Catholic in Yanchep

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Singing his life with his words …

Reminiscing heartMan is in his actions and practice, as well as in his fictions, essentially a story-telling animal.  He is not essentially, but becomes through his history, a teller of stories that aspire to truth.  But the key question for men is not about their own authorship; I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’ (MacIntyre, 1981)

It has become something of a cliché to talk about our ‘faith journey’, yet for most people who have lived any length of time, the journey metaphor has a way of growing in import as events unfold in our lives – often events which we could not have predicted, or which have inserted themselves as irruptions into the mental plans we might have made about how our lives were supposed to turn out.  As the Yiddish proverb has it, ‘Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht’ or ‘Man plans, and God laughs’.

For some time now, I have been following the life of one of our Perth talents, the writer, teacher, and musician, Renato Antonio.  In 2016, Renato published his first book, Into the Cloud of Knowing (Antonio, 2016), an autobiographical journey which he describes as ‘a personal quest for signs of God’s continuing faithfulness’.  In November 2017, Renato followed this up with, one could say, the musical accompaniment to the book.  His album, Reminiscing Heart, is out now on iTunes, as well as being available for purchase as a CD.

Each song in the collection has significance for Renato, as he described to me during a recent video interview.  The story begins before he was married, when he and a friend, Tim Grace, who features as the lead guitarist in the album, were contemplating religious life.  It was around the year 2001, and at that time, Renato had developed a devotion to the Divine Mercy, and had randomly opened St Faustina’s diary at a passage which inspired him to write No Need to Fear.  ‘No need for despair, no need for anguish, my heart is mercy for your soul,’ sings Renato (together with vocalist Natasha Tsouris), as the violin weaves between the harmonies.

The song Keep the Joy began during a jam session Tim and Renato were having with some friends.  During a break, Tim was strumming his guitar, and Renato, pacing backwards and forwards around the room, noticed a portrait of Mother Teresa, and began to sing the words quoted on the portrait, jokingly at first.  But as the words and music came together, the song took on a life of its own. ‘Let us keep the joy of loving Jesus in our hearts, and share this joy with all we come in touch with.’  Renato describes this song as being like a Pokemon: always evolving.  The last 90 seconds, King of Kings, was added quite recently, and a techno pop beat, inspired by the ‘Fireflies’ song, became another feature.

More to this life, (a Steven Curtis Chapman cover), reminds him of a moment when he was in Italy, listening to thunder, reflecting on his purpose and what family meant to him, and noticing spiritual realities even in ordinary, everyday things. This was during his 1998 trip to Sicily, when he was introduced to two thirds of his father’s family.

Portami a Ballare (Take me Dancing), from the San Remo festival of 1992, is sung in Italian, and is a tribute to his mother.  The death of Renato’s mother, as described in his book, was a life-changing event.  The song is about a son asking his mother to dance: Renato regrets that he never took the opportunity to dance with his mother before she died so unexpectedly.  The song beautifully captures the nostalgia, filial love and regret, and might actually be my favourite in the whole album.

Staying with the theme of dancing, Cinderella is a cover of a number by Steven Curtis Chapman.  At this point, Renato was already married, and reflecting on family life (he has five children).  He is joined in the singing by his daughter, Marie Grace, and his niece, Kiara Bonasera.  One can only imagine what a grace-filled time they all had recording it together.

Another cover (you might have guessed that Renato is a fan of SCC) is the beautiful I will be here.  Knowing Renato personally as I do, I am well aware of some of the challenges he has had in his life over the past year or two – challenges which one would have thought might prompt the de-listing of this piece from the album.  To his credit, he has retained the song which was originally recorded in honour of committed married love.

In an acknowledgement of his time as Assistant Director of Spirituality at Aquinas College, Renato includes Give Me Your Eyes, a cover of a Brandon Heath song he has made part of student retreats.  Another song with a social justice theme is his most recent one, I Offer You, which he wrote after interviewing Francis Leong from the Catholic Missions office about Rwanda and Zambia.  Renato describes how the tune arrived in his head before the lyrics, which eventually came all at once in less than a day.  The song is a meditation on the problem of evil, and how the only answer he has is – in the words of the Divine Mercy chaplet – offering to the Father the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

His Grace is Enough relates to a difficult period in Renato’s life, when he was visiting the grave of his mother at a time when he was struggling in his personal life (the ‘thorn in the flesh’ reference), going through a dark night of the soul, and needing God’s grace.  This is repeated in a more expressive, acoustic version at the end of the album with intricate guitar work by Dom Zurzolo, another colleague from his Aquinas College days.

Although Renato has temporarily retired from active teaching, he wants to share the faith-journey-as-story approach to the Christian walk, by producing a teaching resource from his book and album, which could be used in the Religion and Life curriculum for year 10 to 12 students.

Reviewing the journey life has taken Renato on, we are reminded of Alasdair MacIntyre’s words: ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’.  Followers of Renato will be looking forward to seeing which direction God might take him in next.

Reminiscing Heart is available on iTunes, as well as on Spotify and Amazon.  For a complete playlist, go to YouTube Playlist.

Works Cited

Antonio, R. (2016). Into the Cloud of Knowing. Perth: Renato Antonio.

MacIntyre, A. (1981). After Virtue: a study in moral theory. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd.

 

 


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GK Chesterton and Anglo-Catholicism –a forerunner of the Personal Ordinariates

This week we have a guest post from Simon Dennerly. Simon, on behalf of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, has got together with the Dawson Society to host a series of talks on Chesterton’s fictional works. Our local literary expert, Daniel Matthys, gave us a spellbinding introduction last week. If you haven’t yet attended, it’s not too late to start.

Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

Chesterton PosterChesterton and the Ordinariates

by Simon Dennerly

What do G.K. Chesterton and the Ordinariates have in common? In a sense, everything.  This has lead to a project to promote the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, by promoting G.K. Chesterton: using a model that is easily replicable.

Many people are aware Chesterton was an Anglican writer who converted to the Catholic Church: but that is only half the story.  To a vast majority ‘Anglican’ automatically means ‘Protestant’, but while Chesterton wrote many of his great works while a member of the Church of England, few are aware he was a member of the Anglo-Catholic section of that institution and critical of Reformed Theology. Faith shapes one’s world-view, and Anglo-Catholicism is more than just liturgy, it is also an intellectual school. So when we talk of Chesterton’s conversion: it was not to ‘Catholicism’, as he already held Catholic…

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When God sends someone alongside

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The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1637), oil on panel, The Hermitage, St Petersburg.

There are times in my life when I am astounded by the generosity of God.  Today’s Gospel  – the Parable of the Talents – shows God as an investor who expects us to be doing something with the gifts he gives us.  And the more we give ourselves away, the more he repays us: “everyone who has will be given more”.  Over the past year or two, I have had example after example occur in my life.

How do we become a gift to someone else?  I know I have experienced this only recently – although in this first example, I was not the gift, I was on the receiving end.  About fifteen months ago, I was at a particularly low point in my life, worse, even than when my husband died.  For that, I had been prepared – spiritually prepared even, before the cancer had been diagnosed.  But when I was at this low point, and in terrible agony of spirit, angry at the Church, angry at the passivity of others, and constantly calling on God to ask what in the world he thought he was doing, some friends invited me to a quiz night at a neighbouring parish, and I went along, still ready to tell my story of frustration to anyone who had an ear to listen.  And God sent me someone to sit next to me this particular evening and be interested in my complaint.  This was one of the deacons who was ordained to the priesthood last Friday, along with five others from the Archdiocese.

If Deacon – now Father – Mariusz is anything to go by, these new priests are a bumper crop, and I expect great things from them.  May God use them abundantly in his service.

There is a prayer we say at Opus Dei recollections, which goes (in part),

My Lord and my God, I firmly believe that you are here; that you see me, that you hear me. 

When God sends someone alongside you, as he did in my case – over several dozen cups of long macchiato no sugar taken at Brewed Awakening  – you realise that God indeed does see you and hear you, and that the God you have spent so much time kneeling before in the Blessed Sacrament, has been looking back at you all along, and smiling, no doubt quizzically.

Since this time, I have been making more of an effort to be a gift to others, or to come alongside them.  This is what the Holy Spirit does: he is the Parakletos (παράκλητος) – literally, he who comes alongside.  This doesn’t come naturally to me as I am by nature a selfish person, but we all have to start somewhere.  Only yesterday, I was able to sit down with a woman in another coffee shop, and listen to her talking about the tremendous mental pain she and her family are in.  It sent a quiver of shock and awe through me when she described me as being like an angel God had sent to her in her time of need.  Sometimes people just need you to ‘see’ them and to ‘hear’ them.  I put those in quote marks to emphasise that I am talking about a different kind of seeing and hearing from the everyday – there is an extra dimension and it is rather like tuning in to someone’s soul.

And when you do this, giving of yourself, God surprises you with unexpected events.  Like the time I helped out a friend by paying his airfare for a trip he needed to take, and the very next day my neighbour turns up and offers me an all-expenses paid trip to South Africa because she has a spare ticket.

Of course you don’t go into this for the reward.  But virtue is its own reward, as they say.  And all we have to do is take Him seriously when he asks us to do something with whatever gift he has given us – keep paying it forward.  God is never outdone in generosity.

 


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With One Heart Joined Constantly in Prayer

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Promise of the Elect from last year’s Ordination to the Diaconate

A wondrous thing is happening in Perth on 17th November. Six young men are giving their lives to God and will be ordained as priests.

It behoves us all (yes, that word may seem archaic, but I need to use some lofty language to express the grandeur of this event) – it behoves us all, as a praying, united, Catholic community, to spend some time supporting these men in prayer.

Joanna Grzech, sister to one of the ordinands, has suggested that we all join in a Novena – starting tomorrow, if you can, so that we can reach the end point on the day prior to the big event.  Joanna says …

I ask that you join me in a novena dedicated to the futures of these men. A novena is a set of prayers that we pray over 9 days with a special intention. A novena to St. John Vianney may be fitting given he is the patron saint for Priests.

Please pray this novena for these men to be steadfast to the will of the Lord during their vocation. Let us pray that they be prayerful, devoted and faithful to spreading the Good News and the teachings of Mother Church. 

Three men are lucky enough to be locals and have their close family and friends around to celebrate this joyful occasion, but please keep in your prayers those whose family cannot be here for their ordination due to health or financial reasons, that that they feel the love of their Perth Catholic community like they would from their own families. 

These men’s lives will no doubt be tough, but they have been called at this time to do God’s work, and we thank them for listening and answering God’s call. Please keep them in your prayers now as they prepare for their Ordination, and throughout their lives.

You can find and download the words of the novena here:
St John Vianney Novena.

The six deacons are: Mariusz Grzech, Konrad Gagatek, Joseph Laundy and Tung Vu from St Charles Seminary, and Patricio Carrera Morales and Kenneth Acosta Garcia from the Redemptoris Mater Seminary.

Our sincerest congratulations to all of you for your perseverance and gift of self.

 


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Remembering Two Precious Children, Lily and Dre Headland

Hero-ImageWritten in consultation with Lois May.

One year ago, on 20 October 2016, residents of Yanchep awoke to the shocking news of the callous murder of two local young children, Zaraiyah-Lily and Andreas “Dre” Headland, of the Golf Course Estate, Yanchep.  I was recently privileged to be invited to the one-year-on Memorial Service for Lily and Dre at their grandparents’ home in Wanneroo.

Without going into the details of this tragic event, which you can read about in the mainstream media, I would just like to share with you some of the positive impressions I came away with that day – and I say positive because where I had been expecting to feel quite depressed just thinking about the loss of these children’s lives, the atmosphere at their home was overwhelmingly warm, welcoming and altogether embracing of family, friends and invited guests.  Lois, the children’s step-grandmother, who works as an Aboriginal Cultural Officer for a community services agency, and her partner, Doug, and other family members had been hard at work for several weeks, preparing for this event.

Lois

Lois May welcoming family and friends.

Although I had never known the children during their short earthly lives, I was impressed with a sense of the reality and ordinariness of their all-too-brief lives by the presence of a row of childcare workers from Great Beginnings, where both Lily and Dre attended daycare, and two teachers from Lily’s school, Brighton Catholic Primary, as well, of course, as the cousins, aunties, uncles and extended family, several of whom got up to talk about the children and tell stories of their lives.

Lois recounted how Lily would teach her brother to pray, as she had been shown in school.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Thank you God for the day,
For our work and for our play.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Lily-and-Dre-Praying

Their cousin, Kyron, spoke about his pet names for the children: ‘Silly Lily’ and ‘Bully Boy’, and how Bully Boy would always try to boss him around.  Eric, an older cousin, sang, most movingly, a song he had written shortly after their deaths,

Sometimes I see them in my sleep
Then I wake up and weep,
Wishing they would come back to me,
so we can play happily.

Eric humbly describes himself in this video as having ‘the voice of an alpaca’, but who would care?  Better to have a real song, written in the rawness of tragedy, and sung a bit rough, than an impersonal one performed to perfection!  Even the presence of Nick and Val from next door (who make themselves useful by bringing in Lois and Doug’s bins!), added a simple homeliness to the proceedings that warmed my heart.  Lois, who led the service, made a point of acknowledging practically everyone present and describing how they had been involved with the children or supported the family.

Ann and her Angels from “Angel Hands” who were there for the day to do what they do best – volunteer their help to families that are experiencing tragedies such as this; these people themselves know what it is like to go through this amount of trauma as they have been though like scenarios.  Also present were the children’s older cousin, Keely, her mother and brother who had come from Broome, Keely’s boyfriend, Terick who had travelled all the way from One Arm Point in the Kimberley.  Isaac, Kevin, Sandy, Glenda, Rachel, Vicki … and more names than I had time to write down.

Even I was acknowledged –  I who didn’t know the children, but merely organised a prayer vigil and a Mass for them on the Sunday following their death.  And I can hardly take credit for that, for it was Phil Hickey, reporter for the Sunday Times, who had phoned me and asked, “So what is the Church doing for this family?”  And, of course, I haven’t yet mentioned those most affected, the children’s mother, Anatoria, and their big sister, Kayleesha, who were being heroically brave throughout the morning.  To them, I would say,

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
(Psalms 34:18)

Anatoria-Alicia

Anatoria and Kayleesha Headland

But while I am thinking of that question: “What is the Church doing?” it strikes me that we could have helped this family more, had we been aware that they were in the area.  It’s easy to say, “If only, if only …” after the event, but tragedies like these should cause us to ask what we are doing to prevent a disaster like this from happening again.  At present, there is no structure in place to allow the sharing of information between Catholic Schools and Catholic Parishes, because of Privacy legislation.  All it would take, would be a simple extra check box on school enrolment forms which says, “We, the parents/guardians, agree that our contact details may be shared with the local Catholic Parish.”  This would then enable Parish outreach teams to visit local families and offer support, so we can actually be a church with the sort of Communio I was talking about last week.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could start an outreach initiative called The Lily and Dre Project, so that we would know their deaths had not been in vain?

Lois is now raising funds for a headstone to honour the children.  If anyone would like to donate to help out, please send me a message and I’ll put you in touch with the family.  Apart from this, Lois has also rounded up the children’s school friends, childcare workers, friends and family, to paint remembrance tiles for a memorial wall in their garden to honour the children.

Finally, please pray for the healing of Anatoria, Kayleesha, Lois, Doug, their families and all those affected by this tragic loss.

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Bradley Barbuto, Indigenous Liaison Officer, and James Danaher, Principal at Brighton Catholic Primary School.

Tiles

Tiles for the Memorial Wall.

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Bradley Barbuto, Indigenous Liaison Staff Member at Brighton Catholic Primary School.

In-Loving-Memory

Lily and Dre Headland, may God grant you eternal blessedness with him in Paradise.

Memorial wall

The memorial wall.

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The grave showing the children’s Maori burial.

 


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Can Catholics think for themselves?

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Assumption of the Virgin, Giovanni Lanfranco, 1625-7, Cupola, Sant’Andrea della Valle, Rome.

Someone who is near and dear to me recently asked me this question:  “Why is it that you always have to bring God or the Church into the conversation?  We don’t want to hear what a bunch of men in Rome think about everything. We want to hear the real you.  Sometimes we think we don’t know who you are.  Why is it that you can’t think for yourself?”

At first this question took me rather aback.  Firstly, it’s not true.  I talk about many topics without referring specifically to my faith.  Agreed, my Facebook page is full of Christian commentary, but all day at work, I generally avoid explicitly bringing up my faith, and tend to let the John 10:10 quote at the bottom of my emails and the Columban calendar art above my desk speak for themselves.  Nevertheless, the question is an important one, and the answer essential to understanding the Christian worldview.

I can see that, looking at my friend’s question from her point of view, it must appear that my faith is some sort of enthusiasm of mine, in the same vein as an addiction to, say, Warhammer fantasy battles.  To her it must seem, if I drop into the conversation some mention of archangels, thuribles, Palestrina, St Servatius the Ice Saint, The Enchiridion or, come to think of it, that spitting gargoyle on Notre Dame Cathedral – like just so much jargon-bombing by a Warhammer-maniac about the Necrons or the Eldar, the Ordo Hereticus, and the parallel dimension of the Warp.  To my friend, I must come across as one of those ghastly bores who cannot stop talking about their favourite hobby and inflicting it on all comers.

Add to this the perception by outsiders that the Church is just another organisation, in much the same way as Games Workshop is the organisation behind the Warhammer brand, and you will understand my friend’s incomprehension.

This is what she doesn’t get.  The church is not an organisation.  Rather, it’s an organism.  There is a unique relationship between the baptised and Christ, that has to be entered into in order to be understood.  Serious Christians are not just following Christ, as one might follow a great leader.  Serious Christians have a living and active relationship with Him as a person, strengthened by his Word and, on a physical level, by receiving his physical Body into our physical body under the form of the Holy Eucharist.  Each one of us becomes a cell in His mystical body; the Holy Spirit is the lifeblood: He empowers us by delivering the spiritual equivalent of gluose and oxygen to each cell.  At the same time, all the cells are implicated in each other – each of us cooperates in the plan of Christ, who is the head of this mystical body.  And the body functions most harmoniously when all the cells are carrying out their appointed tasks in alignment with the direction of the head.

In fact, when I receive Holy Communion, I make a point of meditating quietly on asking Christ to be absorbed physically into my body, to insert himself into my DNA, as it were, so that I can become more like Him and be his presence in the world.  For I want to be able to say like Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2:20).”  Yes, I know I haven’t perfectly actualised that statement yet, but I’m working on it.

The cells of this body do not only include us, who are alive on this planet right here, right now – the Ecclesia Militans, who are engaged in the present struggle against sin and evil, but also those who have passed beyond this life: those who have arrived in heaven – the glorious Church Triumphant – and those who have died but are going through a final cleansing to rid themselves of any remaining attachments to sin – the Suffering Church in Purgatory.  So the body of Christ is not limited by space and time, and all the cells are united in Communio as a family.  There is also a communication system, a spiritual nervous system called prayer that unites all the cells with one another, and using this method we can ask the other cells to intercede for us to the head or, using our prayer superhighway, we can talk directly with the head ourselves.  The loving friendship with God developed in prayer is something so real, so palpable, so experienced, so immersive, that it would be an act of disloyalty to pretend that this intimate interaction does not exist.

So when my friend asks me to stop ‘referencing religion’, essentially they are asking me not to talk about the deepest core of my being and my closest familial relationship.  I think that, far from the person’s claim to want to know the real me, this sort of request doesn’t respect who I am at all, and reveals a mind closed-off to genuine communication.  To them, Christ is perceived as a threat to their personal freedom, someone who is so other to them that they experience Him as an oppression, someone whom they have to ward off by setting boundaries on conversation.  But if one really wants to get to know someone, to show communio with another person in a genuine and Christ-like way, one has to be sincerely interested in them, and we can only do this in conversation by drawing the person out of themselves, and listening to them attentively, while at the same time sharing from one’s own experience in return, so that the conversation doesn’t give the impression of an interrogation.  Christ-like love is generous and not self-protective.

Returning to the original question, I would have to point out that the person who proposed it is embedded in a worldview that centres everything around her ego.  That is why my way of expressing myself sounds so alien to her, since Christianity tends to play down the ego and focus outward, on the mission of the Gospel, with its two-pronged love of God and love of neighbour.  Typical of Christian thought are self-deprecating phrases such as “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” (Mt 10:39) or, John the Baptist’s, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” (John 3:30).  My friend’s Nietzscheanism, however, is replete with self-aggrandizing statements: “Ego is the very essence of a noble soul” (Beyond Good and Evil, Ch. 9) or “There cannot be a God because if there were one, I could not believe that I was not He.” (Wenn es Götter gäbe, wie hielte ich’s aus, kein Gott zu sein! Also gibt es keine Götter.)  (Thus spoke Zarathustra, Part II, ch.24)

So I would encourage my friend to be more aware of the effect her worldview is having on her soul.  Is it helping her to grow in unconditional love and respect for the other, or is it narrowing and confining her in a prison of her own making?

**********************************************************************************

This is an expanded version of the short introductory talk I gave on day three of the WBC conference.


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Respecting the science: why a NO vote is not bigotry

Mother-and-child

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Liderina

This week, I would like to address the claim that Christians are bigoted towards people with same-sex attraction, somewhat in the same mould as people who thought interracial marriage was wrong in times past.  One of the comments I received on my Facebook page for last week’s article implied this:

Mike-Linney-Comment

Just for the record, Australia is somewhat different from the United States in that it has never had any laws prohibiting interracial marriage (sometimes called anti-miscegenation laws).  Moreover, the official teaching of the Catholic Church has consistently underlined our common humanity – that we are all made in God’s image and likeness.  Pope Paul III was quite clear on this to the colonisers of the New World:

The enemy of the human race [i.e. Satan], who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service … notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect. 

Pope Paul III, Sublimus Dei – On the Enslavement and Evangelisation of Indians, 29 May 1537.

In fact the Catholic Church has African and Asian saints aplenty, celebrated down through the ages (most of whom I have never heard of, as it happens).  These people are venerated for their wonderful example of faithfulness under trying circumstances, and we believe that they are part of the Church Triumphant – those of our church family that are already with Christ in heaven.  I merely mention this, because so many people seem to be under the impression that Catholicism equals bigotry.

I now want to talk about same-sex attraction and explain from a biological perspective why the accusation of bigotry does not apply in the same way it applies to race. Having grown up in South Africa under an apartheid regime, I am perfectly well aware of what racism does and how much work the Churches did to bring equality and reconciliation (except for the NGK which was a prominent supporter of apartheid and eventually expelled from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches for that reason).

Let’s say we take a racist person who thinks a male of African descent should not marry a woman of Anglo-Saxon descent.  The racist looks at the different physical features (known in genetics as the phenotype) of the African and the Anglo-Saxon and decides that they are sufficiently different to make the two people incompatible as marriage partners.  The Christian, on the other hand, looks at the African and the Anglo-Saxon as both being God’s children and therefore a perfectly acceptable match, all other things being equal.  The question is – is the racist correct about there being real differences between the two people?  Of course he is: and we can find the phenotypic differences reflected in the genetic makeup of the parties.  Every time someone has their DNA profiled in hopes of finding out their ancestral roots, they are relying on the presence of ancestry-informative markers.  These are single nucleotide polymorphisms – what biologists call SNPs (pronounce that snips), which are typical of certain populations.  SNPs are sites in genes where one may have different variations of a particular nucleotide without the changes necessarily affecting the phenotype – although sometimes they can.  For example, if a DNA profiler finds the SNP (FY*0) in a person’s DNA, this will usually mean that the Duffy antigen system (a membrane protein found on red blood cells) is non-functional – and this particular SNP is (barring novel mutations) 100% likely to show that the person is of African descent, either wholly or partially.  Indeed, the International HapMap Project has created a map of SNPs that can identify haplotypes (sets of SNPs) that can be used to determine geographical origin.

So we can safely conclude that race is not a figment of our imagination, or a human construct, but a phenotypic manifestation of an underlying genetic reality.

What about sexual orientation?  Is there any underlying genetic reality to the human phenomenon of same-sex attraction?

The answer is both yes and no.  Contrary to what popular culture and the ‘born this way’ slogans tell us, there is scant evidence that SSA is genetically determined.  However, there is some evidence that there are genetic predispository factors in play.  If homosexuality were genetically determined, then there would be 100% concordance between identical (monozygotic) twins; however, recent studies show only between 5.3 and 24% concordance (Bailey, Dunne and Martin, 2000, Bearman and Brückner, 2002); therefore environmental causes are a significant factor. Scientists like William Rice, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at UCSB, have already confirmed that there is no ‘gay gene’.  Some scientists have also postulated that homosexual proclivities have been caused by epigenetic factors – chemical changes to DNA, usually involving DNA methylation.  These epigenetic marks are reversible and usually caused by environmental factors.  But so far, epigenetics studies on people with same-sex attraction are inconclusive and no clear link has been established.  Andrew Gelman, Professor of Statistics and Political Science at Columbia University, kept me amused with his discussion of the dodgy statistics, and his comments have been noted at the science magazine, Nature, which was initially too keen to jump on the epigenetic bandwagon.

One interesting observation that Science has produced, is that the Xq28 chromosome band  on the X chromosome and the pericentromeric region of chromosome 8 may have some effect in predisposing males (and not females) to same-sex attraction (Sanders, Marcham and Beecham, 2014).  But when we look at what these particular genes do, we find that Xq28 is associated with anxiety disorders, and the pericentromeric region of chromosome 8 is intriguingly associated with signalling in the nervous system.  A review of current research at Scientific American notes that:

… Twin studies additionally point to genetic explanations as the underlying force for same-sex partner preference in men and neuroticism, a personality trait that is comparable to anxiety.  The research points to childhood separation anxiety as a culturally universal correlate of androphilia in men. This has important implications for our understanding of children’s mental health conditions because subclinical levels of separation anxiety, when intertwined with male androphilia, may represent a typical part of the developmental life course.

(Scientific American, 25 April, 2017)

So there seems to be a connection between anxiety disorders, nervous signalling, childhood separation anxiety and male androphilia.

Which blends in nicely with my next point: the evidence from psychology.  Psychologists who work with male and female SSA people have found significant correlations between childhood separation anxiety, attachment issues with one or both parents, and same-sex attraction.

Dr Janelle Hallman, who specialises in counselling females with (usually unwanted) same-sex attraction, writes the following:

Over the years, I have observed several broad categories in terms of common historic and developmental themes within the lives of women with same-sex attraction: 

  • A strained, detached or missing bond and/or attachment with mother without an available mother substitute, resulting in a need for attachment;
  • The presence of sexual abuse or trauma typically at the hands of a male, or disillusionment and profound disappointment in relationships with males, resulting in a dismissal, fear or hatred of men;
  • Few if any girlhood/adolescent same-sex friendships, resulting in a need for acceptance and belonging;
  • Gender non-conforming skills and interests often combined with a sense of emptiness or identity moratorium [a crisis state] in lieu of a full and rich identity as a feminine person, resulting in a need for self/identity and gender identity. 

While the presence of these elements is not a direct predictor or determinant of female same-sex attraction, they are nevertheless the most common and frequently reported facets of a woman’s story. These elements are sequential in order of development or experience, boast of other associated common themes, and often predispose a girl or young woman to the next sequential element and are therefore interrelated. 

Within many of my clients is a deep deprivation of “motherly” love. Absent in their story is a sense of being nurtured and cared for by an attentive and sensitive mom. This does not mean that “mother” was not loving or offering the best to her daughter in terms of emotional support, it means that the girl was unable to take-in, receive or appropriate her mother’s loving intention. 

One of my clients was separated from her biological mother at birth and was unable to form a warm attachment with her adoptive mother. Many of my clients report that during the time of their birth or within the first two years of their lives, there was substantial stress, difficulty and chaos in their mothers’ lives due to moves, depression, alcoholic husbands, several other children, undue pressure from perfectionistic family members, mandatory adoption of additional children due to abandonment by or death of relatives, etc., all disallowing the mothers to enter into restful and nurturing moments with their young daughters. 

            It is also common to hear that a “pre-lesbian” girl was very “close” to her mother because mother “needed her” by depending on her to do the housework, care for and protect siblings, deal with an alcoholic father, be a confidant for mom, while mother hid her self away in bed most of the day. One daughter even had to call 911 whenever her mother was suicidal. This type of relationship is very deceiving in that it holds the appearance of closeness but in essence, totally lacks the actual nurturance and care that the little girl needed. 

            There may be no greater trauma in a girl’s life developmentally, than one that interferes with her primal relationship with mom.  Mom is not only the first bond and attachment for a little baby girl, but is also the relational object with whom this little girl will form her first sense of self and eventually rely on to complete her identification process as a female. If a little girl experiences disruption in this most primal and ideally ongoing essential relationship, it will not only create a need in her for the by-products of such a relationship, such as affection, touch, suckling, eye to eye gazing, etc., but will affect all future attachments as well as her developmental process of identity formation. 

(Janelle Hallman, Developmental, Relational and Emotional Etiology of Female Homosexuality, 2003)

Similarly, Dr Joseph Nicolosi, who works with same-sex attracted males, has some fascinating comments about the family dynamics between fathers and SSA sons.  Read it all at Fathers of Male Homosexuals, a collective clinical profile.

In my own observations with SSA people who are friends of mine, I have found the female family situations to have involved these factors: sexual abuse by close family members or neighbours, absent or deceased fathers, distant, alcoholic or drug-dependent mothers and even SSA women who have suffered from a generationally iterative attachment deficit due to a grandmother’s early death.  I’m not saying it’s necessarily the parent’s fault.  Sometimes, as Hallman notes, the child is ‘unable to take-in, receive or appropriate her mother’s loving intention’.  I have limited experience with male homosexuals, but one friend of mine, who is now ex-gay, lacked an affective relationship with his biological parents during the early stages of his development, as he was adopted out and lived in institutional care during his infancy before being taken into a loving foster home – and was then sexually abused during his teenage years by his male teachers.  Public homosexuals like Milo Yiannopoulos also draw attention to being sexually abused during the crucial adolescent years, the fifth stage of Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development.  We can see that, together with the effects of the Xq28 gene which may predispose a male towards anxiety disorders, a problem with parental attachment during Erikson’s 0-23 month stage can have a life changing effect and send him down a path of psychological adaptation to these unfortunate events by seeking attachment in a ‘father substitute’, or for a lesbian, a ‘mother substitute’.

The question then for us is, how do Christians behave towards SSA people?  Obviously further rejection of SSA people by Christians is going to feed in to the already existing perception of rejection; the constant accusations of homophobia and bigotry are merely the manifestation of the Rejection Meme writ large upon an uncaring society.  On the other hand, Christians have to be faithful to the Gospel – which means that we do not see same sex ‘marriage’ as being a solution to the gay person’s attachment issues.  Primarily we see marriage as something oriented towards providing children with a natural link with their biological parents, which I have spoken about previously here, and that changing the definition of marriage will have societal consequences which do not just affect people who are same-sex oriented.

Christians have another option altogether.  We think that same-sex attracted people can find ultimate fulfilment in Christ, who loves them with an all-encompassing love.  We would like to invite more gay people to get to know the person of Christ, because a living and active relationship with him is just that – living and active!  Christ is not just a historical figure, but a person who gets intimately involved in our lives, once we open the door to him.  If you are a lesbian who is somewhat repelled by involvement with males because of past abuse, get to know the Mother of Christ – she is the ultimate and ideal mother (Rev. 12:17) and I can personally attest that she has accompanied me gently and lovingly through many trials.  These things are not well explained theoretically, but if one opens one’s heart even the smallest amount to the possibility of relationship with God, the Holy Spirit will find a way in through the smallest of cracks and fill your soul with His illumination and love.  We also need to send a strong message to heterosexual Catholics: do not use insulting, demeaning or unloving language around SSA people.  This is a hard course to steer, because even the mere suggestion that a person with SSA might not be ‘born this way’ can trigger a strong emotional reaction and be perceived as a lack of acceptance.  I have discovered this through experience because there are people who now find it difficult to talk to me because of my strong views on this, and will do anything to stay in their comfort zone.

Lastly, I would like to let gay people in Australia know that we in the Catholic Church have an active support ministry for same-sex attracted people (Courage) and for their families and friends (EnCourage).  If you would like more information on either of these groups, please get in touch with me and I will refer you to the appropriate person.