Honoring the 20th Anniversary of the 1997 USCCB pastoral message “Always Our Children,” on October 7, 2017, Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan (pictured above) and Father Lucio Castillo of the Diocese of San Diego will celebrate a Mass for “families of the LGBT community” at St. John the Evangelist Church in Hillcrest (where Dolan previously served as Pastor). Laura Spencer-Martin, director of the Diocese’s Office for Family Life and Spirituality, said:
As a diocese we want to be with people, with everyone; especially when people have been hurt…I think he wants to send a message of love, compassion, listening and being with all the people.
According to City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, a longtime national LGBTQ-rights activist based in San Diego:
This is a truly historic Mass…When you remember that this is the same diocese that 12 years ago refused to give a funeral to John McCusker and just five or six years ago did the same thing again to SRO’s owner, John Sanfilippo, but now this bishop is welcoming LGBTs and our families to celebrate Mass…There are still people in the church who don’t want us there. I think it’s courageous.
John McCusker and John Sanfilippo both owned local gay bars in the San Diego area. Following public criticism regarding the denial of a Catholic funeral for each man, in both cases, the Archdiocese reversed its earlier decision and they received a Catholic funeral.
The pastoral associate and coordinator of LGBT ministry at St. John the Evangelist Church is Aaron Bianco. According to his profile on the website for the dissident group Call To Action, Mr. Bianco “will begin his work as Call To Action’s full-time Program Outreach Associate beginning June 1st . Aaron has served as Pastoral Associate at Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in San Diego since 2008 with experience in RCIA, liturgy, and music. Aaron has extensive experience with young adults through his coordination of the Cathedral’s young adult ministry group of over 600 young adults. Given Aaron’s engagement with grassroots organizing and comprehensive understanding of intergenerational dialogue we are excited to have Aaron offer support to CTA’s young adult program…”
Call To Action, in their official “Call for Reform in the Catholic Church,” asked for the following:
“We call upon the church to discard the medieval discipline of mandatory priestly celibacy, and to open the priesthood to women and married men…”
“We call for extensive consultation with the Catholic people in developing church teaching on human sexuality…”
“We claim our responsibility, as committed laity, religious and clergy, to participate in the selection of our local bishops…”
After the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director of Call To Action, made the following statement:
Call To Action is elated with today’s Supreme Court outcome. Finally all loving and committed partners and families will be recognized fully and equally. Call To Action embraces a Church rooted in welcome, inclusivity, equality and justice for everyone. This decision reflects those Gospel values.
When asked about a 2015 statement from Archbishop Victor Fernández, who reportedly said:
The pope goes slow because he wants to be sure that the changes have a deep impact..The slow pace is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the changes…
Bianco responded: “Yes, that’s true…But when the church does evolve – and I know it happens at a frustratingly slow pace – however, it doesn’t go backward.”
“Always Our Children” is often cited by pro-gay Catholics as an official proclamation that determined and or changed universal Catholic Church teachings with regard to homosexuality. For example, “In God’s Name” LGBT ministry from the Diocese of Metuchen, that sponsored their own Mass at the Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Newark, takes “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.” In the Diocese of San Jose, the colorful brochure promoting their LGBT ministry – under the heading “Church Teaching,” they include an excerpt from “Always Our Children,” but curiously nothing from The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The three main consultants for “Always Our Children” were the self-outed priests James Schexnayder, Robert Nugent, and Peter Liuzzi; Schexnayder is from the Diocese of Oakland and founded the dissident gay advocacy group the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry. In his 2011 book “Setting the Table: Preparing Catholic Parishes to Welcome Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender People and Their Families, Schexnayder stated that the use of the term “objective disorder” in the 1986 document on homosexuality from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, should be merely “understood in a philosophical manner and not as a moral judgment.”
When “Always Our Children” was being prepared, Robert Nugent was under investigation as part of the same review that was looking into the ministry he cofounded with Sister Jeannine Gramick – like his cohort Sister Gramick, he was similarly “silenced” in 1999; according to the Vatican, both were “permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.” Liuzzi was for many years the head of the LA Archdiocese Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons, In his book “With Listening Hearts: Understanding the Voices of Lesbian and Gay Catholics,” Liuzzi wrote:
Many people cannot envision homosexuality as a possibility for authentic love because they regard it simply as a genital, sexual urge or drive. Such persons are misguided. One must remember that anyone’s sexual orientation does not simply consist of sexual desire but actually influences the way one thinks, the way one decides, the way one responds, the ways one relates to others – even to God – and the ways one structures his or her world. All those actions that make up each waking moment are shaped by one’s sexual orientation.
At the time of its publication, Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz said this about “Always Our Children:”
“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.
Both Robert McElroy, Bishop of San Diego and Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, endorsed James Martin’s book “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.”
During a recent conversation at Fordham University, Martin said this about a male friend who has been in a long-term homosexual relationship:
I do not understand how a person could say the following things: This is not love, this is a lesser love, they should be apart, they should have never met, they should never be together.