Monday, March 31, 2008

Out and About - March 2008

Above: March 2, 2008.

In February, the Catholic church that I attend in South Minneapolis, St. Stephen’s, was told by the chancery of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis that its liturgies must conform to the rubrics of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).

This was a particularly difficult directive for the community that gathers each week for the 9:00 a.m. Sunday liturgy as, for the past 40 years, it has developed this liturgy in ways that reflect the presence of the Spirit as discerned in the unique gifts and needs of its members and our shared life together. These liturgical developments have been a very intentional and faith-filled embodiment of the Second Vatican Council’s call for “full and active participation” of the laity in “liturgical celebrations” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1963). Yet in one fell swoop, this embodiment – along with the Spirit that nurtured and inspired it – was discounted by the chancery’s demand that it be abandoned for the rubrics of GIRM.

After much prayer and conversation, the members of the “9:00 o’clock community” decided they could not abandon the style of worship that they have prayerfully discerned and developed over the past 40 years. A new worshiping space was secured a few blocks away at Park House (2120 Park Ave.), and on Sunday, March 2, close to 200 people walked from St. Stephen’s to this new location. Most of those who made the trek are now committed to worshiping at Park House as members of the parish of St. Stephen’s. I’m honored and happy to be worshiping with them.

For more on the recent events at St. Stephen’s, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Shrinking Catholic Tent
Reflecting on Inclusive Language

Above: Mon bel ami. From March 7-13 I enjoyed a visit from my friend Eduard.

Above: On Monday, March 10, 2008, I visited St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, with Eduard and my friend Rick.

For more images of our visit to St. John’s Abbey and the nearby campus of St. John’s University, click here.

Above and below: Celebrating Eduard’s birthday - March 11, 2008. From left: Nils, Eduard, and Joey.

It was quite an international gathering that night as Nils is from El Salvador, Eduard from Estonia, Joey and his mom from the U.S., and I’m from Australia!

Above: Eduard with our friend Jordan Sramek, founder and artistic director of the renowned Rose Ensemble - March 12, 2008.

Above: With my dear friend Catherine Jenkins, CSJ, at a gathering of over 500 people at the College of St. Catherine to celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph - Friday, March 15, 2008. As you can see from the photo below, St. Joseph himself made an appearance!

Above and below: Along with Eduard’s visit, another definite highlight of March was my time spent at Camp Widjiwagan in the Northwoods of Minnesota.

For more images and a commentary on my time at “Widji,” click here.

Above and below: Back in the Twin Cities from the Northwoods - and a fresh snowfall on Good Friday.

I thought this might be the last snowfall we’d see this year, but even as I sit here and type (on this last day of March), the snow is falling outside - and has been all day. In some parts of the metro area they’re expecting eight inches of snow! Just as well I didn’t put away my shovel.

Above: On the morning of Good Friday (March 21, 2008) I had the pleasure and honor of meeting and photographing Mary Heller for my friend Burt Berlowe’s forthcoming book, The Compassionate Rebel (Volume II).

Mary serves as the president of the Million Moms [Minnesota] State Council, which is part of the Million Mom March national network of 75 chapters that works to eradicate gun violence and the devastation that it causes to individuals, families and communities.

As I was leaving Mary’s house, she asked me what I do apart from taking photos, i.e., what was my real job. I hesitated for a moment, as I never know where people are at with the whole gay thing - or the Catholic thing, for that matter. And when you put them together . . . well, there’s often all sorts of dazed and confused looks! My greatest fear in saying that I work for a “gay Catholic organization” is that people will think I actually support the official (and dysfunctional) teaching of the institutional Church! I mean, let’s face it, the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities does sound pretty official! To avoid any confusion, I usually say I work for an independent Catholic organization that’s working to bring about reform within the Church around gay and lesbian issues.

As it turned out, I need not have worried. Mary had heard of CPCSM and expressed support for what we do. With a warm smile she said she remembered the news coverage of our December 2 vigil on the steps of the Cathedral, and thanked me for our efforts to bring about change. To top it all off, she’s Catholic herself!

Above and below: Some of the young guests of the Families Moving Forward program at Union Congregational Church in St. Louis Park, during the week of March 23-28, 2008.

Families Moving Forward (FMF) is an emergency housing program for families in the Twin Cities. It’s a model that uses one facility for the Day Center, and churches for the overnight hosting of homeless families. FMF is a free service – one that as well as providing emergency shelter for homeless families, also offers support and counseling in setting goals, getting jobs, finding affordable housing, locating household furnishings, and developing family budgets.

For more about my experiences with the Families Moving Forward program, click here.

Above and below: On Thursday, March 27, members of the CPCSM board gathered at my home for our monthly meeting.

We have two big events coming up: the Second Annual Prayer Breakfast for Hope and Justice on May 3 (featuring award-winning journalist and author Robert McClory, who’ll speak on democratizing the Catholic Church) and our Annual Community Meeting on June 23 with keynote speaker Vanessa Sheridan, the “leading authority on transgender issues in the workplace.”

For more information about the Prayer Breakfast, check the “Upcoming Events” section of The Progressive Catholic Voice online journal. Further information about CPCSM’s Annual Community Meeting will be posted on the CPCSM website shortly.

Above: Spring sunshine!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Back in the USA
It Sure Was Cold!
An Energizing and Spirited Weekend
Out and About - April 2007
Out and About - May 2007
Out and About - June 2007
Out and About - July 2007
Out and About - August 2007
Out and About - September 2007
Out and About - October 2007
Out and About - November 2007
Out and About - December 2007
Out and About - January 2008
Out and About - February 2008

Hans Matheson in "The Tudors"

Earlier this evening I watched the first part of the second series of The Tudors.

I’m talking, of course, about Showtime’s hit series that stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as
King Henry VIII, Jeremy Northam as Thomas More, Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn, Maria Doyle Kennedy as Katherine of Aragon, and Peter O’Toole as Pope Paul III.

To be honest, I watched it solely because one my favorite actors, Hans Matheson, plays Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Shallow or what?

Anyway, here’s how Wikipedia describes Thomas Cranmer:

[As Archbishop of Canterbury] during the reigns of the English kings Henry VIII and Edward VI, [Cranmer] was an influential theologian who, with Richard Hooker and Matthew Parker, was a co-founder of Anglican theological thought.

He helped build a favorable case for Henry’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon and guided the English Reformation, which denied papal authority over the English Church, during its earliest days. Following Henry’s death, Cranmer became a key figure in Edward’s regency government.

Scholars credit Cranmer with writing and compiling the first two Books of Common Prayer, which established the basic structure of Anglican liturgy for more than four centuries.

. . . Cranmer was executed in 1556 for heresy after Queen Mary I reunited the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church. Anglican culture, particularly the literature of John Foxe, later celebrated Cranmer as a martyr. His impact on religion in the United Kingdom was profound and lasting.

. . . [Nevertheless] the subservience with which Cranmer met Henry’s uncontrolled demands, as well as the timorousness which made him sell out his friends and be complicit in acts of intolerance and religious violence, are scars on his legacy. Nevertheless, it was largely due to Cranmer that the Church of England emerged from the English Reformation retaining the ancient Christian faith and the Apostolic Succession, which had largely been lost by continental Protestants. Cranmer is commemorated by the Church of England on March 21. The Episcopal Church in the United States of America commemorates him with the other Oxford martyrs on October 16.

In The Catholic Church: A Short History, Hans Küng notes the following about the English Reformation and the role of Thomas Cranmer:

Henry VIII’s Reformation in England was quite certainly not just a matter of a divorce, as the Catholic side often describes it, nor was it a popular movement as in Protestant Germany. Above all it was a decision of Parliament, carried through by the king. Instead of the pope, the king (and under him the Archbishop of Canterbury) was now the supreme head of the Church of England. That meant a break with Rome, but not with the Catholic faith.

Moreover the Anglican state church did not become Protestant in its life and constitution, after the German model. Only after Henry’s death did the learned archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer carry through what no bishop in Germany had succeeded in doing: a Reformation which maintained the Episcopal constitution.

Specifically, says Küng:

• There was a simplified and concentrated liturgy in the spirit of the Bible and the early church (Book of Common Prayer, 1549).

• There was a traditional confession of faith with an evangelical doctrine of justification and a Calvinist doctrine of the Eucharist (which was later toned down) (Forty-Two Articles, 1552).

• There was a reform of discipline, but without giving up the traditional structures of ministry.

Concludes Küng:

After the years of the bloody Catholic reaction of Mary Tudor (Archbishop Cranmer, too, went to the stake), under Mary’s half-sister, Elizabeth I (1558-1603), a definitive form of that reformed Catholicism was achieved which in a typically English way combined the medieval and the Reformation paradigms of Christianity. Liturgy and church customs were reformed, but teaching and practice remained Catholic (as laid down in the Thirty-Nine Articles). Hence to the present day the Anglican Church regards itself as the middle way between the extremes of Rome and Geneva.

As perhaps could be expected from a flashy mini-series aimed at the American market, The Tudors plays hard and fast with the facts. Liberties are taken with character names, relationships, physical appearances, and the timing of events.

With regards to papal history, for example, Wikipedia notes the following about the first series:

The papal politics depicted in the first several episodes of the series . . . have no clear relation to actual events. A Pope Alexander is depicted as on his death bed at the time of the Field of the Cloth of Gold meeting between Henry and Francis I of France (in 1520), whereas the actual pope at that time, Leo X, died suddenly at the very end of 1521, and there had not been a pope named Alexander since 1503, before the beginning of Henry’s reign. A Cardinal Orsini is depicted as being elected following the death of the fictional Alexander, which, again, does not correspond to actual history, when the Emperor’s tutor Adrian of Utrecht was elected to succeed Leo, and, following his death just a year later, Cardinal Medici, who as Clement VII would refuse to permit Henry’s divorce, was elected to the papal throne.

I’m sure the second series – the one I’ve just started watching – is also filled with similar historical inaccuracies.

Oh, well, The Tudors mini-series certainly looks good. And Hans Matheson’s performance is, as always, excellent - if frustratingly brief in the installment I watched tonight.

Oh, and by the way, don’t let those smoldering good looks distract you. The man is a very talented actor. True, he’s not what you would call an “A-list” actor, but that’s definitely part of his appeal to me. Refreshingly, he’s not driven to be a celebrity actor, but rather is dedicated to developing his acting skills through interesting and challenging roles - more often than not in projects that are far from being Hollywood blockbusters.

And as you’ll see from many of the images in the following retrospective, long before his portrayal of Thomas Cranmer in The Tudors, Hans Matheson has been portraying various characters from the past – both real and fictitious.

Above: Han’s latest feature film is Bathory. Directed by Juraj Jakubisko, the film tells the story of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, played by Anna Friel. Hans plays the role of Caravaggio, who in this version is rumored to have been Bathory’s lover.

Now, where do you think I could get an outfit like the one Hans is wearing? It’s so cool!

Above: Whereas this outfit I could probably do without: Hans as Mordred in the 2001 TV mini-series, The Mists of Avalon.

When questioned in an interview about whether he thought Mordred was an inherently evil character, Hans responded:

He’s been rejected and abandoned, and that’s what is behind the evil he does. I think that is the case for a lot of people who have been hurt in their lives. Their pain ends up coming out in an indirect way.

Above: Hans in his first major film role: as the heroin addict Eddie in director Coky Giedroyć's 1996 film Stella Does Tricks.

Above and right: Hans as the would-be rock 'n' roll star 'Silver Johnny' in the 1997 film Mojo.

In an article in the July 1998 issue of The Face magazine, it's noted that:

[Hans] first played pubescent Fifties rocker Silver Johnny in the original stage production of Mojo, and has now climbed back into the glittery trousers and junior sized quiff for the film version, in which paedophile gangsters chop each other up just to get their paws on this spring chicken with Elvis hips. The film's writer-director, Jez Butterworth (who has called Matheson "his very own Harvey Keitel") has said that he wrote the part for Hans and the actor concedes to some similarities.

"Like Johnny, I've been through a lot of bad stuff." he says enigmatically. "And we both share that trait which you find in creative people, which is to be continually searching for answers and meanings. I'm not as desperate as I was when I first played him - I used to beat myself up over the slightest mistake. There have been times when I didn't know if I would last. I've done the drugs thing. I've been through all that. I'm not gonna preach just because I'm clean, but I don't think it's good for the soul. I couldn't go back to that now. This is the happiest I've ever been."

Above and left: Hans as Marius Pontmercy in the Bille August-directed 1998 film adaptation of Victor Hugo's 1862 novel Les Misérables. The film also features Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, and Claire Danes.

Les Misérables received a 74% "Certified Fresh" rating on
Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states, "This intelligent, handsomely crafted adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel condenses the story's developments without blunting its emotional impact."

Above: Hans as the young guitarist Luke Shand in the 1998 film Still Crazy.

Above: Hans as violinist Jeno Varga in the 2000 film Canone Inverso – Making Love.

Above: Hans as Private Jack Hawkstone in the 2002 British horror film Deathwatch.

Above: Hans as the Roman emperor Nero in the 2004 Italian TV mini-series, Imperium: Nero.

Above and below: Hans as the Earl of Essex in the 2005 British TV mini-series, The Virgin Queen. Anne-Marie Duff starred as Queen Elizabeth I.

Above: Hans with Demi Moore in the 2006 feature film (that went straight to DVD in most markets), Half Light, in which he plays lighthouse keeper Angus McCullough. (I wrote about Hans and this particular film in one of my very first Wild Reed posts in May of 2006.)

Above: Hans as Jake in the 2004 British TV movie, Comfortably Numb. This made-for-TV film boldly explores the addiction and rehabilitation process as it follows Jake in his battle to overcome his addiction to alcohol in a specialized treatment center called Promis.

As The Guardian of London notes:

Comfortably Numb is potent and raw, and about more than full-blown addicts. It is about the deceptions, delusions and diversions we create to fool ourselves and other people, our sneaky strategies and devious designs. It is based on stories told by members of the supporting cast, none of whom were professional actors and all of whom were counselors and trainee counselors – and therefore recovering addicts – at the real Promis clinic.

Above: Hans as Tomas the stable boy in the 2002 Swedish-Norwegian-Danish film, I Am Dina.

Directed by Ole Bornedal and based on the 1989 book, Dinas bok (Dina’s Book) by Herbjørg Wassmo, the film is reputedly one of the most high-profile in Norwegian movie history.

Above and left: Hans as Yuri Zhivago in the 2003 TV mini-series, Doctor Zhivago, based on the novel by Boris Pasternak.

It was this mini-series, shown on PBS, that first introduced me to Hans Matheson. It’s a decent enough production, although I feel that Keira Knightley is hopelessly miscast as Lara.

In a November 16, 2002 interview with Karen Hockney of The Scotsman Online, Hans remarked:

I found [Pasternak’s] book incredibly poetic and detailed – I could relate to it. I hadn’t seen [David Lean’s 1965 film version] before I auditioned, but when I read the script I saw a fantastic love story. Then I watched the film and thought it was very good. Omar Sharif was fantastic and so was Julie Christie, but it was a completely different story to the book.

[Lean’s] film was groundbreaking in its time but cinema has become more daring in the last ten years. I think [Lean’s] film was limited emotionally and I hope that [with this new version] we are breaking new ground in terms of the emotional barriers. Yury [Zhivago] is a man of great integrity and I feel very strongly about the love he has for Lara and his wife Tonya.

In terms of future projects, Hans will play Alec D’Urberville in the forthcoming BBC production of Thomas Hardy’s novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Gemma Arterton takes the title role of Tess, with filming commencing this month in England.

For more of Hans Matheson at The Wild Reed, see:
To the Lighthouse . . .
A Devilish Turn

Recommended Off-site Link:
Hans Matheson Online

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Rose Ensemble

My friend Jordan (pictured above standing third from left) is the founder and artistic director of the Rose Ensemble, which tomorrow night (Monday, March 31) presents a program at the Ridgedale Library entitled, “Music from the Land of Three Faiths.”

The Rose Ensemble is a choral ensemble of international renown. Last fall, for instance, it was awarded first place in a competition of more than one thousand choirs from around the world at the 39th Annual Tolosa (Spain) International Choral Competition.

Tomorrow night’s performance will take place at the Ridgedale Library, where the Rose Ensemble will sing to accompaniment of Middle Eastern instruments such as the riqq, dumbek, rebec, ud (guitar), hurdy-gurdy (a lute-like instrument) and frame drum.

The program sounds fascinating – not only because of the interesting instrumentation that will be seen and heard, but because it will explore the ancient music and culture of medieval Spain, where Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived together in a shared, artistic society.

So, if you’re in the Twin Cities area, check out the Rose Ensemble at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow evening at the Ridgedale Library, located at 12601 Ridgedale Drive in Minnetonka. This event is free and open to the public.

To watch members of the Rose Ensemble in a KARE 11 Showcase Minnesota preview of this event, click here.

Image: Michael Haug.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 3)

In this third and final excerpt from the preface of The Church in the Making, theologian and author Richard R. Gaillardetz presents an “explicit, interpretive methodology” that he insists is the only way out of the impasse noted in the previous excerpt.

In her review of Gaillardetz’s book for the soon-to-be posted April issue of The Progressive Catholic Voice online journal, Paula Ruddy outlines the origins and nature of this “impasse”:

In order to get almost unanimous agreement from the bishops on the documents [of Vatican II], theologians had to compromise. The way they did that was to place alternative formulations of some teachings one after the other in the same chapters of the document. That solution to their problem has caused new problems of interpretation over the 40 years since Vatican II. Using only the texts of documents, people who do not like change, cite the formulation that fits their agenda, and people who do want reform, cite passages that fit theirs.

Following is how Gaillardetz, using the insights of Australian theologian Ormond Rush, proposes a way around this impasse.


[We must] adopt an explicit, interpretive methodology, a conciliar hermeneutic that goes beyond the juxtaposition of discrete passages in an effort to discern the emerging theological vision that is evident in the conciliar documents. [Ormond] Rush contends that an adequate conciliar hermeneutic requires a threefold reading of the council documents.

First, a diachronic [i.e., of or pertaining to the changes in a linguistic system between successive points in time] reading of the council documents presumes that one must study the historical development of the documents from the pre-conciliar, preparatory period through the four sessions and three intersessions of the council itself. This reading requires a careful consideration of the sources from which a text draws, the history of its development, and a consideration of the questions it was intended and not intended to address. Such a reading will also identify an emerging trajectory of development that may in fact point beyond the council.

A diachronic interpretation of conciliar documents must respond to the following kinds of questions:

1. How does the history of a text as it moved from preparatory schema to its final promulgation affect our understanding of it?

2. Did a particular teaching grow or lessen in importance over the course of the council?

3. Did the council anticipate and provide for further development of a given topic after the close of the council?

4. How did the council critically “receive” earlier insights and theological perspectives?

5. Did the council intentionally leave some theological/doctrinal questions open?

6. What significance do we attach to the council’s decision to avoid certain theological formulations in its teaching?

[Gaillardetz employs this diachronic approach in Part One of The Church in the Making as he examines the history of three Vatican II documents - Lumen Gentium, Christus Dominus, and Orientalium Ecclesiarum.]

Second, alongside this diachronic reading, the texts must also be read synchronically, that is, each text must be read in relation to other companion texts among the council documents.

Questions that must be considered in a synchronic reading include:

1. When considering a particular text, how does a sense of the whole corpus of conciliar documents shape the way that a particular text is read?

2. Are there texts that ought to provide a hermeneutical key for interpreting other texts?

3. What weight should be given to any particular document with respect to the others?

[Gaillardetz uses this more synchronic reading in Part Two of his book to identify common themes in the same three documents mentioned above.]

Finally, diachronic and synchronic interpretations have to be accompanied by a third reading, one that considers the conciliar texts in the light of their subsequent reception in the life of the church.

Such a reading must consider:

1. What themes have been emphasized and/or neglected in post-conciliar church teaching?

2. What themes have been emphasized or neglected in post-conciliar theological literature?

3. What conciliar teachings have or have not given rise to concrete changes in church law, structures, and pastoral practice?

[Gaillardetz undertakes this third mode of interpretation in Part Three of his book, while Part Four looks to the future with some constructive proposals for continued church reform and renewal.]

. . . What I hope will emerge is a dynamic and vital image of the church, faithful to its great tradition, yet attentive to the distinctive challenges of the present and open to a graced future.


As I’ve noted previously, Richard Gaillardetz will be the keynote speaker at Call to Action Minnesota’s Spring Conference on Saturday, April 19, 2008. The topic of his presentation will be: “Rethinking Hierarchy: Becoming a Community of Conversation.” For more information about this event, see the “Upcoming Events” section in the latest issue of The Progressive Catholic Voice online journal.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 1)
Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 2)
Truth About “Spirit of Vatican II” Finally Revealed!

Friday, March 28, 2008


By Nicola Slee

You touched my flesh
with infinitely tender embrace:
with touch of charis,
the caress of grace,
the chrism of bliss.

You sought my face
with your lips,
came closer than breathing
to give me the kiss of peace.
No one loved me like this.

You opened my body
like rain parting leaves,
like the blessing of oil
on a dying man’s brow.
You blessed, broke and offered
the bread of your body.
You ate of my flesh,
you drank of my juice.
You forsook every other
and cleaved unto me.
We are flesh of one flesh.
We are forged of one will.
We are still,
in the heart,
in the bone,
in the dark,
in the tongueless,
wondering place
where two are made one.

We are gift,
we are grace,
we are the face of love.
We are one, we are one.

- Taken from Courage to Love: Liturgies for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community, edited by Geoffrey Duncan (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2002).

Note: In Greek mythology, a Charis is one of several Charites (Greek: “Graces”), goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility. They ordinarily numbered three, from youngest to oldest: Aglaea (“Beauty”), Euphrosyne (“Mirth”), and Thalia (“Good Cheer”). In Roman mythology they were known as the Gratiae, the “Three Graces.”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
And Love is Lord of All
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Love is Love
Dew[y] Kissed
The Road to Love
Alexander’s Great Love
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex
Mmm, that Sweet Surrender

Recommended Off-site Link:
The Androphile Project: The World History of Male Love

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Just Love

Nihil Obstat is a relatively new weblog dedicated to “examining public statements and letters of Church officials and concerned Catholics [on a range of issues] in light of Christ’s ministry of inclusion and justice.”

Recently, Nihil Obstat highlighted the awarding of Sr. Margaret A. Farley (pictured above), an emeritus professor of Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School, with the 2008 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion. The award, which carries a $200,000 honor, is given for new ideas in theology. It seems that, in large part, Farley received the award on the strength of her work in sexual ethics and, in particular, her idea that justice is an indispensable part of such ethics. In her 2006 book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, for instance, she defines “justice” as, “to render to each her or his due.” Furthermore, because justice is the quality that forms, guides and protects love, human sexual relationships must be not only loving but fair, writes Farley.

Here’s what Nihil Obstat has to say about Farley and her work:

In her 2006 book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, Farley argues that justice is the quality that forms, guides, and protects loving relationships.

When she became an ethicist almost 40 years ago, it never occurred to her that she might write a book about sexual ethics. But after looking at the pained faces of hundreds of lay people and students tussling with the complexities of love, she began to mull over their struggles.

Farley, a Sister of Mercy who lives in Guilford, CT, acknowledges she’s taken a progressive stance on issues like homosexuality, remarriage and masturbation. “Although homosexual genital actions are still judged to be intrinsically disordered, and hence, ‘objectively’ immoral, they can be ‘subjectively’ moral depending on the state of mind and intentions of an individual person,” she writes.

“It is difficult to see how on the basis of sheer human rationality alone . . . an absolute prohibition of same-sex relationships or activities can be maintained. . . . We have to witness that homosexuality can be a way of embodying responsible human love and sustaining human and Christian fellowship.”

Farley says that gay people have both a right, and a responsibility, to be fruitful through having and/or raising children and that a committed couple has the right to a satisfying sexual relationship.

Her views on divorce and remarriage, same-sex relationships and the ordination of women can be considered to differ with the official positions taken by the current Roman Catholic hierarchy, but Farley said that she proposes such challenges as an ethicist and moral theologian who is “trying to think through some of the troubling issues facing the church and society.”

“I do not just assert my positions,” Farley said, “I work my way to them, paying serious attention to the concrete situations in real lives where questions are raised, and working with significant resources in Scripture and Christian tradition. My conclusions may indeed sometimes differ from official positions, but my effort is to shed light both on new questions, new contexts, and potential new interpretations of the tradition.”

Susan Garrett, who directs the Grawemeyer award program, said Farley’s idea to chew over these issues, rather than believe what society or the church advocates, is essential.

“It’s an important message in light of all the confusion surrounding sexuality today,” Garrett said. “The religious right issues stark decrees while the entertainment industry tells us ‘Anything goes.’ People get confused about what’s right.”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Love is Love
The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”
The Real Gay Agenda
Naming and Confronting Bigotry
Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunctional Church
Separate is Not Equal
New Studies: Gay Couples as Committed as Straight Couples
What Scientists in the UK are Saying About Homosexuality
A Catholic Bibliography on Gay Issues
And Love is Lord of All

Opening image: Zac Willette.

In the Garden of Spirituality: James C. Howell


“We are not on earth to guard a museum,
but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.”

- Pope John XXIII

The Wild Reed’s series of reflections on spirituality continues with an excerpt from the book, The Beatitudes for Today by James C. Howell.


Jesus had crumpled up the mental map of the known world, and nobody in Galilee or Jerusalem seemed to appreciate having their traditional view of the world refolded and then redrawn, as if by some spiritual origami. And so, those who followed Jesus fanned out all over the Mediterranean, and in every place, they were greeted with puzzled grimaces and clenched fists. “These people who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” (Acts 17:6)

How odd this may seem to us! Christianity is something many nice people do, and it seems pleasant enough, so innocuous to onlookers that the potential for a riot is nonexistent. Churches do not turn our world upside down; by our architecture, dress, and behavior we fit snugly into our surroundings. . . . How did the Jesus who got his followers into constant trouble in the ancient world come to fit in so comfortably, and even successfully, in our world today? . . . Have we missed something? Everything?

How could it possibly matter if we followed Jesus? . . . Is it even imaginable that offense would be taken by our sadly broken and steamily decadent world? Could cities be thrown into turmoil? What does Jesus want for me? And from me? If we look into the Beatitudes of Jesus, what will we find? And might a few things, or even everything, look different because of what he said? And might they actually be different, better, more true, more beautiful, more faithful? Will onlookers ever again say of us, “These people who have turned the world upside down have come here also”?

- Excerpted from The Beatitudes for Today by James C. Howell.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Garden of Spirituality: Zainab Salbi
In the Garden of Spirituality: Daniel Helminiak
In the Garden of Spirituality: Rod Cameron
In the Garden of Spirituality: Paul Collins
In the Garden of Spirituality: Joan Chittister
In the Garden of Spirituality: Toby Johnson
In the Garden of Spirituality: Joan Timmerman
In the Garden of Spirituality: Uta Ranke-Heinemanm
In the Garden of Spirituality: Caroline Jones
In the Garden of Spirituality: Ron Rolheiser

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


No sooner had I seen my friend Eduard off on a Chicago-bound bus on Thursday, March 13, then I was northward bound early the next Monday morning (March 17) to that area of Minnesota known as the Northwoods.

I found myself in this beautiful part of the state as the result of my young friend Joey asking me to accompany him and his classmates as an adult chaperone on their school’s annual sixth grade Environmental Studies trip to Camp Widjiwagan, situated near the town of Ely and on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northeastern Minnesota.

Above: I traveled to Camp Widjiwagen with five parents who were also serving as chaperones. On the way we stopped at the town of Cloquet – which boasts the only gas station to have ever been designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Above: Another place we visited while traveling toward Ely and Camp Widjiwagen was the memorial for the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila, their daughter Marcia, and several others who were tragically killed in a plane crash on October 25, 2002, just outside of the town of Eveleth.

Above and below: Founded in 1929, Camp Widjiwagan aims to help young people develop respect for self, community, and the environment through environmental education and wilderness adventures, such as hiking, cross-country skiing, and wilderness survival activities.

Above: For many of the inner-city kids involved in this four-day visit to Widjiwagan it was their first time being in a wilderness setting and participating in activities such as cross-crossing skiing. Accordingly, it was quite something to be able to witness and share in their wonderment and excitement at all the new experiences they were encountering. And, of course, my time with them reminded me of my teaching days in Australia.

Above: Cross-country skiing on the snow-covered frozen lake.

Above and below: On Wednesday, March 19, I accompanied camp team leader Andy and a group of students on a half-day “eco hike.”

Above and below: Andy - with his playful and gentle spirit - was a real gift to the young people. His obvious love and respect for nature was readily discerned by all, and instilled, I’m sure, in many. During the course of our hike he showed us how to make tea out of white pine needles, taught us how to identify and differentiate between various types of animal tracks, and demonstrated how to prepare and make a fire in the winter wilderness.

Above: Lunch in the wintry woods!

Above: Three students with “Howard” - whom, as you can probably tell, is quite harmless. (For one thing, he has no teeth! Oh, yeah, and he’s been dead and stuffed since the 1920s.)

Above: My cabin mates, among whom I gained a reputation for being an “awesome” ghost story teller! My retelling of Charles Dickens’ The Signal-Man was particularly memorable, or so I was told the following day - and by some who weren’t even present for the retelling! Word sure gets around fast at Camp Widjiwagan.

Above: The view from our cabin.

Yeah, it was cold. But that didn’t stop us, on our last night, from jumping into the lake through a hole cut in the ice, after spending fifteen minutes or so in the sauna! I guess that’s some kind of Norwegian custom - and one that actually wasn’t as bad as it sounds.

Images: Michael Bayly.

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
A Snowy December - with an Aussie Connection