On July 10 and August 7, 2016, Tom Reese, S.J. will be giving two talks at Saint Ignatius Catholic Church in San Francisco; the topic will be: “The Joy of the Family by Francis” and “Religion and Politics.”
Reese has a long history of opposition to some of the fundamental teachings of the Church. Reese resigned after seven years as the editor of the Jesuit “Catholic” periodical “America” due to pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith then headed by Cardinal Ratzinger. During his tenure at “America,” Reese published controversial and unorthodox editorials on several crucial topics including priestly celibacy, homosexual priests, and the ordination of women. Because of his vocal support for the Affordable Care Act, in 2014 President Obama awarded Reese with an appointment to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Now, he writes for the left-wing “National Catholic Reporter.”
Regarding “The Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Reese agreed with a group of Jesuits at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, who believed that: “the document is fatally flawed. It cannot be saved by amendments that only tinker with the text.” Reese personally described The Catechism as “seriously deficient.” He added: “Anyone who learns the faith from such a catechism will be confused when confronted with the results of contemporary Scripture studies.” He also stated: “…in the United States at least, the sexist language of the text is unacceptable. One can no longer speak of ‘Man’s’ search for God without upsetting significant numbers in the American Church, nor will Catholic feminists approve of language that speaks of the sexes being equal but complementary.” In conclusion, Reese wrote: “The overall impression is that of a legalistic Morality based on obedience: the natural law is presented as a deductive system with unchanging absolutes that gives moral answers independent of context and motivation.”
On the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Reese has been the most outspoken.
In a 2005 “New York Times” article, Reese said: “with the shortage of priests, the church can hardly afford to dismiss gay seminarians.”
In 2009, Reese said: “I have never bought the argument that gay marriage is a threat to families. Legalizing gay marriage is not going to cause millions of people in heterosexual marriages to suddenly decide to leave their spouses for a same-sex partner. It could be argued that gay marriage might help heterosexual marriages. For example, in an apartment building filled with unmarried couples in New York City, the gays who get married may inspire the heterosexuals to do the same thing.”
In a 2010 interview, he said: “I personally think the Church’s battle against the legalization of gay marriage is misplaced. This idea that gay marriage is somehow a threat to family life or to heterosexual marriage doesn’t make sense.”
In 2014, he wrote: “There are not many Catholic organizations that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender applicants in hiring, and those organizations probably don’t have federal contracts. Discrimination in hiring because of sexual orientation would, in fact, be against Catholic teaching, which holds that everyone should be treated with respect, recognizing their dignity as a child of God.”
After the Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) decision, which legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, Reese wrote: “With the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage throughout the United States, the U.S. Catholic bishops need a new strategy going forward. The bishops’ fight against gay marriage has been a waste of time and money. The bishops should get a new set of priorities and a new set of lawyers.”
“If bishops in the past could eventually accept civil divorce as the law of the land, why can’t the current flock of bishops do the same for gay marriage?”
“It is time for the bishops to admit defeat and move on. Gay marriage is here to stay, and it is not the end of civilization as we know it.”
“Let’s be perfectly clear. In Catholic morality, there is nothing to prohibit a Catholic judge or clerk from performing a same-sex marriage. Nor is there any moral obligation for a Catholic businessperson to refuse to provide flowers, food, space and other services to a same-sex wedding.”
“Again, Catholic judges have performed weddings for all applicants, including Catholics who are getting married in violation of church teaching. Catholic businesspeople have provided services to any wedding party, including those of divorced Catholics marrying outside the church. Similarly, there is no moral problem for them to do the same for gay couples.”
“…granted all the sex going on at Catholic colleges and universities, giving housing to a few gay people who have permanently committed themselves to each other in marriage would hardly be considered a great scandal.”
“Church officials, including the pope, have argued that every child deserves to have a mother and a father, with the inference that without a mother and a father, the child will somehow suffer. There are a number of problems with this position.”
“It is time for the U.S. bishops to pivot to the public policy priorities articulated by Pope Francis: care for the poor and the environment and the promotion of peace and interreligious harmony. Their fanatical opposition to the legalization of gay marriage has made young people look on the church as a bigoted institution with which they do not want to be associated. As pastors, they should be talking more about God’s compassion and love rather than trying to regulate people’s sexual conduct through laws.”
On December 17, 2015, Reese retweeted a link to an article entitled: “How a married gay Catholic couple lives their faith.” The news story is about a “gay” Catholic couple who marry in the Episcopal Church although they are regular Mass attendees at a Detroit Catholic church. One of the men stated: “We examine our consciences and we know that our love for each other does not take us out of a relationship with God. It takes us into a closer relationship with God. And for that reason, we feel comfortable presenting ourselves for Communion.”
In San Francisco, on July 2, 2016, Ray Allender, S.J., the Pastor of St. Agnes Church, had this to say about the preceding gay “Pride” festivities:
“Last weekend was Gay Pride weekend and it was heartening to see a celebration after the terrible tragedy in Orlando. I was also proud of Pope Francis when he commented, ‘Yes, we must apologize to gay people. Who are we to judge them? We must accompany them.’ Pope Francis had responded to German Cardinal Marx’s comment that the Catholic Church should apologize for being ‘very negative’ towards the gay community. Let us pray that the entire Church and world takes to heart Pope Francis’ and Cardinal Marx’s statements. A Church that tries to understand and accompany those who are marginalized is in the making!”
I do not know where Allender, S.J. was during the “Pride” events of June 25 and 26, 2016, but I was at the Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco talking with “gay” men and women about their options – namely, that they do not have to be gay.
Although the mainstream media, and gay apologists like Allender, prefer to emphasize the “heartening” aspects of this “celebration:” the pro-gay liberal politicians waving to the crowds, the happily married and “monogamous” marchers, and the various charity contingents who all take part in the parade, but there has always been a sinister flip-side to this spectacle. For, there has always been a dark-heart at the core of homosexuality that few are willing to recognize. Although, not everyone fully partakes in the so-called extremes, the pervasive despair which they symbolize is evidenced in the wider “gay” population in the stubborn and continual ravages of HIV, the reemergence of syphilis, the phenomena of rampant “unsafe” sex, and the unusually high rates of mental illness and drug abuse.*
At this most recent “Pride,” I personally witnessed countless fully naked men, one individual with visibly scabbing syphilis legions, topless women, and extensive illegal drug use. While most of these desperate pleas for attention take place in the main venue, alongside the food vendors and the kiosks of various local LGBT advocacy groups, a few of the side-streets were occupied by what some would consider the popular fringe of the gay community: representatives from leather and fetish clubs, all sorts of dealers in BDSM paraphernalia, and practitioners in the worlds of bondage and humiliation. Here, I saw a pair of fully naked men engaging in mutual masturbation; and, the saddest exhibition of a man in a dog mask and collar being led on a leash by his master. There was even a fenced-in “play” area called “The Fetish Zone,” where, you could clearly and loudly hear the crack of whips and the screams of those being willingly abused.
To single out for praise, the orchestrated propaganda aspects of this event, while purposely ignoring the perverse realities, is reckless at best; at its worst – it’s blatant and openly collusive and facilitating. But, men and ministries such as these have turned a seemingly merciful and non-judgmental attitude, symbolized by their ad nauseam repetition of the quote: “Who are we to judge them?” –into a sort of witless mantra which requires continually turning a blind-eye to everything that is hopeless and ugly in the homosexual experience. Allender wants to “accompany” these men and women – but how can anyone possibly do this when they will not acknowledge the perilousness of the present circumstances nor the immediate dangers lying before many “gay” men and women?
In addition, St. Agnes parish makes a point to always refer to those with same-sex attraction as “gay” and “lesbian;” this insistence on labeling is even implicit in their official outreach which they simply call: “Gay & Lesbian Ministry.” By doing so, this parish and its “gay” ministry is essentially locking people into the orientation by reducing them to either “gay” or “straight.” But this goes part and parcel with the “born this way” theory of homosexuality that St. Agnes parish promotes – recently, through their recommendation of a retreat headed by Paul Morrissey, OSA. Morrissey has repeatedly referred to homosexuality as a result of: “God’s intention,” “God’s creative imagination,” and “God’s playfulness.” Hence, what St. Agnes parish intends to do is: “accompany” men and with same-sex attraction into a full acceptance of their “gay” identity – and, then leave them there.
In Manhattan, on June 23, 2016, the “gay” and lesbian ministry, Out at St. Paul, from The Church of St. Paul the Apostle celebrated a sidewalk Mass during the New York City “Pride” festivities; the makeshift TV-tray altar was covered in the Rainbow flag.
Only, this is not the parish’s first foray into gay Catholic dissidence; in 2015, Out at St. Paul, in cooperation with The Church of St. Paul the Apostle, “Mother Church of the Paulist Fathers,” released the short documentary film “Owning Our Faith.” The film features interviews with several men and women who disagree with various aspects of the Church’s teachings on homosexuality; they include: a self-professed Catholic lesbian, a “married” gay male couple, and a transsexual. Probably the most prominent individual in “Owning Our Faith” is author Eve Tushnet who wrote “Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith;” after being interviewed for this project, an essay by Tushnet was also included in the book “Living the Truth in Love: Pastoral Approaches to Same Sex Attraction.”
Some quotes from “Owning Our Faith:”
“If I had a friend who had a child who was coming out and she was having difficulty, I would say to her, do you love him or her? And she would naturally say yes, I would say then you’d better be accepting or you’re going to lose them.”
“If we leave it, if we abandon the Church then it’s never going to change.”
“I think what’s interesting is that the Catholic Church probably thinks that it is accepting of gay people, because its message is “gay people exist and we should love them and not discriminate against them. But because the Church also tells gay people essentially that they need to be celibate, what the Church is saying is ‘you cannot live fully. You can be gay but you can’t live that life.’ And so that inherently is discriminatory.”
“My gender transition was immensely spiritual to me. It was a journey…I think a lot of people think of this as just a physical journey, they just look at the physical aspects of transition, but it’s an emotional one, it’s a spiritual one.”
“The Church’s teaching, specifically on homosexuality but also on other areas of sexual ethics, was probably my biggest stumbling block in becoming Catholic. It was something I was pretty concerned over. One thing that’s been helpful for me is seeing that Scripture uses both opposite-sex and same-sex love as models or mirrors of the love of God and the human soul.”
What I think all of these men and ministries have done is to fatally confuse mercy and compassion with a misguided form of semi-benevolent permissiveness. They want to “accompany” those with same-sex attraction, but, at the same time, they do not want to challenge them – they are confirming these confused self-identities and locking-in the orientation by attempting to sooth those who are seeking help with the idea that homosexuality is all a part of God’s master-plan. This is neither merciful nor compassionate, because, as I have learned from the genuinely kind priests who opposed my long-held conceptions about homosexuality and about myself, oftentimes – at first glance, true Mercy and true compassion will almost never look compassionate nor merciful.