At celebrations of Pax Christi USA’s 50th anniversary last weekend, LGBTQ+ inclusion was on the agenda, including in Bishop John Stowe’s homily where he alluded to a church that will “bless armaments but not some couples.”
Stowe, who is the organization’s bishop-president, presided at the closing Mass for Pax Christi USA’s 2022 National Assembly. Raising up Jesus’ words from the Sunday readings to “not be afraid any longer little flock,” Stowe positioned peacemakers and justice advocates as lambs in the midst of the world’s many wolves, including Catholic wolves. Stowe preached, alluding to LGBTQ+ couples at one point:
“As a Church it does not seem that we were sufficiently vigilant about those who were being excluded, about promoting the nonviolence of Christ, about challenging oppression wherever it was, about promoting equality and equal dignity among all our members. We seemed to be part of an institution living in fear, not heeding that most frequent admonition of Jesus, to be not afraid. . .
“We don’t have to wander very far to encounter the wolves: when Catholics are promoting the death-penalty and awarded for doing so, are eager for vengeance and retaliation, when we are willing to bless armaments but not some couples, when the voices of women are not being heard in the fights about abortion, when the institution cannot bring itself to say ‘Black lives matter,’ and when the self-proclaimed uber-Catholics insist that they know more and better than the pope.”
Also picking up the theme of inclusivity was Marie Dennis, the winner of Pax Christi USA’s Teacher of Peace Award this year and a longtime advocate of nonviolence. Dennis spoke about the need for a diverse, inclusive church—and modeled one way of doing so by offering her pronouns. She has become a prominent Catholic voice for LGBTQ+ equality, including offering a testimony about why she supports non-discrimination protections in New Ways Ministry’s publication, A Home for All. (Bishop Stowe is also quoted in the book.)
During the Prayers of the Faithful at the closing Mass, there was a petition that prayed not only for LGBTQ+ people, but for a development of the church teachings that harm the community. The petition read:
“We pray for all who identify as LGBTQ+. We cannot ignore that the official documents of the church marginalize the LGBTQ+ community even more than the lepers of Jesus’ time. May we all work together to excise this theological cancer, so that we may full share your gifts and your beauty in our LGBTQ+ siblings with joy and pride.”
Finally, New Ways Ministry conducted a conference workshop session that touched on Pax Christi USA’s organizational history of engaging LGBTQ+ issues, such as a 1999 sign-on ad in The New York Times co-published with New Ways Ministry that called for an end to violence targeting lesbian and gay people in the wake of Matthew Shepard’s murder. The workshop then explored how Pax Christi USA members today could help the Catholic peace movement to not only advocate for equality, but practice it internally, too.
As a longtime member of Pax Christi, I found last weekend to be a joyous occasion to celebrate all the good work done these past 50 years in the name of Gospel nonviolence. It is especially heartening because Pax Christi USA and its leaders are honest and open that being the Catholic peace movement necessarily entails including and advocating for LGBTQ+ people, too.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, August 12, 2022