As most readers of The Wild Reed know, I’ve served for the past six years as the executive coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM). Formed in 1980, CPCSM is a Twin Cities-based independent, grassroots coalition dedicated to creating environments of justice and respect for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and their families.
CPCSM is currently in the process of relocating to a new office space, and so I’ve been rather busy these past few days with sorting through papers and files. In the process I’ve come across some important historical documents concerning the relationship between CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. Given the fact that there are some who would like to downplay or even deny such a relationship, I’ve decided to share the contents of some of these documents in a new series at The Wild Reed.
In this first installment, however, I share an excerpt from a relatively recent article by CPCSM co-founder David McCaffrey. It’s Part III of David’s “My Journey with a Prophet” series – originally published in the Spring 2008 issue of CPCSM’s Rainbow Spirit journal. In this series, David honors CPCSM co-founder Bill Kummer (1948-2006). In the excerpt below, David recalls the meeting that took place on May 9, 1980 between the six people* who would soon form CPCSM and the then-archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis, John Roach.
[An] apparently providential event leading up to the listening session involved the pre-meeting correspondence between Bill and Archbishop Roach. A number of days after the meeting had occurred, Bill needed to do a follow-up call to one of the archbishop’s secretaries. During their chat, the secretary had made reference to the letter that Roach had written in response to Bill’s letter listing the meeting’s participants and agenda. When Bill expressed his surprise to the secretary that he had never received Roach’s reply letter, the secretary recalled an event that provided a plausible explanation for the lost letter. One the day that the letter was to be mailed out from the chancery, a large box or bag of outgoing mail had been stolen from the foyer of the chancery building where it was placed every day for pick-up by a mail carrier. However, the secretary did have a copy of the lost letter and immediately made a duplicate of it and mailed it to Bill.
On receiving the copy of Roach’s lost letter, Bill, who was usually quite unflappable, was quite shocked as he read it. In his original letter, Bill had indicated that the agenda would include at least five requests that our group would like to make of Roach at the meeting. One by one, in his reply, Roach had adamantly refused to even discuss any of our requests. After absorbing Roach’s reply, the six of us all agreed that had we received the original reply prior to the listening session, the group’s mood would have been much less upbeat and hopeful. Also, we most likely would not have discussed all of the intended issues, which had resulted in the positive outcome from the meeting. Finally, we also all concurred that our not having seen Roach’s reply before the session had probably accounted for the archbishop’s angry red face as we had addressed, one by one, the very topics that he had refused to discuss.
As I recall, the listening session had been scheduled for 1:00 p.m. in the large conference room in the chancery building, which stood across Summit Ave. from the Cathedral. Bill and I met at noon at the front doors of the Cathedral. We then decided to visit the small chapels behind the rear of the edifice’s main sanctuary, six of which are dedicated to the patron saints of the European ethnic groups that had settled the area around St. Paul. Besides St. Therese of Lisieux, who was Bill’s favorite saint, I do not recall from which of the patron saints there we had sought intercession.
I do recall, though, that once again we joined hands and quietly prayed aloud for the success of the meeting and for God’s blessings upon the local Catholic gay and lesbian community and upon their families. In effect, we were laying claim to our LGBT community’s status as another minority group that was seeking acceptance and support from the arms of the Church – the same security that Bill had first received from the CSJ sisters, as one of the local Church’s last orphans, later as a child in one of their grade schools, and finally among the Benedictine monks in St. Louis.
The three lesbians from our group met us at the front of the Cathedral about 40 minutes later. After a bit of chatting and engaging in some “gallows humor,” we proceeded across the street for the long awaited meeting. One of the archbishop’s secretaries met us at the chancery door and directed us to the large conference room. She asked us to take our seats around the huge, well polished hard wood table. Soon after we had been seated, the archbishop entered the room, accompanied by Father Robert Carlson, then the vicar general of the archdiocese (now the bishop of the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan).
After quickly shaking everyone’s hand in a perfunctory manner and introducing the group to Father Carlson, Roach asked that all be seated. Noting that Herb Hayek of our group had not yet gotten to the meeting, he quipped, “Father Hayek can catch up when he gets here.” Then, in his customary firm and direct manner, the archbishop firmly slapped his hand on the table and—in an apparent reference to his reply letter that we had not yet seen—said in his gruff voice, “It is my understanding that the purpose of this meeting will be to discuss only issues of morality.” Then, he asked us to proceed with our statements.
Being unprepared for the archbishop’s prefatory admonition, we launched into our presentations, as if we had not even heard what he had said. We proceeded just as we had rehearsed, telling the archbishop of our journeys of growing up within the Church as lesbians and gay men. We took turns sharing with him our pains as well as our joys of having grown up in the Church, our fears as well as our hopes. We reported to him what our experience of the Church’s ministry to GLBT persons, both to ourselves and to others, had been and described for him what we hoped it could become. As he listened to our stories, the vicar general, Father Robert Carlson, sat at the far end of the table, taking notes.
We would learn later that the archbishop was at first not sure what to expect from our group with the memory of the pie-throwing episode of 1975 and its Dignity connection still fresh in his mind. He had wondered if our group would engage him in some kind of political confrontation. We also found out later that he had asked Father Carlson to be in the room more as a witness and to provide security should there be any problems.
However, once the archbishop realized that our purpose for meeting with him was primarily pastoral, rather than political – that we were there to share with him from our hearts – and once he realized how much we all loved the Church and wished to continue to serve God and its people, his tough exterior seemed to soften. His initial gruffness was replaced by more of a relaxed receptiveness to us, and he began to listen more carefully to our personal stories.
To the best of my recollection, following our personal story-telling, the requests that we made of the archbishop at the meeting (again, without knowing that he had written to us that he did not want to discuss any of them) and the outcome for each of them are as follows:
1) Would he appoint a liaison to meet with our group on a regular basis? (He agreed to do so, requesting then auxiliary bishop John Kinney to do so, followed later, in chronological order, by Father Robert Carlson, Father Michael O’Connell, and Bishop Larry Welsh.)
2) Having been recently appointed as president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (then known as the NCCB, and more recently as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – the USCCB) would he use his influence to encourage his fellow US bishops to create pastoral outreach ministries to gay men and lesbians and their families in their respective dioceses? (He said that he was not prepared to respond to this request at that time, and he never did respond to it. He held the position as president of the NCCB from 1980 to 1983.)
3) Would he create such a pastoral ministry within the local archdiocese? (He did not say he would not. Instead he said that he would let his various department heads know about us and that if they were willing to meet with us, we were free to contact them and explore how we might best educate the staff members in their respective departments about the pastoral needs and concerns of the local LGBT Catholic community. Every department head that we later approached was receptive to us and met with us. We used the results from CPCSM’s Needs Assessment Study, completed 4 years later, as a starting point for each of those meetings.)
4) Would he issue a statement in the archdiocesan newspaper (then The Catholic Bulletin, now The Catholic Spirit) calling for pastoral sensitivity toward and ministry with families of gay men and lesbians within the archdiocese, if we would draft such a statement for him? (He reluctantly said that we should go ahead and draft such a statement and that he would look it over and determine how he might use it. With encouragement from Bill, more than a year later, I did eventually draft the statement and mailed it to him. The archbishop did acknowledge, by letter, that he had received the draft, but added that he did not recall why we had sent it and what he was to do with it. In spite of my reply to him to refresh his memory, the statement never appeared in the Catholic Bulletin — or elsewhere for that matter.)
5) Would he allow us to provide an in-service about gay-lesbian pastoral sensitivity and ministry within the archdiocesan priestly and permanent diaconal formation programs? (As he had said earlier about our work with other departments of the archdiocese, he would let the appropriate administrators know about our group and if they were willing to work with us, we could do so. We had productive meetings with the rector of the major seminary and the director of the diaconal formation program. We did make a few presentations to the major seminarians, but that was discontinued when the administration and climate at the seminary became more conservative. However, CPCSM did play an important role in the diaconal training program for a period of almost 20 years. )
At the conclusion of the listening session, we informed the archbishop that there were literally thousands of other gay and lesbian persons like us living in the archdiocese – such as my former classmate who had unexpectedly called me the previous night – who would never be able to speak with him face-to-face about their needs and concerns. Therefore, as we were preparing to leave the meeting, we promised to come back at a later date with the results of a needs assessment survey that we would conduct with other archdiocesan area gay and lesbian persons from a Catholic background, as well as with local Catholic families who had a GLBT member, so that he could hear their stories and opinions as well. I recall that the archbishop simply nodded to his approval to our final request. In doing so, he had set in motion CPCSM’s Pastoral Needs Assessment Study, which would be the first major project of the infant organization, following its inaugural board meeting two months later.
– Excerpted from My Journey with a Prophet (Part III), David McCaffrey’s reflection on the life and ministry of CPCSM co-founder Bill Kummer, Rainbow Spirit, Spring 2008.
NEXT: Part 2 – CPCSM Co-founder William Kummer Awarded the 1989 Archbishop John Ireland Award
* These six people were David McCaffrey, who at that time was serving as Dignity Twin Cities’ pastoral coordinator (1980-1981); Bill Kummer, Dignity’s pastoral coordinator and outreach director from 1977 to 1980; Father Herb Hayek, OP, a Dignity Twin Cities co-founder ans regular Mass presider; Cindy Scott, then a staff member of the Archdiocesan Urban Affairs Commission and later an editor and writer for various local LGBT and women’s publications; Donna Kurimay, then vice-president of the local chapter of the Association of Pastoral Ministers; and Karen Chicoine, then an administrative assistant in the Archdiocesan Catholic Education Center and a former religious for 15 years.
It should also be noted that the first stirrings of CPCSM’s outreach and pastoral efforts predate its May 9, 1980 founding by almost two years. In the fall of 1978, in an attempt to help educate ministers working in parishes, Bill Kummer, David McCaffrey, and a number of other members of Dignity Twin Cities began a series of monthly speaker-luncheons. Over the next two years, these meetings were held at various parishes, usually hosted by a local pastor whom Dignity had contacted and who, in turn, invited other priests who were known to be hospitable to LGBT persons and sensitive to their pastoral needs.
Initially, 20-30 priests attended these monthly events where they would listen to a local professional speak on some aspect of the lives, needs, and gifts of LGBT people. Seated among the priests. Dignity members attempted to make their guests feel welcome as they chatted with them over lunch. More than a few priests remarked that this was the first time they had met psychologically and spiritually healthy gay men and lesbians. Most of their previous encounters had been either in the confessional or in a counseling situation.
Eventually the speaker-luncheons were expanded to include the non-ordained Catholic pastoral professionals in the archdiocese. It was in the midst of the hope and enthusiasm generated by the success of these luncheons that the six co-founders of CPCSM attended the “listening session” with Archbishop Roach documented above by David McCaffrey.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
How Times Have Changed
For the Record