Blessings for same-sex couples?

— Going, going, gone…

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CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell asked Pope Francis on Sunday about the blessings for same-sex unions he seemed to sanctify last year.

In his latest explanation, the Pope said the church can only bless individual homosexuals. In other words, there is now and never was a blessing for same-sex unions!

Norah O’Donnell posed a straightforward question the the Catholic leader.

“Last year, you decided to allow Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples,” O’Donnell That’s a big change. Why?”

“No, what I allowed was not to bless the union. That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament. I cannot. The Lord made it that way. But to bless each person, yes. The blessing is for everyone. To bless a homosexual-type union, however, goes against the Church’s law. But to bless each person, why not? The blessing is for all.”

Why the subject ever arose then, who knows?

There was a widespread belief at the time that Francis supported the blessings of same-sex unions. The statement prompted celebration among same-sex Catholics at what they perceived as progress in the church. Meanwhile, conservative Catholics attacked the Pope openly for his perceived support of same-sex unions.

Responses to questions about blessings and same-sex unions have been ambiguous in the months since.

Francis continually criticizes conservative bishops, recently, for example, calling conservatism a suicidal attitude.

But he also regularly reminds everyone that same-sex unions go against Church law.

Which is the bit in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt have thy cake and eat it too?”

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis says U.S. conservatives have a “suicidal attitude”

Pope Francis being interviewed by CBS’ Norah O’Donnell on “60 Minutes.”

By Rebecca Falconer

Pope Francis responded to U.S. conservative bishops’ criticisms of his progressive shift to Roman Catholic Church doctrine in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” airing Sunday evening.

Details: The pope noted during the interview via a Spanish translator that the adjective “conservative” in such instances was “one who clings to something and does not want to see beyond that.”

  • He added: “It is a suicidal attitude. Because one thing is to take tradition into account, to consider situations from the past, but quite another is to be closed up inside a dogmatic box.”

Why it matters: Since being elected pope in 2013, Francis has advocated for progressive issues and moved to make the Catholic Church more welcoming to LGBTQ+ people while at the same time upholding its historical views on the sacrament of marriage — angering some conservatives in the process.

What he’s saying: During his CBS interview, Francis clarified his position on allowing priests to bless same-sex couples.

  • “What I allowed was not to bless the union,” the 87-year-old pontiff told CBS’ Norah O’Donnell. “That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament. … But to bless each person, yes. The blessing is for everyone,” he added.
  • “To bless a homosexual-type union, however, goes against the given right, against the law of the Church. But to bless each person, why not? The blessing is for all. Some people were scandalized by this. But why?”
  • O’Donnell noted that the pope had previously said that “homosexuality is not a crime,” to which Francis replied: “It is a human fact.”

Zoom in: The pope also criticized Texas officials’ efforts to shut down a Catholic charity that offers undocumented immigrants humanitarian assistance as part of a wider crackdown at the state’s border with Mexico.

  • “That is madness. Sheer madness. To close the border and leave them there, that is madness,” he said.
  • “The migrant has to be received. Thereafter you see how you are going to deal with him. Maybe you have to send him back, I don’t know, but each case ought to be considered humanely.”

On surrogacy, the pontiff said in the “strictest sense of the term” it is not authorized by Vatican doctrine.

  • But when O’Donnell noted sometimes this was the only hope for women, Francis replied: “It could be. The other hope is adoption.”
  • He said in each case the situation “should be carefully and clearly considered, consulting medically and then morally as well.”
  • The pope said he thinks there’s a general rule in these cases, “but you have to go into each case in particular to assess the situation, as long as the moral principle is not skirted.”
  • He then told O’Donnell she was right in her assertion. “I really liked your expression when you told me, ‘In some cases it is the only chance,'” he said. “It shows that you feel these things very deeply.”

Complete Article HERE!

Blocked last year for his views on sexuality, theologian gets green light to head academy

— While the Vatican never stated its objections to the Rev. Martin Lintner’s appointment, his writings on LGBTQ+ and queer issues were called into question.

The Rev. Martin Lintner

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Nearly a year after the Vatican blocked an Italian theologian’s candidacy to become the dean of an influential German and Italian academy due to his progressive writings on sexuality and gender, the Vatican finally approved of his appointment without comment, according to the theologian.

“The reasons why the decision was revised were not communicated,” said the Rev. Martin Lintner, in an email to RNS, adding that “the matter was clarified internally.”

“The important thing for me is that my publications are obviously not a stumbling block,” he said.

Bishop Ivo Muser of Bolzano-Bressanone, whose diocese includes the Philosophical-Theological College of Brixen/Bressanone, was notified of the Vatican’s approval shortly after Easter. Lintner is scheduled to begin his tenure as dean of the university on Sept. 1.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith denied Lintner’s appointment as dean at the school in the German-speaking region of northern Italy after the faculty elected him in November 2022.

Muser, who also oversees the university, took matters into his own hands after six months of silence from the Vatican about granting a nihil obstat, a church protocol whose Latin name means “nothing obstructs.” It is a necessary approval indicating that a theologian’s work does not constitute a breach with Catholic thought.

The nihil obstat is normally issued by the Vatican department for education, but the bishop was surprised to discover in January 2023 that the application had been halted by the Vatican’s Department for the Doctrine of the Faith, which ensures conformity with church teaching.

Lintner registered a complaint about a “lack of transparency,” given that the official reason for the denial was not communicated. “My bishop was told verbally by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith that my publications on questions of sexual morality would pose a problem,” Lintner said.

Lintner, of the Order of the Servants of Mary, or the Servites, has specialized in studies on animals and the environment, but also questions regarding sexuality and gender. He has called for reform of the church’s teaching on sexual morality, particularly regarding queer and transgender perspectives, saying that, instead of offering a list of “don’ts,” the church needs to engage with younger generations.

“I already had a conflict with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2012 after I published a book on sexual morality. These topics, and especially the theological and ethical discussion of gender studies, still seem to be difficult terrain,” Lintner said.

Lintner’s reflections might have been a red flag in some Vatican offices in themselves, but the denial of his appointment was also likely motivated by the Philosophical-Theological College of Brixen/Bressanone’s close relationship with the church in Germany, which is locked in a theological arm-wrestle with the Vatican over female inclusion in the church, outreach to LGBTQ+ faithful and lay leadership.

The church in Germany has recently concluded a set of discussions known as the Synodal Way, in which Catholic bishops and lay organizations considered challenges facing local churches. While bearing a similar name, it has no connection to Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality, a multi-year process of dialogue and engagement with catholic churches and lay faithful all over the world.

The tensions between the Vatican and the Synodal Path became apparent when the German church began blessing same-sex couples despite a Vatican declaration banning the practice. The appointment of Lintner, who supports the blessing of same-sex couples and works closely with German moral theologians, likely raised some concerns within the Vatican walls.

In a written statement after the Vatican’s refusal in 2023, Lintner wrote that the decision questioned the Vatican’s commitment to synodality and its promise to promote dialogue, transparency and welcoming.

In a speech at the Pontifical Theological Academy in Rome in November, Francis told a group of theologians that the church needed to embrace “a brave cultural revolution” and let go of “abstractly rehashing formulas and patterns from the past.”

In his email, Lintner said, “I have the impression that not all Vatican departments are happy about it. The reform of the Curia is also not met with approval everywhere in the Vatican.” He said that he believed Francis’ reform efforts have resulted in some hopeful change.

The flap over Lintner’s appointment came as Francis has reordered the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, appointing as its head Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, who in the past was denied a nihil obstat for his writings on sexuality and marriage. As a bishop, Francis helped him obtain the approval he needed from the Vatican, just as Muser lobbied for Lintner today.

Since his appointment in July 2023, Fernandez has issued decrees allowing for the blessing of same-sex couples under certain limitations and stating that trans faithful may be baptized and act as godparents. But he has also reinforced the church’s opposition to gender theory, surrogacy and sex-change operations.

For Lintner, criticizing Catholic teaching needs to take place with humility and fidelity to the church’s Magisterium, or traditional teaching. Opening up discussions in the field of theology is essential to the betterment of the church, he explained, while adding that as he prepares to take on his new role, he is looking forward to putting the past behind.

“When I criticize, it is in order to make a contribution to the further development of doctrine in constructive fidelity to tradition,” he said. “I am convinced that this has been recognized and positively appreciated in the educational dicastery.”

Complete Article HERE!

In year of our Lord 2024, teachers are still losing jobs for being gay

1 of 3 | Even the pope suggested it’s time to let gay couples live in peace. But another local Catholic outfit, St. Luke School in Shoreline, is ousting a lesbian teacher for the crime of getting engaged.

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Sometimes a news story seems so behind the times that I find myself double-checking the date. As if maybe it’s one of those items that’s still bouncing around the internet from another decade.

Such as: “Catholic school teacher tells parents she is being forced out because she is gay.”

You’re still at this, local Catholics? Still ousting gay employees, in the Seattle area, in 2024?

The news is indeed from this week, with the story that a kindergarten teacher at St. Luke School in Shoreline is not having her teaching contract renewed for next year because she’s gay and getting married.

“Father Brad does not approve of my upcoming marriage and feels it is best for the St. Luke community if I no longer teach at St. Luke,” the teacher, Karen Pala, said in an email to kindergarten parents. (A copy was forwarded to me by a parent.)

“Father Brad” refers to Brad Hagelin, the parish priest.

Fr. Brad Hagelin

“This news has been extremely difficult for me,” Pala went on. “I am a faithful practicing Catholic and I was ready to spend the next 30 years of my career at St. Luke.”

Predictably — because this is what happens every time local religious schools do this — many parents responded with anger. They said driving out the teacher is mean and discriminatory in spirit, even if it isn’t against the letter of the law. It reminds me of when Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien ousted two gay teachers in the middle of the 2019-20 school year for the crime of getting engaged — touching off schoolwide protests.

“It’s a real shock, because this isn’t what St. Luke’s represents to a lot of folks,” one current parent there, Nick Beyer, told me. “It’s a liberal, accepting place — or so we thought.”

“Has the diocese not learned from its history?” wondered Gary Johnson, a St. Luke’s alum, writing on a petition set up to protest the teacher’s ouster.

Added a “disheartened” Jennifer Keough, another St. Luke’s alum: “This type of action is what is driving people away from the Catholic Church.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Seattle said they couldn’t talk specifics about a personnel matter. In a statement, Archbishop Paul Etienne did some hemming to go along with some hawing:

“The reality is that we live in a tension,” he said. “After more than a year of study in 2020-2021, the covenant taskforce concluded that there is no clear, consensus for how to apply the covenant clause. … Because there isn’t a single defined answer, we must dialog like Jesus did. This is why the application of our covenant clause is handled at the local level…”

The covenant clause he’s referring to is whether Catholic schools should require teachers or other employees to adhere to a “lifestyle” contract, in which they’re expected to adhere to all church teachings, including in their personal lives. In some parishes, this means teachers can lose their jobs if they enter a same-sex marriage or cohabitate outside of marriage, among other things.

“No one is fired or non-renewed from employment due to their orientation, identity, desires, or ideas,” an archdiocese report on the issue summed up. “Rather, it is the breaking of the covenant through actions, public witness, and lifestyle choices.”

I think that means you can technically be gay, so long as the church feels it can look the other way. Getting married is a public act, with a license, so the teacher’s out.

It’s sort of like the old discredited “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Which even the military ended because it called on gay people to deny or hide their existences.

The church has a right to do this because religious groups are exempt from some parts of anti-discrimination policy. But is it the right thing to do? As the archbishop acknowledges above, the flock seems increasingly skeptical.

“This is a shameful hypocrisy and a contradiction to the message of love and tolerance that characterizes the Catholic faith,” wrote Forest Hoag, a Seattle U grad. “I am embarrassed to even hear about this.”

Beyer, who has a son at St. Luke, said it feels most tone-deaf coming right after the pope himself said it was OK to bless same-sex couples. That doesn’t mean the church endorses the marriages, let alone performs them. But the people involved are simply loving one another, the pope said. They don’t deserve to be punished.

“That’s the ultimate big boss saying it’s OK, that we should move past this,” Beyer said. “So shouldn’t it be OK in Seattle?”

This is what I wonder every time another gay employee is run out of a job in the name of religion, just for being.

Discrimination against gays and lesbians was banned here 18 years ago. Don’t ask, don’t tell ended 13 years ago. Same-sex marriage has been the law here for 12. Given all that progress, all those years ago, shouldn’t we be better than this by now?

Complete Article HERE!

Meet some of the NYC Catholics who want to change the Church

Kenneth Boller

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On a recent, sunny afternoon, 18 people gathered at a center for older adults in the West Village for a unique Sunday Mass.

The Rev. Anne Tropeano, an ordained female priest known as Father Anne, led the Catholic service. The homily, which was delivered by a layperson instead of a deacon or priest, criticized Pope Francis’ statements last month on transgender identity.

The cantor referred to God with female pronouns when singing. Communion was given to all willing participants, not just baptized Catholics.

The group, the Metro New York chapter of the national organization Call to Action, was hosting its first in-person meeting since 2019.

Call to Action has about 20,000 members nationwide. Its Metro New York Chapter, which has around 1,600 email subscribers, advocates for progressive politics within the Church locally. In New York, the group lobbied to pass the Child Victims Act, citing abuse by priests.

Although their Sunday Mass wouldn’t pass muster with the Vatican, it represents the kind of Catholic Church that Call to Action hopes to see one day: one that advocates for all marginalized people, openly welcomes gay and transgender parishioners, and encourages female leadership.

For supporters, this argument isn’t just moral, it’s also practical. As Catholic parishes continue to merge and shutter amid low attendance, progressive activists emphasize that broader inclusivity would be a win-win.

The Archdiocese of New York declined to comment on Call to Action, waning parish membership, and progressive practices at some Catholic churches in New York City, but said it generally does not exclude any demographic.

“All are welcome,” the archdiocese’s Director of Communications Joseph Zwilling wrote in an email. “The Church here in New York and around the world has sought to reach those who feel alienated or cut off from the faith, and will continue to do so.”

‘I’m exactly like a male priest, except I’m female’

Tropeano, 49, is a bit of a celebrity among progressive-minded Catholics. Call to Action Metro New York invited her to lead its annual meeting, even though she’s based in New Mexico. She made the most of the trip, speaking at Queens’ Ridgewood Presbyterian Church the same weekend.

Before Mass at the Call to Action meeting, her talk drew on the Easter season, using Christ’s resurrection as a metaphor for personal and social reform.

A woman priest poses in a black and white profile photo.
Father Anne

In an interview before the event, Tropeano said “an encounter with God” she had when she was 29 moved her to explore faith matters from New Age spirituality to Evangelical Christianity.

She earned her master’s degree in divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, in 2017, and watched from the sidelines as her male peers prepared to be ordained.

In 2021, she was ordained by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, a nonprofit movement focused on female ordination. Under Catholic canon law, any woman ordained as a priest is automatically excommunicated.

Tropeano pointed out that for a woman to become a priest, “it’s considered a crime as serious as the sexual abuse of a child by a male priest, but they’re not excommunicated.” (In those cases, canon law recommends “just penalties, not excluding” firing the offender from the clergy.)

“Being excommunicated means you can’t work for the Church, you can’t volunteer for the Church, you can’t receive any of the sacraments,” she said. “So I’m not allowed to receive the Eucharist. I won’t receive the Christian burial. I mean, I am so Catholic that I became a priest, and that’s how the institution treats me.”

Though she broke the Church’s laws by seeking ordination, Tropeano otherwise makes a point of respecting the institution. “So many people have terrible experiences in the institutional Church,” she said. “Mine was incredible. So I think that’s part of why I have a call within a call, which is Church reform. I see how good it can be when it’s operating with integrity.”

Unlike many other female priests within the women’s ordination movement, Tropeano wears the clerical collar, practices celibacy and leads her services by the book — with the exception that anyone can receive Communion.

“I’m exactly like a male priest, except I’m female,” she said. “That’s the only difference.”

Back at the center for older adults, the group silently reflected on Tropeano’s lecture before Mass. One woman sitting at the front wore a button in honor of the occasion. It read: “Ordain women or stop baptizing them.”

More than a ‘lavender mafia’

Among the crowd at the West Village event was Theo Swinford, a 26-year-old Borough Park resident who grew up devoutly Catholic near Phoenix, Arizona.

Swinford, who uses they/them pronouns, attended a Catholic university to study theology, where they read Catholic books and listened to Catholic music and podcasts in their free time. Swinford, who has been openly gay since 16, did their best at that time to make peace with the idea of lifelong celibacy and ignore their burgeoning nonbinary identity.

“I spent more and more time just kind of miserable, arguing with myself over whether or not it was realistic for me to live my life that way,” Swinford said in a phone interview. “The straw that broke the camel’s back was when the Pennsylvania grand jury report came out.”

A person poses by a fence
Theo Swinford, in Brooklyn.

That 2018 report, which detailed decades of abuse and coverups within the Catholic Church, found credible sex abuse allegations against 301 priests. Swinford expected their favorite scholars and pundits to pause and reflect on the Church’s wrongdoings. Instead, those people blamed homosexuality, and even referred to a “lavender mafia” at work within the Church.

Swinford took a break from Catholicism for nearly four years after that and explored other churches and religions. “But there was always something about Catholicism that really, like, tugged at me,” they said. “It’s just so much a part of who I am.”

Swinford is hardly alone. Groups including DignityUSA and Fortunate Families — as well as New York’s handful of gay-friendly parishes — demonstrate the persistent need for LGBTQ+ affirming Catholic spaces.

Although Swinford had not been to a Catholic Mass of any kind in years, they decided to attend the Call to Action event because of the group’s explicit pro-LGBTQ+ advocacy and their curiosity about Tropeano.

“The thing I’ve missed the most is not being able to receive the Eucharist,” Swinford said in an interview after the event. “And so getting to receive the Eucharist from a woman priest, who is an outcast in her own way, because she’s also not accepted by the Church, was a really powerful experience.”

Reforming Mass, just west of Union Square

Many members of Call to Action are also parishioners at the Church of St. Francis Xavier on West 15th Street, a Roman Catholic church known for its inclusivity.

Inside the Church of St. Francis Xavier, west of Union Square.

St. Francis Xavier, which the Rev. Kenneth Boller has led since 2019, has hosted robust groups for gay- and lesbian-identifying Catholics since the 1990s. A group called “The Women Who Stayed” has been working with clergy to adapt services and Scripture to include more gender-neutral language for God.

“Everybody has fundamental aspirations and rights, and you learn how to work together to achieve them,” said Boller, a Queens native who has been a priest for almost 49 years, in a phone interview.

A man poses inside a church
Kenneth Boller, at The Church of St. Francis Xavier, west of Union Square.

Although the Church of St. Francis Xavier is recognized by the archdiocese, it still has a reputation for unorthodoxy among many practicing Catholics. Swinford said peers once warned them to stay away from the parish, saying it was “not in line with Church teaching.”

Stephanie Samoy, 60, is a member of The Women Who Stayed and St. Francis Xavier’s lively Catholic Lesbians group. Samoy first attended the church in 2001, and she and her wife were married there. Samoy came out as a lesbian in Tucson, Arizona, during the 1980s, and said she never imagined she could feel so much love in a church.

“When I first got there, I just bawled,” she said in a phone interview. “It broke me and I was ready to be broken. My mom came to New York one day, and we went to Mass, and I was crying again that my mom was here and she could experience this.”

A banner that welcome immigrants and refugees hangs from a church wall.
The exterior of the Church of St. Francis Xavier, near Union Square.

But even at a church like St. Francis Xavier, progressive parishioners are always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Rosemarie Sauerzopf, 73, and her wife, Paula Acuti, 76, are also members of Catholic Lesbians, and Sauerzopf is vice president of Call to Action Metro New York. The two were married at St. Francis Xavier in 2004.

“All this can change tomorrow if we get a new pastor who’s not friendly,” Sauerzopf said. “My parish is an anomaly. It’s an oasis.”

Complete Article HERE!