By Hilary White

MINNEAPOLIS, March 19, 2007 ( – New Ways Ministry, an organization promoting the normalization of homosexuality in the Catholic Church, held a conference last weekend in Minneapolis that was attended by 550 people, including a large contingent of Catholic priests and sisters. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that though the conference was well-attended, most of the participants were in their 50’s and 60’s, betraying their origins in the baby boomer sexual revolution of the 1960’s.

Called “Outward Signs: Lesbian/ Gay Catholics in a Sacramental Church,” the conference featured workshops titled, “Lesbian Nuns: Steps, Stumbles and Strides,””Breaking Bread: Lesbian-Gay Parish Ministry” and “The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Homophobia.”

Two conference keynote speakers included retired Archbishop Francis Hurley, of Anchorage, Alaska, and Bishop Joseph Sullivan, a retired auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, N.Y., a frequent supporter of the homosexual movement in the Church.

The Pioneer Press quotes Bishop Sullivan: “It’s not about being orthodox or not being orthodox, it’s about being sensitively aware.” Archbishop Hurley condemned the Catholic understanding of homosexual desires as a disorder. “Can an inclination be intrinsically disordered?”

Hurley said, “The terminology carries too much baggage and should be dropped. And in no place in the document is there a mention of freedom of conscience. That’s the kind of thing we have to deal with in context with homosexuality.”

The conference also featured some of the big names in American Catholic dissident circles, including Dr. Richard McBrien of the University of Notre Dame who spoke on “Ordination to the Priesthood and Gay Men,” and Sr. Helen Prejean, a campaigner against the death penalty made famous in the film “Dead Man Walking.”

Since the revelation in 2002 of decades of sexual abuse of boys and adolescents by ordained homosexuals, the presence of and support for such organizations as New Ways has come under increasing criticism by faithful Catholics. A study of the abuse scandal showed that 80.9% of the abuse cases were of young men or boys by priests.

The Archdiocese of Minneapolis St. Paul is particularly known for its ambiguous or even open support for those promoting the “gay lifestyle” as a legitimate option for Christians.

Catholics were therefore surprised when Archbishop Harry Flynn, well known for his toleration of homosexual activism within his diocesan structures, sent a letter to New Ways saying that Holy Communion could not be offered at the New Ways conference.

Flynn wrote to New Ways Ministry, “I am concerned about some of the topics listed, and also about some of your featured speakers who are known to have publicly contested church teaching. As a result, I am concerned that this symposium may well cause significant confusion to members of the faithful in this archdiocese, as well as others who have knowledge of it.”

Archdiocese spokesman Dennis McGrath told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the archdiocese does not condone attendance at the conference and that the church already has standards for ministering to gays. McGrath also objected that the Archbishop’s letter had been made public.

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