EB Resources

ACT NOW: Support the Sisters of Mercy in San Francisco

Gabriel Bodenheimer

Earlier this month, the Sisters of Mercy in San Fransciso decided to continue the employment of Gabriel Bodenheimer (pictured above), a transgender man, at Mercy High School. Read coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle and National Catholic Reporter.

This flies in the face of recent trends within Catholic institutions to fire or expel LGBTQI employees and volunteers who choose not to hide who they are, opting instead to love who they love, and be their authentic selves. As a coalition of Catholic organizations that have spent more than 120 years combined working on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families, we do not want this small victory to go unnoticed!

Several of our member organizations and their supporters have already sent letters of thanks to the Sisters of Mercy in San Francisco, and have copied Archbishop Cordileone, too. We invite you to do the same, so that the Sisters of Mercy and Archbishop Cordileone both understand that the Church -- the people of God -- support the Catholic values of dignity, mutual respect, and inclusion.

We offer the sample letters below, which you may modify as you see fit.

Addresses:

Sister Laura Reicks, RSM, President
Sisters of Mercy, West-Midwest Region
7262 Mercy Road
Omaha, NE 68124
Email: [email protected](assistant)

Diane Lawrence, Board Chair
Mercy High School
3250 Nineteenth Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
Email: [email protected] (office manager)

Gabriel Stein-Bodenheimer
Mercy High School English Department
3250 Nineteenth Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
Email: [email protected]

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone
Archdiocese of San Francisco
One Peter Yorke Way
San Francisco, CA 94109
Email: [email protected]

Sample Letter to Mercy High School:

Dear Sister Laura and Members of the Board of Directors,

As a faithful, practicing Catholic committed to the full equality and dignity of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, I am writing to thank and commend you for your decision to continue to support a member of your faculty who is a transgender man.

I believe this decision is entirely consistent with the values of love, justice, and inclusion that are foundational to our faith. I appreciate your “resolve to support the dignity of each person—regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity” as expressed in your letter to the Mercy High School community. I applaud your sensitivity in making counselors and School administrators available to parents and other community members who need help in understanding this decision. I truly believe the approach you have taken models the highest of Catholic standards for your students.

Thank you for your willingness to do what is right, rather than what may be expected. I hope for many blessings on your ministry.

Sincerely,
[Your name and contact information]

Sample Letter to Archbishop Cordileone:

Your Excellency,

I am writing to thank you for your measured statements regarding the Mercy High School Board and administration’s decision to continue the employment of a transgender teacher. I truly appreciate that you and the school’s leadership had what sounds like very productive dialogue surrounding this decision, and that you see this decision as “consistent with mercy and Gospel values and the corporate identity of the school as a Catholic institution of secondary education.”

It is my hope and prayer that this model of respectful dialogue will be replicated in other situations, in order to avoid the tragic terminations of many talented, dedicated, and committed employees and volunteers based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. This has occurred too often, with negative repercussions to the individuals and the community involved.

As a practicing, faithful Catholic ... [Insert a brief statement about your own faith and/or values you hold as a Catholic committed to the full equality of all LGBTQI people.]

Again, I am very gratified to see we stand on common ground on this matter.

With continued prayers for your ministry,
[Your name and contact information]

Tell the Bishops: Time to listen to LGBT Families

 

As the US Catholic Bishops reflect on the 2014 Synod on the Family, Equally Blessed is calling on them to take a lesson from Pope Francis and spend the next year engaging in dialogue with LGBT people and their families in preperation for the 2015 synod.

Take a photo with a #BishopsListen sign to ask your local bishop to listen to families like yours. Then post your photo on facebook or twitter with the hashtag #bishopslisten, or email your photo to [email protected]

Download your own #BishopsListen sign below. Tweet or post on facebook a photo of your family with the sign, using the hashtag #BishopsListen.

Learn more about the #BishopsListen campaign.

Read Equally Blessed's recent letter to the US Bishops asking them to listen to LGBT families.

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Pray for the Synod on the Family

The Extraordinary Synod on the Family is gathering in Rome on October 5-19. Equally Blessed invites our supporters to join us in praying for the Synod, and for all Catholic families-- especially LGBT families. You can participate by:

Thank you for praying for the Synod, and for the diversity of Catholic families.

Equally Blessed Prayer for the Synod on the Family

Loving God, Creator of us All,

As the Extraordinary Synod on the Family gathers in Rome, we pray for families in our church:

  • For a couple eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child.
  • For a couple struggling through a difficult adoption process, and for the child who is waiting to find a home with them.
  • For children seeking support after their parents’ divorce.
  • For a teenager who is still afraid to come out to her parents.
  • For a family that walks alongside their transgender child as she comes into a more full understanding of who You have called her to be.
  • For parents who live in fear of their child being arrested or killed because he’s gay.
  • For interfaith parents who are teaching their children to see Your face in diverse religious traditions.
  • For parents struggling to find ways to speak with their children honestly about the sacredness of human sexuality.
  • For those who are not called to parenthood, but who nurture and care for their communities.
  • For couples celebrating new marriages and for those still waiting for the right to marry.
  • For couples who are unable to be married in the church they love because of their sexual orientation, or because of a previous marriage.
  • For grandparents, aunts and uncles who provide a circle of love and support around the children in their families.

Be with these and all families in their joys and in their struggles. Be with them in the United States, in Uganda, in Columbia, in Italy, and in all the places where Your   people gather. Help them love and care for each other.

Then, God, be with all those who are gathered in Rome for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Open their eyes to how Your Spirit is moving in the lives of these   families. Open their ears to the stories of those who have been marginalized in Your church. Open their hearts to a fuller understanding of how the Catholic Church is being called to serve and care for each family.

Let our families and our churches be places where everyone is loved, everyone is safe and everyone is wanted.

In the name of Jesus, who called us His family,

Amen.

Join Equally Blessed at the World Meeting of Families

On September 22-27, 2015 Catholics from around the world will gather in Philadelphia for World Meeting of Families. Pope Francis has been invited. If he attends, this will be his first visit to the United States. Equally Blessed is looking for LGBT families that are willing to attend World Meeting of Families to speak out for LGBT inclusion in the Catholic Church.

Equally Blessed Pilgrims will be expected to:

  • Have conversations with other World Meeting of Families pilgrims about the need for LGBT inclusion in the Roman Catholic Church and give away Equally Blessed materials.
  • Be willing to act as a public face for Equally Blessed by speaking with members of the media at World Meeting of Families.
  •  Write reflections about their experience at World Meeting of Families that can be used on the Equally Blessed blog.
  • Post about their experiences on their personal Facebook and Twitter pages, and be willing to have their names and photos posted on the official Equally Blessed Facebook and Twitter pages.
  • Work with the Equally Blessed coalition in the year leading up to World Meeting of Families to plan outreach techniques and build community with other Equally Blessed pilgrims.
  • Assist Equally Blessed in fundraising to defray the cost of travel, registration, etc. 

Pilgrims aren’t expected to be “experts” on Catholic teaching, but should be committed to LGBT inclusion in the Catholic Church and willing to learn about progressive Catholic values. We are searching for pilgrims that represent the wide diversity of LGBT Catholic families, including: same-sex couples, parents of LGBT children, trans parents, and single LGBT parents. People of color and Spanish-speaking families are particularly encouraged to participate.

To get more information about how your family can be Equally Blessed Pilgrims, email [email protected].

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Celebrate All Marriages on National Marriage Week

The US Bishops have asked Catholics to participate in National Marriage Week February 7-14, and are urging parishes to observe a "National Marriage Day" during Sunday mass. While we agree that marriage is a blessing, we believe that all loving marriages deserve celebration and recognition-- not just heterosexual marriage.

Show your support for all marriages by praying our "Prayer for All Marriages" with your family, faith sharing community or parish. Then, email [email protected] to let us know that your community spent National Marriage Week praying for marriage equality. Feel free to send us stories or photos of your community praying for us to share on the website.

Equally Blessed press release for National Marriage Week

Courageous Conversations: Building a welcoming community

This downloadable flyer provides tips and encouragement to lay people to speak up about their support of LGBT inclusion in their faith communities.

As Catholics, we continue to take an active role in our communities, creating the kind of parishes and schools that we feel nurtured in and called to. This involves cultivating relationships by reaching out to those around us and illustrating why our faith calls us to tell our stories and those of our loved ones.

Knights of Columbus Spending Millions to Stop Marriage Equality


Report by Equally Blessed examines politicization, questionable alliances of Knights

WASHINGTON, D. C., October 18--The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, has used its extensive financial resources to become one of the most aggressive opponents of marriage equality in the United States, according to a report released today by Equally Blessed. The group is a coalition of four Catholic groups that support equal treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the church and the wider society.

While local branches of the Knights continue the charitable activities for which the organization has long been known, the organization’s national leadership under Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, a former Reagan administration staff member, has become increasingly politicized, the report says.

“Carl Anderson is using the good name that the Knights have developed over generations as cover while pursuing policies and making alliances that many Catholics find deeply troubling when they learn about them,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a member of the Equally Blessed coalition.

According to the report, which is based primarily on the Knights’ filings with the Internal Revenue Service, the organization donated $6.25 million to anti-marriage equality efforts between 2005-2012, with most of the money directed toward ballot measures aimed at banning marriage equality in 12 states. 

The sum includes: 

  • $1.9 million in donations to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), $1.4 million of which was devoted to a successful and highly controversial campaign to overturn marriage equality legislation in Maine.
  • a $1.1 million dollar donation to ProjectMarriage.com which supported the passage of Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that banned marriage equality in California.
  • more than $630,000 in donations to groups working against marriage equality through ballot initiatives that will be voted on next month in Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

According to NOM’s internal memos, unsealed during legal proceedings in Maine, the organization adopted a strategy of turning the Black and Hispanic communities against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people during the campaign to overturn marriage equality legislation in that state. The same memos advocated finding children who had been raised by same-sex couples and persuading them to speak out against their parents.

“The Knights portray themselves as representatives of a broad Catholic tradition, but they have become culture warriors,” said David Saavedra, co-president of the board of Call To Action, an Equally Blessed coalition member. “Most U. S. Catholics support marriage equality, and even those who have doubts are put off by these hardline tactics.”

The report, which was made possible by contributions from Equally Blessed organizations, the Human Rights Campaign and several individual donors, also examines the Knights’ support for legal and educational initiatives to thwart marriage equality. 

The Knights has contributed $1.5 million to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has mounted legal challenges to marriage equality on the grounds that it infringes upon the religious liberties of those who oppose it, and more than $1.1 million to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage.

Since 2009, the Knights has assessed each of its 1.8 million members a $2 annual fee to support its Culture of Life initiative, which includes its campaign against marriage equality, the report notes. Many Catholics who support the Knights’ charitable initiatives in their parish or diocese are largely unaware of the organization’s involvement in “culture war” issues both inside and outside the church.

“So many of us have memories of our fathers and grandfathers putting on their Knights’ regalia to march in parades and participate in special Masses,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which is a member of the coalition. “We remember them raising scholarship money so Catholic kids could go to college. It is deeply disheartening to know that this same organization is requiring its members to contribute to campaigns aimed at making sure that some of those kids are treated as second-class citizens.”

According to the report, the Knights has accrued significant influence within the Roman Catholic Church thanks to large contributions to the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It uses that influence, the report states, to advance a conservative political and theological agenda, sometimes at the expense of other U. S. Catholics.

According to media reports, the Knights partially funded an investigation into the work of U. S. nuns by the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious. This investigation preceded the investigation by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which has culminated in an attempt to delegitimize the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The LCWR, many of whose members are strong advocates for economic justice, represents 80 percent of women religious in the United States. The Vatican criticized the group for seeming to challenge positions taken by bishops “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the Knights’ chaplain, reportedly called for the investigation into the LCWR. The Knights contributed $265,000 to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, a smaller, more politically and theologically conservative group of nuns.

“It is a shame to see the Knights using their influence against women who have served the church so well for so long," said Mary Ellen Lopata, co-founder of Fortunate Families, a coalition member.


Equally Blessed is a coalition of faithful Catholics who support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in the church and in civil society. Equally Blessed includes four organizations that have spent a combined 115 years working on behalf of LGBT people and their families:  Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.