New Ways Ministry’s workshop, “Transforming Love: Gender Identity from Catholic Perspectives” workshop, which was scheduled to take place at St. John the Evangelist parish, Philadelphia, on September 26, 2015, has been evicted from the space by Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Philadephia Archdiocese.
The Moderator of the Curia of the archdiocese phoned the parish’s pastor, Fr. John Daya, OFM Cap, to tell him that the archbishop had seen a brochure for the program and did not want it to take place. Fr. Daya informed New Ways Ministry of the decision.
Additionally, programs that were also scheduled at the parish by the Equally Blessed coalition have also been cancelled. The parish was to be a hospitality center for the Equally Blessed pilgrims, 14 families with LGBT members, who are attending the week-long World Meeting of Families. The Equally Blessed coalition consists of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.
Organizers are working on re-scheduling both the New Ways Ministry and Equally Blessed programs to the nearby Arch Street United Methodist Church, Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Inquirer carries a news story today about the cancellations, and you can read that account by clicking here. The following are two statements, one from New Ways Ministry and one from Equally Blessed, in response to the cancellations.
Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry
New Ways Ministry is very disappointed that our workshop, “TransForming Love: Exploring Gender Identity from Catholic Perspectives,” was removed from St. John the Evangelist parish, Philadelphia. We were informed about the decision by the pastor, Fr. John Daya, after he had been told by the Moderator of the Curia of the Philadelphia Archdiocese that Archbishop Charles Chaput was not allowing the workshop to take place.
I am very sorry that Archbishop Chaput did not seek to speak with New Ways Ministry about the nature of the program, which consists of transgender and intersex persons and a family member telling their personal and faith journeys. There is a lack of information in the Catholic Church about gender identity, and this workshop was designed to provide information based on personal experience. There was no plan to have a theological discussion about gender identity.
The workshop fills a void at the World Meeting of Families, which comes to a close just before New Ways Ministry program is scheduled, Saturday, September 26, 2015. No speakers at the World Meeting will address the topic of gender identity, yet this is an issue that is being faced by more and more Catholic families and communities in the U.S.
St. John’s parish had seen fit to offer space for the program based on their pastor’s and community’s belief that “All are welcome” in the parish. It is very disappointing that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia did not have the same spirit of Christian hospitality.
How are LGBT people supposed to feel welcome in the Catholic Church when church officials will not allow them to speak?
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Statement of the Equally Blessed coalition
Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholic organizations committed to equality for LGBT Catholics and their families, is saddened, frustrated, and deeply disappointed not to be able to host our educational and outreach events at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church during the upcoming World Meeting of Families. Archbishop Chaput’s order that a New Ways Ministry workshop on gender identity not be held at the church, creating a subsequent need to relocate Equally Blessed’s activities which were also scheduled to be held there, run contrary to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” and the belief most Catholics have that our Church must embrace LGBT people and families.
Unfortunately, this is yet another instance of the kind of exclusion LGBT Catholics and supporters have endured for decades. Bishops have refused to allow us to meet in our own Churches, retreat centers and colleges. In every instance, we have been blessed to find gracious welcome from members of other denominations and communities, just as we have from Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. The Spirit has provided for us and will continue to lead us forward.
While we know the Church is the people of God and not a building, it is still very painful to be told we or our loved ones are not welcome in our own home. Actions like the Archbishop’s strengthen our resolve to keep working for the day when Catholicism is truly a Church for all people. We are excited that our pilgrimage will move forward as a witness to a Church where all are welcomed, valued, and empowered.
The official World Meeting of Families program provides no realistic presentation about the reality of LGBT Catholics and our families. In step with the intentions of the upcoming Synod on the Family, we believe Catholics need space and time to talk openly and honestly about how to reconcile Church teaching and the need of our LGBT family members to live full, authentic lives. The upcoming Equally Blessed pilgrimage will provide avenues for this dialogue.
As Catholics who love our Church and our families, we appreciate the support we’ve received and look forward to giving witness to a church for everyone at the 2015 World Meeting of Families.
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–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry