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U.S. Catholic theologians call for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections

“We wanted this to be a theological statement, not a political statement,” lead author Francis DeBernardo said



Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministries executive director (Screenshot via CNBC YouTube)

MOUNT RAINIER, Md. – More than 750 of the nation’s leading Catholic theologians, church leaders, scholars, educators, and writers released a joint statement on Sept. 14 expressing strong support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The six-page theological statement, “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” was scheduled to be published along with the names of its 759 signatories as a four-page advertisement on Sept. 17 in the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper widely read by Catholic clergy and laypeople.

The statement was initiated by New Ways Ministry, a Mount Rainier, Md., based Catholic group that advocates for equality for LGBTQ people within the church and society at large.

“As Catholic theologians, scholars, church leaders, writers, and ministers, we affirm that Catholic teaching presents a positive case for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people,” the statement says. “We affirm the Second Vatican Council’s demand that ‘any kind of social or cultural discrimination…must be curbed and eradicated,’” it says.

“We affirm that Catholic teaching should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” the statement adds.

The statement notes that its signers recognize that a “great debate” is currently taking place within the Catholic Church about whether same-gender relationships and transgender identities should be condoned or supported.

“That is a vital discussion for the future of Catholicism, and one to which we are whole-heartedly committed,” the statement continues. “What we are saying in this statement, however, is relatively independent of that debate, and the endorsers of this statement may hold varied, and even opposing, opinions on sexual and gender matters,” it says.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministries executive director, said his organization and the signers of the statement feel the issue of nondiscrimination for LGBTQ people can and should be supported by Catholic leaders and the church itself even if some are not yet ready to support same-sex marriage and sexual and gender identity matters.

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

DeBernardo said those who helped draft the statement decided it would be best to limit it to a theological appeal and argument for LGBTQ equality and non-discrimination and not to call for passage of specific legislation such as the Equality Act, the national LGBTQ civil rights bill pending in the U.S. Congress.

The Equality Act calls for amending existing federal civil rights laws to add nondiscrimination language protecting LGBTQ people in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. The U.S. House approved the legislation, but the Senate has yet to act on it.

“We wanted this to be a theological statement, not a political statement,” DeBernardo said.

He said organizers of the project to prepare the statement plan to send it, among other places, to the Vatican in Rome and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has expressed opposition to the Equality Act.

Among the key signers of the statement were 242 administrators, faculty, and staff from Sacred Heart University, a Catholic college in Bridgeport, Conn. New Ways Ministries says the statement was circulated by the school’s administration and eight of its top leaders, including President John Petillo, are among the signers.

Some of the prominent writers who signed the statement include Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking;” Richard Rodriquez, author of “Hunger of Memory;” Gary Wills, author of “Lincoln at Gettysburg;” and Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked.”

The full text of the statement and its list of signatories can be accessed at the New Ways Ministry website.


Religion & Faith

United Methodist Church removes 40-year ban on gay clergy

The New York Times notes additional votes “affirming L.G.B.T.Q. inclusion in the church are expected before the meeting adjourns on Friday



Mount Zion United Methodist Church is the oldest African-American church in Washington. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The United Methodist Church on Wednesday removed a ban on gay clergy that was in place for more than 40 years, voting to also allow LGBTQ weddings and end prohibitions on the use of United Methodist funds to “promote acceptance of homosexuality.” 

Overturning the policy forbidding the church from ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” effectively formalized a practice that had caused an estimated quarter of U.S. congregations to leave the church.

The New York Times notes additional votes “affirming L.G.B.T.Q. inclusion in the church are expected before the meeting adjourns on Friday.” Wednesday’s measures were passed overwhelmingly and without debate. Delegates met in Charlotte, N.C.

According to the church’s General Council on Finance and Administration, there were 5,424,175 members in the U.S. in 2022 with an estimated global membership approaching 10 million.

The Times notes that other matters of business last week included a “regionalization” plan, which gave autonomy to different regions such that they can establish their own rules on matters including issues of sexuality — about which international factions are likelier to have more conservative views.

Rev. Kipp Nelson of St. Johns’s on the Lake Methodist Church in Miami shared a statement praising the new developments:

“It is a glorious day in the United Methodist Church. As a worldwide denomination, we have now publicly proclaimed the boundless love of God and finally slung open the doors of our church so that all people, no matter their identities or orientations, may pursue the calling of their hearts.

“Truly, all are loved and belong here among us. I am honored to serve as a pastor in the United Methodist Church for such a time as this, for our future is bright and filled with hope. Praise be, praise be.”

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Religion & Faith

“God called me out of the closet,” Bishop Gene Robinson

“Sunday Morning” senior contributor Ted Koppel talks with Bishop Robinson about his quest to live an authentic life



Veteran political journalist and broadcaster Ted Koppel recently interviewed Bishop Gene Robinson at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Washington D.C.'s gayborhood of Dupont Circle. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS Sunday Morning)

WASHINGTON – (CBS) In 2003 he became the first openly gay bishop in all of Christendom, when the Episcopal Church consecrated Gene Robinson the 9th bishop of New Hampshire. Death threats followed, but so did a shift in the relationship between the LGBTQ community and the church.

“Sunday Morning” senior contributor Ted Koppel talks with Bishop Robinson about his quest to live an authentic life; and with other gay bishops serving today whom Robinson calls his legacy.


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Religion & Faith

San Francisco Archbishop partially bans blessing LGBTQ+ couples

“Vatican instructions for blessing same-gender couples offered a clear set of parameters for how, when, & what priests are supposed to do”



Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (Photo Credit: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco press & media affairs office)

By Robert Shine | MOUNT RAINIER, MD. – A U.S. archbishop has said priests may deny blessings to same-gender couples. Today’s post features that news, along with other U.S. prelates’ reactions to Fiducia Supplicans, the Vatican declaration allowing such blessings.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco issued a private memorandum shortly after the Vatican declaration was released, in which the archbishop gave priests five instructions. Cordileone was apparently motivated to write due to the “ignorance, animosity, and judgmentalism” found in the news media, a situation he found regretable as it came just before Christmas.

According to the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), the instructions to priests include a ban on “pre-secheduled blessings” and any blessings of couples if “such a blessing cannot be given if it would be a cause of scandal, that is, if it would mislead either the individuals themselves or others into believing that there may be contexts other than marriage in which ‘sexual relations find their natural, proper, and fully human meaning.” BAR continued, “Finally, Cordileone’s memo states, ‘as a consequence, any priest has the right to deny such blessings if, in his judgment, doing so would be a source of scandal in any way.’”

LGBTQ+ advocates have criticized Cordileone’s memo. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, told BAR:

“‘The Vatican’s instructions for blessing same-gender couples offered a clear set of parameters for how, when, and what priests are supposed to do when people request such blessings. . .The instructions were very clear and detailed, and so it seems that Archbishop Cordileone’s additional comments, including a warning about scandal, were unnecessary. The archbishop’s warning may cause priests to be reluctant to give such blessings when asked, and may also cause some couples to be wary of asking for them.’”

Stan JR Zerkowski, executive director of Fortunate Families, added that Cordileone’s memo provided “an easy excuse for refusing to provide catechesis. . .and appears to be lacking in mercy, welcome, as well as pastoral sensitivity.”

Other Responses from U.S. Bishops

While many prelates in the U.S. did not go as far as Cordileone, many of their statements were still negative or, at best, neutral. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a paragraph-long statement not from a bishop, but from spokesperson, Chieko Noguchi, who said only:

“The Declaration issued today by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) articulated a distinction between liturgical (sacramental) blessings, and pastoral blessings, which may be given to persons who desire God’s loving grace in their lives. The Church’s teaching on marriage has not changed, and this declaration affirms that, while also making an effort to accompany people through the imparting of pastoral blessings because each of us needs God’s healing love and mercy in our lives.”

Another USCCB statement was issued via Winona-Rochester’s Bishop Robert Barron, chair of the Conference’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, who said, in part:

“The statement in no way calls for a change in the Church’s teaching regarding marriage and sexuality. In fact, it goes to great lengths to insist that, in accord with unchanging doctrine, marriage is a union of one man and one woman in lifelong fidelity and openness to children.

“The blessings that it allows for those in irregular relationships are not liturgical in nature and hence do not imply any approbation of such relationships. Rather, these benedictions are informal and spontaneous, designed to call upon God’s mercy to heal, guide, and strengthen. Despite some misleading coverage in the press, the declaration does not constitute a ‘step’ toward ratification of same-sex marriage nor a compromising of the Church’s teaching regarding those in irregular relationships.”

Many U.S. bishops’ own statements followed these lines of argument, such as foregrounding not the question of blessings but claims that church teachings on marriage and sexuality did not change. Episcopal statements like this also emphasized that same-gender unions or even couples could not be blessed; any blessings were only for individuals. Indeed, many such statements even claimed there was nothing new or noteworthy about Fiducia Supplicans, despite the head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith explicitly saying that church teaching evolved with this  declaration.

U.S. bishops whose responses were similar to those outlined above include: Bishop Lawrence Persico of ErieCardinal Sean O’Malley of BostonBishop William Joenson of Des MoinesBishop Larry Kulick of GreensburgArchbishop Jerome Listecki of MilwaukeeBishop Donald Hying of MadisonBishop Thomas Daly of SpokaneBishop David Walkowiak of Grand RapidsBishop James Johnston of Kansas City-St. JosephBishop John Doerfler of MarquetteBishop John Folda of FargoBishop Alfred Schlert of AllentownBishop Stephen Parkes of Savannah, and Bishop James Conley of Lincoln.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston went so far as to conclude his statement with three paragraphs on the need for people in same-gender relationships to be repentant for being sinners.

Some bishops followed Cordileone in placing restrictions on blessings, such as Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila who said in a statement that blessings should be done “with discretion, preferably privately to avoid scandal and confusion.” Bishop François Beyrouti of the Melkite Catholic Church’s Diocese of Newton issued a statement informing priests they could only perform blessings with his “prior written permission,” and “disregard for this prescription will result in canonical penalties.”


Likewise, certain bishops used more charged or offensive language, such as South Dakota’s two bishops, Peter Muhich of Rapid City and Donald DeGrood of Sioux Falls, who issued a joint letter about blessing “persons living in situations of unreptentant serious sin, such as same-sex sexual relationships, fornication, or adultery.”

They claimed the church “has no power to bless sin,” focusing much of their statement on repentance for such alleged sinners. And, oddly, Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston added in a media comment that Catholics in same-gender relationship, “if they’re living in a union in which they’re sexually active, and if it’s not a union the church can recognize, then they should not receive Holy Communion.”

Positive Responses from U.S. Prelates

On the other hand, some U.S. bishops welcomed the Vatican declaration on blessings.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago issued a lengthy statement, writing, in part, “[T]he Declaration is a step forward, and in keeping not only with Pope Francis’s desire to accompany people pastorally but Jesus’s desire to be present to all people who desire grace and support. . .Here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, we welcome this declaration, which will help many more in our community feel the closeness and compassion of God.”

Bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose issued a statement that acknowledged church teaching on marriage had not changed, but that also said the declaration was helpful. He wrote, in part:

“[T]he Church recognizes the pastoral need to respond to those who humbly seek a blessing and express a desire for God’s mercy and assistance in order to dialogue with and invite them to a deeper relationship with the Lord. . .This declaration represents an important clarification that acknowledges and responds to the diverse realities of people’s lives while upholding the Church’s teachings on sacramental marriage.”

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Suller, MSpS, of San Antonio offered a qualified endorsement. In a statement, the archbishop encouraged people to read the declaration directly so as not to “allow others to interpret for you what might very well be a misinterpretation.” He added:

“This declaration should not invoke scandal nor confusion for the people of God. It is issued to ensure that all of God’s children know they are loved and accepted. Ask any priest and they will share how often people seek a spontaneous and informal blessing from them. It is one of the many joys of priesthood! Those requesting such blessings seek God’s closeness, healing, and strength.”

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, who has repeatedly spoken in support of LGBTQ+ people, said in an interview that the declaration supports giving “simply a blessing and saying that God’s blessing you and supporting you.”

Another bishop who responded more positively to Fiducia Supplicans was Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In a final note from the U.S., Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor now running to be the Republican presidential nominee, cited Pope Francis’ support for blessing same-gender couples to explain how he came to now support marriage equality. At a town hall forum, Christie, who is Catholic, explained, “[I]t was a process I had to go through to change the way I’ve been raised both from a family perspective and what my mother and father taught me and felt and also from a religious perspective and […] what my church taught me to believe. . .Pope Francis is now allowing blessings of same-sex couples; even the Church is changing.”


Robert Shine is the Associate Director of New Ways Ministry, where he has served since 2012. He is the Managing Editor for Bondings 2.0, a daily blog of LGBTQ Catholic news, opinion, and spirituality. Bob has degrees in theology from The Catholic University of America and the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

The preceding article was previously published by New Ways Ministry and is republished with permission.

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Religion & Faith

Baptist group forces Out married minister to resign from committees

Williams-Hauger told the Washington Blade that it “has always been known that I’m married- Brad and I have been together since 2005″



Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger (Photo courtesy of Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger)

EVANSTON, Ill. – A Virginia-based Baptist group forced an openly gay minister to resign from two of its commissions because he is married to a man.

The Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger is an associate minister for youth and young adults and community outreach at Lake Street Church in Evanston, Ill., a congregation that is affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA. 

He has worked with the Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Jeremiah Wright, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who is the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, and has preached at the U.N., among other places. 

Williams-Hauger has studied with Warnock and Moss and earned his Master of Divinity at the New York Theological Seminary. Williams-Hauger is also studying to become ordained within American Baptist Churches USA with the support of Judson Memorial Church in New York.

The Rev. Elijah Brown, who is the secretary general of the Baptist World Alliance, which is headquartered in Falls Church, in an April 21 email to Williams-Hauger confirmed his invitation to join the group’s Interfaith Relations and Racial Justice Commissions had been rescinded.

Thank you for your prayerful attitude,” wrote Brown. “Following our phone conversation yesterday, this email confirms that the invitation from BWA for you to serve on Commissions is rescinded. Please know that I am praying for you.” 

Williams-Hauger told the Washington Blade that it “has always been known that I’m married to” his husband.

“Brad and I have been together since 2005 and he has to accompany me to many events with the Sharpton family to events at Trinity United Church of Christ (in Chicago),” said Williams-Hauger. “In fact, when we got married to our wedding, was celebrated by the clergy at Trinity United Church of Christ with Rev. Dr. Otis Moss and Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright.”

Williams-Hauger told the Blade said Brown nevertheless “decided to get rid of me” when he found out he was married to a man.

Brown, according to Williams-Hauger, “lied to us” when he said the BWA’s Executive Committee “made the decision” to rescind the invitations to join the committee.

“He initiated the situation,” said Williams-Hauger.

Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger, right, with his husband.
(Photo courtesy of Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger)

BWA affirms ‘Christian marriage and family life’

The BWA’s belief statement states it affirms “Christian marriage and family life” and affirms “the dignity of all people, male and female, because they are created in God’s image and called to be holy.”

“For more than 100 years, the Baptist World Alliance has networked the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ with a commitment to strengthen worship, fellowship and unity; lead in mission and evangelism; respond to people in need through aid, relief and community development; defend religious freedom, human rights and justice; and advance theological reflection and leadership development,” states the BWA on its website.

A BWA spokesperson in a May 21 statement to the Blade did not specifically comment on Williams-Hauger’s allegations. The comment also did not include a reference to the BWA’s position against marriage for same-sex couples.

“As a Christian world communion, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) represents Baptists in 128 countries and territories with a governing General Council comprised of global representatives,” reads the statement. “Drawing upon over 400 years of shared Baptist history and more than 100 years of organizational history, the BWA remains committed to our mission to network the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ. With more than 400 commission members from across the global BWA family, we acknowledge their commitment to serve as volunteers and are not able to comment further on the specifics of any current or previous commission member.” 

Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger with Rev. Jesse Jackson.
(Photo courtesy of Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger)

Williams-Hauger on Friday in an emailed statement to the Blade noted the BWA “adopted a resolution stating that same-gendered marriage is incompatible with scripture” and “on April 20 I was asked by Rev. Dr. Elijah Brown to step down from my position on the BWA’s Interfaith Relations and Racial Justice Commission; a role I have faithfully served for three years. 

“When Elijah Brown rescinded my invitation to serve on the commission it was not just a personal attempt to silence, but rather it is an attempt to silence others like myself, particularly Black queer persons,” Williams-Hauger told the Blade. “Further it was an effort to silence our prophetic presence and witness, our God ordained call to serve and advocate for justice and equality all while calling the family of faith to be and do better.”

Williams-Hauger said he and other Black LGBTQ people “will not be silenced.”

“Standing on the shoulders of the ancestors of James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin and countless others who lived and died and whose spirits give volume to our voices. We call out the hateful theology being practiced by the BWA,” said Williams-Hauger. “This hateful theology does not represent the message of Jesus, nor does it even represent the entirety of the Baptist Community. This theology of hate is embodied in by the likes of Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Mike Pence and Mike Huckabee to name a few. If Dr. Brown and the BWA wish to go down that path and be another representation of that, hate; we pray for their souls.”

Williams-Hauger told the Blade that he and other Black LGBTQ clergy “will continue to serve a God of justice.”

“We will build upon the legacy of and work alongside the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton and his children, Rev. Jesse Jackson and his children, Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, the good people of Judson Memorial Church NYC, Riverside Church NYC, Lake Street Church, the body of faithful American Baptist Churches, the Alliance of Baptists, and our siblings in the United Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and the body of the some friends among the Association of European Baptist Churches until justice rolls and we get a bit of heaven here on earth.”

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Religion & Faith

Pope, Canterbury archbishop, Presbyterian leader publicly denounce criminalization laws

Religious officials made comments after leaving South Sudan



Pope Francis The pontiff, along with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields of the Church of Scotland on Feb. 5, 2023, denounced criminalization laws after they left South Sudan. (Photo by palinchak via Bigstock)

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the world’s top Presbyterian minister on Sunday publicly denounced laws that criminalize LGBTQ and intersex people and said their respective churches should welcome them.

The Associated Press noted Francis told reporters during a press conference onboard his plane after it departed from South Sudan that “criminalizing people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice.” Welby and the Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields, the Presbyterian moderator of the Church of Scotland, were standing alongside the pontiff.

“There is nowhere in my reading of the four Gospels where I see Jesus turning anyone away,” said Greenshields, according to the AP. “There is nowhere in the four Gospels where I see anything other than Jesus expressing love to whomever he meets.” 

“And as Christians, that is the only expression that we can possibly give to any human being, in any circumstance,” added Greenshields.

Francis during an exclusive interview with the AP on Jan. 24 described criminalization laws as “unjust” and said “being homosexual is not a crime.” 

The pontiff acknowledged some Catholic bishops support criminalization laws and other statutes that discriminate against LGBTQ+ and intersex people. Francis told the AP that cultural backgrounds contribute to these attitudes, and added “bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.”

Francis spoke to the AP ahead of his trip to Congo and South Sudan, which is among the nearly 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The pontiff — who was a vocal opponent of the marriage equality bill in his native Argentina before then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it into law in 2010 — now supports civil unions for same-sex couples. 

The AP notes the Church of Scotland allows same-sex marriages. The Church of England allows clergy to bless same-sex civil marriages, but LGBTQ+ couples cannot marry in its churches. 

The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ+ and intersex issues has softened since Francis assumed the papacy in 2013, but the church continues to consider homosexuality a sin. The Vatican also opposes marriage for same-sex couples and blessings of them. 

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