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      Writes Paul Huttner of MPR News “Updraft” blog:Our unusually cold and strong October low-pressure storm dumped heavy snow on much of Minnesota as expected Tuesday.It also shattered some early-season snowfall records. Many spots around central and southern Minnesota will likely set all-time records for the heaviest, earliest snowfall of the snow season.One am […]
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      Writes author Colin Fleming:We fight for so much control in our lives, and we feel frightfully unmoored without it. We have voices in our cars directing us when to bang that right turn, devices on our wrists telling us how many steps we’ve taken. We deal in constant analytics, sometimes evaluating the quality of our own thoughts and words by how many likes t […]
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    • A saint for the millenials: Carlo Acutis beatified today in Assisi. October 10, 2020
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Family: A Memorial Reflection

Today’s the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death.  I’ve decided to commemorate this event by completing a reflection with which I’ve been tussling since the trip Steve and I took week before last to visit his family in Minnesota.  As I have noted on my Bilgrimage blog, Steve had made arrangements to take his two aunts, who are nuns, to visit cousins around the state whom they haven’t been able to see in some years, except at family funerals.  All are aging, and travel is becoming more difficult for his aunts. Continue reading

John Allen on Focolare’s “Track Record of Bringing People Together”

Remember how, when Pope John Paul II died, we were told that the signs waved by the faithful at his funeral–saying, “Santo subito!”–were a spontaneous cry from the heart of the church for the immediate canonization of the saintly pope?  What wasn’t frequently reported in American newspapers as these “spontaneous” demonstrations captured the attention of the mainstream media was that the “spontaneous” outburst of piety was carefully orchestrated–and paid for–by a powerful Catholic lay group, Focolare.  Focolare had, in fact, manufactured the “Santo subito!” signs and was already distributing them in advance of the funeral. Continue reading

Marriage, Procreation, and “The Broad Book of Nature”

At the British Catholic publication “The Tablet”, there is an important column by Clifford Longley, reflecting on Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ recent BBC radio interview, and in particular on some of his remarks about homosexuality. The full article is behind a paywall, so I am unable to supply a link. I would urge you though, if you can to try to arrange sight of the original. Bill Lindsey at Bilgrimage has already written at length about some of the implications of this. I want to pick up on some other aspects.

This is the only part of Longley’s column that quotes the Archbishop directly:

“When it comes to understanding what human sexuality is for, there is a lot that we have to explore.. Because I think what is at one level in the broad perspective clear, is that there is an intrinsic link between procreation and human sexuality. Now how do we start from that principle, not lose it, and have an open, ongoing conversation with those who say, well, that’s not my experience? How do we bring together some principles that if you like are written into the broad book of nature, and individual experiences? That’s the area that we have to be sensitive and open to, and genuinely wanting to explore.”


Continue reading

Does Benedict Oppose Gay Priests?

Andrew Brown thinks so, based on the relevant passage in Seewald’s book. I hesitate to comment with any conviction until I have read the full passage myself, but the published extracts are disturbing and important. Up to now, there have been some signs of a more rational approach to homosexuality under this papacy, but some of these views strike me as just wackadoodle. Benedict is widely acclaimed as a great and subtle theologian, but he could do with some lessons in basic facts of gender and sexuality.

For example:

We could say, if we wanted to put it like this, that evolution has brought forth sexuality for the purpose of reproducing the species.

Continue reading

Catholic Sexual Ethics, Social Ethics, and Reality-Based Theology

One of the key points in Salzman & Lawler’s exposition of Catholic sexual ethics (“The Sexual Person”) is the importance of  considering theology in the context of history. Explaining this idea, they describe two approaches to theology,a “classical” view, which sees all moral standards as static and fixed   for all time, and an “empirical” view, in which we recognize that circumstances and human understanding (for  example,of science), is constantly changing, and which implies that we must be constantly ready to refine our expression of those standards.

In its classicist mode, theology is a static, permanent achievement… In its empirical mode, it is a dynamic, ongoing process……. The classical understanding sees the human person as a series of created, static and definitively ordered temporal facts. The empirical understanding sees the person as a subject in the process of “self-realization in accordance with a project that develops in God-given autonomy, carried out in the present with a view to the future”.  Classical theology sees moral norms coming from the Magisterium as once and for all definitive; sexual norms enunciated in the fifth or sixteenth century continue to apply absolutely in the twenty-first. Empirical theology sees the moral norms of the past not as facts for uncritical and passive acceptance but as partial insights that are the bases for critical attention, understanding, evaluation, judgement and decisions in the present sociohistorical situation. What Augustine and his medieval sources knew about sexuality cannot be the exclusive basis for a moral judgement about sexuality today.

The empirical approach, they say, was endorsed by by Vatican II. Later, this view was clearly articulated by Pope John Paul II, in Sollicitudo rei socialis (1987).

Pope John Paul II, Progressive Theologian?

Continue reading

Gay Teen Suicide and Our Loss: A Personal Reflection

I’m cross-posting the following post from my Bilgrimage blog earlier today:

My stomach is wimbly this morning, and I have a sore throat and am sneezing my brains out.  So I conclude I’ve caught some bug, and decide to coddle myself with nostrums as the day begins.  What those nostrums might be, I have no idea—an extra cup of coffee, perhaps.  But I like the ring of the phrase “coddle myself with nostrums” in my slow, waking-up mind—something like “comfort me with apples.”

And as I tossed and turned through a sleepless night, trying to find a comfortable position for the groaning innards and a way to breathe through the stuffy nose, I thought constantly of the short lives of those young folks ended tragically by suicide.  And wondered what happened to me, that prevented such an outcome. Continue reading

Mormon Prop 8 Apology: A Lesson for Minnesota’s Catholic Bishops

As the Minnesota bishops prepare for their determined campaign to prevent marriage equality in their state, they would do well to reflect on the experience of the Mormons in California over Prop 8. As is well known, the Mormons, like the institutional Catholic Church, were among the mainstay of the opposition to equality, donating substantial sums in cash and in kind to funding support for the ballot initiative.

Since the vote, there have been numerous indications that the Mormon leaders have begun to recognize the hurt their actions have caused to their own members. (I would be surprised if the Mormons were to make the same mistake again). In the clearest demonstration yet of this change of heart, a senior member of the Church  has apologised to lesbian and gay Mormons of California. In a move that Joanna Brooks at Religion Dispatches correctly describes as historic, the leader of the church in California invited Elder Marlin K Jensen to a meeting to hear the stories of pain and suffering the Church had caused to gay and lesbian Mormons, not just by the support for Prop 8, but by its entire approach to homosexuals and their place in the Church. At the conclusion of this testimony  – Elder Jensen apologized.

Continue reading

A “Culture of Life” and Ferment in the UK Church.

In the UK, as in the US, we have a vociferous band of self-appointed guardians of the faith, who regularly wail about departures from Catholic orthodoxy, wherever they perceive it. Most of the time, I prefer to ignore their bleatings. Just recently though, I have been paying more attention, as they are now meeting strong resistance where it counts.

Daphne McLeod leads a group and website called “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” (acronym PEEP, which I think is rather fun). She and her group are responsible for the regular protests outside the London Soho Masses, about which she regularly complains to all she can think of, from the Archbishop of Westminster to the Vatican. (We know that she has sent a barrage of submissions to both – much of it based on distorted information.) Her objections, however, are falling on deaf ears – at all levels.

Scene from a "culture of death?"

Continue reading

Rev. Jeremiah Wright Preaches: What He Said, What I Heard

This is a somewhat more personally pitched post than ones I have shared previously at Open Tabernacle.  It’s a personal—and, as the post says, perhaps idiosyncratic—reflection on a sermon I heard Rev. Jeremiah Wright preach this past Sunday.  I’m sharing this posting (which originally appeared on my Bilgrimage blog) here because a number of correspondents have asked me about Rev. Wright’s sermon and my reaction to it.  Due to Rev. Wright’s prominence as a national religious figure in the U.S., the public has an understandable interest in his understanding of the Christian life and how Christian discipleship yields political decisions.

I’m also posting this piece here because it continues the discussion of a theme that I think churches today have no option except to keep confronting: what will communities of faith that point to Jesus as their founder do about the fact that the world in which they minister includes gay and lesbian human beings?  Who will no longer remain silent about our identities and lives?  And so here’s my response to Rev. Wright’s sermon last Sunday. Continue reading

Bill Donohue’s Inexplicable Obsessions

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, is one of the loudest and brashest apologists for the uber-orthodox faction now in control of the Vatican. His abrasive style has been on vivid display in the wake of the recent revelations that Pope Benedict may have turned a blind eye to the problem of pedophile priests.

But whether he is attacking Catholics who only seek accountability or lashing out at the press for asking tough questions, Donohue constantly displays an obsession with homosexuality and anal sex.

One has to wonder why.

In the face of mounting evidence that the pontiff did not give the pedophilia crisis the same laser-like attention he has directed toward suppression of Catholic dissidents and reformers, Donohue and Church hierarchs have obfuscated. Instead of addressing the Church’s criminal shell game of moving abusive priests to other countries, often just ahead of the law, and taking forever to defrock pedophiles, they attack gay people by falsely equating homosexuality with pedophilia.

In one paritucularly eggregious episode, Donohue went so far as to blame the victims of pedophile priests. Badly mischaracterizing the John Jay College study on the subject claimed that “It’s not a pedophilia… most of the victims were post-pubescent…” adding that by post-pubescent he meant the victims were “…12, 13 years of age.” By Dononhue’s definition, that apparently makes sex abuse of children by priests alright.

Writing in the March 22, 2004 edition of the Jesuit journal, America, Thomas Reese, S.J., directly citing the report, debunks the talking points used by Donohue and other apologists for the hierarchy.

Myth: Most of the abuse occurred with older teenagers. Fact: Only 15 percent of the victims were 16 to 17 years of age; 51 percent were between the ages of 11 and 14.

Reese dismissed the causal equation of homosexuality with pedophilia, observing, “No one knows the exact percentage of priests who are homosexual. Estimates have ranged from 10 percent to 60 percent.” He concluded, “In any case, most homosexual priests were not involved in the sexual abuse of minors.”
Donohue has a long record of graphic, public hostility toward those he deems to be enemies of Catholicism — often invoking homosexuality in a pejorative fashion. In three episodes of MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, for example:

On the February 27, 2004 Donohue spoke of “the gay death style.”

On the December 4, 2004 he claimed that “…Hollywood likes anal sex.”

On the March 12, 2004, discussing Mel Gibson’s controversial film, Passion of the Christ, he said:

Well, first they said it was anti-Semitic. That didn’t work. Then they said it was too violent. That didn’t work. Then they said it was S & M. That didn’t work. Then they said it was pornography. That didn’t work. Now they’re saying it’s fascistic queer-bashing. That kind of language would ordinarily get somebody taken away in a straitjacket and — put you in the asylum. I don’t know what about — the queer-bashing is all about. I’m pretty good about picking out who queers are and I didn’t see any in the movie. I’m usually pretty good at that.

Donohue did not explain where he got his gaydar.

Over at Enlightened Catholicism Colleen Kochivar-Baker recently cited Andrew Sullivan in raising a good point:

Ask yourself: how many openly gay and adjusted priests have been found to have abused minors? Or ask yourself another question: if straight men were forbidden to marry women, had their sexual and emotional development truncated at the age of 13, and were forced into institutions where they were treated by teenage girls as gods, an given untrammeled private access to them, how much sexual abuse do you think would occur there? Please. This is not that hard to understand.

I think it’s compounded by the shame gay bishops feel about their own sexual orientation. They, like Bill Donohue, secretly associate their homosexuality with dysfunction, disorder, chaos, evil. So when they come across a fellow priest found to have molested teenage boys or children, they associate it with homosexuality – not pederasty – associate themselves with it, and try to cover it up – partly because they want to protect the church (which is their sole refuge) and partly because they want to protect those they wrongly associate with themselves. My own view is that Ratzinger fits almost perfectly into this paradigm, just as Weakland did. Which means there will be no change until this generation dies off. If Ratzinger were to face the truth on this, his world would collapse. He is not giving up on denial yet. He is a prime example of the walking wounded. Crippled, in fact, in the sole area he cannot be crippled: moral authority.

As for Bill Donohue’s obsessions, clearly he is not alone. He is just louder about it.