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."

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