The World Meeting of Families, an international Catholic gathering focused on family life which will be held in Philadelphia in September 2015, has already caused some controversy concerning LGBT issues.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Philadelphia Archdiocese said that everyone would be welcome to the meeting, but he also announced that “neuralgic sexual issues that seem to dominate the American media” would not be on the agenda. Many people interpreted this to mean that questions about same-gender marriage would be avoided.
Additionally, advance materials for the Meeting seem to indicate that where LGBT issues are noted, they are done so in basically negative language.
Two Philadelphia area commentators recently called on Chaput to be more open in his approach to LGBT issues at the upcoming meeting, at which Pope Francis will be making a visit.
In a short essay on Philly.com, Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News noted the different approaches that Chaput and Pope Francis seem to be taking toward LGBT issues. Remarking on the pope’s recent interview in which he supported families with LGBT members, Segal wrote:
“The pontiff’s comments came a day after he urged church officials to pay attention to the ‘signs of the times.’ This is groundbreaking, especially since he was speaking in regard to a meeting of American bishops, who, to say the least, have not been so kind to LGBT Catholics. And sadly enough, while other bishops see a church attempting to join the 21st century, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput now seems to be leading a campaign of opposition.
“While the pope noted it is important to welcome gay Catholics, he still is opposed to same-sex marriage. But he said his views on LGBT youth were in part formed from personal experiences.
“ ‘We come across this reality all the time in the confessional: a father and a mother whose son or daughter is in that situation. This happened to me several times in Buenos Aires…. We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their son or daughter,’ he said in an interview with Argentina’s La Nación.”
“. . . [W]e need to help U.S. bishops learn more about our community. Chaput will be among the hosts of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next fall, which Pope Francis will attend. Chaput has stated that thousands of Catholic households should offer to house some of the visitors who will be coming from around the globe. With that in mind, I’d like to suggest that LGBT Catholic families meet that calling and call the Archdiocese to offer their homes. Let us help His Holiness with his mission.”
Stephen Seufert, the state director of Keystone Catholics, a new social-justice advocacy organization in Pennsylvania dedicated to promoting the common good, penned an essay in Philadelphia Gay News, in which he criticized Chaput’s approach to marriage, while arguing for the benefits that families headed by lesbian and gay couples offer society:
“Chaput, like many other traditionalist Catholics, seems to have a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ mentality of the family. He believes any marriage not between one man and one woman is evil and sinful. Trying to define marriage and the family in such limited terms makes the church seem obtuse to a diverse and complicated world. . . .
“Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that, because LGBT couples can’t procreate, they’re not equal to heterosexual couples. I completely reject that argument. LGBT people promote life by caring for and loving those around them, whether it be family, friends or coworkers. Too often, marriage-equality opponents forget about the life and dignity of an LGBT person.”
Segal’s proposal for LGBT families to open their doors to World Meeting of Families participants is a wonderful, grassroots idea that would promote understanding on a very personal and basic level. It would probably work best if parents of LGBT people would offer such hospitality since many participants might be reluctant, unfortunately, to stay in the home of a gay or lesbian couple. And New Ways Ministry knows that the Catholic parents of LGBT people in the Philadelphia area are a strong, welcoming, and committed group!
The best way for people to learn about LGBT issues is through one-on-one conversations. Even though the World Meeting of Families won’t be addressing LGBT issues positively, let’s hope and pray that there will be many opportunities for participants to witness the loving and live-giving qualities that LGBT families offer the world and the church.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry