Peter Maher, Sydney priest and editor of The Swag, National Council of Priests of Australia Quarterly Magazine.
This article is inspired by the Acceptance Reflection on August 6, 2021
Acceptance Sydney's Response to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Statement regarding Blessings of Same Sex Unions
Acceptance Sydney conveys its deep sadness in the recent statement by the Vatican’s Responsum ad Dubium of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dated 15 March 2021, on banning blessings of same sex unions.
While the statement conveyed the message that this "does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations”, it nonetheless does much to damage the relationship that faithful LGBTQI+ Catholics, their family and friends have with the Church. Many may see it as yet another example of where the Church acknowledges the ‘dignity’ of LGBTQI+ people, yet refuses to give them that dignity by not affirming their relationships.
Acceptance Sydney, formed in 1972, has a proud and long history of championing and supporting LGBTIQ+ Australian Catholics in the reconciliation of their faith and sexuality, providing a pastoral ministry emphasising the authenticity and dignity of LGBTIQ+ Catholics through liturgy, witness, and fellowship.
Groups like Acceptance Sydney evangelise and bring LGBTQI+ people back to the Church, yet this message only serves to drive people away. This is our sadness.
Jesus often used doctrine to challenge religious leaders of his time and understood the law; the doctrine, to be made for people, not people to be made for the law. Jesus’ response was always pastoral. We do, however, maintain great hope in Pope Francis. He, like Jesus, understands and upholds the doctrine of the Church but his response is also often pastoral. You can see this by his actions. In the 2020 documentary “Francesco” we discover his support for the recognition of our relationships.
Our key message is to pray for the Holy Father and the Church. Not to throw away one’s faith, but to embrace the message of the Gospels that God’s love is deeper than any doctrine. Through prayer and contemplation of the scripture, God’s message will continue to burn in our hearts and give us strength and courage to live our lives according to God’s plan for us; for those who are LGBTQI+, this is God’s plan.
We are encouraged by news reports of Pope Francis’ recent comments in a documentary “Francesco” in which the Pope provides support for same gender unions.
Pope Francis’ comment that "Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family’ goes a long way to reconciling the LGBTIQ+ community with their faith by providing pastoral support for the legitimacy of their relationships. This can only be a positive step that paves the way for future statements from the Church that underscores that we are all children of God who are loved.
The GNRC's 3rd General Assembly was hosted with Dignity USA in Chicago coinciding with their 50th Jubilee Celebrations. Australia was represented by 3 organizations - Acceptance Sydney, Australian Catholics for Equality and the Rainbow Catholics Inter-Agency for Ministry. During the General Assembly, there were several keynote speeches that were powerful points of reflections; we have sought permission to share them with Acceptance Sydney members.
We've included prominent theologian Mary E Hunt's opening address to the GNRC General Assembly, please enjoy.Read more
Bishop calls homosexuality ‘gift from God,’ seeks to end ‘prejudices that kill’
[Scroll down to the bottom of the page for details about our MSC confrere bishop]
A Brazilian bishop said July 30 that homosexuality is a “gift from God.” Seeing the reaction his homily generated, Bishop Antônio Carlos Cruz Santos of Caicó then released a statement saying that his only scope was to “save lives,” after learning about the high statistics of suicide among the LGBT community.
“If it is not a choice, if it is not a disease, in the perspective of faith it can only be a gift,” the bishop of Caicó in the Rio Grande do Norte state said during his homily at a Mass closing feast of Santana de Caicó, always marked on the Sunday following the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne.
“The gospel par excellence is the gospel of inclusion,” said the bishop. “The gospel is a narrow door, yes, it is a demanding love, but it is a door that is always open.
“When you look at homosexuality, you cannot say it’s an option,” Cruz said, adding that a choice has to be made freely, while sexual orientation is something a person discovers “one day.”
However, he said, a person can choose how to live his or her sexual orientation, “in a dignified, ethical way, or in a promiscuous one. But promiscuity can be lived in any of the orientations.”
The bishop then said that homosexuality hasn’t been considered as a disease by the World Health Organization since the 1990s, and given this, and the fact that a person doesn’t choose to be gay, same-sex attraction can only be “a gift from God. It’s given by God. But perhaps our prejudices do not get the gift of God.”
During his homily, Cruz said that when slavery was accepted, black people weren’t considered human, “they said we black people didn’t have a soul,” because of “prejudices.”
“Just as we were able to leap, in the wisdom of the Gospel, and overcome slavery, is it not the time for us to leap, from a perspective of faith, and overcome prejudices against our brothers who experience same-sex attraction?” the bishop asked.
Prejudice, he said, is a “concept before an experience,” and it’s what blinded generations to slavery, and what blinds Europe today to the “drama of refugees.”
Cruz, appointed bishop by Pope Francis in 2014, after he served in some of Brazil’s most infamous favelas, or slums, said the Argentine pontiff is sometimes accused by “some who want to be more Roman than the pope,” of wanting to water down the Church’s teaching, “they say we’re selling ourselves, that he’s selling the doctrine for something cheap.
“In truth, what Pope Francis wants is to make mercy the starting point of Catholic doctrine,” he said. “And mercy, people, is not cheap: Mercy is very expensive. Christ paid a high price for mercy.”
Cruz also quoted Francis’s famous line “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?” adding, just as the pope did at the time, on the flight back from Rio de Janeiro in 2013, that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that gay people are not to be marginalized from society.
“It’d be good for orthodox [Catholics] to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
The prelate also quoted Francis’s document on the family, Amoris Laetitia, in which the pope talks about “accompanying, discernment and welcoming” families in irregular unions, acknowledging that even though it was addressed to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, it could apply to gay people too.
The bishop began his homily talking about a radio interview that really affected him. The host was talking about a professor who did his thesis on the prevalence of suicide among transvestites and transsexuals.
On hearing this report, he said, he began to think about “so many brothers and sisters with a homosexual orientation who feel misunderstood and unloved by us, who are Church, by their families, by their society and even by themselves, as it was in the days of slavery.”
The bishop’s homily, available in video on YouTube, was praised by some and criticized by many others, who even call his words a heresy and demanded the Vatican to get involved.
Seeing the many reactions, Cruz released a statement on the diocesan website on Sunday, a week after his homily. In it, the bishop stood by his remarks, saying that his goal was to “save lives, contributing so that we can overcome the prejudices that kill.”
The bishop said that he did not want to induce anyone to make a mistake, but that he followed the guidelines of the church and of Francis.
“As Pope Francis told us many times, people already know by heart the doctrine of the Church about abortion, divorce and homosexual acts,” Cruz wrote. “He asks us not to be obsessed with sin, increasing the wounds of these people, and insists that the doors of the church are open to welcome, instruct, discern, love in order to bring salvation to all without exception.”
The bishop also wrote that his intention on addressing the issue was merely pastoral, and that he’s not challenging the teachings of the Catechism. Furthermore, he quotes point 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible,” the section he quoted in full says. “This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
Following this statement, Cruz said his reflection as a pastor moved by the “weaknesses of his flock, without wanting to minimize the doctrinal and moral dimensions that the subject matter involves, my intention is to save lives, helping to overcome prejudices that kill and enter into the dynamic of God’s mercy that respects, rescues and saves people.”
Bishop Antônio Carlos Cruz Santos, M.S.C.
Many of us will have heard the recent news about the Vatican rejecting a trans* man as a godparent. The man, Alex Salinas, is a faithful trans* Catholic. This is a story that began in Spain and went to the Bishop then to Rome.
The story is well summarised on the New Ways Ministry website here: Vatican Intervention Causes Bishop to (Again) Reject Trans* Man as Godparent. I think it is worth noting that other Church-affiliated news about this tend to refer to Alex as 'a transsexual woman, who considers herself a man'.
The story is discussed this week on ABC National on the Religion and Ethics program. After transmission, it can be listened to or downloaded online at any time. The program airs on Wednesday 5:30PM and again on Thursday 5:30AM (Sydney times). Father Peter Maher was interviewed for this program.
Program details can be found on the ABC website here: Religion and Ethics Report.
(This article is a stub. I'll update this article after the program airs. Stay tuned! If you're wondering why there are asterisks in this article (i.e. trans* man), then this link explains.)
— Chris Price, 08 September 2015.
Ben Oh, Acceptance member, Newtown parishioner and campaigner for peace, equality and justice, reflects on the meaning of the Easter events as paradigms for developing a more equitable and just world.
- This is from an article published on 12 November 2014 by Michael Kenny.
Please see the link at the end of the post for source and attribution.
The 54 year old one time corporate lawyer has been installed as Archbishop during a ceremony at Saint Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.
He takes over from Cardinal George Pell who left the position in February to become the Vatican's finance chief in Rome.
Archbishop Fisher said he wants to use the role to reach out to those who have felt alienated from the Catholic Church, including gay people and the divorced.
"I think the Catholic Church is and should be a church for the whole of humanity," he said.
"Our arms are wide open for everyone. So whatever the struggles in their life, whether that's with their sexuality or their marital history or any other issues, I want to say to them: 'Come to the Church. The Church loves you because God loves you’."
Archbishop Fisher said he had been moved by recent calls from Pope Francis for the Catholic Church to adopt a greater openness towards gay people and divorced Catholics who have remarried.
"I have a consciousness now of the struggles of people with same sex attraction", he said.
"Our concern should be there to help them rather than to be adding to their problems and I fully back the view that we should be compassionate to people with a same sex attraction or with other struggles in their life."
The new archbishop said he also wanted to use his new role to reach out to younger Catholics and to restore public trust tarnished in the wake of recent paedophile scandals involving Catholic priests.
"We have to be very honest with ourselves and with everybody else about what has gone wrong", he said.
"We need to own up to that and show that we are genuinely ashamed and contrite and determined that that will never happen again," he added.
"We have to make sure that the victims are given every help they can be to be healed of what's been done to them and I think we have to put in processes for the future that mean that paedophiles can't be in positions like this again and that when there are complaints, they are dealt with very quickly."
Archbishop Fisher said he holds strong views on a number of social issues, particularly the treatment of asylum seekers.
"There is no doubt that we have to do what we can in this country to make sure that people smugglers have no incentive to continue that deadly practice", he said.
"But that said, we don't want to have such strong disincentives that we end up being unjust, especially to children", he added.
"I think all people of good will in this country would be deeply uncomfortable with the thought of having people incarcerated in horrible camps and who go on to suffer further psychological damage".
Source: Michael Kenny at this link on sbs.com.au on 12 November 2014
'Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them,' says Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew. Look at what these words say to his followers.
You don't need a crowd, just two or three. 'Gathered in my name', not 'gathered in a church' or 'at a certain time or place', but simply 'in my name': that is, two or three, with Christ as the common centre of their faith, gathered to pray and praise God. 'There am I among them.' This is an affirmative statement. It's a positive statement. It is a statement of assurance. It is a statement made with no other qualifications.Read more