.- Media personality and America magazine editor Father James Martin, S.J. will receive an award from a dissenting Catholic group that has been the subject of warnings from the U.S. bishops and the Vatican for confusing Catholic teaching.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said Sept. 6 that the award for Fr. Martin recognized his ministry of communication which has “helped to expand the dialogue on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church.”
“Fr. Martin has used his communication skills and channels to allow for an extensive discussion of LGBT issues among Catholics of varying ideologies,” he said, citing the priest’s role as editor-at-large of the Society of Jesus’ America magazine and his presence on social media, including nearly 500,000 Facebook followers.
New Ways Ministry has called for the Catholic Church to recognize same-sex unions as sacramental marriages and has opposed Catholic efforts to defend religious freedom and marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
The group has not gone unchecked by the bishops.
In a February 12, 2010 statement, then-U.S. bishops’ conference president Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said the group’s claim to be Catholic “only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination.”
“No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice,” Cardinal George continued.
“I wish to make it clear that, like other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of Church teaching, New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and that they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.”
The cardinal said the organization has faced “serious questions” about its adherence to Catholic teaching since its founding in 1977. In 1999, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith permanently barred the group’s co-founders, Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent, from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons due to “errors and ambiguities in their approach.” Cardinal George’s statement also noted the group has criticized efforts to defend marriage in law as a union of one man and one woman.
Fr. Martin will receive New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award and give remarks at an Oct. 30 awards ceremony at a hotel in Pikesville, Maryland.
“I am honored to be considered as someone who tries to builds bridges in our Church today, and as someone who tries to minister to our LGBT brothers and sisters,” Fr. Martin told CNA Sept. 7.
New Ways Ministry is soliciting donations ranging from $50 to $1,000 to have names of supporting individuals or organizations listed in the program booklet for the event.
DeBernardo authored the foreword to a 2013 report from the think tank Political Research Associates that criticized efforts to protect religious freedom.
New Ways Ministry is part of the Equally Blessed Coalition, itself an outspoken critic of Catholicism. The coalition’s funders include billionaire heir Jon Stryker’s Arcus Foundation, which is engaged in a broad effort to limit religious freedom protections and to counter opposition to LGBT activism within Christianity.
In 2014 the Equally Blessed Coalition received a $200,000 Arcus Foundation grant through member organization Dignity USA “to support pro-LGBT faith advocates to influence and counter the narrative of the Catholic Church and its ultra-conservative affiliates.” The grant supported advocacy related to World Youth Day and the Synod on the Family and was intended to “amplify pro-LGBT voices within the Catholic Church,” the foundation’s grant listings and statements said.
A 2016 grant of $250,000 was intended “to support and give voice to the growing majority of Roman Catholics who support full acceptance and equality for LGBT people,” the Arcus Foundation said. The grant was part of its efforts to counter religious exemptions to anti-discrimination law. The foundation cited the Equally Blessed Coalition’s work “to combat the firing of LGBT staff and allies, who support marriage equality, at Catholic institutions.”
The coalition co-funded an October 2012 report with the LGBT activist group Human Rights Campaign that strongly criticized the Knights of Columbus, the U.S. bishops and the Vatican for defending marriage as a union of one man and one woman.