The BEST Catholic LGBTQ News Stories of 2019

Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 provided the results of our annual survey of the top ten WORST Catholic LGBTQ news events of 2019.  Today, to close out the year, we offer the results of the other half of the survey:  the top ten BEST Catholic LGBTQ news events of the past year.  As you will see, there has been a lot to celebrate these past 12 months!

Last week, we provided 15 “nominees” in each category, based on which of our 2019 posts received the most views, and readers selected their top five for best and top five for worst.  Write-ins were permitted.

The list below goes in descending order from the story with the most votes at the top of the list.  Following each item is the percentage of people who voted for that story. After the list, we will provide some short analysis, but we also encourage our readers to provide their own analyses in the “Comments” section of this post.

The Best Catholic LGBTQ News Events of 2019

  1. Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, Indianapolis, refuses to obey Archbishop Charles Thompson’s order that they fire a gay teacher in a same-gender marriage. 67%
  2. Pope Francis hosts Fr. James Martin, SJ, for a private audience, a meeting viewed as a papal affirmation of Martin’s LGBTQ ministry related to his book, Building a Bridge, which is based on a lecture Martin gave when receiving a New Ways Ministry award. 58%
  3. News breaks that in a phone call Pope Francis restored gay priest and theologian Fr. James Alison to active ministry. Alison had been removed and persecuted by Vatican officials over his views on homosexuality and the church. 56%
  4. Pope Francis condemns the persecution of lesbian and gay people, which he compares to Nazism. 46%
  5. Officials in several German dioceses, including one bishop, announce they will defy a Vatican ban and welcome gay men who remain celibate to be accepted as candidates for the priesthood. 34%
  6. Pope Francis says in an interview that, “If we were convinced that [LGBTQ] people are children of God, things would change a lot.” He also clarified that he was not alluding to conversion therapy in a 2018 interview where he recommended parents seek professional help if a child struggles with their sexuality. 30%
  7. The Diocese of Basel, the largest diocese in Switzerland, announces its support for civil marriage equality and for religious blessings of same-gender couples. 29%
  8. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, newly-appointed to the Archdiocese of Washington, tells a transgender Catholic at a Theology on Tap event that they “belong to the heart of this church” and that they “fit in the family.” 27%
  9. Sr. Mary Berchmans writes a letter to the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School community explaining why the school would begin allowing same-gender marriage announcements in its alumnae magazine. Berchmans writes, “I keep returning to this choice: we can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love. . .And so, we choose the Gospel commandment of love.” 25%
  10. TIE 

a) Pope Francis meets with a group of LGBTQ pilgrims after an Ash Wednesday audience. The group from LGBT+ Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, England, also attended Mass and the Imposition of Ashes led by the pope that afternoon. 17%

AND

b) John Henry Newman, one of the most famous Catholic theologians of the late 19th century, is canonized in Rome. Francis DeBernardo of Bondings 2.0 asks whether Newman can be considered the first openly gay saint. 17%

Write-in Votes:

  • Bondings 2.0’s “Isaiah Project: LGBTQ Reflections for Advent 2019”
  • DignityUSA’s 50th Jubilee Convention, Chicago, July 5-7, 2019

Commentary

Pope Francis continues to be a major positive newsmaker for Catholic LGBTQ issues.  Five of the stories above are about actions or statements that he made; we might even count that number as six if we include the canonization of St. John Henry Newman in which the pope obviously played a role.  The pope’s actions concerning two priests who have been active in promoting LGBTQ equality in the church–Fr. James Martin, SJ, and Father James Alison–ranked second and third in the list, indicating that positive actions by the pontiff go a long way to energize the entire Catholic LGBTQ movement.  [Editor’s note:  If you haven’t yet read Fr. Alison’s account of his phone call with Pope Francis, click here.]

As we alluded to yesterday, much of the best Catholic LGBTQ news of the year comes from outside the U.S.A.  And, as we’ve noted before on this blog, we should keep our eyes on Germany and German-speaking countries where so many positive developments are happening.

The selection of  Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School’s refusal to fire a gay teacher as the top positive story is heartening.  It shows that Catholics are concerned about the terrible trend of employees being fired from Catholic institutions because of or LGBTQ issues. (If you look at yesterday’s list of worst stories, you will find that three of the ten stories selected deal with employment issues.) The selection of Brebeuf’s refusal as the top story also signifies that Catholics are ready to support Catholic administrators and institutions who take courageous stands to defend LGBTQ equality.  The selection of Sister Mary Berchmann’s decision to include lesbian wedding announcements in Georgetown Visitation Academy’s alumnae newsletter also shows that Catholics want their leaders to develop policies that treat LGBTQ people with equality and fairness.

What do you find interesting about this list? Offer your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 31, 2019

2 replies
  1. Vernon Smith
    Vernon Smith says:

    Interesting analysis of the best and worst lists this year. Makes sense, and many excellent observations. Let me try to add another consideration. The impact and power behind the worst stories unfortunately outweighs that of the best stories. If you compare the top best and the worst items listed, the best focused more upon individual actions by the Pope (each having fairly limited connection to more broad ranging institutional change), or by others who are not in positions of power to affect institutional change. Meanwhile, many of the top negative stories involve powerful bishops, groups, or others exerting influence upon both religious and government institutions and society for the structural long haul. Truly, Francis as Pope is powerful, and he is doing many things to change the climate and provide hope through his individual pastoral actions. But in terms of power, influence, and institutional change, the negative influences are more strongly political and calculated to impact structures in ways that stack the deck against lgbt+ interests. Hence, there is so much more work to do in 2020 to change the balance of power and influence. Barring a miracle that Francis would actually do or say something dramatic to fundamentally change Church teaching or practice, we need to continue to speak out and try to push the needle ourselves from the grass roots of society and of the Church.

    Reply
  2. Vernon Smith
    Vernon Smith says:

    One more note: the comments about German speaking Catholic leadership is indeed hopeful, and runs a little counter to some of the observations that I just posted. Let us hope we hear more of such movement throughout the Church!

    Reply

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