Two Catholic parishes in New Jersey are cosponsoring a May 21, 2017 LGBT Pilgrimage and Mass to the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey. According to a flyer for the event, the Pilgrimage and Mass are taking place: “With the blessings and best wishes of His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark…”
Mass will be offered by Rev. Francis Gargani, C.Ss.R. Gargani frequently offers retreats to LGBT Catholics, one of which was advertised by the gay-affirmative Open Hearts GLBT Ministry located at St. Patrick – St. Anthony Church in Hartford, Connecticut. The Open Hearts group recently read a book which celebrated the “Queer Christ.” According to a description for the retreat:
Through ritual prayer, reflective input sessions, shared discussion, personal time for prayer and quiet, and social gatherings, this retreat offers a special opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons to celebrate their identity and deepen their experience of community in the living God.
The gay and lesbian group, named “In God’s Image,” at the Church of the Sacred Heart in South Plainfield, New Jersey (Diocese of Metuchen) maintains that they “acknowledge and respect the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.” Yet, on the front-page of the Parish web-site, they feature a link to the radical gay-affirmative documentary “Owning Our Faith.” A quote from the short-film, which profiles many of the gay, lesbian, and transgender members of the group, comes from a “married” gay man who said:
If we leave it, if we abandon the Church then it’s never going to change. So we have to continue living here, being an example and encouraging other people to be that example because that’s what’s going to change the Church.
According to a brochure from “In God’s Name,” they “take as a guide the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 1997 pastoral, Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers.” A pastoral document from the USCCB, “Always Our Children” has been regarded as highly problematic; at the time of its publication, Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz said:
“Calamity and frightening disaster” are terms which are not too excessive to describe this document. It is my view that this document carries no weight or authority for Catholics, whom I would advise to ignore or oppose it.
The “Facilitator for “In God’s Name” is David Harvie; according to a 2015 story about the Parish:
David Harvie and Mark Nebus are regular participants. They credited Father John Alvarado, pastor, and St. Joseph Sister Kathleen Rooney, who is parish pastoral minister, for their willingness to welcome people who often are shunned in other faith communities.
Also in 2015, Harvie posted the following to Facebook:
I am on a committee in my diocese to support LGBT youth in our schools. There is a sizable faction in these meetings that feels Courage is the best way to go. Some also say that there is no need to do anything to welcome LGBT youth in our schools as they are already very happy, etc…right! It is hard for me to refute their kumbaya world without real stories. I am the token out gay person who is always saying that Courage is not the best solution. A few of us are looking for more welcoming and inclusive strategies.
The second Parish sponsoring the event is the Church of the Precious Blood in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey (Diocese of Trenton). The Parish’s “LGBT Faith Sharing Ministry” was formed by parishioner Dena Walter Reger, who has a gay son, and the church’s pastor, Rev. Robert Kaeding. According to the Parish web-site, Walter Reger is one of the contact persons for the group. In a 2015 post to the web-site for the dissident pro-gay marriage New Ways Ministry, Walter Reger wrote the following:
Last year as the proud mom of a wonderful gay son, I started an LGBT ministry at the Church of the Precious Blood in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey with the support of a very accepting pastor. We have experienced further acceptance from the parish and especially the parish council.
She went on to describe how the Parish’s “LGBT Faith Sharing Ministry” invited “gay Catholic priest” Warren Hall to address their meeting. She wrote: “His message is one of positivity and encouragement.”
Warren has since been suspended and in 2017 he wrote:
…I could not in good conscience take the Oath of Fidelity that all priests take upon ordination and when assuming a pastorate, namely, that I “accept and hold everything that is proposed by the hierarchy” and that I “adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings.”
On the web-site for PFLAG – Jersey Shore Chapter, the LGBT Faith Sharing Ministry at the Parish is listed under the sub-category of “Organizations that provide LGBT-related services in New Jersey.” PFLAG is an outspoken gay-advocacy group that supports gay-marriage and the right of gay couples to adopt children. PFLAG officially considers Courage to be an “anti-equality organization.”
Recently, Archbishop Tobin praised the forthcoming book of pro-gay Jesuit, and New Ways Ministry award winner, James Martin and lamented the idea that: “In too many parts of our church LGBT people have been made to feel unwelcome, excluded, and even shamed.”