Friday, September 18, 2015

So why is Ron Belgau the only 'openly gay-Catholic' speaker at the World Meeting of Families?

I may have found that out.

Personally, I thought he was an interesting choice, but I also wondered why a spokesperson from Courage Apostolate wasn't chosen.

I believe Ron Belgau is faithful to Catholic teaching, yet the group he is involved with, Spiritual Friendship, though faithful, tends to be less than enthusiastic towards the Courage format of pastoral care for SSA persons.  Is that a problem?  Not necessarily - except the Courage model is solidly Catholic, steeped in authentic Catholic spiritual direction and adherence to Catholic doctrine on sexual ethics.  It is the only such organization recognized by the Church and organized at the request of Catholic hierarchy, guided by superior moral theologians after the example of the late Fr. John Harvey.  Courage is not always supported by Catholic leaders as it ought to be, and therefore remains unknown or misunderstood by many Catholics, which is precisely why I consider it unfortunate Courage is not represented at WMOF.

That said, perhaps there seems to be a grass roots effort to introduce a sort of alternative to Courage with the introduction of Ron Belgau and the Spiritual Friendship Movement.  Is it a conspiracy?  I say that facetiously, of course.  Archbishop Chaput wouldn't permit it, I'm confident of that.  Nevertheless, there seems to be a cooperative connection at work.

What I didn't realize is that Belgau is friends with the man who coordinated the catechetical presentations for WMOF.  Does that pose a conflict of interest?  I'm not sure.  Yet Deacon Russell appears to question the propriety of the connection.  In a reply post to a post by Belgau accusing Russell of  a hermeneutic of suspicion in regard to Spiritual Friendship apologetics, Deacon Russell reveals the connection between Ron Belgau and Chris Roberts, whose job it was to help prepare catechetical materials for the 2015 World Meeting of Families with Pope Francis.

From:  Deacon Jim Russell and the Hermeneutic of Suspicion - a redline response by Deacon Jim Russell:  [From the start, let me say that mine is not a “hermeneutic of suspicion” but a “hermeneutic of St. Paul”—as in “test everything, retain what is good.” ]
Moreover, as I noted in that post, Love Is Our Mission, the preparatory catechesis for the World Meeting of Families, teaches: [Ron, surely you realize that this catechesis is not in the least a magisterial resource? ]
….I have also been invited to speak at the World Meeting of Families. While I don’t think this counts as an endorsement of everything I’ve ever said or written, it suggests that those involved in planning the World Meeting see the “spiritual friendship” I have spoken and written about, drawing on the work of St. Aelred of Rievaulx, as at the very least compatible with the ideas of friendship recommended in Church teaching, and in the preparatory catechism in particular. [Time for a bit of full disclosure here, Ron, regarding what you say above—it’s a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, isn’t it? It’s no mere happy coincidence that you’re speaking at the WMOF and that its catechetical text contains echoes of the thought found at “Spiritual Friendship,” right? After all, you know full well that none other than Chris Roberts was the editor of the WMOF catechesis—the same Chris Roberts who was once listed as a contributor to your blog site and who was one of the presenters alongside you and other “Spiritual Friends” at the “Gay in Christ” conference held last November in Notre Dame?? You are right that these two facts make it clear that those in Philadelphia who planned the presentations and the catechesis do have a clearly intentional bias in favor of the thinking you and Roberts espouse. I’m just not sure that’s a very good thing.]  - Finish reading here.

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope... (1 Peter 3:15)

I'm definitely not trying to be contentious or attempting to stir up more controversy, but the revelation may help explain why Courage International was not chosen to speak.

As I said, I excerpted the comments from a longer post, originally from Belgau, pretty much calling out Deacon Russell.  I must admit I felt a lot of sympathy for Belgau, obviously he gets annoyed with Deacon's challenges - but I value what Deacon Russell has to say when he follows St. Paul's admonition to "test everything, retain what is good."  I'm not sure what I would do without Deacon Russell's challenges.  I'm very sympathetic to the Catholics involved with Spiritual Friends, yet being this such an emotional subject, there is a need for clarity at every step.  Deacon Jim is a great help in that way.

I think any such movement as Spiritual Friends and their representatives ought to welcome challenges to their project - it serves to prove their faith and strengthen their fidelity I think, as well as helps to clarifies their thought.  Deacon Russell's challenges bring about the clarity needed to help discern motivation and purpose, and assure ordinary Catholics everything is orthodox.

"When you come to serve the LORD prepare yourself for trials."  One needs patient endurance to do the will of God - especially in the field of catechetics and apologetics.


  1. Deacon Russell divides his time between obsessively defending lying for Jesus and attacking Catholic disobedient to no precept of holy Church. He is, therefore, a natural alternative Magisterium for a subculture that has proven to have an almost preternatural ability to make the visible-from-space wrong judgment call on almost every issue presented to it for discernment. He has a bright future ahead of him in conservative Catholic media.

    Increasingly, when this subculture tells me for the umpteenth time that it can blow off the teaching of the Church because of its "prudential judgment" my response is "I will take seriously your prudential judgments when you demonstrate an ounce of prudence."

    1. I don't know Deacon Russell but I've come to respect his POV and interest in issues related to marriage and family and sexual ethics. For the first time today a did a search for his credentials and found this summary at Catholic Radio:

      Deacon (Reverend Mister or Rev Mr) Jim Russell has been a deacon for the Archdiocese of St Louis for 12 years. He is a lifelong St. Louis resident, “cradle” Catholic, husband, father of eleven, and grandfather of two. He serves the Archdiocese as Family Life Coordinator for the Office of Laity and Family Life. Prior to his current assignment, Deacon Jim worked in full-time parish ministry for fourteen years. He is an active supporter of Catholic radio and the Catholic blogosphere; his own posts can be found at the “St. Louis Areopagus,” the official blog of the Archdiocese of St. Louis ( Deacon Russell’s theological interests include the sanctity of marriage and the work of Blessed Pope John Paul II, particularly his “Catecheses on Human Love” (Theology of the Body).

      I think he is an ordained minister in good standing with the Archdiocese of St. Louis and deserving of respect.

  2. Ron Belgau is not a problem facing the Church. Nor are Joseph Prever or Eve Tushnet or Mindy Selmys. This guy's bread and butter at Crisis is talking as though they are. There are a million problems facing the Church. Why waste time bayonetting good troops?

    1. I thought about your comment and re-read Ron's post. I esp. liked your pointing out that there is no infidelity to any precept of the Church - and that strikes me as well. It looks as if room for this movement is available in the Church - no matter who invited Belgau to the WMOF.

      I understand there is animosity between Deacon and the group and that's unfortunate. I hope that will be settled. The discussion and challenge still seem appropriate to me at least, to clarify teaching and spirituality and so on.

      I've said before I believe all the people you mention are faithful Catholics, and the more I familiarize myself with their writings the more they impress me as being very 'Franciscan' - as in pope - in how they strive to accompany those who struggle with these issues related to identity an a place in the Church.

      I said in an earlier post that I'm no longer scared of the movement.

      I have to learn not to comment on these discussions and allow people to work out their salvation according to the grace available.

      Take care Mark - you are a very charitable, compassionate guy.

      God bless you!

  3. Deacon Jim is like the priest who asks seven-year-old boys sexual questions in confession. Those questions say everything about the priest and nothing about the boys.

    1. Sorry Frank - I have to disagree with you. I don't think he's like that at all. He's the Family Life Coordinator for the Office of Laity and Family Life in St. Louis - hence is interest and responsibility to vet these groups and ideas. His concern is rooted in a correct Catholic anthropology - as he explained to me:

      "The consequences of a correct anthropology are numerous even when they're not directly spelled out by the magisterium.... SF folks are endangering souls with what the magisterium *has* referred to as an "overly benign" understanding of the "condition" of homosexuality itself."

      There is nothing wrong with him challenging SF spokespersons - especially when their project is offered as catechesis - for general consumption.

      There are clear problems with suggesting that gay is a gift from God, that gay is a gift to the Church, that gay people will renew the Church. Associates on the protestant side of SF's believe that stuff. That goes back to the late 19th century thought that gay people would obtain peace in the world. See my post on Forester's novel 'Maurice'.

      Deacon Russell is a good guy.


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