Bishop William Morris sacked for advocating women priests

THE Catholic Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris, has been effectively sacked by Pope Benedict XVI over doctrinal disobedience for his support for ordaining women priests and other liberal reform.

WilliamMorrisIn a highly unusual move, Bishop Morris complained in a letter to his followers that he was leaving unwillingly and claimed he had been denied natural justice.

The developments have led to an incipient revolt among at least some sections of the church.

In the letter read out to all congregations in the diocese at weekend masses, pre-empting a Vatican announcement tonight, Bishop Morris, 67, said he had taken early retirement because “it has been determined by Pope Benedict that the diocese would be better served by the leadership of a new bishop”.

It is understood that one of Brisbane’s auxiliary bishops will step into the diocese temporarily as administrator until a new bishop is appointed. Bishops normally do not retire until at least 75.

Some Toowoomba Catholics left church in tears yesterday, and priests have called a meeting at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday to consider what action can be taken, including the possibility of a mass resignation of clergy. But one senior priest who has followed the bishop’s controversial career said Bishop Morris had brought about his own demise because “you can’t keep telling Rome to get stuffed”.

Many parishioners arriving for mass last night were amazed and shocked about the letter.

At the cathedral, Maree White said the bishop was well appreciated in the diocese and she was stunned by the news.

Others disagreed. Jenny Goodwin said: ” I think, all things considered, the Vatican does not do these things lightly.”

The bishop’s letter shows things had reached a stalemate after he had been talking to the Vatican for five years.”

In his letter, Bishop Morris said the Vatican’s decision was sparked by complaints to Rome about an Advent letter he wrote in 2006. In that letter, he argued that with an ageing clergy the church should be open to all eventualities, including ordaining women, ordaining married men, welcoming back former priests and recognising the validity of Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church orders.

In contrast to some other provincial dioceses, the priest shortage has been exacerbated by Toowoomba’s appalling record over recent years in attracting virtually no new vocations.

Long before the pastoral letter, however, concerns had been raised about the material included in sex education programs in diocesan schools and the former practice of general absolution in the diocese.

The Advent pastoral letter sparked an investigation, led by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado, one of the most respected Catholic clerics in the US, who visited Toowoomba and spoke to priests and laity at length, and also spoke with other Australian bishops.

In the letter read out yesterday, Bishop Morris said that visit led to an “ongoing dialogue between myself and the Congregations for Bishops, Divine Worship and Doctrine of the Faith and eventually Pope Benedict”.

The style of Bishop Morris’s departure is unprecedented in that he has made his disagreements with the Vatican so public. In previous years, bishops who fell from favour have usually resigned on the grounds of ill health, or no reason has been given for their departure.

Bishop Morris complained he had never seen Archbishop Chaput’s report, and said he had been denied natural justice.

He said he had never written a resignation letter, and that he had offered to take early retirement “with profound sadness, knowing I still enjoy the support of the vast majority of the people and priests of the diocese”.

But he admitted his position had become untenable, and said he had proposed that he take early retirement to find his way through “this moral dilemma”.

“I have never wavered in my conviction that for me to resign is a matter of conscience, and my resignation would mean I accept the assessment of myself as breaking communion, which I absolutely refute and reject, and it is out of my love for the church that I cannot do so.”   (source)

Criticism of papal declarations. . . .

“Criticism of papal declarations will be possible and necessary to the degree that they do not correspond with Scripture and the Creed, that is, with the belief of the Church. Where there is neither unanimity in the Church nor clear testimony of the sources, then no binding decision is possible; if one is formally made, then its preconditions are lacking, and therefore the question of its legitimacy must be raised.”

– Joseph Ratzinger, as he then was, in  Das neue Volk Gottes. Entwuerfe zur Ekklesiologie, p. 144, Patmos 1969.  

Whether women rise on the last day

[§22. Women do not rise on the last day.]

Brother Andy:

You can say what you like, dear Eugene, I still can’t accept that women are human beings. For if you find the previous argument weak, what do you think of this one? Women and their daughters are not human beings because they do not rise [on the last day]. Why, my friend, will we not marry at the resurrection? Precisely because there will be no women in heaven, since we will all be like God’s angels. And what are the dear angels of God? They are certainly all men and not women!

Father Eugene:

You lay the answer on my tongue! (1) At the resurrection we will not marry, reason – because we will be like God’s angels. The Lord himself gives this reason and he teaches at the same time that this will not stand in the way of the resurrection of either men or women. (2) You are mixing up the condition of our life on earth with the condition of our life after the resurrection, as far as saved married people are concerned. For then neither men nor women will be interested in marrying or other things of the flesh, but they will altogether enjoy themselves in God’s sight, worshipping and praising him. (3) It is ridiculous that you make angels men, that is, in your opinion, they are just ordinary human beings.

Brother Andy:

Will women rise? Where is it written? Yes, we read about the daughter of the headmaster (Mt 9) that the Lord Christ raised her up, but this was to earthly life. You must notice that the Lord himself says on that occasion: “The girl is not dead. She is asleep.” For if she had been dead, he would not have raised her. Since she was only asleep however, it wasn’t strange that she could rise again.

Father Eugene:

You are asking (1) whether it is written in Scripture that women will rise [on the last day]? How can Peter then say (1 Pet 3) that women (with the men) are heirs to the grace of life? They will inherit the grace of life together with the men. Well, then they will rise and not remain in death. (2) But that you, dear Andrew, explain the words of the Lord who calls the death of a girl a sleep in Matthew’s gospel in this way that she had not really been dead, is almost blasphemous and does not become a religious person as you are. Think about it!

[§23. When a woman dies, she returns to nothingness.]

Brother Andy:

Explain it to me as you like, dear Eugene, for I cannot understand how the Lord would otherwise have raised her up again. That is also what the servant of the headmaster means when he came to his boss and told him that his daughter had died. For he added: “Why bother the Master any further?” For he knew that, once a woman has died, it was useless to call on Christ’s assistance.

Father Eugene:

Pay attention. (1) Don’t you remember at least this much from your being a Christian? The Lord raised her up through his omnipotent power. That was a easy for him as waking her up from sleep. (2) The witness of the servant unnerves your previous contention that the girl was not truly dead, but only asleep. (3) The ground why that servant did not want to bother the Lord any further seems more his politeness, but it arose from the fact that he considered the Lord only a human being. Don’t you think so too?

Brother Andy:

I know in that case what to believe. Since we are both gut Roman Catholics, it will hopefully not too far that we also produce some relevant facts from our Church’s legends. We read about the saintly Bishop Germanus that he miraculously raised up a donkey but nobody will conclude from that that the donkey will rise [to eternal life]. Therefore it does not follow from the fact that the little daughter was raised to life, that women will rise again [on the last day].

Father Eugene:

For us Catholics, indeed, (1) that story is indisputable and no one should take exception to it. Unfortunately we experience that heretics do not behave like that, rather they burst out in derision. We should be aware of that. (2) Also, we should notice a dissimilarity between Christ and Germanius. For Germanius did not raise the donkey through his own power, as Christ raised the little girl. (3) When we say that the fact of the girl’s raising by the Lord points to his raising all women at the last day, then we are speaking of an example of the true and final resurrection, namely that of intelligent creatures.

[§24. Women are illiterate.]

Brother Andy:

When we start from the essentials of our Christian Catholic doctrine, who is so blind and brainless that he does not see and understand that women are surely not human beings. For women don’t get involved in words and scriptures, but only in deeds.

Father Eugene:

Now you’re really joking, Andrew! For in that case they are good Catholics, don’t you think?

[§25. It means nothing that the risen Christ appeared first to women.]

Brother Andy:

It is an article of Christian faith in which women give themselves a lot of credit! In the same way, as far as I know, they appeal to the article of the resurrection of Christ, when they say: “Are we not human beings since Christ after his glorious resurrection revealed himself first to women?” To that we need to answer that, when Christ was born, he showed himself first to the ox and the ass, yet the ox and the ass were never human beings.

Father Eugene:

The revelation of the Lord (1) only has meaning for intelligent creatures for whose good he came into the world. (2) It is unbecoming and laughable to say that the new born Saviour, a small child unable to speak, showed himself to the ox and ass. Being seen by an ox and an ass, and showing oneself to them are two different things.

[§26. Christ knew that women can’t keep secrets.]

Brother Andy

As to laughing, that surely should not be at my expense, especially concerning women. You have overlooked something in your answer, Father Eugene: for you should have indicated the reason why Christ showed himself first to women. Since you did not do so, will I take the trouble to make up for it. It happened especially to ensure that his resurrection would be spread around and communicated as soon and as efficiently as possible. For whatever a woman knows, she passes on immediately not only to neighbours and close friends, but soon the whole community, yes the whole town hears of it.

Father Eugene:

There are many reasons why Christ revealed himself first to women. (1) I myself consider the best reason that it happened because the women were the first to seek the Lord. The men, such as the apostles, had hidden themselves and barred themselves in. They did not have the courage to make such an early start as seeking the Lord on the third day after his prophecy and promise. (2) You ascribe it to the loquacity and feebleness of women. This would certainly have been useful to the Lord if he had lacked other means. (3) You must remember that these were saintly and devout women (whom we Catholics honor so much on that account). They announced the resurrection to the disciples not with noise and fuss, but with the highest devotion and modesty.

[§27. Women cannot be valid witnesses.]
Prejudices like this came from Roman Law, which was accepted later in secular and Church Law.

Brother Andy:

Right! They announced the resurrection. Just what I was going to point out. For it is commonly known that women are to be rejected as witnesses and to be counted as useless. Therefore the Lord did not use them as witnesses, but only for propaganda.

Father Eugene:

Not for propaganda, (1) that was the task of the Apostles in due course, but only to pass on the message to the disciples so that these could come and see things for themselves, or at least remember the Lord’s promise. (2) But that women are not accepted as witnesses in secular courts, is not relevant here. There is good reason for it, but that does not reduce them to being less than human. The same was indicated earlier, namely why women cannot be appointed to public offices.

[§28. St Thomas was put off by the testimony of the women.]

Brother Andy:

Look at Thomas, the doubter. Precisely for that reason he did not believe the other disciples and accept that the Lord was risen, because they had heard it only from women and not from men.

Father Eugene:

It contradicts (1) the statement of the disciples who say: “We have seen the Lord” (Jn 20). They don’t say: “The women told us about him and his resurrection.” (2) Yes, they had heard the same thing earlier from the women, but this time they had seen it for themselves, as they tell Thomas. (3) How can you blame the women, if Thomas did not believe them? It was due to his lack of faith and his distrust of other people.

[§29. The Apostles rejected the testimony of women.]

Brother Andy:

How did the Apostle then believe at first that the women were mad when these said that the Lord was risen? Well, it is such a strange and unusual event to hear something from women that is intelligent and true!

Father Eugene:

The Apostles considered the words of the women fools’ talk and monkey business (as Lk 24 shows), but who was to blame for this? The women and their message, or rather the Apostles themselves? For example, when heretics consider everything the Roman Catholic Church commands to be idolatry and us idolators, as their writings and speeches manifest, is that the fault of the Catholic Church, or their own fault? I believe it is their own fault. The same applies here. (2) Notice also that St. Peter (whose see has been inherited by our Father the Pope, as no one will deny) persuaded by their message, dressed and ran quickly to the tomb, and saw for himself that he was not there and risen. We can learn from this that if he had reckoned women foolish and feeble, he would have disregarded their message and omitted a good action. (3) It was mainly due to their lack of faith and fearfulness that the Apostles gave so little credence to the women. That is why, though they held the women otherwise to be trustworthy, they could not so easily agree to them in this case until they themselves had seen and experienced it. And what wonder is it that they did not believe the women, since they did not believe the Lord, their master and the truth itself when he had so often foretold and promised such a resurrection, yes, when he even showed himself to them after he had risen from the dead?

[§30. Women should not be baptised.]

Brother Andy:

The women have also no claim on the holy sacraments. If women [in the Old Testament] were not circumcised, they should also not be baptised, for baptism was instituted to replace circumcision. What has been done to them so far, has been purely to avoid upsetting them.

Father Eugene:

Such a thing I have never heard a Catholic religious say, and I don’t believe that even the Holy Father the Pope has such an unfriendly attitude to women as you have! The holy sacraments certainly are meant for women. For (1) just as in the Old Testament they were considered circumcised, through their men as mentioned earlier, so should also in the New Testament baptism not be denied to them. (2) That they themselves are baptised and in their own flesh in the New Testament we owe to a very wise dispensation of God who has a wider view in the New Testament which is not only directed at the Jews but also at the pagans. (3) Your opinion is also contradicted by the fact that in the whole of Christendom women are baptised as much as men, and this not only to avoid upsetting them, as you maintain, but necessarily and on account of God’s command: “Go and teach all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

[§31 Scripture reserves baptism to men.]

Brother Andy:

But what is the sentence that follows on it? It says: “Qui baptizatus [= male form in Latin], i.e. the man who believes and is baptised”, and not “qui fuerit baptizata [= female form in Latin], i.e. the woman who is baptised”. It also does not say: “salva erit [= female form in Latin], i.e. she will be saved”, but “salvus erit [= male form in Latin], i.e. he will be saved”. In this place you have to pay attention to the letters that are used.

Father Eugene:

I am almost ashamed to reply to that! I wish there was a schoolboy here who could speak for me! (1) As to the pronoun quis, ‘who’, it means as much as “a human being whoever he or she may be”, that is: it refers to both genders. It applies without difference to both men and women. Since in Christ there is no longer man or woman, as we have already seen from the Apostle Paul. (2) As to the words baptizatus (baptised) and salvus (saved), these are formulated as masculine in the Latin language. But in the Greek language, as in our own mother tongue [German] this does not apply. (3) Therefore it is utterly ridiculous that you maintain we should pay attention to the letter here, and not to the example and the mind.

[§32. Women were not present at the Last Supper.]
For the scriptural background, read Tunc and Maguire.

Brother Andy:

The same is true with regard to the holy sacrifice of Mass or the sacrament of the altar, as some call it. Christ celebrated this with his disciples as with men and human beings. He did not allow women to approach the table. Otherwise he would have had to start washing the feet of the women, if he did not want to seem ill-mannered.

Father Eugene:

What are you saying now?! Andrew, you must have watched all the business of women since you bring out so many things about them. I thought I was the only one who was so interested in them, so that I could take care of them and protect them! Ha, ha, ha! For though the Lord Christ does not invite women to the table at the service of Holy Mass, even less washed their feet beforehand, he has all the more wanted to commend them to us, in order that we nourish them too [through holy communion], and not only the men, as has been the custom for many hundreds of years, and also sprinkle holy water on them, on their heads, and other limbs and also their feet. And why should the abbess not wash the feet of her nuns, and the abbott that of his monks?

[§33. Christ did not want to have anything to do with women.]
The Gospels show just the opposite.

Brother Andy:

To make a speedy end of it, my dear Eugene, what must I make of the word in Jn 2 which Christ speaks to his mother: “Woman, what have I to do with you?” If he does not want to have anything to do with his mother, how much less with other women.

Father Eugene:

It is quite right, Andrew, that, as is becoming to a Catholic Christian, you ask your question about the worthy mother of God with more circumspection. For she may not be treated as just any ordinary woman. If Christ the Lord did not want to be told what to do, it was not to oppose his mother, but because it was not yet the time to perform a miracle (as he as omniscient Saviour alone knew). Even so he decided to help the young couple concerned and to please his mother.

[§34. Women have to wear veils because they are impure.]
Read the scriptural background for this, and how women were considered unclean.

Brother Andy:

St Paul also says that women should be veiled because they are impure. It follows from it that women cannot be saved because nothing impure can enter the Kingdom of God. And if they are not saved, I do not consider them human beings.

Father Eugene:

The reason (1) why the Apostle tells women to be veiled is not really that they are impure, because it is a question here of public worship. He tells them to be veiled for the sake of good order, and to show their obedience, or as the text literally says, because of the angels, who, as Chrysostom explains, are their witnesses of obedience or disobedience. (2) That women are sometimes held to be impure, belongs to the many defects and weaknesses we have to put up with in life. (3) Such defects and shortcomings in women as happens to them in life, do not detract from their salvation, as little as their bearing children as we saw before.

[§35. To be perfect you have to give up contact with women.]

Brother Andy:

Christ himself said: “Who wants to be perfect should give up on woman”. That’s why he took no wife, and that’s why the holy Apostles got rid of their wives, and advised other men to do the same.

Father Eugene:

It has to be understood conditionally that Christ tells those who want to be perfect to leave their wife; if, namely, the woman would oppose a man who wants to be perfect. Because he also says that one should equally leave one’s parents (Mt 19 and elsewhere). (2) He did not marry himself because it contradicted his mission and his task in the world. (3) The fact that the Apostles left their wives and so wanted to set an example to others, should not be extended beyond the task they had to accomplish in this world and the context of their own time. We are speaking here about the ordinary life of people, not about the clergy in our own time.

[§36. Females are born as abnormalities.]
This is what Thomas Aquinas taught, and was his main reason for excluding women from ordination.

Brother Andy:

I am keeping you too long, Father Eugene. Otherwise I could give you many more arguments by which I can prove that women are no human beings. It’s no use that you contend that every creature gives birth to its own kind, and that is why women must be human beings because, as mentioned earlier, they do give birth to human beings. Also, it’s no use that someone may be so bold as to tell a person to his face: “What? Was your mother a pig or a dog?” For then we can reply: “My mother was a woman, and nothing more.” And note, when a woman produces a daughter, she gives birth to the same kind, for she has given life to something equal to her a monstrum [= abnormality].

Father Eugene:

Experience shows (1) that every creature gives birth to a being according to its own kind. (2) Small wonder that women get impatient when they are taunted as not being human, and then become personal! (3) The giving birth is the same, whether the child is a son or a daughter, because she can only give birth as she conceived from the man.

[§37. The abnormality of women shows up in their menstruation.]
About this taboo, read Ranke-Heinemann.

Brother Andy:

The giving birth may be the same, but the birth is not. For when, as mentioned, the birth is a girl, it is a monstrum, as the mother herself. And there is nothing new, as far as the sons are concerned, that women also give birth to human beings who are not of the same kind as they are. For from a horse or a mule, only a donkey is born, from horse shit (excuse the expression) beetles, from sweat lice, from dust fleas, and so on. From a philosphical point of view, one knows that a human being has a pure nature. But woman is poisoned. The experience is found in her monthly flow, how harmful it is. I need not say more about this.

Father Eugene:

Monstrum is in one word: erratum naturae propter materiae inconstantiam, that is: a defect in nature because of an irregularity of matter, as known from Aristotle. Well, be so cheeky to point out such an erratum, a defect in nature, in women as they are born every day in the unhindered course of nature? Sometimes also monstrosi partus (miscarriages) of female gender are born, but the same happens with those of male gender. (2) As to the unequal birth among cattle or insects, who does not notice that these do not at all fit the birth of women? (3) If a human being has a pure nature, from a philosophical point of view, so has woman. As stated in this connection, also her monthly cleansing.

[§38. Sirach teaches that women are evil.]
Read Sirach.

Brother Andy:

My final summary: however poisonous an animal can be, a woman is more poisonous, yes more devilish and more malicious than the devil himself. That’s why Sirach says: “It is better to live among lions and dragons than with an evil woman”. Although one can find quite a few of them who politely hide their malice from people under conventional modesty, their inborn character and nature remains in secula seculorum [in all eternity]! For if one is good, a thousand will be against her. But if one is as keen as the others on venomous malice, then no letter or seal of a Lord will be of use, for women do not really want to leave the last word to anyone else. So they will not be able to refrain from asking another question. Namely, if they are no human beings, but beasts, to what animal should they be compared, so that they follow its example?

Euripides gives them an answer to this. They resemble hyenas, that is they are like: corpse-eaters, gluttons and wolves. If the women desire to know for what reasons they are compared to this, then they should be told: this corpse-eater, glutton, wolf has the head of a cat, the stomach of a wolf, and the tail of a fox.

From cats women have it in their nature to swallow, lick, stick near the stove, purr, prune, scratch and scrape, claw with sharp nails, hiss, spit, seethe, and show a venomous mood.

From their wolf’s stomach women have it in them never to be satisfied, the grabbing, embezzling, pilfering and robbing, growing lazy, greedy, harsh and bitter, having a big mouth and green eyes, being wild till pinned down.

From the fox women draw every ploy, trick and deceit, the nestling in strange nests, the being no good except for the bladder, and that’s why they can neither be cooked nor roasted. And just like the fox which is only useful when skinned, so quite a few women are only of use when they die.

Father Eugene:

You are a Benedictine [= someone who blesses]. OK. Beware that you don’t become for pious women a Maledictine [= someone who curses]. Use that kind of language only about evil women. I myself do not doubt, yes I agree, that evil women should be painted in such or similar colours and be exposed to the whole world.

But please, what we have discussed so far in great confidence and for the sake of the spirit, take with you in good trust. And, please, in the future leave out your teasing as if I love women – realise what you are saying! I have done my best to make clear what I find good or evil in this matter. See my right hand, and my trust. Goodbye!

End of this discussion

English translation © John Wijngaards

Numbering of the sections and purple commentary between brackets added by John Wijngaards

A thorough and profound description/ argument and conclusion, together with extensive replies

Concerning the question

Whether Women are Human Beings or not?

Put together mostly from Sacred Scripture, the remainder from other authors and experience itself / The German not earlier seen in print: but now available for everyone’s good instruction.

Dedicated to the female sex / in their defence as they deserve / comically written and published in the form of a conversation.

By a special lover of love and of modesty, anno 1617.

The Battle over Birth Control for Developing Nations

The Battle over Birth Control for Developing Nations–Melinda Gates vs. Vatican

melinda-gates1Melinda Gates, wife of billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates, recently caused controversy when she pledged billions of dollars to extend “affordable, life-saving contraceptive services to an additional 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020.”1 Speaking at the recent London Summit on Family Planning, Gates had returned from a visit to sub-Saharan Africa with stories of women who snuck away from their husbands to obtain birth control shots at a local clinic, only to be turned away as the clinic had run out of the product. “My goal is to get [family planning and birth control] back on the global agenda,” Gates told Newsweek.2

The issue of contraception is important ar0und the globe, as Gates suggested, evidenced by the sheer magnitude of people affected by the choice to use it. Currently, “about 358,000 women and 3 million newborns die each year worldwide due to pregnancy and childbirth. Ten to 15 percent of those numbers are believed to be deaths caused by unsafe abortions.”3 Gates believes that these mortality rates could be lessened significantly if promotion for birth control and contraceptive supplies were available in developing countries.

However, as a self-proclaimed Catholic woman, Gates has also had to contend with her own religious beliefs when choosing to support the extension of contraceptive services worldwide, and ultimately chose to support “social justice,” something she felt was not fully visible in the church’s stance on contraception. The Catholic Church is steadfastly opposed to the use of artificial birth control and is quite outspoken about this issue. Melinda Gates’ pledge to provide birth control to developing nations is only one example of the long debate on whether access to artificial birth control should be available or promoted in developing nations. One large issue in the debate, particularly on the African continent, is the use of birth control to protect against sexually transmitted diseases—particularly the HIV/AIDS virus.

The Vatican’s Opposition to Artificial Contraception

On a 2009 flight to Cameroon for his first papal visit to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI told reporters that AIDS is, “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.”4  The unwaveringly negative opinion of birth control held by the Catholic Church has caused much controversy in respect to developing nations in recent years. And, though African patronage is considered vital to a growing Catholic church, the African experience with AIDS has been quite destructive. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since the 1980s.5

Just as HIV/AIDS has been consistently devastating, the Catholic Church has been consistently and staunchly against the use of birth control since the debate began. In his 1968 Encyclical Letter entitled Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI outlined the Catholic Church’s opinion of artificial methods of birth control, writing that, “it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.6

The Church’s condemnation of artificial methods of contraception have recently caused heated debates surrounding the issue which, in developing nations like some of those on the African continent, could mean the difference between life and death. Rebecca Hodes, who works as an AIDS activist for the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, responded to the Pope Benedict XVI’s dismissal of condoms as a preventative measure by saying that, “his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”7  However, the spread of AIDS is not the only issue that must be addressed in the battle over birth control; unintended pregnancy is also an important issue in the birth control debate.

The Call for Birth Control in Africa and Asia

melinda-gates2A fifty-two page report created by the Guttmacher Institute in New York urged for new methods of birth control to reach 148 million women in three regions of Africa and Asia where there are 49 million unintended pregnancies every year resulting in 21 million abortions. The study states, “sub-Saharan Africa, south central Asia and southeast Asia are home to 69 percent of women in the developing world who have an unmet need for a modern method…seven in 10 women with unmet need in the three regions cite reasons for nonuse that could be rectified with appropriate methods.”

The study also noted the various reasons these women did not choose modern preventative birth control methods. These reasons included health fears, opposition to contraception and opposition from partners. The findings of the study concluded that, according to co-author Jacquline Darroch, “the need for contraception [in these areas] requires not only increased access and counseling, but the development of new methods that better meet women’s needs.”9  “In total,” the study states, “one in four of the latter’s total of 195 million women had an unmet need for modern birth control.”10

Birth control’s main purpose, the limiting of procreation, is heavily debated from both religious and logistical perspectives. On a grand scale, the choice whether or not to use birth control for the limitation of procreation, too, could lead to the stifling of a nation’s population or to the growth of a nation through population boom.

The Nigerian Debate over Population Growth

melinda-gates3In Nigeria, where the Nigerian president is actively considering a mandate on birth control within the nation he governs, the issue is being played out on the national level. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan stated that too many uneducated people are having too many children and urged citizens to only have as many children as they can afford.11

Writing in response to President Jonathan’s statements in regards to birth control, African journalist Sola Odunfa describes her own belief that having children is a mainly financial concern, “If you are rich you may have as many [children as you want],” Odunfa writes. “On the other hand if you are a ‘common’ man or woman, that is you do not own a house and car and you must seek an appointment before you may see your bank manager, you must limit your family size to what the political elite dictate. Otherwise you all starve and your children end up living under the bridge.”12 Odunfa’s warnings against procreating beyond a family’s financial means are ultimately routed in the fear of the devastating effects of poverty in the face of overpopulation.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the United Nations has estimated that the population could grow by as many as 240 million by the year 2050.13  So, the President’s decision to back birth control is based on his desire to elevate the quality of life of his people. However, he recognizes the sensitive nature of the issue in regards to religious practice.  “We are extremely religious people… It is a very sensitive thing,” Jonathan stated. It is difficult for you to tell any Nigerian to number their children because… it is not expected to reject God’s gifts.”14   A BBC-created guide dissecting mass birth control programs, such as the one suggested in Nigeria, cites overpopulation as an important worldwide concern in the fight against poverty, despite religious opposition to artificial contraception:

Many people think that God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” can be taken too far. It’s generally accepted that over-population will seriously damage the earth and the lives of most people on it. Large increases in population have already damaged the environment and condemned many people in Africa, Asia and Latin America to poverty.15

Religious motivations as well as economic stability are both important factors in the debate over birth control, but Nigerian journalists and politicians are not the only pundits weighing in on the controversial issue. Many Nigerian citizens also have strong opinions about the desire to mandate birth control. In the face of these concerns, native Nigerian Chinwuba Iyizoba is appreciative of the proposed population growth in Nigeria. “Western media are shrilly calling for Nigeria to put a check on her population growth,” Iyizoba writes. “No way, sorry. We Nigerians are rejoicing.”16  Iyizoba cites the benefits of financial security for aging parents, keeping birthrates at replacement level and the maintenance of a dynamic youthful workforce.17

Who Has the Control over Birth Control?

Iyizoba describes population growth within his nation as the prerogative of himself and other citizens of his nation. There are various anti-contraceptive activists who, like Iyizoba, understand the elective use of birth control an important right, and the imposition of contraceptive methods by outside parties is an invasive and imperialistic act. Some find rich nations’ funding of birth control in third world countries as a performance of imperialistic control which not only over-steps personal human rights when mass birth control programs are implemented but also executes forms of gender bias and eugenics.18

Gender discrimination in the implementation of mass birth control programs is clear; it is most often women who must, unjustly, bear the burden of implementing mandated birth control methods, which inherently chastises female fertility as something negative and something to be controlled. Similarly, mass birth control programs, which, as President Jonathan of Nigeria suggested, urge impoverished and uneducated peoples to stop having or to have fewer children are exercising a form of class bias that seeks to reduce specific ethnic or socioeconomic groups. Thus, the governmental imposition of birth control on a nation’s population may be considered a violation of human rights.


A compilation of factors has recently brought the debate over the distribution and use of artificial methods of birth control into the spotlight. Gates’ pledge to fund the distribution of birth control in developing countries is only the most recent event in a long and tumultuous battle over the right to choose. The Vatican’s unwavering stance on the issue of artificial contraception has been the subject of much controversy in the face of the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic and issues of population growth and poverty.

The push for birth control on the part of national governments, like that in Nigeria, has also been a source of pressure on the populations of those living in developing nations. Though President Jonathan and Melinda Gates seem to have the benefit of the people in mind, anti-birth control activists view large-scale efforts to mandate birth control as efforts to excise groups of people or lower classes in developing nations.The culmination of these factors has led to a very divided public, with some, like Chinwuba Iyizoba, adamantly opposed to mass birth control programs and others, like Melinda Gates, who have pledged time and money to the cause of expanding the distribution of birth control worldwide.

Though powerful and important people and organizations are taking charge and issuing statements as to whether artificial contraception should be utilized, the true issue is in regards to who has the right to choose: organizations or individuals? And, if it is the individual who has the right to make the decision to use birth control, should they, then, be allowed access to contraceptive methods? And who should ultimately be responsible for supplying methods of artificial birth control—private organizations like the Gates’ foundation, or national governments? For now, these issues remain unresolved and the two sides of the debate remain polarized while the Vatican staunchly opposes the use of artificial contraception and the Gates foundation continues with their plans to fund birth control in developing nations.   (source)

1  McGovern, Celeste. “Gates summit raises billions for birth control.” National Catholic Register. July 23, 2012.
2  Castillo, Michelle. “Melinda gates promotes birth control as an important part of family planning.” CBS Interactive Inc. July 11, 2013.
3  Ibid.
4  Cernansky, Rachel. “During Africa Visit, Pope Knocks Condoms for HIV Prevention.” Discover Magazine. March 17, 2009.
5  Lewis, David. “Benedict visits Africa for first time as pope.” Reuters. March 17, 2009.
6  Pope Paul VI. “Humanae vitae.” July 25, 1968.
7 Butt, Riazat. “Pope claims condoms could make African Aids crisis worse.” The Guardian. March 17, 2009.
8  “New birth control methods urged for developing world women.” The Independent. May 14, 2011.
9  Ibid.
10  Ibid.
11  “Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan urges birth control.” BBC. June, 27. 2012.
12  Odunfa, S. P. “African viewpoint: Should birth control be mandatory?” BBC. July 11, 2012.
13  “Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan urges birth control.” BBC. June, 27. 2012.
14  Ibid.
15   ”BBC Ethics Guide.” BBC.
16  Iyizoba, Chinwuba. “Africa needs population growth, not birth control.” Crisis Magazine. May 25, 2011.
17  Ibid.
18  “BBC Ethics Guide.” BBC.

The Case of Mike Moroski

The Case of

Mike MoroskiArchbishop Snurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has dismissed Mike Moroski, the  assistant principal ofPurchell-Marian High School (Dayton, OH) after he refused to remove a private blog expressing support for same-sex marriage.  Here are the words of MikeMoroski describing the situation that has been imposed upon him:

On Monday, February 4th I was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Namely, to take down my post on this site entitled, “Choose Your Battles,” sign a number of documents assuring my silence [on the issue of gay marriages] and keep my job – or, [failing to do this, I would be forced to] resign.

After much deliberation with my wife, family, trusted clergy, professionals from all walks of life and my own meditative silence, I decided not to take the post down, nor to recant my position that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry.”

As “Choose Your Battles” goes on to say, “Ethically, morally and legally I believe this.”

And I do.

If I take that post down I would not be able to look at the thousands of former students and families with whom I have worked for twelve years in the eye. I have tried my hardest (even when it would have been easier not to) to instill the values of resilience in the face of pressure, public acts of justice and patient decision making in every student who has been in my classroom, office or not for profits. What would I say to all of them if I were to go against my OWN conscience so that I could keep my job for four months?

I refused to agree to the Archdiocese’s terms BECAUSE OF my faith formation at Catholic schools and relationship with Catholic family members & clergy – not in spite of it.

I believe gay people should be allowed to marry because I believe in the Sermon on the Mount. I try to let the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7, guide my life.

I will not be quiet about what my informed conscience tells me is right and just.

The only painful part of this entire decision for Katie and me is reconciling the difficulty my students at Purcell Marian are going to face with the example we strive to model for the youth. If any of you Cavaliers are reading this, please know that I love you and I am in your corner. I hope that someday you may come to understand why I am not in my office to share a laugh, a cry or a story. You can always contact me through this website with your questions or to keep me posted on how your lives are going. I trust you all know that your livelihood means more to me than my own, and, for that reason, I had to leave. I realize how difficult that may be to understand right now, but in time I trust you, too, may be asked to give up your convictions or accept the consequences. As I always tried to teach you – NEVER compromise who you are for someone else – and NEVER let anyone make you someone THEY want you to be. Be strong and take care of one another. . . .

Love is not scary

Choose Your Battles

Recently, I posted a picture of President Barack Obama onto my Facebook wall with the quotation, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

This post prompted heated and respectful discussion among a handful of my Facebook friends.

One of my friends (in real life AND Facebook) began a back and forth that lasted for about a week and totaled over 45 responses between only 6 people. Clearly, the issue of love is a heated debate in 2013. . . .

I unabashedly believe that gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry. Ethically, morally and legally I believe this. I spend a lot of my life trying to live as a Christian example of love for others, and my formation at Catholic grade school, high school, 3 Catholic Universities and employment at 2 Catholic high schools has informed my conscience to believe that gay marriage is NOT something of which to be afraid.

To me, it seems our time would be much better spent worrying about the economy, our city’s failing pensions, retaining our big business neighbors and finding creative, efficient, effective ways to fund our excellent Cincinnati Public Schools.

Not much time left over to worry about gay people marrying one another.

Someone on my Facebook wall asked if my definition of “love” knew no bounds. I said that it did. Love of hurting others is where I draw the line – whether sexually, emotionally, physically, mentally – I do not accept the love of [those who deliberately set out to] hurt. Outside that, if the love you share with someone else makes you the best version of yourself possible and you go out there in the world and share that love with others – have at it and be well.

Unity Assists, and sometimes, to come together, we gotta choose our battles.


What do I learn from this?

I learn that the Vatican has taken the stance that, in God’s eyes, homosexual sex is “intrinsically disordered” and therefore, there can never be any circumstances in which homosexual sex is morally permissible.  Not even in the instance when the two same-sex individuals have discover each other as “soul mates” and intend to form a permanent union (“marriage”) together.   The bishops of the Catholic Church, consequently, have taken an active public role in making sure that no civil legislation sanctioning “same-sex marriages” is ever passed into law.

This is a contentious issue.  When Cardinal Ratzinger drafted the position of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on this issue, he had no intention of consulting the worldwide bishops on this tender issue.  He used his office to impose his personal position upon the entire Church.  When bishops, theologians, and lay persons endeavored to show how the biblical, psychological, and pastor studies supporting his position were seriously flawed, Cardinal Ratzinger began by ignoring them and then, for those who persisted, to actively challenge and condemn his position, to push back by challenging their jobs for failing to endorse  the “Church’s constant teaching” on this issue.

Jesus says nothing regarding homosexuality.  Pope Francis, when asked about this in an interview, preferred to say, “Who am I to judge [someone who has a homosexual orientation].”

Archbishop Snurr, ignoring Jesus and Francis, believes that it is incumbent upon him to insure that all teachers in Catholic institutions toe the line when it comes to this issue.  Thus they are required to sign an oath declaring the following:


Further Resources

The Church’s Gay Obsession
by Frank Bruni

Homosexuality and the Message of Isaiah
by Frederick J. Gaiser

New Approaches to LGBT People
by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson: New Approaches to LGBT People

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson: New Approaches to LGBT People


Bishop Geoffrey RobinsonOne bishop’s voice was heard loudly and clearly in Rome in the last few days, not by church leaders, but by Catholic LGBT people and ally advocates.  Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary of Sydney, Australia, spoke at the Ways Of Love conference on pastoral care with LGBT people, about which we posted yesterday.  The gathering in Rome was to discuss new possible approaches to LGBT people that the synod could take.

Bishop Robinson, who many readers may remember spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012, outlined a new approach to sexual ethics for the Church that would recognize the goodness and holiness of same-sex committed relationships.  His talk was a highlight of the conference, and I will try to outline some of the main points below.

Bishop Robinson began by dismantling some of the crippling assumptions that underline current church teaching, most particularly the idea that sexual sins are among the most grievous that humans might commit:

“Striking a king or president has always been considered a more serious offence than striking an ordinary citizen. In line with this, it was said, the greatest king by far is God, so an offence against God is far more serious than an offence against a mere human being.

“Because all sexual sins were seen as direct offences against God, they were, therefore, all seen as most serious sins. Sexual sins were seen as on the same level as the other sin that is directly against God, blasphemy, and this helps to explain why, in the Catholic Church, sexual morality has long been given a quite exaggerated importance.

“For centuries the Church has taught that every sexual sin is a mortal sin. In this field, it was held, there are no venial sins. . . .

“This teaching fostered belief in an incredibly angry God, for this God would condemn a person to an eternity in hell for a single unrepented moment of deliberate pleasure arising from sexual desire. This idea of God is totally contrary to the entire idea of God that Jesus presented to us, and I cannot accept it.

“My first rebellion against Church teaching on sex came, therefore, not directly from a rejection of what the Church said about sex, but a rejection of the false god that this teaching presented.”

Robinson also objected to the presumption that the Church’s sexual ethics should be based on judging the solely of sexual acts:

“. . . [T]he teaching of the Church is based on a consideration of what is seen as the God-given nature of the physical acts in themselves, rather than on these acts as actions of human beings. And it continues to do this at a time when the whole trend in moral theology is in the opposite direction.

“As a result it gets into impossible difficulties in analysing physical acts without a context of human relations. For example, some married couples find that there is a blockage preventing the sperm from reaching the ovum, but that in a simple procedure a doctor can take the husband’s sperm and insert it into the wife in such a way that is passes the blockage and enables conception. But the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned this action because the physical act was not considered “integral”, even though the entire reason for this intervention was precisely that the couple wanted their marriage to be both unitive and procreative.

“The Church’s arguments concerning sex are based solely on the physical act in itself rather than on the physical act as an action affecting persons and relationships.”


Focusing in on lesbian and gay sexuality in particular, Robinson challenged the presumption of “natural law theory” opposing same-gender relationships:

“It was God who created a world in which there are both heterosexuals and homosexuals. This was not a mistake on God’s part that human beings are meant to repair; it is simply an undeniable part of God’s creation.

The only sexual acts that are natural to homosexuals are homosexual acts. This is not a free choice they have made between two things that are equally attractive to them, but something that is deeply embedded in their nature, something they cannot simply cast aside. Homosexual acts come naturally to them, heterosexual acts do not. They cannot perform what the Church would call ‘natural’ acts in a way that is natural to them.

“Why should we turn to some abstraction in determining what is natural rather than to the actual lived experience of human beings? Why should we say that homosexuals are acting against nature when they are acting in accordance with the only nature they have ever experienced?

“The Church claims that it is basing itself on ‘natural law,’ but a natural law based on abstractions is a false natural law. Indeed, it brings the whole concept of natural law into disrepute.”

The bishop began an outline of a new basis for sexual ethics, based more on the teachings of Jesus than on any other outside philosophical theory.  He began this section of his talk by quoting Scripture:

“ ‘If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea’ (Mk.9:42).

“ ‘Then they will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”(Mt.25:44-45)

“In these two quotations Jesus identifies with the weakest persons in the community, and tells us that any harm done to them is a harm done to himself.

“I suggest that this harm done to people is the real sin in matters of sex, the only sin that angers God.

“I suggest, therefore, that we should look at sexual morality in terms of the good or harm done to persons and the relationships between them rather than in terms of a direct offence against God.

“Following from this, may we say that sexual pleasure, like all other pleasure, is in itself morally neutral, neither good nor bad? Is it rather the circumstances affecting persons and relationships that make this pleasure good or bad, e.g. a good pleasure for a married couple seeking reconciliation after a disagreement, a bad pleasure for a man committing rape?”

After critiquing a reigning ethic of sex in the contemporary world that only cautions people to “do no harm,”  Bishop Robinson supplies an ethic based more on the commandment to love our neighbor:

“I suggest that the central questions concerning sexual morality are: Are we moving towards a genuinely Christian ethic if we base our sexual actions on a profound respect for the relationships that give meaning, purpose and direction to human life, and on loving our neighbour as we would want our neighbour to love us?

“Within this context, may we ask whether a sexual act is morally right when, positively, it is based on a genuine love of neighbour, that is, a genuine desire for what is good for the other person, rather than solely on self-interest, and, negatively, contains no damaging elements such as harm to a third person, any form of coercion or deceit, or any harm to the ability of sex to express love? . . . .

“Many would object that what I have proposed would not give a clear and simple rule to people. But God never promised us that everything in the moral life would be clear and simple. Morality is not just about doing right things; it is also about struggling to know what is the right thing to do. It is not just about doing what everyone else around us is doing; it is about taking a genuine personal responsibility for everything we do. And it is about being profoundly sensitive to the needs and vulnerabilities of the people with whom we interact.”

To catch all of Bishop Robinson’s nuances, examples, and explanations, I urge all who are interested in this topic to read his entire text which can be found on the conference’s website.  You will be enriched by reading all of Bishop Robinson’s nuances, examples, and explanations, as well as additional arguments.

Ugly Face of Church’s Firings of Homosexuals

IHM School To ‘Rethink’ Policies After Firing Lesbian Teacher

September 27, 2014

Barbara Webb’s supporters stand outside Marian High School during a Sunday rally

In the last month, the number of LGBT-related employment disputes at Catholic institutions topped twenty for the year.



Case of Barbara Webb

Barbara Webb was fired from Marian High School in August for becoming pregnant outside marriage. Supporters have sustained protests online, with nearly 70,000 signatures on a petition, and by rallying at the school. Now, the leadership of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Sisters who sponsor the school have responded.

Oakland Press reports that IHM president Sr. Mary Jane Herb released a letter to the Marian community which did not directly address Webb’s firing. However, the letter promised a review of the school’s policies and said a team of consultants would intervene before future employment decisions are made in similar situations. Citing Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy and inclusion, Sr. Herb also wrote:

“Our Church and Catholic schools are confronted with a complexity of issues that have not been faced in the past….These are challenging times and times in which we feel God’s Spirit is working with us, encouraging us to respond to the signs of the times in new ways.”

In response, organizers under the name “I Stand with Barb Webb” have begun a crowd-funding campaign, which hopes to raise $65,000 so that Marian H.S. can institute diversity trainings for staff and a diversity club for students. While the IHM Sisters’ offering is a start, it does not do justice for Barbara Webb or ensure LGBT firings will stop at Marian High School. Hopefully, through this learning process, school administrators and IHM leadership will come to see what Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has seen: that these firings “need to be rectified.

The Case of Nate Alfson

St. Mary’s High School coach Nate Alfson bravely came out as gay in an article for OutSports this summer, telling LGBT youth to “Be you. Be true. Never forget that you matter.” It then surprised many when the Dell Rapids, South Dakota school did not fire Alfson.

Sioux Falls diocesan spokesperson Jerry Klein said recently this outcome should not surprise anyone, and that the hierarchy’s teaching on chastity is key to understanding this decision.  However, such a comment could imply that if Alfson dates or enters a civil marriage he would assuredly lose his job coaching.

Jill Callison, a columnist for the Argus Leader quoted Klein and commented on the import of his statement:

” ‘(L)iving a sexually active same-sex lifestyle, one that is not chaste, is not compatible with Church teaching,” the statement says. ‘The same is true for a sexually active, opposite-sex lifestyle outside of marriage. In either of these circumstances, employment or public ministry on behalf of the Church is not appropriate.’ “

Case of Ben Brenkert

Ben Brenkert’s story of leaving the Jesuits after ten years over injustices is spreading, after having been initially posted on Bondings 2.0.   Brenkert had written an open letter to Pope Francis about the firing of LGBT church workers, specifically Colleen Simon, who was let go as food pantry coordinator at a St. Louis Jesuit parish. Now, his story has appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, The Advocateand the Washington Post.

You can also find a full listing of the more than 40 incidents made public since 2008 by clicking here.–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Case of Jamie Moore

Jamie Moore

The music director at St Victoria parish in Victoria, Minnesota, has resigned after marrying his husband last weekend, and the resignation was ordered by embattled Archbishop John Nienstedt. But as LGBT-related employment disputes top twenty in 2014 alone, are these firings and resignations making it more difficult for LGBT people and allies to remain Catholic in any capacity?

The church’s pastor, Fr. Bob White, wrote to parishioners explaining that upon hearing their music director, Jamie Moore, had entered into a same-gender marriage, the archbishop demanded his resignation and Moore complied. White added that Moore would “be sorely missed…we wish him every happiness.” The pastor said he would address the situation from a “pastoral perspective” during upcoming weekend Masses.

Nienstedt released his own statement, citing a document unusually titled “Justice in Employment” which allows church workers to be fired immediately for public conduct inconsistent with Catholic teaching. The archbishop added that his role was to make “painful and difficult” decisions to uphold Christian values.

However, St. Victoria parishioners do not quite see the archbishop’s actions in keeping with Christ’s message.   Some compared this incident to the firing of Kristen Ostendorf, a lesbian teacher, from a Minnesota Cathoilc high school last year. Others like Chub Schmeig criticized the action outright, telling Fox 9 News:

” ‘I believe the church has more serious problems to be concerned with than whether a gay or lesbian person is in the church…It has lots of other issues to handle first.’ “

What might those problems be for Minnesota Catholics? Archbishop Nienstedt, a leading anti-LGBT bishop in the US, is facing increasing calls for his own resignation over his mishandling of clergy abuse that included moving a priest convicted of sexual abuse and offering secret payments to priests who admitted to the sexual abuse of children. As far as LGBT issues are concerned, Nienstedt has called marriage equality the “work of Satan” and spent tremendous resources mailing more than 400,000 DVDs during Minnesota’s debate on that matter. He has also been accused of making sexual advances on priests and seminarians, charges which he denied this summer.

And what to make of this situation, where an archbishop under pressure to resign personally forces a gay musician out? Two prominent gay Catholic writers, Frank Bruni and Andrew Sullivan, are tackling this question in the wake of so many LGBT-related employment disputes with church workers. Writing in his column for the New York Times, Bruni recalls the recent Communion denial and dismissal from volunteer services of two longtime gay parishioners in Montana, Tom Wojtowick and Paul Huff, who quietly were married. He continues:

“Such punishment has befallen many employees of Catholic schools or congregations since the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states allowed them civil weddings. Teachers long known to be gay are suddenly exiled for being gay and married, which is apparently too much commitment and accountability for the church to abide. Honesty equals expulsion. ‘I do’ means you’re done…

“The Catholic Church does incalculable good, providing immeasurable comfort — material as well as spiritual — to so many. But it contradicts and undercuts that mission when it fails to recognize what more and more parishioners do: that gay people deserve the same dignity as everyone else, certainly not what happened to the Montana couple. If Francis and his successors don’t get this right, all his other bits of progress and pretty words will be for naught.”

Andrew Sullivan of The Dish writes about how these incidents have shifted his thinking about being gay and Catholic, moving from a minor blemish amid much greater goodness to a “defining wound…[that] may slowly wreck the whole church.” Writing about the Montana couple, Sullivan says:

“It’s kinda hard to portray these two as some kind of subversive force…And the action against the men came not because they are gay but because they decided to celebrate their love and friendship with a civil marriage license. So they’re not really being targeted for sex; they are being targeted for their commitment and responsibility and honesty. And the only reason they have been excluded on those grounds is because they are gay.”

“If the church upholds this kind of decision, it is endorsing cruelty, discrimination and exclusion. Pope Francis’ view is that this is exactly the kind of thing that requires the church to exercise mercy not rigidity. But allowing a married gay couple to sing in the choir as an act of ‘mercy’ would merely further expose the fragility of the church’s thirteenth century views of human sexuality. It would put the lie to the otherness of gay people; to the notion that it is essential or even possible for a tiny minority to live entirely without intimacy or love or commitment. It also reveals that gay men have long been a part of the church – and tolerated, as long as they lied about their lives and gave others plausible deniability with respect to their sexual orientation. It is an endorsement of dishonesty.”

Sullivan goes on to point out that these dismissals and firings are inconsistent with Catholic moral teachings on compassion, mercy, inclusion, and fairness — and that young Catholics view this “as barbaric and inhuman.” He concludes:

“There is only so much inhumanity that a church can be seen to represent before its own members lose faith in it. I recall the feelings of my own niece and nephew who lost a huge amount of respect for the church when they heard a homily denouncing the civil marriage of their own uncle. I notice the outcry among Catholic high school students when a teacher was fired for the very same reason. When a church responds to an act of love and commitment not by celebration but by ostracism, it is not just attacking a couple’s human dignity; it is also attacking itself.”

One final note is that Sullivan captures the hypocrisy in these situations perfectly when he writes: “Yes, the church is now in favor of divorce as a condition for being a Catholic!”  (Divorce is required of the Montana couple to be allowed to return to communion.) Indeed, there is neither logic nor just cause for these dismissals.

As Pope Francis calls for greater mercy and his top US adviser, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, says these employment disputes “need to be rectified,” the hypocrisy inherent in denying Communion to LGBT people or forcing church workers out for their sexual orientation, marital status, or personal views only becomes more fully on display. I reiterate the prediction of former San Francisco Catholic Charities director Brian Cahill that these disputes will cause the church to become a ‘shrinking cult.’

For the sake of LGBT Catholics, their allies, and the good of the whole church, let us pray and act so this hypocrisy will end.  Please consider beginning a discussion in your parish to enact employment non-discrimination policies.  You can find out how to do that by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Montana Bishop’s Divided Thinking in Communion Denial Case

September 23, 2014

When the pastor of St. Leo parish in Lewiston, Montana, found out that a gay couple there had been joined in a civil marriage, his response was to tell them they were not longer welcome at communion or to participate in any of the parish’s volunteer ministries, even though both had been actively involved in many of them for a number of years.

Paul Huff and Tom Wojtowick

In the Great Falls TribuneRev. Samuel Spiering acknowledged he had learned about the relationship of Paul Huff, 73, and Tom Wojtowick, 66, through a rumor, though the couple did confirm it.  To make matters worse, Spiering offered a resolution which requires the couple to deny their commitment to one another.  The Tribune states:

“Huff and Wojtowick were also told that to regain full privileges within St. Leo’s, they must first obtain a divorce, cease living together and write a statement renouncing their prior marriage.”

Bishop Michael Warfel of the Great Falls-Billings diocese supported the pastor’s decision, noting, in The Billings Gazette:

“Warfel said he knows Wojtowick and Huff ‘to be good people.’

“ ‘This is not animus against someone who happens to be a homosexual; this issue is the same-sex marriage,’ he said. ‘A lot of people put those two together, and obviously there’s a connection, but it’s not the same thing.’

“Warfel called same-sex marriage ‘the issue of our era,’ acknowledging that in the U.S., polls show that support for it has edged higher than those who oppose it. But the fact remains that stands in conflict with Catholic teachings.

“ ‘As a Catholic bishop I have a responsibility to uphold our teaching of marriage between one man and one woman,’ Warfel said. . . .

“ ‘Either I uphold what Catholic teachings are or, by ignoring it or permitting it, I’m saying I disagree with what I’m ordained to uphold,’ Warfel said.”

For me, the bishop’s statements very clearly show the problem with this kind of thinking. While on the one hand, he knows, in reality, that these men are “good people,”  his theoretical ideas about what are the proper uses of sexuality force him to reject them.  His heart tells him one thing, but his head tells him something else.  I hope that he would use this opportunity to discern a little deeper how to resolve that dividing of responses.

Although he claims to want to uphold church teaching, he seems intent on only upholding the church’s teaching on marriage, not any teachings on effective pastoral ministry, the human dignity of gay and lesbian people, the respect for people’s conscience decisions.  When and why did the teaching on marriage trump all other teachings?  When and why does church teaching ask the bishop to deny what he knows from his own experience that these two men are “good people” ?

As in similar cases of dismissal, many people in the parish have come to the support of this couple.  Over the weekend, Warfel had a meeting with parishioners to discuss the situation, but according to The Great Falls Tribune“No substantive changes have resulted.”

The dismissal occurred even though the couple had explained that their marriage was not intended as a challenge to church teaching.  According to the Associated Press:

“Wojtowick said the men married in Seattle in May 2013 so they could make medical and financial decisions for each other.

“During an Aug. 25 conference call with Spiering, Warfel and other diocesan officials, Huff and Wojtowick agreed to write a restoration statement that, in part, would support the concept of marriage being between a man and a woman, Huff said.”

Others have joined in support of Huff and Wojtowick.  Patheos blogger John Shore thinks that Pope Francis should be involved in this situation:

“ ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin.’ Which means, of course, ‘Homosexuality is an abominable offense to God.’

“Which is a morally reprehensible thing to say—especially, of course, to a gay person—and especially to a gay person who has given their life to honoring the very God they’re now being told—and being told by His authorities on earth, no less—finds them, purely by virtue of them being the person they were created to be, repugnant to Him.

“Please, please join me in calling upon the good Pope Francis, in his role as defender of the weak and champion of the oppressed, to recognize the moral travesty being visited upon Paul Huff and Tom Wojtowick, of the tiny parish of St. Leo in Lewistown, MT, as an absolutely stupendous opportunity for the Catholic Church to once and for all come down unequivocally on the right and just side of the homosexual issue.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA points out a list of injustices evident in the pastor’s decision:

  • It is unjust for Church leaders to ban people from the Eucharist because of who they are or whom they love.
  • It is unjust for Church leaders to single out LGBT people for dismissal from ministry and leadership roles, when others who disagree with Church teaching do not suffer the same penalties.
  • It is unjust for Church leaders to bar LGBT people from exercising their civil rights.
  • It is unjust for Church leaders to demand that a couple separate and divorce.

As our church leaders prepare to begin discussing marriage and family issues in the upcoming synod, one topic that appears to be attracting a lot of attention is doing away with the ban on divorced and remarried people from receiving the Eucharist.  That would be a welcome change which would bring pastoral comfort to so many individuals and families.

Church leaders should also offer similar attention to gay and lesbian couples who choose to marry civilly.  They, too, should not be denied access to the Eucharistic table.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry    (source)

Church’s Approach to Gay and Lesbian People

SYNOD: New Ways Ministry Welcomes Church’s New Approach to Gay and Lesbian People

October 13, 2014

The Synod

The Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family has released a relatio, its mid-term report, and it has encouraging statements. You can read the entire text of the relatio by clicking here.  Below is the response of New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, Francis DeBernardo, to this news:

“The relatio offers some very hopeful directions in the way that Church leaders should address lesbian and gay people and their families.  I hope that local bishops and pastors will respond to the relatio’s challenges with new ways of welcome and acceptance.

“The most significant aspects are that Catholic communities are offered the challenge of ‘accepting and valuing’ lesbian and gay people’s sexual orientation, and the recognition that lesbian and gay people ‘have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.’    These recognitions are total reversals of earlier church statements which labelled such an orientation as “objectively disordered” and which viewed gay and lesbian people in faith communities as problems and suspect persons.  Though the relatio also speaks about the importance of not ‘compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony,’  the move toward accepting and valuing the gifts of gay and lesbian people is a major step forward.
“Although same-gender marriages are not recognized–which is not a surprise–it is very significant that the relatio recognizes that gay and lesbian couples offer one another ‘mutual aid to the point of sacrifice [which] constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.’  This recognition of the holiness of gay and lesbian couples is an important development, and I think it can lead to further developments of full recognition in years to come.
“What is also significant and hopeful is what is not said.  In stating that same-gender marriages are not accepted by the hierarchy, there is no vicious condemnation of them, as previous hierarchical statements have.  We don’t see the gloom and doom and apocalyptic horror that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and their followers have foretold because of the advent of same-gender marriages.
“Most worrisome, however, is the suggestion that international bodies should not ‘pressure’ pastors to accept ‘gender ideology.’   Gender ideology is an empty, catch-all phrase to mean anything that church leaders don’t want to accept about gender.   Yet, the influence that many international bodies are trying to exert is that of protecting the civil and human rights of LGBT people, so that their identities are not criminalized, and so that they don’t suffer penalties and violence.   It’s very disappointing that the relatio doesn’t make this distinction and that the human rights of LGBT are not explicitly mentioned as worthy of defending.  Defending LGBT human rights is a pro-life and pro-family measure.
“I hope that the statement of accepting the children of lesbian and gay couples will trickle down to parishes where such children have been excluded from sacramental life and educational opportunities.
“Perhaps the most welcome statement, in terms of general approaches to marriage, family, and sexuality, is the admonition: The indispensable biblical-theological study is to be accompanied by dialog, at all levels.’
“This call to dialogue has been absent in church discussions of sexuality for way too long.  It presents the hope that future changes that are even more welcoming and accepting of lesbian and gay people and their families can develop down the road.  Once church leaders engage in dialogue with lesbian and gay Catholics, I am confident that these leaders will see the deep faith, love, and witness to the Gospel that is active in their lives and loves.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Do Animals Exhibit Homosexuality?

Do Animals Exhibit Homosexuality?

Arash Fereydooni | Yale Scientific 14 March 2012

Recent research has found that homosexual behavior in animals may be much more common than previously thought. Although Darwin’s theory of natural selection predicts an evolutionary disadvantage for animals that fail to pass along their traits through reproduction with the opposite sex, the validity of this part of his theory has been questioned with the discoveries of homosexual behavior in more than 10% of prevailing species throughout the world.

Currently, homosexual behavior has been documented in over 450 different animal species worldwide. For instance, observations indicate that Humboldt, King, Gentoo, and Adélie penguins of the same sex engage in “mating rituals like entwining their necks and vocalizing to one another.” In addition, male giraffes have also been observed engaging in homosexual behavior by rubbing their necks against each others’ bodies while ignoring the females. Yet another example is lizards of the genus Teiidae, which can copulate with both male and female mates.

Biologists Nathan W. Bailey and Marlene Zuk from the University of California, Riverside have investigated the evolutionary consequences and implications of same-sex behavior, and their findings demonstrate benefits to what seems to be an evolutionary paradox. For example, their studies of the Laysan albatross show that female-female pairing can increase fitness by taking advantage of the excess of females and shortage of males in the population and provide superior care for offspring. Moreover, same-sex pairing in many species actually alleviates the likelihood of divorce and curtails the pressure on the opposite sex by allowing members to exhibit more flexibility to form partnerships, which in turn strengthens social bonds and reduces competition. Thus, not only do animals exhibit homosexuality, but the existence of this behavior is quite prevalent and may also confer certain evolutionary advantages.  (source)


To Western science, homosexuality (both animal and human) is an anomaly, an unexpected behavior that above all requires some sort of “explanation” or “cause” or “rationale.” In contrast, to many indigenous cultures around the world, homosexuality and transgender are a routine and expected occurrence in both the human and animal worlds…[ Bruce Bagemihl, Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity(New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999) 215].


bonobosBonobos, which have a matriarchal society, unusual among apes, are a fully bisexual species—both males and females engage in heterosexual and homosexual behavior, being noted for female-female homosexuality in particular. Roughly 60% of all bonobo sexual activity occurs between two or more females. While the homosexual bonding system in Bonobos represents the highest frequency of homosexuality known in any species, homosexuality has been reported for all great apes (a group which includes humans), as well as a number of other primate species.[66][67][68][69][70][71][72][73][74]

Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal on observing and filming bonobos noted that there were two reasons to believe sexual activity is the bonobo’s answer to avoiding conflict. Anything that arouses the interest of more than one bonobo at a time, not just food, tends to result in sexual contact. If two bonobos approach a cardboard box thrown into their enclosure, they will briefly mount each other before playing with the box. Such situations lead to squabbles in most other species. But bonobos are quite tolerant, perhaps because they use sex to divert attention and to defuse tension.

Bonobo sex often occurs in aggressive contexts totally unrelated to food. A jealous male might chase another away from a female, after which the two males reunite and engage in scrotal rubbing. Or after a female hits a juvenile, the latter’s mother may lunge at the aggressor, an action that is immediately followed by genital rubbing between the two adults.[75]    (source)


Further Sources

  1. Joan Roughgarden, Evolutions rainbow: Diversity, gender and sexuality in nature and people, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2004; pp.13-183
  2. Vasey, Paul L. (1995), Homosexual behaviour in primates: A review of evidence and theory, International Journal of Primatology 16: p 173-204
  3. Sommer, Volker & Paul L. Vasey (2006), Homosexual Behaviour in Animals, An Evolutionary Perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  4. Douglas, Kate (December 7, 2009). “Homosexual selection: The power of same-sex liaisons”. New Scientist. Retrieved 2009-12-21.