God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

Corrective rape and murder

Lerato Moloi from Soweto / South Africa seems to be the latest victim of the so-called “corrective rape” , defined as a hate crime in which one or more people are raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The word “murder” does not need any further explanation. An explanation is indeed needed why South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world – including “corrective rape” used to “cure” lesbian women of their homosexuality.
It seems that in a country having lost the moral compass and moral leadership a longer time ago the ugly head of homophobia trends against one of the most advanced constitutions in recent history.
Added to this is surely also the message of religious institutions labeling same-sex love as not natural or intrinsic evil. Evangelical Christian Talibans from the USA adding the word “un-African” to this toxic mix and at the end people are hurt or die because they just live out their true identity.
It is time to stand up, as a society, as a church, as an individual and to get vocal against hate crimes, against violence specifically in connection with gender identity or sexual orientation.
A democratic society lives from the baseline that all its people have the rights stipulated in the constitution and that no ideology, no faith, no own opinion gives the right to violently “correct’ or “kill” the life, the lifestyle, the love, the commitment of the fellow neighbor. Where ever it happens we have collectively stand up, defend and at best prevent such incidents.
This is indeed also a call towards the police and courts in South Africa to act with decisiveness and not to delay or even shame those who fall victims to such horrendous crimes.
I am grateful to the Catholic Jesuit Institute – belonging to my church – that they are not silent on the crisis unfolding for our LGBTIQ brothers and sisters and all the vulnerable women and children falling victim to this crisis. Please read their statement here:

Press-statement: South Africas gender based violence-crisis/

Such topics need a presence in the media – here another recent article on the topic:

Corrective-rape-The-homophobic-fallout-of-post-apartheid-South-Africa

 

 

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Challenging times

Times are moving fast and arriving in Dresden attending the 11th HOPE Gala it is time to reflect on all what is happening in the world around us.
In South Africa, times are getting more and more tough – students are trying to force the state into submission of free education with turmoil, violence and militant language – not seeing that their initially good cause is meanwhile compromised for many reasons. President Zuma survived another non-confidence vote as the ANC is still not ready to acknowledge the magnitude of corruption and damage done to the country.
In the USA a womanizer and liar with a very limited world view is elected president via a system which assembles only a shadow of democracy. In Germany right-wing thoughts are popular again and the populist AfD seems to win the hearts and minds of more and more people.
Black and white, simple solutions, believing in simple answers, following a gut feeling of fear and anxiety seems to govern most people in this global village. And the systems holding societies together are fading away in the challenges of today; the vast amount of information available at any given time seems to be so indigestible to most global village inhabitants so that they seek refuge in those mentioned simple answers.
Churches seemed to be too much self-absorbed to have the time to really take note and actively work against this trend of time – when you look to the USA, most Catholic Bishops were so occupied with certain topics that the social Catholic teaching faded away in the judgements given before the elections.

Well, life turns in circles and therefore there is always hope that the wheels are turning again and reason will prevail. There is no need to get lost in desperation, but this is a time to watchfully and carefully observe the situation and to actively try to correct the turns of society and their leadership into a direction towards humanity, charity, tolerance and compassion at heart.

The HOPE Gala in Dresden shows me that people still care, that people still go the extra mile to assist and help and reach out to people far away; those living on the margins of the wealthy  spots in our global village. There is hope as events like this are happening not only in Dresden but also for many good causes around the globe. As long as there are some lights in the darkness of todays social and political developments, as long as there are people not giving up on trying to better all lives instead only their own ones – as long as there is resistance to let go those unfortunate living in the wrong places or born at the wrong times there is a reason to fight for a global village which is compassionate about everybody equally.

I guess we also have to learn to strive a balance between information flows possible and the ability of people to digest those info. Again we have to learn that human minds and brains and hearts have a limited capacity of in-take. And that fear and anxiety are bad advisers when it comes to develop our future as a human family.

As always life goes on and there is light at the end of the tunnel – faith, love and hope remain as the bible tells us rightly.

Filed under: General, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Blessings for so called “irregular” or same-sex relationships?

After writing about my expectations on the synod related to the questions of family I was asked about my stand on blessings for e.g. same sex couples or divorced-remarried ones. Should the church bless such relationships? This is indeed a question most of us priests try to avoid to answer in public because it can bring us into trouble with the authority and also with those claiming to know every aspect of the will of God since eternity.
But I believe we can not run away and not dealing with such questions and as I believe that there is always a good hint coming your way if you in trouble (this time with a question) there it was before starting to write this blog:

Reading the “Paulinus”, the weekly newspaper of my home diocese, I came across a short note about the meeting between Pope Francis and Bishop Galliot from France. Quoting the newspaper “Le Figaro” it says that “mit Blick auf die Segnung von wiederverheirateten Geschiedenen oder homosexuellen Paaren habe der Papst gelächelt und gesagt: „Der Segen Gottes ist für alle da.“
Translated it says: “looking at the question of blessings for divorced remarried or same-sex couples the pope smiled and said: “God’s blessing is for everybody”.”
And I personally think this is indeed the answer: There is no way that you can deny somebody made in the image of God his blessing. Even the German “Benedictionale”, the book of  blessings has at the end a blessing “for anything” – and if you can bless anything, you can also bless a person.

A blessings means that we speak out and confirm that God and his unconditional love is with a person – and especially when there is love and commitment, who would dare to say that God is absent?
If only those refusing to bless would understand that the measurements of God are so different in mercy, love, forgiveness than what our small little mind can comprehend.

Well, I hear already those who say: Well, yeah, he is with a person, but blessings a relationship? After a failed marriage or in a same-sex relationship?
Well, my answer would be similar to what Cardinal Schoenborn from Austria said in an interview recently: Let’s not come from a formal side telling people directly all what is wrong. “We should look at the many situations of cohabitation not just from the point of view of what is missing, but also from the point of view of what is promised, what is already there.After all, the Council points out, that although there is always real holiness in the Church, the Church is nevertheless made up of sinners and is advancing along a path of conversion.”, he says.
And once again: If there is love, if there is commitment, if there is responsibility, isn’t there God present? Are we not promised that God is with us unconditionally? I believe this is indeed the “scandolon” also for the church, that God’s unconditional love even shows that church teaching has to be developed, brought to a deeper level again and again.

So coming back to the question of a blessing: A blessing is no sacrament, a blessing does not undermine any dogmatic teaching of the church – it re-affirms simply that the unconditional love of God is present and that the yearning for people to be whole, to be taken seriously in their quest to have a fulfilled life and to find joy and happiness is a valid one, seen and mercifully acknowledge by God.

Let me finally say:

For me a blessing is indeed a non-sacramental, but still an intimate and personal act of devotion between God and those being blessed, it is a divine communication making grace and mercy tangible and opens up for the spirit to work. And God’s good spirit at work in the lives of people – isn’t that wonderful?

Filed under: Catholic Church, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What do I expect from the Family Synod?

The family synod is coming up and obviously every theologian has some ideas what should be achieved and how the Holy Spirit should guide the participants towards a development of the theology of families and with it some aspects of moral theology. The preparatory meeting and the time afterwards has shown that the gloves are off and that those insisting of keeping it as it has been since the beginning are fighting really hardcore to defeat any development in this field. It almost looks like marriage and sexuality are at the core of the gospel for some in the church and the rest of the message is not that important, hiding behind this epic battle of minds.

For me as a priest, knowing the battles, trials and tribulations of so many faithful including myself but also knowing the history and development of theology through times and ages, it hurts to see that faith is almost turned into an ideology to win this battle. On the other hand, we know from the Acts in the bible that Peter and Paul also had their fights during meetings with the apostle in Jerusalem. And if there would not have been new ways – for some unthinkable at that time – acknowledged, Christianity would still be a Jewish sect.
What is clear that for most people in this world the outcome does not matter anymore, Humanae Vitae has never gotten the “sensus fidelium” and the lonely decision of Pope Paul VI has alienated so many Catholics from the teaching of the church. And it is clear that those, who are still interested of what the church is saying, in their majority expect a development in the teaching, addressing the questions of our times and healing of those wounds, inflicted by a theology, which insists that the ideal is the norm and uses the most important sacrament as a tool of punishment rather than strengthening those in need of it.

So what do I expect from the Synod dealing with family? This is a tricky one, as whatever one says, it will either be applauded or condemned and quick the box is ready to be put in and the key of the lock thrown away. Nevertheless, now is the time to speak out and hope for some development to avoid the same reaction within the still faithful as we have seen after “Humanae Vitae” – a second exodus of people out of the church would be a disaster and very regrettable.

Synod on the family – the first I would expect is indeed the strengthening of the family – the message that is great to establish a family based on Christian values, yes that it makes sense to love and have kids and pass on faith, hope and love to the next generation. Society needs families to grow and develop – families are the future of any society.
Secondly I would expect that the church recognizes that there might be different theologies possible – especially the African continent has much to offer with its traditions, heritage and ways towards marriage and family.  So an encouragement for the universal church to look into the rich treasures of possibilities to develop regional pastoral theology a would be a great achievement for the church as such.

Sciences have developed and there is a gap between theology and the knowledge of sciences when it comes to sexuality. This gap has to be closed because both, faith and the scientific world are two ways leading to God, they cannot contradict themselves. Acknowledgement of this fact and encouragement to talk more without anxiety would be another great achievement of the Synod.
This will certainly lead to a different approach concerning our LGBTI brothers and sisters, the word “intrinsic evil” should be scrapped from the books and at least an acknowledgement that God’s creation is much more divers than it was appreciated by the church until now would be a step in the right direction.
A further appreciation that where there is a committed and loving relationship in our society there is God present would go a long way to heal wounds inflicted of a church experienced as cold hearted by many.
In this context of sciences and faith the synod should also look again at the topic of artificial contraception, but it should not be limited to this framework. Several theologian have opened up venues to debate this question anew.

For the question of divorced-remarried I simply expect that we stop using the Eucharist as a punishment tool and that we look at the patriarchal theology of “oikonomia” in the Eastern Churches leading us to a changed approach and an acknowledgement that the unconditional love of God is especially important for those failing their hope of life-long marriage. Nobody just runs away, hurt, pain, tears and desperation need an encouraging answer as Cardinal Walter Kasper has made clear it with a brilliant consistency in his talks and books.

The Synod on the topic family cannot solve all problems or bring instant change to all what is debated, but it should open up venues to explore, cleaned up ears to listen to God’s good spirit anew, even a renewed way of reading the bible in the context it was written thousands of years ago.  A Synod has the task to strengthen all faithful, to encourage them to live their faith and to be recognized and acknowledged as trying their very best in the way they are created to live a life with hope, love and faith.
The Pope called a year of mercy – and it is not only the mercy for the individual person, but also a year of mercy asked for a church, which tries to make its way through the times as a crowd of sinners and saints, with successes but also failures. A time of mercy, a time of God’s mercy is a time where we are allowed to reflect on our way without anxiety, without fear and at the end there should be the encouragement to walk the way of life with God, to experience his kingdom already now . Church is not end in itself – church has the duty to show the way, to encourage, to love, to bring hope or as the first reading of next Sunday, the 23rd in ordinary time says:

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong”, fear not!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
and shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water.

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, General, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Synod on the family: on the way…

It has been exciting two weeks for the Catholic Church – a drama unfolding at the Vatican in a way we have not seen in my life time: open debate, no scripted texts, a pope listening and not expecting to hear only what he wants to hear. That is and remains the first victory for openness in the church. And there is more positive to report: clear lines were drawn between those wanting to move the church and those wanting to preserve the churches teaching and pastoral approach with no changes at all. The first document created an outcry of synod fathers like  Cardinals Napier, Burke, Mueller and others who stemmed their weight against any even little opening in terms of welcoming gay people more into the church or open a path to the sacraments for divorced re-married couples. Interesting is that the divide went so far, that even within the final document for example the text about gay people, just reaffirming the old teaching, did not get a 2/3 majority.  Well, I guess it would have asked for the Holy Spirit to work overtime to get all participants on the same page – for me the two weeks have shown that there is movement within the church and that we have to work hard to make the spelled out theory that “the church welcomes everybody and excludes nobody” is more than a phrase.
It simply does not work in the long run, that we welcome people but tell them that they are intrinsic evil; it also does not work to say that the sacraments are specially needed for those in need, but exclude generally divorced remarried couples officially. We have to tackle the theological question what it means if somebody is born transgender or lesbian or gay and wants to live his or her live to the fullest and in fulfillment of his or her goodness and god-likeness.
We also have to take note of the fact that in reality divorced remarried are receiving communion in most parishes with the conscious decision of priest and concerned parties – the sensus fidelium is practically much more developed than the teaching of the church – so one could argue.
So did Pope Francis suffer a setback or the church? In my humble opinion no, we have done the first step as a very open church and there is now another year of discernment and reflection coming before the synod fathers meet again. I believe that the journey continues and if the Holy Spirit is guiding the church we can trust that hearts will be converted in this year besides the fact that the population of cardinals will also change over the year. So lets wait, see and work hard that our church will find the middle way the pope is hoping for – a way not putting unnecessary burdens on the backs of the faithful. And with that also ending so much hypocrisy in our church on all levels when it comes to those questions most hardly contested.

More reading:
http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/synod-report-narrows-open-tone-pope-calls-middle-path

http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/synod-win-francis-and-openness

http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/sinodo-famiglia-37009/

http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/sinodo-famiglia-37008/

http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/sinodo-famiglia-36992/

http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2014/10/18/0770/03044.html

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/18/message_from_the_synod_on_the_family/1108920

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/18/catholic-bishops-gays_n_6008300.html?&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000055

The popes speech at the end of the Synod:
http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/18/pope_francis_speech_at_the_conclusion_of_the_synod/1108944

Filed under: Catholic Church, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 28th, 2017
5 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2017

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 13th, 2017
The Southern African - German Chamber of Commerce and Industry and HOPE Cape Town looking forward to celebrate this event with you - more info: admin@hopecapetown.com

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