Saturday, June 27, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

Catholics Across US Celebrate Win for Marriage Equality   

The ruling comes after historic victories in predominantly Catholic Ireland and Mexico.

June 26, 2015—Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholic organizations committed to LGBT equality in the church and civil society, applauds the US Supreme Court’s ruling that states same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry.

Members of the Equally Blessed Coalition had this to say about the recent ruling:
"Call To Action is elated with today's Supreme Court outcome. Finally all loving and committed partners and families will be recognized fully and equally. Call To Action embraces a Church rooted in welcome, inclusivity, equality and justice for everyone. This decision reflects those Gospel values," said Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director of Call to Action.

“As Catholics, we celebrate the increase in justice that this ruling ushers in. We rejoice with all of the couples and families who will be able to access the legal protections that marriage will afford them. Mostly, we are thrilled that the Supreme Court has recognized that the love and commitment of same-sex couples is absolutely equal to that of other couples,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA.

“Fortunate Families celebrates with our LGBT children the opportunity to share in the same rights as their straight siblings. The Supreme Court decision brings legal stability to our children's lives and security to our grandchildren. We applaud this decision and continue our work in the Catholic tradition seeking social justice for all our children, and we look forward to the next hurdle, the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” Deb Word, President of Fortunate Families.

“New Ways Ministry applauds the U.S. Supreme Court for standing up for the American values of fairness and equality and the Catholic values of human dignity and family. This is a great day not only for lesbian and gay couples, but for all Americans, especially Catholics across the country who have worked tirelessly on state marriage equality campaigns to secure equality for their lesbian and gay friends and family members,” said Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day reflection!

At the celebration of the life of our friend and board member Michael Harmuth, his son Sean spoke.  Sean was quietly reflective, talking about Dad's influence on him growing up...and with apologies to Sean for not this exactly right, (instead, I have to give you the gist, since I don't have a copy of his words) I want to share a story he shared.
 Michael Harmuth
Sean: My first memories of my dad were at the beach.
We were little sitting in the sand kids do. The hole we were digging was getting pretty deep. Elizabeth was there, she wasn't worried, she kept digging.  The sides were pretty deep, I was beginning to worry, how would we get out?  Elizabeth just kept digging...and the hole we were sitting in kept getting deeper...
The two big hands reached down and pulled me out of the hole.  Dad, I was safe.  Dad.

When getting ready for the service and the slide show, I found a photo from that day.   Right before dad pulled me out, he stopped and took a photo.
The hole was about 2 inches deep.   (we all chuckled)

But the feeling was real, Sean said.  Dad made me feel safe.  And loved.  Dad always made me feel safe.


I was thinking about Sean's reflection this morning.
Our daddy made us feel safe too.
Dad's job is to love, guide, discipline, provide and make us feel safe.
Some dad's are great at the job.
Some fall short with the best intentions.
Some just fail miserably.  

If you know a child of the last type of dad, go out of your way to guide and love, and to make that child feel safe.   We can't fix all dads, but we can reach out to our children, All our children and help them to feel safe.   It's a frightening world out there! 


Michael tried very hard to help others understand how important it is for kids to feel safe.  I'll leave you with his words

Sunday, June 14, 2015

On Pilgrimage, What is “Normal” and Variation

As we approach the World Meeting of Families this September in Philadelphia I have been thinking of our LGBT Pilgrims who have agreed to journey to Philadelphia. They are doing their pilgrimage to serve as a witness to the Church and the world of how God is present to their experience, their committed relationships and their spirituality.

All this made me think of the Holy Family, who made at least two pilgrimages that we know of. The first was to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. The second was to Jerusalem where Jesus “lost” himself on the way, to be found in the temple questioning his elders. What strikes me about the Holy Family is how non-traditional and prophetic this family is. First, Mary becomes pregnant without human intervention. Imagine in today’s world: Mary as a single mother teaching in a Catholic school trying to explain her pregnancy to diocesan officials. Second, her betrothed and future husband decides to marry her to avoid scandal. Would this have prevented Mary from being fired? Our tradition teaches that theirs was a loving but non sexual relationship, something that goes beyond the expected sexual complementarity and “binary” ideal of today’s Church teaching. Third, Mary gives birth to a child who is precocious, to say the least, prophetic and who remains single all his life (in a culture where marriage was the highest values).

I am currently reading Sr. Elizabeth’s A. Johnson’s “Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love”, which is an extended reflection on Darwin’s Origin of the Species. It was clear to Darwin that nature created variation again and again. The implication is that variation is perhaps God’s way of ensuring ongoing creation. But this is challenging. Right when we think we can nail down what is “normal” in creation, nature says, “Wait a minute, look at this variation I’ve come up with”. In nature variation is the norm. For Darwin, there is no “normal” or “abnormal”, just variation. Variation is a celebrated outcome of creation. God imbues creation with goodness. Variation is nature’s way of continuing the Spirit’s ongoing renewal of the earth and the human community. Variation leads to adaptability and resilience in creation.

Think of people who are born left handed. At one point in our history we defined left-handedness as abnormal and wrong. Today, we understand left-handedness as a variation that nature gives the human community. The same is true for LGBT persons; being LGBT is a different way of fully loving another person. If only those in the hierarchy would be inspired to change their language and delete from their vocabulary words such as “abnormal”, “disordered” and “depraved” our LGBT community would feel much more accepted and loved by the Church.

How does this apply to the Holy Family? God seems to be saying the same thing, “I have come up with a unique, prophetic variation on what it means to be family, a variation where there is unity but which goes beyond the “normal” expectations of complementarity and binary expression. And because God’s creation is good, this same prophetic impulse seems to be embedded in the way nature expresses itself. Variation is the name of the game. Our LGBT children are calling us to move beyond culturally exclusive words like “normal” ‘abnormal” “ordered, “disordered”, “deviant” and “depraved” to a more inclusive vocabulary.

Perhaps nature itself is calling us to reflect on the prophetic variation of being an LGBT person. Variation is anything but abnormal or deviant; embracing the LGBT person as “holy” and gifted allows our own cultural expressions to evolve and grow. Can nature and God be saying, “LGBT relationships have always been a human variation on what it means to love fully and completely”? Variation is not “bad or evil”, it is of God. It allows the human community to stretch and love more deeply. Nature seems to be saying about LGBT persons: “here is a love that goes beyond your traditional notions of binary and complementarity. Learn from it, embrace it”.

This September we have our LGBT pilgrims arriving in Philadelphia, some of whom are in committed loving relationships. They are there to proclaim that God is present to their commitment and love. Wouldn’t it be great if the hierarchy listened to their stories? They would see that our LGBT sons and daughters also show the love of God for humanity and creation in the way they love their partners. They might also understand that their unions are prophetic witnesses to the variety of ways a person can love fully. They might also acknowledge that these unions are as holy as any straight unions; and that, with straight people, LGBT people are called to embrace their own call to holiness. Let’s challenge the Bishops to embrace the notion of pilgrimage and decide to walk more closely with our LGBT children. Let’s continue to dream of deeper inclusion and acceptance.

Tony Garascia

Friday, June 5, 2015

After our application was rejected...the second time, we wrote this.

May 21, 2015

Most Reverend Vincenzo Paglia
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
00153 Roma, Piazza S Calisto, 16

Dear Archbishop Paglia,

I write to you on behalf of Fortunate Families, a group of Catholic parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children and their loved ones. Our mission is to support other parents as they struggle with their child being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. We have parents across the country willing to listen, support and let parents know they are not alone in their love for their children and our Church.

We are pleased to be able to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia later this year. Because we could not be part of the program, we will be hosting two off-site meetings for Catholic parents of LGBT children. You and Pope Francis are most welcome to join us, and please pray for the success of our gatherings.

We had hoped that there would be a part of the World Meeting devoted to families who love and welcome their LGBT children regardless of the state of their relationships. We are concerned that the voices of those families will not be heard.

We attempted to secure a booth in the exhibit hall, applying first in September of 2014, and again early this year. After many attempts to confirm our exhibit space, we were finally told our application was rejected. No one at the World Meeting of Families has been willing to tell us why. We have repeatedly requested an explanation and reconsideration and were recently advised by their representative at the exhibition company to forward to her any information we wanted the committee to consider. I have attached the e-mail I sent to the committee.

Excellency, we ask you to review this e-mail and advise us how we may share our love and support at the World Meeting of Families. We believe our message is one often overlooked by clergy who seem more concerned about the possibility of civil same gender marriage than they are about the health and safety of our children. Fortunate Families does not seem to be welcome at this most wonderful gathering of families, and we don't know why! We have no intent of sharing anything outside of church teaching. We love our children, and understand that this love is often the only thing keeping a gay child from rejection, risky behavior and suicide.

For our children, grandchildren and our Church , please help us.
Catholic Families fostering respect, friendship and justice for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender loved ones.

Excellency, we hear Pope Francis challenge our church to reach out to the marginalized…
That is what our group does.
We hear Pope Francis say we must help parents of children who are gay…
That is what our group does.
We hear our church say, “All are welcome.”…
Yet, we are not.
We ask for your thoughts on this matter and seek your guidance and prayers. Any assistance you might provide would be most appreciated.
We continue to pray that the World Meeting of Families will reach out to all families. Even those on the margins. If we can be of any help to you in the future when addressing the issue of parents and families with LGBT children, please call on us anytime.
Thank you for your vision and outreach. Asking Your Excellency's blessing, I am,
Yours respectfully in Christ,

On behalf of the board of directors.
Deb Word, President

Text of our email sent to the World Meeting of Families exhibit space committee after rejection without explanation.  
To: Subject: What I would like them to know.  
Date: Tue, 12 May 2015 07:38:14 -0500  
Without knowing the grounds for rejection - this is what we want them to know.  
Fortunate Families:  
We are Catholic parents with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children supporting others like us to affirm, celebrate and seek equality for our families. Our faith journey calls us to strive for justice for all our children.  
We want to share our message of unconditional love for our families...  
We would have handouts that explain that rejected gay kids commit suicide 8.9x more often than those who are not rejected.   
We would share handouts that share the same message the bishops wrote in Always our Children. We would share handouts that tell parents that there is a listening parent network, of parents across the country who are sharing the same journey, walking the same land mines with our kids...Parents who will listen to tears and anger and fear. Catholic Parents...CATHOLIC kids.  
We are really not a scary group.    
We are parents and grandparents... we know the pain of hearing that our children have been harassed or  denied because of their orientation- or Perceived orientation.    
Some of us know the pain of kids who have been bullied and assaulted.  
Some of us know the pain of the loss of a child to suicide.   
Some of us have housed children discarded by their own families.  
We can share that pain and that part of the journey with others who might just be hearing or figuring out that they have a gay child.  
Why are you afraid of us....we are just like you.... except, we have a gay child. And we love that child, and we aren't afraid of that child.  
And we love our church, and we don't think we have to choose church vs child.  
And our ministry is a blessing to the mother of a 9 yr old who wrote last week, worried that her child will be bullied in Catholic school and at the Catholic girl scout troop.  
And our ministry is a blessing to the mother of the transgender child who was weeping so deeply that it took 5 minutes to even understand what was causing her pain.  
And our ministry is a blessing to those who think they have to leave their beloved church...  
We are parents and grandparents who use our personal funds to travel, our personal vacation time to reach out, our personal stories to help others begin the journey of healing.  

We are not frightening people.  Our church has nothing to fear from the parents and grandparents who make up the board of Fortunate Families.  
We would like the committee to reconsider our application.  
We would like to talk to a member of that committee if possible.  To allay fears, and to confirm our intent bears no ill will.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

And NO is the final answer-unless something/someone intervenes

Mary Beth Yount
030 – “No” means NO, not “You’re an idiot!”

To: Deb Word
Hi Deb,

Thank you for your follow-up. We appreciate your perspective but we must stand by the decision related to your exhibitor application.

Mary Beth 

They said NO, we said??? Maybe we can explain... this is a simple concept. Love your children!

030 – “No” means NO, not “You’re an idiot!”

Mary Beth, thanks so much for your response.  

We found the table process very frustrating and have heard from others in similar situations.  I hope you will give Fortunate Families one more look, one more chance for us to show you that we are not trying to bring controversy to the WMoF but simply a love of our children and the willingness to reach out to other parents who love and worry about their kids.  

I spent much of Pentecost Sunday looking at our website and the Courage website, with the words of our readings in mind: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth." 
The reason for our rejection was a bit of a surprise to me, and I spent hours looking at our website and resources to find the message that we “indicate that if parents give any sense of disapproval of behavior at all (or even ambivalence), they are harming their children and even setting them up for greater risk of suicide.” 

I believe you are speaking of our links to Dr. Caitlin Ryan's work. We do use her statistics to show parents that they can make a difference in the life and health of their children. The value of Dr. Ryan's work is that it demonstrates that parents can decrease the risk to their children with even the smallest of behavior changes on the part of the parents. There is joy in that message. 

Catholic parents who learn to listen to their children (their fears about orientation), who stop blaming the child (when they are abused by others) can make a major difference in the health of their children.  Many parents feel that ignoring the issue makes it go away, but listening and communicating, not ignoring, can make a huge difference in the health of our Catholic children. 

The suggestion that we advocate or raised our children in 'anything goes' households couldn't be further from the truth. Parents of younger kids (they are coming out younger as I'm sure you know from your pastoral experience) are searching for answers to simple questions on child rearing. We have the experience and are willing to share the message of love: let your child know you love them, and work thru the problems with that basis of love. As a board we have raised teachers, lawyers, theologians and cops.  We certainly didn't do that in an atmosphere of 'anything goes.' 

Courage worries about today’s LGBT youth as well!!! I found the same fear for our children in a link on its website,  

GLB youth who self-identified during high school report disproportionate risk for a variety of health risks and problem behaviors [23], including suicide sexual risk behaviors, multiple substance abuse use, victimization. In addition these youth are more likely to report engaging in multiple risk behaviors and initiating risk behaviors at an earlier age than their peers. 

In a study [28] of 137 young males with SSA aged 17 to 21, 30% admitted to at least one suicide attempt. Forty-four percent attributed this attempt to family problems including marital discord, divorce and alcoholism. Other factors included a history of sexual abuse in 61%, substance abuse in 85%, illegal activities in 51%, effeminacy in 36%, and prostitution in 29%. 
Courage, however, gives no suggestion of how to avoid these issues, or how families can help their young people. 
The National Coalition for the Homeless share similar problems: 
·        20% of homeless youth are LGBT. In comparison, the general youth population is only 10% LGBT. In some areas that number reaches reaches 40%. 
·        While homeless youth typically experience severe family conflict as the primary reason for their homelessness, LGBT youth are twice as likely to experience sexual abuse before the age of 12. 
·        LGBT youth, once homeless, are at higher risk for victimization, mental health problems, and unsafe sexual practices. 58.7% of LGBT homeless youth have been sexually victimized compared to 33.4% of heterosexual homeless youth 
·        LGBT youth are roughly 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth 
·        LGBT homeless youth commit suicide at higher rates (62%) than heterosexual homeless youth (29%)  

You and I had a phone conversation and a couple of emails exchanges.  You know we do not mean to bring controversy to the process. If we are given a table, there will be those who are unhappy we are there. There will also be those who are unhappy that Courage is there.  
We are concerned that the fear of controversy tells many thousands of families like ours that they are not important, that they should stay hidden.   

We are not alone in our work... 

Archbishop Gregory of Atlanta has said Mass for our group retreat in Atlanta, and written about us in the diocesan paper: 
Their parents then spoke of the hostile environment that many of them encountered from the Church. The language that the Church uses in speaking of their sexual orientation is often unwelcoming and condemnatory. These parents said repeatedly that their children do not feel welcome in the faith of the Church in which they were raised. I assured them that the Church must welcome all of her sons and daughters—no matter what their sexual orientation or life situation might be—and that we have not always done so with a spirit of compassion and understanding. I spoke of the distinction that our Church makes between orientation and behavior, which admittedly needs reexamination and development. 

Bishop Steib saw the need to create a Diocesan group in Memphis. I am the parent support group leader for that ministry. 
Among the parents were Catholics who have spent their lives as active members of the Church, helping to make it a welcoming home for many. They have given generously of themselves, even though they knew that their own children felt unwelcome. These parents of gay and lesbian Catholics are extremely proud of their children. They see their goodness and their giftedness, but they also see the loneliness of their gay and lesbian children as no one else sees it. 

I ask, beg actually, that you look one more time at allowing Fortunate Families to participate in the Exhibit hall.  We are parents who love our children, and believe that our baptism calls us to full participation in our church. We want our children to feel the same way.