Friday, December 31, 2010

CPCSM's Year in Review

Following are excerpts from the November "special appeal" letter from David McCaffrey, co-founder and president of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), the 30-year-old organization that I’ve had the honor of serving as executive coordinator since 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 friends,

It has never been easy to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individual within the Roman Catholic Church – or a straight person, for that matter, who accepts and celebrates the gift of their LGBT loved ones and desires those in positions of leadership to do likewise.

For 30 years CPCSM has worked within the local Church of St. Paul-Minneapolis creating environments of respect, justice, and safety for LGBT persons and their families. At first our educational and ministry work experienced tacit support from our local clerical leadership. In recent years, however, we have witnessed and experienced a Church leadership – both locally and globally – that has shown a staggering degree of ignorance, disregard, and active hostility toward LGBT people.

This negative reaction by the hierarchy to LGBT persons has included their spiritual journeys, their lives and relationships of authenticity, and a range of equal rights that they either have gained or are close to gaining in the civil arena. Far from embodying the inclusive love of the Gospel, such attitudes and actions by the Church’s clerical leadership convey and champion divisive triumphalism; abstract tenets that are divorced from both human experience and the insights of science; and what seems to be a fear-based rigidity to the idea (and reality) of development and change.

As the local clerical leadership has become more reactionary and activist, CPCSM has done what it can to calmly and respectfully counter and challenge. We have, as a result, been denounced as being “not really Catholic.” Implied in such a denouncement is the erroneous belief that “good” Catholics obey without question. We do not agree with this definition of what it means to be Catholic. Instead, we believe that as Catholics we are called to seek, discern, and respond to God’s loving presence wherever we experience it. We believe that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality needs to be open to and informed by this sacred presence in the lives and relationships of LGBT people. We will continue to advocate for and embody such openness. We will also continue educating ourselves and others about the reality of LGBT lives and will remain dedicated to countering the erroneous stereotypes and hurtful fallacies that continue to be perpetuated by the Church’s clerical leadership.

Some examples of how we have engaged in such work since last November [2009] include:

Our educational forum last November that challenged the pseudo-science of the National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH). The “findings” of NARTH (including those supportive of “reparative therapy”) are embraced by the Courage Apostolate – a ministry of the Church (endorsed by the local archdiocese) that we have consistently critiqued and challenged for its limited and psycho-sexually unhealthy ways of viewing and speaking about homosexually.

Also last fall CPCSM’s executive coordinator Michael Bayly was part of a group of local religious leaders that gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol to speak out in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples. More recently, Michael submitted on behalf of CPCSM a letter of support for a number of marriage equality bills currently before both the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate. The content and spirit of this letter stands in stark contrast to the reactionary efforts of Archbishop Nienstedt to secure a “marriage amendment” to the Minnesota Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage.

In March of this year, Michael was invited to counter Catholic League president Bill Donahue on Rick Sanchez’s CNN show The List. At the time, Donahue was garnering national media attention for his assertion that the Church’s clergy sex abuse crisis was really a “homosexual crisis.”

In April, CPCSM collaborated with OutFront Minnesota and other local groups to protest the high profile anti-marriage equality activists, Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) and Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, CA, credited as the “father of Proposition 8.” Both were invited to the Twin Cities by Archbishop Nienstedt and the Office of Marriage, Family and Life to address the Archdiocese’s “Relcaiming the Culture of Marriage and Life” spring conference at the University of St. Thomas. The event we helped organize saw over 300 people – many of them students from St. Thomas – gather in a rousing show of support for marriage equality. CPCSM executive coordinator Michael Bayly spoke at this event, offering an alternative Catholic perspective on homosexuality and same-sex marriage than that promulgated by the clerical leadership.

For the past year-and-a-half, CPCSM, and in particular key leadership folks like Mary Beckfeld and Michael Bayly, have played an important role in the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) and its 2010 Synod of the Baptized: “Claiming Our Place at the Table.” Michael facilitated CCCR’s work/study group on sexual orientation and gender identity. At the September 18 Synod, this particular work/study group – along with nine others that focused on numerous areas of disconnect between Church practice and the Gospel message of love (including Church authority and governance, Catholic identity, and mandatory celibacy & clericalism) presented recommended practices and actions for Church reform. A special Action Coordinating Team was commissioned at the Synod to take the various recommended actions out to the parishes of the Archdiocese.

In October, CPCSM played a leadership role in establishing Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, a grassroots initiative of lay Catholic individuals and groups launched in response to the efforts of the Church’s clerical leadership to deny civil marriage rights to LGBT people. The initiative seeks to support, educate, and mobilize Catholics in the advancement of freedom and equality for LGBT people at the federal, state, and local levels.

The initiative has issued a statement that outlines various reasons for supporting civil marriage equality for same-sex couples. These reasons relate to points of ethics, constitutional law, social justice, Catholic moral teaching, and separation of church and state. We recognize marriage equality as a social justice issue, as a matter of fairness, and as a contributor to individual flourishing, the stabilization of relationships, and the common good of society.

On October 7, CPCSM executive coordinator Michael Bayly appeared on Fox 9 News, sharing an informed critique of Archbishop Nienstedt’s recent denial of communion to students at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville, MN. The students were wearing buttons with messages supportive of LGBT people. Michael also took this opportunity to discuss and critique the clerical leadership’s limited way of understanding and speaking about the complexity of human sexuality.

On October 21 we hosted an educational forum entitled “Why You Can Be Catholic and Support Gay Marriage.” This forum featured author and moral theologian Daniel Maguire from Marquette University who highlighted the support for same-sex marriage that can be found in all the world religions, including Roman Catholicism.

On Sunday, October 31 CPCSM in collaboration with Catholics for Marriage Equality MN and the Rainbow Sash Alliance invited LGBT Catholics and their allies to the Cathedral of St. Paul to demonstrate inclusiveness and celebrate our diversity in the face of the MN bishops’ ongoing campaign of intolerance and discrimination against the LGBT citizens of Minnesota.

We continue our ongoing media project The Progressive Catholic Voice, ranked by Online Christian Colleges as the Number 2 “Best Catholic Blogsite.” Edited by Michael Bayly, the PCV provides a much needed forum for reflection, dialogue, and the exchange of ideas within the Catholic community of Minnesota and beyond. In addition to the PCV there is our own comprehensive website,

As you can see, CPCSM has been very much at the forefront of efforts to counter the anti-gay and anti-equality activism of our local clerical leadership. And our work continues with two upcoming events. As the convening and facilitating component of the Catholics for Marriage Equality MN initiative, we invite you to the following two events:

Friends, we hope you can join us at the two events outlined above, and we want to thank you for your ongoing support of our ministry and let you know that we aim to continue our work into 2011 and beyond. But we need your help!

We are currently desperately short of funds. A generous contribution by an anonymous donor has played a large role in seeing us through thus far, but by the end of November we will not be able to continue paying Michael Bayly his modest stipend as executive coordinator. Already we have had to cease paying for his health insurance. He is now receiving coverage through Minnesota Care. He hopes to secure work beyond CPCSM, starting in the spring of 2011, but until this is the case, we would like to continue paying him. Currently, his salary is $1,200 a month. In terms of other funding sources, we are in communication with two foundations and continue to receive some funds from Community Shares MN, for which we are extremely grateful.

We are fully aware that the current economic situation is hard on all of us. On top of this, many Catholics have simply given up on the Church and thus on organizations like ours that are attempting to reform it. The specific focus of our ministry also limits the funding opportunities that are available to us. If you can help us in any way financially, it would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you know of individuals or foundations that would be willing to support our work, please let us know. We want to continue doing what we are doing, and we believe there is a place within the Church for our voice and ministry.

Donation checks can be made out to “CPCSM” and mailed to: CPCSM, c/o The House of the Beloved Disciple, 4001 38th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55406.

Finally, it may be helpful to know that the Minnesota Tax Code now provides a 50% tax deduction for charitable contributions over $500.

Thank you for your prayers and support. We look forward to seeing you at one or more of the events outlined in this mailing.

– David J. McCaffrey
President and Co-Founder, CPCSM

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
CPCSM's Year in Review - 2009
CPCSM's Year in Review - 2008
CPCSM's Year in Review - 2007
CPCSM's Year in Review - 2006

1 comment:

Michael Douglas said...

Michael, great post, overview, and tribute to CPCSM -- and my partner -- David McCaffrey. Cheers, and Happy New Year!