(Pictured Above: The 2016 “”Pride” mass at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of New York.)
In his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis wrote:
The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment…”
But what does “accompaniment” mean?
Pope Francis continued:
…pastors and the lay faithful who accompany their brothers and sisters in faith or on a journey of openness to God must always remember what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches quite clearly: “Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.” Consequently, without detracting from the evangelical ideal, they need to accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of personal growth as these progressively occur.
In terms of homosexuality, during one of his many in-flight press conferences, Francis said:
People must be accompanied like Jesus would accompany them…When a person who has this situation arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say, “Go away because you are homosexual.” No.
In 2015, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said the following:
In Chicago I visit regularly with people who feel marginalized: the elderly, the divorced and remarried, gay and lesbian individuals and also couples. I think that we really need to get to know what their life is like if we’re going to accompany them…
In the contemporary American context, how has this suggested “accompaniment” of “gay” men and women materialized on the pastoral level?
Using as an example the rather typical gay-affirmative parish of Most Holy Redeemer (MHR) located in the Castro District of San Francisco, where the majority of parishioners are from the LGBT community, the pastoral approach developed at MHR is not extraordinary when compared with similar parishes in or near large metropolitan areas with a significant “gay” population. Other examples would be St. Monica’s in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago, and several parishes within the Archdiocese of New York including St. Paul the Apostle, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Francis de Sales. In addition, there are supportive diocesan ministries to the LGBT community: namely the Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons (CMLGP) in Los Angeles, AGLO in Chicago, and “Out at St Paul” in New York. At all of these parishes, and through the support of diocesan level ministries, speakers who widely disagree with the fundamental teachings of the Church on homosexuality are regularly invited to educate and inform the community; this has recently included James Alison at St. Paul the Apostle in New York, Arthur Fitzmaurice at the LA Religious Education Congress, and Vincent Pizzuto at MHR. While these speakers and ministries sometimes seem to publicly uphold Catholic teachings, as Cardinal Ratzinger once warned:
A careful examination of their public statements and the activities they promote reveals a studied ambiguity by which they attempt to mislead the pastors and the faithful.
James Alison, an ordained Catholic priest, whose canonical status he described as “anomalous,” will steadfastly address certain topics while equivocating on others:
I’m honestly not sure that I’ve ever tried to talk as a theologian about “homosexual acts” per se. My disagreement with the current teaching of the Roman Congregations is about what I consider to be their fundamentally flawed premise of the objectively disordered nature of the inclination.
Recently, the present co-chair of CMLGP, and former chair Arthur Fitzmaurice, recommended that concerned Catholics sign a petition asking for major revisions in the sections of the Catechism that address homosexuality with Fitzmaurice going as far as to judge those statements in the Catechism as “gravely evil.” Others who share his assessment, though they have publicly left the Church, are more specific in their condemnations; with University of San Francisco Professor Pizzuto starting at MHR that:
On this at least [homosexuality] the teaching authority of the Church is given no credence by so many gay men and lesbians because it does not demonstrate its own credibility. To the contrary, its teachings on homosexuality are so disengaged from reality as to render them utterly ridiculous.
However, these pronouncements are primarily concerned with the theology of Church teachings. How are these fallacies sometimes expressed on the pastoral level? In his authoritative history of MHR, Donal Godfrey SJ, who is also involved with the parish’s “Young Adults of Most Holy Redeemer,” wrote that former pastors had a certain “laissez-faire management style” or a tendency towards, what Godfrey described as a pastor who: “…did not compel,” but “allowed.” This reveals the major fault in most “accompaniment” programs whereby the entire experiment is predisposed towards passivity, unquestioning support, and a distinct non-judgmental philosophy tending towards inertia. This was revealed early on during the pastorship of Jack McClure C.PP.S, who took over at MHR in 2014, when he immediately proclaimed: “We didn’t come here to change anybody.” This fact was acknowledged in a 2016 Facebook post from MHR in response to someone in the “gay community critical of the Church’s “official” teachings:
MHR is located in the Castro District of SF. Our congregation is 65 – 75% LGBTQ. Many of our parishioners are married to their same-sex partners and have adopted children which are baptized at our parish. BTW, none of the parishioners feel that we are “intrinsically disordered” and we have told that to the Archbishop.
In this case, where has “accompaniment” taken this parish? A series of gay-affirmative pastors and ministries dating back to the 1980s has not perhaps seen the progressive “personal growth” as hoped, but has certainly made many of them more hardened. Similar intransigent attitudes have been publicly expressed by other MHR parish leaders and parishioners:
“Professor John Boswell argued that 1,000 years ago, the unchanging Catholic Church recognized same-sex marriage, and I suspect some day it will again. In the meantime, my husband and I attend Most Holy Redeemer, that gay-friendly church in the Castro, so the rest of the Church can see how many people are affected by our marriage.”
“The Church has always taught that the Holy Spirit speaks through the laity as well as the hierarchy. I hope the decision from the Supreme court, combined with polls that show that the majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage, encourages the hierarchy to be more in touch with the people, the sense of the faithful.”
“I came out of the closet, met Jason, and we fell in love. Soon after, I realized that I had become a person of faith staring at the Catholic Church from the outside in…For nearly a decade Jason and I were Catholics without a parish…We found Most Holy Redeemer online, by reading parish reviews on Yelp. What we found was a community that far exceeded our expectations. The Catholicism I had known and loved as a child was alive in the Castro.”
The last testimonial is most important because it reveals a fatal flaw in gay-affirmative ministries which quickly become widely known within certain circles for their self-proclaimed tolerance. However, this form of charity is neither compassionate nor merciful because it solely provides acceptance by ignoring and or subverting the Truth. For in Chicago, another “gay” man wrote about how he sought out a “gay” affirmative parish:
When my life journey brought me to Chicago, I began searching for a parish community. I typed into my Internet search engine “LGBT friendly Catholic churches.” Sure enough, Old St. Pat’s was listed among the few.
In addition, those who search for these “LGBT friendly” parishes and ministries oftentimes arrive with a set of expectations and misconceptions; for the most part, these deceptions are never debated, but become confirmed. This primarily takes place through the avocation of an erroneous belief that God created you “gay” and in the baseless hope that radical change in the Church on these matters is not only possible, but inevitable and are actually instituted by God. This takes place through a consistent indoctrination into a false “gay” theology; Fitzmaurice has repeatedly shared the same message when describing his journey: “I tried to be directed towards God…How do I be the person that God made me to be; and then it gets converted into a realization that God made me to be this gay person.” Years of involvement, and being in leadership positions with these ministries, has made Fitzmaurice more resolved. In 2015, he castigated the Catholic Bishops of the US for their opposition to the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage; printed in “The National Catholic Reporter,” Fitzmaurice demanded that the voices of LGBT Catholics be heard – if they refuse, the Bishops, according to Fitzmaurice, “cannot hear the voice of God:”
“If the church hierarchy wants to witness the Spirit alive in LGBT people, it needs to listen to our stories of finding new life — and deeper relationship with God — as we strive to integrate our faith and sexuality. Until they all listen, they cannot hear the voice of God speaking through us, and their words will lack true respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
This is a petulant and unreasonable demand for the elevation of emotion and personal experience over the Truth. But this sort of thinking has been encouraged. In a 2015 op-ed for “The National Catholic Reporter,” Fr. Peter Daly, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., wrote about his own approach to the homosexual person and the future of the Catholic Church:
“As long as I am pastor here we will welcome and register everyone who shares our Catholic faith, including same-sex couples…We will encourage them to participate fully in the life of the church, including the Eucharist. We will treat everyone with respect and dignity. We will allow them the right of their own conscience.
Ultimately, I think, the church is going to adjust its language and teaching. Fifty years from now, we will be embarrassed by some of the things we have said about homosexual people and their relationships. Do we really want to say that they are ‘intrinsically disordered?’ Do we really mean that every same-sex relationship is gravely sinful? Does such harsh rhetoric square with our lived experience? We might have to revisit our interpretation of some Scripture passages like the first chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.”
The willingness of pastors, priests, and LGBT ministries to solely allow the often unformed (and misinformed) conscience of “gay” men and women to determine what is the Truth has resulted in large wholesale rejection of almost the entirety of Catholic teachings on homosexuality; whereby the words in the Catechism itself are considered “evil.” This phenomena was correctly described by the late John J. McNeill, SJ, who is still widely heralded and studied among gay affirmative ministries:
“Since most gay people experience their homosexual orientation as a part of creation, if they accept this Church teaching, they must see God as sadistically creating them with an intrinsic orientation to evil. Most gays would prefer to see the Church teaching as wrong, rather than believe God is sadistic.”
This reworking of Catholic cosmology knows no bounds in certain LGBT ministries; with the “Out at St Paul” asking their members: “Who’s your favorite queer saint?” According to the article they promoted: that could include Sts. Perpetua and Felicity who are apparently the “Patron Saints Of Same-Sex Couples.”
Worse of all, the parishes and ministries often cross the border between “accompaniment” into cooperation and collusion. For instance, most take part in “gay” Pride celebrations and parades, case in point is the “Pre-Pride” Mass at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City. After witnessing one such Pride parade, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. concluded that what he saw was “an incredible display of self-defeating and self-deprecating behavior…” In San Francisco, the current “Parish Manager” of MHR regularly posts and comments to Facebook the “gay” goings-on in the neighborhood including remarking with “Wow! Hubba Hubba!” on the picture of g-stringed model working for a notorious San Francisco-based gay porn company; a recent Halloween party at the Parish included a man in fishnet-stockings and high-heels. The Christmas Facebook post from the Gay Straight Alliance at St. Francis de Sales in New York City featured a kissing male couple. In New York City, a favorite speaker for LGBT ministries, Fr. Michael Holleran, said: “I don’t care what people say, I think Gay Pride Parade is wonderful; all those people dancing around with not many clothes on…it’s beautiful.” During a talk at the “gay” affirmative parish of St. Boniface in Brooklyn, Holleran claimed:
“…men hate church and spirituality because they have to sit still and they have to be receptive. There is nothing more threatening to a male than being receptive. I mean, think about it sexually – maybe that’s why gay men are more ready for it.”
Here, there is a clear symbiosis between “gay” affirmation, theological madness, and sexual diabolism. Is this accompaniment?
From my married heterosexual friends, I have often heard incredibly moving stories about how they “accompanied” various relatives and friends, namely same-sex couples who were living together or in a second marriage. This form of “accompaniment” included a gentle discussion about the Church’s teachings, but most importantly a lived experience through which the couple in a sinful or irregular situation witnessed a loving Catholic relationship. Oftentimes, this sort of mentoring or accompaniment, occasionally years later, resulted in the wayward man and woman either ending the cohabitation, seeking out forgiveness and getting married, or obtaining an annulment and then marrying in the Church. But can (should) this approach transfer over into the realm of homosexuality?
The problem which repeatedly occurs within most gay-affirmative parishes is that coupled or same-sex married individuals regularly occupy leaderships positions on parish councils, liturgical committees, and in religious education programs; this at least has been the case for many years at MHR. Therefore, these examples of “gay” domestic stability become the cherished norm. This situation is intensified because of the insular environment experienced in these parishes and ministries and within the “gay” community itself. The constant use of the term “gay” “lesbian,” and “LGBT” in the names of these ministries also encourages a separate sense of reality. Even Fr. John Harvey, the founder of Courage, cautioned against such ministries, including his own, becoming a sort of “refuge…in which people with homosexual tendencies form their own subculture.” And, this is exactly what has happened in the world of “gay” Catholicism.
In such sick and facilitating Catholic spaces, “accompaniment” is an impossibility because a true subculture has been established which promotes open dissention. At its most insipid level, it’s become simply rainbow-colored cupcakes and “gay” bingo. In terms of same-sex couples, accompaniment of the sort I described is fundamentally flawed because there is no hope for redemption within a homosexual relationship; marriage is an impossibility; therefore the only solution is something much more radical which will initially hurt, upset, and alienate those involved. This is the step that gay-affirmative parishes and ministries have not taken; instead they indulge and seek out the worst sort of heretics to further deceive those whom the Lord has put in their change. This surely fits the definition of evil.
I think that “pastoral” approaches to homosexuality within the Church, exhibited on the parish level, and in so-called LGBT ministries, have become increasingly fragmented into three often competing ideological positions. For instance, there exists a perception of the human person which refuses to consider them as a heterosexual or a homosexual, but instead “insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God.” This is largely the theology advocated by Courage. Second, there is another perception of the same-sex attracted person as indelibly “gay,” but manifestly obliged to obey the teachings of the Church. The “Spiritual Friendship” movement is an example of this mindset. Third, there is a large group who believe they were created by God to be this “gay” person, that the teachings of the Church are incorrect, and that homogenital expression is a viable form of love. The vast majority of gay-affirmative Catholic parishes and ministries have targeted the later group, pandered to their self-deceptions, and confirmed them in grave error – even to the point of condoning and, in some cases, promoting sinful behavior all in the name of compassion and sensitivity.
But how compassionate is it to facilitate the delusions of those who have been misled. On June 26, 2015, the day of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision in the Supreme Court, which legalized “gay marriage” in all 50 States, a notable same-sex partnered parishioner at MHR posted to his Twitter account this message:
“Married at last! Married at last! Thank God almighty I’m married at last.”
Yet the environment in which this attitude can flourish has been created and nurtured at such parishes and ministries as MHR; during an interview from 2015, Fr. Donal Godfrey, S.J., the former director of campus ministry at the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco and frequent speaker at Most Holy Redeemer and various other gay-affirming parishes in San Francisco, said:
“As a church we need to accept that family goes beyond traditional lines. I don’t expect the teachings to jump to acceptance in one day, it will take decades. In the meantime we need to accept people pastorally as they are and where they are. For now, this would be sufficient. Later the teachings will catch up and evolve.”
One of the “married” members at “Out At St Paul,” featured in their self-produced documentary “Owning Our Faith,” 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.”
This theory was succinctly echoed by David Kennedy, a representative and “secretary” for CMLGP, when he was asked at the LA “gay” Pride festivities: “What is the Catholic’s official stance on homosexuality?” Kennedy replied: “It’s in transition.”
But this didn’t happen overnight. Although it perhaps has not been defined as “accompaniment,” but the false charity shown to “gay” men and women in the guise of Catholicism has caused much damage. On the very topic of gay affirmative ministries. Groeschel wrote:
There are many serious objections to this kind of compassion based on pragmatism and relativism…The most obvious…objection is that such thinking precludes the possibility of moral conversion and true Christian discipleship. Apart from the radical denial of truth, such thinking leaves the person lost in a swamp without a map. It is a most dangerous compassion.
Only, what “accompaniment” has created is a confirmation or entrenchment of the homosexual orientation in either those who were confused or those who could have been otherwise guided towards a different way of being themselves. On this individual and collective objective of encouraging or “integrating” homosexuality in the Catholic person, Alison said:
…what I have expressed is a desire to help facilitate the process of Jesus unbinding our gay consciences—not simply my gay conscience, but any part of any person’s conscience that stops them from living fully into the person they were created to be.
Part and parcel with this “unbinding” of the “gay” conscience is the promotion within these ministries and parishes the idea of “integration” within the same-sex attracted person. As Pizzuto wrote: “the ethics of homosexuality begins with an honest recognition, admission and integration of one’s God-given homosexual orientation…” Fitzmaurice talked about the same “strive to integrate our faith and sexuality.” Worse of all, according to the document, “Diocese of San Jose Guidelines for The Catholic LGBT Ministry Council,” Catholics priests within the Archdiocese of San Jose should: “not presume any particular social or psychological analysis of sexuality in our society, except for a generally accepted premise that individuals do not choose and cannot change their sexual orientation but must understand it and integrate it into their life of faith and conscience.”
This is the fulfillment of what Fr. Groeschel warned against, a ministry which “precludes the possibility of moral conversion and true Christian discipleship.” The best anyone with a same-sex attraction can hope for is to “integrate” that desire and confirm the orientation. It reminds me of a certain “accompaniment” described in a recent interview with Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, when he had this to say about a homosexual friend who recently entered into a so-called “stable” gay relationship:
“It’s an improvement,” he said. They share “a life, they share their joys and sufferings, they help one another. It must be recognised that this person took an important step for his own good and the good of others, even though it certainly is not a situation the Church can consider ‘regular’.”
“…an important step?” Towards what?
In the midst of widespread suffering, Pope Francis rightly envisioned the Church as a sort of “field hospital.” One of my favorite Saints, the founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaria Escriva, made a similar, but more detailed analogy when he wrote:
The surgeon knows that the cleaning hurts, but he also knows that there will be worse pain later if it is not done. A disinfectant is also applied immediately. Naturally it stings (or, as they say where I come from, it prickles) and hurts the patient. But it’s the only way if the wound is not to become infected.
If it is obvious that such measures must be taken to protect bodily health, although it may only be a relatively minor wound, then when the health of the soul is at stake — the very nerve centre of a man’s life — how much more necessary it is to wash, to cut away, to scrape, to disinfect, to suffer! Prudence demands that we intervene in this way and that we don’t flee from duty, because to side-step our obligations here would indicate a great lack of concern for and even a grave offence against the virtues of justice and fortitude.
What those with same-sex attraction do not need are hollow platitudes, false empathy, or accompaniment; what we need are the exact same prescription offered to those without homosexuality: a place of forgiveness, where the Truth is offered “in season and out of season.” Also, where truly compassionate priests and ministries courageous enough to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” In their current manifestation, what gay-affirmative parishes and ministries offer is an accommodating patience (wait for the Church to change), and nothing else. While the truth will not be pleasant, as St. Josemaria described, the alternative is the death of the patient.