09/30/15

LGBT Catholics Alarmed With Pope’s Remarks About “Unjust Discrimination”

Pope Francis made the comments on Wednesday in the context of marriage, family, and religious liberty. LGBT Catholics said they believe the term “unjust discrimination” channels a specific history of antipathy toward gays and lesbians in the church.

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In his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis condemned “unjust discrimination” while speaking about religious liberty, family, and marriage. The pope’s overture was couched as a nod to inclusivity, but the remarks nonetheless riled LGBT Catholic leaders who said the unexpected comments echoed talking points from the hierarchy of U.S. bishops who oppose LGBT rights.

The pope’s comments were not entirely specific, however. Delivered at the White House on Wednesday, the remarks were broad enough to possibly address a number of social and political issues facing U.S. Catholics, including health care, contraception, and LGBT rights.

But the pope’s use of “unjust discrimination” — a term that appears in a key Catholic teaching on homosexuality — seemed particularly pointed in that context to LGBT Catholics. They say church officials have used the term to argue that there are, in contrast, just and fair forms of discrimination against LGBT people.

“It is a term that has dangerous ramifications for LGBT people,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBT Catholic organization DignityUSA, who sat in the VIP section at the White House during the pope’s remarks. “To any well tuned LGBT ear, or anyone listening, it is support for a position many U.S. Catholic bishops have taken — which is against same-sex marriage, the right to fire married gay employees or transgender employees, the right to exclude LGBT people from adoption, and to deny LGBT people foster-care services.”

“It set off warning bells,” she told BuzzFeed News.

The term itself — “unjust discrimination” — appears in a key, conflicting paragraph in the Catholic catechism about homosexuality. “This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial,” it says. “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Pope Francis on Wednesday also visited Little Sisters of the Poor, who in 2013 filed a lawsuit to challenge provisions of the Affordable Care Act that require employers to provide contraception coverage. The nuns cite religious objections. While the pope was supporting the nuns’ legal challenge by making an appearance, it is unclear that the pope’s comments earlier in the day were confined to that issue.

Contacted by BuzzFeed News in a phone call, Father Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the pope, did not clarify which subjects the pope was addressing — same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act, homosexuals in the church, or something else — when discussing discrimination and religious freedom.

Since taking leadership of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has made gestures of tolerance toward LGBT people, such as famously asking, “Who am I to judge?” However, Francis has not pushed for changes to church doctrine, and he has supported a ban on same-sex couples marrying.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Way Ministries, another prominent LGBT Catholic group, told BuzzFeed News, “We haven’t heard that term in a long time — in the three years since Francis has been in — and it is disturbing to hear him resurrect it. I think the record shows that sometimes he speaks out of both sides of his mouth.”

Unjust discrimination has been a talking point for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which leads of the country’s roughly 70 million Catholics. In 2013, for example, the bishops told the U.S. Senate to reject a bill that would protect LGBT workers from discrimination while, in the same statement, also saying the bishops oppose unjust discrimination.

While Duddy-Burke was enthusiast about the pope’s visit, she said, “If he winds up enforcing the U.S. bishop’s agenda, that means a continuation of the war on LGBT people from the catholic hierarchy.”

At the White House, the pope said he would “celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this critical moment in the history of our civilization.”

“American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination,” he continued. “With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and the right to religious liberty. That freedom reminds one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”

DeBernardo reflected, “I would be fearful that right now the U.S. bishops think that just discrimination would be being able to discriminate against gay and lesbian people who choose to marry.”

He noted that Pope Francis’s comments could be interpreted two ways: that the pope rejects unjustifiable discrimination against LGBT people, or he rejects unjustifiable discrimination against religious people who oppose LGBT rights.

The latter issue has inflamed numerous denominations that support the right to refuse services to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

DeBernardo said he believed the pope was progressive at heart and acknowledged a challenge for the pope’s trip abroad. “I think Francis is really trying to hold the church together, he said. “The Catholic Church around the world and in U.S. is extremely divided over many serious issues.”

Complete Article HERE!

09/29/15

High School Suspends Gay Student Who Wanted To Bring Same-Sex Date To Dance

The saga continues.  I posted about this earlier HERE!

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A private Christian high school has suspended a male student who wanted to bring a male date to his Homecoming dance – even after he didn’t go.

Lance Sanderson

Lance Sanderson

Lance Sanderson wanted to bring a date to his high school’s Homecoming dance. The administrators at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, a college prep school “in the Catholic and Lasallian traditions,” told him no – for “logistical reasons.”

So he started a Change.org petition which garnered almost 24,000 supporters, and his story made headlines.

Apparently, that was exactly what the administration didn’t want.

Even though Lance decided to not even attempt to bring a date – he didn’t even attend the dance Saturday night – Monday morning he was suspended.

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“Today I arrived at school around 6:30am,” Lance wrote in a letter to the school’s administrators, to explain his side of the story.

“I sat down to complete my assignments for the classes I planned on attending today. At 7:30am, I was speaking to a teacher when an administrator walked into the room and told me to gather my books and come to the office.

“When I arrived at the office I was told that the administration ‘had 890 other students to worry about’ and could not deal with me. I was told to go home for the week. I said goodbye to a few teachers and students, then drove home.”

Lance says he is “hurt by this exclusion,” and notes that it “goes against the Lasallian value of brotherhood that the school is supposed to stand for.”

“You won’t let me dance with my date and you won’t let me go to class now either. I had hoped that today would be one for positive conversation going forward. Instead, I was sent home.”

“I haven’t done anything wrong and haven’t hurt anybody,” Lance notes. “I want to be welcomed back to the school building today and I want this mean-spirited semi-suspension ended, so that I can do my classwork like anybody else.”

NewNowNext, which first published Lance’s letter today, reports that all he did was “speak out for LGBT students everywhere who experience discrimination from faculty and school administrators citing baseless, outdated policies.”

Apparently, that’s enough to warrant a week’s suspension.

On its website, Christian Brothers High School says tuition and fees total nearly $14,000 a year.

Told they have “890 other students to worry about” while his rights and the respect he deserves are being ignored? Hardly the way to educate anyone.

Complete Article HERE!

09/26/15

John McNeill, Priest Who Pushed Catholic Church to Welcome Gays, Dies at 90

Farewell to my friend, my mentor, and my colleague.

 

The Rev. John McNeill, an openly gay Roman Catholic priest who, from the 1970s onward, publicly pressed the church to welcome gay men and lesbians — and who was expelled from his order as a result — died on Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 90.

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Rev. John McNeill, second from right, in New York’s gay pride march in the 1980s. He wrote “The Church and the Homosexual.”

His death was announced by DignityUSA, an organization that supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics. Father McNeill had helped found its New York chapter in 1972.

A Jesuit who was ordained in 1959, Father McNeill was known in the decades that followed as an author, activist and psychotherapist specializing in the needs of gay clients. He first came to wide, explosive attention in 1976 with the publication of his book “The Church and the Homosexual.”

That book was the first extended nonjudgmental work about gay Catholics, a subject that had long been taboo in official church discourse. It has been credited with helping to set in motion the re-evaluation of the religious stance toward gay people — not only among Catholics but also among those of other faiths — that continues today.

“John McNeill is one of the most important voices in the history of the L.G.B.T. civil rights movement,” Brendan Fay, the director of “Taking a Chance on God,” a 2011 documentary film about Father McNeill, said in a telephone interview on Friday. “ ‘The Church and the Homosexual’ became the primary text that is still considered the key in transforming the conversation on religion and homosexuality.”

For Father McNeill, the book, and his disclosure soon after its publication that he was gay, would lead to years of public opprobrium, censure by the church, exclusion from his order and, in the end, a newfound level of activism that sustained him to the end of his life.

“He was a gay man who was a Jesuit priest — and being a gay man who is a Jesuit priest, by the way, is not an unusual thing,” Mary E. Hunt, a Roman Catholic feminist theologian and longtime friend of Father McNeill’s, said on Friday. “The difference is that John McNeill was honest, and he was honest early. And being honest early meant that he paid a large price.”

“The Church and the Homosexual” drew on Father McNeill’s deep academic training in theology and, though only tacitly, on his own experience. In the book, he argued that a stable, loving same-sex relationship was just as moral, and just as godly, as a heterosexual one and should be acknowledged as such by church leaders.

After an extensive review of the manuscript by a panel of theologians, “The Church and the Homosexual” was published under the imprimatur of the Vatican.

Translated into several languages, the book caused an international sensation. In the United States, Father McNeill appeared on a spate of national television programs. In a 1976 interview with Tom Brokaw on the “Today” show, he publicly identified himself as gay.

“He’s the first priest to come out on national television,” Mr. Fay said.

At the time, Father McNeill described himself in interviews as a celibate gay man. It was a claim he made in public out of necessity: As it was, he was receiving stacks of hate mail, including death threats, from incensed strangers. In private, however, he was living with Charles Chiarelli, his lover since 1965.

John McNeill was born on Sept. 2, 1925, in Buffalo. When he was 4, his mother died; to rear him and his four older siblings, his mother’s sister married his father. In keeping with Old World tradition, they agreed to live celibately as brother and sister.

“We children grew up with the burden of our responsibility for our parents’ frustration and unhappiness,” Father McNeill wrote in his 1998 memoir, “Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey.”

At 17, he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the 87th Infantry. While serving in France, he was taken prisoner by the Nazis. Transported to a prisoner-of-war camp near Leukenwald, Germany, he was kept in a sealed boxcar for days without food or water. He licked frost from the boxcar nailheads until his tongue bled.

The Nazis endeavored to starve their prisoners to death; Mr. McNeill’s weight dropped to 80 pounds. One day, when their guard’s back was turned, a Polish captive threw Mr. McNeill a potato. When Mr. McNeill made a silent gesture of thanks, the Pole quietly made the sign of the cross.

“I always thought I wanted that kind of faith and that kind of courage,” Father McNeill said in Mr. Fay’s documentary. “To be ready to risk my life to help someone in need.”

After the war, he graduated magna cum laude from Canisius College in Buffalo and earned graduate degrees from Bellarmine College in upstate New York and Woodstock College in Maryland. In 1959, he was ordained by Cardinal Francis Spellman, the archbishop of New York.

Father McNeill began doctoral studies at the Catholic University of Leuven, in Belgium, in 1961. He was achingly lonely, he recalled, and considered suicide. Then he fell in love with another man.

“The experience of the joy and peace that comes with that — it was a clear indication to me that homosexual love was in itself a good love and could be a holy love,” Father McNeill said in the film.

After receiving his doctorate in philosophy in 1964, Father McNeill joined the faculty of Le Moyne College in Syracuse. Influenced by the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, he began protesting the Vietnam War.

By 1970, keenly aware of the self-hatred and depression that many gay Catholics experienced, he began ministering to them. He later trained as a psychotherapist at the Institutes of Religion and Health in New York.

He began speaking publicly on gay Catholic issues in the early 1970s, and in 1976 published “The Church and the Homosexual.”

Though the church had approved the book, it reneged over the next year, as Father McNeill became widely known as a gay-rights champion. In 1977, the Vatican ordered him not to speak or write publicly on the subject. Out of his deep fealty to his religion, and his feeling that the church needed time to come to terms with the issue, he agreed.

He obeyed the order for nearly a decade, though he continued quiet pastoral work with gay men and lesbians. Over time, however, two things spurred him to speak out, though he knew that in doing so he risked expulsion from his order.

The first spur was the AIDS epidemic, to which he increasingly turned his attention. With the Rev. Mychal Judge, Father McNeill, then living in New York, established an AIDS ministry, serving homeless people in Harlem. (Father Judge, a Roman Catholic priest who privately identified himself as gay, was killed in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center while aiding New York City firefighters.)

The second spur was an official document, “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” issued by the Vatican in October 1986. It was released above the signatures of Archbishop Alberto Bovone and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Cardinal Ratzinger, then the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, would serve from 2005 until 2013 as Pope Benedict XVI.

The document, known as a pastoral letter, declared that homosexuality was “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”

In November, Father McNeill condemned the letter in a statement issued to The New York Times and The National Catholic Reporter. Cardinal Ratzinger responded by ordering him to keep silent on the subject, and to cease his pastoral work with gays and lesbians, or risk expulsion from his order.

Father McNeill demurred, and in early 1987, on the Vatican’s orders, he was expelled from the Jesuits. He was still nominally a priest, but for all practical purposes could perform few official priestly functions, including celebrating Mass.

Though the expulsion caused him great pain, Father McNeill said, it was liberating in other respects. He continued his psychotherapy practice and became more visible than ever as an activist. In 1987, he was the grand marshal of the New York City gay pride parade.

Father McNeill, who also taught at Fordham University and elsewhere, had lived in Fort Lauderdale in recent years. Mr. Chiarelli, whom he married in Toronto in 2008, is believed to be his only immediate survivor.

His other books include “Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Lovers, Families and Friends” (1988) and “Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians and Everybody Else” (1995).

His expulsion notwithstanding, Father McNeill “remained very much a Catholic throughout his life, remained very much a Jesuit in his orientation throughout his life, and remained very much a priest throughout his life,” said Dr. Hunt, the theologian.

This was perhaps never more starkly evident than at the end of his life, during his final hospital stay. On the door of his room, Mr. Fay said, hung a sign that had been placed there at Father McNeill’s request.

It read, simply, “I am a Catholic priest.”

Complete Article HERE!

09/25/15

Christian Brothers High School denies homecoming date for gay student

Lance Sanderson

Lance Sanderson

MEMPHIS, TN – A student at Christian Brothers High School said the school will not let him bring his date to the school’s homecoming dance.

Lance Sanderson is a senior at CBHS, and he wants to bring a male date to homecoming.

He believes administrators at the private all-boys Catholic school are discriminating against him with a policy laid out in a September 24 news bulletin on the school’s website.

“CBHS students may attend the dance by themselves, with other CBHS students, or with a girl from another school. For logistical reasons, boys from other schools may not attend.”

School administrators have not commented publicly on this policy or Sanderson’s specific complaint. However, a letter was issued to the CBHS community explaining the development of a more pro-active outreach.

According to the policy, Sanderson would be allowed to bring a male date from CBHS but not from another school.

“I can bring like, a friend from CBHS or like, a girl friend from another school but I can’t bring like a boyfriend from another school or a date from another school,” Sanderson explained. “The other students have that option.  They use it.”

Sanderson said he has been out as homosexual since his freshman year. He said the previous school administration agreed to let him bring his date to homecoming, but now the school has changed its tune.

“I feel like they’re discriminating against me because I want to bring a guy and they don’t support that right now,” said Sanderson.

He said he’s asking to be treated like all of the other students at his high school.

Sanderson created a Change.org petition with the hopes of getting the school to change its mind before homecoming. He’s gained more than 6,000 supporters.

However, experts at Gold Law Firm said there does not appear to be any discrimination in the CBHS policy, because it’s been the school’s policy not to allow men from other schools at their dances.

Additionally, the administrator who gave verbal permission to Sanderson last year didn’t legally have the authority to do that.

Sanderson said he’s now pushing for more progressive policies.

“I’d like the policy to change,” he said. “If not now, maybe sometime before prom.”

CBHS’s homecoming is scheduled for Saturday, September 26.

Complete Article HERE!