Thursday, July 31, 2014

No Resignation for Nienstedt . . . but Perhaps an Upcoming "Reassignment"?

In a statement published yesterday on the website of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, John C. Nienstedt declares that, despite calls for his resignation, he will not be stepping down as archbishop.

At one point in his statement Nienstedt says:

In the end, it comes down to this: 18 years ago, Pope John Paul II chose me to serve the Church as a bishop, an authentic successor of the apostles. A bishop’s role is more like that of a father of a family than that of a CEO. I am bound to continue in my office as long as the Holy Father has appointed me here.

There is much in these words that I find problematic, but what particularly strikes me is how Nienstedt appears to place more value on being an unquestioning office holder than a self-reflective human being. Indeed, he comes across as an individual who struggles to think and feel beyond the demands and expectations of the office to which he is "bound," regardless of what this might mean for himself, others and the church. Such rigidity (along with its bolstering triumphalism) is quite at odds with the model of leadership embodied by Jesus.

Of course, the whole clerical system of which the office of bishop is part supports Nienstedt in this narrow and entrenched way of operating. This system, after all, is a feudal one. Orders come down from the top and people are not encouraged to think for themselves. The vast majority stick to the rules, follow orders, and value unquestioning obedience above thoughtful engagement and openness to growth and change. And here's something else about the system that is conveyed through Nienstedt's statement: more often than not, when faced with legitimate questions and critiques, the church's clerical caste engenders an unwarranted (and, quite frankly, pathetic) martyr mentality in its members.

It also doesn't really allow for someone like Nienstedt to resign. He could, of course, write to the holder of the same office that appointed him as bishop and ask to be released from his duties. Yet it seems fairly unlikely that he will initiate such a process. Another possibility is that Pope Francis may intervene and "reassign" Nienstedt elsewhere. In a system as dysfunctional as the Roman Catholic clerical caste, such reassignment is often the closest thing to a reprimand or punishment, even if it does mean that the cleric in question lands a cushy job in Rome.

As odious as this is, my sense is that for a significant number of Catholics such a "reassignment" would be tolerable if it means Nienstedt's removal from the archdiocese.

To express your concerns about Archbishop Nienstedt and to add your voice to the call for his removal, write to the papal nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò at 3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008.

Also, to get involved with the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's efforts to ensure a lay voice in the selection of Nienstedt's successor, click here.

Update on the allegations of misconduct

Meanwhile, the Star Tribune reports today that Greene Espel, the Minneapolis law firm hired by the archdiocese to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct with adults by Nienstedt, has completed its work and submitted a report to church officials. Attorney Matthew Forsgren of Greene Espel has declined to discuss the findings and referred questions to the archdiocese. Lee Piche, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, said in a statement on Tuesday that the report “does not comprise” the entire investigation.

“We need to digest the information and any other information we receive,” said Piche, who, according the the Star Tribune, was not available to answer questions.

Notes the Star Tribune:

The law firm’s probe had been a secret until a Catholic magazine wrote a blog item about it in late June. The magazine, Commonweal, quoted Nienstedt’s former canon lawyer, Jennifer Haselberger, as saying she had been interviewed by Greene Espel lawyers.

Haselberger told the magazine that the archdiocese received allegations of improper sexual conduct by Nienstedt with seminarians, priests and other men. She said the archbishop also was accused of retaliating against those who refused his advances or otherwise questioned his conduct.

The allegations appear to stem as far back as the 1980s and 1990s, when Nienstedt was working in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

But Haselberger also told Commonweal that investigators asked her about Nienstedt’s relationship with Curtis Wehmeyer, a former St. Paul priest with a history of sexual misconduct when Nienstedt promoted him to be a pastor. In that assignment on St. Paul’s East Side, Wehmeyer was convicted of sexually abusing two boys in 2012 who attended his church.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio's Madeline Baran, Nienstedt spoke about the allegations and his sexual orientation. Following is an excerpt from Baran's MPR News article based on her interview with the archbishop.

"It is not true," Nienstedt said, of the claims that he engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with other men.

He said the investigation began with a rumor in early December 2013 "around the time that the other false accusation was made against me," a reference to the police investigation into whether Nienstedt touched a boy's backside at a public event. The police investigation ended without charges.

"All of a sudden it seemed like rumors and innuendos were coming out of the woodwork, and I didn't have anything to hide," Nienstedt said. "I know that I've not done anything immoral or criminal or anything of that nature, and so when this came to the attention of my staff, they said, 'Well, we should probably investigate it. We would with any priest.' And I said sure, I have nothing to hide."

. . . Nienstedt said he's not sexually attracted to men.

"And I also want to say that I'm not anti-gay. A lot of the feedback I got during the marriage amendment was the fact that I was a bigot and I was a homophobe, and all this kind of stuff," he said. "I respect every person, man, woman, and child, for their dignity and a son and daughter of God, but no, I'm not struggling with those attractions."

Nienstedt said he thinks the allegations against him are part of an attempt to discredit him for preaching the Catholic faith.

Related Off-site Links:
Nienstedt Defends His Decisions; Says He'll Continue to Lead Twin Cities Archdiocese – Madeleine Baran (Minnesota Public Radio News, July 30, 2014).
Nienstedt Won't Resign – Jean Hopfensperger (Star Tribune, July 30, 2014).
Archbishop Says He Didn't Mismanage Abuse Scandal – Amy Forliti (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, July 31, 2014).
To Heal the Church, Nienstedt Must Resign – The Editorial Board (Star Tribune, July 26, 2014).
Archbishop Nienstedt Needs to Go. Now. – Rubén Rosario (Pioneer Press, July 18, 2014).
Holding Church Shepherds Accountable – The Editorial Board (New York Times, July 17, 2014).
Betrayed by Silence: How Three Archbishops Hid the Truth – Madeleine Baran (Minnesota Public Radio News, July 14, 2014).
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, "Regime Change is Not Enough" – Bob Beutel (The Progressive Catholic Voice, November 10, 2013).
Healing Can’t Start Until the Knife is Removed from the Wound – The Editorial Team (The Progressive Catholic Voice, November 5, 2013).
Bishop Selection: Calling Forth Our Leadership – The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
It's Time for Nienstedt to Resign
Has Archbishop Nienstedt's "Shadow" Finally Caught Up With Him?
Roman Catholicism's Fundamental Problem: The Cultic Priesthood and Its "Diseased System" of Clericalism
Time for a Fresh Start in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, the Unravelment Continues
Paul Lakeland on How the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal Reveals a Crisis of Leadership

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Song of Summer

In celebration of the 56th birthday of British singer/songwriter Kate Bush, I share a track from her 1980 album Never For Ever. Appropriately, given this time of year, it’s “Delius (Song of Summer).”

About this track Wikipedia notes:

“Delius (Song of Summer)” was inspired by the 1968 Ken Russell TV movie Song of Summer, which portrays the last six years of the life of English composer Frederick Delius (1862-1934), when Eric Fenby acted as his amanuensis. Fenby is mentioned in the lyrics (“in B, Fenby”).

For more of Kate Bush at The Wild Reed, see:
Scaling the Heights
“Oh, Yeah!”
Celebrating Bloomsday in St. Paul (& with Kate Bush)
“Rosabelle, Believe . . .”
Just In Time for Winter
“Call Upon Those You Love”

Image: Patrick Lichfield.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Roman Catholicism's Fundamental Problem: The Cultic Priesthood and Its "Diseased System" of Clericalism

The clerical leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis has been in the news recently . . . and not in a good way.

Last week's broadcast of the Minnesota Public Radio documentary Betrayed by Silence shocked and upset many. The documentary is, after all, a damning indictment not just of the current archbishop but of his two predecessors also. Following is part of the documentary's introduction.

For decades, the archbishops who led the Catholic archdiocese in the Twin Cities maintained that they were doing everything they could to protect children from priests who wanted to rape them.

Reporters picked up those assurances and repeated them without question. Police and prosecutors took the assurances at face value. Parents believed the assurances and trusted priests with their children.

But the assurances were a lie, and the archbishops knew it. Three of them — John Roach, Harry Flynn and John Nienstedt — participated in a cover-up that pitted the finances and power of the church against the victims who dared to come forward and tell their stories.

[Betrayed by Silence] draws on dozens of interviews, thousands of never-before-published documents and insider accounts to explain how and why powerful men protected priests who abused children.

And if this wasn't bad enough, there were soon newly-published revelations from Jennifer Haselberger (left), about which the Star Tribune notes the following.

Whistleblower Jennifer Haselberger described the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as a place where child abusers were given repeated opportunities to remain in the priesthood, where “monitoring” was lax or nonexistent and where investigations often favored priests, in an affidavit filed Tuesday [July 15] in Ramsey County District Court.

Haselberger, who exposed troubling practices in the church’s handling of clergy abuse cases, wrote that the archdiocese had a “cavalier attitude toward the safety of other people’s children.”

The written testimony of Haselberger, an archdiocesan canon lawyer before resigning last year, comes in response to an explosive lawsuit filed on behalf of a man who claims former priest Tom Adamson abused him in the 1970s.

Haselberger is one of the major players in the resulting sex abuse scandal rocking the archdiocese. A canon lawyer who worked for the archdiocese for all but two years between 2004 and 2013, she is among key critics with direct knowledge of child sex abuse practices.

The lawsuit was filed shortly after Minnesota changed its statute of limitations to allow older child sex abuse cases to be heard by the courts. The changes in law, combined with Haselberger’s public disclosures about church practices, set the stage for unprecedented revelations now being made public about how the church handled abusive clergy.

Her written testimony is important because if lawyers are to argue that the archdiocese has created a “public nuisance,” it requires evidence of continued practices that endanger children.

Much has been written about Haselberger's testimony, and, not surprisingly, there have been renewed calls for Archbishop Nienstedt's resignation. Even the editorial board of The New York Times has chimed in, noting that:

When Pope Francis met earlier this month with victims of rape and sexual abuse by priests, he vowed to hold bishops accountable for covering up the scandal instead of confronting it.

A good place to start is with the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese, where calls are mounting for the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt, a warrior against same-sex marriage who, it turns out, is facing accusations that he indulged in improper sexual conduct in the past with priests, seminarians and other men.

. . . Archbishop Nienstedt acknowledged earlier this year in a sworn deposition for a pedophilia lawsuit that he did not fully disclose to police or parishioners which priests were under suspicion. But the archdiocese insists reforms have since strengthened disclosure.

The situation was only worsened by another deposition from a former vicar general of the archdiocese, the Rev. Peter Laird, who in conferences last year with Archbishop Nienstedt twice suggested that the archbishop consider resigning. Concerned Catholic parishioners, individual clergy members and university professors have also called for the archbishop to resign as the best solution. Instead, the archdiocese has made a mockery of accountability.

Hundreds of American priests have been forced from service because of pedophile crimes, but the parallel need for accountability among those who covered up the scandal has been shamefully avoided. In promising closer attention to this issue, the pope should not overlook the church’s leadership disarray in the Twin Cities.

Locally, one of the best commentaries on what the New York Times calls the "leadership disarray" in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis has been written by Pioneer Press columnist Rubén Rosario (right). Here's part of Rosario's July 18 column, "Archbiship Nienstedt Needs to Go. Now."

Haselberger's affidavit paints a disturbing picture of church officials acting more like a cabal of corporate schemers or a power-driven political administration run amok than like shepherds of the state's largest Roman Catholic diocese.

Haselberger details how archdiocese officials gave special payments to abusive priests, allowed others to continue in public ministry and failed to notify authorities of abuse allegations in violation of a 2002 churchwide policy.

In the case of the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, Haselberger warned Nienstedt and others of his sexual proclivities and habit of trying to pick up men. Not only were her concerns ignored, Wehmeyer was promoted to pastor of a church on St. Paul's East Side before his conviction for molesting two boys in his parish.

These were not allegations decades old. They were recent. There's the tale of former Vicar General Peter Laird's attempt to declare disabled Father Mike Tegeder of St. Frances Cabrini Church in Minneapolis because of his criticisms of Nienstedt in the debate over the proposed marriage amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage. Laird resigned soon after Haselberger's concerns were made public.

. . . Nienstedt apparently has an ornery side to him, warning folks not to bother him and sending critical emails to church subordinates that one described as "nastygrams," according to the affidavit.

Haselberger recounts how Laird basically ignored her concerns and refused to read documents about a priest, removed from ministry just this year, who had a sexual attraction to young boys.

"I literally followed Father Laird out of the building one evening with those highlighted documents in my hands, saying that if he didn't have time to read the whole documents, he could at least read the highlighted remarks. He refused," Haselberger wrote.

Laird's reaction, Haselberger noted, was just one example of a "cavalier attitude toward the safety of children."

Cavalier? More like shameful.

In his op-ed, Rosario asks Haselberger who or what kind of archbishop she would like to see take over. Haselberger responds by saying, "I would say a no-nonsense kind of guy with more or less a pastor's heart."

Reflecting on this response I find myself thinking of and agreeing with Colleen Kochivar-Baker's contention that it's actually the system of the cultic priesthood that's the real problem, more so than individual "leaders," even those as inept as John Nienstedt. After all, as theologian and former priest Paul Collins points out, the clericalism that largely defines Roman Catholicism's cultic priesthood is a system "which has developed a kind of moral immunity over the centuries."

What happens, says Collins, is that "everyone who works in the system, no matter how generous, saintly, and virtuous they are, has to struggle to avoid being inexorably caught up in a clericalism that misuses power and that is essentially deceitful and corrupt."

Collins is quick to point out that he doesn’t believe that priests themselves are necessarily corrupt. Many, he notes, are "men of considerable integrity." Nevertheless, "they work in a diseased system and it is very difficult for them to avoid the consequences of clericalism."

Theologian Diarmuid Ó Murchú offers a similar analysis, observing that "innate to clericalism is a patriarchal, subconscious driving force which is much more about power in the name of religion, rather than about service in the name of spirituality."

It seems pretty clear to me that this is exactly what has been the case here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. What's new is that it's finally being exposed, thanks in large measure to Jennifer Hasselberger.

I'll conclude with an excerpt from Colleen's aptly titled July 17 blog post, "Jennifer Hasselberger Drives a Truck Through the Lies of the Clerical Caste of the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis.

I'd love to believe the circumstances cited in [Hasselberger's] deposition were exclusive to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, but after doing decades of research, I can no longer find it in my Catholic soul to believe the situations and attitudes she describes are unique to this archdiocese. They are not the exception to the rule. They are the actual observed practice, and this in spite of all the recent rules written specifically to look as if these practices are no longer the rule. The real rule in operation, as Jennifer shows beyond a doubt, is now as it always has been: the welfare of the offending priest before any thought of any justice for a victim.

I also know there really are dioceses where the unwritten rule does not hold sway, but these are the exceptions. The exception is not the level of duplicity and corruption in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis. The only exception here is that a highly placed archdiocesan individual refused to play the clerical game, and unsurprisingly she just happened to be a lay woman. As for religious women and lay men, they were complicit at least to the extent that information stayed in house that belonged in the hands of police.

I don't know how many times I have written, here and in comments elsewhere, that the corruption and abuses will not stop until Catholics are released from the conditioning that God desires a magical celibate male priest as essential to the sacramental functions in the Church. The abuses of our clergy, both sexual and financial, will never end as long as all the power is in the hands of the very men who are causing all the problems. Pope Francis will not solve any of these issues by leaving the current theology of the priesthood as is. He has done nothing that demonstrates to me he has any desire to change one aspect of this theology. Even if it is eventually decided to let married men in the priesthood, that does not change a thing about the exclusive power held by the priesthood.

Related Off-site Links:
Betrayed by Silence: How Three Archbishops Hid the Truth – Madeleine Baran (Minnesota Public Radio News, July 14, 2014).
Under Oath, Whistleblower Challenges Archbishop Nienstedt Over Abuse Testimony – Madeleine Baran (MPR News, July 15, 2014).
Jennifer Haselberger Was Ignored, Bullied Before Blowing Whistle on Archdiocese, Records Show – Jesse Marx (City Pages, July 15, 2014).
Holding Church Shepherds Accountable – The Editorial Board (New York Times, July 17, 2014).
Archbishop Nienstedt Needs to Go. Now. – Rubén Rosario (Pioneer Press, July 18, 2014).
MN Archdiocese Wanted to Label Marriage Equality-Supporting Priest ‘Disabled’ – Andy Birkey (, July 22, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Paul Lakeland on How the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal Reveals a Crisis of Leadership
A Clerical Leadership Unresponsive to Voices of Reason
Has Archbishop Nienstedt's "Shadow" Finally Caught Up With Him?
It's Time for Nienstedt to Resign
Time for a Fresh Start in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, the Unravelment Continues

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Quote of the Day


To read the entire Equally Blessed Coalition media release
from which the above quote is excerpted, click here.

Related Off-site Links:
Obama Signs Historic LGBT Non-Discrimination Order – Mark Joseph Stern (Slate, July 21, 2014).
Catholics React to Obama Signing of LGBT Executive Order – Bob Shine (Bondings 2.0, July 22, 2014).
Did Obama Finally Thread the Needle on Gay Rights and Religious Freedom? – David Gibson (National Catholic Reporter, July 21, 2014).
The Catholic Case Against Religious Exemptions – Francis DeBernardo (The Advocate, July 21, 2014).
Bishops: Executive Order is Flawed Approach to Discrimination – Catholic News Agency (July 21, 2014).
Bishops' Response to LGBT Non-Discrimination Order Worse Than Expected – Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter, July 22, 2014).
Religious Right Anger At Obama For Signing LGBT Non-Discrimination Order Reaches New Extremes – David Badash (The New Civil Rights Movement, July 21, 2014).
Fox News Correspondent Has A Meltdown Over Obama's LGBT Non-Discrimination Order – Carlos Maza (, July 21, 2014).

UPDATES: New LGBT Non-Discrimination Rule Deserves Applause – The Editorial Board (National Catholic Reporter, July 25, 2014).
What's Next in the Ongoing Struggle Between the Bishops and Obama? – Thomas Reese (National Catholic Reporter, July 25, 2014).

Friday, July 18, 2014

Something to Think About . . .

Although this cartoon is from 2009 I believe it is relevant to the current situation involving Israelis and the Palestinians of Gaza. That's because I've come to the conclusion that the vast majority of both Israelis and Palestinians are caught between two extremist leaderships – the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu and the armed wing of the Palestinian Sunni Islamic organization Hamas. The tragic result of this is that innocent people on both sides are victims of indiscriminate violence. Of course, while neither side in this ongoing conflict is justified in using such violence, the fact that the Israeli government has the greater arsenal means we repeatedly see greater violence and destruction inflicted on the Palestinian people – most recently in Gaza. The militant wing of Hamas responds with rocket fire into Israeli territory . . . and the cycle of violence continues.

It's a situation that reminds me of William Cleary reflection/prayer, "Unfolding at Every Moment," and in particular the part that reads:

[H]ow shall we deal with the insidious evil
– epidemic in world cultures and societies –
of human egotism,
cruel in its delusional ignorance
and destructive of human life and its environments?

Egotism produces war, crime, cruelty,
disappointment, isolation,
impoverishment, ignorance, illusion:
we are all too familiar with these. . . .

To read Cleary's prayer in its entirety, click here.

Related Off-site Links:
Netanyahu's Ugly Game in Gaza – Stephen Zunes (The Progressive, July 9, 2014).
The Indiscriminate Compassion of Haneen Zoabi – Alexander Reed Kelly (, July 13, 2014).
Between Hamas and Israel, What Might an Endgame Look Like? – Ari Shapiro (NPR News, July 14, 2014).
You Can't Kill Hamas, You Can Only Make It Stronger – Mark Perry (Foreign Policy, July 14, 2014).
Israel is Captive to Its 'Destructive Process' – Chris Hedges (, July 14, 2014).
Israel Resumes Airstrikes After Hamas’ Armed Wing Rejects TruceBBC News (July 15, 2014).
Why Opposing the Israel Lobby Is No Longer Political Suicide – Phyllis Bennis (The Nation, July 15, 2014).
The Periodic Slaughter of Palestinians – Lawrence Davidson (Consortium News, July 16, 2014).
Mowing the Lawn in Gaza – John Feffer (Foreign Policy in Focus, July 16, 2014).
We Single Israel Out Because We in the West Are Shamefully Complicit in Its Crimes – Mehdi Hasan (New Statesman, July 16, 2014).
What Happened When Palestinian Children Were Killed in Front of a Hotel Full of Journalists – Adam Taylor (The Washington Post, July 16, 2014).
When Will Gazans Finally Get Fed Up With Hamas? – Alan M. Dershowitz (National Post, July 17, 2014).
Does Hamas Provoke Israel to Attack Gaza? – Hamid Dabashi (Aljazeera, July 17, 2014).
Israeli Ground Assault Pushes Deeper Into Gaza – Ibrahim Barzak and Aron Heller (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, July 18, 2014).
New York Times Rewrites Gaza Headline: Was It Too Accurate? – Peter Hart (FAIR, July 17, 2014).
Glenn Greenwald: Why Did NBC Pull Veteran Reporter After He Witnessed Israeli Killing of Gaza Kids?Democracy Now! (July 18, 2014).
What Putin and Netanyahu Have in Common – Andrew Sullivan (The Dish, July 18, 2014).
Falluja and Gaza: Why Counter-Terrorism Fails When the Problem is Political – Juan Cole (Informed Comment via Common Dreams, July 18, 2014).
20 killed as Israeli Troops Push into Gaza – Tia Goldenberg and Ibrahim Barzak (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, July 18, 2014).
Israel Ground Assault Overwhelms South Gaza Hospital – Sara Hussein (AFP via Yahoo! News, July 18, 2014).
Pope Francis Phones Peres, Abbas to Call for Gaza Ceasefire – AFP via Yahoo! News (July 18, 2014).

UPDATES: Bloody Sunday as 97 Gazans, 13 Israeli Soldiers Killed – Sara Hussein and Mai Yaghi (AFP via Yahoo! News, July 20, 2014).
"Death and Horror" in Gaza as Thousands Flee Israeli Bombardment – Peter Beaumont and Harriet Sherwood (The Guardian, July 20, 2014).
Massacre in Shujaiya: Dozens Killed as Israel Shells Eastern Gaza City – Ali Abunimah (The Electronic Intifada, July 20, 2014).
Truce Elusive as Hamas, Israel Stick to Positions – Ibrahim Barzak and Peter Enav (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, July 21, 2014).
Equality is Necessary for Lasting Peace Between Israel and Palestine – Drew Christiansen and Ra'fat Aldajani (National Catholic Reporter, July 21, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"We Will Come Together in Our Pain"
Prayer and the Experience of God in an Ever-Unfolding Universe
Quote of the Day – September 7, 2013
In Search of a "Global Ethic"

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Quote of the Day

It feels like Australia is exhaling today. There is no sense of shock or surprise at the news that Ian Thorpe is gay – not even mildly. What there is is a palpable sense of relief.

We are happy for him. Happy that he has finally told the truth about something most of us have suspected for a long time and surely that must be a huge burden to set down and walk away from. Not to mention the fact that, as Peter FitzSimons wrote today, the gay community now have “the greatest Australian Olympian of all time, and one of the most admired figures in the country, in their corner when it comes to fighting bigotry.” Bigotry like the homophobic tosspot who throws out vilification like “big poofta” on national television.

Ian Thorpe being gay doesn’t change his incredible sporting achievements or the magnificent philanthropic work he does in indigenous communities. It doesn’t change who his friends are or the role he will play in Australian public life. It doesn’t change the incredibly high esteem in which he is held by an entire nation. So in that way – in a positive sense – it doesn’t matter.

What matters is not having to hide who you are. What matters is gay and lesbian teenagers seeing the warmth and acceptance and joy with which Ian Thorpe’s admission is being greeted. For them to see that it won’t end his world. In fact it will open it up.

– Mia Freedman
Excerpted from "Why It Matters That Ian Thorpe Came Out"
July 13, 2014

Related Off-site Links:
Ian Thorpe, Swimming Star for Australia in Olympics, Says He is Gay – Karen Crouse (The New York Times, July 12, 2014).
Ian Thorpe Reveals He is Gay – Lisa Visentin (The Sydney Morning Herald, July 13, 2014).
Ian Thorpe Comes Out as Gay After Years of Denial – Penelope Kilby and Sally Lee (Daily Mail, July 12, 2014).
Ian Thorpe: "I'm Finally Comfortable Saying I'm a Gay Man" – Amanda Meade (The Guardian, July 13, 2014).
Who Cares If Ian Thorpe is Gay? 15-year-old Closeted Me, That's Who – Tom Ballard (The Sydney Morning Herald, July 13, 2014).
Defending Ian Thorpe: Coming Out is Never Easy, I Know – James Peron (HuffPost Gay Voices, July 13, 2014).
Breathe Out, Ian Thorpe, and Thank You – Steve Dow (The Guardian, July 13, 2014).

UPDATE: A Gay Father's Open Letter to Newly Out Ian Thorpe – Rob Watson (HuffPost Gay Voices, July 21, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Thorpedo's "Difficult Decision"

Thursday, July 10, 2014

David Whyte: "To Be Courageous is to Stay Close to the Way We Are Made"

Courage is a word that tempts us to think outwardly, to run bravely against opposing fire, to do something under besieging circumstance, and perhaps, above all, to be seen to do it in public, to show courage; to be celebrated in story, rewarded with medals, given the accolade. [Yet] to look at its linguistic origins is to look in a more interior direction and toward its original template, the old Norman French Coeur, or heart.

Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future. To be courageous, is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. Whether we stay or whether we go – to be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.

– David Whyte
Excerpted from "Courage," in the forthcoming book of essays entitled
Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
LGBT Catholics Celebrate "Being Wonderfully Made"
The Challenge to Become Ourselves
The Many Forms of Courage (Part I)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part II)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part III)
Love as Exploring Vulnerability
The Gifts of Homosexuality
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace

Image: "Good Morning" (artist unknown).

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (Part 5)

Today is the third anniversary of the death of my friend and colleague David McCaffrey (1947-2011), co-founder of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM).

To commemorate David on this special day I share an excerpt from an article he wrote for the Spring 2005 issue of The Rainbow Spirit, CPCSM's print journal from 1998 to 2008. This particular issue celebrates CPCSM's 25th anniversary, and in its cover story, "Looking Back Over 25 Years," David provides an overview of the organization's roots in Dignity Twin Cities and its subsequent development as an independent, unique, and ground-breaking coalition dedicated to honoring and sharing the spiritual journeys and insights of LGBT Catholics and their families.

The sharing of this excerpt from David's 2005 article also serves as the fifth installment of The Wild Reed series dedicated to documenting the relationship between CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. Highlighting this past relationship is important as today there are some within the hierarchy of the local church who would like to downplay or even deny that this relationship ever existed.

NOTE: To read about events in CPCSM's history that immediately preceded those highlighted in the following excerpt, click here.


An excerpt from
Looking Back Over 25 Years

By David McCaffrey
The Rainbow Spirit
Volume 7, Issue 1 – Spring 2005

CPCSM's first board meeting was held in September of 1980 and soon thereafter we began to convene a committee, which I chaired, to plan the Pastoral Needs Assessment Survey Project. This project became our primary focus over the next four years. In all, 250 gay and lesbian Catholics and 85 family members returned survey forms, which included many poignant responses to the survey's numerous open-ended questions. In May of 1984 the study's 125-page report was published and its findings presented at our annual meeting. The first of its kind, the report was subsequently sold to hundreds of pastoral ministers and ministry groups, locally as well as throughout the country. A few were even requested by ministers and groups in other countries.

Next, CPCSM took Archbishop John Roach up on his offer of access to his departmental heads by inviting many of them and other key pastoral leaders in the archdiocese to a series of informal luncheons. These meetings provided us with an ideal venue for presenting these administrators with our study's findings as well as its recommendations.

In summary, the message from the survey respondents to the official Church was simple: first they asked that the Church break its conspiracy of silence and acknowledge their existence. Second, they requested that the Church treat them on an equal basis with all other Church members. Finally, they asked that they be allowed to share their many talents with the Church and to engage the Church in a mutual ministry process. It was the respondents' hope that as the pastoral workers ministered to GLBT persons, they would also be open to all the ways that GLBT persons could educate and minister to them and other members of the Church. Since the publication of the Pastoral Needs Assessment Survey Report and up to the present time, CPCSM has been actively attempting to implement its recommendations through a wide range of programs and activities.

After our formal gatherings with departmental administrators of the archdiocese and other pastoral leaders, it became clear to us that much more work would be needed. At that point, we made the decision to focus our energies at the parish level, especially since we already had so many allies from the earlier Dignity-sponsored monthly speaker-luncheons. At about the same time we also decided to maximize the number of people we could reach through a story-telling process by producing a video tape depicting people sharing their personal stories that could be used as part of an educational effort. The sharing of our faith journey, after all, had been a hallmark of CPCSM from its inception.

Silent Journeys of Faith

Soon thereafter a number of important aspects of the video production began to fall into place. Quite by accident, Bill Kummer and I met Lynn Miller, a member of the Newman Community., who expressed concern about the justice issues involved with Dignity Twin Cities' struggles with the archdiocese over the use of meeting space at the Newman Center. Lynn, a very creative and articulate lesbian who then was a professional writer and would later receive a Doctorate in Theology from Harvard Divinity School, was very happy to share her poignant story on tape.

Next, I learned that a co-worker at the University of Minnesota was in training as a videographer. He agreed to co-produce the video with us, as well as to do all of the filming and the post-filming technical work. He requested a small stipend – about 1% of what a professional studio would have charged and all that our meager budget could afford. To make the video more inclusive in its message, we approached John Billig, a long-time Dignity member and frequent musician at the Friday night liturgies who was in a 10-year committed relationship. We asked John to tell his story on tape. John had painfully come to terms with his same-sex orientation as a teenager growing up in a strict charismatic Catholic family in a small rural community and at that time was still enduring his mother's rejection of his sexual orientation and of his committed relationship with his partner.

Finally, Deacon Roger Urbanski and his wife Donna, Catholic parents of a gay son, agreed to share their journey in the video. We hd first heard Roger and Donna's story at a Dignity post-liturgy meeting on a Friday night in the spring of 1980. The theme of the evening was "Family Night," and all members were asked to invite their family members or friends. The Urbanskis, along with two of their non-gay children, were keynote speakers.

We premiered the video, entitled Silent Journeys of Faith: Gay and Lesbian Persons in the Catholic Church, at CPCSM's annual meeting in May, 1988. It received a favorable reception, especially since it was made at such a reduced cost and in spite of the fact that it lacked some of the polish of a more professional production.

It soon became clear, however, that the video could be best used for educational purposes with the help of a companion training manual. Hence we contracted with a GLBT curriculum specialist who created for us a five-session seminar series described in great detail in a 115-page training manual that she authored. The video took on an important role in the series as a consciousness-raising tool and a stimulus for discussion among the seminar participants. To reflect the connection between the video and its companion manual, we entitled the booklet Sharing Silent Journeys of Faith; Embracing Our Exiled Gay Brothers and Lesbian Sisters.

Following our original strategy to focus on parishes in our outreach projects, and with our video and guidebook in hand, we created the Parish-Based Gay and Lesbian Ministry Project. This initiative spanned the years 1990-1995, during which time we conducted the seminar series in about 25 parishes of the archdiocese and for a wide range of parish audiences: priests, pastoral ministers, parish council members, members of various parish committees, and parish volunteers. The results of this initiative continue to this day in the form of various official parish-based GLBT ministries at a number of Catholic parishes. [NOTE: The slow dismantlement of these parish-based ministries by the chancery, starting in 2007, the final year of Archbishop Harry Flynn's tenure and the year of John Nienstedt's tenure as coadjutor archbishop, was a source of both sadness and frustration for David in the last years of his life.] Beyond the Twin Cities, the seminar series has been requested by a wide range of Catholic pastoral professionals from across the United States as well as a few working in foreign countries.

– David McCaffrey
Excerpted from "Looking Back Over 25 Years"
Rainbow Spirit 25th Anniversary Issue
Spring 2005

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sad News (The Wild Reed's July 10, 2011 announcement of David McCaffrey's death.)
"I Have Never Felt Closer to Anyone in My Entire Life Than to David" (David's partner Michael Douglas eulogizes his husband of 13-and-a-half years.)
God is in the Roses . . . (Photos and commentary from David's funeral Mass.)
Out and About – July 2011
Remembering David McCaffrey, One Year On
CPCSM Co-founder Responds to "Not Catholic" Assertion
History Matters
Far from "Innocuous" (David's 2008 response to Stephen’s Heaney’s defense of Coadjutor Archbishop Nienstedt’s “innocuous” statements on homosexuality.)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 1)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 2)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 3)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 4)
How Times Have Changed
For the Record

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

"We Will Come Together in Our Pain"


I offer the following from Friends for a Non-Violent World (FNVW) as a prayer for an end to the violence and bloodshed that has flared up yet again between Israelis and Palestinians.

At FNVW we are deeply grieved by the deaths of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Mohammed Abu Khdeir. We hold their families, friends and the Israeli and Palestinian people in the light.

Above: Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Sharr and Eyal Yhdeir. The three Israeli teenagers were abducted June 12, 2014. Their bodies were found June 30 in a shallow grave near the village of Halhul, north of Hebron, not far from where they disappeared. According to news reports, the boys were shot multiple times shortly after their kidnapping. Israeli authorities allege that those responsible for the boys' kidnapping and deaths belong to Hamas.

Right: Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. On July 1, 2014, Mohammed was kidnapped and murdered in a suspected revenge killing by Israeli extremists. According to the Palestinian attorney general, the boy was burned alive after suffering a head injury.

We are grateful to the family of one of the Israeli teens who condemned the death of the Palestinian youth. "There is no difference between [Arab] blood and [Jewish] blood. Murder is murder," said Yishai Fraenkel, an uncle of one of the teens.

We affirm the earlier remarks by former Knesset member Uri Avnery, founder of the Israeli Gush Shalom peace movement, now mindful of the additional senseless murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, that "the kidnapping and murder of three boys is a crime deserving all condemnation. No political cause can justify such an act, and among other things the perpetrators caused grave damage to the Palestinian people."

[These] boys now join the very long and terrible list of victims, members of both peoples, who were killed in the cause of a bloody conflict which has already lasted for more than a century.

Also and especially at this harsh and tragic moment, it must be said: only the achievement of peace between enemies can end conflicts and put a stop to bloodshed.

Sadly, individuals and groups on both sides of this longstanding conflict have chosen to escalate the violence. As a result, justice and peace remain elusive for both Israelis and Palestinians.

And yet . . .

I find solace and hope in how some members of the families of the four slain teenagers have turned to each other for comfort. It reminds me of part of William Cleary's prayer "Unfolding at Every Moment," which I recently shared at The Wild Reed and from which I obtained the title of this post.

. . . We will come together in our pain,
to pool our wisdom and our energies of hope,
convinced that in the end, the very end,
all shall somehow be well.

May it be so.

Related Off-site Links:
Three Kidnapped Israeli Teens Are Found Dead – Sheera Frenkel (BuzzFeed World, June 30, 2014).
Kidnapped Palestinian Teen was Burned to Death, Autopsy Shows – Ali Abunimah (The Electronic Intifada, July 5, 2014).
The Pinkwashing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir – Sigal Samuel (Forward, July 7, 2014).
Soul Searching After Palestinian Teen's Murder – Michele Chabin (The Jewish Weekly, July 8, 2014).
Bereaved Mother Offers Condolences to Slain Arab Teen’s FamilyThe Times of Israel (July 7, 2014).
Mother of Slain Israeli Teen Hopes for "Peace and Calm"NBC News (July 8, 2014).
Israel Confronts Its Own Extremists – Ruth Eglash, Sufian Taha and Griff Witte (The Washington Post, July 7, 2014).
Four Horrific Killings: Can Israeli and Palestinian Leaders End the Revenge Attacks? – The Editorial Board (New York Times, July 7, 2014).
Israel Launches Offensive After Gaza Rocket AttacksDallas News, July 7, 2014).
Israel and Hamas Trade Attacks as Tension Rises – Steven Erlanger and Isabel Kershner (The New York Times, July 8, 2014).
Despite Crackdown, Palestinians Organize for Long-Term Peace – Bethan Staton (Waging Nonviolence via Common Dreams, July 7, 2014).

UPDATES: Netanyahu's Ugly Game in Gaza – Stephen Zunes (The Progressive, July 9, 2014).
Israel Escalates Aerial Offensive on Gaza – Aron Heller and Najib Jobain (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, July 10, 2014).
The Indiscriminate Compassion of Haneen Zoabi – Alexander Reed Kelly (, July 13, 2014).
Egypt Proposes Israeli-Hamas Ceasefire – Maggie Michael (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, July 14, 2014).
Israel is Captive to Its 'Destructive Process' – Chris Hedges (, July 14, 2014).
Israel Resumes Airstrikes After Hamas’ Armed Wing Rejects TruceBBC News (July 15, 2014).
The Periodic Slaughter of Palestinians – Lawrence Davidson (Consortium News, July 16, 2014).
Israeli Ground Assault Pushes Deeper Into Gaza – Ibrahim Barzak and Aron Heller (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, July 18, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Prayer and the Experience of God in an Ever-Unfolding Universe
Quote of the Day – September 7, 2013
In Search of a "Global Ethic"

Monday, July 07, 2014

Sister Teresa Forcades on Queer Theology

I realize that the "Gay Pride" month of June is over, but I still have a few things I want to post for The Wild Reed's 2014 "Queer Appreciation" series, which traditionally I run throughout June. So here we go . . .

I first read about Teresa Forcades i Vila, OSB last year in a BBC story entitled "Europe's Most Radical Nun." She has garnered this reputation in large part due to her informed and passionate critique of unfettered capitalism. She also has spoken and written about feminism as a form of liberation theology and has openly criticized the Catholic church as misogynist and patriarchal in its structure. Yes, she is truly "radical," in the best and truest sense of the word: she goes to the root of problems in both the church and society.

Thanks to Jayden Cameron over at his always insightful blog Gay Mystics, I came across Teresa's thoughts on queer theology. She originally articulated these thoughts (in Spanish) in an interview at Pikkara online magazine. A full English translation of this interview can be found at Iglesia Descalza.

Following is Sister Teresa's thoughts on queer theology.

[I arrived at queer theology] by studying Judith Butler. I appreciate that queer [theology] asserts the unique character of each person, and that any gender, race, national identity tag . . . is a crutch that reflects your fear of personal freedom. The process of spiritualization, Christification, and deification is daring to be a manifestation of love and freedom that are God Himself, when He says “you are made in My image.” Buddhism says that personal identity is fiction and should be overcome because everything is one undifferentiated entity. This personal emptiness is only a first step for you to move on to a unity consciousness. But, with the Trinity, the unity is never beyond the difference. The Trinity says that diversity is as exalted as unity, because unity is one thing and uniformity is something quite different.

The religious analysis that understands sex as something that is intended for procreation is a utilitarian view of human love and is contrary to Christian spirituality. To surrender to the mystery of an interpersonal relationship is to surrender to growing towards being an image of God, towards incarnating what God represents on earth. Upon entering, you receive a gift, that this union could engender a child, but that’s perfectly compatible with you being able to be responsible and use contraception when you please.

The opposite of Christian morality is thinking as if there were two ways to use women’s bodies, usually based on the male perspective: the bad one — using them to give yourself pleasure, which would be lust and which is condemned by all the church fathers, and the other one — using them to give you children, and that’s good. No! It would be denigrating the integrity of the partner, of the other person.

So I think that homosexual love is perfectly understandable to the church, because it has what is essential: it’s not having children, but an open intimacy to an interpersonal relationship that includes respect for the integrity of the other. Two people who love one another, desire one another, and respect one another are giving testimony: this is the sacrament, a visible sign — like baptism — that’s saying, “This creature is accepted in this community as any other.” Trinitarian theology says that all sacraments are an embodiment of God’s love. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are different but they are not complementary. Love is not necessity; it’s not when I need you because I’m missing something. It can’t be utilitarian love.

Related Off-site Links:
New Voices in the Church: Sr. Teresa Forcades i VilaIglesia Descalza (July 10, 2009).
Sister Teresa Forcades: Europe's Most Radical Nun – Matt Wells (BBC World Service, September 13, 2013).
Keeping Up with Teresa Forcades, a Nun on a Mission – Giles Tremlett (The Guardian, May 17, 2013).
Nun Emerges as Spanish Leader in Fight Against Austerity – Lauren McCauley (Common Dreams, April 19, 2013).
Teresa Forcades: Banned in LAIglesia Descalza (March 15, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Paul Lakeland on the Church as a Model of Divine Mutuality
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex
Getting It Right
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
The Holy Pleasure of Intimacy

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Quote of the Day

With one 'narrowly defined' decision, the Catholic males on the Supreme Court have opened the door to Catholic sexual morality in the public as well as private sector. Humanae Vitae can now spread throughout America, though not by conversion or the lucidity of it's reasoning, but by the time tested method of coercion. Happy 4th of July, Americans. We can all celebrate the fact the just five men on the Supreme Court have seen fit to once again expand the rights of corporations as individuals, and this time over the rights of slutty American women. You go, boys.

I know I will sleep better at night knowing that if I owned a corporation like Hobby Lobby, I could profit from the things I object to, but not have to spend corporate money to pay for them. It would be really swell knowing that 'remote cooperation with evil' only extended to the expenditure side of my ledgers. Of course if I owned a company, I would be more likely to claim a religious exemption to ED drugs as too many men who use them are either single or past the point of being able to responsibly raise children.

– Colleen Kochivar-Baker
Excerpted from "The Joys of Summer Reading
During The Week of the 4th of July
Enlightened Catholicism
July 4, 2014

Related Off-site Links:
In Hobby Lobby Case, the Supreme Court Chooses Religion Over Science – Erika Eichelberger and Molly Redden (Mother Jones, June 30, 2014).
The Supreme Court Has a Favorite Religion, and That's a Big Problem – Charles P. Pierce (Esquire, June 30, 2014).
The Uncomfortable Question: Should We Have Six Catholic Justices on the Supreme Court? – Ronald A. Lindsay (HuffPost Politics, June 30, 2014).
Hobby Lobby Invested in Numerous Abortion and Contraception Products While Claiming Religious Objection – Rick Ungar (Forbes, July 1, 2014).
The Deeply Held Religious Principle Hobby Lobby Suddenly Remembered It Had – Peter Hart (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, July 1, 2014).
The Hobby Lobby Ruling Proves Men of the Law Still Can't Get Over 'Immoral' Women Having Sex – Jessica Valenti (The Guardian, June 30, 2014).
Hobby Lobby Still Covers Vasectomies And Viagra – Alexander C. Kaufman (The Huffington Post, June 30, 2014).
"It’s a Basic Healthcare Issue": Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards Reacts to Birth Control RulingDemocracy Now! (July 1, 2014).
Hobby Lobby, Bill Gothard, and the Submission of Women – Sarah Posner (Religion Dispatches, July 2, 2014).
Hobby Lobby Wins, Bishops Lose in Supreme Court Ruling – Thomas Reese (National Catholic Reporter, July 3, 2014).
Hobby Lobby’s Corporate Commandments – Mark Fiore (Truth Dig, July 3, 2014).
Hobby Lobby Fallout: Catholic Soy Milk Mogul Won't Cover Drugs That 'Prevent Procreation' – Clare O'Connor (Forbes, July 3, 2014).
What is Wheaton College’s Theological Objection to Contraception? – Patricia Miller (Religion Dispatches, July 4, 2014).
After Hobby Lobby: A Single-Payer Health Care Solution? – Fred Rotondaro and Christopher J. Hale (Time, July 3, 2014).

UPDATE: What the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Decision Means for LGBT People – Jennifer C. Pizer (Lambda Legal, July 8, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Something to Think About – July 1, 2014
Something to Think About – July 3, 2014
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex
The Standard for Sexual Ethics: Human Flourishing, Not Openness to Procreation
Relationship: The Crucial Factor in Sexual Morality
Stop in the Name of Discriminatory Ideology!
Robert McClory on Humanae Vitae

Image: Kristen Solberg.