Media

For Press Inquiries

Francis DeBernardo
Executive Director, New Ways Ministry
director@newwaysministry.org
Office: (301) 277-5674
Cell: (240) 432-2489

Most Recent Press Statement

For previous statements, see below

October 21, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information, contact:

Francis DeBernardo, mobile: (+1) 240-432-2489

Catholic LGBT Ministry

Praises Pope on Civil Unions Support

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– New Ways Ministry gratefully welcomes Pope Francis’ latest support for civil unions for same-gender couples.  It is an historic moment when the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, long seen as a persecutor of LGBTQ people, moves in such a supportive direction for lesbian/gay couples and their families.  It signals that the church is continuing to develop more positively its approach to LGBTQ issues.

At the same time, we urge Pope Francis to apply the same kind of reasoning to recognize and bless these same unions of love and support within the Catholic Church, too. Since the pope framed his support for civil unions by saying that same-gender couples are “right to be a part of the family,” it would not be a long stretch for him to do so.

Bishops, priests, and theologians in the German-speaking church have been making strong calls for blessing same-gender couples for several years now. The Synodal Way process in Germany may issue its support of recognizing and blessing these unions in the church early next year.

Pope Francis support for full civil marriage rights, beyond civil unions, is needed, too. Traditionally Catholic nations have one-by-one been passing civil union and marriage equality laws for a while now.  Among them: Argentina, Austria. Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ireland, Malta, Mexico (in part), Portugal, Spain, and Uruguay. Such recognition shows that overwhelming majorities of Catholic citizens support legal protections for same-gender couples.

While this is certainly the pope’s strongest statement in support of civil unions, he has hinted at support for such legal recognition at least twice before. Before his election as pope in 2013, while archbishop in Argentina, Francis endorsed civil unions as an alternative to the movement for marriage equality. In a 2017 interview as pope, he gave tacit approval, saying rather than marriage, the relationships of same-gender couples should be referred to as civil unions. (For a chronology of ALL Pope Francis’ statements and actions on LGBTQ issues, click here.)

The pope’s statement could have a great impact on an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case, Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia, in which the rights of legally married lesbian and gay couples to adopt or foster children from Catholic social service agencies is at issue. If the pope supports such couples, what should prevent lower-level Catholic officials from doing so.

This statement will have an effect beyond church discussions and legal debates. When the pope says something positive about LGBTQ issues, he sends forth an enormous wave of goodwill to LGBTQ people, and, at the same time, teaches a positive lesson to people whose anti-LGBTQ views are religiously-based.  It is no overstatement to say that with this statement not only has the pope protected LGBTQ couples and families, but he also will save many LGBTQ lives.

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New Ways Ministry is a 43-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the church. For more information visit: www.newwaysministry.org.

July 8, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information, contact:

Francis DeBernardo, mobile: (+1) 240-432-2489

Catholic LGBT Ministry Responds to

Supreme Court Decision on Religious Exemptions

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

 MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel not to protect workers at religious institutions from employment discrimination leaves many people, especially LGBTQ people, vulnerable to being fired by institutions that should be the model of fairness and equality, not bigotry and exclusion.  This decision is a sad and contradictory follow-up to the Court’s June 15th Title VII decision which sought to protect LGBTQ people from employment discrimination.

Although these two recent employment cases did not involve LGBTQ issues or people, the ruling bolsters church officials’ broad claim to a religious exemption from federal anti-discrimination law in a variety of situations, including cases involving sexual and gender minorities. Over the past decade, we have seen over 100 public cases where people have lost their jobs at Catholic schools and parishes because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or support for LGBTQ people.  [For a listing of these cases click here; for resources on Catholic employment discrimination against LGBTQ people click here.] This record is shameful, especially given the Catholic Church’s teachings on respect for all people’s human dignity and defense of worker rights.

Whether or not civil law allows for religious institutions to discriminate against their employees, Catholic officials are answerable to the law of God to treat all people with equal respect. Their own teaching demands they respect the rights of workers.

As Pope Paul VI said, “All people have the right to work, to a chance to develop their qualities and their personalities in the exercise of their professions, to equitable remuneration which will enable them and their families to lead a worthy life on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level. . .” (Octogesima Adveniens, 14). The Catholic Church has an impressive record of defending the rights of workers in the secular world, supporting unions in their struggle for better working conditions and just wages. Yet, the church has not treated its employees with the same sense of fairness.

Catholics in the pews have strongly internalized these teachings on workers’ rights and see the wisdom in applying these approaches to LGBTQ people employed by church agencies. Every time an employee at a Catholic institution has lost a job because of LGBTQ issues, lay Catholics have protested the church’s unjust actions.  If Catholic leaders feel emboldened by this new ruling to continue firing LGBTQ people from their jobs, they will face an immense outcry from Catholics who want their church to act justly.

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court did not provide justice for LGBTQ employees in Catholic agencies, Catholic people in the pews will demand that their bishops and other leaders do so.  The struggle is not over. It has simply moved to another venue.

LGBTQ people serve in all sorts of capacities and roles in the church.  They are teachers, social workers, nuns, doctors, nurses, parish administrators, scholars, priests—and, yes, even bishops themselves. Were all LGBTQ people fired from their church jobs, the work of the church would come to a screeching halt.  Nothing would get done.

Singling out a person’s sexuality, gender identity, or marital status as the litmus tests for orthodoxy invalidates a person’s gift of labor to the church based on only one aspect of his or her life, ignoring all other professional, relational, spiritual gifts. This is blatant discrimination and the height of religious myopia.  Early Christians labeled this kind of thinking the Donatist heresy. They recognized, and the church still holds, that no person in the church—not even the pope—is ever free of sinfulness or in full agreement and harmony with all the church’s teaching. Yet, effective church service can still be performed by people that leaders think imperfect.

If bishops feel they have achieved a victory with this court ruling, they are sorely wrong.  If they exercise their new powers by continuing discriminatory employment practice, they not only will lose some of their best employees, but they will also lose what little respect lay Catholics still hold for the church’s leaders.

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New Ways Ministry is a 43-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the church. For more information visit: www.newwaysministry.org.


June 15, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information, contact:

Francis DeBernardo, mobile: (+1) 240-432-2489

Catholic LGBTQ Ministry Responds to

Supreme Court Decision on Title VII

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

 MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Title VII decision protecting LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination is a reason for all Catholics to celebrate.  While pro-LGBTQ Catholics, who are the overwhelming majority in the U.S. church, will obviously applaud this decision, even Catholics who take a negative stance toward LGBTQ people should welcome this decision because it is absolutely in agreement with Catholic teachings about the human dignity of LGBTQ people, anti-discrimination, and respect for workers’ rights.

Unfortunately, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops does not agree.  Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles denounced the decision in a statement, saying, in part:

“I am deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law. This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life. . . .  No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan.

“Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and, without exception, must be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.”

What Gomez doesn’t realize is that such a “legal redefinition” actually helps in the goal of “Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination. . . .”  What Gomez doesn’t realize is that such a “legal redefinition” actually helps in the goal of “Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination. . . .”  He commits the error that the bishops conference has continually made by viewing all LGBTQ issues through the lens of sexuality instead of through the more basic and correct lens of human rights and dignity.

Moreover, for decades upon decades, and with increasingly mounting scientific and social scientific evidence, the bishops have been exhorted to listen to the voices of LGBTQ people so that they can learn how these individuals experience and discern “God’s plan” for themselves, instead of being constrained by an abstract philosophical model.

Even Catholics opposed to marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples should be rejoicing that the Court’s decision is in line with Catholic teaching on homosexual people that “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358).

Even Catholics who do not support transgender people should be rejoicing that their dignity and humanity are upheld by this ruling.  As the U.S. bishops have stated: “Human personhood must be respected with a reverence that is religious. When we deal with each other, we should do so with the sense of awe that arises in the presence of something holy and sacred. For that is what human beings are: we are created in the image of God.” (Economic Justice for All, 28)

 As Pope Paul VI said, “All people have the right to work, to a chance to develop their qualities and their personalities in the exercise of their professions, to equitable remuneration which will enable them and their families “to lead a worthy life on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level. . .” (Octogesima Adveniens, 14)

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that this decision will protect the rights of LGBTQ workers employed in church institutions. Church agencies often hide behind religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBTQ workers in their employ.  It is shameful that Catholic bishops and administrators do not themselves live up to their own teachings in regard to LGBTQ non-discrimination and workers’ rights.

As with other LGBTQ issues, it is sad that the Supreme Court is ahead of the Catholic Church when it comes to employment non-discrimination—a policy which should Catholic teaching speaks of eloquently in its words, but fails miserably in putting into practice.

So, while Catholics of all political persuasions can rejoice that the U.S. Supreme Court supported LGBTQ workers in a manner consonant with Catholic teaching, the work for justice and equality inside the Church will continue.

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NEW WAYS MINISTRY in the NEWS

  • September 17, 2020: Pope Francis to parents of L.G.B.T. children: ‘God loves your children as they are.’ (See link about the English-language version)

  • July 11, 2020: Double win at Supreme Court elates religious conservatives

  • June 15, 2020: Supreme Court says federal law protects L.G.B.T. workers from discrimination

  • June 15, 2020: Supreme Court rules that federal law protects LGBTQ persons from employment discrimination

  • June 15, 2020: Supreme Court Rules That Federal Law Protects LGBTQ Persons From Employment Discrimination

  • June 03, 2020: Meet Father Bryan Massingale: A Black, Gay, Catholic Priest Fighting for an Inclusive Church

  • May 06, 2020: Pope Benedict XVI Sounds Off on Gay Marriage, Abortion

  • April 16, 2020: ‘Catholics for Trump’ touts an anti-LGBTQ political agenda. That’s not what most Catholics believe.

  • March 27, 2020: Call For Pope Francis To Remove Catholic Leaders Who Blamed LGBT For COVID-19 Crisis

  • March 25, 2020: Group denounces clergy for blaming LGBTQ people for coronavirus

PREVIOUS STATEMENTS

  • Catholic LGBTQ Ministry Decries Church Leaders for Coronavirus Statements