So without further ado, here's a "round-up" of recent online articles and commentaries that I've found to be of particular interest. Perhaps you will too!
First up is a recent story from the good folks at New Ways Ministry. On the group's indispensable blog, Bondings 2.0, Francis DeBernardo reported on the December 15 meeting between New Ways Ministry staff and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. The purpose of this meeting was to "help enrich understanding of each other’s approaches to marriage equality and LGBT issues."
I remember when Cordileone's presence at a conference at the University of St. Thomas was protested back in 2010 by over 300 people, including many Catholics. Cordileone was one of two high profile anti-marriage equality activists invited to the Twin Cities by Archbishop John Nienstedt and the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life to address the archdiocesan “Reclaiming the Culture of Marriage and Life” conference. The other was Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization of Marriage (NOM). (For images and commentary on this protest, click here.) With all of this in mind, I was heartened by news of the meeting between New Ways Ministry and Archbishop Cordileone.
Following is an excerpt from DeBernardo's report, accompanied by a picture from Bondings 2.0 showing Archbishop Cordileone with DeBernardo and New Ways Ministry co-founder Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL.
New Ways Ministry asked for advice on how LGBT Catholics and their families can initiate dialogues with their local bishops. He noted that bishops often have many demands on their time and many requests for appointments. A more practical route may be for people to request meetings with directors of diocesan ministries, such as family life, or with other chancery officials.
New Ways Ministry asked how a lesbian or gay person could speak to the U.S. bishops at one of their meetings. Cordileone mentioned that a member of the Courage ministry group, which promotes celibacy for lesbian and gay Catholics, has spoken to the bishops’ conference in the past. New Ways Ministry asked if other lesbian and gay persons could speak to the bishops. He considered this and seemed receptive to hearing the perspectives of gay and lesbian parish members. Cordileone also noted that there is a great need to find ways to reach out to lesbian and gay people who are not close to the Church, including those who have been alienated from the institution.
DeBernardo's article drew a range of online responses. Here's a sampling:
• Congratulations to Archbishop Cordileone, Sister Jeannine Grammick, and Frank DeBernardo for taking the courageous step of engaging in dialogue with someone on the other side of such a contentious issue. As Christians, we are called upon to love our enemies – a very tall order indeed. Listening respectfully to those who disagree with us is a good start. – Nancy E. Sulfridge
• While I appreciate the civil tone that prevailed in this encounter, the article struck me as more than a little Pollyannaish. Can we also get a critical sense of what's not being discussed, like basic civil rights: employment non-discrimination legislation, housing discrimination protections, hate crime legislation advocacy, etc. – Matthew Nelson
• How appropriate, during Advent, to have this sign of Hope! The "Francis effect" seems to be spreading. – Drew Conneen
• Always good to have dialogue but I didn't sense any real compromises being offered. Maybe, the Church Synod in 2015 will provide the basis for some softening of the church's position on civil same-sex marriage and other issues. If not, many practicing Catholics will continue to ignore the church hierarchy. The Catholic church is not the bishops, cardinals or those in Vatican City. Rather, it's the people in local parishes doing their best to live as Jesus taught without the extra dogma dreamed up over the centuries by the church hierarchy. – Jim Stockholm
• Congratulations on two fronts today: this meeting with Archbishop Cordileone, and the Vatican's new tone toward the U.S. women's religious. – Adam James
Adam James' comment above brings to mind Ken Briggs perceptive National Catholic Reporter commentary on the Vatican's final report on the apostolic visitation of American nuns, launched in 2008 by Cardinal Franc Rodé, then prefect of the Congregation for Religious Life. As many have noted, the tone of this investigation has shifted markedly from its inception to its final report. For Briggs, this shift is "the Vatican's face-saving effort to wriggle out of a bad situation." Here's just a snippet of his commentary . . .
It's my opinion that the authorities who set the investigation in motion, and the entire hierarchy, brought much more calumny on itself than it visited upon the nuns. In the United States, at least, the eruption of frustration over "disobedient" sisters (I think the indictment covered both investigations) ended up principally bringing disrespect on themselves for bullying women for whom the laity had the highest regard, as shown in the enormous outpouring of support for them.
An institution like the church does not become ancient without having acute political antenna, and the message that came with the backlash was that the Vatican's effort to push its symbolic weight around (its hefty poundage isn't in question) came to naught – and worse, the disrepute they had unleashed on themselves was compounding their other troubles. Hypothetically speaking, the pragmatic thing to do was to call off the dogs and pat the dear sisters half-heartedly on the head.
Also worth checking out is Sister Joan Chittister's commentary, "The Ending Should Have Been the Beginning," in which she says that by relegating the visitation to a friendly dialogue, the report "denied women religious the apology they deserve."
Meanwhile in Minnesota . . . It's being said that the embattled John Nienstedt will be out as Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis in February and replaced by Bishop Richard Pates as interim archbishop. (Pates, who is currently the Bishop of Des Moines, had formerly been an auxiliary bishop here in St. Paul-Minneapolis.)
Even before this latest talk of Nienstedt ouster began circulating, the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), on whose board I sit, was taking positive and proactive steps around lay participation in the selection of the next archbishop.
The following excerpt from CCCR's November 25 media release explains these steps.
The three priests who rose to the top of a slate of seven are Frs. J. Michael Byron of St. Pascal Baylon, St. Paul; Paul Feela of Lumen Christi, St. Paul; and Timothy Wozniak of St. Thomas Becket, Eagan. None of the priests on the slate were consulted, nor did they give their consent to be included in this initiative. Those that voted believe these men would be able to unify polarized factions in this archdiocese and bring Catholics together to accomplish the Church’s mission. (Learn about the selection process at www.cccrmn.org.)
Lay Catholics can’t actually elect their own leadership (hence, vote in quotes), but the CCCR’s Bishop Selection Task Force created the opportunity for local Catholics to “vote” for several reasons:
• To help local laity identify the priests in this archdiocese in whom they have confidence to be effective leaders.
• To promote lay Catholics’ ability to raise a unified voice in support of a healthy, sustainable local church.
• To begin to re-establish the teachings set forth by the Second Vatican Council, which called for lay Catholics to actively participate in their church.
• To help increase the Vatican’s awareness and understanding of the needs of this archdiocese.
Currently, CCCR is urging local Catholics to write to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio (the Vatican’s ambassador) to the U.S. It is Archbishop Viganò who decides which names will be forwarded to Rome when bishops and archbishops are needed in the U.S. Those who write may recommend the priests identified by the vote, other priests they feel are credible choices for bishop/archbishop, and/or qualities they feel are essential to reunifying the archdiocese and refocusing on the mission of the church.
Correspondence to the papal nuncio should be sent to:
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò,
Papal Nuncio to the U.S.
3339 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008-3687
CCCR is sharing on its website some of the letters Catholics in the archdiocese have written to Archbishop Viganò. Here's just one of them . . .
Dear Archbishop Viganò,
Almost every day, I pick up the daily paper or hear on the news of another violation of trust by Archdiocesan officials. The latest is that we are facing a serious financial crisis and lay employees are being let go. I don’t see how we can heal or come together as a local church without new leadership to restore hope and confidence. We, as members of the Catholic Coalition for Church reform, have tried to do what is in our power to remedy this situation by following the Bishop selection process provided by the Bishop Selection Task Force (BSTF).
I studied the candidates put forth by the BSTF and my number one and two choices were also the number one and two choices of the 410 persons who participated in the balloting.
I would very much like you to consider Father J. Michael Byron or Father Paul Feela, when the time comes for you to nominate a new leader for the St. Paul/ Minneapolis Archdiocese. Both inspire us to bring about the Kingdom of God as American citizens living in the 21st century.
My prayers for you and for Pope Francis as you discern what is in the best spiritual interest of those who live in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Patricia A. Whalen
La lucha, Mi pulpito is a blog that describes itself as "a Catholic's lucha to redefine and reclaim the pulpit . . . a queerly sacred space for living, laughing, and loving beyond the norm." I recently added it to The Wild Reed's list of recommended blogsites (located in sidebar at right).
Created and maintained by "delfinwaldemar," the site recently launched a series entitled "Queering Catholicism." The first part of this series looks at "How to Query Church Teaching," while the second responds to the question, "Are Queer Relationships Compatible with Church Teaching?" I particularly appreciate the following from Part II.
There are several scholars who believe that the full expression of same-sex love and pleasure within a personal, mutual relationship is entirely compatible with the Church’s teaching of marriage and sexuality. Many argue that sexuality is a gift from God and when expressed in a personal, mutual relationship it is therefore natural and accepted. Hence, TQBLG individuals believe that their sexuality is “created, sustained, and blessed by God” (Yip, 1997b, p. 172). If God is love, why would God be less present in the love of a queer couple than a heterosexual couple? Many queer couples firmly believe that achieving a Christian partnership based on Christian values is achievable—their relationships are based on mutual love, mutual sharing, faithfulness, mutual commitment to pleasure…mutuality in its various forms and expressions.
On a personal note, my beloved and I have accepted the teaching of the Church and embodied it in our relationship. Our relationship (and those of countless others) is based on the idea of sexuality that the Catechism expresses. We believe in and live by “intimate and chaste union”; we practice and strive for self-giving to each other by caring for the other when sick and supporting each other’s adventures (such as working 3 jobs to support the other while in divinity school); we experience pleasure and enjoyment through our bodies by affirming each other’s beauty, balding, flat-footedness, and pudginess; and have transmitted life by affirming, celebrating, and challenging each other’s lives and personhood in fullness (even when we may not agree with each other)—our relationship has been life-giving to us and to those we welcome into our casa. By the Church’s standards, Jason and I are being faithful to the church’s teaching in every sense of fidelity and fecundity. Our coming together may not be able to produce children, but we can transmit life by pro-creating love and laughter through the formation of a family, be it how we treat and include our families of origin in our lives, the family formed through our inner sanctum of friends, extending the Body of Christ by how we treat those we engage with in the world, and through whatever means we decide to have children (which is a whole set of other entries!).
Christian members of the TQBLG community have been able to manage faith and sexual identity signifying their ability to not only survive but thrive, live, and celebrate in a social, religious environment that many times does not accept or support them. Though many are amazed, queer Catholics are finding ways to be who they are and find their place in the Church. Pope Benedict XV said that there was to be no distinction among Catholics—we are all Catholics, period! One cannot be sure whether or not he had queer Catholics in mind, but many TQBLG individuals are proud of their Catholic faith and through their experiences are opening doors so that all people can celebrate and commune as one body.
There’s a widespread myth that gay men can’t, won’t, or don’t maintain long-term monogamous relationships. The reality, according to good research, is that hundreds of thousands of gay men in long-term relationships are enjoying sexually satisfying monogamous relationships.
Blum goes on to discuss four tips for those interested in maintaining a long-term monogamous relationship: 1) talk about sex; 2) unleash creativity; 3) resolve resentments; and 4) know what you are yearning for. These tips, of course, are applicable to any couple, regardless of sexual orientation (as are the "eight surprising (and scientifically proven) things that lead to a lasting marriage" highlighted by Amanda Scherker in her December 15 Huffington Post article).
Blum concludes his article with these words of wisdom:
While you won’t find much talk about it on Grinder or Manhunt or at most gay bars, many gay men prefer monogamy. If you haven’t found a man willing to join you in your desire for monogamy, then you may be looking in the wrong places. You’ll find them volunteering at gay community organizations, finding inspiration at gay cultural events, or building their skills at gay recreational or educational clubs.
For more such thoughts and reflections, see The Wild Reed's special series of posts entitled "A Gay Man's Guide to Love and Loving."
Okay, here's some music news that I'm very happy to share: Kate Bush's "Before the Dawn" concert series was hailed at a recent London theatre awards ceremony for creating "a new high in music performance."
[Kate Bush's] sold-out 22-date residency in London, which ran from August to September, was her first major live commitment since 1979. Bush accepted the Editor's Award at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards from actor Sir Ian McKellan. The event was hosted by comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
In October she thanked fans for their support for Before The Dawn, calling it “one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life” and adding: “It was a truly special and wonderful feeling for all of us.” But she also suggested it would be “a while” before she appeared again.
Two shows in mid-September were filmed for a possible DVD release. The residency led to reignited interest in her back-catalogue, making chart history when she became the first female artist to have eight albums in the top 40 at the same time.
For The Wild Reed's compilation of "Before the Dawn" review highlights, click here.
For Martin Glover's eloquent and insightful exploration of the mysticism that imbues the persona and music of Kate Bush, click here.
notes at TIFF.com:
The Prophet, by Lebanese author Kahlil Gibran, is among the most popular volumes of poetry ever written, having inspired millions of readers in over forty languages since its publication in 1923. The book's timeless verses have been given enchanting new form in Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, an animated anthology film that assembles a host of renowned international artists to reconfigure Gibran's elegant text as a painterly cinematic adventure.
Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet definitely sounds like a film that's not to be missed, and from what I've read online, the critics are raving about it. One of the most informative and eloquent reviews I've come across is by Drew McWeeny, whose writing on the film is posted at HitFix.com. Here's part of what Drew has to say . . .
Since May, I've spent a fair amount of time with the book. I knew it before then, but it had been years since I'd picked it up, and this time around, I found something much richer and much more profound waiting for me. This time, I was open to the book in a way I'm not sure I was when I read it as a young man. This time, instead of it feeling like someone telling me the way things are supposed to be and me shaking it off because of some perceived young man's superiority, I felt like I was reading real wisdom that I can recognize now because of the various scars and sweetnesses I've accumulated in the twenty years between readings.
In the book, Almustafa is a poet who is beloved in the city of Orphalese, and after twelve long years, he prepares to catch a boat that will take him home. Before he can leave, the entire city comes out to see him, and a seeress named Almitra asks him to share some thoughts before he goes, leading to a series of twenty-six poems on very specific topics like love, marriage, work, joy and sorrow, laws, freedom, friendship, and more. Much of what he says is self-evident, but the way he says it in the book is what gives it such power. Gibran was a beautiful writer, and the book is full of truly powerful imagery.
It's not a huge narrative, though, and so when Salma Hayek began putting together a team to try to bring the movie to life, one of the first things they had to do was figure out how to make that work as the framework for the movie. To that end, Mustafa (Liam Neeson)has now become a political dissident, a poet whose work moved the people of Orphalese to begin to question the way things are. He's spent seven years under house arrest, seeing almost no one except for Kamila (Hayek), his housekeeper. He's still writing and painting, but the work goes unseen. Finally, the authorities decide something must be done and the local Sergeant (Alfred Molina) comes to tell Mustafa that he'll be taken to a ship in the harbor, where he is to leave Orphalese and never return in exchange for his freedom. There's another darker plan afoot, though, one that only Kamila's daughter knows about. And since Almitra (Quvenzhané Wallis) hasn't spoken since the death of her father several years earlier, it may not be possible for anyone to save Mustafa.
. . . From each segment, we come back to Mustafa's story, and we move further towards that inevitable showdown when he is offered a simple choice: renounce his words and all of his ideas and be allowed to board that ship, or stand behind the things he's said as he stands in front of a firing line.
One of them, Joann Sfar's segment on marriage, is illustrated as a beautiful tango in which the space between the dancers is as important as the places where they connect, a stunning and simple visual accompaniment to the segment on love, directed by Tomm Moore. Neither of them deals with anything children are going to fully understand, but they are visually entrancing, and that's true of each of the segment's. There's a lovely early bit by Michal Socha on freedom in which people are portrayed first as birdcages holding in beautiful flocks, and then as tangled strings that hold them to a tree. It looks like it's water color and pastel chalks, but it's all CG, and it sets a high bar for the rest of the segments in terms of surreal beauty.
Bill Plympton brings his trademark visual style to the film, but with a sincerity and an emotional directness I'm not used to in his work. Each of the directors works in a radically different style, while the wraparound, directed and written by Roger Allers, is gorgeous hand-animation in the style of vintage Disney, a safe choice that should help to draw in audiences who aren't used to the wildly experimental.
To read Drew McWeeny review of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet in its entirety, click here.
With the end of the year approaching, I've started noticing various retrospectives and "best of" lists. For instance, the staff at Yahoo! Movies have compiled a list of the "40 Best Movies of 2014, while The Telegraph newspaper ranks 2014's "Five Best Moments in Popular Music." (Number one is the previously highlighted return of Kate Bush to the concert stage with her "magical, theatrical 22 night stint at Hammersmith Apollo.")
gay rights global timeline, documenting what the world's queer people and communities have already accomplished (or haven't yet accomplished) this century.
For queer people, in many ways, there has never been a time in history like the present. Although oppression and inequality are still rampant, there have also in recent years been a number of firsts, breakthroughs and other positive developments that once seemed like they would never come.
2014 was an especially good year for queer equality in the U.S. Over 60 percent of Americans now live in states that permit same-sex marriage, and advocates in ever-increasing numbers are speaking out for the cause.
We don't mean to suggest that there haven't been setbacks, or that things aren't still wildly unjust in almost every part of the world. But at the same time, we think it's worth observing, and celebrating, the real progress that the 21st century has brought to many.
And how's this for a sign of progress . . . a nine-year-old girl in the U.K. has declared her gay teacher "brave" and "awesome" in a poignant letter, written to him after he came out to the entire class during an anti-bullying lesson.
Following is an excerpt from Beth Greenfield's Yahoo! News article about this hopeful and inspiring story.
Pink News. “I still think about you the same way as I used to. You’re a great teacher and these are just some of the words that I would describe you as: great, amazing, fantastic, brilliant, awesome and brave.
The reason why I say brave is because you shared a personal secret which was very brave. You don’t have to feel scared because I know that everyone in the class feels the same way as I do. From A . . . xxx P.S. We are all proud of you.”
The teacher, identified only as “Mr. R,” told Pink News, “Reading it brought tears to my eyes, and it took me a little while to compose myself. When I thanked her she just shrugged and repeated something one of the boys in the class had said during the lesson: ‘It’s just your life’. Then she went back to her maths.” He added, “For my class it was a surprise, sure, but to them it was just something simple and easy to file away as another piece of information. There was no judgment, no follow up, just acceptance.”
Mr. R explained that, “as a primary school teacher, I’d always worried about mentioning my sexuality, despite the fact that my colleagues talked about their husbands, wives, and significant others all the time.” After holding conversations with his class as part of anti-bullying week, though, he found out that almost every student in his class thought that people who were gay or lesbian were “bad or wrong in some way”; additionally, most said they’d heard the word “gay” used as an insult. So the teacher spoke with the principal about coming out to the class as part of his lesson, and received his full support. “We agreed I could tell the class that I’m gay so they at least knew one gay person, and hopefully explain that when people use that word, they’re talking about me.”
And finally, some more beautiful and wise words . . . ones to ponder (and hopefully embody) as we move into the often hectic "holiday season."
See also the previous Wild Reed Round-Ups:
• Summer 2011
• Spring 2010
• (Australian) Summer 2009 II
• Summer 2009
• Spring 2009
• (Australian) Summer 2009
• Fall 2007
• Spring 2007
• End of Year (2006)
Opening image: Hugh Jackman in Australia.