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.
The 14-article Nashville Statement is a manifesto that clarified mainstream Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, as endorsed by over 150 interdenominational Christian leaders at a Southern Baptist Convention conference on Aug. 25.
The counter-manifesto, however, promotes homosexuality and transgender lifestyles as “fully blessed by God” and “without a need to conform to the heteronormative, patriarchal, binary sexuality and gender paradigm that Christianity has come to promote and embrace.”(Related: Nashville Mayor Condemns Christian Stance On Marriage)
A perspective on the Nashville Statement, from Integrity USA (the LGBT Episcopal group)
In Nashville in October of 2014, I joined about fifteen LGBTQ people who were invited to a closed-door, off-the-record conversation with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. I was disappointed, this week, to recognize the names of many from that meeting on the list of anti-LGBTQ evangelical leaders who drafted the “Nashville Statement,” a comprehensive fundamentalist Christian manifesto on sexuality and gender.
That 2014 meeting went late into the night, and the discussion was intense. What I remember most clearly were the pleas and tears of some of these men in attendance (all of them were men) begging us to understand that they didn’t hate LGBTQ people––saying how much it hurt them to have people call them “bigots” and “homophobes.”
We ended the evening having all promised more kindness, more listening, more respect, and more dialogue, and I, perhaps naively, hoped both sides were sincerely committed to those goals moving forward.
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.
The Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry (RCIA), a coalition of LGBTI affirming Catholic groups and pastoral organizers, this past week released a statement of concern about harsh messages that have begun appearing in the lead up to the nation’s non-binding plebiscite on marriage equality this fall.
On last Thursday, Bondings 2.0 reported on a neo-Nazi poster bearing hate speech that appeared in Melbourne. The poster cited a Catholic priest’s discredited research that claims children with same-gender parents suffer disproportionately higher rates of abuse and addiction than those raised by heterosexual parents.
We also reported on Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart’s threat that he would fire church workers who entered civil same-gender marriages should that become a legal option. Archbishop Timothy Costelloe has since clarified those remarks, though not before a major Catholic healthcare provider released a statement affirming its LGBT employees.
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.”
It seems the center of Catholic LGBT news right now is Australia, where a non-binding plebiscite over marriage equality has ignited an intense debate in which Catholics are heavily involved.
Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 reported that Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart had threatened to fire church workers who entered same-gender civil marriages, should marriage equality be legalized in the future. Now, a fellow archbishop has clarified the archbishop’s comments.
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission, claimed Archbishop Hart’s comments had been misreported. Costelloe said individual bishops would decide how to handle such cases should marriage equality become legal. He continued, according to The Christian Post:
“Normally such issues would be addressed, in the first instance, in discussions between the staff member concerned and the local leadership of the school. The aim would be to discover a way forward for the school and the staff member that preserves the Catholic ethos of the school.”