Answers to the same question by two different archbishops highlight the world of difference that exists in the way some church officials approach LGBT issues.
A little over a week ago, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke at a Vatican press conference about September’s World Meeting of Families (WMF), which his city is hosting, and he made some remarks about welcoming gay and lesbian people to the event which sounded more like an insult.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, Chaput answered a question about whether gay families and their issues would be welcome at the gathering by stating:
” ‘We hope that everyone feels welcome to come, and certainly people who have experienced same-sex attraction are certainly welcome like anyone else,’ he said.
“But, the archbishop added, ‘we don’t want to provide a platform at the meeting for people to lobby for positions contrary to the life of our church, so we’re not providing that kind of lobbying opportunity.’ “
But at the same meeting, Archbishop Vincent Paglia, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on the Family, which is the sponsor of the WMF, took a different approach to the same question. According to the Italian Catholic news website, La Fede Quotidiana, Paglia answered:
” ‘We follow to the letter the “Instrumentum Laboris” [working paper] of the Synod. Anyone can come, without exception. And if someone feels left out, I leave the 99 sheep and will go find the one.
” ‘The close connection; between the meeting in the US and the Synod, said Monsignor Paglia, ‘is apparently not only temporal. The hope is that the meeting in Philadelphia and the October Synod can really build a social and ecclesial season with renewed leadership for the family.For this we want to work. We want the Gospel of mercy to be proclaimed in the great cities of the world, especially to the poorest and most peripheral.’ “
[For the original Italian language version of the La Fede Quotidiana story, click here.
Paglia is approaching the issue as a pastor, while Chaput is viewing it from the perspective of an administrator. Paglia’s approach stresses an unconditional welcome, while Chaput’s approach indicates that he is expecting people to cause trouble. Paglia highlights mercy, while Chaput highlights law.
Chaput’s negative comment might be referring to the fact that WMF administrators recently turned down a request by Fortunate Families, a network of Catholic parents with LGBT children, to have an exhibit booth at the event. A WMF administrator explained the rejection:
“Fortunate Families advocates for parental acceptance of LGBT children and adolescents in such a way that ‘acceptance’ requires that parents must show full acceptance of both the person and the entirety of every aspect of the person’s gay or transgender lifestyle. . . .”
This explanation shows that the official was not familiar with Fortunate Families or the way that any parent chooses to respond to any unexpected issue that a child raises.
One commentator has pointed out that Chaput’s comment might indeed be the very thing which sets off demonstrations at the WMF. In PhillyMag.com, veteran gay rights activist Mark Segal noted:
“They wouldn’t come to protest the pope. But if [Chaput] decides to keep insulting the gay community, I would not be surprised if they decide to protest him.”
In an interview with PhillyVoice.com, Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, which is a member of the Equally Blessed coalition, explained that the coalition’s members (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) are sponsoring 14 families with LGBT members to be pilgrims at the WMF. She highlighted an essential problem in Chaput’s language of “lobbying”:
“I guess I would question, ‘what do you mean by lobby. If being there to share our stories, to share our faith, is considered lobbying then I guess we are at an impasse.”
Chaput’s approach indicates a defensive position, which imagines a situation’s potential threats. Perhaps that has been the problem for many years as to why Catholic leaders have not dialogued with LGBT people and their families.
The good news, however, is that Paglia’s approach shows a different attitude that seems to be taking root in more and more church leaders. Paglia, and others, may not yet accept the moral goodness of lesbian and gay relationships, but their open approach at least allows open the possibility of dialogue.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Fortunate Families Blog: “On Pilgrimage, What is ‘Normal’ and Variation”