Catholics in the Diocese of Fresno, California, have been left with questions after church officials shuttered an LGBTQ ministry without explanation.
Teresa Dominguez, the diocesan chancellor, explained that the LGBTQ Ministry was indefinitely suspended over concerns that it “may have evolved beyond its primary mission.” The Fresno Bee reported:
“But Dominguez and diocese officials declined to say how the ministry may have gone outside that mission. Staff at the St. Paul Catholic Newman Center where the ministry was housed were instructed to not speak with The Bee. . .
“Dominguez declined to answer questions about what the LGBTQ Ministry’s primary mission consisted of, what activities it had engaged in, who was involved and whether anybody had been disciplined. ‘Bishop [Armando Ochoa] met with the ministry’s leadership,’ Dominguez said. ‘Bishop decided to indefinitely suspend the ministry in its current form.’ . . .
“Ochoa was first made aware of the issues surrounding the LGBTQ Ministry before the Diocese of Fresno’s annual congress in October, Dominguez said. An LGBTQ workshop that was scheduled to take place during that congress was abruptly canceled. Dominguez said that was due to the action that had been taken to reform the LGBTQ Ministry.”
One parishioner said that not everyone at St. Paul’s was aware of the suspension. The parish serves the campus and surrounding area of California State University at Fresno.
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The diocesan spokesperson said LGBTQ ministry would rely on resources from Courage, a Catholic ministry whose primary focus is to help lesbian and gay people remain celibate. Dominguez would not explain further what that collaboration might mean other than that it would “take time with extensive dialogue.”
While the suspension of an existing ministry is problematic, more troubling once again is the failure of church officials to communicate the reasons for their actions. Parishioners who have supported and been supported by this ministry for three years are due an explanation. Even better would have been holding the “extensive dialogue” which Dominguez projected before any decision was made. Such a communicative, transparent approach is both the model of synodality desired by Pope Francis and the recent Synod on Youth and, more fundamentally, is a matter of just relations.
Thankfully, it is not too late to reverse the suspension for the time being and begin practicing synodality. It would be a great way for the Diocese of Fresno to start 2019.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 28, 2018