Bishops warn of ‘national conflict’ over gay marriage

The nation’s top Catholic bishop issued a stern challenge to the Obama administration’s decision not to support a federal ban on gay marriage, and warned the president that his policies could “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions.”

In a letter sent Tuesday (Sept. 20), Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he and other prelates have grown increasingly concerned since the administration announced last February that it would no longer defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in court.

The Obama administration says it believes the law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman is unconstitutional.

Dolan said the bishops are especially upset that the administration and opponents of DOMA are framing their argument as a civil rights issue, which he said equates “opposition to redefining marriage with either intentional or willfully ignorant racial discrimination.”

He also argued that traditional marriage is best for society, and that treating gay marriage as a civil right would lead to discrimination against believers and against church agencies that could not, for example, accommodate gay couples as adoptive parents.

“The administration’s failure to change course on this matter will … precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions,” Dolan warned.

The two-page letter was followed by a three-page analysis from the USCCB’s legal staff that charges the administration with “hostility” to traditional marriage and a “new, more aggressive position” on behalf of gay marriage. In especially strong language, it also argues that the administration treats millions of Americans who oppose gay marriage “as if they were bigots.”

The tenor of the bishops’ warning appears to signal an escalation in their battle against gay marriage, as well as a hardening of their opposition to Obama just as the 2012 presidential campaign gets underway. The bishops’ new hard line was welcomed by conservatives, and it comes as Obama is facing record-low opinion ratings.

The bishops’ stance carries risks, however, as voters appear to be focused on the state of the economy more than gay marriage. Moreover, polls show a steady erosion of opposition to gay rights of all kinds among the U.S. population, with Catholics more open to endorsing gay relationships than many other faith groups.

The bishops have been careful to frame their opposition to Obama’s policies in the context of religious freedom and defending the right of individuals and religions to act according to the dictates of their conscience.

On Monday (Sept. 19), the day before Dolan sent his letter to Obama on gay marriage, the bishops of Washington, Maryland and Delaware sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that strongly objects to proposed regulations mandating health care coverage of contraception.

For the Catholic Church, which considers the use of artificial birth control a sin, the mandate is “a radically new and unprecedented attack on religious freedom,” said Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien and Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly.

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Conference Promotes Dialogue About Voices of Sexual Diversity and the Church

Catholics academics, professionals and pastoral workers were among the speakers at a recent Fordham University conference, which sought, according to the program, to “raise awareness and generate informed conversation about sexual diversity issues within the community of faith and in the broader civic world that the Catholic Church and the Catholic people inhabit.”

The conference, held on Sept. 16, was titled “Learning to Listen: Voices of Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church,” and was the first of a four-part series called “More than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church.” The series also will include conferences hosted by Union Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School and Fairfield University. Although the conferences are thematically connected, each one has been independently planned by its respective institution. Each one seeks to more clearly depict the experience of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in the church.

Approximately 370 people attended the Fordham conference, which was made up of three panel discussions. During a press conference, Paul Lakeland, the Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., Professor of Catholic Studies and Director of the Center for American Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, said that while many people are aware of the church’s teachings on sexual ethics, he hoped the conferences would help speak to issues that are not directly addressed by those teachings.

“When you say more than a monologue, people say, ‘Oh, the bishops are the monologue, and now we want to get all the other voices in,’ but that’s not strictly the case,” Lakeland said. “There’s a monologue in the sense that: wherever you stand in the debate on sexual ethics, that’s a sort of monologue.” Views on both sides are often one-dimensional, he added. “But when we ask questions—What is the experience of gay and lesbian Catholics in the church? Or what about teen suicide? Or what about the relationship between the church and the legal system as they look at sam…..

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Upon Return From Vatican, Mexican Bishop Vows To Continue Gay Outreach

Raul Vera Lopez, the Catholic bishop of Saltillo, Mexico has vowed to continue his outreach to the gay community.

The Vatican had summoned the bishop to Rome to inquire about a gay-inclusive group of Catholics headed by Noe Ruiz.

Vera publicly affiliated his diocese with the group and sponsored its film festivals, which lead to harsh criticism from the Peru-based Catholic news agency ACI Prensa.

Vera told El Universal on Sunday that the Vatican had not reprimanded him.
“It is no surprise that the Church supports sexual diversity because there are at least 50 diocese in the United States serving gay communities,” Vera said.
He said that Vatican officials simply made observations about his work, but the bishop did not elaborate.

“I will not abandon these children,” he added, referring to children with gay parents. “We cannot abandon people who depend on us.”

Earlier, Vera chided ACI Prensa, which had claimed Vera supported groups that advocate for marriage between members of the same sex and abortion.
“In the Diocese of Saltillo, we have very clear objectives,” Vera told the Zocalo Saltillo. “We work with [the gay community] to help them recover their human dignity, which is frequently attacked at home and in society, and they are treated like filthy people.”

“Some would like to weaken my work on behalf of vulnerable groups, that is what they want, but I’m going to go ahead in the struggle for human dignity which is the principle of the Gospel,” he added.

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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!