Kennedy Townsend and “Image and Likeness”

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend speaks at New Ways Ministry Symposium,. March 17, 2012

In her recent commentary in The Atlantic (The Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church), I’m flattered that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend would use the name of this blog in her closing summation about whey God’s LGBT children should — and in time, will — be unequivocably accepted in the Roman Catholic Church.

At this time, when the hierarchy does not want to recognize that we are all made in the image and likeness of God [emphasis added], and that the one of the two most critical commandments is to love one another, it is critical to assert that God loves the LGBT community equally. Sometimes the Church moves slowly, sometimes quickly. The point is to make sure the voices of dissent are not quiet and the Holy Spirit can be heard.

Ok, so perhaps she didn’t actually know she was referring to the title of this blog, but the Spririt works in mysterious ways, right? In any event, I had the privilege of hearing the former lieutenant governor of Maryland speak on the last day of the recent New Ways Ministry Symposium in Baltimore. She is an engaging speaker — as one would expect from a politician with the last name Kennedy — and had an instant rapport with the Catholic audience, perhaps many of Irish ancestry, on St. Patrick’s Day no less. When asked if she would lead the crowed in singing, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” she politely demurred — that is until a woman (a parish musician, no doubt) sat down at the piano and began to play that quintessential Irish tune. The entire gathering then erupted into song.

Kennedy Townsend’s presentation was markedly more conversational than the several plenary sessions earlier in the symposium. Author Richard Rodriguez, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, and theologians Luke Timothy Johnson and Patti Jung all gave extremely substantive, thought-provoking presentations from their own areas of expertise. While much less academic, Kennedy Townsend’s presence and presentation was a reminder of the important role public Catholic public figures can and should play in at least raising the profile of the issues affecting gay Catholics. Such heightened profile provides greater success that our Church’s bishops — even if behind closed doors — will be willing to engage in dialogue with the Catholic LGBT community.

Now what, Mr. Mutty?

New Ways Ministry’s blog, Bondings 2.0, has an interesting post today about the leader of the Maine Catholic Conference. Apparently Marc Mutty has had some second thoughts about the ways in which he characterized the impact legalization of same-sex marriage might have in The Pine Tree State. In Catholicism, of course, we’re all about changing hearts and moving more and more toward the greater good.

My comment to the post is below:

Yes, Frank, thank you for sharing this story. And while I share the respect expressed by others who are able to admire someone who now sees the “error of his ways,” the question then becomes, Now what?

At the time of the Maine initiative against same-sex marriage, I took the time to write to Mr. Mutty’s boss, Portland Bishop Richard Malone. Bishop (then Father) Malone had been a professor and advisor of mine at St. John’s Seminary College in Boston. “Dick” Malone — whose doctorate came from a secular, not Catholic, institution, Boston University — was well-like and admired as a careful thinker, a good teacher, and someone who challenged students with high academic standards. I reminded Bishop Malone of this in my letter, challenging him to see that from the perspective of reason, opposition to same-sex marriage (especially in the civil context) is on very flimsy footing. Needless to say, I never heard back from him.

So, I come back to my initial point, which I hope Mr. Mutty would consider. In our theology of Reconciliation, when we recognize we have done wrong, we are called upon to embrace a firm “purpose of amendment” through which we commit to changing past ways. So, Mr. Mutty …. Now what??

Why am I here?

New Ways Ministry Retreat with Anthony Padovano
November 18-20, 2011
Bon Secours Spiritual Center, Marriottsville, MD

Saturday, November 19, 2011
Why am I here? No, that’s not meant as some deep philosophical question about the meaning of life. It’s meant, rather, in the very concrete sense. Why am I here, in this actual physical place in which I find myself right now?

As I ask this question, I am on a retreat at Bon Secours Spiritual Center in Mariottsville, MD. It is 5:21 am. The retreat is for gay “former” priests/religious and the broad focus of the retreat is sexuality and spirituality. Sponsored by New Ways Ministry, the facilitator is Anthony Padovano, a man who has been so influential in the life of American Catholicism since Vatican II.

Why am I here? The ‘expected’ answer no doubt involves God in some way. To spend time with God….To get away from the busy-ness of life and spend time in prayer and reflection.

Why am I here? Some might see this as self-centered or even narcissistic, but the answer is really to spend time with myself.

Padovano talked last evening about Thomas Merton and one of his insights — so simple and yet so profound — is that the only thing that I can do in this life that absolutely no one else can do is be me. Merton said, “To be a saint is to be myself.”

There is no one who has ever lived, is living now, or who will ever live who can be who I am.