(Pictured above: Fr. Michael Holleran of the Archdiocese of New York)
In his landmark 1987 book “The Homosexual Person,” Fr. John Harvey wrote: “I believe I have provided sufficient evidence…to state that Dignity has established itself within the Church with the support of clergy, religious, and laity, but against the teaching of the Church. It uses every means in its power to undermine that teaching on homosexual activity.” What Fr. Harvey was stating, nearly 30 years ago, was that a shadow organization had been established within Catholicism which actively promoted, with the help of various prelates and priests, a pro-gay sex agenda. Even though this pseudo-church within the Church, may not still be headed by Dignity, nevertheless – it still exists. And today, we are all living with the ramifications; during a recent interview with Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, he had this to say about a homosexual friend who recently entered into a so-called “stable” gay relationship:
“It’s an improvement. They share a life, they share their joys and sufferings, they help one another. It must be recognized 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.’”
This statement is startlingly similar to a theory advocated by early Catholic “gay” apologist Fr. Charles Curran in his 1972 book “Catholic Moral Theology in Dialogue:”
“Celibacy and sublimation are not always possible or even desirable for the homosexuals. Obviously, such unions are better than homosexual promiscuity…Homosexuality can never become the norm of sexual activity.”
Cardinal Schönborn is the possible, and highly tragic, “pastoral” fruit of what Curran and his later adherents forcefully argued: that attempted monogamy in homosexuals is highly preferable to serial promiscuity. The unimaginable ignorance and fool-heartedness of this theory has recently been shown to be fraud; according to one study: “nearly 70% of HIV+ MSM (men who have sex with men) are estimated to have contracted HIV from a main partner;”* yet, the damage through distortion has been done: a 2014 Pew Research poll of Catholics aged 18-29, fully 85% said that homosexuality should be accepted by society.
Part and parcel with the attitude exhibited by Schönborn, where he sees some inherent “good” within the context of a homosexual relationship, taken further: is the idea that the apparent validity of the “gay” experience, in certain respects, invalidates the current prohibitions from the Catholic Church against homosexual activity; for example, Fr. Michael Holleran from the Archdiocese of New York, repeatedly expounds to his LGBT audiences the argument: referencing Fr. Richard Rohr, that: “Scripture, tradition, and experience – all together are what will keep us sane.” He continues: “We got to listen to our experience here. So when you get for example a gay or lesbian person, discovering him or herself…and to discover the possible beauty of it. And then to have someone come along and say that’s bad; that’s objectively disordered or whatever – that’s a horrible horrible thing to do to a person.” Holleran believes that through “dialogue” the official teachings of the Church concerning homosexuality will change: “…when you actually hear people’s experiences…” Because, “When they [the homosexual man or women] do study Scripture; when they do study tradition; when they study their own hearts…and come out and say: I don’t experience this as something bad; I think there is something wrong with the way we are interpreting Scripture, and also something wrong with the way we are carrying on tradition…so if a sincere gay person, for example, is struggling with his or her own inner discovery…and then says let me look at Scripture – oh, it doesn’t say what they always said; or they look at tradition – and it doesn’t make sense anymore, if you look at it from this point of view, then maybe my experience does have some validity.” “Then I have a right and a duty to start questioning this.”
Holleran is important, as are other priests and “gay” friendly parishes – especially in the homosexual enclaves of New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, because he represents the bridge between the radical pro-gay “Catholic” advocates and organizations of the 1970s, and the “pastoral” reality of the contemporary diocesan priest.
Also, Holleran’s incorporation of Richard Rohr is important as the Franciscan priest is also such a conduit between the radical 70s and the present; Rohr, a frequent lecturer in Catholic parishes throughout the United States, he also spoke at a New Ways Ministry symposium in 1997, has found that the Church’s teachings with regards to homosexuality are deeply flawed: “‘The Achilles’ heel of the official Catholic position is necessitated by its own theology. Cardinal Ratzinger says that we do not consider the state of homosexuality a sin (this is actually quite an advancement in our thinking and implies that homosexuality is probably seen as an un-chosen condition), but only ‘acting’ accordingly. Apart from the inconsistency with the theory of ‘natural law’ (things must act according to their nature), this thinking proposes a second impossibility – to ‘mandate’ a charism which is by definition a free gift. You cannot possibly order someone to have a charism, the ‘gift’ of celibacy for example. It is an oxymoron and an insult to our theology of grace and gift. I have no doubt that we can and will do much better in the future.”
Rohr is also a promoter of the often repeated argument among Catholic “gay” apologists, that the so-called “silence” of Jesus Christ on the issue of homosexuality, among others, necessitates some sort of approval on His part: “How did we get to such a place that the things Jesus never even mentions (birth control, abortion, homosexuality) have become the very litmus tests of Christian faith?”
In addition, Rohr has promoted some highly unorthodox therapy techniques at his New Mexico-based Center for Action and Contemplation, which often blend homoeroticism, Catholicism, Eastern spirituality, and poet Robert Bly’s neo-pagan male initiation rituals; frequented by same-sex attracted men, at these “retreats:” a sort of communal nudity is allowed:
“We often have camp-fires, and I know some of you have been at these where it happens, so you know what I’m talking about. Always, always, there’s some guys — I mean, is it in their hard wiring? — they’ll strip and have to leap over that fire, burning their balls…I don’t know what it is. They’re the ‘real’ men, who can leap over the fire, naked.”
This goes part and parcel with Rohr’s conception of the “gay” male – as an elevated man with an intrinsic deeper understanding of spirituality: “In some Native American cultures, a homosexual person was often the shaman, or medicine man, of the community because he combined both the masculine and the feminine qualities in one person…This is very hard for the Western dualistic mind to process…Same-sex love is not going away because dualistic Western civilization or churches do not like it or are unwilling to deal with it.” For Rohr and others who agree with him, the problem is not with homosexuality, but, that in Western culture, heterosexuals need to be more like the gays. In a description for one of his “retreats,” Rohr wrote that current Christian prohibitions against homosexuality, particularly in Catholicism, were invented as a means of social control and in order to hide other more serious institutionalized evils such as “wholesale classism, sexism…and gay oppression:” “Obedience is normally a higher virtue than love. This process of ‘sin management’ has kept us clergy in business. There are always outsiders to be kept outside.”
Fr. Harvey argued, inside the Catholic Church, beginning with the radical dissent group Dignity, there exists another church: this church can boast of its own parishes, priests, lay supporters, theologians, and even Saints; in a very sick perversion of history, some gay “theologians” have deconstructed certain Saints as “gay” icons: St. Sebastian. Cosmas and Damien, even St. John the Apostle. But, for those not well-versed in the sometimes rather esoteric history of the modern-gay rights movement taking place inside the Catholic Church, I will give a somewhat brief synopsis of how and why some tenants of this movement have been adopted by parish priests and even the highest ranking prelates.
Dignity: was founded in 1969 by Fr. Patrick Nidorf in San Diego, California; in 1970, Dignity drafted their “Statement of Purpose” which relied heavily on the theories expounded by Fr. John J. McNeill, S.J., which included, among other things, “that homosexuality is a natural variation on the use of sex. It implies no sickness or immorality. Those with such sexual orientation have a natural right to use their power of sex in a way that is both responsible and fulfilling…and should use it with a sense of pride.” Although Nidorf initially had permission from his superiors in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to form this ministry, he was silenced in 1971 by then-Archbishop Timothy Manning. Despite this, the group continued to grow with the help of sympathetic priests who often served as chaplains; with Dignity meetings taking place in various local parishes throughout the country. Even prominent bishops continued to publically support them; in 1983 Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen of Seattle, celebrated Mass at the city’s Cathedral for 1000 Dignity members during their annual convention; because of complaints concerning Hunthausen and his unorthodox pastoral initiatives, a Vatican investigation was launched by then Cardinal Ratzinger; as part of the resulting Vatican censure, for a while Hunthausen had to acquiesce power to an auxiliary Bishop, but he remained the Archbishop until his retirement in 1991.
In 1986, in an effort to finally defeat the growing influence of pro-gay advocacy groups within the Church, the Vatican released a stinging Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons; although no particular group was mentioned, Dignity certainly fit the parameters of a questionable apostolate:
“…this Congregation wishes to ask the Bishops to be especially cautious of any programs which may seek to pressure the Church to change her teaching, even while claiming not to do so. 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. Its specific authority is not recognized. Some of these groups will use the word “Catholic” to describe either the organization or its intended members, yet they do not defend and promote the teaching of the Magisterium; indeed, they even openly attack it”
The immediate effect of the Letter was the decision by several American bishops to order that Dignity no longer be allowed to hold meetings at Catholic parishes; the secondary effect of the Letter was the necessity for many “gay” friendly parishes, or parishes with “gay” affirming ministries, to relabel their prospective organizations, remove any implicit support of Dignity, while still maintaining the same set of core beliefs; probably the three most flagrant examples are Most Holy Redeemer Parish in San Francisco and St. Francis Xavier in New York City as well as the “official” Archdiocese of Los Angeles outreach to those with same sex-attraction: The Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons; but, there are gay-affirming parishes in almost every major city within the United States as evidenced by a list of gay-friendly parishes maintained by New Way Ministry.
At Most Holy Redeemer and St. Francis Xavier, both parishes maintain gay affirming ministries; they often march in each prospective city’s “gay” Pride parades, and feature dissident speakers; in 2006, at Most Holy Redeemer, ex-Catholic turned Episcopal priest, Vincent Pizzuto, during a discussion, “Is it Ethical to be Catholic? – Queer Perspectives,” said this: “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.” Pizzuto spoke again at Most Holy Redeemer as recently as 2016; in 2014, St. Francis Xavier printed an article entitled “Forty-Four Years of Love and Commitment,” written by an openly lesbian couple who are parishioners, they wrote of their journey to Catholicism starting: “…at Dignity New York…We were astonished and astounded to meet people from all over the United States who were struggling just like us to live their lives as Catholic lesbians.” After praising a number of Catholic leaders including Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father John J. McNeill for their assistance in helping them to reconcile their lesbian and Catholic identities, the couple ended their essay with praise for St. Francis Xavier parish.
Besides St Francis Xavier, the rabidly pro-gay wing of the Jesuit order is consistently strong in New York City. In 2011, an “unprecedented collaboration” of two Jesuit, Catholic universities (Fairfield and Fordham Universities) and two non‐denominational divinity schools (Yale Divinity School and Union Theological Seminary) resulted in the “More Than a Monologue” conference series on “Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church.” Including a lay speaker from St. Francis Xavier, a person who – in 2009 signed a petition, along with 700 other religious leaders, asking the New York Senate to pass a marriage equality bill, one of the presenters was the widely popular New York City parish priest John Duffell; when asked by a young “gay” man if he should be cautious or fearful about entering a seminary as an openly “gay” man, Duffel responded: “You’re not broken. The system is broken. And therefore you deal with it as a broken system: You lie.” Before, he added that: ― “The church is not perfect.”
Father Duffell also has a problem with the term “disordered.” At the same conference, he said: “The whole business about being disordered—well I know a lot of disordered people. They’re not gay!…You know, that’s not determined by one’s sexual orientation.” What Duffell expounds is exactly in line with both the theories of Fr. McNeill and the rhetoric coming out of Dignity and its later incarnations: that the homosexual person is fine the way they are, that their inclinations are in no way disordered, and, that on the subject of homosexuality, the Church is deeply flawed. On the continued use of the term “disordered,” the opinion of Duffell and others is shared by many in the Church; in 2015, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said: “I think it’s probably good for the Church to put that on the shelf for a while, until we get over the negativity related to it…That language automatically sets people off and probably isn’t useful anymore.” The lone “gay” speaker, Ron Belgau, at the 2015 World Meeting of Families has repeatedly quibbled about the meaning of the term; he wrote: “The Church, however, makes clear that love is not the same as the desire for sexual pleasure, and that attraction to a person of the same-sex is not disordered in itself.” Yet, the Church has persistently warned that: “…the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”
What is probably more disturbing, is the fact that Duffel’s comments very much bolster the contention that there in fact was and is a “gay” priest underground within the Church; a problem which Pope Benedict XVI tried to address, in the wake of the “gay” priest sex scandal, in a 2005 “Instruction” with regards to seminary admission: “…the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’” Immediately, Fr. John McNeill retorted by praising the inherent “compassion” of so-called “gay” priests and what will be the Church’s ultimately futile attempt to remove them: “The sex scandals have undermined clerical authority and this move to eliminate gay people will not work…If you run across a good priest, you run into a gay priest.” He added, “At the heart of all this is feminophobia because the gay priest is in touch with the feminine. That’s why they’re more compassionate.” This sort of bizarre “pastoral” approach has actually come to fruition, where, oftentimes, “gay” affirming priests are assigned to large urban parishes with a large homosexual contingent; case in point, the placement of the Precious Blood Fathers, a religious order with a well-known history of gay affirmative ministry, at the homosexual majority parish of Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco; with the new pastor immediately placating the concerns of the majority “gay” congregation by stating: “We didn’t come here to change anybody…”
In Los Angeles, the Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons annually sponsors a special “Pride” Mass to coincide with the LA Pride festivities; they openly support such secular initiatives as the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, healthcare befits for same-sex couples, and the presence of the Gay-Straight Alliance in Catholic schools; on the theological front, they have advocated for the removal of the term “intrinsically disordered” from the Church lexicon, the inclusion of “…positive language regarding LGBT Catholics, especially for same sex couples in long term relationships,” and celebrated an “indelible moment” at the 2016 LA Religious Education Congress when “…at the closing liturgy on Sunday…a gay couple and their son helped present gifts at the altar to Archbishop Jose Gomez;” they stated, this was a sign that: “Progress for LGBT Catholics is slow and happens in incremental pieces, and often includes setbacks.”
Who is Sister Jeannine Gramick and who was Father John J. McNeill?
Sr. Jeannine Gramick, along with Fr. Robert Nugent, founded an organization called New Ways Ministry which, throughout its tortured history, has openly opposed Church teachings on homosexuality. In 1971, Sr. Gramick got the idea for her pro-gay apostolate when she befriended a “gay” man during her studies at the University of Pennsylvania; from the beginning, she preached a gay affirmative message that openly disregarded Catholic teachings; she was soon joined by Fr. Nugent, a Salvatorian priest, who offered Mass at the “gay” friendly liturgies organized by Gramick. In 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the “Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” Sr. Gramick made that the center of her argument for full inclusion of sexually active homosexuals into the Church; she stated: “that a homosexual identity is not a sickness but an alternative sexual orientation.” Working primarily in Maryland, beginning in 1976, Gramick and Nugent instituted a series of workshops centered on the pastoral issue of homosexuality; Fr. John Harvey summarized Nugent’s view of homosexuality which “…effectively nullifies the clear teaching of the Church by reducing it to an opinion…that one is free to follow or to disregard.” Fr. Harvey continued: “In effect, it allows homosexuals who engage in homosexual activity to remain in good conscience, provided it is a steady, loving relationship.” Out of the Gramick and Nugent workshops grew New Ways Ministry that would emphasize the publishing of pro-homosexual literature; according to Father Enrique Rueda’s seminal book, “The Homosexual Network,” the ultimate purpose of New Ways Ministry was “…serving as a center for a very extensive network of homosexual and pro-homosexual activists within the Church.”
Only, soon the blatantly dissident teachings and activities of both Gramick and Nugent caught the attention of a few concerned Church officials in both the US and at the Vatican; beginning in 1982, when James Cardinal Hickey of Washington contacted the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes requesting that Gramick and Nugent be removed from leadership roles at New Ways Ministry. Then, in 1984, both Gramick and Nugent turned New Ways Ministry over to lay control, but both continued to write and speak publicly against the teachings of the Church; subsequently a lengthy Papal investigation was launched that culminated with a 1999 “Notification” which made the following determination:
“Given the failure of the repeated attempts of the Church’s legitimate authorities to resolve the problems presented by the writings and pastoral activities of the two authors, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is obliged to declare for the good of the Catholic faithful that the positions advanced by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination are doctrinally unacceptable because they do not faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church in this area….For these reasons, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.”
While Fr. Nugent objected to the Notification, afterwards he did step back from public ministry and later primarily served as a chaplain on pilgrimages for gays and their family members. Yet, strangely enough, in the midst of the same Vatican investigation, Fr. Nugent was asked to serve as a consultant for the USCCB as they drafted their 1997 pastoral letter on the topic of homosexuality titled “Always Our Children.” After his death in 2014, Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry spoke of Fr. Nugent and his influence:
“It is impossible to overestimate the impact and value of Fr. Nugent’s lesbian and gay ministry. He educated a generation of pastoral leaders who began to put into practice the inclusive ideals that he taught. A tireless researcher and writer, he produced a number of important works on pastoral care that helped to shape the movement in Catholicism of gay-friendly parishes.”
As for Sr. Gramick, after the Notification, she became even more strident stating that: “I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right.” In 2000, her religious congregation, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, told her to cease speaking publicly on the topic of homosexuality. Sr. Jeannine rejected the request, and then transferred to the Sisters of Loretto, who support her ministry. Since, she continues to write, lecture, and campaign for full inclusion of sexually active homosexuals into the Church, in 2011, she stated: “But because I know church history, I know change takes centuries. We are planting seeds for change at the upper level of leadership.” She continued: “When we started this work, only 20 percent of Catholics believed in equal rights for gays and lesbians. Now it’s over 73 percent…The church is moving.” In a 2011 op-ed for “The Washington Post,” she repeated much the same rhetoric she and Nugent first expounded years before:
“Many Catholics have reflected on the scientific evidence that homosexuality is a natural variant in human sexuality, and understand that lesbian and gay love is as natural as heterosexual love. In forming our consciences, Catholics also consult scripture and our theological tradition. Here, again, there is little firm reason to oppose marriage equality.”
Inexplicably, she still gets invited to speak on the same issue the Vatican implicitly barred her from: in 2013, she debated Bishop Thomas Paprocki at an event “Two Catholic Views on Marriage,” sponsored by the Jesuit Alumni of Arizona; the debate did not take place on Church property; earlier that same year, Gramick took part in an inter-faith pro-“gay” marriage protest in front of the Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C. In 2014, Gramick and Francis DeBernardo met with Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (Pictured: above left) of San Francisco in order “to help enrich understanding of each other’s approaches to marriage equality and LGBT issues;” also present at the meeting were representatives from Dignity. According to the April 2016 issue of “The New Wine Press,” the official newsletter of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood – Kansas City Province: “On February 20th, the LGBT committee of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood offered a daylong workshop on LGBT issues in light of the Synod on the Family.” The speakers were Frank DeBernardo and Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministries.
In a 2015 interview, Gramick was asked if she saw a future “where there will be openly gay priests married to men,” she said: “I can see that.”
Today, News Ways Ministry continues to advocate for changes in Church teachings concerning homosexuality and often forms a coalition with other pro-homosexual “Catholic” groups such as Equally Blessed, Call to Action, Fortunate Families and Dignity.
According to Fr. John Harvey: “The dissenting theologian who has had the greatest influence on Catholic homosexual persons is probably John J. McNeill, S.J.” In his landmark 1976 work “The Church and the Homosexual,” McNeill’s primary thesis concerning the inherent ethical goodness of homosexual relations he summarized in the book’s Introduction:
“It would appear to follow that the same moral rules to homosexual and heterosexual attitudes and behaviors. Those that are responsible, respectful, loving and truly promotive of the good of both parties are moral; those that are exploitive, irresponsible, disrespectful, or destructive of the true good of either party, must be judged immoral.”
Like Gramick, McNeill pointed towards the then recent declassification by the APA as proof that homosexuality was a natural variant; yet, McNeill went further and expounded a creative deconstructionist sort of hermeneutics whereby Holy Scripture was reimagined as not condemning homosexuality, but as merely the cultural product of a conservative patriarchal form of Judaism; furthermore, McNeill argues, that, what little is written about homosexuality has been wholly misinterpreted by the Church: “It would seem fairly certain…that the Sin of Sodom was understood in biblical times as one of inhospitality.”
Ordained in 1959, McNeill received a doctorate in philosophy from Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium in 1965; that same year he met Charles Chiarelli in a New York “gay” bar. They became lovers and the couple eventually married in Canada in 2008. Although a closeted “gay” man, who was also a Catholic priest, McNeill began to write about homosexuality and the Church; his first major publication was a series of articles published in “Homiletic and Pastoral Review” entitled “The Christian Male Homosexual.” McNeill described the articles as a proposed “long overdue change in the pastoral approach to the homosexual.” He continued: “that, perhaps, within their context and under certain circumstances, homosexual relations could be objectively accepted as a lesser evil than promiscuity and thus subjectively acceptable to those in such circumstances as morally good.” Almost immediately, these writings formed the basis of Dignity’s position statement in 1972, when the group held its first convention in Los Angeles; according to Dignity records at the 1972 event: “The membership committee reports that Dignity has 198 members, including 25 priests, four brothers and two seminarians.” Later that same year, with the help of fellow Jesuit Fr. Robert Carter, McNeill founded the New York City chapter of Dignity. In 1973, Carter himself “came out” after cofounding the pro-homosexual National Gay Task Force; when Dignity was expelled from Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese, Carter continued to hold meetings at other locations as well as leading “blessings” ceremonies for “gay” couples; Carter died in 2010.
After the publication of his book, McNeill was silenced by the Vatican; for nine years, McNeill kept a somewhat lower profile, but continued his ministry with homosexual men and women: giving lectures, workshops and retreats. Then, in reaction to the Vatican’s 1986 Letter which referred to homosexuality as an “objective disorder;” McNeill spoke out publicly against the teaching; of the now famous Letter, McNeill wrote:
“Rome took a giant step backward when it asserted that homosexual orientation was not a natural condition but represented an ‘objective disorder’ and was an ‘orientation to evil.’ 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.”
Finally, in 1987, McNeill was again instructed to give-up all ministries with gays and lesbians – this time, he disobeyed the order and this led to his expulsion from the Jesuits. Still a priest, but barred from performing most priestly functions, he called himself “a Jesuit in exile.” In a final show of defiance, that same year, McNeill was the grand marshal of the New York City gay Pride parade. This official break from the Church began a rather sad and pathetic last slide into hardcore sexual apologetics by McNeill. In his writings, McNeill began to expound the most scurrilous of theories, including what he interpreted as the miraculous healing of the Centurion’s “gay” lover by Christ, that Mary Magdalene and Martha were actually lesbians and that Lazarus was a “gay” man; and, finally that Christ Himself and the Apostle John were lovers: “Any one of you who have a gay sensibility will be keenly aware of the special nature of the relationship of love that reunites Jesus and John.”
Towards the end of his life, McNeill turned out to be even more radical and the pantheon of what he saw as good became incredibly perverse; in an essay entitled “Sexual Play: God’s Gift To The Poor,” McNeill argued:
“If all one is capable of is a solitary act of masturbation, then that masturbatory act, undertaken with gratitude to God for the gift of sexual pleasure, is good sex.
Even better sex occurs when two wounded humans reach out to each other to share mutual sexual pleasure in a ‘one night stand.’…Two psychically badly damaged human beings will share a moment of mutual sexual pleasure. That is all they are capable of and that is good, even better, sex. Even better still is the relation of two ‘sex buddies’ that meet regularly for sexual fulfillment in the context of mutual friendship.” Later, McNeill said “I always knew I was gay. I tried to be closeted, but that didn’t succeed…The message is that God loves gay lovers and approves of them.” McNeill died in 2015 at age 90.
But, McNeill’s influence in the Church remains strong among certain priests and in their “pastoral” approaches towards homosexuals; in a 2010 “Open Letter to Pope Benedict,” McNeill wrote:
“Catholic gay and lesbian people demand that, if the Church wants to be seen as their loving mother, mediating to us God’s unconditional love, the Church has no choice except to enter into dialogue with its gay members.”
This sort of change within the Church through “dialogue” tactic is not a new one and has been employed for years – most notably in the 1980s by forces pushing for female ordination; Pope John Paul effectively shut that down in 1995 with the publication of “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.” In terms of homosexuality, especially over the past few years, the Church seems embroiled in a constant struggle to define itself; not so much in words, as the Magisterium has repeatedly outlined its position on this subject, but in terms of pastoral outreach, or how and if doctrine is defended on the pastoral and the personal level. Most “gay” apologists have taken to a holding pattern, by which, through the enculturation of homosexuals within Catholic families and within the Church itself, a gradual shift, first pastoral practices, and, then a change in doctrine will inevitably take place. 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.” Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, who participated in the Synod of the Family at Pope Francis’ personal invitation, said at an impromptu press conference in the Vatican press office:
“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…” Earlier he had said: “Well, I think that is important always to begin with an attitude of dialogue. It’s important to listen to people and it’s very hard to have dialogue because in order for someone to tell you why they think you are wrong, you have to sit in patience to allow that to happen.” The Director of New Ways Ministry Francis DeBernardo said this about such “dialogues” between the Church hierarchy and the “gay” community: “Once church leaders engage in dialogue with lesbian and gay Catholics, I am confident that these leaders will see the deep faith, love, and witness to the gospel that is active in their lives and loves.” This willingness to reevaluate, or even reimagine, how the Church should care for those in the homosexual lifestyle can be seen within all levels of Catholics: from the chancery to the local parish: Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg wrote this after the state of Florida legally recognized same-sex marriages: “…I do not wish to lend our voice to notions which might suggest that same-sex couples are a threat incapable of sharing relationships marked by love and holiness and, thus, incapable of contributing to the edification of both the church and the wider society.” In a local parish, Fr. Peter Daly, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., wrote about his own approach to homosexual persons 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.”
Archbishop Cupich said remarkably the same thing: “If people come to a decision in good conscience then our job is to help them move forward and to respect that. The conscience is inviolable and we have to respect that when they make decisions, and I’ve always done that.” Many years earlier, the controversial Thomas John Gumbleton, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit, had this to say about the role of the conscience in homosexuality:
“Over the years of their life they have to struggle with this. And I tell them you have to take into account what the scripture say. You have to take into account what Catholic teaching is. You have to take into account your own discernment of God’s will for you. You have to take into account your consultation with mentors or spiritual guides. And then you have to struggle to find a way that you as a person grow into a fullness of personhood, and you integrate your sexuality into your life. And going along with that is the teaching of the Church, which is very traditional. That is what we call primacy of conscience–beyond anything else, I must respond to God for what I do, what choices I make. And within your struggle, when you make certain choices that you do it in as careful a way as possible and you’re doing this out of your own deep conscience convictions. You’re not condemned by God, you can’t be, if you really follow your conscience. And it’s an informed conscience, based on what you discern from scripture, based on what you discern from Catholic teaching, what you discern from your own prayer life, and what you discern from spiritual directors and so on.”
On the future of homosexuality and Catholicism, Gumbleton said: “The Church, over the centuries, has tried to teach about sexuality in single life, married life, homosexual life, and our teaching has evolved. And that’s true of almost any moral teaching within the Church. As we get new insights, new understanding, the teaching evolves…it’s wrong for the Church, officially in any way, to try to stop the development of thought, the development of ideas, the evolution of understanding about various issues. Because, at some point we discover the ones that were silenced were actually saying the truth.” A consistent supporter of New Ways Ministry, Gumbleton also has a “gay” brother; despite his unwavering support for dissident groups and the anti-Catholic rhetoric they espoused: Gumbleton stayed in office until 2006 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.
Lisa Fullam D.V.M., Th.D. teaches moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. In her writings promoting the full acceptance of homosexual relations and same sex marriage within the Church, she takes on both arguments: that of the supremacy of the individual conscience and the developing natural of sexual mores in Catholicism; like her colleague Vincent Pizzuto, who is teaching across the Bay at the University of San Francisco, Fullam believes that current Church condemnations against homosexual activity are rooted in socially constructed texts that, in many ways, were limited by the time-period and the culture; in the case of ex-Catholic and word-fixated Pizzuto, he zeros in on The Bible: “In many areas of faith and morals the world projected by the Bible…demands that we surpass its own historical limitations in working toward the Kingdom of God. This is not unique to the question of homosexuality, but rather places this issue in line with a host of others that have already been recognized…” While Fullam takes on the much more recent text of Saint John Paul’s teachings on “the theology of the body:”
“…the Church would need to make an argument compelling to the consciences of those who may not read Genesis as John Paul II did. We would need to make a natural law argument that denying civil marriage to same-sex couples is a matter of sustaining the rights of all in society, and not a moral stance that exceeds the requisites of good order and equality before the law. The fact that an increasing number of churches and other groups and individuals of good will, (including large numbers of Catholics,) do not find John Paul’s view of masculine and feminine human nature compelling indicates at least that the arguments currently proposed by Church teaching do not command broad assent.”
With Fullam, and those who were influenced by Dignity and New Ways Ministry, there must be consensus in order for dogma to make sense; this imaginary harmony between the consciences of homosexual men and women and the Church can only be reached through dialogue. For the gay apologist, the righteousness or inherent speciousness of Catholic teachings on homosexuality are only proven or disproven through the validity of experience as expressed by “gay” men and women.
In the post-Synod world of “Amoris Laetitia,” the oft repeated reassurance from various priests, prelates and lay theologians is that: “There has been no change in canon law.” Yet, what many of these well-intentioned, but sadly misinformed Catholics have neglected to understand is that there is often a vast difference between canon law and doctrine, as it is written – say in “The Catechism of the Catholic Church,” and the reality of certain pastoral practices by individual priests and even Bishops, within a parish or an entire diocese. Regardless of the inherent strengths or deficiencies in “Amoris Laetitia,” that is completely irrelevant, what’s important – is that some have already decided to coopt really anything in the Church, spoken or written, which they see as even mildly beneficial to their cause. Case in point is a rather cryptic message from Cardinal Walter Kasper who stated that the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation “…doesn’t change anything of church doctrine or of canon law, but it changes everything.”
In the St Francis Xavier Church bulletin, appeared a blurb (May 8, 2016) advertising a talk to be given by a Fr. Michael Holleran, who once led a discussion on one of Fr. McNeill’s books, “Taking a Chance on God,” for the St. Francis [de Sales] Gay Straight Catholic Alliance Book Club; in that particular work, McNeill proposed an all-inclusive type of Christian spirituality which meets the “special needs” of lesbians and gays; McNeill also stated that: “In all cultures and in every period of history, a certain percentage of men and women develop as gays and lesbians. These individuals could be considered as part of God’s creative plan. Their sexual orientation has no necessary connection with sin, sickness, or failure; rather, it is a gift from God to be accepted and lived out with gratitude. God does not despise anything that God has created.” McNeill also argued that homosexual acts are not sinful and actually should be considered as “holy love.” Those Catholic men and women with same-sex attraction, who choose to embrace chastity, he described as “pathological.” The topic of Fr. Holleran’s presentation: Amoris Laetitia.
According to his biography on the website for the New-Age Copper Beech Institute, Fr. Holleran was ordained as a Jesuit, then left the order after five years to join the Carthusians: “In 2009, he was formally received as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and became a Sensei in the Zen tradition, at the hands of his longtime mentor, Roshi Robert Kennedy, S.J. He currently serves at Notre Dame Church in Morningside Heights, Manhattan and leads the Dragon’s Eye Zendo in midtown Manhattan.” Fr. Holleran spoke to the “gay Catholics” (their term) at St. Francis Xavier as recently as September of 2015.
During a lecture on “Sexuality and Scripture,” sponsored by the LGBT group at St. Paul’s the Apostle Church (New York, NY), on September 28, 2014, Holleran argued, among other things, that the Sodom and Gomorrah story had “nothing” to do with homosexuality, as, according to him “they must be understood in the context of their time.” With regards to the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, according to Holleran, they are built upon “shaky ground.” How he envisions change within the Church, like Gramick and McNeill, is through dialogue: “love shows itself in the ability to dialogue.” As an example, he pointed to a meeting between a Catholic Bishop and a “gay couple;” as he related the story, Fr. Holleran said that, afterwards, the Bishop remarked: “…how can we call people like that objectively disordered?” Holleran concluded: “what transforms hearts is when you really actually do hear people’s experience.” He also described “The Holy Trinity” as an example of “an alternative lifestyle. Here, every ugly and scurrilous theory set forth by those gay apologists that came before him are repeated and passed on to the next generation; during this same talk, Holleran mentioned how he discussed all of these issues with a confused same-sex attracted young man: “I had a young gay man, last year, who came to me for spiritual direction.” Holleran then described how he schooled him on just how wrong the Church is about homosexuality.
Holleran finished one talk with the contention that “gay” men are more receptive to spirituality because they practice anal sex: “…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.”
Father Alexander Santora, a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark, inadvertently tied together a loose pastoral approach to homosexuality, with what they perceive as a shift in tone from the Synod, and the works of the late John McNeill. After his death, Santora wrote this about McNeill:
“…because of McNeill, the Church has developed a more pastoral approach in theory and practice, which is very nuanced. The Synod concluded, ‘To families with homosexual members, the Church reiterates that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his/her dignity and received with respect, while carefully avoiding every sign of unjust discrimination.’”
McNeill concluded that ‘the homosexual accept himself or herself with true self-love and understanding and the ability of the heterosexual society to accept homosexuals as equals capable of collaborating in the mutual task of building a more humane society.’ This sentiment is consistent with Pope Francis’ desire to be less judgmental and more accepting and reflected in the Synod report. ‘While clearly expressing doctrine, pastors are to avoid judgments which do not take into account the complexity of various situations and they are to be attentive, by necessity, to how people live and endure distress because of their condition.’ McNeill’s courage and brilliance started the church on a trajectory that it is still trying to define.”
Postscript: Sadly, what Santora rather benevolently regards simply as a “nuanced” pastoral approach, has actually cost lives.
*“Nearly 70% of HIV+ MSM (men who have sex with men) are estimated to have contracted HIV from a main partner…Our data suggest that reported monogamy may sometimes reflect intent or a non-traditional definition of monogamy rather than engagement in sex with only one partner. Nearly a quarter of men who indicated that they had only had sex with their partner for the duration of their relationship also reported engagement in anal sex with at least one non-main partner in the past 90 days. This supports previous research showing “monogamy” to be an ambiguous term…”
“Open, Closed, or In Between: Relationship Configuration and Condom Use among Men Who Use the Internet to Seek Sex with Men”
Sonya S. Brady, et al.
AIDS Behav. 2013 May; 17(4): 1499–1514.
“…86% of new HIV infections were occurring within the context of relationships.”
“The contribution of steady and casual partnerships to the incidence of HIV infection among homosexual men in Amsterdam”
Xiridou, Maria et al.
AIDS: 2 May 2003 – Volume 17 – Issue 7 – pp 1029-1038
Original Vatican “Notification Regarding Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS:”
The New Ways Ministry list of “Gay-friendly Parishes and Faith Communities:”