Theologian Challenges Pax Christi to Embrace LGBT Equality and Justice

This past weekend, my New Ways Ministry colleague Bob Shine and I attended the national conference of Pax Christi USA, the Catholic organization which promotes peace, justice, and non-violence.  We had an exhibit booth there for New Ways Ministry, distributing our materials about LGBT ministry and equality.

Father Bryan Massingale

Father Bryan Massingale

With Bishop Thomas Gumbleton as the opening keynoter and Father Bryan Massingale, a Marquette University theologian who specializes in social ethics, as the closing plenary speaker, the three days of meetings were book-ended by great inspiration.

For me, and for many of the participants, the highlight of the weekend came during Fr. Massingale’s talk in which he laid out a number of ways that Pax Christi USA can become more relevant to today’s Catholics, and more effective in church and society.  His final recommendation was that Pax Christi USA needed to start addressing LGBT equality and justice if they want to remain a credible and vibrant voice for peace and justice.  He stated:

“If Pax Christi USA is to remain relevant and on the frontier as a Catholic movement of peacemaking with justice, it must intentionally welcome people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.”

Massingale acknowledged that this might be a “neuralgic and sensitive” issue for some in the organization, but he offered two reasons why he recommended it.  The first was demographics:

“For the young people I teach, equality for gays and lesbians is their civil rights issue.”

He noted a survey of young people from 2009 in which the four top descriptors of religious institutions were:  “intolerant,” “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “homophobic.”   He added:

“For young people, the litmus test of the credibility of a religious institution is their stances on LGBT rights.”

The second reason, Massingale suggested, was the justice and human rights argument:

“Around the world, people are humiliated, tortured, raped, exiled, imprisoned, and executed for who they are and how they love.  The most notorious case is going on in Uganda with the so-called ‘Kill the Gays’ bill. . . In South Africa, women who identify as lesbian are subjected to a practice called  ‘corrective rape’ where they are gang raped by men in order to change them from their ‘sinful tendencies.’ “

Massingale added that “we don’t need to go overseas,” mentioning the series of murders classified as gay hate crimes in New York City during May 2013.  He noted mournfully:

“And these hate crimes, these brutal murders were met by a deafening, appalling silence from Catholic leaders.”

Massingale summed up this section of his talk with moral principles that are deep in Catholic theology:

“Whatever disagreements one may have with someone’s conduct, their fundamental human rights are inalienable and God-given.

“These human rights must be protected and defended without compromise or ambiguity.  This is not political correctness.  This is the Gospel.”

An audio recording of Fr. Massingale’s entire talk is available on the Pax Christi USA website.  A news story about the entire conference can be found on The National Catholic Reporter website.

My experience at the weekend conference tells me that Pax Christi members were well-disposed to receive Fr. Massingale’s challenge.  The part of his talk that dealt with LGBT issues was interrupted several times by loud, approving applause.   At New Ways Ministry’s exhibit table, we were busy all weekend talking with Pax Christi members who are extremely supportive of LGBT issues.  Indeed, we returned home practically empty-handed, having distributed almost all of our materials.  We were afraid we would run-out!

Pax Christi USA already has a precedent for taking on LGBT issues.  In 1998, the organization partnered with New Ways Ministry to produce a full-page signature advertisement in the New York Times, in response to the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man in Wyoming.  Close to 2,000 Catholics, including nine bishops, signed the statement entitled, “A Catholic Pledged to End Violence Against Lesbian and Gay People.”

But, of course, Fr. Massingale’s message is one that not only needed to be delivered to Pax Christi, but to the entire church.

New Ways Ministry thanks PaxChristiUSA for hosting us at their conference and for providing a platform for Fr. Bryan Massingale’s passionate and prophetic talk.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry





15 replies
  1. catholicboyrichard
    catholicboyrichard says:

    Having struggled with myself and “official teaching of the Church” immensely since returning to the Catholic Church in 2005, and living under an Archbishop (Nienstedt) who has been a leading voice against LGBT inclusion, I am so very glad to see priests such as Father Massingale as well as the ministry of Pax Christi.

    In our state he would have been silenced and in no uncertain terms. Even as a celibate LGBT person who has, as it were, played by the rules( until recently that is), I have been utterly and consistently astounded by the lack of concern among so many connected with our Church for issues such as the brutality of Uganda and hate crimes against those of us who happen to be attracted to our own gender.

    Our recent statewide victory in the area of marriage equality precipitated several horrible and lengthy public denouncements from the Archbishop though (which I have posted about on my blog site in fact). However the priests of the Archdiocese were literally forbidden to discuss such issues or anything that might resemble some semblance of support for LGBT persons from the pulpit during Nienstedt’s multi-million dollar campaign. But thankfully many MN Catholics saw through it anyway and we eventually prevailed as a state in spite of him. But certainly not because of him.

    I say all of this to say THANKS for doing what you do, even with the opposition you face within and without the Church. I do not know what I would have done over these eye-opening years had it not been for groups such as Pax Christi and you. I recently made a move again (something I have also struggled deeply about doing, and in fact went back and forth several times over the past couple of years) towards the Episcopal Church but in my heart see myself as always and forever Catholic. Perhaps with groups such as Pax and yours, I might actually be able to return one day to Rome for good.

    Many blessings to you. It is no easy thing to stand against our Catholic brothers and sisters, many of whom I love and deeply respect in so many other ways. But you give me hope.

  2. Chaplain Bill
    Chaplain Bill says:

    This is truly amazing. I am/was so hopeful with the election of Pope Francis. There is so much to like about him. But I am profoundly disappointed with his anti-science position on gays and his confused position on gay marriage. Why is it that the institutional Roman Church is so often out-of-sync?

  3. Rich Mohr
    Rich Mohr says:

    Thanks, Frank, for the uplifting and hopeful report. Thanks, too, to Pax Christi for their contribution. I pray that New Ways Ministry and Pax Christi continue to gift us.

  4. Vita
    Vita says:

    “Whatever disagreements one may have with someone’s conduct, their fundamental human rights are inalienable and God-given.

    “These human rights must be protected and defended without compromise or ambiguity. This is not political correctness. This is the Gospel.”

    Absolutely and profoundly true. Thank you for your wise guidance.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] important they “have a Mass where they feel welcome and that God does love them.” In 2013, he challenged the Pax Christi USA national conference attendees to increase the organization’s defense of LGBT rights, as both a human rights concern and a […]

  2. […] it is important they “have a Mass where they feel welcome and that God does love them.” He challenged Pax Christi USA members at their 2013 annual conference to increase the organization’s defense of LGBT rights, […]

  3. […] is important they “have a Mass where they feel welcome and that God does love them.” He challenged Pax Christi USA members at their 2013 annual conference to increase the organization’s defense of LGBT […]

  4. […] Bondings 2.0:  Theologian Challenges Pax Christi to Embrace LGBT Equality and Justice […]

  5. […] On this blog, we never get tired of noting that the younger generation of Catholics is much more acclimated to LGBT people than any previous generation before them.  For these younger people, the issues of gender identity and sexual orientation pose no problem–even for religious inclusion.  The St. Francis de Sales shows that if a parish wants to attract the younger generation of Catholics, many of whom were alienated from church by previous negative pastoral experiences, the pastoral staff must include LGBT support and spirituality on the parish’s agenda.  As theologian Father Bryan Massingale said at a Pax Christi conference in 2013: […]

  6. […] Bryan Massingale challenges justice and peace Catholics to embrace LGBT issues as part of their social […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *