New Location and New Opinions on LGBT Catholic Events in Philadelphia

An important location update about the eviction from a Philadelphia Catholic parish of New Ways Ministry’s gender identity workshop and Equally Blessed’s World Meeting of Families programs, which we reported on last week, is included in the middle of this blog post.

News of the evictions of New Ways Ministry’s gender identity workshop and Equally Blessed’s World Meeting of Families programs being evicted from a Philadelphia Catholic parish spread around the country last week. (You can see a selection of links to various news outlets reporting on the issue at the end of this post.) During all the conversations that I had about the evictions with various people, three thoughts came to mind that put these actions into various ironic perspectives.

DSC_0223 (1)

New Ways Ministry pilgrims pose in St. Peter’s Square following the Ash Wednesday 2015 papal audience where they received VIP seating.

The first occurred when I was sending a reporter a photograph of New Ways Ministry that she saw on our Facebook page and wanted to use.  It was a photo of New Ways Ministry pilgrims proudly holding our organization’s banner in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City (see photo at right).  The occasion was Ash Wednesday, 2015, the day that our pilgrimage group was seated in VIP seats we received from the Vatican for the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square.

As I looked at the photograph, a thought dawned on me:  “The Vatican gave us VIP seats for a papal audience and yet now we are being evicted from a Catholic parish in Philadelphia. Something is wrong here.”

Was the Vatican’s example of welcome not enough for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to follow?

The second irony came when I was talking to a reporter and explaining that Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, was born and raised in Philadelphia, and that it was in that city where here ministry to the LGBT community began back in 1971, over 44 years ago.

I thought: “How sad that our church has changed so radically in the past 44 years!  How sad that someone with such strong roots in the Catholic world of this city can now have her ministry so unceremoniously evicted.”

Fortunately, all the programs-affected by the eviction–New Ways Ministry’s gender identity workshop and Equally Blessed’s World Meeting of Families projects–have now been re-located to Arch Street United Methodist Church,  55 North Front Street,  Phialdelphia 19107, and the same schedule of dates and times remains intact.

A third irony is that these events, which had not been well-known beforehand, have now received national attention and very strong local attention in the Philadelphia area.  More people now know about these programs than we would have been able to reach with our limited advertising means.  God certainly does work in mysterious ways.

Kelly Stewart

In a column in The National Catholic Reporter Kelly Stewart commented about the idea behind this third irony.  She stated:

“[T]here is a danger in talking about the ‘opportunities’ afforded by exclusion. I do not mean to minimize the seriousness of institutional homophobia or to suggest that progressive Catholics search for ‘silver linings’ in the grim picture that is the WMOF 2015 event agenda. My point is that, even when they have been barred from participation in the meeting or forced to relocate from Catholic to Protestant churches, LGBT Catholic groups have still helped shape conversations about family, sexuality, and gender identity in valuable ways.”

Stewart’s main purpose in her column raises a more important question:

“To the extent that the WMOF [World Meeting of Families] is a forum for discussing the lives of Catholic families, LGBT families should, of course, be able to participate fully. But to the extent that the WMOF is a rally to defend the patriarchal ideal of family against the specters of feminism and homosexuality, LGBT Catholics might want to consider embracing their outsider status. . . .

“The WMOF is . . .dedicated to defending the privileged status of a narrow, patriarchal ideal of family against the outside ‘threats’ of feminist and LGBT theology and politics. LGBT Catholics and the people who care about them should consider embracing their position as outsiders — and the possibilities that position holds for building more just, respectful, and equitable models of relationships.”

James-Rowe cropped

James Rowe

In a blog post on Believe Out Loud, James Rowe takes a different perspective on the World Meeting of Families and the recent eviction of LGBT groups from a Catholic parish.  He stated:

“. . . [C]ontrary to how the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Archbishop Chaput himself have chosen to treat the LGBT Catholic community thus far, I can take comfort and pride in the fact that my LGBT Catholic colleagues and their families are still going to Philadelphia in September, whether Archbishop Chaput wants us there or not.

“And when we arrive in Philly, we will continue to place value on the entire Catholic family, whether Archbishop Chaput wishes to recognize us as his Catholic brothers and sisters or not.

“And when we arrive in Philly, we will talk about how we can help the Catholic Church and even Archbishop Chaput himself become the Church and its people that Jesus truly intended them to be, whether Archbishop Chaput wants to listen to us or not.”

Jim Smith portrait

Jim Smith

Jim Smith, Associate Director of DignityUSA, wrote a blog post for the National Catholic Reporter commented on the value of having LGBT families at the WMF.  Writing as a representative of the Equally Blessed coalition, Smith compared these families to the woman in Scripture (Luke 7:36-50) who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair, while religious leaders look on and condemn her:

“In just a few weeks, throngs of Catholics will enter the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. These people will bring the same tears of love and faith brought to Jesus so many years ago. Fourteen families from our Equally Blessed coalition will be among them: parents of transgender or gay children who have been challenged over thousands of days and nights to love those kids unconditionally, who know viscerally what it means, in the words of the prophet Micah, ‘to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly’ in their parental roles; gay couples with children who live by the promise to raise those children ‘according to the love of Christ’; transgender, intersex and gay persons themselves who are coming through a fire of marginalized existence into the freedom of God’s beloved, finally knowing their ;sin; is not who they are and whom they love, but what chases us all — greed, fear, hate, hubris.”

One thing is for sure:  the World Meeting of Families is going to be an important moment in U.S. Catholic history and in the discussion of LGBT issues in the Catholic Church.

You can read more information and register for New Ways Ministry’s workshop, “Transforming Love:  Gender Identity from Catholic Perspectives,”  by clicking here and downloading a PDF of the brochure.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Philly.com:  “LGBT groups are told: Can’t use church space for events during World Meeting”

Reuters: “Philadelphia archdiocese cancels LGBT program ahead of pope visit”

Crux: “Gender identity workshop booted from Catholic parish in Philly”

Advocate.com: “Philadelphia Catholic Parish Reneges on Hosting LGBT Events”

Religion Dispateches: “Archbishop Boots LGBT Catholics From Philly Church”

National Catholic Reporter: “LGBT groups criticize decision to eject them from church near World Meeting event”

Newsworks.org: “When Philly Catholic church closes door to gay and lesbian event, coalition finds sanctuary with Methodists”

Huffington Post: “LGBT Group Rejected By Philadelphia Archdiocese Won’t Back Down”

Washington Post: “LGBT equality groups getting shut out of Pope Francis meeting in Philadelphia”

Christian Today: “What’s actually happening with LGBT Catholics in Philadelphia?”

NJ.com: “Ahead of papal visit, LGBT workshop cancelled by Philadelphia parish”

4 Responses to New Location and New Opinions on LGBT Catholic Events in Philadelphia

  1. Brian Kneeland says:

    My one great hope – and it may sound counter-productive – is that during this meeting (while the Pope is there) some one stands up and says something like “Thank God Archbishop Vigneron had the guts to expose those perverts for what they are”. Then the Pope would know the hatred we face daily within our own church!

  2. cndppm@aol.com says:

    Dear Frank & Jeannine — I think what this shows more than anything else is that there is a fundamental difference between the bishops appointed by Pope Francis and those appointed by his two predecessors.

    Charlie Davis

  3. Friends says:

    For God’s Sake — both literally and figuratively — isn’t there someone in the Vatican bureaucracy who is close to Pope Francis, and also close to our own grievances against the truly hateful behavior of certain members of the American hierarchy, who could brief Francis about the pastoral outrages being perpetrated by Paprocki and Vigneron and their ilk? We need an “insider” spokesperson — someone who is known and respected by BOTH sides — to make the case to Francis, if our grievance is going to be taken at all seriously within the Vatican. How about Cardinal O’Malley in Boston — who was apparently the first-runner-up to Francis in the most recent Papal election, and who therefore enjoys reasonable trust and credibility within both of the warring factions? Is anyone at Bondings 2.0 in a position of sufficient familiarity to approach him for some help with this problem?

  4. […] events) from a Catholic parish, Catholics who are transgender and intersex, and their families will share their stories at this […]

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