(Pictured above: Donal Godfrey with hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – the creators of the gay-marriage anthem, “Same Love.”)
On April 6-8, 2018, Donal Godfrey, S.J., will lead a retreat based on James Martin’s recent book “Building a Bridge Retreat: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship Of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.” The retreat will take place at San Damiano Retreat in Danville, California (located within the Diocese of Oakland.) San Damiano is owned and operated by the Franciscan Friars, of the Province of St. Barbara. According to the description for the retreat:
Join Fr. Donal Godfrey, S.J., as he leads a retreat based on the recent book by James Martin, S.J. Donal will lead conversations and guided meditations from the book and other sources around this topic. The retreat is intended for all who wish to build a bridge of openness and compassion within our church for and with LGBTQ+ people.
Donal Godfrey is a Liverpool-born Jesuit priest noted for his ministry to the “gay” community that openly challenges Catholic teachings on homosexuality. Most recognized for his book “Gays and Grays: The Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish” (2008) which recorded the integration of the LGBT community at Most Holy Reeemer (MHR) located in the predominantly gay Castro District; in 2007, Godfrey was appointed executive director of University Ministry at the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco. Also, in 2007, Godfrey celebrated a now infamous “Gay Service” at Most Holy Redeemer, which was broadcast worldwide on BBC Radio4; when interviewed at this event, Godfrey said: “Being gay is not special…It’s simply another gift from God who created us as rainbow people.” Godfrey currently serves as Associate Director for Faculty and Staff Spirituality at USF.
Here are some excerpts from Godfrey’s “Gays and the Grays:”
We do not know his [Jesus] sexual orientation, but this makes no difference theologically and would itself be an anachronistic question. We know he was a sexual person with sexual feelings.
If God must become Asian or African, then God is also in some sense queer…
Is it less appropriate for gays to imagine Jesus as gay than for African Christians to picture him as black, Asian Christians as Asian?
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.
…in the same way that Catholics in other parishes practice artificial contraception while remaining Catholics in good standing. Gay Catholics in relationships are in a similar situation. Catholics can dissent and remain loyal despite what some Catholic fundamentalists would want us to believe. Most gay Catholics at MHR do long for that day when the institutional Church will accept and recognize their reality, just as the church now recognizes how wrong we were on slavery.
In a 2015 article, “Community Dialogue on Transgender Phenomenon: A Reflection,” published in “Jesuit Higher Education: A Journal,” Godfrey wrote:
As a gay man who has had to struggle with the positions taken by my church, I have always had a passionate desire to build the kind of Church Pope Francis speaks of: “May we become a church that knows how to open her arms and welcome everybody…
Here are a few other excerpts:
I have come to believe in a God who not only crosses the boundaries of sexual orientation, but also those of gender.
Many trans Christians feel a sense of resurrection in that one part of them dies and another is reborn in their new gender…they are transfigured and resurrected in a way that defies categorization.
The late Edward Kessle, a former professor of biology at the University of San Francisco where I work, is best known for his 1983 paper proposing parthenogenesis and phenotypic sex-reversal as a possible explanation for the virgin birth of Christ. While I am not a scientist, I think this means that Jesus would have had two X chromosomes, so he would have been chromosomally female yet phenotypically male. In such an understanding of Jesus, which to my mind is perfectly orthodox, Jesus does not only dissolve divine and social boundaries, but moves beyond the binary, and dissolves all sexual and gender boundaries.
During an interview from 2015, Godfrey said:
“As a church we need to accept that family goes beyond traditional lines. I don’t expect the teachings to jump to acceptance in one day, it will take decades. In the meantime we need to accept people pastorally as they are and where they are. For now, this would be sufficient. Later the teachings will catch up and evolve.”
On December, 9, 2017, the MHR (Most Holy Redeemer) Youth Ministry sponsored a presentation at USF by Donal Godfrey entitled “Honoring Our Past: Why The History of MHR Matters.”
As of February 2018, Godfrey remains on the list of “Priests and Deacons with Faculties in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.”
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