Gay theologian speaks out

Fr. James Alison, one of only a “handful” of gay Catholic theologians, spoke Monday about the prevailing sense of homophobia in the Catholic church and how the issue can be combated today, in an event sponsored by Campus Ministry, the Triangle Club and OMA.

“Fr. Alison was able to speak across our isolated areas of life and is an example of what we hope for students,” said Nicholas Coffman, chapel coordinator and campus minister. “The purpose of the event was to build community and welcome students.”

The British-born Alison, a member of the clergy since age 18, began by addressing the history of homosexuality in Europe and how it was viewed in the church, then moved into a discussion of contemporary debate on the issue. He noted that, before the 16th century, many groups in Europe were divided along gendered lines, with the two groups barely interacting with one another.

“When the idea of heterosexuality began emerging, this was mega-weird in the West,” said Alison.

He continues that it wasn’t until the beginning of the 16th century that homosexuality began to be viewed as “odd,” a type of “othering” that would continue to grow into the 19th century.

He cites Evelyn Hooker’s 1957 study “The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual” as one of the turning points in this type of thinking. Her study demonstrated that, according to Alison, “there is no link between screwed-up-ness and sexuality and that we are all as screwed up as each other.”

This type of post-World War II trend has continued, establishing the belief that homosexuality is not a social problem that can be solved, but simply a “non-pathological variant within the human condition, like left-handedness.”

Alison made clear distinctions between the views of the laity and the views of the Catholic hierarchy post-World War II, and points to the fact that while issues like gay marriage have been openly adopted in heavily Catholic countries, church officials have been slow to bring about open dialogues in addressing the issue.
“It puts the church in the rather difficult position of living 50 years out of date,” Alison said. “In the last 50 to 60 years we’ve had a collapse of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy in lay society, but not the church hierarchy.”

To help combat this prevailing sense of homophobia in Catholic hierarchy, Alison is quick to point out the church’s own teachings which can be utilized to help fight this attitude. He looks to the Catholic idea that “Grace Perfects Nature,” or the idea that followers of the faith can flourish where they are in life. However, for this to happen, church authorities must go beyond a negative view of homosexuality to accept the idea that homosexuality is not a defect in social behavior before “flourishing” can happen.

Alison points to the fact that many lay Catholics today have already embraced this idea, shown in the legalizing of gay marriage in places like Brazil, Mexico and even New York.
“They understand the idea that ‘If that’s what they are, they must be the best of what they are,’ and can see the reality of what that means,” Alison said.
Alison also challenges future generations to better understand what same-sex marriage means in a Catholic setting, and what the “shape of God’s blessing,” means in that setting.

While Alison acknowledges that change will only come about at a slow pace to the hierarchy, he notes the “marked change of the past 15 years” and hopes that the conversation is able to develop in creative ways.”

Coffman echoes Alison’s sentiments, hoping that people, especially in the United States, will continue to engage in a discussion that recognizes the openness of the Catholic faith, and that it emphasizes a gospel of love.

“It’s a matter of time before the church recognizes that we have a responsibility to be in partnership with our homosexual brothers and sisters and be bound up in their own flourishing, because their flourishing is bound up in ours. We are no longer the us and them, we are now we.”

Due to time constraints, representatives of Campus Ministry could not be reached for comment.

Full Article HERE!

Archbishop attacks Cameron’s ‘gay marriage’ plan

David Cameron is facing a backlash from religious leaders after saying he supported plans to legalise gay marriage.

The Prime Minister said “commitment” in relationships should be valued regardless of whether it involved “a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and another man”.

But the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales and the Church of England are likely to lodge formal objections to the move when the Coalition launches an official consultation next year.

Speaking to the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Mr Cameron said: “We’re consulting on legalising gay marriage. To anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment.
“Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other.

“So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”

Gay couples will be allowed to marry under Coalition plan 17 Feb 2011
Under Coalition reforms, churches, synagogues and other faith centres will be able to host same-sex civil partnership registration ceremonies for the first time, including the use of religious music.

Ministers will begin a separate consultation on whether to redefine civil “marriage” to include same-sex couples in the spring.

The gay rights group Stonewall and other campaigners for homosexual equality welcomed Mr Cameron’s words. Chris Bryant, the Labour MP, who is in a civil partnership, said on Twitter: “I hear Cameron backed gay marriage. If so I warmly applaud him.”

However, the Prime Minister was immediately criticised by Christian leaders.
The Most Rev Peter Smith, the Archbishop of Southwark and one of the most senior Roman Catholics in the country, said the state must not attempt to redefine marriage.

“Whilst we welcome the Prime Minister’s support of marriage, family life and especially the care of children, the proposed redefinition of marriage cannot be right,” he said.
“Marriage by its very nature is between a man and a woman and it is the essential foundation of family life. The state should uphold this common understanding of marriage rather than attempting to change its meaning.”

The Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, the Rt Rev Kieran Conry, warned that Mr Cameron would not be given “an easy ride on this”.
“I think the Church will have to do something. We can’t just let this slide by and say we are not interested,” he said.
“It is the question of protecting the particular, specific institution of marriage and its specific character as the permanent union of a man and a woman who would then bring up their own children.”

Bishop Conry stressed that the Catholic Church supported civil partnerships, which confer the same rights to gay couples as marriage, because they give better legal protection to individuals in matters including inheritance. However, he questioned the need to allow homosexual couples to use the term “marriage”.

The Church of England is also likely to oppose the reforms. In response to the Prime Minister’s speech, a spokesman for the Church of England said: “The Church’s view remains of marriage as the life-long union between a man and a woman.”

Andrea Williams, director of Christian Concern, said Prime Minister’s attempt to redefine marriage would have “catastrophic consequences” for society. “The complementary union of a man and a woman in marriage is where love, life, stability and the full flourishing of society begins. He ignores this fundamental principle at his peril.”

Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance said: “In seeking to re-define marriage David Cameron may have kept the coalition happy, but may also have signalled the end of conservatism. If you can’t conserve the institution of marriage, what can you conserve?”

Full Article HERE!

Gay saints and lovers: Sergius and Bacchus

Saints Sergius and Bacchus were Roman soldiers, Christian martyrs and gay men who loved each other. They were killed around 303 in present-day Syria. Their feast day is observed on Oct. 7. The couple was openly gay, but secretly Christian — the opposite of today’s closeted Christians.

The close bond between the two men has been emphasized since the earliest accounts, and recent scholarship has revealed their homosexuality. The oldest record of their martyrdom describes them as erastai (Greek for “lovers”). Scholars believe that they may have been united in the rite of adelphopoiesis (brother-making), a kind of early Christian same-sex marriage.

A classic example of paired saints, Sergius and Bacchus were high-ranking young officers. Sergius was primicerius (commander) and Bacchus was secundarius (subaltern officer). They were tortured to death after they refused to attend sacrifices to Zeus, thus revealing their secret Christianity.

The men were arrested and paraded through the streets in women’s clothing in an unsuccessful effort to humiliate them. Early accounts say that they responded by chanting that they were dressed as brides of Christ. They told their captors that women’s dress never stopped women from worshipping Christ, so it wouldn’t stop them, either. Then Sergius and Bacchus were separated and beaten so severely that Bacchus died.

According to the early manuscripts, Bacchus appeared to Sergius that night with a face as radiant as an angel’s, dressed once again as a soldier. He urged Sergius not to give up because they would be reunited in heaven as lovers. His statement is unique in the history of martyrs. Usually the promised reward is union with God, not with a lover. Over the next days Sergius was tortured and eventually beheaded.

Sergius’ tomb became a famous shrine, and for nearly 1,000 years the couple was revered as the official patrons of the Byzantine army. Many early churches were named after Sergius, sometimes with Bacchus. They are recognized as martyrs by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. The pair was venerated through the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Latin America and among the Slavs. Sergius and Bacchus continue to be popular saints with Christian Arabs and now among GLBT Christians and their allies.

The icon above was painted by Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his innovative icons. “Saints Sergius and Bacchus” is one of 10 Lentz icons that sparked a major controversy a few years ago.

Critics accused Lentz of glorifying sin and creating propaganda for a progressive sociopolitical agenda. They caused such a stir that in order to keep the peace between his Franciscan province and the Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Lentz gave away the copyright for the 10 controversial images to his distributor, Trinity Stores. Lentz had his name removed from those images on the Trinity website, but later reclaimed authorship. All 10 were displayed there for a few years as a collection titled “Images That Challenge.” The group includes gay-positive, women-affirming and pagan-oriented icons. Lentz’ own moving spiritual journey and some of his icons are included in the book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More by Kittredge Cherry.

To learn more about Sergius and Bacchus, check out “Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe” by John Boswell and “Passionate Holiness” by Dennis O’Neill.

Full Article HERE!

MN diocese declares majority of Catholics “not in good standing” because they support teh gay

Catholic? Supporter of marriage equality? The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC — humorously, the same acronym used for the Metropolitan Community Church) and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have some bad news for you. You are not “in good standing with the Church.”

In response to the formation of Catholics for Marriage Equality (CME), a group of Catholics opposed to the marriage equality ban set for the ballot in 2012, the MCC and the Archdiocese have issued a joint statement for-shaming these Catholics for not hating gays as much as the Church. From the statement:

A group calling itself “Catholics for Marriage Equality MN” seeks to confuse Catholics and the public about authentic Church teaching related to matters of marriage and sexuality. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Minnesota Catholic Conference wish to make it known that this group does not speak for the Catholic Church, is not an agent or entity of the Archdiocese, MCC, or the universal Church, and has no authority to determine what does and does not constitute Christian doctrine and morality. The Archdiocese asks that Catholics avoid associating themselves with this group, and not be deceived by its messages, which are in conflict with the fundamental teachings of the Church.
“Catholics for Marriage Equality MN” attempts to convince Catholics that they can be in good standing with the Church and oppose Church teaching about human sexuality and marriage, which centers on the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual self-gift of loving spouses in marital union. The group also misleads people by proposing a false ecclesiology that undermines the legitimate authority of the bishops and the Magisterium as the authentic guardian, interpreter, and teacher of the faith handed to the apostles by Jesus Christ.

Full Article HERE!

Study finds most unmarried, college-age Christians sexually active

A study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy determined 88 percent of unmarried Christians ages 18 to 29 have had sex, despite the general push for abstinence in most Christian denominations.

But while these statistics may seem shocking, some are casting doubt on their accuracy and meaning for Christianity.

The study also found 64 percent of those surveyed have been sexually active in the last year, while 42 percent are in a current sexual relationship. The study was published in RELEVANT Magazine, a Catholic news magazine, which devoted a three-page spread to the findings in their September/October issue.

Marquette students and faculty had various reactions to the statistics and overall concept of the study.

John Haugland, a sophomore in the College of Engineering and practicing Catholic, thought the studies were drastic misconceptions.

“If you look at this campus you would find that the majority of the students will identify as Christian, but how many are actually practicing?” Haugland said. “The study may be more applicable if this was distinguished.”

Haugland said he believes the study generalized the Christian population.

“If you are true to your beliefs and are truly practicing, you will abide by what the faith says,” Haugland said. “People choose to practice their religion either fully or partially – this may be a part that some Christians dismiss.”

The Rev. Thomas Anderson, associate director of Campus Ministry, said he did not find the report surprising.

“I believe most teenagers are at that stage of life when they may begin to move from a nominal adherence to a more personal appropriation,” Anderson said in an email.

Susan Mountin, director for faculty for the Manresa Project and former campus minister at Marquette from 1978 to 2001, was responsible for the marriage preparation program and worked with pregnant students or those who had abortions while attending Marquette.

“Believe me, students were sexually active at Marquette,” Mountin said in an email. “I cannot imagine there are fewer students who are sexually active now ten years later … society has made sexual activity a very casual thing.”

Mountin said she found that students generally engaged in sexual activities for what she called “the wrong reasons.”

“I also hope we can have more free and open conversations about this topic at Marquette,” Mountin said. “Sometimes there is a lot of ‘experimenting’ that goes on with relationships in college.”

Full Article HERE!