Church of England Stops Desmond Tutu’s Daughter From Officiating Funeral

Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, an Episcopal priest who is married to a woman, said the funeral of her godfather was moved to his garden to allow her to participate.

Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, right, with her wife, Marceline Tutu van Furth, in Cape Town in 2016.

By Isabella Kwai

The daughter of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu had wanted to honor her godfather’s personal wish: that she officiate his funeral in England after he died last week.

But the Church of England stopped the Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, a priest ordained in the United States, from doing so this week because she is married to a woman, she said.

“I’m stunned by the lack of compassion,” said Ms. Tutu van Furth in a phone interview from Shropshire, in central England, on Friday, calling the decision to bar her from officiating at the funeral of her godfather, Martin Kenyon, 92, unkind. “You can’t speak a message of welcome and love and live a message of exclusion,” she said, of the church’s teaching.

Mr. Kenyon was a longtime friend of Archbishop Tutu, a powerful force in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and an early, outspoken critic of the Anglican Communion’s stance on gay rights. The archbishop was also a godfather to Mr. Kenyon’s daughter.

The incident has put a spotlight on the longtime divide within the global Anglican Communion over whether to accept same-sex marriages and ordain openly gay priests and bishops. The Church of England and the Episcopal Church are tied together in the global Anglican Communion, which represents about 85 million worshipers around the world.

But the communion has been slowly fracturing for years as it has debated policies toward clergy and worshipers in same-sex relationships and marriages. The Episcopal Church has taken a stance in favor of acceptance of gay clergy and members, starting with the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, in New Hampshire in 2003.

The Church of England, however, has said that under its religious laws, while it permits same-sex civil partnerships, it does not support same-sex marriage because it would go against its teachings. Gay clergy are expected to remain celibate, and those in same-sex marriages are not permitted to be ordained.

Rights campaigners and some religious leaders have condemned the incident and the church’s policies as homophobic, discriminatory and at odds with the religion’s message.

Ms. Tutu van Furth said that she was informed by local representatives of the church that while she could sit in the congregation during the ceremony, she would not be permitted to deliver the eulogy, say prayers or perform readings at the funeral. She said she understood why local officials had conveyed the message, but said the way church authorities had handled it was “not right.”

Ms. Tutu van Furth at an event in South Africa in 2013.
Ms. Tutu van Furth at an event in South Africa in 2013.

The local diocese of Hereford, in which the funeral was held, acknowledged it was “a difficult situation,” adding that they had followed advice given in line with published guidance from the church’s senior leadership — which said that getting married to someone of the same sex was not “appropriate contact” and would “clearly be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England.”

“The Church of England believes that all people are made in the image of God and must be cherished for who they are,” a spokesman for the church said in a statement. The church was in the process of “learning and listening about questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage,” the statement said, which had caused “deep and painful divisions.”

Bishops are expected to formally publish recommendations on a way forward on L.G.B.T.Q. policy among other topics in February, when the General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, will meet.

“There are people of every age who need the church in the times of hardship and pain and loss,” Ms. Tutu van Furth said, adding that the decision had also upset the family of Mr. Kenyon. “This is supposed to be the place for people to go who have nowhere else to go.”

To honor his wishes and allow her involvement, Ms. Tutu van Furth said that the funeral — which she described as prayerful and joyful — was ultimately held on Thursday not in a church but in the garden of Mr. Kenyon’s home in Shropshire.

Mr. Kenyon and Archbishop Desmond Tutu grew close while the two lived in London in the 1960s as Archbishop Tutu studied theology in King’s College. (Mr. Kenyon also gained a bit of fame for his responses to being one of the first people in Britain to receive a Covid vaccine in 2020, telling The New York Times he was looking forward to being embraced by his grandchildren.) The archbishop was a supporter of gay rights, telling the BBC in 2007: “If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn’t worship that God.”

Martin Kenyon, who was godfather to Ms. Tutu van Furth, outside the London hospital where he received the Covid-19 vaccine in December 2020. He was among the first in Britain to get the shot.
Martin Kenyon, who was godfather to Ms. Tutu van Furth, outside the London hospital where he received the Covid-19 vaccine in December 2020. He was among the first in Britain to get the shot.

Ms. Tutu van Furth has spoken previously about her painful experiences with the church after she married Marceline van Furth, a Dutch academic specializing in global children’s health. That forced her to hand back her license to officiate as a priest in the Anglican Communion’s province in Southern Africa, a decision, she said at the time, that felt like it “stripped away” a part of her. Based in the Netherlands, Ms. Tutu van Furth now preaches at a church in Amsterdam.

For Jayne Ozanne, an advocate for gay rights in the church and a member of the Church of England’s General Synod, its legislative body, the reverend’s experience reaffirmed that the Church of England was “institutionally homophobic.”

“It’s a cruel, crass and hypocritical decision,” she said, adding that church leaders had kept silent for too long on L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

“We are investing millions in mission and evangelism without getting the core basics right of a church who serves all and shows the unconditional love” of God for England, she added.

Complete Article HERE!

Clergy sex abuse survivors question Cathedral funeral for Weakland

Former archbishop embroiled in scandal during tenure


Victims of clergy sexual abuse in the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese are questioning the decision to hold a funeral mass for former Archbishop Rembert Weakland at St. John’s Cathedral.

Weakland died last week in Greenfield at 95 after a long illness.

He was at the center of a clergy sexual abuse scandal in May 2002, when the church revealed there were six active priests in the archdiocese with histories of sexually abusing children.

“I’m doing my best to eradicate it. That’s what I’m doing,” Weakland said at a public meeting in Brookfield.

Days later, he made national news.

ABC and WISN 12 News broke the story of Weakland paying nearly $500,000 to a man to stay quiet about their sexual relationship while the man was a student at Marquette University in the late ’70s.

“He was sitting next to me and then started to try to kiss me and continued to force himself on me and pulled down my trousers and attempted to fondle me. Think of it in terms of date rape,” said Paul Marcoux in 2002.

The Vatican accepted Weakland’s resignation the next day. He had reached his mandatory retirement age of 75.

Years later, Weakland claimed during a deposition that he didn’t realize the scope of the clergy sex abuse problem until the mid-1980s.

“And it became clear to me that this wasn’t just something I had bumped into a few times in Milwaukee, but a national phenomenon that had to be dealt with,” Weakland said.

But it’s Weakland’s practice of shielding priests known to have sexually abused children that survivors of clergy sexual abuse say disqualifies him from the honor of a cathedral funeral Tuesday.

“He would not look us in the face. He would not talk to us,” said Peter Isely Tuesday in front of the cathedral.

Isely is the program director of Nate’s Mission, a clergy sex abuse survivor’s group.

“So I want to say that this man being buried Tuesday is unrepentant. He died unrepentant for the harm that he caused. And no mercy. He had no mercy on us whatsoever,” Isely said.

Retired priest Father James Connell said holding the funeral at the Cathedral is “rubbing salt in the wounds” of clergy sexual abuse victims.

“I call for all Catholic clergy in the archdiocese, all bishops, priests and deacons to stay away from the funeral tomorrow,” Connell said.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee said current Archbishop Jerome Listecki was out of town Monday and unavailable for comment.

When WISN 12 News asked why Listecki chose to have the funeral at the cathedral, a spokesperson responded in an email that “It’s important to keep in mind that the Cathedral is the parish of the archbishop.”

The archbishop’s Chief of Staff Jerry Topczewski also released a statement explaining the decision.

“A funeral Mass is not a glorification of a person’s life, but rather an act of mercy for the dead during which we pray that, despite any failings in life, they may be received by a merciful God. We pray for all sexual abuse survivors and hope they can now find healing and peace,” said the statement.

The mass is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Weakland will be buried at St. Vincent Archabbey Cemetery in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Bridging Religion and Sexual Diversity in Latin America

People gather for a pride march in Bogota, Colombia, on July 4, 2021.

By María Mercedes Acosta

Like many Latin Americans, Enrique Vega Dávila, 36, grew up in a non-practicing Catholic family. But from a very young age, he dreamed of actually living the Catholic faith, and he chose to do so by becoming a priest. About six years into seminary, his dream was interrupted when he realized he was gay. Continuing as a member of the Catholic clergy would require him to live a double life, as so many other priests have done for centuries.

The Catholic church isn’t the only religious institution to reject ordination of or condemn people identifying as LGBTQ+. But in recent history, several Protestant denominations have chosen to be more inclusive by ordaining LGBTQ+ clergy and allowing same-sex marriage. Dávila took advantage of that change by becoming a Lutheran pastor, and he’s now obtaining a doctorate in gender studies at Iberoamericana University in Mexico City.

In his new denomination, he does not have to hide his sexual orientation, tattoos, earrings, or the makeup he sometimes likes to apply. He is well known as “el reverendo cuir” (the queer pastor). Everywhere he goes, and in every way he can, Dávila likes to remind people that religious freedom is for everyone and that no pastor or priest can prevent LGBTQ+ people from following whatever faith they believe in or loving whomever they choose.

Dávila is one of the protagonists of a multi-platform series of life stories produced by Sentiido, a nonprofit organization based in Bogotá, Colombia. Formed in 2011, Sentiido uses communications, research, and storytelling to reduce stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and leverage social change. Faith + Diversity, as the project is called, is part of Sentiido’s larger commitment to amplify the work of affirming faith communities.

Enrique Vega Dávila
Enrique Vega Dávila photographed in Mexico City, Mexico, on January 27, 2022.

Faith + Diversity began in 2017 and seeks to raise awareness about the many different ways in which LGBTQ+ people engage with religion and spirituality. Stories like Dávila’s are a reminder that Christianity is rooted in the core value of unconditional love, which is why it so often invokes Biblical phrases such as “love one another as I have loved them” or “do not judge and you will not be judged.”

For Sentiido, that also means refraining from labeling and dismissing opponents of sexual and gender diversity as “homophobic,” “transphobic,” or “anti-LGBTQ rights.” Real change—fundamental transformation—takes time, and for many, it can feel as if a new worldview is being “pushed” on them, which can exacerbate already existing polarization. At Sentiido, we also know that many people of faith understand Biblical teachings in a historical context and are open to the value of inclusion. Therefore, Faith + Diversity encourages dialogue with those willing to have conversations, reminding people of all faiths what they already know: that all humans are equal in the eyes of God.

At Sentiido, we also emphasize what unites us, rather than what divides us. For example, most Latin Americans place a very high value on their family and their faith. These shared values provide a common ground for conversations about dignity, love, empathy, understanding, and support, which can lead to addressing other issues like resilience, freedom, and solidarity.

Still, changing hearts, minds, and church policies is a process. For Dávila, it starts by letting LGBTQ+ people know they don’t have to heed the warnings of Catholic leaders who say that homosexuality is not a sin but homosexual acts are, or believe evangelical and Pentecostal ministers claiming LGBTQ+ people are making “wrong choices that must be corrected.” He affirms that divine love is bigger than a church, a religious leader, or a book; rather, it is an entire life experience.

The late Harvey Milk, a gay American politician and activist who was assassinated in 1978, once told a crowd that the LGBTQ+ community is simply asking for hope: “Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only are the gays, but the Blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the ‘us-es.’ The ‘us-es’ will give up.” He added that electing more LGBTQ+ people to public office would help to build that hope. “That gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward,” Milk said. “It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.”

Calling out the inequality, injustice, and violence against LGBTQ+ people is as central to our work as it was to Milk’s activism. We want everyone to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. To do so, we share the stories and experiences of LGBTQ+ people in their daily lives, in their homes and churches, while holding space for all people to feel heard and be seen, even those who may be struggling with their views about LGBTQ+ people.

George Lakoff, a researcher in the field of cognitive linguistics, says constant dialogue around societal problems without conversations focused on wide-reaching solutions can reinforce old mindsets. People connect best to stories in which LGBTQ+ people show up as their authentic selves. So rather than focus on statements like “a world without hate” or “a world without discrimination,” we promote stories that give us picture of the world we would like to live in. It’s a world in which everyone strives to do the right thing by their neighbor, because everyone wins when they do so.

Complete Article HERE!

Francis DeBernardo on Fr. Mychal Judge and Catholic LGBTQ justice

Francis DeBernardo is executive director of the New Ways Ministry, a MD-based national Catholic organization advocating for LGBTQ justice.

By Tom Hall

Now, Tom turns to an author, advocate and activist who is working for justice and reconciliation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Catholics.

Francis DeBernardo has been the executive director of New Ways Ministry for 26 years. He’s also the author of a book about a gay Franciscan priest renowned for having died trying to save victims of the terrorist attack in New York on 9/11. It’s called Mychal Judge: Take Me Where You Want to Go. 

Ex-priest awarded damages against Church over childhood abuse

A former priest who was sexually abused as a teenager by a senior cleric has been awarded £455,000 damages against the Catholic Church.

The man, who cannot be named, was abused while he attended a residential school in Scotland in the 1970s.

His attacker had been his “spiritual director” between the ages of 14 and 16.

The victim went on the join the priesthood but became a “tortured soul”, the Court of Session heard.

He later went through the formal procedure of leaving the priesthood and was married for a while.

The man sued The Bishop’s Conference of Scotland for £2.25m.

It admitted the sexual abuse occurred and accepted liability for any loss or damage caused by the abuse.

Lord Clark, who heard the case, said: “For many years the pursuer (the ex-priest) carried out his role as a priest in an effective and well-respected manner.

“However, as a teenager in secondary education working towards being a priest he had been subjected to vile sexual abuse by his spiritual director. This trauma has tormented him for many years.”

Intolerable difficulties

The judge added: “His personality, his ability to function and indeed his life were impaired by it. He did what he could to block from his mind the memories and effects of the abuse, but there came a point in time when he could no longer do so.

“As a perhaps obvious consequence, remaining in his role as a priest became burdened with intolerable difficulties. The loss he sustained and continues to suffer can never adequately be addressed by an award of damages,” Lord Clark said in a written judgement.

The judge said the victim was not given sympathy “or indeed any real engagement from the Church”.

“He came to realise that the impact of the abuse and its damaging effects on his life to date would continue if he remained as a priest, but the ongoing torment could at least to some extent be alleviated by laicising (leaving the priesthood).”

Damages of £445,000 were awarded to the man for the consequential loss that arose from leaving his role as a priest and for pain and suffering.

Complete Article HERE!