Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Out and About – August 2011

Above: The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's third annual "Evening in the Park" fundraiser at Lake Elmo Park Reserve – August 2, 2011. Our keynote speaker was Diana Culbertson, O.P. (left) of FutureChurch. Diana spoke about the important role of conscience in the work of church reform.

Above: Friends Cheryl and Kathleen at CCCR's August 2 fundraiser. Kathleen is wearing a t-shirt from CCCR's 2010 Synod of the Baptized, while Cheryl is holding one cute little dog!

Right: With my friends Brent and Lisa who serve with me on the board of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN. Brent and Lisa also feature in the soon-to-be-released video series that spotlights a number of LGBT Catholic couples (both gay and straight) sharing stories of faith, marriage and family. The series will premiere on September 29 at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis. Stay tuned for more information about this exciting event!

Left: Friends Theresa and William at CCCR's "Evening in the Park" fundraiser – May 2, 2011. William Hunt is a well-respected local theologian. To read his 2006 commentary on civil unions and Christian tradition, click here. For William's 2008 review of John T. Noonan, Jr.’s A Church That Can and Cannot Change: The Development of Catholic Moral Teaching, click here.

Above: A gathering of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) – August 23, 2011.

CCCR's second annual Synod of the Baptized, entitled "Making Our Voices Heard," takes place on September 17, 2011, at the DoubleTree Hilton in Bloomington, MN.

Above: My friend and fellow CCCR co-chair Bernie Rodel – August 23, 2001.

Above: The backyard of the house I live in and caretake . . . after its makeover! How much of a makeover? Well, click here to find out!

Right: With my friend Al, the creative mastermind behind the makeover.

For images showing the progress of my "backyard makeover" throughout the month of August, see here, here, here and here.

Above: A portrait of my friend Greg.

Greg also played a major role in transforming the backyard.

Above and below: Working on the front yard!

Above: Ta-Dah!

Above: August 30 was my friends' Brian and Bob's birthday! Pictured with me celebrating in style at Pizza Luce in Uptown, Minneapolis, are (from right) Brian, Rick, Bob and John. Yes, gay guys out on the town!

Quote of the Day

I continue to believe that the [Supreme] Court will rule, five-to-four, in an opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, that laws prohibiting marriage equality violate the United States Constitution. Kennedy wrote the Court’s opinions in Romer v. Evans (1996) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003), and I think that he will see his longest-lasting legacy from over a quarter of a century on the Court being in the area of eliminating discrimination against gays and lesbians. I believe that his opinion will emphasize, as he did in Romer and Lawrence, the absence of any legitimate interest for prohibiting marriage by same-sex couples. As in Lawrence, and other opinions, he will point to the trend across the world.

– Erwin Chemerinsky
"Reflections on a Dialogue: Getting to Marriage Equality"
August 29, 2011

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Two Attorneys Discuss Same-Sex Marriage
Dale Carpenter on the "Win-Win" Reality of Gay Marriage

Image: University of California School of Law.

A Gay Catholic Man's Testimony of Courage and Grace: "God Made Me and Loves Me Just As I Am"

In a powerful op-ed in today's Star Tribune Ron Bates documents his journey growing up Catholic and gay.

I have to say that I believe it's the sharing of these types of stories that have the greatest impact on people's views on homosexuality and marriage equality. They're definitely
changing hearts and minds. And to be sure, they are testimonies of courage and grace, and sharing them requires a brave vulnerability.

I mean, it's risky being that honest, and scary acknowledging to others the struggle, pain and missteps of one's journey to authenticity. But it's worth it.

I truly believe that the vast majority of people relate and respond positively to such vulnerability and honesty. Such qualities transcend sexual orientation. We all have to struggle in some way against forces that attempt to discount, belittle and/or deny aspects of our humanity. And people are making the connections:
any type of discrimination is wrong; we all require self-acceptance and love to flourish.

Which brings me to another important point: the ability to say: "This is the way God made me and it is good!" is the most basic difference between being "gay" and being, in the words of the Vatican, "same-sex attracted." The profound damage, the spiritual violence, that is done to people when they are instructed to deny this ability to accept themselves, to love another sexually, and thus to grow and flourish as human becomings, is truly tragic. It's also a scandal, to be sure.

So, yes, I definitely recommend you read Ron's piece in its entirety. Following are those sections of it that most resonate with me.


Born in rural Minnesota and raised on a dairy farm, I grew up in a devout Catholic family.

While attending St. John's Prep School in Collegeville, I confessed to a priest that I was attracted to another boy who slept across from me. The priest responded that if I ever acted on that, I would go to hell.

As a sincere Catholic teen, I did not act on my attraction but started a harmful journey of self-loathing and personal destruction. I didn't know what "homosexual" or "gay" were, but I understand "queer" and thought it was evil and perverted.

. . . For years and years, I would prostrate myself on the floor and ask God to change me. Maybe if I just pray more, fast more, do more "works of charity," the male attraction will go away.

After more than 30 years of trying to "burn" the evil out of me, I finally came out at age fifty four. God finally broke through to my heart of hearts and said, "I love you just as you are. You are praying for healing, but you are not sick!"

Our God does not change. God is God always. And God was with me always. After all the self-hatred and foibles of life, God was still there waiting for me.

At that moment, the shame and guilt I had felt for years left – once and for always. If Pope Benedict had been standing right there to tell me I was "disordered," I would have said to him, "You are wrong. God made me and loves me just as I am." . . .

– Ron Bates
"Growing Up Catholic and Gay in Minnesota"
Star Tribune
August 31, 2011

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Getting It Right
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
Can You Hear Me, Yet, My Friend?
The Gifts of Homosexuality
The Many Forms of Courage
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Be Not Afraid, You Can Be Happy and Gay
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men – A Discussion Guide
Gay People and the Spiritual Life
The Challenge to Be Ourselves

Image: Artist unknown. (But I chose to entitle this work "Courage and Grace"!)

On the Issue of Contraception, the Catholic Clerical Caste Does Not Speak for "the Church," Let Alone "Religion"

Peter Laird, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, has an op-ed in the August 26, 2011 issue of the Star Tribune. It focuses on the adoption by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of a recommendation by the Institute of Medicine. As Laird points out, the adoption of this particular recommendation means that health care plans are now mandated to "cover contraceptives and sterilizations under regulations for preventive care." In other words, employer health insurance plans must now pay claims for birth control.

This is a "troubling" mandate for Laird. Why? Because the clerical caste of the Roman Catholic Church, of which Laird is a member and for which he speaks in an official capacity, "does not consider birth control a right of health care, much less a good for human flourishing."

What I actually find "troubling" is the headline the Star Tribune chose to give to Laird's op-ed: "Birth-Control Mandate Puts Religion in a Bind." Oh, really? Since when has the clerical caste of the Roman Catholic Church been elevated to represent all religion and all religious people? It's a stupid headline and the editorial board of the Star Tribune should have known better. It's not religion that's put in a "bind" but the Catholic clerical caste's teaching on contraception which, it should be noted, has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Catholic people and thus, one could say, the church as the people of God. Indeed, it would be more accurate to describe such teaching as "Vatican teaching" rather than "Catholic teaching."

Following are two letters-to-the-editor in response to Laird's piece and a number of comments that have been posted on the Star Tribune's website. They make for interesting reading!


The Rev. Peter A. Laird, a high official of the local Catholic archdiocese, wrote that "the position of the Catholic Church on artificial birth control is well-known, though not always well-understood."

My experience, compared to his, could not be more antithetical.

When Pope Paul VI proclaimed his birth-control letter in July 1968, married couples knew all too well what it meant. They were shocked by a celibate's unilateral rejection of his own Birth Control Commission.

They were hurt, too, by the insensitivity of the teaching, and by the cold, calculating failure to allow modern science to help them regulate the size of their families. They declared the teaching dead on arrival.

The birth-control letter has led millions to abandon the church of their childhood. Most who remain practice birth control with a free and clear conscience, and they wisely ignore sporadic efforts such as Laird's to resuscitate this lifeless doctrine.

– Ed Kohler
St. Paul

Laird argues that "to suggest that one may without consequence use contraception in pursuit of human flourishing is manifestly contradicted by studies such as the one reported by the Guttmacher Institute showing that 54 percent of women who have had abortions have been using birth control."

He omits the report's further observations that, of those 54 percent, 76 percent of pill users and 49 percent of condom users had failed to use them consistently; that about half of unintended pregnancies occur among the 11 percent of women who are at risk for unintended pregnancies but are not using contraceptives, and that U.S. women who are not using contraceptives consistently account for 95 percent of the unintended pregnancies that occur each year.

– James Gaffney
St. Paul

SeaShark writes: Religious objections to the new standards are irrelevant; America is thankfully not a theocracy. The health plan's religious exemption is sufficient, and if the Rev. Peter Laird's interpretation of the exemption clause is correct and the clause isn't rewritten, then the Catholic Church will simply have to make another adjustment to existing in a democratic nation. Laird's attempt to seize the moral high ground in this discussion is unpersuasive; the Church surrendered whatever moral authority it may have once had decades ago when it decided to protect Catholic clergy who were sexually abusing and often assaulting children. Religious organizations or individual churches that want to lobby against the new standards should refrain from doing so unless and until they inform the IRS in writing that they voluntarily and permanently surrender their tax exempt status. Insurance coverage should not be influenced by or based on religious dogma. People who object to birth control on religious grounds are free to conform their sexual behavior to their religious beliefs: live a chaste life before marriage and refrain from practicing birth control after marriage.

CrystalBay writes: . . . The church not only is tax-exempt, it receives help from the government. Making birth control available through health insurance in no way forces anyone to utilize it. If the church wants to forgo the help of the government and become entirely insulated from the rest of society, then go ahead, but it can't have it both ways.

Orpheus90 writes: Hospitals and universities that have a religious affiliation may serve people without regard to religious affiliation, but Laird conveniently overlooks the fact that these organizations are also largely administered, staffed and run by people without regard to religious affiliation as well. Hospitals and universities, to my knowledge, do not apply religious tests to their prospective employees, certainly not if these organizations wish to maintain professional standing. The mandate to make birth control services available through health care coverage is based on the recognition of the individual's autonomy to make such choices for themselves and NOT on the preferences of the employer. In fact, there is a clear hint of something ominously oligarchic behind Laird's thinking, which is really nothing more than a form of corporate absolutism: specifically, that the corporate entity alone should determine the health care options made available to those who work for them. My response: No sale, Reverend.

Dubblea writes: This government directive is not ordering Catholic clinics to dispense birth control. It is ordering employer health insurance plans to pay claims for contraception. Catholic organizations have lots of workers, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, for whom they provide employee health benefits, evidently through insurers to whom this directive applies. Evidently they don't want their workers accessing benefits that they find to be anathema, whether the workers share in their beliefs or not. Now where our Padre has a point is that insurance claims are paid from members' contributions. So if he belongs to the same health care plan some itsy bitsy portion of his premium would in fact, shudder to think, be paying for some woman's birth control pills. Dang, talk about trying to micromanage what your money gets spent on. If he's that worried about indirectly paying for something immoral he should probably stop participating in the economy altogether. This one goes in the 'get a grip, or relax one' file.

This last commentator makes a really good point. The clerical caste isn't "troubled" in the least by the fact that, as U.S. taxpayers, we're all complicit in supporting and enabling a military-industrial complex that clearly runs counter to Jesus' example and call to be peacemakers. They've come up with all sorts of reasons to support militarism – and the charging of interest, another clear no-no from the earliest days of the Catholic tradition. And let's not forget the obscene wealth of the Vatican. How does that square with the simple life of Jesus of Nazareth and the egalitarian spirit of the early church?

Some argue that these types of "developments" are okay, and they'll cite all kinds of church decrees and documents to rationale them. One result is that you won't ever see anyone in a military uniform turned away from the Eucharistic table; not so anyone wearing a rainbow sash! (I'm not advocating the denying of Eucharist to military personnel, just highlighting our rather odd priorities when in comes to picking and choosing!) I do think that the glorification and support of war and violence is a clear betrayal of what Jesus lived and taught. Not so our evolution in thinking and teaching about gender and sexuality. There's lots of room there, I believe, for development; for taking into account the findings of science and people's lived experience and allowing them to shape church teaching. (After all, what did Jesus actually say about homosexuality?) Yet the clerical caste remains stubbornly resistant to such development. It therefore remains up to the Catholic people to lead the way; to discern and facilitate beyond the limited perspective of the hierarchy, the blossoming of liberating insights on matters related to gender and sexuality.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 1)
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 2)
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 3)
Robert McClory on Humanae Vitae
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks About Gay Marriage
Quote of the Day – August 3, 2011
Quote of the Day – July 7, 2011
John Dear on Celebrating the Birth of the Nonviolent Jesus
Christianity and Nagasaki
The Challenge of Peace

Image: Minnesota Public Radio/Sasha Aslanian (October 2010).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Glimpse of His Face at Morning

I previously shared this image in a January 2007 post and noted that it's entitled “The Glimpse of His Face at Morning.”

It's actually composed of two images. The first is a photograph of my friend Greg that was taken twelve years ago in Minneapolis. The second photo of the sky was taken from Swallows' Ledge in Port Macquarie in December 2006.

The image's title paraphrases a line from “My Lagan Love” by Kate Bush. The lyrics of her version of this traditional folk song were written by her brother, John Carder Bush in the mid-1980s.

As sang by Kate Bush, “My Lagan Love” is a very haunting song – one which conveys a forlorn sense of loss. “Lagan” is an Old French, possibly Old Norse word meaning anything sunk in the sea (usually goods or wreckage), but attached to a buoy so that it may one day be recovered.

Of course, in matters of the human heart, such “recovery” is not always easy or even possible. Perhaps Kate sings of a drowned lover, or of a love grown cold and which cannot be rekindled. Whatever the case may be, there is undoubtedly a haunting quality to Kate Bush’s lyrics – a quality I’ve attempted to similarly convey in this particular image.

My Lagan Love

When rainy nights are soft with tears,
and autumn leaves are falling,
I hear his voice on tumbling waves
and no one there to hold me.

At evening's fall he watched me walk.
His heart was mine.
But my love was young and felt,
the world was not cruel, but kind.

Where Lagan's light fell on the hour,
I saw him far below me.
Just as the morning calmed the storm,
with no one there to hold him.

My loves have come, my loves have gone,
and nothing's left to warn me.
Save for a voice on the traveling wind,
and a glimpse of a face at morning.

– John Carder Bush

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Everglades Exhibition

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . The Vatican’s orthodoxy watchdog department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has sharpened its focus on the way theology is being conducted in our church today. The purpose of the congregation is to uphold Catholic doctrine. The congregation, however, misconstrues its role when it becomes the arbiter of what constitutes Catholic theology, managing and even squelching discussions within the theological magisterium. Doctrine and theology should have separate places in the Catholic lexicon.

. . . Theology cannot be dictated – if it ever could be. It serves us best when it exists within the context of healthy discourse. We need free and open discourse to nurture Catholic ideas and Catholic engagement in the world today. This is why it is essential that journals like Theological Studies are free to support healthy discussions – and are not intimidated for engaging in them. Yet for more than a generation now our church’s hierarchy has stifled healthy theological give-and-take. Our church is less healthy for it. The primary areas of Vatican concern have been moral theology, liberation theology, and ecclesiology, including ordination and the role of women in the church.

. . . This has been a tragedy of historic proportions and it can be traced to a stilted understanding of natural law, and the interplay of faithful Catholics with the world in which they live. Church teachings on matters of sexuality (consider birth control) and moral theology (consider gays as “intrinsically disordered”) simply do not hold up for many faithful Catholics. Our church teachings have become divorced from human experience.

Eventually, many Catholics have simply decided to leave the church. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, for example, one out of three U.S.-born Catholics has left the church, many of them citing church teachings on sexuality.

More than ever we need robust theology; we need research, papers and discussions, which bring more life to the church. . . .

– Thomas C. Fox
"Retreat from Theology's Frontiers"
National Catholic Reporter
August 29, 2011

Recommended Off-site Links:
Vatican Pressures Theology Journal – Thomas C. Fox (National Catholic Reporter, August 29, 2011).
Theological Studies and Editorial Independence – Lisa Fullam (Commonweal, August 30, 2011).
"All Voices Must Be Heard": A Response to Archbishop Nienstedt – James Moudry (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 25, 2011).
Richard Gaillardetz on the Need to "Wrestle with the Tradition" The Progressive Catholic Voice (March 8, 2011).
Urgent Tasks for Church Renewal: A Review of Peter Phan's Wake Up Lazarus: On Catholic Renewal – Pierre Hegy (National Catholic Reporter via The Progressive Catholic Voice, August 17, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Call to Be Dialogical Catholics
From Rome to Minneapolis, Dialogue is What's Needed
Why the Bishops Are Being Ignored
Quote of the Day – July 2, 2011
Quote of the Day – June 12, 2011
Quote of the Day – April 26, 2011
Quote of the Day – March 26, 2011
Quote of the Day – March 20, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Latest from Darren Hayes

One of The Wild Reed's most consistently popular posts is this one from February 2008. It focuses on singer-songwriter Darren Hayes, coming out, and . . . er, time travel.

Anyway, a Facebook contact recently shared the following music video of Hayes' latest single "Black Out the Sun." It's from his upcoming album Secret Codes And Battleships which, according to Hayes, "is about being lost on a journey to find your true happiness – and about the war between lovers and their struggle to stay together in a world that just wants people to break up. It's about all the things we dare not say to each other but having the courage to do so."

As you'll see, the video for "Black Out the Sun" is quite dramatic. And I have to say that its hooded figures and menacing otherworldly vibe remind me of this stunningly drawn panel from Prince Valiant that I recently highlighted on my blog, A Prince Named Valiant!

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Darren Hayes, Coming Out . . . Oh, and Time Travel
Remembering Stephen Gately, Gay Pop Pioneer
No Matter What
Sam Sparro
Play It Again, Sam
Rules and Regulations – Rufus Style
Actually, I Do Feel Like Dancing

Recommended Off-site Links:
"Talk Talk Talk," the first single released from Darren Hayes' Secret Codes and Battleships album.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Special Appeal

Dear friends,

Catholics for Marriage Equality MN is an educational and advocacy initiative of the Twin Cities-based Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM). Currently, the initiative is in need of major funding.

We are attempting to raise $5,000 by September 20 so as to (i) make our last payment to the filmmaker who has been working on our "video project" (to be launched September 29 at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis) and (ii) pay for a new Catholics for Marriage Equality MN website. Our old site was created and maintained by the late David McCaffrey. It is no longer being maintained and will shortly be removed. We have a web-designer willing to work with us to create a very professional-looking and user-friendly site, but we require an injection of funds in order to pay him.

As I'm sure you are aware, a ballot measure to constitutionally limit civil marriage to heterosexual couples will be voted on by Minnesotans in November 2012. Opponents of marriage equality – including the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and the Minnesota Conference of Catholic Bishops – are actively supporting “Minnesota for Marriage,” the ballot campaign promoting the amendment. They are spending millions of dollars to ensure that the amendment passes.

Catholics for Marriage Equality MN is comprised of Roman Catholics who advocate for civil marriage for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. We are called to such advocacy by the Gospel message of liberation and our Church’s teachings on justice and human rights. As Catholics we value compassion, justice, family, truth-telling and love, and we witness all of these qualities and values in the lives and relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. In other words, we see the face of God in the love of same-sex couples and families, and we are dedicated to spreading the good news of this to our fellow Catholics.

We've already been hard at work – see, for instance, here, here, here, and here. And of course we have many ideas and initiatives in the works and want to continue our efforts right up until next November – as both an independent organization and a member organization of Minnesotans United for All Families. But we need your help to do so!

Of course, first and foremost, we welcome and appreciate your prayers of support. In addition, if you would like to contribute financially to our efforts, please send a check (for whatever amount you can afford) to:

4001 38th Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Please note that because Catholics for Marriage Equality MN is an initiative of CPCSM, checks need to be made out to CPCSM.

CPCSM is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Your gift is tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

If you have any questions about this appeal, please e-mail me at

Also, if you know of any individuals, groups, or funding organizations that would be interested and willing to support Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, please send them the link to this post or contact me at the above e-mail address.

Thank you for whatever support you can give.

– Michael J. Bayly
Executive Coordinator, CPCSM
Convener, Catholics for Marriage Equality MN

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality (Part 3)


The Wild Reed’s series “Beyond the Hierarchy,” which highlights the liberating insights on sexuality that are emerging and “blossoming” beyond the Vatican, continues with an excerpt from Catholic theologian Joan Timmerman’s 1992 book Sexuality and Spiritual Growth.

I had the honor of experiencing Joan (pronounced Joanne) as one of my professors at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, where I studied in the Masters of Theology program from 1994-1996. In my final year, Joan served as my adviser in the writing of my thesis – one that explored the coming out process of gay men as a spiritual journey.

When people ask me what type of theology most interests me, I reply, “sacramental.” I have Joan to thank for this, as she was the first to provide me with the words, the theological terminology and framework, I’d long desired to put to certain experiences of my journey as a gay Catholic man.

In the following excerpt from her book Sexuality and Spirituality, Joan offers a “morality of responsibility regarding sexual issues,” a morality that, sadly, remains undeveloped within and by the hierarchy of the church’s clerical caste. Joan also presents a number of “steps for practical sexual decision-making,” and offers one of the best definitions of an informed conscience I’ve come across to date. “The importance of a well-formed conscience is obvious,” she writes. “It is the result of education and a habit of right choices. It is more like a developed skill, such as aesthetic taste, than an infused gift.”


A major turning point in the history of sexual morality occurred when Augustine’s theory, that original sin was transmitted by the act of copulation, was accepted as doctrine. This extreme version of one (but not the only) theology of original sin, when taken as the basis for moral teaching, has tended to appeal to those who, for whatever reason, are pessimistic about human motives and the human capacity for responsible action. . . . The hope for moral transformation has no place in their sexual arena. By contrast, recent Roman Catholic teachings regarding politics and economics counts precisely on the human capacity for self-regulation. They envision the possibility of a just and peaceful society and call for voluntary action to make that hope a reality. The political agenda follows from optimism regarding virtue over concupiscence. Again by contrast, the agenda currently reflecting sexual assumptions – especially that on abortion – invokes public condemnation, fear, and legal sanctions, thus revealing its basic pessimism.

So the tragedy is one of omission: for want of a theology of sexuality based on baptismal identity and responsibility, a morality of responsibility regarding sexual issues was left undeveloped. . . .

Adult moral decision-making is integral to adult spirituality, not just as individuation but in the service of community renewal. This is also why morality needs spirituality. As life needs rules, so rules need to be stretched regularly to respond to life. Some regular method needs to be adopted and trusted, so that human forethought and planning are valued within the sexual arena as in other adult decisions.

The current moral theology about sexual expression is showing that some change has come out of listening to the stories of those who express their love sexually. Attempts to distinguish signs of sin from signs of grace show evidence of inductive reasoning and reflection on practice. No longer is it considered appropriate to impose on this experience a model which was created without reference to it and is managed from outside it. For the first time, in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, marriage is recognized as in its sexuality the singular expression and completion of the spouses’ love, their primary way of performing their intention for total self-gift. Earlier documents would have found in the sexual impulse an inescapably selfish concupiscence asserting itself. But the tension between the magisterium’s ameliorating judgment on sex and the simultaneous tenacity of the ancient bias against sexual expression continues to appear within official and unofficial theological materials.

Within those foundational comments, what I propose is the following set of steps for practical sexual decision-making.

1. Be clear on who you are and what you choose to become. This is the basis of morality. The indicative precedes the imperative. A person starts where she is, with her self-knowledge, her commitments and sense of vocation. Integrity is to choose action continuous with one’s dynamic center.

2. Consult all the sources of wisdom which are available to you. Sources of moral reasoning include Scripture, tradition, communal and personal experience, law, imagination and works of the imagination, moral rules, family of origin with customs and cultural values. Imagine all these as consultants around a table. They do not all have the same deliberative vote, but are assigned priority according to your unique situation and history. All should, however, be attended to.

3. Ask: What are the alternatives to the action presenting itself? If a person thinks she has no alternatives, she is too isolated, too dependent, or has stopped thinking too soon. Then assistance should be sought before proceeding. Action without alternatives is not free, and therefore not a moral choice. It is of course also possible to sabotage one’s own moral agency by deliberately putting oneself in a situation of reduced freedom, for example, by intoxication. This is culpable to the extent that one is aware of it and consents to it. It is always to settle for less than the personal and spiritual adulthood one is destined for. It may be helpful to think in terms of two steps in the deliberate choice of a wrong action, that is, (a) deliberate self-deception and (b) action on the self-deception.

4. What are the consequences for the primary participants? For their wider network of relationships? For society as a whole? Usually the consequences are not between good and evil but between variations or degrees of the good. Moreover, one is aware that the long-term consequences of an action are not always immediately visible and the short-term consequences may be overturned. Here one’s “hierarchy of values” becomes pertinent.

5. What choice, given the self-understanding, data, and the evaluation of consequences, will I make? A choice is not a further step beyond reasoning; it is choosing to stop the reasoning process by the intervention of the will in order to get on with what life requires, that is, action. The alternative to making an imperfect choice is worse: it is not to act at all, which is in effect never to become a moral agent, a fully functioning spiritual person.

6. Am I at peace with this decision? To act out of an unresolved doubt or a troubled conscience is destructive to the person. One can identify a right choice in advance of the action by the peace of mind and soul the decision brings, and a wrong choice by the guilt in initiates. One should of course be sure by consulting of sources (step 2 above) that one is not acting out of false conscience, scrupulosity, or unhealthy guilt. Anxiety (What would my mother say?) or bravado (I wish X could see me now!) might indicate such unreadiness to take this action because it shows a morbid excitement rather than a sense of legitimate pleasure in expressing one’s deepest self. The importance of a well-formed conscience is obvious. It is the result of education and a habit of right choices. It is more like a developed skill, such as aesthetic taste, than an infused gift. Though one should never act in bad faith, there comes a time when the moral calculus must end, and one can act, in good faith, though not always with complete certainty. Then faith provides the certainty that even when wrong choices are made in good faith, the person’s spirituality is not diminished but can grow. God’s forgiveness never fails. As Julian of Norwich wrote, “There is no wrath in God.” When people have difficulty believing in the forgiveness of God and others, it may well be because they have not yet been able to forgive themselves. This takes us back to step 1; What do I wish to become?

– Joan Timmerman
Sexuality and Spiritual Growth
pp. 123-125

NEXT: Part 4

Above: Joan Timmerman (seated at front left) and my classmates
at the College of St. Catherine – St. Paul. I took this photo on the
last evening of class in the fall semester of 1995.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 1)
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 2)
The Question of an "Informed" Catholic Conscience
Joan Timmerman on the Sexuality of Jesus
In the Garden of Spirituality – Joan Timmerman (March 2007)
In the Garden of Spirituality – Joan Timmerman (September 2008)
Joan Timmerman on the "Wisdom of the Body"

Opening Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Quote of the Day

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world.

– Jack Layton

Related Off-site Links:
Jack Layton's Final Words: Hope is Better Than Fear (August 23, 2011).
Canada Mourns Loss of Gay-Friendly Opposition Leader – Brody Levesque (Pink News, August 24, 2011).
Jack Layton Obituary – Anne McIlroy (The Guardian, August 22, 2011).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

River Man

. . . Gonna see the river man
Gonna tell him all I can
about the plan
for lilac time

If he tells me all he knows
about the way his river flows
And all night shows
in summertime . . .

Gonna to see the river man
Gonna to tell him all I can
about the ban
on feeling free

If he tells me all he knows
about the way his river flows
I don’t suppose
it’s meant for me

Oh, how they come and go

– Nick Drake
"River Man"

Image: "PJ" by Michael J. Bayly (July 2001).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . After panicking the religious right, inducing nightmares in the Pope and shamelessly luring countless congresspersons and church pastors, mayors and deeply shamed NFL players into the shimmery rainbow fold, the world-famous "homosexual agenda" has, once and for all, screamed itself alive.

Have you noticed? Have you read and felt and pored through, stifled a sniff and perhaps even let a few tears flow? Have you yet had your heart cracked open, just a little? Or maybe a lot?

I dare you. I dare you right now.

Especially you, over there on the convulsive and ever so baffled religious right. Especially you, bleak and loveless Mormon Church elders. Especially you from the aged, encrusted generations who are right now looking around in buzzing terror and not sure what to make of it all. Especially you up there on the pulpit, waving your arms and wielding your Bible like it was a dull switchblade, wailing that the fabric is coming undone and nothing will ever be the same again.

You know what, pastor? You are absolutely goddamn right. You know what else? Thank sweet Jesus for that. I mean, really.

To make it even easier to understand, to produce irrefutable evidence of the agenda's ultimate goals, to further confound (or perhaps finally enlighten?) those who still think homosexuality is a choice, who think it the devil's work and believe it morally repugnant, well, we have pictures. Lots and lots of pictures, all from New York, all from the first days of legal gay marriage in that fine state.

And lo, they are enough to shake you to the core, reignite the soul, reaffirm your simplest faith in this rough beast known as humanity. They are enough, if you look just right and open a bit wider, to make you forget the woes of the world and be reassured that the simplest truths remain, as ever, the most profound.

Or let's put it this way: A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a photo of two people aswim in true and respected love is worth just about every book, poem and bible ever written in this messy and godsmacked little realm we call home.

– Mark Morford
"The Gay Agenda Will See You Now"
The San Francisco Chronicle
August 3, 2011

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In New York, a "Breakthrough Victory" for Marriage Equality
The Real Gay Agenda

Image: Patrick Plain, left, and Seong Man Hong, both of New York, celebrate after getting married at the City Clerk's office in New York on Sunday, July 24, 2011. (Photo: Jason DeCrow/Associated Press)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

NOM's Minnesota Battle Plan

Over at the always informative Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, Alvin McEwen outlines the "battle plan" of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) to defeat marriage equality in Minnesota. According to McEwen, the plan involves three main components: money, churches, and martyrs.

McEwen's report is reprinted in its entirety below. It's followed by links to previous Wild Reed posts documenting the struggle for marriage equality in Minnesota, primarily from a progressive Catholic perspective.


NOM's Minnesota Game Plan Involves
Money, Churches, and Martyrs

By Alvin McEwen

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters
August 18, 2011

The National Organization for Marriage is setting up its battle plan to defeat marriage equality in Minnesota and it seems that the plan pushes three points - money, churches, and marytrs.

According to Think Progress:

The fight over a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota could cost up to $10 million before voters go to the ballot in November 2012. And while the measure only seeks to define civil marriage as “a union of one man and one woman,” proponents of the amendment have begun waging a campaign that blurs the line between civil and religious unions.

And of course you know that a good amount of that will probably be provided by NOM. After all, the organization has already spent over $700,000 in the gubernatorial race which the candidate it supported, Tom Emmer, lost.

So win or lose, NOM can expect even more questions at to where exactly is it getting its funding and why does it fight losing court cases to hide its donors. The organization has fought in several states to hide its funders, most recently losing two cases this month.

Think Progress also notes how NOM is attempting to get Minnesota churches behind its efforts:

Even though marriage equality bills have never tried to dictate what any religion can believe or practice when it comes to sanctifying religious marriage, the Minnesota coalition, Minnesota for Marriage, and other so-called “traditional groups” are defining their campaign in religious terms. For instance, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is encouraging Facebook fans to “support marriage as God intended it to be,” while Minnesota Family Council (MFC) President John Helmberger has injected God into his rhetoric, predicting success if “people of faith [rise] up, speak, and participate in the campaign.”

The article also says that MFC is actually "recruiting church captains." My question is wouldn't that present a problem in court should NOM win and someone challenges the victory? But more the point, MFC is the same group which claimed that gays engage in pedophilia, bestiality, and the consuming of feces and urine - points that it did not apologize for nor did NOM address. Whether or not they believe these things about the gay community is definitely a question which should be asked to NOM's allies in Minnesota, particularly the prospective "church captains."

And let's not forget about the martyr.

Earlier this month, a freelance writer, Carrie Daklin, with Minnesota Public Radio, wrote a piece which criticized Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) for calling out Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery during a hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act. Daklin contended that Franken had rudely set Minnery up for ridicule by obscuring the fact that Franken had actually called out Minnery for wrongly citing a government study on families.

Daklin was justifiably criticized for her faux pas. Today she claimed in another column that she was unfairly attacked and naturally, NOM has a portion of that column on its blog, using it to claim that those support marriage equality are "meanies." This is what Daklin claims:

There must be a group of advocates who watch that website for anything that might conflict with their point of view. Within days, my words, taken completely out of context, and my message — better manners — had been used as the basis for a rallying cry: Carrie Daklin of Minnesota is a homophobe.

I am not sure how my message got so skewed. I have become the object of hate mail and really vicious comments, all in the name of etiquette. Go figure.

I found this all rather unsettling.

. . . What has happened in our culture, that so many of us are completely unable to accept someone who doesn't share our views? I don't agree with all that my conservative Christian friends espouse, but I support their right to their beliefs. I don't agree with a very liberal friend who said certain members of the religious right should be shot. Actually, he used the word murdered. Sadly, I think he meant it.

In retrospect, the original infraction I wrote about is positively innocuous compared to the resulting uproar. To be blunt: My article was not about gay rights, it was not about the Defense of Marriage Act, and it most certainly was not a promotion for the National Organization for Marriage.

If some of the comments directed to Daklin were as vicious as she claims, I certainly don't agree with them. However her attempts to claim martyrdom is as sad as the original column itself.

Daklin's words were not misconstrued, but her intent was justifiably questioned. It was obvious that Ms. Daklin was commenting about a situation in which she had absolutely no clue, much like a baseball referee attempting to officiate a hockey game.

While her original column was seemingly innocent, the adage of "looks can be deceiving" were definitely into play. Through her words, Daklin allowed some folks to obscure the fact that they were deceptively manipulating studies to push a vicious and vindictive lie regarding children and same-sex households. While at the same time Daklin pleaded for civility, she was giving ammunition to people who know nothing about the term because there is no such thing as civility in the absence of truth.

Let's be clear about what exactly happened between Franken and Minnery yet again.

Franken did not set up Minnery for ridicule. He rightfully called him out for pushing fraudulent material.

The pushback Daklin received (the respectful pushback that is) for her column was not a matter of people showing intolerance to someone registering a different opinion. It was a simple reaction of a people harmed yet again through lies and distortions, by research manipulated to make them look like monsters.

The sad thing about Daklin's new column is her contention that she does not appreciate being an object of hate to those on the left or a hero to those on the right.

I wonder how she feels about NOM exploiting her new column?

– Alvin McEwen

For more of Alvin McEwen at The Wild Reed, see:
Marriage Equality: Simple Answers to NON's Complicated Lies

For The Wild Reed's coverage of the struggle for marriage equality in Minnesota, see the following chronologically-ordered posts:
A Celebration of Faith and Family; A Call for Compassion and Fairness
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Governor Mark Dayton to LGBT Advocates: "I Stand with You"
Disappointing but Not Unexpected: "Marriage Amendment" Bill Passes MN Senate Judiciary Committee
Rep. Steve Simon on Gay Marriage and the Arc of History
Winona Daily News Calls Proposed Marriage Amendment "Bigoted" and "Malicious"
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview
Quote of the Day – May 5, 2011
Tips on Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality
Law Professor: Marriage Amendment is Divisive and Mean-Spirited
Opposition to the Marriage Amendment Grows
The Real Losers at the MN State Capitol Today
David Booth on What It Might Mean to "Let the People Decide"
At the Minnesota Capitol, Signs of the Times
MN Marriage Amendment Headed for House Vote
An Eventful Day at the Capitol
Protests Against the Proposed Marriage Amendment Continue
Day One of the Campaign to Defeat the Anti-Family Marriage Ban
Doug Grow on Republican Rep. John Kriesel's Anti-Amendment Speech
Quote of the Day – May 23, 2011
The Political Intrigue (and Money) Behind the MN Marriage Amendment
In the Struggle for Marriage Equality, MN Catholics are Making a Difference by Changing Hearts and Minds
Sharing the Good News of Marriage Equality at the Basilica Block Party