Schonborn: “Doctrine is Not a Series of Abstract Statements”

The strength of the pushback by some conservative bishops against what they fear the Family Synod will introduce changes in Church teaching on divorce and on sexual orientation is clear evidence of their fear that change is on the way. Their fear is well – founded, at least in the long term.  The synod itself was not called to change doctrine, but only pastoral practice – but pastoral practice will inevitably lead, in the long run, to changes in the teaching itself.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

More than that, those insisting on rigid adherence to a set of rigid rules as laid down in the Catechism and Canon Law, completely misunderstand the nature of “doctrine” itself. In a recent interview with the Italian Jesuit publication Civita Cattolica, the eminent theologian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn was asked about this concern, in some quarters, that doctrine should be the main focus of the synod, and their fear that it could be undermined. His response was illuminating, and has great importance for LGBT Catholics (emphasis added):

Civita: According to some, however, the aim should be eminently doctrinal; some even fear for the doctrine.

Schonborn: The challenge Pope Francis puts to us is to believe that, with the courage that comes from simple proximity, from the everyday reality of the people, we will not turn away from doctrine. We not risk diluting its clarity by walking alongside people, because we ourselves are called to walk in faith. Doctrine is not, in the first instance, a series of abstract statements, but the light of the word of God demonstrated by apostolic witness to the heart of the Church and in the hearts of believers who walk in the world today. The clarity of the light of faith and its doctrinal development in each person is not in contradiction with the way that God works with ourselves, that we are often far from living fully the Gospel.

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Trans Ministry in Argentina (Reblog)

From Revista OHLALÁ!, English translation by Rebel Girl at Iglesia Descalza:

Sister Mónica: Ministering to Trans Women in Argentina

By Marina Herrmann, Revista OHLALÁ!
September 2015

Sister Mónica Astorga Cremona, a nun who belongs to the Order of Discalced Carmelites, answers the phone and briefly summarizes the mobilization she generated when her work became known: “I told the Pope that, although he urged young people to make trouble, I’m the one who’s doing it.”

Mónica has come out out in recent weeks in various media in the province of Neuquen, where she lives in a cloistered convent, because of the work she’s doing with a group of trans women. But in addition to this work, for many years she has been helping inmates in prisons across the country.

Mónica’s voice is cool, calm, and strong, and if a person didn’t know her age, they’d bet she wasn’t more than thirty or so. However, behind those vocal chords are 30 years of work in the community and 50 years of age. Hence the need to clarify that although the Pope spoke to the young, she’s the one who’s “making trouble.”

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Some African Gay History

The common claim by African homophobes is that homosexuality is somehow “un-African”. The reality is just the opposite. Same – sex relationships have always been part of African culture, across the continent, just as they have been the world over, in every period of history (until European colonists and missionaries attempted to stamp it out, thus introducing homophobia).

Writing in the Guardian, Bisi Alimi gives some examples.

If you say being gay is not African, you don’t know your history

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Synod 2015 Instrumentum Laboris: Inching to Lesbian and Gay Inclusion

The  Instrumentum Laboris for the 2015 Family Synod includes some clear signs of inching, slowly, towards greater inclusion in church for lesbian and gay Catholics. It is instructive to compare this document with the Relatio released at the end of the 2014 Synod, and with the 2014 Instrumentum, to see how the tone and content have changed – in what is said, in what is not said, and in the language used.

For example, the Instrument largely based verbatim on the 2014 Relatio, there are some notable insertions. With explicit reference to “homosexuals”, the Relatio included just three paragraphs. The Instrumentum adds a third – paragraph 131:

131. The following point needs to be reiterated: every person, regardless of his/her sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his/her human dignity and received with sensitivity and great care in both the Church and society. It would be desirable that dioceses devote special attention in their pastoral programmes to the accompaniment of families where a member has a homosexual tendency and of homosexual persons themselves.

(#130 and #132 are repeats from the final document of the 2014 Synod) Continue reading Synod 2015 Instrumentum Laboris: Inching to Lesbian and Gay Inclusion

Ignatian Spirituality and LGBT Inclusion

In referring to my own faith journey, I have often referred to the value that I have derived from my time exploring Ignatian spirituality, in a Jesuit parish, and in the Jesuit – sponsored lay movement, the Christian Life Community (CLC). It has given me a firm conviction that there simply is no contradiction between a life of integrity as an openly gay man, and my Catholic faith. This conviction, developed over many years, was based initially on extensive Ignatian prayer, spiritual direction, and an extraordinarily intense, genuinely mystical, Ignatian directed retreat.

In my earliest encounter with the Jesuits and sexuality, I was told by a parish priest that “faith” is not a matter of the intellect, but of experience.  Based on that definition, I have the faith. Conversely, one definition of theology, is “faith seeking understanding”. I have the faith – what I have been doing these past dozen years or so, has been a search for understanding. All that I have learned, from explorations of the bible, of LGBT and church history, social anthropology, natural science, and theology, has left me more convinced than ever, that this is indeed so. “Gay Catholic” is not an oxymoron, but for those of us with a natural same – sex affectional orientation, a simple statement of personal integrity and honesty.

The notable Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner has written that it is possible for each of us to experience what he calls a “personal encounter with God”. Once experienced, he notes, nothing can stand between us and that experience: not the Church, not the Bible itself. It is my firm belief that in the retreat I referred to earlier, I was blessed with just such an experience – thus reinforcing even further my deep conviction that for gay Catholics, coming out and accepting that sexuality as part of our “sexual identity” is no more than adherence to an important Catechism command.  And so, I strongly advise anyone still struggling to reconcile sexuality and Catholic faith, to explore the riches of Ignatian spirituality.

There is no need to do this alone. My own experience was immeasurably helped by membership of a Jesuit parish, and a particularly strong CLC group, but there are other routes. The Jesuits have a well – deserved reputation as a gay – friendly order of priests, for which the evidence is clear. Of the explicitly gay welcoming parishes worldwide, a high proportion are Jesuit led.   In many countries, there are Jesuit priests who run spiritual retreats, specifically tailored to LGBT needs and concerns. One final indicator of the value of Jesuit support, is found in the program for the “Ways of Love” conference, to held in Rome this October, as part of the foundation meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. Of the 10 headline speakers for this conference, three are Jesuit priests, and two are religious women in orders shaped by the Ignatian tradition.

One of these, works directly with the CLC community. In a notable article earlier this year, he describes how openly acknowledging their sexuality, enabled a gay CLC group not merely to find acceptance by other CLC groups and the national CLC community, but also to break down prejudice, and even develop straight allies.

Read his full article in Spanish, or below, in an English translation, courtesy of Gionata.

A.M.D.G.

(“Ad maiorem Dei Gloriam”).

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Swiss Theologians, on Blessing Same – Sex Couples

Could the Family Synod next month give approval to church blessings for same – sex couples? Even the most optimistic Catholic might think that a stretch, but some Swiss theologians seem to think otherwise.  We should remember though, that many Protestant churches in Europe and North America have already accepted either church blessings, or full equal marriage for all couples, or are considering these as serious options. In the Catholic Church, the largest lay organization in Germany has explicitly asked for approval for such church blessings – and the request was not rejected out of hand by the senior cardinal.

Even if it is unlikely to happen at the synod, it is worth noting that there is serious thought being given to it, and to the specific arguments being advanced. (Recall that just a few years ago, Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna hit the news for saying, almost as an aside, that it was time for the Church to move away from obsessing over homosexual genital acts, and focus instead on the quality of the relationships. That sentiment has now become almost commonplace among notable bishops and theologians, and underlies the points made in this article.

If it does not happen just yet, it is surely the shape of things to come.

Read in the original French at  Cath.ch , or read my very free translation below:

illustration-800x450

Same-sex couples: towards a blessing? – cath.ch

Switzerland  
A clear answer about same-sex couples is expected from the next Synod on the family  
Lausanne, 16 March 2015.

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