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!

Patriarchy and purity culture combine to silence women in the Southern Baptist Convention

— And are blocking efforts to address the sexual abuse scandal

A woman describes being abused sexually by a Southern Baptist minister, outside the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June 2019, in Birmingham, Ala.

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A devastating yearlong investigation into the executive committee of the largest conservative evangelical denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, has documented widespread claims of sex abuse including accusations of rape, cover-ups and gross mistreatment of women seeking justice.

In 2019 the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News partnered on a series of investigative reports on sexual misconduct by Southern Baptists with formal church roles. Subsequently, the annual meeting of the SBC held in June 2021 voted to authorize an investigations firm, Guidepost Solutions, to conduct an independent probe of its executive committee and its handling of sex abuse. The report and the list of alleged offenders has recently been made public.

I am a scholar of evangelicalism, gender and American culture, and over several years of my research I have seen how deeply ingrained aspects of conservative white evangelicalism force women to stay silent. In researching my two books, “Evangelical Christian Women” and “Building God’s Kingdom,” I found how structures of patriarchy force women to stay silent.

These deeply ingrained aspects of conservative white evangelicalism include “complementarianism,” or the patriarchal view that God gives authority to men and requires submission from women, and purity culture, an extreme version of sexual abstinence.

Purity culture

The SBC’s “True Love Waits,” a premarital abstinence campaign for teens launched in 1992, was an important component of the rise of purity culture. It was best known for the purity rings that girls wore as part of a pledge to their virginity to God and family.

More than merely the value of forgoing sex until marriage, purity culture centers sexual purity as a primary measure of the value of young women, who need to remain “pure” to attract a godly man in marriage. Sex education is virtually nonexistent, and dating is traded for “courtship” leading to marriage, under the authority of the girl’s father.

As author Linda Kay Klein writes in her book “Pure,” women are taught that they are responsible not only for their own purity, but for the purity of the males around them. Women are also made to believe that they are responsible if men are led to sin by what women wear. Additionally, they can be blamed for being inadequately submissive and for speaking up when they should be quiet. Women raised with these teachings also report experiencing tremendous fear and shame around issues of gender, sex and marriage.

The rhetoric of purity culture can be traced directly to the racist origins of the Southern Baptist Convention. The defense of slavery was the very foundation upon which the denomination was built, and the protection of the “purity of white womanhood” was a the justification for the perpetuation of white supremacy that outlived slavery.

How survivors described the abuse

Credibly accused men were protected by the SBC, while the women who dared to speak up were called sluts, adulteresses, Jezebels and even agents of Satan. For example, the report details the story of one woman whose abuse was mischaracterized by the SBC’s Baptist Press as a consensual affair and she was harassed online and called an adulteress. She ultimately lost her job at a Southern Baptist organization.

The report, which the former SBC leader Russell Moore calls “apocalyptic,” details harassment, insults and attacks on social media, some of which came from Baptist leaders to whom the women had been taught God required them to revere and submit. For example, the executive staff member at the center of handling abuse accusations, Augie Boto, characterized the survivors seeking justice as doing the work of Satan.

Survivor after survivor described their treatment at the hands of their own leaders as worse than their initial assaults. One survivor told investigators that when she provided details of her sexual abuse as a child among other things, one Executive Committee (EC) member “turn(ed) his back to her while she was speaking … and another EC member chortl(ed).”

“I ask you to try to imagine what it’s like to speak about something so painful to a room in which men disrespect you in such a way. … to speak about this horrific trauma of having my pastor repeatedly rape me as a child, only to have religious leaders behave in this way,” she said.

Shaming and silencing women

A woman wearing a blue shirt speaking at a microphone, with a poster by her side that says 'I can call it evil because I know what goodness is.'
Rape survivor and abuse victim advocate Mary DeMuth speaks during a rally protesting the Southern Baptist Convention’s treatment of women outside the convention’s annual meeting in Dallas in June 2019.

When victims are permitted to tell their stories to people in authority, it is likely to be an all-male committee including perhaps friends of the accused.

In such a hearing women – who because of purity culture practices have often been taught to always be modest and quiet in mixed company and may have had little to no sex education – are asked to detail what they often say is the most painful experience of their lives. Purity culture creates in women a strong sense of shame surrounding their bodies, their own sexuality, and sex in general. When they exhibit evidence of that shame it is taken as an admission that they share responsibility for the abuse.

Like their forebears before them who mobilized the mythic purity of white womanhood to shore up their power, today’s leaders at the center of this report remain male and overwhelmingly white. They use the language of purity culture to shame and silence women seeking justice while, at the same time, leading the charge in the fight against coming to terms with racism.

Can there be real reform?

The chairman of the SBC executive committee, Rolland Slade, and interim President and CEO Willie McLaurin said in a statement, in response to the report: “We are grieved by the findings of this investigation. We are committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches, to improve our response and our care, to remove reporting roadblocks.” Other Baptists too have expressed shock and anger at the revelations.

The Guidepost Solutions report concludes with a series of strategies such as forming an independent committee to oversee reforms, including providing resources for prevention and reporting of abuse. As helpful as these strategies may be, they don’t address how the underlying culture of the SBC continues to maintain the structures of white patriarchy.

Complete Article HERE!

#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!

Spanish Church to mull optional celibacy and women priests

Spanish Catholics want Rome to consider talks on the future of the priesthood including optional celibacy, the ordination of women, and also of married men.

Spanish priests celebrate a mass at the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona.

Spanish Catholics want Rome to consider talks on the future of the priesthood including optional celibacy, the ordination of women and also of married men, a key document showed Saturday.

The document, a copy of which was seen by AFP, was unveiled by the CEE Episcopal Conference that groups Spain’s leading bishops at a 600-strong gathering in Madrid.

It was drawn up after months of consultation with more than 215,000 people, mostly lay people but also priests and bishops, with the proposals to be condensed into a final document that will be presented to next year’s Bishops in Synod assembly at the Vatican.

In it, they stress “the need to discern in greater depth about the question of optional celibacy for priests and the ordination of married people; to a lesser extent, the issue of the ordination of women has also arisen,” it said, while noting such issues were raised only in certain dioceses.

“There is a clear request that, as a Church, we hold dialogue about these issues… to be able to offer a more holistic approach to our society,” it said. It also stressed the need to “rethink the role of women in the Church” to
give them “greater leadership and responsibility” notably in places “where decisions are made”.

There was also “a need for greater care” for those who have been divorced or remarried or with an alternative sexual orientation. “We feel that, as a Church… we must welcome and accompany each person in their specific situation,” it said.

The document was unveiled just months after lawmakers approved Spain’s first official probe into child sex abuse within the Catholic Church through an expert independent committee.

The Church itself also took its first steps earlier this year towards addressing alleged abuse by clergy by engaging lawyers to conduct a year-long investigation that will take cues from similar probes in France and Germany.

Complete Article HERE!

With bishops like these, it’s hard to be Catholic

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone leading a service in San Francisco. His stance against Nancy Pelosi will alienate others who are tired of U.S. clerics’ rigidity.

By Jackie Calmes

To flip the famed line from “The Godfather Part III,” just when I think I might return to the Catholic Church, they pull me back out.

“They” are the church’s archbishops and bishops, in particular those in the United States, who not only advocate for the church’s teachings against gay rights, contraception and abortion, which is their right, but also repeatedly enforce them in ways that often seem un-Christian and downright wicked. All the while, the church’s pedophilia scandal persists into a third decade because of the clerics’ coverups.

What would Jesus do? Not act like these guys.

On Monday, two weeks after the archbishop of San Francisco, the archconservative Salvatore Cordileone, ordered that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights, leaders of the Colorado Catholic Conference sent an open letter condemning state lawmakers who’d voted for an abortion-rights bill.

The Denver archbishop and three bishops admonished the lawmakers not to take Communion until they performed “public repentance” and confessed their sins to a priest. In contrast, they praised four Republican legislators who opposed the bill. Increasingly, church leaders overtly ally with the Republican Party, despite its general hostility to policies beneficial to needy people once they’re born, to immigrants and to those on death row.

The clerics’ “pro-life” actions in California and Colorado came even as Americans were reeling from news of one mass shooting and then another, including the massacre of fourth-graders. Four bishops wrote a letter to Congress calling for “reasonable gun control measures,” but where’s the muscle and outrage comparable to that against abortion rights?

Seven months ago, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on the sacrament of Communion that stopped short of singling out the pro-choice President Biden for sanction, but only after much debate. While conservative bishops are often critical of the progressive pope, uncommonly so, Biden had just enjoyed a warm meeting with Pope Francis, who blessed the rosary the president routinely carries and urged him to keep taking Communion.

As Francis says, the Communion wafer that Catholics believe incorporates the body of Christ “is not a prize for the perfect.”

With the Supreme Court expected to soon issue a decision overturning abortion rights after a half-century, the divide between Catholic bishops and most rank-and-file church members is likely to widen. A majority of the justices, five, are conservative anti-abortion Catholics.

The U.S. church hierarchy isn’t exactly playing single-issue politics. Opposing gay rights as well as contraception also remain the bishops’ preoccupations, at the expense of attention to poverty, social and racial justice, and nonviolence. Those latter issues are the ones that “my” church emphasized during my first 18 years, including 12 years in Catholic schools. Then came Roe vs. Wade in 1973, and the peace-loving church turned culture warrior.

I recall Masses during which the priests directed us church-goers to use the small pencils and postcards provided in the pews to petition lawmakers against abortion. There were parish convoys to Washington to protest on the anniversary of Roe. And there were the periodic sermons, including one so graphic when I listened from the front pew with my preteen daughters that I switched parishes — and took another step in my walk away from the church.

Yet from early on, even as I accepted the church’s teachings and its authority to preach them, I privately questioned why those positions should bind the state, public officials (including the Catholics among them) and citizens of other faiths.

Again to quote Francis, speaking in this instance about LGBTQ people, “Who am I to judge?”

I’m hardly alone in my estrangement from the church. While Catholicism remains the nation’s largest religious denomination, the church has declined in membership from about a quarter of the U.S. population to roughly one-fifth. Polls consistently show that the hardline positions of so many bishops are anathema to most of their so-called flock.

The bishops may be known as shepherds, but we’re no sheep. A poll of Catholics in mid-May from the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 63% of Catholic adults said abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 68% said Roe should stand. Both percentages are in line with the views of the overall U.S. public.

Two-thirds of Catholic adults said Catholic politicians who are pro-abortion rights should not be denied Communion, and even more — 77% — said that Catholics who identify as LGBTQ should be allowed to receive Communion.

Still, a Catholic diocese in Michigan recently said its pastors should deny the sacraments, including baptism and Communion, to transgender, gay and nonbinary Catholics “unless the person has repented.” That’s rich coming from “leaders” of a church in which a disproportionate number of priests are gay.

Thank God, literally, for the dissenters like Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, who recently said that “protecting the Earth, our common home, or making food, water, shelter, education and healthcare accessible, or defense against gun violence… these are life issues too.”

It’s priests like him, and the sentiments they espouse, that entice me to return to the church. Yet there are just too few like him among the men in charge. The self-righteous Cordileones are setting the tone, in religion and politics. And they keep pulling me back out.

Complete Article HERE!