Friday, November 29, 2013

Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: Reflections from a Nobody Who Isn't Even in the Room

I've struggled for several days now to write something about Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.  I have read the document--sort of: it's lengthy and diffuse, and to be honest, much of it strikes me as a habriaqueísmo (a word I learned from the document itself, #96) that doesn't speak to me because it doesn't seem to see me in the room. And so my eyes scan the words without fully taking them in, since I suspect they're not addressed to me as an openly gay, partnered Catholic theologian who was never, throughout my brief, abortive theological career, accorded any lasting place within a Catholic college or university, or within a Catholic parish--because I am clearly not welcome within these institutions as I am in my real life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Outcry in Louisville about University Hospital's Healthcare Plan Following Merger with Kentucky One/Catholic Health Initiatives

Another eye-catching item in today's news: as Laura Ungar reports for Louisville Courier-Journal, the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights groups are unhappy about a recent announcement made by the University of Louisville hospital. The hospital recently announced that its 2014 insurance plan for employees will no longer cover vasectomies. The plan also erases all references to domestic partners, lumping them together with "dependent adults." The plan has explicitly inserted into its insurance coverage guidelines language defining spouses solely as legally married persons of the opposite sex.

Breaking News: Four New Indictments of Adults in Steubenville Rape Case

AP is reporting (and see CNN's report) this morning that there are four more indictments in the Steubenville rape case, in which high-school football players Ma'lik Richmond and Trenton May were convicted this past March of raping a 16-year old girl at a party last August. Here's Huffington Post's valuable cache of articles covering that story, in which it was widely reported that many members of the local community rallied around and protected the rapists and blamed the teenaged girl for her rape. 

More on Linda Woodhead's Survey of What British Catholics Actually Believe: The "Big Con" of Magisterial Teaching about Sexual Morality

Prof. Linda Woodhead

At Religion Dispatches, Linda Woodhead reprises the summary of her recent research findings regarding what British Catholics actually believe (as opposed to what they're told to believe) that I discussed last week. She frames her presentation of her findings by noting that the questionnaire the Vatican is circulating, which asks for lay input prior to the synod on the family, is unlikely to obtain a clear picture of what lay Catholics believe, because its methodology is so cumbersome that it will elicit "hydra-headed" replies that aren't susceptible to easy interpretation.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Note to Readers: Apologies for Slowness in Acknowledging Your Comments

A quick note to readers who have left comments here in the past several days: for a number of reasons, I'm running behind lately, and haven't yet had a chance to acknowledge your comments. I do very much appreciate them, and am hoping to use part of tomorrow to catch up.

In the News: George Zimmerman, Obamacare, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and Moral Sickness of Cultures

News commentary about disparate topics (though interconnected ones, to my way of thinking) that has caught my eye this week:

Bishop Paprocki's Failed Exorcism Stunt and Moral Arc of History: More Commentary

Fred Clark thinks that Bishop Thomas Paprocki's recent exorcism failed. It was set up to prove the superiority of his episcopal power over, well, the entire state of Illinois, insofar as its elected officials chose marriage equality over the bishops' party line. In particular, it was set up to assert Paprocki's episcopal authority over the Catholic laypeople of Illinois, a majority of whom support the human rights of gay folks, including marriage equality.

As Moral Arc of History Moves to Marriage Equality, Opponents Reveal Real Motive for Opposition: Protecting "Right to Discriminate"

What the Oregon Family Council is doing these days strikes me as a bad move for those who oppose marriage equality. As Zack Ford reports at Think Progress, opponents of marriage equality in Oregon recognize that they are likely to lose if (when) the issue is put to a vote in a popular referendum. Supporters of marriage equality are collecting signatures for such a referendum.

Friday, November 22, 2013

From Rev. Emmett Coyne: Interdict from Below

Rev. Emmett Coyne

This morning, I'd like to share an essay by Rev. Emmet Coyne, a retired priest of the diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, and author of The Theology of Fear. Emmett has kindly offered to let the essay be published here. It's a proposal to rehabilitate the ancient Catholic practice of interdict, but to turn it upside down, so that lay Catholics begin to use it to call their pastoral leaders to accountability. Here's Emmett's essay:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Footnote to My Previous Posting about Theologians' Statement on Marriage and Family: You Are Invited to Participate

A quick footnote to my previous posting: when I read the statement on marriage and family published by Catholic theologians at John Wijngaards's website earlier today, I did not notice that

Quote for Day: Church "Has Still Done Very Little to Foster the Acceptance of Persons with Alternative Sexual Orientations As Dignified Members of the Church and Society"

Though the church has made some progress in accepting the fact that not all persons find themselves called to a life-long, heterosexual union, it has still done very little to foster the acceptance of persons with alternative sexual orientations as dignified members of the church and society. The task of educating the faithful to respect all human persons who do not conform to one’s own personal expectations, especially when those persons are living honorable lives, is yet to begin in the majority of Catholic parishes.

Recent Surveys on British Catholic Beliefs: "Discrimination Is Always Unjust and Counts More Heavily Than the Preservation of Traditional Marriage Patterns"

For The Tablet, Linda Woodhead, a professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University, reports on the findings of three recent well-conducted research surveys designed to ascertain what British (English, Scottish, and Welsh) Catholics actually believe, as opposed to what they're told by church authorities that they must believe in order to identify themselves as faithful Catholics.* These surveys find that the face of Catholicism in the British Isles is rapidly changing. 

On Yesterday's Paprocki Show: A Selection of Commentary

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Paprocki Show (and Gov. Quinn's Signing of Marriage Equality into Law in Illinois): Twitter Coverage

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice," Martin Luther King.

Dave McKinney has tweeted a photo of the inside cover of the program being handed out at Bishop Paprock's exorcism ceremony today:

Recent Research Findings: Gays Are Higher Percentage of Population (and Homophobia Is More Prevalent) Than Commonly Believed

This recent report by Cass Sunstein for Bloomberg is one I've been intending to recommend to readers. Sunstein reports on a recent study done by researchers at Ohio State University which suggests that people tend to lie to researchers both about their same-sex encounters and about their degree of uncomfortableness with openly gay folks. Katherine B. Coffman and her research team conducted a study that allowed them to respond to questions about both topics in a "best practices" format employed by most similar probes today.

"I Will Never Be Silent Again": Pastor Frank Schaefer to United Methodist Church Court

Rev. Frank Schaefer

"I will never be silent again," United Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer told the church court that tried him for officiating at the wedding of his gay son. (And, as an aside that's not really an aside, isn't it amazing that Jesus so decisively excoriated the legalism of the scribes and pharisees, while churches that claim him as their founder have ended up with intricate judicial mechanisms that place people on trial--as if the scribes and pharisees and not Jesus founded the Christian movement?)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

More Head Scratchers about Gay Marriage from Catholic Right: "God Rejoices in Everything That a Married Man and Woman Do." But the Gays? Hateful and Violent

In a previous posting today, I asked how right-wing Catholics justify exorcism ceremonies aimed at those who are gay on the ground that homosexual acts are gravely sinful because they are non-procreative, when a large percentage of heterosexual Catholic married couples use contraceptives. Which are designed to prevent procreation.

Neil Steinberg to Catholic Leaders: Who Did You Say Needs Exorcism?

Neil Steinberg

Writing for Chicago Sun-Times today, columnist Neil Steinberg thinks that if the Mormon God could change his mind about black folks, surely Catholic bishops like Thomas Paprocki or cardinals like Francis George can begin to change their minds about the gays. Steinberg suggests that Paprocki aim his proposed exorcism of the gays at his own heart, given the harm he and other rabidly anti-gay Catholic leaders are inflicting on the church itself through their open expressions of disdain for gay people:

In Defense of Paprocki's Exorcism Show: A Consideration of the Argument that Gay Marriage Multiplies Gravely Sinful Acts

This horse is dead, but I might as well beat it one more time: at the Commonweal blog's discussion of the Paprocki exorcism show, Deacon Jim Pauwels sums up his theological basis for defending Paprocki--and, no, I'm not making this up--as follows:

In the News: Cheneys, Zimmerman Again, UMC Censure of Pastor, Women's Special Roles, Doris Lessing

Don't you love Thanksgiving? The holiday when we celebrate good, all-American families and good, all-American family values? But then there's this:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: Our Lord Jesus Christ Uses St. Catherine of Siena to Bash the Homosexuals

In the National Catholic Reporter thread discussing Robert McClory's article about Bishop Paprocki's upcoming public exorcism ceremony, a reader called chrisinva invokes a doctor of the church, St. Catherine of Siena, against the gays (and for the devils and the casting out of gay devils):

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Alan McCornick on Paprocki Show: Break Out the Popcorn

Dear Readers,

Don't miss Alan McCornick's wise (and funny and so well-written) take on the impending Paprocki show, at Alan's Hepzibah blog. Alan suggests that gay folks often "miss the theatrical value of the clowns leading the homophobic mobs," and in the case of Paprocki, we may want to break out the popcorn and enjoy the show:

Doris Lessing Dead At 94

Just now learning that Doris Lessing died in London this morning. Her Golden Notebook and Canopus in Argos series made a significant impression on me when I read them in graduate school, as did her set of essays entitled Prisons We Choose to Live Inside. I found her journey from Marxism to Sufism fascinating, as I did her deep humanity and compassion for those on the margins of society, including those stigmatized as mentally ill.

More on the Paprocki Exorcism Stunt: Commonweal Readers Respond to Deacon Jim Pauwels's Defense of Paprocki

Kudos to John Prior for his cogent, right-to-the-point response to the commentary of Deacon Jim Pauwels at Commonweal about Bishop Paprocki's exorcism stunt. I linked to Pauwels's most recent comment about the exorcism stunt last evening.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Alec Baldwin Story and Parallels to Catholic Blog Conversations about the Gays: A Footnote

A footnote to what I posted earlier today mentioning Deacon Jim Pauwels's defense of Paprocki's exorcism idea at the Commonweal blog site: Pauwels has now posted a statement, that, though Paprocki's exorcism may be a "little quirky," an "odd little idea," he finds nothing objectionable in this proposal. 

The Alec Baldwin Debacle, and Parallels to Catholic Blog Conversations about the Gays

Various news sites (see, e.g., Jack Mirkinson at Huffington Post) are reporting today that Alec Baldwin has been suspended for 2 weeks from MSNBC for a recent outburst in which he's alleged to have uttered a (another, that is) homophobic slur. I've been following Andrew Sullivan's commentary (and here) about this story with interest.

Readers Respond to Paprocki and His Exorcism: Nobody Ever Holds a CEO Down and Shouts That He's Possessed of Devils

There is so much that is so valuable in the outstanding reflections many of you have posted here about Bishop Paprocki and his intended exorcism. Rachel suggests in several keenly perceptive replies that the demons with which exorcists are struggling are often in their own psyches. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Paprocki, Teh Gayz and the Devil: He's At It Again

As Kathy Hughes points out in a comment responding to my posting earlier today with links about religious news from the past week, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, has announced he'll be holding a big old public exorcism in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage as Illinois governor Pat Quinn signs the marriage equality bill next week. Robert McClory tells the story at National Catholic Reporter today.

Leaves Fall, and I Recall Thoreau's Meditation on the Etymology of the Word "Leaf"

Thoreau says (somewhere) in Walden,"No wonder that earth expresses itself outwardly with leaves, it so labors with the idea inwardly." I copied the quote down and made notes on it so many years ago, I've forgotten the precise page on which Thoreau makes this observation.

Friday Religion News: Men, Women, Gays, Bishops (and Money, Limousines, and Cigars)

As the work week ends, here's a selection of religion-focused commentary that has caught my eye during the week--teasers leading to substantive articles I hope you'll find of interest:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Quote for Day: Institution's Politics "Too Unholy to Abide Much Longer" (with Commentary on USCCB Meeting)

Report of Australian Commission on Child Abuse in Religious Organizations Unsparing in Criticism of Catholic Church

The committee established by the parliament of Victoria in Australia to conduct an inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other non-governmental organizations has just presented its report to parliament. The report is entitled A Betrayal of Trust, and is online at the parliamentary website (part one is here, part two here, and an executive summary here; all are pdf files). As David Marr reports for The Guardian, the report is "unsparing" in its criticism of the Catholic church. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In the News: Sarah Palin Does Not Heart Pope Francis, Etc.

Articles/statements that catch my eye as I scan the news this morning:

U.S. Catholic Bishops Continue to Try to Convince Their Flocks That Gay Marriage Is Evil, But . . . .

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I suspect it's not self-evident to many people with good heads on their shoulders and hearts pumping blood infused with milk of human kindness rather than bitter bile that the loving, publicly recognized marital unions of two people of the same sex are an incomparable threat to the stability of the cosmos. Or an incomparable evil demanding that people of good will spend millions of dollars funding political lobbies designed to prevent that evil from growing in our midst, while many people around the world who are hungry, lack access to basic medical care, need housing, jobs, education, etc., would benefit greatly from that wasted money.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bridegroom: An Interview with the Filmmaker, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason

A quick footnote to my posting last week about Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's wonderful new documentary Bridegroom, focusing on the love story of Tom Bridegroom and Shane Crone: 

The Slough of Despond: In Which I Try to Explain Better What I Said Last Evening

Okay, I'll try to explain better what I said poorly last evening.

Monday, November 11, 2013

From the Slough of Despond: Or How the Message of the Catholic Bishops Finally Sinks In

Dear Folks, 

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you will probably have divined that I sometimes go through periods of despondency during which I stop blogging for a while. I've been in one of those sloughs of despond in recent days.

"We Can Present Our Bodies": The Spiritual Grounding of Civil Rights Activism

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bridegroom: The Love Story of Tom Bridegroom and Shane Crone, a Primer about Gay Youth, Coming Out, and Religion in the Heartland

I mentioned several days ago that the Oprah Winfrey network had aired several programs about being gay in America. One of the films that OWN aired as part of that initiative was Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's documentary Bridegroom.

Polling American Catholics: A Summary of Suggestions, Plus Valuable Assistance Offered by Brian Coyne at Catholica

I don't mean to beat to death the matter of the Vatican's instructions to bishops' conferences to poll the Catholic faithful about contraception, same-sex marriage, and divorce. I do want to be helpful, though, if any readers want information about this survey or guidance in figuring out how to submit responses--if readers intend, that is, to fill in one of the forms to which I've provided links in the past few days. I want to be helpful, because I agree with Terry Weldon in a comment he left here several days ago that this poll of the Catholic faithful is "huge in its implications - simply for the precedent it sets, just by the desire to sound the voice of the faithful."

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: About Bishop Bling, How Would Allowing Openly Gay Clergy Diminish This "Liberace-Like Stuff"?

In response to my posting some days back about Limburg bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, George Waite writes,

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Polling American Catholics about Contraception, Same-Sex Marriage, and Divorce: Another Helpful Suggestion

About that survey that the Vatican asked bishops' conferences to do, to poll the faithful about the issues of contraception, same-sex marriage, and divorce: I wanted to share with readers yet another valuable suggestion about how American Catholics may make their views known, when the U.S. Catholic bishops appear unwilling to comply with the Vatican request that we be polled.

For Spiritual Sustenance: Icelandic Indie-Folk Group Árstíðir Singing Hymn to Creator

And one final video today, this one for spiritual sustenance: the Icelandic indie-folk group Árstíðir singing Kolbein Tumason's classic Icelandic hymn, "Heyr Himna Smiður." This Wikipedia article about Tumason has an English translation of the hymn.

We Occupy Jesus on Why Jesus Wouldn't Call Anti-Gay, Anti-Women Pastor Mark Driscoll for a Second Date

They Gave a Schism and Nobody Came: Commentary on Christian Right's Loss of Culture War vs. Gays in Europe and America, Transfer of Battle to Africa

This tells me that discussion of the anti-gay politics of the U.S. religious right has gone mainstream (and thank God for that development): for ABC's "Top Line" and Yahoo News this past week, Olivier Knox and Rick Klein interview Roger Ross Williams about his new movie, "God Loves Uganda." Williams tells Knox and Klein,*

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Religious Right Extinct? Not As Far As USCCB Is Concerned

No, the religious right hasn't gone the way of the dodo bird. No, it's not extinct. No, it's not somehow distinct from the tea party movement that is now indistinguishable from the Republican party itself. 

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good Offers to Assist U.S. Bishops in Polling the Faithful: Survey Now Online

Another weekend update: this is about that mandate from the Vatican to bishops' conferences around the world that they poll Catholic laity about magisterial teaching re: contraception, same-sex marriage, and divorce. I've told you about this poll and the "exemption" from polling that the U.S. bishops have received in three previous postings--here, here, and here. Here's the latest:

Backyard Updates: Firing of Tippi McCullough by Mount St. Mary, New Sentence for Former Mount St. Mary Teacher Kelly Ann O'Rourke

As the work week ends and the weekend begins, two updates to stories from my own backyard about which I've blogged previously--the firing of teacher Tippi McCullough by Mount St. Mary Catholic school in Little Rock when she married her partner Barbara Mariani, and the case involving a teacher at the same school, Kelly Ann O'Rourke, who molested a student at the school and was back in court recently on charges that she had violated the terms of her parole. I discuss the first story (and mention the second) here and here, and the second is discussed here and here. Here are the updates:

Friday, November 1, 2013

P.S. More on Vatican Directive to Bishops' Conferences to Poll the Faithful: The Response of Bishops' Conference of England and Wales

I blogged this morning about the directive of the Vatican's Synod of Bishops that bishops' conferences poll the faithful about the issues of contraception, same-sex marriage, and divorce. I noted that the U.S. Catholic bishops have an "exemption" from complying with this directive, and it's not yet certain whether the bishops will comply with the directive, or how they will poll the faithful if they choose to do so.

Politics and Morality: War on Poor, Angry White Men, Anti-Gay Laws and Logic Pretzels, George Wallace and States' Rights Redivivus

Paul Krugman thinks that a "war on the poor" is the central and defining issue in American politics today, and that it's fueled by a racial animus that is "the stain that won't go away" in American culture:

Men, Women, and Obamacare: HHS Secretary Sibelius Grilled about Requirement That Men Help Pay for Maternity Care

There has been interesting commentary about the grilling of the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sibelius this week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Two statements that stand out for me:

More on Vatican Directive to Bishops' Conferences to Poll the Faithful, and U.S. Catholic Bishops' "Exemption"

A follow-up to what I posted yesterday about the directive of the Vatican's Synod of Bishops that national bishops' conferences poll lay Catholics about contraception, same-sex marriage, and divorce: as I noted yesterday, at National Catholic Reporter, Joshua McElwee initially indicated that the U.S. Catholic bishops intended to poll only bishops and not lay Catholics.