A call for conversation: Catholic researchers gather to discuss LGBT people and the Church

In a powerful statement, John Falcone (a PhD student at Boston College) captures well the Catholic Church’s response to sex: “Since the Vatican’s 1968 letter on contraception, the Catholic discussion of sex has more and more resembled a determined monologue, in which Church officials speak and Catholics in the pews see no good reason to listen.”

In his September 27th article for The Huffington Post, Falcone goes on to discuss the controversial new series that is being hosted at colleges and seminaries across the United States focused on discussing LGBT people and the Catholic Church — “More Than a Monologue.” Falcone’s article recounts the September 16th gathering of scholars and lay Catholics at Fordham University.

He provides an excellent summary of the panelists that participated in the September 16th conference, especially Jerome Baggett’s discussion regarding “liberal” and “conservative” Catholic church-goers. According to Falcone, Baggett explained that “Catholic church-goers, whether “conservative” or “liberal,” are equally adept at engaging their Catholic tradition. They both strive to select and interpret scriptures and teachings to help them make sense of their lives: to help them become better Catholics and holier human beings.”

In short, “More Than a Monologue” is far more than just a conference, it is a call for dialogue and conversations related to LGBT people and the Catholic Church.

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Openly gay Mormon called to serve as a leader for San Francisco LDS community

“I am a gay Latter-day Saint.” These were the first seven words that made-up a recent statement made by Mitch Mayne, an openly gay Mormon who was recently called to serve a leadership role for the San Francisco LDS community. Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has worked to prevent the passage of same sex marriage in states including California, Mayne spoke openly with his faith community saying, “To accept me is to marginalize me with the assumption that I am less than you. I am your peer. I am neither above you nor below you.”

Read more about Mitch Mayne and his leadership role with the San Francisco LDS community online at CNN’s Belief Blog (09/24/2011).

Whose liberty is it anyway? Unmasking the rhetoric arguing that the gay rights movement is “threatening” religious freedom.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed a continued tension between the religious right and those supporting LGBT equality. In recent days, the Catholic Church in the United States and its leadership have renewed their fight against LGBT rights.

In a Catholic News Agency article (09/27/2011), they cite Robert P. George, a Princeton University law professor, who argues that, “Once a state recognizes same-sex partnerships as marriages or the equivalent, then naturally the argument is made that in family life classes in schools this has to be taught to be a valid partnership.” Perhaps Professor George forgot to denote that individuals have the right to send their children to private schools that are not required to teach the state-established curriculum on issues that are contrary to their beliefs.

Further, just as a child of Quakers will attend a history class that teaches them about war and its purported “achievements,” so would  a life skills class teach what marriage is without forcing the child to accept a particular relationship or sexual orientation. To further emphasize this point, I remember being a first semester college student (studying to be a social studies teacher) and taking a “World Religions” class. The class was taken at a Catholic college and it taught us about all of the world’s major religions; however, I don’t think any of us left that class and changed our religious affiliation.

At the other end of the argument, Jay Michaelson (who I met at the American Academy of Religion’s Annual Meeting a few years ago) recently released his new book, God Vs. Gay? The Religious Case For Equality (2011, Beacon Press). I have not read a copy of the book yet (although I’d be happy to obtain a review copy – hint, hint); however, according to the Village Voice (09/27/2011), the book argues that “The moral principles in [the Bible] favor acceptance of gays and lesbians, outweighing the handful of ambiguous verses so often cited by conservatives.” Perhaps Michaelson’s book will help to unmask the rhetoric that the religious right has become dependent upon, by arguing that LGBT rights enhance religious freedom rather than stifle it.

Lastly, we have to remember that although the United States Constitution contains the statement: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” it does not say that the civil definition of terms such as marriage should conform to the definition of particular religious institutions. As Dan Bimrose points today over at The Huffington Post (09/27/2011), even our founders agreed that religion should not define our society. Bimrose quotes James Madison as having delivered the following statement before Congress:  “Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform.”

So what’s the point? Our founders did not establish an official religion, just as they didn’t establish an official language (in fact if they had established a language, it would have been German — more on that another time). With that in mind, gay rights groups are not infringing on the religious freedom of America’s Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’i, etc., but rather are acting in a way which only enhances our nation’s religious landscape. We are not a country that merely adopts one religion’s definition of a particular status, but rather we are country that thoughtfully discerns the meaning of equality. As we discern the meaning of equality and come to understand our own humanity, we quickly realize that policy definitions that act to deny love between two people are antithetical to the American promise.

Enough with the rhetoric, after all whose liberty is it anyway? 

Religious leaders in Scotland are taking on the government’s gay marriage consultation

Cardinal O'Brien

Cardinal O’Brien has already come out against the Scottish government’s 14-week consultation regarding same sex marriage. The government is seeking to provide same sex couples with marriage equality as a means of demonstrating ” their commitment to one another.” In response, in a recent homily, Cardinal O’Brien said, “the view of the Church is clear. No government can re-write human nature: the family and marriage existed before the state and are built on the union between a man and a woman.”

At the current time, no other religious community has formally responded to the consultation; however, as the Episcopal News Service (09/26/2011) has pointed out, “Other Christian groups, as well as Jewish, Muslim and Hindu leaders, said they are considering the consultation but have not yet responded.”

In response to the consultation and same sex marriage, Mike Judge of the Christian Institute in Scotland said, “This is not about rights. This is about re-defining marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.”

In light of Mr. Judge’s comments, I continued to be confused by exactly whose definition of marriage we are expected to follow as a society. It should be very interesting to observe how the consultation proceeds and how other faith communities weigh in, either in support or opposition to same sex marriage.

Archbishop Dolan seeks to legislate hate (again)

Archbishop Dolan is at it again with his hate spewing rhetoric that has been definitive of his tenure as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). This time, Dolan has “warned” President Obama that his failure to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), could lead to a “national conflict.” In a letter addressed to the President of the United States, Dolan argues that traditional marriage is best for society and includes an analysis by Dolan’s legal team that argues the Obama administration’s response is exercising “hostility” in its response to DOMA and “traditional marriage.”

According to the Washington Post (09/22/2011), the American bishops have framed their support for “traditional marriage” and DOMA around religious freedom… well, what about religions that support same-sex marriage? Doesn’t the Catholic Church’s political activism – oops, I mean teaching – infringe on the rights of other religions to exercise their teachings? Reform Judaism has support same-sex marriages for years; Episcopal dioceses have supported same-sex marriage for years; and a multitude of other faith communities have taught that same-sex marriage is a valid expression of love between two people.

I think the time has come for welcoming and affirming Catholics to demand that Archbishop Dolan assess whether the weight of the Catholic Church need be spent on an issue like marriage equality for LGBT people or, if instead, it should maintain its focus on building a world that supports love, peace, and charity. In the current global economic climate, the money that the Catholic Church has wasted on fighting marriage equality could have been spent on issues with a global presence — hunger, poverty, poor health conditions, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and human rights.

Archbishop Dolan, please walk outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and witness the homeless that lay on your steps… this is where the Church’s voice is needed. LGBT Catholics and all LGBT Americans should not fall victim to hate, but rather should be embraced and affirmed by a faith that preaches love and peace.

In His Steps: Wall Street, Protesters, and Christianity

This weekend, like many others, I watched videos of the protesters being attacked on Wall Street as they stood facing Goliath (Bank of America, Citi Bank, etc.). Watching the protest unfold and the response of the NYPD was both disturbing and cause for greater concern. Although I could easily venture away from the “religious” focus of this site and comment on the political implications of such a crackdown, I think it’s far more important to raise awareness regarding the Christian basis for these protests. Further, protesters need to recognize the importance of engaging religious leaders to support their cause so as to build their reach and base of supporters.

In an article on Religion Dispatches, Elizabeth Drescher addresses the role churches are (and in many cases – should) play in bringing about economic change. Drescher characterizes the policy (and ethical) dilemma facing our society, when she writes:

[H]aving spent a few days earlier in the month among a group of religionistas invited to attend SOCAP11, an annual gathering that connects social entrepreneurs with socially-motivated investors, I couldn’t help but wonder, What Would Jesus Do Now?, at a moment in American history when presidential calls for greatertax equity must contend with the dystopian “class warfare” fears of Tea Partiers and other Republicans?

Perhaps the Wall Street protesters should be handing out copies of Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps or Leo XII’s Rerum Novarum, to remind Wall Street Christians what their church truly teaches. A gentle reminder is necessitated to awaken the Christian call to service on behalf of those living in poverty.

One can’t help but wonder when usury became a virtue rather than a sin.  

 

 

Catholic university launches LGBT office

Loyola Marymount University has launched an office for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. LifeSiteNews.com features a largely negative response to the new office for LGBT students, but it does provide interesting quotes from the University regarding the purpose of the new office as well as the administration’s perspective. Here is an excerpt from LifeSiteNews:

Unlike the school’s student-run Gay Straight Alliance club, the GLBTSS will supply professional staff to minister to LGBT students, following in the footsteps of Georgetown University and Gonzaga University.  Dr. Lane Bove, senior vice president for Student Affairs, described the office’s role as promoting “equality, visibility and inclusion of LGBT students within the LMU community” as well as “advocacy and support for the LGBT student community” and engaging “regular dialogues about the intersection of sexual orientation and gender identity with issues of faith, religion and culture.”

Rev. Robert Scholla, S.J., the rector of the LMU Jesuit Community, told the student paper in the Sept 20 article that he considered the new office “a great thing that has happened.” Several professors agreed.

LifeSiteNews then continues by criticizing the University’s decision. Are we really surprised? In this case, I don’t think it’s worth criticizing the bias approach of LifeSiteNews (which is their right, just like QfN exercises its own right); instead, I think we should embrace and celebrate the decision of LMU’s leaders to open this much-needed office.

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