24 January 2016

Jamie Manson on the National Catholic Reporter

LGBTQ people need justice, not mercy, from Pope Francis

National Catholic Reporter

http://ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/lgbtq-people-need-justice-not-mercy-church Jan. 20, 2016

[Jamie L. Manson is NCR books editor. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics. Her email address is jmanson@ncronline.org.]
It's been nearly two and a half years since Pope Francis uttered his now-legendary "Who am I to judge?" statement while aboard the papal plane.

The pope's latest statement on "homosexual people" came last week in his new, book-length interview with Andrea Tornielli, published under the titleThe Name of God is Mercy.

Since that fateful in-flight press conference, I have been told countless times (often by well-meaning, heterosexual Catholics) that I should find hope and comfort in the pope because he has opened up the doors to mercy for me and my lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer friends.

But mercy, it seems to me, is not the door that LGBTQ people need opened to them. Mercy is an act of love, compassion or service given to those who sin or are afflicted in some way. LGBTQ people, same-sex relationships, and transgender persons are not sins or afflictions.
Some Catholics have tried to convince me that the doors of mercy have a connecting corridor to the doors of justice. "A change in tone can eventually effect a change in teaching," I've heard more than once (usually from folks with a much more privileged place in the church than my out LGBTQ friends and I have).
But Pope Francis' refusal to speak out against draconian anti-homosexuality laws during his recent trip to three African nations, his continued condemnations of same-sex marriage laws, his ongoing glorification of heterosexual marriage ("God's masterwork," as he calls it), and the ceaseless firings of LGBTQ employees of Catholic institutions leave me unconvinced that doors of mercy and justice are somehow adjoined.
When Tornielli asks him about his "Who am I to judge?" statement, the pope reasserts that he "was paraphrasing by heart the Cate­chism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized."
"I am glad that we are talking about 'ho­mosexual people' because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity," the pope continues. "And people should not be defined only by their sexual ten­dencies."
Francis then expresses his hope that "homosexual people" will "come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together. You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it."
Though the words sound pastoral, the pope remains vague about what ought to be confessed, what it means to stay close to the Lord, and what precisely "the way" should be for LGBTQ people.
Given the fact that the pope reasserts the teaching of the catechism, given his previous criticisms of marriage equality and same-sex parenting, and given his ongoing insistence that same-sex relationships are not sacramental, one is left to deduce that he still hopes that LGBTQ people will try to honor traditional church teachings: That is, to refrain from sexual relationships and to not equate our families with the traditional heterosexual model of family.
Ultimately, the pope leaves us to assume that LGBTQ people are in need of some type of mercy and forgiveness that heterosexuals, by their very natures, do not need.
As long as that is the disposition of the pope and the church, we LGBTQ Catholics will always be left to believe that, regardless of our gifts or the quality of love in our lives, in the eyes of the church we will never be equal to our fellow straight Catholics. And as long as that is the case, we will continue to be marginalized by our church.
I do not mean to suggest that the pope's call to increased delicacy and decreased marginalization does not have the potential to ease the burden on some LGBTQ persons, particularly those who are ostracized by their family members or faith communities.
I am suggesting that "showing greater mercy" towards LGBTQ Catholics will not get at the root of what ails our relationship with the church. Why? Because treating us with mercy presupposes that we, by our very natures, are in a state of sin or affliction and are in need of forgiveness.
The truth is, gays and lesbians do not need mercy for falling in love with someone of the same sex. My transgender friends do not need the church's mercy for striving to become the persons they believe God made them to be. LGBTQ couples do not need forgiveness for being in loving relationships. These are not sins. There is nothing to forgive.
If LGBTQ persons need mercy and forgiveness, it is for reasons that are no different from the reasons heterosexuals need mercy, like when we fail to be generous, patient, supportive, respectful, kind, compassionate, or faithful.
The irony here is that if anyone should be asking for mercy, it is the Catholic hierarchy. The institutional church should seek forgiveness from the LGBTQ community for failing to speak out when we are killed, beaten or imprisoned, for taking our jobs and our livelihoods, for denying us access to Jesus' Eucharistic table, for attempting to thwart our movements for equal protection under the law, and for promoting teachings that have estranged us from our faith, our communities, our families and, in some cases, even our own beloved partners.
LGBTQ persons do not need mercy from the church. We need justice. We need an institutional church that has the courage to admit that all people, regardless of sexual orientation, relationship status, or gender identity, have the same potential for goodness, wholeness and a sacramental life. Until that day comes, we will not achieve true dignity and full equality in our church.

Drachma LGBTI meeting on Friday 29 January 2016

18 January 2016


Last Wednesday 13th January, Joseanne Peregin was invited (as a representative of Drachma) to give an address to the College of Parish Priests of the Archdiocese of Malta and Diocese of Gozo about Drachma’s engagement at the periphery of the Church. 

This is what she had to say about her experience ...

'Once a year, around one hundred parish priests spend a three-day residential live-in with the Archbishop of Malta (Mons. Charles J. Scicluna) and the Bishop of Gozo (Mons. Mario Grech). The three-day process is usually based on a particular relevant theme facing the Church in our country at that given time.

This year the theme focused on the Church’s encounter with the people at the periphery and how the Church can show the merciful love of the Father. Some pockets of society tended to take a distance from the Church – like LGBTIQ people and their families. So I was invited to share my own experience as a mother of a gay son, an active member of the Christian Life Community (CLC) Malta, a co-founder of Drachma Parents’ Group and also of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) in light of this developing pastoral space.

When I saw the rest of the programme, which included the people who were divorced and in their second marriage; or families in difficult situations, these were only given ten minute slots.  The fact that I was given such ample quality time of one hour (including time for questions) meant that there was an honest need to address this area of pastoral ministry in greater depth, especially following the legislative improvements that were introduced rapidly in Malta between 2013 and 2015 and the recent Synod on the Family.

When I entered the hall and had a brief chat with the Archbishop – he did not quiz me about what I was about to say or what was in the handouts and leaflets I was placing at the end of the room, for the priests to take with them, for further reflection. He showed full trust in my intentions and abilities and simply took a seat at the front, eager to listen attentively.

The theme of my slot was: What do I expect from the Church?  Of course, having nearly 8 years experience of listening to people’s testimonies coming from this periphery would include some of the improvements I would want to see in the approach taken by some Parish Priests. It would obviously include some key points so that people could be better received, served and made welcome in the parish. It would include initiatives that could be possibly considered or attitudes that needed developing while others being stopped.

The trust and space I was given left me feeling both appreciated and thankful – all those years of sincere dialogue and bridge-building had paid off.  There was an atmosphere of collegiality and equality between me, a lay woman and the scores of priests in the room – all of us wanting to be more authentic in our respective roles, as witnesses of the merciful love of the Father, especially in this year of grace – the Jubilee Year of God’s Mercy.

The questions that followed my input reflected that there was a growing sensitivity in this field of mission and I am pleased to say that the reality of trans persons was one of the main concerns raised. My conversations with several parish priests after the session had finished, confirmed the eagerness to welcome Drachma to make similar presentations to their parishioners and help to strengthen bonds within the family. They found a good collaborator - Drachma.

To conclude, as I left the building and was driving back home content with the outcome and events I had witnessed – Malta felt a minor earthquake of 4.1 – as if God just wanted to say: this encounter was a ground-shaking moment in the life of the local Church that needed to be remembered.  Go and tell what you have witnessed: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk and the sick are healed ….

And so here I am, telling you ….. and shouting it from the rooftops!

Joseanne Peregin
Drachma Parents’ Group

Malta 15/1/16

10 January 2016

Drachma Public Conference - Suicide Prevention and LGBTIQ Wellbeing

Drachma will be organising a Public Conference on Suicide Prevention and LGBTIQ Wellbeing  on Saturday 30 January 2016 at Mount St Joseph Retreat House at Mosta.

The guest speakers are 

Ms Connie Magro, Vice President of EUFAMI, responsible for Family Support at St Jeanne Antide Foundation

Mr Matthew Bartolo, Sex and Relationship Therapist

Dr Nicholas Briffa, Clinical Psychologist and Trainee Sexologist

To register for this conference kindly follow the following link and fill-in your details accordingly:  http://goo.gl/forms/lTCBiE4rGx 

Places are limited and we recommend that you register promptly if interested.


09.00     Registration

09.30    Ms. Connie Magro: 
                What do I understand by mental health and what  
                 are the root causes of mental problems?

10.30     Coffee Break

11.00      Mr. Matthew Bartolo: 
                The LGBTIQ dimension of well-being and suicide 

12.00     Forum: The encounter and accompaniment of 
                 LGBTIQ persons and their families 

                Dr. Nicholas Briffa
                Ms. Joseanne Peregin (Coordinator - Drachma Parents Group)
                Mr. Chris Vella (Coordinator Drachma LGBTI)

13.00     Lunch (optional)