Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Catholic Schoolteacher Fired For Being A Lesbian To Meet The Pope

In June, Pennsylvania Catholic schoolteacher Margie Winters was fired after some parents discovered she had been married to another woman for eight years.

Her termination triggered an outpouring of support from students, parents, and the local community, who helped her petition for reinstatement at Waldron Mercy Academy.

Margie Winters

However vindication for Winters — who taught religious studies and remains Catholic — seemed a long way off, as the Catholic Church still refers to homosexual relationships as “objectively disordered.”

Frustrated, she told reporters she would “love to get the ear of the pope” during his visit to the U.S.

Margie Winters 03

Now it would appear Winters has got her way. She found out this week that she might just get that chance: She has been invited to the White House to meet the pope.

According to the Associated Press, Winters was officially asked to attend the welcoming party by the Human Rights Campaign, joining a slate of pro-LGBT religious dignitaries such as Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop; Mateo Williamson, former co-head of the Catholic LGBT organization Dignity USA; and Aaron Ledesma, an openly gay Catholic blogger.

Some officials within the Vatican have reportedly voiced unease with including LGBT representatives in the reception, worried that photos of Pope Francis with inclusive people of faith might be “interpreted as an endorsement of their activities.”
Invited guests such as Gene Robinson have expressed surprise that Francis would balk at the possible meetings, since the pontiff has met with gay and transgender people several times during his papacy and famously responded to a question about gay priests by saying “who am I to judge?”

However, neither the White House nor the Vatican has officially rescinded any invites.

Margie Winters 01

Winters’ presence at the White House shines a spotlight on the growing issue of Catholic employees fired for being openly LGBT, a practice that has become increasingly common as the United States embraces LGBT rights.

Several teachers, church workers, and diocesan employees have lost their jobs in recent years when Catholic employers took umbrage with their sexual orientation, sparking several large, ongoing protests and demonstrations among community members.

Catholic Church

Church officials typically justify the firings by pointing to the so-called “ministerial exception,” a legal provision that allows religious institutions exemption from nondiscrimination policies when they hire and fire people for positions they claim to be “ministerial.”

The exception traditionally applied only to clergy, but a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case expanded the definition to include virtually anyone a religious organization deems to be a “minister,” granting them broad powers to discriminate in hiring.

A photo-op with Winters and Francis would a bit awkward for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the religious group ultimately responsible for firing her.

The Archdiocese is hosting this week’s World Meeting of Families, a large Catholic conference which the pope will also attend, but has barred pro-LGBT groups from speaking and invited several presenters who promote ex-gay therapy.

Elton John Calls Pope Francis “My Hero” for His Push towards Acceptance of LGBTs in the Catholic Church 

Elton John has called Pope Francis “my hero” for his compassion and push to accept gays in the Catholic church, at his annual AIDS benefit.

John hosted the event, “An Enduring Vision: A Benefit for the Elton John AIDS Foundation,” Tuesday night in New York City. He says Francis is pushing boundaries in the church and told the crowd:

“Make this man a saint now, OK?”

Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays earlier this month, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families. An earlier draft of the document offered a welcoming tone of acceptance, but that was stripped away.

John called Francis “courageous” and “fearless.”

Possible Progress – Cardinals to Debate Marriage

The battle lines are being drawn before a major church meeting on family issues that represents a key test for Pope Francis.

Five high-ranking cardinals have taken one of Francis’ favorite theologians to task over an issue dear to the pope’s heart: Whether Catholics who divorce and remarry without an annulment can receive Communion.

They have written a book, “Remaining in the Truth of Christ,” to rebut German Cardinal Walter Kasper, whom Francis praised in his first Sunday blessing after he was elected pope as “a great theologian” and subsequently entrusted with a keynote speech to set the agenda for the two-year study on marriage, divorce and family life that opens Oct. 5.

Kasper, for a decade the Vatican’s top official dealing with the Orthodox and Jews, delivered his remarks to cardinals earlier this year on the issues to be discussed during the synod. At the pope’s request, he asked whether these divorced and remarried Catholics might be allowed in limited cases to receive the Eucharist after a period of penance.

The outcry that ensued has turned the 81-year-old Kasper into the biggest lightning rod for internal debate that the Catholic Church has seen in years.

Conservatives, including the five cardinal authors, have vehemently opposed Kasper’s suggestion as contrary to Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

The second most powerful man in the Vatican has backed their view: Cardinal George Pell, one of Francis’ key advisers, wrote in another new book that debating something that is so peripheral to begin with and so clear in church teaching amounts to “a counterproductive and futile search for short-term consolations.”

“Every opponent of Christianity wants the church to capitulate on this issue. We should speak clearly, because the sooner the wounded, the lukewarm and the outsiders realize that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible, the more the hostile disappointment (which must follow the reassertion of doctrine) will be anticipated and dissipated.”

Cardinal George Pell

Francis, however, seems to think otherwise. He praised Kasper’s speech, calling it “profound theology” that did him much good and represented a true love for the church.

Church insiders say Francis is none too pleased by the war of words that has ensued, such that he instructed one of the book authors – Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the Vatican’s top doctrinal chief – not to promote it.

The unusually raw and public debate has crystalized the growing discomfort among conservatives to some of Francis’ words and deeds, and sets the stage for a likely heated discussion on family issues.

Church teaching holds that Catholics who don’t have their first marriage annulled – or declared null by a church tribunal – before remarrying can’t participate fully in the church’s sacraments because they are essentially living in sin and committing adultery. Such annulments are often impossible to get or can take years to process, leaving untold numbers of Catholics unable to receive Communion.

Francis has asserted church doctrine on the matter but has called for a more merciful, pastoral approach. He reportedly told an Argentine woman earlier this year that she was free to receive Communion even though her husband’s first marriage was never annulled.

Knowing the issue is divisive, though, he has convened the whole church to discuss it.

The new book asserts there really is no better solution – and no grounds to argue for it since Catholic doctrine is clear. Aside from Mueller, the authors include another high-ranking Vatican official: Cardinal Raymond Burke, the American head of the Vatican’s supreme court.

“These are not a series of rules made up by the church; they constitute divine law, and the church cannot change them,” the book says. Kasper’s assertions, reading of history and suggestions for debate “reinforce misleading understandings of both fidelity and mercy.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke

Kasper has agreed there can be no change to church doctrine and no sweeping, across-the-board allowances. But he has said the matter must be looked at on a case-by-case basis, that mercy is God’s greatest attribute and the key to Christian existence, and that God always gives faithful Catholics a new chance if they repent.

It is rare for cardinals to publicly and pointedly accuse one another of being wrong, and rarer still for a cardinal to question the pope, as Burke has done.

Regarding the purported phone call to the Argentine woman, Burke told the EWTN Catholic channel:

“I wouldn’t for a moment impute that Pope Francis intended to give a signal about church doctrine by calling someone on the phone. This is just absurd.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke

Burke has also questioned Francis’ first encyclical on the excesses of capitalism and obliquely criticized Francis’ decision to not focus on abortion.

Francis last year removed Burke, a key figure in the U.S. culture wars over abortion and gay marriage, as a member of the powerful Congregation for Bishops. A leading Vatican insider has reported that his days at the Vatican high court are numbered.

The books are published in English by Ignatius Press.

LGBT Catholics Reach Out to Catholic Bishops on Immigration Reform

The Rainbow Sash Movement (RSM/LGBT Catholics) believes that LGBT political leadership should be more involved in this issue. Attempts to work with the Catholic Bishops where we can should be attempted, as long as they do not single out LGBT families for condemnation when it concerns immigration policy.

The RSM is calling on The Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT national organizations to condemn the current effort by certain politicians in the US House of Representatives and Senate to bully and demonize children who are seeking asylum, support the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, and the Catholic Bishops in their efforts to focus on children’s needs, rather than fear mongering directed at innocent children.

This is a pro life issue. Since Pope Francis has become Pope he is making the social gospel equivalent to poverty relief, conflict resolution, human trafficking, and the environment, as well as immigrant rights.

“The Republicans are blaming Obama for the flood of children at the border. The Catholic Bishops on the other hand see multiple interrelated factors contributing to the crisis. According to the Migration Relief Services (MRS) .”

Joe Murray, Executive Director of the RSM

Some of these factors include: a lack of strong social institutions and civil society support, abuse in the family stemming from pressure on family units due to violence and family separation, a lack of viable economic and educational opportunities, and environmental factors affecting crop production.”

“We should make it clear that our concern is both the needs and protection of these border children, a just immigration policy and that immigration reform concerns all of us.”

Joe Murray, Executive Director of the RSM

Malawi Catholic Conference Addresses the ‘Challenge’ Homosexuality

Bring up the topic of gay rights in conversation and if you’ve got a good sampling of the population listening in, the garnered responses will be mostly positive and in favour of them with a few ignorant people grumbling to themselves in the corner at best. But as with anything, you’ll also get the extreme outliers who are vehemently against equality like equality insulted their mother, robbed the food out of their mouths and TP’d their house for good measure too.

Consider then, the attitudes of many African nations who still hold on to sodomy laws left like a bitter aftertaste from the Colonial Era along with anti-gay opinions from people who haven’t been influenced by high profile LGBT shows such as Glee or The L Word. We can blame the TV networks and the language barrier all we want but the fact is, the anti-LGBT epithet in these countries is stifling (and often incredibly life threatening) to LGBT folks (or those thought to be LGBT – ignorant people are surprisingly lackadaisical about the facts would you believe) which is why it’s great news that the Malawi Catholic conference has chosen to address it at a recent meeting.

Inside Africa or not, the general consensus is that same-gender marriages are not supported by the Catholic Church and up until Pope Francis (the current Pope) got his place at the top of the Catholic food chain, we’d be lucky to hear so much as a kind word sent in the LGBT community’s direction. This is something that has been a struggle for both Catholic leadership and their followers across the world as the changing pace of opinion and the Catholic church’s inability (or unwillingness) to change means that many are leaving the church.

Father Andrew Kaufa, a member of the Association of Member Episcopal Conference in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) said as much in a recent statement about the conference,

“The church has observed that there are a number of challenges that many families from different African countries are facing which is affecting the preaching of the gospel. Many rich countries are imposing strange cultures in poor nations, an issue that calls for discussion and intervention. As we try to search for solutions in regard to family matters, the Bishops will also pay attention to the issue of same sex which is at the helm.”

His words are correct; countries such as the United States and England should not expect countries in Africa (or anywhere else) to fall in line with their social values just because they said so, especially when these rich countries have had the benefits of mass media and million dollar social projects to get these viewpoints where they are today (and keep in mind, even the support for same gender marriage sits at just 50-60% in the US). That doesn’t mean that countries like Malawi can’t take some solid cues though as their law that same sex sexual activity is punishable by up to 14 years in jail isn’t really helping anyone.

The country did recently say that it would stop arresting people for having same sex sexual relations and would review this law so at least one socially conservative country is doing its bit to become a little bit more progressive.


Outcry as Italy Teacher Says She was Sacked for Being a Lesbian

Their has been an outcry in Italy after teacher says she was sacked for being a lesbian. The report has sparked the Italy’s Education Minister – Stefania Giannini to promise an inquiry into the claim, that a female teacher was forced out of her job because she is gay.

“If it’s confirmed that we’re dealing with a case related to discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, we will act with appropriate severity”

Stefania Giannini

Her removal from the state-funded Institute of the Sacred Heart in the northern town of Trento has angered equality campaigners and focused attention once again on the country’s record on gay rights.

Mother Libratore issued a statement denying that the teacher had been sacked. But her account seemed to reinforce the suggestion that she lost her job on account of her sexual orientation.

“Rumours reached me that she was lesbian and I spoke with her about it in order to understand if she had personal problems. If you’re a lesbian, you say so. If she’s hiding it, I want to understand if there are problems, how she intends to conduct herself, because I’m responsible for 1,000 students and 137 staff; I have educational responsibilities. She didn’t even reply and she left.”

Mother Libratore.

The teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper:

“I taught at the school for five years, with no problems; in fact, the director and the parents were enthusiastic about my work. Last Wednesday I saw the headteacher, assuming it was about a new contract, but instead she began with strange questions… whether it was true that I had a girlfriend and if I was a lesbian. Of course, I refused to answer – I felt offended by her questioning something that was so private.”

Many Italian ministers have spoken up in support of the unfair dismissal including Enrico Lillo, the regional president of Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia party, also attacked the teacher’s treatment.

“To have to learn that in 2014 a teacher has been fired for reasons linked to her sexual orientation is completely unacceptable,”

Enrico Lillo

This surprising new adherence by some Italian conservatives to the cause of lesbian and gay equality may have been prompted by Mr Berlusconi’s own volte-face on the issue.

For years Mr Berlusconi’s party has blocked attempts to introduce civil partnerships for same-sex couples. However, in June this year the disgraced three-times premier surprised campaigners by announcing that he was now joining the battle for lesbian and gay rights.

Argentina’s LGBT Activists Warm Up to Former Enemy

LGBT activists in Argentina have welcomed Pope Francis’s new moves towards reconciliation for the “grave crimes of sexual abuse” committed against children. The President of the Argentine Homosexual Community (CHA) praised Francis’s humble and fiercely-worded homily as “a much need and timely gesture” that he hopes will lead to change in lower levels of the Church. In a private mass for six victims of abuse this week, the Pope lamented the role of “Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.” In late May, he compared abuse by clergymen as akin to performing ‘satanic mass’.

This strong language is approached with more skepticism in the Pope’s home-country where rights groups are used to a contentious relationship with the man once known as Cardinal Jorge Bergolglio. While LGBT groups are warming up to the Pope’s role in a global debate that is far more conservative than Argentine politics, they are still cautious about how much reform is still needed.

CHA President César Cigliutti encouraged Vatican cooperation with the United Nations but remained skeptical. “In 10 years there were 3,420 priests accused of sexual abuse and only 884 were it removed, representing less than 26 percent,” he said. “We hope that in Argentina the bishops follow the example of the Pope, that they also apologize and meet with victims of abuse.”

The cooperation of bishops has been a characterizing feature of LGBT groups relationship with the Church in Argentina. As the elected president of the Argentine Episcopal Commission, Cardinal Bergoglio was an active but confusing opponent of gay-marriage when Argentina became the first Latin country to federalize equal unions. Groups like the Argentina Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans (FALGBT) found themselves matched against the Cardinal in a passionate national debate pitting Vatican ideology against Peronist Catholic rivalry.

The Cardinal was one of the most outspoken opponents during the marriage debate but eventually he publically supported same-sex unions as an alternative to full marriage. However, when he took this pragmatic suggestion to the commission, it was democratically rejected. While remaining an opponent of marriage, he reached out to FALGBT and other LGBT activist groups on behalf of the church, sympathising with gay issues and even calling himself a supporter of ‘gay rights’.
Now, as Pope, Francis is continuing his sympathy for gay issues, even if he remains squarely in support of doctrine. He is opening a two-year debate on LGBT topics as well as other sensitive progressive subjects such as contraceptives and the role of women. While this is unlikely to be revolutionary, Francis still plays an important role as an ally of individual liberalism.

This is where LGBT and other activists in Argentina can find some optimism in perspective. At home, Francis was a rallying force for conservative arguments relative to progressive local politics, but in a global conversation that is much more radical it’s hard to vilify a voice pushing towards center.

Missouri Catholic Diocese Fires Church Worker After Her Same-sex Marriage is Mentioned in Local Paper

Colleen Simon, a Missouri church worker filed a lawsuit against a Catholic diocese in Kansas City this week, claiming she was wrongfully fired from her salaried position as a pastoral associate after her marriage to another woman – Donna Simon, was mentioned in a local newspaper.

The lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court in Independence, Missouri, against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph and embattled church leader Bishop Robert Finn, claims fraud and violation of Missouri law.

Colleen Simon’s same-sex marital status was known and accepted when she was hired to run a food pantry and oversee other social outreach efforts, but was used as a reason to fire her after it was publicised.

“I trusted the diocese on the promise they made to me, and the assurance that they made to me was broken: that my marriage would not affect my employment,” Simon told the Guardian. “I’m deeply saddened that they did not follow through with that and chose to let me go.”

Colleen Simon

Simon, a mother of 2, was legally married in Iowa in May 2012 to a female pastor at a Kansas City Lutheran church. She told diocese officials of her same-sex marriage before they hired her and was assured it was not an issue. However, on May 14 she was fired and was told it was because of a local newspaper article that mentioned both her food pantry work and her same-sex marriage, the lawsuit states.

“The reason for your involuntary separation of employment was based upon on irreconcilable conflict between the laws, discipline, and teaching of the Catholic Church and your relationship – formalized by an act of marriage in Iowa – to a person of the same sex,”

Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph, letter of dismissal

The actions of both the diocese and Finn are already the subject of scrutiny. Finn was convicted in 2012 of failing to alert authorities to child pornography found on the church computer of a popular priest. Finn was sentenced to two years probation and critics have called for his ouster.

There was no immediate comment on the lawsuit from the diocese or Bishop Finn.

The lawsuit by Simon comes just a few months after Finn and the diocese settled litigation filed by parents of children who were victimized by Father Shawn Ratigan.

Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in prison last year for taking sexually explicit photos of several young girls.

The Pope suggests Catholic Church could support same-sex civil unions

While reaffirming the Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, Pope Francis said in a newspaper interview Wednesday that the church could support some form of civil unions. In an interview published in Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily, the pontiff suggested the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of same-sex civil unions as a practical measure to guarantee property rights and health care. The pope said that “matrimony is between a man and a woman,” but moves to “regulate diverse situations of cohabitation (are) driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care.”

“Matrimony is between a man and a woman,”

Pope Francis

The new Pope, who marks his first year as Pope on March 13, has sought to set a more tolerant tone for the Catholic Church on issues related to homosexuality and abortion. Francis had led the Catholic Church’s public stance against legalising same-sex marriage in Argentina while he was Archbishop. At the time, Francis called the proposed legislation “a destructive attack on God’s plan.” However, he was part of a number of Catholic bishops have supported civil unions for same-sex couples in Argentina.

In an interview with CNN last year, Marcelo Marquez, a leading Argentinian LGBT rights activist, said that during that nation’s 2010 debate over same-sex marriage, he received a phone call from the Pope Francis then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  According to Marquez, then-Cardinal Bergoglio told him “… ‘I’m in favour of gay rights and in any case, I also favour civil unions for homosexuals, but I believe that Argentina is not yet ready for a gay marriage law.’ “


A Vatican Official Has Criticised Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said Tuesday that “homosexuals are not criminals” and shouldn’t be sentenced for up to life in prison. Speaking to reporters in Bratislava where he attended a conference on the Catholic Church and human rights, Turkson said the Vatican also calls on the international community to keep providing aid.

Uganda has been hit with substantial aid cuts in reaction to the law and the World Bank has now postponed a $90 million loan for Uganda’s health systems.

Pope Francis has made a point of reaching out to gays, famously saying: “Who am I to judge?”