Dignity Canada Dignité

Recommended Books of Interest to LGBT Faithful

During the past two or three decades, volumes of positive, inspirational and scriptural studies have been written that are definitely relevant to our spiritual journeys, whether or not we are regular church goers. Such reading materials, including those listed below, are not likely to be available in any Catholic bookstore. These, plus all the others in my personal collection were discovered in gay bookstores in various cities I have visited. They are also available from online stores such as amazon.com. By recommending the books listed here, I am also inviting others to submit your titles you have found meaningful. At this point in time, may I suggest not submitting titles of gay novels. The examples listed here should indicate how to list the titles, etc. with a brief review of each book. Please submit them to me at my personal e-mail address: pastpresident@dignitycanada.org. On the website, the books should be listed as follows: title, author, a few chapter headings or topics the author is attempting to address, then your brief review.

Happy reading to all.
Dennis Benoit
Past President, Dignity Canada Dignité



Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus
By Geoffrey Robinson
Liturgical Press, 2008

    - Healthy People in a Healthy Relationship with a Healthy God
- The Two Books of God
- Spiritual Discernment
- An Eternal Plan, a Sharing of Life and the Reign of God
- ‘Like His Brothers and Sisters in Every Respect’
- In Service of God’s People
- The Authority of ‘the Church’
- Free and Responsible
- A Turbulence and a Whirlpool
- The Return to an Original Sexual Ethic
- A Dark Grace, a Severe Mercy
- The Prison of the Past
- A Government in which All Participate
- A Change of Heart and Mind

Most. Rev. Geoffrey James Robinson, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia writes that, through his work over several years on sexual abuse cases and considering the weak response of the organization to this crisis, “…I came to the unshakeable belief that within the Catholic Church there absolutely must be profound and enduring change.  In particular, there must be change on the two subjects of power and sex.” (p. 8) 

The existing approach to sexual morality is historically based on the Hebrew ethics of purity and property.  Catholic thinking has also been dependent on the writings of Philo of Alexandria – a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth – and Greek writers concerning the ‘natural’ purpose of sexuality. Early Christian thinkers also bought into this approach. But in the gospels, Jesus radically rejected both the purity ethic and the property ethic.  

Can a renewed sexual morality be based on something other than assessing whether an act is against nature and therefore a direct offence against God?  As a part of a meditation, Robinson writes “‘Love one another’, said Jesus, that is, make sure that your relationships with other persons are based on more than your own self-interest or pleasure.  Make sure they are relationships that avoid all harm and do everything positive to help others to grow to become all they are capable of being.”  (p. 214)  This is certainly consistent with the writings of John Shelby Spong with which I’m familiar. A renewed sexual morality should be based on both the teachings of Jesus and our knowledge of God that comes from the world around and within us.

As also described in Gary Wills’ book “Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit,” Robinson argues that a potential fatal flaw of the institution is its insistence that the hierarchy’s teachings cannot be wrong in at least faith and morals.  What may appear to be its strength may actually be the kiss of death for the institution.  Robinson points out that the trend of creeping infallibility imposes unnecessary demands on people, and goes against the ‘freedom to grow’ that is at the heart of his book. 

In an effort to present constructive criticism, Robinson outlines possible new models of governance involving the pope, bishops and the whole church.  He emphasizes joint responsibility and dialogue at all levels in the church.  However, we must see ourselves as responsible adults, rather than as children who are simply asked to obey.

Robinson’s book has a great deal to offer LGBT persons. To me, its main accomplishment is its description of systemic factors that contributed to the sexual abuse by clergy and religious in the Catholic Church.  These factors have also produced other forms of dysfunction in the organization, including outdated, irrelevant and perhaps even immoral sexual theology.  The life, execution and resurrection of Jesus call out for a renewed organization.  I definitely recommend the book.

Submitted by Frank Testin
President, Dignity Canada Dignité



Thou Shalt Not Love – What Evangelicals Really Say to Gays
By: Patrick M. Chapman, PhD
Haiduk Press, 2008

- The Rainbow and the Cross
- Evangelical Reality
- Faith versus Science
- The Bible: Culture and History
- Fade to Gray: The Bible and Homosexuality
- Gender Confusion?
- Diverse Sexualities: An Anthropologist’s Perspective
- With This Ring
- The Cross versus the Rainbow
- The Rainbow Cross

The author is a gay Christian anthropologist who, as a member of an evangelical church, underwent reparative therapy.  Its failure led him to investigate scientific and biblical evidence about homosexuality.  The book presents what Patrick Chapman learned as his worldview changed from that of a typical evangelical Christian to the one he now holds as an anthropologist, a Christian and a homosexual person.  His views are based on the research of biblical scholars, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, biologists, and other scientists and scholars.

Chapman points out that evangelical leaders often define homosexuality in terms of behaviour.  If persons were to stop engaging in homosexual behaviour, they therefore would no longer homosexual.  Chapman presents an alternative perspective, as expressed by Daniel Helminiak, PhD, PhD who wrote an extensive Foreword:

“ Sexuality means much more than physical arousal and orgasm.  Attached to a person’s sexuality is the capacity to feel affection, to delight in someone else, to get emotionally close to another person, to be passionately committed to him or her.  Sexuality is at the core of that marvellous human  experience, being in love.” (p. 7)

Chapman’s book tries to describe the worldview held by many evangelical persons.  Much is based on fear and guilt, and an uncritical acceptance of the teachings presented by evangelical leaders.  Certain biblical passages are emphasized while other related ones are completely ignored.  The book points out that this approach to Christianity, which asserts in part that the Bible is the literal, inerrant word of God, has its roots in the late 1800’s.  (This is about the same time as Pope Pius IX in the Roman Catholic Church pronounced the doctrine of papal infallibility.  Is it a coincidence that this longing for religious certainty by followers and/or power by their leaders occurred at about the same time?)  The book is successful in helping the reader to understand where an evangelical Christian is coming from.  For example, “Because many evangelicals believe homosexuality is a sin that will condemn its practitioners to hell … ‘Love’ is about saving souls, not about treating others with compassion, respect and dignity; to do so is regarded as enabling sinful behaviour” (p. 269).

What relevance is this book to LGBT Catholics?  First, it certainly is very helpful for us to understand and empathize with the challenges faced by our LGBT brothers and sisters growing up in an evangelical Christian denomination.  It may also apply to our situation if we replace the ‘inerrant word of God as found in the Bible’, with the (faulty) assumption of an inerrant Catholic magesterium.  One could argue that the document “Pastoral Ministry to Young People with Same-sex Attraction” released by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2011 promotes the same bottom-line message as found in this book’s title. Second, I highly recommend the book as a good resource on current thoughts about human homosexuality from the biological and social sciences, as well as from mainstream biblical scholars.

Submitted by Frank Testin
President, Dignity Canada Dignité



Sex as God Intended
by John J. McNeill
Lethe Press, 2008

-  What the Old Testament Says about Human Sexuality
-  Play and the Song of Songs
-  Human Sexuality as a Form of Play
-  What Makes Human Activity Play?
-  Sex in the New Testament
-  What Went Wrong
-  The Providential Role of Gay Marriage
-  Epilogue
-  Part 2: Festschrift 

This book which I discovered at the 2011 Dignity USA convention in Washington, D.C. presents the thoughtful views of John McNeill on lesbian and gay (LG) sex. In contrast to the condemning judgements made by the Roman Catholic magisterium especially since 1986, he proposes, based on the lived experience of many LG persons and his work as a priest and psychotherapist, that LG sex can be wholesome and affirmative. He is critical of the Vatican in its failure to listen to the many theologians and biblical scholars who simply do not see any prohibition in the Bible of sexual activity between consenting LG persons. Temple prostitution, rape and other forms of abuse, and a desire for cultural/religious purity are the likely targets of the few prohibitions that one might glean from the Bible. The Vatican has also ignored the lives and stories of its LG members and, in this rejection, acts as if the Spirit does not speak to the church through its baptised members.

In addition to procreation which can certainly be a goal of heterosexual sex, McNeill proposes that an important purpose of sex for anyone is simply play, as described in Genesis 2 and the Song of Songs.  In one section of his book, he describes the distinguishing features of playful activity, and contrasts it with work or control. He also notes that “As we evolve toward spiritual maturity, each of us must struggle with our sexual drive so that, with God’s grace, it will cease to a totally selfish destructive force and become instead a power integrated into our personality as a means of communicating love.” (p. 71)  This is a requisite on the path to becoming fully human.  He also notes that “It has always been the prophetic role of lesbians and gay men to lead the Church and Western culture toward embracing embodiment, a sense of identity with the body and its sensuousness …. We must learn how to live in, enjoy and celebrate our bodies and their sexuality with gratitude to God.” (p. 76-77)

The last section of the book is a set of congratulatory essays prepared by a dozen or so persons, such as Rev. Troy Perry and Sister Jeannine Gramick, honouring John McNeill for his contributions, and spelling out how his work influenced their life and work.

I was especially encouraged by John McNeill’s book after reading the paper entitled “Pastoral Ministry to Young People with Same-Sex Attraction” prepared by the Episcopal Commission for Doctrine of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (June 2011).  I think that many LG persons who simply do not buy into the institution’s blanket demand for celibacy will relate to John McNeill’s book which provides well grounded pastoral advice to the vast majority of LG persons who are clearly not called to a life of celibacy. In contrast, John McNeill’s book is a breath of fresh air as it presents a psychologically sound path for LG persons to become more mature in all aspects of their lives, including their sexuality and spirituality.  We will grow in love of self, God and others.

Submitted by Frank Testin
President, Dignity Canada Dignité



The Manly Eunuch
Masculinity, Gender Ambiguity, and Christian Ideology in Late Antiquity

By Mathew Kuefler
- Masculine Splendor
- A Purity He Does Not Show Himself
- I Am a Soldier of Christ
- We Priests Have Our Own Nobility
- Sanctity and Gender Ambiguity
- Women Becoming Men in the Christian West
- Eunuchs For the Sake of the Kingdom of God
While browsing through the religion and spirituality section of Little Sisters, a queer bookstore in Vancouver, what caught my immediate attention besides the title, was the author's name, Mathew Kuefler. In fact, Mathew was a Dignity member in the Edmonton chapter where I first met him in the early 80's. He has since received his Ph.D. from Yale University and is now assistant professor of history at San Diego State University. As the book title suggests, this is a very scholarly work, loaded with footnotes, and an impressive bibliography, which by the way, includes John Boswell's book: "Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality - Gay People in Western Europe From the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century". Boswell's book is also a must-read and still in print. Why Mathew focused his research on the period roughly late fourth century to early fifth century when the pagan Roman Empire officially embraced Christianity, was to learn what aspects of masculinity changed and what remained the same during this period. And let me mention here that while Mathew explored the reality of masculinity in all its forms, he also researched feminism and the role of women during this period as well. While the conversion of the Roman aristocracy to Christianity provided new benefits to both men and women, it also created new restrictions for both men and women. Do any of the above insights presented by Mathew provide any relevance for us believers today queer or otherwise? He does give us a hint when he writes: "Just as the men and women of late antiquity were obliged to respond to social factors beyond their control, however, there are social changes happening in the modern world, including greater sexual equality and greater sexual freedoms, that all must take into account... and just as men and women of late antiquity rejected the sterility and incoherence of traditional Roman paganism, we will reject the traditions of Christian ideology on gender and sexuality for a more satisfying system of values and beliefs".  Do read Mathew Kuefler's conclusion to find out more.
Submitted by Dennis Benoit
Past President, Dignity Canada Dignité



Queer and Catholic
By Amie M. Evans; Trebor Healey - Editors
- I Was Always a Marian Heretic
- Fragments From a Catholic Girl's Memory
- The Tree And the Cross
- Chain of Fools
- Lesbian Catechism: Samplings From a Life
- Fully Human, Fully Alive (The author, Salvadore Sapienza, reminisces about his friendship with Fr. Mychal Judge, a Roman Catholic Franciscan priest, a Dignity member of New York and Chaplain of the N.Y. Fire Department. Fr. Judge died while trying to assist the firefighters when the World Trade Center towers collapsed on the  morning of Sept.11, 2001).
- A Nun Story
In this collection of true life stories, Queer and Catholic examines the culture of how being raised Catholic informs and influences, positively or negatively, our queerness. To find out just who among the contributors of this book has left active participation in any Catholic parish and who still remain, you must read for yourself and discover the reason for their decision. You will be amazed how we all can relate in some way to the experiences of these very thoughtful and joyful individuals. Let me now quote the editors' book dedication: "For all the kind Catholics who told us to never be ashamed of ourselves".
Submitted by Dennis Benoit
Past President, Dignity Canada Dignité



Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir
by Scott Pomfret

- Love, J2P2
- A Habit Worse than Porn
- Excommunications “R” Us
- Living on the Liturgical Edge
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Acts of the (Gay) Apostles
- I See Broken People Everywhere
- Last Chance for Love

Scott Pomfret is a lawyer who in his spare time writes erotic short stories which have appeared in PlayGuy, Honcho and similar publications, and has also written a half dozen novels such as Hot Sauce and Spare Parts.  In Since My Last Confession he reflects on his experiences with the church in which he was raised.  We meet personalities with colourful names such as Father Bear-Daddy, Father Kick-Me and Mama Bear.

I’d like to give two excerpts from Scott’s book to give you a flavour of his witty style.  In the introductory author’s note, he writes: “I am the wrong person to write this book. I’ve met hundreds of Catholics far better suited to the task. They walk old ladies across the street, and visit the sick, and clothe the naked, and bury abandoned babies, and adopt ailing children with birth defects from Cambodian crack houses, and experience rainbow stigmata.  Me?  Not so much.  I am not pretty enough for prime time, a bad godfather, a worse boyfriend, and … a really poor sugar daddy.  Worst of all, I am impious, irreverent, and a shade profane. … This is not an attack on the Church. It’s an invitation to laugh.”

Visiting Dignity for the first time: “Boston gave me a choice among gay Catholic groups: one was called Dignity and the other was called Courage.  While the groups’ differences, theological and otherwise, are legion, they may be fairly summed up as follows: Dignity members get to engage in the sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance; Courage members opt for celibacy.  I struggled with this difficult choice for three long milliseconds, then opted for Dignity. … At the exchange of peace, I extended my hand to my immediate neighbour.  Dagger glances shot from every corner of the room.  Is my fly down? Did I not wash my hands?  Do they know I’m not 99 percent good?  Someone muscled my offending hand aside, and a series of strangers quickly moved in for full-body contact.  The dyke sitting next to me gave me a kiss on the mouth.  Everyone in the room had to be hugged – some of them twice.  An average friar at the Shrine could have crammed two Masses into the span of time it took the Dignitarians to exchange peace.”

Scott attends St. Anthony Shrine, an the inner-city parish in Boston run by Franciscan friars who really mean “All are welcome.”  He became a lector and also a member of its GLBT Spirituality Group. The parish is attended by many poor and homeless, as well as neighbourhood GLBT persons. He was certainly aware of the Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1986 Halloween letter and similar, subsequent letters from J2P2.  In Boston during the sexual abuse scandal, which included those in the hierarchy at the highest levels, friends and co-workers challenged him: “How can you support a church that did this?!”  “Where is your pope now?!”  Life was tough for any Catholic in Boston during this tumultuous time and for a gay Catholic it was especially trying in also being attacked by the Vatican.  In this book, Scott Pomfret relates his ways of handling his love-hate struggle with the institution – and the directive of Jesus to love one’s enemies. He maintained his right as a baptized Catholic to remain in the organization despite its spiritual abuses. He also symbolically adopted the new Cardinal Sean O’Malley.

Scott’s faith, humour, adaptability and other coping mechanisms served him reasonably well, … until he faced the gay marriage issue in Massachusetts.  In 2007, the Cardinal urged Catholics to contact their legislators to support a petition to put to popular vote an amendment to its constitution to ban gay (equal) marriage.  50 votes out of 200 were required in the second constitutional convention, after it passed the first. The Cardinal applied all of the forces at his disposal to convince legislators to vote in support of the petition. For example, the Cardinal personally called all Catholic legislators, he prepared articles for inclusion in church bulletins, and petitions were made available for signing at church entrances.  The final vote on June 14, 2007 was: 151-45, with support (against the ban) coming from some surprising sources.

Were the actions of the archdiocese on the political front the last straw for Scott?  Did he finally turn walk away from the abusive organization? Find out in Since My Last Confession – a worthwhile read.

Submitted by Frank Testin
President, Dignity Canada Dignité



The Transcended Christian
Spiritual Lessons For the Twenty-First Century

by Daniel Helminiak
- What to do when your religion has failed your beliefs? When your life experience exceeds that of your clergy
- The Spiritual in Our Hearts
- A Lesson From the Gay Experience
- The Sacred Need For Relaxation
- The Reign of Goodness
- Hope Amidst The Gloom of Life
- Spiritual, Not Biological Family

From the author of What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality and of our own Dignity brochure: "Frequently Asked Questions about Dignity, the Church, and Homosexuality" comes a very challenging, yet down-to-earth book. In it, Daniel Helminiak offers valuable insights into mostly New Testament scripture passages which are closely arranged in the same liturgical order as presented in the Catholic Church. Holding two Ph.D. degrees, yet no longer functioning officially as a priest, Daniel continues to serve God's people as a professor, lecturer, and author, while remaining a friend of Dignity. Among Helminiak's comments that I found very interesting is the one he presented on Jesus' first miracle (John 2:1-11) at a wedding celebration in Cana. This event, recorded only in John's Gospel, symbolizes, according to Helminiak, God's marriage to humanity, and so any wedding need not be limited to that between a man and woman only. Daniel saves his criticism of the Catholic papacy for the end of his book, stating that Pope Benedict XVI stands for a staunch, conservative, authoritative Christianity which leaves little or no room for gay loving relationships.

Submitted by Dennis Benoit
Past President, Dignity Canada Dignité   



The Man Jesus Loved 
Homoerotic Narratives From the New Testament

by Theodore W. Jennings, Jr.
- The Lover and His Beloved
- The Centurion's "Lad"
- A Critique of the Family
- Was Jesus Gay?
A Ph.D. holder, Jennings is a professor of Biblical and constructive theology at Chicago Theological Seminary and a United Methodist clergyman. In his book he proposes a gay affirmative reading of the Bible in the hope of respecting the integrity of certain texts and making them more clear as well as more persuasive. And, like Helminiak, Jennings provides clear evidence of the public ministry of Christ who included the spiritual family a well as the biological. For Christ, it is the urgent need for healing that would merit His attention, not the status, gender, or type of relationship involved. One favourite comment of Jennings I enjoyed is when he states: "...with respect to the issue of a gay-affirmative rereading of the New Testament, we can say that the view of sexuality as oriented to the need and desire of the other means that no basis in principle exists for the disqualification of same-sex relationships, whether between women or men."   Amen to that.

Submitted by Dennis Benoit
Past President, Dignity Canada Dignité 



Courage To Love
Liturgies for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community

by Geoffrey Duncan
- Family Prayer During Coming Out Process
- The Blessing of Diversity
- Sexuality and Spirituality
- Blessing For a Pride Parade
- A Series of Pride Litanies Based on the Psalms
- A Service of Affirmation and Blessing
"Courage To Love" is a collection of worship materials which allow LGBT people to affirm their sexuality in a prayerful gathering. Included are many personal stories, reflections, essays, poems, prayers, litanies, same-sex blessings, marriage ceremonies, Eucharistic liturgies relevant to almost every situation involving LGBT believers. Contributors (women and men are equally represented) come from many countries such as the U.K., U.S.A. Germany, and Canada to name only a few, and all liturgies, etc. use inclusive language. This book successfully addresses the needs of those LGBT believers who, for whatever reason, are not regular church-goers of any denomination, but still entertain a desire to gather with others in members' homes for worship. I have already introduced some of the liturgies in my Vancouver chapter home gatherings with appreciation from those attending.

Submitted by Dennis Benoit
Past President, Dignity Canada Dignité