[Update: On March 13, 2021, Fr. Thomas P. Bonacci will speak at MHR via Zoom.]
On October 7, 2017, Fr. Thomas P. Bonacci, CP will speak at Most Holy Redeemer (MHR) Parish in the Archdiocese of San Francisco; MHR has a long-standing reputation as the “gayest” Catholic parish in the US. The topic of Bonacci’s talk will be the Samaritan Woman from the Gospels entitled “Jesus Had to Pass Through Samaria.” Bonacci is not a stranger to MHR, since at least 2009 when he participated in a series of interfaith Lenten services.
Also in 2009, Bonacci gave an address at the Dignity National Convention when it was held in San Francisco; Dignity is a dissident Catholic pro-gay marriage organization which advocates for radical changes in Church teaching regarding homosexual activity. Following the 2015 Obergefell decision, Dignity released the following statement:
DignityUSA, the organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, cheered today’s Supreme Court’s sweeping decision that strikes down state bans on same-sex marriage, and makes marriage equality the law of the land throughout the U.S.
Dignity calls gay sexuality: “the holy gift of God. The overwhelming majority of us are able to say we are both sexually active and comfortable in our relationship with Christ. Being sexually active enables us to be more at ease with ourselves, more fulfilled in our relationships, more productive in our work and service. The Spirit is evident in a warmer and more peaceful prayer life.”
The topic of Bonacci’s 2009 talk was “The Gender Transcendence of Jesus: Reflections on John’s Gospel;” according to a participant at the Convention who attended his address: “He had a lot to say about the Samaritan woman at the well who used the Revelation from Jesus to bring her entire community to Christ.” According to another description of Bonacci’s talk:
Participants will explore the Dialogue with the Woman from Samaria, the Washing of the Feet, the motherhood of Jesus, the Crucifixion, and finally the Resurrection, as texts by which Jesus assumes various gender realities only to transcend any particular gender expression. Jesus, in this scheme, became truly “human” and not simply “male.”
Very poignantly Fr. Thomas said: “And the Word of God came to Harvey Milk.” Bonacci would also echo John McNeil by saying: “No matter how distinct we are from one another, no one has the right to prevent another from discovering and living out our own uniqueness.”
In 2013, Bonacci was to serve as a “retreat master” at a “leather and spirituality” retreat for a group called the “Defenders of Dignity.” According to their web-site, the Defenders: “take a stand for the sacredness of our leather sexuality and explores practical ways of integrating sexuality and spirituality.” The Defenders promote a form of sexuality which incorporates practices from both the leather and gay BDSM subcultures:
What we notice about our sexual experience as leather people is that much of what turns us on sexually has to do with such things as power exchange (dominance/submission); trust in s/m scenes where we feel the power of vulnerability and even fear, whether our own or the placing of another’s in our hands; and the intimacy of intense physical bonding which carries deeper meaning beyond the outward act itself. Words we use in the leather community, such as “honor” and “respect” reflect that as well.
After numerous Catholics publicly voiced their concerns over the “retreat,” the event was eventually cancelled.
A former vice-president of the Parish Council at MHR was BDSM authority and practioner Patrick Mulcahey.
“We aim to shift the distorted moral narrative often promoted by religious extremists in the nation from issues like prayer in school, abortion, and gun rights to one that is concerned with how our society treats the poor, those on the margins, the least of these, women, LGBTQIA folks, workers, immigrants, the disabled and the sick…”
Also featured as speakers at the 2009 Dignity National Convention were fellow Jesuits John J. McNeill and Donal Godfrey. At the Convention, McNeill offered his notorious “Sex As God Intended” speech, which included the following statements:
…better sex occurs when two wounded humans reach out to each other to share mutual sexual pleasure in a ‘one night stand’. I always liked the joke I heard many years ago about an aging queen in the bowery who went into a bar with a parakeet on his shoulder. Standing at the end of the bar he announced in a loud voice, “I will go to bed with anyone who guesses the weight of my parakeet!” one drunk looked up and guessed two hundred pounds. “Close enough!” responded the queen. What is happening here. Two psychically badly damaged human beings will share a moment of mutual sexual pleasure. That is all they are capable of and that is good, even better, sex. Even better still is the relation of two “Sex buddies” that meet regularly for sexual fulfillment in the context of mutual friendship
John was the one who had the position of honor at Jesus’ right at the last supper, and leaned his head on Jesus’ chest. John was the one who stood at the foot of the cross with the women when all the other men fled in fear. And it was to John’s care that Jesus committed his mother: seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, “Woman, this is your son.” and then to the disciple he said, “This is your mother!” and from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (john 19:26-27). Again, it is john who is the first after the women to see the empty tomb and believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. 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.
The words used in the Greek original of these texts for the centurion’s servant areentimos and pais. These words could be translated as “My beloved boy” and would have clearly indicated to Jesus that he was dealing with two men in a loving homosexual relationship. Jesus expressed astonishment at the faith of the centurion and obviously moved by his love for his “Beloved boy”, heals the young man…
…Here we have the most direct encounter of Jesus with someday who would today be pronounced “Gay” and Jesus’ reaction was acceptance of the person without judgment and even eagerness to be of assistance to restore the “Pais” to health, and by implication to fully restore the loving relationship of the two, making possible the renewal of any sexual activity which they would have enjoyed together prior to the illness.
Rev. Bonacci’s lecture was interspersed with many quips to help him make a point. For example, he joked about the disciple “whom Jesus loved” in John 13:22 by saying “Perfect love doesn’t love anybody” (meaning perfect love loves everybody).
During a June 19, 2017 address at St. Cecelia Parish in Boston, another Jesuit, James Martin said:
The word that is used, I think its paideia or another Greek word;, makes some Scripture scholars believe that – that servant was actually the centurion’s lover. Now, I don’t know, because I’m not a Scripture scholar but several reputable people have said that…
[Update: From June 9 – August 4, 2018, Bonacci was again allowed to speak at MHR.]