Philippine Bishops Attempt to Square the Circle on Gay Unions!

Philippine Catholics are urged to respect the dignity of homosexuals – but to stay away from even attending any ceremony, legal or religious, to celebrate gay unions. Politicians especially, but also all Catholics, are urged to strongly resist all unjust laws – for example, legal recognition of civil unions.

The bishops’ pastoral letter is titled “The Dignity and Vocation of Homosexual Persons,” Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

The last time these bishops took on the politicians, on a law to expand family planning access to the poor as well as the rich, they lost badly. It may take a while, but they will lose this one too – just like the bishops of most of Western Europe, North America, and much of South America.

(The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines head) urged Catholics to oppose all gravely unjust laws – including all laws that legalize homosexual unions.

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“They are at the same time called, perhaps even more so in societies that legally recognize homosexual unions, to be charitable to every single homosexual person they know,”

BUT —–:

…. in situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. ……..  “Concretely, this means that Catholics cannot participate in any way or even attend religious or legal ceremonies that celebrate and legitimize homosexual unions.”

The Church, he says, must reach out “in compassion” to families whose loved ones have entered such unions – and this episcopal compassion includes instructing Filipino mothers to stay away from their sons’ and daughters’ weddings, if they are marrying same – sex partners!

Understandably, this will be a particularly heavy cross for families that have been touched by homosexuality but Villegas said the Church reaches out with compassion to these families whose loved ones have entered into such unions.

Full report at   Tempo 

A Challenge to “Courage”: Take the Catechism Seriously.

At the world meeting of families in Philadelphia, major organizations representing LGBT Catholics and their parents have not only been refused accreditation at the main event, they’ve also been barred by the local archbishop from using a friendly Catholic parish church as a venue for their own fringe event. (Not to worry: they have found a suitable alternative, and the resultant publicity has ensured that their event is now far better known than it would otherwise have been).

I leave it to my American readers to reflect on the ironies of this exclusion in the city of “brotherly love”, and the famed liberty bell – is that a crack I see in it?

Philadelphia's "Liberty Bell"
Philadelphia’s “Liberty Bell”

The organisers insist that it is simply not true that lgbt Catholics are not represented. They are there – provided that they live “in accordance with Church teaching. This is how “Faithful America” reports it, in email correspondence:

Pope Francis is visiting Philadelphia next month for the World Meeting of Families, and the local conservative archbishop is hijacking the event to promote his own right-wing agenda — by inviting advocates for anti-gay conversion therapy to give speeches, lead workshops, and sell their books and other materials.

Here’s the problem: Continue reading A Challenge to “Courage”: Take the Catechism Seriously.

African Bishop’s Call for Incremental Marriage Process

One of the observations at the Nairobi conference on preparation for the 2015 Family Synod, by the Kenyan Bishop of Malindi, Emanuel Barbara, should be of interest to all. For Africans, he said, seeing marriage as a single, one-step process of saying “I do”, is in conflict with the traditional African understanding of marriage as a gradual process, beginning when a couple start to live together, and only formalized some time later. He criticizes the Church’s insistence on a formal sacrament of matrimony before approval for living together in universal marriage practice as the imposition of a “Latin, German culture” on Africans.

We could expect Pope Francis to have some sympathy with this. In his recent visit to South America, he apologized for the way in which European colonists and missionaries had imposed their cultural norms on indigenous peoples. What he did not say, but should have done, was that this cultural colonialism of the mind, included ideas of sexual morality that had nothing to do with the Gospels.

Where Bishop Barbara is mistaken however, is his belief that an incremental approach to the marriage process is specifically African. In fact, as the Catholic lay theologians Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler have shown. this was for many centuries, also common practice in Europe, where there used to be a clear distinction between “marriage” and “wedding”.

“Marriage”, they argue, used to be seen as a private commitment between two people, which began when they started to live together in a committed, faithful sexual relationship in a shared home. The “wedding” was a public celebration of that marriage, which followed later, often with the onset of pregnancy or childbirth, (For poorer people who could not afford it, there might never be a wedding). Conflating “marriage” and “wedding” into the single event of “matrimony” is a relatively late development. Seen in historical perspective, the Vatican insistence on avoiding cohabitation before “marriage” is a nonsense: marriage used to begin with cohabitation. Avoiding cohabitation before the church wedding, is not only in conflict with African culture, it’s also in conflict with widespread European practice of earlier centuries – and is also no longer practised by real – world Catholics even in the modern West.

This is an important issue that the theologians really should be grappling with. It will be a challenge though, because it is in absolute conflict with the assumption in Vatican doctrine that the only licit sexual activity is after marriage. Remove that cornerstone, and the entire shaky house of cards of sexual teaching collapses.

Here’s  Bishop Barbara’s observations, as told by National Catholic Reporter:

…….. the Kenyan bishop said traditional African marriages normally involved much more than the simple “Yes, I do” that provides for consent between married couples in Christian marriages. In the past, he said, consent between couples was even made over years — as the couples lived with one another, and their families came to be gradually meshed together.

“Can we still today speak of a universal form of marriage where the only consent — ‘Yes, I do,’ coming from a Latin, German culture — will be sufficient to sanction a marriage?” Barbara asked.

“In the African context, it used to take stages,” he said. “There used to be involved both families before the marriage will come to be something. Is it enough today still to insist in our own culture, in our environment in Africa, that it is enough that you go in front of the priest or the minister and say, ‘Yes, I do?’ “

Related posts:

African Bishop’s Call for Incremental Marriage Process

Truly Human Sexual Acts: A Response to Patrick Lee and Robert George By Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler in Theological Studies, September 2008

African Bishops’ Priorities for the 2015 Family Synod

European bishops’ preparations for the 2015 Family Synod have largely focussed on challenges of pastoral care arising from two issues of sexual morality,  remarriage after divorce  and homosexuality. African see things rather differently.

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A gathering of African bishops and theologians complained that too much of the 2014 synod was taken up with concerns of Western countries, while the most pressing concerns of Africans were ignored – and no, gay marriage is not one of those. Here’s a partial list, given in a National Catholic Reporterstory on the meeting:

Among the issues, too many to list in full:

  • Identity struggles for Africans who feel separated from their traditional cultures after Christian conversion;

  • Gender-based violence in households, overwhelmingly against women;

  • Missing presence of fathers in family life;

  • Large-scale, crippling poverty;

  • Lack of “principled, ethical leadership” in both governmental and church spheres.

Related posts:

African Bishop’s Call for Incremental Marriage Process

A Theology of Gay Inclusion, Pt 8: “Are homosexuals showing church and society a way forward?”

In March 2010, Fr Owen O’Sullivan published an article in the theological journal “Furrow” on the inclusion of gays in the Church. The CDF seem to have found this article dangerous, and have ordered him not publish anything further without prior approval. In the modern internet age, this attempted censorship simply does not work: the original article has been published on-line in a series of posts at an Australian Salvation Army blog, “Boundless Salvation”. 



Here is the eighth (and final) extract:

Are homosexuals showing church and society a way forward?

There is a long history in the Christian community of the stone which the builders rejected becoming the corner stone, the ‘sinners’ being preferred – as in the Gospel – to the holy huddle of the mutually approving who follow the official line.

Forty years ago, in Ireland as in other countries, homosexuality was a subject that ‘decent people’ didn’t talk about. But homosexuals found the honesty and courage to come out, to declare themselves, and to share their thoughts and feelings, often in the face of derision, hatred, violence or the threat of hell. They began to organize, to challenge the system, and to go political. They have brought about a 180 degree turn in public attitudes, exemplified by the Civil Partnerships Bill now going through the Oireachtas (legislature), something unimaginable forty years ago. Would that the church had so re-invented itself in the same forty years! Maybe the missing ingredients were the same: honesty, courage, openness, dialogue, challenging the status quo.

One finds a similar process at work among the ‘Anonymouses’ – alcoholics, gamblers, narcotics- and sex-addicts. They are at the bottom of the heap. By coming out, facing the truth, revealing their feelings, supporting and challenging each other, they have built communities which reflect what the church is meant to be – but often isn’t. Leadership is from the bottom up, the despised and rejected at the bottom of the hierarchical pyramid showing the way to the wise and learned at the top.

And recently we have seen how it was the suffering of the most helpless in society – children – which eventually led to the exposure of much of what was rotten in the church.

Will homosexuals help us to re-discover new/old ways of doing theology and developing pastoral practice, where human experience is the starting point? That has happened already with other teachings that didn’t tally with human experience or meet human needs. Will they help us to read scripture with one eye on the page and the other on life? They are equally parts of one process. Perhaps they will show us that human experience is as valuable as scripture, as Saint Ignatius Loyola, for one, affirmed. ‘The word became flesh…’ (John 1.14) – God still speaks.

Perhaps, too, homosexuals are showing men a way forward out of self-imposed isolation, out of individualism built on machismo, and a way of dealing with personal issues such as men’s identity, men’s spirituality, addictions, domestic violence against men, male suicide, how abortion affects men, bereavement, paternity and parenting, access to and custody of children in a separation, and care of one’s health. The issues are different, but the qualities needed to face them are those that homosexuals developed in recent times.

Some of what the Scriptures say.
A few quotations: –

‘God saw all that he had made and indeed it was very good.’ (Genesis 1.31)

‘God does not see as people see; people look at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ (1 Samuel 16.7)

‘Anyone who is not against us is for us’. (Mark 9.38-40; Luke 9.49-50)

‘Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?’ (Luke 12.57)

‘Whoever comes to me, I shall not turn away’. (John 6.37)

‘God has no favourites.’ (Romans 2.11)

‘We belong to each other.’ (Romans 12.5)

‘Each must be left free to hold his own opinion.’ (Romans 14.5)

‘You should never pass judgment on another or treat them with contempt.’ (Romans 14.10)

‘Do not let what is good to you be spoken of as evil.’ (Romans 14.16)

‘Your bodies are members making up the body of Christ.’ (1 Corinthians 6.15)

‘By the grace of God, I am what I am.’ (1 Corinthians 15.10. See also 12.18-21, 26)

‘Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God.’ (2 Corinthians 6.19)

‘You are, all of you, children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptized in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3.26-28)

‘We are what God made us’. (Ephesians 2.10)

‘Everything God has created is good.’ (1 Timothy 4.4)

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of ‘the whole church in which everyone is a “first-born” and a citizen of heaven.’ (12.23)

Or read 1 John 4.7-21.

Conclusion
For those who don’t like the above, the great consolation is that it’s all God’s fault. Why? For creating in diversity instead of uniformity, as we see all around us in – guess where? – nature, for making some people different from others. Or did God make a mistake?