Sheep Leading Shepherds: Lay Theological Literacy *

This post has moved to my new domain at http://queering-the-church.com/blog

James Alison: Discovery of “Gay” = Good News For the Church *

This post has moved to my new domain at http://queering-the-church.com/blog

“The Holy Spirit Moves Through All: All Must Be Consulted.”

What do you think has happened to the spirit of Vatican II?  Depending on your personal view of the value of the Council, most assessments appear to either lament the rolling back of the reforms by the revisionist JP II and Benedict XVI; or to rejoice in the return to the authentic tradition before that prevailed before the supposed errors of the reformists. Ted Schmidt, editor of the Canadian “New Catholic Times sensus fidelium” has a much more encouraging view.

The Canadian church is still recovering from the shock of Bishop Leahy, who resigned suddenly after being charged with possession of child pornography. It was in the light of this scandal that Schmidt conducted a series of interviews with Canadian bishops, then shared his reflections on what these said about the state of the Canadian Catholic Church. His observations, though, are applicable to the whole church, not just to Canada.  I share here some extracts – the full article is available at   New Catholic Times sensus fidelium

Knowing many of these fine men I say without fear of contradiction that presently they seem to have missed a fundamental truth of modern ecclesiology, the teaching on the sensus fidelium, that the Spirit is given to the entire church and not an ordained rump of clerical celibates. They are so fixated on the idea that they are “the teachers” that they have forgotten that they must first be the listeners and learners.

That sounds familiar, but it is what follows that is important: Read the rest of this entry »

Catholics Support Gay Marriage; Homosexuality “Not a Moral Issue”

Once again, research has shown that by a small margin, Catholics “support gay marriage” (Pew Research Centre) – the only one of the major religious groupings identified that does so. (The strongest support for marriage equality comes from the “unaffiliated” sector, with the strongest opposition from white evangelicals.)

Support for gay marriage

Read the rest of this entry »

Clerical Abuse: How We Are All The Solution.

My extended series on Clerical abuse has turned into a long and depressing affair, dragging on much longer that I ever expected,and leading me into several digressions along the way, included excursions into coming out as spiritual gift, South African history, and the importance of the sensus fidelium.  These digressions, though, were important and helpful – at least to me.  The conclusions presented thus far were also depressing: the root causes are deeply embedded in the institutional culture of the church (celibacy and the concentration of ecclesiastical power) and will not be easily changed, and also directly affect us all, not only the victims and their families. We are all victims, and we have all been complicit in the causes.

Now though, I can finally bring the series to a close on a more positive note.  In the same way that the end of apartheid came about finally as a result of numerous internal and external pressures, in which all South Africans (and many foreigners) participated to some degree, so we are all part of the solution to the abuse scandal.

How?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Impotent, Violent Hierachy.

In an interesting observation on the disgraceful Vatican investigation, Mercy Sr Theresa Kane describes as a sign not of the power of the hierarchy, but of its impotence:

Referring to the Vatican investigation of U.S. women religious initiated last December by Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodé, who heads the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Kane called it “a sign of impotence in the church hierarchy.”

“Regarding the present interrogation, I think the male hierarchy is truly impotent, incapable of equality, co-responsibility in adult behavior,” she said, not mincing any words. “In the church today, we are experiencing a dictatorial mindset and spiritual violence.”

Kane said there is a proper place for anger. “If we do not get angry, we won’t make change,” she said. And change can come, she noted. Years back, she recalled, women were required to cover their heads when in church — “even using tissue paper, if necessary.” After a while women simply stopped the practice and the requirement ended. She called it a “silent revolution.”

Spiritual violence it demonstrably is, impotence less clearly so, but I think she is right. Real authority does not do reassert itself with these conspicuous assertions of power, but instead is proves itself by the continuing, voluntary cooperation of those governed. I also like her observations on excommunication, and on the possibility of change, and on the possibility of facing excommunication:

Kane, as the nation’s most identifiable advocate of women’s ordination, has been repeatedly asked if she fears a Vatican excommunication. Her response: “I’m not out of communion. The institution got out of communion with me.”

This is the view that I am rapidly reaching.  It is not the ordinary Catholics who are out of touch with the real heart of Catholicism, but the supposed religious experts in the Vatican, and some of the bishops, who are so obsessed with their cloistered lives, power and finery that they have completely lost touch with the realities of ordinary lives.  In their courage and willingness to stick their necks out and speak up against injustice where they see it, including injustice inside the church, against the opposition of the powerful, these women are bearing true prophetic witness to the Gospel message.  Instead of being investigated by the authorities, they should be recognised and celebrated as the true leaders of the modern church.

(Read the full report of Sr Kane’s address, and other news from the 40th anniversary conference of the National Coalition of American Nuns, at the National CAtholic  Reporter,)


Scripture Discussion in Kalamazoo

There is an instructive story at Box Turtle Bulletin (which has become my favourite site for general LGBT news and comment) on a Kalamazoo discussion of the Bible and homosexuality.

With a city council anti-discrimination ordinance facing a test at the ballot box, a public meeting was arranged to hear a public discussion on just what Scripture has to say.  But this was a discussion, not an anti-gay tirade.

So the Wenkes sponsored a forum with ministers discussing scripture. But you probably have made some false assumptions about Wenke’s motivation. (Mlive.com)

“The more that you talk about this issue and the more you get to know families struggling with this issue, the more you know the Bible doesn’t condemn them,” Wenke said.

So Wenke’s forum was not limited to anti-gay messages. Rather, he presented three ministers who find scripture to condemn homosexuality and three that do not.

“It’s only .002 percent of the entire Bible, an incredibly small slice,” Laney said. “Sexual orientation is not a choice; it’s not a disorder. It’s part of God’s diverse creation.”

The Rev. Dr. Douglas Vernon, senior pastor of Kalamazoo’s First United Methodist Church, agreed, saying the Bible may be taken “very seriously” but not always literally.

“We believe there is no one right way to interpret Scripture,” Vernon said.

The Rev. John Byl, pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church, and the Rev. Dr. Paul Naumann, of St. Michael Lutheran Church, disagreed, saying the literal words are relevant and timeless.

The organisers say they were encouraged by the turnout.  Expecting 300, they had 800. This is encouraging, but not surprising. It is easy to demonstrate that, as noted, the supposedly anti-gay texts are only a very tiny slice of the entire Scripture. Those who have gone into it more carefully have observed (i)that this in itself is surprising, in a Graeco-Roman cultural context where homoerotic relationships where commonplace; (ii) that the supposedly hostile texts have misinterpreted, mistranslated, or misapplied; (iii)and there are far more supportive texts than hostile ones.

Wherever the churches have approached the issue with careful reflection and study, there have been movements at least towards greater acceptance.The recent proceedings of the ECLA are a great example. Following an extended process of careful study and prayerful reflection on Scripture, the assembly passed a series of notable resolutions that recognise that differing interpretations are possible and equally valid, that approve the recognition of gay and lesbian pastors in committed, monogamous relationships that need no longer be celibate, on exactly the same terms as those of heterosexual  pastors, and that are likely to lead to the recognition of same sex marriage or blessing ceremonies in church.  This process towards rational debate and greater acceptance will continue.

We as queer Catholics and other people of faith need to say this to our non-religious friends, and point out that if they could just set aside their anti-religious bigotry, and try to understand the supportive side of the religious argument, they can assist the moderates in the churches in this move towards LGBT acceptance