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    • To my Republican Friends July 6, 2020
      You voted for Trump even though you didn't like him. Doubted his character. Questioned his fitness for the job. Yet, your aversion to Hillary was even greater The post To my Republican Friends first appeared on Spirit of a Liberal.
      Obie Holmen
    • Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist May 4, 2020
      The Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) recently named Wormwood and Gall as one of three finalists for a Midwest Book Award in the Religion/Philosophy category. The awards program, which is organized by MIPA, recognizes quality in independent publishing in the Midwest. The post Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist first appeared on S […]
      Obie Holmen
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    • Rob Sheffield Pays Tribute to the “Peaceful and Stormy at the Same Time” Songs of Christine McVie December 6, 2022
      Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone magazine has written a heartfelt and insightful appreciation of the life and music of Christine McVie, who died last Wednesday, November 30.Following, with added images and links, are excerpts from Sheffield’s tribute that particularly caught my attention.Christine McVie always came on like the grown-up in the room, which admit […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • “Your Perception Is a Choice” December 5, 2022
      My friend Iggy is dedicated to facilitating mind and body transformation – within his own life and the lives of others who are similarly interested in holistic personal growth and change. To this end, Iggy’s professional/vocational life involves providing a range of services, including mindset mentoring, naprapathic massage, and personal training in boxing, […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
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    • So the Former US President and Current GOP Candidate for the Presidency Calls for a Coup and the End of US Democracy — And? December 5, 2022
      President Donald J. Trump 2 March 2019, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, MD; official White House photo by Tia Dufour, at Wikimedia CommonsHeather Cox Richardson, "Letters from an American: December 3, 2002":The leader of the Republican Party has just called fo […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
    • I'm Now on Mastodon — Please Feel Free to Connect December 2, 2022
      I've now succeeded in setting up an account on Mastodon.My handle there is @wdlindsy@toad.socialPlease feel free to connect to me there if you wish. I'm hoping to reconnect via Mastodon to as many of the friends and conversation partners I had on Twitter, with whom I've lost touch after I left Twitter when Musk acquired it. I'm a total no […]
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    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
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    • A saint for the millenials: Carlo Acutis beatified today in Assisi. October 10, 2020
       A saint for the millenials: the young Italian teen, Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 of galloping Leukemia, will be beatified today in Assisi by Pope Francis (last step before being officially declared a saint). Carlo came from a luke warm Catholic family, but at the age of 7, when he received his first 'Holy Communion', he displayed an astonishing […]
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    • Ronan Park and Jack Vidgen: The Travails of Gay Pop Stars October 28, 2019
      (Jack Vidgen)Quite by accident, through a comment from a performance arts colleague of mine, I stumbled across the recent bios of two boy teen singing sensations, both of whom made a big splash worldwide 8 years ago. The first, Jack Vidgen, won Australia's Got Talent Contest in 2011 at the age of 14, primarily for his powerful renditions of Whitney Hust […]
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    • We the People December 6, 2022
      We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.Trump has called for ... Why? So […]
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Thoughts on Popular Revolutions: in Egypt, in South Africa – in the Church

Events in Egypt are dominating the headlines all around the world. It is always dangerous for outsiders to comment too definitively on the internal politics of foreign countries, but inevitably many of us will have thoughts of our own, and will consider the implications for their own countries.  Bill Lindsay’s reflections on this theme at Bilgrimage led to an exchange in the comments between myself and another reader, which I would like to share (and expand on) here. After some specific response to Bill’s post, I reflected on the implications for the Catholic Church:

My own reflections lie in analogy and implications for another autocratic and corrupt empire of an entirely different kind – the Holy Roman one, based in the Vatican, but with global reach and influence. Just like the Egyptian (and Tunisian) people this year, and the East Europeans, South Africans, Ukrainians and Filipinos before them, Catholics will not continue indefinitely to blithely accept control from the top, with no possibility of meaningful input from below.


Vatican control and influence in the lives of Catholics takes a fundamentally different form to the political control in Arab states, and the Catholic revolution will look different. But the principle is the same, and the revolution is most certainly coming – if it has not already begun.

Continue reading

A Congregation in Exile: St Mary’s Brisbane Update

This is the face of the future church, unless the Vatican and the episcopal hegemony between them start to take seriously the need to be a listening Church, and find some way to include all Catholics in pastoral decisions -not just the men at the top in their scarlet robes and comfortable palaces: services with (almost) no congregation.

This report, from Brisbane Times, tells of St Mary’s Brisbane – but it could just as well be about other flourishing congregations around the world (St Stephen’s in Minneapolis, or St Joseph’s, Boston, the congregations with womenpriests, and many others) that are doing perfectly well without the help of professional, celibate male priests, officially approved  by the Vatican.

Faith stays strong at Brisbane’s ‘church in exile’

The pictures tell the story of attendance at the two St Mary’s Catholic churches at South Brisbane with the rebel congregation substantially outnumbering the traditionalists last week.

Fairfax Media’s Sun-Herald dropped in unannounced at the 9am services on a recent Sunday to check on parishioner numbers following last year’s very public split.

The church sanctioned by Brisbane Archdiocese’s Archbishop John Bathersby attracted about 45 people while the rebel St Mary’s-in-Exile had about 240 parishioners.

Father Ken Howell officiates at the original location, while Peter Kennedy – who does not use the title ‘Father’ – tends his flock down the road at the Trades and Labour Council building.

Archbishop Bathersby sacked Mr Kennedy as administrator of the church in February last year for unapproved practises including giving communion to divorced and gay people, priests not wearing traditional vestments and baptising babies using unorthodox wording. He gave his last sermon there in April last year before taking about 1000 supporters with him.

Mr Kennedy said last week the break-away group attracted about 500 people over three weekend services. “If there’s a special event about 1000 might come but normally there’s around 500 although not all of those would come every week,” he said.

The Dean of Brisbane’s St Stephen’s Cathedral, Fr Ken Howell who has taken over as administrator of St Mary’s said the decisions made last year were not about numbers, but about ensuring Catholic worship and teachings were restored.

“I am pleased to say that this has occurred and whilst we may be a small community, I am encouraged by the weekly growth of this community and the enthusiastic commitment of the people who have made St Mary’s their Parish,’’ he said.

But advertisements for St Mary’s Masses have appeared in the local paper, presumably in the hope of boosting numbers.

Mr Kennedy said the church had been used for many community events when he and fellow priest, Terry Fitzpatrick celebrated Mass there, including events run by the social justice group, Micah Projects and indigenous Australians.

Partly on the strength of those events, the Brisbane City Council in 2008 – when it was trying to have its controversial $370 million Go Between Bridge approved – agreed to give St Mary’s $1.5 m for noise mitigation because of the predicted extra traffic.

“Now the church can only be used by Catholics for worship so it’s become a very expensive exercise when so few attend,” Mr Kennedy said.

“They (the Catholic archdiocese) are only keeping it open to save face and no other church would be kept going with so few.”

He said the rebel church was part of the Progressive Spirituality Network, a group that has gained popularity with many denominations in the last 10 years.

It updates Christian beliefs and practices in line with the modern world and the latest findings in science, psychology, and sociology.

Mr Kennedy said the group ‘‘reinterprets as metaphor or even denies’’, the supernatural and miraculous elements of Christianity, including core beliefs like the virgin birth of Jesus and the resurrection.

Fr Howell did not comment on general church attendance numbers but said the Brisbane archdiocese would take part in a national church census next year that would supply updated figures.

Archbishop Bathersby said he was delighted with ‘‘standing only crowds’’ at the cathedral at Easter time, especially the number of young people.

It’s good to have confirmation that they are still doing well, but what else would you expect, when their very essence is based on responding to the real need of the people, and not to supporting the remote potentates of the Holy Roman Empire?

Also see:

Do It Yourself Catholicism


Gays in Catholic Universities: A Stained-Glass Ceiling? Questions about Marquette and Seton Hall University

Earlier today at my blog Bilgrimage, I wrote about a situation in the archdiocese of Boston in which the Catholic church’s longstanding practice of discriminating against gay and lesbian persons is being put to the test.  And in which there seems to be a discernible shift underway in how some lay Catholics, at least, react to decisions by Catholic leaders to continue anti-gay discrimination.

I’d like to address another situation that provides further evidence of the shift about which I blogged in the Bilgrimage posting to which I have just linked.  This has to do with a case at Jesuit-owned Marquette University in Milwaukee.  Tracy Rusch did a summary of this story at National Catholic Reporter last Friday. Continue reading

The Spiritual Gifts of Gay Sexuality

Spiritual direction is one of the best -kept secrets of the Catholic Church.  This is unfortunate- the process needs to be better known and used.  This is how Jesuit theologian James L’Empereur describes it:

the process in which a Christian accompanies others for an extended period of time for the process of clarifying the psychological and religious issues in the directee so that they may move toward deeper union with God and contribute to ministry within the Christian community.

I have unexpectedly been able to borrow L’Empereur’s “Spiritual Direction and the Gay Person”, which I would now like to prescribe to all my readers as required reading, with a 3 hour examination at the end of the course.  I began reading last evening, and have been devouring it with enthusiasm.  I am now about half way through, and not yet ready to offer a full and balanced assessment.  (That will come later).  Still, every page has important insights that I want to share or explore further.  As an appetizer before the main course to follow, I offer some snippets today:

Here are the opening sentences:

Homosexuality is one of God’s most significant gifts to humanity.  To be gay or lesbian is to have received  a special blessing from God. to be gay or lesbian is to have received a special blessing from God.  All humans receive their own special graces from their creator, but god has chosen some to be gay and lesbian as a way of revealing something about Godself that heterosexuals do not.

This is a startling, unexpected beginning, but of course he goes on to explain and fully substantiate it, in a chapter that had me engrossed, and anxious to explore also all his references and sources (a task, I fear, which may be well beyond me.) Elsewhere, he makes another startling claim:  he calls the gay state a “charism”, exactly comparable to the charism of celibacy embraced by Catholic clergy. Both are charisms granted to just a few, from which the wider church can learn.  Here I was reminded of an observation in one of our Soho Mass homilies, that if “homosexuality” is an environmental threat because it cannot lead to procreation, so is celibacy.)  The key manner in which we who are gay or lesbian can teach the wider Church is in the manner of our sexuality, which is not exclusively about genital contact (in complete contradiction to the popular stereotypes), nor is it based in patriarchal patterns of domination and submission.

I should stress here that L’Empereur very carefully does not either endorse or condemn any specific form of sexual expression, whether in committed, faithful relationships, in recreational sex, or in voluntary celibacy: those decisions are to be reached by the person being directed, through the process, and not decided a priori.   However, he does argue strongly that for all people, gay or otherwise, the historic dichotomy between sex and spirituality has been destructive.  Instead of thinking of spirituality OR sexuality, we should be looking for spirituality THROUGH sexuality , possibly (but not necessarily) including genital sexuality.  Gay people, he says, may find this easier than heterosexuals, who are often startled during counselling before , when he asks whether they expect to use their sexual union as a form of prayer.

In this book L’Empereur presents with great clarity and authority a number of the themes I have been grasping at on these pages. Another is the view that authentic Catholic teaching fully supports, not condemns, the homosexual and his/her struggle. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.  We know from painful experience of course, that approached from the perspective of sexual ethics, standard Catholic teaching is deeply hostile.  L’Empereur reminds us that Catholic teaching is far broader than just sexual ethics.  Approached from social justice, which is at least as important to the totality of teaching, a completely different picture emerges, one which demands compassion and support for the marginalised and oppressed, and requires that we work towards justice.  This latter perspective has been profoundly influential in my own faith as it was formed under South African apartheid, and why I found Cardinal O’Connors instruction to the Soho Masses to present Catholic teaching on sexuality “in full, and without ambiguity”.  This is impossible:  “in full” implies from a range of approaches, which are self-contradictory.  When we think of the structure of Catholic teaching on homosexuality, far too often we see only the dominating monolith of the official Vatican teaching on sexual ethics, and especially the scaled down, reduced travesty that we find in the catechism.  Reading this book, I am reminded that the teaching “in full” more closely resembles a crowded, diverse city, with many strands coming from the Vatican centre – and also important subsidiary nodes, such as those presented by theologians like L’Empereur.  Historically, cities grew around single, strong centres.  During the twentieth century, the development of private transport led to dramatic changes in city morphology, with the major growth occurring on the suburban or exurban fringes and  in suburban business nodes.  In some cities, it has been suggested, the traditional centre has virtually disappeared.

We may be seeing the same thing in theology. Comparable to private transport, the emergence of lay theologians and secular schools of theology have privatised the construction of new ideas.  Instead of the ancient central monolith dominating the skyline, steadfastly preserving and protecting its traditional inheritance, suburban nodes are bubbling away, creating new forms and structures: liberation theology, feminist theology, gay and lesbian theology, queer theology;  theology by discerned experience, theology of spirituality through sexuality – and so many more I have not yet encountered.  With so much vitality at the suburban fringes, the “margins” lose conceptual significance.  Will Vatican City in time become irrelevant, as some physical central cities have done?

Jayden Cameron thinks so, at the Gay Mystic.  Read “Life Finds a Way“.

(I will have more on this important book later – probably repeatedly.)

See also:

The Intimate Dance of Sexuality and Spirituality

Finding God in Gay Lovemaking

Homoerotic Sexuality

Holy Stories and Marginalized Communities: Shift to New Readings of Scripture in the Churches Today

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In its liturgical calendar for December, the Catholic church celebrates each year a devotion to the Virgin Mary that has deep roots in and strong resonance for Latin American Catholicism.  For those living in places in which there are not large concentrations of people from that part of the world, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe often comes and goes without notice.

I’ve long had a particular interest in the Guadalupe story, however—for personal reasons.  My father died late on the night of the Guadalupe feast.  And I later made a life-altering pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, at a period in which I was searching for my vocational path and needed to pray with others desperate to find meaning in their lives.  In what follows, I’d like to reflect on the significance I’ve come to see in the Guadalupe story as I’ve struggled with it over the years—and, in particular, for what this story of the appearance of an Aztec holy maiden to an Aztec peasant implies about the ownership and interpretation of holy stories, including the biblical narratives. Continue reading

For Further Reading on the Catholic Right: Frank Cocozzelli’s Commentary

2008 Faith in Public Life Survey, Younger American Catholics

As an appendix to my discussions of the shared political objectives of the Catholic religious and political right—of the Catholic right’s subordination of Catholic ideas and values to neoconservative economic and political ideology—I’d like to recommend an extremely valuable resource to readers seeking more information about this topic.

Frank Cocozzelli, Director of the Institute for Progressive Christianity (and an Open Tabernacle collaborator), has done yeoman’s work for some time now tracking and exposing the Catholic right. His ongoing multi-part series on the Catholic right at the Talk to Action website is must-reading for anyone concerned about the collusion of the Catholic right with right-wing money and power, and about the effects of that collusion on our political process. A chronological listing of all his articles and postings at Talk to Action is on Frank’s profile page for the site. Continue reading

Edward Schillebeeckx (1914-2009): An Appreciation, Part 2

Edward Schillebeeckx

Edward Schillebeeckx

In the first part of my appreciation of theologian Edward Schillebeeckx, I noted that Schillebeeckx’s work in the areas of Christology and ecclesiology has profoundly influenced the Catholic Church through his role at Vatican II.  Schillebeeckx was one of the primary theological advisors of the Dutch bishops at Vatican II, and his work in the area of ecclesiology in particular has now become canonical for the entire church, as it were, through the documents of Vatican II.

In key respects, Schillebeeckx belongs to a movement strong in French, Belgian, and Dutch Catholicism of the early 20th century.  This movement was known as a ressourcement movement, a movement seeking to return to the sources—specifically, to the biblical and patristic foundations—of Christian theology. Continue reading

Edward Schillebeeckx (1914-2009): An Appreciation, Part 1

Edward Schillebeeckx

Shortly before Christmas, the Catholic church lost one its most eminent 20th-century theologians.  Belgian-born Edward Schillebeeckx, OP, a leading theologian of the Second Vatican Council, died on 23 December.  Schillebeeckx’s long and distinguished career as a theologian resulted in the publication of numerous studies in the fields of Christology and ecclesiology that have already become classics.  These include Christ, the Sacrament of the Encounter with God (1959; English translation, 1963); Jesus: An Experiment in Christology (1974; English translation, 1979); Christ: The Christian Experience in the Modern World (1977; English translation, 1980); The Church with a Human Face (1985); and Church: The Human Story of God (1989; English translation, 1990).

As I’ve been thinking of Schillebeeckx’s influence on me—and I do want to write this brief memoir as a personal appreciation of his work—I keep returning to the latter part of the 1960s, when I made a life-altering decision to leave my childhood Southern Baptist church and become Catholic.  I’ve shared aspects of that journey on my Bilgrimage blog. Continue reading

John McNeill’s Prophetic Gay Theology: Sex As God Intended, Part 2

One of John McNeill’s most significant contributions to Christian theology in Sex As God Intended (which builds on his previous works, including his classic study The Church and the Homosexual [1976]) is his carefully worked-out insistence that gay and lesbian human beings fit into God’s plan for the world. McNeill not merely asserts this: he demonstrates why it is the case, and he does so using unimpeachably traditional building blocks of Christian theology to make his case.

McNeill situates the lives of gay persons—he situates our existence in the world, an existence willed by the Creator—within the longstanding Christian tradition that through Christ, God has caught the entire cosmos up into a grand drama of divine salvation, in which all that has been created has a role to play in moving the created world to liberation. Echoing the Pauline insistence that the whole universe groans for salvation, and the declaration of patristic thinkers such as Irenaeus that the Spirit moves within all creation to make it (including human beings) fully alive, John McNeill asks what particular gifts gay and lesbian persons bring to the human community, to assist it in its movement to full life. Continue reading