Lesbian and Gay Ministry: Los Angeles

When news of Cardinal Mahoney’s retirement as Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles hit the news recently, numerous commentaries on his tenure and achievements began to appear. I read several of these, looking for observations on one particular aspect of his period in office – but in vain. What I was looking for was information on the diocesan ministry to lesbian and gay Catholics, about which I have twice watched a recording of the television programme,  “A Journey for Understanding”, produced by Rick Flynn. The model that LA has adopted is rather different from that of the Soho Mass that I am familiar, but one that I thought, when I saw the TV programme, had strong potential. That programme, however, was made back in 1992, a long time ago, and only a few years after the ministry itself was founded. I have been wondering how the ministry has developed since then.

I have no need to wonder any longer. By courtesy of my friend and colleague Martin Pendergast, I have been sent by email just such an assessment that I was not able to find for myself. (The full assessment is online at The Tidings). From this, together with the ministry’s page at the diocesan website, from its own impressive website and from its active participation in the Religious Education Conference coming up, it is obvious that the program is very much alive and flourishing.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels , Los Angeles

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Conscience Formation, Spiritual Formation, and The Holy Spirit

A dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, who is be...

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David Ludescher, a regular reader at the Open Tabernacle , has put to me some important questions on the formation of conscience. These arose in response to my post on empirical research findings on the current state of British Catholic belief, and some observations I made on the implications for our understanding of the sensus fidelium (on sexual ethics and priestly ministry in particular).

These questions were put in a comment box at the Open Tabernacle, where I cross-posted. (I have reproduced his questions in an independent post for easy reference). Just follow the link to read the questions in full. This is my response: Read the rest of this entry »

True Catholic Belief

Who is a “true” Catholic? What constitutes authentic Catholic belief? I have often met claims in the comments threads on a range of Catholic sites that one cannot claim to be part of the Catholic faithful unless that includes faithfulness to Catechism, that loyalty to the Church necessarily implies, indeed requires, loyalty and automatic obedience to the pope and to Vatican doctrine. How sound is the claim? I know, of course, what the Catechism says, but this is circular reasoning: we must believe the Catechism, because it says so. (This reminds me of Scott Pomfret’s delightful observation: “How do we know the Pope is infallible? Because he said so. In 1879“). I could equally well argue that you must believe me, “because I say so.” It is true  that the argument summarised above is far more complex, with the doctrine developing over many centuries, but at its essence, the argument remains: believe the bishops, because (over many centuries) they have, collectively, said so.

James Alison likes to respond to Vatican teaching by saying “Yes, but is it true?“. I like to respond by checking claims not against theory, but against empirical evidence. So I repeat my questions, and ask ou to pay attention to the precise words: not what should Catholics be or believe, but who are the, what do they really believe?

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Catechism, Inquisition – and Chocolate!

The Catechism can evoke strong feelings from many Catholics. Bill Lindsey responded to my recent post on the subject with a reflection of his own, primarily on the folly and error of claiming to know and follow “all” Catholic teaching. He also covers the well known path of discussing the many changes in Catholic teaching – but includes many changes that are not so well-known:


Here are some extracts:

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How to Right the Bishops

I have carried a few posts earlier this week about Joseph Gentolini, and his ministry of writing to the bishops. This is a strategy I would like to see far more people adopting. These are some guidelines Joseph one wrote for Dignity on how to go about it. I find these suggestions constructive and helpful. I commend them for your own serious consideration:

14-Point Summary When Writing Our Bishops

Building the Relationship

1. The goal is to develop a relationship with the Bishop, not to send a quick letter and then be done with it. Realize that this will be a long-term communication process. If you can, try and arrange a meeting with your Bishop. If not, then write him.

2. Know your purpose in writing: to influence? To vent? To Blame?

3. Use “I” statements, not “you” statements. “You” statements usually come across as blaming. This is not what you want to do.

4. Do not use words that convey intense anger. This goes along with #2. You may be angry, but try to take out the “blaming” or “accusatory” language. This only puts the other on the defensive and makes it more difficult to hear your words and message.

5. Be vulnerable – you have to share yourself – your thoughts, feelings, and spirituality. Be humble and not arrogant.

6. Speak for yourself. Do not judge or assign motives or intent. Talk about how Church teachings have hurt you.

7. Whenever you have the opportunity to see the Bishop, make sure you introduce yourself again. My partner’s nieces have been confirmed and I made sure I went up to meet the Bishop again, telling him that I was working on another letter to him. Several years ago, he told me that he “enjoyed our communication through the mail.”

8. Be respectful, if only for the office the Bishop holds in the Church or, if you can’t respect the Office, respect his person.

Other Important Thoughts on Content and Prayer

9. Tell your story about being a gay or lesbian Catholic – the pain and the joys. If you are in a relationship, make sure he knows this and what it means in your life.

10. Use the Bishop’s own language and symbolism if you can. For example, in one of my letters, I used the language of the Catechism on racism to make a point on gays and justice. After Always Our Children came out, I thanked him and told him that I hoped all parishes received a copy. I also told him that it was orthodox just the way it was and urged him not to allow any changes.

11. Don’t hit all of the issues in one letter. Take them each as they come up.

12. Don’t forget to look at the Diocesan paper, even if you find it offensive. If there is an article on homosexuality or related issues, see if there is a letter you can write to give your point of view. This is another way to communicate.

13. Allow God to act – I am not responsible for the results of what I do or say – God is! Let the Spirit use you – this takes an act of faith.

14. Finally and maybe most important, pray for the Bishop and the Church and let him know that you keep him in prayer.

COPYRIGHT 2007: Joseph Gentilini, Ph.D.

Catholic ‘Dissent’

I vividly remember memorizing, as a child in Catholic primary schools,  page by page, the catechism of the church:  first a slim little red version, later a slightly fatter grey-green version for older students.

“Who made you?
God made me.”

“Why did God make you?
To know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this world,  and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”

But by the time I reached secondary school, Vatican II was in progress, enthusiastically embraced by the prest who taught me RE for the next 5 years. I never again saw that little catechism.

There is a quaint view in some quarters that to be a Catholic requires that one suspend all powers of the intellect, and meekly agree to believe, and to live, exactly as one is told.  This view I emphatically reject.  One of the key parables in the Gospels is that of the 10 talents. We are taught that the Lord requires us to use all the talents we are given, for his greater glory and to further His reign on earth.  Surely the intellect is one of the greatest talents He has bestowed on us?  (Another is our sexuality, which should also be used – but that is another story.) Read the rest of this entry »

Joining the Debate

On launching “Queering the Church”, I made clear my hope that this would develop beyond a simple personal blog, to a more general communal resource, and encouraged you to participate with comments and contributions.

We have had  a handful of comments, and have now received submissions from our first new contributor.  Rob Alexander has provided me with two articles, one a critique on the Catholic Catechism, the other (now a little dated) on Bishop Devine.

I have not yet had a chance to digest or respond to these; nor do I wish in any way to censor honest or sincere contributions from any of our community.  I post them, for now, without comment. I will add a personal response later.

Critique of the Catechism

A Bishop Throws Down the Gauntlet