Tag Archives: Fortunate Families

Resource: “A Catholic Conversation About Homosexuality”

With his Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”, Pope Francis has placed great emphasis on the importance of pastoral accompaniment, discernment, and the interior forum for church responses to LGBT Catholics. The document also speaks of the importance of accompaniment and pastoral care for the families which include those LGBT people. But what does this mean, in practice?

The response to Fr James Martin’s book, “Building a Bridge” has shown that there is widespread hunger for this accompaniment – but also reveals the extent of public ignorance. Martin’s book focuses on just one simple part of church teaching, on the need for “respect, compassion and sensitivity”, but quite deliberately does not dig more deeply. There is a dire need for material which does indeed take a broader canvas, suitable for use in parish groups.

Fortunate Families, the USA group for the parents and families of LGBT Catholics,  has just such a great “resources” page, structured primarily for the Catholic families and friends of LGBT people, but also immensely valuable for anyone who simply wants to know more about the facts, without the polemics.

One of these valuable resources is an 8 part series,  “Let’s Talk About Homosexuality“, which is described as a “Catholic conversation” on the subject, for

• Parents of gay and lesbian children: parents still in the closet, alone with their secret; parents out of the secret; struggling with their questions, their fears, their faith.
• Parents of young children: moms and dads seeking information and insight for their own parenting role as teacher and counselor.
• Family members who may be struggling to deal with the hurtful stereotypes that exist within both society and their Church.
• Gay and lesbian people who may be searching for some sign of understanding from their Church.
• Anyone who is curious about homosexuality and  wanting to learn more.

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Permission is granted for you to download and print this copyrighted series for your personal use, for parish study groups, for adult education programs, for ministry support, for future reference.

Structured as an adult education program to be placed on a parish website over a period of eight successive weeks, it could equally well be adapted for use in a discussion group meeting weekly (or monthly) – or for personal study, over eight sessions, at any frequency you choose.

Grouped into 3 major parts, the weekly instalments, with their main focus areas, are:

Part 1: Common Questions about Homosexuality

Week 1: Common Questions about Homosexuality

  • Segment 1: The Basic Stuff
  • Segment 2: Scientific Perspectives

Week 2: Common Questions about Homosexuality (Cont.)

  • Segment 3: Social Perspectives
  • Segment 4: Family Perspectives

Part 2: Putting a Human Face on Homosexuality: Gays, Lesbians and Parents Share Their Stories

Week 3: Putting a Human Face on Homosexuality

  • Parents Talk of Their Experience

Week 4: Putting a Human Face on Homosexuality

  • Gay and Lesbian Persons Talk of Their Experience

Part 3: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Official Teaching and Other Catholic Voices

Week 5: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: What the Church Teaches

  • On Homosexual Orientation
  • On Human Dignity
  • On Discrimination and Social Justice
  • On Homosexual Acts
  • Chronology of significant documents on homosexuality issued by the Vatican and U.S. Bishops’ Conference.

Week 6: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Other Catholic Voices

  • So What Are We To Do?
  • The Role of Conscience

Week 7: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Other Catholic Voices

  • Shared Thoughts on Vatican Documents

Week 8: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Other Catholic Voices:

  • The Question of “Finality”
  • “A Biblical Understanding”
  • Can Teaching Change?
  • One Last Question

These pages were put together some years ago, well before Pope Francis’ papacy, but they remain valuable. Read them at Fortunate Families, download them, discuss and distribute them.

 

Fortunate Families: “A Mom Comes Out”

We usually think of the sexual closet and “coming out” as applying to lesbians and gay men, but there are many others dealing with the same issues – especially our parents. “Voices for Justice“, the magazine of Fortunate Families (a group of Catholic parents who have LGBT children) has printed numerous stories of people who have found themselves in closets of their own when their sons or daughters came out, terrified at the anticipated response of friends in their Catholic parishes to the news that they had raised people that would now be regarded (they feared) as unabashed and obvious sinners).

The current issue of Voices for Justice has one more of these. In common with so many others, it carries many useful lessons for parents of gay, lesbian or trans people, but these are also applicable to those of us who are ourselves in that LGBT community:

  • Coming out is challenging, but ultimately rewarding
  • Coming out is a process, not an event
  • The reaction from friends and co-parishioners is usually warmer and more supportive than we expect
  • Where priests or others have made offensive remarks, they can learn from our honest and frank responses.

Here is the full report by Porter Ballard, in Fortunate Families’ Voices for Justice, Feb / March 2014 (reproduced with permission):

fortunate_families2Our son, Kieran, was a freshman at  Rutgers University 12 years ago when he came out to our family. It was a shock to me, but not to my husband or Kieran’s older brother. Kieran’s disclosure did not cause us to love him any less; if anything, his courage and honesty made us love him even more.

However, I felt I had a big secret to  keep. My husband and I were founding parishioners and were active in several ministries. After Kieran came out, I started investigating the Church’s official position on homosexuality. The more I read of  intolerant and uncharitable policies, the more ashamed I felt of my church. It has been said that when a child comes out of the closet, the parents go IN, and this is what happened to me, most especially and particularly at church.

Thoughtless remarks of other people wounded me greatly. I was afraid to speak out because every time I talked about Kieran and Catholicism, I cried. The lowest moment was during a talk on Bible history, when a priest cited the book of Leviticus as proof that homosexuality was an abomination. I cried myself to sleep that night. During this period I was so hurt and angry about the thoughtless remarks and the “official” position of the Catholic Church, I seriously considered leaving the church for good.

My own “coming out” was a long process. First, I learned of a support group for LGBT Catholics and their families at nearby Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in South Plainfield, NJ, and I began attending monthly meetings. These meetings became opportunities to share stories and to pray with Catholic gay people and their parents. When our group, now named “In God’s Image,” staffed a booth at the New Jersey Pride Festival in Asbury Park, NJ, I enjoyed handing out pamphlets to people surprised to see Roman Catholicism represented at the event. The other group members teased me because I was the one calling out to passers-by, “Yes, we’re the real Catholic Church!” In God’s Image also ran a parish fundraiser which enabled us to make a donation to the Ali Forney Shelter for LGBT youth in New York City.

I was asked to make a short presentation about our group after Mass in our hosting parish. I talked about the hurtful remarks and reiterated that my child, like every child God created, had a place in God’s heart and at the Lord’s table. As I talked, much of the hurt and anger I felt at the Church began to fall away. After Mass, many people came up to hug me and thank me for speaking. Speaking publicly was a big step out of my closet!

I also learned about Fortunate Families and began reading the newsletters. It was heartening to read how many Catholic parents of LGBT adult children were actively engaged in creating Catholic communities which welcomed their children. After hearing Mary and Joe Byers speak of their experiences reaching out to LGBT Catholics, and reading “I Wear a Rainbow Because” in the FF newsletter, I began to wear the rainbow pin every Saturday night when I served as a Eucharistic Minister.

Later on, I heard Deb Word, current President of Fortunate Families, speak about her experiences helping homeless gay teens. Deb said something that really caught my attention. She  challenged parents to speak up when priests or bishops say or do something hurtful. Be respectful, she said, but be firm and informative about how and why you were hurt.

Not long afterward, I decided to take Deb’s advice and speak to my own pastor about the hurt I felt when he appealed from the altar for parishioners to sign petitions against New Jersey marriage equality. My pastor was distressed by the depth of my reaction to what, for him, had been merely an act of obedience to the bishop. He asked me if he could give my name to other parents of gay children, should they need support.

Recently Central NJ PFLAG asked me to speak about my experiences as the Catholic Mom of a gay son. That experience caused me to look back over the past few years and see how far I’d come in twelve years. I’m so grateful I’m no longer in the closet!

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Pope’s Peace Day Statement Is Countered by Catholic Parents

As we reported at the end of last month, Pope Benedict’s statement for the World Day of Prayer for Peace, January 1st, contained a reference that same-gender married couples are a threat to world peace.  But on January 1, 2013,  the pope’s message was countered by a pair of married heterosexual Catholic parents who have a long history of working for LGBT justice and equality.

In his statement the pope said that allowing gay and lesbian people to marry is

“. . . an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.”

Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata

In a Washington Post “On Faith” essay, Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata,  who are the founders of Fortunate Families, a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, countered the pope’s rhetoric by describing the lives of  lesbian and gay friends of theirs:

“We are fortunate enough to be able to contrast the pope’s rhetoric with the reality of Bob’s life, and those of many other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people whom we know. They don’t seem like threats to world peace or the future of humanity. They are men and women trying to earn a living, love their spouses, raise their children and contribute a little something to their churches and their communities.”

Additionally, they contrast the pope’s point of view with that of the majority of U.S. Catholics:

“The pope is losing the fight against marriage equality because Catholics weigh his abstract definitions of what it means to be human, what it means to be male and what it means to be female, against the evidence of their own experience. They understand instinctively that human beings are too complex to be captured in such arid taxonomies, that categories devised by celibate philosophers no longer make much sense in a world in which traditional gender roles were abandoned long ago. Rather, what they know, what they believe, is the evidence of their own experience. Like John the Evangelist, they testify to what they have seen and heard.”

more at « Bondings 2.0.

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