UK Catholic bishop cites Pope Francis to defend LGBT ‘ministry’ scandalizing faithful Catholics
MIDDLESBROUGH, United Kingdom, January 6, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Faithful Catholic laity in the UK Diocese of Middlesbrough are sounding an alarm about the unchecked activities of the LGBT+ “ministry” in their diocese. Last year, the “ministry” hosted a stall at a local homosexual “Pride” event, and its website and social media pages display a cross filled with the colours of the rainbow flag.
LifeSite recently reported on the growing number of “LGBT Masses” being celebrated in Catholic dioceses around England. Middlesbrough is one such diocese with a monthly LGBT+ Mass taking place since December 2017. It does so at the famous York Bar Convent, the oldest Catholic convent in England, dating to 1686.
The Diocese of Middlesbrough promotes the website Middlesbrough Diocese LGBT+ Ministry on its own official diocesan page. The same webpage also promotes a Facebook group dedicated to the “ministry.” In June 2019, this Facebook page displayed an album of photos showing the group’s participation in the “Pride” event in York. This event was led by schoolchildren from the local area.
The Diocese of Middlesbrough LGBT+ Ministry website makes it clear that the ministry is the initiative of the local ordinary, Bishop Terence Drainey, and that the group has his support. They state on their homepage:
Our Father in God, Bishop Terence (Terry) Drainey, is clear there is a warm welcome here in the diocese for everyone, and this includes in an explicit way members of the LGBT+ community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and those who identify under "plus"), as well as their friends and families.
LifeSite have now been alerted to a number of other activities of the LGBT ministry in their diocese of Middlesbrough, including the social media posts of prominent members of the LGBT+ ministry, their association with groups promoting ideas in contradiction to Catholic teaching and evidence that schools within the diocese may be using controversial pro LGBT+ education programmes.
Faithful Catholics have written a number of letters to Bishop Drainey but feel that their concerns have not been adequately addressed. Bishop Drainey has refused to meet with them. He told LifeSite that he felt that whatever he said “would not be satisfactory in their eyes” and it was clear to him “a meeting would offer them no greater satisfaction than my letter.”
In the letters to Bishop Drainey, the faithful Catholics highlighted their concern about the participation of diocesan groups in local “Pride” events and a number of the social media posts by Fr. Tony Lester and Dr. Johan Bergström-Allen, the two individuals listed as contacts on the Diocese of Middlesbrough LGBT+ Ministry website.
Dr. Bergström-Allen, chair of the LGBT+ Ministry Pastoral Council, has posted pictures on his Instagram page of him being involved in the Hull “Pride” event in July 2019. His page includes a host of pictures and videos taken from the event in July, including several images and videos of an oversized depiction of Jesus Christ wearing a rainbow sash.
On one such post Dr. Bergström-Allen posted the message “Does your Church look like this? #GodisInclusive #Pride”.
His page also displays a series of pictures from the York “Pride” event in June 2019 where the diocesan “ministry” hosted their own stall. One of those pictures shows a “drag queen” pictured in a cardboard cutout frame designed to resemble a social-media post with “Middlesbrough Diocese LGBT+ Ministry” branding, along with an image of a cross filled with the rainbow colours. The image of the rainbow-cross appears on the website for the ministry, its social media pages and advertisements. Accompanying the post, Dr. Bergström-Allen wrote, “50 years ago drag queens led the Stonewall riots and kicked off the modern LGBT+ movement. They’re still fighting and fabulous.” Several other images of members of the public posing for similar photos are posted to the Middlesbrough diocese LGBT+ ministry Facebook page. Our contacts in the Middlesbrough diocese tell us that this image was also originally on the “ministry” Facebook page, but it is no longer displayed there.
Stonewall is a leading LGBT lobby group in the UK, roughly equivalent to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in the United States, which last year proposed new guidelines to introduce gay, lesbian, and transgender themes and examples into every area of the school curriculum, beginning with lessons for children as young as 5 years old.
Dr. Bergström-Allen’s Instagram page also includes videos of him attending the Black Orchid York - Gentlemans Club & Whisky Lounge, with one of his videos including a descriptive note from Dr. Bergström-Allen saying, “Drag disco to start 2019.”
In the letters to Bishop Drainey, the Catholics also expressed a number of concerns about Fr. Lester, a Catholic priest of the diocese and coordinator of the LGBT+ Ministry. Fr. Lester can be seen pictured below at a “Pride” event in 2018, standing at the bottom left corner of the large rainbow flag.
One of the issues pointed out in the correspondence with Bishop Drainey was that in December 2018, Fr. Lester re-tweeted a post by NHS staff in praise of sexual health staff, which included a picture of a number of inflated condoms arranged to resemble a Christmas tree.
The concerned Catholics further pointed out to Bishop Drainey that the church of Our Lady in Acomb, where Fr. Lester is parish priest and Dr. Bergström-Allen is a member of the pastoral council, have registered with the organisation Inclusive Church. A part of the “shared vision” for Inclusive Church is to “challenge the church where it continues to discriminate against people on grounds of disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality." In 2018, their annual lecture was given by Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewall, who also claims to be a “practicing Catholic.”
The Catholics have also highlighted evidence that the controversial, pro-LGBT school programme "No Outsiders" may be being used at a Catholic school in the diocese.
The “No Outsiders” programme received significant media coverage last year, when Muslim parents in Birmingham protested against its use to teach their children. The programme promotes LGBT lifestyles as normal, with the introduction to the book explaining that “to be a person who is gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual is normal, acceptable and ok." Its author, Andrew Moffatt, led the annual homosexual “Pride” march in Birmingham last year.
A recent investigation by ChurchMilitant.TV showed that at least 10 schools in the Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool have been using the “No Outsiders” programme. In a summer newsletter, the Liverpool archdiocese department for education gave the following advice to schools:
“Information from No Outsiders is still current and fine to use in school. Given the current climate, it might be better not to post on social media and use the term, All are Welcome for the time being to avoid adverse publicity.”
In the letters to Bishop Drainey, the Catholics pointed out that a tweet from the parish of Our Lady’s Church in Acomb (where Fr. Lester is parish priest) showed an official “No Outsiders” poster displayed in Our Lady Queen of Martyrs primary school, a Catholic school in the Middlesbrough diocese. This tweet displaying the poster at the school was then re-tweeted by Emma Barrs, the school’s headteacher.
LifeSite contacted Mrs. Barrs to enquire whether the “No Outsiders” programme is being used at the school, and if not why the poster was displayed, but there has been no response so far.
Bishop Drainey’s response
In Bishop Drainey’s response to the concerned Catholics, he stressed on several occasions that the LGBT+ ministry has been established in keeping with various statements from Pope Francis, including the call in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium to reach out to the “peripheries” of society.
Bishop Drainey has stated that in his letters in response to the Catholics that the diocesan LGBT+ “ministry”’ is “fully within the teaching of the Catholic Church” and that it has not taken part in an actual “Pride” parade, but rather simply been present at the event for pastoral reasons.
In one of his letters in response to the Catholics, Bishop Drainey stated that one of the reasons for the diocese beginning the LGBT+ ministry was his concern regarding “anti-Catholic” groups and their attempts to “completely change or destroy the moral compass of our society.”
The Catholics pointed out to Bishop Drainey that the pictures available on the “ministry’s” social media pages indicate that the event was welcomed by the diocese. There are a number of pictures of the last year’s York “Pride” parade on the “ministry” Facebook page, as well as pictures from their stall. They further point out that the event is supported by a number of sponsors, several of whom are explicit in their support for homosexual lifestyles, contrary to clear Catholic teaching.
The Catholics remain concerned. They feel that the LGBT+ ministry continues to promote images, literature, organisations and events which promote an LGBT lifestyle and do not make Catholic teaching clear.
In the 1986 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote the following concerning pastoral organisations for homosexual persons:
We encourage the Bishops, then, to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses. No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin.
Bishop Drainey has consistently refused to meet the Catholics to discuss their concerns in person. When they highlighted the tweets showing the “No Outsiders” poster displayed in Our Lady Queen of Martyrs primary school and its subsequent re-tweet by headteacher Mrs. Barrs, Bishop Drainey responded by stating that they had made “serious allegations’ about the head teacher, that he would need to look into them and that he would be asking Reverend Peter Warren, the diocesan solicitor to contact them to arrange a meeting. Reverend Warren is also the parish deacon at the “Inclusive church” of Our Lady’s in Acomb, where Fr. Lester is the parish priest and has himself acted as deacon at the LGBT+ Masses in York.
After being contacted by Reverend Warren, the Catholics pointed out that they had not made any “serious allegations” at all but merely asked a question about a piece of information in the public domain. They have continued to seek a meeting with Bishop Drainey, as their concerns are exclusively regarding the pastoral activities of the diocese of which he is the authority. They were disappointed that instead of being able to explain their concerns directly to their bishop they were informed that they had made “serious allegations” about a local school teacher and directed to meet with the diocesan solicitor, who had himself been directly involved with the same diocesan group about which they were primarily concerned.
The Catholics were subsequently contacted by telephone on December 21 by Canon Derek Turnham, the diocese’s Episcopal Vicariate for Pastoral Strategy. He explained to them that the phone call was an opportunity for them to discuss their concerns. The Catholics told LifeSiteNews that they told Canon Turnham that they needed to discuss their concerns with Bishop Drainey because he was the one responsible for the diocese. Canon Turnham reportedly responded that it was not normal to have a meeting with the “CEO of a big business at this stage.”
LifeSite wrote to Bishop Drainey via his secretary’s email address on December 19, explaining that LifeSite had been contacted by Catholics in his diocese concerned about the activities of the LGBT+ ministry that he initiated and disappointed that they had been unable to meet with him to discuss their concerns. LifeSite received an automatic response explaining that it would not receive a reply before January 2, and so LifeSite called the bishop’s private residence on the number displayed on the diocesan website to see if it was possible to contact him via another email address. Bishop Drainey answered the phone himself and kindly gave LifeSite his personal email address.
On December 23, Bishop Drainey responded to LifeSite’s email. He explained that the LGBT+ Masses had been set up in “response to the Holy Father’s proclamation of the Year of Mercy in 2016.” In that email, he repeated his assertion that a “serious allegation” had been made by the Catholics concerning “named persons.” LifeSite has seen the correspondence between the Catholics and the bishop and can affirm that the questions raised by them are based on information available in the public domain -- much of which is included in this article.
The first use of the term “serious allegation” appeared in the correspondence after the Catholics alerted Bishop Drainey to the Twitter posts of a “No Outsiders” poster displayed at Our Lady Queen of Matryrs primary school. Those tweets are still on the Twitter pages of both the parish of Our Lady in Acomb and Barrs, the headmaster of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, at the time of the publication of this article.
Bishop Drainey said in his email to LifeSite that he has offered the Catholics the opportunity to meet with two clerics of the diocese who represent him and that he felt that whatever he said “would not be satisfactory in their eyes” and that it was clear to him that “a meeting would offer them no greater satisfaction than my letter.”