March in Local Pride Parades to Support LGBT & Ally Church Employees

June is Pride month across the U.S. and in many areas of the globe. Parades, festivals, and other programs fill this month’s calendar, as people, gay and straight, take a moment or two to celebrate and affirm LGBT people.  Many parishes have taken part in these events (see “Related posts” at the end of this essay for links), as a witness to Catholic support for the human dignity and equality of LGBT people.  And some have done so in the face of ecclesial pressure not to participate.

This year, the inspiring story of Catholic participation comes from Ontario, Canada, where an educators’ union, the Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association (OECTA), has decided to march in Toronto’s World Pride parade.  As we have already reported, the group seeks to show support for LGBT students, teachers, and others, even while they have been criticized for their plans.

Their example brings to mind what is probably the top story these days in the United States concerning Catholic LGBT issues:  the unjust firings of LGBT people and allies from Catholic schools and parishes and the adoption of restrictive employment contracts which forbid any public support of same-gender couples.

Many Catholics have felt helpless in the face of these repressive measures, and they have longed for a way to show their support for these fired workers.   U.S. Catholics should follow their Canadian brothers and sisters and take to the streets by marching in their local Pride celebrations in support of Catholic LGBT and ally employees.

We’ve seen petitions, letter-writing campaigns, and protests, and these have been wonderful ways of creating awareness.  Marching in Pride parades provides one more possible way to keep this issue alive in people’s minds.  Such displays of support would likely garner media attention, which would put the message of non-discrimination in front of the Catholic leaders in a local area.  Even if your area has not witnessed repressive employment actions yet, it is important to make your views known to the public and to church leaders so that all will know that not all Catholics are okay with these decisions.  In situations like this, prevention is truly the best intervention.

James Ryan

Take heart from the example of these Canadian teachers.  The criticism of their decision continues, according to The National Post, but they have stayed firm. OECTA’s President, James Ryan, met with Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins and St. Catharines’ Bishop Gerard Paul Bergie, both of whom expressed displeasure at the teachers’ union’s plans.  A petition by some parents has been circulated to get the teachers to withdraw.  Yet, the teachers are still resolute in their decision to march.

The teachers’ attitude was summed up nicely in The National Post article:

“The fact the union still plans to participate in the parade despite criticisms ‘says to me that these people have the courage of their convictions and that they are true supporters and allies of the diversity in our city, including sexual diversity,’ said Kevin Beaulieu, executive director of Pride Toronto, which is organizing the World Pride parade. ‘It’s a wonderful message of acceptance and love and welcome.’ ”

Exactly.  The teachers’ message is a message of acceptance and love and welcome which is entirely consistent with Catholic principles.  And if U.S. Catholics marched in support of fired church employees, they can express that same very Catholic message.

Bishop Fred Colli of the Diocese of Thunder Bay told the newspaper that he thought that the parade marchers would “cause confustion” among Catholics.  This seems unlikely.  What most people find confusing is the fact that Catholic leaders seem to have an obstinate refusal to showing any support for the human dignity and equality of LGBT people.

Similar to Bishop Colli, Cardinal Collins expressed dismay that the teachers would be marching in a parade where there have sometimes been been displays of nudity and distribution of condoms.  The newspaper quoted him:

Cardinal Thomas Collins

“ ‘I find it very troubling and strange that [the union] would choose this particular event as a way of expressing that, when it seems to be going completely against what we believe in many ways,’ said the cardinal. ‘That’s the point at which I would say, “Really? What are you thinking’” ‘ “

His remark seems to echo those in the Gospel who challenged Jesus’ authenticity because he associated with tax collectors and prostitutes.  The Church should never restrain itself from showing love and acceptance just because some of those to whom they are extending a hand do not conform to all values we may hold.

And as for “going completely against what we believe in many ways,” I think the cardinal is forgetting some of the other ways that Catholics believe concerning LGBT people:  that they should be affirmed and respected.

I’m not the only one who thinks the OECTA is right in their decision to march.  Catholic school boards in Ontario were asked to issue statements of reprimand to the union, and to apply heavy penalties if they continued to march.   So far, the response has been less than enthusiastic to penalize them:

“One such motion failed at Halton’s Catholic school board May 20 because it could not get a seconder. Another, simply asking the union to withdraw, was passed at York Region’s Catholic school board April 29. Waterloo’s Catholic board passed a motion May 26 stating it respects the union’s right to make its own decision on how to show support for the gay community.”

I hope that this outstanding example of Catholic support for LGBT people that the teachers are demonstrating will be emulated by many Catholics in the U.S. who want to show support for fired church employees.   Just think of the message it would send to LGBT youth, as well.  What a witness of faith it would be if Catholics showed up in numbers to support our LGBT siblings!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts:

(For all posts concerning firings, click on “Employment Issues” under “Categories” in the right hand column of this page.)

June 16, 2013: “Catholic Parish Marches in Portland Pride Parade Despite Archbishop’s Prohibition”

June 22, 2013: “Catholic Communities Featured Prominently in Two Pride Parades”

July 14, 2013: “Catholic Pastor Explains Why He Marched in Pride Parade”

October 25, 2013: “How to Establish LGBT Employment Non-Discrimination Policies in Catholic Institutions”

March 24, 2014: “Catholic League’s Publicity Stunt Helps No One, Harms Many”  (see photo of parish marching in New York Pride Parade)

April 5. 2014: “How Can Ordinary Catholics Respond to the Firing of LGBT Church Employees?”

May 24, 2014: “Brazilian Bishops Endorse Legal Equality, Promise to Accompany LGBT Community”  (see section on Sao Paulo Pride March)

June 6, 2014: “Catholicism, Employment, & LGBT Issues”





Scenes from Word Pride 2012 in London

Catholic and other religious groups were well-represented at the World Pride March 2012 which wound through the streets of London on July 7th.  The Soho Masses community of London wore T-shirts that said “All Are Welcome at Soho Masses” on the front, while the reverse said “Nobody Knows I’m Catholic.”    Members of Quest, a Catholic LGBT group in the United Kingdom marched with their banner. And New Ways Ministry was present, proudly marching with our banner amid the thousands upon thousands of marchers and spectators.

Here are some photos which I hope will give you a sense of the strong faith presence in the march, as well as the diversity of attendees:

Soho Masses community member

Francis DeBernardo and Martin Pendergast carry the New Ways Ministry banner down Regent Street.

Julian Filachowski and Martin Pendergast, leaders in the Soho Masses community.

Matias Wibowo and John Falcone, who entered into a legal UK civil partnership on the morning of the Pride festival.

The rainbow flag flies atop the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, near Trafalgar Square.

A Vietnamese marcher
The Pride Rally under Lord Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Greetings from London and World Pride!

By the time you read this post, I will have made myself “across the pond,” and be firmly settled in London, England, for a three-and-a half week trip to the United Kingdom for World Pride and to visit with a variety of church reform and LGBT organizations.  Oh, and also to do some sightseeing, too!

As I mentioned here previously, I will be participating on a panel at a multi-national, ecumenical conference as part of World Pride, a two-week gathering of LGBT people from around the globe, as well as conducting New Ways Ministry’s popular “Next Steps: Developing Catholic LGBT Ministry” program. I will also be networking with British and international organizations who are working for equality and justice for LGBT people in church and society. I can’t wait to let them know about the great work that Catholics are doing for LGBT issues and the Catholic church in “the colonies.”

Throughout my stay, I intend to keep on blogging, so I do not expect to pass any day without posting something here.  Because my schedule will not be as regular as usual, some days the posts may appear later than usual. However, because of the time difference (I’m five hours ahead of the U.S. Eastern Time Zone), many times the posts will appear earlier.  Don’t be surprised if there’s an occasional “electronic postcard” as a post–photos from various places that I travel to that I think may be of interest to people who are concerned with Catholic LGBT issues.

I’m open to any suggestions of places to visit that blog readers may have for me while I’m here.  My “home base” will be in London, but I have a BritRail pass and plan to visit a wide-range of places throughout England.  If any readers will be here in London for World Pride, please be in touch so we can say “hello.”

So, the blog will go on while I’m traveling!  It just may be a little different than the regular news and opinion that you may have become used to.  I hope you will enjoy the change. Cheerio!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

New Ways Ministry to Participate in World Pride Celebration in London

World Pride, an international celebration of all things LGBT, will be held in London this year, and New Ways Ministry will be there.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director (and your humble author/editor of this blog), will be crossing the Atlantic to join with thousands  of LGBT leaders from around the world.  The World Pride 2012 website describes the event:

“The LGBT community from across the globe is expected to descend on the city for two weeks from 23 June – 8 July for a festival of art, culture and campaigning culminating with the Parade through central London on Saturday 7 July.”

DeBernardo will serve on a panel at a conference entitled “Mind the Gap: Faith and LGBT Rights, ” a multi-faith, multi-national event, on Thursday, July 5th, 12 noon-5:00 pm, at Friends Meeting House, 52 St. Martin’s, Lane, London WC2N 4EA. For information, contact:, or go to

Francis DeBernardo

He will also conduct New Ways Ministry’s very popular “Next Steps: Developing LGBT Ministry” program on Saturday, June 23rd,  St. Anne’s Church, 55 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 6AF.  For registration details:, or  + 44 208 986 0807.

DeBernardo will carry the New Ways Ministry banner in the Pride Parade on Sunday, July 7th, along with scores of other LGBT faith groups.

“I’m excited at this opportunity to connect with LGBT advocates from all over, particularly those from the faith community,” said DeBernardo, who was the keynote speaker at the conference on religion and homosexuality at the first World Pride celebration in Rome, Italy, in 2000.  “We have so much to learn from one another, and this is a great opportunity to show one another support.”

London has a strong Catholic LGBT community, with diocesan-sposored semi-monthly liturgies, called the Soho Masses.  A national organization, Quest, also helps to facilitate activities and programs there.  Additionally, the Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement also coordinates activities.  The blog,, is an excellent resource on news, opinions and events of concern to Catholic LGBT people in the UK.

DeBernardo will be traveling to London on June 18th to meet informally with London’s LGBT and Catholic church reform leaders before World Pride begins. Stay tuned for photos and posts on this blog beginning after that date!

–Dwayne Fernandes, New Ways Ministry