Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. No church, no gifts, lots of food, casual clothes, and a reminder of what the good earth has provided. Grace included thanks to the farmers who grow our food, the plants and animals that sustain us, the cooks who prepare our meals and the family and friends who share the bounty of our table.

Family and Friend
Unfortunately I was too busy in the kitchen to take pictures while cooking; I always think of those things too late. But fortunately Leon got in a blurry shot before we hacked it up. I chose a 20-pounder because I love turkey leftovers and it will save me from cooking for the next two weeks (just joking). And there'll be turkey soup as well.

The menu included a 20 pound turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, finocchi gratinati in besciamella, pearl onions in cream sauce, butternut and acorn squash, cranberry sauce, our traditional meat and bread stuffing and my own concoction, a meatless dressing for our guest who is mostly vegetarian. Red and white wine, sparkling Catawba grape juice. 

Desserts included homemade apple pie and strawberry rhubarb pie with two flavors of locally churned ice cream - vanilla and sweet cream, and fresh brewed dark roast coffee.
My plate - and I did not take seconds!
I had to bake an apple pie but alas, we never got to taste it. It was payment for services of a lovely woman who volunteered to proofread my manuscript. Her eagle eye spotted several typos and some misconstrued words - a service well worth this pie. Fortunately my sister made an apple pie for our dinner - but no pics of that either.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In Memory of Harvey Milk and George Moscone

Like it or not, we live in a country where all kinds of people occupy space. Most are not descendants of indigenous peoples. We do not share the same ethnicities, histories, religious beliefs, political leanings, philosophies of life, economic status or a host of other characteristics that make us the individuals we are.

And while we all occupy space, either by some god-given right or by chance or fate, none of us have the right to impose our will or belief or righteous indignation on another by means of violence or intimidation. Dan White took it upon himself to assassinate two political colleagues, Harvey Milk and George Moscone because he didn't agree with their views or their politics, or envied their success as popular politicians. Dan White could not tolerate views or opinions or civics lessons or the fact that LGBT folks might have civil rights in his jurisdiction.

Dan White could not abide diversity. So he tried to destroy what/who he saw as his enemy.

Ours is a country built on an experiment - an experiment in human rights. Human rights, if not an absolute, are a constantly evolving concept. But there are still those who see the evolution of human rights as a threat, and those who are the beneficiaries of newly defined rights as the enemy.

LGBT individuals are still scapegoated, bullied, hurt, maimed and murdered because of intolerance, hatred and fear. Many of our local and state government leaders, many members of our US Congress are not so different in their attitudes from Dan White. Hopefully none of them will shoot the collegues they disagree with. But their money, power and influence still harm us and their dismissal of our legitimate concerns stifles the evolution of this experiment in human rights.

On this anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, we remember men who died in service to our and the larger community through the political process - a process that can only work in a spirit of reason and compromise.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pope Francis' Questionnaire

Assisi, Italy
I guess I'm on a Catholic trend.

I posted this to a website: John Wijngaards Catholic Research Centre where they are asking for respondents to the Questionnaire put out recently by Pope Francis - the one that the Catholic Bishops in the US chose to disregard.

The section of Pope’s questionnaire concerning LGBTs contains the following questions:

Question 5 a. Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?

Question 5 b. What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?

Question 5 c. What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?

Question 5 d. In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

According to official Vatican documents, gays or lesbians are not allowed to have any sexual relationships. They state that gay or lesbian ‘unions’ go against Natural Law and may never equated with a heterosexual marriage.

If you are a homosexual yourself, could you describe your experience in this area? What is it like to be a Catholic and live in a homosexual relationship? Do you feel you are guilty of immorality/ Do you receive any support from the Church?

Here is my response:

Question 5  a. Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?
Yes, in some states of the USA same-sex marriage is legal.

Question 5  b. What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?
Progressive Christian and Jewish congregations are supportive; evangelical Protestant, Mormon, Catholic, and others are not only not supportive, but actively work against what are our civil rights and try to impose their beliefs on those of us of other faiths or beliefs or those of us who do not belong to any religion. That is putting it mildly. Religions, in many cases have become the embodiment of hate and dare I say of evil.

Question 5  c. What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?
As far as I’m concerned, it is way too late for this.
The question itself is disingenuous.
If you must, begin by listening to the stories and lived experience of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender individuals without judgment or preconceived ideas, without an attitude of your knowing us, our lives, our consciences, or struggles, or our identities better than we do.

Question 5  d. In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?
My God, respect the lives of the children and their adoptive parents in the same manner that you insist on respecting life in the womb. Many, but of course not all,  same sex partners adopt children with special needs – unwanted children, sick children, emotionally disturbed children, children born addicted to drugs, - these families are providing love and nurturance. How can this be wrong?

A Brief Recounting of my own Experience:

I am a young, sixty-five-year-old American male and I have bee in a loving relationship with another man for over 25 years (since I was 40). My childhood upbringing was in Catholic schools and I came from a very devout family. I discovered my sexuality gradually from the time I was around twelve to fourteen. At around fourteen I learned that masturbation, (self-abuse) was a mortal sin and I struggled with this through my young adulthood. A priest once refused to give me, a 16-year old, absolution because he said I was not contrite enough and was not serious about changing my ways. I was devastated. I discovered the word “homosexual” when I was about sixteen and read an article in Life Magazine that depicted homosexuals as frightening degenerates. I was fascinated and horrified.

I knew I was a homosexual but I also knew I couldn’t be. I knew I could never act on my desires to have sex with a male. Even though I was not having sex with men, the guilt I lived with around masturbation was unrelenting. I went through several therapists (some were priests) from age sixteen until I got out of college at twenty-two. No therapist ever acknowledged my true identity, instead said things like “you can’t be homosexual, you’ve never had sex with a male,” or  “You’re just shy with women. “ or “you’re an intelligent person, you can work things out for yourself.” My education continued in Catholic institutions through graduate school where I got a degree in Pastoral Counseling.

I even sacrificed what might have been a career in another field in order to study psychology and try to “figure out” how to “cure” myself. I experienced long periods of depression for most of my life, often after making occasional aborted attempts to connect with another man.

Finally, thanks to a co-worker, I found a therapist who was excellent, non-judgmental and who stayed with me for the long haul – more than two years. My long inner struggle finally came to an end with my full acceptance and embracing of my sexuality.

I “came out” at the age of thirty-six; I came out personally, psychologically, sexually, spiritually and politically. It was 1984. This was the most joyous, liberating, deeply spiritual, fulfilling and positive period of my entire life.

One of my first “out” actions was to attend a Mass at the local chapter of Dignity the organization for LGBT Catholics which met in the basement of a community center like the early Christians in the catacombs of ancient Rome. I wept for joy when we sang “…Blest are you that weep and mourn, for one day you shall laugh. And if wicked men insult and hate you all because of me, blessed, blessed are you! Be not afraid. I go before you always…and I will give you rest.” and then “Let us build the city of God, May our tears be turned into dancing, For the Lord our light and our love, Has turned the night into day.”

I became very involved with Dignity because I still needed spiritual sustenance: I was overjoyed that my Church, through Dignity, was finally accepting me, or so I believed. Then, in October of 1986, Ratzinger and JP-II issued “The Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” that called us objectively disordered and self-indulgent. The Catholic Church was now calling my innate aversion to hetero-sex a “more or less strong tendency toward moral evil.” And it accused organizations like Dignity of promoting deceitful propaganda and even suggested that increased violence toward gay persons was almost to be expected in view of new civil rights legislation protecting gays from discrimination.

The document was full of insults. It made the lived experience of Gay, Lesbian and other sexual minorities unimportant, irrelevant and worthless. It reminded me that in the eyes of the church I was considered sinful to my very core, to my very identity. Nothing had changed, except for the worse. This was a blow to both cheeks. This teaching hurt me so deeply, I lost faith in Dignity and in the Church.

Since that time I observe that vis-à-vis most Christian denominations I am anathema. As we LGBT communities advance in our civil rights, Christian religions, and most prominently the Catholic Church, has redoubled efforts to put us down, condemn us, and spread outright lies about us, our lives and relationships.

I now have little use for organized religion of any kind and find their promulgations just as unimportant, irrelevant and worthless as they find me.

As I said at the outset, I have been in a loving relationship for 25 years. Tell me, how can love be sinful?

Yes, sex is involved. But sex is not the most important thing in our lives. (Let me use “our” in the wider, community sense). Not even close. The church makes way too big a deal about sex. People are sexual. People have sex. Grow up. Get over it. We’re way past the days when the church had to control everything and everybody.

For me and my partner and I will say most other same-sex couples, friendship, love, intimacy, companionship, being one another’s helpmate are much more important than sex. Just like most heterosexual couples. We work, we pay taxes, we volunteer, we take care of elderly parents, we teach, we support charities, we plant gardens, we do art and music and science. We sing in your choir, we say your masses, we heal the sick, we counsel the troubled, and we feed the hungry.

But there are those who would say that all we do is tainted.
All we do is for naught.
All we do is cancelled out because of who we are. 
And that all we do is without merit because of how we occasionally stimulate our sexual organs.

Those who discount our lives, who protest our very existence, they are hypocrites, Pharisees.

We hear condemnation daily: from our religious leaders, our politicians, our neighbors.

How can a human being live in dignity when faced on a regular basis with hatred, condemnation, ridicule, violence, name-calling and even the real possibility of being murdered for who we are? In some countries we are imprisoned or even condemned to death.

What makes us so frightful to the hetero world?

Why do you spend so much time and energy and money and spiritual capital in a misguided attempt to destroy us, we who are part of God’s creation and made to exist in His image and through His infinite wisdom?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Turn a Mirror on Bishop Poprocki This Wednesday

Bishop Poprocki of Springfield Illinois will be performing an exorcism to ward off the evil of same-sex marriage in Illinois, to ward off the evil of the legislators who passed the bill, some of them, OMG, baptized Catholics, and of course to ward off the evil of the demon possessed Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgendered and all those other sexual minorities that Poprocki's god hates.

I posted this comment to Bilgimage today:

Bishop Paprocki’s exorcism stunt would be laughable if were not for the fact that so many Catholics and non-Catholics take the actions of Catholic bishops and the symbolism of exorcism seriously.

That LGBT persons are seen as possessed by evil and therefore we, and our demand for equality, are in need of exorcism is in itself a dangerous view. 

We are not at all viewed on par with other minorities - we are not seen as morally neutral by those who consider themselves morally superior: our sexuality defines us as morally suspect and therefore appropriate subjects for their rites of exorcism.

Has so little changed since the Inquisition, since fags were 
burned at the stake, since homosexuals were rounded up and forced into Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers? These were all attempts to rid the world of the "evil" that the powers that be attribute to LGBT's.

To use exorcism as weapon is way beyond praying “give us this day our daily bread” or “thy will be done.” it is an 
insidious approbation of a new cult of hate and vitriol bordering on violence toward LGBT persons.

I am reminded of the funeral services of Matthew Shepard
 (and others) that the Westboro Baptist Church tried to disrupt with signs stating that “God Hates Fags”; good people wearing huge angel wings to block out the hateful signs and protesters from view of the mourners thwarted the intentions of Westboro during Matthew’s funeral. See: (

Paprocki's exorcism exhibition is clearly in the same vein as Westboro Baptist Church, only couched in the piety and ritual of Roman Catholicism. I'm sure it will be complete with Latin incantations and incense. 

But, in similar fashion as Matthew's angels, I picture LGBT folks everywhere holding mirrors to Paprocki’s gesture and reflecting his exorcism back on him.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On Leaving the Forest - A Love Poem

After I posted the Preface to Did You Ever See A Horse Go By - A Coming Out Memoir, I was thinking about someone who I called Silvio in the book.

He was a guy I went to college with and perhaps the first man I ever had a crush on. I only have one photo of him. Asleep on a sofa in the college library circa 1968.

We spent a lot of time together during the summer after Sophomore year after which I went on to study abroad and Silvio transferred to a state university.

To be perfectly honest, it was more than a crush. I think I was head over heels in love. But, it was 1968 and it was a love that dare not speak its name. At least not in my world.

Silvio and I drifted apart. He got a PhD, married a woman, had a child, and was teaching in a small college in the northeast. He called me once, a couple of dozen years ago to tell me he was visiting his parents in a nearby city and that he would like to stop by for a visit.

I was as nervous as hell, but said "Sure. Love to see you."

Silvio came for a visit and told me his wife had passed away. We talked about stuff, caught up a bit.

Of course I was "out" by then and had been dating Leon. But for one brief moment I entertained a thought that maybe there was a chance my old love might be requited.

We ended our visit without my daring speak the love I'd had for him when we were younger and for some reason we never kept in touch afterwards.

Writing and editing a 300 page memoir brings up a lot of stuff of the emotional sort. So the other day, just for the hell of it, I googled Silvio's real name, PhD and region where he was employed.

The first thing that came up was Silvio's obituary that dated his passing on September 26, 2012. There were no details on the cause of death.

I can't precisely explain the emotions that reading Silvio's obituary stirred up.

A profound sense of sadness.

A sense of loss:
   - of an old friend;
   - of any possibility of renewed contact;
   - of sharing a love that could now speak its name;
   - of a possibility that had remained open-ended, now closed;
   - of youth;
   - of a harbored fantasy;

A sense of my own mortality getting closer - life a commodity in limited supply.

The obit carved out a little space, an emptiness in my soul.

It brought a few tears to my eyes.

On Leaving the Forest - A Love Poem - August 1968 (an excerpt)

I must leave you now forever
for I love you
You are beautiful and dark
and I would love you

Rest in Peace, Silvio, know that I loved you.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Did You Ever See A Horse Go By? A Coming Out Memoir

I've made passing reference to the fact that I've been working on a memoir. 

I belong to a writers' group - a small group of fantastic people who have encouraged me and offered guidance, feedback and sane company. It has been a long project - I actually started thinking about it and did some writing back in 1987.

The manuscript is finally complete except for a final edit by "my publisher" who are actually members of the writers' group. So while the book is as yet unpublished and as I don't have a clue when it might be and as I don't have much else to say, I decided to post the Preface here. 

Did You Ever See A Horse Go By? 
A Coming Out Memoir
Copyright 2013 Frank DeFrancesco

 Peter, to whom the following letter is addressed, died, like too many others I’ve known, of complications of AIDS. I had never finished composing the letter to him in 1987 and so it was never sent. Here, many years later, I’ve added a few thoughts by way of a preface.
1987:   Dear Peter,
            We had talked about writing, about our need to capture in words the experiences and feelings, the joys and foibles of that mysterious process-event we call “coming out.” While I’m not sure the world really needs another “coming out story”, I feel deeply the need to tell it.            
            I write better knowing I am writing for an audience, so I hope you will be both my audience and my critic, as you are close to the experience yourself and of course you are intelligent, sophisticated and articulate. I will appreciate your feedback.
            We are, both of us, owning our true selves as adults rather than as teens or young men; it has brought us on a mid-life adventure to an exotic foreign land filled with marvelous sights and people and things to do and learn and discover. Learning to get around in this new country is at times exciting, joyful and deeply satisfying and at times dangerous, painful, sobering and even sad. I’ve shed more tears for love lost than I would have liked or even imagined.
            What we are experiencing is adolescence. It’s not particularly easy to be a responsible grown up and to be going through adolescence at the same time. But in some respect, I find that my grown-up life of work and service in the health field is less charged with importance than is the challenge of my adolescent life: experiencing reciprocal erotic love for the first time, along with the drama and jealousies and heartbreaks, not to mention the insecurities around being attractive or desirable. But being out is certainly better than the alternatives – remaining terrified of the dark but too afraid to open the closet door, or living a lonely desperate life or, godforbid, suicide.
             Peter, It is now 2013. I am nobody. I am old – or nearly old as life journeys go. My life, in the grand scheme of things, is irrelevant. So why should my story – my experiences beginning more than half a century ago – matter to anyone? Why should I bother to write down these snippets of my life?
            The answer to that last question is: I had to write this account, even if no one ever reads it, because I am compelled to do so in the same way as I was compelled to come out; it’s a matter of survival. Because, if am to live any semblance of an authentic life I must come out unreservedly and often; because coming out is never only an event – it is a continuous process and one that challenges me daily.
            The woman who cuts my hair insists on making small talk and asks about my wife. How do I respond?
            At the auto repair shop, I tell the service tech, “if there’s a problem, call Lee (who is not yet my spouse), my, uh, friend? partner? significant other?”
            Lee and I are holding hands on a deserted beach at sunset as someone approaches in the distance. Do I let go of his hand or not?
            A close relative introduces Lee as my “friend”; do I make some awkward correction and call him my husband even though we are not yet married?
            Am I afraid to offend the likes of all the Ann Bancrofts in the world with constant gay references, “You haven’t spoken one sentence since I got here,” Ma Beckoff indignantly scolded Harvey Fierstein’s Arnold in Torch Song Trilogy, “without the word gay in it.”
            I am challenged daily to come out, again and again and again, because there still exist subtle and pervasive societal and cultural norms that are intended to force us back into our closets; the veiled but insidious beliefs, behaviors, words, and hatred still go largely unchallenged, even as things appear to be changing.
             I am challenged to come out again and again and again, because of the hate and vitriol and rage that seem to have escalated in direct proportion to the numbers of courageous LGBT individuals who refuse to be silent and invisible and in response to our coming ever closer to achieving equal rights.
            I am challenged to come out again and again and again, because too many gay kids still choose suicide as their only option to escape bullying and familial rejection; because some lawmakers still introduce bills that would effectively deny rights and liberty to LGBT folk; because some religions still wave signs declaring that “God hates fags” while others, not so obvious, use more polite and educated language to condemn and vilify us.
            My “coming out” was not only a matter of self-preservation, it was and continues to be, a uniquely liberating, transformational, spiritual and healing life experience. I do believe that “coming out” is the only antidote to the poison of societal oppression that tries to deceive us into believing that the closet is the safest place to be, that the closet will ultimately protect us from the world, from ourselves and from eternal damnation.
            The closet’s false security is ultimately suffocating and fatal to one’s emotional and psychological integrity, if not to one’s physical existence. The closet is built on more or less equal parts fear, guilt and societal and ecclesial condemnation – a formula for what is called internalized homophobia. The closet derives power from that internalized homophobia, from our internal conflicts and fears: the phony conflict between good and evil; the fears of rejection, reprisals, and violence; a mythologized Last Judgment and ungodly wrath.
            Yet we persist in our coming out as if our lives depended on it. Because they do. Coming out is so vital to our integrity that the impulse to acknowledge and be true to ourselves is, in many respects, not unlike our innate survival instinct.
            The fact that there is such an event that we call “coming out” which is virtually universal to the contemporary homosexual experience suggests that this is not an inconsequential phenomenon. Think about that. Coming out has a reality beyond our individual experience. Our experience of “coming out” is both a unique and a shared experience – one that unites us in some fundamental way.           
            Now, although I am “out” I am still in the process of “coming out.” After all, our gayness is mostly invisible to others. Coming out and being out involves being visible – when we look in the mirror and when others see us. Sometimes, to be visible, we have to be “in their face.” Sometimes we need to tell our stories, each of us, story after story, after story, until they “get it.” Because “they” are still trying to define “us”, tell us who they think we are, tell us that we are “objectively disordered” or sinful, or worse.
            Just who are “they” and who do “they” think they are?
            “They” are not only the ignorant and bigoted, but are often otherwise intelligent and sometimes even well meaning individuals. It amazes and frustrates me that our stories – the actual lived experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals – are so summarily ignored, discounted and dismissed. It baffles me that many vocal and influential individuals persist in holding to and disseminating absurd, erroneous and irrelevant opinions about us. This is unacceptable and should no longer be tolerated; “they” can only make their own positions tenable by repeating questionable scriptures, fabricated “studies”, pseudo-science and outright lies, over and over – and by wholly disregarding us and our voices.
            I can only pose a few questions for others to try to answer: What is it about homosexuality and sexual and gender non-conformity that makes it such a lightening rod? What is it so unique about this issue that religious factions condemn it, regressive governments ban it, entire cultures punish it and ordinary people are moved to hatred and violence by it? Why are millions of dollars spent to fight us and to deny us equal protections under the law? Why do “they” think they know more about our sexuality, or us, than we do?
            More to the point, why do they care? Certainly “they” outnumber “us” and we’ve always been an easy target. Does their inability to save our souls or change us, or to limit our freedom somehow make them inadequate or fearful? What is in it for “them” that they so persist?
            I can’t answer these questions. But they underlie my need to tell my story.
            As for the first question at the beginning of this preface – whether my story or experiences matter to you, the reader, or not – is for you to decide. But I do know that the lives and the lived experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are testaments to their truth and perhaps, that is Truth with a capital T; and that their truth will never be silenced. This is my voice, my truth, for what it’s worth.
            For me, the value in telling my story here, beyond being therapeutic, is to preserve a tiny slice of our collective history – to document what it was to be gay in a particular time and place. I want to remember others who were there along with me, creating our lives and defining our sexuality as we went along.
            I had thought of beginning my story like this:
            Perhaps the world does not need another coming out story. But, I suppose it can’t hurt. Coming out at thirty-six has got to be immeasurably better than not coming out at all . . .           
With fondness and love,

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Little Progressive Catholic Thought for a Sunday

Thanks to Colleen at Enlightened Catholicism for this

Jose Arregi: Open Letter to Pope Francis on the Family

The following open letter from Basque theologian José Arregi was published in Spanish on his blog on 11/6/2013. English translation by Rebel Girl.

Copyleft      El Blog di Jose Arregi

Dear Pope Francis:

As everything goes so fast today, the questionnaire on the family that you just sent to the bishops all over the world has already come into our hands -- 38 very specific questions organized into 8 thematic blocks. We understand that we are not just the subjects, but also the ones to whom these questions that affect -- and hurt -- us, even more than the bishops, are addressed. Therefore we are allowing ourselves to answer them directly, because of the affection we have for you and the trust you inspire in us. Thank you, Pope Francis, for asking us about so many uncomfortable issues that have been, and still are, taboo. And thanks for listening to us, for receiving our voices speaking from the soul, with their certainties and doubts.

1. Whether the teachings of Sacred Scripture and the hierarchical Magisterium on sexuality, marriage, and the family are known and accepted among the faithful.

Perhaps they're not well known, and certainly they are poorly accepted or simply ignored. We note that in recent decades the gap, or rather the rupture, between official doctrine and the feelings of a wide majority of believers, has grown to a critical degree. It's serious and it grieves us. But we sincerely believe that the reason for the growing break is not the ignorance, much less the irresponsibility of the believers, but rather the hierachy's being locked into patterns from the past. 

Times have changed a lot in a short period in everything that has to do with family, matrimony, and procreation, and with sexuality in general. We know they are delicate subjects, that what is most holy is at stake, that the utmost care is necessary. But you can't care for life by repeating the past. We believe deeply that the Spirit of Life goes on speaking to us from the heart of life, with its joys and sorrows. We believe that the living Ruah cannot be closed in any doctrine, or document, or words of the past, and that it goes on inspiring the feelings of all believers and all men and women today. Nothing should ever remain closed.

Pope Francis, we congratulate you on your willingness to listen again to the voice of the Spirit in the men and women of today, and we dare to ask you to keep speaking words of mercy and encouragement, to not go back to obsolete and meaningless "truths" and "norms". In the name of Life!

2. On the place that the concept of "natural law" in relation to marriage has among believers.

We will tell you simply and frankly: For the great majority of thinkers, scientists, and believers in our society, the concept of "natural law" no longer has any place at all. Yes, the nature that we are has a wondrous order, some marvelous laws, and thanks to them, science is possible. But the supreme law of nature is its capacity for change and novelty. Nature is creative and inventive. The fruits of that creative and inventive capability, of that holy creativity, are all the atoms and molecules, every star and galaxy. All of us living beings, all languages and cultures, all religions are fruits of it. For billions of years to come, infinite new forms yet unknown to us will be the results of it.

Nature is inhabited by the Spirit, by the holy Ruah that blew on the waters in Genesis, that goes on vibrating in the hearts of all beings, in the heart of every atom and particle. The family too has been changing unceasingly, from the first clans to the nuclear family, through the patriarcal family we have known until recently.

Before our very eyes, the model of the family is still changing: families without children, single parent families, families with children of different fathers and mothers...And it will go on changing, we don't know how. It's all very delicate. There's a lot of pain. We ask the Church not to speak ill of the new forms of family, since they already have enough living day to day and getting ahead amid the greater threats that come to us from a cruel, inhumane economic system. It's not the Church's job to dictate but, first of all, to provide accompaniment, relief, and encouragement, as you yourself have said.

3. On how faith, spirituality, and the Gospel are lived out and transmitted in families

A crucial question. Yes, we note with sorrow that families have stopped being "domestic churches" where there is prayer and where the good news of Jesus is nurtured, felt, and transmitted. But we don't believe it's fair to blame the families for this. The crisis in religion and the transmission of faith in the family has to do in the first place with the deep cultural transformation we are going through. And a big challenge not only or perhaps primarily for the families themselves, but for the church institution itself, is accepting the new spiritual keys and religious forms that the Spirit is inspiring in the men and women of today. 

4. On how the Church ought to face certain "difficult marital situations" (couples who live together without getting married, "common law marriages", divorced and remarried people,...).

Thanks again, Pope Francis, just for wanting to raise these questions again! Thanks for wanting to listen to us and for showing mercy through your questions! You know well the complex and changing history of "the Sacrament of Matrimony" since the beginning of the Church. The history has been quite variable and will go on being so. Look, for example, at what is happening among us, in this ultra-modern Europe. Our young people have neither the houses nor the economic means to get married and live with their partners until their 30s in the best of cases. How can the Church ask them to abstain from sexual relations until that age?

The forms change, but we believe that the criterion is very simple and that Jesus would agree: "Where there's love, there's a sacrament, whether the couple get married or not, and where there's no love, there's no sacrament, however canonically married they may be." Everything else is extra. And if the couple is having difficulties, as happens so often, only God will help them solve their difficulties and love each other again, and only God will help them separate peacefully, if they can't solve their problems and go back to loving one another.

Eliminate, then, we beseech you, the canonical impediments so that those who have failed in their marriages can remake their lives with another love. Let the Church not go on adding more pain to their pain. And let it in no way prevent them from sharing the Bread of comfort at Jesus' table, because Jesus did not impede anybody.

5. On same-sex unions.

The harm caused by the Church to homosexuals is huge, and someday it will have to ask their forgiveness. Let's hope that Pope Francis, in the name of the Church, will ask forgiveness for so much shame, contempt, and feelings of guilt that have been laid on them over the centuries.

The vast majority of men and women in our society today can't understand this obsession, this hostility. How can they go on saying that homosexual love isn't natural, being that it has been so common and natural, for biological and psychological reasons, among so many men and women of all times and on all continents, and in so many other animal species?

In this case, as in many others, the Church should go first, but society precedes us. We celebrate that there are increasingly more countries that recognize that persons of the same sex have the same right as persons of the opposite sex to form unions. What prevents us from calling them "marriages"? Aren't heterosexual unions that, for whatever reason, aren't going to have children called that too? So, let the dictionaries and canon law change to conform to the times and meet the needs of the people.

And what is stopping us from calling homosexual marriage a sacrament? It's love that makes us human and makes us divine. It's love that makes the sacrament. And everything else is gloss and human tradition.

6. On the education of children in irregular marital situations.

We believe that this language -- regular, irregular -- is inaccurate, even harmful. It's harmful to a child to hear that he has been born into or lives within an "irregular" marriage or family. And it hurts their parents, whoever they be. What hurts is not being an exception, but being censured for being an exception. Moreover, we all know that it is sufficient for the cases to multiply for the exception to become the norm. In any case, the Church is not here to define what is regular and what is irregular, but to accompany, encourage, and support each person as they are, where they are.

7. On the openness of spouses to life.

Fortunately, there are very few among us believers under 60 who have heard ofHumanae Vitae, that encyclical by Paul VI (1968) that declared it a mortal sin to use any "unnatural" contraceptive method, any method other than abstinence or adjusting to the female fertility cycle. But it made almost all our parents suffer a lot. That doctrine, adopted against the advice of much of the episcopate, was unfortunate in its time and it is no less regrettable that it is still maintained today.

Today no one understands it and almost nobody complies with it among Catholics themselves. And few priests or bishops dare to lay it out these days. It no longer makes sense to state that sex has to be open to reproduction. It no longer makes sense to distinguish between natural and artificial methods, much less to condemn a method for being "artificial", since for the same reason one would have to condemn any vaccination or injection.

Nowadays we are witnessing a momentous change in everything that has to do with sexuality and reproduction: for the first time after many millennia, sex is no longer necessary for reproduction. It is a technological change that brings with it an anthropological change and requires a new moral paradigm. Sexuality and life remain as sacred as ever and it is necessary to care for them with utmost delicacy. But the criteria and standards of Humanae Vitae don't help in this, but rather make it harder. Let the words of the Church be light and comfort, like the Spirit of God, as Jesus' words were in his time and would also be in ours.

8. On the relationship between the family, the individual and the encounter with Jesus

We believe that Jesus comes out to meet us on all paths, in every situation. In whatever model of family, in any family situation. We believe that Jesus doesn't distinguish between regular and irregular families, but tends to each situation, with its grace and its woundedness. We believe that being closed in on ourselves (our ideas and norms, our fears and shadows) is the only thing that separates us from others and from God. And we believe that humility, clarity, and trust bring us closer each day to others and open us every day to the Presence of the Living One, being where we are and being as we are. And we believe that a Church that would proclaim this, like Jesus, would be a blessing to humankind in all its situations.

Monday, November 4, 2013


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