Monday, 15 March 2010

In Memoriam: Fr Robert Carter, Priest and Gay Activist

“Since Jesus had table fellowship with social outcasts and sinners, those rejected by the religious establishment of his time, I consider myself to have been most fully a Jesuit, a ‘companion of Jesus,’ when I came out publicly as a gay man, one of the social rejects of my time. It was only by our coming out that society’s negative stereotypes would be overcome and we would gain social acceptance.”
-Fr Robert Carter
There is no contradiction between being Catholic and gay or lesbian. Indeed, just as Robert Carter says he was most fully a Jesuit when he cane out publicly, so for many of us, we are most fully Catholic when we too come out in Church.  (I say deliberately "for many of us", as coming out is always a deeply personal decision, which may not always be feasible for all.)

Robert Carter, Priest and Gay Activist, Dies at 82

The Rev. Robert Carter, who in the early 1970s was one of the first Roman Catholic priests in the country to declare publicly that he was gay and who helped found the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, died on Feb. 22 in the Bronx. He was 82.

Robert Carter, right, with Dan McCarthy, left, Bernard Lynch and John McNeill at a gay pride march in the early 1980s

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Gay Marriage, in Church: Denmark Next?

Last year, Sweden approved full marriage equality, including church weddings if desired, for gay and lesbian couples. Up to now, this has been the only country where it has been possible for same sex couples to have a full religious wedding in a major denomination, and have it recognized by the state. (The other countries which recognize gay marriage, do so only for civil marriages.) However, support for full religious marriage has been building steadily, among voters and in some of the churches themselves. It now seems likely that Denmark will soon follow Sweden's example. This is not surprising - they have similar religious traditions, and similar social outlooks. Denmark was the first country in the world to approve civil unions, but has been slow to convert to full marriage. However, 1997 the bishops approved church "blessings" of civil unions, as long as the words "husband" and "wife" were omitted, so there's not a long way to go.

Now the government is considering a proposal to go the whole way, and allow full religious weddings. With almost two thirds of voters expressing support for the measure, and six out of ten bishops also ready to agree, it looks like an open goal just waiting for the final push.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Dutch Gay Catholics: "Welcome", After All

Now, why couldn' t the Church have adopted this approach in the first place? An agreement following discussions between gay activists and church authorities puts the decision on whether to accept communion firmly in the hands of the individuals concerned, as long as they first confess "serious sin".
This decision is in clearer accordance with orthodox teaching (overall) than the previous knee jerk refusal. The Church recognises the primacy of conscience, and the obligation to follow conscience over other authority where they are in conflict. (I fully accept the standard proviso that the conscience must be an informed one). Only the individual can identify the conclusions of that conscience. The need to confess serous sin is an important qualification, but it is the responsibility of the individual to conclude, in the light of conscience, whether sin is in fact present. In adopting this approach, the Church is simply applying the best of Catholic teaching on conscience, and doing so in a manner which parallels the established guidelines on contraception.
Pray now that the authorities stick to their guns in the face of the probable howls of outrage from those who would prefer to keep the double standard.

From Dutch News:

Wednesday 03 March 2010

Gay Catholic activists and the church authorities in Den Bosch have reached a compromise deal over communion, the Volkskrant reports on Wednesday.
The deal means it will be up to gay Catholics themselves to decide whether or not they should accept communion, the Volkskrant says. 'Serious sins' should first be confessed, the agreement states.
Officially, the Catholic church regards homosexuality as a sin.
The compromise follows a row over the refusal of a local priest to give communion to the openly homosexual carnival prince - a traditional part of the pre-Lent festivities.

Last weekend
, a service at the St Jan church in Den Bosch was disrupted by activists and the communion celebration cancelled.

(It is worth noting that this landmark decision has come about after first angry protest, then discussion between the two sides. It's not always easy, or even possible, to talk to the church authorities about matters of orientation, but it is important to keep trying.)
See the earlier report on this:
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Monday, 1 March 2010

Dutch Gay Catholics: Excluded from God's People?

When I wrote about this incident in the Netherlands earlier in the week, it was just a quick and unconsidered relaying of some not very informative news reports. An important comment by Phillip Clarke showed me that there was a much more serious side to this than I had initially recognised. A report today from Ekklesia gives a better report on last Sundays proceedings, and also shows that the situation on the ground is escalating. The BBC has reported that hundreds of protesters disrupted Mass today.
To recap briefly:
Last week's events
In the city of Den Bosch, in the Catholic south of the country, an openly gay man was elected Carnival Prince- an office which usually results in the Carnival Prince leading the Communion service for the Mass which follows. The local priest stated in advance that he would not serve communion to an openly gay man. A number of gay supporters let it be known that they would be attending the Mass in sympathy and protest, whereupon the priest cancelled the entire Mass.