‘Simply Wrong’: Vatican Official Criticized for Address to Pro-Homosexuality Catholic Organization

Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary at the Synod of Bishops’ general secretariat, delivered an online PowerPoint presentation to New Ways Ministry, which promotes homosexual and transgender rights in the Church, on April 3.

Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart poses for a photo during an interview with the Associated Press, Feb. 10, 2021, in Rome.
Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart poses for a photo during an interview with the Associated Press, Feb. 10, 2021, in Rome. (photo: Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press)

VATICAN CITY — A recent lecture given by a high-level member of the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops to a dissenting American organization has been criticized as “simply wrong” and part of a concerted effort to influence the current worldwide Synod on Synodality to legitimize the homosexual agenda in the Church.  

Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary at the Synod of Bishops’ general secretariat responsible for coordinating all the Vatican’s synods, delivered an online PowerPoint presentation to New Ways Ministry, which promotes homosexual and transgender rights in the Church, on April 3. The subject was “Synodality — a Path of Reconciliation” — a discussion on the current Synod on Synodality that runs until October 2023. 

The presentation, billed as a memorial lecture, was in honor of the late Salvatorian Father Robert Nugent, who, together with Sister of Loretto Jeannine Gramick, founded New Ways Ministry in 1977 to minister to  homosexual people in the Church. Sister Jeannine led the opening prayer before the lecture. Both Father Nugent and Sister Jeannine were disciplined by the Vatican in the 1990s because of the flaws in their approach to ministry to homosexuals persons. 

Introducing Sister Nathalie’s lecture, New Ways Ministry’s executive director, Francis DeBernardo, said he was “particularly delighted” to welcome her and “ecstatic” about the presentation. Sister Nathalie said it was a “great joy” to address the organization but made no mention of its past problematic history with the Church.  

Instead, she focused on how to live synodality “as a spirit of listening and dialogue” and said the “main protagonist” of the synod was the “Holy Spirit.” A one-minute silence was held so participants could listen to what the Holy Spirit was saying to them before she went on to explain that synodality was about recognizing personal woundedness, the reality of situations and that it “begins with reconciliation and forgiveness.”   

The French missionary sister invited the participants, who New Ways Ministry said numbered 1,000 from 37 countries, to share in one word what synodality means to them. They responded with words such as “welcome,” “acceptance,” “justice,” “solidarity,” “dialogue,” “affirmation,” “peace,” “hope,” “community,” “encounter” and “togetherness.”  

Sister Nathalie frequently alluded in her lecture to the Youth Synod as paving the way for greater acceptance of pro-homosexual communities within the Church, and spoke of a “remarkably LGBT-positive document” that came out of a pre-youth-synod meeting that she herself had helped to coordinate.  

 

New Ways’ Dissenting Views 

The Church has never officially approved of New Ways Ministry because of its failure to uphold Catholic teaching regarding the disordered nature of homosexual activity. In 1999 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) “permanently prohibited” both Father Nugent and Sister Jeannine “from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.”  

The ruling was given after the failure of “repeated attempts” to ensure Father Nugent and Sister Jeannine comply with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. “The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father Nugent and Sister Jeannine have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church,” the CDF note read. 

According to comments Sister Jeannine made last year, her thinking has not changed.   

In 2010, after New Ways Ministry supported same-sex “marriage,” Cardinal Francis George, then-archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops, signed a statement saying its work “only confuses the faithful,” as it denies central aspects of Church teaching. He said it therefore had “no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church.”   

Pope Francis has taken a markedly different approach, refusing to censure the pro-“LGBT” organization and instead praising it for its work. Last December he sent Sister Jeannine a handwritten letter congratulating her on “50 years of closeness, of compassion and of tenderness” in a ministry to homosexual people that he described as in “the style of God.”  

In December, the Synod of Bishops placed New Ways Ministry videos on the Synod on Synodality’s resources page; it then removed them after it learned of Cardinal George’s 2010 statement, but within 24 hours had restored the videos, apologizing that the decision had “brought pain to the entire LGBTQ community who once again felt left out.” 

 

Legitimizing the ‘LGBT’ Agenda? 

Responding to the lecture, Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura, told the Register it was “not proper that a member of the Synod of Bishops, representing this high-level consultative body in the Church, speak to an organization which is in dissent from the Church’s teaching on the homosexual condition, on homosexual acts, and to express the idea that somehow the Church can be reconciled with these positions which are contrary to her teaching.” 

He stressed that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality “is unchanging because it comes directly from the Scriptures and is faithfully taught in the magisterium.” To deliver such a lecture, he added, was therefore “simply wrong.” 

Riccardo Cascioli, editor of the Catholic Italian daily La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, said “it seems to me that, from the beginning, one of the goals of the Synod on Synodality is to legitimize the LGBT agenda within the Church.” He noted, for example, that Sister Nathalie was not addressing a group that ministers to people with homosexual tendencies in accordance with Church teaching such as Courage and EnCourage International, but rather one “condemned” by the CDF.  

“The gesture is therefore disruptive and indicates the willingness of the Church’s leadership to embrace the LGBT agenda, with all the dramatic consequences for the magisterium,” Cascioli told the Register, adding that “LGBT claims would force a revision of the entire doctrine of creation, as well as biblical exegesis.”  

He also saw it as part of a “real bombardment” of pro-“LGBT” agenda statements within the Church recently, such as those coming from Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who is now pushing for Church approval of same-sex acts, and individual diocesan initiatives in various countries, such as the recent decision by the Archdiocese of Turin to guarantee confirmation for transgender people, using their new name in the rite.  

In February, the relator general of the Synod on Synodality, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, drew criticism for saying he believed the Church’s approach to homosexual relationships was wrong as the “sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching” was “no longer correct.” Before taking up his position as secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Mario Grech also reportedly took a positive attitude toward the pro-homosexual agenda.  

For these reasons, Cascioli believes that, for pro-homosexuality Catholics, the Synod on Synodality “is the great opportunity for the decisive assault on the Catechism” where pressure is intensifying to remove its description of homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered.”  

He drew attention to a warning issued by a CDF letter to bishops in 1986 on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, in which then-CDF prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger denounced homosexual lobbyists and urged bishops to be “especially cautious of any programs which may seek to pressure the Church to change her teaching, even while claiming not to do so.” 

 

Synod Spokesman Responds 

Thierry Bonaventura, spokesman for the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, said the presentation was one of many invitations Sister Nathalie had accepted aimed at fostering a synodal Church. “There have been numerous meetings with very heterogeneous groups and realities all over the world,” Bonaventura said.  

He then drew attention to paragraph 150 of the final document of the 2018 Synod on Youth, which states: “Many Christian communities already offer journeys of accompaniment in faith for homosexual persons: The Synod recommends that such initiatives be supported.”  

The paragraph goes on to state that “all young people, without exception, are helped to integrate the sexual dimension of their personality more and more fully, as they grow in the quality of their relationships and move towards the gift of self.” 

Asked what he thought about the criticisms of Sister Nathalie’s lecture and concerns that the synod could be a means to change Church doctrine through synodality, Bonaventura replied: “What would Jesus have done? What does the Gospel that is proclaimed every day at Mass testify to?”  

As for whether Sister Nathalie or other senior officials would give lectures to those organizations involved in the synod that are trying to uphold Tradition and orthodoxy but feel excluded from the life of the Church, Bonaventura said: “We don't want to exclude anyone, but we don't want to impose ourselves either. If an invitation comes, we will consider it, as we usually do.”

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

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