Opinion

Dissident pro-gay ministry will offer LGBT retreat in San Diego diocese

Two Catholic parishes will host the retreat, called 'Nothing Can Separate Us from the Love of God.'
Mon Feb 3, 2020 - 9:14 pm EST
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February 3, 2020 (Joseph Sciambra) — On April 25–26, 2020, the Catholic parishes of St. Thomas More and St. Francis of Assisi, both in the Diocese of San Diego, will host an LGBT retreat: “NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD. A Catholic LGBTQ+ RETREAT and A Day of Ministry Discernment & Visioning.” The leader of the retreat is JR Zerkowski. He is currently the “executive director” of Fortunate Families, a dissident pro–gay marriage ministry based in the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky.

St. Thomas More in Oceanside, California, is home to three LGBT ministries:

  • LGBTQ Persons Support Group
  • LGBTQ Support Group for Parents & Families
  • LGBTQ Transgender/Transition Issues Support Group

Regarding the apparent confirmation of a gay man (in his homosexuality) by Pope Francis, Zerkowski stated: “I believe what we are seeing is an evolution of doctrine...” In 2019, Zerkowski joined Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon, a same-sex couple who were among the plaintiffs in the 2015 Supreme Court case which legalized gay marriage, in a discussion about the Catholic Church and gay marriage. Also, in 2019, a chapter of Fortunate Families was established at the home Catholic parish (Our Lady of Lourdes) of Bourke and DeLeon — who are active in the group. In an interview, when questioned about why they stay in the Catholic Church, DeLeon said: “We’ve been encouraged by peers to leave…a lot of people wonder why we stay, but you don’t change anything by leaving something. There’s no good reason to leave.”

In 2019, Zerkowski spoke at Jesuit James Martin’s home parish of St. Ignatius in New York City. According to Fortunate Families, Martin is an “Honorary Member” of their Board of Directors.

According to Zerkowski, he has agreed to be a panelist at the “Outreach 2020: Catholic LGBT Ministry Gathering” at Fordham University that will feature dissident speakers such as Jeannine Gramick (whom James Martin would like to canonize), Bryan Massingale, and Lisa Fullam.

Fortunate Families is a gay-affirmative pro–same-sex marriage advocacy group founded in 2004 by the Catholic parents of a “gay” son — Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata. Inspired by the work of Robert Nugent and Jeannine Gramick (both were silenced by the Vatican in 1999) and their New Ways Ministry, the Lopatas decided to form an outreach specifically targeted to the Catholic parents of LGBT children.

The USCCB has officially warned the faithful: “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.”

In 2003, the Lopatas published their book Fortunate Families: Catholic Families with Lesbian Daughters and Gay Sons. Here is an excerpt detailing their view of Scripture as it relates to homosexuality:

1. There are only six passages generally used to condemn homosexuality.
2. The primary concern of these passages is something other than homogenital activity.
3. There are translation issues suggested by the fact that 1946 was the first time the word “homosexual” appeared in an English translation. 
4. The biblical writers had no concept of our modern psychological understanding of homosexual orientation.
5. The prophets, the gospels and Jesus say nothing about homosexuality in the bible.

According to Fortunate Families, their “Foundational Statement” includes:

We recognize that sometimes the conscience of the individual places him/her in conflict with articulated Catholic teaching. The resolution of this conflict often includes the proper use of conscience as articulated by the Magisterium. Many of us have sought the counsel of Catholic priests who have supported us in loving LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers…We realize that church teaching and the articulation of doctrine has developed through the years. We earnestly pray for a development of Church teaching on the topic of homosexuality and gender. We also earnestly pray that Church officials listen to our experiences and the experiences of our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers.

According to Fortunate Families:

We need to acknowledge that many of our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers are in committed loving same gendered relationships. While same gendered relationships might not be procreative in the strict sense, they often are very generative, contribute to the common good, and can be examples of a loving, committed relationships.  We ask the Church to acknowledge the truth of this.

In 2017, James Martin recommended Fortunate Families. A member of Fortunate Families introduced Martin before his address at the 2018 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.

Also, in 2017, Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, who serves as an “Ecclesial Advisor” to Fortunate Families, made the controversial decision to speak at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium held in Chicago, Illinois. 

A “Theological Advisor” to Fortunate Families is gay theologian Andy Buechel. Concerning the Apostle Thomas and the Resurrected Christ, Buechel (in his 2015 book, That We Might Become God: The Queerness of Creedal Christianity) described “the erotic and sexual charge of Jesus’ encounter with Thomas...” According to Buechel:

Strictly, and anachronistically, speaking, this encounter is homosexual: it involves deep erotic intimacy between two people of the same sex.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory has also shown support for an Atlanta-based offshoot of Fortunate Families, and a Catholic deacon who spoke at a 2018 event sponsored by Fortunate Families assisted Cardinal Kevin Farrell at the closing Mass of the Pastoral Congress portion of the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin.

Published with permission from Joseph Sciambra.


  catholic, fortunate families, homosexuality, james martin, john stowe, lgbt tyranny, new ways ministry, san diego, wilton gregory

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