SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop James Checchio of the diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, whose episcopal ordination was attended by notorious homosexual predator Theodore McCarrick, supports a pro-LGBT group hosted in his diocese.
Father John Alvarado, the pastor of the Church of the Sacred Heart in South Plainfield, is listed as the moderator and facilitator of In God's Image (IGI), an "LGBTQ Faith Sharing Group" hosted by Sacred Heart.
At the last IGI meeting Sept. 11, Alvarado said multiple times throughout the gathering that the group has the full support of Bp. Checchio and Fr. Timothy Christy, the vicar general of the diocese.
Tina, a Catholic in the diocese of Metuchen who preferred her last name not be used, attended the IGI meeting Sept. 11 in search of guidance and support in line with Church teaching regarding her daughter, who lives in Florida as an active member of the LGBT community.
After confirming with the diocese that this group exists ― and is the only such group listed for the diocese, according to the person on the phone from the diocese ― Tina was hopeful the group could offer some assistance based on Church teaching regarding LGBT topics, especially since recent bad weather in Florida had heightened her concerns for her daughter's safety, putting her eternal salvation at risk.
Tina arrived at the Sacred Heart annex building where the group was held a little early and was greeted by David Harvie, a man in a so-called same-sex marriage who was listed as the group's facilitator prior to a Church Militant investigation that led to his name being removed from the website.
At the time, July 22, the diocese of Metuchen told Church Militant:
Upon receiving recent inquiries, Bishop Checchio asked diocesan staff to speak with the pastor of the parish where the discussion group meets. The pastor confirmed that, effective earlier this year, he assumed the role of facilitator of In God's Image and he also affirmed that although the group is open to people of all faiths, it acknowledges and respects Roman Catholic teachings in their discussions. Any information that suggests the group is anything otherwise or is led by a different facilitator is inaccurate and diocesan staff have since asked for any incorrect listings to be modified.
While Harvie greeted Tina and others, his so-called husband mingled with other people before the group officially commenced.
Roughly 25 individuals then took their seats arranged in a circle around a table with a lit candle atop.
They opened with a prayer from a pamphlet featuring a photo of Fr. Mychal Judge (referred to in a Slate article as potentially the Church's "first gay saint"): "Lord, take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way."
The group reflected on the events of 9/11 and then turned to the first order of business: a discussion about the recent Church Militant investigation that led to Harvie's name being scrubbed from the IGI website.
Father Alvarado was upset that Church Militant had reported on IGI, especially since the diocese kept calling him to ask questions in guarded and measured language, until he finally asked, "What is it that you want from me?"
They wanted him to remove Harvie's name from the IGI website.
Alvarado then instructed attendees not to click on Church Militant's website since that would inflate the viewing numbers, at which point one member of the group chimed in, "Don't even click on those pricks."
Alvarado also said that ignoring and waiting out Church Militant was the best strategy, maintaining that this media organization only goes after "red meat" for a time and then leaves it in search of new "red meat."
When leaving, Harvie told Tina she could email him and pointed to the email address on the website that allegedly goes to Alvarado ― email@example.com ― assuring her that the email still goes to him.
Tina reported to Church Militant that the IGI group hosted at the Church of the Sacred Heart does not affirm Church teaching on LGBT topics or talk about chastity.
She said the group functions as a kind of affirmative support group for individuals curious about or active in the LGBT community. She was highly concerned that their eternal salvation could be in jeopardy because of the obvious dissent from Church teaching.
Church Militant reached out to the diocese of Metuchen for comment regarding the details of this report and received this response:
As detailed in our previous statement to Church Militant, In God's Image is a parish outreach faith sharing and discussion group — both ecumenical and interfaith — that was started following diocesan synod recommendations in 2007, over nine years prior to Bishop Checchio's installation as Bishop of Metuchen. The stated purpose of the parish group is to create an environment where people may honestly and faithfully share their stories while acknowledging and respecting the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Although this was not articulated in Church Militant's previous article on the subject, the pastor of the parish where the discussion group meets expressed that he had already assumed the role as facilitator of In God's Image well before the investigation and subsequent publication of Church Militant's July 23 article. Upon receiving Church Militant's inquiry, Bishop Checchio asked diocesan staff to speak with the pastor, who confirmed that he assumed the role as facilitator several months prior and that while the change had not yet been made on the website, the outdated listing was not an accurate reflection of the group's leadership.
With regard to the statements made by Church Militant about the September 11 meeting of In God's Image, the Diocese of Metuchen has not yet been able to confirm or deny the validity of the second hand reports surrounding the content of the meeting. However, the Bishop has asked that the matter be further looked into.
In addition, as we stated previously, shortly after Bishop Checchio's arrival, he formally established a chapter of Courage, as well as a chapter of EnCourage, both of which are diocesan-sanctioned ministries to assist those experiencing same-sex attraction and their families.
As a result, several diocesan staff members were sent to the national Courage and EnCourage conference to serve as pastoral resources to parishes and schools throughout the diocese and to better prepare themselves to respond to these pastoral issues.
Bishop Checchio's approval and involvement with pro-LGBT groups such as IGI and individuals such as Fr. James Martin, whose speaking events have been advertised on the diocesan website and whom Checchio personally invited to his residence prior to one of Martin's talks in the diocese, has led to disillusionment and heartbreak for many Catholics in the diocese of Metuchen.
Some of those Catholics have been reaching out to Checchio for years, requesting face-to-face meetings and begging him to govern the diocese based on Catholic teaching, especially regarding LGBT topics.
They have reported to Church Militant that Checchio either ignores them or gives polite responses without substance, never following up and never granting face-to-face meetings.
Pat Lombardi, a Catholic in the diocese of Metuchen, expressed his disappointment with Bp. Checchio's leadership to Church Militant:
If two consenting adults want to pursue an LGBT lifestyle without insisting that others must be entirely supportive and without forcing it on others, especially children, then so be it; their private choices are their business. However, the Catholic Church teaches what it teaches, and we expect our bishops and priests to uphold that teaching.
It has become rather apparent that Bp. Checchio is either perfectly fine with an LGBT agenda that contradicts Church teaching or downright supportive of it. With all the corruption in the Church these days, and this being the diocese where the notorious Mr. Theodore McCarrick got his start, it is sad that, with Bp. Checchio, we seem to have another wolf in sheep's clothing.