For Press Inquiries

Francis DeBernardo
Executive Director, New Ways Ministry
Office: (301) 277-5674
Cell: (240) 432-2489

Most Recent Press Statement

For past statements, see below

Catholic LGBT Ministry Responds to McAleese Calling Church Teaching ‘Evil’

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

June 29 ,2018

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– In an interview on the eve of Dublin’s LGBT Pride Parade, the former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, has called Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality “evil.” McAleese, who is also the mother of a gay son, said:

“My church’s teaching on homosexuality is, in my view, evil. It educes to homophobia; homophobia is evil. It ruins people’s lives. It has ruined families’ lives. It has caused people to commit suicide. It has caused people to live in dark shadows.”

The former Irish president, who holds an advanced theological degree from the Gregorian University in Rome, has often been frank and candid on the hierarchy’s positions on women and LGBT issues.  These latest comments reflect the thought of many Catholics around the world, especially LGBT Catholics and their loved ones, who have been so wounded for so long by harmful language and ideas from the Vatican, local bishops, and clergy.

While her language may sound harsh, it reflects the direction of even many bishops who have recently spoken out about the need to discuss new approaches to LGBT issues.  She has put into clear and powerful detail how much harm the church’s teaching has caused.  Mary McAleese speaks with the fury of a mother whose love for her offspring, which mirrors God’s love for all people, will not be silenced.

Catholic advocates for LGBT people have for decades been delivering the same message that McAleese offered, yet we have not heard such strong language from so prominent a Catholic before.  Perhaps no one has said it as boldly as she has.  The strength of her language comes not only from her thoughts, but also from the passion and urgency with which she speaks.  Her words sting because for too many decades, church leaders have ignored the calls from the faithful for greater LGBT acceptance.  Her words are piercing because the hierarchy which has not paid attention to the pain of LGBT people. Additionally, we must remember that members of the hierarchy are responsible for heightening the rhetoric of LGBT discussions into even greater feverish and negative language.

While her message is powerful, and needed to be said, it is truly depressing that the Catholic LGBT discussion has become a shouting match.  Such shouting, though, is necessary to attract attention to the terrible tragedies caused by magisterial ignorance and apathy.

This statement should be a signal of the urgency for greater discussion of LGBT issues in Catholicism, and also of the need for changes in both doctrine and pastoral practice.

The hierarchy could start by offering a greater welcome to LGBT people and families at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August, including allowing them to speak officially at the event.  Church leaders should also invite LGBT youth to speak at the Youth Synod at the Vatican in October.


Youth Synod Document Shows Vatican Evolution on LGBT Topics

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

June 19, 2018

The Vatican has reached three new milestones in its evolution toward a greater dialogue with the LGBT community.

In the Instrumentum Laboris, a preparatory document released on June 19th which lays out the direction for the October 2018 Synod on Youth in Rome, the Vatican for the first time used the acronym “LGBT” to describe individuals with diverse sexualities and gender identities.  Similar to 2013 when Pope Francis became the first pope to use the word “gay,” this change in language signals that church officials are beginning to understand that they have to treat LGBT people with simple respect by referring to them with more accurate terms.

Another significant development is the acknowledgement that LGBT people have a desire to be part of the church.  In one section, the document states:  “some LGBT youth … wish to benefit from greater closeness and experience greater care from the Church.”

This acknowledgement is a welcome change from the hierarchy’s traditional rhetoric that suggests LGBT people are opposed to religion.  As New Ways Ministry knows from over 40 years of pastoral work with the LGBT community, LGBT Catholics have a deep spirituality, often forged by remarkable journeys overcoming rejection, alienation, and marginalization.  LGBT Catholics have stayed a part of the church, despite statements and actions which have offended and hurt them.

A third development is that the document shows that Vatican officials paid attention to concerns about LGBT issues which were raised by youth at a pre-synod meeting in Rome during March of this year, and also from youth around the world who made their views known to the Vatican online. In the Instrumentum Laboris, the Vatican acknowledges that many youth expressed disagreement with the church’s teaching on a range of sexuality topics, including homosexuality. This acknowledgement indicates a realistic perspective on the Vatican’s part, unlike at the 2015 Synod on the Family where only people who agreed with church teaching were invited to address the bishops.

New Ways Ministry welcomes these developments and prays that the Vatican will make real its intriguing acknowledgements of youth and LGBT reality by having an open and free discussion of these issues at the synod.

While these three developments are welcome changes in the church’s style of discourse, it must be noted that there is nothing in the new document which indicates that the Vatican is, as yet, willing to entertain changes in church policy on LGBT issues.  The furthest they have gone is to indicate a willingness to work towards being a “community open and welcoming towards all.”  This pastoral approach is important, but the Church’s outreach cannot end there.

The proof of the Vatican’s openness to LGBT issues will be how these topics are addressed at the Synod itself:  Will LGBT youths be represented as speakers to the assembly?  Will voices expressing dissent on LGBT issues be allowed by speakers who address the bishops?  If the Vatican does not enact such changes at the upcoming synod, the language of the Instrumentum Laboris will go down in history as lip-service—which youth are keenly adept at recognizing.

The National Catholic Reporter has noted that at the press conference releasing the Instrumentum Laboris, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri “said his office decided to make the Vatican’s first use of the LGBT acronym to refer to gay people because the March pre-synodal meeting of young people used the term and his office was ‘diligent’ about respecting the young people’s work.”

Yet, we also have to wonder if this development may possibly be traced to the effect of Fr. James Martin’s book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity has had on church discussions. In that text, which is based on a talk Fr. Martin gave at a New Ways Ministry event, the Jesuit priest asks church leaders, as a sign of respect, to use the LGBT community’s vocabulary for self-identification:

“. . . [R]espect means calling a group what it asks to be called. Names are important. Thus, church leaders are invited to be attentive to how they name the L.G.B.T. community and lay to rest phrases like ‘afflicted with same-sex attraction,’ which no L.G.B.T. person I know uses, and even ‘homosexual person,’ which seems overly clinical to many. I’m not prescribing what names to use, though ‘gay and lesbian, ‘L.G.B.T.’ and ‘L.G.B.T.Q.’ are the most common. I’m saying that people have a right to name themselves. Using those names is part of respect.”

Martin’s book has been praised by church leaders around the globe, including Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life which plays a significant role in the Synod on Youth.  In fact, Farrell wrote a blurb for the book’s jacket cover.


New Ways in the News

  • June 28, 2018: New Ways Ministry’s Work for LGBTQ Equality

  • June 26, 2018: Three years ago the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. What that means for churches remains murky.

  • June 21, 2018: Vatican uses the term ‘LGBT’ for first time in history

  • June 20, 2018: Vatican officially uses term ‘LGBT’ for first time in its history

  • June 20, 2018: For what’s believed to be the first time, the Vatican uses the term ‘LGBT’ in official document

  • February 13, 2018: Firing of L.G.B.T. Catholic church workers raises hard (and new) questions

Past Statements

  • June 5, 2018

    Masterpiece Cakeshop Case Holds Promise for Full Legal Equality

  • May 21, 2018

    Catholic LGBT Ministry Responds to Pope’s Reported Words of Affirmation to Gay Man