As I look back on the year that is closing, I thought it might be instructive to look at what Bondings 2.0’s readers thought were the most interesting stories of the past 12 months. I looked for the stories posted this year which received the highest number of views.
The top ten stories follow, with the first one being the one with the most views, and decreasing in descending order. Each headline links back to the original post. Below each entry, I offer a brief commentary.
[Editor’s note: On December 26th, we will provide our annual poll for readers to determine what were the best and worst Catholic LGBT stories this past year. Results will be posted on December 30th and 31st.]
The post in the number one spot is not surprising. The Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision will likely be considered one of the top stories of the year in the general press. I recall that in announcing the news of this decision, The New York Times had the largest headline I have seen in the paper since the day after September 11, 2001.
I was at first surprised by the post in the number two spot, but on further reflection, it seems like a natural. Pope Francis’ positive gestures and statements regarding LGBT issues touch hearts deeply. Additionally, this story is related to the another major news event of the year: the pontiff’s visit to the U.S.
Technically this post appeared in 2014, but it was posted on December 28th, so close enough to the beginning of 2015 that I decided to include it in this list. I think this piece was so popular because it blended a personal story with commentary on church teaching and practice–all told from the perspective of a married Catholic deacon active in church ministry. The fact that it had already received thousands of views before 2015 began, yet still emerged as the third most popular story of the year, indicates how powerfully it touched hearts and minds.
This post represents a positive growing trend in the Catholic Church lately: high-ranking church officials acknowledging and praising the presence of loving gay and lesbian couples in society. Because this post was tweeted by “Modern Family” star Eric Stonestreet (who plays Cameron) and was shown on a HuffPost Live interview with him, it also reached a much wider audience of readers.
Having received press credentials from the Vatican to cover the synod on the family for Bondings 2.0, I was able to raise up LGBT issues with several cardinals and bishops at this historic meeting. This personal interview with the president of India’s bishops conference who is also one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors included an important message of acceptance which I think our readers and their friends were excited to hear.
Another story from the synod, this one featured a direct question about the hierarchy’s deafening silence on criminalization laws. I was able to ask this question to a high-ranking African archbishop at a synod press conference, and his answer was reported widely in other news outlets beyond this blog.
I think the popularity of this post shows how polarized our church is when it comes to discussion LGBT issues. After Fr. James Martin, SJ, posted New Ways Ministry’s response to the Supreme Court marriage decision on his Facebook page, he was deluged by negative responses from Catholics who opposed the decision. The response was so strong that his response to them was covered by Religion News Service,
Bad news, unfortunately, is always popular. I think the reason that communion denial stories attract so much attention is deeper than that they are simply negative. They strike at the heart of Catholic identity: the Eucharist. I think they also strike people as intensely personal. The fact that this particular denial took place at a parent’s funeral made it all the more painful.
Sadly, it is not an uncommon story to hear a Catholic Church official make negative comments about LGBT people. In some ways, it is not even news-worthy. The level of vitriol in this case, however, as well as the hubris exhibited by the pastor, made this particular story rise above the ordinary version of negative comments.
I’m not surprised that this story made it into the top ten. When it first broke at the end of September, so many people were so disheartened by what seemed like Pope Francis rejecting his advice to bishops to not be so politically identified. Of course, the story had a happy ending when it was revealed that the Vatican had not arranged this encounter with Davis (which turned out to be little more than a handshake), but that the pope himself had arranged a meeting in the U.S. with a former student of his who is gay.
Between now and the end of the year, we will be publishing a few other posts concerning the year that was. Feel free, as always, to make your own year-end summaries in the “Comments” section of this post.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry