In a Facebook post, Jesuit Fr. James Martin recently commemorated the passing of Jeanne Manford, the founder of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Accompanying a photo of the founder, Fr. James posted a reflection worth sharing about the positive impact that PFLAG has had which began because of the unconditional love Manford had for her gay son, Morty.
In part, Fr. Martin stated:
“For she loved prophetically. That is, she publicly expressed her love for a group of marginalized people before it was safe to do so. That kind of love might remind you of another person who worked in and around Galilee, publicly loving all sorts of people–lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles, Roman centurions–when it was not safe to do so, at all…
“There is a lot of talk about gays and lesbians these days. But in every thing we say and do, particularly for Christians, love must come first. And not the love that condemns first, or judges first, or labels first. But the love that loves first. Because God is love.”
Metro Weekly offered some details about Manford’s personal story, and how PFLAG originated:
“Hailed as one of the LGBT-rights movement’s first straight allies, Manford founded PFLAG after her son, Morty Manford, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1992, was among those patrons at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village when a police raid sparked the 1969 Stonewall riots. When Morty Manford was beaten during a Gay Activists Alliance demonstration in April 1972 and police failed to intervene, Jeanne Manford wrote a letter to the New York Post standing by her son.
“‘I have a homosexual son, and I love him,’ her letter read.”
From that moment, she began marching alongside her son, and in ensuing years, PFLAG grew to have over 350 chapters and 200,000 members in the U.S.
Catholic parents continue to be some of the best advocates for their LGBT sons and daughters. Through their prayers, advocacy, and, most importantly, their example, they are teaching the Catholic church how to unconditionally accept LGBT people. Their natural love for their children mirrors the love that God has for all people. Organizations like Fortunate Families support Catholic parents who have LGBT sons and daughters.
New Ways Ministry echoes Fr. James’ closing words of the reflection:
“May Jeanne Manford rest in peace, and may we always love prophetically, recklessly, prodigally, dangerously, eternally.”
–Bob Shine and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry