Thursday, May 24, 2012

Newtown parish responds to video vilifying ministry to lesbian and gay Catholics


After last Sunday’s homily there has been some interest in the thoughts I expressed.  Far from judging and vilifying lesbians and gays, as we heard from Michael Voris in his video about the Newtown parish Friday night Mass, I suggested that hearing the stories of lesbian and gay Catholics and how that had influenced my reading in order to better pastorally care for all Catholics might offer a new way of seeing lesbian and gay Catholics as gift rather than “the other” for whom we might feel sorry.
What I learned from hearing these stories was that lesbian and gay Catholics are like all people trying to live their faith – they are searching for meaning and joy and authenticity in and through the Catholic community and the spiritual wisdom of the bible and church tradition. Catholics expect to find guidance and encouragement, as well as challenge, but  lesbian and gay Catholics find all too often that they are asked to deny their sexuality or, at best, to be invisible.
Theologians and spiritual writers are beginning to write from the perspective of the world in which we live and the life stories of lesbian and gay Catholics. If sexuality is a gift from God and if psychology and science are correct in finding that homosexuality is God-given, that is not chosen, then homosexuality must also be a gift from God.  What might this gift be?  Those doing theology with the insight of the stories of lesbian and gay Catholics and modern science suggest such areas as intimacy, friendship, faithful love and personal growth might be a gift to the church and indeed the world. 
Where traditional sexual ethics has dominated church teaching about heterosexual relationships and marriage; homosexuals have had to find the meaning for themselves of their God-given attraction and have made some astoundingly good gospel-based spiritual discoveries.  While heterosexual relationships are struggling in the current climate of distrust of church teaching; homosexual relationships, lived according to gospel principles of love, seem to be finding a beautiful expression.
But what of the scripture passages that seem so damning of homosexuality? Through scripture scholarship which emphasizes the meaning of the text in context, it seems that all the texts referring to homosexuality, and there are not many – indeed, none in the gospel, all refer to abusive sexual relationships.  In times when people did not identify as gay, as they do today, it is reasonable to infer that the texts referring to homosexuality refer to people being used and abused.  Scriptural texts do encourage intimate and caring relationships and these can often be found among lesbian and gay couples.
I don’t pretend we have found a path forward yet but there are many within the church exploring these ideas.  What we try to do here at St Joseph’s Newtown is to support, and walk with, lesbian and gay Catholics as they try to faithfully live their faith authentically.
Including the outsider is a common theme here at Newtown parish and so it is not so surprising that we might explore such a ministry.  Let’s hope the likes of Michael Voris, and his Opus Dei money, don’t destroy this emerging gift for the church.
Peter Maher, Parish priest, Newtown

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