Learning to Listen: Voices of Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church

Fordham University Event:  Friday, September 16, 2011
Pope Auditorium, 113 West 60th St, New  York (immediately inside the entrance of Fordham’s Lincoln Center Campus) 

View video of conference sessions 1 (Identity and Practice in Everyday Life), 2 (Work Lives, Work Places, Public Spaces), and the evening forum.

The “Learning to Listen” event lays the groundwork for the series of conferences entitled “More Than a Monologue:  Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church.”  The event will shed light on the diverse, dynamic, and distinct views that active and former Catholics hold on the subject of sexual diversity.  The focus will be not only on the issue of belief — what one thinks about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people or their sexuality — but also on practice — how one lives out the consequences of those beliefs and the Catholic Church’s teachings in daily life.

The event will be divided into two parts. The afternoon will begin with introductory remarks designed to frame the ecclesial and social contexts for the conversations to follow. There will then be two panels, one focusing on the ways in which participants negotiate issues of sexual diversity and church teaching in their personal and family lives, and a second focusing on the ways in which they do so in their work and professional lives. Panelists will share their experiences and be guided in conversation with each other and with the audience by a Fordham faculty moderator. After a break and reception, an evening forum will present for a wider audience something of a microcosm of the day’s proceedings. Following opening remarks similar to those offered earlier in the day, a Fordham faculty member will introduce the panel, field audience questions, and sum up the conversation at its conclusion.

The doors of the conference will be open to all, whatever their points of view, in the confident expectation that listening, respectful dialogue, and honest conversation is the way forward. To facilitate this dialogue, presenters and audience members will adopt a set of guidelines designed to promote productive ways of listening and speaking and to presume good will on the part of conversation partners.

In describing the “Learning to Listen” event, Christine Firer Hinze, Professor of Theology and Director of the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University stated:

For too long, the conversation on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues in the Catholic Church has hardly been a conversation at all.  We hope to move beyond the usual back and forth of official church statements and gay Catholic activists’ responses by showing how the issue of sexual diversity affects all Catholics — active or former, gay or straight, female or male, of every culture, race and ethnicity.  The time has come for us to learn to listen to all their voices and engage in a more enlightened, compassionate, and honest conversation.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Kate Henley Averett, doctoral student in sociology at the University of Texas-Austin, blogger, and contributor to From the Pews in the Back, a collection of writings by young Catholic women
  • Jerome Baggett, a sociologist of religion at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley (now a unit of Santa Clara University)
  • Michael Campos, a doctoral graduate of the Graduate Theological Union (Calif.)
  • Mark Clark, a medical doctoral and lay leader of LGBT ministry at St. Francis Xavier Church, Manhattan
  • Teresa Delgado, assistant professor of religious studies at Iona College
  • John Duffell, pastor of the Church of the Ascension, Manhattan
  • John Falcone, doctoral student in Theology and Education at Boston College
  • Kelby Harrison, post-doctoral fellow in sexual ethics at Union Theological Seminary
  • Hilary Howes, transgender activist
  • Jamie L. Manson, columnist for the National Catholic Reporter and instructor in religious studies at Fairfield University
  • Eve Tushnet, a Catholic lesbian blogger
  • Deborah Word, a board member of Fortunate Families and a Roman Catholic mother of a gay son

Moderators include Fordham faculty members and administrators Thomas M. Beaudoin (Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education), Jeannine Hill Fletcher (Department of Theology), and Peter Steinfels (Center on Religion and Culture).

Conference Timetable

11 a.m. – Registration
11:30 a.m. – Afternoon sessions begin (box lunches provided)
5 p.m. – Afternoon sessions end
5:00-6:30 p.m. – Reception for presenters and attendees
6:30 p.m. – Evening session begins
8:30 p.m. – Evening session ends

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