Symposium Sheds Pastoral Light on Appreciating People for Who They Are

May 31, 2017, Chicago – While the Catholic Church has not changed its dogma on homosexuality, Pope Francis has issued “an invitation to be more pastoral” to brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community.

That was the take of Sister Virginia “Ginny” King, OP, who attended the New Ways Ministry’s New Life Symposium. Held at the end of April in the Hilton Rosemont Chicago O’Hare Hotel, the symposium focused on “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.” New Ways Ministry, which focuses on ministry to the LGBT Catholic community, hosts the symposium once every five years.

Speakers included Lisa Fullham, Associate Professor at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, “Sexual Ethics and Same Sex Marriage”; Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, “The Catholic Church, Criminalization Laws, and the LGBT Experience in Uganda”; Leslie Griffin, Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, “Religious Liberty, Employment, and LGBT Issues”; and Father Bryan Massingale, Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University, on “Pope Francis, Social Ethics and LGBT People.”

Sister Ginny said she was particularly struck by Father Massingale’s talk. He pointed out that, while the Catholic Church teaches about the human dignity of homosexual persons, the Church also discourages them from acting on their inclinations. “In other words, we don’t condemn you for your homosexuality, but don’t tell anybody and you’re OK,” Sister Ginny said. “That denies people their rights.”  

Father Massingale encouraged the audience to look at people as humans, Sister Ginny said. “Everyone should have the right to live and to work and to pray where they are called to do these things,” she added. 

Sister Ginny also took away from the symposium the idea that, while Pope Francis has not changed the Church’s dogma or laws regarding homosexuality, he brought about “an invitation to be more pastoral” to people who so often hear negative and rejecting words about themselves. Pope Francis has shed a “pastoral light of appreciating people,” she said. 

Sister Ginny also sees the need for people to become more educated on issues of sexuality, including LGBTQ issues, and to have more open conversations about these topics.  For example, she said, New Ways Ministry sponsors a dialogue between lesbian women religious and people in the religious communities and in formation work. One such dialogue will be held in 2018. “These are opportunities for people to engage in these conversations,” she said.

Statement of Adrian Dominican Sisters Calling for Common Sense Regulations on Factory Farms

May 24, 2017, Adrian, Michigan The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters issued the following statement in response to a report issued today on factory farms in Michigan by the Less=More coalition.

A new report issued by the Less=More coalition, titled A Watershed Moment, provides a clear analysis of the magnitude of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Michigan and their impact on the Great Lakes watershed, pointing to the need for common sense regulations to safeguard the public against billions of gallons annually of untreated animal waste.

According to the report, as of the end of 2016, there were 272 factory farms operating in Michigan, confining nearly 21 million animals that produced over 3.3 billion gallons of manure, urine, and other waste, annually. “These farms racked up 644 environmental enforcement actions by the State of Michigan through 2016, while receiving $104 million in [federal taxpayer] subsidies since 1995,” the report states.

“The Great Lakes are the world’s largest source of fresh water and a God-given gift,” said Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, expressing support for the coalition’s recommendations. “All life depends on water. We have a moral and spiritual obligation to protect our waterways and desire to stand in support responsible farming.” 

The report is a follow-up to an analysis done in 2015 by the Less=More coalition that targeted the role factory farms and the manure they produce play in contributing dissolved phosphorus in Lake Erie’s toxic algae outbreaks. The 2017 report found that the amount of dissolved phosphorus has nearly doubled since the 1990s in the River Raisin. The River Raisin flows 139 miles, draining an area of more than 1,000 square miles encompassing five south Michigan counties, including the city of Adrian, into Lake Erie. 

“It is very troubling to know that we are permitting a waste stream that feeds the type of toxic algal blooms that three years ago left nearly a half million people without drinking water in the Toledo area,” Sister Siemen said. “We have been a part of the Adrian and larger River Raisin watershed and farming communities since the 1880s. We have an obligation to farm in ways that keep our waterways clean not only for those who live downstream from us but also for the health and well-being of all who live near them today and for generations to come,” she said. 

The Adrian Dominican Sisters join the Less=More coalition in their call to:

  • end the practice of giving federal taxpayer dollars to polluting factory farms,
  • ban the application of untreated waste on frozen or snow-covered ground, and
  • reduce the rate of phosphorus allowed from manure applications to match other forms of phosphorus fertilizer.

According to A Watershed Moment, nearly 80 percent of the waste source was dairy cows; the remaining waste was produced by a combination of beef cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys. “Unlike human sewage, industrial livestock waste is not treated,” the report notes. “The vast majority of this untreated animal sewage is stored in giant open cesspits called lagoons, or under slatted barn floors, to which millions of gallons of clean groundwater are added, until it can be applied as liquid fertilizer on farm fields.”

“We are grateful for the comprehensive research and analysis done by the Less=More coalition, particularly our local Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan group, which spearheaded the study and has been tracking factory farm pollution in Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties for more than 15 years,” Sister Siemen said. “It is a great public health service."

At their General Chapter of 2016, the Adrian Dominican Sisters made a commitment to address ecological degradation in a statement that reads: “Recognizing the violence against Earth community that places our common home in dire jeopardy and intensifies the suffering of people on the margins, future generations and all creation, we will sacrifice to mitigate significantly our impact on climate change and ecological degradation.”

The Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club offers more information on the issue of factory farms. Read their information on CAFO mapping.



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