The Catholic LGBT Stories You Found Most Interesting in 2015

As I look back on the year that is closing, I thought it might be instructive to look at what Bondings 2.0’s readers thought were the most interesting stories of the past 12 months.  I looked for the stories posted this year which received the highest number of views.

The top ten stories follow, with the first one being the one with the most views, and decreasing in descending order. Each headline links back to the original post.  Below each entry, I offer a brief commentary.

[Editor’s note:  On December 26th, we will provide our annual poll for readers to determine what were the best and worst Catholic LGBT stories this past year.  Results will be posted on December 30th and 31st.]

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

The post in the number one spot is not surprising.  The Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision will likely be considered one of the top stories of the year in the general press.  I recall that in announcing the news of this decision, The New York Times had the largest headline I have seen in the paper since the day after September 11, 2001.

2. Pope Francis’ Former Student Speaks About Meeting During U.S. Papal Visit

I was at first surprised by the post in the number two spot, but on further reflection, it seems like a natural.  Pope Francis’ positive gestures and statements regarding LGBT issues touch hearts deeply.  Additionally, this story is related to the another major news event of the year: the pontiff’s visit to the U.S.

3. LGBTQ Children in Catholic Families: A Deacon’s View of Holy Family Sunday

Technically this post appeared in 2014, but it was posted on December 28th, so close enough to the beginning of 2015 that I decided to include it in this list.  I think this piece was so popular because it blended a personal story with commentary on church teaching and practice–all told from the perspective of a married Catholic deacon active in church ministry.  The fact that it had already received thousands of views before 2015 began, yet still emerged as the third most popular story of the year, indicates how powerfully it touched hearts and minds.

4. Vatican Family Official Thanks TV’s “Modern Family” for Revealing Reality

This post represents a positive growing trend in the Catholic Church lately:  high-ranking church officials acknowledging and praising the presence of loving gay and lesbian couples in society.  Because this post was tweeted by “Modern Family” star Eric Stonestreet (who plays Cameron) and was shown on a HuffPost Live interview with him, it also reached a much wider audience of readers.

5. Cardinal Gracias to LGBT People: ‘Church Embraces You, Wants You, Needs You’

Having received press credentials from the Vatican to cover the synod on the family for Bondings 2.0, I was able to raise up LGBT issues with several cardinals and bishops at this historic meeting.  This personal interview with the president of India’s bishops conference who is also one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors included an important message of acceptance which I think our readers and their friends were excited to hear.

6. Archbishop Discusses African Bishops’ Silence on Criminalization of LGBT People

Another story from the synod, this one featured a direct question about the hierarchy’s deafening silence on criminalization laws.  I was able to ask this question to a high-ranking African archbishop at a synod press conference, and his answer was reported widely in other news outlets beyond this blog.

7. Father Martin’s Viral Facebook Post on ‘So Much Hatred From So Many Catholics’

I think the popularity of this post shows how polarized our church is when it comes to discussion LGBT issues.  After Fr. James Martin, SJ, posted New Ways Ministry’s response to the Supreme Court marriage decision on his Facebook page, he was deluged by negative responses from Catholics who opposed the decision.  The response was so strong that his response to them was covered by Religion News Service,

8. Another Gay Person Is Denied Communion at a Parent’s Funeral

Bad news, unfortunately, is always popular.  I think the reason that communion denial stories attract so much attention is deeper than that they are simply negative.   They strike at the heart of Catholic identity: the Eucharist.  I think they also strike people as intensely personal.  The fact that this particular denial took place at a parent’s funeral made it all the more painful.

9. Illinois Priest Sends Entire Town Anti-Gay Letter, Calls it a “Public Service”

Sadly, it is not an uncommon story to hear a Catholic Church official make negative comments about LGBT people.  In some ways, it is not even news-worthy.  The level of vitriol in this case, however, as well as the hubris exhibited by the pastor, made this particular story rise above the ordinary version of negative comments.

10. Pope Francis’ Meeting With Kim Davis Raises a Red Flag

I’m not surprised that this story made it into the top ten.  When it first broke at the end of September, so many people were so disheartened by what seemed like Pope Francis rejecting his advice to bishops to not be so politically identified.  Of course,  the story had a happy ending when it was revealed that the Vatican had not arranged this encounter with Davis (which turned out to be little more than a handshake), but that the pope himself had arranged a meeting in the U.S. with a former student of his who is gay.

Between now and the end of the year, we will be publishing a few other posts concerning the year that was.  Feel free, as always, to make your own year-end summaries in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry






Vatican Family Official Thanks TV’s “Modern Family” for Revealing Reality

A Vatican official praised the television show “Modern Family” for raising interest in the complexities of family life today, saying it ties in well with Pope Francis’ initiatives to address pastoral care of families.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia of the Pontifical Council for the Family was speaking at a United Nations event when he made the remark last Thursday. Paglia said:

” ‘[P]henomena like the media production “Modern Family,” or same-sex marriage initiatives in a significant number of jurisdictions, the family has become the subject of increasingly intense interest and discussion.’ “

Paglia, speaking during the annual Day of the Family, nuanced his remarks by criticizing the “ideological” discourses which dominate these discussions. Crux’s report continues:

“[Discussion] centers too much on definitions of the family unacceptable to one political current or another, and on economic considerations…

“Instead, he said, family is a complex of human relationships characterized by love, fidelity, commitment, sacrifice, trust, conflict, joy, fruitfulness, nurture, respect, celebration, protection, memory and faith.”

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia

However, the archbishop noted that addressing family life through existing models is not only insufficient for the church’s pastoral care, but for the authentic development of peoples as well. Family breakdown undermines the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals.” Pope Francis’ emphasis on families — in the synod of bishops last October and this fall, in his weekly audience addresses, and in his attendance at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia — is an effort to reverse these trends. Paglia, whose Vatican office sponsors the World Meeting of Families, noted:

” ‘Clearly, what the Catholic Church is striving for is a new, more authentic flourishing of the family, and with it all of society.’ “

“Modern Family” presents a family in all its messiness, but one ultimately marked by those traits heralded above by Archbishop Paglia. In the show, a gay male couple with an adopted child are part of an extended family network that includes others in non-traditional arrangements.

Archbishop Paglia is naming a reality that many Catholics already know, which is that the struggle for LGBT inclusion and other renewal efforts is often a struggle for a “more authentic flourishing of the family.” Marriage equality has been about strengthening couples and their families by public recognition and legal protection. The most passionate church reformers are frequently the parents of LGBT children seeking a Catholic community which will embrace their family unconditionally and treat their children justly. Fundamentally, when Catholics stand for LGBT justice, they are acknowledging the common family shared by being siblings in Christ as members of the church.

Family is at the heart of our advocacy and our outreach. Between now and the synod, I hope Archbishop Paglia sits down with Pope Francis to watch a few more episodes of “Modern Family.” Even more so, I hope they will listen to the real stories, the real complexities of Catholic families in all their forms today as the church discerns a more loving, merciful, and just pastoral program.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

U.S. Catholic, “Loving Our Modern Families

Transgender Student Decides to Skip Graduation After Discrimination

Damian Garcia protesting outside his high school

Damian Garcia and his supporters hoped St. Pius X High School would let him walk outfitted in graduation robes fitting his male gender during graduation this past week . However, Damian refused to participate in the ceremonies last Wednesday because school administrators insisted that the transgender student wear white female robes.

KOB News out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, reported on Damian’s absence from graduation, noting comments from the boy’s father that Damian chose to hang out with friends rather than participate and cause a scene. The station also captured student reactions, which were supportive of transgender rights as Catholics:

“Amid the tremendous joy of their achievement, some students are a little disappointed in their alma mater.

“‘It’s a little ridiculous that they wouldn’t let him chose what he wanted to wear,’ said graduate Nolan Wain Wright.

“‘We pride ourselves in being a Catholic community and we don’t let him walk because of that, so it’s very sad,’ said graduate Erick Hernandez.”

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, St. Pius X alum & “Modern Family” star

Another voice support Damian was a famous alum of St. Pius X, the star of ABC’s Modern Family Jesse Tyler Ferguson. The Advocate notes Ferguson helped the cause of transgender students, and quotes from the actor’s Facebook profile:

“‘I am writing to ask you to do the right thing and let all your students graduate with dignity…Do not force someone to identify them self as someone they are not! It is as ridiculous as having a priest conduct mass in a nuns habit! Gender identification goes way beyond a check mark on a birth certificate…I know St. Pius X has changed a lot since I graduated in ’94. I[‘m] proud of the changes and strides you have made but this is not a time to hold to a rule book. Continue to grow and accept ALL of your students.’

“As a gay former high school student in a Catholic school, Ferguson can relate to 18-year-old Damien Garcia’s victimization…

“Out actor and Modern Family star Ferguson may have taken the issue to a much higher level, bringing attention to the frequent and persistent harassment and discrimination to which transgender youth are subjected.”

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the University of New Mexico’s LGBTQ Resource Center is holding a graduation for Garcia on May 30th. While this is a wonderful offer by the University, transgender students should not have to agitate in Catholic schools for equal treatment and respect; honoring their dignity should be assumed.

New Ways Ministry congratulates Damian on graduating and sends our blessing for his future endeavors.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

The Best of 2012 in Catholic LGBT News

Thumbs_upYesterday, we posted our list of the worst of 2012 in Catholic LGBT news.  Today, as promised, we end the year on a positive note by presenting our list of the BEST of the previous year.  Much good has happened in 2012, with Catholics at all levels of the church speaking out for justice and equality for LGBT people.

Thanks to the 286 of you who voted in our poll to determine the selection and ranking of these best news stories.  The percentage following each story is the percentage of people who chose this item as one of their top five.

The Top Ten

1. Catholic lay support aids marriage equality victories in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State. 23.08%

2. Priests in Minnesota and Maryland publicly counter the local hierarchy’s opposition to marriage equality. 14.69%  

3. Berlin’s Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki suggests that the church should treat gay and straight couples similarly9.09%  

4 & 5.  TIE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Bishop Richard Malone in Maine announces that the diocese will not take an active political role against the state’s marriage equality referendum. 8.39%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Surveys show increase in support for LGBT issues among Hispanics, especially Catholics. 8.39%

6. At New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, Australia’s Bishop Geoffrey Robinson calls for the church hierarchy to re-think its sexual ethics teachings8.04% 

7 & 8. TIE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The University of Notre Dame gives official recognition to a gay-straight alliance after years of student activism. 5.24%                           Austrian Cardinal overturns a pastor’s decision to bar a gay man from serving on a parish council. 5.24%

9. Catholics in Media Associates gives its top award to TV’s Modern Family, a show featuring a gay family. 3.85%  

10. Maryland priest who denied communion to a lesbian woman at her mother’s funeral is removed from pastoral ministry. 3.5%  

Editor’s Note:  One item which we neglected to add to the list for voting was that Vice President Joe Biden, a  Catholic, endorsed marriage equality, paving the way for President Barack Obama to do the same.  Biden also referred to transgender equality as “the civil rights issue of our time.”  We feel these should deserve some mention on the list of the best Catholic news of 2012.  We regret that we didn’t include them for voting.  Mea maxima culpa.

Other items

Cardinal Francis George apologizes for comparing the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan. 2.45%  

Ontario requires all schools, including state-supported Catholic schools, to institute gay-straight alliances. 2.1%  

Jesuit author James Martin endorses Spirit Day, a national program to end bullying of LGBT youth. 2.1% 

Pastor at Most Holy Redeemer parish in San Francisco reverses his earlier decision to ban drag queens from parish events. 1.75%

Students at Stonehill College, a Catholic campus in Massachusetts, win a new and improved non-discrimination policy. 1.4%  

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Emmy Winner ‘Modern Family’ Leads the Way in Catholic Values

ABC’s comedy series, Modern Family, won four Emmy Awards last night:  best comedy series, best director (Steve Levitan), best supporting actress (Julie Bowen), and best supporting actor (Eric Stonestreet).

The series, which features the experiences of an extended family which includes a gay couple who’ve adopted a baby girl, was honored earlier this year by the Catholics in Media Associates, which noted that the show

“. . . remains far and away the best prime-time sitcom: crisp and farcical, but very kind. This fast-paced mockumentary perfectly captures the experience of parenthood.”

In anticipation of the Emmy Awards, Sister Rose Pacatte, offered her own analysis of her favorite shows in a National Catholic Reporter blog post which included her take on Modern Family:

“Jay’s [the show’s patriarch] family represents the new reality of today’s American family (Catholic or otherwise), though it is not divorce and remarriage, but the gay couple with a child is what upsets many viewers. Certainly many families may not have gay or divorced and remarried members, but the reality is, many do. They always did, but we didn’t see them in the comforting idealistic television of the ’50s, ’60s and into the ’70s. Some viewers may not approve of the gay couple or the gay couple adopting a child on a mainstream network television show. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has clear teaching about homosexuality and clear teaching on how to treat homosexual persons, that they “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” This is how I interpret “Modern Family.” After all, Thanksgiving dinner comes to all of us, when family members gather from far and wide, and “Modern Family” offers a way of being. When from one year to the next, you have no idea who will show up at the table, who they will bring along, if they will be the same gender as the year before — and if they are moving back to the neighborhood and may be in your life every day. Television is entertainment and not Sunday school (the film critic Roger Ebert said this about film, but the same goes for television), and you do not have to condone homosexuality to find seeds of the consistent paradox that is the Gospel in “Modern Family.” Yes, television does normalize behaviors and flattens values into a smorgasbord. But television is an opportunity for people of faith because it forms a metaphorical table around which we can gather and talk about things that matter.”

Modern Family does indeed present the gay couple, Cameron and Mitchell, with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”–probably more so than any other gay characters have ever been presented on television.  It would be hard for even the most virulent anti-gay person watching the show to be too critical of Cameron and Mitchell because they are presented in such a loving fashion.  As Sister Rose states:

“I remain astonished at the writers, who are able to get so many layers of humanity into 21 minutes.”

Besides being entertaining, such authentic and human presentation of not only gay people, but the other characters in this contemporary family, can only help our society grow in understanding diversity.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Media Award to “Modern Family”

Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) awarded its highest television honor this year to Modern Family, an ABC comedy which includes a gay couple with an adopted baby as part of its regular cast.   According to the organization’s website:

“This remains far and away the best prime-time sitcom: crisp and farcical, but very kind. This fast-paced mockumentary perfectly captures the experience of parenthood.”

In describing the depiction of the  gay couple, Mitchell and Cameron, and their adopted Vietnamese daughter, Lily, the CIMA site states:

“They’re learning all the parenting ropes as they go. Fortunately, they have the loving support of their extended, eclectic, ever-funny family.”

CIMA’s description of itself on its website is:

“Catholics in Media Associates was formed by working professionals in the entertainment industry whose initial purpose was to share personal concerns of faith and spirituality as it is experienced in the workplace.

“From that early beginning came the CIMA Awards, recognizing those projects and people in the entertainment industry who, by their work, have made clearer the Word of God. These awards were created to promote and applaud films, television programs and other entertainment forms that uplift the spirit and help us better understand what it is to be part of the human family.”

Their awards to television and film are sometimes referred to as the “Catholic Emmys” and “Catholic Oscars.”

Presenting the award to Modern Family certainly raised a few eyebrows in the media world, but certainly in a positive direction.  The award went a long way to help dispel the enduring myth that Catholics don’t support marriage equality.  Some responses from news accounts about the award tell the story: News:

” ‘Modern Family’ might not be the most obvious choice to be showered with accolades by a religious organization, but the ABC comedy was honored by the Catholics in Media Associates over the weekend anyway.”

“There are those on both sides of the LGBT debate who love to push this false decision between religion and sexual identity. There are, of course, those in between who want to make it clear that you do not have to choose between religion and being gay. Catholics in Media Associates honored the show ‘Modern Family’ this past weekend.”

The Hollywood Reporter:

“Referred to as the ‘Catholic Oscar,’ though in this case it would be the ‘Catholic Emmy,’ the Catholics in Media Associates has given ABC’s Modern Family its 2012 television award.

“That may come as a shock for some as the series has come under fire from conservative groups for its representation of alternative lifestyles with Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitch’s (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) gay marriage.”

The Human Rights Campaign:

“The 11-time Emmy winning Modern Family can add another accolade to its list: the Television Award from Catholics in Media Associates.

“Conservative groups have targeted the ABC comedy for featuring a loving and committed gay family, or even for acknowledging that gay people exist.

“However, this award from a leading Catholic body sends a strong message that ‘family values’ can incorporate all kinds of families, including LGBT ones.”

Congratulations not only to Modern Family, but to CIMA for their wise choice!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry