September 25, 2015

Hundreds shut out of sole session on gays at World Meeting of Families

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At the World Meeting of Families, Ron Belgau, center, and his mother Beverley Belgau, right, described to a packed room what it was like for them dealing with Ron's same-sex attraction." Photo by Madi Alexander

At the World Meeting of Families, Ron Belgau, center, and his mother Beverley Belgau, right, described to a packed room what it was like for them dealing with Ron's same-sex attraction." Photo by Madi Alexander

PHILADELPHIA (RNS) Homosexuality was such a combustible topic at the World Meeting of Families, a four-day Catholic gathering under way here, that it was doused twice.

First, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput earlier this month barred LGBT Catholics from holding a workshop at a Catholic parish near the event. It moved to a local United Methodist Church instead and is operating simultaneously, but with vastly smaller numbers than the 17,000 people on hand for the main event at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Then, just as the single session on homosexuality at this Vatican-approved meeting of Catholic families was to begin on Thursday afternoon (Sept. 24), a conference official took the stage in the main hall, capable of seating at least 10,000, and announced the location had been moved.

Thousands of people got up and made their way up one floor to another room capable of seating only about 1,000. Hundreds of others were turned away, the doors shut on them by convention center officials citing fire code regulations.

READ: At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the pope embraces nuns once under Vatican fire

Inside the session, it was standing room only, with some people sitting on the floors and in the aisles. All were silent as Ron Belgau, the sole openly gay man allowed to make a presentation here, took the microphone and, with his mother Beverley, described how he follows a “traditional Christian sexual ethic” that says homosexual activity is sinful.

“Some people have described me as the official face of gay celibate Catholics,” Belgau, 40, said from a small podium at the front of the room. “But the last thing I want after this session is people looking at me. Every parish has gay kids, every family has a member suffering with same-sex attraction. I hope that when you return to your parishes you will be able to accompany them in whatever struggles they face and speak up” against the stigma of same-sex attraction.

READ: Focus on family unites Catholics with other faiths in Philadelphia

At that, the crowd broke into applause — something they did multiple times throughout the session. They seemed especially absorbed when Belgau’s mother, Beverley, took the podium and described her son’s coming out at age 21 as “the worst day of my life.”

“You may think the fact that he is celibate makes my life easier, and in some way it does,” she said. “But to be attracted to the same sex and publicly celibate in a sexually free society is no easy road to walk.”

World Meeting of Families organizers were not immediately available to answers questions about the last-minute move to another room.

But for members of Equally Blessed, a coalition of several groups supportive of LGBT Catholics who are not celibate, the move was an echo of the earlier rebuffs.

“We are just trying to understand and give them the benefit of the doubt,” said Ryan Hoffmann, director of communications for Call to Action, one of the groups in Equally Blessed.

Hoffmann was there with several members of Equally Blessed. He characterized Ron Belgau’s appearance as “generous,” “sincere” and “courageous.”

But he added: “The frustration is that he didn’t speak to the many expressions of love LGBT Catholics and their families experience every day.”

Still, he said, the fact that so many were turned away is a positive sign.

“This just speaks to the fact that people want to talk about LGBT Catholics and their relationship with the Catholic Church,” Hoffmann said.

Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson

Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson


  • Larry

    How hard is this to understand? The Catholic church hates gays. They actively discriminate against them where they can get away with it and lobby to attack their civil liberties elsewhere.

    The whole idea that a church can be reformed from within using education and compassion is a fools errand.

    Churches don’t revise their prejudices unless forced to by circumstances and embarrassment. The Vatican took 20 years after the Holocaust to renounce anti-semitism. Now they falsely pretend their doctrines played no part of it.

  • Richard Rush

    “The Catholic church hates gays. They actively discriminate against them where they can get away with it and lobby to attack their civil liberties elsewhere.”

    Well, yes, but remember, they wrap it all up with a veneer of ChristianLove™. That must count for something, right?

  • Greg1

    I commend Belgau on his decision to focus his life on this earth towards eternal life, instead. What did our Lord say? “Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39. Thank you Belgau; you have chosen eternal life, over a life of sin in this world. You are a great example, one to follow.

  • bqrq

    “…..Ron Belgau, the sole openly gay man allowed to make a presentation here, took the microphone and, with his mother Beverley, described how he follows a “traditional Christian sexual ethic” that says homosexual activity is sinful….”

    “….Thank you Belgau; you have chosen eternal life over a life of sin this world….”

    Good words

  • Stephen

    First of all the Catholic Church does NOT hate gays…just the sex part of it which they call intrinsically disordered. Now I am gay, Catholic and guess what…I don’t believe in calling same-sex couples “married” (in my opinion it’s a subset of marriage – you don’t call a cubic zirconia a diamond even though it has all the same properties do you?) and I don’t believe that gay sex is right either. It’s wrong and before you go saying that I haven’t had any…I did, in many ways and through it all, something inside me said (not even putting religion into the picture) that this just isn’t right and I’m at peace with that. Do I have same sex attraction, yes. You can’t help how you feel.

  • Larry

    They don’t hate gays, they just try to demean them, attack their civil liberties, and urge them to deny emotional bonds that are essential to sane living.

    “Now I am gay, Catholic and guess what…”

    …you chose to buy into a religious/cultural belief which considers you less than a person, seeks to discriminate against you, and urges you to attack those like yourself. Either you are making stuff up or you have decided to fall in with a very damaging set of beliefs which actively demonize you. I can’t say you have made a particularly wise or sane decision. But religious belief is not about acting in wise or sane ways.

  • Richard Rush

    “I commend Belgau on his decision to focus his life on this earth towards eternal life, instead.”

    In other words . . . You commend Belgau on his decision to waste the only life he has by focusing on an entirely imaginary eternal life. How nice.

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  • Greg1

    Stephen, you are to be commended for your stand and commitment to our Lord. And of course because the Holy Spirit has moved you to “understand” that it isn’t “right” as you said, Larry will call you an ignorant hater. So be it. I am Catholic too, and am reading an excellent book called “Peace will have the last Word,” by Sister Emmanuel Maillard, and I would recommend it. There is a short story in there called Temptation Brought into Light, and in it a married women met a man who she could not get out of her mind; she was tempted very aggressively for long periods of time. Then one day she went to confession, and discussed the temptation with the priest, and afterwards receive “absolution.” And from the moment the absolution was given, all the temptations stopped cold. She learned through that experience, how the Devil operates, and especially, how the sacraments of the Church, are encounters with God. Keep up the fight!

  • Gail Ledesma

    So, the only good gay man is one who’s never allowed to love both emotionally and physically a person to whom they are attracted and toward whom they feel deep love. Wow. That’s denial of one of the greatest joys in life. I don’t think that’s what God wants.

  • Call To Action has been honored to support the LGBTQI Catholics at this event. It has not been easy for them to hear the hatred and exclusive mindset of many in the hierarchy. Yet, the laity have given us hope and supported us along the way. We are most grateful!

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  • Ted

    Self hatred is nothing to be proud of. God created us, and loves us, just as we are. This is true no matter how many badly translated proof texts are sanctimoniously thrown in our faces, simply because we want a place at God:s table, too.

    God doesn’t make junk.

  • Ted

    The notion that priestly absolution is some form of magic spell that “cures” homosexual attraction is a ridiculous debasement of Catholic faith.

  • Greg1

    Priestly “absolution” has nothing to do with “magic.” Every Catholic priest has received his “priesthood” from a bishop who is in a direct chain, or line of succession, from one of the 12 Apostles. Ordination in the Catholic Church as been passed down, or conferred from Apostle, to bishop to bishop to bishop, all the way down to the bishops of our day. They are not magicians, but rather men with the authority of the apostles regarding preaching, and conferring of the sacraments. What happens in the Sacrament of Confession, is the priest weighs the repentance of the sinner, then confers “absolution” to the person. And because of the authority of the priesthood received from the bishop by that priest, the Holy Spirit operates in that sacrament, which cleanses the soul of all wretchedness, and sin. This was a promise made by our Lord, and is in the Gospel, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” John 20:23.

  • Richard Rush

    In other words, bqrq, you are saying, “Thank you Belgau for choosing to please Christians by conforming to our edicts over a life of love and fulfillment for yourself in this world.”

  • Richard Rush

    Greg1, your talking about priestly absolution as if it were a real thing is almost amusing. You cited nothing to refute the reality that it is magic, fantasy, myth, fallacy, and superstition. It’s just one small piece of a clever system designed to have dominion over people’s thinking and behavior, . . . and including the seizing of money from them to assure the system’s continuance in perpetuity.

  • Shawnie5

    Please elaborate on the “badly translated” passages. This is where everyone always gets fuzzy and evasive.

  • Jack

    Richard, the truly magical thinking is that the entire universe, with its breathtaking beauty and stunning order and complexity, sprung into being all by its lonesome.

    Literally anything is more believable than that. You might as well believe that dandelions can morph into horse-headed skunks reciting Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

  • Jack

    How dare one person praise another person for agreeing with him or her on something!

    Isn’t that what people do all of the time?

    It would be odd if they didn’t.

  • Jack

    There’s nothing in Stephen’s post that sounds dishonest. If he were dishonest, he’d have gone much farther than he did. All he’s telling us is that he is practicing a life of celibacy in spite of temptations. Assuming I’m right and he’s being honest, he is doing the same thing as most heterosexual Catholic priests do when they remain chaste.

    Larry, I would think it would anti-gay to imply, as you seem to be doing, that gay people are less able to commit to celibacy than straight people. Do you have the same ugly stereotypes about gays and sex as racist bigots do about black people and sex?

  • Jack

    Ted, how is it “self-hatred” for Stephen to make the choice that he did?

    The essence of being a human being is our ability and desire to make literally myriads of choices in which we sacrifice one thing for what we believe is a greater thing. All of us as people do it routinely in many arenas of life. Students forego sleep for study. Dieters forgo rich foods for healthier foods. Athletes forgo comfort and ease for rigorous training. Parents forgo coming and going as they please for being their for the children they’re rearing.

    What Stephen is just another form of what we all do in many areas. Yes it is extreme, but no more extreme than priests — heterosexual or homosexual — who do likewise.

    There is no way you can live a noble or decent life without making some sacrifice of some kind along the way. Stephen has chosen his.

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  • Billysees

    This should have been presented here, as it should be presented everywhere, as a great reminder of how the whole world should treat LGBTs —

    They “must” be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
    …..Catechism of the Catholic Church (quotes mine)

    1. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another…..Romans 14:13

    2. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God…..Romans 15:7

    3. …all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble…..1 Peter 3:8

    4. Be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone….Titus 3:2

    It would’ve been great if the Pope had mentioned that in his comments.

    It should be ‘plastered’ across every billboard around the world.

  • Richard Rush

    Jack said, “Richard, the truly magical thinking is that the entire universe, with its breathtaking beauty and stunning order and complexity, sprung into being all by its lonesome.”

    Jack, the truly magical thinking is that a god with breathtaking power and stunning intelligence, knowledge, and skills, sprung into being all by his lonesome.

    A classic question that people seem to prefer expending as little time as possible contemplating is, Where did God come from? A common answer is essentially that God is eternal, and thus has always been there. And then they quickly change the subject. I think all the answers to this question I’ve heard are designed to avoid serious consideration of the question.

    If you cannot believe that life on earth could have developed via evolution, how can you possibly believe that an infinitely more intelligent, knowledgeable, skilled, and powerful God came into existence spontaneously, or by a form of evolution?

  • Jack

    Richard, the problem with your reply is that you are asking us to believe that on the one hand, I-Phones and automobiles, space stations and skyscrapers, couldn’t possibly have arisen by themselves, but that the infinitely greater complexities and wonders of the universe could.

    And your problem in no way is solved by asking who created God. The problem is that at some point, when looking at origins, we arrive at eternity, and we already know that the universe itself isn’t eternal.

  • Jack

    Richard, I replied with a post of similar length but it wasn’t posted.

    My ultimate point is that the “who created God?” retort is problematic because it only works if the universe or some material process behind it is eternal and we already know it isn’t.

  • larry

    Said the man who openly supports discrimination against gays. You are already pre-disposed to think of openly gay people as some form of social inferior. One deserving of religious inspired maltreatment. So naturally you will side with one who supports further poor treatment against his own.

    He is not just practicing a life of celibacy, he is advocating it is the only way for gay people to live. Not a personal choice, but a stance well in line with the way the Catholic Church despises gay people. This is something to be pitied, not congratulated.

    I am assuming since this is an online discussion, either he is trolling or a very pathetic person who has bought into a belief to treat himself and others badly.

    “Do you have the same ugly stereotypes about gays and sex as racist bigots do about black people and sex?”

    Obviously you do, After all a gay person is not capable of a consensual loving adult relationship to you or the Catholic Church. It is just about sex.

  • larry

    Not at all. It shows how little creationism adheres to the logic and structure of its own arguments. If one is using the argument that everything has a creator, then to fail to apply it to God, is to deliberately ignore the structure and basis of the argument presented.

    Creationism is based on lying. All creationists must lie about their faith to support its contentions. They have to pretend to accept evidence and forms of discovery/discussion that they really don’t unless it brings them to a pre-determined answer. A creationist is not interested in truth or methods of divining it. Only in validating a given answer using whatever will work at the moment.

  • larry

    Because he is advocating that all gay people follow along in his self-destructive delusion. That his self-imposed refusal for an adult relationship is somehow normal and expected of hay people.

    That is simply pathetic (if true, which is still debatable).

    Your support of Stephen is simply out of your personal animosity to gays living as human beings. You constantly advocate for discrimination against them. So naturally this fits in with that narrative.

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