The Catholic Obligation to Protect and Support LGBT Pupils

This afternoon, I was up in London, talking to the staff of St Bonaventure’s Catholic secondary school about “The Catholic Obligation to Protect and Support Lesbian and Gay Pupils”. Part of the headteacher’s regular program for staff continuing professional development, this kicked off the school’s annual commitment to LGBT  History Month.

I met the head,teacher, Paul Halliwell,  at Stonewall’s Education Day last October, where he was  a panellist in the Faith breakout group. Stonewall’s Dominic Arnall introduced him with glowing praise for the work that he has already done to promote LGBT inclusion in his Catholic school, St Bonaventure’s in Forest Gate Newham – and his leadership with other schools in the area. I was delighted to accept his invitation to bring a specifically Catholic dimension to his valuable work on LGBT protection and safeguarding.

This is what I said: Continue reading The Catholic Obligation to Protect and Support LGBT Pupils

Men’s Retreat, Spain

For many years now Fr David Birchall SJ has been running retreats for men by the sea in Calpe, Spain, on the Mediterranean. Fr David writes:

“These have always proved popular with the vast majority of participants. The dates are 14-21 of June, and the presenter is Fr Russell Pollitt SJ, a South African Jesuit who can be relied upon for a lively, thought and prayer provoking retreat. “

The men who have attended in the past, as i have done, would certainly confirm that these are indeed highly popular, and simultaneously valuable as both high quality spirituality, and also extraordinarily good value time to simply relax in amenable company, on the Spanish coast.

Calpe 2017The daily programme features a spiritual focus in the mornings, with afternoons left free.  From the brochure:

This retreat is a combination of mornings with a presentation of a theme and material for reflection, some prayer, time to ponder and share. A substantial lunch, with space for a siesta will follow. Early afternoon is free. Late afternoon sessions are followed by Mass. The day’s programme ends with a stroll to a restaurant for the evening meal.

This structure works well, enabling both formal time for prayer and reflection, and also time to relax with and bond with others (perhaps on the beach?), or in quiet time alone. When I first saw publicity for these retreats several years ago, I was puzzled: was this a genuine retreat, or just an excuse for a men’s holiday in the sun? In fact, it’s both, with good reason. The free time in the afternoons and evenings (often over a sing-song and drinks) is valuable in building community, and some informal sharing (including faith sharing) that reinforces the more formal spiritual work in the mornings.

The retreat director this year will be Fr Russell Pollitt SJ, director of the Jesuit Institute of South Africa.  Of interest to gay Catholics, is that during his time as parish priest of Holy Trinity parish, Johannesburg (my former home parish), he responded to a need identified by a group of parishioners, and started an LGBT support group within the parish. When the group later asked him for approval to join in Johannesburg’s gay pride march, he not only agreed, but joined the parade himself, for that part of the route within the parish area.  For this retreat, says the brochure,

Fr Russell will be helping us look at and ponder on our encounters with Jesus. He will do this by using scripture, some of the writings of holy men and women of Reform and Catholic tradition, as well as some of the major documents of Pope Francis whose writings are addressed not just to Catholics but all people of goodwill.

Fr Russell says, “In the book of Revelation we are told that Jesus stands at the door and knocks. Pope Francis suggests that he is knocking from the inside, wanting to get out of a Church that has locked him up. We are being challenged to think differently and creatively about God, faith, the Church and life in today – our personal encounters with Jesus will free him, free us, fuel our creativity and shape our vision”

It’s also worth noting that this retreat is extraordinarily good value. “All-inclusive” here, really does mean “all”, apart from airfare.

The cost of the retreat includes

✔ Accommodation in rooms with en-suite facilities. (Many rooms are twin-bedded but we shall allocate all rooms as singles unless requested otherwise )

✔ Full board, which usually involves a three course meal at a beach-side restaurant.

✔ Drinks – soft and alcoholic

✔ Transfers from Alicante airport to the house in Calpe.

✔ All costs of the retreat giver and materials.

For more details, see the full retreat brochure – Retreat for men in Calpe, Costa Blanca

 

Transgender Children – Hopes For The Future

PHOTO: COURTESY OF NETFLIX.

When I was at school, a lovely boy with a mop of dark hair called me a pansy when we were playing kiss chase; I was running away from the boys in an apparent game of one. I heard him definitely call me Pansy though and, ecstatic that at the age of 8 someone had finally seen me as me,

I adopted the name with huge pride and wore it like an enormous, enamelled brooch. My name was Pansy.I convinced most of my classmates to call me Pansy – I didn’t notice or care about their sniggers or sneers, and after some persuasion my teacher, Miss Honey (not a word of a lie), agreed to call me Pansy during story-carpet time. One foot off dead name, one foot on Pansy. Home.

Source: Transgender Children – Hopes For The Future

Transgender children: the parents and doctors on the frontline | Society | The Guardian

In 1989, when the Gender Identity Development Service (Gids) at London’s Tavistock Clinic opened, it received two referrals in its first year of operation. As Dr Polly Carmichael, current director of the service, observes, it was considered a career-limiting option for a clinical psychologist to specialise in the field of gender identity in young people – there weren’t enough patients. That is not how it has turned out. Last year, 1,400 children under 18 were referred to Gids, double the number the year before. Of these 1,400, nearly 300 were under the age of 12, with some as young as three years old.

The reasons for this exponential increase are obviously complex. One factor seems to be a huge shift in awareness of transgender individuals in wider culture. The attention paid to Caitlyn Jenner in America, and Kellie Maloney here; a transgender actor, Riley Carter Millington, playing a transgender role in EastEnders; the historic tragedy of the story told in The Danish Girl and the many public controversies about respect for trans rights have all informed this awareness.

Source: Transgender children: the parents and doctors on the frontline | Society | The Guardian