Arthur Fitzmaurice, resource director of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, spoke last Friday at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, one of the biggest gathering of Catholic ministers in the U.S.  In an address to 800 religious educators, he criticized the magisterium’s damaging theological language and harmful practices with a special appeal to protect LGBT youth. Michael O’Loughlin of Cruxreports:

“The paragraph [in the Catechism] on homosexuality — which describes it as ‘intrinsically disordered’ while also demanding respect for gays and lesbians — is placed in a section of the catechism paragraphs condemning ‘pornography, prostitution, and rape,’ he said.

” ‘To keep this abusive language in the Catechism and other Church writings is, in itself, gravely evil,’ he said.”

Arthur Fitzmaurice

Fitzmaurice also harshly criticized pastoral practices that stem from a “poor and dangerous theology.” These include the firing of LGBT and ally church workers, insertion of anti-gay morality clauses into teaching contracts, and the denial of sacraments. Such acts “reinforce the false message that being born LGBTQ is shameful” and “communicates the sentiment that we are beyond God’s abilities and unreachable by God’s love and grace.”

Instead, Fitzmaurice said, “our Church leaders should be models of love.” During a question and answer period, many catechists inquired as to how they could support LGBT people through their educational efforts. Crux reports:

“One participant in the gay and lesbian workshop told the crowd that he is drawn to being a catechist because he wants “to change the mindset” of Catholics who are opposed to homosexuality…

“Several audience members spoke about experiences with gay relatives that helped them change their minds on the issue, though some said they still struggle reconciling Church and biblical teachings with their own experiences.”

But not all participants were in agreement with Fitzmaurice, reported O’Loughlin:

“During a question-and-answer period, one woman challenged Fitzmaurice on whether or not he thought sacramental marriage should be offered to gays and lesbians. Fitzmaurice declined to give an answer, stating only that he’s heard a wide variety of opinions from gays and lesbians with whom he’s worked.”

Examples of poor catechesis were cited, including a story from a high school student, Anthony Marquez, who told the audience:

” ‘You cannot be gay in a Mexican family, because they will say so much stuff to you that hurts you…But what hurt me most was my confirmation teacher who told me it was a disease. I want to be a catechist so badly because I want to change that mindset. It’s not a disease. We can be good Catholics, even if we’re gay.’ “

It is stories like Marquez’s which reveal the need for special pastoral care for LGBT youth, especially those coming from religious households.  These teens are afflicted by mental health issues and homelessness at much higher rates than their peers. On this, Fitzmaurice told the audience:

” ‘The Church cannot continue to turn our backs on these kids…Tell your LGBT child he or she can have a happy future.’ “

American Catholicism’s next generation, if they remain in the church at all, is overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT equality. Student advocacy occurring in San Francisco right now is only the latest example that youth are unwilling to tolerate church leaders who single LGBT people out or a Catholic community where all are not truly welcome and affirmed.

Religious educators are capable of helping students understand the fullness of Catholic teaching, especially those teachings about justice and human dignity which are bedrock for Christian life. They can evangelize youth to become disciples of Christ without compromising their belief in LGBT justice.  Such action would help counteract damages done by church leaders and ministers who fail.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry