A Review: That Undeniable Longing: My Road To And From The Priesthood

The author of That Undeniable Longing: My Road To And From The Priesthood, Mark Tedesco, contacted me through this site and asked if he could send me a copy of his memoir in hopes I’d be able to review it. I was glad to make his e-acquaintance and said; “by all means, do send me a copy.”

That Undeniable LongingFirst off, I was surprised to discover that the book was published way back in 2006. Where have I been? I had to ask myself. I try to stay on top of such things, but I totally missed this one.

Mark’s road to and from the priesthood begins with him leaving his home in California in 1978 at the age of nineteen to enter a seminary with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary on the outskirts of Rome. My own road to the priesthood began ten years in 1967 at age 17 when I left my family in Chicago to enter college seminary in Northern Illinois with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. I was a novice by age 19.

Mark didn’t stay with his Oblates: they asked him to leave after a couple of years. But, after a short hiatus back in California, Mark returned to Rome as a seminarian at the North American College, one of the most eminent seminaries in Rome. He was ordained in 1988 and served the church as a priest until 1994. I was ordained in 1975. I was a member in good standing in my religious community until 1981. At which point I had completed my post-graduate studies with my dissertation on the sexual attitudes and behaviors for gay Catholic priest in the active ministry. The ensuing media attention associated with my dissertation and my public coming out brought my public ministry to a halt. My subsequent 13-year battle with the Oblates to preserve my priesthood and ministry ended the same year Mark left the priesthood, 1994.

Despite the differences in our stories I think the dovetailing is rather remarkable. And Mark’s reminiscences were very familiar territory to me. The struggles Mark recalls of his efforts to wed his spirituality with his burgeoning sexual awareness mirrors precisely the turmoil I encountered when I interviewed the 50 gay priests for my doctoral thesis. It mirrored my own story too.

I read That Undeniable Longing thinking, my goodness, another story of a super talented man, one with so many gifts, one that clearly had a vocation to serve God’s people, but one who had to choose between ministry and personal integrity. Why, I had to ask myself, why is this still going on? Why does the Church continue to sacrifice its faithful sons on an altar of an outmoded sexual morality based on a woefully deficient understanding of human sexuality?

Mark Tedesco
Mark Tedesco

To his credit, Mark is not bitter as he looks back on his priestly formation and active ministry and toward his new life as a layman.

“How did I arrive at this point? Could I ever have imagined, long ago on a winter day in Rome, that I would find myself on this new path, my dreams not shattered, but transformed? And that elusive, relentless desire, for happiness – where is it leading me?”

That Undeniable Longing is not an angry book, though God knows, it could have been. Notwithstanding Mark’s emotional struggles, which at times manifested themselves physically, his attitude and his lack of recriminations at the end of his priestly dreams are very refreshing and, I believe, they are the heart and soul of the book.

The author details his involvement in a conservative lay Catholic cult with Italian ties that he calls the Community and Freedom (CF). I’m guessing this is a thinly veiled Community And Liberation. But, as they say, a rose by any other name smells the same. Sounds to me like extricating himself from CF was as traumatic as leaving the priesthood.

After some soul-searching and with the help of a counselor, Mark, who was by now in Washington DC, left the priesthood and moved back to California to start a career as a teacher.

Mark doesn’t go into much detail on his process of discernment regarding his being gay vis-a-vis his priesthood. I would have liked him to have spelled out that more. It would be helpful for other gay priests still weighing their options. Even though Mark mentions that he had deep emotional (love) attachments to some of his confrères, he never goes into detail. Did he act upon his attractions? He doesn’t say. But I remain curious. Not for the prurient interest, mind you, but because how we behave is how we learn. That being said, the fact that Mark went through this ordeal, dealt with all the oppressive and sex-negative Catholic culture has to offer, and came out the other side in tack, is a testament to his character. Not everyone who attempts this is successful.

I know that a lot of visitors to this blog are gay clergy and religious. I know that a lot of my visitors are struggling with a lot of the same things Mark struggled with. I believe many of my visitors would prosper from reading this book. Mark’s openness, honesty, integrity, not to mention his chatty writing style, are remarkable as well as edifying.

Exclusive: Vatican Meets with U.S. State Department’s Gay and Lesbian Envoy

By Elizabeth Dias

A symbolic meeting to open a controversial dialog

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - NOVEMBER 11: Pope Francis leaves St. Peter's Square after his weekly audience at The Vatican on November 11, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. During the event, the Pontiff continued his catechesis on the family, focussing on togetherness and solidarity which extends as "a sign of God's universal love" . (Photo by Giulio Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis leaves St. Peter’s Square after his weekly audience at The Vatican on November 11, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. During the event, the Pontiff continued his catechesis on the family, focussing on togetherness and solidarity which extends as “a sign of God’s universal love” .


The encounter took place in a non-descript room at the Vatican, and conversation stuck to regular diplomatic briefs. But for the parties involved on Tuesday morning, the meeting held historic significance: Randy Berry, the first-ever U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI persons, and Vatican officials from the Holy See’s Secretary of State office were meeting for the first time.

The moment, simple as it was, marked a new level of U.S. engagement with the Catholic Church on LGBT human rights issues. Berry told TIME he met with officials for about an hour, and he met separately with representatives from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. For both sides, the conversations were new.

President Barack Obama only created Berry’s position at the State Department in April, and until now, Berry has primarily only talked with faith leaders in the field, as he has traveled to 30 countries in the last seven months. He met with evangelical congregations in Jamaica when he visited in May, for example. Conversations about LGBT human rights have never before reached this level with the Catholic Church, which considers gay and lesbian sexual behavior a sin and restricts marriage to unions of one man and one woman.

Berry’s focus however is not on marriage, but on the twin foreign policy issues of violence and discrimination. That strategy, Berry hopes, allows for common ground with the Vatican to stand together against extreme violence. “We were not there to talk about issues of civil unions or same sex marriage, for example, because that is not part of our policy,” Berry says. “That is not part of the conversation we were interested in engaging in, nor do I think were they.”

Berry requested the Vatican meeting as part of his three-week trip to Eastern Europe, which has included visits to five countries and a stop in Athens for the annual conference for ILGA, an international lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights association. Church officials accepted. “I wanted a chance to brief Vatican officials myself,” Berry says. “These issues of violence and extreme discrimination are of concern to us all.”

The meeting is particularly noteworthy ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Uganda at the end of the month, where homosexuality is illegal. When Uganda introduced a law last year that further criminalized homosexuality with extensive prison sentences, Western powers including the U.S. pushed back, while local Catholic leaders had mixed responses. Courts eventually struck the measure down, but hundreds of gay Ugandans have since fled to Kenya, where homosexuality is also illegal and where Pope Francis also plans a visit during his trip to central Africa.

Berry says he spent time in “listening mode” to learn from officials about how Pope Francis engages on human rights issues when he travels. He remembers how a gay rights activist was included when a large group of political activists met with Pope Francis in Paraguay this summer. “That inclusive approach speaks volumes,” Berry says. “I would hope that certainly those same messages are shared, and I fully expect that they will be because I think they are completely consistent with what we’ve seen from His Holiness in the past.”

The fact that the meeting even happened is revealing. It is a sign that the Obama administration sees future opportunity to work with the Vatican after the Pope’s September visit, with the possibility to build on the partnership they have strengthened on climate change and migration. It is also a sign that Vatican diplomatic efforts are willing to take certain amount of risk by talking with the U.S. on this issue, as any LGBT issues thrusts the Church into an often conflicted spotlight. Pope Francis has continued to advocate dialogue and listening to a range of perspectives even as he has ramped up the Vatican’s diplomatic activism, and the U.S. State Department continues to take note and look for opportunities to engage.

Discussion of any concrete collaboration with the Vatican would be premature, however. For now, Berry hopes to further common ground and expand contacts for future conversations. “It was an important first dialogue and I hope that we will continue,” Berry says. “I get to do a lot of really amazing things in this job,” he continues. “It was quite a positive experience.”

Complete Article HERE!

Same-sex couples can get married in Ireland from Monday



Same-sex couples in Ireland will be able to get married from Monday, after the legislation was signed into law yesterday.

Justice Frances Fitzgerald signed the commencement order, after Ireland became the first country to hold a referendum on equal marriage in May, where 62% of voters came out in support the law.

Couples who were married in other countries will have their marriage automatically recognised from midnight on Sunday, while those already in civil partnerships can opt to marry under the new law if they wish.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, attempts to pass a similar marriage equality law have been continuously shot down.

Despite a majority vote in favour of same-sex marriage last week, the Democratic Unionist Party blocked the motion with a ‘petition of concern’.

Complete Article HERE!

US bishops advise dioceses how to deal with ‘Spotlight’ movie

File under:  PR Before Contrition

The Church wants clergy to be ready to help those for whom the film triggers painful memories

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, left, with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan in Rome in 2012. The US bishops have issued guidelines to help dioceses respond to questions about the “Spotlight” movie on clergy sexual abuse.

By Lisa Wangsness

Roman Catholic Church leaders in the United States have sent talking points to dioceses around the country to help them prepare for the release of the movie “Spotlight,” highlighting the progress the Church says it has made in preventing and responding to the sexual abuse of children by clergy.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops drew up the guidance and statistics in September in anticipation of the movie’s release, said Don Clemmer, a spokesman for the bishops. He said Church leaders wanted dioceses to be ready to speak to victims who experienced pain with the release of the movie, and to show them — and the wider public — that the Church has changed.

Letters from bishops and stories in diocesan newspapers issued in recent days endeavor to portray a Church dramatically — and permanently — transformed by the abuse crisis since The Boston Globe’s 2002 investigation of clergy abuse and the coverup by Church hierarchy. The film chronicles that Globe investigation.

In their public responses so far, the bishops reiterate apologies to victims and in some cases offer phone numbers they can call to seek counseling or report abuse. They also detail abuse prevention efforts, renew vows to immediately report abuse complaints to civil authorities, and highlight the American Church’s zero-tolerance policy that mandates the removal of predators from the Church.

“I can tell you unequivocally that anything that raises awareness of the crime of sexual abuse of minors and encourages transparency is a good thing,” Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, N.Y., said in a statement. “I certainly hope ‘Spotlight’ will be a vehicle to communicate the truth and advance the dialogue regarding the protection of children.”

The diocesan newspaper in Orange County, Calif., hinted at the daunting scale of the task for the Church: In that diocese in 2014, it reported, 244 priests, 108 deacons, 1,741 teachers, and more than 27,550 school employees and volunteers underwent training to help prevent abuse, and nearly 55,000 children participated in “safe environment” education.

Because the movie will not open nationwide until Nov. 20, most bishops in the United States have not seen it. The film began showing in Boston and a few other cities last Friday.

“Spotlight” ends with a long list of dioceses in the United States and around the world where similar coverups of clergy sexual abuse of children came to light after the Globe’s revelations about the Archdiocese of Boston. A recent report by the National Catholic Reporter found that clergy abuse — which the Church once silenced by settling with victims and swearing them to secrecy — has cost the Catholic Church in America $4 billion since 1950 in settlements, therapy for victims, and other costs.

“In our experience, Catholics and others will take the movie as proof of what is happening today, not what happened in the past,” the “Spotlight Resources” memo from the bishops group said. “Do not let past events discourage you. This is an opportunity to raise the awareness of all that has been done to prevent child sexual abuse in the church.”

Clemmer said the memo was sent to “safe environment” coordinators in each diocese, who oversee diocesan programs and policies to prevent abuse. The aim was to prepare prelates and Church workers to help those for whom the film triggers painful memories, particularly victims who have never come forward before, he said.

“Anybody who comes forward should know that the Church is ready to accompany them,” Clemmer said. “It’s a spirit of gratitude for people who have the courage to come forward, and who make the Church and children safer.”

In late October, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston and a top adviser to Pope Francis on clergy sexual abuse policy, was among the first to issue a statement on the movie. He said the Church must continue to seek forgiveness from victims and to make amends. Terrence C. Donilon, a spokesman for O’Malley, said the cardinal wrote the statement himself and it was not issued as part of a coordinated campaign.

The advisory memo from the Conference of Catholic Bishops counsels dioceses to acknowledge the Church’s wrongdoing, as well as the role of journalists and victims in helping to uncover its harboring of pedophile priests. Bishops, it said, should “be open and transparent” about any abuse in their dioceses.

And it urges them to describe the policy changes that the American Church implemented after the scandal, including requirements that clergy, staff, seminarians, and volunteers working with children undergo background checks and safe environment training, and that children be educated on the issue.

“Remain vigilant,” the memo adds. “This is a reminder we cannot afford to become complacent.”


But Terence McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org, an organization that tracks the abuse crisis, said the bishops have failed to fully address issues related to the abuse crisis that remain unresolved.

For example, he said, the bishops could have agreed to make lists of abusive priests available nationwide. Only about 30 of the 178 dioceses have done so, he said. Boston is one that has provided a list, although advocates complain it is incomplete. More than 2,400 abusive priests nationwide have never been named, he said, and it is impossible to know how many are still living.

“In a way, the movie is all about that issue: Who are these men who have done these things, how many are there, what are their names? Where have they worked? What have they done? It’s all about making a list,” he said. “I think it’s such an obvious thing to address for the bishops, especially those who haven’t made a list yet.”

He said the bishops should have acknowledged some of the more notable failures to enforce the Church’s new zero-tolerance protocols — in Kansas City, Mo., and Minneapolis, for example — and suggest ways the Church could do better.

One bishop who explicitly spoke of the Church’s efforts as a work-in-progress, rather than a closed chapter in history, was Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa. He posted a statement on the diocesan website that was remarkable for its bluntness.

“Would I prefer that this not be played out on the silver screen? Sure. The trailer alone is painful to watch,” he wrote. “But that pain I am sure doesn’t even come close to what victims, their families, or the Catholic faithful have to suffer from the scandal of clergy sexual abuse.”

He continued, saying that even though failing to report or remove an offender is rare compared with past practice, “it too still happens, and when it does, a shadow is cast on the church’s efforts to restore trust and to provide a safe environment.

“And so I suppose the story told by the movie bears repeating until all of us get all of it right.”

Complete Article HERE!

Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds

Religious belief appears to have negative influence on children’s altruism and judgments of others’ actions even as parents see them as ‘more empathetic’

The moment of truth


Children from religious families are less kind and more punitive than those from non-religious households, according to a new study.

Academics from seven universities across the world studied Christian, Muslim and non-religious children to test the relationship between religion and morality.

They found that religious belief is a negative influence on children’s altruism.

“Overall, our findings … contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,” said the authors of The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World, published this week in Current Biology.

“More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that secularisation of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness – in fact, it will do just the opposite.”

Almost 1,200 children, aged between five and 12, in the US, Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey and South Africa participated in the study. Almost 24% were Christian, 43% Muslim, and 27.6% non-religious. The numbers of Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic and other children were too small to be statistically valid.

They were asked to choose stickers and then told there were not enough to go round for all children in their school, to see if they would share. They were also shown film of children pushing and bumping one another to gauge their responses.

The findings “robustly demonstrate that children from households identifying as either of the two major world religions (Christianity and Islam) were less altruistic than children from non-religious households”.

Older children, usually those with a longer exposure to religion, “exhibit[ed] the greatest negative relations”.

The study also found that “religiosity affects children’s punitive tendencies”. Children from religious households “frequently appear to be more judgmental of others’ actions”, it said.

Muslim children judged “interpersonal harm as more mean” than children from Christian families, with non-religious children the least judgmental. Muslim children demanded harsher punishment than those from Christian or non-religious homes.

At the same time, the report said that religious parents were more likely than others to consider their children to be “more empathetic and more sensitive to the plight of others”.

The report pointed out that 5.8 billion humans, representing 84% of the worldwide population, identify as religious. “While it is generally accepted that religion contours people’s moral judgments and pro-social behaviour, the relation between religion and morality is a contentious one,” it said.

The report was “a welcome antidote to the presumption that religion is a prerequisite of morality”, said Keith Porteus Wood of the UK National Secular Society.

“It would be interesting to see further research in this area, but we hope this goes some way to undoing the idea that religious ethics are innately superior to the secular outlook. We suspect that people of all faiths and none share similar ethical principles in their day to day lives, albeit may express them differently depending on their worldview.”

According to the respected Pew Research Center, which examines attitudes toward and practices of faith, most people around the world think it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. In the US, 53% of adults think that faith in God is necessary to morality, a figure which rose to seven of 10 adults in the Middle East and three-quarters of adults in six African countries surveyed by Pew.

 Complete Article HERE!