Tag Archives: Bishops

St Paulinus of Nola: Bishop, Poet, Saint – and Gay: (June 22nd )

Although some would dispute the description of Paulinus as ‘gay’, the description seems to me entirely appropriate to his sensibility. Although history records no evidence of physical expression of his same sex attraction, nor is there any evidence against it.  Given the historical context he was living in (4th/5th century Roman empire) , when sex with either gender was commonplace for men at at all levels of society, inside and outside the Christian church, the absence of written records of private activities after 15 centuries is completely unremarkable.  Nor is the fact that he was married particularly significant – for Romans, marriage and sex with men were entirely compatible.
What is known is that he was married, but also passionately in love with a man, Ausonius, to whom he addressed exquisitely tender love poetry.   This is of sufficient quality and gay sensibility to be included in the Penguin book of homosexual verse:

“To Ausonius”

I, through all chances that are given to mortals, And through all fates that be, So long as this close prison shall contain me, Yea, though a world shall sunder me and thee,
Thee shall I hold, in every fibre woven, Not with dumb lips, nor with averted face Shall I behold thee, in my mind embrace thee,Instant and present, thou, in every place.
Yea, when the prison of this flesh is broken, And from the earth I shall have gone my way, Wheresoe’er in the wide universe I stay me, There shall I bear thee, as I do today.
Think not the end, that from my body frees me, Breaks and unshackles from my love to thee; Triumphs the soul above its house in ruin, Deathless, begot of immortality.
Still must she keep her senses and affections, Hold them as dear as life itself to be, Could she choose death, then might she choose forgetting:
Living, remembering, to eternity.

[trans. Helen Waddell, in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse]

It is surely entirely clear from the above that whatever his physical erotic activities, his sensibility was entirely what we would today call “Gay”.  Paulinus’ feast day was on Monday of this week (June 22nd).  It is fitting that we remember him, and the multitude of other LGBT saints in the long history of the church.

Further reading:

For more  online, see Paul Hansall’s invaluable LGBT Catholic handbook, or the Catholic Encyclopedia(Note though that the latter’s entry on Paulinus is an excellent case study on how official Church history scrupulously edits out our LGBT history.  In a reasonably lengthy entry, Ausonius and the verses addressed to him are noted – but the essential facts that the relationship was passionate, or that the verses were clearly love poetry, are carefully filtered out.)

In print, see  John Boswell’s “Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality”, pp133 – 134.

German Bishops Agree: Sexual Doctrines Must Change!

Consider the following Catholic views on sex and marriage:

  • Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on artificial means of birth control (only 3% of couples rely on natural family planning)
  • Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on premarital sex (Almost all couples who wish to marry in church have already been living together)
  • Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on gay sex (most approve legal recognition for same – sex unions)
  • Most Catholics criticize rules barring the divorced from remarriage in church.

All of this is familiar, and unremarkable – except for the source. Similar statements have been familiar to ordinary Catholics from formal opinion surveys, and from anecdotal evidence in discussion with parish peers, for years. Among lay Catholics, this is routine. But these statements do not come from secular opinion polling, or from any progressive group of church reformers, but from the German bishops themselves, as they have digested their results from the global survey on marriage and family. (Reported by Reuters, “German Bishops Tell Vatican: Catholics Reject Sex Rules“)

Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau, Chairman of the German Episcopal Conference Continue reading German Bishops Agree: Sexual Doctrines Must Change!

"Hold Your Heads High, Your Liberation Is Near at Hand" (Psalm 24).

2013 has been dubbed the “Year of gay marriage”. Pope Francis was named  “Person of the Yea” by gay magazine the Advocate, and as  number two “Gay Rights Hero of the Year” by New Yorker magazine.  The words of the Psalm for today’s Mass will theerefore have particular cogency for LGBT Christians, as we await the celebration of the incarnation of Christ, later this week.

In Minnesota, just a few months separated the need to resist a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and the passage of marriage equality legislation – with vocal support by many Catholic groups.

Continue reading "Hold Your Heads High, Your Liberation Is Near at Hand" (Psalm 24).

May 29th, Bishop Gene Robinson

b. May 29, 1947 

“It’s not so much a dream as a calling from God.”


In 2003, The Rt. Rev.V. Gene Robinson was elected bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire, making him the first openly gay Episcopal bishop. His ordination caused a global rift within the Episcopal Church and led to international debate about the inclusion of gay clergy in church hierarchy. In the weeks leading up to his consecration, Robinson received hate mail and death threats, triggering the FBI to place him under 24-hour protection.
Gene Robinson grew up outside Lexington, Kentucky. The son of poor tobacco sharecroppers, he was raised without running water or indoor plumbing. He recalls his childhood as rustic and religious, with Sunday school and services at a small Disciples of Christ congregation.
Robinson earned his bachelor’s degree in American studies from the University of the South and his Master of Divinity from the Episcopal General Theological Seminary in New York. He was ordained a priest in 1973. 
Despite doubts about his sexual orientation, Robinson married in 1972. He and his wife moved to New Hampshire where they raised two daughters. Robinson worked as youth ministries coordinator for the seven dioceses of New England and cofounded the national Episcopal Youth Event. Robinson divorced his wife and came out in the mid-1980’s.
Robinson is the coauthor of three AIDS education curricula. In Uganda, he helped set up a national peer counseling program for AIDS educators working with religious institutions. 
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force honored Robinson with a Leadership Award in 2004.  In 2007, he received the Flag Bearer Award from Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) for leadership and inclusion in faith communities.
In 2008, Bishop Robinson and Mark Andrew, partners for more than 19 years, exchanged vows in a civil union ceremony in New Hampshire.



Bibliography
“Episcopalians Approve Gay Bishop.” CNN. August 6, 2003
http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/08/05/bishop

“Gene Robinson Biography.” Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. June 20, 2008
http://www.nhepiscopal.org/bishop/bishop.html

Monroe, Rev. Irene. “Perspective: Gene Robinson.”  Windy City Times. June 11, 2008
http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=18580

Steele, Bruce C. “Robinson Redux.” The Advocate. July 17, 2007
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1589/is_989/ai_n20525035

Articles
Burns, John F. “Cast Out, but at the Center of the Storm.”  The New York Times. August 3, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/weekinreview/03burns.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Costello, Andrew. “Let God Love Gene Robinson.” GQ. June, 2008
http://men.style.com/gq/features/landing?id=content_6948

Goodstein, Laurie.  “Episcopalians are Reaching Point of Revolt.”  The New York Times.  December 17, 2006
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/17/us/17episcopal.html

Goodstein, Laurie. “Gay Bishop Plans His Civil Union Rite.”  The New York Times.  April 25, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/25/us/25bishop.html

Keizer, Garret. “Turning away from Jesus: Gay Rights and the War for the Episcopal Church.” Harper’s Magazine. June, 2008
http://harpers.org/archive/2008/06/0082061

Lawton, Kim. “Interview: Bishop Gene Robinson.”  PBS. May 2, 2008
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week1135/interview.html

Millard, Rosie. “Interview: The Rev. Gene Robinson.” The
Sunday Times. July 27, 2008
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4405816.ece

Books
In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God (2008)
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=In+the+Eye+of+the+Storm%3A+Swept+to+the+Center+by+God&x=7&y=16

Films
For the Bible Tells Me So (2007)
http://www.amazon.com/Bible-Tells-Me-So/dp/B000YHQNCI

Other Resources
Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire Website
http://www.nhepiscopal.org/

Bishop Otis Charles, Out Gay Bishop

b. April 24, 1926

Bishop Charles was the first openly gay bishop in any Christian denomination.

From LGBT Religious Archives:

Since 1979 he has been among a growing number of bishops who have spoken out for full and complete inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church without restriction, recognizing their calling to ministry and rejecting the notion that a baptized homosexual must live a celibate life. In 1980, he was the recipient of the national Integrity Award. He is represented in Out in the Workplace: Gay and Lesbian Professionals Tell Their Stories.
Upon his retirement in 1993, Charles publicly announced his homosexuality, becoming the first openly gay bishop of any Christian denomination. That September he sent an epistle to his colleagues in the House of Bishops that said, in part: “I have promised myself that I will not remain silent, invisible, unknown. After all is said and done, the choice for me is not whether or not I am a gay, but whether or not I am honest about who I am with myself and others. It is a choice to take down the wall of silence I have built around an important and vital part of my life, to end the separation and isolation I have imposed on myself all these years.”
John McNeil, former Jesuit and author of Freedom, Glorious Freedom speaks of Bishop Charles’ coming out as “an extraordinary example (of the) public exposure… required… to… provide an image… of what it is to be mature as Christian and as gay” (pp.82-83). In Last Watch of the Night, Paul Monette wrote of Bishop Charles’ coming out as “an important moment in gay and lesbian history, and a ringing challenge to the status quo of invisibility” (p. 304).
The Sunday edition of the New York Times (October 10, 1993) as well as both gay and straight press around the country reported the bishop’s action. Boston’s Bay Windows editorialized: “the news of a 67 year old bishop coming out of the closet is something at which to marvel. Charles puts it less grandly, however, saying simply that it was a matter of integrity.”
After making his public witness Bishop Charles, who appreciates being addressed by his baptismal name, Otis, has welcomed the opportunity to share his story. Whether in an informal gathering or the pulpit, he characteristically begins, “I am a gay man, an Episcopal (Anglican) bishop, a queer who only just mustered the courage to publicly acknowledge the truth of my life.”
Charles has continued as an active and voting member of the Episcopal House of Bishops taking many stands on behalf of his community. In 1995, Charles co-founded Oasis/California, the Bay Area Episcopal Lesbian and Gay ministry. In 1998, Charles was appointed Interim Dean of the School for Deacons serving northern California. During this time he also served as  Bishop-in-residence at the Church of St. John-the-Evangelist in San Francisco and a founding editor of Millennium3, an on-line and print publication distributed to all 13,600 Episcopal clergy. He was an Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of California until 2004.
Charles is currently working on his memoirs and editing a collection of personal reflections on the contribution of entheogens as an opening to mystical experience. Since 1993 he has been a resident of San Francisco where he lives with his partner, Felipe Sanchez Paris.
(This biographical statement provided by Otis Charles.)

Cardinal Borghese, Homoerotic Art Lover

The name “Borghese” will be familiar to many art lovers and tourists in Italy from the name “Villa Borghese”, the palace which was designed by the architect Flaminio Ponzo from sketches by Cardinal Borghese himself, and which housed his impressive art collection.
The mere existence of this collection and its magnificence poses important questions about the institutional Catholic Church. What does this vast wealth that this collection represented, have to do with pastoral care, outreach to the poor, or preaching the Gospels? The questions become even murkier in the light of its manner of acquisition:

   In 1607, the Pope gave the Cardinal 107 paintings which had been confiscated from the studio of the painter Cavalier D’Arpino. In the following year, Raphael’s Deposition was removed by force from the Baglioni Chapel in the church of San Francesco in Perugia and transported to Rome to be given to the Cardinal Scipione through a papal motu proprio.

At this site, however, I am not interested in exploring the iniquities of the historical church. Instead, what interests me here is the nature of the artists and the works in the collection. Several commentaries of the collection note its substantial number of clearly homoerotic works, and he bestowed direct patronage on several well -known homosexual artists – Caravaggio the best-known among them.
He was also implicated in numerous scandals around his homosexual interests, including a close friendship with one Stefano Pignatelli, who acquired such a strong influence over Borghese that the Pope banished him entirely. Borghese thereupon fell into a long and serious illness, from which he only recovered once his dear friend was eventually allowed to return.
Pope Paul V then made the best of a bad job with Pignatelli, and made him a cardinal.
Although the implications are clear, and contemporary allegations plentiful, there appears to be little hard evidence for a specifically sexual relationship between Borghese and Pignatelli. If there was such a relationship  though, Pignatelli will not have been the first to owe his cardinal’s red hat to sexual favours granted.

This is how it is described in Aldrich & Wetherspoon, “Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History from Antiquity to WWII”

He was adopted by his uncle who, when became pope with the name Paul V, made him Cardinal at age 29. His uncle’s favour allowed Borgese to accumulate an immense fortune, which he used to acquire which he used to acquire the vast land-holdings where he built Villa Borghese, now one of the most important Museums in Rome.

Scipione was oriented towards his own sex, and this led to full-blown scandals. In 1605, soon after being made a cardinal, Borghese wanted to bring to Rome Stefano Pignattelli, his intimate “friend”.

Paul V compelled Stefano to move out of Shipone’s house, but the cardinal doubled his love for his friend and succumbed to a severe melancholy which resuletd in a long and serious illness. Only when Stefano was allowed to return to Rome to look after Scipione, did the cardinal recover.

Shipione’s uncle the pope, thereupon decided that in order to keep a check on Pignattelli he must co-opt, rather than combat, him. He had Stefano ordained, the beginning of a carreer which led to his becoming a cardinal in 1621. But Stefano died in 1623. Scipione died ten years later.

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