Above: Massingale speaking at New Ways Ministry’s 8th National Symposium in 2017.
On October 23, 2020, Fr. Bryan Massingale was interviewed by NPR about Pope Francis’ statements concerning same-sex civil unions. When asked about the Pope’s remarks, Massingale said:
I was actually very excited and even jubilant, I have to say. I was very, very pleased to hear the pope make this kind of endorsement of civil unions for gay and lesbian persons.
…I think what the pope is saying is that he is not opposed to the legal recognition of family life and the right for gay and lesbian persons to raise and have families.
When asked about the possibility of the Catholic Church recognizing same-sex marriages, Massingale said:
…I know many others, gay and lesbian persons and those who are allies and who love us – would want the church to be able to one day recognize the loving commitments of LGBTQ persons in the sacrament of marriage.
Although Massingale stated that Francis has not changed “church teaching,” he still says: “I think for queer Catholics, it’s a sign of hope that the church can change. It can grow. It can evolve.”
Bryan Massingale is currently a professor of Theology at Fordham University. In 2017, Massingale spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Eight National Symposium; Jesuit priest James Martin and Bishop John Stowe have also spoken at events sponsored by New Ways Ministry. In 1999, the co-founders of New Ways Ministry, Fr. Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick, were officially silenced by the Vatican. 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…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.
In 2011, Jeanine Gramick stated: “But because I know church history, I know change takes centuries. We are planting seeds for change at the upper level of leadership.”
According to an article from the National Catholic Reporter, about the 2017 New Ways Ministry Symposium:
Massingale, a priest of the Milwaukee archdiocese, shared a note he had received in 2002 from Rembert Weakland, who earlier that year had resigned as archbishop of Milwaukee after a man he’d had an affair with two decades earlier and he had paid to $450,000 to keep it quiet made the relationship public. Weakland wrote: “On the gay issue, the level of fears is so high that the official teaching of the church skates so very close to the edge of a new ‘theology of contempt.’”
The situation leaves the church in an often contradictory corridor or “open closet,” …one in which gays “are to be accepted sensitively and compassionately, as long as there is little or no public acknowledgment of their sexual identity,’ lifestyle’ or ‘culture.’”
On March 16, 2018, Massingale was a panel presenter at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (where he is a frequent speaker) for a workshop entitled “Transgender in Our Schools: One Bread, One Body.” 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.
Specifically addressing the transgender issue and the Catholic Church, Massingale said:
Because trans people are not talking about choosing their gender. They are talking about a process of discovery. And it’s very different than I woke up one day and I am going to be a woman. No, its not that simple. What it does say though is that the Catholic Church is like most of us. We’re afraid. What are we afraid of? We’re afraid that if we make room for that which we do not understand that we could be falling into moral chaos somewhere.
From October 2-4, 2018, Massingale led “a retreat for gay priests, brothers, and deacons” at Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wisconsin, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
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.