Catholic Argument: for/against S/S Blessings

A blessing is more than a blessing

bless people

Monday, April 12th, 2021

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) Responsum concerning the blessing of same-sex unions brings into focus the important theological question of how homosexuality is to be understood within the order of creation and within Scripture.

On the basis of its understanding, the CDF concluded that the Church cannot officially bless people in same-gender unions that approximate marriage.

The Magisterium teaches that homosexuality is a ‘disordered nature’ and classifies homosexual lovemaking as ‘intrinsically disordered’ [CCC:2357].

In the Catechism, ordered nature reflects God’s creation of male and female human beings who are made for each other.

This principle could be described as exclusively heterosexual.

The magisterial understanding of sexuality is derived from this principle. Sexuality ‘concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate’, creating the ‘aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others’ [CCC:2332] and is ‘ordered to the conjugal love of a man and a woman’ [CCC:2360].

The Magisterium’s understanding of creation and sexuality is heavily criticised for being binary and considered outdated.

Many suggest that sexuality differentiates itself between sexual attraction, physical attraction, and emotional attraction and is not essentially related to procreation or the capacity to love.

The strongest critics of the Responsum accuse the CDF of ignoring the last 100 -plus years of research into human sexuality. They argue that maintaining the theology of ‘disordered nature’ on the assumption that the ‘psychological genesis [of homosexuality] remains largely unexplained’ [CCC: 2357] is incorrect.

Critics argue that a necessary distinction between sexual orientations and sexualities is required and that one should see sexuality as given, diverse and personal.

The desire to bless same-sex unions challenges the Magisterium’s binary view of creation and sexuality and reveals the essential question; on what basis can one say that a person’s nature is ‘intrinsically disordered’, their lovemaking a ‘grave depravity’, and still bring them into union with Christ?

Asking if the Church can bless same-sex unions puts into question the CDF’s use of the primary sources on which the magisterial teaching is built; its interpretation of scripture and the presumption that the “natural law” is fully known and not itself subject to growth in understanding.

This starting point is critical for how we understand a blessing given to a couple sharing the same gender.

It brings us back to the larger perspective:

  • what is the nature and place of homosexuality and homosexual lovemaking in the order of creation?
  • how does homosexuality and lovemaking participate in the “blessing of God? and
  • if sexuality a blessing of God, then how it is defined, and by whom it is defined is critical.

The Blessing

The debate concerning the blessing is, by comparison, a sidebar.

It is important only because the theological pathway from blessing to ecclesial act and sacramental—that resembles a sacrament—is full of potholes.

To make this clearer I will distinguish between a blessing and a benediction.

A blessing (noun) is a request to God to care for someone or something, it is also an act to make someone, or oneself, happy.

A benediction (noun) combines the Latin words bene meaning well and dicere to say Benedicere: to wish well and is to say something good to another as a prayer, invocation, or dedication.

According to the Catechism [1078ff], blessing is in the nature of God; the whole of God’s work is blessing and while everything and everyone who exists is also a blessing of God, the whole of the created order needs salvation because it is fallen.

The Catechism states that the dignity of each individual person is rooted in his, or her creation in the image and likeness of God (1700, 1702).

Blessing, as we commonly use it, is a prayer for God’s favour or the dedication of an individual or object and parents bless their heterosexual and homosexual children all the time, long before any heterosexual or homosexual tendencies become manifest, and priests bless water, oil, and wedding rings.

However, there has to be more to a blessing to turn it from natural water into holy water.

That “more” is the power of the ordained who makes the benediction; this is the basis of resemblance.

The additional “power” of the priest’s benediction is seen where parishioners ask Father to bless their candles, dogs, and cars, because his benediction is recognised as qualitatively different from their own.

What makes one a blessing and other a benediction is

  • the nature of reciprocity—who has the capacity to give and receive a blessing;
  • the priest acting with the power of ordination in the name of the Church; and
  • the intention of the blessing and its resemblance to a sacrament.

Some suggest parents blessing their homosexual child on their child’s wedding day is possible.

While laypeople may preside at some blessings ‘the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests or deacons)’ [CCC1669].

A benediction is a sacramental when it is received by a person who has the capacity to receive it—reciprocity—or when it is given to an object that will be used in sacred rites, such as a baptismal font.

When an ordained man gives a benediction, the benediction is implicitly reliant on the power of the priesthood.

The Responsum acknowledges that a benediction for an individual with homosexual inclinations remains licit as for example in a religious profession, which affirms a woman or man in their non-sacramental chosen lifestyle.

However, a benediction is not permitted for two people (hetero – or homosexual) entering a “marriage-like state” because the state resembles the sacrament of matrimony and the benediction would resemble the nuptial blessing.

According to the Responsum’s explanatory note, a benediction cannot be given to people whose relationship is not ‘objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace according to the designs of God inscribed in creation and fully revealed by Christ the Lord’.

To do this is to ‘bless sin’.

At this level there is no distinction between couples on the basis of their sexual preference; neither can be given a benediction.

The issue for the same-sex couple is not their singularity as gay people but the nature of their relationship, and within it, their lovemaking.

Because their loving making is considered ‘intrinsically disordered’ their relationship is seriously at fault.

At this point we return, again, to consider the theological reciprocity between nature, sexuality, and acts of lovemaking.

The CDF concludes that when a sacramental resembles a sacrament a benediction cannot be given by the Church’s minister because the blessing moves from being “just” a blessing to an ‘ecclesial liturgical action’, or an act of the Church, that invokes the priesthood of Christ, and God—in Christ—can not bless sin.

Sacramentals are ‘sacred signs that bear a resemblance to the sacraments [because] they signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church’ for people who are ‘disposed to receive the chief effects of the sacraments’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium 60).

This definition draws together the connections between the recipient’s disposition, the church’s prayer, and the Church’s minister.

Together, these form a single unit that brings a sacramental into the orbit of a sacrament.

Critically, the Catechism [1670] states: ‘sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do’ but through them, believers are prepared through the Church’s prayer ‘to received grace’ and disposed ‘to cooperate with’ grace.

It also states that sacramentals ‘derive from the baptismal priesthood’ and ‘every baptised person is called to be a blessing and bless’.

There are three points to note:

  • that a benediction is not a sacrament,
  • benedictions dispose; and
  • benedictions are related to baptism.

What is not made explicit in the Responsum is the role of baptism in the reception of a benediction.

Some theologians argue that when two baptised individuals enter a same-sex union they already possess the theological capacity to receive a benediction just as baptised heterosexual couples receive the nuptial blessing.

Some suggest that because the Church’s minister is a witness to the matrimony, and not the minister of it, in a similar way he has the capacity to impart a benediction in the name of the Church on a same-sex couple. This is especially the case if the couple are not intending a sacramental union.

Christian sacraments are sacred signs instituted by Christ to give grace and to save, and the sacrament of baptism is a celebration of God’s sanctifying presence, transforming people and human experience.

Baptism is not reliant on, or referent to, a person’s sexuality—however, this is understood.

Every baptised person enjoys the purification from sin, new birth in the Holy Spirit and incorporation into the Body of Christ.

All baptised persons receive a sacramental character that consecrates them for Christian worship, enabling them to participate in the sacred liturgy, to serve God and ‘to exercise their baptismal priesthood by witness of holy lives and practical charity [Lumen Gentium 10].

Proponents of benedictions for same-gender couples argue that baptism is the legitimate basis for the blessing of baptised same-gender partners.

They point out that the nature, purpose, intention, and use of any benediction must correspond to the nature and effects of baptism.

They argue that because a person with homosexual tendencies, created in God’s image and likeness, can be baptised—receiving the effects and grace of the sacrament and incorporation into the Body of Christ—that person possesses the theological capacity to receive the Church’s benediction in virtue of their baptism, and not in virtue of the power of an ordained minister.

Where this argument is accepted, refusing two baptised people of the same-sex, who live lives of faith, a benediction when they are choosing and intending a life-long relationship, that is not intended to be sacramental matrimony, is not possible, it is required.

At this point the argument for a benediction of same-sex union moves in a pastoral direction, suggesting that if the Church were to bless same-sex unions then it would remove the pain and suffering from the lives of some of its own members.

It is argued that the Church, by openly acknowledging and blessing such unions, would be seen to affirm the baptismal call of its members to live—in public—stable relationships of mutual and lasting fidelity.

Those who disagree see here the first step towards extending the sacrament of matrimony to same-sex couples. This concern cannot be avoided.

The sacramental character of matrimony and the resemblance of a civil union to it is an inaccurate use of resemblance.

The resemblance of a sacramental benediction to a sacrament seems to imply a resemblance to either the character of the sacrament or to its Eucharistic Prayer, however, this is not outlined in the Responsum but is, nonetheless, critical to the debate.

Relying on the theological character of matrimony as the basis for denying benedictions to same-gender couples is risky given this sacrament’s history and unique sacramental character.

In matrimony, the couple are both the ministers and the recipients of the sacrament—based on their baptism—and the church’s minister is the witnesses.

Similarly, the concern with ‘a certain imitation or analogue of the nuptial blessing’ is also problematic given that blessing’s history and liturgical purpose.

The nuptial blessing’s context is the Mass, coming after the Our Father and before the couple receives communion together.

The structure of the blessing is clearly a benediction and not a Eucharist Prayer—it does not confer the sacrament—because ‘it is ordinarily understood that the spouses, as ministers of Christ’s grace, mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church’ [CCC:1623].

The Church’s minister ‘assists’ at the marriage and receives the spousal consent and blesses in the name of the Church, thus making it (matrimony) an ecclesial act.

On the basis of this understanding, many conclude that the denial of a benediction for a baptised couple who share the same gender, based on the benediction’s resemblance to the nuptial benediction in the liturgy of matrimony, is unwarranted.

Lastly, the Responsum states that ‘the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex in the sense intended’ but, Sacrosanctum Concilium 79—a higher teaching authority—suggests this might not be the whole story.

“The sacramentals are to undergo a revision which takes into account the primary principle of enabling the faithful to participate intelligently, actively, and easily; the circumstances of our own days must also be considered.

“When rituals are revised, as laid down in Art. 63, new sacramentals may also be added as the need for these becomes apparent.

“Reserved blessings shall be very few; reservations shall be in favour of bishops or ordinaries.

“Let provision be made that some sacramentals, at least in special circumstances and at the discretion of the ordinary, may be administered by qualified laypersons.”

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In what may seem like a bit of casuistic argumentation,the New Zealand Roman Catholic priest/theologian, Dr.Joe Grayland, here puts forward the case for a denial of any Blessing of a Same-Sex Union – as ennunciated in the recent Vatican Statement on the inadmissability of such a Blessing – together with his discussion of arguments against the ban; which are being suggested by Catholics who disagree with the Statement and the ban.

The Catholic distinction between a ‘Blessing’ and a ‘Benediction’ may to the average Catholic, seem somewhat academic – which, looking at the explanation here, would seem to be the case.

However, Pope Francis has yet publicly to officially distance himself from the official Statement – even though it is now well-known to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, that he approves of Same-Sex Civil Unions, but without actually offering the official Blessing of the Church. Herein lies the anomaly: The Pope approves of Same-Sex Unions, while the Vatican continues to pronounce such unions as ‘disordered’ and unable to receive he Blessing of the Church!

There are other instances where the Catholic Church’s official doctrine differs from the ‘pastoral accommodations’ that are often dispensed – albeit quietly – by certain Catholic officials – the dispensation of a supposed ‘annulment of a Marriage being one such – so that the refusal of the Church to offer a Bl;essing to a faithful Catholic Same-Sex Couple may seem contrary to the new pastoral outlook of a Pope who wants to bring the Church into the 21st century.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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A Plea for U.S. Catholics to support Transgender people

Why the church should fight anti-transgender legislation

Apr 14, 2021by Daniel P. Horan – Opinion – People (National Catholic Reporter)

A person in New York City holds up a transgender rights flag Oct. 24, 2018. (CNS/Reuters/Brendan McDermid)A person in New York City holds up a transgender rights flag Oct. 24, 2018. (CNS/Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Just because something is new to you does not mean that it is novel or a fad. As obvious as this statement is, sadly, too many politicians and religious leaders alike are responding to broader visibility and awareness of the reality and experiences of transgender persons with a performative sense of shock and alarm. This kind of reaction not only betrays their ignorance of the historical and scientific research on the longstanding reality of transgender identities, but these behaviors also have life-and-death consequences for trans people.

Regarding the inaccurate belief that transgender identity is “new” or some kind of “trend,” scholars have demonstrated the falsehood of such claims. Mills College Professor Susan Stryker chronicles the history of transgender persons and the community’s variable social visibility over the last two centuries in her 2017 book Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution. As Stryker illustrates in the book, the increasing recognition of the transgender community and broader representation in media and entertainment were only made possible by the heroic activism, networks and support over decades and centuries, which has not yet received adequate attention.

More recently, University of Pittsburgh professor Jules Gill-Peterson, writing last week in The New York Times, addresses acknowledgement of the reality of transgender children for at least the last century in stark contrast to the contemporary political arguments that this is a “twenty-first century issue.” Gill-Peterson offers a fuller historical accounting in her 2018 book Histories of Transgender Children. Recounting this history is especially important today given the latest attacks on transgender girls and women in sports.

Care for and protection of the transgender community is a life issue. The targeting, attacking and harm caused to the trans community — as well as contributing to anti-transgender stigma — is a social evil and something Christians and all people of good will ought to resist.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, state legislators have introduced more than 80 anti-transgender bills since Jan. 1, making 2021 a record year for such discriminatory efforts. The proposed legislation covers a range of oppressive actions, including the prohibition of transgender girls and women from participating in school sports and prohibiting or even criminalizing gender-affirming care for some transgender persons. With so many legislative attempts to curb the civil liberties of transgender adults and children, one would assume that there must be some real problems that have surfaced in need of redress by the law.

However, the Human Rights Campaign says, “These bills are not addressing any real problem, and they’re not being requested by constituents. Rather, this effort is being driven by national far-right organizations attempting to score political points by sowing fear and hate.”

The right-wing political interest in centering discriminatory legislation like what is currently proposed in at least 28 states, is fairly self-evident. In the wake of the 2020 elections, the Republican Party realized that it has little or nothing to offer that appeals to the majority of the population — including much of its electoral base — in terms of fiscal or political policy. Returning to its playbook of cultural warfare distractions (think of the racism of the “war on drugs” of the 1980s and ’90s, the homophobia of the anti-gay-marriage legislation during the 2004 presidential campaign, or the anti-intellectualism and science skepticism of climate denialism, among others), the GOP has to select a new scapegoat, and the party’s leaders and special interest groups have chosen some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Decades of gerrymandering have resulted in this evitable race to the ethical bottom. With certain congressional districts statistically a sure win for the Republican Party, the only serious threat to the reelection of many politicians is a primary challenge from the radicalized extreme right. What has resulted is the formation of an echo chamber that perpetuates the vilest talking points and conspiracy theories, which are then adopted by otherwise mainstream politicians out of a perceived sense of necessity to compete with their challengers.

As a result, the absurd becomes normalized, conspiracy becomes truth, and victims become enemies in this vicious circle of evil.

The flurry of gratuitous and dangerous legislative proposals, buoyed by increasing hate speech and transphobic attitudes, is a distraction from real problems like the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism, rising income inequality and global climate change, to name a few.

While I can understand such a desperate political ploy, as insidious as it is, what I have a harder time reckoning with is the persistence of transphobia and hatred perpetrated by self-identified Christians, especially by those in ministerial leadership.

Such was the case last summer when the Indianapolis Archdiocese announced new policies that could ban transgender students from attending Catholic schools in central and southern Indiana. Or, two summers ago when the Vatican’s Congregation for Education released a truly reckless statement that conflated a number of discrete issues and generally lambasted what anti-LGBTQ activists like to call “gender ideology,” an amorphous and essentially meaningless phrase. (You can read my response to the 2019 document here).

Bishop David Konderla, left, pictured at his ordination in 2016, and Bishop Michael Barber, pictured in Rome in 2020, signed a letter in October 2020 addressed to then-Sen. Kelly Loefler and U.S. Rep. Greg Steube expressing their support for proposed legislation that targeted transgender girls and women in school and collegiate sports. (CNS/Eastern Oklahoma Catholic/Dave Crenshaw and CNS/Paul Haring)

In October, Bishops Michael Barber of Oakland and David Konderla of Tulsa, chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education and Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, respectively, signed a letter addressed to then-Sen. Kelly Loefler and U.S. Rep. Greg Steube expressing their support — and, tacitly, that of the United States bishops — for proposed legislation that targeted transgender girls and women in school and collegiate sports.

In January, several bishops issued a letter condemning the Biden administration’s plans to extend nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ persons through executive action. The bishops’ letter not only attacked protections for couples in legally protected same-sex civil marriages, but it also identified their opposition to civil rights protecting individuals on the basis of their gender identity.

While these examples of individual and corporate transphobia and anti-transgender activism on the part of church leaders represents the most contentious and visible public responses to increasing trans visibility in our communities, they are not the only Catholic responses; nor are they the most Catholic responses.

Last month on “Transgender Day of Visibility,” celebrated each March 31 since 2009, the Human Rights Campaign released a joint letter with several “prominent Catholic leaders” — including two bishops, several Catholic organizations and some theologians — expressing support for transgender persons and explicitly condemning anti-transgender violence (full disclosure: I am one of the signatories). The letter draws from a range of Catholic sources, including the teachings of Popes John Paul II and Francis, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and St. Bonaventure, a 13th-century Franciscan theologian and doctor of the church.

The letter closes with these simple, yet powerful, lines: “Transgender people have always been members of our local parishes and the witness of their lives has lead us to greater contemplation of God and the mystery of our faith. To our transgender siblings, may you always know that the Image of God resides in you, and that God loves you.”

There have been other constructive pastoral statements and resources, though they often do not receive the attention that the most vocal culture-warrior and transphobic church leaders garner. Such is the case with a recent pastoral resource published by the Catholic Health Association titled “Transgender Persons, Their Families, and the Church.” As the small book explains, this is not a project of moral theology but is intended “for the use of Catholic ethicists, chaplains, priests, mission leaders, executives, health care providers and others who want to provide compassionate, quality care to trans persons and their families.”

The collection of five first-person narratives is gathered from among those who were invited to speak to the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine about their experiences as Catholics who identify as trans, are raising trans children or have ministered to the trans community. Unlike the arrogance of those transphobic Catholic leaders and politicians who falsely insist that the visibility of trans people signals a “new trend,” the preface to this Catholic resource states plainly and accurately: “It is likely that transgender people have always existed, but several recent events have brought them and their experiences into the spotlight.”

In addition to these pastoral responses, rigorous scholarly efforts within the Catholic theological and ethical tradition have situated the reality of transgender persons within the Catholic context without antagonism. Such is the case with St. Norbert College theological ethicist Craig Ford, whose recent work has revisited the Catholic natural law tradition in light of the anti-transgender policies of some Catholic schools.

One might even look to my own recent work in theological anthropology, which demonstrates how there are other resources in the Catholic tradition and ways of thinking about human personhood that do not result in anti-transgender positions.

As politicians continue to spread transphobic messages, seeking to stoke fear in their constituents by scapegoating a community that is already tremendously vulnerable, church leaders need to stand in solidarity with our transgender siblings and their allies who have been advocating for basic civil rights.

It is also important to note that despite all the noise about so-called “gender ideology,” there is no magisterial teaching on this subject. Bishops and other church leaders in the United States and abroad would do well to listen, learn and consult actual experts — especially transgender persons — before condemning something they clearly do not understand. Otherwise, whole groups of people will continue to be oppressed and more people will die.

Daniel P. Horan

Franciscan Fr. Daniel P. Horan is the Duns Scotus Chair of Spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, where he teaches systematic theology and spirituality. Follow him on Twitter: @DanHoranOFM.

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It is good to see a Franciscan Scholar (Fr. Daniel P. Horan) making a plea to Catholics in the U.S.A to oppose Trans-Phobic legislation currently being pursued in some U.S. States by Far-Right politicians – and supported by some Roman Catholic Bishops – in an effort to discredit President Biden’s push for common human rights for all LGBTQI citizens, including Trans-Gender people, whose sexual orientation or gender identity is different from the binary ‘norm’.

With the old Republican regime of ex-President Donald Trump now largely dismantled – although much damage had been done in the meantime by Trump’s repressive government – there is a new era of human rights legislation being steadily re-introduced to the legislature of the Federal government. However, some States that are still controlled by conservative Far-Right Republicans are busy putting into place legislation that would deny the rights of LGBTQI people to live their lives without being discriminated against for their innate gender/sexuality status.

Father Daniel rightly points out the fact that ‘difference’ in human gender/sexuality identity have always been part and parcel of humanity at large, and that it is only since the advent of scientific research which offers an etiology of the variety of human sexuality and gender identity, with examples being identified and examined socially and scientifically; that the Church has been able to catch up with a situation that has already been recognised and humanely dealt with by the more advanced societies in the modern world.

See also: https://lgbtqnation.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=ecab442566f15d8d4dcf64b0d&id=bffcc162bc&e=887af28a4c

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Vatican to consider Baptismal implications for priesthood

Cardinal unveils major Vatican conference on priesthood slated for 2022

Apr 12, 2021by Cindy WoodenCatholic News Service Theology Vatican

Pope Francis greets Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, during the sign of peace at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this Jan. 6, 2020, file photo. Cardinal Ouellet announced plans for a major international conference at the Vatican in 2022 on the theology of the priesthood. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Increasing vocations to the priesthood, improving the way laypeople and priests work together and ensuring that service, not power, motivates the request for ordination are all possible outcomes of a major symposium being planned by the Vatican in February 2022.

“A theological symposium does not claim to offer practical solutions to all the pastoral and missionary problems of the church, but it can help us deepen the foundation of the church’s mission,” said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and the chief organizer of the symposium planned for Feb. 17-19, 2022.

The symposium, “Toward a Fundamental Theology of the Priesthood,” seeks to encourage an understanding of ministerial priesthood that is rooted in the priesthood of all believers conferred at baptism, getting away from the idea of ordained ministry as belonging to “ecclesiastical power,” the cardinal said at a news conference April 12.

The three-day gathering, the cardinal said, is aimed specifically at bishops and delegations of theologians and vocations personnel from every country, although it will be open to other theologians and people interested in the topic.

The relationship between baptism and ordained ministry needs greater emphasis today, Ouellet said, but reviewing the foundations of a theology of priesthood also “involves ecumenical questions not to be ignored, as well as the cultural movements that question the place of women in the church.”

The recent synods of bishops on the family, on young people and on the church in the Amazon all show the urgency of questions surrounding priesthood and relationships among people with different vocations in the church, the cardinal said.

Michelina Tenace, a professor of theology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, is helping organize the symposium and told reporters that going back to baptism and the priesthood of all believers “isn’t just a fashion, it’s the basis for all Christian life.”

The clerical abuse scandal, she said, makes the questions of priestly identity, vocational discernment and formation more urgent.

Fr. Vincent Siret, rector of the Pontifical French Seminary in Rome, said a deeper reflection on priesthood — both the priesthood of all the baptized and ministerial priesthood — is essential for those engaged in training men for the priesthood.

“The baptismal life is the fundamental human vocation, and all must exercise the priesthood received at baptism. Ministry is at the service of this,” he said. “Reflecting on the fundamental theology of the priesthood will also make it possible to return to the justifications for priestly celibacy and the way it is lived.”

The Catholic Church requires most priests in its Latin rite to be celibate. While Ouellet, Siret and Tenace all mentioned the importance of celibacy in the Latin rite, none of them mentioned the traditions of the Eastern Catholic churches that continue to have both married and celibate clergy.

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It is by now well-known that Pope Francis is unhappy about the dangers of what he, himself, is disposed to call the problems of ‘clericalism’ in the Roman Catholic Church He is also known to favour the forward-looking incentives of the Vatican II Council to modernise the Church’s pastoral and liturgical functions – in order to emphasize the Baptismal call on all Christians, both clerical and lay, to exercise ministries appropriate to their particulkar vocations, but with the understanding that ‘ministry’ is all derived from the charism of a common Baptism into Christ.

Pope Franics’ keenness to include the ministry of women into the Church’s administration – although he has not yet included them as being suitable for (or necessarily called to) ordained ministry – has now been proved by his appointment of various women into the organisational structures of the Church. Such functions were formerly carried out only by men, and mostly from the ranks of the ordained.

What is at stake, perhaps – in this calling of a special meeting to consider the ministry of the priesthood in the Catholic Church – is the constant tension between the elements of function and authority in priestly ministry. The faculty of trust has been a major preoccupation for the hierarchy of the Church, especially over the matter of the abuse of laity by the clergy. These matters will ievitably form part of the discussion that will take place at the meetings.

The ontology of the ordained priesthood must have a place in the discussion – a matter which will certainly concern the women of the Church – especially the likes of Michelina Tenace, a professor of theology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, (who) is helping organize the symposium and who told reporters that going back to baptism and the priesthood of all believers “isn’t just a fashion, it’s the basis for all Christian life.”

Cardinal Ouellet the Organiser of the upcoming symposium has offered his own take on “The relationship between baptism and ordained ministry (that) needs greater emphasis today”, but reviewing the foundations of a theology of priesthood also “involves ecumenical questions not to be ignored, as well as the cultural movements that question the place of women in the church.”

This latter point is mentioned in this report at the end: “The Catholic Church requires most priests in its Latin rite to be celibate. While Ouellet, Siret and Tenace all mentioned the importance of celibacy in the Latin rite, none of them mentioned the traditions of the Eastern Catholic churches that continue to have both married and celibate clergy.”

So; one wonders whether there may be any substantive changes in the established R.C. tradition of (1) Celibacy; and (2) Male-only Priesthood – suggested or even made at this conference?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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U.S. Battle for S/S Couple’s right to adopt children

“LGBTQ families are no different from heterosexual families. We have the same desire to connect and to love.”
— John Freml

The shifting legal landscape or the finer points of moral theology are not the primary issue for most same-sex parents. Those couples insist that the real-life stories of struggle and success can humanize debates that too often feel abstract.

John Freml, left, with husband Rick Nelson and their children Jordan Freml-Nelson, front left, and Riley Freml-Nelson. (Courtesy of John Freml)

John Freml, left, with husband Rick Nelson and their children Jordan Freml-Nelson, front left, and Riley Freml-Nelson. (Courtesy of John Freml)

John Freml and his husband, Rick, adopted a baby girl in 2016 through a private Illinois agency. It was a dream fulfilled, and they immediately bonded with their daughter. But when a few of the infant’s biological family members found out the child had been placed with a same-sex couple, they took action to remove the baby. Experts made home visits. The Department of Children and Family Services seemed to favor keeping the child in Freml’s home. But the painful process dragged on for over a year and cost the couple more than $30,000 in legal fees. They eventually lost in court. “It was heartbreaking,” Freml said. “It took us a while to recover.”

The couple later successfully adopted and now have a 5-year-old son, Riley, and a 7-year-old daughter, Jordan.

They had planned to raise their children in a religious tradition. But Freml acknowledges his Catholic faith has been tested by the church’s opposition to LGBTQ rights — from the firing of gay teachers in Catholic schools to bishops fighting the Equality Act and opposing same-sex couples adopting children. The 36-year-old, who attended Catholic schools for 12 years, drifted away from the church. He found his way back after his bishop, Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, led prayers of “supplication and exorcism” to protest the state passing a marriage equality law in 2013. John called the spectacle “egregious and hurtful.”

“I found a group of Catholic moms of LGBTQ kids protesting outside the cathedral,” he said. “They hugged me and we cried and we sang. It really brought me back to the church. It showed me there was a place for me in the church.”

But in recent years, he has struggled to identify as Catholic.

“My kids come from foster care and had such traumatic experiences in their lives even before they came to live with us so to think they might sit in Mass on a Sunday and hear a homily that calls their parents ‘disordered’ would only inflict more trauma on them,” Freml said. He wants church leaders to hear a simple message. “LGBTQ families are no different from heterosexual families. We have the same desire to connect and to love.”

[John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life and author of The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church.]

____________________________________________________________________

Currently, in the U.S. Supreme Court, another case is being fought on whether – or not – a same-sex couple can legally adopt children. See :-

Cases like these – of Same-Sex Couples who are prepared to adopt otherwise parent-less children – are sometimes prevented from adopting a child/children simply because of the fact that they are not the so-called ‘normal’ heterosexual couple, capable of producing a child of their own.

Objections are most often. nowadays, based on the flawed understanding that the sexual preference of their prospective S/S parents might in some way affect the children’s choice of their personal sexual orientation! This, of course, is based on the false premise that sexual orientation is a personally ‘chosen’ rather than a ‘given’ characterIstic.

Since the recently-issued Vatican Statement that their Church cannot authorise the ‘Blessing’ of a same-sex partnership’ on the grounds that it is ‘against nature’ (even though the Church has officially stated that LGBT+ people are to be welcomed by the Church) there has been a current of unrest amongs Gay Catholic couples who want to adopt children in order to give them a family upbringing – when otherwise their prospects might be limited to living in an institution.

The struggle here is between Church dogma and the need for appropriate pastoral care by the Church towards the burgeoning number of children condemned to grow up without the close support of a family in which they are personally nurtured and loved.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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An Appreciation of Hans Kung – theologian, par excellence

Hans Küng, celebrated and controversial Swiss theologian, has died

Apr 6, 2021 by Patricia Lefevere – People – Theology – NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER

Theologian Fr. Hans Küng is pictured in his office in Tübingen, Germany, in February 2008. (CNS/KNA/Harald Oppitz)Theologian Fr. Hans Küng is pictured in his office in Tübingen, Germany, in February 2008. (CNS/KNA/Harald Oppitz)

Catholic priest and theologian Hans Küng, the renowned scholar and prolific writer who had lived with Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration and arthritis since 2013, died April 6 at his home in Tubingen, Germany. He was 93.

Few men throughout Christendom have had as much to say or had their work seen by as many Christians — and others — as Küng, the celebrated and controversial Swiss theologian and Catholic priest.

Open a magazine or turn on the television in Europe and it’s likely the viewer caught the face and heard the Germanic-toned voice of the famous Swiss professor who lived, taught and lectured more than 40 years in Germany. Often, he was photographed in the company of heads of state — Britain’s Tony Blair, the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev, Germany’s Helmut Schmidt, as well as world religious leaders.

He frequently carried on public dialogues with scholarly representatives of Buddhism, Chinese religions, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. He also met with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as he pursued his quest for a global ethic as a pathway toward international peace in the 21st century.Related: Ripples spread out from Hans Küng’s work

Tens of thousands of his readers living beyond Europe’s borders in America, Australia, Asia and Africa had heard him too, or at least read one or more of his tomes. He was the premier Catholic theologian to speak in China on religion and science, the first theologian to address a group of astrophysicists, and later the European Congress of Radiology on the subject of a more humane medicine.

Reasons for his popularity were ubiquitous: readability, clarity, erudition, honesty, fearlessness. He was smart, occasionally profound. Someone less intellectually gifted could understand his arguments and be drawn to his texts and his talks for just that reason. He said and wrote what he thought needed to be aired in what he deemed his relentless struggle for intellectual freedom and his passionate search for truth.

In his most popular book — Christ sein (On Being a Christian) — which quickly sold more than 200,000 hard covers in German alone when it was released in 1974, Küng said he probed theological issues that are of concern to any educated person. He wrote for those “who believe, but feel insecure,” those who used to believe “but are not satisfied with their unbelief” and those outside the church who are unwilling to approach “the fundamental questions of human existence with mere feelings, personal prejudices and apparently plausible explanations.”

For such a wide audience, Küng kept the Scriptures and the daily paper close at hand. From age 10 when the Nazis invaded Switzerland’s neighbor Austria, thus initiating World War II, the lad Hans — eldest of seven Küng children — began reading the daily paper. It was a discipline he maintained to his death despite declining vision. Keeping up on world and religious affairs rendered him “a realist, not a romanticist,” he told this reporter at a number of our meetings.

Often controversial, the name “Küng” came with its own brand of adjectives in conservative church and political publications: He was Küng the dissident, the bête noire, the disobedient, the heretic, the apostate, the errant, the Protestant. In short, “l’enfant terrible of the Catholic Church,” yelled many a headline.

His 1971 book, Infallible?: An Inquiry, caused an uproar across the Catholic world, challenging the papal infallibility declaration promulgated in 1870 at the First Vatican Council. Küng probed its theological basis and found the claim of supreme papal authority to be an impasse to reunion with other Christian churches.

The book appeared only three years after the Vatican had asked Küng to answer charges brought against his earlier volume, The Church. Catholic officials disputed the theologian’s understanding of papal authority and requested he appear in Rome to answer charges.

Küng stood his ground. He would not recant. He wanted to see the file the Vatican had amassed on him. He demanded a written list of the questions regarding his book as well as the names of those vetting the work. He asked to speak in German during any meetings with Vatican officials and further requested that the Vatican pay his travel expenses to Rome or else hold the hearings at Küng’s house in Tübingen.

Besides taking on infallibility, Küng also criticized the law of celibacy, favoring instead a married clergy and a diaconate, with both open to women as well as men. He argued compulsory celibacy was the chief reason for the shortage of priests, and he accused the hierarchy of preferring to deny the faithful a close-to-home celebration of the Eucharist for the sake of maintaining mandatory celibacy. The law contradicted the Gospel and ancient Catholic tradition and ought to be abolished, he wrote.

He found fault with the ban on dispensations for priests who wanted to leave the priesthood — introduced by Pope John Paul II after his election as pontiff in 1978 — calling it a violation of human rights.Related: Hans Küng knows church’s problems – and that change is inevitable

His historical critical approach to research led him to conclude that the early Christian communities in Corinth and elsewhere had had lay members preside over eucharistic services in the absence of a priest.

He took issue with the church’s ban on artificial contraception and its inhibitions in matters of human sexuality. He even had the chutzpah to critique the first year of the pontificate of John Paul II. In an essay appearing in eight papers across Europe, the Americas and Australia, Küng questioned whether the new pope was open to the world, was a spiritual leader, a true pastor, a collegial fellow bishop, an ecumenical mediator or even a real Christian.

Küng acknowledged that traditional Catholics would find the putting of such questions to the popular pope “more unforgivable than blasphemy.” But he said his criticism arose from “loyal commitment” to the church and he felt “the pope has a right to a response from his own church in critical solidarity.”

License to teach revoked

Headline writers and broadcasters had their day Dec. 18, 1979, when the Vatican pulled the rug out from under Küng’s teaching career, revoking his missio canonica, or license to teach as a Catholic theologian at the University of Tübingen, where he had been since 1960. Such a license is required to teach as a Catholic theologian at a pontifically recognized institution, like Tübingen’s Catholic theology school.

The German secular university has long had separate schools of Catholic and Protestant theology. Its Catholic school, at which Küng served as professor of dogmatic theology from 1963 to 1979, is renowned for its modern interpretation of the New Testament.

In Disputed Truth, Book 2 of his three volumes of memoirs, Küng spent 80 pages reviewing charges against him — secret meetings by German bishops and Vatican officials outside of Germany, betrayal by seven of his 11 Tübingen colleagues and a near physical and emotional breakdown caused by exhaustion from his efforts to answer Vatican accusations while preserving his place in a state university.

In the end, Küng retained his professorship, not in the Catholic faculty, but in the university’s secular Institute for Ecumenical Research, which he had founded and directed since the early 1960s. He also remained “a priest in good standing,” which upset those who sought his excommunication. Despite his outspokenness, Rome recognized his lifelong devotion to the church and allowed Küng to preach and to publish until illness and disability slowed him in 2013.

Küng indicated a certain dismay in 1979 when he learned of the involvement of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the removal of his teaching license. As dean of theology at Tübingen in the early 1960s, Küng had offered — and Ratzinger accepted — a professorship at Tübingen. But following student revolts in Germany in 1968, Ratzinger left academia, returning to his native Munich where he became archbishop, then cardinal. He later headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 25 years under John Paul.

To the surprise of many, Küng requested a meeting with Ratzinger shortly after Ratzinger was elected pope in April 2005. The two priests had retained their respect for one another and a limited correspondence over 45 years. Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, quickly agreed to meet Küng. The pair talked for four hours and dined at Benedict’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

A communiqué issued by the Vatican two days after the Sept. 24, 2005, reunion indicated the meeting was friendly and that Benedict praised Küng for his efforts to build a global code of ethics that enshrined the values that were held in common among religions and recognized by secular leaders, too.

The two did not take up any doctrinal questions. Nor did Küng ask that his teaching license be restored. Instead, they found accord on matters relating to science and religion, faith and reason, and social issues concerned with ethics and peace-building.

Although their shared evening was but a scintilla of time compared to the quarter-century that Küng had been in a state of strained relations with the Vatican, the theologian saw it as a sign of openness and even a harbinger of hope for those who share his critical vision of the church and what he had oft termed its “inquisitional proceedings” against him and against other dissidents.

For years, Küng had asked priests and bishops to show some courage against what he called a repressive Roman system that demanded obedience over reason and conformity over freedom of conscience. What was it in fact that gave this renegade thinker such abiding confidence in the midst of decades of struggle?

A hint is provided in On Being a Christian, which has seen many editions and been translated into dozens of languages. Küng called it “a small Summa” on which he worked for seven years. Its 720 pages probe whether Christian faith could continue to meet the challenges of the modern world and whether the Christian message was an adequate one for today’s men and women. Küng said he wrote it because he did not know what was specifically Christian, and he needed to find out.

‘I have an infinite intellectual curiosity. I am never satisfied. I must always know more about everything so I can detect just what are the problems. I do not have many prejudices before starting, as I do not fear the outcome.’

—Hans Küng

Early in the work, Küng quoted German physicist and philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, who said: “There is one thing I would like to tell the theologians: something which they know and others should know. They hold the sole truth which goes deeper than the truth of science, on which the atomic age rests. They hold a knowledge of the nature of man that is more deeply rooted than the rationality of modern times. The moment always comes inevitably when our planning breaks down and we ask and will ask about the truth.”

Truth-seeking was the chosen task to which Küng brought his insatiable probing and unquenchable intellect.

“I have an infinite intellectual curiosity,” he told this reporter during the first of many meetings over nearly 40 years. “I am never satisfied. I must always know more about everything so I can detect just what are the problems. I do not have many prejudices before starting, as I do not fear the outcome.

“Christology presents so many problems and so people say: ‘It’s dangerous to touch the virgin birth, the pre-existence of Christ, the Trinity.’ But I think the truth cannot do harm — not to me personally and not to the church,” he told NCR.

The chance to reflect on God gave Küng enormous pleasure and satisfaction, he related in My Struggle for Freedom, the first volume of his memoirs.

‘I can swim’

Already as a youngster, Küng recalled coming home “radiant” when he realized “I can swim … the water’s supporting me.” For him, this experience illustrated “the venture of faith, which cannot first be proved theoretically by a course on ‘dry land’ but simply has to be attempted: a quite rational venture, though the rationality only emerges in the act,” he wrote in his first memoir.

A lifelong lover of nature, Küng spent much time in its environs — swimming almost every day of his life and skiing up to age 80 during brief holidays in Switzerland. Skiing helped him if only for a few hours to “air my brain and forget all scholarship, often defying the cold, wind, snow and storm,” he attested in his memoir.

Almost all of his books were composed in longhand as Küng sat on his living-room-sized terrace in Tübingen, close to the banks of the Neckar River, or alongside his Lake Lucerne home in his native Sursee, Switzerland. Sunshine and fresh air pervade his texts as much as do research, history, exhaustive scholarship, and analysis of and solutions to specific theological and philosophical problems.

‘The nicest liturgical words and the highest praise of Christ — unless backed by Scripture and understood by the people — are just not useful.’

—Hans Küng

The inclement elements to which Küng alluded while on the Alpine slopes became the stuff of weathering the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In fact, the Holy Office — as it was known in pre-Vatican II days — opened a secret file (the infamous 399/57i) on Küng shortly after he wrote his first book and doctoral dissertation, Justification, in 1957. In it, Küng predicted that an agreement in principle between Catholic theology as set down at the 16th-century Council of Trent and 20th-century Reformation theology as evidenced in Swiss Reformed* theologian Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics was possible.

Although only 28 when he published this conclusion, it would be the first of many ecumenical and interfaith inquiries that solidified his own roots in a living faith in Christ, which he said lasted his entire career and helped him always to be open to other faiths. Indeed, Küng long held that steadfastness in one’s own faith and a capacity for dialogue with those of another belief are complementary virtues.

Four decades after writing Justification, Küng brought out volumes on Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Chinese religions. In the course of his research, he met frequently with religious leaders in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Of these meetings, he said he initially had more questions of faith (dogmatics) than of ethics (morality). But in the course of time, it dawned on him that despite dogmatic differences between the religions, there were already decisive common features in ethics that could be the foundation for a global ethic.

So, at the start of the 1990s, Küng was well-prepared to take on the task of preparing a Declaration Toward a Global Ethic for the Parliament of the World Religions that convened in Chicago in 1993. The most referenced part of the declaration was no peace among the nations without peace among the religions.

Not surprisingly, the child who discovered he could swim became the man who recognized the three great river systems of the high religions of China, India and the Semitic Near East, which he found in preparing a journey of many weeks to sub-Saharan Africa in 1986 and while working on a German television series in Australia in 1998.

None of this would have happened had he not had his teaching license withdrawn in 1979, he later admitted.

Nor would it have occurred had he not been ordained a Catholic priest. That event took place in 1954 in Rome. Küng celebrated his first Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and preached to the Swiss Guard, some of whom he knew well after seven years studying philosophy and theology in Latin at Rome’s Jesuit Gregorian University.

He completed a further three years of study in French for his doctorate at the Sorbonne and the Institut Catholique in Paris, where he wrote his Justification thesis.

Küng returned to Switzerland, serving two years as an assistant priest in Lucerne. Barth invited him to lecture in Basel on the theme: The church always in need of reform. Some in the audience found his enthusiasm for renewal over-optimistic. However, on Jan. 25, 1959 — the week following his talk — Pope John XXIII called for a Second Vatican Council. And Küng in preparing his reform lecture of Jan. 19 had already amassed extensive notes for a volume on just such a venture.

That book, The Council, Reform and Reunion, became programmatic to a number of Vatican II documents, including those on scriptural study, worship, liturgy in the vernacular, on dialogue with other cultures and faiths, on reform of the papacy, religious liberty and on the abolition of the Index of Prohibited Books.

Vatican watcher and former NCR Rome correspondent Peter Hebblethwaite ventured that no theologian would ever again exert as much influence on the agenda of a council as Küng had. Not only was The Council, Reform and Reunion a best-seller in Germany, Holland, France and the English-speaking world, it bore the approval of Vienna’s Cardinal Franz König, who dictated its imprimatur to Küng from his hospital bed after sustaining grave injuries in a road accident.

Council adviser

Shortly after the book’s release, Küng’s bishop, Carl Joseph Leiprecht of Rottenburg, Germany, invited him to be his personal peritus, or expert, at the upcoming council. Küng was hardly keen about a return to Rome. But a number of colleagues persuaded him that the council promised to be the church event of the century and Küng dare not miss it.

“How am I to suspect that this yes will determine my fate for almost a decade and beyond?” he noted in his memoir.

At 34, Küng was the youngest expert at the council, soon joined by Dominicans Edward Schillebeeckx of Belgium and Yves Congar of France; German priests Ratzinger and Karl Rahner, plus U.S. clerics John Courtney Murray, George Higgins, John Quinn, Gustave Weigel and Vincent Yzermans.

A younger Fr. Hans Küng is seen in an undated photo. (Newscom/Album/sfgp)

A younger Fr. Hans Küng is seen in an undated photo. (Newscom/Album/sfgp)

Not only did progressive bishops seek out Küng’s acumen and writing skills, but his fluency in French, Italian, Dutch, German, English and Latin made him the go-to guy in dealing with the press. He was quick to publish his views on council texts and backroom maneuvering in leading papers and was a frequent television guest, remembered as much for his good looks and business suits as for his expertise.

During the council’s third session in October 1964 — by which time Pope Paul VI had replaced the late John XXIII — it looked as if the new pontiff was about to postpone a vote on key declarations on religious liberty and on the Jews by first returning them for further checking to the highly conservative Curia.

Working behind the scenes but at the behest of powerful progressive churchmen, Küng helped convene meetings with 13 cardinals who quickly drafted a protest letter to the pope. Before the ink had dried, Küng breached the secrecy imposed on periti and put the public in the picture. He telephoned reporters at top European newspapers and briefed them “on the scandalous machinations” against the two declarations.

When the bishops returned for their session on Monday morning, they were greeted by a storm in the international press. The uproar plus the personal intervention by cardinals with the pope meant that both schemata remained on the council agenda. The draft on the Jews passed 1,770 to 185 on Nov. 20, 1964.

A year later, the bishops voted in favor of the Declaration on Religious Liberty 2,308 to 70.

On Dec. 2, 1965, Paul VI invited Küng to a private audience. It lasted 45 minutes — more than twice as long as predicted. Küng recalled the pontiff’s telling him that having looked over everything Küng had written, the pope would have preferred that he wrote “nothing.” This was after the pontiff had lauded him for “his great gifts” and suggested Küng use his talents at the service of the church.

Conform

Confused but still smiling, the theologian assured his supreme boss, “I’m already at the service of the church.”

To this, the pope implied Küng must “conform” if he really intended to serve the church. Before leaving the papal library, Küng managed to steer the conversation to the disputed issue of contraception, offering the pope a memorandum with a dozen points for him to hand on to his papal commission studying the birth control issue.

‘My theology obviously isn’t for the pope [I will do theology] for my fellow human beings … for those people who may need my theology.’

 —Hans Küng

He later recalled that the audience with Paul VI confronted him vividly with the question: For whom was he doing theology? Already in late 1965, Küng understood: “My theology obviously isn’t for the pope (and his followers), who clearly doesn’t want my theology as it is.”

On that very day Küng resolved he would do theology “for my fellow human beings … for those people who may need my theology.”

Over the years following the council, Küng would point out frequently the hundreds of letters he received and the comments from crowds of supporters who attended his lectures in Germany and abroad testifying that they remained in the church because of his vision, his theology and writings.

His spring 1963 lectures in the United States, following the first session of Vatican II, drew more than 25,000 people to Notre Dame, Boston College and Georgetown University and to venues in California, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. At St. Louis University, he received the first of many honorary degrees, but the Jesuit school was chastised for not first seeking Rome’s permission to honor Küng.

On April 30, 1963, President John Kennedy welcomed Küng to the White House, introducing him to Vice President Lyndon Johnson and congressional leaders with the words: “And this is what I would call a new frontier man of the Catholic Church.”

In November 1983, on the 20th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, Küng shared with this reporter how privileged he had felt to live during “the reign of the two Johns.”

Noting that John XXIII’s death had come only five months ahead of Kennedy’s, Küng recalled that each man’s time in office was cut short. Yet each had a brief window of opportunity that they seized — the pope in calling the council, the president in working on arms control with the Soviets, Küng said while relaxing in his hotel room in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was teaching the autumn semester at the University of Michigan.

On visits to his home in Tübingen in 1977 and 1985 and during subsequent meetings in Berkeley, California; New York; Ann Arbor; Detroit; Chicago; Pittsburgh; and Mahwah, New Jersey, this reporter held wide-ranging conversations with Küng about his faith, his family, the role of God, prayer and liturgy in his life.

‘I have a real aversion to bad liturgy. I think it is essential that people feel immediately that the man presiding believes what he says, is committed to this cause, is addressing them and not just performing prayers.’

—Hans Küng

Those privileged to see Küng say Mass — as this reporter was in Greenwich Village where he preached on the Sonship of God in the late 1980s — saw a man of deep faith who gave as much attention to the words and symbols of the liturgy as he did to composing his books and lectures.

For years, he had presided at the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Johannes Kirche (St. John’s Church) in the center of the Tübingen campus. Küng had proposed the Mass for professors.

“I have a real aversion to bad liturgy,” he said. “I think it is essential that people feel immediately that the man presiding believes what he says, is committed to this cause, is addressing them and not just performing prayers. The nicest liturgical words and the highest praise of Christ — unless backed by Scripture and understood by the people — are just not useful,” he said in Tübingen.

Years later in a final seminar on “Eternal Life” delivered to 20 students and 20 auditing professors at the University of Michigan, Küng focused on the Last Supper.

“We see a man facing his death. It’s very simple. It’s a ceremony in a traditional Jewish context. He takes bread, gives his blessing, breaks it, passes it out,” Küng said, extending his arms to those close to him. “He knows it’s his last time with them. He says: ‘Take. My body. Remember me. This night.’ “

Students exchanged glances. Person to person. Catholics and Hindus. Moist eyes and silence. A sense of communion filled the seminar room.

“There are depths of piety in this man that we’ve not yet begun to fathom,” biblical scholar David Noel Freedman told NCR after the seminar. Freedman credited Küng’s strong faith to his very traditional Swiss Catholic upbringing, his strong mother, and his father who ran a shoe store in the middle of Sursee — “and those five sisters of his.”

Patricia Lefevere

Patricia Lefevere, a longtime NCR contributor, interviewed Hans Küng many times.

_____________________________________________________________________

Fr. Hans Kung shared experience with Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (future Pope Benedict XVI) as ‘periti’ (monitors) at the Second Vatican Council called by Pope John XXIII in the early 1960s. Wikipedia has this further entry about their association in the world of Roman Catholic Theology:

“Hans Küng was a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian, and author. .. At Küng’s instigation, the Catholic faculty at Tübingen appointed Ratzinger as professor of dogmatic theology….”

Whereas Ratzinger became gradually more conservative after their joint experience of Vatican II, Hans Kung went on to question those who, in the Vatican, were gradually reverting to a theological stance more diffident about implementing the progressive Reforms of the Council. Although their theological views were sometimes widely different, these two ‘Doctors of The Church’ were both respected as ‘stand-alone’ promoters of their particular views of the Church and its mission in the modern world.

From his battles with the hierarchy of the Church, his ecumenism and his writings, it is obvious that Hans Kung would have been a more fervent follower of the initiatives of Pope Francis – than those of Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.

May Father Hans Kung +Rest in Peace and Rise with Christ in glory!+ Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealan

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Religious Right causes Free-Fall in Church Membership in the U.S.

Church membership is in a free fall — and the Christian right has only themselves to blame

Amanda Marcotte, Salon – April 02, 2021 – NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER

Church membership is in a free fall -- and the Christian right has only themselves to blame

www.rawstory.com

The trend of Americans exiting the pews, never to return, has been steady for some years now and shows no signs of slowing down. According to a new Gallup poll released this week, only 47% of Americans polled in 2020 belong to a house of worship, which is the first time that number has fallen below half of the country since they started polling Americans on this question.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

But what’s really interesting is that the collapse in church membership has happened mostly over the past two decades. Since Gallup started recording these numbers decades ago, church membership rates were relatively steady, with only the smallest decline over the decades. In 1937, 73% of Americans belong to a church. In 1975, it was 71%. In 1999, it was 70%. But since then, the church membership rate has fallen by a whopping 23 percentage points

It is not, however, because of some great atheist revival across the land, with Americans suddenly burying themselves in the philosophical discourse about the unlikeliness of the existence of a higher power. The percentage of Americans who identify as atheist (4%) or agnostic (5%) has risen slightly, but not even close to enough to account for the number of people who claim no religious affiliation. A 2017 Gallup poll finds that 87% of Americans say they believe in God. So clearly, what we’re seeing is a dramatic increase in the kinds of folks who would say something akin to, “I’m spiritual, but not big on organized religion.

Blame the religious right. Until recently, the U.S. was largely unaffected by the increasing secularization of many European countries, but that started to change dramatically at the turn of the 21st century. And it’s no mystery why. The drop in religious affiliation starts right around the time George W. Bush was elected president, publicly and dramatically associating himself with the white evangelical movement. The early Aughts saw the rise of megachurches with flashily dressed ministers who appeared more interested in money and sermonizing about people’s sex lives than modeling values of charity and humility

Not only were these religious figures and the institutions they led hyper-political, the outward mission seemed to be almost exclusively in service of oppressing others. The religious right isn’t nearly as interested in feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless as much as using religion as an all-purpose excuse to abuse women and LGBTQ people. In an age of growing wealth inequalities, with more and more Americans living hand-to-mouth, many visible religious authorities were using their power to support politicians and laws to take health care access from women and fight against marriage between same-sex couples. And then Donald Trump happened.

Trump was a thrice-married chronic adulterer who routinely exposed how ignorant he was of religion, and who reportedly — and let’s face it, obviously — made fun of religious leaders behind their backs. But religious right leaders didn’t care. They continually pumped Trump up like he was the second coming, showily praying over him and extorting their followers to have faith in a man who literally could not have better conformed to the prophecies of the Antichrist. It was comically over the top, how extensively Christian right leaders exposed themselves as motivated by power, not faith. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Gallup’s numbers show numbers of religiously affiliated Americans taking a nosedive during the Trump years, dropping from 55% of Americans belonging to a church to 47%.

To be clear, the drop-off in religious affiliation is, researchers have shown, likely less about people actively quitting churches, and more about churches being unable to recruit younger followers to replace the ones who die. As Pew Research Center tweeted in 2019, “Today, there is a wide gap between older Americans (Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation) and Millennials in their levels of religious affiliation

All of which makes sense. It’s rare that people abandon an ideology or faith that they’e had for a long time. Once an adult actively chooses to belong to a church, it’s hard to admit that you were wrong and now want to abandon the whole project. But young adults, even those who went to church with their parents, do have to make an active choice to join a church as adults. And many are going to look at hypocritical, power-hungry ministers praying over an obvious grifter like Trump and be too turned off to even consider getting involved.

In 2017, Robert P. Jones, the head of the Public Religion Research Institute and author of “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,” spoke with Salon about how the decline in religion is concentrated largely among young people. There’s “a culture clash between particularly conservative white churches and denominations and younger Americans,” he explained, noting that young people were particularly critical of anti-science and homophobic rhetoric from religious leaders

“[C]onservative white Christians have lost this argument with a broader liberal culture,” he explained, including “their own kids and grandchildren.”

It’s a story with a moral so blunt that it could very well be a biblical fable: Christian leaders, driven by their hunger for power and cultural dominance, become so grasping and hypocritical that it backfires and they lose their cultural relevance. Not that there’s any cause to pity them, since they did this to themselves. The growing skepticism of organized religion in the U.S. is a trend to celebrate. While more needs to be done to replace the sense of community that churches can often give people, it’s undeniable that this decline is tied up with objectively good trends: increasing liberalism, hostility to bigotry, and support for science in the U.S. Americans are becoming better people, however slowly, and the decline in organized religious affiliation appears to be a big part of that.

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This trend – of fewer Christians in Church – is a sad commentary of the American culture of Christian church-going. In a country once remarkable for its adherence to Christian ethics and Church attendance, the U.S.A. has suffered more under the presidency of Donald Trump than at any other time in the history of religious statistical records.

Encouraged by the ex-President of the United States, Donald Trump; many of the country’s fundamentalist Christian Leaders flourished in their desire to shore up fundamentalist beliefs that have been challenged by both scientific and social research that has moved beyond the out-dated understandings of the 19th century.

One instance of change in social and theological understanding of human nature, for instance, has been that of new learnings about the aetiology of human gender and sexuality – matters which the modern world has come to terms with, but which some fundamentalist Christian organisations are unwilling to acknowledge and deal with. Such resistance to change, paradoxically in the U.S., has been evidenced in President Trump’s siding with publicity-hungry Pentecostal pastors, whose attitude towards LGBTQ+ people and Women’s Rights are out if kilter with the modern understanding of these important issues in a modern world society. This is a President whose own dismissive attitude towards women has been well-documented, yet, stunningly, this does not seem to deter his religious Right-Wing ‘Christian’ backers.

Young people, who are discovering for themselves the real ‘facts of life’ on gender, sexuality, equality and other social justice issues, are just not interested in investing their personal integrity in any religious system which denies the realities they themselves are encountering in their own lives; so that those who want to embrace integrity and justice are no longer attracted to a religious code that takes no account of their understanding of what it means to be a citizen of the world as they have come to know and embrace it.

When even the Pope in Rome acknowledges that things have changed in the Church’s understanding of gender and sexuality (and the place of women in a formerly male-dominated patriarchal Church and society); then it is time for other Christian Churches to open up to new possibilities of recognising the hand of God acting in creation in ways different from the outdated understanding of our predecessors. (Is this a new ‘Galileo Moment’ in the Church?)

At this Season of the Easter proclamation, of the Christ who brought a new understanding of the Ways of God to the people of his own day – but was rejected by the religious authorities and put to death for his pains – the Church of today needs to repent of its deadly resistance to change in its attitude towards the facts of human evolution. so that today’s youth might recognize what it might mean to be called into the ‘Body of Christ’, a vital, living organism which transmits the ongoing power of love and justice of a Creator God, who made all humanity in God’s own Image and Likeness.

“Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore, let us keep the Feast – not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Christ is Risen, Alleluia! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Pope appoints child-abuse survivor to Vatican panel

pope appoints abuse survivor

Monday, March 29th, 2021

  • Pope Francis has appointed a prominent Chilean survivor of clerical sex abuse to a Vatican commission that focuses on education to prevent abuse in the Catholic Church.
  • Juan Carlos Cruz, an international advocate for abuse victims, has been appointed to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The 59-year-old Cruz was abused as a teenager in his native Chile by a notorious paedophile, Father Fernando Karadima.

Karadima was convicted in 2011 by a Vatican court of committing pedophile acts in the 1980s and 1990s. He was also dismissed from the clerical state and sentenced to lead a life of penance.

During the pope’s trip to Chile in 2018, Cruz criticised Francis for defending a bishop whom Cruz and other victims accused of having witnessed Karadima abuse them and of covering up for him.

Days after returning to Rome, Francis, citing new information, ordered an investigation of the Church in Chile. It produced a 2,300-page report accusing Chile’s bishops of “grave negligence” in investigating the allegations. The report also said evidence of sex crimes had been destroyed.

Francis later that year received Cruz and other victims of Karadima in the Vatican and demanded the resignation of all of Chile’s bishops.

“When the pope asked me for forgiveness, I have never seen someone so contrite. I felt he was in pain,” Cruz said of his private meeting with Francis.

By this time, the pope was aware Cruz was openly gay and living with his partner in the United States.

“God loves you just as you are,” Francis told him.

Cruz has spent years fighting clergy sex abuse and the Church’s code of silence. He expressed “his gratitude” to the pope for the new appointment.

“I am very grateful to Pope Francis for trusting me with this appointment. This renews my commitment to continue working to end the scourge of abuse and for so many survivors who still do not have justice,” Cruz said on Twitter.

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On last night’s TV1 programme on New Zealand television we were treated to a two-hour documentary on the papacy of Pope Francis.

Since the recent statement from the Vatican Curia – that the Catholic Church could not bless Same-Sex Unions – as being contrary to official Catholic doctrine – there has been speculation about the seeming contradiction between the action of Pope Francis in adding his signature to this document, and his obvious acceptance of Same-Sex relationships in public.

In last night’s documentary, viewers were able to see a meeting between Pope Francis and the new appointee to a special Commission on child abuse, Juan Carlos Cruz (himself a survivor of clerical abuse as a child in Chile). During the meeting, when Juan Carlos told Pope Francis of his status as a gay person in a relationship, Pope Francis was heard to say that he should not feel guilty, because this was how he was made by God!.

Relating the outcome of this interview, where the Pope assured Juan Carlos that his gay status was a ‘creation of God’, this must surely be interpreted as a situation where his relationship was not a matter for criticism by the Church – whatever the recent statement by the Vatican Curia might have to say about the Blessing of Same Sex Unions.

Pope Francis also said recently – of the legal Civil Union of Same-Sex couples – that this was a situation that the Church could agree with.

NOW.. The FACT that a S/S partnered gay Catholic – Juan Carlos Cruz – has been admitted by the Pope to a position of some responsibility on an official Vatican Commission on child-abuse within the Catholic Church; the Vatican Curia may be confronted with the possibility that their recent statement about the Blessing of S/S Unions could be overturned by papal fiat.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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R.C. Cardinal affirms God’s Blessing for S/S Couples

Austria’s Cardinal Schönborn: God will not deny same-sex couples a blessing

Mar 25, 2021by Joshua J. McElwee – Vatican – NCR

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of ViennaCardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, pictured in a 2013 file photo (CNS/Paul Haring)

ROME — Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has expressed unhappiness with the Vatican’s recent decree banning Catholic priests from blessing same-sex couples, in what appears to be the first example of a cardinal openly disagreeing with the measure.

Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna and a theologian who has been praised often by Pope Francis, said in an interview published March 24 that he believes gay couples who ask God for a blessing “will not be denied.”

“The question of whether same-sex couples can be blessed belongs to the same category as the question of whether this is possible for remarried persons or unions contracted without a marriage license,” the cardinal told ‘Der Sonntag,’ a weekly magazine of the Vienna Archdiocese.

“If the request for a blessing is not a show, so not just a kind of a superficial rite, if the request for the blessing is honest, if it is truly the request for God’s blessing for the life path that these two people, in whatever condition they find themselves in, are trying to make, then this blessing will not be denied them,” said Schönborn, according to an Italian translation by the Swiss Catholic portal catt.ch.

The March 15 decree from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was approved by Francis, banned priests from blessing same-sex unions on the grounds that God “does not and cannot bless sin.”

The decree was criticized by gay Catholics and allies across the world. Many noted that it appeared contrary to the pope’s frequent promotion of a “culture of encounter” and his numerous meetings with gay individuals and couples throughout his papacy.

While a few bishops have criticized the measure, no cardinals had yet been known to do so. Some others, including Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Vatican official Cardinal Peter Turkson, had defended the move as necessary for the church to be clear in its teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Schönborn said the Vatican has a “legitimate concern” that blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples could “create the impression” that such couples are able to enter into sacramental marriages, like heterosexual couples, who are able to give birth to children.

“This ‘yes’ to the family must not be said as a ‘no’ to all other forms,” said the cardinal. “The church has become used to the fact — it was a long and painful process — that it is not the only voice that has something to say about relationships.”

Schönborn has been praised particularly by Francis in the past for the way the cardinal has explained and promoted the pope’s 2016 apostolic exhortation on family life, Amoris Laetitia.

The cardinal noted that the church is traditionally called Mater et Magistra, mother and teacher.

“She must teach, but before everything else she is a mother,” said Schönborn.

“Many homosexual people are particularly sensitive to this question: ‘Is the church a mother for us?’ ” said the cardinal. “They also want to see the church as a mother and that is why this declaration has struck many in a particularly painful way, because they have the feeling of being rejected by the church.”

Schönborn suggested that as a priest he would tell a same-sex couple seeking a blessing: “You have not fulfilled the whole ideal. But it is important that you live your journey on the basis of human virtues, without which no relationship can succeed.”

“This deserves a blessing,” said the cardinal. “If the right form of expression for this is a church blessing ceremony, we must think about that carefully.”Related: Memo to the Vatican: Same-sex couples find God’s love in marriage, too

Joshua J. McElwee

Joshua J. McElwee is NCR’s Vatican correspondent and international news editor

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Vienna’s Cardinal Schonborn has consistently accepted the modern understanding that Gay people are a legitimate part of the Church, deserving of respect and acceptance for who they are intrinsically. His discomfort with the latest Vatican memorandum,which still consider committed gay relationships to be ‘disordered’ and unworthy of the Church’s blessing is expressed in this article from America’s NationaL Catholic Reporter (NCR)

The Cardinal’s comment on the memorandum, which stresses the importance of heterosexual marriage and the life of families in the Church, shows his concern that gay relationships can be a blessing in themselves – despite their departure from the Catholic institutional norm:

“This ‘yes’ to the family must not be said as a ‘no’ to all other forms,” said the cardinal. “The church has become used to the fact — it was a long and painful process — that it is not the only voice that has something to say about relationships.”

As the first published affirmation of ordered Same-Sex Relationships by a Roman Cardinal, this statement by Cardinal Shonborn demands attention from his fellow cardinals at the Vatican. The German/Austrian Church has long been more modern in its outlook on homosexuality, to the point where certain bishops have openly supported committed gay relationships, believing them to be part of the created order, and not morally or spirtually disordered.

How the Vatican and indeed, Pope Francis himself, will respond to Cardinal Schonborn’s expressed opposition to the Vatican memorandum is yet to be seen. However, some Catholic theologians have expressed the opinion that Pope Francis is already distancing himself from the fallout, through words he spoke in the course of one of his Lenten discourses in Rome, intimating that the Church’s response to all pastoral situations must be that of Godly Love.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand.

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A ‘Note to The Vatican’ on Same-Sex Marriage

Memo to the Vatican: Same-sex couples find God’s love in marriage, too

Mar 25, 2021by Madeleine Davison-People-Vatican – (NCR)

Two men walk holding hands on their wedding day in November 2020. (Juan Arango)Sebastián Pascuas, left, and Santiago Botero walk holding hands on their wedding day in November 2020. Botero and Pascuas, who regularly attend daily Mass together, said having a Catholic priest at their wedding in November 2020 was very meaningful — both to bless their union and to consecrate the Eucharist so that they could share Communion together as newlyweds with their loved ones. (Juan Arango)

On a warm October day in 1998, Dan McNeil and Patrick Canavan walked down the aisle with their families at a church in Washington, D.C., singing “Lover of Us All.”

In the eyes of God and their loved ones, they committed their lives to one another and promised to “make our home a place of love and welcome,” Canavan said.

For McNeil and Canavan, both deeply faithful men who had met at a retreat for gay and lesbian Catholics, being married in a Catholic rite was vital.

A friend of theirs — a Catholic priest affiliated with the Washington chapter of Dignity, a Catholic LGBTQ advocacy organization — officiated and blessed their union in an Episcopal church.

Having the priest there to recognize the sacramentality of their marriage was important, McNeil said. But marriage is the one sacrament conferred by the two people “standing before God” with the priest as a witness, he said.

“A friend of mine today said, ‘Don’t forget that the Vatican doesn’t get to decide who God blesses,'” Canavan said. “And that’s true — God gets to decide. And we will take a chance on God.”*

Responding to a March 15 Vatican decree banning priests from blessing gay unions on the premise that God “cannot bless sin,” McNeil, Canavan and other LGBTQ Catholic couples and advocates told NCR the Vatican is out of touch with the reality that LGBTQ Catholics find and mirror God’s love in their relationships.

“[The Vatican decree] is insulting,” McNeil said. “If there’s ever a place where I experience God, it’s in the midst of our commitment to each other, our care for each other, our relationship.”

Jesuit Fr. Jim McDermott, who is gay, said it’s not uncommon for priests to be asked to bless the weddings of LGBTQ couples. He said being invited as a guest to his LGBTQ friends’ weddings has been an honor for him.

“When I’ve been asked to attend a wedding of two men or two women, I’ve always been very happy to be able to be invited to those experiences and very proud of those people for the commitment of their lives they’ve made,” McDermott said. “The people that I know that are queer and married are incredibly inspiring people who have helped me on my journey as a priest and as a gay man.”

Santiago Botero, who lives in Colombia, said meeting his now-husband Sebastián Pascuas was the answer to his prayers for a stable partner who shared his love for Jesus after a difficult journey of accepting his identity.

Botero and Pascuas, who regularly attend daily Mass together, said having a Catholic priest at their wedding in November 2020 was very meaningful — both to bless their union and to consecrate the Eucharist so that they could share Communion together as newlyweds with their loved ones.

“For us as Catholics, we know that Christ is there [in the Eucharist], so for us … it was important to have a priest celebrate the Eucharist,” Pascuas said in an interview in Spanish.

Pascuas and Botero said their small, outdoor wedding was planned during a time of year when it often rains in Colombia. In the days leading up to the wedding, they prayed for the rain to stop.

“It was miraculous, because every day it rained — every day it rained — and that Sunday, it didn’t rain. … The sky was gorgeous,” Pascuas said. “With God’s help, [our wedding] was a beautiful moment. In the end, we saw it as a promise between ourselves and God to love each other and be faithful to that love forever.”

Pascuas said he wasn’t surprised about the Vatican’s announcement on blessings for gay unions. The church won’t change overnight, he said. But there are lots of LGBTQ Catholic couples who long to have the church recognize and honor their relationships, he said.

“It’s sad because now we can see that the church hasn’t given itself a chance to get to know these people, these couples,” Pascuas said. “To see that they are forming homes, that they are striving, that they also fall but they get up and keep trying to persevere in their faith. … The church hasn’t taken the opportunity to go to their homes and bear witness to their love.”

Yunuen Trujillo, an immigration attorney and lay leader in LGBTQ ministry who runs the Instagram page @LGBTCatholics, said the Vatican statement — particularly the line that says God “cannot bless sin” — felt very out of touch with the experiences of actual LGBTQ Catholics.

Trujillo, who is queer, isn’t married but said she believes her vocation is to be in a committed relationship one day.

“We allow for blessings of inanimate objects,” she said. “To know that an inanimate object could be perceived as having more value than a committed loving relationship between two adults. … It just sounds really wrong to me.”

Botero said the Vatican statement confused him because he sees Pope Francis as someone who wants to “embrace everyone.”

Two men look at the camera holding hands at a table with a wedding cakeDan McNeil, left, and Patrick Canavan hold hands and prepare to cut their wedding cake at the reception following their holy union ceremony in October 1998. They were legally wed at San Francisco City Hall in August 2008. (Courtesy of Patrick Canavan and Dan McNeil)

Rev. Kori Pacyniak, a pastor at Mary Magdalene Catholic Community, an independent parish in San Diego, said the news about the Vatican statement was “disappointing to hear.” Over the past few years, Francis’ efforts to reach out have raised LGBTQ people’s hopes about greater inclusion in the church, they said, at the same time that the church retains language that says queer relationships are “intrinsically disordered.”

“I think for many people, this kind of a statement, couching the language that casts same gender relationships as sin, that the church does not have the authority to bless sin, is pretty much a slap in the face,” Pacyniak said.

McDermott said he found the statement “painful and confusing” and said he believes the church’s stance is not in line with the lived experiences of LGBTQ Catholics.

“If gay marriage is impossible, how do we understand the example of queer couples who are living good lives?” McDermott said. “How do we understand queer people who stay in the church and are models of faithfulness?”

He said it was significant that the statement said the church could bless LGBTQ individuals, but that this is “cold comfort” for queer Catholics considering the message’s statement that “God does not bless sin.”

Trujillo said among the LGBTQ people she knows, she’s seen three main responses to the Vatican statement. Some people, she said, already have a strained relationship with the church because they’ve felt rejected for so long. This statement is only driving them further away, she said.

Gay Catholic couples want to be holy just like everyone else, Botero said, but so many have left the church because they feel rejected.

“Their reaction is, ‘Oh, what else could I expect,’ ” Trujillo said.

Older gay Catholics who have persevered in the faith for decades despite discrimination and rejection tend to express feeling exhausted and disheartened that this statement is “more of the same,” she said. And many younger Catholics simply don’t listen to the Vatican, she said.

“What matters to them is Jesus, and Jesus’ love,” Trujillo said. “And [the Vatican] is not really relevant. Either they distance themselves from the church or they ignore what the church says.”

McDermott said when the Catholic Church makes homophobic statements, it can challenge people’s faith and legitimize prejudice, workplace discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ people, making their lives more difficult and even dangerous.

“When an official religious or spiritual organization, an organization that wants to be the voice and the hands of God, says things like this, it has serious, ongoing implications for people’s lives beyond their ability to get married,” he said.

*This article has been updated to clarify an attributionA version of this story appeared in the April 2-15, 2021 print issue under the headline: Memo to the Vatican: Same-sex couples find God’s love in marriage, too .

Madeleine Davison

Madeleine Davison is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is mdavison@ncronline.org

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In the wake of the recent Vatican Statement which denies the moral validiy of Blessing Same-Sex Relationships; here is evidence of protest, from some in the U.S. Catholic Church who disagree with the propriety of this assertion. (article from National Catholic Reporter – NCR)

After Pope Francis’ earlier statement of support for Same-Sex Civil Unions, the message from the Vatican hierarchy (not a Papal Edict) outlining this newest rejection of the moral probity of Same-Sex committed relationships of people in the Church who would like the Church to recognise their monogamous status; seems something of a set-back for those who looked forward to a relaxation of official Church doctrine on their loving, legal commitment.

Pope Francis, however, is seen, by some, to be distancing himself from the disciplinary aspects of the Church’s treatment of such Same-Sex committed relationships – in a homily given by him during the course of a Lenten Sermon, in which he stressed Church’s need for compassion, rather then overt moralisation on matters of human relationships and their context.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Feast of the Annunciation to Mary – a reflection

Food for Faith, by Fr John O’Connor

FAMOUS PAINTINGS: ANNUNCIATION, MARY, THE ANGEL GABRIEL

Breaking & entering -Mar 25, 2021

It’s the feast of the Annunciation today – the turning point of all human history. Take a few moments to relax as you are driving to work or sitting in a dull lecture to listen to this 8-minute reflection.

That might seem a strange title for a reflection for the feast of the Annunciation, breaking and entering, but I think it’s apt. Here’s why.

A couple of thousand years ago, a young Jewish woman was going about her normal morning routines, perhaps with a mixture of house and garden work, chatting with parents and neighbours, aware of the local drought, the sickness of a neighbour and annoyed by the neighbourhood’s lack of sleep caused by the Romans’ noisy party the night before, when God broke into her routine and entered her life in a new and powerful way.

Mary heard the greeting: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”

I’m happy that Mary’s immediate response was to be troubled. If an angel broke in on my morning routine I would be a bit shaken too. In that moment Mary would not really have understood what was happening: is that a knock at the door, a burglar at the window or a drunk Roman on his way home from the party?

That’s why the messenger reacted immediately with “Do not be afraid Mary,” and Mary would have immediately realised that she had no reason to fear because she had already found favour with God and was already living with a desire to know what God was wanting of her and for her.

So if you sense God might be trying to break into your life today, hear this message: Do not be afraid.  Note this is also the message directly from Jesus to Mary Magdalen the morning of the resurrection.

It is important to note that Mary did not need to discern whether or not she would do the will of God once she knew what it was. However she did need to stutter a question or two in order to decide if it really was God who was speaking to her. Once she understood that it was God who was asking, then there was only one response and that was ‘Yes. Let it be done to me.’

There is a great novel: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Even without the context of the book this single quotation makes complete sense and is a bit of a wake-up call:

“Faced with the Divine, people took refuge in the banal, as though answering a cosmic multiple-choice question: If you saw a burning bush, would you (a) call 911, (b) get the hot dogs, or (c) recognise God? A vanishingly small number of people would recognise God…” 

Because Mary already sought to live with openness to God’s call to her, she was able, at least after the original shock of finding an angel in her kitchen, to recognise God.

But as Russell suggests we struggle to recognise God.

Perhaps because we like to keep God under our control we might prefer a society that is secular and post-Christian where it’s easy to ignore the presence of God. We are as slow to name God as God as we are to name good as good. We are as hesitant to name the devil the devil as we are to name evil as evil. The consequence is that everything becomes whatever we want it to be, depending on the context. What is in fact objectively good might commonly be considered to be bad, and what is in reality an evil can be named helpful depending on the rudder-less subjective views of the majority.

You might have noticed that there is only a one letter difference between the name God and the word good, and the name devil and the word evil. But there is a world of difference between good and evil and an eternal chasm between God and the Devil.

It is not enough to satisfy ourselves with lists of what is good and what is evil. This might be understandable and acceptable in one who like the foreigner arriving in a new city consults the road map for every direction at every turn. But if after a few months we are still totally dependant on the map, our journeys will be exhausting and we will miss the beauty of the conversation and company in the car and the glory of the scenery that surrounds us.

With her encounter with the angel, Mary’s life became an adult adventure of mature faith.

To conclude this reflection let’s skip to the end of this gospel passage. The angel tells Mary that her elderly cousin Elizabeth is also expecting a child. Then there is the wonderful punch-line for the passage: “for Nothing is impossible for God.”

An Invitation:

  • Take a few moments to ask Jesus directly how he is trying to break into your life today. Don’t think too hard about this – you will pretty quickly get a sense of his answer and his response may surprise you.
  • Take as your mantra for the day “Nothing is impossible for God.” Whenever you think of a situation that is difficult, a person who is struggling, or when your own anxiety threatens to overpower you, simply repeat several times slowly and gently: “Nothing is impossible for God.”

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Father John O’Connor is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Christchurch. His timely reflection here on the subject of ‘God Breaking Through’ into the creation at the Angel’s Annunciation to Mary – that she was to become the Mother of God’s Son – reminds us of this life-changing experience, for her and, ultimately, for the rest of humanity.

Mary’s hesitation, before her fuller understanding and acceptance of this amazing calling, speaks of her relative innocence of what her willing “YES!’ to God’s call upon her life (and that of her bespoke husband-to-be) was, in those special circumstances, is entirely understandable to us.

Mary, not yet married to her fiancee, Joseph, would have to tell him of her pregnancy – which was not of his instigation – so that he (in the words of the KJV Bible) was ‘minded to put her away privily”, in order to reduce the possibility of gossip about a situation that must have caused him great personal anguish! However, as recorded in the Scriptures, Joseph was, himself, to receive an angelic visit overnight, when the angel told him not to worry, because this conception was by the power of God’s Spirit, and that when the child was born, Joseph was to name him ‘Jesus’ a word which meant ‘Redeemer’ – a word for the Messiah who was expected to come. I love the words in the KJV which records Joseph’s response: “So he got up and married her!”

What needs to be taken in here is the fact of the willing obedience of both Mary and Joseph to act upon this amazing call upon their lives; Mary to become the means of bringing Jesus, Son of God, into the world as a fully human being and; Joseph, by his acceptance of Mary’s pregnancy as an act of God, requiring of him his willingness to become the protector of both Mary and Jesus. The secrecy of Jesus’ conception, birth and early life was one to which only they, and their nearest associates were given. The first, the old priest Simeon in the Temple (and the old woman who gave thanks in the Temple, at Jesus’ naming; and then Mary’s cousin: Elizabeth who, herself in old age was pregnant with John the Baptist, the prophet of Jesus. These ‘Little Ones’ – God’s Anawim – were themselves ‘looking forward to the coming’ of the promised Messiah, and were able to bring reassurance and comfort to both Mary and Joseph in their appointed task.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us snners now and in the hours of our death. Amen”.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New aland

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