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….

Vatican Official Calls for Protections for Same-Gender Couples

by Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Over the course of the past year or so, we’ve witnessed a slow evolution in Catholic hierarchical thinking on marriage for same-gender couples.  Recently in France and Great Britain, bishops’ groups  have spoken more positively about same-gender couples than they had before.  In Germany and Italy, individual bishops have made positive statements about same-gender couples.  Even here in the U.S., Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George made surprisingly positive statement about love between people of the same gender, even though he opposed Illinois’ marriage bill.

Archbishop Vincent Paglia

Archbishop Vincent Paglia

Today, the positive statement on same-gender relationships comes from the Vatican itself.  The National Catholic Reporter stated:

“A high-ranking Vatican official on Monday voiced support for giving unmarried couples some kind of legal protection even as he reaffirmed the Catholic church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

“Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, also said the church should do more to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in countries where homosexuality is illegal.

“In his first Vatican press conference since his appointment as the Catholic church’s “minister” for family, Paglia conceded that there are several kinds of ‘cohabitation forms that do not constitute a family,’ and that their number is growing.

Paglia suggested that nations could find ‘private law solutions’ to help individuals who live in non-matrimonial relations, ‘to prevent injustice and make their life easier.’ “

Paglia also spoke forcefully opposing discrimination and criminalization of homosexuality:

“Responding to journalists’ questions, Paglia also strongly condemned discrimination against gay people, who he said ‘have the same dignity as all of God’s children’

” ‘In the world there are 20 or 25 countries where homosexuality is a crime,’ he said. ‘I would like the church to fight against all this.’ “

While these positive remarks are welcome, it must also be said that Paglia still strongly opposed marriage equality:

” ‘The church must defend the truth, and the truth is that a marriage is only between a man and a woman,’ he said. Other kinds of ‘affections’ cannot be the foundation for a ‘public structure’ such as marriage.

” ‘We cannot surrender to a sick egalitarianism that abolishes every difference,’ he warned, and run the risk of society becoming a new ‘Babel.’ “

Despite the continued intransigence on marriage equality,  I think it is important to note that the archbishop’s comments represent a giant step forward in terms of Vatican recognition of same-gender couples.  Even just a month ago, when the pope made harsh statements against same-gender relationships in his World Peace Day message, one could not have imagined a Vatican official making such positive comments as Paglia did.  His comments are a small change, but all change happens little by little.

 

National Catholic Reporter Supports Bishops Call To Rethink Sexuality

From New Ways Ministry Blog
 

Bishop Robinson

New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in Baltimore two weeks ago continues to make headlines.   The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) has editorialized in support of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s call to re-think the Catholic Church’s official teaching on sexuality, which he made during a talk at the Symposium.  An NCR columnist, Eugene Kennedy, the renowned psychologist and church observer, has also praised the Australian bishop’s proposal.

After summarizing Bishop Robinson’s main points (which can be read in the same newspaper’s article about the talk), the NCR editorial notes:

“Robinson is not the first to articulate the need for a responsible reexamination of sexual ethics, one that takes seriously the radical call to selfless love, but the addition of a bishop’s voice adds new dimension to the conversation. By rebuilding Christian morality in the area of sexuality in the way Robinson suggests, we will achieve a teaching that can better challenge the message about sexuality trumpeted by the dominant culture in television, music and advertising, a sexuality that idolizes self-gratification and that puts ‘me’ before ‘you.’ By placing the needs of the other first, our sexual ethic would reject sexual violence — physical and psychological, the idolatry of self-gratification, the objectification of people, and the trivializing of sex when it is separated from love.”

The NCR rightly points out that Robinson’s approach is not one of a wild-eyed radical:

“In the end, Robinson is making a profoundly traditional suggestion about sexuality, because what he proposes is rooted in genuine personal responsibility. He writes: ‘Many would object that what I have proposed would not give a clear and simple rule to people. But God never promised us that everything in the moral life would be clear and simple. Morality is not just about doing right things; it is also about struggling to know what is the right thing to do. … It is about taking a genuine personal responsibility for everything I do.’ ”

The tradition that Robinson is following is the tradition of Jesus in the Scriptures:

“Robinson’s take on sexuality — that it deserves deeper consideration than the narrow, rule-bound approach that has evolved in Christian circles — takes us to the heart of the radical approach Jesus took toward human relationships.”

NCR columnist Eugene Kennedy has also praised Bishop Robinson’s proposal.  In an essay entitled “Bishop Robinson and the redemption of eros,” Kennedy writes:

“Bishop Robinson’s purpose is, in fact, that set out by Pope John XXIII as his reason for convening Vatican II, “To make the human sojourn on earth less sad.”

“Indeed, in urging a much needed review of what and how the church teaches about human sexuality, Bishop Robinson draws on themes central to Vatican II. The first of these is found in placing the reality of the human person rather than the abstraction of natural law as the central reference point in church teachings and papal pronouncements about marriage and sexual activity.

“The second is found in the shift from an emphasis on objective acts to subjective intentions and dispositions in making judgments on the badness or goodness of how people behave. This rightfully emphasizes the impact that our actions or omissions have on other persons rather than on the ire that has idled within so many church leaders who have been so preoccupied with sin. . . .

“Robinson’s convictions on the need for a thorough examination of the church’s teaching on sexuality are significant in themselves but also because he has found a way to speak about this essential matter from within the church, even if in the mannered traditional way that dialogue moves, however slowly, toward a wider circle of prelates.”

After Bishop Robinson spoke at the Symposium, many people told me that they felt something new and remarkable had taken place. One person told me that it felt  like a new chapter had been opened in the church’s discussion on sexuality.  His talk offered not only hope, but a way forward that people felt was authentically human and authentically Catholic.His experience as the Australian Bishops’ Conference coordinator of pastoral responses to that nation’s sexual abuse crisis transformed his thinking on how Catholicism approached sexuality and how that approach can be improved.  As was evident from the style and content of his talk, Bishop Robinson had one three things that more bishops should emulate:  he opened his ears, his mind, and his heart.
 
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

A Bishop Talks About (gasp) Sex

Many of you have probably heard the news that (from New Ways Ministry Blog):

“On the second day of  New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, From Water to Wine: Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships in Baltimore, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia summoned the Catholic Church to rethink its teaching on sexuality- for heterosexuals and lesbian/gay people.  (The full text of his talk can be found on his website.)

The National Catholic Reporter news account of the bishop’s talk cites his call for

‘a new study of everything to do with sexuality’ — a kind of study that he predicted ‘would have a profound influence on church teaching concerning all sexual relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual.’

‘If [church] teaching on homosexual acts is ever to change, the basic teaching governing all sexual acts must change,’ he said. . . .

‘If the starting point [as in current church teaching] is that every single sexual act must be both unitive and procreative, there is no possibility of approval of homosexual acts,’ Robinson said.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

He proceeded, however, to question that natural law argument, especially as laid out by recent popes, and to suggest that a more nuanced reading of divine commandments in scripture and of Jesus’ teaching would lead to a different set of moral norms — starting with a change in church teaching that every sexual act or thought that falls outside a loving conjugal act open to procreation is a mortal sin because it is a direct offense against God himself in his divine plan for human sexuality.

‘For centuries the church has taught that every sexual sin is a mortal sin. The teaching may not be  proclaimed as loudly today as much as before, but it was proclaimed by many popes, it has never been retracted and it has affected countless people’, Robinson said.

‘The teaching fostered a belief in an incredibly angry God,’ he added, ‘for this God would condemn a person to an eternity in hell for a single unrepented moment of deliberate pleasure arising from sexual desire. I simply do not believe in such a God. Indeed, I positively reject such a God.'”

Terrific.
And “Amen”.
This is startling- not only because of its sensibility- but for the courage of a man who has jumped over the traces, so to speak, of his fellow magisterial wizards. Dare we hope that this is the first voice of many?

Items From New Ways Ministry

New Ways Ministry Blog offers some items of interest to LGBT-inclusive Christians:

1) Sister Maureen Fiedler, who blogs for the National Catholic Reporter, comments on the passage of the Maryland marriage equality bill by suggesting that “Catholic bishops should read the writing on the wall for same-sex marriage.”

2) In a HuffingtonPost.com essay, Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, observes that “Same-Sex Marriage IS Dangerous — to Church Workers .”  She is commenting on the recent firing of a Catholic parish’s music director, whichBondings 2.0 reported on here.

3) North Carolina’s two Catholic bishops are among the supporters of a proposed state constitutional amendment to define marriage heterosexually, according to “Both sides gear up in N.C. gay marriage fight,” which appeared on The Washington Post website.

4) Maryland’s Martin O’Malley and New Jersey’s Chris Christie, two Catholic governors who have opposing views about marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples, will square off on TV’s “Face the Nation,” Sunday, February 26, 2012, on CBS.  While the topic for their segment is the 2012 presidential race, since both governors have been so visible about marriage equality, it will likely come up as a topic of discussion.  For more details, check out The Washington Post’s article  “O’Malley, adversary Chris Christie booked on ‘Face the Nation.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Catholics and Gays: Joel Connelly Calls Out The Church

The Seattle PI’s Joel Connelly has an illustrious history of commentary in Seattle. I’ve enjoyed him for years. But in Monday’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he makes one of the best cases for the Catholic Church to give up the paranoid same-sex marriage rhetoric- and his seasoned, well-reasoned thoughts beg to be shared. Excerpt:

English: Schwörstadt: Catholic Church Deutsch:...

The bishops see themselves as shepherds, but American Catholics are not sheep.  They think and act independently.  A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that nearly three quarters of Catholics favor letting gays and lesbians marry (43 percent) or form civil unions (31 percent).

“Catholics are more supportive of legal recognitions of same-sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition and Americans overall,” the survey concluded.

The church is also hurting itself:  Its social activism, defense of human dignity and witness to peace should make it a beacon for all who seek justice.  Instead, the church is pilloried as an instrument of reaction.

Its wounds are self inflicted, a classic case of clerical error.  As the National Catholic Reporter put it, editorializing after New York legislators approved marriage equality last spring:

“Even if the bishops had a persuasive case to make and the legislative tools at their disposal, their public conduct in recent years — wholesale excommunications, railing at politicians, denial of honorary degrees and speaking platforms at Catholic institutions, using the Eucharist as a political bludgeon, refusing to entertain any questions or dissenting opinions, and engaging in open warfare with the community’s thinkers as well as those, especially women, who have loyally served the church — has resulted in a kind of episcopal caricature, the common scolds of the religion world, the caustic party of ‘no’.”

Connelly is taking a fair and balanced approach, using the Catholic tradition of social justice and charity to argue for the reality of human experience- in this case the reality of same-sex relationships. The very reality of them flies in the face of the “Natural Law‘ argument:

“Jesus befriended those who were marginalized because He knew it was only in the security of loving, unconditional relationships that hearts and lives are healed,” argues writer Justin Cannon, reflecting the Christian faith as taught to us by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Not only healed, but enriched.  I’ve witnessed a warm, very traditional moment over the years.  A goofy, dreamy smile crosses the face of a friend, who after years of playing the field announces  “Well, I met this woman (or guy)!”  It signals a readiness to settle down.  My natural reaction is to say,   “You lucky dog!” and to be there, in affection and support, when the knot is tied.

Life together is a natural passage in life.  Yet, according to “natural law” the Catholic church frowns on my friends who fall in love with somebody of their own gender.  It violates nature, according to a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops statement, because such “inherently non-procreative” relationships “cannot be given the status of marriage.”

The church’s positions are, as state Sen. Ed Murray put it Friday night, “hurtful” as well as contradictory.

Out of one side of its mouth, the church condemns “all forms of unjust discrimination, harrassment and abuse” against gays and lesbians. At the same time, the Cathechism of the Catholic Church describes “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” as “objectively disordered.”

As my critical thinking professor at Carroll College taught me, the Church’s argument is flawed. It can’t have it both ways. It either acknowledges the reality of same-sex relationships- the reality of the complexity  of human love as a gift from God- or it becomes the ubiquitous symbol of fantasy, its credibility falling off the edge of its own absurdly flattened earth.

Connelly’s brave, full essay is here.

Limitations of Clergy Sexual Abuse Report

I haven’t gotten through the report itself yet, but there has been some welcome clarification on one point:

The researchers conclude that there is no causative relationship between either celibacy or homosexuality and the sexual victimization of children in the Church. Therefore, being celibate or being gay did not increase the risk of violating children. So, blaming the clergy abuse crisis in the Catholic Church on gay men or celibacy is unfounded.

Psychologists (and LGBT persons) have realized that this was the case, and despite their protestations, certain bishops and Cardinals have placed the responsibility for the sex abuse scandal squarely in the laps of gay priests. Not so. Completely refuted and repudiated.

Hopefully, for the last time.

Yeah, you’re right. Religious homophobes are unlikely to let this go….

The NCR has an excellent synopsis- and gives a critical eye:

Release of the John Jay College study on the causes of sexual abuse by Catholic priests signals the end of the U.S. bishops’ five-year, $1.8 million inquiry into the institution they govern and the priests in their charge. But the new study hardly quiets the fundamental questions that have dogged the church and its leaders since the crisis was first publicized in the mid-1980s.

The conclusions of the study were immediately challenged by victims of abuse, their advocates, and those who maintain an enormous archive of documentation related to the scandal. Among the reasons they say the report should be approached with caution or skepticism:

  • Questions persist about the reliability of the basic data that underpins both the most recent study, as well as one on the nature and scope of the scandal that was released in 2004, because the researchers relied principally on reporting by bishops. The reliability of such reporting is called into question on a number of fronts and was most recently challenged by a grand jury report that claimed that officials of the Philadelphia archdiocese had not reported dozens of credibly accused priests. Doubts about the reliability of the numbers were even given credibility by one of the John Jay researchers in a recent interview.
  • The conclusion that priests’ behavior was influenced by and reflected turmoil in American culture during the 1960s and 1970s is called into question, or at least qualified, say experts, given revelations of similar widespread scandals in the United Kingdom and several European countries. The dimensions of the scandal in those countries surfaced in recent months, at a point when the John Jay researchers were concluding research on the U.S. church.
  • The lack of any in-depth look at institutional dynamics, particularly clerical/hierarchical culture, an element some think is integral to understanding why and how abuse of children was covered up and tolerated for so many years.

Beyond the limited dimensions of the study — it covered the years 1950 through 2010 and concentrated on the behavior of priests — questions persist about the bishops’ role in protecting perpetrators and shuffling abusive priests.

Read the full story here. And when you hear that this crisis was precipitated by gay priests- you can comfortably tell anyone spreading this lie that they’re full of shit.