Church Faces “Galileo Moment” on Homosexuality Says Bishop

Bishop Stephen Lowe

A New Zealand Catholic bishop has said the Church faces a “Galileo moment” on homosexuality, one being led by young people. Other prelates in the country have opined on LGBT issues as well while speaking at workshops for youth, exhibitiing the dialogical Church called for by Vatican II and sought by Pope Francis.

Bishop Stephen Lowe of Hamilton said it is youth and young adults who are leading the church on LGBT issues. NZ Catholic reported that he told the audience at the Aotearoa Catholic Youth Festival, where three bishops each gave a workshop:

“‘I think young people are prophets of the Church. They always have something to say to the Church. And that’s what has come up. Young people want the Church to be more engaging with them (LGBT people),” [Lowe] said.

“He said the issue of homosexuality may be a ‘Galileo moment’ for the Church. Galileo Galilei was convicted of heresy by the Church in 1633 for teaching that the earth is not the centre of the universe but actually revolved around the sun.

“‘The psychology is still up for debate but the Church has got to engage with the science and engage with the experience of couples with same-sex attraction,’ he said.”

Asked whether a transgender man could be a priest, Lowe said no, and added it was a “different world” from when he grew up.

During his session at the youth festival, Bishop Patrick Dunn of Auckland told attendees, “We need to make the LGBT people feel welcome. They are beautiful people but they feel rejected by the Church.” Last fall, Dunn wrote an affirming column about Fr. James Martin, SJ’s book, Building a Bridge, saying he too had friends and family who were gay and the book was “well worth reading.”

Finally, Cardinal John Dew of Wellington, referred to Pope Francis when asked how Catholics should engage people, including other Catholics, who support marriage equality and/or abortion:

“‘He (Pope Francis) does say that when people are caught up in a situation like that, we don’t condemn them. We try and walk with them and make sure they know Church teachings so they can make wise and discerned decisions themselves. . .But he does say if people are in a difficult situation or in a situation that isn’t in accord with Church teaching, you listen to them, you accompany them, you try and get them to understand. And even if they don’t fully understand, you don’t dismiss them.'”

In 2014, Dew participated in the Synod on the Family and called for less judgmental language to be used in church teaching on homosexuality.

Bishop Lowe’s reference to a “Galileo moment” on homosexuality is notable, and church leaders should certainly address LGBT issues using the latest contemporary knowledge. But what is most notable in this story is not the content of the bishops’ messages, but their methodology. Hosting these conversations with youth enacts the dialogical Church which Vatican II called for and which Pope Francis would like to realize more fully today. Their responses show they are not only giving answers, but are really listening to the voices of youth, LGBT people, their families, Pope Francis, and more. In short, they are taking seriously the “joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties” of the people of God, as Vatican II encouraged, and in turn they are trying to provide humble and merciful interactions. Perhaps the best advice at the workshops are these words from Bishop Dunn which are readily applicable for LGBT issues:

“‘Don’t be shy to ask your priests and bishop your questions.'”

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 10, 2018

14 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    Very wise and encouraging words from the prelates quoted here, to be sure. It continues to baffle me as to why their peer prelates in the United States are super-reactionary . What is it about the Catholic Church in the United States that keeps it chained to far-right-wing political and social ideology? In many ways, the United States itself has a comparatively high level of social and cultural tolerance — but our version of Roman Catholicism remains one of the most stodgy and reactionary versions on the planet. Truly, it baffles me. The Church in Italy itself — the Primary Seat of Catholicism — is more compassionate and tolerant than the Church in the United States. Can anyone come up with a cogent explanation for this bizarre situation?

    Reply
    • Paula
      Paula says:

      Looking across from Europe, which has its own problems, I am often surprised by how Puritan America can be. The Church in America seems, for the most part, to be on the side of its more conservative members, with some courageous exceptions.

      Reply
      • Friends
        Friends says:

        So true, Paula! Interesting observation: my good online friend, Maria Johnson, hosts a “Reasonably Catholic” radio program on WESU-FM, at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Maria occasionally attends Mass in New York City, hosted by a community of ordained women Catholic priests. These women priests, I understand, were consecrated on board a ship in international waters — and their co-consecrators were a group of quite validly consecrated male Catholic bishops, who were personally outraged by the way that women with authentic priestly vocations were being rudely “dissed” by the established Catholic hierarchy. Our kindred Episcopal Church, of course, is already and quite openly ordaining women priests. I would say that sexism is the root sin from which most of our established Church hierarchy needs to repent, and to reform its misguided sexist ideology.

        Reply
        • Bishop Carlos Florido, osf
          Bishop Carlos Florido, osf says:

          I began ordaining and consecrating women several years ago, when I was presiding bishop. Best move I ever made for our branch of the Old Catholic Church. All churches need women clergy.

          Reply
  2. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM
    Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM says:

    “Asked whether a transgender man could be a priest, Lowe said no, and added it was a “different world” from when he grew up.”

    This answer appears to assume that God would not call a transgender man to the priesthood.

    “‘He (Pope Francis) does say that when people are caught up in a situation like that, we don’t condemn them. We try and walk with them and make sure they know Church teachings so they can make wise and discerned decisions themselves. . .But he does say if people are in a difficult situation or in a situation that isn’t in accord with Church teaching, you listen to them, you accompany them, you try and get them to understand. And even if they don’t fully understand, you don’t dismiss them.’”

    If the Inquisition had patiently listened to and counseled Galileo to make him comply with Church teaching, the Earth would still not be the center of the universe.

    Reply
  3. Adamm Ferrier
    Adamm Ferrier says:

    If it is a “Galileo moment” this means that they have at least another 400 years to go before grudging acceptance. Kudos to the Bish, however.

    Reply
  4. Michael Wilson
    Michael Wilson says:

    As a gay person, I’d like to inform you politely that we haven’t cared what you think for a while.
    It’s funny how that happens.
    When an institution protected pedophiles since, forever; it’s hard to, you know, care what you think.

    Reply
  5. Pamela
    Pamela says:

    Better to tell the priests and bishops this: ‘Don’t be shy to ask your LGBTI people your questions”. The Church is still acting top down on things it doesn’t understand.

    Reply
    • Bishop Carlos Florido, osf
      Bishop Carlos Florido, osf says:

      That is an excellent comment! There was time–it seems centuries ago to me–when Popes, prelates and so forth made pronouncements that had no logical, historical, scientific validity. We must be aware that Holy Orders do not give us Holy Wisdom. This issue is not unique to all Catholic churches. I too often hear pastors and priests talking about what they know, when all of us actually mean what we believe. This is a complex issue and there is not enough space here to deal with the siuation!

      Reply

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