On New Catholic LGBT Book, Jamie Manson and Archbishop Chaput Find Common Ground

Fr. James Martin, S.J. seeks to build bridges with his new book on Catholic LGBT issues. While it may not be a bridge, in two new reviews, he has certainly brought together two very different Catholics: lesbian Catholic advocate Jamie Manson and Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput.

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Jamie Manson

Manson reviewed the book, Building a Bridge, in her column at National Catholic Reporter. She opened by describing the book as a “storybook” which looks inviting but, she added, for LGBT activists it “may also read like fiction.” In the review, she criticized Martin for his more positive portrayal of the hierarchy:

“Martin is hardly the first Catholic, nor the first Jesuit, to write about the LGBT experience in the church. But he may be the first to write about the topic from such a privileged position inside the institutional church. . .His remarkable access to church leaders prompts him to make one of the boldest claims in the book:

‘Many in the institutional church want to reach out to [the LGBT] community, but seem somewhat confused about how to do so. Yes, I know it seems that there are some who don’t seem to want to reach out, but all the bishops I know are sincere in their desire for true pastoral outreach.’

“There are a lot of ‘seems’ in those two sentences, and they seem to suggest that LGBT Catholics, in their lack of access to the power center of the church, are simply ignorant of what’s really going on in the hearts of these men.”

Manson noted evidence to the contrary, including bishops’ silence after the Pulse Nightclub massacre which Martin said in part prompted him to accept New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building award which led to the book’s publication.

Manson also queried Martin’s treatment of homosexuality in the priesthood and religious life. The author sets up what Manson described as a “catch-22” in which he claims both that many priests and bishops are themselves gay, but also that this same group of clergy do not know LGBT people. Manson commented:

“Martin should be applauded for speaking so forthrightly about the prevalence of gay men among the clergy, but he doesn’t really reckon with the fact that it is precisely the clerical closet that makes the hierarchy’s oppression of LGBT people so outrageous and intolerable. So many bishops and priests lie about their own sexualities, some even carry on same-sex relationships, while sitting in judgment over LGBT people who are trying to live their lives honestly.”

She then addressed Martin’s encouragement for LGBT people to improve relations with clergy by  showing church leaders respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Manson responded that church leaders’ actions are too often “an abuse of power” by which, despite LGBT Catholics and their families good faith efforts, bishops have frequently dismissed Catholics’ concerns. She continued:

“More than 40 years of struggle should have taught us by now that compassion, respect and sensitivity are not enough to bring about a truly just relationship between bishops and LGBT Catholics. Even with these three virtues in play, bishops still have the power to judge and negatively impact the lives of LGBT Catholics, while operating in secrecy and lying about their own sexualities. And LGBT Catholics are expected to bear their souls to their religious leaders and beg to be heard, while also, ultimately, remaining voiceless and officially condemned by their church.”

Manson was not hopeful about the proposed bridge because she believes that even though it was most likely unintended to do so, Martin’s book shows “just how radical the lack of mutuality is between LGBT Catholics and the bishops.” She concluded:

“[F]or reconciliation to take place, it would require not simply compassion, respect and sensitivity, but a mutuality of vulnerability, self-disclosure, honesty and authenticity. . .As long as that imbalance persists, it’s hard to imagine how these roads can ever truly meet and how the bridge can possibly hold.”

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Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Chaput is also critical of Building a Bridge. Though his appraisal is not the same as Manson’s, he likewise questions the text for not dealing more substantively with the what he understands to be the real issues involving homosexuality and the church.

Writing at CatholicPhilly.com, Chaput said the book is “written with skill and good will,” and that Martin’s exhortation for both sides to be respectful “makes obvious sense.” He then explained:

“But what the text regrettably lacks is an engagement with the substance of what divides faithful Christians from those who see no sin in active same-sex relationships.  The Church is not simply about unity – as valuable as that is – but about unity in God’s love rooted in truth.

“If the Letter to the Romans is true, then persons in unchaste relationships (whether homosexual or heterosexual) need conversion, not merely affirmation.  If the Letter to the Romans is false, then Christian teaching is not only wrong but a wicked lie.  Dealing with this frankly is the only way an honest discussion can be had.”

It is safe to say that Jamie Manson and Charles Chaput almost always find themselves on opposite ends of the ecclesial spectrum. What is interesting in these reviews is their agreement that the book has some good points, but also that the book failed to address key substantive issues, thereby weakening any attempt to build bridges.

The similarity between these reviewers raises two questions: Does attempting to build a bridge mean that both opposing camps will be dissatisfied?  How do you build a bridge that makes opposing camps both feel that their concerns are addressed fairly?

Bondings 2.0 will continue to provide more reviews of the book as they appear.

y450-293If you have reading Building a Bridge, what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section below. You can read our coverage of previous reviews in the following posts:

Fr. James Martin Responds to Critics of New Book on LGBT Issues

David Cloutier, a theologian, on “The Ignatian Option”

Lesbian Catholic Eve Tushnet’s review in The Washington Post

New Catholic LGBT Book is Praised by High Church Leaders

To read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage about Fr. James Martin’s involvement on LGBT issues, click here.

You can order Fr. Martin’s book by clicking here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 16, 2017

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Fired Gay Minister: “Archbishop has done us and all the church a great wrong.”

Barring LGBT Catholics from parish ministries is deeply wrong and personally wounding, wrote one gay man who had been forced from ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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William di Canzio

Last October, William di Canzio was dismissed as a lector at the Daylesford Abbey parish community in suburban Philadelphia where he has been active for 35 years.  The abbot said the decision was influenced by Archbishop Charles Chaput’s directive not to allow coupled gay men or lesbians to perform liturgical roles.

Di Canzio first broke his story on Bondings 2.0, and you can read the original report here. He has since written in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Abbot Richard Antonucci of Daylesford Abbey in Paoli requested a meeting with me, though he declined to tell me his purpose in advance. . .The abbot started our conversation by saying that he’d heard I had married my partner of 12 years, Jim Anderson. ‘I want you to believe this,’ he said: ‘I sincerely wish you both many, many years of happiness together.’

“Then he passed me a copy of a directive from Archbishop Charles Chaput. . .[and] said that, with reluctance, he must enforce the directive.”

Antonucci told di Canzio that, despite the abbey being a community that is formally outside archdiocesan control, the abbott was “unwilling to take the risk” of retaining an LGBT person in liturgical ministry. Di Canzio asked the abbot, “You’re the spiritual leader of the place I’ve been part of for 35 years. . .How do you counsel me?” The abbot’s only response was asking di Canzio to remain at Daylesford Abbey.

Di Canzio said of the Abbey, “I felt welcomed there and at home.” He described in his Inquirer essay the many ministries at the abbey in which he has participated for more than three decades: revising the hymnal and arranging a psalter, writing a three-year cycle of Sunday penitential rites for the Norbertine Order, lectoring, and helping with other aspects of liturgy. Di Canzio concluded:

“Forgive me if this sounds like a resume. Here’s my point: the archbishop knows none of this. The abbot himself, who came to Daylesford in 2000, did not know how very long had been my history there. Nor did he know that the man who is now my spouse decided to be confirmed a Catholic after attending Pentecost mass at Daylesford.”

Di Canzio said the archdiocesan directive itself is “very offensive,” especially its claim that same-gender couples are “a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community.” The directive continued to say such couples are “without undermining the faith of the community, most notably the children.” The former lector commented:

“The hypocrisy of the last phrase, concerning children, is so transparent it seems rhetorical suicide, because it calls to mind the sexual abuse of children by priests that has plagued the Catholic Church for decades.

“Here’s the truth: my sexual nature, like that of all human beings, is holy; my marriage is a sacrament where I encounter the love of God every day in the love of my spouse and bestow it likewise on him. The archbishop has done us and all the church a great wrong.”

A great wrong for sure, and Di Canzio’s story is not an isolated incident. More than 60 church workers and volunteers since 2007 have lost their position over an LGBT identity, same-gender marriage, or public support for equality.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of such church workers and volunteers, as well as other information and resources about the topic..

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 5, 2017

QUOTE TO NOTE: U.S. Bishops Were Virtually Silent on Trump

computer_key_Quotation_MarksIn a scathing essay which excoriates Catholics who supported Donald Trump for U.S. President, Boston College theologian Stephen Pope also took to task U.S. bishops who were mum about so many of Candidate Trump’s statements which were directly opposed to Catholic teaching, particularly social teaching.

In a particularly strong passage, Pope compares the bishops’ reluctance to speak out against Trump with their loud and strong rhetoric about marriage equality and religious liberty.  In his Commonweal essay entitled “Not the Time for Reconciliation: First Confront the Danger of Trump,” he states:

Donald Trump

“. . .American bishops showed a stunning lack of leadership at a time when it was needed most. Some bishops publically expressed concern with Trump’s description of Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers. To their credit, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Bishop Kevin Farrell, and some other bishops expressed public concern over Trump’s immigrant-bashing rhetoric, but they did not offer a direct and sustained criticism of the substance and tone of his campaign as a whole. . . . Yet no bishop had the courage of Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore to denounce Trump in no uncertain terms as a ‘walking affront to the Gospels.’ Most obtuse was Archbishop Charles Chaput’s assessment of both major-party candidates as ‘equally problematic.’ Truly problematic are prelates who raise their voices against same-sex marriage, but not against overt racism and misogyny. Or bishops who defend the religious liberty of Catholic institutions regarding contraception, but not the freedom of persecuted Muslim refugees who wish to immigrate to our shores.

“In his post-election statement, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, outgoing president of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that he ‘looks forward to working President-elect Trump’ on issues of life, immigration and refugees, religious persecution, and marriage. Kurtz said nothing about poverty or climate change—concerns Pope Francis has made central to his papacy.

To read the entire essay, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 28, 2016

On My Dismissal from Lectoring at Daylesford Abbey

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William di Canzio

Today’s post is by William di Canzio, a playwright  who has taught at Smith College, Haverford College, and Yale University. At Yale, he was also appointed dean of Trumbull College, academic director in residence to four hundred undergraduates. He has published essays in Commonweal magazine. He holds a PhD  from Johns Hopkins University and MFA from the Yale School of Drama, where he was awarded the Eugene O’Neill scholarship in playwriting. He now teaches in the Pennoni Honors College of Drexel University, Philadelphia.

A week ago Saturday the abbot of Daylesford Abbey, a Norbertine community near Philadelphia, emailed me requesting a meeting; he said he would rather not disclose its purpose. A few days later we met for coffee. Abbot Richard Antonucci started our conversation by saying that he’d heard that Jim Anderson and I had been legally married. “I want you to believe this,” he said: “I sincerely
wish you many, many years of happiness together.”

Then he passed me a copy of a directive from Archbishop Charles Chaput of
Philadelphia stating that members of same-sex couples should “not hold
positions of responsibility in a parish, nor should they carry out any liturgical
ministry or function.” Richard said he intended to enforce the directive.

Our talk was frank but friendly. I reminded him that the abbey is not a parish
and nor is Chaput his superior. True enough, but, Richard tells me, all Catholic
laypeople in the archdiocese are subject to Chaput’s authority.

I argued that I knew of local pastors choosing not to enforce the directive because
of its injustice. Richard said he was unwilling to take the risk.

“You’re the spiritual leader of the place I’ve been part of for thirty-five years,” I
said. “How do you counsel me?”

Richard said that he hoped I might find it in my heart to remain in the abbey
community.

The pain of this decision can only be felt where there is love. Here’s why it
hurts: when I first came to Daylesford Abbey in 1981, I had just undergone what
I later learned is called a conversion. Raised Catholic, educated in a parish
school and at Jesuit prep school, I’d become disaffected with the church in
college. Then, at 30, I got knocked off my horse and struck blind, so to speak,
and returned to a church much different from the one I’d known as a kid. My
discovery of Daylesford Abbey, with its refined architecture, enlightened
preaching and ravishing liturgy, was a revelation within the revelation. Though
I’d never seen the place before, when I entered its church for the first time, I had
the uncanny feeling that I’d come home.

In those early days, the abbey’s liturgical director befriended me and put me to
work immediately on special projects: revising a hymnal with an eye to
amending sexist language; arranging a psalter and canticles to be used in the
Daylesford Rite of the Hours. We likewise collaborated on liturgical events—the
consecration of the Abbey’s Church of the Assumption, a children’s mass for
Christmas morning, and the Good Friday Veneration of the Cross, a service that
has since become Daylesford’s signature. From the beginning, even before
lectoring, mine has been a ministry of words.

Even during the many years I lived in New Haven, I kept close to the Abbey. I
was commissioned to write a three-year cycle of penitential rites for its
Sunday mass based on the scriptural readings for the day. In 1988 I became an
Affiliate (one considering entering the order); in 2001, an Associate (a layperson
with an especially active role in the abbey’s life). During the declining years of
my parents (who loved the place), the Abbey was a source of solace to me as
caregiver. Two Norbertines celebrated my father’s funeral.

Lectoring has been a particular passion for me. On my conversion, I was drawn
to the lectern because of the beauty of what I heard and my desire to know it
better. A writer myself, I prepare my assignments as if I had written them, so
that I can present them to the assembly with understanding and conviction.

Forgive me if this sounds like a resume. My point is Charles Chaput knows none
of this about me. Richard himself, who came to Daylesford in 2000, did not
know how very long is my history there. Neither of these men knows that Jim
decided to be confirmed a Catholic after attending Pentecost mass at Daylesford,
though Richard remembered fondly Jim’s magnificent chanting of the Passion
narratives, solo, from the Abbey pulpit on three consecutive Palm Sundays and
Good Fridays.

My meeting with the abbot on October 20 was not my first encounter with
the episcopal directive. I’d read about it in the news some months before. Of
course it made me angry: it’s very offensive. Chaput asserts that same-sex
couples “offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only
produce moral confusion in the community. Such a relationship cannot be
accepted into the life of the parish without undermining the faith of the
community, most notably the children.”

This strikes me as hypocritical, perhaps even cynical, especially the phrase
concerning children: we remember that Benedict XVI appointed Chaput to
Philadelphia in the midst of the legal consequences of disclosures of the history
of clerical pedophilia in the archdiocese.

In his administration, Chaput has crossed a line into alienating the laity whom he
was entrusted to serve. He has advocated, even lobbied, against extending the
Pennsylvania commonwealth’s statute of limitation on crimes of sexual
predation. Perhaps alienation is a deliberate strategy: like the failed pope who
appointed him, the archbishop has spoken publically about the advantages of a
“smaller, lighter” church.

Since my meeting with Richard, I’ve gone through several phases of grief:
betrayal, anger, self-pity, sorrow, and worst, I realize now, was a sense of shame
and disgrace. These latter emotions are what victims of abuse are made to feel in its aftermath, but they’re also familiar to gay men of my age. And I thought I was done with those—years and years ago.

–William di Canzio, November 4, 2016

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of other LGBT-related church worker and parish volunteer disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 60 incidents since 2007 where church workers or volunteers have lost their positions over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

Catholics React Swiftly and Strongly to Archbishop’s Restrictive Guidelines

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Archbishop Charles Chaput

Pastoral guidelines excluding LGBT people from church ministries and encouraging same-gender couples and others to refrain from Communion have provoked strong responses in the Philadelphia area.

Archbishop Charles Chaput released the guidelines as his response to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, though they many have found them contradictory to the the document.

The guidelines instruct church ministers to restrict LGBT people from parish ministries, and to deny Communion to many others. Chaput said that same-gender couples offer a “serious counter-witness to Catholic belief” and “undermine the faith of the community.”

Responses to these restrictive guidelines have been swift and strong. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Catholic, tweeted that Jesus gave Communion out of love and to all people, and therefore “Chaput’s actions are not Christian.”

Stephen Seufert of Keystone Catholics, an online advocacy organization, criticized the archbishop in The Huffington Posthighlighting a challenging illustration to the ban on LGBT people in ministry:

“I hate to break it to Archbishop Chaput, but there are likely thousands of sexually active LGBT Catholics serving in ministry positions across the world. They’re consoling families, teaching children, healing the sick, feeding the poor, and are administering sacraments like the Eucharist. The Church would most certainly be poorer spiritually if all LGBT Catholics were removed from leadership positions.”

Seufert questioned the impact Archbishop Chaput’s lengthy LGBT-negative record has caused, and the further implications it may have. Citing the Jesuit truism about finding God in all things, Seufert concluded:

“If Archbishop Chaput can’t find any semblance of God in civilly married same-sex couples and their families, he’s not spending enough time with LGBT people and their families. . .

“He may not realizes this, but the more Archbishop Chaput resists civil liberties for non-traditional families, the more likely Catholics will push for internal change within the Church on marriage and the family. This internal change will occur with or without people like Archbishop Chaput because an ever increasing number of straight Catholics like me are taking the time to learn about, live with, and unconditionally love their LGBT brothers and sisters.”

It is an established reality that U.S. Catholics are, as Seufert noted, overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT rights. This dissonance between how Catholics are practicing their faith and what the archbishop seeks to impose could be problematic.

Kevin Hughes, a theology professor at Villanova University, Pennsylvania, told the Delco Times the ambiguities in Amoris Laetitia mean implementation could either expand pastoral care or it could lead to restrictions. If it is the latter, as with Chaput’s guidelines, Hughes said:

“I think there are parish communities in which divorced and civilly remarried people and/or gay couples are active participants in the life of a parish. The guidelines will ask for some very serious soul-searching among pastors and parishioners alike, and it will be very painful for some communities to sort out the questions of leadership and liturgical roles.”

Not all priests in the Archdiocese are following Chaput’s path. Fr. Joseph Corley of Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Darby, will host a discussion of the exhortation and the guidelines at his suburban Philadelphia parish, but with the aim of “helping people to develop an informed conscience.”

Letters to the editor published by The Inquirer in Philadelphia reveal members of the Catholic faithful deeply critical of the archbishop. Laura Szatny wrote that the “sheer arrogance and un-Christian attitude of Chaput continue to stun.” Kate Fleming questioned his priorities, noting the archbishop’s opposition to state legislation expanding the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse:

“Archbishop Charles Chaput should focus on policing his priests, who take a vow of celibacy, instead of his flock. Protecting innocent victims of sexual abuse by his employees seems to be a much more important problem than the sex lives of lay Catholics.”

Writing in Philly Mag, columnist Liz Spikol also noted the abuse scandals currently exploding in the Pennsylvania church and the harm the church has caused to people. She queried:

“Obviously, Chaput had no personal involvement in the tragic case of Brian Gergely [an clergy abuse survivor who committed suicide the same week the guidelines were released]. But Gergely’s fellow survivors know the kind of Church Chaput represents all too well — the kind where higher-ups are exalted regardless of their lack of humanity, where preventing scandal is more important that preventing harm. . .

“In his Pastoral Guidelines, Chaput refused to use common terms for members of the LGBT community. . .It is utterly dehumanizing. When will Chaput and those in his circle understand that his hardline approach, which has already caused so much damage, only does the Church harm? I look forward to the day when the Philadelphia Archdiocese — as well as those in other parts of Pennsylvania — serve as a model for Francis’s supremely humane teachings.”

Catholics all over Philadelphia have criticized the archbishop adequately. I would add only one more point to their observations. In Amoris Laetitia, one of the most striking lines from Pope Francis is when he addresses church ministers with these words, “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.” There is much more in the 256-page document that contradicts Chaput’s guidelines, but these words about conscience seem paramount. The archbishop continues to replace Catholics’ consciences with his own judgements. Thankfully, Philadelphia Catholics are still listening to the that voice of God echoing in the depths of their being, and living the Gospel as they know best.

You can read more about the pastoral guidelines by clicking here. You can access New Ways Ministry’s statement in response by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

Archbishop Chaput’s Pastoral Restrictions Are a Losing Strategy

The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, released on July 6, 2016, in response to Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput’s new pastoral directives.

In a move which seems diametrically opposite to Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation on marriage and family life, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput has instructed pastoral ministers in his archdiocese not to distribute communion to divorced/remarried and cohabitating couples, and not to allow individuals involved in same-sex relationships to occupy leadership or ministerial roles in parish life.  Chaput’s instruction came in a six-page document which he called “Pastoral Guidelines for Implementing Amoris Laetitia,” the apostolic exhortation that Pope Francis released in April. (For more information about the document, click here.)

Sacramental denials and restricting parish involvement are not effective pastoral strategies for the Church to be following.  Pope Francis’ emphasis has been to move away from such measures, and instead, offer an open and welcoming hand to all–even, and perhaps especially, to those whose lives do not always conform to all of the church’s official teachings.  Denials and restrictions will only cause more people to leave the Church, thus contributing to its demise, rather than towards building it up.  Chaput has offered a losing pastoral strategy.

Though this instruction will anger and frustrate many Catholics, whose hearts are much wider in accepting people regardless of their state in life, it is not a strategy that will pass the test of time.  It is just one more attempt to hold on to a model of church which has long been rendered obsolete.

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Chaput’s directives are distinctly at odds with the tone and recommendations of Amoris Laetitia which stressed church leaders should provide pastoral accompaniment and encounter, as well as encouragement, instead of discipline.  In many places, Chaput’s instruction reads schizophrenically, by emphasizing the need for such accompaniment, but then each time concluding with a recommendation that is a harsh restriction.

Chaput’s instructions should be, and most likely will be, ignored by pastoral ministers in his archdiocese.  They will most likely use their own pastoral judgement about administering sacraments and appointing people to ministerial and leadership roles.   Such is what happened last year when Newark’s Archbishop John Myers sent out similar instructions to pastoral staff in his archdiocese.  On the whole, the directives were ignored.

This issue becomes worrisome, though, because it is also very possible that self-appointed conservative “watchdogs” will take it upon themselves to report violations to the archdiocese.  Should this be what happens, then Chaput would have opened a Pandora’s box or problems for himself and the church of Philadelphia when dismissals and communion rejections become public, along with the guaranteed protests by Catholics who support those dismissed and rejected.

Because of these possibilities, in one sense Chaput’s instructions may end up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  With such an outpouring of protest, his leadership, already widely ignored, will become more irrelevant, paving the way for new leadership and directions for this archdiocese which has already had more than its share of tragedies caused by rigidly conservative leaders.

Also troubling is the fact that Chaput was recently named chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee to implement Amoris Laetitia nationally.  This archdiocesan document does not bode well for the direction this committee may take.  Since Chaput represents the most conservative wing of the U.S. church, it is unlikely that any recommendations which emerge will be useful to most bishops, who will likely take a more compassionate approach to implementing the apostolic exhortation than the narrow one that Chaput has offered.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

New Guidelines Ban LGBT People from Parish Ministries

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Archbishop Charles Chaput

In new guidelines, Philadelphia’s archbishop has banned people in same-gender relationships from pastoral or liturgical roles.

Archbishop Charles Chaput’s guidelines are a response to Amoris LaetitiaPope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on family, and the synodal process preceding the exhortation’s April publication. The guidelines, which became effective July 1, instruct church ministers involved with marriage and family life, or the church’s sacramental life on handling Catholics in diverse family arrangements.  In addition to restrictions on same-gender couples, the guidelines also tell pastors not to distribute communion to couples who are divorced and civilly remarried, as well as couples who are cohabitating.

(For New Ways Ministry’s response to the guidelines, click here.)

Addressing the pastoral care of people in same-gender relationships, Chaput wrote that pastors must prudentially judge an appropriate response to couples who “present themselves openly in a parish.” He continued:

“But two persons in an active, public same-sex relationship, no matter how sincere, offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community. Such a relationship cannot be accepted into the life of the parish without undermining the faith of the community, most notably the children.

“Finally, those living openly same-sex lifestyles should not hold positions of responsibility in a parish, nor should they carry out any liturgical ministry or function.”

Under a section titled “For persons who experience same-sex attraction,” Chaput said lesbian, bisexual, and gay Catholics should “struggle to live chastely” and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently.

Michael Rocks, president of Dignity/Philadelphia, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was “not surprised” by Chaput issuing such harsh guidelines, but questioned them nonetheless:

” ‘But I wonder how they tell if straight people are following the sexual rules of the church. . .How do they tell if the president of the parish council isn’t into child pornography or having a sexual relationship?’ “

Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter, said that instead of acknowledging the fullness of marriage and family, “in Philadelphia, it is all about the genitalia.” He continued:

“So intent are prelates like Archbishop Chaput in refusing to think there is anything really worth discussing here, they wish to shut down and foreclose the pope’s obvious invitation to discussion and adult decision making. . .

“When Archbishop Chaput gets to the situation of gay and lesbian Catholics, he declines to even show the simple respect of referring to gays and lesbians as they refer to themselves, adopting the awkward, and rude, circumlocution “those who experience same sex attraction. . .When such respect is seen to coincide with even the tiniest possibility that an opportunity to denounce homosexual relations as sinful will be missed, too many prelates follow Archbishop Chaput and decline the respect and seize the opportunity.”

Archbishop Chaput acknowledged part of the guidelines as a “hard teaching,” but insisted on these guidelines in the archdiocese. His record on LGBT issues had been already quite troubling before these guidelines were announced. He previously ejected LGBT organizations from hosting programs at a Catholic parish, and he warned LGBT Catholics against protesting ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. Locally, he implemented a morality pledge for parents of Catholic schoolchildren that includes non-support of LGBT equality, dismissed the concerns of a Catholic mother with gay sons, and said he was “very grateful” lesbian educator Margie Winters had been fired by the Sisters of Mercy. This list of problematic statements and actions against LGBT people goes on.

Even with this record, banning Catholics in loving, fruitful same-gender relationships from all parish and liturgical ministries is notable. This exclusionary stance not only harms LGBT people and their families, but hinders the church’s mission too by depriving it of the many gifts and talents that faithful LGBT people offer the People of God.

Unfortunately, the archbishop’s merciless stance may not be limited to Philadelphia. Chaput, who participated in the 2015 General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, was appointed by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz to head a working group tasked with “furthering the reception and implementation of” Amoris Laetitia. He chairs, too, the Conference’s Committee on Family Life, and was elected to the Synod of Bishops’ 12-member permanent council.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry