Attendees at an LGBT activist event lobbying the Synod of Bishops included an official from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, one of the most influential funders in the world. “Open Society Foundations program officer Peter Matjasic was one of the participants of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics assembly,” Antonia Zafeiri, the foundations’ European communications officer, confirmed to CNA Oct. 13. Zafeiri said the assembly was “an opportunity to discuss with civil society representatives sharing similar values” in line with the foundations’ mission to “promote equality and combat discrimination of minority groups.” The newly launched Global Network of Rainbow Catholics held its first assembly in Rome Oct. 1-4. It drew together several dissenting Catholic groups engaged in LGBT activism. The gathering claimed representatives from 30 countries. Matjasic is a program officer for the Open Society Initiative for Europe, a branch of the Open Society Foundations established by the politically active billionaire investor George Soros. The foundations’ website said they expended about $827 million globally in 2014. On his Twitter account, Matjasic praised the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics’ discussions about their mission statement, approach, and structures. The global network’s assembly also included the Ways of Love conference, which advocated that the synod adopt LGBT activist groups’ “best practices” in pastoral ministry. The conference included journalist Robert Mickens’ live interview with former Irish president Mary McAleese, a vocal critic of Catholic teaching. Matjasic said on his personal Twitter account that McAleese gave “a compelling condemnation of Roman Catholic doctrine on homosexuality.” Open Society Foundations did not respond to CNA questions about whether it financially supported the groups involved. The European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, a founding member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, has received funding from the Open Society Institute for a project to document and oppose “religion-based intolerance in Eastern Europe.” The European Forum’s annual report said it also took part in an Open Society institute conference in Barcelona in September 2014 about reaching the “movable middle” and made a presentation about “combating religion-based opposition.” The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics has advocated that the 2015 Synod of Bishops revive controversial language on homosexuality from previous synod documents. The synod is meeting at Vatican City Oct. 4-25. The U.S.-based LGBT activist group Human Rights Campaign also had a representative at the global network’s founding assembly: Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, director of the campaign’s Latino and Catholic Initiatives. In 2014 the Human Rights Campaign launched an activist effort that stressed the synod’s importance as “the opportunity to create a precedent for change.” The group has been critical of the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, as well as synod delegates Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky. The Human Rights Campaign is very influential in American life, as major corporations compete to score high on its corporate equality index. Its corporate partners include American Airlines, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Bank of America, Northrop Grumman, Chevron, Lexus, Goldman Sachs, and Coca-Cola. The organization did not respond to a request for comment by deadline. The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics issued a message to the synod that claimed that many in the Church “thought that they were serving God by hating us, and some still do, especially among the hierarchy.” The activists said they launched the network to share information, counter falsehood, encourage each other and strengthen their families. They rejected criminalization of LGBT activities, especially countries where some actions result in execution. In addition, the network claimed to be reaching out to bishops. “We want to set up our network in such a way that we can even be useful to you, though we know from long experience how frightened many of you are of communicating with us discreetly, even less talking to us on the record!” its message said. The Ways of Love 2015 conference included a keynote speech from Mexico’s Bishop Raul Vera, who was the center of controversy several years ago for his support of a homosexual ministry that rejected aspects of Catholic teaching. The 2014 conference’s keynote speaker was Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney who authored a book which was rebuked by Australia’s bishops for doctrinal problems. The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics includes Dignity USA and New Ways Ministry, two U.S. groups that have recently called for same-sex marriage to be recognized as a sacrament. Other members include the LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, the Polish group Wiara I Tecza, the Italian group Nuova Proposta, the Chilean group PADIS and the Maltese group Drachma. In a related effort, the European Forum for LGBT Christian Groups lobbied the synod bishops. The forum’s Catholic coordinator, Michael Brinkschroeder, in September sent e-mails to several bishops inviting them to the Ways of Love conference. His e-mail included a series of written interviews with self-identified LGBT Catholics from several west African countries. He said they face exclusion from family, loss of work, and blackmail. That interview project was funded by the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund and the U.S.-based Arcus Foundation in response to “the extremely negative influence from bishops from Western Africa on the final document of the Family Synod 14,” according to the European Forum’s 2014-2015 activities report The Arcus Foundation has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into LGBT activist projects related to the synod. These projects include European Forum efforts to respond to “homophobic Catholic church family synod decisions” and efforts to help the forum “pursue its successful strategy of shifting traditional views.” The foundation grants also funded the drafting, testing and use of “a counter-narrative to traditional values” in contexts like the 2015 Synod on the Family, according to the forum’s annual report and grant announcements from the foundation. The Arcus Foundation is a partner of the U.S. State Department’s Global Equality Fund. Ford Foundation president Darren Walker sits on the Arcus Foundation’s eight-member board of directors.
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