“So be it! Let’s talk about sex”.

Having laid down the groundwork by talking more generally about love (not simply love as eros), I will now enter the minefield. That a priest – of all persons – should wish to directly talk about sex is problematic enough. Throw the gay ingredient into the mix and we have a bomb in our hands. So be it! Let’s talk about sex.

The words above are those of my colleague Bart, who uses them to introduce the next post in his series on the challenges facing a gay priest. Following the three initial reflections that have already appeared, the next post (which will appear on Monday) begins to get into the really sensitive, crunch issues. Look out for it, read it, and respond in the comments. I do not propose to anticipate Bart’s own writing, but I do want to stress that Bart’s series here is a serious exercise, an honest and courageous extension of his spiritual journaling, and so part of a process of his discernment, as he continues his journey of honesty and integrity. I feel privileged to be hosting such personal thoughts here – as you are to be able to read them. It is my hope that by responding in the comments, you will be able to give Bart some encouragement, and possible some food for thought.

“Let’s talk about sex”, Bart says – quite rightly.  This is crucial, and needs to be done by people who are speaking with some knowledge from personal experience, or from sound empirical research among others with that experience.   The extraordinary thing about the Catholic Church today is that at a time when people are leaving the church in droves, overwhelmingly for reasons related to the gravely disordered teaching on sexuality, there is remarkably little talk about sexual ethics. There is hectoring and lecturing from the clerical oligarchy to the rest of us, but of serious talk, discussion between adults – what? Read the rest of this entry »

“Adultery”, and the Problem of Heterosexuality, Revisited

My recent post, “The Problem Of Heterosexuality“, has drawn a comment from my reader David, who refers to the desire of the pope and bishops to protect the sanctity of sacramental marriage. In his response, he raises two important questions. The first, I think goes right to the heart of the matter:

“..how can the beauty and sacredness of the sexual relationship within the context of marriage, and the ability to produce children be promoted, and sex outside of a sacramental relationship be promoted without appearing to judge those outside of the relationship?”

How, indeed? Orthodox Catholic doctrine simply avoids this challenge entirely by falling into the binary trap of insisting that “sacramental marriage+ children = good” implies that “any other erotic relationships = bad”, which is a complete logical fallacy. The problem is that this simplistic thinking is not based on Scripture, which in fact contradicts it, as does the practice and teaching of the Church in history.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gay Catholics: the Real Issues

As a gay Catholic in Minnesota, as co-ordinator of the Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, as editor of the Progressive Catholic Voice, and in several other capacities, Michael Bayly is right in the thick of things in the conflicts in the Twin Cities over Archbishop Nienstedt’s DVD on gay marriage, and the subsequent refusal of communion to some rainbow-buttoned students. At the Wild Reed, he has posted the text he prepared for a local Fox News broadcast on the issue, in which he was invited to discuss the issue with St. Thomas University professor Robert Kennedy, who supports the archbishop’s actions.

Michael points out in his post how easily the media restrict discussion to just a narrow focus which suits their current focus, but proper understanding demands a broader, contextual approach. This he set out in the analysis he prepared in advance of the broadcast. I particularly like the emphasis on the Church and its teaching as a living, evolving entity, rather than something fixed for all time at or around the Council of Trent. Even the most cursory look at Church history shows how constantly it has changed, and surely will continue to do so. As such, those who are contributing to the debates are not the problem that Archbishop and the rule-book Catholics would suggest, but part of the solution.

This is the opening of Michael’s post:

It’s important to realize that what happened at St. John’s didn’t occur within a vacuum. It’s just one of a number of recent incidences that tell us that within Catholicism the issue of homosexuality is not a settled one. [By “recent incidences” I was referring to the different expressions of the backlash to the MN Catholic bishop’s anti-gay marriage campaign. See, for instance, here, here, here, andhere.] We’re clearly still grappling with this very human reality. And that’s okay. It’s a sign of a living, growing church.

The clerical leadership of the church, however, likes to insist that it is a done deal and that all we have to do to be “good Catholics” is be quiet and obey. But the Catholic faithful, the people, have a very different opinion. Many have gay children, co-workers, and neighbors. They’ve moved beyond the type of rhetoric and stereotypes that the clerical leadership uses to describe the gay people they know and love. Also, polls show that the majority of Catholics support gay marriage. [See, for instance, here and here.]

Now, our church teaches – and history shows it – that the views of the Catholic people are an important component of the teaching process. Our voices need to be heard and respected if church teaching is to be considered authentic. [I’m referring, of course, to the Catholic doctrine of reception.] Yet there’s no official venues for such sharing and listening to take place. The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the archdiocese, refuses to publish commentaries or articles that respectfully offer alternative perspectives on, for example, the church’s teaching on homosexuality – a teaching that is not infallible, a teaching that we can and should talk about. Is it any wonder that some are compelled to challenge the archbishop as these students did at St. John’s? What other options or venues do they have?

(For the full piece, go to The Wild Reed)

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Pioneers of Gay & Lesbian Theology: Reversing the Discourse.

Obama’s  officially designated “Pride Month” of June has come and gone, but the season of Pride continues – especially here in the UK, where the major Pride celebrations are in any case held later: in July (London) and August (Brighton). I have no compunction continuing my exploration of pride in church, which was in any case my primary motive in starting here at QTC eighteen months ago. Since then, my concerns have tended to wander, but I now want to return to my primary concern, which I do with a major series,  introducing our notable gay and lesbian theologians

One of the useful developments over the 40 years since Stonewall, has been the emergence of a wide range of writing and scholarship, across many fields, from an explicitly gay, lesbian or trans perspective  – or more generally, a “queer” perspective, or GLBT or GLBTQI , or…. Academics and activists may quibble over terminology, but the bottom line is simple. We no longer have to take all our knowledge straining through a hetero-normative filter.

I still remember the awe, the sense of shock I experienced the first time I saw a range of books displayed which included titles such as “Gay and Lesbian Theology”. The very idea at the time appeared to me welcome, but disorienting. If it was true that “theology” totally disapproved of “homosexuals”, how could it be that there could be “Gay” theology? The simple truth of course is that theology is more than just the official stuff propagated by the Vatican. It is more even, than just the formal, academic material churned out by the professional theologians. At its most basic, “doing theology” is no more than speaking about, and asking questions about, God and God’s place in our lives. This obviously includes consideration of the work that is collectively known as the “Magisterium”, but also a great deal more.

“Formal” (i.e. written by “professionals” ) gay and lesbian theology, queer theology, and even indecent theology has come in many forms, with many emphases and concerns. To guide us through the thicket, I shall begin with a summary of its unfolding by the lesbian Catholic theologian, Elizabeth Stuart, as presented in her book “Gay & Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions With Critical Differences“, which I have been re-reading.  Paradoxically, in spite of her title, Stuart in this book is not promoting but critiquing “gay and lesbian” theology, as she argues that gay and lesbian theology has failed, and needs to give way to queer theology. (Yes, there is a difference). Still, in critiquing the earlier work, she offers a most useful commentary on its historical development and sources, before introducing the newer ideas from queer and indecent theology.

The Pioneers.

It may come as a surprise that books on gay and lesbian theology have been around for over three decades, ever since a trio of titles appeared in the 1970’s. Read the rest of this entry »