LGBT Catholics Disappointed on Eve of ‘Liberal’ Pope’s U.S. Visit
In response, Archbishop Chaput told Word she was “a light in the darkness of our world.” He also wrote that the agenda for the World Meeting was already set, but he would pass her message along to event organizers in case the lineup was still flexible.
Nine months later, in May, Word was notified that Fortunate Families could not host an outreach table at the event. A World Meeting organizer explained in an email that Fortunate Families’ request had been denied because the group urges parents to “show full acceptance of both the person and the entirety of every aspect of the person’s gay or transgender lifestyle.”
“We sent back another note saying, ‘Wait…[we] didn’t say accept every behavior. We said you have to accept these kids lovingly,'” Word tells Rolling Stone.
In June, Chaput announced publicly that people “who have experienced same-sex attraction” are welcome at the World Meeting of Families, but they will not be allowed to “lobby.”
Still, Word, her fellow board members and allies in the LGBT Catholic coalition Equally Blessed still planned to attend the World Meeting. They’d been working for months organizing a makeshift hospitality center to welcome the dozen LGBT Catholic families who plan to travel to Philadelphia to see the pope from as far away as El Salvador. They planned to host discussions and workshops as a “supplemental conversation” to the official conference, including a workshop on exploring gender identity from Catholic perspectives hosted by coalition member New Ways Ministry.
They made arrangements to gather at St. John the Evangelist, a church in Center City that features on its facade a sign saying “All Welcome.”
Last week, after almost a year of planning, the organizers were told they would not be able to use the church space after all.
In a statement, Equally Blessed wrote that the group’s members are “saddened, frustrated, and deeply disappointed” about the sudden decision. The move is “contrary to Pope Francis’ ‘Who am I to judge?’ [remarks] and the belief most Catholics have that our Church must embrace LGBT people and families.”
The showdown is unfolding against the backdrop of a local controversy over the fate of Margie Winters, a lesbian who was recently fired from a suburban Catholic school for being married to a woman. When Winters and her supporters knocked on the door of the archdiocese to deliver a petition signed by 23,000 supporters, they were locked out. Archbishop Chaput said he was “very grateful” that Winters was fired.
Despite the rejection, Deb Word and the rest of the Equally Blessed coalition still plan to spread the message of inclusivity and LGBT acceptance at the World Meeting of Families, and they’ve secured a new spot for their programming, at the Arch Street United Methodist Church.
“We will try to make [it] known that if anyone wants to talk, we’ll be happy to talk to them one-on-one – nothing in your face, no ‘lobbying,’ as the archbishop calls it,” says Word. “Instead, consider it witnessing. We believe [most Catholics have a gay] family member or friend they love, and might be interested in where they can get more resources.”
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