Friday, September 30, 2011

What is “Marriage Itself”?

By Paula Ruddy

The Minnesota Roman Catholic bishops are playing fast and loose with reason in their statement opposing Catholics for Marriage Equality MN. The bishops’ press release is quoted in the Catholic Spirit of September 29.

The bishops: Be afraid. Change makes the sky fall. If the State allows same-gender civil marriage, “marriage itself” will be undermined. The bishops lead with the fear card.

The person desperately seeking reason: What is “marriage itself”? Are the bishops telling me there is an essence labeled “marriage” existing somewhere and all actual marriages should be patterned on it? Or have they taken an idea of marriage from the many conceptions that humans have constructed over the centuries, called it “marriage itself” and attributed it to Jesus. Are they saying that if I want to be a member of the Catholic Church I must never question that construction or think about any other?

As a person living in the post-modern Western culture, I have learned to find the meaning of words like “marriage” in looking at actual marriages. If I try to construct an idea of what marriage is that way, I find there is no such thing as “marriage itself.” There are many kinds of marriages. There are different marriage laws the world over. There are actually gays and lesbians who are in permanent mutually caring relationships and caring for children just like heterosexuals. Wow, the bishops are sure confusing me.

If the bishops mean that “marriage itself” is the Church’s conception of sacramental marriage, why should it be undermined if the civil law of marriage changes? Hasn’t the Roman Catholic Church lived for many generations in the U.S. with the distinction between civil marriage, according to State law, and sacramental marriage, according to the law of the Church? If Catholics are well-taught by the bishops and value the Church’s conception of sacramental marriage, why would civil laws allowing same-gender marriage undermine their values?

But that is precisely the problem. Catholics are not listening to the Church’s teaching. The bishops see that U.S. Catholics increasingly value equality, freedom, and democracy in governance, which are not part of Roman Catholic culture. They see that Catholics have stopped valuing Church teaching on co-habitation, contraception, divorce, same-gender marriage, and even abortion, influenced by the thinking of mainstream civil society.

I do not doubt that the Minnesota bishops want a morally good and stable society in this state. But their strategy to accomplish it is misguided. Instead of trusting all people of the state, including Catholics, to want the same morally good and stable society they want, they say stuff like this:

It is the responsibility of the bishops in communion with the pope to uphold the truth as well as encourage and support all Catholics who are trying to live their baptismal promise of believing and trusting in our one, Catholic and apostolic faith. This is especially true in the area of marriage and sexuality, where the universal moral law and Gospel values are constantly under attack in American law and culture.

Good grief. Because they have failed in their responsibility to protect Catholics from the values of U.S. “law and culture,” the bishops now want the people of Minnesota to amend their state constitution to enforce the bishops’ views to help them keep the flock in check.

It would be so much more helpful if the Minnesota bishops first of all realized that truth is discovered by taking the life world seriously. The love of truth requires some humility and modesty. Can we alone have it? How do we arrive at it? The bishops would then speak to the people, inquiring of them what they experience and what they think, reasoning with them within the frame of reference of twenty-first century reflective adults. That is what Catholics for Marriage Equality MN is asking of them.

The Minnesota bishops could watch the video newly produced by Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, the trailer of which can be viewed here. On the video they will see adult, permanent gay and lesbian partners and parents of gays and lesbians talk about their experience of faith and their relationship to the Roman Catholic Church. They will hear about the harm the Church’s insistence on its position causes. Then they should respond feelingly and reasonably. And let the Holy Spirit do the work.

Related Off-site Links:
Local Catholics Premier Video Series on Faith, Family and MarriageThe Wild Reed (September 26, 2011).
Archdiocese Says Marriage Equality Group That "Seeks to Confuse Catholics" Must Be Avoided – Andy Birkey (Minnesota Independent, September 30, 2011).
New Video Adds to Gay Marriage Debate Among Catholics – Lauren Radomski (KSTP, September 29, 2011).

Image: Michael Bayly.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hans Küng on Church Reform: "The Base Must Gather Its Strength and Make Itself Heard"

On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Germany, renowned Catholic theologian Hans Küng (pictured at right) spoke with Der Spiegel about the increasing bureaucratic banality of the Catholic Church and the need for reform.

Following are excerpts from Der Spiegel's two-part conversation with Küng.


Der Spiegel: You and Benedict are traveling along two different paths. You want to reform the Church to keep it alive. The pope is trying to seal off the Church from the outside world and increasingly restrict it to a conservative core, which may possibly survive.

Küng: Indeed. In the past, the Roman system was compared with the communist system, one in which one person had all the say. Today I wonder if we are not perhaps in a phase of “Putinization” of the Catholic Church. Of course I don’t want to compare the Holy Father, as a person, with the unholy Russian statesman. But there are many structural and political similarities. Putin also inherited a legacy of democratic reforms. But he did everything he could to reverse them. In the Church, we had the Council, which initiated renewal and ecumenical understanding. Even pessimists couldn’t have imagined that such setbacks were possible after that. The Polish pope’s restoration policy, beginning in the 1980s, made it possible for the like-minded head of the highly secretive Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), once known as the Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition — and it’s still an inquisition, despite its new name — to be elected pope.

Der Spiegel: That’s an audacious comparison.

Küng: It shouldn’t, of course, be overstretched. But unfortunately, even as we acknowledge the positive things, the negative developments that are taking place cannot be overlooked. Practically speaking, both Ratzinger and Putin placed their former associates in key positions and sidelined those they didn’t like. One could also draw other parallels: the disempowerment of the Russian parliament and the Vatican Synod of Bishops; the degradation of Russian provincial governors and of Catholic bishops to make them nothing but recipients of orders; a conformist “nomenclature”; and a resistance to real reforms.

Der Spiegel: What would be the treatment?

Küng: The base must gather its strength and make itself heard, so that the system can no longer circumvent it. . . .

Der Spiegel: More than a year ago, you wrote an open letter to all bishops in the world, in which you offered a detailed explanation of your criticism of the pope and the Roman system. What was the response?

Küng: There are about 5,000 bishops in the world, but none of them dared to comment publicly. This clearly shows that something isn’t right. But if you talk to individual bishops, you often hear: “What you describe is fundamentally true, but nothing can be done about it.” It would be wonderful if a prominent bishop would just say: “This cannot go on. We cannot sacrifice the entire Church to please the Roman bureaucrats.” But so far no one has had the courage to do so. The ideal situation, in my view, would be a coalition of reformist theologians, lay people and pastors open to reform, and bishops prepared to support reform. Of course they would come into conflict with Rome, but they would have to endure that, in a spirit of critical loyalty.

Der Spiegel: That’s what led to the Reformation 500 years ago. But at the time, the Roman system was incapable of understanding the criticism from within the ranks.

Küng: After 500 years, we are surprised that the popes and bishops of the day did not realize that a reform was necessary. Luther didn’t want to divide the Church, but the pope and the bishops were blind. It seems that a similar situation applies today.

. . . Der Spiegel: You don't just want to reduce the power of the pope. You are also calling for an end to celibacy, you want women to be ordained as priests and you want the Church to lift its ban on birth control. Catholics loyal to the pope say that these elements are part of the core values of the Catholic Church. If you peel all of this away, how much of the Church is left?

Küng: What remains is the same Catholic Church that used to exist -- and which was better. I'm not saying that the papacy should be abolished. But we need offices that serve the congregations, and we need the kind of papacy that was practiced by John XXIII. He didn't seek to dominate. Instead, he simply demonstrated that he was there for everyone, including other churches. He laid the groundwork for the Council and a new dawning of ecumenical Christianity. He allowed a new church to come alive.

To read the complete interview, click here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Vatican II: Lost and Betrayed – Giovanni Franzoni (via
Iglesia Descalza, September 19, 2011).
Fr. Hans Küng On Benedict's Trip To Germany – Colleen Kochivar-Baker (
Enlightened Catholicism, September 22, 2011).
Church "Needs to Undergo Revolution" – Marie Crowe (The Independent, August 28, 2011).

See also the previous PCV posts:
Hans Küng Says Only Radical Reform Can Save the Catholic Church
A Meeting with Hans Küng
A Priest's Call for a Catholic Reformation
Encouragement for Those Disappointed with the Church
A Tradition Worth Returning To
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 1)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 2)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 3)
Urgent Tasks for Church Renewal
"All Voices Must Be Heard": A Response to Archbishop Nienstedt
It's Critical That Catholics Find Their Voice
Let Our Voices Be Heard!

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Tradition Worth Returning To

By Michael J. Bayly

Recently on 60 Minutes, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan called for a return to orthodoxy and tradition within the Roman Catholic Church. Judging from recent events, some might conclude that this “return” is in full swing. We see Catholics excommunicated for simply voicing support for female ordination; girl altar servers banned; certain theologians declared “a curse and affliction upon the church,” and parents supportive of their gay and lesbian children being viewed as cooperating in evil.

Exclusion appears to be the hallmark of this “return to tradition,” along with the clerical leadership’s condemnation of “relativism” – the allowing of wider cultural trends or developments to inform and shape church teachings and practices. Yet, ironically, the exclusionary, so-called “traditional” attitudes and practices being championed by members of the church hierarchy are themselves relative to past historical and cultural developments. Specifically, they are relative to the church’s embracing of the imperial trappings of empire in the fourth century and the Vatican’s later appropriation of absolute monarchy in the seventeenth century. Such accommodations to exclusionary political systems and hierarchical structures have obscured the radical egalitarianism that Jesus lived and taught and which actually reflects the earliest and deepest tradition of the Catholic faith.

We see all of this being played out in our own local church. Recently Archbishop John Nienstedt cautioned the priests and the Catholic faithful of the “threat to unity” posed by a local coalition of Catholics gathering for its second annual “Synod of the Baptized” on September 17 at the DoubleTree Hilton in Bloomington. The event, expected to draw over 500 reform-minded Catholics, will feature a keynote address by theologian Anthony Padovano on the role of conscience in the work of church reform.

Making Our Voices Heard” is the title of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform’s 2011 synod. It is a title purposely chosen by organizers in response to many Catholic lay people’s experience of not having their voices heard on matters of church teaching and practice that impact their lives. A new initiative, the Council of the Baptized, will be launched at the synod. Its members will act as representatives of the lay Catholic community in developing policies, practices, and church administrative structures that will serve the Gospel message of justice, inclusion and compassion. It is envisioned that the Council will work collaboratively with the ordained leadership of the Archdiocese. Yet according to the archbishop, the only baptized members of the church that can respond to the issues and concerns raised by the Council are the bishops. The implication is that all others must be quiet and simply obey. Some even declare that this is the traditional role of the laity.

Organizers of Synod 2011, however, draw on church history and teaching to support a very different role of the laity – one that makes a claim for active participation by all in every aspect of church life. Such participation was a deeply valued and practiced tradition of the early church and reflects the belief that the consensus of the Christian people indicates the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the church. Cardinal John Henry Newman highlighted this belief in the nineteenth century when he noted that church authority needs to take into account “the opinion of the laity on subjects in which the laity are especially concerned."

The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform also draws inspiration and support from the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, where it was taught that church teachings develop through the contemplation and study made not just by members of the hierarchy, but by believers’ “intimate understanding” of things they experience. (Dei Verbum, 8)

Thus contrary to Archbishop Nienstedt’s recent condemnation of the “Making Our Voices Heard” synod as “an affront to the hierarchical ordering of the church,” organizers insist that they are in no way denigrating the proper role and authority of the bishops and the Pope. Rather, we are emphasizing and claiming the traditional Catholic role of the laity. For many Catholics, it is to this earliest and inclusive tradition, free of the exclusionary attitudes and practices that developed later, that the church needs to return if it is to faithfully embody the presence of Jesus in the world.


UPDATE: Following are images and commentary from CCCR's Second Annual Synod of the Baptized: "Making Our Voices Heard" – September 17, 2011, at the DoubleTree Hilton in Bloomington.

Above: Theologian and author Anthony Padovano, keynote speaker at Synod 2011.

Here's part of what Anthony shared with the close to 400 Catholics in attendance . . .

. . . The sensus fidelium is the point of convergence in Catholic life for law, reception, community, conscience, and faith.

The escalating division in the Catholic Church between what people believe and what administrators teach, between how people behave and what lawmakers require is not due solely to secularism or self-indulgence. Educated and autonomous Catholics do not accept monarchical legislation. They force a culture of dialogue on the Church by non-compliance if they have not been consulted or taken into account.

The three magisterial or teaching offices in the Church (bishops, theologians, and the People of God) are obliged by Church teaching to create a culture of dialogue between and among them. If this does not happen, the community acts accordingly. Today, bishops at large ignore university scholarship and have contempt for the sensus fidelium when it is not compliant. The response of people has been active and passive resistance to being governed in such a manner.

This crisis gives us the opportunity to act creatively and responsibly. . . .

Right: Roman Catholic Bishop Regina Nicolosi, one of three recipients of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's 2011 Adsum Award.

Adsum is a Latin word which means "I am present and listening." Whenever the participants in Vatican II were gathered at St. Peter's Basilica their traditional prayer was the exclamation: Adsumus – "we are present and listening" CCCR's Adsum Award recognizes those individuals who have made an extraordinary commitment to be present and attentive to the Spirit, to be partners in re-creating the face of the church here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Notes Regina:

We in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement pray and work for a reformed priesthood in a renewed Catholic Church. We affirm the priesthood of all believers. We believe that our brother Jesus invites all to gather around the table. For me personally, the end of sexism, the inclusion of our GLBT brothers and sisters, the protection of our earth and continuous work for peace are important issues.

Left: The second recipient of the 2011 Adsum Award was local theologian William C. Hunt.

Says William:

We live in a seemingly God-forsaken world where one third of our sisters and brothers are so poor that they are starving to death; where preventable diseases and natural disasters claim the lives of tens of thousands each day; and where senseless wars consume precious lives and resources for destructive purposes. I envisage the Church as a caring, sharing, life-giving community in which all the baptized proclaim and embody the message of God's love in Jesus Christ and serve the world both by providing emergency relief and by working for structural change that embodies justice, peace and reconciliation. I also envision the Church as a functional family in which those called to ministry serve the baptized through word and sacrament so that that the baptized may be empowered to reach out to the world in love and service.

The third recipient of CCCR's 2011 Adsum Award, artist Ansgar Holmberg, was unable to join us on September 17. She did, however, share the following in the Synod 2011 program booklet.

As an artist and illustrator, a major thrust of my work has been inclusivity of gender, race, church, all creation. This is an "adventure" when illustrating church for religious education for children but it is possible to do in subtle ways and I delight in putting in my two cents worth.

Above: Roman Catholic Womanpriest Judith McKloskey. For The Wild Reed's August 2008 interview with Judith, click here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quote of the Day

In the 28th chapter of Matthew's Gospel, we begin to have Jesus instruct us on what it really means to be a disciple of His.

Now before [that] passage . . . Jesus said to the disciples, "If you want to be My disciple, you must be like a little child." He took a child and He put them right in the midst of the disciples. He said, "Unless you become like this little child, you can't enter into the Reign of God."

He wasn't speaking about the innocence of the child. We all have that sense of how beautiful and innocent a tiny baby is, and we rejoice in that. He was talking about the fact that in His time, especially under the Roman occupation, children had no rights. They were powerless.

So if you wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, you have to begin to be ready to give up any idea of domination over another.

We must do that individually. In our relationships there has to be total mutuality if we're going to be friends. In a marriage relationship, there has to be mutuality, not one dominating another.

That's very hard to do, but Jesus says that's what we have to do if we're going to be his disciples: give up this sense of power. We have to do that individually, but don't you think it would be important also for us as a community, as a nation, not to think that we dominate the world, that we have the largest army and spend the most on military equipment, forces and training than any other country in the world. Why?

Disciples of Jesus don't need weapons. They don't drive for power. It's a hard lesson, but Jesus says the other way to do it is through love.

That's the first thing He tells us, "If you want to be My disciple, you must be one who is willing to be powerless," like Jesus who said, "I, when I am lifted up," and He meant on the cross, totally powerless, "I will draw all people to Myself."

He never coerces. He never uses force or power. He draws by what Pope John Paul used to call the fascinating power of love. That's all.

That's hard, but that's part of being a disciple of Jesus.

— Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
"Love Fulfills the Whole Law"
The National Catholic Reporter
September 8, 2011

See also the previous PCV post:
Love and Rules

Monday, September 12, 2011

Love and Rules

By Florence Steichen

‘Animosity divides factions’ leapt out at me in the brochure for the Synod of the Baptized. One of the main reasons for this sad, stark statement is our different approaches to rules. Think how often progressive Catholics are accused of breaking rules.

We celebrate Liturgy with unauthorized presiders and homilists, inclusive language, and creative Eucharistic prayers with some prescribed words missing. We worship this way not to be rebellious, bur rather to express who we are as a community and who we are trying to become — faithful disciples of Jesus our brother.

We look to the Gospels and see that they are full of instances in which Jesus broke/transcended a rule to show his compassion for suffering people.

Jesus healed on the Sabbath: the woman bent over for 18 years, the man born blind, and the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethsaida. He reminded his questioners that they loose their animals on the Sabbath, and the Sabbath is made for people, not the other way around.

The scribes and Pharisees who knew and kept the rules put Jesus to the test. “Teacher, this woman was taken in the act of adultery. Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. What do you say?” After the elders had left because no one was without sin to cast a stone, Jesus told the woman, “neither do I condemn you; go on your way ...”

Many of the parables give the same message: compassion goes beyond rules. The Good Samaritan was praised for tending to the needs of the injured traveler, rather than the Priest and Levite who passed by so as not to risk ritual impurity and be unfit for temple worship.

Jesus himself touched lepers, breaking the purity code. When he was criticized for not washing his hands before he ate, Jesus responded that what goes into a person does not make one unclean, but what comes out of the heart.

The father of the prodigal son broke rules. He was NOT to run after his son, but to await him in the village center and denounce him publicly. The elder brother who had never disobeyed his father’s commands could not summon enough love to welcome his brother back and celebrate as his father entreated him.

One of my favorites is the judgment scene in Matt. 25 in which the blessed who will be welcomed into the kin-dom are those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, sheltered the homeless, visited the sick and imprisoned. Not a word about those who observed the rules.

As we support one another on our journey, let us be heartened by Jesus’ answer to the question about which is the greatest commandment.

“You shall love the lord your God with your whole heart and soul, mind and strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole law and prophets depend.”

John of the Cross summed it up: “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”

Image: "Compassionate Christ" by John Giuliani.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Pie for Peace: Tenth Anniversary of 9/11 Chance to Reflect, Bake, Resist

By Frida Berrigan

Editor's Note: This article was first published September 9, 2011, by

September 11, 2001 was my friend Diana’s 30th birthday. I planned on meeting her at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station after work. Instead I walked across the Manhattan Bridge in a cloud of ash and crumbled concrete, looking back at the hole in the skyline. We all walked across the bridge. It was packed with people wearing business suits and sweatpants. I remember seeing a man on a bicycle riding towards Manhattan with a camera slung over his neck. “You’re going the wrong way,” I wanted to shout. Who takes pictures at a time like this? I remember there was a man in a yarmulke handing out bottles of cold water as we left the bridge on the Brooklyn side. I was so grateful.

I was uninjured. I had an apartment in Windsor Terrace that I was walking towards, but that sense of uncertainty—what will the future hold? What will change? When will I go back to work?—loomed large.

In the days that followed, I saw the best of America in New York City—my home. Real mourning, deep soul-searching, amazing altruism and self-sacrifice, and vigorous but respectful debate about why this tragedy happened.

“Our grief is not a cry for war.” That was the slogan that emerged in those days and it reverberated through my city—a truly international metropolis. The citizens of more than 80 nations were killed when the towers fell. Undocumented immigrants, homeless people, white shoe lawyers, seven figure corporate executives, emergency responders all died.

This was not an act of war against the United States, this was a crime against humanity and it should be dealt with thusly. These assertions—borne out of our collective experience of tragedy—were felt as deeply as the ash from the “pile” that burrowed into our pores and clogged our lungs and contaminated every surface of our homes and offices. These assertions were informed by a new group that coalesced in those early days after September 11, 2001 called September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Men and women who lost loved ones in the Trade Towers, the Pentagon, and the airplanes on that day, men and women who rejected the Bush administration’s thundering drumbeat of war and vengeance. They were inspired by Doctor Martin Luther King’s observation that “wars are poor chisels for carving peaceful tomorrows.”

And there has been little hope of a peaceful tomorrow in the ten years that followed George W. Bush’s declaration of war and the bombardment that began on October 7, 2001.

After 9/11, I threw myself into the peace movement with new vigor. If Rita Lasar and David Potorti and Colleen Kelly and Amber Amundson—members of Peaceful Tomorrows who lost close members of their families on 9/11—could turn their grief into peace-making and reconciliation, than I—who lost no one—could too.

Each anniversary that has followed, I have made a point of walking home from work, walking across the Manhattan Bridge and recalling the fear and anxiety and uncertainty that I felt that day. Reminding myself of the nearly 3,000 people who died—most of whom died in my city, recalling as many of their names as I could . . . Bill Kelly, Jim Potorti, Abe Zelmanowitz, Craig Amundson; reminding myself too of all those who have died (and continue to die) in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Guantanamo and elsewhere as the war on terror metastasized into a global war.

Each anniversary I have been part of peace vigils, civil disobedience actions, candlelight vigils. One year we did a 24 hour vigil in Washington Square Park and the next morning did a die-in in Union Square. Another year we held a reading of the names of 9/11 victims and Afghan war victims in front of the military recruiters office in Times Square. I wrote essays and analysis and reflections about 9/11 and beyond.

This year is different. This will be the first year I will not walk across the Manhattan Bridge, the first year I will not work in Manhattan and live in Brooklyn. I moved to New London, Connecticut last November and I will not rally or demonstrate or vigil this year. I will not attend any of the countless 9/11 Tributes and Memorials and Conferences and Art Shows and Demonstrations planned for this weekend.

Instead, I will make a pie.

It sounds funny, I know. After almost a decade of activism on this specific date, I will mix flour and butter and salt and roll out dough. I will pick pears from my community garden plot a few blocks away. I’ll peel and core them. After I cut them up and mix them with cinnamon, nutmeg (we are the nutmeg state), brown sugar, lemon juice and black pepper (my own secret—oops—ingredient), I’ll assemble fruit and dough into a pie and let it bake.

As I do all of this, I’ll consider the “Pies for Peace” meditation written by Reverend Carolyn Patierno of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation, where my husband and I go for services (not as often as we’d like).

From the garden, to the kitchen, through our hands, to the table . . .

May we hold close the ways that we are connected to the land and to all sentient beings.

The feast we make with the pies we bake,

May they nourish what is bitter with what is sweet.

Let there be love. Let there be plenty. Let there be peace.

And let it begin with us.

Shalom. Amen. Blessed be.

Reverend Carolyn came up with Pies for Peace, to “remind us that however humble our effort we are all responsible for building a new world,” and asks “What better day to recommit ourselves than September 11, 2011?” I will also think of my friend Diana, now living in Los Angeles and celebrating her 40th birthday this weekend. I hope she eats oysters.

This is all so much more modest than lying down in the street or vigiling while standing upright. But, it feels right for me as I mark my first September 11 as a non-New Yorker. “Let there be love. Let there be plenty. Let there be peace” and let it begin with me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"We, Together, Are the Church": A Response to Archbishop Nienstedt

Chuck Pilon responds to Archbishop John C. Nienstedt's July 18 letter in which he cautions the priests of the Archdiocese and the Catholic faithful against attending the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's September 17 Synod of the Baptized.

I wish you well, Archbishop Nienstedt. You are a man dedicated to the Church – the institutional, Roman Catholic version of Church.

Based on my understanding of Church as clarified by the Second Vatican Council, in my opinion, Archbishop, in your way and your style of being a bishop you have betrayed the Catholic Church – which is to say you have betrayed us, the People of God – ordinary people, baptized into the Body of Christ.

The Church you envision does not square (again, in my opinion) with the second Reading for the (Cycle A this year) second Sunday after Easter, the Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47. There we find the simplest description of the community of followers – call it Church to make it simple – a community of followers established by Jesus of Nazareth through his teaching, his way of life and his death and resurrection.

We, together, are the Church – neither you alone, with your episcopal call and charism, nor we alone, with our Baptism into Christ and our call to the kind of lives lived and told of in that short passage from the Acts of the Apostles.

I encourage you to find ways to live and work together within the People of God – people made so, not through consecration as a bishop, as you were, but through Baptism into Christ, our teacher, our model for life, who paid the price for his teaching and his way of life, the one Jesus of Nazareth.

– Charles J. Pilon
Author, Waiting for Mozart:
A Novel about Church People Caught in Conflict

See also the previous PCV posts:
"All Voices Must Be Heard": A Response to Archbishop Nienstedt
Archbishop Nienstedt's July 18 Letter
Talking About Disconnects: One Response to Archbishop Nienstedt
Notes on the Magisterium
The Consensus of the Faithful as the Voice of the Infallible Church
Acclaimed Church Historian Marvin O'Connell to Discuss Cardinal Newman
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission
Richard Gaillardetz on the Need to "Wrestle with the Tradition"
Nicholas Lash on Dissent and Disagreement
Communicating With Leadership
It's Critical That Catholics Find Their Voice
Let Our Voices Be Heard!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Save the Date!

You are invited to the premiere of a new video series . . .

Catholics for Marriage Equality

LGBT Catholics and their loved ones
share stories of faith, marriage and family

5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, September 29, 2011

Riverview Theater
3800 42nd Ave. S., Minneapolis

Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, in collaboration with filmmaker Aleshia Mueller of Reel Nomad Productions, has created a series of five compelling vignettes of faith, marriage and family from the perspective of LGBT Catholics and supportive family members.

Produced in response to the ongoing efforts to amend the Minnesota State Constitution to ban civil marriage rights for same-sex couples, this work invites people to seek and discern the face of God in the lives and relationships it presents, and to prayerfully reflect upon the impact of the proposed “marriage amendment” on these lives and relationships.

All are welcome to attend the premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality on Thursday, September 29, 2011, at the Riverview Theater (3800 42nd Ave. S., Minneapolis, 55406). Doors open at 5:00 p.m. A discussion will follow the 5:30 screening. Admission is free. Donations are welcome as this event serves as a major fundraiser for Catholics for Marriage Equality MN.

NOTE: A trailer for Catholics for Marriage Equality will soon be available for viewing at

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fallen 9/11 Priest Emerges as An Icon for Gay Catholics

By Daniel Burke

NOTE: This article was first published August 25, 2011, by Religious News Service.

When All Saints Church sought to signal its hospitality to gays and lesbians, the Catholic parish in Syracuse, N.Y., turned to a well-known image from the 9/11 attacks: five firefighters carrying a body from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

The body belonged to the Rev. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan fire chaplain who rushed to the burning buildings and was killed by falling debris. Later, a half-hidden secret emerged about the gallant priest: he was gay.

All Saints hopes the statue will demonstrate that the parish, following Judge’s lead, is committed to closing the chasms between rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, said the Rev. Fred Daley, the church’s pastor.

Moreover, Daley said, the monument will memorialize a man who, like many gays and lesbians, struggled to fit into a church that considers homosexual desires “an intrinsic moral evil” and seeks to prohibit gay men from becoming priests.

“Here’s a gay person who was committed to celibacy, flourishing in the priesthood. It breaks so many stereotypes that people have,” said Daley, who came out as gay himself in 2004.“For young gay people in particular, how good it is that Mychal Judge can be a role model for them.”

Of 9/11’s myriad effects on American life, among the more surprising is the emergence of a New York City Fire Department chaplain as a gay icon—a hero bordering on sainthood to scores of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics.

A gay civil rights group has produced a documentary called Saint of 9/11; gay activists hold vigils on the anniversary of his death; statues and icons of the sandal-shod Franciscan crop up nationwide; and his example has been employed to oppose Vatican policies that bar men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” from the priesthood.

The gay Catholic pundit Andrew Sullivan has called Judge’s death an “emblem of service and holiness and courage,” and argued that, by the Vatican’s logic, the priest “should never have been ordained.”

Researchers estimate that thousands of gay priests like Judge serve the church while remaining faithful to their vows of celibacy. Only a few, however, have publicly revealed their sexual orientation, leaving a dearth of positive role models for gay Catholics, Daley said.

The Rev. James Martin, culture editor of the Jesuit magazine America, said some Catholics are uncomfortable with Judge’s sexual orientation.

“But why should they be? For all we know, he lived a perfectly celibate life,” Martin said. “He lived as the Catechism asked him to live and kept his ordination promises. Gay, straight or somewhere in between, he’s a hero. If you rush into a burning building to minister to people, while knowing that you might die, that’s true holiness.”

Omitting any mention of Judge’s sexuality, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has used Judge’s heroic life and death for its own ends: in promotional materials encouraging men to join priesthood.

“One’s orientation should never dominate one’s ministry as a priest,” said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops. “Clearly, it did not dominate the ministry of Father Judge, who by all reports was held in high esteem by many, especially by the fire department he served so well.”

Charismatic and witty, Judge made legions of friends and admirers during his 68 years—from President Clinton to homeless addicts. His funeral was packed with conservative Catholics, politicians, firefighters, recovering alcoholics and gay activists, recalls friend Brendan Fay.

“He had a strange way of weaving his way through communities that could barely tolerate each other,” said Fay, a gay rights activist in New York.

Some of those friends now bristle at the focus on the Franciscan’s sexual orientation.

“How come any time anyone talks about Mychal Judge they only want to talk about that subject?” asked Dennis Lynch, a lawyer in Nyack, N.Y., who worked with Judge on reconciling Catholic and Protestant factions in Northern Ireland.

Lynch has denied that Judge was gay and argued that gay activists “hijacked the truth” to “advance a particular cause.”

“I think the last thing Father Mike would want as his legacy would be for people to debate his sexual orientation,” Lynch said.

Journal entries published in a The Book of Mychal, a 2008 biography, show Judge struggling with the secretiveness his sexual orientation sometimes required. “I thought of my gay self and how the people I meet never get to know me fully,” he wrote.

The priest bent church rules by joining the gay Catholic group Dignity and allowing it to meet in his Franciscan-run parish. He counseled gay couples and the parents of gay children, according to Fay, and began ministering to AIDS victims during the 1980s, when the disease was considered a gay scourge.

But even some of the Judge’s closest friends didn’t know he was gay, said David Fullam, whose firehouse sat across the street from the Franciscan friary. The former firefighter wears a bracelet emblazoned with Judge’s name and donated $240 recently to All Saints’ monument fund.

“We knew that he ministered to the AIDS population and the gay population,” Fullam said. “He was very inclusive.” While some firefighters were taken aback when they learned that Judge was gay after his death, they would have accepted him regardless, he said.

“We didn’t care if he was gay or straight,” Fullam said. “We loved him.”