Beyond Pope Francis, What Else Has Been Happening in Catholic LGBT News?

April 19, 2016
Tony Flannery

Fr. Tony Flannery

Pope Francis’ document Amoris Laetitia has dominated Catholic LGBT news since its publication on April 8th. Everyone, it seems, is weighing in about the 250+ page document. You can access Bonding 2.0’s coverage of the document and selected reactions here.

But there has been other news relevant to Catholic LGBT issues that should not be missed. Below, Bondings 2.0 offers a sampling of some of the more important items.

Listen to Fr. Tony Flannery and Other Priests, Says Irish Bishop

Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry said Ireland’s church leaders need to dialogue with priests who are advocating for church reform. This outreach should include Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, who faced Vatican persecution in 2012, and the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland which he co-founded. McKeown said the bishops “have to be constantly reaching out” and “willing to go way beyond our comfort zone,” reported the National Catholic Reporter. Citing Pope Francis, the bishop added:

” ‘It takes time to listen and to talk and to build bridges and to have an openness to hear their story.”

Fr. Flannery, who has been barred from public ministry since 2012, in part because of his openness on LGBT issues, said this support was a first for the Irish hierarchy. He commented on an important topic that such outreach by the bishops might focus upon:

“My answer to that is simple. All I have ever looked for in relation to myself and others who are accused of ‘dissent’ is a process that is fair, just and transparent. . .The present CDF process is a scandal, and brings shame on our church.”

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Gov. Terry McAuliffe

Bishops, Laity Remain Split Over Religious Freedom Bills

Virginia’s bishops expressed disappointment that Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Catholic, vetoed “license to discriminate” legislation passed by the legislature, reported the National Catholic Reporter.

According to a Virginia Catholic Conference statement, Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington and Bishop Francix DiLorenzo of Richmond said the law, which would have protected those who withheld  services from same-gender couples, was about religious freedom . Vetoing the bill on live radio, Governor McAuliffe, himself a Catholic, described the bill as “nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize.”

Meanwhile, Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, who is also Catholic, rescinded an executive order protecting those persons involved with state business who discriminate against LGBT people and replaced it with a non-discrimination order, reported Buzzfeed.

Church Worker Faces Financial Burden in Legal Battle

jan-buterman1

Jan Buterman

Fired Canadian educator Jan Buterman is facing financial difficulties in his legal battle against the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, Edmonton, Alberta, reported Metro News.

Buterman sued the district for removing him as a substitute teacher after his gender transition more than eight years ago. He has been in court since, losing the latest round in appeals court, but Buterman has promised to press on and is exploring funding options. He explained why he will keep struggling:

“I’m not the only trans person who has lost a job in this province, far from it, but most people don’t have it in writing or don’t have access to legal council. . .Most trans people who run into this don’t have the means to address it.”

Bishop Says Same-Gender Marriages Can “Destroy Everything Christian”

In a recent interview, Bishop Emeritus Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska claimed that marriage equality would lead to efforts “to destroy everything Christian” and called the increasingly successful movement for LGBT rights “devastating,” reported the Lincoln Journal Star.

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Laurent Stefanini

Gay Ambassador Nixed by Vatican is Reassigned to the UN

Laurent Stefanini, France’s one-time nominee as Ambassador to the Holy See, will take up a position at the United Nations instead by representing his nation in UNESCO, reported France 24. Stefanini’s nomination was seen to be rejected by the Vatican because it was never approved after being submitted January 2015. Many speculate this rejection was due to Stefanini’s identity as an openly gay man.

For all the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog using the provided box in the upper right hand corner of this page. Contact info@newwaysministry.org with questions and news tips.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Sydney Archdiocese In Marriage Equality Brouhaha Concerning Supportive Businesses

April 15, 2016
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Archbishop Anthony Fisher, O.P.

Reports have surfaced that the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia, may have threatened to withdraw from businesses supportive of marriage equality, which is not yet legalized in that nation.  Actions by both Telstra, a telecommunications company, and the archdiocese seem to point toward some sort of agreement between the two entities regarding the upcoming marriage equality plebiscite. Mashable reported:

“According to The Australian, Archdiocese of Sydney business manager Michael Digges approached a number of companies who had given permission for their logo to be used in a newspaper advertisement in support of marriage equality in May 2015. . .He suggested the church could withdraw business from participating companies, including Telstra , which reportedly serves Catholic schools around Australia.”

Digges’ letter said corporations were “overstepping their purpose” in speaking publicly on this issue, and such acts should be “strongly resisted.” A further report from Business Insider claims former Telstra Chairwoman Catherine Livingstone met with Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher in October. Reporter Harry Tucker stated:

“The pair, who have both known each other for years, eventually came to a compromise. As part of that, Telstra would keep its logo on the Australian Marriage Equality page, but it would stop publicly campaigning around the issue.”

Telstra said there would be not further corporate involvement in the pro-equality campaign, other than their being listed as a supporter of the group Australian Marriage Equality.  Whether this decisiono is due to the Archdiocese’s letter is unconfirmed. For their part, Digges and the Archdiocese have denied any pressure was implied in the letter to businesses with whom the church partners.

LGBT advocates have been questioning church leaders’ precise role, if any, in Telstra’s backing away from seeking LGBT equality. The company’s customers, and Australians generally, have reacted quite negatively to this move. Shelley Argent, a mother and spokesperson for PFLAG, said the company was wrong, and the church “should be ashamed they’re even asking this,” reported the Herald Sun. Other customers said they may cancel their Telstra contacts over the matter.

Marriage equality is stalled in Australia’s Parliament despite 70% approval nationally and the support of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten, who are both Catholic. Turnbull is holding fast to a plebiscite proposed by his predecessor Tony Abbot, another Catholic. Shorten recently called on Turnbull to hold the vote during the recalled parliament that begins this week.

Australians have criticized the plebiscite, promised by year’s end, as unnecessary since the overwhelming majority of Australians support marriage equality. Those critics include Fr. Frank Brennan, S.J., a law professor, who released on Facebook a letter he wrote to Prime Minister Turnbull. Brennan, writing against the plebiscite, explained some of the legal and political procedural complications:

“When the plebiscite vote is carried in favour of same sex marriage, as I am confident it will be, there will still be a need for our Parliament to legislate complex provisions protecting religious freedom and expanding the freedom to marry. It’s only a parliament, not a plebiscite, which can legislate the complex details of equality and the protection of all rights, including the right to religious freedom.”

Brennan also said the plebiscite would be “a waste of time” and “unleash torrents of hate on the gay and lesbian community.” Fr. Brennan’s projections seem likely given the Australian bishops’ heavily-criticized approach to opposing marriage equality, which has included using schoolchildren as messengers for an anti-equality pamphlet and using hyperbolic language about same-gender marriages.  Given Archbishop Fisher’s own negative record on LGBT issues and this recent incident between the Archdiocese and Telstra, it seems more than likely that any vote would negatively impact LGBT people.  Beyond the financial and political costs, it is time for church leaders to think foremost of the pastoral costs in mounting a hopeless campaign which aims only at causing further harm and division in an already wounded church.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 


“Amoris Laetitia” Is a Step in Process that Is Far From Over, Say Commentators

April 10, 2016
martin-pendergast

Martin Pendergast

Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 featured reactions to Pope Francis’ new exhortation on family, Amoris Laetitia. Below are more reactions related to Catholic LGBT issues. You can read New Ways Ministry’s response by clicking here.

You can read LGBT-related excerpts from Amoris Laetitia by clicking here.

Martin Pendergast, a UK advocate for LGBT Catholics, said many people realized LGBT issues would not be central, reported The Tablet. But even in the “light treatment” this document affords such issues, there are positive developments:

“First of all, no condemnations, no quoting of language of ‘intrinsic disorder’, a nuance around the use of language like same-sex attraction, which some of us find offensive, an actual recognition of homosexual orientation, which is very significant in a document of this status.

“One of the key debates in the Church has been: is there such a thing as a different sexual orientation and paragraph 250 refers to people who manifest homosexual orientation. So it’s actually acknowledging that homosexual orientation exists: that’s very important.”

Pendergast said the text lacks the coherence of Evangelii Gaudium or Laudato Si, instead showing “evidence of interventions from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith” in the conservative messages that were included. He concluded:

“The question that many of us will have is: how are you going to apply those very important principles about conscience, internal forum, not judging people, not throwing stones at people?”

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Jonathan Capehart

Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post said the pope’s treatment of homosexuality “hues pretty closely” to paragraphs in the 2014 Synod’s midterm report that were celebrated for their positive approach but inspired quite a backlash. Capehart wrote:

“Sadly missing is this sentence: ‘Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority’. . .

“By talking about the humanity of gay and lesbian Catholics, Pope Francis is openly recognizing them as children of God. After centuries of demonization, that’s a revolutionary act that can’t be undone.”

Mary Hunt

Mary Hunt

Mary Hunt, theologian and co-director of WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual), criticized the text as “a study in ambiguity that gives new evidence for the use of the term “jesuitical.” She continued:

“Alas, the hetero monogamous ideal remains in place while lip service is paid to the remote possibility of other options. Clearly the input of lay people at the two Synods amounted to little or nothing. All in all, this is a missed opportunity for Pope Francis to demonstrate that there is anything new under the Vatican sun.”

Ryan Sattler

Ryan Sattler

Ryan Sattler of the LEAD Ministry (an LGBT outreach) at St. Matthew Catholic Church, and a board member of New Ways Ministry, told the Baltimore Sun

“As much as we love Pope Francis — he has changed the tone of conversation on so many issues — when you have real, deep substance and doctrine in the church that continues to hurt and marginalize people, changing the tone doesn’t do the job.”

Ken Briggs, writing at the National Catholic Reporter, said the effectiveness of Amoris Laetitia was hindered because its authorship precluded the voices of lay Catholics, including LGBT people, from sharing their wisdom and challenges:

“Despite the many eloquent and enlightening portions of the pope’s message, it still emanates from a place which practices no family life that resembles that of the laity, and loses much credibility accordingly. . .the analysis and prescription contents of the document operate entirely within the sometimes shadowy framework of defined doctrine. allowing for no valid concept of family life outside the narrow definitions of Catholic moral teaching. It precludes the possibility that other models might reflect the Creator’s purposes in yet other ways.”

David Gibson

David Gibson

Beyond the document itself, David Gibson of Religion News Service set Amoris Laetitia within the ongoing process under Pope Francis from which the text emerged:

“But the larger reality conveyed by the document — and one that could unsettle Catholic traditionalists more than anything — is that the pope clearly wants the debates over church teachings and pastoral practices to continue and, perhaps, to continue to evolve. . .

“In other words, don’t look to Rome for the solution to every challenge, and don’t stop looking for ways to welcome anyone and everyone who feels alienated from the faith because their personal lives do not conform to the Catholic ideal. . .

“If that journey is part of the pilgrimage of faith, it is far from over. In fact, it may never be over.”

The journey to justice and equality for LGBT people in the Catholic Church is certainly not over. The reactions to and understandings of Amoris Laetitia and how it will impact the church are not over yet, either. Bondings 2.0 will, as always, keep our readers updated about the new document and its reception.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


For LGBT Rights, Is Pope Francis a Partisan or Not?

February 25, 2016
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Pope Francis

Should the pope be political and/or partisan or not? Pope Francis’ trip to Mexico raised these questions after he challenged whether Donald Trump could be considered Christian. The question also bears on LGBT issues, particularly in Italy where legislators are debating the legalization of civil unions.

Pope Francis gave an in-flight interview returning from Mexico, as he regularly does when apostolic journeys conclude. When asked about the civil unions issue in Italy by Il Sole 24’s Carlo Marroni, the pope responded:

“First of all, I don’t know how things stand in the thinking of the Italian parliament. The Pope doesn’t get mixed up in Italian politics. At the first meeting I had with the (Italian) bishops in May 2013, one of the three things I said was: with the Italian government you’re on your own. Because the pope is for everybody and he can’t insert himself in the specific internal politics of a country. This is not the role of the pope, right? And what I think is what the Church thinks and has said so often – because this is not the first country to have this experience, there are so many – I think what the Church has always said about this.”

From this answer, one would believe the pope refrains from partisan engagement over specific policy questions, and this would include legal recognition of same-gender couples in Italy. But Francis’ record is not so clear. Here are a few relevant facts to consider.

First, in Italy, he has refrained from explicitly condemning civil unions or using the church’s influence to lean on Catholic politicians. This approach directly refutes some Italian bishops’ highly partisan campaigning and is notably different from his predecessors, said theologian Massimo Faggioli. But speaking to the Roman Rota in January, Pope Francis offered his strongest criticism yet of marriage equality saying “there can be no confusion between the family as willed by God, and every other type of union.” This was seen by some observers as a comment on Italy’s civil union debate.

Second, Pope Francis has commented on the “specific internal politics of a country” at least twice before when it comes to LGBT rights. In Slovenia in December 2015, during the week of a national referendum which eventually banned marriage equality and adoption rights by same-gender couples, Pope Francis encouraged all Slovenians, especially those in public life, “to preserve the family” .  A similar moment happened in February 2015 when the pontiff exhorted pilgrims from Slovakia to “continue their efforts in defense of the family,”  just days before an unsuccessful referendum in that nation against equal marriage and adoption rights.

Third, Pope Francis often speaks through gestures, actions, or the statements of his surrogates. For instance, this week, in the midst of the Italian civil unions debate, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said it was “essential” that Italian law differentiate between civil unions for same-gender couples and marriage for heterosexual couples.

It helps to remember, too, that Pope Francis is a solitary person shepherding 1.3 billion people, and that his voice can be used and misused, making it hard to know at times what comes from Francis and what comes from contrary parties.

Fourth, and finally, when called upon to be a voice for marginalized LGBT people, Pope Francis has remained silent. Advocates pleaded with him to speak against laws criminalizing homosexuality during his apostolic voyage to Kenya, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic last fall. Advocates have asked him to intervene in the Dominican Republic, where a cardinal has repeatedly used anti-gay slurs against U.S. Ambassador James Brewster. Last week, this blog commented that the case of Cameroon bishops calling for “zero tolerance” of homosexuality was a perfect case for papal intervention.

From my perspective, these facts suggest, despite the pope’s latest claim, the lack of a consistent position for Pope Francis when it comes to partisan involvement in a given nation’s politics. Pope Francis is, rightly I believe, a politically engaged pontiff and affirmed that to be human is to be political. But he has been partisan where it may be imprudent and even inappropriate for him to be so engaged. The damage U.S. bishops have done to the church in their country. because of their hyper-partisan agenda in recent years, is a cautionary tale. I speculate on two possibilities for why Pope Francis lacks a consistent position.

More negatively, it could be that he claims distance when convenient, and becoming more involved when similarly convenient. He chooses whether to speak about LGBT issues depending on whether he will obtain a positive reception from the audience. Could it be that Pope Francis changes not just the style, but the substance of his messaging depending on who is listening? That would be troubling.

More positively, maybe the humble Pope Francis is learning “on the job” as he navigates unprecedented reforms in a church that is now truly global and truly hurting. His inconsistencies arise because he admits to not having the answers and to shifting course when a better way forward appears apparent. Francis’ actions could reveal a leader who is willing to listen to others’ voices and to encounter those from different perspectives. That would be refreshing.

What do you think? Should the pope be involved in partisan national politics? If so, when? Should the pope be political, raising up issues without endorsing specific policy positions? Should the pope be neither? Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry



Alum Fighting Discrimination Exemplifies the Best of Catholic Education

February 6, 2016

200px-blanchetlogoA Catholic high school in Seattle refused to publish an alumna’s same-gender wedding announcement in its magazine, citing archdiocesan prohibitions. But a fellow alum is standing in solidarity against this discriminatory decision and exemplifying the very best of Catholic education.

Bishop Blanchet High School told 1997 alumna Jessie Gifford that “the archdiocese does not permit this type of information to be published in our Catholic school magazine.” Gifford, who was a student leader and homecoming queen in high school, married her wife recently and had submitted an announcement to the alumni magazine.

Criticism of the school administrators’ decision is being led by James Nau, a 1997 graduate who knows the rejected alumna and was homecoming king to Gifford’s queen. Nau posted an open letter to the Archdiocese of Seattle on Facebook. He said that despite his disagreement with church leaders’ opposition to marriage equality, he had a different request:

“I would invite you to consider that a marriage is first and foremost a celebration of love, and while the debates within Christian communities around the question of gay marriage indicate something short of scriptural clarity on the matter, there is another matter upon which scripture is absolutely clear: the value of love. . .

“This policy which prohibits the public acknowledgement of Jessie’s marriage stands behind a faith that you no doubt believe is right, but it does so at the cost of what is greater: love. When there is an opportunity to rejoice in love that exists among the members of your community, you have chosen instead to shut them out, and on this issue Pope Francis has warned, ‘a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission”. . .

“While the Church might persist in its opposition to gay marriage, it would do well not to forgot to rejoice in love where it can be found, especially within its own communities and from a woman who it has been justified in honoring in the past.”

Nau, who is Catholic, wrote about being brought up in the church and said that his education in Seattle’s Catholic schools “made me into the person who writes this letter.” His solidarity with Gifford comes, in part, from an affirmation of the Pauline statement that “if one part is honored, every part rejoices in it.”

Additionally, Nau has been in correspondence with Bishop Blanchet’s President, Antonio DeSapio, who defended the rejection of Gifford’s wedding announcement, despite thanking Nau for being involved in the discussion. Nau raised objections about an inconsistent application of church teaching in the alumni announcement, asking for instances where opposite-gender couples must prove they are not previously divorced. This discrimination has been harmful, as Nau wrote in another Facebook post reporting on the correspondence:

“Personally, I have found this experience to be very alienating, and I can only speculate as to how it must feel for my friend Jessie. . .As a teacher, I keep thinking about what this policy says to your current students, and I hope that you consider what this incident teaches the students in the Archdiocese who might be gay or questioning their sexual identity as well as what it says to their friends, families, and teachers who love and support them. What does it teach students whose parents are gay?”

As he concluded, Nau noted the irony that this experience of exclusion and marginalization has actually rallied the alumni community together and been a cause for former peers to become reacquainted.

Jessie Gifford’s wedding is not the first to be shunned by a Catholic school because it celebrates a same-gender marriage. At least three similar incidents have happened at Marian High School in Omaha, Notre Dame Prep in Baltimore, and Sacred Heart Academy in Amherst, New York. Notre Dame Prep eventually reversed its decision after pressure from alumnae, vowed religious in the sponsoring congregation, and other Catholics. Hopefully, officials at Bishop Blanchet will recognize their bad decision and reverse it.

Either way, those who believe in Catholic education can celebrate James Nau and other former students who stand in solidarity with those marginalized and rejected in our church. Rooting themselves in Catholic teaching, they intelligently and eloquently articulate why discrimination is wrong and how it can be redressed. In brief, they commit to live the Gospels with integrity and that, over all else, is why Catholic education exists.

As National Catholic Schools Week concludes today, there is much work to be done on raising LGBT standards but it is reassuring to know so many alumni learned about true justice and seek it wholeheartedly.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

Seattle PI: Catholic high school: Archdiocese ‘does not permit’ same-sex wedding announcement


Can Encounter Be a Way for Conservatives to Go Forward on LGBT Equality?

January 6, 2016

Conservative Christians have lost the battle over marriage equality, said Religion Dispatches blogger Kaya Oakes in a recent post entitled, “Out of Options: Christians’ Losing Battle Over Equality.”  But how they will respond to this loss may take a variety of different responses.

Kaya Oakes

Oakes noted that, since the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefall v. Hodges, the responses of conservative Christian thinkers have generally taken two tacks.  The first tack– retrenchment–calls for returning to the biblical view of marriage and sexuality in order to steer Christianity back toward a central place in American culture and morality.  This tack also views “affirming homosexuality” as denying a truth about human nature.  The alternative tack calls for “a compassionate model of engagement” on issues of sexuality and gender in order to “create a more attractive model of Christian life than retrenchment[.]”

According to Oakes, the equality gains for women and LGBT persons puts Catholic and conservative Christian churches in a bind.  “Should they welcome women as leaders and same-sex families and trans individuals, they risk alienating some of their most committed members (and donors).  Should they reject those same notions of parity, they risk losing (and in many cases have already lost!) the majority of Gen X folks and Millennials, who have grown up with feminism as a given notion and LBGTQ equality as the civil rights issue of their generations.”

These same churches also risk losing “the notion of a single, defined sense of a Truth that cannot change,” according to Oakes.  “What we see in their writing of late is the shattering of that notion.  It’s emotionally difficult to witness.  The defensiveness, finger-pointing and circular arguments amount to the same thing: a sense of fear, devolving into resignation over the loss, shifting into ad hominem attacks[.]”

Oakes compared the fear expressed by some conservative Christian writers to the experiences of fundamentalist or orthodox Christians who lost their faith when they were had to face the idea that women were equal to men, or that some people loved people of the same gender, or that dressing in gender “inappropriate” way could be accepted.  Oakes stated:

“[Y]ou will hear much the same pattern.  Anger, rejection, fear.  And then gradually, if they are lucky: acceptance, tolerance, welcome.  The latter things usually came from individuals, not institutions.  They came from encounter.”

While Oakes does not say so explicitly, encounter is the way forward.  This is the example of Jesus.

Jesus’ ministry was characterized by acts of encountering and engaging persons, often the marginalized of his day.  In the words of Pope Francis on the gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with the blind Bartimaeus:

“Jesus has just left Jericho. Even though he has only begun his most important journey, which will take him to Jerusalem, he still stops to respond to Bartimaeus’ cry. Jesus is moved by his request and becomes involved in his situation. He is not content to offer him alms, but rather wants to personally encounter him. He does not give him any instruction or response, but asks him: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (Mk 10:51). It might seem a senseless question: what could a blind man wish for if not his sight? Yet, with this question made face to face, direct but respectful, Jesus shows that he wants to hear our needs. He wants to talk with each of us about our lives, our real situations, so that nothing is kept from him.”

Encounter is also the way forward as a church.  Pope Francis stressed this point to Catholic leaders recently.  Speaking to a group of Italian Catholic leaders in Florence in November, he said:

“May the Church be fermented by dialogue, encounter, unity. After all, our own formulations of faith are the fruit of dialogue and encounter among cultures, communities and various situations. We must not fear dialogue: on the contrary it is precisely confrontation and criticism that help us to preserve theology from being transformed into ideology.

“Remember moreover that the best way to dialogue is not that of speaking and debating but that of doing something together, of making plans: not alone, among Catholics, but together with all those who are of good will. Do not be afraid to engage in the exodus necessary for every authentic dialogue. Otherwise it is not possible to comprehend the reasons of the other, nor to completely understand that a brother is worth more than the positions that we judge as far from our own authentic certitudes. He is a brother.”

I agree with Oakes that a form of Christianity whose members preach “a Gospel of intractability and exclusion” probably should die “because it has very little to do with the person who started it,” but I am hopeful for Catholicism that is renewed through encounter and engagement.

–Cynthia Nordone, New Ways Ministry


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