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German bishops commit to ‘newly assessing’ Catholic doctrine on homosexuality and sexual morality

Pope Francis meets with German bishops during their ad limina visit Nov. 20, 2015. Credit: Vatican Media.
Pope Francis meets with German bishops during their ad limina visit Nov. 20, 2015. Credit: Vatican Media.

.- The German bishops’ conference has committed to “newly assessing” the universal Church’s teaching on homosexuality, sexual morality in general, as well as the sacraments of ordination and marriage. The commitment comes at the beginning of a controversial two-year “Synodal Process” by the German hierarchy.

Following consultations in Berlin last week, the chairman of the Marriage and Family Commission of the German bishops’ conference declared that the bishops agreed that homosexuality is a “normal form” of human sexual identity.

— Catholic News Agency

I have now  attended seven consecutive Quest conferences, sometimes as a speaker or workshop facilitator, and except for the first time, always as a committee member. This year, after a lengthy period of reflection and introspection, I have not made myself available for re-election. At my personal blog, Queering the Church, I have been preparing a lengthy post on the reasons for this, which essentially involves substantial changes in my personal circumstances and in the external environment, which have led to a shift in priorities. That blog post at QTC will in due course appear under the title “Opening a New Chapter (A Long Read Confessional).

This does not mean, in any sense, that I am withdrawing from Quest. I have made it clear to the committee that I want to remain involved and available for specific tasks, as and where appropriate, but with a lower profile: from the sidelines and as a volunteer, no longer from the centre or with the responsibiliies of a formal committee member. During this conference, I’ve had a useful discussion with John Ashman, who in the past has often said that he was worried about me, because (in his view), I was trying to do too much. Now, he told me, I was looking different, as thought I had been through some kind of transformation experience.

There is some truth in that. The intensity of my commitment to LGBT faith activism has at times had something of the flavour of an OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Ruby has also at times reminded me that there are dangers of burnout in trying to do too much, and that sometimes, “less is more”. There was never a single event that has triggered the supposed “transformation” that Joh has seen,  but I could can agree that it has occurred, and can identify two specific experiences that made  significant contributions. One was attending the annual conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christians in Rome, the second was soon after,  participating in the Quest weekend retreat at Mount St Bernard’s Abbey, led by John Ashman himself.  In addition, I would add this 2018 conference itself, which has as its theme “A Time to Build”. I had come to conference with a greater sense of clarity about my changing priorities and implications for my continuing role in Quest. After a lengthy private meeting with James Alison, who for years has been a valued friend and supporter of my work at QTC and elsewhere, I came out clearer than ever that my new understanding of the most appropriate role for myself is indeed sound. (For more about this personal reflection, wait for the forthcoming post at Queering the Church).

However, the experience of this conference has also brought me greater clarity on the task facing Quest.  For some years now, we have been acutely conscious as an organisation of the heavy demands we make on some of our committee members – and the shortage of volunteers willing to take on the necessary tasks. Over the last year or two, we have seen the value of support from a paid part-time administrative assistant.  This was funded initially by money received as a grant from a donor agency, but will not be renewed. We are unable to continue paying the same amount indefinitely from our own regular funds, unless  our income increases. However, our membership and numbers at conference are gradually declining, and with it our primary source of income. This prompts the question, is it perhaps time to wind up our operations? Quest began largely as a support group for our own members, at a time when it was especially difficult to be both openly gay, and Catholic.

External circumstances have clearly changed. Over the years, public acceptance of gay and lesbian people, and the development of substantial legal protection and equality means that young people today find it much easier to be openly gay, even in the church, and feel less need for personal support in an organisation such as Quest. This is part of the reason for our declining membership and attendance at conference: our original members are aging and regrettably but inevitably, are dying off or are less able to attend physically at conference and regional meetings – but we are not attracting new members at the required rate. Perhaps then, it is indeed time to call it quits, and fold up?

Well, no. While there has been a substantial  improvement in the Church in terms of tone and approach to pastoral care, the fact remains that the language and content of formal Catholic doctrine on the subject remains as harsh and unrealistic as ever. In the secular world, homophobia and especially transphobia remain a serious problem in some circles, including at times direct physical or verbal violence – which the Catechism clearly states we have an obligation to oppose.

Our conference theme of building a bridge, as in the title of Fr James Martin’s  celebrated book and in his recorded video that opened the conference, remains important. Fr Jim described to us how he is sustained in his ongoing work, by the palpable sense of relief he sees in the people he meets, simply by the fact that the subject is being openly discussed, and the relief that many people experience at finding that yes, it’s OK for themselves or their family members to be both Catholic and openly gay. So, it’s important that we, as church, attempt to build a bridge, a bridge between the institutional church and the LGBT community.  As part of the local church, Quest has participated in this bridge-building, and in recent years we have started to see the fruits of this in selected dioceses – as illustrated by the participation in the conference of Bishop Peter Doyle, one of the panelists in the discussion that followed and developed Fr Martin’s opening video presentation.

 However, our second panelist Dr Clare Watkins pointed out that although the task of building a bridge between the  “church” and LGBT Catholics is obviously important, there is a problem with the metaphor. As a theologian and ecclesiologist, she is acutely conscious that the LGBT Catholic community are in fact part of the church itself. Where then, is this supposed “bridge”? Is it not in fact our shared responsibility to be building a bridge from the Church, to the larger world outside, to other LGBT people, and indeed to other marginalised groups? Or is the required bridge between us in the church – and God?

Continuing discussion noted how although Fr Martin’s book discusses both the need for the church to display greater “respect, compassion and sensitivity” to LGBT Catholics, and for the LGBT Catholic community to do the same, to the institutional church, in his video he addressed only the former, and left to us to resolve the second. And so the question was then asked, by the panel and from the floor, how best could we as Quest and as Quest members, most effectively play our part in building a bridge to the “church”. A common theme emerging, was that the key lay in the twin principles of honesty about ourselves, and in building relationships (with the bishops, and with our fellow Catholics in the pews).

I am left absolutely clear in my own mind that this is an important part of the task now facing Quest. At an important weekend workshop a few years ago, the national committee and representatives and regional representatives developed a strategic plan that identified the need to move beyond being a simple support group for our own members, to moving out into the wider world.. Since then, we as a committee have started to do just that. Ruby as our chair, has been having a series of meetings with a steadily  expanding number of bishops. We have also been going into Catholic schools,  in partnership with Stonewall or by direct invitation from certain schools, to talk about the challenges facing young LGBT people in the church. After many years of talking about it and then extensive discussion, we now have a firm commitment to co-host with Bishop Sherrington an important November conference on discernment, accompaniment and conscience, which will take these issues to a wider public audience. We are also collaborating more with other organisations, both locally and internationally (with the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, where Ruby is co-chair, and with the European Forum).

So no, it is emphatically not time to fold up and head gently into the sunset. Rather, the task facing us is to step up and expand our efforts, For example, we have for years been discussing the importance of going into parishes, to share our stories and describe our work. If we were to do this, it would fit directly into the principle of bridge building by honesty and relationships, identified in the panel discussion. Nor is this responsibility simply something that it would be “nice” to do. Alongside his notably improved pastoral tone to LGBT issues, Pope Francis has been stressing something important: the Gospel imperative to evangelise is not just one for our clergy: it’s an obligation that God has placed on us, individually and collectively, as part of that church “of all the people”. Quest is a vehicle for us, as LGBT Catholics, to play our part in that God-given obligation.

But we simply cannot sustain and expand our efforts with our current, diminishing membership and limited pool of exhausted committee members and regional coordinators.  We simply must expand our resources, possibly by finding entirely new ways of operating.

At the time of writing, we have not yet had our AGM. That is due later today, when the entire question of the future of Quest will be raised as a matter for serious discussion. I have some specific ideas of my own, which I will propose. I look forward to that discussion.


From 1968, America’s editors on ‘Humanae Vitae’ | America Magazine

This editorial originally appeared in the issue of Aug. 17, 1968 under the title “An Editorial Statement on ‘Human Life.’”

Paul VI will clearly be remembered in history for his part in at least three great movements: Vatican II, world peace and development, and church unity. With the publication of “Human Life,” it seems certain he will also be remembered for his part in another great movement, difficult to name, which centers on the dignity and sacredness of family life and love. As a statement of the Dutch hierarchy declares: “Although this papal letter is not an infallible, dogmatic statement, it nevertheless is a real defense of the dignity of life as well as an appeal for responsibility in sexual relationships and marriage that is of the utmost importance to our society. May the discussion of the papal letter contribute to a better and better functioning of authority within the Church.”

Source: America Magazine

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.

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

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


Continue reading School Visit: St Francis Xavier

John Paul I: First Gay Friendly Pope

 When Pope Francis earlier this month confirmed the “heroic virtue” of Pope John Paul I, he conferred on him the title “Venerable”, reminding us  of Pope John Paul II’s earlier declaration of him as a “servant of God” – the first step on the road to sainthood.

My interest in John Paul I is that there have been numerous suggestions that he may have been the first to speak up for pastoral support for gay couples – for example,  by permitting adoption by gay couples, or even for some form of recognition for same-sex unions.

My original source came from a post at  “The Gay Mystic, which I first wrote about some years ago. I’ve now done some more research, and found much more of interest.

Pope John Paul I

Continue reading John Paul I: First Gay Friendly Pope

Help Me Get to the Global Rainbow Catholics Conference!

Two years ago, I was at the inaugural conference of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics in Rome, coinciding with the start of the Bishops’ Synod Assembly on Marriage and Family.

That conference set up a steering committee, to put the organisation on a sound footing to continue solid work to promote full LGBT inclusion and equality in the Catholic Church. The steering committee has now completed its work. At the end of this month, the GNRC will be formally constituted at a conference in Rome. I will be there. 

In addition to the formal approval of the body’s statutes and the election of a board, this will be very much a working conference, with four study groups preparing plans for continuing work. I have asked to be allocated to either the group working on tools and strategies for advocacy with Catholic bishops, or that tasked with improving pastoral care for LGBT Catholics. In addition, I will be urging the conference to send a strong delegation of LGBT Catholics to the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin, where by our simple presence we can provide valuable testimony to the reality of LGBT Catholic lives, present empirical research to counter the prevalent myths promoted by our enemies, and possible even address the full assembly.

However, to get there I need your help. Please support my “Go Fund Me” page.

It´s been almost two years from the first time the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics gathered, for its genesis in Rome on October 2015 and in parallel to the Extraordinary Synod of the Family. Since then Pope Francis, male and female religious, lay members and our local LGBTI pastoral care groups pronounced diverse speeches or took different actions related to LGBTI issues within the Catholic Church. While some of them are great approaches for justice and inclusion for LGBTI´s and their families, there are still many others that sustain the need to keep an open and direct dialogue with the whole Church and society. “We have made a lot of local efforts, but indeed a single and global voice with our lay Community, the Curia and the Vatican itself is needed”, explains Benjamin Oh, member of the GNRC Steering Committee and part of Acceptance Sydney (LGBTI Pastoral Care Group based in Australia). “We have made these journeys as independent initiatives, when there are a lot of synergies we can develop together as a Global Network”, complements Benjamin O.

So recognizing the benefits of the GNRC existence we are pleased to inform you that our 2nd GNRC Assembly will be held from 30th November to 3th December 2017 in Munich-Dachau (Germany). The conference title is “Hear a just cause” from Psalm 17. “Our time has come for social justice and our plea must be heard because it is indeed a just cause – and above all, urgent!” said Joseanne Peregin, also a member of the GNRC Steering Committee and part of Drachma´s Parents Group (LGBTI Pastoral Care Group based in Malta).

Source: Global Network of Rainbow Catholics

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