Austrian Catholics fly rainbow flag after same-sex blessing ban

This church in Vienna’s Breitenfeld neighbourhood is among those flying the rainbow flag

By Jastinder KHERA

The Catholic church of the parish of Hard is one of many in Austria which decided to fly the rainbow flag in solidarity with the LGBT community after the Vatican ruled last month that the Church couldn’t bless same-sex partnerships.

The powerful Vatican office responsible for defending church doctrine, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), handed down a ruling that same-sex unions could not be blessed despite their “positive elements”.

The office wrote that while God “never ceases to bless each of His pilgrim children in this world… he does not and cannot bless sin”.

Hard’s parish priest Erich Baldauf says he and the hundreds of other clergy who belong to the reform-oriented “Priests’ Initiative” movement decided to fly the flag to show “that we do not agree with this outdated position”, with many other churches also making the gesture.

Soon after the rainbow flag in Hard was put up, there was an attempt to damage it, and last Tuesday Baldauf was saddened to discover that it had been burnt.

“We were shocked… it pains us,” Baldauf said.

While the perpetrator has not been caught and there is no proven motive, Baldauf notes that other flags that have flown in the same place were never subject to attack.

In the following days, another rainbow flag outside a church, also in the far western state of Vorarlberg, was burnt, while a third was stolen.

In the following days, two other rainbow flags hanging outside churches, also in the far western state of Vorarlberg, were also burnt.

Contrary to the impression that these incidents may give, surveys show that Austrian public opinion is firmly on the side of equal treatment for same-sex couples.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Austria since 2019 and a survey last week found that a full 64 percent of Austrians opposed the Vatican’s recent decision.

A mere 13 percent said they could understand the Vatican’s stance.

Austria is still a majority Catholic country, with the Church counting just under five million adherents in a country of 8.8 million.

But this represents a steep decline from the decades after the war, in which almost 90 percent of Austrians belonged to the Church.

Experts say differences between Austrian social attitudes and Church teaching on issues such as homosexuality and abortion contribute to tens of thousands choosing to leave the Church each year.

– ‘Hurts to the core’ –

It’s not just the explicitly reform-oriented Priests’ Initiative who have spoken out on the CDF ruling.

No less a figure than the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, said he was “not happy” with the Vatican’s pronouncement.

“The message that went out via the media to the whole world was a simple ‘no’ and in fact a ‘no’ to blessing, which is something that hurts many people to their core,” he explained to the Catholic newspaper Der Sonntag.

Toni Faber, the priest of Vienna’s iconic St Stephen’s Cathedral, was even more forthright.

“If I had the job of causing the most damage possible to the Church with two pages of text, I would write exactly the sort of letter that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has written,” he told the Profil news magazine.

The CDF’s statement “totally misfired” in the aim of “upholding the sacrament of marriage”, Faber said, adding that none of the heterosexual couples he marries “feel diminished by the fact that I give blessings to same-sex couples”.

The unhappiness has found an echo among Germany’s Catholics, with priests using a hashtag calling for “disobedience” online.

While some prominent German bishops have supported the Vatican’s stance, others accused the CDF of seeking to stifle theological debates which have been active among German Catholics in recent years.

A German petition calling for the CDF’s ruling to be ignored has been signed by 2,600 priests and deacons, as well as 277 theologians.

The reaction in Germany and Austria speaks to broader global fault lines on social issues between socially conservative and liberal congregations.

However, according to Jesuit priest and former head of Vatican Radio’s German section Bernd Hagenkord, German-speaking countries also have “a very particular tradition of theology which acts very independently” and is less amenable to being overruled by Church hierarchy.

Back in Hard, the parish church decided to leave the remnants of the burnt flag in place for several days after the attack.

“It had the effect of a cross,” says Baldauf.

But in time for Good Friday, a new rainbow flag once again flew proudly outside the church, a sign of welcome for all parishioners at Easter.

Complete Article HERE!

Gay priests: Breaking the silence

Father Greg Greiten is one of a very few openly gay priests in America.

by Sari Aviv and Anna Matranga

The setting, with its soaring cathedral ceiling and sacraments, is typical of any Catholic service, but the similarities stopped with this sermon: “Because if there’s anything that an LGBTQ person will know, it is that we’re going to face opposition,” said Father Greg Greiten.

Yes, Father Greiten said “we” members of the LGBTQ community. He is one of very few openly gay priests.

When asked how many there are, he said, “I’ve always heard the number thrown out, like, ten of us, that are really out there.”

There are roughly 38,000 priests in America.

Correspondent Seth Doane Asked, “What are you risking by being out?”

“Sometimes it feels like I have to walk on a tightrope,” he replied.

Father Greiten “came out” to his congregation in this Milwaukee suburb about three years ago, at age 51, when he announced, “I am a gay priest, and a celibate priest.” This moment came after a lifetime of struggle, serving a church that teaches that “acting on” homosexual feelings is a sin.

“I just want to break the silence,” he told Doane. “We’re here. And for me, Seth, that was part of the hypocrisy that I was watching happen.”

“Did you feel like a hypocrite when you were up here at the pulpit, and not out?”

“I personally did. It’s like wearing a mask. Every day I have to go up there and pretend I’m something I’m not.”

He pledged, as all priests do, to live a celibate life. For him, this was not about sexual activity, but identity. He found folks in his congregation were overwhelmingly supportive.

Doane asked Carol Webber, “Does it matter to you that the priest here is gay?”

“No, it’s a positive thing,” she replied.

Carol and Fred Webber’s son had come out to them years earlier. “We went into the closet for a while, until we were able to accept it,” she said. “Of course, we loved our son.” Later, they say having an openly-gay priest helped.

But the church itself has not been so pleased.

Father Greiten said, “The unwritten comment is, ‘Don’t talk about it. We know you’re there, but be silent.'”

“Father Frederick,” as we’ll call him, feared losing his salary, healthcare, church housing, pension, and the authority to minister. During his interview, “Sunday Morning” hid his identity. “I’m not courageous enough yet,” he said.

Doane asked, “What does it say that you need to do this interview in shadow?”

“It says that it’s not cool to be gay if you’re a priest. And if you are gay and a priest both at the same time, you’ve gotta hide one or the other.”

He likened that secrecy to the “double-life” of spies.

When asked if he has remained celibate as a priest,” Father Frederick replied, “No, I did not. I experimented. I struggled. There were liaisons, there were relationships. And there was love several times.”

Love and sexual intimacy with another man? “Yes.”

With other priests? “Once or twice.”

He said his seminary where he trained to be a priest was a “warehouse” of young men struggling with their sexuality. They were encouraged from the top, and the beginning, to keep quiet.

Doane asked, “What’s the effect of this culture of silence on the church?”

“It is a slow-moving cancer,” Father Frederick said.

While Pope Francis famously responded “Who am I to judge” when asked about gay priests during a papal press conference, he has also said that anyone with “deep seated” homosexual tendencies shouldn’t be a priest. “Their place is not in ministry or in consecrated life,” he said.

Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, and the most high-profile advocate for LGBTQ Catholics, said, “I think that if you had suddenly all the gay priests in the United States come out, I think the Church would be forced to look at the question of homosexuality in a very different light.”

In 2019 Pope Francis requested a meeting with Father Martin: “The Vatican put our audience on the Pope’s official schedule. They sent out a picture. I met with him in the Apostolic Palace, which is where he meets with presidents and diplomats. It was a pretty strong sign of his support.”

“The tone is new; the teachings haven’t changed?” asked Doane.

“The teachings haven’t changed, but the tone is very important.”

And, Father Martin says, ultimately Catholic leaders need to shift their thinking: “It’s a life issue. We have high suicide rates among LGBT youth, and we also have places in the world where gay people can be arrested and executed for being gay.”

He calls Pope Francis (the first pope to use the word “gay” publicly) the most pro-LGBTQ pope ever, though acknowledging that’s “not a high bar.”

“One of the things I lament is, if there were a case of, say, bullying in a parish or in a school, it would be wonderful for the gay priest to get up and say, ‘Look, I was bullied as a boy,'” Father Martin said. “So, there are these life experiences that I think people are missing in the church.”

Doane asked. “How many gay priests do you think there are?”

“I’m guessing maybe 40 percent. Who knows?” he replied. “If it was 40%, I wouldn’t be surprised; if it was 80%, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“It is a large, silent community, a vast silent majority,” said Frédéric Martel, a French author who spent four years researching his book, “In the Closet of the Vatican,” about the gay underworld there.

He said he interviewed hundreds of priests, even cardinals: “It’s ‘Fifty Shades of Gay.’ I mean, a lot of different kind of gay.”

He suggests the largest group of men in the Vatican may be gay, but do not practice, and can actually be the most homophobic – and in interviews discovered a real range of sexual identities. “Each of them, each of them is totally singular in his little closet,” Martel said.

Francesco Mangiacapra is a sex worker with a law degree who found one priest client led to another, and another. When Doane asked how many priests he had slept with, Mangiacapra replied, “I think about 100. We have in Italy many, many thousands of priests, so 100 is not so much.”

Over roughly five years, Mangiacapra compiled a 1,200-page “dossier” of personal profiles, graphic photos and text-message exchanges with roughly 50 of the priests who were his clients. He submitted it to his local archdiocese of Naples – he says – as a political act.

“This demonstrates that there’s a flaw in the system – a system which tolerates certain behavior but makes it so these behaviors are hidden,” he said.

Mangiacapra admitted the dossier had scared off some priest-clients, but not all, adding: “The libido is higher than the fear.”

It’s important to note: the priests “Sunday Morning” spoke with, as well as the Vatican itself, see no connection between homosexuality and the clerical sexual abuse crisis. A five-year study by New York’s John Jay College, commissioned by bishops, found “the data do not support a finding that homosexual identity is a risk factor for the sexual abuse of minors.”

Doane spoke with about two dozen priests, who told us they were gay, but few would share their stories publicly.

Father Frederick said, “I admire priests who are willing to stand up, come out of the closet. That’s courage.”

Most told Doane they felt forced into the closet. It’s a painful, confining place, particularly in a church community where they’re expected to be role models.

Father Greg Greiten, faithfully serving his parish in Wisconsin, said secrecy is a scourge in the church, so the first step for him is being open and honest.

Doane asked, “You signed up to work for an institution that thinks being gay, acting out on that, is a sin.”

“Correct. But the difference is, this is my spiritual home. This is where I was baptized. This is where I received my first communion. And so, this is my home. And I don’t believe that the home should be throwing out its children.”

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis names gay man to clergy sex abuse commission

Juan Carlos Cruz

by Michael K. Lavers

Pope Francis has named a gay man to a commission that advises him on protecting children from pedophile priests.

Juan Carlos Cruz — a survivor of clerical sex abuse in Chile — was named to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. The Associated Press on Wednesday reported nuns, laypeople, a bishop and a priest are among the commission’s other members.

Cruz on Wednesday told the Blade during a telephone interview from Chile that Francis “decided he wanted me on the commission.”

“I’m very honored,” said Cruz. “I’m a survivor. I’m gay. I’m a lay person. I’m Catholic.”

Cruz is among the hundreds of people who a now-defrocked priest sexually abused in his parish in El Bosque, a wealthy neighborhood in the Chilean capital of Santiago over more than three decades.

Cruz and two other men — José Murillo and James Hamilton — in 2010 went public with their allegations. Two Chilean cardinals later blocked Cruz from being named to the same commission to which Francis appointed him.

Cruz is the first openly gay man and the first person from Latin America to serve on the commission.

“I had lots of hits against me, but he trusts me,” Cruz told the Blade, referring to Francis.

“I’m honored,” he added. “It just renews my commitment to change things from within, for survivors, for every person who feels disenfranchised from the church. This is a place where we all belong, with no adjectives.”

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which defends Catholic teachings, earlier this month published a decree that said the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions. Cruz, who met Francis at the Vatican in 2018, is among those who sharply criticized the edict.

“As a Catholic, I would immediately ask for a change in the leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which every day resembles that of the infamous Torquemada himself and not that of the pastors that Francis proposes to us,” Cruz told the Blade, referring to the mastermind of the Spanish Inquisition.

Cruz in response to Francis’ decision to name him to the commission reiterated he is “really, really honored and will do my best to live up to his appointment and the commitment that I have with the people who are expecting so much from me.”

Rebel priests defy Vatican, vow to bless same-sex couples

Father Helmut Schueller

By

A dissident band of Roman Catholic priests leading a disobedience campaign against the Vatican said on Tuesday they would carry on blessing same-sex couples in defiance of Church orders.

The Vatican said on Monday that priests cannot bless same-sex unions and that such blessings are not valid, in a ruling that disappointed gay Catholics who had hoped their Church was becoming more welcoming under Pope Francis.

In some countries, parishes and ministers have begun blessing same-sex unions in lieu of marriage, and there have been calls for bishops to institutionalise de facto such blessings. Conservatives in the 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church have expressed alarm over such practices.

“We members of the Parish Priests Initiative are deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that seeks to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples. This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to have overcome with Pope Francis,” the Austrian-based group said in a statement.

“We will — in solidarity with so many — not reject any loving couple in the future who ask to celebrate God’s blessing, which they experience every day, also in a worship service.”

The Parish Priests Initiative led by Father Helmut Schueller has long been a thorn in the side of the Vatican. The group wants Church rules changed so that priests can marry and women can become priests.

It has said it will break Church rules by giving communion to Protestants and divorced Catholics who remarry.

Founded in 2006 by nine priests, the initiative says it now has around 350 members from the ranks of the official Church and more than 3,000 lay supporters.

The Vatican in 2012 cracked down on Schueller, stripping him of the right to use the title monsignor and saying he was also no longer a “Chaplain of His Holiness”.

Schueller, a former deputy to Vienna archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, had been given the honorary title in his capacity as head of the Austrian branch of the Catholic charity group Caritas.

Complete Article HERE!

Dissecting the Catholic Church’s Disrespect of LGBTQ+ People

What if the Roman Catholic Church wrote about African-Americans and women the way it still writes about LGBTQ+ people?

By Benjamin Brenkert

Long before I entered the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit religious order of Pope Francis I, I studied American history. It was in those remarkable history courses that I learned about the birth of the United States, from colonies through revolution to the writing of the Constitution and the making of a republic. The birth of the American experiment, the purest democracy protected by federalism, had its warts from nation-building: Chattel slaves were not counted as fully human, their rights impinged upon through forced labor, whipping, or in some cases, death. My African-American brothers and sisters are still overcoming the institution of slavery today.

The Black Lives Matter movement has made tremendous progress on educating Americans and world citizens about the terrible toll exacted on human beings because of the color of their skin. It is the Black Lives Matter Movement that has reclaimed the commemoration of June 19, 1865 — the celebration of the end of slavery, known as Freedom Day.

While I love history and am no longer a Jesuit, I have spent the past six years advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in the Roman Catholic Church. In my memoir, A Catechism of the Heart: A Jesuit Missioned to the Laity, I write specifically about my departure from the Jesuits because they would not confront the homophobia of the Roman Catholic Church despite the tonal shifts ushered in by Pope Francis. Mostly, mine is a journey book where I invite my readers to consider whether to remain in a church that counts them as less than fully human, a church that cannot celebrate the good works, talents, time, and stewardship of LGBTQ+ people amid its own flock.

Despite my not being a member of the Roman Catholic Church anymore — I am a convert to the Episcopal Church — I am attempting to discard the negative theology of my former church, its antigay theology and rhetoric. I believe the Black Lives Matter movement allows me to confront the homophobia of the Roman Catholic Church in a bold new way. To do this requires analysis of the text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The catechism, or teaching, is the official statement of belief of the Roman Catholic Church. It carries more weight than the words of a single pope or the hopes of the many closeted gay priests who pray that one day these words will be forever removed from the language of the catechism. Why haven’t they been already?

Let’s juxtapose the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s language with homosexuality, along with the language of other marginalized people, like African-Americans and women, and then enter into a discussion about why the Catholic Church should move to rewrite the catechism in light of these objections. (For the full text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, click here.)

A final observation before I begin, the Catechism of the Catholic Church presents its doctrine of homosexuality (or same-sex attraction) following a review of the moral virtue of chastity. In 2021, a good homosexual in the church must be celibate. The number listed below is the citation for the official statement of belief contained in the catechism.

Homosexuality (#2357)

Original text:
“Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.”

What the text looks like with “homosexual” replaced with “African-American”:
“African-American refers to a people who experience exclusive or predominant sexual attractions toward persons of the same or opposite sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.”

Same-Sex Attraction (#2358)

Original text:
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

What the text looks like with a focus on African-Americans:
“The number of African-Americans who have deep-seated sexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives, and if they are Christian, to united to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they many encounter from their condition.”

Homosexuals and Chastity (#2359)

Original text:
“Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

What this text looks like if “homosexual persons” is replaced with “women”:
“Women are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

As a gay man, I find it unholy that the Roman Catholic Church continues to perpetuate, without factoring in scientific research, its myths about homosexuality. It uses the theology of dead saints to negatively label homosexuals as intrinsically disordered. Please note that categories like bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, and genderqueer do not even make it into the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Furthermore, it is obvious to me that the Roman Catholic Church could not perpetuate myths about African-Americans, women, the disabled, or Latinos.

And while my revisions may seem unconventional or awkward or funny, they underline a truth about the place of gay, lesbians, and bisexuals in the Roman Catholic Church: They are a second-class citizen tolerated but not fully wanted. Good only if celibate. Weren’t African-Americans once valued only as slaves?

If homosexual tendencies are “not a sin,” why does the Catholic Church still discourage homosexual men from entering the priesthood? All priests are supposed to be celibate, regardless of sexual orientation, What should sexuality matter?

About gays in the priesthood, then-Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2005 that dioceses “cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’ Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women.” In other words, hate the sin, not the sinner!

My friend Lisa McClain, a professor at Boise State University, wrote me recently and asked me, “Does Benedict XVI’s conviction that the alleged inability to relate to men and women mean that the Church doesn’t think gay men can relate to and appropriately counsel people? And how might the Catechism’s description of homosexuality as ‘objectively disordered’ play into this?”

A 1986 Vatican letter states:
“Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

Insert “African-American” into that letter:
“Although the particular inclination of the African-American person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

To return to the inspiration for this experiment, the Black Lives Matter movement has allowed for an investigation into complacency and complicit behaviors. If the exercise above has done nothing less, it has shown the futility of the church’s antigay rhetoric and negative theology toward LGBTQ+ people. But why aren’t more LGBTQ+ people challenging this teaching, this catechism, directly?

LGBTQ+ people are human beings, created in the image and likeness of a loving god. Their time, talents, and stewardship should be praised and exalted by the Roman Catholic Church. Gay priests must come out of the closet. For certain, the Catechism of the Catholic Church should excise its outdated, non-scientific language. As the Jesuit priest Father John Kavanagh once taught me in a graduate class at Saint Louis University, all humans count as persons, but for the gay person a caveat remains that if you are still Catholic, you are a person only if you are celibate. If you don’t buy that, it’s time to find a church that wants you with all your humanity, just like Jesus himself: fully accepting, no questions asked.

Complete Article HERE!