Benedict and Catholic Gays and Lesbians
Some Catholics are viewing Pope Benedict's U.S. visit next week as an opportunity to remind people of his statements about gays and lesbians.
Before becoming pope, then-Cardinal Ratzinger upset many advocates of gays and lesbians with documents that came out of the orthodoxy-enforcing agency he headed: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. One he authored was the 2003 document meant to help bishops defeat same-sex marriage and civil union laws.
It said: "Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil." It also said letting same-sex couples adopt children "would actually mean doing violence to these children."
According to New Ways Ministry, a 30-year-old Catholic advocacy group, church leaders were engaged in much more open discussions about research on human sexuality and same-sex relationships until the papacy of John Paul II.
Ratzinger "was the architect of John Paul's stance on homosexuality, which had a much more negative slant than had been developing in the American church," said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Maryland-based ministry group, which advocates for theological discussion and tries to highlight positive teachings in Catholicism about homosexuality.
However, DeBernardo said that among the more grassroots leadership -- pastors, theologians and religious school principals - there is a "great acceptance of gays and lesbians."
"I think in many areas Catholic people are following their consciences where they verge from the church. They have come to these decisions based on careful reflection and on their faith and what the most important values in their faith are," he said.
In 1997 the group began collecting names of "gay-friendly" parishes and had 20, he said. Today the list has 200 parishes.
On Thursday the group is calling a press conference in Washington, where prominent gay and lesbian Catholics will speak about what they'd like to tell the pope if they could about their families. Among them are Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (20th District) and award-winning childrens' novel writer Gregory Maguire.
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