Category Archives: Uncategorized

Memo to Cardinal George: “Redefining” Marriage.

re: Your statement on “redefining” marriage :

Everyone has a right to marry, but no one has the right to change the nature of marriage. Marriage is what it is and always has been, no matter what a Legislature decides to do; however, the public understanding of marriage will be negatively affected by passage of a bill that ignores the natural fact that sexual complementarity is at the core of marriage.

A truly “traditional” Biblical family?
Please check some Church history. This is not the first time that the nature of marriage is being “redefined” – the church itself has done so frequently.
  • In Biblical Israel, marriage was polygamous, arranged exclusively between men (the groom, and the fathers of his wives). The Hebrew patriarch, if he could afford it, would also keep concubines as well as wives.
  • In classical and medieval times, marriage was not a contract between two people based on love to raise children, but a financial and legal arrangement to protect property and inheritance.
  • In the early Christian church, there was no obligation for couples to marry in church – unless the groom was a priest.
  • There was, on the other hand, provision for same sex unions to be blessed, in church, by formal liturgical rites.
  • The idea of marriage as a “Christian Sacrament” came relatively late in Church history. The popular Western understanding of “traditional marriage” is a very modern invention, dating mostly from the nineteenth century.

Recommended Books:

Gay Adoption, Gay Marriage as Moral Obligations: Two Jewish Views

Here’s a refreshing change: instead of the spurious, religious arguments against gay adoption and gay marriage, two more voices (this time, from Jewish perspectives)  speaking out on the positive faith-based reasons in favour of each.

In the first of these, at the Jerusalem Post, the orthodox Rabbi, television host and author of religious books on relationships Shmuley Boteach argues strongly in favour of gay adoption. Last month, he participated with Rosie O’Donnell in a New Jersey public discussion on the subject. In an article published before this event, he reflected on these issues, and especially on an aspect that I see as the most important of all. When a friend he spoke to expressed regret that Rosie’s four adopted children would never have a father (the standard, theoretical argument against gay adoption), Rabbi Shmuley replied with the obvious and important, reality-based response:

that without Rosie they wouldn’t have a mother either.

Gay Couple with child

Image via Wikipedia

 

(The simple, obvious truth is that a child needs parents – period. Two are (usually) better than one, but one is better than none. There is no evidence that two opposite sex parents as a class are necessarily any better than two same sex parents – but even if such evidence did exist, it would be irrelevant, for children are not adopted by a collective class of parents, of any orientation. They area adopted by specific, real people. It is the personal qualities of those particular individuals, not those of a group average, that what matter. Some prospective parents, gay or straight, will make have the qualities to make terrific parents. Others will not).

Rabbi Shmuley goes on to observe that in Jewish tradition, there is no higher moral good than in giving a home to a child that otherwise would have none. Instead of opposing same sex couples (or single gay men or lesbians) who are prepared to make the enormous sacrifices that are required in doing so, straight couples should be commending them. And if they persist in their opposition, the obvious next question is, if you will not approve others adopting, are you willing to make these sacrifices yourself?

But to my fellow straight people I offer the following challenge. You have every right to oppose gay marriage. It’s a free country. We don’t suppress opinions. But aren’t you under a moral obligation to adopt the children in their stead? Surely leaving kids to drown without love is deeply immoral. But to stop others from rescuing them is an abomination.

I am the father of nine children, thank G-d. I have at times discussed with my wife the possibility of adopting a child. Every child is a child of G-d, not only our biological children. They should have a home and we should offer it. But my conversations have never gone past just that, conversations. I stand in awe of all those who actually do it. In my religion, Judaism, there is no higher mitzvah, G-dly deed, than raising a child with no parents as your own. This is G-d’s child and really He should have made provisions for him. But the Creator chooses, for reasons unknown to us, to hide behind the veil of nature and it is we humans who must fill in the seemingly empty spaces. Those who adopt are society’s and religion’s greatest heroes.

Please note, here, the deliberate use of that much maligned word “abomination”. For it is not “homosexuality” that is an abomination, but

leaving a child to grow up in an orphanage where nobody wants him might be an even greater act of sacrilege.

Rabbi Shhmuley here is approaching the issue from a specifically Jewish perspective, with Jewish vocabulary. The essence of the argument though is equally valid for any other faith. (Indeed, it is essentially the same argument that was presented some months ago by a Catholic lesbian adoptive mother. In response to Archbishop Chaput’s exclusion from a Catholic school of some children with two mothers,  I reported on a lesbian Catholic mother who had written at dot Commonweal that it was precisely because of her strong Catholic faith and commitment to Catholic theology, with its emphasis on support for the poor and needy and encouragement of adoption of orphans, that had led her to adopt her children.)

Meanwhile, New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weintraub has contributed to what she calls a “welcome dialogue” in the Jewish Standard on the subject of gay marriage. As a sponsor of the unsuccessful state legislation last year to approve legal recognition for marriage equality, she engaged in serious discussion with orthodox religious leaders on the bill – which was quite specifically named, and intended as, religious freedom as much as it was about marriage equality. While she acknowledged that some orthodox Jews (on religious grounds) were strongly against same sex marriage, others have a different view:

In crafting the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act legislation, I was compelled to wonder why should the Rabbi leading the congregation to which I belong be prevented from legally sanctioning same gender marriages if he feels they fit into our Jewish religious beliefs, values and commitment to building family?  Any religious group in our country is entitled to practice their beliefs and to not be compelled to do anything they find in contradiction within their houses of worship.

 

Legislatively, I know we respect these differences. Personally, I know I respect the differences within my own Jewish community. But it is sad and hurtful when those differences cause pain and isolation to other members of our community.   Without this conversation we will be contributing to that isolation and pain which has led to the high rate of suicide among gay youth in our nation and in our state.

 

I know that most of our Orthodox Rabbis and some of our political leaders believe that same sex unions are against G-d’s law.  But I also know that many others believe that we are born into our sexual identity and that love and commitment to another human being should be cherished, not isolated.  That making a public commitment to another person should be celebrated and enjoyed on our simcha pages.  I look forward to these differences being acknowledged, but most important accepted, so that we can live comfortably within our religious institutions while recognizing who each of us really is as a distinct human being.

This divergence of the Jewish religious views on marriage is also evident in the Christian churches. (It is the argument that the British Quakers used in arguing for the removal of the restrictions in the UK Civil Partnerships on conducting the procedures in religious premises or with religious language.  The Quakers argued that the established legal principle of religious freedom should mean that they should not be prevented by other denominations beliefs against same sex marriages, from conducting marriages that did not conflict with their own beliefs).

Writing in the Huffington Post, the pastor Candace Chellew-Hodge has yet another religious based argument in favour of gay marriage. She says, let gy people rehab marriage:

perhaps gays and lesbians can be the savior for marriage. Just as many old neighborhoods in my hometown of Atlanta were saved by gays and lesbians buying dilapidated houses and renovating them, why can’t gays and lesbians rehab marriage?

 

Gays and lesbians are clamoring for the right to get married. Obviously, within our community the idea of “’til death do us part” is not a hackneyed phrase or something to be avoided at all costs. We want to walk down the aisle and have our happily ever after. For those gays and lesbians who agree … that marriage is “an institution central to human happiness and flourishing,” we want the ability to flourish together as married couples, and yes, even to raise children together.

The early discussions on gay marriage and LGBT equality mostly pitted “religious” arguments against, matched with secular “civil rights” arguments in favour. This is usually as sterile debate, with the two sides simply speaking past each other. As the public discourse has progressed, it is becoming clear that secular opinion has largely been settled in support, especially among young people, whose support is overwhelming. Simultaneously, the traditional “religious” sentiment against is fragmenting, with increasingly vocal voices speaking up in support of the religious arguments in favour. This greater visibility of the disagreements between people of faith is important: as both Senator Weintraub and the British Quakers have observed, the principle of religious freedom makes it difficult for those who opposed to queer equality to impose their religious views on those of other faiths, whose own religious beliefs lead them to a different conclusion.

The religious arguments for maintaining legal restrictions on equality then become simply indefensible. They will have to go – as they surely will do.

WBM, Feb 2013

Lest We Forget: Remember the Ashes of Our Martyrs
The New Pope’s In-tray
The Papal Resignation: Response from New Ways Ministry
Catholic MP’s Back Gay Marriage
Joseph Gentilini – Hounded by Heaven
French Bishops: Respect Gay Relationships (2).
Gay Marriage Debate: A Quotable Quote, on Jesus
Should Catholics accept gay marriage? Austen Ivereigh and Tina Beattie
A Big Day for Marriage Equality, UK – and for Queer Catholics, Worldwide
Lepers, Social Outcasts – and the Church
Promote LGBT Ministry: Write to Rome, Write the Bishops”!
Is gay marriage really about sex? Is sex only about procreation?

Housekeeping Note: Recovering Some History

A few years ago, I suffered a major technical problem here at QTC (possibly the result of a hacking attack), in which I lost access to my dashboard, and with it much of my historic archives.  To recover, I set up a new site with a new URL, and manually transferred what I could to the new site. Since then, I have been able to locate some but not all of the previously lost material at third party archives, from which I have been restoring such of the lost material as I can.

As I do so, the newly retrieved material will be appearing on my social media feeds (Twitter and Facebook) as if it were entirely new posts. I apologise for any confusion. With each of these “new” old posts appearing, please note the date of publication – which will be shown as the original date, not the current date.

Amoris Laetitiae: Take Up the Key, and Open the Door?

First, a reminder from the GNRC response: “If the door is not yet opened, maybe the key is under the mat?”. Yes, there are obvious disappointments in their for LGBT people – but it’s not constructive to simply sit back and wait for the door to be opened. If the key is indeed under the mat, it’s up to us to pick it up, and use it. Amoris Laetitia in fact includes a great deal of useful material (some of it hidden, and waiting to be unpicked, especially in coded references in indirect support of LGBT relationships and queer families). We have work to do, in using these resources, and by engaging forcefully with bishops, clergy and others for greater LGBT inclusion and equality in church.

Furthermore, I suspect that LGBT disappointments are there, primarily when we read the text from a narrowly LGBT perspective. Our issues though, and the obvious flaws in conventional doctrine, are only a small part (and not a very important part) of teaching as a whole.The Catholic Church is very much bigger than a small lgbt community – and the problems with the Catholic Church and its doctrines are very much bigger than the problems with its disordered teaching on homosexuality. These problems are embedded in a much wider problem with the whole of its ignorance about human sexuality – and that in turn lies in the stupidity of compulsory clerical celibacy, unhealthy awe of an authoritarian hierarchy, the culture of clericalism – and an obsession with rigid doctrine itself. All these contribute to the caused of Catholic nonsense over lgbt prople and our relationhips – and in Amoris Laetitiae and elsewhere, Pope Francis is preparing to demolish them all. For that,we should be truly thankful.,




Related Posts:

LGBTI in Africa – Some Signs of Hope?

We all know about the horrors of outright persecution, too often with the collaboration of some Catholic bishops.  For many, there’s a strong feeling that “We must do something”. But, ill-considered interventions from outside can be dangerous and counter-productive. For those wanting to make a constructive contribution to change in Africa, a prudent course is to work with the indigenous LGBTI rights movement. In the view from outside the continent, there’s not nearly enough awareness of Africa’s own LGBTI movements, and the progress they are making.

This is true even in the Catholic Church. While far too many of Africa’s bishops have openly supported calls for criminalization or harsher penalties, a striking feature of the foundation conference for the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics was the number of groups and individuals from Africa either present in Rome, or who had attempted to attend, but were denied visas. (A case of discrimination applied by Italy, not by African governments?). Many LGBT responses to Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitiae” have expressed disappointment that its insistence on respect for gays and lesbians and its clearly stated opposition to discrimination and violence, were not accompanied with a direct condemnation of discrimination and violence in Africa. But a respected African theologian sees it differently. Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator S.J., a Nigerian theologian based in Kenya, believes that African bishops will read Pope Francis’ words, and realise the direct implications for the Church and LGBT people in Africa.

There is progress also in politics, and in law. Much of the reporting on LGBT rights in Africa has focussed on moves to criminalize homosexuality, or to increase the penalties. But getting much less attention has been moves in the opposite direction.

On May 22 2014, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights did something wholly unprecedented. It committed an emphatically gay- and lesbian-friendly act. It adopted Resolution 275. This condemned violence and other human rights violations against persons on the basis of real or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity. The historic importance of this resolution cannot be overstated. It is the first time that an Africa-wide body has taken a stand for LGBTI rights and protection.

-Justice Edwin Cameron, in Mail and Guardian

Last year (2015), homosexuality was decriminalized in Mozambique – which introduced  protection against employment discrimination in 2007. Also in 2015, courts in both Botswana and Kenya gave some limited protection for LGBTI rights, requiring the governments of both countries to register LGBTI NGO’s.

We should also remember that for some African countries, decriminalization is not necessary – because homosexuality was never criminalized – unlike Europe, and the rest of the world in the colonial period. There is a popular but false claim by African opponents of LGBT equality, that homosexuality is foreign to African culture, and was a European import. The truth is the exact reverse. African and other historians have been compiling mounting and impressive evidence that same-sex relationships have always been part of African culture, just as they have been in every society and every geographic region. As awareness of the real African gay history spreads, we should expect further progress towards LGBTI rights in Africa.

 It remains a long, hard struggle ahead – but to help most effectively, outsiders should aim to work with Africans themselves.

Related Posts:

African LGBTI Pride is Unstoppable

Romans 1:24 – 27, Part Two – Historical, Cultural Context.

I wrote recently about interpretation of Paul’s letter to the Romans as it affects LGBT Christians, pointing out that if we approach it with due consideration for the context of the full Chapter 1 and opening of Chapter 2, and not just the frequently quoted verses of 1:24 – 27, the sense of the passage changes substantially. This is not after all a condemnation of same – sex relationships as sinful. Paul does however, describe them as “shameful”. To appreciate more precisely what he means by this, and what it should mean for gay Christians today, we need to pay attention to another of the principles recommended for biblical interpretation by the Pontifical Biblical Commission: the need to consider the historical and cultural context appertaining at the time of writing.

I made a start on this in a previous post, where I argued that when the cultural context is considered for this passage, the real meaning is hiding in plain site: Paul was writing to the Romans, for whom sex in all its variety, was an even bigger part of daily life than in modern Western cities, with no general hostility to same – gender sexual practices.

Ithyphallic Tintinnabulum in British Museum (Source: Wikipedia)




Continue reading Romans 1:24 – 27, Part Two – Historical, Cultural Context.

“Campaigning”: That Word, Again.

When representatives of the then Soho Masses Pastoral Council met with their counterparts representing the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster to negotiate the move of the Soho Masses from the Anglican parish of St Anne’s to the Catholic parish in Warwick Street, one of the expectations put to us, was that the Masses should be purely “pastoral”, and not “campaigning”. We had no real difficulty agreeing to this, as the Masses never had been in any real sense “campaigning” – but I had serious difficulty in identifying precisely, what is the distinction between the two. That distinction might appear superficially obvious, but in practice is more blurred, as I well knew from my own experience of the Church under apartheid in South Africa. In the context of injustice especially, the pastoral is political, the political very often is pastoral, and sometimes its impossible to differentiate them.

Church of Regina Mundi (Soweto), interior

For example, consider the church of Regina Mundi, the major Catholic Church in Soweto. Throughout the troubled times of struggle before the introduction of democracy, this church was regularly the venue for community prayer meetings and vigils for peace, and for political detainees and their families, and for numerous funerals for political activists and those killed by police or in political violence. Prayers, funerals, and ministry to prisoners are very obviously pastoral – but to the authorities, they were seen as political, to the extent that it was often joked, that the police could not understand who was this “Regina Mundi” that was such a troublemaker. (Regina was a fairly common given name for Black women, and “Mundi” can easily sound like a family name in one of the African languages).

At much the same time, a friend of mine, the Jesuit priest Fr Tim Smithan, developed some fame for his efforts as a peacemaker in his rural parish in Natal, a province which was then experiencing high levels of political violence (widely believed to be stoked and aggravated by actions of the police force). Peacekeeping also, is obviously  pastoral – but in the context, was seen by some as “political”.

There were many, many other examples around the country of actions and words by Catholic clergy, laypeople and institutions that were primarily pastoral, but simultaneously political.

So it was with the Soho Masses. In all my time attending regularly, usually twice a month, I never heard anything during the Masses that could in any way to be said to be contrary to orthodox Catholic teaching, or campaigning against it. On the other hand, the simple fact that we were meeting together, worshiping in a Catholic Church as openly gay, lesbian and transgender Catholics, had a symbolic value which sent a powerful “political” message – as can be seen by the intense opposition it evoked from a small group of enemies.

So it is with this blog. It has never been my intention, or my practice, to “campaign” against Church teaching. That would imply I had some hope of achieving change, which I know is way beyond my capacity. Right from my opening posts, I have instead made it clear that my primary purpose is much simpler – to draw gay and lesbian Catholics (and other Christians) back into the life and sacramental practice of the church, without compromising on their personal sexual or gender integrity.

Necessarily, that requires at times criticizing some elements of Catholic teaching or practice – but always in a wider context. Sexual matters occupy a relatively low level in the overall hierarchy of Church teaching, and while I am critical of some elements of these (not by any means all), it is always within the greater structure of broader principles of teaching – on equality and inclusion, on justice, on respect and dignity, and on freedom of conscience.

So I find it depressing to be told, as I was recently, that I am not acceptable as a schools volunteer for Cafod, because I am allegedly “campaigning” against Church teaching. In my own mind, all I am doing is attempting to draw LGBT people back into the Church – and doing so by presenting alternative elements of Church teaching, and the Gospels, that are less familiar than the well – known offensive bits.

Now here’s another irony, arising from my exclusion from Cafod schools ministry. Because I’ve been falsely excluded on the grounds of so – called “campaigning”, when all I’ve been doing is attempting to write openly and frankly about matters of importance to queer Catholics, I’m now more determined than ever to campaign more actively. Because the problem, in this case, is not so much about sexuality, but about the right to free speech in the Church, much of that campaigning will be against the pervasive culture of clericalism that Pope Francis has himself criticized, but which remains so pervasive, and so intolerant of open and frank discussion within the Church.

One lesson from today’s Gospel reading, on the encounter at Emmaus, is that having met the risen Christ outside the bounds of the institutional Church, we have an obligation to take the authentic Gospel message back to those left behind – to re-evangelize the Church. Much of my energies up to now have been focussed on matters of sexuality and sexual ethics, which remains the first concern here at Queering the Church. However, to address much broader matters of importance to the Church as a whole, especially matters challenging abuse of power, in Church and outside it, I will be posting also at a satellite site, “From Emmaus to Rome“.

Regina Mundi, Mandela window

Scientists may have finally solved the puzzle of what makes a person gay, and how it is passed from parents to their children.


A group of scientists suggested Tuesday that homosexuals get that trait from their opposite-sex parents: A lesbian will almost always get the trait from her father, while a gay man will get the trait from his mother.

The hereditary link of homosexuality has long been established, but scientists knew it was not a strictly genetic link, because there are many pairs of identical twins who have differing sexualities. Scientists from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis say homosexuality seems to have an epigenetic, not a genetic link.
Long thought to have some sort of hereditary link, a group of scientists suggested Tuesday that homosexuality is linked to epi-marks — extra layers of information that control how certain genes are expressed. These epi-marks are usually, but not always, “erased” between generations. In homosexuals, these epi-marks aren’t erased — they’re passed from father-to-daughter or mother-to-son, explains William Rice, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California Santa Barbara and lead author of the study.
-more at US News

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Scotland refuses to ban ‘any church’ from providing same-sex marriages

All religious institutions – including the Church of Scotland – will be free to decide for themselves if they would like to provide marriages for gay couples, under plans announced today.

Church-of-Scotland-logo-1

The move comes after the UK Government yesterday unveiled its formal plans to allow gay couples to marry in England and Wales from 2013.

However, the Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages – a decision that has already been criticised by equality campaigners along with the Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan.

The Scottish Government has ruled out introducing similar conditions for the nation’s Presbyterian church, although SNP ministers insist that no churches would be forced to hold same-sex weddings.

Ministers have already decided they want to make the change, and now need to consult on proposed legislation to be put to the Scottish Parliament.

The consultation on its draft legislation – opposed by the Church of Scotland and the nation’s Catholic Church – will last until March.

 

– Pink News