NEWS NOTES: June 10, 2013
Here are some items that you might find of interest:
1) WitsVuvuzela.com reports on Holy Trinity Catholic Church’s outreach to the LGBT community in Braamfontein, a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. Father Russell Pollitt, pastor, commented: “I think the problem with religion is that we don’t think things through. We tend to think things in black and white…whereas human life is really grey.”
2) Tim Nelson, an educator who said he was not hired for an administrative job because the potential employer thought he was gay, has filed a discrimination complaint against the Regis Catholic schools system in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, according to LGBTQNation.com.
3) The city of Split, Croatia, a heavily Catholic nation, held its second gay pride parade over the weekend, with 500 people calling for equal marriage laws in that country, according to GlobalPost.com. The march went on peacefully, in contrast to the same event two years ago, when 10,000 anti-gay protesters threw stones at the 200 people in the parade.
4) Scotland’s The Herald reports that Father Tom White, head of St. Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society, has promised to sue the government if the adoption agency is forced by law to place children with lesbian and gay couples. Earlier this year, the Catholic adoption agency was found to be discriminatory in its placement practices.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
I was a parishioner at Holy Trinity some years ago, before I upped and moved to the UK. That was twenty years ago – long before the formal launch of the LGBT support group – but even then, when I considered returning to the Church after some years of absence, the then parish priest assured me that my partner and I would be fully welcomed by the parish, without any real risk of hostility on the basis of orientation. So it proved, and we participated actively in every part of parish life, including serving for four years, together as a couple, on the Parish Pastoral Council, with never an eyebrow raised. I was thrilled when I heard some years ago of the new group’s formation – and even more thrilled when I met Fr Russell last year, and heard from him some of the superb work they are doing.
The lgbt group is equal in status to all the other parish groups and sodalities (in my day, that would have been the Catholic Women’s League, and the Society of St Vincent de Paul. ). A representative of the group sits ex officio on the PPC , alongside representatives of those other groups, and has a dedicated page under “ministries” on the parish website – http://trinityjhb.co.za/gay-lesbian/ ).
Although some meetings are understandably closed to group members, they also hold open meetings where any parishioners are welcome to attend. Fr Russell told me that sometimes people turn up with the intention of remonstrating with the “sinners” getting special treatment – and leave with a lot more to think about than they had expected, starting out.
When the group asked for approval for joining Johannesburg’s Gay Pride Parade as an identified church group, Fr Russell did more than give an OK – he joined them on the parade, in clerical collar, for that part of the route that went through parish boundaries.
South Africa is a paradox on LGBT equality: the first country in the world to write protection from sexual orientation discrimination into its constitution, and one of the first to provide in law for both equal marriage and civil unions for any orientation, it nevertheless ranks surprisingly low on measures of public acceptance – and lesbians are sometimes subject to the horrific practice of “corrective rape”, gay men to public derision, gay bashing and murder.
But in much of Catholic Church parish practice, and also in its national Catholic newspapers, there can be more and deeper real inclusion and equality for the lesbian and gay community than in many supposedly more tolerant and progressive countries.