Irish Synod Approves Outreach Proposal to LGBT People, Others Hurt by Church

April 11, 2016
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Synod delegates listen to a speaker

Today, Catholic LGBT and ally pilgrims from the U.S. are bound for Ireland, sponsored by New Ways Ministry.   Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, will be the spiritual leader of this pilgrimage group traveling to the “land of rainbows and wedding bells.” Once there, we will celebrate Ireland’s successful referendum last year that legalized marriage equality, as well as meeting with two Irish Catholic LGBT groups along the way.

We will arrive to good news out of Limerick, where Catholics just concluded a diocesan synod last night after 18 months of listening and of dialogue. Last weekend, 400 delegates gathered for the synod, which was described by Bishop Brendan Leahy as the “distilling of the wisdom of the listening that has gone on across the 60 parishes of our diocese of Limerick.”

Delegates considered 100 proposals about church teaching and practice that emerged from a listening process, which included meetings with 1,500 people and other input from more than 5,000 people. The Irish Times reported on one proposal related to LGBT Catholics:

“A proposal to reach out to those hurt by the church including women who have had abortions, members of the LGBT community and people who have spent time in church institutions was overwhelmingly supported on the first day of the synod.

“Some 52 per cent of the delegates ‘strongly supported’ the proposal with 38 per cent expressing more general support.”

Fr. Eamon Fitzgibbon, synod director, commented afterwards about the importance of recognizing the harm church leaders have caused LGBT people:

” ‘We are all too well aware of people who have been hurt by the church in the past. I suppose even most recently with the marriage equality referendum, a lot of people voiced hurt and concern, for example with how the LGBT community might have felt alienated.’ “

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Bishop Leahy, center, speaking with delegates

Before the synod met, Bishop Leahy acknowledged that the church must admit its wrongs in order to do “our part to repair and remedy.” He told The Irish Catholic:

“We need to acknowledge the failure and disappointment we see in our own wounds, those at the heart of the Church, in all that has not been right in the Church, in the complex situations of the world around us.”

Leahy told the Limerick Post that the synod was an opportunity to apologize to those hurt by the church and to reach out out them “as much as we can.” You can read more of the bishop’s worthwhile thoughts about why he called this synod and what impact it could have by clicking here.

This gathering was the first diocesan synod in Limerick in 80 years and the first in Ireland in 50 years. Beyond the six themes around which delegates conversed (Community & Sense of Belonging; Faith Formation; Pastoral Care of the Family; New Models of Leadership; Liturgy and Life; Young People), “universal issues” were considered such as LGBT issues and even the ordination of women.

Most delegates were lay Catholics, including a significant number of women, with clergy and religious numbering about 100. Bishop Charles John Brown, papal nuncio to Ireland, who bore an Apostolic Blessing for the event from Pope Francis, also attended. Synod Director, Fr. Fitzgibbons, noted that besides parish delegates, representatives from “education, healthcare, communities within the city, inter-faith delegates – Polish community, immigrant delegates” were included. Bishop Leahy described the process to the Limerick Leader:

“It was launched in 2014, and then opened up a whole journey of contacting and building bridges with all kinds of people, to discuss the future directions of our Diocese. That was step one. We now actually have the event itself, which will be for three very full days of deliberations, discussions, and that will be a very, very important moment.

“After that comes the actual making up of all that policy as it were; once the decisions are taken and recommendations are given to me, then I have the task of producing a programme for government – somebody used that image and there is an element of that about it – I have the task to make that policy and implement it basically.”

Bishop Leahy seems to respect Catholics’ voices, as he called this synodal process a “people-led journey” because the “the people decided what would be on the agenda and the people voted.”

The people of God in Limerick, led by Bishop Leahy, have offered a living witness for dioceses worldwide about how to listen to victims of the church’s violence, how to learn from the wisdom of Catholics’ lived realities, how to dialogue about sharp differences, and how to move forward in faith as one Body in Christ. More synods should begin this lengthy, but meaningful process by calling diocesan and national synods and enacting the localized governance called for by Pope Francis.

As Frank DeBernardo and I, your faithful bloggers, join other pilgrims in our journey across Ireland, celebrating equality and praising God in prayer, we will give thanks for the people of God in Ireland who have expanded LGBT rights in society and sought justice in the church. In a special way, we carry in our hearts and our minds all of you, our blog readers and New Ways Ministry supporters, who faithfully work each day for LGBT equality!

If you would like information about future pilgrimages, please send an email request, containing your postal address to info@NewWaysMinistry.org.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Priest Who Denied Communion to Same-Gender Couple Now Disrupts Parishioner’s Funeral

March 22, 2016
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St. Leo’s Catholic Church

A Montana priest’s disruption of a parishioner’s funeral recently has its roots in his denial of communion to a same-gender couple in the parish in 2014.

Almost two years ago, Fr.  Spiering, 29, denied Communion to Paul Huff and Tom Wojtowick because the two men had recently married. The pastor expelled them from parish ministries in which they had been active. Fellow parishioners at St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Lewistown protested the priest’s act at the time, including resignations by the church choir’s director and several members.

Earlier this month, at least three of those former choir members and director Janie Shupe were invited by the Valach family to sing at the funeral of Pearl Valach, a parishioner at the church for all of her 92 years. Ms. Valach had disagreed at the time with the priest’s decision to deny Communion to Huff and Wojtowick but remained in the church. Her daughter-in-law, Susan Valach, explained to the Great Falls Tribune:

“She was upset when the decision was made. . .She continued to be faithful to the church, but with pain in her heart.”

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Pearl Valach

Greg Clark, partner of Pearl’s son Frank Valach Jr. for twenty-plus years, said Pearl was so pained by the priest’s actions that she never spoke about it. But Greg, Frank, and other members of the Valach family left the parish after the communion denial. They said the decision to hold the funeral at St. Leo’s was painful, but did so to respect Pearl’s wishes.

When Valach’s loved ones and parishioners–more than 300 people–gathered for the funeral on the morning of March 8, he told Shupe she could not join the singers, but she could only participate at the funeral from her pew. Shupe explained:

” ‘It was mortifying. It was the most embarrassing thing. I could have stepped down, but at the same time I thought, “That’s ridiculous “. . .I can’t believe anyone in the right mind, let alone anyone who professes to love God, could do this.’ “

Fr. Dan O’Rourke, the parish’s former pastor who was invited to celebrate the funeral, defended Shupe’s right to lead singing. After he argued with Spiering about the decision, Spiering threatened to prevent O’Rourke from presiding at the funeral, and threatened to ban him from the parish. The family, however, refused to let their mother’s funeral be tarnished by Spiering’s continued exclusion. When Spiering informed Valach’s widower, Frank Valach, that the he would now celebrate the funeral Mass, the family rejected that offering and demanded Fr. O’Rourke. Susan Valach explained:

” ‘We immediately said, “Absolutely, no”. . .I went up to the choir and said we would cancel. Our family was so upset and finally (Spiering) agreed to leave. . .

” ‘As a family, we would like to let this go, but it isn’t right. . .It hurts all Christians because it’s not compassionate.’ “

Fr. Jay Peterson, vicar general for the Great Falls-Billings Diocese who was in attendance, presided at the funeral Mass. Peterson invited the women, including Janie Shupe, to lead the singing. Greg Clark said all involved were able to put aside the pre-funeral antics of Spiering for a “reverent, celebratory, and beautiful” liturgy. Clark wrote on his blog [editor’s note: he uses strong language in the blog post]:

“For the balance of the day our family basked in her glow. And there was no doubt that God was with us. Hence against all odds, our love for her conquered all. It wasn’t until later that evening that our angst and frustration over the morning’s events arose again. All must be told about the sins of that Father.”

But the incident — and the harm done — has not ended. This controversy continued to play out in the following weeks. Spiering commented on the incident before his homily at Mass on March 22, stating the he does not regret the decision he made but only the manner in which he made it. He attacked Fr. O’Rourke in his statement and promised St. Leo’s parishioners a new funeral policy to “prevent such problems” in the future. Spiering apologized to the Valach family in a one-liner at the end, but the family said neither the priest nor Bishop Michael Warfel had reached out to them since the funeral.

Fr. O’Rourke released his own statement, explaining that Spiering would not let the matter drop even though the funeral was set to begin in fifteen minutes and had threatened to ban him from the parish. The former pastor’s statement ended positively: “The singer/musician sang her heart out.”

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Tom Wojtowick and Paul Huff

Fr. Peterson, in his position as diocesan vicar general, defended Spiering’s actions as an exercise of his “canonical rights” despite it not being “the right pastoral decision.” Peterson said Bishop Michael Warfel was “very concerned” about the incident, which was described as an “unfortunate conflict.” Peterson, a longtime friend of the Valach family, said despite it being Holy Week he hoped “things can be dealt with sooner than later to bring healing and unity and peace” and would be involved if he could help, reported the Independent Record.

In the words of a Billings Gazette reporter:

“It was supposed to be a simple funeral for a woman who was a lifelong Catholic and a lifetime member of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Lewistown. . .Instead, it devolved into a disagreement that nearly derailed the rite and left family and friends confused and angry.”

Few incidents in the church hurt more than sacramental exclusion and interference. These incidents cause tremendous pastoral damage to those targeted  and those witnessing these The tragic nature of this funeral incident speaks for itself. Coupled with Spiering’s denial of Communion to a same-gender couple, this funeral fiasco should be enough for Bishop Warfel to question Fr. Spiering’s ministerial competencies and role in active ministry and in the priesthood altogether.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


L.A. Religious Education Congress Hosts Workshop on Transgender Catholics

March 10, 2016

religiousedcongress20161Nearly 40,000 people attend the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress each year, and this year two transgender Catholics were among those attending after being invited to share their stories. Crux reported:

“. . . [E]vent organizers this year took a cue from popular culture and included a new session, one that attracted a standing room only crowd of 750 people, nearly all of whom jumped to their feet for a sustained round of applause after talks from two young, committed Catholics.”

The two Catholics who spoke during the workshop, titled “Transgender in the Church: One Bread, One Body,” were Matteo Williamson and Anna Patti.

Williamson, 24, spoke about being raised Catholic and the mixed experiences he has had in the church. But under Pope Francis’ leadership, Williamson believes “there’s been a change among people in general to understand something that they maybe haven’t encountered before.”

Patti, 23, spoke too about being trans and Catholic, too. You can read a transcript of her remarks by clicking here. She told Crux afterwards:

” ‘Catholic spirituality and the Catholic tradition can provide more nourishment, and also more sense into the trans experience, than anything else I’ve encountered.’ “

The problem, in her estimation, is that the church in the U.S. is too invested in politics, specifically anti-LGBT work, which turns an ideal setting “into the worst place imaginable.” Too many LGBT people have been hurt by the church or understand it to be a transphobic institution, so they refuse to explore faith. But the session at the L.A. Congress was an “unexpectedly affirming experience” for Patti, who told Crux:

” ‘I hadn’t realized how silenced I felt within the Church. . .At Mass I always sit in the back row in the back corner, making myself as visibly small as possible. Here was the opposite, where people wanted to learn about an issue that is so often immediately condemned.’ “

Explaining the decision to host a session on gender identity, Fr. Christopher Bazyouros who directs the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ office of religious education, which is the sponsor of the Congress, said:

” ‘There aren’t many places for Catholics to discuss these things that are thoughtful, intentional, and that gathers people who have had this experience. . .Many Catholics want information about this topic, they want things to help them understand this situation.’ “

Bazyouros also cited Pope Francis’ desire for people to encounter one another, saying conversations begin more easily from the sharing of personal stories. Based on responses, it seems the session received widespread approve. Laura Wagner, who works at a Catholic high school, said she attended to learn more, and the session gave her “a lot of hope for the future of the Church.” Kevin Stockbridge, a graduate student, said it was good for trans Catholics to speak out because too often the issue is silenced.

Williamson and Patti were clear that, moving forward, no one is expecting that people become experts on gender identity. Instead, they called for a focus on acceptance and love, with Patti saying that “it comes down to, are you willing to accept another human being, a child of God?”

As the church grapples with gender identity issues in their many facets, this conversation at the L.A. Congress is a major step forward towards building up faith communities inclusive of people of all genders.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Trans Prisoner Writes Pope Francis After Priest Uses Slur Against Her

January 28, 2016
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A portion of the letter to Pope Francis

A trans prisoner in Malta is appealing to Pope Francis for mercy after allegedly being subjected to derogatory slurs by a Catholic chaplain.

In a January 7th letter, Raquela Richards Spiteri told the pontiff that Capuchin Fr. Franco Fenech used the Maltese slurs bewwiela and imnittna against her. Spiteri further claimed the friar had acknowledged using such words in a meeting with the prison’s director but never apologized.

Fenech responded to the claim by saying, “I deny categorically using these words, but I cannot comment.” He also speculated about how such a letter could have left the prison.

Spiteri also wrote to Pope Francis about inaction by Fenech’s religious superior, as TVM reported:

“The prisoner wrote that a Provincial of the Franciscan Capuchins, Dr Martin Micallef, chose to postpone this problem to the coming June, when the Order’s General Chapter is held in Malta. She further alleged, however, that the Provincial is abdicating his responsibility, as she will have left the Prison by June.”

Spiteri, a Catholic, also mentioned in the letter that a priest had sexually abused her when she was younger.  She seeks a resolution in the church before exploring her legal options against Fr. Fenech. In an aside, she also mentioned how she is being improperly housed in Malta’s prisons which have failed to respect her gender identity.

In the first year of his papacy, Francis made repeated headlines for his handwritten notes to people of all kinds, including a note to a group for LGBT Catholics in Italy. I called it a “letter writing revolution” at the time and, despite his negative remarks on marriage equality more recently, something revolutionary remains about Pope Francis’ preference for personal and intimate encounter. This revolutionary aspect was present, too, when the pope dined last March with gay and transgender inmates at an Italian prison.

While the details of the situation are sparse, one thing we know is that a person is claiming they were hurt by one of the church’s ministers. Especially in this Year of Mercy, it is necessary for church officials at least to investigate the matter and pursue justice, if necessary, and then reconciliation in this matter. Since the pope is open to personal encounter, I hope Spiteri’s letter finds its way to him. His involvement on behalf of one of God’s most marginalized people would certainly advance justice and reconciliation in this pastoral matter.

But if all that does not happen, Spiteri can take advantage of improved legal rights in Malta.  Last spring, legislators in the heavily Catholic nation passed a transgender rights law that is considered the “gold standard” in Europe.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Fired Music Director Receives Standing Ovation at Town Hall Meeting

August 17, 2014

Holy Family Catholic Churcvh

700 parishioners met at a suburban Chicago parish last Wednesday to discuss the firing of gay music director Colin Collette, who was let go in late July after his engagement to partner, William Nifong, became public.

The firing, and others like it, raises questions about how Catholic communities will proceed in an era where marriage equality is increasingly legalized, and also how they Catholics can respond to the worrying trend of LGBT-related church worker firings.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the three-hour meeting was emotionally charged, and attendees were largely supportive of the fired gay church worker, who was welcomed with a standing ovation. The paper reported:

“Angry, tearful parishioners stood in line at the crowded church, each taking a turn to beg church leaders to bring back their longtime music director…

“As other parishioners looked on, a cantor announced his resignation from the choir, citing other prominent ‘sinners’ in Christian history who retained high-ranking positions and questioning why a gay couple’s marriage is any different. Over the past two weeks, some parishioners have also threatened to leave the church over the music director’s ouster.”

The resigned cantor, Kevin Keane, told the Tribune that Collette “has given his entire life to the church…if he’s not fit to serve, then I am not fit to serve.” Another parishioner, Bob Garbacz said, “Whoever made the decision, it was a bad decision…He’s just a pillar of that community. For the church to say you can’t be here because of this rule is ludicrous to us.”

Fr. Terry Keehan, pastor of Holy Family Church, called the “Town Hall Meeting for Listening and Respect” to address the “many and varied emotions” expressed by community members about Collette’s firing. In the same bulletin announcement that publicized the meeting, Keehan defended the firing: “Employees who make such choices cannot remain employed by the Archdiocese” and he said the situation was “very complicated and complex.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago, through spokesperson Susan Burritt defended the firing, saying it was not because of Collette’s sexual orientation but because of his “public stance against the teachings of the Church,” and that “the archdiocese does not expect to see more public challenges to the church policy.”

The idea that Collette’s firing and the ensuing public outcry are isolated incidents is an idea that is out of touch with the current history. LGBT-related firings are on the rise with fourteen public cases so far this year and more than 35 since 2008. Legally, it seems some of these firing are justified under the “ministerial exception” carved about by the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court’s Hosanna-Tabor decision. The reality for religious communities however is that, in most of these cases, Catholics openly stood by church workers and sought justice.

The conflict between officials  who enact these unjust decisions and a laity which is strongly affirming of LGBT people will only intensify if the firings continue. Societal acceptance of same-gender relationships is ever-rising and marriage rights ever-expanding, with Catholics at the forefront of LGBT support. Gregory Lipper with Americans United for Separation of Church and State explains:

” ‘I don’t think this approach is going to be sustainable in the long run by churches…Unless you really ask upfront, chances are, houses of worship are going to end up hiring people who are gays and lesbians…I think the gap between church leadership and the gap between Americans will grow wider.”

While pastors like Fr. Keehan may see town hall meetings as a way of promoting healing, reconciliation never comes without justice. Collette had sought to return as music director by becoming a private contractor, but Keehan rejected this proposal at a separate meeting. Formed by Catholic social teaching, parishioners do not accept exclusionary policies as consistent with the Gospel message. For them, these situations are not complicated, nor are they complex. They are simple cases of discrimination that demand to be rectified.

Collette plans to continue worshiping at Holy Family, and it is good to know he will be welcomed with open arms by those whom he long served.

You can help protect LGBT and ally church workers by implementing an inclusive non-discrimination policy at your local parish or Catholic school. You can find information on how to do that by clicking here. For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of ‘Employment Issues,’ click the category to the right. For a full listing of LGBT-related firings, with links for further information, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Writer to Conservative Bishops: “Watch. Listen. You Might Learn Something.”

August 19, 2013

Pope Francis’ press conference on the return flight from Brazil

Last week, Bondings 2.0 reported on Catholic bishops’ varied responses to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” comment. Some welcomed the remark, others disapproved, and yet more tried to convince the world there was nothing new to it.  Michael Sean Winters comments on bishops’ responses in National Catholic Reporter with an eye towards those bishops struggling with the pope’s new leadership.

The responses of anti-LGBT Catholics caused Winters to rethink the role of and vision for bishops in our Church, as he writes:

“It would be amusing, if it were not so sad, to see many conservative Catholics attempt to qualify Pope Francis’ comment – ‘who am I to judge?’ – when asked about the circumstance of a Vatican prelate against whom charges of homosexual conduct were leveled…

“More troubling have been the reactions of some bishops. Emblematic would be the statement issued by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

“Here is a man who clearly thinks that his primary duty as pastor is to defend the moral law. Certainly, his words do not suggest he has ever talked to gay people and acquired the ‘smell of the sheep’ from them. In an early section of the statement, in which he affirms the dignity of all people, including gay people, there is a lack of human warmth that is astounding.”

Winters points out that American bishops have reduced the moral law to sexual ethics as a sole focus, but instead of criticizing this errant narrowing he asks the larger question: are bishops first and foremost supposed to defend the moral law?

The columnist provides a brief historical rundown on morality from Scriptural roots to contemporary contexts. Of Jesus’ teachings and the first Christians, Winters writes:

“More importantly, Jesus called His disciples not just to a strict moral life, but to a prior stance towards other human beings, especially those in need, and reserved to Himself the judgment of others, a judgment He dispenses with great mercy: ‘Than neither do I condemn you,’ he said to the woman caught in the act of adultery.

“The early Church was certainly aware of the need for the moral law, but that concern did not dominate the early Church.”

Michael Sean Winters

Michael Sean Winters

Of the modern world, Winters makes two points. First, religions are forced to jettison faith and keep just their ethics when they speak publicly. When a Catholic bishop’s primary role is just a defender of the moral law not only are they ignoring the broader thoughts of early Christianity, Winters also contends they concede to negative modern trends of secularization:

“A religious leader who presents himself primarily as a defender of the moral law has accepted secular norms in restricting his ministry. The leaders of the Church must be ministers of God’s mercy as much as they are teachers of the moral law. That, it seems to me is the essence of what Pope Francis is trying to tell the entire Church, but especially the clergy. Francis is trying to re-establish the authority of Jesus by following His admonition to leave the judging to God.”

Second, Archbishop Cordileone’s statement, among others, employed the argument that Catholics judge actions, not people and this thinking furthers the modern notion that morality is an abstract exercise. Referencing the philosopher Immanuel Kant, Winters criticizes those who fail to concern themselves with the “messiness of actual moral decision-making” and “live at the level of abstract principles” alone. He quotes a priest friend who writes:

“…it was bizarre [for Cordileone] to state ‘that we don’t judge people but we judge actions. Actions are done by people so how can you not really judge an action without some of the judgment falling on the person? The pope of course did not make this distinction because he saw that mercy has to enter into the equation and also because the pope is not a Kantian…”

These realities mean a negative answer to his initial question, namely that bishops are not primarily defenders of the moral law. Bishops are more than ethical voices, they should be pastors foremost, and Winters suggests this is one of Pope Francis’ major themes for his fellow clergy. Bishops must preach about Christ first and enter into life of those whom they serve (certainly themes Pope Francis has preached heavily on). Bishops, like all clergy, should express mercy.

And Winters’ suggestion for those uncomfortable with a pope who wants bishops to show mercy and enter the messiness of real life ethics? He concludes:

“Instead of trying to parse the new pope’s words in ways that empty them of their content, I suggest that those bishops who are wrestling with how to respond to Pope Francis’ way of leading the Church be quiet for bit. Watch. Listen. You might learn something. Pope Francis is getting us back to the basics of discipleship. When he stated, ‘who am I to judge?’ he was not overturning 2,000 years of moral teaching but he was inviting Christians to place themselves in the crowd, stones in hand, gathered around the woman caught in adultery, and to listen to the words of the Master: ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’ “

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Are LGBT Catholics At Home In the Church?

May 27, 2013
David Gibson of Religion News Service

This spring, several Catholic bishops made positive comments about LGBT people within Catholicism, including remarks by Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Easter and several Vatican officials endorsing civil unions.

In light of actions contradicting the welcoming message, David Gibson of Religion News Service poses an interesting question to several Catholics in recent headlines, “Can gay Catholics find a home in the Catholic Church?” He writes of the tensions:

“It’s still not clear what the second step [after Dolan’s positive remarks] in this fraught process might be, or even if there is a second step. And there are signs that things may only get more complicated…

“Moreover, as Americans — and American Catholics — grow increasingly accepting of homosexuality, and as foes of gay rights grow increasingly determined, conflict at the parish level seems inevitable. The uneasy ‘Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell’ policy that once allowed gay and lesbian Catholics to take church positions is clashing with their increasing visibility in the form of marriage licenses or wedding announcements.”

Francis DeBernardo
Francis DeBernardo

Gibson details the firings of Nicholas Coppola and Carla Hale, while Bondings 2.0 has reported on these and several other cases in recent months that are making LGBT-Catholic relations strained. Gibson quotes Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, who questions how these actions fit with other Catholic principles about justice.

“’How just is it to fire someone whose life or practices are not in accord with official church teaching?’…

“’Where do you draw the line?…Do you get fired if you have remarried without an annulment? Do you get fired if you don’t attend Mass on Sunday regularly? Do you get fired because you are a Protestant who does not recognize the Catholic hierarchical structure?’”

Yet, not only are LGBT advocates within the Catholic Church worried, priests and others in ministry recognize the increasing frequency of these conflicts at local levels:

“’The fact is that it is going to get worse,’ said the pastor of a large Midwest parish who has had to fend off complaints about a lesbian member of his staff. As critics become more insistent, and as gay and lesbian Catholics become more public, he fears the resulting controversies will take a serious toll on the church.

“’We have to come to some kind of pastoral accommodation,’ he said.

Fr. Joe Muth

New Ways Ministry hosts a listing of gay-friendly parishes, which has grown to over 200 from just 20 a decade ago that are making pastoral accommodations. One parish with extensive experience doing LGBT ministry is St. Matthew’s in Baltimore, led by Fr. Joe Muth

“Gays and lesbians ‘just move into the regular life of the church’ at St. Matthew’s, Muth said, as he believes is perfectly normal.

“But he also said they are aware of the ‘sensitivity’ of their presence, so they have made a concerted effort to reach out to other groups in the parish, and the parish has also made sure to include one of Baltimore’s bishops in meetings.

“That dialogue has been invaluable, he said, and he has received few complaints or protests.”

Fr. Muth acknowledges that the framework is troubled, and limitations on engaging marriage equality or having LGBT ministers in public relations remain due to the bishops’ pressure. Gibson continues:

“In fact, the patchwork nature of the responses is part of the problem, say gay advocates. ‘It’s not that there is a witch hunt out there,’ said DeBernardo. ‘But there are witch hunters. … For the most part I don’t think bishops go after these folks. They don’t create controversy; they only respond to controversy.’

“At the moment, there are no guidelines to help pastors and parishioners deal with these issues, and there doesn’t seem to be an effort to develop anything comprehensive’…

“’Right now it’s a step-by-step process of helping people to be church,’ said Muth, of St. Matthew’s in Baltimore. ‘That’s the way I see it.’”

This piecemeal approach to solving the increasing number of parish conflicts does not seem sufficient to some, and leaves us asking LGBT Catholics, family, friends, and allies the very same question with which Gibson titled his article: Can gay Catholics find a home in the Catholic Church?

Share your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below about if it is possible, and how you remain Catholic.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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