Tag Archives: lgbt Catholics

Pope Francis, John XXIII: “Development” of Doctrine

Pope Francis’ observation that “development” of doctrine means that we can now declare that the death penalty is unacceptable to Catholics, opens up an important debate on the very nature of “development” of Church teaching. Typically for Francis, when he introduces something seemingly new, he is in fact resting solidly on his predecessors, and on past practice. In Amoris Laetitia, the issues that have drawn the most strenuous opposition were in fact firmly grounded in Thomas Aquinas, and in the teaching of Pope John Paul II. Right at the beginning of his papacy, in a widely publicised interview with  La Civiltà Cattolica, he said clearly that it is both inevitable and necessary that doctrine will constantly develop. He supported that statement, by quoting from the a reading for the daily office for the feast of St Vincent of Lerins – whose feast day was yesterday (Friday of week 27).

Pope Saint John XXIII

In his statement this week on the death penalty referring to the possibility of development in church teaching, he drew on Pope John XXIII and Vatican II:

The Jesuit pope began his talk by recalling that at the opening of the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962, John XXIII said, “It is necessary first of all that the church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers. But at the same time, she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world which have opened up new avenues to the Catholic apostolate.” Moreover, Pope John added, “our duty is not only to guard this treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us, pursuing thus the path which the church has followed for 20 centuries.”




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“Queer and Catholic” – NOT a Contradiction

Mark Dowd’s impressive new book, “Queer and Catholic” is subtitled “a life of contradictions”. However, as the book itself demonstrates, there is no inherent contradiction between being queer and Catholic. Mark’s life has been steeped in Catholicism, from childhood in a deeply Catholic family, through education, to professional life as a broadcaster specialising in religion, to his current activities. At the same time, he has always known he was gay – from the age of eight, before he knew the word or what it meant – and at least from university, he has always been open about his orientation.  This is a life fully gay, fully and deeply Catholic. The title however is not “Gay and Catholic”, but “Queer and Catholic”. This is significant. In its original meaning before it became a pejorative, or was later appropriated by queer theory, the word meant simply “strange”. There is something very strange indeed in the Vatican horror of homosexuality.

The only contradiction that exists between being queer and Catholic, as Mark himself states in his introduction, is within the church itself, where he states that the church is so anti-gay, because it is so gay.  This is an internal contradiction that the church will in time be forced to resolve. Indeed, there are encouraging signs that even now, important leaders of the church, from Pope Francis himself, through senior cardinals and professional theologians, to lay Catholics in the pews, know that things must change. Pastoral practice in many dioceses and parishes is already vastly better than it was a few decades ago, even to serious discussions taking place about blessing same-sex unions.  Changes in pastoral practice will eventually and inevitably lead to changes also in underlying theology.




Continue reading “Queer and Catholic” – NOT a Contradiction

London Workshop for Catholic LGBT Families

A constant theme during the 2014 and 2015 synod assemblies on marriage and family, and of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation that followed it, was the importance of listening, and accompaniment for families in unconventional situations. This certainly applies to same-sex couples, but it also applies to families with LGBT members. These ideas are coming into increasing prominence, following the recent publication of Fr James Martin’s book, “Building a Bridge”.

In London, the LGBT Catholics Young Adults Group have arranged a workshop to do exactly this.

Walk with me

A day workshop for Catholic family members of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. We hope that listening to input from both Mgr Keith Barltrop, chaplain to the LGBT Catholics Westminster, and the experiences of other family members of LGBT people, will enable those taking part to truly walk with their LGBT family members and accompany them on their journey.

Suggested donation of £10 which will include lunch.

 For more information and to register to this event please fill in the form below or contact us on lgbtcatholicsyag@gmail.com.

 (You can also download the poster below by clicking here.)

LGBT Pastoral Outreach in Middlesbrough Diocese

As one example of how Pope Francis’ emphasis in Amoris Laetitia on “accompanying” gay and lesbian Catholics, together with his example of a more sensitive tone in pastoral care, comes news of a new initiative from Bishop Terence Drainey in Middlesbrough diocese. This is described in an article in the diocesan newspaper, Middlesbrough Catholic Voice, written by Fr Tony Lester, O.Carm.

Bishop Terence Drainey

Fr Lester was well known to London lesbian and gay Catholics of what were the Soho Masses, as a firm supporter of the congregation, and from time to time was a celebrant at our Masses when he could get down from his regular work in York.

In his article, Fr Lester notes that this is a direct response to Pope Francis’ lead during the Year of Mercy and his writing in “The Joy of the Gospel”.

Below is a section of the article, specifically referring to the motivation for the initiative, and how the it is planned to get it off he ground. (The full text may be read at the diocesan newspaper, Middlesbrough Diocesan Catholic Voice

It doesn’t take much imagination to have a sense of some of the very real wounds people who identify as LGBT and their parents and families might be living with. The bishop wishes to reach out to help heal those wounds. Is this going to be some kind of alternative Church? No. Our diocese has many groups and associations that focus on particular needs. The normal place of belonging for all their participants is the parish. This will be no different. Does it somehow go against the Church’s teaching? No. In taking this step, the teaching of the Church is not being changed in any way. Instead, other important aspects of Church teaching are coming to the fore and taking their proper place.

Father Tony Lester, O.Carm.

This is an important reminder that far from being somehow in conflict with Catholic teaching, inclusion and welcome for LGBT people is in fact required. This was confirmed at the 2014 Assembly of the Bishops’ Synod on Marriage and Family, when a clear majority, just short of two thirds of those present, voted in favour of a motion that lesbian and gay Catholics should be welcome in church.

The challenge for Middlesbrough, as for other dioceses and parishes, will be in determining just  how this “outreach” will develop, and  what form the resultant pastoral support will take.

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Cardinal O’Connor and LGBT Catholics

UK press reports are currently replete with reports and obituaries for Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, who died this week. Inevitably, I’ve  been reflecting on my own (indirect) connections with the man.

Before his appointment to Westminster, he was bishop of Arundel & Brighton – which just happens (now) to be my own diocese. That is personal to a degree, even though this was before I moved into the area. My partner though has been here a lot longer, and from him I have heard stories of Bishop O’Connors local actions (and inaction).

Where I have direct, personal knowledge, comes from my involvement with what were then known colloquially and informally as the “Soho Masses”. Shortly after I was named as a member of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, we had a letter from the cardinal, inviting us to a meeting “as soon as possible”, with his representative, to discuss a possible move to a Catholic parish. This was a major surprise: my understanding at that point, was that we had at a number of points, written to him to discuss the status of our regular, bi-monthly Masses held the Anglican parish – because we had been unable to find a Catholic parish willing to do so. Yet (I understand), he had simply failed to reply to those letters. Instead, he had set up a separate series of bi-monthly Masses, on the same day as ours and so in direct competition with us, in the King’s Cross area. (For the record: those of us who had been attending regularly at St Anne’s saw the new arrangements at King Cross as provocative. Those who attended them, saw them as immensely valuable).

Nevertheless, we accepted the cardinal’s invitation to “a meeting” – which became an extended series of meetings. at which I was privileged to attend. These were constructive, and culminated in an agreement that in future, our Masses “with a special welcome for  LGBT Catholics, their families and friends” would be hosted at the Catholic parish of the Assumption and St Gregory, in Warwick St, Piccadilly. At the conclusion of these discussions, Cardinal O’Connor released a public statement expressing his desire that these Masses should be “pastoral, not campaigning”, and that in the course of our ministry, we should proclaim Catholic teaching, “without ambiguity, and in full”.

Within our group representing the LGBT group from St Anne’s, we declined to sign the cardinal’s statement. I personally argued strongly (and others agreed) that both of these expectations were false dichotomies. Based on my experience under apartheid South Africa, I knew only too well that in matters of injustice, the “pastoral” can require campaigning against unjust laws and practice – and the pastoral, in terms of simply ministering to the oppressed, can be an effective form of campaigning. Similarly, it is simply impossible to present Catholic teaching on homosexuality “in full” but without ambiguity, for the simple reason that the full teaching, including that on personal conscience, the sensus fideii, and on opposition to discrimination, itself raises ambiguities and contradictions with its more directly sexual rules on same-sex relationships and on related genital acts.

The result was that the discussions finally ended without any undertaking from us to comply with the expectations expressed in the cardinal’s statement. We transferred from St Anne’s to Warwick Street under Cardinal O’Connor’s patronage, but with only minimal changes to our method of operating, or to our liturgies. Thereafter, the Masses continued to flourish, with a continuing growth in attendance: from an average of about 50 people a time at St Anne’s, this grew at Warwick Street to something like a hundred – roughtly double what it had been.

While we disagreed with the cardinal on his presentation of the move, nevertheless its important to record that his legacy on LGBT Catholics included facilitating an ultimately productive move from an Anglican parish, to a full participation and inclusion in the Catholic parish of the Assumption and St Gregory.

For myself, it was reflecting on the importance of “pastoral” outreach to LGBT Catholics, that inevitably includes a measure of campaigning, and the need to present church teaching on homosexuality “in full”, that was an important part of leading me to begin this blog.

Update: For some useful background on the initiative to move the Soho Masses from St Anne’s to the Catholic parish of the Assumption and St Gregory, see the Times obituary, which  includes this paragraph:

In Rome he walked with an extra spring to his step. And, unlike Hume, he understood how to manage the Vatican. When enraged by Rome, Cardinal Hume often threatened to fly out and confront the curia. In contrast, Murphy-O’Connor would offer to tackle brewing problems himself at the first hint of trouble. He did so notably when Masses were being held for gay Catholics in Soho in an Anglican Church. Some campaigned against the Masses, claiming that they went against Church teaching. Murphy-O’Connor spoke to the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog. Its prefect, Cardinal William Levada, a native of San Francisco, was not unfamiliar with such questions. A solution – that the Masses be moved to a Catholic church and a statement issued saying that no Church teaching was being opposed – was promptly reached.

 Related Posts:

What Really Happens at the Soho Masses?

A Tribute to the (London) Soho Masses Congregation

Politics, Sin, and the Soho Masses

Epiphany: Soho Masses Community Celebrate the Feast of Coming Out

London’s Archbishop Ends Masses in Soho for LGBT Catholics; Ministry Continues at Jesuit Parish

LGBT Catholics’ Prophetic Responsibility

Much has changed for LGBT Catholics since I first began this site, nearly nine years ago. In the institutional church under Pope Francis’ leadership, there’s been a marked shift to a more pastoral tone, to replace the harsh rhetoric under Pope Benedict XVI. At the Bishops’ Synod on Marriage and Family, even some conservative bishops acknowledged that the time has come to discard the “disordered” language in official teaching, some others even expressed apologies for the past harsh treatment of our community. In many Catholic countries, laws have been enacted to recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions. In response, an increasing number of bishops have come to recognise the value of legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples, even if not yet for full marriage. Under the radar, a much smaller number of bishops and other clergy are coming to support church blessings for these couples, to celebrate their civil marriages or civil unions.

Formal doctrine has not yet changed substantially, but there was some welcome movement in in Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia” from the previous hard-line insistence on “objectively sinful” acts, to an emphasis instead on pastoral accompaniment, discernment, the “interior forum”, and respect for personal conscience. There was even some veiled suggestion that for innately homosexual persons, what is “objectively” sinful viewed in the abstract, may well be subjectively good, in the personal context – a point that goes right back to St Thomas Acquinas, as described by the French Dominican theologian Professor Alain Thomasett SJ Continue reading LGBT Catholics’ Prophetic Responsibility

Cdl Schonborn: Same-sex Couples Also Need Families.

In a remarkable and groundbreaking statement, a prominent Catholic cardinal has acknowledged that protecting and strengthening “the family” can include protecting those headed by same-sex couples.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna talks to journalists June 13 outside St. John’s Cathedral in Limerick, Ireland. The cardinal was attending a conference, “Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family.” (CNS photo/Liam Burke courtesy Press 22)

The Catholic Church is doing whatever it can to strengthen the family, including families often considered nontraditional, said Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, the theologian who reviewed Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family.

Favoring the family does not mean disfavoring other forms of life — even those living in a same-sex partnership need their families,” the cardinal said during a visit to Ireland, which next year hosts the World Meeting of Families.

Catholicnews,com (emphasis added)

For lesbian and gay Catholics, this is immensely significant, for several reasons.

Cardinal Schonborn is clearly close to Pope Francis, and has his respect, as shown by his prominent role in presenting the pope’s Apostolic Exortation “Amoris Laetitia (The joy of Love)”, following the Catholic bishops’ synod assembly on marriage and family.

On lesbian and gay inclusion in church, he has often been among the first to articulate positions which later became commonplace. Several years ago, he was the first senior cardinal to suggest that the time had come to stop focusing on homosexual genital acts, and to look instead at the quality of the relationships. At the time, there was speculation that he would be promptly rebuked by Pope Benedict XVI. When that did not happen, a series of other bishops quickly echoed Schonborn’s thoughts on this. Later, he further developed his thinking, by extending to support for legal recognition of loving and committed same-sex relationships, in civil unions. This new statement takes it one step further, in implicit recognition that in some countries (eg Ireland, where he was speaking). these legally sanctioned unions could include civil marriage. Given his track record of anticipating Church thinking, we should expect more bishops to start talking about respect for different types of families – including those headed by same-sex couples.

“Today, everybody can get married,” he said, but acknowledged “so many choose not to get married.” He suggested that the number of so-called irregular situations has increased enormously because the “framework of society has changed so much.”

Schonborn was in Ireland to address a conference, “Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family.”  In his remarks, he also noted that there have been times when large sections of the population (servants, for example) where not permitted to marry. Against this background, the Irish slogan “marriage for all” is just the logical extension of a long-term historical trend.  Next year, Ireland will host the World Meeting of Families.  It can be expected that with the “framework of society” having changed so markedly in the country, much of the discussion at the World Meeting of Families will at least consider all families.

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LGBT Catholics: Global Conference Invitation

Back in October 2015, I was in Rome for the foundation conference of the  Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, timed to coincide with the Synod of Bishops gathering on marriage and family. At that conference, a steering committee was elected to create a permanent foundation for the new  body. That work has now been completed: the next conference will now take place in Germany, later this year. Read the details in this invitation letter, from the co-chairs Ruby Almeida and Michael Brinkschröder:

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Meeting Kryzsyzstof Charamsa

“The Church Needs a Stonewall Revolution”

At last month’s Gdansk conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, one of the highlights for me was a workshop by Krysztof Charamsa.  This began on a strictly personal high. On entering the room, he went around and personally greeted everyone present, shaking them by the hand. By virtue of my seating, I was the last person he got to, next door to Martin Pendergast (whom he already knew). He first greeted me as “Terry”, reading my conference label, but then when Martin introduced me as “Terry Weldon”, his eyes grew wide. “Terry Weldon?” he repeated, and instead of just a simple handshake, gave me a great bearhug, saying “thank you, thank you”. (I’m not in fact sure what it was he was thanking more for, but whatever the reason, the simple fact gave me a substantial high. In my view, it is he that deserves the thanks, from all lgbt Catholics).

I’d love to report in detail on the content of his address, but alas I cannot – he began by specifically asking that it not be published, which I must respect.  I think I can however, report some of the bare bones, and how his words have impacted my own thinking.  Some of the talk repeated material widely reported from earlier interviews, such as his view that the process of coming out was a profoundly liberating, theological process. Also notable was the observation that for all the improvements in tone and supportive pastoral care under Francis’ papacy, the fact remains that the harsh elements of doctrine promulgated by the Pope John Paul II/Cardinal Ratzinger partnership remain unrefuted as part of the formal magisterium. Indeed, if strictly adhered to as it stands, much of this formal body of doctrine would make the current improvements in pastoral care impossible. For this reason, he concluded that the Catholic Church needs its own Stonewall moment.

It can of course be argued that by the nature of his personal journey, he is still carrying a great deal of anger directed at the Church, to the extent that he is exaggerating the harm and ignoring the good in the present state of the Church and its response to LGBT people. It is also true that one response to the harmful elements in the formal magisterium is to point out that there are different levels of Church teaching, not all equally important, and that these sexual matters are less important than might appear at face value. We must also acknowledge that some of the important shifts in pastoral care are in fact required by Amoris Laetitia, with its emphasis on conscience, discernment and accompaniment, and that given its status as an “apostolic exhortation”, Amoris Laetitia is itself contributing to and developing the magisterium.

But still.  I was left with two key take aways for my own thinking. On the one hand, I was reminded of where I was when I first began blogging about lesbian and gay Catholics:  taken as a whole, Catholic teaching is riddled with inherent contradictions and ambiguities. It is as wrong to assume that to conform with Church teaching lesbian and gay Catholics must simply renounce all same-sex relationships, as it is to reject the whole  of Church teaching as inherently unsound. The fact is that even in the standard formal documents, there is some supportive material which needs to be more widely known and understood – along with harmful, unsound material that needs to be vigorously challenged.

On the other hand, as I was listening, my mind constantly wandered to the image embedded in Fr James Martin’s book on the Church and LGBT Catholics – “Building a Bridge”.

Any bridge connects two opposite ends. When I first began writing about Catholic teaching, I was mostly concerned with pointing out what was wrong, and how it was contradicted by things like science, history and public opinion. Later,  as things began to improve, I tended to concentrate on highlighting signs of that improvement, and the more supportive elements in the magisterium.

The bridge however, requires a balance between both.  To reach out to LGBT Catholics, there is a need to show them that there is a welcoming and supportive side to the Church, in doctrine as well as on the ground. But to the Church, it is also important to act as a critical friend, pointing out to those who can not yet see it, the countless ways in which elements in doctrine and practice are both deeply harmful, and unsupported by sound evidence.

LGBT “Pilgrimage of Mercy” – Sunday October 2, 2016 | GALA-ND/SMC

GALA ND/SMC, the LGBT alumni group for the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College, will be sponsoring a“Pilgrimage of Mercy” to celebrate and recognize LGBT faithful Catholics in the United States.

Also sponsoring the event is main co-sponsor, the Fairness Campaign, as well as a number of national and local LGBT groups such as GLAAD, HRC, New Ways Ministry, Equality Blessed, Dignity/USA & local affiliate Dignity/New York, Freedom for All Americans, Out At St Paul, Fortunate Families and Believe Out Loud.

year of mercy picThe pilgrimage is inspired by Pope Francis declaration last fall, “We are in the midst of anExtraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic faith”, decreed Pope Francis, during which we are to be “merciful like the Father” and perform acts of mercy and forgiveness to all.

Source: GALA-ND/SMC