And as it turns out, the best inspiration for
radical honesty comes right from Scripture (The
Book of Esther to be precise).
Queen Esther is a cool woman by most accounts,
but did you know she’s a perfect analogy for being queer!? Here’s why:
1. She is locked in a system of rigid gender roles.
The setup of Esther’s story is that King Xerxes keeps his women (yes, plural) on a short leash. One of those wives, Queen Vashti, isn’t too keen on being at the King’s beck and call like a doorman. So one day…
Nearly three quarters of Germans support same-sex marriage, according to a poll published on Wednesday, as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives weigh up extending more rights to homosexual couples ahead of a September election.
Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit (first row 2nd R), U.S. Ambassador to Germany
Philip Murphy (first row 3rd R), Britain’s ambassador to Germany Simon
McDonald (first row L) and the Green Party parliamentary faction co-leader
Renate Kuenast (first row 2nd L) open the Christopher Street Day (CSD)
parade in Berlin, June 23, 2012. The annual street parade parade is a celebration of
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lifestyles and
denounces discrimination and exclusion.
Nearly three quarters of Germans support same-sex marriage, according to a poll published on Wednesday, as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives weigh up extending more rights to homosexual couples ahead of a September election.
The survey for RTL television and Stern magazine suggested 74 percent of Germans were in favour of allowing homosexuals to marry and 23 percent against.
Support is strongest among people voting for the opposition Greens and centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) but even among those backing Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), almost two-thirds were in favour, the poll showed.
The CDU wants to boost its appeal among urban voters as it gears up for this year’s vote.
Merkel’s government is preparing to amend the law to grant same-sex couples greater adoption rights after Germany‘s constitutional court ruled last week that gay people should be allowed to adopt a child already adopted by their partner. Heterosexual couples already have the right.
The court has given the government until July 2014 to amend the law.
Last weekend, a close Merkel ally hinted that the party may also be ready to abandon its opposition to giving gay couples the same preferential tax treatment as married heterosexuals.
Homosexuals in Germany can form civil partnerships but cannot marry. Opposition parties accuse the CDU, staunch advocates of traditional family values, of dragging their feet on gay rights.
The CDU’s more conservative Bavaria-based sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has warned against rushing to change the law.
Earlier this month, the lower houses of parliament in both France and Britain voted in favour of gay marriage.
(Reporting by Gareth Jones; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)
Rev. James Lewis Stoll, who died on December 8th 1994, was a Unitarian Universalist minister who became the first ordained minister of any religion in the United States or Canada to come out as gay. He did so at the annual Continental Conference of Student Religious Liberals on September 5, 1969 in La Foret, Colorado. Later, he led the effort that convinced the Unitarian Universalist Association to pass the first-ever gay rights resolution in 1970.
After training at Starr King School for the Ministry, in Berkeley, followed by ordination, he served as pastor at a church in Kennewick, Wash., from 1962 until 1969. For reasons that have not been disclosed, he was asked to resign, and then moved to San Francisco, where he shared an apartment with three others.
In September of 1969, he attended a convention of college-age Unitarians in Colorado Springs. One evening after dinner, he stood up and came out publicly as a gay man. He declared his orientation, stated that it was not a choice, that he was no longer ashamed of it, and that from then on, he would refuse to live a lie.
“On the second or third night of the conference,” according to Mr. Bond-Upson, “after dinner, Jim got up to speak. He told us that he’d been doing a lot of hard thinking that summer. Jim told us he could no longer live a lie. He’d been hiding his nature — his true self — from everyone except his closest friends. ‘If the revolution we’re in means anything,’ he said, ‘it means we have the right to be ourselves, without shame or fear.’
“Then he told us he was gay, and had always been gay, and it wasn’t a choice, and he wasn’t ashamed anymore and that he wasn’t going to hide it anymore, and from now on he was going to be himself in public. After he concluded, there was a dead silence, then a couple of the young women went up and hugged him, followed by general congratulations. The few who did not approve kept their peace.” ’
After the convention, Stoll wrote articles on gay rights, and preached sermons on the subject at several churches. The following year, the full annual meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution condemning discrimination against homosexual persons, beginning a gradual but irresistible move towards full LGBT inclusion.
No action was ever taken by the church against Stoll, and so he remained a minister in good standing, but he was never again called to serve a congregation. It is not clear whether this had anything to do with lingering prejudice against his orientation. It could also be on the grounds of some suspicions of drug abuse, or of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Later, he founded the first counseling center for gays and lesbians in San Francisco. In the 1970s he established the first hospice on Maui. He was president of the San Francisco chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1990s. He died at the age of 58 from complications of heart and lung disease, exacerbated by obesity and a life-long smoking habit
Stoll’s name is not well known today, but for this brave and honest public witness, he deserves to be better remembered.In declaring himself, he was not the first ordained clergyman to come out, but he was the first to do so voluntarily, and the first in an established denomination. His action undoubtedly made it easier for the others who followed him, and to the formal acceptance by the Unitarians of openly gay men and lesbians in the church, and to the now well-established process to full LGBT inclusion in so many denominations.
The story of Ruth and Naomi and their deep love has often been used to illustrate love between women in the Bible. There is more to the book than that alone, for a queer reading. Although the book begins as the story of Ruth and Naomi, it ends as that of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz, as Mona West makes clear in her chapter on Ruth for The Queer Bible Commentary, concluding with a reflection on its lesson for queer families – in all their variety.
With the strong public interest in the struggle for marriage equality and gay adoption, we often overlook the simple but important fact that not all queer families are imitations of conventional families, differing only in the minor detail of being headed by a couple of the same biological sex. We come in a multitude of forms – like the family I meet recently, comprising three men who have just celebrated 25 years of living as a mutually supportive and committed triple. This obviously does not fit with the modern conception of “traditional” marriage and family – but nor do the families of Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament, and nor does the family of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz, as we know it by the end of the book.
Jesus presented another parable to the crowds: “The kindom of heaven is like the mustard seed which a farmer sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows it is the biggest shrub of all – it becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come to perch in its branches.”
Jesus offered them still another parable: “The kindom of heaven is like the yeast a baker took and mixed in with three measures of flour until it was leavened all through.”
Mathew 13: 31-33 (Mark 4:30-32, Luke 13:18-21)
It is almost cliché to note that these two parables are about “humble beginnings.” It is cliché until we take a look at what “humble” refers to: insignificant and rag-tag. That is, out of dismissible events and people grow God’s great Empire.
For example, few observers would have suspected that a hole-in-the-wall tranny-bar would become the match to light the modern Gay Rights Movement in the United States. Yet the name Stonewall is now known the world over. In its wake queer sexuality is seen less and less as a predilection and more and more as a life-affirming path.
McCoy-Snell’s painting reminds us that the greatness of a person or even a movement is often masked by the circumstances of their conception and birth.
As we reflect on the tragedy that was 9/11, and as we as LGBT Catholics face the fierce resistance by Catholic bishops to marriage equality, let us recall eleven years later, that the first victim carried out of the ruins of the World Trade Centre was – a gay Catholic priest, Mychal Judge. He was not one of the unfortunate victims trapped inside the building at the time of the attack with no time to escape, but the chaplain to the New York fire department, who had entered the building after the attack, together with the firefighters, to render what assistance he could. In his story, are many lessons relevant to those of us who struggle with the challenge of living authentically as both Catholic, and queer.
In the immediate aftermath of the carnage, when it emerged that the popular Catholic chaplain had voluntarily entered the collapsing building to support the firefighters, there were many prominent Catholics calling for his bravery and highly regarded ministry to be marked by canonization – calls that rapidly subsided once it emerged that within his circle of friends and colleagues, it was well known that Mychal Judge was widely known to be gay.
The story of his death is well – known, and available from many on- line sources (for examples, see the links below). It is his life that I want to explore.
“Walking to the subway station after an AA meeting in Manhattan, Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan priest fully attired in his hooded brown monk’s habit , turned to a young man he had met at the meeting and exclaimed “Isn’t God wonderful!” When the young man asked the priest why, Father Mychal responded “Look at all the beautiful men out on a Friday night”.
What may sound like the introduction to another sordid story about the secret sexual lives of priests is anything but, for this is the tale of a man who took his vow of celibacy very seriously, yet still celebrated his sexuality openly. A man of God, but still just a man”.
The late 1980’s was a time when AIDS was taking a toll on the lives of countless gay American men. Later in his article, Sapienza describes how it was this that brought him into contact with Fr Mychal, soon after he had himself decided to commit to life in a religious community:
At a time when the Church should have come roaring into action – for this is where Jesus would surely have been with the outcasts and the sick – church leaders, instead, chose judgement over love. This was especially true in New York City, one of the places hardest hit with the virus, where Cardinal John O’Connor became the face of hate to the gay community.
While most Catholic clergy members kept their distance, Father Mychal took it upon himself to address the needs of the gay community at this time of crisis. He formed Saint Francis AIDS Ministry, one of the first Catholic AIDS organizations in the country. He, along with myself and three other professed religious men, began to minister to people with AIDS in area hospitals…
But in addition to his total commitment to service, through his AIDS ministry, or working with Dignity New York for gay Catholics, or through his regular employment as chaplain to New York’s fire fighters, he was also able to simply enjoy life – appreciating the male beauty around him, or in socializing with people from a wide range of backgrounds.
Whether sitting on a cot talking to a destitute man in a homeless shelter, shooting the breeze with a bunch of macho firefighters at a New York City firehouse, or shmoozing with some rich society matrons at a swanky benefit, Mychal had the amazing ability to socialize and empathize with everyone he met.
Sounds to me an awful lot like one Jesus of Nazareth!
There is important symbolism here – as a Catholic priest, openly gay within a limited circle, he was very far from unique. It is now widely accepted that a substantial proportion of Catholic priests are gay: many estimates put the number between a third and one half. Many are deeply closeted, a tiny number are fully out and open, and some, like Fr Mychal, are open to friends and colleagues, and even to bishops. This number is probably increasing, putting the bishops on “a steep learning curve”, as James Alison once put it to me, based on his discussions with them, in a range of localities. Publicly however, they seldom discuss the implications, or even acknowledge the phenomenon, just as there has been little serious attempt to engage fully and honestly with the idea that gay men, lesbians, or other queer people in loving and committed relationships can be good and faithful Catholics.
Just as the case for heterosexual priests, some of these gay priests are sexually active – but Mychal Judge, like others, was not, honouring his vow of celibacy. In this, he reminds us that outside the matter of orientation, gay priests are much like any others – and many loving same – sex couples have much in common with conventionally married ones.
But the most important symbol in his story, and the reason for his celebration as a saint of 9/11, is in the powerful example of authentic Catholicism that he displayed, in his life, and in his death – an example of unswerving commitment to service to others, in the name of the Lord, as reflected in his prayer:
Lord, take me where You want me to go,
let me meet who You want me to meet,
tell me what You want me to say,
and keep me out of Your way.
It is this, not slavish adherence to a sexual book or rules, that makes one a true Catholic.
Father Mychal Judge was a Franciscan priest and Fire Department of New York chaplain who died heroically on September 11, 2001. He has been called a “Saint of 9/11.”
“The first thing I do each day is get down on my knees and pray, ‘Lord, take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what to say, and keep me out of your way.’ “
Shortly before entering the World Trade Center on 9/11, Father Judge rejected an offer to join Mayor Giuliani, choosing instead to step into harm’s way to be with the FDNY and victims of the terrorist attack. A Reuters photograph of Father Judge’s body being carried from Ground Zero by rescue workers made him an international icon of heroism.
Father Judge was a hero to many long before his death. He was beloved by Fire Department of New York personnel and their families and a champion of New York’s homeless, AIDS patients, gay and lesbian Catholics, alcoholics, immigrants, and disaster victims.
Born in Brooklyn to Irish immigrant parents, he was only six when his father died after a long illness. As a boy, Judge was inspired to enter the priesthood by the Franciscan friars at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi near Penn Station in Manhattan.
In the early years of his ministry, Father Judge served two parishes in New Jersey, where he gained a reputation as “the listening priest.” During his service as Assistant to the President of Siena College, Father Judge confronted his alcoholism and achieved sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous.
In the 1980’s, Father Judge was among the first clergy to minister to AIDS patients, who at that time were considered untouchable. Through the organization Dignity, he ministered to gay and lesbian Catholics even after the Church excluded the organization from holding masses in New York churches.
In 1996 Father Judge led a memorial service on the beach at Smith Point, Long Island for the families of the victims who lost their lives in the nation’s second worst air disaster, the explosion of TWA Flight 800. More than 2,000 people attended.
Father Judge received numerous posthumous honors, including France’s highest recognition, the Legion of Honor. His FDNY fire helmet was blessed by Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.
When I wrote about Paul II earlier, I referred to Julius III – then realised I have never given you more than a snippet on this flagrant lover of boys including one in particular, a street urchin whom Julius appointed as Cardinal at the grand old age of 17.
In his early career in the Church Julius established a reputation as an effective and trustworthy diplomat, and was elected to the Papacy as a compromise candidate when the Papal Conclave found itself deadlocked between the rival French and German factions. As Pope he lost, or failed to show, any of the qualities which had distinguished his previous career, devoting himself instead to a life of personal pleasure and indolence. His lasting fame, or notoriety, rests rather on his relationship with the 17 year old boy whom he raised to the position of Cardinal-Nephew, and, it was said at the time, with whom he shared his bed.
At the start of his reign Julius had seriously desired to bring about a reform of the Catholic Church and to reconvene the Council of Trent, but very little was actually achieved during his five years in office; apologists ascribe the inactivity of his last three years to severe gout.
In 1551, at the request of the Emperor Charles V, he consented to the reopening of the council of Trent and entered into a league against the duke of Parma and Henry II of France (1547–59), but soon afterwards made terms with his enemies and suspended the meetings of the council (1553).
The Innocenzo scandal
Julius’s particular failures were around his nepotism and favouritism. One notable scandal surrounded his adoptive nephew, Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte, a 13 or 14-year old beggar-boy whom the future Pope had picked up on the streets of Parma some years earlier and with whom he had allegedly fallen in love.On being elected to the Papacy Julius raised the now 17-year old but still uncouth and quasi-illiterate Innocenzoto the cardinalate, appointed him cardinal-nephew, and showering the boy with benefices.
Julius spent the bulk of his time, and a great deal of Papal money, on entertainments at the Villa Giulia, created for him byVignola. Julius extended his patronage to the great Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, whom he brought to Rome as his maestro di cappella, Giorgio Vasari, who supervised the design of the Villa Giulia, and to Michelangelo, who worked there.
Jesus.opens the possibility of bringing gay relationships within the compass of healthy and holy human love.
One year after John McNeill published “The Church and the Homosexual” (1976), a book offering a new theological look at homosexuality, he received a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican. Religious authorities ordered McNeill, an ordained Jesuit priest, to halt public discussion on the topic.
McNeill’s book reveals original text from the New Testament detailing Jesus’s ministry to homosexuals. McNeill argues that the original Greek text of Matthew 8: 5-13 narrates Jesus’s healing of a man’s sick gay lover. The Latin translation of this passage describes Jesus’s healing of a master’s servant.
In compliance with the order from the Vatican, McNeill kept a public silence while he ministered privately to gays and lesbians. The Catholic Church, in 1988, submitted a further order to McNeill to relinquish his ministry to homosexuals. When McNeill refused, the Church expelled him from the Jesuit order.
McNeill enlisted in WWII at age 17. German forces captured him while he was serving under General Patton in 1944. He spent six months as a POW before the war’s end.
After graduating from CanisiusCollege in 1948, McNeill entered the Society of Jesus. In 1959, he was ordained a Jesuit priest. Five years later, he earned a Ph.D. in philosophy with honors and distinction from LouvainUniversity in Belgium.
McNeill began teaching in the combined Woodstock Jesuit Seminary and Union Theological Seminary in 1972. He co-founded the New York City chapter of Dignity, an organization of Catholic gays and lesbians. In addition to his teaching duties, he served as Director of the Pastoral Studies program for inner-city clergy at the Institutes of Religion and Health.
An accomplished author, McNeill’s works include “Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays and Lesbians, Their Lovers, Friends and Families” (1988) and “Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians and Everybody Else” (1995). He has also published influential articles in The New Dictionary of Spirituality and The Journal of Pastoral Care.
McNeill led the New York City Gay Rights Parade as Grand Marshall in 1987. He has received numerous awards, including the National Human Rights Award in 1984, the 1997 Dignity/USA Prophetic Service Award, and the People of Soulforce Award in 2000.
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.