The Rev. Joe Nassal, CPPS, is the current provincial director of the Kansas City Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. From May 19 – 21, 2017, Nassal will offer a Retreat for the predominantly “gay” Most Holy Redeemer Parish in San Francisco. The name of the Parish Retreat is “A Place at the Table.” In 2010, Nassal, along with frequent collaborator Fr. David Matz, CPPS, offered a similar Retreat at the Missionaries of the Precious Blood Sonnino Mission House in Berkeley. The site was also the location where Nassal and Matz repeatedly hosted the dissident group Dignity for a “Day of Reflection.” Following the decisive 1986 “Letter To The Bishops Of The Catholic Church On The Pastoral Care Of Homosexual Persons,” the vast majority of US Bishops almost immediately expelled Dignity from Catholic parishes. Yet, Nassal and Matz continued a close association with the group.
In the August 2011 issue of “Communion: The Monthly Newsletter of Catholics for Marriage Equality in California,” a now defunct periodical published by Dignity San Francisco, the following letter from Nassal was reprinted; here is an excerpt:
From a spiritual/theological viewpoint, it all depends on where we begin. Do we begin with the belief that we are created flawed (original sin) or do we begin with the premise that we are made in the image and likeness of God? I believe it is the latter which is why DIGNITY is such a powerful and appropriate name. We are made in God’s image!
Dave Matz and I were able to attend the Dignity Mass on Sunday and it was a prayerful and spirit-filled liturgy. The priest gave a wonderful reflection on “the other” as “the beloved.”
Following the 2015 Obergefell decision, Dignity released the following statement:
DignityUSA, the organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, cheered today’s Supreme Court’s sweeping decision that strikes down state bans on same-sex marriage, and makes marriage equality the law of the land throughout the U.S.
Dignity calls gay sexuality “the holy gift of God. The overwhelming majority of us are able to say we are both sexually active and comfortable in our relationship with Christ. Being sexually active enables us to be more at ease with ourselves, more fulfilled in our relationships, more productive in our work and service. The Spirit is evident in a warmer and more peaceful prayer life.”
According to the 2012 “Appendix to the Acta of the XX General Assembly of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood:”
“In 2008, Father David Matz proposed new ministry with and for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community.”
Also in 2008, Matz participated in an “interfaith gathering in support of same-sex marriage.“
In the August 2011 issue of “Communion,” Nassal wrote the following to this pro-gay marriage audience:
This is the ultimate challenge of discipleship. As Margaret Silf eloquently writes in her book,
Following the rules only makes us obedient.
Following the Christ light makes us whole.
Following the rules can make us intolerant and self-righteous.
Following the Christ light makes us compassionate.
As people of faith, we have a choice: Do I follow Jesus or do I only follow the rules? As an institution,
we seem to be focusing more on following the rules rather than following Christ.
In 2013, Matz and the Missionaries sponsored a presentation to The Heart of America Men’s Chorus, a “gay” male choral from Kansas City; the theme was:
Homosexuality is one of God’s most significant gifts to humanity. To be gay or lesbian is to have received a special blessing from God. All humans receive their own special graces from their creator, but God has chosen some to be gay and lesbian as a way of revealing something about God-self that heterosexuals do not.
On October 11, 2013, The Missionaries of the Precious Blood celebrated National Coming Out Day.
David Matz also serves on the Board of Directors, having the title “Director-at-Large,” of the Berkeley-based dissident group the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM.) One of the co-founders of CALGM is retired Diocese of Oakland priest James A. Schexnayder. 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.”
Arthur Fitzmaurice, currently (since 2010) serves as Resource Director for CALGM. Concerning the Catechism and the statement that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” Fitzmaurice wrote: “The language certainly still needs to change. It is gravely evil language.” In 2012, board members of CALGM, including Fitzmaurice, refused to sign an “oath of personal integrity” to Catholic teaching. On June 24, 2016, Fitzmaurice signed an on-line petition created by the pro-gay and pro-female ordination group Call To Action which asks for changes in The Catechism regarding teachings on homosexuality.
In June of 2014, the Missionaries hosted the Board of CALGM at Sonnino House.
In 2014, the Archdiocese of San Francisco assigned two priests, Frs. Jack McClure and Matthew Link, from the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, to the predominantly “gay” parish of Most Holy Redeemer. The previous Pastor, Fr. Brian Costello, had requested a transfer although he just arrived at the Parish in 2012. Costello said: “It just didn’t work out. I did the best I could. My best was just not good enough for a lot of people here…There are real challenges here.” In his book “Setting the Table,” Schexnayder praised Most Holy Redeemer as “a true spiritual home” for those gay and lesbian people who live in the neighborhood. Dating back to at least 2006, the Missionaries maintained a presence at MHR when David Matz spoke at the Parish.
In 2016, the Missionaries offered a “daylong workshop on LGBT issues” which included the participation of New Ways Ministry co-founder Sister Jeanine Gramick and their current Executive Director Francis DeBernardo. Nassal was the presider at the corresponding Mass. In 1999, after a lengthy Vatican investigation, the Holy See found that the positions advanced by Gramick were “doctrinally unacceptable” and she was “permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.” One of the participants in the workshop, the mother of a “gay” son, wrote the following:
I googled New Ways Ministries and, as expected, found a range of reactions, everything from condemnations from some clergy and laity to and miles and miles of postings from Catholic families expressing deep gratitude for the bravery and persistence of Frank [DeBernardo] and co-founder Sister Jeannine [Gramick]…
Gramick once said:
The most substantial challenge to official Church teaching comes from Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired bishop from Australia. In his current book, For Christ’s Sake, and in a previous book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, Bishop Robinson calls for a radical reexamination of the Church’s teaching on all sexual issues, which would affect both homosexual and heterosexual relationships. He believes that sexual morality should be based not on authority, but on people taking responsibility for their actions and their lives. Bishop Robinson is asking Catholics all over the world to sign a petition for a third Vatican Council to begin worldwide discussions not only among the bishops, but also among all the members of the Church…These actions and comments indicate that the official Church is beginning to acknowledge a need to rethink homosexual relationships and, according to some bishops, its theology of sexuality.
After the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, DeBernardo wrote:
New Ways Ministry rejoices with millions of U.S. Catholics that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples! On this historic day, we pray in thanksgiving that justice and mercy have prevailed and that the prayers and efforts of so many have combined to move our nation one step closer to fairness and equality for all.
In 2010, Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I, Archbishop of Chicago and then-President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued the following statement on the status of the organization “New Ways Ministry;” here is an excerpt:
“No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice. Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination. Accordingly, I wish to make it clear that, like other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of Church teaching, New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and that they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.”
The “Weekly Wine Press” from the Missionaries of the Precious Blood often reprints pro-gay articles and stories from various contributors. In 2014, they offered a reflection from a member of their lay association:
In light of the recent controversy in our diocese where a pastor denied the Eucharist to baptized homosexuals—living in a monogamous relationship and pursuing a relationship with God—one is left to wonder if this is really what the message of Jesus Christ is all about… One can only hope that this event stirs the consciences of Catholics everywhere to recommit themselves to the belief that all blood is Precious Blood, that all of us are sinners and unworthy except by the Blood of Jesus to receive the Eucharist; that we do not choose our sexuality any more than we choose eye color; that people are lonely and crave relationship with someone who loves them…
Before it was taken down, in 2014 the Missionaries posted an on-line resource for pastors. In it, they detailed the heretical propositions expounded by dissident Catholic and non-Catholic theologians, including: John McNeill, Charles Curran, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sister Margaret Farley, Patricia Beattie Jung, and Bishop Geoffrey Robinson. They quoted the following from the late gay Jesuit McNeill:
Through the lenses of scriptural interpretation and psychological insight, McNeill argues that, in justice, the Church needs to abandon its traditional opposition to committed, sexually active lesbian or gay relationships. He proposes, “The same moral norms should be applied in judging the sexual behavior of a true homosexual as we ordinarily apply to heterosexual activity.” Additionally, he argues that “there is the possibility of morally good homosexual relationships and that the love which unites the partners in such a relationship, rather than alienating them from God, can be judged as uniting them more closely.”
References and excerpts from the Missionaries’ resource for pastors can be found in the “Handbook of LGBT Elders: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Principles, Practices, and Policies.”
During their 2016 Meeting of Major Superiors, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood – Kansas City Province, reported:
In the past year, the LGBT committee has been incorporated into the province’s Justice and Peace committee. It has sponsored workshops in several parishes served by CPPS on being “Welcoming Parishes.”