Category Archives: Catholic_Church

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

Belgian Cardinal: “Respect gay/lesbian sexual expression”.

Josef De Kesel, cardinal archbishop of Brussels, is reported to have told local LGBT Catholics that the church should respect gay and lesbian sexual expression.

“Respect” for gay and lesbian people is an established part of Catholic teaching (along with “sensitivity and compassion”). Sadly, this element of teaching has too frequently been neglected, and sits alongside the more widely known prohibition on any form of sexual activity outside of marriage, and open to procreation – which includes all same-sex genital activity.  Many gay and lesbian Catholics themselves, as well as many professional moral theologians, see the inherent contradiction in this. However, while an increasing number of prominent bishops and cardinals in recent years have been proclaiming the importance of “respect”, they have been notably reluctant to criticize the prohibition on gay sex,

Until now.  According to a report in a Belgian LGBT website, in a closed meeting with a local LGBT group, Cardinal De Kesel, archbishop of Brussels,  described a “paradigm shift” under way in the church’s teaching on homosexuality, and said that respect for homosexuals must include respect for their sexual expression.

(He also said that the church should be ready to “celebrate” same-sex unions – as long as such celebrations stop short of anything resembling marriage. He would accept a service of thanksgiving, for instance, but not a same-sex blessing or exchange of rings. )

For the first time, a Belgian archbishop indicates that LGBTs are allowed to experience their sexual orientation. Cardinal De Kesel took a very progressive position according to catholic standards during an informal meeting with the Malines LGBT association HLWM.

On April 24 there was a meeting between De Kesel and the Mechelen LGBT-association HLWM . This showed that the top of the Church is now prepared to accept gay relationships. “The Church must respect homosexuals and lesbians more, also in their experience of sexuality,” HLWM noted. The cardinal was genuinely concerned about the well-being of gays and lesbians and he also mentioned his meeting with a trans * woman.

According to De Kesel, the Church needs time to understand homosexuality. He made the comparison with the period in which psychologically disturbed people ended up in prison because they did not understand the phenomenon of mental disturbance. “Until recently, the Church was very dismissive of homosexuals and lesbians. But that was no different from society as a whole. Certainly in Europe much has changed for the better, but the Church in Africa and Asia in particular and in parts of Eastern Europe is not yet included. But we must also respect those opinions. “

Incidentally, the cardinal indicated that he also changed his position: “Twenty years ago I would have spoken differently about it than is the case now. I would then have followed the official teaching of the Church. I now look at it much more ‘comprehensively’. Where respect is central. “

Zizo online

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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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.

Middlesbrough Mass for LGBT Catholics

The diocese of Middlesbrough reported in the September edition of “Catholic Voice” that after reflection by Bishop Terry, clergy, and parishioners, the Diocese would be initiating a new process of pastoral outreach and inclusion for LGBT Catholics.  That process will be formally launched on December 10th in York, with a Mass for LGBT Catholics, their families and friends, followed by time for discussion on pastoral needs and proposals.

From their facebook page:

Clerical Celibacy: The Beginning of the End?

It’s been rumoured for some time, and now it’s out in the open. Pope Francis could permit the ordination of married priests, at least in the remote Amazon region.

Amazon basin – Wikipedia

The Pope has requested a debate over allowing married men to become priests in the Amazon region of Brazil, a move likely to outrage conservatives in the Catholic Church.

The pontiff took the decision to put a partial lifting of priestly celibacy up for discussion and a possible vote by Brazilian bishops after a request by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, Il Messaggero newspaper quoted the sources saying.





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Queer Saints 5: Gay Popes & Others

One of the many paradoxes  in the story of the church’s response to same-sex relationships, is that during the rise of direct, active persecution of “sodomites”, in Europe and in the newly establised colonies, the church included in its highest echelons popes, cardinals and senior bishops who are known to have had male lovers, as well as others who may have done, and also some who did not, but tolerated or protected others who did. These are not in any sense to be regarded as “saints”, but they do present evidence that same-sex adventures or interests, were not always a barrier advancement to high church office.

Among the popes, there is little room for doubt about some, for whom the historical record is clear. There’s the notable and embarrassing death of  Paul II (1464 – 1471) for instance.  Sixtus IV (1471-84) appointed one of the young men he favoured as Cardinal archbishop of Parma, in part on account of his “gifts of the spirit and the body“. , Leo X ( 1513-1521). Julius III (1550-1555) was another who was notorious for having appointed a young lover ( Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte, aged only 17) as cardinal.
For others, such as  Boniface, Alexander VI (r. 1492-1503),  Benedict IX and John XII (r. 955-964), the evidence is less clear.  Julius II (1503-1513) was widely rumoured to have had many homosexual liaisons, Whether or not they were well-founded, what is beyond doubt, is that he commissioned Michaelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. Julius’s enthusiastic patronage of Michelangelo’s homoerotic depictions of the male figure also indicates that he may have fully appreciated the physical beauties of men.
Among other early popes who notably tolerated or protected people accused of homosexual practices, we should remember Pope Callistus, who was harshly criticized by Tertullian for his failure to condemn sex between men; Pope Leo IX, who implemented many of St Peter Damian’ s proposals for church reform, but rejected the appeals for harsh penalties against clerical “sodomites”, and also rejected appeals to prevent the consecration as bishop of the promiscuous John (or Jean) of Orleans. Later, Paul III (1534 -49) is said to have protected and bestowed honours on his son, Pier Luigi Farnese, who surrounded himself with male lovers, used Roman police to track down a young man who had spurned his advances, and was accused of raping a bishop and other clerics.
A passage from the glbtq archives is fascinating for the very different picture it paints to that prevailing elsewhere, at a time when the inquisition and secular powers were burning between them thousands of men across Europe and in the New World:
The papacy generally revealed in practice a relatively tolerant attitude to sexual “deviation.” Within the Papal States, penalties against sodomy were enforced less rigorously than in many other territories. By the fifteenth century, Rome had developed a vibrant subculture of men who enjoyed sexual relationships with other men. (The situation of women in Rome is less well documented.)
Thus, throughout the early modern era, men found refuge in Rome from the harsh punishment of sodomy, which was more “routine” in northern Europe and which was also vigorously prosecuted in Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Although popes at least acquiesced in the prosecutions under the Inquisition, the persecution of sodomites probably resulted from local animus and zeal rather than from directives from Rome. Protestant reformers consistently condemned papal toleration of homosexual acts.


Books:

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Intersex Challenges Binary Theology (& Politics)

Just sometimes, when a baby is born the answer to “Is it a girl or a boy?” the answer is simply, “No”. A small but significant proportion of people have bodies that just do not fit into that binary divide of either male or female.  There are few firm estimates of the number of intersex people, because definitions vary. By one narrow definition, the proportion of the population who are intersex is 0.018%. In a world population of 7.6 billion, even this lower estimate is still an awful lot of real people – something like 1.4 million. A broader definition puts the proportion at 1.7%, or as many  as 129 million, worldwide.

For Intersex Awareness Day, I share links to some previous posts on intersex. First, there’s the story of How a Woman Became a Dominican Priest, and Teacher of Moral Theology. Sally  Gross was assigned male at birth, and as an adult became a Catholic Dominican priest and a teacher of moral theology in England. However, Sally was in fact intersex, with internal organs primarily female. When this became known, it led to a decision to transition – and the forced expulsion from the priesthood. Later, she returned to her native Cape Town, where she founded Intersex South Africa.





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Resource: “A Catholic Conversation About Homosexuality”

With his Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”, Pope Francis has placed great emphasis on the importance of pastoral accompaniment, discernment, and the interior forum for church responses to LGBT Catholics. The document also speaks of the importance of accompaniment and pastoral care for the families which include those LGBT people. But what does this mean, in practice?

The response to Fr James Martin’s book, “Building a Bridge” has shown that there is widespread hunger for this accompaniment – but also reveals the extent of public ignorance. Martin’s book focuses on just one simple part of church teaching, on the need for “respect, compassion and sensitivity”, but quite deliberately does not dig more deeply. There is a dire need for material which does indeed take a broader canvas, suitable for use in parish groups.

Fortunate Families, the USA group for the parents and families of LGBT Catholics,  has just such a great “resources” page, structured primarily for the Catholic families and friends of LGBT people, but also immensely valuable for anyone who simply wants to know more about the facts, without the polemics.

One of these valuable resources is an 8 part series,  “Let’s Talk About Homosexuality“, which is described as a “Catholic conversation” on the subject, for

• Parents of gay and lesbian children: parents still in the closet, alone with their secret; parents out of the secret; struggling with their questions, their fears, their faith.
• Parents of young children: moms and dads seeking information and insight for their own parenting role as teacher and counselor.
• Family members who may be struggling to deal with the hurtful stereotypes that exist within both society and their Church.
• Gay and lesbian people who may be searching for some sign of understanding from their Church.
• Anyone who is curious about homosexuality and  wanting to learn more.

________________________________________

Permission is granted for you to download and print this copyrighted series for your personal use, for parish study groups, for adult education programs, for ministry support, for future reference.

Structured as an adult education program to be placed on a parish website over a period of eight successive weeks, it could equally well be adapted for use in a discussion group meeting weekly (or monthly) – or for personal study, over eight sessions, at any frequency you choose.

Grouped into 3 major parts, the weekly instalments, with their main focus areas, are:

Part 1: Common Questions about Homosexuality

Week 1: Common Questions about Homosexuality

  • Segment 1: The Basic Stuff
  • Segment 2: Scientific Perspectives

Week 2: Common Questions about Homosexuality (Cont.)

  • Segment 3: Social Perspectives
  • Segment 4: Family Perspectives

Part 2: Putting a Human Face on Homosexuality: Gays, Lesbians and Parents Share Their Stories

Week 3: Putting a Human Face on Homosexuality

  • Parents Talk of Their Experience

Week 4: Putting a Human Face on Homosexuality

  • Gay and Lesbian Persons Talk of Their Experience

Part 3: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Official Teaching and Other Catholic Voices

Week 5: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: What the Church Teaches

  • On Homosexual Orientation
  • On Human Dignity
  • On Discrimination and Social Justice
  • On Homosexual Acts
  • Chronology of significant documents on homosexuality issued by the Vatican and U.S. Bishops’ Conference.

Week 6: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Other Catholic Voices

  • So What Are We To Do?
  • The Role of Conscience

Week 7: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Other Catholic Voices

  • Shared Thoughts on Vatican Documents

Week 8: Moral and Pastoral Considerations: Other Catholic Voices:

  • The Question of “Finality”
  • “A Biblical Understanding”
  • Can Teaching Change?
  • One Last Question

These pages were put together some years ago, well before Pope Francis’ papacy, but they remain valuable. Read them at Fortunate Families, download them, discuss and distribute them.