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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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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“Eternal Bliss” – SS Felicity and Perpetua, March 7th

Felicitas Perpetua” = eternal bliss – and also the names of the two saints the Catholic Church remembers and celebrates every year on March 7, SS Felicity and Perpetua, who were martyred together in Carthage in 203. Their story is not well known, but their names are familiar to Catholics as one of many same sex couples listed in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass. These paired names are an echo of their place in the ancient rite of adelphopoeisis (literally, “making of brothers”), the liturgical rite once used to bless same sex unions in Church.

As two women martyred together, and from the kiss of peace which they exchanged at the end, they are frequently described as a lesbian counterpart to Sergius and Bacchus. This is inaccurate. Their relationship was not primarily one of lovers in the modern sense, but of mistress and slave. But that description is also inaccurate to modern ears, as it overlooks the very different status of women,and the very different nature of marriage relationships, in Roman times. In the journal kept by Perpetua (from which we know the story), she never once even mentions her husband. It is entirely possible (even probable?) that whatever the nature of her sexual life, Perpetua’s emotional involvement with Felicity may have been more important than her relationship with her husband.

 

 

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The Transformation of Christian Response to Homoerotic Love

You’d never guess it if your only knowledge of the churches and homosexuality came from Focus on the Family, NOM or California Catholic Daily in the US, or from Christian Voice or the rule-book Catholic blogs in the UK, or from breakaway groups in the Anglican communion worldwide, but we are in the midst of a dramatic, wholesale transformation of the Christian churches’ response to homoerotic relationships. This is clearly leading in the direction of full inclusion in church for queer Christians, and for evaluating couple relationships and their recognition in church on a basis of full equality. This is bound to lead in time to profound improvements in the  political battles for full equality, and in the mental health of the LGBT Christian community.

These are bold statements. Am I mistaken? Am I deluding myself? It is of course possible that this is a case of wishful thinking, that I am misreading or exaggerating the evidence.  It’s possible – but I don’t think so. The evidence is compelling, if not yet widely noted. To substantiate my argument, I want to present the facts, and their implications, in some detail. As there is too much for a single post, I begin today with just a summary, as heads of argument. I will expand on the main sections in later posts, which I have in preparation.

(For now, I have made no attempt to supply detailed substantiation or links – these will follow, as I expand later on each specific theme).

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Image via Wikipedia

 

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Muslim Gay Marriage, UK

Popular speech accepts that “Catholics” oppose homosexuality because that is the publicly expressed view from the Vatican, but completely overlooks evidence from research that most real – life Catholics in fact do not see homosexuality as a moral issue and even support legal recognition for same sex marriage;   ignores the historical evidence that queer relationships have always been a  fact of church life at all levels of the church; and the plainly observable fact that the outwardly homophobic face of the church is belied by an intensely homoerotic culture. In the same way,  the popular perception that Muslims are implacably opposed to homosexuality is also a gross oversimplification, which is contradicted by the facts.

Classical Arab literature is replete with examples of works which celebrate the delights of wine and beautiful boys. In the years when homosexual activity was subject to strong legal sanction in Western countries, wealthy gay men regularly took holidays or even permanent settlement in some Arab cities, where such pleasures could be pursued without legal penalties – and the supply of pliable and available young men abundant. In spite of the public face of Islamic hostility today, private toleration and practice of same sex relationships continues, even today.

A recent BBC report on the story of one lesbian couple who celebrated their marriage in a traditional Muslim form  illustrates this  – and also reminds us that marriage exists and is real, even where there is no legal recognition of it. Here are some extracts from that report: Read the rest of this entry »

The Catholic Push For Maryland Equality

Catholics have been prominent in the Maryland push for marriage equality – on both sides of the divide. Delegate  Heather Mizeur is a Catholic lesbian who married her spouse, Deborah, five years ago – and is a lead sponsor of the legislation now making its way through the state legislature. Governor Quinn is a Catholic, who has said that  if when the legislation is passed, he will follow his conscience – and sign. Polling evidence shows that collectively, Maryland Catholics are more supportive of marriage without discrimination than the state as a whole. New Ways Ministry, the nationwide organisation founded in 1976 by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent to promoteg sound pastoral care for LGBT Catholics and their families, and providing reliable information about sexual orientation to the Church as a whole, is based in Maryland.

 

Sister Jeanine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo speak at the day-long conference

Yesterday, New Ways Ministry hosted a day-long conference?, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach,  to promote equality.

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Hawaii Civil Unions Approved; Marriage Equality Update

Three significant news items yesterday illustrated the continuing momentum towards marriage and family equality.

In Hawaii, the state senate has now given final approval to civil unions for same sex couples. All that is now required is for the Gobvernor to add his signature, which he has promised he will do, adding to the number which now offer marriage equality or near equality at state level. More will follow.

In Baltimore, another state senator has stepped off the fence, and announced he will vote in favour of the marriage bill next week. This makes at least 24 votes (and possibly 25) in favour, which will be enough for approval. Passage in the lower house and the governor’s signature should follow.

In Delaware, a new group (Equality Delaware) has been formed to push for civil unions, and has announced sponsors for a bill to be introduced to the legislature later this year. (A recent opinion poll showed that a plurality of Delaware voters support full marriage. This would suggest that the early prospects for the more cautious proposal of civil unions must be good).

For the record, here is the current rundown by state, for the US a.nd internationally.
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