On March 18, 2018, Catholic-high school teacher Ish Ruiz was one of the featured presenters at a workshop offered by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, during their annual Religious Education Congress, entitled “Teaching Mercy: Accompanying LGBT Students.” The workshop focused on helping “educators discern a merciful balance between teaching doctrine and offering pastoral care as they accompany LGBT students through journeys of self-discovery and self-acceptance.”
Ish Ruiz is a doctoral student in the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and a Religious Studies instructor at a Catholic high school in San Francisco. Ruiz has offered workshops to high school faculty and staff on the care for LGBTQ+ students in Catholic schools and is a member of the Marianist LGBT Initiative Team, which published a resource, titled Addressing LGBT Issues with Youth: A Resource for Educators. He is also a leading member of the Young Adults group at Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, which is known for its integration of LGBTQ+ Catholics into the life of the Church. Ruiz has made several contributions in the media and through his ministries regarding the protection of LGBTQ+ Church workers, the Catholic Church’s response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, and the contributions of LGBTQ+ teachers in Catholic schools.
Regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage, Ruiz said:
The Church has always taught that the Holy Spirit speaks through the laity as well as the hierarchy. I hope the decision from the Supreme court, combined with polls that show that the majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage, encourages the hierarchy to be more in touch with the people, the sense of the faithful.
During his workshop at the 2018 Religious Education Congress, concerning how to instruct students about Church teachings on homosexuality, Ruiz stated:
We can teach Church teaching and explain the context in which Church teaching is being dialoged about…The goal of teaching, and Church teaching, on morality, in my opinion, is to help the students form their own conscience…some people are like – Oh, that’s creating cafeteria-Catholics, their gonna come and pick and choose what teachings they want to follow. Great! That means they are following their consciences about each of the items in the cafeteria…
When the speakers were asked by someone in the audience about the term “intrinsically disordered,” which they did not refer to during any of their presentations, Ruiz said:
I tend to not use the word disordered simply because it will cause more harm that I think it will do good…I don’t use the word disordered, I do teach what the Church does teach and again, I teach that, within the context of a wider dialogue that is taking place in our conversation where even Cardinals are wondering if same-sex relationships bear gifts to the couple and maybe they are a sign of grace.
Following the Religious Ed. Congress, on March 25, 2018, Ruiz offered a Lenten “reflection” published on the official blog of New Way Ministry. Founded by Jeannine Gramick and the late Robert Nugent, both were censured and permanently prohibited from ministering to the LGBT community after a lengthy Vatican investigation, under Cardinal Francis George, the USCCB clarified its position on New Ways Ministry stating: “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.”
Here is an excerpt from Ruiz’s “reflection” for New Ways Ministry:
The story of Jesus that we read and commemorate during Palm Sunday is similar to the experience of many LGBTQ+ brothers, sisters, and siblings. These children of God are received with resounding joy at some times in their lives, only to be later crucified when they present a model of love and identity that is challenging to the masses.
We know how these stories go:
We exclaim “Hosanna!” when a gay man graduates from high school, college, or grad school. But we yell “Crucify him!” when he enters into a loving relationships with someone of the same sex.
We exclaim “Hosanna!” when a lesbian embarks in an admirable profession that produces technological and medical advances. But we yell “Crucify her!” when we fail to support legislation that protects her basic human rights.
We exclaim “Hosanna!” when transgender people produce wonderful creations of literature, music, and art. But we yell “Crucify them!” when they seek physical and social transitions that help them express and experience their gender identity.
We exclaim “Hosanna!” when bisexual people call and participate in family gatherings. But we yell “Crucify them!” when we deny them the sacraments and other Church rituals because of a ‘homosexual lifestyle.’
We exclaim “Hosanna!” when LGBTQ+ people do good work at teaching or ministering. But then we yell “Crucify them!” when we fire them for living authentic lives as Church employees who form their conscience.
LGBTQ+ people are supposed to be unconditionally loved and embraced, but when they challenge the Church by presenting a form of love and identity that is different, the Church often would rather cling to its comfort rather than receive LGBTQ+ people with an open heart and an open mind. What a loss! If only the Church were able to fully recognize and embrace the blessing that LGBTQ+ bring to the world, our Church would be a brighter place and a more authentic reflection of the Reign of God.
In 2015, when Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone requested a new contract for Catholic teachers in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Ruiz voted against it; according to an article from the National Catholic Reporter:
Ish Ruiz, a religious studies teacher at Sacred Heart, said he voted against the contract because he was uncomfortable with the reference to personal conduct. “I’m sorry that this language passed,” he said. “But I hope that the contract does serve to protect the teachers’ jobs.”
Last year, Ruiz contributed a paper to The Social Practice of Human Rights 2017 Conference of the University of Dayton Human Rights Center. In his paper, titled “Gay Teachers in Catholic Schools: A Conflict of Human Rights,” Ruiz wrote:
The root cause of the controversies between Catholic schools and gay and lesbian teachers is the conflict of human rights between the religious institution’s right to religious freedom and the gay or lesbian teacher’s rights to civic engagement, privacy, and self-determination. This conflict is problematic because the purpose of safeguarding human rights is to protect human dignity; thus, the exercise of a human right in a way that violates another person’s dignity is ultimately self-defeating and must be corrected.
Regarding those speakers who will be invited to return for the 2019 LA Religious Education Congress, please contact:
Archdiocese of Los Angeles
3424 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010-2241
phone: (213) 637-7000