Rebel priests defy Vatican, vow to bless same-sex couples

Father Helmut Schueller

By

A dissident band of Roman Catholic priests leading a disobedience campaign against the Vatican said on Tuesday they would carry on blessing same-sex couples in defiance of Church orders.

The Vatican said on Monday that priests cannot bless same-sex unions and that such blessings are not valid, in a ruling that disappointed gay Catholics who had hoped their Church was becoming more welcoming under Pope Francis.

In some countries, parishes and ministers have begun blessing same-sex unions in lieu of marriage, and there have been calls for bishops to institutionalise de facto such blessings. Conservatives in the 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church have expressed alarm over such practices.

“We members of the Parish Priests Initiative are deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that seeks to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples. This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to have overcome with Pope Francis,” the Austrian-based group said in a statement.

“We will — in solidarity with so many — not reject any loving couple in the future who ask to celebrate God’s blessing, which they experience every day, also in a worship service.”

The Parish Priests Initiative led by Father Helmut Schueller has long been a thorn in the side of the Vatican. The group wants Church rules changed so that priests can marry and women can become priests.

It has said it will break Church rules by giving communion to Protestants and divorced Catholics who remarry.

Founded in 2006 by nine priests, the initiative says it now has around 350 members from the ranks of the official Church and more than 3,000 lay supporters.

The Vatican in 2012 cracked down on Schueller, stripping him of the right to use the title monsignor and saying he was also no longer a “Chaplain of His Holiness”.

Schueller, a former deputy to Vienna archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, had been given the honorary title in his capacity as head of the Austrian branch of the Catholic charity group Caritas.

Complete Article HERE!

Same-sex marriage exposes ‘cavernous divide’ between Vatican, Catholics

by Cornell University

The Vatican’s orthodoxy office has issued a formal response to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless same-sex unions, saying the Catholic Church won’t bless same-sex unions since God “cannot bless sin.”

Landon Schnabel, assistant professor of sociology at Cornell University, says while the Vatican’s announcement is in keeping with the views of the church, it does not reflect the opinions of many everyday Catholics.

Schnabel says:

“The Pope’s pronouncement against same-sex marriage is consistent with Catholic tradition, but inconsistent with Catholic public opinion, especially in countries like the United States where about three in four Catholics support same-sex marriage.

“This distinction highlights the ongoing tension between elite pronouncements from institutional religious leaders and what everyday adherents believe, which is present across religions but is particularly pronounced in Catholicism as a diverse and global religion with one set of official rules from on high and yet a wide range of beliefs and practices on the ground. Especially on issues of gender and sexuality, there is often a cavernous divide between what the Vatican says and what everyday Catholics think and do.”

Kim Haines-Eitzen, professor of religious studies at Cornell University, says the announcement continues a legacy of conflicts over human sexuality.

Haines-Eitzen says:

“Christianity has been interwoven with debates about gender, sexuality, and the human body from the very beginning. The latest news from the Vatican against blessing same-sex unions continues a historical legacy fraught with conflicts over, in particular, human sexuality.

“From its inception, Christians argued about whether it was better to be married or celibate, whether women could hold positions of ecclesiastical authority, and about rules for sexual relations.

“At stake in this long and troubled history is the paradox of tradition, which is at once conservative and dynamic. Church traditions developed in part through the interpretation of biblical texts, the need for church unity in the face of diversity, and increasingly through the establishment of ecclesiastical law. The decree issued today stands in marked tension with recent efforts toward a more inclusive and expansive Catholicism.”

Vatican bars gay union blessing, says God ‘can’t bless sin’

File under:  Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure

By NICOLE WINFIELD

The Vatican decreed Monday that the Catholic Church won’t bless same-sex unions since God “cannot bless sin.”

The Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a formal response Monday to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless gay unions. The answer, contained in a two-page explanation published in seven languages and approved by Pope Francis, was “negative.”

The note distinguished between the church’s welcoming and blessing of gay people, which it upheld, but not their unions. It argued that such unions are not part of God’s plan and that any such sacramental recognition could be confused with marriage.

The note immediately disheartened advocates for LGBT Catholics and threw a wrench in the debate within the German church, which has been at the forefront of opening discussion on hot-button issues such the church’s teaching on homosexuality.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for greater acceptance of gays in the church, predicted the Vatican position will be ignored, including by some Catholic clergy.

“Catholic people recognize the holiness of the love between committed same-sex couples and recognize this love as divinely inspired and divinely supported and thus meets the standard to be blessed,” he said in a statement.

The Vatican holds that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay sex is “intrinsically disordered.” Catholic teaching holds that marriage, a lifelong union between a man and woman, is part of God’s plan and is intended for the sake of creating new life.

Since gay unions aren’t intended to be part of that plan, they can’t be blessed by the church, the document said.

“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 response said.

God “does not and cannot bless sin: He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him,” it said.

Francis has endorsed providing gay couples with legal protections in same-sex unions, but that was in reference to the civil sphere, not within the church. Those comments were made during a 2019 interview with a Mexican broadcaster, Televisa, but were cut by the Vatican until they appeared in a documentary last year.

While the documentary film fudged the context, Francis was referring to the position he took when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. At the time, Argentina’s lawmakers were considering approving gay marriage, which he and the Catholic Church opposed. Then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio instead supported providing legal protections for gays in stable unions through a so-called “law of civil cohabitation.”

Francis told Televisa: “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God.” Speaking of families with gay children, he said: “You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

In the new document and an accompanying unsigned article, the Vatican said questions had been raised about whether the church should bless same-sex unions in a sacramental way in recent years, and after Francis had insisted on the need to better welcome and accompany gays in the church.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit and advocate for building bridges with the LGBT community, said the Vatican note appeared to be a response to pressures within the German church before a consultative assembly to consider bestowing church blessings on same-sex couples. The German church has been at the forefront of pushing the debate on celibacy, contraception and the church’s outreach to gay Catholics, pressured by a powerful lay Catholic group demanding change.

“It seems to be the Vatican’s response to some German bishops who had mentioned this possibility, in the run up to their country’s synod, as a way of reaching out to LGBTQ people,” Martin said in an email.

In a statement, the head of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, said the new document would be incorporated into the German discussion, but he suggested that the case was by no means closed.

“There are no easy answers to questions like these,” he said, adding that the German church wasn’t only looking at the church’s current moral teaching, but the development of doctrine and the actual reality of Catholics today.

Other commentators noted that Catholic Book of Blessings contains rites of blessings that can be bestowed on everything from new homes and factories to animals, sporting events, seeds before planting and farm tools.

In the article, the Vatican stressed the “fundamental and decisive distinction” between gay individuals and gay unions, noting that “the negative judgment on the blessing of unions of persons of the same sex does not imply a judgment on persons.”

But it explained the rationale for forbidding a blessing of such unions, noting that any union that involves sexual activity outside of marriage cannot be blessed because it is not in a state of grace, or “ordered to both receive and express the good that is pronounced and given by the blessing.”

And it added that blessing a same-sex union could give the impression of a sort of sacramental equivalence to marriage. “This would be erroneous and misleading,” the article said.

In 2003, the same Vatican office issued a similar decree saying that the church’s respect for gay people “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Doing so, the Vatican reasoned then, would not only condone “deviant behavior,” but create an equivalence to marriage, which the church holds is an indissoluble union between man and woman.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the U.S.-based NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and an advocate for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the church, said she was relived the Vatican statement wasn’t worse.

She said she interpreted the statement as saying, “You can bless the individuals (in a same-sex union), you just can’t bless the contract.”

“So it’s possible you could have a ritual where the individuals get blessed to be their committed selves.”

Complete Article HERE!

Dissecting the Catholic Church’s Disrespect of LGBTQ+ People

What if the Roman Catholic Church wrote about African-Americans and women the way it still writes about LGBTQ+ people?

By Benjamin Brenkert

Long before I entered the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit religious order of Pope Francis I, I studied American history. It was in those remarkable history courses that I learned about the birth of the United States, from colonies through revolution to the writing of the Constitution and the making of a republic. The birth of the American experiment, the purest democracy protected by federalism, had its warts from nation-building: Chattel slaves were not counted as fully human, their rights impinged upon through forced labor, whipping, or in some cases, death. My African-American brothers and sisters are still overcoming the institution of slavery today.

The Black Lives Matter movement has made tremendous progress on educating Americans and world citizens about the terrible toll exacted on human beings because of the color of their skin. It is the Black Lives Matter Movement that has reclaimed the commemoration of June 19, 1865 — the celebration of the end of slavery, known as Freedom Day.

While I love history and am no longer a Jesuit, I have spent the past six years advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in the Roman Catholic Church. In my memoir, A Catechism of the Heart: A Jesuit Missioned to the Laity, I write specifically about my departure from the Jesuits because they would not confront the homophobia of the Roman Catholic Church despite the tonal shifts ushered in by Pope Francis. Mostly, mine is a journey book where I invite my readers to consider whether to remain in a church that counts them as less than fully human, a church that cannot celebrate the good works, talents, time, and stewardship of LGBTQ+ people amid its own flock.

Despite my not being a member of the Roman Catholic Church anymore — I am a convert to the Episcopal Church — I am attempting to discard the negative theology of my former church, its antigay theology and rhetoric. I believe the Black Lives Matter movement allows me to confront the homophobia of the Roman Catholic Church in a bold new way. To do this requires analysis of the text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The catechism, or teaching, is the official statement of belief of the Roman Catholic Church. It carries more weight than the words of a single pope or the hopes of the many closeted gay priests who pray that one day these words will be forever removed from the language of the catechism. Why haven’t they been already?

Let’s juxtapose the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s language with homosexuality, along with the language of other marginalized people, like African-Americans and women, and then enter into a discussion about why the Catholic Church should move to rewrite the catechism in light of these objections. (For the full text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, click here.)

A final observation before I begin, the Catechism of the Catholic Church presents its doctrine of homosexuality (or same-sex attraction) following a review of the moral virtue of chastity. In 2021, a good homosexual in the church must be celibate. The number listed below is the citation for the official statement of belief contained in the catechism.

Homosexuality (#2357)

Original text:
“Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.”

What the text looks like with “homosexual” replaced with “African-American”:
“African-American refers to a people who experience exclusive or predominant sexual attractions toward persons of the same or opposite sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.”

Same-Sex Attraction (#2358)

Original text:
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

What the text looks like with a focus on African-Americans:
“The number of African-Americans who have deep-seated sexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives, and if they are Christian, to united to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they many encounter from their condition.”

Homosexuals and Chastity (#2359)

Original text:
“Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

What this text looks like if “homosexual persons” is replaced with “women”:
“Women are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

As a gay man, I find it unholy that the Roman Catholic Church continues to perpetuate, without factoring in scientific research, its myths about homosexuality. It uses the theology of dead saints to negatively label homosexuals as intrinsically disordered. Please note that categories like bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, and genderqueer do not even make it into the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Furthermore, it is obvious to me that the Roman Catholic Church could not perpetuate myths about African-Americans, women, the disabled, or Latinos.

And while my revisions may seem unconventional or awkward or funny, they underline a truth about the place of gay, lesbians, and bisexuals in the Roman Catholic Church: They are a second-class citizen tolerated but not fully wanted. Good only if celibate. Weren’t African-Americans once valued only as slaves?

If homosexual tendencies are “not a sin,” why does the Catholic Church still discourage homosexual men from entering the priesthood? All priests are supposed to be celibate, regardless of sexual orientation, What should sexuality matter?

About gays in the priesthood, then-Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2005 that dioceses “cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’ Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women.” In other words, hate the sin, not the sinner!

My friend Lisa McClain, a professor at Boise State University, wrote me recently and asked me, “Does Benedict XVI’s conviction that the alleged inability to relate to men and women mean that the Church doesn’t think gay men can relate to and appropriately counsel people? And how might the Catechism’s description of homosexuality as ‘objectively disordered’ play into this?”

A 1986 Vatican letter states:
“Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

Insert “African-American” into that letter:
“Although the particular inclination of the African-American person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

To return to the inspiration for this experiment, the Black Lives Matter movement has allowed for an investigation into complacency and complicit behaviors. If the exercise above has done nothing less, it has shown the futility of the church’s antigay rhetoric and negative theology toward LGBTQ+ people. But why aren’t more LGBTQ+ people challenging this teaching, this catechism, directly?

LGBTQ+ people are human beings, created in the image and likeness of a loving god. Their time, talents, and stewardship should be praised and exalted by the Roman Catholic Church. Gay priests must come out of the closet. For certain, the Catechism of the Catholic Church should excise its outdated, non-scientific language. As the Jesuit priest Father John Kavanagh once taught me in a graduate class at Saint Louis University, all humans count as persons, but for the gay person a caveat remains that if you are still Catholic, you are a person only if you are celibate. If you don’t buy that, it’s time to find a church that wants you with all your humanity, just like Jesus himself: fully accepting, no questions asked.

Complete Article HERE!