I was not surprised when the Philadelphia archdiocese ejected New Ways Ministry and its September workshop on transgender Catholics from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Philadelphia. Rather, I found myself saying, “Oh no, here they (meaning the Catholic hierarchy) go again!”
New Ways had scheduled a workshop entitled "Transforming Love: Exploring Gender Identity from Catholic Perspectives" for September 26 at the time of the visit of Pope Francis and the World Meeting of Families.
But it is past time that the hierarchy welcomes positive insights about the lives, experiences and theology of LGBT Catholics. And knowing the people at New Ways Ministry, I’m sure this workshop will be highly informative on those very themes. [It will now take place at Arch Street United Methodist Church, 55 North Broad St., Philadelphia].
Kenneth F. Hackett, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, made it even worse with unwelcoming comments. He said the World Meeting of Families was not a venue for LGBT groups. Speaking before the announcement about New Ways Ministry, he said, "Why would they want to come anyway if they're opposed to Catholic views on the family?"
Well… that’s not hard to figure out. They want to broaden Catholic views on the family, to open Catholic minds to deeper avenues of thinking and experience — and ultimately, a more inclusive theology. As the brochure advertising the workshop says:
…the Catholic community has become extremely supportive of lesbian and gay issues.… Now news organizations…are giving more and more visibility to transgender, queer, and intersex persons, but knowledge of these realities and the social forces that affect them is almost non-existent among most Catholics. The goal of the workshop is to gain some understanding about LGBTQI people through their personal and spiritual journeys so that all persons feel welcome in the Christian community....
For example, the workshop will include a talk by a Salvadoran woman who survived three attacks against her life.
These once-taboo subjects are now discussed throughout the public domain. It is long past time for the Catholic hierarchy and Catholics generally to hear some of these discussions, and to welcome them in a theological context.
Moreover, this ejection of New Ways Ministry seems to contradict the welcoming spirit of Pope Francis. He may not have changed any teachings on LGBT issues to date, but he does not appear to be a person who “ejects” people, or refuses to dialog with them.
When I dream about possibilities for the Meeting on Families in Philadelphia, I imagine that some “straight” couple gets up and offers positive, welcoming thoughts on LGBT realities and families. That would be a wonderful contribution!
[Loretto Sr. Maureen Fiedler is the host of "Interfaith Voices," a public radio show heard on 66 radio stations in North America.]