04/14/17

Glenstal monk urges church to change attitude on sexual ethics

Fr Mark Patrick Hederman calls for church to modernise its approach to sexuality

Fr Mark Patrick Hederman: “It is surely time to take a more comprehensive approach to the ethics of sexual behaviour.”

The Catholic Church’s “stifling teachings on sex” need to be dramatically modernised, a Benedictine monk has said.

Fr Mark Patrick Hederman, the former abbot of Glenstal in Limerick, said the church also needs to address its subjugation of women and open a national discussion on sex, celibacy and ethics.

He said the progressive attitude shown by the nation in the marriage equality referendum have not been reflected in all parts of society.

“Now that we have legislated for gay marriage and accepted the fact that sexuality does happen for reasons other than procreation; now that we also recognise that some of the most heinous sexual crimes have been perpetrated within the ‘sanctity’ of marriage; it is surely time to take a more comprehensive approach to the ethics of sexual behaviour,” he said.

“Every or any sexual activity can be good or evil, and the act itself right through to the moment of orgasm is always somewhere on a spectrum between selfish egotism and altruistic communion.”

Fr Hederman (72), a former headmaster in Glenstal Abbey, said that for centuries sex in Ireland was only talked about in the context of “the natural law of God and confined to religious discourse”.

Reality check

However, he believes the time has come to have a greater conversation and for the church to have “a reality check” on its ideals.

In relation to a person’s emotional or sexual life, he said in the past it was as if the church felt such a life did not exist.

“It was presumed that it arrived fully fledged in the marriage bed, the only location where its practice was permitted. Even the most basic courses on love-making teach that a man has to train himself to prevent orgasm occurring prematurely before it can be shared with his partner.

“This does not come naturally. On the contrary, the natural orgasm and ejection of sperm for a man is unencumbered and immediate. That is the biological way, the optimum performance in terms of procreation and reproduction of the species.

“Lovers have to learn, discipline themselves, and gain a control which will help them to be sexual in a way that makes them sensitively reciprocal. Otherwise sexuality is the tool of selfish individuality and autistic monologue,” he writes.

Rejected lifestyles

Fr Hederman is a prolific author and his latest book, The Opal and the Pearl, is published this week and calls for a more modernised attitude from the church on sex. The book takes its title from a letter from James Joyce to Nora Barnacle in 1909.

In it, he writes that Catholics who wish to remain “conservative and old-fashioned”, should avoid being “sectarian and supportive of values and lifestyles which have been rejected by the majority of 21st-century families.

“Otherwise we are categorised as out-of-date leftovers from a previous era, such as the Amish communities in America and Canada.”

Fr Hederman said that while he believes in celibacy and the condition of Christian chastity, “I don’t believe that everyone who wants to devote their life to God should be required to be celibate.”
He said the progressive attitude shown by the nation in the marriage equality referendum have not been reflected in all parts of society.

“Now that we have legislated for gay marriage and accepted the fact that sexuality does happen for reasons other than procreation; now that we also recognise that some of the most heinous sexual crimes have been perpetrated within the ‘sanctity’ of marriage; it is surely time to take a more comprehensive approach to the ethics of sexual behaviour,” he said.

“Every or any sexual activity can be good or evil, and the act itself right through to the moment of orgasm is always somewhere on a spectrum between selfish egotism and altruistic communion.”

Complete Article HERE!

01/20/17

Retired Catholic priests call for abolishment of celibacy

‘What moves us is the experience of loneliness – as elderly people who are unmarried because our office required this from us, we feel it vividly on some days after 50 years on the job’

By Lucy Pasha-Robinson

The Catholic Church should end the celibacy vow, a group of senior priests in Germany has said.    

In an open letter, the group of 11 high ranking clerics said every man should have the right to choose to take the vow or not. 

The retired clerics were ordained in Cologne in 1967, and wrote the letter as part of a review of their 50 years in the Catholic church. 

“We believe that requiring that every man who becomes a priest to remain celibate is not acceptable,” group member Franz Decker told DW

“We think, every Catholic should be allowed to choose if they would rather be celibate or not, regardless of whether they want to work as priests or not – just like in the Protestant Church or the Orthodox church, really, every church but the Catholic Church.”

The group argue celibacy causes many modern priests to suffer from seclusion and believe the men have little to gain from church-imposed solitude. 

“What moves us is the experience of loneliness – as elderly people who are unmarried because our office required this from us, we feel it vividly on some days after 50 years on the job… We agreed to this clerical life because of our jobs, but we didn’t choose it,” the group wrote. 

The letter also makes a number of suggestions as to how the Catholic Church could “modernise”, including allowing women to join the clergy. 

Clerical celibacy has often been an issue of contention in the Catholic Church. 

The discipline, believed to have been introduced in the fourth century, requires men to be unmarried in order to be ordained, and to practise sexual abstinence. 

Proponents of clerical celibacy see it as “a special gift of God” where they can devote themselves to their religion more freely. 

However, according to theologian Wunibald Müller, many priests struggle with the vow. He says some overcompensate for their  loneliness by over-eating, drinking to excess or worse. 

“Even if you decide to live celibate, your sexuality is still there,” he said 

“If someone suppresses their desires, for warmth, for intimacy, this can backfire – they are more likely to cross a line, to abuse their position of trust to get intimacy.”

Complete Article HERE!

11/12/16

Pope meets with men who left the priesthood

As the Jubilee Year of Mercy is rapidly coming to a close, the pope reached out once again to those in need of mercy – men who have left the priesthood. 

For two hours, Pope Francis met with seven men, who now have families, and spent time listening to their stories and getting to know their wives and children. 

Pope Francis did not intend to judge or justify them, but desired to express his closeness to these men, who felt they had made a mistake by becoming a priest. Many faced extreme opposition from their diocese, family or friends for leaving. Because of this, the pope wanted to send a gentle message of mercy to the five Italians, Spaniard and Latin American men he met during the surprise encounter.

Additionally, the families asked him to autograph various objects, like this cell phone case and gave him gifts as well. 

The pope ended the visit by reciting a Hail Mary with them all together and giving a group blessing. 

When the pope headed outside to leave the apartments on the outskirts of Rome, however, he was greeted by masses of people who waited for him with cell phones posed and ready for pictures. 

pope-meets-with-men-who-left-the-priesthood

Complete Article HERE!

10/8/16

San Diego priest charged with sexual assault of Minnesota woman during private mass

A Catholic priest from San Diego has been charged with criminal sexual conduct for an incident during a private mass for the victim in her parents’ Mendota Heights, Minnesota home back in 2010. Jacob Bertrand, 33, was charged by summons with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct by clergy.

According to the charges, a 30-year-old woman contacted Mendota Heights police on April 28, 2016 to report sexual contact between her and Bertrand. The victim told police she met Bertrand in 2009 while studying spirituality at a university in Rome, Italy. Bertrand was also a student and a deacon at a Catholic church at that time. The victim asked Bertrand to be her spiritual guide, and the two began to meet every Wednesday for “holy conversation.”002

A ‘mystical’ proposal’

In the fall of 2009, Bertrand told the victim “the Holy Spirit was compelling him to tell her about his sexual past.” Bertrand gave the victim two of his personal journals, and she provided him with her own journals, in which she wrote about wanting to find a husband in Rome. After reading her journals, Bertrand told the victim that he was the man she was sent to Rome to meet. While at a church, he held her hand and “mystically proposed” to her.

In June of 2010, the victim and Bertrand flew to San Diego, where he was ordained as a Catholic priest. During their time in San Diego, they kissed on multiple occasions.

Minnesota visit

In July of 2010, Bertrand flew to Minnesota to spend time with the victim’s family in Mendota Heights. During the stay, he performed mass for the family, offered the sacrifice of the mass and heard their confessions.

During this trip, Bertrand and the victim went a family cabin in Wisconsin, where they had sex. But the criminal charges concern a private mass in the basement of the Mendota Heights home. According to the charges, Bertrand and the victim had sexual contact during the performance of the mass, and after this ceremony he told the victim they had “fulfilled the second holiest sacrifice next to Jesus and Mary on Calvary.”

Later that summer, Bertrand sent the victim a $1,000 check, telling her that God told him to give her the money for her studies. In December of 2011, he spoke to her by phone and said, “the devil tempts me to think that you will tell someone and ruin my ministry.”

Reports to Catholic Church

In 2012 and 2014, the victim reported the sexual contact with Bertrand to the Catholic Church. In 2014, the victim’s report was sent to officials in the San Diego Diocese for investigation. In a bulletin to his parishioners, Bertrand said he had undergone a psychological evaluation and was taking a leave of absence. He was later reassigned to a new church in the San Diego Diocese a few months later, and is currently serving as a priest at that church.

Apology

The victim provided Dakota County investigators with a letter of apology for Bertrand. He also said he had destroyed the journals they shared and prayed for their “release from any demonic attachments that were leading me into such a folly and were keeping me from protecting you as a true priest should have.”

Bertrand is scheduled to appear in court in Minnesota on Monday, Oct. 10.

The law

According to Minnesota law, consent is not a defense if: “The actor is or purports to be a member of the clergy, the complainant is not married to the actor AND the sexual penetration occurred during the course of a meeting in which the complainant sought or received religious or spiritual advice, aid, or comfort from the actor in private; OR the sexual penetration occurred during a period of time in which the complainant was meeting on an ongoing basis with the actor to seek or receive religious or spiritual advice, aid, or comfort in private.”

Diocese of San Diego statement

“Fr. Jacob Bertrand, a priest of the Diocese of San Diego, is facing charges in Minnesota stemming from a sexual encounter with an adult woman there in 2010. The facts behind the encounter are a matter of dispute and will be resolved by the courts and civil authorities. Fr. Jacob asked for and received a Leave of Absence when he learned of the possibility of these charges several weeks ago. There have been no allegations lodged against Fr. Jacob here in San Diego, where he remains on a leave of absence and currently has no faculties. The diocese is not involved in his legal defense. Out of respect for all parties and for the legal process, the diocese will make no further statement at this time.”

Bertrand’s attorney

In a phone interview, Christa Groshek, his co-counsel, said, “These are false allegations, they’re suspect. The woman behind them has a motive. our investigation has revealed the truth behind it. Father Bertrand is a young, reputable priest. He’s worked in large parishes in Southern California.”

Complete Article HERE!

09/17/16

Church of Ireland ‘turning blind eye’ to clergy flouting gay rules

People gathered at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle in 2015 for the historic announcement of the gay marriage referendum.

People gathered at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle in 2015 for the historic announcement of the gay marriage referendum.

A Church of Ireland cleric has slammed his own denomination for allegedly teaching traditional marriage in public but privately “turning a blind eye” to gay clergy engaging in sexual relationships.

Rev Stephen Neill – a passionate supporter of LGBT rights in the Church of Ireland (CoI) – made the allegations in this week’s edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette.

It is understood to be the first time such explosive claims have been made with such frankness about the inner workings of the CoI.

According to rules in the CoI and sister Anglican denomination the Church of England (CoE), defining oneself as gay does not preclude anyone from becoming a cleric – nor even from entering a civil partnership – so long as those involved give an undertaking to remain celibate within the arrangement.

But Rev Stephen Neill from Celbridge, near Dublin, says that the rules are being widely flouted in the CoE by clerics who publicly claim to be in celibate gay relationships which are privately sexual – and all with the full collusion of CoE bishops. Rev Neill goes on to say that the CoI is in “exactly the same dishonest position”.

His comments were prompted by the Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain of Grantham, who last week became the first Anglican bishop to openly declare his homosexuality – and that he was in a relationship, which he said was celibate.

Rev Neill said the bishop’s relationship was “the worst-kept secret in the church”.

Bishop Grantham’s ‘secret’ was also known to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Lincoln and many others.

Rev Neill went on to quote CoE cleric Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who stated that “quietly” across the CoE “clergy are getting married or converting their civil partnerships to marriage; gay ordinands in sexual relationships are getting the nod through while appearing to comply with the selection procedures; and clergy are having sex in their civil partnerships”.

Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain had said last month: “Priests are offering services of blessing and thanksgiving to gay and lesbian couples and parishes celebrating with them. The bishops all know this and many even collude in the dishonesty around the current position with private words of support and public obedience to the official line.

“One recently married priest I know of was invited into the episcopal study, handed his letter of discipline and then the bishop’s wife arrived with two gin and tonics – and as she said ‘Congratulations’, the bishop toasted the new couple.”

Rev Neill, whose father is the retired Archbishop of Dublin, said he despaired over the lack of honesty in the CoE – “but we in the Church of Ireland find ourselves in exactly the same dishonest position”.

He added: “There are, just as in the Church of England, many informal arrangements and turnings of a blind eye in our own Church of Ireland”.

He went on to affirm that he was one of those who “fervently believe that same-sex relationships should be recognised and affirmed without qualification by our Church”.

Scott Holden, Chair of CoI LGBT lobby group Changing Attitudes Ireland estimates there are some 65 gay clergy in the CoI out of 500 overall.

But Rev Dr Alan McCann, Rector of Holy Trinity in Carrickfergus and treasurer of conservative CoI lobby group ‘Reform Ireland’, challenged Rev Neill’s claims – and called on the CoI bishops to clarify what is happening in the wider denomination.

“He speaks of a blind eye being turned to such arrangements in the CoI,” Rev McCann said, “If that is the case, and he doesn’t document them, then the House of Bishops need to be honest with the church that they have such a policy in place. If such a policy is in place and they are turning a blind eye to sinful relationships amongst the clergy then they are failing in their vows as Bishops and that would place many of us in a very difficult relationship to our bishop [assuming they were turning a blind eye to such].

“I have not heard of such a protocol or guidelines existing in the CoI.”

He believed Rev Neill was raising the issue as he and other liberals had been “emboldened” by the Bishop of Grantham revelations about his gay relationship. He also believed liberals had been emboldened by the fact that no disciplinary action has been taken against Dean Tom Gordon from Carlow and the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory who appointed him. Dean Gordon revealed he was in a civil partnership in 2011 and remains a CoI cleric in good standing.

Rev McCann added that Rev Neill and others are departing from Scripture and from the historical teaching of the church, reaffirmed in General Synod 2012. “He can advocate change but he cannot change the teaching of Scripture and to do so is heretical”.

He added: “Mr Neill has called for honesty – and that is a good thing. The shadowboxing is coming to an end and we cannot ignore the fact that a realignment is happening all across the Anglican Communion and the CoI will not be immune from it.”

A CoI spokesman said it was not “appropriate” to comment on the “dialogue” between the two clerics.

“However, with regard to the question of there being any policy of ‘turning a blind eye’ to the sexual relationships of clergy, I would confirm that there is no such policy in the Church of Ireland.”

There has not been any disciplinary action taken towards the Very Revd Tom Gordon or his bishop, Michael Burrows, he said.

He reiterated that the Church passed a resolution at its General Synod in 2012 by 245 to 115 votes which clarifies that marriage “is between a man and a woman”.

The spokesman said that after same-sex marriage was enshrined in law in the Republic of Ireland last year, bishops wrote to clergy there and “encouraged restraint by any cleric who might consider entering a same-sex marriage, for the sake of unity and in order to be respectful of the principles of others”.

The letter acknowledged that “all are free to exercise their democratic entitlements once enshrined in legislation” but that members of the clergy are “bound by the ordinal and by the authority of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland”.

Complete Article HERE!