Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"This is the Living Word"

NOTE: Updated 4/1/12 with photos of Week 6's Palm Sunday vigil!

"This is the Living Word." That's how one participant describes Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's ongoing series of Lenten prayer vigils at the chancery offices of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

"The Living Word." It's a beautiful and appropriate description, as those who gather each Sunday in solidarity with their LGBT brothers and sisters embody Jesus' example of radical inclusivity, compassion and justice-making.

The primary purpose of the vigils is to gather Catholics and other people of good will to pray for Archbishop Nienstedt. Specifically, we pray that he may choose to redirect his energies and the financial resources of the Archdiocese away from the divisive ‘marriage amendment’ and toward actions that reflect Jesus' Gospel call to care for the poor and marginalized.

The vigil also provides an opportunity for Catholics to pray that the archbishop and all the bishops of Minnesota may be open to the love and beauty embodied in same-sex relationships and families. Many who gather also pray that the bishops may be open to the experiences and insights of the majority of U.S. Catholics who support civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.

To read Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's
media release about its Lenten vigil series, click here.

To sign the petition related to the vigil, click here.

To read and sign the Catholic Statement of Support
for Marriage Equality, click here.

The following photographs by Catholics for Marriage Equality MN executive coordinator Michael Bayly document the first five weeks of C4ME-MN's series of Lenten prayer vigils. It's fascinating (and a wonderful sign of hope!) to observe the tell-tale signs of winter turning to spring from one vigil to another. Perhaps less obvious is the fact that the number of vigil attendees has grown. Eighty gathered on the First Sunday of Lent, and by the Fifth Sunday that number had over doubled. We anticipate a bigger than ever turn-out for the final vigil this weekend on Palm Sunday. Please join us if you're able!

Week 1
Sunday, February 26, 2012

Week 2
Sunday, March 4, 2012

Above: Among those who gathered on March 4 was Mary Vaughn (second from left),
who sadly passed away on March 22, 2012. Mary was a longtime justice and peace
activist. In 2001 she served a six months prison sentence after being
arrested protesting the U.S. Army School of the Americas.

Above: Lisa Vanderlinden thanks those who gathered for Week 2 of C4ME-MN's
Lenten prayer vigil.Lisa and her husband Brent feature in one of the "video vignettes"

Week 3
Sunday, March 11, 2012

Week 4
Sunday, March 18, 2012

Above: Darlene White, who along with her husband Tom,
features in the video series Catholics for Marriage Equality.

Week 5
Sunday, March 25, 2012

Above: Jim Smith, C4ME-MN Parish Inreach Coordinator,
invites those who gathered on March 25 to "Come Out and Sing Out
for Marriage Equality
" on April 28, 2012.

Week 6
Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012

Images: Michael Bayly.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Of Light and Hope . . .

A Multi-Faith Community Worship Service

WHERE: Mount Zion Temple
1300 Summit Ave. St. Paul

WHEN: Thursday, March 29
4:30-5:30: Light refreshments
5:30-6:30: Interfaith Worship Service

Everyone is welcome!

LGBT, allies, families with children, friends, neighbors
and clergy – all parts of our Blessed Community – are welcome as we
work and worship together for marriage equality in Minnesota.

Sponsored by OutFront Minnesota

Monday, March 26, 2012

Why I DON’T "Walk Away From the Crazy"

By Terence Weldon

NOTE: The following commentary was first published March 13, 2012, at Terence Weldon's blog, Queering the Church.

At Bilerico, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer presents a challenge to gay Catholics, "When Do Catholics Walk Away From the Crazy?" Writing about the tragic case of Al Fishcer, the Catholic teacher who was fired when he announced his planned marriage to his long time partner, he responds to Fischer’s statement that he hadn't expected that response:

My sympathy is just about used up for people like you. I don’t doubt it's complicated for you. What is not complicated, what is in fact crystal clear, is that you are supporting an institution that has for centuries caused vast pain for GLBT people.

You are the problem.


I’ve faced precisely the same question decades ago, in an entirely different context. As a young student activist in South Africa, early 70's, I participated in many anguished discussions about the supposed moral obligation on White liberals to leave the country, because by staying we were said to be propping up the system, “part of the problem”. Over the years, I heard the same challenge rephrased in different ways, and saw many of my peers take that decision to leave. Some of those who did, participated as exiles in “the struggle” from abroad, others simply got on with their lives and built successful careers – making no more contribution to ending apartheid than if they had stayed. Some of those who remained behind likewise simply got on with their lives, raising their families. It is arguable (but I’m not convinced) that in itself made them part of the problem. Others who stayed were emphatically not. The story of South Africa’s transition to democracy has many strands, and the role of progressive activists inside the country is one of them.

To put the same challenge in yet another context, one could ask of progressive Americans, in the light of some well-publicized atrocities in a series of military adventures, from Vietnam to Aghanistan, why they continue as tax – payers to prop up the American system. We could say to them, too, “You are the problem. You should leave”.

We could, but I don’t, because the possible responses are obvious. The military atrocities are not essential to what the United States is, and in fact contradict true American values; the appropriate response to these horrors is not to walk away, which in any case achieves nothing, but to hold the those responsible to account; and that in any case it is not a realistic possibility for most Americans to simply walk away, renounce citizenship and cease paying taxes.

Much the same applies to the suggestion that LGBT Catholics should simply walk away from the Church. The disordered teaching on sexuality (all of it, not just the gay bits) and the occasional horrors of its pastoral application in practice, are not central to Catholicism; walking away does nothing to help, and probably just makes things more difficult for those who remain; and in any case, is just not as simple as it sounds.

I have shown why sexual matters are not central to Catholicism before, in several posts: for example, in “True Catholic Belief“, and in “Catholic Priorities and the English Church” . The idea that Catholicism is obsessed with sexual matters is a false misperception. We must also recognize that reports of the occasional horror stories, of a child with two moms turned away from a Catholic school, or a lesbian denied communion, or a teacher fired for announcing his marriage to a man, make such dramatic headlines precisely because they are so rare. There are probably kids being raised by gay parents in the majority of Catholic schools in North America and in Europe, countless openly lesbigaytrans Catholics receiving communion, or administering it every Sunday, and if all our gay organists were fired, church music in would simply cease in a high proportion of our parishes.

The claim that by staying we are part of the problem sounds like a high moral principle, but it is not. It is nothing but a slogan, devoid of any real meaning. It could only be true if it meant that leaving could solve anything, but it does not. There is no reason at all to believe that if all gay men and lesbians left the Catholic Church, it would somehow lead to improved sexual teaching. There is in fact good reason to believe that our continued presence and increasing visibility is in fact contributing to a gradual shift in tone, if not yet in formal doctrine. I suspect that doctrinal change too will come, but I leave that aside, for a far more pressing issue: the problem that we leave, if we walk away, to those left behind.

I am certain that change in Catholic sexual teaching, along with reform of the abuse of power and clerical culture must come, but I do not see it as my task to bring about that change. That task is too big for me. I leave it to those better equipped and more influential – and to the help of the Holy Spirit. My concern is with those other Catholics who, for whatever reason, stay within the Church, to help them survive the nasty bits, for the sake of the much bigger picture, that is the true meaning of Catholicism, and of Christianity. I try to do that here, writing at Queering the Church, by assisting at the Soho Masses for LGBT Catholics, which by their simple existence stand in prophetic witness that we too are welcome in the Catholic Church, and by participating as fully as I can in my local parish, as an openly gay and partnered Catholic. If I were to simply walk away, as suggested, I believe I would be simply abandoning those others who are still struggled with the issues that I dealt with and resolved for myself, years ago.

Finally, I can not simply walk away, because is is just not that simple. I am not a Catholic because I have signed on to a set of beliefs or programme of action, as one does when joining a political party. I am a Catholic because I was baptized and raised a Catholic, which is part of my identity, who I am. I can no more easily stop being a Catholic, than I can just stop being gay. I am Catholic, furthermore, for the very simple reason that the church is indeed “catholic”, that is, universal and inclusive (even if the practice of some churchmen attempts to deny that). This universality and inclusion is at the heart of true Catholicism, which I embrace by staying in – and would sacrifice if I were to leave.

Recommended Off-site Link:
Knowing What to Do, Knowing Why to Stay – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, November 16, 2009).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Theological Considerations Behind Opposition to the Proposed Minnesota 'Marriage Amendment '

By William C. Hunt

On November 6 Minnesotans will vote on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would define legal marriage as “only a union of one man and one woman.” This amendment is supported by many of our fellow Christians who are convinced that homosexual activity is gravely immoral. They have a strong argument for their position. Passages from the Book of Leviticus label sexual activity between men as an “abomination” worthy of the death sentence. (Leviticus 18.22; 20.13) It is instructive to recall that each of the Ten Commandments except for coveting is sanctioned by the death penalty as well. Furthermore, Paul takes up this condemnation in the New Testament, notably in his letter to the Romans. (1.24-27)

Do those of us who oppose the amendment concede that all forms of homosexual activity are immoral but that for the greater good in a pluralistic society gay and lesbian persons should be allowed to enter into same sex unions? Or, do we think that committed, adult, consensual, loving relationships are holy and good and deserving of societal recognition? If the latter, how do we deal with the biblical condemnations?

In my estimation, it all comes down to looking at Christian moral teaching, including the teaching in passages from the Bible, in a developmental perspective. This means looking at scriptural passages in their historical and cultural context and taking into account developments in the intervening millennia. It means considering the taken-for-granted presuppositions of biblical authors and examining them in the light of subsequent discoveries. We have to ask why the biblical authors condemned a moral activity and see if those reasons still apply.

The biblical authors condemned male same sex activity for three basic reasons. First, in a male dominated patriarchal culture where male honor was the core value, they saw this as an affront to male honor, especially on the part of the passive partner. In a culture that made sharp distinctions between appropriate gender roles, the passive partner was dishonoring himself by allowing himself to be penetrated, thus taking on the inferior role of a woman.

The second core value was reproductivity. It was the duty of every male to honor his father by begetting a son to carry on his father’s name. He did so by planting his seed in the fertile ground of his wife’s womb. Homosexual intercourse was seen as planting seed on barren ground.

The third core value was purity – also known as holiness or cleanliness. After the return from the Babylonian captivity Israelite leaders did everything in their power to prevent idolatry. They did this by trying to avoid any activity that, in their minds, was associated with pagan worship. Rightly or wrongly, they considered male homosexual activity to be part of that worship.

Israelite purity also involved culturally conditioned decisions about what was appropriate. Water creatures should have fins and scales, making crawfish and shrimp unclean. One shouldn’t weave a fabric from two kinds of thread, or sow two kinds of seeds in the same field. Animals with cloven hooves should chew their cud, thus making swine unclean. Likewise males, whether animal or human, should mate with females. Moreover, heterosexual intercourse was considered unnatural in any position other than face to face with the male on top. (This may well be what Paul is referring to in Romans 1.26 when he says: “Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural . . . .” It is doubtful that Paul is referring to lesbian relationships.)

Our modern culture views these ancient Israelite values in a completely different light. We no longer consider males to be inherently superior to females; nor do we have such rigid gender based roles. We judge marriage from the quality of the loving relationship rather than from success in generating male offspring. We no longer connect homosexual activity with pagan worship; nor do we abide by ancient rules of purity.

Added to that, the twentieth century saw a revolution in the understanding of human sexuality that was on a par with the Copernican revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

All this means that contemporary Christians are in a position to review the blanket condemnation of homosexual activity found in the biblical passages and to distinguish violent, exploitative sexual activities from those that are loving, adult, and free. This enables us to see homosexual relationships in a positive light and even envisage same gender unions blessed by the Church.

William C. Hunt is a witness of the Second Vatican Council, having attended the sessions of the second period (1963) as a peritus (theological expert). He holds a doctorate in theology from the Catholic University of America. For ten years he taught a graduate level theology course entitled “Christian Perspectives on Biomedical and Sexual Ethics.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Quote of the Day

I welcome the debate on the meaning of marriage and its role and purpose in a liberal diverse society. . . . Surely if there is one constant and common theme throughout the scriptures it is in the gradual discovery and recognition of the reality of God as a God of an inclusive and all-embracing Love whose ultimate expression is found in the Paschal Mystery of Death and Resurrection of his "Word" incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth.

The purpose and mission of the Church, surely, is to be an effective and coherent witness to and expression of that love in our world and our time - however we do it, and in whatever language, for everyone.

. . . Society sees little of that, sadly, when it sees a church hierarchy that all too willingly goes into convulsions when moral issues are called into question but remains silent when faced with the real social scandals of our time.

But I do see it in the people, young and old, who still come faithfully to fill the pews and celebrate the mystery of a love that defies all our definitions and the limits we place on it. I see it in their acts of sacrifice and solidarity, in their innate sense of dignity, justice and a shared and sacred humanity. Perhaps when as a Church we begin to speak about that a bit more, the world will once again sit up and listen.

– Fr Ceirion Gilbert
The Tablet
March 13, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bishop Calls for "New Study of Everything to Do with Sexuality"

Speaking at New Ways Ministry's 7th National Symposium in Baltimore,
Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson said the Catholic Church's "natural law
approach to sexual morality and its interpretation of ancient scriptural passages
on homosexual and other sexual activity are in need of correction."

Note: The following is excerpted from Jerry Filteau's March 16 National Catholic Reporter article "Bishop Urges Change in 'Church Teaching Concerning All Sexual Relationships'."

BALTIMORE – At the Seventh National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality, retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson [right] called Friday for "a new study of everything to do with sexuality" – a kind of study that he predicted "would have a profound influence on church teaching concerning all sexual relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual."

"If [church] teaching on homosexual acts is ever to change, the basic teaching governing all sexual acts must change," he said.

Robinson, a priest since 1960 and auxiliary bishop of Sydney from 1984 until his retirement for health reasons in 2004, told the Baltimore symposium, sponsored by New Ways Ministry, that "because sex is so vital a way of expressing love, sex is always serious."

That view, espoused by the church, stands in contrast to the general perception of modern society, which "appears to be saying more and more that sex is not in itself serious," he said.

For the church to deal with sex seriously, however, does not in itself mean that the church must continue to accept uncritically its traditional understandings of sexual morality, he said.

Robinson was a featured speaker at the March 15-17 symposium, which drew about 400 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning Catholics and church personnel ministering to them. The gathering's first day was devoted to a spiritual retreat guided by the bishop.

At the symposium's lunch Friday, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley addressed the group on a pending state law, which he had signed just days earlier, legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

Opponents of the new law have launched a campaign for a popular referendum in November to revoke it, but several recent polls have indicated that a slight but growing majority of the state's voting population favors legalization of same-sex marriages.

In his talk later that afternoon – available along with other writings on his website – Robinson did not address the growing U.S. question of whether faithful same-sex unions should be blessed with the title and all legal rights of "marriage." But he argued that the church's moral appraisal of such unions would change dramatically if it were to reevaluate its traditional approach to all human sexual activity.

He said while the church's emphasis on the profound significance of sex is correct, its natural law approach to sexual morality and its interpretation of ancient scriptural passages on homosexual and other sexual activity are in need of correction.

. . . He began his talk with three basic premises:

• "There is no possibility whatsoever of a change in the teaching of the Catholic church on the subject of homosexual acts unless and until there is first a change in its teaching on heterosexual acts.

• "There is a serious need for a change in the church's teaching on heterosexual acts.

• "If and when this change occurs, it will inevitably have its effect on teaching on homosexual acts."

"If the starting point [as in current church teaching] is that every single sexual act must be both unitive and procreative, there is no possibility of approval of homosexual acts," Robinson said.

He proceeded, however, to question that natural law argument, especially as laid out by recent popes, and to suggest that a more nuanced reading of divine commandments in scripture and of Jesus' teaching would lead to a different set of moral norms – starting with a change in church teaching that every sexual act or thought that falls outside a loving conjugal act open to procreation is a mortal sin because it is a direct offense against God himself in his divine plan for human sexuality. . . .

To read Filteau's article in its entirety, click here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
An Australian Bishop's "Radical" Call for Radical – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, August 27, 2007).
"I Ask Questions About Sexual Morality": An Interview with Bishop Geoffrey Robinson – David Gibson (BeliefNet, June 19, 2008).
In the Garden of Spirituality – Geoffrey RobinsonThe Wild Reed (July 28, 2009).