Catholic Woman Priest – in Italy.

While the Swedish Lutherans and US Episcopalians now have lesbian bishops, the Episcopalians are headed by a woman bishop, and the UK Anglicans a little unexpectedly have finally approved women bishops without qualification and without the proposed two tier structure to mollify the conservative faction – in the Catholic Church, even the discussion of female priests, like discussion of married priests, is officially off-limits, taboo. It is not surprising that this outdated intransigence should have resulted in some women simply going their own way, initially with the help of some sympathetic male episcopal supporters. Now, with a handful of bishops of their own, they are able to train and ordain without further help from male colleagues, even in the face of spluttering and rejection by the Curial cabal in the Vatican. Fresh ordinations of Roman Catholic womenpriests have become so routine, they now pass with barely any notice outside the local press: Fr Ray Gosswirth on his blog describes how he recently assisted with more ordinations in Rochester just recently.

Meanwhile, the UK decision on female bishops has again reminded us of how speedily women’s inclusion in the Anglican clergy has advanced. As in the Catholic Church, the first women were ordained without official approval, and in the face of hostility. When the formal approval came, it was after a tense battle, which ended in a narrow victory only after extensive qualifications and opt-outs were approved. The path to female bishops has been equally arduous, and it had been expected that approval would come once again only after a close vote and concessions to the conservative faction -but no, the vote last weekend was clear, with no concessions required. Women bishops are coming to the UK church, on just the same basis as men.

Maria Vittoria Longhitano : New Italian Priest

So the headline in today’s Telegraph that there is to be a woman priest ordained in Italy,  in an Anglican church, would probably suggest either the rebellious Roman Catholic Womenpriests is behind it, or an Italian off-shoot of the Anglican communion. Both assumptions would be wrong.  

Benedict & Gay Marriage: What Did He Say?

Reports of Benedict’s remarks yesterday were pretty clear: that he described abortion and gay marriage as “insidious2 threats” to society. I know from previous press fusses, that there is often a disjunction between his words, and the reports. This is why I delayed before commenting., and then responded only indirectly.

I have now found what appears to be the full text of his remarks to the pastoral care organizations, and guess what? He does not mention gay marriage – not directly:

I express my deep appreciation for all those social and pastoral initiatives aimed at combating the socio-economic and cultural mechanisms which lead to abortion, and are openly concerned to defend life and to promote the reconciliation and healing of those harmed by the tragedy of abortion. Initiatives aimed at protecting the essential and primary values of life, beginning at conception, and of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good. Such initiatives represent, alongside numerous other forms of commitment, essential elements in the building of the civilization of love.

Yes, there is an indirect implicit attack on gay marriage: the “initiatives” to protect the family presumably include those aimed at preventing gay marriage. However, it is a mistake to conclude that these words have said that gay marriage is itself an “insidious threat”. That may have been the intent, but it is not what was said.

If I misrepresented his words in my earlier posts, I apologise.

Catholic Schools, Queer Families

Yesterday’s early reports that a Massachusetts school had refused admission to the son of lesbian mothers had some welcome, rapid sequels which are worth emphasising and celebrating. First, although the initial response by the diocesan spokesman was  one of surprise, stating that he would have to “consult” before responding, in this case this was not just playing for time. There were two later statements, that with the speed of the announcements showed how seriously the matter was being treated. First, came an assurance that the school was acting outside of diocesan policy, and that all children were welcome.

“We believe that every parent who wishes to send their child to a Catholic school should have the opportunity to pursue that dream,” said Mary Grassa O’Neill, secretary for education and superintendent of schools for the archdiocese. “Our schools welcome children based on their parent’s understanding that the teachings of the church are an important component of the curriculum and are part of the students’ educational experience.”

“The archdiocese does not prohibit children of same sex parents from attending Catholic schools,” her statement continued. “We will work in the coming weeks to develop a policy to eliminate any misunderstandings in the future.”

Meanwhile, later in the day came news that diocesan representatives had been in touch with the mothers, and that every effort would be made to find an alternative Catholic school where the family could be assured of a welcome. Note the promise in the statement above of work to eliminate “misunderstandings” of diocesan policy in the future.

Benedict, Gay Marriage, and the real “Insidious Threat”.

I suppose I should be angry at Benedict’s remarks yesterday on gay marriage, but in fact I find I can’t be bothered. Instead, what strikes me is how clearly these remarks exemplify Mark Jordan’s demonstration of the weakness of the Vatican’s rhetoric against homoerotic relationships, because that is all it is – rhetoric. There is no rational argument, there is no evidence, no recognition of the Church’s own deeply homoerotic culture – and there is no history. This apparently implacable opposition is of recent origin, and can in principle vanish as quickly as it came.

Too many contemporary discussions of Catholic homosexuality circle endlessly within the words of a few recent documents, the oldest of which dates no further back than 1971. Historical foreshortening is typical of official moral theology, which wants to squeeze its readers into the prevailing regulations.What matters is the current ruling.

-Mark Jordan,The Silence of Sodom

The first thing that struck me about his remarks when I read them last night was how completely devoid they were of any substantiation, any clarification of his reasoning, or any description of just how gay (civil) marriage constitutes a threat to traditional marriage. In this, he resembles the familiar bluster of US opponents of marriage, who rant similarly about the “threats” – but cannot explain how marriage is threatened by its expansion.

In the absence of any reasoning, therefore, let us look instead at the context. A reader asked, in response to my initial post last night, why the pope had coupled the issues of gay marriage and divorce. I guessed at an answer which I now think was only half- right: Portuguese politics. As Fr Geoff Farrow clearly explains, it is indeed politics – but not simply the Portuguese variety. In fact, yesterday’s remarks joined not only gay marriage and abortion, but also divorce. All three of these are currently hot-button issues in Portuguese politics. As Fr Farrow reminds us, it was only in 1971 that Pope John XXIII set aside the triple crowned tiara, of which one represented temporal power.

John XXIII - the last to wear the triple tiara.

We easily forget that until the early nineteenth century, the papacy occupied extensive spatial territory, and was a real temporal power, with substantial sway in international and domestic politics across Europe.

Jesus’ Gay Lover – in Fiction.

A new book by Miguel Santana includes as a sub-plot Jesus’ gay love interest.

His novel weaves together the lives of Mary, mother of Jesus, and Marién Valbuena, a 21st-century feminist theology professor whose roots are both Mexican and Mormon. The relationship between Jesus and his male lover is only a minor subplot — but what a supplot!

For a discussion/review of this book, read Kittredge Cherry, at  Jesus in Love – which is where my extract comes from.

Benedict’s “Insidious Threat” of Gay Marriage (Updated)

In breaking news, reports from Fatima are that after concluding Mass today, Pope Benedict XVI made remarks which described gay marriage, and abortion, as “insidious threats”. I have not yet seen any indication of the reasoning behind these conclusions, nor even if any were offered.

While we wait for more complete reporting, I would just say that the world, and the church, are surely facing far more serious threats than pairs of men, or women, who love each other wanting to express that in public, permanent commitment – and possibly raise children together in a sound, healthy family atmosphere.

Remember that the very Catholic Portuguese president is sitting on legislation, already approved by the parliament and the Constitutional Court, to approve gay marriage.

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