UN Advice to Vatican, on Child Abuse by the Catholic Church

The report by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) on the Vatican submission to it, has received wide press coverage, for its scathing criticism of the Church’s response to the scandal of sexual abuse in the Church.  What has been by-passed by the mainstream press, is that child abuse is not simply a matter of sexual abuse, and the CRC report includes extensive commentary on a range of other forms of child abuse, and the ways in which the Catholic Church is either inflicting such abuse, or failing adequately to respond to it.

Bob Shine of New Ways Ministry has written (at Bondings 2.0) specifically about those sections of the report, referring to Catholic doctrinal or pastoral abuse of LGBT youth:

United Nations Report to Vatican Recommends More Robust LGBT Solidarity

The United Nations Committee on the Convention of the Rights of a Child, an organization which monitors children’s rights according to the groundbreaking 1989 Convention, released its report on the Vatican yesterday. Primarily concerned with the global scandals of sexual and physical abuse of minors by Catholic clergy and religious, the report also included recommendations for the Vatican on LGBT issues.

In a section concerning Non-Discrimination, the report states:

“While also noting as positive the progressive statement delivered in July 2013 by Pope Francis, the Committee is concerned about the Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples.

“The Committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.”

Elsewhere, in a section on Family Environment, the Committee writes:

“While welcoming the information provided by the delegation of the Holy See that it will proceed with a revision of family-related provisions of Canon Law in the near future, the Committee is concerned that the Holy See and Church run institutions do not recognize the existence of diverse forms of families and often discriminate children on the basis of their family situation.

“The Committee recommends that the Holy See ensure that Canon Law provisions recognise the diversity of family settings and do not discriminate children based on the type of family they live in.”

– continue reading Bob Shine’s full report at Bondings 2.0

(Or, read the full UN CRC response  to the Vatican submission).

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"Redefining Marriage?" (Birmingham Conference, Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality)

The bitter and divisive arguments in the struggles towards marriage equality have highlighted some important issues around the institution of marriage, challenging many common assumptions. For example:

  • The claim by opponents that we cannot redefine marriage are groundless – marriage has been constantly evolving, or “being redefined”, throughout human history. Traditional marriage is not threatened by gay marriage  – issues like widespread promiscuity, cohabitation without marriage, adultery and divorce are far more serious threats.
  • In many modern weddings, the expensive social occasion and conspicuous expense, with the wedding planner a more important presider over ritual than the priest or pastor, has undermined the religious significance of the institution.
  • The inherently patriarchal nature of traditional marriage, raises the question whether civil unions may be more desirable – for different sex couples, as well as for gay men and lesbians.
  • It is untrue that same – sex couples cannot form enduring, stable relationships. There is abundant research evidence to show the contrary, and that on balance same – sex couples are often happier than different – sex couples, because they are more likely to be based on genuine partnership, equality and negotiation.
  • While most gay men and lesbians are overwhelmingly in favour of equal access in law to marriage, some are ambivalent about the extent to which they want it for themselves, wondering if they really want to give up the more relaxed attitude to open relationships, or the single lifestyles, they’ve previously enjoyed.
  • Conversely, some heterosexual people have begun to ask whether their relationships too, could benefit from some tolerance of relationships outside the marriage? Continue reading "Redefining Marriage?" (Birmingham Conference, Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality)

Findings of English Consultation on Marriage to Remain "Confidential"

The results of the global consultation on marriage and family from Austria, Germany and Switzerland have shown widespread Catholic disagreement with the Vatican teaching and rules on marriage and sexual matters. Formal polling in the UK indicates that results here will be very similar, but we won’t know for sure (unless there are unauthorized leaks of the information). The English bishops have reported a high level of public engagement in the process – but will not make public the content of their submission to Rome.

16,500 respond to survey on family ahead of Extraordinary Synod

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England of Wales (CBCEW) has received 16,500 responses to their survey on ‘Pastoral Challenges in the Family,’ but a spokesman for the Conference said that details of the responses will remain confidential.

“In accordance with the wishes of the Holy See, the summary of the responses sent to the Synod of Bishops is confidential,” said the spokesman.

“However, the statistical information shows a high level of engagement in the consultation process. Summary reports were received from all 22 Dioceses in England and Wales, as well as reports from the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Apostolic Prefecture of the Falkland Islands.”

The spokesman revealed that diocese received emails, letters and online forms from Catholics across the country, ahead of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which is due to take place at the Vatican in October.

The spokesman said: “Analysis of 12,266 online responses indicates that 80% of respondents were laity, 69% were married and 38% were parents. 20% of respondents were in positions of responsibility within the Church as priests, chaplains, catechists, teachers, deacons, seminarians, or pastoral assistants.

– full report at  CatholicHerald.co.uk.

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Gay Marriage, Scotland

The marriage equality juggernaut rolls along:

Scotland’s same-sex marriage bill is passed

A bill which allows same-sex weddings to take place in Scotland has been passed by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs voted by 105 to 18 in favour of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.

The Scottish government said the move was the right thing to do but Scotland’s two main churches were opposed to it.

The first gay and lesbian weddings could take place this autumn.

Religious and belief bodies can “opt in” to perform same-sex marriages.

Ministers said no part of the religious community would be forced to hold such ceremonies in churches.

Equal Marriage campaigners gathered outside the Scottish Parliament

During a debate at Holyrood, MSPs rejected amendments which were said to provide “protection” for groups and individuals opposed to same-sex marriage.

The SNP’s John Mason tabled an amendment stating that no-one could be “compelled by any means” to solemnise gay marriage, including by a contract or a legal requirement.

Continue reading : BBC Scotland news

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Swiss Catholics Reject Sexual Doctrines

The Austrians have found it so, the Germans have found it so – and the Swiss have found it so: Most Catholics reject Vatican doctrines on sex and marriage.

Churchgoers surveyed: Catholics voice pragmatic attitudes about sex

Most Swiss Catholics are in favour of birth control and living together before marriage, according to a survey commissioned by the Swiss Catholic Bishops Conference. Nearly 24,000 people answered the questionnaire, which focused on marital and family issues.

The questions, posed by Pope Francis, were designed to help the Catholic Church get a better idea of the attitudes held by its members.

Asked how they felt about having a church wedding, about 80% said it was “important” or “very important”. Nearly all said that a Christian upbringing for their children was a priority.

However, as the SPI pointed out in its report on Tuesday, being close to the Catholic Church doesn’t mean participants agree with all of its guidelines.

For example, about 75% said they were in favour of couples living together before getting married to determine their compatibility as spouses. The survey also found that about 70% preferred artificial methods of contraception to natural ones – despite the fact that the Catholic Church is opposed to birth control.

Nearly 90% said they wished the church would recognise and bless marriages between divorced people. And about 60% said that the church should also recognise and bless same-sex marriages.

via – swissinfo.ch.

German Bishops Agree: Sexual Doctrines Must Change!

Consider the following Catholic views on sex and marriage:

  • Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on artificial means of birth control (only 3% of couples rely on natural family planning)
  • Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on premarital sex (Almost all couples who wish to marry in church have already been living together)
  • Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on gay sex (most approve legal recognition for same – sex unions)
  • Most Catholics criticize rules barring the divorced from remarriage in church.

All of this is familiar, and unremarkable – except for the source. Similar statements have been familiar to ordinary Catholics from formal opinion surveys, and from anecdotal evidence in discussion with parish peers, for years. Among lay Catholics, this is routine. But these statements do not come from secular opinion polling, or from any progressive group of church reformers, but from the German bishops themselves, as they have digested their results from the global survey on marriage and family. (Reported by Reuters, “German Bishops Tell Vatican: Catholics Reject Sex Rules“)

Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau, Chairman of the German Episcopal Conference Continue reading German Bishops Agree: Sexual Doctrines Must Change!

South African Bishops – Applying Catholic Teaching on Anti-Gay Laws, Violence

News to make me proud to be a South African Catholic 🙂

South African Catholic Bishops Condemn Anti-Gay Laws — Will You Join Them? 

South Africa’s Roman Catholic bishops have joined Catholics worldwide in condemning anti-gay laws popping up in nations around the globe. In an editorial in a Catholic weekly periodical, they specifically targeted anti-gay legislation in Uganda and Nigeria.

The Southern Cross is a Catholic weekly supported by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which also includes bishops from Botswana and Swaziland. In the editorial, the bishops urged the Catholic Church to oppose “draconian legislation aimed at criminalising homosexuals” as these laws are inconsistent with Church teachings. It stated further:

“These laws are not intended to render same-sex acts illegal — they already are, and punishable, in most African countries — but to persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Such laws are not only unjust, but they also have the potential to tear at the fabric of society if they are misused to facilitate false denunciations for gain, advancement or vengeance, much as what Christians are exposed to in Pakistan under that country’s intolerable blasphemy law.”

The editorial does not just oppose the legislation, but also condemns the populist politics and homophobia from which these laws have emerged. Noting negative effects such as discrimination and higher rate of suicides for LGBT people, especially youth, the editorial goes so far as to criticize a Spanish cardinal who made anti-gay remarks in January:

“Homophobia is largely premised on a false notion that homosexuality is chosen and curable. This month, Spanish Cardinal-elect Fernando Sebastián Aguilar, retired bishop of Pamplona, made the astonishing claim that homosexuality is a ‘defect’ comparable to his condition of high blood pressure…

“Their position is in conflict with Catholic teachings. The Church cannot sponsor the criminalisation of matters of private morality, and much less the advocacy of human rights. Prejudice and the persecution of homosexuals are in defiance of Catholic doctrine.

“Jailing homosexuals for being gay and insisting on their human rights, or even for having sex, self-evidently is a sign of ‘unjust discrimination’ that lacks in respect and compassion.”

via  Bondings 2.0.

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Der Spiegel: "Pope Francis' Sex Problem"

When news first broke of the global consultation on marriage and family, I predicted that because this would lay bare the huge gulf between Vatican teaching on sex, and Catholic belief and practice on the ground, the consequences would be far greater than Pope Francis and his advisors may have anticipated. As results start to come in, and assorted submissions from reputable theologians are made public, it is becoming clearer than ever that I was right.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna has released results for Austria showing how wide is the gap, and now we have a investigative report from Der Spiegel, on the thoughts of German Catholics.

The Pope’s Sex Problem:

Catholic Survey Shows Deep Frustration within the Church

The Vatican last year sent out a survey to Catholics around the world focusing on attitudes to sex and sexuality. The responses are now in — and they show that the Church is badly in need of reform. Can Pope Francis meet such expectations?

Adolescents find it embarrassing to talk about sex with adults. Even more so when the adult in question is their Catholic priest.

4.0.1

About 20 girls and boys are sitting on leather sofas in the basement of St. Josef Catholic Community Center on the outskirts of Berlin. The walls are brightly painted and bags of gummy bears and chocolate are on a table in the center of the room.

Hannah, Jonas and their friends giggle when Harald Tux, a friendly, balding man with glasses, reads a questionnaire from the Vatican out loud. It’s about premarital sex, and the officials in Rome want to know how these young Catholics in Berlin’s Weissensee neighborhood feel about it. “Is contraception an option for you?” the theologian asks. The youths are already whispering, and they can’t help but smile when Tux finally gets to the point: “If you used contraception, would you confess to it?”

“Huh?” a girl asks with a grimace. “It’s not a crime,” exclaims a boy in a hooded sweatshirt. They all snort with laughter.

The debate continues. “For our generation, it’s also a question of responsibility. If you don’t want to become a parent at 16 or 17, you have to use contraception,” says Hannah. The 16-year-old and her fellow adolescents cite many other issues where they believe change is needed. “Homosexuals should also be allowed to marry, so that the church can be open to everyone,” says Jonas. “The church doesn’t have the right to interfere.”

Last week, Germany’s Catholic bishops held a two-day conference in the Bavarian city of Würzburg for the purpose of compiling and analyzing the responses given by Hannah, Jonas and other Catholics from all 27 dioceses in Germany. Their conclusions are bound for Rome. The project has likely led to more churchgoers expressing their opinions than ever before in 2,000-year history of the church.

In the past, the church has turned to its bishops to assess the mood in the grassroots, but their reports often contained more pious desires and wishful thinking than facts.

A Wave of Protest

But now the people of God have spoken. Church members around the world were asked for their opinions on the most controversial issues in Catholicism. They expressed how they feel about the strict prohibitions of their faith, on issues ranging from the family to sexual morality. In the coming weeks and months, their responses to the surveys will be processed and analyzed, and in October Pope Francis and bishops from around the world will discuss the results during an extraordinary synod.

SPIEGEL has taken a closer look at the mood in all 27 German dioceses. Some divulged very little information, while many others provided extensive data. Catholic family and youth organizations that were particularly involved in the survey also contributed.

The outcome is devastating for the guardians of pure doctrine. Even the reactions of committed Catholics reflect disinterest, enmity and deep displeasure. Many can no longer relate to the old dogmas and feel left alone by the church. Even in conservative Bavaria, 86 percent of Catholics do not believe it is a sin to use the pill or condoms, both condemned by the church.

– full report at  SPIEGEL ONLINE.

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Fortunate Families: “A Mom Comes Out”

We usually think of the sexual closet and “coming out” as applying to lesbians and gay men, but there are many others dealing with the same issues – especially our parents. “Voices for Justice“, the magazine of Fortunate Families (a group of Catholic parents who have LGBT children) has printed numerous stories of people who have found themselves in closets of their own when their sons or daughters came out, terrified at the anticipated response of friends in their Catholic parishes to the news that they had raised people that would now be regarded (they feared) as unabashed and obvious sinners).

The current issue of Voices for Justice has one more of these. In common with so many others, it carries many useful lessons for parents of gay, lesbian or trans people, but these are also applicable to those of us who are ourselves in that LGBT community:

  • Coming out is challenging, but ultimately rewarding
  • Coming out is a process, not an event
  • The reaction from friends and co-parishioners is usually warmer and more supportive than we expect
  • Where priests or others have made offensive remarks, they can learn from our honest and frank responses.

Here is the full report by Porter Ballard, in Fortunate Families’ Voices for Justice, Feb / March 2014 (reproduced with permission):

fortunate_families2Our son, Kieran, was a freshman at  Rutgers University 12 years ago when he came out to our family. It was a shock to me, but not to my husband or Kieran’s older brother. Kieran’s disclosure did not cause us to love him any less; if anything, his courage and honesty made us love him even more.

However, I felt I had a big secret to  keep. My husband and I were founding parishioners and were active in several ministries. After Kieran came out, I started investigating the Church’s official position on homosexuality. The more I read of  intolerant and uncharitable policies, the more ashamed I felt of my church. It has been said that when a child comes out of the closet, the parents go IN, and this is what happened to me, most especially and particularly at church.

Thoughtless remarks of other people wounded me greatly. I was afraid to speak out because every time I talked about Kieran and Catholicism, I cried. The lowest moment was during a talk on Bible history, when a priest cited the book of Leviticus as proof that homosexuality was an abomination. I cried myself to sleep that night. During this period I was so hurt and angry about the thoughtless remarks and the “official” position of the Catholic Church, I seriously considered leaving the church for good.

My own “coming out” was a long process. First, I learned of a support group for LGBT Catholics and their families at nearby Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in South Plainfield, NJ, and I began attending monthly meetings. These meetings became opportunities to share stories and to pray with Catholic gay people and their parents. When our group, now named “In God’s Image,” staffed a booth at the New Jersey Pride Festival in Asbury Park, NJ, I enjoyed handing out pamphlets to people surprised to see Roman Catholicism represented at the event. The other group members teased me because I was the one calling out to passers-by, “Yes, we’re the real Catholic Church!” In God’s Image also ran a parish fundraiser which enabled us to make a donation to the Ali Forney Shelter for LGBT youth in New York City.

I was asked to make a short presentation about our group after Mass in our hosting parish. I talked about the hurtful remarks and reiterated that my child, like every child God created, had a place in God’s heart and at the Lord’s table. As I talked, much of the hurt and anger I felt at the Church began to fall away. After Mass, many people came up to hug me and thank me for speaking. Speaking publicly was a big step out of my closet!

I also learned about Fortunate Families and began reading the newsletters. It was heartening to read how many Catholic parents of LGBT adult children were actively engaged in creating Catholic communities which welcomed their children. After hearing Mary and Joe Byers speak of their experiences reaching out to LGBT Catholics, and reading “I Wear a Rainbow Because” in the FF newsletter, I began to wear the rainbow pin every Saturday night when I served as a Eucharistic Minister.

Later on, I heard Deb Word, current President of Fortunate Families, speak about her experiences helping homeless gay teens. Deb said something that really caught my attention. She  challenged parents to speak up when priests or bishops say or do something hurtful. Be respectful, she said, but be firm and informative about how and why you were hurt.

Not long afterward, I decided to take Deb’s advice and speak to my own pastor about the hurt I felt when he appealed from the altar for parishioners to sign petitions against New Jersey marriage equality. My pastor was distressed by the depth of my reaction to what, for him, had been merely an act of obedience to the bishop. He asked me if he could give my name to other parents of gay children, should they need support.

Recently Central NJ PFLAG asked me to speak about my experiences as the Catholic Mom of a gay son. That experience caused me to look back over the past few years and see how far I’d come in twelve years. I’m so grateful I’m no longer in the closet!

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Scripture As Hope: Romans 15:4-9

For too long, LGBT people have suffered under Biblical textual abuse, with our opponents brandishing a handful of cherry – picked scriptural texts as weapons to accuse and condemn us, It is not surprising then, that so many of our community view the Bible with suspicion, or even reject it entirely, and with it very often, all religious faith and practice. But this abuse is a gross distortion of what scripture is all about, as the second reading for today, the second Sunday of Advent (year A) makes clear:

scripture as hope

“Gospel” derives from “Godspell”, that is “good news” – and the hope and good news apply as much to gay, lesbian and trans Christians as to any other:

Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to your name.
Romans 15:4-9
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