Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Save the Date!

Our Families: Rooted in Love,
Enriched by Diversity

A Retreat for Catholic Parents of LGBT Children

• Active or disaffected Catholic?

• Parent of one who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?

• Willing to share your story and hear the journey of others?

• Ready to be strengthened in faith, hope and love?

Then join us on . . .

Sunday, February 23, 2014
11:30am-5:00pm (lunch included)

Prospect Park United Methodist Church
22 Malcolm Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

Optional (but encouraged!): Mass at 5:00pm (regularly scheduled Dignity Mass) and Potluck Supper at 6:00pm (supplied and served by partner sponsors)

Free will offering accepted at retreat

For more information and to register, please contact Myrna Ohman at 320-223-1008 or

This retreat is sponsored by Equally Blessed coalition members Fortunate Families, Dignity/Twin Cities and Call to Action Minnesota.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pope Francis Makes Cover of Rolling Stone

By Dylan Stableford

Note: This article was first published January 28, 2014 by Yahoo News.

Pope Francis — Bishop of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, His Holiness — has another title to add to his papal résumé: Rolling Stone cover subject.

The pope graces the cover of the iconic music magazine this week for a "The Times They Are A-Changin':
Inside the Pope's Gentle Revolution
," a 7,700-word profile by contributing editor Mark Binelli, who went inside the Vatican to report on Francis' break from tradition, less than a year since he was installed as leader of the [Roman] Catholic Church.

"In less than a year since his papacy began, Pope Francis has done much to separate himself from past popes and establish himself as a people's pope," Binelli writes.

More from the profile:

Surprising desk clerks at the hotel where he'd been staying during the papal conclave by showing up to pay his own bill; panicking bodyguards by swigging from a cup of maté (the highly caffeinated tea-like beverage popular throughout South America) handed to him by a stranger during a visit to Brazil; cracking up cardinals with jokes at his own expense hours after being elected (to those assembled at his first official dinner as pope, he deadpanned, "May God forgive you for what you've done").

After the disastrous papacy of Benedict, a staunch traditionalist who looked like he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares, Francis' basic mastery of skills like smiling in public seemed a small miracle to the average Catholic. But he had far more radical changes in mind. By eschewing the papal palace for a modest two-room apartment, by publicly scolding church leaders for being "obsessed" with divisive social issues like gay marriage, birth control and abortion ("Who am I to judge?" Francis famously replied when asked his views on homosexual priests) and – perhaps most astonishingly of all – by devoting much of his first major written teaching to a scathing critique of unchecked free-market capitalism, the pope revealed his own obsessions to be more in line with the boss' son.

Francis has been on other major magazine covers, including Time magazine, which declared him its 2013 Person of the Year last month. (It was the second time in a year Time ran a pope cover.)

But never Rolling Stone, the so-called "music bible" founded in 1967 by Jann Wenner.

Not surprisingly, Francis is the first pope to make the cover of Rolling Stone — something bands including the Velvet Underground, Public Enemy, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine each failed to do.

Related Off-site Links:
The Trouble with Francis: Three Things That Worry Me – Mary E. Hunt (Religion Dispatches, January 6, 2014).
New Pope, New Hope – Joseph S. O'Leary (Joseph S. O'Leary Homepage, January 28, 2014).
Correcting the "Theology of Women" That Currently ExistsQuestions from a Ewe (January 26, 2014).

See also the previous PCV posts:
"Healing Message" from Pope Francis Provokes Conservative Outrage
Pope Francis is Going to Be Heard
The 'Francis Effect': Five Ways the Pope is Resuscitating the Catholic Church
Conservative Catholics Question Pope Francis' Approach
Local Catholics Respond to Pope's Interview
The Pope's Radical Whisper
Pope's Reform Path: Francis Shakes Up Church Establishment
A Humble Pope in An August Office
Waiting for Francis to Reform the Curia? He Already Has
Reflections on a New Face

Monday, January 13, 2014

Students Are Winning the Gay-Marriage Fight at a Seattle Catholic High School

By Danny Westneat

Note: This op-ed was first published January 11, 2014 as "Students Winning as Eastside Catholic Twists Gay Marriage Logic" by the Seattle Times.

The ongoing morality play about gay marriage at an area Catholic high school keeps getting foggier. Except for one part that is becoming clear: The student protesters are winning.

Consider the jumble of values, rules and official gobbledygook the students of Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish have exposed with their agitating in the past month:

It’s apparently OK to be gay and teach there. Unless you get married — then you are fired. With the caveat that if you agree to get divorced — then you can keep your job.

Now if you’re a lesbian who teaches part-time and announces on the radio that you’re getting married — not only do you keep your job, you get a raise!

Said the school’s board in a four-page letter and Q & A to families Thursday: “The public behaviors of our faculty and staff must at all times be consistent with the values and teachings of the Catholic Church.”

I’m not Catholic, so who am I to judge and all that. But “consistent” is about the last word I would choose for the school’s message.

“Tortured,” maybe. “Befuddling?” Or how about just: “Wrong.”

I don’t mean wrong in a technical sense. Eastside Catholic was probably well within its legal rights last month when it forced out Mark Zmuda, a vice principal and swim coach, for marrying a man.

A few years ago I covered a case in which World Vision, the church-based Federal Way relief agency, fired three employees because they confessed they didn’t believe in the Holy Trinity — the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Even though the workers were in seemingly secular jobs such as shipping, the firings were upheld in the courts. The point is religious organizations can discriminate in hiring and firing. Employees know that going in, or ought to.

I mean it’s wrong in a moral sense. That’s what those spirited students are appealing to in their protests: Not the law’s strict letter, but a sense of “passionate discernment,” as Father John Whitney of St. Joe’s in Seattle wrote in praising the students.

Whitney likened the “noisy uproar” of the students to the Apostles: “We in the broader Church should be grateful for the mess these young people bring.”

A mess it is, no matter where you stand on it. That the school fired Zmuda for getting married is one thing. But offering to keep him if he got divorced — if he renounced his love? That is some disturbing moral bargaining.

It’s asking Zmuda to retreat partly back into the closet. The church can rationalize this by arguing that in a religious sense his marriage never existed, so canceling it is not as serious as a traditional divorce. But if that’s so — if his civil marriage isn’t recognized by the church anyway — then why is it such a problem?

That was followed by the contrary news that a part-time drama teacher at the school, Stephanie Merrow, could not only keep her job but would get a raise even after she came out as a lesbian and announced her engagement to her female partner.

School officials said this works for them because she’s part-time. But on the consistent values and teaching front, it sure is confusing. It’s OK for the two women to marry, but not the two men?

Here’s what I think it means. When you tie yourself into knots like this, it usually means you know you’re wrong.

It doesn’t mean the pope is suddenly going to back gay marriage. Or even that Zmuda may get his job back. But it probably means the church, at least around here, will find its way to some morally ambiguous “accommodation” in which it continues to oppose gay marriage but sees fit to look the other way when the lives and loves of real human beings are at stake.

It looks to be heading there already.

“Though it is a painful time, their teachers and their parents should be proud of the Gospel spirit that has been planted in these young hearts,” Father Whitney wrote of the students.

Non-Catholic translation: I’ll be damned, these kids are winning.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday in the Seattle Times. He can be reached at 206-464-2086 or

Related Off-site Links:
Catholic Students Protest Firings in Seattle and Philly; What You Can Do to Help – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, December 20, 2013).
Seattle High School Administers a 'Vaccine Against Faith' – Jamie Manson (National Catholic Reporter, January 9, 2014).
Anti-LGBT Policies Create Vaccines Against Faith in Catholic Schools – Bob Shine (Bondings 2.0, January 10, 2014).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Thank God for Jennifer Haselberger"

The editors of the National Catholic Reporter have named local whistle-blower Jennifer Haselberger (right) as the newspaper's 2013 person of the year. Following is an excerpt from NCR's December 31, 2013 editorial.

Thank God for Jennifer Haselberger. Haselberger, who holds a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, became chancellor of canonical affairs for the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese in 2008. She had held a similar post in the Fargo, N.D., diocese. In St. Paul-Minneapolis, she reviewed the archdiocese's records and archives and discovered unreported allegations of clergy sex abuse and lapses in investigations (NCR, Oct. 25-Nov. 7.)

"I was not prepared for this disregard for the requirements of canon law, nor for what appeared to be an equal disregard for civil law, especially in regard to the obligation to report to the civil authorities," Haselberger told NCR.

She repeatedly took her concerns to Archbishop John Nienstedt, but they were ignored and rebuffed. Haselberger, 38, resigned her position in April 2013, saying she found it impossible to continue, knowing that such reckless disdain for the law and the U.S. bishops' own procedures still existed and that her efforts to rectify them had proved futile. So, she alerted law officials and the media. These public revelations have resulted in resignations of key archdiocesan personnel, a public review of how the archdiocese handles abuse allegations, and several police investigations.

Haselberger says she draws inspiration from a phrase she learned as an undergraduate student at the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University) in St. Paul: "Be loving critics and critical lovers of the institutional church."

And that is why Jennifer Haselberger is NCR's person of the year for 2013.

See also the previous PCV posts:
Statement by Jennifer Haselberger
Priest Demands Nienstedt Explain Handling of Clergy Sexual Abuse
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, "Regime Change is Not Enough"
New Disclosure Practices? Healing?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Quote of the Day

. . . All of the enthusiasm about Francis’ style does not change the fact that the institutional Roman Catholic Church is a rigid hierarchy led by a pope—the warm feelings in response to Francis shore up that model of church by making the papacy itself look good. To my mind, this is a serious danger.

Even when I agree with his statements about eradicating poverty, becoming friends with our enemies, and the like, I have scruples about giving the new pope too much praise—as if other people have not said the same things and more for eons.

The papacy is the ultimate bully pulpit, but it works both ways—on things that are progressive and things that are conservative. It is risky to embrace papal remarks when one agrees, only to live long enough to have another pope undo them. Conservatives are living that reality as I write. The point is to be mature enough to set our own moral trajectories and decenter papal authority.

All of the efforts at church reform—whether the ordination of women, married clergy, acceptance of divorced and/or LGBTIQ persons as full members of the community, and many others—are based on the assumption of widespread lay participation in an increasingly democratic church. From that perspective, it does not make sense to ordain more people to a closed clerical caste headed by the Bishop of Rome, however socially progressive he may be.

Rather, beneath all of these movements for change has been the working assumption that a new participatory, democratic administrative model must evolve. Key to that model is a deeply diminished authority role for the pope and a much stronger emphasis on the pope’s function as a symbol of the unity of the whole church. That is not something that anyone accomplishes by kind deeds, but by structural change. . . .

– Mary E. Hunt
"The Trouble With Francis: Three Things That Worry Me"
Religion Dispatches
January 6, 2014