More than a monologue: Sexual diversity and the Catholic Church



Roman Catholic universities and non-denominational divinity schools collaborate to change the conversation about sexual diversity and the Catholic church

P Lakeland"The conversation on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in the Roman Catholic Church has for too long been only a monologue coming from the institutional Church.... It's time for a 21st century conversation on sexual diversity, with new and different voices heard from."
- Paul Lakeland, Director, Center for Catholic Studies, Fairfield University

In an unprecedented collaboration, Roman Catholic universities and non-denominational divinity schools are collaborating to change the conversation about sexual diversity and the Catholic Church. Fordham University, Union Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, and Fairfield University announced today that they are jointly producing a series of events entitled More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church.

The series, taking place in Fall 2011, will explore the diversity of viewpoints among Catholics on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. Each event has a unique focus and the series as a whole will lift up new voices that are rarely heard and raise awareness about the impact of church teachings and public stances on the lives of LGBT people. Participants and audiences will include clergy and laypeople, scholars and activists, faculty and students, Catholic, post-Catholic, and non-Catholic thought leaders. The long-term goal of this unusual initiative is to encourage a vigorous, honest, and open debate about sexual diversity within and outside the Catholic Church.

"The conversation on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in the Roman Catholic Church has for too long been only a monologue - the sole voice being heard is that of the institutional Catholic Church," said Paul Lakeland, Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., Professor of Catholic Studies, Director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, and an organizer of the series. "That's why many Americans believe, incorrectly, that all Catholics are opposed to equal rights for LGBT people. It's time for a 21st century conversation on sexual diversity, with new and different voices heard from."

The dates, titles, and locations of the four events are:

  • Learning to Listen: Voices of Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church Fordham University, Lincoln Center Campus, New York, NY - Friday, September 16
  • Pro-Queer Life: Youth Suicide Crisis, Catholic Education, and the Souls of LGBTQ People, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY - Saturday, October 1
  • Same-Sex Marriage and the Catholic Church: Voices from Law, Religion, and the Pews Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT - Saturday, October 22
  • The Care of Souls: Sexual Diversity, Celibacy, and Ministry
    Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT - Saturday, October 29

The "Care of Souls" conference addresses the roles and responsibilities of Catholics who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in the Church's ministries. The focus will be on both lay and ordained. All Christians through baptism are equal members of the Church. How is this equality realized in ministry to LGBT Catholics, and how do their human experience and their gifts enrich the whole community of faith? How are the celibacy of clergy and the Church's sanction of celibacy on LGBT people relevant to this discussion? How do they work for and participate in a church that denies them an essential element of themselves? What are the special challenges they face in their responsibilities towards the whole community of faith, and what are the special graces they bring to pastoral ministry?

Major speakers at the Fairfield University conference will be:

Mark Jordan, Harvard Divinity School, author of The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism and Telling Truths in Church: Scandal, Flesh and Christian Speech, among many others.
Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministries, author of Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church and Voices of Hope: A Collection of Positive Catholic Writings on Lesbian/Gay Issues.
Rev. Donald Cozzens, writer-in-residence at John Carroll University in Cleveland, OH, author of Freeing Celibacy, Faith That Dares to Speak, and Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church.

Each event will feature major speakers on the specific topics as well as panels and participant discussion. For more information, visit http://www.morethanamonologue.org.

Why More Than A Monologue?

Roman Catholic leaders have increasingly taken more public stances and hardened their language in support of the church's position against LGBT equality. This exemplifies the high-profile, one-dimensional discourse of institutional Roman Catholicism when it comes to issues of diverse sexual orientation and gender expression and LGBT equality. At the same time, however, U.S. Catholics show increasing support for LGBT equality:

  • By a margin of 2 to 1, Catholics say that homosexuality should be accepted by society.
  • Almost 50% of U.S. Catholics support full marriage equality
  • Six-in-10 Catholics support adoption by gay and lesbian couples who meet all legal qualifications.
  • 68% of Catholics favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, compared to 23% who oppose it - a 3:1 margin.

Voices from More Than a Monologue:

Christine Firer Hinze, Professor of Theology and Director of the Francis & Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University: "At Learning to Listen: Voices of Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church, we hope to move beyond the usual back and forth of official church statements and gay Catholic activists' responses by exploring how the issue of sexual diversity affects all Catholics - active or former, gay or straight, female or male, of every culture, race and ethnicity. The time has come for us to learn to listen to all the voices and engage in a more enlightened, compassionate and honest conversation."

Kelby Harrison, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Social Ethics, (Sexual and LGBTQ Ethics) at Union Theological Seminary: "The Catholic Church is the number one provider of private education in the U.S. The cultural and personal influence that it maintains over its students - intellectually, spiritually, and morally - is profound. The recent wave of teenage and young adult suicides by those who are, or who are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer is only new in its large-scale media coverage. Educational institutions must take responsibility for protecting against the culture and attitudes that contribute to LGBTQ suicide. The Pro-Queer Life: Youth Suicide Crisis, Catholic Education, and the Souls of LGBTQ People event will focus attention on where Catholic educational institutions are getting it right, where they need to be better, and where their complicity in the wounding of young LGBTQ persons is unacceptable."

Diana M. Swancutt, Associate Professor of New Testament at Yale Divinity School: "When the Connecticut Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the fall of 2008, the Connecticut Bishops responded first with a public statement offered on behalf of all the Catholic faithful in the state (without their deliberation or consent) condemning the decision and arguing that marriage was not a civil right to be exercised by gay and lesbian people. Other Catholic points of view - from expertise in ethics, theology, law and the special tasks of the laity in the world - can and must be heard for a more robust discussion. Same-Sex Marriage and the Catholic Church: Voices from Law, Religion, and the Pews aims to provide that forum."

Paul Lakeland, Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., Professor of Catholic Studies and Director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University: "The Catholic Church has large numbers of LGBT laity engaged in pastoral work in the Church and many gay clergy. But the official standpoint of the teaching Church makes their status as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender problematic for individuals, their communities, and the Church. This creates conflicts and tensions for many, while hiding the fact that all Christians contribute to Church life because of, not despite, who they are. So at the Care of Souls: Sexual Diversity, Celibacy, and Ministry event, we will be examining the challenges of the baptismal call to ministry in the lives of LGBT Catholics and looking at how a more positive and fruitful situation can be created."

The More Than A Monologue series of events is made possible through the support of the four organizing institutions and the Arcus Foundation.

To arrange interviews with More Than A Monologue spokespeople or for more information, contact:

For the series of events: Geoffrey Knox: (212) 229-0540 or gknox@geoffreyknox.com and Roberta Sklar: (917) 704-6358 or rsklar@geoffreyknox.com.

For events at each institution:

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 18, 2011

Vol. 43, No. 246