Two Stories Beg the Question: What Would Jesus Do?

Two stories out of Minnesota this week, where the struggle over a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is in full heat,  beg the proverbial question:  What Would Jesus Do?

Archbishop John Nienstedt

In the first case, it was revealed this week that Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul had earlier this year sent a letter to the mother of a gay son in which he stated his position that marriage be defined as only between a man and a woman.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports the story as saying that Nienstedt’s warning was in response to the mother’s support of her gay son:

“To a mother who pleaded for acceptance for her gay child, he wrote: ‘I urge you to reconsider the position that you expressed. … Your eternal salvation may well depend upon a conversation of heart on this topic.’ “

In all fairness, without a text of her original letter, it is difficult to say what it was Nienstedt was responding to.  Regardless of what she said, however, it makes one wonder if this is how Jesus would have responded to the woman.

Nienstedt makes it clear that he believes he is following Jesus’ example:

“Indeed some might find this a hard saying but many of Jesus’ teachings were likewise received as such.”

Fr. Michael Tegeder

The second story is about a St. Paul priest, Fr. Michael Tegeder, who has been an outspoken defender of marriage equality, even in the face of reprimands from Nienstedt.  In a Star Tribune column by Jon Tevlin, Tegeder described being ostracized at a seminar on marriage because of his known view on marriage equality:

“Like other priests, Tegeder had been invited to the [marriage seminar] event. Unlike other priests, he was given a warning: Sit where we tell you to. Don’t ask questions. Don’t disturb.

“The Catholic Conference ended the warning letter with the words ‘Best wishes,’ to which Tegeder responded: ‘You obviously do not mean to send me your best wishes. In fact, you want me to go quietly away with your demeaning E-mail.’

“Tegeder was not allowed to sit in the main part of the hall, but was relegated to a ‘detention pen’ where he could be seen but not heard.”

-continue reading at  « Bondings 2.0.

Former Catholic priests announce support for same-sex marriage

A group of 63 former Roman Catholic priests spoke out Thursday in support of Referendum 74, the November ballot measure that will ask voters to approve or reject Washington’s same-sex marriage law.

The former priests, some with as many of 43 years of service and all now married, are all members of local parishes.

Pat Callahan, a member of the group, said that for the last 27 years members have been a source of fellowship and support for each other. This is the first time the group has taken a public stance on an issue this important to the church. All but a handful of the group’s 120 or so members agreed to take this stance.

Catholic bishops in Washington state have been active in their opposition to gay marriage, encouraging in-pew donations in many of its parishes.

“A number of us became concerned by the way the church hierarchy is getting so massively  involved in what we feel is a civil matter and politicizing the whole thing,” Callahan said.

They wanted to take this position, he said, to “give witness to the good Catholics who are getting so barraged with this message from the bishops that we feel they are hungry for some voice of some authority and relevance.”

In nationwide polls, nearly 60 percent of lay Catholics say they support same-sex marriage, a departure from the church’s core teaching and the positions taken by their bishops.

“We respect the right of the bishops to make policy within the church, but we feel that they are overplaying their hand,” Callahan said

via  Seattle Times.

 

Cardinal Newman and Ambrose St. John: Gay saint and his “earthly light” share romantic friendship

John Henry Newman, a renowned scholar-priest and Britain’s most famous 19th-century convert to Catholicism, was beatified in 2010 amid rampant speculation that he was a gay saint because of his relationship with Ambrose St. John. The two priests lived together for 32 years and share the same grave. Newman’s feast day is today (Oct. 9) in the Catholic church.

Some say they shared a “romantic friendship” or “communitarian life.” It seems likely that both men had a homosexual orientation while abstaining from sex. Newman described St. John as “my earthly light.” The men were inseparable.

Newman (Feb. 21, 1801 – Aug. 11, 1890) is considered by many to be the greatest Catholic thinker from the English-speaking world. He was born in London and ordained as an Anglican priest. He became a leader in the Oxford Movement, which aimed to return the Church of England to many Catholic traditions. On Oct. 9, 1845 he converted to Catholicism. He had to give up his post as an Oxford professor due to his conversion, but eventually he rose to the rank of cardinal.

Ambrose Saint John (1815 -1875) apparently met Newman in 1841. They lived together for 32 years, starting in 1843. St. John was about 14 years younger than Newman. In Newman’s own words, St. John “came to me as Ruth came to Naomi” during the difficult years right before he left the Anglican church. After converting together to Catholicism, they studied together in Rome, where they were ordained priests at the same time. When St. John was confirmed in the Catholic faith, he asked if he could take a vow of obedience to Newman, but the request was refused.

-continue reading at  Jesus in Love Blog

Archbishop Carl Bean

Carl Bean (born 1944) is the founding prelate of the Unity Fellowship Church Movement,a liberal protestant denomination that is particularly welcoming of lesbian, gay and bisexual African Americans. Before founding the first church of the denomination, the Unity Fellowship Church, Los Angeles, in 1975, Bean was a Motown and disco singer, noted particularly for his version of the early gay liberation song “I Was Born This Way”.

In 1982 Bean became an activist, working on behalf of people with AIDS. Bean’s autobiography, I Was Born This Way, came out in 2010.

 

From Matt & Andrej Kowalsky:

 Unity Fellowship Church, Los Angeles (UFCLA) was founded in 1982 by Rev. Carl Bean for primarily openly Gay and Lesbian African Americans. The first meetings were held in the private residence of Rev. Bean, on Cochran Ave., in Los Angeles, California. In 1984, a reorganization took place in the last residence of the late Archbishop William Morris O’Neal, which is located on South Burnside Avenue in Los Angeles, which was also the ordination site of Rev. Carl Bean.

The Unity Fellowship Church Movement, now has congregations in Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, Washington, DC and Philadelphia. Bean is the Chief Executive Officer of Unity Fellowship Ministries, which includes the Minority AIDS Project.

“My ministry … will always be a continuum of dealing with the disenfranchised, providing for the poorest of the poor, the undocumented person, persons who can’t speak the language, persons in and out of the prison system, kids out of the gangs … to tough those who are considered the untouchables.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

We’wha of Zuni: Two-spirit Native American remembered on Columbus Day

We’wha of Zuni: Two-spirit Native American remembered on Columbus Day
“We’wha of Zuni” by Br. Robert Lentz OFM, TrinityStores.com

We’wha was a two-spirit Native American Zuni who served as a cultural ambassador for her people, including a visit with a U.S. president in 1886. She and other Native Americans are remembered here today for Columbus Day. We’wha is honored by many, including Native Americans and LGBT people.

Almost all Native American tribes traditionally recognized third and sometimes even fourth genders for people who mixed male and female characteristics. “Two spirit” is one of the many and varied Native American terms for alternative genders because one body housed both feminine and masculine spirits. From a Western cultural viewpoint, the two-spirited people have been seen as gay,lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer.

We’wha (pronounced WAY-wah) was the most famous “lhamana,” the Zuni term for a male-bodied person who lived in part as a woman. Lhamanas chose to specialize in crafts instead of becoming warriors or hunters.

We’wha (1849-1896) was a skilled weaver and potter who helped Anglo-American scholars studying Zuni society. In 1886 We’wha traveled from her home in New Mexico to Washington DC, where she met president Grover Cleveland. She was welcomed as a celebrity during her six months in Washington. Everyone assumed that the 6-foot-tall “Indian princess” was female.

-continue reading at  Jesus in Love Blog

Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church

With the news that Hildegard of Bingen is one of the two people that Benedict has just named as doctors of the church, I repost below a portion of my earlier post on her:

Hildegard’s name is one to be reckoned with. Although today we usually use the term “Renaissance Man” to indicate one with a wide range of learning to his credit, perhaps we should also recognize in a similar way some extraordinary medieval women -such as Hildegard, and others who entered convents and applied themselves with distinction to learning over many fields.

Even in some distinguished company, Hildegard stands out. Her music is highly regarded, as are her literary output and her mystical writings – which of course is what makes her particularly honoured inside the church. To round out her skills, she was also recognized as a notable poet, artist, healer and scientist.  What makes her of particular interest at this site, is that she also had an intense attachment to a fellow nun, Richardis, who may have inspired some of her finest writing.

I have known a little (very little) about Hildegard for some time, and have come across suggestions of her possible lesbianism, but have not had enough knowledge to write about her myself. I was delighted then to find that my colleague Kittredge Cherry has done some digging, and produced a wonderful extended post on this great woman.

 We need to be careful though not to confuse this undoubted emotional attachment with a sexual relationship. The medieval church sanctioned and publicly approved many particular friendships between monks, and between nuns. These were not necessarily sexual. Although some undoubtedly were, others equally certainly were fully celibate. Indeed, there is much of value to reflect on in this connection, of relevance to modern gay men and lesbians.

Kittredge Cherry, in the the post I took as my starting point, stated that “Some say she was a lesbian because of her strong emotional attachment to women”. Sexuality, and its expression as emotional or sexual attachments, are two distinct issues. In modern terms, it is perfectly possible to be both gay and celibate (as a notable proportion of Catholic priests are), just as it is possible to be heterosexual in orientation, but celibate.

There is a problem here in the use of the word “lesbian”, a word, like “gay”, which perhaps has inappropriate connotations when applied to earlier historical periods. However, what Kittredge has drawn attention to, and that I see as important, is the undeniable evidence of a powerful emotional (not sexual) attachment to women – and to one in particular.

With her newly elevated status, which draws attention to the enormous but neglected contributions of so many influential women, we also need to take another look at her specifically religious contribution. Sadly, I am unable to do this today – but will return to it later.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Jesus in Love Blog: Saints Sergius and Bacchus: Male couple martyred in ancient Rome

“Sts. Sergius and Bacchus” by Plamen Petrov, St. Martha Church, Morton Grove, IL

Sergius and Bacchus were third-century Roman soldiers, Christian martyrs and gay men who loved each other. Their story is told here in words and pictures to honor their feast day today (Oct. 7).

The couple was openly gay, but secretly Christian — the opposite of today’s closeted Christians. They were killed around 303 in present-day Syria.

More Sergius and Bacchus images are at the end of this post, including the work of British photographer Anthony Gayton and American artists Robert Lentz, Tony de Carlo and Ryan Grant Long.

The close bond between Sergius and Bacchus has been emphasi zed since the earliest accounts, and recent scholarship has revealed their homosexuality. The oldest record of their martyrdom describes them as erastai (Greek for “lovers”). Scholars believe that they may have been united in the rite of adelphopoiesis (brother-making), a kind of early Christian same-sex marriage.

A classic example of paired saints, Sergius and Bacchus were high-ranking young officers. Sergius was primicerius (commander) and Bacchus was secundarius (subaltern officer). They were tortured to death after they refused to attend sacrifices to Zeus, thus revealing their secret Christianity.

The men were arrested and paraded through the streets in women’s clothing in an unsuccessful effort to humiliate them. Early accounts say that they responded by chanting that they were dressed as brides of Christ. They told their captors that women’s dress never stopped women from worshiping Christ, so it wouldn’t stop them, either. Then Sergius and Bacchus were separated and beaten so severely that Bacchus died.

 

-continue reading at Jesus in Love Blog

 

The Gospels’ Queer Values

 

Jesus & Family
Jesus & Family                              (Stained glass Image, Tiffany Glass Company)

The opponents of gay same-sex marriage and of the “gay lifestyle” (whatever that is), like to claim that their opposition is rooted in traditional family values, “as found in the Bible.”   This claim is so completely spurious, is is remarkable how seldom it is challenged.  Just a little thought and reflection shows not only how the Gospel values have little to d with modern Western conceptions of the “traditional” family, but they are so far removed from it, that the real values espoused can certainly be described as “queer”,if not quite as specifically gay.   Continue reading The Gospels’ Queer Values

Queer Francis of Assisi: Breaking Boundaries

At Jesus in Love, Kittredge Cherry has uncovered more ground-breaking work on opening up the previously hidden history of queer elements in the lives of the saints – in this case, Francis of Assisi, whose feast day was yesterday, October 4th. The evidence she has quoted, comes from an unpublished master’s thesis “Gender Liminality in the Franciscan Sources” by the Franciscan scholar, Kevin Elphick.

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

Reference to “queer” elements in the story and example of Francis are not intended as equivalent to the modern term “gay”, which would be completely anachronisitic, or to imply any specific sexual activity. We must always remember that although some writers use “queer” loosely as a synonym for gay and lesbian, or for the acronym LGBT, in fact it’s application in queer studies, and in queer theology, is much broader. Correctly used, the term does not refer to any specific sexual orientation or gender identity, but to a complete rejection of arbitrary definitions for sexuality or gender. In this sense, it is about breaking down boundaries – including boundaries outside of sex and gender, such as ethnicity, race or class.

So it is, that the Gospel message of radical inclusion and equality for all, is intrinsically a very queer one indeed. The theologian Robert Goss, who is identified by Elisabeth Stuart as initiating the transition from gay and lesbian theology to queer theology, rooted his thinking firmly in Christology, as indicated by the titles of two of his books, “Jesus Acted Up“, and “Queering Christ“.  St Francis of Assisi is renowned for his passionate commitment to embracing this Gospel message of breaking down boundaries, and an embrace of a materially simple life in imitation of Christ’s own. To see him as “queer” in this broadest sense, follows naturally.

The queer identity of both Francis and Christ, his model, is neatly illustrated in an image posted by Kittredge, of Francis embracing a Jesus with AIDS, on the cross. I quote here Kittredge’s description of Francis, and of the image:

Francis was born to a wealthy Italian family in 1181 or 1182. As a young man he renounced his wealth, even stripping off his clothes, and devoted himself to a life of poverty in the service of Christ. He connected with nature, calling all animals “brother” and “sister” and celebrating them in his famous Canticle of the Sun.

He saw the face of Christ in lepers, the most reviled outcasts of his time, and nursed them with compassion. William Hart McNichols puts Francis’ ministry into a contemporary context by showing him embracing a gay Jesus with AIDS in “St. Francis ‘Neath the Bitter Tree,” pictured here. Words on the cross proclaim that Christ is an “AIDS leper” as well as a “drug user” and “homosexual,” outcast groups at high risk for getting AIDS. The two men gaze intently at each other with unspeakable love as Francis hugs the wounded Christ. It was commissioned in 1991 by a New Jersey doctor who worked with AIDS patients, and is discussed in the book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More by Kittredge Cherry.

“St. Francis ‘Neath the Bitter Tree”
By William Hart McNichols © fatherbill.org

Kittredge’s post goes further, noting that Elphick’s thesis shows how some aspects of Francis’ life were “queer” even in a narrower sense, breaking down gender boundaries in particular, applying female terms to men, and male terms to some women admitted as brothers in the male community (a reminder here, of the  earlier biologically female saints who lived as men, in male monasteries).

Other Franciscan friars referred to Francis as “Mother” during his lifetime. He also liked to be greeted as “Lady Poverty.” He encouraged his friars to live as mothers with children when in hermitage together, and used other gender-bending metaphors to describe the spiritual life.

Francis allowed a widow to enter the male-only cloister, naming her “Brother Jacoba.” (Details about Jacoba are at the end of this article.) His partner in ministry was a woman, Clare of Assisi, and he cut her hair in a man’s tonsured style when she joined his male-only religious order.

Jesus in Love

There is also evidence of an emotionally intense relationship with another man, described in the earliest known biography of Francis, by one of the saints own followers, who knew him personally:Francis allowed a widow to enter the male-only cloister, naming her “Brother Jacoba.” (Details about Jacoba are at the end of this article.) His partner in ministry was a woman, Clare of Assisi, and he cut her hair in a man’s tonsured style when she joined his male-only religious order.

 “Now there was a man in the city of Assisi whom Francis loved more than any other, and since they were of the same age and their constant association and ties of affection emboldened Francis to share his secret with him, he would often take this friend off to secluded spots where they could discuss private matters and tell him that he had chanced upon a great and precious treasure. His friend was delighted and, intrigued by what he had heard, he gladly accompanied Francis wherever he asked. There was a cave near Assisi where the two friends often went to talk about this treasure.”

Thomas of Celano, quoted at Jesus in Love

Elphick is careful to describe this relationship  as “homoaffectional”, and not as “gay”:

“The relationship is inescapably homoaffectional, describing a shared intimacy between two Medieval men. That this first companion disappears from the later tradition is cause for suspicion and further inquiry…. The tone in Celano’s earliest account captures the flavor and intimacy of this relationship, perhaps too much so for an increasingly homophobic church and society.”

Kevin Elphick, quoted at Jesus in Love




Jesus in Love Blog: Francis of Assisi’s queer side revealed by historical evidence

Francis of Assisi and the man he loved in “They Shelter in a Cave” by José Benlliure y Gil, 1926 (Wikimedia Commons)

Historical records reveal a queer side to Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the most beloved religious figures of all time. The 13th-century friar is celebrated for loving animals, hugging lepers, and praying for peace, but few know about his love for another man and his gender nonconformity. His feast day is today (Oct. 4).

When Francis (1181-1226) was a young man, he had an unnamed male companion whom he dearly loved — and who was written out of history after the first biography. Other Franciscan friars referred to Francis as “Mother” during his lifetime. He also liked to be greeted as “Lady Poverty.” He encouraged his friars to live as mothers with children when in hermitage together, and used other gender-bending metaphors to describe the spiritual life.

Francis allowed a widow to enter the male-only cloister, naming her “Brother Jacoba.” (Details about Jacoba are at the end of this article.) His partner in ministry was a woman, Clare of Assisi, and he cut her hair in a man’s tonsured style when she joined his male-only religious order.

Early evidence of these and ways that Francis crossed gender boundaries are gathered in the ground-breaking unpublished master’s thesis “Gender Liminality in the Franciscan Sources” by Kevin Elphick, a Franciscan scholar and a supervisor on a suicide prevention hotline in New York. He wrote the thesis for a master’s degree in Franciscan studies from St. Bonaventure University in New York.

-continue reading at Jesus in Love Blog