Last weekend in Philadelphia, the World Meeting of Families was capped off by a visit from Pope Francis. It was very easy for some to participate in the WMF and papal events, but for some, it was difficult.
Equally Blessed is a coalition of four Catholic organizations across the country, which seeks to educate and inspire Catholics to take action on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, their families, and friends. Call to Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Familes, and New Ways Ministry comprises the coalition.
Members of Equally Blessed spent many months planning the pilgrimage to Philadelphia. They were concerned about issues in the Catholic Church such as gay marriage voting, people who were fired from churches because of sexual orientation, as well as other LGBT issues. Pilgrims read the Catechesis-which was written by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family-to prepare for the Eighth World Meeting of Families. The theme was Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.
“Pilgrims read the Catechesis and discussed what it means to them and what was meaningful. The official teaching is unacceptable,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA.
Burke felt that the Catechism addressed love, marriage, and families, without mentioning same sex marriages. In fact, she also thought the Equally Blessed organization was discriminated against by the World Meeting of Families because it is a Catholic LGBT organization. Fortunate Families applied for an outreach table at the WMF exhibit, but the request was denied.
Claire Dente, a member of New Ways Ministry, who also attended the WMF with Burke, heard the official gay speaker, Ron Belgau, who attended with his mother, say he was a Catholic gay man who lived a celibate life.
“He definitely doesn’t represent a gay relationship,” said Dente.
“We knew what this family would represent, would be inadequate for most Catholics at the meeting,” said Burke.
According to a Pew Research Center polling, support for same sex marriage rose from 37 percent in 2009 to 57 percent in May 2015. Why didn’t the World Meeting of Families include a married same sex couple to be official speakers?
Equally Blessed made arrangements to have several sessions last week about Catholic LGBT issues at the Saint John Evangelist Church, but that changed.
“It is our strong belief that Archbishop Chaput pressured the pastor to withdraw our effort to host us,” said Burke.
Equally Blessed eventually found the Arch Street United Methodist Church close to the Convention Center, where the World Meeting of Families was taking place, to have their own events and sessions.
“The city of Philadelphia is incredibly hospitable to the LGBT community. Mayor Nutter was great in his acknowledgement of the LGBT people,” said Burke.
“Wonderful people. Interesting people. Very kind-hearted. It was nice,” said Burke.
Despite some difficulties, these women were positive and very happy to see Pope Francis.
Archbishop Chaput and WMF staff who approved outreach tables were unavailable for comments.
For statistics on lesbian and gay acceptance in churches click link below.