Vatican’s Sex Ed Curriculum Gets Low Grade for LGBT Topics

August 25, 2016

A curriculum for youth sex education has been released by the Vatican, and while it provides a more holistic approach to sexuality, some glaring omissions make it dangerous material for LGBT young people.

For heterosexual cisgender* young people, the Vatican’s new sex education curriculum, entitled The Meeting Point: Course of Affective Sexual Education for Young People,” offers healthy approaches and guidelines for personal integration and development.  Absent from this document, however, is any mention of similar guidelines that will help  lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth understand their own unique and holy experiences of sexuality and gender. [*Editor’s note:  “cisgender” refers to people whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex.]

If this program is used in schools and parishes, it will send a damaging message of silence and invisibility to LGBT youth at very vulnerable points in their lives.  The material sends the message that they are not considered by the church, not welcome, and, worst of all, that they do not even exist.

Because the curriculum assumes heterosexuality as the only valid form of love, and because it assumes that gender is definitively binary and assigned to individuals based on sex (male/female), this material will instill shame, fear, and self-hatred in LGBT young people who are taught from it.   Such negative feelings lead to depression, anxiety, addiction, self-harm, and, tragically, even suicide.

Some examples of the deficiencies in the document include:

In suggestions to the religious education teacher, the document includes the following statements:

  • “The step before falling in love is feeling attracted to a person of the opposite sex.”
  • “Choosing our boyfriend/girlfriend. This is another step in which they have to mature, opening themselves up to what is most difficult – to that which is different -, discovering reciprocity and heterosexuality.”
  • ‘Two ways of existing as a person: The body and soul constitute the unified corporeal-spiritual totality that is the human person. But this totality necessarily exists in the form of a man or of a woman. There is no other possibility than this for the existence of the human person. . . .Our very anatomical traits, as an objective expression of this masculinity or femininity, are endowed with an objectively transcendent significance: they are called to be a visible manifestation of the person.”
  • “The duality of the sexes affirms the axiological meaning of sexuality: man is for woman, woman is for man, and parents are for their children . The sexual difference indicates this reciprocal complementarity, and is oriented toward communication: toward feeling, expressing and living out human love, opening oneself to a greater fulfillment.”

Additionally, the document incorrectly refers to “pansexualism” as occurring when “happiness becomes confused with the greatest amount and duration of pleasures.” In the scientific community, the word refers to “the belief that a sexual instinct drives all human behavior.” With regard to an identity, “pansexual” describes “the sexual attraction, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people regardless of their sex or gender identity.”

What makes this curriculum even more disappointing is that there are actually some good, broad approaches to other aspects of sexuality which would be good for LGBT young people to apply to their lives.  The document discusses areas including the idea that sexuality is far more than sexual activity, the various dimensions of human relationships, the importance of respecting the human dignity of others and of self,  the ways to integrate emotions into one’s life, the proper exercise of freedom, the importance of developing healthy relationships, the place of morality in making decisions about relationships, and many others.  These are lessons important to all young people.  However, since the material has a bias for heterosexuality and the gender binary, it is likely that these valuable messages will not get through to LGBT youth, who will likely feel themselves excluded from this conversation.

Likewise heterosexual and cisgender youth also lose if LGBT issues are not included, as they are deprived of a wealth of information about human development.  Such information could most readily be of use to this group if students if they have an LGBT friend or relative.

The fact that several secular sex education experts have praised it, and that a number of ultra-conservative Catholics have condemned it, may be the best evidence that there are some good ideas in this new approach.  For instance, Cleveland.com reported:

Seattle’s Tina Schermer Sellers, author of an upcoming book titled “Sex, God & the Conservative Church – Erasing Shame from Sexual Intimacy,” praised the new curriculum’s departure from teachings that were “ineffective and often hurtful,” including scare tactics, and presentation of God as unforgiving, unloving and damning.

Sellers said programs that couple sex education with a framework of values – as the new Vatican program does – help young people “make better sexual choices, get involved sexually later and have more satisfying sexual lives later in life.”

Indeed, it is commendable that there are no explicit condemnations of LGBT people in this curriculum.  Such would not have been the case even five years ago. This development shows that the Church is changing.  But, LGBT Catholics and their allies cannot be satisfied simply with the absence of condemnations. And our church’s leaders need to recognize the damage done by avoiding LGBT people in discussions of gender and sexuality.  In many places around the globe, these issues are discussed daily in mass media and ordinary conversation.  Young people, in particular, are acutely aware of these realities.  The silence about LGBT issues in this curriculum will speak loudly–and negatively–to young people.

If the Vatican wants to truly be comprehensive in their approach to sexuality, which this curriculum is one step towards being, Church leaders need to be pro-active in humanely addressing the experiences, lives, and relationships of LGBT people, and to affirm their holiness.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts:

Global Pulse:  Vatican launches sex ed website

Cruxnow.com: “Vatican issues its own sex ed guidelines

 

 

 

 


Are Debates over Pope Francis’ “The Joy of Love” a Healthy or Harmful Sign?

July 23, 2016

pope-francis-amoris-laetitiaThree months after its release, how to interpret and implement Amoris Laetitia remains one of the most contested issues in the Catholic church today. But this ongoing dialogue, and at times intense debate, could itself be very welcome news.

The Vatican recently defended Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family through two of its affiliated publications, according to Crux.

Earlier this week, historian Rocco Buttiglione wrote a front page column in L’Osservatore Romano responding to the exhortation’s critics who claim it is not a magisterial document and that it diverges from tradition.

Elsewhere, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna gave an interview to La Civilta Cattolica in which he said Amoris Laetitia  is not merely consistent with but evolves doctrine on family issues.

Critics have included Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, and  Cardinal Raymond Burke, who said the exhortation was a “personal” document from the pope. Several dozen Catholics wrote a letter to 218 church leaders asking for Pope Francis to “respond to the dangers to Catholic faith and morals” which they perceive in the document. Their names have finally been made public by the National Catholic Reporter.

Much of the debate has centered around whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics should be admitted to Communion. The larger debates, however, are about establishing this document as part of the magisterium and, therefore, the assent that is due to it from Catholics.  Additionally, the practical ways the document should impact pastoral care and church disciplines is also a major issue.

Theologian Massimo Faggioli said the present divide around Amoris Laetitia is between those Catholics whose “constrained view” leads them to focus on church law and discipline, and those Catholics who focus on a “renewed emphasis on conscience” as new theological and pastoral questions arise. Writing in Commonweal, Faggioli reflected on the differences in ecclesial reception between Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and Pope Francis’ exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. He noted, in particular, the way which bishops have responded to these two documents.

After Humanae Vitae, a document equally if not more controversial because it retained the magisterium’s ban on artificial contraception, bishops engaged with one another and high level officials, and even questioned it publicly. Collective responses were issued by episcopal conferences and theologians, and the debates have not yet ceased. In my opinion, this experience is largely what caused Pope John II and Pope Benedict XVI to suppress dialogue in the church and to tie episcopal appointments to matters of sexuality for thirty-some years.

After Amoris Laetitia, Faggioli wrote, the situation is quite different. Instead, there is an “episcopal, magisterial individualism” by which each bishop responds to the document almost in isolation and without collegial discourse among their regional and national peers. Faggioli concluded:

“It is clear by now that a culture of discussion and discernment must be rebuilt among the episcopal leadership of the Catholic Church, starting from the national and continental bishops’ conferences. The reception of The Joy of Love requires a true commitment to a collegial and synodal church, not just mere affect.”

Differences now being expressed about Amoris Laetitia may be the first fruits of a new period in the church, a return to episcopal debates publicly played out.  Thomas Groome, a Boston College theology professor, made this point in his response to Amoris Laetitia, telling The Guardian

” ‘The fact that he’s [Pope Francis] allowing us to talk about these things is a breakthrough. . .It was presumed it was already decided and anybody that was raising this was obviously contrary to the church.’ “

Catholic publications have repeatedly picked up on this theme of Pope Francis inviting dialogue and difference. The National Catholic Reporter‘s editors wrote:

“Francis offers the Catholic community two challenges: To live as a community with parrhesia, speaking and listening to one another with courage and humility, and then to translate the openness of papal actions and documents into pastoral discourse and compassionate action in the parishes.”

The Tablet editorial highlighted the shift to a dialogue in their headline: “Power of conscience puts laity at centre of change.”  They further editorialized:

“It would be right to describe the publication of Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis as a minor earthquake, though one preceded by plenty of warning tremors. And while the Catholic Church’s foundations may have been shaken, the walls and roof are still standing. Francis was well aware when he was elected Pope that the basic weakness in the Church’s mission to evangelise was its reputation as a stern and unforgiving teacher in the field of sexual and marital ethics, something that touches people’s lives most intimately. Put simply, it did not sound like the gentle voice of a loving mother. Francis had to respect as far as possible the content of the teaching. But he could change the one thing that may matter more than content for ordinary Catholics – its tone.”

The editors of Commonweal responded:

“This is not a recommendation of laxity or relativism. It is a recognition of human complexity and an endorsement of subsidiarity, a principle not restricted to politics. Only (properly trained) local pastors can be familiar enough with the members of their flock to undertake the kind of ‘practical discernment’ necessary to apply the church’s rules without deepening the wounds caused by divorce or abandoning the already abandoned.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said the flourishing of open and honest discussions in the church is an “unintended, but very welcome” aspect of Francis’ papacy. She wrote in The Huffington Post:

“[Pope Francis’] acceptance, even encouragement, of the expression of divergent opinions represents a dramatic shift in tone from a pontiff. . .After nearly 30 years during which agreement with official Church teaching seemed monolithic among Catholic leadership, having these differences of opinion out in the open is a very hopeful sign. Now we can acknowledge that, just as there is diversity among lay Catholics in views of LGBTQ people, the same is true of those responsible for developing and implementing Church policy. While those willing to question current teaching and practice still represent a minority of Church leaders, their voices are being heard, and it is likely that others may join them in the months ahead. This could help shift the focus from the utterings of Pope Francis to a recognition that there is a community of leaders responsible for Catholic teaching and policy. And as more and more Catholics, grassroots and leadership alike, stand up for the civil and ecclesial rights of LGBTQ people and families, the cultural and political identity of Catholicism as firmly opposing gay and transgender rights will quickly crumble, further weakening efforts to maintain oppressive structures.”

While it is clear that the dialogue and debate are now happening, what is less clear is what the impact will be. Some bishops, like Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn or Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich, have welcomed the document wholeheartedly. Others, like the critics mentioned above or Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, will be obstructionist. For the rest of the faithful, this renewed dialogue and debate in the church is largely welcomed, but this path will require far more engagement from all Catholics to discern how Amoris Laetitia should impact the life of the church, especially when it comes to LGBT people and others marginalized in the church.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Cardinal Schönborn: “Amoris Laetitia” Evolves Catholic Doctrine on Family Life

July 8, 2016
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Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, right, holding Amoris Laetitia when it was announced in April

A top cardinal who was closely connected to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, has again affirmed the exhortation’s authoritative status, and said it evolves understandings and expressions of Catholic doctrine.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, a Dominican, made these remarks and others in an extensive interview with Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro of the Vatican-reviewed Italian journal, La Civita Cattolica. Excerpts, available here, have been translated into English.

Amoris Laetitia is “the great text of moral theology” the church has awaited since Vatican II, America quoted Schönborn as saying. It is moving the church from ” ‘a defensive pastoral style in which evil becomes an obsession’ toward one that focuses on recognizing the value of encouraging what is good.” Asked about the exhortation’s authority and the exhortation’s relation to Catholic doctrine–in light of criticisms that it is a minor document, or even only the pope’s opinion, as Cardinal Raymond Burke claimed–Schönborn said:

“It is obvious that this is an act of the magisterium. . .I have no doubt that it must be said that this is a pontifical document of great quality, an authentic teaching of sacra doctrina, which leads us back to the contemporary relevance of the Word of God. . .

“In this sphere of human realities, the Holy Father has fundamentally renewed the discourse of the Church – certainly along the lines of Evangelii gaudium, but also of Gaudium et spes, which presents doctrinal principles and reflections on human beings today that are in a continuous evolution. There is a profound openness to accept reality.”

Schönborn said Pope Francis rejected doctrine which is “abstract pronouncements that are separated from the subject who lives,” saying the exhortation’s “bedrock” is understanding that families are not ideals but rather are journeying. He continued:

“The complexity of family situations, which goes far beyond what was customary in our Western societies even a few decades ago, has made it necessary to look in a more nuanced way at the complexity of these situations. To a greater degree than in the past, the objective situation of a person does not tell us everything about that person in relation to God and in relation to the Church. This evolution compels us urgently to rethink what we meant when we spoke of objective situations of sin. And this implicitly entails a homogeneous evolution in the understanding and in the expression of the doctrine.”

In short, Schönborn clarified, “There is no general norm that can cover all the particular cases.”

Other bishops have affirmed Amoris Laetitia‘s authority as they consider how it should be implemented. Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo, Malta, called church ministers to exercise “cautious discernment and respect” when encountering people in irregular situations, reported the Independent. Naming LGBT Catholics in civil unions, Grech said:

“Our pastoral activity should be based on four actions – accepting, accompanying, discerning and integrating. The Pope tells us it is important that we help divorced people who are in a new relationship to feel part of the church, that they are not excommunicated or regarded as such, because they also form part of the ecclesiastical communion.”

Grech, whose record on LGBT issues is generally positive, encouraged church ministers not to make the Sacrament of Reconciliation a “torture chamber.” Instead, he said the church must engage people as people, not situations, and to “[be] mindful of the language you use.”

Yet despite Schönborn and others’ insistence that Amoris Laetitia represents a development of doctrine, especially in its respect for the complexities of family life today, not all bishops have treated it as such.

Bondings 2.0 reported yesterday on new guidelines from Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput establishing general norms in the archdiocese that ban LGBT people from parish ministries and seek to deny Communion to Catholics in non-traditional families. You can read New Ways Ministry’s statement on these guidelines here.

Debates about Amoris Laetitia will certainly continue for months, if not years. What is important for LGBT Catholics and their advocates, however, is the growing admission by church leaders that doctrine can and has developed when it comes to family life. Opponents of same-gender sexual activity, relationships, and marriage equality frequently say church teaching is unchanging. But Cardinal Schönborn’s interview makes clear such a view is false, and that beyond the clear pastoral recommendations there are doctrinal implications, too. His voice possesses tremendous weight. He was the spokesperson at the April press conference that made Amoris Laetitia available to the public.  He appeared alongside a married Italian couple and Cardinal Lorenzo Baldiserri, the Synod of Bishops’ secretary general.  In the 1990s,  Schönborn oversaw publication of the most recent edition of the Catechism.

The progressive changes sought by many Catholics on gender and sexuality issues were not accomplished in or by Amoris Laetitia. And Archbishop Chaput’s guidelines are evidence the document can and will be misinterpreted by church leaders who wish to suppress pastoral and doctrinal evolution. But there is tremendous hope in the reality that a growing number of church leaders are admitting change is possible, and even needed.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Vatican Accepts Resignation of Dominican Cardinal Infamous for Anti-Gay Remarks

July 6, 2016
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Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez

The Vatican has accepted the resignation of a cardinal in the Dominican Republic whose anti-gay record has sparked repeated controversies on the island nation and beyond.

Like every bishop, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of Santo Domingo submitted his letter of resignation on his 75th birthday five years ago. Pope Francis has just accepted it and named his successor. Catholics and LGBT advocates alike have made repeated calls for the cardinal to retire since he began his high-profile anti gay remarks in 2013.

López has attacked LGBT communities, and specifically gay U.S. Ambassador James “Wally” Brewster and his husband, Bob Satawake, on multiple occasions. He used an anti-gay slur to refer to the ambassador in 2013 and said Brewster should “take his gay pride elsewhere.”  Last December the cardinal said that Brewster was “wife to a man” and should stick to housework. The Washington Blade reported that López once described LGBT tourists as “social trash” and “degenerates.”

López’s visibility has diminished since late 2015, referenced in Dominican media as “the cardinal’s lone silence.” His resignation now comes a day after Santo Domingo Pride celebrations concluded, and many LGBT advocates expressed relief. Cristian King of Trans Siempre Amigos told the Washington Blade“I feel a great piece of mind.”

López will be succeeded by Archbishop-elect Francisco Ozoria Acosta of San Pedro de Macorís. Austin Ivereigh of Crux noted that, with this move, Pope Francis has appointed a “low-profile pastor from a small diocese” into the symbolically powerful position of Primate of the Americas.

Archbishop-elect Francisco Ozoria Acosta

Ozoria is not well known, even in the Dominican Republic. He acknowledged this fact to the media, saying “I’m sure this has been a surprise to you all. . .most surprised of all was me.” But he is above all a pastor, reported Ivereigh. He studied and then taught pastoral theology before becoming a parish priest and, later, a pastorally-oriented bishop. Ozoria identified himself as a “passionate follower of the Second Vatican Council, above all of the ecclesiology of communion” and invoked the Council’s affirmation of the universal call to holiness to stress how all baptized Catholics should participate in the life of the church. Leslie Torres, director of Televida, a Catholic television channel in the Dominican Republic, offered this description:

” ‘He’s a pastor who’s approachable, humble and straightforward, with a great capacity for listening and dialogue. . .[he is] able to look at his people with a big heart.’ “

LGBT advocate and politician Deivis Ventura also praised Ozoria. He called the archbishop-elect “a man who is known for his moderation and prudence in the management of religious and social issues,” reported the Washington Blade. Ozoria reflects the mixed-race identities of most Dominicans, and has controversially championed migrants’ rights. Ventura was certain the archbishop-elect “will show a distinct vision of the church.”

This shift in pastoral priorities is significant in at least three ways for LGBT Catholics in the Dominican Republic and abroad.

First, in accepting his resignation, the Vatican did not acknowledge the harm that Cardinal López has caused. There is no evidence this move is linked to his anti-LGBT behavior, a notable omission given its pattern and severity.  It is especially disappointing given Pope Francis’ expressed desire for the church to apologize to lesbian, bisexual, and gay people it has harmed.

Second, Pope Francis’ appointment of Archbishop-elect Ozoria emphasizes the pope’s commitment to church leaders who are foremost pastors serving God’s people, with love through dialogue. That Ozoria has a reputation for listening and dialogue, and was even welcomed by a prominent LGBT advocate are hopeful signs.  We hope this is another sign that the pope is intent on replacing hard-line conservatives with pastoral listeners.

Third, López’s resignation and Ozoria’s succession are positive steps, but they do not eliminate a Dominican hierarchy whose alienation of LGBT people, and specifically Ambassador Brewster, has been deeply problematic. Bishop Victor Masalles, an auxiliary of Santo Domingo, recently led protests against the Organization of American States’ meeting for its alleged promotion of “ideological colonization.” He said previously that Ambassador Brewster was “abusing power,” sentiments echoed in the Dominican Episcopal Conference’s letter against the diplomat. A Catholic school in the capital posted three signs just before Holy Week this year announcing it had banned Brewster and his husband from campus.

These incidents reveal the deep wound that López’s lengthy tenure has afflicted on LGBT people and on the Dominican church. Thankfully, he has been removed from leadership, even though it could have been done sooner. Archbishop-elect Ozoria should begin a reconciliation process after being installed in September. He might start by listening to Pope Francis’ recommendation and offer an apology to those people the church under Cardinal López had hurt.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Church Should Apologize to Gay People, Says Top Adviser to Pope Francis

June 25, 2016
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Cardinal Reinhard Marx

The Catholic Church should apologize to lesbian and gay people for the harm it has caused to them, said a top cardinal and close advisor to Pope Francis.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, speaking to the Irish Times after his address at a Dublin conference, said:

” ‘The history of homosexuals in our societies is a very bad history because we’ve done a lot to marginalise [them]. . .As church and society, we’ve also to say “sorry, sorry.”

“Until ‘very recently’, the church, but also society at large, had been ‘very negative about gay people . . .it was the whole society. It was a scandal and terrible.’ “

Marx was in Dublin at Trinity College for the Loyola Institute’s conference, “The Role of Church in a Pluralist Society: Good Riddance or Good Influence?” He called for the church to engage positively with the world, acknowledging historical periods when “Christian faith wasn’t on the right side” of societal developments.

Addressing specifically civil rights for lesbian and gay people, the cardinal said governments should “make regulations for homosexuals so they have equal rights or nearly equal.” He explained his “nearly equal” qualification is because church teaching opposes marriage equality, describing heterosexual marriage as a “special relationship.” But Marx followed up by affirming the legal recognition of same-gender relationships, reported Catholic Philly:

” ‘We have our moral position [on marriage] and that is clear but the secular state has to regulate these [same-gender] partnerships and to bring them to a just position.’ “

Marx, who is a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, also commented about the two-year Synod on the Family process. According to the Irish Times, he expressed shock that some bishops could dismiss the commitment and service revealed in same-gender relationships:

” ‘We have to respect the decisions of people. We have to respect also, as I said in the first synod on the family, some were shocked but I think it’s normal, you cannot say that a relationship between a man and a man and they are faithful [that] that is nothing, that has no worth.’ “

Marx, the president of the Commission of the Bishops Conferences of the European Community, has a generally supportive record on LGBT issues in the church. Most recently, he attended Germany’s Catholic Day gathering which draws more than 30,000 people and, for the first time, this year welcomed LGBT organizations.

During the 2015 Ordinary Synod of Bishops, Bondings 2.0’s Francis DeBernardo, who covered the meeting from Rome, described Marx as “one of the strongest pro-gay voices.” The German working group which he moderated acknowledged the harm that “hard and merciless attitudes” in the church have harmed marginalized communities that include gay people and urged bishops to seek forgiveness.

In interviews during and after the Synod, Marx said God would not focus solely on a person’s sexual orientation, but on whether people in same-gender relationships were “faithful, care for one another and intend to stay together for life.” The church must begin its sexual ethics from “love, fidelity and the search for a life-long relationship” and not merely see a person “from only one point of view, without seeing the whole situation of a person.”

Cardinal Marx’s record on LGBT issues is not entirely positive. He maintains a heteronormative defense of marriage and, in response to the lay-led Central Committee of German Catholics’ call for the church to bless same-gender partnerships, called some of their proposals “theologically unacceptable.

His latest remarks in Ireland are, nonetheless, a positive and welcome development. An apology by the Catholic Church for its part in discrimination and violence that LGBT people have faced would be a major step toward reconciliation.  This step would be especially strong if it came from Pope Francis, whose condolences after the massacre in Orlando would not acknowledge the LGBT victims targeted, just as he neglected LGBT issues during his 2015 trip to two nations in Africa which criminalize homosexuality. Church leaders should listen to Cardinal Marx’s wisdom and consider how their words and actions could advance reconciliation with LGBT people and their families.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Top Cardinal: Transgender Rights Are ‘Demonic’; Marriage Equality Is ‘Poison’

May 18, 2016
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Cardinal Robert Sarah speaking at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

A top cardinal at the Vatican attacked transgender civil rights as “demonic” and compared marriage equality to “poison” during a speech before high-profile U.S. Catholics.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, keynoted the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast yesterday morning in Washington, D.C. His address about family and religious freedom in the contemporary world narrowed into particularly harsh LGBT condemnations. Sarah attacked transgender equality in his speech, saying family is threatened:

“[T]hrough a demonic ‘gender ideology,’ a deadly impulse that is being experienced in a world increasingly cut off from God through ideological colonialism.”

Sarah said efforts towards “tolerance” were really religious persecution, part of an “insidious war” in the U.S. and worldwide to dismantle Catholic teaching. He criticized transgender non-discrimination legislation being debated in many states by his denial of trans identities altogether. He said “nothing could be simpler” than people assigned male at birth using a men’s restroom.

Sarah used portions of his address to attack marriage equality, too. He said the devil is “intent on destroying the family” through “distorted impositions of the family,” including same-gender relationships. The cardinal said non-traditional family arrangements “cause damage to little children” such that children experience “a deep existential doubt about love.” Marriage equality and other legal recognition of non-traditional arrangements is comparable to “putting bandages on an infected wound” while the wound “continues to poison the body.”

In addition to Cardinal Sarah, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast featured Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, and Fr. Paul Scalia, a priest of the Arlington diocese who is son of late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Pope Francis appointed Sarah as the Vatican’s top liturgist in 2014. These are not the cardinal’s first or even worst negative words in relation to LGBT people. During the 2015 Synod on the Family, Sarah said the LGBT rights movement had “demonic origins” and compared it to Nazism and fascism.  Bondings 2.0‘s Francis DeBernardo, who covered the meeting from Rome, deemed Sarah’s comments the Synod’s “most homophobic remark”. The cardinal previously said marriage equality supporters sought to “destroy the family in Africa.

Is there a rational response to such repeated and irrational comments by Cardinal Sarah? I offer two thoughts.

First, contextual differences may account for a certain, limited amount of his remarks’ intensity. Speaking about spiritual warfare, including the demonic, is far more normative in Guinea, where he was archbishop, and other African contexts. Referencing the demonic is absolutely jarring in a U.S. Catholic context. Cultural differences, Guinean and Roman alike, may also account for the ways in which he misconstrues religious liberty in the U.S. and feeds a narrative of persecution proposed by this nation’s bishops. Sarah should have avoided partisan politics and spoken in a pastorally-sensitive manner during his address.

What is truly inexcusable are Cardinal Sarah’s metaphors about LGBT people and their relationships as a “deadly impulse” and “poison,” as well as his failure to engage contemporary understandings of gender and sexuality before issuing such harsh condemnations. His address shows almost no attention to pastoral realities, nor even the realities of public policy in the U.S. about which he ostensibly is commenting. Cardinal Sarah’s remarks about LGBT people and their civil rights are inconsistent with Pope Francis’ desire for a church of mercy. Rather, his remarks are dangerous words which he should retract and for which he should apologize.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Despite Vatican Opposition, Italy Passes Civil Unions Bill for Lesbian and Gay Couples

May 13, 2016

In what is being referred to as a rejection of Vatican influence into Italian politics,  the Italian Parliament voted in a civil unions bill this week, becoming the final nation in the 28-member European Union to do so.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had called a confidence vote, as a way to prevent further delays and amendments, and he received a victory of 369-193. A later vote on the actual bill in the lower house of Parliament resulted in a tally of 372-51, with 99 abstentions, paving the way for civil unions to become the law of the land. The Senate had already approved the bill in February.

Rome’s Trevi Fountain was lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate the passage of the civil unions bill.

In their news report of the decisive vote, The New York Times stated:

“It was a historic occasion for a nation that is still dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, which opposed the measure, and where traditional family norms are still strong.”

CNN noted in their reporting:

“Previous attempts to legalize gay unions had been stymied and fiercely contested by conservatives and the Roman Catholic church, which holds significant sway in the nation.”

Despite the historic victory, the bill is not an ideal law, say some Italian LGBT leaders.  One leader spoke to the New York Times, noting the waning of church influence, buy also dissatisfaction with the bill:

” ‘The wall erected mostly by the Vatican against civil rights in this country has fallen, so it is a historically and politically important moment,’ said Franco Grillini, the honorary president of Arcigay, and advocacy group, and a gay rights advocate. At the same time, same-sex couples in Italy wanted marriage equality, a right held by their counterparts in the United States and many Western European countries, and he said that struggle would continue.

“It has been 30 years since lawmakers first proposed giving legal recognition to civil unions in Italy.  The Vatican under Pope Francis, while expressing more liberal positions on some social issues, has kept us steadfast opposition to legal recognitions of same-sex couples, influencing some Italian lawmakers.”

The San Diego Gay & Lesbian News provided a succinct summary of the bill’s negatives and positives:

  • Does not go as far as civil union laws elsewhere in Europe, the US and Canada, critics say
  • Clause that would have enabled gay people to adopt a partner’s biological children was dropped
  • No blanket ban on adoption, but family judges will decide on a case-by-case basis
  • Requirement for gay couples to pledge loyalty was dropped – to make civil union less like marriage
  • Gay couples get right to take each other’s names and receive deceased partner’s pension

Bishop Nunzio Galantino, the head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, called the Prime Minister’s confidence vote “a loss for everyone,” according to Reuters.  EUobserver reported that after the passage of the bill, Galantino said to Vatican Radio that the law should stress the “importance of the family consisting of father, mother and children.”

The work to defend and expand the law will continue.  Already right-wing Italian politicians, led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, are promising to call for a referendum to nullify the law.

In the meantime,  we rejoice with the Italians for preserving family and honoring Catholic principles of human dignity by extending civil union rights to lesbian and gay families.  We pray that they will soon expand those rights to include marriage and adoption so that all Italian families will be respected and protected equally.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

Related articles:

Religion News:  “Italy OKs gay civil unions despite strong church opposition”

Slate.com: “At Last, Italy Defies Catholic Church and Legalizes Same-Sex Civil Unions”

 


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