British bishops tackle anti-LGBT bullying in Catholic schools | National Catholic Reporter

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in British Catholic schools will likely feel safer this coming academic year, thanks to a new set of guidelines for educators aimed at reducing bullying directed toward sexual minorities. The publication of these guidelines is a milestone in Catholic outreach to the LGBT community because they are the first initiative to counter bullying that has been produced by a Catholic bishops’ conference.

Toward the end of the last school year, the Catholic Education Service of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, in partnership with St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, produced Made in God’s Image: Challenging Homophobic and Biphobic Bullying in Catholic Schools. The 36-page booklet offers a solid Catholic rationale for countering such bullying and, practically, it provides a series of eight lesson plans for discussing respect for lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals with middle school children. (Transgender people are not mentioned in the general sections of the document, bullying against them is mentioned briefly in the lesson plans.)

Source:  National Catholic Reporter

English Bishop’s Apology to LGBT community.

In a joint press conference on the Family Synod with Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton issued an apology to the LGBT community, that this important issue had not been properly addressed. A report at Christian Today includes this:

He (Bishop Doyle) also apologised that the Synod had not had time to deal with the issue of homosexuality. “I’m very sorry for the LGBT good people who were looking to the synod for something. It was really hard for people of same sex attraction. It wasn’t blocked. There was just so much to deal with.”

There are a number of points here that deserve to be highlighted.

This apology is limited in its extent. It is an apology only for the lack of attention to LGBT issues during the synod, not for previous or continuing injustices. There was however at least one such apology during the synod assembly, made during the German speaking small group discussion on part III of the Instrumentum. (There may have been others made in personal interventions, or in private conversations, that have not been publicly disclosed). In the wider Catholic and other Christian communities, this is a growing sentiment. We should expect to see more such apologies in future.

Previously, during the synod itself, Bishop Doyle had criticised the synod for the same point. Yesterday’s apology softened from criticism to a statement of regret, saying that he didn’t believe it was deliberate, but there just wasn’t time. Other bishops disagree. The Belgian Bishop Bonny, an outspoken advocate for LGBT inclusion, complained that in his French group, Cardinal Sarah actively suppressed such discussions. Pressure of time was real, and a partial explanation for the lack of discussion, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that some at least are trying hard to avoid dealing with the subject, possibly because they know that once it is addressed really seriously, the Church will have to make a number of concessions and changes in its practice, and even in doctrine on these matters.  The subject cannot be avoided indefinitely though. A proper review will come, and when it does, there will be changes – just as there have already been in so many other Christian denominations.

It’s also worth noting that his words of apology included both “LGBT”, which like “gay” is a term more usually avoided previously by Catholic bishops, and  “good people“. This echoes a theme spoken of more and more by the bishops, especially those who have actually met directly with us: that our lives, loves and commitment to the Church can be as worthy as those of others. The Catholic catechism speaks of “respect, sensitivity and compassion” for lesbian and gay Catholics, but in the past has too often been mere lip service. From more and more bishops, expressions of “respect” are becoming genuine and sincere.


Equal Marriage: “What Would Thomas More Do?”

In the collective consciousness of English Catholics, the story of Sir Thomas More, martyr and saint, is a seminal figure. Sir Thomas, chancellor to King Henry VIII, was tortured and then executed under the orders of the king, for refusing to compromise his Catholic faith by approving Henry’s proposed divorce. As such, he is the most prominent and best known of the English Catholic martyrs of the persecution that followed, under Henry himself, and later under Elizabeth I (and the residual discrimination against Catholics that still persists in English constitutional law).

As Sir Thomas’ break with the king was over an issue of marriage, there is powerful symbolism behind the Conservative MP Damian Collins’ explanation of why, as a Catholic, he planned to vote for equal marriage – because, he reasons, it is what he believes More would have done:

I will be supporting the Same Sex Marriage Bill because I believe in a society where people have freedom of religious expression, but also one where outside of religion people are equal in the eyes of the law. But as an MP of Roman Catholic faith, I have been drawn to considering over the last few weeks, what Thomas More would have made of this issue.


Saint Thomas More, Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor and a former speaker of the House of Commons is famous for the moral stand he took against his King, even though it cost him his life. It was learning about his example at school which prompted me to choose him as my Confirmation Saint. Thomas More is particularly remembered because he could not in conscience swear an oath recognising the Succession to the Crown Act 1533 which had the effect of annulling one of Henry VIII’s marriages and therefore changing the royal succession. He could not swear the oath because, although he would abide by the Act’s content, he could not in conscience say that he agreed with it. Parliament, he said, had the right to decide matters of marriage, and had the right to require all subjects, including Catholics, to abide by its laws, but it could not have the right to require Catholics in conscience to agree with them. As a result he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and then executed.

Last month press reports of a letter signed by a large number of Catholic clergy who opposed the Same Sex Marriage Bill asserted that if it passed that this could be seen as a return to the persecution that Catholics experienced during the English Reformation, because they would be required to acknowledge equal rights to marriage, against the teaching of the Church. I’m not sure that Thomas More would agree with this, and nor for that matter do I.

The Same Sex Marriage Bill is not seeking to tell the different churches and religions what they should believe, or to restrict them practicing their beliefs as the do now. Churches will not be required to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies if they do not want to. The Catholic Church will remain free to teach that marriage is a sacrament of the Church, it is between a man and a woman, that its purpose is for the procreation of children, and that it is for life. Of course, sadly, many people who are married by the Church are not able to have children, and a great many marriages end in divorce. The law of the State in allowing divorced people to remarry is already against the teaching of the Church, and a form of marriage that the Church would not recognise or perform. So we already have a system of marriage by the churches and the state which are sometimes compatible, and other times not.

continue reading – Damian Collins MP (Con) at Huffington Post.

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Majority of religious Britons support gay marriage, poll shows

Majority of religious Britons back gay marriage, Stonewall poll reveals

YouGov survey for Stonewall flies in the face of Church of England warnings about impact of gay marriage

Despite condemnation by the Church of England today (12 June), a new poll has revealed more than half of religious people in Britain support gay marriage.

The findings by LGBT rights group Stonewall show three in five people of faith support the UK government’s plans to legalize gay marriage in England and Wales, with 71% of Britons saying they back legislation to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples.

The YouGov survey of 2,000 people also revealed four in five of those with a faith believe that it’s right to tackle prejudice against lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

The figures fly in the face of warnings by the Church of England today and fierce opposition from a large anti-gay religious lobby.

Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said: ‘Recently we’ve heard senior clerics distressingly compare marriage for gay people to polygamy, bestiality and child abuse.

‘This polling holes below the waterline the suggestion that they speak for the majority of Britain’s faith communities and vindicates years of campaigning by Stonewall to change public attitudes.’

-full report at Gay Star News

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Rabbi: gay marriage opponents ‘might as well support stoning’

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said that Christians and Jewish people who oppose homosexual relationships on biblical grounds were applying double standards unless they also believed in some of the more obscure commands in the Old Testament.

He told a debate on gay marriage in London that religious texts had to be reinterpreted for new generations meaning, he argued, that same sex couples should be allowed to marry.

– full report at Daily Telegraph

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