Housekeeping Note: Recovering Some History

A few years ago, I suffered a major technical problem here at QTC (possibly the result of a hacking attack), in which I lost access to my dashboard, and with it much of my historic archives.  To recover, I set up a new site with a new URL, and manually transferred what I could to the new site. Since then, I have been able to locate some but not all of the previously lost material at third party archives, from which I have been restoring such of the lost material as I can.

As I do so, the newly retrieved material will be appearing on my social media feeds (Twitter and Facebook) as if it were entirely new posts. I apologise for any confusion. With each of these “new” old posts appearing, please note the date of publication – which will be shown as the original date, not the current date.

European Forum – LGBT Youth Conference

The annual conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, held last week outside Rome, featured a strong presence by LGBT youth, in preparation for the Catholic Bishops’ Synod Assembly to be held in Rome later this year. Here follows a press release from the Forum:

“Hopes and expectations of young LGBT people towards the Youth Synod”

The 37th Annual Conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, organised by Cammini di Speranza and REFO (Evangelical Network Faith and Homosexuality), took place in Albano Laziale, near Rome, 9 to 13 May 2018. On 12 May, the Conference included an event specifically for young LGBT+ people to provide input to the Youth Synod organised by the Roman Catholic Church, to find possible ways to reach a state of inclusive pastoral care.

An international gathering

LGBT+ young people from over 25 European countries gathered in Albano Laziale (RM) to discuss their wishes and hopes regarding the ability of Christian churches to welcome them and enhance their contributions, at the Annual Conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, organised in partnership with Cammini di Speranza and REFO (Evangelical Faith and Homosexuality Network).

A public conference on Saturday 12 May, in the Aula Magna of the Waldensian Faculty of Theology in Rome, provided suggestions for understanding both the mood of young LGBT+ Christians and the possibility of a more open approach to pastoral care.

Fr James Martin addresses conference

Among the keynote speakers, the Jesuit Father James Martin, author of the recent “Building a Bridge” on LGBT Christians, presented by video his vision of inclusive pastoral care:

 

“Many young people tell me how rejected they feel from the church and also how difficult it is for them to enter into a relationship with God. The religious rejection that they feel from their families moves them into the streets sometimes. At least in the US, LGBT youth are five times more likely to consider committing suicide than their straight counterparts. We can say that this is really a life issue for the church.”

He continued with three messages to LGBT young people: “1) God loves you; 2) Jesus cares for you, especially when you feel at the margins; 3) The Church is your home.”

Positive stories of inclusive pastoral care

Other speakers spoke of their own experiences: the path towards inclusion of LGBT+ people proposed by Marco Agricola, of the Italian Evangelical Youth Federation, the story of the experience of a Christian mother of an LGBT boy, offered by Dea Santonico of the base community of  S. Paul of Rome, and the voices of some of the protagonists of the conference: the young LGBT+ Christians themselves. They shared their own experiences of inclusive pastoral care already in place in different communities in Italy, Spain, Germany and France.

In the end they expressed their hopes and expectations for an inclusive church: “We would like to fully affirm our attachment towards our Church founded on the body of Christ. This originates from our Roman Catholic upbringing and later on made decisions of being an active part in our Church’s future in a spirit of growing hope and faith.”

The young LGBT+ Christian people are offering to us a new vision of a Church which gives space to them and their families, developing inclusive pastoral care, challenging LGBTIQ*-phobic attitudes and comments inside and outside the Church, creating reinforcing the dialogue between the Church itself and Christian LGBTIQ* people.

“Towards Welcoming and Affirming Christian Communities”

European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups: Conference 2019

 

Last week I spent a few days in the Albano hills outside Rome, at the 2018 annual conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian groups. As always, I found it useful to meet up once again with others to exchange views and news of our activities, but also found the actual content and worship stimulating, inspiring, and spiritually nourishing.  As always, there was much that deserves reporting and comment, but this cannot be done adequately in a single post. For now, I offer just some highlights.

Participants at conference 2018

Continue reading “Towards Welcoming and Affirming Christian Communities”

Belgian Cardinal: “Respect gay/lesbian sexual expression”.

Josef De Kesel, cardinal archbishop of Brussels, is reported to have told local LGBT Catholics that the church should respect gay and lesbian sexual expression.

“Respect” for gay and lesbian people is an established part of Catholic teaching (along with “sensitivity and compassion”). Sadly, this element of teaching has too frequently been neglected, and sits alongside the more widely known prohibition on any form of sexual activity outside of marriage, and open to procreation – which includes all same-sex genital activity.  Many gay and lesbian Catholics themselves, as well as many professional moral theologians, see the inherent contradiction in this. However, while an increasing number of prominent bishops and cardinals in recent years have been proclaiming the importance of “respect”, they have been notably reluctant to criticize the prohibition on gay sex,

Until now.  According to a report in a Belgian LGBT website, in a closed meeting with a local LGBT group, Cardinal De Kesel, archbishop of Brussels,  described a “paradigm shift” under way in the church’s teaching on homosexuality, and said that respect for homosexuals must include respect for their sexual expression.

(He also said that the church should be ready to “celebrate” same-sex unions – as long as such celebrations stop short of anything resembling marriage. He would accept a service of thanksgiving, for instance, but not a same-sex blessing or exchange of rings. )

For the first time, a Belgian archbishop indicates that LGBTs are allowed to experience their sexual orientation. Cardinal De Kesel took a very progressive position according to catholic standards during an informal meeting with the Malines LGBT association HLWM.

On April 24 there was a meeting between De Kesel and the Mechelen LGBT-association HLWM . This showed that the top of the Church is now prepared to accept gay relationships. “The Church must respect homosexuals and lesbians more, also in their experience of sexuality,” HLWM noted. The cardinal was genuinely concerned about the well-being of gays and lesbians and he also mentioned his meeting with a trans * woman.

According to De Kesel, the Church needs time to understand homosexuality. He made the comparison with the period in which psychologically disturbed people ended up in prison because they did not understand the phenomenon of mental disturbance. “Until recently, the Church was very dismissive of homosexuals and lesbians. But that was no different from society as a whole. Certainly in Europe much has changed for the better, but the Church in Africa and Asia in particular and in parts of Eastern Europe is not yet included. But we must also respect those opinions. “

Incidentally, the cardinal indicated that he also changed his position: “Twenty years ago I would have spoken differently about it than is the case now. I would then have followed the official teaching of the Church. I now look at it much more ‘comprehensively’. Where respect is central. “

Zizo online

Some Christian groups still promote ‘gay conversion therapy’ – but their influence is waning

Some Christian groups still promote ‘gay conversion therapy’ – but their influence is waning

Chris Greenough, Edge Hill University

The idea that to be gay is to be sick and in need of a cure might seem archaic and bizarre by mainstream standards, but among a few fundamentalist Christian groups, it lives on today.

Recently, one such group, the Core Issues Trust, booked a cinema in London’s West End for a film screening event which advocated conversion from homosexuality. The film, Voices of the Silenced, promotes the idea that people can be “rescued” from homosexual impulses and practices, and was also supported by representatives from Christian Concern. After an outcry, the screening was ultimately cancelled by the cinema, where the group staged a public protest on February 8.

This was an unusually conspicuous appearance by what remains a relatively fringe organisation. Core Issues Trust, Christian Concern and similar groups claim that people identifying as non-heterosexual can be “converted” into heterosexuals. Presently, there is no ban on gay conversion therapy in the UK. But whereas “ex-gay” ministries have received plenty of coverage in the US, it’s unusual to see a Christian group like this operating visibly in the UK.

For many, non-heterosexuality and Christianity are still hard to reconcile. This is largely due to the long history of negativity towards non-heterosexuals from Christian groups. Today, the Church of England’s position is much more promising: in 2017, the General Synod voted in favour of not continuing with its ban on blessing or marrying same-sex couples – a major rubicon in its journey towards full inclusiveness. What’s more, the Church of England General Synod has also called for a ban on gay conversion therapy.

But while it might sound like a sea change is underway, there’s still a way to go. While the Core Issues Trust’s values and actions are clearly out of date and largely out of favour, they still find enough of an audience to sustain themselves.

Clash of identities

Some Christians find it hugely difficult to reconcile their non-heterosexuality with their faith. This often leads to negative feelings of fear, anxiety, loneliness, confusion and self-hatred. Conversion therapies recognise and exploit the resulting negative emotions and internal conflict, and offer to resolve the clash of identities by “freeing” people from homosexuality.

In my book Undoing Theology: Life Stories from Non-normative Christians, I spend a chapter exploring the emotional roller coaster of one individual’s journey with Christian “conversion” therapy. Desiring release and repair from negative, internalised feelings, non-heterosexual people essentially find themselves forced to bargain – challenged to accept such a “cure” in exchange for a better life.

While being involved in communities which offer such a “cure” can provide a space for the two incompatible identities of non-heterosexual individuals to temporarily coexist, the long-term consequences are damaging. Of course, throughout history, similar non-religious based “therapeutic” methods have been tried, among them extreme physical medical procedures: castrations, lobotomies, clitoridectomies and shock treatments. Then there are “psychiatric” procedures to deal with the mental state of the “sick” gay person, chief among them hypnosis.

As the protagonist in my book affirmed after spending 18 years within the ex-gay ministry, these extreme physical, psychological and spiritual attempts do not work. They are highly destructive and often painful – and their failure indicates that the very possibility of conversion is a lie.

Pushing back

Even for those who don’t undergo therapy themselves, the lie has pernicious impact. Proposing to “cure” or “convert” non-heterosexual people is a form of delegitimisation. It is wholly unethical. It is a denial of human rights. It encourages internalised homophobia and self-hatred. In the UK, both religion and sexuality are included in equality legislation as protected characteristics – but the screening in London shows that extreme religious views on sexuality are still being asserted in public.

Fortunately, a large proportion of both the clergy and the faithful who remain in the pews share inclusive, accepting attitudes more in step with the mainstream. And inside many Christian communities, efforts are underway to improve the situation further. Open Table offers an inclusive worship community and a safe sacred space for non-heterosexual and non-cisgender Christians. Many more groups offer bespoke opportunities for people to come together and practise their faith without negating their identity.

While the small minority of Christian groups spreading this negativity has not gone away, thankfully there are fewer examples of such hostility. (The Student Union at my own university recently celebrated pride week, and the Christian Union group publicly announced its solidarity.) Sexuality remains a controversial issue for the churches, but it also serves as a measure of inclusivity.

The ConversationEvidently, some fundamentalist Christian groups remain obsessed with non-heterosexuality, and put considerable energy into railing against it wherever they can. The cumulative impact of their actions is highly damaging and toxic to the people they reach. A broad ban on conversation therapy – whether relating to sexuality or gender identity – is long overdue.

Chris Greenough, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religion, Edge Hill University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

London Bishop Celebrates Mass Welcoming LGBT Catholics.

On Sunday 11th February, Bishop Nicholas Hudson was the celebrant at a regular Mass “with a particular welcome for LGBT Catholics” at the Mayfair parish of the Immaculate Conception, London – colloquially known as “Farm Street” parish. (These Masses, which have been held regularly twice a month since the end of the Soho so-called LGBT Masses, have an explicitly stated welcome for LGBT Catholics, their families and friends. After Mass, the LGBT community attending host refreshments in the parish hall.)

I had hoped to attend personally, for the Mass and to meet some visitors from a Dublin LGBT pastoral initiative. However, as I had spent the previous day in London at a planning meeting for the 2019 conference of the European Forum of LGBT Catholic Groups, had a lot of work to do result of that meeting, and will be back in London on Friday for a funeral, I reluctantly decided that I could not justify another trip up.

Instead, I offer below a report received by email from the parish LGBT pastoral team:  

During the course of his Parish Visitation to Farm Street Jesuit Church (11 February 2018), Bishop Nicholas Hudson, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster responsible for the Central & East London areas, presided at the Mass welcoming LGBT+ Catholics. This was particularly appropriate, given the strong themes of inclusion, rather than exclusion, in the Scripture readings for this Sunday  

Bishop Nicholas also led the congregation in applause for the music provided by the Beacon Music Group, including piano, woodwind and violin accompaniment.

Concluding the Mass, Bishop Hudson complimented the parish on its inclusive mission and ministry, not least in its welcome to LGBT Catholics, parents and families. He said: The recently-installed glass doors at the church’s main entrance were a clear statement of being open to the world outside, and of welcome.

During after-Mass refreshments, joining in prayer with those gathered, he met a number of LGBT Catholics, parents, and families in the Parish Hall, including asylum-seeker members of the community, newcomers, and visitors from the All Are Welcome pastoral initiative in Dublin.

Human Rights Award for SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda)

Hearty congratulations are due to SMUG, (Sexual Minorities Uganda) who were one of the 37 LGBT and ally groups represented at the 2nd Assembly in Munich last week of the Global  Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC). For some time now, I’ve been following their twitter feed, and have been thoroughly impressed by the work they are doing, towards protecting LGBT and other sexual minorities in Uganda.

They’ve been awarded the 2017 René Cassin Human Rights Prize, for their work. The judges’ committee drew attention to the problem of criminalisation not only in Uganda, but also in other countries, and the importance of opposing it. This is of course, a primary focus of the GNRC, too. One of the working groups at the 2nd Assembly was devoted to the problem of criminalisation, with strong representation from the African countries present. At the business part of the meeting later, the assembly formally approved a motion urging the Catholic Church to oppose the scourge of criminalisation in African It is wonderful timing that in the week after our conference approved that resolution, one of our member groups has been honoured for their work to that end.

For more, see this Spanish language report (I’ve not yet found any English reports. Until I do, I’m dependent as ever on Google translate for the bare bones of the story):

El Gobierno Vasco concede el Premio René Cassin 2017 a “Sexual Minorities Uganda”, por su defensa de los derechos humanos del colectivo LGTBI en África (Consejo de Gobierno 05-12-2017)

El jurado se suma a la denuncia de la situación de la comunidad LGTBI en Uganda y llama, por medio de este premio, a respetar sus derechos, seguridad y dignidad

El Lehendakari entregará el premio el próximo 11 de diciembre, con ocasión del Día Internacional de los Derechos Humanos, que se conmemora el domingo 10 de diciembre

El Gobierno Vasco ha hecho pública hoy la concesión a ”Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)” del Premio René Cassin 2017 de Derechos Humanos, que otorga la Secretaría General de Derechos Humanos, Convivencia y Cooperación.

En esta ocasión, el jurado ha destacado la tarea de denuncia de la situación de la comunidad LGTBI en algunos países de África y de Uganda en particular, y el trabajo en defensa del respeto de sus derechos, seguridad y dignidad.

La ONG “Sexual Minorities Uganda – SMUG”  fue fundada en 2004 por el activista transgénero Victor Mukasa, y está integrada por 18 organizaciones de distinto signo que luchan por el reconocimiento y el respeto de la dignidad y derechos de las personas lesbianas, gays, bisexuales, transgénero e intersexuales. La entidad que ha propuesto a “SMUG” para el premio René Cassin 2017 ha sido la asociación vasca “Ortzadar LGTB” que promueve esos mismos fines en Euskadi.

More here

Global Rainbow Catholics Condemn LGBT Criminalisation

Under the biblical motto “Hear a Just Cause” (Psalm 17,1), almost 100 Rainbow Catholics from 35 countries gathered in Munich-Dachau from November 30th to December 3rd, 2017, in order to develop a common agenda for the future.

A special focus of the assembly was on the African region,  where legal criminalisation in some countries and social persecution in others lead to conditions where LGBTIQ people in many African countries are endangered in their everyday lives. One of several working groups convened during the assembly focused specifically on this issue of criminalisation.





Continue reading Global Rainbow Catholics Condemn LGBT Criminalisation

GNRC 2nd Assembly Begins

I’m sitting in the main room for the GNRC Assembly, waiting for evening prayers to begin. It’s been a gentle late start to proceedings, to allow time for travellers to make their assorted way to Munich. However, already I’ve been inspired.

During the opening session, our co-chair Michael Brinkschroeder presented a progress report of the approach taken by a team of German LGBT Catholics in their dialogue with local bishops, and what has been arleady been achieved. I already knew some of what he said, but there were also pleasant surprises, even for me. (For example, the local archdiocese is one of the co-sponsors of the assembly). I’ll have a more complete report on the German progress, later.

 

This evening we convened in a series of working groups: this is very much a working congress, I’m pleased that I’ve been allocated to my first choice – “dialogue with bishops”.  This evening was not much more than an introductory ice-breaker, getting to know each other and sharing initial thoughts. Even so, it was inspiring to meet people from a range of countries and circumstances, and to realise just how much is already being done, in terms of dialogue with a wide range of bishops. This includes some notable senior figures in the Vatican, senior bishops in our home countries, and more. We began to discuss some useful principles for good practice.  Many useful ideas were presented.

Tomorrow, we continue the work, with the aim of developing some firm commitments and principles for ongoing work, once the Assembly has ended.

School Visit: St Francis Xavier

On Monday this week, I visited St Francis Xavier 6th Form College, on behalf of Quest, to talk about the experience of being both Catholic and gay (or lesbian). This was my third school visit. All have been different from each other, in how they were initiated and in the focus of the presentation – but all have been intensely rewarding, each in their own way.

St Francis Xavier – front of school

This week’s visit was initiated by the school, with an invitation to Quest to speak to the school on the general them of “Catholic and Gay”. I arrived early, and after a brief chat with the deputy head Ciaran Graham, who had issued the invitation, he took me on an enjoyable tour of the school facilities . I was particularly interested in the school chapel, which has been a place of prayer and worship for over 120 years.

 

With just 20 minutes available for the talk, I could do no more than skim the surface of the subject. I began with a very brief  outline of my own story, then described the three broad themes that had helped me personally to reconcile faith and sexuality: the Catholic insistence on the primacy of conscience, my experience of prayer and particularly Ignatian spirituality, and my exploration of the biblical evidence – both what Keith Sharpe refers to as “defensive” and “affirmative” scriptures.

I thought it went well. I could see that with a handful of exceptions, the kids were attentive and absorbed. There were no questions afterwards, but then I had gone over my allotted 20 minutes, so I  think they were just anxious to get away. However, the staff I spoke to were enthusiastic, and on my way to the station afterwards, I met some of the students who thanked me, and said it had been enjoyable and helpful. That was confirmed later, in an email from the deputy head.

Hi Terry

Once again a huge thank you for coming in. Indeed I’ve spoken to a few students who found it a very valuable talk and the teachers present have nothing but praise.

I’ll be in touch again to take you up on your very kind offer.

Best wishes

Ciaran




Continue reading School Visit: St Francis Xavier