The Celibacy Wars: A Reason for Hope?

Quite suddenly, my news feeds are full of stories and opinion pieces on celibacy and gay Christians, from the evangelical Christian Charisma News and the like on the one hand, to the gay Advocate on the other. On the religious right, there are discussions on accepting gay Christians as long as they are celibate. In some LGBT sites, there are concerns that this promotion of celibacy is just the discredited “ex – gay” movement in disguise, attempting to re-establish credibilty.
At New Ways Ministry Bondings 2.0, Frank DeBenardo has sound commentary. Noting a Religion Dispatches article which states that the celibacy debate is re-shaping the conservative religious approach to lesbian and gay people, Frank describes this as “a shame” – because it is “a shame for gay and lesbian people, religion, and, most of all, celibacy“.
He goes on, to explain just why this is a disservice to the entire idea of celibacy:

There is no doubt that celibacy can be a beautiful, satisfying, and enriching way to live.   And Catholicism’s history is filled with many holy and virtuous celibates.   But these conservative Christians will be making the same mistake that Catholic leaders have made for decades by saying that celibacy is the only moral option for lesbian and gay people.

Catholicism, and perhaps more accurately, early Christianity viewed celibacy as a gift and a calling.  It was something that grew out of a personal relationship with God and also seen as a way of responding to this relationship.  It was never something that was required of a whole class of people.  It was seen as a calling, a vocation, which arose out of one’s spiritual longings and experiences.

Pope Francis: The Family as a “Centre of Love” – and Inclusion.

In a message to the First Latin American Congress on the Pastoral Care of the Family in Panama, Pope Francis’ thoughts on the nature of family deserve close attention by LGBT Catholics.

What is the family? Beyond its more pressing problems and its most urgent needs, the family is a “centre of love,” where reigns the law of respect and communion, able to withstand the attacks of manipulation and dominance of the  worldly “centres of power “. In the home, the person is integrated in a natural and harmonious way in a human group, overcoming the false opposition between the individual and society. Within the family, no one is discarded: both the elder and child are welcome. The culture of encounter and dialogue, openness to solidarity and transcendence have it in its cradle.

- full text (in English) at Radio Vatican

In keeping with his previous observations on family, and also Pope Benedict’s words on family to Italian local government officials, there is nothing in this statement of value that does not apply equally to queer families.

True, later in the message there is something that our opponents will latch onto, where he emphasises the two great “contributions” of family as stability and fertility. Nobody could quibble with “stability”, but some will seize on “fertility” as equivalent to procreation. It is not, of course. Simple, biological procreation alone is not enough for successful child – rearing, it needs to be followed by loving care and nurturing. That nurturing is frequently provided by non- biological adoptive parents, or by one biological parent and a new partner following the break – up of a first marriage. In some cases (probably millions of them, around the world), these new families include two parents of the same – sex. They too, are contributing both stability and fertility.

Take a closer look at the portion of Francis’ message quoted above, at the important sentence, Within the family, no one is discarded: both the elder and child are welcome”. Indeed, within authentic Catholic families, all are fully included, the old and the young, the strong and the weak, the straight and the gay. 

The Church sometimes likes to present itself as an example of the human family on a grand scale, with itself as mother. By extension of the above, the Church needs to remember and practice the Pope’s message – within the family of the Church, just as in the domestic family – no-one should be discarded.

Dignity USA Gets Major Grant Funding from LGBT Rights Group

A brief listing on the website of the Arcus Foundation notes that it has given two years of funding amounting to $200 000 to Dignity USA,

to support pro-LGBT faith advocates to influence and counter the narrative of the Catholic Church and its ultra-conservative affiliates in regard to LGBT rights and dignity within and outside of the church. The effort will build advocacy and visibility in connection with two special events, the Synod of the Family and World Youth Day.

This follows a similar grant of $200 000 in 2010, and smaller amounts in 2008 and 2009.

Together, we learn from each other and take bold risks on groundbreaking ideas that drive progress toward a future of respect and dignity for all.

“Together, we learn from each other and take bold risks on groundbreaking ideas that drive progress toward a future of respect and dignity for all.”

Also this year Arcus, which describes itself as “a leading global foundation dedicated to the idea that people can live in harmony with one another and the natural world”, has given $250 000 to Catholics for Choice, to leverage LGBTQ rights as well as health and reproductive rights, and $50 000 to Catholics United Education Fund, to work with the LGBTQ movement to lift up progressive faith voices

The opponents of LGBT inclusion at Lifesite News (where I picked up the story), are incensed, but many Catholics will be delighted. This will go some small way to counter the large sums spent by some bishops and organisations like NOM to block the Church’s clear teaching on the importance of “respect, compassion and sensitivity” for gay and lesbian Catholics, and their repeated contravention of the teaching of avoiding any hint of hatred or malice, in speech or in action. It is also symbolically important, for its recognition of the growing importance of faith – based initiatives in the steady progress to full LGBT equality and inclusion, in Church and outside of it.

Ugandan Anti-Gay Law “Null and Void” – Constitutional Court.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court has struck down the country’s harsh anti-gay law, declaring it “null and void”. The decision was made on procedural grounds, and does nothing to address the appellants complaints that it violated certain rights guaranteed in Uganda’s constitution. There was no opportunity in court to discuss the substance of the objections to the bill, which could still be re-introduced, and an earlier colonial – era act remains in force, so life remains difficult for LGBT Ugandans. Nevertheless, the ruling has been welcomed by Ugandan activists and their lawyers, who have described it as a “step forward”, and one which “upholds the rule of law and constitutionalism in Uganda.”

anonymous gay African

Ugandan Court Invalidates Anti-Gay Law

KAMPALA, Uganda — Aug 1, 2014, 8:17 AM ET

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA Associated Press

A Ugandan court on Friday invalidated an anti-gay bill signed into law earlier this year, saying the measure is illegal because it was passed during a parliamentary session that lacked a quorum.

The panel of five judges on the East African country’s Constitutional Court said the speaker of parliament acted illegally when she allowed a vote on the measure despite at least three objections — including from the country’s prime minister — over a lack of a quorum when the bill was passed on Dec. 20.

“The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was a quorum,” the court said in its ruling. “We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally.”

The ruling was made before a courtroom packed with Ugandans opposing or supporting the measure. Activists erupted in loud cheers after the court ruled the law is now “null and void.”

The anti-gay measure provided for jail terms of up to life for those convicted of engaging in gay sex. It also allowed lengthy jail terms for those convicted of the offenses of “attempted homosexuality” as well as “promotion of homosexuality.”

Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan gay leader, said the ruling Friday was a “step forward” for gay rights even though he was concerned about possible retaliation.

Ugandan lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, an attorney for the activists, said the ruling “upholds the rule of law and constitutionalism in Uganda.”

Lawyers and activists challenged the anti-gay law after it was enacted in February on the grounds that it was illegally passed and that it violated certain rights guaranteed in Uganda’s constitution.

The court ruled Friday that the activists’ entire petition had been disposed of since the law was illegally passed in the first place. This means there will be no further hearings about the activists’ argument that the anti-gay measure discriminated against some Ugandans in violation of the country’s constitution.

Nicholas Opiyo, a Ugandan lawyer who was among the petitioners, welcomed the ruling but said there is still a missed opportunity to debate the substance of the law. “The ideal situation would have been to deal with the other issues of the law, to sort out this thing once and for all,” Opiyo said.

A colonial-era law that criminalizes sex acts “against the order of nature,” still remains in effect in Uganda, allowing for the continued arrests of alleged homosexual offenders, Opiyo said.

Lawmakers will likely also try to reintroduce a new anti-gay measure, he said.

- more at ABC News.

Queer Saints: Calendar for August

Saints, martyrs and liturgical feasts in August worth noting for their queer significance, include women deacons (a reminder that clerical ministry has not always been restricted to men), Edith Stein of the Cross, two notable same – sex couples (Bernard of Clairvaulx and Malachi, and John Henry Newman and Ambrose St John), and modern heroes of the movement for LGBT rights.

August

  • Aug 3 rd
    • St Lydia , woman deacon (Womenpriests.org)
  • Aug 5th
    • St Nonna , woman deacon (Womenpriests.org)
  • Aug 13 th
  • Aug 28 th

I’m Back – and Busier than Ever.

Regular readers will have noted that for the past two weeks, I’ve been silent on this site. That’s not because I’ve been idle – far from it. Instead, I’ve attended in quick succession three notable conferences:

  • A conference at Heythrop College London, hosted by Bishop Kieran Conry to relaunch the “Landings” program aimed at drawing back into regular participation in the church those who are currently disaffected or disaffiliated (already reported on);
  • The “Embodied Ministry” conference of the theological educators group of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality;
  • and the annual conference of Quest, the British group of lesbian and gay Catholics. 

For the latter two of these, I was part of the planning / organising team,which took up much of my time preparing for these conferences – and also afterwards, publishing reports for their respective websites. (See here and here for some of what I’ve been posting at these two sites. More will follow). Both these conferences have been widely regarded as highly successful for the two organisations, and also for me personally.

I’ve also been reading a number of useful books which I will soon be reviewing, have scheduled another “Next Steps in Ministry” workshop in London for September (with another planned later in the year or early 2015 in the North West), and will be travelling to Rome in October to attend two conferences in advance of the Catholic bishops’ Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family.

I’ve been a busy lad, even if there’s been no sign of it on this site. As my life returns to normal, there should once again be a regular series of new posts.

Thanks for your patience.

“Embodied Ministry”  - selected reports:

Quest, Conference 2014:

 

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