Around the Globe, LGBT Progress in Catholic Education is Slow, But Happening

July 22, 2016

handsCatholic education is a foremost way by which the church influences the world, educating millions of students, Catholic and non-Catholic, globally. Given this impact, how church officials address LGBT issues matters significantly and is therefore, frequently, a source of contention. But when done well, Catholic education can do much good for LGBT youth and their peers. This Bondings 2.0 post highlights how the complexities are playing out in several countries.

Scotland

The Catholic Church in Scotland will begin training its teachers for gender and sexuality competency inclusive of LGBTI concerns, reported Pink NewsA church spokesperson said the church has a “zero tolerance approach” to end discrimination, continuing:

” ‘The Church is working with the Catholic Head Teacher association to ensure that all teachers have adequate knowledge, understanding, and training and feel confident in addressing all aspects of relationships education, including LGBTI matters, in an appropriate and sensitive way.’ “

This commitment comes as the whole nation of Scotland  focuses on inclusion in schools, led by the campaign Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) and endorsed by all major political parties. Sixteen years ago, legislators repealed Section 28 which had barred gay-positive education in schools. The repeal did, however, not address what material should be taught. TIE’s objective now, according to The Heraldis “calling for mandatory teaching of LGBTI issues in schools to end discrimination and bullying” to save lives and equalize all students.

Questions remain about how the church’s stated commitment will be concretely enacted, given negative church teachings on homosexuality, For instance, working only through Catholic organizations may limit engagement with actual LGBT people and their families. KaleidoScot noted:

“The ‘appropriate and sensitive’ way to deal with such matters would arguably be through engagement with the very people directly affected, and liaison with teaching unions and other non-Catholic organisations would surely inform the Church’s thinking. The statement also fails to give any commitment to the teaching of LGBTI matters in Catholic schools. Furthermore, in some respects, the Church spokesperson’s statement suggests that it fails to see the need for significant changes in the way its schools operate.”

It remains to be seen what the Scottish Catholic Church’s commitment to training teachers will mean; hopefully, it will involve liberating education rather then relying on past methods which have suppressed LGBT students and staff.

Australia

In Australia, politicians are debating the Safe Schools Program to assist LGBT students, and the discussion has emerged in Catholic circles.

Peter Norden, a professor at RMIT University and a former Jesuit priest, said failing to support LGBT youth may violate international law.  Norden  published an article in the Australian Journal of Human Rights saying church teaching about homosexuality can harm young students. According to The Age, he wrote :

” ‘In many ways, same-sex attracted students are being asked to remain voiceless and invisible in some Catholic schools. . .For students that are same-sex attracted, they can be treated like second class citizens.’ “

Australian Catholic schools, which educate a fifth of the country’s students, may violate the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child, Norden said. This Convention guarantees free expression, protection from violence, and dignified education. But a 2006 study of Catholic school students by Norden found high rates of self-injury and suicide, calling into question whether church officials were attending to LGBT youth’s needs:

” ‘You would hope an organisation that values empathy, mercy and engagement might have cause to review their situation.”

LGBT organizations have expressed concerns with Catholic education which, as in the United States, has religious exemptions for how it operates. Micah Scott of the Minus 18, an LGBTI youth organization, told The Age:

” ‘Many topics, including sexual and gender diversity, are unspoken. It sends a message to already vulnerable young people that who they are is institutionally forbidden, and that they should be ashamed of their identity.’ “

Catholic officials have pushed back on these claims, including Ross Fox who directs the National Catholic Education Commission and Stephen Elder, chief executive of Catholic Education Melbourne, who said schools were already focusing on eliminating bullying and unsafe behaviors.

On the other hand, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s election document listed the Safe Schools Program as one of the top four issues about which Catholics should be concerned, two others being religious liberty and marriage. The document says the Program “introduces children and teens to the concept of ‘gender fluidity’ and includes activites such as role-playing being in a sexually active same-sex relationship.”

Intrachurch conflicts were apparent, too, during a panel at the National Catholic Education Commission Conference held in June, reported The Record. Panelists largely opposed a proposed plebiscite on marriage equality, including Bishop Greg O’Kelly of Port Pirie who said the church should not campaign on the issue, but also that same-gender marriages have “submerged” the rights of children. But Carmel Nash, deputy chair of Catholic School Parents Australia, said though the church’s teachings should be respected, “many parents have probably, rightly or wrongly, moved on from the at view” and they should be respected having done so, too.

Canada

Alberta’s Catholic schools have been wracked by LGBT controversy for over a year. The Edmonton Catholic School Board ‘s consideration of a transgender policy led to one meeting become a “shouting match” last fall.  Additionally, the Board approved“just discrimination” in schools as a draft policy last December.

A new independent report questions whether the Board remains viable, noted the CBC. Donald Cummings, a consultant and the report’s author, described the Edmonton Boards governance challenges as “systemic, deep and resistant to change.” He said third-party mediation would be necessary to resolve problems. Alberta’s Education Minister, David Eggen, has intervened and assigned a deputy minister to oversee improvements by and greater accountability for the Board.

Catholic educators worldwide are increasingly being asked to grapple with LGBT inclusion and support, as more students come out and at younger ages, and more faculty and staff enter into same-gender relationships or marriages.

But one Canadian school in Toronto, Loretto College School, revealed a powerful way forward that helps entire communities. Jenna Tenn-Yuk, a spoken word artist, reported on Health and Wellness day at the all-girls high school. During  the day’s assembly, the school’s chaplain and six other staff affirmed LGBT students and championed gay-straight alliances. Tenn-Yuk wrote on her blog:

“Staff were standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ students at the front of the school. . .I was deeply moved and quite emotional before I had to speak. I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is happening right now. How would my life be different is this happened at my Catholic high school?’ . . .

“There was so much light and warmth in the room and it was an honour to be in that space. This is the start of something beautiful and will impact generations of students to come.”

That light and warmth should be what every student in Catholic education experiences, especially those who are marginalized like LGBT students. This post shows that while progress is, in many ways, being made, much work remains.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


NEWS NOTES: April 17, 2014

April 17, 2014

NewsHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1) The Catholic island nation of Malta passed legislation approving civil unions for same-gender couples, according to Gay Star News.  Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna, a Maltese Catholic bishop, who had at one time spoke favorably about same-gender relationships, was one of the prime spokesperson’s for the local Catholic hierarchy opposing the new law.

2) Catholics in Spain are strongly in support of that nation’s marriage equality law, which was enacted in 2005, according to a new survey.  West-Info.eu  reported on the survey which also noted that in two Catholic nations where same-gender marriage is not legal, the majority of believers oppose such a policy:  in Italy, 66%;  in Poland, 78%.

Mother Teresa

3) Mother Teresa is featured on the website for the United Nations’ Free and Equal program which supports non-discrimination for LGBT people around the globe.  When one clicks on her image on the homepage, one is brought to a photo of Mother Teresa under the headline “Mother Teresa Helps Us to Remember What’s Important.”   Superimposed over her photo is a quote from the universally-revered champion of the poor:  “What can you do to promote world peace?  Go home and love your family.”  The photo with the quotation can be shared on Facebook and other social media platforms.

4) The National Catholic Reporter noted that the Vatican has appointed a bishop to investigate the sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Keith O’Brien, formerly the primate of Scotland, who resigned last year when he acknowledged sexual liaisons with men who became priests in his diocese.  O’Brien made headlines for speaking out strongly against marriage equality in Scotland.  The bishop who will be leading the investigation is Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna, mentioned in the first news note above.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Scotland Passes Marriage Equality, But Adoption by Catholic Agencies In Question

February 8, 2014

A rainbow appeared over Scotland’s Parliament hours before the successful vote on marriage equality

Scotland’s Parliament passed marriage equality on Tuesday, making it the 16th nation to establish equal marriage rights in full with a 105-18 vote. As expected, Catholic bishops sustained their objections. Additionally, a new ruling on adoption will muddy the victory for LGBT advocates. National Catholic Reporter reports further:

“Lawmakers had rejected pleas from the Catholic church to oppose the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill and also resisted attempts to amend it…

“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said in a Wednesday statement emailed to Catholic News Service that the bishops were ‘disappointed’ by the outcome of the vote.”

The Scottish bishops strongly opposed marriage equality when debate began in 2012, pledging an all out fight against any proposed law and made a failed attempt to put marriage equality to voters in a referendum. Their opposition centered around Cardinal Keith O’Brien, once named “Bigot of the Year” by Stonewall, a UK LGBT organization, who called equal marriage rights a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.”

However, O’Brien resigned in February 2013 after allegations of sexual misconduct, which he apologized for later amid the fallout. The Vatican ordered O’Brien out of Scotland, and his resignation muted the Scottish bishops’ opposition to pro-LGBT legislation, consigning it to government meetings. The new law does include religious exemptions, with the option for churches to ‘opt-in’ in offering same-gender marriages.

In a related story, the Scottish Charity Appeals Panel has ruled that a Catholic adoption agency, St. Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society, is allowed to discriminate against same-gender couples who wish to become foster and adoptive parents. This decision reverses an earlier judgement which declared that not allowing same-gender couples to adopt was discriminatory. Since sexual orientation became a protected class in non-discrimination laws, some faith-based adoption agencies in the United Kingdom have launched legal battles to provide services to only heterosexual married couples. An article in the National Catholic Reporter notes:

“But the appeals panel ruled that St. Margaret’s was a fully Catholic institution bound to operate by the teaching of the Catholic church and that “indirect discrimination” against gay couples was a legally permissible consequence of its charitable work…

“An 85-page ruling by the appeal panel, published Friday, concluded that St. Margaret’s was not breaking the law by assessing only married couples and single people as potential foster parents and adopters…

“The ruling added that indirect discrimination against gay couples was permissible because it represented a ‘proportionate means’ of obtaining a legitimate aim, allowed under the terms of the 2010 Equality Act.”

What will happen to this ruling now that same-gender couples can be legally married is unknown, but it seems imprudent for the Catholic Church to continue fighting for the right to discriminate and depriving children of loving families.

Marriages will begin for Scots in July, following up on weddings in England and Wales set to begin in March.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Former President of Ireland Calls for Change in Church’s Teaching on Homosexuality

January 9, 2014
Former Irish President Mary McAleese

Former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, had strong words for the Catholic Church while speaking in Scotland, condemning the hierarchy’s mostly negative approach to homosexuality and calling for greater transparency. Her speech occurs as controversy grows in Scotland following a priest’s suspension for offering similar insights.

McAleese’s remarks challenged Cardinal Keith O’Brien, formerly Scotland’s top Catholic official, to be open about his own homosexuality. The prelate, who has used strong language to condemn LGBT people, resigned last March after allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians became public. Irish Central quotes McAleese as saying:

“I would have thought Cardinal Keith O’Brien, in telling the story of his life – if he was willing to do that – could have been of great assistance to gay people, not just in the Church but elsewhere, who felt over many, many years constrained to pretend to be heterosexual while at the same time acting a different life.”

More broadly, the former Irish president called homosexuality “not so much the elephant in the room but a herd of elephants” for the Church’s leaders who are in denial and continued:

” ‘I don’t like my Church’s attitude to gay people. I don’t like “love the sinner, hate the sin”. If you are the so-called sinner, who likes to be called that? We also know that within the priesthood a very large number of priests are gay.’…

” ‘Things written by Benedict, for example, were completely contradictory to modern science and to modern understanding, and to the understanding of most Catholics nowadays in relation to homosexuality.’ “

She also mentioned a meeting with Ireland’s new Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, where homosexuality was discussed. McAleese mentioned a report to the nuncio attributing many youth suicides  to the Catholic hierarchy’s harmful attitudes and language about being gay. Irish Central reports that the following exchange then occurred:

“She said [the nuncio] asked her ‘What do you want me to do? Do you want us to turn our back on tradition?’ Her answer was: ‘Yes, if it’s wrong.’ “

Such direct articulations by McAleese have won her praise from Fr. Tony Flannery, an Irish priest the Vatican has attempted to silence for his work on church reform, and the Association of Catholic Priests, according to The Journal.

Kudos to McAleese for publicly and forcefully speaking truths that are apparent to so many Catholics.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: October 23, 2013

October 23, 2013

News NotesHere are some items you might find of interest:

(1) The Archbishop of Lima, Peru, has publicly implied a legislator in that country is gay. Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne was speaking on a radio program when he attacked the Carlos Bruce, who is the legislator behind a bill legalizing civil unions. Gay Star News quotes the cardinal as saying, “If a person has made some alternate choices, that’s their problem and he can do whatever he wants on his own.” Bruce chose not to reply to the comment.

(2) As marriage equality becomes law in Scotland, the Catholic hierarchy is warning it may imitate the French model and separate sacramental marriages from civil licensing. Archbishop Leo Cushley and the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said legal concerns are to blame, as they fear priests could be liable if they refuse to marry a same-gender couple. Pro-LGBT groups claim this is just politicking, and the Scottish government confirmed religious institutions would not be forced to provide same-gender marriages, according to The Scotsman.

(3) Bishops in Nigeria issued a statement at the conclusion of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Nigeria meetings that decried foreign organizations who are promoting marriage equality, along with condemning condom usage. Gay Star News reports that anti-gay legislation is increasing in the nation which has passed a “Jail All the Gays” law and banned diplomats with same-gender partners.

(4) Rosario Crocetta is seeking to clean up waste and corruption in Sicily, which is languishing amid debt and the Mafia. The New York Times offers an in-depth profile of this Italian politician who is the region’s leader, and who also happens to be a gay Catholic, in which he discusses faith, sexuality, and conflicts with local clergy.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: May 31, 2013

May 31, 2013

News NotesHere are some items that you may find of interest:

1) Bishop Gabriel Malzaire, of Dominica, a Carribean island nation, has called for the decriminalization of homosexuality there, and issued a call to end all forms of violence to gay and lesbian people, reports Gay Star News.  While supporting decriminalization, the bishop also stated that homosexual activity  can lead to “adultery, fornication, orgies, calumny, deep-seated hatred” saying it can lead to “spiritual death.”

2) The heavily Catholic nation of Croatia witnessed its first same-sex marriage demonstration recently, with hundreds of people marching in the capital city of Zagreb, reports France24.com. The demonstration comes a week after a Catholic Church-backed group reported they had 500,000 signatures on a petition to have a referendum designed to outlaw same-sex marriage.

3) Eve Tushet, a Catholic lesbian woman committed to following the Church’s teaching on celibacy, has written an essay in The Atlantic as to why she remains Catholic, why she supports celibacy, and the problems that she has with the way Catholic leaders deal with homosexuality.

4) Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Conference wrote a lengthy letter to the editor of The Chicago Tribune complaining that the current marriage equality bill in that state does not offer enough religious protections.

5) Amazon.com has removed the book, Priesthood in Crisis, by Fr. Matthew Despard, a Scottish priest, which makes a number of claims about how gay clergy have bullied others in the priesthood, and also about how church leaders have covered up homosexual cliques among priests.  The UK’s The Daily Record reports that Amazon. com said the book did not meet its guidelines which prohibits ” pornography, offensive material, stolen goods and items that infringe upon a person’s privacy.”

6) Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau became the first same-gender couple to marry under France’s new marriage equality law, reports BBC.co.uk.   The wedding comes after a week that saw a major protest against the new law, which was opposed by the Catholic hierarchy in this heavily Catholic nation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: May 17, 2013

May 17, 2013

News NotesHere are some items that you may find of interest:

1) Today, May 17th, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.  GayStarNews  reports that, for the first time, Catholic churches in Italy will be hosting prayer services to commemorate the day.

2) Peace Advocacy Network, a Philadelphia non-profit, will be protesting a “sports camp” for gay man, to be held on the grounds of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s seminary, St. Charles Borromeo, on May 23rd.  The sports program is sponsored by Courage, a group which promotes celibacy for lesbian and gay people, and which sometimes promotes the discredited “reparative therapy” to change a person’s orientation.  According to Metro.usthe sports camp “claims to help gay men repair their ‘sports wound’ and become ‘manlier’ – in so many words, performing ‘conversion therapy’ to ‘reform’ their homosexuality.” 

3) The Vatican is asking San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves, to  step down from his position, but Gonzalez Nieves is refusing to leave.  According to Latin Timesthe Vatican’s action against the archbishop is prompted by “allegations of protecting pedophile priests, abusing his power, promoting Puerto Rican independence, and supporting a law that would allow gay couples living together, hereditary rights.”

4) In Zambia,  a Catholic priest who is running for the nation’s presidency, has stated that he will not arrest gay and lesbian people, and that he supports marriage equality.  According to The Times of Zambia“Father [Frank] Bwalya said he would respect homosexuals, claiming this was in line with the Catholic Church which prescribed respect for every individual.”

5) The Vatican has confirmed that Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who resigned earlier this year when it was revealed that he had sexually molested several seminarians and priests,  would be leaving the British country for “spiritual renewal,” according to The Daily Mail Earlier, O’Brien had refused to leave the country though many Catholic leaders felt his presence was divisive. O’Brien had been an outspoken critic of LGBT equality and justice in the UK.

6)  QueeringTheChurch.com reports on a set of “gay mysteries” of the Rosary, developed by Stephen Lovatt.  The mysteries are:  the healing of the Centurion’s boy, the answering of the Rich Young Ruler, the raising from the dead of Lazarus, the Last Supper, and the Kiss of Judas.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


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