In About-Face, Vatican Again Features Condemned LGBTQ Group as ‘Resource’ - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
In About-Face, Vatican Again Features Condemned LGBTQ Group as ‘Resource’
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A Vatican office flip-flopped this weekend and decided to promote an LGBTQ organization, New Ways Ministry, on the “resources” page of its website. Last week, the office, the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, removed the organization from its website following controversy over its inclusion. New Ways Ministry has been condemned by the Vatican and the U.S. bishops for dissenting from Church teaching on homosexuality. 

It’s yet another episode of a lack of clarity on LGBTQ issues in the Church during the pontificate of Pope Francis. In March, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed that same-sex blessing ceremonies will never be allowed in the Church. Yet Pope Francis has commented that civil unions between same-sex couples should be allowed and has written admiring letters to New Ways Ministry and Father James Martin, the controversial American priest whose ministry for LGBTQ people consistently skirts Catholic doctrine.

New Ways Ministry provides a pamphlet on its website for Catholic priests to use for same-sex blessing ceremonies, and it encourages Catholic parishes to “Acknowledge and celebrate the love and commitment of lesbian and gay couples in the same ways that heterosexual couples are affirmed.”

Thierry Bonaventura, the communication manager for the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, apologized Sunday to “the entire LGBTQ community” for removing the link to New Ways Ministry. 

In his apology, Bonaventura wrote, “This brought pain to the entire LGBTQ community who once again felt left out. I feel I must apologize to all LGBTQ people and to the members of New Ways Ministries for the pain caused.” He added, “In walking together, sometimes one may fall, the important thing is to get back up with the help of the brothers and sisters.”

New Ways Ministry was condemned by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1999, and its two founders, Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent, were barred from participating in ministry on matters relating to homosexuality for the rest of their lives. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has also twice declared that the organization dissents from Church teaching on LGBTQ issues. In 2011, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine issued a statement to “assure Catholics that in no manner is the position proposed by New Ways Ministry in conformity with Catholic teaching and in no manner is this organization authorized to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church or to identify itself as a Catholic organization.”

Father James Martin brought public attention to New Ways Ministry’s inclusion on the Vatican’s General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops website last week, calling it a “small but historic step forward for #LGBTQ Catholics.” Martin is also a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications. 

He was the first to report Sunday that the link to New Ways Ministry had been restored. Martin wrote on his Facebook page, “The Synod Office in Rome Synod.va has apologized for removing a link on their website to New Ways Ministry, an LGBTQ Catholic ministry earlier in the week, and has invited LGBTQ people and others who feel on the margins, to participate in the Synod. (And offers an email through which to do so.) Another small step forward for LGBTQ Catholics.”

The promotion of New Ways Ministry by the Vatican raises serious questions about the Holy See’s messaging — and maybe even views — on homosexuality.

New Ways Ministry said it had accepted the apology, and its executive director, Francis DeBernardo, wrote, “This unprecedented apology from a Vatican office corrects the earlier mistake and amplifies, even louder, the welcome that Pope Francis has extended to LGBTQ people.”

The LGBTQ group, which was founded in 1977, is not shy in voicing its dissent from the traditional Catholic teaching on homosexuality, but it typically says it in a more roundabout way than demanding the Church include same-sex couples in matrimony. 

For instance, one of the founders, Sister Jeannine Gramick, says in a 2004 documentary about her work, In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick’s Journey of Faith, “It’s not morally wrong to be homosexual, but the Christian churches will say it’s wrong to act on that feeling. How can we have, as one theologian put it, a ‘be but don’t do theology’? How can you say, ‘It’s okay to be a bird but you can’t fly’?”

The group was more explicit in its views following the Vatican’s March reaffirmation against blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples. 

DeBernardo told the Associated Press in reaction to the Vatican’s statement, “Catholic people recognize the holiness of the love between committed same-sex couples and recognize this love as divinely inspired and divinely supported and thus meets the standard to be blessed.”

The same-sex blessing ceremony the organization promotes on its site melds Catholic phrases with modern gender ideology. One part says that the “sweet smell of love” is “made alive by the witness of the women and those unconfined by gender,” while another says, “Yearning for this love, we also remember the gender nonconformists of the Bible; those who served at the court of Esther; Hegai who helped Queen Esther get the attention of King Ahasuerus. The unnamed one who rescued Jeremiah from the well, and the Ethiopian who was the first Gentile to follow Christ.”

It goes on: “Gracious God, who has granted unto us all things necessary for salvation and who has commanded us to love one another and to forgive one another our failings, protect in your holiness, as Creator and lover of good, these your children, ________ and ________, who love each other with a love of the spirit, and who have gathered in your name to be blessed and consecrated by you.”

New Ways Ministry also promotes a guidance document on how to welcome same-sex couples into a Catholic parish. It says gay and lesbian couples should be included in “marriage preparation and enhancement programs” and advises parishes to celebrate the love of gay couples in the same way as they do for heterosexual couples. 

Following the Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015, New Ways Ministry wrote that it “rejoices with millions of U.S. Catholics that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.” It added that “We pray in thanksgiving that justice and mercy have prevailed.” The organization had previously called on Catholics to vote to legalize same-sex marriage. 

The organization has consistently drawn a distinction between what the Church hierarchy teaches and what Catholics actually believe in order to legitimize its positions as Catholic ones. In a 2011 booklet it published titled Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach, it wrote, “When dealing with lesbian and gay issues, a relatively new area of Church discussion on which there is so much debate, the bishops may not yet be able to discern what the Catholic community believes.” That booklet resulted in a second condemnation from the U.S. bishops within two years. 

Following the Vatican’s removal of the New Ways Ministry link last week, the group went public with the two letters sent to it by Pope Francis in May and June. The organization released laudatory snippets from the letters, including one that thanked the organization for its “neighborly work” and another that praised Gramick as a “valiant woman.” DeBernardo told The American Spectator that the remainder of the letters “was of a pastoral and personal nature, so it would not have been appropriate or pertinent to release the full texts.”

The General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops includes 99 links on its resources page that provide more information on the 2021 to 2023 Synod on Synodality. The majority of the links are to dioceses from around the world. Four are to sites originating in the United States: the Archdiocese of Boston, the Archdiocese of Newark, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and New Ways Ministry. The link to New Ways Ministry is a video titled “From the Margins to the Center: A Webinar on LGBTQ Catholics & Synodality.”

The promotion of New Ways Ministry by the Vatican, coupled with the Vatican official’s apology for its removal, raises serious questions about the Holy See’s messaging — and maybe even views — on homosexuality. If it is entirely unaware of the extent to which New Ways Ministry has aggressively challenged Catholic teaching, its failure to properly assess the organization raises doubts about its competency in promoting the Church’s moral teaching. Deciding to keep the likes of Father James Martin on speed-dial for navigating tricky situations in the United States results in the Vatican being informed only by ideologues who are seeking to lead the Church astray from its teachings. It might be time for the Vatican to expand its contacts in the United States beyond those of a progressive leaning so that it is not blindly led into promoting an organization that directs its members to a goofy same-sex blessing ceremony.

Unless officials in the Vatican were not being blindly led by ideologues in the United States. If the Holy See assessed the strong statement by the Vatican from 1999 against New Ways Ministry and the U.S. bishops’ multiple condemnatory statements against it, was aware that the organization continues in the same direction, and still proceeded to shed the spotlight on New Ways Ministry, then someone at the Vatican was acting with infidelity towards the Church’s teaching on marriage. Deliberately promoting an organization actively working against the Church’s teaching can’t be reconciled with acting in good faith. 

Of course, the decision-making on this matter was made more confusing by the pope’s decision to write so positively to New Ways Ministry, even if the full contents of his letters are not public.

Repeated blunders like this one raise doubts among the faithful regarding where the Church stands on these issues. If the Vatican officials knew what they were doing, the Church has major problems on her hands.

Ellie Gardey
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Ellie Gardey is reporter and assistant editor at The American Spectator. Follow her on Twitter @EllieGardey.
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