by Ben Johnson
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, March 22, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Religious Education Congress bills itself as an “opportunity to hear God’s voice in their own lives.” However, some of the featured speakers at the March 22-25 event, said to be the largest of its kind in the world, have described Barack Obama as “pro-life,” longed for “public models of gay priests,” opposed marriage protection legislation, and encouraged children to engage in “genital self-touch.”
Neither Tod M. Tamberg nor Carolina Guevara, media representatives for the Archdiocese, responded to an e-mail from LifeSiteNews.com concerning allegations speakers at the REC deviate from the Church’s teachings by supporting homosexual priests or masturbation.
When LifeSiteNews called to follow-up, Tamberg insisted he did not receive the e-mail, then hung up on us.
When asked about the e-mail, which was sent Thursday morning, Tamberg said rapidly: “Didn’t get any e-mails. Um, didn’t get any e-mails at all. Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. And I’m running down to the Congress right now. So, sorry. Thanks for your call, though. Bye-bye!”
His side of the call lasted 13 seconds. He immediately hung up. Neither Tamberg nor Guevara returned calls for follow-up.
However, LifeSiteNews.com has confirmed a number of the speakers at the archdiocesan event, which runs Thursday through Sunday, have a history of dissent or controversy.
Dr. Richard Gaillardetz wrote in 2008 that Barack Obama was “the pro-life candidate.”
“I have come to believe that the true ‘pro-life’ candidate is not the one who champions opposition to Roe v. Wade,” he wrote in the Toledo Blade, but one who supports “policies that would extend substantial financial and health-care assistance to poor families facing unplanned pregnancies.” The bishop of Toledo, Leonard Blair, wrote the paper to say Gaillardetz’ views “do not reflect the clear and consistent moral position of the United States Catholic bishops.”
Dr. Gaillardetz will host REC sessions entitled “Behind the Scenes at Vatican II: The Council that Almost Failed” and “Four Paths to Wisdom in the Christian Tradition.” Both will be recorded for posterity.
Fr. Bryan Massingale, a priest with the archdiocese of Milwaukee and an associate professor of moral theology at Marquette University, spoke last March before the group “Equally Blessed,” which describes itself as “a coalition of faithful Catholics who support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in the church and in civil society.” The professor, who has said he wants the Church to be “more sensuous and feminine,” publicly opposed Wisconsin’s Marriage Protection Act last year. His recorded talk, “Whatever Happened to the Common Good,” laments “the challenges of living this conviction in a fragmented and divided society.”
Fr. James Martin of America magazine participated in a workshop at the 2005 Religious Education Congress, where he told the faithful: “[I]f only there were more public models of gay priests. In the absence of any healthy gay priests for Catholics to reflect on publicly, and with the only examples being notorious pedophiles, the stereotype of the gay priest as child abuser only deepens.”
Fr. Martin will present an “Arena Session” at the 2012 Religious Education Conference on “Heaven and Mirth: Joy, Humor and Laughter in the Spiritual Life,” which will be recorded.
Sister Fran Ferder, a Franciscan nun, has said the Church needs a “theology of body touch, body exploration,” especially for children. “Ordinary genital self-touch can be very important and can help children come to reverence their bodies, to know them,” she said.
Sr. Ferder has stated Catholic bishops shame sexual sins in order to control their flock. Such “negative messages” about “sexual mistakes,” she said,“have to do with control and maintaining power. The patriarchal dominance in the hierarchy is incredibly strong, and sexual mandates are a good way to scare and control people.”
She and Fr. John Heagle from the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, direct the Therapy and Renewal Associates, based in Seattle. Fr. Heagle has stated the Church needs to listen to the “love stories of the gay and lesbian community.”
They are teaching a recorded workshop, on “Beyond Belief: Reclaiming Biblical Faith.” Its description states, “This shift has contributed to a growing chasm between spirituality and religion, and a “crisis of faith” for many people. This presentation explores practical ways in which we can reclaim a more personal, biblical way of believing.”
Dr. Michael Downey will give a recorded workshop on “The Suffering That Speaks Justice.” Downey edited the book My Song is of Mercy by the late Fr. Matthew Kelty. In it, Kelty wrote, “There are none more called to [the Catholic priesthood], more capable of it, more created for it, than the people we call gay.” Since they have both male and female personality traits, Fr. Kelty wrote, “They begin from day one a process of integration others do not even have a hint of before they are 40. Bless them!” The “gay,” he wrote, is “larger than life…society’s blessing, the Church’s hope.” His only concern was that even homosexuals are “so western, so capitalist, so male-oriented.” In his introduction, Downey enthused, “My hope is that this volume will offer the opportunity for lectio divina,” holy and meditative reading often reserved for the Scriptures and the writings of the saints.
Dr. Downey served as theologian for Cardinal Mahony in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and is a professor of systematic theology at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California.
Not all are who speak at this year’s REC are dissenters. Fr. Leo Patalinghug, who created a video opposing the HHS mandate, is speaking on “Food Is Love: A Eucharistic Theology for the Family.” His talk will not be recorded.
As well, the new and known to be orthodox Archbishop of Los Angeles, José Gomez, will be participating in a number of events during the Congress. Archbishop Gomez, who replaced now retired Cardinal Mahony, has been at the helm of the very liberal diocese for only one year.
Most Reverend José H. Gomez
Office of the Archbishop of Los Angeles
3424 Wilshire Boulevard, 5th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90010-2241
Phone: (213) 637-7534
FAX: (213) 637-6510
Office of Media Relations