SAN DIEGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - Five months after the departure of openly same-sex "married" pastoral associate Aaron Bianco, pro-gay initiatives continue at San Diego's St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church (SJE).
On March 24, SJE will again host a pro-gay Mass in honor of "Always Our Children," a 1997 a document issued by the U.S. bishops criticized for softening Church teaching on homosexuality. Though the event will offer opportunities for eucharistic adoration and confession, reportedly there will be no mention of chastity.
The high-profile event has attracted top diocesan leaders in recent years. In 2017, homosexualist San Diego Bp. Robert McElroy took part. During the Mass, a transvestite took to the lectern to praise the bishop for having "spoken out for equality and civil rights," describing McElroy's advocacy as an answer to prayer; meanwhile, there were no calls for chastity or repentance for the members of the LGBT community in the pews.
Speaking with Church Militant on Monday, Allyson Smith of Ecclesia Militans San Diego, a group of local Catholics concerned about the direction of the diocese under McElroy, observed:
It appears that, despite Aaron Bianco's departure, St. John the Evangelist is continuing on its path of providing "homegrown" "LGBT ministry" that emphasizes welcome and avoids talking about repentance and conversion. Courage and Encourage are the only ministries to same sex-attracted persons, and their families and friends, that should be promoted at all parishes within the San Diego diocese.
Late last week, Smith contacted Jorge Mendoza, director of catechetical and Hispanic ministry at SJE, to ask whether the homily for the upcoming "Always Our Children" Mass will "include any mention that active homosexuals must repent and convert of their sinful lifestyle."
Mendoza responded by asking, "In regards to 'active homosexuals' what are you referring to? Is it that God's children are currently having sexual relations or if God's children identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans?" He explained he prefers the term "God's children," saying it describes the human race in general, while removing "the stigma of hate, malice and injustice."
Continuing, Mendoza said he personally knows "many of God's children ... (straight, gay, lesbian)" who "as a human had sex and repented through reconciliation."
"Aren't we called to love and build a relationship before we persecute the sinner?" he asked. "Look at Jesus, how He was judged and persecuted? Don't you think we as Catholics need to change the way we communicate and evangelize?"
"To evangelize, it does not start with quoting the Bible," Mendoza asserted, "but rather being the example Christ showed us by going out to the people and teach them to build a relationship with God wherever they are — Catholic, atheist, Jew, spiritual — and show God through and mercy through love."
"This event is an invitation to reach out to God's children," he continued. "I invited over 400 leaders, program directors, managers in the public sector, most I am sure are not practicing Catholics."
"To invited [sic] them to extend this invitation to those in their own communities that they know are gay and Catholic friends of and re-invite them back to the Church," he added. "So no, Mass will not say 'repent.' Rather the event will thank people for accepting the invitation."
Drawing a distinction between catechesis and evangelization, Mendoza suggested, "We as Catholics are not the best evangelizers and often skip to catechism, which needs to be introduced as subtle. ... We don't tell kids in religious ed [their] parents who are divorced are sinners." He invited Smith to "imagine all those families who will probably leave the Catholic Church" if Church teaching was preached directly and openly from the pulpit.
"If we instill fear of the Lord before they even know the Lord, we are not evangelizing or catechizing appropriately," he argued. "In fact there is no mercy, as Christ has shown we need to act!"
Describing the March 24 gathering as "a parish evangelization function," Mendoza shared that he has invited diocesan authorities and members of other San Diego parishes to partake: "I hope to establish a collaboration between the public sector and the parishes around San Diego," he said.
"Right now we are focusing on God's children who identify as LGBTQ+ but eventually we will move in to restorative justice and addiction as the themes for 'Always Our Children' for all are God's children and deserve the respect and dignity as such," Mendoza added.
In a follow-up message, Smith answered Mendoza's initial question, clarifying her inquiry referred to SJE's approach to "sexually active homosexuals."
She then spelled out her concerns to Mendoza:
While I appreciate your desire to welcome those who suffer from same-sex attraction and their families and friends, I am fearful from what you've said that St. John the Evangelist is not presenting the truth about homosexuality to people. The emphasis seems to be on welcoming but not on repentance and conversion. ... Your labeling of people by their sexual proclivities is marginalizing and reductionist. Instead of confirming people in such disordered identities, you should be helping them to overcome those false identities and live the truth that they are men and women created in the image and likeness of God, whose purpose is to glorify Him by living holy lives.
"Helping people who falsely identify as 'LGBT' involves preaching the truth," Smith continued, "whether or not people want to hear it: that homosexual inclination is intrinsically disordered and that homosexual acts are always gravely sinful, as the Catechism teaches."
"Jesus Christ tells us, 'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.' It does not help people to hide the truth from them," she added.
Smith expressed concern that SJE's parish website makes no mention of Courage and Encourage, the only Church-approved ministries for same-sex attracted Catholics and their families and friends, and instead conducts "its own parish-based version of ministry."
"Father Dave Leon heads the Courage and Encourage ministries here in San Diego," she told Mendoza. "You should be referring people to him instead of having a parish-based 'LGBT' ministry."
Saint John the Evangelist's pro-gay initiatives began in 2016 when McElroy, newly installed as bishop of San Diego, transferred faithful priest Fr. William Dillard away from the parish and installed openly gay Aaron Bianco as "pastoral associate." During his time at SJE, Bianco and future San Diego auxiliary Bp. John Dolan persecuted faithful Catholics of the parish, even locking a Rosary prayer group out of the church and forcing members to pray in the parking lot.
Last year, Smith was ejected from a "listening session" because she challenged Bp. McElroy over Bianco "running the show" at SJE.
"Alright, you've gone far enough now. You're not going to stand here and disparage an employee of the diocese. You can leave if you're going to do that," said McElroy. "The other things you can say — you cannot attack an employee of the diocese. … I owe it to the employees of the archdiocese [sic] not to let those calumnies be said."
Church Militant reached out to St. John the Evangelist for comment Monday, but received no response.