Bishop McElroy: Right Wing Attacks on LGBT Issues a “Wake-Up Call” for Catholics

Right wing attacks on Jesuit  Fr. James Martin’s views on LGBT issues should be a “wake-up call” for Catholics, said San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy in a new essay.

Bishop Robert McElroy

McElroy’s essay in America identified a “cancer of vilification seeping into the institutional life of the church,” namely the judgmentalism now on display against Fr. Martin. Last week, news broke that Theological College in Washington, D.C. along with a couple other institutions, had cancelled lectures by Martin because of his new book on LGBT issues in the church, Building a Bridge. For more information on these incidents, click here. To read New Ways Ministry’s statement on this incident, click here.

Praising Building a Bridge, McElroy admitted there is “legitimate and substantive criticism” which Martin has received. Yet recent attacks from the right go beyond acceptable discourse and should be a “wake up call” for Catholics, the bishop wrote. He continued:

“This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is—not primarily for Father Martin’s sake but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church. Already, several major institutions have canceled Father Martin as a speaker. Faced with intense external pressures, these institutions have bought peace, but in doing so they have acceded to and reinforced a tactic and objectives that are deeply injurious to Catholic culture in the United States and to the church’s pastoral care for members of the L.G.B.T. communities. . .

“The concerted attack on Father Martin’s work has been driven by three impulses: homophobia, a distortion of fundamental Catholic moral theology and a veiled attack on Pope Francis and his campaign against judgmentalism in the church.”

The right wing groups have sought to “vilify” Martin by distorting his work and assassinating his character, said McElroy. Expanding his reflection beyond just the Martin incidents, the bishop explored the homophobic impulse. He said the attacks “tap into long-standing bigotry within the church and U.S. culture,” adding:

“The persons launching these attacks portray the reconciliation of the church and the L.G.B.T. community not as a worthy goal but as a grave cultural, religious and familial threat. Gay sexual activity is seen not as one sin among others but as uniquely debased to the point that L.G.B.T. persons are to be effectively excluded from the family of the church. Pejorative language and labels are deployed regularly and strategically. The complex issues of sexual orientation and its discernment in the life of the individual are dismissed and ridiculed. . .

“The coordinated attack on Building a Bridge must be a wake-up call for the Catholic community to look inward and purge itself of bigotry against the L.G.B.T. community. If we do not, we will build a gulf between the church and L.G.B.T. men and women and their families. Even more important, we will build an increasing gulf between the church and our God.”

McElroy also identified another dimension associated with these attacks: the right wing’s “distortion of Catholic moral theology.” The bishop said what is central to Christian life is not chastity, but love. He explained:

“Many times, our discussions in the life of the church suggest that chastity has a singularly powerful role in determining our moral character or our relationship with God. It does not. . .Those who emphasize the incompatibility of gay men or lesbian women living meaningfully within the church are ignoring the multidimensional nature of the Christian life of virtue or the sinfulness of us all or both.”

McElroy also pointed out how the attacks on Martin’s book echo conservatives’ rejection of Pope Francis’ pastoral approach to LGBT issues. McElroy wrote:

“Regarding the issue of homosexuality, in particular, many of those attacking Father Martin simply cannot forgive the Holy Father for uttering that historic phrase on the plane: ‘Who am I to judge?’ The controversy over Building a Bridge is really a debate about whether we are willing to banish judgmentalism from the life of the church.”

McElroy’s essay ends on a disappointing note. In his concluding paragraph, he wrote that it is “judgmentalism on both sides” which has created the divide between LGBT people and the institutional church, rhetoric similar to the “on all sides” phrasing so sharply criticized in recent secular conversations on race . Martin has been criticized for likewise saying both sides are to blame without acknowledging the power differential between marginalized LGBT people and the powerful church leaders who allow or even enact such marginalization.

McElroy’s essay, which you can read in full by clicking here, is a strong defense of Fr. Martin and a welcome acknowledgement of the prejudice and abuse that LGBT people in the church face. The dialogue over LGBT issues in the church must also address power dynamics at work in the discussion.  If church leaders claim that there is “judgmentalism on both sides,” the extremely necessary “wake-up call” to expel the “cancer of vilification”that McElroy calls for won’t happen.

For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of Building a Bridge, reviews about it, and the conversation around it, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 20, 2017



Catholic Groups Object to Bishop Paprocki’s Anti-Gay Decree

Weeks after an Illinois bishop announced pastoral guidelines that bar people in same-gender marriages from church life, Catholics continue to object while the bishop has begun responding to critics.

Reform organizations’ letter to Bishop Paprocki

Catholic Church reform organizations sent a letter to Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield to express their disappointment about his decree which would, among other prohibitions, bar Catholics in same-gender marriages from having funerals. The letter read, in part:

“As communities of Catholics, we were shocked and gravely disappointed at the decree you recently promulgated. . .The Church, at its best, is a haven, a source of spiritual nourishment in a sometimes harsh world. In times of confusion, loss and grief, the Sacraments are especially valued for the strength and grace they provide to all who wish to avail themselves of them. It is disheartening to us as Catholics that our family would forego such cherished ideals in favor of mean and unkind policies.”

The organizations wrote they “decry the rancor and derision that has become such a pervasive part of public life and community,” and expect the church to be a refuge in troubled times. The fourteen organizations include Call to Action, DignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry. Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, who has written an open letter to the bishop which you can read here, commented to WGLT 89.1:

“The reaction has run the gamut from anger to shock to real disgust at such a Draconian prohibition against lesbian and gay people, especially in this era of Pope Francis where more and more Catholic leaders are making gestures of welcome. . .People feel there are so many other areas the church declares as sin that are not included in this prohibition, such as greed, militarism, racism and support for the death penalty.”

Women-Church Convergence, a coalition of Catholic feminist groups, released its own pastoral letter to the people of Springfield to “offer words of comfort” to LGBTQI persons and their families. The letter read, in part:

“The Decree misses the signal importance of public, joyfully celebrated baptisms of babies, young people, and adults as they become part of our community. It ignores the welcome table that is the Eucharist. And, it dishonors the dead who are denied church funerals not because of sin but because of love. Let especially your young people hear us sing atop our voices, ‘All are welcome.'”

In a statement, Deborah Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch said Paprocki’s “harsh tactics defy the Gospel and deny the God’s own people the love, care, and acceptance that we are called to offer one another.”

While the National Catholic Reporter noted that few bishops are willing to offer criticism of another publicly, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego did support San Jose’s Bishop Patrick McGrath who released a communique to pastoral ministers in his diocese that said all Catholics would be welcome to the sacraments. McElroy commented:

“‘I think that is the appropriate policy that I would hope the priests would observe, especially in the times of funerals, but more broadly in the sense of regular pastoral action in support of men and women who are in all states of lives and who have all sorts of challenges. . .Our fundamental stance has to be one of inclusion in the church, especially during a time of burial.'”

Bishop Paprocki (1)
Contact Bishop Paprocki about his decree

In the face of criticism from many quarters, Bishop Paprocki is speaking out in defense of his decree through a diocesan statement, a column in the diocesan newspaper, and an interview. NCR reported about the interview:

“. . .Paprocki states that he was surprised by the attention the decree received as it is ‘a rather straightforward application of existing Church teaching and canon law.’ He also said he has ‘received many supportive comments and assurances of prayer,’ including ‘positive reactions’ from the priests in the diocese.

“When the online news magazine asked about Martin’s Facebook post, Paprocki said, ‘Father Martin gets a lot wrong in those remarks.'”

Paprocki also clarified that his decree applied not to lesbian and gay people generally, but specifically to those persons who had entered into civil same-gender marriages. He added that even someone in such a marriage could be fully admitted to the sacraments “if they repent and renounce their ‘marriage.’ ”

Responding to DeBernardo’s open letter, which suggested people would leave the church because of such exclusive policies, Paprocki told Catholic World Report “the real issue is not how many people will come to church, but how to become holy, how to become a saint.” The bishop added, “It is disappointing when people leave the Church, just as it surely must have been disappointing for Jesus when people walked away from Him.”

Such clarifications are doing little to pacify the bishop’s critics. The look to his lengthy LGBT-negative record for proof that this decree is but one instance among many harmful actions. You can read about Paprocki’s full record by clicking here.

John Freml

John Freml, a married gay Catholic in Springfield, told WGLT 89.1 he was “disappointed and very hurt” by the decree. But, Freml added, the church is not simply the bishops but the entire people of God. He was supported while coming out at a Catholic high school, and he and his husband have found welcome at their parish where “we didn’t make any effort to hide who we were.”

To read more Catholic reactions to Paprocki’s decree, click here and here.

New Ways Ministry continues to recommend you contact Bishop Paprocki, and we encourage you to communicate honestly, personally, and civilly with him. 

Contact information:

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Catholic Pastoral Center

1615 West Washington Street

Springfield, Illinois 62702-4757

Phone: (217) 698-8500


Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 13, 2017

New Catholic LGBT Book Is Praised by High Church Leaders

A new Catholic book on LGBT issues, whose main text is based on a talk given at a New Ways Ministry event, has been praised by the Vatican official in charge of family life, a U.S. cardinal who is close to Pope Francis, and a bishop who is leading the call for greater pastoral care for LGBT people.  Their dust jacket blurbs join one by Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder

Rev. James Martin, SJ, and the cover of his new book.

Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, by Rev. James Martin, SJ, will be published June 13, 2017, and its dust jacket contains high praise comments from Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery of Laity, Family, and Life; Cardinal Joseph Tobin, picked personally by Pope Francis to lead the embattled Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey; and Bishop Robert McElroy, head of the San Diego Diocese, who has made LGBT inclusion one of his regular themes; and Sister Jeannine.

The main portion of the book is an adaptation of the talk Fr. Martin gave when he received New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award at the end of October 2016.   In addition, the book, which is to be published by HarperOne, will also contain prayer aids and other pastoral material.

David Gibson, a veteran Church observer who writes for Religion News Servicebroke the news about this high praise from Church officials for a gay-friendly book.  In the course of the article, Gibson noted that the praise from church officials for a book which had its origins in a New Ways Ministry program, signaled a momentous shift:

“A co-founder of New Ways Ministry is Sister Jeannine Gramick, whose views were considered so far outside the bounds of Catholic teaching that she was barred by the Vatican and her order from speaking about homosexuality. She transferred to another order and has continued to minister and speak and write on the topic. . . . That she is endorsing the same book as senior church leaders is an indication of the sea change under Francis.”

Fr. Martin told Religion News Service that he sees the praise from these high Church officials as signaling greater sensitivity on LGBT issues:

“I was delighted that Cardinal Farrell and Cardinal Tobin found the book helpful. To me, it’s a reminder that many in the hierarchy today support a more compassionate approach to LGBT Catholics.”

The following quotations are from the comments on the book’s dust jacket:

Cardinal Kevin Farrell

Cardinal Kevin Farrell:

“A welcome and much-needed book that will help bishops, priests, pastoral associates, and all church leaders more compassionately minister to the LGBT community. It will also help LGBT Catholics feel more at home in what is, after all, their church.”

Cardinal Joseph Tobin

Cardinal Joseph Tobin:

“In too many parts of our church LGBT people have been made to feel unwelcome, excluded, and even shamed. Father Martin’s brave, prophetic, and inspiring new book marks an essential step in inviting church leaders to minister with more compassion, and in reminding LGBT Catholics that they are as much a part of our church as any other Catholic.”

Bishop Robert McElroy

Bishop Robert McElroy:

“The Gospel demands that LGBT Catholics must be genuinely loved and treasured in the life of the church. They are not. [Fr. Martin] provides us with the language, perspective, and sense of urgency to replace a culture of alienation with a culture of merciful inclusion.”

Sr. Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick:

Gibson’s reporting summarized the main text of the book concisely:
“In his talk, as in the book, Martin called on church leaders and all Catholics to treat gays and lesbians with greater respect and sensitivity. . . .But he also called on gays and lesbians to be more considerate and respectful of the hierarchy, saying both sides must listen to each other and learn from each other.”
New Ways Ministry presented Fr. Martin with the Bridge Building Award last year because of his past achievements in promoting dialogue between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church.  Yet, with the publication of this book, and the praise for it from church officials, shows his bridge building gifts are continuing to grow.
Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 8, 2018

Allowing Lent to Disrupt Our Lives and Renew the World

Sarah Gregory

For Ash Wednesday and the Sundays of Lent, Bondings 2.0 is presenting spiritual reflections from a diverse group of students at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California,  who either identify as LGBTQ+ or who are involved with LGBTQ+ theological research and/or ministry.  Today’s post is from Sarah Gregory, a queer Catholic school soccer mom with punk tendencies. She lives in San Francisco with her son (when he’s home from college), two cats, and mountains of books as she prepares for her Ph.D. comp exams. She works in the Silicon Valley and practices the fine art of living with liminality and cognitive dissonance. She prefers Lent over Advent, all in all.

Scripture readings for the First Sunday of Lent can be  found by clicking here.

Shortly after I began graduate studies in theology in Berkeley, a friend joked that I apparently planned to become a “professional Catholic.” I’m as aware of the liturgical calendar as I am the workweek calendar that governs my real professional life, and Lent often evokes feelings of nervousness and dread, a spiritual “annual review” of sorts. I never manage to pray quite enough, and my almsgiving often doesn’t meet my own standards of stewardship of the resources that are at my disposal. Fasting can be a chore – how to choose something to give up that would make me be mindful, but not inconvenience me too much or be too uncomfortable. I’m not looking for a promotion, God, just a decent review and continued employment for the year to come, thanks.

Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the desert, which is the gospel for this First Sunday of Lent, reminds me that I’m not the only one who might be happy to let these weeks pass without interrupting my peace. We’re told that Jesus himself fasted for forty days and forty nights, and although the gospel’s author says he was hungry afterward, I’m guessing that our Lord and Savior could’ve done with a meal far sooner than that. Fully human as well as fully divine, that lengthy fast must’ve been grueling. We’re told he made it through the ordeal nonetheless, only to be tempted by the Evil One, offering him an easy out. “You’ve disrupted your life enough, Jesus. I know you’re hungry. Turn those stones to bread, if you really are the son of God!” But no – Jesus stuck it out. Surely I can try to do the same.

A priest friend pushed me to go beyond the typical stuff for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Don’t take it as a time to kick off a diet or to randomly fill up a little donation bowl and call it good, he said. Let Lent disrupt your life. Case in point: this generally quiet and reserved man of the cloth took salsa dancing lessons one Lent, forcing him to get out of his head and into a social, embodied existence. I suspect he’d have rather spent the weeks in a cave with his books and a quiet Friday afternoon at the movies, but Lent was a chance to disrupt the comfort of that isolation. For a few years, the Church itself provided some Lenten accompaniment, as I confronted questions of whether my queer, out, soccer mom self belonged here at all. Two years ago, the Lenten question was whether teachers at my child’s school would be forced to sign contracts that violated their personal lives. In those years, simply sticking it out was all that I could do.

The disruption that Lent brings is inevitable; the only question to be answered is whether I will remember what Jesus said when he was tempted: “One does not live by bread alone.” One doesn’t take the easy path through Lent, even when that path presents itself as a nice escape route. I need to keep my eyes open for what Jesus is trying to teach me this year, how my life is to be disrupted, and how I will be called to respond.

The social and political climate, both in the United States and around the globe, seems to have been tailor-made to deliver a hefty dose of disruption this Lent. Indeed, in an address to a gathering of the World Meeting of Popular Movements last month, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego called on those gathered – whether Catholic, of other faiths, or of no faith tradition at all – to disrupt the injustice that is sweeping the US and the world:

“We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men, women and children as forces of fear rather than as children of God. We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor.

And then Bishop McElroy gave us another task: we are also to be rebuilders. He said:

“We are called to rebuild our nation which does pay $15 an hour in wages, and provides decent housing, clothing and food for those who are poorest.”

Lent this year is a call to all of us to let our lives be disrupted – in Jesus’ name. Rather than simply going to daily Mass a bit more often, I might take that hour to volunteer with a local group that helps day laborers find secure work. Rather than give up some food, how can I abstain from focusing solely on my personal concerns, and recognize that I have social capital that can benefit those who fear for their very lives if I offer it to advocate for them, at their direction? What resources do I have that others need to use to recover from the inequities they’ve faced? Can I share with them without feeling like I should be able to control how that money is used? What will be the cost of this discipleship?

This Lent, more than others, feels like a grand societal reckoning, one suited more for theology of the streets than of the books. It’s the theology of getting our hands dirty in service and putting our comfort at risk to bring about God’s vision for all of us, made together in God’s image and likeness. Regardless of who we love, how we define ourselves, the color of our skin, the language we speak, what papers we carry, or how we or our ancestors arrived in the country, we must all stand together now. These are the words from the mouth of God that we are to live by: loving our neighbor as we do ourselves.

–Sarah Gregory, Graduate Theological Union, March 5, 2017

New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis, is scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, Chicago, Illinois. Plenary speakers:  Lisa Fullam, Leslie Griffin, Rev. Bryan Massingale, Frank Mugisha. Prayer leaders:  Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Bishop John Stowe, OFM, Conv.  Pre-Symposium Retreat Leader:  Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS.  For more information and to register, visit


San Diego’s Diocesan Synod on Family Touches on LGBT Topics–Part II

YesterdayBondings 2.0 reported on how LGBT topics were addressed at San Diego’s diocesan synod on the family, basically b recommending greater pastoral outreach, and greater education about conscience development.  While LGBT topics were only tangentially discussed at the meeting, there is a sign of hope that they will be aired more fully at the diocese’s next synod in 2018.

The reason for that optimistic outlook is that the diocese has already set the topic for that synod: young adults.   And as surveys and general knowledge show,  LGBT issues are a big concern for this demographic, and are some of the main reasons that many youth leave the Church.

A discussion at San Diego’s diocesan family synod

At least one diocesan official has already acknowledged the importance of  LGBT concerns for the younger generation.  The National Catholic Reporter spoke with Fr. John Dolan, vicar for clergy and pastor of two San Diego parishes, about the synod process, as well as about LGBT outreach:

” ‘There are two different forms of doing church,’ he said. ‘One is very dialogical, from a dialogical sense, and the other is from a monological sense. And we have dealt with that monological world: Things come from on high, they get shelved in some pastor’s corner, then there’s some thought that comes down, but ultimately it’s all “We’re going to tell you what to think.” ‘

“Dolan, whose two parishes overlap the Hillcrest area — understood to be the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual center of the city of San Diego — added that the lack of attention to that population at the current synod was ‘the elephant in the room.’

” ‘Young adults have an acceptance of the LGBT experience. It is simply a part of their world, and they look at us, and say, “What is the problem?” ‘ Dolan said.”

Interestingly, Bishop Robert McElroy, who initiated the synod process in San Diego, said he was surprised the LGBT topics were so strongly voiced by the delegates at the family synod which just ended.  He told The National Catholic Reporter:

Bishop McElroy at the synod

” ‘There were a number of surprises, but … a great surprise to me was where the LGBT question would come up,’ McElroy told NCR. ‘In the five issue areas I had laid out, evolving from Amoris Laetitia, it wasn’t easy to see where it properly falls in. It doesn’t exactly fall into marriage, and it doesn’t exactly fall into children, although certainly how you deal with that [gay and lesbian] question with kids is very important, and young adults and teenagers.’

“He continued, ‘But where it came up, which is so interesting to me, it came up in the spirituality of marriage.’ “

The synod delegates recommended that the diocese establish an office of family spirituality, and that outreach to LGBT people be a part of that office’s ministry. McElroy explained the group’s recommendation to him included that the name be inclusive of LGBT and other non-traditional families.  He said they told him:

“[D]on’t call [it] your Office of Marriage and Family Life, call it the Office of Family Spirituality.”

“And they had a pyramid … which was a very inclusive notion of what family means. And they said, ‘This is not a sociological declaration … our Catholic spirituality of family says family for us includes this.’ People who are gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual, whatever … they’re part of our own families, this is part of what family life means.”

One of the theological advisers to the diocesan synod,  Emily Reimer-Barry, chair of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego, acknowledged that LGBT voices themselves were not heard at the meeting which just ended.  The National Catholic Reporter captured her thoughts:

“Reimer-Barry agreed that at present, the LGBT community and specifically those in same-sex marriages are substantially excluded. But she said she felt inspired by McElroy’s opening homily, in which ‘he looked at the story of Mary and Joseph in Matthew’s Gospel as refugees who were looking for safety. Judgmentalism must be banished. The church is not for the pure, but for all.’

” ‘Divorced, married civilly, a member of family being deported,’ Reimer-Barry continued. ‘So many instances of families hurting in our context. Just reiterating church sayings is not enough. Focusing on the church as a field hospital and mercy, from Pope Francis’ recent exhortation, is just a really provocative way to think about being the church here in San Diego.’ “

Bishop McElroy can and should remedy that omission for the next synod, where LGBT issues will certainly be a front-burner topic.  He has already made some important gestures to the LGBT community generally, and to the Catholic LGBT community in San Diego, in particular. The Union-Tribune reported that Monsignor Richard Duncanson, pastor of Rancho Santa Fe’s Church of the Nativity, acknowledged that the local church must start a conversation about LGBT issues, noting:

“How do we deal with people in irregular unions–the gay and lesbian loving relationships? How do we recognize the good there without recognizing this as a marriage?”

The newspaper also reported that LGBT Catholics stand ready to be part of such a discussion:

Patrick Ambrosio

“This is a welcome conversation, said Patrick Ambrosio, vice president of the San Diego chapter of Dignity, a national LGBT Catholic group.

“Dignity was founded in San Diego in 1969. Yet contact between the local group and its home diocese had been virtually non-existent until recently.

“Last summer, Ambrosio said, the diocese invited Dignity to attend a ‘Catholics Night’ at a Padres home game.

” ‘That’s one of the first communications we’ve ever received,’ Ambrosio said. ‘Ever.’ “

The synod on youth in 2018 will be a great opportunity to discuss LGBT issues for the San Diego Catholic Church.  But why wait that long?  The diocese has already made a welcoming invitation to LGBT Catholics to a baseball game.  Can church leaders take the next step and now invite them to sit down and dialogue with one another on important pastoral concerns?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 10, 2016


San Diego’s Diocesan Synod on Family Touches on LGBT Topics–Part I

One of the leading U.S. examples of Pope Francis’ style of church leadership is San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy.  In addition to echoing the pope’s more gentle and inviting messages, he has also followed the pope’s example by calling a diocesan synod on family life, which took place this past weekend.

Delegates to the synod participate in discussion.

When the synod was announced earlier this yearBondings 2.0 noted that LGBT issues were not explicitly mentioned in the outline of five topic areas (witnessing to a Catholic vision of marriage; forming a culture of invitation to unmarried couples; nurturing children; ministry to those persons who are divorced; bringing spiritual depth to family life in its various forms) but that they could, and should, be included in many of the discussions of the meeting.  News reports on this past weekend’s gathering indicate that LGBT issues were, in fact, discussed, including a recommendation for more pastoral outreach to the LGBT community.

It seems that the morality of lesbian and gay relationships was not part of the discussion, or at least not an area that led to a recommendation.  But pastoral outreach to LGBT people and families strongly encouraged.  According to The National Catholic Reporter, one of the 15 recommendations sent to Bishop McElroy at the end of the synod was:

“[C]reation of a ‘Diocesan Office for Family Spirituality’ that would, among other things, ‘develop resources for parishes to minister to families’ including ‘the divorced, single-parent, widowed, deployed, deported, special needs, multigenerational households, LGBT.’ “

Indeed, a more welcoming approach to a variety of diverse populations seemed, according to news reports, to be one of the highlights of synod discussion.  The Times of San Diego quoted both Bishop McElroy and  Carol Gamara, a lay synod delegate in this regard:

” ‘Family is everybody,’ [McElroy] said. ‘Our notion of family is an inclusive notion.’

“Gamara of St. John the Evangelist said her own priority was more openness for herself and her parish.

” ‘I know … sometimes my own prejudices have maybe stopped me from welcoming people,’ she said, ‘and I think this has really opened my eyes to embrace and learn from the cultural diversities as well as generational diversities’ in the church.”

The Union Tribune newspaper noted that McElroy would like to see all parishes open their doors to LGBT people:

“McElroy said all parishes need to welcome LGBT worshippers. Some — the bishop cited Hillcrest’s St. John the Evangelist — have developed a reputation where LGBT worshippers ‘feel particularly welcome. And that’s a very good thing.’ “

Another area that the synod delegates recommended was an increased emphasis on the role of conscience in Catholic teaching.  The National Catholic Reporter noted the recommendation the assembly made:

“[D]evelopment of education and ‘formation in the areas of conscience formation and the internal forum, not only to implement the pathway to sacramental participation [for divorced and remarried] outlined in “The Joy of Love,” but even more fundamentally to illuminate a core element of Christian discipleship itself.’ “

The Times of San Diego reported some of McElroy’s thoughts on conscience:

Bishop Robert McElroy delivers his homily at synod Mass.

“McElroy said a second surprise of the synod was the embrace of the role of conscience in making moral decisions. Parishioners felt that others should be educated about this, delegates said.

” ‘Many Catholics tend to think of our moral life as being rule-oriented,’ McElroy said. ‘Rules are important primarily as a check on rationalization. The real core of Catholic teaching is and always was a decision of conscience.’

“The Catholic Church long has taught that you must follow your conscience, even if it is contrary to church teachings, McElroy said.

“McElroy said: ‘Our rules are not universalized in that they are meant to be guides in a great majority of circumstances.’

“Conscience takes into account a person’s circumstances and their belief that ‘God is asking me to do the opposite’ of church teachings, he said. ‘It’s in major decisions in our lives that conscience can be helpful.’ “

The synod was a response to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, which itself was the papal report on the Vatican’s two synods on the family in 2014 and 2015.  When Amoris Laetitia was released in April 2016, many commentators noted that its emphasis on the role of conscience was an avenue towards greater dialogue with LGBT Catholics, many of whom have made conscience decisions about their lives and relationships.

More on LGBT issues and the San Diego diocesan synod process in Part II of this post which will appear later in the week.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 9, 2016

Related articles:

National Catholic Reporter: “Theologians praise San Diego’s pioneering synod”

National Catholic Reporter: San Diego diocese gets ready for synod on family life”

Catholic Moral Theology:  “Diocesan Synod on the Family in San Diego:  A Time for Discussion, Discernment, Direction”



Prayer Vigil Will Remember Orlando Victims & Call on Bishops to Speak Out

LGBT Catholics and their supporters will gather in vigil at the U.S. Bishops Conference November meeting to remember the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre and to call on the bishops to acknowledge the reality of LGBT lives.

A button minted for the prayer vigil.

The vigil, sponsored by DignityUSA, will be held on Tuesday, November 15, 2016, 10:30 AM – 2:00 pm, outside the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, 700 Aliceanna Street, Baltimore. Maryland.  The demonstration’s twin themes are “A Vigil to Remember the Pulse Victims And Our Murdered Transgender Kin” and “A Call to our Bishops to Dare to Speak our Names:
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Gender Queer”

An announcement from DignityUSA explained the purpose of the vigil:

“The Catholic Bishops response (or lack thereof) to the Pulse [the name of the Orlando nightclub] shooting demonstrated that most Bishops still refuse to even say the words ‘Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer’ and refuse to acknowledge the reality of LGBT lives. The bishops have also ignored the crisis of violence against our transgender siblings. In response, DignityUSA is calling on the bishops to ‘call us by name.’ “

Participants at the rally will pray the rosary. Many will be holding rainbow rosary bead sets. More information can be found on the event’s Facebook page.  For more information, send email to .

With few exceptions, most of the U.S. bishops who responded to the nightclub shooting in which 49 people were killed did not make mention of the fact that the targeted victims were LGBT people. In his official response to the shooting, U.S. Bishops Conference President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz did not mention the LGBT factor in the incident and made only a general call to an “ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every single person.”

San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s statement made the LGBT people even angrier than statements that made no reference to the the victims’ gender identity or sexual orientation.  He said: “[R]egardless of race, religion, or personal lifestyle, we are all beloved children of God.”

Even Orlando’s local Catholic leader, Bishop John Noonan, of Orlando did not acknowledge the gay and lesbian dimension of the attack in his response. A diocesan Vigil to Dry Tears, which took place soon after the event, had no evidence that the victims were members of the LGBT community.

There were exceptions, of course.   Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich was one of the first to speak up, addressing the regular Sunday Mass of the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach:

“For you here today and throughout the whole lesbian and gay community, who are particularly touched by the heinous crimes committed in Orlando, motivated by hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture of violence, know this: the Archdiocese of Chicago stands with you. I stand with you.”

Similarly, Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernadino, California, said in his response statement that he wanted to “make clear our condemnation of discriminatory violence against those who are gay and lesbian, and we offer our prayers to that community.”

Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida,  indicted the Catholic community as partly responsible for anti-gay violence:

“[S]adly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.

San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy made a similar statement, saying:

‘This tragedy is a call for us as Catholics to combat ever more vigorously the anti-gay prejudice which exists in our Catholic community and in our country.”

The Catholic community in the pews, and around the world, however, were much more supportive of LGBT people in the wake of the shooting.  The following blog posts recount some of their actions and statements :

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 5, 2016