A man who is a nominee for the Pastoral Council at St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced in the Church bulletin that he is going to marry his same-sex partner. Within the May 28, 2017, bulletin is a “Pastoral Council Election Ballot.” This includes a short biography of each nominee. According to this one particular biography: “My fiancée and I are attending marriage counseling in preparation for our upcoming wedding.”
St. Matthew in Baltimore is home to the dissident gay-affirmative ministry LEAD – Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, educating and affirming diversity. According to the official history of the ministry, LEAD began through the inspiration of New Ways Ministry which is a radical pro-gay marriage group whose founders (Robert Nugent and Jeannine Gramick) and their apostolate where condemned by both the Vatican and the USCCB. The web-site LEAD includes numerous pictures of the group marching in the Baltimore Gay Pride Parade, an image of a drag queen, and a resource page that includes a recommendation for the organization Catholics for Marriage Equality which includes the following description:
The Catholic teaching of probabilism holds that when there are good reasons and good authorities on both sides of a moral issue (in this case homosexuality and same-sex unions), Catholics are free to make up their own minds and to follow their conscience, which our tradition teaches must be obeyed above all else, even church authority.
In 2016, LEAD participated in the production of a video series titled “The Lost Flock” profiling the Parish, the Pastor, Joe Muth, and its LGBT ministry. According to the filmmaker: “LEAD offers a safe place for the diverse LGBT community to congregate, share, and to find comfort amidst a larger church environment that does not fully accept them.” The film was shown at the Washington DC headquarters of the LGBT and gay marriage advocacy group The Human Rights Campaign; according to the HRC: “We seek to empower and elevate the voices of lay Catholics – LGBTQ and our allies – whose significant support of equality stands in stark contrast to the U.S. hierarchy’s anti-LGBTQ actions.”
The video series comprises several segments profiling individual LEAD members including “married” same-sex couples.
The lead-in is this statement from one of the men married to his same-sex partner, the couple also recently adopted a child, he said:
Do I feel accepted by the Catholic Faith? No, not at all.
His partner stated:
The kind of support St. Matthews has given us is tremendous. When we were going through our difficulties with adoption, it was certainly a place where we could go and cry or just have a place to go spiritually to kind of center ourselves because the Church at the ground level is very different than like the institutional Church.
Also profiled was a female same-sex couple. One of the women said:
There’s a lot of Catholics out there that do support gay marriage and LGBT equality and when they find out about St. Matthews they are drawn to it.
Later, she continued:
It doesn’t make sense to my interpretation of Catholicism that the Church does not welcome LGBT persons.
Her partner said:
…maybe one day, maybe not in our lifetime, gay people will be equally recognized in the Church.
In the film, the cameras followed the couple to their marriage ceremony and to the reception where Joe Muth (see picture below) is shown smiling.
At the beginning of the film, Muth said: “I don’t think the institutional church realizes how hurtful they are to homosexual people when they come across so harshly on that issue.”
Also in 2016, Joe Muth, was in the audience during a controversial address given by James Martin, S.J., to New Ways Ministry; Martin had just received the group’s annual “Bridge Building Award.” During the question and answer period, Muth told Martin that two young men contacted him and asked: “What time does the gay and lesbian Pre-Cana classes meet?” Muth then asked Martin: “Would you like to collaborate in developing a Pre-Cana course for gay couples?”
Martin responded with:
What does your bishop say? … I’m not trying to be flip with these things, but one works within the confines of what the ordinary will allow you to do, basically. So, you’re asking me what I would do, I mean, I’d have to ask my Provincial for something like that, because that’s really, sort of, pushing the boundaries…
Muth said something similar in “The Lost Flock” video series:
One of the big hurdles is being able to be LEAD and walk the line knowing that we are an outreach group of homosexual people or people who support homosexual people in the Church and try to walk the line so we can still be doing our ministry, serving people and being compassionate, having workshops, being in the Gay Pride Parade, without crossing the line where the Church would say: I’m sorry you can’t operate anymore. You have to shut down.
When Martin asked Muth about what he said to the same-sex couple seeking marriage counseling, he said:
I worked with one other couple several years ago and I gave them my heterosexual pre-marriage spiel
and they said that makes sense to us in our relationship…
…the other thing I did, we had some older gay couples in the parish, I will refer you to them. They can give you the benefit of their experience…
There is a nationwide problem of LGBT advocates, as well as “married” and partnered homosexuals occupying leadership positions in both gay-affirmative ministries and parishes located near large gay communities; in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, San Jose, and Portland.