Catholic School Admissions: Sanity in Boston

Last year, two US dioceses came under fire for decisions to exclude children of lesbian parents. In Boulder, Colorado the decision was widely condemned, but stayed in place. In Boston, the specific decision was rapidly revoked, with accompanying promises to formulate a new formal policy on admissions that would apply to Catholic schools in the diocese. That policy has just been unveiled – and is eminently sensible.  No school will be permitted to discriminate against any child – but prospective parents must understand that “Catholic teaching” is an essential part of the curriculum.

Well, great. “Catholic teaching” includes the well-known and disordered teaching on same sex relationships, but that really is a very small part of the totality of Church teaching. Far more prominent is a consistent emphasis on justice, inclusion of all, and standing up for the oppressed, as Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols pointed out last year.  Michael B. Reardon, executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, which gives millions in scholarships to low-income students, says much the same thing:

“From the perspective of the foundation, the key part of this is that it does not exclude any group of students, and it promotes what is essential to Catholic education, which is inclusivity,’’ he said.

In Boston Catholic Schools, All Now Welcome

Read the rest of this entry »

Pope Benedict’s Gay Circus at the Vatican

The net was briefly ablaze last month with reports and youtube clips of these circus acrobats’ performance for Pope Benedict. Commentary was divided: queer and queer friendly sites simply asked us to enjoy the show – or noted wryly that the pope appeared to be doing so himself. Other less friendly sites expressed shock at the scandal of this homoerotic display in the hallowed halls of the Vatican. At the time, I read a couple of reports, watched the video – and moved on, without comment.

A more recent report by Randy Engel in Spero News caught my attention this week, for suggesting that there may well be something of more interest to it for LGBT readers, claiming that the performers are definitely gay aligned, if not specifically gay men themselves. It seems that they formed part of the gay circus, which performed as part of the Euro gay games in Barcelona, 2008.

On July 25-27, 2008, the Pellegrini Brothers appeared in the Gay Circus, a specially-staged 3-day event set within the framework of the XII EuroGames (“Gay Olympics”) in Barcelona, Spain. Up until this point, the Pellegrini name had been associated with well-known international circuses including the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus (USA), the Circus Knie (Switzerland), and the International Circus Festival (Monte Carlo).

Billed as “a show for people without prejudices,” that is “a gay and lesbian friendly audience,” by publicist Irene Peralta, the “Gay Circus” was created as an artistic tribute to gay culture and as a “contribution to the normalization of homosexuality.” It featured male/male performers in a homoerotic setting. Peralta told reporters that “Gay Circus will transform the traditional understanding of the circus.”

As always with Randy Engel, the piece needs to be read with a health warning. She is described as “one of the nation’s top investigative reporters”, but by whom? Well, her own website. She is indeed prolific, and has a track record of writing extensively about a supposed “gay mafia” in the Vatican, and has made extensive claims of homosexuality against numerous bishops and cardinals worldwide – and against some recent popes, most notably John Paul I and Paul VI. Many of her claims are at least credible, but not all are generally accepted as proven by more established journalists. In this piece, her claims about the Pellegrini brothers can presumably be quite easily verified, but I confess I have not had the energy to do so myself.

If you like, do the fact checking yourself – or simply take her piece at face value,  and enjoy its implications.

The Circus at the Vatican: Reflections on how it came to be

Saturday, January 08, 2011 By Randy Engel

“Topless Acrobats Perform for Pope”, “Bare-chested Acrobats Perform for Pope”, “Pope Captivated by Shirtless Male Acrobats”, “Surprise Strippers in Vatican!”

These headlines which flooded the Internet and international media following the Papal General Audience of December 15, 2010, held at Paul VI Hall in Vatican City were enough to unsettle even the most intrepid post-Conciliar Catholic.

The scandal in question involved the Pellegrini Brothers, heirs to the well-known Italian circus dynasty, who were invited to entertain the pope and his entourage and the more than 6,000 visitors assembled for the weekly audience during the Advent season in Rome. It was, however, not their short hand-balancing act, but rather their grand entrance and provocative salutation to the Holy Father that sparked controversy.

On cue, the four young men mounted the platform area, faced the pope seated across from his secretary and cardinals on stage, and then in a manner reminiscent of the Vegas Chippendale male strippers, peeled off their jackets revealing their bare muscular upper torso. The Fratelli Pellegrini were accompanied on stage by a statuesque, well-endowed brunette with stiletto boots who had been poured into a black skin-tight leather outfit and whose task it was to gather up the performers’ jackets, stroll across the stage and await the end of the exhibition. The only fashion accessory she lacked to complete the sadomasochist scenario was a whip.

The anti-climatic gymnast act completed, the Pellegrini Brothers followed by the madam in leather, left the stage to the sounds of clapping from an enthusiastic audience, including a smiling pope and host of cardinals.

Pellegrini Brothers Perform at “Gay Circus”

On July 25-27, 2008, the Pellegrini Brothers appeared in the Gay Circus, a specially-staged 3-day event set within the framework of the XII EuroGames (“Gay Olympics”) in Barcelona, Spain. Up until this point, the Pellegrini name had been associated with well-known international circuses including the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus (USA), the Circus Knie (Switzerland), and the International Circus Festival (Monte Carlo).

Billed as “a show for people without prejudices,” that is “a gay and lesbian friendly audience,” by publicist Irene Peralta, the “Gay Circus” was created as an artistic tribute to gay culture and as a “contribution to the normalization of homosexuality.” It featured male/male performers in a homoerotic setting. Peralta told reporters that “Gay Circus will transform the traditional understanding of the circus.”

The homosexual media touted the event as an opportunity for parents to introduce their sons to other forms of sexual love outside the traditional male/female model, and to give greater exposure to homosexuality as a legitimate sexual preference. Video selections of the Gay Circus show many children in the audience. Ticket sales were estimated to be over 12,000.

The theme of the Gay Circus centered upon the eternal struggle between Good and Evil. Sadomasochist elements which dominate gay culture were visible both in the costuming and demeanor of the performers. One aerial act featured two male “angels” in a tight embrace naked except for a g-string. Another, with two “devils” in black leather jockstraps and harnesses. A short video of the Pellegrini Brothers performance at the Gay Circus, which was very similar to the portion of their act performed at the papal audience complete with an opening strip scenario, showed two burly shirtless men acting as jacket attendants.

According to Gay Circus producer Genis Matabosch, artistic performance and quality were the primary criteria for casting, not sexual orientation. Matabosch admitted he did not know who among the cast was homosexual and who was not.

Related articles


Young Men in the Burning Fiery Furnace: Dec 17th

Last week the church marked the feast of three young men, Shadrack, Mesach and Abednego, the companions of Daniel the prophet.  I missed the opportunity to comment on the due date, which was unfortunate: they are important for highlighting a much neglected group in the church – the transgendered.

We are probably all familiar with the stories of Daniel in the lion’s den, and of his three companions in the burning fiery furnace. What they don’t tell us in Sunday School, is that as slaves captured and taken to service in the king’s court in Babylon they were almost certainly eunuchs – castrated males. This was the standard fate of slaves in the royal court, as Kathryn Ringrose has shown, and as anticipated by Isaiah:

And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.

-Isaiah 39:7

Read the rest of this entry »

Gay Priests: There’s power in testimony

“Bart” continues his series of reflections on what it is to be a gay Catholic priest:

It gets better. It gets better. It gets better! These words have become something of a mantra over the past weeks as I watched clip after clip from the wall of videos uploaded on the It Gets Better Project site (itgetsbetter.org) and on YouTube. As anyone who’s been following events in the States knows, this project (set up by Dan Savage and his partner Terry) is aimed at giving support and encouragement to vulnerable (mainly LGBT) youth. It was set up after a number of gay and lesbian teens were driven to suicide after being bullied and harassed.

Dan Savage speaking at IWU as part of Gender I...

Image via Wikipedia

What struck me all the more about this project was the effect it was having on me. Here I am, a gay priest in his forties, being deeply moved as I watch testimony after testimony being given by persons of all ages and backgrounds. Some of the clips featured individuals; others presented couples, or parents with kids. There were a number of clips made by groups of persons, whether all gay or mixed gay-straight groups. On a number of occasions I cried tears of joy whilst hearing the stories of those who have come such a long way to be where they are now, and being able to witness to this change. Other times I felt sad because I too would like to be able to add my story to this cloud of witnesses who have come forward for the sake of others. Even though I have not arrived at the stage where I can go public about my identity, I have been strengthened in my resolve to press on with the coming-out process. Yes, even though the going can be tough at times, it is definitely getting better … for me as well!

(more….)

 

Oz Priest, on the Christian Case for Gay Marriage

“Fr Dave” is yet another Australian arguing strongly in favour of legal recognition. His argument is that it the Christian thing to do: same sex marriage, like any other, contributes broadly to social stability, and provides a stable environment for raising children. (For those who dispute this on the grounds that children need a mother and a father, see the observation by cartoonist David Horsey, at Seattle PI:

Today, a couple of inebriated knuckleheads who happen to be boy and girl can impulsively get hitched any day of the week at a chapel in Las Vegas. A straight man or woman who has repeatedly failed at marriage can try, try again. The moral fiber of America will only be enhanced when two men or two women who have faithfully shared their lives for decades are finally allowed to do the same.

But back to Fr Dave, in Australia:

Why every Christian should be in favour of gay marriage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Priest “Bart”, on “What is a Gay Priest to do?”

Ever since I first read the important question posed by James Martin SJ at America blog, “What is a gay Catholic to do?”, I have tried to provide some examples of what a selection of gay Catholics have done. The responses I have had from some of my readers who are priests, and also some posts I have read at other sites, have shown that there is another much more difficult question to be answered, too: “What is a gay Catholic priest to do?”  This is way outside my own ability to explore, so I have said before that I would welcome commentary from any priest who would like to offer a personal response. I have had some observations made in comment threads, but a full response needs much more space than that.

I am delighted that one of my readers has taken up the challenge. “Bart” has formally joined “Queering the Church” as a contributor, and describes himself in his profile as

Catholic priest, in the mid-forties, presently serving in a diocese away from home. Self-identifying as gay, and going through the coming-out process. Keenly interested in LGBT issues, not only where they concern the religious sphere, but also in the wider social context. Enjoys outdoor activities and sports, as well as indoor pastimes such as reading, listening to music, and watching films when time permits.

Bart has prepared an introductory post in which he explains his choice of pen name, and introduces the topic, “What is a gay priest to do?”. He will then follow up the introductory post with some further reflections on the same theme.  I loved reading the introductory post, which appears here (at my primary domain).

Bart Simpson

Image via Wikipedia

 

This is Bart’s opening:

I think that one of the first issues a gay priest (or any gay person, I suppose) has to tackle is that of coming out. Now, let me make it clear that there will be as many different coming-out stories as there are persons, but I suspect that a common denominator for each story is: deciding on which side are you. Let me ask a few pointed questions. Are you going to (continue to) live in a state of self-loathing, rejection or denial? Will you continue to agree with the barrage of homophobic messages received from the Church, family, friends, workmates, society…? Pope Benedict has just reiterated (in his book Light of the World )a classic view held by the Church, that of homosexuals looking at their state as being a trial. It seems that the Church hierarchy wants to keep gay persons, in this case its priests, stuck in an ego-dystonic state, loathing themselves because of their homosexual orientation, as if it is some foreign body that must be fought with vigour. I am stating this because I cannot really see any way forward unless one moves from this stage to a stage where one has fully embraced one’s gayness. If I cannot come to a point where I have fully accepted myself as I am, that I am gay, how am I ever to accept others as they are? Can you see the necessity and the logic behind this fundamental step? If I may put it in other words, I can only love others to the degree that I can love myself.

These may seem to be difficult words to digest but, judging from my own experience, rejection and self-loathing are hardly a solid foundation for the priestly ministry. I mean, even all the glib talk on how much God loves me becomes suspect. If God loves me as I am, then this leaves little room for self-loathing. Time and again I have come across the works of various authors who talk of “internalised homophobia”, and this term really hits the nail on the head because what we are doing when we reject ourselves is accept the rejection we perceive to get from others.

Read the full post here.

 

Building a Welcoming Church: Use Our Stories

After a few posts and some readers’ responses on the idea of a “welcoming church”, I thought it worth sharing a reflection on how to go beyond simply paying lip service to the idea, to creating truly welcoming parishes.

This is from the newsletter of Fortunate Families, a Catholic organisation for the families of lesbians and gay men. From my own experience in some parishes, I fully endorse Vicki’s observation that once you have discerned an “open or positive feel” for a specific person inside the congregation, it is perfectly feasible to share with them some details of your personal story. I have always found that the response has been explicitly welcoming, and has eased the way for further sharing later – either at a deeper level with the same person, or in a similar way with others. Judging the appropriate person time and context however, can be tricky. This is, in Vicki’s word, an act of real “discernment”, and not to be rushed. Some people will find it near impossible at any time, many people will find it impossible in specific parishes, but not in others. Still the general approach should be strongly encouraged – the more people there are doing so, the easier it will be for those who follow.

Using Our Stories to Build a More Welcoming Church

By Ron Ohmann

Rev. Vicki Wunsch, an ordained UCC minister – but still a “Catholic at heart” (her adopted daughter was refused baptism because of Vicki’s samesex partnership) – conducted an inspiring workshop on “Strategic Storytelling” at the Fortunate Families gathering Saturday, Oct. 23rd. Her basic premise was that with all the media politics regarding GLBT issues surrounding denominational churchgoers, the most effective way to change attitudes is the organic one of individuals with personal stories engaging others who may share those concerns or at least are willing to listen. Vicki suggested that once you have discerned an open or positive feel for a person, a deliberately planned, well-crafted, and gracefully-delivered story of you as a GLBT person or your loved one’s experience offers the best chance for sharing and integration. It’s about bypassing the cultural barriers of separation and opening hearts and minds in faith communities and society at large.   The story’s telling should be short (3-5 min), sincere, credible, and candid, with emphasis on the positive.  Touch on key specifics to give meaning with minimal detail.  Stay upbeat and avoid painting the portrait of a victim, either yourself or your loved one.  Likewise, avoid stark value judgments which may trigger a negative response.  Finally, let go of any ego tendency or ego demeanor.  As Jesus showed us in telling his stories (parables) in the Gospels, humility and the soft-sell usually work best.


A Conservative, Christian Case for Gay Adoption.

The core element in this argument is familiar: adoption by same sex couples should be permitted, “because the best interests of the child” means the best parents available – not some theoretical, ideal myth. Sometimes the best available just happen to be gay or lesbian. What is different about this is that the argument comes from a declared conservative Christian, who makes no secret of her belief that homosexuality is a sin. But, she makes clear, as we are all sinners, her personal belief about the parents is no reason to act against the welfare of their children, to withhold standard courtesies and neighbourliness from the parents.

This argument needs to get through to all those (including too many Catholic bishops) who can see the issue of gay adoption only as a set of rules, and not as specific situations with real people. Fortunately though, this is happening. In the near future, I suspect, this response will be so mainstream as to be unremarkable.

From Blogher :

As a conservative Christian mom, I get looks whenever presumed “offensive” topics come into play. For instance, the “2 Gay Dad” issue. I like two shows with two gay dads and I also have a few gay friends who eventually will want to adopt. There’s this assumption I will be outraged and come flying out with my Bible to protest. I assure you, I am not waiting in the shadows ready to pop out with my judgments. Quite the contrary. Read the rest of this entry »

More on “Welcome” in Church.

The Church claims to be a welcoming space for all, including sexual minorities. Some would disagree, but I do not wish to go into that here. Instead, I want to draw your attention to a piece written by Deb Word, for the newsletter of the Catholic Association for Lesbian & Gay Ministry, Winter 2010. (CALGM is an association of diocesan, parish and campus-based ministries and those involved in these ministries, under the leadership of the US bishops).

This piece is about the work of the writer and her husband as individual Catholics in providing a welcome. But here’s the key passage, as it applies to the institutional church in the USA (as far as I know, it is much the same everywhere else):

When you are working with a population that is prone to suicide1, you need more than band-aids.  LGBT homeless kids attempt suicide at a rate of 69%. Why, as church, are we missing this? A search for a model of Catholic Charities reaching out to homeless LGBT kids comes up empty.

Now read the full article, which I have taken from an email :

Surely you can set one more place at the table… please.

By Deb Word

Read the rest of this entry »

Fr Owen O’Sullivan on Gay Inclusion (Pt 3): Is It Wrong to Act Gay?

For part 3 of his extract from Fr Owen O’Sullivan’s article on LGBT inclusion, Boundless Salvation deals with the section that tackles the official position of the CDF, as set out in the Pastoral Letter, “Homosexualitatis Problema”: it is entirely natural and morally neutral to have a homosexual disposition, but that homosexual acts are “disordered” and so are morally unacceptable.  That is, It’s not wrong to be gay, but it is wrong to act gay.

Fr O’Sullivan is Irish, writing for an Irish magazine, so he uses an Irish analogy to make his point:

Imagine someone saying to a group of Irish people, ‘There’s nothing in itself wrong with being Irish. I’m not saying there is. But that doesn’t mean you may act on it. So, no more Guinness, going to Croke Park, singing rebel songs into the early hours of the morning, waving tricolours, no more craic. Close the pubs as occasions of sin, and, while you’re at it, would you please do something about your accent: it’s suggestive – of Irishness. I’m not asking you to deny your Irishness, far from it, just not to act on it.’ Would you consider the speaker to be nuanced, respectful and compassionate, or pedantic, patronising and arrogant?

This captures the problem precisely – for the Irish. For others, not so much. For them, I have another analogy which is also based in biology, not in culture. Like a homoerotic orientation, left-handedness is entirely “natural”, in the sense that it occurs freely in nature, but is “abnormal” in the purely statistical sense that it is uncommon*. The medical professionals have confirmed that both conditions are not in any way to be seen as “diseased” or requiring treatment. But like same sex attraction, left-handedness has in the past, been popularly viewed with great suspicion. Even our language illustrates this: the words “sinister” (morally dubious) and “dexterity” (denoting skill) are derived respectively from the Latin for left and right. In the past, numerous attempts were made to “reform” the obstinate schoolchildren who perversely insisted in writing with their left hands. Today, thankfully, the world has moved on. Any suggestion that it is OK to be left-handed, but just don’t write left-handed, would be met with derision.

The analogy with sexual orientation is precise – except in orthodox CDF doctrine. Most people today agree that homosexuality, like left-handedness, is entirely natural, and even most Catholics agree that homoerotic relationships and sexual activities are, in themselves, morally neutral. But the CDF continues in its insistence that “It’s OK to be gay, just don’t act gay”.

This assertion leads, Fr O’Sullivan, to contradictions and to enormous cruelty for lesbian and gay Catholics. In particular, it leads them to deny their truth. Sexuality is a fundamental part of the human condition and nature. (Even the Catechism recognizes the importance of accepting and embracing our sexual lives). The Pastoral Letter claims to teach the importance of treating “homosexual persons” with dignity, compassion and respect, but the rest of the teaching, with its impossible distinction between doing and being, makes this impossible.

The distinction between being homosexual and doing homosexual acts is phoney. It’s like saying, ‘Your sexuality is part of you; but you must not be part of your sexuality.’ Have we forgotten that the Incarnation brings matter and spirit, body and soul into one in the human-divine body of Jesus? The Incarnation is God’s answer to dualism.

Being and doing are not as separable in life as they might seem in a lecture hall. But, even in a lecture hall, Saint Thomas Aquinas said, ‘Agere sequitur esse in actu.’ (Summa contra Gentiles, 3.53, 69.) If my Latin is not too rusty that means, ‘Doing follows being in action.’

The tragedy for gay or lesbian Catholics who attempt to live celibate lives strictly within the CDF parameters, is that the practical effect is to deprive them of much more than mere physical erotic attraction. For in the real world of Catholicism, far too often people who are seen to be living in single sex coupled relationships, are simply assumed to be in a sexual relationship. To avoid this suspicion (and also the sexual temptations that might be presented in such a relationship), “faithful” gay Catholics are effectively forced to deny the possibility even of celibate unions with another, to live the lives alone, bereft of the daily emotional support that could help them to cope with the trials imposed upon them by a misguided Church rule.

Homosexuals who try to be faithful to church teaching are in danger of distorting themselves, like left-handed people forcing themselves to use only their right hands; they are in danger of developing a Jekyll-and-Hyde mentality, suppressing what is true about themselves. The statement of the CDF that, ‘Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral’ applies here. (Letter, n.15)

The pastoral rhetoric about respecting homosexuals is meaningless at best when the associated moral rhetoric undercuts a homosexual’s personhood. It means that homosexuals are neither in nor out, neither persons nor non-persons, but tolerated somewhere on the border.

 


(” Heterosexuality isn’t “normal” – it’s just common!” – T-shirt slogan seen at Pride)

 

The full series of extracts from Fr O’Sullivan’s “Furrow” article at Boundless Salvation is:

My previous commentary is at