The church must reconsider its treatment of LGBT persons, especially those who have been fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientations.
Pope Francis’ challenge to smell like sheep then hovers over the church: How can we effectively proclaim good news, much less be seen as credible, if church leadership refuses to smell like the flock? Can we become so familiar with the LGBT community’s lives, stories, struggles, and triumphs, even endure their flies, namely, the hostility of those who would ostracize them either out of ignorance or hatred?
UK press reports are currently replete with reports and obituaries for Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, who died this week. Inevitably, I’ve been reflecting on my own (indirect) connections with the man.
Before his appointment to Westminster, he was bishop of Arundel & Brighton – which just happens (now) to be my own diocese. That is personal to a degree, even though this was before I moved into the area. My partner though has been here a lot longer, and from him I have heard stories of Bishop O’Connors local actions (and inaction).
As one example of how Pope Francis’ emphasis in Amoris Laetitia on “accompanying” gay and lesbian Catholics, together with his example of a more sensitive tone in pastoral care, comes news of a new initiative from Bishop Terence Drainey in Middlesbrough diocese. This is described in an article in the diocesan newspaper, Middlesbrough Catholic Voice, written by Fr Tony Lester, O.Carm.
Fr Lester was well known to London lesbian and gay Catholics of what were the Soho Masses, as a firm supporter of the congregation, and from time to time was a celebrant at our Masses when he could get down from his regular work in York.
In his article, Fr Lester notes that this is a direct response to Pope Francis’ lead during the Year of Mercy and his writing in “The Joy of the Gospel”
Each year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops releases a statement for Labor Day. The bishops’ statement is strong this year, emanating from Pope Francis’ own strong calls for economic justice.This year’s statement is particularly strong in its defense of workers, migrants, and people of color.
But if the bishops’ statement also addressed the unjust firings of LGBT church workers (more than 60 of which have had their cases made public in the last decade), their claims would be even stronger. In today’s post, I highlight two sections of the Labor Day statement that are most relevant for LGBT church workers and the institutional church.
Catholic organizations have a particular responsibility to respect them, particularly by honoring their own gay staff members and clients. The credibility of Catholic organizations as Christian and as humane is at stake.
Debates about social issues tend to bring out blanket statements, sweeping claims, dire threats and feverish reporting. They usually carry historical baggage that needs to be unpacked and the contents tested against contemporary reality. This is true also of the coming plebiscite on gay marriage [in Australia: Editor].
A threat reportedly made, and later denied, by some church leaders was to dismiss from employment in Catholic organizations people who contract same-sex marriages. Regardless of what was said the threat will be featured in the coming debates. It may be helpful to set it in its broader contex
A new book, Pope Francis has spoken out on a variety of topics from his personal development to many issues facing church and state. Not surprisingly, LGBT topics were mentioned, and not surprisingly, the pope’s statements are a mixed bag.
The book, entitled Politics and Society, is a series of 12 conversations between the pope and Dominique Wolton, a French sociologist. Cruxcarried a string of excerpts from the book on his visits to a psychoanalyst, the role of the laity, colonial exploitation, and, of course, same-gender marriage and gender identity. On the last topic, the excerpt reads:
“Marriage between people of the same sex? ‘Marriage’ is a historical word. Always in humanity, and not only within the Church, it’s between a man and a woman… we cannot change that. This is the nature of things. This is how they are. Let’s call them ‘civil unions.’ Lets not play with the truth. It’s true that behind it there is a gender ideology. In books also, children are learning that they can choose their own sex. Why is sex, being a woman or a man, a choice and not a fact of nature? This favors this mistake. But let’s say things as they are: Marriage is between a man and a woman. This is the precise term. Lets call unions between the same sex ‘civil unions’.”
Evangelical leaders in the U.S. released “The Nashville Statement” earlier this week to make clear their opposition to LGBT equality. A prominent Catholic priest has responded by affirming the goodness of LGBT people. The contrast between these two statements reveals just how far Catholic LGBT issues have come.
“The Nashville Statement,” drafted by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, issues a series of affirmations and denials about sexuality. These include rejecting marriage equality and denying that “adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.”
Frank Bruni, a columnist for The New York Times offered an interesting observation in an essay entitled “The Worst (and Best) Places to Be Gay in America” that was published in last Sunday’s edition. Noting the fact that equality for LGBT people varies widely across the vast and diverse 50 states of the U.S.A., Bruni notes:
“There’s no such thing as L.G.B.T. life in America, a country even more divided on this front than on others. There’s L.G.B.T. life in a group of essentially progressive places like New York, Maryland, Oregon and California, which bans government-funded travel to states it deems unduly discriminatory. Then there is L.G.B.T. life on that blacklist, which includes Texas, Kansas, Mississippi and South Dakota.
How does this relate to the world of Catholic LGBT issues? I think Bruni’s analysis of the political sphere very accurately reflects the ecclesial sphere, as well. In other words, I think that Catholic LGBT people are more affected by local church attitudes and practices concerning sexual orientation and gender identity than they are by the same influences that are expressed or enacted by higher levels in the Church. In other words, what matters most for LGBT Catholics is not what the hierarchy says or does but what their local pastor and parishioners say or do.
It has been two years since marriage equality became the law of the land in the U.S., but it has been twenty years since an LGBT Catholic organization here in the U.S. issued their own guidelines for same-sex marriage, way ahead of the general population.
In August 1997, The Washington Blade,the LGBT weekly newspaper of the District of Columbia metropolitan area, wrote an article about DignityUSA releasing a new set of guidelines for lesbian and gay couples preparing for a marriage ritual referred to as a Holy Union (which at the time would not have been a legally binding ceremony). The news article explains:
“At its national convention last week, Dignity released its guidelines for the holy union of same-sex couples. The guidelines, which also include a registry of couples that have joined in a ho9ly union, stemmed from a two-year research effort.”
As the struggles for same-sex marriage were rolling out across the United States, a steady stream of opinion polls showed that despite the outspoken opposition from some Catholic bishops, ordinary Catholics were in fact in favour marriage equality – and to a greater degree than other Christian denominations. In other countries there were far fewer polls, but those that there were tended to show the same pattern, for example in the United Kingdom and in Argentina.
It comes as no surprise then, that the same pattern is shown in polling from Australia ahead of the pending postal plebiscite, where 58% of all “people of faith” were found to support equality. Somewhat more than that, two thirds, of Catholics were in favour.
A MAJORITY of Catholics, Christians and other religious people support gay marriage and will likely vote for it in the postal survey, according to a new poll.
The research shows 58 per cent of people of faith back the “yes” campaign, compared with 79 per cent of non-religious Australians.
Catholics and non-Christians were more likely to support same-sex marriage, with two thirds of both of those groups saying they were in favour.
The polling, commissioned by the Equality Campaign, was conducted last week by Jim Reed of Newgate Research who surveyed 1000 people online, Fairfax reports.
Same-sex marriage supporters rally in Sydney. Picture: AFP/Peter ParksSource:AFP