Are gay-straight alliances contrary to Catholic teaching?

The next time a news story surfaces on the subject of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in Catholic schools, see if the following formula applies.

First, some students attempt to establish a GSA (or run some event as a GSA). School officials judge the group or event to be contrary to Catholic teaching, although they arrange some compromise (i.e. naming groups “anti-bullying” instead) so that service to students fits with Catholic teaching. Nonetheless, the GSA members find this decision illogical, and are sufficiently frustrated that they contact the media.

The story finally ends at an impasse: Church teaching on homosexuality is unchangeable, while the students remain steadfast in their initiative to provide a safe space at school for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer (LGBTQ) students.

At this point two questions arise:

1) Is establishing a GSA really contrary to Catholic teaching?

2) If LGBTQ students wish to have a GSA, why don’t they simply leave the Catholic school and enrol at the secular school, where GSAs are supported?

The answers to both these questions bring forth some new considerations that Catholic school officials and students should take seriously if they wish to keep their conversations from hitting an impasse.

The subject of GSAs being contrary to Catholic teaching raises the fact that the Catholic Church loves LGBTQ persons, but disapproves of non-heterosexual acts. If Catholic schools are unwilling to sponsor GSAs on this basis, then one must ask whether GSAs really promote sexual acts. If they did, they would certainly be contrary to church teaching. But these groups limit their scope to promoting peace and safety, providing emotional support, and resisting homophobia and bullying in the name of justice, all of which are in agreement with Catholic teachings on love and human dignity. Being LGBTQ is apparently not a problem in some Catholic schools, but organizing LGBTQ groups is.

So it appears that in some cases there is reluctance to admit the presence of LGBTQ persons because it would send a message that the school also approves of sex acts that are contrary to Catholic teaching. Instead, they are hidden under the heading “anti-bullying” (as is the case in Halton Catholic schools).

In these cases, probably the best argument that the pro-GSA students have at their disposal is to point to inconsistencies between their treatment and the way the school serves students who are pregnant and unmarried parents. The Catholic Church also disapproves of heterosexual acts outside marriage, but currently unmarried students who are pregnant or have children are openly welcomed in Catholic schools, and sometimes are even placed in programs specifically designed for them.

Their public presence is not denied, and any suggestion that the school approves of their sexual activity outside marriage is remarkably absent from public discussion. Priority is instead properly placed on helping these students and their children. Students who are hoping to establish GSAs might ask why their social and political effort to reduce homophobia and bullying fails, but a solidly Catholic reason exists to serve students who have (or are having) children outside marriage.

On the other hand, one could ask why students continue to press unsuccessfully for a GSA in a Catholic school when they could simply enrol instead at a secular school. For most of these students, such a step is simply too drastic. The Catholic school is their community of friends. They desire and deserve Catholic schooling just as much as their heterosexual neighbours and leaving the school is simply not an option. For those students who are Catholic and L, G, B, T or Q, this issue therefore raises serious questions about how they see themselves in the church, and how the church and school see them.

But repeating church teaching to LGBTQ students looking for a mature engagement with their church is insufficient, and is bound to return to the impasse of frustration. Intellectual freedom requires that students who are interested should be introduced to Catholic thinkers who offer reasonable criticisms of church teaching.

Many in the church will not agree with this suggestion, but in addition to working for peace, emotional well-being and justice, Catholic schools also have an obligation to help all LGBTQ students understand themselves in the church. Perhaps a GSA is just the intellectual and social environment that can encompass all these needs.

Full Article HERE!

Catholic Church blamed for homophobia in Poland

New leaked WikiLeaks documents have revealed that the United States government is worried about the Catholic Church fomenting homophobia in Poland.

LifeSite News has reported that the cables, from the US embassy in Warsaw, cite the Church as “central” in the promotion of homophobia in the European country.

“The Catholic Church plays a significant role in the formation and propagation of anti-gay attitudes in Polish society, especially in rural areas,” states one cable from August 2009.

Poland has a population similar to Canada’s, and more than 85 percent of citizens are members of the Catholic Church.

This is not the first time the country has been in the news for homophobia; in 2006 then-Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynsky was publicly rebuked by the European Parliament over the Polish government’s homophobic tendencies.

At that time the rightwing League of Polish Families party was part of the government. Members of the party have previously attacked those marching in feminist and queer parades in Poland.

Pride marches were illegal in Poland until 2007, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that banning parades violates the right to freedom of assembly and association.

Warsaw, the country’s capital, played host to EuroPride in 2010, the first time the event was held in Eastern or Central Europe.

At the time the BBC reported that eggs were hurled at marchers and a petition with more than 50,000 signatures was submitted on behalf of anti-gay organizations calling for the cancellation of the event.

The most recent WikiLeaks dump also revealed that US ambassadors in Sierra Leone have been looking at ways to temper African attitudes toward gays and lesbians.

Full Article HERE!

Catholic Priest Writes Book on Ministering to Gays

A controversial retired Catholic priest has penned a new book aimed at helping parishes that seek to reach out to homosexuals.

And it doesn’t focus on changing their orientation.

James Schexnayder’s book, Setting the Table: Preparing Catholic Parishes to Welcome Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People and Their Families, is intended to serve as a resource guide for churches attempting to create “safe, supportive and healing places” for non-heterosexual individuals and their families, according to an article in the latest issue of Oakland’s the Catholic Voice.

“This book came out of my experiences not only locally, but in working with various diocesan clergy regarding welcoming gay and lesbian families into parishes,” Schexnayder told the Voice.

“There is nothing in it contrary to Church teaching.”

Schexnayder in 1994 was a co-founder of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries, now known as the Catholic Association for Lesbian & Gay Ministry.

He’s been criticized in the past for advocating views insiders see as inconsistent with those of the church, such as suggesting that homosexuals are directed toward chastity, but not celibacy, in their sexual relations.

“Regarding sexual behavior, the Catholic Catechism… does not use the word ‘celibacy’ for gay and lesbian people; the word is ‘chastity,’” Schexnayder told an audience at Spring Valley’s Santa Sophia parish in 2002.

He says the issue is “about successful integration,” and that homosexuality can be a spiritual blessing.

At the same talk, he also touched on a controversial view of same-sex marriage, according to a report at California Catholic Daily.

“I don’t think the Church is going to deal with gay and lesbian marriages, but in its history and those who have done research on this, the Catholic Church and other Christian churches like the Orthodox church, have in fact in history blessed same-gender unions as spiritual bondings, and there are saints who have had very committed relationships.”

Full Article HERE!

A priest’s anti-gay ad campaign

A recent series of advertisements attacking homosexuality has dragged the Catholic Diocese of El Paso into a citywide political recall debate.

The advertisements, titled “The truth about homosexuality,” were written by the Rev. Michael Rodriguez of San Juan Bautista Catholic Church and published in four parts in four consecutive editions of the El Paso Times. The ads started running on Saturday and ended Tuesday. The advertisements were also on elpasotimes.com.

While Rodriguez maintains the ads represent the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, officials of the Diocese of El Paso said they do not.

“These paid advertisements are the personal views and opinions of Father Michael Rodriguez,” said the Rev. Anthony C. Celino, the vicar general and moderator of the curia for the diocese.

Celino said the Catholic Church is not taking and cannot take a side in the recall effort.
The advertisements quote several Bible passages and denounce homosexuality and any encouragement of homosexuality. It also alluded to Mayor John Cook and city Reps. Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega, who are currently the target of a recall petition, organized by Word of Life Church Pastor Tom Brown.

“All Catholics have a moral obligation before God to oppose any government attempt to legalize same-sex unions,” Rodriguez wrote in part two of the series. “Here in El Paso, certain City Council members have remained obstinate in promoting public recognition and legitimization of homosexual unions. Whether
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they realize it or not, their actions are objectively immoral and gravely harmful to marriage and the family. It should be obvious to all Catholics what our duty is with respect to these members of City Council.”

Rodriguez said he wrote the pieces but did not pay for the advertisements or submit the writings to the Times.

A couple from Plano, Texas, paid for the advertisements, he said.
“I decided to write these articles primarily because it’s my duty as a Catholic priest to teach the truth when it comes to faith and morals,” Rodriguez said in a written statement to the Times. “My mission is to labor for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. That’s why I wrote the articles. The government has no right to undermine or redefine the institution of marriage. This is beyond the scope of their competence.”

Rodriguez said he also did not like the fact that the City Council went against the voters’wishes by providing health benefits to the gay and unmarried partners of city employees despite the fact that the public voted not to do that.

“Furthermore, the government has no right to undermine basic public morality,” Rodriguez said. “Unfortunately, members of El Paso’s City Council have made decisions that are immoral, irrational, and contrary to the common good of our city.”

Byrd said the advertisements are a political action because they alluded to the recall effort.

“To me, that is not the most terrible thing about the ad,” Byrd said. “What is, is the fact that he spent a lot of time and money to harm a group in our community.”

Ortega said he does not believe that religion should be mixed with government.
“I haven’t read his opinion pieces,” Ortega said. “I firmly believe in the principle of separation of church and state and therefore his opinions, as a priest, carry absolutely no weight with me as a public official.”

Brown said the advertisements came as a pleasant surprise.
“I think it’s wonderful. It is freedom of speech,” Brown said. “Ultimately, I agree with Rodriguez.”

Brown said the diocese should not remain silent on the recall because it goes against the Catholic faith.
“I think the Catholics should have an opinion,” he said.

Paul Landernan, an adviser for the El Paso chapter of the Stonewall Young Democrats, said that his organization — a youth-based organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the United States — is disappointed that Rodriguez is still stuck in the 19th century.

“He has official duties for the people of his parish,” Landernan said, “some of whom are parents of gay people, related to gay people or work with gay people every day.”
Rodriguez’s words can divide communities, Landernan said.
“Why would a person like this have that level of a violent reaction to the evolution of our society?” he asked. “He suddenly turned the clock back 40 to 50 years to a time when the Jim Crow-type of thinking was acceptable.”

In two weeks, recall petitions for Cook, Byrd and Ortega will be due at City Hall. Landernan said the advertisements’ timing was “curious.”

“It would have been a blip on the radar” if Rodriguez were not a priest, Landernan said. “And really, the church is almost a victim in this. He has almost used the name of the church without authorization.”

The controversy was not limited to the paid advertisements.
On Aug. 21, members of St. Raphael Catholic Church found fliers on their car windshields after church services.

The fliers said, “Éour popes and bishops have reminded us that we must oppose all government efforts to legitimize homosexual unions by attempting to equate them with marriage.”
The fliers also said, “Members of the City Council and the mayor have violated our rights and overturned our popular vote. We must hold our politicians accountable and insist that they truly serve our people.”

The church’s head priest, Monsignor Francis Smith, and the diocese said the fliers were not approved by or affiliated with the church.
“The diocese does not endorse or oppose candidates, political parties, or take actions that can be construed as endorsement or opposition,” Celino said. “Recall fliers claiming to be ‘Catholic’ were not authorized by the Diocese of El Paso.”

Smith said the people who distributed the fliers sneaked into the church’s parking lot during that Sunday’s two largest Masses.
“I always tell my people that if they stick it under your windshield, I did not authorize that,” Smith said. “If it is something worthwhile, then why be sneaky about it.”

The message on the fliers is not what Smith preaches at his church, he said.
“We have been asked several times to take their stance, and we will not,” Smith said. “I do not agree with that lifestyle (homosexuality), but I will help anyone who needs it.”
The fliers also list names and numbers of individuals who filed the intent to recall Cook, Byrd and Ortega.

Two of those individuals, Ben Mendoza and Nacho Padilla, said they had no prior knowledge of the fliers. Neither did Brown, he said.
“I personally would not authorize that,” Mendoza said. “I can see handing it out on the sidewalk, but not on cars.”

Mendoza said he is for the recall because the people’s vote was overthrown and he believes that should be the main issue.

Padilla said the fliers led to more individuals signing petitions.
“What they did has worked really positive,” Padilla said. “We have gotten a lot of signatures. We won’t deny that.”

Brown said he was proud that those who support the recall are acting on their own.
“It’s a free country, and people are free to promote however they want,” Brown said.
Brown said “we’d like to make more progress” as the deadline nears to turn in recall petitions.

“I’d like to say we can predict victory, but we are not there yet. We need to keep working.”

http://tinyurl.com/3vqgeeb

Pope In Spain: Good Catholics Use Condoms

COMMENTARY

No, Pope Benedict didn’t really say that, but there are really interesting developments coming out of this trip for World Youth Day. Thanks to Bridget Mary’s blog for alerting us to these developments.

The poster below was to have appeared on billboards and buses across Spain, until municipal authorities, bowing under pressure from the Cardinal of Madrid, rescinded the permission.

Maybe it’s just me, but there is something amusing about the way Catholics for Choice have taken Benedict’s quite timid and tentative statement last year (If condoms are not “a real or moral solution … in this or that case, they can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”) and run with it all the way to the goal post. Maybe this is the way change always comes to the church, timidly at first, with many reversals, fits and starts. Of course, as you can see from the press release below, Catholics for Choice’s ingenious plan to place their slogan – Good Catholics Use Condoms – on billboards and buses throughout Spain during the Pope’s visit, first met with approval, then censorship, thanks to the intervention of Cardinal Antonio Ruoco of Madrid.
FROM CATHOLICS FOR CHOICE BLOG
POPE ARRIVES IN SPAIN AMID CENSORSHIP CONTROVERSY
International Youth Coalition Seconds Archbishop’s Affirmation of Freedom of Expression
The World Youth Day 4 All coalition welcomed the remarks from Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez of Toledo, Spain, who pointed out that the Catholic World Youth Day celebration is taking place in a country where freedom of expression is protected.

“Spain’s openness to freedom of expression is something Catholics for Choice took for granted when we arranged, months in advance, for the display of our Condoms4Life ads in Madrid’s transit system to coincide with World Youth Day,” said Marissa Valeri, a lead organizer of the coalition. “We were surprised, then, when the message ‘Good Catholics Use Condoms’ was deemed too offensive for Madrilenos. In reality, the best interests of the public was not the issue. Instead, it was a move made by ultraconservatives to stifle the many diverse voices of Catholics at World Youth Day, which should be a place where, as Archbishop Rodriguez affirmed, ‘we can all say what we want to say.’

The municipal authorities did a disservice to all visitors and to all Spaniards by stepping between the life-giving message that condoms save lives, on the one hand, and the individual’s right to make up his or her mind about that message, on the other.”

Condoms are apparently not the only topic that is too hot to handle in Madrid this August. Patrons at the Madrid public library have allegedly complained they were unable to access Web sites providing information on protests being organized against World Youth Day.

One of the hallmarks of the Catholic tradition is unity in diversity. Like the World Youth Day 4 All coalition, the event itself is made up of participants from all over the world, people who may speak different languages and come from different cultures, but who find kinship on the level of faith. The church hierarchy obviously feels that Spain’s respect for freedom of expression gives them room to express their viewpoint—Archbishop Rodriguez even decries those who think that certain points of view are “more right than others.” Spain’s civic freedoms should be able to include the voices of the Catholic people—including those who support the use of condoms—as well as the perspectives of non-Catholics. Otherwise, the “world” part of World Youth Day goes missing, and those from a tiny, easily ruffled minority within the Catholic hierarchy and the Spanish authorities are the only ones celebrating.

Luckily, diversity is not so easily squelched—the Condoms4Life message has been making headlines all week (see the blog, and pilgrims have encountered stickers and projections on walls around the city.

http://tinyurl.com/3myc8vg