WATCH: Inside A LGBT-Friendly Catholic Church

Documentary filmmaker Eric Kruszewski shows that being Catholic and being gay are not mutually exclusive.

being Catholic and being gay

By Jesse Steinbach

To identify as a gay devout Catholic seems contradictory to many people—and for good reason. The Church, both historically and presently, continues to debate the sinfulness of homosexuality: traditionalists condemn it, religious liberals accept it, and a host of individuals (often closeted themselves) are lost in a gray mist of confusion, hate, and more often, self-loathing.

The LGBT Educating and Affirming Diversity (LEAD) Ministry within the Saint Matthew Catholic Church in Baltimore seeks to harmonize religious and sexual orientations, while providing church-goers with a community and place of congregation that is unanimously accepting. Most recently, documentary filmmaker Eric Kruszewski crossed paths with LEAD and was so moved by the group’s mission statement, decided to create a documentary series.

Kruszewski explains:

“I was raised Catholic, but have not practiced my faith in years. And before this project, I had never heard of Saint Matthew Catholic Church. One of the parishioners knew my work and me. So when we bumped into each other at a media event, she told me, ‘I have a story for you…’”

When Kruszewski finally met the LEAD members, he was taken by their hospitality and warmth, both directed towards himself and to each other:

“The first time I met the LEAD members was during their monthly meeting. When a lesbian couple announced they were getting married and moving into a new apartment, another member offered rooms-worth of furniture to get them started. When a newcomer was introduced to the group, the room was pin-drop quiet as he/she shared an intimate story of love and heartbreak. It was clear that there was something special within this congregation.”

Kruszewski quickly felt the need to honor LEAD with a documentary he could share:

“There’s no way I can fully understand what it’s like to be an LGBT Catholic in 2016. But through interviews, the documentary process and getting close to the individuals portrayed in these videos, my goal was to accurately capture their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Perhaps the video series becomes a platform for open discussion surrounding LGBT Catholics acceptance, as well as fuel to keep alive their passion for change and desire for full inclusion. After all, before they knew their sexuality, the Saint Matthew LGBT people were baptized Catholic. Why should that change upon discovering themselves?”

Throughout this week, we will be posting individual videos about LEAD members.

Kruszewski’s first video below is a mere introduction to the many people who identify as Catholic and LGBT:


Complete Article HERE!

Exclusive: Vatican Meets with U.S. State Department’s Gay and Lesbian Envoy

By Elizabeth Dias

A symbolic meeting to open a controversial dialog

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - NOVEMBER 11: Pope Francis leaves St. Peter's Square after his weekly audience at The Vatican on November 11, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. During the event, the Pontiff continued his catechesis on the family, focussing on togetherness and solidarity which extends as "a sign of God's universal love" . (Photo by Giulio Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis leaves St. Peter’s Square after his weekly audience at The Vatican on November 11, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. During the event, the Pontiff continued his catechesis on the family, focussing on togetherness and solidarity which extends as “a sign of God’s universal love” .


The encounter took place in a non-descript room at the Vatican, and conversation stuck to regular diplomatic briefs. But for the parties involved on Tuesday morning, the meeting held historic significance: Randy Berry, the first-ever U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI persons, and Vatican officials from the Holy See’s Secretary of State office were meeting for the first time.

The moment, simple as it was, marked a new level of U.S. engagement with the Catholic Church on LGBT human rights issues. Berry told TIME he met with officials for about an hour, and he met separately with representatives from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. For both sides, the conversations were new.

President Barack Obama only created Berry’s position at the State Department in April, and until now, Berry has primarily only talked with faith leaders in the field, as he has traveled to 30 countries in the last seven months. He met with evangelical congregations in Jamaica when he visited in May, for example. Conversations about LGBT human rights have never before reached this level with the Catholic Church, which considers gay and lesbian sexual behavior a sin and restricts marriage to unions of one man and one woman.

Berry’s focus however is not on marriage, but on the twin foreign policy issues of violence and discrimination. That strategy, Berry hopes, allows for common ground with the Vatican to stand together against extreme violence. “We were not there to talk about issues of civil unions or same sex marriage, for example, because that is not part of our policy,” Berry says. “That is not part of the conversation we were interested in engaging in, nor do I think were they.”

Berry requested the Vatican meeting as part of his three-week trip to Eastern Europe, which has included visits to five countries and a stop in Athens for the annual conference for ILGA, an international lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights association. Church officials accepted. “I wanted a chance to brief Vatican officials myself,” Berry says. “These issues of violence and extreme discrimination are of concern to us all.”

The meeting is particularly noteworthy ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Uganda at the end of the month, where homosexuality is illegal. When Uganda introduced a law last year that further criminalized homosexuality with extensive prison sentences, Western powers including the U.S. pushed back, while local Catholic leaders had mixed responses. Courts eventually struck the measure down, but hundreds of gay Ugandans have since fled to Kenya, where homosexuality is also illegal and where Pope Francis also plans a visit during his trip to central Africa.

Berry says he spent time in “listening mode” to learn from officials about how Pope Francis engages on human rights issues when he travels. He remembers how a gay rights activist was included when a large group of political activists met with Pope Francis in Paraguay this summer. “That inclusive approach speaks volumes,” Berry says. “I would hope that certainly those same messages are shared, and I fully expect that they will be because I think they are completely consistent with what we’ve seen from His Holiness in the past.”

The fact that the meeting even happened is revealing. It is a sign that the Obama administration sees future opportunity to work with the Vatican after the Pope’s September visit, with the possibility to build on the partnership they have strengthened on climate change and migration. It is also a sign that Vatican diplomatic efforts are willing to take certain amount of risk by talking with the U.S. on this issue, as any LGBT issues thrusts the Church into an often conflicted spotlight. Pope Francis has continued to advocate dialogue and listening to a range of perspectives even as he has ramped up the Vatican’s diplomatic activism, and the U.S. State Department continues to take note and look for opportunities to engage.

Discussion of any concrete collaboration with the Vatican would be premature, however. For now, Berry hopes to further common ground and expand contacts for future conversations. “It was an important first dialogue and I hope that we will continue,” Berry says. “I get to do a lot of really amazing things in this job,” he continues. “It was quite a positive experience.”

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican synod calls for a more welcoming Catholic Church

Bishops chat at the end of the afternoon session of the synod in Vatican City on Oct. 24.

Deeply divided clerics at a landmark Vatican summit echoed the more inclusive tone of Pope Francis on Saturday, extending more welcoming language to divorced and gay Catholics but stopping short of calling for clear alterations in policy and leaving the extent of any change in the hands of the mercurial pontiff.

The meeting — known as a synod — marked the culmination of a two-year process to recalibrate the faith’s approach to families in the 21st century and broke new ground by tackling issues once considered taboo in the Roman Catholic Church. In the most significant pronouncement, the clerics cracked open the door for divorced and remarried Catholics, who the church teaches are technically living in adultery, to receive Communion — a sacrament from which they are currently officially barred.

But the synod did not explicitly condone a change either, leaving Francis room to interpret the will of his hierarchy. The document also recognized the “dignity” of homosexuals, while also saying there was not even a “remote” similarity between same-sex unions and “God’s design on matrimony and family.”

The final communiqué, while a significant bellwether of the hierarchy’s thinking, nevertheless amounts only to a recommendation to Francis. As pope in the benevolent autocracy that is Vatican City, Francis now has the final say.

Liberals at the synod were pragmatic, saying they were impressed they got as far as they did given significant conservative resistance. But the staunch opposition to fast change suggested how difficult it may now be for Francis to translate his revolutionary style into substance.

It also puts him in a highly difficult position. If he fails to change the status quo, he risks disappointing liberal Catholics — as well as many non-Catholics — who have heralded him worldwide as an agent of change. Yet going too far beyond the recommendations could alienate many in his own divided church, triggering an even stronger backlash among conservatives — some of whom are already openly questioning the direction of his papacy.

“What the pope has to do now is take all of this in and decide how to we use it,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington. “He may decide to use bits and pieces in different ways.”

Complete Article HERE!

Pro-LGBT Catholic pastors, bishop met in Rome for pre-Synodal conference

By Emmanuele Barbieri

Cardinals and bishops pack the front section of St. Peter’s Basilica during the opening Mass of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family on October 5, 2014.

Around a hundred people gathered at the Pilgrim Centre “Santa Teresa Couderc” in Rome, for the international conference entitled Ways of Love: Snapshots of Catholic Encounters With LGBT People and Their Families, sponsored by the “Global Network of Rainbow Catholics”, a worldwide network of organisations that, in the name of “social justice”, demands inclusion and dignity for LGBT people and their families within the Catholic Church and society in general.

The meeting was attended by Catholic pastoral leaders from around the world, who came together to share, through their stories, their pastoral approach and work in favour of LGBT people within their ecclesiastical communities. In addition to drawing up new action plans, a clear and stated objective of the initiative was to apply some pressure to the impending crucial Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the topic of the Family, which opened in Rome on Monday 5th October.

Presenting the event, two of the conference spokespersons, Andrea Rubera and Martin Pendergast, advocated peaceful dialogue with the community and Catholic institutions, stating:

“Taking inspiration from the second Encyclical of Pope Francis, (Laudato Si), we feel that the time has come for us all to build and care for our shared home, the Church, with commitment from every member of the Roman Catholic community. Our shared home does not need struggle or division. We must find a place for each and every one of God’s people, including LGBT people. The experiences that we bring to the conference in Rome on ‘The Ways of Love’ show us that pastoral work, for and with LGBT people, is already a reality in many parts of the world, without creating any problems for the communities in which it takes place. The idea that we wish to put to the bishops gathered in Rome for the Synod is that we can – and we must – find new ways to spread these models of pastoral work and develop new ones.”

The first speech of the day, as part of the “Snapshots of Pastoral LGBT Projects”, was that of Chilean Jesuit priest Pedro Labrin, the national ecclesiastical assistant of the “Christian Life Community” (CLC/CVX) in Chile. Speaking of his initiative “Sexual Diversity Pastoral Padis+”, which promotes the full inclusion of LGBT people within the Catholic Church, Labrin recalled the story of Daniel Zamudio, presenting him as a martyr of homophobia: “The blood of martyrs is still fresh and it is they who help us to understand what the Second Vatican Council meant by the term Church, the People of God. (…) Daniel did not die by God’s will but by the will of homophobes”.

Next, the American nun Jeannine Gramick took the floor: she was the founder in 1997 with Father Robert Nugent, of the “New Ways Ministry” in the Archdiocese of Washington – an organisation founded with the aim of promoting “justice and reconciliation between lesbian and gay Catholics and the wider Catholic community”. In 1999, as a result of her work and in clear contrast with Catholic doctrine Sister Gramick, together with Father Nugent, was the subject of a notification by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith through which they were “permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons” and ineligible, “for an indeterminate period, for any office in their respective religious institutions”.

Sister Gramick said she converted to a broader and more authentic interpretation of the Gospel after meeting a lesbian, and she spoke of her tireless work in favour of LGBT people. In particular, Gramick stressed the commitment of her parish in the referendum campaign in favour of same-sex marriage equality, a commitment that has made a decisive contribution to changing the opinion of many Catholics, convincing them to vote in favour of gay marriage. Sister Gramick said that she received the approval of the bishop himself for her work, who, despite being publicly known as a conservative, showed great compassion for the LGBT cause. Following the gay marriage victory, according to Sister Gramick the bishop conceded defeat, admitting: “You have won and we have lost; it is you who talk of love and acceptance and not us!” Then Sister Gramick, hoping that the experience of the “New Ways Ministry” may extend from the United States out into the world, offered those at the conference some guidelines and pastoral advice to put into practice in their own parishes and communities: the importance of direct communication with the bishops of the dioceses; the involvement of parishioners, putting them in touch with their bishops to demonstrate to them the faith of lesbians, bisexual, transgender and transsexual people who need to feel accepted, not only by parish priests, but also by the most senior hierarchies of the Church.

Next to speak was Martin Pendergast, a member of the Pastoral Council of Westminster for LGBT Catholics, who shared his own experiences by presenting the projectAll are welcome. After declaring that “homosexuals have the right to effective and welcoming pastoral care” and “the same rights as heterosexuals to receive the sacraments”, Pendergast, who lives happily with another man, stressed that the initiative All are welcome had received the support of Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of the Catholic diocese of Westminster. Pendergast then recalled the vicissitudes of his LGBT community in recent years, highlighting with satisfaction how the current church of “Jesuit Farm Street” held a popular “gay Mass”, open to Catholics of all sexual orientation, creating a truly inclusive community where “pastoral needs and concerns are welcomed by the parish and the diocese”. He also hoped that the example of the pastoral work in “Farm Street” may, in the future, become a model to be exported to all other dioceses across the world, stating that there are already many ecclesiastical communities that are interested in the work they are doing. With this is mind, Pendergast gave some practical suggestions, recommending that the model should “not be imposed from above but grow from the roots of pastoral practice.” He then concluded his speech, expressing the hope that in the next Synod on the Family: “a real listening process can be opened up on a global, national and diocesan level, so that the pastoral needs of LGBT Catholics and their families are not given a “one size fits all” pastoral model, but a response that takes into account each and every individual aspect, also leading to grace”.

It was then the turn of Italians Pino Piva and Anna Vitagliano to take the floor, presenting their joint initiatives in the LGBT field. Jesuit Father Piva talked about his project Church, a home for everybody, launched on 3rd April 2014 and still in progress in the parish of San Saba in Rome “Where people, not stereotypes, meet”. The initiative, launched in the parish and ardently supported by Monsignor Matthew Zuppi, auxiliary bishop of Central Rome, is an “invitation to meet and share spiritual experiences with others, seen from the viewpoint of each individual: secular or religious, elderly or young, gay or straight, single or married, cohabiting or divorced”. According to Father Piva, the future of pastoral work must continue in this inclusive direction, so that people are heard before any words of blame or condemnation are spoken.

Anna Vitagliano then presented the initiatives organised as part of the Spirituality of Frontiersproject held at the Casa del Sacro Cuore in Galloro in the province of Rome. This is a two-fold educational initiative consisting of a “spiritual weekend retreat”, linked to the Roman initiativeChurch, a home for everybody and “Training workshops for pastoral ministers and spiritual leaders”.

The day’s proceedings were concluded by the most anticipated and important speaker of all due to the position he holds, the Dominican Bishop Raúl Vera López from the Mexican diocese of Saltillo, known for his views that are openly in contrast with Catholic doctrine, in favour of the rights claimed by LGBT and promotion of abortion. The bishop started by declaring that he felt honoured and privileged to be breaking new ground together with the LGBT community. He then praised the skill and organisational capacity of the gay rights movement, likening the LGBT community to the tiny ants in a Mexican proverb which, through their perseverance and hard work, manage to defeat monsters far greater than themselves: “those who are small and well organised overcome the monsters; you are well organised and you will win.”

Lastly, Bishop Vera López pointed the finger at those priests who, he said, use the Bible as a club to beat poor sinners, and urged them to open their eyes to today’s social changes. At this point, having declared his support for all kinds of family, gay and straight, he addressed the audience with a heartfelt and urgent appeal: “We need you to create a more inclusive church; you are our saviours. (…) The Church did the same work with migrants and subsequently society began to change. (…) Now, Pope Francis needs us. He has cast aside the doctrine and has taken up the Gospel of mercy, peace and love. Please help us!”

This international conference organised by the “Global Network of Rainbow Catholics” shows only too clearly the historic conflict taking place within the Catholic Church. The now famous and overused phrase of Pope Francis from July 2013, “if a person is gay and seeks God, who am I to judge” has proven to be an extraordinary boost for the LGBT community which, in spite of the doctrine, is today seeking a revolution within the Church in the name of the Gospel and God’s mercy. The numerous guest speakers demonstrated that this process is already underway and, in some cases, is also benefiting from significant support within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Complete Article HERE!