Category Archives: News

Faith in Solidarity: European Forum 2017 in Gdansk.

Many people of a certain age will recall the central role of Gdansk in the story of Polish resistance to communist rule.  As the  birthplace of the Solidarity movement and the base of its leader, Lech Walesa, it filled our television news screens often enough throughout the 1980’s. As a gay Catholic, I am struck by the powerful symbolism of choosing this city for a  conference of LGBT Christians.

Hammering the message home, is the formal theme for the 2017 conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, is the formal theme for the conference: “Faith in Solidarity”. Further reinforcing it, is the prominent part in the program of the use as a secondary venue for the conference, the European Centre for Solidarity just a few blocks from the hotel which is the main venue. For one evening, we were at the venue for a screening of a documentary film about the life of a transwoman who had been a leading figure in the original solidarity movement, followed by and interview with the woman herself. Later in the week, there will be public workshops and a panel discussion in the centre, followed by  optional formal guided tours of the centre.

“Solidarity” here is used in two quite different contexts. The primary use, is a reference to the English translation of the Polish trade union and democracy movement “Solidarność“. A subsidiary meaning, is that the centre was built by the Europeans, “in solidarity” with Poland and their struggle for democracy – and as a wider symbol of the solidarity of all Europeans in a common cause. It is in that sense that the European Forum choice of Gdansk as the venue for conference 2017, is particularly apposite. The Forum as a whole, and in particular the well-established groups from Western Europe where LGBT inclusion and equality are becoming well-established in law and in social custom, are here to demonstrate our solidarity with our LGBT colleagues in Poland – and others in similarly difficult conditions elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

That sentiment of solidarity will be given concrete expression later today, 27th May 2017, when delegates to  the European Forum conference will join with the secular LGBT rights group “Tolerado” and other LGBT activists, for Gdansk’s annual “Tri-City March of Equality”.

Gay Marriage Comes to Taiwan

It’s been widely expected, and now it’s confirmed by the BBC: same-sex marriage is coming to Taiwan. Note though that this is “same-sex” marriage, and not necessarily full marriage equality. The court ruling has given the parliament two years to legislate for marriage between same-sex couples, but it’s possible that such legislation could provide only for marriage, but not for any of the contingent rights that normally come with heterosexual couples. It could also take two years or more, for this decision to take full effect. There will not be gay wedding bells in Taipei, just yet.

This is the first Asian country to approve gay marriage, in any form – but it won’t be the last. We now have same-sex marriage approved, at least in principle, on every continent. That surely deserves

Taiwan’s top judges have ruled in favour of gay marriage, paving the way for it to become the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex unions.

The highest court ruled that current laws preventing members of the same sex from marrying violated their right to equality and were unconstitutional.

It gave parliament two years to amend existing laws or pass new ones.

Wednesday’s landmark decision came as the LGBT community faces increasing persecution in the region.

In a press release following the ruling, the court said that “disallowing two persons of the same sex to marry, for the sake of safeguarding basic ethical orders” constituted a “different treatment” with “no rational basis.”

The court concluded that “such different treatment is incompatible with the spirit and meaning of the right to equality” as protected by Taiwan’s constitution.

More at: BBC News

Year of Mercy Mass for LGBT Catholics – Nottingham

We have written before of Quest’s new emphasis on engagement and advocacy work with British bishops. One of the visible fruits of this is a forthcoming Mass for LGBT Catholics, to be held in St Barnabas’ Cathedral, Nottingham.

nottingham-lgbt-massEarlier this year, Ruby Almeida as Quest chair, accompanied by Claire Jenkins of the East Midlands regional group, met with Bishop McKinney. Later, Claire and other members of East Midlands had further meetings with the bishops, culminating in agreement on the forthcoming Mass, as described in the poster pictured above.  We hope that Quest members, their family and friends from East Midlands and other regions, wlll support this notable Mass.

In Nottingham diocese, we hope furthermore that this initiative will lead to further engagement with the diocese, and additional pastoral outreach to LGBT Catholics in the years ahead. Beyond Nottingham, engagement and advocacy with Catholic bishops and other groups will continue.

 

3 LGBT Groups Invited to Major German Catholic Gathering.

In Germany today, Catholics gathered in Leipzig for the start of a three-day major event, the “Catholic Conference Day”, which has been held every two years since 1848 (except for an interruption during the National Socialist period). With over 1000 different exhibitions and events, some 30 000 visitors are expected. Organized by the Central Committee of German Catholics, the event is so important and influential, that in attendance are not only the leading members of the German Catholic Church, but also senior politicians.

(Image from Kreuz und Queer, an lgbt blog at the Evangelisch church website, http://www.evangelisch.de/blogs/kreuz-und-queer)

For the Church, the President of the German Catholic Bishops Conference Cardinal Reinhard Marx, is taking part, and also Cardinal Karl Lehmann,  the lgbt supportive Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, and other notable prelates. Pope Francis sent a pre-recorded message for delivery to the assembly.

For the state, the German President delivered the opening day keynote address, while a cabinet minister, a state  premier, and others from all major parties (except one) were also present.

Prominently in attendance, present by direct and explicit invitation to promote lgbt inclusion in church, are three countrywide LGBT advocacy groups: Netzwerk katholischer Lesben (the Catholic Lesbian Network), Arbeitsgruppe Homosexuelle und Kirche (HuK) (Workgroup Homosexuals and Church), and Initiative Kirche von unten, a progressive grass-roots organization that actively advocates for LGBT inclusion. Continue reading 3 LGBT Groups Invited to Major German Catholic Gathering.

“New Ways” Welcomes Trans Employment at Catholic School

Catholic teaching is unequivocal on lesbian and gay Catholics is clear: they should be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”, and should be protected from unjust discrimination, and from any form of malice or violence Teaching on transgender people is not explicitly spelled out, but the same principles apply. In matters of employment, protection from discrimination and injustice is further entrenched in a series of solidly magisterial social justice encyclicals. In spite of that, recent years have seen an alarming number of reports of lgbt Catholics who have lost employment, excluded from ministry, or suffered other forms of discrimination, on the basis of their orientation or gender identity.

On the other hand, we should always remember that the stories that make the news, do so precisely because they are unusual. There are many more examples of people who do not suffer discrimination, and are fully accepted in their parishes, or places of Catholic employment – but because their situations are so ordinary, they are just not reported.

Occasionally, there are exceptions.  One such is the example of a school in San Francisco, where the Mercy Sisters have written to parents of their decision to continue employment of a transgender man. This decision has been welcomed by New Ways Ministry as “Gospel based”. So it is – and also solidly based in authentic Catholic doctrine.

Francis DeBenardo, executive director of New Ways, writes in a press statement:

Catholic Ministry Thanks Mercy Sisters For Equal Employment of Transgender Teacher

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– New Ways Ministry congratulates and thanks the Sisters of Mercy and the administrators of Mercy H.S., San Francisco, for their Gospel-based decision to continue employment of one of their teachers who identifies as a transgender man. This decision stands as a beacon of hope in the midst of the terrible darkness of the recent trend of firing LGBT employees from Catholic institutions. The decision was announced in a letter to parents of students, which, after describing the teacher’s situation, stated:

“This afternoon, we informed students, faculty and staff about our resolve to support the dignity of each person—regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identification.”

We applaud, too, the courage of English Department chair and teacher Gabriel Stein-Bodenheimer for honoring his gender identity, as well to his commitment to educate students in the Mercy tradition. His personal example will be a most powerful lesson to all in the school’s community, especially because his decision involved a large degree of risk.
This story reflects a true Catholic commitment to respecting the dignity of LGBT people—a principle which is shared by millions of Catholics across the U.S. The experience of this school will help our Church to heal from the pain of too many past negative decisions regarding LGBT people. Our Catholic Church will only be strengthened by this decision.
The Sisters of Mercy offer a courageous example of inclusion and equality that could be replicated by so many other Catholic schools, parishes, and social service agencies when they learn of an employee’s gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status. This example can be a turning point in what has been a dark chapter of the U.S. Catholic Church, when over 60 faithful employees have lost their church jobs because of LGBT issues.
Their process included wide consultation, reflection, and prayer. As the letter described:

“. . . we collaborated with the Board Chair Diane Lawrence and a team of key administrators while we studied how to respond in a manner consistent with Mercy and Gospel values and your School’s Catholic Identity. We prayed for guidance. We also consulted trusted advisors as we applied these principles to this circumstance.”

Furthermore, the Sisters showed their commitment to caring for the entire school community by having counselors available for anyone–student, parent, staff–to discuss their questions and concerns.
The Sisters of Mercy grounded their decision in the principles of Mercy which form the charism of their community. These same principles of mercy are promoted by Pope Francis, particularly in this year which he declared as a Jubilee of Mercy. Pope Francis’ message of acceptance and encounter with the LGBT community have been given flesh and blood by the Sisters’ decision to continue the teacher’s employment.
New Ways Ministry calls on other Catholic religious communities of Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters–and indeed, all Catholic administrators—to rejoice in the Sisters of Mercy’s example, and to honor it by following it as a way to end employment discrimination against LGBT church employees.

Italian Bishops’ (de facto) Acceptance of Civil Unions.

For years, Italy has been a major, conspicuous anomaly on the Wikipedia map of same-sex unions in Europe: the only country of Western Europe to have neither same-sex marriage, nor any other legal recognition for same-sex couples. Up to now, this has come about with the implacable opposition of the Italian bishops to any form of legal recognition.

With the passage this week of a civil unions bill in the Italian senate, by a comfortable majority, that’s about to change. More remarkably, this has come about with the de facto acquiescence of the Italian bishops. This is a truly remarkable turnaround, in just a few years!

Screenshot 2016-02-27 at 09.38.36 - Edited

Continue reading Italian Bishops’ (de facto) Acceptance of Civil Unions.

Anglican Gay Priest Elected to General Synod Senior Post

An openly gay Anglican priest has been elected to an influential post in the church’s General Synod.

CanonSimonB

Canon Simon Butler was in the news last February, when he came out as openly gay and not celibate, during a debate at the Anglican General Synod on the Pilling Report on human sexuality, proclaiming publicly  Continue reading Anglican Gay Priest Elected to General Synod Senior Post

Charamsa, on His Future

Continuing with my free translation of gay theologian Monsignor Charamsa’s interview in Religion Digital.

Msgr Krzysztof Charamsa
Msgr Krzysztof Charamsa

Will you remain a priest, will you ask for secularization or will they impose a penalty?

I am and I remain a priest. I’m a better priest than I was before today. Conversely, it is I who will ask Church to open  eyes.

Do you plan to write a book about his experiences in the Vatican?

Yes, I believe it my duty to further explain my experience in the Church, and do it for the good of the Church itself, which must become and apologize for their institutional scandals, for its delays, its irrational paranoia of homophobia. Anyone who sees and experiences it has a duty to awaken the Church, which has already exceeded all tolerable limit.

If the pope asked you personally, would you leave your partner and return to the Vatican?

No, I would not leave my partner because I love him and because there is no doctrinal reason to. For a priest having a partner, whether male or female,  is not against the faith, it is not against the doctrine of our faith. Conversely, it is the Church and the Pope who should start thinking seriously about the inhuman discipline of mandatory celibacy and the Church’s  obsession with homosexuality and human sexuality in general.

Go back to the Vatican? No, never. I would be a masochist, a person who seeks suffering and offennds against their own identity. I’m not a masochist. The Vatican is one of the least holy places I’ve ever met in my life. I want to live happy, I want to be holy, what it means to be happy and live in the light of God and the dignity of man. In the Vatican most people are not happy. It is a place that needs a spiritual and mental conversion. It needs the air of God. air that is lacking there.

See also the full series:

Senior Gay Priest Coming Out: New Ways Ministry Responds

“Gay Priest’s Revelation Is an Important Step  for Himself and for the Catholic Church”

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland—Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa’s announcement of his gay sexual orientation is an important step for him personally and an important step for the Catholic Church.  This Vatican official, who worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, exhibited courage and honesty in making his orientation public.

His revelation is an acknowledgement of the truth of the way God has made him, and, like millions of other LGBT Catholics, his self-acceptance and self-affirmation will help him better understand God’s love for him. For the Catholic Church, his news is another step in our growing process of coming to better terms with our LGBT brothers and sisters.

It is sadly disappointing that the Vatican fired him when they learned of his announcement.  He now joins the long list of LGBT people and allies who have been fired from jobs in Catholic institutions because of LGBT issues.  It is unfortunate that Church leaders did not see Charamsa’s announcement as an opportunity for further dialogue with someone they have known and trusted.

We hope that his news will help the bishops of the world gathering in Rome this weekend for three weeks of synod discussions which will include pastoral outreach to families with LGBT members.  His witness to the holiness of the lives of LGBT people and the goodness of their relational lives could help these church leaders discern more appropriate and accepting forms of pastoral care.   His testimony of struggle and overcoming fear should help these bishops see the challenges and joys that many LGBT people and their families face.’

The decision to come out is a highly personal one, and one which only the individual can make.  Only the individual can decide when it is safe and responsible to do so, taking into account the possible negative repercussions that can occur in terms of employment, housing, and relationships.  Only the individual can decide when the pressures of the closet have become too difficult for their emotional and spiritual lives. New Ways Ministry continues to support all LGBT people–including priests, nuns, brothers, deacons, bishops–as they discern when is the appropriate time for them to make such a revelation about themselves.

 

Queer Church News Digest – Wednesday 23rd September

Canadian Anglicans Present Biblical, Theological Case for Same – Sex Marriage. | Queering the Church

Homophobia, Pope Francis, and Pastorial Ministry | Rainbow Sash Movement

Five Things To Watch For During Pope Francis’s U.S. Visit / Queerty

Canadian Anglicans make theological case for marrying same-sex couples | Ekklesia

An Open Letter to Pope Francis | Gina Messina-Dysert

A gay dad tells the Pope what he would learn if he had dinner with his family | Gay Star News

Pope gives hope to gay Catholics, same-sex marriage supporters

Difficult Questions for Explicitly “Christian” Colleges Over Marriage:

Iglesia Descalza: WOW 2015: What it was…and what it wasn’t

/Pope Francis and the Catholic Church Outsiders – US News

Pope Francis: US Catholics Committed to Tolerance, Opposed to Discrimination| National Catholic Reporter

(Irish) Gay Marriage Bill To Be Introduced In Dail Today – 98FM

How 6 LGBT Catholics Kept Their Faith — Despite Being Shunned By The Church

Pope Francis to meet Catholic teacher Margie Winters fired over her gay marriage | Daily Mail Online

Row as ministers refuse civil partnerships to straight couples (From Herald Scotland)

Catholic Church ‘out of touch’ on marriage and families, say English Catholics | Christian Today

Bigoted, misogynistic, and controlling – scathing critique of Catholic Church by its own members

The Church Is Changing. Are You Ready? (from “Freed Hearts”)

Pope Francis: “I Would Love to Visit and Talk to Gay and Lesbian People” | Bondings 2.0

Unearthing The Surprising Religious History Of American Gay Rights Activism