Pope Francis: ‘I would love to visit and talk to US gay and lesbian people”

Huffington Post reports that a visiting American priest gave a DVD about LGBT Catholics to Pope Francis, who replied: ‘I would love to visit and talk to gay and lesbian people’.
Pope Francis

Father Gil Martinez, pastor at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City, explained to host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani on Thursday that when he was celebrating mass at the Pope’s house chapel, he handed the pontiff a DVD titled, “Owning Our Faith,” which tells stories about LGBT Catholics and their relationship to the church.

“I gave [the DVD] to him and I said, ‘This is from the gays and lesbians of the United States,'” Father Martinez remembered, and recalled that the two had a brief conversation in Spanish about the Pope’s upcoming trip to the United States.

“I said, ‘If you could watch it, it would be great,” Martinez said, to which the Pope (amusingly) inquired as to whether it was a proper “european DVD.”

“He thanked me very much and he said, ‘I would love to visit and talk to gay and lesbian people and please tell the gays to pray for me and I shall pray for them,'” Martinez said. “It was a really great, great moment.”

Pastorally Sensitive New Archbishop for Berlin.

In Berlin earlier today, a new archbishop was installed, Heiner Koch, who as bishop of Cologne had a track record of pastoral sensitivity to LGBT concerns: he was in the news some years ago, for instance, for dropping in unexpectedly in a local LGBT community centre, to talk to the community and listen to their concerns.

Archbishop Heiner Koch

In an interview with Tagespiegel on the eve of his inauguration, he spoke among other things, about his views on homosexuals in the Church.  Unlike his colleague Bishop Bode, he is opposed to any form of blessing for same – sex couples, lest it be “confused” with marriage. In my view, there are obvious contradictions in his thinking: earlier in the interview, when speaking in general terms about family and marriage, he describes the value of marriage in terms which could apply equally well to same- sex couples, with no hint at all of procreation:

You are responsible for the issue of family in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  Many positions on family, marriage and sexuality are no longer comprehensible even to  Catholics. Must the Church adapt?

We see sexuality as an integrated whole.  Two people love each other, their love grows emotionally, physically and in our understanding spiritually and religious. The greatest freedom is achieved when two people decide to go through life together, even through crises and disease.

But when he is asked specifically about homosexuals, he backtracks and insists that in the Church’s view, “sexuality” (not simply formal marriage) is only “complete” when it is between a man and a woman, and open to new life.

Even so, I think he will be a valuable ally at the Family Synod, where there will not be any question of formal Church recognition of gay couples, but there will be extended discussion on the importance of “respect, compassion and sensitivity”,which are so often neglected.

He recognizes, for instance, that the Church faces a real challenge, in its efforts to differentiate between married couples and their ability to conceive life, while avoiding any form of discrimination or disrespect for same – sex couples.

“Take Back the Tradition” – Outline.

I wrote some time ago, about a belief that LGBT Christians need to “take back the tradition” in Church history, just as others have begun to “Take Back the Word” in biblical studies (to use the title of a book edited by Robert Goss). The young Fr Joseph Ratzinger wrote about the dangerous “distorting tradiion” against which we must be ever vigilant. It it high time that we correct the distorted tradition.

Fr Joseph Ratzinger
Fr Joseph Ratzinger

For LGBT History Month in the UK next February, queer church history will be a major theme. As my contribution, I will be developing an extended series of posts on the subject, which I hope I will also present in audio – visual form, as well as conventional blog posts.

Here is my current outline for this project, which will be cross – posted at The Queer Church Repository, where it will be constantly updated and expanded.

“Take Back the Tradition”

Some Topics in Queer Church History


Pope Benedict XVI was viewed by many LGBT people as “Maledict”, for some of his writing, especially the Hallowe’en letter he wrote when still Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the CDF – the modern successor to the Inquisition. But there’s another aspect to Benedict of importance to LGBT people, beyond his disordered language on sexuality, and that is his insights into church history – and the lessons we can draw from these LGBT Christians.

Benedict had some important words about St joan of Arc.  He once noted that she was tried, convicted and burned for heresy by the cardinals and theologians of the Church. (We should remember too, that part of the charges against her was for cross – dressing,  and gender non-conformity). However, he continued, centuries later she was rehabilitated and canonized, and now regarded as a saint. The pointed lesson he drew, was that Christian leaders, cardinals, theologians, and others, can be wrong.

This is just one pertinent example of a much bigger problem that he had written about years ago, when still the young theologian plain Father Joseph Ratzinger. This was that alongside the valuable tradition in church history, there’s a distorting tradition, against which we must always be on our guard. LGBT people have suffered grievously as victims of this distorting tradition.

  • There’s a distorting tradition in biblical interpretation, which uses spurious claims that the bible “clearly” condemns homosexuality, resulting in biblical abuse to support prejudice and discrimination.
  • There’s a distorting tradition of marriage, which falsely claims that marriage has always been between one man and one woman, for the purposes of procreation.
  • There’s a distorting tradition in theology, which abuses Thomas’ Aquinas of natural law to condemn allegedly “unnatural” sex.
  • There’s a forgotten tradition of queer saints and martyrs, in which men and women with a same – sex affectional orientation have been airbrushed out of history.
  • There’s a forgotten tradition of respect for the value of intimate male relationships.

It’s time to take back the tradition.

Sr Jeannine Gramick, LGBT Ministry Pioneer, to Meet Pope Francis.

New Ways Ministry reports that Sr Jeannine Gramick, their founder and a pioneer in Catholic LGBT ministry, will be among the guests at the White House to meet Pope Francis.

I met St Gramick some years ago with the Soho Masses community, then at St Anne’s, after a screening of the documentary on her work, “In Good Conscience”. I’ve followed her progress attentively every since, and look forward to meeting up with her again at the founding conference of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics in Rome, at the start of the family synod in October.

The text following is from New Ways:

Sister Jeannine Gramick, a Catholic nun who pioneered ministry, advocacy, and outreach to the LGBT community over 40 years ago in Philadelphia, will be back in her hometown this week for the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit to the City of Brotherly Love. A native of Philadelphia, and a tremendous fan of Pope Francis, she is excited to see how far the Catholic Church has progressed since she began her discussions with LGBT people back in 1971.

Jeannine Gramick

She will be attending the World Meeting of Families for most of next week, but will be taking a short side-trip to Washington, DC to greet Pope Francis at President Obama’s White House reception, and to take part in a Mass led by the pope at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Continue reading Sr Jeannine Gramick, LGBT Ministry Pioneer, to Meet Pope Francis.

German Synod Father Supports Same – Sex Blessings

One intriguing feature of the Synod on Marriage and Family next month, is that at least two bishops have gone on record as stating that they support the principle of church blessings for same – sex couples. Bishop Bonny of Belgium is one. Bishop Bode of Germany is another.

In an interview with the German Catholic News Agency KNA, Bishop Bode of Osterbruck discussed his expectations from the synod, in general terms, for those who are divorced and remarried – and for homosexuals, and especially those in stable same – sex relationships.
What I find particularly interesting about this interview, is that he does more than simply express support for the principle of church blessings for gay couples, he points to a way in which this might actually become feasible.
First, he points to the well- established but often ignored feature of Catholic teaching, that there should be no discrimination against homosexuals. Like many others, he repeats an insistence that gay unions cannot be treated as marriage, which can only be between a man and a woman, and open to procreation. That is differentiation, not discrimination.  However, he notes that there are other Catholics in sexual relationships that do not conform to Church teaching, such as those who are cohabiting without marriage. To treat same – sex couples differently to those, in pastoral practice he says, is discrimination, and therefore unacceptable. So, in responding to same – sex couples, pastors should look to the good in their relationships, not merely at what is out of step with teaching – just as they do with other Catholics in irregular situations.
Next, he notes that while any form of recognition comparable to marriage is impossible for the Catholic Church, it is possible to offer some form of prayer and informal blessing, where the pastor is able to judge the quality of the relationship to be suitable. Note the qualification though – these should be “private” blessings, which presumably means in a household setting, not actually in Church.
Third, he notes that although the strength of the Catholic Church is its universality, a community cutting across cultural boundaries, nevertheless we need to take account of geographic differences in social and political contexts. (Interestingly, some African bishops have made exactly the same point, from a different perspective).  That being so, he speculates that it is possible, for pastors in some areas to be granted a degree of autonomy in these decisions, so that where same – sex couples are socially commonplace and legally provided for, perhaps in these countries (including his own Germany), such blessings could be authorized – but not elsewhere.
Now recall that when Germany’s largest lay organization called for the introduction of church blessings for gay and lesbian couples, the response by Cardinal Marx was that their request could not be accepted “unreservedly” – implying a possible acceptance, with reservations. Perhaps Bishop Bode’s qualifications, are just such reservations. I also speculated along exactly these lines myself, when Cardinal Marx’s response became public.
I have published the full interview, covering divorce and general expectations, at The Queer Church Repository, in the original German, and in an English translation from the Duolingo community.
Below, I reproduce the relevant sections with specific reference to homosexuals, and their relationships:
KNA: A big issue will be the dealings with homosexuals and a religious recognition of their stable partnerships.   Is there any indication of a solution for that?  

Continue reading German Synod Father Supports Same – Sex Blessings

Pope Francis: ‘God is not a magician’

Making news headlines in many publications, is that science and Catholicism are not incompatible. Well, of course not- I was taught this about evolution at least, nearly 50 years ago in Catholic high school religion class.

Now, if only the Vatican would pay as much attention to the science of sexuality and gender!

‘God is not a magician’

Pope says Christians should believe in evolution and Big Bang

The “Big Bang” and evolution are not only consistent with biblical teachings, Pope Francis told a Vatican gathering – they are essential to understanding God.

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything — but that is not so,” the pope told a plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

“He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment,” Pope Francis said.

The earth’s origins were not chaotic, the pontiff said, but were created from a principle of love, reported Religion News Service.

“He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence, giving being to every reality, and so creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things,” the pope said.

via Rawstory

Renewed Focus, Renewed Energy at “The Queer Church”

It’s been a difficult year for me,  medically, spiritually and technically – but with your support, I’ve been dramatically reinvigorated, and found renewed clarity and focus.

It was just about a year ago that I learned that the supposed bowel problem that had been troubling me for months, was in fact a rare form of cancer, a massive GIST wrapped around my stomach. Getting to grips with that, and with the major surgery I will need sometime in the next 6-8 weeks, has been a journey and a half.

Even before the onset of the medical trouble, I had been deeply troubled by what I had been doing here at QTC and elsewhere – and what I should be doing. I was asking myself deep questions about my purpose, effectiveness, and priorities. I was also convinced that the troubling abdominal pains I was experiencing (due to the GIST) were in fact stress related.

Then came the technical trouble, when my primary site appears to have been hacked, and became no longer accessible. With difficulty, I was able to retrieve some of my historic material and repost at a new URL (this one), but not all of it. I came to wonder very seriously, whether perhaps it was time to stop, to set aside the keyboard, and attempt to experience for once, some real life, outside of faith and sexuality.

All that changed,  a month or two ago, when I agreed to take on two new challenges: editor of the Quest Bulletin, along with my existing role as Quest webmaster, and responsibility for the new websites (in three languages) for the new Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, which has its foundation conference in Rome next month, to coincide with the start of the bishops’ Family Synod, 2015. Continue reading Renewed Focus, Renewed Energy at “The Queer Church”

Pope Francis: The Current Refugee Crisis is “The Tip of the Iceberg”

Pope Francis - AP

If you’re a European feeling overwhelmed by the current refugee crisis, Pope Francis has news for you: this is just “the tip of an iceberg”. It will not end until we’ve addressed the underlying cause – and this is not just the disastrous wars in the Middle East that we have helped to create. There are also fundamental socio – economic causes, in the vast global inequalities of opportunity and wealth.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke about the refugee crisis during an interview with Portugal’s Radio Renascença which aired on Monday, calling it the “tip of an iceberg.”

“These poor people are fleeing war, hunger, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Because underneath that is the cause; and the cause is a bad and unjust socioeconomic system, in everything, in the world – speaking of the environmental problem –, in the socioeconomic society, in politics, the person always has to be in the centre,” Pope Francis said.

The Holy Father said the world must work to help people not feel the need to emigrate.

“Where the causes are hunger, we have to create work, investments. Where the cause is war, search for peace, work for peace,” he said. “Nowadays the world is at war against itself, that is, the world is at war, as I say, in instalments, bit by bit, but it is also at war against the land, because it is destroying the land, our common house, the environment.”

He’s right.

It’s now widely agreed that “genuine” refugees fleeing war or persecution need and deserve help, and many people are now opening their hearts to offer it. It’s also widely agreed than not all the current migrants are in this category. Many others are economic migrants, seeking a better life. Europeans are far less sympathetic to these.

To resolve the refugee crisis, it is said, we must work to resolve the conflicts and bring peace to the Middle East. That’s a tall order, but even if it is achieved, that will not alone solve the problem  The challenge of dealing with economic migration will remain – and economic inequalities, together the devastation being wrought by climate change, are part of the reasons underlying the civil conflicts in the first place, along with a huge clash of values.

In Britain, one common response to the British Muslims leaving to fight for ISIS in Syria or Iraq, or being “radicalised” here in the UK, is to say that we need to promote more effectively “British values”. But what are these? The British themselves assume that these are the things now endorsed across Europe and North America – democracy, justice, freedom, tolerance and equality. To some others, especially to those who feel themselves to be outsiders in the wider society, I fear that “British values” in practice are things like greed and excessive consumption, drunkenness, sexual licence, and lack of compassion for the needy. When I was preparing to leave South Africa to come to the UK, I was warned by my spiritual director that I was coming to a post – Christian society. No wonder that some Muslims, whose core religious values are so much in keeping with those of those of the Gospels, feel that the society they live in, is hostile to those values.

As I have observed this current wave of migration across the Mediterranean and through Turkey, along with European attempts to limit it, I’ve had a strong sense that I’ve seen it all, before, back in South Africa. For many years, previous South African governments tried to deal with the economic migrants moving from impoverished rural areas to the wealthier cities, by simply prohibiting it, in a system they called “influx control” – and the rest of the world called “apartheid”. We all know how that ended. Now, economic migration within the country continues, as it has always done – but instead of trying to do the impossible by limiting it, the response is to plan for it, and provide for the new arrivals in the cities.

Let’s Talk About – Contraception!

…no papal teaching document has ever caused such an earthquake in the Church as the encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae.’  – Catholic theologian, Fr Bernard Haring

The feature of the 2014 Family Synod that most surprised me, was the near absence of any discussion about contraception – except for repeated confirmation of support for “Humanae Vitae”. As Peter Steinfels puts it at the Washington Post,

At last October’sExtraordinary Synod on the Family, bishops grabbed headlines by debating controversial topics such as admitting remarried Catholics to Communion and acknowledging the upsides of same-sex relationships. But the discussion of contraception was perfunctory. The bishops simply called on the church to do a better job of propagating “the message of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.” In other words, the widespread rejection of the birth-control ban is simply a messaging problem.

That’s not true. The church’s unwillingness to grapple with a deep and highly visible gap between official teaching and actual practice undermines Catholic vigor and unity at every level. It encourages Catholics to disregard all manner of other teachings, including those on marriage and abortion. If the church wants to restore its moral authority, it must address this gnawing question.

Continue reading Let’s Talk About – Contraception!

Schonborn’s “Civita Cattolica” Interview: Preamble and Summary

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna is a senior cardinal in the Catholic Church, who was often named before the last conclave as a possible “papabile”, one who could become the next pope. He is also an eminent theologian, a former pupil of Cardinal Ratzinger, who was a regular member of a select group who gathered with Pope Benedict annually for a theological summer school.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, cardinal archbishop of Vienna

For LGBT Catholics, he is particularly notable as the first senior bishop to have noted, a few years ago, that it is high time that the Catholic church stopped obsessing about “genital acts” of gay and lesbian people, and considered instead the quality of their relationships. At the same time, he also noted the contradiction in Church practice, between exclusion from marriage those who had previously married and divorced but wished to remarry, and the reality that in the modern world, so many couples have no interest in marriage in the first place.

At the time, he was a lone voice, and many conservatives in the Church excpected an immediate slapdown. That did not happen. Instead, a series of other bishops began to take up similar themes, which have since become mainstream, now dominating news coverage of the family synods, that of 2014, and of 2015, next month.

In a notable interview with the Italian Jesuit publication, Civita Cattolica, he shared some important insights into the synod process, on marriage and family, on pastoral approaches to those in “irregular” relationships, and on gay and lesbian relationships specifically. At Bondings 2.0, Francis DeBenardo has discussed these LGBT specific passages, but the entire article is worth reading for its relevance to our concerns, even where these are not directly referenced.

I am preparing a series of posts on this interview and its implications for LGBT Catholics, in my own rather free translation. (The original is available only in Italian. When completed, I will post the entire interview in my English translation at The Queer Church Repository). The excerpt below, giving the Civita introduction, gives some of the flavour of the entire, 12 page, piece.

During the extraordinary Synod on the family, which took place 5 to 19 October 2014, I was impressed with, among others, by the intervention of Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna. We had a discussion, after his speech in the classroom, during a dinner with a mutual friend. Then he told me about his experiences as a child of a family that has experienced the divorce. His lucidity was not a merely intellectual reflection, but was the result of experience. Strolling under the colonnade of St. Peter, he told me about the absence of grandparents and uncles from Synod speeches. The family, he said, is not only wife, husband and children, but  is a wide network of contacts, including ​​some friends and not only relatives. Any divorce affects a large network of relationships, not only on a couple’s life. But it is also true that the network can withstand the impact of the split and support the most vulnerable, the children, for example.

We did not end the conversation. We continued for two subsequent meetings, after a few months, at the headquarters of Civiltà Cattolica. Once with his friend and fellow Dominican Fr Jean Miguel Garrigues, who I also interviewed for our magazine (1). And the interview finally, continued in Vienna at the Kardinal KönigHaus.The following interview is the result of these meetings, which eventually took the form of a dialogue unit. I asked the Cardinal for a reflection closely tied to his experience as a pastor. And this pastoral inspiration that gives body and breath to his words.During the extraordinary Synod on the family, which took place 5 to 19 October 2014, I was impressed with, among others, by the intervention of Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna. We had a discussion, after his speech in the classroom, during a dinner with a mutual friend. Then he told me about his experiences as a child of a family that has experienced the divorce. His lucidity was not a merely intellectual reflection, but was the result of experience. Strolling under the colonnade of St. Peter, he told me about the absence of grandparents and uncles from Synod speeches. The family, he said, is not only wife, husband and children, but  is a wide network of contacts, including ​​some friends and not only relatives. Any divorce affects a large network of relationships, not only on a couple’s life. But it is also true that the network can withstand the impact of the split and support the most vulnerable, the children, for example.