From March 21-24, 2019, the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (LA REC) at the Anaheim Convention Center will feature several well-known Catholic LGBT activists and dissenters. They include: Jesuit priest James Martin, Fordham University Professor Fr. Bryan Massingale, LA Archdiocese priest Fr. Chris Ponnet, Professor María Teresa Dávila, Yunuen Trujillo, and Arthur Fitzmaurice. All of the presenters, except for Dávila, spoke on the LGBT issue at the 2018 LA REC.
Martin began his presentation at the 2018 LA REC by praising dissident LGBT-affirmative ministries and parishes:
The Church has a responsibility to make everyone feel visible and valuable. Visible. Recognizing that LGBT Catholics exist has important pastoral implications. It means carrying out ministry that some dioceses and parishes already do well. Particularly in this Archdiocese, I know many parishes for example, I know St. Monica’s, that has a flourishing LGBT ministry. The parish that I go to, the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York, which is where this picture is from. [A photo of various members from the Out at St. Paul ministry appears on the overhead screen.] That’s the Pastor Gil Martinez, and the group Out at St. Paul…a flourishing ministry.
St. Monica’s in Santa Monica hosts St. Monica Catholic Community Gay and Lesbian Outreach (GLO) where former member Arthur Fitzmaurice once served as the Chair of Archdiocese’s Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons (CMLGP). At the 2015 LA REC, he openly criticized “The Catechism of the Catholic Church:”
“The paragraph [in the Catechism] on homosexuality — which describes it as ‘intrinsically disordered’ while also demanding respect for gays and lesbians — is placed in a section of the catechism paragraphs condemning ‘pornography, prostitution, and rape…To keep this abusive language in the Catechism and other Church writings is, in itself, gravely evil.”
On August 3, 2018, the Catholic LGBT ministry Out at St. Paul (OSP), located at the Paulist Fathers motherhouse of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in New York City, posted the following message to their official Facebook page:
Yesterday, Pope Francis declared the death penalty inadmissible in all cases. It shows us that Catholic teaching can and does change over time (or, “develop,” using theological terminology). Pope Francis specifically called for the language in the catechism to be altered. He has the power to recognize other “developments” in doctrine as well.
This is why we push for the language about LGBTQ people in the catechism to change. We are not, and have never been, “intrinsically disordered.” It is time for the Church to listen to LGBTQ believers and recognize the harm that its official doctrine has caused to millions of people around the world.
Paulist priest Dave Dwyer, in residence at St. Paul the Apostle Church, will also speak at the 2018 LA REC – the topic of his presentation will be “Young Adult Ministry.”
In a recent article about the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, James Martin wrote:
The long-simmering rage against gay priests and the supposed “homosexual subculture” or “Lavender Mafia” has been fanned into a fire that threatens to engulf not only faithful gay priests but also, more broadly, L.G.B.T. people.
From October 2-4, 2018, Fr. Bryan Massingale led “a retreat for gay priests, brothers, and deacons” at Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wisconsin, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. On March 16, 2018, Massingale was a panel presenter at the 2018 LA REC for a workshop entitled “Transgender in Our Schools: One Bread, One Body.” During this workshop, one of the presenters (a transgender Catholic) utilized the “Genderbread” illustration. On the topic of transgenderism and the Catholic Church, Massingale stated that the Church is in “a period of discernment.”
Concerning a change in Church teaching with regards to homosexual activity, in comparison to the process which took place in the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Lutheran churches, Massingale argued:
They all went through a messy period marked by a divergence of opinion and open disagreement on approach…We can’t expect the Catholic experience to be any different. The differences we see among official leaders are part of a normal process of coming to a different place.
I think this is a call for us as Catholics to accept the reality that we live in a church that’s in the midst of hesitant but real change and development. How do we help our people to understand that this isn’t something that’s entirely new in church history?
We’re in this transitional time when we’re moving out of one paradigm of understanding human sexuality and into another. That’s part of the mess we’re in, but it is our faith as Catholics that this mess contains the ground for new life and new birth.
[Update – During a 2019 address delivered at a panel discussion hosted by the dissident group Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, Massingale stated: I come to this conversation as a Black, gay priest and theologian.]
At the 2018 LA REC, speaking to an audience comprised primarily of Catholic grammar and secondary-school educators, Ponnet said:
Part of our question as we walk this journey is do we understand what this is about – sexual identity. The way in which a person sees themselves and in terms of who they are romantically and sexually attracted to. Now some people don’t even have that when they are 50 years old. We know that some people as Second and Third graders have that, and they begin to identify with either what is normative, or from their perspective, what is normative, and they dress different from what you expect, they speak differently and they identify themselves in a world that is unto themselves. And we are called to journey with them and affirm them in that journey.
He also discussed his experiences at Catholic schools:
I assume when I walk into a Catholic mass at a Catholic school, that 40% if not more are non-Catholics. Is that true for you? Maybe 50% in some places. So, I try to figure out how to say a Catholic mass without the word Jesus. It’s an interesting approach. Most of my Catholic friends begin to wonder whether I’m Catholic.
María Teresa Dávila:
Formerly an associate professor of Christian Ethics at Andover Newton Theological School, María Teresa Dávila is currently a lecturer of Religious and Theological Studies at Merrimack College. In 2014 and 2015, she spoke at the annual conferences of the pro-gay marriage and women’s ordination advocacy group Call to Action. In 2016, she signed a “Scholar’s Statement” which rejected Catholic prohibitions against the use of contraceptives; according to the statement: “there are no grounds, either from the Bible or from nature, to support current Catholic teaching according to which each and every act of sexual intercourse has a procreative significance and finality…” In 2018, she signed “An Appeal to U.S. Bishops and Pastors.” The document stated:
Bishops must honestly confront the reality that many, if not most, of the current teachings on sexuality and gender are too often barriers to holiness. Damning words about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people, for example, perpetuate dated and disproven narratives that contribute to and reinforce prejudiced attitudes and unjust structures. Likewise, gay and bisexual clergy are not the cause of these problems. It is rather the inability to speak in honest and healthy ways about sexuality, coupled with homophobia, that fosters a culture of secrecy and silence where abuse goes unchecked.
In her video on the web-site “LGBT Catholics: Building Bridges of Ministry in Our Catholuc Church,” Yunuen Trujillo stated:
“…Not all stories are the same. You are going to hear stories about people who have chosen to remain chaste, you will find stories of people who have partners, and you WILL find that they can be equally holy and it is going to be absolutely mind-blowing, and you’re not going to understand why at the beginning. But you are going to be able to see stuff that you may not be able to see right now, when you get to actually listen to stories.”
Arthur Fitzmaurice, is the former Chair of the CMLGP; a group founded by former Archbishop Roger Mahony. Following the 2016 Congress, after a same-sex couple and their son presented the gifts to Archbishop Gomez at the “Margins” Mass, the CMLGP released the following statement:
Progress for LGBT Catholics is slow and happens in incremental pieces, and often includes setbacks. I saw much progress this past weekend at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim. Our ministry was honored to participate in the Church on the Margins liturgy…Four sold out LGBT-affirming sessions were presented including first time session in Spanish and one with a transgender topic. But if there was one indelible moment, it may have come at the closing liturgy on Sunday when a gay couple and their son helped present gifts at the altar to Archbishop Jose Gomez.
In 2015, Fitzmaurice 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 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 understand the Spirit alive in the world, it needs to listen to our stories of finding new life—and deeper relationship with God—even in the midst of confusion and suffering. Until they listen, they cannot hear the voice of God speaking through us.
At an interview during the 2015 LA Congress, Fitzmaurice repeated this same sentiment:
…the spirit is alive in the hearts of LGBT people and it’s the slow movement of the spirit within us that’s creating community, that’s teaching us – the message of love is what’s at the core, it’s not about a few words in The Catechism.
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