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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 [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
      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. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other co […]
      Obie Holmen
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    • Autumn Snowburst October 21, 2020
      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 […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • Meeting Truth October 14, 2020
      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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    • 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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    • Another World is Neccessary: Anarchism, Christianity and the Race from the White House July 30, 2008
      I’ll be presenting at the upcoming Jesus Radicals conference in Columbus, Ohio. My session (on the relationship between Church and State) will be on Friday afternoon. If you’re in the area, drop by. I’d love to meet some of the folks who frequent this site. Here’s the info: August 15-16, 2008 St. John’s Episcopal 1003 W Town Columbus, OH [...]ShareThis […]
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    • The Pope and civil unions October 21, 2020
      In the news: the pope has called for secular governments to allow LGBTQ people to be in civil unions .... Pope Francis, in Shift for Church, Voices Support for Same-Sex Civil UnionsPope Francis, who since the beginning of his pontificate has taken a more tolerant tone toward homosexuality, appeared to break with the position of the Roman Catholic Church by s […]
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The Newman Wars: Papal Visit to England and Battle over Newman’s Legacy

As Benedict’s visit to England nears, it’s fascinating to watch the drawing of battle lines among Catholic commentators on the visit, re: the legacy of John Henry Newman. Better thinkers and more astute bloggers than I am are already commenting on this topic, including James Martin at America‘s “In All Things” blog, John Cornwell in London’s Financial Times, Colleen Baker at Enlightened Catholicism, Michael Bayly at Wild Reed, and Andrew Sullivan at his Daily Dish site. And then there are Ann Widdecombe at the Telegraph and Michael Sean Winters at National Catholic Reporter. Continue reading

Keeping Men Men and Women Women: More Critical Reflections on the Theology of the Body

At my Bilgrimage blogsite, I have continued blogging about the theology of the body and its insistence that keeping men men and women women is the primary moral imperative that Christian communities of faith should bring to culture today.  A reader has just posted a critical response to my postings on this topic.

Since my reply to this reader’s response links to what I have posted at Open Tabernacle (and here) on this subject, I’m cross-posting to Open Tabernace what I say on Bilgrimage in reply to my critic, re: the theology of the body and its notion of gender complementarity: Continue reading

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

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

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

Ken Cuccinelli’s Use of Acts-Person Distinction: Continuing Dishonesty in Catholic Approach to Gay Persons

Several days ago, the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, was asked if he thinks that gays are a detriment to our culture.  This question came on the heels of a ruling by Cuccinelli instructing the commonwealth’s universities to rescind policies prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Cuccinelli’s response to the question about whether gays are a detriment to our culture is interesting.  It illustrates a point I made several days ago in my posting about disordered acts and disordered persons: namely, that right-leaning Catholics want to use the distinction between disordered gay acts and disordered gay persons to continue discrimination, even as they claim that it’s the gay acts and not gay people they’re combating. Continue reading

Procreation as Pro-Creation: Towards a Generativity-Centered Ethic of Sex and Marriage

A reader of Open Tabernacle has challenged me to make a statement about a Catholic ethic of sexuality and marriage that would leave room both for gay and straight marriages, while respecting the procreative norm that is central to the Catholic theology of marriage.  I believe other members of the Open Tabernacle team are also accepting this challenge, and will be posting their own statements.  If I’m right in my expectations, these will be complementary statements that aren’t in any way coordinated—a confluence of interesting reflections about sexuality and marriage from a number of Catholics today who are thinking through both critiques of the current theology of sexuality and marriage, and suggesting new approaches to the issues more adequate to the lived experience of faith of the people of God. Continue reading

A “Fruit” Reflects Upon What It Means to Be “Fruitful”

Then Jesus told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the gardener who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“ ‘Sir,’ the gardener replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. It may yet bear fruit. If not, then cut it down.’ ”

Throughout both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, our loving God invites us to be fruitful, to bear fruit. We hear too of the “fruits of the Spirit,” and are told that our lives should bear witness to these attributes and qualities. What does all of this really mean in our day-to-day lives and our life together as Church?

I’ve been thinking a lot about such questions as I observe the clerical leadership of the Roman Catholic Church intensify its efforts to deny civil marriage rights to gay couples and, in at least one case, deny a Catholic education to the children of a gay family.

For this clerical leadership and their supporters, “fruitfulness” within the context of a loving relationship between two people is first and foremost about procreation, about making babies.

As important as procreation is, however, as a Christian I think God’s call to be fruitful is primarily related to Jesus’ call to fullness of life; to that abundant life in God that Jesus certainly experienced and invites us all to experience. Living this life ensures that we flourish as individuals, couples, families, and communities.

The question then becomes, are gay people (ironically, often maligned as “fruits”) excluded from such a life of flourishment, of fruitfulness?

The clerical leadership of the Roman Catholic Church certainly believes that such exclusion is warranted for gay people who physically express their sexuality. Such expression, according to the testimony recently delivered by Fr. Michael Becker at the Minnesota State Capitol, is fundamentally selfish. Becker was testifying on behalf of the Minnesota Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops against a number of marriage equality bills currently before both the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate.

Because there is no possibility of making a baby, Becker argues, those who engage in gay sexual activity can never give themselves fully to one another. Gay sex, therefore, is only ever about “using” another for one’s own pleasure. There’s never any mutuality, equality, or dignity. Furthermore, children raised by couples who engage in such selfish and immoral activity are disadvantaged and prone to all kinds of potential traumas and problems.

Yet is this really the case? Many people – including Catholics – question and even dissent from the position advanced by Becker. How then are we to proceed together as Church in order to come to some consensus in this matter?

In preparation for the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform’s 2010 Synod of the Baptized, I’ve been reading two books: Paul Lakeland’s Church: Living Communion and Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler’s The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology. Drawing upon the insights of the great twentieth-theologian Bernard Lonergan, Lakeland contends that “as Catholic Christians we are . . . shaped by . . . courageous, Spirit-driven discernment of the changes we need to make in order not only to be attentive, intelligent, and reasonable but also, and above all, to be loving. If the Catholic Church is not evidently a loving community of faith, then it is failing.”

Lakeland contends that as a “community of conversion,” the Church is “constantly in process of change.” Our challenge is to “make the right changes,” changes that are dictated by the Church’s mission, one that calls us – individually and collectively – to be “an effective sign of the love of God in the world.”

In all honesty, I have to say that I’m at a loss as to how the current words and actions of the Church’s clerical leadership concerning gay people, relationships, and families, are loving. Rather, they seem to convey and champion divisive triumphalism; abstract tenets divorced from both human experience and the insights of science; and what seems to be a fear-based rigidity to the idea (and reality) of development and change.

It seems to me that the “fruitfulness” that our brother Jesus calls us to is all about embodying compassion and justice in our world (fulfilling the Church’s mission, in other words). In an ever-changing world, such embodying and fulfilling requires that all of us as Church be attentive (i.e., willing and capable of reading the signs of the times), intelligent (i.e., willing and able to practice discernment), reasonable, loving, and, if necessary, open to change. It has little space for attitudes and beliefs that insist that certain things can’t be changed because they represent God’s “rules” not ours – an argument one hears incessantly from those who remain unresponsive to the presence and action of the sacred in the lives and relationships of gay people.

I appreciate the insights of Sebastian Moore, shared recently in a letter in the February 20 issue of The Tablet. Moore observes that what is never mentioned in the discussions concerning homosexuality and the Church is “the collapse of the taboo on homosexuality, reflected [for example] in the striking of homosexuality off the list of deviances by the psychiatric associations of [the United Kingdom] and America.” For Moore, “this surely marks a unique progress in human self-understanding.” It also means that those civil societies, “being in support of this position in advocating acceptance of homosexuals as of all other persons, [are] ahead of the official church teaching which still maintains, as does the taboo, that homosexuality is a disorder.”

All of which brings us back to Jesus’ parable of the unfruitful fig tree. I think the number one reason why I love and follow Jesus is that he was such a boundary breaker; that, in the words of Bishop John Shelby Spong, he “appeared to need no security barrier behind which to hide. He could thus step across the boundaries of tribe, prejudice, guilt, and even religion into a new dimension of what it means to be human, and this is what caused people to experience God present in him.”

What does this inspiring and salvific quality of Jesus tell us? According to Spong, it means that Jesus’ “call to us is . . .  not to be religious but to be human and to be whole.” And to be human and whole surely means that we are ever growing in awareness and compassion – a growing that leads to flourishment, to fruitfulness. I see such flourishment and fruitfulness in loving gay couples and families; I see it in the communities – religious and secular – that recognize and celebrate such relationships and families. Yet as noted above, I’m having a really hard time seeing it in the words and actions of the clerical leadership of my Church.

Instead, I see a disturbing fixation on certain sex acts, and an unrealistic demand that all gay people live lives of celibacy simply because they’re gay. In reality, though, human beings – gay or straight – flourish when they engage in and build relational lives that are experienced and expressed sexually. Actual sex acts are just one aspect of such relational lives. It’s the quality of these relationships that the Church should be concerned about, not so much who puts what body part where and with whom. I consider this latter type of fixation to be typical of the psycho-sexually stunted.

Like the fig tree in Jesus’ parable, the Roman Catholic clerical leadership’s position on homosexuality is barren. It other words, it’s inattentive to “the signs of the time,” it’s unintelligent to intelligent people, it’s unreasonable, and, worst of all, it’s unloving. Catholics have every right to question this position, to require that it be clarified and justified to the point that all are satisfied. That the clerical leadership has so far been unable to provide such clarification and justification says much about the credibility, the validity, the truthfulness of this particular position.

Meanwhile, there are Catholic theologians, scholars, and commentators offering what could be considered a “fruitful” understanding of homosexuality, i.e., an understanding that is attentive, intelligent, reasonable, loving, and open to ongoing development. Two such scholars are Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler. When discussing self-integrity and sexuality in their book The Sexual Person: Towards a Renewed Catholic Anthropology, they note, for instance, that:

We argue from empirical human ‘nature’; this enables us to take the experienced reality of homosexual orientation seriously as what a person is and, therefore, how she or he might act personally, sexually, and morally. Because marital acts of a heterosexual and reproductive kind – that is, the insertion of a male penis into a female vagina – are naturally beyond the capacity of homosexuals, they cannot be bound to them morally.

In light of contemporary human knowledge about homosexual orientation, we have examined in this chapter the threefold bases on which the Catholic Church rests its judgment that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and gravely immoral, namely, the teaching of scripture, the teaching of the Magisterium, and the moral sense of the Christian people. On all three bases . . . the Church’s teaching needs serious reevaluation.

Such a stance echoes theologian Margaret Farley’s observation that “At this point, . . . it is difficult to see how on the basis of sheer rationality alone, and all of its disciplines [including theology], an absolute prohibition of same-sex relationships or activities can be maintained.”

These theologians – along with countless Catholics throughout the church – are aware of the many, many flourishing gay individuals and families living in our midst. Think of such individuals and families, if you like, as fruitful fig trees. The reality of their lives and relationships, their faithfulness to the Church’s mission to be living signs of consciousness, compassion, and justice – regardless of whether or not they can procreate – stands in stark contrast to what many see as the rigid and sterile position of the Church’s clerical leadership.

And, yes, even though I often feel like the vineyard owner and want to just say of this leadership, “Cut it down,” I chose instead to take my cue from Jesus, the ever-patient and loving gardener, who, in his efforts to encourage growth and change, remains dedicated and hopeful.

From Objective Disorder to Male-Female Complementarity: The Official Catholic Response to Gay Rights Movement

In my most recent posting, I surveyed the attempt of a group of Catholics acting as apologists for the magisterium to downplay and even outright deny what the Catholic church has chosen to teach in recent years about gay and lesbian persons.  I focused in particular on the recent (and innovative, in terms of the Christian tradition) magisterial teaching that those who are gay and lesbian are disordered human beings, because they do disordered acts.

As I noted, what makes the attempt to deny that this official church teaching exists remarkable is that the attempt is being spearheaded by the very same group of Catholics who, in every other respect, loudly demand that all Catholics accept every jot and tittle of papal teaching, precisely as it’s written.  Catholics who question any aspect of magisterial teaching that these right-wing Catholics regard as sacrosanct are accused of being “cafeteria Catholics,” though in reality, anyone living within a long, complex, and rich religious tradition like Catholicism inevitably selects some elements within that tradition to emphasize, while ignoring or rejecting others.  As William F. Buckley’s famous statement about the social teachings of the church—mater si, magistra no—illustrates, right-leaning Catholics are as inclined as anyone else to pick and choose those parts of the tradition they intend to respect and implement. Continue reading

Disordered Acts, Disordered Persons: Revisiting the Discussion (and Keeping It Honest)

On February 15, the National Catholic Reporter published an editorial entitled “A Teaching That Is Disordered.” The editorial was a response to a February 5 statement of the president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Francis George, condemning a Catholic ministry of pastoral outreach to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community, New Ways Ministry.

As the NCR editorial notes, in 1975, when Paul VI was pope, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics” that sought to distinguish between the homosexual “condition” and homosexual acts.  The 1975 CDF document revolves around the distinction between the gay orientation as morally neutral, and gay acts as morally disordered. Continue reading

Why This Gay Man Takes Heart from the Feast of the Holy Family

On the recent Feast of the Holy Family my mother and I attended Mass at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church in Port Macquarie, Australia. I’m currently in the “Great South Land” – visiting my parents, family, and friends – from my “other home” in Minnesota, USA.

As I sat waiting for the homily to begin I braced myself for a diatribe against perceived threats to the family – such as gay marriage. But I need not have worried.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are some members of the clerical leadership in the Australian church who would choose to use such a feast day to malign the lives and relationships of gay people. But, by-and-large, the Australian Catholic Church, I’ve discovered, reflects the wider “live and let live” ethos of Australian society. That, of course, is a far cry from the current case in the United States.

What the priest at yesterday’s Mass did talk about actually resonated with me as a gay Catholic man. He noted that, contrary to the rosy, holy card images we’re so often presented with, the reality is that Jesus’ family knew conflict and misunderstanding – just like any other family. Of course, nowhere is this more evident than in the story of the finding of the boy Jesus in the Temple.

This story served as yesterday’s Gospel reading, and in it we are presented with a young Jesus disobeying his parents; confusing, perhaps even disappointing them – all so that he can be true to the person he knew God had called him to be. As I listened to the priest describe this popular story of the Holy Family in this way, I realized that it is something to which many gay people can relate. Accordingly, it’s something to which many families can relate.

Like Jesus, young people coming into awareness of who they are sexually often have to retreat from their families so as to attune themselves to and embrace what’s awakening within them. For many gay people, answers and support are initially found outside the family. Parents are seldom the first to know that their child is gay.

These were my thoughts as I reflected upon yesterday the young Jesus leaving his family and the caravan bound for Nazareth so as to seek out the wisdom and insights of those in the Temple. I’m sure that as they busily prepared to leave Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph had instructed Jesus “not to wander off.” And yet that’s exactly what he did. He required answers and experiences beyond those which his family could provide, and so he went in search of them. This to me seems a healthy thing; a sacred journey or quest, if you like.

Once found by his parents, Jesus, in a way, “comes out” to them. He’s not the boy they thought he was. There’s definitely something different about him. He challenges them, confuses them, and, no doubt, disappoints them. Yet despite all of this they accept him as he is and, as a family, they resume their journey home together.

Sound familiar? I hope it resonates with you – especially if you’re gay, because here’s the bottom line: God calls gay people to something very special; something very sacred. God calls us to journeys of faith and consciousness that often compel us to “wander off” and seek answers elsewhere, despite the disapproval of others – even our parents, even “Mother Church.” And, no, this “something” is not a life of sexual abstinence – as the clerical leadership of the Roman expression of Catholicism would have us believe. Rather it’s a life of abundance as the relational beings that God created us to be. And, yes, God created some of us with relational capacities that are gay in orientation. Accordingly, for most gay people, a life of abundance means seeking, building, and maintaining a loving relationship with another of the same gender – a relationship that is experienced and expressed as something that is both sacred and sexual. I’ve come to believe that the seeking, building, and maintaining of such a relationship is always about “doing God’s work.”

I take to heart and am nourished and encouraged by the journeys in consciousness and compassion conveyed in the trusting, loving and accepting relational dynamics of Jesus and his family. They are journeys in and of faith. And, for me, they are what make this family – and so many others – holy.

Born and raised in rural Australia, Michael Bayly now lives in the US where he serves as the executive coordinator of the Minneapolis-based Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM). He is also the editor of The Progressive Catholic Voice, and a co-chair of the Minnesota-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform. His book Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective was published in 2007 by Harrington Park Press. He established his blog The Wild Reed in 2006, as a “sign of solidarity with all who are dedicated to living lives of integration and wholeness – though, in particular, with gay people seeking to be true to both the gift of their sexuality and their Catholic faith.”

The Pope Pontificates Again: Gays as Threat to World Ecology

Benedict and Cardinals, Christmas 2008

I had a teacher in college, a brilliant, multi-lingual Jesuit, who once told my class about a stunning poem he had written. He had awakened in the night with the poem complete in his head, Athena springing full-clad from Zeus’s brow. He wrote the poem down and went back to sleep satisfied that he’d captured a dazzling insight that would surely change the course of history.

Then he got up in the morning. He read what he’d written in the night and found it was total gibberish—a mix of six or seven different languages that didn’t make a whit of sense in any or all of them. The lesson our teacher told us he drew from this experience: be careful about those stunning inspirations that promise to cap every argument, explain everything for everybody, or provide the singular key that unlocks all mystery. Continue reading