Catholic Workshop on “Trans-forming Love”

November 10, 2013

While we know from poll after poll that Catholic lay people overwhelmingly support lesbian and gay people, I think there is probably not yet as strong support for transgender people among those in the pews.   The reason for the difference is probably because Catholic people have had less familiarity with transgender people, and probably rely more on myths or stereotypes than on factual evidence and personal testimony.

To help Catholics get a better understanding of transgender people and issues from the perspectives of both science and faith, New Ways Ministry is hosting a workshop day entitled “Trans-forming Love,” on Saturday November 23, 2013, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm, at the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, 1001 West Joppa Road, Towson, Maryland, 21204,

The goal of the day is to dispel myths and stereotypes about transgender people by gaining sound information from the scientific community and from the life story of a transgender person. The transgender experience will also be explored in the light of faith and spirituality.  The day includes presentations on gender identity development, personal perspectives, legal considerations, and spiritual dimensions. There will be Q & A sessions, small group discussions, and informational handouts.

Edgardo Menvielle, MD

Two speakers will be making presentations.  In the morning, participants will hear from Dr. Edgardo Menvielle, MD, an attending psychiatrist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. He co-founded the Gender and Sexuality Development Program and serves as its medical director. Dr. Menvielle provides clinical services and training for child psychiatry, psychology, pediatrics trainees, and students.

Hilary Howes

Hilary Howes

In the afternoon, the speaker will be Hilary Howes, a Catholic transgender woman, who has been married for 34 years. She authored the article, “To Be or Not to Be: A Catholic Transsexual Speaks,” which describes her conversion to Catholicism and her gender transition. Hilary is involved with several transgender rights organizations, including the National Transgender Religious Leadership Roundtable.

Space for this workshop is limited, so please register soon if you would like to attend.  Registration is required. Suggested donation is $25 (more if you can, less if you can’t) and includes lunch.

For more information and to register for this program online, please visit New Ways Ministry’s website.  If you have questions, please call (301) 277-5674 or send email to: info@NewWaysMinistry.org.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


LGBT Issues Pervade 2013 Call to Action Conference

November 4, 2013

Call To Action 2013 Plenary Session

LGBT Catholic issues pervaded Call to Action’s 2013 conference this past weekend as progressive Catholics gathered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to organize for a more justice and inclusive Church and society. Bondings 2.0 offers a round-up from the weekend to show how central acceptance, welcome, and justice for all sexual orientations and gender identities is in broader efforts for Church renewal.

On Friday, New Ways Ministry co-founder Jeannine Gramick, SL joined other prophetic voices in a daylong reflection on conscience, sponsored by the 8th Day Center for Justice. Gramick spoke about her four decades in ministry among the LGBT community and her struggles with the institutional Church that resulted from this work.

A La Familia also hosted a seminar on the same day focusing on acceptance within Latino families of LGBTQ members, which was hosted by Lisbeth Melendez Rivera and Rose Manriquez.

Jamie Manson

Jamie Manson

Saturday’s plenary session featured writer and LGBT advocate Jamie Manson, a Catholic lesbian woman whose reflections on intergenerational companionship this blog recently profiled. She joined a panel on the future of Catholic ministry, and when speaking on inclusivity, Manson said:

“It used to be prophetic to include women and LGBT people. For the new generation, it’s not prophetic. It’s just common sense.”

Manson also spoke of the many young adults who are educated in theology and ministry, but unable to answer their call to leadership in the Church because of, among other obstacles, their sexual orientations and gender identities. Roy Bourgeois, a former Maryknoll priest forced out of his community for supporting women’s ordination, echoed these sentiments, saying the Church’s many years of prayers for more vocations would be answered if only those who want to serve as priests were allowed entry.

World Youth Day participants from Equally Blessed

Saturday also featured several workshops highlighting the need for LGBT justice in Catholic and civil communities. These included:

  • “Why the Church, for its Own Salvation, Needs Our Queer Sisters and Brothers” led by Miguel De La Torre;
  • “Same-Sex Marriage and Beyond: The Catholic Imperative for LGBT Equality” led by Marianne Duddy-Burke;
  • “Sharing the Message of Equally Blessed: Stories from the Pilgrimage to World Youth Day, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil” led by members of CTA 20/30 and Dignity Young Adult Caucus;
  • “LGBT Catholics Standing Together: Intergenerational Issues” led by Jeannine Gramick, SL and Bob Shine;
  • Caucuses by Fortunate Families for parents of LGBT children and by Catholics for Marriage Equality for those in Illinois, and Equally Blessed.

Loretto Volunteers helping with marriage equality in Maryland

On Sunday morning, Call to Action’s Leadership Award was granted to the Loretto Volunteers, a program of the Loretto Community that offers a year of service for young adults in an LGBT-affirming atmosphere rooted in the Catholic tradition. New Ways Ministry is one of the host sites for the Loretto Volunteers.

Following that, Marianne Duddy-Burke of Dignity USA offered a homily during the conference’s closing liturgy. Speaking on the story of Zacchaeus, she proposed modern exclusionary labels equivalent to “taxpayer” that included gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and the parent of an LGBT child.

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Flipping the narrative, Duddy-Burke asked attendees to place themselves in the position of Jesus, who called Zacchaeus out of the tree and into life. Jesus saw Zacchaeus as a human being with a profound need and engaged that alone, thus Catholics must do the same no matter how different or unlikable people crying out may be.  In conclusion, she envisioned a Church where the only label that makes a difference is beloved Child of God.

Given these speakers and workshops, there is not only widespread need, but also excitement around building up inclusive Catholic communities where LGBT people, their loved ones, families, friends, and allies are all welcomed. You can check out Call to Action’s website for more information on several of these programs described. For further reflections from Jeannine Gramick and Bob Shine on how diverse generations engaged around LGBT issues, check Bondings 2.0 later this week.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Illinois Catholics Turn Out to Support Marriage Equality Demonstration

October 26, 2013
Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 6.52.15 PM

Catholics for Marriage Equality Illinois in Springfield.

Catholics joined with thousands of other Illinois marriage equality supporters this past week for a March on Springfield,  to support the bill for marriage equality in that state.    A coalition called Catholics for Marriage Equality Illinois showed up stalwartly in rainy weather to let state lawmakers and others know that their Catholic faith urged them to work for legal protections for gay and lesbian couples and their families.

The Catholics for Marriage Equality coalition is comprised of members and supporters of Chicago and West Suburban Call To Action chapters, Faithful of Southern Illinois, Dignity/ChicagoFortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.

The fate of the marriage equality bill, SB10, is currently undecided,  The Chicago Tribune noted this about the march:

“The show of force that police estimated at 3,000 people ran up against the political reality that there’s little indication the Illinois House is any closer to approving a gay marriage bill than it was before a summer of lobbying efforts.”

But the newspaper also noted that if the bill does pass the legislature. the Catholic governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, is prepared to sign it into law.  The article stated:

“Gov. Pat Quinn, a practicing Roman Catholic, has vowed to sign the gay marriage bill if it reaches his desk. . . .  [He] said he decided to support same-sex marriage against the teachings of the Catholic Church as a matter of ‘conscience.’

” ‘I believe everyone of faith should listen to their conscience, and I have in my case,’ Quinn said. ‘The time for marriage equality has come. This is our time. This is our moment.’”

Catholics who were at the event said that the news media generally failed to recognize the strong faith contingent in the demonstration.  Instead, a number of media reports focused on the fact that Springfield’s Bishop Thomas Paprocki refused to allow Catholics who support marriage equality to enter the cathedral to pray the rosary. The Tribune reported:

“Paprocki said the plan by demonstrators to pray for gay marriage amounted to blasphemy, but he noted that ‘our cathedral and parish churches are always open to everyone who wishes to repent their sins and ask for God’s forgiveness.’ “

Governor Quinn called Paprocki’s reaction “disappointing.”

The Catholics who marched tell another story of how their witness touched and empowered others at the demonstration.  Lena Woltering, of Faithful of Southern Illinois, commented:

“There was good reaction to the Catholic presence.  A young lesbian couple noticed I was holding the Catholics for Marriage Equality sign and asked if I was from Springfield.  I told them I was not and they proceeded to tell me how they had gone to the Springfield Cathedral that morning for Eucharist and throughout the service the priest was very hateful, saying good Catholics should be appalled that the rally was taking place and he encouraged all to attend the anti-gay marriage rally the following day.  They had tears in their eyes as they spoke and thanked us for being visible at the rally.  Quite a few others stopped to thank us for our presence.”
Barbara Marian, of Fortunate Families, told the following story:
“It was cold and raining in Springfield on Tuesday, October 22nd but standing among the more than 3,000 chanting and cheering advocates of equal marriage we were flooded with warmth and hope and joy and gratitude to be there and to know we will soon see the day that all citizens of Illinois will be able to marry the person they love.”A number of advocates from other mainline faith communities were present and waving their signs and we Catholics appeared to have the largest number of supporters under the Catholics for Marriage Equality and Fortunate Families banners.”The speakers and the great music were rousing and wonderful but the most encouraging aspect of the rally for us was the constant steam of people coming up to talk to us and take photos of us with the banners so we know that we ‘went home’ with hundreds of the marchers and will appear thousands of times on their friends and families’ Facebook pages.

“Some of us strolled among the people in the crowd offering our greetings and giving out the Catholics for Marriage Equality bumper stickers on paint stirrers when they asked, ‘Oo-o! Where can I get one of THOSE?’   Thousands saw that we were there on that important day and were happy to know Catholics from the pews were working with them to bend the arc of history in Illinois toward justice and equality for all.  “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 



Diocesan Newspaper Shows Signs of Hope in Transgender Coverage

October 23, 2013

The Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Catholic Review newspaper prints articles largely re-stating the hierarchy’s positions. However, a recent article analyzed transgender issues from Catholic perspectives and, while still negative overall, included a trans-positive voice and showed other hopeful signs.

The article is the fifth in a series called “Playing God,” which examines bioethics in light of modern knowledge and focuses particularly on sex reassignment surgeries that many transgender people undergo. While focusing on an anti-transgender activist, it also highlights Hilary Howes, a transgender Catholic woman and advocate, who recently wrote about what Pope Francis could mean for gender issues in the Church.  The Review reports about Howes’ experience:

“Born male, she transitioned to living as a woman 18 years ago. Howes remembers wanting to be a girl as a child, and experimented with cross-dressing as an adult before becoming a transsexual…

“A few years ago, Howes described herself as having ‘male genitalia and a female brain.’ Now she thinks of gender as a spectrum, and her gender expression falling outside of standard ‘male’ and ‘female’ categories. Howes speculates that her situation may be a form of intersex, resulting from a natural genetic variance or hormonal imbalances when she was in the womb. She believes that identity shouldn’t be tied to anatomy.”

Hilary Howes

Hilary Howes

Citing anti-transgender voices, the article muddles through the philosophical and theological concepts involved with transgender identities and sex reassignment surgery. Of these, Howes responds:

“As a transsexual, Howes doesn’t see sex-reassignment surgery as a mutilation, but rather a medical correction of a physical malformation – a procedure that allows a person to become his or her ‘authentic self.’

“It’s an argument commonly made by transgender advocates: Transgenderism is a physical, not mental, condition, and it’s the body that’s in the wrong.”

Howes’ comments are not the article’s only signs of hope. It is notable that the diocesan newspaper used female pronouns for Howes, as other Catholic institutions have used one’s sex at birth instead of their gender identity when referring to transgender people. The Catholic Review also notes:

“The church has not spoken definitively on the matter’s morality. In 2003, Catholic News Service reported that the Vatican released a document to bishops on sex-reassignment surgery’s implications for canon law. According to CNS, the document included ‘an analysis of the moral licitness’ of sex reassignment surgery, concluding ‘that the procedure could be morally acceptable in certain extreme cases if a medical probability exists that it will “cure” the patient’s internal turmoil.’ “

That same document reportedly banned changing the sex on baptismal certificates and rejected transgender people from religious life if they have undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Want to learn more about the issues presented in this post? Hilary Howes will be a presenter at New Ways Ministry’s upcoming workshop, “Trans-forming Love,” on November 23rd. Catholics will dialogue and pray about a trans-positive Catholic approach. Visit New Ways Ministry’s website for more information and to register for the event.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Illinois Catholics Organize to Pass Marriage Equality Law

October 12, 2013

rainbow wedding ringsThe debate surrounding Illinois’ SB10, a marriage equality bill, is heating up, and Catholics are playing a major role to help get the measure passed.  In addition to the formation of a coalition of Catholic supporters of the bill,  the other news is the publication of an insightful op-ed from a Catholic professor on the topic of the law’s relationship to organized religion.

“Catholics for Marriage Equality–Illinois” formed recently to highlight the fact that Catholic lay people support equal rights for lesbian and gay couples in regard to marriage law.  The coalition is comprised of members of Chicago and West Suburban Call To Action chapters, Faithful of Southern Illinois, Dignity/Chicago, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.

The coalition will participate in an October 22nd “March on Springfield,”  Illinois’ state capital.  Marriage equality supporters from all over the state will gather that day to urge lawmakers to pass the bill.

“What can Catholics do?” asked Barbara Marian, the mother of a gay daughter. “Support for marriage equality is a natural outcome of the best of Catholic social teaching. We encourage all Catholics to take a moral stand FOR equal marriage. Email or call your friends, urge them to get involved, sign up with Catholics for Marriage Equality, attend the rally in Springfield on October 22nd
and write letters to the editors. This is clearly an issue where the bishops do not speak for the membership of the Catholic Church.”

For more information on Catholics for Marriage Equality–Illinois, visit the website:  www.CatholicsForMarriageEquality.net or their Facebook page.

Cristina Traina

Cristina Traina

The Chicago Sun-Times website published an op-ed by Cristina Traina, a Catholic religious studies professor at Northwestern University, Illinois, in which she dispels three common myths concerning religion and marriage equality:

Myth #1:  Religious leaders will be forced to marry gay and lesbian couples, against their principles.

Traina states:

“In Illinois religious organizations and leaders may refuse to officiate at any wedding. They already do so whenever they decline to marry people who do not fit their criteria for marriage, for whatever reason: divorce, non-membership in the religious community, cohabitation before marriage, unwillingness to go through the community’s marriage- preparation process, and the like. SB10 does not force religious communities to accommodate same-sex partner weddings; these couples can still marry in a civil setting.”

Myth #2: Religious organizations will be forced to accommodate gay and lesbian couples under the new law.  

Traina points out accommodation is not covered by the new marriage equality bill, but it might be required by state anti-discrimination bills:

 “. . . [T]he Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act would not alter the obligations that any organization has to gays and lesbians under Illinois’s human-rights and public-accommodations act. If an organization or business is obligated to welcome, serve, or employ partnered or unpartnered gays and lesbians now, it would be obligated to welcome, serve, or employ people married to same-sex partners later. If it is not obligated under the act now, it would not be required to accommodate married gays and lesbians in the future.

Myth #3: The institution of marriage has always been a religious concept, and it has never changed its form.

Traina offers an important history lesson:

“Marriage was a social and legal institution before it was a Christian one. In the United States, there has often been quite a lot of daylight between civil law and mainstream Christian definitions of marriage. For instance, polygamy — historically prohibited by almost all American religious groups except some Muslims and nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints — did not become illegal in U.S. territories until 1862. Prohibitions against interracial marriage — which few religious groups have explicitly prohibited — were not overturned until 1967.”

Her essay is worth reading in its entirety, and it can be accessed here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Is Pope Francis the New Beyonce?

September 20, 2013
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Beyonce

Beyonce

The pope compared to Beyonce′?

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

Sister Jeannine Gramick

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 LogoEqually 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.”

Father James Martin SJ

Father James Martin SJ

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

Marianne Duddy-Burke

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

Michael O’Loughlin

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

Jim FitzGerald

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.”

Chad Griffin

Chad Griffin

Chad Griffin, Director, Human Rights Campaign (LGBT political action organization):

“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.”

Jon O'Brien

Jon O’Brien

Jon O’Brien, President, Catholics for Choice:

“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


Remembering a More Positive Catholic Tradition Toward LGBT People

September 19, 2013

A somewhat minor news item spoke volumes to me about the important history of a good relationship that Catholic institutions once had with LGBT organizations.

Charles Cochrane

Charles Cochrane

New York’s Daily News reported that an organization of gay NY police officers are seeking to have a street in the city re-named after their founder, Sgt. Charles H. Cochrane.   The street, Washington Place, between Grove St. and 6th Ave., was selected because it is the location of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, where the first meetings of the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) were held.

The story explains that the early meetings of this organization, which took place in the early 1970s were not without controversy and even experienced threats of violence:

“Dr. Patrick Suraci, then a NYPD psychologist, said Cochrane got a call at home from someone threatening to ‘come and bomb the f*****s.’

“And no one bombed the church — cops from the 6th Precinct were told to watch the house of worship.”

GOAL has gone on to be one of the most effective LGBT-rights groups in New York City.

What struck me most about this story is that a Catholic church was willing to host these meetings, especially at a time when LGBT people were still so ostracized from most of society’s institutions, and when violence was all too commonplace.  It reminded me that in the 1970s and 1980s, before the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, there was a great openness to LGBT people and their concerns on the part of Catholic organizations. During this period, our church witnessed many actions and statements from church leaders, including bishops, about the importance or reaching out to, accepting, and dialoguing with LGBT people.   It was a time of great hope and promise.

This news story sparked my memory to the fact that back in 1973, St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City became the first Catholic institution to establish a sexual orientation non-discrimination policy in hiring practices.  Given the recent trend of Catholic schools and parishes firing LGBT people, this news is a reminder that Catholics do indeed have a history and tradition of openness on LGBT issues.

This is a tradition that is much in need of revival these days.  Let’s hope and pray that the pontificate of Pope Francis will see a renewed openness by Catholic institutions towards LGBT people and issues.  It is a very important part of our faith, our tradition and our heritage to do so.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Theologian Expresses Hope for Pope Francis’ Pontificate

September 18, 2013

 

Sister Margaret Farley

Sister Margaret Farley

Sister Margaret Farley, whose groundbreaking theological book:  Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics was condemned by the Vatican last year, spoke publicly recently in support of marriage equality, women’s equality in the church, and hope that Pope Francis will listen to discussion on these and other matters.

According to The Detroit Free Press, Sister Farley spoke to a group of 400 people at Mercy Center, Farmington Hills (a suburb of Detroit), at an event sponsored by “Elephants in the Living Room,” an organization of Detroit priests, lay people, and religious who provide forums for various contemporary topics.

Sister Farley’s theological work allows for approving committed sexual relationships between two people of the same gender, one of the reasons that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith censured the book in May 2012.

During her recent talk, she expressed hope for change in the pontificate of Pope Francis:

 “ ‘He seems teachable,’ she said, and hoped he will listen to the many Catholic women who call for change.

“ ‘I think that women at this juncture are in some way key, because, for example, we do have the problem that there are not enough priests,’ Farley said. ‘I think that eventually it will be necessary to ordain married men and women, married or not. But how that development will finally take place, what the evolution will be, I don’t know.’ “

Sister Farley commented on her ability to speak on sexual ethics topics after having been censured by the Vatican:

“You just can’t back down and say, I apologize, because it would contradict one’s integrity. I didn’t decide never to talk again about the things that were problematic.”

Although she stated that the censure of the book was “minor, minor, trivial in a way,” she did acknowledge that it sends a discouraging message to other theologians. The Detroit Free Press  article stated:

“The book’s censure perpetuates an atmosphere that stifles debate and ignores how changing human experience shapes the views of Catholics, she said.”

During her talk, she explained how her gay nephew, now deceased, was a role model for her:

“I have a beloved nephew who was all those things — wise, holy. And I’m absolutely certain that he was all those things because he grew up in our family. Our family could never have condemned him.”

Despite the Vatican’s censure of her book, Sister Farley was supported by an enormous outpouring of public statements from prominent Catholics.  You can read about these statements here here, here, and here.

Sister Farley has been a frequent supporter of New Ways Ministry, having spoken at three of our national symposiums and having given several workshops/retreats over the years.  In 2002, New Ways Ministry presented her with its “Bridge Building Award” which recognizes people whose scholarship or pastoral leadership help to promote dialogue in the church on LGBT issues.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


7 Questions for Sister Jeannine Gramick

September 17, 2013
Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

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.

By the way, Bondings 2.0 readers may already be familiar with O’Loughlin’s work.  A few months back he published a wonderful essay about LGBT issues at Catholic colleges, which we noted on this blog.

FROM “7 QUESTIONS FOR SISTER JEANNINE GRAMICK”

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick

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.

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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.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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