On May 20, 2017, I attended a Catholic workshop entitled: LGBTQ Gifts for the Institution Church. The “facilitator” for the workshop was Brian Bromberger, a Deacon of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The event took place in conjunction with the Jesuit-run St. Agnes Parish at their Ignatian Life Center. During the workshop Bromberger said:
“This is who God made us to be.”
“We are as God intended us to be.”
“How God made them to be.”
“Our sexual relationships mirror our love for God and God’s love for us.”
“Romans 1:26 has nothing to do with our community.”
“There is a potential for the Church to change.”
“There was no teaching [concerning homosexuality] till the 11th Century.”
“I’ve reviewed stuff on this; the preponderance of evidence is that it’s almost 99% biologically determined.”
According to Bromberger, “what inspired” the idea for this workshop was the book “Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity” by Elizabeth Edman. At the workshop, Bromberger provided attendees with a group of selected photocopied articles; including an interview with Erdman, a selection of passages from “Queer Virtue,” and his review of her book.
A lesbian priest in the Episcopal church, Edman argues that: “Christianity is inherently queer, inherently about rupturing false binaries that pit people against each other. Queer people thus can teach the church a great deal about the Christian path…” In her book, Edmund recommends: “Find someone who can affirm the beautiful queer soul you are. Find a good friend who can speak that language with you. Find a faith community that will affirm you. If there isn’t an affirming faith community or minister in your area, go online and find some of the myriad cyber-communities that exist to affirm queer lives.” She also wrote: “My lesbianism, my queerness, is part of who I am. It is built into my DNA as surely as my skin color…” And, Edman had this to say about Catholicism in her book:
Numerous clerics inside Roman Catholicism have in recent years been lifting up what they call “gender theory,” mischaracterizing academic conversation about gender and identity in stridently alarmist terms…Such blatant fearmongering by religious conservatives merely strengthens the resolve to claim queerness itself as an identity marker. My experience tells me plainly that something deep is at work in the ways many of us make our sexual identities visible to the world. How we appear to the world is connected to something inside us. It is not merely “who I present myself to be,” but is more truly “who I am.”
In his review of Edman’s book, Bromberger wrote: “Being queer is not morally problematic, rather it has a moral center that is not at odds with the core tenants of Judeo-Christian belief.”
Also included in the set of photocopies was a homily given by Bromberger; here is an excerpt:
“…it is better to be compassionate and welcoming, rather than religiously right…Perhaps what we insist are legitimate, permanent religious practices may only be our confining God’s love to the traditional barriers we have set and our fear of changing them. As the Church of the risen Lord, we are to give witness to God’s love wherever and whomever we find it and not be boxed in our biases. As our Gospel reminds us, it doesn’t matter WHO you love, only that you love. God’s love is always trying to do something new. Acts’ vision of the Holy Spirit tells us that the love of God has no boundaries, bestowing her blessing on out-siders, breaking down any walls between Gentiles and Jews, women and men, poor and rich, healthy and sick, young and old, gay and straight.”
In addition, during the workshop Bromberger described John Boswell’s “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century” as a “game changing book.” His review of the book was also among the photocopied articles handed out to attendees of the workshop. In his review, Bromberger wrote:
To understand the impact Boswell’s book had on the average gay religious person, we must return to the zeitgeist of the late 1970s…The newly founded Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), groups like Dignity and Integrity, and some individual liberal churches, both Protestant and Catholic, helped gay people to accept their sexuality.
Many of these organizations had channels to institutional churches, acting as back doors that allowed their leaders to lobby church officials to be more accepting of gay people, including those seeking ordination into mainstream churches. Same-sex weddings were being done in churches, often illicitly, long before marriage equality became a political issue.
A frequent homilist at St. Agnes Church in San Francisco is Donal Godfrey, S.J., the Associate Director for Faculty and Staff Spirituality at the University of San Francisco. In the past, self-outed Godfrey argued that it was appropriate “for gays to imagine Jesus as gay.” Godfrey also stated: “Certainly I believe that God who is, in a sense, transgender, one that crosses all boundaries and social constructs.”
Godfrey was recently honored by USF for his “extraordinary service to the university and the community at large,” and a parishioner and gay filmmaker at Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco is planning a documentary about the gay-affirmative parish based on Godfrey’s extensively documented history of the gay community at the Castro neighborhood church. Here are some excerpts from Godfrey’s “Gays and Grays – The Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish:”
Well the question in my mind was, the people who make a conscientious decision to live together as a gay couple, and then they come to communion, just like people who make a similar decision on birth control, you don’t harass them. You respect their decision.
One listens to the official Church teaching and takes it seriously, and then one asks what does my life experience say to this teaching…Whenever our conscience goes against the teaching of the church there is a tension, but it is a healthy tension. We know that the development of doctrine does take place over time. And as we know doctrine has developed over time, for instance with regard to slavery.
Are we allowed to differ from the Church’s hitherto accepted norms and judgments? Yes, if theology is to grow. Knowledge develops when opposite opinions are discussed, until an integration is reached. In this process, “theological dissent” forms a creative part.
In one homily, McGuire spoke openly of some of the issues:
In a calm way, let us review some truths, which may help us.
First, the Church’s teaching on sexual morality is difficult for everybody. It is a hard saying. And it will not change in our lifetime. Many people live according to it and live admirable lives. Others find aspects of it do not correspond to their experience. After study, prayer consultation, in their consciences, they come to a different decision. We have to presume that such persons are doing the best possible before God.
Bishop Randy Calvo, who lived in the parish for many years when McGuire was pastor makes a similar point:
[Calvo:] If one was to look at the unhealthy stuff in gay people or any person, one way to offset that, or to move it to mainstream homosexuality is to make it part of life.
[Godfrey:] Isn’t’ that what the church can do in a way that a gay bar cannot?
[Calvo:] Exactly. It is not necessarily something the left wing of the gay community would want. The more the church does to alienate and push in the opposite direction, the more the elements that are harder to reconcile with our own teaching happen. So the more you push to mainstream, the more accountable to virtue is the gay community.
[Godfrey:] The gay community changes by the encounter.
[Calvo:] Sure, well it domesticates, people go home, they are made mainstream. They are like any straight couples.
At the workshop, when I tried to broach the topic of the Church’s explicit directives concerning homosexuality and homosexual activity, and how I incorporated and integrated those teachings into my own life, for example, by not having sex anymore, I was told by several of the attendees that they had reached a different conclusion through the “primacy of the conscience.” Therefore, the all-inclusive accompaniment form of gradualism expounded by various ministries, priests, and prelates have proven to be an abysmal failure.
Concerning this entire gay-affirmative campaign in the Church, the late Fr. Benedict Groeschel wrote:
In response to the expressed need of many homosexually orientated people, a whole movement toward acceptance of homosexuality as normative has begun…However well intentioned this approval is, it sidesteps two very critical moral issues. The first of these is addressed to all serious believers, namely: Is approval for the sake of being nice and helpful actually enabling someone to run along the road to moral and spiritual disaster?
The second moral issue is even more basic, namely, should we pretend to be able to alter objective moral standards because some people are unable to live up to them at a particular time in their lives?
There are many serious objections to this kind of compassion based on pragmatism and relativism…The most obvious…objection is that such thinking precludes the possibility of moral conversion and true Christian discipleship. Apart from the radical denial of truth, such thinking leaves the person lost in a swamp without a map. It is a most dangerous compassion.