The Council of the Baptized
The Council of the Baptized is a twenty-one member panel of Catholics, chartered in January, 2012, to be a collegial voice for a growing community of Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in honoring their baptismal responsibility for their local church.
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), initiator of the Council charter, having listened to Catholics since its incorporation in 2009, recognized a need for a representative body to hear the people’s concerns of conscience. The Council’s role is to deliberate on concerns brought to them, and to speak to those concerns, fully grounded in the tradition of the Church and in its official teaching in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
The Council of the Baptized is not an officially designated or recognized council of the Archdiocese.
For further history, to read the charter and job descriptions of the Council of the Baptized, and to find the current membership, go to www.councilofthebaptized.org.
Anyone may submit a proposal to the Council of the Baptized. Please submit your proposal in writing to email@example.com. See the back page for details.
The Proposal for a Health Christian Theology of Sexuality
Following Pope Francis’ call for input from all the People of God prior to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family 2014, a team of local Catholics approached the Council of the Baptized in March 2014 to propose a position paper on a healthy theology of sexuality. As part of the research for this paper, the team facilitated a Listening Session in May 2014 sponsored by the Council of the Baptized. A summary of these findings is included with the position paper, which was approved for publication by the Council of the Baptized on August 12, 2014.
Authors of the position paper: Mary Ellen Jordan, Diane Sineps, Mary Beth Stein, and Patty Thorsen. For questions or more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Council of the Baptized of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is concerned about developing a healthy Christian theology of sexuality. We know that sexuality is with us from conception to death, and that any knowledge and understandings we can gain about it will be self-enhancing and result in improved personal and interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, the Church’s rich theology of sexuality often comes across to many people as basically negative—a series of no’s and prohibitions. We believe a more positive and nourishing theological approach to human sexuality would better serve as a basis for addressing contemporary questions and for dialoguing with other Catholics, other Christians, our Jewish sisters and brothers, and all who are genuinely interested in dialogue.
As faithful Catholics, we have heeded the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and informed our consciences on Church teachings. The proposal will show that the Church teachings on sexual ethics are reformable. We ask that the entire People of God—hierarchy, theologians, and laity—be consulted and their voices respected on sexual topics. We urge the Church to take into account the findings of contemporary biological research and the policies of professional health associations and world organizations dedicated to improving health. We also ask that men who have taken vows of celibacy no longer be the sole arbiters of official teaching on Christian sexual morality. Only when the voices and lived experience of the whole “People of God,” especially those of women and all those who are sexually active, are taken into account will a sexual ethic be credible to the faithful.
We offer this paper as a basis for dialogue and discernment. We do not pretend to have all the answers to complicated questions of theology and human sexuality. However, in order to have a dialogue, we must set out our position as clearly as we can. We welcome comments and criticism, even negative criticism, as a way to move closer to truth. What follows is offered in that spirit.
We offer this paper as part of the international conversation prompted by the Synod of Bishops on the Family held in Rome, in October 2014. For this reason, we have focused on the important issues addressed by the Synod of Bishops on the Family: artificial contraception, divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality.
We call for the Bishops’ Synod to establish a commission that includes men and women representing all of the faithful to study and address the people’s concerns on the sexual issues addressed in this paper.
Finally, we offer this paper to promote dialogue among Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. We petition archdiocesan leadership to engage in this dialogue and to contribute to a reformulation of Christian sexual ethics.
December 29, 2019
Today’s post, on the Feast of the Holy Family, is from guest blogger, Brian Cahill, former executive director of San Francisco Catholic Charities and the author of Cops, Cons and Grace, A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Suicide.
I am the father of a gay son, and I was slow to learn how painful, denigrating, and debilitating were the constant legal, social, and religious reminders that he and those like him were not fully accepted members of the human community. In his memoir, Hidden, Richard Giannone writes about his experience as a young gay Catholic: “The lesson of alienation comes easily to a malleable young consciousness and stays. The cumulative effect is toxic. The pain is insupportable.”
My son also experienced this toxic effect and insupportable pain. He knew he was different, and he was frightened that others would discover he was different, He felt isolated even in his own family, with a father who, at the time, could not make him feel loved and safe, who could not tell him that being gay was not relevant in the eyes of a loving God. I thought as long as I loved him he would be okay. But I didn’t have a clue how to talk to him about it. I didn’t have a clue how much he would be on the receiving end of hate and ignorance in the world, hate and ignorance that continues to this day, hate and ignorance that for the most part derives from organized religion, hate and ignorance that is still virally present in the Catholic Church.
Today I am no longer groveling in guilt. I love my son and he knows it. I respect his intellect, his integrity, his endurance, his professional accomplishments, and his long- term committed relationship with his husband. However, I know the impact of my failure at a key time in his life. I also know that I am not alone, that my son is not alone, that there are thousands of families who have experienced the pain of this issue and thousands more who are currently experiencing it. So speaking for all of them on this feast day of The Holy Family, I want to shout to our Church leaders to review the viability of Church teaching when it comes to same-sex activity, to own at least partial responsibility for the hate and ignorance and pain that my son and countless others have had to overcome, and to examine whether this teaching is enhancing souls and is consistent with Jesus’ message of love and inclusiveness.
In some ways the refusal of church leaders to tackle this issue is understandable. For one thing, many bishops do not seem to be bothered when LGBT individuals are on the receiving end of hate and discrimination. Moreover, discussions about LGBT issues can become instantly overheated. Just look at some of the negative responses to Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s bridge building efforts. While some conservative Catholics have respectfully objected to Fr. Martin’s approach, other Catholic voices, hiding under the banner of orthodoxy, have viciously attacked him, making it clear that they refuse to even approach his bridge. Their responses reveal the homophobia that is at the core of their advocacy for current church teaching on sexuality. But I refuse to give up hope that the Spirit can figure out a way to make our church strong enough to hold all the baggage both sides will have to carry over it.
The bottom line is that while Catholic leaders have to address all of the issues affecting the institutional church, including clericalism, the cover up of abuse, the diminishment of women, and insensitivity to LGBT issues, sooner or later they will also have to address the destructive, divisive reality of an outdated theology of sexuality.
The resistance of bishops to review church teaching on sexuality is not based on the absence of thoughtful theological proposals. In Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, Mercy Sister Margaret Farley, a moral theologian at Yale Divinity School, argues that a review of sexual ethics is required because of major advances in psychology, gender and human behavior. She presents a detailed analysis of the justice norms that are required for morally accepted sexual relationships: do no harm, free consent, mutuality, equality, commitment, fruitfulness, and social justice.
In Sexual Ethics: A Theological Introduction, Creighton University moral theologians Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler build on Farley’s work. They argue it is impossible and irresponsible to ignore how experience and culture inform and influence responsible thinking about sexual behavior.
And finally, in God and the Gay Christian, Matthew Vines, a young gay evangelical, makes a biblical case for affirming committed same sex relationships. Vines declares, “When we tell people that their every desire for intimate, sexual bonding is shameful and disordered, we encourage them to hate a core part of who they are. And when we reject the desire of gay Christians to express their sexuality within a lifelong covenant, we separate them from our covenantal God, and we tarnish their ability to bear his image.”
Revising church teaching is nothing new. Changes in the church’s moral teaching are well documented in John Noonan’s A Church That Can Change and Cannot Change. Noonan makes clear how the church changed its moral theology regarding slavery, usury and freedom of conscience without any retreat from the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
On this feast day that focuses on family life, I plead with our church leaders to look at LGBT issues. On behalf of my son and all his contemporaries, and on behalf of those who came before them and after them, please look at look at how doctrine keeps people in suffocating closets. On behalf of all the parents of gay, lesbian and trans children, please look at how doctrine is splitting apart families. On behalf of all nineteen-year old college students who are struggling with the decision to come out, and on behalf of all fourteen year olds who are feeling frightened, isolated, confused and threatened, please look at how doctrine is causing psychological and physical harm.
If our church leaders don’t review their theology of sexuality, they will continue to unintentionally, but effectively, fuel the flames of hate and ignorance in the world. If they don’t, they will continue to be burdened with an untenable teaching that mouths love and respect for gays and lesbians while at the same time it condemns them for acting on their natural gift to share love. If they don’t, they will be actively encouraging the rapidly growing movement of young Catholics–and some not-so-young– giving up on the Church they have loved.
The teaching is toxic. The teaching causes real pain. The teaching is not consistent with Jesus’ message of love and inclusiveness.
–Brian Cahill, December 29, 2019
He Says a Priest Abused Him. 50 Years Later, He Can Now Sue.
A new law has created a “look-back window,” during which claims that had passed the statute of limitations can be revived.
- Aug. 13, 2019
Major institutions across New York State, from the Catholic Church to the Boy Scouts of America to elite private schools, are bracing for a deluge of lawsuits now that adults who said they were sexually abused as children will be entitled to pursue formal legal action.
New York joined more than a dozen states this year in significantly extending statutes of limitations for filing lawsuits over sexual abuse. Previously, the state had required that such suits be filed before a victim’s 23rd birthday.
Under the new law in New York, the Child Victims Act, which was approved by the Legislature in January, accusers will be able to sue until they are 55.
The new law includes a one-year period, known as a look-back window, that revives cases that had expired, in many instances decades ago, under previous statutes of limitations.
The one-year period begins on Wednesday, and the impact could cause major financial stress for many institutions in New York, including the state’s eight Catholic dioceses, which have faced a series of scandals involving abuse by clergy.
Already, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, which includes Manhattan, has sued its insurance providers to make sure they will cover claims against it after the law goes into effect. The Rockefeller University Hospital, which is facing scores of cases alleging abuse by an endocrinologist, is pursuing a similar tactic.
Catholic officials said they have examined look-back windows in other states to try to get a grasp of what might come. The New York archdiocese said it would likely be able to weather the litigation.
“While we do not know what will transpire when the C.V.A. window opens, at this point in time we have no expectation of needing to file for bankruptcy protection,” said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese.
If anything, the one-year period in New York could spur even more lawsuits than have been filed in other states because sexual misconduct scandals have been dominating the national conversation. Accusations have mounted against religious institutions, elite private schools, sports programs, celebrities like R. Kelly and, most recently, Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier who was facing federal sex-trafficking charges and hanged himself over the weekend in his Manhattan jail cell.
In lobbying for the new law, advocates for abuse victims have highlighted the toll of sex abuse on children, and the decades it can often take before they are able to speak up about it, if they can at all.
It took Charlie d’Estries years to process the sexual encounters that he said he remembered having with a priest as a boy. They were naked together, as he recounted it, and their relationship became sexual. Still, for decades, Mr. d’Estries, 64, did not describe it as abuse, and refused to see himself as a victim.
But last year, when Mr. d’Estries returned to his Catholic school on Long Island for a reunion, a nun he had known as a student offhandedly called him “Billy’s buddy,” a reference to the priest.
In a moment, he said, everything shifted. He was deeply shaken. He realized he had been abused. He was a victim. And he wanted justice, he said.
But he discovered he could not sue until the law changed.
“For 50 years, I totally set it aside,” Mr. d’Estries said on a recent morning, sitting in a park near his home in the suburbs of Buffalo. “The big piece is about being able to get it out. Let’s tell the story because it’s worth telling.”
The look-back window, opening on Wednesday, allows Mr. d’Estries and other victims a year to bring cases, creating both an opportunity and a dilemma. Many victims described having to weigh, under tight time pressure, a yearning for justice and accountability against the pain that can be inflamed by reliving abuse in court.
“The Child Victims Act opens the door to the courthouse,” said Michael Polenberg, vice president for government affairs at Safe Horizon, an advocacy group. “The Child Victims Act doesn’t change the way that our justice system works.”
Lawyers have cast a wide net in their search for cases, blanketing television programs, newspapers and Google with advertisements.
Some of the most prominent lawyers specializing in child sex abuse each have hundreds of cases to be filed as soon as the window opens, raising the prospect of overloading courts.
“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Jason Amala, a lawyer representing abuse survivors, said of the calls that have inundated his firm, including some from victims who were telling another person about their abuse for the first time.
This year, far more than in past years, legislatures in nearly 40 states introduced proposals to expand statutes of limitations. New laws were enacted in 18 states and the District of Columbia. New Jersey was among them, passing a law that includes a two-year look-back window that opens later this year.
“The significance of it is a switch in the balance of power,” said Marci A. Hamilton, the chief executive of Child U.S.A., a think tank focused on child protection at the University of Pennsylvania. “There was a severe imbalance of power that led to their abuse in the first place. The culture shut them out of the legal system until now. For them, this is validation.”
The tectonic cultural shift also softened the opposition to the legislation. The institutions that had fought it were now praising the victims who had spoken up about their abuse and acknowledging the wreckage it has caused.
“We believe victims,” the Boy Scouts said in a recent statement, “we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward.”
Still, the Boy Scouts, the church and others will soon be challenging victims’ accounts in court.
Lawmakers in New York had tried and failed for well over a decade to expand the state’s statutes of limitations, which were regarded as among the most restrictive in the country. “We used to call New York a ‘shut down state,’” Mr. Amala said.
Each time, the law’s supporters were thwarted in the Legislature by opposition from the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, Orthodox Jewish groups and the insurance industry.
In years of jostling over the legislation, the look-back window had been the single most disputed element.
The New York Catholic Conference said before the law passed that the look-back window would “force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge and in which they had no role.” (Many of the clergy members named as credibly accused of abuse are dead, infirm or no longer affiliated with the church.)
The State Assembly had passed the legislation multiple times, but before this year, the Senate never took it up for a vote. The political calculus in New York changed, however, after Democrats won control of the Senate in November.
Before, victims often had severely limited avenues for financial redress, such as private arbitration that took place outside the courts.
Catholic dioceses created Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Programs in which victims could apply for settlements.
The agreements stipulated that the victims could not file lawsuits.
The Archdiocese of New York, for instance, had reached agreements with more than 300 people, paying out $65 million, according to court records. The compensation program for the Diocese of Rochester was abruptly shut down earlier this year, with church officials citing the Child Victims Act as the reason.
In future cases, the Child Victims Act allows prosecutors several more years to bring criminal charges, and decades more to victims weighing lawsuits. But advocates and lawyers stressed that the new law does not apply retroactively, meaning that virtually every abuse survivor older than 23 must bring any claims through the look-back window.
In the Rockefeller University case, the endocrinologist, Dr. Reginald Archibald, who died in 2007, is accused of abusing scores of boys and teenagers.
Rich Klein, who was a patient of Dr. Archibald’s, said he was eager to give voice to his account of abuse in court and force the hospital to listen.
Suing “is a very easy decision for me because I want to do all I can — for the rest of my life — to send a message that this is not acceptable in our society,” Mr. Klein, 58, said.
The Rockefeller University Hospital, through a spokesman, declined to comment. In a statement last year, the hospital acknowledged reports of “certain inappropriate conduct during patient examinations,” and sent a letter alerting about 1,000 former patients to the allegations.
Some victims, like Dave Funk, said they were moving forward even though they could not remember their abusers’ identities.
His lawyer, Michael T. Pfau, said Mr. Funk was pursuing litigation against the Diocese of Buffalo with the aim of sketching out details through the discovery process.
Mr. Funk, 60, said it was only in recent years that he started coming to terms with his abuse. He was a student in a Catholic school in Buffalo, he said, when a lay choir leader took an interest in him.
Their encounters started with hugs, kisses and back rubs, before escalating, he said. It ended when he moved to a public school.
The Diocese of Buffalo declined to comment on Mr. Funk’s allegations, but said it was preparing for “the ramifications of the expected Child Victims Act claims.”
Mr. Funk said he worked hard to get as far from being the vulnerable child he had been. He became an airline captain and owns farmland in Iowa, where he now lives.
Still, he said he found that the abuse had an impact on his explosive temper and haste in ending relationships.
The Child Victims Act, he said, forced him to confront his past and try to draw something from it.
“I’m not going to be a victim of this guy for the rest of my life,” he said, adding that he hoped victims would feel empowered seeing him and others push past their shame and pain, and speak up. “Don’t do what I did and hide it forever.”
Patrick McGeehan contributed reporting from New York.
How to Defy the Catholic Church
Believers have a spiritual obligation to defend their L.G.B.T.Q. brothers and sisters, even against archbishops.
Contributing Opinion Writer, New York Times
- July 1, 2019
NASHVILLE — On June 26, 2015, I was standing on the sidewalk in front of the United States Supreme Court building with my husband and two of our sons. We were all waving flags emblazoned with an equal sign, gifts from a stranger waiting for the court to hand down a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case widely expected to decide the future of same-sex marriage in this country.
We’d gotten to the demonstration early, but hundreds of people were there first, and the crowd continued to swell. They were obsessively refreshing SCOTUSblog on their phones, hoping for news, and speculating about what the justices might decide. The best-case scenario seemed to be a ruling that would require all states, even those where same-sex marriage was illegal, to recognize marriages performed in other states.
The actual ruling, when it finally came, went much further than that, declaring marriage nothing less than a constitutional right. “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority, “and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”
All around us people erupted in joy, chanting, “Love has won! Love has won!” We live in Tennessee, one of the states that had outlawed same-sex marriage, and I could hardly believe it. Love had actually won.
Editorial: Our children are dying at the border. Bishops, where are you?
The arresting image of the bodies of Salvadoran migrant Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter Valeria, face down in the shallow waters of the Rio Grande River, was finally enough to elicit an impassioned plea from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “This image cries to heaven for justice. This image silences politics. Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution for the immigration crisis?”
It took that photo and a statement of lament by Pope Francis about the image to move the bishops to the kind of language that begins to gather in the horror of this national moment along our southern border. It took this moment, a mere dot on a tragedy-riddled timeline, to move the bishops beyond the anodyne and saccharine pronouncements previously pushed out of their headquarters following the evidence of caged children, separated families and manipulations of law by the Trump administration and its operatives, all clearly designed to punish, rather than relieve, desperation.
It might be easier if the image silenced politics and removed it from the calculus of the bishops’ response. But that probably is not the case. Little else but a wish to remain cozy with the Trump administration can explain the hierarchy’s resounding reticence in the current situation.
If the image, as the bishops claim, demonstrates the results of the failures to find a just solution, it also should conjure for them the seemingly endless stacks of images that emanated from Central America, particularly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, in recent decades. They showed, for those who cared to look, the deplorable consequences of long U.S. involvement in the region, of our complicity with some of the bloodiest thugs in the region. If, as some have stated, we should look at the deeper causes of today’s problem, an honest investigation would be unsettling for North Americans.
Immigration policy is a complex matter. Borders do matter, as does the rule of law. But desperation, the need to seek safety and opportunity for one’s family, reaching a conclusion that no alternatives exist but to flee — these are not the motives of “bad hombres,” to use one of a stream of imbecilic terms the president has ascribed to those seeking refuge. San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Guatemala City and their vicinities have become unpredictable and extremely violent territories. Much of the violence is due to the power of drug cartels, which feed the insatiable demand for narcotics in the United States.
People showing up at the border are not vacationing. They are frantic and out of alternatives. This is survival, not opportunism.
It is futile to attempt to argue with, much less expect something better, from an administration that has justified separating families and caging children in deplorable conditions — unsanitary, without proper food and crowded to cruel proportions. What can be said in the face of the outrageous reasoning of Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who couldn’t even drum up a bit of empathy for the dead father and his daughter?
During a recent CNN interview, Cuccinelli said that the drowning was the fault of the father, who should have observed the rules regarding asylum. Notwithstanding that the claim is absurd, and disgusting, on its face, the fact is that even if the anguished father had kept up with the news and the law on the dangerous and difficult trek northward, one might have excused him for becoming confused. The Trump administration plays daily games, at times, shifting the rules. The basic fact is that anyone can seek asylum anywhere along the border. It is not illegal.
It is, however, cruel to contemplate rule changes, as is currently underway in this administration, that would essentially eliminate asylum for Central Americans.
It should not be a futile wish that the Catholic community’s leaders, so insistent on the worth of every human, would be crying out from the tops of their chancery offices over the blatant injustice at the border. There are exceptions. It seems clear that while the conference in its official statements has been mealy-mouthed, bishops along the border have felt free to be more impassioned in their responses.
One of the more notable statements came from Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, who was reacting to a different drowning — this of a 20-year-old Guatemalan mother and her three children, two infants and a toddler — and to the deplorable conditions children were being detained in at the border, as well as to comments that the drowned were not “our children.” On his Twitter account June 25, Flores said, “Any discussion about immigrant children that begins with ‘but they are not our children’ is starting from a position both contrary to natural law and Catholic Faith.”
Bishop Mark Seitz of the border Diocese of El Paso, Texas, has been equally uncompromising in his advocacy for migrants and in his critique of U.S. culture.
“Standing here at the U.S.-Mexico border, how do we begin to diagnose the soul of our country?” he asked in a June 27 statement. “A government and society which view fleeing children and families as threats; a government which treats children in U.S. custody worse than animals; a government and society who turn their backs on pregnant mothers, babies and families and make them wait in Ciudad Juárez without a thought to the crushing consequences on this challenged city. … This government and this society are not well,” he said.
Flores and Seitz are perhaps the most visible signs of an official Catholic voice in this matter, but the people of God are prophetically and powerfully active in helping to ameliorate the worst effects of U.S. policies. In this case the normally led are doing the leading. Catholic groups and individuals on both sides of the borders are doing heroic work to bring some comfort to those in greatest need.
There is no greater example of Catholic action than the Hope Border Institute, a grassroots effort “that seeks to bring the perspective of Catholic social teaching to bear on the social realities unique to our region.” No regional issue is more pressing than the plight of refugees, and the organization does laudable work on both sides of the border.
What’s missing are the connections the U.S. bishops once had with their Central American counterparts. Why haven’t U.S. bishops invited some of the bishops from the most affected countries to address both the conference at their semi-annual meetings, and dioceses around the country, to better explain the reality on the ground and the needs in Central America?
One need not do a great deal of interpreting of our sacred texts to get this one right.
It’s not complicated. The mass of people arriving at our border are mostly escaping desperate and dangerous circumstances, trying to protect their children — our children. Our government is brutalizing them — men, women and children — under the cover of manipulated law and a narrative that raises unjustifiable fear and prejudice.
Bishops, where are you?
New York Archdiocese sues to force insurers to cover sexual-abuse claims
By Lizbeth Beltran at crainsnewyork.com
July 1, 2019
The filing, which targets 32 companies to which the church reportedly paid insurance premiums in the past, seeks to pre-empt attempts by those insurers to deny coverage.
The lawsuit seeks a declaration by the court that the insurance companies provide coverage for, and defend the church against, those claims.
The church filed the lawsuit on behalf of other religious organizations, schools, hospitals and institutions throughout the state that may be hit with cases, in hopes of improving their ability to pay and, in some cases, to avoid bankruptcy.
Approximately 300 incorporated parishes and 200 schools operate and provide services within the 10 counties covered by the archdiocese—including Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and Westchester.
According to the lawsuit, the church believes insurers will dispute or deny coverage of claims and lawsuits once the window opens because some insurers have already informed the church that they plan to raise objections to providing coverage.
Can the Catholic Church “Evolve” on L.G.B.T. Rights?
By John Gehring, Author of “The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church.”
July 5, 2018
A growing number of Americans now broadly support equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people. It’s tempting to view this as inevitable, but less than a decade ago many Democrats, including Barack Obama, didn’t even publicly support same-sex marriage. The speed at which L.G.B.T. rights became a mainstream issue, including for many religious denominations, represents nothing less than a dizzying cultural transformation.
What does this revolution mean for the Catholic Church, an ancient institution that thinks in centuries, and holds a view of human sexuality at odds with the shifting cultural winds?
Well, last week, the Vatican used “L.G.B.T.” for what is believed to be the first time ever in a document prepared for a major gathering of bishops and young people in October. “Some L.G.B.T. youth,” it reads, want to “benefit from greater closeness and experience greater care from the church.” The document also acknowledges that many young Catholics disagree with the church’s teaching on same-sex marriage.
Not exactly breaking news, you might argue. But adopting “L.G.B.T.” is emblematic of an emerging shift in the church’s posture toward gay, lesbian and transgender people. Catholic teaching documents have typically used “homosexual” or referred to those with “homosexual tendencies,” which reduce a person’s multidimensional humanity to the mechanics of sex. Using the L.G.B.T. descriptor, often preferred by many gay, lesbian and transgender people, is a sign of respect.
Pope Francis has opened space for a deeper, more authentic conversation about how the church can keep one foot planted in Catholic tradition without being afraid to step into the lived experiences of others. When Pope Francis gave the most famous papal sound bite in history five years ago — “Who am I to judge?” — even his colloquial use of the word “gay” caused a stir in traditional Catholic circles. While the pope has strongly defended church teaching on marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, he prioritizes listening and personal encounter over finger-wagging denunciations. He’s met with transgender people, and when he spoke privately last month with a Chilean clergy sexual abuse survivor, the pope told him that God made him gay and loved him.
There are other signs of progress. The prominent Jesuit priest and author Rev. James Martin, who has been banned from speaking at some Catholic institutions in the United States simply for encouraging the church to build bridges with L.G.B.T. people, was recently invited to give a keynote address at the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families in Dublin later this summer. At the last gathering in Philadelphia three years ago, the only discussion about L.G.B.T. issues came from celibate gay Catholics who spoke about chastity.
The pope’s emphasis on encounter and engagement is trickling down to influence other church leaders. Cardinal Joe Tobin of Newark welcomed a pilgrimage of L.G.B.T. Catholics to the city’s cathedral last spring. In this month’s issue of U.S. Catholic magazine, a deacon in the diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla., wrote movingly about his transgender daughter, and challenged the church’s notion of “gender ideology,” a term that has been used to discredit the push for transgender rights.
Despite this progress, the Catholic Church must do far more not only to acknowledge the humanity of L.G.B.T. people, but also to recognize most want the same committed, loving relationships as straight couples. After the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago called for “real, not rhetorical” respect for gays and lesbians. The court decision, which he opposed, still offered an opportunity for “mature and serene reflections,” the cardinal wrote.
Catholic leaders in the United States should consider studying a proposal made by Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, the vice president of the German bishops’ conference, who has encouraged a thoughtful discussion on whether Catholic clergymen might offer a type of blessing for Catholics in same-sex relationships. “Although ‘marriage for all’ differs clearly from the church’s concept of marriage, it’s now political reality,” the bishop said. “We have to ask ourselves how we’re encountering those who form such relationships, and are also involved in the church, how we’re accompanying them pastorally and liturgically.”
The church’s own language toward L.G.B.T. people is a stumbling block to its professed commitment to human dignity. While the Catholic catechism, which details church teaching, forbids any violence or “unjust discrimination” toward people who are gay or lesbian, it also describes sexual intimacy between them as “intrinsically disordered.” Before he became pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote in 1986 that homosexuality represents a “strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”
Many L.G.B.T. Catholics are also forced to live in what the Rev. Bryan Massingale, a Fordham University theologian, calls “the open closet.” This is particularly true at Catholic schools, where in recent years more than 70 L.G.B.T. church employees and Catholic schoolteachers have been fired or lost their jobs in employment disputes. L.G.B.T. Catholic employees have their lives subjected to moral scrutiny in ways heterosexual Catholics never do. Straight Catholics are not fired for using contraception, for example, or having sex before marriage. Why not judge Catholics for not welcoming immigrants, feeding the hungry or visiting the sick? In the Gospel of Matthew, failing to do that earns you a ticket to damnation.
Five years into the Francis papacy, a pope who emphasizes mercy and strikes a more welcoming tone toward L.G.B.T. people is helping to rescue the church from a culture-war Christianity that drives people away. But until the Catholic hierarchy can find more tangible ways to institutionalize a commitment to the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people, the exodus of Catholics will continue. Surveys show most Catholics support same-sex marriage, and the church’s opposition to L.G.B.T. rights drives young people away.
Those who are raised Catholic are more likely than those raised in any other religion to cite negative religious treatment of gay and lesbian people as the primary reason they leave, according to the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. Firing L.G.B.T. Catholics and using degrading language such as “intrinsically disordered” erode the church’s credibility to speak about justice, love and human dignity.
If the first step toward change is listening, Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., had it right when he addressed a national gathering of L.G.B.T. Catholics last year. “In a church that has not always valued or welcomed your presence, we need to hear your voices and take seriously your experiences,” he said.
It’s time to make sure that is more than just an applause line.
John Gehring (@gehringdc) is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life and author of “The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church.”
If You’re a Patriot and a Christian, You Should Support the Dream Act
By Joseph W. Tobin. Opinion – NY Times Feb 26, 2018
NEWARK — The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls on us to welcome and protect the stranger. This should not be hard to do when the stranger is young, blameless and working hard to make this country a better place.
There are nearly 700,000 young men and women in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program who could soon be at risk for deportation. These “Dreamers” live in our neighborhoods, attend our schools, fight for our country and contribute to our workplaces. Our leaders in Washington, including President Trump, have a moral obligation to try to protect those who came to our nation as children with their parents, and who are Americans in every way.
The Senate recently tried to pass legislation to give them a path to citizenship, but sadly, none of the proposals gained the needed votes. The Supreme Court on Monday let stand injunctions that require the Trump administration to keep major parts of DACA in place while legal challenges against the president’s decision to end the program continue. That means the program will probably survive beyond the deadline next Monday Mr. Trump had set for its end. But time is still ticking away for the Dreamers.
Our elected officials need to stop trying to pass a large immigration bill that combines protection for Dreamers with other divisive issues, like money for border enforcement and the wall and new rules to limit immigrants’ ability to sponsor family members. Using the plight of Dreamers to introduce measures that otherwise would not pass on their own merits is especially cruel, as it leaves these young people hostage to the wider debate on our broken immigration system.
Instead we need a “clean” Dream Act to help these youths now. After all, the reason Congress is even debating immigration at this point stems from the Dreamers’ own courage in advocating a solution consistent with our best democratic traditions.
If the Dreamers are deported, it will do great harm to this country. According to the Center for Migration Studies of New York, the two million or so young people who could be covered by a Dream Act have integrated successfully into our society. Sixty-five percent work, with over 70,000 self-employed. Eighty-eight percent speak English exclusively, very well or well. Nearly 30 percent have attended college or earned a college degree. They have lived in the United States an average of 14 years and are parents to 392,000 American citizen children. Removing them would hurt our country economically and socially. It is not an option.
The American public already agrees with this. Eight-seven percent support passage of a Dream Act to let young immigrants stay here. The parties in Congress now need to work together to pass a bill consistent with the views of the American people. And the Trump administration must lead and seek consensus in Congress, not try to sabotage proposals to reach a solution. President Trump has articulated his support for “a bill of love” — exactly what we need in this situation — not a bill of discord. A just and humane bill would show that Congress can indeed promote the common good and that the legislative process need not be dysfunctional.
At this moment, however, there seems to be no sanity or progress in the pursuit of a solution for the Dreamers. That is why the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is urging all Catholics and others of good will to phone their senators and House members today and implore them to pass the Dream Act. Catholic teaching calls for all people to make a commitment to uphold the dignity of every person and to work for the common good of our nation. It is both our moral duty and in our nation’s best interest to guide our lawmakers in this matter.
Helping Dreamers to become American citizens is a clear moral test. Condemning them to be sent to countries they do not know would be a stain on our national character and an abandonment of our values.
That Congress and the Trump administration tried and failed once to protect Dreamers does not let them off the hook. This is not about the next election but about the family next door. We need to restore confidence in our government and in our identity as an immigrant nation by passing a Dream Act.
Correction: February 26, 2018
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It is nearly 700,000, not two million.