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Giovanni Bosco

In Uncategorized on September 20, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Giovanni was born to an impoverished rural family in Castelnuovo, Piedmont. Patronage from clerics allowed him to be ordained priest in 1841. He devoted himself to improve the life and education of the many homeless peasant teenage boys in and around Turin, hundred of whom were attracted to the city by the Industrial Revolution.

In 1864 he founded the Salesian Fathers religious order. At Bosco’s death the Salesian “oratoires” numbered about 250. He was beatified in 1924, and declared a Saint of the Catholic church in 1934.
Bosco is one of the many homosexuals who found in the Catholic church a family and a “mission”. Quite surely he was a paedophile who, possibly, succeeded in sublimating his attraction to young boys into a socially useful undertaking.
(From  Aldrich & Wetherspoon, “Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History from Antiquity to WWII”

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What Irish Catholics Believe

In Marriage and family on September 18, 2010 at 9:36 am
This is getting monotonous, but it must be stated again. What Catholics believe and practice on matters of sexual ethics, as a matter of empirical fact, is simply not what the (nominally) celibate bishops in their ivory towers would like us to believe, or falsely proclaim as “Catholic” belief, when it is in fact no more than Vatican doctrine.
The latest evidence, in a long line of similar research, comes from Ireland. This makes it all the more notable, given that country’s long reputation until recently as a “priest-ridden country”, where the dictates of the clergy meant that even contraception was forbidden by law, and people would journey across the island to Belfast just to buy condoms.
In a marked turnaround, the Irish people do not simply tolerate pre-marital sex, they believe it is desirable for young couples to spend time living together before committing to marriage. The bishops, on the other hand, maintain that all sex outside of marriage and not “ordered to procreation” is sinful, and presumably support their American colleagues’ pronouncement that cohabitation before marriage, like homosexuality, is gravely disordered.
The Irish politicians have come a long way in standing up to moral bullying by the church officials, notably over the investigations into clerical sexual abuse, but have some way yet to go. They have succeeded in passing civil partnership legislation, which will come into effect early;next year, but lag well behind their voters. Fully two thirds would support full marriage equality.
From the Irish Times:

Two-thirds support gay marriage, poll finds

JUST OVER two-thirds of people (67 per cent) believe gay couples should be allowed to marry, according to an Irish Times /Behaviour Attitudes social poll.
It is one of a series of findings in a poll on “sex, sin and society” that indicates Irish people have adopted a more liberal attitude towards personal relationships and sexual behaviour.
In addition showing strong support for gay marriage, a significant majority (60 per cent) also believe civil partnerships for gay couples will not undermine the institution of marriage. A large majority (91 per cent) also say they would not think less of a person if they revealed they were gay or lesbian.
These numbers are consistently high across most age groups, as well as in urban and rural areas.
People are divided, however, on whether gay couples should be allowed to adopt children. Some 46 per cent support such a move, while more than a third (38 per cent) are opposed. Younger people, urban dwellers and women are more likely to be supportive of the idea.
The findings also indicate there is a growing consensus that living together before marriage is likely to result in a more stable marriage. A majority (57 per cent) believe cohabitation is a positive development. This view is reflected consistently across most age groups.
Even higher numbers (79 per cent) do not regard sex before marriage as immoral. When broken down by religion, most Catholics – again, 79 per cent – did not see anything wrong with the practice.
Just 15 per cent, mostly older people or those living in rural areas, see it as immoral.
There are also significant differences across the generations in attitudes towards issues such as celibacy and virginity. In total, just under half (48 per cent) of people admire those who choose to be celibate for moral or religious reasons.
A majority of older people (62 per cent) aged 65 or more are much more likely to admire celibacy, while this falls to well under half among younger and middle-aged people.
Even among Catholics, respondents are just as divided. While 51 per cent of Catholics admire celibacy, the remainder either do not (33 per cent), or say they do not know (16 per cent).
Not all the poll findings point to increasingly liberal attitudes, however. The average age most people feel teenagers should begin to have sex at is 18 years, above the current age of consent which is 17.

Survey reveals more relaxed attitude to sex
Two-thirds support gay marriage, poll finds

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Soho Masses (and Me) on National Television.

In Uncategorized on September 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm

The UK’s rule-book Catholics who so visibly oppose London’s gay Masses have been vocal in their fervent hope and prayer that Pope Benedict’s impending visit will bring order to a wayward flock, and bring “unity” (by which they appear to mean whipping everybody else into conformity with their own, very narrow, understanding of Catholicism.) They will be disappointed. Already it is abundantly clear that our Masses will not be stopped, and may well come out of the Papal visit stronger than ever.

The visit itself has led to a constant stream of news and analysis in the British media, including daily short inserts in the BBC’s “Newsnight” programme. A range of longer programmes have also been broadcast, or are scheduled for the weeks ahead. Some of these programmes have specifically featured teaching on homosexuality, and our Soho Masses. Taken together, they amount to vastly more extensive public exposure, and qualitatively more sympathetic publicity, than we have ever seen before.

Yesterday morning, the openly gay broadcaster Mark Down was on BBC4 Radio, with programme called “Pope Benedict’s British Divisions”, which examined the changes in the local church since the previous papal visit, by Pope John Paul II. This covered many aspects of the church – but our Masses (where Dowd is a regular participant) were an important part.   Last evening, the Newsnight short feature also had prominence for the Masses, including footage of a range of members of the congregation who had been interviewed before Mass – myself included. I had been wondering how best to introduce you to those extracts of these two programmes which are specifically relevant to our Masses (leaving the bigger picture of the Church as a whole to a separate post), but the BBC has made it easy for me. At the BBC magazine website, there is a superb written summary of Mark Dowd’s radio programme, together with video footage of the interviews with Soho Mass participants from the Newsnight feature. Have a look,  at “Britain’s Only Gay Mass“.

As Britain prepares for a visit from the Pope, there is opposition from some gay people who believe the Roman Catholic church is intolerant of their sexuality. But in one London church homosexuals are attending a “gay Mass” with the blessing of senior clergy.

Paul Brown had not been to church since his mother’s funeral in 2002. Now he is back in the pews, courtesy of a Mass for lesbian and gay Catholics which is the only one of its kind in the UK. “I searched for a Mass with a positive message about things you should do, not someone telling me all the things I shouldn’t do,” he says. Paul, who sports a black leather biker’s jacket, is one of a number who have transformed the church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory in London’s West End. They sing hymns at the top of their voices. Many are aged under 30. Some have dyed hair. Suddenly, Catholicism seems be all the rage in this part of central London

I’m the disreputable looking one making a point about the Church and sexual ethics in general, responding to the observation that homosexual activity is contrary to church teaching. What I said was,

The simple fact is that across the world, Catholics disagree with, and do not comply with Church teaching – no, Vatican teaching – on a whole range of sexual ethics matters

As my friend and colleague on the Pastoral Council, Renate Rothwell, says in her quotation,

My life without the Soho Mass would be bleaker, lonelier and less joyful.

Another friend, former priest Tom Munn, asked what he thought the Pope thinks of the Mass (or if it mattered to him), replied

My faith is more important to me than what the Pope thinks.

This is a sentiment I would support, but in fact is irrelevant to our situation. My own response to the same question (on the cutting room floor) was that I am quite sure that the pope does support the Masses (if he has specific knowledge of them), or would support the principle if he does not. We certainly know that the Masses were arranged in consultation with high level Vatican officials, who continue to monitor them closely. We also know that the present head of the CDF, Cardinal Levada, was one of the earliest appointments made by Benedict on assuming the papacy – and as head of the San Francisco diocese, Cardinal Levada had previously been supportive of the Masses at Most Holy Redeemer, San Francisco. As Mark Dowd makes clear in his radio programme, Cardinal Levada certainly has full knowledge of our Masses. It is inconceivable that he would condone a pastoral initiative in conflict with the intentions of Benedict, or that Benedict would have appointed him if he were hostile to the principle of a gay Mass, such as that in the Castro. It is also significant that under the previous papacy of John Paul II, the organizers of our Masses, who were then unable to find a home in any Catholic church, were constantly unable to set up any form of meeting or even simple correspondence with the then Cardinal Archbishop or his representatives. Yet just eighteen months into Benedict’s papacy, we were approached by the diocese with a request to move into a Catholic church – and were amazed by the sense of urgency with which they were treating the matter. So I am convinced that we have implied support from Benedict himself, and direct support from his deputies.

What should be of real concern to the rule-book protesters agitating to have the Masses stopped, is this statement by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster diocese, who is both the local ordinary and the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales:

“anybody who is trying to cast a judgement on the people who come forward for communion really ought to learn to hold their tongue”.

This quotation should be read in conjunction with an earlier statement from Nichols that in the Catholic tradition, a genuine search for truth is more important than mere blind loyalty. (“Real Catholicism”: Blind Loyalty, or a Search for Truth?“) It is a clear warning to our band of protesters that their opposition is misplaces and will not be allowed to derail the Masses, echoing the verdict that they were earlier given directly by a senior Vatican official (A “Culture of Life” and Ferment in the UK Church).

Instead, the head of the English church has made it clear that these Masses serve a real pastoral need – and could well be extended, in time, to other English diocese where the need exists  (Brighton, say, which has a strong gay population and where the local ordinary has a reputation as relatively liberal?).

I like Archbishop Nichols, and this papal visit,  more and more.

(The full programmes from Radio 4 and Newsnight, with more extensive coverage of the Masses and also of the wider church, are available on the BBC’s i-player service, but only for a limited period after broadcast. For the curious, this  is me:



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Oz State Premier Stands Up To Cardinal Pell, Secures Gay Adoption for NSW.

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm
Breaking news today is that the New South Wales state assembly has narrowly approved a bill to put LGBT and heterosexual couples on an equal footing for adoption procedures. There are still a few hurdles to clear before this becomes final, but (as far as I can tell), with this one, the biggest has now been cleared. This is big news for queer Catholics. The formidable Cardinal Pell made clear his strong opposition – but the equally strong support of the Catholic NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally, appears to have been decisive in providing just enough resistance.
Kristina Kenneally, Catholic and Advocate for Adoption Equality

Perhaps it was the full-fledged backing given to the Bill by New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally, a devout Catholic, which took the wind out of the sails of opponents. “In forming my position on this Bill, I have considered my experiences as a mother, my responsibilities as a parliamentarian and my conscience as a Christian and member of the Catholic faith,” she told lawmakers. Instead of proving divisive, it served to unite New South Wales’s main political outfits with Opposition Liberal Party leader Barry O’Farrell also voting in its favor.

This is an important reminder to all of us that the “Catholic Church” is far more than the bishops and cardinals who claim to speak for us. They are fully entitled to speak on behalf of the Vatican and Vatican doctrine – but when they claim to speak on behalf of “the church”, research evidence consistently shows that they deceive. On numerous issues of sexual ethics, ministry, and papal authority, the evidence is that right across the globe, most Catholics simply do not agree with orthodox Vatican doctrine.

This decision is also important as another indicator of an Australian paradox. In the global march to family equality, Australia stands out as an oddity. Although surveys have shown that a strong majority of Australians support full marriage and adoption rights for same sex couples, there is still no national provision for either, and both of the major political parties opposed full equality during the recent election campaign. Below the surface, however, there have been increasing signs of a gathering groundswell of support that could soon force the issue. The election result, which produced a hung parliament with increased influence for independents and a stronger Green Party, may show the major parties how mistaken they were – and may pave the way for a major rethink. It is significant that the NSW result came after a “conscience” vote in the assembly (that is, members were permitted by their whips to take their own decisions, rather than following a party line). It is believed that a conscience vote on marriage in the national parliament could attract significant support.
Meanwhile, even as Canberra dithers, there are regular advances at state level, with the adoption decision in New South Wales just the latest of several.   Earlier this week the Tasmanian lower house voted to recognise same sex marriages conducted elsewhere, which means that Tasmanian couples will be able to secure secure legally recognised marriage easily enough – provided only that they are willing to travel abroad for the wedding. (Several countries which currently recognise marriage equality do not have residency requirements. Nepal could soon be another.)
Gay adoption is already recognised in Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, which is also the only state to conduct formal civil partnerships. (New South Wales and Victoria maintain less formal domestic partnership registers, which makes it easier for same sex couples to achieve the de facto recognition that in principle they are entitled to – but which in practice can be difficult without suitable documentary evidence of the relationship.)
Each separate move at state level inevitably leaves the population that much more accustomed to the idea of family equality, and queer families increasingly visible as ordinary members of society, deserving equal treatment before the law, just like everyone else. Each advance bring the next one closer, eroding still further the resistance. Even before the vote in last month’s election, the Greens were promising to introduce a bill to provide for national gay marriage. When they do, they and the newly influential independents in the hung parliament will aim to secure a conscience vote. I suspect that even if they get one, it is unlikely that gay marriage will pass just yet. However, it is clear that Labour at least lost votes as a result of their stand against equality. The coming vote on a Green bill for marriage equality will not be the last. Sooner or later (and probably the former), the politicians will realise they are on the wrong side of history, and stand up for justice.
Cardinal Pell will soon have a lot more to worry about than adoption equality in one more Australian state.