Category Archives: Pastoral Ministry

Australian Bishop’s: “Case for Gay Marriage”

Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Bishop Bill Wright says he believes there’s a valid “common good” argument for the government to legalize same-sex “marriage”. In a September article for Aurora, the diocesan magazine, he drew a clear distinction between whether it “squares with Catholic teaching”, or “is a good practical rule for people living in this society at this time”.

Bishop Wright makes clear that the Catholic church cannot recognise same-sex unions as marriage “except  in the limited sense of a marriage according to Australian law”. But, he continues, that is a distinction that the Australian church already accepts, in other situations.




Continue reading Australian Bishop’s: “Case for Gay Marriage”

Paulist Fathers Endorse LGBT Ministry, Deplore Homophobia

The Paulist Fathers have issued a statement in support of Fr James Martin SJ, after a vicious conservative social media campaign led to the withdrawal of an invitation to speak to Theological College on the subject of “Encountering Jesus”.

Of particular interest to me, is a specific statement on the importance of his work encouraging dialogue in  LGBT pastoral ministry, and deploring homophobia and intolerance.

We support Fr Jim Martin’s vision to engage the Church pastoral practice on the care of our LGBT brothers and sisters, as exemplified in his book.He chose to write on a subject that should unite all Christians: the human dignity of every person. Yet, for some, this book’s call for the simple act of love and respect is perceived as a slippery slope towards heresy and damnation. From our reading of the book, this is simply not the case.

Moreover, this incident exposes the ugliness of homophobia and intolerance in our church and society that is in desperate nee of reconciliation and healing.

The full text of the statement may be read at this tweet by Fr Martin:

Cardinal Schonborn, on “Amoris Laetitia”

“Yes, the pope IS Catholic”.

In August 2018, Ireland will host the next World Meeting of Families. On indicator of how the tone for than assembly will differ sharply from the previous one in Philadelphia, is the prominent role played by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, in preparatory workshops and conferences. At one conference last month, he was careful to point out that the WMF should pay attention to ALL families, not just the conventional ones described in Vatican doctrine.

Last week, he was in Limerick, speaking to the Irish Institute for Pastoral studies. Introducing his talk, he was careful to reassure his audience that, considering the doubts expressed in some quarters that, “Yes it is Catholic – and the pope is Catholic”. After Schonborn had presented the document, at the pope’s request, to the media, Francis asked him, “Is it orthodox?”.. The reply was an unequivocal “Yes, it is orthodox. It is fully orthodox.” He  continued,

Does Pope Francis question the indissolubility of marriage?

The answer is no.

Does he teach the classical teaching on marriage and family?

The answer is yes.

So, the issue is not one of changing doctrine, but of reaffirming a neglected strand on teaching, on the importance of prudence and discernment in pastoral application of the teaching.

Related Posts

A Bishop’s Pastoral Sanity on Gay Marriage Vote

In Australia, the postal vote plebiscite on marriage equality has become nasty, with numerous reports of an increase in homophobic violence. Conversely, those on the other side complain of an increase in anti-Christian hostility.

It is pleasing therefore, to note that at least one Australian bishop has introduced some pastoral sanity, in a letter to his diocese (Paramatta, in West Sydney). In it, he calls for “respect”, from both sides. That is basic to Catholic teaching (but sadly, too often ignored), and is at the heart of James Martin’s celebrated book on the church and LGBT Catholics. Bishop Long goes further, however, making a key point that is usually overlooked in these discussions: there is a fundamental distinction between civil marriage, the subject of the plebiscite, and sacramental marriage – matrimony .

Just as the introduction of legal divorce made no difference to Catholic Church practice, the proposed introduction of same-sex marriage in civil law, will not make any difference to the Catholic sacrament of matrimony.

null
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv.

I appeal to all Catholics in the Diocese of Parramatta to conduct this dialogue with a deep sense of respect for all concerned, and for the opinion and decision that each person is free to make.

It is important to remember from the very outset that the postal survey is about whether or not Australians want the legal definition of civil marriage changed to include same-sex couples. It is not a referendum on sacramental marriage as understood by the Catholic Church.

Source: Catholic Outlook







Continue reading A Bishop’s Pastoral Sanity on Gay Marriage Vote

LGBT Pastoral Outreach in Middlesbrough Diocese

As one example of how Pope Francis’ emphasis in Amoris Laetitia on “accompanying” gay and lesbian Catholics, together with his example of a more sensitive tone in pastoral care, comes news of a new initiative from Bishop Terence Drainey in Middlesbrough diocese. This is described in an article in the diocesan newspaper, Middlesbrough Catholic Voice, written by Fr Tony Lester, O.Carm.

Bishop Terence Drainey

Fr Lester was well known to London lesbian and gay Catholics of what were the Soho Masses, as a firm supporter of the congregation, and from time to time was a celebrant at our Masses when he could get down from his regular work in York.

In his article, Fr Lester notes that this is a direct response to Pope Francis’ lead during the Year of Mercy and his writing in “The Joy of the Gospel”.

Below is a section of the article, specifically referring to the motivation for the initiative, and how the it is planned to get it off he ground. (The full text may be read at the diocesan newspaper, Middlesbrough Diocesan Catholic Voice

It doesn’t take much imagination to have a sense of some of the very real wounds people who identify as LGBT and their parents and families might be living with. The bishop wishes to reach out to help heal those wounds. Is this going to be some kind of alternative Church? No. Our diocese has many groups and associations that focus on particular needs. The normal place of belonging for all their participants is the parish. This will be no different. Does it somehow go against the Church’s teaching? No. In taking this step, the teaching of the Church is not being changed in any way. Instead, other important aspects of Church teaching are coming to the fore and taking their proper place.

Father Tony Lester, O.Carm.

This is an important reminder that far from being somehow in conflict with Catholic teaching, inclusion and welcome for LGBT people is in fact required. This was confirmed at the 2014 Assembly of the Bishops’ Synod on Marriage and Family, when a clear majority, just short of two thirds of those present, voted in favour of a motion that lesbian and gay Catholics should be welcome in church.

The challenge for Middlesbrough, as for other dioceses and parishes, will be in determining just  how this “outreach” will develop, and  what form the resultant pastoral support will take.

Related Posts:

 

Cardinal O’Connor and LGBT Catholics

UK press reports are currently replete with reports and obituaries for Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, who died this week. Inevitably, I’ve  been reflecting on my own (indirect) connections with the man.

Before his appointment to Westminster, he was bishop of Arundel & Brighton – which just happens (now) to be my own diocese. That is personal to a degree, even though this was before I moved into the area. My partner though has been here a lot longer, and from him I have heard stories of Bishop O’Connors local actions (and inaction).

Where I have direct, personal knowledge, comes from my involvement with what were then known colloquially and informally as the “Soho Masses”. Shortly after I was named as a member of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, we had a letter from the cardinal, inviting us to a meeting “as soon as possible”, with his representative, to discuss a possible move to a Catholic parish. This was a major surprise: my understanding at that point, was that we had at a number of points, written to him to discuss the status of our regular, bi-monthly Masses held the Anglican parish – because we had been unable to find a Catholic parish willing to do so. Yet (I understand), he had simply failed to reply to those letters. Instead, he had set up a separate series of bi-monthly Masses, on the same day as ours and so in direct competition with us, in the King’s Cross area. (For the record: those of us who had been attending regularly at St Anne’s saw the new arrangements at King Cross as provocative. Those who attended them, saw them as immensely valuable).

Nevertheless, we accepted the cardinal’s invitation to “a meeting” – which became an extended series of meetings. at which I was privileged to attend. These were constructive, and culminated in an agreement that in future, our Masses “with a special welcome for  LGBT Catholics, their families and friends” would be hosted at the Catholic parish of the Assumption and St Gregory, in Warwick St, Piccadilly. At the conclusion of these discussions, Cardinal O’Connor released a public statement expressing his desire that these Masses should be “pastoral, not campaigning”, and that in the course of our ministry, we should proclaim Catholic teaching, “without ambiguity, and in full”.

Within our group representing the LGBT group from St Anne’s, we declined to sign the cardinal’s statement. I personally argued strongly (and others agreed) that both of these expectations were false dichotomies. Based on my experience under apartheid South Africa, I knew only too well that in matters of injustice, the “pastoral” can require campaigning against unjust laws and practice – and the pastoral, in terms of simply ministering to the oppressed, can be an effective form of campaigning. Similarly, it is simply impossible to present Catholic teaching on homosexuality “in full” but without ambiguity, for the simple reason that the full teaching, including that on personal conscience, the sensus fideii, and on opposition to discrimination, itself raises ambiguities and contradictions with its more directly sexual rules on same-sex relationships and on related genital acts.

The result was that the discussions finally ended without any undertaking from us to comply with the expectations expressed in the cardinal’s statement. We transferred from St Anne’s to Warwick Street under Cardinal O’Connor’s patronage, but with only minimal changes to our method of operating, or to our liturgies. Thereafter, the Masses continued to flourish, with a continuing growth in attendance: from an average of about 50 people a time at St Anne’s, this grew at Warwick Street to something like a hundred – roughtly double what it had been.

While we disagreed with the cardinal on his presentation of the move, nevertheless its important to record that his legacy on LGBT Catholics included facilitating an ultimately productive move from an Anglican parish, to a full participation and inclusion in the Catholic parish of the Assumption and St Gregory.

For myself, it was reflecting on the importance of “pastoral” outreach to LGBT Catholics, that inevitably includes a measure of campaigning, and the need to present church teaching on homosexuality “in full”, that was an important part of leading me to begin this blog.

Update: For some useful background on the initiative to move the Soho Masses from St Anne’s to the Catholic parish of the Assumption and St Gregory, see the Times obituary, which  includes this paragraph:

In Rome he walked with an extra spring to his step. And, unlike Hume, he understood how to manage the Vatican. When enraged by Rome, Cardinal Hume often threatened to fly out and confront the curia. In contrast, Murphy-O’Connor would offer to tackle brewing problems himself at the first hint of trouble. He did so notably when Masses were being held for gay Catholics in Soho in an Anglican Church. Some campaigned against the Masses, claiming that they went against Church teaching. Murphy-O’Connor spoke to the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog. Its prefect, Cardinal William Levada, a native of San Francisco, was not unfamiliar with such questions. A solution – that the Masses be moved to a Catholic church and a statement issued saying that no Church teaching was being opposed – was promptly reached.

 Related Posts:

What Really Happens at the Soho Masses?

A Tribute to the (London) Soho Masses Congregation

Politics, Sin, and the Soho Masses

Epiphany: Soho Masses Community Celebrate the Feast of Coming Out

London’s Archbishop Ends Masses in Soho for LGBT Catholics; Ministry Continues at Jesuit Parish

A World Meeting of (Queer) Families?

In Dublin next year, there is an intriguing opportunity opening up for LGBT Catholics. Are our advocacy groups paying attention?

For the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, USA based LGBT groups and their allies attempted to secure formal accreditation. Philadelphia however, is the seat of archconservative Archbishop Chaput, and they were deliberately excluded. In spite of this, the coalition established an informal, non-accredited presence, and did some great work making the case for acceptance and inclusion church, of queer families.

For Dublin 2018, circumstances have changed, dramatically.   Continue reading A World Meeting of (Queer) Families?

LGBT Catholics: Global Conference Invitation

Back in October 2015, I was in Rome for the foundation conference of the  Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, timed to coincide with the Synod of Bishops gathering on marriage and family. At that conference, a steering committee was elected to create a permanent foundation for the new  body. That work has now been completed: the next conference will now take place in Germany, later this year. Read the details in this invitation letter, from the co-chairs Ruby Almeida and Michael Brinkschröder:

Continue reading LGBT Catholics: Global Conference Invitation

Meeting Kryzsyzstof Charamsa

“The Church Needs a Stonewall Revolution”

At last month’s Gdansk conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, one of the highlights for me was a workshop by Krysztof Charamsa.  This began on a strictly personal high. On entering the room, he went around and personally greeted everyone present, shaking them by the hand. By virtue of my seating, I was the last person he got to, next door to Martin Pendergast (whom he already knew). He first greeted me as “Terry”, reading my conference label, but then when Martin introduced me as “Terry Weldon”, his eyes grew wide. “Terry Weldon?” he repeated, and instead of just a simple handshake, gave me a great bearhug, saying “thank you, thank you”. (I’m not in fact sure what it was he was thanking more for, but whatever the reason, the simple fact gave me a substantial high. In my view, it is he that deserves the thanks, from all lgbt Catholics).

I’d love to report in detail on the content of his address, but alas I cannot – he began by specifically asking that it not be published, which I must respect.  I think I can however, report some of the bare bones, and how his words have impacted my own thinking.  Some of the talk repeated material widely reported from earlier interviews, such as his view that the process of coming out was a profoundly liberating, theological process. Also notable was the observation that for all the improvements in tone and supportive pastoral care under Francis’ papacy, the fact remains that the harsh elements of doctrine promulgated by the Pope John Paul II/Cardinal Ratzinger partnership remain unrefuted as part of the formal magisterium. Indeed, if strictly adhered to as it stands, much of this formal body of doctrine would make the current improvements in pastoral care impossible. For this reason, he concluded that the Catholic Church needs its own Stonewall moment.

It can of course be argued that by the nature of his personal journey, he is still carrying a great deal of anger directed at the Church, to the extent that he is exaggerating the harm and ignoring the good in the present state of the Church and its response to LGBT people. It is also true that one response to the harmful elements in the formal magisterium is to point out that there are different levels of Church teaching, not all equally important, and that these sexual matters are less important than might appear at face value. We must also acknowledge that some of the important shifts in pastoral care are in fact required by Amoris Laetitia, with its emphasis on conscience, discernment and accompaniment, and that given its status as an “apostolic exhortation”, Amoris Laetitia is itself contributing to and developing the magisterium.

But still.  I was left with two key take aways for my own thinking. On the one hand, I was reminded of where I was when I first began blogging about lesbian and gay Catholics:  taken as a whole, Catholic teaching is riddled with inherent contradictions and ambiguities. It is as wrong to assume that to conform with Church teaching lesbian and gay Catholics must simply renounce all same-sex relationships, as it is to reject the whole  of Church teaching as inherently unsound. The fact is that even in the standard formal documents, there is some supportive material which needs to be more widely known and understood – along with harmful, unsound material that needs to be vigorously challenged.

On the other hand, as I was listening, my mind constantly wandered to the image embedded in Fr James Martin’s book on the Church and LGBT Catholics – “Building a Bridge”.

Any bridge connects two opposite ends. When I first began writing about Catholic teaching, I was mostly concerned with pointing out what was wrong, and how it was contradicted by things like science, history and public opinion. Later,  as things began to improve, I tended to concentrate on highlighting signs of that improvement, and the more supportive elements in the magisterium.

The bridge however, requires a balance between both.  To reach out to LGBT Catholics, there is a need to show them that there is a welcoming and supportive side to the Church, in doctrine as well as on the ground. But to the Church, it is also important to act as a critical friend, pointing out to those who can not yet see it, the countless ways in which elements in doctrine and practice are both deeply harmful, and unsupported by sound evidence.