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    • Autumn Snowburst October 21, 2020
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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
       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
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Call to Action: progressive Catholics hold a convention

Along with a couple thousand others, I spent the weekend in Milwaukee attending the annual convention of Call to Action (CTA), a beleaguered group of progressive Roman Catholics.  The conservative retrenchment of the Vatican and the American bishops marches on, and one wonders what the future holds for Catholic progressives.  I met hundreds of interesting persons with fascinating stories: former priests and nuns who are now married, many gays or parents of gays, and numerous women who have recently been ordained to the priesthood or who are anticipating ordination in the near future.

“What,” you ask, “women ordained as Catholic priests?”

Roman Catholic Womenpriests is a movement less than a decade old that began with the 2002 ordination of seven women (six Europeans and one American).  Since then, the movement is growing rapidly (despite excommunications), and I can attest to a sense of vibrancy at the Womenpriests’ booth that attracted an earnest crowd.  One of the priests at the exhibit told me that their booth at the 2008 CTA Convention attracted a few curiosity seekers, but overall the mood was “don’t get too close to these excommunicated dissidents”.  Last year, at the 2009 CTA convention, she reported that the fear of contagion had dissipated and the curiosity level had increased dramatically.  This year, the Womenpriests booth was filled with visitors who had moved beyond curiosity to genuine interest.  Their US map with red and green dots signifying locations of ordained womenpriests and pending ordinations was a hit with many asking for more specifics so they could attend a nearby Eucharist celebrated by female clergy.

Are progressive Catholics coming to the realization that their future lies outside the patriarchal hierarchy and beyond the control of the Vatican?  If so, where?  If not, how can progressive Catholics effect reform within the existing conservative power structures?

Enter the American Catholic Council.  The Council also had an energetic presence at the CTA conference, passing out brochures inviting all to a Pentecost gathering next June.  CTA is one of the member organizations of the Council, which also includes other Catholic reform organizations.

American Catholic Council is a movement bringing together a network of individuals, organizations, and communities to consider the state and future of our Church. We believe our Church is at a turning point in its history. We recall the promise of the Second Vatican Council for a renaissance of the roles and responsibilities of all the Baptized through a radically inclusive and engaged relationship between the Church and the World.  We respond to the Spirit of Vatican II by summoning the Baptized together to demonstrate our re-commitment. We seek personal conversion to renew our Church to conform to the authentic Gospel message, the teachings of our Church, and our lived context in the United States. Our reading of the “signs of the times”, as we experience them in the US, our plan and our agenda are set out in our Declaration.  We educate; we listen; we facilitate discussions and encounters; and, we build toward an American Catholic Council  that will convene in Detroit over Pentecost weekend in June of 2011.  At this Council we hope to proclaim our belief in the Rights and Responsibilities of US Catholics.

June 10, 2011.  Mark the date.

DIY Catholicism: Twin Cities “Synod of the Baptized”.

The “whole church” self-evidently includes many more people than simply the self-appointed oligarchy of bishops and their clergy, but the Vatican has never made any serious effort to involve the rest of us in the affairs of the Church – beyond serving as fund-raisers and cheap labour for the simpler tasks. Questions of serious planning and decision-taking it keeps very carefully to its own. However, as I have noted frequently, there are abundant and increasing signs that ordinary Catholics, lay people, religious women, married priests now outside of institutional control, and some more progressive regular priests are recognizing the importance of making a full contribution to the life of the Church. Where they are not being properly involved by the institutional oligarchy, they are simply doing it for themselves.

One part of the "whole church", called into mission.

One of the more impressive examples of this comes from the diocese of Minneapolis / St Paul, which has just brought to fruition their very successful “Synod of the Baptized”. This has been the fruit of long months of hard work and preparation, so I was delighted to read how well the event seems to have gone off – and that the team are already engaged in planning for the next stage.

Taken from the Progressive Catholic Voice, these are some extracts from a report by Paula Ruddy:

Continue reading

A Signpost to the Future: Bishop Kevin Dowling on Need for Servant Leadership in Catholic Church

Bishop Kevin Dowling

At Bilgrimage, I just posted about the serious problems confronting the Catholic church today, as it tries to pursue its most fundamental mission of all—being a sacramental sign of God’s salvific love in the world.  And so where do we find signposts to a future different than the dismal one to which the dismal pastoral leadership of the church at present seems to point us?

I find hope in an address Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, gave to a lay group on 1 June.  Though Bishop Dowling addressed the group, which had asked him to comment on the “current state of the church,” off the record, a reporter was present and information about Dowling’s theological analysis hit the news. Continue reading

Minnesota Progressive Catholics

Catholic Coalition for Church Reform

Australian born Michael Bayly is a leading spokesman for the local (Minnesota) gay Christian community.  He serves as the executive coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), the editor of The Progressive Catholic Voice, and co-chair of the Minnesota-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR).  Earlier this year when an international group of progressive Catholic bloggers decided to collaborate on a new blog called Open Tabernacle, a pair of Minnesotans, Michael and I, were invited to participate.

From the CCCR website:

We are the Church. In our understanding of Church, all the baptized are one big community of smaller communities, we are all equal, we all participate in different ministries (lay, clergy, bishop), we communicate with one another, and we share a vision and a self-critique. The five words we have been using to summarize this model of Church are community, equality, participation, dialogue, and prophecy. It is a model arising out of Vatican II and seems to us most in line with the Gospel message. It has been promulgated by the Asian bishops and it also fits well with the positive values of our U.S. culture.

Dignity Twin Cities

Formed in 1969, the same year that the gay rights movement was born in the Stonewall riots of Greenwich Village, Dignity USA continues as the leading LGBT advocacy group within American Roman Catholicism.  Here is their vision statement:

DignityUSA envisions and works for a time when Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Catholics are affirmed and experience dignity through the integration of their spirituality with their sexuality, and as beloved persons of God participate fully in all aspects of life within the Church and Society.

A local chapter, Dignity Twin Cities, was formed in 1974.  Initially accepted by the local Catholic hierarchy, the organization was eventually booted out of Catholic property and now holds its liturgies and meetings at Prospect Park United Methodist Church.  The Rainbow Sash movement is associated with Dignity.  The current president of Dignity Twin Cities is Brian McNeill.

Womenpriests

The Roman Catholic Womenpriest movement is small but energized, and I have blogged previously about the women who challenge the patriarchal Catholic hierarchy at the cost of excommunication (here and here). 

Roman Catholic Womenpriests reject the penalty of excommunication issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on May 29, 2008 stating that the women priests and the bishops who ordain them would be excommunicated latae sententiae.” Roman Catholic Womenpriests are loyal members of the church who stand in the prophetic tradition of holy obedience to the Spirit’s call to change an unjust law that discriminates against women. Our movement is receiving enthusiastic responses on the local, national and international level.  We will continue to serve our beloved church in a renewed priestly ministry that welcomes all to celebrate the sacraments in inclusive, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered communities wherever we are called.

Bishop Regina Nicolosi Bishop Regina Nicolosi of Red Wing, Minnesota is a leader of the national Womenpriest movement.

Regina Nicolosi, MA, was born in a small town on the Rhine River. She was a teacher in Germany. 1969 she came to the USA to marry the love of her life, Charles, a radiologist and deacon. Together they raised four children, one of them from Colombia and one from Korea. Regina participated fully in Charles’ preparation to the diaconate. She earned her Masters Degree in Pastoral Studies. Regina has worked as a housing manager for seniors, as a chaplain in a correctional facility for boys, in a drug and alcohol recovery unit and in a nursing home. She is retired now. She helps prepare women for ordination and celebrates Eucharist with Dignity and other small faith-communities.

On Thursday, June 24th, I met Michael, Brian, Bishop Regina and other leaders of the progressive Catholic movement in Minnesota at a gay pride mass held in south Minneapolis. Following the liturgy, I was honored to be the guest speaker at this gathering of committed, Catholic, Christians.  Michael’s personal blog reports on the events of the evening in his post entitled LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being “Wonderfully Made”.  Click on the link to Michael’s blog for many pictures and Michael’s excellent reporting of this event.gay pride mass foursome

From left to right: Art Stroebl (event coordinator), Obie Holmen, Brian McNeill, Michael Bayly.

Cross posted at Spirit of a Liberal blog.

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

Roman Catholic female ordination

Call to Action logo Call to Action is the largest group of progressive Catholics with roots in the liberalizing reforms of Vatican II, originally sanctioned by the American Council of Bishops, but which became an outsider organization as conservative retrenchment set in during the papacy of John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II repeatedly dashed hopes for any internal liberalizing during his lifetime, and he prepared for the future by appointing as bishops only men who upheld his views on contraception and the ordination of women. Meanwhile, there were crackdowns on theologians like [Hans] Kung and an insistence from Rome that diversity of opinion was not to be tolerated.

The organization is stronger than ever and continues to a thorn in the flesh of the patriarchal and hierarchal Vatican:

We appeal to the institutional church to reform and renew its structures. We also appeal to the people of God to witness to the Spirit who lives within us and to seek ways to serve the vision of God in human society.

We call upon church officials to incorporate women at all levels of ministry and decision-making.

We call upon the church to discard the medieval discipline of mandatory priestly celibacy and to open the priesthood to women and married men…so that the Eucharist may continue to be the center of the spiritual life of all Catholics.

We call for extensive consultation with the Catholic people in developing church teaching on human sexuality.

We claim our responsibility as committed laity, religious and clergy to participate in the selection of our local bishops, a time-honored tradition in the church.

We call for open dialogue, academic freedom, and due process.

We call upon the church to become a model of financial openness on all levels, including the Vatican.

We call for a fundamental change so that young people will see and hear God living in and through the church as a participatory community of believers who practice what they preach.

Another group of progressive Catholics has moved beyond advocacy to open defiance of the Vatican by ordaining women despite excommunication.  Called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, the organization now has five female bishops who are actively ordaining women to the priesthood around the US. 

The Sarasota Florida Herald Tribune offered a lengthy article on Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan and her ordination of two women as priests and one as a deacon over the weekend.

A former nun who the Vatican says has been excommunicated will ordain two women priests and one deacon in Sarasota today, part of a growing and controversial movement claiming to be an offshoot of the Catholic church.

The ordinations will be the first in Florida by the group known as Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which preaches equality for women by allowing them into the priesthood and plays down allegiance to the pope.

Bishop Bridget (center) and two new womenpriests The official Catholic church calls the movement and the ordinations illegitimate, and the local diocese sent letters to parishes saying any Catholics who support the ordination of women by attending today’s ceremony will be automatically excommunicated — a banishment from participating in church sacraments such as baptism and communion until forgiveness is given by a priest.

“Good!” said Bridget Mary Meehan, the former nun who is performing today’s ordinations and is one of five bishops in the national movement. “They’re upping the ante. People will have to be courageous to support us and that is what this is about. Like our sister Rosa Parks, we refuse to sit on the back of the bus any longer.”

A similar story comes from the Sacramento Bee newspaper in California.

To parishioners in her small Sacramento congregation, Elizabeth English is their Catholic priest: She presides over their Sunday Mass, leads them during Communion and baptizes their babies.

To the Roman Catholic Church, English symbolizes a topic that church leaders consider closed: the ordination of women priests.

English left the Roman Catholic Church five years ago to pursue her calling to the priesthood. She is now a priest in the Independent Catholic Church, a group not recognized by the Vatican. She is the only female Catholic priest in the Sacramento region.

“I had to leave the church; there was no place for me,” she said. “I wish there was.”

Another of the five Womenpriest bishops, Andrea M. Johnson, will appear tomorrow at the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University.  Bishop Johnson will speak and participate in a blue ribbon panel discussion about female ordination.  This information comes from blogger Wild Hair whose self description is “Roman Catholic Priest, still in reasonably good standing; aka: eminence, the cardinal archbishop of HGN.”

Finally, Bishop Bridget mentioned earlier has her own blog with lots of info and links about the Womenpriest movement.  Check it out.

This article is cross posted at Spirit of a Liberal.

Asceticism and the Call to Discipleship: A Gloss on the Discussion of Penitential Practices

Andrea Da Firenze, "Christ Bearing the Cross to Calvary"

Signposts, as I try to live the gospel in my own life, in the place in which I find myself now:

Signpost 1: this is a literal signpost.  It’s one I pass almost daily as I drive around my city running errands.  Prominently displayed in a yard of a house on a busy major artery out of the city, an artery from the inner city to its affluent, largely white suburbs, is a sign with a loud political (and ethical) slogan.

I haven’t copied the sign.  I’m quoting from memory, and summarizing as I do so.  It says something like, “Vic Snyder—DEMOCRAT.  Tried to destroy your good health insurance.  Are you happy?” Continue reading

Dorothy Day and Social Revolution Starting in One’s Heart: Resources from Dean Taylor

Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan

The following post comes to Open Tabernacle from Dean Taylor of the Empire: Through a Glass Darkly blog.  Dean has kindly offered to provide Open Tabernacle readers with links to some important resources for learning about the life of the important 20th-century lay Catholic activist, Dorothy Day.

One Abbot Howard Hoffman referred to Dorothy Day (with Dan Berrigan, upper right) as, “the first Hippie.” High praise indeed. Day’s Weltanschauung included as its primary consideration aid to the poor. She remarked: “If anybody comes to you hungry…you don’t say to him, ‘go be thou filled,’… ‘go be warm’…You go ahead and see to it that he does get what he needs. You can’t pass the buck that way.” Continue reading

Haiti, the Push for Theological Answers, and Liberation Theology’s Correction of Christian Necrophilia

Paula Cooey has published  a thought-provoking article at Religion Dispatches about the push for theological questions following the Haitian earthquakes.  As she notes, in the wake of massive tragedies like what has happened in Haiti, people begin to ask theological questions—theodicy questions.  Questions about where God is as millions of people suffer.

And people of faith sometimes respond to those questions with answers—with answers that are altogether too glib.  Answers that implicitly make God responsible for the massive suffering that causes us to question where God is, as people suffer . . . .  Job’s-comforter answers, which explain it all to us, when silence and solidarity with those who are suffering would be a far more adequate theological response than cheap, falsely explanatory answers. Continue reading