Catholic auxiliary bishop for Canberra Pat Power has agreed on radio to present a program of listening between the gay community and the Church at the Australian National Bishops Conference.

Power was speaking on a panel with Rainbow Sash spokesperson Michael Kelly and Sister of Perpetual Indulgence Fabian Loschiavo in a discussion prompted by the visit by gay cure proponents Father John Harvey and Dr Peter Rudegeair.

Kelly asked Bishop Power on air to consider a program of listening akin to an established program of communication between the Church and women.

It’s potentially quite significant and I don’t know of any similar experiences or processes gone through in other countries around this -¦ Kelly told Sydney Star Observer.

It shows that, within the Church as a whole and certainly within the hierarchy, there is a variety of opinions of how best to proceed with some of these more complex and delicate matters, particularly in relation to sexual morality, Kelly said.

Harvey and Rudegeair were originally scheduled to speak on the ABC radio program on Sunday 1 February, but cancelled their appearance after a heated public meeting held on 29 January. Producers sought a replacement spokesperson or theologian to present the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality, but received about 30 refusals, according to ABC religion reporter Stephen Crittenden.

We got replies along the lines of, -˜Well, the Catholic position on homosexuality is incoherent,’ or, -˜I’ll come, but I don’t agree with it and if I come on the air, the listeners will hear that in my voice,’ Crittenden told the Star. Bishop Power eventually agreed to speak.

The possibility of greater communication between the Church and the gay community follows protests at appearances by Harvey and Rudegeair in Sydney and Melbourne, visits endorsed by Archbishop George Pell.

Father John Harvey advocated celibacy for homosexual Catholics in his talk, and Dr Rudegeair spoke about his experiences counselling gay men and lesbians who had become heterosexual via therapy, and endorsed the work of Courage.

The Wednesday night meeting began with protesters outside the hall including members of the Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence, the Metropolitan Community Church and the Raelian movement, although the Sisters were refused entry on the basis of their inappropriate attire.

About 100 people, including Archbishop George Pell, attended the talk inside St Mary’s Cathedral Hall, with numbers of supporters and protesters split down the middle. Questions were permitted only at the conclusion of the talks, and had to be written on cards and submitted to the speakers. A number of attendees left in protest or were asked to leave after interrupting the speeches.

Whatever the Pell thing was about, it seems to have backfired, Crittenden told the Star.

Not only has it been revealed that a very, very sizeable group of Catholic theologians who are holding down teaching positions just aren’t willing to discuss this topic because it’s too red hot or they don’t agree with it, but -¦ you’ve got an Australian bishop who’s actually offering to go to the Australian Bishops and set up some kind of dialogue, remembering of course that the whole style of meetings with these two guys from Philadelphia was that it had nothing to do with dialogue.

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