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 past statements, see below

New Ways Ministry Praises Pope Francis For Condemning Persecution of Lesbian/Gay People

November 15, 2019

The following is a statement from Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, in response to Pope Francis’ statement condemning the persecution of LGBTQ people.

Pope Francis has finally condemned the persecution of lesbian and gay people, by stating that actions “typical of Nazism have reappeared in modern life,” and include the oppression of “people of a homosexual orientation,” among other marginalized groups. New Ways Ministry welcomes this statement because it will help protect LGBTQ people and because it is based solidly on Catholic values of protecting human life and dignity and avoiding discrimination.  We hope this statement signals a new direction in the hierarchy towards speaking out strongly against the intolerance, persecution, and violence that LGBTQ people experience around the world.

This simple message will save lives, protect people from harm, help keep families together, and work towards eradicating hateful attitudes. When the Pope speaks, people listen—regardless of faith or political leanings. It is especially important to hear these words from the Pope Francis’ mouth because much of the persecution against LGBTQ people occurs in nations with a strong Catholic population, often with the approval of local Catholic bishops.

While the pope has made a number of pastorally welcoming statements concerning LGBTQ people, he has not, until now, condemned the persecution of them, which is on the rise around the globe. This manifests itself in laws that criminalize LGBTQ people, often imposing harsh sentences, including the death penalty.

This statement has been a long time coming. For years, Catholic LGBTQ advocates have called on Pope Francis to use his powerful moral voice to condemn repressive and violent measures against sexual and gender minorities. (For a full chronology of Catholic voices speaking against, and in favor of, criminalization laws regarding LGBTQ people, click here.)

In 2012, many Catholic leaders, including a group of theologians and the former ambassador to the Vatican, Thomas Melady, spoke against the legalized oppression of LGBTQ people. In 2013, Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder of New Ways Ministry (NWM), met Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and urged him to use his voice to protect LGBTQ people around the world. Since January, 2014, NWM has been promoting the #PopeSpeakOut campaign, asking supporters to send messages to the pope urging him to condemn persecution against LGBTQ people. In February 2015, two Catholic LGBTQ leaders from the United Kingdom met with Turkson in Rome to urge opposition to criminalization laws.  In October 2015, NWM Executive Director Francis DeBernardo interviewed Turkson at the Vatican and urged him to speak out against criminalization laws. In April of this year, an international group of LGBTQ human rights lawyers met at the Vatican with the Holy See’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to discuss oppression against LGBTQ people.

We are happy to hear the Pope echo the sentiments of Catholics in the pews who have been praying and working for many decades to end oppression against LGBTQ people.

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New Ways Ministry is a 42-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the church. For more information visit: www.newwaysministry.org.


New Ways Ministry Criticizes Archdiocese of Indianapolis for Firing LGBTQ Teacher

June 25, 2019

The following is a statement by Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response to the firing of an LGBTQ Catholic high school teacher in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis:

Another LGBTQ teacher at an Indianapolis Catholic high school has been fired because of an ultimatum presented by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis:  fire the teacher or lose the right to call the school “Catholic.” Coming just days after another Catholic high school in the same city lost its ability to call itself “Catholic” for refusing to fire another LGBTQ teacher, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, for the good of the Church, to stop and re-consider its punitive policies.

In both situations, at Brebeuf Preparatory School and Cathedral High School, the archdiocese tried to force the schools to unjustly fire two LGBTQ teachers who had civilly married. (In both cases, the gender and names of the teachers were not revealed.)  In the case of Brebeuf, the archdiocese was unsuccessful. Cathedral High’s statement indicated that they were compelled to fire.  Two other school employees and a volunteer at Indianapolis’ Roncalli Catholic High School had already been fired in the last year.  With the most employment cases of any diocese, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has become “ground zero” for Catholic LGBTQ firings.

New Ways Ministry has catalogued over 80 similar cases of LGBTQ employment disputes in the Catholic Church, dating back to 2008.  These are only the cases which have become public in the media.

What the archdiocese, and many other church officials, don’t get, is that firing LGBTQ teachers and pastoral ministers is a losing and self-defeating policy.  Instead of accomplishing the task of defending a narrow orthodoxy focused solely on sexuality and gender issues, firing LGBTQ church workers causes more and more Catholics to see that the Church’s teaching on these matters does not reflect human reality or the mercy of God.  And these leaders ignore the demands of the Church’s social justice teaching, so clear to Catholics in the pews, that every person’s human dignity must be respected. In every single firing case, Catholics, especially young people, rise up in protest—and a large number of them become alienated from the Church.

Moreover, such actions have not prevented LGBTQ people from continuing to minister in the Church.  LGBTQ people serve at all levels of the Catholic community—including in the hierarchy itself—and have served compassionately and faithfully, following Jesus’ call to spread the message of the Gospel.  They lead holy and healthy lives, and they act with the utmost integrity in their professions.  Not one who has been fired has been described as an immoral or unprofessional employee.  LGBTQ people serve God and the Church, often under difficult conditions of having to be private about their lives to avoid all kinds of discriminatory behaviors from others.

Having already faced an uproar from the Brebeuf situation, the archdiocese would have been wise to avoid a second conflagration by having another LGBTQ employee fired.  They did not.  They should have chosen the path of pastoral reconciliation with a community already hurting, instead of exacerbating the wounds and extending them to yet another school community.  Grave pastoral harm has been done, and it is now up to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to reverse its decisions, and help heal the damage that they have created.

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New Ways Ministry Praises Brebeuf Jesuit School for Standing for Justice

June 21, 2019

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– The leaders of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis have taken a courageous step by standing by their teacher who is involved in a civil same-gender marriage.  Unfortunately, like most prophetic witnesses, actions, and words, their decision has garnered them only a penalty from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis of not being allowed to be identified as a Catholic school.  The school’s name has already been removed from the archdiocesan website.

New Ways Ministry applauds the courage of the Brebeuf leaders.  They knew the possibility of this penalty, but they also knew that they would not be following their consciences if they acquiesced to the archdiocese’s demands.  In Catholic teaching, violation of conscience is one of the most serious errors one can commit, certainly more serious than any violation of sexual ethics.

They were faced with a choice:  lose the name “Catholic” or lose what it really means to be Catholic.  They chose the path of conscience, integrity, and justice.

Over the past decade, close to 100 employees at Catholic institutions have lost jobs because of LGBTQ issues.  New Ways Ministry has been tracking this shameful trend, as well as the few acts of resistance that have arisen during these disputes.  In 2016, the Sisters of Mercy made a commitment to continue employment of a transgender employee after his transition. The Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, in whose diocese the school was located, did not stop their decision or impose penalties because he saw the sincerity of purpose the Sisters exhibited.   Why couldn’t Archbishop Charles Thompson have sought the path of listening and reconciliation instead of a harsh, punitive action that will only alienate more and more Catholics?

In their statement, the Brebeuf leaders said “we determined that following the Archdiocese’s directive would not only violate our informed conscience on this particular matter, but also set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters that Brebeuf Jesuit leadership has historically had the sole right and privilege to address and decide.”  In fact, they have set a remarkable precedent of courage and risk that all Catholic institutions can learn from and should emulate.

Brebeuf’s website includes the following statement in their Statement of Non-Discrimination:

“It is the policy of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School . . . to prohibit unlawful discrimination against, and Brebeuf Jesuit does not discriminate against, any member of the School community, including, without limitation, employees and students, whether current or prospective, on the basis of the individual’s race, color, national and ethnic origin, religion, . . sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability, citizenship, ancestry, military or veteran status, genetic information, or any other consideration or class protected by applicable law, . . . , in any matter whatsoever under the direction, control, sponsorship, or administration of the School.”

Since 2013, New Ways Ministry has been encouraging Catholic institutions to add “sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status” to their non-discrimination policies.   Only a handful have done so.  We pray that Brebeuf’s prophetic witness will encourage other Catholic institutions to follow their example of conscience, integrity, and justice.

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New Ways Ministry is a 42-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the church. For more information visit: www.newwaysministry.org.

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New Ways Ministry Responds to New Vatican Document on Gender Identity

June 10, 2019

The following is a statement from Francis DeBernardo,
Executive Director, New Ways Ministry:

The Vatican’s new document on gender identity, “Male and Female He Created Them,” is a harmful tool that will be used to oppress and harm not only transgender people, but lesbian, gay, bisexual people, too.  The document associates sexual and gender minorities with libertine sexuality, a gross misrepresentation of the lives of LGBT people which perpetuates and encourages hatred, bigotry, and violence against them.

The document, from the Congregation for Catholic Education, will confuse those who sincerely struggle with questions of gender identity and sexual orientation.  Such confusion leads to self-harm, addiction, and even suicide. The misinformation the document contains will cause families to reject their children, and it will increase alienation of LGBT people from the Church.

The only truth that the document reveals is that the Vatican remains ill-equipped to discuss gender and sexuality in the modern world.   By ignoring new scientific understandings of gender identity, and by refusing to engage in dialogue with LGBT people about their lived experiences of self-understanding and faith, the Vatican remains in the dark ages, promoting a false teaching that relies on myth, rumor, and falsehoods. Because they have not consulted science or people’s experiences, the Vatican’s theology on gender is deficient and flawed.  It relies on categories of male and female that were shaped centuries ago in oppressive and repressive cultures.

The Vatican maintains the idea that gender is determined solely by visible genitalia, which contemporary science has shown is and incorrect and harmful way to categorize people.  Gender is also biologically determined by genetics, hormones, and brain chemistry–things not visible at birth.  People do not choose their gender, as the Vatican claims:  they discover it through their lived experiences. The Church should respect and encourage this process of discovery, because it is a process by which individuals discover the wonderful way that God has created them.

Although the Vatican calls the Church to dialogue and listen to people, dialogue and listening are thwarted and useless if church leaders have already determined that the people they are listening to are influenced by ideology.  Dialogue requires mutual respect, which this document does not exhibit or promote.

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Vatican Meeting with LGBT Advocates Is a “Great Step Forward,” But More Action Needed

April 5, 2019

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response to a meeting between Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, and international LGBT groups.

The Vatican’s meeting on April 52019 with lawyers and leaders from international LGBT human rights organizations is a great step forward for improving the relationship between LGBT people and the Catholic Church, but more urgent statements and actions are needed.

The meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace could be the beginning of a new era of dialogue between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community by working together for the common goal of ending discrimination, violence, and legal penalties against LGBT people around the world. That is a step forward for the lives and well-being of LGBT people who suffer because of draconian laws.

We had hoped for a stronger statement from Cardinal Parolin in response to the information presented by the LGBT advocates on human rights violations.  Parolin reaffirmed church teaching on human dignity and opposition to violence of any sort, and he promised to inform the pope of the meeting and to remain in touch with the leaders.  But, the Vatican, and especially Pope Francis, need to speak out more strongly against laws which criminalize LGBT people and cultural attitudes which support and promote violence against them. Vague generalizations will not suffice, nor will they be effective.

Awareness of this scourge has been public for at least a decade.  For decades, Catholics in the pews have been calling on church leaders to speak out against laws, practices, and attitudes which harm LGBT people. Catholic social justice teaching on the dignity of all humans, on equal treatment under law, and on non-discrimination for LGBT people have been firmly established in church documents, including the Catechism.  This strong call from the people and the clear mandate of Catholic teaching means that at today’s meeting Parolin should have provided a much stronger statement condemning laws and violence against LGBT people.

Unfortunately, in many countries Catholic bishops have shamefully been either silent, or worse, supportive of measures that criminalize LGBT people, often with inhuman punishments.

(For a full record of Catholic statements and actions in both support and opposition to laws which criminalize LGBT people, click here.)

As a next step, Vatican officials and Pope Francis need to clearly and forcefully denounce LGBT criminalization laws.  Decisive action is needed to respond to this terrible scourge which destroys lives and erodes human dignity.

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New Ways in the News

  • November 5, 2019: Retreats for gay clergy deserve our support, says Father James Martin

  • June 16, 2019: It’s The First Sunday Since The Vatican Rejected Transgender People

  • June 11, 2019: Vatican calls non-binary gender ‘fictitious’ in report tackling ‘education crisis’ over sexuality

  • June 11, 2019: Vatican’s new document on gender identity – The document, an attempt to put the Vatican’s position into an official text, is controversial and has been criticized by various Catholic LGBT groups

  • June 11, 2019: Vatican takes a step back, says gender not a choice

  • June 11, 2019: Critics slam Vatican’s denial of non-binary gender as ‘dangerous and threatening’ for transgender people

  • June 11, 2019: The Vatican Calls Non-Binary Gender ‘Fictitious,’ Comes Under Fire From LGBTQ Groups

  • June 11, 2019: Vatican: People Cannot Choose or Change Their Gender Identity

  • June 10, 2019: Vatican Rejects Notion That Gender Identity Can Be Chosen

  • June 10, 2019: Vatican condemns gender theory as bid to destroy nature

  • June 10, 2019: Catholic Church rejects transgender identity, calls gender change a ‘trend’ in statement

  • June 10, 2019: Vatican Doubles Down By Stating Gender Is Not Fluid

  • June 10, 2019: Vatican: Gender Can’t Be Chosen, Refers to Intersex and Trans People as a ‘Provocative Display’

  • June 10, 2019: Vatican rejects idea genders can be changed to alarm of LGBT Catholics

  • May 13, 2019: Letter from a nun: ‘We are all children of God,’ she writes in allowing same-sex union news in alum magazine

  • April 19, 2019: Pope condemns ‘heartless’ discrimination against gay people

  • April 19, 2019: Pope to British Comic: Those Who Reject Gay People Lack ‘Human Heart’

  • April 19, 2019: Two Popes and a Comedian Walk into the Vatican…

  • April 5, 2019: LGBTI activists urge Vatican to condemn homosexuality criminalization laws

  • April 5, 2019: LGBTQ Leaders Tepid After Meeting With Vatican – Church falls short of endorsing decriminalization of homosexuality, but vows to continue conversation

  • April 5, 2019: Lawyers ask Vatican to denounce criminalization of homosexuality

  • February 23, 2019: The Most Talked About Non-Topic at the Vatican? Homosexuality

Past Statements

  • October 27, 2018

    Catholic LGBT Ministry Responds to Vatican’s Synod on Youth Final Report

  • October 4, 2018

    Archbishop Chaput’s Synod Comment on LGBTQ People Explains Why Catholic Church Is in So Much Trouble

  • August 26, 2018

    New Ways Ministry responds to Archbishop’s Vigano’s Accusations Against Gay Clergy and Pope Francis

  • August 19, 2018

    Catholic LGBT Ministry Responds to Archbishop’s Criticism of Retreat for Gay Priests, Brothers, Deacons

  • June 29, 2018

    Catholic LGBT Ministry Responds to McAleese Calling Church Teaching ‘Evil’

  • June 20, 2018

    Youth Synod Document Shows Vatican Evolution on LGBT Topics

  • June 5, 2018

    Masterpiece Cakeshop Case Holds Promise for Full Legal Equality

  • May 21, 2018

    Catholic LGBT Ministry Responds to Pope’s Reported Words of Affirmation to Gay Man