Saturday, December 20, 2014

At the Mall of America Today, a Necessary Disruption to "Business as Usual"


Earlier today parts of the Mall of America, the largest shopping center in the U.S., were shut down by police and mall officials in response to a rally that as many as 3000 local Black Lives Matter advocates held in the mall's rotunda.

Although it's only a 10-15 minute drive from my home, I didn't make it to today's rally at the Mall of America. I support the Black Lives Matter movement, however, and participated earlier this month in an action that shut down Interstate 35W in Minneapolis.

Here's part of KMSP-TV reporter Rachel Chazin's story on today's protest at the Mall of America:

A Black Lives Matter protest took place at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. Saturday. The group is part of a national movement to end police brutality against unarmed black people.

According to the Mall of America, Bloomington Police made about 12 arrests during the protest. Police warned protesters prior to the rally that they could be arrested and banned from the mall if they participated.

Thousands began chanting “no justice, no peace” in the rotunda of the mall around 2 p.m. while holding up signs and banners. The escalators near the rotunda were then shut down as protesters filled the area.

Around 2:14 p.m. the entire group sat down in the rotunda, as police announced over loudspeakers that this was an illegal assembly. Thousands staged a “die in” followed by chants of “hands up don't shoot.” They also chanted, "Black people cannot breath while you are on your shopping spree" [a reference to the chokehold a New York City police officer placed on Eric Garner, who died].

The protesters left the rotunda around 2:30 p.m. and took their rally outside, continuing the chants and holding up signs.

Stores in the mall were instructed to close their doors until the protest ended, while many remained closed for hours after.

. . . The Bloomington police chief and head of mall security spent the week trying to convince protest organizers to do it on public property outside the Mall of America, reminding them it is illegal to protest inside – but organizers said they were moving ahead with their plan.




Meanwhile, in her report on the protest, Common Dreams staff writer Sarah Lazare notes:

Witnesses say that many workers left their stores to show solidarity with, and even directly join, the demonstration. The photo [at right] by Angela Jiminez of Minnesota Public Radio News, shows a dozen employees at a cosmetics store called Lush supporting protesters by standing outside the establishment with their hands up.



Making the connections


Some may question the appropriateness of targeting a corporate entity like the Mall of America in efforts to raise awareness of issues such as racism and police brutality. Twelve years ago, when working as the director of the Education for Liberation program at Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ, I organized a half-day conference which addressed this very question. The keynote speaker at this conference was Rev. Robert Jeffrey (left), member of the Seattle-based Peoples' Coalition for Justice and the executive director of the Black Dollar Days Task Force.

The conference took place at Spirit of the Lakes Church in Minneapolis on Sunday, October 27, 2002. It was entitled "Starbucks vs. the People . . . or Why Rev. Robert Jeffrey Targets Corporate Power in the Struggle Against Racism and Police Brutality." The event was billed as a participatory conference exploring the connections between corporate power, racism, and public policy-making.

I invited Rev. Jeffrey to be the conference's keynote speaker after hearing him on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! program. You see, after the shooting death of an unarmed African American man by police in Seattle in May of 2001, Rev. Jeffrey was instrumental in organizing a unique coalition that boycotted Starbucks and other corporations in downtown Seattle in an effort to make them denounce police brutality and stand in solidarity with the community.

Corporations were targeted as Rev. Jeffrey and others believe that corporate money fuels public policy and dictates public safety issues in ways that are not advantageous or safe for many of the communities these same corporations say they serve. Instead, corporate power pushes for police crackdown on inner cities and for the gentrification of inner city areas. In doing so they jeopardize the civil rights and the lives of many who are already disenfranchised because of their socio-economic status and/or skin color. This type of corporate influence over government is both undemocratic and unethical, says Rev. Jeffrey. Accordingly, it must be challenged.



Above: Speakers at the October 27, 2002 "Starbucks vs. the People" conference. From left: Willie Mae Demmings, a longtime community activist dedicated to working of issues of police brutality; Lydia Howell, poet and alternative media journalist; Rev. Robert Jeffrey; Rebekah Hamlett-Leisen; Stephen Parker; Medaria Arradondo, member of the Minneapolis Police Department; and John Karvel, coordinator of the democratic action circle in Minnesota seeking to enact a Code for Corporate Responsibility.



"No more life as normal"

Fast forward to today's protest at the Mall of America. Profit-driven corporations still exert influence our public policy in our consumerist society. I think it goes without question that in ways both direct and indirect, they engage in the political process. Yet when "guests" on their "private property" dare to make a direct political statement they are arrested! Of course, "private property" gives the impression of someone's living room when in the case of corporate entities like the Mall of America, we're actually talking about spaces that receive significant amounts in public funds for maintenance and expansion, and benefit from hundreds of millions in tax breaks each year. Also, many of these spaces, shopping malls in particular, are modeled on the (public) town square of yesteryear, and are owned and managed by people who go to great lengths to stress that their business space is an indispensable part of our lives, a place in which we're welcomed to spend our time and money, though not share any overt political statements.

So, am I saying that any and every group should be able to hold a political rally at the local shopping mall? I think the real question is why have people throughout the history of this country been compelled to take their concerns about issues of racial and economic justice to places like restaurant counters, city buses, and, yes, shopping malls?

Could it be that the channels through which social change can and should be realized are either closed or purposely obstructed?

Are both our economic and criminal justice systems purposeful built and maintained to keep certain people disenfranchised?

Where else can people go to be assured that their voices are heard, their message picked up by the mainstream media?

I've come to believe that while ever the police, the paid protectors and gatekeepers of our profit-driven society and its racist systems of power and control, continue to kill black men without consequence, all our lives should be disrupted. The issue is that important. As anti-racism activist and writer Tim Wise says, "No more life as normal for anyone until there is justice. This gear shift has no neutral."

With this in mind, here's how I wish the Mall of America owners and officials had acted when they learned that the Black Lives Matter movement was planning a rally on their property:

Yes, YES! We too believe that black lives, like all lives, matter. And we're deeply troubled by recent events across the nation involving unarmed black men being killed by police. Years ago we used the slogan, "Your Life. Your Style. Your Place" to describe and welcome people to the Mall. We want to make that more than just a slogan, more than simply a marketing ploy. When it comes to this issue we want to say that our place is truly your place as we stand together. We want to stand with you and we will stand with you. We want to work together to get media attention to this vitally important issue. How can we do this? How also can we work together to ensure the safety of all at the Mall of America during the time that we'll come together as individuals, families, and, yes, businesses, to say that black lives matter?


How different the event today might have looked and proceeded if this type of response had been offered by those in positions of leadership at the Mall of America. Instead, we saw only a rigid, fear-based and threatening reaction; one that for me sadly confirms everything Rev. Jeffrey said twelve years ago about the connection between corporate power, racism, and public policy-making.




Related Off-site Links:
Black Lives Matter Protest Fills MOA, Chants "No Justice, No Peace" – Rachel Chazin (KMSP-TV, December 20, 2014).
Chanting "Black Lives Matter," Protesters Shut Down Part of Mall of America – Associated Press via The New York Times (December 20, 2014).
Mall of America Shut Down by Black Lives Matter Protest – Ben Johnson (City Pages, December 20, 2014).
Protesters Against Police Brutality Flood Mall of America – Associated Press and KARE 11 News (December 20, 2014).
Why shut down the Mall of America? – Lena (Spirit, Self, and Journeying, December 20, 2014).
In Midst of Holiday Shopping, Protesters Disrupt Business-As-Usual to Declare 'Black Lives Matter' – Sarah Lazare (Common Dreams, December 21, 2014).
Under Suspicion at the Mall of America – Daniel Zwerdling, G.W. Schulz, Andrew Becker, and Margot Williams (Minneapolis Public Radio News, September 7, 2011).
Mall Counterterrorism Files ID Mostly Minorities – Daniel Zwerdling, G.W. Schulz, Andrew Becker, and Margot Williams (Minneapolis Public Radio News, September 8, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Rallying in Solidarity with Eric Garner and Other Victims of Police Brutality

Image 1: KMSP-TV.
Image 2: Photographer unknown.
Image 3: Star Tribune.
Image 4: Palle Hoffstein.
Image 5: Angela Jiminez (Minnesota Public Radio News).
Image 6-8: Michael J. Bayly.
Image 9: Star Tribune.
Image 10: Nick Kozel (City Pages).


Out and About – Autumn 2014


With the winter solstice just days away, it seems appropriate to pause and look back on some of the events of my life this autumn. I periodically do this type of looking back in The Wild Reed's "Out and About" series. I began this series in April 2007 as a way of documenting my life as an “out” gay Catholic man, seeking to be all “about” the Spirit-inspired work of embodying God’s justice and compassion in the Church and the world. I've continued the series in one form or another every year since – in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. So let's get started with the latest installment . . .

Above: On Sunday, October 12, 2014 I attended Dignity Twin Cities' 40th anniversary celebration. Standing with me (from right) are friends Jim Smith, who serves as DignityUSA's associate director, Tim, and Greg.



Above: On October 9, 2014 a vigil took place across from the Cathedral of St. Paul. Organized by the Human Rights Campaign and Dignity Twin Cities the event was part of a series of vigils called "Pray, Listen, Discern — Raising the Voices of LGBT Catholics."

Prior to the October 9 event in St. Paul, local journalist Andy Birkey wrote the following about HRC's series of vigils:

The vigils come as Extraordinary General Assembly Synod of Bishops is underway in Rome. The assembly is only the third of its kind in history and “will thoroughly examine and analyze the information, testimonies and recommendations received from the particular Churches in order to respond to the new challenges of the family.” Many commentators believe issues like the ordination of women and LGBT inclusion in the church will be discussed.

The assembly began meeting on Sunday, October 5 and runs through October 19. During that time, HRC has organized vigils in seven cities whose dioceses are led by anti-LGBT bishops.

“On behalf of all of those who have been excluded from the church — from the LGBT faithful and divorced families, to those who have been fired for simply being who they are — we offer them Holy Mary’s wisdom and God’s clarity,” Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, director of HRC’s Latino/a and Catholic Initiatives, said in a statement. “The church laity is not misguided; it is not unknowing of the word and mandate of God. On the contrary, we continue to listen to God and, just like his son, we also aim to create an inclusive church that can serve us all. We urge the bishops to climb down from their towers and hear our voices raised in prayer.”



For more about the Vatican's Synod on the Family, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
On the Feast of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Thoughts on Marriage Equality in the U.S. and the Vatican's Synod on the Family
LGBT Catholics Respond to Synod 2014's Final Report
Quote of the Day – October 20, 2014




Above: With friends Darlene White (left) and Dorothy Olinger, SSND. We're pictured at Call to Action MN's Fall Conference, which took place in Minneapolis on Saturday, October 18.

At this conference, Dorothy was presented with CTA-MN's 2014 Leadership Award, and the following being said about her:

We honor Dorothy for her tireless work as teacher, mentor, organizer and passionate conveyor of the New Creation Story. For nearly 20 years, she was the guiding light of Global Education Associates Upper Midwest. In the early 1980s, Dorothy’s life was changed as she began to learn and internalize the work of the great geologian, Thomas Berry. She embarked on a journey of deepening her own understanding of this unfolding evolutionary story. And so, in the final career of her 70 years as a School Sister of Notre Dame, Dorothy directed the work of GEA where she was able to share the story that had become the passion of her life. She was and remains a faithful messenger of the groundbreaking work of Thomas Berry. For many, she pioneered our journeys into this “new way of thinking” about the universe and our place within it. We are eternally grateful.


I was just one of many people who appreciated the opportunity that CTA-MN's October 18 conference provided to personally thank Dorothy for her pioneering work. As regular Wild Reed visitors may know, I recently developed a workshop on evolutionary spirituality entitled "Companions on a Sacred Journey" which I'm presenting to local groups of Catholics. Dorothy and her work were a real inspiration for me in learning about the "new universe story" of evolutionary spirituality, and thus in developing my workshop. Thanks, Dorothy!

For more on evolutionary spirituality, see the previous Wild Reed post:
Prayer and the Experience of God in an Ever-Unfolding Universe
Michael Morwood on the Divine Presence
In the Garden of Spirituality – Beatrice Bruteau
In the Garden of Spirituality – Ilia Delio
Divine Connection
Out and About – Autumn 2013



Left: The keynote speakers at CTA-MN's Fall Conference were longtime educators and authors in the field of human sexuality Sister Fran Ferder and Fr. John Heagle. Their presentation was entitled "Where Love and Justice Meet: An Emerging Sexual Ethic for Our Time."

For more on their presentation, see the previous Wild Reed post:
How the Pope's Recent Remarks on Evolution Highlight a Major Discrepancy in Church Teaching on Sexuality




Above: The beauty of autumn in Minnesota.

For more images, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Autumn Light
Photo of the Day – October 31, 2014
In Autumn Light II




Above: My friend Raul – October 2014. I took this photo when Raul and I were visiting our friends John and Noelle in St. Paul. Pictured with Raul is Quinn, my "little fox-faced man," who lives with John and Noelle.



Above: My friend Noelle with her granddaughter Amelia – September 2014. That's Eddie in the foreground.


Right: Amelia with her grandpa, John, and Quinn.

Little Amelia loves all the animals at her grandparents' house, especially . . .



. . . Ziggy!

For more images of this handsome cat, see here, here and here.



Above: On October 23 I turned 49! That evening I went out to dinner with my friends (from left) Tim and Pete. Later we were joined by Pete's partner and the four of us saw the film Lilting at the Edina Theater.

Notes Wikipedia about this film:

Lilting is a 2014 British drama film written and directed by Cambodian-born British director Hong Khaou, whose short film, Spring, was selected for Sundance and Berlinale film festival 2011.[2] It is produced by Dominic Buchanan. . . . [It] tells the story of a mother’s attempt at understanding who her son is after his untimely death. Her world is suddenly disrupted by the presence of his male lover. Together, they attempt to overcome their grief whilst struggling against not having a shared language.

Lilting was met with positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 96% of 24 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.9 out of 10. Justin Chang, in his review for Variety, said that the film "Hong Khaou makes a fine debut with this quietly resonant cross-cultural chamber piece." David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter praised the film, saying, "Delicate and unhurried almost to a fault, though also hauntingly sexy and even humorous at times." Amber Wilkinson from The Telegraph gave the film three out of five stars and praised the lead actor, noting that "Ben Whishaw is magnetic as a man pushed to the edge of fragility by mourning, but who still suggests a quiet strength." Dominic Mill of We Got This Covered gave a positive review and said, "The subject matter is powerful, and the performances are wonderful - in a world of big and showy dramatism, Lilting gets its point across without feeling the need to shout about it."

Lilting is definitely one of the best films I've seen for a long time, and I encourage you to check it out if you haven't already seen it. It's trailer can be viewed here.



Above: On the evening of Saturday, October 25, some friends gathered at my home to help me celebrate my entering into my 50th year! From left: George, John, Kathy, Julia and me.



Left: My good friend and housemate Tim – October 25, 2014.



Above: Friends Liana and Curtis – October 25, 2014. Last summer I had the honor of officiating at Liana and Curtis' wedding. Their daughter is Amelia, pictured earlier in this post with Liana's mother Noelle.



Above: Friends Brent, Joan, and Lisa.



Above: Tim with our mutual friend Kathleen.



Above: Standing at left with Mary Beth, Kathy, John, Brent, Lisa, Joan, and Kathleen.



Above: Lisa & Brent and Curtis & Liana.

For another photo of the table centerpiece pictured in this photo, one comprised of autumn leaves and a statue of a hare (ancient symbol of both non-heterosexual conforming sexuality and enlightenment), click here.



Above: Little Edgar, son of my friends Julia and Jim, provided some lovely background music at my October 25 gathering!



Above: On the evening of Wednesday, November 5, Irish priest Tony Flannery spoke at St. Frances Cabrini Church in Minneapolis. "Silenced" by the Vatican in 2012 and since then threatened with "canonical penalties," including excommunication, a key message of Flannery's presentation was that we’re at a moment in time when reform-minded Catholics must let their voices be heard.

For more on Tony Flannery's talk in Minneapolis, click here.



Above and left: My friend Raul's apartment overlooks Lake Calhoun and would have to have some of the best views in Minneapolis!

For more images, click here.



Above: Of course, the view from the front of my house in south Minneapolis isn't that bad either!



Above: Although meteorologically not actually the case, autumn ended for me with the (early) return of wintry weather on Monday, November 10, 2014.

For more images, click here.





Above: Celebrating my friend Julia's birthday – Friday, December 5, 2014.




Left: Beth, Lisa and Julia.





Above and below: On Thursday, December 4, I participated in a solidarity rally for Eric Garner and other victims of police brutality, a disproportionate number of whom are African American males. Garner, an African American, died July 17 in the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island, New York, after a police officer put him in a chokehold, a tactic banned by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). On Wednesday, December 3, a grand jury decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who applied the chokehold on Garner.

The Grand Jury's decision sparked protests and rallies across the country, including the one on December 4 in Minneapolis, which for several hours shut down Interstate 35W northbound.

For more images and commentary, click here.





Above and below: Views of Minnehaha Creek, close to my home in south Minneapolis.





Above: The Mississippi River's Lake Pepin at Lake City, Minnesota – December 16, 2014.

For pictures of this beautiful part of Minnesota in early fall, see the 2011 Wild Reed post, Adventures in Mississippi River Bluff Country.



Above: My friend and housemate Tim beside our Christmas tree, which we decorated on November 29, the eve of the First Sunday of Advent. For more images and for my thoughts on the Christmas tree as an icon, one that invites us to contemplate the "one holy circle" of both dark and light, click here.




With Christmastide approaching, I take this opportunity to wish each and every one of my readers a deeply meaningful and transformative Christmas . . . and all the best for 2015!

– Michael



Autumn 2014 Wild Reed posts of note:
Return of the (Cornish) Native
In Autumn Light
"A Dark Timelessness and Stillness Surrounds Her Wild Abandonment"
On the Feast of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Thoughts on Marriage Equality in the U.S. and the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Carlos Acosta Recalls the "Clarion Call" of His Vocation in Dance
LGBT Catholics Respond to Synod 2014's Final Report
A Guidepost on the Journey
The Art of Dancing as the Supreme Symbol of the Spiritual Life
How the Pope's Recent Remarks on Evolution Highlight a Major Discrepancy in Church Teaching
In Autumn Light II
John Schlesinger's Sunday Bloody Sunday: "A Genuinely Radical Film"
Divine Connection
Tony Flannery in Minneapolis
Winter's Return
The Art of Being Kind
Doris Lessing on the Sufi Way
Remembering Olga Nikolaevna and Her Sisters
The Model of Leadership Offered by Jesus: "More Like the Gardener Than the Owner of the Garden"
The Christmas Tree as Icon, Inviting Us to Contemplate the "One Holy Circle" of Both Dark and Light
Happy Birthday, Mum!
Rallying in Solidarity with Eric Garner and Other Victims of Police Brutality
All 'Round Me Burdens . . .
A Fateful Reunion
Jesus, Our Tortured Brother Today
Active Waiting: A Radical Attitude Toward Life
Sufism: A Tradition of Enlightenment, the Way of Love, and an Antidote to Fanaticism

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Summer 2014
Out and About – Spring 2014
Out and About – Winter 2013-2014
Out and About – Autumn 2013


Friday, December 19, 2014

Fall Round Up

Can you believe it's been over three years since I did a "round-up" post? Time sure flies.

So without further ado, here's a "round-up" of recent online articles and commentaries that I've found to be of particular interest. Perhaps you will too!

____________________



First up is a recent story from the good folks at New Ways Ministry. On the group's indispensable blog, Bondings 2.0, Francis DeBernardo reported on the December 15 meeting between New Ways Ministry staff and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. The purpose of this meeting was to "help enrich understanding of each other’s approaches to marriage equality and LGBT issues."

I remember when Cordileone's presence at a conference at the University of St. Thomas was protested back in 2010 by over 300 people, including many Catholics. Cordileone was one of two high profile anti-marriage equality activists invited to the Twin Cities by Archbishop John Nienstedt and the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life to address the archdiocesan “Reclaiming the Culture of Marriage and Life” conference. The other was Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization of Marriage (NOM). (For images and commentary on this protest, click here.) With all of this in mind, I was heartened by news of the meeting between New Ways Ministry and Archbishop Cordileone.

Following is an excerpt from DeBernardo's report, accompanied by a picture from Bondings 2.0 showing Archbishop Cordileone with DeBernardo and New Ways Ministry co-founder Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL.


As the conversation progressed, [we] discussed how Catholic groups with opposing views on marriage can better understand and speak with one another. Cordileone mentioned Pope Francis’ idea of “encounter,” of meeting people where they are and beginning a dialogue with them. Cordileone stressed the importance of breaking down stereotypes on each side of the issue. He noted that both groups sometimes say things that cause harm to the other side, and that the harm is often not intended.

New Ways Ministry asked for advice on how LGBT Catholics and their families can initiate dialogues with their local bishops. He noted that bishops often have many demands on their time and many requests for appointments. A more practical route may be for people to request meetings with directors of diocesan ministries, such as family life, or with other chancery officials.

New Ways Ministry asked how a lesbian or gay person could speak to the U.S. bishops at one of their meetings. Cordileone mentioned that a member of the Courage ministry group, which promotes celibacy for lesbian and gay Catholics, has spoken to the bishops’ conference in the past. New Ways Ministry asked if other lesbian and gay persons could speak to the bishops. He considered this and seemed receptive to hearing the perspectives of gay and lesbian parish members. Cordileone also noted that there is a great need to find ways to reach out to lesbian and gay people who are not close to the Church, including those who have been alienated from the institution.


DeBernardo's article drew a range of online responses. Here's a sampling:

• Congratulations to Archbishop Cordileone, Sister Jeannine Grammick, and Frank DeBernardo for taking the courageous step of engaging in dialogue with someone on the other side of such a contentious issue. As Christians, we are called upon to love our enemies – a very tall order indeed. Listening respectfully to those who disagree with us is a good start. – Nancy E. Sulfridge

• While I appreciate the civil tone that prevailed in this encounter, the article struck me as more than a little Pollyannaish. Can we also get a critical sense of what's not being discussed, like basic civil rights: employment non-discrimination legislation, housing discrimination protections, hate crime legislation advocacy, etc. – Matthew Nelson

• How appropriate, during Advent, to have this sign of Hope! The "Francis effect" seems to be spreading. – Drew Conneen

• Always good to have dialogue but I didn't sense any real compromises being offered. Maybe, the Church Synod in 2015 will provide the basis for some softening of the church's position on civil same-sex marriage and other issues. If not, many practicing Catholics will continue to ignore the church hierarchy. The Catholic church is not the bishops, cardinals or those in Vatican City. Rather, it's the people in local parishes doing their best to live as Jesus taught without the extra dogma dreamed up over the centuries by the church hierarchy. – Jim Stockholm

• Congratulations on two fronts today: this meeting with Archbishop Cordileone, and the Vatican's new tone toward the U.S. women's religious. – Adam James


________________________________



Adam James' comment above brings to mind Ken Briggs perceptive National Catholic Reporter commentary on the Vatican's final report on the apostolic visitation of American nuns, launched in 2008 by Cardinal Franc Rodé, then prefect of the Congregation for Religious Life. As many have noted, the tone of this investigation has shifted markedly from its inception to its final report. For Briggs, this shift is "the Vatican's face-saving effort to wriggle out of a bad situation." Here's just a snippet of his commentary . . .

It's my opinion that the authorities who set the investigation in motion, and the entire hierarchy, brought much more calumny on itself than it visited upon the nuns. In the United States, at least, the eruption of frustration over "disobedient" sisters (I think the indictment covered both investigations) ended up principally bringing disrespect on themselves for bullying women for whom the laity had the highest regard, as shown in the enormous outpouring of support for them.

An institution like the church does not become ancient without having acute political antenna, and the message that came with the backlash was that the Vatican's effort to push its symbolic weight around (its hefty poundage isn't in question) came to naught – and worse, the disrepute they had unleashed on themselves was compounding their other troubles. Hypothetically speaking, the pragmatic thing to do was to call off the dogs and pat the dear sisters half-heartedly on the head.


Also worth checking out is Sister Joan Chittister's commentary, "The Ending Should Have Been the Beginning," in which she says that by relegating the visitation to a friendly dialogue, the report "denied women religious the apology they deserve."


________________________________



Meanwhile in Minnesota . . . It's being said that the embattled John Nienstedt will be out as Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis in February and replaced by Bishop Richard Pates as interim archbishop. (Pates, who is currently the Bishop of Des Moines, had formerly been an auxiliary bishop here in St. Paul-Minneapolis.)

Even before this latest talk of Nienstedt ouster began circulating, the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), on whose board I sit, was taking positive and proactive steps around lay participation in the selection of the next archbishop.

The following excerpt from CCCR's November 25 media release explains these steps.

Members of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) Lay Network have “voted” and selected three priests of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to be bishop/archbishop.

The three priests who rose to the top of a slate of seven are Frs. J. Michael Byron of St. Pascal Baylon, St. Paul; Paul Feela of Lumen Christi, St. Paul; and Timothy Wozniak of St. Thomas Becket, Eagan. None of the priests on the slate were consulted, nor did they give their consent to be included in this initiative. Those that voted believe these men would be able to unify polarized factions in this archdiocese and bring Catholics together to accomplish the Church’s mission. (Learn about the selection process at www.cccrmn.org.)

Lay Catholics can’t actually elect their own leadership (hence, vote in quotes), but the CCCR’s Bishop Selection Task Force created the opportunity for local Catholics to “vote” for several reasons:

• To help local laity identify the priests in this archdiocese in whom they have confidence to be effective leaders.

• To promote lay Catholics’ ability to raise a unified voice in support of a healthy, sustainable local church.

• To begin to re-establish the teachings set forth by the Second Vatican Council, which called for lay Catholics to actively participate in their church.

• To help increase the Vatican’s awareness and understanding of the needs of this archdiocese.


Currently, CCCR is urging local Catholics to write to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio (the Vatican’s ambassador) to the U.S. It is Archbishop Viganò who decides which names will be forwarded to Rome when bishops and archbishops are needed in the U.S. Those who write may recommend the priests identified by the vote, other priests they feel are credible choices for bishop/archbishop, and/or qualities they feel are essential to reunifying the archdiocese and refocusing on the mission of the church.

Correspondence to the papal nuncio should be sent to:

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò,
Papal Nuncio to the U.S.
3339 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008-3687

nuntiususa@nuntiususa.org


CCCR is sharing on its website some of the letters Catholics in the archdiocese have written to Archbishop Viganò. Here's just one of them . . .

Dear Archbishop Viganò,

Almost every day, I pick up the daily paper or hear on the news of another violation of trust by Archdiocesan officials. The latest is that we are facing a serious financial crisis and lay employees are being let go. I don’t see how we can heal or come together as a local church without new leadership to restore hope and confidence. We, as members of the Catholic Coalition for Church reform, have tried to do what is in our power to remedy this situation by following the Bishop selection process provided by the Bishop Selection Task Force (BSTF).

I studied the candidates put forth by the BSTF and my number one and two choices were also the number one and two choices of the 410 persons who participated in the balloting.

I would very much like you to consider Father J. Michael Byron or Father Paul Feela, when the time comes for you to nominate a new leader for the St. Paul/ Minneapolis Archdiocese. Both inspire us to bring about the Kingdom of God as American citizens living in the 21st century.

My prayers for you and for Pope Francis as you discern what is in the best spiritual interest of those who live in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Sincerely,

Patricia A. Whalen


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La lucha, Mi pulpito is a blog that describes itself as "a Catholic's lucha to redefine and reclaim the pulpit . . . a queerly sacred space for living, laughing, and loving beyond the norm." I recently added it to The Wild Reed's list of recommended blogsites (located in sidebar at right).

Created and maintained by "delfinwaldemar," the site recently launched a series entitled "Queering Catholicism." The first part of this series looks at "How to Query Church Teaching," while the second responds to the question, "Are Queer Relationships Compatible with Church Teaching?" I particularly appreciate the following from Part II.

There are several scholars who believe that the full expression of same-sex love and pleasure within a personal, mutual relationship is entirely compatible with the Church’s teaching of marriage and sexuality. Many argue that sexuality is a gift from God and when expressed in a personal, mutual relationship it is therefore natural and accepted. Hence, TQBLG individuals believe that their sexuality is “created, sustained, and blessed by God” (Yip, 1997b, p. 172). If God is love, why would God be less present in the love of a queer couple than a heterosexual couple? Many queer couples firmly believe that achieving a Christian partnership based on Christian values is achievable—their relationships are based on mutual love, mutual sharing, faithfulness, mutual commitment to pleasure…mutuality in its various forms and expressions.

On a personal note, my beloved and I have accepted the teaching of the Church and embodied it in our relationship. Our relationship (and those of countless others) is based on the idea of sexuality that the Catechism expresses. We believe in and live by “intimate and chaste union”; we practice and strive for self-giving to each other by caring for the other when sick and supporting each other’s adventures (such as working 3 jobs to support the other while in divinity school); we experience pleasure and enjoyment through our bodies by affirming each other’s beauty, balding, flat-footedness, and pudginess; and have transmitted life by affirming, celebrating, and challenging each other’s lives and personhood in fullness (even when we may not agree with each other)—our relationship has been life-giving to us and to those we welcome into our casa. By the Church’s standards, Jason and I are being faithful to the church’s teaching in every sense of fidelity and fecundity. Our coming together may not be able to produce children, but we can transmit life by pro-creating love and laughter through the formation of a family, be it how we treat and include our families of origin in our lives, the family formed through our inner sanctum of friends, extending the Body of Christ by how we treat those we engage with in the world, and through whatever means we decide to have children (which is a whole set of other entries!).

Christian members of the TQBLG community have been able to manage faith and sexual identity signifying their ability to not only survive but thrive, live, and celebrate in a social, religious environment that many times does not accept or support them. Though many are amazed, queer Catholics are finding ways to be who they are and find their place in the Church. Pope Benedict XV said that there was to be no distinction among Catholics—we are all Catholics, period! One cannot be sure whether or not he had queer Catholics in mind, but many TQBLG individuals are proud of their Catholic faith and through their experiences are opening doors so that all people can celebrate and commune as one body.


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Speaking of gay relationships, I recently discovered a very informative and insightful article by Adam Blum about gay men in monogamous relationships.

Writes Blum:

There’s a widespread myth that gay men can’t, won’t, or don’t maintain long-term monogamous relationships. The reality, according to good research, is that hundreds of thousands of gay men in long-term relationships are enjoying sexually satisfying monogamous relationships.


Blum goes on to discuss four tips for those interested in maintaining a long-term monogamous relationship: 1) talk about sex; 2) unleash creativity; 3) resolve resentments; and 4) know what you are yearning for. These tips, of course, are applicable to any couple, regardless of sexual orientation (as are the "eight surprising (and scientifically proven) things that lead to a lasting marriage" highlighted by Amanda Scherker in her December 15 Huffington Post article).

Blum concludes his article with these words of wisdom:

While you won’t find much talk about it on Grinder or Manhunt or at most gay bars, many gay men prefer monogamy. If you haven’t found a man willing to join you in your desire for monogamy, then you may be looking in the wrong places. You’ll find them volunteering at gay community organizations, finding inspiration at gay cultural events, or building their skills at gay recreational or educational clubs.


For more such thoughts and reflections, see The Wild Reed's special series of posts entitled "A Gay Man's Guide to Love and Loving."


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Okay, here's some music news that I'm very happy to share: Kate Bush's "Before the Dawn" concert series was hailed at a recent London theatre awards ceremony for creating "a new high in music performance."




Reports ClassicRock.com:

[Kate Bush's] sold-out 22-date residency in London, which ran from August to September, was her first major live commitment since 1979. Bush accepted the Editor's Award at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards from actor Sir Ian McKellan. The event was hosted by comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.

In October she thanked fans for their support for Before The Dawn, calling it “one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life” and adding: “It was a truly special and wonderful feeling for all of us.” But she also suggested it would be “a while” before she appeared again.

Two shows in mid-September were filmed for a possible DVD release. The residency led to reignited interest in her back-catalogue, making chart history when she became the first female artist to have eight albums in the top 40 at the same time.


For The Wild Reed's compilation of "Before the Dawn" review highlights, click here.

For Martin Glover's eloquent and insightful exploration of the mysticism that imbues the persona and music of Kate Bush, click here.


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In movie news, Cameron Bailey notes at TIFF.com:

The Prophet, by Lebanese author Kahlil Gibran, is among the most popular volumes of poetry ever written, having inspired millions of readers in over forty languages since its publication in 1923. The book's timeless verses have been given enchanting new form in Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, an animated anthology film that assembles a host of renowned international artists to reconfigure Gibran's elegant text as a painterly cinematic adventure.




Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet definitely sounds like a film that's not to be missed, and from what I've read online, the critics are raving about it. One of the most informative and eloquent reviews I've come across is by Drew McWeeny, whose writing on the film is posted at HitFix.com. Here's part of what Drew has to say . . .

Since May, I've spent a fair amount of time with the book. I knew it before then, but it had been years since I'd picked it up, and this time around, I found something much richer and much more profound waiting for me. This time, I was open to the book in a way I'm not sure I was when I read it as a young man. This time, instead of it feeling like someone telling me the way things are supposed to be and me shaking it off because of some perceived young man's superiority, I felt like I was reading real wisdom that I can recognize now because of the various scars and sweetnesses I've accumulated in the twenty years between readings.

In the book, Almustafa is a poet who is beloved in the city of Orphalese, and after twelve long years, he prepares to catch a boat that will take him home. Before he can leave, the entire city comes out to see him, and a seeress named Almitra asks him to share some thoughts before he goes, leading to a series of twenty-six poems on very specific topics like love, marriage, work, joy and sorrow, laws, freedom, friendship, and more. Much of what he says is self-evident, but the way he says it in the book is what gives it such power. Gibran was a beautiful writer, and the book is full of truly powerful imagery.

It's not a huge narrative, though, and so when Salma Hayek began putting together a team to try to bring the movie to life, one of the first things they had to do was figure out how to make that work as the framework for the movie. To that end, Mustafa (Liam Neeson)has now become a political dissident, a poet whose work moved the people of Orphalese to begin to question the way things are. He's spent seven years under house arrest, seeing almost no one except for Kamila (Hayek), his housekeeper. He's still writing and painting, but the work goes unseen. Finally, the authorities decide something must be done and the local Sergeant (Alfred Molina) comes to tell Mustafa that he'll be taken to a ship in the harbor, where he is to leave Orphalese and never return in exchange for his freedom. There's another darker plan afoot, though, one that only Kamila's daughter knows about. And since Almitra (Quvenzhané Wallis) hasn't spoken since the death of her father several years earlier, it may not be possible for anyone to save Mustafa.

The structure allows for a number of natural digressions as Mustafa seems happy to discuss any subject. For example, Almitra is a bit of a wild child, and at one point, Kamila complains that she can't control her. Mustafa tells her of course she can't, since our children are not ours to control. This leads into Nina Paley's segment of the film, set to a lovely Damien Rice song that uses Gibran's words as lyrics.

. . . From each segment, we come back to Mustafa's story, and we move further towards that inevitable showdown when he is offered a simple choice: renounce his words and all of his ideas and be allowed to board that ship, or stand behind the things he's said as he stands in front of a firing line.

. . . When Salma Hayek began the long journey of trying to get this property produced as an animated film, I doubt she fully understood just how difficult it would be. Animation is so often thought of as only a children's medium, and while I think the wraparound story here has been crafted so that it's really told from Almitra's point of view, the segments themselves aren't childish at all.

One of them, Joann Sfar's segment on marriage, is illustrated as a beautiful tango in which the space between the dancers is as important as the places where they connect, a stunning and simple visual accompaniment to the segment on love, directed by Tomm Moore. Neither of them deals with anything children are going to fully understand, but they are visually entrancing, and that's true of each of the segment's. There's a lovely early bit by Michal Socha on freedom in which people are portrayed first as birdcages holding in beautiful flocks, and then as tangled strings that hold them to a tree. It looks like it's water color and pastel chalks, but it's all CG, and it sets a high bar for the rest of the segments in terms of surreal beauty.




Bill Plympton brings his trademark visual style to the film, but with a sincerity and an emotional directness I'm not used to in his work. Each of the directors works in a radically different style, while the wraparound, directed and written by Roger Allers, is gorgeous hand-animation in the style of vintage Disney, a safe choice that should help to draw in audiences who aren't used to the wildly experimental.


To read Drew McWeeny review of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet in its entirety, click here.


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With the end of the year approaching, I've started noticing various retrospectives and "best of" lists. For instance, the staff at Yahoo! Movies have compiled a list of the "40 Best Movies of 2014, while The Telegraph newspaper ranks 2014's "Five Best Moments in Popular Music." (Number one is the previously highlighted return of Kate Bush to the concert stage with her "magical, theatrical 22 night stint at Hammersmith Apollo.")

Meanwhile over at The Huffington Post, Sara Boboltz has put together an interactive gay rights global timeline, documenting what the world's queer people and communities have already accomplished (or haven't yet accomplished) this century.

Writes Boboltz:

For queer people, in many ways, there has never been a time in history like the present. Although oppression and inequality are still rampant, there have also in recent years been a number of firsts, breakthroughs and other positive developments that once seemed like they would never come.

2014 was an especially good year for queer equality in the U.S. Over 60 percent of Americans now live in states that permit same-sex marriage, and advocates in ever-increasing numbers are speaking out for the cause.

We don't mean to suggest that there haven't been setbacks, or that things aren't still wildly unjust in almost every part of the world. But at the same time, we think it's worth observing, and celebrating, the real progress that the 21st century has brought to many.


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And how's this for a sign of progress . . . a nine-year-old girl in the U.K. has declared her gay teacher "brave" and "awesome" in a poignant letter, written to him after he came out to the entire class during an anti-bullying lesson.

Following is an excerpt from Beth Greenfield's Yahoo! News article about this hopeful and inspiring story.


“Even though you’re gay, I will always treat you the same way as I do now,” wrote the student, identified as “A,” according to the U.K.’s Pink News. “I still think about you the same way as I used to. You’re a great teacher and these are just some of the words that I would describe you as: great, amazing, fantastic, brilliant, awesome and brave.

The reason why I say brave is because you shared a personal secret which was very brave. You don’t have to feel scared because I know that everyone in the class feels the same way as I do. From A . . . xxx P.S. We are all proud of you.”

The teacher, identified only as “Mr. R,” told Pink News, “Reading it brought tears to my eyes, and it took me a little while to compose myself. When I thanked her she just shrugged and repeated something one of the boys in the class had said during the lesson: ‘It’s just your life’. Then she went back to her maths.” He added, “For my class it was a surprise, sure, but to them it was just something simple and easy to file away as another piece of information. There was no judgment, no follow up, just acceptance.”

Mr. R explained that, “as a primary school teacher, I’d always worried about mentioning my sexuality, despite the fact that my colleagues talked about their husbands, wives, and significant others all the time.” After holding conversations with his class as part of anti-bullying week, though, he found out that almost every student in his class thought that people who were gay or lesbian were “bad or wrong in some way”; additionally, most said they’d heard the word “gay” used as an insult. So the teacher spoke with the principal about coming out to the class as part of his lesson, and received his full support. “We agreed I could tell the class that I’m gay so they at least knew one gay person, and hopefully explain that when people use that word, they’re talking about me.”


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And finally, some more beautiful and wise words . . . ones to ponder (and hopefully embody) as we move into the often hectic "holiday season."





See also the previous Wild Reed Round-Ups:
Summer 2011
Spring 2010
(Australian) Summer 2009 II
Summer 2009
Spring 2009
(Australian) Summer 2009
Fall 2007
Spring 2007
End of Year (2006)

Opening image: Hugh Jackman in Australia.