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

August 9, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information, contact:

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

NATION’S TOP CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS URGE

NON-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS FOR LGBTQ PEOPLE

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– More than 250 of the nation’s leading Catholic theologians, church leaders, scholars, and writers have joined New Ways Ministry in voicing support for non-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people.

In a theological statement released today entitled, “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” the esteemed signatories affirm that Catholic doctrine “presents a positive case for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people,” despite opposition voiced by some outspoken high-ranking church leaders. Read the full letter here.

“We affirm that Catholic teaching should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” the statement reads, in part. It goes on to say: “Society’s failure to protect LGBTQ people has left them crying out for justice. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we too must hear and respond to this cry by pursuing policies and laws that remedy such grave injustices. To do any less would abdicate our responsibility as Christians to live the Gospel in public life by advancing the good of all people, especially those on the margins.”

The 2000-word statement was produced by New Ways Ministry, a 44-year-old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBTQ people and the church.

“LGBTQ non-discrimination is being debated at all levels in our society, and the Catholic perspective on this issue is often misrepresented, even by some church leaders,” said Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s executive director. “Catholics who have studied and reflected deeply on this topic agree that non-discrimination is the most authentic Catholic position.”

Signatories include a number of prominent Catholic names:  Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, Richard Rodriguez, author of Hunger of Memory; Garry Wills, author Lincoln at Gettysburg; Sister Simone Campbell, founder of “Nuns on the Bus”; Ron Hansen, author of Mariette in Ecstasy; Mary Gordon, author of Men and Angels; Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked.

Signatories from the academic world include some of the top names in Catholic theology: Rev. Bryan Massingale, Sister Margaret Farley, RSM, M. Shawn Copeland, Richard Gaillardetz, Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, Rev. Charles Curran, Maria Pilar Aquino, Sister Ilia Delio, Massimo Faggioli, and Rev. David Hollenbach, SJ.

Also signing are Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland; Miguel Diaz, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See; and Mary Novak, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby.

Additionally, 50 Catholic organizations have endorsed the statement, including 35 communities of vowed women and men.

Twenty-six U.S. Catholic bishops who have been supportive of LGBTQ people were invited to endorse the statement.  Only Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, a retired auxiliary bishop from the Archdiocese of Detroit did so.

All Catholics are invited to endorse the statement. Endorsements will be published in Catholic publications in September.

The statement will also serve as the basis for an educational pamphlet on the Catholic case for LGBTQ non-discrimination which New Ways Ministry will publish in the fall. The publication will be available for Catholic parishes, schools, and other institutions to use as an education and discussion tool.

###

About New Ways Ministry:

New Ways Ministry educates and advocates for justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger church and civil communities. Through research, publication and education about sexual orientation and gender identity, we foster dialogue among groups and individuals, identify and combat personal and structural homophobia and transphobia, work for changes in attitudes and promote the acceptance of LGBTQ people as full and equal members of church and society. For more information, visit: www.newwaysministry.org/.

-30-

June 17, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information, contact:

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

Catholic LGBTQ Ministry Responds to Supreme Court Decision on Adoption Case

 Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– The Catholic hierarchy may think that they have achieved a victory in the Fulton vs. the City of Philadelphia decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, but in fact it is a defeat for the Catholic values of equality, respect, and human dignity of all people, including LGBTQ people.  The decision is also a defeat for Catholic values of stable family life and the promotion of the common good. Thankfully, the decision is quite narrow, and its impact will be limited. The bishops did not attain the wider striking down of non-discrimination protections they sought.

Still, this limited ruling allows a small number of Catholic and other religious agencies to exercise not their religious liberty, but their fears and prejudice.  And what will be the result?  Children in great need for familial warmth and care will wait longer to be placed in loving homes.  Why do Catholic leaders resist all empirical evidence that LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents are just as effective and loving as their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts?  All these leaders have to do is open their eyes to the thousands upon thousands of successful families headed by LGBTQ people.  Their willful blindness is a scandal.

It is a terrible shame that Catholic Social Services and its allies believe that they have achieved a victory when all they have achieved is a legal loophole that allows them to become further isolated from people in their own church.  Lay Catholics overwhelmingly support equality for LGBTQ people because every day they witness the goodness of their LGBTQ family members, neighbors, and friends.  It’s time for Catholic bishops to learn from the people in the pews about Jesus’ message to treat all people with respect and compassion.

This discussion is not over.  It’s now up to Catholic people who support LGBTQ people to tell their leaders that they want church-sponsored adoption agencies not to discriminate in the placement of children. Catholic values demand loving care of vulnerable treatment and equal treatment of LGBTQ people.

-30-

New Ways Ministry is a 44-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the church. For more information visit: www.NewWaysMinistry.org.

May 10, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information, contact:

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

U.S. Catholic Ministry Supports German Blessings of Same-Gender Couples

 Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

 

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland–New Ways Ministry strongly supports the Catholics in Germany, including priests, who today are blessing hundreds of same-gender couples. Their witness of bringing God’s grace to people who are asking for a blessing of their love is an example which we hope will spread to other nations.

We don’t see the decision to act as one of protest or defiance, but as one in which priests and the faithful at large are following their call by God to bless and affirm love in the many different ways it is manifested.  LGBTQ Catholics know that the love they share is a love that has been divinely inspired and supported. Priests and pastoral ministers who choose to bless these couples recognize this act as part of their pastoral obligation to the people they minister with, to the church of which they are a part, and, ultimately, to God, who is love.

The blessings in Germany are part of a wider years-long discussion of ways that the Catholic Church in that country can affirm and welcome all LGBTQ people, and couples in particular.  Those discussions are part of the German church’s Synodal Way process, a multi-year, wide-ranging discussion of Catholics from all vocations in the church: laity, clergy, theologians, vowed religious, and bishops.  The synodal approach has been championed by Pope Francis as the best way for the church to deal with a variety of topics, including “hot-button” issues. It is a model which decentralizes authority in the church, allowing local Catholic leaders to decide what is best for their nations.

New Ways Ministry calls on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to open up such a synodal process here in the U.S. Catholic lay people here are ready to bless same-gender couples, as witnessed by the fact that thousands signed a public statement recently affirming their desire and commitment to do so. Scores of Catholic parishes have been doing outreach to LGBTQ people for decades now, and their number increases each month. The U.S. Catholic Church is ready for more open discussion on LGBTQ topics, and many other areas that cry out for more merciful and compassionate pastoral responses.

-30-

New Ways Ministry is a 44-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the church. For more information visit: www.NewWaysMinistry.org.

March 15, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information, contact:

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

Vatican Ban on Blessing Lesbian/Gay Couples

Is An Impotent Decision

 Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

 

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– It is not surprising, but still disappointing, that the Vatican has responded “no” to the dubium about whether the church can bless same-sex unions.

This decision though is an impotent one because it won’t stop the movement to bless such couples, and, in fact, it will actually encourage Catholics in the pews and the many Catholic leaders who are eager for such blessings to happen to work harder in their support—and blessing—of same-sex couples

Though Rome has now spoken on this issue, what the Vatican doesn’t realize is that the Catholic faithful are not satisfied with the answer that they gave.  Catholic people recognize the holiness of the love between committed same-sex couples and recognize this love as divinely inspired and divinely supported and thus meets the standard to be blessed.  They recognize that God has already blessed these unions, and that a ritual is simply a recognition of God’s blessing.

A number of bishops have already raised the question of blessing lesbian and gay couples, and many priests in parishes are already celebrating such blessings. Catholics will continue to find creative ways to bless the couples they love and support.  If priests and pastoral ministers no longer feel they can perform such a blessing, the Catholic laity will step in and perform their own rituals, gestures, and words of support. The fact that this discussion is well underway ensures that it will continue. The toothpaste is out of the tube and it can’t be put back inside.

The Vatican issued a dubium in 1995 that the ordination of women was not allowed and that no discussion of it could happen.  That strategy did not work, and the discussion of ordaining women in the Catholic Church is as alive as ever.

In 1968, the Vatican affirmed its opposition to artificial birth control.  Today, according to the U.S. bishops’ own statistics, 96% of Catholic couples ignore this teaching.

People think that church teaching evolves at the top and filters down. That is not how it works. The sense of the faithful is important and how the faithful receive a teaching affects the validity of such teaching.  The Catholic faithful have already expressed their support of same-sex couples, and they will continue to do so.  This decision changes nothing other than motivating more Catholics to support same-gender couples.

-30-

New Ways Ministry is a 44-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the church. For more information visit: www.NewWaysMinistry.org.

January 7, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information, contact:

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

Catholic Leaders Must Learn from January 6th Attack

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland–New Ways Ministry condemns the violence which erupted at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, in the strongest possible terms.  Our nation should learn many lessons from this action for which the perpetrators have been groomed for over the last four years of the Trump presidency.

Catholic Church leaders need to learn a lesson from this incident, too:  Hateful and violent rhetoric results in hateful and violent actions.  When demonizing and dehumanizing language is preached, people are encouraged to fulfill these messages with destruction, damage, and death.

January 6, 2021, should be an Epiphany for Catholic leaders to finally end their degrading messages about LGBTQ people. When Catholic leaders speak of LGBTQ people in terms which oppose this community to what religious leaders consider “God’s intentions” about sexuality and gender, they are promoting hatred, violence, and the murder of LGBTQ people.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who is a pro-LGBTQ devout Catholic, responded to the attack on the Capitol with this message, “The words of a president matter.” That same message can be applied to bishops and other Catholic leaders who have long vilified LGBTQ people. That idea was voiced in 2016 by Bishop Robert Lynch  in the wake of the 2016 Pulse LGBTQ nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.  He said:

Sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence. Those women and men who were mowed down early yesterday morning were all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that.

As Bishop Lynch’s remarks show, not all bishops and church leaders speak harmful messages.  Unfortunately, the ones with affirming and positive messages about LGBTQ people are too often drowned out by the steady drumbeat of others.  New Ways Ministry affirms the many courageous bishops and Catholic leaders who have spoken out against the booming Catholic voices whose messages breed contempt and harm.  We bless and thank these prophets who often have experienced marginalization and vilification themselves for standing with an oppressed minority.

President-elect Biden is attempting to unify the nation from the truly preventable tragedy of January 6th by condemning violent rhetoric and calling for a return to “simple decency.” Catholic leaders must also walk the road of reconciliation by turning away from their history of violent messages about LGBTQ people and finally begin, in earnest, the simple, decent process of dialogue with the LGBTQ community and with the overwhelming numbers of Catholics who support LGBTQ equality.

-30-

New Ways Ministry is a 44-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the church. For more information visit: www.NewWaysMinistry.org.

November 4, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information, contact:

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

Catholic LGBTQ Ministry: Supreme Court Must Stand for Non-Discrimination in Fulton

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments today in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case which asks whether our country’s laws allow religious institutions to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The case involves the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services, an adoption/foster care agency which receives government funding but refuses to place children with legally married same-gender couples.

Catholic Social Services claims that they are upholding Catholic teaching about marriage and family. But just two weeks ago, Pope Francis stated his support for legal rights for same-gender couples in legally-formed civil unions. And, as early as 1983, the bishops of Washington State authoritatively stated “. . . prejudice against homosexual people is a greater infringement of the norm of Christian morality than is homosexual…activity.”

When the pope and bishops have affirmed church teachings that call for equal treatment of lesbian and gay people, it is scandalous for a Catholic agency to discriminate against them. Worse yet, that they are spending churchgoers’ money to sue for the opportunity to go against both church and civil law. It is an even greater scandal that this Catholic agency wants to receive government money while ignoring non-discrimination laws, and distorts the real meaning of religious liberty in so doing.

Poll after poll affirms that the Catholic faithful in the U.S. are welcoming LGBTQ families with open arms.  But since at least 2015, most Catholic leaders have tried to ignore the reality that marriage equality is the law. Instead of reaching out to families headed by LGBTQ people, church leaders push them away.  Instead of accompanying same-gender couples on their life journey, as Pope Francis keeps reminding them to do, the bishops abuse the treasured value of religious liberty to justify their anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Church leaders have much to learn from the faithful. New Ways Ministry provides a list of 12 simple ways that Catholic parishes and pastors can let LGBTQ families know they are welcomed and loved.

New Ways Ministry prays that the Supreme Court will stand up for the Catholic and constitutional value of non-discrimination. We pray that our church’s leaders will have a change of heart and see the many spiritual and moral gifts that LGBTQ people offer. We pray for the day when our Catholic leaders will not turn to the nation’s courts seeking permission for behavior that not only contradicts their own teachings but is shameful.

Two amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs that were filed in the Fulton case had strong pro-LGBTQ Catholic dimensions to them, including one which New Ways Ministry, along with other progressive Catholic groups, joined.

You can read them by clicking on the titles below.

  1. Miguel H. Díaz, Ambassador to the Holy See, Ret.; CHILD USA; DignityUSA; New Ways Ministry; WATER; and WOC in Support of Respondents, filed by Marci A. Hamilton, Esq., and Leslie C. Griffin, Esq.

Bondings 2.0 is cited several times in this brief.

Dr. Leslie Griffin was the presenter at New Ways Ministry’s webinar, “The Supreme Court and LGBTQ Issues:  What Catholics Need to Know in 2020,” on Sunday, November 1st, on Zoom.  You can view the Zoom recording of her presentation by clicking here.

  1. 27 Lay Roman Catholics in Support of Respondents, filed by James K. Riley.

-30-

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.

October 25, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information, contact:

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

Catholic LGBT Ministry Praises Three of Pope’s Cardinal Choices

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– Pope Francis has included a U.S. archbishop who has made several strong, positive statements about LGBTQ people in the group of 13 church leaders named cardinals today. A bishop from the island nation of Malta, who also has an LGBTQ-positive record was also named, as well as a bishop from Albano, Italy.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who heads the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., is one of the few members of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy who is willing to offer affirming messages to the LGBTQ community. He is the first Black bishop from the U.S. to be named a cardinal, has spoken frequently on racial justice, and has connected the 1960s civil rights movement to the LGBTQ equality movement.

Bishop Mario Grech, who serves at the Vatican as secretary general of the Synod of Bishops office, is formerly the leader of the Diocese of Gozo, Malta. Grech’s statements in support of LGBTQ people have made him strongly accepted by the gay community in Malta, a very Catholic nation and also considered the nation with the strongest LGBTQ civil protections in the world.

Bishop Marcello Semeraro, who was just recently appointed to lead the Vatican’s Congregation for Causes of Saints, has shown that he is open to discussing LGBTQ issues. While his record is not as long as the other two men, it still points in a positive direction.

(See highlights from the three leaders’ records on LGBTQ issues below.)

Coming just days after Pope Francis made headlines for statements supporting same-gender civil unions, the inclusion of these three leaders to the College of Cardinals, the church body which will elect the next pope, continues the pontiff’s long record of LGBTQ-positive statements and actions.

These prelates have been willing to discuss LGBTQ issues in supportive ways, something that, unfortunately, is a rarity among the church’s leaders.  Even more importantly, they are willing to be listeners and have demonstrated that they are able to develop their thinking on these issues, moving away from ideas and attitudes that are cemented in stereotypes, myths, and fear.

Even with the immense amount of criticism that Pope Francis has received from conservative hierarchs, the pontiff shows no indication of shying away from making decisions that can have positive ramifications for LGBTQ people.  Since naming cardinals also affects who the next pontiff will be, the pope also shows that he is planning for the future of the church to continue in this affirming posture on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In his previous appointments of cardinals, Pope Francis had already named a number of LGBTQ-friendly leaders: Archbishops Blase Cupich, Joseph Tobin, Kevin Farrell, Jozef De Kesel, Vincent Nichols, Matteo Zuppi, Jean-Claude Hollerich, José Tolentino Medonca, John Atcherly Dew, Dominique Mamberti,   and Father Michael Czerny, SJ.

New Ways Ministry welcomes these three new cardinals, and we hope and pray that they will continue their prophetic ministry and that other church leaders will follow their examples.

-30-

Highlights from Cardinal-elect Wilton Gregory’s record on LGBTQ issues

As archbishop of Washington, Gregory’s most noted LGBTQ-friendly statement came when at a public meeting, he was asked by a transgender Catholic: “What place do I as a confirmed transgender Catholic and what place do my queer friends have here in this archdiocese?”

The archbishop replied:

“You belong to the heart of this church. There is nothing that you may do, may say, that will rip you from the heart of this church. There is a lot that has been said to you, about you, behind your back that is painful and is sinful. I mentioned my conversation with Fortunate Families. We have to find a way to talk to one another, and to talk to one another not just from one perspective, but to talk and to listen to one another. I think that’s the way that Jesus ministered. He engaged people, he took them where they were at, and he invited them to go deeper, closer to God. If you’re asking me where do you fit, you fit in the family.”

Gregory previously served as Archbishop of Atlanta, where his LGBTQ record began with allowing the cathedral in Atlanta to host group for the families of LGBTQ people; acknowledging that the Church needed to improve its pastoral care for LGBTQ persons;  and defending both Fr. James Martin, S.J., and Msgr. Henry Gracz, both LGBTQ-affirming priests, against right-wing attacks.

In 2014, he appointed a deacon to pastoral ministry with the LGBTQ community in the Atlanta archdiocese.  In announcing the appointment, Gregory acknowledged the church has not always treated this community respectfully:

“. . . [T]he Church must welcome all of her sons and daughters—no matter what their sexual orientation or life situation might be—and that we have not always done so with a spirit of compassion and understanding. I spoke of the distinction that our Church makes between orientation and behavior, which admittedly needs reexamination and development.

“We are all called to conversion—not just some members of the Church.”

In a talk on new forms of discrimination which Gregory gave at a 2018 conference of priests, he decried “the brutality that an individual’s sexual orientation often fosters and justifies.”

After the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality decision, Gregory’s statement did not approve the decision, but he emphasized:

“This judgment. . . does not absolve either those who may approve or disapprove of this decision from the obligations of civility toward one another.  Neither is it a license for more venomous language or vile behavior against those whose opinions continue to differ from our own.  It is a decision that confers a civil entitlement to some people who could not claim it before. . . .

“The decision has offered all of us an opportunity to continue the vitally important dialogue of human encounter, especially between those of diametrically differing opinions regarding its outcome.”

In 2016, Gregory and the bishop of Savannah issued a statement supporting Georgia governor’s decision to veto a religious freedom bill which many saw as a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The statement said we “do not support any implementation of [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] in a way that will discriminate against any individual” because each person’s dignity is “the basis for religious liberty.”

Highlights from Cardinal-elect Mario Grech’s record on LGBTQ issues

Grech gave a speech at the Vatican’s 2014 Synod on the Family, where he called on church leaders to use more sensitive language about gay and lesbian people:

“A good point of departure would be in our choice of language – may it be the language of a Church that is both merciful and brings healing. I must confess to facing the urgency of this need while listening to families of homosexuals as well as to the same persons having such an orientation and who feel wounded by the language directed towards them in certain texts, for instance in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997 edition, §2358); these persons consequently struggle both with maintaining their faith alive as well as cultivating their sense of filial belonging to the Church.”

Even more remarkable than the words that he spoke is the fact that before the synod, Grech took time to listen to parents’ of LGBTQ people so that he could better understand the reality of their lives.  Very few bishops have actually taken time to listen to either LGBTQ individuals or their families.  At the time, it was reported that Pope Francis told Grech that he approved of his talk.

Grech is one of a growing number of Catholic leaders who have said positive things about civil unions and same-gender couples even before the pope’s recent statements.  When Grech was asked in a 2015 interview  if same-gender couples in a civil unions should be welcomed by the church, Grech said:

“Of course. They are part of God’s people, and like everybody else they are going through a journey and the Church needs to support them in revealing God’s hidden face. We cannot define such a journey in stages and put up barriers, as the road is wide open to those truly seeking to follow God’s footsteps, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Grech added that “there can be different forms of relationship” beyond marriage.

Cardinal-elect Marcello Semeraro’s record on LGBTQ issues

In 2018, Semeraro addressed the meeting of Italy’s National Forum on LGBT Christians. His message emphasized inclusion, welcome, and a shared equality because of baptism.  In part, he said:

“You are Christian groups and this means a title of fraternity. ‘Christian is my name’, wrote Paciano of Barcelona in the fourth century: this allows all Christians to call each other by name. This is the title for which I recognize you as siblings. It is the truth of all time, it is the truth of Baptism that has impressed in us a seal of ancestry and of fraternity (baptismal character) that nothing, not even sin, will ever succeed in destroying.”

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.

-30-

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.

-30-

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.

-30-

NEW WAYS MINISTRY in the NEWS

  • January 26, 2021: Catholic LGBTQ nuns are speaking up again, and this time they have no intention of going away

  • January 7, 2021: Bishops, leaders reflect on U.S. Capitol assault, pray for peace

  • December 10, 2020: In ‘Love Tenderly,’ LGBTQ sisters share joys and struggles of self-discovery

  • October 5, 2020: New Ways Ministry programs support LGBTQ sisters, educate congregation leaders

  • 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