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    • Gay Games Symposium July 21, 2014
      I am pleased and honored that the UCC has asked me to moderate a symposium during the games entitled Queer Christians: Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
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      Whew! It's time to catch my breath. Since the release of Queer Clergy in February, I've been on the road ... Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and California. I have been the guest of book clubs, adult forums, LGBT reconciling groups, the Pacific School of Religion, and I've been a guest preacher (always a treat for an old lawyer). I've mad […]
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    • Prayer of the Week September 2, 2014
      My HopeBy Theresa Mary GrassLet me recognize, O God,the good in everyone.Keep me from a critical attitudeand inspire me to be open to all.Encourage me to learn from others' waysand to share knowledge willingly.Bless me with a heart that loves,hands that reach out,eyes that see the beautiful,and a voice that speaks of truth.Note: "My Hope" by T […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • Michael Morwood on the Divine Presence (Part III) September 1, 2014
      Following is a third and final excerpt from Michael Morwood's 2013 book It's Time: Challenges to the Doctrine of the Faith. To start at the beginning of this series, click here.An appreciation of the universality of the Divine Presence challenges us to move from the traditional understanding of "God" as a divine Super Person who thinks, r […]
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    • In the News: Children and Guns, A, B, C September 2, 2014
      A. First there was this: A 9-year-old girl from New Jersey accidentally shot and killed her instructor with an Uzi submachine gun [at a shooting range in Arizona] while he stood to her left side, trying to guide her. A video of the shooting, which her parents recorded on a cellphone, suggests that the girl, in pink shorts and with a braided ponytail, was una […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
    • In the News: Southern White Men and Unions, Legacy of Slavery and Regional Economic Inequality, and Knee Defenders September 2, 2014
      Some recent news items that have caught my attention. I find some common threads in them. Do you?First, Edward McClelland comments on the well-known antipathy of Southern white men to organized labor and unions:Earlier this year, the UAW tried to organize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Despite the tacit support of the company, which needed an […]
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      My current blog is called the way ahead.
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    • The travails of young love July 30, 2014
      On a bit of a hiatus from blogging for the summer as I recollect my spirit, but I may have some reflections to share this weekend about the difficulties of young love. Been listening to tales of heartbreak from some of my young students. And young River Viiperi has broken from his partner of two years, Paris Hilton, so these must be difficult days for him as […]
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    • Papa Francesco does it again July 14, 2014
      Well, the whole world - or at least the semi Christian world - is all a flutter over yet another freewheeling interview of Pope Francis conducted by acknowledged atheist and La Republica journalist Eduardo Scalfari. Before the ink had barely dried, Father Lombardi of The Vatican Press Office was already huffing out his damage control , assuring us that Scalf […]
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    • Me and Neil deGrasse Tyson on the film Gravity September 2, 2014
      This week's movie from the library was Gravity ...a 2013 science fiction thriller film. It was directed, co-written, co-produced and co-edited by Alfonso Cuarón, and stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts. The film depicts the mid-orbit destruction of their space shuttle and their subsequent attempt to return to Earth.First, the visual ef […]
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One Gay Man’s Return to the Catholic Church

The following story is taken from the fascinating sociological study,  Sense of the Faithful, How American Catholics Live Their Faithby Jerome Baggett (2008). I find it most interesting that this inspiring anecdote constitutes the opening of the book itself.  I originally posted this at my blog, Gay Mystics, as a complement or contrast to a previous posting entitled, 50 Reasons to Boycott the Catholic Church. Those readers who are interested can access this article at Alt. Net. It offers (from an outsider’s point of view) a horrific list of crimes and offenses committed by the official Roman Catholic Church in recent times. None of these alleged crimes are new, but taken together they provide a shock to  anyone’s sense of complacency and a timely reminder that such offenses are more than an internal family matter, negatively impacting as they do upon countless lives outside the parameters of the church itself.   That being said, stories such as the one below offer inspiration and hope that the Spirit is indeed at work in manifold ways within the mystical family of the Church.

 sense-faithful-how-american-catholics-live-their-faith-jerome-p-baggett-paperback-cover-art

(Unfortunately, as I copied this from a PDF file, there is not much I can do about the formatting.)

Ending and Beginning

“The thing about American Catholicism is that it both exists and doesn’t exist!” Bill
McNamara blurts out these words but then seems surprised by them, as if he had
happened unexpectedly upon someone from his past. He tarries a bit, refl ecting.
“What do I mean by that?” he asks, now seemingly reacquainted and rightly confi -
dent that he has anticipated my next question. “I mean it exists in the sense that it’s
an it, something you and I can talk about, and we can identify elements of it and so
forth. But it doesn’t exist as some monolithic, unchanging thing. It’s not as if any
one person understands it and lives it out the same way all the time or in quite the
same way as anyone else.”
Even though Bill was among the very first people I interviewed for this book,
I permitted myself an early conclusion: He knows what he is talking about. After
many cups of tea and through constant interruptions by Rusty, his seal-point
Siamese— whose name, like those of all of the respondents in this book, is a
pseudonym—Bill’s account of his life and faith demolished the idea that American
Catholicism could be “some monolithic, unchanging thing.”
Born into a working-class family in the early 1930s, Bill grew up in an almost
entirely Irish section of Philadelphia. His upbringing was typical of the “urban villagers”
about whom sociologist Herbert Gans once wrote so compellingly.
The ethnically defined neighborhood, the modest economic means, the large family that
included Bill and fi ve younger siblings, the clearly prescribed gender roles to which
his contractor father and stay-at-home mother purportedly strictly conformed, the
traditional—and, in this case, traditionally Catholic—mores: Bill can recall it all in
vivid, if not wistful, detail. The particulars of his religious upbringing are especially
memorable to him. He attended nearby parochial schools until he was swayed by an
unexpectedly generous fi nancial aid package to enroll in a large public university,
where he majored in accounting. He went to church each week without fail, and,
unless serving as an altar boy for an unpopular (read: inordinately early) Mass, he
was typically accompanied by his entire immediate family. This instilled in him
an enduring love for the beauty of the Mass and especially its music, which he
still compares favorably to the “cacophonous crap” one hears at other, mercifully
unnamed parishes. One of the younger parish priests served as a “friend and kind
of mentor” for Bill who could talk to him about nearly anything, including at one
point his own—admittedly short-lived—thoughts of entering the seminary. And,
of course, there are the stories that seem to be standard fare among Catholics of
Bill’s generation. From the accounts of his mentor’s many kindnesses to the somewhat
overwrought “ruler-wielding nun” tales, from now-humorous accounts of
fi rst confession trepidation (“Hell, it was scary in that little booth!”) to feelings of
intense piety while accompanying Jesus along the Stations of the Cross each Friday
afternoon during Lent, Bill’s world was Catholic through and through.
However, once he entered his twenties, that world came to an end. “I never
had any animosity like a lot of gay Catholics who had bad experiences in school or
things like that,” he confi des. “I wasn’t against it, but I didn’t feel that comfortable
with it anymore.” Always attracted to men, Bill fi rst became sexually active at the
age of twenty-six. Then, rather than concealing from others what he considers his
“honest, true self,” he moved to San Francisco, where he got a well-paying job with
an insurance company and eventually began his new life as an openly gay man.
He closed the door on his Catholicism slowly at fi rst, then fi nally slammed it shut.
This age-old tradition seemed incongruous with his new city and job, new friends,
and, after ten years or so, a relationship and then a newfound level of intimacy with
Daniel, his partner for eighteen years. Daniel attended weekly Mass at Most Holy
Redeemer church in the city’s burgeoning gay enclave, the Castro District. But he
went a bit less often when he and Bill bought a house together across the bay in the
Oakland Hills. Bill, on the other hand, preferred to sleep late most Sundays.
Everything changed when Daniel contracted AIDS, and Bill became his primary
care provider. This tragedy brought Bill agonizing stress and heartache, but
it also introduced him to a face of Catholicism that he had not previously known.
The AIDS Support Group at Most Holy Redeemer sent volunteers to help tend to
Daniel’s health and personal needs, which, toward the end of his life, required daily
visits. Even in his grief, Bill was impressed by these people’s witness to their—and
once his—faith. This was not the intolerably dogmatic “Churchianity” that had
come to seem ossifi ed and irrelevant to him. Nor, of course, was this the vicious
“God hates fags” message he had heard while doing some church shopping before
moving from Philadelphia. He found this open-hearted and open-minded incarnation
of the faith to be very alluring. So much so, in fact, that Bill began attending
Mass at Most Holy Redeemer not long after Daniel’s death and soon became an
active member of first the AIDS Support Group and then the parish itself.
Bill’s story might appear to fit the familiar “lapsed Catholic returns to Mother
Church” mold, but Bill has not returned to anything; he has begun something new.
On the one hand, he is quite the unabashed Catholic: “I love the traditions, and I love
the mystery; I think it’s a very, very, very rich religion.” On the other hand, though, he
is adamant about his freedom, even obligation, to mine those riches on his own terms
and in accordance with his own needs. He has chosen to be a member of Most Holy
Redeemer across the San Francisco Bay rather than of his own neighborhood parish,
which he considers less “open and affi rming” to gay Catholics. He respects priests
enormously (although he is less generous in his assessment of bishops), but he is also
a strong advocate for the laity’s role in both pastoral ministry and parish governance.
He is a “greeter” at the main (10 am) Mass on Sundays and has sponsored several Rite
of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) candidates. At the same time, he bristles at
the thought of being presumptuous enough to even talk to others about faith in a
way that might be perceived as inappropriately pushy. He calls himself a “very strong
Catholic” but, without hint of apology, eagerly embraces the pejoratively intended
moniker “cafeteria Catholic” as a testament to his own religious agency and capacity
for discernment. In short, Bill has begun something new as a Catholic in response to
developments in his personal life and because he has lived through a period in which
the American church itself has witnessed important social and cultural changes. As
a result, it has also begun something quite innovative.
***

Much as I would like to end this posting on such a glowing note, I can’t help but link to a recent article just posted at Iglesia Discalza’s Blog about the recent silencing of Colombian Jesuit, Fr. Alfonso Llano Escobar, S.J., for having the temerity to criticize Pope Benedict’s most recent book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (specifically, Benedict’s comments on Mary’s Virginity). Benedict has once again silenced a prominent theologian, bringing to an end his thirty year career as a journalist. This is yet again another imperative sign   of why lay Catholics must reclaim their church and become the public voice of theological debate. Read the whole article here.

 

Gay Marriage: Catholic Bishops’ Assault on Religious Freedom.

“Freedom of religion” is an important principle in the constitutions of the United States, and of many other countries. It has also been firmly endorsed in Catholic teaching. It is right and proper that Catholic Bishops should be speaking up for religious freedom, wherever it is threatened.

In the debates over marriage equality, however, their appropriation of the mantle to support their arguments is appalling Orwellian newspeak. They are not defending religious freedom here, but undermining it.

None of the marriage equality legislation anywhere, already passed, or under consideration, imposes same -sex marriage on anyone. To repeat the obvious, if your religious beliefs leave you opposed to same-sex marriage, the remedy is simple: don’t marry the same sex. If, as a minister of religion leaves you unable to conduct a same-sex wedding, don’t do it.  Equality legislation will no force you to do either of these things.

However, prohibiting legal recognition of same-sex nuptials restricts the religious freedom of those religions who value equality. In January this year, two senior lesbian priests of the Episcopal Church celebrated their wedding in Boston Cathedral. Last year, the British Quakers made direct representations to government, for approval for full, gender-neutral religious weddings. Many other religious groups, including the MCC, the United Church, some dioceses of the Episcopal Church, and local congregations of other denominations, are practicing full marriage equality. Their numbers are growing. LGBT atheists too are entitled to religious freedom, and expect civil (not religious), discrimination-free marriage. Where does enshrining marital discrimination protect religious freedom?

“Freedom of Religion” is about respect by the state for people to practice their religion, and to live their lives, in a manner congruent to their religious beliefs. It does not confer the right of one religious group to impose their beliefs on others – which is what some Catholic bishops are attempting to do.

Notably absent from the bishops’ claims on gay marriage, is any supporting references from the Gospels. (Not surprising. There are none). At “What Jesus Did Do”, where Brandon Parks has a strong emphasis on precisely this, I found a post on the topic from May this year, but which has particular relevance now to the Catholic bishops. Here’s an extract:

Gay Rights and Freedom of Religion : What Jesus did Do.

Continue reading

Catholic Bishops, Gay Marriage: “the Outer Fringes of Crazy Town”

Catholic mothers, like all others, delight in their offsprings’ weddings – and those of other family members. They are not alone. Weddings are the occasions of major family gatherings, where we gather to celebrate with them, cement the family bonds and interrelationships that have been set up by earlier weddings when we catch up with news from those members we only see at weddings and funerals, and lubricate the family bonding with suitable refreshments, music and dance.

Such celebrations apply to all couples, opposite-sex or same-sex. A few months ago, a colleague told me that his son was preparing for a civil partnership with his then boyfriend – and my friend gave me a regular running commentary of the hoops his wife and son were making him jump through in the wedding preparations, from early visits to (gay) wedding shows and expos, to choosing the outfits, to planning the “wedding” reception. When my niece married her wife on a Cape Town beach a few years ago, my staunchly Catholic mother and the rest of the family gathered from across the country to celebrate with her, just as they regularly do for all family weddings.

All this is to do far, far more than simply “congratulate” the new spouses. Yet in New York, a report at Unicorn Booty claims that Archbishop Timothy Dolan has “forbidden” Catholics from even congratulating gay or lesbian newly-weds:

But then the decree takes a sharp right turn and steers right off a cliff into Even Crazier Town, the affluent suburb to the north of Crazy Town proper’s city limits.

Dolan, on behalf of the Catholic Church, forbids Catholics from even being happy for their newly married gay friends or offering congratulations. Failure to comply with this perversion of law from their all-knowing, all-loving god that hates some of the things he lovingly created in his own image will result in canonical sanctions – a fancy way of saying priest court.

Oh, and stay the F away from Catholic churches, homos.

- Unicorn Booty

Now, the writer of this has himself veered off into Crazy Town – there is not a word in the decree to prevent Catholics from congratulating or celebrating with lesbian or gay newly weds, just a ban on doing it on Church property, or by Church personnel. One of the tragic features of (some) bishops’ crazed, irrational overreaction to gay marriage, has been the crazed, irrational overreaction to the Catholic Church from (some) secular gay activists.

There is, however, good reason nevertheless to conclude that Catholic bishops’ reactions to gay marriage, in the US and in Scotland, have taken them to the outer fringes of crazy town – but not for the reasons  given by Kevin Farrell at Unicorn Booty.

Continue reading

NCR Editorial: Marrriage Equality in New York and Bishops’ Loss of Moral Credibility

National Catholic Reporter has just published a noteworthy editorial about the recent marriage equality legislation in New York.  The editorial is worthy of attention for a number of reasons. Continue reading

Ross Douthat on the Ideal of Marriage: Male-Female Complementarity and “The Order of Creation”

Ross Douthat in today’s New York Times admits that most of the arguments on which American neocon-style opposition to same-sex marriage is based are flat wrong: our definition of “traditional” marriage is hardly universal, as the religious and political right wishes to claim; polygamy, not monogamy, is the default setting for marriage in many cultures; and far from being raised by one man and one woman, many children around the world have historically been reared by a village.

Even so, Douthat wants to continue the drumbeat against same-sex marriage.  And it’s interesting to see where he goes as he tries to retrieve a foundation for his opposition.  He goes to the same place that other Catholic neocon thinkers like Robert P. George go, the place to which evangelicals and other groups with little else in common with Catholic natural-law thinking are now also going as they seek to craft a compelling argument, any compelling argument, against gay marriage. Continue reading

A Catholic Case For Blessing Civil Unions

With gay marriage back in the news, one may well ask (and I have been asked) is there a case for the Catholic Church to provide some form of church recognition for civil unions?

I have several objections, which I have frequently stated,  to the entire foundations of the Vatican doctrines on sexuality – but the question I want to deal with was very specific and moderate, from a person whose undoubted sincerity and respect for tradition I freely accept, and so, for the sake of argument, I want to address David’s question on its own terms – from strictly within orthodox Catholic tradition and teaching. My short answer is yes, undoubtedly; my slightly longer answer is that there should not need to be a case, as liturgical blessing of same sex unions already has an established place in Church history, complete with fixed liturgical rites and ceremonies. However, this traditional practice is no longer familiar to us, and so I need to update it, together with some background information,  for the modern context.

I begin with what is foundational to all questions of marriage – the words of Scripture, in Genesis 2 (which is the earlier of the two creation stories, notwithstanding the familiar numbering):

“It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a companion to help him.”

-(Gen 2:18)

Notice please: not a wife, to make babies, but a companion, to help him. So we have it on the very best authority, God’s authority, that humans need companions, not for sexual pleasure, nor primarily for procreation, but for help, companionship and support.

Continue reading

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