Toward the True Pastoral Care of Those with Same-Sex Attractions

This piece, written by Fr. Roger Landry, appeared in The Anchor, the Diocese of Fall River’s diocesan newspaper. It says A LOT that Cardinal Sean O’Malley and his vitriolic spokesman, Terry Donilon, have neglected to say or have been incapable of saying. Everyone following the situation at St. Cecilia’s in Boston should read it and pass it around.  We’ll eagerly await the second installment next week.

Toward the True Pastoral Care of Those with Same-Sex Attractions
he Anchor
July 1, 2011

The ongoing controversy at St. Cecilia’s Church in Boston over the scheduling, postponing and re-theming of a Mass originally planned to celebrate Boston’s gay “pride month” has brought to the surface issues that extend far beyond the boundaries of one parish or archdiocese. The controversy touches not only on the subject of the pastoral care of the Church toward those with same-sex attractions, but on the much larger matter of the purpose of the Church’s pastoral care to anyone and everyone: Whether the Church, her priests and parishes will faithfully, lovingly and courageously care for people with the fullness of the Gospel; or whether her ministers and ministries — perhaps out of too much fear to give offense, a lack of faith in the teachings of the Church, or a faint-hearted notion of what true love demands — will dilute the Gospel of its saving power by stripping it of the uncomfortable and countercultural teachings that some listeners most need.

The controversy in Boston — which has been covered extensively by both local and national media outlets —  began with the “Rainbow Ministry” at St. Cecilia’s advertising a June 19 Mass “in celebration of Boston’s Pride Month.” After Cardinal Sean O’Malley became aware of the Mass, he had it postponed until July 10, in the attempt to strip it from any connection to “gay pride.” Gay pride is an expression that embraces something far different than respect for all those with same-sex attractions. Rather it connotes: treating same-sex activity as a quasi-sacrament to be celebrated instead of a sin to be confessed; approval and advocacy of same-sex relationships, lifestyle, unions, and “marriages;” rejection and ridicule of Biblical and magisterial teaching on human sexuality; and acceptance of a deeply-flawed anthropology that totally marginalizes the meaning of God’s having made the human person in His image and likeness male and female (Gen 1:27). “The philosophical and political agenda of Gay Pride in relation to marriage and sexual morality,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote in a strong June 22 statement, “is incompatible with the Church’s teachings.” To have a Catholic Mass celebrating “gay pride” would be as objectively contradictory as offering the sacred liturgy for the members and benefactors of “Catholics for Free Choice” or in support of adultery advocacy or contraception crusades.

Cardinal O’Malley’s intentions to dissociate the Mass from “gay pride,” however, sadly haven’t succeeded, as many members of the parish and of the media have continued popularly to refer to the Mass as a gay pride Mass. Those who have ceased to draw explicit attention to the connection with gay pride have continued, however, to use coded language — “a welcoming Mass” — to communicate that supporters of the gay agenda do not have to worry about being made to feel uncomfortable at the Mass over the incompatibility of the gay agenda with Church teaching. The expression “welcoming Mass” now being employed to refer to the July 10 liturgy does not mean merely that people will be received with genuine Christian hospitality. Like the expression “welcoming parish” used in various places (such as the 200 “gay friendly” parishes promoted by pro-gay websites), it’s a euphemism that communicates to those who may be living in objective discordance with the teaching of Jesus and the Church —like those engaging in the gay lifestyle, living in irregular marriages, cohabitating, undergoing in-vitro fertilization, or actively supporting the practice of abortion, gay marriage or other practices contrary to the faith — that not only will they never have to hear a peep about any of these unpleasant topics, but very likely neither will they hear anything suggesting the necessity of concrete conversion, confession, and of being in doctrinal, sacramental and moral communion with Christ and his mystical Body the Church in order to receive Jesus worthily in Holy Communion.

Cardinal O’Malley is surely right to resist pressure from some to cancel the Mass. A Mass, for example, is not a speech, which however eloquent no one really needs for salvation. The Mass is supposed to be the source and the summit of Christian life and therefore no pastor worth his sacred oils is trigger-happy to eliminate the possibility for people to come into Christ’s presence. As the Cardinal wrote in his June 22 statement, “We want all baptized Catholics to come to Mass and be part of our community” and find there in the love of Christ “the courage and strength to embrace the cross that is part of the life of discipleship.”  The issue of discernment that remains for the whole Church, however, is whether “welcoming Masses” like the July 10 liturgy at St. Cecilia’s truly foster embracing Christ, the Cross and authentic Christian discipleship in the way the Cardinal describes or whether they encourage implicit or defiant rejection of Christ, the Church and the Cross to the extent that they are deemed incompatible with a fundamentalist adhesion to the gay agenda’s pseudo-gospel.

Those with same-sex attractions deserve the full proclamation of the Catholic faith, the truth entrusted by Christ to the Church to make us truly free and lead us to salvation. It’s not enough merely to “welcome” those with same-sex attractions, if by welcome we mean simply to make them feel at ease. Faithful Catholics seek to welcome everyone with the warmth of a brother and sister but also to call everyone to conversion with the humility of a fellow prodigal. Jesus upbraided Simon the Pharisee for not offering him the hospitality of washing his feet upon entering his home (Lk 7:36 ff). Likewise for the Church genuinely to welcome anyone, we need humbly to seek to cleanse them of all their impurity so that they can enter into authentic communion with Christ and us. To do any less is a superficial welcome unworthy of the Church Christ founded.

It’s been said that the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. “Those who are well do not need a doctor,” Jesus declared, “but the sick do” (Mk 2:17). The Church exists as a hospital for the spiritually sick to bring them the Divine Physician’s healing, to help them become well, and ultimately to minister them the medicine of Christ in such a way that they may live forever. When the Church fails to do this, it fails in its mission. If doctors and nurses at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute were aware that a patient was chain smoking cigars and out of a desire not to displease him said nothing, they would be guilty of unconscionable neglect. If the patient was flaunting his cigar-smoking and attempting to persuade others that, rather than harmful, cigar-smoking was a great practice deserving of celebration instead of censure, the destructive consequences of their reticence would be magnified. Similarly, pastors and parishes who are aware that parishioners are unabashedly engaging in practices contrary to the practice of the faith and who do not strive, with patient, tender and firm preaching and accompaniment, to help them eliminate whatever in them is leading them to sin, are culpable of the worst type of pastoral malpractice. Their behavior, no matter how they spin it, is inconsistent with genuine Christian love. St. Paul was emphatic that those who engage in same-sex activities were among those who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9) and God promised through Ezekiel that if a “watchman” failed to warn someone that he would surely die through persistence in sinful conduct, then not only would the sinner die but He would hold that derelict sentinel responsible for the sinner’s death (Ez 3:18-20). There’s no way to blunt the unambiguous force and eschatologically-consequential significance of these words for both pastors and parishioners (short of exposing one’s lack of faith by attempting to deconstruct Sacred Scripture and dismissing its inspiration). Even if “out of season,” they constitute part of the Good News, just as much as stern warnings from a doctor, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can all constitute part of a cure.

Because the gay agenda, abetted by cultural elites and many in the secular media, has been somewhat successful in getting popular culture to anathamatize the Church’s teachings with regard to same-sex activity, it behooves all Catholics to ponder the Church’s teachings anew, more carefully and more prayerfully. Next week, we will continue our analysis of the larger issues suggested by the St. Cecilia’s controversy. We will investigate what the “acceptance” of those with same sex attractions should mean for those with the attractions as well as for all the faithful. We will examine the ubiquitous calumny — the blatant lie determined to damage another’s reputation —of “homophobia” or “anti-gay hatred” predicated of anyone who opposes any aspects of the gay agenda. We will also address the full pastoral care of those with same-sex attractions and whether a parish that specializes in this ministry can be carrying out true Catholic pastoral care without fostering groups like Courage that explicitly help those with same-sex attractions strive to live chastely according to the teaching of the faith.


Update on St. Cecilia’s Mass of Welcoming and GLBT Community

Today, I’d like to share an update on what’s happening with the Mass at St. Cecilia’s in Boston that started out as a Mass to  “commemorate” and “celebrate” Boston (Gay) Pride and which was postponed to next Sunday, July 10 at 11am.

So, the Mass is still on for July 10 at 11am with approval of the archdicoese.  Here’s how it’s listed in the St. Cecilia’s bulletin:



Please join the entire Saint Cecilia Parish community for next Sunday’s eleven o’clock liturgy where we will reaffirm that Saint Cecilia is a place of welcome for all, including the LGBT community. This liturgy is in keeping with the parish’s Year of Celebration and Rededication and underscores the welcome we extend to all people.

In order to mark the occasion, Mass will be followed by a reception and a bountiful table. We are asking for your help to make the reception festive, so if you are able to bring a contribution for the feast, please contact Melon Regis-Civetta at XXX.

There are a bunch of things still wrong with what’s happening there on July 10 and in general, but for now, let’s just talk about this July 10 “All Are Welcome” Mass.

On June 11, Terry Donilon was quoted in the Globe saying, “there would be a Mass in the future to welcome the community, but not specifically gays and lesbians” so why now is this Mass now specifically calling out the LGBT community? Even more of a cause for concern is the coded language  — “a welcoming Mass,” which the Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal O’Malley, Bishop Robert Hennessey, and Terry Donilon all tacitly are approving of.

Is there any question that language is to tell supporters of the gay agenda they won’t have to worry about being taught that the gay agenda is incompatible with Church teaching?  As you’ll see in the next post, the expression “welcoming Mass” now being used to describe the July 10 Mass doesn’t just mean people will be received with genuine Christian hospitality–it means people who might be living in objective discord with Catholic Church teachings won’t hear a word about that unpleasantry or anything suggesting the need for repentance, conversion, confession, or living in doctrinal, sacramental and moral communion with Christ in order to receive Jesus worthily in Holy Communion.

How do I know this and why am I judging the situation this way?  They sponsor speakers talking at St. Cecilia’s in support of gay marriage. They organized a Mass to celebrate Gay Pride.  Members of their Rainbow Ministry publicly state that teens should “come out” to get “new energy and life.”  They think a Gay Pride Mass is equivalent to a Mass for shutins and elderly.  It’s all documented. Look at what Fr. Unni said in his June 19 homily, as quoted in The Rainbow Times:

“We here at St. Cecilia’s have an agenda…I have an agenda. Our agenda is the Jesus agenda…Jesus loved people. He accepted people. He ate with people, those who were the marginalized and ostracized sinners of his day. And by that compassion and interacting as Jesus did at this [communion] table by loving in a good way, people are strengthened, people are healed, people are reminded of their dignity, their beauty, goodness and worth — ready, ready — as they are! The last part of ‘Jesus agenda’  and I dare say the cardinal’s agenda is to be “supportive of all…You are welcome here, gay or straight, rich or poor, young or old, black or white..Here, you all can say, ‘I can worship the God who made me as I am'”

So, Fr. Unni is purposefully skipping the part of the “Jesus Agenda” that involves conversion, repentance, and turning from sin. To those who are criticizing this blog, show me one shred of published evidence Fr. John Unni is talking about that–or that there’s some plan to on July 10. There’s a need and responsibility for Cardinal O’Malley, Bishop Hennessey, and St. Cecilia’s to lead their parishioners to holiness, conversion and a path to salvation that’s being neglected. That’s the problem we will ask the Vatican to have addressed immediately.

ps. Someone asked in a comment why this blog called “Bryan Hehir Exposed” keeps dwelling on the Gay Pride Mass at St. Cecilia’s and their Rainbow Ministry to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons.  Well, in case people don’t know it, Fr. Bryan Hehir is the most senior, trusted advisor to Cardinal Sean O’Malley and he’s demonstrated through his actions and public statements a tendency to undermine  and obfuscate Catholic Church teachings on sexual morality, including homosexuality.  See these posts for more details:

  • Greatest danger to Church is internal pollution: Fr. Hehir honored Mayor Tom Menino at a 2005 Catholic Charities fundraiser even though Menino had public record that included marchng in Gay Pride parades, supporting “gay marriage,” sponsoring a gay prom for teenagers at Boston’s City Hall, and flying the gay rainbow flag over City Hall
  • Fr. Bryan Hehir on Panel with Lesbian Feminist Theologian“:  Fr. Hehir on panel at Regis College along with long-time friend a “Catholic” lesbian feminist theologian said, “…in twentieth-century Catholicism, teachings on sexuality have been “a chronically afflicted area,” and “there are issues that need to be examined and re-examined…dissent is an expected part of the theological tradition of which we are a part.”
  • Archdiocesan official Fr. Bryan Hehir keynoting conference with “gay priests” advocate: Fr. Hehir spoke at a April 30-May 1, 2010 conference along with a proponent of gay priests who wants everyone to “stretch the imagination” by watching gay-themed movies, like Brokeback Mountain, and reading gay novels
  • Gay-friendly church, Fr. Bryan Hehir, and gay sex activist: Fr. Hehir was featured in a series at the gay-friendly Paulist Center  (that participates in the Gay Pride parade) along with a gay activist whose organization published and distributed a graphic guide to safe gay sex.

As a trusted advisor to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, his role involves matters like this, even if he’s behind the scenes and his name isn’t on any of the statements. You can count on him to never be heard publicly supporting the Church’s teachings on sexual morality–his public comments only serve to undermine and question them.


About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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