Tag Archives: lgbt inclusion in church

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.




Continue reading Australian Bishop’s “Case for Gay Marriage”

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:

A Bishop’s Pastoral Sanity on Gay Marriage Vote

In Australia, the postal vote plebiscite on marriage equality has become nasty, with numerous reports of an increase in homophobic violence. Conversely, those on the other side complain of an increase in anti-Christian hostility.

It is pleasing therefore, to note that at least one Australian bishop has introduced some pastoral sanity, in a letter to his diocese (Paramatta, in West Sydney). In it, he calls for “respect”, from both sides. That is basic to Catholic teaching (but sadly, too often ignored), and is at the heart of James Martin’s celebrated book on the church and LGBT Catholics. Bishop Long goes further, however, making a key point that is usually overlooked in these discussions: there is a fundamental distinction between civil marriage, the subject of the plebiscite, and sacramental marriage – matrimony .

Just as the introduction of legal divorce made no difference to Catholic Church practice, the proposed introduction of same-sex marriage in civil law, will not make any difference to the Catholic sacrament of matrimony.

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Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv.

I appeal to all Catholics in the Diocese of Parramatta to conduct this dialogue with a deep sense of respect for all concerned, and for the opinion and decision that each person is free to make.

It is important to remember from the very outset that the postal survey is about whether or not Australians want the legal definition of civil marriage changed to include same-sex couples. It is not a referendum on sacramental marriage as understood by the Catholic Church.

Source: Catholic Outlook







Continue reading A Bishop’s Pastoral Sanity on Gay Marriage Vote

Cardinal O’Connor and LGBT Catholics

UK press reports are currently replete with reports and obituaries for Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, who died this week. Inevitably, I’ve  been reflecting on my own (indirect) connections with the man.

Before his appointment to Westminster, he was bishop of Arundel & Brighton – which just happens (now) to be my own diocese. That is personal to a degree, even though this was before I moved into the area. My partner though has been here a lot longer, and from him I have heard stories of Bishop O’Connors local actions (and inaction).

Where I have direct, personal knowledge, comes from my involvement with what were then known colloquially and informally as the “Soho Masses”. Shortly after I was named as a member of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, we had a letter from the cardinal, inviting us to a meeting “as soon as possible”, with his representative, to discuss a possible move to a Catholic parish. This was a major surprise: my understanding at that point, was that we had at a number of points, written to him to discuss the status of our regular, bi-monthly Masses held the Anglican parish – because we had been unable to find a Catholic parish willing to do so. Yet (I understand), he had simply failed to reply to those letters. Instead, he had set up a separate series of bi-monthly Masses, on the same day as ours and so in direct competition with us, in the King’s Cross area. (For the record: those of us who had been attending regularly at St Anne’s saw the new arrangements at King Cross as provocative. Those who attended them, saw them as immensely valuable).

Nevertheless, we accepted the cardinal’s invitation to “a meeting” – which became an extended series of meetings. at which I was privileged to attend. These were constructive, and culminated in an agreement that in future, our Masses “with a special welcome for  LGBT Catholics, their families and friends” would be hosted at the Catholic parish of the Assumption and St Gregory, in Warwick St, Piccadilly. At the conclusion of these discussions, Cardinal O’Connor released a public statement expressing his desire that these Masses should be “pastoral, not campaigning”, and that in the course of our ministry, we should proclaim Catholic teaching, “without ambiguity, and in full”.

Within our group representing the LGBT group from St Anne’s, we declined to sign the cardinal’s statement. I personally argued strongly (and others agreed) that both of these expectations were false dichotomies. Based on my experience under apartheid South Africa, I knew only too well that in matters of injustice, the “pastoral” can require campaigning against unjust laws and practice – and the pastoral, in terms of simply ministering to the oppressed, can be an effective form of campaigning. Similarly, it is simply impossible to present Catholic teaching on homosexuality “in full” but without ambiguity, for the simple reason that the full teaching, including that on personal conscience, the sensus fideii, and on opposition to discrimination, itself raises ambiguities and contradictions with its more directly sexual rules on same-sex relationships and on related genital acts.

The result was that the discussions finally ended without any undertaking from us to comply with the expectations expressed in the cardinal’s statement. We transferred from St Anne’s to Warwick Street under Cardinal O’Connor’s patronage, but with only minimal changes to our method of operating, or to our liturgies. Thereafter, the Masses continued to flourish, with a continuing growth in attendance: from an average of about 50 people a time at St Anne’s, this grew at Warwick Street to something like a hundred – roughtly double what it had been.

While we disagreed with the cardinal on his presentation of the move, nevertheless its important to record that his legacy on LGBT Catholics included facilitating an ultimately productive move from an Anglican parish, to a full participation and inclusion in the Catholic parish of the Assumption and St Gregory.

For myself, it was reflecting on the importance of “pastoral” outreach to LGBT Catholics, that inevitably includes a measure of campaigning, and the need to present church teaching on homosexuality “in full”, that was an important part of leading me to begin this blog.

Update: For some useful background on the initiative to move the Soho Masses from St Anne’s to the Catholic parish of the Assumption and St Gregory, see the Times obituary, which  includes this paragraph:

In Rome he walked with an extra spring to his step. And, unlike Hume, he understood how to manage the Vatican. When enraged by Rome, Cardinal Hume often threatened to fly out and confront the curia. In contrast, Murphy-O’Connor would offer to tackle brewing problems himself at the first hint of trouble. He did so notably when Masses were being held for gay Catholics in Soho in an Anglican Church. Some campaigned against the Masses, claiming that they went against Church teaching. Murphy-O’Connor spoke to the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog. Its prefect, Cardinal William Levada, a native of San Francisco, was not unfamiliar with such questions. A solution – that the Masses be moved to a Catholic church and a statement issued saying that no Church teaching was being opposed – was promptly reached.

 Related Posts:

What Really Happens at the Soho Masses?

A Tribute to the (London) Soho Masses Congregation

Politics, Sin, and the Soho Masses

Epiphany: Soho Masses Community Celebrate the Feast of Coming Out

London’s Archbishop Ends Masses in Soho for LGBT Catholics; Ministry Continues at Jesuit Parish

A World Meeting of (Queer) Families?

In Dublin next year, there is an intriguing opportunity opening up for LGBT Catholics. Are our advocacy groups paying attention?

For the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, USA based LGBT groups and their allies attempted to secure formal accreditation. Philadelphia however, is the seat of archconservative Archbishop Chaput, and they were deliberately excluded. In spite of this, the coalition established an informal, non-accredited presence, and did some great work making the case for acceptance and inclusion church, of queer families.

For Dublin 2018, circumstances have changed, dramatically.   Continue reading A World Meeting of (Queer) Families?

Telling our LGBT stories is prophetic.

Telling our stories” is important because our experience directly contradicts the absurdities contained in official Vatican doctrines.

For example, the CDF “Letter to the bishops on the pastoral care of homosexual persons” consistently presents a false dichotomy, in which heterosexual relationships are described as loving, conjugal, mutual  self-giving, but the same-sex counterparts are seen as no more than indulgent self-gratification.

This is patently absurd. It should be obvious to anyone paying attention to the real world, that many heterosexual encounters are also no better than self gratification, or otherwise fall short of the noble ideal of loving, mutual self-giving. Conversely, the experience of many lesbian and gay Catholic couples shows very clearly that our relationships too, can be fully loving, mutual self giving.

Increasingly, some Catholic bishops are coming to understand this. During the 2015 bishops synod on marriage and family, Cardinal Christoph schonborn of Vienna described one gay couple he had come to know, and how their relationship was demonstrably about love and mutual support. As Fr James Martin SJ reports in his book Building a Bridge,

Around that time, Cardinal Schönborn spoke of a gay couple he knew who had transformed his understanding of LGBT people. He even offered some qualified praise for his friend’s same-sex union.

The cardinal said: “One shares one’s life, one shares the joys and sufferings, one helps one another. We must recognize that this person has made an important step for his own good and for the good of others, even though, of course, this is not a situation that the church can consider regular”.

It should come as no surprise that Cardinal Schonborn and others like him who have first hand knowledge of lesbian and gay couples, are in the forefront of Catholic leaders promoting improved pastoral support for LGBT Catholics, even to the extent of support for same sex unions. In the Protestant churches there are countless examples of pastors who have come to support gay marriage after conversations with gay couples in their congregations, which have shown them that these relationships have much in common with those pastors’ own marriages.

Telling our stories is furthermore important to bring home to our church leaders just how much existing doctrines are not merely misguided, but are also downright hurtful and damaging.  There is abundant statistical evidence that LGBT youth in particular have much higher rates of suicide, self harm and substance abuse than their straight peers. They are also more  likely to run away from home, and then perhaps to fall into prostitution as a means of simple survival. Furthermore, there exists solid research evidence that to some extent at least, these difficulties faced by LGBT youth are aggravated by real or perceived  church teaching and practice.

For still others, our stories tell of how the desire to comply has led us into inappropriate and ultimately destructive heterosexual marriages, or to simply walk away from the church entirely. Both of these are part of my own story.

In “Building a Bridge”, Fr James Martin S.J. expands on the established Catholic teaching that Catholics must show “respect compassion and sensitivity” to gay people, by pointing out that this is impossible without first listening to us and our stories. That, in turn, is impossible unless our stories are out there to be heard.

Related posts:

LGBT Catholics’ Prophetic Responsibility

Narrative theology: The value of LGBT lives

WHY Our Stories Matter

Our Stories As “Sacred Texts”.

LGBT Catholics’ Prophetic Responsibility

Much has changed for LGBT Catholics since I first began this site, nearly nine years ago. In the institutional church under Pope Francis’ leadership, there’s been a marked shift to a more pastoral tone, to replace the harsh rhetoric under Pope Benedict XVI. At the Bishops’ Synod on Marriage and Family, even some conservative bishops acknowledged that the time has come to discard the “disordered” language in official teaching, some others even expressed apologies for the past harsh treatment of our community. In many Catholic countries, laws have been enacted to recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions. In response, an increasing number of bishops have come to recognise the value of legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples, even if not yet for full marriage. Under the radar, a much smaller number of bishops and other clergy are coming to support church blessings for these couples, to celebrate their civil marriages or civil unions.

Formal doctrine has not yet changed substantially, but there was some welcome movement in in Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia” from the previous hard-line insistence on “objectively sinful” acts, to an emphasis instead on pastoral accompaniment, discernment, the “interior forum”, and respect for personal conscience. There was even some veiled suggestion that for innately homosexual persons, what is “objectively” sinful viewed in the abstract, may well be subjectively good, in the personal context – a point that goes right back to St Thomas Acquinas, as described by the French Dominican theologian Professor Alain Thomasett SJ Continue reading LGBT Catholics’ Prophetic Responsibility

Another Cardinal Not Fussed About (Civil) Gay Marriage

Just last week it was Cardinal Schonborn saying to an Irish conference in preparation for the World Meeting of Families, that all families need protecting – including queer families. Also last week, another senior cardinal effectively acknowledged in a newspaper interview, that gay marriage is not a major issue for the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Reinhardt Marx

Continue reading Another Cardinal Not Fussed About (Civil) Gay Marriage

Cdl Schonborn: Same-sex Couples Also Need Families.

In a remarkable and groundbreaking statement, a prominent Catholic cardinal has acknowledged that protecting and strengthening “the family” can include protecting those headed by same-sex couples.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna talks to journalists June 13 outside St. John’s Cathedral in Limerick, Ireland. The cardinal was attending a conference, “Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family.” (CNS photo/Liam Burke courtesy Press 22)

The Catholic Church is doing whatever it can to strengthen the family, including families often considered nontraditional, said Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, the theologian who reviewed Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family.

Favoring the family does not mean disfavoring other forms of life — even those living in a same-sex partnership need their families,” the cardinal said during a visit to Ireland, which next year hosts the World Meeting of Families.

Catholicnews,com (emphasis added)

For lesbian and gay Catholics, this is immensely significant, for several reasons.

Cardinal Schonborn is clearly close to Pope Francis, and has his respect, as shown by his prominent role in presenting the pope’s Apostolic Exortation “Amoris Laetitia (The joy of Love)”, following the Catholic bishops’ synod assembly on marriage and family.

On lesbian and gay inclusion in church, he has often been among the first to articulate positions which later became commonplace. Several years ago, he was the first senior cardinal to suggest that the time had come to stop focusing on homosexual genital acts, and to look instead at the quality of the relationships. At the time, there was speculation that he would be promptly rebuked by Pope Benedict XVI. When that did not happen, a series of other bishops quickly echoed Schonborn’s thoughts on this. Later, he further developed his thinking, by extending to support for legal recognition of loving and committed same-sex relationships, in civil unions. This new statement takes it one step further, in implicit recognition that in some countries (eg Ireland, where he was speaking). these legally sanctioned unions could include civil marriage. Given his track record of anticipating Church thinking, we should expect more bishops to start talking about respect for different types of families – including those headed by same-sex couples.

“Today, everybody can get married,” he said, but acknowledged “so many choose not to get married.” He suggested that the number of so-called irregular situations has increased enormously because the “framework of society has changed so much.”

Schonborn was in Ireland to address a conference, “Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family.”  In his remarks, he also noted that there have been times when large sections of the population (servants, for example) where not permitted to marry. Against this background, the Irish slogan “marriage for all” is just the logical extension of a long-term historical trend.  Next year, Ireland will host the World Meeting of Families.  It can be expected that with the “framework of society” having changed so markedly in the country, much of the discussion at the World Meeting of Families will at least consider all families.

Related Posts:

LGBT Catholics: Global Conference Invitation

Back in October 2015, I was in Rome for the foundation conference of the  Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, timed to coincide with the Synod of Bishops gathering on marriage and family. At that conference, a steering committee was elected to create a permanent foundation for the new  body. That work has now been completed: the next conference will now take place in Germany, later this year. Read the details in this invitation letter, from the co-chairs Ruby Almeida and Michael Brinkschröder:

Continue reading LGBT Catholics: Global Conference Invitation