For today, the third Sunday of ordinary time, the Gospel reading is the story of the Jesus’ first time reading in the temple, in the passage from Isaiah, with the keynote words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor”.
I have written before on this passage, and how I see this message, which effectively begins his public ministry, as central to my understanding of what Christianity is all about. By appallingly bad timing, today was also the day that the Catholic bishops of England and Wales chose to distribute postcards to all Massgoers, for them to complete and send to their Members of Parliament, expressing their opposition to the marriage equality proposals now before the British parliament. How this divisive postcard campaign, designed to continue and perpetuate discrimination and division under the law between same – sex and opposite – sex couples, is completely beyond me, can be squared with the plain message of today’s Gospel of liberation from all forms of oppression, or from the second reading from Corinthians on how we are all parts of one body, is completely beyond my comprehension.
These words, and those of the hymn “God’s Spirit is in my heart”, one of my favourites, had a particular resonance for me this morning, against the background of my recent personal decision to do precisely this: to spend a much greater portion of my time and energy in “proclaiming the good news” to the the oppressed – those in the LGBT community, so relentlessly (if unintentionally) oppressed by the institutional church, and some orthotoxic Catholics. In doing so, I am conscious of the enormous practical risks I will be taking, with minimal expectations of any form of reliable income to keep me alive, and unsure of precisely what or how I will do this. I was greatly strengthened by the words of the third and fourth verses that we sang as a recessional hymn:
Don’t carry a load in your pack,
You don’t need two shirts on your back
A workman can earn his own keep,
Can earn his own keep
Don’t worry what you have to say,
Don’t worry because on that day
God’s Spirit will speak in your heart,
Will speak in your heart.
As luck would have it, it fell to me today to “proclaim the word” at my local Mass this morning, and to read the lessons and bidding prayers. I did so with conviction and passion – but reading into the words of the text what to me was a clear reading, probably NOT in concord with the bishops’ unfortunate and poorly timed message of division.
Here’s a post I published some time ago on the same text – but in a context outside of the Sunday Mass:
Last week, I joined the Soho Masses team of Eucharistic Ministers and Ministers of the Word for an afternoon of prayer and reflection on our roles. To help us through the process, we had the services of David, who is an experienced prayer guide, trained in the methods of Ignatian spirituality. All those present agreed that the afternoon was profoundly helpful in bringing some perspective to their place in serving the Eucharist and the Word in Mass. For me, it also brought a new insight to my activities with the Queer Church, which I want to share with you today.
The text that we reflected on for the readers was the familiar scene in the Temple from Luke 4, in which Jesus reads from Isaiah.
Writing about St Joan of Arc, I observed that she carries a particular importance for us as gay men, lesbians and transsexuals in the church, as her martyrdom at the hands of church authorities can be seen as a powerful metaphor for the persecution we receive from parts of the church, just for being honest about ourselves, for refusing to renounce our God-given identity. I’ve been thinking further along these lines, and in fact all the Christian martyrs can similarly seen as role models – although the others were not typically executed by the church itself. One martyr in particular has been closely identified as a gay (male) icon – St Sebastian.
This is how I wrote about his death, in an earlier post:
(Reuters) – The Vatican newspaper on Sunday stressed that children should be raised by a father and a mother after Italy’s top appeals court granted a gay mother custody of her son, prompting a debate over gay adoption.
Italy’s Court of Cassation on Friday rejected an appeal by a father who feared his son would not have a balanced upbringing if he lived with his mother and her female partner. The court ruled it was “mere prejudice” to think that a child could not be brought up normally by homosexual parents.
While gay rights group Arcigay hailed the decision as a “historic ruling” in Italy, where it is illegal for gay couples to adopt, Catholic leaders were quick to defend the traditional family unit.
L’Osservatore Romano, the 151-year-old mouthpiece of the Holy See, on Sunday ran an editorial which sought to play down the ruling of the court, saying that children often grow up in difficult circumstances without a mother or father.
“But no one believes that these situations should be created just because in some cases they don’t cause damage,” wrote Adriano Pessina, director of bioethics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.
- Vatican Paper Criticizes Gay Adoption After Italy Ruling (huffingtonpost.com)
- Italy’s Court of Cassation supports gay adoption (queerchurchnews.wordpress.com)
In the Republic of Ireland, same-sex couples can enter a civil partnership, but now the debate has moved on to whether or not they should be permitted to marry.
New laws to allow gay marriage are expected to be introduced in England and Wales before the next election in 2015.
There are no plans for similar legislation in Northern Ireland, assembly members as recently as October rejected a proposal that same-sex couples should have the right to marry.
But the issue of gay marriage is on the political radar in the Republic.
In Dublin, a group of tourists are taking photographs of Leinster House – home of the Irish houses of parliament – through the railings on Kildare Street.
Jackie Mullins is standing close by, holding a large placard.
“I’m in support of the right of gay and lesbian persons to marry in this country” she said
If we want to see an Ireland of equals then the next logical step for me is the achievement of marriage equality”
Jerry Buttimer, Fine Gael
“I don’t believe that the state should pick out people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender and say to them, ‘you’re the wrong orientation so we’re going to say you can’t get married’.
-more at BBC News
One of Britain’s most prominent evangelical Christian leaders has broken ranks on the issue of homosexuality describing the traditional Church teaching on he issue as dangerous and unchristian.
Rev Chalke argued that the church’s traditional teaching on homosexuality as ‘a sin or less than God’s best’ had been deeply harmful Photo: GETTY
By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor7:30AM GMT 15 Jan 2013
The Rev Steve Chalke, a broadcaster and charity founder, likened the “dominant view” of homosexuality among evangelicals to that of those who once used the Bible to justify slavery or thought it was heretical to believe the Earth orbited the sun.
He accused Christians of treating gay people as “pariahs”, expecting them to live “lives of loneliness, secrecy and fear” and even driving some to suicide.
His comments come in an article in the magazine Christianity under the headline “The Last Taboo” which he said he felt “both compelled and afraid” to write.
Long dominant in US life, evangelicals – who place a strong emphasis on the “authority” of the Bible and believe in being “born again” – have become increasingly influential in Britain in recent years, with fast growing congregations at a time when church attendance has seen steep decline.
But although evangelicalism is often viewed as a bastion of conservative values, it also has a long-stranding association with “radical” causes dating back to the 19th Century
more at – Telegraph.
- Prominent evangelical pastor Reverend Steve Chalke declares support for monogamous same sex relationships (independent.co.uk)
- Stop treating gay people as pariahs, evangelical minister tells church (guardian.co.uk)
- Gay and Christian: Continuing Struggle to Find Home in Unwelcoming Churches (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- Steve Chalke on Inclusion (davejohnlucas.wordpress.com)
Illinois, which already has a civil union law, signed by Catholic Governor Pat Quinn, will be taking up the issue of marriage equality in the legislature this year. Catholics have already entered the debate on this topic on both sides of the question.
Cardinal Francis George
At the beginning of this month, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George wrote a letter to priests asking them to urge parishioners to oppose the marriage bill.
The Chicago Sun-Times quoted part of the letter:
“ ‘It is physically impossible for two men or two women to consummate a marriage, even when they share a deep friendship or love,’ George writes in the letter, meant for inclusion in parish bulletins to be distributed this upcoming weekend. ‘Does this mean nature is cruel or that God is unfair? No, but it does mean that marriage is what nature tells us it is and that the state cannot change natural marriage.’ ”
In this quote, we see a new trend in statements by Catholic hierarchy: they are starting to acknowledge that the relationship between two people of the same gender can be defined as a love relationship.
The cardinal’s argument did not convince Rick Garcia, a longtime Chicago advocate for LGBT issues. The Sun-Times quotes his reaction:
“ ‘How the Church — or any faith — views marriage within its own institution is one thing, but secular society treats marriage as a civil right,’ said Garcia, who described himself as a practicing Catholic. ‘No individual or church, including Cardinal George and the Catholic Church is going to be forced to perform or recognize any marriages they would not find consistent with their own beliefs. . . . What also will not change is the fact that secular society views marriage as a fundamental civil right that should be afforded to all.’ ”
A Chicago Tribune article on George’s letter notes that two prominent Illinois Catholics support the marriage bill: Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
Dignity/Chicago President Chris Pett also criticized the cardinal’s statement. Pett noted that
“. . . the cardinal might have had pastoral intentions, but he missed an opportunity to call for dialogue and engage with the gay community. Instead, the cardinal made it clear that the church would fight marriage equality ‘until the bitter end.’ “
David Gibson, a long-time observer of the Catholic Church, notes in a USA Today article that George’s comments may not have the power to stop the bill from becoming law:
“It’s unclear what, if any, influence George may have. Similar attempts by influential cardinals to stop same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, New York, Washington, D.C., and Maryland have all failed.”
more at « Bondings 2.0.
Two protests occurred in Europe over the weekend regarding Catholic involvement in the question of marriage equality. One protest was for marriage equality and one was against it. Both were extreme.
The pro-marriage equality protest took place in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, when four women went topless to demonstrate against the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to marriage for lesbian and gay couples and adoption of children by same-gender couples.
The New York Daily News reports
“While the pope was giving his weekly address on Sunday, four women from the Ukrainian Femen group who were in the crowd, pulled off their T-shirts to reveal the slogan ‘In Gay we Trust’ painted over their bodies.”
The same Femen group staged a protest appearing as topless nuns in Paris a few months ago, which erupted in a violent clash between two demonstrating groups.
An Italian court had recently issued a ruling allowing for a mother and her female partner to maintain custody of a son, depsite the father’s protest against such an arrangement:
“The Court of Cassation ruled it was ‘mere prejudice’ to assume that living with a homosexual couple could be detrimental for a child’s development
“While gay rights group Arcigay called it a ‘historic ruling’ for Italy, where it is illegal for gay couples to adopt, Catholic leaders were quick to defend the traditional family unit.”
In the United Kingdom, 1,054 Roman Catholic priests and 13 bishops and abbots signed a public letter protesting the move in that nation toward legalizing marriage equality. The Daily Telegraph reports:
“More than 1,000 priests have signed a letter voicing alarm that same-sex marriage could threaten religious freedom in a way last seen during ‘centuries of persecution’ of Roman Catholics in England.
“They even liken David Cameron’s moves to redefine marriage to those of Henry VIII, whose efforts to secure a divorce from Katherine of Aragon triggered centuries of bloody upheaval between church and state.”
The news report notes that the signers account for one-quarter of all the Catholic priests in England and Wales. Of course, that means that three-quarters of the priests did not sign the statement.
Both cases illustrate a minority of the people who promote or oppose marriage equality, and their extreme actions and rhetoric add nothing to the debate, but simply inflame passions.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
via « Bondings 2.0.
The Church of England is considering allowing gay couples to have their civil partnerships blessed in church.
Insiders have told The Mail on Sunday that a top-level panel of bishops set up to review the Church’s policy on homosexuality is actively discussing the issue.
If the reform is approved, vicars would be permitted to conduct a formal blessing service in church for a same-sex couple who have earlier ‘tied the knot’ at a register office.
Union: Television presenter Clare Balding (right) and Alice Arnold at their civil ceremony in 2006
But any move to relax the ban on such blessings would provoke the biggest split yet in the Church, which is already reeling from rows over women and gay bishops.
One option the panel is expected to consider is a compromise under which gay couples seeking a blessing could be asked to declare they intend to remain celibate, in line with official Church teaching.
But this could create a backlash among gay couples, who would regard it as demeaning to be quizzed about their private lives.
A source close to the working party said that a ‘wide-ranging discussion’ was under way covering a ‘whole range of options’ and recommendations will be made to the House of Bishops later this year.
– more at Mail Online.
- The Church of England criticised over ‘unenforceable’ gay bishop stance (metro.co.uk)
- Church of England lifts ban on gay bishops (aljazeera.com)
- Gay bishops move sparks fresh row (bbc.co.uk)
- Church of England decides to allow gay bishops (scotsman.com)
- Church Of England Says Gay Men Can Be Bishops (news.sky.com)
- Don’t Require Gay Bishops to Be Celibate (forcechange.com)