Lay ‘reflection’ raises doctrinal, liturgical questions in Chicago archdiocese

Old St. Patrick’s Church, Chicago, Il.

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As the Archdiocese of Chicago calls for liturgical orthodoxy in its implementation of Traditiones custodes, at least one parish has permitted lay people to give a homiletic reflection, despite the Church’s requirements that a homily be given at Sunday Mass, and that homilies can be preached only by ordained ministers.

The Archdiocese of Chicago declined to comment on liturgical and doctrinal questions concerning a June 19 Mass at Chicago’s Old St. Patrick’s Church.

Instead of a homily after the Gospel, the celebrant invited two men to the ambo to offer a Father’s Day “Gospel reflection,” which the priest said was a custom in the parish.

The two men – identified as Alex Shingleton and Landon Duyka – described as “miracles” their same-sex civil marriage and the adoption of two daughters, comparing those moments to the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in the Gospel reading.

“This week Chicago is celebrating Pride, and today is Father’s Day, and conveniently we tick both of those boxes,” one of the men said, to laughter from the congregation.

“Let’s be honest, there are probably not too many gay dads speaking on Father’s Day at many Catholic Churches on the planet today.”

Canon law stipulates that a homily is “reserved to a priest or deacon” and “must be given at all Masses on Sundays and holy days of obligation which are celebrated with a congregation.”

While the parish did not refer to the men’s reflection as a homily, it came after the Gospel reading -when the homily usually takes place – and immediately ahead of a blessing for fathers, and then the recitation of the Creed.

During their reflection, the men said they had felt unwelcome at other Catholic churches over the years, but were impressed by St. Patrick’s message of “radical inclusivity.”

They recalled attending an LGBT meeting when they first came to the parish, at which they recalled a priest saying that “that while other Catholic churches and their leaders may be tone deaf, Old St. Pat’s has figured it out.”

“Today we had the Gospel where Jesus fed the masses from five loaves and two fishes – clearly a miracle. Something that is unexplainable, unexpected, and truly marvelous, where something that started small became a huge blessing,” Shingleton said.

“Well, our journey to fatherhood has been marked by a series of events that started small, but became huge blessings. And while they may not meet the strict definitions of miracles – meaning no one will be gaining sainthood here today – they are unexplainable, unexpected, and truly marvelous nonetheless.”

The men said that they discussed wanting children on their first date, in 2004.

“The first miracle of our story came in 2007, when gay marriage – which was then called civil union – became legal in the United Kingdom, which is where I’m from,” Shingleton said.

They described their adoption of two baby girls as additional miracles, given that they took place at a time when many states did not allow same-sex couples to adopt.

“The final miracle in our story is here – Old St. Pat’s,” Duyka said.

The pair has lived in many different cities, and experienced many different Catholic parishes, Duyka added. In many of these churches they felt unwelcomed, he continued, citing a homily that described gay marriage as sinful and parishioners who would not shake their hands during the Sign of Peace.

“We wanted to raise our children in the Catholic Church…” he said. “On the other hand, we didn’t want to expose our children to bigotry and have them feel any shame or intolerance about their family.”

The men said they felt affirmed at Old St. Patrick’s, where they have now been members for 10 years.

“On this Father’s Day, during Pride, we pray that if you are ever given the opportunity to stand up for families like ours, that you will do so,” Duyka said. “Because our voices are very strong, but they are not nearly loud enough without yours.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that people who identify as LGBT “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

In 2021, Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich urged Catholics to “redouble our efforts to be creative and resilient in finding ways to welcome and encourage all LGBTQ people in our family of faith.”

In the same year, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith confirmed that “it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage … as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

“The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan,” the CDF added, in a text approved by Pope Francis.

Nevertheless, the CDF in 2003 said it would be unjust for civil governments to develop a definition of marriage that includes same-sex relationships.

And in 2006, the U.S. bishops’ conference explained that “the Church does not support the adoption of children by same-sex couples, since homosexual unions are contrary to the divine plan.”

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal explains that “the homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to the deacon, but never to a lay person.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago was among the first U.S. dioceses to announce a comprehensive liturgical policy after the Congregation for Divine Worship issued instructions on the Extraordinary Form of the Mass last December. The instructions accompanied Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Traditionis custodes.

Citing an opportunity for the priests of the archdiocese to promote unity within the Church, Cardinal Blase Cupich banned the celebration of Mass in the ad orientem posture – facing east, away from the congregation – without permission.

Priests who have permission to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass must also celebrate the Novus ordo one Sunday a month, as well as on Christmas, Triduum, and Pentecost under the Chicago policy, and readings must be proclaimed in the vernacular at Latin Masses.

In a January 5 letter announcing new norms, Cupich urged Chicago priests “to faithfully adhere to the liturgical norms, so that as the Body of Christ, our worship of God may always enrich and never diminish the faith of our people.”

Citing Benedict XVI, the cardinal encouraged Masses “being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this missal.”

Complete Article HERE!

Pride, prejudice, and the Pope

Irish American Michael O’Loughlin understands how far gay Catholics have come, and how far we all still have to go before something like real progress is made.

June is widely known as Pride Month, an effort to acknowledge the obstacles that gays, lesbians, and many others have had to overcome in America.

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To a group that calls itself CatholicVote, well, that’s precisely the problem. They seem to believe that shame is so much better. This despite all the evidence to the contrary painfully provided by many — though not all — within the church this group claims to follow.

“A controversial conservative Catholic organization is urging parents to ‘Hide the Pride’ during Pride Month — by checking out any LBGTQ-related books they see at their local libraries so that no children will see them,” TheHill.com reported last week, adding that CatholicVote cites “recent polls” which show “American moms and dads do not want their children exposed to sexual and ‘trans’ content as part of their education.”

I don’t know whether to howl with rage or yawn at the sheer boredom of all this.

Well, to paraphrase George Carlin, if there are still any books left after certain folks have burned the ones that really bother them, you should check out the one Michael O’Loughlin recently wrote.

O’Loughlin, after all, understands how far gay Catholics — yes, you read that right, Catholic voters — have come. And how far we all still have to go before something like real progress is made.

“In many ways,” O’Loughlin told the Irish Voice, sister publication to IrishCentral, recently, “knowing all this history makes it easier to weather the current onslaught of bigotry. Because I have a better sense now of how others endured it, fought it, and overcame it.”

O’Loughlin’s book “Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear,” begins with a central conflict in not just his own life, but in that of so many other Irish Catholics, on both sides of the Atlantic.

“I am gay and I am Catholic,” O’Loughlin writes. “And I struggle continuously to reconcile those two parts of my identity.”

Such a noble yet rare thing to do these days. To work to try and bring something together, even as so many others are shouting and ranting and raging. Or just walking away and bitterly giving up.

The folks at CatholicVote may not be impressed. But a fellow in the Vatican sure was.

Late last year, O’Loughlin wrote an op-ed essay in The New York Times, explaining that his extensive talks with people trying to reconcile their faith and sexuality — “the fellowship, gratitude and moments of revelation we exchanged…had a profound effect on my own faith.”

In fact, O’Loughlin, whose grandfather came to the US from Tuam, Co Galway, decided to write a letter to Pope Francis.

“To my surprise, he wrote back,” O’Loughlin writes.

Pope Francis responded, in part, “Thank you for shining a light on the lives and bearing witness to the many priests, religious sisters and lay people, who opted to accompany, support and help their brothers and sisters who were sick from HIV and AIDS at great risk to their profession and reputation.”

O’Loughlin had to admit that the Pope’s “words offer me encouragement that dialogue is possible between LGBT Catholics and church leaders, even at the highest levels.”

So, along the same lines, on June 24 and 25, Outreach 2022 will take place at Fordham University in New York City.

While the CatholicVote folks are content to divide in the hopes of conquering well, something, folks like Father James Martin, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, will gather to discuss what Catholics and the LGBTQ community have in common. They will work to make the world a better, not more hostile, place.

This should not be shocking.

Sadly, this is still kind of a big deal.

Either way, all involved should be very proud.

Complete Article HERE!

School flying BLM, LGBTQ flags can’t call itself Catholic, bishop says

FILE UNDER: Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure

An LGBTQ pride flag and a Black Lives Matter flag fly alongside the American flag above Nativity School of Worcester in Worcester, Mass.

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The stark, dual-colored letters of the Black Lives Matter flag and the bright rainbow stripes of the Pride flag had flown above the Massachusetts Catholic school for more than a year before the local bishop registered his opposition.

The Black Lives Matter flag, Bishop Robert McManus said in April, has been “co-opted by some factions which also instill broad-brush distrust of police.” And the LGBTQ flag could be used to contrast church teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman, he added.

When Nativity School of Worcester didn’t budge, McManus issued a severe ruling. The tuition-free middle school, which serves boys facing economic hardship, can no longer identify itself as Catholic because the flags are “inconsistent with Catholic teaching,” he declared Thursday.

“The flying of these flags in front of a Catholic school sends a mixed, confusing and scandalous message to the public about the Church’s stance on these important moral and social issues,” McManus wrote. “Despite my insistence that the school administration remove these flags because of the confusion and the properly theological scandal that they do and can promote, they refuse to do so.”

That defiance, McManus said, left him no other choice but to strip the Jesuit-run school of its Catholic affiliation. The school also can no longer celebrate Mass or the sacraments or use diocesan institutions to raise funds. It was not included Thursday in the diocese’s list of Catholic schools in its region.

The decision, which comes during Pride Month, appears to be a rare instance of a Catholic organization’s affiliation with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” becoming a flash point with its diocese. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken a nuanced approach to the phrase, endorsing the concept of racial justice but not necessarily the organizations that attach themselves to that message. The Black Lives Matter movement describes itself as aimed at eradicating White supremacy and interrupting violence against Black communities.

Nativity School said its use of the Black Lives Matter and Pride flags was a response to a call from its students, most of whom are people of color, to make their community more inclusive. The flags symbolize that all are welcome at Nativity, the school’s president said Thursday.

“Both flags are now widely understood to celebrate the human dignity of our relatives, friends and neighbors who have faced, and continue to face hate and discrimination,” Thomas McKenney wrote. “Though any symbol or flag can be co-opted by political groups or organizations, flying our flags is not an endorsement of any organization or ideology, they fly in support of marginalized people.”

The bishop disagrees. The Pride flag represents support for same-sex marriage and “a LGBTQ+ lifestyle,” he said. And while the church teaches that all lives are sacred, McManus said the Black Lives Matter movement has used that phrase to contradict Catholic teaching on the importance of the nuclear family. (Black Lives Matter previously said on its website that it aims to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families.” The page was later taken offline.)

Bishop McManus

Nativity said it will appeal the bishop’s decision — but it has no plans to remove the flags, which it said show its commitment to solidarity with its students and families. McKenney said the administrators’ decision was informed by the Gospel, Catholic social teaching and the school’s Jesuit heritage.

The outcome follows months of dialogue between the school and the Diocese of Worcester. Around the same time that McManus took issue with the flags in March, a person tore down both flags, the school said. Two months later, the bishop warned the school that it would lose its Catholic label if it did not remove the displays.

Nativity School isn’t the only educational institution to be stripped of its “Catholic” label. In 2019, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis told Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School that it could no longer identify itself as Catholic after it refused to fire a teacher who was in a same-sex marriage. The Midwest Province of Jesuits said it would appeal the decision through a church process.

To Guillermo Creamer Jr., an openly gay alumnus of Nativity School, the flags symbolize that Nativity is inclusive of Black lives — a message he said is crucial at a school with primarily Black and Latino students.

“For these young men who are witnessing what’s happening around the country and seeing the Black Lives Matter flag fly, it’s a very big deal,” he said.

Creamer, 27, said he expects the bishop’s decision to prompt other Catholic schools that align themselves with Black Lives Matter or pro-LGBTQ messages in some way to question whether that’s acceptable. But he said that may not be entirely bad if it encourages Catholics to talk honestly about whether and how these causes fit into their faith.

In his letter to the community, McKenney reminded parents that Nativity School is funded by individuals and groups — not by the diocese — and that it would continue to operate as usual.

Outside the school building, he noted, the flags still fly.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope says traditionalist Catholics “gag” church reforms

Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Regina Coeli noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday June 12, 2022.

By Associated Press

Pope Francis has complained that traditionalist Catholics, particularly in the United States, are “gagging” the church’s modernizing reforms and insisted that there was no turning back.

Francis told a gathering of Jesuit editors in comments published Tuesday that he was convinced that some Catholics simply have never accepted the Second Vatican Council, the meetings of the 1960s that led to Mass being celebrated in the vernacular rather than Latin and revolutionized the church’s relations with people of other faiths, among other things.

“The number of groups of ‘restorers’ – for example, in the United States there are many – is significant,” Francis told the editors, according to excerpts published by the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica.

“Restorationism has come to gag the council,” he said, adding that he knew some priests for whom the 16th century Council of Trent was more memorable than the 20th century Vatican II.

Traditionalists have become some of Francis’ fiercest critics, accusing him of heresy for his opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, outreach to gay Catholics and other reforms. Francis has taken an increasingly hard line against them, re-imposing restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass and taking specific action in dioceses and religious orders where traditionalists have resisted his reforms.

Just last week, in a meeting with Sicilian clergy, Francis told the priests that it wasn’t always appropriate to use “grandma’s lace” in their vestments and to update their liturgical garb to be in touch with current times and follow in the spirit of Vatican II.

“It is also true that it takes a century for a council to take root. We still have forty years to make it take root, then!” he told the editors.

Speaking about the church in Germany, Francis also warned that he still had an offer of resignation in hand for the archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who faced strong criticism for his handling of the church’s sexual abuse scandal.

Francis gave Woelki a “time out” of several months last September, but still hasn’t definitively ruled on his future. That has kept the situation in Cologne uncertain and frustrated the head of the German bishops’ conference, who has pressed for a decision one way or the other.

“When the situation was very turbulent, I asked the archbishop to go away for six months, so that things would calm down and I could see clearly,” Francis said. “When he came back, I asked him to write a resignation letter. He did and gave it to me. And he wrote an apology letter to the diocese. I left him in his place to see what would happen, but I have his resignation in hand.”

#ChurchToo revelations growing, years after movement began

FILE – Dresses donated by sexual assault survivors from Amish and other plain-dressing religious groups hang on a clothesline beneath a description of each survivors’ age and church affiliation, on Friday, April 29, 2022, in Leola, Pa. The exhibit’s purpose was to show that sexual assault is a reality among children and adults in such groups. Similar exhibits held nationwide aim to shatter the myth that abuse is caused by a victim’s clothing choice.

By Peter Smith and Holly Meyer

A withering report on sexual abuse and cover-up in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.

A viral video in which a woman confronts her pastor at an independent Christian church for sexually preying on her when she was a teen.

A TV documentary exposing sex abuse of children in Amish and Mennonite communities.

You might call it #ChurchToo 2.0.

Survivors of sexual assault in church settings and their advocates have been calling on churches for years to admit the extent of abuse in their midst and to implement reforms. In 2017 that movement acquired the hashtag #ChurchToo, derived from the wider #MeToo movement, which called out sexual predators in many sectors of society.

In recent weeks #ChurchToo has seen an especially intense set of revelations across denominations and ministries, reaching vast audiences in headlines and on screen with a message that activists have long struggled to get across.

“For us it’s just confirmation of what we’ve been saying all these years,” said Jimmy Hinton, an advocate for abuse survivors and a Church of Christ minister in Somerset, Pennsylvania. “There is an absolute epidemic of abuse in the church, in religious spaces.”

Calls for reform will be prominent this week in Anaheim, California, when the Southern Baptist Convention holds its annual meeting following an outside report that concluded its leaders mishandled abuse cases and stonewalled victims.

The May 22 report came out the same day an independent church in Indiana was facing its own reckoning.

Moments after its pastor, John B. Lowe II, confessed to years of “adultery,” longtime member Bobi Gephart took the microphone to tell the rest of the story: She was just 16 when it started, she said.

The video of the confrontation has drawn nearly 1 million views on Facebook. Lowe subsequently resigned from New Life Christian Church & World Outreach in Warsaw.

In an interview, Gephart said she’s not surprised that so many cases are now coming out. She has received words of encouragement from all over the world, with people sharing their own “heartbreaking” stories of abuse.

“Things are shaking loose,” Gephart said. “I really feel like God is trying to make things right.”

For many churches, she said, “It’s all about covering up, ‘Let’s keep the show going.’ There are hurting people, and that’s not right. I still don’t think a lot of the church gets it.”

Hinton — who turned in his own father, a former minister now imprisoned for aggravated indecent assault — said the viral video demonstrates the potency of survivors telling their own stories.

“Survivors have far more power than they ever think imaginable,” he said on his “Speaking Out on Sex Abuse” podcast.

#ChurchToo revelations have emerged in all kinds of church groups, including liberal denominations that preach gender equality and depict clergy sexual misconduct as an abuse of power. The Episcopal Church aired stories from survivors at its 2018 General Convention, and an archbishop in the Anglican Church of Canada resigned in April amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

But many recent reckonings are occurring in conservative Protestant settings where a “purity culture” has been prominent in recent decades — emphasizing male authority and female modesty and discouraging dating in favor of traditional courtship leading to marriage.

On May 25 reality TV personality Josh Duggar was sentenced in Arkansas to more than 12 years in prison for receiving child pornography. Duggar was a former lobbyist for a conservative Christian organization and appeared on TLC’s since-canceled “19 Kids and Counting,” featuring a homeschooling family that stressed chastity and traditional courtship. Prosecutors said Duggar had a “deep-seated, pervasive and violent sexual interest in children.”

On May 26 the Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader reported on a spate of sex abuse cases involving workers at Kanakuk Kamps, a large evangelical camp ministry

Emily Joy Allison, whose abuse story launched the #ChurchToo movement, said the sexual ethic preached in many conservative churches — and the shame and silence it breeds — are part of the problem. She argues that in her book, “#ChurchToo: How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse and How to Find Healing.”

Allison told The Associated Press that addressing abuse requires both a change in church policy and theology. But she knows the latter is unlikely in the SBC.

“They need to undergo a transformation so radical they would be unrecognizable at the end. And that will not happen,” Allison said. Reform work focused on “harm reduction” is a more realistic approach, she said.

Some advocates hope the front-burner focus on abuse could lead to lasting reforms — if not in churches, then in the law.

Misty Griffin, an advocate for fellow survivors of sexual assault in Amish communities, recently launched a petition drive seeking a congressional “Child’s Rights Act.” As of early June, it had drawn more than 5,000 signatures.

It would require that all teachers, including those in religious schools and homeschool settings, be trained about child abuse and neglect and subject to reporting mandates, and would also require age-appropriate instruction on abuse prevention for students. Griffin said such legislation is crucial because in authoritarian religious systems, victims often don’t know help is available or how to get it.

“Without that, nothing’s going to change,” said Griffin, a consulting producer on the documentary “Sins of the Amish.”

The two-episode documentary, which premiered on Peacock TV in May, examines endemic abuse in Amish and Mennonite communities, saying it is enabled by a patriarchal authority structure, an emphasis on forgiving offenders and reluctance to report wrongdoing to law enforcement.

The Southern Baptist Convention, whose doctrine also calls for male leadership in churches and families, has been particularly shaken by the #ChurchToo movement after years of complaints that leadership has failed to care for survivors and hold their abusers accountable.

At its annual meeting, the SBC will consider proposals to create a task force that would oversee a listing of clergy credibly accused of abuse. But survivors criticized that proposal and are calling for a more powerful and independent commission to perform that task and also review allegations of abuse and cover-up. They’re also seeking a “survivor restoration fund” and memorial dedicated to survivors.

Momentum for change grew as survivors such as Jules Woodson, who went public in 2018 with a sexual assault accusation against her former youth pastor, were emboldened to tell their stories.

“I felt like, ‘Thank God there’s a space where we can tell these stories,’” Woodson said.

Such accounts led to the independent investigation, whose 288-page report detailed how the SBC’s Executive Committee prioritized protecting the institution over victims’ well-being and preventing abuse

The committee has apologized and made public a long-secret list of ministers accused of abuse.

Woodson said seeing her abuser’s name on it felt like a double-edged sword.

“It was in some ways validating that my abuser was on there, but it was also devastating to see that they knew and yet nobody in the SBC spoke up to warn others,” she said.

Woodson added that she is still waiting for meaningful change: “They have offered minimal words acknowledging the problem, but they have offered zero reform and true action which would show genuine repentance or care and concern for survivors or the vulnerable people who have yet to be abused.”

Complete Article HERE!