To bless or not to bless?

— Rome’s move to allow LGBTQ couples to be blessed has been misunderstood by many, and misrepresented by others.

Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023.


For Catholics who know about it, the church’s worldwide Synod on Synodality is bringing either hope or indigestion.

Now more than two years into its proposed process of gathering Catholics everywhere to pray and talk about the best means of spreading the Gospel, the synod’s topics and methods remain unknown to many Catholics, churchgoing or not.

Why? For starters, the project depends on the cooperation of bishops. But more and more bishops are turning away from Pope Francis’ non-judgmental, inclusive attitude.

In the United States, according to Papal Nuncio Cardinal Christophe Pierre, “Francis is now seen as the big sinner” by some U.S. bishops. There and elsewhere, many bishops are repudiating a recent Vatican document proposing that blessings may be given freely without an investigation of the recipient’s — or recipients’ — moral life.

The December 2023 document from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Fiducia Supplicans” — “Begging for confidence” — caused an immediate and ongoing uproar. The document’s purpose, to offer “a specific and innovative contribution to the pastoral meaning of blessings,” reviews the nature of blessings while reiterating the church’s ban on any liturgical recognition of gay marriages.

To be kind, the document is misunderstood by many and misrepresented by others. The controversy has been aided, too, by reports of a 1998 book, titled “Mystical Passion: Spirituality and Sensuality,” written by the dicastery’s new prefect, Cardinal Victor Fernández.

Monsignor Victor Manuel Fernandez, archbishop of La Plata, officiates Mass at the Cathedral in La Plata, Argentina, Sunday, July 9, 2023. Fernandez was appointed by Pope Francis to head the Holy See's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Monsignor Victor Manuel Fernández, archbishop of La Plata, officiates Mass at the Cathedral in La Plata, Argentina, Sunday, July 9, 2023. Fernandez was appointed by Pope Francis to head the Holy See’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.

Fernández’s book, which he withdrew nearly immediately on publication, includes as its sixth chapter a 16-year-old girl’s imaginary encounter with Jesus as he is held by his mother in the style of the Pieta. Related in the style of the Bible’s poetic Song of Songs, she imagines Jesus resurrected. Those unfamiliar with Spanish mystical tradition and those who are quick to criticize anyone associated with Francis, can find the book, and especially this section, salacious.

The outer edges of Catholic media, seemingly fixated on sexual matters anyway, have been reduced to a bunch of sniggering teenaged boys by the fact that a Catholic cardinal dares to explain the analogies of mystical experience in sexual terms.

Which brings us back to the responses to blessing “same-sex couples,” or “a couple in an irregular situation,” as “Fiducia Supplicans” describes those who may ask to be blessed. It says “an exhaustive moral analysis” should not be a precondition; there is no requirement for “prior moral perfection.” (One thinks of the thousands of persons crowding Saint Peter’s Square each Sunday to receive Francis’ blessing following the Angelus. Imagine personal interviews by some sort of morality police!)

This is not to say there are not difficulties with the document. One problem is that the writer buried the lede. Church groups in Germany and elsewhere have pushed for church acknowledgement and ceremonial ratification of gay marriage and of remarried divorced men and women. But only near its end does the document affirm that liturgical blessings of gay marriages and any rites in conjunction with a civil ceremony are not permitted.

Bishops in large swaths of Africa, all of Russia and the Balkan States have made it clear they will resist performing blessings. In the United States, Australia, Brazil, France, Italy and even Argentina, among other countries, the reaction is mixed. Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Malawi led the African dissent with a withering Christmas Eve homily. He flatly refused to accept the doctrine office’s teaching (it was apparent from some of his talk that he had missed its flat-out ban on gay marriage).

Another problem with the document is that it was released as the Vatican was already winding down for Christmas, and the Vatican’s attempt at damage control — a clarification by Fernández — only appeared Jan. 4.

There do not seem to have been any earlier attempts at spin control. That is, it appears that no friendly bishops received talking points in advance, and many — if not most — were caught off guard amid Christmas preparations and festivities when the document first appeared.

Even with a clarification, the Roman Catholic bishops of Africa and Madagascar voted to ignore “Fiducia Supplicans.”

All this involves the question of synodality. Individual blessings are freely given for animals, buildings, meals, rosary beads and all manner of things and people. The misunderstanding here, propelled by some media, is rooted in a rejection of both synodality and the beauty of the human person.

Synodality requires listening, and the objecting bishops are reading more into the statement than it intends. The beauty of the human person is the bedrock of Christian belief, and by refusing a blessing on anyone, the objecting bishops are denying that beauty.

Even so, no matter how bumpy the road to synodality may be, Francis is determined to keep trying to move the church forward.

Complete Article HERE!

Medieval women mystics offer a vision of Jesus beyond gender

— These women’s mystical writings invite us to look beyond cultural assumptions and deepen our relationship with Christ.

By Ellyn Sanna

“Who do you say I am?” asks Jesus in Luke’s gospel (9:20). His words imply he’s not interested in doctrine or theology. He wants a personal response, not a repetition of the party line.

Female mystics during the Middle Ages were one group who felt free to come up with their own replies. In Jesus, medieval women found someone who was “neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28).

And yet, isn’t maleness an aspect of Jesus’ identity that’s self-evident? How can there be any room for ambiguity? Somehow, though, the personhood of Jesus drew a new perspective even in the context of medieval patriarchy. Today, queer theology affirms that those medieval women were absolutely right: There’s a larger, more inclusive answer to the question of Jesus’ gender.

Before we react for or against that statement, let’s be sure we understand how queer theology defines itself. To be “queer,” according to definitions queer scholars use, doesn’t necessarily mean to be homosexual. Tyson Pugh, author of Queering Medieval Genres (Palgrave Macmillan), points out that queerness is not a term related to either hetero- or homosexual relationships but rather a concept that totally disrupts our ideas about sexuality. Queer theology, Pugh says, makes room for people and ideas that may not fit into the binary categories of “straight” and “gay.”

Women mystics during the Middle Ages would have had no problem with this. And they were quite comfortable with a gender-bending Jesus. These women answered Jesus’ question— “Who do you say I am?”—in ways that may seem to verge on blasphemy.

When we look back at the Middle Ages, though, historians remind us we shouldn’t use our 21st-century lens. Sexuality was not defined then the same as it is today. Amy Hollywood, in her book Queer Theology (Blackwell), writes that in the Middle Ages, “men and women tended to be perceived as the ends of the same continuum rather than as diametrically opposed to each other as they are today.” The words homosexuality and heterosexuality didn’t even exist until the late 19th century, and these binary concepts would not have matched up with medieval perspectives.

This is why no one had a problem with women mystics describing their experiences in the language of a modern-day bodice-ripper; piercing, penetrating, ravaging, burning, and ecstasy are all words lifted straight from their writings. St. Teresa of Ávila, the great 16th-century doctor of the church, writes that her mystic encounters with Jesus leave her “all on fire,” moaning from the “exceeding sweetness.”

In the 12th century, Hildegard of Bingen equates Jesus with caritas (love, a feminine being). Sometimes Jesus is Hildegard’s male lover wooing her, but more often Hildegard takes the masculine role of a knight pursuing Jesus, her female lover. In the writings of medieval women such as Hildegard, says Hollywood, “gender becomes so radically fluid that it is not clear what kind of sexuality—within the heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy readily available to modern readers—is being . . . employed to evoke the relationship between humans and the divine.”

Hadewijch, a 13th-century mystic, also names Jesus with the feminine word for love. “He who wishes to serve love,” she writes, referring to her own soul in relationship with Jesus, “must surrender himself into her power.” Then, later in the same poem, she refers to herself as a woman wooed by love, slain by “her touch.” In another poem, Hadewijch writes, “You who can conquer all with wonder! Conquer me, so I may conquer you.”

In a similar way, Mechthild of Magdeburg, also in the 13th century, writes these confusing lines, referring to her relationship with Jesus: “He surrenders himself to her, and she surrenders himself to her.” The boundaries between male and female have become permeable, allowing all the variations of human sexuality to meld into a fluid unity.

In her book Power, Gender, and Christian Mysticism (Cambridge University Press), historian Grace Jantzen writes that women mystics describe “direct, highly charged, passionate encounters between Christ and the writer. The sexuality is explicit.” These medieval women claimed the eroticism of their own bodies as a form of spiritual power.

Not all medieval mystics thought of Jesus as a lover—but they still engaged in confusing gender bending, where roles shifted, blended, and merged. Margery of Kempe in 14th-century England identifies with Jesus as being like her in his womanhood, but she also says she gives birth to him as his mother. Her contemporary, the woman mystic Julian of Norwich, describes Jesus’ blood on the cross as resembling menstrual blood; Jesus is a woman like herself. She also insists he is the embodiment of all true motherhood, and she refers to him throughout her writing as “our Mother.”

During the Middle Ages, far more women than men were mystics. This may have been because women identified with the physicality of Jesus’ life, for they too suffered and bled, birthed and nourished, and often died in the process. Their bodies, the very part of them men said was corrupt, gave them entryway into spiritual intimacy with Christ. Intense mystical experiences also freed women from the rules and roles the patriarchy imposed. Their mysticism did not lift them into some higher noncorporeal plane but, instead, grounded the spiritual world in their own experiences as women. Mysticism gave women’s voices back to them. On the grounds of this spiritual authority, women could even write books.

Claiming this authority was tricky, though. According to Jean Gerson, a prominent 14th-century philosopher and scholar, “The female sex is forbidden on apostolic authority to teach in public, that is either by word of mouth or writing. . . . All women’s teaching is to be held suspect . . . because they are easily seduced and determined seducers.” But if women mystics spoke with Jesus’ voice, then men could accept their messages as coming straight from God. In that case, women would be like empty straws through which the divine could flow.

“I am a poor little woman,” writes Mechthild, “but I write this book out of God’s heart and mouth.” Hildegard—a polymath author, artist, musician, botanist, astronomer, and physician—refers to herself as “a weak and fragile rib.” Julian of Norwich, whose theology is as brilliant and relevant today as it was in the 14th century, claims she is “ignorant, weak, and frail.” Only by apologizing for themselves, by casting themselves as invisible and unworthy carriers of Christ’s message, could these women be taken seriously (and hopefully avoid the mortal danger of being condemned as heretics).

And yet, despite the need for subterfuge and apology, medieval women proclaimed the holiness of their own bodies. When they looked at Jesus, they saw someone outside the patriarchy, someone who understood them and affirmed them spiritually but also physically. Through Jesus, they claimed their sexuality in a space where no human male could enter. “You are me,” these women said to Jesus, “and I am you. We are one.”

Christ has been defined in many ways over the centuries and around the world—but the real question has always been: What is your relationship with Jesus? If we expand our answers to this question, looking beyond our cultural assumptions, we too, like medieval women, may find entryway into a deeper relationship with Christ.

Then, far more than those medieval women, we have the power to pull our understanding of the incarnation out beyond our own souls, into our society. Our answers to Jesus’ question can stretch beyond gender, beyond race, beyond creed. Relationship with a queer Jesus might even smash the barriers of hate and fear we’ve built between us.

So—who do you say Jesus is?

Complete Article HERE!

Five years later, clergy abuse survivors still waiting for NJ attorney general’s report

By Deena Yellin

When New Jersey’s attorney general launched an investigation into alleged abuses by Roman Catholic clergy in the state more than five years ago, Bruce Novozinsky felt a wave of relief.

“I had so much hope,” said Novozinsky, an abuse survivor from Monmouth County who says his family’s parish priest, the late Rev. Gerry Brown of St. Mary of the Lake in Lakewood, tried to rape him when he was 16.

Yet more than five years after the investigation was announced with great fanfare, there’s no sign that a grand jury empaneled to oversee the probe will release its report any time soon. Despite receiving hundreds of tips, the effort thus far has resulted in only three indictments and one conviction, and the state Attorney General’s Office has been tight-lipped about its process.

Abuse survivors around New Jersey say they’ve been let down once again.

Bruce Novozinsky, photographed in 2019 outside the Diocese of Trenton Chancellery office. He said clergy abuse survivors have grown frustrated at the slow pace of the state's investigation.
Bruce Novozinsky, photographed in 2019 outside the Diocese of Trenton Chancellery office. He said clergy abuse survivors have grown frustrated at the slow pace of the state’s investigation.

Then-Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the formation of a task force in September 2018 to look into allegations of sexual abuse within New Jersey’s Catholic dioceses. His impetus was a Pennsylvania grand jury report that had been released days earlier. That 1,400-page report, compiled over two years, documented widespread cases of sexual abuse by priests in the Keystone State and an organized effort by the church to cover it up. It was hailed by survivors as a landmark moment of accountability for the American church.

In announcing his own probe, Grewal said, “We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here.” He vowed to hold perpetrators responsible.

Other states around the country — including New York, Kentucky and Nebraska — also followed Pennsylvania with inquiries into local dioceses. Most took only two years to complete their reviews.

Clergy abuse task force

When he announced the task force in September 2018, Grewal named former acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino, an experienced sex crimes prosecutor, to head a team of detectives assembled from county prosecutors’ offices. Grewal authorized the task force to present evidence to a state grand jury and said it could use subpoenas to compel testimony.

The Attorney General’s Office also established a hotline to let people anonymously report allegations of clergy abuse. A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said the line has received more than 600 calls to date, but the office declined to say how many have been investigated.

Novozinsky and other survivors said they were gratified the state was finally pursuing justice. He called the hotline in 2018 to report his story but was disappointed to find that “the staffing was ill-prepared,” he said. “I received a call back after around six weeks and was told the matter would be turned over to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office due to the hotline being inundated with many calls. That was the last I heard from anyone.

“No one anticipated the volume of abuse of the victims,” Novozinsky said.

In announcing the state's probe, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said, "We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here." He vowed to hold perpetrators responsible.
In announcing the state’s probe, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said, “We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here.” He vowed to hold perpetrators responsible.

Novozinsky said he was never interviewed by anyone from the attorney general’s task force. Since the announcement, abuse survivors have been waiting for news of a report from the grand jury. Novozinsky said the community is “frustrated that it’s at a standstill.”

Grewal left his post in 2021 to become director of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was replaced by Andrew Bruck, who was succeeded by current Attorney General Matthew Platkin.

Grewal did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Prosecutors respond to criticism

But in a recent interview, Laurino, the head of the task force, said the investigation continues. “We are still working on it,” he said. “We hope to draw it to a conclusion. We’re hoping to wrap it up as soon as we can.” He declined to account for the delay or offer a timeline.

“We’re at a grand jury level and can’t comment on anything at this point,” he said.

Lisa Coryell, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, added, “Our investigation of alleged abuse is ongoing, and we are actively working to identify additional individuals who have been victimized by clergy no matter how long ago.”

‘If he’s found guilty, I’m free:’NJ man yearns for conviction of ex-Cardinal McCarrick

Like Laurino, she declined to predict when a final report would be issued. But both said the agency is committed to releasing one.

The Camden and Paterson dioceses declined to comment on the investigation. A spokeswoman from the Newark Archdiocese did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

Three priests charged, one convicted

This state’s investigation has thus far resulted in criminal charges against three clergy members, the Attorney General’s Office said: the Rev. Thomas Ganley of Phillipsburg, the Rev. Brendan Williams of Howell and the Rev. Donato Cabardo of Jersey City.

Ganley was a priest at St. Cecilia Church in the Iselin section of Woodbridge when the alleged criminal acts occurred between 1990 and 1994, the office has said. The victim called the state hotline in January 2019 to report an alleged assault. Two days later, Ganley was arrested by members of the Clergy Abuse Task Force and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.

He was charged with one count of first-degree aggravated sexual assault and two counts of second-degree sexual assault. In April 2019, he pleaded guilty to the second-degree charge and was sentenced to four years in state prison.

Cabardo was a priest at St. Paul of the Cross when he allegedly groped a woman in the church rectory on two occasions in 2020. The Archdiocese of Newark received the complaint from an employee and forwarded it to the Clergy Abuse Task Force. The priest was arrested on August 2020 and charged with two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact and one count of harassment. He was admitted into a pre-trial intervention program.

Former Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino was appointed to head the state task force investigating abuse in the church. "We're hoping to wrap it up as soon as we can,' he said recently.
Former Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino was appointed to head the state task force investigating abuse in the church. “We’re hoping to wrap it up as soon as we can,’ he said recently.

Williams, serving at the St. Veronica parish in Howell, was charged with sexually assaulting a minor in incidents from 1998 through 2000, after the alleged victim’s father called the hotline. On September 2019, Williams was arrested by members of the Clergy Abuse Task Force and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and charged with criminal sexual contact of a victim under age 13. He was acquitted after a bench trial in Monmouth County, during which the accuser, a 34-year-old woman with multiple mental disorders, failed to convince the judge that Williams had molested her on three occasions when she was a child.

Praise for task force’s work

Mark Crawford, the New Jersey state director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group, said he has taken several victims to give statements to the investigators, typically a team of two detectives from each county trained to deal with sexual assault victims. He complimented the task force’s work.

“The investigators are doing a thorough job,” he said.

“When victims call the hotline, they give their information, and within a few weeks, they hear from the detectives in their county who ask if they want to come in and give an official statement so that an investigation can occur,” Crawford said.

Msgr. Kenneth Lasch, a former pastor with the Paterson Diocese, said he was interviewed twice by detectives from the task force because of his work as an advocate for clergy abuse survivors. “They were extensive interviews that lasted several hours. We went over my involvement as an advocate for victims in cases that I was involved with in the Diocese of Paterson and with Delbarton,” he said, referring to the school in Morris County. “They asked a series of questions about specific incidents and took notes.”

Mark Crawford, the New Jersey head of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the delayed grand jury report has sowed distrust in the survivor community.
Mark Crawford, the New Jersey head of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the delayed grand jury report has sowed distrust in the survivor community.

Why the investigation has slowed

Legal experts attribute the task force’s pace to delays caused by COVID-19 as well as the large number of abuse reports and a chronic shortage of judges in New Jersey.

“Once COVID hit, that set back their investigation by two years,” said John Baldante, a Haddonfield attorney who has brought 350 clergy abuse cases against the Catholic Church in New Jersey.

Attorney Greg Gianforcaro, who has represented hundreds of clergy abuse survivors in the state over three decades, said many of his clients provided statements to task force investigators and that their information will eventually be included in the report, except their names.

He believes the task force is taking a long time because it faces more cases than are seen in the other states. That’s because of an old state law that Gianforcaro said made New Jersey a dumping ground for abusive priests.

The state’s Charitable Immunity Act, adopted in 1958, gave protection to nonprofit and religious institutions like the Catholic Church, said the attorney, who is based in Phillipsburg.

The provision was repealed in 2006. But in the five decades before that, “the church felt like they could get away with sending their clerics who had abused children out of state to work here,” Gianforcaro said. “In essence, New Jersey was a haven for pedophile priests because the church viewed itself as not being able to be held liable for the sexual abuse of children.”

‘An ongoing public danger’

The Pennsylvania grand jury investigation, which found over 300 predator priests who had abused nearly 1,000 children, took investigators two years to complete. How much longer New Jersey will need is unclear.

“Our main concern remains the possibility of an ongoing public danger,” said Adam Horowitz, an attorney representing dozens of clergy abuse accusers in the state. “We’re concerned that dangerous predators who have been ousted from Catholic parishes are now volunteering at local schools, coaching soccer or teaching music lessons in their apartments one-on-one at night. ”

In the meantime, abuse survivors and their advocates continue to wait.

“We’re all upset that this hasn’t come to fruition yet,” said Crawford, the survivors advocacy group director for New Jersey. “Victims have come forward and poured out their souls. They constantly call me and want to know what’s going on with the report. Now they don’t believe anything will happen. It creates distrust of our legal system.”

Complete Article HERE!

‘Holy havoc’ as churches are dragged into the 20th Century

— Advances in accepting same-sex unions within religious communities are causing both delight and despair.

Current head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis

By Alan Austin

ANGLICANS WERE shocked and excited in mid-November – either that or shocked and appalled – when the Church of England’s governing body narrowly voted to approve church services to bless same-sex civil unions. The church will continue, however, to reserve the term “marriage” for unions between one man and one woman.

The global Anglican community comprises about 85 million adherents in 165 countries. So this is a significant breakthrough within Christendom.

This immediately followed the conservative Orthodox Jewish community in the USA appointing an openly gay man as a rabbi for the first time ever.

And in a development which might make even hardened atheists ponder whether some guiding hand was at work, the head of the vast Roman Catholic church, Pope Francis, announced in mid-December that Catholic priests can now bless same-sex couples also.

Pope Francis kicks open the church door to gay couples — at last

The wording of the Vatican decision – in a Declaration titled ‘Fiducia Supplicans On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings’ – was careful. The church is not consecrating, or even approving, the union itself. It is just a blessing to the two people involved.

The declaration does not oblige bishops to provide such blessings, but shows how to proceed if people request them.

This apparently satisfies the rigid text of the Catholic catechism, which still describes gay and bi orientations as “intrinsically disordered”, but offers LGBTQ couples a celebration in church, which straight couples have always received.

These developments bring the three conservative religious communities more into line with the majority of Protestant churches and progressive Jewish communities which have welcomed same-sex couples for some time.

The backlash

Inevitably, reactions have ranged from joy and jubilation to approving nods signalling “about time!” to outright condemnation as heresy and apostasy, which are very bad words inside churches and synagogues.

Conservative Anglican Andrea Williams said:

“This is capitulation by the church… It is making way for the celebration of ‘same-sex marriage’ in all but name… the Church of England is planning to completely disregard the bible’s teaching on marriage.”

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby attempted reassurance:

“I am under no illusions that what we are proposing will appear to go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others, but it is my hope that what we have agreed will be received in a spirit of generosity, seeking the common good.”

The Catholic backlash has been ferocious, with bishops in Africa and beyond declaring they will simply ignore the new Vatican policy. Bishop Athanasius Schneider in Kazakhstan called the decision a “great deception” and warned of “the evil that resides in the very permission to bless couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples”. A bit harsh.

A long and complex journey

Opponents of the reform claim this defies all Judeo-Christian history. That is not true.

Kittredge Cherry is an author who writes about LGBTQ spirituality at She told IA that Pope Francis approving official blessings last month was the first time in centuries, but not the first time ever.

“The Roman Catholic church is coming full circle because before the 14th Century they used to bless same-sex unions,” Cherry said. “This is monumental progress, but the Roman Catholic church still has a long way to go before they honour same-sex marriages as a sacrament equal to heterosexual marriages. With violence rising against LGBTQ people, churches need to support loving same-sex relationships now!”

Why this matters

The violence Cherry references is one reason this development is important to the secular world as well as to church members. Religious beliefs are highly influential in most of the 66 countries where laws still punish LGBTQ activity, sometimes with death. This is down from 74 in 2018 and 71 in 2020, so progress is being made.

Victoria Police are failing to 'protect' the LGBTQ+ community

Impetus from scholarship and real-life

Recent background includes priests and bishops in Germany, Austria and France openly defying previous bans by celebrating LGBTQ unions in their churches. That led conservative bishops to demand the Pope shut this down. Instead, he has offered approval.

At the core of this reform is the understanding from the sciences that same-sex and bisexual orientations are not sinful choices. They are found in virtually all human, animal and bird societies, at around four per cent of the population, and are just as natural, normal, healthy and God-given as straight orientation.

Cherry believes multiple factors are in play:

The forces for change include participation of same-sex couples in church life and ministry, LGBTQ activism that led many countries to legalize same-sex marriage, and advances in understanding the positive role of queer people in the Bible and church history. 

Social attitudes have evolved toward greater acceptance of same-sex relationships, especially among younger generations, so attitudes are becoming more pro-LGBTQ over time.

Progressives like Cherry are pursuing further reform. They hope the “intrinsically disordered” terminology will soon disappear from the catechism. The next chance to advance this will be at the Synod – the global Catholic conference – at the Vatican in October.

“Holy havoc may erupt at the next Synod because progress is often followed by backlash,” Cherry said. “Conservative bishops have strongly rejected the Pope’s approval of same-sex blessings, and LGBTQ Catholics are already planning to push for more progress. The clash of opposing viewpoints will bring a powerful opportunity for change.”

This tussle will continue for some time yet. But there will be no going back.

Complete Article HERE!

New Orleans priest in hospital after being jailed on child rape charges

— Lawyers tell court Lawrence Hecker, 92, has declined mentally and physically while incarcerated

An undated photo of a younger Lawrence Hecker.

By David Hammer of WWL Louisiana in New Orleans

A 92-year-old retired Catholic priest jailed in New Orleans since September on charges of child rape and kidnapping has been hospitalized, his attorneys said on Friday.

Lawrence Hecker – who admitted that he sexually molested or harassed underage boys in the 1960s and 1970s during a remarkable interview with WWL Louisiana and the Guardian in August – has experienced mental decline, disorientation and some physical ailments while being held in New Orleans’s jail, attorneys argued during a state court hearing.

They requested home confinement for Hecker should he be released from the hospital, but the judge presiding over his case, Ben Willard, said: “That’s not going to happen.”

The New Orleans state prosecutor Ned McGowan suggested a secure hospital that can provide mental health treatment in East Feliciana parish, Louisiana, about 120 miles to the north-west. But McGowan opposed Hecker’s release to home confinement, saying the retired priest had admitted under oath to viewing child sexual abuse images.

McGowan’s remarks appeared to be a reference to a December 2020 deposition given by Hecker in a separate civil lawsuit accusing him of child rape. As the Guardian had previously reported, Hecker said in that deposition that he would look at such images if they “appeared on his computer” while cruising for pornography.

Hecker has been in jail since he was arrested on 8 September on grand jury charges that he choked a high school student and sodomized him while he was unconscious. That was decades after Hecker provided an administrative statement to New Orleans Catholic church leaders in which he acknowledged that he had sexually molested or harassed numerous children whom he had met after becoming an ordained priest in 1958.

Hecker’s clerical career continued until the archdiocese of New Orleans allowed him to retire with full benefits in 2002, during an earlier high point in the worldwide Catholic church’s continuing clerical abuse crisis. The church waited another 16 years before publicly identifying him as a credibly accused child molester.

Less than a month before his indictment, Hecker discussed that statement with WWL Louisiana and the Guardian. Hecker was lucid and stood the whole time during the interview, an 18-minute session during which he said “yes” multiple times when asked whether the statement he had given to his superiors was accurate.

Hecker claimed that society had been more permissive of such behavior in the 1960s and 70s, though it was as illegal to engage in sexual activity with minors then as it is now.

Willard has tentatively set Hecker’s trial date for 25 March. He would face a sentence of mandatory life imprisonment if he is convicted as charged.

Hecker has pleaded not guilty. He has been in the custody of authorities since his arrest because he has not been able to pay the $800,000 bail set for him by Willard.

Complete Article HERE!