03/10/17

The priest who welcomed the LGBT community into his church

By Michael Cox

Seamus O’Boyle was leader of London’s gay Catholic Mass for six years, until it came to an end under pressure from the Vatican in 2013. Now a parish priest in the borough, Monsignor O’Boyle speaks to Michael Cox about the bittersweet feeling of helping a hurt community which was again cast aside, and the changing attitudes of the Church to LGBT people.

In April 1999 neo-Nazi David Copeland, known as the London Nail Bomber, killed three people in the Admiral Duncan Pub on Old Compton Street, at the heart of London’s gay community.

“After the pub bombing in Soho where people got killed, there was a group of gay Catholic men and women who wanted somewhere to pray,” says Monsignor Seamus O’Boyle. But the Church’s teachings forbade this.

“They started gathering together in an Anglican church to have Catholic Mass. That was a bit of an anomaly really, to put it mildly.”

Eight years later Mgr O’Boyle was Vicar General, a senior position in the Church which made him responsible for every priest in London. He had an opportunity to do something.

He decided that after what the community had suffered, he wanted LGBT Catholics to worship in a Catholic setting.

“The move was to try and make sure this was happening in a Catholic parish instead, and that it was open to everyone.

“We looked for a church and it was decided that we would use Our Lady of the Assumption on Warwick Street in Soho. I was appointed as the parish priest so I was responsible for what went on, in the sense of having an oversight of what was going on there.

“I was blamed for it all, being reported to Rome every five minutes.

The blame came from more conservative Catholics who did not want to see homosexuality being publicly welcomed by the Church. The furore over an officially sanctioned gay Mass began immediately.

“It was a wonderful thing to be able to reach out to that community. It was a very hurt community by the Church, and yet there they were wanting to be part of it. I think we did a very good thing by allowing that to happen, but others didn’t feel that way.

“More traditional Catholics didn’t like it much. There was a group who used to meet outside and protest, saying the rosary. It was just horrendous, really. And then writing every five minutes to Rome to tell them that we were doing this atrocious thing. All kinds of ministry of disinformation, it was awful.

“Sometimes the group didn’t help by reacting in a bad way to some of the criticism and trying to reign them in a bit was not always easy. The group meeting outside was always invited in, you know, ‘come in and see that we’ve not got two heads’.

“Actually it was a very traditional celebration of mass, just that there happened to be a lot of musicians…

“To go to a Mass on a Sunday evening and have 150 people there who wanted to be there and participate in that way was just extraordinary. It was causing more and more trouble, every five minutes there was another complaint so the Archbishop wanted to find a different way of operating it.”

The Archbishop at the time was Vincent Nichols, and as leader of all Catholics in England and Wales he was responsible for dealing with the Vatican and, ultimately, the Pope.

He shut down the Soho Mass in 2013, saying it conflicted with the church’s teachings on sexuality.

Archbishop Nichols told the BBC at the time: “The moral teaching of the Church is that the proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life.

“This means that many types of sexual activity, including same-sex sexual activity, are not consistent with the teaching of the church.”

The Mass was moved out of the jurisdiction of the Archbishop into a Jesuit church on Farm Street in Mayfair, where it has continued.

“A number of the Jesuit priests were involved in the Soho masses so it seemed like a natural progression,” says Mgr O’Boyle. “It’s still thriving.

“The problem with Warwick Street was it is a very tiny community, so that particular group swamped it. Farm Street is a much bigger community so to get them to mix has worked well. It means they’re not the only thing that’s happening.”

Mgr O’Boyle believes that despite initial approval from the Vatican, the Archbishop came under increasing pressure from the top of the church to end the LGBT Mass.

“Every step along the way, there was discussion with bishops, then Rome was involved and they were notified about what was going on. They were informed about it, it wasn’t like we were doing anything behind anyone’s back. But it wasn’t appreciated by everyone.

“[Archbishop Nichols] would go to meetings in Rome in all he would hear about was who had written to complain about Soho Mass, it became ridiculous and out of proportion. He was irritated by the reaction from Rome, so it was a neat way to bring it to an end at Warwick Street.

“And then I moved from there to here in Islington.”

Mgr O’Boyle thinks the attitude to LGBT people in the Catholic Church is changing, a shift largely driven by the actions of an unusually liberal Pope.

“Pope Francis has given people hope that the church doesn’t seem quite so judgemental or dictatorial about things.

“He was interviewed [about homosexuality] and famously said “who am I to judge?” To hear a Pope say that when others seem to have been very judgemental and harsh was a real sign of hope for the LGBT community I think.

“He’s trying to modernise the church but he’s up against it. He needs to do it, which I think is why he’s right for his time.

“He doesn’t care what he does really which is great – he’s the Pope isn’t he? He can do what he likes.

“I think there are those who would like to stop him doing what he’s doing – the establishment would. Centuries-old structures of bureaucracy are not easy to break down.

“But I think he’s been a breath of fresh air for the Church.”

Complete Article HERE!

02/9/17

Steve Bannon Aligns With Vatican Hard-Liners Who Oppose Pope Francis

Anti-Pope Francis posters appeared in Rome last week, with a message in a Roman street dialect saying, “Hey, Frank, you took over Congregations, suspended priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of The Immaculate, ignored Cardinals… Where the heck is your mercy?”

BY

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is known to have cultivated ties with far-right parties in Europe, like the National Front in France. He also seems to have forged an alliance with Vatican hard-liners who oppose Pope Francis’ less rigid approach to church doctrine. The New York Times reported this week on Bannon’s connections at the Vatican.

Before becoming White House chief strategist, Bannon — who is Catholic — was the executive chairman of Breitbart News, which he called a “platform for the alt-right.” That’s a movement associated with white nationalism.

During a visit to Rome a few years ago, Bannon struck up a friendship with the American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a traditionalist who has emerged as one of Pope Francis’ most vocal critics.

Bannon hired Thomas Williams, an American former priest, as Breitbart’s Rome correspondent. Williams belonged to the conservative Legion of Christ, which was roiled by scandal when it was revealed its founder had been a pedophile.

Williams recently told his own story on an Italian TV talk show: In 2003, he fathered a child, but he kept it secret until he was outed by a news report. He then left the priesthood and married the child’s mother — who is the daughter of the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon.

In July 2014, Bannon addressed a conference that was held inside the Vatican but was sponsored by a conservative Catholic group. Speaking via Skype, Bannon painted an almost apocalyptic vision of the state of the Western world.

“We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which, if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting.”

A barbarity, Bannon added, that would completely eradicate “everything we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years,” and which he clearly spelled out a few minutes later: “We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it.”

This is language that Pope Francis has never used. The pope has repeatedly urged European countries to welcome migrants — who are, in the majority, Muslim — and he has championed the rights of the poor.

A year ago, Francis criticized candidate Donald Trump for wanting to build a wall along the border with Mexico, saying, “A person who thinks only about building walls … and not building bridges is not Christian.”

But that’s not Bannon’s worldview. While most Breitbart reports on the pope have been neutral, headlines about the pope when Bannon was in charge included:

  • “Seven Ways Pope Francis Slapped Conservatives in the United States”
  • “A Vatican Expert: Pope Francis a ‘Friend of Islam’ “
  • “Pope Francis Slams Capitalism, Death Penalty, Immigration Law; No Real Mention of Abortion, Gay Marriage”
  • “Pope Francis Threatens Legacy of Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan”

While Breitbart and Bannon seem to be making common cause with Roman Catholics who are on the outs with this pope, these Vatican hard-liners are not very powerful.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis’ supporters inside the Vatican worry that following Trump’s election victory, the pope is a little more isolated — a lonely progressive on the global stage. They say this has emboldened his critics both within and outside the Vatican, who have become more vocal.

For example, just last week, mysterious anti-Francis posters cropped up around Rome. The photo showed the pope looking uncharacteristically very grouchy, and the unidentified author — using a Roman street dialect — accused him of acting in an authoritarian manner and showing lack of mercy, despite the fact that Francis has made “Mercy” the unofficial slogan of his papacy.

Francis has not reacted. But in a surprising move, on Sunday, he issued the very first papal blessing for the Super Bowl. It was a video message in his native Spanish — not in Italian, which he usually uses for official messages — in which he said such a sporting event “shows that it’s possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace.”

The Italian media labeled the message “anti-Trump.”

Complete Article HERE!

01/29/17

Gay pastor returns to Kenosha after being outed and ousted

First United Methodist Church to publicly apologize

First United Methodist The Rev. Justin Elliott Lowe of Kenosha\’s First United Methodist Church, center, stands with members of the reconciling committee, from left, Jessica DeBoer, Len Wojciechowicz and his wife Laura. The church is welcoming back to Kenosha a gay clergy member who was outed and ousted from the congregation more than 30 years ago.

BY DANIEL GAITAN

The Rev. Kevin Johnson was outed and forced out of First United Methodist Church in Kenosha when he affirmed his gay orientation in 1981.

Now more than 30 years later, the church, 919 60th St., will publicly apologize for its actions during its Weekend of Reconciliation.

Johnson, 63, and his husband, Michael Shear, will travel from Palm Springs, Calif., to Kenosha for the Feb. 4-5 festivities, which will include plenty of preaching, prayer and tears.

“The invitation to host my husband and me was a long time coming. It was welcome, though it will not be easy,” Johnson wrote in an opinion piece published in The Desert Sun, the Palm Springs newspaper.

‘Devastated’

“More years have passed since my dismissal than my age when I first entered the church’s doors,” Johnson said. “Their 1981 rejection devastated my career dreams. I had to build a new life in the business world.”

For 20 years, Johnson said he was separated from his professional calling.

“That hurt badly. But I was never separated from my faith. I always sensed God’s love,” he said.

That helped him co-found Bloom in the Desert Ministries in 2002.

He said this is the first time since 1972 — when the United Methodist Church said, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” — that a local church is reconciling publicly with a former pastor affected by the decree.

News of Johnson’s return has sparked warm headlines across the nation.

“Times have changed, and young gay men are more confident in themselves,” Johnson told the Kenosha News.

Opposition

Official United Methodist Church law prohibits gay clergy, but the Kenosha church is one of a growing number of congregations now fighting it.

First United overwhelmingly voted last summer to identify as a Reconciling Ministries Congregation. It decided to welcome the LGBTQI (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex) community, despite official restrictions still imposed by the church’s official disciple book.

“I’m thrilled to be able to come back and spend time with friends and meet new people having an influence on the congregation to be more inclusive,” Johnson said. “I am coming back with a full heart.”

Outed and ousted

The Rev. Kevin Johnson

Johnson said being outed and publicly forced out of a job in his late 20s devastated him.

He said a private conversation with a church member who questioned his sexuality was made public, which triggered the backlash against him.

“For years, it was very difficult for me to be a part of a church organization,” Johnson said.

“It was very difficult for the first decade after. I barely went to church at all. I had lost all confidence in human beings who claimed to be loving persons in the Christian church.”

Although Johnson made a career in business around the turn of the millennium, he felt called to launch his own ministry.

Bloom in the Desert Ministries in Palm Springs is designed to be a safe space and sanctuary for anyone experiencing spiritual abuse and religious discrimination related to gender identity, sexual orientation or ethnic heritage.

“I hope other churches who dismissed pastors for this very reason will do the same thing and decide that they want to be reconciled with the people they wronged in the past,” Johnson said.

Johnson left the Methodist Church and joined the United Church of Christ.

Accepting all Christians

The Rev. Justin Elliott Lowe, pastor of First United, said he is proud of his congregation for its support of Johnson.

Lowe said homosexuality and Christianity are not incompatible, so reaching out to this community is honoring Christ.

“I think the whole idea of sexuality in the Bible and what kind of gets explained as the ‘Christian’ understanding of sexuality isn’t quite accurate and isn’t quite theologically grounded,” Lowe said, adding that the Bible fails to offer a clear-cut set of teachings regarding sexuality, gender and even marriage.

He said the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality are far more complex than a sound bite or single verse pulled out of context during Sunday service.

“People just say ‘(homosexuality) is in the Bible; here’s what it says,’ when there are so many layers and things are misinterpreted between Greek and Hebrew to English,” Lowe said. “You can be a Christian and be gay — and practice your sexuality.”

At the core of Christianity, Lowe said, is a spirit of radical reconciliation.

Welcoming everyone

Jessica DeBoer, a member of the church’s Reconciling Committee, said the church has made a commitment to welcome everyone as equals.

“It’s very exciting,” DeBoer said. “I think as more people know about it, it will help bring people in. It’s really important that we welcome everybody.”

DeBoer said few members of the church were around when Johnson was forced out, but the “wound” remains in the minds of many.

“This is absolutely a huge part of our past as a church family,” DeBoer said. “It was the elephant in the room, especially now that we have openly become this accepting congregation.”

Complete Article HERE!

12/12/16

Pope Francis needs his gay Priests

By Irene Monroe

To the shock of many of us LGBT people of faith is the Vatican’s recent decision in the document “The Gift of Priestly Vocation,” to ban gays to the priesthood; thus, reaffirming its 2005 stance.

Those of us who have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” or who “support the so-called ‘gay culture’” are categorically denied to serve one of the church’s most revered and respected posts. And to know that Pope Francis, our LGBT pope- friendly pontiff, approved the document have many of us in disbelief.

We all recall Pope Francis’s remarks when flying home after a weeklong visit to Brazil in 2013 (which set off global shock waves) where the pontiff was queried about the much talked about “gay lobby” in the Vatican.

“When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?”

This public statement is the most LGBT affirmative remarks the world has ever heard from the Catholic Church. In 2013 “The Advocate,” a nationally renowned and respected LGBT ‘zine, named Pope Francis their “Person of the Year.”

Pope Frances’ more liberal-leaning pronouncements, however, don’t match his actions. But, in looking at gay priests within the historical context of the Catholic Church the Pontiff knows that gay priests have always been in the Vatican.

As a matter-of-fact, the homosocial and homosexual milieu of gay priests have always been part and parcel of the life and operations of the Vatican as well as the Catholic Church for centuries. Their strength to come-out now as a formidable force within the hallowed walls of the Vatican is laudable on the one hand, and a liability on the other hand—especially in terms of casting a gay suspicion on all priests as well as the potential to expose those priests who want to remain in the closet.

The Catholic Church needs its gay priests

The Rev. Donald B. Cozens, author of “The Changing Face of the Priesthood,” wrote that with more than half the priests and seminarians being gay, the priesthood is becoming a gay profession. Many who know the interior of the Catholic Church would argue that the priesthood has for centuries been a gay profession, and not to ordain gay priests or to defrock them would drastically alter the spiritual life and daily livelihood of the church.

“If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented, the number would be so staggering that it would be like an atomic bomb; it would do damage to the church’s operation,” says A.W. Richard Sipe, a former priest and psychotherapist who has been studying the sexuality of priests for decades. Sipe also points out that to do away with gay priests “would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world. And it’s very much against the tradition of the church; many saints have gay orientation and many popes had gay orientations.”

The reality here is that as quietly as the Church has tried to keep it, the Catholic Church is a gay institution. And that is not a bad thing!

The problem in the Catholic Church is not its gay priests, and its solution to the problem is not the removal of them. The problem in the Catholic Church is its transgressions against them. And I ask: Who will remove the church from itself?

Years of homophobic church doctrine have made the church unsafe for us all- young and old, straight and LGBT, adult and child.

Eugene Kennedy, a specialist on sexuality and the priesthood and a former priest, wrote in his book, “The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality, that the Catholic Church ” . . .had always had gay priests, and they have often been models of what priests should be. To say that these men should be kept from the priesthood is in itself a challenge to the grace of God and an insult to them and the people they serve.”

Supporters and activists of the “gay lobby” in the Curia emphatically state that this brave and visible group is essential to the running of the Vatican as well as protecting themselves from the church’s hypocrisy in scapegoating them for many of the social ills of the church.

Pope Francis knows this which is one of the reasons he has commented disapprovingly about the political and activist clout the powerful “gay lobby” has in the Curia, the Vatican’s secretive administration.

“The problem is not having this orientation. The problem is lobbying by this orientation…Being gay is a tendency. The problem is the lobby,” the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Pope Frances saying a press conference during his trip to Brazil in July.

Right now, the Catholic Church stands in the need of prayer and the Pontiff knows it. Francis aptly stated in his a December 2013 interview with 16 Jesuit magazines that “the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards” should the Catholic Church, in this 21st Century, continue on it anti-modernity trek like his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Sadly, this pope is like the previous one when it comes to upholding church doctrine, but with a more friendlier and pastoral facade.

Shame on the church’s continued opposition to gay priests in light of its history, reality, and of the gifts they have given and continue to give to the Catholic Church.

Complete Article HERE!

10/6/16

‘Coming Out Day’ Still Celebrated at Catholic Colleges

By

men-kissing-in-church

A number of Catholic colleges and universities across the country are sponsoring or are allowing events on campus in the next week to mark “National Coming Out Day,” a day to celebrate “coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) or as an ally.” According to the LGBT activist group Human Rights Campaign, which actively works against the Catholic Church on issues of human sexuality, October 11 marks the 28th anniversary of the celebration.

“Coming out” refers to the phrase “coming out of the closet,” used to express when one publicly declares their attraction outober-events-georgetownto members of the same sex. These sexual attractions are referred to in our current culture in terms of “identities” that define an individual. “Coming Out Day” celebrations serve to lead persons to embrace and be proud of those “identities,” which are rooted in sexual attractions and lifestyles considered either disordered or immoral by the Church.

Same-sex attraction is not a sin, but is referred to as “disordered” and a “trial” for those experiencing those attractions in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Church does teach that same-sex sexual activity is a mortal sin, as is all sexual activity outside the confines of marriage, as understood by the Church.

Despite the mandate of Catholic institutions of higher education to teach and lead students to the truth in Christ, many Catholic colleges continue to support “Coming Out Day” celebrations while completely avoiding events to help students understand Church teaching on sexuality, chastity and gender.

“Events like ‘Coming Out Day’ run the risk of equating a person’s identity with his or her sexual attractions, which, although they form a significant part of a person’s experience, are only one factor in the whole complex reality of what it means to be a human being,” said Father Philip Bochanski, newly appointed executive director of Courage International, in an interview with The Cardinal Newman Society last year. “Promoting events that reduce a person’s identity to his or her sexual attractions betrays our Catholic faith in the dignity of the human person, and does a disservice to those it claims to defend.”

‘Coming Out’ at Georgetown

Georgetown University, America’s oldest Catholic college, is sponsoring a “Coming Out Day” celebration along with events during the entire month of October leading students to celebrate and embrace LGBTQ “identities.” Last year the Newman Society reported on the expansion of the university’s “OUTober” events to focus more on “transgender” students who wish to be recognized as a gender that differs from their biological sex. This year the focus is on “honoring our histories” according to the university’s LGBTQ Resource Center website.

“Coming Out Day” in Red Square, Georgetown’s “free speech” zone, kicks off the OUTober events on October 7. “Come join us on our annual Coming Out Day, featuring a door through which students ‘come out’ as proud LGBTQ Hoyas and Allies,” the event description reads. “Be sure to pick up and wear your ‘I AM’ t-shirt throughout the day to promote visibility and awareness.”

 

Georgetown’s “I AM” campaign encourages students and faculty to tell their personal stories of embracing their same-sex attraction and gender identity confusion. Georgetown’s LGBTQ Resource Center produced a series of videos with students, faculty and staff giving their testimonies.

The listed partners for the OUTober events include Georgetown’s Campus Ministry and Department of Theology. None of the event descriptions include mention of Catholic teaching on human sexuality and chastity.

In their 2006 guidelines on ministering to those with same-sex attraction, the U.S. bishops stated: “Love and truth go together. … The Church cannot support organizations or individuals whose work contradicts, is ambiguous about, or neglects her teaching on sexuality.” The document reaffirmed a 1986 letter to bishops issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that stated: “[W]e wish to make it clear that departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral.”

Coming Out’ at Other Catholic Colleges

The student group PRIDE at the University of San Diego (USD) is scheduled to hold a “National Coming Out Day” celebration which aims to “encourage the USD community to ‘come out’ as LGBTQ and Ally and embrace our many identities.” Peter Marlow, associate vice president of university communications at USD, told the Newman Society that the event is not sponsored by the university and the university is committed to embodying the Church’s teachings on marriage and human sexuality. But the event is being promoted using university resources on the USD website.

Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., is celebrating “Coming Out Day” on October 11. The university’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center and the Center for Gender and Sexualities Studies developed a series of events to promote October as “LGBTQ+ History Month.”

The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., is holding a “Coming Out Coffee House” on October 20, described as “An open mic space for LGBTQIA individuals to tell their coming out stories.”

Sponsored by the Gender and Sexuality Center, “National Coming Out Day” will be celebrated at the University of San Francisco with “a quick interactive game” and an “interactive collaborative art piece.” “There are so many words to describe the different identities around gender and sexuality within ourselves, but are they enough? Do we even know all what all these words mean?” the event description reads.

The student club PRIDE at Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus is commemorating “LGBT History Month” with a “Coming Out Week.” A representative of the university’s Office of Multicultural Affairs told the Newman Society that events during the week will include an opportunity to speak at a coffee shop, a door through which people can “come out” as LGBT or as allies, and a trivia night.

Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., which embraces the label of “one of the most LGBT friendly Catholic campuses in the country,” held a “Coming Out Week LGBTQIA Bingo” on October 3.

Fr. Bochanski told the Newman Society last year that silence from Catholic colleges on the issues of chastity and sexual morality not only confuses students “but makes it more difficult for them to hear and live by the truth of the Gospel, which is that chastity sets a person free to love authentically.”

“Catholic institutions should defend the rights and dignity of those who experience same-sex attractions by promoting the whole teaching of the Church: that these brothers and sisters of ours ought to be welcomed with respect and compassion, and ought to receive every support we can give them to live virtuous, chaste lives,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!