After 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 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