This Pride Month, Catholic Church shows clear, if subtle, shifts toward LGBTQ welcome

From welcoming trans women at the Vatican to promoting LGBTQ outreach around the world, some advocates say Pope Francis has created a space for inclusion without fear.

A rainbow shines over St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, on Jan. 31, 2021.

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During the characteristically bombastic celebrations for Pride Month in many countries all over the world this June, the Catholic Church, guided by Pope Francis, has quietly shown welcome to the LGBTQ community, while avoiding changes to doctrine.

“Catholic LGBTQ ministry has been expanding astronomically in the last decade,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director at New Ways Ministry, a Catholic outreach program aimed at promoting inclusion and justice for the LGBTQ community, in a comment to Religion News Service on Friday (June 24).

“Pope Francis’ welcoming statements and gestures are the main reason for this greater openness to LGBTQ people,” he added.

Six transgender women from different cultural and social backgrounds walked into the Vatican for a private audience with Pope Francis on Wednesday (June 22). The meeting was not announced on the pope’s daily schedule and was organized by Sister Genevieve Jeanningros, 79, known for her work with marginalized groups, including circus performers, the homeless and members of the trans community.

Jeanningros, who does her ministry from a chapel located in a small caravan parked next to a funfair in the Roman port town of Ostia, has known the pope since his election in 2013. She told the Italian online media outlet Fanpage that she asked Francis if she could bring more than one person to the Vatican, to which he allegedly answered: “Bring them all.”

One of the trans women who visited the pope, Alessia, said the meeting with Francis “was emotional” and “they felt welcomed.”

“On Pride Month I think this is an important message,” she said. “The best part of having spoken to Pope Francis is that it was simply a meeting among people and not focused on our differences.”

Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sept. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sept. 5, 2021.

This isn’t the first time Pope Francis, who once worked as a nightclub bouncer in his native town of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has shown openness and interest in welcoming members of the LGBTQ community. During the pandemic, he asked papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski to support a group of trans sex workers who had found refuge in a parish on the outskirts of Rome. The pope has written letters of encouragement to Catholics who minister to the LGBTQ community all over the world, and on Easter of 2021 he invited a trans community in Rome to meet him at the Vatican and helped them get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Pope Francis “has given people courage, and his approach of dialogue and accompaniment has given people a Catholic explanation for how LGBTQ inclusion can be authentically Catholic,” DeBernardo said.

The Catholic Church has not made any changes to doctrine concerning LGBTQ people, and according to its catechism, homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” But Pope Francis’ message of welcome and inclusion toward marginalized people has had ripple effects in the Catholic Church, effects that have become especially evident during this Pride Month.

One example, DeBernardo said, “is how many Catholic parishes now participate in pride parades and festivals.” New Ways Ministry, founded in 1977, was accustomed to only one such example a year. “Now, Catholic parishes’ participation in pride events is becoming a normal part of pride celebrations, and a normal part of Catholic parish life.”

On Father’s Day (June 19), Alex Shingleton and Landon Duyka, a civilly married gay couple with two daughters, stood before congregants at Old Saint Patrick’s Church in the Archdiocese of Chicago to read a reflection on the homily.

“In all honesty, if you had told us as young boys who wasted countless hours of our lives in church trying to ‘pray the gay away’ that we someday would be standing in front of all of you in our Catholic Church talking about our family on Father’s Day, we would never have believed you,” they said in their reflection.

The Vatican City flag, left, and a pride flag. Images courtesy of Creative Commons
The Vatican City flag, left, and a pride flag.

Cardinal Blaze Cupich of Chicago has been an outspoken advocate for redoubling the Catholic Church’s effort to promote inclusivity and welcome of LGBTQ persons.

The Jesuit university of Fordham in New York City will be hosting a conference June 24–25 called “Outreach 2022: LGBTQ Catholic Ministry Conference,” which will address questions on how to minister to LGBTQ individuals in parishes, schools and at work. Bishop John Eric Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, will be the keynote speaker at the conference, which will also tackle questions on mental health, race and theology for LGBTQ Catholics.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, in Germany, the Catholic Church has undertaken a “Synodal Path,” a massive consultation among bishops and the laity, to address issues ranging from female ordination to sexuality.

Yet, despite these welcoming signals, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement in March 2021 banning the blessing of gay couples, citing the concern that faithful might consider such unions equivalent to marriage between a man and a woman and stating that the Catholic Church “cannot bless sin.”

The decision was met with shock and dismay by many LGBTQ Catholics who hoped Pope Francis had ushered in a new era of acceptance within the church. Just weeks after the ban, German priests, in open defiance, blessed numerous gay couples in hundreds of ceremonies around the country.

LGBT activists and their supporters gather for the first-ever Pride parade in the central city of Plock, Poland, on Aug. 10, 2019. The parade comes as the country finds itself bitterly divided over the growing visibility of the LGBT community and as the government and powerful Catholic church denounce gay rights as a threat to society. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
LGBTQ activists and supporters gather for the first-ever pride parade in the central city of Plock, Poland, on Aug. 10, 2019.

Pietro Morotti and Giacomo Spagnoli, a gay couple in Bologna, Italy, were among those who voiced on social media their disappointment in the Vatican ban. And this year, on June 11, after being civilly married, the couple walked to their nearby church of San Lorenzo di Budrio for an intimate “Thanksgiving Mass” with friends and priests. News of the event led to indignation by some Catholics, who saw the ceremony as in direct violation of the Vatican’s doctrinal decision.

The Rev. Maurizio Mattarelli, who oversees a parish group for the accompaniment of LGBTQ faithful called “In Cammino” (On the Way) told local media that the couple participated in his program and had been part of his parish for 30 years.

“Just a word of advice, don’t make theoretical judgements,” he said. “Try to get to know these two people, or homosexual couples, who participate in our group, in person.”

“The church is called to unite, not divide,” he added.

In a statement June 19, the Archdiocese of Bologna clarified the Mass was not a blessing of the union, adding that the diocese stands in opposition to “all discrimination and violence based on sexuality.”

The head of the Archdiocese of Bologna, Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, was recently selected by Pope Francis to head the Italian Bishops Conference — a promotion viewed by some as the pope’s encouragement for a change of direction among the traditionally conservative episcopacy in Italy.

In 2018, Zuppi wrote the preface for the book “Building a Bridge” by the Rev. James Martin, promoting welcome and outreach to the LGBTQ community. In 2020, the cardinal wrote another preface for a book by Italian journalist Luciano di Moia, “The Church and Homosexuality,” offering pastoral guidelines to minister to gay Catholics.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the new head of the Italian bishops conference, talks during a press conference in Rome, Friday, May 27, 2022. Pope Francis named a bishop in his own image, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, as the new head of the Italian bishops conference, as the Italian Catholic Church comes under mounting pressure to confront its legacy of clerical sexual abuse with an independent inquiry. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the new head of the Italian bishops conference, talks during a press conference in Rome, Friday, May 27, 2022.

“When our communities will begin to truly see people as God sees them, including homosexual people and everyone else, they will naturally begin to feel part of the ecclesial community, on the way,” Zuppi wrote in the preface to the book by di Moia.

Along with the promotion of Zuppi — considered ‘papabile’ by some, meaning eligible to be elected pope — Pope Francis has also been making moves to diminish the power of the Vatican’s doctrinal department this year. His Apostolic Constitution, “Praedicate Evangelium” or “Preach the Gospel,” published in March, stripped the department of some of its teeth, placing an emphasis on dialoguing with those who hold dissenting opinions, rather than imposing sentences.

And earlier, in January, the pope removed Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, the No. 2 official at the doctrinal department, considered responsible for the document banning gay blessings, from his position.

LGBTQ outreach and ministry “used to be something that was done rather secretly, with pastoral leaders wanting to stay under the radar,” said DeBernardo, but thanks to the efforts of Francis and others, he believes this work can now be done without as much fear of controversy or reprimand.

“In more and more parishes, LGBTQ people are not only welcome, but are becoming ministry leaders in all kinds of activities and programs, not just LGBTQ outreach efforts,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

AP-NORC poll details rift between lay Catholics and bishops

FILE – Migrants watching Pope Francis’ Mass in Juarez, Mexico, from a levee along the banks of the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas, take part in Communion, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. According to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted in mid-May 2022, only 31% of lay Catholics agree that politicians supporting abortion rights should be denied Communion, while 66% say they be allowed access to the sacrament.

By David Crary 

The hardline stances of many conservative Catholic bishops in the U.S. are not shared by a majority of lay Catholics. Most of them say abortion should be legal, favor greater inclusion of LGBT people, and oppose the denial of Communion for politicians who support abortion rights, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The poll, conducted in mid-May, shows a clear gap between the prevalent views of American Catholics, and some recent high-profile actions taken by the church’s leaders.

For example, leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently called on Catholics nationwide to pray for the U.S. Supreme Court to end the constitutional right to abortion by reversing its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. According to the new poll, 63% of Catholic adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 68% say Roe should be left as is.

On May 20, the archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, announced that he will no longer allow U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.

According to the poll, only 31% of lay Catholics agree that politicians supporting abortion rights should be denied Communion, while 66% say they should be allowed access to the sacrament.

An even larger majority – 77% — said that Catholics who identify as LGBT should be allowed to receive Communion. That contrasts sharply with a policy issued by the Diocese of Marquette, which encompasses Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, saying pastors should deny Communion to transgender, gay and nonbinary Catholics “unless the person has repented.”

Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, said the rift between rank-and-file Catholics and the bishops “reveals a breakdown in communication and trust — shepherds who are far removed from the sheep.”

“This is a precarious time for the U.S. Catholic church,” she added in an email. “U.S. Catholics are, on the whole, accustomed to living and working in a pluralistic society and this poll reinforces the notion that they want the public square to remain pluralistic, free from coercion, and oriented toward care for the vulnerable populations among us.”

The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said the poll results didn’t surprise him, and underscored a need for anti-abortion clergy and activists to redouble efforts to change people’s positions.

“For us working on pro-life issues, these kinds of polls are like a summons,” he said. “You’ve got to be doing your work — maybe you’ve got to do it better.”

As for conservative bishops, “their awareness of the gaps that the polling reveals is precisely one of the reasons they feel the need to speak up,″ Pavone said. “They are striving to exercise the role outlined for them in Scripture, namely, to patiently and persistently teach the faith, whether convenient or inconvenient, to clear up confusion.”

Beyond the bishops/laity rift, the poll highlighted other challenges facing the church, which is the largest denomination in the U.S.

For example, 68% of Catholics reported attending religious services once a month or less. Compared to five years ago, 37% said they were now attending less often; 14% said they were attending more often.

Over that five-year span, 26% percent of Catholics said their opinion of the Catholic church had worsened, while 17% said their opinion had improved. Most said their opinion hadn’t changed.

More than two-thirds of U.S. Catholics disagree with church policies that bar women from becoming priests. And 65% say the church should allow openly gay men to be ordained.

The poll was conducted just after the leak of a draft Supreme Court majority opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade. The views of U.S. Catholics, as expressed in the poll, were in line with the overall American public, both in regard to supporting abortion’s legality and preserving Roe.

However, there were sharp differences among major religious groupings. While 63% of Catholics said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, that stance was held by 74% of mainline Protestants and only 25% of evangelical Protestants.

Sharon Barnes of Dallas, who converted to Catholicism as a young adult, appreciates the centuries-old consistency of Catholic doctrine. Yet she differs from the church on some major social issues, including abortion.

“It’s a woman’s right to decide,” said Barnes, 65. “It’s something that you have to kind of reconcile yourself, and it’s between you and God.”

Pedro Gomez, a 55-year-old border patrol agent in Rio Rico, Arizona, is a lifelong Catholic who prays every night and attends church regularly. He understands the need for abortion in cases of rape, incest or saving the life of a mother, but he said he considers the procedure to be the killing of a child.

Gomez was surprised that most U.S. Catholics support some degree of abortion rights.

“There’s a lot of gray area now that was never there in my upbringing,” he said. “Maybe they’re watering down Catholicism … Now people are being able to make up their own rules.”

Ed Keeley, a 62-year-old public school teacher in Houston, also was raised Catholic. He described abortion as “a hard subject,” saying he believes in the sanctity of life but that abortion should be allowed in specific cases, including rape or incest

He finds it “ridiculous” that a priest would deny Communion to someone because of their views on abortion or politics generally.

Last year, some conservative bishops, including Cordileone, argued publicly that President Joe Biden — a lifelong Catholic — should not receive Communion because of his support for abortion rights. However, Pope Francis conveyed his opposition to such a stance, saying Communion “is not a prize for the perfect.”

Cordileone’s recent denial of Communion for Pelosi was supported by several of his clerical colleagues, including the archbishops of Denver, Oklahoma City, Portland, Oregon, and Kansas City, Kansas. However, Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, issued a statement describing the action as “misguided.”

“As Jesus said, it’s the sick people who need a doctor, not the healthy, and he gave us the Eucharist as a healing remedy,” Jackels said. “Don’t deny the people who need the medicine.”

He also contended that abortion was not the only critical “life issue” facing the church.

“Protecting the earth, our common home, or making food, water, shelter, education and health care accessible, or defense against gun violence… these are life issues too,” he said. “To be consistent, to repair the scandal of Catholics being indifferent or opposed to all those other life issues, they would have to be denied Holy Communion as well.”

John Gehring, Catholic program director at the Washington-based clergy network Faith in Public Life, said some conservative bishops engage in the culture wars “in ways that damage their already diminished relevance and credibility.”

“Most Catholics are fed up with bishops who want to weaponize Communion in a hypocritical, single-issue campaign against pro-choice politicians, especially when we see Pope Francis offering a better road map,” said Gehring

The AP-NORC poll of 1,172 adults, including 358 Catholics, was conducted May 12-16 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points, and for Catholics is plus or minus 7.4 percentage points.

Complete Article HERE!

Pelosi vs. Cordileone isn’t only about abortion.

It’s about women and bishops.

The list of reasons Catholic women stopped listening to bishops is a long one.

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In October 2021, Pope Francis initiated a two-year “Synod on Synodality,” aimed at finding out what Catholics and others think about the church. He may get more than he asked for.

Preliminary results indicate one thing: Women are fed up. They like Francis well enough, but they are not much interested in what bishops and priests have to say.

Why?

The latest kerfuffle between San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is at the tip of a very big iceberg.

Pelosi’s perceived support of legalized abortion at the federal level collides with Catholic teaching. Hairsplitters who support her will argue that she does not support or promote or procure abortions, she simply supports current American law and works to preserve it.

Hairsplitters on Cordileone’s side will argue that because Pelosi is perceived to be, as they say, “pro-abortion,” she creates public scandal and therefore must be denied access to the Catholic sacrament of Communion. They say the Code of Canon Law trumps U.S. law.

But Pelosi and Cordileone’s battle may be seen more broadly as one battle in a decades-long disintegration of trust between women and the bishops.

Some say it all started with Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” which ignored the recommendation of his own Pontifical Commission on Birth Control. Eight years after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved the first oral contraceptive pill, the pope took some 7,000 words to say “no” to contraceptive measures beyond what came to be known as “natural family planning.”

Catholic women in the United States and around the world ignored the pope’s decision. You didn’t have to track sales of “the pill” to realize what was going on. Jokes about the size of Catholic families suddenly became a gauzy memory. Women were clearly listening to the opinions of the men in the pulpit, then returning to their homes to manage their private matters as they saw fit.

Once women began to bypass church teaching on birth control, they found other reasons to ignore the bishops. At the top of that list are clerical sex abuse and the subsequent episcopal cover-up. But there is also the question of allowing women to be active participants in Masses, and the ordination of women.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law decreed any layperson could perform the duties of lector and acolyte, or altar server. It took another decade before the Vatican agreed that “any layperson” included women. To this day, many bishops around the world want women kept away from the altar, despite Francis’ updates to the law that allow women to be formally installed as lectors and acolytes.

Ordaining women as priests is not a discussion the hierarchy is going to have, but ordaining women as deacons is a distinct question. Women were ordained as deacons in the early church. No matter: The naysayers connect the two orders, saying because women priests are definitively forbidden, so also are women deacons. (They overlook the fact that their logic fails. If the two orders are so connected, then the historical fact of ordained women deacons may be used to argue for women priests.)

The arguments over ordination, altar servers, lectors and birth control are all debatable, however. The definitive nature of church teaching on abortion is clear.

But all the same, for a bishop to make a public event out of a private discussion is unseemly. Before she was elected to Congress, Pelosi had five children — after the FDA approved the birth control pill. She is proud of her Catholic heritage.

Pelosi is the most powerful Democrat in the Congress. Would Cordileone, or any other bishop, prefer a non-Catholic? Or is the problem that Pelosi is female?

Complete Article HERE!

I have been Catholic all my life. A new Milwaukee Archdiocese policy on transgender people has driven me from my church.

Archbishop Jerome Edward Listecki

By Anne Curley

As a cradle Catholic whose values were shaped by 12 years of Catholic education and 60-plus years of Mass attendance, I feel great gratitude for the countless caring sisters, priests and Catholic laypeople who have guided and inspired me through much of my life. I’ve been proud to be associated with the good done by Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable organizations throughout the world.

So it’s with real sadness that I’ve joined the throng who have left the church.

The recently released policy of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on how to treat transgender individuals has made it impossible for me, in good conscience, to call myself a Catholic.

I didn’t come to this decision lightly. When friends would ask, “How can you be a Catholic despite (choose one or more) the clergy sex abuse scandal, the ban on women priests, the treatment of homosexuality as a disorder, the rules on birth control … I had three well-honed responses:

“A 2,000-year-old, global institution doesn’t change quickly,” “Show me a major human institution that isn’t a mixed bag of strengths and corruption,” and “It’s the good, grace-filled people that keep me hanging in there — not the policies.”

Still, I can’t say I relished the mental gymnastics required to justify why I continued to be a practicing Catholic.

The justifications ran out when I read “Catechesis and policy on questions concerning gender theory,” a stunningly harsh new directive from the archdiocese covering Catholic parishes, organizations and institutions.

In no uncertain terms, it spells out how all employees, volunteers and vendors at these institutions are to treat transgender individuals. Among other dictates, it includes, “Recognize only a person’s biological sex,” “No person may designate a ‘preferred pronoun’ in speech or in writing” and “All persons are to follow the dress code or uniform that accords with their biological sex.”

The document begins by saying, “’The truth will set you free.’ Christ’s words to his disciples call Christians in every age to embrace the truth of who we are as children of God, for only in embracing this truth can we be set free.”

I believe that truth is embedded in each of us — that God implanted a unique identity that is ours alone to experience, express and put to good use during our time on Earth.  The fact that society is becoming more accepting of differences in our identities — race, sexual orientation and gender expression being prime examples — strikes me as part of God’s unfolding plan to enable each of us to achieve our full potential.

I am not an expert on it, but I think it’s safe to say the subject of gender identity is complex, nuanced and not a good candidate for rigid rules. What I know for sure is that my Catholic education taught me Jesus identified with those whom the rule-makers rejected. I learned that he reserved his harshest criticism for religious leaders who piled heavy burdens on others. Thanks to my Catholic formation, I know that to be Christian means to uplift the dignity of others, especially those who most need uplifting.

So how can I be a committed Christian and go along with a policy that, instead of emphasizing compassionate care, institutionalizes the oppression of people because of who they are?

What would Jesus do?

Complete Article HERE!