Category Archives: Pastoral

German Synod Father Supports Same – Sex Blessings

One intriguing feature of the Synod on Marriage and Family next month, is that at least two bishops have gone on record as stating that they support the principle of church blessings for same – sex couples. Bishop Bonny of Belgium is one. Bishop Bode of Germany is another.

In an interview with the German Catholic News Agency KNA, Bishop Bode of Osterbruck discussed his expectations from the synod, in general terms, for those who are divorced and remarried – and for homosexuals, and especially those in stable same – sex relationships.
What I find particularly interesting about this interview, is that he does more than simply express support for the principle of church blessings for gay couples, he points to a way in which this might actually become feasible.
First, he points to the well- established but often ignored feature of Catholic teaching, that there should be no discrimination against homosexuals. Like many others, he repeats an insistence that gay unions cannot be treated as marriage, which can only be between a man and a woman, and open to procreation. That is differentiation, not discrimination.  However, he notes that there are other Catholics in sexual relationships that do not conform to Church teaching, such as those who are cohabiting without marriage. To treat same – sex couples differently to those, in pastoral practice he says, is discrimination, and therefore unacceptable. So, in responding to same – sex couples, pastors should look to the good in their relationships, not merely at what is out of step with teaching – just as they do with other Catholics in irregular situations.
Next, he notes that while any form of recognition comparable to marriage is impossible for the Catholic Church, it is possible to offer some form of prayer and informal blessing, where the pastor is able to judge the quality of the relationship to be suitable. Note the qualification though – these should be “private” blessings, which presumably means in a household setting, not actually in Church.
Third, he notes that although the strength of the Catholic Church is its universality, a community cutting across cultural boundaries, nevertheless we need to take account of geographic differences in social and political contexts. (Interestingly, some African bishops have made exactly the same point, from a different perspective).  That being so, he speculates that it is possible, for pastors in some areas to be granted a degree of autonomy in these decisions, so that where same – sex couples are socially commonplace and legally provided for, perhaps in these countries (including his own Germany), such blessings could be authorized – but not elsewhere.
Now recall that when Germany’s largest lay organization called for the introduction of church blessings for gay and lesbian couples, the response by Cardinal Marx was that their request could not be accepted “unreservedly” – implying a possible acceptance, with reservations. Perhaps Bishop Bode’s qualifications, are just such reservations. I also speculated along exactly these lines myself, when Cardinal Marx’s response became public.
I have published the full interview, covering divorce and general expectations, at The Queer Church Repository, in the original German, and in an English translation from the Duolingo community.
Below, I reproduce the relevant sections with specific reference to homosexuals, and their relationships:
d460f-gay-marriage
KNA: A big issue will be the dealings with homosexuals and a religious recognition of their stable partnerships.   Is there any indication of a solution for that?  

Continue reading German Synod Father Supports Same – Sex Blessings

Trans Ministry in Argentina (Reblog)

From Revista OHLALÁ!, English translation by Rebel Girl at Iglesia Descalza:

Sister Mónica: Ministering to Trans Women in Argentina

By Marina Herrmann, Revista OHLALÁ!
September 2015

Sister Mónica Astorga Cremona, a nun who belongs to the Order of Discalced Carmelites, answers the phone and briefly summarizes the mobilization she generated when her work became known: “I told the Pope that, although he urged young people to make trouble, I’m the one who’s doing it.”

Mónica has come out out in recent weeks in various media in the province of Neuquen, where she lives in a cloistered convent, because of the work she’s doing with a group of trans women. But in addition to this work, for many years she has been helping inmates in prisons across the country.

Mónica’s voice is cool, calm, and strong, and if a person didn’t know her age, they’d bet she wasn’t more than thirty or so. However, behind those vocal chords are 30 years of work in the community and 50 years of age. Hence the need to clarify that although the Pope spoke to the young, she’s the one who’s “making trouble.”

Continue reading Trans Ministry in Argentina (Reblog)

Synod 2015 Instrumentum Laboris: Inching to Lesbian and Gay Inclusion

The  Instrumentum Laboris for the 2015 Family Synod includes some clear signs of inching, slowly, towards greater inclusion in church for lesbian and gay Catholics. It is instructive to compare this document with the Relatio released at the end of the 2014 Synod, and with the 2014 Instrumentum, to see how the tone and content have changed – in what is said, in what is not said, and in the language used.

For example, the Instrument largely based verbatim on the 2014 Relatio, there are some notable insertions. With explicit reference to “homosexuals”, the Relatio included just three paragraphs. The Instrumentum adds a third – paragraph 131:

131. The following point needs to be reiterated: every person, regardless of his/her sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his/her human dignity and received with sensitivity and great care in both the Church and society. It would be desirable that dioceses devote special attention in their pastoral programmes to the accompaniment of families where a member has a homosexual tendency and of homosexual persons themselves.

(#130 and #132 are repeats from the final document of the 2014 Synod) Continue reading Synod 2015 Instrumentum Laboris: Inching to Lesbian and Gay Inclusion

Ignatian Spirituality and LGBT Inclusion

In referring to my own faith journey, I have often referred to the value that I have derived from my time exploring Ignatian spirituality, in a Jesuit parish, and in the Jesuit – sponsored lay movement, the Christian Life Community (CLC). It has given me a firm conviction that there simply is no contradiction between a life of integrity as an openly gay man, and my Catholic faith. This conviction, developed over many years, was based initially on extensive Ignatian prayer, spiritual direction, and an extraordinarily intense, genuinely mystical, Ignatian directed retreat.

In my earliest encounter with the Jesuits and sexuality, I was told by a parish priest that “faith” is not a matter of the intellect, but of experience.  Based on that definition, I have the faith. Conversely, one definition of theology, is “faith seeking understanding”. I have the faith – what I have been doing these past dozen years or so, has been a search for understanding. All that I have learned, from explorations of the bible, of LGBT and church history, social anthropology, natural science, and theology, has left me more convinced than ever, that this is indeed so. “Gay Catholic” is not an oxymoron, but for those of us with a natural same – sex affectional orientation, a simple statement of personal integrity and honesty.

The notable Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner has written that it is possible for each of us to experience what he calls a “personal encounter with God”. Once experienced, he notes, nothing can stand between us and that experience: not the Church, not the Bible itself. It is my firm belief that in the retreat I referred to earlier, I was blessed with just such an experience – thus reinforcing even further my deep conviction that for gay Catholics, coming out and accepting that sexuality as part of our “sexual identity” is no more than adherence to an important Catechism command.  And so, I strongly advise anyone still struggling to reconcile sexuality and Catholic faith, to explore the riches of Ignatian spirituality.

There is no need to do this alone. My own experience was immeasurably helped by membership of a Jesuit parish, and a particularly strong CLC group, but there are other routes. The Jesuits have a well – deserved reputation as a gay – friendly order of priests, for which the evidence is clear. Of the explicitly gay welcoming parishes worldwide, a high proportion are Jesuit led.   In many countries, there are Jesuit priests who run spiritual retreats, specifically tailored to LGBT needs and concerns. One final indicator of the value of Jesuit support, is found in the program for the “Ways of Love” conference, to held in Rome this October, as part of the foundation meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. Of the 10 headline speakers for this conference, three are Jesuit priests, and two are religious women in orders shaped by the Ignatian tradition.

One of these, works directly with the CLC community. In a notable article earlier this year, he describes how openly acknowledging their sexuality, enabled a gay CLC group not merely to find acceptance by other CLC groups and the national CLC community, but also to break down prejudice, and even develop straight allies.

Read his full article in Spanish, or below, in an English translation, courtesy of Gionata.

A.M.D.G.

(“Ad maiorem Dei Gloriam”).

Continue reading Ignatian Spirituality and LGBT Inclusion

Swiss Theologians, on Blessing Same – Sex Couples

Could the Family Synod next month give approval to church blessings for same – sex couples? Even the most optimistic Catholic might think that a stretch, but some Swiss theologians seem to think otherwise.  We should remember though, that many Protestant churches in Europe and North America have already accepted either church blessings, or full equal marriage for all couples, or are considering these as serious options. In the Catholic Church, the largest lay organization in Germany has explicitly asked for approval for such church blessings – and the request was not rejected out of hand by the senior cardinal.

Even if it is unlikely to happen at the synod, it is worth noting that there is serious thought being given to it, and to the specific arguments being advanced. (Recall that just a few years ago, Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna hit the news for saying, almost as an aside, that it was time for the Church to move away from obsessing over homosexual genital acts, and focus instead on the quality of the relationships. That sentiment has now become almost commonplace among notable bishops and theologians, and underlies the points made in this article.

If it does not happen just yet, it is surely the shape of things to come.

Read in the original French at  Cath.ch , or read my very free translation below:

illustration-800x450

Same-sex couples: towards a blessing? – cath.ch

Switzerland  
A clear answer about same-sex couples is expected from the next Synod on the family  
Lausanne, 16 March 2015.

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Philippine Bishops Attempt to Square the Circle on Gay Unions!

Philippine Catholics are urged to respect the dignity of homosexuals – but to stay away from even attending any ceremony, legal or religious, to celebrate gay unions. Politicians especially, but also all Catholics, are urged to strongly resist all unjust laws – for example, legal recognition of civil unions.

The bishops’ pastoral letter is titled “The Dignity and Vocation of Homosexual Persons,” Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

The last time these bishops took on the politicians, on a law to expand family planning access to the poor as well as the rich, they lost badly. It may take a while, but they will lose this one too – just like the bishops of most of Western Europe, North America, and much of South America.

(The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines head) urged Catholics to oppose all gravely unjust laws – including all laws that legalize homosexual unions.

!!!!!!!!

 

“They are at the same time called, perhaps even more so in societies that legally recognize homosexual unions, to be charitable to every single homosexual person they know,”

BUT —–:

…. in situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. ……..  “Concretely, this means that Catholics cannot participate in any way or even attend religious or legal ceremonies that celebrate and legitimize homosexual unions.”

The Church, he says, must reach out “in compassion” to families whose loved ones have entered such unions – and this episcopal compassion includes instructing Filipino mothers to stay away from their sons’ and daughters’ weddings, if they are marrying same – sex partners!

Understandably, this will be a particularly heavy cross for families that have been touched by homosexuality but Villegas said the Church reaches out with compassion to these families whose loved ones have entered into such unions.

Full report at   Tempo