Archbishop explains why he barred Mass

ST. PAUL. Minn. – Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis said he barred celebration of Mass at a national meeting on homosexuality and Catholicism because the sponsoring organization dissents from aspects of church teaching.

People with homosexual orientation “are children of God, not outcasts,” but the truths of the Catholic Church need to be respected, he said in a March 19 statement given to The Catholic Spirit, archdiocesan newspaper.

The statement came after the March 16-18 National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality in Minneapolis sponsored by New Ways Ministry.

“Although I recognize the sincerity of the efforts made by New Ways Ministry to serve lesbian and gay persons, on many occasions this group has openly contested aspects of the fullness of Catholic teaching in this area,” he said.

Given the organization’s history and the titles of the presentations planned for the meeting, “it did not seem unrealistic to assume that presentations made at the symposium would reflect teachings which were contrary to that of the Catholic Church,” said the archbishop.

Allowing Mass at the meeting “would appear to give tacit approval to such teaching, and would lead inevitably to scandal and confusion among the faithful,” he said.

The archbishop initially communicated his Mass decision in a Feb. 23 letter to New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainer, Md.

After receiving the archbishop’s letter, New Ways Ministry executive director Francis DeBernardo issued a statement March 13 criticizing the decision.

In the statement he said that New Ways Ministry and its speakers “are very clear about what is presented as official church teaching, what is presented as theological reflection and what is the opinion of Catholics in the pew.”

New Ways Ministry replaced the closing Mass with a prayer service and distributed a list of nearby parishes, with Mass schedules, to the more than 500 participants at the meeting.

Participating in a panel discussion at the meeting were retired Archbishop Francis T. Hurley of Anchorage, Alaska, and retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Retired Bishop Leroy T. Matthiesen of Amarillo, Texas, also was scheduled to participate, but he told The Catholic Spirit that he decided not to attend at the request of “higher church authorities.”

New Ways Ministry is a Catholic-oriented organization, but with no official church recognition or sponsorship. It describes itself as “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian and gay Catholics and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.