Dec 24, 2010

Christmas Eve in Litmanova

(Update: I'm not sure why the original photos included with this post are no longer visible, especially since they were my original photos. But I have 'deleted' the remnants of them, to remove the distracting exclamation points!)

Spent a wonderful Christmas eve at the Marion Shrine of Litmanova, Slovakia, with my young friend, Mike, and his charming carpenter father, Honza. Mother had to stay home back in Liptovsky Mikulas to care for her ailing mother, but we returned in time for our Christmas Eve dinner.

When one is present in such a place of holiness and peace, you realize why you are 'Catholic' to the core of your being, for a Marion shrine of this nature epitomizes all that is best about the Catholic mystical tradition, and what distinguishes it from other Christian traditions. What also wells up within your heart is the quiet, peaceful, but firm determination to fight all those forces within the religious institution that are impervious to this spirit of holiness, peace and love. It is a never ending battle, this need to resist the forces of exclusion and intolerance, which would twist the religion into an instrument of prejudice and tribal superiority. However, the gentle grace of the Mother of Litmanova gives one the courage and inner peace to continue to witness to the holiness of being called to the gay vocation.

Christmas blessings to one and all from Mary's holy mountain in Litmanova, Slovakia.

Dec 22, 2010

A Jewish Prophet for a Christian Season

Off to the Tatras Mountains with my young friend, Mike, to spend Christmas with his lovely family - his somewhat gruff,  uncommunicative,  but rather sweet father (sporting the classic walrus mustache that is characteristic of virile men in Slovak and Poland), his gracious, friendly, effervescent mother who holds the only paying job in the family, and his saintly, bedridden grandmother who exudes an aura of holiness, peace and love to all who come to visit her. It is an atmosphere one breathes the moment one steps foot into her tiny bedroom with it's many icons of the Virgin on the wall. Even though I've only met her three times, she grasps my hand and holds it the entire time I'm in the room, as if I'm one of her long lost sons.  She searches my face and eyes for evidence of ... of what I don't know ... when she is speaking to me, but the intensity of her gaze convinces me that every person she encounters is God to her, whom she worships and adores. However, she knows that I am a religious man with a devotion to Our Lady of Litmanova and she hopes I will draw Michael into this  same sphere of  supernatural light. Goodness and holiness like this are so rare in this world, and this remarkable woman discovered her path to holiness through the folk religion of Slovak Catholicism, with it's passionate devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

With Michael's parents Christmas last year, Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia.

On another note, as a prelude to Christmas, this evening I watched the documentary, American Radical, The Trials of Norman Finkelstein, a radical Jewish intellectual whom I much admire for his courageous criticism of Israel and the Israeli lobby in the US. He has suffered much for his views,  including losing tenure at De Paul University, despite the overwhelming vote of the faculty in his favor, but in that he is similar to another Jewish prophet from long ago, put to death amidst fanatical cries for his extinction. A simple google search will unearth a disturbing amount of hate directed towards him as a "self hating Jew, supporter of Terrorism, nasty piece of work." And on and on it goes, the hysteria, the fanaticism, the blindness - while Finkelstein himself keeps on plodding, witnessing to the truth as he sees it, the truth of a radically unjust world whose injustice demands radical solutions - with no teaching position now available to him.

One such bizarre example I discovered is a site for wine, with the following pithy comment about Finkelstein:
 Taken from Jewlicious

As you all know, I’ve caught a bit of flack for running an ad for Norman Finkelstein’s new book. Finkelstein is one of the most noxious anti-Israel voices out there, beloved of supporters of terror and a nasty piece of work in general. Today, running that ad has paid off!

How sad to see such blindness and how difficult to counteract it. The documentary was a sober reminder for me of the profound seriousness of this issue and puts into clear context all of our narrower concerns for the radical reform of Catholicism (though I don't think the policy of Catholic Charities to deny condoms to abused women in Africa is a small scandal).

For those not familiar with him, here is a link to the film's website and a review:

a revolutionary career does not lead to banquets and honorary titles, interesting research and professorial wages. It leads to misery, disgrace, ingratitude, prison and a voyage into the unknown, illuminated by only an almost superhuman belief.

This observation by Frankfurt school luminary Max Horkheimer would serve as an epigraph to the new documentary on Norman Finkelstein that opens on February 11th at the Anthology Film Archives Theater in New York. While the trials of Norman Finkelstein are interesting enough in and of themselves to warrant attending this powerful film, what stands out above all is the force of Finkelstein’s personality that is captured by co-directors David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier. In an age of banality and anti-heroes, Finkelstein is virtually Byronesque even if rendered with a Yiddish accent.

I first got a sense of Finkelstein’s on-screen charisma in a 2009 documentary titled Defamation that included a scene with Norman at his building out in the Coney Island neighborhood in Brooklyn, where he upbraids the director for suggesting that Norman tone down his rhetoric, especially when it comes to likening Israeli leaders to Hitler. With biting irony, Finkelstein reminds him that all Israeli politicians call each other Nazis when the opportunity arises. But it his facial expressions, hand gestures and ringing voice that make the scene as memorable as his words. If an actor such as Dustin Hoffman auditioned for a role playing Norman Finkelstein, I doubt that he could be half as compelling as the former professor himself.

The question of “going too far” runs like a red thread throughout the new film. Although the directors, veterans of leftwing documentaries, are obviously sympathetic to Norman’s views, they make sure to include interviewees who openly question some of his decisions. For example, Noam Chomsky states that it was probably a mistake to focus on Dershowitz’s plagiarism rather than the issues of Israel and Palestine. In my view, his decision to pursue this line of attack had a lot to do with his outrage over Dershowitz’s much ballyhooed academic reputation, which could only be a painful reminder of his own problems merely getting a tenured position. We learn that in 2001 Norman Finkelstein was only making $18,000 per year at Hunter College in New York. When he came out with “The Holocaust Industry” that year, Hunter demanded that he take a reduced workload and lower pay. After refusing, he took another job at Depaul University in Chicago where pressure from Alan Dershowitz and the Israeli lobby resulted in his being refused tenure, despite the overwhelming vote in favor from the faculty.

The movie fills in just enough biographical detail so that Norman’s tendency to stick his neck out becomes understandable. He says that he takes after his mother who, like his father, was a concentration camp survivor and a participant in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Unlike many such survivors, the experience left her politically engaged and vehemently anti-war. When the war in Vietnam began, she used to explode at the senselessness and brutality of the war continuously. Her outspokenness obviously had a big impact on Norman who was radicalized during the war.

In 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon for the first time, the 29-year-old Princeton PhD graduate began demonstrating at the Israeli embassy in New York on a daily basis. You can see a photo of him in the film with a poster likening the invasion to Nazi barbarism, a first sign of the militancy that would turn him into a target of the Zionist movement in the U.S. From this early gut reaction against Israeli aggression, he turned into a scholarly critic of Zionism with a critique of a book by Joan Peters that essentially denied that the Palestinians lived in the land that Israel conquered. Chomsky contacted him at the time and developed a warm and supportive relationship with Norman that lasts until this day. Finkelstein states that Chomsky helped him with the conceptual framework for his Middle East analysis, if not his willingness to speak truth to power.

Although the movie does not spend any time at all on biographical material, except obviously for the role of his parents’ experience in Nazi death camps in shaping his worldview, you get a strong sense that his politics are all-consuming, even to the point of fostering a monastic existence. He lives in one of the most untrendy neighborhoods in all of New York, but one that he loves. His life revolves around research and traveling to campuses far and wide, where he gives talks on Israel to audiences that are sure to include people determined to shout him down. Things have reached a point that the Jewish Defense Organization, a crypto-fascist outfit, has plastered leaflets around his building demanding that his landlord evict him.

With his strong Yiddish accent and glowering but affectionate disposition, Finkelstein is a true prophet of the Jewish people. Refusing to bow down to officialdom, he speaks tirelessly on behalf of the Palestinians, who, as they were in the time of the fictions depicted in the Old Testament, are regarded as little more than vermin by the tribe that calls itself “the chosen people”.

As a modern day Jeremiah, Finkelstein is reminding Israel of something the prophet said long ago:

For thus hath the LORD of hosts said: hew ye down her trees, and cast up a mound against Jerusalem; this is the city to be punished; everywhere there is oppression in the midst of her.  As a cistern welleth with her waters, so she welleth with her wickedness; violence and spoil is heard in her; before Me continually is sickness and wounds. Be thou corrected, O Jerusalem, lest My soul be alienated from thee, lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.

Dec 19, 2010

Encountering the Lord of Advent in Venice

In Venice at the moment, which is glorious and magical in winter with the snow and the paucity of tourists. One can actually walk down the alleyways in peace and freedom, savoring the beauty of this mystical city. It's such a gift to be here. 

In celebration of the US military repeal of DADT, I attended the Eucharistic Liturgy at St. Mark's Cathedral this morning. It was my (mis)fortune to have chosen the 10:30 Latin High Mass, celebrated by a band of 'elderly' priests and attendants, not one of whom was under the age of 50. They were accompanied, incongruously, by one very young girl altar server with plaits of beautiful, wavy brown hair descending down her back to her waistline. She was also wearing white sneakers. It made for a charming juxtoposition as well as an ironic commentary on the absurdity of the whole 'treatment of women' in the Catholic Church. The tottering, aging males, hanging on by their curling toenails to the last vestiges of power and privilege, made for a rather poignant, pathetic sight. The presiding priest, no disrespect intended, was so wearied and dispirited that he cast a pall of depression over the entire congregation (small). The choir master, a flamboyant gay monsignor in all his purple regalia, with dangling tassles at the end of his lacey white surplice, was quite testy with us in the congregation as we missed his cues - arms flailing about like Mama Rose directing her line of chorus girls. I thought to myself, "My god, the stranglehold these gay queens exercise over Catholic culture. And there are so many of them!'"Yet somehow it all didn't seem to matter. By the time we laboriously struggled though the communion ritual - with no evident joy whatsoever - one felt interiorly that sense of 'connection' with the divine and received in turn that sense of satisfaction that one had honored the mystery of the Mother/Creator God, as one should every Sabbath. The mystery remains in the midst of the absurdity and contradictions. 

And yet... speaking for myself only - it is a matter of conscience that I can't attend these kinds of all male rituals on any regular basis, because to so participate feels like endorsing injustice and hypocrisy. This is a deep interior movement of conscience, and feels like a calling, a gift and a burden, since I so love the grand settings of these great cathedrals for the honor they give to God and the Eucharistic mystery. If only the priestly caste which presently controls these grand churches weren't so dishonorable and corrupt, refusing even to consider the use of condoms to prevent the deaths of thousands of African women and the orphaning of thousands of African children as a result. The present posture of the Catholic Church towards women and gays makes these formal liturgies a violation of the respect we owe to the all embracing divine source of the universe. Without a doubt, this posture is directly linked to the horrific sex scandal in the Church, the one is the mirror image of the other. Far from feeling I am honoring her and renewing my connection with the divine source of the universe, continued participation in these show trials of hypocrisy feels harmful to my spirit and disrespectful to the Divine Source and to the Risen Lord. Yet I also deeply respect those loyal and progressive Catholics who feel called to stay in the pews Sunday after Sunday, year after year after year, longing for some small sign of change. One Spirit, different gifts. However, I do feel quite strongly that we can't simply sit Sunday after Sunday, waiting patiently for some small crack in the wall of defenses, offering our critiques as we may, hoping  against hope for change (not that this is a fair depiction of most enlightened church goes). We are being told not to wait, because change is already occurring in heterodox fashion on the margins -in alternative, breakaway communities - in the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement - in the Old Catholic Church - in the home Eucharistic movement and others - and all of these alternative movements deserve our respect and support, because it is here that the Spirit is showing us the way into the future. And I feel this is really the mysterious, providential point of the present intransigence on the part of Churh leaders - to compel  us to look elsewhere for the signs of the Spirit's guidance and direction and not be so dependent on the formal institution. After all, if we are truly persons of faith, then we must believe that the Spirit could effect radical, transforming change in the formal institution if she so wished. That it is not occurring in any meaningful sense is to me one of the "signs of the times," and a clear indicator of the will of the Risen Lord and His Spirit. We are to look elsewhere for signs of inspiration, even those of us who do not feel called to formally join one of these alternative movements.

As for the danger of splintering and fragmentation - let it come, in my opinion, and let us trust in the Spirit of Unity that we will be held together in the end. Several years ago, I attended a small Evangelical Christian service in Thailand in the seaside resort of Pattaya, notorious for the thousands of young women and boys employed in the sex industry. We met in an upstairs room (the Upper Room), and all  twenty of us together rocked back and forth in our chairs as we responded to the chants of the preacher. "God has a plan for Pattaya!, yes he does.And we shouted in reply, "Yes, he does, Oh thank the Lord, yes he does."  "And he has a plan for all of these poor women of Pattaya, God has a mighty plan." "Yes, he does, he does have a mighty plan," we echoed in our enthusiasm, carried on the wings of the living, breathing Spirit. And on it went in the most intense, Spirit-led revival I have ever experienced in any Church anywhere anytime. These marginalized, bible thumping Evangelicals, how easily we condescend to them - yet the place was filled with a holy peace and fire that made one burn with the Love of God and the love of the poor and the love of one another. And this was not mass hysteria or hypnosis, the interior peace and joy were too deep and pervasive. This was about as far from a  formal Catholic liturgy as one could possibly get. And at the end of this great revival, I did indeed feel I had honored the Divine Source of the Universe in her all embracing love for the most marginalized. And for our Eucharist, we went downstairs into the larger hall and shared potluck togtether, with the Risen Lord present within the potato salad and fried chicken. So...if this is fragmentation...well then, let it come, since without the Reformation and all its chaos and pain, we would not have had this simple, sweet, loving community praying together in the Spirit in the seaside resort of Pattaya for the thousands of abused women in the sex trade. Quite honestly, though, I don't think it will come to this, for the Catholic tradition will endure and survive somehow with its identity intact, though radically ransformed in astonishing ways we cannot yet forsee. But we do need to be fearless in imagining and then enacting new ways of being Catholic communities, and new  ways of celebrating the sacraments, fearless in our trust in the Lord and His Spirit who ultimately controls the future of the church. The wearied old souls and the flaming gay faggots in purple are not going to step aside and relinquishg their power. So we must simply sidestep them and disempower them, in peace and joy and love. Let us show them, in the love of our hearts, how to be Spirit filled worshippers of joy, gay and straight together, men and women as equals, not dispirited, repressed, broken men of angst and guilt. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Dec 17, 2010


Thanks to blogger JD of Exsilium for referring me (in the comments section of previous posting) to this official portrait of Benedict alongside a nearly nude Christ. Whereas I found the video of the Pope watching half naked acrobats somewhat sweetly amusing, this 'official portrait' is quite alarming for it's self-evident homo-eroticism.Yet another example of a Catholic culture in profound denial.

I located the portrait on the  traditional Catholic site, Canterbury Tales, and some of the comments below the portrait do show some awareness of the dilemma. Others are dumbfounded that anyone could fine this inappropriate or homoerotic.

TESS: I do not think Our Lord or Our Lady would think the sculpture Of Christ was fitting in this work, however the Holy Father is quite beautiful. 

DEACON GREG KANDRA: A commenter at my blog thought the homoerotic connotations were a bit much -- and I have to say, he has a point. Seeing the prayerful pontiff beside a nearly nude Christ is, in a word, weird. 

LESLIE COOPER: Say wha??? "Homoerotic"? "Tiny hands"? :( What is wrong with some of you?

That portrait is beautiful. The Holy Father looks intelligent and thoughtful and sensitive

Dec 16, 2010

ON THE EDGE OF HIS CHAIR: Pope and Topless Acrobats

Many thanks to Michael Bayly at Wild Reed for cluing us in to the existence of this 'remarkable' video of the Pope watching topless male acrobats perform. The irony is just too extreme to process, and too funny for words. Pay close attention to the Pope's ardent gaze as he watches the acrobats depart.  The incident would be rather sweet were it not for the continuing harm being done by this Pope's inability to come to terms with the perfectly natural and holy phenomenon of same sex attraction (not to mention the sex abuse crisis). The Cardinals and Vatican functionaries politely clapping in the background only add to the surreal nature of the scene. In light of the sex abuse scandal and all it has revealed to the world about the secret sex life of many priests (abusers and not), is this really the kind of entertainment the Vatican wishes the world to see the Pope enjoying with such relish? The naivete is astonishing. Clueless would be my word. Yet I can't resist feeling a pang of sympathy for the old Pontiff, entrapped by layers of denial and false religious ideology. There is something rather tender and sad about it all, until one remembers the horrific suffering such blindness has engendered in the lives of gay people everywhere, especially the young. And then sympathy gives way to indignation and the need to hold such leaders accountable.

For Michael's valuable commentary, click here.

Dec 13, 2010


A new documentary on the pioneering life of Father John McNeill is now ready for distribution. To find out more about the film and contribute to its dissemination, click here.

Taking A Chance on God 

A documentary profile of John McNeill, pioneer gay priest.

Taking A Chance on God  tells the story of 85 year old John McNeill, Catholic priest and  pioneering advocate for LGBT human rights. The film traces his life from a childhood in Buffalo, his months as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, call to priesthood and his passion for justice and equality. In the 1960s with fellow Jesuit Dan Berrigan he was a herald for peace and nonviolence at the height of the Vietnam war. After the Stonewall riots of June 1969 he became a voice of liberation for gay people. In 1972 he co-founded the gay and lesbian Catholic group Dignity NY. In 1976 he published the  groundbreaking classic The Church and the Homosexual and his “coming out" on the Today Show before millions in 1976 was historic. In the 1980’s he proclaimed hope for the gay community in the face of despair and paralysis during the AIDS crisis.

On April 14 1987 Jesuit superiors arrived at the apartment of Fr John McNeill at 98th Street in NYC. In English and Latin they read the Vatican “Decree of Expulsion”.  McNeill, Jesuit priest of 40 years, was expelled from his religious community because of disobedience to Vatican authorities. He questioned Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality. This was the final act of an expulsion drama begun a decade prior in 1977. In 1983 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine and Faith sent a further order of silence. When Cardinal Ratzinger issued the October 1986 letter on the “Pastoral Care of Homosexuals” defining the lives of gay and lesbian persons as “objective disorder” and  “intrinsic evil," Dignity chapters were expelled from Catholic parishes. It was the height of the AIDS crisis a time of pain and anger. John broke the Vatican imposed silence he endured for 9 years and refused to end his public ministry among the gay community. In conscience, John wrote to superiors from Gethsamani Abbey, he could no longer be silent. He was dismissed finally in the words of the decree because of his “pertinacious disobedience”. Unembittered, John continued his ministry as a therapist, a retreat director, and in his writing. On the road or from his blog John continues to be that voice today proclaiming same sex love as holy and encouraging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender  persons around the world! 

In the film McNeill is a natural storyteller whether at a kitchen table or in his homilies and retreats. He details his life as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany and the survival he owes to the kindness of a stranger. He chronicles the early days of lesbian and gay liberation with the stories from the Gospel. McNeill inspires some and frustrates others with his constant spirit of hope and trust. His scholarly books and articles, translated in many languages, reflect his brilliant mind and wisdom. There is a tenderness to the man easily felt in his warm and welcoming embrace. He is serious psychotherapist and theologian, but he lightens up with a glass of wine and easily laughs and sings.

Wherever he goes John introduces and gives thanks for Charles Chiarelli his partner of 45 years.Taking A Chance on God is also a story of the “love that dare not speaks its name”. It is very much a story of the heart, of John McNeill’s love for his Church, his gay community, his Jesuit brothers and his beloved Charlie. With honesty and tenderness, he reflects on the challenges and joys of their relationship. Theologian, Mary Hunt, says that McNeill differs from most priests because “John is an honest gay man!"  Taking A Chance on God gives a rare look into the heart of a gay man’s journey as he wrestles with life as a Catholic priest and a gay man.

Interviewees include bishops, fellow Jesuits, leaders from the US, Canada and Ireland, activists, friends and family. Among them are: Rev. Nancy Wilson, Leader of The Metropolitan Community Church, Dr. Mary E. Hunt, feminist theologian, Bishop Gene Robinson, comedian Kate Clinton, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Fr. Robert Carter SJ (co-founder of Dignity 1972 and in 1973 of the NLGTF), Fr Bernard Lynch from Co. Clare, Ireland  and Andy Humm, journalist for Gay USA. Critics of John McNeill are also interviewed: Msgr. William Smith of St. Joseph's Seminary and Fr. Jim Llyod CSP of “Courage” .

Dec 4, 2010

Remembering the Martyrs, Mourning Our Loss

A very moving, poignant lament by William Lindsey at On Bilgrimage prompted me to make the following reflections. William was commenting on the 30th anniversary of the  deaths of the Maryknoll women in El Salvador, and comparing his reactions then and now. It came as a real shock to me to be reminded by Bill's posting of this terrible event of 30 years ago. A different time and a very different climate in the Church in those days. Even though the institutional clerical structure refused to pay appropriate homage to the extraordinary witness of Ita, Maura, Jean and Dorothy, as well as  the assassination of Archbishop Romero, there was still a sense within the Catholic community that the Spirit that inspired such martyrdom was in some way reflected within and supported by the institutional structure of Catholicism. Alas, that sense is no more. It really does seem as if the clerical structure has so strangled the very life of the Spirit within the Church that, simply to breathe, some of us must go 'elsewhere' in order to survive.

It does feel as if the Church that once inspired Maura, Dorothy, Ita, and Jean is now no more. Something very precious has been taken away from us, and the sense of loss and grief are very real. I do think we need to trust in the Spirit and ask, "What is 'God' asking of us through this trial and where is S/He leading the People of god." Into the Wilderness, it seems, into the diaspora, where we must form pockets of hope and light in the dark. Without wishing to trivialize the suffering of the Jewish people, it reminds me of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 ce. This precious religious icon/artifact/symbol that lay at the heart of Jewish religious and cultural identity and seemed to form its core was forcibly taken away from the Jewish community in one brutal act of destruction, and the shock was overwhelming. The Jewish community was then scattered worldwide and had to rediscover the "Shekinah," or 'Presence of the Lord," in the study of Torah rather than through worship in the Temple. Though we can't compare our suffering of the present to this overwhelming cultural tragedy in the past, something similar is being played out here in the Catholic community. We are being ripped from the womb of Holy Mother Church, at least its formal institutional structure, which is now held in a stranglehold by the clerical cast. We are being forced outwards into the Diaspora through the creative actions of the Spirit. Another comparison would be the expulsion of the Tibetan Buddhist community from Lhasa and Tibet, forcing them to let go of the sacred symbols of their religion (Potala Palace being pre-eminent), but thereby rediscovering a new vocation outside the previous institutional structure. "Blessed be the name of the Lord," we must say on our journey into the wilderness, trusting in the Pillar of Fire by night and the Pillar of Cloud by day.

Nehemiah 9:19. "Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. 

The following is the Maryknoll press release celebrating the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of these heroic women of faith. 
The night of December 2, 1980, two Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford arrived at the airport in San Salvador from a Maryknoll community meeting in Nicaragua. There to take them home were two women from the Cleveland Mission team working in La Libertad, Ursaline Sr. Dorothy Kazel and Lay Missioner Jean Donovan. Their van was stopped at a road block by National Guardsmen. The women were taken to a remote area, abused and murdered. Their bodies were buried in a common grave by a  farmer compelled by the Guardsmen.

This year on Sunday, November 28th the memory of these women and the thousands of Salvadorans who also lost their lives will be commemorated at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining, New York. Included in this remembrance will be Sr. Carol (Carla)  Piette, another Maryknoll Sister who worked with Ita Ford in Chile and preceded her to El Salvador arriving the day Archbishop Romero was assassinated. Sisters Carla and Ita were together in a jeep caught by a flash flood while crossing a river bed August 23, 1980. Carla pushed Ita to safety but was herself drowned. The two Sisters had been working with refugees and displaced people in the region of Chalatenango in NE rural El Salvador during the undeclared civil war. The people of the Barrio where Carla’s body was found refer to her as a “Martyr of Charity” and honor her on the anniversary of her death each year. After Carla’s death, Sr. Maura Clark came from Nicaragua to take her place working with Ita.

On March 24 of 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero y Damas was gunned down while celebrating Mass in the Hospital of Divine Providence chapel. The day before in his Sunday homily he had appealed to the National Guard and the police not to kill their fellow brothers and sisters. “No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God,” he said. “No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time… to obey your consciences rather than the order of sin.”   The Maryknoll Sisters as well as the Cleveland Mission Team had come to El Salvador in response to the Archbishop’s call to Sisters for help in a situation of extreme oppression and violence experienced by the Church and by the suffering people. After the deaths of Romero and the Church Women, the brutal repression continued. Nine years later in 1989, six Jesuit priests teaching at University of Central America (UCA) together with their housekeeper and her daughter were dragged out of their residence and slain in their garden.

Nov 30, 2010


John McNeill has just posted a very moving Advent reflection at his blog, Spiritual Transformation. 
In his reflection, John gives thanks for the many gifts of the Holy Spirit, both within his own life and ministry and within the Church as a whole. Among these 'gifts,' John posits the fallibility of Church leaders, because it is through the providential design of so many fallible decisions that Catholics are being weaned away from a childish dependence on external authority. What is noteworthy about John's attitude is it's deep wisdom and spirituality. Instead of lamenting the present state of disarray within the church and the corruption of its leadership, he gives abundant thanks, seeing in the human folly of absurd decisions and official positions, the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit, detaching us from an inappropriate and immature addiction to external authority. Among the many fallible decisions one could cite, I would place the Pope's  recent comments on condoms in a soon to be published book, together with the flurry of commentary and clarification that has followed. While it appears to be a small chink in the wall, shifting perception away from the previous intransigent position, and giving the general impression that at long last the Catholic Church is tentatively approving some use of condoms in extreme situations (prostitution and HIV), the absurdity of this very minor concession only makes the fallibility of the overall position abundantly clear. In fact, this subtle shift makes the fallibility of Church authority even more evident than the previous absolute, intransigent prohibition, at least for persons of reasonable maturity, wisdom and understanding.  Church 'authority' now stands revealed as woefully inconsistent and out of touch with reality, particularly when we consider the tens of thousands of African women who have lost their lives to HIV because of the Church's intransigent position on condoms. To fully appreciate the horrible consequences of this position, read this open statement posted at Bridget Mary's blog, 

Yet despite the immense suffering, as well as the staggering criminal irresponsibility of the official Church in this regard,  we must still give thanks in a spirit of humble joy and trust, but  our heartfelt gratitude does not preclude prophetic protest at the injustices of fallible authority.  In light of the situation in Africa, the only appropriate response to the Pope's recent  'concession,' is one of outrage and shame. Far too little and far, far too late. Outrage, however, must not give way to bitterness. Our gratitude for the trials of the spirit reminds us that we are not alone, the Spirit guides the Church, and decisions that cause consternation and pain are 'permitted' by the Spirit for deeply mysterious and providential reasons. It reminds me of the comment made many years ago by a very holy scripture scholar, Father Edward Malatesta, S.J. He told his class in the Gospel of St. John during the  1968 summer session in Theology at the University of San Francisco that when he heard the news of Humanae Vitae (published days before on July 25th), he took a walk outside the Jesuit compound overlooking San Francisco bay and gave thanks to God and the Holy Spirit. He gave thanks in joy, he said, because: The Church is born in suffering.

In this same spirit of gratitude for the gifts of the Spirit and for the trials that purify us as a community I offer these selections from Father McNeill's reflection. You can read the entire reflection here.

I believe a new form of adult, mature spirituality is rapidly replacing the immature dependence in spiritual life on external authority. Jesus predicted that maturing process at the last supper when he told the apostles 'it is necessary that I go away for the Spirit to come to you"! So too our dependence on external authoity must give way to a dependence on the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts....

I believe that Jesus was expressing a basic law governing human growth into spiritual maturity. As humans, we must grow from dependence on external authority to dependence on an authority that dwells within us. To achieve that growth we need fallible authorities. If our parents had been infallible we could never develop into mature adults making our own decisions and taking responsibility for them....

Thank God that Church authorities have proved so fallible. The result has been a maturing of the people of God. This began when the Vatican fumbled the issue of birth control, forcing millions of Catholic to exercise their freedom of conscience, make their own decisions and take responsibility for them. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is what the present Pope is against when he decries moral relativism. ....

One of the greatest beneficiaries of the fallibility of church authorities has been the LGBT Catholic community. We came to realize early on that we could not accept and obey Church teaching on homosexuality without destroying ourselves physically, psychologically and spirituality. Consequently, as a matter of survival we had to take distance from Church teaching, develop our freedom of conscience and learn to hear what the Spirit of God is saying to us through our experience. The result has been that the LGBT community is leading the way to transform the Catholic Church into a Church of the Holy Spirit....

“The stone the builders rejected has become the corner stone! This is the Lord’s doing and it is amazing in our eyes.” THANK YOU!! 


Nov 24, 2010

Illumination, Light, Wisdom:Needed Now More Than Ever

Fom Spirituality and Practice comes a review of a recent film on the life of Hildegard von Bingen. Interestingly enough, Roger Ebert (whom I read regularly for film criticism) sees her as totally self deceived in her visions. But then, of course, he doesn't believe in mystical experiences, psychic phenomenon or 'life after death.' You can read his review here.

With all of the commotion being generated by Pope Benedict's recent comments on condoms, I felt a reminder was due of the sources of true wisdom and insight, and of how frequently these qualities come to us from the fringes and margins.

Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen
Directed by Margarethe von Trotta
Zeitgeist Films 10/10 Feature Film
Not Rated

Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) stands out as one of the most visionary and incredibly gifted spiritual women of all time. She was an abbess and founder of a Benedictine religious community; a teacher and preacher; a composer of music and the creator of an avant-garde morality play; a poet and artist; an herbalist and pharmacist; and a sensitive recipient of God-sent visions with insights about the Bible and the natural world. Yet for 800 years her ministry and the magnificent sweep of her talents and abilities went largely unknown. It is only recently, thanks to the rising tide of interest in women's spirituality, that her story has come into the light of day.

In his book Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, Matthew Fox lists eight reasons why this visionary speaks so poignantly to spiritual seekers of our time:

1. She was a woman in a patriarchal culture with a male-run church who had to work hard to be heard and have her wisdom and insights taken seriously.
2. Hildegard was a lover of the natural world and an ecologist of the first order who also was enchanted by the wonders of science.
3. She demonstrated a respect for the multiple mysteries of the human spirit and a "psychic cosmology" that honors the interdependence of all things.
4. Hildegard pioneered a mysticism open to other religions and ways of life.
5. She inspired other sisters and monks to work for the revival of Christianity and to follow their own paths with courage and hope.
6. Hildegard was a scout, seeking new territory with her ecological consciousness and respect for plants, animals, rocks, and trees.
7. She was a lover of learning with a holistic education practice and a theology in process.
8. Hildegard was a healer who broke down the walls between science and religion, the mind and the body, men and women, matter and spirit.

Fox ends his tribute to this twelfth-century wonder-worker with the following question:

"Has there ever been a time in human history or the history of the planet when illumination, light, and wisdom, were needed more than now? Can anyone be better equipped to lead us than the neglected one, St. Hildegard, who in fact defines the ultimate act of illumination as compassion?"

We tip our hats to the German film director and screenwriter Margarethe von Trotta (Marianne and Juliane, Rosa Luxemburg, Rosenstrasse), the creative force behind Vision — a soul-stirring and daring drama, which is admirably carried by the immensely gifted actress Barbara Sukowa in the role of Hildegard. Shot in the medieval cloisters in the German countryside, the film uses music written by Hildegard of Bingen as part of the score.

As we watched the life of this extraordinary woman unfold before our eyes, we tried to remember what inner strength it took to express creativity, to stand by a vision scorned by others, to follow conscience when things seemed to be collapsing all around.

At the age of eight, Hildegard's parents give her to the anchoress Jutta of Sponheim (Lena Stolze) for instruction. (In Christianity, an anchoress is a woman who chooses to withdraw into a solitary life of prayer and mortification.) Living in a home attached to the monastery of Disibodenberg, Jutta has a daughter who resents Hildegard's intrusion and is jealous of her connection with her mother. Both girls are lectured on the sin of envy and the healing powers of love, and 30 years later, both have become nuns in a small monastic community. When Jutta dies, her body reveals the marks of flagellation and self-castigation. Hildegard is chosen to be her successor.

Shortly after taking on the duties of prioress, Hildegard's visions intensify — usually accompanied by body breakdowns due to the power of her encounters with a "Living Light." Hildegard describes these mystical experiences to Volmar (Heino Ferch), her monk friend, who takes the matter to the Abbot of Disibodenberg (Alexander Held). At first this rigid chauvinist is skeptical about Hildegard's visions, but he changes his mind when he sees them as bringing more pilgrims to the monastery and more contributions from wealthy Germans. When some prestigious priests and theologians question Hildegard about her visions, they are distressed to learn that she is wakeful and alert when she receives them, and they are convinced that God would not lower himself to grant special conversations and teachings to a woman. Luckily, Hildegard's visions are declared orthodox by Bernard of Clairvaux and the Archbishop of Mainz, and Volmar is appointed to transcribe the messages from God.

In a series of small but effective vignettes, we are treated to examples of this extraordinary Benedictine nun's protean interests and talents. For example: Hildegard outside with the nuns, training them in the herbal capacities of plants; her love of learning in her joyous response to Volmar's gift of books filled with the latest knowledge; or her excitement studying the findings of philosophers and scientists. The same enthusiasm ripples through her artistic creations — as a musical composer and the creator of a musical morality play about an encounter between the soul and the Devil. In each of these adventures Hildegard of Bingen speaks to our times with her actions.

As more nuns flock to her, Hildegard receives a Divine message directing her to move to Rupertsberg near Bingen. The Abbot of Disibodenberg opposes the move but is outmaneuvered by the Archbishop of Mainz and a wealthy woman who has brought her young daughter Richardis (Hannah Herzsprung) to join the community. This newcomer wins Hildegard's attention and loyalty with her ability to read and serve as another recorder of her visions. Richardis vows that she has no other reason for living than to be in Hildegard's presence, and eventually this relationship reveals Hildegard's selfish nature and her attachment to this young devotee. Every saint has a shadow side and this film wisely exposes Hildegard's.

Hildegard of Bingen as depicted in Vision shows us how to respond to God's direct communications, to stand up for our faith, to take risks, to love learning, to express our creativity, to stay connected and close to nature, and to honor the ocean of mysteries of life and love that we live in. We hope that you will see yourself as a soul companion to Hildegard of Bingen and let her energy and spirit open your heart to fresh possibilities.

Nov 22, 2010

Nov 18, 2010


Haven't been posting for a while because I'm just finishing up a drama production -  of Noel Coward's delightfully sunny comedy, Hay Fever. We had our opening performance last night and the young cast was really quite brilliant. One walks away from such an experience feeling positive about the world and about young people in general and about their futures. If only life could always be like this. Going to do Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa in the Spring.

Nov 7, 2010

50 Very Insightful Blog Posts on GLBTQ Spirituality

I was just sent this very interesting link to 'Theology Degrees Online,' which lists 50 interesting articles of interest for GLBTQ people at various blogs around the blog-sphere.

What I found most interesting about the list were the number of articles devoted to gay struggles within Zen, Hindu, Jewish Orthodox, Tibetan Buddhist, Muslim, Mormon, Native American spiritual communities. Nearly every spiritual/religious community you can think of has been represented on the list. Very inspiring and well worth checking out. Here is the opening statement:

At first glance, one would assume that religion and spirituality gels little with the GLBTQ community and their associated quest for Civil Rights. Considering the very vocal opposition by many prominent religious figures and marginalization of ANY members who do not conform to very regimented expectations, that mindset is certainly understandable. However, polls have shown a growing acceptance of GLBTQ individuals in different houses of worship – and the numbers only continue to climb. The more one researches the subject of the relationship between homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality, transgender and religion, the more one unearths a diverse number of opinions, meditations, hardships and practices…no difference from heterosexuals, really. The following blog posts provide some excellent insight on how these men and women have approached their religious beliefs in order to find solace, peace of mind and acceptance. Contrary to popular belief, it can be done.

My favorite article: Feminist activists find inner peace in Thailand at MS. Magazine blog.

Nov 1, 2010

Yet Another Progressive Bids Farewell

Prickly Pear, the author of the blog, Far From Rome, has just posted a very moving statement on his blog announcing that he has finally decided to stop participating in the sacramental life of the church. Even though this has been my own path for over twenty five years (though I celebrate the Eucharist privately among friends), it still made me very sad for the present state of the Church. However, I had to remind myself of my own experience of peace and joy on the margins and my firm belief that the Spirit is 'permitting' the present disarray of the Church for her own mysterious and life-giving reasons. We are being led beyond the boundaries into the wilderness of faith. You can read Prickly Pear's statement here.

There is a movement underway here and I'm convinced its a movement of the Holy Spirit - showing us in such lives that the 'sacramental life of the church' (and I would include the Eucharist) can continue, flourish and survive outside the present formal obediential structures of the Roman institution (though this was not exactly Prickly Pear's intent in his statement, I'm enlarging here). Many of us are being called to witness to the life of the Spirit independent of the institution. When it is healthy, it can be an enormous help, but it is not an Absolute entity that is essential to the spiritual journey. When it becomes unhealthy, it becomes a danger - to young gay persons especially. The great Catholic tradition, however, is another matter, and here as well I feel many of us are being given the calling to maintain the living flame of this tradition in the wilderness of a very dark time. I have been doing this in peace and joy for twenty five years because 'outside' the doors is precisely where I encountered the living Risen Eucharistic Christ in my life. Occasionally, I stop in for a formal ceremony in Church, because I do miss the reverence and dignity a beautiful church can give the celebration of the Eucharist. But on every such occasion, I've been reminded interiorly that being a formal part of the institution is simply not my vocation. In other words, it doesn't seem to have been a conscious, deliberate, rational decision on my part, but more one of interior guidance and inspiration, for which troubling matters of conscience acted as a confirmation of the inspiration to move outside the boundaries, but not it's primary cause. One responds to the inspiration, of course, with a free act of will and trustful surrender, but the inspiration is wiser than we are and more far seeing than all of our rational motives. The Spirit is ahead of us on this one, way ahead. The bottom line for myself: peace and joy and the living face of the Beloved are found outside the door, not within the formal chamber of the church. And since so many of us are feeling this, what then is the Spirit saying by this powerful witnessing movement? We cannot claim credit for it ourselves, something very significant and powerful is being messaged here about the very nature of institutional religion. Peace, joy and love in the Spirit flourish on the margins of belief.

Oct 21, 2010

New Poll: Catholics most likely to rate their churches negatively re: gay teen suicides.

 Just in from Religious Dispatches

A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute reveals our new lesbian friends are among the plurality of Americans who say “that messages coming from places of worship are negative.” Forty-percent of those polled agreed that “these messages contribute ‘a lot’ to negative perceptions of gay and lesbian people.”

Those negative perceptions can have a life or death impact on LGBT people. With the recent rash of suicides among young people who have been bullied over their sexual orientation, or perceived sexual orientation, the messages coming from churches is extremely important.

The poll showed that 33 percent of those polled believe the churches’ messages are contributing “a lot” to “the higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth,” but oddly 21 percent say hearing condemnation from the pulpit doesn’t contribute to those suicides at all.

“The survey shows that a significant number of Americans are aware of and concerned about the negative impact of messages about homosexuality from places of worship, particularly with regard to gay and lesbian youth,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “Notably, despite the negative evaluations of places of worship in general, Americans are more likely to give their own places of worship high marks; nearly half Americans give their own place of worship either an “A” (28 percent) or a “B” (17 percent) on their handling of this issue.”

Among those giving high marks to how their churches are “handling the issue of homosexuality” are white evangelicals who give their church an “A” (49 percent) or a “B” (27 percent).

Catholics are most likely to rate their churches negatively, with 15 percent doling out a “D” and another 16 percent giving an “F.”

Those are interesting numbers given that most white evangelical churches are more often than not where some of those “negative” messages about homosexuality emanate from.  Yet white evangelicals are pleased with the message they hear about it in their churches. Could it be that they don’t perceive messages that homosexuality is sinful to be “negative” messages, but instead a “positive” message that with Jesus you can choose to not be gay?

While on the Catholic side, it seems a bit more transparent, since most Catholics are far more progressive on the issue of homosexuality than the Vatican. Catholics in the pews seem to see messages of the “sinfulness” of homosexuality as negative.

The confusion may clear up, even if just a tiny bit, as you delve deeper into the numbers, according to Jones. Their polling showed that large majorities of white evangelicals and black Protestants said they believed homosexuality was a sin (79 percent and 67 percent respectively), while white mainline Protestants and Catholics do not consider it sinful (63 percent and 56 percent).

“So the pattern is that groups that are more likely to believe homosexuality is a sin are both more likely to give churches high marks and less likely to say messages are negative,” Jones told RD.

Mainly because, we are left to conclude, they don’t see the preaching of homosexuality as a “sin” as something “negative.”

Oct 20, 2010


 Just read this powerful statement at Open Tabernacle, quoted in Betty Clermont's article, "Banging Our Heads Against a Brick Wall" in which she quotes from Cathleen Kaveny's article, The Long Goodbye,' on disaffected Catholics leaving the Church.

From the perspective of these Catholics, doctrine and practice are not developing but withering. But why not stay and fight? First, because they think remaining appears to involve complicity in evil; second, because fighting appears to be futile; and, third, because they don’t like what fighting is doing to them. The fight is diminishing their ability to hear the gospel and proclaim that good news. The fight is depriving them of the peace of Christ.

Never have I heard a more powerful statement of the spiritual motivation behind much of the mass exodus from the church. While some individuals are given the grace to 'remain and fight,' a heroic grace to be sure, many others are being led in the Spirit to find their peace elsewhere. Interior peace is the ultimate sign of the Spirit's direction. As our holy father master told us novices years ago, "Always go with the peace."And they are doing just that - in droves - and with the Spirit's blessings.

On another note, I've just finished Brother David Steindl-Rast's wonderful reformulation of the Apostle's Creed, Deeper Than Words, and have begun it again from the beginning. It's that good - and essential for our times. A modern classic. 

Taking each word of the Creed for a meditative reflection, Brother David comments on the irony that  the Roman Church,  among the more exclusive branches of Christianity today, exclusively arrogates to itself  the designation, "Catholic," which Brother David explains really should mean all-embracing and inclusive. The present Roman institution is none of these (when applied to LGBT people, among others), and in its practice contradicts the description of Catholic. I'm paraphrasing him in a way which sharpens his gentle, but clear and prophetic criticism, but his intent is clear. At this present moment in history, one cannot be both Roman and Catholic in one's Christianity. (See Jordan's critique of this statement in the comments.)

Brother David:

The earliest definition of CATHOLIC faith that the Christian tradition developed is still valid and valuable today. Seen in a new light and understood in our contemporary context, this definition, proposed by Vincent of Lerins around 450CE, can be helpful in a new way. Vincent described the CATHOLIC faith as a faith that has been held "by all, at all times, in all places." In his time, "all" meant all Christians. But our horizon has grown wider. For us, "all" means all human beings. There is no longer room for a narrower understanding of Catholicity. Truly CATHOLIC is only that faith in Life and its Ultimate Source that all humans share. It remains alive in the hearts of humans who are not even aware of it. It can be awakened by any religious tradition.

Catholic faith is not a specific brand of Christian faith, but Christian faith is one particular form of catholic - i.e. universal - faith. The CATHOLIC CHURCH in which one can have faith is the community of all who have faith, to whichever of the world's religions they belong. It is understandable that many Christian communities today replace the word CATHOLIC in the Creed with 'Christian' in reaction to the Roman Church's calling only itself CATHOLIC - an exclusiveness that contradicts the inclusiveness of that term. It would be more faithful to the spirit of the Creed, however, to translate the word CATHOLIC as "all-embracing" rather than replace it with a narrower term, even the term "Christian."

And to conclude with a quote from my good friend John, a gay therapist from San Francisco, whom I met forty years ago in the Jesuit Novitiate:

Since I decided that I am not a Catholic and have made a psychic break with the Church I am able to go to Mass and am able to accept the priests (and their sexual lives) with much more of an open heart.

Oct 16, 2010

I will learn to cherish beings of bad nature

Eight Verses for Training the Mind 



by Langri Thangpa
With a determination to accomplish
The highest welfare for all sentient beings
Who surpass even a wish-granting jewel
I will learn to hold them supremely dear.

Whenever I associate with others I will learn
To think of myself as the lowest among all
And respectfully hold others to be supreme
From the very depths of my heart.

In all actions I will learn to search into my mind
And as soon as an afflictive emotion arises
Endangering myself and others
Will firmly face and avert it.

I will learn to cherish beings of bad nature
And those oppressed by strong sins and suffering
As if I had found a precious
Treasure very difficult to find.

When others out of jealousy treat me badly
With abuse, slander, and so on,
I will learn to take on all loss,
And offer victory to them.

When one whom I have benefited with great hope
Unreasonably hurts me very badly,
I will learn to view that person
As an excellent spiritual guide.

In short, I will learn to offer to everyone without exception
All help and happiness directly and indirectly
And respectfully take upon myself
All harm and suffering of my mothers.

I will learn to keep all these practices
Undefiled by the stains of the eight worldly conceptions
And by understanding all phenomena as like illusions
Be released from the bondage of attachment.

taken from: Khandro.Net

"It could be said that the Eight Verses for Training the Mind contains within them the entire essence of the Buddha's teachings in a distinct form." The Dalai Lama.

Oct 3, 2010


"The phrase CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT expresses implicitly our trust in the breakthrough of the divine Spirit that happened in history through Jesus Christ, say, when he touched the untouchables, sat down at table with the outcasts, gave women equal status with men. It implies our commitment to the spiritual struggle that this breakthrough has set in motion throughout the centuries and up to our own time; think of Dorothy Day and her witness for peace; of Cesar Chavez, who restored the dignity to exploited farm workers; of Mother Teresa, who served the poorest of the poor. This phrase of the Creed is not about a piece of (unverifiable) genetic information concerning Jesus. Rightly understood, it ties together mystic vision and resolute action in the world. How else did the Antislavery Movement come about, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Liberation Movement, Gay Liberation, any peace movement, and the global ecology movement? How did these movements come about if not CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT? These words of the Creed become the proclamation of our own dynamic relationship to the Spirit. By pronouncing them we make a commitment to carry out what the Spirit conceived and what Jesus bore witness to by his life and death...

There is also a way in which we can make sense of the idea that Jesus Christ was CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.  We can think of his life as conceived in the mind of God similar to the way the hero of a story is conceived in the storyteller's mind. A poetic understanding of this sort comes much closer to the mind-set of the Gospel writers than to the literalism of later interpreters.  It has been well said that we must choose between taking the Gospels seriously or literally. If we read them with a sense for the poetry, we will not be able to dodge their serious challenge. We will be moved by the strength and tenderness, the revolutionary fervor and fervent pacifism of the towering figure of Jesus alive with the very Life-breath of God. Then all that is best in us will be stirred not only by his example, but by the stirring of his very SPIRIT within us. Yes, this SPIRIT is in all of us; it is the very life of our life. For all this unfolding reality in us and around us is a story of love, CONCEIVED by God in the SPIRIT of love."

taken from Brother David Steindl-Rast Deeper than Words, Living the Apostle's Creed. (pg. 67-66)

Oct 2, 2010


"It’s been decided. On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the 7 gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes and at their schools. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and schools. RIP Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase, Billy Lucas and Cody J. Barker (picture not shown). You are loved."

 To Join the Facebook Event click here.

Sep 23, 2010

Dying in Despair/The Pope and His Victims

 I've had to put Gay Mystic on hold for a while, due to personal pressures - among them the busy beginning of a new school year and a new drama production and work in progress on two writing projects. However, I continue to follow the 'news' from my favorite blogs, among them Queering the Church, On Bilgrimage, Enlightened Catholicism and Wild Reed.  I've pretty much ignored the Pope's recent visit to the UK, except for the updates and commentary, principally from Terrence Weldon, and William Lindsey. I was too disturbed by NCR's John Allen to pay him much mind. Benedict visited Prague last year about this time and once was enough for me. I was surprised to find myself so deeply moved by the sense of 'sacredness' surrounding the Petrine office (though I'm no believer in the jurisdictional authority of the Pope or the Vatican), while conflicted by the paradox of having such  a contradictory and divisive clerical bureaucrat as Joseph Ratzinger inhabiting the role. In a way, the limitations of the man and the distortions of the office in popular Catholic culture only highlighted for me the holiness of the symbol. Love the symbol, reject it's appropriation by the forces of reaction. Just today, at Queering the Church, Terry Weldon quoted from an eloquent 'cry of conscience'  directed at the Pope from openly gay priest Father Bernard Lynch, that I find to be among the most powerful of it's kind. Below are some selected passages which I found most moving. You can read the entire sermon and article here.


At the height of the Plague years your Holiness’s ‘Pastoral Care of Homosexual People’ document told us as LGBT people that we are ‘disordered in our nature’ and ‘evil in our love’ and the typical violence committed against us was ‘understandable if not acceptable.’ I was shocked and scandalised. I did not understand then and now how such teachings are consonant with the unconditional love of God given to us in Jesus Christ.

Many of the people in my care died in despair as a direct result of this document written by you. Its effect not only reverberated around the Catholic world but far beyond. Your teachings I know were and are used — both within the Catholic Church and outside of it — as a baton to attack every human and civil right sought after by LGBT people.

Justice demands that I speak out. ‘Silence equals death’ as my friend and fellow activist Larry Kramer said at the height of the AIDS pandemic. I speak not only for the living but most especially for those thousands of gay men who died in despair as a direct result of your Holiness’s words. 

As my Pope, I welcome you. I welcome you with hope that you ask forgiveness of those whom your words drove to despair. Most importantly I ask — I beg you in fact — to change immediately this totally dehumanising teaching. Thank you.

Sep 13, 2010


"How Beautiful in my way,

Cause God Makes no mistakes,

I’m on the right track, baby,

I was born this way."

Lady Gaga, upon receiving her award for Video of the Year Sunday evening at the MTV Video Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles, announced the title of her new record, I Was Born This Way,  and sang the first four verses. Gaga, a strong supporter of gay rights, also thanked her gay fans for playing her music and videos so many times and giving her such support. 

"How Beautiful in my way,

Cause God Makes no mistakes,

I’m on the right track, baby,

I was born this way."

These lyrics need to be tattooed onto the forehead of every ignorant Christian homophobe in American.

Sep 12, 2010


My students just sent me this (old news from last June, but it's all new to me) - horrible, frightening, wildly funny and terrible all at the same time. I've followed it with a clever parody which hangs a minute into it and takes you to the filmmakers' YouTube channel for the complete version.


Sep 10, 2010

Heeding the Call of the Spirit: Women Priests in Santa Barbara

Just received this inspiring news from my old home town of Santa Barbara, California, to which I contributed the comment below:

Roman Catholic Rebels

Santa Barbara Women Priests Defy Vatican Law

After working for the Roman Catholic Los Angeles Archdiocese for more than 20 years, Patricia Sandall’s call to the priesthood came gradually. She considered being ordained as a Protestant minister, but could not bring herself to convert to another religious tradition.

“I [am] Roman Catholic to the bone,” said Sandall. “I could not leave my church.”
But there alone was the problem. The Catholic Church levies its ultimate penalty, excommunication, on women who attempt to become priests.

Right here in Santa Barbara, many devout women —including Catholic nuns, teachers, and professors — have acted against what they believe is unjust sexism by becoming a part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP) movement.


Sandall’s calling was fulfilled on June 19 when she was ordained a priest at the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes. More than 200 enthusiastic people turned up to support her. Now as a priest, she will be serving on the pastoral staff at the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes while also being involved in RCWP administration.

Sandall became the second Santa Barbara woman to be ordained through RCWP and will be joined by a third on September 12 with the ordination of a former nun, Jeannette Love. Love has been part of a Renewal Team that was trained — as decreed by Vatican II — to work within the community to help sisters transition to a more open community life. Love and her team had asked for liberties reportedly granted to them in Vatican II, but their requests were denied by the Superior General from Rome and Provincial Council. They were told to abide or leave.

Gradually, each sister moved out on her own to continue to search out God’s will. After serving at the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch (not under Rome), Love began to explore her call within the RCWP community.

“As I prepare for my ordination in September” said Love, “I feel that I stand in solidarity with many women who, down through the ages, were treated with injustice by the church and whose call to priesthood was never realized.”

Sister Arlene Ellis, a retired nun not affiliated with the RCWP who was active within the ministry of the official Roman Catholic Church for 46 years, supported the women’s quest, saying, “I believe that there are women who are called to priesthood, and some of these women are Roman Catholics. In order to be true to that call, they must find another avenue for them to fulfill the yearning.”

For both Sandall and Love, it took years of questioning, searching, and deep internal grief to face a call that could not be fulfilled within the institutional church. Because Rome is steadfast in its decision, it has lost the service of women teachers, professors, nuns, and spiritual directors who have dedicated a great deal of their lives to the institution. “Our call is to the church as the people of God rather than the call to the hierarchy,” said Suzanne Dunn, pastor of the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes.

While these women have not been officially excommunicated, they have been deeply moved by the excommunication of RCWP’s founders and the church’s definitive punishment of those who support, ordain, or become women priests. They do not fear the threat of excommunication, but instead reject the Roman church’s declarative penalty.

The women of RCWP have not only found the Catholic administration to be unjust in its consideration of women’s call to the priesthood, but they also strongly oppose the Church’s Canon Law 1024. The man-made law, which RCWP members hold to be discriminatory, states that, “only a baptized male validly receives sacred ordination.”

“We are challenging this unjust law and want the entire Roman Catholic Church to do the same,” said Sandall.

Despite the church’s current position, these women say they will continue to stand strong in order to give service to their call and to their faith. They remain firm with the conviction that Christ came to redeem every person because in his divinity he transcended gender for all of humanity. They say they still love the Catholic Church and love it enough to stand for the justice they believe it deserves. “We as women won’t go away,” said Sandall, “and neither will the spirit.”

The Catholic Church of the Beatitudes holds a weekly mass at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays in the First Congregational Church, 2101 State Street. For additional info, visit

My comment (made in reference to a hostile commentator praying for the demise of "the dinosaur 60's generation":

Very inspiring news and reminds me of the comments of Hans Kung recently, paraphrased in the Progressive Catholic Voice:

"The (Roman Catholic) institution we know will die soon, to be replaced by communities following the gospel of Jesus, with informal liturgies and a sacramentality related to life in community...What he sees emerging is a spirituality related to the human condition and stages of life, to replace institutionalized rigidity."

What we are witnessing is the mystery of Resurrection, of death and rebirth. Blessings on these women for so courageously showing us the way forward. It is the rigid institutional structure of the church which is the dinosaur, but thanks to the winds of the Spirit, new life is brewing.