Lifting Up the Holiness of LGBT Families at Philly’s World Meeting

July 22, 2015

The World Meeting of Families, a Vatican-sponsored gathering of thousands of families from around the globe at the end of September, has already had controversy associated with it about LGBT issues.  For one thing, it will only have a minor nod to gay issues on the program (a celibate gay man and his mother will be part of a panel).

Equally Blessed LogoBut a group of families with LGBT members will be at the WMF to share their faith journeys and to represent, unofficially, the religious experience that these families have had.  And you can help support this effort by donating to support their work at this important international gathering.

Equally Blessed, a coalition of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry, is sponsoring a dozen families to be a visible presence of LGBT love at the WMF.  According to the webpaged devoted to this project the pilgrims have a unified mission:

“By embracing the spirit of prophetic non-violence, we will witness to our fellow World Meeting of Families (WMF) participants by…

  • Having one-on-one conversations with a wide range of WMF participants
  • Engaging the media
  • Being a visible presence at WMF events, especially by distributing materials that affirm LGBTQ Catholics
  • Witnessing through vigils or rallies with the message that we are all Equally Blessed.”

The pilgrims will participate in the educational and prayer activities of the WMF, and they plan to share their stories with other participants and with the Church officials who will be in attendance.  In this way, they hope to make sure that LGBT families’ lives are not forgotten in these discussions.

You can be a part of this program by supporting the pilgrims with prayer and with financial support.  To make a donation, please click here.

In anticipation of their pilgrimage to WMF, many of the pilgrims are keeping blog journals of their preparations.  They will also be blogging during the WMF so that you can learn about their experiences each day as they happen.  You can access the blog pages by clicking here.  Reading through these blog entries will help you get a better sense of the personal stories of these families, and I’m sure some of you will find echoes of your own experiences in theirs.

Equally Blessed members have joined with 26 other Catholic organizations to send a letter to Pope Francis requesting that he meet with LGBTQI Catholics and their families during his visit to the U.S. The letter points out:

“Our Church’s teaching and pastoral practices surrounding homosexuality are causing an enormous pastoral crisis, as well as upholding systemic, institutionalized discrimination against LGBT people and our families. In the U.S. and around the world, we are experiencing alienation from the Church, higher rates of poverty and violence, and discrimination in employment, housing, educational opportunities, and access to health care.”

The pilgrimage is not the only way that LGBT issues will be present in Philadelphia during the WMF.   Other groups are sponsoring events and programs “outside the walls” of the WMF, but nearby in Philly.

New Ways Ministry will host a half-day workshop on gender diverse families entitled TransForming Love: Exploring Gender Identity from Catholics Perspectives, on Saturday, September 26, 2015, 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at St. John the Evangelist Parish Center, 1212 Ludlow Street, Phialdelphia.  For more information, click here.

We have heard of several other programs being organized by other groups, but details are not yet settled. Bondings 2.0 will continue to update you on any news of other Catholic LGBT-related events at WMF as we hear of them.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Missing LGBT Webpage Mystery Is Partially Solved, But Questions Remain

July 20, 2015

In the Bondings 2.0 post on July 19, 2015, we described a communion denial near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in the course of the story, we provided a link to the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ webpage of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on LGBT issues and the Catholic Church.  We commented that it was one of the best resources on LGBT issues coming from a website of the institutional Church.

One of our readers, however, informed us that by the afternoon of July 19th, the FAQ webpage was no longer active.  Indeed, the entire webpage for the LGBT ministry that the archdiocese had set up was also taken down.

Bondings 2.0 was able to obtain a copy of the page’s text from the morning of July 19th, and it contained a wealth of information from authoritative Catholic sources on issues directly affecting LGBT ministry, presented in a pastorally sensitive way, which is why we had recommended it.  You can read the material by clicking here.

Today, the Archdiocese of New Orleans posted the following statement on their main website concerning why the LGBT webpage was deactivated:

“The website and Facebook page for the Pastoral Care of Persons with Same-Sex Orientation, also known as LGBT, have been deactivated. An unauthorized person was able to access the website and post information that contradicts the teaching of the Catholic Church. We deeply regret that this has happened and are taking steps to secure the websites. Our mission is to represent accurately the teaching of the Bible and the Catholic Church and to provide ministry with integrity.

“We are very sorry that this misleading information has been posted and has caused confusion.”

The mystery of this story lies in what the definition of “unauthorized person” is.  Does this mean that someone hacked into the website?  Or does it mean that someone from the archdiocese had posted the information without getting clearance from higher sources?

It’s very sad that this information has been taken down because it actually explained the full teaching of the Catholic Church on lesbian and gay issues, including teaching on conscience, biblical interpretation, the evaluation of the sinfulness of sexual activity, civil rights, and the development of doctrine.

The archdiocese has said that it is unknown as to when the webpages will become active again.

It will be interesting to see which of the explanations that were on the site on the morning of July 19th will re-appear when the page comes up–particularly those sections which come from authoritative church documents and leaders.

For example, in answer to the question “What about conscience?” the webpage yesterday included the following quotations:

  • “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his [sic] conscience. If he were to deliberately act against it, he would condemn himself.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1790
  • “If a man [sic] is admonished by his own conscience—even an erroneous conscience, but one whose voice appears to him as unquestionable—he must always listen to it. What is not permissible is that he culpably indulge in error without trying to reach the truth.” John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 1994, p. 191
  • “Deep within a person’s conscience one discovers a law which one has not laid upon one’s self but which one must obey. Its voice, ever calling the person to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in that person’s heart at the right moment. . . . For one has in his or her heart a law inscribed by God. . . . One’s conscience is one’s most secret core and one’s sanctuary. There one is alone with God whose voice echoes in that person’s depths.” Gaudium et spes, par 16; also Catholic Catechism, #1776
  • “Above the pope as an expression of the binding claim of Church authority, stands one’s own conscience, which has to be obeyed first of all, if need be against the demands of Church authority.” Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI); from a commentary on “Gaudium et Spes” (“The Church in the Modern World”); Published in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (Vorgrimler, Herbert – Ed, Burns and Oats, 1969), p. 134.

It will be a shame if this sound Catholic doctrine on conscience is not included in the new page.  It should be included in every discussion about LGBT issues.

On the topic of development of doctrine, the page contained opinions of some leading theologians and church figures, as well as this excerpt from the Code of Canon Law:

  • No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless it is clearly defined as such. Code of Canon Law, 1983, Canon 749 §3.

In the section on the evaluation of sexual sins, a passage from an official document from the Bishops of England and Wales was cited:

  • Pastoral care does not consist simply in the rigid and automatic application of objective moral norms. It considers the individual in his (or her) actual situation, with all his (or her) strengths and weaknesses. The decision of conscience… can only be made after prudent consideration of the real situation as well as the moral norm… the pastoral counselling of homophile persons cannot ignore the objective morality of homosexual genital acts, but it is important to interpret them, to understand the pattern of life in which they take place, to appreciate the personal meaning which these acts have for different people…” Catholic Bishops of England and Wales Catholic Social Welfare Commission, An Introduction to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual People, 1979.

Too often, people think of Church teaching on LGBT issues as narrowly focused on sexual matters.  They also forget that teachings on conscience and evaluation of any act’s morality must also be considered in these discussions.  Let’s pray that the new webpage will keep these important topics as part of their explanation of the Catholic Church’s view on LGBT topics.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese Spells Out Falsehoods and Possibilities in Marriage Equality Responses

July 6, 2015

In Bondings 2.0’s continuing effort to try to chronicle all the key Catholic reactions to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling,  we’ve mostly been compiling snippets of responses into a series of posts [For a complete list of past reaction posts, see the bottom of this post, below my signature.]

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Yet one Catholic commentator’s analytical response stands out over the rest of them for its incisive distinctions and its hopeful suggestions, and so it warrants examination in a post of its own.  Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter is a seasoned church observer and political analyst who has responded to the court ruling by writing a column explaining “How the bishops should respond to the same-sex marriage decision.”

Reese doesn’t usually mince words, but even for him, his opening paragraph was particularly pointed:

“With the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage throughout the United States, the U.S. Catholic bishops need a new strategy going forward. The bishops’ fight against gay marriage has been a waste of time and money. The bishops should get a new set of priorities and a new set of lawyers.”

His enlightening factual account cuts through the rhetoric of some marriage equality opponents who have tried to predict a religious freedom nightmare looming:

“First, let’s make clear what the decision does not do. It does not require religious ministers to perform same-sex marriages, nor does it forbid them from speaking out against gay marriage. These rights are protected by the First Amendment. The court has also made clear that a church has complete freedom in hiring and firing ministers for any reason.”

Reese then analogizes marriage equality law with divorce law, something bishops in the past vociferously opposed, but later, after passage, have come to accept.  He extends this analogy into some specific recommendations:

“Today, Catholic institutions rarely fire people when they get divorced and remarried. Divorced and remarried people are employed by church institutions, and their spouses get spousal benefits. No one is scandalized by this. No one thinks that giving spousal benefits to a remarried couple is a church endorsement of their lifestyle.

“If bishops in the past could eventually accept civil divorce as the law of the land, why can’t the current flock of bishops do the same for gay marriage? Granted all the publicity around the church’s opposition to gay marriage, no one would think they were endorsing it.”

Perhaps most importantly,  Reese exposes the falsehood that religious liberty will be compromised because of marriage equality.  He shows, through a number of examples, how in the past Catholic church leaders, civic leaders, and business people have accommodated themselves, in a morally justified manner, to new laws they may disagree with:

“Let’s be perfectly clear. In Catholic morality, there is nothing to prohibit a Catholic judge or clerk from performing a same-sex marriage. Nor is there any moral obligation for a Catholic businessperson to refuse to provide flowers, food, space and other services to a same-sex wedding. Because of all the controversy over these issues in the media, the bishops need to be clear that these are not moral problems for Catholic government officials or Catholic business people.

“Again, Catholic judges have performed weddings for all applicants, including Catholics who are getting married in violation of church teaching. Catholic business people have provided services to any wedding party, including those of divorced Catholics marrying outside the church. Similarly, there is no moral problem for them to do the same for gay couples.”

Yet, Reese doesn’t stop there.  In addition to recommending that bishops give up their resistance to marriage equality  (“It is time for the bishops to admit defeat and move on. Gay marriage is here to stay, and it is not the end of civilization as we know it.”),  he also suggests that they start to be pro-active in other areas of LGBT equality.  For example, Reese observes:

“Currently, there is no federal law forbidding discrimination against gay people in employment or housing, but an increasing number of states are enacting such legislation. Will the bishops fight the passage of these laws out of fear of their impact on Catholic institutions?

The better strategy for the U.S. bishops is to imitate the Mormon church that worked together with gay activists on the enactment of laws against discrimination in employment and housing in Utah. . . . John Wester, now archbishop of Santa Fe, N.M., supported this legislation when he was bishop of Salt Lake City.”

Reese’s pragmatic approach also covers possible religious freedom questions which may emerge.  His principle is that gay and lesbian couples should not be treated any differently by church institutions than any other couple who does not exemplify the Church’s sexuality teaching:

“For example, Catholic colleges and universities that provide housing for married couples are undoubtedly going to be approached for housing by same-sex couples. Unless the schools can get states to carve out an exception for them in anti-discrimination legislation, they could be forced to provide such housing.

“But since they already provide housing to couples married illicitly according to the church, no one should see such housing as an endorsement of someone’s lifestyle. And granted all the sex going on at Catholic colleges and universities, giving housing to a few gay people who have permanently committed themselves to each other in marriage would hardly be considered a great scandal.”

By the same principle of equal treatment, Reese says the church could grant employee spousal benefits in the same way that they do for others couples in what the Church would call “irregular marriages.”

Towards the end of his essay, Reese tackles the complicated question of adoption by lesbian and gay couples, and he critiques the claim made by Pope Francis and other bishops that children need a mother and a father.  This kind of thinking, he notes, is not valid:

First, it casts doubt on the millions of single parents who are heroically raising their children without spousal support.

“Second, it has a narrow vision of the family. The church has traditionally recognized the importance of uncles, aunts and grandparents in the raising of children. There will be other sexes in the extended families of these children.

“Third, often, same-sex couples adopt children whom no one else wants. Would these children be better off in foster homes or orphanages?

“Finally, there is no evidence that children of same-sex couples suffer as a result of their upbringing. The original study that argued that children raised by same-sex couples did not do as well as those raised by heterosexual couples has been proven faulty.”

And after noting the wealth of social scientific research on the healthy development of children raised by lesbian and gay couples, Reese states:

“Just as Pope Francis depended on scientific consensus when dealing with the environment, the church should also consult the best of social science before making sweeping assertions about children and families.”  [The link in this sentence was added by Bondings 2.0, not by Reese.]

Reese concludes with a clarion call for the U.S. bishops to widen their pastoral and teaching scope beyond the area of sexuality:

“It is time for the U.S. bishops to pivot to the public policy priorities articulated by Pope Francis: care for the poor and the environment and the promotion of peace and interreligious harmony. Their fanatical opposition to the legalization of gay marriage has made young people look on the church as a bigoted institution with which they do not want to be associated. As pastors, they should be talking more about God’s compassion and love rather than trying to regulate people’s sexual conduct through laws. “

I have nothing more to add to Reese’s remarks other than to say that I think this is the best Catholic analysis I have read so far on the marriage equality ruling by the Supreme Court.   If you want to read the entire essay by Reese, and I recommend that you do, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous blog posts of Catholic commentary on Supreme Court marriage equality ruling:

July 5: Tending to Christ’s Blood: The U.S. Church’s Post-Marriage Equality Agenda

July 4: Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Catholic Values

July 1: Father Martin’s Viral Facebook Post on ‘So Much Hatred From So Many Catholics’

June 30:  Here’s What Catholic Bishops Should Have Said About Marriage Equality Decision

June 29: Catholics Continue to React to Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling

June 28: Some Catholic Reactions to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality

June 27: A Prayerful Catholic Response to the U.S. Supreme Court Decision

June 26: New Ways Ministry and U.S. Catholics Rejoice at Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision

 


Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Catholic Values

July 4, 2015

In the United States of America, today is Independence Day, the day we remember the birth of our nation through the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which said that all people “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Those words ring loud this year to those in the USA’s LGBT community and for Catholics who support them because of the recent Supreme Court ruling extending marriage equality to lesbian and gay couples as a guaranteed constitutional right.  Liberty and the pursuit of happiness were mentioned as guiding principles in the court’s opinion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Catholic, wrote the majority opinion in this landmark case, and already, at least one theologian has noted how some of the principles he used to support the decision are very Catholic in their content and meaning.

Professor Lisa Fullam wrote a blog post for Commonweal showing the Catholic corollaries for the four main arguments Kennedy uses.  [I mentioned Fullam’s blog post earlier this week, but revisit it today for a more expansive understanding of it. ] After quoting the decision’s emotional concluding paragraph, Fullam describes the four arguments that show that marriage is a fundamental right to be applied equally to all:

  1. The right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. (Here Kennedy cites Loving v. Virginia, which struck down interracial marriage bans.)
  2. The right to marry “supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals,” and same-sex couples have the same right “to enjoy intimate association.”
  3. Marriage “safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education.” This doesn’t mean that everybody has to procreate in order to marry civlly: “Precedent protects the right of a married couple not to procreate, so the right to marry cannot be conditioned on the capacity or commitment to procreate.”
  4. “[M]arriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order,” and excluding same-sex couples is “demeaning” to them.

Fullam then provides specific Catholic statements which agree with these principles:

  1. It was Pope Paul VI who labeled marriage an inalienable right way back in 1967: “When the inalienable right of marriage and of procreation is taken away, so is human dignity.” (Populorum progressio, 37)
  2. The special bond between the married is so important in Catholic tradition that we recognize marriage as a sacrament.
  3. The safety and security of children has rightly been an important factor in the magisterium’s argument against marriage equality. However, it is clear from experience, scientific study, and simple common sense that marriage equality does not, in fact, harm children, and that providing children’s families legal protection can only benefit them. The opinion’s note that people are not required to procreate is also echoed in Catholic tradition: marriage does not lose its dignity if a couple cannot procreate, and Catholics are to exercise prudence in deciding when–and even if–they procreate. Pius XII explicitly noted that couples may practice (licit) avoidance of procreation “for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life.” (Allocution to midwives, October 29, 1951) Catholic tradition also allows post-menopausal women and other sterile people to marry, asking only that they not deceive their partners as to their procreative capacity.
  4. The Church recognizes the equal dignity of all human beings, and says specifically of gay and lesbian people that “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358)

To Fullam’s argument, I would add the following quotations that I found in Kennedy’s opinion which strike me as having a distinct Catholic “flavor” to them:

“Since the dawn of history, marriage has transformed strangers into relatives, binding families and societies together.”

“Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities. And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.”

“The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring
bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”

Happy Independence Day to all!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Two Archbishops Have Different Approaches to LGBT People at WMF

July 3, 2015

Answers to the same question by two different archbishops highlight the world of difference that exists in the way some church officials approach LGBT issues.

Archbishop Charles Chaput

A little over a week ago, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke at a Vatican press conference about September’s World Meeting of Families (WMF), which his city is hosting, and he made some remarks about welcoming gay and lesbian people to the event which sounded more like an insult.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Chaput answered a question about whether gay families and their issues would be welcome at the gathering by stating:

” ‘We hope that everyone feels welcome to come, and certainly people who have experienced same-sex attraction are certainly welcome like anyone else,’ he said.

“But, the archbishop added, ‘we don’t want to provide a platform at the meeting for people to lobby for positions contrary to the life of our church, so we’re not providing that kind of lobbying opportunity.’ “

Archbishop Vincent Paglia

But at the same meeting, Archbishop Vincent Paglia, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on the Family, which is the sponsor of the WMF, took a different approach to the same question.   According to the Italian Catholic news website, La Fede QuotidianaPaglia answered:

” ‘We follow to the letter the “Instrumentum Laboris” [working paper] of the Synod.  Anyone can come, without exception. And if someone feels left out, I leave the 99 sheep and will go find the one.

” ‘The close connection; between the meeting in the US and the Synod, said Monsignor Paglia, ‘is apparently not only temporal. The hope is that the meeting in Philadelphia and the October Synod can really build a social and ecclesial season with renewed leadership for the family.For this we want to work. We want the Gospel of mercy to be proclaimed in the great cities of the world, especially to the poorest and most peripheral.’ “

[For the original Italian language version of the La Fede Quotidiana story, click here.

Paglia is approaching the issue as a pastor, while Chaput is viewing it from the perspective of an administrator.  Paglia’s approach stresses an unconditional welcome, while Chaput’s approach indicates that he is expecting people to cause trouble.  Paglia highlights mercy, while Chaput highlights law.

Chaput’s negative comment might be referring to the fact that WMF  administrators recently turned down a request by Fortunate Families, a network of Catholic parents with LGBT children, to have an exhibit booth at the event.  A WMF administrator explained the rejection:

“Fortunate Families advocates for parental acceptance of LGBT children and adolescents in such a way that ‘acceptance’ requires that parents must show full acceptance of both the person and the entirety of every aspect of the person’s gay or transgender lifestyle. . . .”

This explanation shows that the official was not familiar with Fortunate Families or the way that any parent chooses to respond to any unexpected issue that a child raises.

One commentator has pointed out that Chaput’s comment might indeed be the very thing which sets off demonstrations at the WMF. In PhillyMag.com, veteran gay rights activist Mark Segal noted:

“They wouldn’t come to protest the pope. But if [Chaput] decides to keep insulting the gay community, I would not be surprised if they decide to protest him.”

In an interview with PhillyVoice.com, Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, which is a member of the Equally Blessed coalition,  explained that the coalition’s members (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) are sponsoring 14 families with LGBT members to be pilgrims at the WMF.   She highlighted an essential problem in Chaput’s language of “lobbying”:

“I guess I would question, ‘what do you mean by lobby. If being there to share our stories, to share our faith, is considered lobbying then I guess we are at an impasse.”

Chaput’s approach indicates a defensive position, which imagines a situation’s potential threats.  Perhaps that has been the problem for many years as to why Catholic leaders have not dialogued with LGBT people and their families.

The good news, however, is that Paglia’s approach shows a different attitude that seems to be taking root in more and more church leaders.   Paglia, and others, may not yet accept the moral goodness of lesbian and gay relationships, but their open approach at least allows open the possibility of dialogue.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related post:

Fortunate Families Blog: “On Pilgrimage, What is ‘Normal’ and Variation”

 


A Prayerful Catholic Response to the U.S. Supreme Court Decision

June 27, 2015

As we continue to rejoice over the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling on marriage equality yesterday, let’s take a few moments today in prayer to reflect on the meaning of this development. The following is by a guest blogger.

 

By Michael F. Pettinger

The Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriage is an occasion for Catholics to pray. I’d like to share with you a prayer I learned as a child in the Junior Legion of Mary.

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit has rejoiced in God, my Savior.

Not the prayer you expected? But what better song of praise is there than Mary’s Magnificat? (Luke 1: 46-55) And is it not always right and just to magnify the Lord?

For God has looked upon the loneliness of a servant,

and henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

“Magnificat” by Franz Anton Maulbertsch

I know that the original Magnificat says “lowliness,”not “loneliness.” But isn’t loneliness a form of lowliness? And on that first morning of human creation, didn’t God say, “It is not good for the human to be alone?” So God instituted marital relationships because we were alone. And if in answering that loneliness God made a different gender, it only shows that the one who comes to love us can take surprising forms. When Adam sees the startling figure of Eve, he discovers that he is something startling too – a man. He also discovers that Eve, a woman, as different as she is, is human.

Now that our contemporary culture is beginning to acknowledge the dizzying varieties of gender made in the image of the infinite God, what we need to remember is that we are all human. Many people think this variety will somehow threaten the social order. But that social order exists, in part, to relieve the loneliness of each and every one of those human images of God. As Justice Kennedy wrote of the plaintiffs in the case and their attitudes towards marriage, “Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.”

We’ve come a little closer to relieving the loneliness we all suffer. We still have a long way to go.

For God Who is Mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is God’s name . . .

You might think God has been resisting this moment of marriage equality all God’s life. I’m pretty sure that’s not true. I aspire to be a historian of Christianity and I have some ideas as to why it’s taken us so long to get here. But one thing is clear: it’s not God who wants me to be alone, and God will no longer let anyone keep me that way.

. . . and God’s mercy is from generation unto generation,

to those who fear God.

Some people say I just want to make God in my image. But I fear God. I fear God enough not to lie about who I am, nor will I let anyone else lie about my extensive queer family. Fearing God also means hearing God. And you haven’t heard God’s voice if you haven’t heard the voices of  queer folk as well. A lot of people suppose that doing God’s will on earth means closing their eyes and ears and hearts to the loneliness of their queer siblings. They shouldn’t be surprised that God has listened to us and found someone else to do God’s will.

For God has shown a mighty arm.

God has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.

Some will feel insulted by these words. “Are you calling US proud? Aren’t YOU the people who celebrate pride?” The answer to that question is that there different kinds of pride. At our best, the pride we celebrate is the pride of Jesus Christ who never said to the ones who lied about him and betrayed him, “You’re right. I deserve this. Go ahead, nail me to that cross.”

Neither will we.

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But then there’s a negative kind of pride, too, as when people say that God instituted  marriage for man and woman, and then act as if, God cannot share the gift of marriage with whomever God pleases. God does not need us to direct God’s grace. God acts anywhere, any time, in ways that will astonish us. As the Gospel says: “God can raise up children to Abraham from these very stones.” (Matthew 3:9)

God has cast the mighty down from their thrones,

and God has exalted the lowly.

God has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich God has sent empty away.

No one wants to get knocked from their thrones. No one wants to go hungry. But sometimes we don’t even see our throne until we’ve fallen from it.

In the last year, I’ve had someone say to me, “your lifestyle is a harbinger of disease. It’s biologically abnormal. It’s not a sin to be ‘homosexual,’ but you shouldn’t act on it.” This person has known me almost my whole life and has known I am gay for the last thirty years. I thought we were close, that we loved each other. But I never spoke about my life as a gay man, and was never asked about it. And when the time came to speak, my friend only repeated more or less what they had been taught to say. So I told the hard truth about what that teaching had done to me and, more importantly, what it continues to do others. And what was the response? “You have belittled and dehumanized me. When did you become so hate-filled?”

It’s as if this person could not hear the hate in their own words.

But responding in anger didn’t make me a saint. I have written a lot about healing the divide in our Church, yet when the moment came I could think of nothing to say that wasn’t meant to hurt the person exactly as I had been hurt. I told the truth, and I can tell myself that they needed to feel the same pain I experienced? But there’s no satisfaction in an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Thinking about this incident  only filled me with more rage.

After a period of reflection, I began to see it differently.

Now I see it differently. This person kicked me to the ground, and I retaliated by  knocking  down their throne. In our pride, we have both gone hungry for the love we once had. But in this life at least, the ground is as far as you can fall. And since God is casting us all from our thrones and setting us up again on wobbly feet, maybe we will all finally meet where we were always meant to be – on the good earth, waiting for God’s mercy.

God ever mindful of mercy, has aided Israel, a servant, 

and kept the promise to our fathers and mothers,

to Abraham, and to their seed for ever.

There was a time when I gave up on that mercy. For a long time it seemed that God had forgotten me, and if I was going to live, I would have to forget God. Maybe I fell for the myth that the powers of  secular Enlightenment were vanquishing Ignorance and Superstition. This thought is the opposite  of the one that say that godless gays are braying against the People of Faith. Neither one is true.

Because however good we think we are, God is better. And where none of us are truly good, the only triumph worth singing about is the triumph of God over every one of us. We’re finally getting justice despite the sinful stupidity that sets all of us at each other’s throats. The Supreme Court has declared that those whose relationships had been despised or ignored can now claim their place in the eyes of one and all. But if we’re open to receiving that justice, it also means remembering that neither marriage, nor sex with a hundred different people, nor a life of no sex at all, will make us good and happy. Good and happy is the gift of God’s love.

I heard this prayer from the woman who first sang this song – a pregnant girl who had not been received into her husband’s house. Who knew who the father was? Her answer would strike anyone of right mind as ridiculous, crazy, or a bold-faced lie. But she knew the truth and it was good for her. Visiting a church a few weeks ago, I saw her statue and realized that, because of things that I had heard about her – and about me – I had stopped praying to her. I wasn’t sure if she was on my side.

So I asked her.

This song was her reply.

I’m thankful she taught it to me.

*     *     *

Me3Michael Pettinger is a professor of literature and religious studies at Eugene Lang College. He is co-editor of Queer Christianities (New York University Press, 2014) and lives in Brooklyn, NY.” He is a contributor to The Huffington Post.


Another Side to Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George on LGBT Issues

June 25, 2015

About 16 months before he died on April 17, 2015, Chicago’s conservative Cardinal Francis George made some surprisingly positive remarks in a private letter to a gay friend about his friend’s relationship, life, and the possibility of doctrinal change.  The following is the account of that letter, dated December 12, 2013, by its recipient, Maurice Monette, who is now making its contents public. A PDF image of the letter is available here.

 

by Maurice Monette

Cardinal Francis George

I was a long-time friend and confrere of Cardinal George before I left the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and married my husband, Jeff Jackson . I had sent the cardinal a copy of my book, Confessions of a Gay Married Priest: A Spiritual Journey (Amazon, 2013), and his positive written reaction to that memoir which explores my integration of sexuality, spirituality, and relationship has given me hope for the Catholic Church.

“It was very kind of you to think of me and send a copy of your autobiographical memoir,” he began in a full-page letter on Archdiocese letterhead. “It has been a long time since we have had a conversation, but I felt as if I were talking to you through your book. The turn of phrases, the method of presentation and of argument, leaves you very alive in your pages.”

In that letter Cardinal George sent me, he was following up on our last conversation in 1988 at a sidewalk cafe in Rome. He and I knew each other as professors and priests from the same religious congregation. We shared dinner that evening with another priest who put Francis George in his place after he waxed very-informed-Roman about the evil of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. During the same evening, Francis argued that seminaries should be purged of gay men. That night I decided that there was little space in the church for me.

The rest of Francis’s letter surprised me: “It was good to hear the tone of happiness that underlies the presentation of your life. It was good also to get the sense that you have resolved things without bitterness and are free to continue the journey. All this I deeply appreciate.”

Maurice Monette receives a kiss from Jeff Jackson, his husband.

Francis caught my tone and spirit, a by-product of 26 years of happy marriage to a wonderful man. But my tone belied my sadness and regret that the doctrinaire rigidity of the 1980’s church had never left space for genuine dialogue about the oppression of sexual minorities (my oppression), or that of so many others.

“As you yourself said in your note to me, my perspective on the path taken is different from yours.” That is an understatement! Cardinal George was an outspoken opponent of marriage equality; he called same-sex marriage “something that nature itself tells us is impossible”; and he protested LGBT Pride parades near places of worship, claiming gays abuse the freedom of speech like the Ku-Klux-Klan  (he later apologized).

So, it was even more surprising to me that on the night that he died, I found hope in the next words of his letter: “Nonetheless, with you, I agree that we need to keep listening to each other rather than speaking at cross-purposes. The categories of explanation of human experience are many and, as I’m sure you know, I can’t fit all your actions into the sense of things that I believe we have been given through Divine Revelation, even as I know that there is development in interpretation of events and of doctrine.”

As more courts, legislatures, electorates and religious groups around the world affirm the civil rights of marriage equality and religious freedom can thrive together, the words of the Cardinal offer me hope that leadership in the Catholic Church is also moving in the direction of justice and love.

I pray that Francis George died in peace knowing that his studied perspective is appreciated and his willingness to listen and grow is treasured and needed in today’s Catholic church and in other powerful institutions — and that he died confident in a just and loving God.

*     *     *

Maurice L. Monette’s Confessions of a Gay Married Priest won the 2013 Global Ebook Award for best LGBT non-fiction and a 2014 Nautilus Award as a “Better Book for a Better World”.   When a priest, Monette also published seven books on church leadership. Monette can be reached at GayMarriedPriest.com or on Facebook at Confessions of a Gay Married Priest.


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