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)
Read more at

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


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

July 6, 2015

In Bondings 2.0’s continuing effort to try to chronicle all the key Catholic reactions to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling,  we’ve mostly been compiling snippets of responses into a series of posts [For a complete list of past reaction posts, see the bottom of this post, below my signature.]

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Yet one Catholic commentator’s analytical response stands out over the rest of them for its incisive distinctions and its hopeful suggestions, and so it warrants examination in a post of its own.  Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter is a seasoned church observer and political analyst who has responded to the court ruling by writing a column explaining “How the bishops should respond to the same-sex marriage decision.”

Reese doesn’t usually mince words, but even for him, his opening paragraph was particularly pointed:

“With the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage throughout the United States, the U.S. Catholic bishops need a new strategy going forward. The bishops’ fight against gay marriage has been a waste of time and money. The bishops should get a new set of priorities and a new set of lawyers.”

His enlightening factual account cuts through the rhetoric of some marriage equality opponents who have tried to predict a religious freedom nightmare looming:

“First, let’s make clear what the decision does not do. It does not require religious ministers to perform same-sex marriages, nor does it forbid them from speaking out against gay marriage. These rights are protected by the First Amendment. The court has also made clear that a church has complete freedom in hiring and firing ministers for any reason.”

Reese then analogizes marriage equality law with divorce law, something bishops in the past vociferously opposed, but later, after passage, have come to accept.  He extends this analogy into some specific recommendations:

“Today, Catholic institutions rarely fire people when they get divorced and remarried. Divorced and remarried people are employed by church institutions, and their spouses get spousal benefits. No one is scandalized by this. No one thinks that giving spousal benefits to a remarried couple is a church endorsement of their lifestyle.

“If bishops in the past could eventually accept civil divorce as the law of the land, why can’t the current flock of bishops do the same for gay marriage? Granted all the publicity around the church’s opposition to gay marriage, no one would think they were endorsing it.”

Perhaps most importantly,  Reese exposes the falsehood that religious liberty will be compromised because of marriage equality.  He shows, through a number of examples, how in the past Catholic church leaders, civic leaders, and business people have accommodated themselves, in a morally justified manner, to new laws they may disagree with:

“Let’s be perfectly clear. In Catholic morality, there is nothing to prohibit a Catholic judge or clerk from performing a same-sex marriage. Nor is there any moral obligation for a Catholic businessperson to refuse to provide flowers, food, space and other services to a same-sex wedding. Because of all the controversy over these issues in the media, the bishops need to be clear that these are not moral problems for Catholic government officials or Catholic business people.

“Again, Catholic judges have performed weddings for all applicants, including Catholics who are getting married in violation of church teaching. Catholic business people have provided services to any wedding party, including those of divorced Catholics marrying outside the church. Similarly, there is no moral problem for them to do the same for gay couples.”

Yet, Reese doesn’t stop there.  In addition to recommending that bishops give up their resistance to marriage equality  (“It is time for the bishops to admit defeat and move on. Gay marriage is here to stay, and it is not the end of civilization as we know it.”),  he also suggests that they start to be pro-active in other areas of LGBT equality.  For example, Reese observes:

“Currently, there is no federal law forbidding discrimination against gay people in employment or housing, but an increasing number of states are enacting such legislation. Will the bishops fight the passage of these laws out of fear of their impact on Catholic institutions?

The better strategy for the U.S. bishops is to imitate the Mormon church that worked together with gay activists on the enactment of laws against discrimination in employment and housing in Utah. . . . John Wester, now archbishop of Santa Fe, N.M., supported this legislation when he was bishop of Salt Lake City.”

Reese’s pragmatic approach also covers possible religious freedom questions which may emerge.  His principle is that gay and lesbian couples should not be treated any differently by church institutions than any other couple who does not exemplify the Church’s sexuality teaching:

“For example, Catholic colleges and universities that provide housing for married couples are undoubtedly going to be approached for housing by same-sex couples. Unless the schools can get states to carve out an exception for them in anti-discrimination legislation, they could be forced to provide such housing.

“But since they already provide housing to couples married illicitly according to the church, no one should see such housing as an endorsement of someone’s lifestyle. And granted all the sex going on at Catholic colleges and universities, giving housing to a few gay people who have permanently committed themselves to each other in marriage would hardly be considered a great scandal.”

By the same principle of equal treatment, Reese says the church could grant employee spousal benefits in the same way that they do for others couples in what the Church would call “irregular marriages.”

Towards the end of his essay, Reese tackles the complicated question of adoption by lesbian and gay couples, and he critiques the claim made by Pope Francis and other bishops that children need a mother and a father.  This kind of thinking, he notes, is not valid:

First, it casts doubt on the millions of single parents who are heroically raising their children without spousal support.

“Second, it has a narrow vision of the family. The church has traditionally recognized the importance of uncles, aunts and grandparents in the raising of children. There will be other sexes in the extended families of these children.

“Third, often, same-sex couples adopt children whom no one else wants. Would these children be better off in foster homes or orphanages?

“Finally, there is no evidence that children of same-sex couples suffer as a result of their upbringing. The original study that argued that children raised by same-sex couples did not do as well as those raised by heterosexual couples has been proven faulty.”

And after noting the wealth of social scientific research on the healthy development of children raised by lesbian and gay couples, Reese states:

“Just as Pope Francis depended on scientific consensus when dealing with the environment, the church should also consult the best of social science before making sweeping assertions about children and families.”  [The link in this sentence was added by Bondings 2.0, not by Reese.]

Reese concludes with a clarion call for the U.S. bishops to widen their pastoral and teaching scope beyond the area of sexuality:

“It is time for the U.S. bishops to pivot to the public policy priorities articulated by Pope Francis: care for the poor and the environment and the promotion of peace and interreligious harmony. Their fanatical opposition to the legalization of gay marriage has made young people look on the church as a bigoted institution with which they do not want to be associated. As pastors, they should be talking more about God’s compassion and love rather than trying to regulate people’s sexual conduct through laws. “

I have nothing more to add to Reese’s remarks other than to say that I think this is the best Catholic analysis I have read so far on the marriage equality ruling by the Supreme Court.   If you want to read the entire essay by Reese, and I recommend that you do, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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

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

 


Celebrate U.S. & Irish Marriage Equality with a Pilgrimage to the Emerald Isle!

July 2, 2015

As people here in the U.S. continue to bask in the exhilaration of the new reality of marriage equality across the nation, there have been many exciting ways that people have been celebrating this past week.

Here’s an idea for your consideration if you are looking for new ways to celebrate:  go on a Catholic LGBT-friendly pilgrimage to Ireland, the first nation to enact marriage equality by popular vote!

Jeannine Malta

Sister Jeannine Gramick

New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, has just announced that she will be leading an eight-day pilgrimage to the Emerald Isle in April 2016.  Entitled “Ireland: Land of Rainbows and Wedding Bells,” this journey is a perfect way for Catholics in both countries to celebrate together their two historic marriage equality victories that occurred just about one month apart from each other.

In addition to visiting historic and sacred sights connected to Ireland’s Catholic heritage, the pilgrims will be meeting with members of Gay Catholic Voice Ireland, the national Catholic LGBT ministry, and will participate in a monthly Mass and social in a Catholic parish in Dublin which has been established for LGBT people and their families.

News of the pilgrimage was heralded on Yahoo yesterday, with an article by Jo Piazza, who wrote If Nuns Ruled the World: 10 Sisters on a Missionwhich included a chapter on Sister Jeannine’s ministry with the LGBT community.  Piazza described the trip:

Jeannine, a Sister of Loretto, is a big world traveler. This was just the most recent in nearly two decades of gay and lesbian pilgrimages that she has led around the world. Hers is a highly specialized group tour. It’s targeted to gay and lesbian Catholics and their families and is led by a Catholic sister.

A sister? Yup.

She’s a spitfire of a woman, and I can imagine that she is a ton of fun to travel with.

Piazza interviewed Sister Jeannine about her 20 years of leading Catholic LGBT pilgrimages.  They discussed the February 2015 Italy trip, in which Sister Jeannine’s pilgrimage group were provided with VIP seating at the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square on Ash Wednesday.  Sister Jeannine commented on what that welcome meant to her then and now:

“Of course, there is special significance to this particular pilgrimage we took to Italy. Our 50 pilgrims, that included 7 same-sex couples, were invited to special seats within 25 yards of Pope Francis at the papal audience on Ash Wednesday. Just as LGBT people, their families, and friends were welcomed to the Vatican, the SCOTUS decision on June 26 welcomes lesbian and gay couples into the civil family.”

An image of the rainbow which appeared in the sky over Dublin on the day Ireland voted in marriage equality.

Included in the upcoming pilgrimage to Ireland will be visits to places of Catholic and LGBT importance, as well as those of ancient and contemporary Irish history, including:   Our Lady of Knock Shrine,  Oscar Wilde’s home, sites important to both St. Brigid and St. Patrick, the Book of Kells at Trinity College, the Convent where Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy and where she is buried, murals in Belfast commemorating victims of modern religious conflicts, and a museum dedicated to the S.S. Titanic, built in Ireland.

The Ireland pilgrimage will take place on April 11-18, 2016.  The cost, including round-trip airfare from Newark, N.J., is $2,599, which also covers breakfast and supper every day, all admissions, hotel accommodations, and all transfers.   For more information, please visit the New Ways Ministry website to view and download a PDF brochure for the trip, including registration form.   Or contact New Ways Ministry in one of three ways to request a brochure: email: info@NewWaysMinistry.org; phone: 301-277-5674; postal mail:  New Ways Ministry, 4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, MD 20712.

So if you are looking for special and unique way to celebrate marriage equality here in the U.S., consider joining with Catholic LGBT people, friends, family members, supporters, and pastoral ministers in making a pilgrimage to Ireland where your joy will surely be doubled!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


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

June 30, 2015

Today’s compilation of Catholic responses to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality begins with an interesting hypothetical response, written one day before the decision was issued.  Also included in today’s list are further comments from New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo, three bishops, and others.

Reverend Tom Washburn, OFM

Reverend Tom Washburn, OFM, Executive Secretary of the English Speaking Conference of Franciscan Provincial Ministers, who blogs at AFriarsLife.blogspot.com:

After reviewing Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s statement that the Catholic Church needs to do a “reality check” on same-gender marriage, Fr. Washburn proposed, on the day before the Supreme Court ruled on marriage, a possible statement for the U.S. bishops to issue (the boldface emphases are Washburn’s):

“A possible response of the U.S. Bishops: ‘Today, in a truly landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision, the result of which makes it legal for people of the same-sex to contract a legal marriage in the United States. To the extent that this decision represents the end of discrimination and oppression of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as a group of people, we rejoice with them. The Catholic Church has long opposed discrimination under the law in all of its forms and we rejoice whenever such legal discrimination is cast aside in favor of progress toward the recognition of the equality of all people. We rejoice with those who welcome this movement of liberation. We understand that civil law is different than church law or theology, and our tradition as well as current and long-held theological understanding of the sacrament of marriage continues to be that sacramental marriage is a union between a man and a woman. But, we also understand the desire of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to find long term, lasting, loving and committed relationships. The Church in recent years has struggled in its attempts to reconcile all of these positions in a coherent way that leads all her children to Christ without making some feel as though they are not welcome within our walls and our communities, or that we desire anything less than a full, happy and fulfilled life for them. What we ask of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters today is this: please, keep struggling with us; let’s continue to dialogue together. We need you and hopefully, you need us too. Please continue to be active members of our parishes and communities and help us understand one another better and figure out how we all walk to Jesus together.’ “

(From a blog post on AFriarsLife.blogspot.com)

Archbishop Blase Cupich

Archbishop Blase Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago:

“. . . [T]he United States Supreme Court has ruled that two persons of the same sex have a constitutional right to marry each other. In doing so, the Court has re-defined civil marriage. The proposed reason for the ruling is the protection of equal rights for all citizens, including those who identify themselves as gay. The rapid social changes signaled by the Court ruling call us to mature and serene reflections as we move forward together. In that process, the Catholic Church will stand ready to offer a wisdom rooted in faith and a wide range of human experience.

“It is important to note that the Catholic Church has an abiding concern for the dignity of gay persons. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: ‘They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’ (n. 2358). This respect must be real, not rhetorical, and ever reflective of the Church’s commitment to accompanying all people. For this reason, the Church must extend support to all families, no matter their circumstances, recognizing that we are all relatives, journeying through life under the careful watch of a loving God.”  (From a statement)

Kaya Oakes

Kaya Oakes, Author, The Nones Are Alright (Orbis Books: October, 2015): 

Noting that church leaders risk alienating the whole generation of younger Catholics if their responses to marriage equality are “defensive and strident,”  Oakes stated:

“Catholics under 50 were brought up in a time when same-sex relationships were more and more accepted and presented to them in media, so they’re acclimated to that as a fairly normal thing. When they hear the opposite message coming from faith leaders, it’s alienating. . . . Even just a change of tone would be a step in the right direction.”  (From a news article on Crux)

 

 

Bishop Michael Jarrell

Bishop Michael Jarrell, Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana:

“I realize that this ruling will create conscience problems for many Catholics, especially those in public office. In some cases civil disobedience may be a proper response. No priest or deacon of this Diocese may participate in the civil solemnization of celebration of same-sex marriage. All Catholics are urged not to attend same-sex marriage ceremonies. No Catholic facility or property, including but not limited to parishes, missions, chapels, meeting halls, Catholic educational, health or charitable institutions, or facilities belonging to benevolent orders may be used for the solemnization of same sex marriage.” (From a statement)

SLS Professional

Ish Ruiz

Ish Ruiz, a Catholic school teacher in San Francisco, will begin doctoral studies in the fall at the Graduate Theological Union,Berkeley:

“The Church has always taught that the Holy Spirit speaks through the laity as well as the hierarchy. I hope the decision from the Supreme court, combined with polls that show that the majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage, encourages the hierarchy to be more in touch with the people, the sense of the faithful.

“[Ruiz] wondered if Church leaders might ‘challenge themselves’ to listen to those with different opinions about marriage and relationships, asking themselves, ‘Hey maybe we don’t have all the answers, maybe there’s more to this issue than we’ve been teaching so far.’ ” (From an interview and a news article on Crux)

“Pope Francis encouraged bishops to allow themselves “to be surprised by God, the God of surprises.” I pray the Church continues to engage with the sense of the faithful, especially those that are LGBTQ+, through dialogue. That door must always remain open.”

 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.:

Cardinal Wuerl issued a public statement on the Supreme Court ruling, and he also sent a four-page letter to the archdiocese’s priests, giving directions on their pastoral response in light of the new reality of marriage equality.

The National Catholic Reporter quoted from this letter in a news article by Tom Roberts, Editor-At-Large:

” ‘Are people who share our faith but struggle with the church’s understanding about marriage still welcome at church?’ And he answers, ‘Because Jesus came to save all people, all are invited to be a part of god’s family – his church.’

“The welcome, he said, ‘is extended to everyone: married couples with children, unwed mothers and fathers, the single unmarried, couples who struggle with infertility, men and women with same-sex attraction, individuals facing gender issues, those whose marriages have broken down and suffered the trauma of divorce, people with special needs, immigrants, children born and unborn, the young, seniors, and the terminally ill, sinners and saints alike. If the church were to welcome only those without sin, it would be empty.’

“Accepting the person, however, doesn’t mean accepting everything one does. ‘Church teaching and common sense make a distinction between who a person is and what that person does.’   Condemnation of sin doesn’t mean condemnation of the person, writes Wuerl. ‘The church has and always will meet people where they are to bring them closer to Christ. . . .’

“The practical challenge for the church and its agencies, he said, is the need ‘to balance two important values, the provision of appropriate health care benefits for all church personnel including their spouses, and the avoidance of the perception that by doing so we accept a definition of marriage and spouse contrary to faith and revealed truth.’ (From a news article in The National Catholic Reporter)

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry:

In addition to issuing New Ways Ministry’s official statement on June 26, 2015, DeBernardo also penned an essay on Crux and commented to The National Catholic Reporter on the significance of the decision.

In the Crux essay, DeBernardo wrote:

Instead of continuing to fight political and legal battles, creating bigger and stronger walls against American society, the U.S. bishops should follow instead the way of reconciliation with the larger culture, and with their Church’s own alienated members.

DeBernardo offered the following suggestions for the bishops:

  1. Initiate a dialogue with the vast majority of US Catholics who support marriage equality and LGBT issues.
  2. Institute a moratorium on firing employees from Catholic institutions because of marriage equality.
  3. Give up their campaign for religious liberty they have been waging to oppose marriage equality.
  4. Work toward reconciling Catholics who have been on opposite sides of this issue.
  5. Educate themselves about LGBT people and issues in two ways:
  • Open dialogues with LGBT Catholics and their family members to learn about the everyday reality of their lives and their faith.
  • Avail themselves of the wealth of Catholic theological writing which for the past 40 years has been calling on the Church to recognize the goodness and holiness of gay and lesbian relationships. (From an op-ed on Crux.)

In a National Catholic Reporter article , DeBernardo added the following reaction:

“I think that while the law has changed, people’s hearts and minds are not going to change until they see same-sex marriage in practice. That is the significance of this. It paves the way for people in parts of the country where marriage equality doesn’t exist to see the benefits of same-sex marriage and that it’s nothing to fear. . . . 

“There are still a lot of places in the United States where that education and familiarization still has to happen. One of them being the U.S. Catholic bishops. They have shielded themselves from knowledge of the reality of lesbian and gay couples.”  (From a news article in The National Catholic Reporter)

Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

The Progressive Catholic Voice: Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops’ Response to the Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Ruling

Crux:  “In wake of Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling, some bishops call for calm”

Los Angeles Times: “Catholics see same-sex marriage ruling in disparate lights”

 

 


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

 


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