SYNOD: We Can Hope for Some Change, But Let’s Hope It’s More Courageous Than Nigerian Archbishop

October 9, 2014

ROME, Italy–This has certainly been an exciting week for the Catholic Church!  Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to make sure that what I am reading is really happening.  For many decades Catholics have been calling on the hierarchy to at least have a dialogue about sexuality, marriage, and family issues, and it seems that the dialogue has begun.  No doubt, it is imperfect.  There are certainly not the dialogue members that need to be there–especially LGBT people and their families.  But it is a first step, and that is good.

Of course, I have to also be on guard against getting caught up in some of the sensational headlines, tweets, and Facebook posts that I have seen.  Many people, including press representatives, seem caught up in the euphoria of the moment and are heralding changes in Catholic teaching, when such is not the case.  We have indeed seen an important opening in the discussion these last few days, with bishops sharing their ideas about marriage and family, and listening to at least some of the laity on this matter.  We haven’t seen discussion like that among church leaders at all in my lifetime–and I’m in my mid-50s.  But the beginning of a discussion does not equal change.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols

According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of London, England, welcomed the new atmosphere of discussion:

“Cardinal Nichols pointed out it’s too early to draw any conclusions from these first sessions, yet it does seem clear that this first Synod of Francis’ pontificate is shaping up for a much more honest and down-to-earth discussion than most bishops have experienced here in the Vatican over recent decades.”

One thing, perhaps that we can hope for, is a change in language.  On Tuesday, at a press briefing, Basilian Father Thomas Rosica told reporters that bishops had discussed language about sexuality used in church discourse:

“Language such as ‘living in sin,’ ‘intrinsically disordered,’ or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”

So many Catholics have been asking for almost 30 years for the terms “intrinsically disordered” and “objective disorder,” which refer primarily to homosexuality, to be changed.  Terencce Weldon, at Queering The Church, commented:

“For lesbian and gay people, this is nothing new, but it is something that the bishops needed to hear. Indeed, even some of those who are already aware of the harmful effects and warning against them, may not realize the depth of the damage that is done. They may understand that it is one of the factors that turns many our community away from the Catholic Church, as noted in the press briefing – but do they understand that it is also quite literally, destructive of lives, especially young lives?”

There was also a glimmer that there may be openness to recognizing value in relationships that are not legally or ecclesiastically considered “married.”  According to Vatican Radio:

“Fr Lombardi used an analogy from the Second Vatican Council which led to profound changes in the Catholic Church’s relations with other Christians and people of other religious traditions. During the Council, bishops agreed that while the fullness of Christ’s Church “subsists” only in the Catholic Church, important elements of truth and holiness also exist in other churches and faith communities. In a similar way, he said, valid and important elements of true love and holiness can also exist in a relationship that does not conform to the full vision of an ideal Catholic marriage.”

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama

On Wednesday, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, offered the following explanation of what the synod might and might not do. The National Catholic Reporter quotes his reflections at a press conference:

“What we are trying to examine is the pastoral approach that could be done differently. The doctrines remain the same. We are not going to invent new doctrines … or suppress doctrines that the church has practiced for years.”

Kaigama is probably right, but that doesn’t mean that doctrine won’t eventually change.  In the church, a change in pastoral practice usually leads toward a change in doctrine, and not the other way around.

Kaigama himself showed the possibility of change.  On Wednesday, he told a synod press briefing that the Catholic Church in his country did not support the law applying harsh penalties to people convicted of homosexuality.  This is a reversal of his opinions at the time the law was being enacted.  The Tablet reports Kaigama’s statements:

“ ‘We are not supporting the criminalisation of people with different sexual orientations,’ Archbishop Kaigama stressed. ‘We would defend any person with homosexual orientation who is being harassed, who is being imprisoned, who is being punished.’

“He added: ‘The Government may want to punish them – we don’t. In fact we will tell the Government to stop punishing those with different orientations.’ ”

This is a surprising change given that some months back the news about his stance was much different:

From Bondings 2.0, on March 7, 2014, quoting a Religion News Service story:

 “In a January letter on behalf of the Catholic hierarchy of Nigeria, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos praised Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for his ‘courageous and wise decision’ in signing the legislation. Kaigama said it would protect Nigeria ‘against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices.’ “

From Bondings 2.0, on February 13, 2014, quoting an Advocate.com story:

“Ignatius Kaigama, archbishop of the Middle Belt region of Jos, told SaharaTV that Catholic bishops in Nigeria ‘thank God that this bill was passed,’ and in a letter sent to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, called the law ‘a courageous one and a clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand shoulders high in the protection of our Nigerian and African most valued cultures of the institution of marriage.’ ”

At the synod press conference, Kaigama defended his record, saying that he only meant to support the law’s opposition to marriage for same-gender couples.  The Tablet reports:

“. . . the archbishop said the Church only supported the elements of the law that set out that marriage is between a man and a woman. He added that there had been a “gross misinterpretation” of this by the media.”

Perhaps that is true, but the archbishop must take responsibility for the fact that in a volatile political debate, his supposedly nuanced comments are insufficient and ineffective.  Why didn’t he speak out clearly and strongly against the portions of the bill that imposed harsh penalties for orientation?  If indeed he did not support the bill in its entirety, why did he only praise the parts he liked and not condemn the parts he did not like?  This example shows how silence on the part of church leaders is often complicity in the homophobia which fuels repression and violence.

The synod will surely hold many more surprises.  Let’s hope that most of them are more edifying than the much delayed “clarification”of the Nigerian archbishop.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


On Persevering in Spite of Rejection: A Follow-Up Post

May 12, 2014

About a week ago, Bondings 2.0 reported that Queering The Church blogger Terence Weldon had been dismissed from a volunteer job with CAFOD, the Catholic relief and development agency run by the bishops of England and Wales, because his blog was considered to be “campaigning against church teaching.”  Weldon’s reaction to this rejection, understandably, was to question whether he should continue as a member of the Catholic Church.

After a period of discernment, Weldon has responded with a decision to persevere and remain in the church.  In a blog post this week, he explained:

“The reason for Cafod rejecting me as a schools volunteer, was my public profile as an (allegedly) campaigner against Church teaching – specifically, sexual teaching. But part of my motivation in wanting to become actively involved with Cafod in the first place, had been a sense that it was becoming time to back off the constant obsession with matters of sexuality and sexual ethics, and to become more involved, and outspoken, on the far more important elements of Church teaching with which I, and Cafod, emphatically agree – matters of social justice, the preferential option for the poor, and the like.

“Because these are indeed pf fundamental importance in Catholic teaching, and the sexual issues relatively minor, it did not take me too long to conclude once again, that there really is no place for me to be, other than in the Catholic Church. This is where I belong, and this is where I shall stay.

“But if, as I have found, I have been effectively prevented from broadening my focus away from “campaigning” on the sexual matters – the obvious lesson is that on the contrary, I must continue to do so, with redoubled effort and effectiveness.

“The Church is stuck with me, whether they like it or not. This stone which the builders rejected, will indeed become a cornerstone.”

I am glad that Weldon has made a decision, and glad that he has decided to stay. The decision to stay or go is one that every LGBT Catholic faces from time to time, sometimes when they experience personal rejection or at other times when they hear of a hurtful statement or policy issued by a church leader.  Such moments can be very painful. Different people respond in various way, and I respect all those who examine their consciences prayerfully in these matters, regardless of the what their final decision may be.

I think that one of the reasons that such moments are so painful is because many faithful LGBT Catholics see that their divergence from church teaching is not something opposed to their Catholicism, but something which actually springs from their Catholicism.  For many, the arrival at a place where they can affirm their sexuality and committed relationships comes from a deep spiritual journey filled with much soul-searching and anguish.  They see the affirmation of their ability to love as a gift from God, not as offensive to God.

Weldon reflected in this way in another blog post commenting on the CAFOD rejection:

“It has never been my intention, or my practice, to ‘campaign’ against Church teaching. That would imply I had some hope of achieving change, which I know is way beyond my capacity. Right from my opening posts, I have instead made it clear that my primary purpose is much simpler – to draw gay and lesbian Catholics (and other Christians) back into the life and sacramental practice of the church, without compromising on their personal sexual or gender integrity.

“Necessarily, that requires at times criticizing some elements of Catholic teaching or practice – but always in a wider context. Sexual matters occupy a relatively low level in the overall hierarchy of Church teaching, and while I am critical of some elements of these (not by any means all), it is always within the greater structure of broader principles of teaching – on equality and inclusion, on justice, on respect and dignity, and on freedom of conscience.

“So I find it depressing to be told, as I was recently, that I am not acceptable as a schools volunteer for Cafod, because I am allegedly ‘campaigning’ against Church teaching. In my own mind, all I am doing is attempting to draw LGBT people back into the Church – and doing so by presenting alternative elements of Church teaching, and the Gospels, that are less familiar than the well – known offensive bits.”

LGBT people have many spiritual gifts to offer the church community.  As I reflect on this incident, I realize that one of their greatest gifts is perseverance.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


In Europe, Some Catholic Leaders Strive for LGBT Reconciliation

May 8, 2014

In Europe, some Catholic bishops seem to be trying to heal the hurt that LGBT people have experienced, sometimes hurt caused by church leaders.

Admiral Duncan Public House on April 30, 1999

Admiral Duncan Public House on April 30, 1999

In England, the gay community recently marked the 15th anniversary of the Soho Bombing, when 3 people died, including a pregnant woman, over 80 injured, when a device exploded in the Admiral Duncan Public House (a gay bar).  The event galvanized the LGBT community in that nation.  

The event was marked by a joint statement from the Anglican Bishop of London, the Right  Reverend & Right Honorable Richard Chartres, and the Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols:

“On this 15th Anniversary of the bombings in Soho, Brixton and Brick Lane, we affirm our condemnation of all such acts of violence and hold in our prayers those whose lives have been taken or shattered and all those who mourn. It is fundamental to our faith that all men and women are made in the image of God and so deserve our respect, care and compassion. In this great World-in-a-City, we stand alongside all those who oppose the hatred that continues to divide communities and diminishes us all. We work and pray for a society in which we have learnt to love our neighbour as ourselves.”

Thanks to one of the United Kingdom’s most prominent Catholic LGBT advocate, Martin Pendergast, for alerting us to this statement.  Queering The Church blogger Terence Weldon commented: “Finally, some Catholic bishops are taking seriously the Church teaching to condemn all forms of violence or malice,in speech or in action against gay or lesbian people.”

Across the Channel, in France, the head of the French bishops’ conference has been trying to heal the pastoral damage done when some Catholic leaders in that nation strongly opposed that nation’s marriage equality law when it was being debated last year.  The Tablet reported:

Archbishop Georges Pontier

Archbishop Georges Pontier

“Marseille Archbishop Georges Pontier, president of the French bishops’ conference, urged his fellow bishops to avoid being ‘manipulated by social movements’ when he opened their spring plenary meeting.

“The meeting in Lourdes just before Holy Week was overshadowed by different views about how to deal with a growing polarisation that emerged with last year’s anti-gay marriage protests, with some bishops actively supporting the protests but many others keeping a discreet distance. Some organisers of that lay-led movement have since become active in conservative and far-right politics.”

According to The Tablet, the most recent example of the influence of the conservative faction is the removal of a speaker from a French Catholic meeting:

“Differences flared again last month when the bishops’ conference’s Family and Society Council withdrew a conference invitation to a feminist philosopher after a traditionalist blog collected about 1,100 signatures on a petition denouncing her as a proponent of gender theory, that is incompatible with Catholic doctrine. That led to an internal debate about whether the council should have caved in to what the Catholic daily La Croix called ‘a minority, promoted to be thought police.’ “

The examples of these British and French prelates should be emulated by Catholic bishops here in the United States.  Harsh rhetoric opposing marriage equality from U.S. prelates such as Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois (to name a few), have alienated many Catholics.  Reconciliatory statements and gestures would go a long way to healing the hurt that many Catholics, LGBT people and allies alike, have experienced by so many harmful messages.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Despised and Rejected: Where Is God When the Church Dismisses a Gay Catholic?

May 2, 2014

When we’ve been reporting about LGBT people and supporters being fired from jobs at Catholic institutions over the past two-and-a-half years, most of the cases have involved school teachers, and, to a lesser extent, parish music ministers.  Nicholas Coppola, a volunteer at his parish, was the sole exception where someone not employed by the church was told that his participation was no longer welcome because he had legally married his longtime boyfriend.

Terence Weldon

Terence Weldon

This week, across the Atlantic, another case has emerged where a volunteer has been dismissed because of his support of LGBT equality.  In England, Terence Weldon, who blogs at Queering The Churchone of the oldest and best respected Catholic LGBT blogs, has gone public with the fact that he has recently been let go from a volunteer position with CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), the overseas development and relief agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.  You can read the entire story of his experience here.  

The reason given for his dismissal was that he has been “campaigning against Church teaching.”  Weldon, who has been blogging since 2008, sees the situation differently.  He describes his ministry of blogging in this way:

“For years, I have felt strongly that this passage from Luke 4:18, based on a similar one in Isaiah, amounts to Christ’s opening mission statement, at the start of his ministry:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…’

“By extension, I have written previously, this must include bringing good news to the queer, who also are oppressed, often by the Church itself.”

He also describes his reactions to the charge of “campaigning against Church teaching.”

“My initial response was to say that of course I understood his position and that of Cafod, forced on them by the rules of higher authority, and agreed that there remained the possibility of working simply within the local parish, where I am well known and accepted, and even find strong support for my activism.

“However, the more I reflected on this later, after he had left, the more I found myself angry – not at him or at Cafod, but at the Church itself, which is so intolerant of any internal dissent or disagreement.”

Since the incident of his dismissal came near the time of Holy Week, Weldon put this whole situation in the context of two lines from the Good Friday Scriptures:

“He was despised, rejected…”(Isaiah 53:3)

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the corner stone.: (Psalm 118:22)

Understandably, Weldon feels this rejection very powerfully, and it has caused him to question his membership in the church:

“And so, feeling intensely, ‘despised, rejected,” I began to wonder again, as I have done from time to time before, whether my critics on both sides are not perhaps, correct. Do I in fact have a place in the Catholic Church – or should I make a move to another, one which allows for full participation in decision taking and regulation by laity alongside that of clergy, one that takes seriously the concept of a church for all the faithful that was promised for Catholics by Vatican II, but never implemented?”

While we stand with him in solidarity over this terrible injustice accorded him, we also encourage him, if it is not too harmful to him, to persevere.  It is not easy to be despised and rejected, but our hope and promise has to come from the second line of Scripture he quotes:  rejection will lead to becoming the cornerstone.

LGBT people have much to give to the church spiritually.  Their courage to be who they are and their ability to tell the truth are gifts that can benefit the entire Catholic community.  Those are the powerful positive gifts.  But the experience of rejection and being despised can also be a gifted experience and can lead to an important role in the church.

Whatever Terence Weldon decides, we stand with him.  His testimony and service these many years have been beautiful gifts to the church. We pray that he discerns the way that God is calling him at this painful time.

Do you have any words of wisdom for Terence?  You can post them in the “Comments” section of this post or you can respond on his blog.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Survey Indicates British Catholics Support Marriage Equality

September 15, 2013

survey resultsThanks to Terence Weldon, at the blog QueeringTheChurch.com, we’ve been made aware of a new survey in the United Kingdom which shows that British Catholics are strongly in support of marriage equality–similar to U.S. Catholics on this side of the Atlantic.

The new report comes from the British Social Attitudes Survey.  The section regarding attitudes toward homosexuality are covered under the topic “Personal Relationships.  After noting a growing positive trend for marriage equality in the nation as a whole, Weldon turns to the religious analysis of the report.  He states:

“Predictably, religious groups are less tolerant of same – sex sexual relations than those who are not religious, and although disapproval is declining among people of all religions, this decline is slower than for those of no religious belief. What should be of concern to the defenders of the orthodox Catholic position, is that self- identified Catholics are more tolerant than Protestants. The published report does not present full tables for a breakdown by religion, or a full trend comparison, but this written summary makes the core message clear: barely a third of British Catholics agree with the CDF position, that all same – sex genital interactions are morally wrong/

“Not surprisingly, religious belief is closely linked to attitudes to homosexuality. Those who aren’t religious are the least likely to see it as always or mostly wrong, only 16 per cent do so. This compares to disapproval rates of over a third among Anglicans (40 per cent) and Catholics (35 per cent). “

Personal relationships, British Social Attitudes Survey

Why do surveys like this one matter?  Weldon rightly points out that while the church is not a democracy, Catholicism does operate under the principle of honoring the “sense of the faithful”–meaning what the Catholic laity actually believe–in evaluating church teaching.   He observes:

“Nevertheless, [we have] the important principle of ‘sensus fidei’ ['sense of the faithful'] to consider, by which any church doctrine which is not accepted by the church as a whole, which has not been “received” and accepted by the faithful, cannot be held to be valid and binding. In the half century since the publication of Humanae Vitae, it has become abundantly clear that it has been rejected in good conscience, or even simply been ignored, by the overwhelming majority of married Catholic couples, and there is simply no evidence that the prohibition on artificial contraception does in fact have the authority of the sensus fidei behind it. It is now becoming equally clear that the absolute prohibition on same – sex sexual acts, and those on premarital sex, sexual relationships after divorce, and masturbation, are going the same way, When something like two thirds of Catholics, in very substantial parts of the Catholic world, disagree with the total proscription by the CDF – what possible justification can there be for continuing to defend the rigidity of current CDF sexual ideology?”

I think Catholics who work for equality and justice for LGBT people can be heartened by these survey results.  It shows that support from U.S. Catholics for marriage equality is not just an anomaly.  Despite bishops mounting strong campaigns opposing marriage equality in both the U.S. and the U.K., Catholic lay people have taken a different approach to this issue.  Catholics are relying on their deep sense of justice and their deep sense of the importance of love in a relationship.  These two senses are helping them to see that marriage equality is, in fact, a very Catholic concept.

To order or download a copy of New Ways Ministry’s booklet, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Catholic Reactions to Pope Francis’ Comments on Accepting Gay Priests

July 30, 2013
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ comments on accepting gay priests has rocked the Catholic world, yet even progressive Catholics disagree on the import of his statement.   Was it just a change of tone, not substance?  Was it too little, too late?  Will he follow through with action or was this statement just for show?

Various commentators took different approaches to the statement.  Here’s  a sampling of some of their thoughts.

Here at New Ways Ministry, we welcomed the statement, seeing it as a sign of hopeful things to come:

“Pope Francis’ statement on accepting and respecting gay priests is a clear sign that this pope will be taking a more conciliatory approach to LGBT issues than his immediate predecessors have done.

“Unlike John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who approached LGBT topics through the lens of sexuality and sin, Pope Francis is signaling a new direction which is based on the Catholic principles of human dignity, respect, and social integration.  Benedict had issued an instruction to bishops not to accept gay candidates for the seminary, a policy that was being considered under John Paul’s papacy.  Both previous papacies were noted for their virulent opposition against LGBT issues.

“Some will say that Francis’ statement is not enough, that he still refers to sins of homosexuals, but I think the important thing is the question of emphasis.   Even if he doesn’t drop the sin language, this is still a major step forward, and one that can pave the way for further advancements down the road.  Change in the church is evolutionary, not revolutionary.  Though this statement is not the change which many of us hope for, that is, the full equality of LGBT people in our church, it is a necessary first step toward that change.   Most importantly, it shows that Pope Francis is open to dialogue on this matter, and not simply follow the harmful obstinacy of his predecessors.”

Rev. James Martin, SJ

Rev. James Martin, SJ

Noted author and commentator Jesuit Father James Martin, had total praise for the pope’s comments, noticing an important linguistic development:

“To my mind, Pope Francis’s brief comment on gays reveals great mercy.  That mercy, of course, comes from Jesus Christ.   And we can never have enough of it.  The Pope’s remarks also are in line with the Catechism, which teaches that gays should be treated with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity.’  But gays were not the only group to be shown mercy in the Pope’s brief in-flight interview.  The Pope also asked for greater compassion for divorced and remarried Catholics, a group that has long felt marginalized in the church, and called for a “deeper theology” on the role of women in the church.  Today Pope Francis has, once again, lived out the Gospel message of compassion for everyone.
“The lesser-noticed change in the Pope’ revolutionary words during his in-flight interview was, at least according to the translation in the Italian-language ‘Vatican Insider,’ the use of the word ‘gay,’ which is traditionally not used by popes, bishops or Vatican officials.  This is a sea change.”
Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed, the coalition of Catholic organizations that work for LGBT justice and equality,  also had strong praise for the pope:

“Pope Francis today uttered some of the most encouraging words a pontiff has ever spoken about gay and lesbian people. In doing so, he has set a great example for Catholics everywhere.

“The pope has rejected the harsh language of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for a compassionate approach and a pastoral tone. Lesbians and gays are no longer a “threat to civilization,” rather they are people of faith and good will.

“Catholic leaders who continue to belittle gays and lesbians can no longer claim that their inflammatory remarks represent the sentiments of the pope.”

Kevin Clarke, a blogger at America magazine, noted the importance of just a few of the words the pope said:

“. . . Francis may have become the first pope in history to offer a ‘who am I to judge’ response to a question about gay and lesbian people. . . “

But Clarke also urged caution, while at the same time noting the importance of the papal shift:

“His words certainly signal a shift in tone from Rome on gay and lesbians; will they also mean a change in current policies regarding, for instance, gay men in the priesthood?

“His citation of current catechism on the treatment of gay and lesbian people was not revolutionary in any sense; what startles may be the spectacle of a pope saying anything out loud on the matter and stressing the importance of church teaching on the human dignity of gay and lesbian people.

“Francis was also asked why he did not spend much time speaking about abortion or gay marriage during his trip (church teaching is already clear, he said) and about the difficulties of divorced and remarried Catholics. ‘I believe this is a time of mercy, a change of epoch,’ the pope said. He said the group of eight cardinals tasked with reform will explore the issue of whether divorcees can receive Communion.”

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin, who blogs at Religion News Service also questioned whether the pope’s statement is significant:

“I’ve joined the chorus of those praising this truly palpable breath of fresh air in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis is welcomed change in style. How will his bishops here in the US react, especially to the comments about not judging gays, finding roles for women, and welcoming back the marginalized? The Pope, it seems, will lead by example. Will his bishops follow? What concrete steps will Catholic leaders take to change the atmosphere of the church?

“A friend IM’ed this morning, asking if this news was a big step for the church. Yes and no, I said. Yes, it’s certainly huge that a pope has spoken about gays in a nonjudgmental, loving way. The pope’s words may inspire others to alter their own speech and behavior. No, because we wait for change, for signs that this is indeed more than an off the cuff remark. But for now, I’ll stick with yes. Yes, this is hope, and hope is huge.”

Writing in The National Catholic ReporterKen Briggs was decidedly more skeptical about the pope’s comments:

Ken Briggs

Ken Briggs

“If he didn’t mean to suggest a new Catholic teaching on homosexuality, should he have plainly said so? Would that have been in keeping with his image in some quarters as being bluntly honest? Or does he believe that a little dose of mixed signals is justified in order to ease the bitterness that has been swirling around the issue? . . .

“It’s too early in the papacy to know for sure, but worth noting perhaps that the same patina of double speak characterizes the major issues Francis addresses. Is he the “repair the crisis” pope who sees his mission as reviving church spirits before unloading some concrete, contentious re-designs, or a public relations pope whose effort is to recast the profile of Catholicism without following through on vague suggestions that things will substantially change? . . .

“A lot of what the appealing and intriguing pope said could be seen as a plea to keep young people — any Catholics — from crossing the street to the Pentecostal churches known for their warm embrace, empowering of lay people and live-wire worship. While genuine ecumenism is out of fashion and was nowhere to be seen, neither did the pope directly bash the Pentecostal rivals. But the signs of distress over massive defections could be heard in his urgent appeals to wavering Catholics to ‘stay home.’ On that there was no ambiguity.”

Writing personally, William Lindsey, who blogs at Bilgrimage.blogspot.comfelt that the pope’s words did not make up for the years of pain inflicted by church leaders:

“. . . I’m critically aware that for many Catholics, including many LGBT Catholics, the conversation about these matters has now moved light-years beyond the question of whether “homosexuals” . . . . should be included, welcomed, and treated with respect. And so I wonder how we can have a meaningful and honest conversation about these matters, if we pick up this conversation at the point of the pope’s comments and don’t acknowledge what many Catholics have been saying and thinking about these matters for a long time now.
“And there’s also this: for many of us, the actual experience of dealing with fellow Catholics and Catholic leaders who have been intent–quite precisely–for decades now on judging and marginalizing us solely because we’re gay results in a kind of deafness that makes us unable to hear Francis’s liberating, gospel-centered words with much hope or joy at all. Because we’re now so beaten up from our encounter with our church, its leaders, and many of our fellow Catholics, that we’re inured to hopelessness.
“Scars stand between us and our ability to receive a loving embrace from the community that has created those scars across our human lives. Scars cover our ears and make us unable to hear a liberating, hopeful, and joyful message from the community that has created those scars.”

Terence Weldon, at QueeringTheChurch.comnotes that Francis is providing an emphasis that is much needed in church discussions on LGBT issues:

Terence Weldon

Terence Weldon

“Today, he has delivered some thoughts which are more explicitly favourable, insisting that gays should be integrated into society, must not be marginalized or discriminated against, and should be welcomed into the priesthood.  Welcome words indeed. There is in fact absolutely nothing new in this – it’s all absolutely standard, orthodox Catholic doctrine, which contains two parts. There is a compassionate side, directing that we should be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity, and protected from unjust discrimination, and from violence or malice, in words or in deeds. Then there’s the harsh side, denying absolutely any hope of physical expression of our loves in genital acts. The problem has been that many bishops, and the previous two popes, have ignored or directly flouted the compassionate parts of teaching, focusing exclusively on the harshest bits. Francis is not in any way signalling a shift in actual teaching – but he is introducing some sorely needed balance. That alone is welcome.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Belgian Cardinal and Archbishop Support Civil Unions

June 24, 2013

As we wait here in the United States for our Supreme Court to weigh in on two marriage equality cases this week,  news from across the Atlantic about Catholic support gay and lesbian couples is positive.

Cardinal Godfried Daneels

Cardinal Godfried Daneels

A Belgian archbishop and cardinal have both joined the growing list of senior Catholic Church officials who are now supporting civil unions for same-gender committed couples.  London’s Tablet magazine reported this month:

“Two of the most senior Belgian clerics have voiced support for civil unions, but said the Church would not see such a partnership as a marriage, which they said was only between a man and a woman.

“Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Brussels, made his comments through his spokesman in response to an interview by the Belgian newspaper De Tijd with his successor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels.

“In an interview to mark his 80th birthday, the cardinal told the paper it was good that states were making reforms to normalise same-sex relationships, saying it showed ‘more nuanced thinking about the person in their totality rather than being fixated on the moral principle.’ He said the recognition of gay relationships was a legal matter and not one for the Church to comment on, even though they could not constitute real marriage.

Danneels said the Church had evolved in its understanding of homosexuals.

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard

What is significant here is not just their support, but, more importantly, Cardinal Daneels’ reasoning behind his support.  The fact that he wants a more nuanced approach to gay and lesbian relationships, and that he sees this as an issue affecting the entire person, not just sexual activity, are major steps forward for the way a Catholic leader has described this matter.

QueeringTheChurch.com’s Terence Weldon, intrepid gay Catholic blogger in the United Kingdom, cites additional information about Cardinal Daneels’ support, gleaned from an Italian news source,Chiesa Expressso.  Their account points out that Daneels’ statement is a significant departure from a 2003 Vatican statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) which repudiated any support for marriage or civil unions for lesbian and gay people:

“Ten years have passed since the publication of that document by the Ratzingerian CDF under the pontificate of Karol Wojtyla. But the contents of the ‘considerations’ cited above seem by now to belong to another ecclesial era.

“One faithful mirror of this new course are the declarations released to the press by Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, on the eve of his eightieth birthday on June 4.

“The Belgian cardinal – who without hypocrisy did not conceal his disappointment at the election of Benedict XVI at the conclave of 2005, and this year was one of the main electors of Pope Francis – stated that the Church ‘has never opposed the fact that there should exist a sort of “marriage” between homosexuals, but one therefore speaks of a “sort of’ marriage, not of true marriage between a man and a woman, therefore another word must be found for the dictionary.” ‘

“And he concluded:

” ‘About the fact that this should be legal, that it should be made legitimate through a law, about this the Church has nothing to say.’

“The Belgian newspaper ‘Le Soir,’ in reporting the words of Danneels, added that ‘the position of the cardinal is shared by Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard,” his successor as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels. The newspaper does not provide the evidence for this agreement, which in fact has been denied by Léonard’s spokesman. But there is no doubt that Danneels has effectively said, with the frankness that distinguishes him, what other cardinals and prelates have said in recent months.”

Additional quotations from Cardinal Daneels on the issue of civil unions can be found at the Gay Mystics blog.

Weldon has a very comprehensive list of all of the recent support for civil unions by senior church leaders, which can be found here.

As we have stated before, this recent development shows that Catholic leaders are in fact, if slowly, responding to the growing support that the Catholic laity are exhibiting for supporting committed gay and lesbian relationships.  May this development continue, and may the leaders continue to follow!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


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