Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Interview on LGBT issues

Sarah Haidara, interviewed me via email for her London Metropolitan University newspaper Verve. Here are the questions and answers.



Are you the founder of the Farm Street Church LGBT group? If yes, can you tell me why you decided to create it? If not, can you tell me when you joined?
No, I am not the founder of the Farm Street Church LGBT group. I joined the group about five years ago. Within the comunity we have a group for the younger people in the 20's 30's and 40's. I am coordinating an outreach team from this group (the YAG outreach team).

The LGBT Catholic community goes back many years. Previously to Farm St , before March 2013 we were meeting regularly at Our Lady of The Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, every other week. Previously to that, people from the community were meeting at St Anne's Anglican Church; and even before that there were meetings in particular houses. Thus, the movement over the past fifteen years have been towards becoming a more visible community inside the Catholic church, and towards becoming more integrated to the regular Church life and liturgy.

How important is it to have a group like that?
I think it is good for LGBT Catholics to be able to meet other LGBT Catholics, so we can support  and encourage each other. The LGBT Catholic Westminster group has a pastoral council which considers the needs of the community and the development of meetings about various related topics, prayer, support, and days of reflection.We come together for the 6:15PM Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, Mayfair on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, and we also meet after mass.

In addition, the younger adult group (YAG) also meets regularly for spiritual and social activities. Through our fellowship, we seek to create an environment in which younger LGBT people feel supported and can embrace and deepen their faith, nurture their personal relationships with God and with each other, and engage in Christian witness in the Archdiocese of Westminster and in the wider society.

I think that these aims are still relevant and important.
[ The above answer heavily copies from our website statements and mission ;-) ]

In your experience do most people from the LGBT community tend to stay away from religion?
I think that an increasing number of people in our society, specially the younger generations, perceive the Catholic Church as hypocrite: on one hand it preaches to love your neighbour while on the other it publicly opposes homosexual relationships and marriage. In my opinion, regardless of whether or not the reality of the Church corresponds to this image, this perceived tension drives people away from religion, specially in the LGBT community. The proof is that many seem to believe that you have to choose between your religious identity or your LGBT identity; thus they become surprised when they find out that I am gay and also Catholic. I have good news here. You can be a wonderful Catholic without renouncing to your LGBT identity. 

Nowadays, a lot of celebrities support the LGBT community, and even in TV shows, there are more gay, lesbian or transsexual characters. But in your opinion, do a lot of people still struggle to come out because they fear people’s reaction?
The closet is not a very healthy place to be for LGBT people because of the inner psychological energy that it takes to keep it. However, once you come out of the closet you can't get back into it, therefore it is understandable that people would take precautions about to whom and when they come out. Many of the meetings that our YAG-LGBT group organises are not advertised in a way that anyone can come, as some people fear that they may be outed. At the same time many of us also have no problem to attend London Pride March as LGBT Christians.

There are still quite a significant number of church people who find people who aren’t heterosexual sinful. But at the same time, there are more people who are atheist or who seek spiritual fulfilment through other mean (for example Buddhism). So, in your opinion does the opinion of the church still affect young people?
I think that many people seek some sort of spiritual fulfilment in this life. And some of these, disenchanted from the Church try to find it somewhere else. To me, however, the route to spiritual fulfilment is to trust the good news of Jesus Christ, and become one of his disciples in the Church.
I am quite unsure about how much the opinion of the Church affects young people in general. I don't think that young people, as a class, listen to the church, say, more than they listen to teachers, friends, tv-series, or politicians. In many cases it can even be that what they think the church says is not actually what it says but a caricature or a deformation of its true message. On the other hand, there is always some people who do care about what the Church says. In this case it is more likely in my opinion that they would care about what the church says in many areas and not just LGBT related issues.

In your opinion did the church become more tolerant of people from the LGBT community in the past years? Do you think that in a couple of years or even in a decade from now, Christianity will fully accept and tolerate the LGBT community?
If acceptance and tolerance of LGBT people you mean to officially bless and support same-sex marriages, or officially include partnered people in leadership roles of the Church, I don't think this is going to happen in a widespread worldwide manner any time soon.

I think however that the Christian denominations and communities in the western world have changed in the same direction than society, being in general more inclusive of LGBT people now than in the past. There has been also some radicalisation on this topic,  becoming in some places the defining test to be either inside or outside of certain communities or circles. 

In my opinion the Catholic Church has also changed in the last decade or two, but basically under the surface and at grass level. It is possible that at this point in time we will start seeing changes in the pastoral approach to LGBT people, without official changes in the teachings of the Church. 
If you are a young LGBT Catholic person in your 20's 30's or early 40's you may want to join our welcoming YAG group at Farm St (http://www.lgbtcatholicsyag.org.uk) or come to mass with us on the 2nd and 4rth Sunday of each month.  

What was your relation to religion while you were growing up? Would you say you’re a religious person?
I've been Catholic all my life. Yes, I would say that I am a religious person.

Can you tell me how old you are?
I'm 35 years old. I am not representing LGBT-CatholicsWestminster nor YAG, thus statements of opinion are my own. I blog at www.thelostcoin.org

Friday, May 1, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Shroud of Turin: some interesting talk and data (hey, science here!) for Eastertide

Here some interesting talk about the Shroud of Turin. Comments welcomed.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review of Arriving at Amen, seven catholic prayers that even I can offer.


I happen to be a long term follower of Leah Libresco’s blog “Unequally Yoked”, even before he converted to Catholicism from Atheism. When she announced that he wrote a book, I entered in a draft and won a free copy in exchange of a review, with no other conditions attached. The book is called Arriving at Amen, seven catholic prayers that even I can offer. Here is my review. 

After a lot of fights in good faith with her Catholic friends, one day, when thinking about how do we know that some things are right and others wrong, Leah Libresco found herself changing her mind about God (all the details are in the book) and started the process to become a Catholic and practising the faith.

Catholic spirituality, however, is a very strange thing, a world by itself, specially if one comes to the faith from the outside. Learning to breath and live the Catholic life is like inhabit a new world;
it is like learning a language in that very same language. Rewarding but also confusing. The master skill of Leah in this book is to parse this Catholic life for us by drawing analogies from all over the place, using musicals, Chinese culture, maths and even a little bit of programming language.

Leah Libresco, with her geeky but easy to follow explanations, manages to bring a new perspective to the Catholic practices of Petitionary prayer, Confession, Divine Office, the Rosary, the Examen, and Mass. All are introduced and explained from the point of view of someone who, in a very original way, is trying to understand, live, and make sense of them.

For instance, don’t you think it difficult to understand the Eucharist as Christ’s sacrifice? Why not to think about this using coordinate planes? Or another example. Are you not getting much out of the Ignatian Examen, always coming out with the few same reflections? Why not trying everyday to single out a virtue of one of your friends and review your day from that perspective? These are two of the many gold nuggets that you can find in the book, explained not as a suggestions, but as first
person accounts of how Leah has engaged with the Catholic spirituality. 

This  book, precisely because it is not a scholarly piece of theology nor a deep mystical writing, can be useful to many people, both Catholics and non-Catholics. For non-Catholics it could be a fresh and unconventional introduction to the Catholic mind and practises. For Catholics, it could be a way to learn how to express the Catholic faith and practises in a new way, and an opportunity to re-visit some of our first steps, learning on the way a few suggestions that we can apply in our lives. 

All in all, the book is worth reading. I recommend it to you.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lord have mercy: no to weapons of mass destruction

Lent has come again. It is a time for repentance and change, not only individually but collectively. What do we need to repent as a society? What is that we are doing against the will of God?

One thing that comes to mind is the possession and the threatening to use weapons of mass destruction. This is utterly immoral. For the love of God, this has to stop now. No to the trident.

"Trident is Britain's nuclear weapons system. It's made up of four submarines – one of which is on patrol at all times - carrying up to 40 nuclear warheads on board. Each of these warheads is eight times more powerful than the atomic bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of the biggest supporters of replacing Trident in 2007, has admitted that the only purpose of maintaining the nuclear weapons system is to give Britain status." read more


Here are some pictures of the demonstration I went with my Catholic Worker friends.  We are all complicit with the structures of sin. Repent now and believe in the gospel.




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Debugging the brain

From xkcd

I haven't given up fun for lent, and I think this is fun. Praying, fasting and almsgiving is good too. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ash Wednesday Pride Again?


I wonder whether this lent it would happen again or not: would the priest be making some remark in the homily to let us know, directly or indirectly, how useful is for evangelisation to go into the streets with the ash cross still on our foreheads? The line being, people will know that you are Christians, and if not you can start a conversation about it.

I am all up for evangelisation, standing up for our faith, and going into the streets, but perhaps Ash Wednesday is the least proper day to do this. Here goes the gospel:

“When you fast, do not do like the hypocrites, who put a sad apparence and distort they faces so that every one will see that they are fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, perfume your head and wash your face¨ (Mt 6.16-17, read on Ash Wednesday)

The gospel tells us to "perfume your heads and wash your face" and not "don't show off when you are fasting", and and then we go on the streets showing off our signs of repentance. We need to share the good news of Jesus Christ everyday, but if we were to choose a day to show-off and sto pur conversation why not Easter Sunday. And everyone of us can go on the streets talking to the unbelievers that Jesus is indeed Risen.

So my suggestion is to keep the Ash Wednesday humbly.


Extra notes:
 
If you are a Catholic of the Roman Rite, fasting in Ash Wednesday is "compulsory" (between the 14th and 60th birthday), but going to mass or receiving the ashes is not. If you are of the Ambrosian Rite (for instance in Milan, Italy) you don't have an Ash Wednesday and you are already in the season of lent in Monday. For the rules of fasting and abstinence see my previous post.

You may chose to do like the gospel says, and perfume your heads.