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Catholic Leaders Praise New Ways Ministry Statement on LGBTQ Non-Discrimination

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As Bondings 2.0 reported yesterday, more than 250 theologians, church leaders, writers, and scholars have endorsed a statement calling for Catholics to support LGBTQ non-discrimination protections. Today’s post features commentary from some endorsers about why they signed and what is important about this statement for our historical moment. Entitled “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” the statement was released by New Ways Ministry (more details on the content are available here). National Catholic Reporter offered insights into the support for this statement, including a statement from Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s executive director:

“‘Our reading of Catholic doctrine says Catholics should be supporting nondiscrimination, and it just seems so clear in all of the documents in the church about human dignity and equality and respect and social justice. . .The Catholic position is that it means everybody regardless of that person’s condition in life, and if it includes everybody, then it includes LGBT. It’s not a ‘pick and choose’ situation. It has to be universal.'”

NCR’s report included comment by several theologians who endorsed the statement:

“María Teresa Dávila, a professor in religious and theological studies at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, told NCR that the New Ways Ministry statement opens up an important and necessary conversation that is grounded in the principle of human dignity. “‘It’s grounded in Catholic social teaching. It honors the church as an institution that holds true for so many people and holds the truth about Christ and salvation for so many people. The statement honors all of that,’ said Dávila, who signed the statement.”

Steven Millies, who directs Catholic Theological Union’s Bernadin Center, observed:

“‘What I think really stands out about this statement is how carefully argued it is to make a very narrow but a very important point in that the civil law is not necessarily the place to argue the Christian position on human anthropology,’ he said. “‘I think this has a lot of parallels to other problems we have,’ he said. ‘It’s certainly the case that the church can and should express a point of view about political and social questions, but it is also the case that in the end, the civil forum is not really the same as the ecclesiastical forum, nor should it be. And we know the church doesn’t want it to be because every appeal for religious liberty is an appeal to separate the ecclesiastical forum from the civil forum.'”

Massimo Faggioli, a professor at Villanova University, called the statement “very balanced,” adding that given this is a longer term project, “there needs to be a conversion in terms of what methods we use to discuss these issues.” That conversation is necessary for the “cultural and intellectual survival of the Catholic Church, especially in the United States.” DeBernardo commented in a separate statement:

“LGBTQ non-discrimination is being debated at all levels in our society, and the Catholic perspective on this issue is often misrepresented, even by some church leaders. Catholics who have studied and reflected deeply on this topic agree that non-discrimination is the most authentic Catholic position.”

Notable signatories include Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, retired auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit; Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking; Richard Rodriguez, author of Hunger of Memory; Garry Wills, author Lincoln at Gettysburg; Sister Simone Campbell, founder of “Nuns on the Bus”; Ron Hansen, author of Mariette in Ecstasy; Mary Gordon, author of Men and Angels; Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked.

Signatories from the academic world include some of the top names in Catholic theology: Rev. Bryan Massingale, Sister Margaret Farley, RSM, M. Shawn Copeland, Richard Gaillardetz, Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, Rev. Charles Curran, Maria Pilar Aquino, Sister Ilia Delio, Massimo Faggioli, and Rev. David Hollenbach, SJ.

Also signing are Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland; Miguel Diaz, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See; and Mary Novak, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby. (To view the full list of endorsers, click here.)

More than 50 Catholic organizations have endorsed the statement, including 35 communities of vowed women and men. These include Pax Christi USA, Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, Women’s Ordination Conference, Quixote Center, and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.

Going forward, the theological statement will also serve as the basis for an educational pamphlet on the Catholic case for LGBTQ non-discrimination which New Ways Ministry will publish in the fall. The publication will be available for Catholic parishes, schools, and other institutions to use as an education and discussion tool.

All Catholics are welcome to endorse the statement. If you would like to add your name to “A Home for All,” you can do so by clicking here. The deadline for endorsements is August 30, 2021 at 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. —Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 11, 2021

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