Bishop, Governor, and Theologian Highlight Symposium’s Second Day

March 17, 2012

On the second day of  New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, From Water to Wine: Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, in Baltimore, Maryland, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia summoned the Catholic Church to rethink its teaching on sexuality, for heterosexuals and lesbian/gay people.  (The full text of his talk can be found on his website.)

The National Catholic Reporter news account of the bishop’s talk cites his call for

” ‘a new study of everything to do with sexuality’ — a kind of study that he predicted ‘would have a profound influence on church teaching concerning all sexual relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual.’

” ‘If [church] teaching on homosexual acts is ever to change, the basic teaching governing all sexual acts must change,’ he said. . . .”

” ‘If the starting point [as in current church teaching] is that every single sexual act must be both unitive and procreative, there is no possibility of approval of homosexual acts,’ Robinson said.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

“He proceeded, however, to question that natural law argument, especially as laid out by recent popes, and to suggest that a more nuanced reading of divine commandments in scripture and of Jesus’ teaching would lead to a different set of moral norms — starting with a change in church teaching that every sexual act or thought that falls outside a loving conjugal act open to procreation is a mortal sin because it is a direct offense against God himself in his divine plan for human sexuality.

” ‘For centuries the church has taught that every sexual sin is a mortal sin. The teaching may not be  proclaimed as loudly today as much as before, but it was proclaimed by many popes, it has never been retracted and it has affected countless people,’ Robinson said.

” ‘The teaching fostered a belief in an incredibly angry God,’ he added, ‘for this God would condemn a person to an eternity in hell for a single unrepented moment of deliberate pleasure arising from sexual desire. I simply do not believe in such a God. Indeed, I positively reject such a God.’ “

Robinson’s talk was the last of three highlights of the day.  The first was a talk by Professor Patricia Beattie Jung of St. Paul School of  Theology, Kansas City, Missouri, who highlighted the social and individual benefits of sexual fidelity and marriage for both heterosexual and lesbian/gay couples. (More on her wonderful talk in a separate posting.)

Governor Martin O'Malley

The other highlight was a luncheon visit and talk by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic who recently signed marriage equality into law in his state.

A  WYPR-FM interview with New Ways Ministry Executive Director Francis DeBernardo about the governor’s appearance at the Symposium is available on the web page for the Midday with Dan Rodricks show.  Look under the section for Friday, March 16th.

The Washington Post carried an Associated Press story about his talk which began:

“Maryland’s same-sex marriage debate may end up being decided in the voting booth, but Gov. Martin O’Malley told a conference on Catholicism and homosexuality Friday that he believes voters will come down on the side of human dignity.”

The article goes on to cite selections from  the governor’s talk:

“ ‘I’m not here as a Catholic, I’m here as the governor for all of Maryland,’ O’Malley said. ‘Each one of us in the public arena brings with us our own perspectives, our own traditions, our own faith traditions, our own ethnic backgrounds. What we hope and what we should expect of all our leaders is when they look at the Constitution is to protect rights equally among all people.’

“O’Malley said after his address to the group that it was important for him to articulate what was accomplished with the same-sex marriage legislation, which he framed as a debate on how to protect religious freedoms and equal rights, and said he’ll be taking that message to people of many different faiths.

“ ‘The conversation in the General Assembly is concluded, but the conversations at workplaces and dinner tables and kitchen tables will just be starting. I have a lot of faith in people in our state. I do believe with full consideration people will come to the conclusion that as we have in the past we can protect rights more fully and equally while also protecting religious liberty,’ he said.”

The Edge newspaper’s article noted that O’Malley thanked New Ways Ministry for supporting  the state’s marriage equality law:

“O’Malley, who is Catholic, received standing ovations as he entered the hotel ballroom and took the stage to deliver his speech. He specifically thanked New Ways Ministry for their support of the marriage equality bill.

” ‘Thank you especially for your voice in the debate that we just concluded in the General Assembly of Maryland on the issue of how we will protect freedom of religions and rights equally,’ said O’Malley. . . .

“Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, welcomed the governor’s remarks.

” ‘As Catholics, we are proud of Gov. O’Malley’s ardent support of marriage equality,’ he said. ‘His support is in the best tradition of Catholicism’s legacy of social justice for all.’  “

Photos of the Governor’s visit and talk to the Symposium will be posted when they become available from his press office.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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