Archbishop Charles Chaput has responded negatively to a Catholic mother’s letter about his comments on the firing of lesbian teacher and his statement on LGBT involvement at the World Meeting of Families (WMF) in September.
Of the Winters case, Cassidy said the archbishop’s expression of gratitude for the firing was “very hurtful” to the LGBT community. She continued:
“Your statement about this situation praised the school for showing ‘character and common sense.’ Such a description shocks the public, particularly the Catholic public you shepherd. . .Where is the basic humanity in asking a person to be silent and secretive about her most important human relationship, as school administrators asked Winters for several years?”
The letter also addressed Chaput’s comments about LGBT involvement at WMF. Though Chaput said all are welcome at WMF, which he is hosting in Philadelphia, he warned against LGBT people “lobbying” for change in the church. Moreover, hardly any WMF programming covers families with LGBT members, and the archbishop uses the language of “same-sex attraction” to describe lesbian and gay sexuality.
Criticizing Chaput’s characterization of LGBT advocates as lobbyists, she wrote:
“This presumption is very insulting to lesbian and gay people. It imagines them as people outside the Church, out to destroy it. It seems you are not aware of the presence of many baptized, confirmed, and faithful Catholics who happen to be LGBT and who try to participate fully in the Church’s faith life.”
In an interview with Philly.com, Cassidy was steadfast in her Catholic identity and candid about what her mind and conscience have informed her:
“I was born and baptized a Catholic, and I will stay a Catholic,” she said. “I believe the church was wrong in the past, and I believe it is wrong again.”
Mike Newall, the interviewer, concluded the Philly.com profile of Cassidy with this hope:
“With all due respect, Archbishop, what so many Philadelphia Catholics – including this one – would prefer is a leader who recognizes the basic virtue of not judging people for being true to who they are. And that as the city prepares for the pope’s visit, it’s time to build those ‘conversations of inclusion’. . . “
Cassidy is joining Equally Blessed’s pilgrimage of LGBT families to WMF with, in her words, “the hopes of sharing our faith lives and family experiences with other there.” These pilgrims are answering Pope Francis’ call for the church to be a place of encounter and dialogue, and Cassidy appeals to the pontiff in her demand that Philadelphia’s local church become a “home for all”:
“In his recent visit to Latin America, Pope Francis remarked that Jesus did not commission apostles as ‘men of influence, landlords, officials armed with rules and regulations.’ The pope envisioned the Catholic Church as ‘the home of hospitality,’ welcoming even those ‘who do not think as we do.’
“Archbishop Chaput, this is the kind of church we need in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. One way such a church could take root is to begin to see LGBT people not as enemies, not as suspect, not as rule-breakers, but as who they really are: your brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Archbishop Chaput’s response to Cassidy’s letter follows a regulatory official mode more than that of a hospitable host. He wrote, in part:
“We have a foundational responsibility to being faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ regarding the meaning of marriage and the meaning of human sexuality. No posturing on the part of others will ever lead to changes on those matters.
“It seems many people prefer worldly ways rather than the ways of Jesus.”
Chaput exhibits the exact behavior of falsely pitting LGBT Catholics and their families against the church criticized in Cassidy’s letter. In so doing, he misses out on being a bridge builder to those hurt by the church yet who love it enough to seek its betterment. To say these pilgrims prefer worldly ways to Jesus is demeaning. In fact, Cassidy and her fellow Catholics are following Jesus’ way against the worldliness that keeps people’s minds bound by homophobia and transphobia.
Ultimately, the entire church suffers. Chaput’s response dismisses too easily the wisdom of a faithful Catholic. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she has been a lifelong member of the Catholic Church there, involved in innumerable ministries and activities throughout her life there. Currently she is an Associate of the Sisters of Mercy, and is involved in HIV ministry.
Cassidy is a longtime advocate for LGBT justice and equality, serving as a Listening Parent with Fortunate Families, supporter of other Equally Blessed groups, and leader with PFLAG Philadelphia for many years. Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will have seen her insightful comments throughout the years.
With this backround of lived faith, she is certainly capable of teaching bishops some things about family and faith, if only theywould listen.
Sadly, Archbishop Chaput will likely not listen to Cassidy nor Pope Francis. But the pontiff may create a miracle in Philadelphia nonetheless, responding to his own letters from Equally Blessed pilgrims and others, like fired gay priest Fr. Warren Hall, which implore Pope Francis to meet with LGBT Catholics and their loved ones.
For the latest news regarding the 2015 World Meeting of Families, visit the appropriate category on the right hand side of this page or click here for all the Bondings 2.0 posts covering the preparations for this event.
During the World Meeting of Families, New Ways Ministry will host a half-day workshop on gender diverse families entitled TransForming Love: Exploring Gender Identity from Catholics Perspectives, on Saturday, September 26, 2015, 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at St. John the Evangelist Parish Center, 1212 Ludlow Street, Philadelphia. For more information, click here.
For more information about New Ways Ministry events at WMF, please send inquiry emails to: info@NewWaysMinistry.org. For more information about the Equally Blessed Coalition’s pilgrims to WMF, please click here. You can donate financially to support these pilgrims’ work by clicking here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry