Hot Off the Presses: Cardinal Pell Facing Criminal Charges with Multiple Complainants
29 June 2017 | 12:54 am


Hot off the presses: "Cardinal George Pell charged with multiple sexual offences: Third-ranking official in the Vatican charged by Victoria police in move that will send shockwaves around the Catholic church."


Nick Miller, "'The ambitious Australian bulldog': The life and times of Cardinal George Pell":

He was remembered by one priest from the seminary as "a tall, strong man [who] loves a fight and will do anything to get his own way". Another recalled "George thought men had to be men and that pansies belonged in the garden".

When Pell's cousin Monica Hingston, a former nun living in a committed relationship with another woman, asked to meet with him to discuss how the church's teaching about homosexuality harms LGBTQ people, he simply ignored her, saying he felt "cornered."

She did not exist for him.

She was not there to be seen.

She was "disrespectful" in asking that he meet with her face to face.

How does one put together all the elements of the story of George Cardinal Pell and make sense of it?

In his treatment of his cousin and of "pansies" in general, is he any different from other Catholic pastoral leaders, when all is said and done? 

How do these pastoral leaders justify attacking LGBTQ people when they themselves live in glass houses?

How can we not keep asking these questions?

Is the problem in the Catholic church and its official response to LGBTQ people really that LGBTQ people have failed to "respect" Catholic pastoral officials?

Delta Responds to Me About My Complaint
28 June 2017 | 2:29 pm

An update for all of you: after I posted my story two days ago on Monday about having filed a complaint with Delta when my seat next to Steve on a recent flight from Atlanta to Charlotte was taken from me as my boarding pass was scanned and assigned to another passenger, though there were empty seats in comfort class, to which we had been told we were being upgraded, I got a reply from Delta to my complaint at long last on Tuesday. As my posting on Monday states, immediately after I emailed my complaint about this matter to Delta on May 25, I got back an acknowledgment from Delta stating that I would receive a response to the complaint before 30 days had passed.


June 25 came and went and when I had not gotten any response — though I sent a reminder to Delta on June 21 that I was awaiting their response before 30 days had elapsed — I decided to post the story.

I appreciate the response Delta finally sent me yesterday, but am still very unclear about the details regarding what happened. The Delta customer service representative tells me Delta did not target us as a same-sex couple. She also states that, if we want to avoid such separations after we book seats side by side (we've now experienced them routinely on Delta flights in the recent past), we should make our reservation as a single reservation for both of us.

But that's what we did, and that's what Steve explained to the Delta representative when he called Delta as we returned from Charlotte to Little Rock via Atlanta, and found that — once again — the side-by-side seats he had booked for the two of us had been changed and we'd been separated. The Delta agent told him he had requested a separation of the tickets and the reservation.

He told her he had done no such thing and asked her how such a notice had been entered into their system about our reservations. At this point, she transferred him to another representative who worked it out so that we could have the side-by-side seats we had reserved weeks before the flight. 

We still have no clear word from Delta about how any of this happened and why it has happened to us repeatedly in the recent past. If I hear more, I will post again about this. I certainly want to give Delta credit, and I am grateful that Delta replied to my complaint yesterday and apologized for the inconvenience. 

At the same time, we want to understand why this is happening and pursue the matter so that it does not happen again to us — or to anyone else, for that matter, to any other couples traveling together who have booked their tickets on a single reservation. 

Father Klaus Mertes on False Victimization Claims of Catholic Hierarchy in Abuse Crisis: Application to Father James Martin's Bridge-Building Project
28 June 2017 | 1:30 pm



I've recently asked several questions that seem to me imperative for us to ask, if we're to take seriously Father James Martin's proposal for bridge-building between the Catholic hierarchy and the LGBTQ community. Here's one of those questions


An important question that absolutely has to be asked here, if any of what Father Martin is saying is to be grounded in reality, in the reality of the U.S. Catholic church as it now exists: 
Where, for goodness' sake, is that "dialogue with bishops" of which Father Martin speaks actually taking place? 
Where are the bishops who are making it their business to invite LGBTQ Catholics to sit down with them, talk with them, meet them as human beings? Father Martin is absolutely right when he notes that the ideal, in the idealized dialogue situation he is sketching, is that those involved in the dialogue must learn to respect not merely titles, offices, façades, but individuals.  
A precondition of any dialogue process in which we learn to respect each other as individuals is that we meet as human beings, beyond titles, offices, and façades.

And here's another of those questions

When you don't intend to talk to a group of people you've long excluded from your conversation (while you pretend that the conversation is inclusive and respectful), what better way to justify your adamant determination to keep ignoring them — to keep pretending they are not even there and do not exist — than to accuse them of disrespect as they employ the best tools at their disposal to knock down the door of your pretenses about wanting open, inclusive, respectful dialogue?

I'm addressing quite specifically the claim of Father Martin that the project of bridge-building vis-a-vis the Catholic hierarchy and the LGBTQ community must be mutual, must demand respect from both sides, and must acknowledge that members of the hierarchy often feel they have been treated disrespectfully by the LGBTQ community. As we think through these matters, I'd like to point you today to a lecture given by Father Martin's fellow Jesuit Father Klaus Mertes at Oxford University. The lecture, entitled "A Traumatised and Traumatising Institution: Reflections on the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Catholic Church," was presented at St. Benet's Hall Oxford on 1 November 2016 as a William E. Simon Foundation lecture.

As his lecture title indicates, Father Mertes is commenting on the response of the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church to victims of sexual abuse. Though LGBTQ Catholics have not suffered the gross violations that those sexually abused as minors by religious authority figures suffer, and I don't want to claim that the two sets of church members are on the same footing in their experience of abuse, LGBTQ Catholics are, nonetheless, victims of institutional abuse engineered by the pastoral leaders of the church.

And the defensive dynamics used to dismiss the testimony of sexual abuse survivors are very much like the defensive dynamics used to ignore and belittle LGBTQ Catholics seeking a hearing for our own stories of abuse at the hands of the institution. Father Mertes zeroes in on the pronounced defensiveness of the Catholic hierarchy when members of the hierarchy are asked to meet abuse victims face to face, to hear their stories, and to talk to them. As he says, faced with these demands, a predictable tactic of the hierarchy is to depict itself as the victimized and abused party, the disrespected party.

He states,

But the institution's self-assessment as a victim and the feeling in the institution of being a victim makes one blind to the victims of abuse and deaf to their stories. This is why it is a "temptation" spiritually speaking. There is a chronological order which must be observed if the process of clarification is to succeed. First the victims of abuse must be heard. To let the words of the victims get to one, one must sort out one's own feelings of being a victim: yes, the awful truth will hurt, but at first it is not about the institution, and not about the church. The church should not act as a victim when it encounters victims of abuse in the church.

Several points leap out at me as I read this valuable analysis:

1. The (false) victim mentality makes members of the hierarchy blind and deaf to victims of abuse and their stories. Those we cannot see and hear do not exist for us. They are not there. They are not human in the same way we are human. And so we can ignore them.

2. There is a chronological order which must be observed if the process of clarification is to succeed. First the victims of abuse must be heard.

In the questions I am asking about Father Martin's project, I am asking — a fundamental and very important question that must be asked about the project, it seems to me — where and when the Catholic hierarchy has begun soliciting the testimony of LGBTQ Catholics about our experience with the church. Where and when are members of the hierarchy meeting with us face to face and asking to hear our stories — to see us and hear us? As human beings . . . .

If there has been no first in this proposed dialogue, then the bridge-building dialogue is spurious, it seems to me, and talking about it is diversionary. Such talk applies a bandaid to a deep wound that should not be covered over in this way, if the church wants the festering to stop. 

Only when there has been such a first can any talk about the presumed or purported disrespect of the LGBTQ community for the Catholic hierarchy be meaningful at all. What first has to be dealt with is the extreme disrespect of the Catholic hierarchy for LGBTQ human beings demonstrated by the refusal of the hierarchy and its cheerleaders to open the door to face-to-face meetings with members of the LGBTQ community, to solicit our stories, to listen to them respectfully. 

If this is happening anywhere in the Catholic church in the U.S., I am completely unaware of it.

I want to acknowledge Catherine Pepinster's article today at Religion News Service on abuse in the Church of England and Lord George Carey's involvement in covering it up as my source for information about Father Mertes' lecture. 

The photo of Father Mertes is from his Wikipedia entry, and has a Creative Commons license making it available for online sharing with attribution.


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