Why LGBT Catholics want to change attitudes in Italy

 

Coming out can be challenging for young people across the globe – but in Italy many young Catholics are struggling with negative attitudes from both their communities and their churches.

While some churches offer support for the LGBT community, others are still asking young people to see a psychologist or stop attending Church events. Sometimes even celibacy is expected.

Giulia is in the committee for an informal LGBT Catholic association that supports people up and down the country. Listen to her chat with her friend and fellow group member Edoardo about the challenges they’ve faced.

You can find out more about issues concerning young people and the Catholic Church by listening to the World Service’s Heart and Soul programme here.

What it’s like to be a young Catholic in a new era of clergy sex abuse scandals

Freshman Ana Ruiz attends a Bible study meeting at Georgetown University.

By Marisa Iati

In a yellow townhouse just steps from Georgetown University on a recent evening, members of the campus group Catholic Women at Georgetown talked about how the Virgin Mary strengthens them in hard times as they shared a dinner of Domino’s pizza.

In between swapping thoughts on homesickness and avoiding sin, the conversation turned to new allegations of sexual abuse by clergy in a church under siege.

The group’s president, Erica Lizza, asked the dozen students seated in a circle how they lean on Mary as the faith they’ve relied on for spiritual sustenance faces a crisis.

“I still do feel a level of disgust and betrayal by the Catholic hierarchy,” Lizza, a 21-year-old senior, said after the weekly dinner discussion. “As someone who cares a lot about her faith and who is very involved in a campus ministry organization, it’s something that there’s no escaping from.”

Similar conversations are playing out in dining halls and campus ministry centers across the country as college students wrestle with what it means to be Catholic at a time when they feel disappointed and angered by the church.

The church has seen multiple scandals in recent months: former U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s resignation amid accusations of abuse and a sweeping grand jury report out of Pennsylvania that implicated more than 300 priests in abusing about 1,000 children.

Then, Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s resignation from his position as Washington’s archbishop after the Pennsylvania report described Wuerl as having a mixed record on responding to sexual abuse in his former diocese of Pittsburgh. Wuerl remains in charge of the archdiocesan administration until the pope names his successor. Clergy sex abuse scandals have also rocked Chile and Australia.

In an era when the church is frequently perceived as behind the times on matters of importance to them, some young Catholics have responded to the latest setbacks by pulling further away from the beleaguered institution, while others have drawn closer.

This generation of Catholic college students has grown up amid the stain of the sexual abuse crisis, which was first exposed by The Boston Globe in 2002 and has since implicated clergy around the world. Most can’t even remember a pre-scandal church.

At the same time, they and young people generally are a critical demographic for the future of Catholicism, which has an aging parishioner base and has struggled to attract and retain young people.

Catholicism has seen the largest decline in participation among major religious groups, according to a report in 2016 from the Public Religion Research Institute. Almost one-third of Americans said they were raised Catholic, but just 21 percent currently identify that way.

At a gathering this month of several hundred bishops to discuss the church’s ministry to young people, Pope Francis acknowledged those who have stood by the church, despite its failings.
“I thank them for having wagered that it is worth the effort to feel part of the Church or to enter into dialogue with her; worth the effort to have the Church as a mother, as a teacher, as a home, as a family, and, despite human weaknesses and difficulties, capable of radiating and conveying Christ’s timeless message,” Pope Francis said to open the synod, according to a copy of his remarks released by the Vatican.

Increasing disaffiliation with religion

Disillusionment over clergy sex abuse is not the only force pulling younger generations away from the Catholicism, particularly in the United States.

Increasingly over the past few decades, young adults have realized they can choose their own faith or combination of faiths, apart from those of their parents — or affiliate with none at all, said Theresa O’Keefe, a theology professor at Boston College who specializes in young adult faith. A growing distrust of institutional leadership of all kinds also means some students respond rather jadedly as more allegations of clergy abuse come to light, O’Keefe said.

William Dinges, a professor of religion and culture at Catholic University, said people who feel distant from the church are more likely to be affected by the abuse crisis than those who are devout. Many young adults are already frustrated with what they view as Catholicism’s less inclusive stances on topics such as same-sex marriage and gender equality, Dinges said.

“The young person has to have a good answer: ‘Why am I here?’ ” O’Keefe said. “The church, particularly the leadership, has to come up with a good answer. Why should people show up? Membership is not inevitable, and meaningful membership isn’t inevitable.”

Caroline Zonts, a 19-year-old sophomore at George Washington University, said she had started to feel put off by the Catholic Church long before the abuse crisis reemerged.

Raised “strictly Catholic,” she said the socially liberal political views she developed in high school made her feel less connected to her faith. When she arrived at college, Zonts said she stopped practicing Catholicism, although she still considers herself Catholic.

The recent abuse crisis has become another reason she doesn’t expect ever again to fully immerse herself in the church. It hurts her to think the priests she’s built relationships with may have committed abuse.

“They were mentors for me, they were role models, they were people I went to and talked to about my faith,” Zonts said. “That’s really hard — to know that hundreds of people like that have just abused their positions of power.”

Like Zonts, George Washington University junior Evelyn Arredondo Ramirez felt her more liberal political views were at odds with some parts of her Catholic faith. But even as a supporter of same-sex marriage and abortion rights, the 20-year-old still attended Mass most Sundays during her first two years of college.

Her perspective recently began to shift. Already annoyed with homilies that expressed the priests’ political opinions, her frustration was compounded by the Pennsylvania grand jury report and accusations that Pope Francis had knowingly shielded McCarrick from accountability.

Ramirez doesn’t go to Mass anymore and said she worries about her younger brother’s safety around priests in his home parish.

“I still have my Virgin (Mary) on my desk table, I still have the cross hanging in my room, and I will sometimes just pop into a church and just sit really with God,” Ramirez said. “But I’ve just developed my own idea of what it is to have that connection.”

Questions about the institution, not the faith

Many young Catholics who still consider themselves devout have responded not by turning away but by striving to force change from within the institution. For them, the current crisis is infuriating and heartbreaking, invigorating and empowering, all at the same time.

These young Catholics are among the more than 1,500 Georgetown students who have signed a petition calling on the university to rescind an honorary degree it awarded to McCarrick in 2004 and another it gave to Wuerl in 2014.

A Georgetown spokesman, in a statement, said the university was reviewing the honorary degrees in an effort “to address the deeply troubling revelations about Archbishop McCarrick and those contained in the Pennsylvania grand jury report.”

Among the students who feel unnerved by those revelations is Ana Ruiz, an 18-year-old member of Catholic Women at Georgetown, who said the scandal has made her doubt both her faith and her devotion to the church because the faith itself is closely tied to the institution. Catholics believe the church was founded by Jesus Christ.

“To just kind of see people who definitely do not embody those values that we hold so sacred really makes me question if the institution is working for the good of Christ and the good of the people,” Ruiz said as students cleaned up after the Georgetown discussion dinner.

Although still committed to Catholicism, Ruiz said she could imagine walking away from the institution if she no longer believed it cared about the best interests of lay people. Right now, however, she still feels like God is at the center of the church’s ministry.

“In that sense, I feel like I could never really break away,” Ruiz said. “But everything else that surrounds it, the humanly aspect of the Church, there could be potential for me to be like, ‘No, I can’t deal with that anymore.’ ”

Lizza’s childhood was steeped in Catholicism, with Sunday school and family Mass attendance and her mother reading to her from a children’s Bible. Even so, she was unsure how much she wanted to engage with her religion when she got to Georgetown because she was concerned about how her devout faith would mesh with that of her peers. Then a friend convinced her to join the Catholic women’s group and Lizza found a home.

Three years later, shocked and disgusted by the magnitude of the clergy sex abuse problem, Lizza said she started thinking maybe all bishops should resign. She fought to reconcile the idea of clergy who claim to stand for selfless love and a pursuit of justice with the knowledge that many had failed to live up to that promise.

Lizza said she never considered leaving the church. Rather, she felt stronger in her conviction that good people needed to stay involved in the institution to correct its course.

She still wants more lay people involved in the Church, despite how hard it was for her to attend Mass after the McCarrick allegations and the Pennsylvania report. She also wants people to be less skeptical of abuse victims.

“Covering it up sure as heck doesn’t work,” she said. “And the only way to really address it is to look at it square in the face and make some hard choices.”

Complete Article HERE!

LGBTQ activists decry flag-burning priest: ‘No idea this hate was in his heart’

Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) speaks at a demonstration across the street from Resurrection Catholic Church on Wednesday, days after the Rev. Paul Kalchik burned a rainbow-cross flag on church grounds.

By Mitchell Armentrout

Two dozen LGBTQ activists rallied Wednesday night outside the Avondale church where a priest burned a rainbow flag last week against the orders of Cardinal Blase Cupich.

Calling the Rev. Paul Kalchik’s Sept. 14 flag-burning at Resurrection Catholic Church a “hate crime plain and simple,” Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) called on Pope Francis and Cupich “to send this hateful bigot packing.”

“I had no idea that this hate was in his heart for our community,” Mell said, noting she’s in regular contact with Kalchik about parking and community issues. “We know each other well. … I take it very personally, and it’s very hurtful.

“We’ve come so far as an LGBTQ community, and we have so many things to celebrate, and to think that this hatred is being spread in our neighborhood is not acceptable,” she said. “This isn’t who we are . . . LGBTQ families are a fabric of our neighborhood.”

Rev. Paul Kalchik burned this LGBTQ-friendly banner on church grounds last week, against the order of Cardinal Blase Cupich.

Mell said she was “encouraged” by Cupich telling Kalchik not to go forward with his plans announced Sept. 2 to burn the flag, which featured a rainbow cascading down over a cross. But she and other protesters called for the priest’s removal.

Rev. Paul Kalchik (Me thinks she doth protest too much.)

Kalchik did not return messages seeking comment before or after celebrating Mass on Wednesday.

Archdiocese of Chicago spokeswoman Anne Maselli on Wednesday issued the same statement as a day earlier when news of the flag-burning gained momentum, saying “we are following up on the situation. As Catholics, we affirm the dignity of all persons.”

After the rally, a parishioner who have his name only as Patrick said he supported Kalchik and insisted the priest is a supporter of the LGBTQ community.

“The flag that he burnt was . . . meant for evil things,” he said. “It brought prey to predators. And we’re anti-predator priests.”

The man said reactions were mixed among parishioners.

“Some people are for it, some people don’t know what to think. It’s all over the board.”

Kalchik, 56, told the Chicago Sun-Times during an interview on Tuesday that the flag was forgotten in church storage for over a decade before he found it while cleaning last month. According to the priest, it was put on display for a few years after the St. Veronica and St. Francis parishes were merged to become Resurrection Parish in 1991.

The rainbow-cross banner is pictured on display during a 1991 Mass at Resurrection Parish.

Kalchik claimed three “bad priests” who preceded him at the church at 3043 N. Francisco were “big in promoting the gay lifestyle” before Cardinal Francis George ordained him as pastor there in 2007.

After the Windy City Times reported on Kalchik’s plan to burn the flag, the Archdiocese of Chicago told him “he could not move forward,” Maselli said.

But Kalchik went ahead and burned the flag “in a quiet way” during a closed ceremony on church grounds with seven parishioners on Friday, he said — without the knowledge of the archdiocese, Maselli said.

“What have we done wrong other than destroy a piece of propaganda that was used to put out a message other than what the church is about?” Kalchik said in his office on Tuesday. “The people of this parish have been pretty resilient and put up with a lot of B.S.”

Kalchik — who says he was sexually abused by a neighbor as a child, and again by a priest when he began working for the church at 19 — claims the sex-abuse crisis plaguing the church is “definitely a gay thing,” a claim that Mell called “completely ludicrous.”

The flag-burning controversy drew the attention of prominent priest and author Rev. James Martin, who has written extensively on welcoming gay and lesbian Catholics into the church — a tone often shared by Cupich and Pope Francis.

“I cannot imagine a more homophobic act, short of beating up an LGBT person,” Martin tweeted on Tuesday. “What the pastor and some of his parishioners did shows the kind of hatred that LGBT Catholics still face — in their own church.”

Complete Article HERE!

Parishioners defy Chicago Archdiocese, burn rainbow flag in ‘exorcism’ ceremony

A priest and parishioners from the Resurrection Parish in Chicago burned a rainbow pride flag that had once been prominently displayed in their Roman Catholic church.

Resurrection Catholic Church in Chicago

by Alexander Kacala

In a church bulletin posted this month, the Rev. Paul Kalchik, a Roman Catholic priest at Resurrection Parish in Chicago, announced that he would burn a rainbow pride flag that had once been prominently displayed at the church.

“On Saturday, September 29, the Feast of Saint Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, we will burn, in front of the church, the rainbow flag that was unfortunately hanging in our sanctuary during the ceremonial first Mass as Resurrection parish,” Kalchik, who joined the church 11 years ago, wrote.

A footnote on his announcement stated, “US Church homosexual scandal is a sequel to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Rev. Paul Kalchik (The lady doth protest too much, methinks.)

When the Archdiocese of Chicago got wind of Kalchik’s plans to burn the rainbow flag, it told him he could not proceed. “We can confirm that the pastor has agreed not to move forward with these activities,” Anne Maselli, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told The Windy City Times.

But despite the archdiocese’s request, Kalchik and some of his parishioners did move forward and burned the flag last Friday.

“We did so in a private way, a quiet way, so as not to bring the ire of the gay community down upon this parish,” Kalchik said in a lengthy interview Monday with NBC News. “It’s our full right to destroy it, and we did so privately because the archdiocese was breathing on our back.”

“We put an end to a depiction of our Lord’s cross that was profane,” he added, noting the flag had a cross and a rainbow intertwined. To use the image of the cross as anything other than a “reminder of our Lord’s passion and death,” he said, “is what we consider a sacrilege.”

Kalchik said that the archdiocese had told him not to burn the flag in front of the church, as planned.

“So in a quiet way we took matters into our own hands and said a prayer of exorcism over this thing,” he said. “It was cut into seven pieces, so it was burned over stages in the same fire pit that we used for the Easter vigil mass.”

When asked about his views toward homosexuality, Kalchik was unequivocal, saying he’s “quite literal” when it comes to what the Bible says in Leviticus, Corinthians and Ephesians. Leviticus 20:13, according to the King James Bible, states: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: They shall surely be put to death.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a Catholic organization that advocates for LGBTQ equality, called the Resurrection Parish’s flag burning “disrespectful and destructive.”

“Those involved in this desecration are violating the core values of the Catholic faith,” she told NBC News. “They are hijacking the parish to further an extremist agenda, and damaging the community in doing so.”

Duddy-Burke added that rainbow flags have come to symbolize a “sense of welcome” to LGBTQ people of faith and their families.

“When we see this symbol flying at our churches, we know this will be a place of welcome and affirmation and a place where God’s creativity is truly celebrated,” she said. “As Catholics, we work for the day when all of us feel fully welcomed in our church, and are able to participate in the sacramental life of our church as equals.”

In response to NBC News’ request for comment on the flag burning, Anne Maselli, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago said the archdiocese was “unaware that this occurred.”

“We are following up on the situation,” Maselli said. “As Catholics we, the Archdiocese of Chicago, affirm the dignity of all persons.”

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

What a debate about Pope Francis’s supposed liberalism says about the future of Catholicism

Ross Douthat and Massimo Faggioli argued over Francis’s legacy last week.

By

Two high-profile Catholic thought leaders duked it out last week in a debate over the five-year legacy of Pope Francis — and what his papacy means for a church in crisis.

Longtime intellectual rivals Villanova professor Massimo Faggioli and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat engaged in a conversation on Pope Francis, hosted by Fordham University in New York. The debate ultimately developed into a far broader question: How far should the church change in dialogue with modern sexual ethics when it comes to issues like women priests, divorce, abortion, and same-sex marriage?

And — perhaps even more importantly — the conversation turned broader still, as both participants asked if change should be seen as a theologically necessary part of the Catholic tradition.

Faggioli, a self-professed liberal Catholic, and Douthat, a conservative, have long expressed differing views on Francis’s papacy, and on the trajectory of the Catholic Church more generally through bold rhetoric on Twitter.

Since the beginning of Francis’s time as pope, much secular media attention has focused on what, to non-Catholics, have appeared to be relaxed stances on usually taboo issues for Catholics. Francis’s papacy, while changing little in terms of Catholic doctrine, has nevertheless made welcoming those who fail to follow that doctrine (whether on abortion, LGBTQ issues, or divorce) into the Catholic community a priority.

For example, Francis opened a temporary window for women who have had abortions to seek forgiveness from the church in 2015. One of his most famous early statements may have been asking “Who am I to judge?” when it comes to homosexuality, although Francis has elsewhere maintained traditional Catholic doctrine.

Douthat, a Catholic convert, has frequently been critical of what he deems Francis’s divisive tactics, including using unofficial or “leaked” communications to the media to informally express more controversial views. He also opposes a willingness to, in his view, upend church tradition for the sake of pacifying liberal attitudes and retaining church membership.

For his part, Faggioli, an admirer of the Francis pontificate, has frequently condemned Douthat as an intellectual dilettante, criticizing his lack of formal theological training and what he sees as Douthat’s partisan perspective on church issues.

Their personal disagreement masks a wider debate, not simply between “liberal” and “conservative” Catholics, or between “progressives” who want to change the church to fit contemporary cultural mores and “traditionalists” who want to preserve the church exactly as it was.

It’s a debate between those who see a degree of dynamism as already part and parcel of what it means to be Catholic, and those who see it as an exterior, dangerous force.

The debate on Francis is also a debate on the aftermath of Vatican II

Although Faggioli and Douthat’s debate was about the pope, it wasn’t just about the pope. Central to their disagreements were their perceptions of the effects of Vatican II (formally known as the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965), which explored if and how the church should adapt to a changing world.

At that point, Catholics the world over were still responding to the aftermath of World War II, and the Holocaust in particular, leading some Catholics to question the language and tone with which the church approached interfaith issues.

Those changes under Vatican II included an increased focus on ecumenical relations, and on Catholic-Jewish relations. But the relative liberalization of Vatican II (for example, eschewing Latin during Mass) has often been seen by later critics as paving the way for an acceptance of more extreme elements of “modernity,” such as the sexual revolution. That movement challenged the formal Vatican positions on abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, divorce, and premarital sex more generally.

Official church doctrine has never changed on any of these positions (nor, should it be noted, has even the “liberal” Pope Francis ever sought to change them).

Still, the “spirit of Vatican II,” or its overall ecumenical ethos, is cited by proponents and critics alike to refer to post-Vatican-II liberalizing tendencies that exceed the remit of Vatican II’s more narrow reforms. To Vatican II’s critics, a broad definition of this spirit is responsible for a more general “liberalization” in the church.

The subsequent half-century or so of the Catholic Church has been marked by various popes’ differing responses to and reckoning with Vatican II, its spirit, and the question of what “moving forward” even means within a Catholic context. That brings us to the current debate — last week’s and among Catholics in general — around Pope Francis’s somewhat lax views.

Faggioli and Douthat’s debate reflected broader divides

Douthat, a perhaps more natural debater, took a more aggressive approach, referring to a coming “schism” and a “civil war” in the church, and saying that Francis’s approach risked fomenting a “crisis of papal authority itself.”

Speaking specifically about Francis’s opening to providing communion to remarried couples, Douthat warned that, by relaxing rules around communion, Francis risked promulgating the idea that “the papacy allows for changes around these contested issues of sexual ethic,” and thus challenging the idea — central to Catholic theology — that the church’s continuity on issues remains unchanged.

Faggioli, though, rejected Douthat’s very premise. Focusing on continuity as a metric for a “good” pope, he says, and “looking at Catholic doctrine in terms of continuity or discontinuity, in my mind, assumes one thing: that Christianity, at some point … was complete.”

Furthermore, Faggioli said his assessment of Francis’s perspective centered not on doctrine but on pastoral care. The church need not change its teachings, he said, but rather ask itself, “What can the Catholic Church do to make the faithful able to receive sacraments?”

For Douthat, Pope Francis represents a break with tradition so profound that it risks rendering a fundamental principle of Catholic thought irrelevant: the idea that the church exists in continuity with its past traditions and perspectives.

Citing the case of allowing parish priests license to grant communion to remarried Catholics, which Francis has quietly campaigned for, Douthat argued that such a procedure would, in practice, vitiate the church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage (because, in Catholic tradition, marriage is seen as an irreversible sacrament between the couple and God, divorce is not seen as legitimate).

It is, for Douthat and other Catholic conservatives, a back-door form of Catholic-sanctioned divorce. By advocating for it and similar reforms, Francis, in Douthat’s view, represents a dangerous figure for the church: one too willing to cede ground to modern liberalism.

Faggioli, though, argued that Douthat’s perspective — of “continuity” and “discontinuity” within church tradition — was flawed and ahistoric. He pointed out that Francis is not seeking to allow divorce — something that would be a striking change in church teaching — but only advocating that divorced and remarried couples be allowed to receive the sacrament of communion — and thus participate fully in church life.

Instead, Faggioli said, Douthat’s view failed to reflect the way in which Catholic tradition has long existed in dialogue with itself, and how interpretations of Scripture have consistently grown and developed over time. The Catholic tradition, Faggioli said, “is not a mineral, it’s an animal. It moves. It adapts. It grows.”

Decades after Vatican II, the church faces demographic and social upheaval

While Douthat and Faggioli differ on the degree to which the Catholic Church is in danger, it’s fair to argue that it is — if not in crisis — at least in flux.

Decades of sex abuse scandals have eroded public trust in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Mass attendance has drastically fallen in America and Europe, especially among young adults. There is an increasingly severe shortage of Catholic priests. And the face of Catholicism is changing, too. Catholicism is in decline in Western Europe and America, but drastically on the rise in Africa. Like it or not, the church is changing in demographics if not doctrine.

But the question remains: Where do we go from here?

The debaters’ differing perspectives may be as attributable to their methods as their politics. Douthat’s interest lies in the church as an institution; the questions he asks focus on that institution’s survival and transformation.

In many of his columns, as well as in his forthcoming book, To Change the Church?, Douthat approaches the church as a political scientist might, looking at how different conservative or modernizing factions have jockeyed for support and survival. His questions of “continuity” and “discontinuity” are questions one asks of an institution, rather than a faith.

Douthat comes to the study of the church as a zealous outsider, and that perspective — one that tends to see the church as a holistic, uniform body that, while sometimes under temporary threat, nevertheless remains intact — suffuses his work. That Francis seems to endanger that perceived unity makes him a threat.

Frequently during the debate, Douthat warned of the potential of a schism within the Catholic Church as a result of Francis’s developments: “Things can break … there is a deep conflict.”

Faggioli, however, is both a church historian and a trained theologian, whose concern is both with the church as an institution and with theology as a living, dynamic body of discourse, constantly being shaped by new questions and voices both inside and outside the academy.

As a theologian, he appears more comfortable with the often-murky process by which the exploration of ideas — theological debate — becomes calcified into church doctrine, and the way in which these ideas morph and change over time. Rather than arguing whether or not the church should adapt to shifting culture, he argued that a degree of dynamism is part and parcel of church tradition and always has been.

The Catholic Church’s priority should be on finding ways for the faithful to remain within the church, not expelling those who do not follow its teachings, he says. (And it’s important to stress, in this debate, neither Faggioli nor Francis is necessarily saying that its teachings should change. Faggioli’s point is about access, not ideas).

Both Douthat and Faggioli ask vital questions. And Douthat’s challenge — how does an institution address cultural change without losing its founding principles — is completely valid. Any answer that does not take seriously that for faithful Catholics, the doctrine being debated is a matter of weighty metaphysical truth, not just politics or optics, fails to appreciate the gravity of the question being asked.

Faggioli’s response — that “in order to get close to Jesus, there has to be some kind of discontinuity” — may provide “liberal” Catholics a viable alternative to Douthat’s reactionary historicism, and a way forward for a church that is both weighed down and grounded by its past.

Complete Article HERE!