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Conference to explore gifts of gay Catholics

| Thursday, October 30, 2014

Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life, along with the Gender Relations Center, will convene a two-day conference called “Gay In Christ: Dimensions of Fidelity” on Friday in the Andrews Auditorium of Geddes Hall. The conference will focus on non-heterosexual identifying Catholics who accept Church teaching on homosexuality and the gifts they have to offer the Church, John Cavadini, professor of Theology, said.

Gay in Christ Conference SchedMary McGraw | The Observer
“Most of the speakers are self-identified gay or lesbian persons, and all of them also identify themselves as agreeing with Church teaching on marriage and sexuality,” Cavadini said. “I wonder what we can learn by listening to such voices. I believe these voices have gifts to offer the Church.”

Cavadini said the gifts these individuals offer are often lost in the Church.

“I believe that the Church is not as good at receiving these gifts as we might be,” Cavadini said. “So I think of the workshop as opening a discussion regarding the discernment of gifts and the ability to receive them and to give a gift back. It is also simply an invitation to discussion.”

Cavadini said he began planning the workshop in July 2012.

“It was my idea originally, but many have participated in making the original idea concrete, especially Sr. Ann Astell of the department of Theology, who has been a partner in planning throughout,” Cavadini said.

Cavadini said a controversial conversation prompted his choice of topic for the workshop.

“A series of conversations going back to a blog written by one of the participants, that turned out to be much more controversial than I expected it to be, and I wondered why, prompted my decision,” Cavadini said.

In the past, the Church has experienced a strained relationship with the gay and lesbian community. Cavadini said the conference will explore possibilities about pastoral strategies as well as Church teaching.

“Is someone who self-identifies as gay or lesbian but accepts Church teaching — and that seems an immense gift to the Church — is such a person actually welcomed by the Church? Are their gifts received, and the gift of ecclesial belonging and support effectively tendered? I think there is a lot of evidence that this is not the case now,” Cavadini said.

Cavadini said he is unsure as to what recommendations the workshop will produce for parish communities, but he has hope for the possibilities.

“I am thinking of the ultimate goal as an exchange of gifts that builds up the One Body of Christ, as all gifts of the Spirit are intended to do,” Cavadini said. “Have we really explored the possibilities that are contained in Church teaching? Is there a pattern for mutual support, mutual gift-giving, implied in Church teaching?”

The goal of the workshop is to listen to the voices of the participants, Cavadini said.

“This conference is not intended to take up all of the issues connected with homosexuality and the Church,” Cavadini said. “In some ways, Church teaching with regard to sexuality has been seen as and caricatured as a series of ‘no’s’. But every ‘no’ implies a ‘yes.’ I want to find the ‘yes’s’ that Church teaching can lead us to, if it is not just abstract, but embodied in people who have seen possibilities in it that take it out of the abstract and into concrete lives, who have said ‘yes’ and are saying it, or trying to say it, all the time.”

The conference runs from 2 p.m. to 5:35 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. Saturday, according to an online schedule.

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