(Pictured above: Fr. Michael Carnevale OFM at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City.)
On December 3, 2016, Fr. Michael Carnevale OFM will offer an “all-day retreat for LGBT & allies hosted by the unconditionally loving LGBT ministry” of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City; the parish is staffed by the Order of Friars Minor. The Parish web-site includes the following description for the Gay and Lesbian Ministry at St. Francis:
We are the Church of St. Francis of Assisi LGBT Ministry, inspired to action by the charism of St. Francis of Assisi, to welcome, worship, and witness. By welcoming, celebrating and engaging, we are an example to our Catholic Community in fostering an inclusive environment. We fulfill our mission by sponsoring spiritual events, educational and social activities and outreach for members of our community and to people in the greater community within the Archdiocese of New York.
In addition, the Parish offers a “Pre-Pride” Mass for those attending the annual Gay Pride Parade in New York City. Such events at the Parish, including the accompanying literature from their Gay Ministry, is usually awash in rainbow colors and the “rainbow flag. Pictured holding the “rainbow flag” during the 2016 “Pride” festivities, Carnevale, the parochial vicar at the Parish, is a frequent participant in the Ministry and offers a regular discussion with his “Musing with Father Michael” series. One talk with Carnevale was described as “a deep and honest discussion about scripture through an LGBT lens.”
At St. Francis, the Director of the LGBT Ministry is currently listed as Meredith Augustin; she is also the Director of Music Ministries and has been a frequent contributor to the LA Religious Education Congress and wrote the 2016 LA Congress theme song. In the May 8, 2016 edition of the Parish Bulletin, Augustin was listed as the contact liaison for the LGBT ministry.
On February 17, 2016, the St. Francis ministry sponsored the theology-on-tap event “Drink Pray Love – Can I Be Queer & Catholic?” which was held at the Stonewall Inn. One of the speaker participants was a young man named Jake Elvig; in response to the legalization of gay marriage on June 26, 2015, he sent the following Tweet:
I wish you could all see me now. Dancing in my underwear to Lady Gaga and crying. I am so happy. So full of love today! #LoveWins
On that same day, Augustin reposted to Facebook a rainbow colored graphic (Love is Love) from the St. Francis Gay Ministry which included the message: “yay…this day is ever so amazing.” Following the 2015 “Pre-Pride” Mass, Augustin thanked Carnevale via Facebook, as well as “gay” Catholic Arthur Fitzmaurice; along with the pro-same-sex marriage hashtag #lovewins. Fitzmaurice, a frequent speaker at the LA Congress, has repeatedly asked for revisions concerning the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, describing certain language contained in the Catechism as “gravely evil.”
Just this year, Augustin posted an article about a “gay” Catholic who was fired from his job as Music Director at his parish, after it was revealed that he married his same-sex partner; formerly, he was a cantor at St. Francis; her response to the story was:
“Heartbreaking that he and many others are treated in such a hurtful way by what proves to be a very judgmental church.”
Another member of the St. Francis “Pastoral Staff” is Joseph Nuzzi who has served as “Director of Evangelization” since 2007; on June 17, 2016, he updated his Facebook cover photo to the “rainbow flag.”
The Friars Minor offer similar “Ministries” at parishes in Raleigh, Boston, and Hartford. Recently, at the Open Hearts GLBT Support group at Saint Patrick – Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Hartford the selection for the book discussion group was John J. McNeill’s “Taking a Chance on God;” in that book the openly-gay former priest McNeill stated: “In all cultures and in every period of history, a certain percentage of men and women develop as gays and lesbians. These individuals could be considered as part of God’s creative plan. Their sexual orientation has no necessary connection with sin, sickness, or failure; rather, it is a gift from God to be accepted and lived out with gratitude. God does not despise anything that God has created.”
Other Catholic LGBT ministries in the New York Archdiocese:
In Manhattan, on June 23, 2016, the “gay” and lesbian ministry, Out at St. Paul, from The Church of St. Paul the Apostle celebrated a sidewalk Mass during the New York City “Pride” festivities; the small outdoor altar was covered in the “rainbow flag.”
Only, this is not the parish’s first foray into gay Catholic outreach; in 2015, Out at St. Paul, in cooperation with The Church of St. Paul the Apostle, “Mother Church of the Paulist Fathers,” released the short documentary film “Owning Our Faith.” The film features testimonies with several men and women who disagree with various aspects of the Church’s teachings on homosexuality; they include: a self-professed Catholic lesbian, a “married” gay male couple, and a transsexual. One of the men interviewed said: “If we leave it, if we abandon the Church then it’s never going to change.”
At St. Francis de Sales Parish, the LGBTQS Gay Straight Catholic Alliance also participates in the New York City Gay Pride Parade. The reaction of the St Francis de Sales Gay Straight Alliance to the legalization of same-sex marriage was: “How PHENOMENAL! A day filled with love to more days filled with love.”
On November 21, 2016, The Church of the Ascension, home of Ascension Gay Fellowship, sponsored a reading of the play “Full of Grace;” here are a few lines:
“I came in and confessed that I was in a gay relationship. I didn’t know what the priest would say, and I was afraid he was going to tell me I was going to rot in hell. Instead he said, David, it doesn’t matter to God who you love, it matters to Him that you love. That moment changed my entire understanding of myself, my love, and my God.”
The Church of the Ascension also offered an “LGBT Pride Celebration Mass” during 2016 “Pride Week.”
Fr. Michael K. Holleran, a Catholic priest, Sensei (Zen Teacher) and a former Carthusian Monk, is Parochial Vicar at the Church of Notre Dame. During a 2014 talk on “Gay Spirituality,” he said: “I don’t care what people say, I think Gay Pride Parade is wonderful; all those people dancing around with not many cloths on…it’s beautiful.”
Concerning the New York City Gay Pride Parade, in his Introduction to Fr. John Harvey’s book “The Truth About Homosexuality” (1996), Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. made these observations:
I recently viewed the Gay Pride Parade during a prayer vigil alongside St. Patrick’s Cathedral and saw an incredible display of self-defeating and self-deprecating behavior…when one considers the ruin of human lives, the persistent spread of AIDS by promiscuous sexual activity, and the psychological conflict one observes in the gay scene, the haunting question comes, “Can I approve of behavior that so frequently leads to destruction?” This question is sidestepped in an effort to be politically correct, but it still remains, and the hoopla of parades and demonstrations does not make it go away.
For those “gay” celebrating Catholics, Fr. Groeschel offered the following admonitions:
“There are many serious objections to this kind of compassion based on pragmatism and relativism…The most obvious (but not the most fundamental) objection is that such thinking precludes the possibility of moral conversion and true Christian discipleship. Apart from the radical denial of truth, such thinking leaves the person lost in a swamp without a map. It is a most dangerous compassion. Once, a young man who had given up the fight to live chastely and had decided to have a live-in homosexual relationship made two requests of me. He said, “Don’t reject me, and don’t agree with me. If you agree with me I will never get out of this.”