Archbishop Boots LGBT Catholics from Philly Church

A coalition of LGBT Catholics planning to hold a workshop (sponsored by the New Ways Ministry) on LGBT and gender identity issues during the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia have been told they many not use St. John the Evangelist Church’s parish center as planned, reportedly at the direction of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput. “They are trying to pin in on the local priest, but my understanding is the order came from Chaput,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director, of Dignity USA, told RD.

The Equally Blessed Coalition, which consists of New Ways Ministry, Dignity USA, Fortunate Families and Call to Action, had a program called “TransForming Love: Exploring Gender Identity From Catholic Perspectives” scheduled for September 25 which reportedly caused Chaput to cancel the group’s permission to use the space.

“Unfortunately, this is yet another instance of the kind of exclusion LGBT Catholics and supporters have endured for decades. Bishops have refused to allow us to meet in our own Churches, retreat centers and colleges,” Equally Blessed said in a statement.

“There is a lack of information in the Catholic Church about gender identity, and this workshop was designed to provide information based on personal experience,” Frank DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “There was no plan to have a theological discussion about gender identity.”

The World Meeting of Families is a triennial gathering of Catholics to “explore the critical role the family plays in society and to give families opportunities to talk about the challenges and blessings that all families have.” However, the discussion of LGBT issues has been confined to a one-hour session led by a celibate gay man that LGBT Catholic activists say doesn’t reflect the difficulties and tensions that gay Catholics face within the church.

“A gay man who has chosen celibacy is chosen as the only Catholic experience of being LGBT. He represents the tiniest fraction of LGBT Catholics in this country and around the world,” Duddy-Burke said. “The vast majority of Catholics have family members who are in same-sex relationships or are seeking relationships or deciding how to live openly in the gender they know themselves to be.* Hiding this fact would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous.”

Dignity and GLAAD sent a letter to the pope requesting a meeting with gay families during his visit to Philadelphia, but have not received a response. “We remain hopeful we will have a chance to address the concerns we raised in the letter,” said Duddy-Burke. The organizations are also exploring using a local Methodist Church for the program it has planned during the World Meeting of Families.

Correction: This quote initially read “…in the gender they are deciding to be,” which was a misquote. RD regrets the error.