Gay Ministry Group Refuses Oath of Fidelity to Church Teaching
The future of a “Catholic” group which ministers to gay and lesbian Catholics is unclear because its board members are reportedly refusing to sign an “oath of personal integrity” to Catholic teaching given to them by the local bishop. This is especially concerning to Cardinal Newman Society readers as two of the board members are affiliated with a Catholic college.
Sheila Nelson, Ph.D. and Fr. Bob Pierson, OSB serve as President and Treasurer of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry respectively. Both are also affiliated with The College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University in Minnesota. Nelson teaches in the Sociology department, and Fr. Pierson had served in campus ministry before resigning in 2005 over Rome’s tightening standards against ordaining homosexuals to the priesthood. He does, however, remain on the campus of St. John’s University and Abbey as guestmaster and director of spiritual life for the St. John’s Abbey retreat house. Most recently, Fr. Pierson urged Catholics to vote “no” on a proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.
CALGM, according to its website, “reflects the Catholic Church’s commitment to pastoral concern and support for lesbian and gay Catholics, their parents, families and friends.”
Catholic Culture however, in its website review, wrote of CALGM, “Unfortunately, what this organization offers is directly contrary to true pastoral care. Rather than ministering to those with same-sex attractions, the NACDLGM only encourages a defiance of the Church’s teachings. ” (NACDLGM renamed itself CALGM in 2008.)
The board’s declining of the oath reportedly suggested by Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, California, could have significant fallout, including the bishop declaring CALGM as “not authentically Catholic” the association president warned, according to The National Catholic Reporter.
“In good faith, we have done most everything required of us to maintain a legitimate space within the boundaries of the institutional Church,” president Sheila Nelson reportedly wrote to members April 5. “Yet, this has not seemed to be adequate or satisfactory to the office of the bishop. We have repeatedly, abundantly and humbly submitted that our work is pastoral in nature and not political or primarily doctrinal.”
The Cardinal Newman Society contacted the Archdiocese of Oakland but did not receive a response. Mike Brown, the diocese’s director of communications, did issue a statement to NCR saying, “If the Bishop decides to make a public statement about the CALGM organization, he will then decide the best time and communication method to do so.”
In an April 12 letter to the association’s board, Cordileone stated he would “take public action to clarify the status of CALGM with regard to authentic Catholic ministry” should they refuse to take an oath that requested that each member “strive to clearly present Catholic doctrine on homosexuality in its fullness” and “profess personally to hold and believe, and practice all that the holy Catholic church teaches, believes and proclaims to be true, whether from the natural moral law or by way revelation from God through Scripture and tradition.”
The board has twice rejected the bishop’s request.
“That you would require such an unprecedented and extensive manifestation of our consciences suggests to us that, irrespective of our pastoral effectiveness, you wish to force an end to these, admittedly difficult, conversations. You will not be receiving any signed oaths from the Board members,” Nelson wrote in a March 29 letter, the first informing the bishop of their decision.
CALGM, according to NCR, has worked to modify its website content to include specific Church documents, use the term “persons with a homosexual inclination,” and promised to provide the bishop with their newsletter before sending it out.
But one goal laid out for them reportedly by the bishops was “to provide resources and opportunities to facilitate educating those we serve on the fullness of Catholic Church teaching, especially as it relates to persons with a homosexual orientation.” That reportedly worried members.
And then in February of this year, the bishop reportedly requested board members to sign an “oath of personal integrity,” or to leave the board if they had ties to organizations perceived as contrary to Church teaching.
Arthur Fitzmaurice, a CALGM board member, reportedly told NCR the request for an oath was “inappropriate, unprecedented and potentially detrimental to Church ministry.”
The Cardinal Newman Society will update the story as it develops.
The line between CALGM and the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University has sometimes been a bit thin. A retreat sponsored by CALGM called “Incarnational Prayer: Connecting to God Through Our Body” was scheduled to be held at the Saint John’s Abbey Guesthouse on the campus of the College of Saint Benedict/St. John’s University in Minnesota but was canceled after word got out in the Catholic blogosphere.
The guesthouse had the option of “sharing a double room” for the event.
Calls to CALGM were not returned at the time of publication.