The Catholic prelate Pope Francis recently appointed both as a cardinal and the head of the Vatican’s new centralized office for laypeople says he considers the pontiff’s apostolic exhortation on family life inspired by the Holy Spirit and plans to make it his department’s guiding document.
Speaking in an NCR interview Thursday, Cardinal-designate Kevin Farrell said he has a hard time understanding why some bishops have reacted negatively to Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love.”)
“I honestly don’t see what and why some bishops seem to think that they have to interpret this document,” said Farrell, the head of the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life and who last Sunday was announced as one of 17 prelates selected by Francis to join the church’s elite College of Cardinals.
“I believe that the pope has spoken,” said the cardinal-designate, referring to news last month that Francis wrote a letter praising a group of Argentine bishops who had drafted concrete guidelines about circumstances in which divorced and civilly remarried couples might eventually be allowed to receive Communion.
Source: | National Catholic Reporter
Tag Archives: Holy Spirit
"The Miracle of the Crooked" (Isaiah 40:3-5)
From The Bible In Drag:
A voice cries out, “Clear a path through the wilderness for Adonai! Make a straight road through the desert for our God! Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low; let every cliff become a plain, and the ridges become a valley! Then the glory of Adonai will be revealed, and all humankind will see it.” The mouth of Adonai has spoken!
The Long and Crooked Road by Ed Chan
A more traditional rendering of the phrase “and the ridges become a valley” is “and the crooked shall be made straight.” While this phrase speaks to camel roads meandering through the deserts, today’s queer cannot but take notice of this turn of words that the “crooked” is to be made “straight.” One time my spouse was approached by a mutual friend about “straightening” me out. I had no clue if he was addressing my theology or my sexuality, but the implication was clear crooked is “bad” while straight is “good.”
In the world of sexuality much failed effort is put into making the crooked straight. Never tempted to seek gay-aversion therapy myself, a few of my friends have. Their personal experience was one of being twisted into knots. It was a reversal of this biblical invitation as something as straightforward as love was bent into a crooked understanding of the “bad” self.
via The Bible In Drag December 12, 2013
The Holy Spirit, "Leading Us To Recognize GLBT+ People" (Bishop Gene Robinson)
When Bishop Gene Robinson delivered the keynote address at More Light Presbyterians celebration dinner at 2012 General Assembly, he came under fierce attack in some quarters for some words about the value of MLP “sowing confusion” in the Presbyterian Church. This reaction was based on not only complete lack of understanding of what Robinson was getting at, but also and more seriously, a failure to see that the whole point of the Gospels is not as a defender of a traditional status quo, but as a transformative instrument, allowing the Holy Spirit to enter and transform our lives – and our societies.
In “Christ Transforming Culture” at More Light Presbyterians, there is an excerpt from Bishop Marc Handley Andrus explanation of why he and 28 other Episcopal bishops had submitted a friend of the court brief to the US Supreme Court in support of equal marriage – then continues with this extract from Bishop Robinson’s keynote address:
Jesus says this really astounding thing: “There is much that I would teach you. But you cannot bear it right now. So I will send the Holy Spirit who will lead you into all truth” (John 16:12-13). Don’t for a minute think that God is done with you, and those who come after you. Does anyone doubt that we were led by the Holy Spirit to turn our backs on defending slavery using Scripture? Is it not the Holy Spirit that is leading us to a fuller understanding of the gifts, integrities and experiences of women? And I would say that the Holy Spirit is leading us to recognize gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. We should see this as a sign of a living God. We don’t worship a God who stopped revealing God’s self at the end of the first century when the canon of scripture was closed.
"He Sent Me to Give the Good News to the Queers"
For today, the third Sunday of ordinary time, the Gospel reading is the story of the Jesus’ first time reading in the temple, in the passage from Isaiah, with the keynote words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor”.
I have written before on this passage, and how I see this message, which effectively begins his public ministry, as central to my understanding of what Christianity is all about. By appallingly bad timing, today was also the day that the Catholic bishops of England and Wales chose to distribute postcards to all Massgoers, for them to complete and send to their Members of Parliament, expressing their opposition to the marriage equality proposals now before the British parliament. How this divisive postcard campaign, designed to continue and perpetuate discrimination and division under the law between same – sex and opposite – sex couples, is completely beyond me, can be squared with the plain message of today’s Gospel of liberation from all forms of oppression, or from the second reading from Corinthians on how we are all parts of one body, is completely beyond my comprehension.
These words, and those of the hymn “God’s Spirit is in my heart”, one of my favourites, had a particular resonance for me this morning, against the background of my recent personal decision to do precisely this: to spend a much greater portion of my time and energy in “proclaiming the good news” to the the oppressed – those in the LGBT community, so relentlessly (if unintentionally) oppressed by the institutional church, and some orthotoxic Catholics. In doing so, I am conscious of the enormous practical risks I will be taking, with minimal expectations of any form of reliable income to keep me alive, and unsure of precisely what or how I will do this. I was greatly strengthened by the words of the third and fourth verses that we sang as a recessional hymn:
Don’t carry a load in your pack,
You don’t need two shirts on your back
A workman can earn his own keep,
Can earn his own keep
Don’t worry what you have to say,
Don’t worry because on that day
God’s Spirit will speak in your heart,
Will speak in your heart.
As luck would have it, it fell to me today to “proclaim the word” at my local Mass this morning, and to read the lessons and bidding prayers. I did so with conviction and passion – but reading into the words of the text what to me was a clear reading, probably NOT in concord with the bishops’ unfortunate and poorly timed message of division.
Here’s a post I published some time ago on the same text – but in a context outside of the Sunday Mass:
Last week, I joined the Soho Masses team of Eucharistic Ministers and Ministers of the Word for an afternoon of prayer and reflection on our roles. To help us through the process, we had the services of David, who is an experienced prayer guide, trained in the methods of Ignatian spirituality. All those present agreed that the afternoon was profoundly helpful in bringing some perspective to their place in serving the Eucharist and the Word in Mass. For me, it also brought a new insight to my activities with the Queer Church, which I want to share with you today.
The text that we reflected on for the readers was the familiar scene in the Temple from Luke 4, in which Jesus reads from Isaiah.
Continue reading "He Sent Me to Give the Good News to the Queers"
Finding God in Gay Lovemaking
“An Erotic Encounter With the Divine” is the title of a post by Eric L. Hays-Strom atJesus in Love. (Eric has a Masters Degree in Catholic Life and Worship from St. Meinrad School of Theology). In his post, he has a moving account of how deliberate prayer immediately before making love with his husband has led to intensely spiritual experiences – especially on one notable occasion in particular.
It would be unfair to copy too much of this personal story here, but some things are worth noting. Eric’s journey in combining the sexual and the spiritual came after listening to some tapes prepared by Michael B Kelly, who is a noted spiritual director and writer, specialising in the contribution that gay men’s erotic experiences can give to the the church’s fuller understanding of spirituality:
…..we discovered a tape series about spirituality and sexuality, “The Erotic Contemplative” by Michael Bernard Kelly. I was immediately intrigued. On our two way drive home from Los Angeles to Omaha, we started listening to the tapes and discussing the questions that came in a guide with the tapes. It was probably amongst the most intimate conversations of sex, sexuality and spirituality I have ever had.
Through the years our lovemaking has risen to an entirely new level when we intentionally invite God to be present to and with us. That is, when we prayerfully invite God’s Divine Presence to bless our lovemaking and to join with us in our lovemaking.
In my blog (http://scottneric.com/ontheroad) I have written about several experiences in my life in which I have known God’s presence, either as God or in the person of Jesus or of the Holy Spirit. So, in my own heart, and in my own soul, I know what the ecstatic experience of the Divine is like.
(Here Eric recounts a particularly intense experience. To read it in the original, go to An Erotic Encounter With the Devine at Jesus in Love).
This is an important experience, and not uncommon. It gives the lie to official teaching, as do all other such experiences. If we are able to find God in our lovemaking, how can it possibly be wrong?
With their pathological aversion to any form of sexual expression, the Catholic hierarchs insist that any from of lovemaking outside of marriage, and not open to the possibility of procreation is sinful, and gay lovemaking in particular is “fundamentally disordered.” Anybody who has experienced the sheer joy of giving oneself to another, of whatever the gender, in an intimate loving relationship will know how disordered is the teaching – and not the action.
“The joy of God is humans fully alive”, said St Ireneaus. Many people would confirm that the experience of this kind of intimacy is about as fully alive as two people can become. It is not surprising that many priests and ex-priests, writing about their experience of celibacy, have described it as dehumanising. Thus, the celibate theologian’s teaching on sexuality, by trying to impose their own restrictive standards on the rest of us, is leading us not towards God but away. Fortunately, many Catholic theologians outside of Vatican control our now joining their Protestant counterparts in correcting these misunderstandings – for example John McNeill, Daniel Helminiak and Michael B Kelly among the Catholics, joining Chris Glaser and many others among the Protestants.
It is basic to theology that consciously inviting the Lord into any activity will make it into a prayerful and hence spiritual one. It is natural that this should also apply to lovemaking, which is one of the most basic of all human activities. Writing about our experiences of finding the divine in love, sharing the truth, sharing the truth about them, helps to dispel the destructive poison of official teaching.
Recommended Books (Queer Spirituality):
- Boisvert, Donald: Out on Holy Ground: Meditations on Gay Men’s Spirituality
- Cleaver, Richard: Know My Name: Gay Liberation Theology
- Cotter, Jim: Pleasure, Pain & Passion: Some Perspectives on Sexuality and Spirituality
- Glaser, Chris: Coming Out to God: Prayers for Lesbians and Gay Men, Their Families and Friends
- Glaser, Chris: Coming out As Sacrament
- Glaser, Chris: Come Home!: Reclaiming Spirituality and Community As Gay Men and Lesbians
- Helminiak, Daniel: Sex and the Sacred: Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth
- Johnson, Toby: Gay Perspective: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God & the Universe (Revised)
- Johnson, Toby: Gay Spirituality: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
- Kelly, Michael B: Seduced by Grace: Contemporary spirituality, Gay experience and Christian faith
- L’Empereur, James: Spiritual Direction & The Gay Person
- McNeill, John: Sex As God Intended
- P. Sweasey: From Queer to Eternity: Spirituality in the Lives of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People
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.
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.
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)
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
- “Accept the Welcome in Church” (Queering the Church)
- What Part of the Gospels, Bishop Soto, is “Hard for Gays to Accept?” (Queering the Church)
- Gratitude for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (John McNeill Spiritual Transformation)
- Spiritual Maturity and Theology of Fallibility (John McNeill Spiritual Transformation)
- Spiritual Maturity and Theology of Fallibility: Part 2 (John McNeill Spiritual Transformation)
- Theology of Fallibility Part III (John McNeill Spiritual Transformation)
- Conscience Formation, Spiritual Formation, and The Holy Spirit (Queering the Church)
- The Church Is Born in Suffering (Gay Mystic)
Holy Spirit at Work? – James Alison
In a penetrating article on his website, noted theologian James Alison examines the recent furores in the Church over matters gay, and reaches what he calls a ‘suprising’ conclusion. There is a huge amount of meat in here, which requires long and deliberate chewing (as always with Alison), so I cannot attempt to cover it all, certainly not after just one read. It is though, an important and hopeful post, so I do want to share what seem to me to be some of the most important issues.
Being the thoughtful theologian that he is, Alison has deliberately avoided the temptation some of us fell into of responding in the heat of the moment to the flurry of apparent slights to the LGBT community in the closing weeks of last year and early this year. Instead, he has given the issues time to settle, and responded only after careful (and no doubt, prayerful) reflection. His conclusions are all the more important for this. Note, by the way, that he has entirely ignored the latest kerfuffle over SPXX – the dust is still settling on that one, and it is in any case only incidentally an issue of the church and homosexuality, which is Alison’s sole focus.
In examining the widely publicised curial address before Christmas, Alison notes (as others have done), that homosexuality is not directly mentioned at all – although he concedes that there is some reference to social constructions of gender, he finds that ” in the end, I don’t know what he was referring to. Not for the first time, his style tends to leave hostages to fortune.” For him, the importance of the address does not lie in any “donnish sideswipes” at homosexuality or gender issues, but at the deeper core of the message and four points on the workings of the Holy Spirit (of which the fuss was about just half of one of these points). In drawing attention to the holy Spirit, Alison finds grounds for encouragement:
“If the Roman Curia, which he was addressing, regularly understood its task as responding to the Spirit rather than applying laws, we would certainly be a better Church.”
This is just the point I made (with far less insight and clarity) in my own response to the full text, but which I have not yet seen elsewhere. The importance of this for LGBT persons, he elaborates in further reflection on how Benedict sees his role in the Church as the representative of Peter. To make sense of this, I must first refer to two other recent incidents – one widely, but inaccurately, reported, the other not reported at all in the popular press.
Referring to the outcry over the document on seminary training, and the popular outcry at the time over its claims about ‘homosexual’ activities in seminaries, Alison notes that this document in fact barely mentions the subject. The main focus lay elsewhere entirely, and much of the popular commentary focused on quotations that simply did not appear in this recent document . I will not go into how this misreporting arose: what is important is to contrast the tone of this recent document with an earlier one, of 2005. In this, Alison finds evidence of retreat from the earlier hostility:
“My take on it is that it is transitional, as though a new team at the Dicastery for Catholic Education were trying to move on from the hole into which Cardinal Grocholewski and the 2005 document forbidding gay people to enter the priesthood had got them.”
The other important event was completely bypassed in the popular press, but is probably the most significant of all. This is an article from the January 7th 2009 edition of Avvenireby Vittorino Andreoli:
“The article, one in a long series about priesthood, is about priests and homosexuality, and its author is a respected mainstream doctor and psychiatrist. While making the usual appropriate acts of reverence to the teaching authority of the Church in moral matters, and the right of the Church to choose whomsoever it wants for its presbyterate, what is striking about the article is that its author is perfectly clear and straightforward that he does not consider it to be scientifically acceptable to regard homosexuality as a form of sickness.” (This please note, not in a newspaper like the Guardian, but in the official organ of the italian Bishops’ Conference. )
“The first two documents in Church history to try to say something professional about homosexuality … both sought to define homosexuality in such a way that it could not be regarded as something neutral. ….And yet now, quietly, and without much fanfare, it rather looks as though it is perfectly possible publicly to maintain the opposite position in a properly Catholic context without fear of immediate retribution. Proper discussion has broken out.”
From this, together with his lengthy and tightly reasoned reflections on the earlier events, Alison appears to conclude that the Holy Spirit is presently at work in the Church, guiding Benedict as the representative of Peter on earth, together with some other infulential figures, to prepare the Church for a gradual recognition of the past errors on matters of homosexuality, and to bring it into the modern world.
I have drawn attention previously to other notable theologians who are discerning signs of just this current action of the Holy Spirit transforming the Vatican. Alison is the latest of several, but he is the first I have come across to reason the case so tightly, with such clear presentation of the evidence.
There is much else in this article that is worth taking on board: a poignant reflection at the beginning, on the pain inflicted by the church on its LGBT people; a fascinating observation that in their divergent approaches to the emerging issue of same sex marriages or civil unions in so many countries across the world, many national bishops’ conferences are taking positions directly in conflict with the Vatican’s own directive; the interplay of awareness by the Vatican press corps of the closeted gay lives of certain prelates, and those prelates’ own awareness of that knowledge . All these have a fascination of their own.
The overriding message of this article though, appears to be a simple one: Benedict has recognised, or is coming to recognise, that past hostility to ‘homosexuals’ has been misplaced, and is leading the hierarchy through a process of downplaying past condemnations, which will lead in turn to an increasing recognition of the need for a new theology of homosexuality. This is a development, says Alison, that he has long anticipated, but it is occurring sooner, and more subtly, than he had expected.
It is this perception that explains the second part of his title : “The Pain and the Endgame: Reflections on a Whimper.”
I have not remotely covered all that is important in this article: I hope I have shown you that is worth going to for yourself. To quote Josephus on Salus Animarum, who drew my attention to it:
Tolle, lege! (Take up and read!)
Thank you, James Alison
“Sex As God Intended” (Book Review)
John McNeill, Lethe Press 2008.
I have just two small niggles about this book, so let me get them out of the way now. First, I was initally disappointed to find that this is not all new wrting by McNeill. Only half the book is by McNeill, and the rest is a collection of celebratory articles, a “Festchrift”, by others. This Festschrift is welcome, but even his own writing is not all new. I have not read all the previous works, but even so I recognised large chunks of the material as not just a restatement, but verbatim reprints, of sections of “Taking a Chance of God.” So big chunks of this are not new material.
Also irritating was the poor editing. McNeill appears to have gone to a new publisher, who have clearly made good use of a spell-checker – but paid insufficient attention to grammar. There were many instances where the flow of the text was interrupted by obvious missing words, with important parts of speech simply not present, leading to incomplete sentences or clauses that just did not hang together.
Celebrating John McNeill
But these were irritations only. It does not matter that this is not all new writing by McNeill, and should not be treated as such. The Festchrift is the clue: this is not a continuation, but a celebration, of the earlier work. Just running down the contributors, all of whom have made major contributions of their own to the continuing struggle of LGBT Catholics, is testimony to the importances of McNeill’s work as theologian, as writer, and as therapist. (One of the contributions is titled “You saved My Life” this is intended to be taken quite literally). Amongst the contributors, I was already familiar with the work of Toby Johnson, Mark Jordan, Robert Goss, Sister Jeannine Gramick and Daniel Helminiak. The contributions of others has left me wanting to explore their work too.
So what is this life work of McNeill, and why should we celebrate it?
“The Church and The Homosexual”, published back in 1976, was groundbreaking. Many writers since have testified to the liberating impact it has had on their own lives, and it has become a staple in the exploding bibliographies on the subject ever since. It was originally published with the blessing and ‘imprimi potest’ of his Jesuit order, but soon attracted the displeasure of the Vatican. Ordered to refrain from publication and teaching on the subject, McNeill initially complied, and fell silent for some years. In conscience though, he felt compelled to continue to write and to speak out. Like so many others, he left the priesthood and embarked on a precarious career as writer and psychotherapist. Subsequent books included “Freedom, Glorious Freedom”, “Taking a Chance on God”, and “Both Feet Planted Firmly in Midair.”
“Sex as God Intended”
In the current book, McNeill examines systematically the treatment of sexuality, particularly in same sex relationships, and finds conclusions rather different to those usually used against us. As he and others have done before, he dismisses the old interpretation of the story of Sodom as a gross misinterpretation The sin of Sodom was not that of sexual relationships between men, but the failure to offer hospitality to guests – an important traditional obligation in a desert society. Where McNeill differs from so many other writers who have made the same point, is that he is not content to simply argue against the old ‘clobber texts’. Rather, he goes further, arguing for the positive place of sexuality in the Old Testament. Highlighting Genesis 2 (the older version) rather than the more usual creation story in Genesis 1, he shows how Eve was created because Adam needed a companion, not just a mother for his children. This balances the procreative nature of marriage, so beloved by our opponents, with that of love and companionship.
An important piece of new writing in the book is a celebration of the Song of Songs, as a scriptural basis for sex as play. He also presents evidence that this may have been written to celebrate love been men. The gender of the protagonists, though is ultimately not important. The passion and ardour expressed is sufficiently powerful that the Song can be read with any interpretation you choose – but impossible to come away with the idea that sex is only about procreation.
Similarly, in examining the New Testament, McNeill’s focus is on the positive messages for LGBT Christians, rather than a repetition of arguments against the clobber texts. He shows for instance, that in his family of choice, Jesus is associating with same sex groups rather than with ‘traditional’ family groups. His analysis of the healing of the (male) ‘servant’ of the Roman centurion shows how this servant was almost certainly a sexual partner, even lover, of the centruiion. He also draws attention to the special attentions paid to John the Evangelist as “the apostle whom Jesus loved.” It has often been noted how Jesus in the Gospels has absolutely nothing to say about homosexuality. John McNeill has shown clearly that in His actions, the Lord goes much further than words in acknowledging and accepting such relationships.
Joy and the Holy Spirit.
The joy of McNeill’s writing is always his emphasis on the positive. His recurring refrains are a quotation from St Irenaus “The glory of God is humans fully alive”, an insistence that healthy psychology and healthy theology go hand in hand (and healthy psychology requires in turn healthy sexuality), and a strong underpinning of Ignatian Spirituality, in which we find God in all things – even in persecution and exclusion by the church. You can take McNeill out of the Jesuits, but you cannot take the Jesuits out of McNeill, and I thank the Lord for that.
Central to this thinking is that the Holy Spirit is constantly at work in our lives and in the world. In a context where official teaching on sexuality out of Rome is so obviously misplaced and psychologically unhealthy, it is too easy too lose one’s spiritual bearings. McNeill reminds us that where Rome fails, the Holy Spirit is permanently at hand for guidance – we need only ask.
He goes further. In an important address to Dignity, reprinted in this book, he speculates on the active participation of the Holy Spirit in the church of today, directly intervening in a ‘Kairos Moment ‘ to restore a proper balance between what has been the unbridled power of the papacy and the rest of the Church. (I am delighted that I have secured permission from McNeill to post this address in full on this blog, here.) At the time of writing, it was prescient. Given the turmoil in the church in recent weeks, and the resistance of so many to the series of Vatican fiascoes, I suspect we may now be seeing signs of just this intervention. As evidence, just see how Benedict has been forced to react to outrage over the most recent disaster concerning the SSPX by completing a nearly complete turnaround. What at one time appeared to be a slap in the face for the spirit of Vatican II has now become a firm endorsement of it!
This book may not contain significant new writing by John McNeill, but no matter. If you have not yet had the benefit of enjoying his exuberance, this will be an excellent introduction. If you have read the earlier books, then you should still buy it, read it, and circulate it, to join the celebration.
John McNeill, thank you.
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Changing the Church.
I have commented several times on John McNeill’s thesis that we my be in a ‘Kairos Moment’ in which the Holy Spirit intervenes to change the direction of the Church. Against the background of extraordinarily strong reaction to recent statements and actions from the Vatican, and previously unprecedented signs of Vatican sensitivity and response to such criticism, J.S. O Leary on his web page has agreed that the Kairos Moment is with us. It is appropriate then to revisit just what McNeill meant with his suggestion.
The argument was first put forward in an address to the Dignity conference back in October 2005, reprinted in his book “Sex as God Intended” (My review of the book will appear here on Monday 8th). I am delighted that with McNeill’s help, I am able to post the full text of the Dignity address here. Have a read, then consider: are we experiencing the fundamental shifts in church power that both McNeill and O’leary are discerning?
- Give Thanks For This Kairos Moment of LGBT Inclusion (queering-the-church.com)
- The Church Is Born in Suffering (gaymystic.blogspot.com)
- Pray, Don’t Pay, Disobey: The Catholic Revolution Has Begun. (queering-the-church.com)
- The Vision of Vatican II (thewildreed.blogspot.com)