Monday, August 10, 2015

The Conference In Detroit: Welcoming and Accompanying Our Brothers and Sisters with Same-Sex Attraction...

Things to know and share:  This week, August 10 to 12.

It should be interesting.
Welcoming and Accompanying Our Brothers and Sisters with Same-Sex Attraction
An international conference designed to help answer the questions posed in the Lineamenta for the 2015 Synod on the Family:
“The pastoral care of persons with homosexual tendencies poses new challenges today, due to the manner in which their rights are proposed in society. How can the Christian community give pastoral attention to families with persons with homosexual tendencies? What are the responses that, in light of cultural sensitivities, are considered to be most appropriate?”
Designed for bishops, priests, religious, school superintendents, diocesan personnel who minister to those with same-sex attraction and for all those who want to be welcoming and to accompany those who have SSA. - More details: Courage site.

Queer people will be there too.

Queer people generally agree that there is no single normative vision for the lgbt community.

Interestingly, Eve Tushnet and Joe Prever will be speaking.  These speakers are normally associated with the Spiritual Friendship group, thus it strikes me this conference may be more open than the usual conferences on the pastoral care of persons with homosexual attraction.

I read an interview with Dr. Janet Smith, which was very good and safely academic - the 'professionals' are helpful to those in pastoral care, but I always wonder about how narrow and rigid pastoral care can become when anyone attempts to write a handbook or 'book of blessings' on the subject.  Therefore I'm happy Fr. Check is involved - he actually 'smells like his sheep', and I'm happy real people such as Prever, Tushnet, Mattson and Darrow are joining in as well.

I wish they'd do something about the SSA terminology.  People with SSA?  Did they come down with it?  Are they SSA?  Like I always say - isn't everyone?  Suffering from SSA?  Just say gay.  Bishop Barron does.  Pope Francis does.  I think the vernacular is permitted in liturgical circumstances ... why not step out of your academic paradigm Dr.?

This just in:  Archbishop Vigneron softens his tone.

I don't know what that means exactly.  I suspect he's simply trying to be more nuanced, a little more pastoral, without sacrificing doctrine. (In 2013 Vigneron stated that those who support gay marriage should refrain from Communion.)  This past weekend the Archbishop responded to questions suggesting a softer interpretation of his earlier directive:

“When Catholics have a question about the reception of Holy Communion and their relationship with a family member or loved one with a same-sex attraction, that is a situation in which a person should see his or her pastor. It involves both the teaching of the Church, which Catholics hold as indispensable in guiding their relationship with Christ, and the obligation we have to love and support our family members.
The Church and her pastors are there to help harmonize these priorities — of being faithful to and open about the truth, and of being loving and compassionate to fellow Catholics in their personal and family lives. Given the variety of circumstances which go into a person’s particular situation, the best way forward for one person may not be best for another.
In every situation the best solution is the one that assists Catholics to express their love for a family member in accordance with the conviction they solemnly affirm in receiving Holy Communion, that is, their commitment to think and act in communion with Christ and his Church. Whenever it comes to Communion, the objective is never to steer a person away. Rather it is to steer them toward Communion with Jesus and toward the Good News about God’s love and God’s will for humanity. That is the work of the Church.” - Detroit Free Press

The Dialogue.

The conference is just that - an opening to dialogue.  It will influence policy and pastoral care - no doubt.  It doesn't change doctrine or cancel out any document ever issued by the CDF, nor does it change what the Catechism states.

That said - there will most likely be a softening of language and practice as a result.

It kind of amazes me how rapidly things have changed - or how pastoral care has so quickly adopted "such a dramatic shift in tone."  I suspect this trend will effect terminology used by the Church, such as is used in the CDF documents and the catechism.  I find no problem with the language as it is.  Although, I think the insistence on the term SSA as a condition one suffers from is a bit schizoid.  Gay is common usage.  To quote Ron Belgau:
If I say, “I’m gay and celibate” in a writing aimed at engaging gay people with the claims of the Gospel, I’m not elevating my sexual orientation to the most fundamental aspect of my personality. I am using the same language that the Pope uses when he talks about reaching out to gay people, and using it for the same motive that he uses it: to engage with them, starting from their situation. - First Things
It's unfortunate Belgau wasn't invited to speak at this week's conference - he has done a lot of work in this area.

Another book.

Living the Truth in Love - Fr. Check and Janet Smith, Ignatius Press, it's a sort of foreword chapter or companion book to the Detroit conference - featuring some of the same presenters and their experiences.  I haven't read the book in its entirety but what I have read is very good - which means this week's conference will be very good as well.  (I think another book will be released after the conference.)

The variety of experience in gay people, as well as the idiosyncratic aspect of personal conversion experience, should immediately be recognized when discussing SSA-persons-gay-the homosexually-inclined/attracted-lgbtq what have you.  One size doesn't fit all - I have certainly learned that over my time writing this blog.  That's the danger which comes from any attempt to create a pastoral handbook or treatment.  Likewise, the conference is hosting familiar names and faces to give their testimony regarding their journey.  Nothing wrong with that, except the stories may be just that - too familiar.  It would be cool if they signed up someone like Joe Sciambra - he could present an entirely different, non-little-Mary-Sunshine POV of gay life and conversion which normally doesn't fit the more sanitized image we're all being fed today.

P.S.  Courage.

Courage is a great apostolate.  It is the best Catholic organization to help people live a devout life, offering support and encouragement to live a chaste celibate life.  Some people may not be suited to the group.  Much in the same way some persons aren't suited to AA or other recovery groups.  That's fine, but as I always say - the literature and 'way of life' Courage offers is very rich, and nurturing spiritually.  That said, the Church, the sacramental life, prayer and devotion are the ordinary means of conversion and sanctification.  Therapy, self-help books and groups are helpful - and should be used when needed or desired.  Self-knowledge is essential at every stage of life in the spirit ...

I say that, because if you don't fit in - be patient, pray, frequent the sacraments and have confidence in the mercy of God.  Keep trying.  Keep praying.

End of post.

. . .

H/T Diane for the Vigneron interview.

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