Above: From the St. Ignatius Parish published e-book, “Our Stories: Being LGBT and Catholic.”
On March 11, 2020, St. Ignatius Catholic Church in New York City will host a benefit concert for The Ali Forney Center.
Carl Siciliano, the Executive Director of The Ali Forney Center, is an outspoken LGBT advocate who has publicly criticized the teachings of the Catholic Church with regards to homosexuality. He frequently blogs for The Huffington Post. In a 2014 “Open Letter” to Pope Francis, Siciliano wrote:
I write to you as a Roman Catholic, a former Benedictine monk and as a gay man who has spent over 30 years serving the homeless, first as a member of the Catholic Worker Movement, and now as the founder and Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center…
I write on behalf of the homeless LGBT youths I serve. I ask you to take urgent action to protect them from the devastating consequences of religious rejection, which is the most common reason LGBT youths are driven from their homes. At the heart of the problem is that the church still teaches that homosexual conduct is a sin, and that being gay is disordered. I hope that if you understand how this teaching tears families apart and brings suffering to innocent youths, you will end this teaching and prevent your bishops from fighting against the acceptance of LGBT people as equal members of society.
…In the name of these children, and in light of the love and compassion at the heart of the message of Jesus, I ask that you end this teaching.
Jesus Christ is never recorded as having said a word in judgment or condemnation of homosexuality or of LGBT people. He spoke of a loving, compassionate God, and commanded his followers to act with love and compassion. Jesus spoke of God as a loving parent who would never abandon his children.
There are biblical writings endorsing conduct now recognized as wrong; passages endorsing the rape of enemies’ wives and the murder of their children, endorsing slavery and even genocide. None of those biblical instructions are maintained as church teachings, as they are recognized to be cruel and immoral, and reflective of the ignorance of more primitive times. I ask you to recognize that the condemnation of homosexuality is also cruel and wrong, and rooted in a primitive, obsolete understanding of human sexuality. I ask you to join the growing number of church communities and religious denominations who have chosen to welcome and embrace us with love and acceptance.
In 2015, he wrote:
As a Roman Catholic, I am particularly horrified by the homophobic expressions of our Catechism, which is the mechanism by which the teachings of the Church are conveyed. It’s stance towards homosexual persons makes no sense. While it indicates that homosexual persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” its’s stance towards “homosexual acts” utterly contradicts this with categorical condemnation that is anything but respectful or compassionate…This condemnation of “homosexual acts” contradicts the science of human sexuality, which has long come to recognize that homosexuality is a natural and healthy part of the spectrum of human sexuality. But to Catholics, it should be even more important to recognize that such homophobia, by causing immense harm to many LGBT youths, grossly contradicts the message of Jesus Christ in the Gospels.
In a 2015 video from The Ali Forney Center titled “Not a Sin,” Siciliano said:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are a grave depravity and cannot be approved under any circumstances. I love my Church, but I am ashamed at the way it’s hurting children with its teachings.
The Church used to teach things that we now realize are preposterous. The Church used to condone slavery. The Church used to teach that women should be subjected to men. Our moral consciences evolved and we changed the teachings.
In a 2019 article for The New York Times, Siciliano described the 1986 Vatican “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” as “homophobic.” He wrote: “Its language severely upped the ante of hostility.”
Although The Ali Forney Center outreaches to the forgotten and the victimized, from a Catholic perspective, many of their programs are highly problematic, including “Birth Control and Contraception” services a well as “Hormone Replacement Therapy” for transgender teens.
In 2017, The Church of the Blessed Sacrament in New York City also hosted a fundraiser of The Forney Center. In 2019, John Duffell, the Pastor of Blessed Sacrament, was removed from priestly ministry “after a canonical penal process found him guilty of serial sexual misconduct.”
St. Ignatius is the home parish of James Martin. In 2018, St. Francis de Sales in New York City, hosted Martin for a “Book Club” fundraiser benefiting The Forney Center. Martin has also made a connection between language in the Catechism and LGBT teen suicide.
St. Ignatius offers its own LGBT Ministry which encourages Catholic parents to support their children in an LGBT identity. Such encouragement has also been advocated at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress where Catholic educators were advised to support children, even “very young” children, in an LGBT identity.