Pittsburgh bishop meets with LGBT Catholics after canceling ‘Pride Mass’ in June
PITTSBURGH (OSV News) -- Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik has been meeting with people in the LGBTQ+ community following a canceled June “Pride Mass” at a Catholic university, saying he hopes “to pave a path for LGBTQ people to feel and be more welcomed” in the church.
The meetings, confirmed in a July 21 statement from the Pittsburgh Diocese to OSV News, followed the bishop’s calls to scuttle a planned June 11 liturgy for people who identify as LGBTQ+ held at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit on the campus of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
The diocesan statement also included excerpts from a recent letter Bishop Zubik had sent in response to messages he had received from disappointed event organizers.
Neither Bishop Zubik nor university president Ken Gormley had been informed of the Mass -- which would have coincided with the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, commonly known as Corpus Christi -- until their offices began receiving complaints, said the bishop in a June statement.
Bishop Zubik noted that many of the messages he had received regarding the proposed Pride Mass were “condemning and threatening, and some might say hateful, language not in keeping with Christian charity.”
“This event was billed as a ‘Pride Mass,’ organized to coincide with Pride Month, an annual secular observance that supports members of the LGBTQ community on every level, including lifestyle and behavior, which the church cannot endorse,” Bishop Zubik said at the time.
Among the groups listed as “co-hosting” or affiliated with the planned event were Catholics for Change in Our Church, a self-described “independent organization of concerned, committed Catholics ... formed to affirm the laity’s rightful role of co-responsibility in the church”; the LGBTQ Outreach Ministry at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Pittsburgh; Pax Christi; and The Welcome Table at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Pittsburgh.
Following the cancellation, the Catholics for Change group and Faithful America, a grassroots Christian social justice nonprofit, each sent letters to Bishop Zubik expressing their disappointment. In a July 19 joint media release, the two groups claimed the liturgy had been shelved “after far-right Catholic activists ... flooded the bishop’s office with angry messages.”
Bishop Zubik noted in his June statement that many of the messages he had received regarding the proposed Pride Mass were “condemning and threatening, and some might say hateful, language not in keeping with Christian charity.”
Faithful America also launched a petition asking Bishop Zubik to reconsider his decision to cancel the Mass, claiming that “more than 16,000 people” had signed.
Catholics for Change board president Kevin Hayes said in the July 19 release he had met “one-on-one” with Bishop Zubik for a “candid and frank” conversation.
“I came to appreciate Bishop Zubik’s intent in requesting the Mass be canceled had no malice,” Hayes said in the release. “Bishop Zubik sincerely expressed his desire to have LGTBQ Catholics feel welcomed and accepted in our church. He shared that he knew the impact of the Mass being canceled was devastating and wounding to LGTBQ Catholics and their allies, and this saddened (him).”
“We are in agreement that there is a critical opportunity for the church to demonstrate Christ’s love through welcoming and hospitality,” Bishop Zubik said.
Addressing the groups in his letter, Bishop Zubik said “My heart aches with yours to see instances of increasingly hostile attacks on a number of different segments of society.”
“We are in agreement that there is a critical opportunity for the church to demonstrate Christ’s love through welcoming and hospitality,” he said.
In a phone call with OSV News, Hayes said that his group had celebrated a “Mass in solidarity with LGBTQ Catholics” at the Duquesne chapel in June 2022. The “joy-filled” liturgy had left participants feeling “really affirmed in who they were as beloved children of God, which is what we all hope to experience in the Eucharist,” he said.
However, said Hayes, one parish outreach ministry assisting with this year’s liturgy had billed it as a “Pride Mass” on its flyers, which he said sparked the controversy.
“My understanding is … that is how they understood the Mass,” but the ministry “promoted no agenda” with the change in title, said Hayes.
He told OSV News he “appreciated very much Bishop Zubik’s willingness to dialogue on this issue.”
Hayes said he and Bishop Zubik had “agreed that actions speak louder than words, and (that) we would continue to find concrete ways and actions to make all people feel welcome in our church, including LGBTQ Catholics.”
Hayes suggested a Mass celebrated by Bishop Zubik that would highlight the bishop’s 2022 pastoral letter, “The Church Welcoming!”, where he stressed “in each and every one of our parishes, people should expect hospitality -- a warm, friendly, generous welcome no matter who they are,” including “when they are straight or LGBTQ.”
“My hope is that the Church of Pittsburgh is welcoming to the LGBTQ community and in turn that the LGBTQ community is welcoming of the Church and her teachings,” said Bishop Zubik in his recent letter to the groups. “May the Body of Christ enable us to embody Christ.”