Tag Archives: Gay Catholics/ Christians

In Denying Communion at Mother’s Funeral, Priest Contravened the Catechism

A Catholic priest has refused communion to a lesbian, solely because she is a lesbian – at her mother’s funeral. He said to her directly that he did so because she is living with a woman, and that is a sin, according to the church.
The blogosphere has been abuzz with the news that Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, a priest at St. John Neumann parish in Gaithersburg, Maryland (Archdiocese of Washington), recently denied communion to a lesbian woman at her mother’s funeral.  HuffingtonPost.com has posted a summary of various blog posts on the incident, including Ann Werner’s post on AddictingInfo.org, which broke the story.   Werner offers the details:
“My friend Barbara [Johnson], the daughter of the deceased woman, was denied communion at her mother’s funeral. She was the first in line and Fr. Guarnizo covered the bowl containing the host and said to her,  ‘I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church.’  To add insult to injury, Fr. Guarnizo left the altar when she delivered her eulogy to her mother. When the funeral was finished he informed the funeral director that he could not go to the gravesite to deliver the final blessing because he was sick.”
In claiming to be upholding the Catechism, Fr Guarnizo is displaying woeful ignorance ot it, on at least three counts. First, there is nothing at all in the Catechism against two women simply living together. There is only (alleged) sin if there are “genital acts”. He has not made any such claim to justify his action.
It would also be quite improper to assume that such acts occur, or even if they do, that they are subjectively sinful. We all have an obligation to follow conscience in these (and all other) matters. As the Catechism (1861) reminds us: “We must entrust judgement of persons the justice and mercy of God
Third, there is an equally important part of Catechism teaching, which has been flagrantly ignored:
 “Respect, Compassion, Sensitivity”. Fr Guarnizo has displayed none of these.

There is one tiny smidgeon of good news in here: the Archdiocese of Washington has issued a statement denouncing the incident:

“In a written statement, the Archdiocese of Washington conceded that Father Marcel had acted improperly, saying, ‘Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting.’“Barbara Johnson says she’s satisfied with the statement, though she adds that the damage done, both to her family and to her mother’s memory, could never be repaired.”
This is to be welcomed, but it is not enough. The priest in question must be made to understand that his own actions are in clear contravention of the Catechism, and should publicly apologize. If acting contrary to the Catechism is necessarily sinful, then by his own standards he is himself in sin. The theory of confession states that not only must we repent and confess our sins – but also that for absolution, we must make reparation to those we have injured. The hurt in this case cannot be undone – the least that will suffice is a public apology.
New Ways Ministry suggests writing to Cardinal Wuerl:

These remedies are possible if Catholics contact Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the head of the Archdiocese of Washington. His contact information:

Cardinal Donald Wuerl                                                                                                                                                      Archdiocese of Washington                                                                                                                                                               P.O. Box 29260                                                                                                                                                                        Washington, DC 20017-0260  

chancery@adw.org

Tell Cardinal Wuerl that as a Catholic you oppose such blatant discrimination and pastoral incompetence.  Let him know that you consider the action offensive and insensitive.  Explain that you support free and equal access to communion of all Catholics, especially at such a pastorally critical moment as a funeral.  Let him know of your love and support of LGBT people.  Request that he instruct all his priests and pastoral ministers not to repeat such an action.  Call on him to provide pastoral training on LGBT issues for his priests and pastoral ministers. Ask him to call for an apology from Fr. Guarnizo, and to offer pastoral mediation between this priest, Ms. Johnson, and her family.  Speak from your heart and from your faith.
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Kentucky "Welcoming Church" Leaves Baptist Association

In recent years, progress towards full lgbt inclusion in church has been remarkable, with the appointment of openly gay and lesbian bishops, landmark national decisions by some denominations to remove barriers to ordination for LGBT pastors, and local decisions by individual congregations to conduct same – sex weddings or blessings for queer couples (or to withhold weddings for all couples, until they are able to offer them to all, without discrimination). The headline news reports have usually featured (mainline) Protestant denominations – and resistance by some dissenting congregations, transferring their allegiance to alternative umbrella bodies.

The movement towards welcoming and affirming congregations is present though in all denominations, and that includes the Evangelical churches.  In these, it is sometimes the refusal to accept inclusion, not its endorsement, that leads congregations to disaffiliate. This was the case in Central Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Central Baptist’s commitment to inclusion is clear from its website, right on the homepage: see the logo, and the clear promise just beneath it : “All Are Welcome – No Exceptions”.

 

The Central pastor, Mark Johnson, had written a blog post that featured a poster based marketing campaign by an Indianapolis church. affiliated to the MCC,  that asked the pertinent question “Who Stole Jesus?“. This resulted in a complaint from the pastor of a sister – church to the Elkhorn Baptist Association. In response, the congregation opted to withdraw from the association

The congregation opted to leave the association rather than fight, but added a public statement to make clear that all Baptists do not agree on everything.

“We have been quiet for too long,” said church member Rachel Childress. “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in our community who do not know there is a Baptist church like us.”

Central Baptist Church’s website lists mission partners including the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The church left the Southern Baptist Convention and Kentucky Baptist Convention a decade ago. Johnson said those decisions made the vote to leave the association “a natural and predictable course of direction.”

Johnson said Central Baptist Church wants to identify itself as “an open and inviting fellowship for God’s people.” A motto on the church website says: “All are welcomed here. No exceptions.”

The press release said Central Baptist harbors “no feelings of animosity toward or alienation from the people or programs” of Elkhorn Baptist Association, but believes “it is best to officially part ways.” The church will continue to work with Irishtown Baptist Mission in downtown Lexington, a ministry supported by the association that Central took the lead in establishing 50 years ago.

– Associated Baptist Press – Kentucky church leaves association.

In fact, this withdrawal neatly highlights the relevance of the “Who Stole Jesus?” question. The whole Gospel message affirms the primacy of love, mercy and compassion over strict adherence to rigid religious rules and bureaucratic control. By withdrawing from a body that seeks to impose religious conformity, they are simply refusing to allow them to “steal Jesus” away from them.

Soho Masses – Supporting Church Teaching.

The Sunday after London Pride last year, our Soho Mass was briefly disturbed by an uninvited visitor, making an entirely unauthorized video recording of the proceedings. His recording of the bidding prayers has now surfaced on some conservative Catholic blogs.

In a Catholic Herald report, some of the bloggers and others opposed to the Masses have used these as supposed evidence that they exist primarily to challenge Church teaching. Fr Ray Blake, for instance, claims that

“What I find scandalous is that Mass is offered for a group of people who, as this video shows, obviously dissent from the teaching of the Church and gather primarily to challenge that teaching, rather than to worship.”

This conclusion is patently ridiculous, and not supported by the texts of the bidding prayers themselves. These in particular, appear to be what they most object to:

 …..that the various communities we represent, ethnicity, language, gender and sexual orientations, find means to celebrate this diversity, and strive for greater social justice for all people.

Are the opponents seriously suggesting that we should not be praying for social justice? Another prayer they objected to, was for

…lesbian and gay, bisexual and transgender organisations here and throughout the world, and especially those which gather to support people of faith, that they may reflect the rainbow covenant of justice and integrity which God establishes amongst us.

What is forbidden by Church teaching, is same-sex genital activity. There is nothing in the prayers that even remotely encourages this.

Watch, and decide for yourselves:

What these prayers do promote, is an obvious corollary to the other part of Catechism teaching – the importance of respect, compassion and sensitivity, which must lead to the acceptance of full inclusion of LGBT persons in the Church. So these bidding prayers are promoting, not contradicting, Church teaching – one of the parts that the objectors conveniently ignore. (The other part they ignore, is that none of us has the right to pass judgement on the state of another’s soul).

Fr Blake is also totally wrong that the “purpose” of the Mass is not worship. Five years ago, when I and a group of others were discussing with diocesan representatives the parameters for our move into a Catholic parish church, it was clearly understood, and agreed by us, that the Masses were to be pastoral in nature, and not campaigning. As part of the organising team ever since, I can confirm that we have stood by that agreement scrupulously. The sole purpose of the Mass is to provide an opportunity for LGBT Catholics, their families and friends, to meet together for a corporate act of worship, in a setting where they know they will receive a particular welcome – together with other Catholics, and in a parish setting. It is true that I and some of the other organisers do disagree, strongly and publicly, with Vatican doctrine on sexual ethics, but that is kept strictly separate from the conduct of the Masses. (In the same way, it is likely that in any student chaplaincy, there will be a strong proportion of young people who disagree strongly with church teaching on sex before marriage, or on masturbation, but that does not imply that Masses for students are organised to promote dissent. A similar argument applies to family Masses and contraception.)

In his response to the objections, the CH quotes our chairman, Joe Stanley, who said that he did not think Fr Finigan’s view of the Soho Masses was representative.

“Our experience of ordinary Catholics in the pew is very different from the comments in the blogosphere. The Masses keep getting represented as “gay Masses”,” he said, emphasising that they are public Masses that extend a particular welcome to gay people and their parents, families and friends. 

But the most important response is that of Archbishop Vincent Nichols of the diocese of Westminster, in which the parish falls. In a supportive statement, he reminds us that

As with every Catholic Mass, the bidding prayers celebrated at the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory ask for the intercession of God in the lives of people who may be in need.

Bidding prayers for every Mass must reflect the teaching of the Catholic Church and this applies to the Mass held every fortnight where a particular welcome is extended to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered Catholics and their families. 

There is no sacrilege in bringing together a group of Catholics for worship. The only sacrilege here is in making an unauthorized recording of that worship for the sole purpose of sowing dissension. There is no dissent expressed in praying that all may be included and treated with respect in the Catholic Church. The only dissent, is in opposing a considered, deliberate pastoral plan by the Archdiocese to put Catholic teaching on respect, compassion and sensitivity into practice.

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For Full Inclusion in Church, Be “Comfortable in Your Own Skin”

Whatever the election result, San Diego’s next mayor is guaranteed to be gay-friendly: two of the four candidates are openly gay, the other two are known to be straight allies. (Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed one of the straight candidates over the gay man and the lesbian in the race). This is an interesting illustration of the political changes over the last four years. In 2008, when the current mayor Jerry Sanders came out in vocal support for marriage equality, and opposition to California’s Proposition H8, he met with serious opposition from his Republican colleagues, and almost failed to get his party’s endorsement for his re-election.

There is a lesson in here though, for queers in church, as well as in politics. I believe firmly that wherever possible, we should be aiming to participate and worship fully and openly in our local communities (in addition to specifically LGBT congregations). These words by the lesbian candidate, Bonnie Dumanis, could easily be read as applying to coming out in church:

In my view, if you feel comfortable in your skin then people will feel comfortable with you,” she said. “You don’t have to make a big deal out of it. You just do your thing and people respond to that. And as more people have been more comfortable being openly gay then more people see that there’s somebody in their life that … they now know is gay and it changes views.”

via  UTSanDiego.com.

I once heard a wise priest say about the Soho Masses that “at it’s best”, the congregation enables people who have long been estranged from the church, to return, once again recognize the value of sacramental life of the church, and then to begin participation in their local parishes.

In other words, the Soho Masses, as well as Dignity, Quest, Integrity and the multitude of their counterparts in other denominations and countries, help us to become “comfortable in our own skins” – the essential precondition to accepting and creating full inclusion in church.

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Edit Post ‹ Queering the Church — WordPress

In an unseemly echo of last year’s story from Boulder, Colorado, where a Catholic school refused to educate the children of two lesbian mothers, a school in Broken Hill, Australia, likewise attempted to refuse admission to the kindergarten class to a child with two moms. The local bishop intervened, instructing the school to reverse its decision – but too late. The damage has been done, and the parents have now refused to enrol the child at a school wish demonstrated homophobia in the first place.
This is how the saga began:
The girl’s parents, one of whom was reportedly baptised Catholic, enrolled her into kindergarten at Sacred Heart Primary School in Broken Hill for next year, but their application was rejected.
One of the mothers told the ABC the principal had phoned her and said the women’s relationship and living situation was the reason the application had been turned down.
Trevor Rynne, principal of the Sacred Heart school, yesterday confirmed the girl had been rejected because of her parents’ relationship but declined to comment further.

Mr Rynne no doubt believed, in common with so many others who use their Catholic or other Christian allegiance as a cloak for their prejudice, that he was protecting the Catholic faith, but Bishop Kevin Manning put him smartly in his place, pointing out that he was misunderstanding the Catholic position.
Bishop Emertitus of Parramatta, Kevin Manning, who has responsibility for the Wilcannia-Forbes district covering Broken Hill, told The Australian this morning there was “no way in the world that we can persecute a child because of what their parents did”.
“I’ve instructed (the school) to offer her the position,” Bishop Manning said.
Bishop Manning said he was “absolutely appalled” by the girl’s case, and that he had not been aware of it before it was reported in the media yesterday.
He said blaming a child for her parents’ “sins” was not the attitude of the Catholic Church.
He described the girl’s case as “most unusual” and said he would be raising the matter within the Catholic hierarchy.
“I will be taking this to the Australian bishops and asking them to make some pretty clear statements,” he said.
He said the move by the school was out of step with Catholic teaching, and that something between the school’s principal and priest must have got “twisted up or misinterpreted” for them to reach such a decision.
However, the latest reports are that the parents have turned down the offer of enrolment:
A SAME-SEX couple whose daughter was refused a place at a Catholic school because of their sexuality has turned down a subsequent offer of enrolment after a senior bishop intervened on their behalf.

Gay Marriage: At London "Catholic Voices" Discussion, Gay Catholics NOT Welcome.

At a Catholic event in London next week,  specifically about Catholics and gay marriage, the people most directly affected – gay Catholics themselves- have been excluded.

In London next week,  “Catholic Voices” is hosting an event to discuss the public communication of the Catholic Church’s stance on gay marriage. The advance material for this event made it clear that for security reasons , those wishing to attend needed to RSVP ahead of time, or they would be turned away.

Please note that, due to security policies at Notre Dame, nobody will be admitted who has not RSVP’d to the above email address by the date specified. If you are bringing a guest, you must give us their name and email by then.
-Catholic Voices mailer
However, when I tried to RSVP as instructed, I received a prompt response from the organizer, Austen Ivereigh, stating in effect that I was not welcome. Excluded (and not for security reasons). I have never met Mr Ivereigh, who was presumably responding simply to my name. I soon discovered that two other gay Catholics hoping to attend, had been similarly excluded.
Catholic Voices states that they “began with a single aim: to ensure that Catholics and the Church were well represented in the media when Pope Benedict came to the UK in September 2010”. It is clear from this little kerfuffle that it is emphatically not all Catholics and the Church as a whole that they are aiming to represent, but purely and simply the bishops: not “Catholic” Voice, but “His Master’s Voice”.
And so, we have the curious position that, at a Catholic event specifically about Catholics and gay marriage, the people most directly affected – gay Catholics themselves- are excluded.
This morning, the Guardian has taken up the story:

Gay Catholics in partnerships have in effect been barred from an event about gay marriage, after organisers said it was aimed at developing “communication of church teaching” rather than debating it.

Catholic Voices, which was set up to train ordinary parishioners for media appearances, is holding an event next week called Gay Marriage and the Common Good. But it has informed those with diverging views they are not welcome.
In an email exchange, organiser Austen Ivereigh asks Martin Pendergast, a gay man who is in a civil partnership and wishes to attend: “What is your position on gay marriage? Are you in favour? I ask because CV [Catholic Voices] Academy is not a debating chamber but a means for developing the communication of the church’s settled positions; and both Rome and the bishops are firmly and publicly against gay marriage.
“Therefore, if your purpose is to put an opposing point of view, this is not the appropriate forum.”
In fact, as Martin made clear in his email exchange, his interest in attending was not to put an opposing point of view. Although in a civil partnership himself, he does not want that to become a legal marriage (as he has noted in a comment here at QTC), and is not a supporter of gay marriage. But no matter – he remains persona emphatically non grata at Catholic Voices.
I am personally in favour of legal recognition of civil marriages without discrimination, and believe that there is a real need for rational discussion of this, and of liturgical recognition of same-sex marriages or civil unions in church. The problem is that when the popular presentation of the bishops’  opposition is made using the ridiculous arguments that have been presented thus far, it becomes all too easy for the opponents of the Catholic church to make us into a public laughing stock, and for gay and lesbian Catholics to simply walk away from the Church in despair.
My interest in attending was not to oppose teaching (not at this event), but to suggest rather that we need to consider the bishops’ teaching against the broader background of the Church’s full teaching, including other considerations. Otherwise, there is a real risk of the bishops and their loyalists simply shooting the Church in the foot, as I explained to the Guardian:

 “I wanted to go and say: how are we going to promote the full teaching of the church? They are only interested in developing the communication of one part. There is another part that says gay people should be treated with respect, dignity and understanding. If you’re going to promote this narrow perspective, people will use it as a weapon against the church.”
“Understanding” another is not possible without active listening. There is not nearly enough listening by Catholic bishops to the voices of LGBT Catholics – and similarly not by “Catholic” Voice.
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Episcopal Church in Minn. passes resolution opposing marriage amendment

In marked contrast to the Catholic bishops, who have thrown unprecedented resources into supporting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, the Episcopal church in the state is opposed to the amendment.  Episcopal Bishop Brian N. Prior says this decision is grounded in the firm principle that the Church has always stood with the marginalized.

In theory, the Catholic Church shares this firm Biblical principle, and indeed the majority of Catholics agree with the Episcopal church in extending it also to the LGBT community. The exception,  in the case of homoerotic relationships, is Catholic bishops who are prepared to sacrifice authentic Catholic values and Catholic families, where they are in conflict with Vatican ideology.

Members of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, which held its annual convention over the weekend in Minneapolis, passed a resolution opposing the marriage amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.

 Episcopal Church in Minn. passes resolution opposing marriage amendment 

The church is joining other denominations and non-profit organizations in signing the “Resolution against the Constitutional Amendment to Ban Marriage for Same-Sex Couples” as prepared and presented by Minnesotans United for All Families.

That group is trying to defeat the amendment set for a vote on the November 2012 ballot, which would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

 “The Episcopal Church in Minnesota has always stood with the marginalized,” said Bishop Brian N. Prior, IX Bishop of Minnesota, said in a released statement. “Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender orientation or immigrant status, Episcopalians in Minnesota have always embraced both the Gospel mandate of love of neighbor and the Baptismal Covenant imperative to respect the dignity of every human being.”

 Episcopalians (which number about 22,000 members in Minnesota) join other faith-based groups already gearing up for the heated political battle ahead this year.

 StarTribune.com.

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