The Catholic Push For Maryland Equality

Catholics have been prominent in the Maryland push for marriage equality – on both sides of the divide. Delegate  Heather Mizeur is a Catholic lesbian who married her spouse, Deborah, five years ago – and is a lead sponsor of the legislation now making its way through the state legislature. Governor Quinn is a Catholic, who has said that  if when the legislation is passed, he will follow his conscience – and sign. Polling evidence shows that collectively, Maryland Catholics are more supportive of marriage without discrimination than the state as a whole. New Ways Ministry, the nationwide organisation founded in 1976 by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent to promoteg sound pastoral care for LGBT Catholics and their families, and providing reliable information about sexual orientation to the Church as a whole, is based in Maryland.

 

Sister Jeanine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo speak at the day-long conference

Yesterday, New Ways Ministry hosted a day-long conference?, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach,  to promote equality.

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Defective Theology From Colorado Springs Diocese.

The principle behind 12-step programmes has become familiar, made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous, and since adapted for narcotics addictions, gambling addictions and other pathological behaviours, where it is widely agreed they can be extremely helpful in turning around self-destructive behaviour. Note carefully those qualifiers – they have worked in turning around addictive or otherwise self-destructive behaviour. Their use in attempting to modify behaviour which is totally natural and healthy (but possibly unpopular) is no more appropriate than using dangerous hydroquinine – based skin lighteners to “cure” dark skin – but this is what the Catholic diocese of Colorado Springs is trying to do, with a spurious 12-step programme that claims to offer support to those  suffering from same-sex attraction – by asking them to make amends for those whom they have hurt.

As Call to Action has noted in their response, this is plain bad theology.  Same-sex attraction is not a disease or addiction, but is totally natural. The only hurt that needs healing is not that done by gay men and lesbians on others, but that inflicted on them by misguided programmes such as this. What I find particularly offensive in the response by the programme organisers to the outraged reaction, is their pretence that the only orientation they are promoting is an orientation to Jesus Christ. They are not – Jesus, in his life and ministry said absolutely nothing against same sex relationships, and much in support. He most specifically promoted inclusion and welcome to all, including those otherwise marginalized by the social and religious elites of his day. If the diocese were to genuinely focus on an orientation to Jesus Christ, the only 12-step programme worth considering would not be aimed at those with same-sex attraction, but at those so burdened by homophobia that they are determined to impose their heterosexual agenda on everybody else. They are the ones who should be apologising for the hurt that they have caused to others, not the gay men and lesbians whose only “fault” has been to love.

This is a press statement from Equally Blessed: Read the rest of this entry »

Advent: Prepare Ye A Way For Inclusion

Advent is a solemn time of anticipation, preparing for the festive celebration of the Nativity. Christmas though, is much more than just the infant Jesus that is the focus of so many family Christmases: it is much more a celebration of the incarnation of Christ, a constant making real His presence in the world. That presence is marked by a pronounced emphasis on love, justice, and inclusion of all – including sexual minorities as well as all manner of marginalized people of His day.

In our world, that same openness and inclusion for all does not exist, not in the secular sphere, and not in the Church. If we are truly to participate in preparing for the incarnation, to contribute to building God’s Kingdom on earth, it is appropriate for this season of advent that we should reflect on the ways in which we personally can participate in preparing for this inclusion in Church.

Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholic ministries to LGBT Catholics, has released an Advent statement with some suggestions, specifically geared to ending the oppression of queer youth:

Equally Blessed Advent 2010 Statement

“Equally Blessed”: Statement on US Bishops’ Elections.

The US Bishops yesterday departed from their usual practice, and did not elect the serving vice-president to succeed the outgoing president. “Equally Blessed”, a coalition of Catholic agencies ministering to LGBT Catholics and their families, see this as an ominous sign for the future of gay and lesbian Americans.

Statement of Equally Blessed, November 16, 2010

The leaders of Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholics working for justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, have issued a statement expressing deep concern over the outcome of the election of new leaders for the US Catholic Bishops Conference.

“The election of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Louisville, Kentucky Archbishop Joseph Kurtz as President and Vice-President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sends an ominous message to LGBT Catholics and our families,” said Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry and an Equally Blessed member. “Both men have made strong statements against gay and transgender people. Indeed, for the past two years, Archbishop Kurtz has led the US Bishops’ nationwide campaign against marriage for gay couples.”

“It is ominous because the bishops broke with tradition and did not elect this past year’s vice-president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, as president, someone known to be more moderate on LGBT issues and signals that the bishops are targeting families with loved ones who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” said Nicole Sotelo, Program and Communications Director at Call To Action.

Marianne Duddy-Burke of DignityUSA, another Equally Blessed spokesperson added, “The selection of these two men as leaders of the US Bishops’ Conference means it is more important than ever for Catholics who want our Church and world to be more welcoming and just for LGBT people to speak out and to act for justice.  The majority of Catholics in the pews are supportive of LGBT people and issues, so this election is another example of how the hierarchy is out of step with the faith experience and ideas of Catholic people.”

“At a time when Catholics and the larger society have become so painfully aware of how anti-LGBT religious messages and personalities have contributed to youth suicide, we wish the bishops would have elected leaders whose records were not so damaging,” said Casey Lopata, Co-Founder of Fortunate Families. “As father of a gay son and as Catholics, we choose to tell our youth about Jesus’ unconditional love for them.”

Equally Blessed is a coalition of faithful Catholics who support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in the church and in civil society. Equally Blessed includes four organizations that have spent a combined 112 years working on behalf of LGBT people and their families: Call to Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.

In Minnesota, Catholics Support Marriage Equality.

Despite the high profile opposition of many of our bishops, we know that Catholics as a group are firm supporters of legal recognition for same  – sex unions, and are more likely than most other Christians to support full equality in civil marriage regulations. Now, it seems that the bishops’ vigorous efforts to prevent marriage equality are spurring many Catholics to open disagreement in formal groups publicly supporting same-sex marriage. In Maine last year, Maine Catholics for Marriage Equality was the first such group, spurred into action by Providence Bishop       fund-raising for the Prop 1 campaign to overturn marriage equality in that state. “Catholics For Equality”  took that campaign to a national level earlier this year – “Equally Blessed” is another national initiative, a joint effort by New Ways Ministry, Dignity USA and others.  In Minnesota, just as in Maine, the efforts of Archbishop  Nienstedt to influence state elections to stall same-sex marriage have spurred another local group in support of justice for same sex couples.

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“Speaking the Truth” on Catholic LGBT Inclusion

Regular readers here will know that the infamous CDF document on “homosexuals”, Homosexualitatis Problema (better known as then Cardinal Ratzinger’s Hallowe’en letter), is not my favourite Church document.  Nevertheless, it does include some important features, which many people in the Catholic Church too easily forget.

In its closing paragraphs, the document reminds us of the words of Scripture: “Speak the truth in love”, and “The truth shall set you free”. It is disgraceful that the document itself ignores its own advice here, but no matter: the advice itself is sound, and there are an increasing number of Catholics, lay and clerical, who are making up for the CDF omission, by speaking the truth in love on LGBT inclusion in church. The latest to do so is  Jody Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), in an address October 21 at King’s University-College, a Catholic institution based at the University of Western Ontario. In doing so, he reminded us of the other neglected portion of the CDF letter – the exhortation to treat “homosexual” persons with dignity, compassion and respect.

I regret that the only report I have been able to find of Huckaby’s address is from Lifesite News (but see the update below*), which is not usually renowned for its sympathy with progressive causes in general, or LGBT Catholics in particular. Nevertheless, they quote some sections verbatim, which are worth taking on board:

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Denial of Communion in Minnesota: In Conflict with Church Teaching.

It is not at all clear to me what valid reason there cold have been for the denial of communion to these people. If it was on the grounds that they were politicizing the Mass, it was the Minnesota bishops themselves who first introduced the politics to their congregations. If it was because Catholics were daring to show their dissent – this is a right and obligation specified by canon law. If it was on the grounds that these people were “homosexuals”, this is false – participants were declaring support for an oppressed group (a very Catholic stance), not necessarily gay or lesbian themselves. If it is that gay and lesbian Catholics were declaring their identity, this is just another instance of DADT in church.

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