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Letters to the editor: Poll position, Terrible trifecta
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times

This article shared 2949 times since Tue Apr 15, 2014
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Letters to the editor:

Poll position

Dear Windy City Times:

I am bisexual—a leatherman in fact—and have been a reader of Windy City Times since I was a young man. And I am also a believing Catholic, so I pay particular attention to articles in your paper that concern my faith. Sometimes they are distressing ( as, for instance, those about priestly abuse ), sometimes they are infuriating ( such as the antics of the Rainbow Sash Movement ) and, lately, they have been encouraging ( who doesn't like this new pope? ), but heretofore they have always been factual.

[The March 12] front-page article, "LGBTs react to Vatican poll," however, was completely misleading, disingenuous from start to finish, and sought to editorialize by passing off the spurious results of a private poll as an official Vatican survey. It was simply beneath your dignity to publish it.

The real story is that last November, Pope Francis sent out a survey to his brother bishops in preparation for an extra-ordinary synod about the family. This was never intended to be a poll of public opinion, but rather sought to asses the state of catechesis among the Catholic laity. [The actual document can be found on the Vatican website.] The questions were mostly trying to ascertain how well the faithful understood Catholic doctrine, not whether they agreed with it.

Almost immediately, "Catholic Organizations for Renewal"—a group of 15 dissident organizations, none of whom are directly connected to the Church—"adapted" ( the group's word ) these questions into an opinion survey that they conducted online. These avowedly unorthodox organizations then circulated responses from their respective mailing lists. Is it any wonder then, that authentic Catholic teaching was overwhelmingly rejected by the participants? This is not news, n'est ce pas?

Chuck Colbert misrepresents these events in his article. There was no "Vatican poll" as advertised by the headline. The poll discussed was in no way a survey of the general population of Catholics, but rather a well-orchestrated lemon session by a self-selected group of cranks. The elaborate sections about how "fifteen Catholic Church reform organizations responded to the pope," and how the completed report was "sent to" Cardinal Baldisseri, et. al., are just smoke and mirrors to dress up this compendium of private opinion as if it were a genuine Church document. No actual Church official or spokesman was quoted even once in the entire piece, while the disaffected were allowed to ramble on and on.

I am going to assume the best about Mr. Colbert—that he has innocently confounded the two surveys. Should this, in fact, not be the case, and if Mr. Colbert has sought to purposefully mislead his readers, then I can only remind him that the confessional is always available to him and that God's mercy is infinite.

Yours for a better world,

R.M. Schultz

P.S. At my home parish, Saint John Cantius, confessions are heard before and during all masses, the priests are very empathic and the penances are not too hard.

Chuck Colbert responds: R.M. Schultz's letter-to-the-editor regarding "LGBTs react to Vatican poll" ( March 19 ) raises important and serious concerns. Let me start by acknowledging a valid point about the headline wording of poll. A better word choice would have been survey or questionnaire, which I use in the body of the piece.

Having said that, I believe Schultz is mistaken on any number of counts.

`There was no attempt on my part to pass off survey or questionnaire results—whatever the nomenclature—as part of an official survey. My reporting is quite clear on the source of the survey, its methodology an analysis.

Prior to bishops' synods, moreover, it is customary to seek input. However in this case, transmittal of questions was quite different insofar as Cardinal Baldiserri instructed bishops to distribute the survey in order to seek local input even at the parish level.

But in general, U.S. bishops decided not to do that, instead wishing to respond on their own. I would refer Mr. Schultz to reporting in National Catholic Reporter for more information.

Furthermore, no matter how Schultz views the intent of the survey ( understanding or agreement ), bishops from around the world have reported out on survey results. That is to say: how much the faithful agree with church teachings, not just how they understand them. So the Catholic Organizations for Renewal ( COR ) report was not different from how some bishops globally have reported.

What's more, COR ( and other ) groups decided to distribute a survey in order to give Catholics the opportunity to have input and in hopes of prompting some dioceses to put it out officially, which some did. The changes COR made were to make language more accessible and to eliminate offensive language.

As I understand the intent of COR it is to encourage dialogue about the real-life experience of ordinary Catholics—nothing more, nothing less. In other words, the survey gives the faithful a voice.

In fact, COR distributed the survey because most US Catholic bishops did little to nothing to elicit feedback from lay Catholics, though the Vatican explicitly asked for that, at the same time other bishops around the globe did seek input. In other words, Catholic reform organizations responded to the pope because the bishops chose not to, even though the pope may not have specifically invited COR's participation.

Oddly enough, respondents were decidedly not merely members of COR groups. In fact, respondents represent a higher proportion of weekly Mass goers than the major national survey of Catholics ( 53 percent verses 31 percent ), and only 13 percent reported being members of reform groups. Better yet, COR responses mirrored closely the opinions that have been documented among Catholics in rigorous professional surveys over the past 25 years ( D'Antonio, Dillon, and Gauthier ).

Sure enough, there were questions pertaining to the level of understanding of church teaching; and there were also questions addressing the number/percentage of people in parish/dioceses that were living in situations that present pastoral challenges to the church—for instance, divorced and remarried couples, same-sex and opposite-sex couples living together outside the bonds of sacramental marriage, and same-sex couples raising children—and questions about how church teaching and practice affect both individuals and families.

On the mater of Schultz's name calling, labeling and imputing motives not necessarily there: While it may be convenient to dismiss COR by slapping them with the term "dissident," let me remind Schultz of the many kinds of Catholics, both individual and organizational, which run the gamut from cafeteria to orthodox, progressive to conservative.

For example, there are traditionalist-liturgical Catholics, social justice and peace Catholics, charismatic Catholics, neo-conservative and intellectual Catholics, Church reform Catholics, and other groups such as Opus Dei.

And more than a few intentional Eucharistic communities nationwide and globally celebrate Mass. Who is to judge any one person's or organization's self-understanding and experience or practice of the Catholic faith?

Why not assume, they, like Schultz, are following Jesus of Nazareth as disciples in the way they find authentic to their baptismal calling?

Similarly, why not assume those who responded to the survey through whatever venue, were taking Pope Francis' call for input seriously? And responded in good faith?

Certainly, I would be open to hearing from clergy and archdiocesan persons. And yet, it has been difficult, if not next to impossible to get anyone associated even with AGLO to go on the record. If Mr. Schultz can point me to an "official" or "spokesperson" willing to talk, I'd be happy to take comments.

Finally, on his offer of the sacrament of reconciliation: It is by no means a secret that I am a Jew by choice in the Reform movement and a member of Temple Israel in Boston since 2004.

Happy Passover. Happy Easter.

Prime concern

Dear Windy City Times:

The prime minister of St. Vincent and Grenadines ( SVG ), Ralph Gonsalves, is coming to Chicago, and will be the keynote speaker April 19 at the forum for "Revitalizing the Reparations Movement" held at Chicago State University.

The prime minister is seeking support for reparations to make amends for the injury done by the protracted, institutionalized oppression of slavery, which was legal and economically viable for the colonial oppressors. I find this ironic and incongruent, when paralleled with the prime minister's lack of interest in addressing the long history of oppression of his LGBT citizens living under the umbrella of the criminalization of homosexuality in SVG.

All oppression is connected and sourced from bigotry, and when it rains it pours, exacerbating people's lives. Seeking to redress a historical inequality that was abolished 180 years ago, while your nation state's laws are currently oppressing its own citizens, is dichotomous. The social exclusion of LGBT's creates disadvantages which results in greater economic deprivation for many. What reparations are being provided for Vincentians who are being marginalized by law, societal bondage and discrimination with the criminalization of homosexuality in SVG? History is prologue.

I welcome the prime minister, a fellow Vincentian, to my hometown of Chicago in Illinois, the land of President Abraham Lincoln. Illinois was the first state—53 years ago, in 1961—to eliminate its sodomy laws. Illinois has also recognized hate crimes against LGB or heterosexual persons since 2001, and has protected LGBT persons from discrimination since 2006. Illinois has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees in that year as well ( 2006 ) and recognized same sex civil unions in 2011. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Illinois via statute in 2013.

Similarly, Chicago has preceded the state of Illinois in many areas of equality consciousness. The Human Rights Campaign gave Chicago the maximum score of 100 in the 2013 Municipal Equality Index Scorecard for its committment to the equality of LGBT citizens with regard to non-discrimination laws, municipal services, relationship recognition, law enforcement, municipality as an employer and its relationship with the LGBT community.

In SVG, not everyone is equal—and some are more equal than others. I hope that while the prime minister is on stage making his keynote address he reflects on where he is standing as well as the amends that he and his administration can make to legally grant and protect equality for all citizens.

Coretta Scott King, in 1998, speaking four days before the 30th anniversary of her husband's assassination said, "I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice." She said, "But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Sean Macleish


Caribbean Alliance for Equality

Terrible trifecta

As the reign of his Eminence Francis Cardinal George enters its final stages we ( the LGBT community ) must wonder if the Church is ready to finally begin a conversation about reconciliation and healing. The cardinal has been responsible for dividing the Catholic community of Chicago on so many levels that his apologists have become recognized as either spin doctors or as downright bigots/hypocrites. Clearly the elephant in the room is the trifecta of homophobia, sexism and racism.

His handling of the clergy's sexual-abuse scandal is another gaping wound on the soul of the archdiocese that has caused so much pain and alienation for the victims and families of those abused individuals.

Whoever the cardinal's replacement is, I think we should be open to dialogue, as long as it is based on the understanding that members of the Church have used homophobia, sexism and racism to advance what can only be described as un-Christian values within the Church and society.

We must also continue to challenge Catholic parents to question their pastor's use of homophobia in the curriculum of the schools of the archdiocese. These pastors are responsible for speaking out against all forms of homophobia in their midsts. In my opinion, the three pillars driving clericalism in the Church is homophobia, sexism and racism. Our children should not be exposed to such pious bigotry in the name of "church teaching."

These parents carry a heavy responsibility to insure their children's education is a safe zone from bigotry. They must find a creative way to conspicuously address the scandalous role the Church is playing in this form of bigotry, failing to take a moral stand against it only gives approval.

The Rainbow Sash Movement calls on Pope Francis to send to us a sheppherd who is, first, a pastor—one who is not afraid to meet with responsible leaders of the LGBT community, the women-ordination community and the various peoples of color communities to begin a dialogue process. In my opinion, we are not asking for agreement—rather, only that whoever replaces Cardinal George not be afraid to sit with us and actively listen.

Joe Murray


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