Pope Francis’ F-word exposes Catholic Church

By The Rev. Irene Monroe

Pope Francis sent global shock waves when the news broke that he used the highly offensive F-word “frociaggine,” meaning “faggotness” in Italian. In a closed-door conversation at the Italian Bishops’ Conference in May, a discussion about whether to admit gay seminarians in preparation for the priesthood, the pontiff replied, “There is too much frociaggine in seminaries.”

The news of Francis using this particular homophobic and eyebrow-raising epithet hurt deeply many out-and-proud Catholic LGBTQ+ people hoping for full inclusion and acceptance by Pope Francis. “I imagine people like me are eating their optimistic words,” Nina Girgenti of Boston told me. But Nina’s optimism was not unfounded.

During the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor in Torvaianica, a run-down seaside town just 20 miles south of Rome, a community of transwomen, many of who are sex workers, received VIP seats as Pope Francis’ guests at the monthly lunch gatherings. Francis called for the decriminalization of homosexuality, lauded by LGBTQ+ advocates as a milestone that would help end harassment and violence against us, despite the pontiff still stating publicly that homosexual acts are a sin – though not a crime. During World Youth Day, Francis announced that the Church was for everyone. “There is space for everyone, and when there isn’t, please, let’s work so that there is. “ The Vatican also agreed to baptize transgender Catholics and allow them to be godparents.

The pope’s PR machine has come out with many incredulity-provoking excuses and tepid apologies for his gaffe. But this faux pas suggests “even if intended as a joke, the pope’s comment reveals the depth of anti-gay bias and institutional discrimination that still exist in our church,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said in a press release in solidarity with gay priests.

Church needs its gay priests

“The truth is that the church simply could not function without those countless gay priests, bishops and maybe even popes who currently serve and have served over the centuries,” Duddy-Burke said. I agree. The reality here is that the Catholic Church is a gay institution. And that is not a bad thing!

The homosocial and homosexual milieux of gay priests have been part of the life and operations of the Vatican and Catholic Church for centuries. Their strength to come out now as a formidable force within the hallowed walls of the Vatican is laudable on the one hand and a liability on the other hand – especially in terms of casting a gay suspicion on all priests as well as the potential to expose priests who want to remain in the closet.

“If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented, the number would be so staggering that it would be like an atomic bomb; it would do damage to the church’s operation,” said the late Richard Sipe, a former priest and psychotherapist who has been studying the sexuality of priests for decades. Sipe points out that to do away with gay priests “would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world.”

The problem in the Catholic Church is not its gay priests, and its solution to the problem is not the removal of them. Years of homophobic church doctrine have made the Church unsafe for us all and have created a down-low culture.

Eugene Kennedy, a specialist on sexuality and the priesthood and a former priest, wrote in his book, “The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality,” that the Catholic Church “had always had gay priests, and they have often been models of what priests should be. To say that these men should be kept from the priesthood is in itself a challenge to the grace of God and an insult to them and the people they serve.”

Can we trust Pope Francis?

Once again, Francis is rocking the world and continuing to command attention with his liberal-leaning pronouncements. But the pontiff is a complicated, if not confusing, figure to LGBTQ+ people. On the surface, Francis displays a pastoral countenance to his papacy that seemingly extends to our community.

In 2013, responding to a question about a possible “gay lobby” in the Vatican, Francis said, “If they accept the lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?” Supporters and activists of the “gay lobby” in the Curia state emphatically that this brave and visible group is essential to the running of the Vatican as well as protecting themselves from the Church’s hypocrisy in scapegoating them for many of the social ills of the Church.

But Pope Francis is the consummate flip-flopper of our time. He doublespeaks on issues. He embraces the LGBTQ+ community, then he doesn’t. His pastoral demeanor cloaks the ironfisted church bureaucrat that he is. It’s not enough for Francis to say he embraces our community – privately or publicly. He must also do it.

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!

Queer Redemption

— How queerness changes everything we thought we knew about Christianity by Charlie Bell

More history would help an ambitious project

By Adrian Thatcher

CHARLIE BELL is at his exasperated best when he claims for LGBTIQ people: “We have spent far too long being apologetic, . . . playing with exhausted material and not nearly enough time listening to the reality of queer lives within the church.” Queer people are holy and gifted. The Church needs them badly. It should stop debating whether they might be grudgingly accepted as honorary heterosexuals, and allow queer experiences of God to resonate throughout the Church, bringing renewal to the Church’s understanding of — well, everything: faith, doctrine, ecclesiology, and ethics, especially the doctrine of (heterosexual) marriage.

So far, so good. All this needs to be said. But Christians gay and straight may wonder whether the book gets very far in achieving its aims. The sub-title (. . . everything we thought we knew . . .) signals a vast undertaking. Anglicans have recently neglected the entire topic of doctrinal and moral change and how it comes about. There is little here to address this hiatus. There is much assertion (and repetition) in the book, but little theology or history.

Drawing more on these would provide a firmer place from which Bell’s many just critiques of theological and institutional conservatism in the Church of England could tellingly proceed. Readers may not be surprised, for example, to discover that “radical equality is of God.” But it may be necessary to move beyond assertion to engagement with the history and theology that deny it before moulding both into a more just and compassionate synthesis.

There is a potentially fruitful notion of “Catholic Queering — a commitment to the catholic faith . . . that does not fear for the collapse of that faith if questions are asked of it”. But little more is heard of it. If “queer” stands as a synonym for LGBTIQ, and “queering” Christianity means the activity of reassessing the faith from the many perspectives of queer people, then the enterprise of queering is clear and necessary.

But some of the changes or reorientations that Bell wants, like the primacy of relationship in sexual ethics and marriage (chapter 4), can already be found in (some versions of) the doctrine of the Trinity without queering it at all. If he wants to draw on the labyrinthine and disruptive strands of queer theory and theology, a different book may be needed. Even then, his opponents (everywhere present in the book) are likely to run scared.

Bell is an ally among Christians labouring for a different and inclusive Church in which heterosexual norms do not measure who is to be included. But there may be better ways of arguing for it.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican to publish document on gender, surrogacy and human dignity next week

By Nicole Winfield

The Vatican will publish a document next week on gender theory and surrogacy that was announced in a bid to respond to opposition from conservatives over Pope Francis’ willingness to bless same-sex unions.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, will hold his first news conference to present the document “Infinite Dignity, on human dignity,” on April 8, the Vatican announced Tuesday.

Fernández, who is very close to Francis, revealed the declaration was in the works after he came under criticism for the roll-out of a December document from his office authorizing priests to offer non-liturgical blessings to same-sex couples.

Conservative bishops, including entire national bishops conferences in Africa, blasted the document as contrary to biblical teaching about homosexuality and said they wouldn’t implement it.

Fernández, who is from Argentina, has said in various media interviews since then that the new document will offer a strong critique of “immoral tendencies” in society today, including surrogacy, sex changes and gender theory.

While Francis has made a hallmark of his papacy to reach out to LGBTQ+ people, he has also strongly denounced what he calls “gender ideology.” He has in particular railed against what he says is the tendency of Western countries to impose their values about gender and sexuality on the developing world as a condition for economic aid.

Francis has also called for a global ban on surrogacy, saying the practice exploits the economic needs of the surrogate mother and violates the dignity of mother and child.

LGBTQ-inclusive church in Cuba welcomes all in a country that once sent gay people to labor camps

1 of 8 | Rev. Elaine Saralegui, wearing a rainbow-colored clergy stole and her clerical collar, leads a service at the Metropolitan Community Church, an LGBTQ+ inclusive house of worship, in Matanzas, Cuba, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. In recent years, the communist-run island barred anti-gay discrimination, and a 2022 government-backed “family law” — approved by popular vote — allowed same-sex couples the right to marry and adopt.

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Proudly wearing a rainbow-colored clergy stole and a rainbow flag in her clerical collar, the Rev. Elaine Saralegui welcomed all to her LGBTQ+ inclusive church in the Cuban port city of Matanzas.

“We’re all invited. And no one can exclude us,” Saralegui told same-sex couples who held hands sitting on wooden pews in the Metropolitan Community Church where she had recently married her wife.

These words and this kind of gathering would have been unimaginable before in the largest country in the conservative and mostly Christian Caribbean, where anti-gay hostility is still widespread.

Cuba repressed gay people after its 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro and sent many to labor camps. But in recent years, the communist-run island barred anti-gay discrimination, and a 2022 government-backed “family law” — approved by popular vote — allowed same-sex couples the right to marry and adopt.

Members of Cuba’s LGBTQ+ community say it marked a milestone that has allowed them to embrace their gender identity and worship more freely in a country that for decades after the revolution was officially atheist. Over the past quarter century, it has gradually become more tolerant of religions.

“It’s huge. There aren’t enough words to say what an opportunity it is to achieve the dream of so many,” said Maikol Añorga. He was with his husband, Vladimir Marin, near the altar, where at a Friday service they joined other congregants taking turns to lay offerings of white and pink wildflowers to thank God.

“It’s the opportunity for all people to be present here,” he said, “to gather and participate without regards to their gender, race or religion.”

The Catholic Church, in its doctrine, still rejects same-sex marriage and condemns any sexual relations between gay or lesbian partners as “intrinsically disordered.” Yet Pope Francis has done far more than any previous pope to make the church a more welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people.

In December, the pope formally approved letting Catholic priests bless same-sex couples, a policy shift that aimed at making the church more inclusive while maintaining its strict ban on gay marriage.

The family law in Cuba faced opposition from the country’s Catholic church as well as the growing number of evangelical churches that have mushroomed across the island.

Anti-LGBTQ+ rights demonstrations have faded since 2022. But back then, evangelical pastors spoke out from the pulpit, and handed out Bibles and pamphlets in the streets invoking God’s “original plan” for unions between men and women and calling gay relationships a sin.

Still, the measure was overwhelmingly approved by nearly 67% of voters. It came after a huge government campaign of nationwide informative meetings and extensive state media coverage amid food shortages and blackouts that have prompted thousands to immigrate to the United States during one of one of the worst economic crises to hit Cuba in decades.

At the time, President Miguel Díaz-Canel told Cubans in a video message that he was pleased about the wide support that the measure received despite tough economic challenges. He celebrated, tweeting: “Love is now the law.”

For years, the movement for LGBTQ+ rights has been proudly led by Cuba’s best-known advocate for gay rights: Mariela Castro, daughter of former President Raul Castro and niece of his brother Fidel.

“This just brings happiness. This just makes people feel truly worthy, respected, loved, considered – a true citizen with their rights and duties,” Castro told The Associated Press.

“I think we’ve taken a very valuable step forward.”

Long before same-sex couples were granted the right to marry, Castro was advocating for it, while training police on relations with the LGBTQ+ community and sponsoring symbolical ceremonies where Protestant clergy from the U.S. and Canada blessed unions as part of the annual Pride parade.

“It was a beautiful spiritual experience for me, and I believe for those people as well,” said Castro, who heads Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education and is a member of the National Assembly. “First, our campaign was: ‘Let love be the law.’ Now, love is the law, and we’re going to keep celebrating it.”

In 2010, her uncle, then- retired leader Fidel Castro admitted that he was wrong to discriminate against gay people. Asked about this, she said it helped mark a turning point in public attitude.

“I think he was honest. It was good and healthy for him to say this because it helped the rest who were still clinging to prejudices to understand that this kind of thought can change,” she said.

“Even in a revolutionary leader like him, there were prejudices that evolved, and he was able to understand it and help clear the way for change.”

In the early years after the 1959 revolution, homophobia in Cuba, she said, was no different than in the rest of the world. In the United States, homosexuality was deemed a mental disorder by psychiatric authorities, and gay sex was a crime in most states. Currently, Russia — a major supporter of Fidel Castro when it was the core of the communist Soviet Union — is bucking the worldwide trend of greater LGBTQ+ acceptance with a multi-pronged crackdown on LGBTQ+ activism.

The previous Cuban Family Code, dating back to 1975, stipulated that marriage was between a man and a woman – not between two people – which excluded lifelong partners from inheritance rights.

The new law goes further than marriage equality – which activists tried to include in the Constitution in 2019 without success – or the ability for gay couples to adopt or use surrogates. It also expanded rights for children, the elderly and women.

The first members of Saralegui’s congregation began gathering on a house terrace in Matanzas over a decade ago to sing and pray.

“The sky was our ceiling and when it rained, we’d all pack into a small room,” Saralegui said. In 2015, with support from the U.S.-based LGBTQ+ affirming Metropolitan Community Churches, they converted a house into their church, decked with wooden pews and a stained-glass cross that hangs above the altar. Underneath, a local Tibetan Buddhist group that meets here during the week stores its musical instruments in an example of interfaith partnership.

“This church is a family,” said Saralegui, who has a tattoo of the Jesus fish on one of her forearms and wears a Buddhist bracelet. “It’s a sacred space, not just because there’s a cross or an altar, but because it’s the most sacred space for these people to come to — it’s where they come to have a safe space.”

After receiving Communion, congregant Nico Salazar, 18, said he was glad to have found that safe space here after members of an evangelical church where he grew up attending asked him not to return when he embraced his gender identity.

“It’s the essence of the Bible: God is love, and other churches should emphasize that instead of repressing and harming others with a supposed sin,” said Salazar, who was born a woman and this year started hormone treatment.

“Sin and love are not the same,” said Salazar, who wore an earring in the shape of a cross.

“And to love,” he added, “is not a sin.”