Category Archives: News

A Bishop’s Pastoral Sanity on Gay Marriage Vote

In Australia, the postal vote plebiscite on marriage equality has become nasty, with numerous reports of an increase in homophobic violence. Conversely, those on the other side complain of an increase in anti-Christian hostility.

It is pleasing therefore, to note that at least one Australian bishop has introduced some pastoral sanity, in a letter to his diocese (Paramatta, in West Sydney). In it, he calls for “respect”, from both sides. That is basic to Catholic teaching (but sadly, too often ignored), and is at the heart of James Martin’s celebrated book on the church and LGBT Catholics. Bishop Long goes further, however, making a key point that is usually overlooked in these discussions: there is a fundamental distinction between civil marriage, the subject of the plebiscite, and sacramental marriage – matrimony .

Just as the introduction of legal divorce made no difference to Catholic Church practice, the proposed introduction of same-sex marriage in civil law, will not make any difference to the Catholic sacrament of matrimony.

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Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv.

I appeal to all Catholics in the Diocese of Parramatta to conduct this dialogue with a deep sense of respect for all concerned, and for the opinion and decision that each person is free to make.

It is important to remember from the very outset that the postal survey is about whether or not Australians want the legal definition of civil marriage changed to include same-sex couples. It is not a referendum on sacramental marriage as understood by the Catholic Church.

Source: Catholic Outlook







Continue reading A Bishop’s Pastoral Sanity on Gay Marriage Vote

LGBT Christians’ Annual Conference, Pride parade in Gdansk, Poland.

European Forum at Gdansk Equality March, 2017

Over several  days at the end of May, LGBT Christians from across Europe gathered in Gdansk, Poland for the 36th Annual Conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups. “Forwards in Solidarity” was the theme and Free People in Free Countries was the challenge and call.

The European Forum includes over 50 groups, with some 140 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and other participants from 21 European countries present at the 2017 Conference. These included people from Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical, Reformed and Orthodox traditions. Observers attended from ENORB (European Network on Religion & Belief), GIN (Global Interfaith Network), and ILGA (International Lesbian & Gay Association).

In a European social context of increasing fragmentation, nationalistic and conservative political developments, the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups takes a prophetic stance in the face of oppression and discrimination within and beyond church structures. Gathering in the birthplace of the Solidarność trade union movement, was another powerfully prophetic sign.

Pointing to the 2016 campaign “Let’s give each other a Sign of Peace”, mounted by the Polish Christian network, Faith & Rainbow (Wiara i Tęcza) along with the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), the Forum’s Co-President, Wielie Elhorst said:

Posters with two hands reaching for each other, one with a rainbow bracelet, the other with rosary beads, were spread throughout the country … It was a courageous effort to make clear to the people of Poland that they need to take further steps in solidarity, to work for a society that is truly inclusive and that gives all the opportunity to participate in equality in all domains of life, to adopt laws that protect and support people to freely follow their sexual orientation and their own gender identity, without fear. How can a hand that is offered as a Sign of Peace be rejected, especially by the representatives of the churches? Rejecting the hand that is offered in Peace is rejecting people’s humanity, rejecting them as your neighbour.

The Conference included powerful testimonies from former Solidarity activist and, trans Orthodox believer, Ms. Ewa Hołuszko, and Krzysztof Charamsa, Catholic priest, previously Assistant Secretary to the International Theological Commission of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who ”came out” as gay and partnered in October 2015. Ms. Hołuszko spoke of the centrality of her faith both in her political struggles and her ”erasure” from Polish social prominence, following her transition. Charamsa called for a Stonewall revolution of LGBTQI visibility within Catholic Church structures.

The Conference culminated with participants joining Gdansk’s largest ever Pride Parade on, 27 May, attended by over 5,000 people, and launched for the first time by the Mayor of Gdansk. Neo-fascists picketed the Parade but were held back by a massive protective police presence, preventing violence.

EU Christians at Equality March, Gdansk (Poland)

On Saturday May 27th,  I was privileged to join the Gdansk “Equality March”, which I attended as part of the European Forum of Lesbian and Gay Christian Groups, meeting here for their annual conference, “Forwards in Solidarity”.
This experience was quite different to London’s Pride Parade, in so many ways. First, it was definitely not a heavenly commercialised “Pride Parade”, so familiar in large Western cities.  Far from being besieged by vendors selling rainbow merchandise, organisers were giving away small rainbow flags. Nor were there any signs of corporate sponsorship: Poland is a long way from being sufficiently inclusive to make such sponsorship an attractive corporate investment.  With involvement in LGBT issues more of a risk than an opportunity, business (large and small) stayed away, leaving the heart of the event what (I’m told) London Pride was in the beginning, and many activists would like to see it again – very much a political event, drawing attention to ourselves, and demanding equality.
It was also much tamer: I saw only two drag queens, and no leathermen of bare-chested musclemen, that some opponents of Pride seem to think characterise all Pride Parades. Instead, there were just very ordinary people, mostly in very ordinary clothes, some carrying banners and rainbow flags.
It was also, not surprisingly, very much smaller the big city Western pride – but had a huge riot police presence – at least a hundred of them, armed (variously with truncheons pistols and rifles), wearing bullet-proof vests and carrying plexiglass riot shields and big round protective riot helmets. All very formidable. There were also additional conventional police on what appeared to be traffic control, some very well-muscled obviously plain-clothes police, a large convoy of assorted police vehicles on the ground, and a police helicopter above, keeping an eagle eye open for any sign of trouble.
We’d been promised police protection for fear of aggression from the crowds, which was very funny, because there were no crowds to speak of. There was on organised bunch of protesters with placards, but they were very much hemmed in by police, who outnumbered them something like 10/1. Still, I’m quite certain that if there had been no police presence, there could well have been more opposition, some of whom could well have turned violent. As it is, the worst we had to endure was some obvious anger and rude gestures from a handful of onlookers.  As a South African who lived through forty years of apartheid, and more in the aftermath, I’m never comfortable with too many armed police around. Today was an exception – for the first time, I actually felt grateful to have so many clearly armed police in plain sight.
The protesters were there, claiming to represent “Christian” values in this very Christian country. This however fails to see that the Christian Gospels are implacably opposed to exclusion in any form, and insist instead that “all are welcome in God’s house”. That is why we were there – as Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians from right across Europe, from Wales to Russia, and from Sicily to Norway, to show solidarity with the LGBT people of Gdansk in their pursuit of full equality and inclusion, in society and in the Church.
This will have been clear to onlookers, from the rainbow flags we waved – on which we had drawn black crosses, from religious slogans on some of our t-shirts, from the clerical collars worn by participating clergy – and especially from the sight of a bishop of the United Ecumenical Catholic Church, resplendent in episcopal purple, dashingly set off by a rainbow stole.

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

Transgender Catholic Legislator Appeals to Peers for LGBT Protections | Bondings 2.0

The first transgender person elected to the Philippines’ House of Representative, who is a Catholic, has powerfully asked her peers to pass LGBT non-discrimination protections.

Geraldine Roman addressed the House last Monday for over an hour about the “Anti-Discrimination Bill on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” Roman filed the Bill in June, but there has been little progress towards passing it for the highly Catholic nation. She appealed to legislators in a personal way, reported Inquirer.nettelling them:

” ‘I cannot turn my back at a group of people, who have long suffered discrimination, and have long been denied adequate legal protection. How can I turn a blind eye to the suffering that I myself have experienced at some point in my life?’

” ‘We are your brothers; we are your sisters; your sons and your daughters, and nieces and nephews. We are your family. We are your friends; your schoolmates; your colleagues at work. . .We are human beings.’

” ‘We love our families. We love our country. We are proud Filipinos, who just happen to be LGBT. The question is: do we, as members of the LGBT community, share the same rights as all other citizens? Does the State grant us equal protection under our laws?’ “

Source: Transgender Catholic Legislator Appeals to Peers for LGBT Protections | Bondings 2.0

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.