The Society of Mary, or the Marianists, in the United States sponsor an LGBT ministry through their Marianist Social Justice Collaborative headquartered in Covington, Kentucky. Simply titled The LGBT Initiative, according to the Marianist, their ministry “responds to the Church’s call to be welcoming and compassionate by offering effective pastoral care and spiritual support for LGBT Catholics and their families. We foster dialogue, education and understanding among the diverse communities and institutions affiliated with the Marianist family. Our goal is to fully welcome our Marianist GLBT members into all aspects of our communities.”
In addition, the Marianists state:
The LGBT Issue Team wants to provide opportunities for all Marianist communities, with their goals of justice and hospitality in mind, to continue to strive to become places where all members feel as this person does. We want to foster a community where persons with different sexual orientations can dialogue honestly, listening to one another’s opinions…It has become clear that there are LGBT members of the Marianist family, as well as the broader Church community, that do not feel free to be themselves; persons who have a deep spirituality but feel alienated from their communities.
The “Co-chairs” of The LGBT Imitative are Dominic Garascia and Ish Ruiz.
The father of Dominic Garascia, Anthony, is a longtime Marianist, a professional therapist, and the current President of the dissident pro-gay marriage advocacy group Fortunate Families. His wife Beth is also a Marianist and is an active member and “Listening Parent Coordinator” of Fortunate Families; according to the Fortunate Families website: “They are the proud parents of three grown children, one straight and two gay…”
After the Obergefell decision, Deb Word, the former President of Fortunate Families, issued the following statement:
Fortunate Families celebrates with our LGBT children the opportunity to share in the same rights as their straight siblings. The Supreme Court decision brings legal stability to our children’s lives and security to our grandchildren. We applaud this decision and continue our work in the Catholic tradition seeking social justice for all our children, and we look forward to the next hurdle, the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Word is currently a spokesperson for the “Ministry with Gay and Lesbian Persons” in the Diocese of Memphis in Tennessee.
Anthony Garascia is outspoken in his support for Catholic acceptance of same-sex relationships and in his criticism of Church teaching with regards to homosexuality; from the website of Fortunate Families:
Variation leads to adaptability and resilience in creation…Think of people who are born left handed. At one point in our history we defined left-handedness as abnormal and wrong. Today, we understand left-handedness as a variation that nature gives the human community. The same is true for LGBT persons; being LGBT is a different way of fully loving another person. If only those in the hierarchy would be inspired to change their language and delete from their vocabulary words such as “abnormal,” “disordered” and “depraved” our LGBT community would feel much more accepted and loved by the Church.
This September we have our LGBT pilgrims arriving in Philadelphia, some of whom are in committed loving relationships. They are there to proclaim that God is present to their commitment and love. Wouldn’t it be great if the hierarchy listened to their stories? They would see that our LGBT sons and daughters also show the love of God for humanity and creation in the way they love their partners. They might also understand that their unions are prophetic witnesses to the variety of ways a person can love fully. They might also acknowledge that these unions are as holy as any straight unions…
…our LGBT children, who have an inborn orientation to be attracted to people of their same gender, often come to the same decision of conscience. They often conclude that they were not granted the gift of celibacy by God and that their full humanity is best expressed in a loving committed relationship with another individual. They know they are going against Church teaching, they also know that they cannot just live a celibate life…So the question is, “why can’t our gay children claim the same right to be conscientious objectors to what they consider an impossible, and for them, unjust law that binds them to live less than fully human lives?” We at Fortunate Families have always promoted the dignity of conscience in support of our gay children.
On the official blog for the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative, Garascia argued that it’s inherently discriminatory to maintain that there are only two genders:
Comments made by those who are uninformed about transgender persons are often misguided and harmful. For example, some believe that it’s a clear biological fact that a human being is born either male or female. This suggests a lack of sensitivity to transgender people…
Beth Garascia, along with her son was a participant in The LGBT Initiative Team, has also publicly criticized Church teaching; in an essay posted to the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative website, Garascia wrote:
…I love my two gay children deeply and unconditionally. I struggle with the Church’s teaching: on the one hand, the bishops have taught us in “Always Our Children” to embrace our children and that God loves every person as a unique individual. On the other hand, gays are called “objectively disordered”; they are not welcomed or in some cases even acknowledged in our parishes….Not surprisingly, gays feel ignored and in exile, and as a parent of two gay children, I am silenced. This is a strange sort of doublespeak—how can a child of God be objectively disordered?
At this point, if someone gave me a magic wand and told me that with a wave I could cause both of them to be straight, I wouldn’t do it because it would change an integral part of who they are, the totality of which is a gift of God to our family and our community.
She once wrote, in “A prayer for changed hearts:”
How I’d love to see a rainbow flag fly from every Catholic parish one day!
After Fortunate Families was denied an exhibit table during the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Fortunate Families, in cooperation with Dignity and Call to Action, offered a counter-event at Arch Street United Methodist Church. During the World Meeting of Families, Anthony Garascia proposed a “second way” for LGBT acceptance into the Church during a televised interview for a local news station.
Ish Ruiz is a doctoral student in the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and a Religious Studies instructor at a Catholic high school in San Francisco. Ruiz has offered workshops to high school faculty and staff on the care for LGBTQ+ students in Catholic schools and is a member of the Marianist LGBT Initiative Team, which published a resource, titled Addressing LGBT Issues with Youth: A Resource for Educators. He is also a leading member of the Young Adults group at Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, which is known for its integration of LGBTQ+ Catholics into the life of the Church. Ruiz has made several contributions in the media and through his ministries regarding the protection of LGBTQ+ Church workers, the Catholic Church’s response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, and the contributions of LGBTQ+ teachers in Catholic schools.
In 2006, the Prefect for the Congregation for Bishops, Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, wrote to then Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz concerning Call To Action, stating: “…to be a member of this association or to support it is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic faith.”
Regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage, Ruiz said:
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.
He [Ruiz] wondered if Church leaders might “challenge themselves” to listen to those with different opinions about marriage and relationships, asking themselves, “Hey maybe we don’t have all the answers, maybe there’s more to this issue than we’ve been teaching so far.”
In 2016, Ruiz attended an LGBT retreat, “Room at the Table: LGBTQ People and Families-a Gift of God to the Church,” at the Marianist Retreat Center in Eureka, Missouri. The main presenter was Paul Morrissey OSA. Morrissey has a long history of dissident gay-affirmation; following the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage in the US, he wrote:
“I am happy for the LGBT Community on this historic day when the Supreme Court of the country legalized same-sex marriage. It is a stunning victory for the long and difficult struggle by gay and lesbian Americans for equal rights, and will allow them many benefits that are taken for granted by heterosexual couples…”
Ruiz is a member of the gay-affirmative parish of Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco.
The Mariansts will offer another “LGBTQ+ Retreat” in October of 2018. One of the “presenters” will be Jack Wessling, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. During the 2012 Convocation of Priests in the Archdiocese, another priest recorded his observations of Wessling:
A number of priests, and in particular an older priest (Jack Wessling) spoke of the importance of questioning, questioning what we were taught, questioning authority which is not incompatible with respecting the authority of the church, respecting the conscience of others, entering into dialogue with those who are different.
In 2015, the Marianists published an 11-page pamphlet: “Addressing LGBT Issues With Youth: A Resource for Educators.” Although they reiterate Catholic teaching as described in the Catechism, the Marianists seem to embody this warning from the 1986 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral care of Homosexual Persons:”
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. For example, they may present the teaching of the Magisterium, but only as if it were an optional source for the formation of one’s conscience.