Posted in category "Sacred Scripture"
I read in my local diocesan paper that the Rev. John F. Harvey, the founder of Courage, died on December 27, 2010. He was 92. An Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 73 years, Father Harvey started Courage, a spiritual support group for homosexual men and women, in 1980 at the request of Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York and served as its national director until his death.
I did not have any contact with Courage myself, so I can’t comment on them from a point of experience. I did meet one or two ex-Courage members at Dignity/New York meetings in the early 1980s. Like Dignity, Courage was 98% men. From talking to them briefly it seemed they tried to abstain from gay sex, but the continual messages they received that homosexuals are immoral and sick drove them away.
The Archdiocese of New York, under Terence Cardinal Cooke, issued “The Rights of Homosexuals vs. Parental Rights” on January 11, 1978. The gist of this document is…”Catholics maintain unequivocally that homosexual activity is immoral and patterns of life that encourage homosexuality are gravely wrong. Without encouraging unkindness towards homosexuals, the Catholic moral position strongly reinforces parents’ and their surrogates’ determination to keep all children in their formative years free of any persons or influences that could draw them into homosexual practice.”
The sentiments behind that statement are the reason Courage has failed to attract most homosexual Catholics: be ashamed of who you are. Your longing and desire is dirty, immoral, disgusting. Hide it, or risk being expelled from the community. Stay in the closet.
Dignity in comparison was like a rush of fresh air: God made you who you are, and loves you as you are. Little wonder gay and lesbian Catholics flocked to Dignity instead.
About two years ago, I received an email from a woman member of the Courage group meeting at St. John the Baptist Church on West 31st Street in New York. She encouraged me to give up my lifestyle and come to the group’s meetings. I can’t recall if I replied or not, but after another note or two she gave up trying to recruit me.
The experience recalled an admonishment my mother gave to me as a little girl: “People who feel bad about something they’ve done want other people to do the same thing so they don’t feel alone and feel better about it.” Although that bit of wisdom was intended to deter me from mischief, it came to mind reading the insistent note from the lady Courage member.
Timothy Kincaid of the gay blog Box Turtle Bulletin posited that Fr. Harvey may have contributed to the Catholic Church’s inching towards tolerance of lesbians and gays by making the distinction between “inclination” and “behavior.” However, he focused his life’s work on counseling homosexuals to make tremendous personal sacrifices in order to maintain the church’s unmoving rejection of homosexuality. Questioning the church’s stance never came into play.
On a page dedicated to remembrances of Fr. Harvey, men and women who claim to “suffer” from same-sex attraction post their thanks. Here’s one woman’s plea: “I love you and miss you so much though I never met you. You are one of my heroes. Please intercede for all of those struggling with same sex attraction especially: J, J, T, L, S, H, S, S, E and M. Please intercede also for our country and all the countries of the world that they will see institutionalizing this behavior through the acceptance of same-sex marriages hurts the individuals involved, children, the family, the society, nations and the world. Help us understand and live and love chastity and purity.”
Timothy Kincaid said – “I have a certain amount of sympathy for those individuals who decide that their religious convictions preclude them from engaging in any form of sexuality that is not within the confines of heterosexual marriage. Each of us must be allowed the space to determine for ourselves what gives us meaning and happiness, and some may choose to prioritize their spirituality over their sexuality…So I am not opposed to ex-gay individuals or groups per se, provided they do not insist that others live according to their values, advocate for discrimination, or propagate lies.”
I agree with Mr. Kincaid. Well said.
I have personal respect for Catholic lesbians and gays who have made the decision to live chastely, but at the same time are out to themselves and others as a gay person.
One such person is Eve Tushnet; fervently Catholic, proudly gay and happily celibate. She does not see herself as disordered; she does not struggle to be straight, but she insists that her religion forbids her a sex life. “The sacrifices you want to make aren’t always the only sacrifices God wants,” Ms. Tushnet wrote in a 2007 essay for Commonweal. While gay sex should not be criminalized, she said, gay men and lesbians should abstain. They might instead have passionate friendships, or sublimate their urges into other pursuits. “It turns out I happen to be very good at sublimating,” she says, while acknowledging that it is a lot to ask from others.
Similar to Eve Tushnet, I am fervently Catholic, proudly gay and happily married..to a wonderful woman. I stopped struggling to be straight many years ago when I came out. And I believe, with my whole heart, God made me who I am. I was not created to suffer through involuntary chastity. Nor was I made to label and think of myself as “disordered.”
I take inspiration from Acts, Chapter 10, where Peter had a vision of the animals being lowered from the sky:
“The next day, while they were on their way and nearing the city, Peter went up to the roof terrace to pray at about noontime. He was hungry and wished to eat, and while they were making preparations he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.” But Peter said, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean. The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”
Peter’s vision is the pivotal moment in the Acts of the Apostles: he is to be prepared to admit Gentiles, who were considered unclean like the animals of his vision, into the Christian community. Just as the Jewish Christians received the gift of the Spirit, so too do the Gentiles. “You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean.”
If Peter could change, why not the Pope?
I love dinosaurs. I love the Bible. Now, I can have them together at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Their motto is: “Prepare to Believe.”
The museum was developed by the Christian evangelical group, Answers in Genesis Ministry. The organization was founded by the Australian-born Reverend Ken Ham. He arrived in the U.S. in 1987.
The state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life. Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden’s rivers.
The scenes remind me a lot of “The Flintstones,” a cartoon series I used to love to watch when I was growing up. Fred and Wilma Flintstone had a pet dinosaur named “Dino,” who barks and generally acts like a dog. A running gag involves Dino knocking down Fred out of excitement and licking him repeatedly.
If you were a kid during the 1960s and 70s, then you probably not only know the melody to the Flintstones song, but all the words as well.
Flintstones… Meet the Flintstones,
They’re a modern stoneage family.
From the town of Bedrock,
They’re a page right out of history.
Let’s ride with the family down the street.
Thru the courtesy of Fred’s two feet.
When you’re with the Flintstones,
have a yabba dabba doo time,
a dabba doo time,
we’ll have a gay old time.”
The museum, which is said to have cost $27 million, is privately funded through donations. The one-millionth visitor was announced on April 26, 2010, just over a month away from the museum’s three-year anniversary.
At Creation Museum, Earth and the universe are just over 6,000 years old, created in six days by God. The museum preaches “Same facts, different conclusions” and is unequivocal in viewing paleontological and geological data in light of a literal reading of the Bible.
In the creationist interpretation, the layers were laid down in one event — the worldwide flood when God wiped the land clean except for the creatures on Noah’s ark — and these dinosaurs died in 2348 B.C., the year of the flood.
“I like the fact the dinosaurs were in the ark,” Ham said. About 50 kinds of dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, the museum explains, but later went extinct for unknown reasons.
According to Ham, almost every ill of modern society can be traced to the widespread acceptance of evolution. In response, he started his Answers in Genesis (AIG) Ministry in 1994. Soon after coming to Kentucky, he was promoting his plans to build a “creation museum” with numerous dinosaur models. Reverend Ham rechristened dinosaurs as “Missionary Lizards” and claimed to have recruited them to fight the demons of evolution and historical geology.
“For a person to make the claim that humans and dinosaurs did not coexist, they would have to be able to see all history at exactly the same time, which would make that person omniscient and omnipresent, qualities of God. So, when someone says emphatically that humans and dinosaurs did not exist together in the past, that person is claiming to be a god, while calling God Himself a liar, or, at best, deceptive.”
Many of the displays were designed by Patrick Marsh, who had formerly worked for Universal Studios designing attractions such as Jaws and King Kong before becoming a born-again Christian and young Earth creationist.
Among its exhibits, the museum features life-size dinosaur models, over 80 of them animatronic (animated and motion-sensitive). Model dinosaurs are depicted in the Garden of Eden, many of them side-by-side with human figures. In one exhibit, a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus are shown aboard a scale model of Noah’s ark.
Some of the exhibits show modern times and espouse the view that families and society are hurt by a world view which is not Biblically based. In one video, a male teenager is shown sitting at a computer looking at internet pornography and a female teenager speaks with Planned Parenthood about having an abortion.
John Haught, a research professor at Georgetown University who is an expert on science and religion, said it’s “not terribly surprising” that a museum would be created to support creationists’ arguments about the origins of life.
“It’s important for them to deny evolution because…if evolution happened, then there was no original perfection,” said Haught, a Roman Catholic who believes in evolution. “It’s absolutely essential for them that there be some fall. Otherwise the whole significance of Christianity gets lost.”
For his part, Haught doesn’t see much merit in the museum and expects it will cause an “impoverishment” of both theology and religion. “It’s hard for me to come up with a single reason why we should be doing this,” said Haught. “It’s theologically problematic for me, as well as scientifically problematic.”
Next up for Answers in Genesis – “Ark Encounters,” a $150 million Noah’s ark theme park. Among other attractions the park will feature a 500-foot wooden ark complete with live animals. The developers are Christian conservatives who want state government to help subsidize the ark park with as much as $37.5 million in tourism development incentives.
So far, Ark Encounters has the blessing of Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, who said he was elected to help create jobs, not debate religious beliefs. Some other residents, who don’t subscribe to the bumper sticker theology of “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” disagree, so the minute the tax subsidies are requested the court battle is expected to begin.
See Creation Museum here.
See Ark Encounter here. I hope no one looking for Ark Encounter accidentally types Ark Encounters.
One of the most fascinating, but least mentioned stories in the Bible is about King Saul and the Witch of Endor. The spectre of the prophet Samuel rising from the ground to confront the king has to be one of the creepiest, horrifying scenes in any literature–Bible or pulp fiction.
The Canaanite Witch of Endor appears in the First Book of Samuel, chapter 28:4-25. She was an oracle, a woman “who possesses a talisman” though which she called up the ghost of the recently deceased prophet Samuel at the demand of King Saul of Israel.
After Samuel’s death in Ramah, Saul had driven all the necromancers from Israel. Then, in a bitter irony, Saul sought out the witch, anonymously and in disguise, only after he had received no answer from God from dreams, prophets or the Urim and Thummim as to his best course of action against the assembled forces of the Philistines. Samuel’s ghost offered no advice, but predicted Saul’s downfall as king.
The Witch of Endor had a string of ancestors that stretched back over 10,000 years before her fateful seance.
Israeli archaeologist, Dr. Leore Grosman, and her team from Hebrew University discovered the remains of a 12,000 year old witch in a tomb in northern Israel. The woman lived at the time of the prehistoric Natufian culture, an ancient community that lived in the region 10,000 years before Jesus.
The witch was around 45 years old when she died. She was petite, and had an asymmetrical appearance due to a spinal condition or injury that would have affected her gait, causing her to limp or drag her foot.
The tomb, located at Hilazon Tachtit in western Galilee, contained a vast number of grave offerings. Among them were 50 complete tortoise shells, the pelvis of a leopard, the wing tip of a golden eagle, the tail of a dow, two marten skulls, the forearm of a wild boar and a human foot.
It would be interesting to study how women’s abilities for diviniation and spiritual intercession went from high respect in the Natufian society to persecution by King Saul and clerics in medieval Christianity.
Was it the evolution to a male God figure calculated? Did male saints and male religious authorities co-opt religious intercession and power roles to reside only in their own gender?
The Synod of Bishops on The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church ran October 5-26, 2008 in Rome.
The final 55 propositions submitted to Pope Benedict XVI represent a victory for what might be called the “moderate” line. The Synod’s conclusions are merely advisory, and it will be up to Pope Benedict XVI to decide on what action, if any, to take. But the propositions illustrate the thinking of a representative cross-section of bishops from around the world.
This Synod is likely to be remembered for its efforts to reach out to women.
For the first time, women were a majority among the official “observers,” occupying 19 of 37 spots. Six female scholars were nominated as experts. More women participated in this synod than in any edition since the body first met in 1967.
In the end, concern for women came through most clearly in Proposition 17, devoted to “Ministry of the Word and Women.”
Under existing church law, the ministry of lector is technically open only to males. In part, that’s for historical reasons; before 1972, the office of lector was considered one of the “minor orders” leading to priestly ordination.
Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) it’s become common practice for women to read at Mass, including during papal liturgies in Rome, but this is officially considered only a “temporary” measure.
The bishops recommended it be made permanent.
“It is hoped that ministry of lector can be opened also to women, so that their role as announcers of the Word may be recognized in the Christian community.”
The proposition on the lectionary did not directly address complaints from some quarters that the current selection omits stories about women, but it called for attention to the “exclusion of certain important passages.”
The notion on my daily to-do list reads: “D.O. 5:30.” That means, Divine Office, 5:30 p.m.
Most days I say the Divine Office at 5:30. I chose this as my regular time to adhere to every day.
If I’m working at home, I shut down the computer and say the evening office (Vespers) sitting in the living room. If I spent the day in the office in New York, I read the Divine Office on the train on the way home. I have to say I haven’t gotten any weird looks, if anything, mild interest, but I am not concentrating on the reactions of people around me, but savoring each line I read.
The origin of the Divine Office goes back to the time of St. Peter, when religious Jews prayed at fixed times every day. “Seven times a day I have given praise to thee, for the judgements of thy justice.” Psalm 119:164.
The seven offices were orginally established by St. Benedict for his monks. Benedict was born in about 480 A.D. His Rule for Monasteries can to be the one which was most widely kept throughout Christendom for several centuries after his death in 547.
Like many people who pray–or try to pray–the Liturgy of the Hours, I get a little lost without a bunch of patient monks or nuns nearby to follow or learn from. I don’t get discouraged, I just do my best.
I have considered visisting the St. Thomas More House of Prayer to learn from people whose mission it is to promote the Liturgy of the Hours. I think it would also be wonderful to pray the Office with other people, and hope to do this at some point in the coming year.
Both on retreat and vacation in Tucson, Arizona I participated in the Vespers service at the monastery of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. It was always the highlight of my stay.
I know this way of prayer is for me. It calms me down, and helps me to be kinder to myself and to others. I don’t understand many things, and certainly don’t approve of all the sexist language, but as Benedict instructs, “Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.” I try.
But, I still need help, because I can’t pick up the sequence correctly. I have tried various online sources, but they didn’t work for me.
This morning, though, I may have found the guide I need: The Divine Office for Dodos (Devout, Obedient Disciples of Our Savior): A Step-by-Step Guide to Praying the Liturgy of the Hours by Madeline Pecora Nugent.
A good background to the Divine Office can be found here.
Read about The Divine Office for Dodos here.
Mainline christian denominations–Catholics and Protestants alike–are bitterly divided over the question of homosexuality. But what does the New Testament really say about this controversial issue? Most people assume the New Testament expresses strong opposition to homosexuality.
William O. Walker, Jr., a member of the Catholic Biblical Association of America, and professor emeritus of religion at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, developed six propositions that, considered together, lead to the conclusion the New Testament does not provide any direct guidance for understanding and making judgements about homosexuality in the modern world.
Proposition 1: Strictly speaking, the New Testament says nothing at all about homosexuality. The paucity of references to homosexuality in the New Testament suggests that it was not a matter of major concern either for Jesus or for the early Christian movement.
Proposition 2: At most, there are only three passages in the entire New Testament that refer to what we today would call homosexual activity.
Proposition 3: Two of the three passages that possibly refer to homosexuality are simply more-or-less miscellaneous cataloges of behaviors that are regarded as unacceptable, with no particular emphasis placed on any individual item in the list.
Proposition 4: It may well be that the two lists of unacceptable behaviors – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11 do not refer to homosexuality at all.
Proposition 5: Even if 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11 do refer to homosexuality, what they likely have in mind is not homosexuality per se but rather one particular form of homosexuality that was regarded as especially exploitive and degrading.
Proposition 6: The one passage in the New Testament that almost certainly does refer to homosexuality is based on some highly debatable presuppositions about its nature and causes.
The Catholic group, Informed Conscience, also presents homosexuality and the New Testament in depth.
A 3′ tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus has ramifications for Christianity–mostly positive–but with plenty of room left for debate.
It speaks of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days. Jesus’ predictions of a suffering messiah, one who would bring salvation to the people of Israel, were not new. They were circulating years before his ministry, and can be found in the Book of Isaiah.
Ada Yardeni, who analyzed the stone together with Binyamin Elitzur, is an expert on Hebrew script, especially of the era of King Herod, who died in 4 B.C. The two of them published a long analysis of the stone tablet, dubbed “Gabriel’s Revelation,” more than a year ago in Cathedra, a Hebrew-language quarterly devoted to the history and the archaeology of Israel. Yardeni and Elitzur said that based on the shape of the script and the language, the text dated from the late first century B.C.
Israel Knohl, a professor of Bible Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, posited in a book published in 2000 the idea of a suffering messiah before Jesus, using a variety of rabbinic and early apocalypic literature as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In Knohl’s interpretation, the specific messianic figure embodied on the stone was a man named Simon who was slain by a commander in the Herodian army, according to first-century historian Josephus. The slaying of Simon, or any suffering messiah, is seen as a necessary step toward national salvation.
Knohl focuses on line 80, which begins clearly with the words “L’shloshet yamin,” meaning “in three days.” The next word of the line was deemed illegible by Ms. Yardeni and Mr. Elitzur, but Mr. Knohl, who is an expert on the language of the Bible and Talmud, says the word is “hayeh,” or “live” in the imperative.
It was less important, Mr. Knohl said, whether a man named Simon was the messiah of the stone than the fact it strongly suggested that a savior who died and rose after three days was an established concept at the time of Jesus.
“His mission is that he has to be put to death by the Romans to suffer so his blood will be the sign for redemption to come,” Mr. Knohl said. “This is the sign of the son of Joseph. This is the conscious view of Jesus himself. This gives the Last Supper an absolutely different meaning. To shed blood is not for the sins of the people but to bring redemption to Israel.”
“As a director, my goal is to be completely open. Just look at how I portray sex in my films. They’re considered shocking and obscene because I like to carefully examine human sexuality. It has to be realistic.”
Paul Verhoeven’s biography of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth: A Realistic Portrait, will be published next month by J. M. Meulenhoff, an Amsterdam publishing house. It will be translated into English in 2009.
Verhoeven, 69, is best known as the director of a number of blockbuster films, including Basic Instinct, Robo Cop, and Total Recall.
Over the years, Vehoeven, who is Catholic and holds a doctorate in mathematics and physics from the University of Leiden, was a regular attendee of the Jesus Seminar, which was co-founded by the late religious scholar Robert W. Funk. The Jesus Seminar is a group of scholars and authors that seeks to establish historical facts about Jesus, and examines miracles and statements attributed to him.
Verhoeven’s new book makes the suggestion that Jesus may have been the son of Mary and a Roman soldier who raped her during a Jewish uprising against Roman rule in 4 B.C. The book also makes the claim that Judas Iscariot was not responsible for Jesus’ betrayal.
William Porter, a professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton, in Ohio, said the Jesus Seminar was known for making provacative claims, but “they are real scholars–you have to deal with them.”
However, he said Verhoeven’s ideas sounded “pretty out there.”
John Dominic Crossan, a Jesus Seminar founder, agreed. He said that while Verhoeven was a member in good standing, there was little evidence for the view Jesus was illegitimate.
Crossan said the claim was first reported in a polemic written in the 2nd century against the Book of Matthew, intended for a Jewish audience.
“It’s an obvious first retort to claims that Mary was a virgin,” Crossan said. “If you wanted to do a hatchet job on Jesus’ reputation, this would be the way.”
U.S. bishops have rejected a new translation of Mass prayers, a rare instance of U.S. preclates denying a Vatican-ordered liturgical change.
Sister Mary Walsh, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, could not recall another instance in which a majority of the USCCB rejected a full document of Vatican translations.
The measure did not pass at the bishops’ meeting in June, and mail-in ballots won’t add up to the 166 needed to pass the new translation. A two-thirds majority of the USCCB’s Latin rite bishops is required for approval.
The vote was a shock. Most observers expected approval to be a formality, in part because four other English-speaking bishops’ conferences have already accepted it.
Known as the “Proper of the Seasons,” the prayers are said on Sundays, Holy Days and during liturgical seasons such as Lent, and change from day to day. Examples include the opening prayer, prayers said over the bread and wine, and prayer after Communion.
The late Pope John Paul II ordered the new translations to increase fidelity to the original Latin. Some Vatican liturgists said the church moved too quickly–and sloppily—in translating the Mass into local languages after the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s.
The vote over the Proper of the Seasons provided the most drama of the bishops’ three-day session, thanks to a speech by Bishop Victor Galeone of Saint Augustine, Florida. Bishop Galeone is a former Latin teacher.
In his speech, Bishop Galeone argued the new translation is “too slavish” with respect to the Latin original, with the result the prayers are too awkward, too remote from normal English speech, to be proclaimed effectively.
In effect, Galeone suggested the translation amounts to a departure from the post-Vatican II vision of worship in the vernacular languages of the community.
Among other things, Galeone cited the textâ€™s use of the phrase â€œthe gibbet of the Cross.â€ â€œThe last time I heard that word was back in 1949, during Stations of the Cross in Lent,â€ Galeone said.
His speech motivated a number of other bishops to come forward to express their own reservations about the translation. “It’s a linguistic swamp,” one bishop added.
The rejected translation will come up again, with amendments, at the USCCB’s next meeting in November.
If parishes return to phrases like “the gibbet of the Cross,” they are going to have to dedicate a portion of the Missal to explanatory footnotes. The priest will also need to articulate very clearly and not mumble, so people don’t think he’s talking about “giblet” gravy and get really confused.
When the album, Chant: Music for Paradise was released in Europe in May, it shot to #7 in the British pop charts, outselling releases from Amy Winehouse and Madonna.
Maybe Pope Benedict is on to something, trying to rekindle interest in Catholicism by reestablishing some of the old traditions and cultural touchstones. If the popularity of Gregorian chant cuts across all ideological lines, and brings old and young together in a secular society, perhaps the Pope would do well to remember one thing: restore the beauty without the baggage. The beauty brings people in; the authoritarianism turns people off.
Gregorian chant has made pop celebrities of the monks of Heiligenkreuz, Austria. While not all of the monks are thrilled at the idea of sacred music being repackaged for a secular society, most seem to believe the music has the great potential to stir feelings of faith in a society that has drifted far from religion.
In 1994 the Benedictines of Santo Domingo de Solis in Spain prompted the last big revival of Gregorian chant with an album, Chant, that became a phenomenon. Within a year of its release, it had sold over 5 million copies, many of them to young people between 16-25.
For now, the monks of Heiligenkreuz seem sanguine they can balance their celebrity with monastic life. “If the problem becomes too big,” the abbott said, “I’ll take a plane down to Santo Domingo de Silos and ask the abbott there for advice.”