To a group that calls itself CatholicVote, well, that’s precisely the problem. They seem to believe that shame is so much better. This despite all the evidence to the contrary painfully provided by many — though not all — within the church this group claims to follow.
“A controversial conservative Catholic organization is urging parents to ‘Hide the Pride’ during Pride Month — by checking out any LBGTQ-related books they see at their local libraries so that no children will see them,” TheHill.com reported last week, adding that CatholicVote cites “recent polls” which show “American moms and dads do not want their children exposed to sexual and ‘trans’ content as part of their education.”
I don’t know whether to howl with rage or yawn at the sheer boredom of all this.
Well, to paraphrase George Carlin, if there are still any books left after certain folks have burned the ones that really bother them, you should check out the one Michael O’Loughlin recently wrote.
O’Loughlin, after all, understands how far gay Catholics — yes, you read that right, Catholic voters — have come. And how far we all still have to go before something like real progress is made.
“In many ways,” O’Loughlin told the Irish Voice, sister publication to IrishCentral, recently, “knowing all this history makes it easier to weather the current onslaught of bigotry. Because I have a better sense now of how others endured it, fought it, and overcame it.”
O’Loughlin’s book “Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear,” begins with a central conflict in not just his own life, but in that of so many other Irish Catholics, on both sides of the Atlantic.
“I am gay and I am Catholic,” O’Loughlin writes. “And I struggle continuously to reconcile those two parts of my identity.”
Such a noble yet rare thing to do these days. To work to try and bring something together, even as so many others are shouting and ranting and raging. Or just walking away and bitterly giving up.
The folks at CatholicVote may not be impressed. But a fellow in the Vatican sure was.
Late last year, O’Loughlin wrote an op-ed essay in The New York Times, explaining that his extensive talks with people trying to reconcile their faith and sexuality — “the fellowship, gratitude and moments of revelation we exchanged…had a profound effect on my own faith.”
In fact, O’Loughlin, whose grandfather came to the US from Tuam, Co Galway, decided to write a letter to Pope Francis.
“To my surprise, he wrote back,” O’Loughlin writes.
Pope Francis responded, in part, “Thank you for shining a light on the lives and bearing witness to the many priests, religious sisters and lay people, who opted to accompany, support and help their brothers and sisters who were sick from HIV and AIDS at great risk to their profession and reputation.”
O’Loughlin had to admit that the Pope’s “words offer me encouragement that dialogue is possible between LGBT Catholics and church leaders, even at the highest levels.”
So, along the same lines, on June 24 and 25, Outreach 2022 will take place at Fordham University in New York City.
While the CatholicVote folks are content to divide in the hopes of conquering well, something, folks like Father James Martin, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, will gather to discuss what Catholics and the LGBTQ community have in common. They will work to make the world a better, not more hostile, place.
As a cradle Catholic whose values were shaped by 12 years of Catholic education and 60-plus years of Mass attendance, I feel great gratitude for the countless caring sisters, priests and Catholic laypeople who have guided and inspired me through much of my life. I’ve been proud to be associated with the good done by Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable organizations throughout the world.
So it’s with real sadness that I’ve joined the throng who have left the church.
I didn’t come to this decision lightly. When friends would ask, “How can you be a Catholic despite (choose one or more) the clergy sex abuse scandal, the ban on women priests, the treatment of homosexuality as a disorder, the rules on birth control … I had three well-honed responses:
“A 2,000-year-old, global institution doesn’t change quickly,” “Show me a major human institution that isn’t a mixed bag of strengths and corruption,” and “It’s the good, grace-filled people that keep me hanging in there — not the policies.”
Still, I can’t say I relished the mental gymnastics required to justify why I continued to be a practicing Catholic.
The justifications ran out when I read “Catechesis and policy on questions concerning gender theory,” a stunningly harsh new directive from the archdiocese covering Catholic parishes, organizations and institutions.
In no uncertain terms, it spells out how all employees, volunteers and vendors at these institutions are to treat transgender individuals. Among other dictates, it includes, “Recognize only a person’s biological sex,” “No person may designate a ‘preferred pronoun’ in speech or in writing” and “All persons are to follow the dress code or uniform that accords with their biological sex.”
The document begins by saying, “’The truth will set you free.’ Christ’s words to his disciples call Christians in every age to embrace the truth of who we are as children of God, for only in embracing this truth can we be set free.”
I believe that truth is embedded in each of us — that God implanted a unique identity that is ours alone to experience, express and put to good use during our time on Earth. The fact that society is becoming more accepting of differences in our identities — race, sexual orientation and gender expression being prime examples — strikes me as part of God’s unfolding plan to enable each of us to achieve our full potential.
I am not an expert on it, but I think it’s safe to say the subject of gender identity is complex, nuanced and not a good candidate for rigid rules. What I know for sure is that my Catholic education taught me Jesus identified with those whom the rule-makers rejected. I learned that he reserved his harshest criticism for religious leaders who piled heavy burdens on others. Thanks to my Catholic formation, I know that to be Christian means to uplift the dignity of others, especially those who most need uplifting.
So how can I be a committed Christian and go along with a policy that, instead of emphasizing compassionate care, institutionalizes the oppression of people because of who they are?
The retired Anglican bishop of Kingston, Jamaica, the Right Rev. Dr. Robert Thompson, has called for the repeal of Jamaica’s anti-gay “buggery law”.
by Colin Stewart
Retired clergyman says sexuality and gender in all of its forms are gifts from God
Retired Anglican Bishop of Kingston, the Right Reverend Dr Robert Thompson has called for the buggery law to be repealed.
And he has urged persons interested in that becoming a reality to agitate for that to be done.
He made the calls at Wednesday’s launch of Intimate Conviction 2, hosted by the HIV Legal Network, Anglicans for Decriminalisation and its Caribbean partners, in Jamaica.
However, Reverend Thompson stressed that in addition to the law being repealed, people in society must be more open to each other, despite differences in sexual orientation.
“Our sexuality and gender in all its diverse forms are gifts from God that should be celebrated rather than classed as sinful or shameful things that distract from our holiness or our spiritual growth,” he contended.
“Instead of seeing LGBTQ individuals pejoratively . . . as sexual deviants, we can experience them as equally loved by God and capable of [enriching] lives in communion with the divine in all its forms. Christian sexual ethics fails badly when it ignores the body’s grace as the authentic medium for intimacy.
“You cannot have intimate conviction or even a conversation about intimacy, and exclude the body,” he added.
The retired Bishop also suggested that it was not for the authorities to pronounce on sexuality.
“We assume that there is an area of human experience called sexuality which is of immense importance, something which needs to be sorted out before anyone can claim to be leading a mature and fulfilled human life. And isn’t this part of the problem where, in fact, people in authority feel that they have a right to sort out others who may or may not be having conflicts about their own sexuality?” he questioned.
“The world of Jesus and Paul would not have recognised such a task as being central to their message of the Gospel. They knew about marriage as complicated bundles of family arrangements, they knew that young males were most likely to resist promptings towards sexual involvement and generally did their best to stop it. However, they would have been puzzled to see all this brought together under a single heading or to be asked about their sexuality.”
Laws that criminalise consensual same-sex intimacy still exist in more than 60 countries, including in the Caribbean.
A new collection of essays details the discrimination and exclusion experienced by queer people in the Catholic Church in Germany, adding to mounting pressure on the embattled institution to carry out reforms.
By Christoph Strack
Anyone who listens to folk and pop music in Germany will know Patrick Lindner. The 61-year-old has been in the music business for decades. He’s a well-known face on television and performs in German-speaking countries. Patrick Lindner is gay — and Catholic.
“In the fall of 2020, my husband and I got married,” Lindner writes in a book published earlier this week.
“It was important to us to also receive God’s blessing in church after the civil wedding. Contrary to his expectations, it was made possible without any problems.
A wish for the church
The artist talks about growing up in a Catholic environment, without having been “raised too strictly Catholic.” He describes his coming out in 1999 as a low point in his career, and the impact of fans’ outpouring support. He also writes about his mother’s wish: “I want you to be happy!” The same attitude, Lindner says, is what he would want from “Mother Church.”
Lindner’s contribution is one of 68 texts compiled and published by the priest Wolfgang Rothe in the German book “Wanted. Loved. Blessed. Being queer in the Catholic Church.” Not all of the authors belong to this group. Some essays are by relatives or friends. And, every fourth contribution is published anonymously, under the initials “N.N.”
Queer people who work for the Catholic Church — whether in parishes, kindergartens or retirement homes — can be fired at any time.
Wolfgang Rothe, who published the book, told DW that he wants the manuscript to depict the reality of queer people in the Catholic Church “as comprehensively as possible” and thus “bring about a change of perspective in our church.” Rothe said he himself “burst into tears” when he first read many of the contributions.
Rothe is among Catholic clerics in Germany who blessed same-sex couples at church in May 2021, even though the Vatican had previously banned such celebrations.
Hurt, fear and frustrations
“The divide is widening, the need for reform is obvious,” wrote architect Ulrike Fasching in the book. She lives in a so-called “rainbow family” — two women with one son.
Stefan Thurner, a geriatric nurse, when referring to his experiences in everyday community life, wrote: “To act as if there are no queer people is simply out of touch with reality.”
Three of the anonymous contributions come from the clergy. “I am a priest. And I’m gay,” is how one begins, expressing hurt that homosexuals, even if celibate, are not allowed to become priests at all under Vatican rules.
Film director and event manager Katrin Richthofer describes her tense relationship with the Catholic Church and comments on her lesbian daughter: “Don’t let a church ruin your faith! God created you just the way you are and loves you unconditionally!”
The collection is a catalog of hurts, fears and frustrations, as well as the hopes pinned on faith, and painful experiences surrounding the idea of home and identity.
Rothe explains why so many contributions are anonymous. “In this anonymity, the fear is expressed very clearly.” Among those who chose to publish anonymously, he says, are even some people “who are out of the closet in their everyday lives, but who were afraid to speak out in public.”
Need to accelerate reform
The book was published eight days after 125 queer church employees came out, causing a big stir in Germany. The timing was coincidental but it illustrates the growing calls for reform. As recently as last Sunday, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, had welcomed the coming out of numerous queer employees of his church. “We have deeply hurt people and continue to do so today,” he said on German public television network ARD.
But even Bätzing cannot guarantee that no church employee will be fired because of his or her sexual orientation. He refers to the ongoing reform of church labor law in Germany. That, however, has been going on for years — a fact Bätzing did not explicitly mention. The slow process has led to calls for lawmakers to raise pressure on the church.
The call for decisive action by bishops will become stronger again when the third plenary assembly of the “Synodal Way” of the Catholic Church in Germany meets in Frankfurt am Main at the end of the week.
The assembly, launched at the end of 2019, is intended to discuss — and advance — reforms.
Earlier in January, the publication of a new, damning report investigating historical sexual abuse at the Munich Archdiocese over several decades sparked renewed outrage. That has prompted many of the faithful to renew calls for swifter action, including recognizing queer people in the church.
Bishops go against the tide
One of those already taking action has his say in the book with the essay titled: “Encounters create change.” Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers, who is 69, describes his uncertainty before meeting with a group of queer Christians in Dresden.
“What they had to tell me touched me deeply,” Timmerevers writes. His diocese has now set up a counseling service for queer people. The Dresden bishop calls the Vatican’s refusal to bless same-sex partnerships “deeply devastating,” saying the church “cannot continue like this in the long run.”
Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers changed his stance on same-sex couples after meeting with Dresden’s queer community
Timmerevers is not alone. On March 13, Cardinal Reinhard Marx will celebrate a queer service in Munich’s Paulskirche. It also marks an anniversary. Since March 2002, queer people and their friends in the city have been celebrating “Roman Catholic services” once a month in Munich.
Marx’s presence will mark the first time that an archbishop will attend the anniversary — complete with champagne and a buffet.
A prominent liberal cardinal who leads a body representing European bishops has called for “fundamental revision” in Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and said it is wrong to fire Church workers for being gay.
The remarks by Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich to the German Catholic news agency KNA were among the most direct calls ever by a Roman Catholic leader for change in teaching on one of the most controversial issues in the church today.
Hollerich is president of the pan-European grouping of Catholic bishops’ conferences, known as COMECE.
In the KNA interview, Hollerich was asked for his assessment of a campaign in which about 125 Catholic Church employees in Germany, including some priests, came out as LGBTQ, and about the Church’s teachings on homosexuality.
“I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer true,” he said in interview that was published on Tuesday in Germany.
In another part Hollerich said: “I think it’s time we make a fundamental revision of the doctrine”.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that same-sex attraction is not a sin, but homosexual acts are.
Hollerich, who did not elaborate on what aspects of the teaching he felt needed revision, said: “I also believe that we are thinking ahead in terms of doctrine. The way the pope has expressed himself in the past can lead to a change in doctrine.”
Homosexuality is one of the most controversial issues in the 1.3 billion-member church, with conservatives accusing Pope Francis of giving mixed signals and confusing the faithful.
Francis has said that while the church cannot accept same-sex marriage, it can support civil union laws aimed at giving gay partners joint rights in areas of pensions, health care and inheritance.
He has sent notes of appreciation to priests and nuns who minister to gay Catholics and said parents of gay children should never condemn them, but under his watch the Vatican has also said priests cannot not bless same-sex couples.
In December, a Vatican department raised conservative ire when it apologised for “causing pain to the entire LGBTQ community” by removing from its website a link to resource material from a Catholic gay rights advocacy group in preparation for a Vatican meeting in 2023. It was later reposted.
In his interview with KNA, Hollerich also said gay church employees should not lose their jobs, something which has happened in some countries, particularly the United States.
“They know they have a home in the church. With us [the Luxembourg archdiocese] no-one is dismissed because they are homosexual,” he told KNA.