The Sensus Fidelium of Catholic Ireland

(Source: The Irish Times)

(Source: The Irish Times)

Ireland is a country with a huge Catholic majority. Though recent data indicate a decline in those who identify as Catholic, at least 84% of the population still do (Central Statistics Office Ireland, 2011). Ireland has also just become the first nation in the world to approve same-sex marriage by popular referendum. This historic change came about not by legislation passed by elected officials and not by judicial decree. It came about through the most democratic tool available to a free people.

Termed a “national act of inclusion” by former tánaiste (deputy prime minster) Eamon Gilmore, in Catholic theological language Friday’s vote can also be seen as an act expressing the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful) in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country where religious faith is deeply embedded in the lives and culture of the people.

Is there a lesson here for Catholic leaders both in Ireland and around the globe? Perhaps this vote is telling the world that as Catholic Christians, Irish men and women have a deeper understanding of the Gospel than those whose role it is to preach it. Perhaps this vote is telling the world that the Gospel of Jesus — so strongly interwoven into the everyday lives of a faithful, evangelized people — challenges people everywhere to recognize that all persons, regardless of sexual orientation (or race or ethnicity or language or skin color or….), are children of God called to live lovingly, openly and honestly — just as God created us.

As an Irish-American, I am so very proud today of the country where my grandparents were born; so very proud of my many cousins and “relations” whose grandparents never left “the auld sod” and today are part of a new Ireland that has spoken loudly, clearly and forcefully.

Walter Brueggemann on American Consumerism, Militarism, Neighborliness and LGBT People

A Facebook friend (FBF) recently shared this article from On Faith, an interview with theologian Walter Brueggemann. As the interview demonstrates, Prof. Brueggemann — one of the most influential Old Testament scholars in the U.S. — is pretty clear about how much of contemporary American culture is out of sync with an accurate understanding of the message of Scripture and the Gospel of Jesus.  I suspect there are many who would be afflicted by his words, calling to mind that old adage that one of the purposes of the Gospel is “to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.” Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.50.22 AMI particularly find Prof. Bureggemann’s notion of neighborliness on point, especially living in a part of the country where so very, very many people live in “gated and guarded communities,” neighborhoods where entry is limited only to residents. This map (from Gated Communities: Are you in or out? Naples Daily News, July 26, 2013) shows how much of the area in this part of SW Florida is “off limits” to neighbors outside the gate.

On another issue, I was particular edified to read Prof. Brueggemann’s response to the first of two questions about LGBTQ people and how many who claim to be Christian treat them. Here’s what was asked, and Brueggeman’s first words in response.

You talked about the poor and healthcare. What about the LGBTQ community, especially when people use the Old Testament to argue against that community?

The discussion needs to start with what it means to be made in the image of God [emphasis added]. The confession of Christian faith is that all of God’s human creatures are made in the image of God. That means that they are to be treated with dignity, offered maintenance and security, as is necessary.

Brueggemann claims that the starting point of this discussion must be the recognition that LGBTQ people are made in the image of God. That understanding is the very reason for the title of this blog. If we are not able to see in ourselves and others a reflection of the Divine, then what possible hope is there for dealing well with any of the myriad problems this generation or any generation faces? If we can’t see the presence of God in every person — especially those whom we so readily label as “other” — then how can Christians claim to be followers of the One who came to lead all people to God?

After briefly dispatching with concerns about what some of the various texts of Scripture supposedly say about homosexuality, Brueggemann’s concluding words are worth repeating:

The texts that are determinative are those that talk about the love of God that has been shown to us in Jesus. We can’t compromise that.

 

True Courage

ChiSonoIoEven while there are many hopeful signs about the Church moving forward on the subject of God’s gay daughters and sons, there are some who still call for an expansion of “ministries” that ask LGBT Catholics to be less than who they are. One of these is called “Courage,” and Fr. Roger Landry’s commentary in the Boston Pilot’s online forum, Echoes, pronounces the virtues, nay necessity, of this organization for LGBT Catholics.  Here, in part, is my comment to the contrary. 

I have to agree with Ann Marie Rosa, while simultaneously taking great exception to Fr. Landry’s commentary.

What I find most strikingly off target with the tone and substance of his comments is the underlying assumption that God’s LGBT sons and daughters are somehow distinct from “the Church” and “Catholics.” Gay and lesbian persons are in every parish, every Catholic community, every diocese around the globe. Indeed, we are in many (most?) seminaries, rectories, convents and houses of religious men and women. Gay and lesbian Catholics are not so much looking to be welcomed by the Church, for indeed, we ARE the Church — just as sure as is every other person who embraces his/her baptism and seeks to live the Gospel with faithfulness and integrity.

What we are looking for, however, is an experience of Church that reflects the famous (and hopefully prophetic) words of the Holy Father. You will recall that Pope Francis was asked a question in the summer of 2013 about a “gay lobby” at the Vatican. After addressing that point in particular, Francis went on to say that, “if a person is gay and is eagerly searching for God, then who am I to judge them?” Fr. Landry, however, seems all too willing to go where the Holy Father chose not to. And so, rather than listening to the lived experience of God’s gay sons and daughters; rather than walking with us in faith through the joys and struggles of our lives; rather than listening to how we understand our unions to be both unitive and procreative; and rather than think that perhaps — just perhaps — his own judgment about the morality of our lives might be flawed, Fr. Landry instead pronounces judgment and prescribes what he thinks he knows is best for all God’s gay children.

I believe the Holy Spirit was at work in this most recent synod as it made history in addressing an issue hitherto swept under the rug. I pray fervently that the same Spirit will continue to soften the hearts of all those who stand in judgment of God’s gay children. All of us are created in God’s image and likeness. The diversity of human sexuality is only one of the many beautiful and glorious ways in which that divine image shines through humanity. May the work of the Spirit allow that diversity to shine even more brightly in the years to come.

Time for a Change: Bishop Frank Dewane and the Diocese of Venice (Florida)

DiocesOfVeniceThis past week, a TV station here in Southwest Florida broke a story that received a fair amount of local coverage. It’s a story not surprising to Catholics involved in their local parishes and familiar — even from a distance — of how Frank Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, exercises his office.  The TV station made public a letter sent in January by 10 diocesan priests to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Delegate to the United States.

The letter — available here: Venice Priests Letter to Vigano — has not yet received a response, at least not one reported publicly.  Although we don’t know who the signers of this letter are, what can be said is this: change happens when individuals take a stand. Working within the existing and legitimate structures of the Church, these priests are courageously standing up to a bishop — their boss! — by seeking guidance on how to proceed when a bishop ignores both the letter and spirit of the laws intended to govern the Church in charity and fidelity. Although time will tell whether their efforts are successful, the more people — laity and clergy — who embrace their rights and responsibilities as faithful members of the church, the sooner change will occur.

 

How Change Comes About

This thought from Richard Rohr’s daily meditation seems apropos after last evening’s discussion in which the Dignity/Washington community continues to consider whether “to have women presiders at Eucharist”:

In the second half, you try to influence events, work for change, quietly persuade, change your own attitude, pray, or forgive instead of attacking things head on.