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


Married Gay Catholics Chosen as “Persons of the Year”

December 29, 2015
upiphotostwo377464_cropped

Michael DeLeon and Greg Bourke

Married gay Catholics Greg Bourke and Michael DeLe­on were chosen as Persons of the Year by the National Catholic Reporter for their role in the U.S. Supreme Court case which led to marriage equality’s legalization across the nation last June.

Bourke and DeLeon were plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided that marriage rights should be extended to lesbian and gay couples.

NCR‘s editors said this ruling was among the “truly important, history-changing events, events that will touch future generations intimately and profoundly.” Catholic responses have ranged from some bishops who decried the decision, to some bishops made welcoming statements to lesbian and gay people, to exuberant LGBT advocates who had worked for years for this outcome. But whatever the response, the legal question of marriage equality is now a settled matter in the U.S.

What is less settled are how cultures and churches are changing as people in same-gender marriages become more well-known. The editorial cited theologian Lisa Fullam’s response to the Obergefell ruling, which in her estimation strongly echoed Catholic teachings on marriage. Fullam said church leaders should “take note of the powerful spirit of love and commit­ment vivifying lesbian and gay marriages as well as straight marriages.” Eventually, “acceptance will replace fear,” but until then the editorial continued:

“Today, we address a more fundamental issue: How will we as a church live with our gay, lesbian and transgender brothers and sisters? We are past the time of ‘love the sinner’ platitudes.”

Bourke and DeLeon, who are Catholic, are “emblematic” of these challenges in the Catholic Church. By their existence as a married same-gender couple who practice their faith, “they force us to ask not how will we live out a hypothetical situ­ation, but how will we live with Greg and Michael.” Current answers by the church are, in the editors’ words, “confused, uneven and often cruel” and LGBT Catholics deserve better.

Indeed, the couple’s involvement challenging Kentucky’s marriage equality ban came out of Greg Bourke’s expulsion as a local Boy Scout leader because the troop was hosted by a Catholic parish. Bourke remains barred from leadership despite the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to accept gay leaders because Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville refused to accept that decision.

NCR’s editors further highlighted the discrimination faced by LGBT church workers, writing:

“Bourke and DeLeon are lucky in that they are only parishioners and volunteers. Their livelihoods do not depend on the institutional church. In 2015, at least 10 church employees in the United States lost their jobs because of sexual orientation. . .In most cases, their orientation and even their partners were known by the community. They expe­rienced no difficulties until they entered civil mar­riages.”

Church workers’ rights are, as this blog noted yesterday, a preeminent issue with which Catholic communities must grapple in 2016, the Year of Mercy. The editorial noted that even Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich, who repeatedly calls for LGBT Catholics’ consciences to be respected, is facing two discrimination claims from terminated church workers.

The Catholic Church’s response to marriage equality’s ongoing expansion is troublesome. The presence of sexual and gender diverse Catholics in the Church requires that we review pastoral ministry, employment policies, doctrinal teachings, and deeply rooted identities . Their lives and their love demands of Catholics that our faith communities abide by the principles we preach and that our church universal lives with greater fidelity to the Gospels.

I have to add that, in and of itself, it is significant that the leading U.S. Catholic newspaper chose a married gay couple as their Persons of the Year in 2015. This was a year with few comparisons for U.S. Catholics, which included major events like the papal visit in September, and the Synod on the Family in October. That the National Catholic Reporter chose lay Catholics who remain, in many ways, on the margins of our church is a positive step towards a less hierarchical and more inclusive church.

Greg Bourke, Michael DeLeon, and the many, many faithful LGBT Catholics who bear witness to the true sanctity of marriage are hopeful signs for the coming year! It is so good that they have been recognized so prominently.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Church Worker Rights a Key Concern for Year of Mercy

December 28, 2015
Employment Graphic

Share this graphic on Facebook!

LGBT workers’ rights remain deficient at Catholic institutions, a divisive reality demanding even greater attention in 2016 despite a few victories in 2015. Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy, which began December 8th, is a moment asking all Catholics hard questions about how our church cares for its faithful employees.

This year was more hopeful for employment concerns than previous years. In April, U.S. church workers formed a solidarity network. In May, German bishops approved new employment policies protecting LGBT church workers. In July, Fordham University publicly congratulated the chair of its theology department on his same-gender marriage. In September, St. Mary’s Academy, Portland, Oreogn, reversed its dismissal of a lesbian counselor and introduced an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy. Most recently, a Massachusetts court ruling stated  Matthew Barrett was discriminated against when a Catholic school withdrew its food services director contract offer when they learned he was a married gay man.

Despite these developments, at least fourteen church workers lost their job in LGBT-related employment disputes this year, including Jeffrey Higgins’ recent firing as a Maryland parish’s cantor. Nearly 60 church workers have lost their jobs since New Ways Ministry began tracking all public incidents in 2008. Commenting on Matthew Barrett’s case, Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry told the Boston Globe a plain truth:

“It’s something the Catholic Church still hasn’t been able to deal with.”

Unless new policies are implemented to protect LGBT church workers’ rights, it is unlikely these firings and forced resignations will cease in the coming year. This seems particularly true because conservative opponents of equality continue using fabricated religious liberty concerns in their attempts to justify discrimination and exclusion. U.S. bishops refused to admit a post-Obergefell reality at their November meeting, choosing again to concentrate on marriage and religious liberty issues.

The Supreme Court’s June ruling legalizing marriage equality is a landmark legal case. Stephen Schneck noted in U.S. Catholic that this decision will impact many areas of law in many ways. But he refuted any notion that the religious liberty at Catholic institutions is being severely curtailed:

“How the Obergefell ruling will eventually play out isn’t fully clear, but as I have argued previously, religious liberty concerns have been exaggerated. Just as Catholic institutions in the United States have found ways to work with the country’s laws regarding divorce and remarriage, I believe our institutions will also gradually find ways to deal with the legality of same-sex marriage. . .

“Worries about the burden imposed on religious liberty here seem overblown in regard to religious institutions.  For important ministerial positions, every indication is that the courts recognize that religions have the authority to apply religious criteria. But for non-ministerial positions religious institutions will be required to abide by the implications of the law.”

Schneck further asserted that, in some cases, religious liberty concerns expressed by Catholic institutions are covers to exempt them from labor laws church officials simply find burdensome, such as union organization by adjunct faculty at colleges.

More legal disputes around same-sex marriage’s implications for the church will be a reality in 2016. Sadly, more LGBT church workers who are committed and skilled at their jobs will likely be forced out. Fighting for justice in the courts is necessary. When it comes to employees at Catholic institutions, however, a tremendous impact has already been made by the People of God when communities where such firings occur stand up and say: “Not in our name.”

An editorial in the National Catholic Reporter has said the Year of Mercy now underway is a “year of big questions or the year to ask questions.” A strict legalism dictated church affairs for 35 years, about which the editors said:

“The fear inspired by legalism dominated the community’s life for decades, but we’ve learned that fear stifles and kills; it does not nourish or transform. Mercy is an encounter with the other, and ultimately an experience of God. Mercy is transformation. That is Francis’ message this holy year.”

Pope Francis, the editorial concluded, has said mercy must come before judgment. Catholic institutions and the communities which they serve should look at their employment policies this year and ask whether they are just, not according to civil laws (although these are crucial too), but according to God’s law of mercy.

It is time to ask tough questions at every parish, school, and social service agency. Is firing an LGBT church worker putting mercy before judgment? Are these exclusionary actions really what Catholic identity means? Is our community’s care for employees really transformed by God’s mercy? How does the church’s mission suffer when we lose wonderful church workers?

Progress happened for church workers’ rights in 2015, but we still have a long way to go. The responsibility is on each of us to take action this coming year. To get started, consider getting an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy passed at your Catholic parish, school, hospital, or social service agency. You can find more information on making this change here.

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

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Slovenia Rejects Marriage Equality with Pope Francis’ Blessing

December 22, 2015
Africa Pope

Pope Francis

Slovenians rejected equal marriage and adoption rights for same-gender couples in Sunday’s national referendum, an outcome encouraged by Pope Francis who opined on the vote last week.

63.5% of voters rejected the marriage equality law approved by Parliament last March, which had defined civil marriage as the union of two adults and equalized adoption rights reported the Associated Press. LGBT opponents acted quickly to the law’s passage, with a church-supported group called “Children Are At Stake” gathering nearly 40,000 signatures to file for the referendum. Slovenia is 60% Catholic, and it remains conservative on LGBT issues despite being more socially progressive than other post-Soviet nations.

LGBT-negative voices received a boost from Pope Francis during his Wednesday audience the week before Slovenia’s referendum. According to The New Civil Rights Movement, Francis told the general audience which included Slovenian pilgrims:

“I wish to encourage all Slovenians, especially those in public capacity, to preserve the family as the basic unit of society.”

This is not Pope Francis’ first time using a general audience to weigh in on marriage equality. In February, the pontiff endorsed an effort in Slovakia to ban equal marriage and adoption rights, as well as parental consent laws regarding sexual education in schools. In that case, the vote failed.

The pope’s interventions raise at least two issues for me.

First, Pope Francis’ language was similar in both appeals by focusing on the family as the “basic unit” or “vital cell” of society. Like many LGBT advocates, I agree with this sentiment, and I believe strengthening families is key for the common good. Strengthening this basic unit is precisely what expanding family law to include same-gender couples and their children does. Denying equal rights only undermines families. Pope Francis may be relying upon debunked sociological data frequently employed by anti-LGBT voices. Regardless, it appears he needs to update his understanding of LGBT families today (which have been noticeably absent from the institutional church’s ongoing reflections about family life in the last two years).

Second, why is Pope Francis endorsing political campaigns in Slovenia and Slovakia while foregoing similar interventions elsewhere. Certainly, the pope must contextualize his remarks. But he said nothing about marriage equality during his visit to the U.S., despite the bishops’ likely desires that he condemn Obergfell.  Moreover, he avoided LGBT criminalization completely when in Kenya and Uganda recently. Such selective remarks may be coincidence, but they may also reveal Pope Francis to be appeasing different audiences when it comes to LGBT issues. Preaching mercy to some audiences while simultaneously encouraging other audiences to deny equal rights is disingenuous at best.

Legislators with the United Left party in Slovenia said the referendum is merely a setback, with MP Violeta Tomic saying, “Sooner or later the law will be accepted.” In the meantime, LGBT Slovenians will remain second-class citizens without access to marriage or adoption rights, due in part to Pope Francis’ intervention against equality. This is not a hopeful start for the Year of Mercy in terms of LGBT human rights and the pope.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Faithful Gay Couple Experiences Warm Welcome from Detroit Parish

December 16, 2015
635857075834150800-gaycatholics-100315-es01

Tom Molina-Duarte, left, and Bryan Victor

News headlines tend to focus on what bishops say and how they act regarding LGBT issues in the church, but focusing only on the hierarchy can distort the reality of the Catholic faith as it is lived locally. A recent piece in the Detroit Free Press helps correct this distortion, sharing the story of a same-sex couple and their experience of being warmly welcomed in the church.

Bryan Victor and Thomas Molina-Duarte are faithful Catholics and, since moving to Detroit in 2012, they’ve been parishioners of St. Charles Borromeo Church. Described as an “integrated and active” place, this parish  welcomes all “the real-lived experience of people,” said Victor including him and his husband.

Both expressed that being Catholic is central to their lives, though relating to the church has not been without challenges. Victor and Molina-Duarte each said they stepped back from the church for a time, but they began attending Mass together after meeting each other in 2010.

Now, Victor explained, they “remain in the church rather than leaving” and are open about their sexual identities and marriage. Molina-Duarte, who said the challenges are now an “afterthought,” expressed why the couple remains but refuses to be closeted:

” ‘You’re called to be in community and seek justice and how can you do that in a closet?’ “

Victor, a social worker, said further that faith both guides him and provides community:

” ‘I carry that Gospel message out to the secular world, and my work is reflective of the church. . .I am sustained and nourished by the church. I’m sharing my gifts and talents within the church.’ “

On the question of Communion, about which Detroit has experienced controversy because of Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s previous suggestion that marriage equality supporters should refrain, Victor added:

” ‘We examine our consciences and we know that our love for each other does not take us out of a relationship with God. . .It takes us into a closer relationship with God.  And for that reason,we feel comfortable presenting ourselves for Communion.’ “

It is worth noting that this informed conscience decision is precisely what Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich called for the church to respect in a recent interview.

Victor and Molina-Duarte married earlier this fall, saying they were “driven to our marriage by our faith” and not simply marriage equality’s legalization. Though their ceremony was held at a nearby Protestant church, the couple is welcomed together by their Catholic parish. The Free Press reported a recent example of this welcome. Capuchin Fr. Ray Stadmeyer, the pastor, calls forward those who had birthdays and anniversaries for a blessing at the end of Mass each week. When Molina-Duarte came to the front on his birthday, Stadmeyer said the following:

” ‘Bless our brother Thomas. Bless him in his relationship. . .We thank him and Bryan for all the goodness they bring to us. May they know God’s tender graces.’ “

Molina-Duarte and Victor are warmly accepted by another priest, Fr. Ronald Victor, who is the latter partner’s uncle. Of the couple, Fr. Victor said:

“They are two very holy guys. . .I do see their union as being sacred and sacramental, in the sense that it reflects God’s love.

“While [their relationship is] not necessarily life-giving in a biological way. . .it’s life-giving in other ways.”

Victor said his perspective changed when his nephew, with whom he was quite close, came out. The priest is now public about his willingness to bless same-sex unions and added that, at the couples’ wedding, he was “a little angry and a little disappointed that we couldn’t do it in a church where I could have officiated.” Fr. Victor suggested many priests believe as he does but remain quiet out of fear.

Their wider families have been quite supportive, too. Only one person refused to attend their wedding. Victor’s dad, Lennie, summing up the families’ response:

” ‘If the church makes you choose between your family and your faith. . .I guess we voted for family.’ “

In a related note, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who is a former auxiliary in Detroit, recently offered a day of reflection with Fortunate Families. He, too, was changed by a family member’s coming out when his brother announced he was gay. Gumbleton told those gathered:

” ‘It’s clear the movement is there. . .but it takes a long time for the teaching to permeate the whole church, and people will fight it.’ “

Pope Francis is creating space for LGBT Catholics, their families, allies, and pastoral ministers to move the church closer to a church that is “home for all.” When church leaders make exclusionary and even homophobic or transphobic remarks, it can be helpful to remember local stories like this Detroit gay couple and their parish. Truly, it is in these spaces within the Church where that movement Bishop Gumbleton identified is happening, and it is in this movement that we must place our hope.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Australian Priest Warns Marriage Vote Could Be “Very Nasty”

December 12, 2015
frank_bren_m1794579

Frank Brennan, SJ

A plebiscite over marriage equality is a “waste of time” and “risks turning very nasty,” said a prominent Australian Jesuit as he appealed for a legislative solution in his country.

In a Eureka Street essay, Fr. Frank Brennan,. S.J., decried the plebiscite called for by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, stating:

“A plebiscite on this issue is a waste of time and risks turning very nasty, especially now that both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition support same sex marriage. . .

“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. . .

“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.”

Australia’s top political leaders, including current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a Catholic, all support equal marriage rights. Brennan said the plebiscite was suggested back when Abbott was in leadership to “give [equality opponents] more airplay.” But political realities in Australia and elsewhere have changed.

Now, Brennan said he “accepted the inevitability that civil marriage in Australia will ultimately be redefined to include committed same sex relationships.” He proposed a conscience vote in Parliament to amend the Commonwealth Marriage Act as an alternative to the popular vote, listing reasons why the State has an interest in extending equal marriage rights that include:

“Given the increasing number of children being brought up by same sex couples, it is desirable that the state take away any social stigma against same sex parents.

“Given the ageing population, the state has an interest in recognising and protecting long term relationships of same sex couples who care for each other.

“Given the harmful effects of homophobia, the state has an interest in encouraging broad community acceptance of those members who are homosexual. Laws and policies can help in this regard.”

Brennan was clear, too, that a legislative solution is most appropriate to ensure religious freedom is protected if marriage equality is approved. He weighed in on a controversy in which Catholic bishops face a discrimination complaint over their anti-marriage equality booklet, “Don’t Mess with Marriage.” In Brennan’s words:

“While the debate rages, it is only appropriate that religious groups like the Catholic bishops be able to evangelise their position. . .To date, the bishops have spoken cautiously and respectfully, with perhaps the occasional lapse into loose language. They know their views are not in fashion.”

The Jesuit even suggested that anti-religious statements by certain politicians actually “far exceed any traces of homophobic utterance by religious leaders.” Whether or not this is true, the controversy regarding the human rights complaint against Australia’s bishops has LGBT advocates on both sides. Setting aside legal questions, the bishops’ decision to publish the booklet and use children in Catholic school as messengers is pastorally concerning.

Fr. Brennan is right that any plebiscite wastes Australians’ time and resources while opening the door for homophobic attacks and nasty divisions.

I pray that church leaders will listen to Fr. Frank Brennan, and that they will temper, or even forgo entirely, an opposition campaign. There are far more pressing concerns for Catholics today.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,032 other followers