According to the Spring 2015 Newsletter “Intercom,” from the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati – the centering prayer group at the predominantly “gay’ Catholic Parish of Most Holy Redeemer (MHR) located in the Castro District of San Francisco is headed by Sister Cathy Cahur.
The same Newsletter mentions that Cahur once took a sabbatical at the California-based Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now Sofia University.) A well-known graduate of the Institute is Verling Chako Priest, a New Age “telepathic channel for the masters.” An example of recent lecture offerings at Sofia University includes Advanced Spiritual Intimacy: The Yoga of Deep Tantric Sensuality. It was during her stay at the Institute that a colleague remarked to Cahur: “Cathy. How can you belong to such an exclusive Church that prohibits basic rights to gay and lesbian persons?” And, this began her interest in becoming involved with LGBT ministries around the San Francisco Bay Area.
According to a 2015 article from The National Catholic Reporter:
…as a young sister living in Colorado, she [Cahur] and others in her congregation would visit Trappist Fr. Thomas Keating in Snowmass, Colo., where she discovered centering prayer. She knew right away it fit her spiritually, she said. “In centering prayer, you sit in God’s love and let go.” Quoting Keating, she calls the practice “consciousness without content.”
Also, Cahur and an MHR parishioner went to Snowmass to be trained and certified as centering prayer presenters.
According to the 2015 “Intercom” Newsletter, Cahur “obtained a budget from the parish [MHR] to bring in speakers.” Those speakers have recently included University of San Francisco Theology Professor Vincent Pizzuto, who once said:
“On this at least (homosexuality) the teaching authority of the Church is given no credence by so many gay men and lesbians because it does not demonstrate its own credibility. To the contrary, its teachings on homosexuality are so disengaged from reality as to render them utterly ridiculous.”
And Fr. Terry Ryan C.S.P. who wrote that: “Many same sex unions are quite holy.”
In 2013, Thomas Keating was interviewed by the on-line forum “Buddha at the Gas Pump,” which sometimes holds discussion groups at Sofia University. Here is an excerpt:
Keating: If people would put their minds on becoming God, too—not in the sense of power but in the sense of serving every living thing as far as they had the talents to do so—then the world would become the Garden of Eden. We have to make it the Garden of Eden or we will make it into Hell. The false self not infrequently makes its own hell.
Buddha: Some Christians would hear you say that and consider it blasphemous, but it bears repeating that you’re not talking about the individual false self becoming God. You’re talking about realization of that level of life at which we and God are one.
Keating: Yes, and discovering that it’s always been that way. We just thought it was different because we didn’t have the symbols that could teach us.
Buddha: Yes. Again, centering prayer: we’ll have to end on a practical note.
Keating: Well, it’s a very humble start of just shutting up and sitting down and letting God be God.
Thomas Keating, who could be considered one of the founders of the modern centering prayer movement, in the same 2013 interview, said: “We are not God by nature, but we are invited to become God by grace…” The he ended the interview with: “…the most important issue for human beings, whether they want to become God on their own terms or on God’s terms.”
This ideology of becoming God proves highly attractive to many that feel alienated or rejected by organized religion, especially those “gay” men and women (whom I describe as “gay” Catholics), and their allies in the Church, that believe Christian prohibitions against homosexual activity are inherently bigoted, hateful and altogether false. In addition, this perception that paradise is possible on earth proves incredibly seductive to the confused and conflicted who have frequently experienced mass anguish and maltreatment during their lives, often silently in childhood. Studies have consistently shown that “gay” men and women exhibit documented higher rates of mental illness, have a history of past emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as painful subconscious memories of a disapproving and neglectful father.1-3 For them, centering prayer seems to promise an answer. As a result, centering prayer groups, lectures, and seminars have appeared repeatedly in parishes with a significant “gay” presence and or a gay-affirmative ministry; this includes: St. Agnes in San Francisco, Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Paul the Apostle in New York City, and St. Cecilia in Boston to name just a few.
The possibility of finally eliminating often unrecognized and unresolved traumas has fostered a near-industry of New Age centering prayer gnostics and technicians from John J. McNeill and Richard Rohr to Maryanne Williamson.
Andrew Buechel, a Theology Professor at the Jesuit-run Xavier University in Ohio, in his 2015 book “That We Might Become God: The Queerness of Creedal Christianity,” encapsulated the beliefs that are often found in centering prayer groups:
“Christianity can be summed up by the queer dictum, in its multiple iterations, given by early theologians…“God became human that we might become God.”
This idea of becoming God often links with the somewhat parallel emphasis on the supremacy of the conscience. For those who want to integrate homosexuality with Catholicism, the conscience informed by science is the genuine arbiter of Truth – not the Church. Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of the dissident gay affirmative advocacy outreach New Ways Ministry, wrote:
“Many Catholics have reflected on the scientific evidence that homosexuality is a natural variant in human sexuality, and understand that lesbian and gay love is as natural as heterosexual love. In forming our consciences, Catholics also consult scripture and our theological tradition. Here, again, there is little firm reason to oppose marriage equality.”
Here, Gramick combines several strains of thought that merge in centering prayer: that science has ultimately, and definitively, proven homosexuality to be merely a “natural variant,” that the conscience, our inner voice or our personal experience, is the supreme judge of all, and that current Church prohibitions with regards to homosexual activity (including same-sex marriage) are entirely arbitrary.
What centering prayer also provides, which Gramick alludes to here, is the ability of the individual Catholic, using the conscience as their guide, to decide for themselves the authenticity of certain issues – including homosexuality. In this case, by reflecting on so-called “scientific evidence.” This, in effect, reduces or eliminates the need for intermediaries. As in centering prayer, there is direct line to the Godhead, and the Church subsequently becomes irrelevant. On this topic, Keating sad:
“God can work independently of religion. He has many ways of bringing people to himself. Some people have been so damaged by religious misinformation or malformation that they can’t go by that path. They have to at least have a period of freedom. God is sheer freedom…”
For many centering prayer subscribers, “gay” men and women would certainly fit into this category of those who have been “damaged’ due to religion. Consequently, by circumventing the Church, “gay” centering prayer participants can discover the true nature of God through which the actual reality of homosexuality will be revealed. For the most part, this new reality finds no validity in earlier prejudices against homosexual activity; Vincent Pizzuto remarked:
“…having rejected the reason for which homogenital acts were condemned in the OT Holiness Code (i.e., ritual purity), it stands to reason that if the issue of homosexuality were of particular concern to Jesus or the primitive church, we should expect to find in the gospels either an alternative reason for condemning homosexuality, or an attempt to demonstrate why these acts are wrong in themselves. Neither is the case.”
What is revealed here is a Christ disinterested in the entire question of homosexuality, yet the late-Jesuit John J. McNeill went even further for he argued that since God created “gay” men and women as homosexuals, they must reject the Church’s teaching otherwise God becomes not a source of salvation, but of torment:
“Since most gay people experience their homosexual orientation as a part of creation, if they accept this Church teaching, they must see God as sadistically creating them with an intrinsic orientation to evil. Most gays would prefer to see the Church teaching as wrong, rather than believe God is sadistic.”
Only McNeill expanded upon this belief in a gay-approving God by creating an encounter with a “gay” Christ: “Any one of you who have a gay sensibility will be keenly aware of the special nature of the relationship of love that reunites Jesus and John.” This idea was expounded by the Jesuit Donal Godfrey, who is often associated with MHR in San Francisco, when he wrote: “Is it less appropriate for gays to imagine Jesus as gay than for African Christians to picture him as black, Asian Christians as Asian?” Citing Keating as an influence, McNeill wrote that: “The most effective spiritual discipline that I have discovered personally from within my own spiritual tradition is the practice of centering prayer.”
Within the homosexual context, also of interest is Maryanne Williamson; a self-help pop-guru who became instantly famous when her New Age theories were heavily promoted by “gay” icon Oprah Winfrey. Richard Rohr who is frequently quoted and referenced in “gay” Catholic circles, has worked with Williamson. He once wrote: “As Marianne Williamson says: ‘Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.’” He then added:
“The single and true purpose of mature religion is to lead you to ever new experiences of your True Self. If religion does not do this, it is junk religion. Every Sacrament, every Bible story, every church service, every sermon, every hymn, every bit of priesthood, ministry, or liturgy is for one purpose: to allow you to experience your True Self…”
During her first appearance on “The Opray Winfrey Show” in 1992, Williamson took much of her talking points from the New Age Bible “The Course in Miracles” (ACIM). ACIM is a book written and edited by Helen Schucman (a New York City psychologist), and first published in 1976, that, according to the author, was guided by an “inner voice” she identified with Jesus Christ. Now, Williamson was the new appointed interpreter of that great gnostic text for the ages.
In ACIM, it states: “Is he [Jesus] God’s only Helper? No, indeed. For Christ takes many forms with different names until their oneness can be recognized.” On issues of morality, Williamson and ACIM were decidedly vague although categorically non-judgmental: “God does not forgive because He has never condemned.” Williamson wrote: “Meaning lies in us.” She also stated: Nothing we have ever done or will do can mar our perfection in the eyes of God. We are deserving in God’s eyes because of what we are, not because of what we do.” In most centering prayer cosmologies there is often a reliance on personal experience, combined with a propensity towards randomly coopting beliefs and practices from other religions, including Zen Buddhism and various Hindu traditions.
Because of Winfrey’s popularity in the “gay” community and because of Williamson’s deceptively easy route to peace and happiness, ACIM sessions and Williamson inspired discussion groups popped up in the “gay” neighborhoods of San Francisco and Los Angeles during the 1990s. Catholic priest Benedict Groeschel criticized ACIM and their related organizations. Finding some elements of ACIM to be what he called “severe and potentially dangerous distortions of Christian theology,” he wrote that it is “a good example of a false revelation” and that it has “become a spiritual menace to many.” Not long ago, Williamson said: “Gay men in a very real way created my career.”
The case of Williamson reveals the frequently occurring intersection between centering prayer and pro-gay affirmation. In 2012, Cathy Cahur served on the “Host Committee” for Matt Dorsey – an openly “gay” candidate to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; also, from 2008-2010, Dorsey was a member of the MHR “Parish Council.” In 2009, Dorsey criticized then San Francisco Archbishop Niederauer for supporting California Proposition 8, which was ultimately an unsuccessful effort to maintain a legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Dorsey wrote:
“That the poisonous tenor of these archdiocese-backed campaign materials far exceeded even the official campaign for Prop 8 deeply troubled many Catholics, myself included…to offer the imprimatur of our church to such dishonest, divisive and deliberately hurtful rhetoric.”
“…the San Francisco Archdiocese’s campaign deliberately played to the most vicious and hateful stereotypes about the LGBT community.”
Recently retired as a long-time spokesperson for the San Francisco City Attorney, Dorsey said a highlight of his career was the “gay” marriage issue:
“I think, personally, the marriage case was something that felt like having a front row seat to history…it was extremely high profile and a lot of press work involved in it. And I am grateful to be a part of that.”
In the May 2013 issue of “Communion,” the monthly Newsletter of Catholics for Marriage Equality in California, Cahur wrote:
“I just read some of the articles from your April Newsletter in CA. Just excellent…I thought Deacon Brian’s was the best piece he has ever written.”
A frequent contributor to “Communion,” Deacon Brain, in that particular article, wrote:
“Jesus never spoke about homosexuality, nor did he turn anyone away. Where two people love, trust, support, and nurture each other’s growth and well-being in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, through shared communication and wish to sanctify their mutual commitment and God’s presence in their relationship, they should have the right to do so publicly through marriage.”
According to a 2015 article about Cahur and MHR from The National Catholic Reporter:
“No judgments,” Charity Sr. Cathy Cahur reminds the group sitting in a circle in the back of the church.
This sentiment is similar to one expressed by former MHR Pastor Jack McClure, upon his arrival at the Parish, when he stated: “We didn’t come here to change anybody.” McClure was later sanctioned after it was revealed that he attended a women’s ordination conference.
The reason why centering prayer groups and open dissidence against Catholic teachings on homosexuality are compatible is because they both share a set of similar beliefs: a reliance on science, the concept of integration, and the importance of personal experience.
Thomas Keating said:
“…religion has to listen to science, because it’s really giving us uptodate revelations of who God is and developing a cosmology that can support deep union with God.”
Keating sees this taking place because science has revealed an “interconnected” reality between all matter in the universe. In terms of homosexuality, “gay” Catholics have extrapolated from his view that science can not only help us tap into this higher state of consciousness, but inform humanity about advances in understanding sexuality. On this, Vincent Pizzuto gave the definitive statement:
“The recognition of the nature of ‘sexual orientation,’ arrived at through modern sciences, confirms the falsity of these ancient cultural presumptions…and conversely, suggests a surprising affirmation for the homosexual community. Namely, that homosexuals are ethically bound not to act contrary to their nature as homosexuals. Or, to state this more positively, the ethics of homosexuality begins with an honest recognition, admission and integration of one’s God-given homosexual orientation…”
For many “gay” men and women, centering prayer is the means by which they can achieve a deeper union with God through integration – of their True Self (a term used by both Keating and Rohr) with the Universe. In order for this to take place, sexuality (homosexuality) must be integrated within the person thus liberating the True Self. While science has apparently proven the inherent correctness of the homosexual orientation, certain impediments still exist; namely those forces which want to prevent full integration by falsely claiming that homosexuality is indeed “disordered.” The Catholic Church, in its current stand against homosexual activity and same sex marriage, has become the main proponent of negative thoughts which could potentially disturb the individual as well as the entire cosmos. Keating said:
As one of the quantum mechanic scientists said, “You can’t have a thought without influencing everything in the universe instantaneously.” Even a thought about others, or a judgment of others, affects society in ways that we don’t understand yet or we don’t realize the damage that negative thinking can produce.
The Church’s position on this issue has affected so many “gay” men and women because they see the same-sex marriage question as the summation of their relationship to themselves, to each other, and to God. Moreover, in their own words, God is speaking through the “gay” community right now and, according to them, everything must change.
Thomas Keating once said:
“…as soon as you say there’s something wrong with sexuality, then you’re taking the side of those who don’t believe that everything that God has made is good…That force is to be not repressed but transmuted, transformed and integrated into the whole of our being; then you have a whole human being.”
This idea of being integrated or the integration of homosexuality within the person has become sacred within the world of “gay” Catholicism. Much of it has to do with a misreading of the Catechism which clearly states that:
Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.
Some “gay” Catholics believe that here the Catechism recommends “the integration of sexuality” for everyone – including homosexuals; yet, other parts of the Catechism, that are less conducive to their theories, they wholly reject. In The National Catholic Reporter, frequent LA Religious Education Congress speaker Arthur Fitzmaurice, who also spoke along with Richard Rohr at the 2016 Call To Action National Conference, heavily criticized the American Bishops for their negative reaction to the legalization of same-sex marriage:
“If the church hierarchy wants to witness the Spirit alive in LGBT people, it needs to listen to our stories of finding new life — and deeper relationship with God — as we strive to integrate our faith and sexuality. Until they all listen, they cannot hear the voice of God speaking through us, and their words will lack true respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
His argument is important in terms of centering prayer, because as many “gay” Catholics argue, that hateful prohibitions against homosexuality, which are imposed by the Church, have prevented a full integration of sexuality by “gay” men and women thus causing some to descend into emotional instability even to the point of suicide.4 Consequently, Fitzmaurice has judged certain language in the Catechism regarding homosexuality to be “gravely evil.”
On this point, Terry Ryan also wrote:
“…isn’t someone who cannot have a partner, a lifelong love, left with loneliness as the option? I quote one gay person that might make you think. He said, “I believed that aloneness was my nature as a gay person.” Then he met someone. It brought him out of isolation. He said, “By giving my heart to one, I could give my heart to others.” His relationship helped him become a more loving person to the larger world.”
Following this line of reasoning, it’s conceivably argued that homosexuals can only become a truly “loving person” by expressing their homosexuality with another individual. To go against this desire will inevitably cause isolation and loneliness. Pizutto expressed the same idea when he stated that: “homosexuals are ethically bound not to act contrary to their nature as homosexuals…the ethics of homosexuality begins with an honest recognition, admission and integration of one’s God-given homosexual orientation.”
Their argument remains that only though a recognition that homosexuality is innate and natural, which we learn through science, and then by accepting that Truth and integrating it into our lives, can homosexuals ever become healthy individuals and attain the True Self. And, today, according to “gay” Catholics, God is speaking to the Church through them. With so enlightened “gay” men and women serving as channelers who uncover lost Truth. Yet this phenomena is not relegated to just Catholicism, as evidenced in the “God is still speaking,” campaign from the United Church of Christ. However, there is an urgency coming from the “gay” Catholics that borders on hysteria because what is supposedly being revealed through these men and women not only concerns the Church’s stance on homosexuality, but on the very nature of God, the validity of Tradition, and the future of Catholicism.
Fr. Michael Holleran, a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of New York City, who teaches centering prayer as well as overseeing a weekly Dragon’s Eye Zendo Meditation Sitting, once said:
“…if a sincere gay person, for example, is struggling with his or her own inner discovery, then says let me look at Scripture – oh, it doesn’t say what they always said if you look at it from this point of view…then maybe my experience does have some validity…On the levels of truth that everything is infallible – This is on shaky ground according to the way it’s been presented to me and been presented over the centuries, then I actually have not only a right but a duty maybe to start questioning this. And to say maybe my experience – What Jesus is saying to me now! What the spirit is saying to the Churches now! …is something really important that we need to hear.”
But has science really discovered any conclusive evidence to support the claims made by some “gay” Catholics that homosexuals are simply born that way, or, for those who are believers in a higher power: created “gay” by God. Yet, as Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh explained in their landmark survey of numerous studies into the question of homosexuality: “There is virtually no evidence that anyone, gay or straight, is ‘born that way’ if that means their sexual orientation was genetically determined.” On the contrary, much of the evidence seems to point away from genetic factors and towards environmental influences.
Then, that takes us to the subject of integration. Here, “gay” Catholics have their most bothersome problem to solve: How can a “gay” man or woman rightly and indelibly integrate their sexuality when the Catholic Church maintains that something they believe was bestowed upon them by God is actually “disordered.” Therefore, “gay” Catholics must not only demand major revisions in the Catechism, but in entire Catholic teachings on sexuality. Only, what gives homosexuals the authority to even suggest such things? Through centering prayer, they believe that they have heard the voice of God, but is Jesus or “the spirit” speaking or are darker voices at work?
Ultimately, this has become a battle between the supersedence of science over Scripture, the supremacy of personal experience over sacred Tradition and the Truth, and gnosticism over what God has revealed for all the world and made manifest in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.
The Church’s ministers must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church. But the risk is great and there are many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church’s position, and then to use that confusion to their own advantage.
The movement within the Church, which takes the form of pressure groups of various names and sizes, attempts to give the impression that it represents all homosexual persons who are Catholics. As a matter of fact, its membership is by and large restricted to those who either ignore the teaching of the Church or seek somehow to undermine it. It brings together under the aegis of Catholicism homosexual persons who have no intention of abandoning their homosexual behaviour. One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people, their activity and lifestyle, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination.
– Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons
1. “There is a consistently observed higher risk of poor physical and mental health outcomes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender subpopulations compared to the general population. These outcomes include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and most alarmingly, suicide.”
“Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences”
Mayer, Lawrence S., M.B., M.S., Ph.D. and McHugh, Paul R. M.D.
The New Atlantic 50 (Fall 2016): 11.
2. “…46% of homosexual men and 22% of homosexual women reported having been molested by a person of the same gender. This contrasts to only 7% of heterosexual men and 1% of heterosexual women reporting having been molested by a person of the same gender.”
“Comparative Data of Childhood and Adolescence Molestation in Heterosexual and Homosexual Persons”
Marie, E. Tomeo, et al.
Archives of Sexual Behavior 30 (2001): 539.
3. “The majority of gay men, unlike heterosexual men who come for treatment, report that their fathers were distant during their childhood and that they lacked any attachment to them. Reports vary from ‘my father was never around, he was too busy with his job,’ to ‘he was victimized by my mother, who was always the boss in the family,’ to that of the abusive, unapproachable father.”
“Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development”
Richard A. Isay, M.D.
First Vintage Book Edition (2009): 31.
4. Javier Plascencia and his wife Martha Plasencia started the “Always Our Children” ministry for the parents of “gay” children at St. Denis Parish in Diamond Bar, California; Javier served as co-Chair of the Education Committee for the Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persona (CMLGP) in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. On the official CMLGP web-site (http://www.cmlgp.org/groups), Javier and Martha Plascencia are listed as the contacts under “Parent Support Groups.” In a 2014 video for Ignatian News, Javier and Martha were interviewed about their “gay” son and their ministry; Martha said that: “The language in the Catechism has to change. That word ‘intrinsically disordered,’ my son is not intrinsically disordered. And the bullets from the Catechism, they can harm a lot of children – I mean to the extent of suicide.”