(Pictured above: Lady Gaga in the music video for “Born This Way.”)
Warning: Some links and images in this blog are graphic.
On June 17, 2017, The Church of The Blessed Sacrament in the Archdiocese of New York will host in its Parish Hall: “A dance party presented by The Gay Fellowship of Blessed Sacrament to support Blessed Sacrament’s outreach to the poor, The Ali Forney Center and Born This Way Foundation.”
Featured speakers will include: Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of The Ali Forney Center, Cynthia Germanotta, President of the Born This Way Foundation, and the Pastor of Blessed Sacrament, John Duffell. The Special Guest Emcee will be Dorinda Medley.
Carl Siciliano is an outspoken LGBT advocate who has publicly criticized the teachings of the Catholic Church with regards to homosexuality. He frequently blogs for The Huffington Post. In a 2014 “Open Letter” to Pope Francis, Siciliano wrote:
I write to you as a Roman Catholic, a former Benedictine monk and as a gay man who has spent over 30 years serving the homeless, first as a member of the Catholic Worker Movement, and now as the founder and Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center…
I write on behalf of the homeless LGBT youths I serve. I ask you to take urgent action to protect them from the devastating consequences of religious rejection, which is the most common reason LGBT youths are driven from their homes. At the heart of the problem is that the church still teaches that homosexual conduct is a sin, and that being gay is disordered. I hope that if you understand how this teaching tears families apart and brings suffering to innocent youths, you will end this teaching and prevent your bishops from fighting against the acceptance of LGBT people as equal members of society.
…In the name of these children, and in light of the love and compassion at the heart of the message of Jesus, I ask that you end this teaching.
Jesus Christ is never recorded as having said a word in judgment or condemnation of homosexuality or of LGBT people. He spoke of a loving, compassionate God, and commanded his followers to act with love and compassion. Jesus spoke of God as a loving parent who would never abandon his children.
There are biblical writings endorsing conduct now recognized as wrong; passages endorsing the rape of enemies’ wives and the murder of their children, endorsing slavery and even genocide. None of those biblical instructions are maintained as church teachings, as they are recognized to be cruel and immoral, and reflective of the ignorance of more primitive times. I ask you to recognize that the condemnation of homosexuality is also cruel and wrong, and rooted in a primitive, obsolete understanding of human sexuality. I ask you to join the growing number of church communities and religious denominations who have chosen to welcome and embrace us with love and acceptance.
In 2015, he wrote:
As a Roman Catholic, I am particularly horrified by the homophobic expressions of our Catechism, which is the mechanism by which the teachings of the Church are conveyed. It’s stance towards homosexual persons makes no sense. While it indicates that homosexual persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” its’s stance towards “homosexual acts” utterly contradicts this with categorical condemnation that is anything but respectful or compassionate…This condemnation of “homosexual acts” contradicts the science of human sexuality, which has long come to recognize that homosexuality is a natural and healthy part of the spectrum of human sexuality. But to Catholics, it should be even more important to recognize that such homophobia, by causing immense harm to many LGBT youths, grossly contradicts the message of Jesus Christ in the Gospels.
In a 2015 video from The Ali Forney Center titled “Not a Sin,” Siciliano said:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are a grave depravity and cannot be approved under any circumstances. I love my Church, but I am ashamed at the way it’s hurting children with its teachings.
The Church used to teach things that we now realize are preposterous. The Church used to condone slavery. The Church used to teach that women should be subjected to men. Our moral consciences evolved and we changed the teachings.
Although The Ali Forney Center outreaches to the forgotten and the victimized, from a Catholic perspective, many of their programs are highly problematic, including “Birth Control and Contraception” services a well as “Hormone Replacement Therapy” for transgender teens.
Cynthia Germanotta is the mother of pop-singer and LGBT activist Lady Gaga. The Born This Way Foundation was named after her daughter’s hit song “Born This Way.” Upon its release in 2011, Elton John predicted that the song would become “the new gay anthem.” According to their “Mission” statement, the Born This Way Foundation “is committed to supporting the wellness of young people and empowering them to create a kinder and braver world.” A success story profiled on the Foundation website, tells how Lady Gaga, her song, and the Foundation impacted his life:
The year 2011 was a crucial season of my life. I was finishing high school, applying to college, and beneath it all, coming to terms with being gay… Around that time, a certain song was released that inspired a level of courage that I desperately needed. When Born This Way premiered and I heard Lady Gaga belt out the words “gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgendered life,” I felt proud. I felt included. I felt—in a way I’d never experienced—truly brave.
There are six words in that song that have had a deep impact on my life. They’re six words that I’ve reflected on for the past six years. And now, I want to dive into them with you because I believe they’re pivotal.
“Just love yourself and you’re set.”
John Duffell is a family friend of Lady Gaga and the Germanottas. In 2011, he spoke at the controversial “Learning to Listen: Voices of Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church” conference at Fordham University. There, he said:
“…the church is perhaps the only way of affecting change in the world,” but he added: “The church is not perfect.” To an audience member who asked, in writing, how he should deal with the feeling that he is “broken” after being told he cannot enter the priesthood because he is gay, Duffell answered: “You’re not broken, the system is broken, and therefore you deal with it as a broken system; you lie.”
At his current assignment in the Archdiocese of New York, The Church of the Blessed Sacrament, the parish’s Gay Fellowship group is headed by John Gasdaska. In 2016, Gasdaska married his same-sex partner.
In 2008, The New York Times interviewed Duffell, as well as Gasdaska, for an article about Duffell’s previous parish, the progressive Church of the Ascension on the Upper West Side:
The informational fliers for the church proclaim, “No matter your age, your race, your gender or your sexual orientation, there is a place for you at Ascension.” In his speeches each week, Father Duffell expresses the same sentiment, each time mentioning sexual orientation. The message is not lost on the parishioners, gay or straight.
“Regardless of the issue of homosexuality, I’ve always been a practicing Catholic — I took what I wanted and left the rest, so to speak,” said John Gasdaska, a 43-year-old real estate agent who has attended Ascension since he moved to the neighborhood with his partner in 2000.
Recently, the Parish Bulletin at Blessed Sacrament advertised a performance of “Full of Grace: Journeys of LGBT Catholics” at the Church of the Ascension as well as a talk by Fr. Michael Holleran on Amoris Laetitia; in 2014, Holleran said: “…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.”
There are several other parishes within the Archdiocese of New York whose LGBT ministries, at best, could be described as swerving widely away from official Church teachings on homosexuality; they include: St. Francis de Sales, St. Paul the Apostle, The Church of the Ascension, and St. Francis of Assisi.
[Update: In 2019, Duffell was indefinitely suspended from priestly ministry following an accusation of sexual misconduct.]
Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Monsignor Edward Weber
Phone: 212-371-1011 Ext. 2931