Pope Francis tells LGBTQ+ Catholics to build a church ‘that excludes no one’

— Pope Francis reportedly encouraged an LGBTQ+ Catholic group to build a church “that excludes no one.”

Pope Francis leaves Assisi at the end of Economy of Francis, an international movement of young economists.

By Amelia Hansford

According to L’Avvenire, the pope met with Italian LGBTQ+ Catholic group The Tent of Jonathon in a Wednesday (21 September) conference to discuss the organisation’s plan to build a hospitable church that would cater to LGBTQ+ people.

The group, which was founded in 2018, works with various religious organisations to provide “sanctuaries of welcome and support for LGBT people and for every person affected by discrimination.”

In an effort to convince Pope Francis, organisation members gave him a collection of letters from the parents of LGBTQ+ children who have faced “isolation and suspicious within the Christian community.”

Having urged religious parents to “never condemn your children” in a 26 January address, adding that parents should “not hide behind an attitude of condemnation,” the conferences appeared to convince him as he told the organisation to continue with the church’s construction.

Despite upholding traditional church teachings that claim homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered,” the pontiff has been surprisingly forthcoming about introducing LGBTQ+ members into Catholic proceedings.

In 2013, he famously said: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

But there is still a long way to go for LGBTQ+ acceptance in the Vatican. During the same address, he condemned what was cryptically described as lobbying by the LGBTQ+ community.

“The problem is not having this orientation,” he claimed. “We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”

Pope Francis has also repeatedly shut down any hope of same-sex marriage in the Catholic Church, most recently in 2021 when he said he “doesn’t have the power to change sacraments.”

“I have spoken clearly about this, no? Marriage is a sacrament. Marriage is a sacrament. The church doesn’t have the power to change sacraments. It’s as our Lord established.”

Excommunications for LGBTQ+ positive paraphenalia is still incredibly common in local Catholic communities. In June, a middle school was kicked out of the Catholic fold after officials refused to remove Pride and Black Lives Matter flags from school grounds.

In a statement, Massachusetts bishop Robert J. McManus, who chose to excommunicate the Nativity School of Worcester, said: “I publicly stated in an open letter…that ‘these symbols (flags) embody specific agendas or ideologies (that) contradict Catholic social and moral teaching

“It is my contention that the ‘Gay Pride’ flag represents support of gay marriage and actively living a LGBTQ+ lifestyle.”

In response, school president Thomas McKenney said that the flags “represent the inclusion and respect of all people” and that they simply state “that all are welcome at Nativity and this value of inclusion is rooted in Catholic teaching.”

Complete Article HERE!

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!

Surprises in the Irish Synod Report

Archbishop Eamon Martin

By

About five years ago, I attended a lecture in Manhattan by an Irish Redemptorist priest, Fr. Tony Flannery. The event was sponsored by Call to Action, an organization that is critical of the Catholic Church because of its ineptitude in applying the gospel message to the realities of our time. Fr. Flannery was and still is banned from speaking publicly in any church-owned facility.

In his speech he explained why he is considered a persona non grata, an outcast, by the powers in Rome. He named three areas of disagreement, pointing out that he does not question any of the traditional Catholic dogmas.

He objects especially to the second-class status accorded to women in all areas of ecclesiastical life. He cautioned that while he favors full ordination rights for females the focus for now should be on achieving deaconate status, a step below the priesthood.

He favors ending mandatory celibacy and welcoming married priests, and he was adamant that his church’s attitude to the homosexual community could only be described as pathetic. He spoke with conviction and left no doubt about his continuing commitment to radical changes in his church.

Amazingly and ironically, in response to Pope Francis’ Synodal Way, the Irish church recently submitted what they call the National Synthesis of its recommendations to Rome, and they have come out in favor of the positions which led to Flannery’s exclusion from practicing as a priest.

The big boys in Rome silenced him, but what will they do now with the whole Irish church?

The National Synthesis document was based on reports prepared by all 26 Catholic dioceses on the island of Ireland following widespread consultations with the people over many months, culminating in a countrywide national symposium in Athlone in June.

Over 19,000 people participated in Dublin with about 5000 in Limerick and a few hundred in the mini-diocese of Achonry in the west of Ireland. Reports from all sides suggested enthusiastic involvement throughout the country with members over the age of 60 showing the highest level of interest.

Cynics warned that the submission to Rome would be a watered-down version of the ideas for change that emerged from the consultations. The bishops would wrap the radical concepts in language acceptable to the Vatican hierarchy.

Not this time! The National Synthesis document pulls no punches and fairly represents the thoughts and feelings expressed up and down the country, as well as during the big weekend in Athlone.

In a cover letter sent with the report, Archbishop Eamon Martin explained to Cardinal Mario Gresch, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican, that that there is a crying need in Ireland for healing, especially “among those who have suffered abuse by church personnel and in church institutions.”

He stressed that clear calls were heard in every diocese for “fresh models of responsibility and leadership which will especially recognize and facilitate the role of women. Our listening process has identified the need to be more inclusive in outreach, touching those who have left the church behind and, in some cases, feel excluded, forgotten or ignored.”

Pope Francis’ words are genuine. We believe him when he says he wants to hear from ordinary parishioners. Will he lead the response when the cry for change arrives in Rome from people all over the world?

In order to dampen expectations, he insists that the church is not a democratic institution. So, despite the strong support for radical changes, backed by a clear majority of the faithful, their ideas may well be set aside as traditionalists assert the pre-eminence of the church’s historical beliefs and practices.

During the struggle for democracy in Europe in the 19th and early 20th century, successive popes favored the old European autocracies with single strong leaders, which, of course, defines the Vatican. They still diminish the democratic process which claims that, despite its limitations, the people’s wisdom is the nearest we can get to an optimal system for selecting leaders and determining policy. Why is the church so dismissive of this approach? What are they afraid of in Rome? Is it just a power game?

Take the widespread belief that women should be ordained at a time when their services as pastors are clearly needed in many parishes. Most people in the United States and in Europe strongly support this needed alteration of church discipline. The Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), a very credible Catholic organization, affirms the many women who feel called to priestly service.

A tribute to Francis, information about WOC is included in the Vatican website as part of the synodal discussions. However, it is very unlikely that he will overrule John Paul II’s arrogant and dogmatic statement that women should never be permitted to say Mass.

Back to the real world of male hierarchies who preach their openness to the Spirit of Wisdom, but always seem to revert back to glorifying tradition. In October 2019 the Amazon Synod of Bishops met in Rome to consider the church crisis in that region of South America. The people in large parts of a few countries there have very irregular access to the sacraments.

The Synod passed, with a big majority, two recommendations to help ameliorate the situation. First, open the deaconate to permit nuns and other dedicated women who are serving there to provide communion for the people. Second, allow viri probati, married men of sterling character from the local communities, to be ordained to the priesthood. Pope Francis took their recommendations under advisement. No action. That was almost three years ago. Tough luck on the people pleading for communion in the Amazon region.

Mary McAleese. RollingNews.ie photo.
Mary McAleese.

Former Irish president Mary McAleese, who has had a conflicted relationship with the church, especially with John Paul II, was elated by the document and congratulated the hierarchy for not doctoring the recommendations to placate Rome. The adjectives she used to commend it left no doubt about her satisfaction: “explosive, life-altering, dogma-altering, church-altering.”

Mrs. McAleese has a particular peeve with the church’s puerile insistence that the gay lifestyle is unnatural and sinful. Her son is a homosexual. This demeaning thinking has been repudiated by science for more than half a century. Rome, however, keeps beating the old drum based on an outmoded belief in their version of natural law.

Fr. Tim Hazelwood, one of the leaders of the Irish Association of Priests, described the document as “stunning” because “it is not trying to uphold any of the old negatives from the past.” Those “old negatives” did immense harm to the preaching of the gospel message.

Pope Francis will meet with a full synod of bishops in October of next year to decide what changes they will institute, based, supposedly, on the recommendations from Catholics all over the world. We live and hope!

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic clergy’s unquestioned — and uneducated — power spurs abuse

The report, ‘Beyond Bad Apples,’ looks at systemic causes behind the clergy sex abuse scandal of past decades.

Catherine Coleman Murphy, center, and Jack Wintermyer, right, protest along with others outside Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul before an Ash Wednesday Mass in Philadelphia on March 9, 2011.

By

A new report based on interviews with some 300 Catholic priests, nuns and laypeople concludes that clergy aren’t adequately prepared to wield the power they exercise and need more education on questions of sex and gender.

The report, “Beyond Bad Apples: Understanding Clericalism as a Structural Problem & Cultivating Strategies for Change,” released Monday (Aug. 15), explores the links between clericalism — clergy’s focus on its authority — and clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse.

The study’s authors, Julie Hanlon Rubio and Paul J. Schutz, both professors at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit institution in Northern California, initially intended to survey 600 respondents, drawn proportionally from lay, religious (those who take vows but are not ordained to the priesthood) and priests, but were turned away by five of the six dioceses and diocesan seminaries they approached.

The authors admit that this “likely means that our respondents are biased towards agreement with our theory of clericalism” and that “our data leans in one direction.”

Nearly half (48.4%) of the 300 who participated were lay Catholics, 22% were nuns, 16% were priests and 6% were men in formation for the priesthood. More than two-thirds of their responses from priests came from those educated in Jesuit institutions.

The report was funded by a grant from Fordham University as part of a project dubbed, “Taking Responsibility: Jesuit Educational Institutions Confront the Causes and Legacy of Sexual Abuse.”

Rubio and Schutz wanted to move away from asking, “Is he a good priest or a bad priest?” and ask instead, “What are the underlying reasons that this priest is acting in this way?”

Existing studies, said the authors, “have focused on individuals who engage in abuse due to personal weakness, psychosexual vulnerabilities, the influence of broader historical movements, or poor theology and training.”

Schutz told Religion News Service that their aim was to understand how “structural clericalism operates in the church,” comparing clericalism to the way structural racism shapes the lives of people of color.

Rubio said, “When you blame ‘bad apples,’ then everybody else is sort of innocent, as long as we go after the bad apples. But when you say there’s a problem with the structure, that’s a much bigger problem, and we’re all implicated.”

The authors said their data shows that sex, gender and power are all components of structural clericalism, which in turn keeps priests above and apart from the rest of the church and potentially enables abuse.

“Beyond Bad Apples: Understanding Clericalism as a Structural Problem & Cultivating Strategies for Change" Courtesy image
“Beyond Bad Apples: Understanding Clericalism as a Structural Problem & Cultivating Strategies for Change”

Nearly half (49%) of priest respondents and 73% of those in formation said that they were told repression or sublimation were strategies for dealing with their sexuality (how one lives as a sexual person), according to the report. This number increases to 83% among non-Jesuit-educated priests.

The report also noted that 70% of those in formation and 51% of priests said it was difficult to talk about their sexuality. More than 75% of all respondents said the church would be a healthier institution if priests spoke openly about their own sexuality.

Half of priests and those in formation said their formation program gave them the tools they needed for living a celibate life without denying their sexuality. Of this 50%, all were Jesuit-educated; none were diocesan priests or students in diocesan seminaries.

Large majorities in the study rejected “simple correlations between homosexuality or celibacy and (clergy perpetrated sex abuse).” Only 11 respondents named homosexuality and only four named celibacy as a factor in clergy-perpetrated sex abuse, according to the report.

Among the survey’s participants, 40% of priests and men in formation for priesthood identified as homosexual or bisexual, the report found. Officially, the priesthood is limited to heterosexual men.

“The concentration of gay men in the priesthood cannot be overlooked because most priests are not able to be open about their sexual orientation, and some may consciously or unconsciously seek out priesthood as a way of avoiding or repressing their sexuality, making healthy celibacy extraordinarily difficult,” the report read.

Complete Article HERE!

Uh, Can the NYT Please Not Treat Catholic Reactionaries as a Fun Sexy Trend Story?

By Molly Olmstead

On Tuesday, the New York Times published an opinion piece that declared “New York’s hottest club is the Catholic Church.”

The piece was written by an editor at the stuffy conservative Christian journal First Things, which, under the recent leadership of the Catholic theologian R.R. Reno, has swung toward the reactionary right. The author of the piece, Julia Yost, argued that young, cool intellectuals—bored by the corny politics of their liberal peers—have found transgressive delight in embracing the rituals of traditional Catholicism, along with at least some of its moral stances on sex and gender.

These young edgy reactionaries, she wrote, are associated with the buzzy but mostly nominal downtown Manhattan “Dimes Square” scene. (The name refers to a restaurant in the area.) They have embraced “monarchist and anti-feminist sentiments,” she wrote, and they debate esoteric Catholic topics.

“This is not your grandmother’s church—and whether the new faithful are performing an act of theater or not, they have the chance to revitalize the church for young, educated Americans,” Yost declared.

The writer also didn’t mention that “trad Cath” social media, with all its semi-ironic memes about saints and sacraments, attracts those who like to post winkingly about the Crusades. Or that there is a growing group of traditionalist Catholics, yearning for an old version of the religion before the church took out violently anti-Semitic language from its liturgy, who sometimes tread dangerously close to white supremacy. (Traditionalist Catholics are often defined by their rejection of the teachings of the 1965 Second Vatican Council.)

Just as white supremacists reach back to a fictional version of the Middle Ages or the Viking Age to create their own mythos, the trads look back to an imagined pre-modern church.

Yost is not entirely wrong about Catholicism’s online cultural moment and the “transgressive” appeal of it for the young participants. It’s undeniable that many young trads pride themselves on their intellectual independence from their peers, and on the countercultural nature of the worldview they’ve embraced.

Yost may also be right that Gen Z’s intellectual formation in the waters of social media could naturally make the aesthetics of Catholicism more tempting. Catholicism, in an artistic sense, is nothing if not dramatic. It’s gold and lace. It’s incense and violence. It’s martyrs and marble and blood. (Or at least, the theatrical version of it is. Pope Francis has urged the church to drop its obsession with “grandma’s lace.”)

But Yost tries to push the argument further than it really goes. Young trads may think they are being transgressive, but that does not mean that they genuinely are. There are some 50 million Catholics in the U.S., and there’s no denying the influence the religion has had in shaping the country: Just look at its role in the reasoning of the justices who overturned Roe v. Wade. The Met’s “Heavenly Bodies” theme, Yost argued, was chosen because “Catholicism pairs well with transgression.” Are we sure it’s not because of the centuries of religious artwork? The opulence of the church’s vast historical wealth? Or of the slight thrill of sacrilege, rather than the appeal of traditionalism?

This line of the piece was intriguing to me: “The scenesters of downtown Manhattan may simply find it less dreary to shame one another for fornication than for bearing privilege.”

But Yost tips her hand when she implies that these young people have been, essentially, forced into this position by the failures of secular society. “Disaffection with the progressive moral majority—combined with Catholicism’s historic ability to accommodate cultural subversion—has produced an in-your-face style of traditionalism,” she writes. “By disparaging traditional gender roles and defining human flourishing in meritocratic terms, progressive moralism militates against young people’s attainment of basic goods: marriage and procreation.”

It’s this—more than describing the fashion of any sort of scene, real or imagined—that matters here. The traditionalists are not all harmlessly “larping.” Many are campaigning, sometimes quite vehemently, for the stripping of rights from women and queer people

Yost knows this. Her arguments about the church’s “chance to revitalize the church for young, educated Americans” makes assumptions based on the specific philosophy First Things represents. To conservative Catholics, there is a clear strategy to survive this crisis point in the church’s history: embrace tradition, embrace aesthetics, embrace black-and-white morality and discipline to give clarity in a tumultuous and confusing time. Pope Francis’ strategy is the opposite: reach out to the young and disaffected and bend, as much as possible, to the times; embrace the vast diversity of the faith and hope young people are drawn in by compassion

The church in the U.S. is, in many ways, torn between these two philosophies. In New York, the several members of the trad Cath Dimes Square crowd may be the flashiest and most exciting public display of the faith to trend story aficionados—as a journalist, I certainly can’t scoff at a fun trend piece—but there are so many other forms of Catholicism operating in the city, with far greater numbers: Immigrant groups, socialist worker groups, old-fashioned Italian and Irish cradle Catholics. It’s a mistake to overstate the trads’ influence, or even to imply they’re the most interesting story in the Catholic Church right now—especially in New York.

It would also be a mistake, however, to ignore traditional Catholics’ political power. There are degrees to trads. Some are apolitical converts or reverts, who love the “larp” of it, as Yost noted. Some choose to engage more in the church’s political wars than in partisan politics. (Yost nods to the sedevacantists, who typically think Francis is an anti-pope; they may be oddballs, yes, but they are also loud and active on social media). Some—the “rad trads”—are ready to wage the culture wars in American politics, regardless of whose civil rights are thrown under the bus. And extremism experts have been warning about them for some time.

To be fair, Yost writes with some skepticism of this crowd, especially when it comes to their perceived faith. The story links to pieces on “the housewives of white supremacy” and the “awful advent of reactionary chic.” But still, Yost urges the reader not to reject the Dimes Square trad Caths’ practice as inauthentic because “‘authentic’ internal conversion is not a Catholic demand but a Protestant one.” Instead, she says, “what Catholicism requires is adherence to disciplines and dogmas.”

She’s right that we can’t dictate who is and isn’t a Catholic by examining the authenticity of their faith. But she falls short by claiming it is, instead, a matter of rule-following. Scholars will tell you there are many ways to live out any religion, including Catholicism. Polls show that even when it comes to basic dogmatic elements, such as the literal transformation of the Eucharist, many Catholics simply shrug off the official line. Some Catholics choose to draw inspiration more from biblical teachings on tolerance and compassion. Catholics, like nearly all Christians, have chosen which elements of the faith to live by. Yost and the First Things crowd highlight a militant and rigid version of that choice, declaring it the church’s promising future.

Complete Article HERE!