Category Archives: Pastoral Ministry

Cardinal Wuerl: Married Gay Catholics “Not a Great Problem”

While Pope Francis and several leading cardinals have shown a welcome emphasis on pastoral accompaniment for LGBT Catholics and others in unconventional situations, it is disgraceful that others continue to insist on legalistic excuses for exclusion. The appalling directive in Madison diocese about church funerals for married lesbian or gay Catholics, and the recent firing of yet another teacher at a Catholic school not because she is gay, but because it became she was about to marry, are just the most recent examples of this.

Yet these practices, far from upholding Catholic teaching, are in fact contravening it.  As Fr James Martin SJ has repeatedly pointed out, it is unreasonable to claim that such sanctions are required because people are acting in conflict with Catholic doctrines, when they do not apply equivalent sanctions to people acting in conflict with other Catholic doctrines. This selective treatment is plainly discriminatory, and directly contradicts the Catechism requirement to treat lesbian and gay Catholics with “respect, compassion and sensitivity” – and also the directive against unjust discrimination.

This point was made very clearly four years ago, even before the more pastoral tone introduced to the church by Pope Francis, by Cardinal Wuerl of Washington. I reproduce below a post from my archives, originally written in April 2013, as pressure for marriage equality was building across the USA – and some bishops were fiercely resisting.

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It’s been obvious for a long time that as equal marriage becomes increasingly inevitable, as ordinary Catholics show their direct support for all Catholic relationships and families without discrimination on sexual or gender grounds, the bishops will be forced to consider ways to respond to the changing realities on the ground.  Cardinal Dolan’s admission that the Church needs to be more supportive of gay and lesbian Catholics but doesn’t know how, has drawn widespread commentary. Somewhat slipping under the radar, even though it does point to part at least of a workable response, is this, from Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Cardinal Wuerl – Wikipedia

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the cardinal archbishop of Washington, explained Sunday that gay Catholics who marry their partners may remain part of the Catholic Church even though the church will not recognize their marriage. In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Wuerl explained this is similar to how the church treats Catholics who are divorced and remarried.

“We do that same thing with people who are married, divorced and remarried,” Wuerl said on the church’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages. “We say, you know, you’re still part of the family, but we can’t recognize that second marriage… and it’s never been a great problem.

– Talking Points Memo

(emphasis added)

The high profile campaigns by bishops and their orthotoxic camp followers against gay marriage, and the extensive publicity to the language used about homosexuality, especially the description as an “intrinsically disordered” condition, leads many of us to assume that Catholic doctrine is especially discriminatory towards us. In fact, this is not so. In its insistence that every genital sexual act must be open to procreation, Catholic doctrine on sexual matters is equally disordered, to all.

The problem comes in the application, in pastoral practice. Although the Catechism and other documents are clear that artificial contraception within marriage, sexual relationships before marriage or after divorce and masturbation are all considered “grave sins”, “intrinsically disordered”, or “great evils”, in practice in most parishes there is a great deal of pastoral sensitivity displayed on these matters. For some reason, it is specifically same – sex relationships that arouse the ire of the Catholic right, who may not approve of other sexual transgressions, manage to bite their tongues and refrain from judging those who trangress, or the priests who welcome them in their parishes.

So, Cardinal Wuerl’s recognition that married gay Catholics are in a position no different to those who have remarried after divorce, “and it’s never been a great problem”, is a helpful step forward. It’s not been a great problem not because the documents approve, but because in most parishes, the formal rules are ignored, and a more sensitive, pastoral welcome applies instead. I hope that married gay and lesbian Catholics will take Cardinal Wuerl at his word, and take their places in Catholic parishes alongside other married couples – and expect the equal treatment, without encountering “great problems”, that the Cardinal has given them grounds to expect.

Italian Celebrity Funeral: Church and Homosexuality

ROME LETTER: IS NOT the Catholic Church’s teaching that homosexuality represents both a “grave depravation” and an “intrinsic disorder” a total hypocrisy? That oft-posed question has been doing the rounds in Italy in recent days following events at the funeral of the popular singer/songwriter Lucio Dalla.

The debate was sparked by the fact that a moving and emotional funeral oration was given at Dalla’s funeral in the Basilica of San Petronio by his 31-year-old partner/companion/lover, Marco Alemanno. Total hypocrisy, screamed commentators who suggested the semi-state basilica funeral and the lover’s oration had been tolerated not only because Dalla was a practising Catholic but because he was famous, successful and private about his sexual orientation.

Italian singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla

“Lucio Dalla’s funeral represents a very clear example of what it means to be gay in Italy today. You go to church, they grant you a funeral and they bury you according to the Catholic rite, just as long as you don’t say you are gay,” said television presenter Lucia Annunziata.

“Marco Alemanno embodied in a church and in a totally public ceremony all the dignity of love between men. However, you would have to ask yourself how many less famous Catholic homosexuals, less protected by the charisma of their art, would have been able to feel themselves so fully members of their community.

“We would like to think that Marco’s brief oration for Lucio has established a precedent. For those homosexuals who are not Catholic, church teaching on the subject does not matter a damn, they could not care less. But for Catholic homosexuals, it is a huge problem. And it is to them that the thoughts of all decent-minded people turn, when we see Marco Alemanno praying for his ‘man’ beside the basilica altar,” commented writer Michele Serra.

-full report at The Irish Times.

I don’t for a minute believe Dalla had special treatment from the Church because he’s a celebrity. There must be thousands of gay couples, constantly, who get similar respectful treatment within their own parishes. The only special treatment here, is by the news media. His celebrity status makes him newsworthy – not a different class of Catholic. What we lose sight of, in the media hype over stories like that of Barbara Johnson, is that they hit the headlines precisely because they are newsworthy. Unless they are celebrities, like Dalla, the only reason they are newsworthy is that they are exceptional. For every horror like the denial of communion to a woman at her mother’s funeral, there are far more that go unreported, because they are so ordinary. Even Johnson, in precisely the same circumstances, in the same parish, was given the communion on a previous occasion – at her father’s funeral. That was not reported, because it was normal.  There are countless same – sex couples all over the world, worshipping and fully accepted in their parish communities. In my own life back in Johannesburg, my partner and I served openly as a couple on the parish pastoral council, without any comment or reaction at all. I am certain that in the many similar cases around the world, if one half of a gay or lesbian couple were to die, the parish community would respond in precisely the same way they would to any other couple – even if there is not celebrity status involved.

This story supports an increasingly strong perception I have that notwithstanding the strenuous opposition of Catholic bishops to legally recognized gay marriage, and regardless of  the widely – publicized horrors perpetrated by some individual priests and bishops, there is a major shift under way in the Church towards tacit understanding and acceptance of loving and faithful same – sex relationships – exactly as there is tacit understanding and acceptance of the role of conscience in contraceptive use by married couples.

I am attempting to put together two parallel series of posts on Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s Baltimore address last week on the need to reform the whole of Catholic sexual teaching, heterosexual and homosexual, and on James Alison’s extended interview that I have previously referred to only in part.

Once I have done that, I will be able to substantiate more fully what I offer now only as an assertion:

The times, they are a-changing.

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What Gay Catholics Have Done: Parish Ministry

In his report on the New Ways Ministries’ 2012 conference  From Water to Wine:  Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, Chuck Colbert summarized the main addresses, but also presented some questions by participants – and their reasons for attending. The reason given by one couple also offers insight into how they approach being lesbian and Catholic back home, in their parish:

Chicagoans Karen Allen and her partner, Mary Jo Hoag, attended the gathering, this their second one.

“What brings me here is the chance to be rooted in my faith and with the people of God and to be sent forth to create loving communities,” said Allen, who leads a gay and lesbian family-and-friends ministry at St. Nicholas parish in Evanston.

Allen said the parish group grew out the idea she and others got 10 years ago at the Louisville, Ky., New Ways symposium.

In proposing the idea, she explained, “We were welcomed to do so by our pastor at the time, who said, ‘Where have you been?'”

The ministry is about education and prayer and not so much advocacy, Allen said, but “more about how can we as gay and lesbian Catholics live fully integrated, authentic lives in our tradition.”

“Many have walked away [ from the church ] but returned in mid-life,” she explained, while readily acknowledging, “struggling mightily” with “clericalism and the hierarchy.”

“The church is our church,” said Hoag, explaining why she stays. “Many of us are cradle Catholics who grew up with the rituals, sacraments, and the teachings and feel comfortable. We are gifts to the church and shouldn’t go away, as we provide those gifts of love and understanding and outreach.”

New Ways Ministry, Allen added, provides us “a shot in the arm” to keep up our work in ministry.

Inclusive Study Material for World Meeting of Families.

Lifesite News once again have their knickers in a knot over how the mainstream church is promoting an alleged “homosexual agenda”.

The six-part program titled “Amoris: Let’s talk Family! Let’s be Family!” contains explicit promotion of homosexual relationships as a form of family, saying that such relationships provide “mutual support” for active homosexuals.

This would be great news if it were true – but in fact, the picture described is greatly exaggeration, depending on a single picture of two women embracing, and a line that refers to “other forms” of union, which Lifesite chooses to interpret as applicable specifically and exclusively to same-sex couples. In fact of course, Amoris Laetitia (on which the entire World Meeting program will be based) recognises a great number of relationships outside of lifelong heterosexual marriage. Same-sex couples are just one of these.

Nevertheless, even if Lifesite fears are exaggerated, there is indeed good news for gay and lesbian couples, and queer families of all shades, in the study material and in the general planning for the World Meeting of Families.  Just as the  line to which Lifesite objects does not necessarily apply only to same-sex couples – it most certainly could apply to us, alongside many others.  In the same way, some of the other images in the material could apply to us – or perhaps not. This one for instance, is quite clearly of two men. Are they a “couple”? That is not spelled out.




Continue reading Inclusive Study Material for World Meeting of Families.

LGBT Presence at World Meeting of Families?

The bishop of Limerick, Bishop Brendan Leahy, has  made explicit what has previously been implied – that gay couples must be made welcome at next year’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin.

….speaking after his diocese launched its preparation programme for WMF2018, an international event which promotes traditional Catholic teaching on marriage, Dr Leahy said the event in August 2018 in Dublin would be a missed opportunity if the Church did not embrace family in all its variety.”We are living in changing times and family too is changing,” he said.”We’ve had the referendum in favour of same-sex marriage and a lot of people voted in that referendum and all are equally welcome to join in this celebration of family.”Everyone must be made feel welcome next year. We all want to build a good family network of support in Ireland at all levels.”

Independent.ie





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“Positive Faith” – an HIV Video Resource

HIV/Aids is not a specifically gay problem. In Africa and elsewhere, it is primarily a heterosexual disease. However, in the UK, USA and other rich countries, for historical reasons it has disproportionately infected gay men. Among LGBT Catholics in these countries, a high proportion of our people have been affected (if not infected), through a disease which has hit their lovers, their families, their friends – or themselves. From the early days of what was known as “the plague”, LGBT Catholics and other Christians were prominent in offering help and support to those struggling with what was a life-threatening condition.

In London, the twin charities Positive Catholics and CAPS (Catholics for AIDS Prevention and Support) have for years been delivering a great service to people affected, of all genders and sexual orientations, and including refugees and other migrants as well as local Brits.  In London last night, they launched a new extension to their service, a useful video resource.

In the clip above, founder of CAPS/Positive Catholics Vincent Manning introduces the service. Follow the Youtube channel, or this link, to see the rest.

The Religious Value of Coming Out

In the US, October 11th is “National Coming Out Day”. By now, the value to LGBT of coming out is well accepted. It’s valuable to the individual, as good for emotional and mental health – psychotherapists recognise the process as one of psychological growth. It’s also good for the community. As the number of openly LGBT people has steadily increased, the greater visibility has contributed directly to increased public recognition of the need for LGBT equality in law.

What is less widely recognised among LGBT people of faith, is that precisely the same arguments and more, apply to the importance of coming out, in church. Just as psychotherapists acknowledge the process as one of psychological growth, a number of see it as one of spiritual growth. David Helminiak, an academic with doctorates in both psychology and spirituality for instance, describes this in “Sex and the Sacred”. The theologian and psychotherapist Fr John McNeill does so in “Sex as God Intended”, and Fr James Empereur SJ, does so in “Spiritual Direction and the Gay Person”.




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London Workshop for Catholic LGBT Families

A constant theme during the 2014 and 2015 synod assemblies on marriage and family, and of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation that followed it, was the importance of listening, and accompaniment for families in unconventional situations. This certainly applies to same-sex couples, but it also applies to families with LGBT members. These ideas are coming into increasing prominence, following the recent publication of Fr James Martin’s book, “Building a Bridge”.

In London, the LGBT Catholics Young Adults Group have arranged a workshop to do exactly this.

Walk with me

A day workshop for Catholic family members of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. We hope that listening to input from both Mgr Keith Barltrop, chaplain to the LGBT Catholics Westminster, and the experiences of other family members of LGBT people, will enable those taking part to truly walk with their LGBT family members and accompany them on their journey.

Suggested donation of £10 which will include lunch.

 For more information and to register to this event please fill in the form below or contact us on lgbtcatholicsyag@gmail.com.

 (You can also download the poster below by clicking here.)

Australian Bishop’s “Case for Gay Marriage”

Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Bishop Bill Wright says he believes there’s a valid “common good” argument for the government to legalize same-sex “marriage”. In a September article for Aurora, the diocesan magazine, he drew a clear distinction between whether it “squares with Catholic teaching”, or “is a good practical rule for people living in this society at this time”.

Bishop Wright makes clear that the Catholic church cannot recognise same-sex unions as marriage “except  in the limited sense of a marriage according to Australian law”. But, he continues, that is a distinction that the Australian church already accepts, in other situations.




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Paulist Fathers Endorse LGBT Ministry, Deplore Homophobia

The Paulist Fathers have issued a statement in support of Fr James Martin SJ, after a vicious conservative social media campaign led to the withdrawal of an invitation to speak to Theological College on the subject of “Encountering Jesus”.

Of particular interest to me, is a specific statement on the importance of his work encouraging dialogue in  LGBT pastoral ministry, and deploring homophobia and intolerance.

We support Fr Jim Martin’s vision to engage the Church pastoral practice on the care of our LGBT brothers and sisters, as exemplified in his book.He chose to write on a subject that should unite all Christians: the human dignity of every person. Yet, for some, this book’s call for the simple act of love and respect is perceived as a slippery slope towards heresy and damnation. From our reading of the book, this is simply not the case.

Moreover, this incident exposes the ugliness of homophobia and intolerance in our church and society that is in desperate nee of reconciliation and healing.

The full text of the statement may be read at this tweet by Fr Martin: