Friday, 28 August 2009

'The Best Cardinal Africa Never Had'

(from the National Catholic Reporter)


Guardian of the Light: Archbishop Denis Hurley: Renewing the Church, Opposing Apartheid
By Paddy Kearney
Published by Continuum, $34.95

When I write my novel about Vatican II, one of its main characters will look a lot like Denis Hurley. He will be a bishop -- no, an archbishop. A very tall, very handsome, very well-spoken archbishop from South Africa. But he won't be a cardinal, because he will be the rarest kind of prelate, a man who tells the truth to power, even to the pope.

My imagination got running along these lines when I was racing this week through a new biography of the real Archbishop Hurley, one of my closest friends among the fathers of Vatican II. This magisterial work was written with loving care by Paddy Kearney. For three decades, Kearney headed a social action team in Durban, South Africa, called Diakonia, which Hurley founded.

In 1951, as chairman of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, Hurley drafted the first of a series of pastoral letters denouncing apartheid as "blasphemy" and "intrinsically evil." And then he put himself, body and soul, into a frankly political campaign to walk those ideas around the country. He marched in demonstrations alongside Desmond Tutu and Alan Paton. He encouraged Catholic schools to start admitting nonwhite students. He confronted Koevoet, the state security police, over its atrocities in Namibia, and found himself brought up on charges of sedition. (He beat the charges and won 25,000 rand from the state for malicious prosecution.)

At the age of 16, Hurley had been "very much a white boy," heading off in 1932 from his native Pietermaritzburg to priestly training in Ireland and then for seven years in Rome. There, he was captured by the social encyclicals of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI. "We ate and slept and pondered over Quadragesimo Anno," Hurley recalled, side by side with dusky seminarians from Sri Lanka whom he accepted as equals. He did his graduate thesis on the banks and big mining companies of South Africa, skewering them for their oppression of the poor and working classes.......

Read the full review at the National Catholic Reporter.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Common Journey, Different Paths

Spiritual Direction in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Queer Bible: Beyond family Values

Under the heading, "A Way Back Behind Christian Homophobia", Adam Kotsko writes at the blog "An und fur sich" about a trilogy of books byTed Jennings: Jacob’s Wound: Homoerotic Narrative in the Literature of Ancient Israel, The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives in the New Testament, and the third in the set, Plato or Paul?: The Origins of Western Homophobia:

"The strategy here is clear, aggressive, and absolutely necessary: he absolutely abandons the defensive stance -of “explaining away” the supposedly “obvious” homophobic elements in the Bible that “everyone knows” about and instead presents us with a scriptural account that is deeply homophilic, even to the point of presenting us with a possible male lover for Christ himself."

Setting aside the weapons of hate

Even discounting the possibility that Jesus had a male lover (there are at least two candidates: John, the "apostle Jesus loved", and Lazarus), this is an approach I love. Given the way in which queers have for centuries experienced Scripture as a weapon of hate, it is understandable that after one has overcome a natural antipathy to dealing with Scripture at all, the first enquiry from lesbigay people is to find ways to respond to the infamous clobber texts, to learn to set aside the weapons of hate. This is technically relatively easy - the actual texts are few, out of 30 000 verse in a Bible written against a cultural background where homoeroticism was commonplace, and many scholars have shown how they have either been misinterpreted, or are of limited relevance to modern gay relationships.

More difficult is dealing with the residual emotional baggage: this is where books pointing to positive interpretations of Scripture are so valuable. Again, this should be easy - the fundamental message of the Gospels has nothing to do with hatred against anybody, but stresses love and inclusion for everybody - most especially social outsiders and the otherwise afflicted and oppressed. Still, for people with a homophile orientation, we can go well beyond the simple message of generic inclusion. Writers on Scripture have pointed to specifically queer values in Scripture, while historians have shown that the roots of popular hostility did not lie in Scripture at all: the Church followed popular prejudice, not the other way around.

I do not yet have personal knowledge of Jennings' books (but will explore further). There are other writers though who have covered much the same ground, with whose work I am more familiar.

Setting aside family values

Chris Glaser, in his excellent book, "Coming Out as Sacrament", has a chapter on "Coming out in the Bible", in which he reads several well known Scripture stories, from Adam & Eve in Genesis to Pentecost in Acts, as coming out tales. Among these, he presents the story of Jesus Himself as "Coming out of Family Values". The evidence he produces in support of this argument is that:

  • "his mother Mary was told that Jesus' own coming out would mean "that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed - and a sword shall pass through your own soul too (Luke 2:35)";
  • At twelve years of age, Jesus ignored his family's departure from Jerusalem to sit in the temple, his "Father's house" (Luke 2:49);
  • He left His family and as far as we know, never married and never "begat" children;
  • He called his disciples away from their families (9:59:62), told them he had no home (9:57) ,, and claimed that His gospelk would "set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother." (Mathew 10:35-36);
  • When His family came to see Him, He declared, "Whoever does the will of god is my brother and sister and mother"(Mark 3:35);
  • Members of the new faith community addressed each other as brother and sister;
  • Jesus' own family of choice were three unmarried people - Martha, Mary and Lazarus;
  • In the New Testament, the biological, polygamous, prolifically procreative family of the Old Testament was superseded by the more vital, eternal and extended family of faith, a family to be expanded by evangelism and inclusivity rather than mere procreation;
  • Jesus had a special word of defence for the eunuch, who was an outcast in Israel because his body was mutilated, but more importantly because he could not procreate. "

I don't know about you, but to me, but none of this, neither Old Testament nor New, sounds particularly like the "traditional family values" that the fundies claim to be protecting because they believe them to be at the heart of Christianity.

Urban gay men as role models

Going beyond queer values in the Gospels to queer lives today, the American theologian Kathy Rudy argues that this Scriptural denial of modern "family values" implies that modern urban gay culture is more in tune with the Gospel message than the biological family which Christ's teaching rejected

"The church needs the model of gay sexual sexual communities because Christians have forgaotten how to think about social and sexual life outside the family".

Writing about Rudy's work, Elisabeth Stuart notes that

"The church has forgotten how to be a community, how to be the body of Christ and perhaps gay men have the grave task of teaching it to be a community wider than a family."


How far have we come? Instead of simply sitting back and accepting the knee jerk, unfounded accusations of "Sodomy", we find that there are serious, credible Scripture scholars and theologians who have first, shown that the traditional use of the clobber texts to atack us is at best inappropriate, or possibly totally unfounded; that there are positive role models in Scripture, in both the Old Testmament and the New; that far from encouraging traditional family values, the Gospel message opposes themwith what are quite frankly queer values, and that far from the fundies being in a position to lecture us on how to behave, we should be teaching them a thing or two about the Gospels and how to move beyond an unChristian "Focus on the Family" to a wider "Focus on Community"!

Beyond gender.

Rudy continues, says Stuart, to "construct a sexual ethic which is communal in nature and queer in its politics." Because in recent centuries there has been so much emphasis on first reproduction and then on complementarity as the sole purposes of sex, the result is that "celibacy, singleness and communal life, which have been valued for so long in Christian history, no longer have a place in Christian life."

In a neat inversion of the story of Sodom, "for Rudy the story of Sodom teaches us that what is ultimately pleasing to God about sexuality is the quality of its hospitality. This is not to say that every stranger must be offered sex, but that sex must cultivate an openness and warmth to strangers, it must open our hearts, break down our boundaries, and push us beyond ourselves. Hospitality is procreative, it expands and widens the community. When we open our homes to outsiders, the private space of the home becomes the public space of the Church, and so not only is gender collapsed but so is the dualism between private and public. The cult of domesticity is destroyed and replaced by an ethic which subverts worldy concepts of gender and understands sex in the context of building up the body of Christ."

How far from James Dobson is that?

See also:

The Gospels Queer Values


Althaus-Reid, Marcella: Indecent Theology

Horner, James: Johnathan Loved David

Glaser,Chris: Coming Out as Sacrament

Moore: God's Beauty Parlour

Rudy, Kathy: Sex and the Church

Stuart, Elisabeth: Gay & Lesbian Theologies

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Where to Begin Reading?

With such a wealth of titles available, and the field constatnly expanding, the obvious question is where to begin? To which the obvious reply is, where are you starting from?

The question matters. You need to be clear on whether you want a simple introduction, a general but comprehensive overview for playpeople, or a scholarly tome filled with notes, sources and all the necessary qualifications, ifs and buts. Are you looking for approaches rooted in Scripture, or Church teaching, or both? From a gay male, lesbian, or trans perspective? All these questions, and more, will influence your choice. In my detailed posts for each book, I have attempted to provide answers to these questions. The labels included in each post will help you to find books on a specific topic. With time, I will be building in thematic lists, a search engine, and other means to access exactly what you personally will find helpful - but all these refinements take time, while I am simultaneously trying to expand the number and range of books included. I crave your patience.

In the meantime, I offer some suggestions of what might be the most useful for specific purposes:

Theology /Sexual Ethics: Catholic

"Theology" and "Church Teaching" are here used very broadly. The books listed are not necessarily in accordance with church teaching - some may not be recognised as theology at all by traditional theologians. (The list includes titles from the emerging disciplines of queer theology and indecent theology, as well as more familiar approaches). Nor should listing be taken as recommendation - that depends very much on your own staring point. But all are serious, respected contributions from a Catholic perspective. Follow the links to find out more.

(This is a new site. Some of these titles do not yet have full descriptions, but be assured I am working them. Patience, please.)

Alison, James: Faith Beyond Resentment 2001, 239 pages
Althaus - Reid: The Queer God
Althaus - Reid: Indecent Theology
Althaus - Reid: Sexual Theologian
Cleaver: Know My Name 1995, 161 pages
Comstock & Henking: Que(e)ryig Religion
Davies & Loughlin: Sex These Days
Goss: Jesus Acted Up

Monday, 17 August 2009

What to read next?

Earlier, I discussed some books that might be suitable for the lesbigay Christian who is just beginning the attempt to reconcile faith and sexuality ("Where to begin reading?"). These, generally speaking, may be thought of as the "defensive" books, providing us with the means to answer the standard hostile arguments.

Once these arguments have been dealt with, though, many people will want to explore faith from a more positive, more assertive perspective - for example, exploring Scripture or prayer & spirituality from a gay perspective.

Horner's "Johnathan loved David" is a well-known & widely recommended look at same- sex relationships in the Bible. "Take back the Word" (ed Robert Goss) does not look at specfically gay or lesbian passages in Scripture, but rather looks at other well-known passages and offers interpretations from a queer perspective.

This is precisely what James Alison does. He is a former Dominican priest and lecturer in theology, who is now an independent theologian, writing and lecturing to groups around the world. He does not write only about gay issues, but in a notable set of three books, he writes specifically "theology from a gay (male) perspective" - not gay theology. These books, all much admired and commended, present sound, tightly reasoned theology, but in an informal, non-academic style. These three books, best read in sequence, are "Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay", "On Being Liked", and "Undergoing God."

For those willing to work with a more academic treatment, a book I found immensely useful is Elisabeth Stuart's "Gay & Lesbian Theology: Repetitions with Critical Differences." The value of this book for me was in its concise summary of the development of different approaches to theology from an LGBT perspective, from its early beginnings, through liberation theology, queer theology, indecent theology and beyond. In summarising the key ideas, she also introduces the reader to some of the important thinkers and writers presenting these new strands in theological thinking.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Spirituality & Prayer Booklist

BOISVERT: Out on Holy Ground
GLASER: Come Home
MATTMAN, Urs: Coming In

History Booklist

BOSWELL: Same-sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe
BOISVERT: Sanctity and Male Desire
CARROL, James: Constantine's Sword
KRAMER & D'ANGELO: Women & Christian origins
MACY, GARY: The Hidden History of Women's Ordination
MADIGAN & OSIEK: Ordained Women in the Early Church
PUTERBAUGH, DYNES (eds): The Crucifixion of Hyacinth

Priesthood and Clerical Abuse Booklist.

Boisvert & Goss: Gay Catholic Priests and Clerical Abuse - Breaking the Silence
Cozzens, D: The Changing Face of the Catholic Priesthood.
FRAWLEY–O’DEA: Perversion of Power
RIGERT, Joe: An Irish Tragedy

Trans gendered, bi booklist

ALTHAUS-REID: Indecent Theology
MOLLENKOTT: Omnigender
SERRANO, J: Whipping Girl

Scripture Booklist

BOSWELL: Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality
GOSS & Webb (eds): Take Back The Word

Thursday, 13 August 2009

ALTHAUS-REID: The Sexual Theologian

Essays on God, Sex and Politics
Continuum International 2005

134 pages

"The Sexual Theologian is the first collection of essays on radical sexual theology written by a group of internationally renowned scholars in this area. For the first time Queer theory and theology is articulated around themes from systematic theology such as Incarnation, death, the concept of God, Mariology, together with discussions on sexuality and mysticism. The essays show a "how to do" a radical sexual theology together with original, bold and transgressive thinking which have taken feminist theologies to a new dimension of action and reflection."

ALTHAUS- REID, M: The Queer God

"There are those who go to gay bars and salsa clubs with rosaries in their pockets, and who make camp chapels of their living rooms. Others enter churches with love letters hidden in their bags, because their need for God and their need for love refuse to fit into different compartments. But what goodness and righteousness can prevail if you are in love with someone whom you are ecclesiastically not supposed to love? Where is God in a salsa bar? The Queer God introduces a new theology from the margins of sexual deviance and economic exclusion. Its chapters on bisexual theology, Sadean holiness, gay worship in Brazil and queer sainthood mark the search for a different face of God--the Queer God who challenges the oppressive powers of heterosexual orthodoxy, whiteness, and global capitalism. Inspired by the transgressive spaces of Latin American spirituality, where the experiences of slum children merge with queer interpretations of grace and holiness, The Queer God seeks to liberate God fromthe closet of traditional Christian thought, and to embrace God's part in the lives of gays, lesbians, and the poor. Only a theology that dares to be radical can show us the presence of God in our times. The Queer God creates a concept of holiness that overcomes sexual and colonial prejudices and shows how queer theology is ultimately the search for God's own deliverance. Using liberation theology and queer theory, it exposes the sexual roots that underlie all theology, and takes the search for God to new depths of social and sexual exclusion."

Introduction: Theology in Other contexts: on gay bars and a Queer God.

Part 1.
Queering Theology
1. Kneeling: deviant theologians
2. Queering hermeneutics
3 Queering God in relationships: Trinitarians and God the Orgy
4. Libertine disclosures
5. Permutations
6. The economy of god's exchange rate mechanism

Part 2.
Queer promiscuities
7 Popular anti-theologies of love
8 Demonology: emodying rebellious spirits
9 Queer holiness: post-colonial revelations


ALTHAUS-REID: Indecent Theology

Althaus-Reid, M
Indecent Theology
Theological Perversions in sex, Gender and Politics

"By examining the dialectics of decency and indecency and exploring a theology of sexual stories from the margins, this book brings together for the first time Liberation Theology, Queer Theory, post-Marxism and Postcolonial analysis in an explosive mixture. Indecent Theology is an out of the closet style of doing theology and shows how we can reflect on the Virgin Mary and on Christology from sexual stories taken from fetishism, leather lifestyles and transvestism. It is based on the sexual experiences of the poor, using economic and political analysis while unveiling the sexual ideology of systematic theology."

ALISON: Faith Beyond Resentment

Alison, James

Faith Beyond Resentment fragments catholic and gay

Darton, Longman Todd,

The first in the series, this is valuable for the telling of parts of his own story, as well as reflections on dealing with the appropraite relationship of LGBT Catholics with the institutional church, and with God.


ALISON: On Being Liked

Alison, James.
On Being Liked
Darton Longman Todd

(Catholic, Theology, Gay Male)

For an interview with James Alison about this book see the Christian Century

ALISON: Undergoing God


Undergoing God

From the cover blurb:

“It is not easy to come away from reasding James ALison wtithout a sense of being deeply moved, challenged, and grateful for his glimpse of the truth of things. Undergoing God sets our comfortable worlds on a new axis.”
- Martin Laird

“An original and challenging book which shows the ongoing relevance and dynamism of the Catholic faith for our most profound questions of desire, worship, sexuality and truthfulness.”
-Tina Beattie

Strongly Recommended by QTC;
Listed by Martin Pendergast;

ALISON: Other Titles

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

BOISVERT & GOSS: Gay Catholic Priests and Clerical Sexual Misconduct: breaking the silence

Breaking the Silence

Explores the issue of homoeroticism in Catholic culture and the controversy surrounding clerical sexual misconduct.

This timely and compelling collection critically analyzes the official Roman Catholic hierarchy's attitude toward homosexual clergy. Inspired by Mark Jordan's controversial The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism, the essays-edited by Boisvert (dean of students, Concordia Univ.) and Goss (pastor, MCC Church) and written by leading scholars and religious practitioners-attempt to debunk the myth that gay priests are pedophiles and are responsible for the moral decline of modern Catholic values. In fact, this refreshingly positive assessment of gay American Catholic priests attempts to reverse the present atmosphere of suspicion and redirect the blame at hypocrisy while giving voice to victims. Hard-hitting, articulate, and characterized by a prophet's righteousness, these sound essays are essential reading for both clergy and laity trying to come to terms with the recent sex abuse scandals. A wonderfully enlightened read; recommended for academic and public libraries.-John-Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., Platteville

  1. Celibate Men, Ambivalent Saints, and Games of Desire Donald L. Boisvert
  2. Naming the Mechanisms of Self-Deception: A cAll to Liberation for Gay Roman Catholic Clergy David M. Mellott
  3. Speaking Loud or Shutting Up: The Homosexual -Type Problem Edward J.Ingebretsen
  4. Silencing Sodom Chuck Colbert
  5. Anglican Bodies: The Gift of Heretical Liminality and the Risk of relaxed Vigilance Jay Emerson Johnson
  6. Duplicity Writ Large Mary E. Hunt
  7. Always a Bride, Never a Groom Robert F Goss
  8. Pandora's Gauntlet: Curiosity Enough to Care and Hope Enough to Question Marie Cartier
  9. A Welcome Voice Breaks the Silence in an Exclusively Male Clerical Tradition Lorine M Getz
  10. Where Have all the Young Girls Gone? Mary Ann Tolbert
  11. Breaking the Silence in Public: A Case Study Michael Kelly
  12. Those Troubling Gay Priests Bernard Schlager
  13. Lessons from our Neighbours: An Appreciation and a Query to Mark Jordan Karen Lebacqz
  14. Neither do I: A Meditation on Scapegoating William Glenn
  15. Catholicism and a Crisis of Intimate Relations Edward J. Ingebretsen
  16. After Silence Mark D. Jordan

BOISVERT: Out on Holy Ground

Boisvert, Donald L.
Out on Holy Ground
Meditations on Gay Men's Spirituality
(Pilgrim Press, 2001)

Catholic, Spirituality, Gay Male.

From Google Books:

"Is gay spirituality a genuine type of religious expression, or is it simply another example of identity politics? Since the onset of the AIDS epidemic that has disproportionately struck their community, gay men have published a wide range of materials, from autobiographies to theologies, that ask, What is gay spirituality as a religious expression in North America?

The first book to weave together these various strands into an organized response, "Out On Holy Ground" culls information from diverse sources both within and outside religious institutions. Gay scholar Donald Boisvert presents his findings topically as theology, myths and symbols, rituals, and spiritual culture to paint a compelling portrait of gay spirituality as a serious cultural expression.

"Out On Holy Ground" takes the conversation about gay spirituality to the next level so we can understand spirituality as a pivotal factor in the development of gay identity."

BOSWELL: Same-sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe

Boswell, John
Same Sex unions in Pre-Modern Europe

Harper-Collins, 1994
412 Pages

Christianity, History, Same Sex Unions, Lesbian & Gay

Strongly Recommended by QTC

If "Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality" created an academic revolution in the still unfolding story of LGBT history in the church, this was the book that really threw the cat among the pigeons. With scrupulous academic rigour, Boswell collected strong evidence that not only was 'gay marriage' legal and commonplace in classical civilization, but that the Christian church recognised and blessed some kind of same-sex union in a formal liturgical rite. The reaction has been fierce, with counter-arguments that these rites were not about 'marriage', but simply about 'friendship'. To make sense of the debate, one has to recognise that in classical times the very concept olf 'marriage' as we now understand it, simply did not exist. If the rite Boswell describes was not "gay marriage", nor was any other form of marriage comparable to what we now know as "straight marriage".

However you choose to interpret the institution, it seems that two things are now clear: It is now widely accepted that whatever the precise significance, some form of "same-sex union" existed and was recognised by liturgical blessing within the church; and that academics might disagree with Boswell's interpretation, but can no longer ignore it.

This book should be compulsory reading for anyone with a serious interest in same- gender relationships in church history.

From Google Books:
"Boswell convincingly establishes that, from ancient times to the 18th century, throughout Christian Europe, same-sex union rituals honored a form of ""gay marriage."" Working from church manuscripts, mainly in ancient Greek, that describe the ceremonies, Boswell carefully traces the historical context in which these practices occurred, exploring premodern beliefs about love and marriage, both gay and heterosexual."
-Editorial Review - Kirkus Reviews

"JOHN BOSWELL'S Same-Sex Unions in Pre-modern Europe, .. is both a virtuoso display of learned ingenuity and the same old mixture much as before. Readers familiar with Mr. Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (1980) will find here, if anything, an even more dazzling tableau of linguistic versatility, apparently exhaustive investigation, flashing insight, and relentless inventiveness. ......

Yet as in the earlier book, Mr. Boswell's extraordinary skills and industry are deployed with such tendentiousness, exaggeration, special pleading, and occasional banality that the work deserves, at very best, the distinctive verdict of the Scottish courts: not proven."

- David Wright in National Review, 1994

BOSWELL: Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality

Boswell, John
Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality
Gay People in Western Europe from the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
(University of Chicago Press, 1980)

Christian, History, Theology, Scripture, Lesbian and Gay

Strongly recommended

Absolutely the most important book in any LGBT faith library, this can be thought of as the text that started it all: gay church history, queer theology, scriptural analysis of LGBT sexuality: all trace either their beginning or fundamental early shaping to this book. Highly academic and bristling with footnotes, Greek & Latin quotations, and copious appendices, it is intimidating to a non-academic, but well worth the effort. Even if you do not think of yourself as a scholarly type, read it (then re-read it later.)

BROOTEN: Love Between Women

Brooten, Bernadette
Love Between Women
Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism
Univ of Chicago Press, 1998

412 pages

Christian, Church History, Lesbian

"Love Between Women" examines female homoeroticism and the role of women in the ancient Roman world. Employing an unparalleled range of cultural sources, Brooten finds evidence of marriages between women and establishes that condemnations of female homoerotic practices were based on widespread awareness of love between women.

"An extraordinary accomplishment. . . . A definitive source for all future discussion of homoeroticism and the Bible".--Mary Rose D'Angelo, "Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review"

"[Brooten's] convincing analysis . . . not only profoundly reshapes our understanding of the past, but it should also shape the way in which that past, particularly the early Christian texts with their immense normative weight, will be used for the future".--Anne L. Clark, "Journal of Lesbian Studies"

" "Love Between Women" gives contemporary debates on sexuality a carefully delineated past. It boldly insists upon a different future, one informed by history but not tyrannized by it".--Susan Ackerman, "Lambda Book Report"

"Fascinating, provocative and lucid. . . . Brooten has made a fundamental contribution to women's and gender studies, gay and lesbian studies, and classics".--Elizabeth A. Castelli, "Women's Review of Books"

Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Studies Book, 1997