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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 1, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 01
Catholic newspaper names Gay couple 'Persons of the Year'
Section One
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Catholic newspaper names Gay couple 'Persons of the Year'

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Catholic newspaper has broken with Church leadership and named a Gay couple 'Persons of the Year' for their role as plaintiffs in the historic Obergefell case.

'One Catholic couple who can - and do - tell the story of the benefits of same-sex marriage are Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon of Louisville,' National Catholic Reporter said in an editorial.

'In a committed relationship for 33 years (and married in Canada in 2004), Bourke and DeLeon are lifelong practicing Catholics and active members of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish for 28 years. Together, they are raising two children. By all accounts, they have become vital to their community.'

National Catholic Reporter was founded in 1964 as an independent newspaper covering Catholic issues in the United States. It is not under the authority of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and has been critical of its conservative stand on LGBT issues.

The couple found themselves on the cutting edge of two Gay rights issues, the newspaper said, the fight over anti-Gay discrimination by the Boy Scouts and the fight for equal marriage rights.

'Bourke and DeLeon had their marriage involuntarily thrust into the spotlight almost four years ago when Bourke lost his position as a Boy Scout troop leader because of his sexual orientation,' the paper noted.

'Bourke had volunteered with the troop sponsored by his parish for eight years, six as a registered leader. His ouster was widely reported in the local media, which brought the couple to the attention of the Louisville legal team looking for plaintiffs to challenge Kentucky's marriage equality ban.

'Bourke and DeLeon agreed, and, well, history was made.'

The newspaper also alluded to the many LGBT employees of Catholic institutions who have been fired because of their sexual orientation.

'Bourke and DeLeon are lucky in that they are only parishioners and volunteers,' the editorial reads. 'Their livelihoods do not depend on the institutional church.

'In 2015, at least 10 church employees in the United States lost their jobs because of sexual orientation. In nearly all cases, these were long-standing employees who were deeply respected by their school and parish communities. In most cases, their orientation and even their partners were known by the community. They experienced no difficulties until they entered civil marriages.'

How to connect with its LGBT parishioners is still a major challenge for the Catholic Church, the newspaper said.

'Bourke and DeLeon are emblematic of this major challenge facing the church today, because they force us to ask not how will we live out a hypothetical situation but how will we live with Greg and Michael. They give flesh to an abstraction,' the paper wrote.

'The answers the church is giving now are confused, uneven and often cruel. Greg and Michael - and countless gay, lesbian and transgender Catholics - deserve better.

'For their historic roles as plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges and for their faithful public witness as gay Catholics, we name Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon NCR's persons of the year for 2015.'

National Catholic Reporter is also notable for its longstanding feud with Robert Finn, formerly bishop of the newspaper's homebase, Kansas City.

In 2012, the paper called on Finn to resign over charges that he had concealed child abuse by priests under his jurisdiction. Less than a year later, the bishop suggested that the paper drop the word 'Catholic' from its title, since its editorial policy did not conform to Church doctrine.

Finn resigned in April 2015, after being charged with misdemeanor failure to report a case of child abuse. He was subsequently convicted, the first U.S. bishop to face criminal penalties in the Church's child abuse scandal.

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