The start of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family has triggered a wave of activism from well-funded LGBT activist groups in the U.S. who are targeting “outspoken” Catholic bishops in hopes of changing Catholic practice and moral doctrine. “Most important is the opportunity to create a precedent for change,” the Human Rights Campaign said in its pamphlet on the synod. The LGBT group has announced an activist effort targeting eight bishops in a pamphlet that labels them as “the best of the worst Catholic bishops across the country.” Its campaign will target bishops including Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, U.S. bishops’ conference president and Kentucky Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. The effort aims to target bishops the activist group claims have been “most outspoken in their rejection of LGBT Catholics, their civil rights, and their rightful place in the church.” The effort will include rosary events and literature distributions in the bishops’ home cities. Among the Human Rights Campaign’s corporate partners are large corporations like American Airlines, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Bank of America, Northrop Grumman, Chevron, Lexus, Goldman Sachs, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The campaign has also lobbied businesses to push for “LGBT equality” in legislation, to recruit self-identified LGBT employees, and to give financial support through LGBT-targeted marketing or advertising and philanthropic support for LGBT organizations. The Human Rights Campaign’s synod material claims that after the 2014 and 2015 synods, Pope Francis will release “new doctrine.” It also claims that the Vatican intended to survey lay Catholics on family issues but the U.S. bishops failed to distribute this survey. The campaign contended that this excluded “the voice of the people.” Such arguments have been countered, however, by the Vatican. In November 2013, Holy See Press Office spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi rejected claims that Pope Francis was surveying Catholics. He said that the reports had misunderstood a preparatory document sent to bishops’ conferences around the world by Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary general for the Synod of Bishops. The Human Rights Campaign’s material also cites Pope Francis’ August 2013 interview aboard the papal plane returning from Rio de Janeiro to Rome in which he stressed the need not to judge someone who is gay and “searches for the Lord and has good will.” The Pope’s comments came in the context of a question about a “gay lobby” at the Vatican and included a papal warning about the problem of “a lobby of this tendency.” Furthermore, the Human Rights Campaign said its synod-related advocacy is an opportunity to “take steps towards greater inclusion,” citing the potential to secure baptism for “children of LGBT Catholic families.” However, the working document for the synod itself already addresses the issue of baptism of children being raised by same-sex couples. It said bishops’ responses “emphasize that the child must be received with the same care, tenderness and concern which is given to other children” while also noting the need for careful oversight of baptismal preparation and the need to ensure that the child can be capably instructed in the Christian faith. Other groups backed by LGBT activists have also weighed in on the synod. On Oct. 6, Catholics United’s new Pennsylvania affiliate Keystone Catholics launched a petition addressed to Pope Francis regarding the World Meeting of Families 2015, which will be held in Philadelphia. The petition asks Pope Francis to include an agenda item “aimed at improving the Catholic Church’s pastoral ministry for families which include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.” It claimed they “suffer from the suggestion that their sexual orientation or gender identity is ‘intrinsically disordered’.” Catholics United executive director James Salt was far harsher towards Catholic teaching in an August 2014 statement. He claimed that the Catholic Church “perpetuates mental illness by referring to gay and transgender people as ‘intrinsically disordered’,” an apparent reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s description of homosexual orientation, not persons. Salt claimed that the suicide of a self-identified transgender Catholic teen in Pennsylvania underscored a lack of support services for LGBT Catholics. He claimed that Catholic teaching “contributes to lower self-esteem” and “certainly” contributes to a higher suicide rate among “LGBT individuals.” Signatories to the Oct. 6 petition included U.S. Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.) and Michael Doyle (D-Penn.); several Catholic campus ministers, university professors and women religious; and leaders of local affiliates of dissenting Catholic groups like Call to Action, Dignity USA and New Ways Ministry. Catholics United itself has received at least $100,000 from the Colorado-based Gill Foundation, which has funded LGBT advocacy favored by its founder, the politically sophisticated multi-millionaire Tim Gill. In addition, the Arcus Foundation, founded by Jon Stryker, a billionaire heir to the Stryker Corporation, has given a $200,000 grant “to support pro-LGBT faith advocates to influence and counter the narrative of the Catholic Church and its ultra-conservative affiliates.” The support aims to “build advocacy and visibility” in connection with the Synod on the Family and World Youth Day. The grant supports the Equally Blessed Coalition through the dissenting Catholic group Dignity USA. The coalition includes other self-identified groups that undermine Catholic teaching, including Call to Action, New Ways Ministry and Fortunate Families.
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