SF church asks Archbishop Cordileone to re-schedule visit because he’s unvaccinated

St. Agnes Church, San Francisco

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The news that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is unvaccinated just cost him a visit to a church in San Francisco.

“Because Cordileone is not vaccinated and we’ve had breakthrough vaccinations in the church, I’m not comfortable. I’m not comfortable with him coming unvaccinated,” said Rita Clunies-Ross, St. Agnes Catholic Church parishioner.

December 19 was the day Archbishop Cordileone was scheduled to visit Saint Agnes Church. Several weeks before his visit, churchgoers like Rita Clunies-Ross voiced concerns. Now this church is taking a stance.

“I called him and spoke with him and asked him to re-schedule his visit for a later time because many people in the parish had expressed concern about this. I feel it is important that everyone feel safe, and we all do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially now with the new Omicron Variant. These are stressful times enough and I felt his pastoral visit to us would be overshadowed by concerns about the pandemic,” said a bulletin Pastor George Williams posted on the church’s website, letting the parishioners know Archbishop Cordileone won’t be visiting them for now.

The San Francisco Archdiocese has been outspoken about the COVID vaccine, encouraging San Franciscans to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the archbishop is unvaccinated.

“It’s not that he is saying we don’t want you. We would more than welcome you here if you came vaccinated, if you respect the community you are visiting,” said Clunies-Ross.

In a statement the Archdiocese responded, “Health care decisions are a very personal matter. Archbishop Cordileone has every confident in Father Williams’ ability to know his people well, and respond to their sensitivities with compassion.”

In August, Pope Francis urged people to get vaccinated, calling it an act of love.

During an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Cordileone said his personal doctor told him, “it’s probably not necessary for him to be vaccinated,” citing his “immune system is strong.”

“If there was some health reason I could see it. There is not religious reason from the Catholic Church that would stop you from being vaccinated. I can’t see another reason,” said Clunies-Ross.

Pastor Williams said to ABC7 news, “It’s our policy here that all the priests who celebrate Mass need to be vaccinated out of concern for our parishioners. When I explained this to his Excellency, he graciously understood. We look forward to his visit when circumstances permit.”

Complete Article HERE!

Pastor Leaves His Church After Appearing on HBO Drag Show

A United Methodist Church pastor in Indiana stepped down after performing in drag and speaking about inclusion on the show “We’re Here.”

Pastor Craig Duke at the start of his drag performance in an episode of the unscripted HBO show “We’re Here.” The show’s second season premiered in October.

By Amanda Holpuch

When Pastor Craig Duke stepped onstage in a small town in southern Indiana, wearing a cotton-candy-pink wig and a sparkly dress under his white robe, he knew his performance would rile some members of his congregation.

He did not, however, expect his drag debut to bring an end to his role leading Newburgh United Methodist Church in a suburb of Evansville.

Mr. Duke’s performance was part of the unscripted HBO show “We’re Here,” which documents L.G.B.T.Q. people and their allies in small towns who put together a drag show, led by three drag all-stars.

The episode that featured the pastor premiered in early November and in it, he explained that he appeared on the show so he could be “empathetic, not just sympathetic” to the community’s gay members. Three weeks later, the church announced that he had been “relieved from pastoral duties.”

In an interview this week, Mr. Duke said he had received enough critical feedback since the show aired to convince him he could not continue leading the church, which he said had about 400 congregants. He said that he was hurt by the negative responses but that he had also received hundreds of messages of support.

“I experienced as much love and acceptance, and dare I say more, within the drag culture and the L.G.B.T.Q. community than most people would experience within the settings of the church,” Mr. Duke said. “Not one person questioned what I was doing there; it was complete acceptance.”

Mr. Duke last preached on Nov. 14, a week after his episode aired. A local church leader said in a letter to the congregation dated Nov. 26 that Mr. Duke would be relieved from his duties on Dec. 1.

The superintendent of the south and southwest district of the Indiana United Methodist Church, the Rev. Mitch Gieselman, wrote in the letter that he had received numerous messages both supporting and criticizing Mr. Duke’s actions.

Mr. Gieselman said that the pastor had not resigned or been fired, but that his salary had been significantly reduced and he and his family would have to move out of the parsonage by Feb. 28.

“While there is a diversity of opinion regarding the moral implications of Rev. Duke’s actions, he has not been found to have committed any chargeable offense or other violation of the United Methodist Book of Discipline,” Mr. Gieselman wrote.

The pastor’s supporters created an online fund-raiser, which had raised more than $56,000 as of Wednesday morning. He said any money raised over the $30,000 goal set to help his family would go toward creating a new faith community in town that he hopes is more inclusive.

Pastor Craig Duke, middle left, and the drag queen Eureka O’Hara, middle right, performed at an event after Mr. Duke’s drag transformation on the HBO series.
Pastor Craig Duke, middle left, and the drag queen Eureka O’Hara, middle right, performed at an event after Mr. Duke’s drag transformation on the HBO series.Credit…

The public split in this congregation came during a stalemate about rights for L.G.B.T.Q. members of the United Methodist Church, which has nearly 13 million members worldwide. Roughly half of them are in the United States.

Ahead of a 2020 meeting of global delegates, a group of church leaders introduced a proposal to split the church, citing “fundamental differences” over same-sex marriage. The traditionalists signed a letter declaring that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” But the debate on the proposal has been delayed for nearly two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal, which would create a denomination that continues to ban same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, is scheduled to be debated at the church’s general conference in August 2022.

The interim pastor at Newburgh United Methodist Church, the Rev. Mark Dicken, said the Methodist church had “regrettably” been fighting over this issue for more than 40 years.

“Very regrettably, the extremely conservative wing of the United Methodist Church has crammed through rather draconian provisions in their attempt to control clergy and their ministry to L.G.B.T.Q. people,” Mr. Dicken said.

Mr. Dicken worked at the church in Newburgh from 2004 to 2011 and came out of retirement to lead the congregation again.

“The tribalism and polarization that’s going on in our culture, particularly in our political culture, has filtered down into the church,” he said.

In the HBO show, which was nominated for an Emmy in 2020, three drag stars, Shangela, Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka O’Hara, confront these divisions while mentoring people for the show-ending drag performance. All three posted messages of support for Mr. Duke after the news about him leaving his position became public.

O’Hara, who was the pastor’s drag mother or mentor, said on Twitter: “Craig is an amazing person and deserves the same love that he shares with everyone around him.”

The pastor, who is straight and described himself as “heteronormative,” was nominated to be featured in the show by the Evansville Pride group. He said he had never heard of the show but decided to participate to share a message of God’s unconditional love and to support his daughter, who identifies as pansexual. He used Joan of Arc O’Hara as his drag name.

He said the negative response from some members of the congregation was especially painful because of the way it hurt his daughter. But his wife and the rest of his family are “sticking together,” he said, and they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.

He said he was grateful for his experience in drag.

“It was real, it wasn’t vaudeville, it was powerful, as the words they taught me, it was fierce, it was authentic,” Mr. Duke said.

Complete Article HERE!

‘Hidden Mercy’ shines light on nuns, priests who responded to AIDS with compassion

Pope Francis thanked the book’s author for bearing witness to the stories of Catholics who offered support while others offered only condemnation.

Sister Mary Ellen Rombach, left, and Sister Carol Baltosiewich, in an undated photo.

By Jo Yurcaba

In 1986, the Vatican released a letter condemning homosexuality with what The New York Times called a “pointed allusion to AIDS.”

A year later, nearly 48,000 Americans had died from the disease.

Even as the death toll rose, the Roman Catholic Church reinforced its stance and also opposed the gay and lesbian rights movement more generally, creating an ongoing tension. Despite this, some nuns and priests went against those teachings and worked behind the scenes to care for and sit at the bedsides of people dying from AIDS-related illnesses.

A new book, “Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear,” by Michael O’Loughlin, uncovers those stories.

O’Loughlin, a journalist who lives in Chicago, writes in the first chapter that for as long as he can remember, he’s been on a search. “I am gay and I am Catholic,” he wrote. “And I struggle continuously to reconcile those two parts of my identity.”

Image: Micheal O'Loughlin
Micheal O’Loughlin.

He wanted to speak with people who had lived through similar struggles, and in 2015 a friend who was a priest suggested that he speak to gay Catholics who lived through the height of the AIDS crisis in the United States. He ran with the idea and began tracking down scientists and doctors involved in AIDS work — nuns and priests who served as caretakers to the ill, and activists, including those from the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP.

He said he chose to focus on stories of compassion because he is interested in “people who had a lot to lose by taking on the power structure of the church but still did the right thing.”

“So, the priests who minister to gay men dying from AIDS, some of whom come out as gay themselves, and challenge the churches to be more welcoming and accepting,” he said. “The nuns who are really scrappy people who find the resources to learn all they can about HIV and AIDS and then do their own ministry. The gay Catholics who find themselves caught between their inclination to be part of the gay activism world but also remain part of the church.”

He said he kept asking himself, “How do they make this work?”

“I’m drawn to those stories because there’s something universal about summoning the courage to do the right thing when it would be much easier to do nothing,” he said, adding that this courage “applies to all sorts of situations even today.”

The book doesn’t attempt to “rewrite history” and also recounts how church leaders advocated against LGBTQ rights. But at the same time, O’Loughlin said he wanted to make sure the people who did extraordinary things and cite their Catholic faith as their motivation were also part of that history.

He noted that many of the people he spoke with said their journeys were complicated. Over 10 years, Sister Carol Baltosiewich, a nun and nurse from a small city in southern Illinois, traveled to Kansas City, Chicago and eventually New York City to care for people living with AIDS. She told O’Loughlin that she didn’t know any gay people before she began her AIDS work, and she had to reconcile the church’s teachings with her drive to care for people.

O’Loughlin said that it was at times painful for the people he interviewed, including Baltosiewich, to take a hard look at their prejudices and biases before their experiences changed them.

“When she began to learn about HIV and how it was affecting the gay community, it was sort of this whole new culture,” O’Loughlin said. “It was this clash between what she had known and something that was foreign to her, so she eventually learned and grew, but I think that some people are maybe hesitant to look honestly at that time, because there was so much stigma and shame that even the most well-intentioned people really couldn’t free themselves without making a conscious decision, which she did ultimately, but many people were just kind of in this culture that looked with such hostility at the LGBT community.”

Some of the people O’Loughlin spoke to experienced that hostility themselves. The Rev. William Hart McNichols, a Jesuit priest and an artist who attended the Pratt Institute in New York City, ministered to people dying from AIDS-related illnesses. In 1989, McNichols came out as gay publicly in a chapter for a book published by New Ways Ministry, a group that ministers to gay and lesbian Catholics.

He asked the permission of his Jesuit superiors at the time, and they told him that it was his choice to make, but that if he came out he wouldn’t be able to work at a Jesuit high school, college or parish. As an illustrator who worked in a hospital, he wasn’t offended by the response and decided to write the chapter.

O’Loughlin said the LGBTQ people he interviewed all made a decision at some point to stay in the church “no matter how strong the headwinds they faced,” because it was their church, too.

“Once people made that decision, there seemed to be something — whether it was grace or just stubbornness — that kept them involved,” he said. “And that kind of spoke to me as I continue to figure out what place I have in the church and as I interview dozens and dozens of LGBT people every year going through something similar, that you have to make that decision to stay and then be prepared to fight to keep your place in an institution that isn’t always welcoming.”

O’Loughlin wrote Tuesday in an op-ed for The New York Times that conducting interviews for his book had a “profound effect” on his faith, so much so that he wrote a letter to Pope Francis to tell him about the book and the conversations he had.

In August, the pope wrote back. The letter was written in Spanish but was translated to English.

“Thank you for shining a light on the lives and bearing witness to the many priests, religious sisters and lay people, who opted to accompany, support and help their brothers and sisters who were sick from H.I.V. and AIDS at great risk to their profession and reputation,” Pope Francis wrote.

The pontiff added, “Instead of indifference, alienation and even condemnation, these people let themselves be moved by the mercy of the Father and allowed that to become their own life’s work; a discreet mercy, silent and hidden, but still capable of sustaining and restoring the life and history of each one of us.”

O’Loughlin wrote that the letter won’t heal old or new wounds — the church still won’t bless same-sex marriages and teaches that homosexuality is immoral — but that it gave him hope that church leaders “will be transformed” in how they see LGBTQ people and “others whose faith is lived on the margins.”

Regardless of whether that happens, O’Loughlin said one of his goals for the book is to show LGBTQ people struggling with their faith that they aren’t alone, and that there are many people who came before them.

“By meeting people and learning about the struggles and learning the history, I’ve realized that this is not new at all,” O’Loughlin said. “The reality is, people have been grappling with these questions for forever … and there’s a lot of wisdom in these stories that have helped me realize I’m not alone at all.”

Complete Article HERE!

Study Finds Nearly A Third Of Millennials Now Identify As LGBTQ

By Stewart Perrie

A new study of millennials in the United States of America has revealed a third of those surveyed identify as LGBTQ.

The number of people who recognise themselves to be non-heterosexual or non-cisgendered has been slowly climbing over the years thanks to visibility, law changes and acceptance.

But the Arizona Christian University wanted to see just how many people are comfortable with their sexuality or gender expression.

They surveyed 600 people aged between 18 to 37 in the hope it would give them an insight into how these two aspects of identity are tracking in the modern age.

They found 30 per cent of millennials now categorise themselves as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

A decent chunk of these millennials (39 per cent) are aged between 18 to 24.

According to the Daily Mail, the study concluded: “[Millenials are] redefining sexuality, their own and how to perceive and respond to the gender identity and sexual-orientation choices of others.”

But sexuality wasn’t the only focus of the study.

The Arizona Christian University’s investigation asked young people about the world around them and they found millennials are largely ‘anti-establishment, unpatriotic, pro-freedom of religion, and desperately trying to find a purpose in life’.

The age group said managing the coronavirus pandemic was the most important issue in the US.

They were split nearly down the middle when asked whether they prefer socialism or capitalism, with the former gaining a little less than half the vote.

Forty per cent of people listed themselves as progressive, while 29 per cent categorised themselves as conservative.

One in three millennials had been to a protest recently, highlighting how young people are particularly pro-activism.

However, this age group has largely admitted to being racked with stress, depression, anxiety and feelings of being lost.

Three quarters of those surveyed said they are still trying to find their purpose in life, which isn’t surprising considering a big chunk of them would still be in university and might be facing a crisis about whether they want to keep studying.

The Arizona Christian University’s director of research at the Cultural Research Center, George Barna, explained how this data is crucial to understanding young people.

He noted: “Rather than blasting them for a range of perceived inadequacies, perhaps we can support them with perspective, solutions, resources, and encouragement.”

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican Warns U.S. Bishops: Don’t Deny Biden Communion Over Abortion

Conservative American Catholic bishops are pressing for a debate over whether Catholics who support the right to an abortion should be allowed to take Communion.

A deserted St. Peter’s Square in April. Despite opposition from the Vatican, conservative American bishops have vowed to press ahead with efforts to deny communion to politicians who support abortion.

By Jason Horowitz

The Vatican has warned conservative American bishops to hit the brakes on their push to deny communion to politicians supportive of abortion rights — including President Biden, a faithful churchgoer and the first Roman Catholic to occupy the Oval Office in 60 years.

But despite the remarkably public stop sign from Rome, the American bishops are pressing ahead anyway and are expected to force a debate on the communion issue at a remote meeting that starts on Wednesday.

Some leading bishops, whose priorities clearly aligned with former President Donald J. Trump, now want to reassert the centrality of opposition to abortion in the Catholic faith and lay down a hard line — especially with a liberal Catholic in the Oval Office.

The vote threatens to shatter the facade of unity with Rome, highlight the political polarization within the American church and set what church historians consider a dangerous precedent for bishops’ conferences across the globe.

“The concern in the Vatican,” said Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit priest and close ally of Francis “is not to use access to the Eucharist as a political weapon.”

Pope Francis, who has explicitly identified the United States as the source of opposition to his pontificate, preached this month that communion “is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners.” His top doctrinal official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, wrote a letter to the American bishops, warning them that the vote could “become a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”

The result is a rare, open rift between Rome and the American church.

Opponents of the vote suspect a more naked political motivation, aimed at weakening the president, and a pope many of them disagree with, with a drawn-out debate over a document that is sure to be amplified in the conservative Catholic media and on right-wing cable news programs.

Asked about the communion issue, Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said, “As the American people know well, the president is a strong person of faith.”

Pope Francis met then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at the Vatican in 2016.Credit…

Pope Francis, along with the rest of his church’s hierarchy, explicitly opposes abortion, which they consider among the gravest sins, and incessantly speaks out against it. But that is not the same as punishing Catholic lawmakers with the denial of communion, which many here believe would be an intrusion into matters of state.

That effort is being led by Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who has been passed over repeatedly by Francis for elevation to the rank of cardinal.

“The focus of this proposed teaching document,” Archbishop Gomez wrote in a memo, “is on how best to help people to understand the beauty and the mystery of the Eucharist as the center of their Christian lives.”

The conservative American bishops are largely out of step with Francis and his agenda of putting climate change, migrants and poverty on the church’s front burner. But Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest, and a senior analyst with Religion News Service, said conservatives constitute at least half of the American bishops’ conference and could have the votes to begin the process of drafting a teaching document about who can receive communion.

It is unlikely the conservatives would be able to ultimately ratify such a document, which would require unanimous support from all the country’s bishops, or two-thirds support and the Vatican’s approval. But the debate promises to keep the issue alive and present a nagging headache for President Biden and other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.

A good portion of the bishops want to avoid the question altogether. Already, 67 American bishops, about a third of the conference, and including top cardinals aligned with Francis, signed a letter on May 13 asking Archbishop Gomez to remove the item from the virtual meeting’s agenda.

One of those signees, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, has the ultimate decision on whether to deny communion to President Biden in the archdiocese of Washington. He has made it abundantly clear he will not.

Cardinal Gregory’s authority in the matter is a result of a compromise in 2004 when he himself led the bishops’ conference.

Pope Francis and Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, cautioned the American bishops against moving to deny Communion to Catholic politicians.

That year a group of conservative bishops sought to deny communion to then Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry for his support of abortion rights. Conservatives had more support in the Vatican then; the top doctrinal official, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who soon after became Pope Benedict XVI, wrote that politicians who persistently supported abortion rights were unworthy to receive the sacrament.

But at a meeting in 2004, the American bishops chose instead to let individual bishops decide on a case-by-case basis.

The whole situation took a political toll on Mr. Kerry, who lost the election and now, as President Biden’s climate envoy, would rather not relive those days.

On a recent visit to Rome, during which he saw the pope, Mr. Kerry preferred to talk about the Biden administration and Francis’ shared commitment to combat climate change.

In an interview, Mr. Kerry argued that the political climate in the United States had “matured a lot” since his run-in with the conservative bishops, and that there is tolerance for “people to act on their faith in ways that do not somehow cross a line into politics.” He suggested that it was a misstep for the conservative bishops to try again.

“It’s been there and done that,” he said. “And it doesn’t always work out well for people.”

But if anything, America’s church politics have become more polarized in the last 17 years. Some clergy close to Francis in the Vatican say privately that elements within the American church have become political and extremist.

Francis himself has said it is “an honor that the Americans attack me.” But on this issue, he, like Mr. Kerry, would prefer to talk about something else.

Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert with L’Espresso magazine, said that the issue was uniquely American, and was basically unheard of in Europe. He said, “The pope himself would rather not have this vivid debate.”

But the conservative American bishops have for weeks made clear they want to do more than talk.

On May 1, the archconservative bishop of San Francisco, Salvatore J. Cordileone, issued a letter arguing that “erring Catholic” politicians who supported abortion rights should be excluded from communion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic and staunch supporter of abortion rights, is a parishioner in his San Francisco diocese.

Soon after, Archbishop Gomez sent a letter to the Vatican’s chief doctrinal office informing it that the American bishops’ conference was preparing to tackle “the worthiness to receive Holy Communion” by Catholic politicians who support abortion rights at their June meeting.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wants to move forward on a document that would draw a hard line on who can receive Communion.

The Vatican apparently had seen enough. On May 7, Cardinal Ladaria wrote Archbishop Gomez urging caution. He said it would be “misleading” to present abortion and euthanasia as “the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching.”

If the American bishops were going to crack the door open on the communion issue, Cardinal Ladaria added ominously, they should be prepared to consider extending the policy to all Catholics “rather than only one category of Catholics.”

The matter seemed settled. It wasn’t.

On May 22, Archbishop Gomez sent a letter to the American bishops defending the decision to schedule a vote, arguing — critics say with shocking disingenuousness — that doing so “reflects recent guidance from the Holy See.”

Complete Article HERE!