LGBT Advocate Appeals for Church Reform at L.A. Religious Education Congress

Liturgy at the LA Religious Education Congress

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A gay advocate challenged Catholic catechists gathered at a major conference as he demanded reforms from a church that “acts unjustly” towards LGBT people.

Arthur Fitzmaurice, resource director of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, spoke last Friday at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, one of the biggest gathering of Catholic ministers in the U.S.  In an address to 800 religious educators, he criticized the magisterium’s damaging theological language and harmful practices with a special appeal to protect LGBT youth. Michael O’Loughlin of Crux reports:

“The paragraph [in the Catechism] on homosexuality — which describes it as ‘intrinsically disordered’ while also demanding respect for gays and lesbians — is placed in a section of the catechism paragraphs condemning ‘pornography, prostitution, and rape,’ he said.

” ‘To keep this abusive language in the Catechism and other Church writings is, in itself, gravely evil,’ he said.”

Arthur Fitzmaurice

Fitzmaurice also harshly criticized pastoral practices that stem from a “poor and dangerous theology.” These include the firing of LGBT and ally church workers, insertion of anti-gay morality clauses into teaching contracts, and the denial of sacraments. Such acts “reinforce the false message that being born LGBTQ is shameful” and “communicates the sentiment that we are beyond God’s abilities and unreachable by God’s love and grace.”

Instead, Fitzmaurice said, “our Church leaders should be models of love.” During a question and answer period, many catechists inquired as to how they could support LGBT people through their educational efforts. Crux reports:

“One participant in the gay and lesbian workshop told the crowd that he is drawn to being a catechist because he wants “to change the mindset” of Catholics who are opposed to homosexuality…

“Several audience members spoke about experiences with gay relatives that helped them change their minds on the issue, though some said they still struggle reconciling Church and biblical teachings with their own experiences.”

But not all participants were in agreement with Fitzmaurice, reported O’Loughlin:

“During a question-and-answer period, one woman challenged Fitzmaurice on whether or not he thought sacramental marriage should be offered to gays and lesbians. Fitzmaurice declined to give an answer, stating only that he’s heard a wide variety of opinions from gays and lesbians with whom he’s worked.”

Examples of poor catechesis were cited, including a story from a high school student, Anthony Marquez, who told the audience:

” ‘You cannot be gay in a Mexican family, because they will say so much stuff to you that hurts you…But what hurt me most was my confirmation teacher who told me it was a disease. I want to be a catechist so badly because I want to change that mindset. It’s not a disease. We can be good Catholics, even if we’re gay.’ “

It is stories like Marquez’s which reveal the need for special pastoral care for LGBT youth, especially those coming from religious households.  These teens are afflicted by mental health issues and homelessness at much higher rates than their peers. On this, Fitzmaurice told the audience:

” ‘The Church cannot continue to turn our backs on these kids…Tell your LGBT child he or she can have a happy future.’ “

American Catholicism’s next generation, if they remain in the church at all, is overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT equality. Student advocacy occurring in San Francisco right now is only the latest example that youth are unwilling to tolerate church leaders who single LGBT people out or a Catholic community where all are not truly welcome and affirmed.

Religious educators are capable of helping students understand the fullness of Catholic teaching, especially those teachings about justice and human dignity which are bedrock for Christian life. They can evangelize youth to become disciples of Christ without compromising their belief in LGBT justice.  Such action would help counteract damages done by church leaders and ministers who fail.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

15 replies
  1. Diane McKinley
    Diane McKinley says:

    As a CCD teacher for many years of 8th graders preparing for Confirmation, I found the Church’s teaching on homosexuality especially difficult. The way I discussed it with the kids was that, since the sacrament of marriage was not allowed between same sex couples, chastity was expected.

  2. bwelch3
    bwelch3 says:

    I think it would have been well for Maurice Fitzmaurice to have included a remark to raise consciousness of those gathered at the conference that when parents and family read or hear the words that their LBGT children are objectively disordered, intrinsically evil, and morally defective are words they use to justify their actions of rejection,, disassociation, and removal of such children from the family and place of residence.

  3. Barry Blackburn
    Barry Blackburn says:

    Congratulations to Arthur Fitzmaurice and the grass roots momentum of Catholic students and educarors. It is courage like this that will continue to melt the institutional church’s stubborn opposition. I am greatly encouraged and optimistic as a retired Canadian religious educator who tried, in the past, to move our Church forward to a wider vision. Bravo to this educators’ conference!

  4. Bob
    Bob says:

    Michael O’Laughlin’s report was posted to Crux several days ago. I’ve been scanning the comments posted there and have found myself alternately discouraged and angry as I read some of the truly horrible things being written there. There are, of course, several people trying to articulate a theological and pastoral vision that respects the lived experience of LGBT persons and their families as well as contemporary insights from theology, psychology and the social sciences. But the more they do that, the more reactionaries seem to surface — so much so that I suspect a concerted effort is underway to use that thread in CRUX to advance a reactionary and truly hateful approach to gay persons and their families — couched in the pious drivel (“Hate the sin, not the sinner”, etc.) we have all seen so often and for so long. What I wonder is this: Does posting there do any good? Does leaving the thread — and maybe the site — to the haters do any harm? For myself, I’ve pretty much decided that I will confine my visits there to reading the reports and articles, but will resist the temptation to read the comments.

  5. Sharon Willey
    Sharon Willey says:

    Tolerance is not the goal. We won’t be real Christians until we can look at every brother and sister and see the beauty that God made in them and treat them with love and respect.

    • Bob
      Bob says:

      I think you are exactly right. Tolerance comes from a place of superiority; it can be condescending. What is required is mutual respect.

  6. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    I have recently been noticing the work, “microaggression.” Each and every microaggression must be met with a push back by Catholics of conscience. We teach our young children not to bully, but to include all. The hierarchy stance on LGBTQ people is bullying. It must stop. We must be diligent and vocal. We must reach out to those who are bullied. This is what is required of us as Christians. Kudos to Fitzmaurice. We must all speak out as he is doing.

  7. Jeff Martin
    Jeff Martin says:

    “During a question-and-answer period, one woman challenged Fitzmaurice on whether or not he thought sacramental marriage should be offered to gays and lesbians. Fitzmaurice declined to give an answer, stating only that he’s heard a wide variety of opinions from gays and lesbians with whom he’s worked.”

    Sounds like it was a great group and wished i could have been part of it. My only concern with the event was Mr. Fitzmaurice dodge of not answering the ladies question directly. It is certainly true that their is a “wide variety of opinions” . However the marriage sacrament is not bestowed upon the participants by the church as the other 6six sacraments. The marriage sacrament is between the parties being married and the church acts as a witness to Christ’s grace. I have yet to a meet a gay person who wants the sacrament of marriage as currently provided for male and female marriages. It is not too much to ask that some type of blessing be allowed to publicly acknowledge the commitment and fidelity of the same sex couples. After all this church blesses dogs and cats and any other animal you can drag down to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assis. Are we not worth as much as an animal? Do we not have at least the same dignity as little Joey’s pet frog? Mr. Fitzmaurice’s answer in my opinion shows a lack of concern for coupled gay and lesbian Catholics and the dignity of their relationships and their children. If he is going to teach and speak out on our behalf then he should be true to us.


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  1. […] “Arthur Fitzmaurice, resource director for CALGM, told NCR he is confident that meeting organizers will ‘resolve this.’ He submitted his group’s application for exhibit space last year, complete with credit card information, and reapplied using the same form in early 2015.” […]

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