NRLR members condemn Archbishop Harry Flynn’s decision to deny the celebration of the Eucharist at Catholic conference

March 16, 2007

Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Coordinator

Three Catholic Bishops were scheduled to preside over Mass at Sixth National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality

WASHINGTON, March 16— National Religious Leadership Roundtable members condemned the decision of Archbishop Harry Flynn of Minneapolis to deny the celebration of Mass at the Sixth National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality titled Outward Signs: Lesbian/Gay Catholics in a Sacramental Church, organized by New Ways Ministry, scheduled for the weekend of March 16–18, at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel, Minneapolis, Minn. According to New Ways Ministry, about half of the more than 500 registered conference attendees are priests or nuns, while the rest are mainly Catholic lay people. The conference will also include Archbishop Francis Hurley, Bishop Leroy Matthiesen, Bishop Joseph Sullivan, who are speaking at the symposium and were scheduled to be the Eucharistic presiders.

In a letter to conference organizers, Archbishop Flynn stated he was “...concerned about some of the topics listed, and also about some of your featured speakers who are known to have publicly contested Church teaching... As a result, I am concerned that this symposium may well cause significant confusion to members of the faithful in this Archdiocese, as well as others who have knowledge of it.”

Responses from National Religious Leadership Roundtable Members

“Such a decision by an archbishop certainly causes us to pause and reflect. Being committed to being bridge-builders and reconcilers forces us to consider all points of view carefully, even those that may not evaluate us positively. We believe the symposium will not cause confusion, but instead will offer clarity. New Ways Ministry and the speakers at its programs are pledged to responsible discussion on the issue of homosexuality, and we are very clear about what is presented as official church teaching, what is presented as theological reflection and what is the opinion of Catholics in the pews. None of the presentations at this educational event will differ significantly from discussions that occur daily at Catholic colleges and universities.

“Moreover, those attending the symposium (over 500 registrants at the latest count) are clearly part of the Catholic mainstream — about half of the participants are priests or religious men and women; about half are lay members involved in professional ministry or are parents of lesbian daughters or gay sons. Almost all are highly educated people who are familiar with the issues being discussed and have the intellectual ability to make distinctions. Denying Eucharist to people who have committed their lives to the church causes greater scandal to the church than does a public discussion of homosexuality. The denial of Eucharist at this meeting is particularly sad because the theme of the event is sacramentality. 

“This decision to deny Eucharist will cause great pain to faithful Catholics who are concerned about the church’s pastoral response to lesbian and gay people and their families. It will be hurtful to lesbian and gay people, whose spiritual lives have already been made more difficult because of lack of understanding from church officials. Denying permission to celebrate the Eucharist at the symposium will be interpreted as one more sign that the Catholic church does not truly welcome lesbian and gay people or the people who care about them.

“In light of the archbishop’s decision, New Ways Ministry’s staff has devised a threefold response. First, we will provide symposium participants with a list of nearby parishes, including their addresses and Mass times.

“Second, we are asking all symposium endorsers and participants who have a response to this prohibition of the Eucharist to write to the principal Church leaders involved in this decision: Archbishop Flynn, Cardinal William Levada, Archbishop Angelo Amato and Archbishop Pietro Sambi. Church law states that the faithful ‘have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church’ (Canon 212, #3). 

“Third, and most importantly, on Sunday morning, at the time scheduled for Mass, all Symposium participants are invited to gather for a prayer service to reflect on the readings of the day and the call to renew ourselves and our Church.

“We will continue to pray for the unity of the Church — a just unity that comes about through discussion, dialogue and education. We will continue to pray for a Church that welcomes all of its members regardless of sexual orientation.”

— Francis DeBernardo
Executive Director
New Ways Ministry

“Archbishop Flynn’s decision to deny the Eucharist to this gathering of faithful and committed Catholic leaders is both dismaying and outrageous. His actions inherently contradict the role of Christ as Good Shepherd the Archbishop is ordained to imitate. The Good Shepherd always sought out the lost or marginalized and condemned the powerful religious authorities who legalistically lorded their power over those to whom they were called to minister. By denying the Eucharist, Archbishop Flynn seeks to deny the gift of Himself that Jesus so generously left us to share in remembrance of Him. We urge all who gather for this conference to celebrate the Eucharist together as planned, as is their baptismal right.

“The actions of many Catholic officials to deny the Eucharist to faithful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)Catholics, and to those who seek to better form their consciences on related issues, seems to be on the rise. It began in 1986, when DignityUSA chapters began to be thrown out of their Catholic parishes and off of Roman Catholic Church property. LGBT Catholics responded to this forced exile by seeking asylum in other churches, and still do today. We have found legitimate ways to receive the sacraments that our Baptism — and church canon law —entitle us to. This is a sad time in the history of our church. We weep at this waste of our Church’s moral teaching authority and at this willful ignoring of Christ’s love and pastoral care for all.”

— Sam Sinnett

“We offer our prayers for and stand in solidarity with our Catholic brothers and sisters in our common struggle for justice and full inclusion in Christ’s church. Our open and affirming values call on us to proclaim the gospel message of Jesus’ life and ministry, that Jesus never turned anyone away and neither should the church. Our hearts grieve for the spiritual harm caused to same-gender-loving Catholics and their families and friends when decisions are made to exclude God’s beloved children from the welcome table.”

— Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer
Minister for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns
Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.