Tag Archives: dissent

Catholic Groups Praise U.S. Sister-Leaders

For Immediate Release

April 16, 2015

Catholic Groups Praise U.S. Sister-Leaders in
Resolution of Unjust Vatican Mandate

Request similar dialogic processes be used in other Church disputes

Statement from the Nun Justice Project:

The Nun Justice Project is glad to see that the Vatican has removed their mandate against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Today’s joint statement is testimony to the dogged determination of LCWR sister-leaders to persevere in dialogue with those who unjustly maligned them. It is fitting that in the Year of Consecrated Life, Church officials have at last recognized the good works and impressive leadership of the sisters.

The Nun Justice Project believes that an apology should also have been given to the sisters, but the end of the investigation is a major step in itself. Since no previous Pope ever met with LCWR leadership it is hopeful that Pope Francis met personally with them today. May this meeting inaugurate new era of positive communication between the Vatican and women leaders in the Church.

“As usual, the living example of the women has inspired us,” said Erin Saiz Hanna, a member of the coalition, “The nuns responded to this show of patriarchal abuse by finding ways to resist its intrusion and transformed the process by modeling inclusive dialogue.”

“It is my hope that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will institute similar dialogic processes and procedures for addressing other disputed issues in the Church. said Francis DeBernardo, another coalition member.

Since the LCWR mandate was announced, thousands of Catholics have stood up to call for the end of this unnecessary and demeaning “investigation.” We are gratified that the immense worth of the work of women religious is being recognized. However, we also remain watchful since some still-to-be-implemented aspects of the joint statement could be interpreted as restricting the conscience rights of sisters.

Over the past five years, the Nun Justice Project organized massive support for women religious. Tens of thousands of Catholics petitioned the Vatican and participated in hundreds of public demonstrations, prayer services, vigils, and media events. Their voices have been instrumental in advancing due process, raising up women’s leadership voice and promoting justice in the Church.

For background on the Nun Justice Project’s work addressing the LCWR mandate visit nunjustice.org.

The Nun Justice Project is a grassroots movement supported by the following organizations:American Catholic Council, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church, Call To Action, Catholics for Choice, CORPUS, DignityUSA, FutureChurch, New Ways Ministry, Quixote Center, RAPPORT (Renewing a Priestly People, Ordination Reconsidered Today), Voice of the Faithful, WATER: Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, Women’s Ordination Conference.

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Follow-up Reflections

American nun group questions
whether LCWR oversight is truly over

Torture and the Violence of Organized Forgetting

Torture and the Violence of Organized Forgetting

by HENRY GIROUX  Weekend Edition December 12-14, 2014

With the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture, it becomes clear that in the aftermath of the loathsome terrorist attack of 9/11, the United States entered into a new and barbarous stage in its history, one in which acts of violence and moral depravity were not only embraced but celebrated. Certainly, this is not to suggest that the United States had not engaged in criminal and lawless acts historically or committed acts of brutality that would rightly be labeled acts of torture. That much about our history is clear and includes not only the support and participation in acts of indiscriminate violence and torture practiced through and with the right-wing Latin American dictatorships in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil in the 1970s but also through the wilful murder and torture of civilians in Vietnam, Iraq, and later at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Afghanistan. The United States is no stranger to torture nor is it a free of complicity in aiding other countries notorious for their abuses of human rights. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman reminded us by taking us as far back as 1979 that of the “35 countries using torture on an administrative basis in the late 1970s, 26 were clients of the United States.”[1]

In fact, the United States has a long record of inflicting torture on others, both at home and abroad, although it has never admitted to such acts. Instead, the official response has been to deny this history or do everything to hide such monstrous acts from public view through government censorship, appealing to the state secrecy principle, or deploying a language that buried narratives of extraordinary cruelty in harmless sounding euphemisms. For example, the benign sounding CIA “Phoenix Program” in South Vietnam resulted in the deaths of over 21,000 Vietnamese. As Carl Boggs argues, the acts of U.S. barbarism in Vietnam appeared both unrestrained and never ending, with routinized brutality such as throwing people out of planes labeled as “flying lessons” or “half a helicopter ride,”[2] while tying a field telephone wire around a man’s testicles and ringing it up was a practice called “the Bell Telephone Hour.”[3] Officially sanctioned torture was never discussed as a legitimate concern; but, as indicated by a few well-documented accounts, it seems to be as American as apple pie.[4]

But torture for the United States is not merely a foreign export, it is also part of a long history of domestic terrorism as was evident in the attempts on the part of the FBI, working under a secret program called COINTELPRO, designed to assassinate those considered domestic and foreign enemies.[5] COINTELPRO was about more than spying, it was a legally sanctioned machinery of violence and assassination.[6] In one of the most notorious cases, the FBI worked with the Chicago Police to set up the conditions for the assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, two members of the Black Panther Party. Noam Chomsky has called COINTELPRO, which went on from the 50s to the 70s, when it was stopped, “the worst systematic and extended violation of basic civil rights by the federal government,” and “compares with Wilson’s Red Scare.”[7] What characterized these programs of foreign and domestic terrorism was that they were all shrouded in secrecy and allegedly were conducted in the name of democratic rights.

Torture also has a longstanding presence domestically, particularly as part of the brutalized practices that have shaped American chattel slavery through to its most recent “peculiar institution,” the rapidly expanding prison-industrial complex.[8] The racial disparities in American prisons and criminal justice system register the profound injustice of racial discrimination as well as a sordid expression of racist violence. As the novelist Ishmael Reed contends, this is a prison system “that is rotten to the core … where torture and rape are regular occurrences and where in some states the conditions are worse than at Gitmo. California prison hospitals are so bad that they have been declared unconstitutional and a form of torture.”[9] One of the more recently publicized cases of prison torture involved the arrest of a former Chicago police commander, Jon Burge. He was charged with routinely torturing as many as 200 inmates, mostly African Americans, during police interrogations in the 1970s and 1980s, “in order to force them to falsely confess to crimes they did not commit.”[10] One report claims that many of these men were beaten with telephone books and that “cattle prods were used to administer electric shocks to victims’ genitals. They were suffocated, beaten and burned, and had guns forced into their mouths. They faced mock executions with shotguns. … One tactic used was known as ‘the Vietnam treatment,’ presumably started by Burge, a Vietnam veteran.”[11] The filmmaker Deborah Davis has documented a number of incidents in the 1990s that amount to the unequivocal torture of prisoners and has argued that many of the sadistic practices she witnessed taking place in the American prison system were simply exported to Abu Ghraib.

After 9/11, the United States slipped into a moral coma as President Bush and Vice President Cheney worked tirelessly to ensure that the United States would not be constrained by international prohibitions against cruel and inhumane treatment, and they furthered that project not only by making torture, as Mark Danner argues, “a marker of political commitment” but also by constructing a vast secret and illegal apparatus of violence in which, under the cover of national security, alleged “terrorists” could be kidnapped, made to disappear into secret CIA “black sites,” become ghost detainees removed from any vestige of legality, or be secretly abducted and sent to other countries to be tortured. As Jane Mayer puts it,

the lawyers also authorized other previously illegal practices, including the secret capture and indefinite detention of suspects without charges. Simply by designating the suspects “enemy combatants,” the President could suspend the ancient writ of habeas corpus that guarantees a person the right to challenge his imprisonment in front of a fair and independent authority. Once in U.S. custody, the President’s lawyers said, these suspects could be held incommunicado, hidden from their families and international monitors such as the Red Cross, and subjected to unending abuse, so long as it didn’t meet the lawyer’s own definition of torture. And they could be held for the duration of the war against terrorism, a struggle in which victory had never been clearly defined. [12]

The maiming and breaking of bodies and the forms of unimaginable pain inflicted by the Bush administration on so-called “enemy combatants” was no longer seen in violation of either international human rights or a constitutional commitment to democratic ideals. The war on terror had now reduced governance in the United States to a legalized apparatus of terror that mimicked the very violence it was meant to combat. In the aftermath of 9/11, under the leadership of Bush and his close neoconservative band of merry criminal advisors, justice took a leave of absence and the “gloves came off.”   As Mark Danner states, “the United States transformed itself from a country that, officially at least, condemned torture to a country that practised it.”[13] But it did more. Under the Bush-Cheney reign of power, torture was embraced in unprecedented ways through a no holds-barred approach to the war on terror that suggested the administration’s need to exhibit a kind of ethical and psychic hardening-a hyper-masculine, emotional callousness that expressed itself in a warped militaristic mind-set fueled by a high testosterone quotient. State secrecy and war crimes now became the only tributes now paid to democracy.

As Frank Rich once argued and the Senate Intelligence report confirms, “[T]orture was a premeditated policy approved at our government’s highest levels … psychologists and physicians were enlisted as collaborators in inflicting pain; and … in the assessment of reliable sources like the FBI director Robert Mueller, it did not help disrupt any terrorist attacks.”[14] When the torture memos of 2002 and 2005 were eventually made public by the Obama administration, clearly implicating the Bush-Cheney regime in torture, they revealed that the United States had been turned into a globalized torture state.[15] Conservative columnist, Andrew Sullivan, went so far as to claim that “If you want to know how democracies die, read these memos.”[16] The memos, written by government lawyers John Yoo, Steven Bradbury, and Jay Bybee, allowed the CIA under the Bush administration to torture Al Qaeda detainees held at Guantánamo and other secret detention centers around the world. They also offered detailed instructions on how to implement ten techniques prohibited in the Army Field Manual, including facial slaps, “use of a plastic neck collar to slam suspects into a specially-built wall,”[17] sleep deprivation, cramped confinement in small boxes, use of insects in confined boxes, stress positions, and waterboarding. All of this and more are now documented in the Senate report. In fact, the report claims that current disclosures about the practice of torture used by the CIA were more brutal and less effective than previously reported.

Waterboarding, which has been condemned by democracies all over the world, consists of the individual being “bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner [and] produces the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic.’”[18] The highly detailed, amoral nature in which these abuses were first defined and endorsed by lawyers from the Office of Legal Council was not only chilling but also reminiscent of the harsh and ethically deprived instrumentalism used by those technicians of death in criminal states such as Nazi Germany. Andy Worthington suggests that there is more than a hint of brutalization and dehumanization in the language used by the OLC’s Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Steven G. Bradbury, who wrote a detailed memo recommending:

“nudity, dietary manipulation and sleep deprivation”—now revealed explicitly as not just keeping a prisoner awake, but hanging him, naked except for a diaper, by a chain attached to shackles around his wrists—[as,] essentially, techniques that produce insignificant and transient discomfort. We are, for example, breezily told that caloric intake “will always be set at or above 1,000 kcal/day,” and are encouraged to compare this enforced starvation with “several commercial weight-loss programs in the United States which involve similar or even greater reductions in calorific intake” … and when it comes to waterboarding, Bradbury clinically confirms that it can be used 12 times a day over five days in a period of a month—a total of 60 times for a technique that is so horrible that one application is supposed to have even the most hardened terrorist literally gagging to tell all.[19]

The New York Times claimed in an editorial “that to read the…four memos on prisoner interrogation written by George W. Bush’s Justice Department is to take a journey into depravity.”[20] The editorial was particularly incensed over a passage written by Jay Bybee, who was an Assistant Attorney General in the Bush administration at the time. As the Times then pointed out, Bybee “wrote admiringly about a contraption for waterboarding that would lurch a prisoner upright if he stopped breathing while water was poured over his face. He praised the Central Intelligence Agency for having doctors ready to perform an emergency tracheotomy if necessary.”[21] Bybee’s memo is particularly disturbing, even repugnant, in its disregard for human rights, human dignity, and democratic values, not only describing how the mechanics of waterboarding should be implemented but also providing detailed analysis for introducing insects into confined boxes that held suspected terrorist prisoners. In light of mounting criticism, Bybee both defended his support of such severe interrogation tactics and further argued that “the americas-ed-deficit-300x449memorandums represented ‘a good faith analysis of the law’ that properly defined the thin line between harsh treatment and torture.”[22] Indeed, it seems that Bybee should have looked carefully at the following judgment pronounced by the American court in Nuremberg to the lawyers and jurists who rewrote the law for the Nazi regime: “You destroyed law and justice in Germany utilizing the empty forms of the legal process.”[23] As brutal as the revelations revealed in the memos proved to be, the Senate report on torture goes even further documenting the millions of dollars spent on black sites, the amateurish qualifications of people to even conduct interrogations, the complicity of unqualified psychologists who milked the government for $81 million to develop torture techniques, and the endless lies produced by both the CIA and the Bush-Cheney administration regarding everything from the use of secret prisons established all over the world to the false claims that the use of torture was responsible for providing information that led to the finding and killing of Osama Bin Laden by members of the NAVY SEALs.[24] The report also stated that far more people were waterboarded than was first disclosed and that the sessions amounted to extreme acts of cruelty. Some members of the CIA choked up over the cruel nature of the interrogations and send memos to Langley calling their legality into question, but were told by higher officials to continue with the practice. In fact, the interrogations were considered so inhumane and cruel by some CIA officers that they threatened to transfer to other departments if the brutal interrogations continued.

The United States was condemned all over the world for its support of torture and that condemnation, hopefully, will take place once again in light of the report. Fortunately, President Obama when he came to office outlawed the most egregious acts practiced by the professional torturers of the Bush-Cheney regime. Yet undercurrents of authoritarianism die hard in the circles of unaccountable power. The Senate report makes clear that the CIA engaged in lies, distortions, and horrendous violations of human rights, including waterboarding and other sordid practices. The report also reveals that the CIA used monstrous methods such as forced rectal feeding, dragging hooded detainees “up and down a long corridor while being slapped and punched” and threatening to kill or rape family members of the prisoners.

In spite of the appalling evidence presented by the report, members s of the old Bush crowd, including former Vice-President Cheney, former CIA directors, George J. Tenet and Michael V. Hayden, and an endless number of prominent Republican Party politicians are still defending their use of torture or, as they euphemistically contend, “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The psychopathic undercurrent and the authoritarian impulse of such reactions finds its most instructive expression in former Bush communications chief Nicolle Wallace who while appearing on the “Morning Joe” show screeched in response to the revelations of the Senate Intelligence report “I don’t care what we did.” As Elias Isquith, a writer for Salon, contends, as “grotesque as that was, though, the really scary part was [the implication that] waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and sexual assault is part of what makes ‘America ‘great.’”[25] Wallace’s comments are more than morally repugnant. Wallace embodies the stance of so many other war criminals who were either indifferent to the massive suffering and deaths they caused or actually took pride in their actions. They are the bureaucrats whose thoughtlessness and moral depravity Hannah Arendt identified as the rear guard of totalitarianism.

Illegal legalities, moral depravity, and mad violence are now wrapped in the vocabulary of Orwellian doublethink. For instance, the rhetorical gymnastics used by the torture squad are designed to make the American public believe that if you refer to torture by some seemingly innocuous name then the pain and suffering it causes will suddenly disappear. The latter represents not just the discourse of magical thinking but a refusal to recognize that “If cruelty is the worst thing that humans do to each other, torture [is] the most extreme expression of human cruelty.”[26] These apostles of torture are politicians who thrive in some sick zone of political and social abandonment, and who unapologetically further acts of barbarism, fear, willful lies, and moral depravity. They are the new totalitarians who hate democracy, embrace a punishing state, and believe that politics is mostly an extension of war. They are the thoughtless gangsters reminiscent of the monsters who made fascism possible at another time in history. For them, torture is an instrument of fear; one sordid strategy and element in a war on terror that attempts to expand governmental power and put into play a vast (il)legal and repressive apparatus that expands the field of violence and the technologies, knowledge, and institutions central to fighting the all-encompassing war on terror. Americans now live under a government in which the doctrine of permanent warfare is legitimated through a state of emergency deeply rooted in a mass psychology of violence and culture of cruelty that are essential to transforming a government of laws into a regime of lawlessness.

Once the authoritarian side of political governance takes hold, it is hard to eradicate. Power is addictive, especially when it is reckless and offers personal rewards from those who have capital, benefit from human misery, and are more than willing to reward politicians who follow the corporate script. Witness the support by a number of Republicans who still support the practice of torture and deny the legitimacy of the Senate report. Ignoring that torture is an element of power that is built on what can be rightly termed a willed amorality, they attack the Senate report not for its content but because they believe its release will anger the alleged enemies of the United States, as if that hasn’t already been done through a range of savage military practices or diplomatic acts. Or they argue that the Senate report is simply an attempt to embarrass the Bush-Cheney administration.
Civility has not been the strong point of a party that is overtly racist, hates immigrants, shuts down the government, and caters to every whim of the financial elite. Moreover, we don’t alienate our enemies, we create them by threatening to bomb them, encircle them with nuclear weapons, demonizing Muslims, torturing them, and killing them through indiscriminate drone strikes that mostly kill civilians. Principles are not being defended in these arguments only the kind of raw, naked power that has come to mark authoritarian regimes. It gets worse. The defenders of the globalized torture state are not simply confused or morally damaged; they are wedded to a finance state and the corporate machinery of social, cultural, and political violence that will provide them with lucrative jobs once they finish the bidding of defense contractors and other elements of the finance and warfare state.

To his credit, Arizona Senator John McCain, himself a victim of torture during the Vietnam War, broke with the moral dinosaurs in his party and in defending the release of the Senate report, insisted that the CIA’s use of torture during the Bush-Cheney years “stained our national honor, did much harm, and little practical good.” Most of his colleagues disagree and are now arguing that in spite of the evidence, torture produced actionable intelligence and helped to save lives, a claim the Senate report strongly negates. Once again, empirical utility trumps the levers of justice and the principles of human rights as moral considerations give way to a kind of ghastly death-embracing dance with a debased instrumental rationality.

Not only has the United States lost its moral compass, it has degenerated into a state of political darkness reminiscent of older dictatorships that maimed human bodies and inflicted unspeakable acts of violence on the innocent, while embracing a mad war-like utility and pragmatism in order to remove themselves from any sense of justice, compassion, and reason. This is the formative culture not simply of a society that is ethically lost, but one that produces a society that willingly becomes complicitous with the savage ethos and beliefs of an updated totalitarianism. The Senate report has brought one of the darkest sides of humanity to light and it has sparked a predictable outrage and public condemnation. Thus far, little has been said about either the conditions that made this journey into the dark side possible, or what moral, political, and educational absences had to occur in the collective psyche of both the American public and government that not only sanctioned torture but allowed it to happen? What made it so easy for the barbarians not only to implement acts of torture but to openly defend such practices as a sanctioned government policy?

With the release of the report, the supine American press finally has to acknowledge that the U.S. had joined with other totalitarian countries of the past in committing atrocities completely alien to any functioning democracy. America is no longer even a weak democracy. The lie is now more visible than ever. Nonetheless, the usual crowd of politicians, pundits, and mainstream media not only have little to say about the history of torture committed by the United States at home and abroad, but also about their own silence, if not complicity, in this dark side of American history. The possibility of a politically and morally charged critique has turned into a cowardly and evasive debate around questions such as: Does torture produce terrorist acts from taking place? Is waterboarding really an act of torture? Is torture justified in the face of extremist attacks on the United States? Is the CIA being scapegoated for actions promoted by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld crowd? And so it goes. These are the wrong questions and reveal the toxic complicity the mainstream press has had all along with such anti-democratic practices. War crimes should not be debated; they should be condemned without qualification.

In an incredible act of bad faith, those responsible for state sanctioned acts of torture are now interviewed by the mainstream media and presented, if not portrayed, as reasonable men with honorable intentions. Rather than being condemned as agents of a totalitarian state and as war criminals who should be prosecuted, those who both gave the orders to torture and those who carried out such inhuman practices are treated as one side of a debate team, anxious to get the real story out in order to provide the other side of the narrative. There is more than a hint of moral depravity here; there is also what I have called elsewhere the violence of organized forgetting. Torture is not about the cowardly appeal to balance. The only reasonable approach any democracy can take towards torture is to condemn it.

For a society to treat torture as a reasonable practice worthy of informed debate reveals a cancer deeply embedded in the American social and political psyche, partly produced by the carcinogenic culture of the mainstream media, the spectacle of violence, and unchecked militarism of American society, and those commanding cultural apparatuses that believe that the only value that matters is rooted in acts of commerce and the accumulation of capital at any cost. Ideas matter, education matters, morality matters, and justice matters in a democracy. People who hold power in America should be held accountable for what the actions they take, especially when they violate all decent standards of human rights.

Maybe it is time to treat the Senate torture report as just one register of a series of crimes being committed under the regime of a savage neoliberalism. After all, an economic policy that views ethics as a liability, disdains the public good, and enshrines self-interest as the highest of virtues provides a petri dish not just for state sanctioned torture abroad but also for a range of lawless and cruel policies at home. Maybe it’s time to connect the dots between the government’s use of waterboarding and a history that includes the killing of Black Panther, Fred Hampton by the Chicago police, the illegal existence of COINTELPRO, the savage brutality of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, the rise of the post-Orwellian surveillance state, the militarization of the local police, the transformation of underserved American cities into war zones, the creation of Obama’s kill list, the use of drones that indiscriminately execute people, and the recent killing of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of militarized police force that now acts with impunity.[27]

Is it not reasonable to argue that the lawlessness that creates the torture state and provides immunity for killer cops also provides protection for those in the government and CIA who put into play the tentacles of the globalized torture state? Is it too far-fetched to argue that Eric Garner’s utterance, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” is a reminder of the many foreign nationals under the control of the torture state who might have uttered the same words as they were being tortured? Connect these dots and there is more at play here than retreat into a facile high moralism that condemns torture as a “stain on our values.” Instead, what becomes evident is that torture has become symptomatic of something much larger than an errant plunge into immorality and lawlessness and begins to reveal a more systemic rush into what Robert Jay Lifton has described as “a death-saturated age”[28] in which matters of violence, survival, and trauma inescapably bear down on daily experience while pushing the United States into the dark recesses of a new authoritarianism. The Senate report reveals only one moment in an endless upsurge of lawlessness that has come to characterize the United States’ long, slow plunge into totalitarianism. Americans now inhabit a society where the delete button holds sway and the ethical imagination withers. And what are being erased are not only any vestige of a sense of commitment, but public and historical memory and the foundations of any viable notion of justice, equality, and accountability. That is the story that needs to be told.

There is another story to be told about another kind of torture, one that is more capacious and seemingly more abstract but just as deadly in its destruction of human life, justice, and democracy. This is a mode of torture that resembles the “mind virus” mentioned in the Senate report, one that induces fear, paralysis, and produces the toxic formative culture that characterizes the reign of neoliberalism.   Isolation, privatization, and the cold logic of instrumental rationality have created a new kind of social formation and social order in which it becomes difficult to form communal bonds, deep connections, a sense of intimacy, and long term commitments. Neoliberalism has created a society of monsters for whom pain and suffering are viewed as entertainment or deserving of scorn, warfare is a permanent state of existence, torture becomes a matter of expediency, and militarism is celebrated as the most powerful mediator of human relationships.

Under the reign of neoliberalism, politics has taken an exit from ethics and thus the issue of social costs is divorced from any form of intervention in the world. This is the ideological metrics of political zombies. The key word here is atomization and it is the curse of both neoliberal societies and democracy itself. A radical democracy demands a notion of educated hope capable of energizing a generation of young people and others who connect the torture state to the violence and criminality of an economic system that celebrates its own depravities. It demands a social movement unwilling to abide by technological fixes or cheap reforms. It demands a new politics for which the word revolution means going to the root of the problem and addressing it non-violently with dignity, civic courage, and the refusal to accept a future that mimics the present. Torture is not just a matter of policy, it is a deadening mindset, a point of identification, a form of moral paralysis, a war crime, an element of the spectacle of violence, and it must be challenged in all of its dreadful registers.  (source)

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is www.henryagiroux.com.

Notes. 

[1] Cited in Edward S. Herman, “Folks Out There Have a ‘Distaste of Western Civilization and Cultural Values’,” Center for Research on Globalization (September 15, 2001). Online at: ,http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/HER109A.html

[2]. Carl Boggs supplies an excellent commentary on the historical amnesia in the U.S. media surrounding the legacy of torture promoted by the United States. See Carl Boggs, “Torture: An American Legacy,” CounterPunch.org (June 17, 2009). Online at: http://www.counterpunch.org/boggs06172009.html.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. There are many valuable sources that document this history. Some exemplary texts include: A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors: The Truth About U.S. Police Operations in Latin America (New York: Pantheon Books, 1979); Gordon Thomas, Journey Into Madness: The True Story of Secret CIA Mind Control and Medical Abuse (New York: Bantam, 1989); Danner, Torture and Truth; Jennifer K. Harbury, Truth, Torture, and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture (Boston: Beacon Press, 2005); Alfred McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006); and Rejali, Torture and Democracy. See also Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (New York: Doubleday, 2008); and Phillipe Sands, Torture Team (London: Penguin, 2009). On the torture of children, see Michael Haas, George W. Bush, War Criminal?: The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes (Westport: Praeger, 2009). Also, see Henry A. Giroux, Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Boulder: Paradigm, 2010).

[5] Amy Goodman, “From COINTELPRO to Snowden, the FBI Burglars Speak Out after 43 Years of Silence (Part 2),” Democracy Now! (January 8, 2014). Online:

http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2014/1/8/from_cointelpro_to_snowden_the_fbi

[6] For an excellent source, see Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars against Dissent in the United States (Boston: South End Press, 2001). Also see The People’s History of the CIA. Online: http://www.thepeopleshistory.net/2013/07/cointelpro-fbis-war-on-us-citizens.html.

[7] Chomsky quoted in Amy Goodman, “From COINTELPRO to Snowden, the FBI Burglars Speak Out after 43 Years of Silence (Part 2).” Online: http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2014/1/8/from_cointelpro_to_snowden_the_fbi

[8]. See, for example, Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005); and Loic Wacquant, Punishing the Poor (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009).

[9]. Ishmael Reed, “How Henry Louis Gates Got Ordained as the Nation’s ‘Leading Black Intellectual,’” Black Agenda Report (July 27, 2009). Online at: http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/how-henry-louis-gates-got-ordained-nations-leading-black-intellectual.

[10]. Pepe Lozano, “Chicago Torture Probe Draws Worldwide Attention,” Political Affairs Magazine (July 6, 2006). Online at: http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/view/3770/1/196/. See also Susan Saulny, “Ex-Officer Linked to Brutality Is Arrested,” New York Times (October 22, 2008). Online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/22/us/22chicago.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss.

[11]. Lozano, ibid.

[12]. Mayer, The Dark Side, p. 8.

[13]. Mark Danner, “US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites,” New York Review of Books, Vol. 56, No. 6 (April 9, 2009), p. 77.

[14]. Frank Rich, “The Banality of Bush White House Evil,” New York Times (April 26, 2009), p. WK14.

[15]. The torture memos can be found at the American Civil Liberties Union website. Online at: http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/olc_memos.html.

[16]. Andrew Sullivan, “The Bigger Picture,” The Daily Dish (April 17, 2009). Online at: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/04/the-bigger-picture.html.

[17]. Ewen MacAskill, “Obama Releases Bush Torture Memos: Insects, Sleep Deprivation and Waterboarding among Approved Techniques by the Bush Administration,” The Guardian (April 16, 2009). Online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/16/torture-memos-bush-administration.

[18]. Ibid.

[19]. Andy Worthington, “Five Terrible Truths About the CIA Torture Memos,” Future of Freedom Foundation (April 22, 2009). Online at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/04/22-6.

[20]. Editorial, “The Torturers’ Manifesto,” New York Times (April 19, 2009), p. WK9.

[21]. Ibid.

[22]. Bybee cited in Neil A. Lewis, “Official Defends Signing Interrogation Memos,” New York Times (April 29, 2009), p. A12.

[23]. Thomas C. Hilde, “Introduction,” in On Torture, ed. Thomas C. Hilde (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2008), p. 141.

[24] Mark Mazzetti, “Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations,” New York Times (December 9, 2014). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/world/senate-intelligence-committee-cia-torture-report.html.

[25] Error! Main Document Only.Elias Isquith, “‘I don’t care what we did’: What Nicolle Wallace’s rant reveals about America’s torture problem,” Salon (December 9, 2012). Online: http://www.salon.com/2014/12/09/i_dont_care_what_we_did_what_nicolle_wallaces_rant_reveals_about_americas_torture_problem/

[26] Thomas C. Hilde, “Introduction,” in On Torture, ed. Thomas C. Hilde (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2008), p. 1.

[27] See, for one example of this type of analysis, Error! Main Document Only.Chauncey DeVega, “The Culture of Cruelty is International: From Lynchings to Eric Garner and the CIA Torture Report,” We Are Respectable Negroes (December 10, 2014). Online: http://www.chaunceydevega.com/2014/12/the-culture-of-cruelty-is-international.html

[28] Robert Jay Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), p. 479

 

 

 

Bishop William Morris sacked for advocating women priests

THE Catholic Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris, has been effectively sacked by Pope Benedict XVI over doctrinal disobedience for his support for ordaining women priests and other liberal reform.

WilliamMorrisIn a highly unusual move, Bishop Morris complained in a letter to his followers that he was leaving unwillingly and claimed he had been denied natural justice.

The developments have led to an incipient revolt among at least some sections of the church.

In the letter read out to all congregations in the diocese at weekend masses, pre-empting a Vatican announcement tonight, Bishop Morris, 67, said he had taken early retirement because “it has been determined by Pope Benedict that the diocese would be better served by the leadership of a new bishop”.

It is understood that one of Brisbane’s auxiliary bishops will step into the diocese temporarily as administrator until a new bishop is appointed. Bishops normally do not retire until at least 75.

Some Toowoomba Catholics left church in tears yesterday, and priests have called a meeting at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday to consider what action can be taken, including the possibility of a mass resignation of clergy. But one senior priest who has followed the bishop’s controversial career said Bishop Morris had brought about his own demise because “you can’t keep telling Rome to get stuffed”.

Many parishioners arriving for mass last night were amazed and shocked about the letter.

At the cathedral, Maree White said the bishop was well appreciated in the diocese and she was stunned by the news.

Others disagreed. Jenny Goodwin said: ” I think, all things considered, the Vatican does not do these things lightly.”

The bishop’s letter shows things had reached a stalemate after he had been talking to the Vatican for five years.”

In his letter, Bishop Morris said the Vatican’s decision was sparked by complaints to Rome about an Advent letter he wrote in 2006. In that letter, he argued that with an ageing clergy the church should be open to all eventualities, including ordaining women, ordaining married men, welcoming back former priests and recognising the validity of Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church orders.

In contrast to some other provincial dioceses, the priest shortage has been exacerbated by Toowoomba’s appalling record over recent years in attracting virtually no new vocations.

Long before the pastoral letter, however, concerns had been raised about the material included in sex education programs in diocesan schools and the former practice of general absolution in the diocese.

The Advent pastoral letter sparked an investigation, led by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado, one of the most respected Catholic clerics in the US, who visited Toowoomba and spoke to priests and laity at length, and also spoke with other Australian bishops.

In the letter read out yesterday, Bishop Morris said that visit led to an “ongoing dialogue between myself and the Congregations for Bishops, Divine Worship and Doctrine of the Faith and eventually Pope Benedict”.

The style of Bishop Morris’s departure is unprecedented in that he has made his disagreements with the Vatican so public. In previous years, bishops who fell from favour have usually resigned on the grounds of ill health, or no reason has been given for their departure.

Bishop Morris complained he had never seen Archbishop Chaput’s report, and said he had been denied natural justice.

He said he had never written a resignation letter, and that he had offered to take early retirement “with profound sadness, knowing I still enjoy the support of the vast majority of the people and priests of the diocese”.

But he admitted his position had become untenable, and said he had proposed that he take early retirement to find his way through “this moral dilemma”.

“I have never wavered in my conviction that for me to resign is a matter of conscience, and my resignation would mean I accept the assessment of myself as breaking communion, which I absolutely refute and reject, and it is out of my love for the church that I cannot do so.”   (source)

The Battle over Birth Control for Developing Nations

The Battle over Birth Control for Developing Nations–Melinda Gates vs. Vatican

melinda-gates1Melinda Gates, wife of billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates, recently caused controversy when she pledged billions of dollars to extend “affordable, life-saving contraceptive services to an additional 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020.”1 Speaking at the recent London Summit on Family Planning, Gates had returned from a visit to sub-Saharan Africa with stories of women who snuck away from their husbands to obtain birth control shots at a local clinic, only to be turned away as the clinic had run out of the product. “My goal is to get [family planning and birth control] back on the global agenda,” Gates told Newsweek.2

The issue of contraception is important ar0und the globe, as Gates suggested, evidenced by the sheer magnitude of people affected by the choice to use it. Currently, “about 358,000 women and 3 million newborns die each year worldwide due to pregnancy and childbirth. Ten to 15 percent of those numbers are believed to be deaths caused by unsafe abortions.”3 Gates believes that these mortality rates could be lessened significantly if promotion for birth control and contraceptive supplies were available in developing countries.

However, as a self-proclaimed Catholic woman, Gates has also had to contend with her own religious beliefs when choosing to support the extension of contraceptive services worldwide, and ultimately chose to support “social justice,” something she felt was not fully visible in the church’s stance on contraception. The Catholic Church is steadfastly opposed to the use of artificial birth control and is quite outspoken about this issue. Melinda Gates’ pledge to provide birth control to developing nations is only one example of the long debate on whether access to artificial birth control should be available or promoted in developing nations. One large issue in the debate, particularly on the African continent, is the use of birth control to protect against sexually transmitted diseases—particularly the HIV/AIDS virus.

The Vatican’s Opposition to Artificial Contraception

On a 2009 flight to Cameroon for his first papal visit to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI told reporters that AIDS is, “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.”4  The unwaveringly negative opinion of birth control held by the Catholic Church has caused much controversy in respect to developing nations in recent years. And, though African patronage is considered vital to a growing Catholic church, the African experience with AIDS has been quite destructive. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since the 1980s.5

Just as HIV/AIDS has been consistently devastating, the Catholic Church has been consistently and staunchly against the use of birth control since the debate began. In his 1968 Encyclical Letter entitled Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI outlined the Catholic Church’s opinion of artificial methods of birth control, writing that, “it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.6

The Church’s condemnation of artificial methods of contraception have recently caused heated debates surrounding the issue which, in developing nations like some of those on the African continent, could mean the difference between life and death. Rebecca Hodes, who works as an AIDS activist for the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, responded to the Pope Benedict XVI’s dismissal of condoms as a preventative measure by saying that, “his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”7  However, the spread of AIDS is not the only issue that must be addressed in the battle over birth control; unintended pregnancy is also an important issue in the birth control debate.

The Call for Birth Control in Africa and Asia

melinda-gates2A fifty-two page report created by the Guttmacher Institute in New York urged for new methods of birth control to reach 148 million women in three regions of Africa and Asia where there are 49 million unintended pregnancies every year resulting in 21 million abortions. The study states, “sub-Saharan Africa, south central Asia and southeast Asia are home to 69 percent of women in the developing world who have an unmet need for a modern method…seven in 10 women with unmet need in the three regions cite reasons for nonuse that could be rectified with appropriate methods.”

The study also noted the various reasons these women did not choose modern preventative birth control methods. These reasons included health fears, opposition to contraception and opposition from partners. The findings of the study concluded that, according to co-author Jacquline Darroch, “the need for contraception [in these areas] requires not only increased access and counseling, but the development of new methods that better meet women’s needs.”9  “In total,” the study states, “one in four of the latter’s total of 195 million women had an unmet need for modern birth control.”10

Birth control’s main purpose, the limiting of procreation, is heavily debated from both religious and logistical perspectives. On a grand scale, the choice whether or not to use birth control for the limitation of procreation, too, could lead to the stifling of a nation’s population or to the growth of a nation through population boom.

The Nigerian Debate over Population Growth

melinda-gates3In Nigeria, where the Nigerian president is actively considering a mandate on birth control within the nation he governs, the issue is being played out on the national level. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan stated that too many uneducated people are having too many children and urged citizens to only have as many children as they can afford.11

Writing in response to President Jonathan’s statements in regards to birth control, African journalist Sola Odunfa describes her own belief that having children is a mainly financial concern, “If you are rich you may have as many [children as you want],” Odunfa writes. “On the other hand if you are a ‘common’ man or woman, that is you do not own a house and car and you must seek an appointment before you may see your bank manager, you must limit your family size to what the political elite dictate. Otherwise you all starve and your children end up living under the bridge.”12 Odunfa’s warnings against procreating beyond a family’s financial means are ultimately routed in the fear of the devastating effects of poverty in the face of overpopulation.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the United Nations has estimated that the population could grow by as many as 240 million by the year 2050.13  So, the President’s decision to back birth control is based on his desire to elevate the quality of life of his people. However, he recognizes the sensitive nature of the issue in regards to religious practice.  “We are extremely religious people… It is a very sensitive thing,” Jonathan stated. It is difficult for you to tell any Nigerian to number their children because… it is not expected to reject God’s gifts.”14   A BBC-created guide dissecting mass birth control programs, such as the one suggested in Nigeria, cites overpopulation as an important worldwide concern in the fight against poverty, despite religious opposition to artificial contraception:

Many people think that God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” can be taken too far. It’s generally accepted that over-population will seriously damage the earth and the lives of most people on it. Large increases in population have already damaged the environment and condemned many people in Africa, Asia and Latin America to poverty.15

Religious motivations as well as economic stability are both important factors in the debate over birth control, but Nigerian journalists and politicians are not the only pundits weighing in on the controversial issue. Many Nigerian citizens also have strong opinions about the desire to mandate birth control. In the face of these concerns, native Nigerian Chinwuba Iyizoba is appreciative of the proposed population growth in Nigeria. “Western media are shrilly calling for Nigeria to put a check on her population growth,” Iyizoba writes. “No way, sorry. We Nigerians are rejoicing.”16  Iyizoba cites the benefits of financial security for aging parents, keeping birthrates at replacement level and the maintenance of a dynamic youthful workforce.17

Who Has the Control over Birth Control?

Iyizoba describes population growth within his nation as the prerogative of himself and other citizens of his nation. There are various anti-contraceptive activists who, like Iyizoba, understand the elective use of birth control an important right, and the imposition of contraceptive methods by outside parties is an invasive and imperialistic act. Some find rich nations’ funding of birth control in third world countries as a performance of imperialistic control which not only over-steps personal human rights when mass birth control programs are implemented but also executes forms of gender bias and eugenics.18

Gender discrimination in the implementation of mass birth control programs is clear; it is most often women who must, unjustly, bear the burden of implementing mandated birth control methods, which inherently chastises female fertility as something negative and something to be controlled. Similarly, mass birth control programs, which, as President Jonathan of Nigeria suggested, urge impoverished and uneducated peoples to stop having or to have fewer children are exercising a form of class bias that seeks to reduce specific ethnic or socioeconomic groups. Thus, the governmental imposition of birth control on a nation’s population may be considered a violation of human rights.

Conclusion

A compilation of factors has recently brought the debate over the distribution and use of artificial methods of birth control into the spotlight. Gates’ pledge to fund the distribution of birth control in developing countries is only the most recent event in a long and tumultuous battle over the right to choose. The Vatican’s unwavering stance on the issue of artificial contraception has been the subject of much controversy in the face of the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic and issues of population growth and poverty.

The push for birth control on the part of national governments, like that in Nigeria, has also been a source of pressure on the populations of those living in developing nations. Though President Jonathan and Melinda Gates seem to have the benefit of the people in mind, anti-birth control activists view large-scale efforts to mandate birth control as efforts to excise groups of people or lower classes in developing nations.The culmination of these factors has led to a very divided public, with some, like Chinwuba Iyizoba, adamantly opposed to mass birth control programs and others, like Melinda Gates, who have pledged time and money to the cause of expanding the distribution of birth control worldwide.

Though powerful and important people and organizations are taking charge and issuing statements as to whether artificial contraception should be utilized, the true issue is in regards to who has the right to choose: organizations or individuals? And, if it is the individual who has the right to make the decision to use birth control, should they, then, be allowed access to contraceptive methods? And who should ultimately be responsible for supplying methods of artificial birth control—private organizations like the Gates’ foundation, or national governments? For now, these issues remain unresolved and the two sides of the debate remain polarized while the Vatican staunchly opposes the use of artificial contraception and the Gates foundation continues with their plans to fund birth control in developing nations.   (source)


1  McGovern, Celeste. “Gates summit raises billions for birth control.” National Catholic Register. July 23, 2012.
2  Castillo, Michelle. “Melinda gates promotes birth control as an important part of family planning.” CBS Interactive Inc. July 11, 2013.
3  Ibid.
4  Cernansky, Rachel. “During Africa Visit, Pope Knocks Condoms for HIV Prevention.” Discover Magazine. March 17, 2009.
5  Lewis, David. “Benedict visits Africa for first time as pope.” Reuters. March 17, 2009.
6  Pope Paul VI. “Humanae vitae.” July 25, 1968.
7 Butt, Riazat. “Pope claims condoms could make African Aids crisis worse.” The Guardian. March 17, 2009.
8  “New birth control methods urged for developing world women.” The Independent. May 14, 2011.
9  Ibid.
10  Ibid.
11  “Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan urges birth control.” BBC. June, 27. 2012.
12  Odunfa, S. P. “African viewpoint: Should birth control be mandatory?” BBC. July 11, 2012.
13  “Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan urges birth control.” BBC. June, 27. 2012.
14  Ibid.
15   ”BBC Ethics Guide.” BBC.
16  Iyizoba, Chinwuba. “Africa needs population growth, not birth control.” Crisis Magazine. May 25, 2011.
17  Ibid.
18  “BBC Ethics Guide.” BBC.

The Case of Mike Moroski

The Case of

Mike MoroskiArchbishop Snurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has dismissed Mike Moroski, the  assistant principal ofPurchell-Marian High School (Dayton, OH) after he refused to remove a private blog expressing support for same-sex marriage.  Here are the words of MikeMoroski describing the situation that has been imposed upon him:

On Monday, February 4th I was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Namely, to take down my post on this site entitled, “Choose Your Battles,” sign a number of documents assuring my silence [on the issue of gay marriages] and keep my job – or, [failing to do this, I would be forced to] resign.

After much deliberation with my wife, family, trusted clergy, professionals from all walks of life and my own meditative silence, I decided not to take the post down, nor to recant my position that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry.”

As “Choose Your Battles” goes on to say, “Ethically, morally and legally I believe this.”

And I do.

If I take that post down I would not be able to look at the thousands of former students and families with whom I have worked for twelve years in the eye. I have tried my hardest (even when it would have been easier not to) to instill the values of resilience in the face of pressure, public acts of justice and patient decision making in every student who has been in my classroom, office or not for profits. What would I say to all of them if I were to go against my OWN conscience so that I could keep my job for four months?

I refused to agree to the Archdiocese’s terms BECAUSE OF my faith formation at Catholic schools and relationship with Catholic family members & clergy – not in spite of it.

I believe gay people should be allowed to marry because I believe in the Sermon on the Mount. I try to let the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7, guide my life.

I will not be quiet about what my informed conscience tells me is right and just.

The only painful part of this entire decision for Katie and me is reconciling the difficulty my students at Purcell Marian are going to face with the example we strive to model for the youth. If any of you Cavaliers are reading this, please know that I love you and I am in your corner. I hope that someday you may come to understand why I am not in my office to share a laugh, a cry or a story. You can always contact me through this website with your questions or to keep me posted on how your lives are going. I trust you all know that your livelihood means more to me than my own, and, for that reason, I had to leave. I realize how difficult that may be to understand right now, but in time I trust you, too, may be asked to give up your convictions or accept the consequences. As I always tried to teach you – NEVER compromise who you are for someone else – and NEVER let anyone make you someone THEY want you to be. Be strong and take care of one another. . . .

Love is not scary

Choose Your Battles

Recently, I posted a picture of President Barack Obama onto my Facebook wall with the quotation, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

This post prompted heated and respectful discussion among a handful of my Facebook friends.

One of my friends (in real life AND Facebook) began a back and forth that lasted for about a week and totaled over 45 responses between only 6 people. Clearly, the issue of love is a heated debate in 2013. . . .

I unabashedly believe that gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry. Ethically, morally and legally I believe this. I spend a lot of my life trying to live as a Christian example of love for others, and my formation at Catholic grade school, high school, 3 Catholic Universities and employment at 2 Catholic high schools has informed my conscience to believe that gay marriage is NOT something of which to be afraid.

To me, it seems our time would be much better spent worrying about the economy, our city’s failing pensions, retaining our big business neighbors and finding creative, efficient, effective ways to fund our excellent Cincinnati Public Schools.

Not much time left over to worry about gay people marrying one another.

Someone on my Facebook wall asked if my definition of “love” knew no bounds. I said that it did. Love of hurting others is where I draw the line – whether sexually, emotionally, physically, mentally – I do not accept the love of [those who deliberately set out to] hurt. Outside that, if the love you share with someone else makes you the best version of yourself possible and you go out there in the world and share that love with others – have at it and be well.

Unity Assists, and sometimes, to come together, we gotta choose our battles.



 

What do I learn from this?

I learn that the Vatican has taken the stance that, in God’s eyes, homosexual sex is “intrinsically disordered” and therefore, there can never be any circumstances in which homosexual sex is morally permissible.  Not even in the instance when the two same-sex individuals have discover each other as “soul mates” and intend to form a permanent union (“marriage”) together.   The bishops of the Catholic Church, consequently, have taken an active public role in making sure that no civil legislation sanctioning “same-sex marriages” is ever passed into law.

This is a contentious issue.  When Cardinal Ratzinger drafted the position of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on this issue, he had no intention of consulting the worldwide bishops on this tender issue.  He used his office to impose his personal position upon the entire Church.  When bishops, theologians, and lay persons endeavored to show how the biblical, psychological, and pastor studies supporting his position were seriously flawed, Cardinal Ratzinger began by ignoring them and then, for those who persisted, to actively challenge and condemn his position, to push back by challenging their jobs for failing to endorse  the “Church’s constant teaching” on this issue.

Jesus says nothing regarding homosexuality.  Pope Francis, when asked about this in an interview, preferred to say, “Who am I to judge [someone who has a homosexual orientation].”

Archbishop Snurr, ignoring Jesus and Francis, believes that it is incumbent upon him to insure that all teachers in Catholic institutions toe the line when it comes to this issue.  Thus they are required to sign an oath declaring the following:

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Further Resources

The Church’s Gay Obsession
by Frank Bruni

Homosexuality and the Message of Isaiah
by Frederick J. Gaiser

New Approaches to LGBT People
by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson: New Approaches to LGBT People

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson: New Approaches to LGBT People

 

Bishop Geoffrey RobinsonOne bishop’s voice was heard loudly and clearly in Rome in the last few days, not by church leaders, but by Catholic LGBT people and ally advocates.  Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary of Sydney, Australia, spoke at the Ways Of Love conference on pastoral care with LGBT people, about which we posted yesterday.  The gathering in Rome was to discuss new possible approaches to LGBT people that the synod could take.

Bishop Robinson, who many readers may remember spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012, outlined a new approach to sexual ethics for the Church that would recognize the goodness and holiness of same-sex committed relationships.  His talk was a highlight of the conference, and I will try to outline some of the main points below.

Bishop Robinson began by dismantling some of the crippling assumptions that underline current church teaching, most particularly the idea that sexual sins are among the most grievous that humans might commit:

“Striking a king or president has always been considered a more serious offence than striking an ordinary citizen. In line with this, it was said, the greatest king by far is God, so an offence against God is far more serious than an offence against a mere human being.

“Because all sexual sins were seen as direct offences against God, they were, therefore, all seen as most serious sins. Sexual sins were seen as on the same level as the other sin that is directly against God, blasphemy, and this helps to explain why, in the Catholic Church, sexual morality has long been given a quite exaggerated importance.

“For centuries the Church has taught that every sexual sin is a mortal sin. In this field, it was held, there are no venial sins. . . .

“This teaching fostered belief in an incredibly angry God, for this God would condemn a person to an eternity in hell for a single unrepented moment of deliberate pleasure arising from sexual desire. This idea of God is totally contrary to the entire idea of God that Jesus presented to us, and I cannot accept it.

“My first rebellion against Church teaching on sex came, therefore, not directly from a rejection of what the Church said about sex, but a rejection of the false god that this teaching presented.”

Robinson also objected to the presumption that the Church’s sexual ethics should be based on judging the solely of sexual acts:

“. . . [T]he teaching of the Church is based on a consideration of what is seen as the God-given nature of the physical acts in themselves, rather than on these acts as actions of human beings. And it continues to do this at a time when the whole trend in moral theology is in the opposite direction.

“As a result it gets into impossible difficulties in analysing physical acts without a context of human relations. For example, some married couples find that there is a blockage preventing the sperm from reaching the ovum, but that in a simple procedure a doctor can take the husband’s sperm and insert it into the wife in such a way that is passes the blockage and enables conception. But the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned this action because the physical act was not considered “integral”, even though the entire reason for this intervention was precisely that the couple wanted their marriage to be both unitive and procreative.

“The Church’s arguments concerning sex are based solely on the physical act in itself rather than on the physical act as an action affecting persons and relationships.”

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Focusing in on lesbian and gay sexuality in particular, Robinson challenged the presumption of “natural law theory” opposing same-gender relationships:

“It was God who created a world in which there are both heterosexuals and homosexuals. This was not a mistake on God’s part that human beings are meant to repair; it is simply an undeniable part of God’s creation.

The only sexual acts that are natural to homosexuals are homosexual acts. This is not a free choice they have made between two things that are equally attractive to them, but something that is deeply embedded in their nature, something they cannot simply cast aside. Homosexual acts come naturally to them, heterosexual acts do not. They cannot perform what the Church would call ‘natural’ acts in a way that is natural to them.

“Why should we turn to some abstraction in determining what is natural rather than to the actual lived experience of human beings? Why should we say that homosexuals are acting against nature when they are acting in accordance with the only nature they have ever experienced?

“The Church claims that it is basing itself on ‘natural law,’ but a natural law based on abstractions is a false natural law. Indeed, it brings the whole concept of natural law into disrepute.”

The bishop began an outline of a new basis for sexual ethics, based more on the teachings of Jesus than on any other outside philosophical theory.  He began this section of his talk by quoting Scripture:

“ ‘If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea’ (Mk.9:42).

“ ‘Then they will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”(Mt.25:44-45)

“In these two quotations Jesus identifies with the weakest persons in the community, and tells us that any harm done to them is a harm done to himself.

“I suggest that this harm done to people is the real sin in matters of sex, the only sin that angers God.

“I suggest, therefore, that we should look at sexual morality in terms of the good or harm done to persons and the relationships between them rather than in terms of a direct offence against God.

“Following from this, may we say that sexual pleasure, like all other pleasure, is in itself morally neutral, neither good nor bad? Is it rather the circumstances affecting persons and relationships that make this pleasure good or bad, e.g. a good pleasure for a married couple seeking reconciliation after a disagreement, a bad pleasure for a man committing rape?”

After critiquing a reigning ethic of sex in the contemporary world that only cautions people to “do no harm,”  Bishop Robinson supplies an ethic based more on the commandment to love our neighbor:

“I suggest that the central questions concerning sexual morality are: Are we moving towards a genuinely Christian ethic if we base our sexual actions on a profound respect for the relationships that give meaning, purpose and direction to human life, and on loving our neighbour as we would want our neighbour to love us?

“Within this context, may we ask whether a sexual act is morally right when, positively, it is based on a genuine love of neighbour, that is, a genuine desire for what is good for the other person, rather than solely on self-interest, and, negatively, contains no damaging elements such as harm to a third person, any form of coercion or deceit, or any harm to the ability of sex to express love? . . . .

“Many would object that what I have proposed would not give a clear and simple rule to people. But God never promised us that everything in the moral life would be clear and simple. Morality is not just about doing right things; it is also about struggling to know what is the right thing to do. It is not just about doing what everyone else around us is doing; it is about taking a genuine personal responsibility for everything we do. And it is about being profoundly sensitive to the needs and vulnerabilities of the people with whom we interact.”

To catch all of Bishop Robinson’s nuances, examples, and explanations, I urge all who are interested in this topic to read his entire text which can be found on the conference’s website.  You will be enriched by reading all of Bishop Robinson’s nuances, examples, and explanations, as well as additional arguments.

Ugly Face of Church’s Firings of Homosexuals

IHM School To ‘Rethink’ Policies After Firing Lesbian Teacher

September 27, 2014

Barbara Webb’s supporters stand outside Marian High School during a Sunday rally

In the last month, the number of LGBT-related employment disputes at Catholic institutions topped twenty for the year.

 

 

Case of Barbara Webb

Barbara Webb was fired from Marian High School in August for becoming pregnant outside marriage. Supporters have sustained protests online, with nearly 70,000 signatures on a Change.org petition, and by rallying at the school. Now, the leadership of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Sisters who sponsor the school have responded.

Oakland Press reports that IHM president Sr. Mary Jane Herb released a letter to the Marian community which did not directly address Webb’s firing. However, the letter promised a review of the school’s policies and said a team of consultants would intervene before future employment decisions are made in similar situations. Citing Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy and inclusion, Sr. Herb also wrote:

“Our Church and Catholic schools are confronted with a complexity of issues that have not been faced in the past….These are challenging times and times in which we feel God’s Spirit is working with us, encouraging us to respond to the signs of the times in new ways.”

In response, organizers under the name “I Stand with Barb Webb” have begun a crowd-funding campaign, which hopes to raise $65,000 so that Marian H.S. can institute diversity trainings for staff and a diversity club for students. While the IHM Sisters’ offering is a start, it does not do justice for Barbara Webb or ensure LGBT firings will stop at Marian High School. Hopefully, through this learning process, school administrators and IHM leadership will come to see what Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has seen: that these firings “need to be rectified.

The Case of Nate Alfson

St. Mary’s High School coach Nate Alfson bravely came out as gay in an article for OutSports this summer, telling LGBT youth to “Be you. Be true. Never forget that you matter.” It then surprised many when the Dell Rapids, South Dakota school did not fire Alfson.

Sioux Falls diocesan spokesperson Jerry Klein said recently this outcome should not surprise anyone, and that the hierarchy’s teaching on chastity is key to understanding this decision.  However, such a comment could imply that if Alfson dates or enters a civil marriage he would assuredly lose his job coaching.

Jill Callison, a columnist for the Argus Leader quoted Klein and commented on the import of his statement:

” ‘(L)iving a sexually active same-sex lifestyle, one that is not chaste, is not compatible with Church teaching,” the statement says. ‘The same is true for a sexually active, opposite-sex lifestyle outside of marriage. In either of these circumstances, employment or public ministry on behalf of the Church is not appropriate.’ “

Case of Ben Brenkert

Ben Brenkert’s story of leaving the Jesuits after ten years over injustices is spreading, after having been initially posted on Bondings 2.0.   Brenkert had written an open letter to Pope Francis about the firing of LGBT church workers, specifically Colleen Simon, who was let go as food pantry coordinator at a St. Louis Jesuit parish. Now, his story has appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, The Advocateand the Washington Post.

You can also find a full listing of the more than 40 incidents made public since 2008 by clicking here.–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Case of Jamie Moore

Jamie Moore

The music director at St Victoria parish in Victoria, Minnesota, has resigned after marrying his husband last weekend, and the resignation was ordered by embattled Archbishop John Nienstedt. But as LGBT-related employment disputes top twenty in 2014 alone, are these firings and resignations making it more difficult for LGBT people and allies to remain Catholic in any capacity?

The church’s pastor, Fr. Bob White, wrote to parishioners explaining that upon hearing their music director, Jamie Moore, had entered into a same-gender marriage, the archbishop demanded his resignation and Moore complied. White added that Moore would “be sorely missed…we wish him every happiness.” The pastor said he would address the situation from a “pastoral perspective” during upcoming weekend Masses.

Nienstedt released his own statement, citing a document unusually titled “Justice in Employment” which allows church workers to be fired immediately for public conduct inconsistent with Catholic teaching. The archbishop added that his role was to make “painful and difficult” decisions to uphold Christian values.

However, St. Victoria parishioners do not quite see the archbishop’s actions in keeping with Christ’s message.   Some compared this incident to the firing of Kristen Ostendorf, a lesbian teacher, from a Minnesota Cathoilc high school last year. Others like Chub Schmeig criticized the action outright, telling Fox 9 News:

” ‘I believe the church has more serious problems to be concerned with than whether a gay or lesbian person is in the church…It has lots of other issues to handle first.’ “

What might those problems be for Minnesota Catholics? Archbishop Nienstedt, a leading anti-LGBT bishop in the US, is facing increasing calls for his own resignation over his mishandling of clergy abuse that included moving a priest convicted of sexual abuse and offering secret payments to priests who admitted to the sexual abuse of children. As far as LGBT issues are concerned, Nienstedt has called marriage equality the “work of Satan” and spent tremendous resources mailing more than 400,000 DVDs during Minnesota’s debate on that matter. He has also been accused of making sexual advances on priests and seminarians, charges which he denied this summer.

And what to make of this situation, where an archbishop under pressure to resign personally forces a gay musician out? Two prominent gay Catholic writers, Frank Bruni and Andrew Sullivan, are tackling this question in the wake of so many LGBT-related employment disputes with church workers. Writing in his column for the New York Times, Bruni recalls the recent Communion denial and dismissal from volunteer services of two longtime gay parishioners in Montana, Tom Wojtowick and Paul Huff, who quietly were married. He continues:

“Such punishment has befallen many employees of Catholic schools or congregations since the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states allowed them civil weddings. Teachers long known to be gay are suddenly exiled for being gay and married, which is apparently too much commitment and accountability for the church to abide. Honesty equals expulsion. ‘I do’ means you’re done…

“The Catholic Church does incalculable good, providing immeasurable comfort — material as well as spiritual — to so many. But it contradicts and undercuts that mission when it fails to recognize what more and more parishioners do: that gay people deserve the same dignity as everyone else, certainly not what happened to the Montana couple. If Francis and his successors don’t get this right, all his other bits of progress and pretty words will be for naught.”

Andrew Sullivan of The Dish writes about how these incidents have shifted his thinking about being gay and Catholic, moving from a minor blemish amid much greater goodness to a “defining wound…[that] may slowly wreck the whole church.” Writing about the Montana couple, Sullivan says:

“It’s kinda hard to portray these two as some kind of subversive force…And the action against the men came not because they are gay but because they decided to celebrate their love and friendship with a civil marriage license. So they’re not really being targeted for sex; they are being targeted for their commitment and responsibility and honesty. And the only reason they have been excluded on those grounds is because they are gay.”

“If the church upholds this kind of decision, it is endorsing cruelty, discrimination and exclusion. Pope Francis’ view is that this is exactly the kind of thing that requires the church to exercise mercy not rigidity. But allowing a married gay couple to sing in the choir as an act of ‘mercy’ would merely further expose the fragility of the church’s thirteenth century views of human sexuality. It would put the lie to the otherness of gay people; to the notion that it is essential or even possible for a tiny minority to live entirely without intimacy or love or commitment. It also reveals that gay men have long been a part of the church – and tolerated, as long as they lied about their lives and gave others plausible deniability with respect to their sexual orientation. It is an endorsement of dishonesty.”

Sullivan goes on to point out that these dismissals and firings are inconsistent with Catholic moral teachings on compassion, mercy, inclusion, and fairness — and that young Catholics view this “as barbaric and inhuman.” He concludes:

“There is only so much inhumanity that a church can be seen to represent before its own members lose faith in it. I recall the feelings of my own niece and nephew who lost a huge amount of respect for the church when they heard a homily denouncing the civil marriage of their own uncle. I notice the outcry among Catholic high school students when a teacher was fired for the very same reason. When a church responds to an act of love and commitment not by celebration but by ostracism, it is not just attacking a couple’s human dignity; it is also attacking itself.”

One final note is that Sullivan captures the hypocrisy in these situations perfectly when he writes: “Yes, the church is now in favor of divorce as a condition for being a Catholic!”  (Divorce is required of the Montana couple to be allowed to return to communion.) Indeed, there is neither logic nor just cause for these dismissals.

As Pope Francis calls for greater mercy and his top US adviser, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, says these employment disputes “need to be rectified,” the hypocrisy inherent in denying Communion to LGBT people or forcing church workers out for their sexual orientation, marital status, or personal views only becomes more fully on display. I reiterate the prediction of former San Francisco Catholic Charities director Brian Cahill that these disputes will cause the church to become a ‘shrinking cult.’

For the sake of LGBT Catholics, their allies, and the good of the whole church, let us pray and act so this hypocrisy will end.  Please consider beginning a discussion in your parish to enact employment non-discrimination policies.  You can find out how to do that by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Montana Bishop’s Divided Thinking in Communion Denial Case

September 23, 2014

When the pastor of St. Leo parish in Lewiston, Montana, found out that a gay couple there had been joined in a civil marriage, his response was to tell them they were not longer welcome at communion or to participate in any of the parish’s volunteer ministries, even though both had been actively involved in many of them for a number of years.

Paul Huff and Tom Wojtowick

In the Great Falls TribuneRev. Samuel Spiering acknowledged he had learned about the relationship of Paul Huff, 73, and Tom Wojtowick, 66, through a rumor, though the couple did confirm it.  To make matters worse, Spiering offered a resolution which requires the couple to deny their commitment to one another.  The Tribune states:

“Huff and Wojtowick were also told that to regain full privileges within St. Leo’s, they must first obtain a divorce, cease living together and write a statement renouncing their prior marriage.”

Bishop Michael Warfel of the Great Falls-Billings diocese supported the pastor’s decision, noting, in The Billings Gazette:

“Warfel said he knows Wojtowick and Huff ‘to be good people.’

“ ‘This is not animus against someone who happens to be a homosexual; this issue is the same-sex marriage,’ he said. ‘A lot of people put those two together, and obviously there’s a connection, but it’s not the same thing.’

“Warfel called same-sex marriage ‘the issue of our era,’ acknowledging that in the U.S., polls show that support for it has edged higher than those who oppose it. But the fact remains that stands in conflict with Catholic teachings.

“ ‘As a Catholic bishop I have a responsibility to uphold our teaching of marriage between one man and one woman,’ Warfel said. . . .

“ ‘Either I uphold what Catholic teachings are or, by ignoring it or permitting it, I’m saying I disagree with what I’m ordained to uphold,’ Warfel said.”

For me, the bishop’s statements very clearly show the problem with this kind of thinking. While on the one hand, he knows, in reality, that these men are “good people,”  his theoretical ideas about what are the proper uses of sexuality force him to reject them.  His heart tells him one thing, but his head tells him something else.  I hope that he would use this opportunity to discern a little deeper how to resolve that dividing of responses.

Although he claims to want to uphold church teaching, he seems intent on only upholding the church’s teaching on marriage, not any teachings on effective pastoral ministry, the human dignity of gay and lesbian people, the respect for people’s conscience decisions.  When and why did the teaching on marriage trump all other teachings?  When and why does church teaching ask the bishop to deny what he knows from his own experience that these two men are “good people” ?

As in similar cases of dismissal, many people in the parish have come to the support of this couple.  Over the weekend, Warfel had a meeting with parishioners to discuss the situation, but according to The Great Falls Tribune“No substantive changes have resulted.”

The dismissal occurred even though the couple had explained that their marriage was not intended as a challenge to church teaching.  According to the Associated Press:

“Wojtowick said the men married in Seattle in May 2013 so they could make medical and financial decisions for each other.

“During an Aug. 25 conference call with Spiering, Warfel and other diocesan officials, Huff and Wojtowick agreed to write a restoration statement that, in part, would support the concept of marriage being between a man and a woman, Huff said.”

Others have joined in support of Huff and Wojtowick.  Patheos blogger John Shore thinks that Pope Francis should be involved in this situation:

“ ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin.’ Which means, of course, ‘Homosexuality is an abominable offense to God.’

“Which is a morally reprehensible thing to say—especially, of course, to a gay person—and especially to a gay person who has given their life to honoring the very God they’re now being told—and being told by His authorities on earth, no less—finds them, purely by virtue of them being the person they were created to be, repugnant to Him.

“Please, please join me in calling upon the good Pope Francis, in his role as defender of the weak and champion of the oppressed, to recognize the moral travesty being visited upon Paul Huff and Tom Wojtowick, of the tiny parish of St. Leo in Lewistown, MT, as an absolutely stupendous opportunity for the Catholic Church to once and for all come down unequivocally on the right and just side of the homosexual issue.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA points out a list of injustices evident in the pastor’s decision:

  • It is unjust for Church leaders to ban people from the Eucharist because of who they are or whom they love.
  • It is unjust for Church leaders to single out LGBT people for dismissal from ministry and leadership roles, when others who disagree with Church teaching do not suffer the same penalties.
  • It is unjust for Church leaders to bar LGBT people from exercising their civil rights.
  • It is unjust for Church leaders to demand that a couple separate and divorce.

As our church leaders prepare to begin discussing marriage and family issues in the upcoming synod, one topic that appears to be attracting a lot of attention is doing away with the ban on divorced and remarried people from receiving the Eucharist.  That would be a welcome change which would bring pastoral comfort to so many individuals and families.

Church leaders should also offer similar attention to gay and lesbian couples who choose to marry civilly.  They, too, should not be denied access to the Eucharistic table.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry    (source)

When a Priest Falls in Love

Mandated celibacy is a form of violence done to those called to ordained ministry but not to celibacy.  While these priests can have a profound sense of Call, celibacy never really finds a home within their hearts, regardless of the spiritual facade their bishops or spiritual directors attempt to wrap it in.  Celibacy is something they try to tolerate but deep down an intense loneliness prevails.  The thought of growing old as a celibate, and someday retiring in a home for priests, brings more pain than comfort.  Although their loneliness may diminish at times, it is often in the background of their lives, a kind of darkness that will not go away.
 
Priests who fall in love can feel imprisoned within the priesthood as they watch others freely celebrate their love and openly show affection for their significant other. They cannot deny that their love is a holy experience and find themselves perplexed as to why it has put them on a collision course with the priesthood, when, in fact, being in love has brought them new joy and enthusiasm for life. They experience a deep yearning within, not simply for sex, but for the union of two hearts and souls lived in the sacred mystery of love and companionship for the rest of their lives. Mandatory celibacy, however, forces them to face difficult choices. They can secretly embrace this love in the dark and shaming shadows of mandated celibacy, force this love out of their lives, or extract themselves from the priesthood and pursue the relationship. None of these choices seems appealing, but true freedom is found in the latter.

If a priest is in love, it’s hard for him to understand why this love is disqualifying him from the priesthood, especially in light of I John 4:8 where we read that “God is love”. So, why is love an impediment to ordained ministry? Yes, we all know the old party line “Celibacy frees you to love everyone”, but, we also know it’s not true. Married people can and do love others just as passionately as celibates.
 
The fact is, when celibate priests fall in love they find what has been true all along: they are owned by an ecclesiastical institution which has turned romantic love into a force of evil and has an odd obsession with controlling their sexuality, to the point of bordering on a kind of a master/slave relationship. Disguised in religious jargon and contrived theology, mandatory celibacy is really about radical patriarchy (male domination) and  misogyny (whether it be in ordained priestly ministry or as wives of priests, women are perceived as inferior and an evil influence).
 
On the other hand, Christ has no interest in mandated celibacy and even cured Saint Peter’s mother-in-law in respect for Peter’s marriage.  Understanding this, the transitioning priest is justified in separating the will of God from the practice of the ecclesiastical institution.
 
For a reflection about the decision to marry click here. To see the positive role women would have on the priesthood, click here.
 
What about the vows and promises taken on the day of ordination? Things change and change is healthy and inevitable in the maturation process. To live in a dynamic relationship with God is to live in the midst of change. We could not stay in the priesthood because it prohibited changes God was calling us to make. The papacy has made mandatory celibacy and other teachings into idols to which many of us could no longer bow.
 
How can one find visionary leadership in a church that’s reluctant to change? Most of its bishops, especially during the past forty years, were chosen precisely because of their aversion to change and their willingness to attempt to restore the church to some former golden era. Pope John XXIII, Vatican II and countless dedicated priests and bishops worked hard to pry open the windows of the church to let in some fresh air only to find them being closed by a new generation of priests who refer to Vatican II as “Vatican too much”. There seems to be little room in this new Church for reasonable, Spirit-guided change, so many priests find it necessary to leave. Their journeys, prayerfully embarked upon, are inspired by the Holy Spirit. One of the oldest teachings of the church is one’s obligation to live according to the dictates of their conscience.
 
In a healthy maturation process, one moves from the locus of authority from being external to internal.  Author and  Methodist minister, James Fowler, in his book “Stages of Faith” proposes a staged development of faith across a person’s lifespan. Fowler’s first stage is called “Undifferentiated Faith” where an infant’s experience of reality is not distinguished from fantasy.  As the child develops the capacity for concrete thinking, she then moves toward stage two called the “Literal Stage”, where she starts distinguishing reality from fantasy. In this stage, God may be perceived as an old man living in the sky, while heaven and hell are viewed as actual physical places. Here, one believes that if they follow the rules, God will give them a good life.  But they begin to grow out of this stage when encountering conflicts and contradictions to what they hold to be true. The perplexing question, “Why do good people suffer?” begins to challenge them at this stage.
 
Around puberty, a person moves into Fowler’s third stage, “Conventional”.  As in the previous two stages, authority is still located outside of one’s self.  Here, people are not fully conscious of having chosen to believe something, because they are not engaged in any analytical thought about their faith.  It’s called “conventional” because most people at this stage see themselves believing what everyone else believes. They are reluctant to change their beliefs because of their need to stay connected to their peer group. Many church leaders may consciously or unconsciously attempt to keep people in this stage by discouraging analytical thinking about their faith. They imply that questioning one’s faith in itself shows a lack of faith. They prefer people stay in a sort of perpetual childhood where authority is located in themselves and their religion in order to continue exerting control.
 
Many men who leave the priesthood find it is necessary in order to further mature and progress to the next stage. In stage four, “Individuated Reflective” faith, young adults become aware of their freedom and burden to begin to sort through their beliefs, accepting or rejecting them. Here one’s sense of authority moves from the external to the internal.  A person is better able to govern themselves and is less dependent upon rules. The literalism of religious stories begins to give way to deeper meanings. The strength of this stage is the capacity for critical reflection, but the weakness is that a person may “throw out the baby with the bath water”, claim to be atheist, and fail to enter into the next stage.
 
Stage five is the “Integrating Faith” of middle adulthood. Here a person is able to expand their worldview beyond the “either/or” position of the previous stage, toward a “both/and” point of view. People in this stage are willing to cross religious and cultural boundaries to learn from people they may have previously avoided.  Here one believes in God, but not as a literal being living in the sky, and Heaven and Hell are no longer seen as physical places.  They re-examine their beliefs, while at the same time accepting that it is beyond their ability to comprehend. They realize truth can also be found in other religious traditions besides their own and no longer need to accept their faith on a literal level only.  This stage of faith makes it difficult to follow one’s conscious when church leaders insist their way is the only way.
 
Many priests find it necessary to separate themselves from the controlling tendencies of the ecclesiastical institution in order to mature in faith.  The same process is necessary for anyone experiencing the desire to mature when their tradition attempts to hold them  back.  Conservative religion is built upon unhealthy psychology. See this link for more discussion about the maturing process and faith.
 
When leaving the priesthood, it is wonderful, but not always possible, to have the support of family and friends. I found it very difficult to talk with my brother priests about leaving, even after being in a support group with some of them for over 12 years. I heard how they referred to other priests who had left and knew confiding in them would bring more pain than support. Besides, I might have been whisked off to a counseling program if they had reported to the Bishop that one of his priests was about to jump the fence.
 
I’m still amazed that I didn’t feel free enough to discuss something as important as leaving the priesthood with guys I had been meeting with in my “support group” for so long. For me, it became apparent that whatever fraternity we had was a mile wide and an inch deep. But, I think something else was at work. Leaving the priesthood is so taboo that even discussing it with “faithful” priests is perceived as sinful. Deeper still, even the thought of leaving is avoided by those who are repressing it, giving credence to the saying “Sow a thought, reap an action”.
 
If a priest is serious about leaving, it will be helpful for him to associate with others with whom he  can honestly discuss his fears, hopes and dreams.  It is important that he confide in people who are not brainwashed with Catholic fundamentalism, which eliminates his Bishop / Superior and most if not all his priest friends and other conservative Catholics.  The most understanding people I found were from the Corpus organization.  If he can find a Corpus group meeting in his area, that would be a great help. Corpus is comprised of priests and women religious who have transitioned out of ministry as well as other Catholics who are interested in significant change within the church. He may also want to find a good counselor who is supportive of his journey.
 
On the day of my marriage, as I spoke my vows to my beloved, I felt nothing but joy and happiness in the freedom to live my personal life out from under the oppression of mandatory celibacy. These vows made much more sense than the previous ones I had made in front of my bishop seventeen years earlier. The purposes of those were obedience and control, while the purposes of these were for love and companionship. Making the two mutually exclusive is an abuse of ecclesiastical power, an injustice to priests, and contrary to the will of God as found in the scriptures and first thousand years of Catholic Church tradition. The sixteenth century reformers were correct when they taught marriage is a divine right that no ecclesiastical law can negate. When you read the arguments against the practice of mandated celibacy these reformers made, you will find little has changed during the past 500, or so, years. You can find their arguments by clicking here.
 
Abused children are not the only victims of the sex abuse crisis in the Church today. Every priest in active ministry is a victim. Prior to leaving, I remember walking through an airport wearing my collar, when a mother pulled her young child closer to her as I approached. That hurt, and it had everything to do with the stigma of mandated celibacy.
 
Mandatory celibacy defines a priest primarily by sex and places an inordinate amount of attention on his sex life. When the typical lay person meets a priest, they perceive him first and foremost as a “celibate” and have an internal dialogue that goes something like this: “Is he really celibate? I wonder what he does with his sex drive. Is he gay? He must masturbate a lot. God, I hope he’s not a pedophile.” If he’s attractive, they think, “Father what-a-waste”, and, if not attractive, they think, “No wonder he went into the priesthood”. Those who think this occurs because our society is preoccupied with sex are mistaken. It’s always been this way. People are now just more willing to talk about it. The fact remains that, because “celibate” primarily defines a priest by his sex life, he is viewed and understood primarily by sex and for this he suffers now, more than ever. Priests are not “celibates”; they are “human beings”.
 
Priests who leave to marry are not looking only for sex.  From some of the emails received, many Catholics seem to think their quest is all about sexual union.  They cannot seem to see beyond sexual intercourse to the quest that a priest has for love,  emotional intimacy and nurture.  For them, it is all about f**king, which reveals what their marital lives must be like and one can only feel sorry for their wives.  The primary quest for priests who leave to marry is mutual love and intimacy with their spouses of which intercourse is only one part.  I find it offensive when someone implies that a priest leaves because “he can’t keep it in his pants”.  No, the issue is “he can’t keep the rock wall around his heart”.
 
The term “mandatory celibacy” implies that a priest is to abstain from sexual activity.  It objectifies sexual intercourse and separates it from the union of heart and soul that a healthy marriage entails.  “Mandated celibacy” gives the impression that f**king is what marriage is all about and tends to turn women into sexual objects.  Yet, that is not what most priests are after.  They simply long to have another person to love and share their life with like any other normal human being.  Mandated celibacy shames priests for having this desire, and because celibacy is all about sexual abstinence, their sexuality is shamed too.  This is a dark cloud that hangs over the priesthood, which all priests are forced to enter upon ordination.  They are forced to publicly declare that they will forever deny this important part of their lives.  This isolates them and makes them into an oddity that people often pity more than respect.  The problem is forcing celibacy upon priests.  The dynamic would change if celibacy was optional.
 
People may object by saying, “But celibacy is optional. No one was forcing you to be ordained.”  But you are mistaken.  Our Call is from God and it was profound.  The Church has imposed celibacy upon God’s call.  Mandated celibacy was not part of the early Church (Jesus cured the mother of Saint Peter’s wife. Mark 1:30-31)  and never became a law until around 1000 AD.  Mandated celibacy is not the will of God and it has caused tremendous problems in the Church.
 
It’s ironic that church officials, obsessed with controlling priests’ sex lives by mandating celibacy, have themselves created this sex abuse crisis. For centuries, they have constructed a mystical facade around celibacy and their efforts brought welcomed protection and privilege. But, like Toto in the Wizard of Oz, this crisis has pulled back the curtain and no amount of incense can hide the little man pulling the levers.  Mandated celibacy is far more integral to this crisis than the Pope and bishops are willing, or perhaps able, to admit.
 
Click here for a reflection about how mandated celibacy hinders healthy sexual integration. Click here to see the statement extolling the superiority of priests by Lacordaire and how it has created an atmosphere of clericalism, which has allowed sexual misconduct to become more prevalent within the priesthood. Click here to see how celibacy is a necessary component to a  clerical culture that enables sexual abuse. Click here to find where the ultimate responsibility should be placed for this crisis.  Click here to find a history of sex, choice and Catholics.
 
The Vatican’s public response to this crisis was the promise to screen out gay candidates for ordination during their seminary preparation. With this statement, they made homosexual priests the scapegoats in this crisis, even though they know pedophilia is a separate issue. They have taken the easy way out by exploiting society’s homophobia and sacrificing these priests on the altar of self-preservation. This is a far cry from Jesus, who stood with the marginalized and was crucified because of his solidarity with them. It’s revealing that the Vatican intentionally tied pedophilia to homosexuality in order to exonerate mandated celibacy and avoid having to make the systemic changes necessary to find real solutions. For more about scapegoating homosexual priests, click here and here.
 
Recently, the hierarchy paved the way for the ordination to the priesthood of numerous married Protestant clergy.  Most of these clergy left their denominations over the issue of homosexuality.  Their primary desire was to find hierarchical support for their homophobia, and sadly, they have found it within Catholicism.  History will soon prove the Catholic Church wrong on the issue of homosexuality as it has on so many other issues.  Even then, the hierarchy will continue to proclaim itself “Infallible” and those in the pew will again look the other way in order to maintain their illusion of faith.  Click here to see how the Bishops have lost credibility with the majority of Catholics when it comes to the issue of homosexuality.  Click here to read a story about the pain the Bishop’s homophobia has caused one man and how their teaching causes many gay people to commit suicide.
 
I have known I was gay from the time I was four years old, even though I could not articulate it to myself, let alone anyone else.  I thought everyone felt the same as I did, but gradually as I grew up and then went to school and observed others, I realized slowly over time that I was different.  And so did my classmates when I reached a certain age because I did not have, nor have any desire to have, a “girlfriend.”  Naturally, I became the butt of jokes from my male classmates from a very early age.  I became an altar boy at the tender age of seven and noticed immediately the profound respect I had from the older people in the parish that I never had before.  When I announced to my classmates at an early age that I thought I wanted to be a priest, it helped to stop the ribbing (at least from the Catholic ones), now; at least, they saw a reason why I stayed away from girls.  When I entered minor diocesan seminary with other students, we were surrounded by men who gave us an attention, respect, and honor that I had never experienced before.  Never once did they question my sexuality or make me feel uncomfortable.
 
Within the Roman Catholic priesthood, a high percentage of bishops and priests are bisexual or homosexual.  One should not be surprised at this.  As the priest cited above attests, the acceptance and respect shown to celibate priests is a strong drawing card for boys who feel alienated and demeaned because of a homosexual orientation that they themselves probably don’t understand.  The seminary environment is, itself, conducive to nurturing the emotional needs of homosexual men.  From the moment a man enters the seminary, he is surrounded by men and expected to associate primarily with men throughout his formation.
 
From the time a man enters the seminary and throughout his priesthood, special friendships with women are discouraged and often perceived as scandalous, while associations with males are, of course, acceptable.  Eyebrows are raised if a priest goes out to lunch with a woman, but he can live with other men and vacation with other priests, with no questions asked.  If he is gay, this is also a drawing card, as it would be for a heterosexual priest if the situation were reversed and he could freely, without raising any eyebrows or suspicion, associate with women.
 
In no way do we want to imply that an all male environment influences men to become homosexual, because sexual orientation is genetically predetermined.  However, within a male environment, it is understandably easier for a homosexual or bisexual man to have his intimacy needs met than it is for a heterosexual man.
 
Because homosexual relationships are frowned upon in most areas of society, welcomed in very few and completely rejected in others, the priesthood is, and has been throughout the history of mandated celibacy, a refuge for gay men. But, there is another reason why gay men are attracted to the priesthood, they are very good at it.
 
During our years in the priesthood, we found homosexual priests to be some of the most pastorally gifted and successful people in ministry and learned to respect them deeply.
 
Although it is easier for gay priests to have their intimacy needs met, they risk public ridicule if their sexual orientation becomes public knowledge.  Therefore they must keep their sexual orientation “in the closet,” and that is more easily done within a community of celibate males.
 
If the Church’s hierarchy were honest, it would acknowledge the high percentage of priests who are gay and affirm their ministry.  Instead, they appear to be ashamed of these priests and attempt to deny their existence.  In so doing, they are contributing to society’s homophobia and encouraging gay priests to view their God-given sexuality with shame.
 
Some cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests in ecclesiastical offices responsible for homophobic polices are themselves gay, which shows to what degree they will sacrifice their integrity in order to maintain their power.
 
The history of the Church indicates that even some popes have been homosexual.  The hierarchy is well aware of the high number of homosexuals that minister within their ranks.  Sadly, their policy has been to be dishonest and deny it. Gay priests are also expected to join in this falsehood and be dishonest about who they are.
 
Regardless of whether priests are homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual, the real problem lies with the hierarchy’s seeming inability to deal with human sexuality in an emotionally healthy way.  Their outlook exemplifies an Augustinian view where sexual orgasm is perceived as a defiling act rendering the priest impure.  This sick, medieval view of sexuality is the heart of the problem and the foundation upon which mandatory celibacy rests.
 
It is very difficult for priests to integrate their sexuality in a healthy manner when it is perceived as an alien force within them.  My moral theology class in the seminary taught that masturbation (or even so much as thinking about it with delight) was serious sin.  My professor summed it up in these words: “If you are celibate, no orgasms!”  This came from a very conservative moral theologian whom the Church had elevated as an authority on human sexuality in one of the largest seminaries in the United States.  The message that came through to us seminarians was:  “Your sexual drive is evil and alien to who you really are and must be repressed, or you will be punished by God.”  This resulted in seminarians running off to confession every few days with sex as the major “sin” with which they were preoccupied.  Teaching such as this is psychologically damaging and harmful to healthy sexual integration.  This is why there will always be some sort of sexual crisis within the priesthood, and the responsibility for it needs to be placed at the very highest echelon within the Catholic Church’s hierarchy.
 
A priest who is gay and has transitioned created a blog intended to be a safe place where gay or bisexual priests (currently serving or have served) in the Church, can find support. He states, “It is my hope that, through the process of sharing the challenges that exist for being gay and priests, support and encouragement can be found regardless of dispirited rhetoric and dictums from the Church’s hierarchy, which oppresses gay and bisexual men into feeling lonely and shameful. This blog is intended to allow a healing process to exist, whereby priests can find understanding, hope and a sense of peace.” Click here to find the blog “Make It Known”.
 
For an excellent in depth discussion about homosexuality and the Catholic Church, see this article in Commonweal.
 
The experience of falling in love is overwhelming for anyone, but especially for a priest.  When love erupts in a priest’s heart, he realizes everything he has worked for is put at risk – his ministry, reputation, the esteem of parishioners, other priests, his bishop and possibly family and friends.  He risks losing his job, home, health insurance and, sadly in some dioceses, his retirement.  On top of all this is the fear of spiritual condemnation by the Church who claims to wield the power of God Himself.  So, rather than romantic love being a treasured gift from God, it becomes a threat to a priest’s very survival and puts him in crisis.
 
Even though they know this, most priests still yearn for a significant other with whom they can have a close, intimate relationship.  If gay, they long for a male, and if straight, a female companion who will see beyond the curtain of their professional lives into their hearts and embrace them with tenderness, nurture and unconditional love.  Their primary desire is not for sex, but for the warmth, tenderness and nurture that a healthy relationship of love offers.  Unfortunately, mandated celibacy makes all of this “sinful”, or at least, the near occasion of sin, which priests are trained to avoid.
 
It is true that there are priests who are primarily looking for sexual gratification and are willing to use others for this purpose.  But these priests are emotionally troubled and do not represent the majority.  Those who have been recipients of their abuse would call them criminals and possibly even attempt to sue them or their diocese or religious order for their behavior.  Mandated celibacy can and often does attract dysfunctional men who are emotionally and sexually confused.  Furthermore, it can arrest what would have otherwise been healthy psychosexual development because it prohibits the very intimate interaction necessary for this development.  This is particularly true for priests who are “lifers”, i.e. they entered the seminary during high school when the psychosexual factors of their lives were being formed.
 
Women who fall in love with priests—and the same is true for gay men who fall in love with priests—often find a sort of “schoolboy” mentality, which is indicative of men whose psychosexual development has been arrested.  But it is also a product of the environment in which priests live for all the reasons mentioned in the first paragraph of this section above.  A priest in love must keep it hidden and often the first person he tries to hide it from is himself.  What love he is able to show cannot be overt, and like a schoolboy he is awkward trying to express it, feels shame if anyone notices it, and if asked would strongly deny it exists.  What is going on in his heart is euphoric and at the same time frightening.
 
Rather than run from this love, priests may find it helpful to have a good trusted counselor with whom to discuss it.  They may find that attempting to run from love is actually running from God’s greatest gift and something they will someday regret.  On the other hand, careful discernment is necessary to see if he and his companion have the emotional maturity to make a marriage work.
 
Because mandated celibacy prohibits this relationship, proper discernment while in ministry is difficult.
 
If a priest finds that he would like to pursue the relationship, he may be better off leaving the priesthood.  In this way, he can be honest and express his love in the light of day, rather than in the shaming shadows of celibacy, where now his lover is also required to live.  I fail to understand why a priest would expect the person he loves to also live in this oppressive environment that perceives their relationship to be sinful.  She is susceptible to verbal and other emotional abuse if word gets out that they are in love.
 
Such is the sad situation of the Roman Catholic priesthood.
 
In order to leave, the priest needs to look at everything he does as a stepping stone out of the priesthood.  This begins in his own heart with a clear intention to leave, i.e. “Sow a thought and reap an action.”  Finding emotional support is helpful, but if he is looking for priest friends or his bishop to validate his desire to leave, he will be disappointed.  He must believe, not only in God, but also in himself.
 
To someone outside of Catholicism, they may think, “What’s the big deal?  If you want to leave, just leave!”  But it’s not that easy.  Click here to see more reasons why it’s hard to leave.
 
He can leave with or without going through the laicization process.  If he and his beloved want to continue within Catholicism, get married and receive the sacraments, he will need to be laicized and this process can be lengthy, but it can occur after he leaves.  Further information about being laicized is available on this website’s blog, “The Laicization Process”.
 
The first step to transitioning out of the priesthood is for the priest to have a theology that allows him to leave.  He must also perceive that he has the internal resources necessary to create a new life elsewhere.  Even if he finds that this particular love relationship does not end in marriage, it has served to help him mature and begin a new phase of life.  Once a priest tastes the sweetness of intimate romantic love, it becomes the benchmark for other relationships.  He has been to the mountain top of romantic love, where, perhaps to his surprise, he has found the presence of God and a whole new dimension of life.  It changes everything and he begins to see forced celibacy for what it is – an oppressive ecclesiastical law that stands apart from the will of God.  Of course, the situation would be completely different if celibacy was optional.
 
It takes tremendous courage for a woman to confide to a priest that she is in love with him, or for a priest to confide to a woman that he is in love with her.  And of course, the same would apply to gay relationships.
 
When a priest is in love, his love is often expressed with innuendo and under the table, so to speak, which is indicative of the schoolboy dynamic.  If the woman has reached a point in the relationship where she wants to be honest and express her love to him, she will be hurt if it is not reciprocated.  The rejection may occur for several reasons:
 
  • The priest is not in love with her and she has read more into the relationship than was there. In this case, he must ask himself if he intentionally led her on.  If this was the case, he joins the ranks of other abusive priests.
  • The priest lacks the courage to admit his love for her, though he may come around to it in time.
  • The priest may truly love her, but not enough to face the possible ramifications of developing a deeper relationship.  At least, he should admit this.
  • The priest truly loves her, but is too steeped in Catholic theology to ever seriously consider leaving because he fears putting either of their souls in jeopardy.  He feels that by remaining a priest he is practicing “sacrificial love” and awaits their perfect union in Heaven.  In this situation, in the mind of the priest, the ecclesiastical institution has become divinized.
 
By discussing the nature of their relationship, the woman has been the mature one by admitting her love, no longer willing to play schoolboy games.  She has been honest and called him to honesty too.  Like so many women in the history of humanity, she is the hero but is often viewed as the villain.  To all the women who have been hurt by priests who love them but are afraid to come out from behind their collars: your honesty, integrity and courage are an inspiration.  He is a slave of the institution.  Hold your head high and move on to a man worthy of your love.  Healing will come in time.
 
A priest in love normally wants the relationship to continue under the table, because of the crisis it involves for him to be honest about it.  Often when in love, his denial is primarily to himself about the blossoming love relationship, but he cannot deny the joy he feels while in her presence.  It’s time for him to man-up and face the truth.  It may be costly but such is the price of true spiritual growth and maturity.
 
He needs to wake up and see how he has been brainwashed by the Church and embrace this love as a gift from God.  Regardless of what the Church says, this is the real conversion where he takes responsibility for his own life.  Just as he found Christ present in ministry and now in romantic love, he will find him also present and guiding him into the future.  Faith is confidence assurance about things hoped for and conviction about things unseen.(Hebrews 11:1)
 
Mandated celibacy forces a priest to live a sort of schizophrenic relationship with himself when it comes to romance and nurture.  Intimacy lurks beneath the surface of his life and he dreams of someday finding someone with whom he can share it.  If he does come across someone that causes the violins to sound off, he feels both attraction and fear of where it may lead.
 
This can be a challenge for married couples as well, who find their hearts being touched by someone other than their spouse.  It is less an issue if their need for love and nurture are being met with their spouse, and this involves much more than sex.  But, for a priest, there is no one filling this void in his life.  While it is true that some find their needs for intimacy met in their spirituality, many do not.  Christ longs to bring these priests love, nurture and intimacy through another human being and they have a right for this.  Ecclesiastical law can never nullify the divine law to marry and experience the union of two people coming together as one.
 
There are women and priests in love who have made a mutual commitment to somehow live this love within the context of the priesthood.  Some of these relationships are celibate and some are not.  I don’t know how, over the long haul, they do it.  They live in fear of their love becoming public and must sometimes have to lie to keep it hidden.  I don’t think living  this way is emotionally, spiritually or physically healthy.  Yet, some have managed to make it work.  Love will have its way, even if it must be lived within the shaming shadows of celibacy.  However, priests who ask their beloved to live in this way must examine themselves to see if it is truly mutual or the result of a lack of empathy.  In some countries, a priest having a concubine is tolerated, perhaps even expected, but that is not the case in the United States.
 
Only in the Roman Catholic Church is God’s gift of love perceived as evil.
 
Some priests find their needs for love and intimacy met within their life and ministry but many do not.  An obvious solution to this would be to make celibacy optional.  Unfortunately, the Church is entrenched and blind to this, and it’s time for priests in love to move on with their lives.
 
Ecclesiastical leaders eager to pass judgment on priests who seek companionship need to understand that they have turned God’s gift of love into a force of evil.  This is one of the greatest perversions of religion today and they would do well to remember that turning God’s gift of love into a force of evil is the real sin.  By so adamantly maintaining the current law of mandated celibacy, they are mainly responsible for the pain suffered by priests and women in love and for whatever scandal might ensue from these  relationships.
 
A question women who fall in love with priests must ask themselves is, “Am I part of a fantasy world he is creating?” Most priests have no intention of leaving the priesthood, but welcome a romantic relationship, whatever the degree, because it provides relief from the loneliness of the priesthood. Women involved with these relationships can find their lives on hold sometimes for years only to find the relationship to be going nowhere.
 
If a priest is really in love, he would leave. Period. No, “Well, if only…” Or,  “I would leave if ….”  Many women who enter into the world of mandated celibacy and romance end up deeply hurt.  Romance and the priesthood are indeed an oxymoron.  If a priest is unwilling to be honest and discuss the relationship with the one he loves, it is an indication that the relationship is going nowhere.
 
Father, if you are in a romantic relationship, whether gay or straight, you are fortunate.  Giving and receiving romantic love is a huge part of what it means to be a human being.  It is an experience where the presence of God cannot be denied if one is honest about it.  If you are still active in the Catholic Church, no one needs to tell you how complicated the relationship is given the fact that you have to live it within the shaming shadows of mandated celibacy.  It is unfortunate that now the one you love must also try to express their affection within this oppressive system.  Your options are to force this love out of your life, or strive to secretively nurture it within the confines of the priesthood, or leave and live the relationship openly in the light of day.  True freedom is found in the latter.  Romantic love opens up a whole other world.  Your superiors will demonize this relationship, but how can love be evil?  Realize they and their predecessors have turned romantic love into a force of evil, which is the ultimate corruption of religion.  How can their corruption of romantic love be the will of God who identified himself with love?  Because mandated  celibacy is not the will of God, you are free to leave.   (source)
 

More  Resources:

Celibacy as the MAIN REASON for the lack of vocations
Priests talking about celibacy
The Tradition of Abusive Dishonesty
The Trouble with Celibacy in Africa
When a Priest Falls in Love

Synod reveals openness and dialogue

Synod reveals openness and dialogue

by Deborah Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch

The Roman Catholic Church is shifting – moving toward change.  If you listen you can hear the sounds.  It is like watching a beloved (if, at times, stubborn) child grow and learn to form new words in her or his mouth. Parents, with their proclivity for seeing every great possibility in their children know this.  They know how small, sometimes partial words and incomplete gestures cause the heart to leap with joy for what just happened, but also for what is to come.

That is the spirit here at the synod as the first week comes to a close.  As FutureChurch heads back home, we know that the Holy Spirit is alive and well here in the synod hall.  Even the proclamations of things unalterable are slowly being drowned out in this new life-giving wind of change.

While all the bishops and cardinals more or less assent to the daily mantra, “doctrine cannot be changed,” more and more are proposing creative pathways around that obstacle as they feel a new openness to speak freely under Francis.

SynodDewArchbishop John Dew of Wellington of New Zealand, a veteran who has attended five synods, attests to the difference Pope Francis is making at the synod.  He said Pope Francis, “is just there wondering around and talking to people. He’s very serious about collegiality. People feel freer and you can sense that in the atmosphere.”
On Thursday, the head of the Canadian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher spoke of a major shift, a new starting place for theological reflection by bishops at the synod; the same starting place espoused for decades by mujerista, womanist, feminist and liberation theologians around the world.

“What’s happening within the Synod is we are seeing a more inductive way of reflecting; starting from the true situation of people and trying to figure out, ‘what is going on here?'”, said Durocher.  “We are finding that the lived experience of people is also a theological source…a place for theological reflection.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said at the Tuesday Press Briefing that the experience of married couples is being heard first, before prelates speak. And this is new according to Nichols. He noted that many “positive suggestions being put forward,” and that “we have to approach the social reality of marriage in a friendly dialogue.”  Nichols asserted that equality, rejection of violence and the dignity of children were strands found in western culture that “we can befriend.”

What couples had to say this week

If experience is central to this synod of bishops and the experience of people is  a starting place for theological reflection, what are married couples who get the floor at the synod saying?  It’s a mix, but below are some of the salient points they made.

SynodPirolaRon and Mavis Pirola of Australia shared a story of friends who have a gay son who wanted to bring his partner home for Christmas. The couple’s love for their son took paramount importance over Church teaching saying, “he is our son.”  Using this example, the Pirolas explained how the Church might benefit.

“In our experience, families, the domestic churches, are often the natural models of the open doors for churches of which Evangelii Gaudium speaks”  While acknowledging families could benefit from better teaching and programs, they stressed that “more than anything, they [those who are seen as outside orthodoxy] need to be accompanied on their journey, welcomed, have their stories listened to, and above all, affirmed.” 

Even more pointed, they said that the clergy could become better prepared in presenting Church teachings by “learning from the domestic church.”   The Pirolas believe that this demands a new mindset for lay people.  “They must no longer be viewed as collaborators of the clergy, but truly recognized as co-responsible for the Church’s being and action.”

George and Cynthia Campos of the Philippines told the story of failure in reaching out to Catholics living in “irregular situations.”  Reflecting on why their ministry failed, they suggested that “an enlightened pastoral charity inaugurating innovative forms of ‘accompaniment’ of conjugal spirituality formation and of inclusionary participation in church life leading to full communion needs promotion and enactment by our ordained ministers.”

Jeffrey and Alice Heinzen of the USA framed the crisis in the Church as the result of “the age of the diminished family structure.”  Upholding a more orthodox framework for analyzing the problems facing families, they asked how Catholics can, “effectively share what we know to be true in practical, simple and convincing ways so that all men and women are challenged and supported to live life-long marriages and build homes that reflect the domestic Church?”

Stephen and Sandra Conway of South Africa shared their experience and work in a program for couples whose marriages are in crisis as a way of proposing greater openness by the Church. Citing the story of a couple who had joined the RCIA program but who could not get a first marriage annulled, the Conways called for more openness on the part of the Church.  They said, “If God is the ultimate forgiver and full of compassion then these couples should be forgiven for previous mistakes, how ever, they believe that they are constantly reminded and guilty of these past relationships or mistakes by not being able to partake in communion.”

Arturo and Hermelinda Zamberline of Brazil were inspired by the leadership of Fr. Henri Caffarel who taught that couples should not deliberately close themselves off from having children. They asked the synod leaders to quickly make clear the teaching of Humanae Vitae so Catholics could more readily comply.

Promoting the natural family planning method they also admitted that “many Catholic couples, even those seriously seeking to live their marriage, do not feel obligated to use only natural methods.”

They go on to say that although natural methods for planning the family are good, they may not be practical for many.  Citing the pace of life for many young Catholics and the learning curve for success using natural family planning, “the majority of Catholic couples” are not using natural methods.

Olivier and Xristilla Roussy of France told the story of wanting a big family, learning the methods of natural family planning, deciding to try birth control pills, and, even though it meant an unplanned pregnancy, their returned to natural family planning as the best path toward holiness.

They also stated that mercy was central, not just to others, but for the life of the Church.  “We are called to love people and walk with them rather than judge their actions; to be witnesses to mercy not ignoring the realities they face.  Only this attitude of the heart can prevent us from becoming small communities; narrow, controlled and ultimately dying.”

Even the most orthodox couples, expressed the need for better pastoral care this week.  Some of them reflected what   Fr. Thomas Rosica heard synod leaders say, “The Eucharist is a sacrament that supersedes all sacraments.  Jesus is present in the Eucharist and we must allow Jesus to do his work in the Eucharist.  The Eucharist is left for us sinners and we should not portray a church mentality which places limits on God’s love.”

Archbishop Durocher on Thursday sums up best how the diverse hopes expressed by the synod couples can come together when he said the Church must strive for “a marriage of justice and mercy.”

To read the couples testimonies go to the Vatican Press office website   (source=FutureChurch).

The Church’s Gay Obsession

The Church’s Gay Obsession

REPEATEDLY over the last year and a half, I’ve written about teachers in Catholic schools and leaders in Catholic parishes who were dismissed from their posts because they were in same-sex relationships and — in many cases — had decided to marry.

Every time, more than a few readers weighed in to tell me that these people had it coming. If you join a club, they argued, you play by its rules or you suffer the consequences.

Oh really?

The rules of this particular club prohibit divorce, yet the pews of many of the Catholic churches I’ve visited are populous with worshipers on their second and even third marriages. They walk merrily to the altar to receive communion, not a peep of protest from a soul around them. They participate fully in the rituals of the church, their membership in the club uncontested.

The rules prohibit artificial birth control, and yet most of the Catholic families I know have no more than three children, which is either a miracle of naturally capped fecundity or a sign that someone’s been at the pharmacy. I’m not aware of any church office that monitors such matters, poring over drugstore receipts. And I haven’t heard of any teachers fired or parishioners denied communion on the grounds of insufficiently brimming broods.

About teachers: When gay or lesbian ones are let go, the explanation typically cites their contractual obligations, as employees of Catholic schools, not to defy the church’s strictures, which forbid sexual activity between two men or two women.

But there are many employees of Catholic schools nationwide who aren’t even Catholic, who defy the church by never having subscribed to it in the first place. There are Protestant teachers. Jewish ones. Teachers who are agnostic and, quite likely, teachers who are atheists and simply don’t advertise it. There are parish employees in these same categories, and some remain snug in their jobs.

“Is it more important to believe in the church’s teaching on same-sex marriage than to believe in the Resurrection — or even that God exists?” asked the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and the author of the 2014 best seller “Jesus: A Pilgrimage.” “I don’t hear anyone calling for the firing of the agnostic parish business manager.”

The blunt truth of the matter is that during a period when the legalization of gay marriage has spread rapidly in this country, from just six states in 2011 to more than three times that number today, Catholic officials here have elected to focus on this one issue and on a given group of people: gays and lesbians.

Their moralizing is selective, bigoted and very sad.

graphysupportforgaymarriagegrowsbydemoninationIt’s also self-defeating, because it’s souring many American Catholics, a majority of whom approve of same-sex marriage, and because the workers who’ve been exiled were often exemplars of charity, mercy and other virtues as central to Catholicism as any guidelines for sex. But their hearts didn’t matter. It was all about their loins. Will the church ever get away from that?

Pope Francis seems inclined to do so, and is nudging other Catholic leaders with his carefully chosen words and artfully orchestrated symbols. He’s probably not telegraphing any major shift in church teaching — which, by the way, changes plenty over time — but he’s signaling that Catholics who run afoul of it needn’t be vilified.

Just three weeks ago, he presided over the marriages of 20 couples from the Diocese of Rome, including brides and grooms who had already been living together or been married before. One bride had a grown child conceived out of wedlock.

The pope’s actions don’t jibe with the way many Catholic leaders in the United States are treating gays and lesbians. The National Catholic Reporter said recently that it could find, since 2008, about 40 public cases of employees’ losing jobs at Catholic institutions in this country because of issues connected with homosexuality or same-sex marriage. Seventeen of these occurred just this year.

When I discussed the issue with Lisa Sowle Cahill, a professor of theology at Boston College, she wondered aloud if Catholic superiors would dismiss someone or deny him or her communion for supportingbookLisaCahill the death penalty, which is against Catholic teaching.  She and I alike marveled at how little we heard from American church leaders during all the news months ago about botched executions.

Cahill noted. She said that they were “staking out a countercultural Catholic identity” that doesn’t focus on “social justice and economic issues.”

“It’s about sex and gender issues,” she said, adding that it might be connected to the disgrace that church leaders brought upon themselves with their disastrous handling of child sexual abuse by priests. Perhaps, she said, they’re determined to find some sexual terrain on which they can strike a position of stern rectitude.

“They’re trying to regain the moral high ground, no matter how sure it is to backfire,” she said. Having turned a blind eye to nonconsensual sex that ravaged young lives, they’re holding the line against consensual sex that wounds no one.

It’s crucial to remember that in many cases in which the church has punished same-sex couples, their homosexuality and even their same-sex partnerships were widely known and tacitly condoned for some time beforehand. What changed was their interest in a civil marriage, suddenly made possible by laws that are evolving more humanely than the church is. The couples in question stepped up and made loving commitments of a kind that the church celebrates in other circumstances. For this they were spurned. It’s shameful.

And it contradicts Catholic principles apart from those governing same-sex relations, as Martin observed in a column in the Catholic magazine America earlier this year. Catholic teaching, he wrote, “also says that gay and lesbian people must be treated with ‘respect, sensitivity and compassion.’ ”

Some American church leaders indeed question what’s going on. Asked by a reporter recently about the banishment of gay workers, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston said that the situation “needs to be rectified.”  No time like the present.

What’s happening amounts to persecution. And it’s occurring not because the workers in these situations called any special attention to themselves or made any political fuss. No, they just loved in a fashion displeasing to many church officials, whose concerns with purity are spasmodic and capricious. . . .  (source)