1) The principal of a Canadian Catholic high school which used discriminatory language against gay and lesbian students on its website, among other offenses, will not be returning this fall. CBC News also reports a gay-straight alliance has now been formed at the school. These changes began after a high school student spoke out about the anti-LGBT policy, yet another reminder of the impact a single voice can have.
2) Mexican voters elected the nation’s first openly gay mayor on July 7th. Benjamin Medrano’s political career comes at a precarious moment for LGBT equality in Mexico where homophobia is still publicly acceptable in political campaigns for some areas, but public opinions and legal structures are rapidly changing. Medrano is a Roman Catholic, and while he supports equal rights, he also claims that the highly religious nation is not prepared for widespread marriage rights or other LGBT movement demands. You can read more in The Wisconsin Gazette.
3) The Dominican Republic’s leading church official helped trigger anti-LGBT protests after he used an anti-gay slur and threatening language against President Obama’s nominee for US ambassador to the island nation earlier this summer. The Advocate reports that follwing Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez’s press conference, religious leaders organized “Black Monday” protests to rouse popular support against an openly gay US diplomat. Meanwhile, the Cardinal is also mired in a sexual abuse scandal after a Polish priest under his charge may have escaped prosecution by fleeing the country with two minors.
4) A church in Denmark has been allowed to hire a gay man as its organist after the local bishop withdrew objections, reports The Copenhagen Post. Ole Knudsen is legally married to his husband, but says they live in a platonic relationship and that may have impacted the bishop’s decision.
Bonus: In case you missed it, LGBT advocates in Sweden develop a most creative (and colorful) way to protest new anti-gay laws in Russia. You can see a picture at the New Ways Ministry’s Pinterest page.
Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia, has published a new book in which he calls for the Catholic church to institute a Third Vatican Council to discuss how to prevent sexual abuse in the church, which he proposes would also include re-examining a number of other sexual and gender-oriented topics, as well. And he is starting a global movement to get Catholics to call for such an event.
Readers of Bondings 2.0 may remember that Bishop Robinson made headlines back in March of 2012 when he spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in Baltimore and called for a total re-thinking of Catholic sexual morality. He had previously been prominent because of his role as the Australian bishops’ representative to handle that country’s clerical sexual abuse crisis. That experience helped him see the church and sexuality in a different light, and he wrote a book of his new insights, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church.
Australia’s The Age newspaper reports on his new initiative to seek a Vatican III Council. which Robinson calls “a Catholic spring”:
“Retired Sydney bishop Geoffrey Robinson has launched a petition for ordinary Catholics to seek another global church council like the 1960s reforming Vatican II council. But at ”Vatican III,’ he says, there must be as many lay people as bishops to make sure the hard questions get asked.
“He believes that only a ”Catholic spring’ like the revolutions that ended the Marcos regime in the Philippines, totalitarian governments in the Arab world and communism in eastern Europe will move the Vatican to make the changes that are needed.”
Robinson lays out his call for a new council in his new book, For Christ’s Sake: End Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church … for Good, which will be published in Australia on Tuesday, June 4th. The Age describes the publication:
“The book is about the powerful cultural factors that block the church from attacking the causes of abuse, rather than merely responding afterwards. Bishop Robinson believes the church is still trying to ‘manage’ the problem rather than confront it.
” ‘Ultimately the only way to deal with abuse is prevent it. Once it’s happened, anything you do is second-rate – you can’t cure it or restore people to the way they were before,’ Bishop Robinson said.
“The biggest obstacles he identifies are papal infallibility, obligatory celibacy, the professional priestly caste, the absence of the feminine throughout the church, and an immature morality based on authority rather than people taking responsibility.”
Bishop Robinson’s efforts toward a Vatican III are supported by two other Australian prelates: Bishops Pat Power of Canberra and Bill Morris of Toowoomba. A change.org petition has already been launched in Australia for lay people to endorse the need for a Council. With no publicity it has received 10,000 signatures in about two weeks. U.S. and European versions of the petition will be launched this summer, and Bondings 2.0 will let you know about these developments as soon as they are announced.
You can learn more about Bishop Robinson and his ministry byvisiting his website.
New Ways Ministry supports Bishop Robinson’s call for a new Council with lay participation. The only way that our church can heal is if all the voices on the many diverse forms of sexuality are heard and considered.
Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leading Catholic prelate in the United Kingdom, announced on Monday that he was resigning as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and that he will not attend the upcoming papal conclave as an elector. The cardinal, one of the UK’s most visible opponents of LGBT equality, is accused of improper conduct by four priests dating back nearly three decades.
While O’Brien denies claims published in a British newspaper on Sunday that he initiated inappropriate contact, this controversial Catholic has quickly removed himself from the public eye. Andrew Brown writing atThe Guardian sees the accelerated pace of Cardinal’s resignation as progress in handling sexual abuse claims, but mulls deeper over the issues of homosexuality and forced celibacy in this scandal:
“. . . [T]he story illustrates the grotesque and humiliating difficulties that the Roman Catholic church has knotted itself into where sex and gay people are concerned…
“Of course, the real problem is that the Roman Catholic church expects an entirely unrealistic standard of continence from its priesthood. Some priests can manage celibacy. The evidence from all around the world is that most can’t…In countries where that isn’t an available alternative, the priesthood becomes a refuge for gay men – especially in societies where homophobia is the public norm.
“This fact adds irony to O’Brien’s denunciations of gay marriage. You can’t really expect better from a church that still hasn’t come to terms properly with heterosexual marriage…And a church that can’t treat women as equals is certainly not going to be realistic about marriage between two men.”
Cardinal O’Brien’s legacy will be multi-faceted, but decidedly anti-LGBT given his repeated assaults on both legal rights and pastoral concerns. Bondings 2.0 reported stories throughout last year about O’Brien, including being named ‘Bigot of the Year’ by UK-charity Stonewall.
The realities of gay priests were further elucidated by Peter Stanford at The Telegraphin an article titled, “Too many priests preach truth, but live a lie”:
“…I’ve met many clerics. Many are openly gay. Or so open when not saying Mass that it is easy to forget I’m not meant to remember it when they are.
“In general, such double standards don’t overly concern me. Like the rest of us, priests, monks, bishops and even cardinals are as God made them. Whatever inner tension they struggle with as leaders in a Church that teaches that to be gay is – and I am quoting a document sent out by the soon-to-retire Pope when he was Cardinal Ratzinger – ‘a strong tendency towards an intrinsic moral evil,’ that is a matter for their own conscience.
“Tolerance wears a bit thin, however, when they start attacking gay marriage in such strident terms from the pulpit, and even signing letters en masse in protest at the Government’s proposals. It is getting dangerously close to hypocrisy.”
Not all critics focus on the visceral efforts that Cardinal O’Brien led as one of many outwardly anti-LGBT clergymen who secretly struggle with their sexuality. Instead, LGBT advocates in some quarters express hope for change in this transitory period. Pink News reports on reactions from pro-LGBT organizations, including that of Tom French of Scotland’s Equality Network:
“‘It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the allegations made against Cardinal O’Brien. Of course we hope that the Catholic Church in Scotland will use the opportunity new leadership brings to reassess its opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.’
“‘The Catholic Church does a huge amount of good work on issues like poverty, and it’s a shame that this important work is so often overshadowed by its position on issues of sexuality.’”
Sexual abuse claims laid against homophobic leadership detracts from the Church’s truest work of justice, and undermines the more progressive policies of those like Cardinal O’Brien, who just recently proposed a renewed discussion around married Catholic clergy. In this period of episcopal transitions worldwide, perhaps the hierarchy will critically address the sexual ethics it promotes instead of doubling-down on its anti-LGBT policies.
I hate to report sickening news. When I do, I try at least to find some important lesson in the story that I think will provide readers with possibility for making improvements in the world.
For several days I have tried to find some such possibility in the horrific story out of the Netherlands that in the 1950s, Catholic Church officials approved of the castration of 11 boys in church-run psychiatric institutions, as a method to cure homosexuality. (According to a news report in The New York Times, there may also be some evidence that castration was used to punish youths for reporting sexual abuse by priests.) Very little possibility for improvement exists in such a story.
If these revelations were not sickening enough, it was also reported that the commission that the Catholic church established to investigate sexual abuse by priests was told of these incidents, but decided not to include any reference to them in its 1,100 page report last year.
The lastest development, reported in an online story by U.S. Catholic is that church officials have condemned these acts and promised to cooperate in an investigation:
“The Dutch church has pledged to fully cooperate with investigations into reported claims that Catholic institutions castrated boys and young men in their care to rid them of homosexuality.
“Bert Elbertse, spokesman for the Dutch Catholic bishops’ conference, said the bishops found the reports ‘shocking and appalling’ and that they ‘condemn and regret such practices in the strongest possible terms.’
A further comment by Elbertse reveals how truly low the reputation of Catholic officials has sunk:
“Our church has been badly damaged by accusations of sexual abuse. The fact that people were unsurprised by these latest claims suggests our image couldn’t get any worse.”
Elbertse also tried to explain the castration decisions by saying
“Although the initial public reactions to this newspaper report were very negative, many people are now asking whether the use of castration had more to do with health care at the time than with the church.”
Such an explanation rings terribly hollow, especially in view of a further explanation offered by the Dutch Catholic weekly Katholiek Nieuwsblad. According to the U.S. Catholic story, this Dutch Catholic newspaper
“. . . said records suggested about 400 men were castrated in the Netherlands between 1938 and 1968. The newspaper said castration and electric shock treatment also were used ‘not uncommonly’ on gay men at state-owned institutions in Britain and Scandinavia.
“There was no specific link with Catholicism. Indeed, Catholics and Protestants were against the use of castration as a blow to the integrity of the body.”
One has to wonder how seriously Catholic officials thought of the integrity of the bodies of young men suspected of homosexuality if these same leaders allowed the youths to be castrated.
If there is any lesson to be learned from this story, I think it is that ignorance about homosexuality naturally leads to atrocity. While church officials participating in investigations of these incidents is helpful, a better and more effective step would be for them to educate themselves about scientific knowledge about the realities of sexual orientation.