Pro-Gay Catholics Vastly Outnumber Homophobic Bishops


Earlier this month I visited Milwaukee to attend the Call to Action National Conference, a gathering of progressive Catholics from around the country, and introduce pro-LGBT attendees to the organization I work for, Truth Wins Out.

Many readers will understandably balk at the words “progressive,” “pro-LGBT,” and “Catholic” appearing in the same sentence. However, these words and concepts are far more compatible than many people realize.

Not that equality-minded people could be blamed for thinking otherwise. After all, the Catholic Church and its affiliates vociferously push an insidious anti-gay agenda. New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was the most outspoken opponent of the state’s marriage equality law. Minnesota’s Catholic bishops are leading the charge to add an anti-gay amendment to that state’s constitution, calling the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples a “top priority” in 2012 and using tax-exempt church resources for political purposes.

The Knights of Columbus, a lay Catholic group, bankrolls the National Organization for Marriage, which fights against the civil rights of LGBT people across the country. In fact, in 2009 the Knights spent more money fighting marriage equality than they did on all other social programs, such as food banks and food drives, combined.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops formed a Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage in order to organize and galvanize opposition to same-sex marriage nationwide. (Dan Avila, the bishops’ Policy Advisor for Marriage, was forced to resign this month after publishing a column in which he stated that homosexuality was caused by the devil.)

And the Catholic Church even has its own “apostolate” for gay people, called Courage, which counsels members to abandon their natural sexuality for a lifetime of celibacy and endorses the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, a leading proponent of “ex-gay” conversion therapy.

But the bigotry of the Catholic hierarchy is only part of the story. In fact, the beliefs of the rank-and-file Catholic faithful couldn’t be more different. Recent polls have repeatedly shown that a majority support granting same-gender couples the freedom to marry.

A survey released in March by the Public Religion Research Institute, billed as “the most comprehensive portrait of Catholic attitudes on gay and lesbian issues assembled to date,” found that a large majority of American Catholics – a whopping 71 percent –support civil marriage equality for same-sex couples. It further states that “Catholics are more supportive of legal recognitions of same-?sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition and Americans overall” and that “Catholic support for rights for gays and lesbian people is strong and slightly higher than the general public.”

Perhaps most revealing, though, is the PRRI’s finding that “less than 4-in-10 Catholics (39 percent) give their own church top marks … on its handling of the issue of homosexuality.”

Social justice has long been an important component of the Catholic faith tradition. The Church is outspoken in its support of labor unions (Pope John Paul II even asserted the fundamental principle of “the priority of labor over capital” in a 1981 encyclical.), immigrants and financial reform, as well as its opposition to capital punishment. American Catholics appear to view the issue of LGBT equality as one of social justice as well, consciously rejecting the bigotry of their religious leaders in much the same way they reject the official prohibition on contraception (98 percent of Catholics use forms of contraception banned by the Church).

So let’s resist the impulse to stereotype all Catholics as anti-gay extremists. After all, our community knows the sting of prejudice all too well. Instead, work together with pro-equality Catholics, as Truth Wins Out and many other organizations are doing already.

Let’s speak out together against the Catholic Church’s institutionalized bigotry and work towards a society that’s truly just for all people.

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic Church and Sexuality: If Only the Hierarchs Would Listen and learn

COMMENTARY — John Falcone

Few Roman Catholic seminaries can boast an active and vibrant GLBT student organization. Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry is one. Since April 2011, the “GIFTS” group (“G/L/B/T Inclusive Fellowship of Theology Students”) has planned and hosted prayer services for the school community. We’ve celebrated the long tradition of believers who have lived their Catholicism through same-sex love, non-traditional gender roles and the quest for social justice. We have also asked some difficult questions: How can GLBT lay people with a proven calling to ministry best serve the Catholic Church? What is our responsibility to a clergy and leadership which is often homophobic and paternalistic, and profoundly conflicted about sex?

Recently, four GIFTS members and I drove to Fairfield University in Connecticut for “The Care of Souls: Sexual Diversity, Celibacy and Ministry” — the last of this autumn’s “More than a Monologue” series on sexuality and the Catholic Church. We went to hear Rev. Donald Cozzens, a respected researcher on the Catholic priesthood and a former seminary president; Mark Jordan, a queer theologian and ethicist at Harvard Divinity School and Jeannine Gramick, a Catholic nun who was silenced by the Vatican for her work with lesbians and gays. We found four themes particularly compelling: the struggles of a closeted clergy, the dynamics of Catholic patriarchy, the troubling theology of priestly vocation and the powerful Christian witness offered by lesbian nuns.

For Cozzens, the Vatican’s prohibition of gay men entering the priesthood has worked much like the (now defunct) policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Gay men have not left the priesthood (Cozzens estimates they make up 30-50 percent of US priests), and they also continue to enter — either by lying about their orientation, or by keeping it under wraps at the direction of seminary directors. Yet gay priests must steer firmly clear of their sexual identity in their preaching and public personas. As GIFTS member Oliver Goodrich asked, “How can so many priests, who preach a gospel of liberation and authenticity, lead such inauthentic lives?”

Jordan was more provocative. In a church that defines “the few and the proud” as its straight male celibate clergy, power gets tangled with maleness. But the clergy’s desire for power animates an unseemly dance of dominance, submission and career advancement. Within all-male hierarchical settings, this can smack of sado-masochist pleasures. Accepting gay men into seminary, or acknowledging same-sex love, shines an unwelcome light on these homoerotic dynamics. To keep this psychology intact and in shadow, the hierarchy must keep gay men (and straight women) out.

The notion that ritual and organizational leadership requires abstinence from sexual love is another problem for Catholic ministry. For almost 2000 years, Catholic monks and nuns have accepted celibacy as a form of spiritual practice. For 1100 years, Catholic priests could marry and raise children. Today, Church officials insist that everyone called to the priesthood automatically receives the “grace” (or spiritual power) to live a celibate life. Why must these two be connected? As Jocelyn Collen, another GIFTS member, remarked, “Grace is not given to someone on command. No one — not even the Vatican — can direct the grace of God.”

Gramick’s reflections were perhaps the most hopeful. Drawing from decades of work with lesbian nuns, she described a non-patriarchal model of ministry in which warm and affirming female friendships support lives of celibacy, service and prayer. For these nuns, the experience of sexual orientation is about the longing for intimacy, the romantic desires that shape personality and interpersonal life. This makes profound psychological sense. Lesbian and gay celibates need intimate same-sex friendships; in the same way, straight men called to celibacy need warm and affirming relationships with women. Without such intimate friendships, frustrations multiply, boundaries decay and ministers tragically act out.

At the end of the day, we drove back to Boston through the worst October snowstorm in years, and a certain chill still remains. I’ve co-written this article with another GIFTS student, whose goal is to teach in a Catholic school. The insights of this minister-in-training are all over this article. But to protect his/her future employment, I cannot disclose a name. Like the prayers that GIFTS has written, and the GLBT saints that we’ve recalled, the insights of marginalized Catholics speak of Spirit, courage and truth. Our hierarchs should listen and learn.

Complete Article HERE!

For U.S. bishops, economic justice isn’t on the agenda

Catholic leaders, meeting in Baltimore this week, fail to put society’s main problems front and center

At a time of staggering poverty, rampant unemployment and growing income inequality, Catholic bishops will gather for a national meeting in Baltimore today and remain largely silent about these profound moral issues. A recent Catholic News Service headline about the meeting — “Bishops’ agenda more devoted to internal matters than societal ills” — is a disappointing snapshot for a church that has long been a powerful voice for economic justice.

The U.S. bishops’ relative silence contrasts with a recent Vatican document that urges stronger regulation of the financial sector and a more just distribution of wealth. Urging reforms to the left of even the most liberal Democrat in Congress, the Vatican spoke in stark terms about a global financial system that is unhinged from moral values. It’s a thoughtful critique of free-market fundamentalism, in keeping with centuries of Catholic teaching as articulated by several popes. A Vatican cardinal even acknowledged that the “basic sentiment” behind the Occupy Wall Street movement aligns with Catholic values on the need for ethical corporate practices and humane financial systems.

Twenty-five years ago this month, Catholic bishops were anything but quiet. They helped drive attention to poor and working families with a landmark pastoral letter, “Economic Justice for All,” that offered a subtle but sober critique of the Reagan administration’s embrace of tax cuts for the rich and draconian cuts to government protections for the poor. The bishops spoke not as policymakers but as moral leaders in touch with the needs of the unemployed and concerned about conservative political leaders’ efforts to strip workers of basic union rights. As a longtime staff member at the U.S. bishops’ conference, I was so proud of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago and his colleagues, who insisted that a Catholic vision for human dignity did not stop with concern for the unborn but must include a commitment to economic fairness, peace, care for the environment and opposition to the death penalty.

Where are the bishops’ priorities today? In recent years, church leaders have opposed historic health care reform, lashed out at the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Barack Obama to give a commencement address, and publicly chastised pro-choice Catholic politicians even as they give a pass to Catholic lawmakers who push economic policies antithetical to Catholic teaching about the common good. The bishops’ decades of advocacy for comprehensive health care took a detour last year when they opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act because of concerns it would provide taxpayer funding of abortion — a flawed policy analysis, according to independent experts, some pro-life lawmakers and even the Catholic Health Association.

In recent weeks, the bishops have augmented their campaign against same-sex marriage, appointing a “defense of marriage specialist” to a top position at the U.S. bishops’ conference, and challenged the Obama administration to create a stronger exemption for Catholic organizations that oppose insurance coverage of contraception.

These are important issues, properly addressed by the bishops. However, at a time of economic crisis and growing anti-government ideology embodied by the tea party, Catholic bishops would do well to once again offer a compelling moral response to radical individualism and unbridled capitalism.

Most Americans probably don’t know that Catholic bishops helped lay the groundwork for the New Deal as far back as 1919, when they advocated for a minimum wage and insurance for the elderly, disabled and unemployed. Much of this proud legacy is under threat today from lawmakers, including prominent Catholics like House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan, who think tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans are more important than funding nutrition programs for low-income women and children.

The U.S. bishops deserve credit for their participation in an interfaith coalition defending government safety-net programs that save lives and provide a measure of dignity to the most vulnerable. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the bishops’ conference, was right to recently urge pastors to address poverty from the pulpit. And the bishops’ national anti-poverty initiative, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, is a vital resource that helps community-based organizations empower those living on the margins of society. But I fear the church’s revered social justice witness is being crowded out by divisive culture-war battles at a time when Americans need a stronger moral message about the dignity of work and economic justice for all.

A new generation of bishops must find their voice.

Complete Article HERE!

I’m a Christian, and the Catholic church doesn’t speak for me

COMMENTARY — John Aravosis

I’m getting increasingly fed up with the Catholic church following the lead of the religious right in claiming that a) they’re oppressed, and b) they speak for all Christianity. No you’re not, and no don’t.

I’ll get to the first part later, but let’s start with this notion that the Catholic church speaks for all Christians. I am not a Catholic, yet still, I’m a Christian. Magic! No, not really. Lots of us are Christians and not Catholic, and that’s okay. And lots of us are Americans and not Christians, and even that is okay. Of course, the Catholic church often doesn’t even speak for Catholics, certainly not American Catholics (and I suspect the church leadership’s soft spot for enabling pedophiles isn’t much appreciated by most of the non-American Catholics either).

What has the Catholic church in such an uproar of late is America’s slow but steady march towards civil rights and liberty for all. You see, the Catholic church, like the evangelical far right, believes that common decency is a zero sum game. They actually believe that recognizing the civil rights of all Americans somehow takes something away from the Catholic church – no, strike that, they claim that America’s civil rights laws somehow oppress the religious liberty of Christians, not Catholics, but Christians.

This, in spite of the fact that the Catholic church is exempt from new civil rights laws covering gays, for example, so the church is free to practice as much bigotry and discrimination as it wishes to in the name of Christ. But that’s not enough. The Catholic church thinks that it’s not entirely free unless you’re note entirely free. It’s not enough for them to demand their own followers practice bigotry, they, like the Mormon leadership, or the evangelical far right, aren’t content unless they’re forcing everyone, even those of other faiths or no faith, to live under their rules.

So now the Catholic church is throwing a hissy fit over gay marriages (even though, again, they’re exempt) and state laws governing contraceptives. You see, the Catholic church is happy to feed at the government teat by accepting over $2.8 billion a year from the government at all levels. Yes, you read that right. Sixty-seven percent of Catholic Charities $4.27 billion in annual revenue comes from the government.

Understandably, the Catholic church would prefer that American taxpayers fund them to the tune of over two billion dollars a year and not attach any strings, such as not permitting Catholic charities to discriminate in their charity work against those very Americans who are paying 67% of Catholic charities’ bills. Heck, I’d love two billion a year with no strings attached, who wouldn’t? That’s why Catholic Charities stopped helping a segment of the poor and disadvantaged in Washington, DC and in Illinois – in both states they’re no longer providing foster care and adoption services to needy children – because Catholic Charities couldn’t stand the fact that local laws required them to use state tax dollars in a non-discriminatory manner. So rather than treat all Americans fairly – rather than help needy children – Catholic Charities decided to just pull the plug and stop helping the needy.

Oh, and saw a quick aside, it’s interesting that Catholic Charities is trying to claim that it’s still the Catholic Church, so civil rights laws shouldn’t apply to it. Really? The American taxpayer is funding the Catholic Church’s proselytizing to the tune of $2.8 billion a year? I’m a bit confused about that one. I didn’t think we funded any faith. So how is it that the Catholic church is now claiming that its charity work is somehow its faith, when we’d never fund its proselytizing in the first place?

What’s really going on is that the Catholic Church’s anti-gay animus is deemed more important than the needs of children. (Then again, the Catholic Church doesn’t exactly have a stellar record of late when it comes to giving a lick about the needs of children.)

And now the Catholic Church is becoming increasingly hysterical, screaming about how America is quickly becoming unfriendly territory for Christians (which certainly begs the question of when America will finally have a Christian president, or elect a Christian to Congress).

Maybe, just maybe, this debate isn’t about religion at all. After all, it doesn’t quite make sense, all this talk about America – which is run and ruled by Christians for the most part, and has been for over two hundred years, and whose government regularly nods towards Christianity far more than most modern democracies – becoming “anti-Christian.” So what’s really going on?

Maybe, just maybe, the Catholic Church is more worried about the $2.8 billion it gets every year from the American government (at all levels) than it is about some nonsensical notion of religious freedom when the Catholic church is exempt from every civil rights law its complaining about. Maybe, just maybe, this is all about money, and not about religious freedom at all.

PS I’ve asked it before and I’ll ask it again: What are bigots like this doing on the board of the supposedly progressive Coalition on Human Needs? You have to wonder if CHN would have racist or anti-Semitic organizations on its board. No, you don’t wonder – we all know they wouldn’t. But somehow when the prejudice is against gays and lesbians, some of our top “liberal” organizations find it in their hearts to look the other way.

<em>Complete Article <big><strong><span style=”font-family: arial; color: #ff6600;”><span style=”color: #cc0000;”>HERE</span></span></strong></big>!</em>

“Occupy the Church”: Austria’s Catholic Rebellion Gathers Strength


Two recent reports from Austria show clearly that the Catholic rebellion is gathering strength: survey research shows that two thirds of the country’s priests support calls for urgent reform, and that lay Catholics have announced plans to ignore Church rules that restrict the celebration of Mass to ordained priests. Instead, they will conduct worship and communion themselves where priests are not available. Meanwhile, in Australia, a separate story from Melbourne illustrates how on a much smaller scale, Catholics elsewhere are also willing to defy episcopal control.

Survey: Two Thirds of Austrian Priests Back Priests’ Reform Initiative.
When the Austrian Priests’ dramatic “Call to disobedience” hit the news back in June, there was some uncertainty over just how much support they had. We now have a reliable estimate by a reputable, professional research organization. GfK was commissioned by national broadcaster ORF to check how many priests support the group’s ideas. The answer is remarkable:

  • 68% of Austrian priests see “an urgent need for reform”;
  • in spite of the strong, provocative language of the call, 32% back it “unreservedly”;
  • only 28% oppose it.

Detailed figures show that many of those in support were in favour of debating the various points in detail. Around one in three of Austria’s priests are “radical reformers”, according to researchers while four in 10 could be considered as “moderate reformers”.
-Austrian Independent

It’s worth recalling, here, just how far-reaching the proposals are. They want to see women admitted to the priesthood, an end to compulsory celibacy for priests, and for priests to distribute communion to people who have been divorced and remarried. In themselves, these calls are not too extraordinary: many progressive Catholics around the world would agree with the aims. This initiative though, goes well beyond simply pleading for a change in the rules. It is explicitly framed as a “call to disobedience”, and instead urges that where there is a shortage of priests resulting from the continued refusal to ordain women and married men, priests should in effect embark on a work to rule, leaving lay people to fill the gap if necessary, by saying Mass for themselves. They also urge that in the absence of a change in the rules on communion, priests should simply disregard them.

Austrian Lay Catholics Prepare for DIY Mass
In a parallel move, lay Catholics who met over the weekend announced plans to do precisely as the priests’ initiative has urged: for lay people fill the gap in parishes where no priest is available. In support of the plan, they claim that they are placing God’s word in the Bible ahead of mere Church rules.

A manifesto adopted by dozens of activists at the weekend said lay people will preach, consecrate and distribute communion in priestless parishes, said Hans Peter Hurka, head of the group We Are Church.
“Church law bans this. The question is, can Church law overrule the Bible? We are of the opinion, based on findings from the Second Vatican Council, that this (ban) is not possible,” he said Monday.

Austria’s bishops are themselves meeting in a four day session this week. Responding to this will present them with a major challenge. Already, the church is losing members at an alarming rate – last year, over 87 000 Austrian Catholics formally left the Church, an increase of 63% over 2009. The proportion of Austrians who are Catholic is down to just 65%, compared with 89% in 1951. Research earlier this year showed that many of the remaining Catholics admit that they attend Mass only infrequently, and have little or no trust in the Church hiearachy.

  • 41 per cent of Austrians attending mass only on holidays like Easter and Christmas.
  • A further 35% never attend Mass.
  • 45% told researchers that their trust in the Church had been “shattered” by the sexual abuse revelations.
  • A further 27% had no trust in the Church to begin with.

Together with the decline in numbers, will go a decline in revenue. Churches in Austria are funded by the state, in proportion to their signed up members. In 2009, the Church got 395 million euros from the state. To compound further the loss of revenue, an increasing proportion of those funds are being used to pay compensation to the victims of abuse.

The overwhelming majority of Austrians support the priests’ initiative. Attempts by the bishops to stifle it will simply alienate still further an already disaffected Catholic population. Accommodating them, however, is beyond their power, as the rules in question are set by the Vatican, not by national bishops.

DIY Catholicism, elsewhere.
Austria is not unique in facing these conflicts: Dominicans in the Netherlands proposed priestless Mass back in 2007, but were warned by their order not to slide into schism. In country after country, the majority of Catholics do not agree with Vatican rules on sexuality, or on the rules for priestly ordination, or many other matters of church discipline. What sets the Austrians apart, is not the simple desire for reform, but the willingness by laypeople and priests to move ahead on implementing reforms without waiting for institutional approval. On a smaller scale, we have seen this kind of DIY Catholicism elsewhere as well – as in the example of the womenpriests’ movement, and in a handful of parishes which are already hosting their own Masses, independently of episcopal control.

The latest example could be that of a parish in South Melbourne, Australia.
Having been told he must retire, Father Bob McGuire calls for public support in helping him stay on as Parish Priest in South Melbourne, saying ‘we’re like Occupy the Church’.
Despite wanting to stay on and continue his work, Father Bob McGuire has been told by Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart that his tenure as Parish Priest at Saint Peter and Paul’s Parish will end early next year.
The priest, named in July as Victorian of the Year, says he’s concerned that he won’t be able to continue his work with the local community.
“If it was me I wouldn’t give a rats, but it’s not me – it’s us, it’s the village and it’s the church in the village,” says Father Bob.
– ABC, Melbourne

I don’t know too much about the detail of Fr Bob and South Melbourne, but my impression is that there are strong similarities with the case of St Mary’s, Brisbane, and several parishes in the US, where bishops mistakenly thought they could simply silence troublesome priests in the accustomed way, by episcopal decree – and found instead that the congregations themselves chose to relocate to independent premises, with their preferred priest or with none, rather than submit meekly to the unwanted exercise of naked church power.

The Austrian rebellion is not going away any time soon – and may well expand further afield.

Complete Article HERE!