Blessings for same-sex couples?

— Going, going, gone…

By

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!

Cardinal Hollerich urges caution, dialogue on women’s ordination

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the 16th Annual General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. |

By AC Wimmer

In a new interview, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, suggested that the Church’s position on female priests is not set in stone and should be discussed further, at the same time warning of triggering “a huge backlash.”

Speaking to the official Swiss Catholic portal kath.ch on May 17, Hollerich, who is the archbishop of Luxembourg, said the prohibition against ordaining women was “not an infallible doctrinal decision” and could be changed over time with arguments.

“The way I see it, most bishops are in favor of a greater role for women in the Church,” the Jesuit cardinal said. “I am in favor of women feeling fully equal in the Church. And we will also work toward this. I don’t know if that necessarily has to include ordination to the priesthood. You can’t tie everything to the priesthood alone. That would be clericalization.”

When asked whether he thought Pope Francis would introduce female priests, Hollerich replied: “It’s very difficult to say. The pope is sometimes good for surprises.”

The archbishop of Luxemburg added: “But I would actually say no. Shortly before the synod, there was a ‘dubia’ from a few cardinals. They asked whether John Paul II’s rejection of the priesthood of women was binding for the Church. Francis replied very wisely: It is binding, but not forever. And he also said that theology would have to discuss this further.”

The cardinal, who has previously courted controversy on doctrinal matters, emphasized the need for ongoing discussion.

“It means that it is not an infallible doctrinal decision. It can be changed. It needs arguments and time,” Hollerich said.

At the same time, the Jesuit cautioned against pushing too hard for changes, noting that “if you push too much, you won’t achieve much. You have to be cautious, take one step at a time, and then you might be able to go very far.”

The interview was conducted by Jacqueline Straub, who works for the official portal of the Church in Switzerland and publicly describes herself as “called to be a Roman Catholic priest.”

Her assertion to Hollerich that women were forced to take a back seat in the Church was “based on a typically European principle of the individual,” the cardinal responded.

Citing the example of blessing homosexual couples after Fiducia Supplicans, Hollerich warned of a potentially “huge backlash” if the Vatican were to introduce the ordination of women to the priesthood.

“We have to have these discussions with the whole Church; otherwise, we will have huge problems later. Then the Catholic Church will fall apart.”

In 1994, Pope John Paul II, citing the Church’s traditional teaching, declared in the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

Complete Article HERE!

8 survivors speak during special hearing in Archdiocese of Baltimore bankruptcy case

Frank Schindler, a member of the Maryland chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, speaks to reporters on Monday outside the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore following a hearing in the Archdiocese of Baltimore bankruptcy case.

By Dylan Segelbaum

From the witness stand in a small, packed courtroom, Cathy Roland held up two photos, one of herself and one of her late twin sister, Terri, as children.

Inside the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore, Roland then showed a picture of the two of them together, which she said was taken after the Rev. Eugene Ambrose McGuire had sexually abused them at St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish.

“It’s just different,” she said Monday. “It’s just sadness.”

After presenting her statement, Roland told other survivors in the courtroom that her heart goes out to them. “We will get through it,” she added.

For a second time, survivors of childhood sexual abuse presented statements during a hearing in the Archdiocese of Baltimore bankruptcy case. Eight people shared their stories. Many spoke about how being sexually abused stole their childhood, drove them to alcoholism and drug addiction, and ruined their ability to develop relationships and trust others.

“I hate God,” one woman testified. “Because he let this happen to me. And all these other people here.”

Archbishop William Lori said he was moved by the powerful testimony of the eight survivors who spoke on Monday during a hearing in the Archdiocese of Baltimore bankruptcy.

Archbishop William Lori again attended the court proceedings and listened to their statements. He later said the testimony moved him and commented about the courage of the survivors.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michelle M. Harner set aside time for the statements at the request of the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which represents survivors in the case. The Archdiocese of Baltimore supported the effort. Six people spoke on April 8 during the first specially set hearing, which was designed to increase transparency and understanding in the process.

“From the court’s perspective, this is a listening session: an opportunity for individuals to be heard,” said Harner, who largely echoed her remarks at the first hearing. “Today, the court will provide time and space for listening.”

As a lifelong Baltimorean, Mark Easley said he went to church every Sunday at St. Vincent de Paul.

His family members, he said, were devout Catholics. He said he trusted everyone in that environment. It seemed like a haven during the political and racial turmoil of the 1960s.

The Rev. Edmund Stroup, he said, would have some people stay with him overnight, which was considered an honor. Easley said he was excited for his opportunity to do the same.

“I viewed this man as one of God’s messengers,” Easley said.

Stroup, he said, sexually abused him during that visit as well as a subsequent overnight stay.

Easley said he was mortified and kept what happened to himself, sinking into music as a coping mechanism. The abuse, he said, “turned me and my life upside down.”

Joe Martin spoke about the sexual abuse that he experienced at the hands of the Rev. Francis LeFevre, whom he met in fifth grade as an altar boy at St. Anthony of Padua.

LeFevre, he said, was outgoing, energetic and likeable. In retrospect, Martin said, the priest “ingratiated himself in all aspects of my life.”

Martin said LeFevre abused him during trips to places including Sea Isle City, New Jersey, and stated that the victimization continued after he started attending Calvert Hall.

He said he felt ashamed and embarrassed. Martin said he hated everyone and everything, with destructive thoughts turning into destructive behaviors.

Eventually, Martin said, he moved back home and returned to church. Elders prayed over him and stated that Jesus loved him, an instance he described as the most peaceful moment in his life. Finally, Martin said, he knew that somebody loved him.

Often, Martin said, he has anger. But he said he has also learned to let go and noted that he joined the creditors’ committee.

Following the hearing, Frank Schindler, a member of the Maryland chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and Teresa Lancaster, a survivor, activist and attorney in Maryland who testified at the first hearing, criticized the Archdiocese of Baltimore for filing for bankruptcy. They also spoke out against the Catholic Church for challenging the Child Victims Act of 2023, which eliminated the statute of limitations for survivors to file lawsuits and allowed more people to sue institutions that enabled their victimization.

Right before the law was set to take effect on Oct. 1, 2023, and open up the church to a flood of lawsuits, the Archdiocese of Baltimore filed for bankruptcy.

Teresa Lancaster, a survivor, activist, and attorney in Maryland, speaks outside the courthouse following a bankruptcy hearing for the Archdiocese of Baltimore on 5/20/24 in Baltimore, MD.
Teresa Lancaster, a survivor, activist, and attorney in Maryland, criticizes the Archdiocese of Baltimore for filing for bankruptcy as well as the Catholic Church for challenging the Child Victims Act of 2023 during a news conference outside the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore.

The Maryland Supreme Court has agreed to decide the constitutionality of the law.

The chair of the creditors’ committee, Paul Jan Zdunek, said it was gut-wrenching listening to survivors recount what happened to them.

Zdunek said the deadline to submit a claim in the case is May 31 and emphasized that survivors can do so anonymously. The committee also has a website that contains up-to-date information about the court proceedings as well as resources.

He said the committee has been meeting with the archbishop and his team.

“They’re saying the right things. Now, we just hope they will continue to do the right things as we move forward,” Zdunek said. “We’re all stuck in this together — and are trying to do what we can for those who have been abused.”

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!

Catholic diocesan hermit approved by Kentucky bishop comes out as transgender

— Matson is thought to be the first openly transgender person in his position in the Catholic Church.

Brother Christian Matson is a Catholic diocesan hermit in Kentucky.

By

Diocesan hermits by nature don’t get much attention. A small subset of religious persons, hermits mostly spend their lives engaged in quiet prayer.

Brother Christian Matson, a Catholic diocesan hermit in Kentucky, has spent years doing just that. His monk’s habit might catch his neighbors’ eye, but he is known in the town where he lives primarily through his work with the local theater.

But recently Matson decided that his faith compels him to make a little more noise than usual.

“This Sunday, Pentecost 2024, I’m planning to come out publicly as transgender,” Matson told Religion News Service on Friday (May 17), saying he was speaking out with the permission of his bishop, John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington in Kentucky.


Matson, who is also a Benedictine oblate, believes he is the first openly transgender person in his position in the Catholic Church. It is a difficult claim to confirm — even Stowe told RNS he did not know for sure if Matson is the first — but Matson’s status is at least highly unusual, and comes at time when church officials are grappling with how to address transgender Catholics.

According to Matson, 39, his “disclosing,” as he describes it, is a moment years in the making. He offered his story as indicative of the often difficult path for trans Catholics, including those seeking life as a religious — a category that includes brothers and nuns.

“I am currently based in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky,” he wrote in an email to friends and supporters on Sunday. “I live in a hermitage at the top of a wooded hill, which I share with my German Shepherd rescue, Odie, and with the Blessed Sacrament, which was installed in my oratory shortly before Christmas.”

Raised in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Matson converted to Catholicism in 2010 — four years, he noted, after transitioning in college, a step he refers to as a part of his “medical history” rather than a “central part of my personal identity.” After his conversion, Matson felt called to minister to people working in the arts, but knew he would encounter “issues” because of a 2000 Vatican document that, according to a Catholic News Service report from the time, declared that anyone who had undergone “sex-change” was ineligible “to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life.”

Matson approached a canon lawyer to discuss his options and was told that only two aspects of Catholic life were categorically off the table: marriage and the priesthood. According to Matson, the canon lawyer recommended being upfront about his status as a transgender man in any vocational conversations with church leaders and noted the role of a diocesan hermit, which may prove less challenging enlisting with an existing religious order.

The canon lawyer, Matson said, effectively conveyed to him “there’s no problem as long as there’s a bishop who will accept you, because there’s no distinction by sex and you’re not in a community — you’re by yourself.”

What followed was roughly a decade of searching and no small amount of rejection. Living in the United Kingdom while pursuing a master’s degree and later a Ph.D. in theology, Matson entered a vocational discernment program and approached the Jesuit order to ask if he could join.

“They said, ’No, we just don’t see how this would work for us,’ which was crushing, because that’s where I felt called,” Matson said.

Other communities offered similar responses, when they responded at all. “People who knew me said, ‘You clearly have a religious vocation,’ and these were all people who knew my medical history,” Matson said. “But when they would go to the people in the community in charge of making that decision, they … would often just refuse to even meet with me.”

In one instance, Matson said, a religious leader declined to meet simply to hear his experience as a trans man, saying doing so would be “a waste of time.”

But Matson’s call to religious life wouldn’t abate. While visiting a monastery during a retreat, he found himself unable to sleep, consumed with the idea of starting “a religious community of and for artists — artists who are living together, (operating) in the church through their art, and ministering to the loneliness and sense of precarity many artists experience.”

In 2015, he returned to New York City, where he had attended college. Having already taking private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience — witnessed by his spiritual director — before he arrive, he co-created a nonprofit called the Catholic Artist Connection. The group hosted retreats and connected artists to resources such as the Archdiocese of New York’s Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, where Matson began working as a programming associate.

Matson kept running into artists who wanted to pursue religious life, he said, and continued to feel the tug himself. But roadblocks kept appearing. “As I spoke to friends in the archdiocese, I knew somebody with a trans background was never going to be accepted into religious life in the Archdiocese of New York,” Matson said.

He tried again after a move to Minnesota in 2018, but his entreaties to various religious communities and orders were also rejected.

“I thought, well, if I can’t find a religious community to sponsor me, maybe what I need is a bishop,” Matson said.

A priest friend recommended different bishops to contact, beginning with Stowe, who was emerging as a leading voice among Catholics calling for a more tolerant approach to LGBTQ people. In 2020, Matson sent Stowe a letter, conveying his status as a transgender man, his vision for an artists’ community and his pull to religious life.

Stowe wrote back immediately, expressing his openness.

“It was an enormous relief,” Matson said. “I was in tears. I felt my hope revive.”

Stowe confirmed Matson’s account, saying the then-aspiring brother was recommended to him by a number of people.

“My willingness to be open to him is because it’s a sincere person seeking a way to serve the church,” Stowe said of Matson. “Hermits are a rarely used form of religious life … but they can be either male or female. Because there’s no pursuit of priesthood or engagement in sacramental ministry, and because the hermit is a relatively quiet and secluded type of vocation, I didn’t see any harm in letting him live this vocation.”

He added that Matson’s spiritual journey was “consistent with the calling of that particular vocation.”

Bishop John Stowe. (Video screen grab)
Bishop John Stowe.

Matson moved to Kentucky, having already made progress on Stowe’s suggestion that he link up with an additional community through which to experience religious life. Matson entered the novitiate at a Benedictine monastery in 2021, hoping the formation offered by that path would eventually help him form a new religious community for artists.

Finally, in August 2022, Matson took his first vows as a diocesan hermit — a yearlong commitment — under Stowe’s direction.

For the next year, Matson “lived a life of basically spending half the day in prayer and half the day doing some form of work” that included producing and writing at a local theater.

Three years earlier, Matson read with frustration a document issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education titled “Male and Female He Created Them: Toward a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education.” The instructional letter rejected “calls for public recognition of the right to choose one’s gender.”

In 2021, the Diocese of Marquette, in Michigan, followed with its own instruction to priests to refuse transgender people asking to be baptized or confirmed until they have “repented.”

“It was suddenly becoming a lot more difficult in the church to be trans,” Matson said.

The Rev. Andrea Conocchia, center, introduces members of the Torvaianica transgender community to Pope Francis on Aug. 11, 2022, during the pope’s general audience at the Vatican. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Conocchia)
The Rev. Andrea Conocchia, center, introduces members of the Torvaianica transgender community to Pope Francis on Aug. 11, 2022, during the pope’s general audience at the Vatican.

But tolerance seems to be growing in some quarters. While Pope Francis has opposed elements of gender theory and recently called its proposals “ugly,” he has also met and dined with groups of transgender people.

In November 2023, the Vatican doctrine department ruled that transgender people may be baptized and serve as witnesses at Catholic weddings, so long as doing so “doesn’t cause scandal among the faithful.”

In the United States in March, a coalition led by Catholic nuns released a letter voicing support for transgender, nonbinary and gender-expansive individuals, implicitly rebuking a statement put forward by group of U.S. Catholic bishops discouraging Catholic health care groups from performing various gender-affirming medical procedures.

But overall, “Vatican-level documents that have come out on the subject have not engaged with the science at all,” Matson said, adding that he believes many diocesan-level statements are inconsistent in their attempts to categorize gender and cite scientific studies misleadingly. Matson has sent multiple private letters to Vatican offices, urging them to engage with transgender people and arguing that the church can embrace transgender people while maintaining orthodoxy.

As trans rights began to be debated in statehouses across the United States in recent months, conservative lawmakers have begun pushing bans on providing gender-affirming care for youth and, in some cases, adults.

Matson vented his frustrations to Stowe and his spiritual director, saying he wanted to speak out. But he said he was advised to first “build a foundation” in religious life for several years.

During that time, Matson had an experience that shook him. Attending a friend’s play in his religious habit, he was approached by a student who identified as trans and nonbinary. After asking if Matson was a monk, the student said they were raised Catholic, but that their parents had rejected their identity, and the student felt like they “don’t have a place in the church anymore.”

Matson responded by saying there were people in the church who would support the student, and Matson prayed with them, asking God to show the student how they are “wonderful the way you’ve made them.” The student, Matson said, grew emotional, thanking the hermit profusely and saying, “No one from the church has ever affirmed me for who I am.”

Matson, who renewed his vows in 2023, eventually began mulling a date to go public with his status. “I have to say something,” Matson told his spiritual director. He settled on Pentecost, which emphasizes preaching “the good news of God’s love to everyone,” he said. It was also the day in the church calendar when he’d been baptized years before.

“I can’t stand by and let this false and, at times, culpably ignorant understanding of what it means to be transgender continue to hurt people,” he said. “If I don’t say anything and allow the church to continue to make decisions based on incorrect information, then I’m not serving the church.”

Both Matson and Stowe said they are bracing for blowback after Sunday’s announcement. Matson said he is largely unconcerned with “online trolls” but is sensitive to people who are “legitimately concerned” that “accepting a trans person into religious life means Catholic anthropology gets thrown out the window.”

For people with such concerns, he said, he looks forward to engaging in dialogue. “I don’t have a hidden agenda, I just want to serve the church,” he said. “People can believe that or not.”


Both the hermit and his bishop are prepared for the possibility that church officials may push for Matson’s removal. Stowe acknowledged that “if I’m told to by higher authorities, then I will have to deal with that at the time.”

Matson bristled at the idea of leaving the church, which he called “my family.” “I’m Catholic,” he said. “I became Catholic after I transitioned because of the Catholic understanding — the sacramental understanding — of the body, of creation, of the desirability of the visible unity of the church, and primarily because of the Eucharist.”

At the very least, Matson said, he hopes going public will spark dialogue about his fellow transgender Catholics, a discussion he believes can enhance unity among the body of believers.

“You’ve got to deal with us, because God has called us into this church,” he said. “It’s not your church to kick us out of — this is God’s church, and God has called us and engrafted us into it.”

Complete Article HERE!