For English Catholics, a “Request for Testimony”.

In preparation for the next phase of the family synod, bishops around the world are expected to consult with the wider church. In England and Wales, this will include every parish, and includes a “request for testimony” – in which LGBT Catholics should participate, as fully and frankly as we can.

From the Tablet :

The bishops’ conference of England and Wales plans to launch a wide-ranging consultation of parishes and clergy ahead of next year’s Synod on the Family.

Following their biannual plenary meeting in Leeds this week, the bishops would like a period of spiritual reflection in each parish and, separately, to hear the experiences of clergy on the main “pastoral challenges” they encounter with families.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday Cardinal Vincent Nichols said that material would be sent out to parishes and clergy after Christmas. The period of reflection should go on until June or July of next year ahead of the synod in October 2015.

It is not so much a request for opinions as a request for testimony,” Cardinal Vincent Nichols said at the bishops’ conference offices in London.


- more at Tablet News, 14th November

This is groundbreaking, and represents a major opportunity for all queer Catholics in England and Wales. The claim to be a “listening church” has never been realized. Listening is not possible without speech to be heard, but up to now there have been only limited realistic opportunities for ordinary Catholics to speak of the reality of their lives and loves. Finally, this is changing.

When Pope Francis launched the global consultation in preparation for the first phase of the family synod, that alone was ground-breaking – but with no prior experience of consultation, its actual execution in most countries was deeply flawed. This fresh consultation goes much further, and has the potential to be correspondingly more fruitful. The bishops gathered in Rome experienced for themselves the value of the full and frank discussion that Pope Francis sought. Now, it seems, the bishops of England and Wales at least, want to extend the benefits of that to the full Church. (We still wait to see how bishops elsewhere will approach their own consultation with the wider Church in their countries).

This is an invitation and opportunity which all English Catholics should enthusiastically embrace. We saw at the recent synod how deeply moved the bishops were by the testimony of a handful of married couples (some reports were that these were “stealing the show”). But these reflected a very limited spectrum of Catholics, chosen for the adherence and advocacy of standard church teaching on all sexual matters, including contraception. The bishops (and other clergy) now need to hear the honest testimony of all those who have experienced real difficulties, and even direct harm, in those teachings, on contraception, on the realities of divorce, the damage done by disordered language, and the impossibility for many, of living honestly and with integrity with a same – sex affectional orientation, in full compliance with Vatican sexual rules.

We have the invitation, but it is one which many people will find difficult to accept. We have no details as yet, but it has been disclosed that this will take place in parishes. Where does that leave the many LGBT Catholics who simply feel unable to participate in a local parish? What of those others, especially in small rural communities, who do participate, but feel unable to openly acknowledge their sexuality or true gender identity? Or those who are out and open, but are uncomfortable speaking about in straight company? These difficulties present our community with two challenges.

One is that it presents a particular responsibility on those of us who are able to accept the challenge, to do so as fully as we can. Not only must we present our own testimony of our lives, loves and family experience, we must also articulate the difficulties we have faced in our journeys to self – acceptance and openness in church, to create some awareness of the very many other LGBT Catholics out there, who are not yet ready to present testimony on their own behalf. Another, is that we need to create other channels, outside the usual parish structures, in which to present those testimonies. These could perhaps be on-line, or in personal letters to bishops, or in our local LGBT Catholic support groups (where these exist), or in group representations to local bishops.

Details of how we are to do this, we must still work out, but one way or another, we must find ways to present our testimony – fully, frankly, and honestly.

Christian “Teaching of Contempt”: Homophobia, Anti-Semitism,

At the Reformation Project recent conference in Washington DC, one of the keynote speakers was Dr David P. Gushee, an expert on Christian Jewish relations, who made some pertinent observations on how for centuries, Christians routinely taught and practised contempt for both Jews and homosexuals, in both cases basing their hostility on a handful of biblical clobber texts.

This deeply ingrained institutional contempt for the Jews was incorporated into both Christian teaching and secular law, as well as social attitudes, until the horrors of the Holocaust resulted in a sharp rethink of what those anti-Semitic clobber texts actually meant. Dr Gushee notes that from about 1965 on, no credible Christian leaders have taught anti – Semitism as an article of Christian faith, and most denominations actively teach against it.

Never Cease Demanding Justice: Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

Luke 18:1-8

For decades, LGBT people have been demanding justice, in civil law and in the Church. In recent years, we have begun to see some victories, in both spheres – but like the widow in the story, must continue to demand justice, without ceasing, until we have it in full..

Card. Burke: Now on the Outside, Pissing In.

It’s official: after weeks of rumour, it’s confirmed that Cardinal Burke has been demoted (for the second time). A Vatican press release has stated that Cardinal Burke, said by to be the who led the culture wars against gay marriage, is to be moved to the largely ceremonial post of Patron of the Order of Malta, which carries almost no responsibilities. But there’s a downside, as Michael Sean Winters notes at National Catholic Reporter:

The demotion is unprecedented, and completely warranted: Cardinal Burke’s influence at the Vatican has been crushingly backward looking, and that influence has resulted in some unhappy appointments. The downside of the appointment? By giving him a job with no real duties, +Burke will be free to make more speeches and give more interviews.

-National Catholic Reporter

This reminds me of the famous observation by former US President Lyndon B Johnson:

It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.

In this case, it’s the reverse of Johnson’s dictum that applies – it’s better by far to have him outside, pissing in. That way, , he’ll have the leisure and opportunity to make more mess – but we’ll know where it’s coming from, and his words will carry no real weight.

It’s instructive to compare and contrast the recent career paths of two American prelates, Cardinal Burke, who has now experienced not one, but two significant demotions, and also the exclusion from the Congregation of Bishops that oversees new episcopal appointments, and Bishop Blaise Cupich, recently named to the archdiocese of Chicago.

In his first major appointment in the United States, Pope Francis named Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., on Saturday to be the next archbishop of Chicago, replacing a combative conservative with a prelate whose pastoral approach to upholding church doctrine is more in keeping with the pope’s inclusive tone.

New York Times

In addition to the marked contrast in pastoral practice, there’s the matter of personal style. In contrast to Burke’s infamous love of pomp and pageantry, Cupich is clearly following Pope Francis’ lead. Before his installation in Chicago, Cupich announced he would live in a suite of rooms at Holy Name Cathedral rather than in the Gold Coast mansion that traditionally serves as the residence of Chicago’s archbishops. Let us hope that other bishops, American and other, who have up to now followed Burke’s lead in the culture wars, will take note of the obvious lesson.

“No Longer Aliens…… but Part of God’s Househousehold” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

Historically, LGBT Christians have been treated as aliens in the Church, unwelcome and often positively rejected. That is now changing in all denominations, as some adjust their rules on ordination and marriage, others are embarking on serious study and listening processes, and even the Catholic Church is adjusting its tone and language.

We’ve not yet reached full inclusion, but we’re on the way. This passage from Ephesians (from today’s Mass for Tuesday of Week 30) reminds us that full inclusion is how it should be: we “are citizens like all the saints”.

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

(Ephesians 2:19-22).

Pope Francis’ Catholicism: Are Those Rainbow Pigments?

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

During the question and answer session with the Schoenstatt pilgrims held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall on Saturday, Pope Francis spoke particularly about the problems facing marriage in the modern world. For LGBT Catholics, it’s important once again to note that amongst these difficulties, Francis did not include any reference to same – sex marriage or other unions. On the contrary, he included observations that should encourage gay Catholics, notably this reminder that the Church is constantly reforming itself:

Asked about reform of the Church, the Pope said people describe him as a revolutionary but went on to point out that the Church has always been that way and is constantly reforming itself. He stressed that the first revolution or way of renewing the Church is through inner holiness and that counts far more than more external ways such as reforming the Curia and the Vatican bank. Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of having a freedom of spirit and warned against closing ourselves up in a mass of rules and regulations, thus becoming a caricature of the doctors of law.

via Vatican Radio.

and also his observations on the importance of “human bonds that bind us together”, and of “solidarity”. Logically, these must include bonds and solidarity with all who are marginalized – including sexual and gender minorities:.

The theme of our throw-away society was also touched on again by the Pope in another reply when he said our present-day culture is one that destroys the human bonds that bind us together. And in this context, he continued, one word that is at risk of dying in our society is ‘solidarity’ and this is also a symptom of our inability to forge alliances. Pope Francis also warned about the Devil, stressing that he exists and that his first weapon is disunity.

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