America Media in 2022 launched “Outreach,” an “LGBTQ Catholic ministry” personally founded by Fr. James Martin, SJ. The organization has weighed in on a number of debates during its first year, often criticizing U.S. bishops and other Catholic leaders for their opposition to the LGBTQ movement.
Outreach itself, meanwhile, has yet to face much scrutiny from a Catholic perspective. Here, CatholicVote’s Catholic Accountability Project provides a closer look at the controversial organization.
In its first year, Outreach has carved out a space for itself as an LGBTQ pressure group in the Catholic Church. Outreach is hardly distinguishable from its secular counterparts except by its exclusive focus on opposing the Catholic Church’s resistance to the LGBTQ movement’s aims.
While a growing number of bishops and dioceses expressed opposition to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ decision to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI), Outreach published a piece sympathizing with the anti-Catholic drag group.
“Some members of the group use lewd and crude comedy in their performances, as their Catholic detractors have highlighted this week,” wrote Michael O’Loughlin. “But the group also raises money for charitable causes and seeks to bring visibility to a community often under siege.”
As CatholicVote has reported, the group’s “performances” have included pole dancing on a cross, suggestively touching a scantily clad man meant to represent Jesus during His passion, and filling chalices with yogurt to simulate ingesting semen in a mock-“Mass.”
As for their charitable works, the “Sisters” donate money to an LA hospital that subjects minors to puberty blockers and “transgender” surgeries.
O’Loughlin’s report for Outreach was sparing in detail, however.
“A Catholic Sister of the Holy Names (and a Dodgers fan) in California said that she finds kindred spirits in the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence—both as fellow activists and in their commitment to acts of social justice,” O’Loughlin wrote:
“We used to refer to them as the ‘corporal works of mercy,’” Jo’Ann De Quattro, S.N.J.M., told America. “They visit the sick, they feed the hungry, clothe the naked. So that’s good.”
This June, Jason Steidl-Jack published an article for Outreach defending a piece of artwork entitled “God is Trans” being displayed inside a liberal parish in New York. The artwork is by Adah Unachukwu, a senior at Fordham University, “who, according to their public LinkedIn profile, uses they/them pronouns and works as an intern for GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group,” Steidl-Jack explained. Another of Unachukwu’s artworks proclaimed “there is no devil, only past selves.”
“Unachukwu’s transgender-affirming artistic intervention could not have come at a more fitting time,” Steidl-Jack argued. “Today, as state legislatures and diocesan offices across the U.S. race to silence trans people, it is imperative for people of all genders (or no gender) to amplify trans voices.”
Outreach has published numerous articles advocating for the most controversial tenets of the LGBTQ movement. Nearly every such essay names particular bishops or criticizes the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, often for their directives against LGBTQ ideology being taught in diocesan Catholic educational settings.
On the so-called “Trans Day of Visibility” in April, Outreach promoted a statement rejecting the bishops’ efforts against the LGBTQ movement in schools as well as bishop-backed legislation to protect children from sexual surgical interventions.
In another example, America Magazine associate editor Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J., contributed a piece entitled “A Catholic Case for Choosing Your Own Pronouns.”
“In recent months, a number of Catholic bishops in the US have spoken out against transgender and non-binary people’s decision to alter their pronouns, names and bodies,” McDermott began:
Some have even insisted that Catholic schools must continue to use the birth pronoun and names of transgender and non-binary students in their schools, despite the pain that non-binary and transgender people have expressed over this practice.
McDermott quoted a number of Catholic academics on the topic. “It’s their truth, though,” said Fr. James Keenan, S.J., of Boston College. “That’s what we’re talking about: their truth. How does a bishop have more capability of grasping other people’s truth than they themselves do? There’s something deeply disturbing about claiming you understand a person’s truth better than they do.”
These bishops, are they physicians? If you take away a person’s way of declaring their self-understanding, where is there room for any dialogue? You’ve said, “I’m not going to talk to you on your terms.” Who does that? Even in mental health places, I don’t think they do that.
Outreach published an essay by Franciscan brother and artist Mickey McGrath, OSFS, that was similarly dismissive of Catholic leaders’ concerns about LGBTQ ideology. “The institutional, clerically-centered Church—for which I have never had a particular devotion—hasn’t always been Christ-like in its teachings and practices,” McGrath argued. He also offered his own idea of what Christ ought to say, in part:
“…I continue to love you and will always forgive your sins and shortcomings, even if you disagree with some doctrines and dogmas or traditions which no longer feel relevant in your world today. Come to me as one universal, multi-colored, multi-gendered human body made in my beautifully diverse image and likeness…”
Adam Beyt contributed a piece to Outreach arguing that Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body “evokes shame” for “LGBTQ Catholics.” Beyt teaches undergraduate students at St. Norbert’s College, a Catholic liberal arts school in Wisconsin.
“Shame has become such a distinguishing feature of lives of many queer folks raised Catholic, whose erotic lives and gender experiences cannot conform to the Theology of the Body,” Beyt wrote.
To demonstrate his thesis, Beyt cited the work of Eve Sedgwick. (Sedgwick is a foundress of “queer theory” in academia, and her most known contributions include readings of classical works through a “queer lens.” In one essay, for example, she eroticized childhood spanking and described “the intensity of my pain, or excitement, or something, at the image of a child,” the title character, being punished in Dickens’ “David Copperfield.”)
Sedgwick argued that sexual expression was more heavily influenced by social convention than by the Western concept of human nature.
“Consider an example,” Beyt wrote in his essay for Outreach:
A toddler learns not to touch a hot stove after getting burned. The child associates a negative effect with that experience, learning of its potential dangers. Within a social world, we learn from others at a young age to hide certain parts of our bodies from others, depending on context and the sex we are assigned at birth. Many learn from a young age that visible and public exposure of parts of our bodies, particularly genitalia, is socially unacceptable.
Beyt also cited a book called “The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World,” which
notes how developing as a young person with different forms of shame and self-contempt often echoes into harmful and self-destructive practices in adulthood…. The work suggests paths for moving beyond such shame through cultivating one’s authentic self.
Beyt went on to suggest “works within the sphere of queer theology” that “have charted a more expansive theological imagination beyond the shame imposed in the Theology of the Body.” He recommends the book “Christian Mysticism’s Queer Flame: Spirituality in the Lives of Contemporary Gay Men.”
In the work, author Michael Bernard Kelly “thoughtfully reads these experiences through the lens of classical mystical texts, carefully delineating how erotic desire can be integrated into one’s entire self to highlight the transformative capacities of God’s love,” Beyt wrote:
Queer God de Amor, a new book from the Latinx theologian Miguel Díaz, enacts a similar approach by reading the poetry of St. John of the Cross to cultivate an account of God within queer, erotic and grace-filled encounters. Both the Kelly and Díaz texts are deeply incarnational, in that they embrace embodied and sexual experiences as sites of God’s transformative love, capable of making us more human through others.
The salaciousness of Beyt’s contribution was not unique among Outreach’s articles.
In January, the organization published a piece by author Stephan Goertz titled “How Saint Sebastian Became an LGBTQ Icon.”
“In accordance with fifth-century legends, early depictions from the sixth century onward show us Sebastian as a dignified and elderly soldier,” Goertz wrote. “So how did this initially inconspicuous soldier-saint become an icon for queer desire and life?”
“Because Sebastian passively endured the arrows, and passivity was connoted with femininity, Sebastian acquired traditionally ‘feminine’ features—curly hair and red cheeks” during the Renaissance period. “The artistic liberty depicting young male bodies went so far as to raise concerns that such images might evoke sensual pleasure instead of religious edification.”
As time went on, the “arrows become ambiguous: they stand for the painful arrows of unjust persecution as well as for the pleasurable arrows of erotic desire,” Goertz wrote.
“By the beginning of the 20th century, Sebastian was established as a queer icon,” Goertz added. “More and more images emerged. He appeared eroticized in movies.”
Here, Goertz linked to an example of an “eroticized” film of Sebastian and to an article with overtly sexual images of the saint on a website called “Queer Spirit.” The article he linked to displays more “sexually explicit” artwork depicting St. Sebastian, whose “iconography affirms what has been called ‘the sanctity of penetration.’”
At the end of the article is a recommendation pointing to a blog post titled in part “The Martyrdom Of Saint Sebastian, In Ascending Order Of Sexiness….”
Activist Donald Maher contributed a piece to Outreach in which he called the Transfiguration “Jesus’s ‘coming out’ story.”
“In his case, it is Christ’s ‘coming out’ as divine,” Maher wrote. “In this Gospel story, we can find several parallels to LGBTQ coming-out stories, with guidance and direction not [just] for gay Catholics, but also for the families, friends and the church,” Maher explains:
To begin with, this Gospel narrative demonstrates Jesus’s concern with revealing the truth of his identity, how many disciples he would tell and when and where they would be told. From among the Twelve, Jesus takes only three to a remote and isolated mountaintop to reveal his divinity. Likewise, many LGBTQ people must also ask: whom should I tell? Where? When?
Outreach Founder and Editor Fr. James Martin has written that Outreach offers needed support to “transgender Catholics.” “In just the last year, the targeting of transgender people, mainly in the political sphere, but also in the religious world, has increased dramatically,” Martin wrote in an article describing Outreach’s first year.
“Here, he linked to a VOX article about legislative efforts by state lawmakers to bar males from women’s sports and to protect children from being subjected to sexual surgeries, puberty-blockers, and cross-sex hormones,” CatholicVote reported:
To counteract such efforts, Martin wrote that Outreach has highlighted “the stories of transgender Catholics, like that of Christine Zuba, a Eucharistic minister at her parish.”
Catholic bishops in the U.S. have been increasingly outspoken against the LGBTQ movement, and in particular its new aims of targeting children and women’s sports. Martin and his organization Outreach have opposed the Church’s efforts in this area, publishing regular criticisms against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and other Catholic leaders who defend Catholic teachings on sexuality and marriage.
…Martin later lamented new “directives from some U.S. dioceses severely restricting the participation of transgender people in the church.” He was apparently referencing efforts by some bishops to defend their flocks, and in particular school children, from the LGBTQ movement’s opposition to Catholic teaching. “These new documents have made many transgender people feel like they have not been listened to by their own church,” Martin wrote.
Outreach regularly publishes articles expressing impatience with Catholic institutions for failing to embrace the most radical and controversial tenets of the LGBTQ movement.
When Outreach published a review of the book “Queer Holiness,” the article criticized the work for not focusing enough on those who surgically alter their bodies and instead spending most of its pages merely advocating for churches to adopt “gay marriage:”
Queer Holiness, like most LGBTQ-oriented Christian books, focuses almost exclusively on the gay experience. Indeed, it may be more honest for those of us who work with “LGB” histories and theologies to begin using the more limited acronym. While Bell provides a brief explanation of intersex experience, trans folks are almost entirely missing from the discussion. This seems like an important omission…
Outreach also published the essay by the above-mentioned Christine Zuba, a man who claims to be a woman. In his essay, Zuba did not merely claim to be female, but also suggested a minor can become trans in “early childhood.”
“As a lifelong Catholic, who has known since early childhood that she was transgender, I ask: ‘Who defines who I am? Whose truth are we talking about? Who has the right to tell me what lies within my heart, mind and soul?’” Zuba wrote.
Fr. Charles Bouchard, O.P, would seem to agree. In an essay at Outreach, the senior director of theology and sponsorship at the Catholic Health Association of the United States analyzed a directive from the U.S. Bishops addressing transgenderism.
“Trans persons seek [surgical] interventions for the sake of the whole person,” Bouchard argued. “The argument in favor of transition is that even though the body may not be disfigured or diseased, there is an ‘inbuilt’ disparity between ‘brain sex’ and ‘body sex’ which occurs because the brain and the sexual organs do not develop simultaneously,” he explained:
The gonads begin to develop first as they differentiate into testes or ovaries. The brain is “sexed” later in fetal development “by sex hormones during a specific hormone-sensitive period during early development.” So it is possible that the brain may develop at variance with genitals.
“Gender incongruence” is “a diagnosable medical condition that can be treated,” according to Bouchard, and “many trans people today knew from an early age that something was not right; only gradually did they begin to understand or have the language to express what they felt.”
“Their choice is not whether to be transgender or not, but whether to acknowledge the incongruity and seek personal harmony through medical intervention,” he wrote.
The “good news” about the bishops’ directive was that it “does not mention use of preferred names or pronouns, nor does it discuss hormone therapy or distinguish different kinds of surgery. It does not mention the special case of children who exhibit gender dysphoria.”
Those omissions, Bouchard argued, left open a path to discovering that “God’s plan for human sexuality is not entirely binary after all.”
Fr. James Martin was coy in his answer when Mary Margaret Olohan of The Daily Signal recently asked for his stance on surgically altering children in so-called “gender transitions.”
Martin’s comments are not, in fact, terribly ambiguous. He seems to simply recommend deferring to the position of surgeons and “experts” who perform and promote sexual surgeries on children. And the essays published at the publication Martin founded would seem to further dispel any ambiguity about Martin’s position.
In one essay at Outreach, Fr. William O’Neill, SJ, argued that the Church should learn to embrace “transgender” people. He wrote: “As Stephen Rosenthal, an expert on pediatric endocrinology, observes: ‘Compelling studies have demonstrated that gender identity is not simply a psychosocial construct, but likely reflects a complex interplay of biologic, environmental, and cultural factors,’” O’Neill wrote.
Here, O’Neill linked to an article housed at nih.gov. The abstract cites “studies demonstrating that those individuals who were first identified as gender dysphoric in early or middle childhood and continue to meet the mental health criteria for being transgender at early puberty are likely to be transgender as adults.”
Outreach published another piece by Claire Gallagher titled “As a Catholic physician, embracing my transgender identity helps me be ‘fully alive.’” Gallagher is a man who claims to be a woman.
“Recent statements from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Va., have accused transgender men and women of engaging in sinful activities by being caught up in ‘transgender ideology,’ thereby denying a gift from God in rejecting our gender assigned at birth,” Gallagher wrote. “They urge transgender folks to repent.”
“As a transgender woman and an OB-GYN physician, and one for whom the Catholic tradition is dear, I would like to clarify that such statements represent a grave misunderstanding of what being a transgender individual is all about,” he argued.
“Moving stories are now heard of young people who recognized early on that something was wrong with their assigned gender,” wrote Gallagher. Here, he linked to a 2018 article at Billboard.com about a boy who “underwent gender confirmation surgery at the age of 16, making her one of the youngest people to undergo the process.”
“We see stories of heroic parents who stand up for their children once they realize that this is more than ‘just a phase,’” Gallagher added. Here he linked to an article at Pride.com praising a number of celebrities who encouraged their children to “transition.” One of the children “came out” as “trans” at age 12.
Gallagher argued that Church leaders are wrong to suggest ideologues are misleading vulnerable people into pursuing drugs and surgeries. “Stating that transgender individuals are being influenced by an ‘ideology’ is reminiscent of the use of buzzwords by politicians who wish exploit people’s fears and ignorance and further marginalize people,” he wrote:
Much of the rationale claimed by church officials for vilifying transgender people is based on outmoded philosophical concepts of “human nature” and upon poor theology not in line with the Gospel teachings of Jesus.
Julie Nichols contributed a piece arguing that Catholic parents must cooperate with so-called “affirming” care for their children when experts and school officials identify them as “transgender.” Nichols described herself as “a pediatric therapist and the Catholic parent of adult, neurodiverse children, two of whom identify as LGBTQ.”
“Julie Nichols is a Catholic pediatric academic language therapist who serves children with developmental, learning and cognitive disabilities,” Outreach’s bio for Nichols states. “She holds specialized credentials in autism, dyslexia, cognition and Inclusion in LGBTQIA+ healthcare.”
“I have worked with neurodiverse children in the disability community for many years,” Nichols wrote. “Because of that work, just as I understand that there are variances in neurology, psychology and biology in a certain percentage of the population, I now understand that there are variances in gender and sexuality for certain people.”
“The lives and health of LGBTQ people depend on at least one adult or parent fully affirming and supporting them along with other professionals and ministers,” she added, pointing to her own two “LGBTQ” children to demonstrate her point. “Supporting our children and following doctors’ orders over the years have allowed all four of our children to thrive.”
Another Outreach piece entitled “A psychotherapist on how to build a lasting relationship with your LGBTQ child,” similarly admonishes parents:
The truth is: Our children do not belong to us. …Perhaps you might consider attending a talk or lecture or speaking to someone at a LGBTQ help center to become better informed.
Virtually every Outreach essay about education and Catholic schools refers to children in sexual terms, and such reference to children also appears gratuitously even in many articles on other topics, like Catholic teaching and parish ministry.
“We can imagine what guilt, self-rejection, internalized homophobia and physical or psychological violence can generate in LGBTQ children, youth and adults,” complained one Jesuit priest in an essay.
In another Outreach essay, Marc Frings called for a “clear readjustment” of Church teaching on sexuality. To back up his argument, Frings cited the increasing sexualization of children today. “For children and young people today, it is completely normal to be confronted with queer identities among fellow students, teachers and friends,” he claimed.
Outreach Managing Editor Ryan Di Corpo wrote a piece joining the pro-LGBTQ organization the Human Rights Campaign in decrying elected officials’ efforts to protect children by not allowing teachers to hide children’s so-called “gender transitions” from parents. Di Corpo described such legislation as attempts to “compel schools to ‘out’ LGBTQ children to their parents.”
“A detailed report from the H.R.C. on anti-LGBTQ bills introduced across the country provides a summary of legal efforts to prohibit drag performances, restrict transgender participation in sports, ban surgical interventions and hormone therapies for transgender persons and compel schools to ‘out’ LGBTQ children to their parents,” Di Corpo wrote:
The report also cites an increase in anti-LGBTQ legislation over the past eight years, culminating in gender-affirming care restrictions in 20 states. “Three in ten … trans youth aged 13-17 live in states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care,” said the H.R.C. earlier this month.
Outreach published an essay by a boy who “came out as gay” while a minor in high school. At school, “I opened up to many of my close teachers,” he wrote. He went on to explain how one teacher helped him complete his “journey” toward being openly homosexual.
In particular, someone I trusted the most: my Catholic theology teacher. He was someone that provided me with a religious and philosophical perspective on my struggles, allowing me to gain clarity on my journey.
Among all our conversations, I vividly remember one where he described a gay couple that deeply cared for each other, contributed great works to their community and spread love to everyone they met. He then asked me, “Do you think God would look down upon them, or reward them for being genuine human beings?” That story was one of many that brought me closer to my faith in accepting myself.
Outcomes like this are a common theme in Outreach’s articles about Catholic schools. Most of the articles directly confront Church authorities, including bishops, for asserting Catholic teachings against the LGBTQ movement’s advancement in Catholic education.
Ish Ruiz and Jane Bleasdale contributed a piece criticizing the Archdiocese of Denver for letting a lesbian teacher go from a Catholic school. The authors took aim at a statement from the archdiocese that said in part, “as Catholic institutions our schools retain their right to ensure that its ministers, which includes our teachers, carry out a faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
“Similar statements have been issued by bishops or school leaders in most of the LGBTQ employee terminations,” the authors wrote. “According to these statements, the presence of LGBTQ Catholic school educators who do not conform to magisterial doctrine threatens the Catholic mission of the institutions.”
“Our research suggests that LGBTQ educators, including those who conscientiously dissent from magisterial doctrine, can offer unique and indispensable blessings to the mission of Catholic schools,” they argued, pointing to a study they conducted in 2018.
Another participant told Ruiz: “I want to stay in a Catholic school. If I leave, there is one less person to represent the LGBTQ+ Catholic Community.”
While only 15 percent of the “LGBTQ+” Catholic teachers who participated in the study had revealed their sexuality to colleagues, Ruiz and Bleasdale noted a 2010 study by Drs. James Everitt and Kevin Stockbridge which “found that LGBTQ educators who identify as Catholic and work in Catholic schools … informally mentor gay and lesbian students.”
“In 2017, Stockbridge concluded that LGBTQ teachers are on a constant journey of self-discovery and seek to dismantle institutional oppression within Catholic schools through a vibrant spirituality emerging from their LGBTQ identity,” the authors wrote.
Ruiz and Bleasdale conceded that “LGBTQ educators” can send the message that same-sex relationships and “gender transitions” are permissible, but countered that “their dismissals might send another problematic message: that it is permissible to discriminate against, harass and oppress LGBTQ+ persons by firing them.”
A piece by Jason Steidl-Jack arguing for a “queer theology of liberation” claimed that acceptance of the Church’s teachings on sexuality harms “trans” minors.
“Carl Siciliano, the founder and executive director of the Ali Forney Center, a New York City shelter and medical clinic for homeless LGBTQ youth, told James Martin, S.J., that at least 90 percent of homeless LGBTQ youth in New York City were kicked out of their homes by their parents for ‘religious reasons,’” Steidl-Jack wrote.
In his own essay at Outreach, Siciliano wrote that it is the Church’s teaching on sexual morality “that provokes the hostility of so many religious parents….”
“While the church teaches that LGBTQ people ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity,’ it also teaches that ‘homosexual acts’ are ‘acts of grave depravity,’ ‘intrinsically disordered’ and can be approved ‘under no circumstances,’” he wrote. “If we hope to protect LGBTQ youths, we must recognize the damage done by such words.”
Siciliano’s organization offers hormone therapy as well as “housing for AFC transfeminine and transmasculine clients ages 16-20.”
Ryan Di Corpo, Outreach’s managing editor, contributed a piece directly addressing so-called “anti-LGBTQ lies and propaganda”. He said the suggestion that the LGBTQ agenda poses a threat to children is false. Di Corpo cited a number of studies to argue that there is no correlation between “sexual orientation” and pedophilia.
“The most recent update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard text in psychiatric practice, clearly differentiates between homosexuality, where an individual is sexually attracted to adults of the same sex, and pedophilic orientations, where individuals are sexually attracted to prepubescent youths,” he wrote. “Furthermore, the existence of this attraction does not guarantee a person will commit a sexual offense—those are separate matters altogether.”
In the same article, Di Corpo cited a 2016 article from Psychological Science in the Public Interest:
[The article] states that some childhood behaviors, exhibited as early as preschool age, are indications a young person will emerge as an LGBTQ adult.
…While these traits can and do exist among children who grow up to be heterosexual adults, studies support “a strong association between childhood gender nonconformity and adult nonheterosexuality.”
“Further,” Di Corpo wrote, “a 1996 study by the University of Chicago found that most adults remembered first experiencing sexual attraction at age 10.”
“Researchers point to adrenarche, ‘the maturation of adrenal glands’ around that age, as a major contributor to the appearance of sexual desire,” he explained. “In brief, hormonal changes, not drag queens or any ‘ideology,’ elicit the early experiences of sexual orientation in youth.”
Di Corpo concluded his article by warning that claiming the LGBTQ movement threatened children was itself a threat, which leads to violence. After a conservative social media account “falsely claimed that Boston Children’s Hospital conducted hysterectomies on minors, the hospital received several bomb threats, menacing emails and phone calls threatening staff with violence,” he wrote.
Boston Children’s Hospital did in fact offer hysterectomies to gender dysphoric minors, as well as double mastectomies and “vaginoplasty” surgeries. This is according to the hospital’s website. Under national scrutiny, however, the hospital scrubbed its site of references to “transgender” procedures being available to minors.
David Palmieri contributed an essay to Outreach about an “encounter” he had with an “LGBTQ” minor “that finally moved me to be active in advocating for LGBTQ ministry in Catholic schools.” The teen in question allegedly told Palmieri he had tried to kill himself due to the Church not embracing the LGBTQ movement.
Palmieri contributed another piece about “Without Exception,” an online organization he founded out of a “desire to walk with all of God’s people—including our LGBTQ+ children—as missionary disciples.” Outreach’s headline describes the organization as a new website that “provides resources for LGBTQ students in Catholic high schools”
Palmieri wrote that he had “discovered there were no resources available for LGBTQ ministry in Catholic high schools, but there are LGBTQ kids in our schools.” So he founded the organization.
“I started reaching out by email to groups of teachers, counselors and administrators in Catholic high schools, simply asking if anybody was interested in talking about LGBTQ ministry in our schools,” he wrote. “Now there are over 200 people involved in this conversation, from 38 U.S. states and four countries. The group is named Without Exception—as in how the love of Jesus Christ is offered to all people.”
“Without Exception welcomes allies who work in Catholic high schools and other related fields of ministry to young people,” the organization’s website states. “To inquire about joining, please contact us. There is no cost for membership. All membership information is kept strictly confidential.”
Palmieri wrote in another essay at Outreach:
Our mission is to help our students move through a process of self-discovery…In the process, they naturally gravitate toward adults who respect, inspire and support them. It is within this context that some educators will earn the right to know LGBTQ students. LGBTQ youths and teachers are in every school, but not every school creates an environment with eyes to see and ears to hear.
“In this kind of social environment, children have a better opportunity to be authentic,” Palmieri added.
One of the first articles Outreach published was titled “Catholic school educators: Now is the time to think about LGBTQ inclusion.” In the article, author Ish Ruiz advised pro-”LGBTQ+” operatives on how to infiltrate and disrupt Catholic schools from within.
“For the past ten years, I have been blessed to minister to LGBTQ+ persons in Catholic high schools. Though challenging at times, my life and work as an educator has been significantly enriched by the gifts LGBTQ+ people bring to our schools and broader Church,” Ruiz wrote. “For that reason, I long to see Catholic school environments where LGBTQ+ persons can safely and authentically explore their identity as they grow in relationship God through community.”
Ruiz called on teachers to be “proactive” in drawing out “LGBTQ+ children.” “You do not have to wait for students to come out,” he wrote.
“Questions of student uniform, gendered bathrooms, prom dates, and chosen names/pronouns” should ideally be “discussed thoroughly and guidelines should be communicated to all employees prior to the start of a school year,” Ruiz wrote:
Furthermore, classroom teachers might benefit from some school-wide guidance on verbal cues (common use of language, cultural competence, etc.), visual resources (such as safe-space stickers, pride flags, etc.), and classroom management considerations (such as anti-bullying prevention, pronoun use, microaggressions, etc.) pertaining to LGBTQ+ inclusion.
“You have LGBTQ+ students in your school!” Ruiz exclaimed. “You do not have to wait for students to come out, demand inclusion, or engage in conflict in order to reactively provide them the pastoral care they need.”
Ruiz recommended Catholic school teachers use “the resources provided by the Outreach ministry” in order to create “school-wide LGBTQ+ inclusion.”
Some teachers may find themselves working in Catholic schools that are “hostile to these conversations,” however. “My advice to them is to find the point or points of tension and apply gentle pressure by asking questions and taking calculated risks,” he wrote.
Such teachers will have to be careful to “build a trusting relationship with the administrator” who may not accept their ultimate motives. But the effort will be worth it, as those pro-LGBTQ teachers “may be that one adult to an LGBTQ+ child that needs them.”
America Magazine Associate Editor Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J., interviewed Ruiz in another piece published at Outreach. McDermott described Ruiz as “a gay Catholic theologian at Emory University and former Catholic high school teacher, who advises Catholic schools on LGBTQ inclusion.”
Ruiz told McDermott that he wants “LGBTQ+ kids” in Catholic schools “to have a space and a community where they can talk and wrestle together, to not feel isolated and alone.” McDermott explained:
That can mean a club, like a gay-straight alliance, or, if a bishop or others are resistant to such an option, it can mean some designated staff member. “A person can be a space” for their students.
Ruiz warned of “resistance” from “parents who refuse to accept their child’s situation,” recalling “the story of a trans student in a Catholic school whose parents insisted that the school refer to” to their daughter “using his former name.” A child can hit “obstacles” while “transitioning,” Ruiz explained. “Some students are going to be stuck in ‘My parents don’t like me.’”
McDermott also spoke to “a transgender man who transitioned while attending a Catholic girls’ school.” In light of struggles like hers, McDermott wrote, Ruiz
encourages administrators to think of themselves almost like masseurs. ‘A lot of this ministry is going to be figuring out what the walls are,” he says. “It’s like you’re massaging a body. You find the knot and you have to find a way to apply pressure there.”
Ruiz spoke to the parents of the girl mentioned above, applying “pressure” by suggesting their insistence that their daughter was a girl would cause her stress. “Putting something on the back burner for a couple months,” the girl later told McDermott, “was time to get used to the idea of it. It was a big thing to say to myself at 15.” Throughout his Outreach article, McDermott referred to her using male pronouns.
McDermott went on to address how Catholic schools can accommodate “trans” students during “sleepaway trips, like a retreat.”
“If a trans boy is fine sleeping with the girls for whatever reason (perhaps he’s not ‘out’ yet), great, let’s do that,” Ruiz remembers the school deciding.
“But if he doesn’t want to sleep with the girls because he’s not a girl, then we reach out to his parents, and then the other boys.”
…A number of those I interviewed also pointed out that it’s important to remember trans students are going through a sometimes messy process.
(In the case mentioned, when the other boys on the trip were asked how they would feel about the boy bunking with them, “The boys listened and then said, ‘Oh, cool. Can he bring some candies or some snacks?’”)
McDermott explained further that “high school naturally provides tools and experiences that help students to begin reflecting more deeply on their own experiences.” The “trans” student told him that attending a very liberal all-girls Catholic high school “was the first time he had ever heard terms like ‘gay’ or ‘trans.’”
McDermott wrote that “transitioning in high school gives students the chance to start fresh afterwards.”
Because the girl “transitioned then, when he got to college his life could be different. ‘It doesn’t have to be the first thing you know about me,’ said his mother, ‘He wanted to go to college just as himself.’”
Dan Walden authored a piece for Outreach arguing that denying “trans” care to children was comparable to Herod’s massacre of the Holy Innocents.
“One way of participating in child murder … is the deliberate refusal to meet the needs of a child—needs that are far more direct and immediate than the needs of most adults,” Walden wrote:
Some of these needs, like food and shelter, are obvious, although their being obvious does not prevent us from refusing to meet them.
…These are things that need to be given out on a community level, and they are things without which people die. Certainly, their refusal is acquiescence to murder.
Children also have other, less obvious needs, which are no less crucial despite their inconspicuousness…
“It is strange, then, that so much Christian activism in this country should be focused on depriving children of precisely these things and thus on trying to kill them,” Walden argued. “Children who may be LGBTQ, and in particular, children who may be trans, are a special focus for this murderous impulse in our culture.”
“Less overt but far more common” than efforts to prevent children from being subjected to sexual surgeries and drugs “are the school and community book bans that have proliferated across the country,” Walden wrote. “We don’t often consider libraries to be sites of attempted murder, but I think this is because we fail to consider what they mean.”
“Gender Queer” is one of many books concerned parents have removed from “Pride Month” displays in library children’s sections during CatholicVote’s “Hide the Pride” campaign. The book is about a 14-year-old’s sexual activities. The book includes explicit illustrations of the child engaging in sexual acts, and features a graphic scene in which the minor fantasizes about being molested by an adult man.
Outreach author Dan Walden has written on social media: “one of the things you have to accept as a parent is that your child will develop a private life that you don’t get to see. When kids go to school, you become ancillary to that part of their life. That’s how growing up works. You’ve gotta trust them at some point.”
“Today children — children — are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex,” Pope Francis lamented during a trip to Poland in 2016. “Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the people and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this is terrible!”
The pope’s strong feelings on the subject of LGBTQ ideology, which he has explicitly denounced on many occasions as “gender ideology,” would seem to be in sharp conflict with the work of Outreach.
Catholics will likely find it perplexing then that Fr. James Martin has received notes of encouragement from Pope Francis, and that at least two American bishops have personally contributed articles to Outreach’s website.
“I have been privileged to hear the stories and be part of the struggles of many LGBT persons during my years as a friar, priest and bishop, and I have heard about so much pain, rejection and self-doubt,” wrote Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky in a piece for Outreach.
…they did not choose their identity, but are certain it is an essential part of who they are. That identity is both gay and Catholic, and while many have attempted to change one or the other or both, when accompanied by loving, supportive and faithful people, they have come to see that they cannot and should not change.
Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, has also seen his words published on the site. “Without a doubt, same-sex couples are quite capable of teaching their children about the faith, by living lives that respect others, by remaining faithful to each other and by loving one another,” he wrote:
God is love and the most fundamental catechesis that a child can receive is to be loved, to return love and to be a member of a loving family. All other catechesis is based on this. In addition, same-sex couples give witness to many other aspects of Catholic life that form a coherent catechesis for children: commitment, fidelity, self-giving, honesty, humility, kindness, spiritual depth, church attendance, respect and so much more. These considerations form the basis for the specific Catholic teaching that same sex parents give to their children.
In an essay celebrating Outreach’s first anniversary, Fr. James Martin wrote that things are “getting better” for “LGBTQ Catholics.”
Martin claimed that Pope Francis is among the prelates who give him hope that the Church will embrace the LGBTQ movement.
“[A] number of cardinals, archbishops and bishops have called for the church to reconsider terming homosexual acts as ‘intrinsically disordered’ in the Catechism, which LGBTQ people often say is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to feeling welcome in their church,” Martin added:
These include Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., of Luxembourg and Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky.
These American prelates, however, would seem to be outliers. For them, rejecting the U.S. Bishops’ concerns about what Pope Francis calls “gender ideology” has been an act of breaking ranks.
Catholics in the pews, and especially faithful Catholics in San Diego, Chicago, and Lexington, are likely hoping to see these leaders reconcile with their brother bishops.
And whether the pope will recognize Outreach’s work as an example of the “ideological colonialization” he has decried remains to be seen.