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Rainbow Socks at Graduation: A Sign of Catholic Students’ Victory

Bondings 2.0

When Liam Finnegan was 16, he challenged his Catholic high school about its use of pastorally damaging language about gay and lesbian people.  He  eventually succeeded in making changes. His message of acceptance has spread since then, and recently Finnegan’s peers donned rainbow socks for graduation to show their support for LGBT students.

Seniors at Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Canada’s Yukon province sported knee-high rainbow socks under their gowns in solidarity with the school’s gay-straight alliance which had been hotly contested. According to CBC, more than half the graduating class participated in the action, which was started by Kate Power, a friend of Finnegan’s. The socks represented a year’s worth of organizing, which resulted in the GSA’s formation and the removal of pastorally insensitive language in the Catholic school district’s written policy on homosexuality.

In April 2013, Finnegan, who is gay, successfully challenged Vanier Catholic’s use of the terms “intrinsically disordered” and “acts of…

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“Catholic Hierarchy Is a Shining Light in Dark Moment for LGBT Rights in India” (Bondings 2.0)

India’s Supreme Court reinstated a law that bans homosexuality as a “crime against nature” earlier this week, intensifying divisions between LGBT advocates and the religious communities they blame for this development. Catholic leaders have varied in responding to the Court’s decision, but there are hopeful signs as at least one bishop spoke out against the law.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias

Outlawing homosexuality in India dates to British colonial rule more than a century ago. Recent legal debates began after a New Delhi court overturned the law in 2009. Anti-LGBT organizations, including faith-based ones, have sought to re-criminalize homosexuality since then. The Supreme Court’s ruling now says it is up to the nation’s legislators to repeal the law if that is what is desired.

The Times of India reports that religious groups have welcomed the ruling, with leaders using extremely homophobic language and advocating “ex-gay therapy” in their statements. Relative to these, Catholic leaders’ remarks have seemed muted and even positive. Archbishop Anil J T Couto of Delhi merely reaffirmed the hierarchy’s position on marriage equality and a spokesperson stated the archdiocese opposed any law that would criminalize homosexuality. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai is quoted by UCANews.com as saying:

– continue reading at Bondings 2.0.

Gay Marriage Comes to Australia (For Now)

The first same – sex weddings have come to Australia – at least, for those able to get to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) of Canberra, where the state law took effect today. The Federal government has lodged a court appeal, claiming that the territory has acted outside of its authority with this legislation, so it’s possible that the law may be struck down when the court rules later next week. For now, gay weddings in Canberra can continue. Notably, among the celebrants officiating over the nuptials is one religious minister, Reverend Roger Munson of the Uniting Church.

Rev Roger Munson performs a same-sex marriage

Sydney Morning Herald reports on some others: Continue reading Gay Marriage Comes to Australia (For Now)

Letters to the Catholic Right Asks “What is Marriage? “

“Letters to the Catholic Right” has a post considering a dispute between Robert George and friends on one side, and Law Professor Charles Reid on the other, over what they did or did not say in a recent debate about marriage at Notre Dame. For a synopsis of the dispute see the full post, and follow the links for summary of the debate.

But here’s the key point made by LCR, which needs to be better appreciated by the “Catholic Right” he is addressing, who are convinced that the only valid marriage are of the penis – in – vagina sexual kind: that’s not the model displayed by the Holy Family, and nor has it always been the preferred model in Church history.

Here is the conclusion of the essay:

What is Marriage? Let’s Think a Little Harder.

No, what’s really astonishing to me is that this group of Catholics made this argument at a Catholic university during a debate on Catholicism and public policy and then defended it in writing at the start of Advent season.

Reid gets the irony. He writes, “In that paradigm of marriage for Catholics, the union of Mary and Joseph, it could only have been love that held the Holy Family together, not sex, since Catholics believe that Mary was ‘ever virgin.’”

But it’s not just Mary and Joseph; Catholic teaching is very respectful of a tradition known as the Josephite marriage, which is a legitimate marriage, based on spiritual union, in which the spouses don’t have sex. In Fulton Sheen’s words, “among some Jews and among some great Christian Saints, the vow of virginity was sometimes taken along with espousals. Marriage then became the frame into which the picture of virginity was placed. Marriage was like a sea on which the bark of carnal union never sailed, but one from which one fished the sustenance for life.”

So if we’re putting Reid’s view (“love makes a marriage”) up against George’s (“marriage requires penis-in-vagina sex”) then the weight of Catholic thinking ought to come down on Reid’s side.

– full post at  Letters to the Catholic Right.

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Catholics Debate Marriage Equality Bill in Illinois

Illinois, which already has a civil union law, signed by Catholic Governor Pat Quinn, will be taking up the issue of marriage equality in the legislature this year.  Catholics have already entered the debate on this topic on both sides of the question.

 

Cardinal Francis George

At the beginning of this month, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George wrote a letter to priests asking them to urge parishioners to oppose the marriage bill.

The Chicago Sun-Times  quoted part of the letter:

“ ‘It is physically impossible for two men or two women to consummate a marriage, even when they share a deep friendship or love,’ George writes in the letter, meant for inclusion in parish bulletins to be distributed this upcoming weekend. ‘Does this mean nature is cruel or that God is unfair? No, but it does mean that marriage is what nature tells us it is and that the state cannot change natural marriage.’ ”

In this quote, we see a new trend in statements by Catholic hierarchy: they are starting to acknowledge that the relationship between two people of the same gender can be defined as a love relationship.

Rick Garcia

The cardinal’s argument did not convince Rick Garcia, a longtime Chicago advocate for LGBT issues. The Sun-Times quotes his reaction:

“ ‘How the Church — or any faith — views marriage within its own institution is one thing, but secular society treats marriage as a civil right,’ said Garcia, who described himself as a practicing Catholic. ‘No individual or church, including Cardinal George and the Catholic Church is going to be forced to perform or recognize any marriages they would not find consistent with their own beliefs. . . . What also will not change is the fact that secular society views marriage as a fundamental civil right that should be afforded to all.’ ”

A Chicago Tribune article on George’s letter notes that two prominent Illinois Catholics support the marriage bill:  Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

Chris Pett

Dignity/Chicago President Chris Pett also criticized the cardinal’s statement. Pett noted that

“. . . the cardinal might have had pastoral intentions, but he missed an opportunity to call for dialogue and engage with the gay community. Instead, the cardinal made it clear that the church would fight marriage equality ‘until the bitter end.’ “

David Gibson, a long-time observer of the Catholic Church, notes in a USA Today article that George’s comments may not have the power to stop the bill from becoming law:

“It’s unclear what, if any, influence George may have. Similar attempts by influential cardinals to stop same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, New York, Washington, D.C., and Maryland have all failed.”

more at  « Bondings 2.0.

Extreme Protests from Both Sides of the Catholic Marriage Equality Debate

Two protests occurred in Europe over the weekend regarding Catholic involvement in the question of marriage equality.  One protest was for marriage equality and one was against it. Both were extreme.

The pro-marriage equality protest took place in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City,  when four women went topless to demonstrate against the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to marriage for lesbian and gay couples and adoption of children by same-gender couples.

The New York Daily News reports

“While the pope was giving his weekly address on Sunday, four women from the Ukrainian Femen group who were in the crowd, pulled off their T-shirts to reveal the slogan ‘In Gay we Trust’ painted over their bodies.”

The same Femen group staged a protest appearing as topless nuns in Paris a few months ago, which erupted in a violent clash between two demonstrating groups.

An Italian court had recently issued a ruling allowing for a mother and her female partner to maintain custody of a son, depsite the father’s protest against such an arrangement:

“The Court of Cassation ruled it was ‘mere prejudice’ to assume that living with a homosexual couple could be detrimental for a child’s development

“While gay rights group Arcigay called it a ‘historic ruling’ for Italy, where it is illegal for gay couples to adopt, Catholic leaders were quick to defend the traditional family unit.”

In the United Kingdom, 1,054 Roman Catholic priests and 13 bishops and abbots signed a public letter protesting the move in that nation toward legalizing marriage equality.  The Daily Telegraph reports:

“More than 1,000 priests have signed a letter voicing alarm that same-sex marriage could threaten religious freedom in a way last seen during ‘centuries of persecution’ of Roman Catholics in England.

“They even liken David Cameron’s moves to redefine marriage to those of Henry VIII, whose efforts to secure a divorce from Katherine of Aragon triggered centuries of bloody upheaval between church and state.”

The news report notes that the signers account for one-quarter of  all the Catholic priests in England and Wales.  Of course, that means that three-quarters of the priests did not sign the statement.

Both cases illustrate a minority of the people who promote or oppose marriage equality, and their extreme actions and rhetoric add nothing to the debate, but simply inflame passions.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

via « Bondings 2.0.

A Catholic Introduction to Transgender Issues « Bondings 2.0

As we close out the week that began with the celebration of the Epiphany, we do so by offering a reflection on transgender issues by James and Evelyn Whitehead which appeared in The National Catholic Reporter.  The authors, whose lifetime of work on sexuality and relationships has been a gift to the chruch,  reflect that in the past year they have had their own “epiphany” about transgender people:

transgender-triangle-symbol

The past year has brought us deeper appreciation of the experience of transgender members of the human community. Mentored by a Catholic sister who has dedicated her life to ministry among transgender persons, we have been instructed by the witness of these often vulnerable members of the body of Christ. Their life stories carry a common theme: an abiding sense of “disconnect” between their inner sense of self and the evidence of their body. In their deepest awareness, gender identity (who I know myself to be) has been in conflict with the social role their physical anatomy suggests (who others expect me to be).

Their essay is a good introduction to some of the issues that transgender people face, which are often remarkably similar to those that lesbian and gay people face because of the common thread of feeling pressure to conform to an identities which are not their true ones:

“In attempting to conform to the expectations of their parents, spouses and children, transgender persons often struggle to override this sense of disconnect. Some enter into marriage, hoping this will suppress the daily reminders that they are not as they appear. Many more put effort into presenting a ‘false self’ to the world, to protect against being discovered for who they really are. But the price of this unnatural effort is high. Alcohol and drugs offer false comfort along the way; suicide begins to appeal as an exit from this distress.”

And like many lesbian and gay people, many transgender people experience their transition to their true selves as a spiritual journey:

“. . . [M]any report a profound shift in their spiritual lives, as they turn from the condemnation of a judging God (‘You are going to hell’) to the embrace of a God of paradox and extravagant love. This harrowing transition leads many to a confident embrace, at last, of  ’the person God always intended me to be.’ “

The Whiteheads point out that unfortunately many church leaders do not have the knowledge–or the motivation to acquire knowledge–about transgender people:

“Many Catholics regret that official statements of the Catholic church continue to support rigid notions of human nature, especially in regard to male and female gender. Here church leaders, consciously or not, continue a strategy that distances them from the genuine experience of many active church members. Official statements often mention the extravagant conduct of sexual exhibitionists or drug-addicted sex workers as typical of transgender persons. Hiding in plain sight are the many mature transgender Catholics in our own parishes. To remain willfully ignorant of, or contemptuous toward, this part of the human community exhibits a startling lack of compassion.”

They close with a prayer that should be offered by all Catholics:

“Let us pray that in the months ahead each of us — whether transgender or otherwise — may experience the grace of epiphany. May we meet one another in shared humanity, ready to move beyond hesitancy and suspicion on all sides. In the grace of these encounters we are likely to be surprised; we may at first feel uncomfortable. But these, perhaps, are marks of an epiphany. And if we stay alert, we may soon recognize here the splendid diversity of the body of Christ.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

via  « Bondings 2.0.