Marriage Equality & the Church: Take 2

Back in May, I wrote that the growing international acceptance of civil marriage for same sex couples would inevitably nudge the churches to rethink their own positions, nudging them to greater acceptance.  (See “Marriage Equality and the Church“ ). Some recent news stories illustrate the point.

gay_marriage

In the UK,  the change in Swedish law is already having a direct imact on the Anglican church, which has close ties to the Lutherans.  The resonse described here is about two English bishops who have written to the Lutherans to express their “concern” that the change in Swedish law will ut pressure on the English church to accept same sex marriage:

From the Daily Mail online:

“The Church of England warned last night that it is under pressure to accept gay marriage.

…….The concerns were raised in a letter from Bishop of Guildford Dr Christopher Hill and Bishop of Chichester Dr John Hinds to leaders of the Swedish state church which has close and formal links with the Anglicans.…….

Their letter was a response to moves in the Church of Sweden to offer gender neutral marriage services which could be used for either brides and grooms or for same sex couples.”

I would agree that their concern is well founded, but speaking for myself, I would change the  description from “concern” to “delight”.

Also in the UK, the strongest opponents of marriage, led by the Bisho of Rochester, are now formally leaving the Anglican Church, thinking that they are leading a groundswell movement of resistance.  Independent observers think otherwise, and the departure of the bigots will simply make it easier for the rest of the chuirch to make real progress. See:

The Independent LeadingArticle:   The bishop is embracing a lost cause.

The Daily Telegraph There’s no pride in bashing gays, bishop

The Times Online The spiritual battle for the soul of Anglicanism

Ekklesia Backlash grows against Nazir-Ali’s call for gay “repentance”

In the US, the Southern Baptist Convention is probably the most hostile of the bigger churches.  But even here, there are signs that a rethink is coming.  In a leading article in the Baptist Standard, the editor write that it is Time for A Rethink on Homosexuality. He continues to believe that revelation, but at least concedes that there is no reason to be harsher on this “sin” than on others:

Small consolation, I know, but movement none the less.  In New Hampshire, meanwhile, a columnist for another Baptist publication, the Manchester Examiner, makes explicit the connection between the NH marriage law, and its inevitable result of pressure on the church for a rethink:

“In New Hampshire, the Southern Baptists have planted a number of new churches in the recent decade. … How will the Southern Baptists react to a changing landscape where homosexuality is becoming more tolerated and accepted in mainstream New Hampshiresociety? People outside the church are less likely to view it as wrong or different, just as they view other things considered sexual sin. Churches have acclimated and adjusted to cohabiting heterosexual couples,divorce and remarriage (once considered adultery by many Baptists), and many other things once considered anathema.

Where once homosexuality was considered a disease or psychological disorder, it is now becoming better understood. And even if a church believes that the Bible teaches homosexuality is sin, should it be distinguished from other sexual sins? If churches are going to be opposed to homosexuality, they must be opposed to all sexual sin equally. Is there a bias against homosexuals that needs to be overcome to reach them effectively? And if so, can churches overcome it?”

How, indeed?

The Tyranny of the Clerical Closet

Over the last 40 years, we who are openly gay and lesbian, inside and outside the church, have been discovering the joy of coming out.  It is widely agreed that at a public level, this has led to increasing public understanding and acceptance of our issues. At a personal level, this is almost invariably a liberating, invigorating experience, freeing us from guilt and fear. As Helminiak has noted, and I discussed here, this is valuable as a growth experience for both spiritual and mental health.
The converse of course, is also true: remaining in the closet  carries clear and demonstrable costs.  Denying oneself honest sexual expression leads either to the repression of a natural human instinct, or to a life of subterfuge, of deceit, of fear of being discovered, and of feelings of anguished guilt.  This surely cannot be healthy, either mentally or spiritually.
Continue reading The Tyranny of the Clerical Closet

Clerical Abuse: The Story So Far, Looking Ahead.

For a long time I resisted writing about the assorted scandals of clerical sexual abuse from around the world.  After the Irish Ryan report though, I broke my silence, writing for the first time of own experiences, which I presented as just a preamble, declaring my interest, and promised more. You may be wondering what has happened to the rest of reflection on the topic.

In fact, the theme is far from forgotten or neglected, occupying a great deal of my thinking time – and the more I think about it, the wider the scope becomes.  It may not be immediately obvious, but a good portion of what I have written over the past few weeks is part of the argument I am developing.  (Indeed, it could be stated that almost everything I put onto this site is part of my argument – but that is jumping rather too far ahead.)

For now, I would just like to restate what I have published this far and how it fits in to the bigger picture. Then, I will point to the material which is in preparation, and an outline of where I am headed.

Starting from the beginning:  I wrote earlier of the  reasons for my initial silence :

“1)   This is personal.

2)   The issues are far more complex and multifaceted then press reports, or popular commentary, would lead us to believe.

3)  Too often, those attempting to spell out in honesty the complexities and subtleties of the issues, are simply branded as apologists for evil.”

Of these three, I have fully explained the first, and there is nothing more to be said.  (If you missed this little personal memoir, you may see the two posts combined on the page “Sexual Abuse: My Experience” ).  Of the third, I think it will be clear by the end that I am anything but an apologist.

It is the second item, the many facts of the issue, that is the problem. This very complexity leaves me having to spin out what is far too often presented in a few glib sentences  and stock phrases over many posts, slipping into what appear to be unrelated digressions.  They are not unrelated at all.

Some of you may have seen my earlier post some months back on Bishop Geoffrrey Robinson’s book, “Confronting Sex and Power in the Catholic Church”, in which he argues that the three primary causes of clerical sexual abuse are sexual immaturity in some individual priests; enforced celibacy; and excessively centralised power structures in the church.

It was because enforced celibacy is central to the problem, that I wrote about the Myth of Priestly Celibacy.  I will follow this up shortly by expanding on how enforced celibacy leads to abuse.  (My recent items on coming out were not only because they were appropriate to Pride week: they were also important because sexual honesty is crucial to mental health, and so key to this discussion). It will also be necessary to say more about the problem of excessively centralised power in the church – although it will be obvious to my regular readers that this is something I touch on constantly.

This alone does not deal with the full complexity  of the problem.  I noted when I first wrote about abuse that the language is gravely inadequate to the reality, which is covers a wider range of practices, all lumped together into a single term.  I want to show how the problem is much wider, and there is a sense in which we are all, at some level, victims of clerical abuse of some kind.

Conventional responses to the problem are also in my view grossly inadequate.  Simply pointing fingers at the perpetrators and the Bishop who covered up the scandal, attempting to make amends with financial payouts, does not even scratch the surface of the healing process required. Instead, in looking towards a more viable approach, I have been recalling the approach of South Africa in dealing with the appalling atrocities committed in the name of apartheid, or of the “struggle” against it.  Key to this was the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, magnificently led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.   Dealing with this, and my personal response to the TRC, wil require a short digression into South African history, and to some reflection on the concept of truth.

Only then will I finally be able to present my full conclusions:

  • A full understanding of the problem of clerical abuse will show that at some level, we are all victims;
  • By allowing the church to persist in the exercise of excessive power, and to pervert the truth for a twisted sexual theology, we are all at some level complicit, and share to some degree in the blame;
  • But by simply getting on with our lives, by ignoring those parts of sexual doctrine which are obviously untenable, by showing more sensitivity and compassion in our local parishes than the institutional church does in its documents , and by speaking up vigourously against abuse (of all kinds) wherever we encounter it, we are also, thankfully, already part of the solution.  By asserting our right of participation as formulated at Vatican II, creating if necessary our own structures and forums to have our vocies heard, we can extend still further this healing.

I hope you will stay with me as I elaborate this argument in the weeks ahead.

(Previously posted:

Priests, Paedophiles and Purity

Church, Power and Abuse

The Paddywhack and Me (personal)

More Worms: Abuse, continued (personal)

The Myth of Clerical Celibacy

Coming out as Spiritual Experience

Coming Out as Wrestling With the Divine#

Faith at London Pride

4th July – and in London, the parade was for Gay Pride. These pictures, taken by Martin Pendergast, show the participation by some Catholics in the march and Trafalgar Square celebrations, as well as how we marked the occasion at the Soho Mass next day (our Pride Mass is always a highlight of the year.) I still plan to share further words and pictures of the rest of the march and festivities, especially of the many other faith-based participants. These will follow later.

Proudly Gay, Proudly Catholic: London Pride, 2009

Our Information Stand at Trafalgar Square

Pride Mass

Rainbow Flag for Pride Mass

Rainbow Flag for Pride Mass

A Rainbow Cake After Pride Mass

A Rainbow Cake After Pride Mass

The Perversion of Heterosexuality.

Theologian Sally Gearhart has written:

“Exclusive heterosexuality has to be understood as a perversion of [humanity’s] natural state.  We very quickly rob infants of their health and wholesomeness.  We require them from birth to fall into one of two widely differing and oppositely valued caegories:  girls and boys.  We require them to obliterate half their loving nature so as to become lovers only of members of the opposite sex.  It is as if at birth without our knoweldge or consent we are injected with a heavy addictive drug that will assure our limitation to  one sex role and to exclusively heterosexual realtions.   We’re hooked early.  We’re heterosexual junkies.  When we become adults, we push that drug ourselves, not just on the adults and children but on every newborn infant.  To kick the habit is near impossible.”

And later

“In this light it is not the Lesbian or the Gay man who is “unnatural” but rather the heterosexual person.  The Gay relationship moves toward expression not because it is conditioned from birth to do so or because it is approved by society or because it is given any positive reinforcement whatsoever.  Clearly the opposite is true. The motivating energy of the gay relationship flows rather from inside the persons themselves, from sources that are far more authentic than are responses to external programming”.

(from Sally Gearhart. “The Miracle opf Lesbianism“, in Loving women/loving men;: Gay liberation and the church, and quoted in Richard Cleaver, “Know My Name“, 1989.)

Health warning:  I freely acknowledge that these quotations are taken entirely out of context, of which I have no knowledge whatsover. Nor do I have any knowledge of the rest of Gearhart’s work.  The words, however, I think are thought – provoking and worthy of consideration just as they stand.

I also stress that Gearhart is writing about exclusive heterosexuality. Across history, there have been numerous ancient societies, and modern non- Western cultures, in which it was expected that most people would experience some degree of sexual expression with either gender, thus avoiding exclusive heterosexuality.  Of these, the Greeks and Romans are just the best known.

Enhanced by Zemanta
You might also like:
 
The Return of the (Gay) Prodigal
 
Equal Marriage: A Letter to My MP, Jeremy Hunt
 
LGBT Clergy: Presbyterian Ratification Just 3 Votes Short!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

 

Jeremiah’s Return

Over at Gospel for Gays, Jeremiah has written of his own return to the Catholic Church.  After being driven away originally in anger a the Canadian Bishops over their opposition to gay marriage he returned eventually after a discussion with a local pastor. Much of his experience resonates with mine:  the emphasis on the local parish (I and many others have never encountered any hostility in local parishes);  and his belief in dealing with the official church by living in constant conversation with the Holy Spirit. Extracted from “My Return”:

But do you ever really quit the church?  In my case, probably not.  I maintained a life rooted in prayer and scripture; I kept visiting a formal spiritual director, in his last terrible illness; in 2006 I made the first leg of the Camino de Compostela, beginning in the old medieval town of Vezaley in central France.

And little by little, I missed belonging to a deeper community, a community based on shared faith, a community centred on radical love – whatever its failings.  I fail too.

I tried alternatives, especially gay alternatives, but they seemed poor substitutes to me:  well meaning but, frankly, shallow.

So I decided to return.

*

But how?

Was there a place for an openly gay man in this community whose teachings on sexuality were focused on procreation to the exclusion of other possibilities?  That see gayness as an inclination toward an objective evil; that believes gay unions to be wrong, and societally dangerous?

Anglicanism offered a possible alternative for some – but not for me.  I watch with sympathetic sorrow as that kindred communion tears itself apart over the acceptance of gays.

I checked out my former parish, a famously liberal one, a wonderful place where gays and lesbians are “accepted”.  As in “Don’t worry about the mean old Vatican or the bishops:  we accept you, we love you, you’re welcome here.”

That’s very nice – but who is “we”?  I don’t want to be part of a splinter group.  I don’t want to belong to a ghetto.

*

I felt drawn to the serene and contemplative liturgies of a local monastic parish – but I was determined to establish some form of reciprocal relationship from the outset.  So I made an appointment with the pastor to introduce myself.

“I feel drawn to this parish,” I told him.  “I am a gay man.  I respect the teachings of the church, and I understand that Rome must be Rome.  But I also seek respect as a gay man.  Am I welcome here?”

Without hesitation, he said:  “Of course.  You’re right.  Rome must be Rome.  But there is also the doctrine of individual conscience, which is inviolable.”

A light came on for me when he said that.

*

I understood that there will always be conflict between formal church positions and the daily struggles of individual Catholics – and it’s a healthy tension.  The individual conscience is a crucible, where the demands of faith meet the issues of experience, and where each of us work out our salvation.  In fear and trembling – yes; but also with courage and joy.

I understood that living the Faith is not a matter of meekly following a bunch of rules written by somebody else, for fear of making a mistake – but rather, a matter of daring to live in a kind of constant conversation with the Spirit.  Informed by church teachings of course – since they represent the wisdom of the centuries; but informed also by the challenges and needs and gifts that God gives to me each moment.  Informed by who I am, by the unique individual he has created in me.

So I returned – not as a furtive and shamefaced creature, and not as a man gripped by anger at an uncomprehending institution.  I returned merely as myself, feeling very much a member of a pilgrim community.”

A “pilgrim community”.  So should we all strive to be.

You might also like:
New Mexico Religious Leaders in Support of Gay Marriage
Redefining Weddings – for the Better, and for All.
Natural Law, Pure Reason and Vatican Jargon.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

UK: Support for Gay Equality Grows

“A revolution in attitudes towards gay men and lesbians: Church out of Touch”.

In this month celebrating 40 years since Stonewall, the Times reports this weekend on an important opinion poll showing strong support for further advancing legal protections for LGBT equality.

On marriage, the current situation provides for “Civil Partnerships”, which in practice and in legal status are almost identical  to marriage, except in name.    Even so,

“61 per cent of the public want gay couples to be able to marry just like the rest of the population, not just have civil partnerships.”

On adoption, the law currently insists on the right of  gay adoption, and directs that adoption agencies should treat all potential parents equally.  This has brought the Catholic Bishops into disputes with the law over the church agencies, but

Half (49 per cent) believe that gay couples should have equal adoption rights, eight years after it became legal for them to adopt in a highly controversial move by Tony Blair.
Some Roman Catholic adoption agencies are fighting to retain the right to turn away gay couples, which they are now specifically prohibited from doing.
But perhaps the most surprising discovery is that 51 per cent of the public want children to be taught in school that gay relationships are of equal value to marriage.
“Half (49 per cent) believe that gay couples should have equal adoption rights, eight years after it became legal for them to adopt in a highly controversial move by Tony Blair. Some Roman Catholic adoption agencies are fighting to retain the right to turn away gay couples, which they are now specifically prohibited from doing. “
On education:
“But perhaps the most surprising discovery is that 51 per cent of the public want children to be taught in school that gay relationships are of equal value to marriage.”
 
Read the full report at Times Online
(London celebrates Pride on Saturday.   Several faith based groups are expected to participate.  I will be joining them).
`
Enhanced by Zemanta
You might also like:
The Biblical Case for Gay Marriage
Arkansas Court: No Legitimate Reason for Gay Marriage Ban
Equal Marriage: Strengthening Families in Massachusetts?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...s, , ,

Gospel Reflections

Numerous writers have excellent Gospel reflections – fewer write specifically from an LGBT perspective.

I would recommend that you develop your own personal ones – but this is not so easy if you are new to it.  To get you going, I will be putting together a list of syggestions prepared by others.

On-line, Jeremiah at Gospel for Gays has  started a new blog with a strong emphasis on Gospel reflections from a gay perspective. Follow the links to sample his writing:

Welcome

Welcome

I have created this site to share my reflections on the Gospel. Since I am a gay man, my reflections have a focus that is unique both to me and to people like me, gay people. That’s why I call the site “A Gospel for Gays”.

Others may discover different things in these same readings. I hope they will make use of this site to share some of their insights, either by posting comments, or by telling their stories about what it means to be both Catholic and gay. This further sharing is the second purpose of the site.   Full Story

Favorite Gospels

Favorite Gospels

These six Gospels are my favorites and are the core texts from which this web site springs. They follow the arc of Jesus’s life beginning with an early healing that breaks the social ostracism of his day and end with his death cry. This is why I call these “favorites”…

Full Story

The Holy Centurion

The Holy Centurion

Matthew 8.5-13
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.”  And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.”  The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak […]

Full Story

Good Gifts

Good Gifts

Luke 11.9-13; cf. Matthew 7.7-11
So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks […]    Full Story

The Leper

The Leper

Mark 1.40-45
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “if you choose, you can make me clean”. Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose.  Be made clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly […]  Full Story

 

Legion

Legion

Luke 8.26-39 (also Matthew 8.28-34; Mark 5.1-20)
Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but […]

Full Story

Jesus Forsaken

Jesus Forsaken

Mark 15.33-39
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for […]

Full Story

Beyond Abundance

Beyond Abundance

John 21.3-14 (cf. Luke 5.4-11)
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”  They said to him, “we will go with you.”  They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said […]

Full Story

We are Disciples, too

We are Disciples, too

Matthew 28, 16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Full Story

You might also like:
Exodus Intemational: Ex – Gay Efforts Are Un – Christian
Irish Fuss over Jesus’ Two Dads.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Sharing our Stories

In Redemptive Intimacy, Dick Westley argues persuasively that revelation is constantly being unfolded for us by the Holy Spirit, and that one way that the church can interpret this continuing revelation for our times is by listening carefully to our personal experiences, as revealed by honest and frank sharing in trusting small faith communities.  When I first encountered this idea, it hit me like a bombshell, but it is one I have come to hold dear (and I have since discovered is a completely orthodox notion).

It was very much in that spirit that I launched this site 6 months ago, so I was delighted earlier today to find a comment posted by Jeremiah, with some kind words, but also noting:

“…as Jim Alison teaches, we are NOT manifestations of a ‘disorder’; and therefore, our insights, our experience, our unique and gay approach to the Gospel have great value.

In that gay spirit I’ve just launched a site for shared reflections and experience.”

I have since had a look at Jeremiah’s site, “Gospel for Gays”,  which I found impressive.  It is technically polished, with great starting content.  I was particularly pleased to see how neatly it complements this site, with a strong emphasis on Gospel reflection, which I have long recognised as a glaring weakness on Queering the Church.   (Go ahead, take a look for yourself)

Jeremiah’s second emphasis is on sharing stories, beginning with his own.  I will shortly be adding a version of my own story, and urge you all to do the same.  We need to do more though:  in addition to sharing experiences, we need to add also reflections, beliefs and perspectives.  When I set up QTC, I specifically did not want it to become purely a personal soapbox, but envisaged it developing in time into a shared community resource. I invited my readers at the outset to share stories or other input.  As yet, I have had very limited contributions (thank you, Rob in Woking), but this was probably to be expected for a new venture.

Since then, I have seen the total page views pass the 5000 mark (thank you, all), with something over 500 sufficiently interested to come back for at least a second look, and a good share of those spending several hours on the site, over regular visits.   So I repeat my original invitation:  to any one who would likke to make a contribution, large or small, I undertake to publish.   My only stipulation is that these should be courteous and sincere, and at least coherent. They emphatically do not need to reproduce my own viewpoints – indeed, I would particularly welcome diverging voices.  Among my 500 + repeat readers, surely some of you have something to say?

I am now waiting for your contributions.

(If you’re interested, just add a comment below.  I will get back to you on how we can proceed)

Recommended Books

Ford, Michael: Disclosures

McGinley, Dugan: Acts of Faith, Acts of Love: Gay Catholic Autobiographies as Sacred Texts

Stuart, Elizabeth: Chosen: Gay Catholic Priests Tell Their Stories

Westley, Dick: Redemptive Intimacy: A New Perspective for the Journey to Adult Faith

Enhanced by Zemanta

St Paulinus of Nola, Gay Bishop. June 25, 2009

Although some would dispute the description of Paulinus as ‘gay’, the description seems to me entirely appropriate to his sensibility. Although history records no evidence of physical expression of his same sex attraction, nor is there any evidence against it.  Given the historical context he was living in (4th/5th century Roman empire) , when sex with either gender was commonplace for men at at all levels of society, inside and outside the Christian church, the absence of written records of private activities after 15 centuries is completely unremarkable.  Nor is the fact that he was married particularly significant – for Romans, marriage and sex with men were entirely compatible.

What is known is that he was passionately in love with a man, Ausonius, to whom he addressed exquisitely tender love poetry.   This is of sufficient quality and gay sensibility to be included in the Penguin book of homosexual verse:

“To Ausonius”

I, through all chances that are given to mortals,
And through all fates that be,
So long as this close prison shall contain me,
Yea, though a world shall sunder me and thee,

Thee shall I hold, in every fibre woven,
Not with dumb lips, nor with averted face
Shall I behold thee, in my mind embrace thee,
Instant and present, thou, in every place.

Yea, when the prison of this flesh is broken,
And from the earth I shall have gone my way,
Wheresoe’er in the wide universe I stay me,
There shall I bear thee, as I do today.

Think not the end, that from my body frees me,
Breaks and unshackles from my love to thee;
Triumphs the soul above its house in ruin,
Deathless, begot of immortality.

Still must she keep her senses and affections,
Hold them as dear as life itself to be,
Could she choose death, then might she choose forgetting:

Living, remembering, to eternity.

[trans. Helen Waddell, in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse]

It is surely entirely clear from the above that whatever his physical erotic activities, his sensibility was entirely what we would today call “Gay”.  Paulinus’ feast day was on Monday of this week (June 22nd).  It is fitting that we remember him, and the multitude of other LGBT saints in the long history of the church.

Further reading:

For more  online, see Paul Hansall’s invaluable LGBT Catholic handbook, or the Catholic Encyclopedia. (Note though that the latter’s entry on Paulinus is an excellent case study on how official Church history scrupulously edits out our LGBT history.  In a reasonably lengthy entry, Ausonius and the verses addressed to him are noted – but the essential facts that the relationship was passionate, or that the verses were clearly love poetry, are carefully filtered out.)

In print, see  John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century, pp133 – 134.

Related Posts:

Tags: