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      Raul Vera Lopez, the Catholic bishop of Saltillo, Mexico, has criticized homophobes, calling them “sick.” Mexican Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of Saltillo, Mexico, has a proud record of standing up against injustice of all kinds, whether inflicted by the state,…Read more →
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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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    • Email sent to my followers June 27, 2014
      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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      Greetings to all others who grace these pages! Thank you for stopping by. If you still have a reader pointed here, this blog no longer publishes in this location, but can be found at this new link. Please subscribe to the new feed, get the new blog via email or read us by liking us on Facebook or by following me on Twitter.If you want more, please feel free […]
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    • Roman Catholicism's Fundamental Problem: The Cultic Priesthood and its "Diseased System" of Clericalism July 23, 2014
      The clerical leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis has been in the news recently . . . and not in a good way. Last week's broadcast of the Minnesota Public Radio documentary Betrayed by Silence shocked and upset many. The documentary is, after all, a damning indictment not just of the current archbishop but of his two predecessors also. […]
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    • Quote of the Day July 22, 2014
      .To read the entire Equally Blessed Coalition media releasefrom which the above quote is excerpted, click here.Related Off-site Links:Obama Signs Historic LGBT Non-Discrimination Order – Mark Joseph Stern (Slate, July 21, 2014).Catholics React to Obama Signing of LGBT Executive Order – Bob Shine (Bondings 2.0, July 22, 2014).Did Obama Finally Thread the Need […]
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      My current blog is called the way ahead.
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    • Joys of the Spirit at Summer Camp July 16, 2014
      In the middle of the first week of summer camp in the forests of Krivoklat. I have a very sweet class of eleven teenagers, aged 14 to 17, and it's always a shock to be reminded of why I love this experience so. The bonding with the students is intense, and we really get to know them. The Czech students - 25 years after the fall of Communism and the full […]
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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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      - Mary Magdalen and angels from St. John Cathedral - For yesterday's Mary M day ... NT Pod 13: Mary Magdalene: the First Woman Apostle - Philip Endean SJ on ... The Two Vocations of Gerard Manley Hopkins - Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative - Photos from the funeral of California native, Max Steinberg ... Israel Bu […]
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Catholic Theologians’ Discussion on Sexual Morality (Video)

From Catholic for Choice, an excellent 45 minute film on Catholics and Sexual Morality. Watch it at

http://catholicsforchoice.org/secrethistory.asp

Catholics for Choice

“The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics” features interviews with leading experts in the fields of theology, philosophy and ethics who examine Catholic traditions, teachings and beliefs on the following key issues:

Abortion & Contraception
HIV & AIDS
Sex & Sexuality
New Reproductive Health Technologies
Religion in Public Policy

Leading American Catholic theologians take part in this discussion: Mary Hunt, Dan Maguire, Anthony Padovano, Rosemary Radford Reuther, and including British-born Sheila Briggs, now working in the USA.

The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics from Catholics for Choice on Vimeo.

“Theologians’ Revolt” – International Edition

The Catholic Spring has gone global, with the publication of a notable “Jubilee Declaration on Church Authority”, sponsored by a range of top Catholic theologians, from countries on all continents.

That the institutional Catholic Church is in a state of crisis is surely an understatement. It has been widely castigated and scorned for the disclosures of sexual abuse and its grossly inadequate response, including cover-ups and protection of perpetrators. More recently, Vatileaks has uncovered extensive evidence of widespread corruption and financial shenanigans, alongside evidence of political in-fighting in the Vatican bureaucracy. The Catechism rules on sexual ethics, most notably on contraception, but also on masturbation, sex before marriage or after divorce, and on homosexuality are widely ignored – to such an extent that it can reasonable be asked whether they can truly be said to have been received by the faithful, whether they have the sensus fidelium (and if not, they do not have legitimate status as authentic Church teaching). Attempts by the Vatican and national bishops’ conferences to suppress important books by Catholic theologians (“The Sexual Person“, “Just Love” on sexual ethics), or “Jesus: an Historical Approximation” and “Quest for the Living God” on Christology and the nature of God) have had as their most notable result soaring sales. A common thread running through all of this is an unacceptable abuse of power and lack of accountability, by many of the bishops and Vatican officials, in complete contravention of the decisions and declarations at Vatican II in favour of a collegial church, and a Church of all the people.

The spirit of rebellion is most visible in the public resistance to the bishops’ opposition to gay marriage. It is notable that of the countries that currently recognize same – sex marriage, almost all are either substantially Catholic (Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Argentina, Brazil), or the Lutheran countries of Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark). In the US, parish priests who have refused to disseminate bishops’ letters in opposition, or who have spoken up in favour, have received standing ovations from their congregations, Catholic politicians have been prominent in passing state laws for marriage equality, and opinion polls show overwhelming Catholic support for some form of legal recognition, either as full marriage, or as civil unions. Even in Italy, in at least one parish, same – sex couples take their place alongside others in marriage preparation classes.

Over the past two years, organized rebellion has been spreading. There was the theologians’ revolt in German – speaking countries, when several hundred professional theologians, representing a significant proportion of the total number, signed a public declaration of the need for fundamental reform – of sexual doctrines, on rules for ordination, and of the pervasive culture of clericalism. That was followed in Austria by a much more radical Catholic priests’ initiative, for a “Call for disobedience”, later repeated in Belgium. In Ireland, the critical Association of Catholic Priests has attracted wide support from the laity, and has since extended its activities to include all Catholics. Here in England, the Call to Action process initiated by a small group of priests and continuing to develop, is not as confrontational as the Austrian initiative, but springs from the same impulse.

But what I see as possibly the most significant development of all, a public declaration on church authority by top level theologians, has had relatively little publicity. All the other initiatives have included the need for a reform of church rules and culture in their list of concerns – but this declaration sees this as so fundamental that it is the only issue they address.  They are right to do so: unless the pervasive abuse of authority is addressed, unless we see proper accountability, all other attempts at reform, are likely to be stillborn.

The second notable feature of this declaration is the stature and impressive credentials of the signatories. Their numbers are relatively low (but constantly increasing), but these are men and women of great seniority and stature: almost all have professorial rank, or even heads of schools of theology, from a wide range of countries on all continents.

The third feature (as one would expect from people of such great scholarship) is how well substantiated is their case. Their website contains a both a clear statement of the problem, and an outline of the necessary steps for improvement, along with resource pages and much more.

Here’s the core of the declaration:

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we call on all other members of the People of God to assess the situation in our church.

Many of the key insights of Vatican II have not at all, or only partially, been implemented. This has been due to resistance in some quarters, but also to a measure of ambiguity that remained unresolved in certain Council documents.

A principal source of present-day stagnation lies in misunderstanding and abuse affecting the exercise of authority in our Church. Specifically, the following issues require urgent redress:

  • The role of the papacy needs to be clearly re-defined in line with Christ’s intentions. As supreme pastor, unifier and prime witness to faith, the pope contributes substantially to the health of the universal church. However, his authority may never obscure, diminish or suppress the authentic authority directly given by Christ to all members of the people of God.
  • Bishops are vicars of Christ, not vicars of the pope. They carry immediate responsibility for people in their dioceses, and joint responsibility, with other bishops and the pope, for the world-wide community of faith.
  • The central synod of bishops should assume a more decisive role in planning and guiding the maintenance and growth of faith within our complex world. To execute its task, the synod of bishops needs to be given appropriate structures.
  • The Second Vatican Council prescribed collegiality and co-responsibility on all levels. This has not been realised. Priestly senates and pastoral councils, as envisaged by the Council, should involve the faithful more directly in decision making concerning the formulation of doctrine, the running of the pastoral ministry and evangelization in secular society.
  • The abuse of choosing for leadership offices in the church only candidates of a particular mindset, should be eradicated. Instead, new norms should be laid down and supervised to ensure that elections to such offices are conducted in a fair, transparent and, to the extent possible, democratic fashion.
  • The Roman curia requires a more radical reform, in line with the instructions and vision of Vatican II. The curia should be retained for its useful administrative and executive roles.
  • The congregation for the doctrine of the faith should be assisted by international commissions of experts who have been independently chosen for their professional competence.

These are by no means all the changes that may be required. We also realise that the implementation of such structural revisions will need to be worked out in detail according to the possibilities and limitations of present and future circumstances. However, we stress that the seven reforms outlined above are urgent and their implementation should be started immediately.

The exercise of authority in our church should emulate the standards of openness, accountability and democracy achieved in modern society. Leadership should be seen to be honest and credible; inspired by humility and service; breathing concern for people rather than preoccupation with rules and discipline; radiating a Christ who makes us free; and listening to Christ’s Spirit who speaks and acts through each and every person.

CHURCHAUTHORITY.org

When the Tablet reported on this some time ago, in just a few lines tagged on to another report, they referred to 37 signatories, and a further 115 co-signatories. When I first came across it, the number of primary signatories had gone up to 50. By last night, it was at 60 (UPDATE:  By Nov 21st, it’s at 66). See the full listing, and their impressive credentials, here (A – H) and here (I – K) and here (L -P) and here (Q – Z). Meanwhile, the co-signatories had gone up to 1303 (with myself at that 1128). Add your signature here.

(Originally published on November 5th, at Queering the Church)

Books:

Margaret Farley: Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics

Elizabeth Johnson: Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God

Jose Pagola: Jesus, an Historical Approximation 

Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler: The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology 

Can Catholics Speak To Each Other?

A striking feature of the modern Catholic Church, from a progressive perspective, is the alarming disconnect between pronouncements and formal doctrine coming out of the Vatican and its claque, and the views and practice of the majority of real Catholics in the pews (or out of them, as so many refuse to participate in a dysfunctional church).

Conversely, from the perspective of traditional Catholics, the striking feature of the church is the audacity of those who seldom if ever attend Church, or make any attempt to follow the Catechism and teaching, in even calling themselves “Catholic”.

The two sides tend to speak only to their own sympathisers, seldom even referring to their opponents except in terms of rancour and / or disdain. Can the two sides learn to talk together constructively, in an authentically Catholic spirit of openness and charity? Phil Tanny is one Catholic who would like to make the effort.

I first came across Phil some months back, when he wrote to me (and many other Catholic bloggers) about his website, “Catholic Talk“, which was an attempt to provide a series of on- line forums for Catholics to debate a range of topical and possibly controversial subjects. He has since written again, to introduce a companion site, Catholic Unity (“Encouraging Healing and Unity Within the Catholic Community”), and  asked me to place a guest post on promoting Catholic unity at my personal blog, “Queering the Church”. That, however, has a specific focus on issues of sexuality and gender, and although  primarily Catholic, is not exclusively so.

It does seem to me that his aims are worthwhile, and so I am instead placing his piece as a guest post here, at The Open Tabernacle – together with extracts from some of his other posts, which will give some flavor of what he is about. (For now, I do so without any comment on, or endorsement of, his substantive proposals, but I do look forward to reading others’ responses. I’ll add my own, later).

At his introductory post, Encouraging Catholic Unity, Phil described the project in this way:

Greetings, welcome to Catholic-Unity.org.

The purpose of this blog is to serve as a resource for those whose primary focus is to encourage unity and healing in a too often divided Catholic community.

This blog, and the parent site  will provide research, articles, projects and tools to serve this mission.

We hope you’ll participate!

The substantive post, which I’ve placed below as a guest post, was originally placed at Catholic Unity as A Simple Plan to Heal the Catholic Community.

Also worth reading, is a follow-up post, “My Education Begins“, in which he describes some of the responses to the hundreds of approaches he made, along with the one to myself.

Yesterday (Nov 19 2012) I mailed this article regarding healing the Catholic community to about 700 Catholic bloggers and organizations.

The replies began flowing in almost immediately, and my education began.

In my email I specifically asked for feedback, pro or con, for or against, and was gratified and grateful that so many (most of whom don’t know me personally) were generous enough to respond to this request from a stranger.

The first response, which arrived within minutes, was brief but quite interesting, and helps to illustrate the evolution I will have to undergo myself if I want to be spokesperson for Catholic unity.

It was a quick email from the office of a very well known Catholic, indicating they would NOT (their emphasis) be publishing my article, and requesting to be removed from my mailing list.

From the tone of the email it seemed clear they wanted nothing to do with this particular Catholic unity campaign, which of course is fully their right.

And so God immediately presented me with the challenge that many of us will have to face if we want a healing of our community.

I find it satisfying and reassuring to know that he has at least a sense of humor. When I replied to his email with an apology for not having replied to some earlier correspondence, he mentioned in passing that he expects to have completed uniting the Catholic Church – in a few days:

You should feel guilty about feeling guilty, :-) as you are not obligated to me in any way.  I’m always happy to hear from you any time, but we’re not on a schedule.   I’ll write again as soon as I’m done uniting the Catholic Church.  Should only be a few days.  :-)

I look forward to following this project, with interest. What do you think?

A Simple Plan To Heal The Catholic Community

(Guest post by Phil Tanny of Catholic-Unity.org).

As you know, the Catholic community has been shaken in recent years by a regrettable wave of debate, discord and division.

This article suggests a way to bring the Catholic community together, a plan which any Catholic interested in unity can begin to implement immediately.

The solution is simple, if not always easy.

When we’re ready to heal and unite our Catholic community we have the choice to…


Shift the focus of Catholic discussions to topics that most Catholics can agree with, and act on, together.


Here are two examples of where we might begin.

Unity Topic #1: Catholic Charities

All Catholics, and non-Catholics too, respect Catholic Charities, the Church’s impressive public service wing.

This wide agreement is ripe ground for a healing, and those serious about unity will grab the opportunity to make Catholic Charities a more central part of our conversations.

The army of Catholic bloggers leading discussions across the Web can help by refocusing much of their writing away from unresolvable divisive topics, and towards celebrating and raising money for Catholic Charities, a very Catholic project that all Catholics agree on.

After all, it’s hard to make a case that arguing with our fellow Catholics is more important than feeding hungry kids, right?

Unity Topic #2: The Tobacco Companies

As Catholics we are drawn to moral crusades, it’s in our DNA.

But too often we have chosen to target each other for judgement, instead of uniting and aiming our considerable moral warfare skills at very real enemies who are far more deserving of our attention.

The tobacco companies kill approximately 100,000 of our fellow Catholics here in the United States each and every year, plus millions more around the globe.

100,000 of our fellow U.S. Catholics killed for profit. Each and every year. By people who are already very rich. And who plan to get even richer by selling us more deadly products deliberately designed to be highly addictive, and…

We ever crusading Catholics seem to have little to say about it.

We should fix that.

Instead of going to rhetorical war with each other, we have the choice to invest that same time, energy, passion and talent in to fighting those who are killing hundreds of our fellow Catholics every day.

Every time we rise to speak, put pen to paper, or type our next blog post, we have a choice.

Fight each other, or fight the devil.

A great many lives could be saved if 77 million American Catholics came together as one to confront the tobacco companies. It could be Catholics that lead the charge, set the example, and celebrate the victory.

None Of Us Need To Surrender

Changing the focus of Catholic discussion to these kind of uniting topics would not require any of us to change our beliefs on controversial issues.

Each of us can still follow our conscience in our personal lives on topics like abortion, contraception, gay marriage, Church leadership issues, and so on. Nothing changes here.

Whether we are traditional or progressive Catholics, none of us have to admit ideological defeat.

We just have to admit that repetitive emotional squabbling with our fellow Catholics on unresolvable hot button topics is not really persuading anybody of anything. Nothing is being accomplished by all the adamant speeches. Nobody is winning.

We just have to admit that endlessly arguing with our fellow Catholics is weakening our ability to address pressing here and now real world problems, where we could achieve impressive victories, by working together as one.

A Healing Solution

If we really want unity and a healing in our Catholic community, we just need to talk about topics that divide us much less, and talk about topics that unite us much more.

It’s the very same common sense plan any of us would use when our relatives arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. On such occasions sensible families try to skip the topics they’ll never agree on, because debating those controversial subjects, yet again, accomplishes little but ruining the dinner.

If it’s Catholic unity and a healing that we really want, it seems we can really have it, any time we’re really ready. Nobody is stopping us but us.

Whether we are traditional or progressive Catholics, we can rebuild our unity by working together to expand our support for Catholic Charities, and by joining forces in a historic moral crusade against the death for profit tobacco companies.

There’s plenty for us to agree on, plenty for us to work on, plenty of dragons for us to slay together. We could soon be so busy serving others that we’ll find we just no longer have time for arguing with our fellow Catholics.

Let’s redirect our considerable moral energy towards fighting those world changing battles that we can only win….

If we fight hand in hand together.

Article by Phil Tanny of http://Catholic-Unity.org.


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What Really Happens at the Soho Masses?

Last night, I was up in London, attending once more one of the bi-monthly Masses in Soho which have a particular focus on the pastoral needs of the community of LGBT Catholics, their families and friends. Once again, I was struck by the remarkable value of these Masses, how strongly they are contributing to the spirit and ideas behind the Year of Faith for our community – and how much we have grown as a parish in the five years since we left behind our earlier base at St Anne’s Dean St, and made our home in a Catholic parish, as part of the pastoral program of the Archdiocese of Westminster.

There is a great deal of misinformation about these Masses out in some corners of the blogosphere, much of it sadly promoted by people who have not actually attended, or joined in serious conversation with the congregation. I, on the 0ther hand, have been attending regularly for a little more than eight years – and if not quite for every Mass, twice a month, then pretty close to it, and have nearly always stayed for conversation afterwards.  A rough calculation suggests that this approximates to something approaching 200 Masses that I have attended personally.

So –  what really happens at these Soho Masses? Sadly for those who like to spread or consume salacious gossip about these Masses, I can reveal, as one who was there these 200 times – much the same as happens at any other Catholic Mass, with one very notable difference: we do it so much better than most.

For instance, let me simply describe “what happened” at Mass yesterday, with a comparison with where we were when I first started attending eight years ago.

First, some raw numbers. By my count (not just a guess, but a rough head count) the total attendance was just shy of 130 people, on a cold and dark November evening, for a Mass which was not any particular special occasion. This was perhaps a little  more than the usual number  of somewhere between 100 and 120. For a congregation that comes together only for two Masses a month, it’s probably fair to put the  average total monthly attendance at about 220 – 230. We know that many of the congregation do not attend every time: some have regular commitments in their home parishes, some travel great distances, others have other reasons. The best estimate from earlier research is that “typical” attendance by the “average” member  of the community is of the order of every second Mass, representing a total nominally “regular” congregation estimated to be of the order of something like 400 – 45o people attending one average once a month.

That congregation is by no means an exclusively “gay” one. Looking at tonight’s congregation, which was fairly typical of those we have seen in recent years, we included substantial diversity, of age, sexuality, gender and ethnicity – including some heterosexual young married couples and older singles, gay men, lesbians, transgender and many others whose sexuality and gender identity are simply unknown to me – which is precisely as it should be.   Also present in the congregation, I spotted four  priests in active ministry of different kinds elsewhere, who had chosen to attend for the personal benefits they experience. As always, some of the congregation had traveled substantial distances to get there: one woman had traveled from Somerset, some others that I knew of had come from Reading, Basingstoke, Haslemere, and from Kent and Essex in addition to a full range of London boroughs.

So, the congregation was substantial, suitably diverse, and highly committed - but the Mass itself is not where it began. Long before the opening hymn, extensive work had gone into planning the Mass, by our liturgist and organist between them, selecting hymns and bidding prayers, and typing and printing convenient Mass sheets and our regular information – packed monthly newsletter.

My own involvement yesterday began well before Mass, with a committee meeting of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, reviewing recent progress and planning ahead. It would be inappropriate to disclose too much detail of those discussions, but I can reveal that part of it included feedback on a recent Young Adults Group weekend retreat. One of the men who had attended reported that for him, the main value of getting away in a group was just to have the opportunity to discuss the Catholic faith with others of a similar age group. How many regular parishes are able to say they offer such opportunities for their own young adults? And this, the second year in a row that our young adults have arranged such a retreat, was fully booked, with an attendance of about two dozen people. Looking ahead, two developments for next year included confirmation that we will be beginning at least one (possibly more) men’s faith – sharing group, and perhaps initiating adult catechesis, in the form of an RCIA program and / or faith refresher program for those existing Catholics who simply want to know more about the faith.

Meanwhile, simultaneously with the committee meeting, another group of about a dozen people were rehearsing in the basement for our Advent carol service next month. Add in the people who prepared and distributed the hymn books and Mass sheets in welcome, read the lessons and bidding prayers, the cantor, the eucharistic ministers, those who took the collection, and the catering team for refreshments after Mass, and that’s well over thirty people (a quarter of the congregation) who were present not simply as bums on seats (“pew warmers”), but who were participating actively and directly, either in today’s Mass, or in preparation for the Advent carol service. Again I ask – how many more conventional parishes can claim that degree of active participation in the work of setting up a and conducting a Sunday Mass?

What of the Mass itself? One notable feature, familiar to all the regulars and obvious to any newcomers, was the sheer strength of the congregational singing, and participation in the liturgical prayers and responses. The homily, delivered by our celebrant Monsignor Seamus O’Boyle who is both our parish priest and vicar – general for the diocese of Westminster, was as we have come to expect from all our celebrants – thoughtful, intelligent, delivered with clarity and at times a light touch of humour, but on an absolutely orthodox, appropriate Catholic theme for the readings of this November day, on the last things that await us all: death and judgement. The bidding prayers that followed were similarly on completely conventional, appropriate themes for the season and current events: prayers that we should be ready for that day of judgement, for peace in the world , that we may be renewed by the Holy Spirit, for interfaith week, for prisoners and those who work with them, for those who have died,  and for the victims of violence (in particular, the victims of transphobic violence – the only reference in this Mass to the LGBT community specifically, and that because tomorrow is Transgender Day of Remembrance, for those trans people who have been murdered in hate crimes).

After Mass, many of us went downstairs for refreshments – tea or coffee, and biscuits. I did not count numbers, but my guess would be about 40 people – again a substantial proportion of the evening’s congregation. When I left well after seven, an hour and a quarter after the end of Mass, a good number of people were still there, with conversations going strong. I have never seen such a high turnout for tea after Mass in any of the other parishes where I have worshipped, nor have I found people so deep in conversation, for so long after Mass has ended.

But what were they talking about? To believe the rumour mill, you might expect that these notorious homos were looking for sexual pickups, making trysts and the like. I cannot state categorically that this does not happen (just as in any other human gathering, there may be people meeting and making connections that may turn sexual) – but I can state emphatically that in the 200 odd Masses that I have attended, I have never encountered any such sexual conversations or assignations. Instead, the kind of conversations that I have been aware of, are pretty similar to those I have heard after Mass, in all the parishes I have ever been part of.

These are examples of the conversations I remember  personally participating in, or hearing others discuss:

  • Talk about family (in my case, my granddaughter).
  • Talk about our countries of origin – with two others who, like myself, are not British.
  • Talk about travel plans for the month ahead.
  • Talk about work (and for one Religion Education teacher, it’s looming end, as he prepares to  cease his work at school, to start a new life in a Benedictine monastery).
  • Talk about religious books, at our impressive and extensive bookstall – specifically, a book I particularly wanted but was not there tonight, on reflections on the lectionary readings for the coming liturgical year.
  • Talk about the year of faith, available resource materials, and what local parishes are doing
  • Talk about the evening’s homily
  • And continued discussion of some of the business dealt with earlier in the SMPC meeting, especially about plans for faith sharing groups, and possible adult catechesis.

We have then, a vigorous and thriving, personally supportive congregation with a strong sense of community, and an ever expanding range of opportunities to explore and strengthen our Catholic faith, in the context of the Mass – and outside it. Those described above, and the degree of participation, could be the envy of many more conventional parishes of ten times the monthly attendance of our own 220- 230.

Looking back

When I first starting attending eight years ago, typical attendance was about 40, and overwhelmingly white, older gay men. By the time we moved into our new home in Warwick Street, in a Catholic parish and under the auspices of the Diocese of Westminster, attendance had increased to about 60, with just the beginning of some greater diversity. The activities, however, were still largely restricted to Mass twice a month, and conversation afterwards. It is clear from the above description of yesterday’s service, that we have grown and developed over the past five and a half years, as part of a Catholic parish – in numbers, but even more importantly, in depth of involvement, and in exploration of Catholic faith.
But it’s not just our congregation that has benefited. Our presence has invigorated the parish, which without a significant resident population, was low in numbers before we joined them. Three Sunday Masses a week (thirteen, on average, a month) were previously poorly attended, but numbers have been increasing steadily, as some of our community have made this parish their regular Sunday base, in addition to the special Masses on the first and third Sundays of the month. Even so, our attendance of something like 220 – 230 a month at just two Masses represents about half the total monthly attendance from all thirteen Masses: or as much as all the other Masses put together. The indications and expectation for the year ahead, are that our congregation will continue to boost the overall numbers of the parish, as even more of us begin to attend for the second and fourth Sundays, in addition to the first and third, as at present.
Nor is the value of these Masses restricted to enriching and deepening the faith lives of our own congregation, or to the invigorating new life it has breathed into the parish. Over the years I have participated, I have noted a number of people who began attending after long years of absence from the Church, with no participation at all in its sacramental life. By returning to the faith by means of Mass in an explicitly welcoming atmosphere, they have found a measure of reconciliation with an institution that had seemed to them threatening and hostile. Some of these no longer attend – because they now prefer to practice their faith in their own local parishes. Others, like myself and a fair proportion of the most regular participants, do both.
In my own case, I no longer simply attend a local parish, I participate fully in parish life. I serve on the team of readers, I help to gather hymn and Mass books after Mass, join in the tea and discussions after Mass, and participate where I can in social and other functions. For the current activities around the year of faith, I am leading one small group working through the “Radiating Christ” booklet, and have been joining another weekly group, watching and discussing a DVD series on Catholicism. Over the past few weeks, I have had full and frank discussions with both of the priests who serve the parish, in which I described my journey in faith, and also the ways in which I try to promote ministry to LGBT Catholics.  From my perspective, I find it deeply satisfying to be able to participate so fully in parish life in a spirit of full openness and honesty, with no attempt to “pass” as straight – and to note the acceptance and support I have experienced in doing so, from clergy, sisters at the convent, and laity alike. But I could never have found the confidence to be this open and honest in my own parish, without the support of the Soho Masses and its congregation to help me to grow.
“Speak the truth in love”, and “The truth will set you free”, we are told in Scripture – and reminded by Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger at the CDF, in the “Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”.  For helping us to grow in truth and honesty, we should be deeply grateful to the Soho Masses. I know I am.
If you agree with me, please write to Archbishop Vincent Nichols, to show your appreciation – and to balance the nonsense and lies he is constantly receiving from our opponents, most of whom have never actually attended one of our Masses, to see for themselves what really happens at them.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols
Archbishop’s House
Ambrosden Avenue
London SW 1P 1QJ

Gerald T. Slevin, Update–Criminal Charges of Vatican Child Abuse Cover-Up

Jerry Slevin continues to be vigilant about what’s happening with Catholic church officials and the child abuse cover-up, from a legal standpoint.  He has just sent another outstanding statement, this one about SNAP’s filing last week of new charges updating their previous filing of criminal charges against the Vatican with the International Criminal Court, for the Vatican’s internationally orchestrated cover-up of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.

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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.

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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.

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“Occupy the Church”: Austria’s Catholic Rebellion Gathers Strength.

Two recent reports from Austria show clearly that the Catholic rebellion is gathering strength: survey research shows that two thirds of the country’s priests support calls for urgent reform, and that lay Catholics have announced plans to ignore Church rules that restrict the celebration of Mass to ordained priests. Instead, they will conduct worship and communion themselves where priests are not available. Meanwhile, in Australia, a separate story from Melbourne illustrates how on a much smaller scale, Catholics elsewhere are also willing to defy episcopal control.

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Priest “Bart”, on “What is a Gay Priest to do?”

Ever since I first read the important question posed by James Martin SJ at America blog, “What is a gay Catholic to do?”, I have tried at Queering the Church to provide some examples of what a selection of gay Catholics have done. The responses I have had from some of my readers who are priests, and also some posts I have read at other sites, have shown that there is another much more difficult question to be answered, too: “What is a gay Catholic priest to do?”  This is way outside my own ability to explore, so I have said before that I would welcome commentary from any priest who would like to offer a personal response. I have had some observations made in comment threads, but a full response needs much more space than that.

I am delighted that one of my readers has taken up the challenge. “Bart” has formally joined “Queering the Church” as a contributor, and describes himself in his profile as

Catholic priest, in the mid-forties, presently serving in a diocese away from home. Self-identifying as gay, and going through the coming-out process. Keenly interested in LGBT issues, not only where they concern the religious sphere, but also in the wider social context. Enjoys outdoor activities and sports, as well as indoor pastimes such as reading, listening to music, and watching films when time permits.

Bart has prepared an introductory post in which he explains his choice of pen name, and introduces the topic, “What is a gay priest to do?”. He will then follow up the introductory post with some further reflections on the same theme.  I loved reading the introductory post, which appears here at Queering the Church.

Bart Simpson

Image via Wikipedia

 

This is Bart’s opening:

I think that one of the first issues a gay priest (or any gay person, I suppose) has to tackle is that of coming out. Now, let me make it clear that there will be as many different coming-out stories as there are persons, but I suspect that a common denominator for each story is: deciding on which side are you. Let me ask a few pointed questions. Are you going to (continue to) live in a state of self-loathing, rejection or denial? Will you continue to agree with the barrage of homophobic messages received from the Church, family, friends, workmates, society…? Pope Benedict has just reiterated (in his book Light of the World )a classic view held by the Church, that of homosexuals looking at their state as being a trial. It seems that the Church hierarchy wants to keep gay persons, in this case its priests, stuck in an ego-dystonic state, loathing themselves because of their homosexual orientation, as if it is some foreign body that must be fought with vigour. I am stating this because I cannot really see any way forward unless one moves from this stage to a stage where one has fully embraced one’s gayness. If I cannot come to a point where I have fully accepted myself as I am, that I am gay, how am I ever to accept others as they are? Can you see the necessity and the logic behind this fundamental step? If I may put it in other words, I can only love others to the degree that I can love myself.

These may seem to be difficult words to digest but, judging from my own experience, rejection and self-loathing are hardly a solid foundation for the priestly ministry. I mean, even all the glib talk on how much God loves me becomes suspect. If God loves me as I am, then this leaves little room for self-loathing. Time and again I have come across the works of various authors who talk of “internalised homophobia”, and this term really hits the nail on the head because what we are doing when we reject ourselves is accept the rejection we perceive to get from others.

Read the full post here.

 

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