Assumption University is sending more than $30,000 to survivors of clergy sexual abuse instead of using the money, which was left to the school by a priest accused of sexual abuse.
The school said they learned the retired priest was named in a Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse of children had made a bequest commitment to the college’s capital campaign in 2021.
President Gregory Weiner said the unnamed priest donated a little more than $31,000 and when he learned the priest’s name was on the report, he requested a review of the school’s process for evaluating major gifts. Assumption decided to donate the priest’s contributions to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
“We felt this was a clear moral choice and the right thing to do for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, particularly in Pennsylvania,” Weiner said. “It’s important to us that this is not about us. This act is about the survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania.”
The school informed the priest of their decision. The Pennsylvania report names more than 300 clergy members facing credible accusations of sexually abusing children.
In England, proclaiming God’s blessing on same-sex relationships has become the new orthodoxy for clergy with established ties to the powers that be.
But not in Nigeria and the Global South, where Anglican leaders have urged the Church of England to consider the impact of its actions on believers facing conflict with Jihadi terrorists.
“I am genuinely torn by this,” said Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, about an appeal for General Synod leaders to consult with Anglican primates around the world before proceeding. “It isn’t just about listening to the rest of the world – it’s caring. Let’s just be clear on that. It’s about people who will die, women who will be raped, children who will be tortured.
“So, when we vote, we need to think of that. It’s not just about what people will say – it is about what they will suffer.”
But after years of tense dialogues and visiting war zones, Welby told the synod to proceed. Thus, the General Synod bishops, clergy and laity voted 250-181 to offer blessing rites for same-sex couples married by the state – while retaining church doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman.
“For the first time, the Church of England will publicly, unreservedly and joyfully welcome same-sex couples in church,” said Welby and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, in their Feb. 9 statement. Anglicans have “deep differences on these questions which go to the heart of our human identity.”
This move angered LGBTQ activists who said mere “blessings” were not enough, while leaders of giant Anglican churches in Africa and Asia also rejected the compromise.
Welby said he had little or no choice, when addressing a Feb. 12 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Accra, Ghana.
After the synod vote, he said, “I was summoned twice to Parliament and threatened with parliamentary action to force same-sex marriage on us, called in England ‘equal marriage.'”
As always, the question was whether changes in the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in America, the Anglican Church of Canada and other shrinking – but often wealthy – First World churches could change the shape of the 42-province Anglican Communion.
In Ghana, Welby said the institutions that guide the communion “must change with the times.” While the “role of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the See of Canterbury, is an historic one,” he said, “I will not cling to place or position. I hold it very lightly, provided that the other Instruments of Communion choose the new shape, that we are not dictated to by people, blackmailed, bribed to do what others want us to do, but that we act in good conscience before God seeking a judge that is not for our power, but exists for the new world with its extraordinary and terrifying threats.”
The next day, 12 leaders of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches – representing about 75% Anglicans who attend worship rites – agreed with part of Welby’s blunt assessment of the crisis.
While seeking to “keep the unity of the visible Church and the fabric of the Anglican Communion” the Global South leaders released a document stating that they could not share Holy Communion with “provinces that have departed from the historic faith and taken the path of false teaching.” Also, the fellowship said it would no longer recognize Welby as the “first among equals” among national-church Anglican leaders.
“With the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury forfeiting their leadership role,” they said, Anglicanism’s “orthodox” primates across the global communion will meet to “work out the shape and nature of our common life together” because “for us, and perhaps by his own reported self-exclusion, the present Archbishop of Canterbury is no longer the … Chair of the Primates’ Meeting by virtue of his position.”
Uganda Archbishop Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu stressed that there will be no Anglican compromise this time around.
“The only significant difference between a wedding and a service of ‘blessing’ is the terminology used,” he said, in a public statement. “The Church of England insists it is not changing its doctrine of marriage. But, in practice, they are doing precisely that. …
“But, what I want you to know is that if it looks like a wedding, and sounds like a wedding … it IS a wedding.”
“I spent a great deal of my time in the shadows, hiding. That is not a happy existence for anyone.”
Dr Numair Masud from Cardiff used to practise Islam but left his faith as he felt he could not express his sexuality but instead had to hide it.
But for David Williamson and Matthew Dicken, from Cwmbran their experience couldn’t be more different – they are looking forward to receiving a church blessing when they get married in May.
“Being same sex attracted and being a Christian are not mutually exclusive. They can co-exist,” according to David.
During LGBT+ History Month three gay men share their views on their respective faiths – a relationship that is historically complicated with views varying from person to person in diverse religions across the world.
‘You can be persecuted by law’
Raised in a Muslim family in Pakistan, Dr Masud found it “impossible” to express his sexuality there.
“It was an upbringing of repression and oppression,” said the 32-year-old.
“By virtue of being in love with the same sex, you can be persecuted by law. There was fear because you don’t want the truth to come out because it can harm you.”
In Pakistan homosexuality is illegal and punishable by possible life imprisonment.
Numair moved to the UK to start a degree in zoology in Bristol and then moved to Cardiff to study for his PhD.
Navigating his identity as a gay man he became critical of his relationship with Islam and decided to leave the faith.
When he fell in love with another man, Numair realised he could not and would not return to Pakistan.
In 2017 he claimed and was granted asylum in the UK and now lives in Cardiff working as a research scientist at Cardiff University.
“Perhaps the most important freedom of all that I discovered, was the freedom to be able to help others through learning from my own trials and tribulations, to be able to help others discover their own voice”, he said.
Numair is now an LGBTQ+ activist, helping others who struggle to reconcile their sexuality and religion.
He worries that there is a danger when faith informs potentially harmful views.
“You have a right to believe in what you want, but the moment your belief when acted upon harms me or anyone else or any other community, that is unacceptable”, he said.
He acknowledges his experiences are personal and there are LGBTQ+ Muslims who are able to continue practising their faith.
While some attitudes are changing towards LGBTQ+ people in Muslim communities he personally was unable to do this.
“It feels bittersweet, because I’ve had to give up a lot in my life to be where I am today. Saying goodbye to the people you love is not easy,” he reflects.
“The sweet element, the sense of joy comes from realising that I have the freedom to be myself and find love, to love and be loved without too much judgement here in Wales… I’m so thankful and grateful for that.”
While Numair struggled, for David and Matthew, their religion is at the heart of their relationship.
‘Celebrate our love’
In just under three months, Matthew, 34 and David, 46 will tie the knot in Cardiff’s City Hall.
But what the couple, who are members of the Church in Wales, are most excited for is a blessing at Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff.
It will be the first blessing of its kind at the 12th Century cathedral.
“People have worshipped on this site for over 1,000 years, so there’s something special about that and to be able to celebrate our love there,” headteacher Matthew said.
The couple who live in Cwmbran have been together for two years but met years earlier.
Matthew and David’s individual journeys with sexuality have been different and complicated at times.
“Growing up, I always knew I was same-sex attracted but that was something to keep hidden or not talk about,” said David, who now works as executive assistant to the Bishop of Llandaff.
“It took me until my 30s to accept that for myself, and then a journey to actually see I’m still a person of faith, and my relationship with God is fundamentally intrinsic to who I am,” he added.
“I’d love to be able to say that everyone’s accepting but that’s not my full experience,” said Matt.
“People have quoted little bits of scripture from out of context and that has happened to us.
“We’re not going to pretend it’s easy, but our understanding is based on the fundamental thing of love,” he said.
“Being same sex attracted and being a Christian are not mutually exclusive. They can co-exist,” David added.
The couple said there are “ways to conduct debate carefully”, and despite difficult conversations or upsetting remarks, they believe things are progressing.
“I think the Church in Wales are really trying to be inclusive, and that’s so important. Communities of faith are on their own journey as well,” Matt said.
“It’s difficult to try and forge a way forward and accepting and blessing something that’s different from what has been, for however many centuries.”
‘Celebrate love in all its variety’
In September 2021, the Church in Wales’ governing body voted in favour of offering blessings to gay marriages or civil partnerships. In theological terms, a blessing is God’s approval.
The first same-sex blessing was in November that year.
The blessing is currently being used experimentally for five years, but individual clergy can decide whether to bless partnerships.
Earlier this month, the Church of England backed proposals to allow same-sex blessings there, as is already granted in Wales, but the topic proved divisive.
An amendment to force a vote on changing the Church’s teaching and allowing gay couples to marry in Church was rejected during the eight-hour debate in the Church of England’s national assembly.
In Wales the law prohibits same-sex marriages by the Church in Wales.
In 2021, the Archbishop of Wales, The Most Rev Andrew John said same-sex weddings could be held in churches in Wales in five years and should “welcome people, where they are, who they are”.
Matthew agrees changing the rules on same-sex marriage in churches in Wales could mean inclusion for more people.
“It needs to move forward I believe to be more accepting and to celebrate love in all its variety. I think there is a sense of urgency, because you lose people, not only to a church building or congregation, you lose people to faith,” he said.
For now though, both Matthew and David cannot wait for their special day.
“To celebrate our love for each other and our love for God and wanting to seek God’s blessing on our relationship and to be able to do that publicly in a place of worship is just more than we ever thought would be possible.”
A video expressing support for same-sex parents and other non-traditional families by Bishop David O’Connell (69), who was shot dead in a Los Angeles suburb last Saturday, was cut from the World Meeting of Families promotional material.
In March 2018, six months before the World Meeting of Families took place in Dublin, it emerged words of his were cut from a video prepared to promote that event.
These words included: “Pope Francis, he gets it. He gets it that our society has changed so much in the last couple of generations. We have all sorts of configurations of families now, whether it’s just the traditional family of mum and dad together, or it’s now mum on her own or dad on his own, or a gay couple raising children, or people in second marriages. No matter what the configuration of the family is, the call is still to adults to think about how to provide the best, most loving, faithful environment for children possible.”
At the time a spokeswoman for the World Meeting of Families said: “The wrong version of the video for Parish Session 1 was inadvertently uploaded for a short time but the correct version is now in place.”
From Glanmire in Cork, Bishop O’Connell served in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles after his ordination in 1979 at Dublin’s All Hallows College. After many years ministry in some of the more disadvantaged parishes of south Los Angeles, he was named an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese in 2015.
The original Bishop O’Connell video attracted the attention of the US-based fundamentalist Catholic Church Militant website which said it “promotes the sin of homosexuality” in an article headed `Sodomy Supporters Hijack World Meeting of Families’.
Bishop O’Connell did not attend the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018, although he and a group of 45 people from the Los Angeles Archdiocese had been on pilgrimage in Ireland days before the event began in Dublin on August 25th that year.
Interviewed at the time, he did not comment on the censoring of his video, but did say Pope Francis faced “an impossible task” on his visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families because of the shadow cast by clerical child sex abuse scandals.
Reflecting on the visit to Ireland of Pope John Paul II in 1979, Bishop O’Connell said “we thought this would be a revival of the Catholic Church in Ireland, which even at that time we needed.
“Even though the faith and practice were very strong, among many of my peers, my generation was already turning away from the Catholic faith even in the 1970s. We were hoping for a revival, and we thought that there would be.”
He continued: “But then of course, there was scandal and the trust broke, and now we’ve had stories coming out for a whole generation. It’s given everybody who didn’t want to go to church anymore a reason to say, ‘I’m over with all that. It’s all hypocrisy, there’s too much child abuse, abuse of people’.”
For Pope Francis “to be able to deal with all these issues in 32 hours? Obviously, he can’t,” he said.
Fluent in Spanish, prior to becoming an auxiliary bishop he attracted much positive attention for his work with African Americans and Hispanic communities in addressing immigration, unemployment, and south Los Angeles’s history of gang violence.
At a At a press conference following his announcement as auxiliary bishop he said: “I can walk around the streets of South LA and have done so for many years, where there’s violence and shootings, and I don’t feel the slightest bit of anxiety. But I come in here today and I’m shaking in my boots.”
He was also a liberal in Catholic Church terms as far back as 2002 when in a Los Angles Times profile he said “women should be ordained and clergy should be able to marry.” On the issue of clerical abuse and its cover-up he said that “if there had been some parents in there running things, none of this would have ever happened”.
At the time of the 1992 Los Angeles riots in which over 60 people died following the brutal beating of Rodney King by police, then Fr O’Connell was in Washington DC giving evidence about violence in urban America to a committee of Congress. He returned to Los Angles to find widespread destruction in his parish. He and other local faith leaders held meetings with sheriffs and members of the LAPD in people’s homes to build trust. Violent deaths began to decrease.
In recent years he had been chairman of the Church’s Southern Californian Immigration Task Force which helped coordinate a response to the influx of migrants from Central America. He was also chair of chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
— The Archdiocese of Denver allegedly refused the four women wearing rainbow masks during Communion at All Souls Catholic Church. Recently, they clarified the issue through their spokesperson, Kelly Clark.
Kelly Clark, a spokesman for the Denver Archdiocese, told The Denver Post that nobody from All Souls was available to discuss the subject. She also stated that the Archdiocese will not give a statement in response to the claim, yet, she did mention in an email that “the most sacred thing we do as Catholics is celebrated Mass.”
According to Clark, the Mass is a time to worship God and not a time to seemingly make a statement or enter Mass to generate a response. It is appropriate for a priest to give a blessing instead of Communion if it appears that the person isn’t ready to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. If people believe that they were denied Communion in error, they strongly recommend they discuss the matter with the pastor of their parish, she added.
Story of the Four Women During Communion in Archdiocese of Denver
A report from Into stated that on Saturday, Feb. 11, the four close friends Sally Odenheimer, 71, Susan Doty, 81, Jill Moore, 64, and Cindy Grubenhoff, 48, went to the Mass held at All Souls Catholic Parish in Englewood. The priest gave a puzzled expression after taking one glimpse at the congregation’s rainbow face masks while they were lining up to take the Eucharist.
As mentioned, the four close friends wanted to show their support for local teacher Maggie Barton, who had been dismissed due to her sexual orientation, by wearing face masks. Barton was employed at All Souls Catholic School as a technology teacher until the Archdiocese of Denver got a photo of her kissing her partner. On Jan. 26, a day after Pope Francis condemned punitive actions for homosexuality, she was terminated from her position.
According to Advocate, even though none of them often goes to All Souls, Sally Odenheimer saw an opportunity to show her support for the educator. She organized a group of her friends to wear LGBTQ-affirming clothing and attend Mass at the church, where Barton was dismissed from her position. The women were taken aback when the priest refused to give them Communion. However, they did not make a fuss about it and simply continued with the Mass.
>As per Christianity Daily, the Archdiocese of Denver has a different stance on the issue. They claim that Barton’s dismissal resulted from her failure to abide by the commitments outlined in her contract with the school. The contract says that all Catholic school teachers are expected to live a Catholic lifestyle and refrain from engaging in behavior opposite to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Barton did not adhere to the commitments outlined in her contract with the school. Despite the provided explanation by the church, Barton continues to be firm in her opinion that she was fired due to discrimination in the LGBT community.