During this week’s coverage leading up to the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, there have been developments on several stories reported on by Bondings 2.0. We offer updates below with links provided if you wish to read further.
” ‘I’ll be 73 on Oct. 1, and I’ve been a Catholic since I was 2 weeks old…I still have the same God that I believe in, and I don’t need this in my life…We’re getting old…There is no other avenue for us in the Catholic Church to protect ourselves financially — our Social Security benefits or our home, which is in both our names. If something happened to one of us, we need some protection…I basically said, if this is the way it is then I’m done.’ “
Tom Wojtowick, once a priest for nine years, has deep roots in Lewistown, Montana and told KULR News:
” ‘Born here, I was baptized in this church, 7 generations of family in this parish…We didn’t think anything would happen, church is one thing, civil society is another.’ “
Further details about the priest who would deny the couple Communion have emerged as well. Fr. Samuel Spiering, 27, was ordained in 2012 and had only been at the parish four days when he called the couple based on a rumor he heard about their marriage. He attended the conservative Ave Maria University and is a canon law student at the Catholic University of America.
According to the Independent Record, Bishop Michael Warfel of Great Falls-Billings met with parishioners last week to discuss the incident. The couple, as well as liturgy and music director Janie Shupe, dispute the bishop’s statement that support for the couple was 50-50 and say it was more 80-20 in support of Huff and Wojtowick. Shupe, who has since resigned, and now worships at the neighboring Episcopalian church, commented:
” ‘I just felt like my world had fallen out beneath me…I can’t believe this is the church I believed in for so many years…I thought we were moving forward, and we did have a very joyous, very vibrant community going all these years. It feels like we’ve been thrust back in the dark ages.’ “
Moving forward, Huff no longer attends the parish and Wojtowick attends half of Mass and leaves before Communion. The couple is considering canonical action, believing they have a case after consultation with canon lawyers and is waiting to see what the bishop’s actions will be.
In a lengthy editorial, the Billings Gazette harshly criticized Fr. Spiering, Bishop Warfel, and church leadership, writing in part:
“Ubi caritas et amor deus ibi est. Those are the beloved Latin words of the Christian hymn, often sung on Holy Thursday, in the Roman Catholic Church. They translate: Where charity and love are, God is. And somehow, God feels a little less close in the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Montana…
“How should we judge a church that preaches love but practices condemnation?…
“The real problem with these situations in Montana’s Catholic Church is that there continues to be a message of exclusion practiced in the name of doctrine, dogma and scripture. Instead, the church — any church — is at its best when members come together not to find the imperfections in each other, but to heal the broken nature of this world. In that respect, the Catholic Church has become more of the problem than any solution.”
Cardinal O’Malley on Firings
Bondings 2.0 broke news that Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley said LGBT-related employment disputes against church workers “need to be rectified.” New Ways Ministry staff member, Bob Shine, spoke with GLAAD about his interaction with the cardinal and said, in part:
” ‘I am Catholic and my relationship with Jesus impels me to institute in this world structures that are just and inclusive…
” ‘It’s not that often that you get someone of his prominence in the church, in the official church structure, saying such a forcefully inclusive statement…It seems like the first time we know of that a bishop, never mind one who is a close papal advisor, has come out and said there’s a problem here with these firings. Previous instances of episcopal involvement in these employment disputes has been either affirming the firings, some level of saying I don’t have the power to get involved or remaining silent and deflecting the issue. So, this is, even if it was not fleshed out, this is a really important statement to have on the record.’ “
Shine did not believe O’Malley’s comments are indicative of the American hierarchy’s attitude, and resistance remains to Pope Francis’ message of mercy and inclusion, though hopefully the cardinal would be a “trend setter.”
Shine also wrote about his interaction with Cardinal O’Malley for the National Catholic Reporter, a sidebar to a lengthier article updating readers on these employment disputes in 2014. In the latter, he identified three developments now exacerbating the problem of firings, resignations, and dismissals: the expansion of marriage equality, enhanced morality clauses in church workers’ contracts, and the emerging question of pregnancy outside of recogonized marriage, which disproportionately affects lesbian women. You can read the article here and find Bondings 2.0‘s full employment coverage in the ‘Employment Issues‘ category here.
NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Cardinal Timothy Dolan continues to defend his welcome of an LGBT group to the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade, writing on his personal blog. Dolan noted he did not make the decision, but in light of it has asked himself does “the new policy violate Catholic faith or morals?” He writes:
“From my review, it does not. Catholic teaching is clear: “being Gay” is not a sin, nor contrary to God’s revealed morals. Homosexual actions are—as are any sexual relations outside of the lifelong, faithful, loving, lifegiving bond of a man and woman in marriage—a moral teaching grounded in the Bible, reflected in nature, and faithfully taught by the Church.
“So, while actions are immoral, identity is not! In fact, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, people with same-sex attraction are God’s children, deserving dignity and respect, never to be treated with discrimination or injustice…
“I share the hope of the organizers that the March 17th parade will be loyal to its proud heritage of celebrating Irish identity, culture, and contributions—all a beautiful part of Catholicism— thus bringing this great community together in unity and festivity, and look forward to leading it as Grand Marshal.”
Meanwhile, three more Irish LGBT groups have petitioned to publicly march under their own banner and raised questions about whether the policy had been lifted or not if only OUT@NBCUniversal is allowed to march. For Bondings 2.0‘s ongoing coverage of the St. Patrick’s Day parade controversies, click here.
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.
Tomorrow morning, NBC-TV will air a pre-taped interview with New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in which the prelate claims that the Catholic Church has been wrongly portrayed as being “anti-gay” because of official support for heterosexual marriage.
“A top Roman Catholic cardinal says he regrets that the church is portrayed as ‘anti-gay’ for supporting traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
“Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, told NBC News that the church has been ‘out-marketed” on the issue by an array of people, including politicians.
” ‘We’ve been caricatured as being anti-gay,’ Dolan said in an interview airing Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. ‘And as much as we’d say, “Wait a minute, we’re pro marriage, we’re pro traditional marriage, we’re not anti anybody,” I don’t know.
” ‘When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it’s a tough battle,’ he said. . . .
” ‘I think I’d be a Pollyanna to say that there doesn’t seem to be kind of a stampede to do this,’ Dolan told David Gregory of Meet the Press. ‘I regret that. I wish that were not the case for the states.’ “
Dolan’s comments are filled with many errors in characterization. First, “the church” is not against same-gender marriage. The church hierarchy is defending heterosexual-only. We know that poll after poll keeps showing that Catholics support marriage equality–and “the church” is rightly defined as ALL the people of God, not just the hierarchy.
Second, people, especially Catholics, are not being swayed by external forces to support marriage equality. Catholics are supporting these measures not in spite of their faith, but because of their faith. Catholic principles of justice, equality, human dignity, protection and support of all families are what are motivating them to support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. The more that the hierarchy continues to view this argument as a battle between forces inside and outside the church, the more that these leaders will miss the fact that the Holy Spirit is moving among the laity on this issue.
Third, it is not because of opposition to marriage equality that people characterize Catholic leadership as anti-gay. It is because they oppose a whole variety of equality issues–immigration, employment non-discrimination, adoption, as well as marriage–that people view the hierarchy as anti-gay. It’s because they deny sacraments to lesbian and gay people and their supporters, because they expel children of lesbian and gay people from Catholic schools, because they fire openly LGBT people from church employment, because they hold exorcisms when marriage equality is enacted, because they compare the gay equality movement to the Ku Klux Klan–and so many other actions and statements–that people perceive the church hierarchy as anti-gay. And it’s because they miss every opportunity to do or say anything positive that people develop this characterization.
Just look at how people have responded to the few positive things that Pope Francis has said in regard to lesbian and gay people. While he has not challenged church doctrine, he has found many ways of being affirmative, and people are responding in a wildly positive way.
Cardinal Dolan, and all the U.S. bishops, should stop blaming others and do a thorough examination of their own statements, behaviors, and attitudes in regard to LGBT people and issues.
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.
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.
DignityUSA’s popular webinar series, “Queer Catholic Faith,” will feature an interview with Nicholas Coppola, on Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m., Eastern Time. Coppola, is the Catholic volunteer who was dismissed from several parish ministries when it was learned that he had legally married his husband in New York State. Bondings 2.0 has been following Coppola’s story, and you can read the latest post about him here, and links to previous posts are at the end of this post.
The show’s host describes the upcoming program this way:
“A charismatic spirit, a deep call to serve, a love for his fellow parishioners and for his Church—these attributes only begin to describe Nick Coppola, recently fired from all ministry in his parish because he is married to a man. He’ll bring his abundant energy and faith to a live Queer Catholic Faith interview on Tuesday, May 21 at 9:00 PM Eastern. Tune in for free and from the comfort of home, and find out why this man still attends Mass at his parish every Sunday. Don’t delay. Register now and put it on your calendar. If you’re a straight or LGBTQ Catholic who’s a bit weary and worn of struggles to be counted with full dignity in the Church, this hour will give life.”
You can register for this webinar by clicking here.
“Kathy and her partner, devoted Roman Catholics who are gay, feel welcome in their Suffolk County parish.
“But when the time came to baptize their children, they chose to have a private ceremony rather than stand with straight parents in a group baptism at Sunday Mass.
“Acceptance, they have decided, means keeping a low profile. The couple don’t hide their sexual orientation, but they don’t flaunt it either…
“For gay and lesbian Catholics on Long Island, home of the nation’s fifth-largest diocese, participation in a church…is fraught with complexities. Some, like Kathy, feel a general sense of acceptance, but within unspoken boundaries. Others are so alienated they won’t go inside a Catholic church.”
Involvement by LGBT Catholics is particularly strained on Long Island after the ousting of Nicholas Coppola from several volunteer ministries once he had married his husband. However, in contrast to the hierarchy’s harsh LGBT policies on Long Island and nationwide, American Catholics support LGBT equality. The Newsday piece continues with comments from several LGBT advocates:
“‘There’s been a great shift in the last couple of decades and particularly in the last two to three years,’ said Jeannine Gramick, a nun with the Sisters of Loretto order, who founded the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry to seek acceptance for gays and lesbians in the church. ‘More and more gay Catholics are beginning to realize that non-gay Catholics in the pew are supportive,’ Gramick said.
“She and other advocates said the church hierarchy is not keeping up. Gay and lesbian Catholics are ‘leaving the church in droves,’ Gramick said. ‘It’s heartbreaking.'”
“Mary Kane, 50, head of the Suffolk chapter of Dignity, a national gay Catholic advocacy group, said it is hit or miss for gays and lesbians seeking a friendly parish on Long Island.
“‘There are very welcoming parishes, and there are some parishes where gay and lesbian couples don’t feel welcome or don’t go back,’ she said.
“Many parishes seem to operate on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell basis,’ Kane said. ‘A lot of it depends on the priest.'”
Other LGBT Catholics described their experiences of alienation from Long Island parishes, which mirrors the trend nationwide:
“Jamie Manson, of Long Beach, still feels excluded. She attended Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville — a ‘wonderful experience’ — majored in theology at St. John’s University, and received a master’s degree in Catholic theology and ethics at Yale Divinity School.
“Yet as a lesbian she feels so alienated from the Catholic Church she rarely steps inside one, except for weddings and funerals. ‘It’s so empty having nowhere to go — you feel like you are spiritually homeless,’ said Manson, 36.
“Dennis McCarthy, a longtime lay leader at Our Lady of the Snow parish in Blue Point, said the church has fallen behind the times. Until the church accepts gays and lesbians and adopts ‘a different attitude toward the role of women in the church,’ such as allowing them to be deacons and eventually priests, ‘I think they’re generally going to have a problem going forward,’ he said.
“Gays should hold ministerial positions and be allowed ‘participation in any way’ in parish life, McCarthy said.”
New York-area Catholics who support LGBT-inclusion in the Catholic Church are meeting at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, this Sunday, May 5, 2013, to attend the 10:15 Mass with dirty hands.
The silent vigil is in response to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s blog post from a week ago in which he compared lesbian and gay people coming to church to children showing up to dinner with dirty hands. He used this analogy to say that it was permissible for church leaders to welcome lesbian and gay people to church, but that the leaders needed to remind them that they needed to clean themselves up. You can read Bondings 2.0’s commentary on Dolan’s blog post here.
Joseph Amodeo, the organizer of this vigil, offers the following explanation and logistical information:
“This Sunday, we’ll respond to Cardinal Dolan’s article that called upon gay people to wash their hands before entering the church. We’ll be attending 10:15am Mass with charcoaled hands, so as to stand in solidarity with LGBT people. This will not be a protest, it will be a silent and powerful witness to our belief that God welcomes all. We’ll meet in front of Barnes & Noble on 5th Ave and 46 St. We’ll distribute charcoal there and then proceed as a group to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. All people are welcome to join us in this act of solidarity. Please be sure to arrive on time at 9am at Barnes & Noble. If you have questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Amodeo has set up a Facebook event for this vigil which can be viewed here.
New Ways Ministry encourages all in the New York metropolitan area who support LGBT Catholics to show up to this event.