St Aelred, whose feast we celebrate today, is recognised in all sources as an important English saint, who lived in the north of England in the 12 C. As a young man, he joined the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx, later returning there as Abbott. He is remembered especially for his writings on friendship, some of which have led gay writers such as John Boswell to claim him as ‘homosexual’. For instances, Integrity USA, an Anglican LGBT organisation, have designated him as their patron. From the website of Integrity, this Collect for the feast of Aelred:
Jan. 6, Feast of the Epiphany. Coming as it does so early in the year, the celebration still seems to arrive a little late. Christmas festivities and holiday meals, topped off with New Year’s Eve parties, have more than filled our feasting needs. Now it is time to get back to diets and email. Yet something about this day still grabs our attention. Epiphany is a feast of “something’s up.” With portents in the sky and the hint of myrrh in the air, perhaps we’re being signaled: Stay alert — this could be the year!
The first epiphany sprang a large surprise: a vulnerable infant who is God’s own son. How likely is that? The annual feast invites us to expect the unexpected, to be aware that graces come from surprising sources. Perhaps this year — within your family or your work site or your faith community — you may hear a personal story of courage and faith shared by a transgender person. This will be an epiphany and a grace.
To our own surprise, we have been blessed by such an epiphany. The past year has brought us deeper appreciation of the experience of transgender members of the human community. Mentored by a Catholic sister who has dedicated her life to ministry among transgender persons, we have been instructed by the witness of these often vulnerable members of the body of Christ. Their life stories carry a common theme: an abiding sense of “disconnect” between their inner sense of self and the evidence of their body. In their deepest awareness, gender identity (who I know myself to be) has been in conflict with the social role their physical anatomy suggests (who others expect me to be).
Attempting to conform to the expectations of their parents, spouses and children, transgender persons often struggle to override this sense of disconnect. Some enter into marriage, hoping this will suppress the daily reminders that they are not as they appear. Many more put effort into presenting a “false self” to the world, to protect against being discovered for who they really are. But the price of this unnatural effort is high. Alcohol and drugs offer false comfort along the way; suicide begins to appeal as an exit from this distress.
- Epiphany: Queer eye for the Magi (jesusinlove.blogspot.com)
- Remembering the Victims of Violence Against Transgender People (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
- Christian responses to transgender individuals (christinedecleene.wordpress.com)
- Epiphany: Soho Masses Community Celebrate the Feast of Coming Out (queeringthechurch.com)
- Transgender Teacher Sues Catholic School Over Firing (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, has ruled homosexuals should be able to adopt children.
The court Friday rejected a claim by a Muslim man in Brescia that his child was being damaged because his former partner is now living with a woman, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. The court called the belief that being brought up by a gay couple is damaging to children “mere prejudice.”
Flavio Romani, president of the group Arcigay, called it a “historic ruling” and said it will allow future governments to enact laws allowing same-sex marriage.
“The Cassation Court today reaffirmed what we’ve been saying for a long time,” Romani said. “Love is what makes children grow, and not the sexual orientation of their parents.”
Giancarlo Galan, a former Veneto governor and member of Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party, commended the ruling, calling it a “significant step forward for civil rights.” He said Italy is a secular state that should “listen to its citizens and no one else.”
Sen. Ignazio Marini, a member of the Democratic Party, said gays should have the same rights as heterosexuals
-more at UPI.com.
Michael Sean Winters, a columnist at National Catholic Reporter, recently wrote on the failing nature of Catholic teaching on homosexuality in light of the University of Notre Dame’s decision to approve a comprehensive plan for LGBTQ students. You can read an earlier Bondings 2.0 post on the decision here.
Winters notes the decision garnered a positive statement by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Ft. Wayne-South Bend, the diocese in which the University is located, before divulging his personal commentary. His commentary takes up several points relevant to the Notre Dame decision, the first of which is the theology surrounding homosexuality:
“Here is the bottom line for me on these issues. The Church’s theological reflection on homosexuality is inadequate at the moment, usually crammed into the worldview that existed for a very long time that assumed that the sexual activities of gay people were the perverse acts of straight people.”
Winters acknowledges that advancements of the past decades allow a deeper understanding of homosexuality as something “constitutional” and “it is not an aberrant choice.” This leads him to conclude:
“The language about ‘intrinsically disordered’ should be dropped entirely because it ran the danger of creating a new category of sin, not a vice like the seven deadly to which we are all prone, nor a specific act like stealing a car, but a disposition that was itself flawed and unique to certain persons.”
Finally, Winters directly addresses the decision at Notre Dame, which he calls “courageous” because the University recognizes the human dignity of LGBTQ students beyond a theology of human sexuality that is outdated:
“We also have a Christian obligation to ‘create a community where all may flourish and feel welcome, where we aspire to an even deeper understanding and appreciation of Catholic teaching, and where the human dignity of each Notre Dame student is valued.’ That, too, is part of our Catholic moral tradition. Notre Dame is right, and even courageous…”
Winters has named the essential struggle for LGBTQ and Ally students at Catholic colleges and universities, and indeed for the entire church: how to protect human dignity .
Only emphasizing Catholic sexual ethics that classifies homosexuality as a sin set apart when addressing LGBTQ campus needs is dehumanizing. Students fade from being persons who deserve pastoral and educational care into partisan activists that are to be battled for nothing more than their sexual orientation. Worse, these anti-inclusive institutions miss some legitimate issues at stake: a student’s safety, well-being, and success in higher education.
New Ways Ministry joins Michael Sean Winters in applauding the University of Notre Dame and over a third of Catholic colleges that defend their student’s dignity foremost by providing resources for LGBT persons. You can view our listing of gay-friendly Catholic schools here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
- CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Notre Dame Releases Pastoral Plan for LGBTQ Students (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
- Catholic Notre Dame announces services for gay students (wtvr.com)
- Notre Dame’s First LGBT Student Organization Will Have To Promote Chastity (thinkprogress.org)
As we close out the week that began with the celebration of the Epiphany, we do so by offering a reflection on transgender issues by James and Evelyn Whitehead which appeared in The National Catholic Reporter. The authors, whose lifetime of work on sexuality and relationships has been a gift to the chruch, reflect that in the past year they have had their own “epiphany” about transgender people:
The past year has brought us deeper appreciation of the experience of transgender members of the human community. Mentored by a Catholic sister who has dedicated her life to ministry among transgender persons, we have been instructed by the witness of these often vulnerable members of the body of Christ. Their life stories carry a common theme: an abiding sense of “disconnect” between their inner sense of self and the evidence of their body. In their deepest awareness, gender identity (who I know myself to be) has been in conflict with the social role their physical anatomy suggests (who others expect me to be).
Their essay is a good introduction to some of the issues that transgender people face, which are often remarkably similar to those that lesbian and gay people face because of the common thread of feeling pressure to conform to an identities which are not their true ones:
“In attempting to conform to the expectations of their parents, spouses and children, transgender persons often struggle to override this sense of disconnect. Some enter into marriage, hoping this will suppress the daily reminders that they are not as they appear. Many more put effort into presenting a ‘false self’ to the world, to protect against being discovered for who they really are. But the price of this unnatural effort is high. Alcohol and drugs offer false comfort along the way; suicide begins to appeal as an exit from this distress.”
And like many lesbian and gay people, many transgender people experience their transition to their true selves as a spiritual journey:
“. . . [M]any report a profound shift in their spiritual lives, as they turn from the condemnation of a judging God (‘You are going to hell’) to the embrace of a God of paradox and extravagant love. This harrowing transition leads many to a confident embrace, at last, of ’the person God always intended me to be.’ “
The Whiteheads point out that unfortunately many church leaders do not have the knowledge–or the motivation to acquire knowledge–about transgender people:
“Many Catholics regret that official statements of the Catholic church continue to support rigid notions of human nature, especially in regard to male and female gender. Here church leaders, consciously or not, continue a strategy that distances them from the genuine experience of many active church members. Official statements often mention the extravagant conduct of sexual exhibitionists or drug-addicted sex workers as typical of transgender persons. Hiding in plain sight are the many mature transgender Catholics in our own parishes. To remain willfully ignorant of, or contemptuous toward, this part of the human community exhibits a startling lack of compassion.”
They close with a prayer that should be offered by all Catholics:
“Let us pray that in the months ahead each of us — whether transgender or otherwise — may experience the grace of epiphany. May we meet one another in shared humanity, ready to move beyond hesitancy and suspicion on all sides. In the grace of these encounters we are likely to be surprised; we may at first feel uncomfortable. But these, perhaps, are marks of an epiphany. And if we stay alert, we may soon recognize here the splendid diversity of the body of Christ.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
via « Bondings 2.0.
St Aelred, is recognised in all sources as an important English saint, who lived in the north of England in the 12 C. As a young man, he joined the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx, later returning there as Abbott. He is remembered especially for his writings on friendship, some of which have led gay writers such as John Boswell to claim him as ‘homosexual’. For instances, Integrity USA, an Anglican LGBT organisation, have designated him as their patron.
Others point to his work as insisting on chastity, and believe that his well-recognised male friendships were entirely non-sexual. Whatever the genital truth, we should remember and honour Aelred as a reminder of the important place of intimate (emotionally, if not sexually) relationships between same-sex couples in the history of the church.
From the Calendar of LGBT Saints:
How Aelred Made it to the American Book of Common Prayer
by Louie Crew, founder of Integrity, [email: lcrew@ANDROMEDA.RUTGERS.EDU]
Aelred was not in ECUSA’s calendar until a Roman Catholic head of history at Yale, John Boswell, wrote about him powerfully in his book Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality Boswell dwelt at length with the lesbigay positive evidence. That spurred Integrity member, the late Howard Galley, one of the major architects of the 1976 Prayer Book, to initiate the actions which finally led to Aelred’s inclusion: using Aelred’s own texts, Galley shaped the readings which appear in THE LESSER FEASTS AND FASTS, including this collect:
Pour into our hearts, O God, the Holy Spirit’s gift of love, that we, clasping each the other’s hand, may share the joy of friendship, human and divine, and with your servant Aelred, draw many to your community of love; through Jesus Christ the Righteous, who livers and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN
Select bibliography (From the Calendar of LGBT Saints)
Catholic Encyclopedia – entry on Aelred (available online)
Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, trans. Mary Eugenia Laker, (Kalamazoo MI: Cistercian Publications 1977), see esp. p. 21 on Aelred’s homosexual attractions.
Boswell, John, CSTH, 221-20
McGuire, Brian P, “Monastic Friendship and Toleration “, in Monks, Hermits and the Ascetic Traditions, Studies in Church History 22, ed. W.J. Shiels, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985) pp. 147-160
McGuire, Brian P, “Looking Back on Friendship: Medieval Experience and Modern Context”, Cistercian Studies 21:2 (1986), pp. 123-142
McGuire, Brian P., Brother and Lover: Aelred of Rievaulx, (New York: Crossroad, 1994)
In his earlier articles, McGuire, the foremost expert on early Cistercian bonding, professed to find explanations of Aelred as homosexual as “one-dimensional”, but in this book he more forthrightly identifies Aelred as homosexual.
McGuire, Brian Patrick, “Sexual Awareness and Identity in Aelred of Rievulx (1110-67)”, American Benedictine Review 45(1994): 184-226
This probably the best work of its kind out on Aelred. It is the most comprehensive, and actually covers more ground than Brother & Lover.
Russell, Kenneth C., “Aelred, the Gay Abbot of Rievaulx”, Studia Mystica 5:4 (Winter 1982), 51-64
A more accurate title might be “Bishop of Chicago Continues to Step Up For Marriage Equality” because Bishop Jeffrey Lee has been such a consistent and valiant ally for equality both inside and outside the church. But the particular moment of “stepping up” I’m celebrating today was one that came out of his willingness to step up with a letter of support for marriage equality in Illinois — a letter that made the national news reporting on the legislation as it winds its way through the legislative process.
It was a moment of great delight as I sat on my day off happily having my second cup of day off coffee and watching a second hour of day off morning news to see this quote from Bishop Lee pop up on an MSNBC report. And thanks to the “rewind/pause” feature on my remote control and an iPhone camera hard-by and VOILA: the moment was “screen captured!”
My actual favorite quote from the letter was this one:
As a Christian, I believe that our society needs all of the sources and signs of grace that we can get. As a citizen of the United States, I believe in equal protection under the law. I believe that both ends will be served when marriage equality is the law of the land in Illinois, and I am grateful to be bishop in a church that offers all couples a community of faith, love, support and accountability.
Does it matter if a bishop speaks out on the issue of civil marriage equality? You bet it does. It matters to those in Illinois who will be speaking to their representatives in letters, calls and emails that they can say their faith tradition stands for equality for all.
- TEC Bishop of Chicago supports Same-Sex Marriage (kiwianglo.wordpress.com)
- Episcopal bishop expresses Christian support for Illinois same-sex marriage bill – ChicagoPride.com (chicago.gopride.com)
- Gay Marriage Updates: US, France, Taiwan (queeringthechurch.com)
- English Bishops: God’s Grace in Gay Marriage (emmaus2rome.co.uk)
- Father Tom Reese’s Advice to Bishops As They Meet: Start by Listening? (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- Catholics Debate Marriage Equality Bill in Illinois (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
Chicago Cardinal Francis George is leaving no stone unturned in his campaign to halt gay marriage as it sits on the runway awaiting clearance for takeoff by the Illinois legislature. This week, he devoted another lengthy, tortured column to the subject in the Catholic New World. I read this one very carefully, and though the cardinal deserves credit for perseverance, it seems to me he is clinging to both an outmoded concept of marriage that the church itself no longer holds and an understanding of homosexual relationships that is no longer valid.
For George, marriage is the permanent union of one man and one woman for the purpose of procreating and raising children; to call it anything else is a misuse of abuse of a definition enshrined in natural law. In fact, the current concept of marriage is the outcome of a long evolution. Over many eons, varieties of marriage (polygamy, for example) were practiced and were once considered normal, natural and acceptable.
At least since the late Middle Ages, the Catholic church has presented marriage as having two ends or purposes: a primary purpose, the procreation and education of children; and a secondary purpose, the mutual love, care and support of the spouses. In Catholic moral teaching, this secondary purpose tended to be taken lightly. It even got obscured by an overpowering obsession with the primary purpose. The most exacting details concerning the proper and improper uses of sex seized much of the attention of the people who wrote the manuals about such things, celibate priests with degrees in moral theology. The obsession was passed on to bishops and pastors.
But in the mid-20th century, a younger generation of moral theologians began criticizing this narrow focus, suggesting that love and companionship were anything but secondary characteristics of marriage, that they were in fact primary purposes. Their point was not difficult to see. In the real world, it is first of all love and companionship that attracts people to one another and leads them to commitment. Increasing and multiplying the race is usually a secondary consideration at best.
In a Facebook post, Jesuit Fr. James Martin recently commemorated the passing of Jeanne Manford, the founder of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Accompanying a photo of the founder, Fr. James posted a reflection worth sharing about the positive impact that PFLAG has had which began because of the unconditional love Manford had for her gay son, Morty.
In part, Fr. Martin stated:
“For she loved prophetically. That is, she publicly expressed her love for a group of marginalized people before it was safe to do so. That kind of love might remind you of another person who worked in and around Galilee, publicly loving all sorts of people–lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles, Roman centurions–when it was not safe to do so, at all…
“There is a lot of talk about gays and lesbians these days. But in every thing we say and do, particularly for Christians, love must come first. And not the love that condemns first, or judges first, or labels first. But the love that loves first. Because God is love.”
Metro Weekly offered some details about Manford’s personal story, and how PFLAG originated:
“Hailed as one of the LGBT-rights movement’s first straight allies, Manford founded PFLAG after her son, Morty Manford, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1992, was among those patrons at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village when a police raid sparked the 1969 Stonewall riots. When Morty Manford was beaten during a Gay Activists Alliance demonstration in April 1972 and police failed to intervene, Jeanne Manford wrote a letter to the New York Post standing by her son.
“‘I have a homosexual son, and I love him,’ her letter read.”
From that moment, she began marching alongside her son, and in ensuing years, PFLAG grew to have over 350 chapters and 200,000 members in the U.S.
Catholic parents continue to be some of the best advocates for their LGBT sons and daughters. Through their prayers, advocacy, and, most importantly, their example, they are teaching the Catholic church how to unconditionally accept LGBT people. Their natural love for their children mirrors the love that God has for all people. Organizations like Fortunate Families support Catholic parents who have LGBT sons and daughters.
New Ways Ministry echoes Fr. James’ closing words of the reflection:
“May Jeanne Manford rest in peace, and may we always love prophetically, recklessly, prodigally, dangerously, eternally.”
–Bob Shine and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
via « Bondings 2.0.
Other than a few fauxhawks, better music, and the bishop wearing a rainbow-colored stole (the scarf thing that goes over their robes), gay Catholic mass in the UK is pretty much indistinguishable from normal Catholic mass. Being a gay Catholic may seem kind of contradictory to you—like being a Log Cabin Republican, a Muslim EDL members, or Skrillex’s new future garage track—but just because you like hooking up with guys doesn’t mean you can’t also like the Holy Spirit.
The “Soho Masses” at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption have provided a safe place for hundreds of LGBT Catholics to worship for six years, a service provided to the community ever since neo-Nazi David Copeland nail-bombed the Admiral Duncan pub on Old Compton Street in 1999. That was until last week, when Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, put an official end to the masses. After his recent fight against the introduction of gay marriage, it seemed to only add insult to injury, but it’s a story that has been widely misinterpreted by the media.
This Sunday, I went to one of their last masses before the dissolution, and the bishop assured his flock that they needn’t worry. “We may have been given an ‘Ite, Missa est,’” he said from behind the lectern, “but we can translate that, not as ‘The mass has ended,’ but as ‘Go forth, go forth and find God in your lives, however some people may describe those lives.’”