Transgender Candidate in Virginia Discusses Catholic Background and Route 28

Today, we offer seven questions to Danica Roem, a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. If elected, Roem, who was raised Catholic, would become the commonwealth’s first openly transgender elected official. Roem is challenging Delegate Bob Marshall, a Catholic and 25-year incumbent who has focused on opposing LGBT equality. Roem corresponded with Bondings 2.0 via email.

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Danica Roem

1. For our readers who are not in Northern Virginia, can you tell us a little about your background and about why you are running for state Delegate?

I’m a 32-year-old step-mom and a lifelong Manassas resident who authored more than 2,500 news stories about the greater Prince William County area as the lead reporter for the Gainesville Times from 2006-2015. I’m running to fix Route 28, bring high-paying jobs to Innovation Park, fill the office vacancies in Manassas Park and raise teacher pay in Prince William County and Manassas Park so it’s not the lowest in Northern Virginia. I believe we can accomplish all of those items together while working to make Virginia a more inclusive commonwealth. No matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship, or who you love, you should be welcomed here for who you are, not for what other people tell you you’re supposed to be.

2. Can you share a little bit about your Catholic background? Has your Catholic background had an influence on your involvement in politics?

I was baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas. After attending kindergarten through third grade at Loch Lomond Elementary School in Manassas, I attended Catholic schools for the next 13 years, including five at All Saints Catholic School in Manassas, four years at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax (Class of 2002) and four years at St. Bonaventure University in western New York (Class of 2006), where I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism/Mass Communication.

My Catholic background introduced me to a quote from St. Francis de Sales that I repeat often on the campaign trail: “Be who you are and be that well.” Meanwhile, the social justice teachings from the church that are inclusive of other people–particularly taking care of the poor, homeless, neglected, abused and forgotten–are extremely important to me.

3. A lot of transphobia comes from religious groups.  Why do you think this is so?

It’s a conflict between a literal interpretation of the Bible and the lived, experienced reality of people who deviate from that literal interpretation without reconciling what psychology teaches us. God has a place for transgender people, to,o and it’s not to club us over the head to tell us we’re supposed to be someone we’re not.

The same God who made men and women made some men transgender, some women transgender and some people non-binary. If God didn’t want transgender people to exist, we wouldn’t. If the entirety of your interpretation about what it means to be a man or woman boils down to an anatomical definition of sex, then you’re leaving out the heart and soul of what it means to experience a gender or lack thereof.

4.  How have your gender identity and spiritual identity related to one another in your life?

My own personal gender identity and spiritual identity are reconciled. I’m not afraid to say I disagree with a lot of the Vatican’s teachings on gender and sexuality, and I fundamentally disagree with the lack of power offered to women within the church. People are perfectly capable of independent thought, we don’t have to believe everything we’re told from otherwise fallible people who are just like you and me.

5. You’re running against a Catholic, Delegate Bob Marshall, who has taken positions against the LGBT community, including introducing a “bathrooms bill” similar to North Carolina’s HB 2 law that would mandate people use restrooms according to their assigned sex at birth. What message do you have for Catholics like Marshall who do not endorse LGBT equality?

If I filed a bill so Catholic priests have to use a facility different than anyone else, that probably wouldn’t go over too well though it would be easy to justify it by saying, “Well, too many Catholic priests abused boys and young men, so they can’t be in the same restroom as boys and young men.” In fact, reading that very sentence probably elicited some sort of reaction from you, likely either, “That’s so offensive!” or “Ha, you tell ’em!” It shouldn’t have made you comfortable or uncomfortable; it should have made you simply recognize the absurdity of filing such a bill. We don’t do that because it’s discriminatory,  it singles out and stigmatizes a specific group of people based on the actions of a criminal minority. And it’s impossible to enforce.

Meanwhile, there has never been a case in American history of a transgender woman sexually assaulting another woman in a restroom but transgender women are treated as if we’re more of a threat than the priest in the boys’ room who has a history of sexual violence. The last thing any transgender person wants to do is expose the parts of their anatomy that make them different from the other people around them. It speaks to a fundamental lack of understanding about how gender dysphoria works to suggest otherwise.

Transgender women are women, transgender men are men, gender non-conforming people are people and we all just need to pee.

Regarding equality more broadly, it’s simple: if two consenting adults want to get married, celebrate their joy, don’t tell them they’re abominations. If you wouldn’t want to be discriminated against for who you are, let alone told to be someone you’re not, then don’t discriminate against other people for who they are and don’t tell LGBTQ people they’re not supposed to be LGBTQ. Some people take time to figure out what’s best for them and they may try out several different identities until something fits. Some people know who they are and when they figure it out, they’re set. So leave them alone.

6. Religion, gender, sexuality are often volatile topics.  How much of a role do you think they will play in campaigning for the office you are seeking?

They only play a role when I’m asked about them or I’m trying to find common ground. What other people say about religion, gender and sexuality is their business. When I’m knocking on doors, I’m talking about my plan to fix Route 28.

7. If you win the election,  you will be the first trans person to hold elected office in Virginia, and one of a only a small number of LGBT elected officials in the country. Do you see yourself as an LGBT role model?

If you mean a role model for LGBTQ people who focus on improving infrastructure while running for office, sure. Otherwise, I don’t call myself that but if other people see me as a role model, that’s their business. I’m running to fix Route 28. Seriously. That’s why I’m doing this. When we replace the traffic lights in Centreville with overpasses, I’ll retire from politics and actually have a life again. So, note to anyone who doesn’t want me in office long: if you want me to go away, then hurry up and fix Route 28. I’ll gladly step aside when it’s done. I have exactly zero political ambition beyond the General Assembly. I’ll never run statewide. I’ll never run for Congress. I’m running to do a good job as a delegate, which vicariously means I’ll show that well-qualified transgender people are perfectly capable of dealing with public policy as anyone else who’s well-qualified.

To find out more about Danica Roem and her campaign, visit http://danicaroem.ngpvanhost.com/.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 24, 2017

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If Church Leaders Don’t ‘Smell Like Their Flock,’ How Can They Be Credible?

Fr. Bryan Massingale, a theologian at Fordham University, has challenged Catholic leaders to smell more like their flock on LGBT issues, if they want to be credible witnesses to the Gospel.

Massingale - What does it mean-Massingale opened his recent U.S. Catholic essay entitled “The church needs to work more closely with its LGBT members” by writing about his travels in Kenya, where, at one point, he helped with baptisms in a remote region. Entering the church, he said it “reeked with the odor of goat dung” and there were swarms of flies. This atmosphere made sense because the women gathered to celebrate were all shepherds and smelled of their flocks.

Massingale said the women “taught me what it means to smell like the flock,” his favorite image from Pope Francis about ministry in the church. He continued:

“[Pope Francis] summons us to go to those who live on the edges of what religious folks find acceptable. And then he tells us that we cannot be effective bearers of the good news unless we are willing to ‘smell like the sheep,’ that is, unless we are willing to be so intimately a part of people’s lives and endure the hardships they experience. We must be willing to put up with the flies present in their lives and smell like the sheep.”

Massingale applied this lesson to LGBT people in the church, and the need for better pastoral care with them. He wrote:

“The Catholic Church’s treatment of LGBT persons has become, especially for Millennial Catholics, a litmus test for its ethical credibility and moral authority. Church documents speak about LGBT persons. But no official statement or outreach begins by speaking with them and engaging their experiences or those of their families.

“Pope Francis’ challenge to smell like sheep then hovers over the church: How can we effectively proclaim good news, much less be seen as credible, if church leadership refuses to smell like the flock? Can we become so familiar with the LGBT community’s lives, stories, struggles, and triumphs, even endure their flies, namely, the hostility of those who would ostracize them either out of ignorance or hatred?”

Massingale specifically identified the firing of LGBT church workers, citing New Ways Ministry’s list that reports on more than 60 public incidents in the last decade. These firings in particular have undercut church leaders’ credibility and harmed whole communities.

Massingale himself has come to “smell like the flock” as an outspoken advocate for LGBT inclusion. In April, he told the LGBT and ally participants at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Refuse to be silenced. Continue to speak our truth.”  At another conference this past summer, he has said we are engaged in a “struggle for the soul of U.S. Catholicism” given the bishops’ partisan campaigns.  In another essay, he wrote that the church cannot abandon transgender Catholics. In 2013, he challenged the Pax Christi USA national conference attendees to increase the organization’s defense of LGBT rights, as both a human rights concern and a necessary part of attracting younger Catholics. Massingale also joined other Catholic theologians and officials in condemning proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 17, 2017

CAFOD Not Truthful about Why It Cancelled Lecture, Claims Fr. James Martin

News that several organizations cancelled lectures by Fr. James Martin, SJ, has sparked an intense conversation this last week. The lecture cancellations, which you can read about here and here, occurred because of Martin’s new book on LGBT issues in the church, Building a Bridge. The online attacks against the priest which led to the cancellations have come from right wing Catholic groups, which are now being given increased attention as the church grapples with how to respond to them, though at least one U.S. bishop has chastised them.

MartinInclusionCAFOD Statements Not Truthful

Fr. Martin explained that he had to “correct the record” about the reasons why CAFOD, the English bishops’ international humanitarian aid agency, cancelled a lecture by the priest scheduled for this October. Martin offered his account of events on his Facebook page.

Chris Bain, CAFOD’s director, told The Tablet that the organization “did not withdraw the invitation for Fr Martin to speak at our refugees and migration event, which was postponed, but our correspondence was not clear.” Martin would be welcome to speak at the rescheduled event next spring. Martin has said this description of events is “not entirely accurate.” He explained:

“‘There was some vague talk of ‘perhaps some time in the future. . .but it was very clear that the 2017 talk was cancelled. And it was clear why: concerns and fears over negative publicity surrounding my LGBT book. . .In the case of the Cafod lecture in London, it was not a response to any campaign but fear that my presence itself would garner negative attention, after the group had recently faced other similar problems.'”

CAFOD has claimed their decision to reconsider inviting Martin was necessary as the organization “had a duty to consider how to proceed in the best interests of Cafod’s work.”

Martin Offers Support for Institutions

In another Facebook post, Fr. Martin offered his support for the institutions and organizations which have cancelled scheduled lectures. He said CAFOD, Theological College, and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre are “fine Catholic institutions” and were “victims of those terrible websites” that have attacked Martin. The priest encouraged Catholics to keep supporting their ministries, and wrote:

“The situations were so terrifically fraught with fear for these organizations: fear of protests, fear of violence, fear of bad publicity, fear of angry donors, fear of lost donations, fear of offending, and on and on. When two of the organizers called me, I could hear the anguish in their voices.”

Responding to Internet Trolls

Both Martin, in a Facebook post, and the editors of America, in an editorial, have commented on how Catholics might respond to the right wing websites which have launched attacks against the priest. The editorial in America said, at one point:

“It is likewise a mistake to ignore or dismiss those whose so-called evangelization takes the form of online attacks, and whose goal seems to be a purge of Catholic voices who do not meet their standards of purity. Those who lead such efforts are claiming a kind of parallel magisterium, substituting their own outrage for the judgement of those who occupy the church’s legitimate teaching office.

“They must be confronted, and church leaders—especially those whose viewpoints may differ from those of the persons under attack—should speak up strongly and clearly against these attacks and attempts at intimidation. The communion of the church needs to be defended—not from the peril of theological discussion but rather from that of being monitored and policed by the loudest and least loving voices among us.”

Gehring on the “Real Scandal”

John Gehring of Faith and Public Life wrote an essay in Commonweal about the real scandal happening when it comes to right wing attacks in the church. He said:

“When a group of zealots who show no sense of Christian decency and consistently target faithful people have more sway over a seminary than the cardinals and bishops who endorsed Martin’s book, it raises serious questions we can’t dismiss.”

Gehring referenced Martin’s popularity with younger Catholics who, rather than clinging to the culture wars, are focused on social justice. Lecture cancellations based on nasty attacks mean “[t]he already-thin thread barely connecting these young Catholics to the institutional church just got thinner.” Gehring added, “Self-inflicted wounds are hard to heal.”

Gehring also commented specifically on the Theological College controversy, which had the odd twist that The Catholic University of America, which oversees the seminary, claimed in a statement that the school for future priests somehow had independent authority. Noting the University would host right wing businessperson Charles Koch for a business school conference this month, Gehring concluded:

“A seminary at the only Vatican-chartered university in the country tells a priest who espouses orthodox views that he can’t speak, but the business school at the same university rolls out the red carpet for a wealthy patron of a political network that fights against a Catholic vision for the common good? It makes you wonder what the real scandal is.”

Paulist Fathers Offer Support

Calling Martin a “friend and neighbor of the Paulist Fathers,” the order said its members “were shocked and disappointed” by Theological College’s decision. The statement continued:

“Moreover, this incident exposes the ugliness and intolerance in our Church and society that is in desperate need of reconciliation and healing. . .[Theological College leaders] have sent a dangerous message to the future priests they train that encouraging dialogue and accompaniment with those on the periphery is unacceptable.”

This incident though bad could “prompt desperately needed charitable conversation and dialogue among the faithful on sexuality and spirituality.” You can read the Paulists’ full statement here.

Thankfully in these present controversies, support has poured in for Martin. But right wing attacks are nothing new for LGBT Catholics and their allies who have endured them for years. Going forward, we hope there will be a new solidarity against all those who seek to divide the church, especially those people and groups who target LGBT people and their families.

For continued updates on the Fr. Martin controversy and other Catholic LGBT news, subscribe to Bondings 2.0 in the upper right hand corner of this page.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 21, 2017

NEWS NOTES: Irish Prime Minister Predicts Marriage Equality in the North; Other Updates

Here are some items about Catholic LGBT news that may interest you:

News Notes

1. Leo Varadkar, the Republic of Ireland’s first gay prime minister, told attendees at Belfast’s Pride celebrations that it was “only a matter of time” before marriage equality became legal in Northern Ireland. Both traditionally Catholic parties in the North support marriage equality, while it is Protestant-backed political groups leading the opposition.

2. A hate crime complaint filed against Archbishop Francisco Javier Martínez of Granada has been dismissed. An LGBT group filed the complaint earlier this year based on the archbishop’s criticism of gender ideology in a homily, but his remarks fell under free speech protections according to a Spanish court official. This complaint is the second attempted hate crime charge against a Spanish bishop.

3. San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has appointed Maggie Gallagher to an archdiocesan post dealing with worship and liturgy. Gallagher is the founder of the National Organization for Marriage.  Both the archbishop and Gallagher were leading Catholic opponents of marriage equality in the U.S.

4. The Catholic Women’s League of Canada criticized the nation’s new Bill C-16 law which adds gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. Margaret Ann Jacobs, the League’s president, said the group was concerned that Catholics would not be able “to live out their faith and peaceably disagree with the current gender theory without fear of reprisal.”

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 29, 2017

LGBT Catholics Must Start “Stonewall” in Church, Says Former Vatican Official

Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 featured excerpts from an interview with former Vatican priest Krzysztof Charamsa who came out as a partnered gay man before the 2015 Synod on the Family.

CharamsaStonewallThe previous post covered Charamsa’s thoughts on the Vatican’s panic over “gender ideology,” the deficiency at the Vatican of knowledge about gender and sexuality, church officials’ odd language about homosexuality, and the roots of church leaders’ opposition to equality for LGBT people and women.

Today’s post offers excerpts from Charamsa on Pope Francis, positive aspects of theology today, and what his hopes are for LGBT Catholics. You can read the full interview in the online journal Religion and Gender by clicking here. To read more about Charamsa’s story, click here.

Thoughts on Pope Francis

Charamsa said he is disappointed with Pope Francis who, in his first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, expressed a desire to engage reality rather than abstractions but has done the opposite when it comes to gender and sexuality. Charamsa opined:

“Pope Francis is an old, homophobic man. Homophobic in a quotidian sense, as some- thing which, in Catholic or Christian families, is transmitted through the mother, the grandmother. He for sure has inherited this mentality, but my hope at the beginning of his pontificate was that he would be able, as a man of state, in a new position, to open his mind. He was a great fan of Cardinal Carlo M. Martini, the Archbishop of Milan, who has reflected on sexual minorities positively. But when you begin a new job, you must have collaborators. The pope cannot study gender studies, he cannot read much… he needs institutions who do that for him. So when collaborators come to this pope and say, ‘Gays are Nazis’, day after day, it is easy to think that perhaps it is true, just like his grandmother used to say bad things about these gays.”

Charamsa also described Francis as “a political man without collaborators” who may have simply admitted he can do nothing to move the church forward on homosexuality. This admission, Charamsa said, would be “the victory of the masculinist system of the Vatican” that separates out ideas from reality.

This calculation may also explain why Pope Francis did not condemn anti-LGBT criminalization laws while in Uganda, a failure to act that Charamsa called “horrible.” For Charamsa, the political calculations were the primary if not sole intention behind the Havana Declaration,signed by Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, that blasted marriage equality and other LGBT rights.

Redeeming a Theology of the Body?

Charamsa offered interesting thoughts about how theological currents on anthropology, sexuality, and gender could be redeemed by pro-equality advocates:

“I think it is possible to reconstruct a Catholic theology of body that takes the complexity of LGBTIQ issues into account. For theology this would be an enrichment that reforms our traditional, heteronormative, vision of marriage, which, in the light of Christian sources, must be open also for same sex couples. God has created us for love and this is an essential message for our faith, revealed in Genesis. In the confrontation with gender studies, we must correct many aspects of traditional doctrine about marriage.”

The problem today is not necessarily with a theology of the body, as a more embodied theology would be healthy, but the ways by which gender complementarity and arguments about bodies’ shapes and functions are taken to ideological extremes. Charamsa said this is “a very dangerous ideological intervention” that “does not permit reflection about modern advances in knowledge and human rights, sexual human rights”:

“We have closed our eyes for a very complex and mysterious identity, which is a human person, when we shield ecclesial reflection from the development of modern knowledge. This is a reduction of the human body to something immutable and prefixed. We have canceled the dynamic of knowledge and human reason and impose our partial historical visions as universal and eternal. This has been our error many times in the past, and we continue it today.”

But theology of the body could become beneficial if it were to positively engage contemporary knowledge and allow for a little more epistemological humility. Charamsa rejects outright, however, complementarity that is being used in the war against “gender ideology.”

Dangers of the Present Moment

The dangers with an ideological war against “gender ideology” is that the goal is to “ridiculize, present as inferior, and then destroy” people either psychologically or even physically. Charamsa expounded:

“So the Islamic State has its reasons to eliminate those persons who are dangerous to society, African states have their reasons to impose the death penalty for gay people. The Vatican agrees with this! For the Catholic Church, states and nations have the right to eliminate persons who are dangerous. Sexual minorities are seen as dangerous. One journalist in Amsterdam said to me: ‘Do you know that Cardinal Amato told me that two men who love each other are in society like two terrorists with a bomb?’ This cardinal was my boss in the Congregation. I don’t know his experience of homosexuality and I don’t want to know it. But this is the perception: when you design and create your enemy and stigmatize him as so dangerous, you have every right to eliminate him. And this is our homophobia. But homophobia is nothing when you think about lesbophobia or transphobia or intersexphobia.”

Hopes for the Future in Coming Out

There is hope, however, that LGBT Catholics can effectively challenge these horrific stances of some church officials. Charamsa said his decision to come out was to help move the church away from an emotional and reactive place, and he encouraged others to come out, too:

“We must compel the Church to begin dialogue and the first condition is to accept that gays exist not as object, but as subjects with dignity and without shame. In order to force the Church to consider us as human persons I think coming out is essential. It was my call and that of every gay priest. We are not criminals to exterminate. The criminal is the system that offends and eliminates us. . .The problem is that sexual minorities in the Church should begin a Stonewall Revolution, which will force the Church authorities to think and leave a paranoiac fear of LGBTIQ-persons behind.”

Charamsa also affirmed the work already underway in gender and sexuality studies as “a way of thinking that is connected to life, concrete life, to people who gain awareness of their own dignity and identity, and begin to see the possibility to be themselves.” He added:

“From a Christian point of view, one might say that this is a very Christian movement, a truly evangelical movement. This is the Gospel: ‘work in progress’ to understand our nature and our call to be and love! Because the understanding of the Gospel is made by people, concrete people who seek to understand themselves in the light of God’s revelation, but not without reason.”

Charamsa has a sense of urgency about these efforts. Unlike the Church’s later acceptance of scientific developments that it once rejected, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Church cannot fail for centuries before making a correction. Real lives are at stake, and people “can’t wait for three hundred years.”

What Charamsa’s interview revealed to me is that church officials lack any sort of foundation in sexuality and gender studies today, even while they write and pronounce on these issues. Rule by fear and panic can only lead to disaster. Even Pope Francis, it appears, is not immune from the Vatican’s machinations.

But there is also tremendous hope in Charamsa’s words. It is easier to help someone come to understand something about which they are ignorant or afraid than to heal malice in the heart. Charamsa’s courageous decision to come out and keep speaking out can be a model for gay priests and religious, and LGBT Catholics everywhere.

To read the interview in full, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 21, 2017

Cardinal Schönborn Says Church Must Meet All Families Where They Are

A top cardinal has endorsed the idea that the church support all families, including those not considered traditional by the Magisterium’s standard.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna made his remarks while attending a conference in Ireland entitled, “Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family.” He told journalists, per The Catholic Herald: 

“Favouring the family does not mean disfavouring other forms of life – even those living in a same-sex partnership need their families. . .[Family is] the survival network of the future [and] will remain forever the basis of every society.”

Before the conference held in the city of Limerick, Schönborn addressed the idea of family as it relates specifically to Ireland, reported The Independent:

“‘Ireland is synonymous with family, a country that traditionally has had family at its core. . Second unions, divorce, same-sex unions; these are all part of a new narrative around the family in Ireland. So there is a lot of change and the church must show mercy in the context of that change. It must be willing to meet families where they are today.

“‘Ultimately, and this is certainly the case with Ireland, for all the crises in the institution of marriage the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people.'”

Schönborn added that “the weakening of family” threatens society and, as such, “Reinvigorating family is perhaps our great mission today.”

Schönborn’s comments are grounded in his understanding of moral theology. He expounded on this topic during his Irish visit, and Crux quoted the cardinal as saying, “Moral theology stands on two feet: Principles, and then the prudential steps to apply them to reality.” The report continued:

“The problem, he said, was that conscience came often to be seen merely as “the transposition of the Church’s teaching into acts” but in fact “the work of conscience is to discover that God’s law is not a foreign law imposed on me but the discovery that God’s will for me is what is best for me. But this must be an interior discovery.”

“He was ‘deeply moved’ when he read the famous paragraph 37 of Amoris, which complains that too often the Church fails to make room for the consciences of the faithful, and that the task of the Church is to ‘form consciences, not replace them.’

That meant understanding that people operated within constraints. . .’The bonum possibile in moral theology is an important concept that has been so often neglected,’ said Schönborn, adding: ‘What is the possible good that a person or a couple can achieve in difficult circumstances?'”

Grounding his remarks in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the cardinal summarized the document’s message as “marriage and family are possible today,” and said it was noteworthy that even when “everybody can get married. . .so many choose not to get married.”

About pastoral care to families, Schönborn said the reception of Amoris Laetitia is “a long process.” He criticized both rigorists and laxists “who have rapid, clear answers.” Accompaniment, the cardinal said citing St. Gregory the Great, “is an art and it needs training.” Indeed, he admitted the Synod on the Family and Amoris Laetitia were not a set of rules that would be applicable in all cases.

What is refreshing about Cardinal Schönborn’s remarks in Ireland is his willingness to admit reality, and then do theology from it amid life’s messiness rather than dictate from idealized models. Being the child of divorced parents likely helps his more merciful understanding of so-called irregular families. His desire to seek the good that is possible in all situations, including same-gender relationships, is too rare among church leaders.

Schönborn’s visit comes a year before Ireland hosts the 2018 World Meeting of Families, which could be accompanied by a papal visit. There may be no more fitting backdrop for the Catholic Church to consider family than Irish society, given its rapid changes, but this will only be true if church leaders are honest about the realities around them.

Hopefully, the next World Meeting of Families takes up Schönborn’s approach, and focuses on how the church can support all families instead of just those which fit the strict parameters of the Magisterium.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 21, 2017

QUOTE TO NOTE: How Gay Bars and Churches are Safe and Sacred Places

When Orlando, Florida newspaper columnist Justin Mitchell visited the Pulse Nightclub memorial this past June, it stirred him to remember the 49 victims who were killed there. It also stirred him to reflect on how gay nightclubs and churches can be quite similar spaces.

club-church-amsterdamMitchell, writing in the Sun Herald, described his journey as a gay man who was raised Catholic. There were positive moments in youth group when church elevated him in prayer, and there was also “the moment I fell out of love with mass” as pastors criticized marriage equality. There was the progressive church in college that welcomed him, and then the rejection by a former parishioner in his hometown. All of this came back to Mitchell as he watched prayer candles burn at the Pulse memorial. He reflected:

“The point of all of this, though, is that I lit that prayer candle and was brought back to my days in church. Because what many don’t realize is that a gay bar is exactly like church in many ways for the LGBTQ+ community. They both are safe spaces where its members can let go and be vulnerable. They can share their most suppressed feelings, whether it’s holding a man’s hand or praying to the man upstairs. It’s a place where, above all, you don’t feel like anything bad is going to happen to you.”

Many people around the world remembered the Pulse anniversary last month. Catholics lamented one bishop’s decree released on that very day which bans married lesbian and gay people from the most important aspects of church life.

As we move forward, these violations (and others that come to mind) of safe and sacred places are our propellants to work even harder so that there will be places like clubs and churches where all are welcome to be who they are.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 15, 2017