With Pope Francis slated to visit the U.S. this fall, many Catholics are hoping for the pontiff to meet with LGBT people or address LGBT issues, and a new group has joined those pushing for this.
In advance of September’s World Meeting of Families — a conference where “families can participate in discussion groups on the Christian family’s role in the church and society, led by many distinguished speakers,” according to the event’s website — a new organization called Keystone Catholics is working to highlight LGBT issues and to promote “a culture of encounter.”
Encounters can be scary or unfamiliar, but we have to learn about ourselves and the people around us, says Stephen Seufert, state director of the Pennsylvania-based Keystone Catholics, launched last fall.
Keystone, using online and other communications, seeks to educate people primarily on LGBT issues but also on other matters, such as environmental and gun safety issues, Seufert says.
“We’re trying to educate people on our values as social justice Catholics,” he says. “Catholics want to have a discussion on the issues.”
Seufert hopes such discussions will make the Catholic Church stronger and more vibrant. And through Keystone, he seeks both Catholic and non-Catholic allies. Keystone has distributed articles on issues relating to what might be referred to as “general welfare” or “the common good.”
“That intersection between faith and public service is ingrained in a lot of Catholics,” he says. “There’s that drive to do public service.”
Among Keystone’s communications has been a protest letter about the church’s use of the phrase “intrinsically disordered” to describe gay people. The letter bore the signatures of two Pennsylvania congressmen, Matt Cartwright and Michael Doyle.
Keystone is particularly focused on organizing in advance of the World Meeting of Families event, which Seufert sees as “an opportunity for us to really show our values.” The organization will continue to exist beyond the conference, but for now Seufert’s priority is laying groundwork in advance of the event. (Any specific on-site plans for organizing haven’t yet solidified.)
Seufert hopes that Pope Francis will be receptive to input from social justice-oriented Catholics.
“For me personally, I think he’s changing the tone of the church,” Seufert says.