Category Archives: 20 Church Teaching / Tradition

The Vatican’s Gay Anxiety  

David Berger is a Catholic (lay) theologian who was fired from a prestigious teaching post because he is openly gay. As such, he has a special insight into the significance of the Vatican theologian Msgr Krzysztof’s coming out as gay and partnered. He shared his views in an interview with Frankfurter Rundschau.

This is my own free translation:

The Catholic Church can no longer avoid the debate over gay priests. 

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The gay theologian David Berger talks in an interview about the outing of gay clergy Krzysztof Charamsa and about homosexuals in the Vatican. However, Berger leans against blessings for homosexual couples.

Mr. Berger, the Vatican summarily dismissed – in secular terms – the gay theologian Krzysztof Charamsa after his coming out . Was this grasping at crisis management?

In an attempt to demonstrate strength, the apparatus showed in truth its weakness and its vulnerability. The great legal tradition of the Catholic Church, of which we might actually be proud, in this moment is worth nothing any more, after the outwardly hostile attitude towards homosexuality is exposed as living a lie. Continue reading The Vatican’s Gay Anxiety  

Vatican Theologian Confesses: «I’m Happy to Be Gay and I Have a Partner» Video

«I know I will pay the consequences, but it’s time the Church opened its eyes»

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“I want the Church and my community to know who I am: a gay priest who is happy, and proud of his identity. I’m prepared to pay the consequences, but it’s time the Church opened its eyes, and realised that offering gay believers total abstinence from a life of love is inhuman”. Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, 43 and Polish, who has been living in Rome for 17 years, speaks with a calm smile on his face. He is not just any priest, but has been a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 2003, is assistant secretary of the International Theological Commission of the Vatican, and teaches theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. Never before has a priest with such a high-profile role in the Vatican made a similar statement. Today, on the eve of the Synod on the family, Monsignor Charamsa will be in Rome at the LGBT Catholic International Meeting organized by the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, to support the discussion on gay Catholics.

Why did you decide to come out?
“There comes a day when something inside you snaps, and you can’t go on. If I had been alone I would have lived the nightmare of a denied homosexuality, but God never leaves us alone. And I think He has helped me take this important existential step. It’s important because of its consequences, but it’s also the premise for living honestly, which should be natural for every homosexual. The Church is already behind in tackling the issue, and we can’t wait another 50 years, which is why I’ve decided to tell the Church who I am. I’m doing it for myself, for my community, and for the Church. It is also my duty towards the community of sexual minorities”.
What do you think you will achieve?
“It seems to me that in the Church we are ignorant about homosexuality because we don’t really know any homosexuals. We have them all around us, of course, but we never look them in the eye, because they seldom say who they are. I hope that my personal experience will help stir the Church’s consciousness in some way. I will personally reveal my identity to the Holy Father in a letter. And I will tell the universities in Rome where I teach who I am; to my great sorrow I will probably no longer be allowed to work in Catholic education”.

You are making this announcement on the eve of the Synod on the Family, which begins tomorrow at the Vatican.
“Yes, I would like to tell the Synod that homosexual love is a kind of family love, a love that needs the family. Everyone – gays, lesbians and transsexuals included – foster in their hearts a desire for love and family. Everyone has the right to love, and that love must be protected by society and law. But above all it must be nourished by the Church. Christianity is the religion of love, and love is central to the figure of Jesus we bring to the world. A lesbian or gay couple should be able to openly say to their Church: ‘we love each other according to our nature, and offer this gift of our love to others, because it is a public matter, not just a private one; we are not merely engaged in some extreme pursuit of pleasure’”.
But this is not how the Church sees things.
“No, this is not the position of current Church doctrine, but similar views have been aired in theological scholarship. Above all in Protestant scholarship, but we also have excellent Catholic theologians who have given important contributions in the field”.

Catholic Catechism based on the Bible defines homosexuality as an “intrinsically disordered” tendency…
“The Bible says nothing on the subject of homosexuality. It instead speaks of acts that I would call “homogenital”. Even heterosexual people may perform such acts, as happens in many prisons, but in that case they are acting against their nature and therefore committing a sin. When a gay person engages in those same acts, they are instead expressing their nature. The biblical sodomite has nothing to do with two gays that love each other in modern-day Italy and want to marry. I am unable to find a single passage, even in St Paul, that may be seen as referring to homosexual persons asking to be respected as such, since at the time the concept was unknown”.
Catholic doctrine excludes gays from the priesthood: how did you manage to become a priest?
“The rule was introduced in 2005 when I was already a priest, and only applies to new ordinations. For me it was a shock. It didn’t use to be like this, and I think this is a mistake that needs to be corrected”. Have you always known you are gay? “Yes, but at first I didn’t accept the fact; I submitted zealously to the teaching of the Church and to the life it forced upon me, according to the principle that ‘homosexuality does not exist (and if it does, it needs to be destroyed)’”.
How did you go from denial to being happy about being gay?
“Through study, prayer and reflection. A dialogue with God and the study of theology, philosophy and science were crucial. Moreover, I now have a partner who has helped me transform my fears into the power of love”.
A partner? Is that not even more irreconcilable with being a Catholic priest?
“I know that the Church will see me as someone who has failed to keep a promise, who has lost his way, and what’s worse, not with a woman, but a man! I also know that I will have to give up the ministry, even though it is my whole life. But I’m not doing this so that I can live with my partner. The reasons are much wider-ranging and based on a reflection on Church doctrine”.
Could you explain?
“If I failed to be open, if I didn’t accept myself, I couldn’t be a good priest in any case, because I couldn’t act as an intermediary for the joy of God. Humanity has made great progress in its understanding of these issues, but the Church is lagging behind. This is not the first time, of course, but when you are slow to understand astronomy the consequences are not as serious as when the delay regards people’s most intimate being. The Church needs to realise that it is failing to rise to the challenge of our times”. English translation by Simon Tanner www.simontanner.com

Bischof Bode über seine Erwartungen an die Familiensynode in Rom

“Verschiedene Positionen offen aussprechen”

http://www.domradio.de/

Der Osnabrücker Bischof Franz-Josef Bode nimmt Anfang Oktober an der Weltbischofssynode in Rom zum Thema Familie teil. Im Interview der Katholischen Nachrichten-Agentur äußerte er sich über seine Erwartungen an dieses Treffen.

KNA: Bischof Bode, was erwarten Sie atmosphärisch von der Bischofssynode?

Bode: Es wird eine besondere Atmosphäre sein. Weil zur Vorbereitung im vergangenen Jahr bereits eine Synode stattfand. Und weil es erstmals Umfragen unter den Gläubigen zu den anstehenden Themen gegeben hat. Dadurch haben sich Meinungen und Richtungen herausgebildet. Deshalb wird diese Synode mit Spannung erwartet. Das gilt auch für mich selbst.

KNA: Ein großes Thema sollen die wiederverheirateten Geschiedenen sein. Sie selbst haben sich dafür ausgesprochen, Betroffene unter bestimmten Bedingungen wieder zum Kommunionempfang zuzulassen. Welche?

Bode: Die Ehe ist nach dem Willen Jesu unauflöslich. Mit einer sakramentalen Ehe ist etwas geschlossen, was sich niemals einfach auflöst. Durch die Schwäche der Menschen kann diese Lebensbeziehung dennoch zerbrechen und scheitern. Menschen können zu einer neuen Beziehung kommen, die reifer ist, aber sakramental nicht die gleiche Wertigkeit hat wie die erste. Die Frage ist, ob diese neue Wirklichkeit, die vielleicht besser dem Bund Gottes mit den Menschen entspricht als die erste, immer den Ausschluss von Beichte und Kommunion zur Folge haben muss. Wir sollten die Frage einbeziehen, welche Umstände zum Bruch der Ehe geführt haben. Bislang behandeln wir alle gleich, ob jemand Schuld trägt oder nicht. Zudem verbindet sich damit eine Frage nach dem Verständnis der Eucharistiefeier. Ist sie wirklich ausschließlich die Darstellung einer vollkommenen Einheit in Glaube und Kirche oder ist sie auch Hilfe für Lebenswege, die ihre Wunden haben? Und dass Menschen das nicht in der Beichte ausdrücken und Vergebung dafür erlangen können, finde ich fast noch schwieriger als die Frage nach der Kommunion.

KNA: Großes Thema wird auch der Umgang mit Homosexuellen und eine kirchliche Wertschätzung ihrer festen Partnerschaften sein. Zeichnet sich dafür eine Lösung ab?

Bode: Der Katechismus macht deutlich, dass wir diese Menschen nicht diskriminieren. Wie bei anderen, die vor der Ehe zusammenleben, geht es auch bei ihnen darum, ihre Stärken zu erkennen und nicht nur ihre Schwächen und Defizite. Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaften sind aber nicht der Ehe gleichzusetzen. Ehe ist für uns die Beziehung von Mann und Frau, aus der auch Kinder hervorgehen können. Kirche kann den Lebenspartnerschaften in Gesprächen und in positiver Begleitung helfen und ihnen beistehen. Es wird jedoch nichts geben können, was einer Trauung gleichkommt. Aber mit Gebet und einer privaten Form von Segen wird man ihren Weg begleiten können.

KNA: Wo Treue und Verlässlichkeit gelebt werden, kann es eine Anerkennung von der Kirche geben?

Bode: Anerkennung dessen, was da gelebt wird. Ein Sakrament ist das nicht. Aber wenn ich grundsätzlich die Offenheit habe, nicht immer nur alles oder nichts einzufordern, dann gilt das auch für die Homosexualität. Wobei das natürlich auch abhängig ist von kulturellen und politischen Zusammenhängen. Schon die vergangene Synode hat die Unterschiede in der Weltkirche aufgezeigt. Vielleicht muss man da unterschiedliche Wege gehen.

KNA: Welche Chancen sehen Sie für einheitliche Lösungen in der katholischen Kirche weltweit?

Bode: Die Chance gibt es immer, weil wir gemeinsam an den einen Christus glauben, weil die Grundlage die Heiligen Schrift ist und weil wir eine Tradition der Kirche insgesamt haben. Das war ja immer der Vorteil der Kirche, dass sie über Grenzen hinweg, über die Kulturen hinaus eine Gemeinschaft bildet. In der grundgelegten Auffassung von Ehe und Familie herrscht doch Einmütigkeit. Bei den homosexuellen Lebensformen wird man eine größere Verschiedenheit in den Kulturen annehmen müssen.

KNA: Was wird sich in der Seelsorge nach der Synode ändern?

Bode: Eine Synode ist kein Konzil, das Beschlüsse verabschiedet, die dann pastoral umzusetzen sind. Die Synode gibt Empfehlungen an den Papst, der daraus ein richtungweisendes Schreiben verfasst. Darin kann er natürlich auch neue pastorale Schwerpunkte setzen. In unseren Empfehlungen können wir die Türen offenhalten für pastorale Lösungen vor Ort. Denkbar ist, den Priestern eigene Vollmachten zu geben, damit sie in der Pastoral verantwortbare Lösungen finden können etwa mit Blick auf die wiederverheirateten Geschiedenen. Es gibt ja bereits seit Jahren in den Diözesen Anregungen, wie die Seelsorger damit umgehen sollten. Ich wünsche mir, dass das in einer theologisch noch begründeteren Weise geschehen kann. Wir haben fast immer nur im Blick, was die Dogmatik der Pastoral sagt, aber selten, was die Pastoral der Dogmatik sagt. Dabei ist das doch ein Dialog, eine innerste Verbindung.

KNA: In Rom treffen konservative und reformorientierte Bischöfe zusammen. Wird hinter verschlossenen Türen wirklich kein Blatt vor den Mund genommen?

Bode: Ich hoffe auf ein Klima, in dem die verschiedenen Positionen offen ausgesprochen werden können. Und zwar nicht nur in den Drei-Minuten-Statements zu Beginn der Synode, sondern auch in Kleingruppen untereinander. Das muss auf wirklich sachliche Art geschehen. Elemente des Gebets, des Abwägens, des Rückzugs und der erneuten Zusammenkunft sind dazu wichtig. Vor allem braucht es Zeit. Ich weiß nicht, wie weit wir in drei Wochen kommen.

KNA: Wie wichtig ist die Teilnahme von Nicht-Klerikern?

Bode: Wir können ja nicht als Kleriker und Männer allein die Fragen von Familien besprechen. Es ist absolut notwendig, dass Ehepaare dabei sind. Daneben fließen aus den Umfragen sehr ehrliche Statements ein. Zudem haben die Bischöfe im Vorfeld mit Beratern und Eheleuten gesprochen, speziell auch mit Frauen.

KNA: Wie wichtig ist Ihnen als zölibatär lebender Mann die eigene Familie?

Bode: Ich habe vier ältere Schwestern. Alle vier haben geheiratet und zwei Kinder. Und die haben jetzt schon wieder acht Kinder. Als Onkel und Großonkel bekomme ich das ganz normale Familienleben gut mit. Leider sind zwei meiner Schwestern schon verstorben, so dass ich auch diese Situation der schweren Krankheit und Witwenschaft kenne. In meinem Bekanntenkreis habe ich Freunde, deren Ehen gescheitert sind und die gute Neuanfänge gemacht haben. Auch treffe ich mich regelmäßig mit den sechs Ehepaaren eines Familienkreises aus der Gemeinde, in der ich Pfarrer war. Ich bin sehr eingebunden in meine Familie.

Sabine Just und Johannes Schönwälder

Cardinal Schonborn, on the Family Synod: Process and Doctrine

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna is both a senior cardinal of the Catholic Church, once thought to be a “papabile” at the last conclave, and a notable theologian. He was a student of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and later continued as a regular participant in the theological summer schools held by Pope Benedict XVI with his favoured former pupils.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn addresses a news conference after a meeting in Vienna September 24, 2010. Senior Catholic officials have been holding talks with their Orthodox counterparts over the last few days in Vienna. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger (AUSTRIA - Tags: RELIGION HEADSHOT)
Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn addresses a news conference after a meeting in Vienna September 24, 2010.

His views are worth taking seriously – and are often prescient. When he remarked, a few years ago, that it was high time that the Catholic Church stopped obsessing about gay genital acts, to focus instead on the quality of the relationships, and should consider the value of those previously divorced wanting to remarry, when so many others simply reject the entire institution of marriage, he seemed to be a lone voice in the wilderness. It was widely expected at the time that he would be quickly reprimanded. This did not happen. Instead, many other bishops began to speak along similar lines, which soon became mainstream, and have since become an important thread through the family synods, of 2014 and 2015.

In a notable extended interview with the Italian Jesuit magazine Civita Cattolica, he offered some insights into the synod process, on marriage and family, and on pastoral responses to those in “irregular” relationships.

The published internview is available only in Italian. I offer here my own free translation of the complete Italian texts, in three parts:

  • The Synod Process and “Doctrine”
  • Marriage and Family
  • Irregular Relationships

MARRIAGE AND PASTORAL CONVERSION: Interview with Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

(Antonio Spadaro SJ

During the extraordinary Synod on the family, which took place 5 to 19 October 2014, I was impressed with, among others, by the intervention of Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna. We had a discussion, after his speech in the classroom, during a dinner with a mutual friend. Then he told me about his experiences as a child of a family that has experienced the divorce. His lucidity was not a merely intellectual reflection, but was the result of experience. Strolling under the colonnade of St. Peter, he told me about the absence of grandparents and uncles from Synod speeches. The family, he said, is not only wife, husband and children, but  is a wide network of contacts, including ​​some friends and not only relatives. Any divorce affects a large network of relationships, not only on a couple’s life. But it is also true that the network can withstand the impact of the split and support the most vulnerable, the children, for example.

We did not end the conversation. We continued for two subsequent meetings, after a few months, at the headquarters of Civiltà Cattolica. Once with his friend and fellow Dominican Fr Jean Miguel Garrigues, who I also interviewed for our magazine (1). And the interview finally, continued in Vienna at the Kardinal KönigHaus.The following interview is the result of these meetings, which eventually took the form of a dialogue unit. I asked the Cardinal for a reflection closely tied to his experience as a pastor. And this pastoral inspiration that gives body and breath to his words.During the extraordinary Synod on the family, which took place 5 to 19 October 2014, I was impressed with, among others, by the intervention of Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna. We had a discussion, after his speech in the classroom, during a dinner with a mutual friend. Then he told me about his experiences as a child of a family that has experienced the divorce. His lucidity was not a merely intellectual reflection, but was the result of experience. Strolling under the colonnade of St. Peter, he told me about the absence of grandparents and uncles from Synod speeches. The family, he said, is not only wife, husband and children, but  is a wide network of contacts, including ​​some friends and not only relatives. Any divorce affects a large network of relationships, not only on a couple’s life. But it is also true that the network can withstand the impact of the split and support the most vulnerable, the children, for example).

Your Eminence, what was, in your view, the intention of the Extraordinary Synod of the family? There has been talk of family joy and challenges of the family.

When Francis became Pope, the theme for the next Synod had already been set by his predecessor, Pope Benedict: general issues of Christian anthropology and, above all, bioethical issues. During his first meeting with the Council of the Synod, Pope Francis observed that it would be difficult to address these issues outside of a framework of background on the family and marriage and, consequently, little by little the issue moved without neglecting the anthropological questions, but placing them in connection with this original anthropology that is the biblical teaching about man and woman, their marriage, their vocation and the great theme of marriage and the family.

But why take up a theme that St. John Paul II dealt with exhaustively in the course of the 27 years of his pontificate?

I think that Pope Francis wanted above all to encourage us – and he repeated it several times – to look at the beauty and the vital importance of marriage and Family with the gaze of the Good Shepherd who makes himself close to everyone. He set in motion this synodos, this common journey, in which we are all called to look at the situation, not with a look from above, from abstract ideas, but with the look of the shepherds who perceive the reality of today in an evangelical spirit. This view of family reality and marriage is not, first of all, a critical look that underlines every failure, but a benevolent one, seeing how much good will and how much effort are there, even amid so much suffering. After all, we are asked an act of faith: to approach, like Jesus, to diverse crowd without fear of being touched.

In the convocation of the Synod on the family by the Pontiff we can therefore read a desire for concreteness, closeness …

Yes, a desire to watch real people in the joys and sorrows, griefs and anxieties of their daily lives and bring them the Good News, and find  that living the Gospel in the midst of many hardships, but also such generosity. We must break away from our books to go into the crowd and be touched by the lives ocf people. Look at them and know their situations, more or less unstable, since deep desire is inscribed in everyone’s heart. It is the Ignatian method: look for the presence and action of God in the smallest details of everyday life. We are still far from achieving this auspicious start made ​​by Pope Francis. We have not reached this dimension in ecclesiastical discourse and in the discourse of the Synod. We speak too with a language made ​​of vacuous concepts.

According to some, however, the aim should be eminently doctrinal; some even fear for the doctrine.

The challenge Pope Francis puts to us  is to believe that, with the courage that comes from simple proximity, from the everyday reality of the people, we will not turn away from doctrine. We not risk diluting its clarity by walking alongside people, because we ourselves are called to walk in faith. Doctrine is not, in the first instance, a series of abstract statements, but the light of the word of God demonstrated by apostolic witness to the heart of the Church and in the hearts of believers who walk in the world today. The clarity of the light of faith and its doctrinal development in each person is not in contradiction with the way that God works with ourselves, that we are often far from living fully the Gospel.

So what are the challenges with which the ordinary  Synod will have to deal?

We can identify several key points which would be detrimental not give proper weight. The first that comes to mind is to become aware of the social and historical dimension of marriage as a family. Too often we theologians and bishops, pastors and guardians of doctrine, forget that human life takes place in the conditions imposed by a society: psychological, social, economic, political, in a historical context. This has been lacking in the Synod. And the thing is amazing compared to the enormous changes that individual during the seventy years of my own life. How can we forget that throughout history marriage has not been accessible to everyone? During several centuries, perhaps millennia, marriage was not what the Bible tells us of man and woman. For a large number of people, marriage was simply not possible, because of the social conditions. Just think of the slaves. We think in many professions for which marriage was both economically inaccessible, it is excluded former professed. In the countryside, up to three generations ago, there were used, farmers who did not marry because they had the option of paying the dowry. In the nineteenth century baptismal records in Vienna, about half of the children were illegitimate children of the servants of the bourgeois houses that they could not marry because they did not have the means. Think of the situation, also present in poor countries. It left me a little  shocked that at the Synod we speak very abstractly of marriage. Few of us have talked about the real conditions of young people who want to marry. We complain about the almost universal reality of de facto unions, many young and not so young who live together without getting married civilly and even less religiously; we are here to deplore this phenomenon, instead of asking, “What has changed in the conditions of life?”.

You are a pastor. You are  the archbishop of Vienna. What happens today in Austria?

In Austria young people are living – and they are the vast majority – disadvantaged by the tax authorities, if they marry. Furthermore, their work situation is often precarious, and they hardly find a stable and lasting as happened to my generation. How can we want to build a house, start a family in these conditions? We find a social situation that was very common in the last century, when many were excluded from the good of marriage simply because of their situation. I’m not saying that what happens is good, but we need to have a careful and compassionate look at the reality . There’s plenty of finger-pointing on hedonism and individualism of our society. It is more difficult to observe these realities carefully.

I feel that his speech is marked by a faith in the ability of good people, despite everything.

We must bear witness to a deep trust in man, child of God, loved by God, and a deep trust in marriage and the family, the vital cell of society. I was very impressed to hear this positive thread from Pope Francis. For example, when during the Synod he reminded us: “But you do not talk about their grandparents.” And it is true: our speech is often so formal! How many times has he talked about his famous grandmother that so marked his life! He invites us to look with love and with a fund of trust at this reality of the family.

Sacerdote Pedro Labrín:”Saquémonos los lentes oscuros: la Iglesia está llena de homosexuales” (Reblog)

En octubre del año pasado, en el mismo mes en que el Sínodo de Obispos dio a conocer un documento en donde hablaban de que los homosexuales tenían “dones y cualidades” para ofrecer y que había que aceptarlos (sin que comprometieran la doctrina católica de la familia), el sacerdote chileno Pedro Labrín viajó a Roma junto a miembros de la Pastoral de la Diversidad Sexual (Padis).

“Somos católicos y gays”, decían algunos de los carteles que desplegaron en la plaza de San Pedro. Minutos después, Labrín le mostraba al Papa Francisco una foto de la pastoral que guía desde 2010 cuando se le acercó un grupo de homosexuales a pedirle ser parte de la CVX, la asociación de fieles católicos ligados a los jesuitas. “Yo los admiro por su resistencia, sobre todo el no haberse ido, como muchos otros que sí lo hicieron”. Continue reading Sacerdote Pedro Labrín:”Saquémonos los lentes oscuros: la Iglesia está llena de homosexuales” (Reblog)

Excluded From God's People?

Question: Look carefully at this picture of assembled Catholic cardinals, and decide (carefully, now): Which of these, in terms of Pope Benedict’s own reasoning, are “excluded from God’s People”?

Answer: If you are to follow the line of reasoning of Pope Benedict himself, in his earlier incarnation as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the answer should be plain to see: all of them.
How so?

In the first Church document dedicated to the matter of homoerotic relationships, “Homosexualitatis Problema“, the “Problem (sic) of Homosexuality”, Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) quotes two verses from Leviticus which appear to condemn homosexual relationships, and then leaps to the completely unsubstantiated assertion that, because these verses describe such actions as an “abomination”, the people so described are excluded from the Kingdom of God.”
If we are to accept the reasoning as sound, we should be able to apply it equally to the other behaviours which are similarly described as “abominations“, and so discover who else are “excluded from the Kingdom of God.”
These verses include in their condemnation those well-known disreputable sinners as the eaters of shellfish and rabbits, those wearing clothing of mixed fibres, and (it pains me to say this), those who have shaved their beards. Now, the picture shown does not show a great deal of detail, but I fail to see a single beard among the assembled throng. To be consistent, on the basis of this argument we have only two options: either we must accept that the illustrious cardinals shown (and the overwhelming majority of all clergy) are likewise “excluded from God’s people “, or we must accept that the reasoning is flawed. Which is it?
Homosexualitatis Problema” concludes with two wonderful verses from Scripture: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (Jn 8:32), and “Speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), both stirring verses that I would endorse fully. What enrages me, is the deceitfulness, the utter dishonesty, of a document which purports to be about “Truth”, but instead bolsters its claims (for that is what they are: claims, not reasoned arguments) with a long series of palpable falsehoods.
I could accept in good faith a document that submitted ts claims and supported them with clear reasoning. This document does not. Instead, it provides us with an excellent example of what Dr Mark Jordan has described as the typical rhetorical style of the Church: to present statements as unquestionably true, without justification, and then to bludgeon us into submission by sheer force of repetition. These are examples of the statements made in exactly this way, without demonstration, that are demonstrably untrue:

In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, in the course of describing the conditions necessary for belonging to the Chosen People, the author excludes from the People of God who behave in a homosexual fashion.

These verses from Leviticus are well known, and it is inexcusable that they should be so badly misrepresented. They do not condemn those “who behave in a homosexual fashion”, but a much narrower set of behaviors – men who lie with men “as with a woman”. It does not condemn women’s relationships, nor does it condemn other kinds of “homosexual behavior” – such as caressing, or home-making, or cooking, or mutual love and support, or dancing,or…… Just what is behavior “in a homosexual fashion“?

“There can be no doubt of the moral judgement made there (in Genesis 19, of the story of Sodom) against homosexual relations”.
Note that this is not just a claim that the story is a condemnation of “homosexual relations”. It is much stronger, and says that “there can be no doubt“. In fact the opposite is true – there is indeed a great deal of doubt. Not only is there “doubt”, but even outright denial. Many reputable Biblical scholars now point out that there is in fact no condemnation of homosexual relations anywhere in Genesis 19. The story as told in Genesis does not in any way identify the infamous “sin of Sodom” – but it is identified elsewhere, and it is not “homosexuality”. (See “Countering the Clobber Texts” for more on the real sin of Sodom.)
The document goes on to claim that there is a “clear consistency within the Scriptures themselves on the moral issue of homosexual behavior. This is nonsense. Among over 30 000 verses in Scripture, there are only half a dozen which appear to criticize some homosexual behaviors and even these verses are debatable. (Over 300 verses carry admonitions against heterosexual behavior). there are also very many texts which support loving same gender relationships (see The Gospel’s Queer Values) – but these the CDF simply ignores.

The Church’s teaching today is “in organic continuity with the Scriptural perspective and her own constant tradition.”
The Vatican likes to repeat this phrase about a “constant tradition” (or “unchanging” tradition) on “homosexual relations” at regular intervals. In fact, there is no “constant” tradition, when you take a long view over history. There is indeed “organic continuity”, but it has changed substantially over the two millenia of history, just as teaching has changed on many other issues: on slavery, on usury, on women’s proper & expected subjection to the will of there husbands, on the sacramental nature of marriage, and the need for its solemnization in church (which was once required only for priests), on compulsory celibacy for priests, on the evils of democracy………..
On homosexuality, historians such as James Boswell, Mark Jordan and Alan Bray have shown just how much the teaching has evolved and changed over the centuries. I have listed some of this at Queering the Church, in my post “The Church’s Changing Tradition“.

The church’s perspective “finds support in the more secure findings of the natural sciences

It does not. The natural sciences, like the human and social sciences, clearly show the opposite view. Zoologists have shown that homosexual behaviour occurs throughout the animal world. (See “God is Slightly Gay“). Physiologists have found some differences between the brains of people with homosexual and heterosexual orientations. The professional associations of the medical and psychiatric professions agree that homosexuality is not pathological or in any way “abnormal”. (Anthropology and social history show the same, but let us stick with natural sciences for now, as the Vatican does.) None of these natural sciences “support the Church’s perspective”, as the document fraudulently claims. But note the slippery rhetorical style: it does not claim that all science supports it – just that the “secure” findings of natural science do. In other words, those findings that do support Church teaching are “secure”, those that don’t can simply be dismissed as “insecure”, no matter what are the views of the scientific community as a whole.

“Homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfilment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God.”
This outrageous assertion is one that the CDF would no doubt like to believe, but there is no basis at all for accepting it – nor is any justification provided. On the other hand, there are two clear reasons for rejecting it, at least as applied to persons with a natural homoerotic orientation. First, if this is the way we have been made by the creator, how can its expression be “contrary to the creative wisdom of God”? God does not make mistakes. Does the CDF really believe we are called to somehow repair God’s mistakes? The truth here, as so often in this document, is precisely the opposite of the claim presented. The lessons from psychotherapy are clear: what is dangerous to mental health, and prevents human fulfilment and happiness, is the denial of one’s identity and personal truth, including one’s sexual identity. As John McNeill, the notable theologian and psychotherapist, endlessly reminds us in his books, bad psychology is bad theology.
These are the most obvious, clear falsehoods in the statement. There are others which are less extreme, but are also misleading.

St Paul, in 1 Cor 6:9 “proposes the same doctrine and lists those who behave in a homosexual fashion among those who shall not enter the Kingdom of God”;

This text does not list those “who behave in a homosexual fashion”. It lists rather, “malakoi” and “arsenekotoi“. Do you know what those are? No? Nor does anybody else. Accurate translation of these terms has puzzled Biblical scholars, because their meaning is unclear, but could be associated with idolatry, or the practice sometimes described (inaccurately) as “temple prostitution”. It most certainly does not refer to people who behave in a “homosexual fashion”, whatever that might mean.

1 Tim 10 “explicitly names as sinners those who engage in homosexual acts.”

Again, it does not. It “explicitly” names only “malakoi“, for which – see above.
There are numerous other nasty rhetorical tricks employed by Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict in this document, from the choice of language and false contrasts he sets up, for example, by contrasting “homosexual acts” with “conjugal relationships”. For balance, he should compare “conjugal acts”, with all their associations with a loving marriage, with loving homoerotic relationships. Of course he does not – he totally ignores all consideration of such loving same sex relationships, writing instead only of “homosexual” (historically, a medical term) acts and behaviour, of the “homosexual condition” , and of “disorder”.
The very title of the document is deceitful: it is headed “Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”, but in fact the formal title of the work is “Homosexualitatis Problema“, again simply resenting “homosexuality” as a “problem”. it is not. The only problem here is the Vatican’s total failure to understand , or even to attempt to understand, the problem.
Even the choice of Scriptural verses is telling: “Speak the Truth”, the document concludes. But what about listening? For all the claims of the modern church to be a “listening church”, there is not a shred of evidence in this document, or anywhere else, that the writers have made any attempt to listen to the people who know most about it – those who have learned from personal experience what it is to have a homoerotic orientation. Those churches which have in sincerity engaged in proper listening exercises have found that they have modified their previous views, and have recognized that their traditional views of Scripture on the subject were inadequate. There is a reason, though, why the Catholic Church refuses to do the same kind of listening, and it is one that affects us all- straight or gay.
Now, I would really prefer NOT to be dealing with issues of the church and sexual orientation here, at the Open Tabernacle. For that, I have my own site, “Queering the Church”, where I have been writing for the past year on this and related topics. However, it is clear from some of the observations in the comments threads to other posts, that this is a topic that cannot be simply ignored here. It is also important to note that the issue is of far wider significance and application than just to matters of sexual morality, still less exclusively homoerotic sexual morality. The real motive hiding behind the letter, which should be of concern to us all, has nothing to do with “pastoral care”, nor with “speaking the truth”. Rather, as the text of the letter itself makes clear, the real object is simply one of control. This is reflected in the document’s consistent denial of the validity of any conclusions that differ from its own: if science does not support it, it is not “secure”; if  scriptural exegesis is in conflict with the Magisterium, the Scripture scholars are in error. Nothing, it seems, is to be accepted unless it conforms with the writer’s own view of the Church “truth”. Dissent, debate, discussion are all simply ruled out. (Recall that the origin of the CDF was as the infamous Inquisition – which had thousands of alleged homosexuals executed, usually by burning, between the centuries after the high middle ages and the early Reformation. Unlike other atrocities in church history, this is one for which there has still been no official apology)
The lies, half truths and nasty rhetorical sleight of hand which the CDF has used in an attempt to stigmatize and condemn loving same sex relationships, under the pretence of pastoral care and speaking the truth, should be seen as much more than just a hostile act against a small minority. It is, rather,  just the most obvious symptom of a much wider malaise within the power establishment of the church, which threatens us all. This is of the utmost importance: the ecclesiastical obsession with control and power, and its frequent abuse at all levels, have been clearly shown to be one of the primary root causes behind the ongoing scandals of clerical sexual abuse – in Ireland, in the US, in Australia, and right around the world.

‘Let us take off the sunglasses: the Church is full of homosexuals’ (Reblog)

Writing in La Tacera (Spanish), the Jesuit priest Father Pedro Labrín says that it is hight time that the Catholic Church faced simple reality: the church is “full of homosexuals”, giving an example of inclusion and acceptance from his work with the Christian Live Community (CLC)

 

 

In October last year, in the same month the Synod of the Bishops made known a document where is was said that homosexuals have “gifts and qualities” to offer and they should be accepted (without compromising the catholic doctrine on the family), the Chilean priest Pedro Labrín travelled to Rome together with members of the Sexual Diversity Pastoral Community (PADIS+).

‘We are catholic and gay’ read some of the signs they displayed on Saint Peter’s Square. Minutes later, Fr. Labrín showed Pope Francis a photo of the pastoral community he accompanies since 2010 when a group of homosexuals approached him, asking to be part of the CLC, the association of catholic lay believers linked to the Jesuits. ‘I admire them for their endurance, above all for not having left [the Church] as many did ‘.

How was the integration of the homosexuals into the community?

It never ceases to amaze me to watch the conversion of the members of the CLC, especially those of the adult section. Some have been members for over 40 years and you could think there might be an adverse attitude and the truth is that we have had no resistance in the CLC.

And from the outside?

That is harder. Sexuality conceals fears and anxieties. Some people react based on prejudice, based on the stigma of horror, based on [conceptions like] the ‘poor thing’ or the feeling that this pot cannot be uncovered because it might pervert the educational models and the family. These are irrationalities that we have inherited culturally.

 Did it break prejudice inside the CLC?

It did. It broke and continues breaking it. A wise choice by PADIS+ is having uninstalled the triple x imagery we have of homosexuality and make us understand them as human beings that are absolutely normal. Thus, the irrational fear loses its foundations and trust grows. I am convinced that the inclusion of sexual diversity in the Church causes people to be more mature, more aware of themselves, happier and less complicated, ie, better human beings.
The priest tells us that last year they held for the first time the Dinner of Inclusion. ‘It was the first time in history that the CLC building was decorated for a formal dinner and there were homosexual and heterosexual families sitting together and sharing. It was an image of the Kingdom of Heaven not to be forgotten.’

What have been the benefits for heterosexuals when including homosexuals?

Many realised the responsibility we all have for upholding a historic injustice of thousands of years and for committing to a change. It is impressive how the people I know have become agents of change in the most various realities since knowing them – from changing the vocabulary within the family to interrupting a parents’ meeting because they see a discriminatory attitude. The effect is mobilising.

How would you like the Church to include homosexuals?

I would like that Padis+ was not necessary and that it was not necessary either settling responsibilities within the Church according to the sexual orientation. That it was not an issue.

But, how is real inclusion achieved if the Church has its own boundaries as per the catholic doctrine on matters like marriage or family?

I want to talk about the limits. Let us take of our sunglasses: the Church is full of homosexuals. They are in the Church because they are in the country and in the world. Us making them invisible do not make them disappear. The definition of the Christian is not pursuant to the law but to a person that is Jesus Christ. Our rule is Jesus.

Will there be homosexual marriage in the Church?

That path is a longer one due to other theological dimensions to be solved, but recognition of the sexual diversity, yes, there must be. Recognising the enormous social, human and spiritual capital and giving them the space they deserve.

Original text: Sacerdote Pedro Labrín:”Saquémonos los lentes oscuros: la Iglesia está llena de homosexuales”

English translation by Gionata

 

Magisterium and Scripture

The problem with attempting to deal with the Magisterium of the Church is that it is so vast, that the only way to do it is as one would eat an elephant: one piece at a time. I propose to do just that. Today’s contribution represents just the first course – more will follow.

As the people who insist we follow the Magisterium often also refer us to the Bible, I thought it would be helpful to begin with a look at what the Magisterium has to say about the interpretation of Scripture. Even this is a vast topic. One good starting point is to look at the useful report of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1993, “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” (which may be read in full at the excellent “Catholic Resources” website of Felix Just, SJ).

This important document discusses several different approaches to biblical interpretation with their strengths and weaknesses, and offers an overall evaluation of each. Broadly, the commission finds some difficulties and strengths with each, although some seem to find more favour than others. I have no intention of attempting to provide a comprehensive review in a short introduction, but I do want to pull out some specific quotations which seem to me to be especially relevant to any discussion of sexuality and Scripture.

Possibly the most important single sentence to me comes right at the beginning of the Preface:

“The study of the Bible is, as it were, the soul of theology…. This study is never finished; each age must in its own way newly seek to understand the sacred books.

(Which is why I insist that we need to take seriously the findings of modern scholars on the old clobber texts, which cast an entirely new light on their interpretation.)

The INTRODUCTION then continues with an important warning:

“The Bible itself bears witness that its interpretation can be a difficult matter. Alongside texts that are perfectly clear, it contains passages of some obscurity “

(which is why we must be cautious of glib and superficial references to single verses or passages taken at face value.)

One of the reasons for the difficulty, of course, is that

“Readers today, in order to appropriate the words and deeds of which the Bible speaks, have to project themselves back almost 20 or 30 centuries”.

(Which is exactly what our critics seldom attempt to do.)

The first specific approach considered is that of the “Historical-Critical” method:

“Textual criticism….. begins the series of scholarly operations. Basing itself on the testimony of the oldest and best manuscripts … textual-criticism seeks to establish, according to fixed rules, a biblical text as close as possible to the original.”

(To which I would simply point out that the most explicitly erotic book in he Bible, the ” Song of Songs“, is seldom mentioned by religious conservatives discussing homosexuality. But there are good reasons to believe that it was written as a love poem spoken by two men. At least one scholar believes that the oldest available manuscript has a text with language that is unambiguously and exclusively masculine – and that later texts were effectively censored to hide the homerotic element. See the The Song of Songs: the Bible’s Gay Love Poem at The Wild Reed for a useful discussion and review of this book.)

“The text is then submitted to a linguistic (morphology and syntax) and semantic analysis, using the knowledge derived from historical philology”

(No translation which followed this principle would ever have inserted the modern term “homosexuality” anywhere in the Bibple. Not only the word, but even the concept as we understand it, would have been unknown in Biblical times.)

The report continues with a discussion of three forms of literary analysis: rhetorical, narrative, and semiotic.

“Applied to the Bible, the new rhetoric aims to penetrate to the very core of the language of revelation precisely as persuasive religious discourse and to measure the impact of such discourse in the social context of the communication thus begun

 

“With respect to the narrative approach, it helps to distinguish methods of analysis, on the one hand, and theological reflection, on the other.”

 

“Connected with this kind of study primarily literary in character, is a certain mode of theological reflection as one considers the implications the “story” (and also the “witness”) character of Scripture has with respect to the consent of faith and as one derives from this a hermeneutic of a more practical and pastoral nature”

This approach of literary analysis as a basis for pastoral reflection surely supports the kind of Gospel reflections from a gay/ lesbian perspective offered by writers such as Richard Cleaver (“Know my Name“), Michael B. Kelly in “The Road from Emmaus” (reprinted in “Seduced by Grace”) or on -line by Jeremiah at “Gospel for Gays” – and many others.

The next group of approaches discussed are those based on tradition, including the “canonical” approach, which begins

“within an explicit framework of faith: the Bible as a whole.”

to which I can add only, “Hear! hear!”)

We then go on to approaches from the human sciences, particularly the sociological and cultural anthropology approaches, which require

“as exact a knowledge as is possible of the social conditions distinctive of the various milieus in which the traditions recorded in the Bible took shape”.

and seeks

“to define the characteristics of different kinds of human beings in their social context….-with all that this involves by way of studying the rural or urban context and with attention paid to the values recognized by the society……. to the manner in which social control is exercised, to the ideas which people have of family house, kin, to the situation of women, to institutionalized dualities (patron – client, owner – tenant, benefactor – beneficiary, free person – slave)….”

(and, I should not have to add, to prevailing ideas of “normal” sexual relations. I do however, have to stress this point, because this is precisely what the standard view of the Bible and homosexuality ignores. When one does indeed consider the social context of the times, the extraordinary thing about the Bible is not what it says about homosexuality, but how very little it says: no more than six or seven verses, of dubious relevance, in the entire Bible – none of them from the Gospels- this when most societies in the Mediterranean world did not disinguish between the morality of same sex or opposite sex genital acts. )

Of “contextual approaches“, the commission examined only “liberation theology” and “feminist theology”. Since 1993, however, there has been an explosion of writing in areas known variously as gay & lesbian, queer, or indecent theologies, which are of particular relevance to us. As these have largely developed out of other contextual theologies, the remarks of the commission may be easilty extended to them too.

Liberation theology had its roots in Vatican II, and found its most famous expression in Latin America, later also in South Africa and Asia.

“…starting from its own socio-cultural and political point of view, it practices a reading of the Bible which is oriented to the needs of the people, who seek in the Scriptures nourishment for their faith and their life.

It seeks a reading drawn from the situation of people as it is lived here and now. If a people lives in circumstances of oppression, one must go to the Bible to find there nourishment capable of sustaining the people in its struggles and its hopes.”

It is of course true that liberation theology has drawn some strong criticism from the Vatican, particularly in some of its later excesses, and the Commission notes these “risks”. Still, it observes,

“Liberation theology includes elements of undoubted value”.

Both of these observations (of risks simultaneoulsy with value) apply equally to Queer Theology.

Feminist readings, which began in the late 19th Century with the “Women’s Bible” but took on fresh vigour in the 1970’s, especially in the US, emphasises the patriarchal conditions in which Scripture was written, and the resultant biases , requiring that one adopt a position of suspicion about the texts as they stand and instead look for

“look for signs which may reveal something quite different.”

We in the LGBT community would do well to adopt this attitude of suspicion not so much to Scripture, which was not writen with a specifically heterosexual bias, but to much of the traditional commentary, which certainly applied later prejudice retrospectively onto the text.

On the final approach, of fundamentalist interpretaion, the Commission is scathing in its criticism

“The basic problem with fundamentalist interpretation of this kind is that, refusing to take into account the historical character of biblical revelation, it makes itself incapable of accepting the full truth of the incarnation itself. As regards relationships with God, fundamentalism seeks to escape any closeness of the divine and the human. It refuses to admit that the inspired word of God has been expressed in human language”

Of fundamentalism, I say no more.

Where does this leave us?

I freely acknowledge that in going through the Commissions report, I have necessarily been seleective and certainly display my own biases. This was unavoidable given the limitations of time and space. By all means, go through the full report yourelf, or if you want a full discussion on the contents, see “Interpreting the Bible: Three Views“at First Things

I, though, must work with my own conclusions:
  • Biblical interpretation is tricky, and must be undertaken with care. Simplistic use of isolated texts is particularly dangerous.
  • No single approach is complete and sufficient to itself. To one degree or another, all have weaknesses., and so need to be used in combination.
  • Particular sections, let alone single verses, must be evaluated in the context of the entire passage, or even of Scripture as a whole.
  • Careful attention must be paid to the social and cultural conditions of the time, and to the precise linguistic meaning of the words used.
  • The techniques of literary and contextual analysis are useful in providing pastoral reflections appropriatae for our conditions and oppression as LGBT Christians in the Church. There are however risks, and approaches such as queer theology need to be balanced also by other approaches.

Finally, having considered what the Magisterium (as formulated in this one report) has to say about Scripture, I would like to reverse the question: what does Scripture, and specifically the Gospels, have to say about the Magisterium?

Noting the observations about context and the Bible as a whole, I ask you to consider the religious conditions of Jerusalem during Christ’s ministry there. Consider the powerful Sanhedrin, the rabbinical hierarchy, the pharisees, sadducees and scribes who feature so prominently. Now consider Christ’s response to their challenges to His failure to follow the letter of religious law. Time and again, He insisted that adherence to the fundamental law of love, love of God, of one’s neeighbour, and of oneself, took precedence over merely literal adherence to religious regulation.

Now what do you suppose would be His response to those who insist on our blind obedience to the Catechism and to canon law, where it makes religious outlaws of people who are simply following their natural and god -given sexual orientation?

Just a thought.

National Catholic Reporter: "One gay Catholic's journey"

Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco’s Castro, the best known lgbt – friendly Catholic parish, is the currently the focus of a series of articles at National Catholic Reporter.   Because of it’s fame, the congregation attracts a steady stream of visitors from around the world.  One post from the series, in which a visitor from Colorado shares his story, shows how there are in fact many other parishes across the US (and elsewhere) in which lgbt Catholics can find a welcome – but in most, that welcome exists only as long as we remain closeted.

MHR_Robert_Pickering

Born in a small town in western Nebraska, his parents split when he was 2-years-old, and he was raised by his maternal grandmother. He attended Catholic schools, growing up in a traditional Catholic home. He had a solid Catholic foundation. “I always had people who believed in me,” Pickering told me. “My family showed me God’s love.”

He recalls having been “a geeky shy kid” growing up, often protected by teachers. That made him feel special.

In junior high he began to feel like there was something about him “like no one else in the entire world.” It was then he discerned that he was attracted to boys. It confused him and he often prayed to God to help him understand. “I prayed all the time. I asked God ‘why?’ And I cried.” One day something amazing happened to him, he recalls. “I felt God’s hand on my shoulder. From then I felt everything would be OK.”

– read the full report at National Catholic Reporter.

On Film, Gay Catholics Ask Pope Francis, "Accept Us" (VIDEO)

From Gay Star News:

Gay Catholics call on Pope Francis to accept them in moving film

A heartwarming film released today (10 March) aims to achieve full acceptance of LGBTI persons in the Catholic Church.

It has already reached thousands of people and aims to be seen by Pope Francis and the Vatican clergy.

The 15 minute documentary includes touching personal accounts from Catholic LGBTI people and their family’s acceptance of them.

Watch the video:

 

Michael Tomae, creator of the film, was inspired after volunteering at Covenant House, a youth hostel where many of the residents had been disowned by their Christian families because of their sexuality or gender identity.

via Gay Star News.