Category Archives: Sexuality and gender

Busting Open the Vatican Closet

I’m currently reading Martel’s “In the Closet of the Vatican”. I was initially wary, suspicious that it could simply fuel a backlash from the orthotoxic Catholics, and would be too much mere sensationalism. I was wrong. This is much, much more than a mere exposé of Vatican gay clergy. It is absolutely riveting, deserving a careful read by all concerned about the Catholic Church.

Image result for in the closet of the vatican

I was first persuaded to buy it, by reading James Alison’s thoughtful review and commentary at ABC.net.au

So, the other shoe has finally dropped. The veil has been removed from what the French rather gloriously call a secret de Polichinelle ― an open secret: one that “everybody knows” but for which the evidence is both elusive and never really sought. The merely anecdotal is, at last, acquiring the contours of sociological visibility.

The structure of the clerical closet

Frédéric Martel’s book In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality and Hypocrisy is the first attempt of which I am aware at a properly researched answer to the question: “How and why is it that the principal institutional obstacle to LGBT rights at the worldwide level appears itself to be massively staffed by gay men?”

James is a personal friend whom I trust. His assessment, based on his own experience as an interviewee for the book, and on his own extensive knowledge of the subject, convinced him that this is a serious attempt at dispassionate, accurate journalism: note his statement of the question: “How and why is it that the principal institutional obstacle to LGBT rights at the worldwide level appears itself to be massively staffed by gay men?”.

James does not need to be told that the Vatican is massively staffed by gay men: he knows that well. What is more important, is the “how and why”, which has not previously been fully addressed. Numerous previous observers have noted the high proportion of gay men in the priesthood, with some attempts at explanation. What I have not previously found, is why that proportion should apparently be even higher at the upper echelons of the Catholic hierarchy. (Krzystzof Charamsa has written about this specifically for the CDF, from his own insider knowledge, but Oliva goes much beyond that one dicastery).

This not just about outing people. Rather, it’s a solid sociological analysis of why there are so many gay clergy in the priesthood.  it’s also a riveting historical account of how a previously extensive but deeply closeted homophile Vatican culture, morphed into a more  visible homosexual, sometimes even internally gay, environment – but still deeply closeted externally. These contradictions give rise to the prevalence of publicly virulent homophobia, from men whose personal lives are deeply hypocritical.

One of the criticisms that I have seen of the book is its timing, on the eve of the meeting on child abuse, which has nothing to do with homosexuality. I disagree – Martel’s analysis shows how closeted   Vatican homophobia, contributed to the abuse crisis. Indeed, it’s been fascinating reading this book in parallel with reports from the Vatican meeting on the protection of minors. When I first started writing about LGBT Catholics nearly ten years ago, I wrote extensively for a time about the issue of clerical sexual abuse. Later, I wrote a great deal also about gay priests and their particular difficulties.  Ten years on, I am left with a deep sense of how far the Catholic church has moved on matters of sexuality during that period – and how far it has yet to go.

Read also:

 

Gay priests

“Frank and Free” discussion on gay priests.

Msgr Charamsa’s Damning Indictment of the CDF

Celibacy, Gays, Priesthood

The Tyranny of the Clerical Closet

The Myth of Priestly Celibacy

 

Sexual Abuse

Church, Power & Abuse

Clerical Abuse: The Story So Far, Looking Ahead.

What About the Women?

 

Changing Church response to LGBT Catholics 

Cardinal Wuerl: Married Gay Catholics “Not a Great Problem”

“Papabile” Cardinal Tagle: Church Has Wounded Gay People

English Bishop Apologises for Hurt to Gay People.

Caribbean Priest Urges Constitutional Protection for Lesbians, Gays

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”

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.





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Gender Reality and “Ideological Colonialism”

Today is “Transgender Day of Remembrance”, a day when in particular, we remember those who have lost their lives to transphobic violence. (New Ways Ministry notes in their post, that around the world, there have been 350 such murders recorded in the last year alone. That’s almost one a day – and does not include those unrecorded, or not recognised as transphobic).

St Joan of Arc, cross-dressing martyr

In addition to the human tragedy inherent in each and every one of these deaths, for the Christian churches, and the Catholic churches in particular, there’s a particular religious tragedy, which erases the transgender elements in church history, and distorts the understanding of gender in theology, and in the world.

The most notable example from church history is obviously St Joan of Arc, condemned  by the church authorities as a heretic  and executed in part for her practice of dressing and behaving as a man, in contravention of standard gender roles. Later, the church re-evaluated her, and recognised her as a saint and martyr. It is notable that Pope Benedict once discussed this, as an illustration of the distorting tradition in church history, and how there have been times when the theologians and cardinals of the church, can be wrong.




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School Visit for “Anti-bullying week”

If ever we needed a demonstration of why we need an anti-bullying week, we got it this week, with the hostile reaction in some quarters to the entirely sensible guidelines issued to church schools by the Church of England.

Yesterday, I made my own contribution against bullying, speaking to students of Lord Wandsworth College, Hampshire. I was originally invited to the school as a Stonewall LGBT role model,  but with a full 50 minute time slot to fill, and as it is anti-bullying week, it made sense to expand the brief.  I began with a simple, brief outline of my personal story, which sets the background to my particular passions, and that led fairly naturally into a discussion of bullying: homophobic, transphobic (which is getting a lot more attention, currently) – and biphobic – which is still too often overlooked.

How did it go? I thought very well – apart from some minor technical glitches. It looked to me like just about all the 250 students stayed attentive right through the full twenty minutes. I was particularly pleased at the end, when two beaming pupils came up to thank me most profusely. The staff member involved seemed satisfied, so I came home feeling I’d had a constructive day.

Here follows a summary of my presentation, together with a selection of the slides used.

(The full presentation, together with the planned  text, will follow).



Continue reading School Visit for “Anti-bullying week”

LGBT Catholics, Working for Change

At the end of this month, I will join LGBT Catholics and their parents in Munich for  conference of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. This follows an earlier gathering in Rome, 2015, where we appointed  a steering committee to formally set up the legal and procedural framework for a permanent body.  The forthcoming conference will approve the statutes, and begin the serious work of expanding pastoral care for LGBT Catholics, extending dialogue and advocacy work with Catholic bishops, and countering church support for legal sanctions against LGBT people.

The German theologian Michael Brinkschroder has, for the past two years, been one of the two co-presidents of the steering committee. In this article published on the GNRC website, he discusses his experience of being both gay and Catholic, as well as his hopes for the GNRC.

The Catholic theologian, sociologist (PhD) and religious education teacher Michael Brinkschröder is gay. Instead of turning his back on the church, he is fighting for acceptance and equality for gays and lesbians in the Roman Catholic Church.




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Fr James Martin, on “Building a Bridge”

After the publication of his book “Building a Bridge” (between the Catholic Church and LGBT Catholics), Fr James Martin has received some vociferous opposition from certain quarters – leading to the highly publicised cancellation of a few previously scheduled lectures.

Much more important though, is the less well-publicised heavy schedule he has had, addressing well-attended meetings around the country which have not been cancelled, in parishes schools and colleges.  Here’s Fr. Martin on building a bridge,  during a large scale breakout session at the Ignatian Family Teach-In 2017 in Washington D.C.

Yet another study finds kids with same-sex parents do just as well as those with straight parents

Kids with same-sex parents are doing just fine, according to a new study.

In news shocking no one but homophobes, the study analyzed data from the American National Health Interview Survey from 2013 to 2015 and proved kids with same-sex parents do just as well as kids with straight parents.

The researchers looked at data for around 21,000 children between the ages of 4 and 17. The survey analyzed the emotional, mental and psychological health of both children and parents.

It’s the latest research in a flood of previous studies proving same-sex parents are just as qualified in raising kids. In fact, some studies suggest they’re even better.

Source: Gay Star News

Coming Out –  to Parents

Coming out can be scary – especially to parents in a religious family

I found it possible, only because I knew that the nature of my family, was that we took it for granted that we would stick together, no matter what (I’d already seen this, with a couple of younger siblings). I had no real fear of rejection. Also, I was already in my 30’s, after a patently unsuccessful (opposite-sex) marriage. There was no way that my parents could suggest that for me, being gay was “just a phase”. So, for me, coming out in the end was no big deal – but even so, the prospect was  scary.

Of course, the reason it didn’t happen until my 30’s, was that  earlier, I had simply bottled it. I have a very vivid memory of walking home from university one day, thinking about an obviously gay couple on campus, and reflecting on how good it would be to be settled in a nice home with a loving manI – and how impossible to admit to that, in my Catholic family.

Instead, I simply avoided the problem. I refused to confront or deal with the truth of my natural orientation, and entered instead into what turned out to be a completely inappropriate, ultimately destructive marriage. Others who have avoided coming out to family, have made other destructive choices: leaving home, or even suicide.

The healthy thing to do, while young or later, is to embrace the old biblical adage, “the truth will set you free” – and come out to parents. But, as stated up front at the beginning of this post, that’s not easy – especially when young. That’s why a post by Susan Cottrell, at Freed Hears, is so welcome. She is the mother of not one, but two gay children, and regularly dispenses sound advice to LGBT Christian families.

Here’s a summary of the four steps she recommends for LGBT kids contemplating coming out to parents. (Read the full post at  Freed Hearts)

How To Prepare for the Potential Hurricane of Coming Out!

  1. Take Care of You.
  • Make a plan. If you’re in a position of risk—you’re still living at home, or your parents are paying for your college—then consider that carefully. It can be soul crushing to wait until you’re beyond your parents’ support before you come out, so you have to weigh the risk.
    1. Take Care of Your Family.
    • Give them some time. Because here’s the deal: they did not go through all the preparation that you did, so their heads may be spinning. They’re afraid: for you, for them, and for what this might mean. They’re likely to be running the program the culture or the church has installed in them. They don’t yet understand God’s full love and inclusion. If you can stay calm—even if they’re not—it will help you… and them.
    1. Recognize that your parents’ response reveals them, not you.
  • In other words, if they say terrible things to you, hateful, vicious words, that is because that is their worldview, NOT because you deserve it.
  • Remember the Truth About You! No matter how your family reacts, they do love you. They just may be so clouded with fear that they’ve lost sight of that. But it’s still true.

Read more at Patheos – Freed Hearts