Scottish Bishop Says ‘Chaste Life’ Must Be Part of Gay Ministry

A Scottish bishop has asked his priests to include the church’s regulation of celibacy for lesbian and gay people in any ministry that is directed toward them.  The bishop’s guideline comes after a parish in his diocese publicized an extravagant welcome to gay and lesbian people on its Facebook page.

The Catholic Herald reports:

“The Bishop of Motherwell [Scotland] has asked his priests to encourage those experiencing same-sex attraction to ‘lead a chaste life.’ “

“Bishop Joseph Toal issued his statement after a diocesan priest published a Facebook post that was subsequently widely shared. The priest, Fr Paul Morton of St Bride’s Church in Cambuslang, wrote: ‘We must do everything we can to redress the harm that has been done in the past by the negative stance we seem to have taken up [about gay people].’ “

Bishop John Toal

“Bishop Toal said he had been asked about the subject by a number of priests. ‘One such approach commended to me is to make available the Courage ministry/programme,’ he said.”

” ‘This encourages those who live with same-sex attraction to live a chaste life – which is also expected of all heterosexual Catholics who are not married – supported by the sacramental and prayer life of the Church.’ “

This kind of pastoral approach is not only demeaning to gay and lesbian people, it is also ineffective and goes against a principle which the Vatican itself promoted in its 1986 “Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.”  That document states, in part:

“The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a ‘heterosexual’ or a ‘homosexual’ and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.”

In promoting pastoral ministry whose main focus is chastity, Toal not only looks at gay and lesbian people as primarily homosexual, but also assumes that the main struggle that they have is with sexual activity.  This is a demeaning assumption.

Gay and lesbian people show up to church for myriad reasons.  They come with an equal amount of challenges, struggles, strengths, and joys as their heterosexual counterparts.  They come as children of God seeking to deepen their relationship with God.  Pastoral ministry with them must begin with their particular issues and not assume that sexuality is a focus for them.

Most–or I daresay, all–gay and lesbian people who come to a Catholic parish already know the magisterium’s prohibition about sexual activity.  It’s not a secret.

This phenomenon is mirrored by their heterosexual counterparts who know that contraception, masturbation, and pre-marital sex are equally forbidden by the magisterium.  Yet, no one is proposing that pastoral ministry to heterosexual people start with and focus on the church’s sexual teaching.  That simply is not good pastoral ministry, especially in the age of Pope Francis who has been urging accompaniment, encounter, and dialogue as the more effective modes of pastoral care.

The Courage ministry which Toal seems to recommend is a flawed pastoral approach in that it understands a homosexual orientation as a flaw which can be controlled by a 12-step addiction model.  In the U.S., a number of bishops have explicitly rejected such a model.

Bishop Toal needs to look at the flourishing movement of LGBT-friendly parishes who use a more holistic model of ministry that emphasizes welcome, acceptance of gifts and blessedness, and encourages integration of sexuality and spirituality.  He could start by looking at New Ways Ministry’s list of LGBT-friendly parishes by clicking here.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, August 6, 2017

 

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Scottish Parish Announces “All Gay Catholics Are Accepted and Welcomed”

A Catholic parish in Scotland made a splash on social media recently when it posted a statement that “all gay Catholics are accepted and welcomed” by the church.

saint_brides_mar_2014_002
St. Bride’s Catholic Church

St. Bride’s Church in Cambuslang posted its welcoming statement on Facebook late last month, reported The HeraldThe statement began by saying the welcome contained within it was one that pastor Fr. Paul Morton wanted reiterated. The post continued:

“In God’s house all are welcome and are the blessed and loved children of God. There should be no place in our language or our attitude which allows for prejudice or exclusion.

“Anyone who is gay and who wishes to share or discuss this with Fr Morton please feel free to come to the parish house. Also any family member who wishes to discuss or share this please come along.

“We must do everything we can to redress the harm that has been done in the past by the negative stance we seem to have taken up. We must join with others who are seeking to build a more inclusive society.”

In May, the parish posted a statement acknowledging that lesbian and gay people often feel excluded, and saying the parish wants “to emphasise in the strongest terms that we are a welcoming and inclusive parish.”

Not surprisingly, the parish’s statements have been well received and shared widely. Yet being a parish that openly affirms LGBT people can also be risky. It seems the people of St. Bride’s are willing to take a risk because they understand the realities of harm and exclusion which too many lesbian and gay people face. Fr. Morton’s recent homily on the Gospel story of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13: 44-46) offered insight into the relationship between risk and faith:

“Jesus tells a slightly risky story here in this parable and maybe it wasn’t lost on his listeners. . .Cautious, conservative, narrow is sometimes things that people say about people who have faith. But this parable seems to saying something different: that we are reckless, that we are gamblers, that we are risk takers, that we fly high, not content with what life offers we are looking for something more, the peril of great price, the hidden treasure. . .

“The parables very often give us not answers but leave us often with more questions than answers. Here is a question: are we a Church of the comfortable or a Church of risk takers?”

Over time, more Catholic parishes have chosen to take risks. They have taken intentional, public steps to become welcoming spaces for LGBT people and their families. Bondings 2.0 recently reported on how much New Ways Ministry’s list of gay-friendly parishes has grown in the last two decades, reflecting the movement’s growth.

In this age of Pope Francis and a reinvigorated conversation about Catholic LGBT issues, let us hope and pray more parishes will follow St. Bride’s parishioners in their eagerness to share messages of unconditional welcome.

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature on this blog that highlights Catholic parishes and faith communities that support and affirm LGBT people. To keep up to date on this and other Catholic LGBT news, subscribe to Bondings 2.0 by entering your email in the upper right hand corner of this page.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 3, 2017

 

Catholic Schools in Scotland to Have LGBT Safe Spaces

To better support LGBT students, every secondary Catholic school in Scotland will soon have a safe space available, reported The Herald.

logoBarbara Coupar, who directors the Scottish Catholic Education Service, announced the move after a legislator complained that some existing measures were deficient. The Herald explained:

“[Coupar] added many teachers did not feel equipped to become counsellors for pupils regardless of the problem, so schools were making sure teachers and students know where the pupils can go for help inside and outside the school.

“She said: ‘That’s why we’re going to down this avenue of ensuring that within all of our Catholic secondary schools that they would be able to go to someone, a trusted adult, a safe space within the school, where there would be someone who would have had that opportunity to be trained, for want of a better word, in order to be able to meet the needs of the young people in their care.'”

These remarks come after criticism by Christina McKelvie, a legislator who convenes the Equalities and Human Rights Committee of Scotland’s Parliament. Concerned by input from Catholic school students that some LGBT peers had died by suicide, McKelvie said:

“‘A lot of young people have told me some horrendous stories about how PSE [personal and social education classes] is used, especially going down a moralistic route as well, where a lot of young people feel really backed into a corner where they thought their thoughts and feelings were not being respected.’

“She said she had heard teachers are ‘not equipped’ to deal with LGBTI issues or misogyny ‘because either it’s dealt with as a moralistic issue or it’s something that they don’t believe in’.”

McKelvie acknowledged that Catholic education in Scotland had instances of both “brilliant” and “disturbing” support for LGBT youth. She explained that the government wants to make sure students feel protected:

“‘What we are looking for is if there’s a belief issue there, what we want is for teachers to be able to handle that, and if they can’t, for whatever reason, they’re equipped to signpost those kids to the right places for those kids to get that support. . .to address that without making young people feel as if they are committing a sin.'”

Coupar’s announcement comes several months after the Service promised trainings for teachers to become competent on matters of gender and sexuality. And she affirmed the Scottish church’s commitment to education that is inclusive and support for all students, saying the aim was to “propose the gospel, not impose the gospel.”

With National Catholic Schools Week in the United States beginning this Sunday, the creation of an LGBT safe space and trained educator in every Catholic school would be an attainable and highly effective initiative. Every Catholic school should make a commitment in 2017 similar to the one made by Scottish Catholics.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 26, 2017

Around the Globe, LGBT Progress in Catholic Education is Slow, But Happening

handsCatholic education is a foremost way by which the church influences the world, educating millions of students, Catholic and non-Catholic, globally. Given this impact, how church officials address LGBT issues matters significantly and is therefore, frequently, a source of contention. But when done well, Catholic education can do much good for LGBT youth and their peers. This Bondings 2.0 post highlights how the complexities are playing out in several countries.

Scotland

The Catholic Church in Scotland will begin training its teachers for gender and sexuality competency inclusive of LGBTI concerns, reported Pink NewsA church spokesperson said the church has a “zero tolerance approach” to end discrimination, continuing:

” ‘The Church is working with the Catholic Head Teacher association to ensure that all teachers have adequate knowledge, understanding, and training and feel confident in addressing all aspects of relationships education, including LGBTI matters, in an appropriate and sensitive way.’ “

This commitment comes as the whole nation of Scotland  focuses on inclusion in schools, led by the campaign Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) and endorsed by all major political parties. Sixteen years ago, legislators repealed Section 28 which had barred gay-positive education in schools. The repeal did, however, not address what material should be taught. TIE’s objective now, according to The Heraldis “calling for mandatory teaching of LGBTI issues in schools to end discrimination and bullying” to save lives and equalize all students.

Questions remain about how the church’s stated commitment will be concretely enacted, given negative church teachings on homosexuality, For instance, working only through Catholic organizations may limit engagement with actual LGBT people and their families. KaleidoScot noted:

“The ‘appropriate and sensitive’ way to deal with such matters would arguably be through engagement with the very people directly affected, and liaison with teaching unions and other non-Catholic organisations would surely inform the Church’s thinking. The statement also fails to give any commitment to the teaching of LGBTI matters in Catholic schools. Furthermore, in some respects, the Church spokesperson’s statement suggests that it fails to see the need for significant changes in the way its schools operate.”

It remains to be seen what the Scottish Catholic Church’s commitment to training teachers will mean; hopefully, it will involve liberating education rather then relying on past methods which have suppressed LGBT students and staff.

Australia

In Australia, politicians are debating the Safe Schools Program to assist LGBT students, and the discussion has emerged in Catholic circles.

Peter Norden, a professor at RMIT University and a former Jesuit priest, said failing to support LGBT youth may violate international law.  Norden  published an article in the Australian Journal of Human Rights saying church teaching about homosexuality can harm young students. According to The Age, he wrote :

” ‘In many ways, same-sex attracted students are being asked to remain voiceless and invisible in some Catholic schools. . .For students that are same-sex attracted, they can be treated like second class citizens.’ “

Australian Catholic schools, which educate a fifth of the country’s students, may violate the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child, Norden said. This Convention guarantees free expression, protection from violence, and dignified education. But a 2006 study of Catholic school students by Norden found high rates of self-injury and suicide, calling into question whether church officials were attending to LGBT youth’s needs:

” ‘You would hope an organisation that values empathy, mercy and engagement might have cause to review their situation.”

LGBT organizations have expressed concerns with Catholic education which, as in the United States, has religious exemptions for how it operates. Micah Scott of the Minus 18, an LGBTI youth organization, told The Age:

” ‘Many topics, including sexual and gender diversity, are unspoken. It sends a message to already vulnerable young people that who they are is institutionally forbidden, and that they should be ashamed of their identity.’ “

Catholic officials have pushed back on these claims, including Ross Fox who directs the National Catholic Education Commission and Stephen Elder, chief executive of Catholic Education Melbourne, who said schools were already focusing on eliminating bullying and unsafe behaviors.

On the other hand, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s election document listed the Safe Schools Program as one of the top four issues about which Catholics should be concerned, two others being religious liberty and marriage. The document says the Program “introduces children and teens to the concept of ‘gender fluidity’ and includes activites such as role-playing being in a sexually active same-sex relationship.”

Intrachurch conflicts were apparent, too, during a panel at the National Catholic Education Commission Conference held in June, reported The Record. Panelists largely opposed a proposed plebiscite on marriage equality, including Bishop Greg O’Kelly of Port Pirie who said the church should not campaign on the issue, but also that same-gender marriages have “submerged” the rights of children. But Carmel Nash, deputy chair of Catholic School Parents Australia, said though the church’s teachings should be respected, “many parents have probably, rightly or wrongly, moved on from the at view” and they should be respected having done so, too.

Canada

Alberta’s Catholic schools have been wracked by LGBT controversy for over a year. The Edmonton Catholic School Board ‘s consideration of a transgender policy led to one meeting become a “shouting match” last fall.  Additionally, the Board approved“just discrimination” in schools as a draft policy last December.

A new independent report questions whether the Board remains viable, noted the CBC. Donald Cummings, a consultant and the report’s author, described the Edmonton Boards governance challenges as “systemic, deep and resistant to change.” He said third-party mediation would be necessary to resolve problems. Alberta’s Education Minister, David Eggen, has intervened and assigned a deputy minister to oversee improvements by and greater accountability for the Board.

Catholic educators worldwide are increasingly being asked to grapple with LGBT inclusion and support, as more students come out and at younger ages, and more faculty and staff enter into same-gender relationships or marriages.

But one Canadian school in Toronto, Loretto College School, revealed a powerful way forward that helps entire communities. Jenna Tenn-Yuk, a spoken word artist, reported on Health and Wellness day at the all-girls high school. During  the day’s assembly, the school’s chaplain and six other staff affirmed LGBT students and championed gay-straight alliances. Tenn-Yuk wrote on her blog:

“Staff were standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ students at the front of the school. . .I was deeply moved and quite emotional before I had to speak. I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is happening right now. How would my life be different is this happened at my Catholic high school?’ . . .

“There was so much light and warmth in the room and it was an honour to be in that space. This is the start of something beautiful and will impact generations of students to come.”

That light and warmth should be what every student in Catholic education experiences, especially those who are marginalized like LGBT students. This post shows that while progress is, in many ways, being made, much work remains.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

NEWS NOTES: April 17, 2014

NewsHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1) The Catholic island nation of Malta passed legislation approving civil unions for same-gender couples, according to Gay Star News.  Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna, a Maltese Catholic bishop, who had at one time spoke favorably about same-gender relationships, was one of the prime spokesperson’s for the local Catholic hierarchy opposing the new law.

2) Catholics in Spain are strongly in support of that nation’s marriage equality law, which was enacted in 2005, according to a new survey.  West-Info.eu  reported on the survey which also noted that in two Catholic nations where same-gender marriage is not legal, the majority of believers oppose such a policy:  in Italy, 66%;  in Poland, 78%.

Mother Teresa

3) Mother Teresa is featured on the website for the United Nations’ Free and Equal program which supports non-discrimination for LGBT people around the globe.  When one clicks on her image on the homepage, one is brought to a photo of Mother Teresa under the headline “Mother Teresa Helps Us to Remember What’s Important.”   Superimposed over her photo is a quote from the universally-revered champion of the poor:  “What can you do to promote world peace?  Go home and love your family.”  The photo with the quotation can be shared on Facebook and other social media platforms.

4) The National Catholic Reporter noted that the Vatican has appointed a bishop to investigate the sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Keith O’Brien, formerly the primate of Scotland, who resigned last year when he acknowledged sexual liaisons with men who became priests in his diocese.  O’Brien made headlines for speaking out strongly against marriage equality in Scotland.  The bishop who will be leading the investigation is Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna, mentioned in the first news note above.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

Scotland Passes Marriage Equality, But Adoption by Catholic Agencies In Question

A rainbow appeared over Scotland’s Parliament hours before the successful vote on marriage equality

Scotland’s Parliament passed marriage equality on Tuesday, making it the 16th nation to establish equal marriage rights in full with a 105-18 vote. As expected, Catholic bishops sustained their objections. Additionally, a new ruling on adoption will muddy the victory for LGBT advocates. National Catholic Reporter reports further:

“Lawmakers had rejected pleas from the Catholic church to oppose the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill and also resisted attempts to amend it…

“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said in a Wednesday statement emailed to Catholic News Service that the bishops were ‘disappointed’ by the outcome of the vote.”

The Scottish bishops strongly opposed marriage equality when debate began in 2012, pledging an all out fight against any proposed law and made a failed attempt to put marriage equality to voters in a referendum. Their opposition centered around Cardinal Keith O’Brien, once named “Bigot of the Year” by Stonewall, a UK LGBT organization, who called equal marriage rights a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.”

However, O’Brien resigned in February 2013 after allegations of sexual misconduct, which he apologized for later amid the fallout. The Vatican ordered O’Brien out of Scotland, and his resignation muted the Scottish bishops’ opposition to pro-LGBT legislation, consigning it to government meetings. The new law does include religious exemptions, with the option for churches to ‘opt-in’ in offering same-gender marriages.

In a related story, the Scottish Charity Appeals Panel has ruled that a Catholic adoption agency, St. Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society, is allowed to discriminate against same-gender couples who wish to become foster and adoptive parents. This decision reverses an earlier judgement which declared that not allowing same-gender couples to adopt was discriminatory. Since sexual orientation became a protected class in non-discrimination laws, some faith-based adoption agencies in the United Kingdom have launched legal battles to provide services to only heterosexual married couples. An article in the National Catholic Reporter notes:

“But the appeals panel ruled that St. Margaret’s was a fully Catholic institution bound to operate by the teaching of the Catholic church and that “indirect discrimination” against gay couples was a legally permissible consequence of its charitable work…

“An 85-page ruling by the appeal panel, published Friday, concluded that St. Margaret’s was not breaking the law by assessing only married couples and single people as potential foster parents and adopters…

“The ruling added that indirect discrimination against gay couples was permissible because it represented a ‘proportionate means’ of obtaining a legitimate aim, allowed under the terms of the 2010 Equality Act.”

What will happen to this ruling now that same-gender couples can be legally married is unknown, but it seems imprudent for the Catholic Church to continue fighting for the right to discriminate and depriving children of loving families.

Marriages will begin for Scots in July, following up on weddings in England and Wales set to begin in March.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Former President of Ireland Calls for Change in Church’s Teaching on Homosexuality

Former Irish President Mary McAleese

Former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, had strong words for the Catholic Church while speaking in Scotland, condemning the hierarchy’s mostly negative approach to homosexuality and calling for greater transparency. Her speech occurs as controversy grows in Scotland following a priest’s suspension for offering similar insights.

McAleese’s remarks challenged Cardinal Keith O’Brien, formerly Scotland’s top Catholic official, to be open about his own homosexuality. The prelate, who has used strong language to condemn LGBT people, resigned last March after allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians became public. Irish Central quotes McAleese as saying:

“I would have thought Cardinal Keith O’Brien, in telling the story of his life – if he was willing to do that – could have been of great assistance to gay people, not just in the Church but elsewhere, who felt over many, many years constrained to pretend to be heterosexual while at the same time acting a different life.”

More broadly, the former Irish president called homosexuality “not so much the elephant in the room but a herd of elephants” for the Church’s leaders who are in denial and continued:

” ‘I don’t like my Church’s attitude to gay people. I don’t like “love the sinner, hate the sin”. If you are the so-called sinner, who likes to be called that? We also know that within the priesthood a very large number of priests are gay.’…

” ‘Things written by Benedict, for example, were completely contradictory to modern science and to modern understanding, and to the understanding of most Catholics nowadays in relation to homosexuality.’ “

She also mentioned a meeting with Ireland’s new Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, where homosexuality was discussed. McAleese mentioned a report to the nuncio attributing many youth suicides  to the Catholic hierarchy’s harmful attitudes and language about being gay. Irish Central reports that the following exchange then occurred:

“She said [the nuncio] asked her ‘What do you want me to do? Do you want us to turn our back on tradition?’ Her answer was: ‘Yes, if it’s wrong.’ “

Such direct articulations by McAleese have won her praise from Fr. Tony Flannery, an Irish priest the Vatican has attempted to silence for his work on church reform, and the Association of Catholic Priests, according to The Journal.

Kudos to McAleese for publicly and forcefully speaking truths that are apparent to so many Catholics.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry