After a Roman Catholic bishop in Illinois directed clergy in his diocese to deny sacraments to people in same-sex marriages, a bishop in Northern California is taking a far more welcoming approach.
“Recent news reports of policies and practices related to members of the LGBT community in other dioceses can be confusing,” Bishop Patrick Joseph McGrath of San Jose wrote in a June 29 letter to clergy and members of religious orders in his diocese. “I take this opportunity to assure you that the pastoral response in the Diocese of San Jose remains just that: compassionate and pastoral. We will not refuse sacraments or Christian Burial to anyone who requests them in good faith. Finally, let us remember and be guided by the words of Pope Francis: 'The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.'”
The letter was posted on a parish ministry’s Instagram account the following day, Patheos reports. It was since deleted from the account, but a spokeswoman for the diocese confirmed to The Advocate that McGrath wrote the letter. She declined further comment, saying the missive was self-explanatory. The diocese is home to about 600,000 Catholics.
McGrath’s letter stands in stark contrast to a decree issued June 12 by Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., instructing clergy in his diocese to deny Holy Communion and Catholic funeral rites to people in same-sex marriages unless they have repented of the “sin” of being gay.
McGrath has a history of being LGBT-welcoming, even though the church officially opposes same-sex relationships and gender transition. His diocese has an LGBT Ministry Council that holds monthly “All Are Welcome” masses. And while many Catholic clergy members issued statements of sympathy regarding the shooting at Pulse nightclub last year, McGrath was one of the few who mentioned that many of the victims were LGBT.
New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBT equality in the church, praised McGrath’s letter. “His letter is significant because, even if indirectly, he is publicly challenging a fellow bishop,” Robert Shine wrote on New Ways Ministry’s blog. “This development is a sign of health in a church where there is too often silence from bishops when their peers act inappropriately. More U.S. bishops should follow McGrath’s example by issuing guidelines of welcome and inclusion.”
Meanwhile, Paprocki’s action continues to draw criticism. It is “needlessly cruel,” Rev. James Martin, a Catholic priest and author of the new book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, said in an interview with CNN.
“To single a group out and target them with statements like this is discriminatory,” Martin added. “No other group have their lives put under a microscope like this.”
Also, a MoveOn.org petition opposing Paprocki’s decree has drawn 376 signatures out of a goal of 400.