As priest molestation scandals explode throughout the U.S. Catholic Church – most notably in Boston, where the archdiocese recently settled over 80 civil suits against a single priest for up to $30 million – a “gay-positive” Catholic ministry has called for further promotion of homosexuality in Catholic institutions, including schools, parishes and seminaries.

Pro-gay Catholic speakers and workshop leaders, including two U.S. bishops, offered ideas for creating a more homosexual-inclusive Church at the New Ways Ministry Fifth National Symposium, titled “Out of Silence God Has Called Us,” March 8-10 at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky.

New Ways Ministry was founded in 1977 by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Rev. Robert Nugent. It was the subject of a 20-year Vatican investigation until 1999, when the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith permanently banned Gramick and Nugent from “any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.” However, New Ways claims that the censure does not apply to the ministry itself.

Nugent is now doing parish and adult education work. Sister Gramick transferred to the Sisters of Loretto and continues to speak and write about homosexuality and church reform. She attended the Louisville conference but did not speak or conduct any workshops.

During his Friday night opening plenary speech, Eugene Kennedy, a former Maryknoll priest and professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago, blamed the problem of priest molestation on an abusive Church hierarchy that prevents religious from developing a mature sexuality.

“In the sexual abuse of the children, we observe a pattern that is identical to that with which the organizational Church has used and still uses in relating to its people,” said Kennedy. “Many of these priests who victimized the young were themselves victims when young. Many, perhaps most of them, were neither heterosexual or homosexual, but rather asexual – that is, immature in their human development – children themselves who live … in seminaries and novitiates that have kept them underdeveloped through programs in which the divided model of personality is efficiently and rigorously enforced.”

Kennedy added, “We might say that the sexual abuse of children is a symptom of the human abuse of adults refined and practiced by ecclesiastical bureaucrats over the centuries.”

Creating homosexual-friendly Catholic schools

During a focus session titled “Catholic Schools and Gay/Lesbian Youth,” Lou Ann Tighe, a gay-straight alliance moderator at Creighton-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minn., asserted, “We have a crisis today among students who are gay and lesbian – and I’m going to say bisexual and transgendered too – in our Catholic schools. This crisis is not based on confusion or ignorance about Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality. I believe we teach it clearly, and the students understand it very well,” but “with so much attention on the regulation of homosexual behavior, too little attention has been given to listening to the pain in their hearts.”

Tighe gave the following suggestions for creating homosexual-welcoming Catholic classrooms:

  • Listen to (gay and lesbian) students “unconditionally.”

  • “Have cues in your environment that suggest inclusion,” such as posters and symbols.

  • Establish student groups that educate students, faculty and other groups.

  • Don’t use labels such as “gay” or “lesbian.” However, said Tighe, “If the kids ‘self-label,’ then we need to be very solicitous and protecting of them.”

  • Encourage teachers to select books that have gay and lesbian characters in them.

Eliminating ‘heterosexist’ parishes

At a session on “Challenging Heterosexism in Parishes,” professor Helen Deines of Spalding University in Kentucky asked participants to name signs of heterosexism in parishes. Among the examples given were Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations, the absence of gay and lesbian members and the sacrament of Baptism.

Deines offered several tips for increasing the visibility of homosexuals within Catholic churches, including:

  • Build safe spaces.

  • Craft a “principled consensus statement of inclusion.”

  • Increase personal contact with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons by bringing in speakers such as an “out gay priest,” “a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) mom” and homosexual partners in committed relationships.

Challenging ‘stereotypes’ about ‘lesbian sisters’

In a focus session titled “Lesbian Women in Religious Life,” Janet Rozzano, a Sister of Mercy from Oakland, Calif., spoke about the need for religious communities to challenge “harmful stereotypes and misconceptions” about lesbian nuns, such as:

  • Lesbians are always sexually active.

  • A lesbian sister always has sex on her mind and is likely to try to proposition other sisters; therefore, they are not well-suited to religious life.

  • It is sinful to be a lesbian.

  • We don’t want or need [lesbians] in our community.

  • Women who are friends with lesbians are probably lesbian themselves.

  • If lesbian sisters are more open, people will think all [sisters] are lesbians.

On Saturday night, approximately 50 nuns met to discuss New Ways’ “Womanjourney Weavings at the Millennium” project, the purpose of which is to help “religious communities of women understand and integrate their lesbian members more fully.”

One of the discussion leaders was Sandra Yost, a Sister of Saint Joseph and associate professor at the University of Detroit, Mercy. Yost and the university came under fire last month from the American Family Association of Michigan for sponsoring a screening of the X-rated film “Eyes of Desire” as part of a discussion series on “Feminist Pornography.”

At a Friday pre-symposium conference for parents of homosexual children and pastoral ministers, Detroit Bishop Thomas Gumbleton told parents, “The first thing that I think needs to be said that’s very, very important if we’re going to love our children is simply to recognize that homosexual people are not disordered people. They are psychologically healthy people. … Homosexuals are as healthy as anyone else.”

Gumbleton added, “Homosexuals are able to function and grow at least as well as heterosexuals. They are able to be creative, put in a hard day’s work, act as citizens, help their neighbor. Somewhat surprisingly, they make love more humanely, largely because they are better able empathetically to feel what their partner is feeling.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

However, the Catechism also states: “Homosexual acts [are] acts of grave depravity,” and “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The future of Catholic homosexual activism

At a closing plenary session on Sunday morning, New Ways Ministry presented a 12-point statement on “Lesbian/Gay Ministry in the Catholic Church: A Vision for the Future” to be read at the annual meeting of U.S. bishops this fall in Washington, D.C.

The statement calls upon “Church leaders at all levels to pledge to find new ways to communicate the truth of Christ to lesbian/gay people,” including:

  • Developing educational programs “that reflect accurate images of gay/lesbian people.”

  • Fostering “a climate among young people that is knowledgeable and respectful of lesbian/gay reality.”

  • Providing “supportive work atmospheres so that lesbian/gay Church personnel – clergy, lay, religious – can disclose their sexual orientations to colleagues and constituents, if they so choose.”

  • Providing “educational and personal/spiritual development programs for gay/lesbian priests, religious, seminarians, and candidates.”

  • Asking that “all Catholics and people of good will respect and celebrate the diversity of people with which God has blessed us.”

Conference organizers disobey Vatican

In January, Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith secretary Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone wrote to Archbishop Thomas Kelly of Louisville requesting that he forbid Mass to be celebrated as part of the Fifth National Symposium.

“New Ways Ministry does not promote the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church,” wrote Bertone, citing “the confusion and scandal which will inevitably arise from this event.” As an alternative, Kelly invited participants to attend one of the regularly scheduled Masses at the nearby archdiocesan Cathedral of the Assumption.

New Ways Ministry issued a statement that it would go ahead with the Mass as planned, citing canon law and the Vatican II document “Lumen Gentium” as justification. The statement said that conference endorsers “were deeply angered and disturbed that the CDF would use the Eucharist as a weapon or reward.” On Saturday evening, retired Bishop Leroy Matthiesen of Amarillo, Texas, celebrated Mass wearing a rainbow stole on a ballroom stage decorated with rainbow banners. The rainbow has become a universal symbol of the homosexual advocacy movement.

Several conference attendees were overheard denouncing remarks made in a March 3 New York Times interview by Pope John Paul II’s spokesman, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who questioned whether ordinations of homosexuals were even valid.

“People with these inclinations just cannot be ordained,” said Navarro-Valls. “That does not imply a final judgment on people with homosexuality. But you cannot be in this field.”

Michael S. Rose, author of “Goodbye! Good Men: How Catholic Seminaries Turned Away Two Generations of Vocations From the Priesthood,” told WorldNetDaily, “Considering that a gay subculture has dominated many U.S. seminaries for the past three decades, it seems rather bold – even while illogical – for gay pressure groups to press for more ‘acceptance’ of the gay agenda inside the places where Catholic priests are supposed to be formed according to Christ.

“The fact is that homosexual promiscuity and homosexual harassment are rampant in many seminaries,” said Rose. “This in itself, not to mention other factors, drives many good, holy, orthodox men away from the seminaries and their vocations to the priesthood. The results, as recent news reports and court documents evidence, are now obvious.”

Allyson Smith is a freelance reporter based in San Diego.

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