Pope Francis’ Actions May Speak Louder Than His Words on LGBT Issues

October 4, 2015

Yayo Grassi

The news that Pope Francis’ “only real audience’ (in the words of a Vatican press statement) in his United States visit was with a gay man and his partner has re-awakened the hopes of many in the Catholic LGBT community that the pontiff has not aligned himself with conservative political forces, but that he is still open to showing affirmation to the LGBT people.

While this news is positive, one of the people at the center of this story, Yayo Grassi, the pope’s gay ex-student, cautioned against reading too much into this encounter.

Grassi told The New York Times that his meeting with the pope was a personal encounter, not a political one:

“I don’t think he was trying to say anything in particular. He was just meeting with his ex-student and a very close friend of his.”

Similarly, Jesuit Father James Martin, noted author and Catholic commentator, told The Huffington Post that the pope’s meeting with Grassi, while significant, should not be seen as acceptance of same-gender relationships:

“Of course it does not betoken any sort of papal approval of same-sex marriage. But if the story is accurate, I’m glad to hear that the Pope keeps in touch with old friends, gay or straight.”

In the same article, Father Thomas Rosica, Vatican spokesperson highlighted the pastoral aspect of the visit:

“As noted in the past, the Pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue.”

More details and analyses have emerged which offer some insights into why the Vatican was slow to responding to this brouhaha.

An Associated Press news story explained the difference between an “audience” and a “meeting” in Vatican-speak:

“An audience differs from a meeting in that it is a planned, somewhat formal affair. Popes have audiences with heads of state. They have meetings and greeting sessions with benefactors or Catholic VIPs. So the fact that Lombardi described Grassi’s encounter as the only ‘real audience’ in Washington made clear that Francis wanted to emphasize that encounter over Davis’ “brief meeting” with several dozen other people invited to the embassy at the same time.”

The same news story offered some background as to how the Vatican’s clarification on the Davis meeting came about:

“Initially the Vatican only reluctantly confirmed the meeting but offered no comment.

“On Friday, Lombardi met with Francis and issued a fuller statement to ‘contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired.’ Francis has made clear he dislikes being used for political ends, and Lombardi’s statement appeared intended to make clear that the encounter should in no way be exploited.”

New York Times article reported the response of Jesuit Father James Martin, who earlier this week had cautioned that the Kim Davis meeting was not an indication of the pope’s support of her cause.  He offered a theory as to why the Vatican did not speak quickly to explain the Davis meeting:

“I was very disappointed to see the pope having been used that way, and that his willingness to be friendly to someone was turned against him. What may originally have prevented them from issuing a statement was the desire not to give this story too much air. But what they eventually came to realize was that they needed to correct some gross misrepresentations of what had happened. It shows that Pope Francis met with many people on the trip, and that she was simply another person who he tried to be kind to.”

In the same article, an Italian Vatican observer also offered his view of the Kim Davis situation:

” ‘Nobody in the Catholic Church wants another Regensburg,’ said Massimo Faggioli, an associate professor of theology and director of the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He was referring to the backlash after Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’ predecessor, gave a speech in Regensburg, Germany, that appeared to denigrate Islam.

” ‘This was not as serious as Regensburg, when Benedict read his own speech,’ Dr. Faggioli said about the meeting attended by Ms. Davis. ‘But the pope has to be able to rely on his own system, and in this case the system failed him. The question is, was it a mistake, or was it done with full knowledge of how toxic she was?’ ”

“The meeting with Ms. Davis was clearly a misstep, Dr. Faggioli said, ‘because the whole trip to the United States he very carefully didn’t want to give the impression that he was being politicized by any side.’

“He added, ‘And this thing is the most politicized thing that you can imagine.’ “

While Pope Francis’ meeting with Grassi was not the important pastoral step that needs to be done:  meeting with LGBT people because they are LGBT, it still serves as a great model for bishops and other pastoral leaders.  He showed them, as he has done in the past, that someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity should not mean they are excluded from conversations and relationships with church officials.

While Pope Francis’ words about LGBT people and relationships may not be clear, his warm and friendly gestures are very clear.  May his actions speak louder than his words!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

On Plane Ride Home, Pope Francis Makes Conservative Remarks He Avoided On U.S. Visit

September 29, 2015

Pope Francis reflects on a journalist’s question on his plane ride to Rome.

In one of his famous airplane interviews on his flight back to Rome, Pope Francis spoke out in a more conservative tone than he used during his week-long visit to the United States.

Two items that are grabbing headlines from the interview are his support of government officials who refuse to issue marriage licenses to lesbian and gay couples, and his continued support of the magisterium’s ban on ordaining women to the priesthood.

On the first issue, in response to a reporter’s questions, Pope Francis spoke generally, but refused to speak specifically about the situation of Kim Davis, most celebrated case of a clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses.  From Our Sunday Visitor’s  transcript of the interview:

“Terry Moran, ABC News:
. . . Holy Father, do you also support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Do you support those kinds of claims of religious liberty?

“Pope Francis:
I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscience objection. But, yes, I can say the conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying ‘this right that has merit, this one does not.’ It (conscientious objection) is a human right.It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the ‘Chanson de Roland” when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font and they had to choose between the baptismal font or the sword. They had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights.

“Terry Moran, ABC News:
Would that include government officials as well?

“Pope Francis:
It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.”

Though he did not want to comment on a specific case, his broad generalization of the issue, particularly in his last two sentences, makes it seem that he is categorically in support of ALL cases where conscientious objection comes into play.  So, in effect, the pope HAS spoken in support of Kim Davis.

Conscientious objection is a noble principle, unfortunately, it does not apply to the situation of clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to couples of whom they disapprove.  Why?  Because clerks are not being forced to issue the licenses.  If they don’t want to do so, they can resign.

Conscientious objection is not the principle that is involved in these cases because the clerks are not being asked to compromise their consciences.  They have the freedom to choose another job.

Military conscientious objectors choose not to participate in military action.  They seek other jobs that are more in line with their values. Clerks whose consciences do not allow them to issue marriage licenses should similarly seek other employment.

I do not believe in the death penalty.  If I were employed at a correction facility which required me to execute a prisoner, I would seek another job.  Clerks with conscience objections should do the same.

If Pope Francis wants to honor conscientious objection, why doesn’t he reinstate Father Roy Bourgeois whose conscience required him to participate in the ordination of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest. If the pope honors conscientious objection, he should honor the consciences of all Catholics who support women’s ordination and provide entrance to the clergy for all women called to ordination.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Reuters:  “Govt. workers have right to refuse gay marriage licenses: pope:

National Catholic Reporter:  “Francis again rejects women priests without specific reasoning”


Pope Francis’ Remark About Children’s Book Raises Question of His Support for Lesbian and Gay Families

August 29, 2015

Pope Francis

Pope Francis is once again making headlines for a message which may have contained a positive comment on families headed by lesbian and gay couples.

The reason that the above sentence contains may is because, as has happened before, the pope’s comment is somewhat cryptic and open to interpretation, not to mention that the Vatican is downplaying any gay-positive intent.

Through a message by one of his staff members at the Vatican Secretariat of State, Msgr. Peter B. Wells, the pope sent a message of encouragement to an Italian author, Francesca Pardi, who recently penned a children’s book about families which has been controversial in Italy because some of its characters are gay penguins and lesbian rabbits youngsters.  Pardi sent the book, along with other books with gay and lesbian themes, to the Pontiff in June.

According to a news report in The Guardian, the significant part of the letter from the Vatican stated:

“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values.”

The book’s Italian cover. (translated: “Little Egg”)

While this may not seem to be a ringing endorsement of the book, entitled Piccolo Uovo (translation:  Little Egg), it is certainly a strong affirmation of Pardi and her work, which has been the center of a literary-political storm in Italy.  The Guardian story notes:

“The book. . .was met with disapproval by Venice’s new mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, who in June banned Piccolo Uovo and about 50 other titles from schools. The decision led more than 250 Italian authors to demand their own books be removed from the city’s shelves, a move one writer described as a ‘protest against an appalling gesture of censorship and ignorance.’ “

In fact, when Pardi sent the book to the pope, she included a letter describing the negative criticism that she received. Catholics are a large part of the “We Defend the Family Committee,” a nationwide group against lesbian and gay families,  which has been one of the leaders of the campaign against Pardi’s book. In part, she told the pope:

“Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us.We have respect for Catholics … A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

So, while the pope did not make a direct statement about the lesbian and gay content of the book, he did take the position of affirming the book which has been embroiled in a public controversy, and one which involves Catholics.

The Guardian also reported that a Vatican official offered an explanation for the pope’s comment which indicates that it was not meant to be affirming of families headed by lesbian or gay parents:

“The Vatican said the closing blessing of the private letter was addressed to Pardi and not in support of teachings which went against church doctrine on ‘gender theory.’ “

Hmmmmm.  Sounds like a bit of hair-splitting to me.

Francesca Pardi

Pardi, herself has interpreted the message very positively, while also very realistically.  The Guardian reported:

“Pardi said she had not expected a reply and was surprised to receive the letter at her Milan home. ‘It’s not that I think that he’s for gay families, because there’s the Catholic doctrine, but we mustn’t think that we don’t have rights,’ she said.”

Pardi also told the International Business Times that she saw the blessing as an opening for greater dialogue:

” ‘I was very touched by it,’ Pardi told IBTimes UK. She explained that the letter was not supportive of gay rights but nevertheless marked an important change in the Church attitude towards homosexuals. ‘Obviously he [Francis] doesn’t agree with homosexuality and if he ever was to make such an opening he would never do so in a private letter to me!’ she said. ‘However, only to consider me as an interlocutor worth respect is a tremendous step forward. I read it as an opening towards people and dialogue, a message of tolerance.’ “

Because Italy does not have marriage equality or protections for lesbian parents with children, Pardi married her wife in Spain, and the couple had their four children in the Netherlands, according to Jezebel.com.

So how do we interpret this latest cryptic message from Francis? While I try to be cautious of over-interpreting his statements in a positive light, I can’t help but think that he, and his staff, have to know what they are doing and how the public will react to their comments.  He has had too many ambiguously positive LGBT statements over the past few years for this to be merely accidental.

At the same time, let’s not rush to assume that Pope Francis is supporting marriage equality.  His clear negative statements about legalizing marriage for lesbian and gay couples are a clear indication that he opposes such initiatives.

I think that Pope Francis is showing Catholics that they can interact politely with people with whom they disagree.  He is not presenting content to the debate, but modeling how the debate can take place. As I’ve said before, that, in itself is a step forward. I believe that once the debate about LGBT issues can occur civilly in the Church, then we are on our way to taking steps towards greater justice and equality.

As I’ve also said before, though, we have to recognize this phase as a first step, and not relax into complacency.  There is still much work to be done to achieve full equality of LGBT people in the Catholic Church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

People: “Pope Francis Praises Author of Children’s Book That Includes Lesbian Rabbits and Gay Penguin Parents”

Huffington Post: Pope Francis Gives Blessing To Author Of Gay Children’s Book”

New York Daily News: “Pope Francis sends letter lauding LGBT-themed children’s book banned by Venice mayor”

A Plus: “Pope Francis Again Proves He’s A Revolutionary By Praising A Children’s Book Conservatives Hate”

Daily News Analysis India: “Breaking taboos: Pope Francis blesses lesbian children’s author who writes on same-sex families”




What Mexican Catholics Can Teach Australia (and the World) When It Comes to Marriage

August 20, 2015

Mexicans celebrating the Supreme Court’s June decision to legalize marriage equality

In yesterday’s Bonding 2.0‘s post on marriage equality’s global progress as it relates to Catholics, we reported Mexico’s legalization of same-gender marriages and Australia’s failure to do so.

To many, it is a paradox that a highly Catholic nation advances LGBT rights while the land of “No Worries” is stalled after more than a decade debating the issue.

To Slate’s Oscar Lopez this seeming paradox actually makes a lot of sense and his claim reaffirms what we often say here: LGBT justice is supported by Catholics because of their faith, not in spite of it.

Lopez, who is gay and born to Mexican and Australian parents, asks “how could this happen?” in response to Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbot (a Catholic) effectively killing the equal marriage bill in favor of a national referendum after 2016:

“The question remains: Why have Mexico’s socio-cultural norms helped to advance legal recognition of same-sex relationships there, while Australia’s values have impeded progress on equality?”

Lopez begins with each nation’s religious identity to find his answer, contrasting 82% of Mexicans who are Catholic with just 25% of Australians:

“If you’ve ever read Catholic doctrine or heard anything coming out of the Vatican, you’d think this would make for a very homophobic society. But when you consider that Catholic bastions like Ireland, Spain, France, Argentina, Uruguay, and Mexico have all legalized same-sex marriage, it’s clear that’s not quite right.

 “Catholic social values have changed dramatically. A recent Pew Research survey found that 60 percent of U.S. Catholics supported same-sex marriage, while a 2013 survey of Mexican Catholics also revealed majority support. Meanwhile, the referendum results in Ireland, where 84 percent identify as Catholic, speak for themselves.”

This widespread and increasing support for LGBT rights among Catholic populations comes from many places, but for Lopez the “most important factor” is Catholicism’s teachings on family and their influence on broader cultural norms:

“Whenever I go back to Mexico, the dozens of cousins and second cousins and third cousins I have there—many of whom I haven’t seen in years—are quick to embrace me as primo, inviting me into their homes and telling me all the family gossip. By contrast, in Australia, I didn’t even know I had family outside of my first cousins until my grandmother passed away a few years ago and other relatives sent their condolences.

“In a country where family is the basis for society, it’s harder to exclude members of the population from legal recognition. It’s harder to kick out your gay son or hate your lesbian sister. When the sacrament of marriage is the cornerstone of the family, it’s only natural that this should be a right for everyone—as in Mexico. To see the contrast in Australia, one need only look at Tony Abbott’s constant refusal to recognize the legal rights of his own lesbian sister.

“That’s not to say that there aren’t homophobic Mexican families, or that Aussie families love their kids any less because they’re not Catholic, but it is undeniable that family values have played a role in moving gay rights forward in Latin America. For us Latinos, blood is always thicker than water.”

Lopez cites minor factors as well, which you can read about at Slate by clicking here.  He is careful not to claim Australians are anti-gay given their 72% support for equal marriage rights. His conclusion about the lessons Mexico’s Catholic identity, though aimed at Australia, is more generally applicable to other nations–so that all can “fully recognize love.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Should Catholics Opposed to Marriage Equality Use Civil Disobedience?

July 14, 2015

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, some government officials and religious leaders who oppose the decision have been calling for citizens and congregants to actively protest the advent of marriage equality.  Some are using the language of conscientious objection and civil disobedience.

Is it proper to use such descriptions?  Is preventing a marriage for a gay or lesbian couple justified by moral principles?  Should government officials who, because of religious principles, disagree with the Court’s decision on marriage, be allowed not to issue licenses or perform ceremonies?

Questions like these are going to be debated hotly in the coming months,  The Catholic community will not be exempt from such discussions either.  At least two Catholic bishops have already used such language in their reaction statements to the court’s decisions. Yet, a religious ethics scholar has also recently showed why the use of “conscientious objection” and “civil disobedience” are totally incorrect for the question of marriage equality.

Bishop Joseph Strickland

First, let’s look at what the two bishops have said.  Bishop Joseph Strickland, Diocese of Tyler, Texas, in a June 26th statement said the Court’s decision was

“unjust and immoral, and it is our duty to clearly and emphatically oppose it.”

Later in the statement, Strickland goes on to say:

“We know that unjust laws and other measures contrary to the moral order are not binding in conscience, thus we must now exercise our right to conscientious objection against this interpretation of our law. . . “

Bishop Thomas Tobin

The Providence Journal reported on Rhode Island’s Bishop Thomas Tobin, who, on July 1st, posted an encouraging statement on Facebook for a Texas court clerk who, at first, refused to issue marriage licenses to lesbian and gay couples. (She has since relented.) Tobin’s statement said, in part:

“We need many more conscientious objectors – public officials, private businesses, advertisers, religious leaders, and family members, people of courage who will abide by their conscience, protect their religious rights, and not support or enable the furtherance of this moral aberration – so called, ‘same-sex marriage.’ “

David Gushee

But a Christian ethicist has recently refuted such dramatic calls to civil disobedience and conscientious objection in the face of marriage equality by noting that the response does not fit the situation.  Rev. Dr. David Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, Georgia, penned an an essay for Religion News Service entitled “Why civil disobedience is irrelevant to gay marriage.”

Here’s the gist of Gushee’s analysis of civil disobedience:

Here’s a good definition: If a government mandates what religious people believe God forbids, or forbids what religious people believe God mandates, civil disobedience may be required. . . .

The federal government has not mandated that houses of worship or clergy perform gay marriages. Nor has it forbidden congregations or clergy from performing such nuptials. Government has permitted gay marriages — and thus the solemnization of these marriages by whoever is authorized to offer it.

Therefore, those who wish to perform gay weddings are free to do so, and those who do not wish to perform them are free to decline. There are no legitimate grounds for civil disobedience here.

Gushee also takes on the more particular case of government officials who oppose marriage equality on religious grounds:

“In my view, regardless of whether state officials like a particular law, they are required to submit to it in the performance of their duties — or should resign from office.

“Government clerks are not religious officials. Nor are they simply individual citizens who might find a government’s law to be a violation of conscience. They are on the state payroll. Refusal to adhere to or enforce the law on the part of a government official is dereliction of duty, not civil disobedience.”

And he doesn’t shy away from perhaps the thorniest church/state question regarding marriage equality:  will the government require religious institutions to adopt policies which treat all married couples–gay, lesbian, heterosexual–equally?  Gushee does not mince words in his answer:

“It seems very unlikely that government would simply mandate that religious organizations change such policies. It might, however, withdraw tax-exempt status, not from congregations, but from religious organizations.

“Or it might ban federal funds, such as government social-service contracts, research grants or student loans, from going to such organizations. This is not the same thing as simply banning such organizations from adhering to their preferred policies, but for many organizations it remains a nightmare scenario.”

There will be consequences for religious institutions if they do not honor the marriage laws, but they will not be anywhere near the imagined threat that some leaders are describing.  Instead, the consequences will be more practical.  Gushee writes:

“. . . [N]o organizational leader will be arrested or imprisoned if these organizations stick to their policies, and if government withdraws financial assistance (by no means a certainty).

“No organization will be raided and padlocked. No civil disobedience strategy will be relevant.

“Instead, such organizations essentially will be shut out from using government dollars, with predictably scary effects on their bottom lines and reputations.”

But losing government money is not their only option.  Gushee suggests other alternatives:

“They could change the relevant policies, perhaps under protest, while claiming no change in their values. They could do this because they decide that their organizational mission is too important to let it wither because of its LGBT policies.

“Or, of course, they could take this as an opportunity to dig deeper and actually reconsider their beliefs about LGBT people and their relationships, as some of us have already done.”

Civil disobedience and conscientious objection give a moral gravity to a religious person’s objections to marriage equality law.  But as strategies to oppose them, they are not practical or appropriate.

As I’ve argued before here on Bondings 2.0, people with religious objections to civil laws have several options to respond in religious ways.  Sacrificing something, like government grants, may be involved, and sacrifice is a treasured religious response. Peace activists have endured jail and other sacrifices for resisting war taxes.  Why aren’t religious opponents against marriage equality advocating such sacrifices instead of arguing for discrimination?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related post

Bondings 2.0: Sacrificing Profits to Avoid Discrimination and Protect Religious Freedom



Final Installment of Catholic Responses to Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling

July 10, 2015

Here’s what (we hope) is the final installment of immediate Catholic reactions to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. Since the Catholic debate on this issue is not over yet, Bondings 2.0 will, of course, continue covering any ensuing controversies based on this decision as they develop.  [All previous Bondings 2.0 Catholic reaction compilation posts can be found at the end of this post.]

Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan, Writer and Political Analyst, The Dish:

Sullivan, one of the first people to propose the idea of gay marriage as a serious legal possibility (and certainly the first Catholic pundit to do so), provides a poignant brief memoir of the struggle to arrive at the Obergefell v. Hodges victory.  I found this to be, perhaps, his most stirring passage:

For many years, it felt like one step forward, two steps back. History is a miasma of contingency, and courage, and conviction, and chance.

But some things you know deep in your heart: that all human beings are made in the image of God; that their loves and lives are equally precious; that the pursuit of happiness promised in the Declaration of Independence has no meaning if it does not include the right to marry the person you love; and has no force if it denies that fundamental human freedom to a portion of its citizens. In the words of Hannah Arendt:

“The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right compared to which ‘the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one’s skin or color or race’ are minor indeed. Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs.” (from a blog post on The Dish)

Matthew Boudway

Matthew Boudway, Associate Editor, Commonweal:

Boudway categorizes the Obergefell v. Hodges case:

“. . . [It] was not about Constitutional theory or the burdens and perils of democracy. Nor was it about sex. It was about honoring people who promise to take care of each other and encouraging them to keep that promise.”

Yet, he disagrees with the outcome because on procedural grounds:

“Wherever possible, the Supreme Court should try to get out of the way, so that voters and their elected representatives can do the difficult work of democracy. If we want to change the definition of civil marriage so that it can accommodate gays and lesbians, there is nothing in the Constitution to prevent us, but neither is there anything to compel us. Why pretend otherwise?”  (from a blog post on Commonweal)

Margery Eagan

Margery Eagan, Columnist, Cruxnow.com:

” ‘The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,’ wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy explaining, if inadvertently, a big part of the problem for the Catholic hierarchy. They can’t recognize that injustice, even in 2015, because they live apart, isolated from, and largely ignorant of, the real, changed world.

“They do not see the gay parents chaperoning the apple-picking field trip in kindergarten. They do not see the son of those parents grow up to captain the football team and marry his college sweetheart. They do not see the life-long devotion of gay couples, in sickness and health, or in the mundane particulars of everyday life. Cooking, cleaning, planting the garden, mowing the lawn, driving the carpool, helping with the homework, wanting the best for their families, just like everybody else.”  (From a column on Crux)

Bill Baird and John Kennedy

Bill Baird and John Kennedy, Retired Gay Catholic Married Couple in Santa Rosa, California:

” ‘It’s important to realize how many people are not happy about the decision,’ Baird said, ‘so we have to find a way to work together to promote marriage equality. . . .’ 

” ‘We’re lucky here in the Bay Area, but in many parts of the country you can be fired for being gay, and landlords may refuse to rent to a lesbian or gay couple,”’Baird said.

” ‘There really is a lack of protections for gay people, and while we’re delighted by the ruling, there is still a lot of education to do,’ Kennedy said.”  (From a feature article in Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

Christa Kerber

Christa Kerber, Catholic laywoman, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania:

Our Church teaches a preferential treatment for the marginalized. It teaches the dignity of all human beings. It teaches the primacy of conscience — the idea that it is our obligation to prayerfully consider tradition and doctrine, as well as our experience and the experience of those around us, in discerning what is moral and just.

My conscience has been formed with the help of family, friends, teachers, clergy, theologians, and strangers. Most of all, it has been formed through my relationship with God and my Church. . . 

I hope and pray that Church leaders will hear and understand the majority who support those in loving same-sex relationships. Love is of God and adults who have formed their consciences in faith are very capable of making good decisions about how to express their love for other human beings. (From an op-ed essay on Philly.com)

Archbishop Blase Cupich

Archbishop Blase Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago:

In an earlier post, we noted Archbishop Cupich’s reconciliatory statement following the Supreme Court decision.  Cupich’s follow-up comments in an interview with The National Catholic Reporter about the statement are also worth noting.  The archbishop stated:

“My concern is that we don’t lurch in one direction or another in terms of reaction, but that we really have a sense of serenity and maturity and keep ourselves walking together.

” ‘I think that’s the most important thing,’ the archbishop said, using the example of a family that discusses issues they face together.

” ‘When they have [a] crisis, when they have something new happening, a good, mature, serene family says, “OK, take a breath, everybody. We’re all in this together. We’re going to help each other,” ‘ he said.”  (From a news story in The National Catholic Reporter)

Local Catholics

In Boston and northern New Jersey, reporters visited local Catholic parishes to gather a wide variety of reactions which are chronicled in these two articles:

Boston Globe: “Boston churches split over Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling”

NorthJersey.com: “North Jersey Catholics divided on marriage ruling”

Catholic legal analyses

America magazine enlisted a variety of Catholic legal scholars and analysts to respond to the decision.  Their opinions and topics are diverse.  The legal arguments are difficult to summarize, so, instead of attempting to do so, we will just provide links to the complete essays.

Ellen K. Boegel, Associate Professor, Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, and Homeland Security, St. John’s University, N.Y.:Same-Sex Marriage Decision Resolves One Question, Raises Many Others

Teresa S. Collett, Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis:  The Supreme Court’s Jurisprudence of Privacy”

Thomas C. Berg, the James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis: “Religious Liberty Concerns After Supreme Court’s Call on Same-Sex Marriage”

Richard W. Garnett, the Paul J. Schierl / Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law , University of Notre Dame: “Hard Questions from Chief Justice on Same-Sex Decision”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Related article:

dotCommonweal: Calm, collected.”


Previous blog posts of Catholic commentary on Supreme Court marriage equality ruling:

July 7: Orthodox Catholic Offers Important Lesson for LGBT Supporters

July 6: Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese Spells Out Falsehoods and Possibilities in Marriage Equality Responses

July 5: Tending to Christ’s Blood: The U.S. Church’s Post-Marriage Equality Agenda

July 4: Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Catholic Values

July 1: Father Martin’s Viral Facebook Post on ‘So Much Hatred From So Many Catholics’

June 30:  Here’s What Catholic Bishops Should Have Said About Marriage Equality Decision

June 29: Catholics Continue to React to Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling

June 28: Some Catholic Reactions to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality

June 27: A Prayerful Catholic Response to the U.S. Supreme Court Decision

June 26: New Ways Ministry and U.S. Catholics Rejoice at Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision


Orthodox Catholic Offers Important Lesson for LGBT Supporters

July 7, 2015

On Bondings 2.0, we don’t often feature the writings of Catholics who identify as conservative or traditional.  We do so when we think that their message is one which will possibly edify our readers.

Patrick  C Beeman

Patrick C. Beeman

Today, we are featuring a response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision on marriage equality by Patrick C. Beeman, a Catholic physician and writer from St. Louis who identifies as an orthodox Catholic.  His essay, featured on The National Catholic Reporter website, has important lessons for both liberal and conservative Catholics.

Beeman’s essay focuses on the way some traditionalists have responded to the Supreme Court decision.  He states that following the courts announcement:

“My social media feeds are littered with responses like ‘God have mercy on us all’ and ‘a crime against God and nature.’ How easy to forget that the tongue — and the compulsion to use one’s Twitter app — is a restless evil full of deadly poison.”

Beeman, who appears to support church teaching opposing marriage equality, is concerned about the style of argument that his fellow travelers employ.  He is afraid that they will “only lend credence to the caricature of the church as a mob of narrow-minded and sour-faced doctrinaires.”

Noting that “Catholic balance” is a virtue that “lies somewhere between mercy and Christian charity on the one hand and doctrinal fidelity and truth on the other,”  Beeman wonders why conservative Catholic opposition seems to forget this balance.  He illustrates by noting the trend of criminalizing same-sex behavior around the globe:

“When the nonbeliever has a better track record than the believer on matters of justice, something is wrong. Shouldn’t it outrage any decent human being that in some countries, a homosexual act is a capital crime? Regardless of whether or not one believes it to be sinful, both sides should be equally opposed to the backward absurdity of a culture that would permit killing another person for a sexual sin. For my part, I am glad perfect marks in the area of sexual ethics are not a requirement for continuing. I suspect it would be ‘Game over’ for many of us if that were the case.”

And he did not forget other forms of oppression and discrimination which are closer to home:

“And what of the subtler forms of social, familial, ecclesiastical and economic discrimination that have been perpetrated against gay people and are only now beginning to dissipate? We should be unsettled when a child is kicked out of his home because he came out as gay to his father. That is not the Catholic response. That is the response of misguided fidelity to the truth — bigotry? — which can only have the effect of injuring the faith of the vulnerable. And that kind of response deserves a millstone if anything does.”

Beeman recognizes that supporting the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics does not give one license to ignore the Church’s teaching on human dignity:

“Those of us who identify as orthodox Catholics need to start making reparation for our part in alienating gay people from the church. I’m not saying we should abandon the church’s teaching on sexual ethics. But we ought to make quite certain we are applying it carefully and charitably. . . .

“Hence, if you opposed the redefinition of marriage, you must show magnanimity in defeat. But even more so: Draw a sharp distinction between the issue of gay marriage and whether or not gay people should be treated equitably in the marketplace, legal system or in society at large. The latter is a question of human dignity. If you are Catholic, it concerns you, whether you opposed gay marriage or not.”

In the essay, Beeman, who presumably disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision, seems to be in close agreement with ideas proposed by two Catholic commentators who supported the decision and who were featured on Bondings 2.0:  Father Thomas Reese, SJ,  and Bob Shine.  I admire Beeman’s ability not to let one disagreement on LGBT issues blind him to his obligations in other areas concerning LGBT people.

More importantly, though, I admire Beeman’s tone of moderation in this essay.  Though primarily addressing his fellow conservative Catholics, I think that all Catholics can learn a lesson that though we may be passionate about a topic, even a topic laden with issues and consequences of great concern, we should never let our passion get the best of us.  We should always treat our opponents with respect and Christian charity, remembering that they, too, are our neighbors.

[You can read Beeman’s full essay, which was paired with one by Arthur Fitzmaurice, Resource Director, Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, by clicking here.]

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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