Colombian Bishop Apologizes for Angering All with Lesbian & Gay Remarks

May 21, 2015

It’s pretty rare, and thus news, when a Catholic bishop makes statements about gay and lesbian people that equally anger both liberals and conservatives.  It’s even rarer to hear a Catholic bishop apologize for any of his statements.

Bishop Juan Vicente Córdoba

Yet, a bishop in Colombia did both those things this past week. Bishop Juan Vicente Córdoba of Fontibón, Colombia, created a stir last week, when during a university talk about same-sex marriage, he proposed the idea that one of the Apostles was perhaps gay and Mary Magdalene might have been a lesbian.

In his talk, he also suggested that gay and lesbian couples be respected, though he did not support marriage or adoption rights for them.  But, he also gave a positive evaluation of homosexuality. The message he offered was very mixed, and a bit confusing.

As a result, according to Crux, the bishop’s words and message were not well-received by either progressives or conservatives.  The news report stated:

“To illustrate his point, he used a pejorative Spanish term for a gay man, offending members of Colombia‘s gay community during a speech intended to denounce discrimination based on sexual orientation. . . . Conservatives, meanwhile, raised an eyebrow when the bishop said that homosexuality is not a sin and that gays are welcomed by the church.”

In his original speech, Córdoba spoke very positively about gay and lesbian people.  The following, according to Crux, are some of his statements:

“ ‘No one chooses to be gay or straight,’ Córdoba said. ‘One simply feels, loves, experiments, is attracted, and no attraction is bad.’. . .

“Although Córdoba reiterated Church teaching when it comes to marriage – that it’s a union between a man and a woman, permanent, and open to children – he said that homosexuality isn’t a sin.

“ ‘Sin is something else. It’s not respecting the dignity of others. Not loving God and our neighbors as we love ourselves, not feeding the hungry, not giving water to the thirsty,’ Córdoba said.

“According to local reports, Córdoba said that in the Bible there’s no explicit rejection of homosexuality, suggesting there’s no basis for making a condemnation of homosexuality a Church doctrine. . . .

“Córdoba asked those in favor of the gay rights bill not to call the opposition ‘recalcitrant, dinosaurs, cavemen, retarded, because we also have the right to present our ideas and our emotions with respect.’

” ‘There will come a time when the Catholic Church is a minority that will be crushed by the majority,’ he warned. ‘Let us respect each other, without using adjectives or telling anyone they’re sick or disordered.’ “

Yet, the bishop did return to the language of “disorder” when he issued his apology and clarification of what he originally had said. A follow-up Crux article reported on his change of mind:

“ ‘Even if homosexuality as an inclination doesn’t constitute a sin, it’s regarded as a disordered conduct,’ he said.

“Córdoba said that his words were not intended to modify the ‘solid and unchangeable moral position of the Church,’ but to express respect in an auditorium which, according to the prelate, was mostly composed of leaders and members of the LGBT community. “

The bishop also apologized for his use of “unfortunate colloquial expressions,”  and explained the use of the pejorative in terms of the situation of his speech:

“The bishop also admitted that he didn’t know there were members of the press present at the event, and that he only used such colloquial expressions because of the academic and dialogic context of the encounter, adding that they had no theological or moral value.”

It is difficult to assess this controversy.  The bishop seems to have been sincerely interested in building bridges with the lesbian and gay community in Colombia, a nation which is currently debating legalizing marriage equality.  His use of a derogatory word was certainly ill-advised, at the least, but his apology for it seems sincere.

It is curious, however, that the bishop’s apology and clarification in which he reverts to traditional hierarchical language was issued not by his diocese but, according to the news report, by the Colombian bishops’ conference.  That seems to indicate that his second set of remarks were motivated by someone from that organization.

What is important, though, is that even in this more conservative clarification, the bishop offered some very positive statements about lesbian and gay people:

“ ‘With a mother’s love, the Church welcomes every man and woman, whatever their condition, conscious that regardless of their sexual inclination – and even sexual behavior – every person has the same fundamental dignity,’ Córdoba said.

“Regardless of the controversy it may have generated, Córdoba said, Thursday’s encounter at the University of Los Andes was the first public encounter between a Colombian bishop and the LGBT community.

“ ‘It proves that it’s possible to establish an honest and frank dialogue that could allow us to bring down the walls and discover each other as brothers,’ the bishop wrote in the letter.”

I think the bishop’s heart wanted genuinely to do something positive towards the LGBT community.  It is unfortunate that his message became so muddled by his use of a harmful slur and his pulling back from his favorable evaluation.  This was the first encounter between the church hierarchy and the Colombian LGBT community.  Let’s hope it is not the last, and that Bishop Córdoba’s original intention to show respect and outreach will be manifested more clearly in the future.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


New Appointee to Vatican Justice and Peace Office Has Pro-Gay Record

May 19, 2015

Father Timothy Radcliffe, OP

Father Timothy Radcliffe, OP, a British Dominican who has spoken very positively in the past about lesbian and gay people, has been appointed by Pope Francis as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, a Vatican office.

The appointment of Radcliffe, who was once the Master of the Dominican Order (head of the world-wide community), was announced very briefly on Vatican Radio’s website, giving only a brief five-sentence description of his academic and ecclesial background.

Radcliffe, however, has had a long history of supporting lesbian and gay people in the Catholic Church and speaking for their rights in civil society.   Just in the last few years, Bondings 2.0 has reported on some of his actions and statements:

  • In September, 2013, Radcliffe penned an essay in America magazine in which he called for “A New Way of Being Church.”  In that essay, he noted the possibilities opened up by Pope Francis in regards to lesbian and gay issues:

    “[Pope Francis] also sees the Christian mission as offering that healing gaze to others. He is touched by seeing how individuals live. When he addresses the question of welcoming gay people in the church, he says, ‘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?’ If we dare to really see people, in their dignity and humanity, then we shall discover the right words to say. Who knows where this will take us?”

  • In March 2014, we reported how Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) was boycotting a Divine Mercy conference in Ireland because Radcliffe was one of the featured speakers.  EWTN condemned him because he celebrated Masses for the Diocese of Westminster (London) pastoral outreach to the LGBT community.  An article in Ireland’s Independent  newspaper at the time detailed the controversy.  According to The Tabletanother aspect of the EWTN controversy was Radcliffe’s remarks on an Anglican report on sexual ethics.  On the topic of same-sex love, he said:

“Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual and non-violent. So in many ways, I would think that it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift.”

  • Though Radcliffe supports same-sex couples, he has not supported legal marriage.  In a 2012 op-ed he wrote for The Tablet he stated:“Marriage is founded on the glorious fact of sexual difference and its potential fertility. Without this, there would be no life on this planet, no evolution, no human beings, no future. . . . [E]verywhere and always, it remains founded on the union in difference of male and female. . . .“This is not to denigrate committed love of people of the same sex. This too should be cherished and supported, which is why church leaders are slowly coming to support same-sex civil unions. The God of love can be present in every true love.”

 

In response to the 2005 instruction from the Vatican cautioning bishops from ordaining gay men to the priesthood, Radcliffe spoke out in support of gay priests. In a Tablet article, he wrote:

“Having worked with bishops and priests, diocesan and religious, all over the world, I have no doubt that God does call homosexuals to the priesthood, and they are among the most dedicated and impressive priests I have met. So no priest who is convinced of his vocation should feel that this document classifies him as a defective priest. And we may presume that God will continue to call both homosexuals and heterosexuals to the priesthood because the Church needs the gifts of both.”

In a 2006 address to the Los Angeles Religious Education conference, Radcliffe called on the church to “stand with” gay people, according to a National Catholic Reporter column. Radcliffe elaborated what he meant:

“We must accompany them as they discern what this means, letting our images be stretched open. This means watching ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ reading gay novels, living with our gay friends and listening with them as they listen to the Lord.”

Crux provided a bit more information concerning several of the other controversies in which he has been involved.  According to the article, Radcliffe has also openly supported women’s ordination, communion for those divorced and remarried, and diversity in the church.   They quoted Radcliffe from a 2013 interview:

“Jesus offered a wide hospitality, and ate and drank with all sorts of people. We need to embody his open heart rather than retreat into a Catholic ghetto.”

This brief resumé does not give a full picture of Radcliffe’s support for LGBT issues, which has been evident since at least the 1990’s.

Terence Weldon, who blogs at Queering The Church, offered hope that Radcliffe’s voice will help change the institutional approach to LGBT issues.   In a post, Weldon wrote:

“Too often, the issue of lgbt Catholics is approached purely from the perspective of sexual ethics, but it is equally important to see things from the perspective of justice. In his new position, Fr Radcliffe will surely remind his colleagues that the Catholic imperative of ‘justice’ must inevitably include the frequently overlooked question of justice inside the church, just as much as in the wider, secular world.”

Though Radcliffe may not support the full spectrum of LGBT equality, his past record indicates that he can be a force for the church institution to start taking the next steps toward a more just and humane approach to LGBT issues.  I have hope for this appointment because I trust in the words he used in his 2013 America essay (see above):

“If we dare to really see people, in their dignity and humanity, then we shall discover the right words to say. Who knows where this will take us?”

Such openness to new possibilities is what is needed most deeply in church officials.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Dublin Archbishop Calls for an “Ethics of Equality” in Marriage Debate

May 8, 2015

Ireland’s upcoming referendum on marriage equality has evoked the expected opposition from the Catholic hierarchy in that nation, sometimes approaching an extremist tone, such as publicly considering that Catholic priests would not be allowed to perform any wedding ceremony–heterosexual or homosexual–if the electorate approves legal marriage for lesbian and gay couples.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Yet, recently, the archbishop of Dublin has offered a more reconciliatory tone.  While he still opposes the marriage equality law, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has also called for “an ethic of equality” which would include legal protections for gay and lesbian committed couples.

London’s Tablet reported on the archbishop’s comments, made at All Hallows’ College, Dublin, during an address to diocesan communications specialists. You can read the entire text of his talk on the Archdiocese of Dublin website. I will excerpt some of the main points in this blog post.

The main point of Martin’s talk is to defend the issue of complementarity as essential to marriage and social and human stability.  For most of his talk, he explains his reasons for this defense.  He also argues for the importance of theological input into social and political debates.  If one were to read only this section of the talk, one might think that this was his only point, but towards the end of his talk, his subject he considers the situation of lesbian and gay people.

After discussing Pope Francis’ example of openness to lesbian and gay issues, he examines the idea of equality:

“An ethics of equality does not require uniformity. There can be an ethic of equality which is an ethic of recognising and respecting difference. A pluralist society can be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation have their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference, while respecting the uniqueness of the male-female relationship.”

Martin also critiqued people who cite Pope Francis in a positive way when they discuss Catholic support for marriage equality, saying that the pontiff has clearly expressed his defense of heterosexual marriage and complementarity. Of these Catholics, Martin said:

“I find it interesting that many of those supporting the yes campaign object to the use of religious language, but they are not shy in quoting Pope Francis in support of their arguments, although I feel that their knowledge of Pope Francis’ repertoire is somewhat restricted.”

He presented the pontiff’s view of same-gender marriage and LGBT people, noting that neither conservatives nor progressives are completely happy with the nuanced position:

“In the debates around same-sex marriage in Argentina, Pope Francis was unequivocal in his judgment about its non-admissibility, yet he consistently told people not to judge any individual. Many find that a position of that kind is untenable: certain things, they will say, are simply wrong and to be condemned and there is no way in which we can countenance any response except repentance and change of life style. Others will say that the only way in which the Church can show mercy is by changing its teaching. Pope Francis espouses neither of these positions in isolation.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin

More important than the content about same-gender relationships, however, is the Dublin archbishop’s discussion of traditional hierarchical discourse about marriage equality. In the same week that Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the Primate of Ireland warned that religious freedom would be endangered by passage of marriage equality, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin took a more reconciliatory approach.

Diarmuid Martin, who in the past has acknowledged that church leaders and others have too often spoken negatively to and about LGBT people, admitted that he may not been as credible by some:

“I know that the harshness with which the Irish Church treated gay and lesbian people in the past – and in some cases still today – may make it hard for LGBT people to accept that I am sincere in what I am proposing.”

Noting that hierarchical language has often been “insensitive and overly judgemental,” Martin advised:

“The Church has to learn to voice its criticism clearly and without fear, but it must always do so in language which respects her Master.”

He recognized that the harsh language has been one of the biggest ways that bishops have failed in getting across their view of marriage:

“The problem in many ways is that the Church has often in the past presented its message poorly. What is a message of love was presented in language that was harsh. What was rational argument was presented as a dogma which all should accept. The truth about Jesus Christ can only be proclaimed in love.”

Martin has made the case for a more civil debate about LGBT people before and has called on church leaders to be more courteous and respectful in their discussions.

Ireland’s referendum will be held on May 22nd.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

 

Irish Times: “Churchgoers give their views on marriage referendum”

Belfast Telegraph: “Catholic bishops urge ‘No’ vote in Republic of Ireland’s marriage equality referendum”

The Independent: “Voting No to same-sex marriage is not homophobic, say bishops”

The Journal: “Senior Archbishop warns: Church could face legal action for opposing gay marriage”

Irish Times: “Interfering with definition of marriage not a ‘trivial matter’ “

The Independent: “Catholics fear being labelled homophobic – Primate”


Advice to Catholic Bishops: Follow Mormon Leaders’ Example on Religious Freedom

May 6, 2015

The question of religious freedom has been a hot-button issue this past spring, fueled by the Indiana debacle, and the fact that close to thirty other states are considering numerous religious freedom bills, many of which, as we saw in Indiana, are lightly veiled efforts to allow any person claiming religious motivations to discriminate against LGBT people.

Bishop John Wester

But the one important compromise that occurred this year was the Utah bill which simultaneously protected religious liberty and outlawed LGBT discrimination.  This law’s passage was also noteworthy because the Mormon Church, which has a long anti-gay past, and has one of the most powerful political forces in the state, ended up supporting the measure.  Less well-known, though, is the fact that the Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City (just recently appointed to be Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico), also ended up supporting the bill, though support came late in the process.

The National Catholic Reporter’s Father Thomas Reese, SJ, a political scientist by training, examined the involvement of these two powerful, traditionally anti-gay, institutions in a column recently, noting that the Mormons’ leadership in this area could be an example to Catholic bishops in other states.  Reese recounts the timeline of Catholic involvement in the Utah process:

“The Catholic diocese of Salt Lake City was not part of the negotiations over the legislation, but it had for the last two years supported nondiscrimination legislation in the state. According to Jean Hill, the diocese’s lobbyist, the diocese supported the legislation at the conclusion of the process when it was being voted on by the legislature and going to the governor for his signature.

” ‘From our perspective as a Catholic diocese,’ said Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, ‘we felt that this legislation honored the rights of both the LGBT community as well as the religious community. It allowed us to have our beliefs in the public square and to have people in the LGBT community not being discriminated against in such basic things as housing and employment. We felt it was in line with our Catholic social teaching.’

“After the legislation was signed into law, the diocese issued a statement saying that the legislation ensures ‘that all people in Utah have equal access to at least two essential services — housing and employment — while also protecting religious freedom.’

” ‘The teachings of our church are clear — God loves each of us, regardless of, or perhaps because of, our flaws, sins or failings,’ the statement continued. ‘If we believe we are all created and loved by our God, we can do nothing less than support a bill that protects individuals from discrimination when seeking a place to live or a means of supporting themselves. The bill strikes a fair and just balance between providing for these basic needs and protecting the rights of people of faith to exercise their beliefs.’ “

Wester also acknowledged that was very successful in the Utah example was not just the product, but the process. The significant thing, he said was

“. . .that members of the community can come together, obviously representing different constituencies, and can dialogue and can try to work something out in a respectful, courteous manner that will allow for all parties to feel that they have been listened to. I thought that was significant. You don’t have to be constantly haranguing one another.”

Too often, too many Catholic bishops opt for an adversarial relationship, and not a collaborative one.  Such a posture makes it seem that they do not want to give up their status as “victims” in these scenarios, and are hoping for an all-or-nothing outcome.

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Father Reese offers the bishops a warning and some advice:

“Time is running out for the bishops. They need to take the initiative in supporting legislation banning discrimination against gays while protecting their religious liberty concerns. They have to stop being simply negative. Too much of their talk is legalistic when it should be pastoral. They need to speak like pastors. They need to sit down with gay rights leaders and try to work out a deal.”

And he continues to go even further than just religious freedom laws, chastising the bishops for supporting the firings of LGBT employees from church institutions:

“No matter what kind of exemptions are provided to church institutions, the bishops still need to rethink their attitude toward their gay employees. It is totally inconsistent to punish gays for violating the church’s teaching on sex if the church does not also punish heterosexual employees for sexual sins.

“The church employs Catholics and others who have been divorced and remarried, and it even gives benefits to their new spouses. Church institutions also do not normally fire unmarried employees who are having sex. No one thinks that these actions by the church imply its endorsement of its employees’ lifestyles. Treating gay employees the same as heterosexual employees would not make people think the church has changed its teaching. “

In his conclusion, Reese provides the bishops with language that they should be using, instead of the negative stonewalling which has been their political style in these cases:

“It is time for bishops to stand up and say, ‘There is nothing Christlike about discriminating against gay people, firing them from their jobs, turning them down for housing, so let’s work to protect them, and let’s also get some of the protections we need.’ It is time for the bishops to follow the Mormons.”

The Mormon leadership and the Catholic Church leadership infamously joined together to pass Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage bill in California.  If they were able to work together then, they should be able to do the same when it comes to protecting religious freedom and non-discrimination.

The issue of religious freedom will be with us for a while.  The bishops would do well by examining this successful process in Utah.  Most importantly, they need to remember that they are bishops of all Catholics–both LGBT and heterosexual–so, while protecting religious freedom, they also have a duty to prevent discrimination.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles

Crux: With Mormons addressing LGBT issues, Catholics and Baptists press on

Huffington Post: “When Will Religious Leaders Start to Act Like Religious Leaders: Reflections on the LDS Press Conference”


What Makes Catholic Justice Kennedy Advocate for Lesbian & Gay Equality?

April 27, 2015

Justice Anthony Kennedy

On Tuesday of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments in the marriage equality cases that it will rule on by the end of the court’s session at the end of June.  Although there are nine justices on the court, six of whom are Catholic, much attention will be focused on one of them, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has often been described as the “swing vote” on a court which often hands down 5-4 decisions.  Kennedy sometimes votes with the conservative wing and sometimes with the progressive wing.

In three previous cases concerning lesbian and gay people (Romer v. Evans; Lawrence v. Texas; and Windsor v. United States), Kennedy’s vote was instrumental to form a majority in favor of more equality for this community.  In addition, he wrote the majority opinions for all three cases.

How did Anthony Kennedy get to a place where he supports equality for lesbian and gay people? At the time of Windsor v. United States, the decision which overturned key sections of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Bondings 2.o speculated  that his Catholic upbringing may have influenced his support of human dignity and equality.  We pointed to what we thought was one of the most Catholic statements in the opinion he authored:

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

A recent Associated Press story published on The Huffington Post examined Kennedy’s background and found another possible reason for his support of equality:

“The Irish Catholic boy who came of age in Sacramento after World War II is an unlikely candidate to be the author of the Supreme Court’s major gay rights rulings.

“But those who have known Justice Anthony Kennedy for decades and scholars who have studied his work say he has long stressed the importance of valuing people as individuals. And he seems likely also to have been influenced in this regard by a pillar of the Sacramento legal community, a closeted gay man who hired Kennedy as a law school instructor and testified on his behalf at his high court confirmation hearings in Washington.”

Gordon Schaber

The closeted gay man was Gordon Schaber, a California law school dean, who hired Kennedy to teach at McGeorge School of Law, Sacramento, and who became his mentor.  Though there is no evidence that they ever discussed gay legal issues, many people who knew them said that Schaber had a strong influence on Kennedy.

The Huffington Post story also considered other theories of why Kennedy votes pro-gay:

“Another longtime friend, former California Gov. Pete Wilson, said Kennedy always has evaluated people as individuals, not as members of a group. Kennedy, he said, sees everyone ‘based on their merits.’

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested in an interview last summer that one reason for changes in public opinion in favor of same-sex marriage was that, as gay Americans became more comfortable talking about the topic, people learned that they had gay friends and relatives, ‘people you have tremendous respect for.’ She was describing what sociologists call the contact theory, the idea that the majority group’s interactions with a minority will break down stereotypes and enhance acceptance of the minority group.”

Though a Catholic, Kennedy’s views on same-gender relationships are clearly not those of the hierarchy, yet he still seems influenced by Catholic discourse which promotes human dignity. In Lawrence v. Texas, the case which struck down anti-sodomy laws, he wrote:

“It suffices for us to acknowledge that adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons. When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring.”

We see the same expression of Catholic, though not hierarchical, values expressed in Windsor v. United States:

“It seems fair to conclude that, until recent years, many citizens had not even considered the possibility that two persons of the same sex might aspire to occupy the same status and dignity as that of a man and woman in lawful marriage.”

A recent Seattle Times article noted the pivotal role that Kennedy will play on Tuesday:

“ ‘Everybody in that courtroom will be waiting to hear what Justice (Anthony) Kennedy has to say,’ said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & AIDS Project.

“Kennedy, 78, is a big reason same-sex marriage advocates enter the Tuesday oral argument feeling cautiously optimistic.”
And while I will be one of those keeping a keen eye on how Kennedy responds in oral arguments on Tuesday so as to try to predict the outcome of the decision, I will also be keeping a keen ear open to hear if his Catholic upbringing seems to influence the language and arguments that he uses in the court, and, possibly in any opinion or commentary that he might write on the case.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Related post
Bondings 2.0: Supreme Court Marriage Equality Case Will Be Led by Catholic Gay Couple

Case of German Lesbian Fired from a Catholic School Poses Moral Questions

April 25, 2015

The disturbing trend of Catholic institutions firing lesbian and gay church workers because they choose to legally marry their partners is spread across the U.S.    Even more disturbing, though, is that we have now seen examples of this discriminatory trend popping up in other countries, as well.  Last year we reported on a gay volunteer being dismissed from a Catholic relief organization in the U.K., and a lesbian teacher being fired from a Catholic school in Italy because rumors had spread about her orientation.

The Caritas kindergarten in Holzkirchen, Bavaria, Germany

This past week in Germany, it became public that a lesbian kindergarten teacher at a Catholic institution in Holzkirchen, a small Bavarian town, was made to sign a severance agreement after she informed her employer that she was making plans to legally marry her female partner.

WorldCrunch.com reported the story, noting that because of a confidentiality agreement between the teacher and school, the teacher’s name was not made public.   There are similar factors to cases in the U.S.  Like most cases here, the article reported that the crucial issue is a contract morality clause:

“The Catholic charity, Caritas, which runs the school, refers to Article Four of the ‘fundamental order of ecclesiastical duties in an ecclesiastical setting, with which everyone who works for a religious agency is familiar. This document states that all employees are expected to ‘recognize and follow the principles of the Catholic faith and ethical teaching.’ This is considered particularly relevant in the cases of educational and executive personnel.”

And like most cases here, the article reported that “The parents are also at a loss to understand the reasons for her having to leave.”

But the German situation is slightly different, too, from most U.S. cases.  In Germany, all kindergartens, even those sponsored by religious groups, receive public funding, so the church-state issue is more complex.   Another unusual twist in this story is that Caritas, the employer, offered the fired teacher “a post that did not entail any educational or executive duties but she refused the offer.”  It raises the interesting suspicion that they just did not want her in a position that would influence children, and that the moral gravity of her situation is actually somewhat relative, and not absolute.

Because the fired teacher is not speaking publicly, some local politicians have come to her defense:

“Ulrike Gote, a Green Party’s spokeswoman in the state of Bavaria, accuses the Catholic Church of ‘hypocrisy.”

” ‘The Church should actually be delighted that someone wants to marry their partner,’ Gote says. ‘These are the kinds of double standards that we have had to deal with for a very long time.’

“The mayor of Holzkirchen, Olaf von Loewis of the Christian Social Union, who is a practicing Catholic, also has difficulty accepting the stance his Church has taken towards homosexual relationships.

” ‘I am very familiar with the rules and regulations of the Church as an employer,’ Loewis says. ‘And I deem them to be wrong.’ “

As I read these similarly sad and tragic stories over and over again,  two questions always come to my mind:

1) Why is homosexuality, and in particular, committing to a legal marriage, the main reason that people are being dismissed from jobs in these morality clause cases?  There have been pregnancy-outside-of-marriage stories, but these, thank God, have been few.  The cardinal sin these days for church employers seems to be gay and lesbian people committing themselves in love to their spouses.  The fact that this issue has been singled out over all others should be proof enough that this is not about morality, but politics.

2) Though principals and church administrators often use the line that the morality clauses have to be enforced to set examples for children, do they ever think of the example that they themselves set in firing someone from a job they love, that they have been performing well, that they receive praise from those they serve, and that is their livelihood?  What lesson do children learn from such actions?

Church leaders need to start being self-reflective about their actions and policies.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Editor’s note:  There were many articles in German about this case on the web, but WorldCrunch.com was the only one in English that I found.

 

 


Synod Data Collection Is Slow, Uneven, and Complex in U.S. Dioceses

March 27, 2015

They Synod on Marriage and the Family which will take place in October 2015 at the Vatican will be as strongly debated as the extraordinary synod on the same topic which took place last year, according to John Allen, veteran Vatican observer, who writes at Crux

Allen predicted that lesbian and gay family issues will be one of three hot-button topics, along with discussions of co-habitating couples, and divorced and remarried people.  Allen’s analysis provides detailed insights into a large number of the bishops and cardinals who will be delegates there, noting who is progressive, who is conservative, and who is in-between.  His descriptions read like a “scorecard” for the various “players” who will be in attendance.  You can read his entire essay by clicking here.

One somewhat hopeful sign for the question of lesbian and gay couples will be the presence of Santiago, Chile’s Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, who, while not supporting marriage equality, does support civil unions for same-gender couples. Not ideal, but at least there’s indication that these questions will continue to be debated.

While there is a some evidence that many dioceses have been collecting input from Catholics in the pew, the statistics are not remarkable, and, as one analyst has shown, they don’t show the full picture. In February, The National Catholic Reporter (NCR)surveyed the websites of 178 U.S. dioceses and archdioceses and found that 52% (93) of them have been collecting information in some fashion.

Of the six bishop-delegates and two alternates to the synod, six of them have shown evidence of collecting data.  No evidence of collection was available for Galveston-Houston’s Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, a delegate, and Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich, an alternate.

But NCR Editor Dennis Coday observed, the data collection time period for a number of dioceses was very short, and in some cases, the input was asked only from a select group of Catholics.  For example, he cited “parish council members in Stockton, Calif., or ‘pastors, parochial administrators, and parochial vicars’ in Venice, Fla.”

Other Catholic groups have stepped up to fill in this void.  “Strong Catholic Families,” a coalition of four national Catholic associations, has made their own survey available online, noting that not only were many dioceses not collecting data, but of those that were, the questionnaires were often long, complex, and difficult to understand.   One official of the coalition spoke to the NCR:

” ‘It became pretty frustrating for me, even as a church leader, to read [the official synod surveys] and think of the people who had to respond to them, and how difficult it is to both understand and respond pastorally to those kinds of questions,” said Michael Theisen, director of Ministry Formation at the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, part of Strong Catholic Families”

The other three organizations that are part of this coalition are the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership, the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers, and the National Catholic Educational Association.

Additionally, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has sent out the Vatican survey to their membership, but did not ask them to answer the questions.  Instead, they asked them to rank the questions in order of importance.

Fr. Bernard Survil, an (ACP) board member, told the NCR:

“We want to let our delegates know … that this is what you should be focusing on.”

The ACP acknowledged the same problem with the Vatican survey that Strong Catholic Families noted: difficulty of answering it.  NCR reported:

“Part of the reason the priests association chose not to have priests answer the synod questions was the time associated with completing such a task. A priest from the Cheyenne, Mont., diocese told Survilthat it took him five hours to answer all 46 questions. In the instructions for its online survey, the Charlotte, N.C., diocese estimated two hours to complete.”

Perhaps the best data collection method is the simplest one, which was employed by Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky: he listened.   He held four public town hall meetings for Catholics in his diocese to express their views.

The Bowling Green Daily News noted the bishop’s motivation, which he spoke at the beginning of one meeting that the newspaper attended:

“When the pope said, ‘You need to listen,’ I tried to take him seriously. My job here tonight is to listen to what you have to say.”

And the people responded, the newspaper observed:

“Dozens of people spoke during the meeting, sharing their thoughts on how the church can more effectively address topics such as annulment, the sanctity of life and homosexuality. Many people shared personal stories, including their struggle to get an annulment and the challenges of making their children see church as a priority.”

Not surprisingly, the issue of homosexuality became a heated one.  When one woman spoke up expressing her thoughts along the line of “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” the mother of a gay son rose to refute such thinking:

“Donna Lauth, a Holy Spirit member whose son is gay, said homosexuality is not a condition.

“ ‘My son was born that way,’ she said. . . .

“Lauth said the church should ‘either accept everybody and love them the way God would, or don’t even bother at all.’

“She was glad for the chance to express her views to church leaders.

“ ‘They need to listen to us,’ she said. ‘Listening to us and getting some ideas, maybe there will be a change. You can only hope.’ ”

At the end of the meeting, Bishop Medley summed up his feelings about the evening’s wide-ranging discussion and debate:

“ ‘This is the church. It’s messy. It’s confusing,’ he said. ‘It’s a complex world and it’s a complex church, but it’s a church I love. (We’re trying to) be the best church we can be. In the end, it’s going to be an imperfect church.’ ”

While it is true that the church will always be in need of reform,  I believe that we should still strive for getting a number of things somewhere near right, at least.  Yes, we will be imperfect, but we can still begin to take a few steps closer to perfection.  It’s because of our imperfection, that we need much more debate and dialogue at all levels on so many issues.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts:

Bondings 2.0: New Video Focuses on LGBT Catholics ‘Owning Our Faith‘ ”

Bondings 2.0: “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Widen the Synod Circle with Diverse Voices

Bondings 2.0: SYNOD 2015: Preparations Begin with Key Questions About Collecting Data and the Goal of Church Ministry

For all Bondings 2.0 posts on Synod 2015, click here.

 


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