3 LGBT Groups Invited to Major German Catholic Gathering.

In Germany today, Catholics gathered in Leipzig for the start of a three-day major event, the “Catholic Conference Day”, which has been held every two years since 1848 (except for an interruption during the National Socialist period). With over 1000 different exhibitions and events, some 30 000 visitors are expected. Organized by the Central Committee of German Catholics, the event is so important and influential, that in attendance are not only the leading members of the German Catholic Church, but also senior politicians.

(Image from Kreuz und Queer, an lgbt blog at the Evangelisch church website, http://www.evangelisch.de/blogs/kreuz-und-queer)

For the Church, the President of the German Catholic Bishops Conference Cardinal Reinhard Marx, is taking part, and also Cardinal Karl Lehmann,  the lgbt supportive Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, and other notable prelates. Pope Francis sent a pre-recorded message for delivery to the assembly.

For the state, the German President delivered the opening day keynote address, while a cabinet minister, a state  premier, and others from all major parties (except one) were also present.

Prominently in attendance, present by direct and explicit invitation to promote lgbt inclusion in church, are three countrywide LGBT advocacy groups: Netzwerk katholischer Lesben (the Catholic Lesbian Network), Arbeitsgruppe Homosexuelle und Kirche (HuK) (Workgroup Homosexuals and Church), and Initiative Kirche von unten, a progressive grass-roots organization that actively advocates for LGBT inclusion. Continue reading 3 LGBT Groups Invited to Major German Catholic Gathering.

Proudly Blogging Catholics—Sharing the LGBT Good News

An opportunity to share and discuss views and perspectives with two gay Catholic bloggers from either side of the Atlantic.

Proudly blogging Catholics

Frank DeBenardo, director of New Ways Ministry and the editor of Bondings 2.0 will be in London for a few days next month, together with Sr Jeannine Gramick, the celebrated founder of New Ways. On Monday 13th June, Frank and I  will be at the Mount Street Jesuit centre, 114 Mount St, London W1K 3AY (the parish hall for the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm St) to discuss the joys and challenges of being openly both gay and Catholic.

Hosted by the Westminster LGBT Catholics Pastoral Council, refreshments will  be served from 6:30pm – specifically to enable those working in London, to come on to the venue directly from work.  Take this invaluable opportunity also for discussion and also to meet with Sr Jeannine and Frank.

(Image taken from Bondings 2.0)

The Trouble with “Courage”

In his response to Martin Pendergast on the “Courage” apostolate, Fr Philip Bochanski of Courage USA grievously confuses celibacy and chastity, referring to both in the same sentence as if they were the same thing, which they are not. He is correct that “The demand of the Gospel is chastity for everyone”. That is also the instruction of the Catholic Catechism:

2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another…..”

That sexual integration in a relationship cannot be equated with celibacy, which is sexual abstinence.

I am surprised (but delighted) that Fr states that “Courage does not demand or impose “mandatory celibacy” on persons who experience same-sex attractions”. That is not a demand of the Gospel – although it is one made by the Catholic Catechism. The question is, is this Catechism teaching true? Does it lead one to God?

There’s a problem here, because the Catechism also tells us that

2333 Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.

In Amoris Laetitiae, has written extensively and movingly about the joy and value of love, including carnal, physical love in a committed, self-giving relationship. How are gay men and lesbians are keep to both parts of the Catholic teaching, on accepting their sexual identity, and experiencing chastity “integrated into the relationship of one person to another” – while simultaneously keeping to the Catechism demand of sexual abstinence.

This is why, based on their real-world experience, so many gay and lesbian Catholics have found that it is impossible  to resolve this contradiction, and based on the core principle of the primacy of conscience, have concluded that in the area of sexual doctrines, the Catechism is simply wrong. It is also why the experience of the full range of apostolates to lgbt Catholics, those who respect this conclusion in conscience, like Quest nationally, and the lgbt group meeting at Farm Street parish in London, have a track record of attracting people and helping them to find God – and Courage , which has a long-established group in London, notably does not.

Gender and “Ideological Colonialism”

In Washington D.C. for a National Prayer Breakfast, Cardinal Robert Sarah has escribed gay marriage as “poison” and attacked transgender rights as a form of ideological colonialism.

“[T]hrough a demonic ‘gender ideology,’ a deadly impulse that is being experienced in a world increasingly cut off from God through ideological colonialism.”

Cardinal Sarah, is an African, as am I by origin. I leave aside here his lamentable disregard for the Catechism’s plain instruction that homosexuals (and, by extension, transgender people) should be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”. Instead, I simply draw attention to the cardinal’s woeful ignorance of our continent’s history, of the the nature of colonial ideology – and of basic biology. Continue reading Gender and “Ideological Colonialism”

“New Ways” Welcomes Trans Employment at Catholic School

Catholic teaching is unequivocal on lesbian and gay Catholics is clear: they should be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”, and should be protected from unjust discrimination, and from any form of malice or violence Teaching on transgender people is not explicitly spelled out, but the same principles apply. In matters of employment, protection from discrimination and injustice is further entrenched in a series of solidly magisterial social justice encyclicals. In spite of that, recent years have seen an alarming number of reports of lgbt Catholics who have lost employment, excluded from ministry, or suffered other forms of discrimination, on the basis of their orientation or gender identity.

On the other hand, we should always remember that the stories that make the news, do so precisely because they are unusual. There are many more examples of people who do not suffer discrimination, and are fully accepted in their parishes, or places of Catholic employment – but because their situations are so ordinary, they are just not reported.

Occasionally, there are exceptions.  One such is the example of a school in San Francisco, where the Mercy Sisters have written to parents of their decision to continue employment of a transgender man. This decision has been welcomed by New Ways Ministry as “Gospel based”. So it is – and also solidly based in authentic Catholic doctrine.

Francis DeBenardo, executive director of New Ways, writes in a press statement:

Catholic Ministry Thanks Mercy Sisters For Equal Employment of Transgender Teacher

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– New Ways Ministry congratulates and thanks the Sisters of Mercy and the administrators of Mercy H.S., San Francisco, for their Gospel-based decision to continue employment of one of their teachers who identifies as a transgender man. This decision stands as a beacon of hope in the midst of the terrible darkness of the recent trend of firing LGBT employees from Catholic institutions. The decision was announced in a letter to parents of students, which, after describing the teacher’s situation, stated:

“This afternoon, we informed students, faculty and staff about our resolve to support the dignity of each person—regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identification.”

We applaud, too, the courage of English Department chair and teacher Gabriel Stein-Bodenheimer for honoring his gender identity, as well to his commitment to educate students in the Mercy tradition. His personal example will be a most powerful lesson to all in the school’s community, especially because his decision involved a large degree of risk.
This story reflects a true Catholic commitment to respecting the dignity of LGBT people—a principle which is shared by millions of Catholics across the U.S. The experience of this school will help our Church to heal from the pain of too many past negative decisions regarding LGBT people. Our Catholic Church will only be strengthened by this decision.
The Sisters of Mercy offer a courageous example of inclusion and equality that could be replicated by so many other Catholic schools, parishes, and social service agencies when they learn of an employee’s gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status. This example can be a turning point in what has been a dark chapter of the U.S. Catholic Church, when over 60 faithful employees have lost their church jobs because of LGBT issues.
Their process included wide consultation, reflection, and prayer. As the letter described:

“. . . we collaborated with the Board Chair Diane Lawrence and a team of key administrators while we studied how to respond in a manner consistent with Mercy and Gospel values and your School’s Catholic Identity. We prayed for guidance. We also consulted trusted advisors as we applied these principles to this circumstance.”

Furthermore, the Sisters showed their commitment to caring for the entire school community by having counselors available for anyone–student, parent, staff–to discuss their questions and concerns.
The Sisters of Mercy grounded their decision in the principles of Mercy which form the charism of their community. These same principles of mercy are promoted by Pope Francis, particularly in this year which he declared as a Jubilee of Mercy. Pope Francis’ message of acceptance and encounter with the LGBT community have been given flesh and blood by the Sisters’ decision to continue the teacher’s employment.
New Ways Ministry calls on other Catholic religious communities of Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters–and indeed, all Catholic administrators—to rejoice in the Sisters of Mercy’s example, and to honor it by following it as a way to end employment discrimination against LGBT church employees.

Workshop: Sexuality in Theological Education

A One Day Workshop for Theological Educators on Classroom Strategies around Gender and Sexuality

The workshop will be held first in Manchester, and then repeated in London. The cost is £35, and bursaries available for students or unwaged persons. BSL interpreters are also available on request.


On behalf of BIAPT (the British and Irish Association for Practical Theology) and CSCS (the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality), I want warmly to invite you to attend the workshop, or to share this notice with any theological educators you know who might find it worthwhile.
The dates are:
Manchester, 20 June 2016

10:15am – 5:00 pm
Luther King House, Brighton Grove, M14 5JP
Please book by 1 June 2016
 
London, 24 June 2016

10:15am – 5:00 pm
Oasis College, 1 Kennington Road, SE1 7QP
Please book by 1 June 2016
The workshop will prepare theological educators, Diocesan Directors of Ordinands, and other theological teachers and trainers to handle hot-button issues around sexuality and gender. If interested, please read on!  Further information is also available at our website.
 
The Challenge
As theological educators, we help to form and to inform a wide range of professional and informal faith leaders: parish ministers, chaplains, teachers, parents, and a great many other adult faith practitioners. In a society often troubled or confused around issues of sex, gender, sexuality, and embodiment, how do we help our students to deal with these questions? How do we prepare them to deal with the people who will turn to them for insight, understanding, and support?

Issues and emotions around sexuality and gender are becoming more prominent in theological education. These issues can come up in our work with theology students, with ministers-in-training, and with ministers in the field. They can come up in classroom discussions around ethics, ministry, Scripture, and systematic theology; in discussions about Christian history and about contemporary life. They can come up in academic, ecclesial, and secular settings.

Some of the students in our classes may be wrestling with the doctrine and discipline of their different denominations. Some may be wrestling with challenging new perspectives on sex and embodiment. Some may be wrestling with their own experience of gender and sexuality; with sexism or other forms of discrimination; or with sexual trauma (whether their own, or the trauma of others).

The Workshops
Tackling questions about sexuality and gender calls for engaged, interactive, and experiential pedagogies. Our one-day workshops provide resources and practical training to help teachers tackle these challenging issues. Together, we will explore how to address sex and gender across social and cultural contexts; across differences in personal history; and across different denominational backgrounds. We will provide space and time to think through the challenges of raising these issues within our institutional cultures and settings. Process will be a key part of our content, as we seek to equip and resource each other in this challenging work.
 
The day will include:
  • Creating a safe, critical, and prayerful space for shared learning
  • Shared reflection on our current teaching practices
  • Finding a shared language around sexualities and gender
  • Practicing specific classroom strategies, including:
    • Creative Questioning
    • Embodied Theological Reflection
    • Topic Fishbowling
    • Comparative Models of Theological Reflection
  • Shared lunch and breaktimes
  • Educational resources and handouts
As I mentioned, please feel free to pass this information along to any others who might be interested in attending. If you are so inclined, you can also download an A5-sized, full colour flier at our website.
 
Please also feel free to respond to this email with any questions or comments. With warmest wishes from the whole teaching team,
 
John P. Falcone, Ph.D,
Convenor, BIAPT Theological Educators Special Interest Group

Editor, Journal of Adult Theological Education

Does Francis Vision of “Love” Include Same-Sex Love?

In a commentary at Commonweal, Paige E. Hochschild uses Amoris Laetitiae in an attempt to interpret what Pope Francis thinks about love and marriage.

What is striking in this analysis for lgbt Catholics, is that almost everything she describes as Francis’ thinking on the value of marriage, is equally applicable to same-sex couples and queer families – and almost nothing in it excludes us. There are passing references to the expectation of children, but these are almost throwaway lines There is furthermore, a note that for Francis, this is not the pre-eminent concern:

Francis warns that marriage is often seen as a “mere spontaneous association…a private affair,” rather than a “firm decision to leave adolescent individualism behind.” As such, marriage is a “social institution…a shared commitment, for the good of society as a whole.” In this regard, Francis is closer to a Thomistic understanding of sexual intimacy as ordered to the common good than to the emphasis on the “unitive-procreative” nature of the conjugal act characteristic of recent theological reflection.

Earlier in the text, Hochschild is even more explicit on what she sees in Pope Francis’ as the essential attributes of love – and these can apply equally to same-sex couples:

Francis’s thinking becomes clearer after reading the first three chapters. Love and marriage, he notes, are not identical, but marriage is the appropriate home for love precisely because the essential character of marriage is indissolubility. More important, the end of marriage is conformity to Christ. These two theological ideas—indissolubility and growth in the likeness to Christ—sum up how Francis thinks about love

Source:  Commonweal Magazine

“Amours”: A Supportive Reading of Aquinas

This book by an eminent theologian and expert on Aquinas caught my attention last year. Aquinas’ presentation of natural law theory is widely used as one of the cornerstones of traditional Catholic opposition to homosexuality, but in this book, Oliva finds a supportive reading. He notes that while Aquinas is clearly against same-sex genital acts in general, he does accept that for some people, an attraction to others of the same sex is entirely natural. Being a natural part of who they are, concludes Oliva, it is also natural, and acceptable, that they should express this in sexual love. This is not the first time the point has been made: John Boswell drew attention to it in his own discussion of Aquinas in “Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality”, and Gareth Moore also touched on it in “A Question of Truth”. However, this is the first extended presentation, and the first by such a distinguished specialist on Thomas.
Oliva Amours

Continue reading “Amours”: A Supportive Reading of Aquinas