Friday, April 09, 1999

Archdiocese reaches out to gays

Pilarczyk leads parish discussion

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP — For years Michael Grear has been an active member of his Catholic parish. It has given him spiritual rewards, but there was always something that made him uncomfortable.

        Mr. Grear is gay. And church teaching says homosexual activity is sinful, yet being homosexual is not.

        On Thursday, the Symmes Township man joined about 80 people in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's ministry program for gays and lesbians and their families.

        After a short prayer service at St. John Neumann Church on Mill Road, Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk led an informal discussion in the parish hall. They talked about sex, discrimination, emotions and feeling alienated from the church.

        “I never thought we would ever be talking about this here,” Mr. Grear said. He was glad it was happening. And he was glad he was there.

        The group, including Mr. Grear, let its frustrations with the church and church teach ings be known to the archbishop. But most applauded the new ministry, and a chance to take part.

        The archdiocese's Catholic Ministry with Gays and Lesbians joins more than 30 similar programs in Catholic dioceses and archdioceses across the country. The groundwork was laid last fall when the National Conference of Catholic Bishops published the document, “Always Our Children.”

        The bishops encouraged parents to love their children no matter their sexual orientation, said Peg Black, director of the archdiocese's Family Life Office, which will oversee the min istry. A task force recommended the archdiocese start a ministry.

        “The church is reaching out to everybody in spiritual need,” Archbishop Pilarczyk said.

        While reaching out to gays and lesbians, the archdiocese will remain true to church teachings, the archbishop said. The church teaches that the only acceptable sex is in a marriage.

        Thursday's meeting was the first of three to be held throughout the archdiocese. The next will be Wednesday near Dayton, Ohio, and on April 21 in New Bremen, Ohio.


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