Thursday, December 24, 2009

(Australian) Summer Round-Up II

Here's the third summer round-up for 2009.

Yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced three summers this year - an American summer and two Australian summers.

For the uninitiated, a Wild Reed round-up is simply a periodic sharing of favourite websites and recent online articles that I consider particularly insightful, interesting, and/or inspiring. Enjoy the latest round-up . . . and Happy Christmas!


One of the many aspects that I appreciate about Terence Weldon’s Queering the Church blogsite is its attention to “gay church history.” Recently, for instance, Terence focused on the “Medieval flowering” of “homoerotic Christianity.”

Terence notes that this period saw “the most visible, most public ‘gay’ sub-culture in Europe before the late twentieth century. . . . Although the official line at the time was that same sex relationships were sinful, this was not taken very seriously. Instead, the evidence from actual practice, was that such relationships were at worst tolerated, at best celebrated.”

And celebrated even by certain bishops. Writes Terence: “From literature, we have the example of bishops and other clergy writing verse with frankly homoerotic themes: Marbod of Rennes, Baudri of Bourgueil, and Hildebert of Lavardin wrote poems which, while superficially orthodox, also treat frankly homoerotic themes with remarkable frankness and authenticity.”

Terence also regularly highlights historical figures significant to gay Christians. These have included St. John of the Cross, St. Venantius Fortunatus, and (as was noted in a previous Wild Reed round-up) St. Paulinus of Nola.


The New Catholic Times is a great online publication based in Canada. Recently it posted a commentary by author James Carroll (pictured at right) in which he argues that the Roman Catholic clerical leadership is “holding American politics hostage.” Writes Carroll:

The Catholic Church is more than its hierarchy. Polls show that most Catholic laity dissent on multiple moral questions. But the bishops define the public face of Catholicism-and that face is now marked by a scowling moralism. In days past, the immigrant Church was defined by its core commitment to serve workers, the poor, and the marginal. Catholicism was a powerful partner in the New Deal, Labor, War-on-Poverty, and Civil Rights coalitions, and though there were always conservative bishops (like Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York), the Church did not make doctrinal or ethical conformity a precondition of its participation in the struggle for equal justice. That is why, across the 20th century, it was a force for progressive social change. That is over.

For the first time in its history, the American Catholic hierarchy is solidly right wing. There is not one liberal voice among its members. The bishops are at home with the heirs of a know-nothing fundamentalism that once, by every measure of theology and social policy, embodied the Church's opposite. This realignment is the consequence, within Catholicism, of the conservative appointments made to the episcopate over 27 years by Pope John Paul II, but it also reflects the broader, post-Ronald Reagan phenomenon of the arrival of the Religious Right as an establishment force in American politics.

To read Carroll’s commentary in its entirety, click here.


What with all the activity (and drama) around planning last month’s CPCSM’s “Holding the Courage Apostolate Accountable” event and preparing and actually returning to Australia for two months, I must admit being somewhat out of touch with some rather important news stories. Case in point: the anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Thankfully, others have been watching and insightfully analyzing the situation.

Over at the indispensable Box Turtle Bulletin, for instance, one can find numerous in-depth articles on this particular story. For the website’s ongoing comprehensive coverage, see Slouching Toward Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate.

Another excellent source of analysis – one that offers a progressive Catholic perspective – is provided by William D. Lindsey via his informed Bilgrimage blogsite.

For three recent posts by William on the situation in Uganda, click here, here, and here.

Another excellent resource is National Catholic Reporter correspondent John Allen, Jr’s piece, Why Catholics Aren’t Speaking Up in Uganda About Anti-Gay Bill.


Meanwhile over at, Peter Laarman writes on a new report on the increased levels of loneliness and isolation experienced by many during the Christmas season.

. . . [L]onely individuals, already lacking strong social connections, tend to feel their isolation much more keenly during a time characterized by heavy socialization and “cheer.” The run of Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s holidays also occur during the time of least available daylight in North America, which means that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also plays a role in making Yuletide anything but bright for those whom Herman Melville appropriately labeled isolatoes.

And now we know, thanks to new research, that loneliness is growing more widespread—indeed, that loneliness is contagious. According to a paper published by James Fowler, Nicholas Christakis, and John Cacioppio in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, lonely people tend to spread it around. They alienate others and weird them out, making those others in turn feel more isolated and lonely.

. . . The three scholars who wrote about contagious loneliness did not suggest what might be done about the spreading contagion, apart from proposing “interventions.” But it is not easy to imagine what kinds of interventions might be able to counter a trend that has so many things going for it: alienating workplaces with more and more temp workers drifting in an out on variable shifts, the economic stress that drives more and more people into such socially bleak workplaces, the dissolution of strong family ties, the solipsistic lure of online living.

Religiously literate and religiously committed people could help here. They know, in the first instance, that humans were made for community—that there is no “I” unless there is also a “Thou”—indeed that, according to some creation accounts, we ended up here because (a) God was lonely, and (b) God saw that Adam was lonely. They know that there is no godly gift quite like the living, breathing presence of another person.

Healthy religion can also help to create the kinds of communities that are inviting but not intrusive—communities where one is accepted but not interrogated or manipulated.

Laarman then proceeds to discuss a “theology of friendship.” It’s a fascinatingly insightful article – one that can be read in its entirety here.

Oh, and while over at, be sure to check out Dan Archer’s “graphic primer” on the “politics of the apocalypse.” Notes Archer: “Whether it’s the Mayan prediction of the 2012 cataclysm or the theology of the rapture, predictions of the end of the world tell us as much about ourselves as about the coming apocalypse.”


Maureen Gaffney ‘s December 2 Irish Times’ op-ed, entitled “Church’s View of Sex the Root of Its Troubles,” is definitely worth reading. Here’s just a snippet:

. . . [T]idying up corporate governance and instituting a more transparent culture is not going to resolve the scandal of clerical sexual abuse. That will require the church to face up to a much more profound problem – the church’s own teaching on sexuality.

Consider the list of issues the church has failed to deal with credibly since the 1960s: premarital and extramarital sex; remarriage; contraception; divorce; homosexuality; the role of women in ministry and women’s ordination; and the celibacy of the clergy. All have to do with sexuality.

Very few Catholics are looking to the church for moral guidelines in relation to any of these questions anymore. And why would they? After all, the church’s teaching on sexuality continues to insist that all intentionally sought sexual pleasure outside marriage is gravely sinful, and that every act of sexual intercourse within marriage must remain open to the transmission of life. The last pope, and most probably the present, took the view that intercourse, even in marriage, is not only “incomplete”, but even ceases to be an act of love, if contraception is used. Such pronouncements are so much at variance with the lived experience of most people as to undermine terminally the church’s credibility in the area of intimate relationships.

. . . To [to respond effectively to the church’s crisis of sexuality, the clerical leadership] must confront the root cause of the problem – that the Catholic Church is a powerful homo-social institution, where men are submissive to a hierarchical authority and where women are incidental and dispensable. It’s the purest form of a male hierarchy, reflected in the striking fact that we all collectively refer it to as “the Hierarchy”.

It has all the characteristics of the worst kind of such an institution: rigid in social structure; preoccupied by power; ruthless in suppressing internal dissent; in thrall to status, titles, and insignia, with an accompanying culture of narcissism and entitlement; and at a great psychological distance from human intimacy and suffering.

To read Gaffney’s commentary in its entirety, click here.

(NOTE: The image accompanying this part of the round-up is by David LaChapelle.)


Colleen Kochivar-Baker’s Enlightened Catholicism is one of my “must-read” blogsites. (Others include Karen Doherty’s Nihil Obstat, Jayden Cameron’s Gay Mystic, Marty Kurylowski’s Thalamus Center, Prickiest Pear’s Far From Rome, Crystal’s Perspective, Joseph O’Leary’s homepage, and the aforementioned Queering the Church by Terence Weldon, and Bilgrimage by William Lindsey.)

Recently, Colleen highlighted an article by Sydney-based priest Dan Donovan in which two spiritual paths (and the communities they engender) are contrasted by using the examples of St. Mary’s in Brisbane and Opus Dei. As Colleen notes, “one represents the concept of emerging church which is far more responsive to the needs of individuals within the social/worldly community in which it operates. The other is focused on the maintenance of the Institutional Church irrespective of the social/worldly community in which it operates.”

I always appreciate Colleen’s sharing of such insightful articles – and how she eruditely comments on them in that wonderful way of hers that makes connections and invites dialogue. To see what I mean, visit her post The Imperative of Growing Towards the Light.

I also highly recommend Colleen’s recent posts: What’s the Real Message in the Death of Mainline Christianity, A Sharper Divide Between Priests and Laity: The Rock Star Phenomenon, Two Views of Meaningful Vatican Responses for the Abuse Crisis, Science Says It’s Time We Board the Gender Peace Train, and Where in the World Are Vatican Priorities? Apparently in Rural Australia.


Dan Donovan’s piece highlighted by Colleen Kochivar-Baker reminds me of Prickiest Pear’s excellent series on James Fowler’s stages of faith. I’ve highlighted this series previously, but since then Prickiest Pear has concluded it.

Here, then, are the installments of the complete series:

Infancy and Undifferentiated Faith
Stage 1 – Intuitive-Projective Faith
Stage 2 – Mythic-Literal Faith
Stage 3 – Synthetic-Conventional Faith
Stage 4 – Individuative-Reflective Faith
Stage 5 – Conjunctive Faith
Stage 6 – Universalizing Faith


And finally, Jayden Cameron has an inspiring post on his blog Gay Mystic – a post prompted by something he read about Polly Teale’s play Brontë.

Here’s a little of what Jayden writes:

How much of our future liberation as Catholic gay and lesbian persons rest upon the shoulders of writers and activists today who are transforming our own deprivation into art – but at what human costs. The ‘inner joy’ of uniting with the Crucified in his prophetic, marginal status can sometimes be only a dimly felt presence in the soul, while fires and storms rage overhead. Sometimes the gift of being both Catholic and gay can be a heavy burden to bear, moving us to cry out, “How long, O Lord, how long?” Or like St. Teresa of Avila, we may express our deprivation in more witty terms by exclaiming, “Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.” In the end, however, truth and justice will prevail because of the heroic ‘redemptive sacrifice’ of so many gay and lesbian witnesses today, becoming through their suffering and purification (to paraphrase an old Tibetan Buddhist saying) “centers of boundless compassion flooding itself upon the world.”

Amen to that!

To read Jayden’s commentary, “The Bronte Sisters and Us,” in its entirety, click

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


PrickliestPear said...

Wow, thanks for the very kind words!

(I'll have more about Fowler very soon, BTW.)

crystal said...

Thanks for the mention. Merry Christmas, Michael :)

Terence Weldon said...

Michael, thanks as always for the shout out - but even more for all the useful links and posts you highlight.

How you keep up so much activity while away from home is beyond me - I'm battling to keep up without going anywhere.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday under the Southern sun (I'm jealous), and have a great and productive year for 2010.