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….

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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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.

 

Catholics And The “Kill The Gays” Bill

From New Ways Ministry Blog:

Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill, which would impose the death penalty on certain people convicted of having sexual relations with a person of the same sex, seems poised for passage soon.

The Associated Press reports that Rebecca Kadaga (pictured, left), Uganda’s Parliamentary Speaker, announced yesterday that the bill will be going forward for a vote in the next few weeks:

“Ugandans ‘are demanding it,’ she said, reiterating a promise she made before a meeting on Friday of anti-gay activists who spoke of ‘the serious threat’ posed by homosexuals to Uganda’s children. Some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as ‘a Christmas gift.’

“ ‘Speaker, we cannot sit back while such (a) destructive phenomenon is taking place in our nation,’ the activists said in a petition. ‘We therefore, as responsible citizens, feel duty-bound to bring this matter to your attention as the leader of Parliament … so that lawmakers can do something to quickly address the deteriorating situation in our nation.’ ”

report in The Advocate notes that the bill can be put to a vote in a matter of two weeks.

news story in the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News provides some background on the criminal status of homosexuality in Uganda, as well as what the proposed law would mandate:

“Even without the law, Uganda already has laws that criminalize homosexuality and is one of 76 countries where it is illegal to be gay. The proposed law would broaden existing laws, and includes the death penalty to those convicted of aggravated homosexuality and life imprisonment for those convicted of the offense of homosexuality.

“Aggravated homosexuality is defined as gay acts committed by parents or authority figures, HIV-positive people, pedophiles and repeat offenders.

“Offense of homosexuality is defined as same-sex sexual acts or being involved in a same-sex relationship.”

Shamefully silent on this bill have been the Catholic bishops of Uganda, a heavily Catholic nation.  Indeed, earlier this summer it was reported that the Catholic bishops reversed their position from quiet opposition to the bill to outright support for it.

Catholic leaders in the U.S. have spoken in opposition to the bill, including Ambassador Thomas P. Melady, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.  President Barack Obama has called the bill “odious.”

More Catholic voices will be needed to defeat this horrendous law.  Indeed, in July Ugandan LGBT rights advocatescalled on the international community, including religious leaders, to lend their voices to oppose the bill.

Catholic bishops here in the United States and Vatican leaders in Rome need to lend their voices to international opposition to the proposed law.  Silence is not an option at this point.  Too many innocent lives hang in the balance.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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