The Catholic Laity/Bishops Disconnect on Sexuality, Homosexuality

The evidence of a gulf in thinking on homosexuality (and sexuality more generally) between the formal position of Vatican orthodoxy and the  real beliefs of ordinary Catholics is clear. To make sense of this. we need to consider two key questions: the compelling, established evidence that such a gulf exists, and the more tentative evidence that the oligarchy is starting to catch up.

In this post, I simply present a summary of the main findings on the belief of real Catholics, with some commentary and supporting links. Later, I will report on commentary elsewhere, and expand on the signs of the change that must come from the bishops’ oligarchy – and is just starting to do so.

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Cardinal Pell: All (including gays) Really Are Welcome

Cardinal Pell is not the first name that come to mind when one thinks of welcoming and supporting gay Catholics. However, this report from Australia shows some clear similarities with the clear expressions of support that we in the Soho Masses received last year from Archbishops Vincent Nichols and Bernard Longley.

The background is that the parish of St Joseph’s church in Newtown, Sydney has for some years hosted a monthly Friday Mass with a particular welcome for LGBT Catholics (not an explicitly or exclusively a “gay” Mass). Last year, a very vocal group of opponents made a lot of threatening noises, then seem to have quieted down. This year, responding to a charity appeal raising funds for accommodation for people living with HIV, they moved from threatening disruption to mounting a visible, noisy and intimidating presence outside the Church.

The renewed threat came on February 12 when Acceptance held a fundraiser for Stanford House – a short term accommodation service for people living with HIV – and was faced with people praying across the street.

One Acceptance member, who wished to remain anonymous, told SX “it was intimidating”.

“They were across the road in the shadows praying. I wouldn’t like to be the last person to leave the church,” he said.

– SX News

They no doubt see themselves as loyal defenders of the faith, and so expected support from the Cardinal in their attempts to have the “sacrilegious Masses” halted.

In the weeks preceding the threat, the fundamentalist group stalked Acceptance members taking photographs and video footage, threatening to show the Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell.

– SX News

But they had a surprise coming: instead of siding with the objectors, Cardinal Pell wrote a letter affirming support for the continuation of the Masses, which was posted at the back of the Church, for all to see.

Headed ‘Welcome to the Catholic Church’, the letter specifically addressed the regular Friday night mass at the church, which is attended by LGBT members of the Catholic group Acceptance Sydney.

– SX News

I have not been able to find the full text of this letter on – line, but the extracts which were published in the SX report are worth noting:

“The Catholic Church welcomes all to come and pray in the church, particularly during the Mass and other communal liturgies.

“On Fridays at St Joseph’s Parish Newtown, Mass is celebrated for the spiritual benefit of those present and to foster mutual support and encouragement for all.  These celebrations are not sponsored by any particular organisation, but are for all to share.”

It is understood the letter, which outlines rules around receiving communion, was sent to all Parishes.

“Priests recognise that individuals make their own decisions before God on the reception of the Sacraments.”

– SX News

This emphasis on individual conscience over receiving communion repeats the approach of the Dutch Bishop last year which ended the impasse over the refusal of communion to an openly gay Carnival King, and the approach outlined by Archbishop Nichols when he was questioned last year about the (LGBT) Soho Masses:

In a BBC radio interview with Mark Dowd on “The Pope’s British Divisions”, …. he repudiated any suggestion that by allowing these Masses to continue, he was permitting people to receive Communion in a state of mortal sin. The clergy, he said have no business judging the soul of anyone who presents for communion – and anyone who does attempt to judge another should just STFU:

“anybody from the outside who is trying to cast a judgement on the people who come forward for Communion [there], really ought to learn to hold their tongue.”

Queering the Church

It also is the same approach described by Cardinal Mahoney, in a recent LA Times interview on the occasion of his retirement. (Cardinal Mahoney was speaking about pro-choice politicians, not gay Masses – but the principle, refusing to use communion as a weapon to police individual conscience, is the same).

While some of Mahony’s brother bishops appear as if they won’t be happy until they get the chance to deny Communion to elected officials who deviate from church teachings, Mahony has resisted taking that step. Why? Canon law, he notes, puts the responsibility for worthy receipt of the sacrament on the person approaching the Communion rail rather than on the priest.

“It isn’t for us to guess at what’s on someone’s conscience,” he said. Moreover, the cardinal mused, Christ gave Communion to Judas Iscariot at the Last Supper, though the apostle had, that day, committed his betrayal.

“You know, throughout the Gospels, Jesus never appeals to punitive measures to change anyone’s life….

LA Times

I am delighted that Cardinal Mahoney has based his response not only on Catholic teaching on the primacy of conscience, but also on the Gospels themselves. It really is high time that so-called “Catholic” (and other “Christian”) zealots who attempt to impose their views by force on all others, should likewise ask themselves: “What would Jesus do ?

There is nothing remotely Catholic or Christian in trying to drive people away from the Mass, or any other form of worship.

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Republican Lawmakers Support Colorado Civil Unions (and NY Marriage?)

While the Maryland bill for full marriage equality and its support from prominent Catholics is garnering the headlines, I am increasingly interested in the parallel progress towards civil unions in Colorado. On the face of it, the bill should struggle. Democrats control the state Senate, but the GOP has control of the lower house, and the state is a well known base for the religious right, who have mounted strong opposition. The bill is going nowhere without Republican support and religious support – but this support is now emerging.

The first step in the bill’s journey through the legislative process was secured in a Senate committee, with the help of a Republican, Sen. Ellen Roberts, who did so on eminently conservative grounds:

A Republican lawmaker in Colorado bucked her party’s stance on Monday and cast the key vote to advance a bill that would bestow the rights of marriage on unmarried same sex partners.

Speaking to The Colorado Independent, state Sen. Ellen Roberts (R) said it must have been her “libertarian streak” that convinced her to do it.

I don’t think we should be in the business of legislating religion and morality,” she reportedly added.

The Raw Story

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In the Navy:Official Disapproval,Sensitivity in Bereavement.

In the Catholic Church, many people will know that in spite of official disapproval from on high, and outright hostility by some individuals in the church, very often parishes on the ground can be truly welcoming and accepting, with acceptance and full inclusion from both parishioners and parish priests. That was certainly my experience at Holy Trinity Parish, Braamfontein, Johannesburg -and is the experience of many others at countless parishes around the world.

A story from Chicago Sun Times demonstrates that this disconnect between official disapproval and practical warmth on the ground also applies in other formally homophobic institutions, in this instance the US marines. In spite of the policy of DADT which was still in force last June, and notwithstanding the vicious persecution that some gay servicemen experienced under that policy, the widowed husband of one Marine, John Fliszar,  found exceptional co-operation from the Naval Academy officials when he approached them for help in executing the dead man’s wish to have his ashes  interred in the Naval Academy.

I enjoyed imagining the confused expressions of these officials when they were first approached by the widowed husband, Mark Ketterson:

The memorial coordinator asked about his relationship to the deceased. Ketterson said that John Fliszar was his husband.

“They were always polite, but there was this moment of hesitation,” Ketterson recalled. “They said they’re going to need something in writing from a blood relative. They asked, ‘Are you listed on the death certificate?’ ‘Do you have a marriage license?’ ”

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Gay Clergy: Rev Peter Gomes (Gay, Black, Baptist, Republican) – RIP.

In the growing ranks of out and open gay or lesbian clergy, Peter Gomes was an anomaly: he was raised Catholic, but became a Baptist pastor. He was also African American, and a Republican. Not, in short, an obvious fit with the popular image of an American gay man. But (and this is important) he was able to recognize and publicly acknowledge his sexuality, and to reconcile it with his faith. This is an important reminder for us that there is no conflict at all between a gay or lesbian orientation and religious faith, or with conservative political philosophy. The only conflict is with those influential people in some churches and in some political circles who seek to impose their own interpretations of Scripture, or their own political prejudices, on everybody else – in disregard of the fundamental Gospel message of inclusion and justice, and the conservative principle of non-interference in private lives.

I have no personal knowledge of the life or work of Rev Gomes, other than the inspiring title of his book, “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good About the Good News?“. (The Gospel message is indeed scandalous, and should be read much more carefully by those who in their ignorance use it to promote their modern conceptions of so-called “traditional” family values, or untramelled capitalism).

Instead of extensive researching and writing a full assessment of Rev Gomes myself, I simply draw your attention to reports elsewhere.

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Breaking the silence

Gay Priest “Bart” continues his weekly series:

I ended my last post by asking: will our silence [forced as it so often is] be judged as complicity in the Church’s deceptive ways? It’s a question that has been troubling me for quite some time now, not only as a gay priest who is going through a coming-out process, but also in the wider sense, as a member of the Catholic Church. Even as I was grappling with this complex subject, I was informed of a recent documentary shown on BBC’s Channel Four. Entitled Father Ray Comes Out, it presents a very touching account of the coming-out of an Anglican vicar – Father Ray Andrews – to his congregation during a Sunday homily. For the benefit of my readers, I thought of embedding the story here (in 2 parts), before expanding on the subject in today’s post.


and

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Out in Sport: England Cricketer Steven Davies Goes Public

In an ideal world, this should not make the news: sexual lives are personal and private – but we do not live in an ideal world.

Young people need role models. Young boys in particular look to their sporting heroes, far too few of them have had the courage to come out publicly as gay. There are welcome exceptions – and England cricketer Steven Davies has just added to the number, becoming the second British member of a national squad in a major team sport to do so. (The first was Welsh rugby captain, Gareth Thomas).

Steven Davies, the 24-year-old Surrey and England wicketkeeper, has become the latest high-profile sportsman to announce he is gay. In today’s Daily Telegraph Davies becomes the first serving professional cricketer to ‘out’ himself.

Davies, who began his career at Worcestershire, says he hopes his decision will encourage other young gay people to do the same. He said: ‘This is the right time for me. I feel it is the right time to be out in the open about my sexuality. If more people do it, the more acceptable it will become.’

Davies follows the former Wales rugby union player Gareth Thomas, who also went public about his sexuality.

Guardian

The New Statesman makes a bold claim, that Davies’ coming out could be the tipping point for public acceptance and openness in sports, based on the contrast between Davies and Gareth Thomas, who did so at the peak of his career, and with a solid backing of public support . Davies is young, just starting out in his career, and has not yet established that personal following, which made his action all the more courageous. This assertion of a tipping point may be premature – but there will certainly be many more, in Britain and elsewhere, in team sports of all kinds as well as in the individual sporting codes (where there are rather more examples already).

Coming out is a process, not an event. Davies first did so to his family, five years ago, and then to his cricketing colleagues after his selection for the national team last year. He has now gone public. The very many other gay men in professional sport, who remain trapped in a closet of fear should pay attention to his words: coming out can help others – but also themselves. Coming out is a relief.

“I’m comfortable with who I am – and happy to say who I am in public,” he said in an interview with The Sun.

“To speak out is a massive relief for me, but if I can just help one person to deal with their sexuality then that’s all I care about.”

Davies, who missed out on a place in the England squad for the current World Cup campaign, came out to his friends and family five years ago.

But the first time he told any of his fellow players came following his selection for England’s successful Ashes tour during the recent winter.

And he revealed the relief he felt after telling captain Andrew Strauss and the rest of the team.

“It was a fantastic thing to do, telling the lads. The difference is huge. I am so much happier,” he said.

Daily Mirror

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