Blessings for same-sex couples?

— Going, going, gone…

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CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell asked Pope Francis on Sunday about the blessings for same-sex unions he seemed to sanctify last year.

In his latest explanation, the Pope said the church can only bless individual homosexuals. In other words, there is now and never was a blessing for same-sex unions!

Norah O’Donnell posed a straightforward question the the Catholic leader.

“Last year, you decided to allow Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples,” O’Donnell That’s a big change. Why?”

“No, what I allowed was not to bless the union. That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament. I cannot. The Lord made it that way. But to bless each person, yes. The blessing is for everyone. To bless a homosexual-type union, however, goes against the Church’s law. But to bless each person, why not? The blessing is for all.”

Why the subject ever arose then, who knows?

There was a widespread belief at the time that Francis supported the blessings of same-sex unions. The statement prompted celebration among same-sex Catholics at what they perceived as progress in the church. Meanwhile, conservative Catholics attacked the Pope openly for his perceived support of same-sex unions.

Responses to questions about blessings and same-sex unions have been ambiguous in the months since.

Francis continually criticizes conservative bishops, recently, for example, calling conservatism a suicidal attitude.

But he also regularly reminds everyone that same-sex unions go against Church law.

Which is the bit in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt have thy cake and eat it too?”

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis says U.S. conservatives have a “suicidal attitude”

Pope Francis being interviewed by CBS’ Norah O’Donnell on “60 Minutes.”

By Rebecca Falconer

Pope Francis responded to U.S. conservative bishops’ criticisms of his progressive shift to Roman Catholic Church doctrine in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” airing Sunday evening.

Details: The pope noted during the interview via a Spanish translator that the adjective “conservative” in such instances was “one who clings to something and does not want to see beyond that.”

  • He added: “It is a suicidal attitude. Because one thing is to take tradition into account, to consider situations from the past, but quite another is to be closed up inside a dogmatic box.”

Why it matters: Since being elected pope in 2013, Francis has advocated for progressive issues and moved to make the Catholic Church more welcoming to LGBTQ+ people while at the same time upholding its historical views on the sacrament of marriage — angering some conservatives in the process.

What he’s saying: During his CBS interview, Francis clarified his position on allowing priests to bless same-sex couples.

  • “What I allowed was not to bless the union,” the 87-year-old pontiff told CBS’ Norah O’Donnell. “That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament. … But to bless each person, yes. The blessing is for everyone,” he added.
  • “To bless a homosexual-type union, however, goes against the given right, against the law of the Church. But to bless each person, why not? The blessing is for all. Some people were scandalized by this. But why?”
  • O’Donnell noted that the pope had previously said that “homosexuality is not a crime,” to which Francis replied: “It is a human fact.”

Zoom in: The pope also criticized Texas officials’ efforts to shut down a Catholic charity that offers undocumented immigrants humanitarian assistance as part of a wider crackdown at the state’s border with Mexico.

  • “That is madness. Sheer madness. To close the border and leave them there, that is madness,” he said.
  • “The migrant has to be received. Thereafter you see how you are going to deal with him. Maybe you have to send him back, I don’t know, but each case ought to be considered humanely.”

On surrogacy, the pontiff said in the “strictest sense of the term” it is not authorized by Vatican doctrine.

  • But when O’Donnell noted sometimes this was the only hope for women, Francis replied: “It could be. The other hope is adoption.”
  • He said in each case the situation “should be carefully and clearly considered, consulting medically and then morally as well.”
  • The pope said he thinks there’s a general rule in these cases, “but you have to go into each case in particular to assess the situation, as long as the moral principle is not skirted.”
  • He then told O’Donnell she was right in her assertion. “I really liked your expression when you told me, ‘In some cases it is the only chance,'” he said. “It shows that you feel these things very deeply.”

Complete Article HERE!

In year of our Lord 2024, teachers are still losing jobs for being gay

1 of 3 | Even the pope suggested it’s time to let gay couples live in peace. But another local Catholic outfit, St. Luke School in Shoreline, is ousting a lesbian teacher for the crime of getting engaged.

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Sometimes a news story seems so behind the times that I find myself double-checking the date. As if maybe it’s one of those items that’s still bouncing around the internet from another decade.

Such as: “Catholic school teacher tells parents she is being forced out because she is gay.”

You’re still at this, local Catholics? Still ousting gay employees, in the Seattle area, in 2024?

The news is indeed from this week, with the story that a kindergarten teacher at St. Luke School in Shoreline is not having her teaching contract renewed for next year because she’s gay and getting married.

“Father Brad does not approve of my upcoming marriage and feels it is best for the St. Luke community if I no longer teach at St. Luke,” the teacher, Karen Pala, said in an email to kindergarten parents. (A copy was forwarded to me by a parent.)

“Father Brad” refers to Brad Hagelin, the parish priest.

Fr. Brad Hagelin

“This news has been extremely difficult for me,” Pala went on. “I am a faithful practicing Catholic and I was ready to spend the next 30 years of my career at St. Luke.”

Predictably — because this is what happens every time local religious schools do this — many parents responded with anger. They said driving out the teacher is mean and discriminatory in spirit, even if it isn’t against the letter of the law. It reminds me of when Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien ousted two gay teachers in the middle of the 2019-20 school year for the crime of getting engaged — touching off schoolwide protests.

“It’s a real shock, because this isn’t what St. Luke’s represents to a lot of folks,” one current parent there, Nick Beyer, told me. “It’s a liberal, accepting place — or so we thought.”

“Has the diocese not learned from its history?” wondered Gary Johnson, a St. Luke’s alum, writing on a petition set up to protest the teacher’s ouster.

Added a “disheartened” Jennifer Keough, another St. Luke’s alum: “This type of action is what is driving people away from the Catholic Church.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Seattle said they couldn’t talk specifics about a personnel matter. In a statement, Archbishop Paul Etienne did some hemming to go along with some hawing:

“The reality is that we live in a tension,” he said. “After more than a year of study in 2020-2021, the covenant taskforce concluded that there is no clear, consensus for how to apply the covenant clause. … Because there isn’t a single defined answer, we must dialog like Jesus did. This is why the application of our covenant clause is handled at the local level…”

The covenant clause he’s referring to is whether Catholic schools should require teachers or other employees to adhere to a “lifestyle” contract, in which they’re expected to adhere to all church teachings, including in their personal lives. In some parishes, this means teachers can lose their jobs if they enter a same-sex marriage or cohabitate outside of marriage, among other things.

“No one is fired or non-renewed from employment due to their orientation, identity, desires, or ideas,” an archdiocese report on the issue summed up. “Rather, it is the breaking of the covenant through actions, public witness, and lifestyle choices.”

I think that means you can technically be gay, so long as the church feels it can look the other way. Getting married is a public act, with a license, so the teacher’s out.

It’s sort of like the old discredited “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Which even the military ended because it called on gay people to deny or hide their existences.

The church has a right to do this because religious groups are exempt from some parts of anti-discrimination policy. But is it the right thing to do? As the archbishop acknowledges above, the flock seems increasingly skeptical.

“This is a shameful hypocrisy and a contradiction to the message of love and tolerance that characterizes the Catholic faith,” wrote Forest Hoag, a Seattle U grad. “I am embarrassed to even hear about this.”

Beyer, who has a son at St. Luke, said it feels most tone-deaf coming right after the pope himself said it was OK to bless same-sex couples. That doesn’t mean the church endorses the marriages, let alone performs them. But the people involved are simply loving one another, the pope said. They don’t deserve to be punished.

“That’s the ultimate big boss saying it’s OK, that we should move past this,” Beyer said. “So shouldn’t it be OK in Seattle?”

This is what I wonder every time another gay employee is run out of a job in the name of religion, just for being.

Discrimination against gays and lesbians was banned here 18 years ago. Don’t ask, don’t tell ended 13 years ago. Same-sex marriage has been the law here for 12. Given all that progress, all those years ago, shouldn’t we be better than this by now?

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican opposes criminalization of homosexuality, top cardinal says

Pope Francis said laws criminalizing LGBT people were a sin and an injustice, because God loves and accompanies people with same-sex attraction.

The Vatican opposes the criminalization of homosexuality as practiced by a number of countries with the support of Catholic groups, the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office said on Monday.

Presenting a publication which reaffirmed the Vatican’s opposition to sex changes, gender theory and surrogate parenthood, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez called laws punishing homosexuality “a big problem” and said, “Of course we are not in favor of criminalization.”

Fernandez, a liberal theologian whom Pope Francis appointed as head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith less than a year ago, told reporters it was “painful” to see some Catholics support anti-homosexuality laws.

In February 2023, returning from a trip to Africa where same-sex relationships are often taboo, Francis said laws criminalizing LGBT people were a sin and an injustice, because God loves and accompanies people with same-sex attraction.

“The criminalization of homosexuality is a problem that cannot be ignored,” the Pope said, citing unnamed statistics according to which 50 countries criminalize LGBT people “in one way or another” and about 10 others have laws including the death penalty.

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Under Francis, the Catholic Church has become more welcoming towards LGBT people. In December, Cardinal Fernandez’s office issued a landmark document allowing the blessing of same-sex couples, triggering substantial conservative backlash.

Nevertheless, the Church officially teaches that homosexual acts “are intrinsically disordered.”

Answering a question on whether such language may be amended, Cardinal Fernandez said, “it is true that it a very strong expression and that it needs a lot of explanation, perhaps we could find a clearer one.”

He said that the point of Catholic teaching was that homosexual acts cannot match “the immense beauty” of heterosexual unions, and the Church “could find more apt words to express” this.

LGBTQ-inclusive church in Cuba welcomes all in a country that once sent gay people to labor camps

1 of 8 | Rev. Elaine Saralegui, wearing a rainbow-colored clergy stole and her clerical collar, leads a service at the Metropolitan Community Church, an LGBTQ+ inclusive house of worship, in Matanzas, Cuba, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. In recent years, the communist-run island barred anti-gay discrimination, and a 2022 government-backed “family law” — approved by popular vote — allowed same-sex couples the right to marry and adopt.

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Proudly wearing a rainbow-colored clergy stole and a rainbow flag in her clerical collar, the Rev. Elaine Saralegui welcomed all to her LGBTQ+ inclusive church in the Cuban port city of Matanzas.

“We’re all invited. And no one can exclude us,” Saralegui told same-sex couples who held hands sitting on wooden pews in the Metropolitan Community Church where she had recently married her wife.

These words and this kind of gathering would have been unimaginable before in the largest country in the conservative and mostly Christian Caribbean, where anti-gay hostility is still widespread.

Cuba repressed gay people after its 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro and sent many to labor camps. But in recent years, the communist-run island barred anti-gay discrimination, and a 2022 government-backed “family law” — approved by popular vote — allowed same-sex couples the right to marry and adopt.

Members of Cuba’s LGBTQ+ community say it marked a milestone that has allowed them to embrace their gender identity and worship more freely in a country that for decades after the revolution was officially atheist. Over the past quarter century, it has gradually become more tolerant of religions.

“It’s huge. There aren’t enough words to say what an opportunity it is to achieve the dream of so many,” said Maikol Añorga. He was with his husband, Vladimir Marin, near the altar, where at a Friday service they joined other congregants taking turns to lay offerings of white and pink wildflowers to thank God.

“It’s the opportunity for all people to be present here,” he said, “to gather and participate without regards to their gender, race or religion.”

The Catholic Church, in its doctrine, still rejects same-sex marriage and condemns any sexual relations between gay or lesbian partners as “intrinsically disordered.” Yet Pope Francis has done far more than any previous pope to make the church a more welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people.

In December, the pope formally approved letting Catholic priests bless same-sex couples, a policy shift that aimed at making the church more inclusive while maintaining its strict ban on gay marriage.

The family law in Cuba faced opposition from the country’s Catholic church as well as the growing number of evangelical churches that have mushroomed across the island.

Anti-LGBTQ+ rights demonstrations have faded since 2022. But back then, evangelical pastors spoke out from the pulpit, and handed out Bibles and pamphlets in the streets invoking God’s “original plan” for unions between men and women and calling gay relationships a sin.

Still, the measure was overwhelmingly approved by nearly 67% of voters. It came after a huge government campaign of nationwide informative meetings and extensive state media coverage amid food shortages and blackouts that have prompted thousands to immigrate to the United States during one of one of the worst economic crises to hit Cuba in decades.

At the time, President Miguel Díaz-Canel told Cubans in a video message that he was pleased about the wide support that the measure received despite tough economic challenges. He celebrated, tweeting: “Love is now the law.”

For years, the movement for LGBTQ+ rights has been proudly led by Cuba’s best-known advocate for gay rights: Mariela Castro, daughter of former President Raul Castro and niece of his brother Fidel.

“This just brings happiness. This just makes people feel truly worthy, respected, loved, considered – a true citizen with their rights and duties,” Castro told The Associated Press.

“I think we’ve taken a very valuable step forward.”

Long before same-sex couples were granted the right to marry, Castro was advocating for it, while training police on relations with the LGBTQ+ community and sponsoring symbolical ceremonies where Protestant clergy from the U.S. and Canada blessed unions as part of the annual Pride parade.

“It was a beautiful spiritual experience for me, and I believe for those people as well,” said Castro, who heads Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education and is a member of the National Assembly. “First, our campaign was: ‘Let love be the law.’ Now, love is the law, and we’re going to keep celebrating it.”

In 2010, her uncle, then- retired leader Fidel Castro admitted that he was wrong to discriminate against gay people. Asked about this, she said it helped mark a turning point in public attitude.

“I think he was honest. It was good and healthy for him to say this because it helped the rest who were still clinging to prejudices to understand that this kind of thought can change,” she said.

“Even in a revolutionary leader like him, there were prejudices that evolved, and he was able to understand it and help clear the way for change.”

In the early years after the 1959 revolution, homophobia in Cuba, she said, was no different than in the rest of the world. In the United States, homosexuality was deemed a mental disorder by psychiatric authorities, and gay sex was a crime in most states. Currently, Russia — a major supporter of Fidel Castro when it was the core of the communist Soviet Union — is bucking the worldwide trend of greater LGBTQ+ acceptance with a multi-pronged crackdown on LGBTQ+ activism.

The previous Cuban Family Code, dating back to 1975, stipulated that marriage was between a man and a woman – not between two people – which excluded lifelong partners from inheritance rights.

The new law goes further than marriage equality – which activists tried to include in the Constitution in 2019 without success – or the ability for gay couples to adopt or use surrogates. It also expanded rights for children, the elderly and women.

The first members of Saralegui’s congregation began gathering on a house terrace in Matanzas over a decade ago to sing and pray.

“The sky was our ceiling and when it rained, we’d all pack into a small room,” Saralegui said. In 2015, with support from the U.S.-based LGBTQ+ affirming Metropolitan Community Churches, they converted a house into their church, decked with wooden pews and a stained-glass cross that hangs above the altar. Underneath, a local Tibetan Buddhist group that meets here during the week stores its musical instruments in an example of interfaith partnership.

“This church is a family,” said Saralegui, who has a tattoo of the Jesus fish on one of her forearms and wears a Buddhist bracelet. “It’s a sacred space, not just because there’s a cross or an altar, but because it’s the most sacred space for these people to come to — it’s where they come to have a safe space.”

After receiving Communion, congregant Nico Salazar, 18, said he was glad to have found that safe space here after members of an evangelical church where he grew up attending asked him not to return when he embraced his gender identity.

“It’s the essence of the Bible: God is love, and other churches should emphasize that instead of repressing and harming others with a supposed sin,” said Salazar, who was born a woman and this year started hormone treatment.

“Sin and love are not the same,” said Salazar, who wore an earring in the shape of a cross.

“And to love,” he added, “is not a sin.”