05/26/14

One Of Brazil’s Top Bishops Endorses Civil Unions For Same-Sex Couples

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“They need legal support from society.”

 

By J. Lester Feder

Bishop Leonardo Steiner

The secretary general of the National Confederation of Brazilian Bishops endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples in an interview published this week in the magazine O Globo.

“There needs to be a dialog on the rights of shared life between people of the same sex who decide to live together. They need legal support from society,” Bishop Leonardo Steiner said.

Steiner made clear the church still opposes marriage for same-sex couples, which Brazil’s National Council of Justice made legal last year. “The difficulty is in deciding that marriages of people of the same sex are equivalent to marriage or family,” Steiner said, adding that he believes the measure should have been voted on by congress instead of being enacted by the judiciary.

This is the first national church leader to endorse the concept of same-sex civil unions since Pope Francis said in April that there was a possibility the church could give its blessing to certain arrangements, though they would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Pope Francis himself reportedly encouraged his colleagues to support civil unions in an effort to head off marriage equality legislation when he was the head of Argentina’s bishops’ conference. The distinction that Steiner appears to be making between the “rights of shared life” and family rights is consistent with the line taken by Argentina’s church leadership that same-sex couples should be protected under property law, not family law.

Complete Article HERE!

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05/26/14

Students rally around tux-wearing teen left out of yearbook

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By Jill Tucker and Henry K. Lee

Hundreds of students at a San Francisco Catholic school wore ties to class Friday to protest an administrative decision to keep the graduation photo of a female student wearing a tuxedo out of the yearbook.

Jessica UrbinaThe outcry became contagious as word spread across social media and support for Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory senior Jessica Urbina flowed in from around the world.

Late in the day, school officials said the events had “sparked a campus-wide dialogue which will result in a revision of policy.” The statement made no mention of changes to the class of 2014’s yearbook.

A beaming Urbina, who along with girlfriend Katie Emanuel wore a tie to school Friday, told reporters, “I’m appreciative of everything, like really I’m so frickin’ glad that my fellow classmates are rallying behind me. I’ve ever felt more love than I do right now.”

She added, “I’ve seen people with all the ties. Honestly, I’ve cried multiple times, overwhelmed with all this support, so I just want to thank everybody who’s supporting me right now.”

The senior portrait in question showed Urbina, 18, wearing a black tux, a black bow tie and a broad, dimpled smile. Her tuxedo went against an Archdiocese of San Francisco policy requiring female students to wear dresses in yearbook photos, school officials said.

It was unclear when the school made the decision not to publish the photo in the yearbook, but Urbina’s brother, Michael, and classmates started the social media campaign Thursday evening. He tweeted his support Thursday: “As a former SHC student, feminist, LGBTQIA ally, and most importantly, a BROTHER, I stand in solidarity with my sister, 110% #JessicasTux”

After hours of silence, school officials released a statement Friday afternoon: “With each of our students we strive to affirm the value, worth and intrinsic dignity of all, and to foster a supportive and nurturing learning environment. The resulting meaningful discourse and reflection on the practices and policies of the school are at the heart of our mission as an inclusive, Catholic community of faith.”

Many of the students who wore ties and bow ties of all colors – and at least one tuxedo shirt – said they couldn’t comment because administrators told them not to talk to the media, but some did express opinions.

“I believe it’s right to show herself for who she really is,” said junior Erik Wassmer as he walked between the school’s two buildings in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. “It’s sad her picture has been taken out of the yearbook.”

One student, who gave only his first name, Charles, said the administrative decision was “pretty messed up. Why would somebody be excluded from a yearbook?” he said. “Just because they didn’t wear a skirt?”students at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preporatory

Another student, wearing a bright yellow tie, said she supported Jessica and was proud of her school. “I think it shows our school can really come together,” she said before hurrying off under the watchful eye of a school official.

The Northern California American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in on social media.

“Students shouldn’t be forced to conform to outdated gender norms,” spokeswoman Rebecca Farmer tweeted, with a photo of male and female ACLU staff members wearing ties.

Emanuel told reporters: “I support my girlfriend. I love my school, and I want to make it as good as it can be for people like us. I’d like my girlfriend to be proud of the four years that she’s been here, and I’d like it to be resolved in a way that future kids feel proud to be a Fightin’ Irish, feel proud to be who they are.”

Principal Gary Cannon said all students were part of the school’s community.

“Straight, gay, bi, transgender, all that, they’re all welcome at Sacred Heart Cathedral,” he said. “At the same time we’re going to be clear in terms of being a Catholic institution, what the Catholic Church teaches and how do we live out that faith in a meaningful way and in a supportive way with all of our students.”

Michael Urbina, 21, said earlier in the day that the school, his alma mater, simply wanted to put an “alternative picture” of his sister in the yearbook. In a statement, he said he was “extremely sad, frustrated and disappointed” by the situation. “I am embarrassed to call myself an alumni of a high school that does not equitably acknowledge, respect, value and empower all of its students.”

Complete Article HERE!

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05/24/14

MDS band director says he was fired for planning same-sex marriage

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By OBY BROWN and PHILLIP RAMATI

Mount de Sales Academy students and parents met with the school president Thursday, seeking the reinstatement of the school’s gay band director, who was fired Wednesday.

Students are planning a protest outside the school Friday morning.

Flint DollarBand director Flint Dollar, 32, had posted on his Facebook page that he plans to marry his male partner of six years this summer in Minnesota.

He said Thursday that officials at the Catholic high school in Macon told him he was being fired because of that planned marriage.

Now, students and parents are marshaling forces to try to get him reinstated after more than four years on the job.

They’ve started a Save Flint Dollar page on Facebook, which already has more than 800 likes, a Twitter hashtag for #savedollar, and a Change.org petition. Thursday afternoon, about three dozen parents and students met at Mount de Sales to talk with David Held, the school’s president, asking that Dollar be rehired.

Dollar, a graduate from Howard Payne University with a degree in church organ music and a master’s degree from Mercer University, said he has never hidden his sexual orientation from school officials.

“I have been upfront with the school since my first interview,” he said. “This was not a secret.”

Dollar said he first approached school officials in October about his intention to marry his partner, and no one gave him any indications that it would be an issue.

Dollar said teachers at the school work on one-year contracts, and he was offered a new contract May 1, which he signed and was initially accepted by the school.

But that changed Wednesday when Dollar met with Held.

“I was told that because I was planning to marry my partner that I would not be returning to Mount de Sales next year,” Dollar said.

Mount de Sales’ employment policy says in part: “Mount de Sales Academy is committed to the principles of equal employment opportunities to all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, gender, ancestry, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or any other characteristic or status that is protected by federal, state, or local law.”

Dollar said he has called a few attorneys and gay organizations to seek advice. He’s been told that the school’s employment policy seemingly should have protected him. Dollar said he’ll likely retain an attorney after the holiday weekend.

A letter from Held sent to Mount de Sales parents did not mention Dollar by name. The letter points out that Mount de Sales is an independent Catholic school sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy.

“As a Mercy School, we operate from a set of core values that is in keeping with the charism of The Sisters of Mercy,” the letter said. “In addition to being a Mercy School, we are a Catholic School located in the Diocese of Savannah, which places us under the direction of The Bishop of Savannah in all questions regarding Catholic identity and the teachings of the Catholic Church on faith and morals.”

Held also said in the letter that he tries his best “to make decisions based on our mission and what is best for our students.”

“Personnel decisions are never easy, and we consider many factors when making such decisions. Teaching ability, knowledge of the subject matter, the ability to communicate with constituents, and the willingness to support the teachings of the Catholic Church are just some of factors considered when making these decisions. Please know that these decisions are never made arbitrarily and are guided always by our mission as a Catholic School.”

Multiple attempts to reach the Diocese of Savannah Thursday were unsuccessful. Attempts to reach members of the school’s board of trustees also were unsuccessful.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said Dollar’s case is at least the second one he knows of in which a Catholic school under the direction of the Sisters of Mercy fired a gay teacher planning to marry. The Mount St. Mary Catholic School in Little Rock, Arkansas, fired teacher Tippi McCullough last year after she announced plans to marry her partner.

Dollar said there is nothing in his personnel file “that would preclude me from receiving a job” at the school. Dollar said he was inundated with phone calls and emails Wednesday and Thursday and has been “overwhelmed” at the level of support he’s drawn from students and parents.

Many who attended Thursday’s meeting with Held were emotional as they left.

Amanda Herrold, a rising freshman at Mount de Sales, said Dollar “saved my life in more ways than one.”

“His kids loved him and he loved his kids,” she said. “I was suffering from depression, and he was the only one I could go to. He’s the only person I felt I could talk to.”

Her mother, Laura Herrold, said Dollar has always acted professionally and said the eighth-grade graduation ceremony he organized earlier this week was “phenomenal.”

“He put his heart and soul into it,” Laura Herrold said.

Sonya Foster, whose son is a rising senior at the school and a member of the school marching band under Dollar, said that while Dollar being gay wasn’t a secret, he never flaunted it, either. She said among the parents and students she knows, his sexuality was a non-issue.

“I’m absolutely outraged,” she said. “I’m not willing to stand by and say, ‘That’s OK.’ It speaks to who this man is that all these people are here. He’s been a role model.”

Asked if he would be attending any of the gatherings in Macon, Dollar said no.

“This is their statement. I’m not taking that away from them,” he said of the students.

He added, “I want students to learn that you stand up for what you believe in and what you believe is right.”

Asked if he would return to Mount de Sales now if he were offered back his job, Dollar said, “At this point, I don’t know.”

Complete Article HERE!

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05/23/14

Catholic Principal Apologizes For Distributing Photo Of “Poor Role Model” Ellen Degeneres

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By Matthew Tharrett

The principal of a Catholic elementary school in Newtown, Pennsylvania is apologizing to parents this week for using an image of Ellen Degeneres holding an Oscar on an invitation to a school dance.Nancy Matteo

In a formal email apology, Nancy Matteo told the parents of St. Andrew Elementary School children that it was she was “obviously NOT thinking” when she sent invitations to the 2014 Eighth Grade Graduation Dance, adding that it was “completely wrong” to use an image of Degeneres because she “lives her life outside the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

Matteo went on to claim that Degeneres is a “poor role model,” going so far as to include an actual definition for “role model”:

“A role model, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is a person who is unusually effective or inspiring in some social role, job, position, etc.. This does not describe her at all. We work so hard to be good role models and then I go and do something stupid!”

Philly.com reports that the apologetic email also requests that all invitations be returned to the school at once. “I will personally destroy them,” Matteo writes.

Ken Gavin, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, released the following statement, claiming that Matteo apologized on her own after receiving complaints from parents:

“All Catholic schools in the Archdiocese are firmly rooted in Gospel-based values and the teachings of the Church. As such, it is expected that any promotional materials developed by these schools would feature images and themes that correspond with their core mission and identity. That approach is logical and our school families have a right to expect it.”

Keep on doing the Lord’s work, Nancy!

Complete Article HERE!

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05/16/14

Catholic Church forces woman to leave job after gay marriage is revealed

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By MARY SANCHEZ

Colleen Simon insisted on performing her job this week out of devotion.

On Wednesday, she managed a delivery of 2,000 pounds of food for the pantry at St. Francis Xavier Church. It’s work she sees as fulfilling God’s will, his call to serve.

She couldn’t let the food spoil.Colleen Simon

But apparently, that is not the way the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph sees her role. Not anymore. Not after it was publicized that Simon is gay and married to another woman.

Simon’s job unraveled in a horrible confluence of unintended consequences that ran into the Catholic faith’s hypocritical stand on homosexuality.

Simon’s work as coordinator of social ministries was profiled April 30 in The Star’s 816 newsmagazine. The article highlighted Troost Avenue — its history and the many interesting people dedicated to its vibrancy today.

Colleen Simon and her wife, the Rev. Donna Simon of St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church, were mentioned deep in the story, along with the fact that they are a married couple.

The freelance writer didn’t intend to out the couple. They bear no grudge to her, nor to the priest currently serving St. Francis. The Simons have never hidden their marriage (in Iowa on May 19, 2012).

Rather, Colleen Simon kept a don’t-ask, don’t-flaunt attitude. She said she told the pastor who hired her in July 2013 (he is no longer at the parish) of her marriage. But day to day, she avoided pronouns that would highlight it, substituting “my spouse” or “my beloved.”

“You don’t want your legacy to be one of division and ugliness,” she said. “It’s awful. But there are laws, and until that law gets changed in the church, it is what it is.”

bishop-finn

This is the dude responsible for this travesty. You know about his past, don’t you?

She says that in a series of emails and discussions that began last week, she was asked to resign. Colleen Simon believes that the order originated from Bishop Robert Finn.

The diocese is declining to comment.

Simon is Lutheran, but she spent decades as a Catholic. And it is through Catholicism’s strong ties to charity and justice that she’s reframed her life. She moved to Kansas City from Virginia, a step in a transition from a prior career as a pharmaceutical representative.

Hers was a pastoral role at St. Francis, which she understands makes a difference to the diocese. She took great pride in leading parishioners toward a more active role in the pantry.

She pressed for the congregation to not only offer food, but to examine systemic reasons for why people hunger. It’s the social justice role of faith, long embraced by the Jesuit-affiliated St. Francis Xavier, often in conjunction with its cohort on the east side of Troost, Rockhurst University.

Simon is devastated. But her refusal to resign, her insistence on being fired, is not a stand on principle. It’s pragmatic. She might need unemployment benefits.

In November, Simon will reach the milestone of being three years cancer-free from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But many bills from her treatment remain unpaid. At 58, she worries about her ability to find a new job quickly.

She’s heartsick. But she says righteous indignation has no role here, not from her.

“I knew this was a losing engagement,” she said. “I was just hoping for a longer engagement.”

Many will find this episode shocking, believing that such discrimination is unheard of today. Headlines touting the acceptance shown to Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player on an NFL roster, are encouraging.

But important societal shifts happen by degree. Private struggles occur daily. Parents find themselves conflicted when a child comes out. Schools manage families fearful of a teacher who is believed to be gay.

And many religions grapple with balancing long-held dogma and God’s call to embrace all of humanity equally.

Pope Francis’ comment last year about homosexuality — “Who am I to judge?” — didn’t uproot Roman Catholic doctrine.

The church continues to fumble the fact that many within its flock — clergy, lay hires and parishioners — were created homosexual by God. They are people with talents to contribute. And they deserve not only God’s loving embrace but that of the faith’s leadership as well.

Complete Article HERE!

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