong opposition to LGBT issues from Catholic leaders and many politicians:

“I was surprised by the degree of openness and acceptance I found among the Polish people for their lesbian and gay sisters and brothers. Polish Catholics are emerging not only from the political stranglehold of communism, but also from the grip of their authoritarian and traditionalist religious culture. From them I learned that I, too, need to emerge from the iron grip of my own prejudices, my blind spots, and the beams in my own eye. I want to be more open to those who ‘rub me the wrong way’ and to be more welcoming to those with whom I disagree. My visit to the Polish people filled me with hope that homophobia is gradually decreasing in unexpected places.”

Gramick asked, “What can we do to lessen the homophobia and transphobia that engulfs those who are different?” She concluded:

“In my decades of ministry with LGBT people, I continue to be astounded and inspired by the example of those who remain in a church that has so miserably failed to nourish their faith life. In a spirit of non-violence, these LGBT Christian groups are now calling us to stand with them. We may not understand different sexual orientations or gender identities, but we do believe that each person should be treated with dignity and respect because each of us has been made in the image and likeness of God.”

Though IDAHOBIT has come and gone, the need to struggle against prejudices and biases that denigrate another person’s dignity or their love is always present.

How would you answer Sr. Jeannine’s question above? Leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 29, 2017

 

 

 

Catholic Parishes Hold IDAHOBIT Prayer Vigils to Oppose Anti-LGBT Actions

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia  (IDAHOBIT). While this commemoration is not widely marked here in the United States,  in other nations, particularly in Europe, it is an important time to oppose prejudice and discrimination.

An IDAHOBIT prayer vigil held in Milan, Italy, May 12, 2017

Catholic participation in IDAHOBIT has grown over the past few years.  According to Progetto Gionata, an Italian LGBT Christian group, reports that this year prayer vigils marking the occasion (over the course of a week) will be held in Catholic churches in seven Italian cities and one in Spain.  The cities and churches are:

Italy

  • Milan: Santa Maria della Passione
  • Reggio Emilia:  Regina Pacis
  • Pistoia:  Santa Maria Maggiore di Vicofara a Pistoia
  • Catania:  SS. Crocifisso della Buona Morte
  • Florence:  Madonna della Tosse
  • Bologna:  San Bartolomeo della Beverara
  • Genoa:  San Pietro in Banchi

Spain

  • Seville:  San Pedro de Alcántara

Most notably on this list are the additions of Genoa and Palermo, two places where bishops put a stop to such prayer vigils in previous years.  Notably, the Archdiocese of Palermo has an archbishop, Corrado Lorefice, appointed in 2015 by Pope Francis.

Progetto Gionata also reports that at least in one location, a high-ranking diocesan official will lead the prayer vigil:

This is not the only news for this year, for the first time religious orders and Catholic associations will also publicly take part in the vigils. In Genoa the vigil will not only be hosted by a parish but, last minute changes notwithstanding, the general vicar for the dioceses Nicolò Anselmi will participate. “I think this is the most visible sign of how the Church is beginning to really ask itself the questions brought forth by the Synod in regards to providing pastoral welcoming for LGBT people and their families” says Innocenzo Pontillo, from Progetto Gionata.

Last month, at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss:  LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis,” participants heard Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, speak about how homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia translate in his country into oppression and violence.   After his talk, New Ways Ministry asked symposium participants if they would pose for a photo that would be used on IDAHOBIT to show over 300 U.S. Catholics who oppose such prejudice and discrimination.  Here it is:

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Catholic doctrine is so clear in opposing harmful attitudes and actions based in phobic reactions to people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  Catholic parishes around the world should be opening their doors on this day to sponsor prayer vigils to counter such destructive practices.  The growing number of parishes, including those listed above, are great pioneers in this movement.

It may be too late to organize and IDAHOBIT action for this year.  But one thing you can do is make a pledge that you will work to get your  Catholic parish, school, or other institution, to host a prayer vigil on May 17, 2018.  It’s not too early to start now!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, May 17, 2017

For IDAHOBIT, Oppose Discrimination and Violence Against LGBT People

Each year on May 17th, organizations around the world mark the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT).  The date was chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disease on May 17, 1990.  Religious services have often been a standard way that the day is marked in some nations.

This year for IDAHOBIT, the European Forum of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Christian Groups is collecting signatures from religious leaders and lay people from around the world on a declaration entitled “Believers Say NO to Violence Against LGBTI People.”  [Editor’s Note: Though the text of the statement references Europeans, I’ve been assured from one of the organizers that people of faith from all nations are invited to sign it.]

In a statement on the Faith IDAHOBIT website, the organizers explain that the purpose of the statement is find common ground among religious leaders on the issues of preventing violence and discrimination–issues that even churches with negative views on same-sex relationships (such as the Roman Catholic Church) can endorse:

“We can’t realistically expect various faith bodies from all member states of the Council of Europe to have a sudden change of position regarding the LGBTI community. We want to work together though to identify, engage and multiply those religious voices who treat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity similarly with racism, sexism and other forms of intolerance.”

In addition to seeking signers from religious leaders and lay people (see below), the campaign is also asking to explain in a video clip or written message why non-discrimination and non-violence are important values for your work and life.  It would be great if you could frame your testimony from your Catholic identity to help get out the word that Catholics oppose discrimination and violence toward LGBT people.You can send your submissions to:

Rev. Shanon Ferguson, presidents@euroforumlgbtchristians.eu
Rev. Wielie Elhorst, presidents@euroforumlgbtchristians.eu
Florin Buhuceanu, florinbuhuceanu@yahoo.com

If you also send a copy of your video or written testimony to Bondings 2.0, we will try to include as many of them as possible in the blog post on IDAHOBIT, May 17th.  Send a copy of your submission to info@NewWaysMinistry.org, along with how you would like to be briefly identified.  Please make your submission by May 15th.

The full text of the Declaration for which endorsers are seeking signatures can be found by clicking here.  You can sign it by clicking here.The following are some excerpts:

“We do not all think exactly alike about sexual orientation and gender diversity, but we do all believe that every human being has been created in the image of God. This transcends all our markers of identity: age, gender identities and expressions, sexualities, race, ethnicity, language, abilities or religion. We therefore have to treat each other with dignity: respectfully, peacefully and with love. All violence against LGBT people is an expression of evil. . . . .

“We encourage religious leaders and people of faith to refrain from all words or actions that might support violence against LGBT people and to create, within their communities, safe spaces for encounter, consultation and dialogue.

“We recognise that there are times in our own faith communities when the dignity of LGBT people is sometimes violated. We regret this deeply.”

In addition to the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, the other organizers of this campaign are Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives, A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe, Global Justice Institute of the Metropolitan Community Churches, and European Network on Religion and Belief.

Please sign the Declaration and share this blog post with your family and friends who are people of faith.  Most importantly, share it with your pastors and other religious leaders!  You can promote this campaign online by using online campaign by using the hashtag #inclusivefaith and following the campaign’s  Twitter account @christianslgbt.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, May 2, 2017