In September of 2015, the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families (WMF) will bring together about 20,000 pilgrims to Philadelphia from all over the world to discuss family issues in the light of faith. Families with LGBT members, however, are not being provided with the opportunity to be visible officially at the event.
Two national Catholic organizations that support LGBT ministry and outreach are still waiting to hear from the WMF administration if they will be allowed to have a presence, either by exhibit table or advertising space, at the international conference scheduled for the end of September 2015.
The National Catholic Reporter noted that both Fortunate Families (FF), a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, and the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM), have not received a response from their applications to be allowed to have a table to distribute information about themselves to the pilgrim families.
Fortunate Families applied for an exhibit table last August, and was told that they were rejected for “lack of information,” according to FF Board President Deb Word. After re-applying in February, she learned at the beginning of this month that the application was again rejected, though no reason was given. They will now apply to have an advertisement in the program booklet for the event.
When The National Catholic Reporter inquired to the World Meeting of Families administration as to the reason for rejecting FF, Ken Gavin, communication director for the Philadelphia archdiocese, local organizers for the WMF, responded circumspectly:
“Applications for exhibitors are reviewed by staff within the World Meeting of Families Office and WMOF-Philadelphia 2015 reserves the right to approve or deny various applications. … If an organization has a question about the status of their application or the decision rendered, they should be in contact with the entity directly.”
Word had also been in contact with WMF organizers because she was being considered as a possible participant on a panel about the church and gay issues. She was not accepted, and the panel will have only two members: a celibate gay Catholic man and his mother.
As for CALGM, they, too, applied for an exhibit table last year, but have still not heard if they have been accepted. The news article stated:
“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.”
One national Catholic organization that has been accepted as an exhibitor at the meeting is Courage, which is a ministry which directs lesbian and gay people to celibacy. The news article says that their method is based on “five goals that include chastity, prayer, and fellowship and utilizes a 12-step format based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model.”
The news article also reported on pro-LGBT activities at the WMF that are being sponsored by New Ways Ministry and the Equally Blessed Coalition:
New Ways Ministry also plans to host a workshop on gender identity issues; co-sponsor a reception for LGBT Catholics, families, and allies; [the Equally Blessed Coalition will]. . . sponsor several dozen Catholic ‘pilgrims’ from nontraditional families who will be sent out each day with the ‘message that lesbian/gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons are also part of families’ during the week.”
For more information about New Ways Ministry events at WMF, please send inquiry emails to: [email protected].
The World Meeting of Families may not accept organizations such as Fortunate Families, CALGM, New Ways Ministry, and the Equally Blessed Coalition, but that will not prevent them from going forth in every way possible to spread a pro-LGBT message and witness at this international gathering.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry