Right-Wing Catholics in Poland Attack LGBT Rights, While Bishops Silent

LGBT equality in Poland is a contentious issue. While the issue evolved in recent years, since 2016 progress has been threatened by the right-wing Law and Justice party that governs Poland and boasts of its Catholic identity.

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Participants at Warsaw’s Equality Parade

Government restrictions have not, however, stopped some Poles from celebrating the LGBT communities in their country. In June this year, some 50,000 people took part in Warsaw’s “Equality Parade” that holds up not only LGBT people but other marginalized groups like people with disabilities.  In its 17th year, the Parade is more a demonstration for human rights against the right-wing government than a celebration of Pride.

As a bit of background, modern Poland never criminalized homosexuality. Since the Cold War ended, there has been an openness in some urban areas to lesbian and gay people. Homosexuality was removed from a list of mental health issues in 1991. The country has had openly gay and openly transgender politicians, and allows gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

Despite these positive developments, the country’s citizens remain generally opposed to certain LGBT rights. Marriage equality is constitutionally banned, and most Poles agree it should remain so. Attempted “registered partnership laws” for same-gender couples have been repeatedly defeated by legislators, though 2017 polling indicates that for the first time, a majority of Poles support some form of legal recognition. Non-discrimination protections are sorely lacking, and there are no anti-hate crime laws.

Unlike most nations, the situation in Poland is deteriorating and has been since the Law and Justice party took power in 2015. In an interview with World Politics Review, Agata Chaber of the country’s leading LGBT group, Campaign Against Homophobia, explained the conservative turn:

“The Law and Justice Party is stoking a fear of everything that is foreign, and portraying the EU as an unwanted and harmful influence on Poland. . .they say it has ‘forced’ Poland to adopt the so-called gay agenda. By portraying concern for LGBT rights as a product of foreign influence, the party is contributing to the isolation of Poland’s LGBT community.

“The Law and Justice Party has only been in power for two years, which is not long enough to dramatically change social attitudes. But given the alterations of school curricula, which removed elements emphasizing nondiscrimination while embracing more nationalist messaging, and the entrenchment of other policies, we might soon live in a society where any individual who is not white, straight, cisgender and Catholic is unwanted.”

Chaber added that the number of anti-LGBT people isn’t growing, but the “intensity of hate” by those who already are anti-LGBT is expanding. These radical nationalist groups are “increasingly dominating public discourse and public spaces, and in so doing they are making it much more difficult for LGBT people and their allies to live openly.”

Intimately connected to the Law and Justice party’s rise is the Catholic identity it strongly claims, even against church leaders’ criticisms. Poland is 95% Catholic, a majority of whom attend weekly Mass. For years, Church leaders have vehemently opposed any expansion of LGBT equality, creating fertile ground in which the conservative Catholic, anti-gay views of Law and Justice could grow.

The outcomes of this union of religion and politics have been devastating. Hate crimes have risen sharply, in large part because the government itself is ambivalent or even supportive of such acts. Harsh rhetoric has become more acceptable.

Chaber believes the future for LGBT rights in Poland is uncertain. As long as Law and Justice is in power and the threats from nationalist Catholic groups grow, there will be no new protections for LGBT people. LGBT groups’ best hope, Chaber said, is to do grassroots organizing that will “create a movement that will oppose violence and discrimination.”

I would add that now is a crucial moment for Catholic leaders, who are already critical of Law and Justice on other matters, to speak out for the human rights of LGBT people. Their opposition to the recognition of same-gender relationships does not have to stop them from using their power to oppose violence and discrimination against LGBT people.

New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick visited Poland in the late fall of 2016.  For a report on her activities there with LGBT groups and the media, click here

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 8, 2017

 

 

Bishop Stowe Applauds Interfaith Pride Celebration; Parish and Celebrity Also Mark Pride

As Pride month concludes today, Bondings 2.0 brings you three stories about how a Catholic bishop, a Catholic parish, and a Catholic entertainment celebrity chose to mark the annual occasion.

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Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv. at New Ways Mnistry’s Symposium in April

Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv. of Lexington, Kentucky, sent a letter to attendees of the city’s first Pride Interfaith Service. The letter was posted on Facebook by the Catholic Committee of Appalachia for whom he is the episcopal liaison. In the letter Stowe wrote:

“It is a commendable outreach to people in the community who too often have suffered discrimination from people of faith. It is good to know that in the midst of the festivities, members of the LGBT community are taking time for prayer and reflection and coming together in celebration of a bond of faith. May a great outpouring of praise and thanksgiving rise to the Creator along with our prayers for relief for all who are suffering in any way.

‘Though our religious traditions and backgrounds vary, they all teach the virtues of loving respect expressed in compassion. May that spirit become ever stronger in our Lexington community. May your gifts truly be celebrated in a spirit of thanksgiving. And may we all grow in our ability to join hands and hearts to resist hatred and intolerance in any form.”

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Lexington Catholics at the city’s Pride Festival

Catholics in Lexington joined Bishop Stowe’s outreach by hosting a table at the city’s Pride Festival earlier this month.

In April, Bishop Stowe offered scriptural reflections at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss:  LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.” The National Catholic Reporter interviewed him about the event:

“Stowe said he is humbled by those who have pursued ‘a life of faith in a church that has not always welcomed or valued’ them or their worth. . .both the presence and persistence of LGBT Catholics inspired him.

“They’ve shown ‘a valuable expression of mercy’ in calling the church ‘to be more inclusive and more Christ-like despite being given so many reasons to walk away,’ he said.”

Stowe also offered LGBT-inclusive reflections at the Conference of Major Superiors of Men’s 2016 conference.

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Baltimore remembers Orlando with prayer

In Baltimore, the LEAD Ministry at St. Matthew’s parish and other Catholics joined with interfaith groups to both acknowledge the first anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub massacre.  The faith groups then also marched in the city’s Pride Parade.

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Catholics join interfaith marchers in Baltimore

In New York City, comedian Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 10.45.12 AM.pngJim Gaffigan and his family posted about Pride on social media. Gaffigan, who is quite public about his Catholic faith, tweeted, “I’m so proud of my gay kids. Happy #pridenyc”.

Gaffigan entertained Pope Francis and throngs of Catholics at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia last year.

How did you celebrate Pride? Leave a note in the “Comments” section below, or share a picture of your celebrations with us on New Ways Ministry’s Facebook page.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 30, 2017

On Gilbert Baker’s Passing, Why Rainbow Flags Are Needed in Catholic Spaces

Gilbert Baker, the person who designed the rainbow flag used as a symbol of LGBT identity, passed away last week. Despite his flag first appearing in 1978, controversy about its presence continues, including a recent spate at a Catholic university in Australia. As we remember Baker’s contribution, this additional unfortunate incident is a reminder of why pride flags are so essential for Catholic spaces.

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The flag sticker in dispute

Rainbow flag stickers have twice been posted, and twice torn down, at the University of Notre Dame Australia’s campus in Fremantle. The stickers were posted by the Student Association on their office windows as an expression of welcome, given the general absence of LGBTQ supports on campus. Buzzfeed reported:

“’We took it upon ourselves to do stuff for our LGBTIQ students, because there was nothing,’ student association president Dylan Gojak told BuzzFeed News. ‘One of the first steps was putting up these ally stickers.’ . . .But the vandalism has placed the stickers in the spotlight – and prompted complaints to university management arguing the ‘divisive’ rainbow flag has no place on campus.”

Gojak said for LGBTQ students like himself “there’s nothing, there’s no public statement, there’s no sign that you’re welcome here.” No action thus far has been taken on recommendations made by the Sexuality and Pastoral Care Working Party. The repeated vandalism against the flag stickers has only intensified awareness that such supports are absent.

Administrators initially asked the Student Association to remove the flag stickers, though a compromise was reached which allowed them to remain. After the stickers were vandalized a second time, Vice Chancellor Celia Hammond sent an email, saying:

“‘While I believe the symbol is divisive, and the University does not support all that has come to be associated with the Rainbow flag, the University does not condone the sticker being deliberately taken down in the way that it was. . .This only aggravates the situation and has the potential to cause additional distress.’ . . .

“‘To that end, while the University does not endorse the Rainbow flag, and does not approve it being displayed on any other parts of the University campus, the University is not seeking for it to be removed from the two windows of the Student Association Office at this time.'”

According to Hammond, “the display of the politically charged stickers” could imply the University is not in full compliance with Catholic teaching. She acknowledged there may be people on campus with homophobic views that are “inconsistent with our Catholic teachings,” but that there were others with “legitimate concerns” about the flag stickers.

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Gilbert Baker

Over time, the rainbow flag has come to signify inclusion, acceptance, and pride in embracing the sexual and/or gender identity.  These are all Catholic values and can lead a person on the path to holiness.

Baker’s flag, created at the request of martyred gay icon Harvey Milk, was to be more celebratory than the pink triangle symbol then in use, which has ties to Nazi Germany. And, according to Gay Star NewsBaker imbued the flag with even more meaning:

“Each stripe on the original eight-color flag had a meaning starting with hot pink which represented sexuality. Red represented life, orange was healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic and art, blue for serenity and harmony and violet for spirit.”

These facts make it hard to understand what “legitimate concerns” could be lodged against the posting of rainbow flag stickers. Rather, it is very disturbing that the University of Notre Dame Australia offers no formal support to LGBTQ students, and, in this recent situation, administrators could not express unqualified solidarity with such students.

As the world remembers Gilbert Baker, church officials should remember that church teaching backs the value of each stripe on the rainbow flag, as well as the flag’s symbol of welcome and acceptance. Given how important LGBTQ visibility can be for youth and young adults, every Catholic institution should fly the rainbow flag with pride this spring.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 10, 2017

 

Santa Clara University Responds to Anti-LGBT Slurs, Swastikas

Santa Clara University experienced multiple hate crimes last month, including messages against LGBT people, incidents which have energized members of the campus community to express their solidarity and demand change.

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Student vandalizing a poster at SCU

Vandals struck the California Jesuit school twice this past October, reported campus newspaper The Santa Clara:

“Over the weekend in Casa Italiana Residence Hall, a swastika was drawn in blood in an elevator and derogatory messages aimed at the LGBTQ community were written on a fourth floor hallway bulletin board. These acts came just two weeks after the 43 Students Memorial was defaced.”

The anti-LGBT messages appeared days before National Coming Out Day, when students on campus expressed their solidarity by affixing supportive fabric signs to their backpacks and coming out on social media. But LGBT programming and a generally affirming campus environment do not preclude prejudice said some students. Alaina Boyle, a senior who directs the Santa Clara Community Action Program and is queer, told The Santa Clara:

” ‘I have experienced discrimination and words of persecution from people on our campus before. . .I’m not surprised to hear that this is how some people really feel. . .I think there’s this overarching atmosphere of it being okay to put down certain groups and to speak out about how you feel about minority groups. I think that’s normalizing the hatred.’ “

Students and several offices on campus organized a march in which 70 students, staff, faculty, and administrators participated. Marchers changed “We are one” and “Love not hate” during the witness, about which the Multicultural  Center’s director Isaac Nieblas explained to The Santa Clara:

“We want to be loud and we want to be proud and we want to showcase that regardless of the symbols of hate and undertone of racism and misogyny and bigotry that exists here on this campus. . .We are not going to stand for it and we are going to start moving forward hand and hand.”Fr. Michael Engh, SJ, the University’s president, participated in the march and explained that he was there because “it is important that the administration

Fr. Michael Engh, SJ, the University’s president, participated in the march and explained that he was there because “it is important that the administration demonstrate that all students are welcome here.” Engh said the acts had violated a “sense of home” on campus.

Administrators hosted a community forum shortly after the acts of vandalism to address students’ questions, and the Multicultural Center facilitated restorative circles to help students process the incidents.

The forum was tense, according to The Santa Clara, as students asked whether the perpetrators would remain on campus and administrators refused to give details citing confidentiality requirements and the involvement of the Santa Clara Police Department. Students also questioned why administrators had used terms like “bias incident” and “act of discrimination” instead of “hate crime” to describe the events.

A statement from 25 LGBTQ community members was subsequently released, condemning the acts and naming four demands:

“The document contains four core demands, including that the acts be called hate crimes rather than acts of discrimination and that a full description of the vandalism be released to the Santa Clara community.

“The statement also demands that the university increase the security of campus surveillance footage to prevent images of hate crimes from circulating around the university and ‘re-traumatizing’ affected communities.

“The joint statement also calls for using a ‘transformative justice’ approach in order to hold the perpetrators accountable. This would allow those affected to address the perpetrators directly.”

The topic of hate crimes targeting LGBT people and other marginalized communities is quite present in the U.S. today after the presidential election. Though these incidents at Santa Clara happened in October, the negative effects such crimes cause are harm more than just the campus community. What should not be lost is that not only tragedy occurred at Santa Clara, but solidarity from church leaders and an appeal for transformative justice by campus groups.

Clearly, the teachings of the church on justice, solidarity, and reconciliation are foremost considerations for the community at Santa Clara University. The rest of us would do well to keep these teachings at the forefront of our lives, too, in these coming months and years when it seems hate is poised to raise its ugly head.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

 

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 21, 2016

National Coming Out Day and the Complexities of Catholic Higher Education

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 11, 2016

Today is National Coming Out Day, celebrating the ongoing process of coming out that is a part of many LGBT people’s journeys. Catholic colleges have in recent years marked this day with educational programs and celebrations, but recent events at Boston College reveal the challenges that still exist even at Catholic schools considered LGBT supportive.

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Boston College students at the march

Nearly 200 students and faculty marched through Boston College’s campus last week, a move to “break the silence” that LGBTQ people alongside communities of color and people with disabilities experience on campus, reported campus newspaper The Heights. [Disclosure: I am a graduate student at Boston College, a Jesuit university.]

Graduate Pride Alliance president Dylan Lang explained in a statement, “We are here and we will not be silent, so it is time to make changes to better the lives of LGBTQ+ students at Boston College NOW.”

The march directly responded to a gay slur written on a campus sign and the perceived silence of administrators about the incident. It was also tied to larger issues identified by many students relating to LGBT identities, racial justice, and people with disabilities. Dean of Students Tom Mogan did release a statement saying the College “does not tolerate acts of hate, bias and prejudice on our campus such as this.”

Marchers ended with a rally near where the slur had appeared, and students shared their experiences on campus of being excluded. Zoe Mathison, an affiliate campus minister, attended the event and acknowledged Campus Ministry does not do enough on these issues, telling The Heights:

“There is this confusion that Jesus does not care about these issues and that he would not stand up for queer lives or black lives.”

There are, however, some positive developments at Boston College. This week, the GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC) is hosting its first Pride Week that expands on National Coming Out Day to celebrate LGBT identities and educate allies. The focus this year is on intersectionality, explained GLC chair Anne Williams, and will address “how sexual orientation and gender identity intersect with race, class, ability, etc.”

Last week, the Episcopalian Chaplaincy hosted openly transgender priest Rev. Cameron Partridge for a lecture.  Additionally, the student government passed a resolution calling on College administrators to establish an LGBTQ center.

But the contrast between many students’ experience and some LGBT supports reveals how complex LGBT issues in Catholic higher education can be. An editorial in The Heights described this challenge well:

“The vandalized sign should stand as a reminder that issues of prejudice and LGBTQ rights have not been solved on this campus. There are still problems, and LGBTQ students deserve support from the administration. Queer Peers [a mentoring program], while it was shut down for a while, is back in a larger context, which is one step in the right direction. But to fully support LGBTQ students, the administration should support efforts that LGBTQ students have expressed the need for, like Ignatian Q and an LGBTQ resource center.”

Student Christian Cho forcefully appealed to the College’s Catholic identity as the basis for not only allowing existing programs, but intentionally enacting more supports:

“BC can and should fully support LGBT students and their allies in their journeys to live the gospels of love and justice by actively financing LGBT-led initiatives like Ignatian Q and Queer Peers. Homophobia that lurks within the minds of bigots can be replaced with love, but only if the environment encourages that kind of conversion. I have seen love manifest itself through that kind of enlightenment, but it will take courageous leadership from an administration not afraid to boldly follow Pope Francis into the new paradigm he has set for us.”

Catholic colleges and universities in the United States have been institutions at the forefront of promoting LGBT inclusion in the church, but as National Coming Out Day is celebrated, it should not be forgotten there is still much work to do.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

Related Article

The Boston Globe, “Protest denounces BC’s response to gay slur on campus

 

LGBT Rights Activist Arrested in Ugandan Police Raid

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Dr. Frank Mugisha

The leading LGBT advocate in Uganda was among those arrested on Thursday following the police raid of a Pride event.

Police arrested about 20 people while raiding Venom, a nightclub in the capital of Kampala which had been hosting the Mr. and Miss Pride Uganda pageant. Those arrested included Dr. Frank Mugisha, a Catholic who is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), reported Buzzfeed. Everyone arrested was released without charges after a few hours, and other attendees were allowed to leave after a time. But SMUG’s statement reports the violence which occurred in the interim:

“[B]eating people, humiliating people, taking pictures of LGBTI Ugandans and threatening to publish them, and confiscating cameras. Eyewitnesses reported several people—in particular transwomen and transmen—were sexually assaulted by police. One person jumped from a 4 storey window to try to avoid police abuse. This person is now in critical condition at private hospital.”

Police claimed the event did not have a permit, and there were reports of a same-gender wedding, but Pepe Julian Onziema of SMUG disputed these claims.

Pride celebrations in the capital have in large part been tolerated the last few years. Mugisha tied the raid to a broader uptick in police activity against Ugandans, in addition to targeting LGBT advocates. Pride 2016 celebrations are now being amended, including the cancellation of a planned Pride parade today because Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo threatened mob violence against any marchers.

Being openly LGBT in Uganda can be dangerous, as this incident makes clear. A report released by SMUG earlier this year, “And That’s How I Survived Being Killed: Testimonies of Human Rights Abuses from Uganda’s Sexual and Gender Minorities,” documented the persecution:

“In this report, based on first-hand testimonies, Sexual Minorities Uganda documented from May 2014 until December 2015 the physical threats, violent attacks, torture, arrest, blackmail, non-physical threats, press intrusion, state prosecution, termination of employment, loss of physical property, harassment, eviction, mob justice, and family banishment that are all too often apart of the lived experience for sexual and gender minorities in Uganda.”

There are 264 verified testimonies in all, about which Dr. Mugisha commented:

“This report is unique and unlike those that have come before it because it elevates the voice of the persecuted. What is inside this report is the human story – that is the lived experience of sexual and gender minorities in Uganda.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 3.32.33 PMUganda is about 40% Catholic, and Mugisha’s advocacy has been directed to church leaders, as well as government officials. Mugisha challenges claims by church leaders and others that homosexuality is a Western import and that Western advocacy for LGBT Africans has triggered a backlash. He criticized Uganda’s bishops for not condemning and even supporting the Anti-Homosexuality Act, colloquially known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, proposed by President Yoweri Museveni.

Last fall, Mugisha appealed to Pope Francis for words of compassion and equality about LGBT people during the apostolic voyage to Uganda, Kenya, and Central African Republic. The pope did not address the issue. He also unsuccessfully sought a meeting with Francis, and like many LGBT advocates, was disappointed at the pope’s silence in a context where LGBT suffer greatly.

Mugisha was the recpient of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2011, and he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Dr. Mugisha will be a keynote speaker at New Ways Ministry’s Eight National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.” If you are interested attending the Symposium to hear Dr. Mugisha, click here for more information and registration instructions.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Celebrating Pride In the Shadow of Orlando: A Catholic Reflection

Today’s post was written by guest blogger Alfred Pang is a PhD student in Theology and Education at Boston College.

This was my first year attending the Pride Parade in Boston, where I go to graduate school. Partly because of my reserved personality, I’ve often struggled to immerse myself in the spirit of Pride. The extravagance of the celebration overwhelmed me. More significantly, as an international student, I do not share in the history of Pride in the U.S., so I’ve often felt detached. As I watched the parade, I felt I was a foreigner wishing to see a familiar face of a friend, a stranger longing to be home with family.

My first Pride Parade wasn’t magical. The only point of connection I had was with the Pride Festival exhibit booth for three welcoming Catholic parishes organized under the name Greater Boston Rainbow Catholics. Their banner, which people were invited to sign, read, “I am a proud LGBTQ Catholic and I pray the church would love me more.” I wrote on the banner, “I came out as gay because I’m Catholic and not in spite of it.” I was proud to be part of this tradition and identity. When it comes to pride, history and community matters.

On the day after Pride, news broke about the tragic shooting in Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, where 49 were gunned down during Latin Night. As an Asian gay man and a foreigner in this country, the horrific violence inflicted on LGBT persons of color hit too close to home. In my shock and grief, however, I was lifted up by the show of solidarity witnessed at vigils in Boston, from around the U.S., and around the globe, including Singapore, my home country. In light of this worldwide solidarity against fear, I’ve been awakened to a deeper significance of pride.

Pride is not arrogance, as many would typically understand it. For someone who identifies with the LGBT community, pride means to be fiercely unashamed that love is love. As gay and Catholic, pride is to dance with conviction that God’s love liberates us from the shame that diminishes our life as God’s beloved community. It is to “boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31) whose radical commitment to God’s mercy and justice led this Son of God to be in solidarity with the outcast and marginalized, even to the point of death on a cross.

Pride means to be amazed at the wild creativity of the Spirit of Christ who lives within and breathes among us, beckoning us toward newness in life as a beloved community in the here and now. Jesus’s injunction to us not to be afraid is a call to stand without shame as living witnesses of God’s unconditional love for all. There is no place that God will not go, and it is precisely this widening outreach and radical inclusivity of God’s love that the gospel challenges us to embrace with pride – unashamed.

Yet, in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, the Catholic hierarchy fell short in its witnessing to God’s far-reaching inclusive love. With a few exceptions, bishops, while condemning the violence, have largely been reticent, if not silent, about the gender and sexual identities of the victims. In doing so, an opportunity was missed to lift up the Church’s official teaching that explicitly opposes any form of violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.

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Alfred Pang

More critically, such reticence once again pushes the suffering of the LGBT community into invisibility and furthers their systemic marginalization. Equally problematic is the tendency for church leaders to speak around the victims’ particular identities and conveniently snug them under ‘children of God’ as a blanket phrase. How can LGBT persons be properly regarded as God’s beloved children when church leaders are embarrassed to acknowledge their particular sexualities, even in the face of a tragedy?

My insistence in giving due attention to the gendered and sexual bodies of the victims at Orlando is not to remain mired in identity politics that can become exclusivist. Rather, what is at stake is how we regard the humanity of each other, with all the complexity of gender and sexuality intersecting with race, culture, class, and religion. The shooting at Orlando is symptomatic of a deeper tragic cycle of how we as human beings are actually capable of betraying one another.

Yet, the gospel provokes us to hope against all hopes that love wins because in and through Christ, death has lost its sting (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:55). We as church must allow ourselves to be haunted by this hope to recognize and repent from our complicity in social structures that feed this tragic cycle of dehumanization. I am grateful for the courage of Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, who, in his statement on Orlando, wrote:

“… [S]adly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence. Those women and men who were mowed down early yesterday morning were all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that. Without yet knowing who perpetrated the PULSE mass murders, when I saw the Imam come forward at a press conference yesterday morning, I knew that somewhere in the story there would be a search to find religious roots. While deranged people do senseless things, all of us observe, judge and act from some kind of religious background. Singling out people for victimization because of their religion, their sexual orientation, their nationality must be offensive to God’s ears. It has to stop also.”

Unfortunately, not every bishop shares Bishop Lynch’s sentiments, and herein lies the cause for real lament: that we as church (and the hierarchy, in particular) cannot be unified in at least acknowledging our complicity in the complexities of structural violence, especially that inflicted on LGBT communities. My disappointment is not simply over the dread of sexuality that hovers in the Catholic Church, or the humility lacking in some of our church leaders. Rather, my frustration is in our lack of pride in the gospel that celebrates the radical inclusivity of God’s embracing love for all. Are we that ashamed of the scandalous death of Jesus Christ on the cross that is the cost of God’s unreserved compassion for all and unwavering commitment to justice for the vulnerable at the margins?

If this year’s celebration of Pride in the midst of the pain at Orlando has any influence on the Church, I hope it will be the disruption of the Church’s dominant tendency to domesticate the gospel. Pride invites us to reclaim our identity as God’s beloved children, but in all our particularities and peculiarities that God takes delight in. More profoundly, God’s love must agitate us to be proud of the gospel, to take our encounter with Christ in the gospel onto the streets as ambassadors of reconciliation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20). Taking pride in ourselves as children of God obliges us to be peacemakers (cf. Matthew 5:9). As Blessed Oscar Romero put it:

“Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous,
tranquil contribution of all
to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism.
Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.”

As a church, we must find ways to come out with pride and not cower in shame (and disbelief) over God’s scandalous love for all.  We must continually be more open to the inclusivity of Christ’s love in the gospel and be moved by the creativity of the Spirit to walk the way of peace with those different from us.  We must be fearless and unashamed.  We must have pride.

–Alfred Pang