David Harvie (first on left) and Fr. John Alvarado at an “In God’s Image” barbeque.
On May 21, 2017, two Catholic parishes in New Jersey cosponsored an LGBT Pilgrimage and Mass to the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey. According to a flyer for the event, the Pilgrimage and Mass took place: “With the blessings and best wishes of His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark…”
Mass was celebrated by Rev. Francis Gargani, C.Ss.R. Gargani who frequently offers retreats to LGBT Catholics.
The gay and lesbian group, named “In God’s Image,” at the Church of the Sacred Heart in South Plainfield, New Jersey (Diocese of Metuchen) maintains that they “acknowledge and respect the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.” Yet, on the front-page of the Parish web-site, they feature a link to the radical gay-affirmative documentary “Owning Our Faith.” A quote from the short-film, which profiles many of the gay, lesbian, and transgender members of the group, comes from a “married” gay man who said:
If we leave it, if we abandon the Church then it’s never going to change. So we have to continue living here, being an example and encouraging other people to be that example because that’s what’s going to change the Church.
Following the 2016 Jersey “Pride” Parade, “In God’s Image” flew the rainbow-flag outside Sacred Heart Church; the group also marched in the 2017 JerseyPrideFest Parade as well as the 2017 New York City “Pride” Parade. Present at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, while the “Pride” Parade was passing by, Fr. Benedict Groeschel once described what he saw as “an incredible display of self-defeating and self-depreciating behavior.” The “Facilitator for “In God’s Name” is David Harvie; according to a 2015 story about the Parish:
David Harvie and Mark Nebus are regular participants. They credited Father John Alvarado, pastor, and St. Joseph Sister Kathleen Rooney, who is parish pastoral minister, for their willingness to welcome people who often are shunned in other faith communities.
Also in 2015, Harvie posted the following to Facebook:
I am on a committee in my diocese to support LGBT youth in our schools. There is a sizable faction in these meetings that feels Courage is the best way to go. Some also say that there is no need to do anything to welcome LGBT youth in our schools as they are already very happy, etc…right! It is hard for me to refute their kumbaya world without real stories. I am the token out gay person who is always saying that Courage is not the best solution. A few of us are looking for more welcoming and inclusive strategies.
According to an article by Fr. Alexander Santora, about the “Pilgrimage,” Harvie first broached the idea of an LGBT “Pilgrimage” when he met Francis Gargani “at a regional meeting in Brooklyn of the Interparish Collaborative, a group of about 15 Catholic parishes in the tri-state area that minister to the LGBT community.”
Santora, who is a well-known priest in the Archdiocese of Newark, a frequent contributor to NJ.com, and the current Pastor at Our Lady of Grace in Hoboken, continued:
I first met Harvie and Mark Nebus at St. Aloysius in Jersey City back in the late 1980s. They would often sit in the front benches of the church and during the sign of peace would kiss each other. For the four and one half years they worshipped there, not one staff member or parishioner ever said anything about their exchange of peace.
According to another article about the ‘Pilgrimage:”
“I was really amazed at the level of healing and consolation,” said Harvie, who lives in Edison with his husband Mark Nebus and is a parishioner of St. Francis Cathedral. “And the fact that the cardinal spoke to the group — he rearranged his schedule to speak to us — and toward the end of the Mass, the bishop who is the rector of the parish, made it a point to speak as well.
The second Parish sponsoring the event is the Church of the Precious Blood in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey (Diocese of Trenton). The Parish’s “LGBT Faith Sharing Ministry” was formed by parishioner Dena Walter Reger, who has a gay son, and the church’s pastor, Rev. Robert Kaeding. According to the Parish web-site, Walter Reger is one of the contact persons for the group. In a 2015 post to the web-site for the dissident pro-gay marriage New Ways Ministry, Walter Reger wrote the following:
Last year as the proud mom of a wonderful gay son, I started an LGBT ministry at the Church of the Precious Blood in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey with the support of a very accepting pastor. We have experienced further acceptance from the parish and especially the parish council.
She went on to describe how the Parish’s “LGBT Faith Sharing Ministry” invited “gay Catholic priest” Warren Hall to address their meeting. She wrote: “His message is one of positivity and encouragement.”
Warren has since been suspended and in 2017 he wrote:
…I could not in good conscience take the Oath of Fidelity that all priests take upon ordination and when assuming a pastorate, namely, that I “accept and hold everything that is proposed by the hierarchy” and that I “adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings.”
On the web-site for PFLAG – Jersey Shore Chapter, the LGBT Faith Sharing Ministry at the Parish is listed under the sub-category of “Organizations that provide LGBT-related services in New Jersey.” PFLAG is an outspoken gay-advocacy group that supports gay-marriage and the right of gay couples to adopt children. PFLAG officially considers Courage to be an “anti-equality organization.”
Cardinal Tobin recently gave an interview in which he discussed, among other topics, the LGBT “Pilgrimage.”