Last year when I first read about this, the story dragged me out of my ignorance concerning the transgender community. I am proud that the Enquirer reported and took up this story. I think I have learned much from the newspaper's reporting. I hope this newspaper continues to report on transgender issues.
Leelah did not want her death to be in vain. Recently the City of Cincinnati passed a law banning the use of reparative therapy partly in Leelah Alcorn's memory. The resolution was introduced in the Cincinnati City Council by Chris Seelbach, the council's first openly gay city council member.
There are days when I feel like the history of the City of Cincinnati would want to return to the days of the 19th. century. Today I am proud that the city's leading newspaper and a member of the city council are advancing a cause, I think, that respectfully tries to listen and reflect the experiences and thinking of the people, especially sexual minorities.
James Obergefell was seeking justice not notoriety. The Supreme Court decision that bears his name followed a few weeks after the vote of the Irish People to legalize same sex marriage. Ireland, my God, is a Roman Catholic country. For me that's news, that's history. I nominate James Obergefell as Time's Person of the Year!
For a few moments last night I was in awe of the universe. I had dragged out a tripod given to me when I left the last parish I served. Then I mounted my camera on the tripod. I took a few pictures, but nothing great. I did see the moon at about half eclipse. Then I saw it at full eclipse. There was just a glimmer of light. There were some clouds so it was difficult to sort out.
The moment of awe occurred when I focused the camera on the moon coming up in the eastern sky. I imagined the sun to the west at my back. I was standing with my camera in the driveway focused on the rising moon then overwhelmed by the universal movement. Along with the earth I was casting my shadow on the moon. I have seen the blood moon before. I was hoping to see that. It was getting late so I retired.
This morning at 4:00 AM I woke and went back outside. I thought I might see that blood moon. The eclipse was over. The sky was much clearer. The moon was bright, full, high in the sky, and beautiful. I took a few more pictures and went back inside.
Then I started to reflect...a very good priest friend of mine always told this story about Cardinal Robert Bellermine. It was the time when the controversy was; Is the sun or the earth the center of the universe? Galileo determined that the earth moved around the sun. This was contrary to official church teaching. Galileo invited, so the story goes, Cardinal Bellermine to look through his telescope and then he would believe. Bellermine refused. The story continues that Galileo muttered to himself...It [the Earth] still moves. Well we know the rest of the story. It took the Roman Catholic Church and St. John Paul the Great four hundred years to apologize for the church's error.
It's wonderful that Pope Francis is a scientist...a chemist. I am thrilled that he has moved climate change to the head of the church's agenda. I applaud the pope's other initiatives on immigration and concern for the poor.
My question? My wonderment? What about the human sciences like psychology and sociology and more specifically human sexuality? It seems the Roman Catholic Church has not made room for this kind of science. What about the research into gender identity? Why won't the church engage even in conversation with those who experience different sexual attractions? Yes, Pope Francis may have brought the church into a new century, but the theologies that the church continues to hold on issues of sexuality and gender are still stuck somewhere back in the dark ages.
Pope Francis arrived in Philadelphia today. Speaking in heavily accented English, Francis gave a blessing, and then delivered his homily in Spanish, pausing regularly for an English interpreter.
In Philadelphia Pope Francis called for a “much more active engagement on the part of the laity.” I think the laity in Ireland spoke when they voted to approve same sex marriage this summer. My favorite article on this total upending of Catholic intransigence said that this happened because of all those pained and difficult conversations that began; “I have something to tell you.” Can Francis listen?
I have heard that the pope is deeply homophobic. He seems to have settled down enough that he still is still polite to the President of Argentina, a woman who supports same sex marriage in Argentina, the pope's home country. This is the best the pope can do, "It's a defeat for humanity."
Pope Francis’ own man, Archbishop Chaput has shut out, excluded, dismissed, and sent as far away as he could the GLBTQ persons who wanted to part of this World Meeting of Families Congress. They wanted to offer their experiences of family. I have so many anecdotal stories that if I could speak them, I think they would silence the archbishop and maybe nudge Pope Francis to welcome GLBTQ people to the table and to that World Meeting of Families Congress in Philadelphia. In true form, however, Archbishop Chaput does not want to hear those stories. For the archbishop, I guess those stories are not important and really don’t count. Francis if you don’t hear those stories, I will completely doubt all your sincere calls to; “Hear the cry of the poor.” I will distrust all your invitations to dialogue. I may send a prayer even a good wish your way, but will you send a welcome to GLBTQ persons?
Pope Francis! We have heard your support for religious freedom which echos all those frantic and looking for money fortnight calls of US bishops to shun GLBTQ persons especially if they have formed long lasting and committed unions or simply desire to do that. I'd like to believe that you respect the religious freedom of GLBTQ persons. Why don't you welcome us?
Fr. John McNeil SJ is one of those people who has been a voice in the wilderness and a strong and intelligent advocate for GLBTQ persons. He is also a Jesuit like yourself. You must have heard something about him even as you visited out country because Fr. John McNeil, sj died while you were in New York, John McNeil’s city. I met him, I think in 1994, at the Gay Pride Celebration in New York that year. I was in the midst of my own coming to terms with how to live out my gay identity. It was also the 25th. anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
Pope Francis, if you and your bishops, continue to exclude, despite all those nice words that everyone is welcome at the table and continue to exclude GLBTQ persons from the table, you might just as well stayed home in Vatican City. Pope Francis, you speak of dialogue, but at this very Congress on Family a significant segment of the population living out their lives in family is excluded. There is no welcome so there is no dialogue.
Since first reading about Leelah Alcorn I have tried to learn more about transgenderd persons. A friend who worked for a catholic religious order, told me this summer that she had a cousin who is trans. A good friend whom I am in regular contact with here where I live and is a therapist told me that he presently has three clients who are trans.
I completely appreciate Sister Monica’s response to the bible people who are stuck on the fact that the God they believe in created only man and woman. Sister Monica’s response is that the God of the Scriptures created not only day and night, but also the dusk and the dawn and twilight.
Another part of this article from the Huffington Post that attracted my attention is how Sister Monica, a Roman Catholic Sister, has to live in the shadows. Sister Monica according to the story lives a solitary life outside the boundaries of her convent and the Catholic University affiliated with her religious congregation.
Even in the age of Pope Francis a solitary life is forced on a Catholic Sister because of a backward theology of sexuality in the Roman Catholic Church. I identify with that solitary life because I am a gay man, a gay priest and have ministered in those shadows now for fifty years.
I just returned from meeting with a group of gay priests and brothers, a group I have connected with annually for at least the last twenty or twenty-five years. I was excited to be able to go this year. I have missed the past couple of years because I was caring for my aging mother.
There are several things I learned. There was a priest at the gathering, I had not met him before, I would call him a Vatican insider. He had strong opinions about Pope Francis. He stressed that Francis in large part is a media creation. My understanding is that the priest I was in contact with at this gathering knew Francis personally. He felt Francis was deeply homophobic. On the family synod he felt that the only progress would be some kind of administrative adjustment to people who were divorced and remarried. For me this sounds pretty realistic. Maybe there is room for miracles, but that will remain to be seen.
While there were wonderful opportunities to reconnect with old friends, I was pained by the story of one priest. He has been forced out of his order because in his ministerial life he came out as a gay man. He is now in the process of becoming an Episcopal priest. This is at mid-life for him. I have no regard at the moment for a church that claims to be welcoming when a priest who should be thanked for his years of service is forced out of his order and the church. I had begun to think that the phone where folks could call to report things they thought scary or heterodox was disconnected with the coming of Francis. It seems this is not the case.
So, I applaud Sister Monica and her ministry. I have a little knowledge myself of what it is to live in silence. For all the hoopla, the September visit of the Bishop of Rome to the United States may make some headlines. I do wonder whether it will advance the welcome or even understanding of the many gay, lesbian, and transgendered persons the Roman Catholic Church claims to care about. So much for the new evangelization
Yesterday was a wonderful day. I went to the Pride celebration in Cincinnati with a long time friend. I have been back here almost four years. I was hoping to see a familiar face. I was not disappointed. A friend from long ago recognized the person I was with. We were all connected back years ago by our participation in Dignity. I got to meet the partner of the friend of my friend . I was impressed with the youth of the crowd. Many are probably decades younger. We happened upon a speaker at the main podium who was a trans person. I listened for awhile and could hear her struggles. Yet, yesterday was a moment the oppressed finally were lifted up beyond all the ignorant and the haters.
Cincinnati was in the national spotlight when another trans person who was rejected by her parents committed suicide by walking in front of a semi on an interstate highway this past spring. Even the conservative Cincinnati Enquirer took up Leelah Alcorn's cause.
I saw one man in a roman collar with another in a franciscan habit in a wheelchair. I did not recognized them. When they left, there was a gaggle of other men folk, I assumed priests in chivies, who left together.
We walked by three protesters on the way to Sawyer Point who were from Fred Phelps' infamous so called church with their sign that God hates fags.Later there was a group of evangelicals trying to engage the crowd. Both the evangelicals and a small group from the crowd were yelling to each other that they loved one another. I've decided it is pretty hopeless to try and engage evangelicals like this in a serious discussion. I walked by them with my friend and raised my hand in a priestly blessing for them...and the only words that came with my hand raised as I made the sign of the cross were: "Bénedic, Dómine, nos et haectua dona quae..." It's the blessing before a meal.
We were on our way to buy a beer; but in conservative Cincinnati that is starting to grow up, you have to buy tickets to take to the beer place before you get a beer. As fate would have it I was in the slowest line to get the tickets. However there was a very handsome man distributing the tickets in my line. He seemed to be taking a long time as he was talking to all the patrons. I decided when I got there, I would engage him in conversation. I noticed on his tee shirt that there was the name of what looked like a law firm. So I asked if he was a lawyer. He said "no." Then, he added he was one of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court Obergefell law suit. He was working as a volunteer for the Pride event. I simply said that this must be a wonderful day for you and offered him my congratulations.
By the way....Jim Obergefell is from Cincinnati. Mr. Obergefell got a call from President Obama on the occasion of this victory for equal rights.
"Archbishop Blase Cupich, chosen by Francis last fall as Chicago archbishop, noted the effort U.S. bishops have made on behalf of 'individual employers, secular employers,' with religious objections to some laws. He argued church leaders should give equal ranking to changing U.S. immigration policy in their planning for the years ahead." abc news...Nothing about GLBTQ issues, marriage equality , clergy sexual abuse, or the new accountability of bishops. abc news story
One more reflection on Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s comment on the “yes” vote in Ireland for marriage equality calling it a “defeat for humanity.”
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, The Vatican Secretary of State and Pope Francis
“I was deeply saddened by the result,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, said at a conference in Rome on Tuesday night. “The church must take account of this reality, but in the sense that it must strengthen its commitment to evangelisation. I think that you cannot just talk of a defeat for Christian principles, but of a defeat for humanity.” Guardian
This quote from Fintan O’Toole writing in the Irish Times about Ireland’s vote for marriage equality highlights a problem for clergy like Cardinal Parolin who said the Irish vote was a “defeat for humanity.” The cardinal’s comment shows a lack of grounding in reality and experience which is supposed to be the church’s starting point for reflection. Add to that the Roman Catholic Church’s long time aversion to begin any serious and meaningful discussion with gay and lesbian people indicates to me that Rome has isolated itself on this issue and lives in a vacuum. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin seems right to wonder if the church has lost young people. The size of the “yes” vote seems to me that the church may be losing more than just the young people.
From all the commentary I have read on the Irish vote, this is my favorite quote from the article by Fintan O’Toole.
“...Deep down, it’s a victory for halting, fretful speech. How? Because what actually changed Ireland over the last two decades is hundreds of thousands of painful, stammered conversations that began with the dreaded words ‘I have something to tell you…’ It’s all those moments of coming out around kitchen tables, tentative words punctuated by sobs and sighs, by cold silences and fearful hesitations. Those awkward, unhappy, often unfinished conversations are where the truths articulated so eloquently in the campaign were first uttered. And it was through them that gay men and lesbians became Us, our children, our families.”
Here is a link to the article, "Ireland has left 'tolerance' far behind, which appeared in the Monday, May 25th. edition of the Irish Times. It is worth reading.