Sunday, April 29, 2007

Out and About – April 2007

Friends, here are a few snapshots of 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.

Looking at these images, I feel very blessed to be part of so many inspired (and inspiring) communities that share in such work. Perhaps you’ll recognize yourself in some aspect of this work - and, who knows, maybe even in one or two of these photos!

It is a living God and a living faith
that we are trying to express.

We are called to be holy,
that is, whole human beings.

Dorothy Day

Above: On Maundy Thursday evening (April 5), I joined with other members of Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ for a Seder Meal.

Above: New life adorns the altar of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church during the community’s Easter Vigil Mass – Saturday, April 7, 2007.

To read “The Triumph of Love,” my Easter 2007 reflection, click here.

To view images from around the world of Easter 2007, click here.

Above: I shared Easter Sunday lunch with my good friends (from left) Ken, Paul, Kerry, Cass, and Carol.

Above: Over the Easter weekend, former CPCSM office manager Martin Dohmen (center) visited the Twin Cities from his home in Florida. Pictured with Marty is CPCSM co-founder David McCaffrey (right) and his partner Michael Douglas.

The recently released book, Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective, is dedicated to both Martin Dohmen and CPCSM co-founder, Bill Kummer (1949-2006).

The Dedication in the book notes that, “During the early years of CPCSM’s Safe Schools Initiative [the mid 1990s] . . . Bill and Martin tirelessly traveled to each of the eight original participating Catholic high schools to negotiate and organize each school’s Safe Safe training program and assemble and orient volunteers. They also spent long hours designing the project’s first lesson plans and curriculum materials, which would eventually become the primary source for the first draft of the manuscript for [Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective].”

The Dedication continues by observing that, “The idea for CPCSM’s Safe Schools Initiative was prompted, in part, by the verbal and physical abuse both Bill and Martin experienced as gay teenagers at the hands of their fellow high school students. Because of their tireless devotion to CPCSM’s Safe Schools Initiative, Bill, Martin, and many others have ensured that thousands of present and future LGBT high school students will not only find safer and more welcoming and affirming school environments, but will have a greater chance of leading more satisfying and rewarding lives as contributing LGBT members of both the Church and society.”

Above: Standing at right with members of the Minnesota War Resisters League (Sister Rita Steinhagen Chapter).

Standing in the back row, third from right, is Frida Berrigan, daughter of the late Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister. Frida, who serves on the War Resisters League’s National Committee in New York City, was a special guest at our April meeting.

Standing next to me is Marv Davidov, longtime justice and peace activist, founder of the Honeywell Project, a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, and a participant in the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride of 2003.

One of the Minnesota War Resisters League’s current projects is the planning and organizing of a General Strike for Peace for September 21, 2007.

Above: Catholic Rainbow Parents Myrna and Ron Ohmann played a crucial role in the recent establishment of a support group for Catholic parents of LGBT persons in St. Cloud, Minnesota. A number of CPCSM folks were invited to attend and support the first gathering of this group on April 12, 2007.

Above: On Wednesday, April 18, the various LGBT member organizations of Community Solutions Fund (soon to be renamed Community Shares Minnesota) gathered at Babette’s Restaurant in Uptown, Minneapolis, to talk with the members of Quorum (the Twin Cities GLBTA Chamber of Commerce) about the work of their respective organizations.

In the photo above I’m standing (at far left) with (from left) Art Stoeberl (Quatrefoil Library), Jodi Williams and Peggy Paul (Community Solutions Fund), Deb LeMay (P-Flag/Twin Cities), and, at front, Laura Smidzik (Rainbow Families) and Alex Nelson (District 202).

Above: OutFront Minnesota’s Lobby Day - Thursday, April 19, 2007.

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

Above: The Rainbow Families Conference –Saturday, April 21, 2007.

Standing from left: Jim Calvin of Community of Grace Christian Church), Heidi Schreiber of Quorum, the Twin Cities GLBTA Chamber of Commerce, me, and Monica Travers (Rainbow Families volunteer). I was at the conference representing CPCSM, which shared an informational booth with Dignity/Twin Cities.

Above: Catholic Rainbow Mothers – April 26, 2007.

From left: Mary Beckfeld, Mary Lynn Murphy, Myrna Ohmann, and Beverly Barrett. All four women are members of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) and founding members of Catholic Rainbow Parents.

Above: On the evening of Friday, April 27, 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 (CPCSM president and Catholic Rainbow Parents coordinator) Tom Murr, Gretchen Murr (current president of P-Flag/Twin Cities), David McCaffrey (CPCSM co-founder), Michael Douglas, Paul Fleege (CPCSM treasurer) Kathleen Olson, and Cheryl Maloney (executive director of GLBT Pride/Twin Cities 2007).

Above: With Paul Fleege at the Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance Spring Dinner - University of St. Thomas, April 27, 2007.

As a student at St. Thomas in 1985, Paul co-founded “St. Thomas Lesbian and Gay Students” – the first LGBT student group at the university. Others at the GLBTA Campus Alliance Spring Dinner associated with CPCSM and who are alumni of the University of St. Thomas, included Tom Murr, David McCaffrey, and Michael Douglas.

Above: Mary Lynn Murphy with Alfonso Wenker, University of St. Thomas student and co-chair of the Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance.

Above: Students from St. Olaf’s College and Carlton College gather for the Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance Spring Dinner – University of St. Thomas, April 27, 2007.

Above: Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ pastor Rev. James Pennington (right) and community member Roger Youngs (left) stand with José Juan Valencia of Phoenix, Arizona – Sunday, April 29, 2007.

My two spiritual homes, Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ and St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, are co-sponsoring a “special time of action and prayer” with and for immigrants.

This “special time” will begin on May 5 when 100 people from the Twin Cities area, along with participants from Phoenix, Arizona, will take part in a ten-day water only fast, following a 30-day period of prayer involving the visiting of various churches, mosques, and synagogues. At the beginning of the fast there will be a service to light a candle – a symbol of our prayers and hopes for just immigration reform. At the end of the fasting period, this candle will be taken to other communities of faith, lighting other candles at prayer services in the various congregations visited. The last prayer service will be at the Capitol in St Paul.

The goal of this time of fasting and prayer is to seek God’s guidance, wisdom, and compassion so as to faithfully and effectively advocate and work for just and fair immigration reform. During this time many will also seek to educate the wider community on the inadequateness and unfairness of the current immigration system.


Anonymous said...


Are you UCC or RCC? Seems like you hang out a lot more with UCC. In any event, i was wondering if you might comment on this group, Courage. I challenged a conservative to actually cite an LGBT person who suppoted mandatory gay celibacy and that was their answer.

Thanks, -B

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Winnipeg Catholic,

Thanks for your comment.

I'm a member of both St. Stephen's Catholic Church and Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ.

As to the Courage movement, I've written about it here.



Anonymous said...


"Mandatory gay celibacy"?

Who's holding the gun?

Anonymous said...

Hi Peggy,

Perhaps a poor choice of words on my part but from the perspective of an ultramontane/conservative catholic article 6 of the catechism demands celibacy of all LGBT persons. Not something that I nor many other folks agree with, though I think that we liberal catholics think monogamous, non-objectifying expressions of sexuality are the healthy choice for professed christians.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,

Thanks for linking me to the article. I posted a question or two on part I and Part III. I appreciate your taking the time to explain this to me.

I hope I do not offend you by suggesting that you appear at this point to be a protestant who desires reform of the church, in contrast to a Fr. Alison or Andrew Sullivan who are Catholic and living the pain of conscientious dissent within the church. It is a stark difference. I am not LGBT but have my own points of dissent. So there is an extent to which a dissenting catholic reading your blog might feel some of the same sorts of things as an LGBT person feeling preached to by a heterosexual. That three part article sounds a lot like a protestant preaching to catholics.

I see some beauty and truth in the spirit motivating teachings I disagree with. I long for maximum resonance with an objective truth, an earthly authority of Christ on earth. That is one of the things at the heart of being catholic rather than a high church protestant. In some of your writing you appear to have rejected the longing, the striving towards obedience whilst still retaining good conscience. That striving and dissonance are the very definition, in my mind, of what it means to be catholic. How else can you reject nihilism without some dissent? (Unless you are a church of 1 person).

All the Best,


Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Winnipeg Catholic,

Thanks for your various responses to this and other posts of mine.

I’m curious as to when Catholic dissent becomes Protestant preaching. I’m not sure what constitutes the “line” separating these two things and, more importantly, who gets to decide when and how it’s crossed.

In my three-part “The Many Forms of Courage,” I support my position with quotes from numerous theologians and authors: Daniel Helminiak, Hans Küng, Mary Bednarowski, Simon Rosser, Paul Collins, Cardinal John Henry Newman, Donna Schaper, Robert J. McClory, and Patty Crowley.

All of these people understand and define themselves as Catholic. All are living (or lived) the “pain of conscientious dissent within the church” and all desire (desired) “reform of the church.” I don’t believe there has to be a “stark difference” between dissent and the recognition and call for reform. In fact, I think the two are often intrinsically related.

I’ve heard Catholic bishops and others in positions of leadership within the Church, repeatedly say that the Church needs to be constant reform. The Church is, after all, a living, evolving reality. Accordingly, the desiring and working for reform of the Church is an authentically Catholic endeavor. My experience has been that those Catholics who are engaged in such an endeavor are embodying the prophetic spirit of our rich Catholic Christian tradition.

Yet it seems to me that, in your view, once one talks about “reform,” than one has crossed over into Protestant territory. (This is especially odd as your blogsite is named “Reform Catholic”!) It also seems that you’re saying that questioning and critiquing the pope, i.e. the “earthy authority of Christ on earth” is off-limits.

Along with many other Catholics, I don’t consider recognizing and resonating with everything the pope says as being “at the heart of being Catholic.” After all, as I’m sure you’re aware, traditionally the pope is a symbol of unity, not authority. And one can have unity in diversity.

Indeed, contrary to popular misconception, “the true tradition of the Church is diversity.” These are the words of Catholic historian Gary Macy, author of Treasures from the Storeroom: Medieval Religion and the Eucharist. He goes on to note that, “All of my research . . . has been directed against what I think of as the ‘Big Book of Doctrine’ school of historical theology. This strange form of authoritarianism, fomented both by the ultra-montanism of the late nineteenth-century papacy and by Enlightenment anti-clericalism, understands Roman Catholicism as fundamentally an attempt to provide the definitive answers to all questions, usually in one ‘big book of doctrine,’ whether it be Thomas’s Summa, Denzinger’s Enchiridion, or lately the Roman Catechism of the Universal Church.”

And what of all those Catholics who disagree with the pope and/or with what Macy describes as the “big book of doctrine”? Should they all just be dismissed as “Protestants” and be encouraged to get out of the Church?

I appreciate Catholic author Garry Wills response to this question in his book, Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit.

“This is a serious question,” Wills acknowledges, “but one based on an assumption that is not only challengeable but extremely unhealthy. It assumes that the whole test of Catholicism, the essence of the faith, is submission to the Pope. During long periods of the church’s history, that was not the rule – St. Augustine, for one, would have flunked such a test. And today it is a test that would decimate the ranks of current churchgoers. It is not a position that has a solid body of theology behind it, no matter how common it is as a popular notion.”

For me, the heart of being Catholic is more to do with viewing and acting in the world in a certain way – a profoundly sacramental way, i.e. a way that seeks, recognizes, and responds to God in the diversity of life and relationships around us.

And authority? Well, I resonate with Catholic theologian Mary Bednarowski take on authority when she says: “I understand ‘authority’ as residing in both the individual and the community. For quite some time I’ve thought abut ‘authority’ as that in which I can place my trust. For me that means that as an individual who is a member of a faith community, I have to exercise my own conscience as an informed adult within the framework of the moral guidance offered by my community. If my conscience is not ‘clear’ – that is, if I don’t know where I stand on a moral issue – I must seek clarity. Sometimes it comes from within the Church. Sometimes it comes from the culture in combination with the Church. Sometimes the culture in some aspect or another is, for the moment, ahead of the Church. As an individual and as a member of a community, I have to figure out how to hold it all together. It is my obligation to come to know “in what I can place my trust.” This whole ongoing process is informed by human experiences – mine and others, individual and communal. However we understand the workings of God in our midst and whatever our doctrine of the Church, there is no institutional Church that exists apart from the human community and its experiences and struggles.”

When it comes to matters of human sexuality, however, there has developed an “institutional Church” or perhaps better said, a component of the institutional Church, that has set itself “apart from the human community and its experience and struggles.” The teachings that result are what I, and others, consider dysfunctional. Indeed, most Catholics recognize this and dissent from such teachings. Many also make the connection between the dysfunction of this teaching and the need for reform of the methods of authoritative teaching.

These “methods,” of course, are hierarchical in nature – another major problem for our Church. For as Eugene Kennedy as noted: “Contemporary [Catholic] bishops are painfully learning that they can either function hierarchically or they can exercise healthy authority but that they cannot do both.

“Hierarchies are designed for the exercise of power, that is, for authoritarian control. They depend on structures rather than human relationships.

“Authority, however, depends completely on human relationships. It derives from the Latin augere – to create, to make able to grow. Parents author their children. Their authority over them is a function of that special relationship through which parents commit themselves to their children’s growth, to their human fullness, to their emergence from dependence. So, too, the authority of teachers, pastors and popes is essentially relational, ordered to the growth of their students, their parishioners or their worldwide flock.

“Bishops who have been trained to relate structurally through their roles and the rules of hierarchy and who have been conditioned to manage rather than expose themselves to the risks of human relationships find it almost impossible to exercise their authority effectively in an institution that insists that they exercise it as impersonal control.”

In closing, I personally don’t see the point or value in striving to be obedient to teachings that are ill-informed, dysfunctional, and simply wrong. I should also add that in my view, it is solely in the area of human sexuality that the hierarchical Church has lost the plot, so to speak, with regards its teaching authority. The reasons for this are complex, fascinating, and tragic. They’ve also insightfully outlined in Eugene Kennedy’s book: The Unhealed Would: The Church and Human Sexuality.

Finally, I think one of the elements of the shadow side of Catholicism is what can be called the “cult of unquestioning obedience.” I attempt to explore this here while examining the film Pan’s Labyrinth.



Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your extremely thoughtful reply, which is really a post in itself, that could be titled "Answer to a Troubled Liberal Catholic" or something like that. I also re-read the three parts of your article and found that I was 'shooting from the hip' so to speak, perhaps in part because I had reviewed the Dignity ethic statement and found it mushy on advising/protecting LGBT persons to refrain from/avoid objectifying behavior. Then I read your article and it seemed to reject authority in the same spirit that Dignity seemed to embrace in refusing to formulate an alternative ethic with any substance. But upon re-reading it I find that I was pretty much unfair, particularly since you as a blogger are justifying dissent against the ultramontane view of Courage International, not really formulating an ethic which is a tougher job altogether. Of course it is true that in defining an ethic, one auto-alienates some percent of the folks you're reaching out to. That is the very area where I feel sympathy for the Magisterium... trying to formulate an ethic that alienates few people, is objectively true, and really helps people is difficult. I suspect that there are some folks out there in the gay community who would have difficulty with a strong admonition away from premarital sex, promiscuity, and bondage/fetish acts just as heterosexuals do... but such admonishment is even more difficult to take when one has never heard it in a framework one can respect. In other words, I can see why LGBT persons, once liberated from ethical gulags, are feeling a bit anarchistic. That seemed evident on the Dignity site. While straights are used to being admonished with the prospect of marriage as a healthy outlet, tThat's pretty new for the LGBT community. Even as the hetero blockhead I am (and I am a huge blockhead) I can see that.

On the one hand, Cardinal Levada claims that anyone forming an alternative authority is a schismatic. Well, I would say that if the church is refusing to teach a healthy sexual ethic then someone needs to carry that cross. But no one seems to be doing it... I see nihilistic, relativistic mush from Dignity. But, if you are to take on the magisterium, shouldn't you formulate what it is that they ought to be teaching? And shouldn't that teaching describe a healthy discernment, dating life, monogamous union or celibacy for LGBT persons, who all too frequently are taken advantage of in discerning their orientation?

Where is this ethic? Heck, I'm straight and I feel like I could crank something out with a wordprocesser and a copy of article six from the catechism. But I think an LGBT person ought to do it. In fact I invited Christopher to give it a shot as an editor of my blog, but he declined. Would you like a go? My version is simple. I deleted all the stuff about LGBT persons such that they simply have to follow all the same rules straights do!

You mention people leaving the church… But really I think that the church faces that all the time! Even in the introduction of the Norvus Ordo mass, when they simply ask the priest to face the congregation during mass, et cetera, traditionalists left in droves! Indeed, traditionalists and conservatives are a major constituency and are also threatening to leave all the time. Only, they don't admit that they are dissenters. They are often a bit hypocritical & arrogant about that.

So please accept my humble apologies for misreading your article to a large extent and also accept my thanks for your detailed explanation. Also please consider, in your pastoral council, the framing of a bold ethical statement that truly would help and protect LGBT persons from objectification and promiscuity. It would surely upset some of your constituents who have never been admonished in an acceptable framework. But now that marriages and civil unions are becoming more common, the next step will be to lead by example. Every divorce, public act of promiscuity, domestic violence, et cetera, will be held up to a spotlight. Remember the early Christians were held in such high esteem for how they treated each other. I am going to shut up now because you probably covered this already in other articles. I’m sure, or at least I hope, the smart religious LGBT folks are way ahead of me on this. I’m just a liberal catholic dude trying to get my ideological house in order. Good night in Minnesota!

All the Best, -B

Anonymous said...

Oops, there I go again, typing before reading. I see that you already answered some of my questions in your other response at the bottom of article I.

All the Best, -B

episcopalifem said...

WC ad Michael - An extremely thought-provoking exchange.

I'm a dissenting Roman Catholic. I finally made the decision that the best way to dissent was to leave the RC, which at this point, is being led by a Pope who has no interest in having a living, evolving church. Tradition seems to trump all. The Holy Spirit is apparently silent in Rome and in other parts of the world in terms of full inclusion, women priests, and married priests - not to mention the use of birth control - all things I would consider progressive, and to some extent healthy in mature adult relationships.

I guess, for me, the line between when one becomes a Protestant, versus a dissenter, is when one formally leaves the RCC, and officially joins a Protestant Church (although, from what I understand, once a RC you are always counted as a RC - they just consider you lapsed!) I had read Richard Neuhaus's book Catholic Matters, where he talked about the RCs return to traditionalism, and perhaps pre-Vatican II traditionalism under the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI - no more balloons and silly folk masses, and altar girls. He was over joyed - a Lutheran turned Catholic, rejoicing in the return to traditional Catholicism.

But where did that leave me - a Catholic who knew no other RCC then a folk mass, balloons and Vatican II church? And who liked that Church and the potential progress it promised?

It was difficult for me to decide to leave - but, in the end, I felt it was the best way for me to dissent from those things that I had issue with, and to raise my kids in a healthier, more accepting environment. I've joined the Episcopal Church, which has it's own host of problems, but, at least there, they openly talk about them, and struggle with them. I know other denominations, such as the UCC and ELCA and some Presbyterian churches are working on the same struggles.

In my heart, I still consider myself Catholic, and the TEC I attend is pretty high church, so I'm comfortable there.

But, I also understand that people need to stay and work for change from the inside as well. People need to act as dissenters - in order to drive the changes needed. I understand that my choice isn't the only choice - it was just the best thing for me.

From what I can see, and from what I've read, the RCCs in America are considered "problem" children for the traditionalists world wide. Rome tells us the church doesn't need to change - that it is growing, which is true, on a world wide level. But, how long until these issues of equality and liberty become an issues in the countries of growth - often underdeveloped nations, who at this time are used to dealing with heirarchy rather than authority. Who are willing to give blind assent to heirarchy? What then?

Maybe then, the church will be willing to change. But, it isn't going to change under Benedict. No way.

episcopalifem said...

Also..I went out to the webpage for St. Stephans, and it looks like a wonderful place.

If I had a church like that here, I might still be RC. But, I'm in suburban NJ, so...we're pretty straight up RC here.

This church reminds me alot of my current TEC church home.

Anonymous said...

I am just so high church to go TEC, and the TEC's in my area are all low or broad. With things like.... drum sets.... [shudder]. And some rally wacky sermons too. But I feel at home at the RCC church. It's not as if the priest gets up and shouts stuff I disagree with. I have to go to the catechism to find that. (mostly).

Fr. Alison's article and other stuff like that is what's keeping me there ... barely.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

Confused again...

I looked at the book synopsis. I do not see any suggestion that there is actually a restricitive gay ethic on sexuality in that book, or any of the posts. The gay community seems to advocate on behalf of gay monogamy, but there does not seem to be a group of any size that adheres to a strong monogamy-only ethic.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Winnipeg Catholic,

I’m sure that somewhere in Helminiak’s Sex and the Sacred he discusses and explores ethical questions and concerns relating to gay sexuality.

Another Catholic author whose work you might want to investigate is Margaret Farley. Her latest book is Just Sex: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.



Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,

OK - I will try to check those books out of the library. My time, due to small children, is limited for serious reading.

I would like to quote your words to you:

"Well, I’m sorry, but I’ve discovered that I’m not very good at being either celibate or promiscuous. I guess I’m somewhere in between.

Indeed, it’s what I long for – a searching life “somewhere in between.” Not a desperately searching life, but one filled with hope and the joy of pilgrimage, one that is respectful of honest doubts, one that is open to authentic relationships and to God in many worlds.

I hope one day to marry the man I love – and I have a dream of holding our marriage ceremony within the tidal zone of a beach, in that place “somewhere in between” the land and the sea."

But how long did it take you to discover a conservative sexual ethic on your own? That is what the institution of the church, as well as my family, pointed me towards from the start. I think there is massive benefit, protection, and heathy dating to be found in an organization that not only advocates monogamy as the healthiest choice, but condemns promiscuity and objectification.

The more I think about it, the more I would really like to see that as an option of real institutionalized momentum. But I am not seeing it, I see this polarity of anything goes, and this other polarity of celibacy-only.

I believe that the Holy Spirit manifiests itself in Wisdom and scientific understanding. And I think that what neurobiology is telling us about human love supports what you and I have both discovered in different ways.

I think that Dignity's failure to affirm monogamy and condemn promiscuity is really tragic. I don't think there is anything at all 'loving' or 'accepting' about failing to proclaim the truth about promiscuity, as difficult as it might be for some constituents to hear. And the cost of that failure is huge! It's huge for the young people that might be 'played' and who will waste years in empty relationships, and its huge with regard to the movement, because promiscuity eradicates credibility with those who have come to understand that very basic truth of the human condition - that monogamous sexual relationships are the truly rewarding ones, and non-monogamous ones destroy that goodness and lead away from it.

There is nothing tolerant, nice, or loving about failing to promulgate that truth. Heck, I would venture to say it is downright unchristian on a most basic 'god is love' level, but that would ignore the truth that even a secular humanist would affirm.