On December 11, 2017, the official LGBT ministry of St. Paul the Apostle Church in the Archdiocese of New York, promoted via its authorized Facebook page, a “reflection” by Craig A. Ford, Jr., a doctoral candidate in Theological Ethics at Jesuit-run Boston College. These “reflections” are part of a series from New Ways Ministry “by LGBTQ Catholics writing on the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality in church contexts.”
In Ford’s contribution, titled “‘Fear Not to Cry Out:’ Challenging White Supremacy and Anti-LGBT Prejudices to Prepare the Way for Our God,” the author states:
In what directions, then, are we called to grow this Advent, a season that, properly speaking, is a penitential one? Like many Catholics, our minds may gravitate towards confession. But, as queer and LGBTIA-identified Catholics, we also know that this can be a tricky invitation to accept. Too often we find that our lives and our loves are denounced both formally and informally in diocesan newspapers and during Catholic homilies. In these instances, we are wise to avoid the confessionals as well.
In another Advent “reflection,” this one from 2016, Ford wrote of his support for same-sex marriage:
Our work entails trying to live a non-exclusive Gospel, where we become ambassadors of welcome to each other. Paul summarizes this in the second reading as the act of putting on Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14), which we know from elsewhere in Scripture is identical to taking in, providing for–in a word, loving–our neighbor (1 Jn. 4:20).
This work is not easy. And for those who us who identify as LGBT, as queer, or as gender non-conforming Catholics, this type of activity will seem downright unfair. After all, why should we expect to open ourselves up to others such as our own bishops who continue to use the hurtful language of “the truth about man and woman, and the unique bond of marriage they form”? (What such a statement obscures is the actual truth that no relationship hallowed by the presence of love can afford to be excluded from the Church, the very community animated by love, the bond of the Holy Spirit.)
In 2015, Out at St. Paul, with the support of the Paulist Fathers, released and heavily promoted a video series, “Owning Our Faith,” primarily featuring members of their LGBT ministry who openly proclaim their dissent from Church teaching on homosexuality; one young man said:
I think what’s interesting is that the Catholic Church probably thinks that it is accepting of gay people, because its message is ‘gay people exist and we should love them and not discriminate against them. But because the Church also tells gay people essentially that they need to be celibate, what the Church is saying is ‘you cannot live fully. You can be gay but you can’t live that life.’ And so that inherently is discriminatory.
A “married” same-sex couple argued that:
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.
Jesuit priest James Martin often praises Out at St. Paul and is a frequent speaker at the Parish.
In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles
A featured presenter on LGBT topics at the upcoming 2018 Archdiocese of Los Angeles Religious Education Congress will be Arthur Fitzmaurice. Known for publicly challenging the validity of Catholic teachings regarding homosexuality, on December, 8, 2017, Fitzmaurice questioned the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. On his official Tweeter page, he posted:
Jesus immersed Himself among the sinful. God is bigger than sin! With due respect to those who choose to believe in human doctrines not taught by Jesus, we don’t need to believe that Mary was sinless in order to believe Jesus was not conquered by sin #ImmaculateConception #Advent
On the same day, the exact same post appeared on the Facebook page for CMLGP – LA (Catholic Ministry for Lesbian and Gay Persons) which serves as the official LGBT outreach for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Fitzmaurice once served as the co-chair for CMLGP.
James Martin will also speak, along with Fitzmaurice, concerning LGBT issues at the 2018 Religious Education Congress.
In the Archdiocese of San Francisco
On December, 9, 2017, the MHR (Most Holy Redeemer) Youth Ministry sponsored a presentation at the University of San Francisco (USF) by gay Jesuit priest Donal Godfrey entitled “Honoring Our Past: Why The History of MHR Matters.” Godfrey is the author of the 2007 book “Gays and Grays: The Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish.” Here are some excerpts:
We do not know his [Jesus] sexual orientation, but this makes no difference theologically and would itself be an anachronistic question. We know he was a sexual person with sexual feelings.
If God must become Asian or African, then God is also in some sense queer…
Is it less appropriate for gays to imagine Jesus as gay than for African Christians to picture him as black, Asian Christians as Asian?
Well the question in my mind was, the people who make a conscientious decision to live together as a gay couple, and then they come to communion, just like people who make a similar decision on birth control, you don’t harass them. You respect their decision.
One listens to the official Church teaching and takes it seriously, and then one asks what does my life experience say to this teaching…Whenever our conscience goes against the teaching of the church there is a tension, but it is a healthy tension. We know that the development of doctrine does take place over time. And as we know doctrine has developed over time, for instance with regard to slavery.
Are we allowed to differ from the Church’s hitherto accepted norms and judgments? Yes, if theology is to grow. Knowledge develops when opposite opinions are discussed, until an integration is reached. In this process, “theological dissent” forms a creative part.
…in the same way that Catholics in other parishes practice artificial contraception while remaining Catholics in good standing. Gay Catholics in relationships are in a similar situation. Catholics can dissent and remain loyal despite what some Catholic fundamentalists would want us to believe. Most gay Catholics at MHR do long for that day when the institutional Church will accept and recognize their reality, just as the church now recognizes how wrong we were on slavery.
James Martin recently spoke via Skype to MHR parishioners; in a 2017 interview, when asked about changing opinions within some sectors of Christianity concerning homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Martin said:
You need to understand the Scripture in its historical context. If you look at the Old Testament, there’s a lot of Scripture that said that it’s okay to have slaves, but no one buys that any longer…Even in the New Testament they understood homosexuality in a far different way than we do today. You need to understand it in its context. Homosexual laws seem to be the only ones that people take out of context these days.