Here’s TruthTrending: TruthTrending uses the truth about the laws that we all live by that remind viewers that religious protections are already in place and not threatened or oppressed when equality spreads wider to include more people. Our United States Constitution is the law we all live by regardless of faith and asserts the protections and equality in treatment for all Americans. This is why the gentle and respectful reminder to viewers that meaningful discussions and debates can continue but all should be able to come to the table equally protected and not at a disadvantage because they don’t share the same faith.
United Methodist pastors from different parts of the state Tuesday traded in the pulpit for a press conference podium and a pledge to support the Rev. Benjamin Hutchison, an openly gay pastor who said he was forced to resign because he has a husband.
Hutchison said he was forced to resign from the United Methodist church in Cassopolis after the church’s district superintendent found out that Hutchinson had a gay partner. The church allows gay members, but not gay pastors. After resigning, Hutchinson officially married his partner, which landed other pastors who participated in the ceremony in hot water with church leadership.
More than 50 supporters of Hutchison and LGBT inclusion in the United Methodist Church gathered at the church bishop’s office at 1011
Northcrest Road in Lansing to read a pledge and tape it to the office door. It was a symbolic nod to Martin Luther, who helped start the Protestant Reformation by posting his Ninety-Five Theses on a church door in 1517.
The modern-day pledge taped to doors by advocates asks for inclusiveness of the LGBT community in all of the church’s ministry, including as pastors. Representatives from the bishop’s office were not present at Tuesday’s event.
The Rev. Lois McCullen Parr is a national representative to the Reconciling Ministries Network, which advocates for full participation of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church. She said she’s spoken with church members who hadn’t had a good experience with their churches.
“What they told me is that they’d been harmed by the institutional church,” McCullen Parr said.
She and others advocated to “Stop the Harm” and have a truly inclusive church.
Hutchison said that when he was asked to resign two weeks ago, he couldn’t have anticipated the effect it would have.
“I would never imagine this, and I could have never imagined the support not only from my local congregation, who is in an uproar about it, but also from my community. The chief of police and county commissioners have come to the church requesting ‘what’s happened? We need him in our community,’ and beyond,” Hutchison said. “All over the world people have sent me Facebook messages and told me they’re here to support me.”
The Rev. Michael Tupper, who signed Hutchison’s marriage license, said the issue was close to him because his own daughter is gay, and said she’d been harmed by the church.
“It’s time for that to stop,” he said.
Hutchison said Tuesday’s event was especially moving because his own family made him choose between his partner, Monty, and them.
“It’s been a great thing for me emotionally to see the support because I never received it from my own family,” Hutchison said.
Catholic bishops don’t have to wait for a change in doctrine in order to help, instead of hurt, LGBT people. Here are four proposals.
At age 54, and after 25 years as a Roman Catholic priest, I left the priesthood in November 2014, and came out as a gay man.
Seeking to be more honest with myself, and understanding the limitations that come with being a gay priest, this was a choice that was healthiest for me. There is no infrastructure within the Church to support me as a gay man. And the Church is not at her best when speaking to and about people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), or even questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Before leaving, I had a unique role in priesthood in that I provided leadership training, development, and consulting primarily for bishops and priests throughout the country. I served them, I assisted them, and I coached them.
Because I thought I had a credible relationship with bishops, in particular, I invited them to seize an opportunity regarding the LGBT community and the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage equality and October’s Synod on the Family at the Vatican, in which bishops and cardinals will discuss a range of issues related to family and evangelism.
The Church, and the bishops who lead it, have an opportunity to more thoughtfully and sensitively understand who we are as LGBT persons—and to use language that is responsible and respectful when speaking to us and about us. So, this past April, I reached out to the bishops I knew and offered my counsel.
Alas, only one of the 82 bishops I contacted has chosen even to respond. I found the non-response to be a great disappointment.
Still, as someone who was a Roman Catholic priest and who understands my own sexual orientation, I am offering to be a part of the solution for the Church leaders in their struggling relationship with LGBT people. Here are four things the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church can do, without changing Church teaching on sexuality:
First, as the Hippocratic Oath holds, they should do no harm: pause the public statements that deny LGBT people’s experience of themselves, that fan the flames of fear regarding religious freedom in America, and that perpetuate misunderstanding. Enter a period of silence and reflection—not hesitation, but consideration.
Second, to open such a period of reflection, bishops should organize an ad-hoc committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that seeks to understand the LGBT community and persons—hopes, contributions, concerns, and self-identifying language. This understanding, then, influences a common national plan to use language and Catholic terminology that is pastorally respectful and inclusive whenever the LGBT community is addressed or discussed.
The next step would be to revisit the 2006 pastoral document, Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclinations, and the Pope John Paul II letter to bishops, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, so as to update recommendations and language. For instance, gay persons are not persons who have “homosexual inclinations.” To refer to our expression of sexual love as “intrinsically disordered,” is neither helpful nor useful.
Finally, put in place an education process, through the USCCB, to enable all ecclesial leadership—ordained and lay—to live a life of ministry and/or celibacy with more authenticity and self-acceptance. Currently, gay and bisexual priests and bishops, for the most part, are quietly closeted, even amongst themselves.
This sort of leadership can reap significant benefits for the Roman Catholic Church, both tangible and intangible:
First, bishops will finally be able to effectively demonstrate pastoral care and relevance to LGBT persons and all those with whom they relate and associate. Many members of the flock, the people of God, are LGBT. They are a part of families, and many of them worship as Catholics. And, of course, many of them have left the Church. This is an opportunity to exercise care and leadership and sensitivity.
Second, understanding LGBT persons and respecting their identities facilitates sensitivity when speaking about issues, concerns, and hopes—whether it applies to the Church or society. In theological terms, it manifests the love of God.
Third, it strengthens episcopal credibility. Ordained and professional ecclesial leaders will better respect bishops, and seek them out for guidance on how to better care for, speak about, and minister to LGBT persons—and how that translates into a holistic ministry for the full people of God.
Even in the absence of doctrinal change, promoting understanding, sensitivity, and proper language, are acts of profound ministry. Through them, all of us become more inclusive, understanding, and respectful—even if we don’t always agree on issues or teachings.
My purpose is to be of service to the Church on this issue. There is a unique opportunity here given the events that are shaping people’s lives in the Church and throughout the nation. The right and responsible thing to do, as an act of leadership, is to understand LGBT persons, and to use language that respects them by listening and seeking to understand the joys and challenges they face in their lives. Everyone benefits, and face of God is experienced more deeply.
Former Archbishop John Nienstedt said he remains “dumbfounded” by the allegations of personal misconduct that emerged last year during an internal church investigation of his behavior — a report that the archdiocese now is considering making public.
“It pains me deeply that my good name and reputation have been put into question by allegations that are entirely false and based wholly on rumor, hearsay, or innuendo,” said Nienstedt last week, in written responses to questions from the Star Tribune.
Commissioned by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the probe looked into claims that Nienstedt had engaged in behavior that was inappropriate for a priest. The Star Tribune has learned that investigators collected affidavits from priests, former seminarians and a former priest alleging actions, some dating to the Detroit area in the early 1980s, that range from inappropriate touching to visiting a gay nightclub.
Nienstedt resigned June 15, after Ramsey County prosecutors filed criminal and civil charges against the archdiocese, alleging “failure to protect children.” Nienstedt said he hoped his resignation would “give the archdiocese a new beginning.”
But the existence of the investigation has become yet another dilemma for a church sharply criticized for its handling of dozens of cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests. Earlier this year it filed bankruptcy to help deal with the mounting financial toll of those cases.
Some priests and parishioners are pressing interim Archbishop Bernard Hebda to make last year’s investigation of Nienstedt public. He must balance those demands against the promise of confidentiality granted to those who participated in the investigation, as well as the possible implications — if any — it could have in the criminal case brought by Ramsey County.
Hebda has pledged to “resolve the matter in a way that is reasonable and fair.” Nienstedt said he wants the issue behind him so that his name can be cleared.
“It is frustrating, both for me and the public, that this process has gone on for so long,” Nienstedt said in his first remarks to the media since his resignation. “I was dumbfounded because the allegations were so far-fetched and utterly untrue.”
The archdiocese declined to answer questions about the investigation. Last year, it hired the Greene Espel law firm in Minneapolis to look into allegations of clergy misconduct involving Nienstedt and adults. The law firm’s work ended last summer, and the chancery hired Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Peter Wold to complete the probe.
Greene Espel has publicly disputed claims by the archdiocese that Nienstedt did not intervene in the investigation.
The firm conducted interviews and collected affidavits, or sworn statements, from people who worked with or knew Nienstedt. The Star Tribune has confirmed that five Catholic priests, one former priest and a former seminarian were among those who provided affidavits.
In one affidavit, a priest in Harrison Township, Mich., reported seeing Nienstedt at a gay nightclub in Windsor, Ontario, just across the border from Detroit in the 1980s. “I recall seeing John — and there is no doubt in my mind that it was him based on my prior interactions with him — at the Happy Tap,” the Rev. Lawrence Ventline wrote in his affidavit. “He appeared to wave me off as I was coming — and I backed off because I did not want impose on him.”
Another affidavit from a Michigan priest said that Nienstedt pulled up to his car in an area frequented by gay men one December in the early 1980s and asked him if he had any “poppers,” an inhalant used by gay men to enhance sexual pleasure. When he got into Nienstedt’s car, and Nienstedt recognized him as a former student, he changed the subject, the priest told the Star Tribune.
A former seminarian at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, James Heathcott, also filed an affidavit. He said that Nienstedt — who was the seminary’s rector — expelled him after he refused an invitation to join Nienstedt and two other seminarians on a private weekend at a ski chalet in the late 1980s.
In addition, the Star Tribune obtained a 2014 letter sent by a former student at Sacred Heart Seminary to former auxiliary bishop Lee Piché, who oversaw the Nienstedt investigation, alleging that Nienstedt touched his buttocks after a dinner together one night between 2000 and 2002. Joseph Rangitsch said he protested and Nienstedt replied he could “make things unpleasant for you very quickly.”
Nienstedt denies claims
Nienstedt denied all the allegations, point by point and in general. He also stressed that none of the people who filed affidavits claimed that he “ever abused any minor, had a sexual relationship with any individual, or committed any crime.”
The former archbishop insisted he never set foot in a gay nightclub or visited gay cruising spots. He said he was not even in Detroit in December 1982, when the Michigan priest claims he asked for the “poppers.” He was assigned to the Vatican Secretariat of State in Rome and was not allowed to come home for the holidays.
He acknowledged he drove by the park in question somewhat regularly — by necessity.
“When I was Cardinal John Dearden’s secretary, the Cardinal’s residence where I lived was near the alleged park,” he wrote. “I had to drive through the park to get to other destinations within the city of Detroit.”
Nienstedt said Heathcott was not expelled from the seminary but left on his own after informing the seminary he did not feel called to be a priest. The ski trip, added Nienstedt, was open to seminarians and faculty — not a “private chalet.” “Anyone who wanted to go could sign up,” he said.
Nienstedt said he had no memory of meeting Rangitsch and said he was no longer rector at the seminary at the time of that alleged incident. Nienstedt’s attorney points out that Rangitsch has a criminal record in Montana, including misdemeanor convictions for sexual assault.
Nienstedt believes some of the accusations are “retribution” for his stance on social issues. As auxiliary bishop in Detroit, he ended the gay community’s use of a Catholic church for liturgies. In Minnesota, he led an unsuccessful campaign to amend the Minnesota Constitution to ban gay marriages.
“Certain groups in Detroit began spreading untrue rumors about me following difficult decisions I made as the rector of the Detroit seminary and as an Auxiliary Bishop,” he said. “Some priests in Detroit also vehemently disagreed with my positions and decisions.”
Nienstedt added that he didn’t air all the evidence he has against those who made charges “because it would be a disservice to the people who cooperated with the investigation under a promise of confidentiality.”
The affidavits are among many documents and interviews compiled by investigators last year that Hebda is now reviewing.
Meanwhile, Ramsey County still has an active investigation in its criminal prosecution of the archdiocese, which charges that the “highest level of leadership” failed to protect children from pedophile priests. St. Paul police confirmed it executed a search warrant on the archdiocese chancery in June. A court hearing in that case is set for Aug. 25.
If and when the church’s internal investigation is released, said Nienstedt, “I remain hopeful that, in the final evaluation, I will be exonerated.”
Since resigning June 15, Nienstedt has been spending time with friends and family. He said he would like to “continue in ministry in one form or another.”
The former archbishop said he’d like his legacy to be the archdiocese’s strengthened child protection protocols developed with clergy abuse victims, the hiring of excellent leadership to oversee ministerial standards, and initiatives to strengthen parishes and schools.
What the archdiocese decides to do with the investigation is being monitored by Twin Cities Catholics as well as national Catholic authorities, who say the St. Paul situation is extremely rare.
Facing scores of priest abuse claims, bankruptcy, civil and criminal charges — and the Nienstedt investigation controversy — the archdiocese is in uncharted terrain.
“I rarely say anything is unique in the Catholic Church, but this is a pretty unique situation,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, senior analyst for National Catholic Reporter.
Tim Ardillo said he was standing next to his mother’s coffin leading his young son to receive a blessing when the priest presiding over the funeral Mass denied him communion.
The longtime Catholic said the priest told him it was because he married outside the church, but Ardillo doesn’t think that’s the whole story.
He believes he was denied the sacrament because, as is stated in his mother’s obituary, he is married to a man.
The priest in question, the Rev. Mark Beard, of St. Helena Catholic Church in Amite, did not return multiple calls seeking comment in the week following the July 10 funeral.
Ardillo said the church passed out a quotation from 1 Corinthians at Mass the next Sunday, which states, in a portion highlighted in red ink, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks in judgment of himself.”
Ardillo said he has since received an apology from the Diocese of Baton Rouge, which directly oversees the Amite church, and a personal apology from New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, though Aymond’s office declined to comment on the matter for this story.
The standing of gays and lesbians within the Catholic Church is complicated, with the church opposing same-sex marriage but counseling respect for LGBT people.
According to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, “homosexual inclination” is not a sin itself, but “homosexual acts” are immoral and “always objectively sinful.” The conference also says people with a homosexual inclination should not be encouraged to speak openly about the matter and may be denied roles in the church.
However, the bishops also say, “Church policies should explicitly reject unjust discrimination and harassment of any persons, including those with a homosexual inclination.”
As for communion, Catholics should not receive communion if they have committed a “grave sin” to which they have not confessed and performed an act of contrition, according to the conference.
When asked about Ardillo’s case, the Diocese of Baton Rouge emphasized that the responsibility to comport with church teachings is on the person receiving the communion.
“With respect to the specific matter raised, the Catholic Church expects that any individual Catholic who is in a marital situation which is not in conformity with its doctrines will not come forward to receive the body and blood of the Lord at Mass. For Catholics, reception of Holy Communion among other things is an expression of unity with the church’s teachings, including those about marriage,” the diocese wrote in a statement.
Diocese spokeswoman Donna Carville, a Eucharistic minister, said the diocese does not condone denial of communion to Catholics just because they are gay.
“That’s very surprising that he was denied communion. That just doesn’t happen. … We don’t deny people communion,” she said. “Who are we to judge whether they believe (the church’s teachings on the communion) or not? It’s between you and God.”
Being married outside the church should not be used to deny someone the Eucharist, said the Rev. Roger Keeler, executive coordinator of the Canon Law Society of America.
As a practical matter, Keeler noted that a priest or Eucharistic minister can’t possibly know the marital standing of everybody in line. He also raised more philosophical concerns.
“This is not a weapon. Communion is not a reward for good behavior,” he said. “It’s the food for weary souls.”
He used an example of a priest who has read in the newspaper that a parishioner has embezzled millions of dollars. The woman may have atoned for her transgression, and even she should receive the sacrament if she puts out her hand, Keeler said.
“How am I to know that she is not in a state of grace?” he asked.
A priest would find a few reasons to withhold a communion, Keeler said. It may be appropriate if the person is known to be of a different faith or has been excommunicated or formally left the church, he said.
He and the Baton Rouge Diocese agreed that, ideally, those issues should be resolved in private, rather than the communion line.
Ardillo said he would have stayed out of line if the matter had been broached before his mother’s funeral Mass.
He expected that receiving communion would be an “intimate, intimate experience” because his mother is with the Holy Spirit, and he could connect with her through participation in the Eucharist.
After the incident, he grabbed his husband’s hand and stormed out of the church, but a relative who is a lesbian coaxed him back in, saying the family needed him to be a leader. Ardillo said he was also concerned about the message the denial would send to a younger gay family member who was at the Mass.
Ardillo himself has drifted away from the church. Though he now lives in Indiana, he said that as a boy he was an altar server at the very church where the funeral was held, and priests would frequently come over to his house for Christmas Eve supper.
He said he still believes in the Catholic faith but isn’t sure of his “place” in the church.
Toward the end of his mother’s life, the two would pray together; she signed the cross on her leg when she couldn’t lift her hands higher. They prayed the rosary together the last time they saw each other, Ardillo said.
He had thought the funeral would serve as a reintroduction into the Catholic community, but not anymore.
“I can’t,” he said. “I don’t have it in me.” Complete Article HERE!