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Vatican Official Says Methodist Dialogue “Unaffected” by Pro-LGBTQ+ Vote; And More News

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Attendees celebrate a successful pro-LGBTQ+ vote at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in 2024

The following are some news items which may be of interest:

1. One reason sometimes given for why the Catholic Church cannot evolve on issues of gender and sexuality is because it could harm ecumenical relations with other Christian churches. Recently, a news story examined whether the United Methodist Church’s decision to end its ban on ordaining LGBTQ+ clergy would have such an impact in the reverse direction—and Catholic officials were clear it would not.

Fr. Martin Browne, an official with the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, said inter-church conversations begun with the Methodist in the mid-1960s would continue “unaffected.” Fr. Anthony Currer, a former official of that same dicastery, added:

“It’s important to keep talking — and that we keep talking about the things that we are coming to different conclusions about, to try and hear why the other is reaching that conclusion. We in the Catholic Church, of course, are thinking very seriously about the way in which we accompany the LGBT+ community, and how we can best hear their voices, and help them know the Lord’s love. We’re engaged in a very similar ministry, even if we’re at different places about what we think is right and proper in terms of teaching.”

2. In March, the funeral of transgender activist Cecilia Gentilini at New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral sparked a wider conversation after the cathedral prematurely ended the funeral and later performed an Mass of Reparation to purify the church. Catholics were split in multiple ways about whether the funeral and responses to it were appropriate, particularly the responses of church officials.

Among the commentaries was a lengthy LGBTQ-negative piece by Commonweal’s Peter Steinfels who said activists had “hijacked” the funeral, staging it merely to gain publicity and attack the church. Steinfels condemned Gentilini’s mourners, described by him as “the glossier sector of the LGBTQ world,” as having “the entitlement of victimhood.” In broader strokes, he criticized the LGBTQ+ movement and progressives generally as viewing “Catholic convictions and customs in essentially negative terms, ranging from inexcusable ignorance and insensitivity to outright hostility.”

Another perspective, however, was shared by Fr. Misael Avila in a letter to the National Catholic Reporter, who wrote:

“However, I cannot help but wonder if there has ever been a Mass of Reparation for the harm inflicted upon LGBTQ Catholics. Despite Pope Francis’ outreach efforts toward the LGBTQ community, many individuals within this community continue to feel unwelcome in their church due to the persisting presence of homophobia.

“It is essential to recognize that while it is indeed sacrilegious and scandalous to commit transgressions against the church’s physical structure, the most significant wrongdoing lies in the harm inflicted upon one another as ‘Temples of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Cor. 6:19). Homophobia defiles the sacred space within each of us and, in the eyes of God, is also considered ‘sacrilegious’ and ‘scandalous.’”

3. The Colorado Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s bishops, voiced its opposition to the “Protecting the Freedom to Marry” law that was recently passed by Colorado’s legislature. The law intends to remove a heterosexual definition of marriage from the state’s constitution, which now proceeds to a voter referendum and is intended to preserve marriage equality if the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision is overturned. Brittany Vessely, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, made the bishops’ standard arguments against LGBTQ+ rights while addressing a legislative committee, saying the new law “rejects the truth of what marriage is,” reported the Colorado Times Reporter

4. Benjamin Oh, a gay Catholic who chairs Rainbow Catholics Interagency Australia and the country’s ecumenical LGBTQ+ group, Equal Voices, recently gave an interview to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about his “multilayered identity: gay, Chinese, Catholic” and decades-long efforts for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Catholic Church. Oh spoke about the importance of storytelling for queer people, named as an act of courage and hospitality, and he reframes telling one’s LGBTQ+ story as “not coming out, but inviting in.” For the full interview, click here.

5. Last December, the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, elevated its existing transgender-negative policy for schools and parishes to the level of church law, reported The Catholic Free Press. The diocese’s Bishop Robert McManus has been one of the most aggressive U.S. prelates in opposing equality, and by elevating the policy to law, it may lead to harsher enforcement and restrict how even Catholic schools sponsored by religious congregations address gender and sexuality.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring Archdiocese of Boston, Fr. Kevin Sepe, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, Dracut, came under fire for anti-transgender comments made in a Sunday homily. Sepe acknowledged all people need to be respected before then characterizing trans identities as “bordering on mental health issues” and repeating debunked myths that school children were identifying as cats and being provided with litter boxes in their classrooms.

The backlash included both parishioners and LGBTQ+ advocates. John Pitman was at the Mass where the homily was delivered, and told NBC News Boston that he walked out disgusted after the homily was greeted with applause. Pitman commented, “I just couldn’t believe it was coming out of the mouth of a man who was supposed to embrace love, and teach love.” And Tanya V. Neslusan, executive director of Mass Equality, expressed her dismay to the Boston Globe that “Father Sepe chose to use his homily to spread false information, rooted in hatred.”

Angela Howard McParland (she/her) and Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, May 27, 2024


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