Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Summer Blooms

Currently, various levels of drought conditions are being experienced across Minnesota, including here in the Twin Cities of St. Paul/Minneapolis.

Not surprisingly, the impact of these conditions are starting to show in the garden of the triplex where I live in south Minneapolis. In response, I’ve been out watering the flowers, lawn, and vegetables in the cool of the evening. This past Saturday, however, I spent time in the garden in the morning. That’s when I took the photos that comprise this evening’s Wild Reed post.

Writes MPR’s Riham Feshir:

Heat and drought conditions are forecast to continue this week in Minnesota, with temperatures climbing into the 90s across much of the state and little rain – putting additional stress on crops and expanding the threat of wildfires.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Friday that with 52 percent of the state in severe or extreme drought, there’s now a drought warning in effect. Water levels are low on the Mississippi River, which supplies drinking water for many communities, and widespread rain isn’t in the forecast anytime soon.

Related Off-site Links:
Hot, Dry Conditions Show No Sign of Letting Up in Minnesota – Riham Feshir (MPR News, July 20, 2021).
In Light of Drought, Minneapolis Sets Watering RestrictionsMPR News (July 20, 2021).
Air Quality Alert Expanded Across Minnesota Over Canadian Wildfire SmokeMPR News (July 20, 2021).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Summer Garden
Summer Blooms (2015)
Summer Blooms (2014)
Summer Blooms (2009)
O Breath of Summer
In Summer Light
Summer Boy

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Just One Wish

Too far away to ever know
But if I had just one wish
I'd wish for now

Buffy Sainte-Marie
from “Orion” (2015)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Photo of the Day – November 12, 2012
Interiors – December 14, 2014
Blue Yonder
Morning Light
The Landscape Is a Mirror
Adnan . . . with Sunset Reflections and Jet Trail
Adnan . . . Amidst Mississippi Reflections
In This In-Between Time

Image: “Adnan and Rainbow Star” by Michael J. Bayly (June 29, 2021).

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Weekend at Pelican Lake

I spent this past weekend at Pelican Lake, celebrating my friend Angie’s birthday.

Located just outside of the town of Glennwood in Pope County, Minnesota, Pelican Lake is about a two hour drive northwest from the Twin Cities.

Angie and I first met in 1995, which was my second year in the U.S. after my relocation here from Australia. At the time, both of us were students at the College of St. Catherine (now the St. Catherine University) in the Twin Cities. Angie’s hometown is Montevideo, west of the Twin Cities, and back in the late 1990s and early 2000s I spent many happy summer weekends and Thanksgiving holidays in Montevideo with Angie and her family, who welcomed me as one of their own.

A number of Angie’s family members and close friends were at Pelican Lake to celebrate her birthday, so it was a great reunion for all of us. I hadn’t seen many of them since the summer of 2018, when we gathered in Minneapolis to celebrate Angie’s nephew’s wedding.

This was my second visit to beautiful Pelican Lake, where Angie and her family have a camper at the Pelican Lake RV Resort. I was last there in July of 2016.

Above: With Angie and her husband Bryan
– Pelican Lake, Saturday, July 10, 2021.

Above: Everyone was impressed with my fire-building skills!

Above: With friends Kelly and Randy.

Above: Angie, Cassie and Bryan.

Above: Zayna.

Above: Elena, Jordan and Patty.

Above: With Cassie and Elena.

Above and right: I returned to the Twin Cities via Montevideo, where I visited Angie’s mum. It was lovely to catch up with her, especially as we hadn’t seen each other since January 2017, when I traveled to Montevideo to celebrate her 80th birthday.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Pelican Lake (2016)
Days of Summer on the Bayfield Peninsula
Gull Lake

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Something to Think About . . .

Related Off-site Links:
The Bezos-Branson-Musk Space Race Is a Huge Waste of Money and Scientifically Useless – Michael Hiltzik (Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2014).
The Billionaire Space Race Is a Tragically Wasteful Ego Contest – Jacob Silverman (The New Republic, July 9, 2014).
Progressive Backlash to “Billionaire Blastoff” Highlights Inequality on Earth – Brett Wilkins (Common Dreams, July 12, 2014).

Image: Steve Sack / Star Tribune.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Lil Nas X, the Latest Face of Pop’s Gay Sexual Revolution

The Wild Reed’s 2021 Queer Appreciation series continues with an excerpt from Jazmine Hughes’ recent New York Times Magazine cover story, “The Subversive Joy of Lil Nas X’s Gay Pop Stardom.”


Somehow, I remember precisely where I was the first time I heard Lil Nas X: in the back seat of a friend’s car, speeding toward upstate New York for a girls’ weekend that we would spend sliding back to a version of adolescence, stoned on the power of our own giddiness. But first, we had to get there, and somewhere along Interstate 87, someone turned on “Old Town Road.”

Could anyone have it made it through 2019 without hearing “Old Town Road,” an international anthem of defiance (“Can’t nobody tell me nothing”), tenacity (“I’m gonna ride till I can’t no more”) and travel plans (“I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road”)? Listening to the song felt like ingesting amphetamines, happiness clomping through my brain in spurs. The song was both absurd and earnest, its opening sounding exactly like the swaggering steps of a cowboy swinging open a saloon door. I had climbed into the back seat that spring afternoon still covered in the frost of a winter funk, but I emerged – after a long car ride, some light emotional processing and no fewer than five listens to “Old Town Road” – goofy and loose, fun drummed back into me.

This is the difference between the Nas of “Old Town Road” and the one heard now, both in musical approach and in self-depiction: The new one is really, really gay. Coming out, for Nas, was a recalibration. He wanted to be not just a pop star but a visibly gay one, a figure built on that Gen Z tendency to heighten a sexual identity into an exaggerated shtick, but one founded on a genuine pride and comfort. . . . After years of hiding himself, there was now no mistaking it: He was trying to be, all at once, a hitmaker, a huge pop star, an out gay man and a sexual being.

You’re nobody until you’re part of a conspiracy theory – and Nas, if you listen to some corners of the internet, is part of an evil, far-ranging effort to emasculate the Black man. In this he joins a lineage of many visibly queer Black men, from James Baldwin to Little Richard, whose sexuality has been seen as a siege on the purity of Black masculinity, already under so much duress.

Nowhere has this allegation weighed more heavily than with “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” a song whose music video is a purposefully provocative sendup of the eternal damnation that Nas, and countless gay people, have been promised. In it, Nas is seduced by a serpent and brought in front of a tribunal for judgment, where he is killed by a flying butt plug. He then descends into hell via a stripper pole and ends up grinding on the devil, his face lavish with pleasure of the highest perversion. Lyrically, he describes, in lurid detail, how he wants to have sex with another man: “I want that jet lag from [expletive] and flyin’/Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m riding.” (As Susan Sontag said, “Camp is a tender feeling.”) He kills the devil, removing his horns and placing them atop his own head, suggesting that just because you are sentenced to hell doesn’t mean you are sentenced to suffering.

. . . Gay pop stardom is nothing new, but a pop stardom in a position to include overt sexuality might be. Nas is a bouillabaisse of his forebears: the wholesome sex appeal of a George Michael, the glitz of an Elton John or a David Bowie, the disruption of a Le1f or a Sylvester, the emotion of a Frank Ocean. He also follows in the path of artists like Salt-N-Pepa and Lil’ Kim and his idol Nicki Minaj, all of whom made rabid sexual attraction to men into something interesting enough to sing about, as well as Janelle Monáe, whose “PYNK” was a lively song about one woman performing oral sex on another.

Nas’s project, though, is to move past the mainstream and publicly acceptable practice of queerness, which is often so divorced from actual sexual pleasure that it can feel neutered. It’s one thing to accept a gay person, as many do, by ignoring what we do behind closed doors. But it’s quite another to embrace gay people as sexual beings, who can also enact an identity – just as straight people so proudly, publicly and lucratively do – in part through sex itself. Unlike many of his predecessors, Nas’s claim to his sexuality is explicit. He does not, say, sing love songs with elided pronouns. This is a man who has sex with other men. Even within the queer community, to have a young, strong, Black man openly identify as a bottom – a feminized position that’s often the target of misogynistic ire – is rare, a subversion of both power structures and social codes.

. . . There is a contemporary understanding of Black male identity that is condescending even as it intends to be caring: It posits that to be Black and a man is to be, exclusively, in constant danger. Attempts to complicate Black masculinity – like the once-constant rendering of Black men wearing flower crowns, as though this were a shocking juxtaposition – often seem built on those same stereotypes. Some people seem to enjoy defining what a Black man should or should not be. On Nas, though, masculinity turns expansive. His identity is capacious enough to accommodate fantasy. Grazing all six of his abs might be a hand adorned with white nail polish. His chest might be bound by a corset. Last Halloween, he dressed up as Minaj, complete with a blond wig, cinched waist and false breasts. He knew it would make people uncomfortable. (An internet native, he measures this in terms of “losing followers.”) Drag on Black men is typically done for laughs or else so clearly fixed in a queer space that it doesn’t much infringe on mainstream gender politics. But something about a cis Black man dressed in women’s clothing purely for fun was too close for comfort, especially when his music sits near hip-hop. Nas ended up having to defend himself to people like the rapper 50 Cent, whose own exaggerated masculinity is rooted in big muscles and having survived being shot. “What makes Lil Nas X so extraordinary is how brave he is at being so outwardly gay within the urban music world,” Elton John said to me in an email. “That’s where he’s truly groundbreaking.”

– Jazmine Hughes
Excerpted from “The Subversive Joy
of Lil Nas X’s Gay Pop Stardom

New York Times Magazine
July 7, 2021

Related Off-site Links:
From Internet Sensation to Global Icon: How Lil Nas X Is Navigating Music As a Gay Artist: An Interview With Jazmine HughesPress Play With Madeleine Brand (July 12, 2021).
Lil Nas X and Pop's Gay Sexual Revolution – Louis Staples (BBC Culture, July 11, 2021).
The Lil Nas X Gay Coronation Covers New York Times Magazine; Crowned With “Elaborately Braided Black Boy Joy” – Brian Bell (Towleroad, July 9, 2021). Lil Nas X Gives Epic Performance at BET Awards During Pride MonthThe Black Wall Street Times (June 29, 2021).
Lil Nas X Was Thankfully Not Shy Last Night During the BET Awards – Jason A. Michael (Pride Source, June 28, 2021).
Lil Nas X Hits Back at "Hypocritical," Homophobic Criticism over BET Awards Kiss: “I Love Who I Am” – Cydney Henderson (USA Today, June 28, 2021).
From Adam Lambert’s Blurred Gay TV Kiss to Lil Nas X at the BET Awards: What Changed? – James Duke Mason (LGBTQ Nation, July 6, 2021).
Adam Lambert Addresses Lil Nas X’s Same-Sex Kiss at the 2021 BET Awards – Stephen Daw (Billboard, June 29, 2021).
Lil Nas X Says He Knew His “Montero” Music Video Would Be Controversial – Joe Price (Complex, June 21, 2021).
Meet Yai Ariza, Lil Nas X's Dancer (and Rumored Boyfriend) – Raffy Ermac (Out, July 13, 2021).

For previous installments in The Wild Reed’s 2021 Queer Appreciation series, see:
“A Book About Revolutionary People That Feels Revolutionary Itself”
Remembering Dusty Springfield’s “Daring” 1979 Gay-Affirming Song
Zaylore Stout on the Meaning of Emancipation in 2021
Maebe A. Girl: A “Decidedly Progressive Candidate” for Congress
The Art of Tania Rivilis

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
In a Historic First, Country Music’s Latest Star Is a Queer Black Man
Nakhane Touré’s “Tortured Journey to Clarity”
Nakhane’s Hymn to Freedom
Rahsaan Patterson: Standing Within His True Light
Ocean Trip
Remembering Little Richard, 1932–2020
Remembering Prince, “Fabulous Freak, Defiant Outsider, Dark Dandy” – 1958-2016
David Bowie: Queer Messiah
Dusty Springfield: Queer Icon
No Surprise, But an Important Event Nonetheless
Adam Lamert Comes Out: It Shouldn’t Matter. Except it Does
“Glambert” and the New Gay Stereotype
Sam Sparro
Play It Again, Sam
Actually, I Do Feel Like Dancing
Rules and Regulations – Rufus Style
Darren Hayes, Coming Out . . . Oh, and Time Travel
The Latest from Darren Hayes
Remembering Stephen Gately, Gay Pop Pioneer
No Matter What

Friday, July 09, 2021

Remembering David McCaffrey, 10 Years On


I envision and work to create a Church that is open
& responsive to the needs and gifts of all its members;
a Church that is meaningful and nurturing of all,
and one that recognizes the equal status of all.

– David J. McCaffrey
1947 – 2011

Ten years ago today, my dear friend and colleague David McCaffrey died after a brief illness. He was 64.

Left: David and I at one of many planning meetings we hosted and/or attended over the years of our friendship and our shared work around LGBT-education and justice issues within the Catholic Church.

David was a tireless advocate for LGBT Catholics and an incredibly caring and generous individual. His compassion and commitment to justice and to the good news of liberation for the marginalized and oppressed were hallmarks of his life, as was his dedication to the Catholic LGBT community, his humor, and his warm and welcoming smile.

A year before his death, David was a recipient of the Adsum Award at the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform’s Synod of the Baptized. Adsum is a Latin word which means “I am present and listening.” Whenever the participants in Vatican II were gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica their traditional prayer was the exclamation: adsumus – “we are present and listening.” The Adsum Award recognizes those individuals who are known within the local church for having committed to being present and attentive to the Spirit. Accordingly, they have served as partners with the Spirit in re-creating the face of the church in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

David J. McCaffrey was a worthy recipient of this award. An honors graduate of the University of St. Thomas (1969, magna cum laude), David spent almost 30 years working in medical and social science research at the University of Minnesota. He was dedicated to ensuring that church teaching on gender and sexuality was informed by the findings of this important research. In 1980 he was one of six co-founders of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), an advocacy and educational non-profit that worked to create environments of respect, acceptance and safety for LGBTQI persons and their families in the Catholic Church and wider society. I served as CPCSM’s executive coordinator from 2003 until it’s disbandment in 2015. (For David’s recollections of the founding of CPCSM, click here.)

In the 1980’s, David played a crucial role in CPCSM’s groundbreaking Needs Assessment Survey of local LGBT Catholics. He was also the executive producer of CPCSM’s 1988 video, Silent Journeys of Faith, and the editor of its companion guidebook. Both resources were major components of CPCSM’s training workshops given to pastoral and social justice professionals of 25 parishes throughout the archdiocese.

In the 1990s, David played a major role in the development and implementation of CPCSM’s Safe Staff Training Initiative, which provided sensitivity training around LGBT issues to the educational leadership of the archdiocese and to administrators and faculties of eight of the high schools of the archdiocese. (This initiative culminated in the 2007 publication of Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective, the book – and “courageous document” – that I authored.)

In the years before his passing, David maintained CPCSM’s extensive website (archived here). He also took an invaluable leadership role in Catholics for Marriage Equality MN and was an active member in his faith community, St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in St. Paul.

Today, on the tenth anniversary of his passing, I honor David by sharing a selection of photographs taken over the period of time when I knew and worked with him (1994-2011). I also share one of David’s writings from 2008.

If, like me, you knew and loved David, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this very special commemorative post. You may even see yourself in a photo or two!

So without further ado, let’s get started . . .

Above: The cover of the September 30, 1994 issue of Gaze Magazine, featuring David with fellow CPCSM co-founder Bill Kummer (left) and Dignity Twin Cities president Brian McNeill (center).

Written by Zoé Diacou, this cover story, entitled “Crossing the Catholic Church,” examined “local GLBT Catholics’ twenty-year struggle with the hierarchy” by interviewing people associated with Dignity Twin Cities, which was celebrating its 20th anniversary that year. I’d joined Dignity within weeks of my arrival in Minnesota in January 1994, and its welcoming environment provided me my first opportunity to meet other gay Catholics. Diacou’s article included insightful comments from David and Bill, both of whom have now passed (Bill in 2006, and David in 2011).

To read Zoé Diacou’s article “Crossing the Catholic Church,” click here.

Above: My first photo with David. We’re pictured standing with Bishop Thomas Gumblton and fellow-members of our planning team for Bishop Gumbleton’s October 1994 visit to the Twin Cities.

From left: CPCSM board member Mary Burns, David, me, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, CPCSM co-founder Bill Kummer, Darlene White, Dale Korogi (who at that time was at the Basilica of St. Mary, one of the venues at which Bishop Gumbleton spoke and celebrated mass), and Joan Bednarczyk (from the Church of St. Stephen in Anoka, where Bishop Gumbleton’s talk was entitled “From Fear to Faith: A Catholic Bishop's Personal Journey with His Gay Brother”).

As I document here, it was through Dignity Twin Cities that I first became involved with the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM). Years later I would serve as the organization's executive coordinator.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1994, CPCSM worked to bring Bishop Gumbleton to the Twin Cities for a series of talks in October. I organized a speaking engagement for the bishop at the College of St. Catherine, and gave it the title, “Bridging the Gap: Reconciling the Church and Its Sexual Minority Members.” I used a picture of the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the promotional material.

Above: David in November 2004, pictured with me and my friend Raphael, who was visiting from Australia at that time.

Above: David with my parents, Gordon and Margaret Bayly, during their visit to the Twin Cities from Australia in the summer of 2005.

Above: With David and Catholic feminist theologian Mary Hunt – February 2006.

CPCSM had partnered with St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church to bring Mary to Minneapolis for a symposium entitled “Exploring Contemporary Issues Within the Catholic Church.” For the text of Mary’s talk, “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic: An Ecclesia for Our Children and Ourselves,” click here.

Above: CPCSM's inaugural Bill Kummer Forum on April 28-29, 2006, featured renowned theologian and author Daniel Helminiak, who offered a two-part presentation entitled “Gay Body, Gay Soul: A Catholic LGBTI Perspective on Sexuality, Spirituality and Marriage.” Pictured from left: Rev. Paul Tucker (then-pastor of All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church), Daniel, Paul Fleege (CPCSM treasurer), and David and I.

For my 2006 Rainbow Spirit interview with Daniel, click here.

Above: On the evening of Friday, April 27, 2007, members and friends of CPCSM attended the inaugural Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance Spring Dinner at the University of St. Thomas.

Clockwise from front left: Mary Lynn Murphy (then-CPCSM president and Catholic Rainbow Parents coordinator); Tom Murr; Gretchen Murr (then-president of P-Flag/Twin Cities); David and his partner Michael; Paul Fleege (then-treasurer of CPCSM); Kathleen Olson; and Cheryl Maloney (then-executive director of Twin Cities Pride).

For more images and commentary on this event, click here.

Above: From left: David’s partner Michael, David, Aimee, me, and Mary Lynn at Twin Cities Gay Pride 2007.

Above: A meeting of The Progressive Catholic Voice planning team – August 2007. From left: Beverly Barrett , Mary Lynn Murphy, Paul Fleege, Gerry Sell, Susan Kramp, Mary Beckfeld, David, Rick Notch, and Paula Ruddy.

Above: David with longtime CPCSM supporter Theresa O’Brien – January 26, 2008.

Above: David with Mary Beckfeld, the recipient of CPCSM’s 2008 Father Henry F. LeMay Pastoral Ministry Award – June 23, 2008.

Above: David and his partner Michael were among a number of friends who gathered at my home in St. Paul on Saturday, August 2, 2008, to meet and welcome my older brother and his family who were visiting the U.S. at that time. From left: My nephew, Brendan; Tom White; Rick Notch; Sue Ann Martinson; David and Michael; me; my nephew, Mitchell; Rita McDonald, CSJ; and Kate McDonald, CSJ.

Above: David and his partner Michael – December 2009.

Above: David with Kathleen Olsen, leading the singing of “We Shall Overcome” at the Cathedral of St. Paul – October 31, 2010. Approximately 150 people gathered at the Cathedral that day in loving opposition to the MN bishops’ campaign of intolerance and discrimination against the LGBT citizens of Minnesota. For more images and commentary, click here.

Above: With David and our friend Paul – December 2010.

Above: David with (from left) Sheila Nelson, CALGM president, and Myrna Ohmann, Catholic Rainbow Parents co-founder – February 26, 2011.

Above: Standing at left with (from left) attorney Jeff Anderson, journalist and author Jason Berry, psychologist and Walk-In Counseling Center executive director Gary Schoener, and David – June 16, 2011.

Berry, well-known for his meticulous reporting on sexual abuse by Catholic priests, was visiting St. Paul as part of his national book tour for Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money In the Catholic Church.

Above: The last photo of David, taken at Twin Cities Gay Pride 2011 – Sunday, June 26, 2011.

From left: Rick, David, Paul and me.

In Zoé Diacou’s 1994 article, “Crossing the Catholic Church,” it’s noted that David felt unable to worship regularly at any parish, "primarily as a result of personal and spiritual burnout and betrayal." Thankfully, by the time of his death, David had for many years found a welcoming and supportive spiritual home at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in St. Paul. Indeed, at his funeral mass on July 15, 2011, a beautiful portrait of David and his partner of 13-and-a-half years, Michael, adorned the sanctuary (above), the same sacred space from which Michael delivered a heartfelt eulogy for David. To read this eulogy and for images of the mass, click here.


I close by sharing an article that David wrote for The Progressive Catholic Voice in 2008. It’s actually a response to a commentary in the Star Tribune newspaper by University of St. Thomas professor Stephen Heaney. In this commentary, Heaney – who at that time sat on the board of the Archdiocese’s Faith in Action (a.k.a Courage) program – attempts to defend statements on homosexuality by then-Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt.

As I’m sure you’ll agree, David’s well-researched and reasoned response methodically and effectively demolishes Heaney’s argument. It also exposes the archbishop’s statements and, by extension, the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, as being both intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt. As I said earlier in this post, David's was dedicated to doing whatever he could to ensure that church teaching on gender and sexuality was informed by the latest medical and social science research. It was his passion, and we were so fortunate to be gifted by it. Thank you, David!

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Far from “Innocuous”
A response to Stephen’s Heaney’s defense
of Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt’s
“innocuous” statements on homosexuality

By David J. McCaffrey
The Progressive Catholic Voice
January 2008

In his December 29, 2007 commentary in the Star Tribune, University of Minnesota professor Stephen J. Heaney implied that there are a small number of people who oppose the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, as recently articulated by Coadjutor Archbishop Nienstedt in his column in The Catholic Spirit. Furthermore, Heaney asserts that Nienstedt’s column about homosexuality, far from being of concern or controversy, is in fact “innocuous.” That particular column includes the following “innocuous” statement of the archbishop’s:

Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin. They have broken communion with the church and are prohibited from receiving holy Communion until they have had a conversion of heart, expressed sorrow for their action and received sacramental absolution from a priest.

I assert that Heaney is wrong on both accounts. Not a small number of people oppose the type of anti-gay speech from religious leaders like Archbishop Nienstedt, and such speech is far from “innocuous.”

For example, as for Heaney’s implication that there is a small number opposing Nienstedt’s articulation of the Church's teaching on homosexuality, in a Fall 2007 Harris Study of heterosexual Americans, 56 % of all those surveyed – and 60 % of those aged 18 to 44 – said people should be more supportive of equal rights for gay people. Further, according to the poll’s findings, a majority of Americans (71 %) said they have spoken out against anti-gay comments, saying they felt it was “the right thing to do.”

Also, according to the September 2007 study among young people in the U.S., aged 16 to 29, by Christian pollster George Barna, 91% of non-Christians and 80% of churchgoers say present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” And that “they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians.” Such research results do not represent small numbers of people, as Professor Heaney would have us believe.

Refuting Heaney’s assertion that Nienstedt’s column is “innocuous” is a 2003 national survey of adults by the prestigious Pew Research Center for The People & The Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. This study found that “people who hear clergy talk [negatively] about homosexuality are more likely to have highly unfavorable views of gays and lesbians.” If that is true, then statements such as Nienstedt’s, from a religious leader, are far from “innocuous.”

How many local Catholics, including families with LGBT members, have been encouraged to hold negative views toward their loved ones after reading or hearing Nienstedt’s statements? How many more coworkers, neighbors, and even family members will now feel more self-righteous permission to further discriminate against members of sexual minorities who are trying to live honest and self-actualized lives?

Beyond the significance and the impact of Nienstedt’s recent statement on homosexuality, we need to seriously consider both this statement’s substance – that those who encourage and support gay people are cooperating in a grave evil and thereby are guilty of mortal sin; and its foundation – that persons who are innately homosexual and attempt to live honest, self-actualized lives, as their consciences dictate, are “intrinsically disordered.” I assert, as does virtually every reputable medical and mental health professional organization, that homosexuality is innate and not based on choice and that it cannot and should not be changed through unsafe and unethical methods known as “reparative” or “conversion" therapy.

Therefore, the Church’s teaching that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered” and that those who find themselves to be constitutively homosexual must maintain life-long sexual abstinence is clearly based on outdated science and must go the same way as the Church’s past teachings on the solar system, slavery, the dynamics of human reproduction, and the status of women – all of which were also based upon outdated science.

For any academic institution to be relevant and credible, its curriculum must remain consonant with the findings of today’s human sciences. In the case of a Catholic academic institution like the University of St. Thomas, its curriculum should also be open to theological developments that are informed by the sciences and the lived experience of the faithful. In this way, such academic institutions will continue to grow with society and with the living faith of the people of God.

The recent decision by St. Thomas’ board of trustees to proactively democratize its board structure by making the chairman and vice-chairman positions electable represents one such change to ensure the University’s relevance and credibility. Traditionally, both board positions had been held ex-officio by the Archbishop and the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, respectively. However, based upon advice from the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities following a review of St. Thomas’ board structure, the University’s trustees voted in October to make the board’s by-law changes.

Another clear sign of such progress would be for the University administration and faculty to cease clinging to concepts about human nature, and especially human sexuality, that are based upon medieval notions seriously out of sync with today’s mainstream science and the authentic life experiences of gay people of faith. Such a change would greatly assist these students as they follow their conscience in seeking honest and fulfilling lives that are true to how God created them while enabling them to utilize their many talents to the fullest in responding to the multiple needs of today’s world.

– David J. McCaffrey
The Progressive Catholic Voice
January 2008

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
David McCaffrey Looks Back at the History of CPCSM
David McCaffrey: “History Matters”
CPCSM Co-Founder David McCaffrey Responds to “Not Catholic” Assertion
David McCaffrey on the Honoring MN State Representative Karen Clark at the 2004 CPCSM Annual Meeting
20 Years Stateside
Sad News
“I Have Never Felt Closer to Anyone in My Entire Life Than to David”
God Is in the Roses
Remembering David McCaffrey, One Year On