MILWAUKEE, Wis. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A lay group in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is calling on their archbishop to prohibit a dissident priest from speaking at a pro-gay retreat.
Catholics United for the Faith Milwaukee (CUF) put out a "resolution" online calling on Milwaukee's Abp. Jerome Listecki to bar Fr. Bryan Massingale from taking part in a dissident pro-gay retreat in the archdiocese in October. The retreat is for homosexual clergy and religious and is sponsored by dissident group New Ways Ministry and hosted by a community of Dominican sisters at the Siena Center.
A theology professor, Fr. Massingale is a notorious liberal dissident. At the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in 2017, Massingale said in a speech that Church teachings are merely "rules" which Catholics are not always obligated to follow.
Archbishop Listecki spoke out against the New Ways Ministry retreat in a statement dated Aug. 9. He wrote, "This event is not in line with Catholic Church teaching and is in no way connected to or endorsed by the archdiocese, and New Ways Ministry is not a Catholic organization."
The Milwaukee branch of CUF wants Abp. Listecki to take further action against the gay retreat by specifically forbidding Fr. Massingale from attending. CUF argues that, because "Fr. Massingale, at his ordination, made a vow of obedience to the local ordinary and his successors," Abp. Listecki should, therefore, "officially prohibit the exercise of Fr. Massingale's participation in the New Ways Ministry retreat."
Church Militant reached out to the archdiocese of Milwaukee about the CUF resolution. A communications official directed Church Militant back to Abp. Listecki's Aug. 9 statement. The archbishop wrote in the statement: "No permission was requested for such a retreat to be held in the archdiocese of Milwaukee (not that my permission is needed, nor would I have given it) and I was not contacted — even out of courtesy or respect — by the Dominican Sisters, the leadership of the Siena Center, or by Fr. Massingale."
Since Fr. Massingale and others connected to the retreat did not seek Abp. Listecki's permission in the first place, the archbishop said he is unable to stop the retreat from happening:
A number of people have called and written to me asking me "to stop this retreat." I cannot prevent the Sisters from running this retreat, nor Fr. Massingale from leading it. What I can do, to the best of my ability, is share the truth about the teachings of the Church with the Faithful People of God.
The CUF resolution states that "in 2006, Father Massingale publicly opposed passage of the Wisconsin Marriage Amendment despite its support by all five Wisconsin bishops," adding that "in 2017, Father Massingale publicly opposed a draft of a presidential executive action guaranteeing religious freedom."
Church Militant reached out to CUF Milwaukee for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.
Though he was ordained in the Milwaukee archdiocese in 1983, Fr. Massingale is currently a theology professor at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. A Jesuit university, Fordham is located within the archdiocese of New York.
Archbishop Listecki's statement from August also linked to an article by Fr. Nathan Reesman, a chaplain for Courage — an apostolate for those with same-sex attraction who nonetheless wish to live in accord with Christian moral teachings.
Father Reesman said in his article, "The best pastoral experience of the Church, as well as our consistent teachings about who we are as persons, point to the reality that it is never healthy or holy to act out on same-sex desires, even in the realm of the merely emotional."
He also wrote, "'Gay priest' is a confusing and incoherent label that is heavily laden with potentially dangerous internal contradictions as well as external mixed messages for our Catholic faithful."
Reesman noted, "The healthiest sexually integrated persons that I know who experience same sex attraction, reject the title of 'gay' because they believe it is a diminishment of their full personhood, and of their joyful freedom in the grace of Jesus Christ."
New Ways Ministry, the group behind the pro-gay retreat, has been condemned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). In 2010, then-president of the USCCB Cdl. Francis George declared, "No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice. Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination."
In 1999, the Vatican censured two founders of New Ways Ministry — Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent. Vatican officials forbade the two "from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons."