Catholic parishes and faith communities that welcome and affirm LGBT people have had their profiles raised this past summer with Fr. James Martin’s talk about inclusive Catholic communities at the World Meeting of Families in Ireland. On Monday, Bondings 2.0 ran a post examining how welcoming a welcoming parish really is. Today’s post continues that discussion.
Recently, several welcoming Catholic communities were profiled in the press. The following are stories of four different forms of ministry.
Reaching Out in Montreal
Yves Côté’s is a gay Catholic in Montreal.. He grew up in the Catholic Church, but left after coming out to a priest at thirteen, CBC News reports. Côté thought that the interaction was the end of his relationship with the Catholic Church, saying:
“He thought that he could help change me. I didn’t want to hear that. I decided that I would never go [to church] again.”
However, in the mid-1990s, he happened to walk into Saint-Pierre-Apôtre Church after work one day. The priest, Fr. Claude Saint-Laurent, told the congregation:
“I accept to be your pastor on the condition that we open the great doors of this church to everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or marital status. Whether you are a lesbian, homosexual, divorced, remarried, you are all welcome at the table of God.”
Côté met with the priest later that night, sharing almost thirty years of struggles with drugs and alcohol after leaving the church. Côté’s was amazed when the priest offered him a job at the church and recounted the conversation:
“I asked him, ‘Are you drunk or crazy?’ Côté recalled, laughing. I didn’t understand why. [Saint-Laurent] said ‘Because you’ll never be able to judge anybody. Anything that people might confide in you, you’ll have already lived it yourself.”
He is now sixty-four, and works full time as a Parish Care Worker at Saint-Pierre-Apôtre. While he ministers to everyone that walks in the doors, he has a special care for the LGBT community:
“For me, my family is the people that I meet every Sunday at Saint-Pierre-Apôtre. Whether it’s the homeless person on the street who comes to my office or a teacher from a university, these are the people that help me grow every day.”
Saint-Pierre-Apôtre, located in Montreal’s gay neighborhood, continues to grow and support those in the LGBT community and their allies, especially those whose lives have been touched by AIDS. The parish opened a special chapel in 1996 dedicated to the victims of the AIDS epidemic. Côté believes that the uniqueness of the chapel is unprecedented. He also says that the chapel is a draw for many visitors:
“AIDS touches all people, all origins, no matter what. We’ve seen people of all religions gather in this chapel. We’ve had Jews; we’ve had Muslims … We’ve had people from all over.”
The Archdiocese of Montreal is quietly supportive of the work of Saint-Pierre-Apôtre. Bishop Alain Faubert, vicar-general, said:
“The official doctrine of the Catholic Church hasn’t changed on gay marriage. This being said, many things have changed when we look at people differently and how they live.”
Côté is not surprised, saying:
“For me, this is how Jesus Christ would have wanted it.”
Ministry with Parents
Public Source.org recently posted an article surveying LGBT houses of worship in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania. Featured in the article was the ministry of Alecia Moss, a parent of a gay son, who started a group for LGBT people and family members called “Always Our Children,” after the title of the U.S. bishops’ 1997 pastoral message on gay and lesbian family issues. She lives in the diocese of Greensburg, next door to Pittsburgh.
Moss, whose son came out when he was 16, said the group was important for support and discussion. She noted that parents need to find a way to support their children, not dictate to them:
“I cannot tell my son how he should live his life, who he should fall in love with, any more than I can tell my brother or my neighbor. I have two daughters. I couldn’t tell them that they had to be nuns. So why should I tell my son how to rule his life?”
In addition to ministering with people in the pews, Moss has worked at getting the support of diocesan officials:
“Moss has spoken about Always Our Children with Bishop Edward Malesic of the Diocese of Greensburg. Malesic gave the group permission to meet, though he has not made Always Our Children a diocesan program and instead suggested to Moss that she lead at the parish level at her church, St. Vincent Basilica Parish in Latrobe. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Greensburg, Jerome Zufelt, confirmed in an email that Bishop Malesic ‘supports Alecia Moss’ group and her work.’ “
A Mass with Dignity
Another community mentioned in the Public Source article was Dignity/Pittsburgh, a local chapter of Dignity/USA, a national organization of LGBTQI Catholics. Chapter leader Donna Bachner was interviewed for the story:
“Donna Bachner is Catholic—but she attends Catholic Mass each week at an Episcopal church in Squirrel Hill.”
The reason for this seeming anomaly is explained:
“Bachner said Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh told Dignity’s president that the group cannot hold Mass in a Catholic church, but she isn’t fazed.
” ‘I feel the church is run by people, and people have their own opinions,’ Bachner said. ‘And so, my opinion is what we’re doing is right. His opinion is that it’s wrong. But I can’t let that affect my living … I feel closer to God rather than a particular church.’ “
The community serves an important need for the LGBTQI community:
“Dignity members ‘want to be more spiritual,’ Bachner said, ‘and not have the stigma of being gay being something they can’t talk about.’ Participants are predominantly older, although recently the group has attracted a few people in their twenties.”
What does it mean to be LGBT-friendly?
In a letter to the editor of MyCentralJersey.com, David B. Harvie, a gay Catholic man who works with the Interparish Collaborative of the metropolitan New York area (a network of Catholic LGBT-freindly parishes), questioned what being LGBT friendly really means:
“Do our employment practices treat all people equally or do we single out gay teachers or staff for special scrutiny? Do our parishes welcome a child of a gay couple presented for baptism? Do our schools affirm and support our queer students as unique children of God? Do we preach against the sin of homophobia and transphobia in the same way we preach against racism and ageism? We can and must do a better job at welcoming all people of goodwill while always respecting and learning from church teaching.”
Harvie also made a plea to LGBT Catholics:
“Finally, I hope that my queer brothers and sisters do not give up in the quest to find a home in the Catholic Church. Through our baptism, LGBTQ Catholics have as much right to be in the church as the pastor or the bishop. Indeed, we are called to a unique and prophetic role: to call the church to be more welcoming of all God’s creation.”
If you want to find an LGBT-friendly parish or faith community, click here. If you would like to recommend a parish as LGBT-friendly, click here amd scroll to the form at the bottom of the page.
If you are interested in learning more about making your parish or faith community a more welcoming place, check out the resources on New Ways Ministry’s web page on “Parish Life & Pastoral Care.” If you are interested in resources about making Catholic schools safer places for LGBT students, click here.
–Katie Brown and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 12, 2018