Tagged: pro-LGBT Catholics

Pro-LGBT Catholics Confront Anti-Gay Bishop

JeannineGramickLast Friday in Phoenix, Arizona, Thomas Paprocki — the infamously homophobic bishop of Springfield, Illinois — spoke about marriage equality alongside LGBT rights hero Sr. Jeannine Gramick, providing the “con” to Sr. Gramick’s “pro.”

The event, called “Two Catholic Views of Gay Marriage,” was organized by author, journalist, and Catholicism expert Robert Blair Kaiser and hosted by Shadow Rock United Church of Christ. About 150 people — most of them pro-equality Catholics, and many of them parents of LGBT children — attended.

According to the National Catholic Reporter and Sr. Gramick’s New Ways Ministry, Paprocki was in attack mode from the very beginning, blasting the “gay activist lobby” in his opening remarks and callously citing the murder of Matthew Shepard as evidence of alleged pro-LGBT bias in the media:

Paprocki told the audience that the murder of his former church secretary, Mary Stachowicz, whose killer was a gay man, got little media attention compared to the 1998 homicide of Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teen killed in a hate crime. Paprocki said the power of the gay lobby and favorable media reaction accounted for the difference.

Take a couple deep breaths before continuing on — I know I needed to after reading such repugnant remarks. (Earth to Tommy: if you’re trying to come across as loving and compassionate, pretty much the worst thing you can do is verbally urinate on the grave of a hate crime victim. In fact, I’m pretty sure that makes you a vile human being.)

The prelate also warned the audience that if marriage equality is legalized, sexual activities like sadomasochism will be allowed too. (Earth to Tommy, volume II: those activities are already happening.) Bp. Paprocki condescended to Sr. Gramick, stating that her position was an “emotional” one while his position came from a place of “faith and reason.” “My position is not a question of anecdotal stories,” he said. (Earth to Tommy, volume III: seriously, turn down the smarmy misogyny.)

Sr. Gramick, by contrast, spoke about her personal change of heart on LGBT issues, which led to a decades-long career of challenging institutional Catholic bigotry, and about the widespread support for equality among lay Catholics.

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New Poll Confirms U.S. Catholics Support Marriage Equality

american_catholicsThe New York Times ran a front-page story today about an NYTimes/CBS News poll which revealed that the majority of American Catholics believe their church is out of touch with the modern world and the lives they’re living in it.

The survey asked respondents for their thoughts on a wide range of issues, including Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation last month; their hopes for the next pope; and whether or not the child sex abuse crisis has caused them to question the Vatican’s authority.

And the results are telling: 53% of American Catholics described the Catholic Church as “out of touch” with the needs of Catholics today; 49% said the same about most U.S. bishops. 55% said the reports of sexual abuse of children by priests led them to question the authority of the Vatican. When asked whether the next pope should become more conservative, generally continue Benedict XVI’s already conservative teachings, or adopt more liberal ones, 54% responded that they’d like the next pope to be more liberal. And when asked to choose between a younger pope with new ideas and an older pope with more experience, respondents preferred a younger pope with newer ideas by a landslide margin of 66%-26%.

A majority said they hope the next pope continues the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion and the death penalty, but as the Times reports, “on every other hotly debated issue, Catholics wanted the next pope to lead the church in an about-face:”

Seven of 10 Catholics polled said the next pope should let priests marry, let women become priests and allow the use of artificial methods of birth control. Nine of 10 said they wanted the next pope to allow the use of condoms to prevent the spread of H.I.V. and other diseases.

Sixty-two percent of Catholics said they were in favor of legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. Catholics approved of same-sex marriage at a higher rate than Americans as a whole, among whom 53 percent approved.

RainbowCatholicThis new poll is just the latest in a long line of studies showing that despite the U.S. bishops’ all-out crusade of anti-LGBT spiritual bullying and political activism, American Catholics not only support marriage equality, but they do so at an even greater rate than the general public. It appears as though U.S. Catholics are consciously rejecting the homophobic bigotry of their leaders in much the same way that they’ve decisively rejected the official church prohibition on contraception.

However, as I wrote last month on the very day Benedict XVI resigned, disappointment is almost certain for the pundits, commentators, and hopeful Catholics currently predicting (or even speculating) that the College of Cardinals will listen to the people and elect a pope who’ll enact such a doctrinal about-face. Benedict and his equally conservative predecessor John Paul II have appointed all of the cardinals who will elect the next pontiff, so unless they accidentally place the Catholic equivalent of a Manchurian candidate on the Chair of Peter, the next pope will be another theological conservative who will pick up the persecution of gays and lesbians right where Benedict and JPII left off. The Catholic church’s institutional homophobia will continue unabated, and the gulf between the hierarchy and the people will continue to grow.

63 Former Catholic Priests to Formally Endorse Marriage Equality in WA

washington_catholics_equalityInspired by a group of former Catholic priests in Minnesota who spoke out in May against a proposed marriage discrimination amendment to that state’s constitution, 63 former Catholic priests in Washington State will announce their support Thursday for Referendum 74, the November ballot initiative that, if passed, would uphold Washington State’s new marriage equality law and make it the seventh American state that recognizes the right of same-sex couples to marry.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the group, whose members have more than 800 years in combined experience as Catholic priests, wants to send a strong message that’s in stark contrast to the anti-equality efforts of Washington’s Catholic bishops:

“We are uneasy with the aggressive efforts of Catholic bishops to oppose R-74 and want to support the 71 percent of Catholics (Public Religion Research Institute) who support civil marriage for gays as a valid Catholic position,” they said in a statement.

Former priest Pat Callahan, who organized the statement, added:  “This is the first public action we’ve taken.”  Callahan was in the Catholic priesthood for 15 years.

Similar to their counterparts in Minnesota, the Washington State Catholic Conference appears to be having a hard time convincing lay Catholics to sign on to their divisive and discriminatory anti-gay campaign:

Same-sex marriage legislation passed last winter.  It was championed by Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Catholic:  Its chief legislative sponsor was State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, a practicing Catholic and long-partnered gay.

A group called Catholics for Marriage Equality-Washington was prominent in Seattle’s Pride Day march last June.

Several major Catholic parishes — including Seattle’s St. James Cathedral — refused Archbishop J. Peter Sartain’s request to serve as collection center for petitions to force a vote on same-sex marriage.

In contrast to the state’s homophobic bishops, a coalition of Washington faith leaders, including an Episcopal bishop and several prominent Methodist pastors, have publicly come out in support of Referendum 74. In just 28 days, we’ll learn which side was more successful in getting its message across. Stay tuned.

MN Catholic Fears for Job Because of Pro-Equality Contribution

catholic_equalityA few months ago I posted a blog post containing a video of over 300 Minnesota Catholics gathering together to sing out in support of marriage equality and in opposition to that state’s proposed marriage discrimination amendment. I wrote,

If any of [the singers in the video] minister publicly in their churches — as volunteer cantors (songleaders), lectors (readers), ushers, greeters, or communion ministers — or if any of them work for the Catholic Church in a professional capacity as pastoral associates, liturgists, business managers, teachers, music directors, etc., participating in this video could get them pushed out of ministry or even fired.

Just in case any of you, dear readers, thought I was exaggerating, I present to you now Exhibit A: the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that last week, the Minnesota campaign finance board took the unusual step of exempting a man, known only as John Doe, from the state’s public disclosure requirements. Minnesota law requires the disclosure of the names and employers of campaign contributors, but exemptions can be granted if it can be proven that disclosure would cause “specific harm.” In the case of John Doe — who donated $600 to Minnesotans United for All Families, the campaign working to defeat the marriage discrimination amendment — he believed that he would be fired from his job at a Catholic-run institution if his pro-equality contribution became public, and the board agreed.

The Star-Tribune reports that Doe cited a rather compelling precedent:

In making its decision, released Friday, the state campaign finance agency examined the case of Trish Cameron, a former teacher at a Catholic School in Moorhead. Cameron told agency officials that she had revealed to her supervisors during a private annual self-evaluation that she personally objected to the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, although she would said she would not bring that belief into the classroom.

“A week later,” the campaign finance agency wrote, “Ms. Cameron was asked to resign.”

Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry sums up my own reaction to this news:

While it is praiseworthy that the campaign finance board has taken this measure to protect this man’s employment, it is a sad commentary on the state of [the Catholic] church when a person is forced into anonymity to express a moral decision.


Happy Birthday, Sr. Jeannine Gramick

Today is the 70th birthday of a woman who, in my opinion, is one of the great heroes of the LGBT civil rights movement: Sister Jeannine Gramick.

JeannineGramickGramick joined the School Sisters of Notre Dame, a religious order of Catholic nuns, in 1960 and worked as a high school math teacher for most of that decade. In the early 1970s, while studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, Sr. Jeannine became friends with a gay man and began a church ministry to gays and lesbians. She also reached out to LGBT people who’d left the Catholic church because of its institutional bigotry, organizing religious services for them to gather openly and safely. Gramick became the face of the Catholic church for the gay and lesbian Catholics (and former Catholics) to whom she ministered, and for the first time in many of their lives, that face was one of welcoming love and compassion.

In 1977, Sr. Jeannine co-founded New Ways Ministry, a gay-positive Catholic social justice organization dedicated to combating homophobia and promoting “the acceptance of LGBT people as full and equal members of church and society.” Ever since — 35 years and counting — Gramick has worked tirelessly for peace and justice for sexual minorities. She’s written and edited numerous articles and books and traveled throughout the English-speaking world to talk about the equal dignity of LGBT persons and the need for the Catholic church to change its anti-gay teachings.

ratzingerOf course, Sr. Jeannine’s groundbreaking, compassionate, remarkable advocacy for LGBT Catholics was bound to earn her the ire of the church hierarchy. Indeed, in 1984 the Archbishop of Washington informed Gramick and her New Ways co-founder, Fr. Robert Nugent, that they could no longer continue their ministry in the archdiocese. Both removed themselves from leadership positions in New Ways Ministry but continued writing, speaking, and lobbying both nationally and internationally. Four years later, the Vatican ordered an investigation into Gramick and Nugent. The resultant report, released in 1994, found the pair’s writing, ministry, and beliefs about LGBT people to be ”incompatible with the fullness of Christian morality” and recommended that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – headed, incidentally, by a certain German cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger — publish some kind of statement in order to ”counteract and repair the harmful confusion” that it claimed Nugent and Gramick were causing.

Over the next five years, CDF attempted many times to convince Sr. Jeannine and Fr. Robert to stop challenging the Catholic leadership on LGBT issues, but without success. As a result, in 1999 CDF censured Gramick and Nugent and forbade them from engaging in “any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.” The following year, both were formally silenced by the Catholic church. Nugent accepted his silencing. Gramick did not, saying,

I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right. To me this is a matter of conscience.

Because of unrelenting Vatican pressure on Sr. Jeannine’s religious order to clamp down on her activities, Gramick transferred to another community of nuns, the Sisters of Loretto. This community supports her ministry of advocacy and education on behalf of LGBT people, a ministry that continues to this day.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick is an amazing woman with a very simple message: “Only if all people are treated with dignity and respect will there be peace and harmony in the world.” She has dedicated her life to making that message a reality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, even in the face of tremendous adversity, misunderstanding, and persecution. Happy birthday, Sister.

Minnesota Catholic High Schoolers Not Happy With Mandatory Marriage Discrimination Lecture

nienstedt_bigotEven among the virulently homophobic American bishops, Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt stands out. More than perhaps any other prelate in the country (with possible competition from New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan), Nienstedt has turned the fight against marriage equality into an all-out crusade. He’s inserted a prayer for marriage discrimination into the Catholic Mass, turned that church’s holiest sacrament into a weapon against LGBT people, ordered his priests to organize grassroots political committees in their parishes — at parish expense — for the express purpose of drumming up support for Minnesota’s proposed constitutional marriage discrimination amendment, and essentially told those same priests that if they opposed the Minnesota Catholic Church’s war on LGBT people, couples, and families, they had damn well better keep their traps shut about it. (And incidentally, Nienstedt’s spiritual bullying was recently endorsed by none other than the Pope himself.)

With so many malicious anti-gay attacks to his credit, one could be readily forgiven for overlooking another one that I mentioned only briefly in a previous post:

 ”. . . Nienstedt also spoke about sending teams consisting of ‘a priest and a married couple’ into Catholic schools to discuss marriage discrimination with schoolchildren.”

That’s right: Nienstedt planned to send teams of adults into Catholic schools to teach children that, if the Minnesota Catholic Church has its way in November, only some of them will be worthy of marriage when they grow up.

Awful, no? Well now, thanks to Jon Tevlin of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, we know that these mandatory marriage discrimination lectures are indeed taking place at Catholic schools across the archdiocese. But in at least some of those schools, students are very unhappy about being forcibly subjected to such a decidedly un-Christian message. Tevlin interviewed Matt Bliss, a senior at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, about what happened at his school’s assembly:

“The first three-quarters of the presentation were really good,” said Bliss. “They talked about what is marriage and how marriage helps us as a society. Then it started going downhill when they started talking about single parents and adopted kids. They didn’t directly say it, but they implied that kids who are adopted or live with single parents are less than kids with two parents of the opposite sex. They implied that a ‘normal’ family is the best family.”

“When they finally got to gay marriage, [students] were really upset,” said Bliss. “You could look around the room and feel the anger. My friend who is a lesbian started crying, and people were crying in the bathroom.”

I don’t know about you, but reading stories like this makes my blood boil. But check out what happened next:

Bliss was one of several students who stood up to argue with the representatives from the archdiocese. One girl held up a sign that said, “I love my moms.”

Mike O’Keefe, a spokesman for the school, said that other students were mad that some of the students spoke out and thought that some of them were “rude” to the visitors from the archdiocese.

“We weren’t being rude,” countered Lydia Hannah, another student who spoke out. “But people were upset, and we weren’t just going to sit there.”

The students had ample reason to be angry. According to Hannah, she and her fellow DeLaSalle students were suspicious when they found out that only current seniors would be required to sit through the marriage lecture. She said, ”We put two and two together — all of us will be able to vote next fall [on the constitutional amendment that limits marriage to same-sex couples].” These suspicions were confirmed when the presenters directly addressed the proposed amendment, albeit briefly due to the angry reaction it elicited from the students.

The priest-couple team didn’t stop there, though. Bliss told Tevlin that when someone in the audience stated that two men, for example, were perfectly capable of enjoying a loving, committed, stable relationship, the diocesan couple onstage equated that loving same-sex relationship with bestiality. Hannah was shocked by these comments, and she was equally shocked to hear one of the presenters characterize adopted children as “sociologically unstable.” Hannah herself is adopted.

Bliss eventually decided he’d had enough:

At one point, Bliss raised his hand and, “as politely as I could,” began to argue with the presenters. He used his knowledge of history to refute many of their points, and explained that various cultures have accepted and embraced homosexuality going back hundreds of years.

“I think they were surprised by the history I gave them and surprised that I was so calm,” said Bliss. “I don’t think they expected the response they got from the students.”

Since the diocesan priest and DeLaSalle administration officials abruptly ended the assembly after it became clear the students weren’t exactly drinking the punch, Bliss’s assessment appears to be accurate. Angry students were allowed to stay afterward and continue the discussion with archdiocesan officials, which resulted in a more civil atmosphere, at least temporarily. However, Tevlin wrote that ”the more questions the presenters tried to answer, the worse it got.”

And it didn’t end well. Said Bliss, ”It was a really awful ending. It was anger, anger, anger, and then we were done and they left. This is really a bad idea.”

Predictably — as you probably deduced from the above comment by school spokesman Mike O’Keefe — the school appears to be relatively unconcerned about the lesbian student reduced to tears after being told her sexual orientation renders her unfit to love in a meaningful way, the traumatized teens crying in the restroom after hearing their LGBT friends slandered and humiliated, the adopted children accused of having mental problems, the boy calmly refuting anti-gay lies with historical facts, or the girl bravely standing up for her moms even as she’s forced to hear them belittled in a public forum. No, the school thinks they were being a nuisance, being rude.

I beg to differ. Far from being rude, these kids are standing up for justice and equality. They are speaking truth to power, even when that means challenging the teachings of the very church that many of them presumably have spent their whole lives in. I wouldn’t call that rudeness. I’d call it courage.