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.
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.”
Following national attention and a vocal social media campaign, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens granted a stay of execution hours before death row inmate Marcellus Williams was to be executed on Aug. 22.
In response to Williams’ clemency case, Greitens issued the stay of execution in order to appoint a Gubernatorial Board of Inquiry to look into Williams’ claims of innocence. The five-member board will “consider all evidence presented to the jury, in addition to newly discovered DNA evidence, and any other relevant evidence not available to the jury.”
Whether named Gay-Straight Alliance, Inclusivity Club, or something else, Catholic schools in Ontario now allow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) acceptance student groups because they have to, but many districts are proactively supporting gay-straight alliances, and many students find their school to be a much more empathetic place.
“A lot of people do get the impression of oh, gay club, and they’re like, oh I can’t go because I’m not gay. And it’s like, well, no, that’s the reason it’s ‘gay-straight alliance,’ ” said Katie Butler, a 12th grade student at St. Anne’s Catholic School in the Windsor-Essex district. “It’s a safe space where you can go and talk about things. Where you know you’re going to be accepted in that area. It’s very educational, I’d say.”
Young Americans increasingly favor adoption rights for gays and lesbians, with three-quarters of females and two-thirds of males now voicing support, according to a new government report.
These statistics from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics reflect a steady rise from 2002, and a significant shift in attitudes across the nation among people 15 to 44 years old.
The report doesn’t explore the reasons for this change. But one gay dad who studies sexuality believes familiarity with gays and lesbians has fostered growingacceptance of gay families.
“We have more visibility, and more people see us as individuals who live nearby, which contributes to more favorable attitudes,” said Sean Massey, an associate professor of women, gender & sexuality studies at Binghamton University in New York. Massey and his husband adopted a son, now 13, in 2002.
The report, released March 17, is based on ongoing surveys about U.S. attitudes regarding marriage, childbearing and sex. About 45,000 people aged 15 to 44 were questioned in 2002, 2006-2010 and 2011-2013.
Nearly 40,000 people attend the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress each year, and this year two transgender Catholics were among those attending after being invited to share their stories. Cruxreported:
“. . . [E]vent organizers this year took a cue from popular culture and included a new session, one that attracted a standing room only crowd of 750 people, nearly all of whom jumped to their feet for a sustained round of applause after talks from two young, committed Catholics.”
The two Catholics who spoke during the workshop, titled “Transgender in the Church: One Bread, One Body,” were Matteo Williamson and Anna Patti.
Marriage equality’s legalization in the United States last year has prompted an anti-LGBT backlash at state and local levels. Bills ostensibly defending religious liberty allow legal discrimination for opponents of equality. Conversely, ordinances to expand non-discrimination protections for LGBT people face strong religious opposition. Where are Catholics amid these debates?
New polling from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows 73% of U.S. Catholics support LGBT nondiscrimination protections, two points higher than the 71% U.S. average. 61% of Catholics oppose allowing business owners to deny service to LGBT people. Even those opposed to marriage equality are far more approving of non-discrimination protections,according to PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones.
The choir sings during Sacred Heart Catholic Church’s “Mass of Belonging,” held at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. LANCE ROTHSTEIN/STAFF
TAMPA — Frank Sammartino and Don Sullivan said they did not feel welcome at Catholic churches in New Jersey.
At first, the men, both 72, said they didn’t feel wanted at several churches after moving to Tampa. That changed in 2006, they said, when they first attended Sacred Heart Catholic Church on North Florida Avenue.
On Sunday, Sammartino and Sullivan were two of hundreds of parishioners who attended Sacred Heart’s “Mass of Belonging,” held at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.
The event was held several days after the conclusion of Pope Francis’ widely-covered first visit to the United States.
A gay couple who have been together 45 years, Sammartino and Sullivan said they were grateful to have been accepted at Sacred Heart.
“By the time we reached here, I had just about fallen away from the Catholic Church,” Sullivan said. “I couldn’t find a parish where I felt I belonged.”
“From Day One, they opened their doors up to everybody,” he said.