US Catholic bishop with secret family, Gabino Zavala, quits

A Catholic bishop who fathered two children has stepped down.

Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, the Vatican said.

The Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, wrote in a letter to worshippers that Bishop Zavala told him in December that he was the father of two teenage children.

The children, who are minors, live with their mother in another state.

Archbishop Gomez said that the archdiocese was offering the family “spiritual care,” as well as funding to help the children with college costs.

In his letter he described the news as “sad and difficult” and said Bishop Zavala had been living privately and not participating in ministry since resigning.

Bishop Zavala is 60 and was born in Mexico. He has campaigned against the death penalty and for immigrants’ rights.

The Vatican did not spell out the reason for Bishop Zavala’s resignation in its statement, but made reference to canon law which allows bishops to step down before normal retirement age if they are ill or unfit for office for some other reason.

The Pope has shown no sign of relaxing the Roman Catholic Church’s rule on priestly celibacy, which has been in place since the 11th Century.

In March 2010 he described celibacy as “the sign of full devotion, the entire commitment to the Lord and to the ‘Lord’s business’, an expression of giving oneself to God and to others”.

Priests are not allowed to marry but married Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism are exempted from the celibacy rule.

Two days ago Pope Benedict appointed an American married priest to head the first US structure for Anglicans converting to Roman Catholicism.

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Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Freedom of Religion

Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois have shuttered most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in the state rather than comply with a new requirement that says they must consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care and adoptive parents if they want to receive state money. The charities have served for more than 40 years as a major link in the state’s social service network for poor and neglected children.

The bishops have followed colleagues in Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts who had jettisoned their adoption services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws.

For the nation’s Catholic bishops, the Illinois requirement is a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people. The idea that religious Americans are the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops, but also for Republican presidential candidates and conservative evangelicals.

“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services.

The Illinois experience indicates that the bishops face formidable opponents who also claim to have justice and the Constitution on their side. They include not only gay rights advocates, but also many religious believers and churches that support gay equality (some Catholic legislators among them). They frame the issue as a matter of civil rights, saying that Catholic Charities was using taxpayer money to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Tim Kee, a teacher in Marion, Ill., who was turned away by Catholic Charities three years ago when he and his longtime partner, Rick Wade, tried to adopt a child, said: “We’re both Catholic, we love our church, but Catholic Charities closed the door to us. To add insult to injury, my tax dollars went to provide discrimination against me.”

The bishops are engaged in the religious liberty battle on several fronts. They have asked the Obama administration to lift a new requirement that Catholic and other religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and charity groups cover contraception in their employees’ health plans. A decision has been expected for weeks now.

At the same time, the bishops are protesting the recent denial of a federal contract to provide care for victims of sex trafficking, saying the decision was anti-Catholic. An official with the Department of Health and Human Services recently told a hearing on Capitol Hill that the bishops’ program was rejected because it did not provide the survivors of sex trafficking, some of whom are rape victims, with referrals for abortions or contraceptives.

Critics of the church argue that no group has a constitutional right to a government contract, especially if it refuses to provide required services.

But Anthony R. Picarello Jr., general counsel and associate general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, disagreed. “It’s true that the church doesn’t have a First Amendment right to have a government contract,” he said, “but it does have a First Amendment right not to be excluded from a contract based on its religious beliefs.”

The controversy in Illinois began when the state legislature voted in November 2010 to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples, which the state’s Catholic bishops lobbied against. The legislation was titled “The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act,” and Bishop Paprocki said he was given the impression that it would not affect state contracts for Catholic Charities and other religious social services.

In New York State, religious groups lobbied for specific exemption language in the same-sex marriage bill. But bishops in Illinois did not negotiate, Bishop Paprocki said.

“It would have been seen as, ‘We’re going to compromise on the principle as long as we get our exception.’ We didn’t want it to be seen as buying our support,” he said.

Catholic Charities is one of the nation’s most extensive social service networks, serving more than 10 million poor adults and children of many faiths across the country. It is made up of local affiliates that answer to local bishops and dioceses, but much of its revenue comes from the government. Catholic Charities affiliates received a total of nearly $2.9 billion a year from the government in 2010, about 62 percent of its annual revenue of $4.67 billion. Only 3 percent came from churches in the diocese (the rest came from in-kind contributions, investments, program fees and community donations).

In Illinois, Catholic Charities in five of the six state dioceses had grown dependent on foster care contracts, receiving 60 percent to 92 percent of their revenues from the state, according to affidavits by the charities’ directors. (Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Chicago pulled out of foster care services in 2007 because of problems with its insurance provider.)

When the contracts came up for renewal in June, the state attorney general, along with the legal staff in the governor’s office and the Department of Children and Family Services, decided that the religious providers on state contracts would no longer be able to reject same-sex couples, said Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the department.

The Catholic providers offered to refer same-sex couples to other agencies (as they had been doing for unmarried couples), but that was not acceptable to the state, Mr. Marlowe said. “Separate but equal was not a sufficient solution on other civil rights issues in the past either,” he said.

Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Rockford decided at that point to get out of the foster care business. But the bishops in Springfield, Peoria, Joliet and Belleville decided to fight, filing a lawsuit against the state.

Taking a completely different tack was the agency affiliated with the conservative Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which, like the Catholic Church, does not sanction same-sex relationships. Gene Svebakken, president and chief executive of the agency, Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, visited all seven pastoral conferences in his state and explained that the best option was to compromise and continue caring for the children.

“We’ve been around 140 years, and if we didn’t follow the law we’d go out of business,” Mr. Svebakken said. “We believe it’s God-pleasing to serve these kids, and we know we do a good job.”

In August, Judge John Schmidt, a circuit judge in Sangamon County, ruled against Catholic Charities, saying, “No citizen has a recognized legal right to a contract with the government.” He did not address the religious liberty claims, ruling only that the state did not violate the church’s property rights.

Three of the dioceses filed an appeal, but in November filed a motion to dismiss their lawsuit. The Dioceses of Peoria and Belleville are spinning off their state-financed social services, with the caseworkers, top executives and foster children all moving to new nonprofits that will no longer be affiliated with either diocese.

Gary Huelsmann, executive director of Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois, in the Belleville Diocese, said the decision was excruciating for everyone.

“We have 600 children abused and neglected in an area where there are hardly any providers,” he said. “Us going out of business would have been detrimental to these children, and that’s a sin, too.”

The work will be carried on, but the Catholic Church’s seminal, historic connection with it has been severed, noted Mr. Marlowe, the spokesman for the state’s child welfare agency. “The child welfare system that Catholic Charities helped build,” he said, “is now strong enough to survive their departure.”

Complete Article HERE!

Cardinal George, you’re wrong about Chicago Gay Pride

COMMENTARY — Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

Chicago Gay Pride is a deeply spiritual event, combining a celebration of the diversity of humanity with a zest for life lived truthfully. Chicago Gay Pride is one of the largest such parades in the U.S., and it is listed on the city of Chicago’s official tourism Web site. Many, many Chicagoans are proud of their Pride Parade.

As a Chicagoan who is proud of Chicago Pride, therefore, I was very distressed to hear the Catholic Cardinal of Chicago, Francis George, make statementsto FOX Chicago Sunday, intimating that this wonderful Chicago event could become comparable to demonstrations by the Klu Klux Klan against Catholicism.

The presenting issue was that Chicago’s upcoming gay pride event had been rerouted past Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and might logistically interfere with that Sunday’s services. But Cardinal George’s response was to fear-monger against LGBTQ Chicagoans and their allies who participate in Pride. The cardinal said, “You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.”

Equally Blessed, an umbrella group of four pro-LGBTQ rights Catholic organizations, has issued a statement condemning such a comparison that has “demeaned and demoralized” Chicago’s Gay community, and doing so in a way that draws a comparison to the “murderous nightriders of the Ku Klux Klan.” A petition at change.org has called for Cardinal George to resign, and has started an online petition.

I have another idea. Today I have written a letter to Cardinal George’s office, asking him if he will be my guest and march with the Chicago Theological Seminary’s Pride group in the 2012 Chicago Gay Pride parade.

This is a serious invitation. First, I make it in full confidence that the cardinal would be welcome in the Seminary’s Pride group. The United Church of Christ, to which our school is related, has as it’s motto, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” We practice what we like to call a “radical welcome” and that includes the cardinal. We have had many fine Catholic students over the years.

Second, I would like to invite the cardinal because I have become an ally of the LGBTQ community and it has been an incredible spiritual and theological journey for me. I would like to share with him a small part of how important this journey can be for Christian leaders as well as parishioners.

I have learned so much from what a spirituality of truthfulness teaches, and how it can illumine a great deal about the Christian Gospel, as well as about theology, ethics, pastoral care, and worship. Over the years of teaching and learning with gay students, faculty, and staff colleagues, both at the seminary, around the nation and indeed around the world, I have gained from their courage in facing up to a world that is hostile to their very humanity, and challenging churches that claim they are not included in God’s love and care. Despite all the hurtful and harmful religious messages, many LGBT people nevertheless come to know God’s love and affirmation for exactly who they are. As title of the biography of Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches, says so well, The Lord is My Shepherd and He Know’s I’m Gay.

I have also learned that change is possible. For example, this year’s Pride Parade will now start at 12 noon, as the Chicago’s LGBT community has graciously agreed, following a meeting with representatives of Our Lady of Mount Carmel last week, to start later in order to accommodate those attending services at the church.

Change is also coming to the Catholic Church as more gay Catholics join groups working to change the church, and more straight Catholics come to know their fellow parishioners and respect them.

Cardinal George has now attempted to walk back his hurtful comments, indicating the comparison was only “parade-parade” not “people and people.” It’s a start, but it’s far from enough.

Thus, my invitation stands, because more change is needed in the Catholic church, and truly in all churches, so that the “people and people” comparison is not merely descriptive, but a positive and even spiritually enlightening one.

Join us in Chicago Theological Seminary group at Pride, 2012, Cardinal George. I promise you it will help with your ministry.

Complete Article HERE!

Jesuits address issue of homosexuality in the clergy

Despite being surrounded by an ancient silence, the silence over homosexuality among priests and nuns, is a “real issue” that “we can no longer pretend to ignore.” For this in the U.S. state of Connecticut, the Jesuits have decided to speak publicly. And so, for the first time, a Catholic university has recently organized a conference on the controversial issue of homosexuality within the communities of nuns and priests. According to Catholic doctrine, gays must be accepted with respect and sensitivity, so every sign of unjust discrimination should be avoided.

However, while respecting gay people, the Church does not admit those who practice homosexuality, have deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture into the seminary and to holy orders. These people, in fact, are in a situation that seriously hinders them from properly relating to men and women. Since practice differs from theory, the Society of Jesus felt that it is better to remove the old walls of silence and engaged in a slippery issue through one of its prestigious academic institutions in the United States. 110 among theologians, clergy, religious and seminarians attended the study day sponsored by the “Fairfield” University of the Jesuits entitled “The cure of souls: sexual diversity, celibacy and ministry.” Personal stories, general principles, insights, and specific situations are involved in the discussion. The Church, in fact, distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies.

The acts are serious sins: for tradition they are intrinsically immoral and contrary to natural law, so they cannot be approved under any circumstances. The deep-seated homosexual tendencies, however, are also objectively disordered and often constitute a trial. In the era of sex scandals, the negative consequences of ordaining people with deeply rooted homosexual tendencies has created an alarm in the Church. However, if it comes to homosexual tendencies that express only a transitory problem (like that of an adolescence not yet completed), these, however, must be clearly overcome at least three years before being ordained as a deacon. In terms of the Magisterium, “Educating” the Congregation for Catholic Education represents the cornerstone with which, for six years, the Holy See has prohibited homosexuals from accessing the priesthood.

On paper, therefore, the problem is solved: no more gays in seminaries and religious orders, no more priests who “practice” homosexuality, have “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” or even support “the so-called gay culture.” The Vatican has permanently closed its doors with a nine-page document divided into three chapters: “Affective Maturity and Spiritual Fatherhood,” «Homosexuality and the Ordained Ministry,” “The discernment of the suitability of candidates by the Church.” A candidate for the sacrament of Orders must reach affective maturity, which will allow him to be in a correct relationship with men and women. According to the rules laid out in 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI just “one serious doubt” on the homosexuality of a candidate (expressed by the superiors who follow him) will bar the way to ministerial priesthood.

In talks with the seminarian’s the spiritual director must especially point out the demands of the Church concerning priestly chastity and the affective maturity that is characteristic of a priest. For each aspiring “Don”, it is necessary to discern whether he has the right qualities and is free of sexual disorders that are incompatible with the ministry that awaits him. If a candidate practices homosexuality or manifests profoundly radical homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director and confessor has the duty to dissuade him in all conscience from proceeding towards ordination. Faced with prospective seminarians who have homosexual tendencies, the objective of ecclesiastical hierarchy is to discourage them from lying to their superiors in order to enter the seminary. Moreover, the candidate himself has the primary responsibility for his education and must offer himself trustingly to the discernment of the Church. So it would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality in order to proceed, despite it all, with the ordination. Such a deceitful attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, fairness, and openness that must characterize the personality of one who considers himself called to serve Christ. The spiritual director is entrusted with the important task of discerning the suitability for ordination.

Although bound to secrecy, he represents the Church in the internal forum. In discussions with the candidate, the spiritual director must especially point out the needs of the Church concerning priestly chastity and the affective maturity that are characteristic of a priest, as well as help him to discern whether he has the necessary qualities. Bishops, Episcopal conferences and major superiors must watch over the candidates for their own good and to ensure that the Church has suitable priests. If a candidate practices homosexuality or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director, as well as his confessor, have the duty to dissuade him in all conscience from proceeding with the ordination. In practice, however, it is difficult to apply these rules. And among seminarians and religious communities the presence of gay men and women is still a “real issue”. So the Jesuits have decided: the time has come to discuss this out in the open.

Complete Article HERE!

Homosexuality among church leaders discussed at Jesuit university event

In late October, on the day an out-of-season snowstorm some have called “epic” and “historic” broke nearly 200-year-old weather records and almost shut down parts of the Northeast, something else happened that was perhaps unprecedented: A Catholic university hosted a daylong formal discussion on the topic of homosexuality within communities of nuns and priests.

For the 100 or so theologians, members of the clergy, women religious, students and others who braved the heavy snow Oct. 29 to attend “The Care of Souls: Sexual Diversity, Celibacy, and Ministry” conference at Jesuit-run Fairfield University, the day was packed densely with history, stories and plenty of questions.

It was the final event of a four-part series of talks titled “More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church.” The series aimed at expanding the conversation on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues within the Catholic church.

“Unfortunately, any speech about Catholicism, sexuality and clerical power is so vexed, so scandalous, that I can’t begin the meditation without underlining three more cautions against misunderstanding,” said the first speaker, Mark Jordan, a professor of divinity at Harvard University Divinity School.
“First, I’ll be talking about the configuration of power in relation to sexuality within ecclesial systems, not about all of the individual lives under those systems. It is, of course, possible to lead a Christian life of unstinting love, of vivid witness, of embodied grace under the present system of Roman power,” Jordan said.

“Second caution: I want to talk about this clerical power as homoerotic. By this I don’t mean to imply anything about the sexual acts, real or fantasized, of those who participate in this power,” he said. “This form of clerical power seems to me the object, and the instrument, of sharp longing, of desire.

“Third and final caution: I speak of the configuration of homoerotic power in the Roman Catholic clergy at particular times and places. There are partial repetitions across church history, I think, and there are striking structural similarities across church cultures in a given time. But if we know anything about the Catholic church, it is that it is not one thing. It is a complex network of thousands of different communities.”

Before beginning his discussion about power and the Catholic church, Jordan traced the church’s history of thought in relation to homosexuality over the past few decades, a history that would serve as backdrop and context for the speeches that followed.

Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry in Maryland talked about the organization’s role in discussing homosexuality within the Catholic church, beginning in the 1970s, and particularly about its work in support of lesbian nuns.

After reflecting on the past 40 years of history and discussion, Gramick said she has seen three central issues emerge: celibacy, sexual identity and “coming out.”

In the first 20 years, in the 1970s and 1980s, the overriding question that surfaced for women religious was “sexual identity,” Gramick said. “People wondered about — how do you know you’re lesbian?” In the 20 years that followed, she added, “the overriding question seems to be [about] coming out.”

Throughout this time, however, Gramick said much of the emphasis was placed on the question of celibacy. But the important question to ask, she continued, is, “How do lesbian sisters — and by extension how do heterosexual sisters — live out their celibacy in healthy ways?”

Following Gramick’s detailed analysis, speaker Jamie Manson, who is an instructor in religious studies at Fairfield University and a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter, began with humor:

“I am firmly convinced had I been born, rather than in the 1970s, in the 1940s, I today would be a lesbian nun,” Manson said. “And I would not have become a nun simply just to avoid having to face married life with a man; I would have answered that because I have a call of intense witness to the Gospel — I still have that — but being able to avoid marriage wouldn’t have hurt, either.”

Manson said there is a difference between the experience of gay and lesbian Catholics.

“For lesbians the experience of being Catholic affects more than their sexual orientation; it relates to the anatomy itself. By banning women from serving as priests, the hierarchy says — in this great cosmic hubris — that God simply cannot work sacramentally through the body of a woman. For most lesbians, and many straight women, this leads to feelings of isolation and disempowerment,” Manson said. “I cannot stress enough how corrosive it is to the spirit to have never seen a woman’s bodily form wear a stole, stand behind an altar, raise the bread and wine, place her hands in the waters of the baptismal font, step through the center door of the confessional.”

If you are a lesbian, Manson continued, “you’re in double jeopardy with the church. You’re alienated because of your body and also because of the way your body relates in response to desire and love in erotic relationships.”

The conference, which wrapped up with a panel discussion about future exploration of this topic, also featured remarks by Elizabeth Dreyer, religious studies professor at Fairfield; Fr. Donald Cozzens, writer in residence at John Carroll University; and Gerard Jacobitz, religious studies professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

In closing, Paul Lakeland, professor of Catholic Studies at Fairfield and one of the organizers of the conference series, said he was pleased with the outcome of the program, and the cooperation between the four host schools. (Previous conferences were held at Fordham University in New York, Union Theological Seminary in New York and Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn.)

“A lot of gay and lesbian and straight, and Catholics and non-Catholics, but especially Catholics, got together on four weekends and talked about issues that the church would really — the institutional church — would really rather they didn’t, and the sky didn’t fall in,” Lakeland said. “We, I think, are collectively a little wiser, I’m sure, and hopefully a little more encouraged as we go on from here.”

Complete Article HERE!