Catholic High School Coach Dismissed – for Homophobic Violence!

As we continue to see punitive actions against same – sex Catholic couples who choose to protect their relationships in civil marriage, it’s worth noting that there is in fact nothing in formal Church doctrine, as found in the formal Vatican documents, to bar couples from doing so. Numerous individual bishops have made clear their opposition, but this does not yet constitute magisterial authority.

On the other hand, opposition to violence or malice against gay people, in speech or in deeds, has been firmly part of Vatican doctrine for decades, articulated for example in Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter to the bishops on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (also known as his notorious “Hallowe’en letter). Yet we seldom hear of Catholics being dismissed from church employment or ministry for such very clear contraventions of church teaching – until now.

Philadelphia Catholic high school coach resigns over role in beating of gay men 

An assistant coach at a Roman Catholic high school has resigned over his role in a beating that left two gay men injured, church officials in Philadelphia said Thursday.

About a dozen young adults were linked to the 11 September encounter after police released surveillance video Tuesday and social media users mined online posts, including a group photo taken at a restaurant, to try to match the faces with names.

“Violence against anyone, simply because of who they are, is inexcusable and alien to what it means to be a Christian,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said Thursday in a statement.

via theguardian.com.

Archbishop Charles Chaput

When a Priest DEMANDS that a Couple Divorce!

Cardinal Damasceno Assis of Aparecida has claimed that the church has always supported stable same – sex relationships. At the level of teaching, there may be some degree of truth in that. At the level of practice, its a different matter entirely. Here’s yet another tragic example of how some priests and bishops continue to persecute same – sex couples. How can the church be a “field hospital for the wounded” when it continues to inflict the wounds, itself? How can a priest encourage, and even demand, that a married couple divorce?

Priest removes gay couple from volunteer posts in Lewistown Catholic church

On Aug. 6, four days after the Rev. Samuel Spiering arrived as the new administrator of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Lewistown, he met with parishioner Paul Huff to ask him if he and his partner, Tom Wojtowick, had gotten married.

After Huff confirmed the fact, the priest asked to meet with the two men the next day. At that second meeting, Spiering dismissed the pair from their volunteer posts in the church and told them they could no longer receive Communion, a sacrament at the core of a believer’s faith.

Wojtowick and Huff were stunned and stung by the action. It sprang from the Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage and its belief that homosexual behavior is a sin.

Bishop Michael Warfel

After a conference call between the couple, the priest, and the bishop, there appeared to be some agreement on a compromise – but the priest insisted that the couple divorce!

Family Synod: Another Influential, Supportive Cardinal?

Has the Catholic Church always tried to show respect for stable, same – sex partnerships? Cardinal Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, Brazil, president of the Brazil bishops’ conference, and one of three co-presidents of next month’s Family Synod, seems to think so.
Cardinal Damasceno Assis
A Brazilian, Portuguese language report at Folha de S.Paolo states that referring to the 2011 decision of the Brazilian Supreme Court which  affirmed the right same – sex couples to have their unions recognized in civil law, the Cardinal had this to say:

Christian Responses to Gay Couples – Catholic and Other.

In two recent posts, Bondings 2.0 has reported on yet another two highly influential cardinals, Sean O’Malley of Boston and Claudio Hummes, retired archbishop of Sao Paolo, have demonstrated substantial sensitivity to LGBT concerns. These encouraging small steps to increasing openness by senior Catholic prelates are put into sharp context however, when compared with the giant strides made by some Protestant denominations.

The Catholic Church

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O’Malley, who is one of Pope Francis’ group of eight cardinal advisers, was a panelist for a discussion about Pope Francis for the launch of the on-line magazine, “Crux”. (For a full report on the cardinals observations on a wide range of topics, see Michael O’Loughlin’s report at the Crux website). Bob Shine of New Ways provides more detail on those of particular interest to LGBT Catholics. Shine had submitted a question in advance, pertaining to the rash of dismissals of lesbian and gay Catholics from church employment, to which the cardinal responded indirectly, but sensitively, about the need to follow Francis’ example of “mercy and compassion”. Shine reports that later, in private conversation. O’Malley went further:

In a one-to-one conversation following a public speaking engagement, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that the firing of church workers because of LGBT issues is a situation that “needs to be rectified,” becoming the first prelate to speak against this trend.

In an earlier post at Bondings. Frank DeBenardo reported on Cardinal Claudio Hummes.

In a recent interview with the newspaper Zero Hora, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the retired archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil, gave the following answer to the reporter who asked “If Jesus were alive today, would He be in favour of gay marriage?”:

“I do not know. I make no assumptions about it. The Church as a whole should answer that. We must take care not to be raising questions as individuals, because it ends up creating more trouble to get a conclusion that is valid. I think we have to get together, listen to the people, those who are involved in the issue. It is the Church that must indicate the paths, and there must be way for everyone.”

Hummes is a close friend and confidant of the Pope, who suggested the name “Francis”, and stood beside him on the balcony of St Peter’s when he accepted the papacy. O’Malley is one of Francis’ group of eight cardinal advisors. Earlier this year, Cardinal Gracias, another of that influential group of eight gave a warm and sensitive hearing to the chair of Quest, Ruby Almeida, when she visited India. There is now a steadily expanding list of bishops and cardinals who have shown some degree of increasing openness to LGBT relationships, and it now seems that those closest to the Pope are those showing the greatest flexibility. This is still a change in rhetoric, not substance, but DeBenardo notes that beneath the surface, “something is brewing”.

 As I’ve noted before, I think these statements are like “test balloons,” and the fact that now so many cardinals and bishops are making them seems to indicate that something is brewing.  I’m not sure it will be a big change, but I think it will be a step in the right direction

These are indeed encouraging signs: One cardinal “close to the pope”, and two of the eight cardinal advisors (O’Malley and Gracias) at least sympathetic to LGBT concerns – and yet. In a private, email discussion, Bill Lindsey of Bilgrimage makes a pertinent point:

“I think we have to get together, listen to the people, those who are involved in the issue. “
How? Where? When? I ask myself as I read the article.
How, where, and when will church officials listen to “the people . . . who are involved in the issue”?

Contrast with Protestant denominations

Bill is absolutely right to ask “How? Where? When?” As the family synod approaches, with marriage and sex to be discussed/decided by celibate bishops and only a handful of handpicked married lay people as “auditors” to endorse their conclusions, and gay relationships barely on the agenda except i.r.o. pastoral care for our children, it’s instructive to contrast with some other denominations.
Several, in Europe and in North America, are already permitting local congregations and pastors to celebrate our relationships with either church weddings, or blessings of same – sex unions. In the UK, the United Reformed Church came within a whisker of approving a similar proposal  but failed only because church rules require absolute consensus, so that even with overwhelming support, it was blocked by just a handful of dissidents in the full assembly. In the Methodist church, which has not yet approved any change in its regulations to approve either church recognition of same – sex unions or gay clergy, several ministers have publicly declared their willingness to conduct gay weddings, in spite of these regulations. Nor is it only the traditionally progressive denominations that are changing – Baptists conducted the first British same – sex church wedding.
More interesting than the decisions taken, is the processes that have been followed. In all these denominations, the decisions have been preceded by intensive study, with task groups preparing full study materials, circulated in advance of the deliberative assemblies for study and discussion at local level, and exhaustive debate at assemblies or synods which have been attended by the full range of church membership – people in leadership positions, local ministers, and ordinary churchgoers alike.
The Anglican Church in the UK is a case in point. Following the Pilling report on human sexuality (in effect, a report on the appropriate response to gay sexuality), the bishops have been engaged in intensive discussions on the search for mutual understanding between differing perspectives, aided and guided by a team of facilitators. Later, this will be followed by similar regional gatherings, with clusters of dioceses coming together to debate the same issues. The guidelines specify that the composition of these discussion groups should closely match the range of views in the region, and that for these specify that for every diocese, participating delegate groups should include “more than one” LGBT person. From a CoE media release:

10. The choice of diocesan participants will rest with the diocesan bishop. They will select participants so that, apart from the bishops, the group will be composed of equal numbers of clergy and laity and equal numbers of women and men. Diocesan bishops will normally attend conversations in regions other than their own. The aim will be for a quarter of the group to be under 40 years old. LGBTI people should be represented by more than one person in each diocesan group. The range and balance of views in the group should, as far as is possible, reflect the range and balance within the diocese itself.  

With several dioceses represented at each regional forum, this is more than mere tokenism. The contrast with the RC Family synod is stark.

 

Defang the Serpent of Homophobia: Gaze on It. (Numbers 21:4-9)

In today’s Mass, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14th September), the first reading tells the story of the Israelites and the serpents during their wandering through the desert:

On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’
  At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.
Caduceus
As LGBT Christians, we frequently have to deal with the poison of a particular kind of metaphorical serpent – that of homophobia. This may harm us in two distinct ways, by the discrimination,  bullying or violence that may result, but also more insidiously, by poisoning our minds, so that we begin to believe some of the lies and fallacies ourselves, as internalized homophobia or self – loathing. It is in dealing with this latter poison, that the story of the serpents in Numbers carries a lesson for ourselves.
The Israelites were told that if bitten by a serpent, they should gaze on its image, and they would be healed. (It is from the story that we derive the image of the caduceus, the universal symbol of medicine). In the same way, when we are injured by homophobia, gazing on it and its source can heal us not of the objective harm, but of the subjective, internal poison. Homophobia and prejudice do not arise because of any fault or illness on our part, but from ignorance or irrational fear on the side of the bigots. Recognizing and understanding this, will help us to create the antivenom we need.
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“Catamites and Sodomites” (Again).

A reader has alerted me to the inclusion in today’s Mass readings of some superficially nasty lines from Corinthians:

Thank God I’ve been pre-warned in a homily that Tuesday’s readings apparently condemn catamites and sodomites, so will miss Mass for once, as this terrible translation needs explanation by a competent priest.

I’m no priest, but based on my extensive reading of several eminent bible scholars, I’ll do my best.

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