Crying at Mass – Moments of Grace

I’m going to share something with you that I’ve only shared with one other person.  I cry at Mass, a grown man in his mid-50’s.  I find myself kneeling after the consecration, trying to discreetly wipe away tears.  This hasn’t always been the case and it isn’t every single Mass.  It also happens when I go to Confession.  I find myself balling, sometimes a little too loudly while telling the priest my sins. I can only imagine what those waiting outside the confessional must think!!  It started sometime in the past two years.  When it happens it’s not because I’m sad, far from it. It’s because I am overcome with waves of Gratitude.  They are like waves washing over me of all God has done, continues to do and will do for me.  This isn’t an intellectual experience its a sense of just knowing like when you see the Sun, you just know its the Sun.  It isn’t anything you process.  A better analogy is perhaps that sense you have about family.  You feel differently about your brothers, sisters, mother, and father just being near them without thinking, Oh, these are my family, you kind of just know.

At first, I didn’t know really how to respond to what was happening.  I prayed about it and asked God for answers.  I didn’t immediately get any answers.  So then I started looking online to see if other people experience the same thing.  I wanted to know what it meant to them, was it some sort of  Grace, was it my Ego finding yet another inventive way of getting between myself and God.  From what I’ve read my experience is not all that uncommon.  It’s perhaps not spoken of too loudly by the people experiencing it which is why it would seem odd.  Reading other people’s experiences brought me some comfort.  Another thought was that perhaps I was severely depressed and this was a manifestation of my internal hopelessness.  So I continued to pray, asking for an answer.  This past Sunday while at Mass after the consecration, once again I started crying.  I went up and received Communion, went back to my pew.  Already overwhelmed by this sense of Love and Grace I asked the Lord for an answer.  This time I heard a tiny voice, clear as day ” This is a Grace I have given you because of my Love for you.  I knew I was experiencing this because in the past I’ve tried to “understand”  God Intellectually.  God had to reach me in a way that I couldn’t analyze or process with my intellect.  I’m sharing this because i want to know if others have similar experiences, random ways God reaches into your life and lets you know He IS there.  Let’s start a conversation about how the Grace of God touches you on a daily basis.

Cardinal: God’s First Question Is Not About Sexual Orientation, But About Care for the Poor

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, center, with event organizer Gary Keszler to his immediate right

A cardinal has defended his participation in an AIDS fundraiser by suggesting the first question God asks is not about a person’s sexual orientation, but about how they treat other people.

Conservatives targeted Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna after the cardinal attended an HIV/AIDS fundraiser, “Believe Together,” hosted by the city’s cathedral and organized by LGBTQ activists.

Schönborn told the German magazine Die Furche that the event was focused on helping an AIDS hospice in South Africa, which he said primarily cares for heterosexual victims. But he acknowledged the close ties between homosexuality and AIDS, continuing:

“[W]orking with [gay activist] Gery Keszler is also a sign for me that we really need to work together for this help. Concern for AIDS sufferers was the focus of this night taking place a third time. I think that is a very right effort. I am very aware that the right way to deal with homosexuality is a big social and also a big church issue. Here I strongly advocate not looking first at the question of sexual orientation, but at human quality. The first question is: how are you with other people? And that’s the first question God asks us. Not the only one, but the first. The great gospel speech in Matthew does not ask about sexual orientation, but: I was hungry and you gave me food, and I was naked and you clothed me. This is how I see these fundraisers in the cathedral for AIDS relief.”

Cardinal Schönborn’s response should not be misunderstood. He is not suggesting, as some church leaders do, that sexual orientation should be downplayed or ignored. Schönborn is an ally. This AIDS fundraiser is the third Schönborn has hosted in Vienna’s cathedral, and he has spoken warmly of his friendship with Keszler. His repeated welcomes to LGBTQ people are evidence he recognizes the importance of sexual and gender identity in people’s lives. But without mitigating that importance, Schönborn can offer the credible reminder that what is most important to God, and therefore should be most important to us, is whether or not we have treated one another, especially the poor and oppressed, with great love.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 17, 2020

Related Articles

Novena News, “Austrian cardinal says Last Judgment about having fed hungry and clothed naked, not sexual orientation

La Croix International, “Candid cardinal looks back on pivotal Church issues of 2019

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‘This Is My Beloved’: A Deacon Preaches on the Meaning of Unconditional Love

Deacon Ray Ortman

The following is the text of a homily preached by Deacon Ray Ortman at St. Victoria Parish, Victoria, Minnesota, on Sunday, January 12, 2020, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Gospel text: Matthew 3:13-17). 

Some background material can help set the context of this message.  In September 2014, Archbishop John Nienstedt (now retired) demanded that Jamie Moore, the parish’s music director, resign because of his upcoming marriage to his fiancé. Many parishioners and pastoral staff were devastated. Deacon Ortman, who is also the parish business administrator, was ministering there at the time.  The following homily provides news about the parish related to the firing.

Hugs, tears, emails, applause, and other expressions of support were offered for the simple message that all are loved by God unconditionally, and that all are welcome.  Several parishioners even came back to Mass a second time to hear the message again, some bringing loved ones or children that they thought really needed to hear that simple enduring message that lies at the heart of the Gospel.

 ‘THIS IS MY BELOVED’

“This is my beloved Son.” My beloved. What a joy to hear those words! What child does not want to hear those words, need to know that they are loved? Jesus needed to hear that from His Father, too. A declaration of unconditional love. Coming at the Baptism of our Lord, before Jesus began His ministry, those words convey the truth that God’s love did not depend on anything Jesus had done. He hadn’t done anything yet! Rather, God loved His Son for who He was: His Son, his child. Could it really be that simple?

Over the years, I have been blessed to have baptized hundreds of children. Each time I see the love that their parents have for them. So full of pride and joy. Their babies haven’t done anything yet either, except maybe smile and coo delightfully. But it doesn’t matter! They love their children unconditionally, and they would do anything for them. Anything so that they would know love. Their love. God’s love. That’s why they come to the Church. Isn’t that why we all come to the Church? To experience and to receive God’s love and the warmth of the family of God? And to love God and each other in return? We are all God’s children! We are all infinitely lovable and loved. I think we all know this. But sometimes we forget. I know I do.

Sometimes I think I have to earn God’s love, that I’m never good enough. That I’m not worthy of such amazing love. That it comes with an asterisk or a loophole that leaves me out in the cold. But that’s not true! We know that God loves us no matter what because “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!” [Romans 5:8] Sometimes I think we also forget that God loves everyone else too. That we are invited to love everyone with the same kind of love with which God loves us. Unconditionally. Regardless of what we’ve done or haven’t done. Regardless of who we are or who we aren’t.

Often we dwell on incidentals, things that tend to separate us from each other. We judge, we fear, we do not understand the things that make us different — oftentimes the very things that make us special, unique and precious. That make us ourselves. We would remake our brother or sister in our own image, rather than in the image of God who calls all of us beloved. Sometimes these things which divide us are easy to spot, like white or black, thin or fat, English- or Spanish-speaking. Sometimes they are not that obvious: the scars and hurts that we bear from life’s journey, including the struggles that too often come to define us but that are not us: poverty, disease, addiction or a criminal record.

The Church opens wide her doors to all of these. Indeed, she is dedicated and compelled to seeking them out preferentially in the name of Jesus. Ours is and must be a mission of welcome, compassion, healing and love, because we share in the mission of Jesus. The same Jesus who gave us just one command in John 13: “Love one another!” Here in our parish, we have many wonderful outreach ministries to the poor, to the sick, to the homeless and those in prison. This is Christ’s love in action! This is beautiful. It is already changing the lives of God’s children for the better. And ours too. I’ve seen the smiles that grace the faces of many a cheerful giver.

From our parish survey last Fall we also know that you want to do even more to welcome and to love unconditionally those who feel unwelcome by the Church or alienated from God’s love or from ours, especially our gay brothers, our lesbian sisters, our bisexual and transgender neighbors and loved ones, and anyone else who identifies as LGBTQ. If we cannot look them in the eye and say “I love you” without condition, without “if this” or “but that,” then we have work to do.

If we cannot believe and declare that God names each of them “beloved” just as much as any of God’s other children, without “if this” or “but that,” then we have work to do. I think we do have work to do. But it is a joyful labor, a labor of love. And if love is really at its heart it is not really a labor at all, it is a joy!

Each of us is precious and unique, worthy of understanding and worthy of love. We are all Beloved. But when we withhold that love (or worse), we cause hurt, we inflict pain, and we sow alienation. For many years, our sign outside has read, “All Are Welcome.” Until now that message has been mainly just an aspiration for the welcome that LGBTQ persons deserve, and we have experienced firsthand the hurt when we have fallen short.

So let’s commit together that we will keep working on this. We have learned much already about love, and we have so much more to learn. And there is no better way to learn more deeply about love than by giving it away. So let’s begin by making it a priority to offer unconditional love to all who feel marginalized in our church, and especially to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. For some of us, this may be something we are already doing. For others it may be a challenge. That’s okay. To be open-minded and to search deeply with a heart of love is a good start.

According to your survey responses, that same invitation of love and welcome should also be extended more expansively to divorced persons. How could anyone deny access to God’s love to those who feel so keenly unloved? It doesn’t have to be complicated. Really, it’s just as simple as “I love you.” That doesn’t mean it is easy. Family is never easy. Right? But it’s worth it.

That’s why Jesus came in the flesh in the first place, to inaugurate a great Family Reunion! It wasn’t easy, but He did the hard part. Not, as Isaiah reminds us, with shouting or fanfare. Nor with anger or imposing change upon anyone. But rather with gentleness and patience. With God holding us “by the hand,” gently assuring us that all of us are welcome and that all of us are beloved.

Deacon Ray Ortman, St. Victoria Parish, Victoria, Minnesota.  Delivered January 12, 2020.  Posted on Bondings 2.0 January 16, 2020

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Spanish Archbishop Says Gospel “Never Condemns” LGBTQ Families

Archbishop Joan Planellas

A Spanish archbishop has stated that the Gospel “never condemns” families with same-gender couples as members.

Commemorating the Feast of the Holy Family on December 29, 2020, Archbishop Joan Planellas of Tarragona, Spain, published an article in prominent publication La Vanguardia that calls attention to the goodness of families with same-gender couples. Planellas notes that “the Gospel never condemns”these families, part of his larger message about diversity and strength in family life. 

As reported in translation by Mada Jurato of Novena News, Planellas focused on providing respect for same-gender families as one type of family that deserves pastoral care and attention. He writes:

“Today the family structure has ceased to be limited to what we understood as a nuclear family, composed of parents and children, to give way to a diversity of forms that range from living together between men and women without marriage certificates (de facto couples), the single parent family, couples with different homes for husband and wife or families between people of the same sex with legal recognition.” 

While the inclusion of same-gender couples in this list indicates a recognition of the changing definition of ‘family’ in the Catholic Church, the reporter feels that the archbishop does not believe “that the family as such is in danger of disappearing, but simply that a certain family model is no longer accepted by a significant number of members of our society.”

Rather than sharing an alarmist, traditionalist viewpoint regarding the loss of a solely heterosexual family structure, Planellas seems secure that ‘the future of the family seems assured.’ He writes: 

“The family is and will be the framework where the human being carries out [their] first and fundamental experiences, the laboratory where humans live the creative and humanizing possibilities of our species.”

From this, it is clear in Jurato’s interpretation that the church’s role in supporting families can only be successful if the institution remembers a “call to live, love, and give oneself with all the magnanimity, delicacy and stringency that implies.” Above all, every family structure requires a grounding in love and giving for all members. 

Planellas closes his message with the acknowledgement that “there is no perfect family…the Gospel never condemns, but assumes, encourages and corrects, in order to grow in the one Spirit. This is how the Gospel saves not only people, but also human groups, and especially the family.”

With a circulation of nearly 200,000 and a broad online presence, La Vanguardia is the leading daily periodical in Spain’s Catalonia province. With Planellas’ prominent position in the church, his words will surely have a significant impact on many families in his archdiocese and possibly throughout Spain. We hope that LGBTQ+ families will find affirmation in his words and that parishes throughout the majority-Catholic country will adopt practices of welcome and inclusion on a regular basis.

Catherine Buck, New Ways Ministry, January 15, 2020

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Bishop Scharfenberger: “I Know Priests Who Are Gay and They’re Great.”

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger

A bishop in the U.S. has positively affirmed gay men in the priesthood, saying, “I know priests who are gay and they’re great.” He also acknowledged his desire to welcome LGBTQ people, saying, “It is never wrong to love another person. Never.”

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany made his gay-positive comments in a new interview with Albany’s Times-Union. Scharfenberger has gained prominence in the U.S. due to his appointment as apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Buffalo, whose former bishop, Richard Malone, resigned in disgrace last year. Regarding LGBTQ issues, the newspaper reported:

“[Scharfenberger] said he would welcome everyone, including those the church deemed sinners, to attend Mass in his churches. He said exactly that to a gay man who asked Scharfenberger’s permission to bring his gay spouse to church. . .

“And he’s trying to build bridges to gay Catholics. His communications director, Mary DeTurris Poust, said that in 2017, ‘in an effort to be sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ community, Bishop Ed and I and about 20 other people working in the Diocese of Albany’ attended ‘safe space’ training to learn how to make gay congregants feel welcome and protected.

“It’s not simply gay worshippers he wants to welcome.

“‘I know priests who are gay and they’re great,’ Scharfenberger said.

“He knows the church’s definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman is alienating for many gay Catholics. But he has his own message for them.

“‘It is never wrong to love another person. Never,’ the bishop said.”

Scharfenberger’s comments are notably affirming, not only for his support of gay priests, but his demonstrated commitment to welcoming LGBTQ people. It is the rare bishop who undergoes “safe space” training.

These comments are not the bishop’s first on LGBTQ issues. In 2016, he was one of only a handful of U.S. bishops who acknowledged that LGBTQ people were the target of the Pulse Nightclub massacre. In a diocesan newspaper column he wrote at the time:

“[W]e must state unequivocally that our respect for the dignity of all human beings includes those who themselves identify or are associated in the judgment of others as members of the LGBTQ community, a class whose vulnerability to acts of terrorism was graphically and shockingly exposed at the massacre in Orlando.”

In 2014, Scharfenberger affirmed the Synod on the Family’s work, suggesting that Pope Francis was “encouraging people to speak frankly” so that all feel heard. The bishop added a specific statement of welcome for gay Catholics.

What has prompted Scharfenberger to so positively affirm LGBTQ people, particularly gay priests? There is likely not one cause, but his experience as a pastor for over a decade in addition to leadership and academic roles must certainly be one factor. As a pastor, Scharfenberger encountered LGBTQ parishioners and their loved ones in a way too many bishops confined to chanceries throughout their careers never have.

Scharfenberger also worked alongside gay priests, and he clearly appreciates the contributions such ministers have made. His comments on gay men in the priesthood, who have often been scapegoated in the sexual abuse crisis, are all the more significant because Scharfenberger is among the better bishops in addressing not only the abuses, but the coverups. While not explicitly stated, it seems clear he does not find gay men to be a cause of abuse.

In offering a warm and unconditioned welcome to LGBTQ people, Scharfenberger preaches words many people yearn to hear. Imagine the possibilities for ministry if every bishop underwent a “safe space” training on LGBTQ inclusion. What a church that would be.

Upcoming Retreat for Gay Priests, Bishops, Deacons, and Brothers

Unfortunately, the false charge that gay ministers are a cause of sexual abuse remains too prevalent. The atmosphere of blame and shame that exists in the church means gay priests, bishops, brothers, and deacons are afraid to speak the truth of who they are. They fear they will be rejected, and worse, retaliated against.

In this context, New Ways Ministry is offering a program for these men facilitated by Fr. Peter Daly. The retreat, “Love Casts Out Fear” aims to help gay priests, bishops, brothers, and deacons develop better self-understanding, spirituality, friendships, and a more honest relationship with the institutional church. For more information or to register, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 14, 2020

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Student’s Attempted Extortion of LGBTQ Teacher a Call to Action for Catholic Schools

A Twitter thread recently emerged focusing on the harm done to LGBTQ church workers when toxic atmospheres regarding gender and sexuality exist at Catholic institutions. The conversation that has started is a call to action for Catholic campuses this spring.

The “Anonymous Professor” account on Twitter shared the story of an unnamed college professor teaching at a Catholic institution who was threatened by a student due to the professor’s LGBTQ identity. The professor shared in a series of tweets [Editor’s Note: language in the tweets may be offensive to some readers]:

“…A student just came into my office to complain about their grade from last semester. When I refused to just grant a higher mark, she dropped this:

“‘So you’re Catholic and gay? I mean, does the president and Dr. (Chair) know?’ . . .

“[Professor:] ‘Actually, that’s my private life, and it’s not their or your business.’

“‘But you are living in sin,’ she responded. ‘You can leave now, (name).’”

The student then used expletives to tell off the professor as a “sinner.” The professor said they reported the student’s conduct to administrators, and later received an apology from the student, who it seems was disciplined for threatening a teacher.

While the Catholic university appears to have handled this situation properly by disciplining the student for outrageous extortion, a deeper problem exists: this student felt enabled to exploit a gay employee at a Catholic institution because of the employee’s sexual identity. This situation may be due, in part, to the student’s own prejudices. But her use of religious language, “sinner,” also reflects lessons, implicit and explicit, that she learned about the Catholic Church and its treatment of LGBTQ people.

When it comes to employment issues, harmful doctrines that use dehumanizing language are matched with discriminatory practices. More than 100 LGBTQ-related employment disputes in which church workers lost their jobs have been made public in the last decade. Many church workers remain closeted and quiet about their identity and their relationships out of fears they could face similar discrimination. It is unfortunate that this overarching reality affects even institutions that may be inclusive (indeed, Catholic higher education is frequently a bright spot in the church for LGBTQ issues).

A new semester has begun on many Catholic campuses. The account posted by “Anonymous Professor” should motivate administrators at Catholic colleges and universities to not only respond appropriately when bias incidents occur, but to be proactive and public in making known their support for LGBTQ employees so such incidents do not occur. Possible actions could include adding LGBTQ-specific terminology to non-discrimination policies, sponsoring LGBTQ employee affinity groups, and hosting LGBTQ competency trainings. Whatever actions are taken, the end goal should be the same: no student (or staff member, alum, parent, etc.) should ever think blackmailing an LGBTQ teacher is acceptable, never mind possible.

Looking to help make your Catholic educational institution more LGBTQ inclusive? New Ways Ministry offers the “Creating a Spirit of Welcome” workshop that is designed to help participants develop LGBTQ initiatives that fit the unique character of your school community. Participants will acquire and understanding of relevant church teachings, formulate an action plan for their school, develop a framework and language for discussing LGBTQ issues, and more. For more information, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 13, 2019

Related Article

PinkNews, “Catholic university student tried to blackmail her gay teacher for a higher grade by threatening to out them

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Commonweal Editor Calls Church Teaching on LGBTQ Sexuality Harmful and Distracting

The U.S. Catholic hierarchy’s insistence on opposing same-gender marriage distracts its leaders and laity from speaking out against other moral shortcomings, says a Commonweal editor in a recent column.

Mollie Wilson O’Reilly , Commonweal’s Editor At Large, said what she thought many Catholics are afraid to say: not only is the Church’s stance on gay people wrong, but it is harmful to the LGBTQ community, the Church, and the wider world. The fear that stops people from naming the doctrine as harmful needs to be confronted and overcome in order for there to be change.

Mollie Wislon O’Reilly

O’Reilly points to the lived reality of LGBTQ Catholics as the inspiration for her unafraid condemnation of the Church’s teaching. She acknowledges that same-sex relationships are occasions of grace, the same as heterosexual relationships, and she decries the wounds the Church inflicts on LGBTQ youth, laments the loss of faith for those who are wounded, and marvels at those whose faith is unshaken:

“And I have seen LGBTQ people so drawn to Christ’s presence in the church that they look past all the dismissals and insults to fight for their place at the Eucharistic table. Their faithfulness inspires and challenges me. Their witness convinces me the church is wrong to condemn them.”

O’Reilly believes it is time for the rest of the faithful who disagree with the Church’s teaching on LGBTQ people to speak up. She recognizes that people remain silent on the issue for a number of reasons: the expectation that the Church does not care what individual Catholics think, the desire to remain civil and not cause trouble, and fear.

In light of the real harm the Church’s teaching inflicts on LGBTQ youth and adults, O’Reilly concludes she cannot choose civility over moral fortitude.

And here is where she distinguishes herself from the institutional U.S. Church. While the Church in the U.S. continues to take up defense of marriage as its most pressing issue, O’Reilly documents the flagrant betrayals of Christian morals unfolding in the U.S., on which the Church as a whole has remained largely silent.

“Commonweal” logo

O’Reilly, in looking to the U.S. bishops for a clear moral voice to condemn policies that directly attack the dignity and worth of the poor and marginalized, is left dismayed. Instead of the bishops speaking with a unified voice against the hatred espoused against immigrants, Muslims, and Jews, they choose to speak vaguely in support of religious freedom.

The U.S. bishops are spending their time and money in defense of religious freedom in ways that will allow them to continue to discriminate against LGBTQ people, but not ways that have defended Muslims from the vitriol and discriminatory policies of the current administration. Such selective support of religious freedom betrays its true value.

In all of this, the bishops insist that Catholics must see this fight—religious freedom and the defense of marriage—as central to their Catholic identity in the U.S. By focusing primarily on this harmful Church teaching, the breadth and beauty of the rest of the Church’s teaching on morality, peace, and justice is ignored. O’Reilly says:

“As I see it now, the church’s condemnation of homosexuality isn’t just an error that needs fixing. It is an obstacle that stops Catholics, leaders and laity alike, from speaking clearly about urgent moral crises and from being perceived as credible when we do.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, commented: “The one weakness of O’Reilly’s column is that there is an underlying presumption that no one has confronted the bishops on this issue before. In reality, lots of Catholics have been speaking out for years, and some have paid a big price for doing so. Just look at all the people who have been fired from church jobs because of being married, intending to get married, or speaking in support of marriage equality.”

In order to return to the path of justice and morality—the path of Jesus—the Church needs faithful like O’Reilly to decide enough is enough and call the Church’s teaching on sexuality what it is: harmful and a distraction from the Church’s true mission.

Those of us who remain faithful Catholics believe the Church has something to offer the world. We are called, as heirs of Jesus, to participate and continue his gospel: to “bring good news to the poor…proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” We cannot continue to build the Reign of God in justice and truth when we are entirely focused on defending an indefensible doctrine that continues to cause harm.

Kevin Molloy, New Ways Ministry, January 12, 2020

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Will LGBTQ Church Worker Firings Stop in 2020? That is One Friar’s Hope!

Fr. Dan Horan

What do the 2020s hold for Catholic LGBTQ issues? It is harder to predicate church developments in the age of Pope Francis. But Franciscan Fr. Dan Horan, OFM, ventured one hope for the next decade in regards to the spate of LGBTQ church employment disputes over this past decade.

More than 100 cases of church workers losing their jobs in such disputes have become public in that time (for a full listing, click here). Each firing or resignation has done tremendous harm not only to the employee and their families, but to the communities affected. Horan writes in the National Catholic Reporter:

“Maybe during the 2020s parochial schools and diocesan organizations will stop the unjust discrimination against LGBTQ persons who are, in many Catholic communities, the lifeblood and workforce that keeps the social, educational, liturgical and charitable ministries of Christ’s church alive. Perhaps this is the decade when all people will be treated equally as children of God and not as members of an unequal society that treats unfairly some people simply because of who God has created them to be or whom they happen to love.”

Greater justice for LGBTQ people and their allies in the Catholic Church is one of several hopes Horan lists, a hope which he says is derived from the Holy Spirit. But he also looks to the church’s history with confidence that change does happen over time:

“Last century, in the decade before the Second Vatican Council, many of those theologians and church leaders who advocated for radical development in church teaching and discipline — like the protection of religious liberty or the necessity of authentic interreligious dialogue — were silenced and their hopes seemed ‘ridiculously optimistic,’ as [David] Brooks says. Yet, they witnessed the seemingly impossible changes come to fruition after all.”

One certainty for 2020 and the years following is that Catholic LGBTQ issues will continue to be prominent in the life of the church. It is notable that in 2019, four of The Tablet’s top 10 features and news stories of the year were LGBTQ-specific. One story was Pope Francis’ call to theologian Fr. James Alison (an experience Alison described in greater depth for Bondings 2.0 here). Another was an article about the work of Fr. James Martin, SJ, author of Building a Bridge. Dominican Fr. Timothy Radcliffe’s essay on “How gay is the Vatican?” also made the list, as well as the publication of  Frederic Martel’s book, In the Closet of the Vatican, on homosexuality in the church .

For whatever happens in 2020 and beyond, you can be sure Bondings 2.0 will continue providing relevant daily coverage of the latest developments in Catholic LGBTQ news, opinion, and spirituality. If you do not already receive each day’s post delivered to your email inbox, you can do so by providing your email address after clicking here: https://www.newwaysministry.org/blog/subscribe-bondings-2-0/

What are you predictions for Catholic LGBTQ issues for the next year? The next decade? Leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 11, 2019

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Two Plays Tackle Complexities of LGBTQ People’s Lives and Relationships

Scene from “The Inheritance”

Two plays running in the U.S., Bare and The Inheritance, are bringing LGBTQ stories to the stage. The former, which most recently ran in Baltimore, is a rock musical with Off-Broadway origins about students at a co-ed Catholic boarding school wrestling with their sexuality and their faith. The latter is an epic, two-part play currently on Broadway which follows the unraveling relationship between two men, inspired by the E.M. Forster novel Howards End. 

Bare follows in the footsteps of daring coming-of-age musicals like Rent and Spring Awakening, two shows which also featured LGBTQ characters and relationships. Bare traces its earliest version back to 2000, when composer Damon Intrabartolo and writer Jon Hartmere debuted the show in Los Angeles as a pop-opera. It later moved to an Off-Broadway run. It was later re-worked as a rock musical and has been played all over the globe ever since.

The story mainly follows two boys, Peter and Jason, as they and their peers begin to explore their sexuality within the walls of a Catholic boarding school. Peter and Jason fear they will not be accepted by their peers, or by God, because of their feelings for each other. The show subsequently explores the complexity of the crossroads between sexuality, love, faith, and growing up. 

According to Broadway World, Bare is as important now as when it debuted. Artistic Director Sean Elias says LGBTQ people may be more visible today, but they do not necessarily have it easier:

“‘In a ‘post-equality America’, where marriage equality is the law of the land and where LGBTQ youth are more visible than ever, it’s easy to believe that we’re beyond the oppression and bigotry once thought to be prevalent against LGBTQ youth. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the reality. Hate crimes committed against LGBTQ people have seen the most drastic rise in years, and according to the Human Rights Campaign, 92% of LGBTQ youth say they are exposed to negative messaging about being LGBTQ in school.’”

The Inheritance also explores important issues LGBTQ people face, but not ones so concrete as civil rights or HIV/AIDS. Rob Weinert-Kendt writes in America that the issue The Inheritance tackles is as important to a gay audience as it is to a straight one: “the urgent question of whether we can learn to love one another in spite of the way we too often treat each other and relatedly, whether we can love ourselves.”

Written by Matthew Lopez, this sprawling, seven-hour, two-part play follows a couple, Eric and Toby, whose relationship begins to fray. There is infidelity, yes, but it is the symptom rather than the cause. As Weinert-Kendt writes: 

“What begins to tear them apart are outside sexual temptations, yes, but also a divergence in worldviews and ambitions: Eric is looking for a home, for roots, for meaning, while Toby is running from a squalid past toward an ostensibly glittering future.”

So while Toby gets involved with several younger men, Eric befriends Walter, a quiet middle-aged gay man who turned his and his parter’s home into a hospice during the height of the AIDS crisis. The interlinking relationships between gay men portrayed in the play elegiacally connect the contemporary struggle that Eric and Toby face with the long legacy of struggle LGBTQ people have faced.

While Bare recently finished its run in Baltimore, The Inheritance is currently running on Broadway in New York City. These important pieces of LGBTQ theater continue to tell the stories so often missed in American mainstream culture.

Melissa Feito, New Ways Ministry, January 10, 2020

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Brazilian Priest Suspended from Ministry After Blessing Same-Gender Couple

Fr. Vicente Paula Gomes at the union of a same-gender couple. Faces were obscured to protect anonymity.

A priest in Brazil has been suspended from ministry because he blessed a same-gender couple in late 2019.

Fr. Vicente Paula Gomes blessed a same-gender couple’s union in early December, leading the Archiocese of Assis to issue an injunction against Gomes being in ministry five days later. The injunction, signed by Archbishop Argemiro de Azevedo, is in place only until an investigation into Gomes’ actions takes place.

The offending action was partially captured on video. It shows Gomes saying he is “happy to be here” because creating family is really “means to create the conditions for a dignified life.” Crux reported further:

“Gomes then humorously admitted he was ‘trembling a bit’ given that it was the first time he would give such a blessing.

“‘I’m already thinking about what Bishop Argemiro is going to say on Monday. But as I initially said, this blessing doesn’t diminish me, nor does it diminish the Church, nor [does it diminish] you,’ he said.

“After the men exchanged vows, Gomes said: ‘You have declared your love and you had the courage to make it public among your friends and before the Holy Church. Of course I cannot give you this sacrament, but I shed a blessing over you, so you’ll have a duty as companions till the end of your lives. And don’t forget that God blesses your love now and forever.’

“The video shows that the priest then allowed the men to kiss, but playfully turned his back on them as they did it. As he turned back to them, he covered his eyes while they still kissed.”

While Gomes and the couple involved are not commenting, supporters of the priest have taken to social media with messages like #WeAreAllFatherVicente.

The suspension right now is only temporary as an investigation is carried out. Hopefully, the outcome of that investigation will be to quickly reinstate the priest to ministry. Such an outcome would recognize the reality that a growing number of pastoral ministers are already blessing same-gender couples. And that a growing number of church leaders, including top officials like papal advisor Cardinal Reinhard Marx, now  publicly support such blessings. Fr. Gomes should not be punished for ministering on the church’s peripheries. Rather, he should be celebrated for doing so.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 9, 2020

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