A mom of a lesbian daughter said at first she mourned the loss of the possibility of a wedding and children for her daughter...who later married on the beach to a woman with children!
as she told us...she grieved, and God said "just watch me"!
U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra (D-California) was one of 67 congresspeople who in 1996 voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which is now being challenged in the Supreme Court. He, along with 212 other lawmakers, signed an amicus brief asking the Court to overturn DOMA, according to Politic365.com.
At a rally at the Supreme Court on the day oral arguments were heard in the case, Becerra told the amassed demonstrators:
“It is time for us to have equality. I say this as a proud Latino and Catholic. It is proud to have equality for all and we will have it because time marches forward and so does justice.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Carla Hale, a teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, has been fired because she listed her lesbian partner’s name in her mother’s obituary, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
But the firing has not sat well with students at the school. They have organized a change.org petition to have Hale reinstated to her post as a physical education teacher. The petition states, in part:
“Carla Hale, a beloved teacher at Bishop Watterson High School, was fired because of her sexuality. She was a teacher who cared for her students and treated each one with respect. The school, however, did not reciprocate that respect in its treatment of her. Discrimination and injustice is something that we all have a duty to fight in today’s society. It’s unfair that someone who cared so much about her students and her job should lose them on the basis of something she cannot even control. The school claims its mission is to teach its students about love, acceptance, and tolerance, and yet it did none of this in the way it treated Ms. Hale.”
According to the Dispatch story, Hale, who has worked at the school for 19 years, was fired after a parent complained about the obituary to the Diocese of Columbus.
According to LGBTQNation.com, the petition was started by Jackson Garrity, a senior at Bishop Watterson, who explained the motivation for the response:
“My classmates and I feel very passionately about this issue. We (the senior class) agreed that we needed to take a stand as leaders and voice our opinions.”
This is the second time this year that a Catholic school in Ohio has fired someone over LGBT issues. The other case was Cincinnati Assistant Principal Mike Moroski, who was fired because of stating his support for marriage equality on his personal blog.
And the firings are part of a national trend of church leaders dismissing both paid employees and volunteers who are LGBT people, or lesbian/gay people who have become civilly married, or people who have stated their support of marriage publicly (see list of related blog posts below my signature).The most recent case before Hale’s was Nicholas Coppola in Long Island, New York, who was dismissed from several parish ministries because it became known that he married his partner.
If church leaders continue with this trend, they will soon find that they have no one left working in their institutions.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
January 9, 2013: Transgender Teacher Sues Catholic School Over Firing
September 25, 2012: Fired New Zealand Teacher’s Final and Most Powerful Lesson
March 1, 2012: Is It Possible to Find Hope in This Week’s Painful News?
February 12, 2012: Church Music Director Fired For Marrying His Partner of 23 Years
As marriage equality legislation increases in the United States, there is also progress being made in several nations around the world, including notably Catholic ones. Bondings 2.0 provides brief updates on five nations that are moving towards greater LGBT rights, and we encourage readers to use the provided links for more information.
In this predominantly Catholic nation, 71 of 92 deputies in Congress voted for marriage equality sending the legislation to the pro-LGBT president, Jose Mujica, for his signature within weeks. BBC News reports that Uruguay becomes the second Latin American country to pass full marriage equality, after Argentina. In both cases institutional Catholic opposition was strong. Bondings 2.0 reported on the Uruguayan Senate’s passage of a similar bill last week. The legislation also allows for positive changes in same-gender adoption regulations.
A leading judiciary figure in Italy has called for equality in one of the final European nations without legal recognition for same-gender relationships, and one of the most Catholic. The Sacramento Bee reports on both the Italian judge’s statements and the Vatican’s stance on Italian law:
“President Franco Gallo said the Italian Constitutional Court has ‘ruled out the constitutional illegitimacy’ of laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.
“‘At the same time, the Court has stated that two people of the same sex still have the fundamental right to obtain legal recognition of their stable union, with attached rights and obligations,’ he said…
“In February, the Vatican’s top official on family matters, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, said: ‘gay marriage is one thing, and our position on that is well known, while discrimination is another matter.’
“‘Individual rights must be guaranteed’ through ‘private law,’ including for same-sex couples, Paglia said, referring to ‘patrimonial’ aspects. He stated that it was ‘time for lawmakers to worry’ about the issue.”
The French Senate passed legislation allowing same-gender marriages and extending adoption rights to lebian and gay couples. The National Assembly passed similar legislation in February. The debate over marriage equality in France inspired massive demonstrations and heated exchanges in the past year, reported here and here on Bondings 2.0. France is a historically Catholic nation, and it has been Catholic lay movements and French bishops leading opposition to LGBT rights. Bloomberg BusinessWeek provides further details, as France is now just months away from full marriage and adoption rights being passed.
Members of a Constitutional Convention voted on April 14 in favor of a national referendum on equal marriage rights, with 78% seeking an amendment with language directly enacting same-gender marriage and another 17% for language that allows the government to do so. The Irish Times reports on the way forward as government officials take up the Convention’s recommendations:
“The Government was committed to holding a discussion on the report of the Constitutional Convention, [Minister for Justice Alan Shatter] said. ‘The issue of a constitutional referendum will thereafter be considered by Cabinet,’ he said. It was for the Cabinet to decide on the holding and the timing of the referendum, he added…
“The members of the Convention also voted yesterday in favour of recommending that the State pass laws ‘incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children’.
“’I think there would be a great deal of wisdom in that legislation being progressed and published before we go to a constitutional referendum,’ Mr Shatter told RTÉ today. The issue was omitted from the 2010 Act legalising civil partnership for same-sex couples, he said. Mr Shatter is due to publish details of a Family Relationships and Children’s Bill to address such issues in the coming months.”
Ireland is considered one the world’s most Catholic nations, and the bishops there have already threatened to cease issuing marriage licenses if marriage equality becomes legal. The next steps will be for the Irish government to take up the Convention’s recommendations and enact legislation, either for constitutional changes or changes in the law under existing constitutional strictures.
Legislators will expand same-gender rights in New Zealand, where civil unions currently exist, as a full equal marriage bill receives a final vote tomorrow. On Top Magazine reports:
“Big crowds are expected to be on hand to witness Labour MP Louisa Wall’s marriage equality member’s bill receive its third reading in Parliament.
“The measure received overwhelming approval at its committee stages last month. Wednesday’s final vote is considered a formality. Bills are rarely rejected at this stage…
“If the bill is approved, it is expected to take effect in August.”
As always, Bondings 2.0 will update our readers as progress for full LGBT rights proceeds in these nations and others. If you have not done so, use the ‘Follow’ box in the upper right hand corner of this page to receive daily email updates.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
1) A federal court has supported a pregnant lesbian woman’s right to a trial after she was fired from her jobs at two Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati when it became known that she became pregnant by artificial insemination, reports the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York.
2) Scranton, Pennsylvania’s Bishop Joseph Bambera has criticized U.S. Senator Bob Casey, a member of his diocese, for reversing his position to support marriage equality and calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The York Daily Record reports that Casey “had decided over time that the Defense of Marriage Act – the federal law that defines marriage as one man and one woman – should be repealed, and determined that such a belief could not be separate from the overall question of gay marriage.”
3) Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George joined with African-American church leaders in his city to speak out against the “redefinition of marriage,” reports The Chicago Tribune.
4) Fr. Jose Nicholas Alessio, a priest of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina (Pope Francis’ former diocese) has been expelled from the priesthood for his continued support of marriage equality. PinkNews.com reports that Fr. Alessio had been suspended in 2010, and had been offered an opportunity to retract his support, but he refused to do so.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Pope 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
After Nicholas Coppola was removed from parish ministry for marrying his husband, many rushed to support the Long Island gay Catholic man through a petition to the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Over 18,000 people signed the petition which Coppola delivered to Bishop William Murphy’s office personally.
“‘Bishop Murphy, please let Nicholas Coppola resume volunteering at his parish – and make it clear that faithful gay and lesbian Catholics are welcome to participate fully in parish life in your diocese.’ “
“According to gay activist network GLAAD, which has been assisting Coppola, a security guard at the diocese agreed to deliver the petition but said that neither Murphy nor diocesan officials would meet with Coppola and representatives of the activist groups who accompanied him.”
Reflecting on how events around Mr. Coppola have played out, several Catholic commentators have expressed concern about the direction parishes head when priests exclude LGBT ministers for marrying. Bryan Cones writes at US Catholic about the failures of Catholic leaders to stand by LGBT ministers who give so much:
“Setting aside what I think is a blatant disregard for the rights of baptized people in the church…it is impossible not to be moved by Coppola’s devotion to his parish. After decades of service, he is being literally benched, but he is still showing up Sunday after Sunday, and even speaking kindly for the pastor…Entering a civil contract, even when it’s called ‘marriage,’ simply does not violate church teaching about the immorality of same-gender sex acts–it only violates the public policy position of the U.S. bishops and the Vatican, and there is a big difference between the two. It’s enough of a difference to justify letting Coppola continue his ministry in the parish.
“That lack of loyalty when the rubber hits the road is particularly tragic in the don’t-ask-don’t-tell situations LGBT Catholics find themselves in…’My hands are tied’ is a common cop out; wouldn’t it be better if Coppola’s pastor said it instead to the bishop: ‘My hands are tied. The gospel won’t let me treat a child of God like that.’ Coppola deserves better than that; everyone deserves better than that.”
Writing at the National Catholic Reporter, Pat Perriello observes more sinister intentions in parishes than just failing to support LGBT individuals:
“I believe God’s power is great enough to value goodness in anyone: Catholic, Christian, non-Christian or nonbeliever. God’s power is greater than church structures that sometimes seem designed to constrain that power.
“My other concern about this story is that the sanctions grew out of an elite spy system that appears determined to catch people doing things wrong and force bishops and priests into a position where they feel compelled to act on these events. We have unfortunately been seeing this kind of behavior in our parishes at least since the time of Pope John Paul II. It is divisive, uncharitable, unchristian and inappropriate as a means of resolving disagreements within the Christian community.”
Michael O’Loughlin writes that the Coppola incident illustrates a non-welcoming model of church, but that an alternative way of being church, one which welcomes all, is already being enacted in other areas:
“…there is another side to the Catholic Church that welcomes gay Catholics. I know a Catholic monk who has supported numerous collegee [sic] students through their coming out processes. A thriving parish in New York owes much of its vibrancy to a gay lay minister. There are countless priests and nuns who share the joys and sorrows of gay families in parishes throughout the country. Most of the time, these stories aren’t reported; it’s not exactly news when Christians act Christian. But sometimes they are.
“With support for same-sex marriage growing, especially among the Catholic faithful, the Catholic Church will face many decisions about how to respond to this pastoral challenge. Whether it hunkers down and marginalizes itself or responds with a more Christian approach remains to be seen, but it’s clear that both options are already at work in today’s church.”
Nicholas Coppola is moving forward from this experience with the hope he and his husband can create a more welcoming, sustained place for Catholic LGBT parishioners within the Church. He started a petition anyone can sign at Change.org asking Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to share a meal with Mr. Coppola’s family.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
A South African cardinal has made the claim that he is not homophobic, and has used as his evidence that he doesn’t know any lebian or gay people.
Agence France Presse reports that Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, OFM, of Durban, South Africa, recently stated in a newspaper interview:
“I can’t be accused of homophobia because I don’t know any homosexuals.”
The cardinal didn’t stop there, though. The news report continues:
The Archbishop of Durban also lashed out as US conditions on aid, including distribution of condoms, and the promotion of gay rights as ‘a new kind of slavery.’
” ‘With the same-sex marriages, we are carrying out someone else’s agenda,’ he said.
” ‘It’s a new kind of slavery, with America saying you won’t get aid unless you distribute condoms, legalise homosexuality…’
“Same-sex marriages are legal in South Africa.
“His comments prompted outrage, just weeks after he was forced to apologise for describing paedophilia as a sickness and not a crime.
” ‘Paedophilia is actually an illness — it is not a criminal condition,’ he told the BBC last month.”
The cardinal’s comment as homophobia can only be described as ludicrous. We can analyze it in a number of different ways:
With LGBT issues so prominent in world and church discussions, one would think that if the cardinal indeed does not know any lesbian or gay people that he would think it important to go out and meet some. In one sense, to not know any gay or lesbian people is the very definition of homophobia, and so his claim that he is not homophobic falls totally flat. His very denial indicates that in fact he is very homophobic.
If his attitude were an isolated phenomenon, it could perhaps be dismissed. But I fear that it is part of a trend which exists among the hierarchy. I have two examples. When I was visiting Poland a few years ago, I met with a group of LGBT Catholics in Warsaw. We shared experiences with one another. Their leader said that he had written to the Polish Bishops’ Conference to request that they appoint a priest-chaplain for the LGBT group. The response they received from the bishops was that there was no need to appoint a chaplain because there were no homosexuals in Poland.
Similarly, when New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick had an accidental meeting with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on an airplane, she asked him if he knew any lesbian or gay people. His response was that he had seen homosexuals protesting Pope John Paul II’s visit to Berlin. That was his acknowledged extent of “knowing” lesbian and gay people.
These stories indicate a willful ignorance on the part of church leaders, and that is a dangerous and harmful phenomenon. The fact that a cardinal can proudly say he doesn’t know any gay and lesbian people, and then claim that this proves he isn’t homophobic, reveals the low level of leadership that the Catholic Church currently operates under. If church leaders truly don’t know lesbian or gay people, then how informed can their thinking be on LGBT topics?
Our church deserves leaders who will get over their blatant homophobia and go out to meet and dialogue with the people upon whom they comment so frequently and glibly.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, has told Catholics to ignore Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s recent statement discouraging pro-marriage equality Catholics from receiving communion.
Gumbleton, who is a long-time supporter of LGBT people, said in a MyFox2 interview:
“Don’t stop going to communion. You’re okay.”
Gumbleton explained his position from a pastoral point of view:
“If you look at it from a pastoral point of view where you’re trying to reach out to people, trying to draw them in, then the last thing you want to do is impose a penalty or make them feel like they have to impose a penalty upon themselves.”
His explanation also was based on the importance of Catholics using their own consciences to make decisions about receiving communion, something that Bondings 2.0 stressed in our reporting of Vigneron’s statement:
“Gumbleton says it’s a matter of conscience, which is deeply personal.
” ‘Not everybody’s going to come to the same conclusion at the same time, so we have to keep on working with people and trusting people that they’re trying to do the right thing,’ he remarked.
“Gumbleton read from a pastoral letter penned years ago at a bishop’s conference called ‘Always Our Children.’
“Judging the sinfulness of any particular act is a matter ultimately between God and the individual person.”
“He also says that an individual person must choose whether or not to receive communion.
” ‘Their conscience is the ultimate voice they have to follow,’ Gumbleton explained. ‘A person coming up to communion has a right to make their own decision about am I in a state of grace?… Am I ready to receive? Well, that’s for the person to decide not for the minister or not for any bishop.’ “
Bishop Gumbleton is the 1995 recipient of New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award. He has served on New Ways Ministry’s Board, and has spoken at several of our national symposiums and other programs.
Kudos to Bishop Gumbleton for speaking so forthrightly about the role of conscience–something that too few bishops seem able to do. Thanks to him, too, for promoting good pastoral directives about who gets to decide about who will receive communion.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
The number of cardinals endorsing civil unions for lesbian and gay couples continues to grow.
“A leading cardinal has said that same-sex relationships should be respected and recognised in law amid signs of a change in church thinking on the subject.
“Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, made the remarks in a lecture at the National Gallery evening titled “Christianity: Alien Presence or Foundation of the West?” on Monday.
“ ‘There can be same-sex partnerships and they need respect, and even civil law protection. Yes, but please keep it away from the notion of marriage. Because the definition of marriage is the stable union between a man and a woman open to life,’ Cardinal Schönborn said.
“ ‘We should be clear about terms and respect the needs of people living in a partnership together. They deserve respect,’ he added.
“Two other cardinals, Colombian Ruben Salazar and Theodore McCarrick have recently suggested the Church should not oppose same-sex civil unions.”
Bondings 2.0 had already reported about Cardinal McCarrick’s comments. You can read the blog post about them here.
We had not heard of Cardinal Salazar’s support for civil unions before this news, and a web search revealed that his comments were only minimally noted in the Spanish-language press. Colombia’s El Tiempo reports that his support for civil unions was stated in the context of declaring that the term “family” can only be used by heterosexually-headed households. What follows is a translation from the original Spanish text:
“There can be no true marriage but between a man and a woman, and only on this basis can there be a real family,” said Salazar, President of the [Colombian]Episcopal Conference, who said that it is not a personal position but of vision of the universal Church, reflected also in the Constitution. . . .
” ‘The other unions have a right to exist; no one can ask them not to exist, but they should not try to equate themselves with the family. They should not not assume the role of the family within the state, that’s where it starts to subvert the social order,’ Archbishop of Bogota also said and cautioned that these statements are not looking to attack the country’s gay community, much less violate their rights.”
Cardinal Salazar was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2012, during the pope’s last consistory of naming cardinals.
Over the past year, more and more cardinals and bishops have been speaking positively about either the need for civil unions or for greater respect for lesbian and gay couples. A recent survey of many of these endorsements can be found here.
Cardinal Schonborn, who was often spoken of as a papal candidate, made headlines last year when he reinstated an openly gay man to a parish council after the local pastor had removed him.
While it is disappointing that many of these church leaders support civil unions out of a a desire to reserve marriage for only heterosexual couples, I think we need to keep this step forward in perspective. We need to see it for what it is: a step forward that was unthinkable a year ago. More importantly, the fact this this strategy of supporting civil unions was also endorsed by Pope Francis when he was Cardinal Bergoglio in Argentina makes it even more possible that this strategy can develop.
Is hierarchical support for civil unions ideal? No, especially not when it is a stopgap measure against marriage. But none of us know how the Holy Spirit works, other than that even our imperfect ways can some times be used for good purposes. Who knows what the Holy Spirit has in mind with this new trend?
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
A gay teenager in Canada’s Yukon province has successfully lobbied to have a document which describes homosexual orientation as “intrinsically disordered” and homosexual acts as “acts of grave depravity” to be removed from his Catholic high school’s website.
Liam Finnegan’s complaint arose when he read the document “Living with Hope, Ministering by Love, Teaching in Truth,” on the website of Vanier Catholic Secondary School, in the city of Whitehorse. According to The National Post, Finnegan, 16, observed:
“There were a few things in the document that were not homophobic and that made me think that maybe this isn’t such a terrible thing, since it said homosexuals shouldn’t be discriminated against, and I liked that part of it. But then as I continued reading the policy it veered into the ridiculous, describing homosexuality as an ‘intrinsically moral evil’ and saying that I was a ‘sinner’ and that I needed to be ‘healed.’ ”
“Somebody had to say something.”
So Finnegan, supported by his fellow students, started speaking out about the document, and his complaint eventually rose to the highest level of provincial government. Xtra.com reports that Scott Kent, the provincial education minister eventually met with Bishop Gary Gordon of Whitehorse, and the bishop agreed to remove the document:
“ ‘Both [Kent] and the bishop could agree immediately that the most important thing was that students felt safe, welcome and protected in school,’ cabinet communications director Matthew Grant says. ‘The minister requested that an actual policy be developed around the particular issue in question, something developed on the grassroots level with students, parents and members of the school council.’ ”
Catholic schools in Canada receive government funding, and so are answerable to government policies concerning education. Xtra.com explains the church-state relationship and why the Catholic document needs to be re-thought to conform with government standards:
“[Grant] says that work needs to be done to bridge the gap between the religious document and the Department of Education’s policy on gender identity and sexual orientation. That policy, which was adopted in September 2012, requires schools to provide a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer and questioning people.
“Grant confirms that the policy applies to all publicly funded schools, including the Catholic schools. With the exception of the French secondary school, Yukon does not have school boards. Instead, Yukon’s 28 public schools, which include three separate Catholic schools, are administered by the territorial government with the assistance of elected school councils, which advise the minister. Both public and Catholic schools in Yukon receive all their funding from the government.”
Congratulations to Mr. Finnegan for his successful campaign! May we all follow his example of speaking up against injustice!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Did Detroit’s Archbishop Allen Vigneron tell Catholics who support marriage equality that they could not receive communion? Well, he said, they should not, but not that they could not. Is that distinction important? Yes, because it means that the ultimate authority about whether to receive or not rests with individual communicants, not with the archbishop. And that distinction, as I discuss later, is a critical one which reflects on how Catholics view the importance of their own consciences.
But, first, let’s look at what was actually said and by whom. The Detroit Free Press, which broke the story, reported Vigneron’s comments about communion as supplement to Detroit canon lawyer Edward Peters’ comments on the matter. Peters, indeed, did say that Catholics who support abortion rights or marriage equality should not present themselves for communion, but even he did not issue a rule (which, by the way, he has no authority to do). The Free Press quotes his recent comments on his personal blog:
“In a post on his blog last week, Peters said that Catholic teachings make it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman. And so, ‘Catholics who promote “same-sex marriage” act contrary to’ Catholic law ‘and should not approach for holy Communion,’ he wrote. ‘They also risk having holy Communion withheld from them … being rebuked and/or being sanctioned.’ “
Peters did urge pro-marriage equality Catholics not to receive communion. He even went further than that: he threatened that communion may possibly be withheld from them. But Peters did not forbid them from doing so. He has no power to do so.
Archbishop Vigneron, similarly, did not issue a rule about communion, but made remarks similar to Peters. Important to note is that he made these comments in response to a question by a reporter, not in the context of a directive that he was issuing. The Free Press reports:
“Asked by the Free Press about Catholics who publicly advocate for gay marriage and receive Communion, Vigneron said Sunday: ‘For a Catholic to receive holy Communion and still deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church is to try to say two contradictory things at once: “I believe the church offers the saving truth of Jesus, and I reject what the church teaches.” In effect, they would contradict themselves. This sort of behavior would result in publicly renouncing one’s integrity and logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury.’
“Vigneron said the church wants to help Catholics ‘avoid this personal disaster.’ “
Again, Vigneron did not forbid anyone from receiving communion, though he certainly discouraged certain people from doing so. He did not direct priests to withhold communion.
Let me be clear: I am making this distinction because I think it is important to be accurate about what Peters and Vigneron said–especially Vigneron, who holds canonical authority. But I am not making this distinction to exonerate them in any way. In fact, I believe that their remarks are very dangerous, not because they supposedly forbid people to receive communion, but because they confuse people by making it seem as if they did forbid them.
Moreover, Vigneron’s reasoning that equates receiving communion with acceptance of church teaching is bad theology. Communion is about a spiritual reality, not an ecclesiological one. Disagreeing with church teaching on civil marriage does not sever one from being in communion with the church or with God.
As the Free Press notes, Peters’ and Vigneron’s opinions are in the minority among Catholic leaders:
” ‘Most American bishops do not favor denying either politicians or voters Communion because of their positions on controversial issues,’ said Thomas Reese, a Catholic priest and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. Reese said that Peters’ views are ‘in a minority among American canon lawyers.’ “
The real danger in this case is that Catholics might indeed follow Vigneron’s suggestion and exclude themselves from communion. That would be a terrible tragedy for many reasons, not least of all because these Catholics would be ignoring the authority of their own consciences. They would be acceding to an external authority instead of listening to the voice of God in their souls. The ultimate authority of what they should do rests inside themselves.
Since Vigneron did not direct priests to withhold communion, the only people who could enact his suggestion would be potential communion recipients themselves. If the Catholic Church is to be a truly Vatican II church, Catholics must start trusting their consciences, and not the confusing, ill-thought reflections of a canon lawyer and a bishop. Catholics need to take responsibility to decide if they are disposed to go to communion.
Vigneron owes Catholics in his diocese an apology for creating such confusion.
For an excellent analysis and commentary on this case, I suggest a blog post by National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters entitled “+Vigneron, Same Sex Marriage & Communion.” My favorite line from it:
”Peters is one of those canonists who recognizes every commandment except the Great Commandment.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Students at The George Washington University (GWU), in Washington, DC began a campaign last week to institute changes in how the University administers its spiritual care programs, after some complained about anti-LGBT comments from Fr. Greg Shaffer, the Catholic chaplain who administers the University’s Newman Center.
Blake Bergen and Damian Legacy were once active members of the Newman Center at GWU who say they left due to Fr. Shaffer’s anti-gay stance that they say many others considered abrasive and polarizing as well.
In an essay in The Huffington Post, Bergen and Legacy further explain their reasoning in asking for an overhaul of GWU chaplaincy policies. Aware of the tension inherent to respecting religious freedom and free speech at a secular college where diversity abounds, they nonetheless oppose the Newman Center’ messaging:
“[Fr. Shaffer] has a long history of inflammatory comments towards LGBT people in his homilies and fostering a homophobic atmosphere amongst Catholics, and continued his persecution of the LGBT Community last week. While normally a sense of professional respect is observed – as neither of us are Roman Catholic priests- the idea that the Newman Center is entitled to do and believe as it pleases was violated when comments were published on his personal blog and in the student newspaper saying:
“‘Every single rational person knows that sexual relationships between persons of the same sex are unnatural and immoral. They know it in their hearts,’ Shaffer wrote. ‘And, yet, they go against what their hearts tell them when they try to argue for same-sex relationships and ‘gay marriage.’
“While this is simply a taste of the language and sentiments that permeate the Newman Catholic Student Center, the atmosphere spreads to affect those who do not even identify with the center, faith, or seek Father Greg for spiritual advice in the wider University community.”
GWU’s student newspaper, The Hatchet, reports on this growing campaign and Fr. Shaffer’s record:
“The former Newman Center members are creating a video with testimony from 10 other Catholic students, who cite Shaffer as the reason they left the chapel…Legacy and Bergen also plan to file a formal complaint with the University and hold prayer vigils outside the Newman Center until Shaffer is removed.
“The students lambasted Shaffer’s counseling sessions, in which he said he advises students who are attracted to members of the same sex to remain celibate for the rest of their lives. They also criticized the priest for a fiery blog post he wrote last May, calling gay relationships ‘unnatural and immoral’ after President Barack Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage…
“Aside from the appeal to GW, Legacy and Bergen will also send letters to D.C.’s Roman Catholic archdiocese, who heads the Church for the entire District and is responsible for choosing priests’ assignments. Legacy will also ask the Student Association to defund the Newman Center as part of the SA’s annual allocations process to organizations April 15. This year, the Newman Center received $10,000 from the SA, which divvies up funds from a budget accumulated through student fees.”
GWU administrators are reviewing complaints filed by Legacy in the Office for Diversity and Inclusion. They are also reviewing it in the Multicultural Student Services Center, comparing GWU’s policies with other comparable institutions on how chaplaincies are admitted, administered, and overseen to remain in line with the University’s mission. No comments on potential changes or a request for Fr. Shaffer’s removal from the University have been released.
As a reaction to the campaign led by Bergen and Legacy, conservative students and other supporters of the Newman Center have labeled this a matter of ‘persecution’ of Fr. Shaffer for his views.
In response to these charges, Bergen and Legacy are open about their true intentions and goals:
“Let us be clear, we are not attacking the Roman Catholic Church. We are by no means asking the Church to change its views on same-sex marriage, nor are we seeking validation or celebration of our sexuality by the Church, or anyone for that matter.
“What we ask is to be treated with dignity and respect at our university. We ask that the Chaplain of the George Washington University Newman Catholic Student Center, a man charged with the pastoral care of students by a non-university entity, treat each of us with equal love and value. We ask that our university provide a safe and welcoming environment for every student.
“Can we not agree that our students should be safe in schools and that all bullying should be stopped? Furthermore, as an institution dedicated to acceptance and inclusion should GW not be called to take steps to stop homophobic bullying along with all other forms of bullying? We might not all agree about full celebration and inclusion of LGBT civil rights, but we can all agree that bullying should be considered unacceptable, especially from our spiritual leaders.
“We have been criticized for waging an intolerant attack on civil liberties by speaking out against a religious leader for espousing discrimination and anti-LGBT rhetoric. Hate in God’s name is hate, not religion.”
As the campaign continues at GWU, Bondings 2.0 will update our readers on any developments.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
As Ireland begins to contemplate marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples, the Catholic bishops there have warned the government that if such a law were passed, then Catholic priests would no longer perform the civil aspects of marriage, in effect, no longer acting as agents of the state for marriage.
The Independent reports that if that happens, it could greatly affect the marriage landscape in Ireland:
“The bishops’ stance would affect the thousands of weddings that take place in the church every year if a referendum to extend marriage was passed.
“For a wedding to be legally recognised in Ireland, it must be solemnised by one of the 5,600 people who are on the Register of Solemnisers.
“Around 4,300 of these are Catholic priests.”
IrishCentral.com points out that not only may the bishops’ proposed action backfire, but that their influence in Irish politics is waning:
“But in a reaction the bishops might not have anticipated, many observers say that bishops unprecedented threat has the potential to backfire spectacularly, however. After decades of sexual abuse claims being ignored, or hidden, or denied and then reluctantly acknowledged, the bishops’ threat may not have the moral authority they imagine, critics contend.
“In fact, some observers see it as an opportunity to price the church’s hands from what is otherwise a civil arrangements.
” ‘With the removal of one of the main reasons that non-church goers still attend church at all, the bishops could be assembling a circular firing squad,’ one observer told the press. ‘This threat could actually do what many actually want it to – make marriage a civil contract with no religious associations at all, if the couple so desire. To some this is the equivalent of losing a five pound note and finding fifty.’ “
Groups supporting marriage equality seem unperturbed by the bishops threat. According to GayStarNews.com:
“The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) said they respected the freedom to practice religion and were not seeking to force religious solemnizers to carry out same-sex marriages, if they do not wish to do so. “
The push for marriage equality in Ireland is supported by Amnesty International, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Equality Authority and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and six other key national groups, according to The Independent.
The bishops’ proposal is a reversal of a common strategy used here in the United States by some Christian churches who support marriage equality. Many pastors in these pro-LGBT congregations and denominations have signed pledges not to perform the civil aspects of marriage ceremonies until marriage equality is extended to lesbian and gay couples. They refuse to act as agents of the state while inequality exists.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
A successful Senate vote in Uruguay means marriage equality is only formalities away from becoming legal in that nation, making it the twelfth nation globally and second South American one to do so. Historically Catholic nations, like Argentina and Uruguay, have begun a trend in that region and the Catholic Church’s role these matters plays heavily, especially now that Pope Francis oversees the global church with his Argentine background.
CNN.com reports that Uruguay legislators in the upper house approved the marriage equality measure in a 23-8 vote, sending it to the lower house, which successfully passed a similar law last year, and then onto the president for approval. The Catholic hierarchy in Uruguay has made similar statements to those made by then-Cardinal Bergoglio when marriage equality was at issue in Argentina: warnings about the destructive nature of same-gender marriage and threats to children have been prominent in both cases. Their words seem deafened now, as CNN.com reports:
“For years, it was rare to see gay rights issues gaining traction in Latin American countries.
“Not anymore, Javier Corrales, a professor of political science at Amherst College in Massachusetts, told CNN in 2010.
“‘Latin America currently has some of the most gay-friendly cities in the developing world,’ said Corrales, who ranked cities’ gay-friendliness in a book he co-edited, ‘The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America.’
“In 2009, Uruguay was the first Latin American country to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. It was also one the first Latin American countries to allow same-sex civil unions.”
In another South American nation, Colombia, legislators have begun to mull marriage equality, while Mexico continues adjudicating its tensions of having regionally-legalized rights.
It is well documented at this point that Pope Francis’ record on LGBT rights is mixed, with harsh comments about same-gender marriage coupled alongside vocal support for civil unions.In Uruguay, bishops spoke fervently against passage of the bill. In Colombia, where the measure is expected to fail, there has been greater silence by the hierarchy.
An interview on Public Radio International’s The World program presents one explanation for why traditionally Catholic nations in South America are leading the world in LGBT rights and equality. Lester Feder is a journalist who recalls the powerful narrative of human rights that emerged in Latin America as an explanation for why the quick integration of LGBT rights into legal structures occurred. Feder also proposes that the Catholic Church is less powerful than is thought:
“”But the Catholic Church, especially in Argentina is a cultural institution with a lot of history, but its a very secular country and it doesn’t have a lot of power in politics…So, we have a kind of monolithic notion of Latin America and the influence of the Catholic Church, but the reality is more complicated.”
As the papacy of Pope Francis seems to indicate a shifting tone from legalism to pastoral concern, perhaps his experiences with the trend of full equality in Latin America will shape the global hierarchy’s response from Rome.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
Responses to Cardinal Dolan’s Easter Sunday comments keep pouring in. If nothing else, it shows how his comments struck nerves, both positively and negatively. It shows how much affirmative words from the hierarchy are needed, and it shows how important it is that the hierarchy go beyond just words to send a positive message to LGBT people.
The National Catholic Reporter, columnist Jamie Manson, says she is
“. . . getting weary of bishops and cardinals who tell me how much they love my gay and lesbian friends and I, while at the same time willfully misunderstanding us, refusing to talk to us and devaluing our relationships.”
Her analysis continues by pointing out several actions that Dolan has taken recently that emphatically do not show love for LGBT people:
After reviewing similar actions and statements by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Pope Francis (when he was archbishop in Argentina), Manson provides an eloquent depiction of what true love is, which seems to echo St. Paul’s famous description in 1 Corinithians 13:
“While it may be true that Dolan, Cordileone and even the new pope are seeking a more pastoral approach to gays and lesbians, I really wish that they would stop calling it love.
“Love does not ignore letters pleading for dialogue and reconciliation.
“Love does not turn away spiritually hungry people from God’s Eucharistic table.
“Love does not use spiritually violent rhetoric against a marginalized community’s fight for justice.
“When we love another person, we genuinely desire to know her or him. When we love, we long to listen to the beloved and to learn his or her story. To love in this way, we must be authentically present to the beloved. This kind of love is risky because it demands vulnerability on the parts of both the lover and the beloved.
“If members of the hierarchy took the risk of truly listening to gay and lesbian couples, they might find, as the majority of U.S. Catholics have, that many of these couples equally embody the faithfulness, devotion, sacrifice and fruitfulness that characterize the best heterosexual relationships.
“They might open themselves up to the possibility that God is speaking new truths through the voices and lives of gay and lesbian couples and transgender persons. They might see that not only are same-sex couples entitled to equal rights and protection, they have as much potential to honor the institution of marriage as opposite-sex couples.”
Equally Blessed‘s Marianne Duddy-Burke and Mary Ellen Lopata, in an on-line New York Times op-ed, offer some suggetions to Cardinal Dolan to how he could back up his words of welcome with real actions. Among the items they suggest for the bishops are:
They conclude their list with:
“Perhaps most important, the bishops should stop hiding from us. There is no reason the bishops, priests and deacons of every diocese in the United States cannot hold regular meetings with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their families to allow them to speak honestly about their experiences within the church. The result might not always be agreement, but at least it could be a spirit of respect and openness.
“We suspect that some of these recommendations will be received more warmly than others. But having them received at all would be progress for which we might one day have Cardinal Dolan to thank.”
(Equally Blessed is a coaltion of four national Catholic organizations which work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society. The four organizations are Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.)
In a similar vein, Ross Murray of GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in an online Washington Post op-ed, suggests three ways for Cardinal Dolan to back up his Easter Sunday message:
“1.Cardinal Dolan needs to stop talking about LGBT people and spend more time listening to them.”
“2.If Cardinal Dolan cannot talk about LGBT people without uttering words of condemnation, he should simply stop talking about LGBT people in general.”
“3.Cardinal Dolan could turn his stated love into tangible action that would help real LGBT people in their day-to-day lives.”Murray elaborates on each of these three points in his essay, and he concludes with:
“God’s love is felt, not simply stated. When Cardinal Dolan makes such blatant attacks on LGBT people, it makes his ‘I love you and God loves you’ in front of the media ring hollow. Such expressions of love need to be backed up with tangible action. Do something that demonstrates that church leaders view LGBT people as more than a threat or a curse.
“Cardinal Dolan can keep saying that he loves us and God does too, but until he turns away from the camera to actually listen to the stories of our lives, these words will have no meaning.”
Clearly, Cardinal Dolan has his work cut out for him. The challenge to him is the challenge that all Christians face: to make the Gospel incarnate in the world. With all of the commentary and suggestions and support offered to him to do something tangible, Cardinal Dolan should have an easier time deciding what to do next. The ball is in his court.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry