Category Archives: History

Pope Francis’ Apology to Gay People

I’ve been expecting this for some time – I just didn’t think it would come quite so quickly, even though it is desperately overdue.

Pope Francis: Catholic Church should apologize to gay people and others it has marginalized

Pope Francis says gays — and all the other people the church has marginalized, such as the poor and the exploited — deserve an apology.Francis was asked Sunday en route home from Armenia if he agreed with one of his top advisors, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who told a conference in Dublin in the days after the deadly Orlando gay club attack that the church owes an apology to gays for having marginalized them.

Francis responded with a variation of his famous “Who am I to judge?” comment and a repetition of church teaching that gays must not be discriminated against but treated with respect.

He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being “a bit offensive for others.” But he said: “Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?”

Source:  – LA Times

What grounds did I have for expecting at all?

Simply because there have now been a series of papal apologies to a wide range of groups previously attacked or persecuted by the Catholic authorities. Pope Benedict XVI apologised to Muslims for the Crusades, Pope Francis apologised  to the indigenous people of South America for “ideological colonialism” (but not the the ideological colonialism in sexual and gender norms), and more recently to Protestants. LGBT people were at the back of the queue, but their turn had to come eventually. There are other examples too, which I do not now have time to enumerate.

As others have noted, a simple apology for “harm” is not enough, on its own. There needs to be an admission of how the harm was done, and how it is inextricably linked to core sexual doctrine. We also know from the theology of the sacrament of reconciliation, that simple confessing of sins is not enough to merit full forgiveness, unless it is accompanied by appropriate restitution for the harm done. In this context, restitution to those individuals already harmed is impossible – but restitution to the community would be possible, if it included an admission that the harm is a direct result of grievously disordered sexual doctrines, which need urgent reconsideration.

Now however, is not the time to carp. Let us first, offer profound thanks that Pope Francis has gone where none of his predecessors could – he’s asked of the entire Catholic community, “Who are WE to judge?”

This alone will enrage his many detractors on the orthotoxic Catholic right to height not previously seen. Let us for now, recognise his remarkable first step – and postpone for a later date, consideration in more depth, of what issurely required next.

Related Posts

Gender and “Ideological Colonialism”

In Washington D.C. for a National Prayer Breakfast, Cardinal Robert Sarah has escribed gay marriage as “poison” and attacked transgender rights as a form of ideological colonialism.

“[T]hrough a demonic ‘gender ideology,’ a deadly impulse that is being experienced in a world increasingly cut off from God through ideological colonialism.”

Cardinal Sarah, is an African, as am I by origin. I leave aside here his lamentable disregard for the Catechism’s plain instruction that homosexuals (and, by extension, transgender people) should be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”. Instead, I simply draw attention to the cardinal’s woeful ignorance of our continent’s history, of the the nature of colonial ideology – and of basic biology. Continue reading Gender and “Ideological Colonialism”

LGBT History Month (in Church)

In the UK, February is LGBT history month (unlike the USA, where this is October).  For LGBT History month 2014,  I will spoke at the University of East Anglia on “Saints, Sinners and Martyrs in Queer Church History: The continuing evolution of religious responses to homoerotic relationships“, as part of their LGBT History Week.

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I was in some distinguished company. Other speakers & topics in the series :

  • Music in Queer Fiction – Dr Clare Connors (3 February)
  • “Marriage is so Gay.” The battle for same sex marriage in the US and Britain: A comparative perspective – Dr Emma Long (6 February 2014)
  • Southeast Gaysia!: LGBT Heritage and Activism in the ASEAN Region – Yi-Sheng Ng (10 February 2014 )
  • Pitching Harmony: Thinking differently about the assimilation and difference debate – Dr Jonathan Mitchell (13 February 2014 )
  • “A Quiet Place”: Gay & Bisexual Classical Composers in 20th Century America – Malcolm Robertson (17 February 2014 )
  • The Homosexual Steamroller: Queer “Propaganda” through Literature – Dr B.J. Epstein (20 February 2014 )
  • Saints, Sinners and Martyrs in Queer Church History: The continuing evolution of religious responses to homoerotic relationships – Terry Weldon ( 24 February 2014)
  • Trans & Gender Variant History 1800s onwards – Katy J Went (27 February 2014 )

I’ve summarised the content of my talk as :

History contradicts the common assumption that Christianity and homoerotic relationships are in direct conflict. There have been numerous examples of Christian saints, popes and bishops who have had same-sex relationships themselves, or celebrated them in writing, and blessed same-sex unions in church. There have also been long centuries of active persecution – but recent years have again seen the emergence of important straight allies for LGBT equality, and a notable reassessment of the scriptural verdict.

To mark this month here at QTC,and also to help myself to prepare for this address, I republished at this site a number of earlier posts, revised and updated, on the history of LGBT people in church history. as well as some fresh material, in two series. Look out for the following (and possibly more):

People in the Church: The Story of the Queer Saints and Martyrs

  1. Before Christianity
  2. LGBT (Church) History: The Early Christians –
  3. Saints and Sinners in The Medieval Church 
  4. LGBT (Church) History Month: Martyred BY the Church
  5. The Renaissance Paradox: Gay and Gay – friendly Popes.
  6. Modern Saints and /Martyrs

The Distorted Christian Tradition on Sexuality:

  1. Marriage and Family
  2. Biblical Interpreation
  3. Natural Law

Recommended Books:

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“Take Back the Tradition” – the Video Series (Coming Soon)!

After spending last weekend in Rome for the founding conference of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, this week I am just outside Zurich, for some family time of my own with my daughter and grandchildren. This not however, just holiday time. It’s also very much a working holiday: keeping up  with news from Rome on the Family Synod, and pushing ahead with some new projects.

One of these new initiatives is to expand from simple blogging, to vlogging – video blogging. Continue reading “Take Back the Tradition” – the Video Series (Coming Soon)!

“Take Back the Tradition” – Outline.

I wrote some time ago, about a belief that LGBT Christians need to “take back the tradition” in Church history, just as others have begun to “Take Back the Word” in biblical studies (to use the title of a book edited by Robert Goss). The young Fr Joseph Ratzinger wrote about the dangerous “distorting tradiion” against which we must be ever vigilant. It it high time that we correct the distorted tradition.

Fr Joseph Ratzinger
Fr Joseph Ratzinger

For LGBT History Month in the UK next February, queer church history will be a major theme. As my contribution, I will be developing an extended series of posts on the subject, which I hope I will also present in audio – visual form, as well as conventional blog posts.

Here is my current outline for this project, which will be cross – posted at The Queer Church Repository, where it will be constantly updated and expanded.

“Take Back the Tradition”

Some Topics in Queer Church History

Introduction

Pope Benedict XVI was viewed by many LGBT people as “Maledict”, for some of his writing, especially the Hallowe’en letter he wrote when still Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the CDF – the modern successor to the Inquisition. But there’s another aspect to Benedict of importance to LGBT people, beyond his disordered language on sexuality, and that is his insights into church history – and the lessons we can draw from these LGBT Christians.

Benedict had some important words about St joan of Arc.  He once noted that she was tried, convicted and burned for heresy by the cardinals and theologians of the Church. (We should remember too, that part of the charges against her was for cross – dressing,  and gender non-conformity). However, he continued, centuries later she was rehabilitated and canonized, and now regarded as a saint. The pointed lesson he drew, was that Christian leaders, cardinals, theologians, and others, can be wrong.

This is just one pertinent example of a much bigger problem that he had written about years ago, when still the young theologian plain Father Joseph Ratzinger. This was that alongside the valuable tradition in church history, there’s a distorting tradition, against which we must always be on our guard. LGBT people have suffered grievously as victims of this distorting tradition.

  • There’s a distorting tradition in biblical interpretation, which uses spurious claims that the bible “clearly” condemns homosexuality, resulting in biblical abuse to support prejudice and discrimination.
  • There’s a distorting tradition of marriage, which falsely claims that marriage has always been between one man and one woman, for the purposes of procreation.
  • There’s a distorting tradition in theology, which abuses Thomas’ Aquinas of natural law to condemn allegedly “unnatural” sex.
  • There’s a forgotten tradition of queer saints and martyrs, in which men and women with a same – sex affectional orientation have been airbrushed out of history.
  • There’s a forgotten tradition of respect for the value of intimate male relationships.

It’s time to take back the tradition.

Some African Gay History

The common claim by African homophobes is that homosexuality is somehow “un-African”. The reality is just the opposite. Same – sex relationships have always been part of African culture, across the continent, just as they have been the world over, in every period of history (until European colonists and missionaries attempted to stamp it out, thus introducing homophobia).

Writing in the Guardian, Bisi Alimi gives some examples.

If you say being gay is not African, you don’t know your history

Continue reading Some African Gay History

“Take Back the Tradition”: Why Catholic LGBT Doctrines Must Evolve.

Robert Goss some years ago edited a useful collection of essays under the title, “Take Back the Word”, on reading the bible from a gay/ lesbian or queer perspective. The value of the title lay in highlighting that the Bible is not, in fact inherently anti-gay, despite the insistence of so many hostile “Christians” who use as weapons against  us a handful of clobber texts. For decades now, biblical scholars have been demonstrating that the allegedly “traditional” interpretation is deeply flawed. However, we need to move beyond the defences against these few verses, which have left many lesbian and gay people with an unjustified suspicion on the Bible as a whole. In fact, there are numerous passages in both the Old and New Testaments, which support positive, gay – friendly reading. “Take Back the Word” presents several of these.

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As Catholics, we need to do something similar with “tradition”, which in Catholic teaching is one of the two primary sources of divine revelation, alongside the Bible itself. Continue reading “Take Back the Tradition”: Why Catholic LGBT Doctrines Must Evolve.

"The Acceptance of Gays Among Catholics is Irreversible" – Historian Gary Wills.

Gary Wills is an eminent historian of the Catholic Church, who was described by John Allen (in 2008) as “”perhaps the most distinguished Catholic intellectual in America over the last 50 years”. With his long view of the Church, his assessment of it’s present state of change deserves close attention – and it’s a most encouraging one, for lesbian and gay Catholics, for women, for for others whose understanding of sexual realities is far removed from the theorizing of Vatican documents – and for all who understand, as proclaimed by Vatican II, that the Catholic Church really is the whole “people of God”, and not just its public office – holders.  

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In a wide – ranging interview with Macleans magazine, Wills explained why he was enthusiastic about the change in style being introduced by Pope Francis, and why these will in time become entrenched as permanent features of the Church. Francis’ willingness to stimulate debate and tolerate disagreements, he says, are a sign of his strength. He contrasts this with Pius IX, whose proclamation of papal infallibility he sees as a sign of weakness, not of strength. Continue reading "The Acceptance of Gays Among Catholics is Irreversible" – Historian Gary Wills.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Let us remember, today, Holocaust Memorial Day, which in 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the largest and most notorious Nazi death camp. The BBC will mark this with a memorial program, and there will be many memorial events around the United Kingdom.

Most of the attention, quite appropriately, will be focussed on the Jewish Holocaust, but without wishing to detract from that tragedy, we must not forget that there were other victims, too – for example, with particular relevance  to lgbt peopIe, gay men and lesbians. I offer for your consideration, a posts on this theme that I have published previously, and another by Kittredge Cherry, at Jesus in Love.

The Priest With the Pink Triangle.

For the first post in my “queer modern heroes” series, I begin with someone most people have never heard of. (I’m not sure anyone even knows his name.) I begin with him because he represents a double martyrdom, martyred for his orientation, and also martyred for his faith. I choose him also precisely because he is anonymous, reminding us that in our own way, we are all called to our own heroism in the face of persecution, all called to be “martyrs” in the true, original sense – as witnesses to truth. I read this story in John McNeill’s “Taking a Chance on God“: McNeill got the story from Heinz Heger. These are McNeill’s words:

“I would like to end this reflection on the mature life of faith with the eyewitness account of a gay priest who was beaten to death in a German concentration camp during World War II because he refused to stop praying or to express contempt for himself. The story is recounted by Heinz Heger in his book “The Men With the Pink Triangle“, in which he he recalls what took place in the special concentration camp for gay men in Sachsenhausen (Sachsenhausen was a “level 3″ camp where prisoners were deliberately worked to death):

continue reading.

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(also at Queering the Church, on a related theme: Lest We Forget: Remember the Ashes of Our Martyrs)

 

This day is commemorated on different dates in the UK, and the USA. From the other side of the Atlantic, for the American remembrance day in April, Kittredge Cherry reminded us at Jesus in Love:

 

Holocaust Remembrance: We All Wear the Triangle

 

Holy Priest Anonymous one of Sachsenhausen
By William Hart McNichols ©

On Holocaust Remembrance Day we recall the genocide of 6 million Jews in state-sponsored extermination by Nazi Germany during World War II. The Nazis also murdered millions of people in other groups, including thousands of gay men and lesbians. Holocaust Remembrance Day, also known as Yom HaShoah, is April 11 this year.

One of those killed was an anonymous 60-year-old gay priest who died at the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, Germany in 1940. Heinz Heger gives an eyewitness account in his book, “The Men with the Pink Triangle.” The priest was brutally beaten and tortured, and yet there was a moment of grace when a narrow beam of sunlight shone on the priest’s face. For a detailed account, visit:
http://queering-the-church.blogspot.com/2010/01/priest-with-pink-triangle.html

The gay priest is honored in the icon above, “Holy Priest Anonymous one of Sachsenhausen” by Father William Hart McNichols, a renowned iconographer and Roman Catholic priest based in New Mexico.

It is in recognition of the significance of this gay holocaust in our collective memory, that the pink triangle has become such a potent symbol of our continuing struggle for full equality and inclusion in society – and why I developed, as my own symbol of the struggle for inclusion and equality in church, this adaptation:
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Pope Francis, Gay Marriage – and Africa.

In the Philippines, Pope Francis made some observations about marriage when addressing a gathering of families, that have been widely interpreted as an attack on gay marriage, urging people to resist pressures to “colonize” the family. (Read the full text here)

At Bondings 2.0, Frank DeBenardo has a thoughtful reflection on the Pope’s message, which he describes as “problematic”. I have not yet read the actual text, or detailed reports of it, so withhold comment on the message itself, concerning marriage. Read instead, DeBenardo’s thoughts.  However, he does include a useful observation on the word “colonization” that this may have been prompted by the concerns of African bishops at the family synod. As an African myself, this struck me as important.  Continue reading Pope Francis, Gay Marriage – and Africa.