Alum Fighting Discrimination Exemplifies the Best of Catholic Education

February 6, 2016

200px-blanchetlogoA Catholic high school in Seattle refused to publish an alumna’s same-gender wedding announcement in its magazine, citing archdiocesan prohibitions. But a fellow alum is standing in solidarity against this discriminatory decision and exemplifying the very best of Catholic education.

Bishop Blanchet High School told 1997 alumna Jessie Gifford that “the archdiocese does not permit this type of information to be published in our Catholic school magazine.” Gifford, who was a student leader and homecoming queen in high school, married her wife recently and had submitted an announcement to the alumni magazine.

Criticism of the school administrators’ decision is being led by James Nau, a 1997 graduate who knows the rejected alumna and was homecoming king to Gifford’s queen. Nau posted an open letter to the Archdiocese of Seattle on Facebook. He said that despite his disagreement with church leaders’ opposition to marriage equality, he had a different request:

“I would invite you to consider that a marriage is first and foremost a celebration of love, and while the debates within Christian communities around the question of gay marriage indicate something short of scriptural clarity on the matter, there is another matter upon which scripture is absolutely clear: the value of love. . .

“This policy which prohibits the public acknowledgement of Jessie’s marriage stands behind a faith that you no doubt believe is right, but it does so at the cost of what is greater: love. When there is an opportunity to rejoice in love that exists among the members of your community, you have chosen instead to shut them out, and on this issue Pope Francis has warned, ‘a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission”. . .

“While the Church might persist in its opposition to gay marriage, it would do well not to forgot to rejoice in love where it can be found, especially within its own communities and from a woman who it has been justified in honoring in the past.”

Nau, who is Catholic, wrote about being brought up in the church and said that his education in Seattle’s Catholic schools “made me into the person who writes this letter.” His solidarity with Gifford comes, in part, from an affirmation of the Pauline statement that “if one part is honored, every part rejoices in it.”

Additionally, Nau has been in correspondence with Bishop Blanchet’s President, Antonio DeSapio, who defended the rejection of Gifford’s wedding announcement, despite thanking Nau for being involved in the discussion. Nau raised objections about an inconsistent application of church teaching in the alumni announcement, asking for instances where opposite-gender couples must prove they are not previously divorced. This discrimination has been harmful, as Nau wrote in another Facebook post reporting on the correspondence:

“Personally, I have found this experience to be very alienating, and I can only speculate as to how it must feel for my friend Jessie. . .As a teacher, I keep thinking about what this policy says to your current students, and I hope that you consider what this incident teaches the students in the Archdiocese who might be gay or questioning their sexual identity as well as what it says to their friends, families, and teachers who love and support them. What does it teach students whose parents are gay?”

As he concluded, Nau noted the irony that this experience of exclusion and marginalization has actually rallied the alumni community together and been a cause for former peers to become reacquainted.

Jessie Gifford’s wedding is not the first to be shunned by a Catholic school because it celebrates a same-gender marriage. At least three similar incidents have happened at Marian High School in Omaha, Notre Dame Prep in Baltimore, and Sacred Heart Academy in Amherst, New York. Notre Dame Prep eventually reversed its decision after pressure from alumnae, vowed religious in the sponsoring congregation, and other Catholics. Hopefully, officials at Bishop Blanchet will recognize their bad decision and reverse it.

Either way, those who believe in Catholic education can celebrate James Nau and other former students who stand in solidarity with those marginalized and rejected in our church. Rooting themselves in Catholic teaching, they intelligently and eloquently articulate why discrimination is wrong and how it can be redressed. In brief, they commit to live the Gospels with integrity and that, over all else, is why Catholic education exists.

As National Catholic Schools Week concludes today, there is much work to be done on raising LGBT standards but it is reassuring to know so many alumni learned about true justice and seek it wholeheartedly.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

Seattle PI: Catholic high school: Archdiocese ‘does not permit’ same-sex wedding announcement


QUOTE TO NOTE: Seattle Catholic H.S. Student Reflects on Firing of Gay Educator

January 31, 2014

computer_key_Quotation_MarksToday is ZDay in Seattle and across the nation.   Catholic high school students from Eastside Catholic Prep organized the event as an expression of solidarity with the Mark Zmuda, the former vice principal of the school who was fired in December for marrying his husband.

Believe Out Loud‘s blog carried an essay by Zeena Rivera, a student at Seattle’s Holy Names Academy who has been active in the inter-varsity demonstrations that Catholic high school students have been conducting to support the fired teacher over the last month.  In the essay, Ms. Rivera, who is founder and editor of  Be!Magazinean online publication for LGBTQ youth, reflected on how her Catholic faith has informed her decision to oppose the firing of Zmuda:

“I am Catholic. By May, I’ll have gone to Catholic schools for 13 years and there’s a good chance that I’ll be spending another 4 years in a Catholic school. I go to Mass every Sunday, work at a Catholic food bank during the summer, and am in a leadership position in my school’s campus ministry.

“It would be a lie to say that my moral compass hasn’t been touched by Catholic virtues.

“Furthermore, in my experience as a Catholic school student in Seattle, I know that my religion classes never taught discrimination. I was taught to live a loving life. I have learned that you’re supposed to stand up in solidarity and help create positive action when someone is being treated unfairly. We’re supposed to protect the rights and dignity of workers, not being the ones taking them away.”

You can read her entire essay here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Students Protest Firings in Seattle and Philly; What You Can Do to Help

December 20, 2013

Students chanting “change the church” at the protest outside Eastside Catholic H.S.

Students and faculty at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Washington, protested yesterday morning when they learned that the school’s vice principal was fired because he married his male partner.

The Seattle Times reported that Mark Zmuda, the fired administrator, met with the students during their protest in front of the school on Thursday, December 19th.  According to one student:

“He told us he had gotten fired because he is gay and married. He told us to grow up, get a job and find true love. He was crying and told us what we were doing meant a lot to him.”

Zmuda’s firing brings to twelve the number of LGBT people fired from Catholic institutions in the U.S. fired this year because of sexual orientation, gender expression, or marital status.

According to a report on KIROTV.com, 400 students from Eastside Catholic, which is in the Seattle metropolitan area, walked out of their classrooms for the protest.

Mark Zmuda

The Seattle Times reported that students at another local Catholic high school, Seattle Preparatory School, staged a protest in solidarity with Zmuda at their school.  The protest ended with continued discussion on a school-wide basis:

“ ‘Diversity Director, Heidi Kim, moderated a discussion with our students,’ according to the statement to Seattle Prep parents. ‘Following that, Principal Maureen Reid asked students to return to class, where they were able to take up the discussion with their classmates and instructors.’ ”

The Seattle demonstrations come only one week after students in the Philadelphia area publicly protested the firing of Michael Griffin, a foreign language teacher, from Holy Ghost Preparatory School because he and his male partner obtained a marriage license.  According to an Associated Press  story:

“Administrators at a Roman Catholic high school suffered a sharp and swift backlash this week after firing a well-liked teacher who sought to marry his same-sex partner.

“Educators said they had no choice, but thousands have protested the move through Facebook groups and petitions demanding that Michael Griffin be rehired at Holy Ghost Preparatory School. Some alumni have pledged to withhold financial support.”

Employment GraphicReligion News Service  story on The Washington Post website noted that a new coalition of Catholic gay and lesbian students in Pennsylvania has formed to protest Griffin’s firing:

Gay and lesbian Catholic students in Pennsylvania are joining alumni and others in pushing a Catholic high school near Philadelphia to reinstate a teacher who was fired after he applied for a marriage license with his partner. . . .

“Michael Griffin did not deserve to be treated in a way that does not clearly reflect Christ and His teachings,” says the letter sponsored by the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. “He has dedicated his life to the Holy Ghost Community. He is just as much a part of the Holy Ghost family as any other member.”

Since the beginning of 2012, Bondings 2.0 has been reporting and commenting on this disturbing, growing trend of firing LGBT people from Catholic institutions.  (You can read all the stories concerning this topic in by clicking on “Employment Issues” in the “Categories” box in the right hand column of this blog post.)  This past Sunday, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni commented on this trend in an essay entitled “The Catholics Still in Exile.”   Bruni notes that the message of and spirit of Pope Francis’ outreach to lesbian and gay people is muted by the actions of these institutional administrators:

“Pope Francis has indeed been a revelation, his gentle tone and sustained humility more in touch with the heart of Catholicism than the bitter jeremiads of other Catholic leaders were. But it’s important to note that he hasn’t pledged to revisit doctrine, nor are such revisions likely to happen anytime soon. The world turns at a breathless clip; the church, at a glacial one.

“It’s equally important to note that beyond Rome, the very focus on sexual morality that the pope seems to be waving Catholics away from can still be keen and uncompromising. Examples are made where they needn’t be; punishment is meted out when it doesn’t have to be. And it’s this, as much as anything uttered in Vatican City, that continues to drive a wedge between open-minded Catholics and the church’s hierarchy.”

New Ways Ministry’s response to these dismissals has been to encourage Catholics to work towards getting their schools, parishes, and other institutions to adopt non-discrimination policies which will protect LGBT people from being fired.  You can read our whole list of suggestions by clicking here.  If you need help with organizing to adopt such policies, please call or email our office:  (301)-277-5674; info@NewWaysMinistry.org.  The best way to stop these firings is to prevent them by putting into practice Catholic social principles of equality, human dignity, freedom, and the value of work.

Another way you can help is to spread the word about establishing non-discrimination policies by sharing the Facebook meme pictured above on your social media accounts  You can access it by clicking here.  Let’s make this movement go viral!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Pastor Explains Why He Marched in Pride Parade

July 14, 2013

Last month,  we reported on Catholic faith communities marching in LGBT Pride marches in Portland, Oregon and the Baltimore-Washington, DC region.  We’ve recently learned of several more demonstrations of Catholic support of Pride events in three more U.S. events.

SEATTLE

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

Thanks to blogger Michael Bayly of The Wild Reedwe learned about a Seattle, Washington pastor who announced in his parish newsletter “Why Am I In the Parade?”   Father John D. Whitney, SJ, of St. Joseph’s parish, Seattle,  introduced the explanation of  his participation by referring to Acts 10: 28:

“You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean.”

This passage occurs in the story of St. Peter visiting the home of Cornelius, a Roman centurion.  Fr. Whitney explicates the meaning:

“The head of the apostles is called to testify that God’s grace is greater than the members of the Church can hope or imagine, and that their understanding of the Church must continue to develop as the mystery of God’s redemptive love continues to be revealed in all of nature and in every culture. What surprises Peter, what will become a starting point for Paul, and what continues to challenge the Church even today is how vast the mercy of God is, a mercy that denies the notion that anything which is human can be profane; a mercy that encompasses every human heart, every aspect of human nature.”

Fr. Whitney reminded parishioners of the parish’s participation in last year’s Pride parade and what that meant to them:

“Last year, for the first time, members of the St. Joseph community marched in the Pride Parade to indicate our solidarity with and respect for our homosexual sisters and brothers. Like Peter entering the house of Cornelius, it was a moment that would be considered unlawful and scandalous to those who see members of this community as profane or unclean; yet, for me, and I believe for others who chose to be present in this march, it was a moment of grace, when we could witness the power of the Holy Spirit moving in this community, so often alienated from the Church of Christ.”

Fr. Whitney closes the essay with an eloquent expression of why he chose to march this year:

This year, I am going to the Pride Parade again, and I have supported St. Joseph’s presence in it, as well. I have done so not out of opposition to anyone; but, rather, in support of the sisters and brothers of our community who seek to live faithfully in the way that God has made them and the Spirit has called them. I am going to support the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the friends and companions of our gay and lesbian parishioners, who have pride in their daughters and sons and
who long to have them feel loved and welcomed at the  table of Christ and in the body of the Church. I am going to evangelize, to bear witness, by my presence and, if needed, by my words, that the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, is not a place of hatred and rejection; but a communion of loved sinners called in humility to grow and learn through the grace of the Holy Spirit. I am going to the parade because I want to enter the house of Cornelius, where I have already seen the signs of the Spirit;
because I want those in whose very nature is God’s blessing, to know that Christ longs for them with mercy and with love, asking them not to hide or reject their natural identity, but to see in that identity a way home to God.

Fr. Whitney was one of about a dozen Seattle Archdiocese parishes who last year chose not to collect signatures to put the state’s marriage equality law up for a referendum.

MINNEAPOLIS and ST. PAUL

Catholics CELEBRATING Marriage Equality in the Twin Cities.

Catholics CELEBRATING Marriage Equality in the Twin Cities.

Also on The Wild Reed, Michael Bayly also wrote up an account of the Pride Festival in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, describing Catholic participation at the event.  Though last year Bayly organized “Catholics for Marriage Equality” in the state,  this year, the group edited its name to “Catholics Celebrating Marriage Equality,” reflecting that the state recently adopted a marriage law for gay and lesbian couples and the Supreme Court’s recent decisions.

Similarly, Dick Bernard, who blogs for the Twin Cities Daily Planetreflected on the role of Catholics in the state’s marriage equality debates.  He noted that on the day of the Pride Festival, his parish,  the Basilica of St. Paul, prayed  “for respect for all people [including their] sexuality.”

NEW YORK CITY

Nicholas and David march in NYC Pride parade.

Nicholas and David march in NYC Pride parade.

Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will be familiar with the case of Nicholas Coppola, the New York parish volunteer dismissed from his ministries because he married his partner, David.

The couple marched this year in New York City’s Pride Parade and their photo was featured on The Huffington Post.   The article accompanying their photo is entitled “10 Signs Displayed in the 2013 NYC Pride March That You Should Read and Remember.”  Number five on that list is “Married Gay Catholics USA.”  Noting the strong support for marriage equality among Catholic lay people, author Murray Lipp remarks:

“It is important for gay Catholics to speak openly about their marriages and for straight Catholics who support equality to continue to speak up both within and outside of the church.”

All three examples–Seattle, the Twin Cities, New York–show the power and importance of witnessing for Catholic support of LGBT equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Another Parish Cuts Scouting Program, While Catholics Organize to Protest Bigotry

June 4, 2013

Although the National Catholic Committee on Scouting has recommended that Catholic parishes support the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) new inclusive policy of admitting gay scouts, and some bishops have even already announced support for the new measure, some parishes are taking steps to end their relationship with the scouting organization rather than include gay kids.  Last week, we reported on the first known parish to sever ties with the BSA, which was in Bremerton, Washington.  Over the weekend, a pastor in a Chicago-area parish also announced that he would be closing down the parish’s scouting programs rather than admit gay scouts.

Father Brian Grady

Father Brian Grady

The Chicago Tribune reported on Fr. Brian Grady’s decision for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Crystal Lake, Illinois.  Fr. Grady’s reasoning as reported in the paper seems based on myths and stereotypes and clearly inaccurate knowledge of homosexuality and youth:

” ‘For a young boy to (have to) share a tent or be exposed to other boys who are openly homosexual is not only unjust, but immoral,’ Grady wrote. ‘As a former Boy Scout, I know how uncomfortable it would have been to have to be in close proximity with boys that would perhaps be looking at me as more than just a friend.’

“Grady said he was saddened to be ‘forced to make this decision.’ In an interview, he said: ‘We welcome those individuals … but we also recognize certain actions are not to be encouraged.’ “

His reasoning makes it sound like he is placing his own anxieties about sexuality onto both the gay and straight youth who would be involved in scouting.

Charlie Payseur

Charlie Payseur

The leaders of  the scouting program are of the opposite opinion of the pastor.  According to The Tribune:

‘Troop 550 Scoutmaster Charlie Payseur said he and his assistant leaders were “livid” about the move. Grady has been very hospitable, Payseur said, but had not discussed the issue with them.

” ‘It has never been an issue, nor would I turn a Scout away,’ Payseur said. ‘I treat everyone the same. It’s bothering me that people can’t just accept people for who they are.’ “

The Crystal Lake Patch offers even stronger comments from the scoutmaster:

” ‘I am fuming,’ Charlie Payseur said. ‘We’ve been affiliated with that church for over five years, and to not even tell the people who founded the pack? It would have been common courtesy (for Grady) to tell us himself.’ “

In response to the ban on scouts by the Bremerton, Washington, pastor, Fr. Derek Lappe, on which we reported last week, Catholics United, a political organizing group, has launched a petition campaign for Seattle’s Archbishop Peter Sartain to condemn the bigoted behavior of the pastor.  The petition text reads:

boyscoutpetitionArchbishop Sartain,

As Catholics and people of faith, we know that Jesus instructs us to be a loving and inclusive community. These values are shared by the Boy Scouts.

We ask that you publicly remind the priests of your diocese that Catholic social teaching prohibits discrimination against gay people.

When religious leaders like Fr. Lappe promote discrimination, it only hurts the Church.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer quotes James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, as to what they hope the petition will accomplish:

“The Catholic Church has long held that individuals with same-sex attractions should be respected and protected from discrimination. Catholics United calls on Fr. Lappe’s superiors to condemn this kind of bullying from a man who is supposed to be a witness of Christian love and acceptance.”

The Post-Intelligencer quotes from Fr. Lappe’s letter explaining his decision, in which he displays an amazing lack of accurate knowledge on homosexuality:

“The letter sought to refute the generally accepted genetic origin of same-sex attraction. Lappe listed other ‘groups’ including:  ‘Mother was overprotective (boys).’   ‘Mother was needy and demanding (boys).’ ‘Lack of rough and tumble play (boys).’ ‘Dislike of team sports (boys).’ ‘Sexual abuse or rape.’ ‘Extreme shyness.’ ‘Parental loss through death or divorce.’

“As well, said Lappe, the parish’s programs ‘are well equipped to help cultivate authentically masculine and feminine identities.’ “

The statements by Fr. Grady and Fr. Lappe reveal they are not in possession of accurate knowledge about homosexuality.    Let’s hope that other pastors have a better understanding than these two do.  It would be a shame if Catholic parishes ended their relationships with scouting programs, particularly when the National Catholic Committee on Scouting is encouraging Catholic parishes to support the new policy.

The examples of these two parishes illustrate not only why pastors need better education about homosexuality, but also why lay people need to be involved in the decision-making processes of Catholic life.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

June 3, 2013:  Religious groups who supported gay Scout ban now are okay with changing it. Why?The Washington Post

June 3, 2013:  The Boy Scouts, Gay Youth and Catholic Teaching ,  Huffington Post

June 4, 2013:  The church’s Boy Scout dilemma: Should they stay or should they go? , U.S. Catholic

 


Pope Francis Re-Affirms Vatican Censure of American Nuns

April 15, 2013

LCWRPope Francis has re-affirmed the Vatican’s censure against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which had been investigated by the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith under the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI.

The Australian newspaper reports:

“Pope Francis has backed a doctrinal report drawn up under his predecessor Benedict XVI that accuses the largest group of nuns in the United States of holding “radical feminist” views, the Vatican says.

“The new Pope has ‘reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform’ for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents around 45,000 US nuns and is known for its social work, the Vatican said.

“The statement said the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ludwig Mueller, met with representatives of the LCWR in the Vatican on Monday in an attempt to smooth over differences.”

The National Catholic Reporter has a full story which gives the background of the case and more details about this latest development.

As we reported last year, the investigation focused on three topics:  support for women’s ordination, support for LGBT issues, and questioning whether salvation exists outside the church.   As far as LGBT issues goes, support for New Ways Ministry was specifically identified as a problem in the “Notification” document that was issued last April.

LCWR today issued the following statement in response to this news:

“On April 15, 2013 Sister Florence Deacon, OSF, LCWR president; Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ, LCWR president-elect; and Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, LCWR executive director; met with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF); Archbishop Luis Ladaria, secretary of CDF; and other members of the CDF dicastery. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain was also present.

“The LCWR officers reviewed the activities of this past year since receiving the report of CDF’s doctrinal assessment of LCWR in April 2012.

“In his opening remarks, Archbishop Müller informed the group the he had met with Pope Francis who ‘reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors.’ ”

“The conversation was open and frank. We pray that these conversations may bear fruit for the good of the Church.”

Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle had been appointed by the Vatican to oversee LCWR’s activities, but because of negotiations during the past year, no such oversight had begun.

New Ways Ministry asks you to join us in prayer for women religious in the United States and for the LCWR which is the national association for the leaders of women’s communities. We pray in gratitude for their service and witness, and we pray that they will be allowed to continue their ministry unimpeded.

A list of Bondings 2.0 blog posts about the history of the LCWR case can be found by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Support LCWR with a Christmas Card to the Nuncio and the Bishops!

December 5, 2012

The Nun Justice Project, a coalition of Catholic church reform and social justice organizations including New Ways Ministry, is urging Catholics to send Christmas cards to leading prelates in support of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Launched after a harsh Vatican critique of LCWR in early 2012, the Nun Justice Project asks the nuns’ supporters to write with gratitude for the prophetic ministry of the American sisters and to request a withdrawal of the Vatican-imposed mandate against LCWR.

The Project is targeting the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, and the three bishops charged with implementing Vatican-mandated reforms to LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL. You can add your support through this link.

As reported previously on Bondings 2.0, with links provided below, the Vatican’s critique of the nuns partially emerged out of their support for LGBT persons and organizations. Specifically named by the Vatican was New Ways Ministry, which has benefited greatly in its 35 years from the unequivocal and sustained support of communities of women religious.

The women religious of LCWR were one of those things the staff of New Ways Ministry was most thankful for this year and we stand with the sisters in these challenging times. New Ways Ministry strongly encourages Catholics and LGBT advocates to write to the bishops and express your support for the nuns who have adamantly struggled for equality within the Church and society.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Previous posts relating to LCWR:

August 11, 2012: LCWR Will Continue to Work Towards Dialogue With Vatican Officials

July 22, 2012: LCWR President Offers “Fresh Air” on Vatican Challenge to Nuns

June 21, 2012: Support the Sisters by Re-Directing Peter’s Pence Donations

June 12, 2012: Report on LCWR Meeting With the CDF at the Vatican

June 1, 2012: LCWR Responds to the Vatican with a Vision of Equality, Hope, and Dialogue

May 28, 2012: Support Our Sisters: Pray at a Vigil!

May 11, 2012: Sister Jeannine, Cardinal Ratzinger, New Ways Ministry, and Solidarity with LCWR

May 1, 2012: Round-up of Actions and Commentary on LCWR

April 23, 2012: Message to Nuns: ‘Be Not Afraid’

April 22, 2012: Comments on LCWR Action from National Catholic LGBT Organizations

April 21, 2012: Support for U.S. Nuns Spreads Quickly Among Catholics and Others

April 20, 2012: Can There Really Be “Collaboration” Between the Vatican and LCWR?

April 19, 2012: Sister Joan Chittister & Sister Simone Campbell Respond to Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns

April 18, 2012: Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns; New Ways Ministry’s Response


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,144 other followers