Organizers were planning for more than 100 participants at Minneapolis’ Church of Christ the King on Saturday to talk about the intersection of being LGBT and Catholic and the how to bridge the gap between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church. That gap got a little wider when organizers of the LGBTQ+ Catholic Youth Summit were notified on Sunday — just days before the event — that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis would not permit the event in a Catholic Church.
Instead, event organizers have found a welcoming home down the street at the Edina Community Lutheran Church.
It was a disappointing development to Parker Breza who is a co-founder of the LGBTQ+ Catholic Student Coalition. The Coalition is is hosting the event along with OutFront Minnesota and Justice Office of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates
“I am deeply disappointed that we are no longer able to host this event at a Catholic Parish,” said Breza. “As a gay student who’s grown up Catholic, I know how important bridging the gap between LGBTQ+ and faith communities is. The decision from the Chancery clearly demonstrates the need for this event and the conversations we will be having on Saturday at the Summit.”
Archbishop John Nienstedt, in a statement to The Column, said he “intervened” in the decision of Christ the King to host the event because the forum is being “led by a speaker who has publicly dissented from Church teaching.” That speaker is Kristen Ostendorf who was fired from her position as English teacher at a Catholic school because she is in a same-sex relationship.
“We are concerned that the content of the proposed presentation will contradict Church teaching,
leaving those in attendance, especially young people, confused about the truth of the teaching long after the May 16th presentation,” Nienstedt said.
Catholics seeking reform in the church aren’t surprised but they are disappointed. The same day that the Archdiocese forced the removal of the event, Pew Research Center released a poll of the religiosity of Americans. It found that Minnesotans are leaving the Catholic church in large numbers — 6 percent have left in the last 7 years. Catholic identification has dropped from 28 percent to 22 percent.
Michael Bayly, editor of the Progressive Catholic Voice, wondered:
One can only speculate on what impact the chancery’s banning of the LGBTQ+ Catholic Student Coalition’s summit from official Catholic property will have on the young members of this group. Their media release puts a positive spin on things, but I’m sure that despite this, many of the young people involved must be feeling hurt and rejected.
In response to the chancery’s latest misstep, the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform is encouraging the members of its lay network to “write to Archbishop Nienstedt and tell him what you think of his decision to order Christ the King parish to cancel a GLBTQ youth event.”
Jennifer Haselberger, the former Chancellor for Canonical Affairs in the Archdiocese who left her position in protest of the Archdiocese’s handling of sexual misconduct by clergy, wrote that the Pew survey and the Archdiocese’s decision to block the LGBTQ+ youth summit should cause concern for lay Catholics:
[A]nyone who cares about the Catholic Church should be concerned about the trends identified in the Pew study… I think this is especially true given the reasons articulated by many so-called ‘millennials’ (those under 30) for being disaffiliated. In an interview with MPR yesterday, Rachel Held Evans, a blogger and contributor to the Washington Post had this to say about the inability of traditional churches to appeal to her generation.
‘A lot of millennials, like myself, feel that church is not a safe or good place to talk about that kind of thing: To talk about their doubts about Christianity… their big questions about science and faith, and how that all works together,” Evans said. “We feel like church is where you kind of come once you’ve put yourself together rather than church being a place where you show up broken and doubting and questioning and struggling. The reasons for leaving are a lot more deep and a lot more personal than just creating enough programming for them.’
Programming is, of course, exactly the route that has been taken to try and attract millennials within the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, while efforts to try and create a space for questioning and struggling continue to be thwarted. Ironically, the same day that the Pew study became news it was announced that ‘on orders from the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Christ the King Catholic Church [in Minneapolis] is no longer able to host the LGBTQ+ Catholic Youth Summit.’ The first annual event, which is advertised as including a Catholic Mass, workshops on creating safe spaces in Catholic schools, discussions about the experience of being LGBT and Catholic, and tips on how to talk to people of faith about LGBT issues, will now be held at Edina Community Lutheran Church.
The LGBTQ+ Catholic Youth Summit will be held Saturday, May 16 at Edina Community Lutheran Church from 9:30am to 3:30pm. The event is open to youth as well as supportive adults. Organizers are asking for a $10 suggested donation from those who attend.
Here’s the full statement from Archbishop John Nienstedt:
“It was brought to my attention that Christ the King Church in Minneapolis was to host a teen forum led by a speaker who has publicly dissented from Church teaching. It’s our understanding the forum was approved without knowledge of the forum content or speakers.
We are concerned that the content of the proposed presentation will contradict Church teaching, leaving those in attendance, especially young people, confused about the truth of the teaching long after the May 16th presentation.
The leadership of Catholic parishes is responsible to ensure the promotion of Church teachings so that the faithful are properly informed. Because the parish’s pastor is currently on academic sabbatical, it was my duty to intervene.
There are many venues in our free society to voice opposition to Church teachings regarding contentious social issues. But, the parishes of the Archdiocese are not the proper place where these specific activities are to be sponsored. We want all people, especially the young, to be valued, and Catholic social teaching is very clear that it is wrong for anyone to persecute or discriminate against another of God’s children for any reason.
In 2006, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement affirming, that, as a local Church, we must do all we can to ensure that those with same sex attraction are supported, loved, welcomed, and encouraged to take an active role in the life of the faith community.
I encourage the organizers of the forum to seek out collaboration with me and the Archdiocese to build a climate within our Catholic institutions where LGBTQ+ Catholics are accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, in a way that respects the teaching of the Church and Archdiocesan policies on events and speakers.”