EXCLUSIVE: Why Catholics Should Affirm Civil Marriage Equality

April 15, 2014
Professor Lisa Fullam

Professor Lisa Fullam

A new theological argument in favor of Catholic support for civil same-sex marriage is being published today on Bondings 2.0.  The article is written by Professor Lisa Fullam, an associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, California.   You can access the full text of the article on its own page by clicking here.

Entitled “Civil Same-Sex Marriage:  A Catholic Affirmation,” Prof. Fullam’s essay uses the Catholic intellectual tradition to argue that support for civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples is in line with our church’s best ideas about marriage, civil society, and church-state relations.  It deserves a full and thoughtful reading by all who are concerned with these issues.

The problem with the current Catholic debate on civil marriage, according to Fullam, is that it is both too broad and too narrow. In the article’s abstract, she states:

“Too broad: civil same-sex marriage is sometimes described as parallel to same-sex marriage in the Church. Too narrow: some Catholic contributions to the discussion have centered on reproductive capacity, ignoring Catholicism’s rich tradition which values marriage beyond procreation.”

The essay is divided into three sections:

  1. a discussion of how Catholic thought understands civil law;
  2. a critique of magisterial statements in the public debate about marriage;
  3. an enumeration or reasons why Catholics might work for marriage equality.

Fullam’s essay is both theologically rich and relevant to contemporary lives. For example, her working definition of the traditional concept of  “natural law” begins with a full accounting of human nature, which she defines as:

“. . . the capacities and potential excellences of the human creature, seen in the light of the best knowledge available to us—biological, psychological, sociological, philosophical (including theological,) spiritual, artistic, historic (including personal experience), etc. Natural law is sometimes confused with the biological functions of human bodies, but this misunderstanding fails to consider human nature in this fuller sense, that we are rational and creative discerners of meaning, seeking to grow in virtue, aided by the grace of God. To see how the natural law guides us in a given situation is to think deeply about how the question before us is best resolved for the flourishing of ourselves and our societies. “

Among the most thought-provoking part of the essay is her critique of magisterial arguments against same-sex marriage, including those from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Pope John Paul  II’s “Theology of the Body.”   By basing her argument in the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes, which acknowledged that marriages served both unitive and procreative ends, Fullam shows how leaders like the U.S. bishops have narrowed down the Council’s teaching on marriage:

“According to the bishops, the ‘communion of persons’ of Gaudium et Spes is revealed in the procreative capacity of couples: while the Council taught that non-procreative marriages are still marriages, the USCCB roots the unitive end of marriage in the procreative possibility of heterosexual marriage.”

In the last section, Fullam shows how the magisterium’s focus on procreation leads to many inconsistencies in their approach to civil marriage and family life.  For example, she notes the situation of adoption:

“Those who raise children not biologically their own are reaching beyond a reproductive imperative to a spiritually-resonant act of profound devotion. They make a great contribution to the common good. To base the social value of marriage on the potential for biological procreation would be to ignore the generosity of adoptive parents, and to render their families somehow unnatural or second-class. This would be a fundamental injustice to those families, and an odd reversal of Christian tradition that emphasizes caring for those in need. “

And she ponders what other civil laws might be needed if a view of marriage that has procreation as its definition were to take hold in secular society:

“Unless we are willing to redefine civil marriage in reproductive terms–perhaps automatically divorcing couples who do not reproduce in a reasonable amount of time, for instance, or denying marriage to women of a certain age or those who are sterile by choice or by happenstance–in denying civil marriage to same-sex couples, we discriminate against them precisely because they are homosexual, a form of unjustifiable discrimination that is contrary to Catholic social teaching.”

Fullam’s essay gives solid, theological underpinnings to the hopes of so many Catholics whose consciences have told them that marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples is a matter of justice.  By grounding her thought in both Thomas Aquinas and the Second Vatican Council, Fullam shows just how Catholic an argument for marriage equality can be.  Reading through this essay will help all those who often find themselves challenged by Catholic opponents to marriage equality.  And it will also give them a deeper understanding and appreciation of our Catholic faith and intellectual tradition.

You can read the entire essay on Bondings 2.0 by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis Needs to Speak Clearly on LGBT Issues

April 12, 2014

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has made his most specific and critical statement about families headed by same-gender couples by stating that children should be raised “in the complementarity of the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother.”

The Advocate’s Michael O’Loughlin reported that the remarks were made in the context of an address to a delegation from the International Catholic Child Bureau.  The pope’s comments, in context, were:

“it is necessary to emphasize the right of children to grow up within a family, with a father and a mother able to create a suitable environment for their development and emotional maturity. Continuing to mature in the relationship, in the complementarity of the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother, and thus preparing the way for emotional maturity.”

Pope Francis further stated:

“Working for human rights presupposes keeping anthropological formation alive, being well-prepared regarding the reality of the human person, and knowing how to respond to the problems and challenges posed by contemporary cultures and mentalities that are spread by the mass media. . . .

“At times it is necessary to flee; at times it is necessary to stop to protect oneself; and at times one must fight. But always with tenderness.”

For those who have been lifted up by the pope’s more positive remarks on LGBT issues, these new words will come as a shock.  Though the pontiff has been developing a reputation as being progressive, many have warned all along that his thinking on women and gender have needed development.  Since the heart of these remarks focus on the outdated concept of “gender complementarity,” it seems reasonable to attribute these remarks, in part, to this blind spot of his.

Regardless of its origin in the pope’s thinking, this remark shows that Francis still needs to learn a lot about LGBT people and their families.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that he seems open to learning more about sexuality and gender issues, witnessed in his call for lay people to provide their opinions on marriage and family issues in anticipation of the October 2014 synod on those topics.

This new statement seems to be stated in the typical style that Pope Francis has used over the past year: while he expresses support for heterosexual marriage and family structures, he definitely avoids any direct attacks against LGBT people and relationships.  It sometimes seemed that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, went out of his way to criticize and condemn LGBT issues.  That is not Pope Francis’ style.  In a recent general audience he spoke about the beauty of heterosexual marriage, but did not use the praise of that institution as an occasion to explicitly disparage same-gender relationships.  Here’s what he said at the Vatican on April 2nd, according to Religion News Service:

“When a man and a woman celebrate the sacrament of marriage, God is reflected in them. . . .

“As ‘one flesh’, they become living icons of God’s love in our world, building up the Church in unity and fidelity. The image of God is the married couple — not just the man, not just the woman, but both.”

He appears to be using the same strategy in the new example of praising families about headed by heterosexual couples.  We don’t see him using accusations that children raised by same-gender couples experience “violence,” as Benedict often said.   Instead, Francis remains silent on the topic.

While silence is not ideal, it is a welcome relief, and a good first step.  But it is also not enough.  While Francis has made some exciting and encouraging statements, some of them have been ambiguous, allowing some to develop strange interpretations, and sometimes forcing people to guess at what he meant.

Pope Francis could clear this up by making a clear, strongly positive statement on LGBT issues which will clear up any doubt about where he stands on these matters.  Of course, we would most like him to speak clearly and forcefully against anti-LGBT laws that are being enacted around the globe.  Or he could support employment rights for LGBT people working in Catholic institutions.  A statement of support to LGBT youth who experience bullying and other forms of violence would also be helpful.  (What kind of statement would you want the pope to make?  Write your thoughts in a “Comment” to this post.)

If he needs any help formulating such statements, we are glad to help him. He can just give us a phone call–something that we know he likes to do!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


LGBT Rainbows Are Appearing Over Ireland

March 14, 2014

In the very, very Catholic nation of Ireland, LGBT equality has been growing by leaps and bounds among the populace. Yet, the negative approach that many Catholic institutions and leaders still take to LGBT issues still exerts an out-sized influence over practices and policies.  Over the past month, several news items have emerged from Ireland, and in this post, we will try to provide a survey of the major developments.

Perhaps the biggest news is that a recent survey by RTÉ, Ireland’s public television company, finds that an overwhelming majority of citizens support the country’s proposed measures to institute marriage equality.  The Guardian reported:

“A new opinion poll shows that only just under 20% of voters will oppose introducing same sex marriage into the Irish constitution.

“More than three-quarters of voters say they support marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in a proposed referendum by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition.

“The survey by the Red C opinion poll firm for Irish public broadcaster RTÉ and The Sunday Business Post found that 76% would be in favour of allowing LGBT couples to legally marry in the Irish Republic. Around 5% of voters were undecided and 19% opposed the law reform.”

Ben Kelly

For Irish musician Ben Kelly, who is gay and Catholic, the news of support rang true to his personal experience growing up in Ireland.  In an essay titled, “To Be Young, Gay, and Catholic” on the website IrishCatholic.ie, Kelly explains that acceptance has been growing for years, and that is a natural progression for many Irish citizens:

“I feel a huge shift in opinion has happened over the past few decades in Ireland, and the country now has many evolved Catholics who are happily rejecting the more damaging rules on how we live and love. After the cultural traumas of the abuse scandal, the ghosts of the Magdalene laundries and other scars inflicted by Church teachings which are increasingly at odds with the lifestyles of the general congregation, Catholic Ireland is accepting gay people. It’s hardly surprising that people who have felt so much hurt are happy to accept a little love.

“Former President Mary McAleese was right: being gay is no longer seen as ‘evil’ or ‘intrinsically disordered’. I was relieved when my parents didn’t have a problem with me being gay, and surprised further when my grandparents didn’t either. But, come to think of it, they belong to generations who quietly disregarded the Church’s teachings on divorce, contraception, and sex before marriage – all of which were condemned from the pulpit, but ignored by many outside the church gates. Homosexuality is just another thing that the Church must realise is being accepted and incorporated into the lives of Irish Catholics.”

Jerry Buttimer

Such an outpouring of support probably did not come as a surprise to Jerry Buttimer, a gay member of the Irish parliament,  who said he sees a lot of progress in the Catholic Church on LGBT issues.  Speaking at a debate at Dublin’s Trinity College on the topic “The Catholic Church can be salvaged,” Buttimer was quoted by The Irish Times

 

“He said Christian understanding was exhibited far better in Catholic communities than in the hierarchy, and there was now a need for a third Vatican council dealing with the issues of morality and sexuality, as the current model of morality was from a different society.

“He praised Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for sending a ‘message of conciliation, of tolerance and respect’ to the gay community, in remarks made on RTÉ Radio One last week.

“Pope Francis had indicated a similar message recently when he spoke to the world’s media. ‘You have to have the hope that the man at the top can lead that change,’ he told students. ‘We now need a church that reflects the values we now have of love, of peace and of justice.’ “

Also speaking at the debate in support of a positive future for the church was Redemptorist Father Tony Flannery, who was relieved of priestly ministry because of his support for progressive reform topics, including LGBT equality.

The experience of lesbian and gay teachers in Ireland was also in the news recently, as The Journal, a national publication, published personal stories of lesbian and gay educators about their professional experiences.  (All accounts were written anonymously because of the fear of being fired.) The Journal notes the extensive role that the Catholic Church plays in Irish education and their exemption from an important anti-discrimination policy:

“In Ireland, schools run by the Catholic Church (which is the vast majority) are allowed exempt from certain aspects of equality law because of their religion’s ethos and teachings. They were given an exemption to the European Equality Directive back in 2000 which allows for this ethos to be upheld during recruitment.”

The stories recount being passed over for promotion, being ignored at staff meetings, having the principal drop in unannounced on lessons and parent meetings, and suffering verbal and sometimes physical abuse, to name a few experiences.  One teacher’s description is particularly disturbing:

“I have witnessed homophobia and what can only be considered gay bashing in both the classroom and the staff room, unfortunately. I was targeted by two separate students on two separate occasions in two different schools and, both times when I complained, the reaction of school managers was more lenient that I had expected or than I wanted.

“On both occasions, the students chose to make the comments in a very public forum – in front of large groups of people. The intention of which was to publicly humiliate me as the teacher.

“What can one say about these types of experiences other than when you consider that I actively choose to keep my private life separate to my public life because I believe my private life has no place in my career, only to be targeted by teenagers who’s intention is public humiliation is pretty depressing?”

You can read all of the accounts of these teachers here.

Panti Bliss

In a story that made headlines around the globe, a drag queen named Panti Bliss, made a speech at Dublin’s famed Abbey Theatre about homophobia, as a response to criticism she had made on public television about critics of LGBT equality.  Bliss (who is also known as Rory O’Neill) made reference to a Catholic notion about homosexuality in her speech. The following excerpt is from The Billerico Project:

“Have any of you ever come home in the evening and turned on the television, and there is a panel of people — nice people, respectable people, smart people… and they’re all sitting around, and they are having a ‘reasoned’ debate on the television: a reasoned debate about you?”

“About what kind of person you are, about whether or not you’re capable of being a good parent, about whether you want to destroy marriage, about whether or not you’re safe around children, about whether or not God herself thinks you’re an abomination, about whether in fact maybe you are intrinsically disordered. And even the nice TV presenter lady… even she thinks it’s perfectly okay that they’re all having this ‘reasoned’ debate about you and about who you are and about what rights you deserve or don’t deserve.”

You can watch the 11-minute video of her speech here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


Did Pope Francis Support Same-Sex Civil Unions?

March 6, 2014

Pope Francis

Pope Francis made headlines once again with another interview which has people around the globe hoping for possible change in the Catholic hierarchy’s position about lesbian and gay relationships.  But, did his words really offer such hope?

Corriere della Seraa major Italian daily, published the interview, which focused primarily on sex abuse, women, and contraception.  Yet the pope did mention the idea of civil unions in answer to a question by the interviewer, Ferruccio deBortoli, the news paper’s editor in chief.  Here is Zenit’s English translation of that section:

Editor:  Many countries have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?

Holy Father: Marriage is between one man and one woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of coexistence, spurred by the need to regulate economic aspects between persons as, for instance, to ensure healthcare. Each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity.”

Some journalists and bloggers have reported on this statement as a ringing endorsement of civil unions.  For example, The Huffington Post reported the story:

“Pope Francis has signalled that he could see the Catholic church tolerating some forms of same-sex civil unions — though not marriage — when it comes to situations such as medical care and property for gay couples.”

And Catholic News Service stated:

“Bishops around the world have differed in their responses to civil recognition of nonmarital unions. The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family said in February 2013 that some legal arrangements are justifiable to protect the inheritance rights of nonmarried couples. But until now, no pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions.”

While true that no pope has made such a statement, further information indicates that he was not referring to same-sex civil unions.  CNN reported that the Vatican press office provided additional information which indicates that the pope was not referring to same-sex couples:

“Later on Wednesday, a Vatican spokesman sought to clarify the Pope’s remarks.

” ‘The Pope did not choose to enter into debates about the delicate matter of gay civil unions,’ said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant to the Vatican press office.

” ‘In his response to the interviewer, he emphasized the natural characteristic of marriage between one man and one woman, and on the other hand, he also spoke about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens.’

” ‘We should not try to read more into the Pope’s words than what has been stated in very general terms,’ Rosica added.”

Rosica also noted:

“By responding in this way, Pope Francis spoke in very general terms, and did not specifically refer to same-sex marriage as a civil union. Pope Francis simply stated the issues and did not interfere with positions held by Episcopal Conferences in various countries dealing with the question of civil unions and same sex marriage.”

While I don’t always trust “clarifications” made later by spokespeople, in this case, there was a certain amount of ambiguity in the original remarks that warrant such a follow-up. First, since the pope prefaced his comments about civil unions with a statement supporting matrimony as a heterosexual institution.  So, it can seem that his support for civil unions was a support for same-sex couples.

Second, as an email correspondent has informed me, the Italian term the pope used, “unioni civili” refers to “people who are married by the state, outside of a religious context,” not to same-sex partnerships.

While I would be delighted if the pope expressed support for same-sex civil unions (and marriage, for that matter!), I’m not sure that he has done that in this interview.  As has been noted before, he did support civil unions for same-sex couples when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  Many other bishops, cardinals, and Vatican officials have also expressed support for same-sex civil unions over the past year or so.

Pope Francis certainly has gone further than any previous pope in trying to be positive towards people whose relationships are outside of the traditional heterosexual, nuclear family model, and he is to be commended for that.  More importantly, even though he did not offer a ringing endorsement of same-sex relationships, at least he is not spouting condemnatory tirades against them as his two previous predecessors did.   His refreshing new attitude still offers great hope for possibility and change in the future.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

dotCommonweal:  Francis Hints About Same-Sex Civil Unions

Slate.comDoes Pope Francis Support Gay Civil Unions?

National Catholic Reporter: Francis marks anniversary with interview on sex abuse, women, contraception

QueeringTheChurch.com:  Pope Francis Has NOT “Supported” Civil Unions – but Catholic Thinking Continues to Evolve

Advocate.com: Pope Francis Says Church Must Examine Civil Unions

Sydney Morning Herald: Pope Francis hints at Catholic Church rethink on gay civil unions

 


U.S. Catholics Make Known Their Opinions on Marriage and Family Issues

February 22, 2014

In the past few weeks, we’ve posted about a few international bishops’ conferences reporting about what they have learned from their surveys of their lay people on matters of marriage and family life, in anticipation of the October 2014 Synod in Rome on those topics.  More and more bishops’ conferences are starting to disclose the responses to these surveys, and we will be reporting on them in the coming days.

Noticeably absent has been any report from the U.S. bishops, and this is probably due to the fact that very few of them made the survey available to their laity.   To remedy this omission of the voices of U.S. lay Catholics, a network of Catholic reform organizations sent out the survey to their members, and yesterday they have released a report on the compiled responses.  Released by member groups of the Catholic Organizations for Renewal and entitled Voices of the People: Responses to the Vatican Survey in Preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on the Familythe report provides statistics on the information gathered from over 16,000 respondents.   According to a press release, the report categorized responses under seven major themes:

  1. Pastoral care urgently needed
  2. Pedagogical/evangelism challenges
  3. Separated, divorced and remarried Catholics
  4. Same-sex marriage
  5. Women in the Church
  6. Sexual abuse scandals
  7. Skepticism and hope.

The survey responses were analyzed by an independent reviewer, Dr. Peter J. Fagan, M.Div., PhD., from the Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in Baltimore, Maryland. 53% of the respondents identified as weekly church-goers, higher than the national average of 31% of Catholics who do so.

On the issue of  marriage equality, the report offers the following evaluation of Catholic attitudes:

“There  is  a  law  recognizing  marriage  equality  in  the  states  of  57  percent  of  the   respondents  (Q29)  and  marriage  equality  is  very  important  for  26  percent  of  the   respondents  and  extremely  important  for  47  percent  (Q33*).

“Respondents  were  asked  to  judge  the  attitudes  of  their  diocese,  parish  and  small   faith  communities  toward  both  marriage  equality  and  same-­‐sex  couples  in  a   committed  partnership  (Q30).  As  the  geography  of  the  entity  became  more  local  and   familiar,  i.e.  from  diocese  to  parish  to  faith  community,  the  respondents’  judged  that   the  attitudes  were  less  hostile,  less  condemning  and  less  negative  and  became  more   supportive,  even  highly  supportive.  This  pattern  applied  to  both  marriage  equality   and  same-­‐sex  couples  in  a  committed  relationship.    One  third  of  respondents  viewed  their  dioceses  as  hostile  and  condemning  of  marriage  equality  (37  percent)  and  same-­‐ sex  couples  (35  percent);  their  parishes  as  hostile  and  condemning  of  marriage   equality  (11  percent)  and  same-­‐sex  couples  (13  percent);  and  their  faith  communities   as  hostile  and  condemning  of  marriage  equality  (3  percent)  and  same-­‐sex  couples  (4   percent).

“Asked  about  attitudinal  support  of  marriage  equality  and  same-­‐sex  couples,  the   inverse  pattern  applied:  the  more  local,  the  more  support  for  marriage  equality  and   same-­‐sex  couples  in  a  committed  partnership  (Q30).    Seven  percent  of  dioceses  were   seen  being  at  least  somewhat  supportive  of  both  situations,  as  did  thirty  one  percent   of  parishes  and  two  thirds  of  small  faith  communities.    The  striking  contrast  in  this   inverse  pattern  is  the  discrepancy  between  the  dioceses  perceived  as  hostile  and   condemning  toward  marriage  equality  (37  percent)  and  same-­‐sex  couples  (35   percent)  and  the  perception  of  the  respondents’  small  faith  communities  attitudes  as   being  highly  supportive  of  marriage  equality  (45  percent)  and  same-­‐sex  couples  in  a   committed  partnership  (47  percent). “

The entire report concludes with the following observation from the analyst:

There  can  be  no  conclusion  to  this  Report  because  it  is  offered  as  participation  to   the  dialogue  and  discernment  leading  up  to  the  Extraordinary  Synod  on  the  Family   to  be  held  in  the  Vatican  during  October  2014.    However,  if  we  were  to  try  to   capture  what  the  respondents  have  said  in  one  sentence,  we  turn  to  voice  of  Pope   Francis  when  he  wrote,

“ ‘The  Church  must  be  a  place  of  mercy  freely  given,  where  everyone  can  feel   welcomed,  loved,  forgiven  and  encouraged  to  live  the  good  life  of  the  Gospel.’   (Evangelii  Gaudium,  #114)

“If  there  were  one  near-­‐universal  hope  of  the  over  16,000  respondents  to  this  Survey,   it  would  be  that  this  vision  of  the  church  would  become  a  pastoral  reality.”

Organizational sponsors of the survey project from Catholic Organizations for Renewal include American Catholic Council, Call To Action, CORPUS, DignityUSA, Federation of Christian Ministries/Roman Catholic Faith Community Council, FutureChurch, New Ways Ministry, RAPPORT, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference, Voice of the Faithful, and Women’s Ordination Conference.   Other supporting organizations include Catholic Church Reform, Fortunate Families, and Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER).

You can read some of the qualitative responses to the survey either in English or Spanish.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Valentine’s Day Message of Love and Equality from Ohio and Kentucky Catholics

February 14, 2014

On Valentine’s Day, we have two stories about how U.S. Catholics are showing their love for LGBT people by taking their message of equality and justice to the streets this week.  One event has already occurred and one is scheduled for this coming weekend.

Protesting Bishop Paprocki’s talk against marriage equality.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, on Wednesday evening, February 12th,  Catholics gathered outside the Athenaeum, a Catholic seminary in that city, to protest a talk against marriage equality being given there by Springfield, Illinois’ Bishop Thomas Paprocki.  This bishop made headlines last year when he staged a prayer service that included prayers of exorcism in his cathedral on the day that marriage equality was signed into law in Illinois.

The protest, organized by Dignity/Dayton and Dignity/USA, demonstrated Catholic support for  marriage equality.  WCPO-TV reported that while inside the building Bishop Paprocki offered arguments against marriage equality, outside, the demonstrators told a different story:

“The protestors strongly disagree [with the bishop], saying his theory clashes with the Pope’s beliefs. According to protestor Bob Butts, the Pope’s bigger concern is poverty.

” ‘My partner and I have been together for 26 years,’ he said. ‘This stuff is mean, hateful, does a lot of harm, especially to young LGBT youth.’

“Protesting along with Butts was Peggy Hanna.

” ‘I believe those of us who are not in the LGBT community, we need to come out and support them,’ she said. ‘This is the right thing to do. I am wishing the church would open its mind and heart.’ “

You can watch the video of the news report on this protest by clicking here.

In May of 2013, Bishop Paprocki debated New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick on the topic of marriage equality.

Father Joseph Fowler

On Sunday, February 16th, Catholics for Fairness, a pr0-LGBT group in Louisville, Kentucky, will march to the cathedral in that city to ask Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the ordinary of the city and also the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to “acknowledge the inherent dignity of all human beings, including LGBT people,” according to Father Joseph Fowler, an archdiocesan priest who has organized this demonstration for the last three years.

Fr. Fowler explained the purpose of the demonstration in an essay in Louisville’s Courier-Journal newspaper:

“While Pope Francis appears to be moving the church forward on LGBT acceptance, it seems Archbishop Kurtz is resisting. More than three years ago, Archbishop Kurtz made a promise — since unfulfilled — that he would review and consider support for a simple LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination Fairness law in Kentucky.

“House Bill 171, introduced by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian and co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Wayne and 15 other state legislators, would extend discrimination protections in employment, housing and public accommodations to LGBT people. It’s a law that says everyone deserves a fair shake at earning a living, putting a roof over their heads, and eating at their favorite restaurants without the fear of being turned away just because of who they are.

“And it’s the type of law the vast majority of Catholics support nationwide — 73 percent according to a recent Public Policy Research Institute poll. This same poll showed Catholics to be the most progressive Christian denomination in America on LGBT issues.

“With so much support among Catholics, and Pope Francis’ obvious overtures of LGBT acceptance, it remains an enigma why Archbishop Kurtz continues to avoid the issue.”

The Louisville marchers will meet on Sunday, February 16, 4:00 p.m., at  4 p.m. at the Volunteers of America of Kentucky headquarters, 570 South Fourth St.  They will walk to the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 South Fifth Street.

Kudos to these Catholics in Cincinnati and Louisville for demonstrating their faith in such powerful ways!  What a wonderful present for St. Valentine’s Day!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


New Survey Shows Global Catholics Divided on Sexuality Issues

February 10, 2014

A new global poll shows that the majority of Catholics disagree with the hierarchy on many sexual issues, but in regard to same-gender marriage, a majority of those polled support the magisterium’s prohibition against such relationships.

The Washington Post reported on the survey, which was conducted by the U.S. Spanish language television station, Univision:

“Most Catholics worldwide disagree with church teachings on divorce, abortion and contraception and are split on whether women and married men should become priests, according to a large new poll released Sunday and commissioned by the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision. On the topic of gay marriage, two-thirds of Catholics polled agree with church leaders.

“Overall, however, the poll of more than 12,000 Catholics in 12 countries reveals a church dramatically divided: Between the developing world in Africa and Asia, which hews closely to doctrine on these issues, and Western countries in Europe, North America and parts of Latin America, which strongly support practices that the church teaches are immoral.”

As evidence of the geographic split, the news report highlights the vast difference in response to same-gender marriages from different parts of the globe.  In response to the question “Do you support or oppose marriage between two persons of the same sex?”:

“40 percent of Catholics in the United States oppose gay marriage, compared with 99 percent in Africa.”

The report noted that 54% of U.S. Catholics were in favor of same-gender marriage.

Looking at the data, Spain was the country with the largest support among Catholics for legal marriage equality, with 64% supporting such measures, and 27% opposing them.    In Latin America,  Catholics in Brazil and Argentina polled similarly, and in both countries, the populations were almost equally divided about marriage equality.  In Brazil 47%oppose it and 45% support it;  in Argentina, 48% oppose it and 46%support it.  The greatest opposition came from Catholics in the two African nations polled:  in Congo, 98% oppose marriage equality, and in Uganda, 99% oppose it.

When a second question was asked, “Do you think that the Catholic Church should perform marriages between two persons of the same sex?,” the majority of Catholics in all 12 nations polled answered negatively.  Spain, once again, had the greatest support for Church marriages, with 43% of Catholics polled saying they favored the idea. In the U.S. 35% of Catholics said they were in support of church marriages for same-gender couples.

Although the report only covered 12 nations, the Washington Post notes that they are nations “with some of the world’s largest Catholic populations. The countries are home to more than six of 10 Catholics globally.”

The Washington Post also noted that Pope Francis has already been aware of these great differences of opinion among Catholics:

“After his election to the papacy 11 months ago, Francis seemed to immediately grasp the significance of the divisions among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He has chosen inclusive language, has played down the importance of following the hierarchy and has warned against the church locking itself up ‘in small-minded rules.’ The poll reflects previous ones in finding that the vast majority of Catholics appreciate his approach. . . .

“Pope Francis appears particularly eager to engage with divisions around sex, marriage and gender and has called a rare ‘extraordinary synod’ this fall on ‘The Pastoral Challenges of the Family.’ For that, he has asked bishops to survey Catholics about their views of cohabitation, same-sex parenting and contraception, among other things.”

And the poll results showed that most Catholics approve of the pope’s performance so far:

“The poll suggests that in his first year, Pope Francis has proved apt at navigating this diverse flock. Eighty-seven percent of Catholics around the world said the Argentine pastor is doing an excellent (41 percent) or good (46 percent) job.”

While we’ve grown accustomed to hearing how U.S. Catholics support LGBT issues, it is sobering to realize that globally, not all Catholics share that point of view.  This new report, though, seems to contradict a Pew Research Center report from 2013 that showed that culturally Catholic nations were among the most supportive of LGBT equality.  The divisions on sexual issues, and the two different findings in these two reports show that these are topics that require serious reflection for Catholics and their leaders.  This reality makes the October 2014 Synod on Marriage and the Family all the more important.  And even more important that bishops follow the advice of the Vatican in seeking input from lay people on these matters.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis Calls For Church to Find New Ways to Proclaim Christ to Families Headed by Same-Gender Couples

January 6, 2014

Pope Francis

In a talk from the autumn of 2013 which was made public this past weekend in the Italian magazine La Civilita Cattolica, Pope Francis described families headed by same-gender couples as one of the new educational challenges facing the Church.

Gulf-Times.com reports:

“ ‘On an educational level, gay unions raise challenges for us today which for us are sometimes difficult to understand,’ Francis said in a speech to the Catholic Union of Superiors General in November, extracts of which were published on Italian media websites yesterday [Saturday, January 4, 2014].

“ ‘The number of children in schools whose parents have separated is very high,’ he said, adding that family make-ups were also changing.

“ ‘I remember a case in which a sad little girl confessed to her teacher: “my mother’s girlfriend doesn’t love me’,” he was quoted as saying.

“The Pontiff said educational leaders should ask themselves ‘how can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing?’

“ ‘We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them,’ the 77-year-old Pontiff added.”

It’s difficult to know what to make of the pope’s attitude toward gay couples based on this small amount of information.  On one hand, it is unsettling that he used a negative example of a child’s experience of same-sex guardians.  On the other hand, his comment about not giving them “a vaccine against faith”  seems to indicate that he realizes that a humanitarian approach is needed.

One definite positive insight is the pope’s awareness that the church needs to examine ‘how we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing.”    That insight is way overdue in the Catholic world.  Social attitudes and practices regarding gender, sexuality, marriage, and family have been changing for decades now, and yet church leaders, for too long, have chosen to either ignore these changes or to staunchly oppose them to the point of alienating whole swaths of the population.

Yes, Pope Francis is right:  a generation is changing.  But, not all those changes are bad.  Indeed, some are very good.  Catholic leaders do need to be aware of these changes and to adjust the way they present the gospel.  What worked in 1954 will not work in 2014.   The gospel message of unconditional love is the same; the audience, however, is vastly different.  People need to hear the gospel message in a way that speaks to their lives and their new realities.

If the pope is serious about developing a new way to proclaim Christ to a new generation, the best thing that he can do is to listen humbly to the voices of the people who experience these new realities:  women,  separated and divorced people,  single parents, same-gender couples, parents of LGBT people, and single LGBT people.  His move last year to encourage bishops to seek input from the laity on marriage and family issues in anticipation of the 2014 Synod on those topics is a good first start, but more has to be done, too.

New ways of proclaiming the gospel to our contemporary world are long overdue.  Pope Francis’ call for change is a good beginning.  He needs to make sure that this new call is truly new and that he does not inherit the old, negative attitudes toward gender, sexuality, marriage, and family, which have done so much harm for so long.

Bishop Francis Mugavero

Pope Francis’ call has a precedent from over 35 years ago, when Brooklyn’s Bishop Francis Mugavero wrote his pastoral letter, Sexuality:  God’s Gift.    In that document, which was the first ecclesiastical document in which a bishop spoke directly to lesbian and gay people, he told them;

“we pledge our willingness …to try to find new ways to communicate the truth of Christ because we believe it will make you free.”

It is from that direct statement that, in 1977, Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent borrowed the term “new ways” to identify their newly established educational ministry for the church and lesbian/gay community:  New Ways Ministry.

Pope Francis would do well to mirror Bishop Mugavero’s spirit of openness and innovation, which, unfortunately, was not promoted by the Vatican over the past 30-plus years.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Gay Teacher Fired from Catholic Prep School for Applying for Marriage License

December 7, 2013

A teacher at a Catholic prep school in Pennsylvania has been fired from his position of twelve years on the same day that he and his partner applied for a marriage license.

Michael Griffin with his partner, Vincent Gianetto

Michael Griffin, who taught French and Spanish at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, a Philadelphia suburb, had been known to faculty and administrators as gay, but that when administrators questioned him about his upcoming marriage, he was fired.  6ABC.com reported on the process of his firing:

“Michael Griffin says he emailed the principal of Holy Ghost Prep earlier in the week saying he may be late Friday, that he was applying for a marriage license. After an in-service day he says he was called into the office of School President Father James McCloskey, along with Principal Jeffrey Danilak.

“Griffin explains, ‘He said, “It’s not really a secret here that you’re gay.” I said, “Correct.” He said, “I assume this is a same sex marriage.” “Yes.” He said if I go through with it, he had no choice but to terminate my position.’ “

NBCPhiladelphia.com reported that McCloskey made a statement on the matter which included the following:

“At a meeting in my office yesterday, teacher Michael Griffin made clear that he obtained a license to marry his same sex partner. Unfortunately, this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment. In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony. Regretfully, we informed Mr. Griffin that we have no choice but to terminate his contract effective immediately.”

Griffin noted that he is angered by how he was treated:

“The school to me has shown their true colors so I don’t know if I… I certainly don’t want to work there again after I’ve seen how they treated me.”

He also told the press that he believes he was fired because the school enforces a code of conduct for teachers which states in part:

“. . . as employees of a Catholic institution, all teachers are expected to uphold lifestyles compatible with the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will know that this firing is just the latest in a rapidly growing trend of firings from Catholic institutions aimed at LGBT people and others who support marriage equality.   What is amazing about these firings is that while they emphasize the Catholic hierarchy’s position on marriage, they totally ignore the Catholic Church’s teachings on non-discrimination, the dignity of work, and respect for all human beings.  The sexual teachings do not and should not trump the social justice teachings.

New Ways Ministry has called upon Catholics to attempt to institute non-discrimination policies in their church institutions such as parishes, schools, and social service agencies.  You  can learn more about how to work towards establishing such policies by clicking here.  Adopting such policies guarantees that LGBT people and their allies will be protected, and it will insure that Catholic social justice principles are upheld.

You can review all the Bondings 2.0 posts about such firings by clicking on “Employment Issues” in the “Categories” section to the right of this post.

Here are the names of people fired over the last two years, with links to more information about their cases:

Mark Krolikowski

Nicholas Coppola

Carla Hale

Erin Macke

Nick Johns

Tim Nelson

William Hudson

Ken Bencomo

Kristen Ostendorf

Tippi McCullough

Nigel Studdart
“John Doe”
Trish Cameron
Michael Fischer
Steav Bates Congdon
Jodi O’Brien
Fr. Owen O’Sullivan, OFM, Cap (see page 5 in link)
Laine Tadlock
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Students Call Loyola Chicago to Welcome All Weddings

December 6, 2013
Christine Irvine and her fiance

Loyola University Chicago students are petitioning their college to allow same-gender marriages in light of Illinois’ new marriage equality law. A recent editorial in the student newspaper raised the issue, following up on a recent controversy when a lesbian student was refused access to campus for her wedding.

Christine Irvine hoped to have her wedding at Loyola, but administrators at the Jesuit-run institution rejected this request on that grounds they only allow marriage ceremonies recognized by the state of Illinois. Irvine began a Change.org petition, which has gained nearly 2,900 signatures.  The petition states, in part:

“Because of our sexual orientation, because we are gay, we are banned from celebrating one of the most meaningful days of our lives on Loyola’s campus…

“Loyola claims to embrace social justice and attempts to be a ‘home for all our students –  embracing all races, sexes, gender identities, religions, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic classes, sexual orientations, and abilities.’

“We call on Loyola University Chicago to live up to these values and create a home for all, regardless of sexual orientation, by ending the discriminatory policy banning same sex ceremonies on campus.”

USA Today reported that though no official policy is in place, a Loyola spokesperson commented, before marriage equality became law in the state, that there were guidelines, and campus facilities could be rented for social events, if not the wedding ceremony. Now that Illinois recognizes same-gender marriages, the spokesperson also said Loyola would develop a policy for on-campus weddings.

This changing reality caused the editorial board of student newspaper, Loyola Phoenix, to call on the administration to continue current policies, which would now allow same-sex couples. The editors write:

“The PHOENIX Editorial Board would like to use this opportunity to encourage the university to uphold its current policy and permit all ceremonies recognized by the state to occur in its venues, with the exception of Madonna della Strada Chapel…

“While we recognize that Loyola has the right to change its policy in light of the recent change in Illinois law, we believe that the current policy should remain in effect as it is written in order to maintain Loyola’s Jesuit values of inclusion and social justice…

“In choosing to stand by its current policy, Loyola ensures that it will remain an accepting space for all students, staff and community members, such as Irvine, and one that promotes equality and compassion in accordance with our collective virtue of social justice. Loyola can maintain space for its traditional Catholic beliefs, as well as its progressive Jesuit values.”

The outcome of both Irvine’s complaint and any developments in Loyola’s wedding policy are unclear, but students and alumni of the University are encouraged to make their LGBT-affirming voices heard to administrators.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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