01/27/17

C of E bishops refuse to change stance on gay marriage

Report says marriage can only be between a man and a woman but says church must stand against homophobia

Bishops have met four times since last July when the two-year process of ‘shared conversations’ on sexuality ended.

BY

Church of England bishops have upheld traditional teaching that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, in a move that has infuriated campaigners for gay rights and risks further alienating the church from wider society.

After two years of intense internal discussion involving clergy and laity – and at least two decades of bitter division within the church – the bishops have produced a report reaffirming that marriage is “a union permanent and life-long, of one man and one woman”.

The church should not “adapt its doctrine to the fashions of any particular time”, said Graham James, the bishop of Norwich, at a press conference to present the report.

However, church law and guidance should be interpreted to provide “maximum freedom” for gay and lesbian people without a change of doctrine – meaning clergy will have some leeway in individual cases – the report said. “Maximum freedom has no definition but it’s part of this exploration we’re engaged in,” said James.

While calling for a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for lesbians and gays, the report offered no concrete change.

Gay campaigners within the church denounced the report as “cruel” and an “utter failure” that could herald an increase in clerical disobedience over issues around sexuality.

Bishops have met four times since last July, when the two-year process of “shared conversations” on sexuality ended. Their report will be discussed at next month’s synod but no vote will be taken on its substance.

The report suggests that everyone seeking ordination or appointment as bishops should face questions about their lifestyle, irrespective of their personal sexual orientation. At the moment, gay ordinands and clergy are required to commit to celibacy even if they are in long-term relationships.

James denied the bishops were proposing a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. All ordinands and clergy were expected to commit to “fashion [their] own life … according to the way of Christ” but, James said, current questioning was overly focused on sexual activity, with an explicit expectation that gay and lesbian clergy should be celibate.

Instead, “questioning about sexual morality should form a part of a wider examination” or heterosexual and gay ordinands and clergy.

The bishops also say the church needs to repent of homophobic attitudes of the past and stand against homophobia.

Current advice to clergy, which allows them to provide “informal prayers” to same-sex couples in civil partnerships or marriages, should be clarified, the bishops said. However, the report does not propose official church blessings.

The church said the document represented the consensus of opinion among bishops rather than a unanimous view. The bishops also stressed their report was part of a process rather than an attempt at a final resolution.

However, James acknowledged “it’s possible there will never be an end [to the process]”.

He said: “We hope the tone and register of this report will help to commend it, though we recognise it will be challenging reading for some.

“This is no last word on this subject. For there are very different views on same-sex relationships within the church, and within the house of bishops, mainly based on different understandings of how to read scripture.”

At the press conference, the bishop acknowledged the church faced a tension between “fidelity to the scriptures, the traditions … and the culture of our times. This is why it’s such a testing issue for the church to deal with. But I don’t think that if the church adapted its doctrine to the fashions of any particular time, that would mean it would be expressing the historic faith.”

Jayne Ozanne, a prominent campaigner for equality within the C of E, said the report was “unbelievable, unacceptable and ungodly”.

“Being nice to us whilst hitting us is still abuse,” she said, adding: “The nation will look on incredulous, and yet again will recoil from a church that fails to show love or understanding to those it has constantly marginalised and victimised.”

The report “fails to recognise the mounting evidence that was given of the prolonged and institutionalised spiritual abuse that has been meted out against the LGBT community. To demand that they be celibate for life because of their sexual orientation, and to only recognise one interpretation of scripture on the matter is cruel, unjust and ungodly.”

Andrew Foreshew-Cain, a vicar who married his partner in 2014 in defiance of church rules, said the report was an “utter failure of leadership”.

The trust that bishops had demanded from gay and lesbian Christians had been betrayed, he said, adding: “Now it’s time to get on with it ourselves, to start trying to provide what they have failed to provide: a genuine welcome to gay Christians.”

He anticipated an increase in clergy offering de facto services of blessing to same-sex couples in civil partnerships or marriages.

The church said it recognised that some clergy were defying church rules at the moment. “But there’s much less disobedience than people imagine,” said James. “Rebel clergy” would be dealt with on an individual basis by bishops, the church said.

Simon Sarmiento, the chair of the LGBTI Mission, said the key feature of the report was procrastination. But he added: “The bishops’ intent to change the tone of the C of E debate will be a serious challenge for conservative Christians.”

Reform, a conservative organisation within the C of E, said it was grateful that the bishops were not proposing changes to the church’s doctrine of marriage. But it voiced concern about “permitting maximum freedom within this law. In adopting a framework which seeks to take a middle path between biblical truth and cultural sensitivities, the bishops have ensured theological incoherence and hypocrisy will prevail for the foreseeable future.”

Complete Article HERE!

01/24/17

Church of England considering plans to drop celibacy question for gay priests

Canterbury Cathedral

by Jardine Malado

The Church of England is considering plans to stop asking its gay clergy whether they are living a celibate lifestyle.

Under the new proposal by Anglican bishops, gay priests are still expected to remain celibate, but they will no longer be asked about their personal lives when they join the church, Premier reported.

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who is in a civil partnership, criticized the proposal as it would still require the clergy to be celibate.

“It is progress for them to stop asking the celibacy question but it still leaves the Church of England policy based essentially on dishonesty and encouraging its clergy to lie,” Bradshaw said, according to the Daily Mail, citing Sunday Times.

Under the current rules, gay and lesbian clergy are required to vow celibacy when they seek ordination or promotion to positions such as a bishop.

The Church has been debating the subject of homosexuality since same-sex marriage was legalized by the Parliament in 2013. The clergy members are still forbidden from performing same-sex marriage services or marrying their same-sex partners.

The recommendation put forward by the House of Bishops will be considered by the General Synod next month.

Bradshaw suggested that the government could intervene in the affairs of the church if change does not come soon.

“There is a growing sense that if the church can’t sort this out for themselves, then parliament may have to do it for them,” he said.

The proposal came just a few months after the gay clerics alleged that 11 bishops were gay in September. That same month, Nicholas Chamberlain, the Bishop of Grantham, admitted that he was gay and in a celibate same-sex relationship. His admission came after a Sunday newspaper threatened to reveal his sexuality.

“It was not my decision to make a big thing about coming out. People know I’m gay, but it’s not the first thing I’d say to anyone. Sexuality is part of who I am, but it’s my ministry that I want to focus on,” Chamberlain told the Guardian.

An increasing number of priests have married or expressed plans to marry same-sex partners in defiance of the current policies of the Church.

Complete Article HERE!

10/13/16

Pope’s words create confusion for Catholics on same-sex relationships

By MICHELLE R. SMITH

Michael Templeton

Michael Templeton

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.

Thomas Tobin“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!

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!

09/29/16

Kicking the habit: two former nuns married in civil ceremony in Italy

Federica and Isabel fell in love while working at rehab center for drug addicts and renounced being nuns but say they have not lost their faith

By

 Italy earlier this year legalized civil unions, angering the Vatican.

Italy earlier this year legalized civil unions, angering the Vatican.

Federica and Isabel’s love story was not that unusual, apart from one detail.

The affair, which culminated in a civil union this week in the Italian town of Pinerolo, began “slowly” according to their friend, Franco Barbero. The two had a lot in common, having both decided to devote their lives to charitable work.

They fell in love working at a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts, but there was just one hitch.

Both were already married to the Catholic church.

Federica and Isabel were Franciscan nuns when they met and fell in love, and have both since renounced their vocation and spoken out against the church’s position against homosexuality.

“God wants people happy, to live the love in the light of the sun,” Isabel recently told La Stampa, the Italian daily newspaper. The two brides said that they have not lost their faith and would not otherwise have wanted to leave the church.

“We call upon our church to welcome all people who love each other,” added Federica, her new bride.

The courtship and civil union comes about one year after a Vatican official, Krzysztof Charamsa, publicly abandoned the church after announcing that he was gay and in love. Charamsa was sacked and defrocked after admitting he was in love with another man.

The two women were joined in a civil union in a ceremony behind closed doors in Pinerolo’s city hall, about 24 hours before they had planned. The ceremony was supposed to take place on Thursday, but the time was changed after the media were alerted to the story and the couple wanted to avoid a media frenzy.

Luca Salvai, the Five Star Movement mayor who performed the ceremony, told La Stampa: “We have guaranteed the right to privacy for this couple, who asked for discretion.”

He added that the couple were expected to remain in Pinerolo, which is near the city of Turin.

“Yesterday morning they arrived by themselves, scared by all the clamor, and after the ceremony they left by themselves in silence, one next to the other,” Salvai said.

It was the second same sex civil union ceremony performed in the town of Pinerolo since Italy passed legislation to legalise same-sex unions earlier this year. The couple are also due to participate in a religious service by their friend, Barbero, a former priest who was suspended because of his support of gay marriage.

“I can assure you that not all [of the other nuns] were against this. They have been criticised, but also understood by some sisters. Just as there are many good priests who do not condemn these kind of choices. I must add, for the record, that it is not the first time that I happen to marry two sisters,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!