Catholic Students at Union Theological Counter LGBTQ-Negative Group’s Presentation

What does it mean to navigate through life as a Catholic LGBTQ person? Not all Catholic LGBTQ people have the same philosophy. The diversity of opinion was recently abundantly clear at Columbia University, New York, where Catholic students hosted an event titled “LGBTQ and Catholic: An Affirming Space and Conversation” as a response to an event featuring the group Eden Invitation, which had been co-sponsored by the Columbia Catholic Ministry (CCM) and the Catholic Center at New York University. Eden Invitation bills itself as an exploration of “life and love beyond the LGBT+ paradigm, from a conservative perspective”

According to an article in the Columbia Daily Spectator, a campus publication, many students criticized Eden Invitation’s ideologies for what they perceived as homophobic and transphobic ideas, for example, the philosophy that while experiencing same-sex attraction is valid, acting on said attraction is not.

This led several students at Columbia and Union Theological Seminary (which is affiliated with Columbia) to plan the above event in response to the program featuring Eden Invitation. The Spectator article quotes Union Theological student and event organizer Abby Rampone, who was concerned that Eden Invitation’s message could be harmful to younger students:

” ‘Undergrads are going to hear about [Eden Invitation] and think, “Okay, if you’re LGBTQ and Catholic, this means that you have to be celibate, this is your only option.” We want to show that is not your only option.’ “

Rampone adds that “it’s possible to be in Catholic communities that affirm LGBTQ relationships, and even though that’s not an option that you’re hearing of on campus, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who will support you.” The event in response received a positive response from the Columbia community, with many LGBTQ organizations offering up their support.

Another of the organizers, Tess Gallagher Clancy, said that Eden Invitation’s “ambiguous messaging” drove her and others online to understand where the organization really stood on LGBTQ relationships. One need not travel far, for much can be found on a page of Eden Invitation’s website describing their four basic principles. The second of which reads, “Same-sex desires or discord within one’s maleness or femaleness are valid experiences of the human person. People who experience these things deserve to be seen with dignity, received with love, and heard with respect.” The page also includes references to Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and gender complementarity.

The Spectator also spoke to a former CCM board member, Nicole-Ann Lobo, who revealed this was not the first time Columbia’s Catholic ministry had been disappointing about LGBTQ inclusivity. Lobo said she attempted to invite Jesuit author Fr.James Martin to campus for a “productive and inclusive” conversation on LGBTQ acceptance in the Catholic Church. Martin is the author of the influential book Building a Bridge, which calls for a dialogue between the Catholic Church and the LGBTQ community. Lobo’s event was rejected with “discomfort and disapproval” by other board members and CCM director and pastor Dan O’Reilly. Lobo said the response upset her:

” ‘The Columbia Catholic Ministry has never shied away from hosting events with National Right to Life, an anti-abortion initiative, so they haven’t been afraid of dealing with other political issues before. But then within this issue which shouldn’t even be controversial, this is the response I got.’ “

Some LGBTQ Catholics make the personal decision to live a celibate lifestyle. But to argue that celibacy, or making the deliberate choice to not enter into a same-gender relationship, is the only way for LGBTQ Catholics to be right with God could be pastorally irresponsible. Pastoral ministry should emphasize the importance of developing and following one’s conscience on matters where there may be disagreement with church directives. Young LGBTQ Catholics shouldn’t feel like they have to choose between their faith and a loving relationship.

Melissa Feito, November 12, 2019

4 replies
  1. Mary Jo
    Mary Jo says:

    This is an interesting article. What is interesting is not the stand taken by an avowed Roman Catholic group that sexual activity between people of the same sex is wrong but that this might be a surprise. The Catholic Church officially teaches this very thing. And to look to James Martin as your assistant in arguing against the church on this point wont help you. He does not go against official church teaching in his book. He just walks close to the line. So, I’m not at all surprised that a catholic campus group would host the anti-gay sex group at all. And the anti-gay movement has become much more nuanced as well, love the sinner but hate the sin. Nothing new here.

  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    There seems to be a view among a number of individuals as well as the Church that celibacy is better than participating in ones sexuality. If either lifestyle is chosen and enriching to an individual then it can be a good use of the gift, but saying it is a universal good for individuals whether they select it or not denies our very free will. Gifts don’t have to be enforced. Pushing others into living a certain way should not be taken so likely.

  3. Lily
    Lily says:

    Thank you for your article. I was wondering if any attempt was made to reach out to Eden Invitation for their comments or perspective? The comment was made about Eden Invitation’s “ambiguous messaging” but were they attempts to clarify that messaging?

  4. K. Smith
    K. Smith says:

    Hi, I think the author has misinterpreted a quote from Eden Invitation. The author cites,

    “Same-sex desires or discord within one’s maleness or femaleness are valid experiences of the human person” –Eden Invitation

    I think the author is interpreting this to mean that SSA is also known as “discord in one’s maleness or femaleness.”

    On the contrary, however, a view more consistent with Eden Invitation’s materials is that, in this quote, Eden is trying to address SSA and gender dysphoria in one single line. They’re not explicitly claiming here that SSA is equated with discord in one’s maleness or femaleness. On the contrary, they’re claiming that SSA is a valid human experience.


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