N.Y. Archdiocese Condemns Funeral of Transgender Activist at Cathedral

— In a statement, the pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan said the church was not aware of Ms. Gentili’s background, or her avowed atheism, when it agreed to host the Thursday service.

Cecilia Gentili, an activist and actress well known for her advocacy on behalf of sex workers, was celebrated at the funeral as “Saint Cecilia, the mother of all whores.”

By Liam Stack

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York condemned the funeral of a transgender community leader that was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday, calling the event an insult to the Catholic faith and saying it was unaware of the identity of the deceased — or her vocal atheism — when it agreed to host the service.

The funeral, which drew well over 1,000 people, celebrated the life of Cecilia Gentili, an activist and actress well known for her advocacy on behalf of sex workers, transgender people and people living with H.I.V. She was also a self-professed atheist, a topic around which she built a one-woman Off Broadway show.

The service on Thursday was an event that most likely had no precedent in Catholic history. The pews were packed with mourners, many of them transgender, who wore daring high-fashion outfits and cheered as eulogists led them in praying for transgender rights and access to gender-affirming health care.

People guide a coffin down the center aisle of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Catholic liberals, including some parishioners at St. Patrick’s, said the church had done a good thing by hosting the funeral of a transgender person. Some conservative Catholics vehemently disagreed.

One eulogy, a video clip of which was widely shared online Friday, remembered Ms. Gentili as “Saint Cecilia, the mother of all whores,” to the thunderous cheers of a nearly full cathedral.

Catholic liberals, including some parishioners at St. Patrick’s, said that regardless of how some mourners behaved, the church had done a good thing by hosting the funeral of a transgender person. But the response from conservatives was fiery.

CatholicVote, a conservative group, called the funeral “unbelievable and sick” and said it was “a mockery of the Christian faith.” The Rev. Nicholas Gregoris, a co-founder of the Priestly Society of Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman, called it “revolting,” a “blasphemous & sacrilegious fiasco” and “a deplorable desecration of America’s most famous Catholic Church.”

On Saturday, the archdiocese released a statement saying it shared the anger of conservative Catholics over what it called “the scandalous behavior” at Ms. Gentili’s funeral. The Rev. Enrique Salvo, the pastor of St. Patrick’s, said the church was not aware of Ms. Gentili’s background or beliefs when it agreed to host the service.

“The cathedral only knew that family and friends were requesting a funeral Mass for a Catholic, and had no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way,” the pastor said.

A priest stands and speaks at a pulpit. In front of the pulpit is a large photograph of Cecilia Gentili.
In its statement on Saturday, the archdiocese of New York said it shared the anger of conservative Catholics over what it called “the scandalous behavior” at Ms. Gentili’s funeral.

The funeral’s organizer, Ceyenne Doroshow, said on Thursday that Ms. Gentili’s family had kept her background “under wraps” because they feared the archdiocese would not host a funeral for a person it knew was transgender.

Ms. Doroshow said the family wanted Ms. Gentili’s funeral to be at St. Patrick’s because “it is an icon, just like her.”

On Saturday, the Gentili family was incensed by the church’s criticism and accused the archdiocese of “hypocrisy and anti-trans hatred” in a statement.

The family said the L.G.B.T.Q. community would continue to celebrate Ms. Gentili for how she “ministered, mothered and loved all people.”

“Her heart and hands reached those the sanctimonious church continues to belittle, oppress and chastise,” the family said. “The only deception present at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is that it claims to be a welcoming place for all.”

Members of Ms. Gentili’s family stand in a line holding hands just outside a cathedral door.
The Gentili family accused the New York archdiocese of “hypocrisy and anti-trans hatred” in a statement on Saturday.

The day before the funeral, the archdiocese described the service as a routine event, even after it was informed by a reporter that Ms. Gentili was a transgender activist.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the archdiocese, Joseph Zwilling, said that “a funeral is one of the corporal works of mercy,” a part of Catholic teaching the church has described as “a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise.”

But on Saturday, Father Salvo said in the statement that the cathedral had held a special Mass of Reparation to atone for the funeral. Mr. Zwilling said the event happened that day.

“That such a scandal occurred at ‘America’s parish church’ makes it worse,” Father Salvo said, referring to the funeral. “That it took place as Lent was beginning, the annual 40-day struggle with the forces of sin and darkness, is a potent reminder of how much we need the prayer, reparation, repentance, grace and mercy to which this holy season invites us.”

New York City is home to roughly a dozen gay-friendly Catholic parishes that in many ways reflect the church’s softer tone on sexuality under the leadership of Pope Francis. But St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the seat of the powerful archdiocese, is not one of them.

Ms. Gentili, who died on Feb. 6 at age 52, had a complex relationship with religion, which she explored last year in her Off Broadway show, “Red Ink.”

After a religious upbringing, Ms. Gentili said in an interview last year, she came to identify as an atheist because she felt rejected by so many Christian denominations as a transgender woman.

“I used to go with my grandmother to the Baptist Church, and they didn’t want me there,” she said, adding: “I used to go to the Catholic Church, too, and both were such traumatic experiences for me as a queer person. So I came to identify as an atheist, but I know that so many trans people have been able to find a relationship with faith in spaces that include them.”

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Pope, cardinals continue discussion of role of women in the Church

Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals continue their discussion of women’s role in the church at the Vatican Feb. 5, 2024.

By Cindy Wooden

With the help of a woman Anglican bishop, a Salesian sister and a consecrated virgin, Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals devoted the first morning of their February meeting “to deepening their reflection, begun last December, on the role of women in the church,” the Vatican press office said.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said Feb. 5 the pope and cardinals heard from Bishop Jo Bailey Wells, deputy secretary-general of the Anglican Communion; Salesian Sister Linda Pocher, a professor of Christology and Mariology at Rome’s Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences “Auxilium,” and Giuliva Di Berardino, a consecrated virgin and liturgist from the Diocese of Verona, Italy.

The pope and council were to continue meeting the afternoon of Feb. 5 and all day Feb. 6, focusing on other themes, Bruni said.

The Vatican has not shared details about the discussions on the role of women in the church nor the texts of presentations made at the meeting.

Cardinal Gérald C. Lacroix of Québec was present at the meeting; in Jan. 30 video message said he would “temporarily withdraw from activities in my diocese” after he was accused in a civil lawsuit of inappropriately touching a 17-year-old girl on two occasions in the 1980s. He has denied the allegations.

The Vatican press office did not comment on the cardinal’s participation in the council meeting.

In addition to Cardinal Lacroix, those at the February meeting included Cardinals Juan José Omella Omella of Barcelona; Seán P. O’Malley of Boston; Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa, Congo; Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Sérgio da Rocha of São Salvador da Bahia, Brazil; Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, president of the commission governing Vatican City State; and Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg.

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Jesuits in US Bolster Outreach Initiative Aimed at Encouraging LGBTQ+ Catholics

— Catholic dogma continues to repudiate same-sex marriage and gender transition

In this photo provided by America Media, from left, the Rev. James Martin, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, N.M., and Rev. Eric Andrews attend the closing Mass for the Outreach conference at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, in New York, June 18, 2023. Martin is the founder of Outreach, a unique Jesuit-run program of outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics.

By Associated Press

Even as Catholic dogma continues to repudiate same-sex marriage and gender transition, one of the most prominent religious orders in the United States — the Jesuits — is strengthening a unique outreach program for LGBTQ+ Catholics.

The initiative — fittingly called Outreach — was founded two years ago by the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit who is one of the country’s most prominent advocates for greater LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Catholic Church.

Outreach, a ministry of the Jesuit magazine America, sponsored conferences in New York City in 2022 and 2023, and last year launched a multifaceted website with news, essays and information about Catholic LGBTQ+ resources and events.

On Tuesday, there was another milestone for Outreach — the appointment of journalist and author Michael O’Loughlin as its first executive director.

O’Loughlin, a former staff writer at online newspaper Crux, has been the national correspondent at America. He is the author of a book recounting the varied ways that Catholics in the U.S. responded to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and ‘90s — “Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear.”

O’Loughlin told The Associated Press he’s excited by his new job, viewing it as a chance to expand the range of Outreach’s programs and the national scope of its community.

“It’s an opportunity to highlight the ways LGBT people can be Catholic and active in parishes, ministries and charities,” he said. “There’s a lot of fear about to being too public about it. … I want them to realize they’re not alone.”

O’Loughlin says his current outlook evolved as he traveled to scores of places around the U.S. to promote his book, talking to groups of LGBTQ+ Catholics, and their families and friends, about how to make the church more welcoming to them.

Those conversations made O’Loughlin increasingly comfortable publicly identifying as a gay Catholic after years of wondering whether he should remain in the church. Its doctrine still condemns any sexual relations between gay or lesbian partners as “intrinsically disordered.”

The latest expansion of Outreach occurs amid a time of division within the global Catholic Church as it grapples with LGBTQ+ issues.

Pope Francis, a Jesuit who has met with Martin and sent letters of support to Outreach, has made clear he favors a more welcoming approach to LGBTQ+ people. At his direction, the Vatican recently gave priests greater leeway to bless same-sex couples and asserted that transgender people, in some circumstances, can be baptized.

However, there has been some resistance to the pope’s approach. Many conservative bishops in Africa, Europe and elsewhere said they would not implement the new policy regarding blessings. In the U.S., some bishops have issued directives effectively ordering diocesan personnel not to recognize transgender people’s gender identity.

Amid those conflicting developments, Martin and other Jesuit leaders are proud of Outreach’s accomplishments and optimistic about its future.

“There seems to be deep hunger for the kind of ministry that we’re doing, not only among LGBTQ Catholics, but also their families and friends,” Martin said by email from Ireland, where he was meeting last week with the the country’s Catholic bishops.

“Pope Francis has been very encouraging, allowing himself to be interviewed by Outreach and sending personal greetings to our conference last year,” Martin added. “Perhaps the most surprising support has been from several bishops who have written for our website, as well as some top-notch Catholic theologians who see the need for serious theological reflection on LGBTQ topics.”

Martin will remain engaged in Outreach’s oversight, holding the title of founder.

The Rev. Brian Paulson, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, evoked both Jesus and the pope when asked why his order had embraced the mission of Outreach.

“Pope Francis has repeatedly called leaders in the Catholic church to emulate the way Jesus spent his ministry on the peripheries, accompanying those who had experienced exclusion,” Paulson said email. “I think the work of Outreach is a response to this invitation.”

Paulson also said he was impressed by Martin’s “grace and patience” in responding to the often harsh criticism directed at him by some conservative Catholics.

There was ample evidence of Outreach’s stature at its conference last June at a branch of Fordham University in New York City. The event was preceded by a handwritten letter of support sent to Martin by Pope Francis, extending “prayers and good wishes” to the participants.

“It’s a special grace for LGBTQ Catholics to know that the pope is praying for them,” Martin said.

Another welcoming letter came from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.

“It is the sacred duty of the Church and Her ministers to reach out to those on the periphery,” he wrote to the conference attendees.

The keynote speakers included Fordham’s president, Tania Tetlow, and the closing Mass was celebrated by Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis says opponents of gay couples blessings are ‘small ideological groups’ and Africans

Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer at the Vatican, Jan 7, 2024.

By Anugrah Kumar

Addressing the controversy surrounding the Vatican’s decision to allow blessings for same-sex couples, Pope Francis said the critics of the guidance, except for Africans, belong to “small ideological groups.”

The pontiff claimed that even in Africa, the resistance is more cultural, as homosexuality is generally not tolerated, Reuters quoted him as saying in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Francis was referring to the December 2023 document “Fiducia Supplicans” issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has sparked widespread debate within the Catholic Church. The guidance stated that priests may bless same-sex couples that approach them for blessings but distinguishes between liturgical blessings and pastoral blessings, which do not give approval to same-sex relationships.

“Those who protest vehemently belong to small ideological groups,” Francis was quoted as saying. “A special case are Africans: for them homosexuality is something ‘bad’ from a cultural point of view, they don’t tolerate it.”

“But in general, I trust that gradually everyone will be reassured by the spirit of the ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ declaration by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: it aims to include, not divide,” the pope said.

He acknowledged the strong resistance from African bishops as there are harsh legal penalties for same-sex relationships in some African countries. The pope stressed the importance of context and sensitivity when blessing same-sex couples.

Pope Francis remains undeterred despite opposition from some theological conservatives. He advised focusing on moving forward rather than dwelling on talks of schism, which he believes are led by small groups.

“We must leave them to it and move on … and look forward,” he said.

In his remarks at the plenary session of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith last Friday, Pope Francis clarified that the Church’s teachings on homosexual practices and same-sex relationships remain unchanged. The “Fiducia Supplicans” declaration, while allowing blessings for same-sex couples, does not equate these blessings with marriage, nor does it validate relationships deemed irregular by the Church.

The Pope explained that these blessings are meant to demonstrate the Church’s closeness to those in various situations without demanding moral perfection. He emphasized that the blessings are for the individuals, not the union, and should consider the local context and sensitivities.

Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, author of the declaration, released a statement earlier this month to clarify the document’s intent. He stated that the blessings, lasting no more than 15 seconds, are a pastoral response and do not justify anything morally unacceptable. The declaration has faced opposition from some bishops, like the leader of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan, who has prohibited these blessings in his diocese.

The Vatican’s guidance is part of a series of responses to questions from bishops worldwide. It includes clarifications on issues like the eligibility of single mothers who have confessed their sins to receive the eucharist.

Complete Article HERE!

The Brazilian bishop who took the first step toward the Catholic Church embracing LGBTQ+ people

— The prelate of the diocese of Santo Amaro, in São Paulo, Brazil, submitted the consultation to the Vatican. That inquiry led to the authorization to baptize the LGBTQ+ faithful, who can also be godparents and witnesses to a wedding

Bishop José Negri (left, with miter and crosier) in São Paulo, Brazil on January 24.

By Naiara Galarraga Gortázar

The next lesbian, gay, or transgender person to be the godparent of a baby baptized in a Catholic parish, or in a cathedral, in any corner of the world, may not know what led him or her to assume that crucial responsibility in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. But the process began in Brazil, in the office of a bishop in São Paulo. Specifically, it started with a letter with six questions addressed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and signed by Bishop José Negri, of the diocese of Santo Amaro, in the southern part of Latin America’s most populous city. The Holy See received the letter on July 14 and responded almost four months later with a decision signed by Pope Francis. The news was made public at the beginning of November. In summary, trans Catholics can be baptized, but it is not a right and requires avoiding disconcerting believers and public scandal. A same-sex couple’s children can receive the same sacrament as long as there is a well-founded hope that they will be educated in the Catholic faith. They can all serve as witnesses for a wedding.

Bishop Negri raised the six questions clearly and directly. The first question: “Can a trans person be baptized?” The fourth inquiry: “Can a same-sex couple appear as the progenitors of a child to be baptized if he or she was adopted or conceived through other methods, such as surrogacy?” The response from the body that deals with the Church’s doctrinal and theological questions — the former Inquisition — was also concise in its three-page answer, which included multiple footnotes. The Brazilian prelate declined this newspaper’s request to be interviewed about his consultation and its consequences.

The decision on whether LGBTQ+ Catholics can receive some sacraments has caused less of a stir than another of the Pontiff’s rulings (unrelated to Negri)—this one announced in December—which deepens his policy of the institution’s openness. The Vatican approved the blessing of same-sex couples, but, importantly, without equating it to marriage. The decision has even caused a small rebellion on the part of Peru’s clergy.

The diocesan prelate, known here as Dom José, was born in Milan, Italy, as Giuseppe, but he has lived in Brazil since his 20s. He has a degree in Psychology from the Gregorian University in Rome. He has a slight Italian accent, is 64 years old and boasts 132,000 Instagram followers, almost ten times more than the diocese he leads. The publications from the day last November when the Vatican announced its response to his query do not refer to the matter.

But, like Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Negri is in favor of the Catholic hierarchy “listening to the peripheries,” be they urban, social or economic. Previously, he was bishop in Blumenau, in the whitest part of Brazil, a land colonized by German immigrants who preserve the language and even celebrate Oktoberfest. A few years ago, he chaired the Brazilian Episcopal Conference’s child protection committee; at the time, he pledged that the Church would firmly confront the sexual abuse in its midst.

The bishop of Santo Amaro “is on the most conservative spectrum” of the Church in Brazil and “is prudent as a bishop,” explains Paulo Ricardo, of the (Instituto de Estudos da Religião) Institute of Religious Studies. The diocese over which he presides includes some two million Catholics and owes its fame to Father Marcelo Rossi, of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, which was a true mass phenomenon in the 1990s thanks to his records, a Latin Grammy, show masses and modern methods of evangelization.

The fact that this consultation on LGBTQ+ people reached the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from Brazil is not so surprising if one considers that the South American country is one of the nations where the Catholic Church has more faithful, although the group is dwindling in the face of a strong push by

evangelicals. Same-sex marriage has been legal for over a decade. Fifteen years have passed since the public health system performed the first gender-affirming procedure. And while Brazil is the country where the most trans people are murdered (among those countries that record such crimes), they are also represented in many areas of society and have tremendous visibility. Indeed, there are two trans deputies in Brazil’s national congress and another two in state legislatures.

obispo José Negri
Bishop José Negri (right) last Wednesday.

Luis Rabello, 35, the executive secretary of the Brazilian network of LGBTQ+ Catholic groups, welcomes the changes introduced by Pope Francis because “they serve to give visibility” to a group that “has always existed in the Church, both among the faithful and as catechists.” He is happy that the Vatican has finally adopted norms to resolve issues that until now have been handled on a case-by-case basis. On the phone from Brasilia, he recalls a case from a few years ago: a trans woman who had undergone gender-affirming surgery requested that her dead name — the name on her birth certificate — be replaced by her new one on her baptismal certificate. She got her wish. It happened in Curitiba, a city in southern Brazil.

The representative of LGBTQ+ Catholics in Brazil maintains that Bishop Negri’s questions for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responds to a social demand. “LGBTQ+ people are demanding more space in the Church; they are demanding respect.” He explains that it is a trend that has grown in recent years with social changes and the LGBTQ+ community’s inspired by the current Pontiff’s gestures. Rabello notes that Pope Francis has received trans people in the Holy See. A civil servant by profession, he believes the recent Vatican rulings are “very important for educating priests, bishops…”

Brazil has about 20 LGBTQ+ Catholic groups spread over 10 states that meet in person, plus virtual ones, including one for non-binary people. A priest from the diocese of Santo Amaro, Father Negri’s diocese, monitors these groups, Rabello says.

Pope Francis has a very special place in the hearts of Brazilian LGBTQ+ Catholics for the answer he gave a Brazilian journalist in 2013 on the return flight from his visit to Brazil. “Francis spoke for the first time about LGBTQ+ people; [he was] the first pope to utter the word gay!” Rabello recalls. It was a revolution in an institution with two millennia of history. That gesture and the ones that followed encouraged the LGBTQ+ faithful to seek more information and to ask their parishes about baptism, marriage and being godparents for baptisms and weddings.

Last October, Bishop Negri spoke a little about his childhood during an interview with another priest — both in collars — during the so-called diocesan youth meeting. He recalled that his grandmother introduced him to the Church and taught him the Rosary (which she recited in Latin). “My ideal was to be an altar boy, but Jesus wanted something else,” he explained. The motto of that youthful encounter sounded provocative: “You seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced.” Bishop Negri took advantage of the occasion to announce that he was organizing a big event “to evangelize en masse, in schools, in subway stations, at bus stops, in universities…”. The battle between Catholics and Evangelicals for the souls of over 200 million Brazilians is intense.

Complete Article HERE!