Will World Meeting of Families Accept Catholic LGBT Organizations?

May 25, 2015

In September of 2015, the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families (WMF) will bring together about 20,000 pilgrims to Philadelphia from all over the world to discuss family issues in the light of faith.  Families with LGBT members, however, are not being provided with the opportunity to be visible officially at the event.

Two national Catholic organizations that support LGBT ministry and outreach are still waiting to hear from the WMF administration if they will be allowed to have a presence, either by exhibit table or advertising space, at the international conference scheduled for the end of September 2015.

The National Catholic Reporter noted that both Fortunate Families (FF), a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, and the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM), have not received a response from their applications to be allowed to have a table to distribute information about themselves to the pilgrim families.

Deb Word, with husband Steven in the background.

Fortunate Families applied for an exhibit table last August, and was told that they were rejected for “lack of information,”  according to FF Board President Deb Word.  After re-applying in February, she learned at the beginning of this month that the application was again rejected, though no reason was given.   They will now apply to have an advertisement in the program booklet for the event.

When The National Catholic Reporter inquired to the World Meeting of Families administration as to the reason for rejecting FF, Ken Gavin, communication director for the Philadelphia archdiocese, local organizers for the WMF, responded circumspectly:

“Applications for exhibitors are reviewed by staff within the World Meeting of Families Office and WMOF-Philadelphia 2015 reserves the right to approve or deny various applications. … If an organization has a question about the status of their application or the decision rendered, they should be in contact with the entity directly.”

Word had also been in contact with WMF organizers because she was being considered as a possible participant on a panel about the church and gay issues.  She was not accepted, and the panel will have only two members:  a celibate gay Catholic man and his mother.

As for CALGM, they, too, applied for an exhibit table last year, but have still not heard if they have been accepted.  The news article stated:

Arthur Fitzmaurice, resource director for CALGM, told NCR he is confident that meeting organizers will ‘resolve this.’ He submitted his group’s application for exhibit space last year, complete with credit card information, and reapplied using the same form in early 2015.”

One national Catholic organization that has been accepted as an exhibitor at the meeting is Courage, which is a ministry which directs lesbian and gay people to celibacy.  The news article says that their method is based on  “five goals that include chastity, prayer, and fellowship and utilizes a 12-step format based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model.”

The news article also reported on pro-LGBT activities at the WMF that are being sponsored by New Ways Ministry and the Equally Blessed Coalition:

New Ways Ministry also plans to host a workshop on gender identity issues; co-sponsor a reception for LGBT Catholics, families, and allies; [the Equally Blessed Coalition will]. . . sponsor several dozen Catholic ‘pilgrims’ from nontraditional families who will be sent out each day with the ‘message that lesbian/gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons are also part of families’ during the week.”

For more information about New Ways Ministry events at WMF, please send inquiry emails to: info@NewWaysMinistry.org.

For more information about the Equally Blessed Coalition’s pilgrims to WMF, please click here.   You can donate financially to support these pilgrims’ work by clicking here.

The World Meeting of Families may not accept organizations such as Fortunate Families, CALGM, New Ways Ministry, and the Equally Blessed Coalition, but that will not prevent them from going forth in every way possible to spread a pro-LGBT message and witness at this international gathering.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


LGBT Advocate Appeals for Church Reform at L.A. Religious Education Congress

March 16, 2015

Liturgy at the LA Religious Education Congress

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A gay advocate challenged Catholic catechists gathered at a major conference as he demanded reforms from a church that “acts unjustly” towards LGBT people.

Arthur Fitzmaurice, resource director of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, spoke last Friday at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, one of the biggest gathering of Catholic ministers in the U.S.  In an address to 800 religious educators, he criticized the magisterium’s damaging theological language and harmful practices with a special appeal to protect LGBT youth. Michael O’Loughlin of Crux reports:

“The paragraph [in the Catechism] on homosexuality — which describes it as ‘intrinsically disordered’ while also demanding respect for gays and lesbians — is placed in a section of the catechism paragraphs condemning ‘pornography, prostitution, and rape,’ he said.

” ‘To keep this abusive language in the Catechism and other Church writings is, in itself, gravely evil,’ he said.”

Arthur Fitzmaurice

Fitzmaurice also harshly criticized pastoral practices that stem from a “poor and dangerous theology.” These include the firing of LGBT and ally church workers, insertion of anti-gay morality clauses into teaching contracts, and the denial of sacraments. Such acts “reinforce the false message that being born LGBTQ is shameful” and “communicates the sentiment that we are beyond God’s abilities and unreachable by God’s love and grace.”

Instead, Fitzmaurice said, “our Church leaders should be models of love.” During a question and answer period, many catechists inquired as to how they could support LGBT people through their educational efforts. Crux reports:

“One participant in the gay and lesbian workshop told the crowd that he is drawn to being a catechist because he wants “to change the mindset” of Catholics who are opposed to homosexuality…

“Several audience members spoke about experiences with gay relatives that helped them change their minds on the issue, though some said they still struggle reconciling Church and biblical teachings with their own experiences.”

But not all participants were in agreement with Fitzmaurice, reported O’Loughlin:

“During a question-and-answer period, one woman challenged Fitzmaurice on whether or not he thought sacramental marriage should be offered to gays and lesbians. Fitzmaurice declined to give an answer, stating only that he’s heard a wide variety of opinions from gays and lesbians with whom he’s worked.”

Examples of poor catechesis were cited, including a story from a high school student, Anthony Marquez, who told the audience:

” ‘You cannot be gay in a Mexican family, because they will say so much stuff to you that hurts you…But what hurt me most was my confirmation teacher who told me it was a disease. I want to be a catechist so badly because I want to change that mindset. It’s not a disease. We can be good Catholics, even if we’re gay.’ “

It is stories like Marquez’s which reveal the need for special pastoral care for LGBT youth, especially those coming from religious households.  These teens are afflicted by mental health issues and homelessness at much higher rates than their peers. On this, Fitzmaurice told the audience:

” ‘The Church cannot continue to turn our backs on these kids…Tell your LGBT child he or she can have a happy future.’ “

American Catholicism’s next generation, if they remain in the church at all, is overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT equality. Student advocacy occurring in San Francisco right now is only the latest example that youth are unwilling to tolerate church leaders who single LGBT people out or a Catholic community where all are not truly welcome and affirmed.

Religious educators are capable of helping students understand the fullness of Catholic teaching, especially those teachings about justice and human dignity which are bedrock for Christian life. They can evangelize youth to become disciples of Christ without compromising their belief in LGBT justice.  Such action would help counteract damages done by church leaders and ministers who fail.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Just How Controversial Are Celibate Gay and Lesbian People?

December 18, 2014

This past Sunday, The Washington Post printed a story about the growing movement of celibate lesbian and gay Christians.  One of the leaders of this movement is Eve Tushnet, a convert to Catholicism who recently published a book on celibacy and friendship entitled Gay and Catholic.

Eve Tushnet

For the record, I have not read Tushnet’s book yet, but I have read other things that she has written and heard her speak. In some ways, I find her to be a very credible spokesperson for celibacy because, while embracing the orthodox Catholic position for lesbian and gay people, she never insists that everyone embrace this option.  She remains non-judgmental about lesbian and gay people who choose to be part of a committed sexual relationship.  Her primary form of argument is to explain why celibacy is a life-giving option for herself.  I applaud both her free decision to choose celibacy and the first-person way in which she addresses the topic.

The Post article seemed to be trying to search for a controversy in this topic.  For example, the reporter, Michelle Boorstein, seems to want to make it seem that celibate gay and lesbian people are not accepted by non-celibate ones.  She writes:

“. . . [T]hey are also met with criticism from many quarters, including from other gays and lesbians who say celibacy is both untenable and a denial of equality.

“ ‘We’ve been told for so long that there’s something wrong with us,’ said Arthur Fitzmaurice, resource director of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry. Acceptance in exchange for celibacy ‘is not sufficient,’ he said. ‘There’s a perception that [LGBT] people who choose celibacy are not living authentic lives.’ ”

I have been working in the field of LGBT Catholic ministry for over 20 years, and I honestly do not ever remember anyone ever disparaging someone’s free choice for celibacy.  I disagree that a perception exists that those “who choose celibacy are not living authentic lives.”   It is true that many Catholics–gay, lesbian, heterosexual–perceive forced celibacy as a person’s only moral option to be not just inauthentic, but potentially damaging.  But that is different from people who freely choose celibacy as the way that will bring them most happiness and deepest connection to others and God.

Fitzmaurice’s statement that acceptance in exchange for celibacy is not sufficient is, however, a very important idea.  Celibacy should never be seen as something required for adults, and it certainly shouldn’t be an “admission ticket” for church participation.  I don’t disagree with Fitzmaurice here, but I do disagree with Boorstein seeing this part of his statement as an indication that celibacy is controversial.

Commenting on Boorstein’s article, Autumn Kunkel, writing at TheBGNews.com criticized this notion of celibacy as a requirement for acceptance into a faith community:

“. . . [T]here is absolutely nothing tolerant about someone saying, ‘I accept gays and lesbians as members of the Christian faith as long as they don’t have sex.’

‘This ideal, in and of itself, is homophobic and prejudiced. It’s dehumanizing.

‘It’s saying, ‘You can be an active member of this faith as long as you abide by special rules which no one else is required to follow.’

‘People who are born a certain way shouldn’t have to follow special rules just to be accepted. If they do, then they’re not really being accepted, are they?”

The controversy about celibate gay and lesbian Christians seems to come not from progressive Christians rejecting them but with conservative Christians being uncomfortable with their sexual orientation.   Boorstein quotes Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who while praising the option of celibacy, also is leery of self-identified gay and lesbian people:

“. . . Mohler said he believes that sexual orientation can change ‘by the power of the Gospel.’ He said he is not comfortable with the way in which some celibate gay Christians proudly label themselves as gay or queer.”

The article notes that there has been more opportunity for people to come out as gay and lesbian people in their faith communities, and that this new social phenomenon has encouraged those who are celibate to be a part of those revelations.

Billy Hallowell, writing about Boorstein’s article at TheBlaze.comsees that the celibate Christian movement forces people to rethink their ideas:

“Consider that embracing celibate gays forces some to concede that homosexuality might not be a choice after all; likewise, it also forces some critics to abandon the notion that it’s possible to change one’s sexuality.”

Hallowell, however, also oversteps the evidence and tries to make it seem that sexually active gay and lesbian people are at odds with those who are celibate:

“The dynamic tends to also frustrate gays and lesbians who are fighting for a level of marriage equality that would allow them to be in same-sex relationships, while also participating in church communities. To these people, celibacy simply isn’t an option.”

Again,  I don’t know any gay or lesbian people who feel that sexual activity is compulsory.  Quite the opposite.  Having been castigated so long for their sexuality, lesbian and gay people are usually more accepting than others of a person’s freedom to live a sexual life that is most life-giving for the individual.

Celibacy, like homosexuality, is not something that a majority of people experience.  As a result, like homosexuality, it can often be misunderstood, and even railed against.  Let’s pray for a day when all people are comfortable expressing their sexual identities and life choices in both church and society.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts

Bondings 2.0: Is Celibacy the New Form of Reparative Therapy for Lesbians and Gays?

Bondings 2.0: Mandating Celibacy for Gay People Reveals Deep Incoherence in Church’s Teachings

 


CALGM Board Refuses to Sign Oath

June 24, 2012

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

The board of directors of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM) has chosen not to sign an “oath of personal integrity” to Catholic teaching given to them by Oakland’s Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, the Ordinary of the diocese in which they maintain their national office.

According to National Catholic Reporter article:

“Declining the oath could result in Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., declaring the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, or CALGM, as “not authentically Catholic,” a letter to its members from the association president warns.

Sheila Nelson with CALGM members Myrna Ohmann and the late David McCaffrey

” ‘In good faith, we have done most everything required of us to maintain a legitimate space within the boundaries of the institutional Church,’ president Sheila Nelson wrote to members April 5. ‘Yet, this has not seemed to be adequate or satisfactory to the office of the bishop. We have repeatedly, abundantly and humbly submitted that our work is pastoral in nature and not political or primarily doctrinal.’ . . .

“Cordileone’s list of concerns with the association have included the omission of specific church documents on its website and publications; its use of the terms gay and lesbian; members’ statements deemed critical of the church; and the backgrounds, affiliations and public statements of both conference speakers and board members. . . .

” “That you would require such an unprecedented and extensive manifestation of our consciences suggests to us that, irrespective of our pastoral effectiveness, you wish to force an end to these, admittedly difficult, conversations. You will not be receiving any signed oaths from the Board members,’ Nelson wrote in a March 29 letter, the first informing the bishop of their decision.”

(The NCR article is rather lengthy but filled with details; if you are interested in learning more about this story, I suggest you read the article in its entirety.)

The NCR article noted that CALGM had already made several concessions to other requests by Bishop Cordileone:

“In an eight-page follow-up letter to the January meeting, dated April 15, 2011, the board sought to clarify questions about the association and its stance on several of the bishop’s concerns, one of which was its usage of the terms ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ on its website and in its publications — a concern that ‘honestly surprised’ the board.

Arthur Fitzmaurice

“[Arthur]Fitzmaurice  [board member and resource director] said that Cordileone said during their Jan. 7 meeting that the terms weren’t in the church’s vocabulary, and were promoted by groups opposed to the church’s moral teaching.

“The board pointed out it in the letter that archdiocesan ministries in Los Angeles and Chicago use ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ in their titles. In addition, the Oakland diocese has a page titled Gay and Lesbian Ministry’ under the family life ministries section of its website.

” ‘The average Catholic who identifies as gay or lesbian is not making a statement about their sexual activity, their political party, their views on same-sex marriage, or their “lifestyle.”… these terms are actually used to shift the focus away from sexual behavior (which ‘homosexual’ clearly evokes) toward the matters of orientation and identity, which are acknowledged by the Church,” the letter stated.

“The board agreed to ‘be more conscientious of our use of language,’ and to utilize Church language — ‘persons with a homosexual inclination’ — when presenting church teaching, and ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ when communicating with those to whom they minister. . . .

“Ensuing letters detailed the association’s progress in implementing Cordileone’s requests, including:

  • modifying website content to include specific church documents;
  • adding editorial remarks to opinions criticizing or inaccurately portraying church teachings, and stating CALGM did not share in them;
  • Using church language — “persons with a homosexual inclination” — when presenting church teaching, and “gay” and “lesbian” when communicating with whom they minister;
  • providing the bishop a copy of each newsletter before distribution to members;
  • Continuing the practice of providing the names of proposed speakers to the bishop of the diocese where conferences are held.”

Nelson noted the inappropriateness of the request for an oath:

“Nelson, in a March 29 letter, informed the Oakland bishop the board would not take his oath: ‘In the course of our conversations with you over the last year, we have endeavored to engage and respond to each of the concerns that you have raised about our pastoral ministry.’

“She continued: ‘Sadly, there always seems to be something that you say “confirms [your] doubts” about us and our work. … We have tried to gain your trust … We have tried to assure you that we are faithful disciples in parishes and dioceses doing the pastoral work of the Church …’

” ‘We hope you can understand, then, our confusion at the “Oath of Personal Integrity in Belief and Practice Regarding the Teachings of the Catholic Church.” Suddenly, the terms of our long conversation have migrated from the work of the Association to the personal lives of the Board members,’ she said.

“At the end of the letter, Nelson expressed hope that CALGM would continue a ministry she called a “tremendous value to you and our Church at a time when conventional wisdom would inaccurately characterize Roman Catholicism as “against gay people,'” adding, ‘For our part, we need you and your apostolic service to hold us in deep communion with the Body of Christ. We hope and pray that we can continue to minister with you in the Church we all love.’ “

Casey Lopata

Looking toward the future, Fitzmaurice and Casey Lopata, longtime CALGM board member and co-founder of Fortunate Families, had these thoughts:

“When asked how or if CALGM would continue its ministry should Cordileone declare it not authentically Catholic, Fitzmaurice stated that ‘the need for our ministry remains, and we will continue to do our pastoral work and will respond to opportunities for dialogue with our Church leaders.’ ”

“Lopata said it would be ‘a real loss for the church” if CALGM could not continue its work.

” ‘If there’s not that visible association with this positive perspective for gay and lesbian people within the  church that is recognized by the church, the church would be much impoverished because of that,’ he said.”

Indeed.  CALGM has been a great support to many church ministers over the years and has provided great work in the field of LGBT ministry.  They have worked hard to maintain a dialogue with church leaders throughout their work.  The breakdown of dialogue here says more about the hiearchy’s adamancy than it says anything about CALGM’s loyalty to the church.  They are in our prayers.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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