Ever since I first released news of my tumour, I’ve been overwhelmed by expressions of support and prayers. This has again been the case after writing a little more about it here, earlier this week, with more good wishes for my “recovery”. This seems odd, because even though this thing is technically that dread condition, a cancer – it doesn’t feel that way, at all. In fact, apart from some minor inconvenience, I feel generally much better than I’ve done for months and months.
It’s an extraordinary experience to be told, quite unexpectedly, that you have cancer – or in my case, maybe not. (Is a GIST cancer? That depends on who you speak to). I’ve learned a lot about the condition over the last eight months, including the terminology.
For some months now, I’ve not been nearly as active here as I once was. There are numerous reasons for this. For a long time, I’ve been trying to reassess my priorities and core aim with the site. Was I really wanting to put the bulk of me energy into a regular commentary on the daily news cycle, which in practice is what I had been doing, or a more permanently useful storehouse of resources for LGBT Catholics and other Christians, as I originally set out to do? Continue reading Personal Deviations: Medical, Technical, Familial, Travel and Political.
This morning, we did it – converted our existing civil partnership to formal marriage. Not a wedding, no grand celebration: the time for that was 9 years ago, at the civil partnership ceremony. This was just a legal procedure at the Guildford Registrar’s office, costing all of £8.
It’s good to have done it, but I’ve now experienced one conventional, formal marriage lasting 9 years, followed by an informal committed relationship amounting to what was in effect a legally unrecognized common- law marriage (19 years in total), the now defunct civil partnership lasting just under a further 9 years. That first marriage began over 40 years ago. During those four decades, I’ve fathered two children, and supported by my spouses, watched them grow, mature, marry and produce children of their own. I’ve also gone through grief and bereavement for my own parents and brother, supported by my partner – and supported him through the deaths of his own mother and other family members.
I’ve experienced divorce, and a further painful separation. My spouse(s) and I have shared and supported each other through myriad joyful celebrations and difficult trials, trivial and serious. I think I’ve earned enough in practical experience of the realities of marriage, to claim some understanding of what it’s all about.
As I begin this new marriage,and largely agree with Stephen Sondheim, in “Company” – It’s the little things you share together, that make perfect relationships. (Like Joanne in the video clip above, “I’ve done it three or four times”).
It’s the little things you share together,
That make perfect relationships.
The concerts you enjoy together,
Neighbors you annoy together,
Children you destroy together
Becoming a cliche together,
Growing old and gray together
Withering away together
That make marriage a joy.
It’s not so hard to be married
It’s much the simplest of crimes
It’s not so hard to be married
I’ve done it three or four times.
First, the personal (because the personal is political).
Tomorrow morning (Wednesday), Raymond and I have an appointment at Guildford registry office to formally convert our current civil partnership to legal marriage. This is not a “wedding” – in effect, the important bit was done some years ago. This is simply a legal formality, to change the wording – but words and language matter. The fact is,
And now – the political:
Slovenia has just become the first Central European / former Soviet bloc country to approve marriage and family equality.
Slovenian lawmakers have approved same-sex marriage and child adoption by gay couples amid opposition from conservative groups and the Catholic Church.
Parliament voted 51:28 Tuesday to pass changes to the family law allowing homosexual couples to marry and adopt children. Slovenia in the past allowed same-sex partnership union, but without the right to child adoption.
Earlier Tuesday, a few thousand people protested at a rally dubbed “Children Are At Stake” to voice their opposition to the changes. Opponents have announced plans to force a referendum on the issue after a similar bid was rejected in a vote three years ago.
Leftist lawmaker Matej Vatovec said the parliamentary support ensured Slovenia will become a “truly tolerant and inclusive community.” He said “today Slovenia is entering the 21st century.”
The text describes how Abraham was called by the Lord to leave his country, his kindred and his father’s house, and journey to a new land – a call which he dutifully followed, together with his household. This passage from chapter 12 is only part of the story. The continuation in the opening of chapter 18 describes how as a result of his hospitality to three strangers (angels in disguise), he is given a promise that Sarah will conceive a child, in spite of their advanced age. Then in chapter 21 the child, Isaac, is born,
The phrases / verses that “speak” to me:
3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Abraham is the one in this passage who is called by the Lord, but in fact we are all called to holiness. Just as the Lord says to Abraham that he will bless all who bless him, and curse all those who curse him, we should understand that we too are addressed in the same way, if we follow that call. As gay men in the Church, we know what it is to be cursed by those who assume that “gay Christian” is an oxymoron, an impossibility. The Lord promises that such curses will themselves be cursed. But many of us have also experienced a welcome in church, “blessed” by welcoming parishes and other groups. Those too, will be blessed.
9 And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.
Just as Abraham embarked on a journey to the promised land, we too are on a journey to full inclusion in the Church. Just as his journey was conducted in stages, so we too must understand that our own journey to inclusion will not be concluded in a single step, but will take many stages, some of them difficult.
Here are the bishops’ questions, with some responses:
- What does it mean for Abram to ‘have faith’? How does Abram listen to God? How does God challenge? What does God promise? How do the family respond? What are their hopes?
- What hopes do you have for your family?
My hopes for my family are the same as others – that we can continue to flourish, enjoy each others’ achievements and celebrations, and support each other in times of difficulty or sadness.
In addition, we hope for something other families do not think about – that we can be treated by society, and especially by the Church, with the same dignity and respect as other, more conventional families.
- What are the ways in which your family ‘listen to God’?
In the past, my partner and I participated together in a CLC (Christian Life Community) group, meeting weekly and sometimes in formal retreats to reflect on where we have God in our lives, and using techniques from Ignatian spirituality to discern the path He was wanting for us.
In addition to numerous valuable insights we found about our daily lives, we also found through these evenings and weekends of prayer together, profound affirmation of the value of our relationship
- What ‘impossible’ things happen in families? In our families, how do we show our ‘trust’ in God and in one another in tough times?
Sometime after my (formal) marriage had broken down, and I had started a new, same – sex (informal) marriage, my ex – wife began to make it extremely difficult for me to see my children, and absolutely impossible to see them in the company of my partner. In this, she was egged on by her family, who were convinced by Catholic teaching that our relationship was obviously sinful, and so I would be a morally unsuitable influence on the girls. As any father will know, to be deprived of access to one’s children is extremely painful, as it was to me.
The outcome however, was the reverse of what mother and her family had intended. As the girls grew older, they insisted on not just access to myself, but even asked to come and live with me – and my partner – , instead of with their mother (which at different times, each of them in fact did, for a period). Today, they and their own children both have far stronger relationships with me and my partner, than they do with their mother.
As for the fears about my supposedly “poor moral influence”, I take immense pride in the conclusions of my younger daughter. While living with us for some of her high school years, she compared the example she was seeing in our relationship, with what she observed in her classmates’ families . Looking back later as a young woman, she concluded that the grounding in morals and values she had received from our same – sex relationship, was in fact superior to that of many others raised in more conventional families. On that basis, she has stated in print and on-line that “Gay parents? I recommend them” , and has told me that when she sees a young child out with two dads, her instinctive response is “lucky kid”.
- What does having children, or not having children, bring to a family?
More important that what “having” children brings to the family, is what “raising” children does.
- What promises do we make to each other in families?
- Through this story, what can we know and believe about the promises God makes to us in our own family lives, whatever our circumstances?
The key questions to draw the conversation together:
- How does this story ‘speak’ to us about our ‘call’ to be a family?
- How does it speak to our ‘journey’?
- How does it speak to us about our ‘purpose’ or ‘mission’ as a family?
- What support do we need from the Church?
For queer families, what we need above all is simple: acceptance and appreciation that same – sex couples can and do, make as good a job as others in raising children. Even though such couples are obviously not capable of creating babies, they are definitely capable of the more challenging task or raising and guiding them to maturity. Many such couples are successfully engaged in that task, either with the biological children of one partner, or with adopted children.
It is hurtful and offensive to those parents, and especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to raise children whose own biological parents have failed them, that the Church opposes gay adoption and claims, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, that children are somehow harmed when raised by gay parents.
For the sake of the children, It is essential that the Church should now end its hostility to gay adoption.
- What is already available? What needs to be developed?
- From our family life experience, what do we offer that could enrich the life of the Church?
I began this site six years ago, with some very clear aims (originally spelled out here, as “Welcome: Come in, and Come Out”, and here, as “Good News for Queer Catholics“). In practice, much of the time I was more preoccupied with commentary on the daily news cycle, initially on the crisis of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, later with gay marriage. There is a limit, however, to how often one can respond to an attack (gay) marriage and still find something to say which is new. Also, times have changed. Marriage and family equality are clearly well on the way – and I’ve changed: I’ve learned a lot, my skill set has grown.
The recent hacker attack which has (temporarily) blocked access to much of my content has presented me with a welcome opportunity to do what in case I’d been long considering – a substantial redesign and refocus for the site, and the “Queer Church” project. Continue reading Rebuilding "The Queer Church"
Since reporting recently that I’ve lost much of the content at my original site, “Queering the Church”, I’ve been making steady progress towards repairing the damage.
It is still feasible that I will be able to retrieve my original site in something close to its complete form. If not, I will have to reconstruct as much of it as possible, as best I can. Some of that will be by directly importing material from the satellite sites (eg, Queer Saints and Martyrs, Queer Ear for the Rainbow Scriptures, and some others). Additional material may have to be rewritten from scratch, or adapted from existing material elsewhere.
Doing this, if necessary, will take time, but there is a silver lining – it will offer an opportunity to reconstruct the site with a more coherent page and category structure than before. I need to identify the most important themes to focus on, which will become the top level pages in the structure. My present thinking is that these could include:
Gay / queer theology
Queer Saints / Church history
Marriage and Family
Science of Sex/Gender
For now, I’ll be creating these as provisional dummy pages to act as placeholders, to be populated with material as I go along. Comment and suggestions about these, or other proposals, would be most welcome.