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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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

A Thirst For Justice

This was my reflection at the Bozeman Unitarian Universalist Fellowship this morning for their “LGBT Voices” service.

U.S Postage Stamp, 1957

U.S Postage Stamp, 1957 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up in the 70’s. A Roman Catholic. Back then, the emphasis was less on “Roman” and more on “Catholic”. Catholic as you might know means “Universal”.

My religious training as a kid was very ecumenical, non-dogmatic, fresh on the heels of Pope John’s Vatican Council- designed to open the windows and doors of the church for some fresh air- and as such, there was a heavy emphasis on social justice and the dignity of the human person. I had wonderful teachers, nuns, priests, parents, and peers- and we all believed steadfastly in this principle probably first espoused by Confucius:

“Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.”

This, it seems, is one of the crowning principles of justice.

“Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself”

And I loved it- I still do. It guides my life even today.

But what I wished for myself was peace- and it was jeopardized, in some part, by the dogmatic underpinnings of shame in the faith that taught me those strong tenets of social justice. Something wasn’t quite right- and it took me decades to reconcile it. I was born, some have said, “disordered”. Simply because of something that flowed from the depths of my being, from my heart: I wanted to fall in love with another man.

Words like “disordered” or “unnatural” get thrown around a lot by people who really aren’t willing to try and understand. They may find it more comfortable to sit in judgment, without trying to sit in empathy or compassion. Possibly because they lack the imagination to believe that God could truly surprise the world.

But seriously, if that’s not something God would do, there’s not much point in being God, is there?

But there it is. This is who I am.

And I’m not alone. There are millions of people, like myself who are born out of the course of “normal”. For some it’s sexuality, for some it’s different senses of beauty or reason or silence or vision. It’s all the same.

I realized that sense of justice that I was born with, that sense of “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself” must be followed by that which is like it “Do not take away from others what you do not wish to take away from yourself.”

LGBT persons must not be oppressed- we must be included, we must be loved- not only in spirit, but in person. For me, this is peace. This is justice.

And keeping me and my sisters and brothers and friends from achieving the same level of happiness as they enjoy is unjust. It’s unfair, and it’s spiteful.

This is the civil rights issue of our day. This is the moral rights issue of our day. And I’m not just talking about churches and theology here. As one nun I know and love reminded me recently “freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.” I don’t have the right to force my religious beliefs on anyone, but conversely, no one has the right to force theirs on me. Which seems to happen a lot sometimes- the forcing of belief on others. I have freedom of religion, so I’m going to use it, not abuse it.

My religion is based on love.

And justice.

Right now, in Montana, there is a campaign to have fairness for all couples- regardless of sexuality. It represents everything I believe: that I deserve the same protections as my parents had. It’s called the Fair is Fair Campaign– and I have enough bumper stickers for every car in the parking lot….

I left Montana for 10 years, but I promised myself when I moved back, that I would not hide who I am, that I would “suffer the slings and arrows” if it meant that a kid who grew up here would have a better life than I did. Because there’s nothing shameful about being who you were created to be.

Nothing.

And, because love is always optimistic, I hope and I trust that just maybe, someday, sooner than later, we’ll all believe that.

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

Matthew Shepard’s Legacy Of Passion For Human Rights

From Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation- republished from their website

(Today) will mark 14 years since the day we lost Matt Shepard. I know from the conversations I’ve had with many of you that those terrible days in October 1998 echo in your memories: where you were, how it felt, the fears, the outrage and the questions you were left with.

Why does hatred still stalk our community, you have asked. Why can’t we be left in peace to be who we are? Is it ever going to change?

We have wrestled with those questions for all these years, too. Matt’s mother and father continue to try to answer them as best they can as they travel the country, and now more of the world to speak to LGBT community members and even more importantly, their allies.

Hatred is powerful, and learned. Hatred is not reasonable, and people can seldom be reasoned out of beliefs they weren’t reasoned into in the first place. But social forces can work against hatred just as they have worked in its favor for centuries. And so that’s where we at the Foundation have felt our shoulder fits best to the wheel: creating social momentum that pushes hatred aside in favor of understanding, compassion and acceptance.

Matt means a great deal as a memory, a lesson and a tragedy to millions of people. To a relative handful of us, he means those things too, but also a person missing from our daily lives as a son, or a friend, or a classmate, or a fellow activist.

Some of you have heard my story of how I met Matt at a little birthday party in Casper, Wyoming, a long time ago now all of a sudden. He recognized me as a reporter for the local paper and gave me an earful (I have since learned he enjoyed that) about how we weren’t covering the human rights crisis unfolding in Afghanistan.

Sure, it was a small paper, but surely, Matt argued, we had a responsibility to inform people what the wire services were reporting on the Taliban and its cruel rollbacks of freedom and dignity for women in that largely ignored country.

It was around 1997 or 1998 and Americans weren’t thinking about Afghanistan or the Taliban much then. But in a country where girls could once attend school and women had at least a sliver of individual autonomy, a severe religious law backed by deadly force was eroding that progress on human rights. And Matt was outraged by it.

Our friendship was short because of his senseless murder. But I came to know that concern about human rights, and especially those of women in the developing world, was something that really disturbed Matt and made him itch to do something about it. And we all now know he was wise to worry about the danger the world could face from the zeal and hatred at the heart of these abuses.

When this week rolls around every year, people all over the world remember Matt and the wrong that was done to him out of anti-gay hatred. We look hopefully at improvements in gay rights and the culture of our country and sense at least a grim appreciation for the power this movement has gained to improve our lot.

A few of us also think about Matt the person and what the world lost with the removal from our midst of someone so passionate about human rights and social change and wonder what he might have been able to contribute.

This week I have watched the tragedy and outrage about a senseless crime of hate swell and boil over in Pakistan and cannot help but think of Matt.

Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai is someone that I just know Matt would have thought was boundlessly promising and wonderful. She has been famously outspoken against militants’ attacks on the right of girls to go to school.  She blogged about her classmates’ anxieties, and talked about setting up her own school. She won a national peace prize from the prime minister. This is the change Matt wanted for women in her part of the world.

She was cruelly targeted with death on a school bus in Mingora, where the Taliban has stubbornly struggled to project its power at all costs. A gunman asked for her by name and shot her. She’d already been named on a hit list.

At this writing Malala still clings to life, and disgust at this violent effort to snuff out a powerful voice is spreading across the country and the world. We are praying for her and for her country. I hope you will too.

This is what Matt was worried about. This is what happened when Matt was killed. We are the ones left to do the hard work that makes this world a place where this doesn’t have to keep happening. We have to be up to the challenge every day because the hatred clocks in every day as well.

We at the Foundation have a role to play because of all of you who have supported our work with your encouragement, your individual voices, and yes, your donations. We thank you for all you have done to Erase Hate. And if you are in a position to provide additional support for our work, please do so today as we begin another year of remembering Matt and safeguarding his legacy.

Yours truly,

Jason Marsden
Executive Director