Bishops don’t speak for the flock on same-sex marriage

COMMENTARY — Joel Connelly

Our state’s Catholic bishops came out strongly against same-sex marriage this past weekend, and appealed for members of the flock to contact their legislators and tell them to uphold the traditional definition of marriage.

The bishops’ letter left this recently returned Catholic perplexed at the way my shepherds view their faith and human commitment . . . and how they treat people I know who are in loving, committed same-gender relationships, in several cases doing a splendid job of raising children.

The bishops used biology to defend the “present definition of marriage”, returning again and again to a theme they described as “the unique and irreplacable potential of a man and woman to conceive and nurture new life thus contributing to the continuation of the human race.”

We humans are, however, created by God as emotional and spiritual and reasoning beings. Is society to legally “recognize” committeed partnerships only for the potential and purpose of procreation?

“Jesus befriended those who were marginalized because He knew it was only in the security of loving, unconditional relationships that hearts and lives are healed,” argues writer Justin Cannon, reflecting the Christian faith as taught to us by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Not only healed, but enriched. I’ve witnessed a warm, very traditional moment over the years. A goofy, dreamy smile crosses the face of a friend, who after years of playing the field announces “Well, I met this woman (or guy)!” It signals a readiness to settle down. My natural reaction is to say, “You lucky dog!” and to be there, in affection and support, when the knot is tied.

Life together is a natural passage in life. Yet, according to “natural law” the Catholic church frowns on my friends who fall in love with somebody of their own gender. It violates nature, according to a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops statement, because such “inherently non-procreative” relationships “cannot be given the status of marriage.”

The church’s positions are, as state Sen. Ed Murray put it Friday night, “hurtful” as well as contradictory.

Out of one side of its mouth, the church condemns “all forms of unjust discrimination, harrassment and abuse” against gays and lesbians. At the same time, the Cathechism of the Catholic Church describes “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” as “objectively disordered.”

The bishops see themselves as shepherds, but American Catholics are not sheep. They think and act independently. A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that nearly three quarters of Catholics favor letting gays and lesbians marry (43 percent) or form civil unions (31 percent).

“Catholics are more supportive of legal recognitions of same-sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition and Americans overall,” the survey concluded.

The church is also hurting itself: Its social activism, defense of human dignity and witness to peace should make it a beacon for all who seek justice. Instead, the church is pilloried as an instrument of reaction.

Its wounds are self inflicted, a classic case of clerical error. As the National Catholic Reporter put it, editorializing after New York legislators approved marriage equality last spring:

“Even if the bishops had a persuasive case to make and the legislative tools at their disposal, their public conduct in recent years — wholesale excommunications, railing at politicians, denial of honorary degrees and speaking platforms at Catholic institutions, using the Eucharist as a political bludgeon, refusing to entertain any questions or dissenting opinions, and engaging in open warfare with the community’s thinkers as well as those, especially women, who have loyally served the church — has resulted in a kind of episcopal caricature, the common scolds of the religion world, the caustic party of ‘no’.”

A couple examples: Bishop Nichlas DiMarzio of Brooklyn directed that his diocese is “not to bestow or accept honors, nor to texend a platform of any kind to any state elected official, in all our parishes and churches for the forseeable.”

Archbishop John Nienstedy of Minneapolis is pushing an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. He recently issued a fiat to diocexan priests: “There ought not to be open dissension on this issue. If any have private preservations, I do not wish that they be shared publicly.”

These guys are losing touch, and costing the church credibility.

Public opinion, among believers and non-believers, is undergoing rapid change. The change is rooted in day-to-day human experience.

Contacts with gays and lesbians — as family members, co-workers and friends — underscores the absurdity of such phrases as “objectively disordered.” As NCR noted: “The label is not only demeaning but to contemporary Christians has no resonance with the heart of the Gospel.”

The best advice, which Catholic bishops in Washington and elsewhere should heed, came recently from Nicholas Cafardi, formerly legal counsel to the Diocese of Pittsburgh and formerly a board member of the bishops’ National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth:

“We need to give it up. This is not defeatism. This is simply following Jesus in the Gospels, who besides telling us not to act on our fears, also told us to render to Caesar what it Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Civil marriage is Caesar’s.”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Church Continues its War on Gays

The Roman Catholic Church has been in the news quite a bit lately. At times, it seems like positive change is happening. We saw this recently when, under pressure, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago issued an apology for his comments comparing the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan. It was a small victory, and was prompted by a large outcry, but gave us a glimmer of hope that the Roman Catholic hierarchy may be slowly coming in line with the vast majority of Catholics who already support their LGBT friends and family.

Then, we saw a barrage of stories that brought us back down to earth, for now. Since there’s been extensive media coverage of Cardinal George in Chicago (and in Green Bay), the following is a roundup of other actions and statements from the Roman Catholic hierarchy that continues to alienate and demonize both LGBT people and fair-minded Catholics.

Minnesota

The American Independent has reported that Archbishop John C. Nienstedt has ordered his priests to either speak in support of the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment, or to remain silent. If a priest opposes the constitutional amendment which would constitutionally ban marriage equality, the priest is forbidden from speaking his opinion publicly. Instead, that priest has been instructed to speak to Archbishop Nienstedt personally. The order for priests to remain silent was given in a speech last October. Presumably this was the same time that the Minnesota bishops organized teams of priests and married couples to canvas the state to support the amendment. A letter was sent to those who did not attend the speech. A copy of the speech was leaked to the Progressive Catholic Voice, which has now published the full text.

Connecticut

The Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, is launching an abstinence program for gay and lesbian Catholics. According to the Hartford Courant, the Archdiocese is establishing a chapter of the anti-gay so-called “support group” Courage“to support men and women who struggle with homosexual tendencies and to motivate them to live chaste and fruitful lives in accordance with Catholic Church teachings.” While not technically an “ex-gay” program, Courage encourages gay and lesbian people to live in chastity. The story has been picked up by CNN, giving it national attention.

Spain

The Bishop of Córdoba, Demetrio Fernández, used his Boxing Day sermon on December 26 to make the outlandish claim that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is participating in a conspiracy to make half of the world’s population gay within twenty years. The comments were picked up by el Pais.

New York & Maryland

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and former Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien who are known for their opposition to LGBT equality, have been elevated to the office of Cardinal. Dolan is particularly well-known for his vocal opposition to marriage for same-sex couples, most recently and vocally about the passage of marriage equality in New York State.

With so much Roman Catholic LGBT-related news lately, GLAAD reminds media outlets and our own constituency that the vast majority of Catholics are supportive of LGBT people, including marriage equality, despite opposition from Roman Catholic hierarchy. GLAAD wishes to amplify the voice of LGBT-affirming Catholics, including organizations such as DignityUSA, Equally Blessed, Fortunate Families, Catholics for Equality, and so many more national, statewide, and local affirming Catholic organizations. GLAAD continues to call on the media to lift up stories and voices of LGBT-affirming Catholics who will likely differ from the hierarchy on issues of LGBT equality.

Those of us who identify with the Christian faith will continue to pray for a change in the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s attitude toward LGBT people, for LGBT Roman Catholics, and for ourselves as we continue to work for justice, peace, and reconciliation for all God’s children.

Complete Article HERE!

Archbishop orders priests to oppose or stay silent on gay-marriage

“There ought not be open dissension on this issue,” is the message the Catholic hierarchy is telling priests in Minnesota — “this issue” being same-sex marriage.

In a private speech to Minnesota’s priests last October, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt said that any priest who disagreed with the church’s efforts to place a constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples should remain silent. Any disagreements should be brought to him personally, he said. The Catholic Church in Minnesota has been a driving force for the anti-same-sex-marriage amendment since it passed onto the 2012 ballot last May.

Nienstedt later sent the text of that speech to priests who were unable to participate in the gathering. Someone in the church recently leaked the text to the Progressive Catholic Voice, a group working for reform within the church. On Thursday, PCV published statements condemning Nienstedt’s speech.

In the speech, Nienstedt told the priests he expects participation in getting the amendment passed from everyone within the church:

It is my expectation that all the priests and deacons in this Archdiocese will support this venture and cooperate with us in the important efforts that lie ahead. The gravity of this struggle, and the radical consequences of inaction propels me to place a solemn charge upon you all — on your ordination day, you made a promise to promote and defend all that the Church teaches. I call upon that promise in this effort to defend marriage. There ought not be open dissension on this issue. If any have personal reservations, I do not wish that they be shared publicly. If anyone believes in conscience that he cannot cooperate, I want him to contact me directly and I will plan to respond personally.

Nienstedt also noted that he’s created teams of “a priest and a married couple” to go into Catholic schools to talk about the amendment.

In a public statement, various members of Progressive Catholic Voice said the Archbishop’s direction is unbelievable.

“When I first read this letter I couldn’t believe that the Archbishop was telling priests and deacons to be silent if they were opposed to the marriage amendment,” said Paula Ruddy, parishioner at Minneapolis’ St. Boniface. “Is one’s position on whether the State constitution should be amended a matter of Church doctrine? How are Catholics to form their consciences if their pastors are not candid with them?”

Ruddy is also a member of the editorial board of the Progressive Catholic Voice.

That group’s editor, Michael Bayly, called the speech problematic.

“The Archbishop’s letter is problematic in many ways,” he said. “As a gay man, I find it particularly offensive that he can’t even bring himself to name gay and lesbian people. We’re simply a ‘minority’ seemingly out to destroy the church and civilization. Such an absurd caricature would be funny if not for the hurtful and damaging consequences to individuals, couples and families resulting from the Archbishop’s anti-marriage equality activism.”

Minnesota’s Catholic hierarchy has come under intense scrutiny over its support for the anti-gay constitutional amendment.

In the run-up to the 2010 gubernatorial election, the church sent out approximately 400,000 DVDs and mailings urging Catholics to vote for Republican Tom Emmer, the only candidate in the race who opposed marriage equality for same-sex couples and a staunch Catholic.

The campaign, paid for by an anonymous donor and produced by the Knight of Columbus, sparked protests against the church.

More recently, the Archdiocese’s lobbying wing, the Minnesota Catholic Conference, has joined with the National Organization for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council to form the Minnesota for Marriage Coalition, a group dedicated to passing the amendment in November.

Complete Article HERE!

It’s not easy to talk to the Pope

Don’t ya just love it?

When speaking to the Pope, you may not speak about yourself, and when the meeting is over you may not reveal the contents of the face-to-face conversation. In a papal audience or the brief exchange during the “baciamano,” the Pope must not be asked personal questions – only questions of general interest. To approach him, one must await the ceremonial gesture or the prelate who accompanies the Pope, according to the circumstances. For example, in audiences granted to lay and religious personnel of Vatican congregations, universities, ecclesiastical courts, and pontifical councils (sometimes accompanied by family), the prefect or the president, accompanied by the head of the department, introduces each individual to the Pope, just as the superior of the order or head of a community does when they are welcomed by or are welcoming the Holy Father. The order of presentation and the names admitted to the “baciamano” are arranged with the protocol office of the Secretary of State, then with prefecture of the Pontifical House to ensure compliance.

People in canonically irregular situations may not be received, and therefore cannot appear on the list of guests proposed by the Vatican Secretary of State. For example, an audience was denied to an international personality like Sophia Loren because she was civilly married to a man who was still religiously married in the eyes of the Church. The same applies to those who belong to ancient families of apostates, as in the case of the French spouse of the Queen of Denmark.

The entourages of leaders may not include their unmarried partners or their partner’s relatives. In December 2007 this touched off a small diplomatic incident in the Vatican Palaces, when President Sarkozy tried in vain to bring Marysa Bruni Tedeschi, mother of Carla Bruni, with his entourage so she could meet the Pope.

You must not be the first to speak to the Pontiff. The Holy Father is spoken to only in response to his greeting or one of his questions. You should not come too close to his person. If you are invited to breakfast or dinner (where a tailcoat is obligatory and morning dress is forbidden), you may give the Pope a very important gift, such as a valuable work of art or a considerable donation to one of the Pontiff’s charities, or a more simple gift. For example, St. Josemaria Escrivà de Balague once gave a crate of oranges to Paul VI, who had invited him to breakfast in the papal apartment. This contrasts with the protocol that heads of state or government, upon leaving an audience with the Holy Father, publically express praise and appreciation. The Pope will be judged by history, and so it is considered inopportune and improper to praise him excessively, as an Italian Prime Minister, in an extreme gaffe, chose to do after a private meeting with John Paul II in his private library. As with other monarchs, etiquette (and in Spain it is actually a law) prohibits people from touching the Pope.

The relatives and institutional colleagues of a head of state or government are eligible to be a part of his entourage. In great pontifical ceremonies, such as the recent beatification of Karol Wojtyla at Saint Peter’s, only the Head of Delegation may greet the Pope at the end of the event.

What would Jesus do?

Complete Article HERE!

Roman Catholic Church free — but wrong — to reject adoptions by gay parents

COMMENTARY

Roman Catholic bishops are refusing to budge: They’d rather end their adoption services in several states than accept gay parents.

And that’s a real shame. Other religious groups that don’t recognize same-sex marriage have been willing to compromise — a conservative Lutheran adoption agency in Illinois, for instance, agreed to abide by laws against discrimination so it can continue to receive state funding and provide neglected children with homes.

Yet while we argue that the bishops’ priorities are all wrong, Catholic Charities does have the right to opt out of the adoption business. When a private religious organization wants to reject state funding and refuses to recognize gay marriages, it should generally be free to do so.

That’s not to say religious liberties always take precedence. Consider the case of a Christian grad student at Augusta State University in Georgia. She was expelled from the counselor education program when she refused to abide by the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics.

Jennifer Keeton sued, arguing that if she were a high school counselor, she should not have to tell students it’s acceptable to be gay. Instead, she indicated that she’d try to convert them to being heterosexual, school officials said.

Like the Catholic bishops, Keeton maintained that gay rights threaten her religious freedom. Yet forcing a public university to grant a degree is a totally different story: Keeton wasn’t simply seeking an exemption for her own religious views. She was expecting the university, and her future clients, to work around her personal beliefs.

That’s asking too much. Which is why an appeals court ruled against Keeton, saying that requiring her to undergo cultural sensitivity training did not discriminate against her viewpoint; it simply reflected the expectation that counselors “refrain from imposing their moral and religious values on their clients.”

It’s a tricky balance: Religious exemptions should exist, as long as the cost to everyone else’s rights is not too great. (A private Catholic hospital can’t deny same-sex couples their lawful visitation and decision-making rights, for example.)

Yet at the same time, Catholic Charities can’t be compelled to provide social services for the state. Gay couples can still go elsewhere for adoptions. They shouldn’t have to, but in the name of religious freedom, they will.

Complete Article HERE!