Italy MPs want couples who use surrogate mums jailed

baby
Italy’s upcoming parliamentary battle over gay civil unions has opened with a group of senators proposing prison terms for couples who use overseas surrogate mothers to have a child.

In a move branded “indecent” by Italy’s biggest gay rights group, Catholic senators from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party have tabled an amendment to draft legislation legalizing same sex unions which would require gay couples to prove they had not used a surrogate.

If they cannot, the partner who is not the biological father would not be allowed to adopt the child and a judge would be entitled to have the child placed in care and put up for adoption.

The amendment also envisages prison terms of up to two years and fines of up to €1 million for using a surrogate overseas, regardless of whether the practice is legal in the country concerned. Similar penalties are already in place for anyone entering a surrogacy arrangement in Italy.

“This is indecent. A law intended to recognize rights cannot be transformed into a criminalizing one that talks about prison,” said Gabriele Piazzoni, the national secretary of rights group Arcigay.

The civil unions bill is to be debated by the Senate from January 28th and numerous other amendments are expected to be tabled before a deadline on Friday as conservative lawmakers backed by the Catholic Church mount a rearguard action against it.

The bill is expected to finally pass after examination by both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies but supporters fear key articles could be watered down or removed.

Opponents, meanwhile, have threatened a constitutional challenge and a campaign for a ratifying referendum if parliament approves gay unions that they think resemble marriage too closely.

Italy is the last major Western European country not to have enacted legislation enabling gay couples to have their relationships legally recognized.

Opinion polls suggest a majority of voters support same-sex couples’ rights to enter civil unions but that the electorate is more evenly split on issues related to adoption, surrogacy and medically assisted procreation.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano sparked outrage earlier this month when he said the use of paid surrogate mothers should be treated like a sex crime.

Complete Article HERE!

The Man Who Buried Them Remembers

By Mark S. King

grave-2

When he conducted the funerals, Tom Bonderenko tells me, he always wore his priestly garments and white stole. Even when no one showed up for the graveside service.

“It was important to show dignity and respect,” Tom says. He taps the coffee cup in his lap nervously. “I’m sorry,” he says. He clears his throat but it doesn’t keep his eyes from welling up. “No one has asked me about this in a really long time.”

We are sitting in his office at Moveable Feast, the Baltimore meal delivery agency for those with life-threatening illnesses, where Tom has served as director for the last eight years. His office is spacious and cheerful, but this conversation is a difficult one. He had discreetly closed his office door behind me when I arrived.

When Moveable Feast was founded in 1989 to deliver meals to home-bound AIDS patients, Tom was engaged in a different, more literal ministry to the disenfranchised. He was a priest staffing a homeless shelter for Catholic Charities of Baltimore. It was there he met someone with AIDS for the first time.

“A young man came to the door of the emergency shelter, sometime in 1987,” he says. “He was covered in black marks. Lesions, you know. Everywhere. He said he needed to clean up before his first doctor appointment the next day.”

Tom had grown up in New York City, and as a gay man he had known people who died very suddenly, as far back as the early 1980’s. But he had never stood face to face with someone so ill with the dreaded disease.

I couldn’t help but ask Tom how he felt, meeting that person.

TomTom stares out his office window, and his eyes are so beautiful, romantically blue, framed with creases of worry. The eyes of a priest. He turns back to me with an answer. “Here was a young man who was going to find out from a doctor the next day that he had AIDS,” he manages. He starts tapping his coffee cup again, and he bows his head reverently. “And he was about to be told that he was going to die.”

Tom never saw the young man again.

People with AIDS became more common at the shelter before long. Tom got to know the regulars, and they began to ask him to perform their funeral services.

“They just wanted to know they would be buried,” he says quietly. “They didn’t want or need anything religious. Most of them were estranged from their families, drug abuse, that sort of thing. I think they were embarrassed to reach out to relatives. Sometimes, when they died we would find a member of the family to come, but usually it was just me and the departed at the gravesite.”

The burials were performed at unmarked graves in a lonely section of Baltimore Cemetery. The caskets were as charity required, simple wooden boxes, and they always contained a body. The funeral home would not cremate someone who died from AIDS because they were afraid of poisoning the air.

“I would always conduct the service out loud,” says Tom, now sharing the sacred details. “I would speak about the departed, and say what I knew of them, about where they were from. And then I would ask if anyone present had been harmed by the departed…”

I imagined Tom, in his vestments and alone in a forgotten graveyard, asking intimate questions out loud to the grass and the trees and the disinterested silence. “I would say that if the departed had harmed anyone,” he goes on, “for that person to please forgive them.” Tom’s voice falters. “And then I would ask the departed to forgive, too. I would tell them, ‘you’re on the other side now. Let it go.’”

Tom B-2Tom’s office becomes very still. I feel as if I’m holding my breath.

“I think they just didn’t want to be alone,” Tom says, and now he looks at me without regard for his tears. “We don’t do this alone.”

Because of you, I think to myself. They weren’t alone because of you, Tom.

“I’m so sorry,” he says, again, wiping his face. “I haven’t talked about this in so long.” He considers the faraway scene he has conjured, his graveside questions to no one, and then adds, “It was the most important, meaningful thing I have ever done.”

I wonder aloud if the experience bolstered his religious faith or challenged it instead. He looks surprised by the question. “Well,” he answers after a moment, “I believe it strengthened my faith. Yes.” I want very much to believe him.

Tom left Catholic Charities, and the priesthood, not long after he conducted the last of his burials for the homeless. A decade later he joined Moveable Feast and embraced its mission to provide sustenance for people in need, people like those to whom he once ministered.

Tom’s fellow staff members know little about his life a generation ago. Most of them aren’t aware of the aching memories beneath the calm surface of their sensitive and capable boss. They may not fully understand why Tom leaves the office once a month to distribute food personally to homebound clients.

But they will tell you that when Tom Bonderenko returns from those deliveries, he always has tears in his eyes.

Mark

 Complete Article HERE!

Bernard Lynch – the ‘Aids Priest’

by AMY SMITH

IT’S no surprise that Father Bernàrd Lynch’s life fills not one but three Channel 4 documen­taries. Nicknamed by newspapers “The Aids Priest”, Bernàrd, 67, spent almost four decades ministering to people with HIV and Aids in America and the UK. Based in Camden since 1992, he chairs the Camden LGBT Forum and the London Irish LGBT Network.

Bernard Lynch
Father Bernàrd Lynch

“Camden Town reminded me of New York – Greenwich Village and the East Village. It had all that bohemianism and artistic edge,” he says. “I’m at home here because it is truly catholic in the secular sense of the word.”

Bernàrd has publicly railed against inequalities in the Catholic Church and society. As an openly married gay man, the Church revoked his licence in 1989 yet he continues to perform mass at the behest of parish priests and works as a psychotherapist. A handsome, softly spoken man, the only outward symbol of his faith is the Celtic sign of hope he wears on a chain, subtly bringing it up to his lips at the mention of the gospel.

“I prefer to be called Bernàrd but I don’t make an issue of it,” he says. “As a priest, like a doctor or all caring professions, people come with all kinds of expectations, and some people need to call me ‘Father’ because that is the kind of relation­ship they want and that’s OK but it’s not my choice.”

The lightning speed at which Aids ravaged comm­unities in the 1980s has already been relegated to history; the misinforma­tion, the rumours, slurs and prejudice somehow mislaid. “But I will never forget,” he says. “I read in First World War memoirs ‘how does one go back to bagging corn from being in the trenches?’ Well, I’m back bagging corn. No one knows and that’s part of the pain.”

It was sectarian violence in Northern Ireland that triggered Bernàrd ’s campaigning spirit. Aged 17, he began training in the African Missions college near Belfast. There he found a definite separation between the seminary and contemporary politics. “I didn’t start out as a radical or a rebel, anything but. I was radicalised by what I saw,” he says. “I happen­ed to be in Northern Ireland for Bloody Sunday in 1972. The seminary was a very closed community but after seeing that massacre of 14 un­armed teenagers shot in the back they released us en masse to march against the atrocity and that was my first exposure to politics.”

Bernàrd cared for hundreds of men dying from Aids in New York. Time and time again he would encourage mothers to touch their sons. “It was incredible, the sense of contamina­tion,” he says. “I was literally taking their hands and saying you cannot get it, it’s OK. And they would thank me like I had done a miracle.” A week later he could be officiating at the funeral, always introduced as “a friend of the family”.

He remembers working with Mother Theresa in New York. She and her sisters would not allow gay partners at patients death­beds because they were “occas­ions of sin”.

“My own church blamed people for getting the disease. Can you think of anything more unchris­tian? A lot of Catholic men died in despair because of their church. At a time when the church should have been their hope, their way of easing them into their death, it became in fact the arbiter of hate.”

Yet Bernàrd’s faith stayed strong. He continues to separate his belief from the religion, distilling it into two words – “love and justice”.

Last month Bernàrd, with the London Irish LGBT Network, watched the results of the Irish marriage equality referen­dum at Ku Bar in Soho. It was a mixed crowd and though ecstatic at the overwhelming victory Bernàrd was moved by the stories he heard. Young men and women told how they had moved to London away from homophobic discrimination.

“I couldn’t delight more with the result and that isn’t anti-Cath­olic,” he says. “It’s good for the Church and that is certainly better for the Irish nation. The Church, in my mind, has no right to get into bed with anybody, that is not its business.”
Complete Article HERE!

Homeless At Saint Mary’s Cathedral Intentionally Drenched With Water While Sleeping

File under: Absolutely astonishing.  Just like Jesus would do.

By Doug Sovern

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — KCBS has learned that Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has installed a watering system to keep the homeless from sleeping in the cathedral’s doorways.

The cathedral, at Geary and Gough, is the home church of the Archbishop. There are four tall side doors, with sheltered alcoves, that attract homeless people at night.

“They actually have signs in there that say, ‘No Trespassing,’” said a homeless man named Robert.

But there are no signs warning the homeless about what happens in these doorways, at various times, all through the night. Water pours from a hole in the ceiling, about 30 feet above, drenching the alcove and anyone in it.

The shower ran for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes while we were there, starting before sunset, simultaneously in all four doorways. KCBS witnessed it soak homeless people, and their belongings.


A homeless man uses an umbrella to hold off the water. (CBS SF)
A homeless man uses an umbrella to hold off the water. (CBS SF)

 

“We’re going to be wet there all night, so hypothermia, cold, all that other stuff could set in. Keeping the church clean, but it could make people sick,” Robert said.

The water doesn’t really clean the area. There are syringes, cigarette butts, soggy clothing and cardboard. There is no drainage system. The water pools on the steps and sidewalks.

A neighbor who witnessed the drenching told KCBS, “I was just shocked, one because it’s inhumane to treat people that way. The second thing is that we are in this terrible drought.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homeless said, “It’s very shocking, and very inhumane. There’s not really another way to describe it. Certainly not formed on the basis of Catholic teachings.”

A cathedral staff member confirmed to KCBS the system was installed, perhaps a year ago, to deter the homeless from sleeping there.

Chris Lyford, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, said cathedral staff tries hard to help these people.

“We refer them, mostly to Catholic Charities, for example for housing,” Lyford said. “To Saint Anthony’s soup kitchen for food, if they want food on that day. Saint Vincent de Paul if they need clothes.”

But he says they keep coming back, and most seem to have serious substance abuse issues.

“We do the best we can, and supporting the dignity of each person. But there is only so much you can do.”

Some of the homeless bring waterproof gear, even an umbrella, to try to stay dry. Frustrated cathedral employees tell us they don’t have the staff to police the doorways, which are used by churchgoers during services.

Lyford, who says he didn’t know about the water system until we showed it to him, admits it doesn’t seem to be an effective deterrent.

Then, suggests this church neighbor, turn it off. “I would hope that they would stop doing this, both for environmental reasons and for common decency.”

KCBS has also learned from a review of city permit records that the system was installed illegally, and may violate water use regulations.

The Archdiocese issued a new statement Wednesday morning about the story, saying the church will address the situation at the Cathedral immediately and will have further comment later in the day.

The statement goes on to say, “Catholic organizations in San Francisco serve thousands of homeless people every year, providing shelter, food, and critical services.  That is the true picture of compassionate Catholic care.”
Complete Article HERE!

Shame on you Sal! ArchbishopCordileone

The Pope drops Catholic ban on condoms in historic shift

I wrote about this very thing in Part 4 of my five-part series on Catholic Moral Theology. Look for it —> Seismic Shift.

The Pope has signalled a historic shift in the position of the Roman Catholic Church by saying condoms can be morally justified.

After decades of fierce opposition to the use of all contraception, the Pontiff has ended the Church’s absolute ban on the use of condoms.

He said it was acceptable to use a prophylactic when the sole intention was to “reduce the risk of infection” from Aids.

While he restated the Catholic Church’s staunch objections to contraception because it believes that it interferes with the creation of life, he argued that using a condom to preserve life and avoid death could be a responsible act – even outside marriage.

Asked whether “the Catholic Church is not fundamentally against the use of condoms,” he replied: “It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution. In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality.”

He stressed that abstinence was the best policy in fighting the disease but in some circumstances it was better for a condom to be used if it protected human life.

“There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be … a first bit of responsibility, to redevelop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes.

“But it is not the proper way to deal with the horror of HIV infection.”

The announcement is in a book to be published by the Vatican this week based on the first face-to-face interview given by a pope.

In the interview, he admits he was stunned by the sex abuse scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church and raises the possibility of the circumstances under which he would consider resigning. The 83-year-old Pontiff says in passages published exclusively in The Sunday Telegraph today that he is aware his “forces are diminishing”.

However, he appears determined to fight for the place of faith in the public domain.

His language in attacking the use of recreational drugs in the West and its impact on the rest of the world is particularly striking.

He describes drug trafficking as an “evil monster” that stems from the “boredom and the false freedom of the Western world”. Most significant, however, are his comments on condoms, which represent the first official relaxation in the Church’s attitude on the issue after rising calls for the Vatican to adopt a more practical approach to stopping the spread of HIV.

The Pope’s ruling is aimed specifically at stopping people infecting their partners, particularly in Africa where the disease is most prevalent.

However, it will inevitably be seized upon by liberal Catholics in Britain who oppose the Church’s stance against contraception.

High profile Catholics such as Cherie Blair have stated publicly that they use birth control.

The Pope’s comments are surprising because he caused controversy last year by suggesting that condom use could actually worsen the problem of Aids in Africa.

He described the epidemic in the continent as “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”.

The Vatican amended an official version of the remarks to indicate that he said merely that condoms “risk” aggravating the problem.

However, there have been growing calls for the Church to clarify its position.

Theologians suggest that condoms are not a contraceptive if they are intended to prevent death rather than avoid life.

The Pope’s comments in the book, Light of the World, are likely to be welcomed by Catholic leaders in the West who have struggled to explain its current teaching.

Asked last year whether a married Catholic couple should use condoms where one of them had Aids, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Church in England and Wales, disclosed the confusion over the issue. “Obviously that’s a sensitive point and obviously there are different views on that,” he said.

Hardline Catholics are likely to be surprised and dismayed by the Pope’s comments as they argue that condoms can be used only as contraceptives.

There has been great anticipation before the book’s release, heightened by its author, Peter Seewald, who said in a teasing comment that it could be “a big sensation”.

“It is the first time that a Pope gives an account of himself in this form,” he said.
“It is the first personal interview with a pope in the Church’s history.”

The Pope gives his most personal account of the distress caused to him by the clerical sex abuse scandal, with particular reference to Germany and Ireland.

He says: “It was really almost like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything, so that above all the priesthood suddenly seemed to be a place of shame and every priest was under the suspicion of being one like that too.” He did not consider resigning over the crisis but does raise the possibility of a pope resigning if he were to lose his mental capacities.

“If a Pope clearly realises that he is no longer phys-ically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.” He tells of the last time he saw Pope John Paul II, his predecessor; talks of his reluctance to be Pontiff; and speaks of his increasing frailty.

“I had been so sure that this office was not my calling, but that God would now grant me some peace and quiet after strenuous years,” he says. While the Pope stresses the importance of dialogue with Islam, he nevertheless says the religion needs to “clarify … its relation to violence” and suggests it can be intolerant.

The Pontiff is highly critical of the “craving for happiness” in the West.

“I believe we do not always have an adequate idea of the power of this serpent of drug trafficking and consumption that spans the globe,” he says.

“It destroys youth, it destroys families, it leads to violence and endangers the future of entire nations.

“This, too, is one of the terrible responsibilities of the West: that it uses drugs and that it thereby creates countries that have to supply it, which in the end exhausts and destroys them.”

He continues: “A craving for happiness has developed that cannot content itself with things as they are.”

Talking about sex tourism, he says: “The destructive processes at work in that are extraordinary and are born from the arrogance and the boredom and the false freedom of the Western world.”

Complete Article HERE!