Conference 2017: “Act justly and love mercy”

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

canterbury

At Bondings 2.0, Francis DeBenardo reproduces a news report from a time when a major Catholic archdiocese could see gay equality, even in Church teaching on sexual relationships, in terms of the struggle for social justice:

In September 1982,  a group working for the Archdiocese of San Francisco released a major report entitled “Homosexuality and Social Justice” which proposed many progressive policies, including the idea that the Roman Catholic disapproval of gay sexual relationships was itself a social justice issue.

Fighting for justice is an important, established element in Catholic social teaching. It is a tragic, bitter irony that 34 years later, at a time when full LGBT equality in law and social acceptance is coming ever closer, so many elements of the Catholic church are a major obstacle to that justice. Nevertheless, there are some influential people and groups in the Church who are once again increasingly receptive to the social justice message, and many indefatigable advocates for LGBT inclusion, who continue to make the case (think, for example, Sr Jeannine Gramick, who has been fighting this battle for us for over forty years.) It is right that LGBT Catholics should continue to make the case that social justice demands our full inclusion in the life of the Church – and the “respect, sensitivity and compassion” promised by the Catechism, but not always evident in the pronouncements on LGBT issues by the Church and its pastors.

By the same token, however, just as we have a right to be treated with proper attention to justice, we have the same obligation as the rest of the Church, to treat all others with due attention to the demands of justice. Can we as LGBT Catholics truthfully say, that we are as assiduous in advocating for justice for others, as we are in demanding it for ourselves?

It was with this in mind, that in thinking ahead to Conference 2017, the Quest committee resolved that it is time that we began to look outwards, beyond our own immediate concerns, and chose as the theme, “Act Justly, and Love Mercy”.

The venue chosen once again brings us down South, to Kent and the historic cathedral city of Canterbury. Our conference speakers form a complementary pair, each of whom has worked passionately for justice and peace over many years; Sister Jeannine Gramick in respect of, though not exclusively, sexual minorities, and Bruce Kent as a prominent member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Sister Gramick helped to begin three chapters of Dignity in the United States and, together with Fr Robert Nugent SDB, she co-founded New Ways Ministry, a Catholic social justice centre working for the reconciliation of lesbian/gay people and the Church. Until the year 2000, Sister Jeannine had been a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, but in that year she was instructed to cease speaking publicly on the topic of homosexuality. Sister Jeannine rejected the request, stating publicly, “I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right [to speak]”. Sister Gramick is the subject of a documentary film, entitled In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick’s Journey of Faith, by the Peabody and Emmy award-winning director, Barbara Rick.

Bruce Kent’s passion for justice and peace and human rights issues is all-embracing: he joined the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1960, was a member of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, chairperson of War on Want, served on the executive of Pax Christi, a Trustee of the Prisoner of Conscience Fund, and a parish priest. These are but a few of the campaigns and causes he has embraced and he continues to work for global disarmament, economic justice for pensioners and human rights of prisoners who maintain their innocence, and of people detained without trial under control orders.

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