On August 24, 2018, Deacon Ray Dever of Tampa, Florida, assisted Cardinal Kevin Farrell at the closing Mass of the Pastoral Congress portion of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. As reported by the gay website “The Advocate:”
Deacon Ray Dever of Tampa, Fla., and his 25-year-old bi daughter, Emily Dever, plan to be “a visible presence” at the church event, according to a press release from New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ equality in Catholicism.
Deacon Dever is a frequent contributor to New Ways Ministry’s blog “Bondings 2.0” where he discusses his experiences being the father of a transgender child. His son was born biologically male but now identifies as “Lexi.” The co-founders of the dissident gay-affirmative outreach New Ways Ministry were Sister Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent. Both were officially silenced in 1999 by the Vatican. Gramick ignored the “Notification” from the Vatican. In 2011, 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.” She continued: “When we started this work, only 20 percent of Catholics believed in equal rights for gays and lesbians. Now it’s over 73 percent…The church is moving.” In an op-ed for “The Washington Post,” she wrote:
Many Catholics have reflected on the scientific evidence that homosexuality is a natural variant in human sexuality, and understand that lesbian and gay love is as natural as heterosexual love. In forming our consciences, Catholics also consult scripture and our theological tradition. Here, again, there is little firm reason to oppose marriage equality.
After the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, released the following statement:
New Ways Ministry rejoices with millions of U.S. Catholics that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples!
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.
In 2016, James Martin accepted the “Bridge Building Award” from New Ways Ministry and his address at the awards ceremony served as the inspiration for his book “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.” In 2017, Martin called for the canonization of Jeannine Gramick. Martin repeatedly encourages the parents of LGBT children to befriend members of the Catholic hierarchy so that Bishops’ understanding of LGBT issues and relationships will be “transformed.” Cardinal Kevin Farrell was one of a few high-ranking prelates to publicly praise Martin’s book.
When Ray Dever’s son came out as transgender, Lexi was a student at Georgetown University. Concerning Georgetown, Ray Dever wrote:
…family support for LGBTQ children is obviously not the rule, and is often problematic for Catholic families in particular, given the mixed and often confusing messages they hear from the Church regarding LGBTQ issues. A few months ago I had the privilege of visiting with the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Catholic chaplain’s office at Georgetown. While I was surprised and gratified by the warm welcome that I received as an interested, supportive parent of an LGBTQ student, I was saddened to hear that I was the exception and that there were far too many stories of families rejecting their LGBTQ children and of causing tremendous pain and family divisions.
While at Georgetown, Lexi Dever wrote an article for the University’s student newspaper, “The Hoya,” Lexi wrote:
The Catholic Church nearly killed me. Georgetown’s refusal to go along with all of its teachings saved me.
According to a 2018 article from “Bondings 2.0” about Ray Dever:
He [Dever] stresses that transgender people are exactly as God has intended them to be, and that they are not flouting God, but instead are working to live authentic lives, in tandem with how they were born.
Here are some excerpts from Dever’s writing for New Ways Ministry:
…like many LGBT individuals struggling with the decision to come out, she was faced with what seemed like an unsolvable dilemma: Either continue to deny who she really was or come out and risk losing her entire world of family, friends, and faith. This inner battle drove her to consider suicide. The overly simplistic, often negative message about LGBT individuals from the church that was so important to her upbringing only served to aggravate that situation.
These church discussions of “ideology of gender” do not ring true for anyone with any significant first-hand knowledge of trans individuals. Such people would be baffled by the suggestion that the trans people they know, or the presence of trans individuals in society, are somehow the result of an ideology of gender.
In its discussion of gender ideology, Amoris Laetitia warns against falling into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. I definitely agree. But I think this warning begs the question: are we guilty of that sin when we look at a transgender person and we have the hubris to deny what God has made?
In 2015, Ray Dever criticized the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia for its apparent “focus on a narrow ideal of the Catholic family.” He wrote:
I wonder what people envision when they hear Pope Francis speak about heroic families, as he did in his general audience of June 10, 2015…But who exactly does the Church think these heroic families praised by the Pope are? Are they only ideal families headed by a Catholic man and a Catholic woman, whose first and only marriage took place in the Catholic Church? The answer to that question is self-evident to anyone who is part of the faithful families that comprise our congregations. Of course not! Of course there are a wide variety of heroic families in the pews every Sunday, heroic in every sense of the Pope’s words – faithful families headed by the divorced, the remarried, unmarried couples, couples of different faiths, and single parents. And yes, even families like mine with LGBTQ children, and families headed by same-sex couples.
In 2017, Ray Dever and Lexi Dever spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium.
On October 26-28, 2018, Dever will speak at an event sponsored by the dissident LGBT ministry Fortunate Families. (Bishop John Stowe of Lexington is listed as “Ecclesial Adviser” to Fortunate Families and has celebrated Mass for the group. In 2017, Stowe made the controversial decision to speak at New Way’s Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium.) In 2015, Fortunate Families was barred from exhibiting at the World Meeting Of Families.
On September 22, 2017, James Martin via his official Facebook page recommended Fortunate Families to Catholic parents with children who experience same-sex attraction. The recommendation followed a Skype talk he held with the group. He wrote: “If you’re looking for help, why not contact them?”
“Fortunate Families celebrates with our LGBT children the opportunity to share in the same rights as their straight siblings. The Supreme Court decision brings legal stability to our children’s lives and security to our grandchildren. We applaud this decision and continue our work in the Catholic tradition seeking social justice for all our children…”