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

Vatican’s Synod on Youth Final Report

October 27. 2018

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

ROME–The Vatican’s synod on youth has issued a final report that calls for “a deeper anthropological, theological and pastoral elaboration” of sexuality and affectivity is an important step forward for the Catholic Church in regard to LGBT issues. The statement acknowledges that the church still has a lot to learn about sexuality.  If the study of these topics is done with open minds and hearts, there is potential for great transformation in the church.

The call for more parishes to provide accompaniment to lesbian and gay people is also a positive.  The words describing accompaniment seem carefully chosen to allow for wide interpretation.  During the synod, a request was made to include a statement calling lesbian and gay people to “conversion,” a word used often in church discourse to mean celibacy.  That language did not make it into the final document.  Instead the pastoral recommendations allow for great latitude of welcome and accompaniment based on the individual person and the local pastoral community and ministers.

The document also contains a strong condemnation of discrimination and violence against lesbian and gay people—an important message to bishops who have sometimes implicitly and explicitly supported LGBT criminalization laws with severe punishments.  Catholic support for these laws must end.

The document has some problematic elements, too.  It reinforces the prohibition of same-sex relationships, though it does so in a way that has been typical of Pope Francis:  it does not use condemnatory language, but instead it endorses the heterosexual model as ideal.

The idea that “it is reductive to define a person’s identity solely on the basis of their ‘sexual orientation’” is also a problem The claim is erroneous in that hardly any lesbian or gay people define their identity solely on their orientation. Asking to be called a “gay Catholic” does not mean that the person only thinks of themselves in terms of sexuality, just as asking to be called a “young Catholic” doesn’t equate identity solely with age, nor does “American Catholic” mean that nationality is a defining characteristic.  These are simply descriptive words.  Implying that sexual orientation dominates an individual’s personality is not only demeaning, but it reveals more about the church hierarchy’s poor understanding of lesbian and gay people than it does about lesbian and gay people themselves.

Finally, the report uses “inclinations,” to describe non-heterosexual sexual activity.  This term reduces lesbian and gay love and sexuality to base desires for sexual activity which.  Not only is it a derogatory word, but it shows a complete ignorance of the affective lives of lesbian and gay people.  Its continued use in church documents is not only an embarrassment, but is harmful.

That the synod report would not use the ordinary terms “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual” is surprising given the pope’s own use of the word “gay.” Such a small gesture in language would have meant a great deal to people.  Additionally, no mention of transgender individuals was made—a glaring omission since transgender people are among the most abused and oppressed people in LGBT communities around the globe.

These problems remind us that there is still much work to be done LGBT justice and equality in the church. In fact, the section that contained the most comprehensive analysis of lesbian and gay issues received the most “no” votes, and it made it to the required 2/3rds majority by only two votes.

The power of this synod lies not in its product, though, but in its process.  It was an unprecedented gathering of church leaders with youth representatives from around the globe, and unlike other synods, it gave a stronger role to the voices of the lay participants.  Regardless of the outcome, it appears that a true dialogue took place—and we hope it will be replicated.

The synod could have been greatly improved if LGBT youth would have been allowed to speak for themselves.  During press briefings, bishops continually spoke about how moved they were by personal youth testimonies that allowed the bishops to put human faces to abstract or unknown situations.  How important it would have been for them to hear directly from LGBT youth about their lives of faith and their experiences of church! The bishops missed a great opportunity for their own education.

The themes of listening and accompaniment emerged as the dominant topics of the meeting.   Bishop participants promised to bring the process of the synod back to their home dioceses and to encourage other bishops to institute similar practices.  If they not do so, their words will sound like empty political campaign promises. By placing emphasis on welcome and accompaniment, the church is placing the LGBT discussion on the personal and local levels—good places for real discussion to take place.

Listening and pastoral accompaniment have potential for changing the hearts and minds of pastoral ministers and church leaders. Depending on how listening and accompaniment are implemented, these tools can help the church better understand and appreciate the sacredness of LGBT lives and loves.  If listening is implemented in the way Pope Francis has recommended, as a theological tool where one listens and allows one’s heart to be touched by new truths, the Catholic Church can begin to be transformed.

The synod’s success will be judged not by what it has accomplished to this date, but its impact on shaping a more dialogical and relational church for the future.


Archbishop Chaput’s Synod Comment on

LGBTQ People Explains Why Catholic Church

Is in So Much Trouble

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

October 4, 2018

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland–Archbishop Charles Chaput’s statement about LGBT Catholics at the synod on youth yesterday is a perfect example of how some church leaders have been so blinded by ideological homophobia and transphobia that they cannot perceive plain human facts accurately.  His comments reflect the dangerous avoidance mentality that is the cause of the clergy sexual abuse scandal and so many of the ills which plague the Catholic Church today. (For a news article about Chaput’s statement, see The National Catholic Reporter.)

The Catholic Herald carried the full text of Chaput’s talk.  The passage that is so dangerous is:

“There is no such thing as an ‘LGBTQ Catholic’ or a ‘transgender Catholic’ or a ‘heterosexual Catholic,’ as if our sexual appetites defined who we are; as if these designations described discrete communities of differing but equal integrity within the real ecclesial community, the body of Jesus Christ. This has never been true in the life of the Church, and is not true now. It follows that ‘LGBTQ’ and similar language should not be used in Church documents, because using it suggests that these are real, autonomous groups, and the Church simply doesn’t categorize people that way.”

Of course, there are LGBTQ Catholics and transgender Catholics and heterosexual Catholics, just as there are Italian Catholics, elderly Catholics, disabled Catholics, Latin American Catholics, traditionalist Catholics, poor Catholics, educated Catholics, and so many other distinct groups within our big tent church.  LGBTQ Catholics are just as real as all these other groups in our church.  This identity doesn’t divide LGBTQ people from the rest of the church, just as other categories of Catholics are not separate from the Body of Christ.  Time and again, our tradition and our Scriptures praise diversity.  These faith sources do not try to erase all differences, but instead they celebrate these differences as part of the wonderful creation God has made.

Chaput falls into the trap that so many other church leaders have fallen into.  They interpret a simple descriptive adjective as a political statement that is loaded with ideology.  When people describe themselves or others as LGBTQ, it does not mean that they consider sexual orientation or gender identity the dominant marker of themselves, any more than referring to themselves as Italian or elderly makes that attribute their dominant marker.  “LGBTQ” does not refer to any particular political ideology.  LGBTQ people represent the whole spectrum of political positions–even in regard to LGBTQ issues themselves.

If Chaput interprets LGBTQ as a sinister designation that must be expunged, the responsibility for such an interpretation is his own fault and a result of his own ignorance to better understand the reality of LGBTQ Catholic people.

Chaput’s statement looks like he is trying to make LGBTQ people invisible in the church by pretending that they don’t exist.  Furthermore, the statement threatens to silence not only individuals, but it attempts to silence any church discussion of LGBTQ issues, which are so widely acknowledged by people across the globe.  Debates about LGBTQ identity, relationships, family life, and human rights have been consuming so much of the energy of people around the globe.  Why does Chaput want the church to ignore these facts and act as if these are not topics of the church’s concern?

One of the central messages of the Second Vatican Council is for church people to read “the signs of the times.”  What is easily obvious to every person on the planet is that LGBTQ people and issues are very much part of the signs of our times.   Is Chaput so closed off from the realities of the world that he is not aware that this discussion has been going on for decades and is now a major part of the world conversation?

Chaput’s statement is an example of the kind of dangerous thinking that has brought the Catholic Church to its current crisis situation.  Avoiding reality is what fueled the clergy sex abuse crisis.  Chaput’s attitude is the kind of avoidance thinking that caused so many bishops to pretend that a serious issue did not exist, or that the problem would just go away if they didn’t speak about it.

On a pastoral level, Chaput’s comment will do great harm pastorally.  Telling a group of people that they don’t exist is not the way to welcome them to the church or to accompany them spiritually.  Such a negative message coming from a high-ranking church official will also further encourage people to perform fanatical acts, such as the burning of a rainbow church banner by a Chicago priest as a way to oppose LGBT ministry and outreach.

Chaput has a long history of reacting in extreme ways to LGBT issues and people.  Fortunately,  not all synod delegates think as he does.  Let’s hope and pray that cooler and more sensible minds hold sway during the upcoming month as the bishop discuss youth issues at the synod.


New Ways in the News

  • April 5, 2019: LGBTI activists urge Vatican to condemn homosexuality criminalization laws

  • April 5, 2019: LGBTQ Leaders Tepid After Meeting With Vatican – Church falls short of endorsing decriminalization of homosexuality, but vows to continue conversation

  • April 5, 2019: Lawyers ask Vatican to denounce criminalization of homosexuality

  • November 1, 2018: The Catholic Church is trying, y’all

    (See Round-up Below Main Article)

  • October 30, 2018: A Vatican opening on sexuality worries conservatives — and cheers reformers

  • October 27, 2018: Bishops Urge Greater Inclusion of Women in Church Decisions

  • October 23, 2018: Vatican bishops at synod struggle with what to call gay people

  • October 22, 2018: Young People Challenge Vatican To Be More Welcoming Of LGBTQ Catholics

  • October 19, 2018: How Pope Francis’ critics in the Catholic church are using the sexual abuse scandal to undermine his authority

  • October 16, 2018: Archbishop Charles Chaput says the Catholic Church needs to avoid using the term LGBTQ Catholics

  • October 15, 2018: Philadelphia Archbishop: ‘Joy and wholeness’ requires denying existence of LGBTQ Catholics

  • October 14, 2018: Philly Archbishop Charles Chaput: ‘There’s no such thing as LGBTQ’

  • October 13, 2018: Philadelphia Catholic Archbishop: ‘There’s no such thing as LGBTQ’

  • October 12, 2018: Philly Archbishop: LGBTQ People Don’t Exist

  • October 10, 2018: Archbishop’s comment explains why Church is in so much trouble

  • October 8, 2018: International religious leader urge repeal of Caribbean anti-LGBT laws

  • October 6, 2018: Philly Archbishop: LGBTQ People Don’t Exist

  • August 23, 2018: Archdiocese denounces Siena Center ‘gay priest’ retreat

  • August 22, 2018: Milwaukee Archdiocese questions legitimacy of retreat for ‘gay priests, brothers, and deacons’

  • August 20, 2018: Cardinal McCarrick scandal inflames debate over gay priests

  • 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

  • August 26, 2018

    New Ways Ministry responds to Archbishop’s Vigano’s Accusations Against Gay Clergy and Pope Francis

  • August 19, 2018

    Catholic LGBT Ministry Responds to Archbishop’s Criticism of Retreat for Gay Priests, Brothers, Deacons

  • June 29, 2018

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

  • June 20, 2018

    Youth Synod Document Shows Vatican Evolution on LGBT Topics

  • 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