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Jesse Page, left, and Brendan Taga, exchange wedding vows just after midnight on Sunday, December 9, 2012 at the King County Courthouse in Seattle. Marriage ceremonies were held in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Mary Yu beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, the first day same-sex couples in Washington State can legally be married. Many of the judges donated their time to be at the courthouse to officiate at the weddings. Click pic for more…. Photo: JOSHUA TRUJILLO / SEATTLEPI.COM
Being HIV-positive is a challenge. Being HIV-positive and single is often a nightmare. We all want to love and be loved, but the barriers- social and psychological- for HIV-positive persons are high. From The Seattle Times:
Like many women with HIV/AIDS, Nicole Price worried about love and life, post-diagnosis. She now counsels HIV-positive women on forging romantic relationships, knowing each time out that disclosing one’s status can be a deal-breaker.
In 2000, Nicole Price’s ex-boyfriend fell ill. They had recently ended a five-year relationship, so she went to see him in the hospital. He had AIDS.
She got tested. She was 24.
“It was the longest two weeks of my life,” said Price, now 37. “We thought we would get back together because we both had it.”
At the time of her diagnosis, Price was using meth and living in California when her mother, a Bothell resident, learned about a Seattle-based support group for HIV-positive women.
Within two years, she packed her bags for Bothell for a fresh start.
Like many women with HIV/AIDS, Price worried about love and life, post-diagnosis. Once she settled here, she became increasingly involved with the support group, BABES Network-YWCA, eventually rising to program manager. Price now counsels HIV-positive women on forging romantic relationships, knowing each time out that disclosing one’s status can be a deal-breaker.
“They can stop having sex altogether and never do it again,” Price said. “Some of our women have chosen to be in a lesbian relationship. Actually quite a few of our women have. I think they feel that betrayal. They feel like maybe they got betrayed, and now they have issues when it comes to men.”
Trusting a sexual partner and dealing with rejection are regular topics at BABES.
Through peer counseling, support groups, educational lectures and retreats, BABES tackles the challenge of maintaining relationships — especially romantic ones — after testing positive. Women take part in mock disclosures, an exercise meant to ease the stress of telling a partner about being HIV-positive.
“I encourage women to date when they’re ready. I ask them questions to see if they’re ready. When do you want to disclose your status? Are you ready for the response?” said Brenda Higgins, a BABES peer advocate.
“I’m never ready for the response I’m getting,” she added. “There’s really no way of preparing someone with that.”
From New Ways Ministry
While we were in Washington State last week doing educational programs on Catholic support for marriage equality in anticipation of that state’s referendum on the issue in November, Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, and I met with several pastors and parish leaders who earlier this year had refused the local archbishop’s request to use their parishes to collect signatures for petitions to put the new marriage law to a ballot test.
Our discussion was lively and encouraging. For one thing, we learned that there were many more parishes that had refused to collect signatures than had made the news accounts back in April. We knew about a handful, but it turns out there were probably close to twenty that abstained from the collection. In fact in one deanery (a geographic division) of the diocese, the pastors of all twelve parishes had met and agreed corporately not to allow signature collection.
The pastors we met said they mostly had two reasons for their refusal: 1) they believed that collecting signatures would cause great divisions in the parishes; 2) many of the parishes have an explicit welcome to LGBT parishioners and their families, and they felt that collecting signatures would be a sign of inhospitality.
Response from parishioners has been universally positive about the decision not to support the signature campaign. A number of the priests said that the announcements of the decision received standing ovations from their congregations. The few parishioners who disagreed expressed their thoughts quietly and respectfully, and the priests felt that the decision helped to open up avenues of dialogue.
During our discussion, we learned about one pastor, in particular, who has been very public and vocal about not supporting measures to defeat marriage equality. Fr. John Whitney, SJ, of St. Joseph Parish, Seattle, has added a section to the parish’s website about the upcoming referendum. In that section, he includes a letter describing his decision as well as his perspective on Referendum 74. He begins:
“Many of you may have read in the media that St. Joseph, among other parishes, has decided not to allow the gathering of signatures for Referendum 74, which aims at repealing the marriage equality bill passed by the State of Washington. This referendum is supported by the Archdiocese of Seattle, who has asked the Knights of Columbus to collect signatures at various parishes. Although many of you have offered support for the decision not to allow signature gathering here, I believe all of you deserve an explanation of the reasoning behind the decision.
“The primary reason for not allowing this petition is the nature of the worshipping assembly. Women and men of all opinions, orientations, backgrounds, and motivations are welcomed at this altar, and are encouraged to pray for wisdom and unity, even as we all work to create social policies that respect our faith and support each other. The Church should not be a place of coercion, but of discernment, as each member of the Church (as well as each citizen), decides whether a proposal such as Referendum 74 makes us more or less like the Kingdom described by Jesus. To have petitioners at the doors seems to me inappropriately coercive and contrary to the mission of the Church, especially in the Sunday assembly.”
Fr. Whitney goes on to describe why he feels the church is not the place to debate the referendum:
“Further, the nature of the piece of legislation makes it inappropriate to be brought into the context of our worship, I believe, since Referendum 74—like the marriage equality act it seeks to overturn—concerns civil marriage, not the covenant of Catholic marriage, which is a matter of faith and exists in the Church through the ministry of every couple. Although the Archbishop has the right and responsibility to speak and educate the community about legislation, I believe that this level of involvement around the issue of civil marriage is ill-considered, and risks placing the Church on the side of injustice and the denial of civil rights. Thus, I cannot in conscience allow such signature gathering at St. Joseph. I am not telling others how to vote, but I think that a Catholic, in good conscience, can oppose this referendum and should not be pressured to support it in the context of Sunday mass.”
In addition to his statement on the parish website, the pastor also posted Archbishop Peter Sartain’s letterrequesting signatures, and an FAQ sheet from the Washington State Catholic Conference on why Catholics should oppose marriage equality. Fr. Whitney explained his approach:
“Finally, I want to be clear that the Archbishop empowered pastors to make the decision about whether or not to allow signature gathering, and that we are not acting in opposition to his leadership. I am committed to offering his words directly to this community, when that is requested, and to encourage all members of the community to read them respectfully and thoughtfully, as part of the formation of conscience for any Catholic. In those rare situations where I may disagree with the Archbishop’s conclusions, I do not intend to use the pulpit or bulletin to debate, since that is not the place. As I have said, I think such debates belong outside the Church.”
He closes with a hope and prayer for unity among Catholics, even those divided by the marriage equality issue:
“It is of primary importance in all this, however, that we know we can be one community, united in heart and mind, only if we believe that every person is loved by God and valued in his or her humanity. We must listen to one another with respect—to the reality of our experiences and the grace of our call, in Christ. Hearing and loving each other is the root to true discernment, for it is in this communion that the Spirit is present and the Church—the true Church, for whom Christ was crucified and to whom he gave his body and blood—made flesh.
“May we hear God in our midst and always live to do God’s will in our world.”
On the website, Fr. Whitney provided a link for people to easily respond to him and/or to the archbishop.
We need more pastors like Father Whitney who speak forthrightly and who encourage respectful dialogue among their parishioners and between parishioners and their pastoral leaders.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder, and Francis DeBernardo, executive director, will be speaking at two separate events to promote Catholic support for marriage equality.
After the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, I wrote a piece called The Right To Kill.
I basically said that the insanity of “rights” over the safety of human life has come home to roost. The events in Aurora, preceded by shootings in Tulsa, Seattle, Oakland, Chardon, have brought a little attention to the deadliest shooting crimes in U.S. history- and the world ranking of the United States in terms of gun-related murders (4th highest). Nothing is changing. In fact, it’s probably just getting worse. Joe the Plumber blamed the holocaust on gun control. The American Family Association blames the murders on “liberal churches“- I know- I couldn’t believe it either. Except that I do. Any tragedy to bring the collection money rolling in is fair game for crazy pastors.
And that’s the problem. Crazy people who act out in public seem to give permission to crazy people in charge of congregations and political positions permission to act out, too. To act out with ideology front and center. Not compassion, ideology. And fear. Like I said, crazy. And people believe them. Instead of statistics. Instead of science. Instead of facts.
Roger Ebert, writing for the New York Times, has one of the most eloquent summaries of the Aurora shooting that I’ve read so far. From We’ve Seen This Movie Before:
That James Holmes is insane, few may doubt. Our gun laws are also insane, but many refuse to make the connection. The United States is one of few developed nations that accepts the notion of firearms in public hands. In theory, the citizenry needs to defend itself. Not a single person at the Aurora, Colo., theater shot back, but the theory will still be defended.
I was sitting in a Chicago bar one night with my friend McHugh when a guy from down the street came in and let us see that he was packing heat.
“Why do you need to carry a gun?” McHugh asked him.
“I live in a dangerous neighborhood.”
“It would be safer if you moved.”
This would be an excellent time for our political parties to join together in calling for restrictions on the sale and possession of deadly weapons. That is unlikely, because the issue has become so closely linked to paranoid fantasies about a federal takeover of personal liberties that many politicians feel they cannot afford to advocate gun control.
Immediately after a shooting last month in the food court of the Eaton Centre mall in Toronto, a young woman named Jessica Ghawi posted a blog entry. Three minutes before a gunman opened fire, she had been seated at the exact place he fired from.
“I was shown how fragile life was,” she wrote. “I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath.”
This same woman was one of the fatalities at the midnight screening in Aurora. The circle of madness is closing.
Indeed. And it’s closing in on all of us.
You may have heard that the Vatican is investigating U.S. Sisters for being, as someone I know said, “Ridiculously outside the mission of the church- they’re the only ones getting it right”.
Now the sisters have a new Facebook page for people to express their solidarity with them in the face of this hierarchical end run.
“Support Our Catholic Sisters- shaping faith, shaping lives” is the title of this page. Its mission is described thusly:
Women religious have inspired countless lives in remarkable ways. Let’s mobilize the Catholic community in support of our Catholic sisters.
For most Catholics, our sisters are our most precious resource within the church. They’ve taught us and our children in schools. They’ve run our hospitals. They ministered to us in our parishes. They’ve encouraged us in good times and bad. Perhaps more than any other group within the church, they’ve shaped our faith.They have helped us so much over the years. Now they are in need of expressions of our support and gratitude.
The Vatican last week ordered an umbrella organization representing 80 percent of the sisters of America, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, to reform its programs to conform more closely to the official teachings of the church or face further disciplinary actions.
To oversee the reform process, the Vatican has appointed Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and given him wide-ranging power to oversee and direct LCWR as he reviews and revises the organization’s policies.
The women say they were “stunned” by this Vatican directive and to be the objects of these directives. As sisters across the country begin to discern what these changes mean for their lives, Support our Catholic Sisters aims to harness the stories, testimonials and actions planned on behalf of the sisters and report these to you.
We want Support our Catholic Sisters to be shared widely to build support for these wonderful women.
How has one or more Catholic sisters changed your life? Use Support our Catholic Sisters to post your testimonial and those of your family members and friends. Help us tell your stories. Post short essays, photos and/or videos telling us what a particular sister has meant to your life.
Are you organizing a prayer service or vigil? Are you part of a letter writing campaign? Share with us the details here.
We want to report the actions of our Catholic communities as they express their support and affection for the women have set exemplary examples, shaping consciences and faith lives for so many years.
Joel Connelly, who has written about the official church’s anti-gay craziness before, now addresses the move by Seattle’s Catholic bishops to use churches as places to gather signatures for Referendum 74, which seeks to rollback marriage equality in the state of Washington. Excerpt:
A painful truism of this Holy Week, Christianity’s most important days of the year: Moral leadership in America’s Catholic Church is starting to flow from lay persons in pews and priests who deal with human problems, not prelates on thrones wearing white, red and purple hats.
Just look around to events from Rome to Berlin, and from Worcester, Mass., to Seattle.
In the Archdiocese of Seattle, our bishops issued a letter saying parishes will become signature-gathering centers for Referendum 74, a ballot measure designed to roll back same-sex marriage. But the state’s marriage equality law was sponsored by a Catholic state senator and signed into law by a Catholic governor.
Archbishop Sartain and Bishop Elizondo talk about treating all persons with “respect, sensitivity and love,” but then urge support for a campaign put together by the National Organization for Marriage — an outfit that wants to “drive a wedge” between blacks and gays, “sideswipe” President Obama and make opposition to marriage equality “an identity marker” for young Latinos.
Connelly correctly identifies the root of all moral teaching: experience. The authentic experience of human beings who want nothing more than to live authentic lives is the only thing behind marriage equality and relationship recognition. The only thing. Most people care little for the dogma behind the teaching- especially, as in the case of thoughtful Christians, it doesn’t match their experience.
A key lesson: Moral authority is earned. It is not simply acquired when a bishop/cardinal/Pope is installed. The American (and Irish, and Dutch, and Belgian , etc.) hierarchy has forfeited a lot of that authority through its handling of the priest sex-abuse scandal. The despair is mitigated by the good works and wise words from those in the pews. As Pope Benedict XVI used a Holy Thursday sermon to tell priests to obey orders, Medina, Wash., lay Catholic Melinda Gates was speaking from conscience about contraception at a conference in Berlin.
Contraceptives are not a code for abortion, she said, nor an invitation to promiscuous sex. “We are talking about giving women the power to save their own lives and their children’s lives — and to give their families the best possible future,” said Gates, talking of the need for birth control in the developing world. Gates discussed the instruction in faith she received from sisters in a Catholic high school: “In the tradition of great Catholic scholars, the nuns also taught us to question received teachings. One of the teachings most of my classmates and I questioned was the one saying birth control was a sin.”
She didn’t question lessons on service, and giving back, and social justice, worthy grounding for the future co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Read it all here, and then forward it to everyone you know.
From The Puget Sound Business Journal:
Seattle’s Pride Foundation has been ranked the nation’s No. 1 public and community foundation serving the gay community between 1970 and 2010, according to a report by Funders for LGBTQ Issues.
Pride Foundation awarded more than $22.5 million in the 40-year span the report covered in the report. The organization made more than 1,800 grants supporting LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer) issues and HIV/AIDS prevention.
Pride was ranked No. 7 in the more general category of top 10 grantmakers for the same period, although it should be noted that the category of “anonymous funders” – including many anonymous donors lumped together – ranked first with $90 million in spending.
The Seattle-based Pride Foundation has historically received support from prominent individuals in the business community.
“Ric’s gift was a game changer for us,” said Philip Wong, a spokesman for the foundation. “It had a huge impact.”
In fact, it was the largest single gift ever given to an organization dedicated to gay rights. Weiland had been a Pride board member and longtime volunteer.
The Pride Foundation was ranked ninth for its support of LGBTQ youth, spending $4.5 million between 1970 and 2010.
Founded in 1985, the Pride Foundation serves Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
Pride Foundation’s Executive Director Kris Hermanns told supporters today:
Thank you for being a part of the Pride Foundation family as we work together to envision a world where full equality reaches every corner of the Northwest. Your gifts of time, support, and money have created a legacy of LGBTQ philanthropy that will endure for generations to come. We share our number one title with you.Pride Foundation’s origins are rooted in the community response to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. From our humble beginnings, donors and volunteers have guided Pride Foundation to support local nonprofit projects that are addressing existing and emerging issues that affect the health and well-being of our community. Pride Foundation’s scholarship program has grown into one of the largest LGBTQ-focused scholarship programs in the U.S. Our Shareholder Advocacy program was instrumental in encouraging companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s to add “sexual orientation” to company anti-discrimination policies—and we continue to work with companies to include “gender identity” to those policies.These are all significant achievements that Pride Foundation could not have reached without your support. Though we may never be able to thank you enough, we will try.