Fr. Bryan Massingale: Catholics Should Expect “Messy Period” on LGBT Inclusion

Fr. Bryan Massingale

A leading theologian and priest has said the Catholic Church should expect a “messy period” when it comes to LGBT inclusion, a period similar to that experienced in other Christian denominations as they moved to become more affirming.

Fr. Bryan Massingale, a professor in theological and social ethics at Fordham University, told U.S. Catholic that the Catholic Church is experiencing an historical shift on LGBT issues. That shift inevitably brings conflict and complexity. He said Christian denominations which have become affirming churches, like the Episcopalians and Presbyterians, struggled first:

“‘They all went through a messy period marked by a divergence of opinion and open disagreement on approach. . .We can’t expect the Catholic experience to be any different. The differences we see among official leaders are part of a normal process of coming to a different place. . .We’re in this transitional time when we’re moving out of one paradigm of understanding human sexuality and into another. That’s part of the mess we’re in, but it is our faith as Catholics that this mess contains the ground for new life and new birth.'”

Massingale attributed this new moment in Catholicism on LGBT issues to Pope Francis, who is “creating the space in which the Spirit can speak and be heard” rather than “creating a revolution.” He continued:

“While there hasn’t been any official change in church doctrine, under the papacy of Pope Francis there is a greater freedom to address issues of sexual ethics and sexual morality more openly than there has been under the previous papacies. . .We’re used to living with the idea that church leaders all act the same way or use the same voice. . .I think this is a call for us as Catholics to accept the reality that we live in a church that’s in the midst of hesitant but real change and development. How do we help our people to understand that this isn’t something that’s entirely new in church history?'”

Finally, the theologian advocated for the institutional Church to listen more intentionally and deeply to the “voices of very sincere, committed, loyal Catholic people” in finding “a way to a stance that more adequately reflects the life and ministry of Jesus.”

Fr. Massingale will lead New Ways Ministry’s retreat for gay priests, deacons, and brothers this coming October. For more information or to register, please click here.

Other Catholics shared with U.S. Catholic about their experiences of the Church today.

Fired church worker Kristen Ostendorf was less hopeful than Massingale, saying, “It’s hard for me to believe the church has changed” because of the fear that still permeates the Church. While overall Catholics have become more affirming of LGBT people, Ostendorf worries about the message church leaders send to young people when they practice discrimination:

“‘It says to the gay kids, “You have no future in this church. Don’t say out loud who you are, and if you do, we will squash you.” That is not a church of Christ, it can’t possibly be. . .There’s a ton of us who stick around in a church that really doesn’t want us. So there’s got to be a message of Jesus that’s appealing. There’s got to be a truth to that Christian story that we keep telling. LGBT people keep showing up because they are hopeful in the truth of that message.'”

Yunuen Trujillo of the Catholic Ministry for Lesbian and Gay Persons in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed that change is “happening from the bottom up,” noting the move by her parish to start an LGBT ministry. She added:

“‘We tend to forget that sexuality or orientation is only one small part of who the LGBT community is. . .LGBT people have amazing testimonies of faith, and I think anyone who hears their stories would agree that this is not a person we’d deny sacraments or other things to.'”

Finally, Javier and Martha Plascencia, Catholic parents with a gay son, said that even as people in the pews become more accepting, the voices of church leaders still have a great impact, especially among Latinx people.

Since Pope Francis was elected five years ago, he has allowed a more honest and open conversations on key pastoral issues that his predecessors forcefully silenced, including LGBT conversations,  Early on in his pontificate, Francis said young people should go “make a mess” in their diocese. That message has increasingly resonated through the whole Church. LGBT people and their allies can now be glad we are evermore deeply in what Fr. Massingale calls this “messy period” for, as we have witnessed in our Christian siblings’ communities, from divine chaos comes new life.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 6, 2018

4 replies
  1. Frank
    Frank says:

    “Divine chaos” makes no sense.
    “Chaos” is the opposite of God.
    Divine ORDER is from God. Behold nature, as an example. Behold the our human bodies and how they function.

    DON E SIEGAL says:

    Expect “Messy Period” on LGBT Inclusion

    Fr. Richard Rohr* speaking on the reformation, “Christianity has experienced many periods of dramatic change and upheaval, beginning with the Constantinian privileges and separation from the poor in 313. In the Great Schism of 1054, Christianity split between East and West. In my opinion, this is the way that history and spirituality move forward. Change is never in a perfectly straight and logical line; it happens through the constant push and pull, death and life, that mirrors the Paschal Mystery:

    1) Some seeming Ideal Order is the easiest way to begin.

    2) This is followed by a necessary experience of Disorder, which Christians call ‘the folly of the cross.’

    3) Finally, there is a Reordering, what Christians name the Body of Christ, the Mind of Christ, or Resurrection!

    “In the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Living School, drawing from the teachings of George Gurdjieff and Cynthia Bourgeault, we call this sacred pattern Holy Affirming > Holy Denying > Holy Reconciling. It is the subtle but powerful work of grace. Without the self-correcting of Holy Denying (Disorder), all persons and groups become idolatrous of themselves and thus corrupt.

    “Catholics are ‘reformed but ever in need of reforming.’ None of us will ever live up to ‘the full stature that is Christ’ though at the same time we are all already in Christ. It took the Catholic Church until the Second Vatican Council of 1963-1965 to admit its mistakes and return to a more Scripture-based Christianity.”

    *Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation.

    The reconciliation of the RCC with the LGBT community will indeed be a messy period (chaos).

    • Blake
      Blake says:

      I have known Richard since the 1970’s.
      He is a nice guy, but
      he is not the Messiah that people try to make him out to be.

      Regarding your assertion that it took until the 1960’s for the Church to straighten itself out: I am still laughing that you are dismissing 1900 years of history so blithely.
      Anyone who can dismiss Church history with such smugness, has not studied it. And if he has studied it, he has not understood any of it.


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