Catholicism and LGBT discrimination

By Father Paul Keller, C.M.F.

rainbow flag church_flickr

We have once again witnessed a devastating and horrific act of mass murder. On June 12, 2016 a violent young man and fellow citizen who was heavily-armed, psychologically-troubled, and professing hatred of LGBT people and allegiance to a radical and violent form of Islam killed 49 people and injured another 53. These kinds of mass shootings happen regularly in the United States; this is the most recent and the most lethal.

Many have responded with the usual statements about keeping those who have died and their loved ones in our thoughts and prayers. But some Catholic bishops have responded to the shootings at Pulse, the Orlando gay nightclub, in a way that goes beyond these all-too-familiar sentiments. Instead, these bishops seem to be adopting the much more inclusive pastoral vision of Pope Francis—a vision that embraces a “culture of encounter” with those with whom one has serious disagreements.

Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida called for a ban on weapons designed for mass killing and rejected barring all Muslims from the country as un-American. But this was not all he said. He also expressed dismay that religious people can express hatred and contempt for LGBT people in a way that makes acts of violence against them more likely.

Similarly, Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago decried gun violence and, addressing the gay and lesbian community as “our brothers and sisters,” said, “We stand with you.” Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, CA wrote, “This tragedy is a call for us as Catholics to combat ever more vigorously the anti-gay prejudice which exists in our Catholic community and in our country.”

To understand the true impact of the bishops’ words, one must also consider the other statements from the church regarding LGBT people. In 1997 the Committee on Marriage and Family Life of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released the document “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers.” This document was warmly welcomed by some for the kind, pastoral tone it adopted. It was criticized for the same reason by others, who wanted a more rigorous emphasis on homosexual behavior as seriously sinful.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.” (Church officials using the terms LGBT or gay and lesbian is still a very recent and rare occurrence.) The catechism continues: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Leaving aside for the moment the philosophical and technical meanings of the term objectively disordered, what is “unjust” discrimination? In 1992 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) released “Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons.” In this statement there is a condemnation of violence against gays and lesbians; however, there is also an acceptance of many other forms of “just” discrimination against LGBT people—in housing, employment, adoption, and military service. From this statement, it seems that the only unacceptable behavior against LGBT people is a violent attack.

The recent statements of the bishops responding to the tragedy in Orlando seem to go beyond the very mediocre, minimalist understanding of discrimination offered by the CDF. In a very Pope Francis-like move, these bishops directly or indirectly address some very challenging questions to the church itself. What does it mean for us to consider LGBT people “our brothers and sisters”? In what ways do Catholics breed contempt for LGBT people? Where can we find and how can we combat the anti-gay prejudice that exists in the Catholic community?

We need our bishops to give us guidance concerning the anti-LGBT prejudice and contempt that exists within the Catholic Church. A continuing silence is not morally courageous or pastorally responsible.

No normal human being should have any problem condemning acts of violence directed toward someone because of his or her sexual orientation. However, as a Catholic community, we need to do much more than just condemn violence. For example, it is legal in many states to fire someone for being gay, lesbian, or transgender. If we believe that this represents unjust discrimination, then how is it that our church is not on the front line working to end it? Surely we can’t congratulate ourselves because we explicitly condemn violence against LGBT people. Who doesn’t? Can’t we as a church do better than that? Shouldn’t we be actively doing something to end other forms of unjust discrimination?

Given the way that the Catholic Church has spoken about LGBT people and given the church’s stance against the moral acceptability of homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage, we will probably not be a welcome presence in the fight against LGBT discrimination, at least initially. However, that is all the more reason to speak out. If the Catholic Church is to have any moral credibility when we address issues like same-sex marriage or the natural moral ends of sexual intimacy, then we as Catholics must be willing to spend time and money fighting against injustices suffered by our LGBT brothers and sisters. We should not feel as if we need to change or water down our moral teachings, but we should look and act a lot more like Jesus Christ in our fight for justice. This is one of the more powerful lessons we should be learning from Pope Francis.

For some, the only experience they might have of the Catholic Church is being told that they or their favorite uncle, kindest teacher, or most generous neighbor is “gravely disordered,” “intrinsically evil,” or an “abomination.” In the face of having their dignity or that of the people they love diminished and insulted, these people, without an understanding of the technical vocabulary of moral theology, may conclude that it is the church itself that is “gravely disordered” or “intrinsically evil.” In order to persuade them that this is not the case, the Catholic Church should be much more willing to work in solidarity with and on behalf of communities that are suffering unjustly, even when we do not agree with all the beliefs of that community.

Complete Article HERE!

In memoirs, ex Pope Benedict says Vatican ‘gay lobby’ tried to wield power: report

File Under:  That Naughty (and apparently self-serving) Gay Lobby

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI waves before a mass in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican September 28, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI waves before a mass in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican September 28, 2014.

Former Pope Benedict says in his memoirs that no-one pressured him to resign but alleges that a “gay lobby” in the Vatican had tried to influence decisions, a leading Italian newspaper reported on Friday.

The book, called “The Last Conversations”, is the first time in history that a former pope judges his own pontificate after it is over. It is due to be published on Sept. 9.

Citing health reasons, Benedict in 2013 became the first pope in six centuries to resign. He promised to remain “hidden to the world” and has been living in a former convent in the Vatican gardens.

Italy’s Corriere della Sera daily, which has acquired the Italian newspaper rights for excerpts and has access to the book, ran a long article on Friday summarizing its key points.

In the book, Benedict says that he came to know of the presence of a “gay lobby” made up of four or five people who were seeking to influence Vatican decisions. The article says Benedict says he managed to “break up this power group”.

Benedict resigned following a turbulent papacy that included the so-call “Vatileaks” case, in which his butler leaked some of his personal letters and other documents that alleged corruption and a power struggle in the Vatican.

Italian media at the time reported that a faction of prelates who wanted to discredit Benedict and pressure him to resign was behind the leaks.

POPE’S DIARY

The Church has maintained its centuries-long opposition to homosexual acts.

But rights campaigners have long said many gay people work for the Vatican and Church sources have said they suspect that some have banded together to support each other’s careers and influence decisions in the bureaucracy.

Benedict, who now has the title “emeritus pope,” has always maintained that he made his choice to leave freely and Corriere says that in the book Benedict “again denies blackmail or pressure”.

He says he told only a few people close to him of his intention to resign, fearing it would be leaked before he made the surprise announcement on Feb. 11, 2013.

The former pope, in the book-long interview with German writer Peter Seewald, says he had to overcome his own doubts on the effect his choice could have on the future of the papacy.

He says that he was “incredulous” when cardinals meeting in a secret conclave chose him to succeed the late Pope John Paul II in 2005 and that he was “surprised” when the cardinals chose Francis as his successor in 2013.

Anger over the dysfunctional state of the Vatican bureaucracy in 2013 was one factor in the cardinal electors’ decision to choose a non-European pope for the first time in nearly 1,300 years.

Benedict “admits his lack of resoluteness in governing,” Corriere says.

In the book, whose lead publisher is Germany’s Droemer Knaur, Benedict says he kept a diary throughout his papacy but will destroy it, even though he realizes that for historians it would be a “golden opportunity”.

 Complete Article HERE!

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Do Monks Have Sex?

By Thomas Moore

Hari Kirin Khalsa

Hari Kirin Khalsa

Do monks have sex?

Most of the ones I’ve known are serious about their vows.  In my own experience—I was a monk for thirteen years—the vow of celibacy didn’t feel like repression. I’ve talked to a few people over the years who did resent it, but while I was a monk I never met anyone like that.

I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but the vow of celibacy can be a joyous thing. Monks are dedicated to living intensely in community. They’re like utopians who want to experiment with a better world. They believe that celibacy allows them to create a really close community, and their purpose in keeping the vow is precisely that—to make real community possible.

As I see it now, toning down your sexual behavior is a secondary aspect of the vow of celibacy. Let me compare it to the vow of poverty. “Poverty” in a monastic setting isn’t primarily about living with few possessions or having a Spartan lifestyle. I know monks who do live that way, but the main purpose again is to share everything in common and in that way intensify community living.

For the Christian monks I lived with, the particularly vibrant community made possible by the vows reflected the new way of being presented in the Gospels. The monastic community was a sample of the “kingdom” or new world that Jesus taught. So it was a utopian attempt to model a better world.

Oddly, I’ve deepened my thoughts about monasticism in the many years that have elapsed since I lived the life. My appreciation for celibacy has only increased, and as a married man I still try to keep the monastic spirit alive in my life, including celibacy.  Obviously, I’ll have to explain what I mean.

My dictionary defines celibacy as “abstaining from marriage and sexual relations.” That’s the vow that I lived many years ago. But now as a married man I also find myself abstaining from sexual relations most of the time.

I go on trips. I get sick. My wife gets sick. She goes away. Either of us may not be interested for a while—never very long. As we get older, the erotic is ever present but not as persistent. Whatever the situation, we’re not having sex all the time.

In my experience today, celibacy is part of my sexual rhythm. At moments I’m very interested in sex, but other times there may be a lag, or it may be impossible due to circumstances. I know, this doesn’t sound like celibacy, a commitment to not having sex, but it turns out to be something very similar. As far as I’m concern, I’m still a celibate most of the time.

I think couples have to respect the spirit of celibacy as part of their sexual flow. They can even enjoy those times when they are apart and live for a while like real monks. I mean that in a very positive way. It might be better to really get into moments of celibacy than to treat them as deprivations.

You incorporate your times of not having sex as part of your sexuality. I’m a psychotherapist. I know that some people in a couple feel guilty because they can’t always be available to their partners—sickness, loss of libido, too much travel.  Of course, they have to consider how much this enforced celibacy impacts the relationship, but they can also be temporary, situational monks.

Sometimes normal people don’t feel like having sex. Maybe if they made celibacy part of their couples vows, they could affirm those feelings rather than feel bad about them or overrule them. I think the acceptance of ordinary celibacy would actually add to and complete a person’s sexuality. Celibacy and sexual activity could be the yang and yin of sexuality.

Back to the question “do monks have sex?” Maybe you agree with me that not having sex can be a positive and even joyous decision on the part of a monk. It isn’t all that difficult in the right context. Of course, it can cause problems, and it’s not for everyone. But it can be an intelligent, psychologically healthy choice.

In the monastery I found that the joys of community life, and maybe even its tensions, created such a bond that I didn’t miss sex. I didn’t think about it much. I certainly didn’t feel bad about my vow.

Now as a married person I enjoy the rhythm of togetherness and separateness, which is played out in the yin and yang of sex and celibacy. I can still be a monk in spirit. I can still honor my vow of celibacy as part of my dedication to be a good sexual partner. I can still be a married man and enjoy the spirit of a monk’s life.

Complete Article HERE!

If Good When Die…

Sound familiar?

meatland

Prevalence of homosexuality in men is stable throughout time since many carry the genes

Computer model sheds light on how male homosexuality remains present in populations throughout the ages

in love

Around half of all heterosexual men and women potentially carry so-called homosexuality genes that are passed on from one generation to the next. This has helped homosexuality to be present among humans throughout history and in all cultures, even though homosexual men normally do not have many descendants who can directly inherit their genes. This idea is reported by Giorgi Chaladze of the Ilia State University in Georgia, and published in Springer’s journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. Chaladze used a computational model that, among others, includes aspects of heredity and the tendency of homosexual men to come from larger families.

According to previous research, sexual orientation is influenced to a degree by genetic factors and is therefore heritable. Chaladze says this poses a problem from an evolutionary perspective, because homosexual men tend not to have many offspring to whom they can provide their genetic material. In fact, they have on average five times fewer children than their heterosexual counterparts.

Chaladze used an individual-based genetic model to explain the stable, yet persistent, occurrence of homosexuality within larger populations. He took into account findings from recent studies that show that homosexual men tend to come from larger families. These suggest that the genes responsible for homosexuality in men increase fecundity (the actual number of children someone has) among their female family members, who also carry the genes. Other reports also suggest that many heterosexual men are carriers of the genes that could predispose someone to homosexuality.

Based on Chaladze’s calculations, male homosexuality is maintained in a population at low and stable frequencies if half of the men and roughly more than half of the women carry genes that predispose men to homosexuality.

“The trend of female family members of homosexual men to have more offspring can help explain the persistence of homosexuality, if we also consider that those males who have such genes are not always homosexuals,” says Chaladze.

The possibility that many heterosexual men are carriers can also explain why estimates of the number of men who have reported any same-sex sexual behavior and same-sex sexual attraction are much higher than estimates of those who self-identify as homosexual or bisexual. According to Chaladze, non-homosexual male carriers might sometimes manifest interest in homosexual behavior without having a homosexual identity.

The possibility that a large percentage of heterosexual people are carriers of genetic material predisposing to homosexuality has implications for genomic studies. Researchers should therefore consider including participants who do not have homosexual relatives in such studies.

Complete Article HERE!

Ain’t it the truth…

Think about it!

if you don't love me

Animal Homosexuality Documentary

According to recent scientific research, more than 450 different kinds of animals engage in homosexual activity. St Thomas Productions has taken this research, and combined it with never-before- seen film footage, to produce this compelling and groundbreaking documentary. Animal Homosexuality explores the various ways homosexuality is expressed in the animal kingdom through courtships, affection, sex, pair-bonding and parenting. A covert revolution has been taking place in nature, and has gone unnoticed until now. With the help of scientific research, international stock footage and location shoots all over the world, Saint Thomas re-examines and revises the fundamental paradigms of nature.

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6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Christianity And Sex

Christianity’s history with sex is much more complicated than you might think.

By Carol Kuruvilla

Growing up in a conservative Christian church, I was taught that the gospel was one, complete, and indestructible whole — particularly as it applied to human sexuality. But it’s not that simple.

The idea that is still taught in some churches today is that the Christian sexual ethic came to earth fully formed, straight from heaven, about 2,000 years ago. Throughout all that time, there was exactly one way for Christians to express their sexuality — by staying abstinent until they got married to a person of the opposite gender. And then, you could have at it all you wanted.

But what I wasn’t taught in Sunday School is that the Bible’s teachings on sex have been interpreted in many different ways. I didn’t know that the early Christians actually started practicing celibacy because they were convinced the end of the world was near. No one told me that marriage wasn’t always defined and controlled by the church. And that even within marriage, sex wasn’t always something that Christians were taught to enjoy and cherish.

And the truth is that the standards on what it means to be a sexual person and live a Christian life have changed. A lot. Here are 6 facts to prove it.

Woman Condemned to Wear a Chastity Belt. Miniature from Gratian's Decretum (Decretum Gratiani or Concordia Discordantium Canonum), 12th century. Bibliotheque Municipale, Laon, France

Woman Condemned to Wear a Chastity Belt. Miniature from Gratian’s Decretum (Decretum Gratiani or Concordia Discordantium Canonum), 12th century. Bibliotheque Municipale, Laon, France

1. Jesus had very little to say about sex.

Other than a some heavy admonishments against lust and against divorce, the Jesus of the Bible didn’t have a lot to say about issues of sexuality. (My guess is that he was too busy hanging out with the poor and healing the sick to care. Just a guess). He also had nothing at all to say about homosexuality or sexual identity as we understand it today.

Most of the instruction about sex comes from Christian leaders who started spreading the religion after Jesus’ death.

2. To be a truly devoted Christian during the earliest days of the church, you needed to stop having sex altogether.

Early Christians’ belief that Jesus’ second coming was imminent created an environment that exalted celibacy over marriage. It was a radical departure from Jewish teachings that the disciples would have been familiar with. But it makes sense — what was the point of getting tied up with worldly responsibilities, like taking care of a spouse, children and a household, when the end of the world was near?

St. Paul, a celibate Christian leader who wrote most of the New Testament, thought of practicing celibacy as taking the higher road towards God, since it allows Christians to concentrate wholly on things of the spirit.

The second coming didn’t happen, but the emphasis on celibacy stayed. Couples in the second century were expected to stop having sex altogether after producing several children.

Medieval Stained Glass Window Panel Couple Sleeping

Medieval Stained Glass Window Panel Couple Sleeping

3. For the first 1,000 years of Christianity (that’s at least HALF of its existence, people), many Christians wouldn’t have considered getting married in a church.

Marriages in the West were originally just economic alliances made between two families, with both the church and the state staying out of the proceedings.  This meant that weddings didn’t require the presence of a priest.

The church got involved in regulating marriage much later on, as its influence began to increase in Western Europe. It wasn’t until 1215 that the Church formally put a claim on marriage and hashed out rules about what made children legitimate.

4. For much of the church’s history, sex within a marriage was only tolerated because it produced children.

Christian leaders didn’t just disapprove of premarital sex. Sexual desire itself was seen as the problem.

After St. Paul, one of the most prominent Christian early church leaders who had an impact on the way Christians view sex was St. Augustine. Influenced by Plato’s philosophy, he promoted the idea that untamed sexual desire was a sign of rebellion against God. It only became honorable when it was placed in the context of marriage and the possibility of children.

Augustine was one of a long line of theologians to promote the idea of sexual desire as a sin. Other Christian leaders have argued that being too passionately in love with a partner, or having sex just for pleasure, was also a sin. This idea would continue to gain momentum over the next few centuries. And it wasn’t long before things got really, really weird.

Frescoes of Baronial Hall (15th century), detail, Della Manta Castle, Manta (Cuneo), Piedmont, Detail, Italy, 13th-16th century

Frescoes of Baronial Hall (15th century), detail, Della Manta Castle, Manta (Cuneo), Piedmont, Detail, Italy, 13th-16th century

5. The Church developed some rules about sex that would seem strange to even the most conservative American Christians today.

In medieval times, the church became deeply involved with controlling people’s sex lives. Virginity and monogamy were still prized, while homosexuality could be punished by death. The church also had very specific requirements for what type of sex married couples could have. Since all sex was supposed to be for the purposes of procreation, certain positions were banned (no sex standing up, the woman shouldn’t be on top, no doggy style, oral, anal, or masturbation). And then there were restrictions on what days of the week people could have sex (not on fast days, or feast days for a saint, or on Sundays, for example).

Sex was also discouraged when a woman was menstruating, pregnant, or breastfeeding, (which considering there was no birth control, could have been a good deal of the time). All of these prohibitions meant that on average, sex between married couples was only legal about once per week, if that.

6. Despite these varying standards for sex, love, and marriage, Christians have usually ended up doing their own thing.

In the Middle Ages and now, many Christians have admired and strived towards these standards and ended up looking the other way. It took centuries for the church to enforce a ban against priests getting married. The Middle Ages was also a “golden era” for gay poetry, especially between members of the clergy.

In modern times, almost all Americans have sex before marrying. And while we tend to think that people were more chaste before the sexual revolution of the 1960s, that’s just not the case. 

Not only are many Christians having sex before marriage (including 80 percent of people who self-identified as “born-again Christian, evangelical, or fundamentalist”), they’re also getting smart about it.

Data from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that religious millennials feel that it’s morally acceptable to use contraception and they don’t think that abstinence-only education is working. Most tellingly, only about 11 percent of today’s millennial Americans depend on religious leaders for information about sex.

It’s time to get real: There is no such thing as a traditional Christian sexual ethic.

I wish I’d known this earlier. The problem with teaching kids that the Bible is infallible and that Christian teaching has never changed is that the second they crack open a history book, or have sex, or fall in love with someone of the same gender, the carefully constructed house of faith that they’ve inherited from their parents starts crumbling apart. And that’s when doubt can come rushing in.

But that’s a good thing. It’s what I feel is missing in the way some Christians talk about sex today. If your faith calls you to abstinence before marriage, that is fine and good. But the problem for me is when people start preaching that their interpretation is the only way or the holiest way or the right way. From what I’ve witnessed, the fruit that this kind of teaching produces is often overwhelming guilt, anger, and pain.

On the other hand, acknowledging Christianity’s complexity can be life-changing. It can turn a faith assembled like a delicate house of cards into a faith that you worked hard to build from the ground up.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic bishop to women, gays: I’m sorry

By Michael O’Loughlin

Hands-clasped-forgiveness

If you’ve ever felt unwelcome at Church because of your gender, race, or sexual orientation, a Massachusetts bishop has a message for you: I’m sorry.

Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield used the occasion of Ash Wednesday to mark Pope Francis’ Jubilee of Mercy by apologizing to and seeking reconciliation with Catholics in Western Massachusetts.

Rozanski, sent from Baltimore to lead the 217,000-member diocese in 2014, said that ongoing fallout from the clergy sexual abuse scandal, shuttered and merged churches, and less than welcoming parishes have caused a rupture between the Church and some of the faithful.

He says he is seeking forgiveness.

“There are many people hurting in our Catholic community from the pain caused by our past failings as a diocese, as well as the grievous actions of some who ministered in our church,” he wrote in a pastoral letter on evangelization. “The reality of this pain is that it still echoes many years later, as was given witness in our recent diocesan survey.”

Through that survey, completed by 3,000 local Catholics, Rozanski said he learned that some Catholics don’t feel welcome in churches and thus stop participating in the faith.

“Still there are others who have distanced themselves because they feel unwelcomed. The reasons here can vary, but key among them are race and cultural differences, a sense of gender inequality as well as sexual orientation,” he wrote. “Others have been treated unkindly, impatiently, or rudely by clergy, religious, ministers, and staff of parishes — all which is unacceptable.”

Mitchell-T.-RozanskiI ask your forgiveness,” he continued.

He said parishes “must be inviting and energetic environments, founded both in our traditions but also the reality of everyday life,” and urged local Catholics to “to evangelize those who were once, but are no longer with us.”

“We need you, we need your presence, your gifts and your talents. We need you to complete our community, to enrich it, to make it better and more effective,” he wrote.

He quoted one of the people who took part in the diocesan survey, who wrote, “The gay community feels that they aren’t welcome. They don’t want to espouse another religion; therefore, they don’t attend church at all. Hopefully, a special outreach could be done to them.”

Rozanski said that revitalizing the diocese through evangelization would be a “daunting task,” but urged Catholics “to walk beyond our parish boundaries, without fear, to demonstrate the faith we celebrate in liturgy takes form in the reality of the world around us.”

Rozanski opened the letter by asking several questions about love and forgiveness, urging Catholics to look the Pope Francis as an example of how to love like God, who “looks beyond our faults and failings and loves us just as we are.”

Pope Francis launched the Jubilee of Mercy in December, opening a special holy year during which Catholics are encouraged to go to confession and walk through designated holy doors in order to have their sins forgiven. The pope has made mercy and forgiveness the hallmarks of his papacy.

“Do you believe in a God who loves you?” Rozanski asked. “Do you believe in a God who forgives? Are you able to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt you? Are you able to ask forgiveness from them?”

Complete Article HERE!

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