On October 27, November 18, and December 15, 2020, the Dominican Sisters of Peace are hosting ongoing Zoom sessions to educate Catholic priests on “how to better serve their trans parishioners.” More than 30 priests are expected to attend.
The Dominican Sisters of Peace are based in Columbus, Ohio. They were founded in 2009 from several former Dominican foundations. There are currently 450 Sisters and 650 Associates.
The Dominican Sisters of Peace are practitioners of so-called “eco-spirituality;” a fusion of environmentalism and traditional religious practices. As part of their charism, the Sisters administer a series of “eco-spirituality centers” in the Midwest and the Northeast. At one such “center,” they offer a program titled: “Dances of Universal Peace.” According to the Sisters, “The Dances of Universal Peace are part of the timeless tradition of sacred dance. It is a prayer form that blends chant, music, and movement into a living experience of unity, peace, and integration.”
The sessions hosted by the Sisters about transgender issues are hosted by Stan “JR” Zerkowski, director of LGBT ministry for the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, and executive director of the dissident pro-LGBT group Fortunate Families.
Regarding the apparent confirmation of a gay man (in his homosexuality) by Pope Francis, Zerkowski stated: “I believe what we are seeing is an evolution of doctrine…” In 2019, Zerkowski joined Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon, a same-sex couple who were among the plaintiffs in the 2015 Supreme Court case which legalized gay marriage, in a discussion about the Catholic Church and gay marriage. Also, in 2019, a chapter of Fortunate Families was established at the home Catholic parish (Our Lady of Lourdes) of Bourke and DeLeon – who are active in the group. In an interview, when questioned about why they stay in the Catholic Church, DeLeon said: “We’ve been encouraged by peers to leave…a lot of people wonder why we stay, but you don’t change anything by leaving something. There’s no good reason to leave.”
Fortunate Families is a gay-affirmative pro-same-sex marriage advocacy group founded in 2004 by the Catholic parents of a “gay” son – Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata. Inspired by the work of Robert Nugent and Jeannine Gramick (both were silenced by the Vatican in 1999) and their New Ways Ministry, the Lopata’s decided to form an outreach specifically targeted to the Catholic parents of LGBT children.
The USCCB has officially warned the faithful: “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.”
An excerpt from the “Foundational Statement” of Fortunate Families:
We recognize that sometimes the conscience of the individual places him/her in conflict with articulated Catholic teaching. The resolution of this conflict often includes the proper use of conscience as articulated by the Magisterium. Many of us have sought the counsel of Catholic priests who have supported us in loving LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers…We realize that church teaching and the articulation of doctrine has developed through the years. We earnestly pray for a development of Church teaching on the topic of homosexuality and gender. We also earnestly pray that Church officials listen to our experiences and the experiences of our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers.
We need to acknowledge that many of our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers are in committed loving same gendered relationships. While same gendered relationships might not be procreative in the strict sense, they often are very generative, contribute to the common good, and can be examples of a loving, committed relationships. We ask the Church to acknowledge the truth of this.
Also, in 2017, Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, who serves as an “Ecclesial Advisor” to Fortunate Families, made the controversial decision to speak at New Way’s Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium held in Chicago, Illinois.
A “Theological Advisor” to Fortunate Families is gay theologian Andy Buechel. Concerning the Apostle Thomas and the Resurrected Christ, Buechel (in his 2015 book, “That We Might Become God: The Queerness of Creedal Christianity”) described “the erotic and sexual charge of Jesus’ encounter with Thomas…” According to Buechel:
“Strictly, and anachronistically, speaking, this encounter is homosexual: it involves deep erotic intimacy between two people of the same sex.”
A Catholic Deacon who spoke at a 2018 event sponsored by Fortunate Families, assisted Cardinal Kevin Farrell at the closing Mass of the Pastoral Congress portion of the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin.
Also included in the Dominican Sisters of Peace sessions are Sr. Luisa Derouen, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and James Scott P. Pignatella. Derouen is a longtime transgender activist. In 2018, she wrote: “Transgender people don’t choose to be transgender. They discover it, and most often very young.” In 2020, she published an essay criticizing Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s policy requiring students and employees in Catholic institutions within his diocese to “conduct themselves in accord with their biological sex at all times.” She stated:
By invalidating their existence, leaders give religious sanction to the violence perpetrated against transgender people…
…transgender people are God’s beloved every bit as much as any of us. They, too, are God’s dwelling place. With rare exception, they are closer to God after transition.
James Martin has repeatedly praised Derouen and her work, stating boldly:
My friend Sister Luisa Derouen, OP, probably knows more about transgender people than anyone in the Catholic Church in this country, perhaps in the world.
According to the Sisters, Pignatella “has known he was male since he was 3 years old. Getting other Catholics to recognize him as such has been a struggle…People at church tried to keep him from taking ‘Patrick’ as his confirmation name. He was barred from being an altar boy. And even now, he can’t officially be a godfather to his best friend’s children, who have called him ‘Uncle’ since they learned to talk.”
The transgender issue has been repeatedly addressed at the largest gathering of Catholics in the United States – the annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.
In 2018, the moderator at a discussion concerning the transgender issue asked the panel the following question: “Is it dangerous to allow very young children to transition?”
A mother with a transgender child said:
There is absolutely nothing wrong or harmful with letting a child tell you who they are. You need to believe them. I think we do more harm, even with very little children, maybe even especially with very little children…
Zerkowski, Derouen, and James Martin were scheduled to be a presenters at the “Outreach 2020: Catholic LGBT Ministry Gathering” at Fordham University until it was postponed due to the COVID crisis; other featured speakers included Jeannine Gramick (whom James Martin would like to canonize), Bryan Massingale, and Lisa Fullam.