Catholic Bishop: If You Want To Support Gays, Become Protestants

Originally posted (under a different headline) by newwaysministryblog
Sr. Jeannine Gramick speaking with Bishop Thomas Paprocki

An event last Friday that included Sr. Jeannine Gramick, the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, highlighted just how supportive Catholics are of marriage equality as the bishops play defense to support their position.

For over two hours at an event hosted by Robert Blair Kaiser and the Jesuit Alumni of Arizona, Sr. Gramick exchanged views with Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, in front of an audience.

The National Catholic Reporter reported on the event, where Bishop Paprocki attacked  the “gay activist lobby” in his opening remarks and denigrated the attention given to the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 as evidence of media bias. He posited that if marriage equality passes, then “everything should be OK” in regard to any sexual practice or activity.

Alternatively, Sr. Gramick spoke of the positive changes occurring around LGBT issues, including her personal conversion that has led to nearly four decades of ministry with gay and lesbian people. The article continues:

“Gramick reflected on changes in her own attitudes, attitudes of the public and attitudes of the church hierarchy. She said more and more church leaders are moving toward support of at least civil unions.

“Referring to Paprocki’s remark that morality cannot be based on polls, she said, ‘We may not legislate on the basis of polls, but they tell us what people are thinking.’

“She said polls show Catholics’ opinions have moved from opposition to same-sex marriage to approval in a short time because nearly everyone has a gay friend, family member or business associate.”

Indicative of these shifting views, the question period was solely aimed at Bishop Paprocki’s opposition to LGBT rights. During remarks by the bishop, a member of the audience, Anne Gray, even yelled out, “That’s insulting” and followed-up with a question:

 “In response to a question from Kaiser, Paprocki said the church would love to welcome gay people but is forced into a defensive position by ‘activists pushing an agenda.’ That set off Gray, who has a gay son, again.

“‘Here I am,’ she said. ‘The big scary gay agenda…My son is a perfect human being. There is nothing intrinsically disordered about him. I know because I am his mother.’…

” ‘You need to listen to mothers,’ she said.”

Another questioner offered her personal experience of supporting lesbian family members and Paprocki made the suggestion that she leave the church to do so:

“One of the youngest people in the room said she was a devout Catholic, but when her aunt and sister told her they were gay, she was put on the spot. She asked Paprocki if she could remain a good Catholic and still support her family members in their desires to form lifelong relationships.

” ‘It is a struggle to be a good Catholic while supporting gay marriage,’ the bishop said. ‘It strains your relationship with the church.’

“He said those who oppose the church on the issue should become Protestants. ‘They do a lot of good things too,’ he said.

This is the latest instance where Catholics supportive of LGBT equality are making their voices heard to the Church’s hierarchy, including Sr. Gramick who recently confronted the famously anti-gay Cardinal Turkson of Ghana. We applaud the many people whose efforts contributed to making American Catholics the leading religious group advocating for equal marriage rights!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Quite a different approach to the Pope’s “Welcome All” message last week….

WWES? (What Would Ezekiel Say?)

“Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle, or like, premarital sex between heterosexuals … it says that that’s a sin … I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” he said on the show. “So, I would not characterize that person as a Christian, because I don’t think the Bible would characterize that person as a Christian.”

~ Chris Broussard, ESPN Commentator.

Bible

Bible (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I do so wish to avoid judging those who judge others.  Thus, I have tried to avoid comment upon the religious right rhetoric about LGBT people.  Yet, it is becoming increasingly clear that statements like the above quote stray from even the most basic of Christian tenets, Jesus’s command that we “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  John 13:34-35.  Moreover, for a biblical literalist, the above scriptural interpretation  (Not cited, but denominated as biblical by the phrase, “it says.” ) is simply inaccurate.  Finally, one of the most basic rules of journalism is that the media represent all sides of an issue.  And, there is another side to this story.

So, what is gained by my silence? Some great Christian leaders have posited that to be silent in the face of oppression is to join the oppressor.  (E.g., Dr. King, and more recently, Bishop Gene Robinson).  Thus, I gladly risk the criticism that I am being judgmental in favor of speaking out on behalf of the oppressed.  I speak my truth to power.

Now, about Gay Christians.  The term is neither an oxymoron nor disingenuous.  I personally identify as LGBT and Christian.  I believe that Jesus is Lord!   According to scripture, I cannot make such a statement lightly, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (1 Corinthians 12:3).  Moreover, if I say it and believe it than scripture guarantees my salvation.  (Romans 10:9).  Hence, the scriptural formulaic equation for salvation is not exclusive.  I can be Gay and Christian.  And I am not alone in this belief.

There are a whole host or Christian organizations, many of which we see on Face Book every day, dedicated to the same proposition. We are in the minority now, but I believe that as we continue to change the world that all of Christendom will likewise evolve.  One such group is called Fortunate Families, a national organization of Catholic parents with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender children, with a passion for social justice advocacy and a focus on the Catholic Church and LGBT issues.  In my present church affiliation, Methodist, we have the Reconciling Ministries Network whose purpose is to mobilize United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.  The Episcopal church has an organization called Integrity, whose mission it is to inspire and equip the Episcopal Church, its dioceses, congregations, and members to proclaim and embody God’s all-inclusive love for LGBTQ persons and those who love them.  Perhaps you know of others.

When it comes to scripture, I am merely a “jack-theologian,” so-to-speak.  While I have a minor in religious studies, I certainly do not have any sort of divinity degree.  However, I have at least read the passages to which I refer.  I understand that they have been through multiple translations over the millennia, and were written in a vastly different culture with a vastly inferior world view, knowledge and technology, and that they were gathered into what we now know as the Bible by church fathers in the Third Century.  (Even a cursory search reveals that the origins of the Bible is a complicated story rife with dissension and debate).  Scripture did not even have line and verse until the 16th century.  (The Bible was divided into chapters in the 13th century by Stephen Langton and into verses in the 16th century by French printer Robert Estienne).  People believed over the entire 4,000 or so years that the various books of the Bible were written that the world was flat and the heavens (and God) resided a few hundred feet above them.  Science now informs our world view to cast aside such notions, as well as the notion that the Biblical genealogy found in Genesis denotes the age of the world.

Against that backdrop, we have the self-righteous and inflammatory conclusions above.  They can be summarized as follows: The bible says that homosexuality is a sin in open rebellion to God and Jesus.  In claiming to be LGBT and Christian I must, as Gene Robinson says, “unabashedly” assert that this statement is false! None of the Gospels attribute to Jesus as ever uttering a single word about homosexuality, much less the word itself, or that he would accord it to himself as “open rebellion.”  No such word existed in Hebrew or Greek, the two main languages in which the books of the bible were written.  The word “homosexual” is not in the Bible, except in oblique translations of the six or so references to men “lying” with men in the Hebrew text and Paul’s letters, the most notorious of which is found in Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”  (Evidently, the only reason one lies with a female is to have sex.  But is it okay if I lie with a woman until I need glasses?  Sorry, I digress (impishly laughing to self with tongue firmly in cheek)).

The Hebrew term, shiqquwts is translated as “abomination” by almost all translations of the Bible. The similar words, sheqets, and shâqats, are almost exclusively used for dietary violations.  Toeba, is also translated as abomination in some texts. Many modern versions of the Bible translate it as  “detestable”or “loathsome.”  I hear one Rabbi refer to it as “yicky.”  Biblical literalists interpret this to mean that same-sex sexual activity is an abomination and therefore inherently sinful.  (Note, however, that it is not one of the Ten Commandments).

However,please consider that a word or phrase which has been translated through multiple languages over centuries and the subject of great debate and disagreement among the worlds great scholars and theologians, inherently, cannot credibly be taken as a modern-day literal truth.  Moreover, this supposed proscription was part of what is called the ancient Hebrew Holiness Code which highly regulated the everyday lives of ancient Hebrew men, from what they were to wear to what they were to eat.  Violations of these rules were also called abominations.  The code referred to how they were to treat one another too.  Later prophets make this clear.  In a little referred to scripture, Ezekiel says at  16:49-50: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.”  Clearly, Sodom’s lack of hospitality is the abomination.

Yet, there is no mention of the word, “homosexual,” again defying the literalists.  They cannot rely on the literal words of scripture to reach the result they want, but must interpret the meaning of the words used through their various translations over time in spite of  later clarification within the Bible’s own pages.  Now I wonder how to characterize the above quotation from the ESPN announcer.  Is it hospitable, or detestable and loathsome?  Is it an abomination?  What would Ezekiel say?

Catholics Participate in Prayer Service and Demonstration at Supreme Court

New Ways Ministry staff at the marriage equality demonstration outside the Supreme Court:  Sister Jeannine Gramick, Bob Shine, Francis DeBernardo.

New Ways Ministry staff at the marriage equality demonstration outside the Supreme Court: Sister Jeannine Gramick, Bob Shine, Francis DeBernardo.

From New Ways Ministry Blog:

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two marriage equality cases.   The historic day began with an interfaith prayer service at the Church of the Reformation, a Lutheran congregation just behind the Supreme Court building.

The service, entitlted “A Prayer for Love and Justice,” featured prayers and rituals from a wide variety of faith traditions–Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, Native American–were all represented as part of the service.  Catholics were represented by Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry and Rev. Joseph Palacios, who ministers at Dignity/Washington.   The event was organized by the United for Marriage coalition.

Following the prayer service, participants processed to the Supreme Court building and joined the demonstration of thousands of people there who support marriage equality.  Among those in the crowd were Jackie and Buzz Baetz, a Catholic couple from Monkton, Maryland, who displayed a sign showing Catholic support for marriage equality.

New Ways Ministry staff also participated in the demonstration outside the court building.

 

 

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Here I am, Lord

As a disenfranchised Catholic, I cannot help but be intrigued and even a little hopeful about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.  I do not like Benedict even though I love the church.  I grew up Catholic, was both an altar and choir boy, and even considered becoming a priest.  I can’t imagine how that would have turned out.

English: Pope Benedict XVI in Italy

English: Pope Benedict XVI in Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nonetheless, the American/Roman Catholic culture became my culture.  My friends were Catholic.  We attended the Catholic grade school and church at the corner of my street.  I later went to a Catholic high school and college (University of Dayton).  I especially loved the new music in the church, and played and sang those songs in a church music group for years.  I even came to appreciate the deep meaning and spiritual significance of the Mass and other Catholic traditions.

I miss those parts of being Catholic because they are so much a part of who I am.  However, like so many others, I can no longer tolerate both the fact of clergy child sexual abuse, and the church hierarchy’s cover up of the same.  Neither can I abide the church’s homophobic positions, philosophy, and teaching.  Did you ever notice when Benedict has discussed these, he does not refer to scripture, nor even mention Jesus, let alone his teachings about love and lack of judgment.  Perhaps this is because the gospels, ostensibly, have also sanctioned the power of the Vicar of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter (“I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it,” Matthew 16:18, New American Standard Bible (©1995), emphasis added), as well as his minions, to assess judgment upon sinners.

Purportedly, this power, conferred by Jesus himself in John 20:23, New American Standard Bible (©1995)  (“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained”) takes precedent in the minds of the Church over Jesus’ direct order:  “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you” John 15:12, New American Standard Bible (©1995).  And, what about this rather direct admonishment?  “Do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. . . .”  Luke 6:37, New American Standard Bible (©1995).

I have never heard an explanation for this elevation of one of Jesus’ principles over that of others, and would love to read the apologetics which justifies this doctrine promulgated by the self perpetuating (and protecting) hierarchical system known as the church.  But, that is perhaps another matter.

Be that as it may, apparently not all church members agree with these judgmental policies.  “Equally Blessed, an LGBT-inclusive Catholic group, issued a statement upon Benedict’s announcement and said members were ‘grateful that Pope Benedict XVI had the foresight and humility to resign his office for the sake of the church to which he has given his life.’

The organization added that the Roman Catholic Church now has the opportunity to change the church and overturn oppressive, homophobic policies.

‘We pray for a pope who is willing to listen to and learn from all of God’s people. We pray for a pope who will realize that in promoting discrimination against LGBT people, the church inflicts pain on marginalized people, alienates the faithful and lends moral credibility to reactionary political movements across the globe. We pray for a pope who will lead the church in looking the sexual abuse scandal squarely in the eye and make a full report on the complicity of the hierarchy in the sexual trauma inflicted on children around the world. We pray for a pope who is willing to make himself vulnerable on behalf of the voiceless, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.’”  http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2013/02/11/pope-benedict-xvi-announces-resignation.

I wish I could be as genial and hopeful, but, sadly, I must acknowledge as have others that many of the Cardinals who will select Benedict’s successor (and from whose ranks he will be chosen) were handpicked by Benedict himself.  Thus, it is very likely that they share his views and support his policies.

I pray from the depths of my soul for a pope who will truly believe these words from a popular Catholic hymn*:

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart

*Written by Daniel Schutte and recorded by Daniel O’Donnell in 1981 after Vatican Council II. Its words are based on Isaiah 6:8 and 1 Samuel 3. The song was then published by North American Liturgy Resources which later was purchased by New Dawn Music, a subsidiary of Oregon Catholic Press. It’s been used at many Papal Masses.  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Citations omitted).

A Lesson In Underestimating The People In The Pews

 

A Lesson to Be Learned from Marriage Equality Victories

by newwaysministryblog

The news is almost too incredible to believe.

Yesterday, marriage equality was made the law of the land in three states–Maine, Maryland, and Washington State–and a proposed constitutional ban against marriage equality in a fourth state–Minnesota–was defeated.

Catholics played a significant role in all four states.  In Maine, Maryland, and Washington State, the original laws that were upheld by the referendum were all signed by Catholic governors.  In those states and Minnesota, active groups of Catholics for Marriage Equality worked tirelessly to get out the vote.

What makes the efforts of these Catholics for Marriage Equality so significant is that they have worked against incredible odds.  In each case, Catholic bishops have worked against marriage equality, and their power and influence is formidable when it comes to election campaigns.

It’s not the moral authority that the bishops have.  Indeed, due to the sexual abuse crisis among other things, their moral authority has seriously decreased in the last decade.  What they do have though is a vast communication infrastructure:  parishes, sermons, letters, mailing lists, bulletin inserts, schools–these are incredibly powerful tools to mobilize voters to vote the way the bishops instruct.  Despite these advantages, the bishop failed.

The lesson of this election for Catholics interested in LGBT equality is that lay organizing is becoming more powerful than the bishops’ organizing.  Despite that lay organizers do not have the access to Catholics that the bishops have, they have found a variety of methods to get their message across:  public vigilsYouTube videoscommunity forums, and newspaper advertisements, to name only a few.

We’ve also seen that having courageous priests and religious who are not afraid to speak out for equality are emerging.  Their witness gives us hope that others will soon step forward to urge people to form and follow their consciences with regard to marriage equality.

May the victories today inspire Catholics to continue to work for justice and equality for LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

LGBT People And Catholics Are Already Election Day Winners

From New Ways Ministry Blog:

Today is Election Day in the United States of America.  If you are even just an occasional reader of this blog, you will know that in three states–Maine, Maryland, Washington State–voters will be asked to decide whether or not marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples will be law.  In a fourth state, Minnesota, voters will be deciding whether to enact a constitutional amendment which would ban marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.

In all four states, Catholics have played a key role in the campaigns to support marriage equality.  As evidence, just enter any one of the state names, in the “Category” filter in the right hand column of this page, and you will find a wealth of blog posts from the past 12 months about how Catholics have been involved in the struggle for marriage equality.

This week, the National Catholic Reporter has editorialized on the potential outcomes of today’s votes, and has declared three groups of winners of the election already, regardless of the results.   As the following quotation from the editorial will demonstrate, those “winners” include LGBT people:

“We do not yet know the fate of the ballot initiatives in the four states voting on measures related to same-sex marriage. Regardless of the outcomes, one thing is for sure: Our LGBT brothers and sisters are taking their rightful place alongside us as full citizens. It will take more time yet for legislation to fully acknowledge this, but few will dispute that this election season, a tide was turned. We don’t yet know the final result, but this community might have helped re-elect a president.

“This year, LGBT Catholics have also claimed — maybe ‘earned’ is the better word — new respect within the church. To listen to our most public leaders, this may be hard to see, but in the pews across America, it is not. Whether it is citizens signing their names to newspaper ads or brave priests risking censure from their bishops, Catholics are telling our homosexual brothers and sisters that we are glad they stand in the assembly among us. We are family. Like civil laws, it will take time for church structures to formally acknowledge this, but we believe that this year will prove an important step toward achieving equality in the Catholic church.”

(The other two groups the editorial mentions are the “Nuns on the Bus” for their work to raise awareness of economic inequality; and Latinos, for becoming a strong enough voting bloc to warrant the attention of both parties.)

We could not agree more with this editorial.  Regardless of whether or not marriage equality becomes an option in these four states,  LGBT people and the goodness of their relationships have been given a level of visibility that was unthinkable 15 years ago.  And Catholic support for LGBT people and issues has not only been increasing, but more and more leaders in government and media are becoming aware that Catholics are overwhelmingly pro-LGBT.  Because of this, Catholics, too, have already emerged as winners from the election.

While we are hopeful that equality, fairness, and justice will soon be the law of the land, we know that if today’s election results do not move that agenda along, it will only be a short wait before these values become a reality for all in the U.S.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Resigned Priests Come Out For Marriage Equality

by newwaysministryblog

Marriage Equality USA logo

Resigned priests are starting to emerge as a strong moral voice in support of marriage equality.  Earlier this year, 80 resigned priestsmade a statement in support of marriage equality.  This week, a group of 63 resigned priests in Washington State have made a public statement in support of the referendum to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Reuters quoted from the statement to explain the group’s reason for making their views known:

“We feel the bishops are abusing their power in attempting to direct Catholics on how to vote on this civil matter and impose their position on all citizens, Catholic and non-Catholic.”

Pat Callahan, a church-goer who had been a priest for 15 years, organized the effort, and explained another motivation to Reuters:

“Progressive-thinking Catholics need the reassurance that there is more than one authentic Catholic position.”

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer cites a passage from the resigned priests’ statement:

“Nothing in this legislation infringes on religious rights or restricts the Catholic Church from maintaining its own standards for sacramental marriage:  It simply provides the protection of civil law so that same sex couples may enjoy a set of civil and human rights involving health, financial and end-of-life decisions,” said the former priests, who remain active Catholics.

“We regret that our Washington State Catholic bishops have chosen to oppose Marriage Equality and attempt to impose what we feel is a very narrow point of view on all society.”

A separate Post-Intelligencer article reports that the  former priests’s statement comes right after one of Washington State’s bishops issued a pastoral letter against the referendum:

“In the latest pastoral letter,  Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of the Diocese of Yakima told his 41 parishes that Referendum 74 ‘jeopardizes freedom rather than expands it” and “endangers our religious liberty and the rights of conscience.’

“ ‘Once marriage is redefined as a genderless contract, it will become legally discriminatory for public and private institutions such as schools to promote the unique meaning of marriage . . .This law will challenge our right to educate about the unique value of children being raised by his or her own mother and father in a stable home,’ Tyson wrote.

Tyson’s letter was directly countered by Catholics for Marriage Equality Washington:

“We are shocked when we read the language and examples used by our bishops to incite fear in our Catholic brothers and sisters if Referendum 74 passes.  The message of Jesus is love and compassion, not fear.”

The former priests’ letter comes from a perspective with an immense amount of moral credibility: 1) they are men trained in theology and years of pastoral experience under their belts; 2) many of them are married and have raised families–perhaps even some with lesbian and gay children–and so they know the practical realities of love and relationship; 3) they are men who have been marginalized by church structures, so they know what it means to be excluded.

Their witness is a powerful testimony to both love of the church and the cause of justice and equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry