Outing the Church: Archbishop Wuerl, Homosexual Ministry & Gay Marriage.

Two notable bloggers have  current posts on some bishops’ perceptions of their teaching role: “locking down discussion“, is how William Lindsay at Bilgrimage describes it – even when the dissent comes from fellow bishops.  (Bishop Sample of Marquette has banned Bishop Gumbleton from speaking in his diocese, because he has uncomfortable and “well-known” views on homosexuality and women’s ordination.  Even though neither of these were up for discussion, he appears to be afraid that his colleagues simple appearance might become an occasion for discussion, which it his own responsibility to prevent.

Meanwhile, Fr Geoff Farrow has a piece called “pay, pray and obey,” in which he refers to news stories about Archbishop Wuerl of Washington DC.

Archbishop Wuerl with SC Justice Roberts

Archbishop Wuerl with SC Justice Roberts

The first story from the New York Times of April 1989 , dating back to 1989, tells how he was called in by Pope John Paul II to muzzle a colleague, Archbishop Hunthausen, in Seattle who was seen as having views that were too liberal – amongst others, on gay Catholics:

After criticism of the archdiocese by conservative Catholics, the Vatican named Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, a conservative in church affairs, to share power in Seattle in 1985.

Bishop Wuerl was given control of five areas in which Archbishop Hunthausen was considered lax: ministry to homosexuals, granting of marriage annulments, clergy appointments, liturgy and moral issues of health care.

Most priests and nuns in the Seattle Archdiocese continued to support Archbishop Hunthausen, who called the power-sharing arrangement ”unworkable.”

Another story (at Huffington Post), on the apparently “unstoppable” gay marriage bill in DC includes as a footnote the well-known fierce opposition by Archbishop Wuerl.

With gay issues prominent in both stories, I thought that now might be a good time to haul out a story on Archbishop Wuerl I cam across some weeks ago, with quite a different perspective. Read the rest of this entry »

Come Out, Stand Proud. (The Catechism Commands It!)

Yes, really – in a manner of speaking. Browsing through the Catechism section on sexuality, which you will find under the sixth commandment, I was struck by two passages in particular:

“Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.” (2333)

and

“Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another” (2337)

Of course, that it is not at all what the Vatican means – the rest of the passage assumes that this can only be done by violating your identity in a heterosexual relationship, which we know from the experts in social science, from the testimony of others, and and from personal experience, is a violation of our identites, not an acceptance.  But then, the Vatican has never been noted for freedom from contradiction.

There are more compelling reasons though, than the Vatican’s mixed messages for coming out, and indeed for coming out in church. For “coming Out Day”, I want to look instead at some of these.

Rereeading Elisabeth Stuart’s “Gay & Lesbian Theologies“, I was struck by the realisation that she puts the start of the formal development of gay & lesbian theology to the early 1970’s.  the first notable text she discusses is Loving Women/Loving Men (eds Sally Gearhard and William Johnson), published as long ago as 1974 -fully 35 years ago this year, and “Towards a Theology of Gay Liberation”, edited by Malcolm Marcourt.

An essential aspect of this early thinking takes its cue from Paul Tillich, and his notion of “the courage to be”. In these terms, it is important to recognise our own experience.

Johnson accuses the church of being over concerned with “intellectual theology”, and  under concerned with the grounding of theology in experience.  It is therefore vital that gay people come out, articulate their experience and reflect theologically upon it, for “we who are gay know the validity of our experience, particularly the experience of our love. That love calls us out of ourselves and enables us to respond to the other. Through our experience we experience the presence of God………..

For Johnson, gay liberation is vital for the liberation of the Church to enable it to better incarnate the Gospel. The essay ends with a call to all gay men in the Church to come out, to  ensure that liberation takes place.” (Emphasis added.)

Previously, I have looked at Richard Cleaver‘s view that coming out is “Wrestling with the Divine” (Know My Name), and Daniel Helminiak‘s that is a “Spiritual Experience” (Sex and the Sacred)John McNeill, former Jesuit theologian and psychotherapist, makes similar points in “Sex as God Intended”.  Today, I want to look at the ideas of  Chris Glaser, who in a full length book presents his view of “Coming Out as Sacrament“. Glaser is one of those treasured writers on gay religion of whom it can said, as with James Alison, Daniel Helminiak and JohnMcNeill, that everything they write is worth reading, and accessible even to non specialists. Glaser writes from a backgroound in the Baptist and Presbyterian faiths, but as a Catholic I find this helpful, in broadening my perspective, rather than getting ini the way of his argument. The starting point for this book was some reflection on the importance of the idea of sacrament to lGBT people, who are so often denied access to the sacraments by mainstream churches.  Talking to a close friend (sympathetic, but not LGBT), this is how his thinking went:

“Having visited our Wednesday night Bible study, she told me that what impressed her most deeply, what she thougth was our sacrament as gay people, was our “ability to be vulnerable with one another” – in other words, to xperience true communion by offering our true selves.  As Christ offers himself in vulnerability,   so we offer ourselves, despite the risks. Being open and vulnerable may be preceivesd as weakness, but in reality it demonstrates our strength.  By sharing our  “brokenness”  – how we are sacrificially cut off from the rest of Christ’s Body – we offer a renewed opportunity of Communion, among ourselves and within the Church as the Body of Christ.”

Later, he added a conclusion that had not occurred to him earlier-

” that coming out is our unique sacrament, a rite of vulnerability that reveals the sacred in our lives – our worth, our love, our love-making, our context of meaning, and our God. “

Later in the opening chapter, he carefully notes the ways in which coming out has deep affinity with not just one, but each, of the traditional seven sacraments of the broader Christian community.  Above all, however, he says there is one where there is an extra special affinity: the sacrament of communion is intrinsic to coming out – it is hardly possible to come out entirely in private.

Coming out in public is important for one’s own mental health, and also for one’s spiritual being.  Doing so in the Church cam help the Church to recognise and proclaim the true Gospel message.  If you possibly can, do it:  quite literally,  for the love of God.

Further Reading:

Barefoot Theologians, Twitching Experience
Homoerotic Spirituality
The Road From Emmaus:  Gay and Lesbians Prophetic Role in the Church
Coming Out As Spiritual Experience
Coming out As Wrestling With the Divine

The Vocation of Being Caught in the Middle

When I set up this blog several months ago, I reflected on the difficulties we LGBT Catholics and other Christians face as double outsiders.  Others have written on the same theme.

But I have not yet seen a depiction in terms quite as startling, refreshing, and provocative as this one:

“From the perspective of Christian faith, this awkward business of living on the boundary looks very much like vocation – a call from God.  When you answer such a call, you discover the meaning of your life.  God has drawn us to this difficult place in order to reveal God’s grace to us and in us and through uis.  The boundary where we’re living, however inconvenient, is a place rich in spiritual discovery – which means of course, that it is also largely uncharted territory.  No ready  made tradition tells us how to be gay and lesbian Christian.  This is a vocation God has created in our own time to bring about a new enrichment of the gospel.”

Had it ocurred to you that this difficult place you occupy is a place of special grace, that it is aspecial form of vocation to be both gay or lesbian, and Christian?   It seems to me to be well worth thinking on.

Gifted by othernessThe passage quoted comes from the introductory chapter of “Gifted By Otherness”, by William Countryman and L. R. Ritley.

I have long admired Countryman’s Dirt greed and sex, but was not aware of his other writings until I was doing some research for Sergius & Bacchus Books” -where you will find more information.

The Tyranny of the Clerical Closet

Over the last 40 years, we who are openly gay and lesbian, inside and outside the church, have been discovering the joy of coming out.  It is widely agreed that at a public level, this has led to increasing public understanding and acceptance of our issues. At a personal level, this is almost invariably a liberating, invigorating experience, freeing us from guilt and fear. As Helminiak has noted, and I discussed here, this is valuable as a growth experience for both spiritual and mental health.

out of the closet Read the rest of this entry »

Jeremiah’s Return

Over at Gospel for Gays, Jeremiah has written of his own return to the Catholic Church.  After being driven away originally in anger a the Canadian Bishops over their opposition to gay marriage he returned eventually after a discussion with a local pastor. Much of his experience resonates with mine:  the emphasis on the local parish (I and many others have never encountered any hostility in local parishes);  and his belief in dealing with the official church by living in constant conversation with the Holy Spirit. Extracted from “My Return”:

But do you ever really quit the church?  In my case, probably not.   Read the rest of this entry »

My Journey in Faith

I mentioned yesterday that I been interviewed on Sunday by a reader, a journalism student visitng from Arizona, on my expereinces as a gay catholic, and how my ideas had been formed.  To help her prepare for the meeting, I put together some notes on my history in faith and coming out. These may be read here.

Seduced by Grace

Last night’s Mass in Soho was eventful for three different reasons – over and above the Mass itself.  Before Mass, I was interviewed for the first time by a reader, a visiting journalism student from Phoenix, Arizona.  After Mass, we arranged a screening of the powerful documentary movie, “For the Bible Tells Me So”.  I have written of this before (and hope to do so again), but a second viewing was welcome.  This was an entirely new venture, undertaken with some uncertainty whether people would stay for a further 90 minutes after Mass and refreshments, but we need not have worried.  Close on 30 gay men stayed behind – and our token straight woman.  (Where were our lesbian sisters, I wonder?). The response was overwhelmingly positive, and we will undoubtedly repeat the exercise on other ocassions.

But we were still not done.  After the screening, were introduced to another visitor, Michael B. Kelly from Australia, founder of Rainbow Sash Australia, a noted retreat director and a writer on spirituality from an explicitly gay male perspective. Read the rest of this entry »