What Did a Cardinal Tweet About Book On Reparative Therapy?

A top African cardinal recently tweeted about a book on reparative therapy and another book that claims the LGBT movement is totalitarian. What exactly is his message in doing so, and what could the pastoral implications be?

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 12.15.05 PM.pngIn early August, Cardinal Wilfred Napier of Durban, South Africa tweeted about the book, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach. He linked to quotes from the book in three tweets, and in one of the tweets commented before the quote’s beginning:

“Just started reading this challenging work on a subject of great importance. ‘And most of all I want to express m. . . ‘” [Ed. note:  The tweet ended abruptly.]

The book is authored by Josepn Nicolosi, a founding member and former president of  National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a reparative therapy advocacy group the . It was published in 2012, and is based on ideas that have long been discredited by mainstream professional communities.

In July, Napier tweeted about another book,  The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom by Gabriele Kuby, which is also highly critical of LGBT people. Its dust jacket description includes the following:

“From the [LGBT] movement’s trailblazers to the post-Obergefell landscape, she documents in meticulous detail how the tentacles of a budding totalitarian regime are slowly gripping the world in an insidious stranglehold. Here on full display are the re-education techniques of the new permanent revolution, which has migrated from politics and economics to sex.”

Several anti-gay figures have also endorsed Kuby’s book, including Austin Ruse of the Center for Family and Human Rights (classified as a hate group) and leaders with the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom. Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 explored how these extreme right wing figures and groups have helped import homophobia to Africa, even advocating for harsher criminalization laws.

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 12.28.27 PM.pngFinally, Napier retweeted a derogatory image against transgender persons posted by another user. It is a chart of differing gender identities, around which male and female are circled and labeled as “genders.” The other near three dozen identities are circled and labeled as “mental disorders.”

Why is Napier giving a tacit endorsement to these books and this chart by tweeting about them with little to no commentary?

His promotion of them is even more problematic given the Catholic magisterium’s own ambiguity about reparative therapy and what Vatican officials have termed “gender ideology.” The Catechism says the “psychological genesis” of homosexuality is unknown, though admits there is a “non-negligible” number of people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” The U.S. bishops’ document Always Our Children addresses the issue of  reparative therapy more directly, but is ambiguous about support for it:

“You can help a homosexual person in two general ways. First, encourage him or her to cooperate with God’s grace to live a chaste life. Second, concentrate on the person, not on the homosexual orientation itself. This implies respecting a person’s freedom to choose or refuse therapy directed toward changing a homosexual orientation. Given the present state of medical and psychological knowledge, there is no guarantee that such therapy will succeed. Thus, there may be no obligation to undertake it, though some may find it helpful.”

Given these statements, Cardinal Napier could be promoting Nicolosi’s book and feel he is defended by church teaching. Doing so, though, is certainly not within the limits of contemporary discourse on these issues, which has overwhelmingly rejected reparative therapy as pseudoscience and where the diagnosis of gender dysphoria remains highly controversial.

What is more problematic for me is not Napier’s ideas engagement with alternative viewpoints or even an engagement of ambiguous doctrine. The problems arise when reading his tweets through a pastoral lens. The harm reparative therapies have caused pastorally and psychologically is well-documented, which has led to a dozen or so countries and at least eight U.S. states to ban it in some or all forms. Of particular concern is forcing children to engage in such therapy, given the long term harm it can cause them. All of these realities seem to suggest it would be pastorally inappropriate to speak positively about Nicolosi’s writings.

Additionally, Napier is a culture warrior. Though not a signatory, he supported five cardinals’ submission of dubia to Pope Francis about perceived doctrinal issues with Amoris Laetitia. His Twitter feed includes many statements and retweets that place him clearly in the right wing of the church, and he emerged as a strong reactionary voice at the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family. Read with this knowledge as context, his tweets about reparative therapy, the LGBT movement as totalitarian, and gender diversity as mental disorders read all the more threateningly.

I cannot know what is in Cardinal Napier’s heart or on his mind when tweeting quotes from Nicolosi’s book or linking to Kuby’s book, and especially not when retweeting the gender diversity chart. Still I have one invitation I humbly propose for the cardinal.

Cardinal Napier once claimed he could not be homophobic because he did not personally know any lesbian or gay people. He may not know when he has met an LGBT person, though it is almost assured that he has encountered members of these gender and sexual minority communities.

As a pastor, Napier would be wise to stop reading junk science and spend his time going out to meet with and listen to the stories of LGBT people and their families. That would be the real “challenging work on a subject of great importance,” and it would be the Christ-like path, too.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 17, 2017

Church Officials in Cameroon Say Bishop Murdered by Gay Priests

A church official in Cameroon claimed another bishop who died did not die by suicide as police have argued but was killed by gay priests.

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Bishop Jean Marie Benoit Bala

Monsignor Joseph Akonga Essomba made his accusation while preaching at a memorial Mass for Bishop Jean Marie Benoit Bala, who led the Diocese of Bafia, reported Crux.

Akonga said the “Catholic Church has come under attack,” both by government officials who had Benoit “brutally murdered” and the gay priests who informed on him:

“‘Shame to all those people in black suits and black spectacles [government officials] always sitting in the front rows of the Church. . .Shame to all those priests who have come here, pretending to sympathize. These are the people who killed our bishop, because he said ‘no’ to the homosexuality perpetrated by those priests.'”

Benoit’s body was found in a river, a few miles downstream from his car which was parked on a bridge and had a note inside that said, “I am in the water.” Government officials and foreign experts all concluded through an extensive investigation that included forensic evidence that the bishop drowned, potentially as a suicide.

Cameroon’s bishops have rejected these findings, as have many Catholics. Bishop George Nkuo said:

“‘The same reasons for which Christ was crucified apply to the killing of the bishop. . .He was killed because he stood for the truth. Any pastor, any bishop, any priest who stands for the truth should be ready to face the sword. It’s a beautiful way to die.'”

Bishop Sosthéne Léopold Bayemi of Obala said Benoit’s death proved that the church “will always resist the forces of evil,” while Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala, who heads the National Episcopal Conference, said the government should be truthful about who really killed Benoit.

The hierarchy’s rhetoric is highly dangerous and reckless.  Since no one has presented any evidence for the involvement of gay priests in Benoit’s death, the accusation smacks of the lowest kind of scapegoating.  Serious consequences to LGBT people and to priests can result because of such rhetoric.

There is a complete lack of concern for the dignity of such populations when bishops should be especially concerned with marginalized populations. If there are legitimate questions about the government’s investigations, the bishops should present facts, not accusations against an already stigmatized group.

Homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon, and some human rights group say it is the most aggressive nation in the world enforcing a gay criminalization law. Targeting gay priests for committing violence greatly increases the stigmas about and potential violence against LGBT people in general.

The bishops can correct their dangerous rhetoric if they retract their claims about gay involvement in Benoit’s death and make a positive statement about showing “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” for LGBT people. This case is also a powerful reminder of how a strong statement from Pope Francis condemning criminalization laws and violence against LGBT people could be. It is time for both Cameroon’s bishops and Pope Francis to speak out.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 13, 2017

 

 

Bishop Calls Being Gay a “Gift from God,” Seeks to Save LGBT Lives

Homosexuality is a “gift from God” according to one bishop in Brazil, who said his intentions in preaching on the topic were about saving the lives of LGBT people who may be at risk.

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Bishop Antônio Carlos Cruz Santos

Bishop Antônio Carlos Cruz Santos of Caicó made the positive remarks in a July homily, telling Mass-goers:

“‘If [being gay] is not a choice, if it is not a disease, in the perspective of faith it can only be a gift. . .The gospel par excellence is the gospel of inclusion. . .The gospel is a narrow door, yes, it is a demanding love, but it is a door that is always open.'”

Cruz added that perhaps “our prejudices do not get the gift of God” in LGBT people. Prejudice, he said, puts “concept before experience” and creates a negative impact.

As a black bishop, he related the situation with homosexuality today to a time when black people were enslaved due to white people’s prejudices, adding:

“‘Just as we were able to leap, in the wisdom of the Gospel, and overcome slavery, is it not the time for us to leap, from a perspective of faith, and overcome prejudices against our brothers who experience same-sex attraction?'”

Cruz also preached that people discover their sexual orientation rather than choose it. People of all sexual orientations have a choice about how to express that sexuality either “in a dignified, ethical way, or in a promiscuous one,” he added.

Crux reported that Cruz was prompted to make these statements after hearing a radio segment on the high rates of suicide in transgender communities. Moved by their suffering, Cruz considered the many LGBT people “who feel misunderstood and unloved by us, who are Church, by their families, by their society and even by themselves.”

Facing criticism, Cruz clarified his intentions in a statement the following week, saying his concerns were pastoral and not doctrinal. He wanted to “save lives, contributing so that we can overcome the prejudices that kill and enter into the dynamic of God’s mercy that respects, rescues and saves people.” Cruz’ statement continued:

“As Pope Francis told us many times, people already know by heart the doctrine of the Church about abortion, divorce and homosexual acts. . .He asks us not to be obsessed with sin, increasing the wounds of these people, and insists that the doors of the church are open to welcome, instruct, discern, love in order to bring salvation to all without exception.”

It is an often repeated but never tired truth that having one’s heart really broken open is key for committing oneself to solidarity with people forced to the margins. From the radio story, through his own reflections, and using contemporary knowledge about sexuality, Cruz was enabled to offer words of compassion and hope. His homily and statement were wonderful first steps, and I hope he will keep that commitment growing by not only preaching but acting to save lives and affirm people’s dignity wherever LGBT communities are under attack.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 10, 2017

Catholics Will Participate in Ecumenical LGBT Gathering This Fall

Leaders of the Catholic LGBT movement will join with other Christians this fall for an exciting conference on the history and future of the interfaith movement for equality.

home-featured-image-2Organizers of “Rolling Away the Stone: Generations of Love and Justice” say it will bring together an “unprecedented array of elders, saints and prophets.” The gathering hopes to preserve the stories of early LGBT Christian leaders, host dialogue about present issues, and raise the visibility of the many movements for LGBT equality in Christian churches.

More specifically, “Rolling Away the Stone” will explore how faith communities were involved with HIV/AIDS, marriage equality, and aided theological development. It will be happening October 31st to November 2nd in St. Louis.

Several Catholic leaders will participate, including DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke who is on the ecumenical planning team. Others include:

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, who began pastoral outreach to the lesbian/gay community in 1971. In addition to helping to found Dignity chapters in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., she started New Ways Ministry in 1977, with the late Father Robert Nugent, to be a national bridge-building ministry between the sexual minority community and the Church. . She has continued writing, speaking, and educating on LGBT Catholic issues since then. Sr. Jeannine was censured by the Vatican in 1999, but in conscience chose not to collaborate with her own oppression and continued her ministry.

Mary Hunt is a married lesbian theologian who co-founded, with her wife Diann Neu, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER) and participates in the Catholic women-church movement. She is a prolific scholar, having written several books and many articles at the intersection of feminism and religion. She has written chapters in books that include Sexual Diversity and Catholicism, Queer Christianities: Lived Religion in Transgressive Forms, Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religion: Problem and Prospect.

Jamie Manson is the only out queer women in Catholic media, serving as books editor at the National Catholic Reporter where she also writes the award-winning column, “Graces on the Margins.” Manson studied theology, specifically sexual ethics and spirituality, with Margaret Farley at Yale Divinity School. She also speaks and gives retreats on and for LGBTQ Catholics, young adults, and the church.

Brian McNaught is a married gay Catholic writer and speaker who engaged in a seventeen day hunger fast in 1974 to protest his column being dropped from a Catholic newspaper after he had come out. Two bishops in Detroit promised to support gay Catholics as a result of McNaught’s fast. He also helped found Dignity/Detroit, worked in Dignity’s national office, and help secure the passage of a pro-gay resolution at the 1976 Call to Action conference. He authored several books, including A Disturbed Peace – Selected Writings of an Irish Catholic Homosexual.

Bernard Schlager is the Executive Director at The Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies (CLGS) at Pacific School of Religion, and is a professor, as well.

Nickie Valdez is a married lesbian Catholic who, after coming out in the early 1960’s, helped found the LGBT Catholic organization Dignity, Inc., as well as Dignity/San Antonio, the oldest LGBT organization in that city. She has also worked with several other LGBT organizations in San Antonio.

This historic gathering, which is bringing together dozens of LGBT Christian leaders needs your support. They are seeking financial assistance not only from individuals, but from faith communities. You can find out about the multiple ways to give (financial support, airline miles donations, volunteering, etc.) by clicking here.

If you have any questions, can contact the conference’s Development Coordinator (and gay Catholic advocate), Ryan Hoffmann, at ryan@rollingthestoneaway.org or 888-207-2935.

Thank you for your generosity!

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 5, 2017

Bishop Doubles Down on Denying Communion to Gays, Lesbians, and Others

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield has doubled down on his June decree barring married lesbian and gay people from the life of the church. In a video responding to critics, he said there are also many other people who should not present themselves for Communion.

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 9.46.24 AM
Screenshot from Bishop Paprocki’s video

The video, released July 9, applied Canon 916 from the Church’s Code of Canon Law to a number of groups the bishop considered to be “conscious of grave sin.” Catholic News Service reported that groups targeted by Paprocki include:

“[T]he divorced and remarried without an annulment. . .An exception would be where the couple agrees to live as brother and sister, as long as there is no public scandal. Similarly, if there is no public scandal, two men who live chastely with each other as friends or as brother and brother, or two women who live chastely with each other as friends or as sister and sister, may receive Holy Communion if there is no public scandal.”. . .

“Those politicians and judges who helped to make same-sex marriage legal and who aid and abet abortion, for example, by voting for taxpayer funding for abortion, should not receive Holy Communion unless they repent, go to confession and amend their lives.”

Paprocki’s video is a response to critics of his “Decree Regarding Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues,” which bars married lesbian and gay people from parish and liturgical ministries and even says ecclesiastical funeral rites should be denied to them (though not if, in Paprocki’s words, such a Catholic were to “repent and renounce their marriage”).

The bishop said it was “astounding” that “there would be such an outcry” about the Decree. which  That outcry, Paprocki said, shows “how strong the LGBT lobby is” in society and in the church. The Decree was released on the first anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando in which 49 LGBT people were killed.

Paprocki pushed back specifically against Fr. James Martin, SJ, who used social media to publicly criticize the Decree. The bishop said Martin “gets a lot wrong” because his Decree is a “rather straightforward application of existing Catholic doctrine and canon law,” not discrimination.

In addition to those listed above, Paprocki named several other groups who should not present themselves for Communion. These include people who have “sexual relations outside of a valid marriage,”  people who have had or assisted in abortions, people using artificial contraception, and anyone who misses Mass on Sundays. He added:

“These are just a few examples. . .Those who do receive Holy Communion while conscious of grave sin compound the moral offense by committing the sin of sacrilege.”

The Decree is not Bishop Paprocki’s first damaging act against LGBT people and their families. Last year, he implicitly criticized Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich for suggesting that reception of Communion is to be determined by each person according to their conscience. When Illinois passed marriage equality in 2013, Paprocki held a public exorcism because of the law, and he had previously suggested that supporters of marriage equality should be disciplined like children.

As expected, Catholics have continued to implicitly and explicitly criticize Paprocki.  In San Jose, Bishop Patrick McGrath released a memo to pastoral ministers in the diocese saying their response to the faithful should be “compassionate and pastoral,”and that they “will not refuse sacraments or Christian Burial to anyone who requests them in good faith.”

Elsewhere, Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry wrote an open letter to Paprocki; fourteen church reform organizations sent him a letter expressing their shock and disappointment; and Women-Church Convergence sent a pastoral letter to the faithful in the Springfield diocese.

Bishop Paprocki’s Decree has already done tremendous damage, and caused the very scandal he ostensibly sought to avoid. He should not be doubling down on harming people. His words har not only people in the Diocese of Springfield affected directly by them but many people across the United States who hear about them. It is time for church leaders to follow Bishop McGrath’s example and publicly, even if indirectly, join Paprocki’s critics.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 28, 2017

Related Article

New Civil Rights Movement: “Catholic Bishop Decrees Lawmakers Who Voted for Same-Sex Marriage Should Not Receive Communion

 

 

Priest Asks Church About ‘What Happens Next’ After LGBT People Are Welcomed?

With an increased welcome for LGBT people in the Catholic Church, one priest is asking what comes next after hospitality is shown and doors are opened?

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Fr. Alexander Santora

Fr. Alexander Santora, pastor of Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph parish in Hoboken, New Jersey, cited as good news both Cardinal Joseph Tobin’s welcome of LGBT pilgrims to the Newark Cathedral and Fr. James Martin, SJ’s new book on LGBT issues. But, in a piece for NorthJersey.com, he raised new questions about “what happens next?”:

“How will the LGBT community come back to a church that has no positive theology on homosexuality and no consensus on how to even begin to fashion one? Even if preachers and priests refrain from repeating the tired shibboleths against gay men and lesbians, what will they hear in church? Where do they find comfort in the Scriptures proclaimed from the pulpit? And how will the local parish minister to them?”

Santora not only asked questions, but provided an initial answer for how hospitality at parishes can evolve into deeper accompaniment. He said parishes need to be holding local community discussions that include both LGBT people and parish leaders. Questions explored could include:

“What are the perceived hurts? What struggles do gays search for help from church? How can they heal the rifts within their families who do not support them?

“But taking Martin to heart, gay men and lesbians need to hear how church leaders search for ways to make sense of the lived gay experience, which are varied and stereotyped. Honest, two-way listening and affirming are needed.”

Pope Francis has said the church must “make sense of the ‘night’ contained in the flight of so many,” and “know how to interpret, with courage, the larger picture” of why Catholics leave the church. This reality must be part of any discussion.

Santora also said evolving parish work on LGBT issues needs to be informed by contemporary theological and scientific research. These insights shed light on how to pastorally implement church teaching in the manner favored by Pope Francis, which emphasizes conscience.

Using the Archdiocese of Newark as an example with its several Catholic colleges, Santora said “[s]urely there are theologians who can lead a summit on where we go in light of the latest scientific research as it applies to the LGBT community.”

Santora recommended that theological research at local levels begin with John McNeill’s The Church and the Homosexual, published originally in 1976:

“Though [McNeill’s] Jesuit superiors initially gave its imprimatur, the Vatican forced them to rescind it and silence McNeill, who eventually was bounced from the Society of Jesus.

“He continued writing, but he also served as a psychotherapist to the gay community up until his death at the age of 90 in 2015. His book tackled the real implications of a fixed orientation, which requires a new moral and theological paradigm. His reasoning offered gay men and lesbians hope and affirmation to lead a moral life.”

Santora’s recommendations are good, and there are certainly more ways by which hospitality becomes walking together in parishes. Such actions, in his words, “put flesh on the vision of Francis.”

It is a hopeful sign that the bridge-building which Catholics began as early as the 1970s, and have continued along the way, is being picked up by church leaders in a new way today. It’s now up to the faithful to act in the ways  Santora and others are advocating, and to help move the church from welcome to inclusion.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 27, 2017

Related articles by Fr. Alexander Santora:

NJ.com:  Bringing gays and the church closer together”

NJ.com: “N.J. cardinal offers historic welcome to LGBT community”

 

Cardinal Schönborn Says Church Must Meet All Families Where They Are

A top cardinal has endorsed the idea that the church support all families, including those not considered traditional by the Magisterium’s standard.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna made his remarks while attending a conference in Ireland entitled, “Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family.” He told journalists, per The Catholic Herald: 

“Favouring the family does not mean disfavouring other forms of life – even those living in a same-sex partnership need their families. . .[Family is] the survival network of the future [and] will remain forever the basis of every society.”

Before the conference held in the city of Limerick, Schönborn addressed the idea of family as it relates specifically to Ireland, reported The Independent:

“‘Ireland is synonymous with family, a country that traditionally has had family at its core. . Second unions, divorce, same-sex unions; these are all part of a new narrative around the family in Ireland. So there is a lot of change and the church must show mercy in the context of that change. It must be willing to meet families where they are today.

“‘Ultimately, and this is certainly the case with Ireland, for all the crises in the institution of marriage the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people.'”

Schönborn added that “the weakening of family” threatens society and, as such, “Reinvigorating family is perhaps our great mission today.”

Schönborn’s comments are grounded in his understanding of moral theology. He expounded on this topic during his Irish visit, and Crux quoted the cardinal as saying, “Moral theology stands on two feet: Principles, and then the prudential steps to apply them to reality.” The report continued:

“The problem, he said, was that conscience came often to be seen merely as “the transposition of the Church’s teaching into acts” but in fact “the work of conscience is to discover that God’s law is not a foreign law imposed on me but the discovery that God’s will for me is what is best for me. But this must be an interior discovery.”

“He was ‘deeply moved’ when he read the famous paragraph 37 of Amoris, which complains that too often the Church fails to make room for the consciences of the faithful, and that the task of the Church is to ‘form consciences, not replace them.’

That meant understanding that people operated within constraints. . .’The bonum possibile in moral theology is an important concept that has been so often neglected,’ said Schönborn, adding: ‘What is the possible good that a person or a couple can achieve in difficult circumstances?'”

Grounding his remarks in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the cardinal summarized the document’s message as “marriage and family are possible today,” and said it was noteworthy that even when “everybody can get married. . .so many choose not to get married.”

About pastoral care to families, Schönborn said the reception of Amoris Laetitia is “a long process.” He criticized both rigorists and laxists “who have rapid, clear answers.” Accompaniment, the cardinal said citing St. Gregory the Great, “is an art and it needs training.” Indeed, he admitted the Synod on the Family and Amoris Laetitia were not a set of rules that would be applicable in all cases.

What is refreshing about Cardinal Schönborn’s remarks in Ireland is his willingness to admit reality, and then do theology from it amid life’s messiness rather than dictate from idealized models. Being the child of divorced parents likely helps his more merciful understanding of so-called irregular families. His desire to seek the good that is possible in all situations, including same-gender relationships, is too rare among church leaders.

Schönborn’s visit comes a year before Ireland hosts the 2018 World Meeting of Families, which could be accompanied by a papal visit. There may be no more fitting backdrop for the Catholic Church to consider family than Irish society, given its rapid changes, but this will only be true if church leaders are honest about the realities around them.

Hopefully, the next World Meeting of Families takes up Schönborn’s approach, and focuses on how the church can support all families instead of just those which fit the strict parameters of the Magisterium.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 21, 2017