Tag : catholic

By osp@stpaultheapostle.org

OSP Advent Reflection Series 2017

Join us this Advent as we embark on a journey to deepen our Catholic faith and more fully realize and understand the joy of LGBTQ and Catholic identities. Each day we will send a brief reflection and link to that day’s readings right to your inbox. In these busy days leading up to Christmas, we hope that these thoughtful and personal words will facilitate prayer and a growing connection with God in our daily lives. The theme for this year’s reflections are gifts the LGBTQ community brings to the Church. READ MORE

By osp@stpaultheapostle.org

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we come together to celebrate Thanksgiving, we pause to give thanks for our community and the countless gifts you bring to OSP, St. Paul the Apostle Parish, and the whole body of Catholic faith. The ministry you share in is a light for the entire church and a sign of hope for God’s Kingdom yet to come.

Our hearts are drawn to the words of St. Paul, who in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 writes, “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” In a world where homophobia tears many down, your faith builds a community of safety and hospitality. In a church that is often hostile to LGBT people, your witness to love calls Christians to follow Christ more faithfully. You endure in spite of all the obstacles, contributing in hope to God’s in-breaking renewal of life in the world.

This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the OSP community. We value your many gifts and the countless ways that you share in OSP’s ministry. We remember your faith, love, and hope that continue to build up the Kingdom of God in a world and church that desperately need you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

In faith, love, and hope,

The OSP Ministry Team

By osp@stpaultheapostle.org

Gay and Lesbian High School Students Report ‘Heartbreaking’ Levels of Violence

New York Times
AUG. 11, 2016

Doctors and teachers who work with gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers have long warned that they are especially vulnerable to a host of psychological and physical harms. Now the first national study to identify these high school students and track their health risks confirms those fears: sexual-minority teenagers are indeed at far greater risk for depression, bullying and many types of violence than their straight peers.

“I found the numbers heartbreaking,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes a division that administers this school health survey every two years.

The survey documents what smaller studies have suggested for years, but it is significant because it is the first time the federal government’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the gold-standard of adolescent health data collection, looked at sexual identity. The survey found that about 8 percent of the high school population describe themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, which would be 1.3 million students.

These children were three times more likely than straight students to have been raped. They skipped school far more often because they did not feel safe: at least a third had been bullied on school property. And they were twice as likely as heterosexual students to have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.

More than 40 percent of these students reported they had seriously considered suicide, and 29 percent had made attempts in the year before they took the survey. The percentage of those who use various illegal drugs was many times greater than heterosexual peers. While 1.3 percent of straight students said they had used heroin, for example, 6 percent of the gay, lesbian and bisexual students reported having done so.

“Nations are judged by the health and well-being of their children,” said Dr. Mermin, who is the director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “Many would find these levels of physical and sexual violence unacceptable and something we should act on quickly.”

These comparisons have emerged because the federal survey, which looks at more than 100 health behaviors, included two new questions last year. It asked how students identified themselves sexually, and also the sex of those with whom they had “sexual contact” — leaving students to define that term.

While transgender youth have increasingly appeared on the national radar, most recently in debates around school bathroom access, this survey did not include an option for teenagers to identify themselves as transgender. But that possibility may be forthcoming. The C.D.C. and other federal health agencies are developing a question on gender identity to reliably count transgender teenagers which, a spokeswoman said, might be ready for a pilot test in 2017.

Some 15,600 students across the country, ages 14 to 17, took the survey. The population who identified as a sexual minority is in line with estimates from other state or local surveys, and with national studies of young adults. While the figures paint a portrait of loneliness and discrimination that is longstanding and sadly familiar, they are important because they now establish a national databank.

Dr. Debra Houry, an emergency medicine physician who directs the C.D.C.’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said the numbers argue for more comprehensive intervention and prevention programs. She praised programs like Green Dot, which trains students in how to support a victim of bullying or a physical altercation. Other programs, she said, teach coping skills to vulnerable students. As the data suggests, she said, these students need better access to mental health care, as well as support from families, schools and communities.

The report does not delve into why these students are at such risk for so many types of harm.

Dr. Elizabeth Miller, the chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said, “The intensity of homophobic attitudes and acceptance of gay-related victimization, as well as the ongoing silence around adolescent sexuality, marginalizes a whole group of young people.”

And such marginalization, added Dr. Miller, who writes extensively about dating and sexual violence, “increases their vulnerability to exploitative and violent relationships.”

Dr. Miller also pointed out that the report implicitly underscores the fluidity of adolescent sexual identity. When asked to identify themselves sexually, 3.2 percent of students chose “not sure.” Among students who said they had “sexual contact” with only people of the same sex or with both sexes, 25 percent identified as heterosexual and 13.6 percent said they were not sure of their sexual identity. Among students who had sexual contact only with someone of the opposite sex, 2.8 percent nonetheless described themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Dr. Miller, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said that self-acceptance can begin at home. “We have to start conversations early with young people about healthy sexuality, attraction, relationships, intimacy and how to explore those feelings in as safe and respectful a way as possible,” she said.

Any survey has limitations. In this one, the respondents were students in school and so the research would not have captured dropouts or others who were not attending, a disproportionate percentage of whom are lesbian, gay and bisexual.

How students interpreted “sexual contact” or why some defined themselves as “not sure” could also be open to interpretation.


By osp@stpaultheapostle.org

Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Aug 15

Celebrated every year on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary commemorates the death of Mary and her bodily assumption into Heaven, before her body could begin to decay—a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection at the end of time. Because it signifies the Blessed Virgin’s passing into eternal life, it is the most important of all Marian feasts and a Holy Day of Obligation.

Quick Facts

Date: August 15
Type of Feast: Solemnity; Holy Day of Obligation. (For more details, see Is Assumption a Holy Day of Obligation?
Readings: Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab; Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56 (full text here)
Prayers: The Hail Mary
Other Names for the Feast: The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; The Assumption of Mary Into Heaven; The Dormition of the Theotokos; The Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary

History of the Assumption

The Feast of the Assumption is a very old feast of the Church, celebrated universally by the sixth century.

The feast was originally celebrated in the East, where it is known as the Feast of the Dormition, a word which means “the falling asleep.” The earliest printed reference to the belief that Mary’s body was assumed into Heaven dates from the fourth century, in a document entitled “The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God.” The document is written in the voice of the Apostle John, to whom Christ on the Cross had entrusted the care of His mother, and recounts the death, laying in the tomb, and assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Tradition variously places Mary’s death at Jerusalem or at Ephesus, where John was living.

Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, continue to refer to the Feast of the Assumption as the Dormition of the Theotokos today.

A Required Belief

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church. On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, exercising papal infallibility, declared in Munificentissimus Deus that it is a dogma of the Church “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” As a dogma, the Assumption is a required belief of all Catholics; anyone who publicly dissents from the dogma, Pope Pius declared, “has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.”

While the Eastern Orthodox believe in the Dormition, they object to the papal definition of the dogma, seeing it as unnecessary, since belief in Mary’s bodily assumption, tradition holds, goes back to apostolic times.

Pope Pius XII, in the text explaining his definition of the dogma of the Assumption, refers repeatedly to the Blessed Virgin’s death before her Assumption, and the consistent tradition in both the East and the West holds that Mary did die before she was assumed into Heaven. However, since the definition of the Assumption is silent on this question, Catholics can legitimately believe that Mary did not die before the Assumption.


By osp@stpaultheapostle.org

Times Photographer Bill Cunningham Lived His Faith, Says Priest

He was a fashion photographer who worked in Manhattan and regularly went to Paris runway shows, yet he used duct tape to repair his own inexpensive clothes.

Bill Cunningham, who was responsible for both a street fashion and society spread in The New York Times Style section every Sunday, chose a life of simplicity. For years he slept on a cot in a cramped single room. No kitchen, no bathroom. He got around the city on a bicycle. He didn’t own a television and never went to the movies.

Seeing Miley Cyrus at an event, he asked his assistant if she was Madonna. After taking a photo of Katy Perry he asked him: “Is she one of those Kardashian kind of people?” It wasn’t just that he was indifferent to celebrity. To him, anyone who was dressed well — old or young, male or female, gay or straight, rich or poor — was a celebrity.

Father Kevin Madigan, pastor of Manhattan’s Church of St. Thomas More, said: “When deciding which galas to cover for the Times, what mattered more to Bill was the nature of the charity, than the celebrity guest list. Bill would always be respectful and appreciative of the person whose picture he was taking, whether it was some street kid or a society grand-dame.”
He described Cunningham as “clean of heart.”

Since his death June 25 at 87, there has been a constant stream of admirers who remembered how hard he worked and what he accomplished. More importantly, they remembered him for his kindness, modesty and integrity. But while most people remembered him taking photos at 57th and Fifth Avenue, few commented on where he was every Sunday morning — at Mass.

Cunningham didn’t talk about it, either. In a 2010 documentary, he responds with a cheerful laugh, a joke or a story to every question, except one. When asked about his weekly Mass attendance, he falls quiet and looks at the floor for a long time before answering. Finally he recalls with a smile that as a child his main interest in church was looking at the hats women wore. Then, after another long pause, all he really says is that his religion is important to him.

But although he wasn’t articulate about his faith, he lived it. “Those closest to him would attest that he was a spiritual person,” said Father Madigan told the Catholic Star Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Camden.

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“From Sunday to Sunday Bill could be found in one of the rear pews, as unobtrusive here as he would be at some gala at the Met or the Pierre or at a fashion runway,” the priest said in his homily at the private funeral Mass he celebrated for Cunningham June 30.

“Bill’s Boston Irish upbringing might have inclined him to be reticent about announcing his religious beliefs, but no doubt it was that foundation in his faith that enabled him to be the unique individual we have known him to be,” he continued.

And with his work, Father Madigan said, the photographer found his vocation.

“A vocation is seen as a kind of call from God, pairing a person’s interests, talents and passion in some noble pursuit, with the promise that following that path will be of service to others and bring to the one who answers that call genuine fulfillment and happiness,” the priest said. “It was the mission of Bill Cunningham to capture and celebrate beauty wherever he found it. His whole life was dedicated to that single pursuit.

“Like any true artist,” the priest said, Cunningham “helped people see in a new way, see what might otherwise have gone unnoticed in the hurried pace of city life. And the delight, the pleasure, the joy Bill found in pursuing his vocation was undeniable.”

Cunningham’s death was announced on the front page of the Times, and the following week the paper devoted five pages of editorial space to his memory. Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s all took out full-page ads in his memory.

Cunningham, it seems, not only managed to live a Christian life but to be respected and admired for it.

“He made a tremendous impression upon people who are easily jaded in the fashion industry,” Father Madigan said. He quoted Dostoevsky’s belief that “beauty will save the world,” but added, “in fact, it will be people like Bill Cunningham who will save the world.”

“May the qualities he exhibited — his transparent goodness, his simplicity, his integrity, his sense of joy, his enthusiasm for his life’s work, his thoughtfulness — not be forgotten, but emulated to whatever degree in our own lives.”


By osp@stpaultheapostle.org

Is Church Teaching a Weapon Used Against LGBT People?

Weeks after both the Orlando massacre and the pope’s call for an apology to lesbian and gay people, I’m still wading through articles and commentaries about both incidents.  It’s no wonder. For entirely two different reasons, both events certainly touched deep emotions in many people.

Because I’m reading about both events almost simultaneously, I’d like to report on a little linguistic oddity that I found, though I’m not quite sure what it means.

On June 22nd, Jesuit Father Russell Pollitt, the director of the Jesuit Institute of South Africa, reflected on Orlando, noting that organized religion, and Catholicism in particular, needs to take some responsibility for propagating the hate which causes violence. Pollitt ends his reflection with what I consider the most powerful and blunt observation I’ve yet to read:

“Bad religion, which includes bad religious language, is an assault rifle – and it is used often. Some pulpits are assault rifles. We need an urgent discussion in our church about the way we speak about and treat gay people. We need a conversion of mind, heart and language.”

Pope FrancisOn June 26th, just a few days later, Pope Francis uttered his now famous call for the church to apologizeto lesbian and gay people.  Probably in the interest of journalistic brevity, usually only the main sentence of his interview was reported:

I think that the Church must not only ask forgiveness from the gay person who is offended, but she must also ask for forgiveness from the poor too, from women who are exploited, from children who are exploited for labour.

But later accounts also took note of the sentence which immediately followed these words:

“She [the Church] must ask forgiveness for having blessed so many weapons.”

Assault rifle? Many weapons?  Coincidence?

Honestly, I’m not quite sure.  I will admit that the first time I read the pope’s full quotation, before reading Pollitt’s essay, I assumed that Francis was referring to the fact that churches, historically, have literally had blessing rituals for weapons of war.  After reading Pollitt’s reflection, I started to wonder if there was a different way of interpreting the pope’s remarks.  Was he saying that some of the church’s language and messages about gay people, the poor, women, and exploited children can be compared to weapons?

I acknowledge that I may be stretching it a bit. I was an English major, after all, and we are known for sometimes finding meanings where none were intended. But Pope Francis is a Jesuit.  Is it too much of a stretch to think that just a few days before he uttered his call for apology he might have read the online reflection of Pollitt, also a Jesuit and the head of an influential Jesuit agency?  Even if Pollitt were not involved with the pope’s language, the question still remains if he meant “weapons” literally or metaphorically.

It may be impossible to discern Francis’ intentions from the linguistic evidence, and I do not want to stretch the point beyond credibility.  What I do know, though, is that many LGBT people–and women–have experienced the church’s language and messaging as weapons.  For some, their experience has shown that weapon is not just a metaphor.  Pollitt describes an incident:

“When I was working in a parish community I remember being called to the emergency room of a local hospital one night. A young man had been admitted, hardly recognisable, because he had been beaten to a pulp. Earlier that evening he had “come out” to his family. His father justified the assault saying that it was against his religion to have a ‘moffie’ in the family. The family was deeply involved in the Catholic Church.

“While religion and religious language cannot be used as the sole motivating factor for this killing, it seems appropriate that believers interrogate the words they use and the positions they take. Religious positions and language contribute to a cocktail in which homophobia is incubated and bred. The kind of language, for example, which is used in official texts of the Church powerfully shapes perceptions, attitudes and actions. After all, isn’t that what religious teaching strives to do – shape perceptions, attitudes and actions – hopefully for the good? Phrases such as ‘objectively disordered’ are not helpful.”

I would like to think that Pollitt’s metaphor of bad religious language as an assault rifle is an overstatement, but I’ve heard too many painful stories over the years of physical, emotional, and spiritual violence to be able to convince myself of that position.  Similarly, I would like to think that Pope Francis’ use of the church having “blessed so many weapons” might indicate that the pontiff was making an extremely strong statement about the harm the Church has caused people, but I don’t have enough evidence of that for certainty.

What I can be sure of, though, is that whatever Pope Francis meant by his words, he did call for the Church to apologize, and it is now incumbent on our leaders to begin this process of apology before more people are needlessly harmed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

By osp@stpaultheapostle.org

Catholic couple puts faith in action for LGBT Youth

Memphis, Tennessee (CNN)When Deb and Steve Word found out one of their sons was gay, the devout Catholics offered up affirmation.

“We made every effort to make it easier for him to come out,” Deb Word said.

Despite the efforts, their son didn’t come out until he was 23.

“I said, ‘Why did you take so long to tell us?’ He said, ‘It’s your club. You know the rules,’ ” she said.

“As Catholic parents — it broke our hearts that we weren’t able to kind of shield him from some of that.”

Soon after, the couple began to attend potluck gatherings of the Catholic Ministry With Gay and Lesbian Persons in Memphis. They noticed a common thread among families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children — a lack of acceptance. The couple officially fell into their role as LGBT advocates, joining the organization Fortunate Families as listening parents.

“If a parent is struggling with an issue, whether it’s a church issue or a child issue, they can call and talk to a parent who is already walking on that path,” Deb Word said.

But it wasn’t until the Words met Will Batts, director of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, that they truly met the calling of their lives. Batts told them about a young gay couple and 4-year-old child who were living out of a car.

“We invited them into our home. They stayed for three or four weeks –that was the beginning of our journey as a safe house,” Deb Word said.

They now not only have only a safe house, but they also are surrogate parents for 17 LGBT youths.

“Any of the young people who have stayed with us have known they were going to be treated just like our own children, which means you take the good, the bad and the ugly,” Steve Word said.

According to a study by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, as many as 40% of homeless young people in the United States are LGBT. Many of these young people have needs that go beyond a safe place to sleep at night.

“What happens to kids on the street in the first 48 hours is scary,” Batts said.

“The kids we were working with had so many issues. They had medical issues, legal issues and mental health issues and all kinds of things.”

As safe parents, Deb Word said, we say “we are putting Band-Aids on gapping wounds. These kids need help psychologically to deal the damage their parents have created and to help them with risky behavior.”

In Memphis, leaders in the LGBT community are looking for a long-term solution to help discarded LGBT youth. The idea has been tossed around about creating a small community of tiny homes, but even if accomplished, there is still a need for more supportive services.

“What we are asking of our straight allies is to think about what it would be like if that were their own kid on the street,” Batts said.

Deb Word added, “We’ve got to get past the fact that sexual orientation is a reason to discriminate or not love someone.”

By osp@stpaultheapostle.org

Pope’s Focus on Poor Revives Scorned Theology


Pope’s Focus on Poor Revives Scorned Theology

VATICAN CITY — Six months after becoming the first Latin American pontiff, Pope Francis invited an octogenarian priest from Peru for a private chat at his Vatican residence. Not listed on the pope’s schedule, the September 2013 meeting with the priest, Gustavo Gutiérrez, soon became public — and was just as quickly interpreted as a defining shift in the Roman Catholic Church.

Father Gutiérrez is a founder of liberation theology, the Latin American movement embracing the poor and calling for social change, which conservatives once scorned as overtly Marxist and the Vatican treated with hostility. Now, Father Gutiérrez is a respected Vatican visitor, and his writings have been praised in the official Vatican newspaper. Francis has brought other Latin American priests back into favor and often uses language about the poor that has echoes of liberation theology.

And then came Saturday, when throngs packed San Salvador for the beatification ceremony of the murdered Salvadoran archbishop Óscar Romero, leaving him one step from sainthood.

The first pope from the developing world, Francis has placed the poor at the center of his papacy. In doing so, he is directly engaging with a theological movement that once sharply divided Catholics and was distrusted by his predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Even Francis, as a young Jesuit leader in Argentina, had qualms.

Now, Francis speaks of creating “a poor church for the poor” and is seeking to position Catholicism closer to the masses — a spiritual mission that comes as he is also trying to revive the church in Latin America, where it has steadily lost ground to evangelical congregations.

For years, Vatican critics of liberation theology and conservative Latin American bishops helped stall the canonization process for Archbishop Romero, even though many Catholics in the region regard him as a towering moral figure: an outspoken critic of social injustice and political repression who was assassinated during Mass in 1980. Francis broke the stalemate.

“It is very important,” Father Gutiérrez said. “Somebody who is assassinated for this commitment to his people will illuminate many things in Latin America.”

The beatification is the prelude to what is likely to be a defining period of Francis’ papacy, with trips to South America, Cuba and the United States; the release of a much-awaited encyclical on environmental degradation and the poor; and a meeting in Rome to determine whether and how the church will change its approach to issues like homosexuality, contraception and divorce.

By advancing the campaign for Archbishop Romero’s sainthood, Francis is sending a signal that the allegiance of his church is to the poor, who once saw some bishops as more aligned with discredited governments, many analysts say. Indeed, Archbishop Romero was regarded as a popular saint in El Salvador even as the Vatican blocked his canonization process.

“It is not liberation theology that is being rehabilitated,” said Michael E. Lee, an associate professor of theology at Fordham University who has written extensively about liberation theology. “It is the church that is being rehabilitated.”

Liberation theory includes a critique of the structural causes of poverty and a call for the church and the poor to organize for social change. Mr. Lee said it was a broad school of thought: Movements differed in different countries, with some more political in nature and others less so. The broader movement emerged after a major meeting of Latin American bishops in Medellín, Colombia, in 1968 and was rooted in the belief that the plight of the poor should be central to interpreting the Bible and to the Christian mission.

But with the Cold War in full force, some critics denounced liberation theology as Marxist, and a conservative backlash quickly followed. At the Vatican, John Paul II, the Polish pope who would later be credited for helping topple the Soviet Union, became suspicious of the political elements of the new Latin American movements.

“All that rhetoric made the Vatican very nervous,” said Ivan Petrella, an Argentine lawmaker and scholar of liberation theology. “If you were coming from behind the Iron Curtain, you could smell some communism in there.”

John Paul reacted by appointing conservative bishops in Latin America and by supporting conservative Catholic groups such as Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ, which opposed liberation theology. In the 1980s, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — later to become Pope Benedict XVI, but then the Vatican’s enforcer of doctrine — issued two statements on liberation theology. The first was very critical, but the second was milder, leading some analysts to wonder if the Vatican was easing up.

From his 1973 appointment as head of the Jesuits in Argentina, Francis, then 36 and known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was viewed as deeply concerned with the poor. But religious figures who knew him then say Francis, like much of Argentina’s Catholic establishment, thought liberation theology was too political. Critics also blamed him for failing to prevent the kidnapping and torture of two priests sympathetic to liberation theology.

Some in the church hierarchy considered Francis divisive and autocratic in his 15 years leading the Jesuits. The church authorities sent him into what amounted to stretches of exile, first in Germany and then in Córdoba, Argentina, a period in which he later described having “a time of great interior crisis.”

He practiced spiritual exercises and changed his leadership style to involve greater dialogue. When he was named archbishop of Buenos Aires, his focus became those left behind by Argentina’s economic upheaval.

“With the end of the Cold War, he began to see that liberation theology was not synonymous with Marxism, as many conservatives had claimed,” said Paul Vallely, author of “Pope Francis: Untying the Knots.” Argentina’s financial crisis in the early years of the 21st century also shaped his views, as he “began to see that economic systems, not just individuals, could be sinful,” Mr. Vallely added.

Since becoming pope, Francis has expressed strong criticism of capitalism, acknowledging that globalization has lifted many people from poverty but saying it has also created great disparities and “condemned many others to hunger.” He has warned, “Without a solution to the problems of the poor, we cannot resolve the problems of the world.”

In Argentina, some critics are unconvinced that Francis’ outspokenness about the poor represents an embrace of liberation theology. “He never took the reins of liberation theology because it’s radical,” said Rubén Rufino Dri, who worked in the late 1960s and 1970s with a group of priests active in the slums of Buenos Aires.

To him, Francis’ decision to expedite Archbishop Romero’s beatification was a political one, part of what Mr. Rufino Dri views as a “superficial transformation” of the Catholic Church as it competes in Latin America with secularism as well as other branches of Christianity.

“It’s a populist maneuver by a great politician,” he said.

Others offered a more nuanced view. José María di Paola, 53, a priest who is close to Francis and once worked with him among the poor of Buenos Aires, said the beatification reflected a broader push by Francis to reduce the Vatican’s focus on Europe. “It’s part of a process to bring an end to the church’s Eurocentric interpretation of the world and have a more Latin American viewpoint,” he said.

Father di Paola added that while Francis had never proposed evangelizing under the banner of liberation theology during his time in Argentina, his commitment to the poor should not be questioned. “Francis’ passage through the slums of the capital influenced him later as a bishop and pope,” he said. “Experiencing the life values of the poor transformed his heart.”

As pope, Francis has expanded the roles of centrists sympathetic to liberation theology, such as Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, in contrast to the clout once wielded in Latin America by conservative cardinals like Alfonso López Trujillo of Colombia, who died in 2008.

“Trujillo represented the thinking that liberation theology was a Trojan horse in which communism would enter the church, something that is finally coming undone with Pope Francis,” said Leonardo Boff, 76, a prominent Brazilian theologian who has written on liberation theology.

Many analysts note that John Paul and Benedict never outright denounced liberation theology and slowly started to pivot in their views. In 2012, Benedict reopened Archbishop Romero’s beatification case. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, a staunch conservative who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s enforcer of doctrine, became a proponent of liberation theology after working in Peru, where he met Father Gutiérrez. The two men have since written books together.

“There was no rehabilitation because there was never a ‘dehabilitation,’ ” Father Gutiérrez said, contesting the idea that liberation theology was ever cast out of the church. “In past years, there was talk of condemnation, and people believed it. What there was was a critical dialogue, which had difficult moments but which really was clarified over time.”

Francis often urges believers to act on behalf of the poor, saying if they do, they will be transformed. For those who knew Archbishop Romero in El Salvador, this transformation was notable. Once considered a conservative, he began to change in the mid-1970s, when he was the bishop of a rural diocese where government soldiers had massacred peasants. Shortly after he became archbishop of San Salvador, he was horrified when a close friend, a Jesuit priest, was murdered, and he soon began to speak out against government terror and repression.

“He began to surprise people,” said Jon Sobrino, a prominent liberation theologian who became close to Archbishop Romero and credited his transformation to his embrace of the poor.

“They made him be different, be more radical, like Jesus,” Father Sobrino said. “He drew near to them, and they approached him, asking for help in their suffering. That was what changed him.”

In 2007, Father Sobrino had his own clash with the Vatican when the doctrinal office disputed some of his writings. He refused to alter them and attributed the freeze on Archbishop Romero’s beatification partly to Vatican hostility.

“It has taken a new pope to change the situation,” he said.

Jim Yardley reported from Vatican City, and Simon Romero from Rio de Janeiro. Elisabeth Malkin and Gene Palumbo contributed reporting from San Salvador, and Jonathan Gilbert from Buenos Aires.


By osp@stpaultheapostle.org

Ireland Votes to Approve Gay Marriage, Putting Country in Vanguard


Ireland Votes to Approve Gay Marriage

from NYTimes.com – By DANNY HAKIM and DOUGLAS DALBYMAY 23, 2015

DUBLIN — Ireland has become the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, sweeping aside the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in a resounding victory Saturday for the gay rights movement and placing the country at the vanguard of social change.

With ballots from 34 out of the 43 voting areas counted, the vote was almost two to one in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. All but one of the districts that were counted voted yes, and it appeared to be statistically impossible for opposition votes to overcome the ayes.

Turnout was large — more than 60 percent of the 3.2 million people eligible to vote cast ballots. Government officials, advocates and even those who had argued against the measure said that the outcome was a resounding endorsement of the constitutional amendment.

Not long ago, the vote would have been unthinkable. Ireland decriminalized homosexuality only in 1993, the church dominates the education system and abortion remains illegal except when a mother’s life is at risk. But the influence of the church has waned amid scandals in recent years, while attitudes, particularly among the young, have shifted.

The vote is also the latest chapter in a sharpening global cultural clash. Same-sex marriage is surging in the West, legal in 19 nations before the Irish vote and 37 American states, but almost always because of legislative or legal action. At the same time, gay rights are under renewed attack in Russia, in parts of Africa and from Islamic extremists, most notably the Islamic State.

The results in Ireland, announced on Saturday, showed wide and deep support for a measure that had dominated public discourse and dinner-table conversation, particularly in the months before the lead-up to the vote on Friday. Supporters celebrated in gatherings and on the streets, with the rainbow colors of the gay rights movement and Yes vote buttons conspicuously on display.

Surprising many who had predicted a generational divide, the support cut across age and gender, geography and income, early results showed.

With early vote counts suggesting a comfortable victory, crowds began to fill a courtyard of Dublin Castle, a government complex that was once the epicenter of British rule. By late morning, the leader of the opposition, David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, conceded the outcome on Twitter: “Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done.”

For older activists, the moment marked a profound evolution of their country. For the world, it suggested how far the gay rights movement has come, to make such a significant step in a country with a storied history as a religious stronghold.

“Throughout my youth, adolescence and young adulthood, it was a criminal offense to be gay,” said David Norris, a 70-year-old Irish senator and longtime activist.

He said he had faced “total isolation” as a young man.

“There was silence on the subject,” he said. “It wasn’t mentioned in the newspapers, it wasn’t mentioned in the broadcast media. Then there was a fear of criminal prosecution, of being involuntarily placed in a lunatic asylum, losing your job, being socially destroyed. It was a terrible situation.”

The referendum changes Ireland’s Constitution so that civil marriage between two people is now legal “without distinction as to their sex.” It requires ratification by both houses of the Irish Parliament and the president. Though that is a formality, the date when gay and lesbian couples can marry will be determined in that process.

There was support for the measure across the political spectrum, including from Prime Minister Enda Kenny of the center-right Fine Gael party, and his Labour coalition partner, which had pushed for the referendum. Sinn Fein, an opposition party, also expressed support.

Many placed the results in a national context, saying it pointed not only to change but also to the compassion and tolerance of the Irish people.

Alex White, the government’s minister for communications, said: “This didn’t change Ireland — it confirmed the change. We can no longer be regarded as the authoritarian state we once might have been perceived to be. This marks the true separation of church and state.”

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, said “There are two Irelands, the elite Ireland and the hidden Ireland. And today the hidden Ireland spoke.”

Gay rights activists around the world had said a victory would be an important milestone.

“I think this is a moment that rebrands Ireland to a lot of folks around the world as a country not stuck in tradition but that has an inclusive tradition,” said Ty Cobb, the international director of the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based advocacy group.

Late in the campaign, four Catholic bishops urged parishioners to vote against the measure. But as ballot boxes were opened one by one, and paper yes and no votes stacked up in front of counters at long tables in a cavernous hall, optimism among referendum supporters grew.

Campaigning on both sides of the debate has been underway for months, with posters, billboards and commercials. One opposition commercial said, “You should be able to have reservations about gay marriage without being called a homophobe,” while a commercial supporting same-sex marriage featured young people encouraging their parents to vote.

Thousands are believed to have returned to Ireland to take part in the vote; plane tickets from London Friday night sold out.

Leaders on both sides tried to strike a conciliatory note, though they said some issues remain to be sorted out, from rules on surrogacy to the ability of religious groups to hew to their views.

“The personal stories of people’s own testimonies, as to their difficulties growing up being gay certainly struck a chord with people,” said Jim Walsh, an Irish senator who opposed the marriage referendum, during a television interview.

“I would like today to not get back into the arguments that we had during the campaign but to wish them well,” he said. “But I think that going forward we will need to address issues which are going to arise.”

But it also said “we will continue to affirm the importance of the biological ties and of motherhood and fatherhood” and urged the government to “address the concerns voters on the No side have about the implications for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.”

Nick O’Connell, 42, who comes from a rural area in County Kilkenny in the Irish Midlands, was cradling a celebratory drink in a Dublin bar, the Back Lounge. He said he had been too afraid to come out as gay until his mid 20s.

“Today I’m thinking of all those young people over the years who were bullied and committed suicide because of their sexuality. This vote was for them, too.”

He added: “This is different from other countries because it was the people who gave it to us, not a legislature.”

At Dublin Castle, onlookers carried rainbow colored umbrellas, feather boas and pins, along with T-shirts with Yes Equality written on them.

“I’m too hyper to talk,” one woman wrapped in a rainbow flag said.

But for many the mood was subdued, because much of the celebrating had come the night before.

“Even yesterday there was just a weird sense of optimism across Dublin,” said Colum O’Hara, a 28-year-old in public relations at an advertising firm. “Last night felt like Christmas Eve.”

“It’s a great day for Ireland,” he added.

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