08/31/17

Inside the ‘glass closet’ of a gay Catholic teacher

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By Alex Ryan
 

Being both gay and Catholic leads to a somewhat fraught existence. On one hand, we have our Catholic peers who, frequently, have trouble empathising with what it means to be ‘intrinsically disordered’. On the other, we have our queer friends who are, understandably, sceptical of our allegiance to an organisation that has a deep history of discrimination towards people like us.

 
This existence is further complicated for those of us who choose to partake in ministry that sees us employed by the Church.

I am a gay man and, also, a religion teacher in a Catholic school. Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if my teaching days are numbered, particularly given Archbishop Denis Hart’s comments (reported, but since clarified) about Catholic organisations firing gay staff.

It’s the great unspoken rule of Church organisations that gay people must fly under the radar. A ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is implied, but all of us are acutely aware we work in one of the few jobs not protected by anti-discrimination laws. This black cloud hangs over our every public action because, for some reason, teachers’ lives are something our communities feel entitled to know and talk about.

Whether it’s our social media posts, or even just holding our partner’s hand in public, we must carefully curate our outward appearance so as to not technically break Church rules, even if many of us live in a ‘glass closet’. Though we know it is unlikely we will be fired, we also know the potential is there if the wrong student or parent catches whiff of our supposedly un-Christian behaviour.

Last year I got my first long-term boyfriend since becoming a teacher. This was an exciting time for me, as it was part of embracing my queer identity. But what should have been a joyous occasion led to a great deal of anxiety. I had to explain to a man I cared about that, even though I wasn’t ashamed of him, I couldn’t risk listing him as my partner on Facebook. I was lucky that he was understanding, though it still hurt to explain it to him.

You may think this isn’t a big deal, but I would challenge the average person to go weeks, months, and years without mentioning any aspect of their love life to any coworker. The stress of hiding a major part of life is not insignificant; one wrong move and our livelihood is on the line. This is not to mention that, with the personal scrutiny school administration positions face, our career advancement opportunities in Catholic schools are limited.

People ask: ‘Why don’t you just move into the state system?’ It’s a fair question. But my answer is simple: I just don’t want to. I love working in a place where my faith is ingrained in the everyday routine; a place where Catholicism’s history and tradition are taught, explored and questioned.

Ever since I decided I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to teach religion. Though it’s not my job to convert students, like in the old catechetical model of Catholic schools, I hope students can at least leave my classroom with an appreciation of how faith contributes to our world. I’m gay, but I’m also Catholic.

LGBTIQ+ people have a lot to contribute to our Catholic schools. To deny our students access to amazing teachers is surely a greater assault to ‘decency’ than what these teachers are doing in the privacy of their own homes. This, of course, leads to the question that many queer Catholics have about the institutional Church: Why is the same level of scrutiny not applied to our heterosexual colleagues?

I know a great many Church employees who live in open defiance of its teachings. People who are divorced, remarried without annulment, married outside the Church, cohabiting before marriage, have children out of marriage, or are engaging in premarital sex. I have also worked with many people who don’t even identify as Catholic. Surely if we are using adherence to Catholic belief as our yardstick for employability, then people who openly reject papal authority (e.g. Protestants), or reject belief in the Holy Trinity (eg. non-Christians) would fall short of the mark.

I’m not, of course, advocating that people in these groups should be excluded from employment in Catholic institutions — on the contrary. Rather, this is just to illustrate that to single out gay Catholic employees is to arbitrarily discriminate against an already vulnerable group. That, surely, would be a plank in the Church’s eye far bigger than the speck in mine.

Complete Article HERE!

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08/31/17

Website to help children of Catholic priests contacted by women from around world

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Issue of priests having children is ongoing says Coping International founder

Peter Murphy, son of late Bishop of Galway Eamonn Casey was 17 when his story was made public.

By Patsy McGarry

A self-help website set up in Ireland to assist children of Catholic priests has been contacted by women of all ages from around the world, ranging from a Boston lady in her late 80s to the mother of a three-year-old child in the Philippines.

“It proves that this is an issue that is not just confined to the past. It is ongoing,” said Vincent Doyle (34) founder of www.copinginternational.com which is funded byArchbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

Mr Doyle told The Irish Times on Tuesday that, since mid-August, 1,062 individuals had logged on to the website which has had 8,000 separate visits and 38, 000 hits from 53 countries.

Mr Doyle’s father, Co Longford priest Fr John J Doyle, died in 1995. On confirming that the priest was his father in 2011, he assumed the surname.

An article posted on the website in 2015 claims confidentiality agreements made by mothers of children fathered by priests were “a form of blackmail against the mother and the child.” Written by well-known US canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle, it says “there is no valid reason for such agreements or contracts under any circumstances.”

In a 2015 response to Fr Doyle’s observations, Ireland’s Catholic bishops said a confidentiality agreement was possible “if the parties enter it freely with the primary purpose of protecting the best interests of the child.”

Such agreement would be “unjust” if “undue pressure is brought to bear on the mother” or if used “primarily to protect the reputation of the priest or the institutional Church by creating a veil of secrecy,” they said.

In an open letter endorsing the work of Coping International, Archbishop Martin said it was there “to help, free of charge, any child of a priest who wishes to come forward.”

Peter Murphy, son of the late Bishop of Galway Eamonn Casey, told the Boston Globe recently that disclosure in 1992 of who his father was meant instant celebrity. He was 17–years–old then and living with his mother Annie Murphy in Connecticut in the US.

In a Spotlight article about Coping International Mr Murphy said: “I talked to an Irish (reporter) in the morning and went to school and thought, ‘OK, that will be it.’ But when I came home, I’d say there were more than 100 reporters slathering round our condo complex,” he told the Globe.

The Irish reporter he spoke to was Conor O’Clery, then Washington Correspondent of this newspaper.

Complete Article HERE!

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08/26/17

Majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage in Australia: Equality Campaign poll

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A MAJORITY of Catholics, Christians and other religious people support gay marriage and will likely vote for it in the postal survey, according to a new poll.

marriage equality.jpg

The research shows 58 per cent of people of faith back the “yes” campaign, compared with 79 per cent of non-religious Australians.

Catholics and non-Christians were more likely to support same-sex marriage, with two thirds of both of those groups saying they were in favour.

The polling, commissioned by the Equality Campaign, was conducted last week by Jim Reed of Newgate Research who surveyed 1000 people online, Fairfax reports.

t comes as the Archbishop of Melbourne urged Catholics to vote against same-sex marriage “for the health and future” of society.

Denis Hart last week wrote an open letter urging Catholics to vote in the optional postal survey when forms go out in September.

“We sincerely believe that there is a core and fundamental wisdom and truth in the traditional definition and understanding of marriage that should not be ignored and is worth keeping for the health and future of our society,” he wrote.

He warned future gay marriage legislation could infringe rights of freedom of religion and conscience.

“It could result in restrictions on the right of ministers of religion and religious bodies and organisations having the freedom to teach, preach and speak about marriage between persons of the same sex being contrary to their religious or conscientious beliefs,” he wrote.

Archbishop Denis Hart

Archbishop Denis Hart urged Catholics to vote against same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Hart called for an “active and respectful” debate, urging Catholics to welcome gay Australians as brothers and sisters.

“Like all human beings they are created in the image and likeness of God,” he wrote. “They have a right to expect to be loved and welcomed and not subject to unjust discrimination.”

He told ABC radio on Wednesday homophobic material disseminated as part of the campaign against same-sex marriage was “totally inappropriate”, insisting both sides should express their ideas with conviction instead of creating a campaign of hate.

Meanwhile, a recent Newspoll found 67 per cent of respondents “definitely will” vote in the poll.

Fifteen per cent said they probably will fill out the ballot while three per cent are planning to abstain.

Support for same-sex marriage remains relatively unchanged from a survey last September, with 63 per cent of those polled saying they would vote “yes: — compared to 62 per cent a year ago.

Nearly half of the 1675 respondents say they support the postal ballot, similar to an Essential poll last week.

Complete Article HERE!

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08/22/17

Priest urges haters to repent; reveals his Ku Klux Klan past

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Father William Aitcheson

By MATTHEW BARAKAT

A Roman Catholic priest in Virginia is taking a leave of absence after disclosing he once burned crosses as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Father William Aitcheson, a priest in the diocese of Arlington, described how he belonged to the Klan as a young man in a column published Monday in The Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocese’s newspaper.

“My actions were despicable. When I think back on burning crosses, a threatening letter, and so on, I feel as though I am speaking of somebody else,” he wrote.

Aitcheson, 62, said that 40 years have passed since he was in the Klan, but the images from this month’s violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville reminded him that “we cannot forget, we should not forget.”

“While I firmly believe God forgave me — as he forgives anyone who repents and asks for forgiveness — forgetting what I did would be a mistake,” Aitcheson wrote.

The diocese noted that Aitcheson “voluntarily asked to temporarily step away from public ministry, for the well being of the Church and parish community.”

In a statement, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge called Aitcheson’s past with the Klan troubling, but said he hopes his story of transformation will help others.

“I pray that in our current political and social climate his message will reach those who support hate and division, and inspire them to a conversion of heart,” Burbidge wrote.

Aitcheson was ordained as a priest in 1988 by the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas, and has been assigned to the Arlington Diocese since 1993, most recently serving at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax.

In his article, Aitcheson wrote that his membership in the Klan is public information, but rarely comes up.

Indeed, Aitcheson was convicted on criminal charges in 1977 after the cross-burnings, one of which drew a response from President Ronald Reagan years later.

Reagan paid a visit in 1982 to the home of Phillip and Barbara Butler — Aitcheson had burned a cross on their lawn after the Butlers moved to a mostly white neighborhood in College Park, Maryland. Reagan’s visit came a week after a judge ordered Aitcheson to pay the Butlers $23,000 in damages.

Diocese spokesman Billy Atwell said the diocese knew about Aitcheson’s past with the Klan when he arrived in 1993, but “just learned this weekend about the civil suit from 40 years ago and will be working with Fr. Aitcheson to ensure he meets all of his legal and moral obligations to make restitution.”

Aitcheson was sentenced to 90 days in jail in 1977 after a series of criminal charges involving allegations that he was involved in multiple cross-burnings, including the Butlers’ home, and had threatened to kill Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr.

Complete Article HERE!

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08/21/17

Romanian bishop involved in sex tape scandal resigns

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By ALISON MUTLER

A Romanian bishop who was seen on video engaging in sexual acts with a male student resigned Friday, the Romanian Orthodox Church said.

The patriarchy said the Bishop of Husi, Corneliu Barladeanu, 51, had decided to step down “for the peace and good of the church.” He maintains his innocence and has not made any public comment.

The statement was issued at the end of a two-day Holy Synod where a sex scandal was discussed for the first time in its 92-year history.

There has been public furor in Romania over Barladeanu and another scandal involving a priest who had sex with a male student as believers are demanding more accountability from the church.

Outrage was heightened as the two cases involved homosexual acts. The church, however, insisted the bishop would have been similarly chastised if the alleged sexual misdemeanors involved a woman.

Bishop Corneliu Barladeanu

Barladeanu will no longer hold an official position, but he will remain a monk. Orthodox bishops are monks.

The statement said the resignation was the best outcome, because an investigation would last months and would “prolong the situation of uncertainty of the bishopry of Husi” in northeast Romania.

But church critic and political analyst Stelian Tanase said the church to which more than 85 percent of Romanians belong should have issued a stronger statement. “I think that the Synod should have come out with a strong decision to condemn such shameful practices for servants of the church…. Instead they preferred a cover up. ”

The church also blamed “an aggressive campaign of some media outlets aimed against the Romanian Orthodox Church, often with the complicity of some errant priests.”

It added that “all believers … should respect the discipline of the church and permanently renew their spiritual lives.”

Complete Article HERE!

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