Pastoral care offered to those with same-sex attraction
The Archdiocese of New Orleans has established an office, headed by Father Salvador Galvez, that will provide pastoral care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) persons, Archbishop Gregory Aymond said May 31.
“This is a ministry that has been present in the archdiocese for quite some time, but it had become somewhat inactive,” Archbishop Aymond said.
The archbishop said the need for an office to provide pastoral care to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals became apparent to him as he talked to people throughout the archdiocese, especially the parents of children with same-sex attraction and college and high school counselors.
The church is reaching out
“It seems to me there is a need to reach out and be present and minister to people who have same-sex attraction,” Archbishop Aymond said. “Also, in the United States, we are well aware through the media that there is a growing awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals. The church is God’s arms and heart that must reach out to all people and help them to a better understanding of themselves and of God’s call for them to live his love and his life.”
The ministry will provide “confidential, welcoming and informative support” for Catholic lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the archdiocese, Father Galvez said. That includes reaching out to families and friends of those persons. The pastoral care will consist of “companionship, prayer, support groups, catechesis and retreats.”
Asked why he chose Father Galvez to serve as chaplain of the ministry, Archbishop Aymond said he wanted a priest “who was informed about the issues and was willing to embrace the ministry and devote some time, energy and prayer to working with people who find themselves addressing these issues.”
Father Galvez has an office in the 12-story archdiocesan building at 1000 Howard Ave. That location was chosen so that anyone coming to see him for a pastoral visit will feel welcomed and know that it will be confidential.
“This ministry is under the archbishop’s initiative,” Father Galvez said. “The basis of the ministry is that God loves all of us.”
Father Galvez has organized a loosely knit advisory group to help with the direction of the ministry. One of the committee members is Kurt Bindewald, dean of university ministry at Loyola University New Orleans.
Bindewald said after his initial meetings with Father Galvez, he shared the vision with some people that he knew.
“The initial response of the people I contacted was, ‘Wow, this is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening,’” Bindewald said. “I also say this as a way of challenge. Some people have been so hurt that there is going to be some skepticism when they say, ‘Why is the church doing this?’”
Bishops have urged welcome
In 1997, the U.S. bishops wrote “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers,” which called for the church “to become one body, one spirit in Christ.”
“Though at times you may feel discouraged, hurt or angry, do not walk away from your families, from the Christian community, from all those who love you,” the document said. “In you God’s love is revealed. You are always our children.”
Another bishops’ statement written in 1976 – “To Live in Christ Jesus” – said “homosexual (persons), like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have the right to respect, friendship and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community.”
Father Galvez said the first step for the new pastoral initiative is to publicize its existence “so that people know there is someone to contact.” He said while many parishes already provide a listening ear, some pastors could use help in knowing how to respond. He stressed that his ministry wants to work closely with other ministries already in existence within the archdiocese.
“The idea is to have open arms,” Father Galvez said. “Every call we receive will be confidential. This will be one-to-one pastoral care, but we will be open to support groups. This will be in stages.”
Bindewald said he hopes the message of welcome will get out.
“The reality of what it means to be a Catholic today is to be aware of what’s going on in the world,” Bindewald said. “Anyone sitting in any congregation could easily have one or more people who are gay or lesbian who can’t share who and what they are, and they feel marginalized. The more people can be educated that this is a reality, and the more we can be caring and loving and accepting of who people are created to be – it’s a mandate from Scripture.”