Fr. Terry Ryan C.S.P. will speak at Most Holy Redeemer (MHR) Catholic Church in San Francisco on October 22, 2016. The talk is being sponsored by the parish’s “Centering Prayer” group. Earlier this year, “Celtic” priest Vincent Pizzuto spoke to the same group. A longtime advocate for a “gay” affirmative Christian theology, in 2006, Pizzuto said of Catholicism and it’s teaching on homosexuality:
“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.”
Oftentimes, the centering prayer movement is also associated with progressive ideas about Catholicism and homosexuality; case in point: Fr. Michael Holleran who often teaches centering-prayer techniques, in various Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of New York, has been vocal about his unorthodox views; Holleran finished one talk with the contention that “gay” men are more receptive to spirituality because they practice anal sex: “…men hate church and spirituality because they have to sit still and they have to be receptive. There is nothing more threatening to a male than being receptive. I mean, think about it sexually – maybe that’s why gay men are more ready for it.”
Holleran is a devotee of dissident priest Richard Rohr who is also involved in the centering prayer movement. In 1999, Rohr made his definitive statement on homosexuality in his essay “Where the Gospel Leads Us” in the book “Homosexuality and Christian Faith:”
“The Achilles’ heel of the official Catholic position is necessitated by its own theology. Cardinal Ratzinger says that we do not consider the state of homosexuality a sin (this is actually quite an advancement in our thinking and implies that homosexuality is probably seen as an un-chosen condition), but only “acting” accordingly. Apart from the inconsistency with the theory of “natural law” (things must act according to their nature), this thinking proposes a second impossibility – to “mandate” a charism which is by definition a free gift. You cannot possibly order someone to have a charism, the “gift” of celibacy for example. It is an oxymoron and an insult to our theology of grace and gift. I have no doubt that we can and will do much better in the future.”
“The arguments of the anti-gay folks are often well intentioned, but their goals and objectives seem to be different from those of Jesus…We cannot expect Jesus’ simplicity of intention to convert us so quickly, especially when he has had minimal success with in the areas of greed violence, use of power, and love of enemies where he is absolutely forthright and hardly able to be misinterpreted.”
In 2016, he wrote:
We concentrate instead on things that Jesus never once talked about, like birth control, homosexuality, and abortion—bodily “sins” because the body can most easily carry shame…they are not the core problem. Jesus focused on issues of power, prestige, and possession—which all of us have largely ignored.
Fr. Ryan has also been explicit about his questioning of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality as well as giving support for “gay” marriage. Yet, as a member of The Paulist Fathers, within his congregation – those opinions are not extraordinary. For, the parish of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City is a locus for dissident “gay” affirmative Catholic ministries. 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; a 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, 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.
Some quotes from “Owning Our Faith:”
“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.”
Recently, the Out at St Paul ministry promoted the idea of “gay” Saints – including a supposedly lesbian Sts. Perpetua and Felicity.
In his blog, “Father Terry’s Spiritual Stuff: The homilies and musings of a Paulist Priest,” Fr. Ryan has repeatedly criticized the Church for both its adherence to a prohibition on “gay” marriage and for the Church’s “pastoral” approach to homosexuals.
The most implicit was his defense of a lesbian teacher fired from a Catholic school:
Well, we have a lot of clear teachings and some of them rub one off of another. Don’t judge. Welcome all. Sexuality is supposed to be for the forming of a community of two, a domestic Church, if you will. We teach this. So what did the lesbian do wrong? She did not desecrate a sacrament. She has a legal right to her relationship. The Supreme Court just said so. Is a lesbian supposed to be celibate, remain single, simply because she is a lesbian? Suppose she said to her students that it is OK to be a lesbian, that a lesbian has value and is loved by God? Unless she proposed that all become lesbians, I am left in the dark about her firing. But then if you are a bigot, everything is clear.
While he sometimes pays lip-service to official teachings of the Church: “The teaching is clear. The pastoral response can vary.” His pastoral approach is at best – highly ambiguous. For the most part, he succeeds only in the realm of confusion:
Seems my church is becoming more pastoral and accepting of gay and lesbian people without giving “scandal” by saying it approves…A lot more damage is done by selfish, greedy moneymakers than by two people living together who are of the same sexual inclination.
In one blog, he writes that the Catholic Church is “…a medieval monarchy in which equality is not a big issue.” He holds particular ire for Cardinal Raymond Burke: “He is big on tailing against abortion, and gay unions. He seems to like the finery of hierarchical clothing…Burke has been dropped from the committee that promotes future bishops. Why am I enjoying all of this?”
He also states that the “Church hierarchy” has prohibited “gay” sex – not God.
The Catholic hierarchy thinks that gay sex is wrong. This is where the stand against gay marriage begins. The Arizona Protestant coalition of churches thinks gay sex is OK. I believe that the issue of “marriage” is not the real issue. The real issue is that some people think gay persons to be not so equal to everyone else. This is why gay people are fighting for the word “Marriage” in their legal unions. They want equality.
Fr. Ryan is also not enthusiastic about the chastity option for those with same-sex attraction; he writes of a “gay” man who settled down with a same-sex partner:
…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.
He also often implies a “change” in doctrine on the issue of “gay” marriage:
A church prelate said that gay unions make him feel uncomfortable. I suspect that a Plantation Owner would be uncomfortable having dinner at the same table with a free black person in Charleston, SC in the mid-nineteenth century. Sometimes we are just not ready for a change.
In another blog entry (Always Taught), Fr. Ryan compares the change in attitude about “gay” marriage in a Senator who discovers that his son is “gay:” “Until the person is changed, by an experience, usually interpersonal, they will be stuck in ‘as we always taught’ mentality. The past can be a place of safety, but rarely a place of transformation.” According to Fr. Ryan, Christ Himself took part in such a “personal experience of God [which] moved Jesus into another direction.”
He also stated that:
Many same sex unions are quite holy.
He also criticizes those so-called “conservative” Catholics who are concerned about such issues as homosexuality:
Often, when people focus on contraception, abortion and gay issues, they are coming out of a moral tradition of individual sins that should be avoided in order to be good…The so-called conservatives who focus on the sex stuff, generally are not at all concerned about social justice, or the common good. Their morality is all private.
In addition, he is bemused by so-called “terrified” Catholics, who “want a church that has very clear rules.”
He also seems to question certain traditional and historic prohibitions against “sodomy:”
“…there seems to be a lot of fear and confusion about sodomy that has nothing to do with sodomy. What is that fear?”
What these priests, parishes, and “ministries” are teaching is a “Personal Jesus” gone out of control. Oftentimes, there is a connection with what Most Holy Redeemer frequent speaker Donal Godfrey S.J. says is to “imagine Jesus as gay” and the centering prayer movement; for instance, at the Pizzuto presentation at MHR, albeit briefly, there was a discussion concerning prayer as a “sexual experience” with Christ. On the issue of “gay” marriage and the practice of homosexuality, these “gay” affirmative priests, parishes, and “ministries” sometimes mention Church teaching, but they advocate for a highly favorable “pastoral” approach which in effect changes the teaching – not officially, but in practice.
Lastly, many “gay” affirmative parishes and “ministries” have a sincere interest in social justice, for instance MHR regularly feeds the homeless and the hungry in San Francisco; and these selfless acts have rightly drawn the admiration of local priests and the Bishop. While I believe that charity indeed covers a multitude of sins, it however cannot excuse a deliberate denial and overt manipulation of the Truth.
“A careful examination of their public statements and the activities they promote reveals a studied ambiguity by which they attempt to mislead the pastors and the faithful. For example, they may present the teaching of the Magisterium, but only as if it were an optional source for the formation of one’s conscience. Its specific authority is not recognized. Some of these groups will use the word “Catholic” to describe either the organization or its intended members, yet they do not defend and promote the teaching of the Magisterium; indeed, they even openly attack it.” – Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons