Cardinal’s Welcome to LGBT Catholics ‘Felt Like a Miracle’

Last month, Newark, New Jersey’s Cardinal Joseph Tobin welcomed a pilgrimage of LGBT Catholics to the archdiocese’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart–a gesture that is being hailed as a major step forward in the pastoral care of LGBT people here in the U.S.  — one participant going so far as calling it “a miracle.”

New York Times article entitled “As Church Shifts, a Cardinal Welcomes Gays; They Embrace a ‘Miracle’ “ captured not only the spirit of the May 21st event but also the reactions to it of some Catholic leaders who address LGBT issues.

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Cardinal Tobin welcomes people to the cathedral.

For example, one New York gay Catholic leader described what the action meant to him personally:

” ‘It felt like a miracle,’ Ed Poliandro, a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Manhattan and a clinical social worker. ‘It was a miracle to have church leaders say, ‘You are welcome; you belong.’ And I felt, after a lifetime of struggle, that we are home.’ “

Similarly, a New Jersey gay deacon spoke of the power of this symbolic gesture:

” ‘He brought [Pope] Francis to us,’ said Thomas M. Smith, 66, a deacon who serves the deaf community at the Newark cathedral. ‘I’ve been waiting 25 years for this. I’m a deacon in the church and I’ve had to be careful. And afraid.’

“He teared up, remembering how his parents had died thinking he would go to hell if he found someone to love. ‘This is amazing to me,’ he said.”

New Ways Ministry’s director also commented on the significance of this event:

” ‘It’s the beginning of a dialogue,” said Francis DeBernardo, the executive director New Ways Ministry, a group that ministers to and is an advocate for gay Catholics. ‘The church leadership, for the past 40 years, has just been so silent, and unwilling to dialogue, and unwilling to pray with L.G.B.T. Catholics that, even though this isn’t the ultimate step, it’s a first step,’ he said of Cardinal Tobin’s welcome.”

The Times story also noted the very personal and scriptural way in which Cardinal Tobin welcomed the LGBT pilgrims:

” ‘I am Joseph, your brother,’ Cardinal Tobin told the group, which included lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics from around New York and the five dioceses in New Jersey. ‘I am your brother, as a disciple of Jesus. I am your brother, as a sinner who finds mercy with the Lord.’

“The welcoming of a group of openly gay people to Mass by a leader of Cardinal Tobin’s standing in the Roman Catholic Church in this country would have been unthinkable even five years ago. But Cardinal Tobin, whom Pope Francis appointed to Newark last year, is among a small but growing group of bishops changing how the American church relates to its gay members. They are seeking to be more inclusive and signaling to subordinate priests that they should do the same.”

While in the Cathedral, the pilgrims participated at a Mass celebrated by Fr. Francis Gargani, CSsR, who was one of the organizers of the pilgrimage.  Auxiliary Bishop Manuel Cruz, the cathedral’s rector, was also on the altar at the Mass and added his welcome to the pilgrims.

DeBernardo noted that this event was in line with a changing attitude toward LGBT people in the U.S. Catholic church, offering the following examples:

“The diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., for example, last month said it would permit transgender students in its Catholic schools. In October, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego held a diocesan synod on the family that called for improved ministry toward gay and lesbian Catholics. At a New Ways Ministry national conference in April, Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., said he admired and respected lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who remained steadfast to the church even though the church had not always been as welcoming.”

[Editor’s note:  More on the Jefferson City diocesan policy in a post later this week.]

Perhaps the most significant detail about the event is the following observation made by the Times reporter:

“But Cardinal Tobin’s welcome to Mass on May 21 has been the most significant of such recent gestures, because of the symbolism of a cardinal welcoming a group of gay Catholics, some of whom were married to same-sex spouses, to participate in the Sacrament of Holy Communion at the center of a cathedral, no questions asked.”

Fr.  James Martin, SJ, whose new book, “Building a Bridge,” about Catholic LGBT issues is being positively received, and Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a national organization of LGBT Catholics, were also quoted in the Times story.

Cardinal Tobin’s action was a simple one, yet a very profound one.  It is definitely one that can be replicated by bishops across the U.S.   If bishops would first open their hearts and minds to LGBT people, they will find it much easier to open their cathedral doors to them, as Cardinal Tobin has done.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 14, 2017

Related articles:

Gay Star News:  “Catholic Cardinal welcomes ‘LGBT Pilgrimage’ to his Cathedral”

LGBT Interparish Collaboraive:  “LGBT Pilgrimage to the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ on May 21, 2017″

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5 thoughts on “Cardinal’s Welcome to LGBT Catholics ‘Felt Like a Miracle’

  1. Don Siegal June 14, 2017 / 6:29 am

    Cardinal’s Welcome to LGBT Catholics
    ‘Felt Like a Miracle’

    I believe Ed Poliandro got it right!
    “It felt like a miracle.”
    “It was a miracle to have church leaders say, ‘You are welcome; you belong.’ And I felt, after a lifetime of struggle, that we are home.”
    We are not there yet; regardless, it was a huge step in the right direction.

    I believe too many Christians suppose that miracles only occurred in biblical times. The simple truth is they continue to happen today—in the here and now. Jesus said, and I paraphrase, “You can do all these things and many more.” I further believe these things happen because of God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit. Re-examine this event; does not the unfolding of the story read exactly like one of Jesus’ parables? I can see the title now, “The just cardinal.”

  2. DanielFulmer (@dannyfulmer) June 14, 2017 / 9:24 pm

    Wow, you people at New Ways will settle for something that doesn’t even elevate to the level of crumbs. His welcome opened with a statement about fellow sinners. So you think things are changing in the RC establishment. No. We are not sinners. Period.

    • Kevin Welbes Godin June 16, 2017 / 10:43 am

      I agree. The local bishop is making vocal what the Church already has on its books and should be doing all along.

  3. jatk49 June 16, 2017 / 4:56 pm

    Cardinal Tobin’s genuine inclusive hospitality is a breath of fresh air. Do you see and understand why he was invited to lead by compassionate example in Newark? A new Pentecost is happening in Newark!

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