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

June 28, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality has inspired a wealth of reactions from Catholic leaders, organizations, and individuals.   The sheer wealth of responses is phenomenal.  Over the next few days, Bondings 2.0  will try to provide you with the ones we think are most significant.   If you see a response that you like, please send the link to:  info@NewWaysMinistry.org.  We will try to include it.   Please limit suggestions to responses from Catholics or that discuss Catholic issues.  (Otherwise, there are so many more responses we could be sharing!)

 MY OWN PERSONAL REACTION:    New Ways Ministry’s public statement on the ruling was released two days ago.  But, please allow me to add a personal note to our ministry’s official response before I list the of responses of others.

It’s now two days after the ruling, and I am still stunned by this news. It truly doesn’t seem real yet.  I’m sure it is going to take a while to sink in.  Many folks have told me the same has been true for them.

Yet, when I begin to get a glimmer of the enormity of the positive repercussions this ruling, I honestly get more than a little emotional.  For example,  I think of how this decision moves LGBT people from the margins to the mainstream, even if they do not decide to marry.  I think of  all the lesbian and gay young people who will now be growing up with the hope that one day they can marry, and I think of all the fear and self-hatred that will be avoided because of they can hope for that.  I think of how this ruling which legally normalizes same-gender relationships will now encourage businesses and organizations that have not been welcoming (such as the Boy Scouts of America) to be open to lesbian and gay people.  I think of all the lives that will not be lost to suicide, all the hopes that will be allowed to flower, all the contributions that people will be able to  make to society because they are legally recognized–and I end up getting more than teary-eyed at the prospect of such a promising future.

When I think of all the good that will happen in people’s lives and in our society, I can’t help but truly see the hand of God in this ruling.  Our God, who wants us to live fully and love fully, must be rejoicing, too.

The following are some of the responses we’ve been collecting over the past few days.  For each excerpted response, we provide the link back to the full statement or article.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: 

“Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.”   (From a statement)

Individual U.S. bishops and state Catholic conferences:

Many U.S. bishops and state Catholic conferences issued reaction statements to the Supreme Court decision.  Since many of these statements are similar to one another, and to the one above by Archbishop Kurtz, I will not be excerpting them here.   As I find some that have something unique to say, I will post excerpts in days to come.

If you are interested in what individual bishops have said, I recommend two blog posts I found which have the most exhaustive collections of excerpts from bishops’ statements, with links to original statements:

America:  Across the Nation, U.S. Bishops Deplore Supreme Court Call in Obergefell v. Hodges”

Whispers in the Loggia: ” ‘A Profound Turning Point’ – On Marriage, The Court Rules… and The Church Responds”

Perhaps the most comprehensive list links to bishops’ statements is the one on the USCCB’s webpage on marriage.

Jim FitzGerald

Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director, Call To Action:

“For far too long committed LGBT partners and families have endured discrimination and marginalization. This has come from many places – but none more forceful than from some members within the Catholic hierarchy. This decision, however, reverberates God’s love of everyone and celebrates the dignity and holiness of all loving families.

“The sacredness of all loving couples, together with their welcome and inclusion in all facets of faith communities, is a reality that must now be given pastoral priority. We cannot act as if the Spirit hasn’t moved us to be more loving and just.” (From a statement)

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA:

“As Catholics, we celebrate the increase in justice that this ruling ushers in. We rejoice with all of the couples and families who will be able to access the legal protections that marriage will afford them. Mostly, we are thrilled that the Supreme Court has recognized that the love and commitment of same-sex couples is absolutely equal to that of other couples.

“DignityUSA prays for consideration and solidarity as this ruling is implemented. We understand that there are many in our country, and in our church, who will be disappointed by this ruling, and urge that the sincerity of their beliefs be respected. At the same time, we expect that all people, no matter what their beliefs, abide by what the Supreme Court has affirmed as the law of the land, and treat same-sex couples and their families respectfully and in full accordance with the law.”  (From a statement)

Deb Word

Deb Word, President, Fortunate Families:

“Fortunate Families celebrates with our LGBT children the opportunity to share in the same rights as their straight siblings. The Supreme Court decision brings legal stability to our children’s lives and security to our grandchildren. We applaud this decision and continue our work in the Catholic tradition seeking social justice for all our children, and we look forward to the next hurdle, the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” (From a statement)

 

 

Reverend Daniel Horan, OFM

Reverend Daniel Horan, OFM, Author and Lecturer:

” ‘The  joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the women and men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.’

“With this now-famous line, the Second Vatican Council opened its ‘Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’ (1965). This passage immediately came to mind this morning as I heard of theU. S. Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) that upheld the constitutional right to same-sex marriage. My personal response was emotional in the way that the reaction of so many others has been in the wake of this landmark case. My reaction has been solidarity for a population of people who have indeed been ‘afflicted’ and whose experience for so long, millennia perhaps, has been more ‘grief and anxiety’ than ‘joy and hope.’ But today, at least in the United States, things appear to be changing.

“As a Christian, the ‘joys and hopes’ of the LGBT women and men who have cried out for the recognition of their human dignity and value, these are the ‘joys and hopes’ of me today.”  (From an America magazine blog post )

Arthur Fitzmaurice

Arthur Fitzmaurice, Resource Director for the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministries: 

“Now that [marriage equality] is the law of the land, it is going to continue to provide space for people in same-sex relationships to tell their stories. In the time ahead there is a chance for us to step away from the charged political debate to a pastoral dialogue on what it means to be LGBT and Catholic.”  (From a National Catholic Reporter news story)

 

More reactions to follow in the coming days!   Post your own reactions–personal, political, or otherwise– to the statements above or to the Supreme Court decision in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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

June 26, 2015

The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to enable marriage equality to be enacted throughout the nation.

New Ways Ministry rejoices with millions of U.S. Catholics that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples! On this historic day, we pray in thanksgiving that justice and mercy have prevailed and that the prayers and efforts of so many have combined to move our nation one step closer to fairness and equality for all.

With this Supreme Court victory, Catholics recommit themselves to working to make sure that all LGBT people are treated equally in both church and society.  While we are delighted with this victory, there is still much work to be done to ensure those goals.

Catholics have been at the forefront of working for equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples. The overwhelming majority of U.S. Catholics have consistently been in favor of marriage equality, and have put their support into action in legislative, judicial, and electoral campaigns.

Their Catholic faith has inspired them to make sure that their lesbian and gay family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers receive equal treatment by society. The Supreme Court’s decision embodies the Catholic values of human dignity, respect for differences, and the strengthening of families.

While the U.S. Catholic bishops have consistently opposed marriage equality measures on all fronts, Catholic people in the pews have had a different perspective from their leaders.   The lived faith of Catholic people has taught them that love, commitment, and sacrifice are the essential building blocks of marriage and family. Their daily experiences interacting with lesbian and gay couples and their families has taught them that these relationships are identical to heterosexual marriages in terms of the essential qualities needed to build a future together, establish a family, and contribute to social stability and growth.

The U.S. bishops now need to reconcile themselves to the new social reality of marriage equality, as it is poised to spread to all 50 states. They can do so by entering into a dialogue with lesbian and gay Catholics to learn more about the reality of their lives and how their faith inspires their relationships. The bishops should declare a moratorium on firing lesbian and gay church employees who have married legally. These firings have been a scandalous trend with effects that are harmful not only to the people involved, but to the life of the Church.

Today begins a time for Catholic supporters and Catholic opponents of marriage equality to reconcile with one another and work to build up their local faith communities so that together they can work for a world Pope Francis envisions: one of justice and mercy.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Has the Marriage Referendum Victory Ended Catholicism in Ireland?

June 7, 2015

The Irish vote for marriage equality will certainly have great effects on the lives of the LGBT people of Ireland.  For those who are interested in Catholic LGBT issues, another question may be equally important:  What effect with the marriage equality victory have on the Catholic Church in Ireland?

A number of commentators have provided answers to that question, and I will try to summarize their positions in this blog post.

The two major insights about the future role of the Catholic Church in Ireland that have emerged from the commentary on the referendum are that  1) Church leaders no longer have political influence over the Catholic population; 2) Church leaders’ continued opposition to marriage equality means that they will continue to alienate the already distant younger generation.

Writing in The Irish Times, Omar Encarnación observed that because of child sex abuse and other scandals, “the moral and political authority of the Catholic Church had all but collapsed” in Ireland and in many Western European nations.  The fact that so many Irish voters did not heed their bishops’ encouragement to oppose marriage equality is strong evidence that their once powerful political grip has loosened greatly.

Tim Stanley, writing in London’s Telegraph, also saw the vote as the demise of the bishops’ political power, however Stanley identified a different cause for this loss:  the concerted financial backing of progressive political forces.  Stanley wrote:

“To emphasise, the Yes vote was undoubtedly a reflection of growing tolerance towards gays and lesbians. But it was also a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism. How the Church survives this turn, is not clear. It’ll require a lot of hard work and prayers.”

Joining the view that the Catholic hierarchy suffered a stunning defeat in the referendum was Mary Hunt, whose essay on Religion Dispatches was headlined “Did Ireland Just Bury the Catholic Church?”  Her answer: ” . . . the Irish referendum means that a top-down, clergy-heavy model of church heard its death knell in Dublin.” Replacing this model, Hunt says is a new trend:

“It is for lay Catholics around the world to be clear, as Irish voters were, that we can and will make our own decisions.”

Similarly, Fr. Bernard Lynch, writing in  Gay City Newscalled the referendum a “declaration of independence”:

“We have broken the shackles of our colonial past and our colonial governance by the Roman Catholic Church. We are free at last to live and love as we were born to be.”

But not all commentators see the referendum as an end to Catholic influence in Irish society.  Others see the electoral event as calling for a transformation of the relationship between church and society, particularly in the way that clergy communicate with young people.

On the dotCommonweal blog, Kaitlin Campbell speculated about how young Irish people might have felt when they heard bishops denouncing marriage equality:

“. . . I can’t imagine that many young Catholics enjoy being recruited to fight a culture war, especially if the opposition includes family, friends, and peers. They find it alienating when a priest homilizes about the essential differences between men and women; they would rather hear that “all are welcome” at Mass and rather the homily stick to the gospel. When Catholic identity becomes less about spirituality and more about political battles, something essential is lost…along with thousands of believers.”

Maryknoll Father William Grimm disputed the notion that Catholicism in Ireland is in trouble. Writing from Tokyo on UCAnews.comGrimm reminded readers that people need to see the Catholic Church as more than just the hierarchy, but, instead, as the entire People of God. Through that lens, he offered a different perspective on the Irish situation:

“Rather than the collapse of the Catholic Church, might we be living through a period when the hierarchy must defer to the experience, insight and faith of the mass of Catholics? After all, they, more than celibate clerics, have a clear idea of what might or might not threaten marriage. . . .

“The laity are challenging the leaders of the Church to find ways to affirm the sacramentality of matrimony while recognizing that marriage is a broader and more varied reality with legal, social, cultural and anthropological aspects that may differ from the practice of the Church.”

Gay Catholic Voice Ireland, the national LGBT Catholic organization, also expressed hope for the Church under the leadership example of the laity, In a statement, Dave Donnellan, the group’s leader discussed how poorer neighborhoods of Ireland supported marriage equality, while middle and upper class neighborhoods did not, prompting him to remark:

“How has the Catholic Church yet again found itself alongside the rich and privileged and against the liberation of what continues to be such a historically despised group in so many countries? The referendum result again shows up the Catholic Church’s abdication of its Gospel responsibility to stand alongside the poor and oppressed and be ‘Good News’ to groups that so desperately need to hear it. The LGBT community finally did have the ‘Good News’ preached to them last week but it wasn’t by the Catholic bishops. It was by the 1.2 million voters who voted ‘Yes’ to marriage equality for gay people last Friday.”

Father Tony Flannery, CSsR, a founder of the Association of Catholic Priests Ireland, also saw this referendum moment as an opportunity for changing “business as usual” in the Irish Catholic Church.  In an interview with The Irish Times, he said:

“The day of doctrinaire Catholicism is over in this country. The people are no longer willing to listen to speeches and sermons on morality from the Church. Some might see this as a bad situation, but I would regard it as a time of wonderful opportunity for the Church, if they can recognise it, and learn how to present the fundamental Christian message.

“We need a period of at least a generation, when the Church authorities says nothing about sex. Then they will have a chance to speak about the far more basic aspects of the Christian message – love, forgiveness, mercy, compassion – and have a chance of being heard.”

In a separate Irish Times article, Flannery focused on the importance of Church leaders reaching out to the youth of Ireland:

“[It was] particularly sad was to see the bishops in total opposition to a mass movement of the younger generation.

“The very people whom the church should be trying to listen to, and trying to learn a way of communicating effectively with, were the ones they were driving further away with all their pastorals in each diocese.”

The National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters also saw the referendum as signaling a new way for Ireland’s Catholic hierarchy to relate to the people in the pews:

“I do not know the degree to which the people of Ireland rejected traditional marriage but I am one thousand percent certain they rejected the judgmentalism with which the Church has too long, and too often, associated itself.”

The good news for Catholicism is that at least some bishops in Ireland seem to be getting the message that lay people there want change in the way the church operates.  Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has been in the forefront of speaking about the “reality check” that the referendum means to the hierarchy.

Armagh’s Archishop Eamon Martin, head of Ireland’s bishops’ conference, rejected disparaging language about Irish voters made earlier this week by Cardinal Raymond Burke who said they were “worse than pagans” for choosing marriage equality.  In an interview with Irish radio, Archbishop Eamon criticized Burke’s reference:

“I wouldn’t use that language.

“Throughout the debate and the discussion, we did ask people to try to be respectful and inoffensive in language.”

On the eve of the referendum, Derry’s Bishop Donal McKeown warned voters who would oppose marriage equality not to vote with hatred in their heart.  The Huffington Post reported his comments:

“I would hate for people to vote no for bad reasons, for sort of bigoted reasons, for nasty reasons, for bullying reasons. People have to make up their own mind, and I’m quite happy that they can do that in front of God, be it yes or be it no.”

This sampling of comments from bishops is also joined by Killaloe’s Bishop Willie Walsh who criticized the Vatican’s Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s characterization of the referendum result as “a defeat for humanity.”

Fintan O’Toole, an Irish commentator, urged reconciliation between the opposing marriage camps in a recent op-ed in The Irish Times. Writing specifically about the religious dimension of the debate, he saw that everyone will come out a winner because of the vote:

“[I]t looks like a defeat for religious conservatives. But nobody has been defeated. Nobody has been diminished. Irish people comprehensively rejected the notion that our republic is a zero sum game, that what is given to one must be taken from another. Everybody gains from equality — even those who didn’t think they wanted it. Over time, those who are in a minority on this issue will come to appreciate the value of living in a pluralist democracy in which minorities are respected.”

From the statements by several Irish bishops, and so many Catholic lay people, it doesn’t look like Catholicism in Ireland will die.  It will certainly look different than it has in the past, but isn’t that appropriate for a church who follows a Savior who said, “See! I make all things new!”  The referendum offers all Catholics in Ireland an opportunity to build a society and a church that is based on the equality of all.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

(This post ends our series on the commetaries concerning the marriage equality referendum in Ireland.  For previous posts on the Irish results, see the list below.)

Related articles and  posts:

Crux: “Lamenting the Church’s loss of influence in Ireland”

Bondings 2.0:  The Personal Dimension of Ireland’s Marriage Equality Victory

Bondings 2.0: How Did Catholic Ireland Achieve Such a Definitive Victory for Marriage Equality?

Bondings 2.0: Bishop: Referendum Not ‘Defeat for Humanity,’ But Increases Human Happiness

Bondings 2.0: “Cardinal Kasper: After Ireland, Same-Sex Unions Now ‘Central Issue’ for 2015 Synod

Bondings 2.0: Vatican’s ‘Defeat for Humanity’ Statement Shows Church Officials Have Not Learned from the Irish Example

Bondings 2.0: Irish Referendum Results Warrant a “Reality Check” for the Church Says Dublin Archbishop

Bondings 2.0:  A Great Day for Irish Lay Catholics! And for Lay Catholics in El Salvador, Too!


The Personal Dimension of Ireland’s Marriage Equality Victory

June 5, 2015

Continuing our coverage on the Irish referendum on marriage equality, we turn today from the political to the personal.  Many people commenting on the vote have noted that the effects of this social change in Ireland will be felt beyond the new political reality of gay and lesbian couples marrying.

Perhaps no one expressed these other effects as poignantly as Irish priest, Father Martin Dolan who received a standing ovation from his parishioners a few months back when he came out as gay while giving a sermon in support of marriage equality.  After the referendum, the Dublin pastor told the Irish Times that he now feels accepted in Irish society.   Countering Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s statement that the Church needed to find new language to discuss their view of sexuality, Dolan offered a different view of what the referendum’s results mean:

“With great respect, it is not a new language that we need but a new way of being and living.”

Donnachadh McCarthy, a long-time Irish gay advocate, wrote in the Irish Examiner that he “cried lots of tears every time I watched the coverage of the positive marriage equality referendum.” The reason for his tears is that he remembers a time when things were not so positive for LGBT people, and he marvels at the speedy change that Ireland has experienced:

“When I came out in Cork, in my late teens in 1979, the punishment by law for sleeping with your partner was life imprisonment with hard labour.

“I had two gay friends brutally murdered in homophobic attacks — one was left in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs with 27 knife wounds and the other left tied up with a knife through his heart.”

Less than 36 years later, the nation voted in marriage equality, he stated, and he asked the people of Ireland to remember those pioneers who had paved the way for this victory:

“So, let’s take a moment to remember with love the gay people murdered in Ireland over the centuries, and those who took their own lives because they could not take the mental pain any more.

“Then let’s also truly celebrate that the new generation of young people — gay, straight, bi — who can grow up to love and marry if they wish, whoever their heart leads them to do so.”

Following a similar sentiment to McCarthy’s, Ger O’Keefe, who campaigned for the “Yes” organization, expressed a hope that the referendum would send a strong message to the LGBT youth of Ireland. Reuters captured the thought:

“It changes everything, the worries and fears I had as a young gay kid in Ireland, they’re all gone.

“This will tell kids now that you don’t need to be afraid.”

And, the referendum was a victory for the “personal” dimension in the political realm.  Former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, was a strong supporter of the “Yes” campaign, in part because she is also the mother of a gay son.  In an Associated Press story before the referendum, she explained the personal dimension of the issue for her, and for so many other Irish families:

” ‘A yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A no vote costs our gay children everything,’ former President Mary McAleese said at a gay rights event in Dublin this week after her only son, a 30-year-old airline executive, revealed he is gay. McAleese, a canon scholar and former legal adviser to the church, spoke of her son’s experience of bullying and isolation as a teenager, and of friends who learned that their own sons were gay only when they tried to kill themselves.”

The parental sentiment was echoed on the other side of the Atlantic by Paula Mattras, of Fort Myers, Florida, who leads a support group of Catholic parents of LGBT people.  Mattras commented on the Irish vote:

“As the mother of a gay son who has felt the overwhelming desire to protect him against those who would call him disordered and negate his many outstanding qualities, or deny him the same opportunities afforded anyone else, I find the Irish vote not as much of a protest against an ecclesiastical argument, but rather an enlightened realization and confirmation of the qualities and normal human activities that our GLBT loved ones share with humanity.”

It was the many personal discussions that people had in Ireland, a community of tightly-knit communities, that made made the difference in this referendum, as Donny Mahoney noted in a Politico article we cited on a blog post a few days ago. People knowing people knowing people is what made the difference.

Professor Paul Lakeland of Fairfield University, Connecticut, identified this dynamic in a blog post about the Irish vote.  He notices the same dynamic in his U.S. college students:

“In my long years as a teacher of mostly Catholic undergraduates I have found the growing support for gays and lesbians to have nothing much to do with moral relativism and everything to do with encountering and befriending gay and lesbian kids in high school.”

Indeed, as Lakeland asks why Catholics support marriage equality, he offers three possible reasons, two of which, the first and third, focus on the personal dimension, not the intellectual:

“First, perhaps the fact that Catholics have a celibate clergy that includes a large number of gay men means that the fear bred from ignorance is less likely to be operative than in other traditions. Second, could it be that a natural law approach to ethical questions, that is, that reason should guide our thinking and our conclusions,  is bred into the Catholic bone? Third, might Catholics be so imbued with the sacramental principle that they recognize any expression of genuine love to be evidence of God’s presence in the world, and hence to be cherished rather than condemned?”

Benjamin Brenkert explained that youth see this personal dimension as primary in their thinking.  In a blog post on Believe Out Loudhe said:

“Catholic youth want a different Church – they want a Church that publicly recognizes their friends, family members and colleagues.”

This Irish moment will surely bring about much good for LGBT people beyond the institution of marriage.  So many in Ireland are looking forward to a vast improvement in the quality of life for all LGBT people, whether they choose to marry or not.  This is just one more reason why it is so important that marriage be extended to all loving couples, regardless of the gender of the partners. This political change will bring about much personal happiness for all.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Vatican’s ‘Defeat for Humanity’ Statement Shows Church Officials Have Not Learned from the Irish Example

May 28, 2015

Reactions to Ireland’s historic referendum vote to establish same-gender marriage in that nation have brought responses from around the globe.  The latest reaction came from the Vatican Secretary of State who said it was “Not a defeat for Christian principles, it was a defeat for humanity.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Religion News Service noted that Cardinal Pietro Parolin made this comment while speaking on Vatican Radio, and that he also noted “The Church must take account of this reality, but in the sense of reinforcing its commitment to evangelization.”

This reaction from a high Vatican official differed from those of someone closer to Ireland, Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who had stated that he thought the Church needed to consider the views of young people on this and other issues:

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

Martin also acknowledged that gay and lesbian people would see the new legal option “enriching as the way they live”–a far cry from calling it a threat to humanity.

Parolin’s remarks seem to be part of a shift from the more positive rhetoric that Pope Francis had been employing in regard to LGBT issues. More recently, however, Pope Francis has made it clear that he opposes marriage equality initiatives. His speech at a Vatican-sponsored conference on “sexual complementarity” last fall, and an address about marriage and family during his visit to the Philippines are two examples. Yet, as a Guardian analysis of Parolin’s remarks pointed out:

“Parolin differed from the pope in one respect: the Argentinian pontiff has also used the phrase ‘defeat for humanity,’ but he was talking about war, not the legalisation of gay marriage.”

The heightened rhetoric of Parolin, though, is not only harmful because it is so harsh, but because it shows that Vatican officials have not yet absorbed the lesson of Ireland.  Throughout this past week, commentators have remarked on the significant change that this vote represents.  Even Archbishop Diarmuid Martin referred to it as a “social revolution.”

For instance, the Irish victory has emboldened other nations to go forward, with leaders in Italy and Germany calling for  similar votes.  In Germany, though many in the ruling Christian Democratic Union party  and the Green party are calling for marriage equality, Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken against it. Following Ireland’s example, Greenland’s parliament voted to adopt Danish laws on marriage equality.  The Irish victory has re-introduced the topic of marriage equality into Australia’s parliament. While Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister opposes the discussion, Bill Shorter, an opposition leader asked:

“If the Irish people can vote in favour of marriage equality, the question has to be asked, what is Tony Abbott’s problem with it?”

Indeed, Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist, has pointed out something that we have noted on this blog for a long time:  that Catholic people and Catholic nations have been in the forefront of the LGBT equality movement around the globe.  In speaking of Irish and other Catholic voters, Bruni said:

“They aren’t sloughing off their Catholicism — not exactly, not entirely. An overwhelming majority of them still identify as Catholic. But they’re incorporating religion into their lives in a manner less rooted in Rome.

“We journalists too often use ‘the Catholic Church’ as a synonym for the pope, the cardinals and teachings that have the Vatican’s stamp of approval.

“But in Europe and the Americas in particular, the church is much more fluid than that. It harbors spiritually inclined people paying primary obeisance to their own consciences, their own senses of social justice. That impulse and tradition are as Catholic as any others.”

With such momentum underway on the part of many nations and Catholic populations, Parolin’s extreme language will only continue to alienate people from Catholicism. It seems that he hasn’t learned that such language only pushes people further away. In Ireland, Fr. Brendan Hoban, a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in that country, observed that strong opposition messages from the bishops there worked against the hierachy’s goal.  Hoban stated in an Irish Times article:

“It was clear from the beginning that the bishops’ decision in policy terms to campaign for a blunt No vote was alienating even the most conservative of Irish Catholics. . . . [The referendum results highlighted] the gap between the church and a significant number of its people… It is so out of tune with the needs of the people.”

In the same article, Fr. Tony Flannery, another co-founder of ACP observed how the bishops’ strategy was not only a political, but a pastoral mistake. He said:

“[T]he day of doctrinaire Catholicism is over in this country. The people are no longer willing to listen to speeches and sermons on morality from the church.

“What was ‘particularly sad was to see the bishops in total opposition to a mass movement of the younger generation.’

“The very people whom the church should be trying to listen to, and trying to learn a way of communicating effectively with, were the ones they were driving further away with all their pastorals in each diocese.”

Instead of ramping up the negative rhetoric, bishops and church officials should focus on another form of communication which LGBT Catholics and supporters have requested for decades: dialogue.  Indeed, that was the message of Dave Donnellan, secretary of “Gay Catholic Voice of Ireland,” the LGBT Catholic organization in the Emerald Isle.  In a statement responding to the referendum vote, Donnellan spoke of the joy the members of his organization felt, but also added:

“As gay Catholics this profound joy was, however, tinged with deep disappointment that our own Church opposed this change. Whilst Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s comment that the Catholic Church needs a ‘reality check’ was noted, if this ‘reality check’ does not involve sitting down and having a dialogue with LGBT Catholics in his own diocese then it is of little value.”

If the Irish example teaches anything, it should teach church leaders that dialogue is the answer to how to proceed regarding not only marriage equality, but all LGBT issues.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

(Editor’s note:  There has been so much written on the landmark Irish referendum ushering in marriage equality that it has been hard to keep up with all of it.  Expect another post in a few days with more responses and analysis.)

Related articles

New York Times: “Vatican Official Denounces Ireland’s Vote for Same-Sex Marriage”

Crux: “Vatican: Irish marriage vote was a defeat for humanity”

Gay City News: “After This, No Exile: A Gay Priest Reflects on Ireland’s Declaration of Independence”

Religion Dispatches: “Did Ireland Just Bury the Catholic Church?”

Crux: “Irish voters were not swayed by their Church”

Huffington Post: “The Irish Referendum and the Future of Catholicism”

 


A Great Day for Irish Lay Catholics! And for Lay Catholics in El Salvador, Too!

May 23, 2015

The following is the statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, on the occasion of Ireland voting to legalize marriage for lesbian and gay couples:

Today, headlines around the world announced Catholic news from two different parts of the globe, which may seem disparate, but which share an important common theme.

Crowds outside Dublin Castle celebrate Ireland’s marriage equality victory.

In Ireland, one of the most Catholic nations on earth, hundreds of thousands voted overwhelmingly in a general referendum to enact marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.

In El Salvador, a strongly Catholic nation, hundreds of thousands turned out for beatification ceremonies for Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was martyred 35 years ago while celebrating Mass.

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

In Ireland, the Catholic bishops spoke out consistently against the establishment of marriage equality.  Their statements have been documented here on this blog.  But lay people insisted that allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry was consistent with Catholic principles of equality, fairness, human dignity, and family stability.

In El Salvador, lay people instantly declared Romero as a saint at the time of his death, but his cause for canonization was hindered during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI because Vatican officials feared any possible endorsement of liberation theology.  But lay people, especially those who were living in poverty, insisted that Romero, who defended their rights and human dignity fearlessly, was indeed worthy of veneration as a martyr.

Crowds gather for the beatification Mass for Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador.

In both of these cases, the prayers and work of lay people have won out over hierarchical reluctance.

New Ways Ministry prays with joy for both nations for their courage and determination to bring about justice and Catholic ideals into the public square.

There is still work to be done in both cases. In El Salvador, the advancement towards canonizing Romero as a saint must still be completed. The support of Pope Francis in this case may help to speed up the process.

In Ireland, the Catholic Church there needs to learn to work together once again–hierarchy and laity.  There will be pastoral work needed to help unite Catholics who were opposed during the marriage equality campaign.  U.S. bishops who have been involved in marriage equality debates have yet to do this type of work, and our church is hurting and losing many of the faithful because of omission of this step.

In Ireland, the job may be a bit lighter because the hierarchy’s leader, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin (vice- president of the nation’s bishops conference) has been extremely courteous in their opposition to marriage equality.  While maintaining consistent and strong opposition to marriage equality, he also voiced respect for those who held a different opinion.  He worked hard for his position, but he worked even harder to make sure that those who disagreed with him would not be alienated from the Church.

Congratulations and prayerful thanks to the Catholics of Ireland who have shown what we here in the U.S. have known for a long time:  that Catholic lay people support marriage equality because they are Catholic, not in spite of being Catholic.

Congratulations and prayerful best wishes to the Catholics of El Salvador who have shown that the preferential option for the poor is a pillar of Catholicism and that our church should honor those who live out that principle even in the face of violent opposition.

Yesterday was a day when, to paraphrase Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  the arc of the moral universe bent a little more toward justice.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


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

May 8, 2015

Ireland’s upcoming referendum on marriage equality has evoked the expected opposition from the Catholic hierarchy in that nation, sometimes approaching an extremist tone, such as publicly considering that Catholic priests would not be allowed to perform any wedding ceremony–heterosexual or homosexual–if the electorate approves legal marriage for lesbian and gay couples.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Yet, recently, the archbishop of Dublin has offered a more reconciliatory tone.  While he still opposes the marriage equality law, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has also called for “an ethic of equality” which would include legal protections for gay and lesbian committed couples.

London’s Tablet reported on the archbishop’s comments, made at All Hallows’ College, Dublin, during an address to diocesan communications specialists. You can read the entire text of his talk on the Archdiocese of Dublin website. I will excerpt some of the main points in this blog post.

The main point of Martin’s talk is to defend the issue of complementarity as essential to marriage and social and human stability.  For most of his talk, he explains his reasons for this defense.  He also argues for the importance of theological input into social and political debates.  If one were to read only this section of the talk, one might think that this was his only point, but towards the end of his talk, his subject he considers the situation of lesbian and gay people.

After discussing Pope Francis’ example of openness to lesbian and gay issues, he examines the idea of equality:

“An ethics of equality does not require uniformity. There can be an ethic of equality which is an ethic of recognising and respecting difference. A pluralist society can be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation have their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference, while respecting the uniqueness of the male-female relationship.”

Martin also critiqued people who cite Pope Francis in a positive way when they discuss Catholic support for marriage equality, saying that the pontiff has clearly expressed his defense of heterosexual marriage and complementarity. Of these Catholics, Martin said:

“I find it interesting that many of those supporting the yes campaign object to the use of religious language, but they are not shy in quoting Pope Francis in support of their arguments, although I feel that their knowledge of Pope Francis’ repertoire is somewhat restricted.”

He presented the pontiff’s view of same-gender marriage and LGBT people, noting that neither conservatives nor progressives are completely happy with the nuanced position:

“In the debates around same-sex marriage in Argentina, Pope Francis was unequivocal in his judgment about its non-admissibility, yet he consistently told people not to judge any individual. Many find that a position of that kind is untenable: certain things, they will say, are simply wrong and to be condemned and there is no way in which we can countenance any response except repentance and change of life style. Others will say that the only way in which the Church can show mercy is by changing its teaching. Pope Francis espouses neither of these positions in isolation.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin

More important than the content about same-gender relationships, however, is the Dublin archbishop’s discussion of traditional hierarchical discourse about marriage equality. In the same week that Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the Primate of Ireland warned that religious freedom would be endangered by passage of marriage equality, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin took a more reconciliatory approach.

Diarmuid Martin, who in the past has acknowledged that church leaders and others have too often spoken negatively to and about LGBT people, admitted that he may not been as credible by some:

“I know that the harshness with which the Irish Church treated gay and lesbian people in the past – and in some cases still today – may make it hard for LGBT people to accept that I am sincere in what I am proposing.”

Noting that hierarchical language has often been “insensitive and overly judgemental,” Martin advised:

“The Church has to learn to voice its criticism clearly and without fear, but it must always do so in language which respects her Master.”

He recognized that the harsh language has been one of the biggest ways that bishops have failed in getting across their view of marriage:

“The problem in many ways is that the Church has often in the past presented its message poorly. What is a message of love was presented in language that was harsh. What was rational argument was presented as a dogma which all should accept. The truth about Jesus Christ can only be proclaimed in love.”

Martin has made the case for a more civil debate about LGBT people before and has called on church leaders to be more courteous and respectful in their discussions.

Ireland’s referendum will be held on May 22nd.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

 

Irish Times: “Churchgoers give their views on marriage referendum”

Belfast Telegraph: “Catholic bishops urge ‘No’ vote in Republic of Ireland’s marriage equality referendum”

The Independent: “Voting No to same-sex marriage is not homophobic, say bishops”

The Journal: “Senior Archbishop warns: Church could face legal action for opposing gay marriage”

Irish Times: “Interfering with definition of marriage not a ‘trivial matter’ “

The Independent: “Catholics fear being labelled homophobic – Primate”


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,326 other followers