Conservative Bishops Still Mad at Pope; Oligarch Launches Orthodox Network; Yoga Won’t Change Sexuality; Global LGBT Recap

Heads up: next week Mexico will host the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) World Conference.  According to the Washington Blade,

Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, executive director of Equal Ground, a Sri Lankan LGBT advocacy group, said the conference is “a unique opportunity” to network with fellow activists to ensure “there is a constant exchange of ideas and ideals which lead to furthering the LGBTI global movement and making positive changes for LGBTI persons all over the world.” Anne Lim, founding director of Galang Philippines, an advocacy group that seeks to reduce poverty among LGBT people in her country, added the gathering is a chance to highlight economic disparities as they relate to discrimination.

“Participating in ILGA processes is first and foremost an opportunity for knowledge sharing with colleagues working on SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) rights,” she told the Blade.

More than 1,000 LGBT organizations throughout the world are members of ILGA.

Vatican: Synod a Traditionalist Win or Start of Longer Conversation or Both?

We reported last week on the ideological warfare that had broken out at the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family after the publication of a mid-term document enraged conservative bishops and their allies with its welcoming language on gay people and couples.  Some right-wing Catholics fumed that the synod had been “engineered” or “rigged” by the Pope and other reform-minded bishops.  In the end, the conservative bishops seemed to emerge victorious, with the gathering’s final document purged of that welcoming language. But that hasn’t stopped right-wing bishops from slamming the synod and Pope Francis himself for having allowed the public conversation to take place.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, an ardent foe of marriage equality in that state, has publicly sneered that the Synod was “rather Protestant,” notes Bob Shine of New Ways Ministry, which has provided in-depth coverage of the Synod and its aftermath on its Bondings 2.0 blog. Sniped Tobin, “Pope Francis is fond of ‘creating a mess.’ Mission accomplished.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput, another strident opponent of marriage equality, did not attend the synod, but disparaged it this week for sowing confusion, which he said is “of the devil.”  As David Gibson of Religion News Service reports, Chaput is clearly in no mood to reconsider the church’s pastoral approach to LGBT people:

Chaput’s lecture, titled “Strangers in a Strange Land,” focused on the theme that traditional believers are experiencing an internal exile akin to that of the ancient Israelites in Babylon. Chaput said that the U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this month not to review state appeals against gay marriage was a “tipping point” that confirmed that traditional believers are now a minority in society and on the defensive. He blasted gay activists for their “dishonesty” and “hatred” of gay marriage foes and said the portrayals of traditional believers as homophobic is “dishonest and evil.”

“We also need to thank God for the gift of this present, difficult moment,” Chaput said. “Because conflict always does two things: It purifies the church, and it clarifies the character of the enemies who hate her.”

Chaput is scheduled to host Pope Francis for the 2015 World Meeting of Families, which National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters calls “a train wreck waiting to happen.”

Some suggest that Pope Francis is “playing a long game,” and that he accomplished much by allowing the public airing of alternatives to the conservative’s approach. They note that the watered-down paragraphs on gay people did not get the two-thirds votes required for approval; Cardinal-elect Vincent Nichols of London has said some more progressive bishops voted against the paragraphs on LGBT people in the final document because they were not welcoming enough.

At a speech last Saturday just before the final report was released, Francis himself praised the synod as a “journey,” and took his own shot at the self-appointed protectors of tradition, those who are tempted to think of themselves not as guardians but as owners of the deposit of faith, “making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them ‘byzantinisms,’ I think, these things…”

At the gathering’s closing mass the following day, Francis declared that “God is not afraid of new things. That is why he is continuously surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.”

Equally Blessed, a coalition of pro-LGBT Catholic groups, released a forward-looking statement on the synod.  “Equally Blessed is inspired by Catholics in the pews who see the face of Jesus in our LGBT loved ones, who celebrate the profound witness of love shown by LGBT people in their relationships, families and parishes. It is these Catholics who are answering Jesus’ call to open the doors of the church,” says the statement, which calls the next twelve months “pivotal ones for LGBT equality in the Catholic Church, as the bishops will continue to engage in prayer dialogue and reflection in preparation for their Ordinary Synod in October, 2015.”

At the Daily Beast, Barbie Latza Nadeau is even more upbeat, saying that had won the battle and that the synod “paved the way for significant changes to come in the lives of gay and divorced Catholics.

Mary Ann Walsh, a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Northeast Community and a correspondent for America magazine, writes that the transparency of the conversation was good for the church.

“Whispered questions about why Aunt Jane never goes to Communion and why Uncle Jack never married have made it into the parlor. The presence in the church community of people who divorced and remarried without an annulment and lesbians and gays found a healthy acknowledgement.”

“The church acknowledges there may be pastoral solutions to long-standing problems. Nothing heals better than fresh air. For many, the pain silently endured by people forced to the fringes has developed individuals beloved in their families for their generosity and kindness and particular sensitivity. Now they just might receive some of the generosity, kindness and sensitivity they’ve offered others for years.”

Bob Shine points to Fr Thomas Reese’s piece in National Catholic Reporter urging people not to miss the forest for the trees:

“The synod was a victory for openness and discussion in the church and the final document is an invitation for everyone in the church to join that discussion. This is exactly what Pope Francis wanted…

“Unlike we journalists, he has not obsessed over the language of the report but has been much more focused on the process. He set the tone at the beginning by encouraging the bishops to speak freely. At the end, in summing up the synod, he showed that he had been listening carefully, and like a good Jesuit discerning the Spirit in the process…The synod was a big win for openness and for Francis.”

Reese also noted that change was evident, like Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama’s clear opposition towards criminalizing homosexuality of which Reese writes, “In Africa, that matters.”

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, who affirmed that doctrine develops and refused to depict same-sex relationships as a black and white issue during the synod, told media: “There have been two steps forward, there may be one step backwards, but certainly not two.”

Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, told media to “watch for a possible ‘revolution’ a year from now,’ according to Australian outlet 9News.

John Allen of Crux looks further out, to the expected apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis after next year’s synod concludes this process, writing:

“At the end of the day, therefore, the only question that really matters is: When this extraordinary two-year process of reflection ends, what will Pope Francis do?”

For more on the synod, watch the bloggingheads conversation between RD’s Sarah Posner and Patti Miller.

Australia: Mixed Signals from Evangelical With Global Following

The Catholic bishops are not the only ones sending mixed messages on homosexuality. At ThinkProgress, Jack Jenkins reported this week on controversy surrounding comments by evangelist Brian Houston of Hillsong.

The leader of an influential global network of evangelical churches is sparking controversy for sending mixed messages on the subject of homosexuality, initially taking a hands-off approach to the matter before quickly backtracking and voicing support for “traditionally held Christian views” on same-sex marriage.

At a press conference last Thursday, Brian Houston, head of the evangelical megachurch Hillsong, was asked by the New York Times about his position on same-sex marriage. Houston, whose congregation is based in Australia but boasts around 100,000 weekly worshipers at campuses in a dozen cities around the world (including New York City and Los Angeles), responded to the question by saying that while he wouldn’t offer a firm position on the matter, he also wouldn’t rule out further conversation, and lamented the negative impact that anti-gay theology has had on LGBT youth.

“The world we live in, whether we like it or not, is changing around and about us,” Houston said, according to the New York Times. “The world’s changing, and we want to stay relevant as a church, so that’s a vexing thing … It’s very easy to reduce what you think about homosexuality to just a public statement, and that would keep a lot of people happy. But we feel at this point, that it is an ongoing conversation, that real issues in people’s lives are too important for us to just reduce it down to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer in a media outlet. So we’re on the journey with it.”

However, Houston quickly changed his tune when several news outlets wrote stories detailing his seemingly ambivalent response. In an interview with the Christian Post on Saturday, he insisted that had not shifted his position on LGBT issues.

“Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage,” he said. “My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

Russia: Putin Ally Launches Orthodox News Network; Activists File Human Rights Complaint

Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev is launching an Orthodox News Network he says is modeled on Fox News. Slate’s Joshua Keating published a profile of Malofeev this week in which the Putin-allied mogul sounds like one of the conservative American religious leaders who denounce LGBT equality as a form of religious tyranny. “This so-called liberalism, tolerance, and freedom, these are just words, but behind them you can see the totalitarianism,” says Malofeev.

Asked for examples of this totalitarianism, he cites legal battles over U.S. businesses not providing flowers or cakes for gay weddings and the use of tear gas against anti-gay-marriage protesters in France. “We saw all of this in the 1920s in the Soviet Union. We know how it starts when the protection of minorities becomes the policy of the state,” he says.

Putin himself has made his devout faith a major component of his public persona: The Russian president has surrounded himself with religious advisers, and has made some comments about the West’s lack of Christian values that aren’t that far off from Malofeev’s arguments. But the Orthodox oligarch dismisses the idea that his very public faith has been good for business, pointing out that he was Orthodox long before it became fashionable among the Russian elite. “I didn’t come to Orthodoxy so I could get connections. Connections came to me because I am Orthodox,” he says.

In other news from Russia, activists filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights over the government’s rejection of their application to hold a marriage equality rally in Moscow, one of dozens of event requests rejected in the name of the country’s anti-gay “propaganda” law.

India: Talk Show Sets Record Straight — Yoga No Cure for Homosexuality

In India, where LGBT people are living with last year’s Supreme Court decision recriminalizing homosexuality, a Sunday night talk show focused on LGBT issues drew nearly 130 million viewers. The show is hosted by actor Aamir Khan, who is a GLAAD “Global Voices” advocate. According to Gay Star News, “The hashtag #FreedomForLGBT became the top trending topic globally on Twitter and 1.7 million missed calls were made to a hotline set up by the show to protest the anti-gay law.”  One commentator praised the show for doing more than preaching to the choir:

Satyamev Jayate devoted an hour upon alternative sexuality on Sunday morning. It was well-researched, sensitively presented, occasionally hilarious — like when Deepak from Ajmer said, “In Ajmer, dates aren’t like what dates are in Mumbai” — and deeply poignant. Satyamev Jayate declares in its advertisements that it has changed the way people think. This episode on queer identity may well live up to those lofty claims and we can only hope that it does, because Satyamev Jayate did something radical: it presented queer identity as something normal. Because news flash: normal is exactly what it is to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or straight.

As psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria put it to Khan, “If I asked you today to not look at women, but consider men sexually, would you be able to do it?” Khan said he wouldn’t. “Then why expect that of a [homosexual] boy or girl?” she asked. Khan also did the nation a favour by clearing another prevalent misconception: yoga cannot change your sexual preferences.

United Kingdom: Conservative Jewish Movement Backs Equal Marriage

Masorti, a conservative British Jewish movement, is allowing its rabbis to perform same-sex marriages, a step already taken by liberal and reform Jewish groups. More from Pink News’ Nick Duffy:

The conservative Masorti movement is considered more progressive than Orthodox Judaism – allowing men and women to sit together, and believing the Torah to be divinely inspired instead of the literal word of God.

Each of the Masorti’s 12 communities in the UK will be able to choose whether to perform same-sex marriages or not themselves – with no obligation for them to do so.

Senior Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, who heads the New North London Synagogue, said: “This is an important step forward. As a movement, we will continue to strive to be inclusive and to honour the dignity of all people, within the framework of Jewish law.”

The Masorti board of trustees said: “After much learning and discussion, the Masorti rabbis have ruled that communities may carry out ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples based on a ‘shutafut’, or partnership, ceremony.

“We recognise that our movement encompasses diverse views on this important subject. Each Masorti community, together with its rabbi, will be free to decide whether to carry out these ceremonies and, if so, whether the relationships sanctified by them should be registered under English law as same-sex marriages or civil partnerships.

Islam: Gay Imam on Engaging the Koran

The German website Qantara, an effort by the German government and the Goethe Institute to promote dialogue with the Islamic world, has published an interview with South African Imam Muhsin Hendricks, in which Hendricks discusses his struggles to reconcile his faith and sexuality and his approach to interpreting the Koran.

Italy: Rome Mayor May Take Marriage to European Court

We have previously reported on efforts by the national government to shut down actions taken by several mayors to register the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally married in other countries. Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino said this week that he might take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.



  •' Jim Reed says:

    There may be some light at the end of the tunnel in this weeks report in the phrase of

    “of the devil.”

    The nation, and the world seems to be splitting on so many different fronts. The devil might be a key to putting it all together and having some understanding of what is going on. One side believes there is a devil, and the other side pretty much rejects belief in the devil. This might be a way to just define and finish the split and then the world can go on. We need two versions of the church, two versions of schools, two versions local governments, two versions of everything depending on whether or not you believe in the devil. This could at least let everyone know how to make their decision, and then we can stop all this bickering and continue with life.

  •' DKeane123 says:

    “Chaput said that the U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this month not to review state appeals against gay marriage was a “tipping point” that confirmed that traditional believers are now a minority in society and on the defensive.” – He is correct

  •' joeyj1220 says:

    it’s always amusing to see traditionalist Catholics who, during the reign of John Paul II & Benedict demand absolute loyalty to the papacy or else be labeled a “Cafeteria Catholic” (as if such a thing were an insult and not a badge of honor which it is), now all of a sudden feel comfortable publicly disagreeing with and dissenting from the views of the pope. Hypocrisy much?

  •' 82jennifer82 says:

    The Church has one enemy that it is still not really facing, and that is indifference with a big I by millions of own members as regards these questions, discussed by an entirely non-diversive body of elderly men without families of their own.. We have 54 million US Catholics. The great majority of women, easily 90 % use birth control. The large Catholic families are a thing of the past. We also have 4.5 million divorced Catholics who have moved on. Most of our young people, Catholic or not have sex before marriage, and a great majority of young Catholics live together with their partners. Most parish priests are very well aware of these issues that affect families in their parish and for at least bringing these discussions out in the open, the Pope deserves credit. However, nothing much will change unless the Church changes in fundamental ways. The Church has to serve the needs of the people , not the other way around…. the Pope at least has raised this issue, a small opening …

  •' Frank6548 says:

    The needs of these people are the repentance of sin.

  •' 82jennifer82 says:

    Traditional as well as non-traditional Catholics are all human beings and we as human beings are all flawed, and a club of elderly men in girly red and white dresses who spent their lives in the bureaucracy of the Church,is especially challenged. Changing the harsh tone of the Church is the easier part and is not reform, but it is a little something….

  •' Andre M says:

    You need to repentant of your arrogance, hypocrisy, and pride, Frank. You shame Christ’s name every time you post on here. How embarrassing for you.

  •' NavyBlues05 says:

    The needs of the people is for the church to renounce its sins. Mainly the overlooking of the abuse inflicted upon the least members of its theocracy…children.
    Not even going to bring up the degree of avarice and filth the church brought to foreign shores across the globe.

  •' George M Melby says:

    You spot on the mark and exactly right! Of course, the extremists (who want “D”ominion and power over others at all times) will vehemently disagree, but their numbers are also dwindling rapidly and the poor dears are feeling, oh, so disenfranchised 🙁 !! They will get over it. As the country becomes more and more diverse and the WASP population become a minority, the ship will right itself and get on an even keel. Pope Francis and other religious leaders are in the process of seeing that this will be successful. Pastor George M Melby

  •' George M Melby says:

    People are “on” to Frank/Hooper/Susie Sotar, the eternal troll, and the many pseudonyms he hides behind. We do pity the poor old lad, but he does bring a laugh to us over our morning coffee and crossword puzzles.

  •' George M Melby says:

    The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese just paid millions ($10 million+) to the 30+ sex abuse cases in the area, not to mention an additional 10% additional fine by the Court for dragging its feet for two years. They don’t seem quite as repentant as a “Christian” church would expect??!

  •' George M Melby says:

    They fail to understand that the Catholic church was BUILT on hypocrisy of the hierarchy! It’s good to see them squirm and itch a little bit in the shorts!

  •' George M Melby says:

    Those who don’t believe in the devil have never met my ex-wife! (Joke…JOKE!)

  •' 82jennifer82 says:

    From my own personal experience in our parish, I believe that even most parish priests on the ground, we have two wonderful ones, do not care much about any of these ” church doctrine issues”, but about how to help their parishioners with their life issues. They come face to face with all sorts of things. One of our priests has a favorite niece, an English teacher who has been living with her boyfriend for years. He tells us jokingly that he reminds his niece gently ever so often whether it would not be nice to get married, and she replies to her uncle that they are fine and to please leave things as they are. None of them investigate who is divorced and who is not and who is doing what. The other priest is best friends with a local female rabbi who often addresses people in our church about common issues, and discourages gossip about the difficulties some people have. This priest only has one sister and his parents have been married for over 50 years… I think the real obstacle as in so many institutions are the bishops and other hierarchy who just don’t get it. They will have to come along- the Pope is showing them the right path….

  •' Jim Reed says:

    This doesn’t seem like a problem. The church can say what it needs to say, and being a large church it can often be on both sides of the issues of the day. The people can still live their lives, use birth control, limit family size as is critical for a world with so many billion people. It seems we have the best of both worlds here, so you should be happy about where things now stand.

  •' 82jennifer82 says:

    Not really… there should not be such a chasm between a great majority of parishioners in the Church or for that matter Catholics in the US and the teachings the Church stresses. I personally and many others ignore the discrepancies or as they call it cherry-pick, but this chasm causes problems for parish priests in many parishes, parishioners and many sincere, more traditional Catholics. Over time, if this chasm doesn’t close, people will” live their lives” as you say, but the Church will lose and we Catholics will lose with it. Reform in major areas is needed as it regards especially the status of women and the issues that my medical doctor agnostic husband calls” the pelvic issues” that the Church is so preoccupied with. So, I am quite unhappy but hopeful….

  •' Jim Dallen says:

    Listen (or read) a little more carefully. Chaput’s remark about confusion referred to media reports regarding the Synod, not the Synod itself.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Hopeful of what? That the gap will close, or that people’s lives will improve? These two might be mutually exclusive, so you might end up having to choose one or the other.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Repentance only applies to individuals, not to the church.

  •' 82jennifer82 says:

    That the gap will close over time- it is an old and stagnant institution…..I have already chosen.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    You could be right. On the evangelical side, the gap can only grow until the believers ultimately fall off the edge. At that point, the Catholic leaders might wake up to the risks and fall back in line behind their people.

  •' 82jennifer82 says:

    Institutions, and all churches are in the end organizations established by fallible humans do sometimes change when faced with real threats. The ones that don’t, face extinction. There is a long list of those as well in business, politics and other spheres….. I remember flying TWA and Pan American regularly for many years, my former mother-in-law was afraid of the Ku-Klux Clan in Florida, and my German grandpa was happy when the Allies landed in Normandy, there was no state of Israel for the persecuted Jews like my grandma…. etc. , etc. the Church is no exception. At least the Pope knows that…..

  •' CitizenWhy says:

    If you want to see a “rigged” conclave look to the First Vatican Council that declared papal infallibility. That “doctrine” was voted down. But the pope simply waited for the opponent bishops to go home and then had it passed by the remaining conservtive bishops. The Protestant United Kingdom favored this new doctrine as helpful to its role as the chief agent for the Congress of Vienna’s (1815) policy of “legitimacy,” that is, the restoration of traditional monarchs (as opposed to Napoleonic monarchs) to head up European states. Submission to absolute authority was a key feature of “legitimacy.” The pope was counted among the”legitimate’ absolute monarchs.

    The UK got the “infallible” pope to order the Catholic bishops of Ireland to preach submission to the “legitimate” authority of Great Briiain, Ireland’s conqueror. In return British troops protected the pope from the revolutionary “mobs” of Rome.

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