The presence of LGBT activists and other controversial guests at the White House welcoming ceremony for Pope Francis has reportedly drawn concern at the Vatican. A senior Vatican official has said the Holy See is concerned that any photos of the Pope with the controversial guests could be interpreted as an endorsement, Wall Street Journal writer Francis X. Rocca reported Sept. 17. The White House directly invited some guests to the Sept. 23 South Lawn ceremony, including retired Episcopal Bishop V.Gene Robinson. His election as the first openly gay Episcopalian bishop helped split the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The White House also invited the LGBT activist group GLAAD to the reception. The organization is circulating a media guide for the papal visit that encourages journalists to consult dissenting Catholic groups. It also portrays negatively several bishops and Catholic commentators and researchers who are opposed to LGBT political aims. The media guide contended that Catholic teaching can be “extremely harmful” to young people who identify as LGBT. GLAAD said that they would be joined at the White House by Frank DeBernardo, executive director of the dissenting Catholic activist group New Ways Ministry, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, S.L., the organization’s co-founder. The organization was rebuked by the Vatican and the U.S. bishops’ conference for rejecting Catholic teaching. White House press secretary Josh Earnest, speaking to reporters on Thursday, warned against drawing conclusions about specific attendees “because there will be 15,000 other people there too,” the Wall Street Journal reports. However, DeBernardo told the Washington Blade Sept. 16 he thought the presence of LGBT Catholics and activists “sends a strong message that LGBT people are a great concern of this administration.” GLAAD also invited its former intern Nicholas Coppola, who has protested New York’s Diocese of Rockville Centre after he was removed as a catechist when he contracted a same-sex civil marriage. Mateo Williamson, a past transgender caucus co-chair with the dissenting group Dignity USA will also attend. The Catholic dissenting groups benefited from a 2014 grant of $200,000 from the Arcus Foundation. The foundation’s grant listing said the funding was “to support pro-LGBT faith advocates to influence and counter the narrative of the Catholic Church and its ultra-conservative affiliates” ahead of the Synod on the Family. The foundation is an LGBT advocacy partner of the U.S. State Department’s Global Equality Fund. The foundation’s executive director, Kevin Jennings, is a former Obama administration official. The foundation has dedicated over $2 million to target religious freedom protections in the U.S. New Ways Ministry and Dignity USA are also involved in a global network of LGBT Catholic activists which is holding an assembly and advocacy conference in Rome ahead of the 2015 synod.
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