Gay Adoption, Ostrich Bishop

Last week, the John Jay report once again showed that the Catholic church’s perception of the causes of clerical abuse, that the root of the problem lies with the gay priests, was completely divorced from reality.  Her in the UK we have another example of a Catholic bishop who would prefer to stick by his own prejudices in the face of the evidence.

Gay adoption split costs charity dear

A charity which split from Lancashire’s Catholic Church in a row over same-sex adoption is fighting to stay afloat.

Caritas, which has its head office on Tulketh Road, Preston, provides adoption, fostering and day care from 16 sites throughout Lancashire, Cumbria and Greater Manchester, including for people with severe disabilities.

Mr Cullen said: “We have lost significant sources of funding in the last 12 months and due to the prevailing economic climate, we foresee further constraints next year.

“However, demand for our work is stronger than ever and our fundamental concern is to do all we can to make sure our services are maintained for those who rely on them.

Former Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue split from the charity saying it would be “unthinkable, indeed heartbreaking” for it to agree to equality laws which mean it must treat gay and lesbian couples the same as heterosexual couples when it comes to finding homes for children.

In an open letter to the charity’s trustees, the Bishop urged them not to “capitulate” to the changes in the law.

He said: “I remain convinced the best interests of children are served when they live with and are brought up by a married couple.

(more…)

Epaminondas: Military Hero, Democrat & Liberator, Cultured Statesman. Gay.

Epaminondas lived before the Christian era, outside the Jewish tradition, and has no claim whatsoever to be treated as a “saints in any literal sense. However, taking the term much more loosely, including those we might consider as role models, he clearly fits the bill. If that doesn’t suit you, think of him as included in the “others” of my title.

Together with his lover Pelopidas, Epaminondas was one of the celebrated “Sacred Band of Thebes”, a military company of 150 pairs of lovers. That’s right, an army band where it was compulsory to be gay – and partnered. We usually think of the Spartans as the most military of the Greek cities, and with good reason. While Athens (and some other cities following them) valued democracy, philosophy and intellectual life generally, young Spartans were educated for one thing only – war. After Sparta had convincingly beaten Athens and her allies in the Peloponnesian War, the victors extinguished democracy in the vanquished cities, and placed their allies in command as local despots.

In the case of Thebes, they met strong resistance from the defenders of democracy, in the form of the band of male lovers. Founded initially by Georgidas, on the principle that men never fight more bravely than when fighting to protect and support their loved ones alongside them, the founding proposition was soon confirmed. In their first engagement with the Spartan enemy, victors in the recent Peloponnesian war, the new company of Theban lovers overcame a Spartan army of two to three times their number, and were able to reinstate democracy in their city.

Epaminondaswas initially somewhat hidden in the shadow of his friend Pelopidas, who succeeded Georgidas as leader just a year after the band was founded. Together, they won many famous victories. Later, overshadowing his friend, he found the more enduring fame, and for many notable qualities beyond his illustrious military career.

After assisting in the re-establishment of democracy in Thebes, he developed a career as an orator and statesman as well as a soldier. Although he was instrumental in defeating Sparta in establishing Thebes as the dominant geek power, he refused to use this power to to subject other cities to Theban domination and pillage, so that he was known as a military liberator, not a conqueror. Many scholars have described him as Greece’s greatest warrior-statesman. Diodorus Siculus wrote that he excelled all the others in valour and military shrewdness – but also in “eloquence of speech, elevation of mind, contempt of lucre, and fairness…”.

The Romans also admired him, although less enthusiastic about his cultural achievements. Cornelius Nepos included him in his Book o Great Commanders, but found it necessary to excuse his reputation as a musician and dancer on the grounds that the Greeks had a fondness for these pursuits. He “praises without reservation Epaminondas’ intellectual and athletic prowess, and finds he meets roman standards of temperance, prudence and seriousness….. and was such a lover of truth that he never lied, even in jest.” .

He died in 362, in a battle which once again defeated the Spartans, but also ended Epaminondas’ own life.

This could be my kind of guy – accomplished, virtuous, a democrat and liberator – and good-looking. Except that he lived about two millennia too soon, he could easily be seen as a great Renaissance man. My only objection? Surely he’s just too good to be true. Yet this is the picture that comes down to us from the ancients.

And to think that men of this calibre are not permitted to serve openly in the US army.

(Source: The material above condenses a passage from “Homosexuality & Civilization” by Louis Crompton, which makes an excellent and stimulating introduction to the history of homosexuality.)

Clerical Abuse: Compare and Contrast:

Hot on the heels of the interim report of the second phase of the John Jay study to the US bishops, the Irish report I wrote about yesterday provides an opportunity to make some comparisons – and see, once again, the same old pattern.

The two studies were very different in their purpose, scope and methods, but still they raise the same issues, and some comparisons can be made – most notably, for the relative responses, or mare accurately, non-responses, of the bishops. I am not now going to rehash the actual findings – for my summaries, see the previous posts, listed below. For more detailed reports, follow the links. What I do want to do, is to reflect on the conclusions that I have drawn from these two reports. I would welcome any other conclusions, in agreement or dissent, that you too may have drawn.

(more…)

Trans Faith: Introducing “Transect”, “Transepiscopalian”.

Reading the comprehensive information on my WordPress dashboard, I found a reader who had linked to QTC from a site called “transect”.  This turned out to be  fascinating site I think you might do well to explore.  The tagline says it is “an attempt to cut through gender to expose real life“, and that seems to be pretty well what it is.  Clearly written from a trans perspective, it is by no means only about gender.  With a clearly Christian base, it also looks at much else. It’s written by “Quinn”:

Call me Quinn. That’s not my birth name, but it is my real name – no matter what anyone else says. You see, I’m a male-to-female transsexual. That means that when I was born, pretty much everyone thought I was a boy, but I knew something was wrong with that. Then I turned 13. I realized that it felt wrong because I’m just not a boy – or a guy – or a man. And I never really was, though everyone treated me like one. And trying to behave like one and letting everyone treat me like one was a prison. I was not free. Now I’m trying to free myself, and just live my own life.

I already don’t conform to the expectations of men. But I’m certain I won’t conform to the expectations of women, either (though I count myself as one). And that’s alright.

Call me Quinn. It’s what my friends call me.

Quinn is clearly a professional academic, with a wide range of interests. The site bristles with links and intros to informative news or comment pieces elsewhere, Quinn’s own and others’. just following the links in a couple of posts could keep one thoughtful for hours.

About her blog, Quinn writes:

As I said once to my gf, I’m pretty much a walking identity crisis. I’m so introspective that I’m constantly questioning who I am and what I’m doing and what I should be doing. So this is a record of my introspective questioning. Since I’m trans, a lot of this has to do with my transition. But sometimes it’s just being a twenty-something in university. Or other times my history of moving around a fair bit rears its head. Or other times it’s my religious background…

I’m also by nature an observational journalist. I probably get that tendency to observe from my mom (along with a propensity for storing fat in my upper arms). So this is also a record of what I witness in life that’s interesting. Mostly this is related to gender, just because my thoughts are so finely focused on it – and have to be, if I’m going to survive, and if I’m going to live freely. But it’s also on cultural matters, since I live in Montreal, yet have lived in very different places.

I also get really interested in the news, politics, religion, ethics and languages. And I like to post news clips and write about them or imagine alternate worlds. So this is also a record of my take on all that.

So, pay her a visit.  She’ll likely get you thinking.

Among her eclectic range of links are

and

A wide enough range for you?
She also links to “Transepiscopal“,  and its  “Theological Reflection on Coming Out,”  to which she adds a useful commentary.  Go across, read it.
I have added both of these to the links here at QTC. If any other readers have blogsites, or know of any, that you think are worth attention but that I have missed, let me know.  I’m always pleased to learn of the good work that others are doing.  If I agree that they are worthwhile, I will gladly list them.

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Clerical Abuse: The Dublin Cover-up

From Ireland, we now have the long-awaited report of the commission investigating the response of the Irish bishops of Dublin to the problem of abuse of the children in its care. (This is not a report into the problem itself.  That was splendidly done by the Ryan report earlier this year, which covered clerical sexual abuse of minors, but also of abuse by physical violence and by neglect in church institutions for child “care”.  This commission investigated the response of the bishops to specific complaints of sexual abuse, in just the archdiocese of Dublin.)

The core finding?

THE four Catholic archbishops of Dublin who preceded Dr Diarmuid Martin, were aware of complaints against priests for sexually abusing children — a practice that went on for over 35 years.

But the most senior figures in the Irish hierarchy did not report these crimes to the gardai because of an obsessive culture of secrecy and a desire to preserve the power and aura of the Church and to avoid giving scandal to their congregations.

So, the response was determined by an obsession with secrecy, and the preservation of church power. Note here that the consensus view of those who have investigated the problem from outside the ranks of the church establishment, is that one of the key factors is the excessive concentration and abuse of power within church structures.  A driving force in the response, was a determination to preserve one of the key factors that caused the problem in the first place. (more…)

Gay Soldiers? Role Models, at the Foundation of Democracy.

From this side of the Atlantic, the continued reluctance to do away with DADT seems odd, at best…  In the UK, gay men and lesbians not only serve freely and openly in the armed services and in the police, but can be seen every year participating in London Pride, marching in uniform through the streets of London  – and in other gay pride marches up and down the country.  Elsewhere in Europe, LGBT participation in the military is at least as relaxed.

Military Pride

It’s not even as if gay soldiers were a new idea. To demonstrate, I want to pay a brief visit to ancient history – but first, I have to ask, “Why do we have a military?” Obviously, for defence – but what is it exactly, we wish to defend?  For many of us, that answer is likely to include “democracy”, or even, more grandly “Western civilization”. Now, here’s the thing – a quick look at history shows that gay soldiers were there at the very start of democracy (Plato gives two gay lovers in particular the credit for its very foundation), and were conspicuous thereafter in the defence and development of both democracy and the broader notion of “civilization”. Now, granting that it is a gross oversimplification, let us begin by noting that both democracy as a form of government, and classical culture on which much of European civilization was built, began in Greece, particularly in Athens.

Harmodius & Aristogiton

The idea of male love was deeply embedded in early Greek culture.  Even the gods enjoyed men. Zeus, leader of the pantheon, was renowned for his capture of Ganymede; almost all the remaining make gods also had affairs with men or boys. The heroes of Greek myth ere also affected – Achilles and Patroclus were celebrated  by Homer for their prowess as warriors, by later poets and dramatists as lovers.

Athenian democracy began with the overthrow of the rulers known as the “tyrants”.  What I didn’t realise until I re-read it in Boswell’s “Same Sex-Unions in Pre-Modern Europe”, was that this overthrow (and hence paving the way for democracy) was credited by Plato to two lovers, Harmodius and Aristogiton.

Athens at the time was under the control of two Tyrants, the brother Hipparchus and Hippias.  Hipparchus made a pass at Harmodius, which was rejected.. After he had been rejected a second time, Hipparchus retaliated, then the two lovers got up a conspiracy to overthrow the two. In later years, their fame was such that they were the first men ever to have statues built to them in the public square of Athens, and had images of those statues imprinted on the city’s coinage. These images are said to have become ,as much identified with democracy in Athens as the Statue of Liberty is in New York. They had a popular song sung about them for centuries, recorded  by Athenaeus 700 years later. Miltiades used their memory to inspire his troops before the battle of Marathon, saluting them as “Athens’ greatest heroes.” Callisthenes, described them as the men most honoured by Athenians, because they destroyed one of the tyrants and so destroyed the tyranny.  Demosthenes called them

“the men to whom you have allotted by statute a share of your libations and drink-offerings in every temple…… and in worship, you treat as the equal of gods and demi-gods.”

With all this praise for the men what does this say about attitudes tot heir love?  Plato clearly linked their action to their love, and had some harsh words for critics of their orientation –those whom we today would call the “homophobes”.   Here’s Plato:

“Our own tyrants learnt this lesson. Through bitter experience, when the love between Aristogiton and Harmodius grew so strong that it shattered their power”.

Did you get that?  Plato states clearly that the power of the tyrants was “shattered” by the strengthening love of two men.  He continues with some observations on the origins of opposition to same sex love, which are pertinent to modern homophobia too:

“Wherever, therefore, it has been established that it is shameful to be involved in sexual relationships with men, this is die to evil on the part of the legislators, and to despotism on the part of the rulers, and to cowardice on the part of the governed. “

That’s right, folks.  Homophobia originates in evil, despotism, and cowardice.  Cowardice? But, wait, isn’t that typical of those weird queers, aren’t they the sissies? That’s not how the ancients saw it, and they had evidence on their side, evidence from the military record. The Greeks were familiar with male lovers among the heroes of with and legend, from Zeuss himself, at the head of the gods, who had abducted Ganymede to be his lover and cupbearer, through Achilles and Patroclus, celebrated  by Homer for their bravery and for their love, and also Iolaus, companion of Hercules and participant in his celebrated labours, by whose tomb pairs of lovers were said to pledge their commitments to each other.

Gay lovers: the ideal warriors

Is it surprising that some people began to propose taking advantage of the courage of gay lovers in defence of the city?  In Plato’s Symposium, Phaedrus proposed the creation of an army of lovers, because men behave at their best when in love, and that no army could be better than one composed of lovers:

“No man is such a craven that love cannot inspire him with a courage that makes him equal to the bravest born.”

In about 378 BCE, this literary speculation entered historical fact, putting the notion to practical testing,  when Georgidas applied Phaedrus’ reasoning to the creation of the “Sacred Band of Thebes”, a company of 300  soldiers, comprising exclusively pairs of lovers. Was Phaedrus right?  Was the Sacred band successful?

Lion Monument to the Sacred Band of Thebes

You betcha!.

For forty years, the company was celebrated throughout Greece for their courage and military success.  When at last they were overcome, fighting to the last man against vastly superior numbers, their conqueror Philip of Macedon, said of them that no man, seeing their valour, could possibly think their love shameful. (Now,  note,that this was Philip of Macedon, whose son Philip II was himself not averse to a little man on  man action, and whose grandson was  Alexander the Great, conqueror of the world ,as far as it was then known  – and renowned for his love of Bagoas).

Looking back some centuries later, Plutarch was able to record that he most war-like societies were noted for male love, and listed some famous heroes who were also known for the men they loved:  Meleager, Achilles, Aristomenes, Cimon, Epaminondas, and Ioläus (companion of Hercules, and at whose tomb same sex lovers were said to make their vows of commitment.)

In short, for the Greeks, ideals of male were so firmly rooted in their heroes, that it was seen as a sign of real manliness.  After listing some of the most famous, from every category of leaders and thinkers, Crompton observes:

This is an astounding record, including most of the greatest names of ancient Greece, during the greatest period of Greek culture. For many biographers, for a man not to have had a male lover seems to have bespoken a lack of character or a deficiency of sensibility.

So, the verdict of the Greeks:

Straight men, with no male lovers – lacking in character;

Homophobia -  origins in evil, despotism, and cowardice.

*******

But take heart, Americans.  Even if you (officially) have no gay soldiers, every time you sing the Star-Spangled Banner, you are indirectly singing in praise of homoerotic relationships.  The tune is based on a an English drinking song, “To Anacreon in heaven.”   Before his poetry was lost to posterity, Anacreon was the most celebrated Greek lyric poet of male love.

This brief look covers only classical Greece – but the pattern is [repeated elsewhere, in the rest of Europe, in Lcassicl and modern times, in Asia – and prett well everywhere, in every age. More will follow.

References:

Boswell, John:  Same-Sex Unions in pre-modern Europe

Crompton, Louis: Homosexuality & Civilization

Celibacy: An Irish View

Earlier n the week. I noted how a small news story from Ireland was opneing up debate on compulsory clerical celibacy in that country.  Here is one example, from the Irish “Independent” .

By Kim Bielenberg

Saturday November 21 2009

It is hard to imagine a similar response from the faithful 10 or 20 years ago. Last Sunday, a Catholic congregation actually stood and cheered when their priest Father Sean McKenna announced at the altar that he was stepping down, having embarked on a “loving, beautiful and life-giving relationship”.

It could have been the somewhat corny denouement of a romantic comedy, or a scene from Ballykissangel.

The Derry priest, who celebrated his silver jubilee earlier this year, has become involved with a local nurse, Elaine Curran. She is a mother of two children, who reportedly separated from her husband before the relationship with Fr McKenna started.

“I have made my choice,” the popular priest declared to his parishioners. “It is a difficult choice but a clear and free one.”

At the time of the Eamonn Casey affair 17 years ago, such revelations were greeted with shock and much hand-wringing across the country. But now reports of relationships between priests and a consenting adult woman, married or otherwise, have a certain humdrum quality and are met with a certain relief that there was nothing untoward or illegal going on. There was anger in Derry this week, but much of it was directed at the Church for its archaic strictures on celibacy and the media for delving into what local Catholics saw as a private matter.

Like many other priests, Father Brian D’Arcy greeted the news with a tone of sincere regret, rather than any form of condemnation. It was regret, not because one of his colleagues was involved in a relationship with a woman, but because yet another priest has been lost to the strict celibacy rule. “We are losing good men,” Father D’Arcy told me.

He refers to estimates that 110,000 priests have left the church worldwide because of a similar predicament. Asked whether it was common for priests to fall in love, Father D’Arcy said: “I would think that every priest worth his salt has had to face it at least once in their life. Of course, not all priests will break their vows. They have to make a very difficult choice.

“How can any normal person go through 40 or 50 years in their life and not fall in love? It is something that I have had to face up to myself.

“It is a significant time to think about the value of compulsory celibacy. This may have been suitable for a particular time but that time has now gone. Remember, the first Pope, St Peter, was married.”

It is bad enough for the Church that few men in Ireland are called to the priesthood in 2009. Even fewer are called to a life of permanent celibacy, it seems.

Close observers of the Church suggest that the rule is observed in the breach by many priests worldwide.

Richard Sipe, a psychiatrist at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, has estimated that just 10pc of priests are successfully celibate. These fulfilled celibates have embraced their state of being and find it empowering. The psychiatrists says 40pc stick by the rule but only with profound reluctance.

According to a report in The Times, Sipe contends that the remaining 50pc have at some stage during their ministry been sexually active. If these figures are correct, and it should be pointed out that they are US figures, around half of priests find it impossible to practise what they preach.

Father D’Arcy believes celibacy can be a good thing, but it should be voluntary.

“It is an insult to celibacy to make it compulsory. It must be freely chosen in order to make it meaningful. Compulsory celibacy is a man-made rule, introduced to enforce obedience and to ensure that Church property was not dissipated.”

The celibacy rule in the Catholic Church was introduced in a piecemeal fashion. One decree in the year 306 declared that priests could not sleep with their wives on the night before Mass (the type of rule that some sports stars would be familiar with).

St Augustine is never likely to become a poster boy for feminists after his famous pronouncement in the 5th century that “nothing is more calculated to cast a man’s spirits down from the citadel than the blandishments of a woman”.

Increasingly, celibacy was held up as an ideal, but for another 1,000 years at least it was still common for men of the cloth to be married.

In the more recent past, Irish priests who became involved in love affairs either covered up their romances, in some cases taking their secrets to the grave, or simply left the Church for a new life, frequently abroad.

Increasingly, Irish Catholic priests with an inclination to marry are continuing their spiritual journey elsewhere. Father D’Arcy believes up to six former Catholic priests have married and joined the Church of Ireland in recent years.

The ease of this transition has been demonstrated by Dermot Dunne, a former Catholic priest who married, became a Church of Ireland clergyman, and now holds a senior position as Dean of Christ Church Cathedral.

It only took the priest three years to make the leap from Roman Catholic priesthood to a post in the Anglican Church.

Explaining his decision, he said: “What was emerging for me is that we are not called to be ‘other worldly’ but actually to live fully in this world and to value humanity and the world that God has created.

“The decisive moment for me was to admit that God is mediated through our acceptance of an inclusive humanity where there can be no exclusions.

“This inclusive humanity embraces the fullness and beauty of human sexuality from one end of its continuum to the other and the full participation of the woman as well as the man in the celebration of the life of faith.”

A growing number of Catholics, both clergy and parishioners, are copying the example of Dr Dunne by simply voting with their feet. “If a priest leaves the Catholic Church and joins the Church of Ireland, there is no longer a sense of betrayal among parishioners,” says Canon Ian Ellis, editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette. “In some ways, the two churches are coming closer together. So that makes the transition easier.”

What rankles with Catholic campaigners for the abolition of compulsory celibacy is the apparently inconsistent line taken by the Vatican. Father Brian D’Arcy points out that married Anglican priests are admitted to the Catholic Church.

He said such priests were “re-ordained” in the Catholic Church and allowed to minister at parish level without celibacy being imposed.

Quirks of history also enable certain priests with links to the Orthodox Church to get married with the blessing of the Vatican.

The warm reaction of parishioners to Father McKenna’s plight again demonstrates the gulf between many ordinary Catholics and the Papacy over certain teachings.

So long as the present Pontiff is alive, it is a gulf that is likely to remain unbridged.

- Kim Bielenberg

Irish Independent

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Celibacy and the USCCB Eunuchs

Of all the issues that the USCCB should be discussing, but won’t, possibly the mot topical and most important is that of admitting married men and women to the priesthood.  This is not because they don’t want to – many would like to not only discuss it, but to go ahead with recruitment – but because (as Colleen Kochivar-Baker has noted at Enlightened Catholicism), they have been neutered by their Vatican controllers.  It is as if, recognising that in their (alleged) state of personal celibacy, they have recognised they have no need of balls, and allowed then to be cut off.  With at least three current news stories that imply a need to open this discussion, and the continuing crisis of too few willing candidates, their timidity is disgaceful.

US Catholic Bishops

With the imminent arrival in the Roman fold of an unspecified number of married Anglicans and Episcopalians, the discussion has already begun outside the conference hall – but is unlikely to be conducted inside it. The interim report of the John Jay research, clearly rejecting homosexual clergy as a causal factor behind the problem of clerical sexual ab use, should now turn attention to the real causes (one of which is compulsory celibacy) – but won’t.  And now a news story from Ireland shows that the debate is again being opened up in the public sphere – but not, I suspect, by the bishops. (more…)

Fig Leaves, Gerasene Swine, and Carpets: Bishops and Clerical Sexual Abuse.

Since my somewhat rushed report at midnight last night, with one 3 am update. I have had some time to look for more information.  Guess what?  I have found none. Is this a symptom of  what will happen to the full report later?

Let me recap.

A news story from Associated Press yesterday stated that an interim report had been presented to the USCCB meeting on research undertaken for the bishops by researchers from the John Jay College. of Criminal Justice.  The AP story on this report, carried by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and by Azstar yesterday, focused on a finding that there was no evidence that the problem was caused by “homosexual” clergy. On the contrary, gay and straight priests appeared to be equally culpable. The Catholic News Agency also carried a story on the report, but picking up on a different aspect. Another key finding of the report was that there had been “no change” in the pattern of abuse since the first report. I have made extensive attempts to track down additional reports on this story, and have found none. I have seen exactly the three discussed above – two carrying essentially the same syndicated AP take, and one from Catholic News.

Worst Logo Ever? LA Diocesan Youth Commission

(more…)

Fig leaf Removed: Clerical abuse is NOT Caused by Gay Priests, after all.

Surprised? no, of course not – but this report is still welcome news, because it was commissioned by the US bishops, to whom an interim report has just been delivered.

Some recent history is in order here. In late September, I carried a report that “Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the UN, defended its record by claiming that “available research” showed that only 1.5%-5% of Catholic clergy were involved in child sex abuse.” When I investigated this claim for m(Vatican Blame Game, updated) , it turned out that this claim of Tomasi’s was based on earlier research evidence by the same John Jay research institution. But when I read the report itself, I found nothing in it to confirm Archbishop’s conclusions. The fact that this report confirms what the rest of the world knows, is welcome, but not earthshattering. Don’t hold your breath for the bishops to announce that they accept the report, or will act on this finding, or even for them to release the full report when it has been concluded. (more…)

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