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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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Scripture As Hope: Romans 15:4-9

For too long, LGBT people have suffered under Biblical textual abuse, with our opponents brandishing a handful of cherry – picked scriptural texts as weapons to accuse and condemn us, It is not surprising then, that so many of our community view the Bible with suspicion, or even reject it entirely, and with it very often, all religious faith and practice. But this abuse is a gross distortion of what scripture is all about, as the second reading for today, the second Sunday of Advent (year A) makes clear:

scripture as hope

“Gospel” derives from “Godspell”, that is “good news” – and the hope and good news apply as much to gay, lesbian and trans Christians as to any other:

Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to your name.
Romans 15:4-9




Memo to Cardinal George: “Redefining” Marriage.

re: Your statement on “redefining” marriage :

Everyone has a right to marry, but no one has the right to change the nature of marriage. Marriage is what it is and always has been, no matter what a Legislature decides to do; however, the public understanding of marriage will be negatively affected by passage of a bill that ignores the natural fact that sexual complementarity is at the core of marriage.

A truly “traditional” Biblical family?
Please check some Church history. This is not the first time that the nature of marriage is being “redefined” – the church itself has done so frequently.
  • In Biblical Israel, marriage was polygamous, arranged exclusively between men (the groom, and the fathers of his wives). The Hebrew patriarch, if he could afford it, would also keep concubines as well as wives.
  • In classical and medieval times, marriage was not a contract between two people based on love to raise children, but a financial and legal arrangement to protect property and inheritance.
  • In the early Christian church, there was no obligation for couples to marry in church – unless the groom was a priest.
  • There was, on the other hand, provision for same sex unions to be blessed, in church, by formal liturgical rites.
  • The idea of marriage as a “Christian Sacrament” came relatively late in Church history. The popular Western understanding of “traditional marriage” is a very modern invention, dating mostly from the nineteenth century.

Recommended Books:

Gay Adoption, Gay Marriage as Moral Obligations: Two Jewish Views

Here’s a refreshing change: instead of the spurious, religious arguments against gay adoption and gay marriage, two more voices (this time, from Jewish perspectives)  speaking out on the positive faith-based reasons in favour of each.

In the first of these, at the Jerusalem Post, the orthodox Rabbi, television host and author of religious books on relationships Shmuley Boteach argues strongly in favour of gay adoption. Last month, he participated with Rosie O’Donnell in a New Jersey public discussion on the subject. In an article published before this event, he reflected on these issues, and especially on an aspect that I see as the most important of all. When a friend he spoke to expressed regret that Rosie’s four adopted children would never have a father (the standard, theoretical argument against gay adoption), Rabbi Shmuley replied with the obvious and important, reality-based response:

that without Rosie they wouldn’t have a mother either.

Gay Couple with child

Image via Wikipedia

 

(The simple, obvious truth is that a child needs parents – period. Two are (usually) better than one, but one is better than none. There is no evidence that two opposite sex parents as a class are necessarily any better than two same sex parents – but even if such evidence did exist, it would be irrelevant, for children are not adopted by a collective class of parents, of any orientation. They area adopted by specific, real people. It is the personal qualities of those particular individuals, not those of a group average, that what matter. Some prospective parents, gay or straight, will make have the qualities to make terrific parents. Others will not).

Rabbi Shmuley goes on to observe that in Jewish tradition, there is no higher moral good than in giving a home to a child that otherwise would have none. Instead of opposing same sex couples (or single gay men or lesbians) who are prepared to make the enormous sacrifices that are required in doing so, straight couples should be commending them. And if they persist in their opposition, the obvious next question is, if you will not approve others adopting, are you willing to make these sacrifices yourself?

But to my fellow straight people I offer the following challenge. You have every right to oppose gay marriage. It’s a free country. We don’t suppress opinions. But aren’t you under a moral obligation to adopt the children in their stead? Surely leaving kids to drown without love is deeply immoral. But to stop others from rescuing them is an abomination.

I am the father of nine children, thank G-d. I have at times discussed with my wife the possibility of adopting a child. Every child is a child of G-d, not only our biological children. They should have a home and we should offer it. But my conversations have never gone past just that, conversations. I stand in awe of all those who actually do it. In my religion, Judaism, there is no higher mitzvah, G-dly deed, than raising a child with no parents as your own. This is G-d’s child and really He should have made provisions for him. But the Creator chooses, for reasons unknown to us, to hide behind the veil of nature and it is we humans who must fill in the seemingly empty spaces. Those who adopt are society’s and religion’s greatest heroes.

Please note, here, the deliberate use of that much maligned word “abomination”. For it is not “homosexuality” that is an abomination, but

leaving a child to grow up in an orphanage where nobody wants him might be an even greater act of sacrilege.

Rabbi Shhmuley here is approaching the issue from a specifically Jewish perspective, with Jewish vocabulary. The essence of the argument though is equally valid for any other faith. (Indeed, it is essentially the same argument that was presented some months ago by a Catholic lesbian adoptive mother. In response to Archbishop Chaput’s exclusion from a Catholic school of some children with two mothers,  I reported on a lesbian Catholic mother who had written at dot Commonweal that it was precisely because of her strong Catholic faith and commitment to Catholic theology, with its emphasis on support for the poor and needy and encouragement of adoption of orphans, that had led her to adopt her children.)

Meanwhile, New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weintraub has contributed to what she calls a “welcome dialogue” in the Jewish Standard on the subject of gay marriage. As a sponsor of the unsuccessful state legislation last year to approve legal recognition for marriage equality, she engaged in serious discussion with orthodox religious leaders on the bill – which was quite specifically named, and intended as, religious freedom as much as it was about marriage equality. While she acknowledged that some orthodox Jews (on religious grounds) were strongly against same sex marriage, others have a different view:

In crafting the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act legislation, I was compelled to wonder why should the Rabbi leading the congregation to which I belong be prevented from legally sanctioning same gender marriages if he feels they fit into our Jewish religious beliefs, values and commitment to building family?  Any religious group in our country is entitled to practice their beliefs and to not be compelled to do anything they find in contradiction within their houses of worship.

 

Legislatively, I know we respect these differences. Personally, I know I respect the differences within my own Jewish community. But it is sad and hurtful when those differences cause pain and isolation to other members of our community.   Without this conversation we will be contributing to that isolation and pain which has led to the high rate of suicide among gay youth in our nation and in our state.

 

I know that most of our Orthodox Rabbis and some of our political leaders believe that same sex unions are against G-d’s law.  But I also know that many others believe that we are born into our sexual identity and that love and commitment to another human being should be cherished, not isolated.  That making a public commitment to another person should be celebrated and enjoyed on our simcha pages.  I look forward to these differences being acknowledged, but most important accepted, so that we can live comfortably within our religious institutions while recognizing who each of us really is as a distinct human being.

This divergence of the Jewish religious views on marriage is also evident in the Christian churches. (It is the argument that the British Quakers used in arguing for the removal of the restrictions in the UK Civil Partnerships on conducting the procedures in religious premises or with religious language.  The Quakers argued that the established legal principle of religious freedom should mean that they should not be prevented by other denominations beliefs against same sex marriages, from conducting marriages that did not conflict with their own beliefs).

Writing in the Huffington Post, the pastor Candace Chellew-Hodge has yet another religious based argument in favour of gay marriage. She says, let gy people rehab marriage:

perhaps gays and lesbians can be the savior for marriage. Just as many old neighborhoods in my hometown of Atlanta were saved by gays and lesbians buying dilapidated houses and renovating them, why can’t gays and lesbians rehab marriage?

 

Gays and lesbians are clamoring for the right to get married. Obviously, within our community the idea of “’til death do us part” is not a hackneyed phrase or something to be avoided at all costs. We want to walk down the aisle and have our happily ever after. For those gays and lesbians who agree … that marriage is “an institution central to human happiness and flourishing,” we want the ability to flourish together as married couples, and yes, even to raise children together.

The early discussions on gay marriage and LGBT equality mostly pitted “religious” arguments against, matched with secular “civil rights” arguments in favour. This is usually as sterile debate, with the two sides simply speaking past each other. As the public discourse has progressed, it is becoming clear that secular opinion has largely been settled in support, especially among young people, whose support is overwhelming. Simultaneously, the traditional “religious” sentiment against is fragmenting, with increasingly vocal voices speaking up in support of the religious arguments in favour. This greater visibility of the disagreements between people of faith is important: as both Senator Weintraub and the British Quakers have observed, the principle of religious freedom makes it difficult for those who opposed to queer equality to impose their religious views on those of other faiths, whose own religious beliefs lead them to a different conclusion.

The religious arguments for maintaining legal restrictions on equality then become simply indefensible. They will have to go – as they surely will do.

WBM, Feb 2013

Lest We Forget: Remember the Ashes of Our Martyrs
The New Pope’s In-tray
The Papal Resignation: Response from New Ways Ministry
Catholic MP’s Back Gay Marriage
Joseph Gentilini – Hounded by Heaven
French Bishops: Respect Gay Relationships (2).
Gay Marriage Debate: A Quotable Quote, on Jesus
Should Catholics accept gay marriage? Austen Ivereigh and Tina Beattie
A Big Day for Marriage Equality, UK – and for Queer Catholics, Worldwide
Lepers, Social Outcasts – and the Church
Promote LGBT Ministry: Write to Rome, Write the Bishops”!
Is gay marriage really about sex? Is sex only about procreation?

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.

Amoris Laetitiae: Take Up the Key, and Open the Door?

First, a reminder from the GNRC response: “If the door is not yet opened, maybe the key is under the mat?”. Yes, there are obvious disappointments in their for LGBT people – but it’s not constructive to simply sit back and wait for the door to be opened. If the key is indeed under the mat, it’s up to us to pick it up, and use it. Amoris Laetitia in fact includes a great deal of useful material (some of it hidden, and waiting to be unpicked, especially in coded references in indirect support of LGBT relationships and queer families). We have work to do, in using these resources, and by engaging forcefully with bishops, clergy and others for greater LGBT inclusion and equality in church.

Furthermore, I suspect that LGBT disappointments are there, primarily when we read the text from a narrowly LGBT perspective. Our issues though, and the obvious flaws in conventional doctrine, are only a small part (and not a very important part) of teaching as a whole.The Catholic Church is very much bigger than a small lgbt community – and the problems with the Catholic Church and its doctrines are very much bigger than the problems with its disordered teaching on homosexuality. These problems are embedded in a much wider problem with the whole of its ignorance about human sexuality – and that in turn lies in the stupidity of compulsory clerical celibacy, unhealthy awe of an authoritarian hierarchy, the culture of clericalism – and an obsession with rigid doctrine itself. All these contribute to the caused of Catholic nonsense over lgbt prople and our relationhips – and in Amoris Laetitiae and elsewhere, Pope Francis is preparing to demolish them all. For that,we should be truly thankful.,




Related Posts:

LGBTI in Africa – Some Signs of Hope?

We all know about the horrors of outright persecution, too often with the collaboration of some Catholic bishops.  For many, there’s a strong feeling that “We must do something”. But, ill-considered interventions from outside can be dangerous and counter-productive. For those wanting to make a constructive contribution to change in Africa, a prudent course is to work with the indigenous LGBTI rights movement. In the view from outside the continent, there’s not nearly enough awareness of Africa’s own LGBTI movements, and the progress they are making.

This is true even in the Catholic Church. While far too many of Africa’s bishops have openly supported calls for criminalization or harsher penalties, a striking feature of the foundation conference for the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics was the number of groups and individuals from Africa either present in Rome, or who had attempted to attend, but were denied visas. (A case of discrimination applied by Italy, not by African governments?). Many LGBT responses to Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitiae” have expressed disappointment that its insistence on respect for gays and lesbians and its clearly stated opposition to discrimination and violence, were not accompanied with a direct condemnation of discrimination and violence in Africa. But a respected African theologian sees it differently. Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator S.J., a Nigerian theologian based in Kenya, believes that African bishops will read Pope Francis’ words, and realise the direct implications for the Church and LGBT people in Africa.

There is progress also in politics, and in law. Much of the reporting on LGBT rights in Africa has focussed on moves to criminalize homosexuality, or to increase the penalties. But getting much less attention has been moves in the opposite direction.

On May 22 2014, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights did something wholly unprecedented. It committed an emphatically gay- and lesbian-friendly act. It adopted Resolution 275. This condemned violence and other human rights violations against persons on the basis of real or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity. The historic importance of this resolution cannot be overstated. It is the first time that an Africa-wide body has taken a stand for LGBTI rights and protection.

-Justice Edwin Cameron, in Mail and Guardian

Last year (2015), homosexuality was decriminalized in Mozambique – which introduced  protection against employment discrimination in 2007. Also in 2015, courts in both Botswana and Kenya gave some limited protection for LGBTI rights, requiring the governments of both countries to register LGBTI NGO’s.

We should also remember that for some African countries, decriminalization is not necessary – because homosexuality was never criminalized – unlike Europe, and the rest of the world in the colonial period. There is a popular but false claim by African opponents of LGBT equality, that homosexuality is foreign to African culture, and was a European import. The truth is the exact reverse. African and other historians have been compiling mounting and impressive evidence that same-sex relationships have always been part of African culture, just as they have been in every society and every geographic region. As awareness of the real African gay history spreads, we should expect further progress towards LGBTI rights in Africa.

 It remains a long, hard struggle ahead – but to help most effectively, outsiders should aim to work with Africans themselves.

Related Posts:

African LGBTI Pride is Unstoppable

Romans 1:24 – 27, Part Two – Historical, Cultural Context.

I wrote recently about interpretation of Paul’s letter to the Romans as it affects LGBT Christians, pointing out that if we approach it with due consideration for the context of the full Chapter 1 and opening of Chapter 2, and not just the frequently quoted verses of 1:24 – 27, the sense of the passage changes substantially. This is not after all a condemnation of same – sex relationships as sinful. Paul does however, describe them as “shameful”. To appreciate more precisely what he means by this, and what it should mean for gay Christians today, we need to pay attention to another of the principles recommended for biblical interpretation by the Pontifical Biblical Commission: the need to consider the historical and cultural context appertaining at the time of writing.

I made a start on this in a previous post, where I argued that when the cultural context is considered for this passage, the real meaning is hiding in plain site: Paul was writing to the Romans, for whom sex in all its variety, was an even bigger part of daily life than in modern Western cities, with no general hostility to same – gender sexual practices.

Ithyphallic Tintinnabulum in British Museum (Source: Wikipedia)




Continue reading Romans 1:24 – 27, Part Two – Historical, Cultural Context.