Actress Ellen Page & Singer Ariana Grande Criticize Catholics' Anti-LGBT Actions

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 8.14.11 AMAfter a month of synod coverage, Bondings 2.0 changes pace and offers some recent celebrity news relating to Catholic LGBT issues. Yet, these two items are not throw away items because their impact on younger Catholics’ faith is probably far greater than anything which happened during the last month’s synod.

High School Denies Access for Ellen Page Film

A New York Catholic high school has reversed its decision to allow Ellen Page’s new movie about a same-gender couple’s fight for legal recognition to film on the school’s campus.

Salesian High School in New Rochelle, NY had approved a request for Freeheld to film, but later told production staff that was no longer possible. According to BuzzFeed,

“Michael Shamberg, Freeheld’s producer, told BuzzFeed News that he then appealed to Salesian’s principal, John Flaherty, who told Shamberg to send an email that he could forward to Father John Serio, the school’s president. After doing that, Shamberg never heard back from Serio, and Freeheld shot the scene somewhere else.

Principal Flaherty later told BuzzFeed in a statement that “all are welcomed at Salesian High School” and the school focuses on “helping the less fortunate.” In appealing to administrators, Shamberg told them the film is “about recognizing the dignity of a woman who was a brave civil servant” and further:

” ‘I believe the theme of the movie is what Pope Francis recognized when he called for the church to welcome and accept gay people.’ “

Freeheld, which stars Page, as well as Julianne Moore, tells the real life story of a lesbian couple’s fight for domestic partner benefits when one of them, a police detective, becomes terminally ill with lung cancer. Page, who herself came out as gay earlier this year, tweeted support for LGBT students following the incident:

“Using religion to justify bigotry makes me sad. Sending my support 2 the LGBT students at the school who I hope r able 2 find acceptance.”

Ariana Grande with brother Frankie

Ariana Grande Leaves Catholicism

Pop singer Ariana Grande publicly announced she was leaving the Catholic Church because of LGBT issues. The UK daily The Telegraph reported:

“Grande was raised a Catholic, but in adolescence began questioning her faith out of love and support for her brother, who is gay. ‘When my brother was told that God didn’t love him I was like, “OK, that’s not cool.” They were building a Kabbalah centre in Florida so we both checked it out and really had a connection with it.’ “

Commenting on Grande’s decision, GLAAD News Director Ross Murray noted that Grande, and her celebrity brother Frankie, did not abandon the church, but were “actively chased away from the faith they were nurtured in.” Murray continues:

“This isn’t just about the Roman Catholic Church, although they get more than their share of attention. All faith communities need to examine what their message is, not just because that message is damaging to the people who have to hear and internalize them (although it is), but for the health and future of the faith. It may be easy for some traditions to write off the LGBT people they lose by these messages. What they often don’t count on is how much they lose the rest of their membership.

“I ask for each of us who identify as people of faith to examine our messages, and what impact those messages have, not just on the LGBT people themselves, but on the rest of those who are hearing.  Does our message match what we’ve learned about God to be true? Do we best share the gospel by pushing people away? Are we letting our light shine so that we can glorify our God in heaven? Are our words producing good fruit?”

As the global church asks some of these same questions during the ongoing synodal process around marriage and family life, it is worth reflecting on how the above incidents are forming faith in younger Catholics. Though the synod made secular media, it is not likely that teenage and young adult Catholics followed the happenings too closely — and making sense of it even baffled journalists in Rome at times.

What is far more formative are the tweets and public statements of figures like Ellen Page and Ariana Grande in portraying the Catholic Church as opposing LGBT people. That message sticks in youth’s minds. When coupled with personal experiences of discrimination and prejudice by Catholic institutions, like Salesian High School, it is a highly potent “vaccine against faith” as Pope Francis phrased it.

While younger Catholics are overwhelmingly pro-equality, they are also far more willing to walk away from Catholic faith and find religious homes elsewhere. All the episcopal deliberations in the world are irrelevant if the public perception about Catholicism remain unchanged.

Perhaps Pope Francis’ greatest gift is his ability to produce “tweet-able” statements in support of LGBT people, like his famous “Who am I to judge?”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

3 replies
  1. Brian Kneeland
    Brian Kneeland says:

    I have been pushed away! I am gay and married the man of my dreams. I have twice applied for jobs at Catholic parishes and twice been interviewed and then disconnected – no return calls – no reasons given. Tell me they did not do background checks! Tell me that my faith and my knowledge of liturgy and music is not important to the life of the parishes. I guarantee I would not be advocating for Catholics performing these marriages – but their shunning of me is very telling. Not at all what Jesus taught and what Pope Francis says with “who am I to judge”.

  2. Lynne Miller
    Lynne Miller says:

    we must try to remember that we are the church. the church isn’t the building or the vatican or the bishops and cardinals. the church is us, the people. our best move is to stay in the church and receive the sacraments and remember that in the long run, our faith is between us and god. if we, as educated catholics, deeply examine our consciences and determine that we are in harmony with what god as jesus asked of us, then who can turn us away? when we meet people who refuse to hire us, or allow us to serve in ministries in the church, or want to turn us from the eucharist, we need to peacefully go elsewhere and meet people who are willing to love us as jesus told us to love each other.

  3. Friends
    Friends says:

    A Church which refuses to honor and respect the “deeply-felt discernments of conscience” of its young members — most notably today’s highly-networked Catholic high school and college students — is a Church which is destined either to go the way of the dodo bird, or to become a vestigial and irrelevant religious cult. If Lord Jesus Himself loves and protects us, then we must assume that whatever happens to this Church is the Sovereign Judgment of the Lord of Love Himself. Have no fear. Divinely-inspired Love and Justice will always triumph over darkness, fear and ignorance.


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