“Taking a few steps is something most people take for granted. It is a fairly easy process at first thought, just one leg in front of the other. But the physical mechanics of beginning a journey are far more complex. Dozens of muscles must expand as others simultaneously contract, creating various tensions in the body that propel us forward. Though often viewed as something to be massaged away, tension is in fact a sign that we are alive.
“If the church functions like a human body, as St. Paul claims, then it follows that within it there must be tensions.”
It’s good to keep that in mind when the going gets rough.
Pope Francis has made his most specific and critical statement about families headed by same-gender couples by stating that children should be raised “in the complementarity of the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother.”
“it is necessary to emphasize the right of children to grow up within a family, with a father and a mother able to create a suitable environment for their development and emotional maturity. Continuing to mature in the relationship, in the complementarity of the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother, and thus preparing the way for emotional maturity.”
Pope Francis further stated:
“Working for human rights presupposes keeping anthropological formation alive, being well-prepared regarding the reality of the human person, and knowing how to respond to the problems and challenges posed by contemporary cultures and mentalities that are spread by the mass media. . . .
“At times it is necessary to flee; at times it is necessary to stop to protect oneself; and at times one must fight. But always with tenderness.”
For those who have been lifted up by the pope’s more positive remarks on LGBT issues, these new words will come as a shock. Though the pontiff has been developing a reputation as being progressive, many have warned all along that his thinking on women and gender have needed development. Since the heart of these remarks focus on the outdated concept of “gender complementarity,” it seems reasonable to attribute these remarks, in part, to this blind spot of his.
Regardless of its origin in the pope’s thinking, this remark shows that Francis still needs to learn a lot about LGBT people and their families. That’s the bad news. The good news is that he seems open to learning more about sexuality and gender issues, witnessed in his call for lay people to provide their opinions on marriage and family issues in anticipation of the October 2014 synod on those topics.
This new statement seems to be stated in the typical style that Pope Francis has used over the past year: while he expresses support for heterosexual marriage and family structures, he definitely avoids any direct attacks against LGBT people and relationships. It sometimes seemed that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, went out of his way to criticize and condemn LGBT issues. That is not Pope Francis’ style. In a recent general audience he spoke about the beauty of heterosexual marriage, but did not use the praise of that institution as an occasion to explicitly disparage same-gender relationships. Here’s what he said at the Vatican on April 2nd, according to Religion News Service:
“When a man and a woman celebrate the sacrament of marriage, God is reflected in them. . . .
“As ‘one flesh’, they become living icons of God’s love in our world, building up the Church in unity and fidelity. The image of God is the married couple — not just the man, not just the woman, but both.”
He appears to be using the same strategy in the new example of praising families about headed by heterosexual couples. We don’t see him using accusations that children raised by same-gender couples experience “violence,” as Benedict often said. Instead, Francis remains silent on the topic.
While silence is not ideal, it is a welcome relief, and a good first step. But it is also not enough. While Francis has made some exciting and encouraging statements, some of them have been ambiguous, allowing some to develop strange interpretations, and sometimes forcing people to guess at what he meant.
Pope Francis could clear this up by making a clear, strongly positive statement on LGBT issues which will clear up any doubt about where he stands on these matters. Of course, we would most like him to speak clearly and forcefully against anti-LGBT laws that are being enacted around the globe. Or he could support employment rights for LGBT people working in Catholic institutions. A statement of support to LGBT youth who experience bullying and other forms of violence would also be helpful. (What kind of statement would you want the pope to make? Write your thoughts in a “Comment” to this post.)
If he needs any help formulating such statements, we are glad to help him. He can just give us a phone call–something that we know he likes to do!
Pope Francis’ response, or, more accurately, his lack of response to the passage of anti-gay laws and policies in places like Uganda, Nigeria, India, Russia, has been one of the more puzzling questions of the past few months for those interested in Catholic LGBT issues. This pope, who has expressed a greater openness toward LGBT human rights than any of his predecessors, and who has not shown any timidity on speaking out on controversial social issues has remained strangely silent on this vicious trend toward more repressive anti-gay laws.
Two recent essays analyze the papal silence. Both are worth reading in full, and contemplating seriously. I will summarize both, but recommend that you follow the links to read the entire articles.
O’Loughlin begins by noting that Pope Francis recently met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who signed the anti-gay bill. Yet, other than a vague statement about protecting human rights, the pope made no reference to the new law. O’Loughlin also describes local Catholic support and complicity for the new repressive measures in Africa:
Catholic bishops in Nigeria, in a letter to Jonathan, heralded the new law as “courageous” and “a clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand shoulders high in the protection of our Nigerian and African most valued cultures of the institution of marriage.” They weren’t the only religious leaders happy with a stepping-up of repression against gay Africans. In February, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill that threatens openly gay Ugandans with lifetime prison sentences. While Catholic leaders rejected the 2009 version of the bill, which contained an infamous death penalty provision, some bishops — as well as Anglican and Orthodox leaders — have been vocal in their support of the most recent measure. (Africa is the Roman Catholic Church’s fastest-growing region, in terms of membership.)
After examining the many ways that Francis has opened up the conversation about LGBT people in the Church over the past year, O’Loughlin speculates as to what might be the pope’s reason for silence:
“The disconnect between the pope’s words and actions stems partly from the fact that Pope Francis appears hesitant to become involved with what the Vatican considers local issues, which includes national laws punishing gay people for their sexual orientation. And although counterintuitive, this hesitance actually reflects a certain liberalism about the internal dynamics of the church: Catholic progressives, used to the rigid, authoritarian rule of Rome over the past few decades, have long wanted to see the devolution of power away from the Vatican. This was the only way, they believed, that lay people — with more access to bishops than to Rome’s highest echelons — could gain some input in the church’s decision-making processes.”
But, such a reason is not enough to justify his silence, O’Loughlin suggests. He calls on the pope to become a more vocal advocate for justice for LGBT people, if his initial gestures and statements are to have any real meaning:
“Yet if he truly wants to move forward, he will have to build on his initial outreach and ask, publicly, that Catholic bishops and other leaders keep up. If the pope truly wants the Catholic Church to chart a course for social justice around the world, his leadership on this issue must demonstrate that his powerful institution is a genuine voice for the oppressed.”
Pope Francis’ leadership in regard to these repressive laws is needed since local bishops have been so quick to support the anti-gay measures. Nigerian bishops were explicit in their support of the new law in their nation. Ugandan bishops, at first, were silent about their country’s law, but, as Jamie Manson points out in her column:
“That was until Monday, when, at a ‘thanksgiving’ celebration for the new law held in Kampala, their actions spoke louder than words.
“International media outlets reported that the thanksgiving rally and ceremony was organized by a nonspecific ‘coalition of religious leaders.’ But a photo in one of Uganda’s major newspapers revealed that Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala not only attended the thanksgiving celebration, he was part of a contingent of five clergymen (including a Muslim sheikh, a Pentecostal bishop and an Anglican bishop) who gave Museveni an engraved plaque to congratulate him for signing the bill.
“A YouTube video also shows Lwanga offering prayers at the ceremony for those ‘led astray in this vice of homosexuality.’ “
Manson notes why Catholic opinion is so important in Uganda:
“An estimated 44 percent of Uganda is Catholic, which suggests that the Roman Catholic hierarchy holds significant influence over the beliefs of the people and the development of public policy. By offering public praise of Museveni’s signing of this law, Lwanga has given his blessing to legislation that violates the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches that homosexual orientation is not a choice and that gays and lesbians should not be subjected to violence or social discrimination.”
She concludes with a call to the pope to exercise his leadership by putting substance behind his words:
“These repressive laws offer an opportunity for the pope’s now-legendary ‘Who am I to judge?’ comment to actually translate into action. No one is asking Pope Francis to change doctrine or create a revolution. We are only asking him to honor the catechism’s teaching that gays and lesbians should be ‘accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.’
“The global crisis of anti-homosexuality laws calls Pope Francis not only to uphold church doctrine, but to act on his own pastoral words — words that have inspired many to believe that the Catholic church has entered a new era of justice and dignity for the LGBT community worldwide.”
Both O’Loughlin and Manson mentioned New Ways Ministry’s #PopeSpeakOut Twitter campaign, now entering its third month. We, and other Catholic and LGBT groups have been asking people to send a tweet to the pope, asking him to speak out against this trend toward more repressive anti-LGBT laws. You can read more about the campaign here. And if you want to send a tweet or email to the pope, those tasks will be made easier for you if you check out our helpful resource by clicking here.
It is important for the pope to speak out. It is equally important for Catholics around the globe to speak out to the pope to let him know that our lived Catholic faith has taught us that anti-LGBT laws are not acceptable at all.
There’s a long history to the controversy between LGBT people wanting to march in St. Patrick’s Day Parades that dates back to the 1990s. This year, the debate about LGBT participation or exclusion is being waged in the two U.S. cities with the most prominent March 17th parades: New York and Boston.
New York City’s new mayor, Bill deBlasio, won’t be marching down Fifth Avenue today in the world’s oldest and largest parade celebrating Irish culture because he disagrees with the parade organizer’s decision to continue to prohibit marchers who want to carry signs expressing LGBT pride.
“The new mayor said he will participate in other events to honor New Yorkers of Irish descent on March 17. “But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city,’ he said. “
Though deBlasio’s decision differs from his immediate predecessor, some LGBT equality organizations are disappointed that the new mayor did not take a stronger stand:
“De Blasio’s predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was a supporter of gay rights but marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. De Blasio did not march when he served as the city’s public advocate. But he said he will not stop any city employee from marching in uniform.
“Gay groups in New York City acknowledge that court rulings have established the parade as a private, religious procession that may exclude gay groups. But allowing city workers such as police officers to march in uniform violates the city’s human rights laws, they argued in an open letter to de Blasio.”
BBC.comreported on Irish reaction on both sides of the Atlantic to deBlasio’s decision:
“Cahir O’Doherty in the New York-based Irish Central website counters that it’s important for gay Irish-Americans to be able to carry a banner in the parade ‘because if you are not seen you are not heard. And when you are neither seen nor heard, bad things can happen to you without anyone noticing. Gay people know this, but apparently quite a few others need to be reminded.’
“The parade controversy is making waves across the Atlantic, as well, where Irish government officials are split on whether to participate or join Mr de Blasio’s boycott. Irish Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, who will be in New York on St Patrick’s Day, has announced she will not march. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, on the other hand, has said he will travel to New York to attend.”
“It has just always seemed strange to me that gays were fighting so hard for so long to bust into such a hoary, boozy, corny tradition. Didn’t they have something more fun and cool to do? . . .
“But certainly, if gays want in, they should get in. And that’s why Mayor Bill de Blasio is right to blow off the parade in protest of the Putinesque restrictions.”
In Boston, a bastion of Irish-American culture and history, that city’s mayor did not march in the annual parade, which was held on Sunday, March 16th. His decision followed weeks of negotiations and decisions by gay rights groups, the city’s mayor, and others.
The Boston parade is organized by the South Boston War Veterans Council, and this year a group of gay veterans requested to march in the parade carrying a banner from Mass Equality, the state’s LGBT rights organization. The gay vets were members of LGBT Veterans for Equality.
Parade organizers originally denied the request, but then Boston’s Irish-American mayor, Marty Walsh, stepped into the discussion, saying that he would not march in the March 16th parade unless the gay individuals were allowed to participate. The Boston Globe reported his reason for not marching:
“As mayor, I feel like I should use my influence. I feel the parade should be inclusive.”
Walsh tried to broker an agreement between the two groups. At one point, there was hope that an agreement could be reached. According to Gay Star News, the tentative agreement was that the gay vets could march, as long as they didn’t wear any signs which acknowledged their sexual orientation.
The tentative deal to allow the gay group eventually collapsed because MassEquality said it could not abide by the provision that people not be allowed to identify their sexual orientation. According to NECN.com, MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini said:
“LGBT people need to be able to identify themselves as LGBT people. It’s as simple as that. There’s a lot of ways that can be done, and that is a conversation we’re having now with organizers.”
So, after two weeks of negotiation, it was decided that the gay group would not march. Not all loyal Irish Americans were happy with the decision to exclude the group. The Boston Globe noted one man’s support for the gay veterans:
“Neil MacInnes-Barker, a former sergeant in the US Air Force, said he signed up for the march two weeks ago, as negotiations were starting. He said that normally he does not participate in the parades, including ones celebrating the gay community, but that he wanted to be present in the St. Patrick’s Day event.
“ ‘If there are people — Irish Americans — who are LGBT in South Boston, then I want to march for them,’ MacInnes-Barker said. ‘If they are afraid of being intimidated . . . then I will stand for them.’ ”
“It wasn’t long ago in this country that the Irish and Roman Catholics were both subject to extreme bigotry.
“That some in these demographic groups are in a position to be bigoted toward others is perhaps an accomplishment in itself, showing that they’ve moved up the ranks. But what a sad cycle and a shameful tradition for this great American city.”
Perhaps most significantly, the Sam Adams beer company, announced that they would be pulling out of the parade. In a statement, quoted by The Boston Globe the company said:
“We were hopeful that both sides of this issue would be able to come to an agreement that would allow everyone, regardless of orientation, to participate in the parade. But given the current status of the negotiations, we realize this may not be possible.”
Chuck Colbert, a gay, Irish American veteran, wrote in The Boston Globethat he hoped some creative solution could be found to the impasse:
“So let me offer a suggestion: If I — or anyone — were to march in an LGBT-identified contingent, holding a small Irish tricolor and rainbow flag, would that be acceptable to parade organizers? What about green T-shirts with a rainbow flag imprinted on it? What about carrying rainbow-colored balloons or banners?
“With all the creativity among the Irish of Boston and the city’s LGBT community, surely we can move the parade to forward march for all.”
And though they won’t be carrying signs about their sexual identities, gay marchers did, in fact, take part in the parade. According to The Boston Globe, Randy Foster, a gay man organized a “diversity float” with his neighbors:
“Foster and his friends and neighbors are not marching Sunday as part of a gay organization. They are marching as South Boston residents who have coalesced around building a park in a corner of the neighborhood known as the Lower End. Many of the people working on the float just happen to be gay. And they have been embraced by the Allied War Veterans Council, the parade’s longtime sponsor.
“’They know us as their neighbors first and as gay second,’ said Foster, an Air Force veteran who served in Desert Storm and who has lived with his husband in South Boston for seven years. Of outside gay groups coming in and hoping to march, he said: ‘How in the world do you ever get compromise if the first statement out of your mouth is, “I’m different than you?” ‘
“Fact: South Boston has a substantial and growing gay population. Fact: A second neighborhood contingent with gay marchers will also be in the parade. Fact: Bill Linehan, City Council president, attacked as unfriendly to gay causes recently by some liberal activists, has been a catalyst behind the scenes to get the neighborhood groups accepted in the parade.”
So, perhaps creativity did make some advancement in the parade, which may help future possibilities for full equality on St. Patrick’s Day.
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has set up an online surveyto elicit the feedback from lay Catholics across the country, in response to the Vatican’s request for feedback from the laity on a variety of marriage and family topics, including same-sex marriage. The Vatican made the request for bishops around the world to gather such information in anticipation of a world synod on marriage and family in 2014. yet, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has already expressed reluctance to encourage individual bishops to do so.
Joshua McElwee of The National Catholic Reporter has noted that Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a Catholic non-profit organization, is filling the gap. In a blog post, McElwee noted:
“The nonprofit, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, has made a survey based on the Vatican’s questionnaire available online.
“Christopher Hale, a senior fellow with the group, said in an email that his organization sent a link to the survey via email to its some 30,000 members Friday morning. Within two hours, Hale said, the group had seen more than 300 responses.”
He also quoted Hale’s reaction to some of the messages people were sending. Hale stated:
“Dozens of separated and divorced Catholics noted that they don’t feel welcomed in their Church communities because they don’t have access to the sacraments. Once again, dozens of gay and lesbian Catholics expressed the same sentiment. One noted how she felt like her treatment in her parish was [similar] to the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.”
David Gibson of Religion News Service noted in a news article that some U.S. bishops are annoyed with how the Vatican’s request has been handled by the USCCB. Gibson wrote:
“. . . some American bishops privately expressed frustration that they had not been notified sooner about the Vatican request and that there was as yet no national plan for soliciting input from U.S. Catholics.”
In contrast, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have set up an online survey site to gather information, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of that bishops’ conference, has sent a message to lay Catholics saying, “Your participation is important.”
The new process reflects the new administration at the Vatican, Gibson observed:
“. . . [Pope] Francis and his top aides have said that they want to overhaul the synod to turn it into a truly consultative meeting that will be shorter in duration — two weeks instead of nearly a month — and encourage debate and input from all Catholics.
“Next October’s meeting will be the first major test for Francis’ pledge to develop a more ‘horizontal’ church.”
Jesuit Father James Martin, the noted spiritual author and church commentator, noted the importance of the Vatican’s request for information in a blog post on the America magazine website:
“First off, this is indeed new. While in the past bishops were encouraged to promote discussion in their dioceses in preparation for a synod, there were never any outright polls conducted, and certainly nothing on a worldwide basis. Second, needless to say, the questions are not going to ask, ‘Should we overturn this church teaching?’ Nonetheless, the Vatican will surely get a better sense of how the teachings are being ‘received,’ to use a theological term, by the faithful. “
The Vatican’s request has amazing significance for Martin, who writes:
“. . . the news makes me smile, because for years when some people would speak about the sensus fidelium (that is, the ‘sense of the faithful’) as an important part of the way that the church lives and grows, a few people would protest, ‘But the church is not a democracy! And we don’t do polls!’
“People often forget the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on this matter in ‘Lumen Gentium’: “They [the laity] are, by [reason of] knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church.’ “
“Finally, it’s a sign, in case we needed to be reminded, that the Holy Spirit is at work in everybody. From the Pope, to the local bishop, to your pastor, to the sister teaching in your school, to the director of religious education at your parish, to the mother of three, to the man who holds out the collection basket on Sundays, to the college student struggling with her faith, to the fellow who cleans the church bathrooms, to the Catholic baptized just last Easter.
“The Holy Spirit is at work in her church and in her people. And she will let her voice be heard, this time through these polls, because she desires to speak.”
For Michael O’Loughlin, who blogs for Religion News Service, the change that the Vatican’s request indicates goes even beyond data collection. O’Loughlin writes:
“Vatican officials want to know, from those living and working and worshipping in Catholic parishes, how to offer pastoral care for married gays and lesbians, and how to serve their children. I could not have imagined that the church would recognize gays as human beings even a few months ago, never mind ask for ideas on how to serve them, and their children, better. It’s truly revolutionary.
“And what’s not there in those questions is just as amazing as what is. There’s no mention of sin. Nothing about intrinsically disordered desires. The children aren’t called illegitimate.
“Instead, there’s language that recognizes gay and lesbian Catholics as human beings, as people who long for lives of faith and meaning.”
I couldn’t agree more with O’Loughlin. Though the USCCB may not yet be “on board” with Pope Francis’ new approach to Catholic issues, it’s obvious that a new wind is blowing in the Vatican. This request for information from the laity indicates a willingness to listen on the part of church leaders–something that has been absent from the Vatican hierarchy for decades. As I’ve said before, it’s now up to the laity to offer their opinions, whether a bishops encourages them to do so or not. The only opportunity for failure here is silence.
Yep, that’s right. Jezebel.com, a website and blog for women, declared Pope Francis “the coolest Pope ever” and compared him to Beyonce′, the superstar pop singer, who sang at President Obama’s second inauguration ceremony. Erin Gloria Ryan wrote:
“Twitter is exploding with Papal adoration today. It’s bizarre.
“Francis is basically the Beyoncé of organized religion.”
Pope Francis’ interview in America magazine has triggered a deluge of positive responses from Catholics, Catholic organizations, and LGBT leaders. New Ways Ministry’s response was posted on this blog yesterday. Here’s a sampling of some responses from others.
Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, appeared yesterday on MSNBC talking about the pope. You can view her interview here. In the segment she is asked for her reaction to the pope’s remarks. In part, she stated:
“Actually I cried when I first began to read it because in the beginning he is asked who are you…He was stunned by the question, but after a moment of reflection, he said, to describe himself, ‘I am a sinner.’ His humility is just overwhelming. He realizes no person is perfect, and yet, as is so clear in his message, God loves each and every one of us. . . .
“He wants to make it clear these [abortion, marriage equality, contraception] are not essential. He’s trying to get us back to the Gospel, to the real essential message of Jesus. The essential message is that Jesus came to proclaim God’s love, God’s love for each and every person, no matter if we agree with them or not.”
Equally Blessed (coalition of four Catholic organizations–Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry which work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society):
“The pope’s statements are like rain on a parched land for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their supporters. We yearn for the day when the Catholic hierarchy can simply acknowledge the holiness of our lives and our relationships, as the majority of Catholics in the United States already do, and we pray that this pope will move us closer to that goal. In the meantime, Pope Francis has sent a clear signal that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and organizations like the Knights of Columbus need to end their multimillion dollar campaign to marginalize LGBT people in the church and the wider society and commit themselves to gaining a deeper understanding of the lives, beliefs and ministries of LGBT people, their families and their friends.”
Fr. James Martin, SJ (noted spirituality author and associate editor at America magazine), from the blog “In All Things” :
“During his in-flight media conference from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro this summer, Pope Francis made headlines when he uttered his now-famous words, ‘Who am I to judge?’ when asked a question about gay priests in the church.
“At the time, several commentators opined that the pope’s words were not only uninteresting (since the pope did not change any church teaching on homosexuality), they were also limited, applying only, they said, to gay priests. But in our interview, Francis speaks at some length about gay persons in general, and even notes that his comments during the in-flight conference referred to gay persons, not simply gay priests: “During the return flight I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.’
“The new interview continues his open and pastoral stance towards gays and lesbians. Notice, too, the gentle tone of the rest of his response to the question posed by the interviewer: ‘Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanied persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.’ While none of this changes church teaching, the Pope’s words have changed the way that church speaks to and about gay persons. And that is new.
“There is a reason why many gay Catholics have told me that they feel more welcome in the church these days. There is a reason why people like Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Mumbai, recently told his priests to be more ‘sensitive‘ when speaking to gays and lesbians.
“Pope Francis leads with mercy. Mercy has been from hallmark of his papacy from its earliest days. The America interview shows a gentle pastor who looks upon people as individuals, not categories.
Fr. Martin’s blog post is an excellent read, analyzing a variety of the pope’s statements in the very extensive interview he gave.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA(national organization of LGBT Catholics):
“We find much to be hopeful about, particularly in the Pope’s firm desire that the Church be a ’home for all people,’ and his belief that God looks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with love rather than condemnation.
“LGBT Catholics and allies will rejoice in the Pope’s call for Church leaders to focus on being pastors rather than rule enforcers. We hope that the bishops will heed this call and immediately end their anti-LGBT campaigns, the firings of church workers for who they are, the attacks on people who challenge or question official teachings, and the exclusive and judgmental rhetoric that comes too often from our pulpits. The Pope is unambiguous. Leave the bully pulpit, and accompany your people. . . .
“This could be a moment of deep renewal for our Church, and for its LGBT members. We hope, pray, and work to ensure this is so.”
Michael O’Loughlin (blogger at Religion News Service), from “Faith Fix”:
“As a Catholic, who happens to work in the church, and who writes extensively about the church, and who is also gay, I am fairly desensitized to the veiled bigotry employed by so many Catholic leaders. Sure, the cardinals and bishops who seem obsessed with issues of homosexuality usually begin their statements recalling the Catechism of the Catholic Church that reminds us all people are to be treated with dignity. But in the next breath, their words turn to sin, disorder, unnaturalness, and general judgment and condemnation. Under Pope Benedict XVI, combined with rapid advancements for LGBT people in the West, the church’s attitude and language toward gay people reached a nadir. . . .
“Pope Francis is so revolutionary, so engrossing, because he is living out Gospel values of love, mercy, and compassion. These values are often antithetical to those of the world, so it moves us when people in power embody them.
“People sometimes ask how I can remain in the church when it’s so hostile to gay people. I explain that the church is simply an instrument I use to understand and attempt to live out the Gospel. Pope Francis recognizes this. The Gospel is so much bigger than we often give it credit for, which is why Francis rejects those who would reduce it to a few hot-button social issue. . . .
“And the pope is simply reminding us that we all are in need of God’s forgiveness, and how much better it is for us to accompany one another on this journey with love. And mercy. If the pope has the humility to ask, ‘Who am I to judge?’, can’t we?”
Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director, Call To Action(Catholic justice organization):
“. . . We are heartened by Francis’s openness and candor, willingness to dialogue with all, and his attempts at transparency and consultation. We’ve long held more inclusive, open conversations to be healthy for our Church. . . .
“We were encouraged to hear Pope Francis speak of continued discernment and reform. As this spirit of change begins to reach up towards all levels of our Church, we look forward to working with all those who seek to embody a more accountable, inclusive, and just Church. While there is more work to do, we remain hopeful transformation is afoot.”
“With these latest comments, Pope Francis has pressed the reset button on the Roman Catholic Church’s treatment of LGBT people, rolling back a years-long campaign at the highest levels of the Church to oppose any measure of dignity or equality. Now, it’s time for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to catch up and drop their opposition to even the most basic protections for LGBT people. Otherwise, they risk being left far behind by American Catholics and this remarkable Pope.”
“We welcome what Pope Francis said today when he called for the Catholic church to be ‘home for all’ and not a ‘small chapel’ focused on doctrine and limited views on moral teachings. . . .
“We truly hope that this is just the start; that Pope Francis doesn’t only talk the talk, but also walks the walk. We hope he takes steps to ensure that his more open view of how the church should deal with people trickles down to his brother bishops around the world. . .”
We will keep you posted on further reactions as they become available to us.
–Francis DeBernardo and Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
Michael O’Loughlin, who blogs at “Faith Fix” on the Religion News Service website, has recently instituted a new feature called “7 Questions,” in which he briefly interviews a prominent person on an item of importance.
This week, O’Loughlin has featured New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick. on LGBT ministry and advocacy in the Catholic church and the greater society. You can read the entire interview here, and I recommend that you do so. I’ve excerpted two of the questions and answers below to give you a flavor of the interview.
Sr. Jeannine Gramick, S.L., co-founded New Ways Ministry in 1977 to minister to gay and lesbian Catholics. Her work has been investigated by Vatican officials and was cited in the ongoing investigation of American nuns and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). She was told by officials in Rome in 1999 to stop her work, but she refused, continuing to lead the Catholic organization and advocating for same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues in civil society and the Catholic Church.
O’LOUGHLIN: Catholic bishops in the US today are some of the most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage and other civil rights issues important to the LGBT community. Was there institutional support for your work early on?
GRAMICK: We were able at to gather institutional support from bishops. Now it was very quiet support, but let me give you some examples. The first time that the US bishops spoke about homosexuality was in their pastoral letter on moral values that they issued in 1976. There’s a paragraph on homosexuality, which was introduced by an auxiliary bishop in Baltimore whom we spoke with. We influenced him to bring this issue to the attention of the bishops. There’s a paragraph that says homosexuals, like everyone else, deserve compassion, justice, and should have active roles in the Christian community. There were some bishops who would invite us into their dioceses to give workshops, and they came to our workshops and commended us. In fact, when [New Ways Ministry’s co-founder] Fr. Robert Nugent and I were going through our inquisition with the Vatican, we had 20 bishops who wrote supportive letters. They were all bishops in the late 70s and into the 80s, but by the early 90s, the complexion of the US hierarchy began to change because of the appointments by Pope John Paul II.
O’LOUGHLIN: Some have said that with the leadership of Pope Francis, that the Catholic Church might be emerging from an anti-Vatican II mentally. What would this church look like?
GRAMICK: We would have pastoral bishops who look to the people, who not just consult the people, but bring the laity into the church’s decision-making. I think these pastoral bishops would have a more modern understanding of governance, that we don’t live in monarchies anymore, or even benevolent dictatorships, that we in the twenty-first century are looking for more democratic forms of governance. If they do that, we’re going to have a very different looking church. Because the polls show us that the laity, at least in the US, are very different from the views of the hierarchy, particularly in sexual matters, financial matters. The laity has a lot of experience that the bishops don’t have, and we have to draw on that experience.