Same-sex couple chosen by church for their ‘gifts, talents and experience’
What’s better than having an LGBTI religious leader of faith at your progressive church? How about two?
A historic church in Washington DC has named a married lesbian couple, Sallay Sarratt and Maria Swearingen, as their newest co-pastors.
Calvary Baptist Church in northwest DC announced the hiring during morning worship on 8 January, where they were approved by the congregation.
‘We have found it so easy to fall in love with Calvary and its longstanding commitment to be a voice of justice and compassion for those who perpetually find the wholeness of their humanity disregarded and maligned,’ Sarratt and Swearingen said.
The progressive church, an affiliate of American Baptist Churches USA, severed its ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012 over the denomination’s opposition to same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy.
Carol Blythe, chair of Calvary’s Ministerial Selection Committee, said: ‘As we met and talked with Sally and Maria about their vision for pastoral leadership at Calvary, we were struck by their deep faith and commitment to being part of a gospel community.
‘We were impressed with how their gifts, talents, and experience matched our ministry priorities — and we are thrilled about their upcoming pastorate and the versatility the co-pastor model will provide our congregation.’
The couple, who met and later ordained at First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina, take over as co-pastors on 26 February.
Complete Article HERE!
Kenny took letter from priest, suspended for views on Catholic teachings, to pope during visit
By Patsy McGarry
A letter from a priest who was suspended from public ministry was taken to Pope Francis by Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he met the pontiff on November 28th last. A spokesman for the Taoiseach confirmed the letter was delivered as Fr Tony Flannery had requested.
Fr Flannery was disciplined by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for views he expressed on Catholic teachings in 2012, the year prior to Pope Francis’s election.
The priest has also announced that he will ignore this suspension from public ministry by celebrating Mass on Sunday 22nd of January next at 2.30pm in the Killimordaly Community Centre near where he lives in east Galway.
It will mark his 70th birthday on January 18th.
Announcing this decision to publicly break the Vatican directive, Fr Flannery said: “Having spent 40 years of my life ministering as a priest, I am now into my fifth year when I am forbidden by church authorities to minister publicly. I have decided to honour my age, and my lifetime, by ignoring the church censures, and celebrating a public Mass.
“Since I would not be allowed to do so either in a Catholic church or other Catholic controlled building, I have chosen, with the kind permission of the committee, to celebrate it in the local community hall in the village where I now live.”
He was not celebrating this Mass “for the sake of defying church authorities,” he said. But it was the case that “the Mass, the Eucharist, is not in the ownership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or indeed of the Vatican. It belongs to the believing communities,” he said.
In his letter to Pope Francis, as delivered by the Taoiseach, Fr Flannery recalled how “since 1994, the credibility of the Catholic Church in Ireland has been severely damaged due to the clerical sexual abuse problems. This led to many people, even committed Catholics, asking serious questions about the structure and practices of our church, and the reasons why church authorities failed to deal properly with the emerging scandal.”
He continued that “six Irish priests who sought in their writings to examine these questions were censored by the CDF since 2006.” He himself was “most severely censored, as I am forbidden to minister publicly as a priest.”
The main concerns of the priests who were disciplined were that, in its dealings with them, the CDF had failed “to act in accordance with the principles of natural justice: We were accused and judged to be in error before we had any knowledge that a case was being prepared against us.”
Condemnations and punishments “were communicated to us indirectly, through our religious superiors. We were never given the dignity of being addressed directly. We were not given any opportunity to explain or defend our positions, or to put them into the context of the situation in which they were written. We were not informed as to the identity of the people who made complaints about us to the CDF. We did not have any opportunity to cross examine our accusers.”
When the Irish bishops or papal nuncio were questioned on the priests’ situation, “they say that they are helpless to intervene and that it is strictly a matter for our religious superiors, even though there is clear documentary evidence to show that our superiors acted always under orders from the CDF.”
Fr Flannery hoped, in light of Pope Francis’s proposed visit to Ireland, “ that our situations might be looked at in a new and more just fashion.” He concluded by expressing “great respect, and appreciation for all you are doing to renew our church. ”
Complete Article HERE!
A man from Indiana said a priest told him he wasn’t allowed to sing at his grandmother’s funeral because he attended a gay pride rally. The whole thing stemmed from a picture shared on Conner Hakes Facebook page, which was uploaded by a friend last year.
Hakes said he and his family have been longtime members of St. Mary’s of the Assumption Catholic Church in Decatur. His grandmother lived nearby, and generations before her have been a part of this church.
So when his Grandmother passed away last Monday, Hakes contacted the church Tuesday to get permission to sing at her funeral. Father Bob J. Lengerich denied that request, concerned that he was His concern was living a same-sex life and openly advocating for LGBT rights.
“This Priest had judged me and really formed an opinion about me without ever communicating with me,” said Hakes.
Hakes maintains that Lengerich never came to him to discuss if he was participating in a gay lifestyle or not, and said he sang numerous times for the congregation previously.
However, a letter states that if Hakes were to sing at the funeral, that would scandalize the church and the congregation. The letter goes on to say that any person who serves in the church or as a representative of the church must uphold the church’s values.
“This was coming from a man, a priest out of my home Parish that I have always felt very loved and welcomed in,” said Hakes. “All of he sudden I felt very ostracized.”
The letter explained that Catholic Church forbids people who defy the rules of the church, including people who are divorced and remarried without having the marriage annulled, those who support abortion rights, and openly participate in unchaste same-sex relationships.
Lengerich said that Hakes is allowed to honor his grandmother with a tribute song, only if it is outside of the Mass and outside of the church.
“It was very clear to me that he was very set in his mindset,” said Hakes. “He did not want me to participate in my grandmothers funeral.”
Hakes took his frustration to social media; posting the letter and condemning it’s message. It was shared nearly 850 times with more than 420 comments. Hakes said he doesn’t blame the church members for what happened, but he prays that Father Lengerich will change his ways.
“I pray honestly for the softening of his heart and that he becomes a better leader for the Catholic Church,” he said.
In the meantime, St. Mary’s Parish issued this statement:
Having become aware of the painful situation at Saint Mary’s Parish in Decatur, the diocese is working on fostering healing and reconciliation between the pastor and the Hakes family. We encourage all to move forward with genuine Christian love and mercy and with respect and prayer for one another.”
Hakes and his family has filed a formal complaint with leaders of the Diocese. His family is planning to meet with leaders there.
Complete Article HERE!
By Marian Ronan
In a blog posted soon after the presidential election, I argued that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops colluded in the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. But that’s not all there is to Catholic collusion in the Trump phenomenon, not by a long shot.
In a preliminary analysis published on November 9, the Pew Research Center reported that 52% of U.S. Catholics voted for Trump. But 60 percent of white Catholics voted for Trump. And while only 26% of Latinx Catholics voted for him—67% went for Clinton—the percentage of Latinx voters going for Clinton was an 8% decline over the percentage that went for Obama in 2012. This was another component of the Trump victory
And when we examine the individuals central to Trump’s campaign, the picture is no less disheartening. Though I could find nothing about her current religious affiliation, if she has any, Trump’s campaign manager and current top advisor, KellyAnne Conway (née Fitzgerald) graduated from a Catholic high school and from Trinity College, once a leading Catholic women’s college.
Then there’s Steve Bannon, the former head of the Breitbart News, an unambiguously anti-semitic, white nationalist news site, and soon to be Trump’s chief counsel in the White House. Bannon is a Catholic. In a talk he delivered at the Vatican on June 27, 2014, sponsored by the Institute for Human Dignity, he spoke of “a crisis both of our Church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.” The U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has also recently assured us of Donald Trump’s Christian values, arranged to have Bannon speak at the Vatican conference.
Then there is Paul Ryan. An article I read recently—God knows where— argued that we should be more worried about Reince Priebus, Trump’s soon-to-be chief of staff, than Steve Bannon. Why? Because Priebus will ultimately be more influential than Bannon—having major impact of administration hires, for example. And he is totally on board with Paul Ryan’s campaign to eviscerate the social safety net. And what’s Ryan’s religious affiliation? Roman Catholic, of course. At least the U.S Catholic Bishops did call him out for the cuts to social programs he proposed during the 2012 election, something they hardly did at all with regard to Trump’s threats during the 2016 campaign.
Now this is by no means the first time in U.S. history that white Catholics, and their bishops, have come down on the wrong side of pivotal ethical issues. In his recent book American Jesuits and the World, the distinguished scholar of U.S. Catholicism, John McGreevy, documents how the American church, and the Jesuits, were strongly pro-slavery for a stunningly long time. I believe the church called slavery “just servitude.”
And in the 1950s, the Catholic press, and the highly influential archbishop of New York, Francis Cardinal Spellman, strongly backed anti-Communist and anti-gay “witch-hunts” by the Catholic senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was eventually censured by the U.S. Senate, and died, probably of alcoholism, in 1957.
But the support of slavery and of Senator McCarthy by American Catholics and the U.S. bishops pales in significance beside their support of Donald Trump. This is so because Trump is a complete climate change denier, pledged to roll back President Obama’s already inadequate climate change initiatives, and restore the fossil fuel industry. And he has already appointed a “notorious climate change denier” and “head of a coal industry funded think tank,” Myron Ebell, to lead the transition at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Some may think this is no more significant than the threat Trump poses to Muslims and undocumented immigrants. But as an editorial in this week’s issue of The Nation argues compellingly, climate change is the “worst crisis that human beings have ever faced.” And as the U.S. Catholics who voted for Trump, and those who work for him, and the bishops well know, this is an increasingly irreversible crisis that the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has called out emphatically in an encyclical, the primary teaching instrument of the Catholic Church.
But who cares about that? What really matters to the majority of white U.S. Catholics, a minority of Latinx Catholics, and the vast majority of the U.S. Catholic bishops, is the “right to life.” And everybody knows that the environment, God’s creation, has nothing to do with life.
Complete Article HERE!
By MICHELLE R. SMITH
An ideological tug of war over the firing of a Rhode Island church music director for marrying his same-sex partner illustrates the confusion that permeates some U.S. Roman Catholic parishes over Pope Francis’s words on homosexuality.
Francis’s famous declaration “Who am I to judge?” in 2013 energized Catholics who had pushed the church to accept gays and lesbians. Now, some gay Catholics and supporters who hoped for rapid acceptance find themselves stymied by many bishops and pastors.
Francis is being cited by both the music director, Michael Templeton, and by Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin, known for taking a hard line on church teaching about marriage and abortion. Tobin has criticized Francis, writing after the pope’s summit on the family two years ago that “Francis is fond of ‘creating a mess.’ Mission accomplished.”
The pope has upheld Catholic teaching on homosexuality, reiterating the church’s opposition to same-sex relationships. But his shift in tone and broad statements about mercy have left a trail of comments that amount to a Rorschach test open to interpretation, say those who have closely followed Francis.
“Pope Francis has not said, ‘Here’s what you should do in a parish where you have a music director who has married his partner of the same sex,’ ” said Rev. James T. Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College. “Pope Francis is articulating general principles: forgiveness and mercy and not harsh judgment. But how you handle a particular case like this, he has been very reluctant to weigh in on it.”
That means a gay Catholic’s fate depends on his diocese or individual pastor. Templeton, 38, says he was called in last month and fired from the job he held for five years at the Church of St. Mary. The pastor, appointed in July, told him someone had sent him a 2015 Associated Press article that included details about Templeton’s wedding. A representative from the Providence Diocese also attended. At the end of the meeting, disappointed and hurt, Templeton cited Francis.
“This seems truly inconsistent with the teachings of Pope Francis,” Templeton said he told them.
The firing caused an outcry in the parish. A fellow employee resigned minutes after Templeton’s firing. Several lay leaders also resigned and dozens of parishioners have left, including most of the church’s 20 to 30 gay members, according to people interviewed by the Associated Press.
Many cited Francis’s example, saying the firing was in conflict with his declaration that 2016 be a “Year of Mercy.”
The pastor, Rev. Francesco Francese, referred comment to Tobin’s office, and Tobin declined a request for an interview.
Tobin issued a statement to The Providence Journal saying church employees and volunteers are “expected to live in a way that is fully consistent” with church teachings. If a person engages in activity that contradicts those teachings, “that individual leaves the Church no choice but to respond,” Tobin said.
In a later Facebook posting, Tobin defended his approach, citing Francis.
“When church leaders have to respond to situations involving persons living an openly ‘gay lifestyle’ these days, we’re often scolded and told that we should be ‘more like Pope Francis,’ presumably the ‘Who-am-I-to judge’ Pope Francis,” Tobin wrote.
He listed several examples that “critics should also remember,” including that Francis fired a priest who was working in the Vatican upon learning the priest was gay and in a relationship.
In the past few months alone, Francis has made statements or taken actions that give fuel to both sides.
Francis underscored his emphasis on mercy over defending orthodoxy with his first U.S. picks for cardinals, announced Sunday, choosing bishops who have taken a more welcoming approach to gays and others who have felt alienated from the church.
Asked this month about how he would minister to transgender Catholics, Francis responded: “When someone who has this condition comes before Jesus, Jesus would surely never say, ‘Go away because you’re gay.’ ” At the same time, he recently supported Mexican bishops working against a push to legalize same-sex marriage. New Ways Ministry, which advocates for gay Catholics, has documented around four dozen cases during Francis’s tenure where people have been forced from positions in Catholic institutions or faced other negative consequences for reasons such as being in gay relationships or advocating for gay rights.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways, said gay Catholics continue to see problems in places with conservative bishops, such as Providence. Tobin, he said, was interpreting Francis too narrowly.
Before Francis, “people were afraid to even say the words gay or lesbian,” DeBernardo said. “I do think he’s taken an important step that could lead to further steps. I’m not certain, I don’t think he will make a change in church doctrine, but I think he is laying the groundwork for future changes.”
Complete Article HERE!