LGBT equality groups getting shut out of Pope Francis meeting in Philadelphia

LGBT groups planning events in Philadelphia around a massive Catholic family gathering there next month – which Pope Francis will attend – say the parish hosting them has reneged after a conversation with local Catholic officials.

The news Tuesday follows the announcement by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput that people advocating for gay equality would not be given a platform at the World Meeting of Families, a once-every-three-years global meeting about family issues in the church.

The issue shows the complex balancing act for the church as Francis continues to make inclusive comments and powerful gestures of welcome toward gay people even as he speaks out strongly against gay marriage and transgender acceptance. The pope’s U.S. visit next month and the family meeting come just ahead of a major gathering of cardinals in Rome in November that will address concrete questions about the place of gay people and families in Catholicism.

New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for LGBT Catholics, said it had been welcomed initially by St. John the Evangelist in downtown Philadelphia. New Ways had planned to run a workshop there on gender identity. A second group, Equally Blessed, is bringing 14 families with LGBT members and was planning to use St. John as a home base during the day.

Neither group may use the church, New Ways executive director Francis DeBernardo said Tuesday. He said St. John’s pastor, John Daya, spoke to a member of New Ways last week and said the decision was made after a call from the archdiocese. Daya said both events were canceled, but it wasn’t clear if the archdiocese had a problem with both or just the New Ways workshop, DeBernardo said.

The workshop, entitled “Transforming Love: Exploring Gender Identity From Catholic Perspectives,” features presentations including those from a married transsexual woman and an intersex woman who is now Anglican.