For the past couple of years I’ve been working with a group of LGBTQ activists at St. Matthews Roman Catholic Church in Northeast Baltimore. Even before Pope Francis queried, “who am I to judge,” last year, signaling a possible shift in the Catholic Church’s problematic stance on LGBTQ people, the St. Matthews LEAD ministry and others like it have broadcast the message “All Are Welcome” – in St. Matthew’s parish and in the Catholic Church.
LEAD has about 40 active members, about half LGBTQ and the other half allies, most with gay children, siblings or other family members. Last week, LEAD marched with 24 other Baltimore faith communities – Unitarian, Lutheran, Methodist, Jewish, Presbyterian and 3 other Catholic parishes – in the Baltimore PRIDE parade.
In some diocese around the country, this public display of support for “the gay lifestyle” would result in termination of contracts for individuals teaching in Catholic schools or working for Catholic organizations. In Cincinnati, for example, nine teachers have resigned rather than sign a new contract forbidding teachers in archdiocesan schools from engaging in or publicly supporting practices officially condemned by the Church, including sexual activity outside of marriage, in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination, surrogacy, abortion and of course, homosexuality.
This attempt to muzzle Catholics who disagree with official Church teaching on these issues and whose consciences compel them to work for reform is distasteful. It is a transparent attempt to squelch the growing tendency of lay Catholics to publicly challenge the bishops on sexual ethics and a host of other concerns, including the ordination of women.