S.F. Parents and Students Say Revised Teaching Handbook Is Still Problematic

May 26, 2015

Archbishop Cordileone’s critics continue protests of the proposed teachers’ handbook.

After months of protest, the Archdiocese of San Francisco has revised the enhanced morality clauses proposed for teachers’ handbook for Catholic high school teachers. These revisions are not quieting tensions in the archdiocese that seem far from resolved.

The new draft, prepared by five archdiocesan high school theology teachers, removes the pastorally damaging language about homosexuality primary to critics’ opposition. A preamble explains that the document is a “short compendium of some important teachings,” reports the National Catholic Reporter, and adds:

“The Gospel cannot be reduced to a list of truths no matter how comprehensive because the Gospel is a person, the anointed one, Jesus of Nazareth, who is Lord.”

In the larger document, the language regarding sexuality emphasizes chastity and the bishops’ understanding of marriage. It addresses homosexuality only in implicit terms, stating:

“The Church makes a distinction between someone’s desires and someone’s actions. Desires/attractions are neutral to the extent they are spontaneous and not willed. Having an attraction to someone isn’t sinful, yet not every human desire should be acted upon.”

Closely mirroring the Catechism, the revised statement also adds that all are to be respected and loved “regardless of sexual attraction.”It does not, however, stop the archdiocese’s attempts to reclassify school employees as ministers which would make them exempt from the protections of non-discrimination laws.  Indeed, Paul Hance who is a union leader as well as history teacher, said lawyers believe the revised statement pushes the ministerial classification in even stronger terms. He added:

“What would happen if the archbishop gets his way? We would have termination without legal recourse…Our rights are not negotiable; our profession is teaching, not ministry.”

Credit: Concerned Parents and Students

Those affiliated with “Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance,” the group defending Catholic school teachers and opposing Cordileone’s revisions, rejected the new draft. Since the morality clauses were first added in February, more than 80% of Catholic high school faculty and staff signed a petition rejecting the old versions, and it doesn’t seem the new revisions have won over new supporters for Cordileone’s policies.

In the press release which the parent and student group issued, Kathy Curran, a mother, spoke about the harmful language and ideas that she sees remaining in the revised document:

“The language is still harmful to our children and is an attempt to camouflage his original agenda and fundamentally alter the character and culture of Catholic education in our high schools.”

Former teacher Kathleen Purcell, who lost her job at a Catholic school in the neighboring Oakland Diocese when she crossed out the objectionable sections when signing her 2014-2015 contract, said:

“Under the revised handbook language, teachers would not be able to dissent or discuss ideas that conflict with the Archbishop’s understanding of Catholicism without risking their jobs. This fundamentally alters the character of our schools. Teachers whose jobs are under threat if they step outside the line cannot provide a safe environment for students to learn.”

Others spoke at press conference last Monday, sampled here:

  • Jessica Hyman, a graduating senior: “We will not be fooled into thinking Archbishop Cordileone is changing anything. We can thank our teachers for bestowing us with the knowledge to see past this trickery. The language is softer, but the message is still hurtful and wrong.”
  • Jim Jordan, a high school teacher: “[The pause is] a small victory for us in that there will be no handbook change this year, which means we’ve stemmed the tide for the moment…[Cordileone] is not backing down at all, merely slowing down.”
  • Jim McGarry, organizer with Concern Parents and Students: “Even muted, the Archbishop’s rhetoric of judgment and selectivity about and atomization of the moral life of our students and their families is not simply a storm to be weathered. It is the precipice of a disaster.”

Advocates for church workers rallied outside the San Francisco chancery last week, while dialogue and negotiations between the archdiocese and teachers’ union continued. Teacher Sal Curcio is quoted in Cruxexpressing cautious optimism:

“The good news here is that there have been some changes to this document, so it seems as if the archbishop is willing to listen, to a certain degree…We wish he would listen more, and we wish he would really communicate with us more.”

A cover letter from Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone accompanied the revised statement, and it said, in part:

“Despite these worthy goals [outlined by the archbishop], several unintended consequences have resulted that have created the tensions we have been experiencing. I honestly did not foresee the reaction that ensued, and I apologize for this lack of foresight on my part.”

Cordileone also a year’s deferral before implementing the handbook’s new language, saying to teachers that he would use the year to “help you better understand the ‘what’ and, especially, the ‘why’ of the full range of church teaching.” The teachers are well aware of the bishops’ articulations; they just happen to have a different approach to how that teaching should be applied in their professional lives and schools.

Supporters of Cordileone are organizing too, hosting a website and a rally attended by the archbishop. They claim he is being “demonized” and a “witch hunt” is underway, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

In April, more than 100 influential San Francisco Catholics signed a full page open letter calling for Cordileone’s resignation, while traditionalist nuns abandoned their Marian High School classrooms because they were upset that students were participating in GLSEN’s Day of Silence, an anti-bullying event.

Controversy is not new for Archbishop Cordileone. A recent article in the National Catholic Reporter documented that his time in San Francisco has been marked by “divisive action” which harms the local church profoundly. The article’s list of the archbishop’s actions are too numerous to name here. You can read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of his response to LGBT issues for the past few years here.

To lend your support for San Francisco’s Catholic school teachers, connect with “Concerned Parents and Students: TeachAcceptance” on their websiteFacebook, Twitter, or the online petition. You can also sign up online to volunteer through the Google form here.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the almost 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Will World Meeting of Families Accept Catholic LGBT Organizations?

May 25, 2015

In September of 2015, the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families (WMF) will bring together about 20,000 pilgrims to Philadelphia from all over the world to discuss family issues in the light of faith.  Families with LGBT members, however, are not being provided with the opportunity to be visible officially at the event.

Two national Catholic organizations that support LGBT ministry and outreach are still waiting to hear from the WMF administration if they will be allowed to have a presence, either by exhibit table or advertising space, at the international conference scheduled for the end of September 2015.

The National Catholic Reporter noted that both Fortunate Families (FF), a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, and the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM), have not received a response from their applications to be allowed to have a table to distribute information about themselves to the pilgrim families.

Deb Word, with husband Steven in the background.

Fortunate Families applied for an exhibit table last August, and was told that they were rejected for “lack of information,”  according to FF Board President Deb Word.  After re-applying in February, she learned at the beginning of this month that the application was again rejected, though no reason was given.   They will now apply to have an advertisement in the program booklet for the event.

When The National Catholic Reporter inquired to the World Meeting of Families administration as to the reason for rejecting FF, Ken Gavin, communication director for the Philadelphia archdiocese, local organizers for the WMF, responded circumspectly:

“Applications for exhibitors are reviewed by staff within the World Meeting of Families Office and WMOF-Philadelphia 2015 reserves the right to approve or deny various applications. … If an organization has a question about the status of their application or the decision rendered, they should be in contact with the entity directly.”

Word had also been in contact with WMF organizers because she was being considered as a possible participant on a panel about the church and gay issues.  She was not accepted, and the panel will have only two members:  a celibate gay Catholic man and his mother.

As for CALGM, they, too, applied for an exhibit table last year, but have still not heard if they have been accepted.  The news article stated:

Arthur Fitzmaurice, resource director for CALGM, told NCR he is confident that meeting organizers will ‘resolve this.’ He submitted his group’s application for exhibit space last year, complete with credit card information, and reapplied using the same form in early 2015.”

One national Catholic organization that has been accepted as an exhibitor at the meeting is Courage, which is a ministry which directs lesbian and gay people to celibacy.  The news article says that their method is based on  “five goals that include chastity, prayer, and fellowship and utilizes a 12-step format based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model.”

The news article also reported on pro-LGBT activities at the WMF that are being sponsored by New Ways Ministry and the Equally Blessed Coalition:

New Ways Ministry also plans to host a workshop on gender identity issues; co-sponsor a reception for LGBT Catholics, families, and allies; [the Equally Blessed Coalition will]. . . sponsor several dozen Catholic ‘pilgrims’ from nontraditional families who will be sent out each day with the ‘message that lesbian/gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons are also part of families’ during the week.”

For more information about New Ways Ministry events at WMF, please send inquiry emails to: info@NewWaysMinistry.org.

For more information about the Equally Blessed Coalition’s pilgrims to WMF, please click here.   You can donate financially to support these pilgrims’ work by clicking here.

The World Meeting of Families may not accept organizations such as Fortunate Families, CALGM, New Ways Ministry, and the Equally Blessed Coalition, but that will not prevent them from going forth in every way possible to spread a pro-LGBT message and witness at this international gathering.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Irish Referendum Results Warrant a “Reality Check” for the Church Says Dublin Archbishop

May 24, 2015
Dublin's rainbow as referendum results are announced

Dublin’s rainbow as referendum results are announced

With 62.07% of the vote, Ireland became the first nation to approve marriage equality by popular referendum yesterday.

Ireland is more than 80% Catholic, meaning the debate over marriage rights was closely tied to the church.

Recent months included many Catholics coming out publicly for the “Yes” campaign, including religious and priests. The Irish hierarchy took a muted tone in comparison to their brother bishops abroad, and many considered this vote a referendum on the Irish church’s power as well.

Below,  Bondings 2.0 provides initial reactions to the referendum’s successful outcome. To view our full coverage of the debate from recent months, click here.  You can read New Ways Ministry’s reaction by clicking here.

As soon as the vote was tallied, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said the church needs a “reality check” in response to the “social revolution” signified by the referendum results.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

The archbishop criticized the church for being a “safe space for the like-minded,” rather than a church going out to the margins for which Pope Francis has called. Martin, as reported by the Irish Independentsaid the church needed new language because its teachings were clearly alienating to young people:

“It’s very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people that the church has a huge challenge in front of it to find the language to be able to talk to and get its message across to young people, not just on this issue but in general.

“I think really the church needs to do a reality check right across the board, to look at the areas in which we’re doing well and see have we drifted away completely from young people.”

Martin noted that he appreciates gay people feel marriage equality will be “enriching the way they live.” Though these admissions are obvious for many Catholics, such remarks from an archbishop are rare and a positive sign that members of the hierarchy might be learning more about same-gender relationships.

Father Seamus Ahearne of Finglas echoed the archbishop’s sentiments about a new language for the church, telling the International Business Times:

“Religion and the Catholic Church have almost become irrelevant in people’s lives…This pompous, pious, arrogant language we’ve used for so long — it’s wrong. The church has to speak a different kind of language now, reaching into people’s hearts.”

Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan

Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan, plaintiffs in an unsuccessful 2006 lawsuit seeking marriage equality in Ireland, gave their response to the vote to the Boston Globe. Their Catholic roots are deep, having met at Boston College after Gilligan spent time in religious life. The couple’s proposal was broadcast live on television as results came in and they plan to hold a wedding soon because, as Zappone says, “There’s nothing like an Irish wedding.”

Political analyst Sean Donnelly told the The Washington Post:

“We’re in a new country…When I was reared up, the church was all powerful and the word ‘gay’ wasn’t even in use in those days. How things have moved from my childhood to now.”

Health Minister Leo Varadkar

Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who came out as gay in January while endorsing the referendum, said the vote was a “social revolution.” Crux quoted him further:

“We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world, of liberty and equality.”

New Ways Ministry director Francis DeBernardo said in a statement that Ireland’s victory on LGBT rights combined with yesterday’s beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero signified real gains for lay people in the church. The post says, in part:

“What do these two stories have in common?   In both cases, the opinion of Catholic lay people has won the day, even when the church’s hierarchy opposed both developments.  In both cases, the sense of the faithful overcame institutional fears and customs.  In both cases, Catholic ideals were articulated and lived out by the laity.”

DignityUSA director Marianne Duddy-Burke said in a statement:

“It is very significant that the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage by popular referendum is a predominantly Catholic country…[Catholics] voted with their hearts and their consciences, and the result is increased justice.”

The response from those who opposed marriage equality, led by the conservative Iona Institute, is noteworthy. David Quinn, a spokesperson, congratulated “Yes” campaigners and accepted the results, a contrast to the often acidic tone which has characterized marriage debates in the United States and elsewhere.

Finally, Buzzfeed reported that some Twitter users are opining that a rainbow appearing over Dublin yesterday is Jesus’ approval of the referendum’s outcome.

Ireland’s vote means twenty nations have now legalized same-gender marriage and many of them are predominantly or historically Catholic. To see the official Irish results, visit the Referendum 2015 page here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Ireland Votes on Marriage Today, While Bishops’ Political Influence Wanes

May 22, 2015

Thousands of Irish “Yes” campaigners rally in Dublin just days before today’s referendum.

Irish voters will decide today whether to legalize same-gender marriage in this most Catholic of nations. If they succeed, the vote would be the first national referendum in the world to endorse marriage equality.

Catholic supporters of the “Yes” campaign have been prominent and manifold, with the unsurprising exception of the nation’s Catholic bishops. Many observers are noting that the stature of Ireland’s once powerful church hierarchy is now falling.

Catholics’ outspoken opposition to the hierarchy’s position reveals an Irish church undergoing fundamental shifts, what Daily Beast columnist J.P. O’Malley describes as:

“[T]he complete collapse of the old guard of archaic, socially-repressive Catholic institutions that have dominated Irish society since the Free State was formed in 1922…What this referendum represents is a seismic shift in the zeitgeist: progressive-modern-Ireland is finally breaking free from the shackles of a de-facto Catholic State that was unofficially run from Rome for decades.”

Initially, Ireland’s bishops refrained from the harsh rhetoric and showy displays favored by many American bishops on this topic, but this restraint changed as the referendum approached. Their initial statement about the referendum’s announcement did not even ask voters to oppose marriage equality, merely to think it over. Fintan O’Toole wrote in The New York Times:

“[The bishops’] ability to influence the referendum on same-sex marriage is limited. Many church leaders have avoided taking a hard line. This owes something to Pope Francis’s more conciliatory tone on homosexuality, but even more to an awareness that many of the faithful. . .no longer take church teaching on sexuality as gospel. The archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, went so far as to warn church leaders not to use ‘language which is insensitive and over-judgmental’ — a warning surely rooted in his understanding of the other, more personal force in this debate.”

Due to the Catholic Church’s domineering influence, Ireland did not decriminalize homosexuality until 1993. Now, polling shows marriage equality support consistently above 70%. Young Irish citizens living abroad are returning home to cast their vote. In other signs of change, leading politician Leo Varadkar came out as gay several months ago, and Ireland’s government has repeatedly been clear that church worker discrimination will not be allowed if the referendum is approved.

Rita O’Connor, a parishioner of Dublin’s cathedral, succinctly summarized this cultural shift, and the thinking of many Irish Catholics, when she told an Irish Times journalist:

“I’m just going to vote for gay people because I have nothing against them…I can’t understand why anybody is against it…[The bishops’ opposition] is a stupid carry-on.”

There is a deep reality behind these sentiments, documented by Bondings 2.0 in the months leading up to today’s vote (see articles listed at the end of this post). Lay Catholics, like their counterparts in many other nations, have been at the forefront of pro-equality campaigning. Former Irish president Mary McAleese, who has a gay son, gave a moving address earlier this week, challenging anti-LGBT voices who claim marriage equality will harm Irish children. She said, in part:

“We who are parents, brothers and sisters, colleagues and friends of Ireland’s gay citizens, we know how they have suffered because of second class citizenship. This referendum is about them and about them alone. The only children who are certain to be affected by this referendum are Ireland’s gay children. It is their future that is at stake…

“We the majority, we have to make it happen for them and for all the unborn gay children who are relying on us to end the branding, end the isolation, end the inequality, quite literally, once and for all in our Constitution. A yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A no vote costs our gay children everything.”

What has been unique to Ireland is the strength of public support from the clergy and religious women. Throughout the campaign, clergy and religious women have been more vocal in their endorsement of marriage equality than in almost any other nation that has debated the issue.  One priest came out as gay during a sermon in which he endorsed marriage equality. which his congregation met with applause. Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, the founder of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, predicted that 25% of Irish priests might vote for marriage equality today, according to a report in Buzzfeed.

As one of the world’s most Catholic nations historically, a “Yes” victory in Ireland today can have ramifications in the Catholic world beyond Ireland, too.

Add your prayers to those of Catholics worldwide that Irish voters make the Christian choice and endorse marriage equality today!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Articles on Ireland’s referendum on Bondings 2.0

2015

May 14: “Nun and Priest Join with Other Irish Catholics Set to Vote ‘Yes’ for Marriage Equality

May 8: “Dublin Archbishop Calls for an “Ethics of Equality” in Marriage Debate

April 19: “Sr. Jeannine Gramick Calls on Irish Population to Vote for Marriage Equality

March 23: “Dublin Archbishop: I’m No Expert on Family; Anti-Gay Groups’ Language is ‘Obnoxious’

March 21: “Catholics Leave Mass Over Bigoted Homily, but Not All Priests Oppose Marriage Equality

March 12: “Archbishops Correct Irish Bishop’s Insensitive Remarks About Lesbian & Gay People

March 10: “Bishop’s Insensible Remarks Reveal the Great Need for LGBT Dialogue

March 3: “Irish Arguments About Marriage Equality Go From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

February 3: “Ireland’s ‘Gay Moment’ as Marriage Referendum and Ban on Employment Discrimination Approach

January 10: “Irish Priest Comes Out During Mass, Endorses Marriage Equality to Applause

2014

December 22: “Ireland’s Gay Catholic Voices Speak Out for Faith and Equality

December 12: “Elphin Bishop, Bert & Ernie, Gay Priests, and Colin Farrell Are All Involved in Ireland’s LGBT Debates

December 9: “Irish Bishops and Laity Have Differing Views on Marriage Equality

September 9: “St. Vincent de Paul Society Gives Grant to LGBT Center Despite Bishop’s Challenge

September 8: “Ireland’s Catholics March Onward for LGBT Equality

March 14: “LGBT Rainbows Are Appearing Over Ireland

February 11: “Signs of Openness on LGBT and Marriage Issues from Two European Church Leaders

January 9: “Former President of Ireland Calls for Change in Church’s Teaching on Homosexuality

2013

November 7: “Marriage Equality Referendum Scheduled In Ireland: Where Will Catholics Stand?

April 16: “Equal Marriage Rights Progress Around the World-Especially in Catholic Nations

April 8: “Irish Bishops Threaten Action if Marriage Equality is Passed


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

 

 

 


First Catholic LGBTQ Youth Summit Succeeds Despite Church Ouster

May 20, 2015

The first LGBTQ+ Catholic Youth Summit successfully took place in Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area last Saturday–despite the fact that the local archdiocese canceled their plans to meet at a local Catholic parish.

More than 100 people gathered Saturday for this inaugural Summit hosted by the LGBTQ+ Catholic Student Coalition in partnership with Justice Office of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates and OutFront Minnesota. The Column reports it featured Mass, workshops on creating safe spaces in Catholic schools, discussing LGBT issues in faith contexts, and the sharing of personal experiences.

Organizers of this event designed to bring together young people to discuss building a more inclusive church originally planned to hold the Summit at the Church of Christ the King in Minneapolis, but a decision from the archbishop forced them to move to the nearby Edina Community Lutheran Church.

Archbishop John Nienstedt mandated the change because Kristen Ostendorf, fired from a Twin Cities Catholic high school in 2013 when she shared her orientation and relationship status with faculty members, was the keynote speaker.  Nienstedt claimed the youth attendees  would be “confused about the truth of [church] teaching,” reported The Column.

Others, however, felt that Nienstedt’s concern was unwarranted. Michael Bayly writes at his blog, The Wild Reed:

“The young people who comprise the LGBTQ+ Catholic Student Coalition are quite impressive, wouldn’t you say?…These young people are clearly embodying the gospel values of concern for the marginalized, compassion, inclusion, and justice. Also, their efforts to facilitate respectful dialogue reflect the leadership style of Pope Francis. Given all of this, one would think that these students and their efforts would be supported by the clerical leadership of the archdiocese. Not so…

“Indeed, when it comes to questioning voices and differing opinions around issues of sexuality and church reform, the general response of the chancery under Archbishop Nienstedt (who, it should be noted, remains under investigation for allegations of sexual misconduct with adult men) has been to censor, denounce, and ban. In the context of our shared journey as Catholics, such actions are egregious missteps on the part of our clerical leadership.

“One can only speculate on the impact that the chancery’s banning of the summit from official Catholic property will have on the young members of the LGBTQ+ Catholic Student Coalition. Their Facebook statement puts a positive spin on things, but I’m sure that many of the young people involved are feeling hurt and rejected by the message that has been sent by the chancery’s directive.”

Bayly notes Pew Research Forum data, released the same day that Nienstedt made his decision, confirming that because young people feel churches exclude LGBT people, this new generation is increasingly abandoning the pews.

Parker Breza

Parker Breza, a student organizer behind the Summit and its hosting organizer, the LGBTQ+ Catholic Student Coalition, confirmed this harm in an interview with MinnPost. Citing a desire to build bridges between LGBTQ and Catholic communities, Breza continued:

“I’m gay, and I’ve gone to Catholic school my whole life, and I’ve been raised Catholic, so I know how hard it is to have to turn on some parts of your identity and not, depending on which space you’re in…it was very important to us to hold it in a Catholic space, because it’s a Catholic event…

“[F]rom what I’ve been taught through my Catholic education, Jesus loved those who are marginalized by society, he was constantly working for those who were not accepted by the majority, and so I think he would want this event to happen. He wanted to provoke dialogue and to have conversations that people weren’t willing to have, based on what was considered OK at the time. So I really do think if Jesus was around today, he would want this event to be at Christ The King and he would be there.”

Twitter recorded excerpts from the keynote by Ostendorf as she told the attendees:

“Silence and isolation are not who we are…The fear that prompted Jesus’ death didn’t win. It never does. God’s own son, Jesus, lived honestly and asked us to be our whole and best selves…Together let us bring up these fears…Let us make our churches more welcome and open.”

To achieve the goal of an inclusive church requires the slow, diligent work exhibited by those involved with the Summit. Their clarity of mission is refreshing. The Summit leaders were willing to to delve into the complexities of human life.

This Summit proves once again that high school students are a bright light for the church’s future–if the church can respond to their concerns. With each anti-LGBT statement by Catholic leaders, more and more youth leave.  Parker Breza and his peers seem to already know what Archbishop Nienstedt does not: Jesus stands with LGBT people and would attend the very events being expelled from our church property. Dialogue and question-raising are not problems for the church, but rather, they are expressions of love for it.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Archdiocese of Newark Fires Seton Hall University Chaplain for NOH8 Support

May 18, 2015

Fr. Warren Hall

The priest who has headed campus ministry Seton Hall University has been removed after he publicly supported the NOH8 campaign, on social media.

On Friday, Fr. Warren Hall tweeted:

“I’ve been fired from SHU for posting a pic on FB supporting LGBT “NO H8.” I’m sorry it was met with this response. I’ll miss my work here.”

The NOH8 campaign describes themselves as “a charitable organization whose mission is to promote marriage, gender and human equality through education, advocacy, social media, and visual protest.”

Hall, who is also an adjunct Catholic studies professor at the South Orange, New Jersey, Catholic school, deleted that tweet but followed up by calling for constructive dialogue in response to his firing:

“Grateful for all the support. Dont [sic] be angry!! Turn this into an opportunity for open/reasonable discussion on LGBT issues on a Cath Campus.”

In what is becoming a commonplace response to these firings, students quickly organized in support of Hall.

A petition gained nearly 2,200 signatures over the weekend, saying Hall “contributed greatly to the academic and spiritual lives of the students.” Student organizer Ethan Kraft told the Washington Post:

” ‘This action is neither in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ, nor the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis…Father Hall is a well-loved member of the Seton Hall community, and much of the student body is shocked and saddened by this decision.’ “

Screenshot 2015-05-17 at 1.22.22 PM2011 alum John Colantoni told app.com that Hall’s removal is “a big loss for everybody” because:

“[H]e inspired us to be better in and out of the classroom. He allowed kids to feel comfortable. In his classroom you weren’t afraid to share ideas.”

Responding to media inquiries, Seton Hall’s administration has attempted to distance itself from the firing. Spokesperson Laurie Pine released a statement saying:

“Seton Hall University does not comment on personnel matters…The Archbishop of Newark appoints the Director of Campus Ministry, who serves at his discretion.”

Officials reiterated this message repeatedly on Twitter as well, diverting blame to the Archdiocese of Newark which owns and administers the university. Archdiocesan spokesperson Jim Goodness said removing Hal was a standard transfer, reports NorthJersey.com. Goodness provided no further details, however, as to why or where the priest was being reassigned.

The archbishop referenced above is the embattled John J. Myers, who has a strong anti-LGBT record. Seton Hall University previously denied a student LGBT group twice, and Myers personally criticized a campus course on the politics around marriage equality in 2010.

Hall’s termination comes just as the university is recruiting Derrick Gordon, the first openly gay Division I men’s basketball player. The former chaplain was a well-known support of campus athletics, speaking about his love of sports and their spiritual side in a University video released last year.

Hall’s removal as the head of campus ministry is the latest employment dispute around LGBT issues, but this case is the first known incident where a priest has been targeted.

In calling on students to act constructively for LGBT inclusion rather than be mired in anger, Hall is responding gracefully and revealing what a positive force he was on the campus. If this really is a case of reassignment, the Archdiocese of Newark should reassign him right back to Seton Hall.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the almost 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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