Masturbation: Advice to a Catholic Teenager.

I was touched by a letter from a young man, struggling with the issue of masturbation and Catholic teaching. The letter gives no indication of his sexual orientation, and there is no reason to think that he is gay (or that he is not). His concerns however, are applicable to all Catholics, especially when young and vulnerable.

With his permission, I publish below his full letter, leaving out his name and geographic location, followed by my full reply. Continue reading Masturbation: Advice to a Catholic Teenager.

Understanding the Vatican Surrender to Italian Civil Unions

In Italy, the Catholic parties in the Senate are mounting a fierce battle to stave off the government’s introduction of civil unions for same – sex couples, but the Vatican appears to have decided not to back them – and allow the legislation to pass.

The report at Il Giornale notes that this is an apparent paradox, but shows how in fact, it is not. Some may find this news surprising, but it is not unexpected: I wrote about the possibility myself, in this post. To understand how this has come about, we need some clarification of key points.

Gay marriage

First, it is not true (as Gay Star News has claimed) that the Vatican has decided to “back” civil unions. That would be unthinkable, for a deeply conservative curia, and a major synod on protecting marriage and family is imminent, and where the question of LGBT ministry is already shaping up to be a major hot potato.  All that has happened (if the report is sound), is that the Vatican is facing some uncomfortable facts, and is beating a strategic retreat. If some form of legal protection is inevitable, it will not damage its reputation by fighting a losing battle. In stepping back, it hopes it will be left with the lesser of two evils. Continue reading Understanding the Vatican Surrender to Italian Civil Unions

Il Giornale Reports that the Vatican Is Ready for Civil Unions!

Gay Star News reports that the Vatican could be ready to support civil unions, and also step – child adoption, based on an Italian language report, in Il Giornale.

Same-sex couple Ariel Owens (R) and his spouse Joseph Barham walk arm in arm after they were married at San Francisco City Hall June 17, 2008 in San Francisco, California. Same-sex couples throughout California are rushing to get married as counties begin issuing marriage license after a State Supreme Court ruling to allow same-sex marriage.  Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP  = FOR NEWSPAPERS, INTERNET, TELCOS AND TELEVISION USE ONLY =
Same-sex couple Ariel Owens (R) and his spouse Joseph Barham walk arm in arm after they were married at San Francisco City Hall June 17, 2008 in San Francisco, California. Same-sex couples throughout California are rushing to get married as counties begin issuing marriage license after a State Supreme Court ruling to allow same-sex marriage. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP = FOR NEWSPAPERS, INTERNET, TELCOS AND TELEVISION USE ONLY =

I’ll be attempting an English translation as early as I can – but meanwhile, here’s the opening of the GSN report:

Could the Vatican be ready to back civil unions as the ‘lesser of two evils’?

New reports have suggested the Vatican could be ready to back civil unions for gay couples as the ‘lesser of two evils’.

The Secretary of State of the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, as well as the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), the assembly of bishops in Italy, are reportedly ready to reluctantly support a move towards equality.

Their hand is being forced as the European Court of Human Rights has said that as a major European country, Italy must provide same-sex couples with some form of union.

With the courts allowing a marriage between a trans woman and a cis man to stand, it appears the more conservative organizations are desperate to stop same-sex marriages from happening.

According to the Giornale, The Vatican and the CEI would give a green light to civil unions and also step-child adoption.

While many bishops would prefer same-sex couples to have no rights, the newspaper suggests that if couples are denied civil unions for much longer it will only lead to the courts forcing the country to pass full marriage equality.

‘Given the rulings of courts both here and across the world giving rights to gay and lesbian couples and their families, to approve civil unions would represent the “lesser evil” against the risk that of being forced to extend marriage to same-sex couples,’ they say.

– more at Gay Star News

via Could the Vatican be ready to back civil unions as the ‘lesser of two evils’? | Gay Star News.

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Neo – Colonialism and Gay Rights in Africa

During the 2014 Family Synod, some attention was paid to African bishops’ complaints that some Western countries were attempting to make development aid conditional on African acceptance of gay marriage. The complaint is unjustified – there are no countries attempting to do so. There are however, some attempts to make aid conditional on progress with lesbian and gay equality in other areas – and that could be counter – productive.  Africans can be very suspicious, and with good cause, of anything that looks to them like neo – colonialism, or “colonialism of the mind”.

In a recent interview with Okayafrica,   David Kuria,  former  chairman of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) and Kenya’s First Openly Gay Political Candidate,  explained the difficulty. He also came up with a constructive counter proposal, which would not make aid dependent on legal change, but which could nevertheless contribute to progress on LGBT equality. Continue reading Neo – Colonialism and Gay Rights in Africa

Catholic Moral Theologian, on How Existing Teaching Could Support Same – Sex Couples.

What is particularly interesting about Professor Alain Thomasett’s recent paper on narrative theology, in that he shows how existing teaching could accommodate support for same – sex couples, without any change in core sexual doctrines. It is also important that he made his argument to an important gathering of German, French and Swiss bishops, as part of a study day to prepare for the forthcoming Rome synod on marriage and family.

Thomasett

Calling for a change in sexual doctrine, or for respect for same – sex couples, are no longer particularly new in the Catholic Church, at least not in Europe. It’s been claimed that probably a majority of moral theologians now agree that fundamental change in needed, and in recent years, many of them have gone on the record with formal calls for just such a change. Also, there are now many senior bishops and cardinals who have said publicly that the Church should be able to recognize the value of civil unions.

The problem is that the synod has not been called to consider any change in teaching, which would be fiercely resisted by a solid block of more conservative bishops. The key to seeing the significance of Thomasett’s argument, is that he is not calling for any change in teaching, but simply the application of all the teaching in appropriate context, and not a reflex reaction to abstract sexual acts.

He notes, for example, that while homicide is clearly regarded as unacceptable in formal Catholic doctrine, the context makes all the difference: killing in self – defence is not the same as premeditated murder. He also draws attention to the overriding importance of personal conscience, and of attention to the sensus fidelium (or “sense of the faithful”). And so, while doctrine continues to assert the teaching in Humanae Vitae that artificial contraception is not acceptable, in practice, pastoral tolerance for contraception by particular couples is widely accepted. In the same way, an extension in pastoral practice to recognition and acceptance of particular same – sex couples, including civil unions or possibly even church blessings, is not all that far – fetched.

There is certainly no prospect of any change in Church teaching at the October synod. However, the bishops of Germany, France and Switzerland in attendance will be well – briefed on how the interpretation and application of existing teaching could well be accommodated. We can expect that these ideas will also be well received by many of their colleagues, especially those from elsewhere in Europe – and also by Pope Francis himself, who will ultimately sign the final assessment of the synod’s conclusions.

After the synod, we should expect that some bishops at least, again especially in some European countries, will return to their dioceses with an enhanced understanding of how acceptance of same – sex couples in pastoral practice, is not after all, necessarily in conflict with Church teaching.

From the start of his papacy, Pope Francis has frequently noted that Catholic teaching not only can change, but must constantly evolve. This idea of the need for evolution in teaching has been widely taken up also by others, and was a common thread running through all the papers presented to the Rome study day. Francis has also expressed a desire for many decisions in Church governance to be taken lower down the hierarchical chain, for example by national bishops, without referring everything to the Curia. Such decisions at national level would certainly include the application of pastoral practice.

Could this include blessing same – sex unions? Possibly, yes. When Germany’s association of lay Catholics recently called several changes in the Church, including the blessing of these unions, the response of Cardinal Marx was that these could not be accepted “unreservedly”.  The implication is that they could be acceptable, with some reservations. He did not specify quite what these reservations would be.

Already, there are individual priests in many countries who are willing, under the radar, to conduct blessing ceremonies for particular same – sex couples, especially where these and the quality of their relationships are personally known to them. It is likely that after the synod, an improved tone in pastoral practice would encourage more to do so – and encourage some bishops to turn a blind eye to the practice. As the number of same – sex couples in legally recognized unions continues to increase, and as the Protestant churches increasing accept both gay clergy and gay marriage, in church, we should expect that in practice, Catholic blessings of same – sex couples will likewise increase – both in number, and in visibility, just as the use of contraception, and cohabitation before marriage, are now widely accepted in practice.

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e of LGBT Lives

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  • “Jesus never shamed anyone, and he never shames us. “

    From “Freed Hearts“:

    The Church is Killing Its Gay Children”

    The Deadly Results of Shame

    July 27, 2015 by Susan Cottrell

    Shame. It says, “There is something fundamentally wrong with you.” It is the lie at the very root of our identity. If I did something wrong, I can apologize and make amends. But if I am fundamentally wrong, what hope do I have?

    Our greatest need is to be loved, to belong, to be accepted as we are. Shame says the exact opposite – that we do not fit in, are not acceptable as is and, fundamentally, are not lovable. Shame is the fundamental lie that keeps us separate, and it wreaks havoc in self-hatred and self-rejection.

    Neither does he give us permission to shame each other. Brene Brown has done paradigm-shifting work on shame, and one particular finding about men and shame is earth-shattering.

    “When looking at the traits associated with masculinity in the US, the researchers identified the following: winning, emotional control, risk-taking, violence, dominance, playboy, self-reliance, primacy of work, power over women, disdain for homosexuality, and pursuit of status. Understanding these lists and what they mean is critically important to understanding shame…” says Brene Brown.

    Isn’t that a shock? “For men,” Brown says, “there’s a cultural message that promotes homophobic cruelty. If you want to be masculine in our culture, it’s not enough to be straight – you must also show an outward disgust for the gay community.”

    This is a very serious situation.

    Read more at Freed Hearts

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    e of LGBT Lives

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  • My Ministry is Valuable – So Fund Me!

    16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,…

    This passage, taken from Jesus’ first recorded public teaching, could almost be taken in modern terminology as as his “mission statement”.

    Here is some more from the relevant passage in Isaiah:

    1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;

    Isaiah 61:1

    This idea of bringing good news to the afflicted, healing broken hearted LGBT Catholics, goes to the heart of what I’ve been trying to do, for some ten years now – almost exactly, since I first attended a “Soho Mass” at St Anne’s, Soho. Continue reading My Ministry is Valuable – So Fund Me!

    Bishop Vera, on the Sickness of Homophobia

    “People who say homosexuals are sick, are sick themselves”

    Bishop Raul Vera of Saltillo, Mexico, is renowned for his fearless work in favour of missing persons, immigrants, children and juveniles, indigenous populations, prostitutes and marginalized people of all types.  This includes standing up to the notorious and fearsome Mexican drug cartels, which has earned him frequent death threats, and speaking up against outrages of the Mexican government.

    4479e-raulvera252csaltillomexico

    His support for the marginalized includes strong support for gay and lesbian Catholics. Continue reading Bishop Vera, on the Sickness of Homophobia

    Quest Conference 2015: “The Bible, Friend or Foe?”

    Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed our annual conference, “The Bible: Friend or Foe?”. I was stimulated by our keynote speaker, Keith Sharpe’s thoughts on the Bible and LGBT people, and moved by the personal testimony of out other guest speaker, Ruth Sharpe, chief executive of Stonewall, and her challenges in coming out as Catholic. I valued the social time, catching up with old friends, meeting new people, and getting to know in person some that I had previously known only on- line. I also thought that the strength and vigour of the organisation was amply demonstrated by the quality of discussion in the AGM, responses to the speakers, and in the report back on the Emmaus document on last year’s workshop.

     

    Our conference venue, the Hayes Conference Centre, Derbyshire
    Guest speakers, Keith Sharpe and Ruth Hunt
    Guest speakers, Keith Sharpe and Ruth Hunt

    Further posts on conference will follow, but here is a snapshot of the highlights for me, personally. Continue reading Quest Conference 2015: “The Bible, Friend or Foe?”