Wednesday, December 31, 2008

CPCSM's Year in Review

Following are excerpts from the Christmas letter of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), the 28-year-old organization that I’ve had the honor of serving as executive coordinator since the spring of 2003.

Many of the events mentioned in this letter have been highlighted, in one way or another, at The Wild Reed. Accordingly, many of the links within the following version of the letter will take you to previous Wild Reed posts.


Dear Members and Friends of CPCSM and Catholic Rainbow Parents,

First, we extend to you our heartfelt thanks for your generous support of our “special appeal” in August. Because of your generosity we continue to stay afloat financially and are able to pay Michael Bayly to oversee and coordinate our various outreach and educational initiatives.

Yet, as we’re all aware, times are tough and will only get tougher – and not just in financial terms. Sadly, we’re witnessing a sustained backlash within the church against any type of theological discourse and/or pastoral practice that is sensitive to and informed by the experiences of LGBT persons and their loved ones.

We strongly believe that before the church can be a teaching church it must first be a listening one. The failure to listen to women and LGBT people cannot be separated from the fact that the hierarchy of the church – both locally and internationally – remains in a state of either stasis or backward retreat. Despite this we remain hopeful and dedicated to being the change we long to see in the church. Accordingly, we remain committed to coalition building and the taking of proactive measures so as to counter the reactionary and regressive efforts within our local Catholic community. In doing this, we believe we’re contributing to a global movement that’s bringing about renewal and reform – and thus hope and justice – to the Catholic Church.

Following are images and descriptions of some of the coalition-building and proactive measures we’ve engaged in during the past year.

Left: John C. Gonsiorek, PhD, a fellow of American Psychological Association Division 9 (also called the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues) and Division 12 (the Society of Clinical Psychology), at CPCSM’s educational program, “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH” – January 29, 2008. This program, which also featured licensed psychologist and psychotherapist Jeffrey Ford, was initiated, in part, by the Archdiocese’s promotion of the pseudo-scientific organization known as the National Association of Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH).

Above: Members of The Progressive Catholic Voice editorial team with special guests theologian William Hunt and Call to Action MN representative Connie Aligada. Back row from left: Paula Ruddy, Bill Hunt, and Rick Notch. Front row: Mary Beckfeld, Mary Lynn Murphy, Connie Aligada, and David McCaffrey.

Because of the growing success of CPCSM’s
Progressive Catholic Voice online publication, and in an effort to reduce costs, it was decided in May that CPCSM’s print publication, The Rainbow Spirit, would be discontinued. We thanks you for your support of this publication over the last ten years, and hope you find The Progressive Catholic Voice a worthwhile and helpful resource.

Right: Catholic scholar and author Robert McClory, keynote speaker at CPCSM’s Second Annual Prayer Breakfast for Hope and Justice. Over 125 people gathered at the Metropolitan Ballroom in Golden Valley on Saturday, May 3, 2008, to hear McClory share his thoughts (in a presentation aptly titled “Here Comes Everyone”) on faithful dissent and the democratizing of Catholicism.

Above: Transgender author and advocate Vanessa Sheridan (front row, right) was the keynote speaker at CPCSM’s Annual Community Meeting on June 23, 2008.

CPCSM’s Father Henry F. LeMay Pastoral Ministry Award went this year to Mary Beckfeld (pictured above at right) for her “outstanding example as a role model promoting inclusive family values for struggling parents of LGBT children” and her many years of “prophetic and compassionate service” with the Women’s Commission and the Diaconate Program of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

CPCSM’s Bishop Thomas Gumbleton Peace and Justice Award went this year to Art Stoeberl for his many years of tireless service and leadership (often behind the scenes) within the LGBT community - in particular with Dignity Twin Cities and the Quatrefoil Library. The award also acknowledges Art’s life-long commitment to justice-making with and for the marginalized of our society, in particular the immigrant community.

Above: CPCSM’s Pride Prayer Service - June 25, 2008.

For many years the parish of St. Joan of Arc in South Minneapolis hosted a Pride Prayer Service during the week leading up to the Twin Cities LGBT Pride Festival. Yet just days before the church’s 2008 Pride Prayer Service was scheduled to take place, the chancery issued a directive that “people who fully adapt to the GLBT lifestyle are not permitted to be the subject of a prayer service that endorses that lifestyle.” The parish complied, canceled its LGBT Pride Prayer Service and, in its place, hosted a “peace service.”

In response to these events, CPCSM decided to continue the tradition of a Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service. Furthermore, so as to acknowledge and honor the good work that the community of St. Joan’s has done in relation to initiating and hosting such a prayer service for many years, we chose to hold our inaugural Pride Prayer Service, which drew approximately 250 people and garnered positive media coverage, at the entrance of the parish, half an hour before the community’s replacement “peace service.”

Above: Mary Lynn Murphy, co-founder of Catholic Rainbow Parents, chats with visitors to the CPCSM booth during the Gay Pride Festival in Loring Park on Saturday, June 28, 2008.

A number of people expressed support for the efforts of CPCSM, Catholic Rainbow Parents, and The Progressive Catholic Voice to help the church develop a more informed, compassionate, and inclusive theology of human sexuality.

“You’re doing a wonderful service of witness to a church leadership that has lost its way,” one transgender individual told us. Another passerby paused, looked at our “Inclusive Catholics” banner and beamed: “It just makes me happy to see those two words together! Thank you for being here.”

Above: CPCSM executive coordinator Michael Bayly with (from left) Beryl Wolney, Julie Koegl, and Theresa Mueller, three of the inspiring elders of St. Stephen’s - October 5, 2008. Michael had delivered the Solidarity Sunday homily that day at St. Stephen’s.

Beryl and Julie feature in The Progressive Catholic Voice documentary, The Spirit of St. Stephen’s: Celebrating the Past and Envisioning the Future of a Catholic Community in Transition. To date, two installments of this video documentary have been posted on The Progressive Catholic Voice website at

Behind the scenes

In addition to the more public initiatives and events outlined above, CPCSM has also been involved in some important “behind the scenes” work. For instance, in July we wrote to every deacon in the state of Minnesota, calling their attention to a serious moral and pastoral care issue presented by the July 18-20 Region 8 Deacon Conference at the University of St Thomas, St. Paul. Specifically, we expressed concern that the only person scheduled to speak on the issues of homosexuality and ministry with homosexual persons and their families was Fr. Paul Check, the Chief Executive Officer of the Courage apostolate.

We noted that, like the vast majority of LGBT Catholics, their parents, loved ones, and allies, we have serious concerns about the ideology and message of the Courage movement. We then shared some of these concerns (along with alternative ways of thinking about and ministering to LGBT persons than those advocated by Courage) in a position paper comprised of a number of “talking points” that not only addressed Courage’s mission and philosophy, and its connection to the pseudo scientific organization of NARTH, but offered alternative Catholic perspectives on homosexuality - perspectives that acknowledge and affirm the lives and relationships of LGBT persons. We encouraged the deacons to draw on these talking points to respectfully question and challenge the limited theological presuppositions and pastoral recommendations of Courage. [To read CPCSM’s position paper to the deacons of Region 8, click here.]

More recently, we wrote to every priest in the archdiocese ahead of Archbishop Nienstedt’s second Marriage Study Day (December 4), the focus of which was announced as “Natural Law Moral Theory.” We were aware that at the previous Marriage Study Day of August 28 the focus was not on the sacrament of marriage but on solidifying opposition to same-gender partnership rights and marriage in civil society. We were therefore concerned that the presentations on natural law scheduled to take place at the second meeting on December 4 would have a similar focus and thus would further discount and malign the lives and relationships of LGBT persons. And even with a focus on heterosexual marriage, we expressed our concern that the lived experience of married couples, on which “natural” law is based, would be ignored. We wrote that in our view Catholic teaching based on a narrow understanding of natural law is one reason so many ethical Catholics, straight and gay, leave the Church.

Accordingly, we shared with the priests of the archdiocese a selection of reflections that offered contemporary interpretations of natural law theory and its application to human sexuality – including the issues of homosexuality and contraception. These reflections came from a number of highly respected Catholic scholars – including Jean Porter; Herbert McCabe, OP; Daniel Helminiak; Judith Web Kay; and Garry Wills. We encouraged the priests to draw on these reflections and to question the theological perspectives on natural law presented on December 4 if they failed to acknowledge or encompass the experiences, insights, and relationships of married men and women, both heterosexual and homosexual. [To read the compilation of perspectives on natural law that CPCSM sent to the priests of the archdiocese, click here.]

The chancery’s statement on the “status” of CPCSM

We believe that it has been our communications with the deacons and the priests of the archdiocese that compelled the chancery to issue a statement in which it declared that it “does not support, endorse, or recognize” CPCSM as a Catholic organization.

Of course, the opinions expressed by the chancery are at odds with the appreciation and support that CPCSM has received throughout its 28-year history from the wider church – including all of the good folks reading this letter! Archbishop Nienstedt and others within the chancery may not recognize or support CPCSM, but many other Catholics within the archdiocese clearly do. And for this we’re truly grateful. In our view the chancery’s statement displays not only ignorance of the history of CPCSM in relation to the archdiocese, but also ignorance of the role and place of faithful dissent and the primacy of conscience in the Roman Catholic tradition.

Our ministry continues . . . thanks to you!

Friends, as you can see it’s been a very eventful year for all of us – a year that’s been both challenging and rewarding. We are happy and proud to continue our role as one of a very few prominent LGBT-affirming progressive Catholic voices in both our church and the wider society.

Rest assured, we plan on hosting a range of proactive events in 2009* – events that will enrich and empower the local Catholic community to participate in the evolving life of the Church.

None of this, of course, could be accomplished without the support of each of you, our dear and valued friends.

As 2008 ebbs, CPCSM needs your help to stay financially afloat. We continue to institute various cost-saving measures and to participate as a member group in the Community Shares Minnesota fund. We also continue to maintain a very modest budget. As always, we greatly appreciate the many members of CPCSM who support us with their prayers, donations, and volunteer hours. Your financial and moral support as ministry partners remains a critical lifeline for us.

Given the current times and the chancery’s recent statement on the “status” of CPCSM, there has been a marked chilling effect within many parishes that previously had supported us. Foundations are also experiencing difficult times as the number of organizations requesting funding increases. The specific focus of our ministry also limits the funding opportunities that are available to us.

Needless to say, our ministry is completely independent of the archdiocese and we receive no financial support from it. All of our operating support comes from small grants and individual donations. It may be helpful to recall that the Minnesota Tax Code now provides a 50% income deduction for charitable contributions over $500.

Friends, we are incredibly grateful for your past support, and hope that we can continue to rely on your generosity and kindness as we continue to live out our ministry under difficult financial conditions and an increasingly reactionary climate within the church. We thus ask you again for your support as together we work for justice and compassion for GLBT people within our church and society.

Peace and every blessing of Christmas
to you and your loved ones,
from all of us at CPCSM
and Catholic Rainbow Parents.

* CPCSM has some exciting ideas and plans for 2009.

First, we are working to bring theologian Jean Porter to the Twin Cities to facilitate conversation on natural law theory and its application to human sexuality – including homosexuality.

Second, we’re planning a four-part series that will explore what it means to be LGBT and Catholic in today’s Church.

Tentatively titled “Catholic and Gay,” this series aims to explore with the local Catholic community the following:

- The most current scientific information and insights concerning gender and sexual orientation.

- The ethical considerations regarding “reparative therapy” and the sexual theology of the Roman Catholic Church.

- The Catholic hierarchy’s use of pseudo-science to bolster the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

- The LGBT Catholic experience, with special emphasis on the needs, gifts, and challenges that LGBT persons and families face in society and the Church.

- What the Bible does and doesn’t say about homosexuality.

Friends, now, more than ever, there’s a need within our archdiocese for this type of education and story-sharing. Your generous contribution will help make it possible! Thank you.

NOTE: For dates and venues for these events, check the CPCSM website ( at the end of January 2009. They will also be posted on The Progressive Catholic Voice.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
CPCSM’s Year in Review (2007)
CPCSM’s Year in Review (2006)

1 comment:

kevin57 said...

May the Lord bless and keep us, gay Catholics, in this coming year. May he make his face to shine upon us.