Synod of Bishops Restores Resource Page Link to New Ways Ministry, Issues Apology

According to a new statement published to the New Ways Ministry website, Thierry Bonaventura, communications manager of the General Secretariat, had apologized “for removing from their website a link to our video encouraging LGBTQ people to participate in synod consultations.”

Pope Francis takes part in a moment of reflection for the opening of the synodal path at the Vatican’s New Synod Hall, Oct. 9, 2021.
Pope Francis takes part in a moment of reflection for the opening of the synodal path at the Vatican’s New Synod Hall, Oct. 9, 2021. (photo: Screenshot / Vatican News/YouTube)

VATICAN CITY — In a reversal of an earlier decision, the Synod of Bishops has restored a link to a video by New Ways Ministry on its resources webpage. An employee at the General Secretariat also apologized to the LGBT outreach group after the link was removed last week.

According to a Dec. 13 statement on the New Ways Ministry website, Thierry Bonaventura, communications manager of the General Secretariat, had apologized “for removing from their website a link to our video encouraging LGBTQ people to participate in synod consultations.”

Bonaventura told CNA on Dec. 7 that the link had been taken down after he was made aware that the U.S. bishops’ conference expressed its disapproval of the LGBT outreach ministry in 2010. 

As of Dec. 13, the link is again visible on the synodresources.org website.

In a statement in the newsletter of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, Bonaventura said the removal of the link was a personal decision taken for “internal procedural reasons.” He apologized for removing the link, which he said “brought pain to the entire LGBTQ community who once again felt left out.”

The apology, subtitled “Walking together also means knowing how to apologize,” was also shared on the Facebook page of Jesuit Father James Martin on Dec. 12.

Bonaventura added that it is his desire and the desire of the entire General Secretariat of the Synod “not to exclude those who wish to carry out this synodal process with a sincere heart and a spirit of dialogue and real discernment.”

The apology was “a good example of true reconciliation in the church,” Father Martin wrote on Twitter Dec. 13. Father Martin is the author of Building a Bridge, a book advocating stronger ties between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community.

New Ways Ministry was founded in 1977 in the Archdiocese of Washington by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent, who were the subject of a notification by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1999.

The notification, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI, said that their positions “regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination are doctrinally unacceptable because they do not faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church in this area.”

In 2010, Cardinal Francis George, then president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement emphasizing that New Ways Ministry “has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and that they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.”

Bonaventura told CNA on Dec. 7, after the link had been removed, that his “team was not aware of the situation of the New Ways organization and of the clarification given by the USCCB President in 2010.”

He said that synodresources.org is an initiative of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for sharing resources among dioceses, bishops’ conferences, and official Catholic organizations.

But he noted that the website’s address does not end in “.va,” the internet country code top-level domain for Vatican City.

“It means that the content published doesn’t express the view of the General Secretary of the Synod or of the Vatican,” he explained.

“At the same time, even if we are open to receiving any useful resources without a particular censoring of the material, it is our desire to welcome inputs from officially recognized organizations by the Catholic Church.”

CNA asked Bonaventura Dec. 13 to explain the apparent reversal but he declined to comment further. 

Resources currently linked to on the Synod of Bishops’ website include handbooks, videos, formation materials, webinars, and events in countries around the world. Most of the resources included on the page as of Dec. 13 originate from Catholic dioceses and bishops’ conferences.

New Ways is one of only four groups categorized as “informal organizations” featured on the page, which linked to a total of 99 resources as of Dec. 13.

New Ways is the only group focused exclusively on ministry to people with same-sex attraction.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is currently overseeing what has been described as one of the largest consultation exercises in human history, ahead of the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

A handbook released by the Vatican in September urged dioceses to include “all the baptized” in the process, including those on the margins of Church life.

It said: “Special care should be taken to involve those persons who may risk being excluded: women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, etc.”

The Vatican announced in May that the Synod on Synodality would open with a diocesan phase starting in October 2021.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

The “About” section of synodresources.org says that the website is “a platform for sharing resources, stories, and experiences in the journey of the Synod 2021-2023.”

The synod website also links to a new group, based out of a Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, called Discerning Deacons, which says its mission is to “engage Catholics in the active discernment of our Church about women and the diaconate.”

On its website, Discerning Deacons says it is “a project fueled by love and fidelity to the Catholic Church.”

The group will launch a “Synodal Animators Cohort” in January 2022 to provide “integral formation“ during the first phase of the synod, especially to those engaging people ”who often are at the peripheries of our faith communities: young people and women (who are explicitly named in the preparatory documents), Black, indigenous and people of color, migrants, victims of violence, formerly incarcerated men and women, LGBTQ persons, along with ecumenical and interreligious dialogue partners.”

The opening of the Amazon synod at the Vatican's Synod Hall,  Oct. 7, 2019.

Synod of Bishops Removes Resource Page Link to New Ways Ministry

In 2010, Cardinal Francis George, then president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement emphasizing that New Ways Ministry “has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and that they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.”

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