World Meeting of Families Document Discusses LGBT Topics in Negative Language

A printed copy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s new catechesis

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has released a preparatory teaching aid for the 2015 World Meeting of Families which relies on negative language about LGBT people and their relationships. The catechesis is accompanied by extensive curricula intended for Catholic schools and religious education classrooms in the coming year.

The document’s negative LGBT message was made public by Good As Youa pro-LGBT website.

The teaching aid, entitled Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive, is a book-length primer on marriage and family. Two of the guiding principles give a sense of how LGBT issues are treated in the text:

“[7]However, many temptations arise which try to coax us into forgetting that male and female are created for covenant and communion. For example, poverty, affluence, pornography, contraception, philosophical and other intellectual mistakes can all create contexts that challenge or threaten healthy family life. The Church resists these things for the sake of protecting the family. [Note: ‘Philosophical mistakes’ is where the movement for LGBT equality, including same-gender marriage recognition, is placed.]

“[8] Many people, especially today, face painful situations resulting from poverty, disability, illness and addictions, unemployment, and the loneliness of advanced age. But divorce and same-sex attraction impact the intimate life of the family in especially powerful ways. Christian families and networks of families should be sources of mercy, safety, friendship and support for those struggling with these issues.”

In the accompanying curricula for high school and elementary school students, the archdiocese explains homosexuality and same-gender relationships in very negative ways.

Marriage equality is dealt with in a lesson titled “Light in a Dark World,” which asks students to imagine what they would do to protect gold at Fort Knox if attacked. This image is analogized to ways in which they can defend the faith in a hostile world. It includes the following language on legalizing same-gender marriage:

“Separating sex and procreation results in the perception of marriage as simply sexual or emotional satisfaction, and this logically leads to the acceptance of same-sex unions…

“While the Catholic Church will not approve same sex ‘marriages,’ the Church does appreciate and acknowledge the importance of chaste same sex friendships.”

The lesson also identifies marriage equality as a “threat to healthy family life” by which “the state (conceding to pressure from various groups) is trying to create a new definition of marriage and family.” That section concludes with a bolded statement:

“In order to protect families, marriages, and children, it is necessary to resist this movement to give the state the power to redefine and reconstruct marriage and the family.”

A handout for students includes almost identical language, asking them to think about light in a “dark world.”

Elsewhere in the curriculum, lesbian and gay people are identified as “those who struggle with same-sex attraction.” A middle school lesson plan asks students the following question with some suggested answers provided in italics:

“What are some of the reasons that Jesus’ and the Church’s teaching on same-sex attraction is hard? (We feel like we are judging people; we know and love people who are attracted to the same sex; it seems mean to tell them they are wrong if God ‘made them that way’; they can be in loving and committed relationships too, it’s mean to deny them the ‘right’ to get married, etc.)

Students are also asked to brainstorm “specific difficulties” like loneliness, financial difficulties, and feeling excluded that LGBT people supposedly experience.  The text juxtaposes these descriptions with the idea that the Church “is already doing a good job making sure no one in the Church…feels lonely.”

Finally, throughout the several hundred pages on marriage and family, the curricula offer anti-gay resources like Courage, a national ministry which promotes chastity as the only pastoral option for lesbian and gay people, and The Third Way, a very negative film released this year to defend positions about lesbian and gay people which are actually pastorally harmful .

Few comments are necessary as the documents from the Philadelphia archdiocese speak for themselves. They are out of touch with Pope Francis’ more open approach, many of the discussions at October’s synod of bishops, and the general trend among most Catholics towards LGBT inclusion and affirmation. I offer three brief thoughts.

First, it appears Archbishop Charles Chaput and those on his staff desire that Catholics be “prophets of doom” so readily condemned by Pope John XXIII as he opened Vatican II. Pope Francis is speaking of a culture of encounter, while these documents instead reiterate a defensive withdrawal into a church under attack.

Second, the discussion of homosexuality is not pastoral in the least. Advising chaste friendships and ignoring the church’s deep complicity in creating difficulties experienced by LGBT people are forms of oppression. And why is it that only gay people are the ones who seem to struggle? These documents are clearly working against bishops who seek to recognize goodness, as well as the gifts and qualities, possessed by LGBT people.

Third, I cannot imagine any effective religious educator or youth minister actually using this document. In the United States, the general trend is that the younger a Catholic is, the more affirming they will be of LGBT people. That’s 85% of Millennials, those 18-29, and probably even higher, I imagine, for younger aged teens. A few weeks ago, I asked what young Catholics want from the church, and while the answer to that is still undetermined, it is assuredly not what these documents present.

In the year to come, LGBT advocates must strive to correct these false narratives and intentional distortions in the minds of fellow Catholics, most especially those of the bishops.

Take a moment this Thanksgiving weekend to write Archbishop Chaput and let him know LGBT issues, in their fullness, must be addressed at the next synod.

You can write to Archbishop Chaput at the following postal address:

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archdiocesan Pastoral Center
222 North 17th Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1299

Or you can send him an email at:

shepherd@chs-adphila.org

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

9 Responses to World Meeting of Families Document Discusses LGBT Topics in Negative Language

  1. Friends says:

    No surprise about the source and its devious rhetorical duplicity. Chaput, Paprocki, George and Vigneron are all cut from the same ideological ultra-conservative cloth woven by JPII — but then even more insidiously and damagingly restitched by Benedict. Our main hope and comfort is that contemporary young people in Catholic schools will NOT let themselves be propagandized, and are today demonstrating a truly blessed ability to think for themselves. “Bondings”, over the past two years, has given us one inspiring example after another, in which today’s Catholic school students have stood up against sort of hateful propagandizing — especially when genuinely beloved GLBT teachers and coaches were fired merely because of the gender of their life partner. It’s got to stop…and it’s GOING to stop. Our young people are having none of this kind of bigotry.

  2. Brian Kneeland says:

    This is why so many young gay people are leaving the church! I agree with the above about the bishops named – they are very much of the same mold – and are not helping at all! Other names could also have been added – but the bottom line is that these bishops are not pastoral but are making themselves judge and jury of morality. What they miss is the role of conscience in all of these areas – and that conscience trumps even their statements!

    • Friends says:

      Thanks, Brian! The really wonderful thing to note is that the young Catholic school students who are standing up and protesting en masse against this sort of hateful bigotry are, percentage-wise, mostly straight kids! They don’t even need to be gay or lesbian themselves, to realize that bigotry and discrimination directed against their GLBT teachers or classmates is horribly immoral. In the wonderful words of one of my favorite Christian-identified singer-songwriters, Bruce Cockburn, “God Bless the Children / With Visions of the Day”. (It’s on his “Circles In The Stream” album. Well worth looking up — the entire album is exquisite beyond description.)

  3. Adam James says:

    This booklet should be titled ‘How to drive people from the Catholic Church’.
    They drove me away as a young teenager, but more understanding and common sense brought me back, as you can read on my author page at: http://amazon.com/author/jamesadam , and why I had to write ‘sacrifice to their gods’ published on Amazon.

  4. Back before the catholic church knew [or I accepted] that I was gay, they allowed my wife (at the time) and me to adopt two wonderful infants who have developed into caring, responsible adults, with fewer relational problems than their father. I call that a success for a gay man! Lol My point though, from the very first day of orientation/preparation at Catholic Social Services the message was “Families are formed in many different ways.” That message was repeated and emphasized through the whole year-long process. What is it with this “schizophrenia” among the hierarchy?

    • Friends says:

      Short answer: they’re closeted, they’re paranoid, they’re super-uptight and defensive, and they know absolutely nothing about having and raising kids — adopted or otherwise! One of the reasons that most Episcopal and Lutheran clergy are far more realistic and accepting toward the varieties of Christian families is that they tend to have kids of their own. Nonsensical forcible clerical celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church is the root of many evils — with internalized homophobia being just one of them.

  5. Michael Gallagher says:

    Chaput would be the first to agree that celibacy is not for everyone but only for those who are called to it by God’s grace. Yet he and those with a like narrow vision insist that gay men and women are obliged to remain celibate, special grace or not? How does that make sense? Talk about intellectual mistakes? This, I believe, is a major one. Moral theology has gotten a bad name because so many moral theologians never get beyond sex. How about war and American militarism? Not a peep out of them on that. Is gay marriage a sin and the preparation for a nuclear war just fine?

  6. […] Additionally, advance materials for the Meeting seem to indicate that where LGBT issues are noted, they are done so in basically negative language. […]

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