Tag Archives: supportive bishops

US Bishop Backs LGBT Dialogue – to Speak at New Ways Conference

Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington in Kentucky is scheduled to speak at New Ways Ministry’s symposium April 28–30 in Chicago. The event is titled: “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.”

-Lifesite News

Bishop John Stowe
Bishop John Stowe

Predictably, Lifesite “News” and the even crazier Church Militant website are apoplectic that the bishop is daring to even speak to an LGBT ministry group, misrepresenting this as “US Bishop rips Church teaching on homosexuality” (Lifesite).

As usual, much of what these orthotoxic commenters most object to, should in fact cause for celebration. Take a look at some of what Bishop Stowe actually said, as reported by these two sources:

“I think Pope Francis has signalled that we need to take another look at those things (homosexuality) and I think that Pope Francis has also given us the example, that is, the Church doctrine, the Church teaching has not changed, but the way we approach it has to be merciful,” he said.

After presenting a lengthy tirade against New Ways Ministry, Lifesite continued with this quote:

“I have come to know individuals who are associated with New Ways Ministry…and every one of them I have spoken to are genuine, sincere people of faith who are trying to reconcile their own sexual orientation with the Church that they love and that they have been raised in,” he said.

On the language of “disordered”:

“I think it’s fair to say that the language is not helpful,” he said. “We live in an age of sound bites, and to hear just that phrase is tantamount to hearing an outright rejection.”

“That can’t be the message of the gospel,” he insisted. “That was not Jesus’ approach.”

On the prospects for change in Church teaching:

He put forth the possibility that Church doctrine could change with regard to homosexuality, bringing up the example of Her evolving teaching on usury and slavery.

“Change does come over a long period of time in the way that the Church approaches a number of issues,” he said. “We cannot hide ourselves by excluding ourselves from scientific research and from the development of human knowledge.”

“I think the area where we can grow in understanding,” he continued later, “is the area of … whether homosexuality is a question of nature or nurture.”

On natural law:

When asked what it means to be merciful to practising homosexuals in respect to natural law and the purpose of sexuality, Stowe replied that natural law is only one “framework” among many that could be used to dialogue with believers and unbelievers about sexuality. He suggested that natural law has more to say about homosexual acts than Catholics might think.

“There could be a whole realm of argument [about] what does natural law actually teach us about same-sex behavior. If you find it naturally occurring in the animal world, if you find it naturally occurring among certain species, it both can be clarifying but it also raises other questions,” he said.

Notwithstanding the horror professed by Lifesite and Church Militant, there is absolutely nothing in any of this that is in any way in conflict with authoritative Church teaching. On the contrary, it is completely consistent with both the general guidelines for the Church presented by the Second Vatican Council, and the more specific, sentiments widely shared at the two Family Synods of 2014 and 2015, and the guidelines on pastoral ministry contained in the important Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”.

Indonesian Catholic bishops more supportive of LGBT people than secular law

In one of the more interesting developments after the Synod family assembly, the Indonesian bishops have held their own, local synod to share the message of the synod with the local community – and to listen to the struggles of local families.

Of particular importance for LGBT Catholics, is that Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, who attended the synod, stressed the clear message from the assembly that all people deserve respect – and that includes “homosexuals”.

The archbishop said that one of the main points of the synod is that all people deserve respect, forgiveness and mercy.

“The pope said many times that every individual — whoever they are: divorced couples or homosexuals — must be respected,” he told ucanews.com.

This should not be worth noting, but it undoubtedly is. Although it is clearly stated in the Catholic Catechism that homosexuals should be treated with “respect, sensitivity and compassion”, this is one rule which is widely ignored by many Catholic bishops. For Indonesia, we also need to consider the context.

As an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, this is not a good place to be gay or transgender. At the national level, there is no direct criminalization, but there is also no protection from discrimination, prejudice, or outright hatred, and some discriminatory laws apply (for example, on the age of consent). At the provincial level, it is worse. Provinces have the power to outlaw homosexuality in their areas, and some have done so. In Aceh, province, gay sex can be punished with 100 lashes of the cane. Popular sentiment is hostile, often stoked by religious authorities, both Muslim and (up to now), Catholic.

That is why Archbishop Hardjoatmodjo’s reminder that homosexuals deserve respect, while totally consistent with standard Catholic teaching, is notable as one of the first concrete example of how the Synod assembly on marriage and family, could be leading to improved pastoral sensitivity to LGBT Catholics (and in the longer term, to actual changes in doctrine).

Berlin Archbishop: Church Must Continue Gay Discussion

At the Bishops’ Rome assembly on marriage and family, the German Archbishop of Berlin, Heiner Koch, was the “relator” for the German language small discussion group.  He has always been a notable supporter of LGBT inclusion, and serves on the German bishops conference as chairman of the Commission for Marriage and the Family.

Koch, Heiner

Back in Berlin, he had some important words about the synod assembly, which should offer some assurance to those worried that there was insufficient attention paid to our concerns. Pointing out that some cultural and political reasons for the resistance, especially from African and Eastern bishops, he insisted that Catholic discussions about homosexuality must continue (and implied that the German bishops will certainly take this forward).

The original report at the Austrian source Kathpress is in German. This is my own free translation, assisted by Google translate and the people of the Duolingo crowdsourcing language community.

(Note: this translation will be updated, as and when the Duolingo text is improved )

Archbishop Koch: Still a great need for discussion of homosexuality

Berlin, 10.27.2015 (KAP / KNA) The Berlin Archbishop Heiner Koch sees a great need for discussion of the issue of homosexuality still remaining in the Catholic Church. It is therefore important to remain in conversation together on this issue,

African and Eastern bishops especially have expressed very restrictive views about homosexuality at the Synod. Some put forward positions for which there had been vigorous opposition. “Our German representatives said clearly that we do not share this judgement and cannot abandon our ideas on human dignity”, stated Koch, who is also family bishop of the German Bishops Conference..

At the same time Koch pointed out that in addition to cultural differences, political constraints sometimes make dialogue more difficult: “In many totalitarian states there are far-reaching consequences if you speak out in public about, for example, treating homosexuals as human beings.

The German representatives at the Synod had clearly stated that dealings with homosexuals was a relevant subject to the Church, according to Koch, The concern was on homosexuals who live in committed partnerships. “This is a reality that has to be evaluated much positive for us,” said the archbishop. Also brought up, were pastoral issues about how parents should deal with the homosexuality of their children.

German Bishop Declares Support for Gay Civil Unions, Says Sexual Doctrines Must Change.

The bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, is the latest Catholic bishop to acknowledge that while the Church cannot approve of gay marriage, it should accept the value of same – sex civil unions.

Bishop of Trier, Stephen Ackermann

As far as homosexual relationships were concerned, the church would have to appeal to people’s sense of responsibility, he continued. “The Christian concept of the human being emanates from the polarity of the sexes but we cannot simply say homosexuality is unnatural,” he explained. While the church must “hold fast” to the uniqueness of marriage between a man and a woman, it could not just ignore registered same-sex unions where the couples had promised to be faithful to and responsible for one another.

This is not the first time that Bishop Ackermaann has distinguished himself as supportive of LGBT equality. A few years ago, he hit the headlines when he made an entirely unannounced visit to an LGBT community centre, and spent his time listening to the views of LGBT people – highly unusual, and definitely very welcome, for a Catholic bishop.

These latest remarks were made in the broader context of an interview with the German paper, Allgemeine Zeitung, on the lessons to be drawn from the responses to the global consultation on marriage and family. His conclusions, that it is now obvious that doctrine is sadly out of touch with Catholic reality and needs to change, is completely consistent with the findings of the consultation and other, independent research – and should be self- evident to any independent observer.

Interviewed by the Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz, Ackermann, 50, said the responses showed “quite clearly” that for the majority of the faithful the church’s teaching on moral sexuality was “repressive” and “remote from life.” Declaring a second marriage after a divorce a perpetual mortal sin, and under no circumstances allowing remarried divorced people ever to receive the Sacraments, was not helpful, he said and added, “We bishops will have to make suggestions here. We must strengthen people’s sense of responsibility and then respect their decisions of conscience.”

It was also no longer tenable to declare that every kind of cohabitation before marriage was a grievous sin, and “the difference between natural and artificial Birth control is somehow artificial. No one understands it I fear,” Ackermann said.

Predictably, his thoughts have already drawn a backlash from some colleagues: not for their content, but for stepping out of line and publicly revealing the conclusions of a single diocese. Even so, he has also received some support:

Ackermann was sharply criticized by Bishops Heinz Josef Algermissen of Fulda and Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg.

For an individual bishop to react to the responses of the questionnaire on his own was “counterproductive,” Algermissen, 71, said. “I don’t hold with the normative strength of facts. Truth is not something that can be adjusted,” he insisted but went on to admit, “We bishops obviously have a problem. We have clearly not succeeded in putting across Catholic sexual ethics and its positive concept of the human being.” Decisions on such matters were, however, the world church’s concern and not the concern of an individual bishop or bishops’ conference, Algermissen emphasized.

But the Bishop of Magdeburg in former Eastern Germany, Gerhard Feige, 63, came out in defense of Ackermann and sharply criticized the bishop’s critics. He agreed with Ackermann’s views on the responses, Feige told KNA, the German Catholic news agency. “The time has finally come to face naked reality. We must struggle to find fair, responsible and life-serving solutions in the spirit of Jesus Christ. It is not helpful to keep on repeating prohibitions or reservations,” Feige underlined.

The Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family, scheduled for October 2014, was never intended to be an occasion to change existing sexual doctrines, but merely an opportunity to formulate more appropriate pastoral responses. Actions, however, often have unintended consequences, and it is becoming ever clearer that even if the synod is not intended to change teaching, the results of the consultation will result in many serious discussions at the synod about the need to do so.

On Catholic sexual doctrines, I strongly suspect that the revolution has begun.

For the record – an updated listing of Catholic bishops and cardinals who have expressed support for same – sex civil unions:

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Church must adjust to reality of co-habitation, divorce and remarriage, says cardinal

A few years ago, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn hit the headlines, saying that at a time when so many people are not bothering to get married,  the Church should reconsider its approach to divorced people who do want to remarry. At the same time, he said that it was time to shift the emphasis, in responding to gay couples, from an obsession with genital acts, to consideration of the quality of the relationships. On both counts, he was ahead of the pack – and remains so. Speaking about the response of Austrican Catholics to the global survey in preparation for the synod, he has now said that the Church must adjust to the reality of co-habitation, divorce and remarriage, To which LGBT Catholics would add, and to the reality of same – sex couples – and if the “Church” should adapt, then so too should Catholic schools.

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