Though it was reported widely in the mainstream press this week, the dissident LGBT group, New Ways Ministry, did not receive VIP treatment from the Vatican. In fact, Vatican officials did not even know the group was there.
New Ways Ministry is a group that opposes Catholic teaching on human sexuality. The group is active in trying to overturn Church teaching and practice on homosexuality. According to the Catholic News Agency, the group’s “ministry to homosexuals has been rejected as theologically unsound by Church authorities.”
The Associated Press and Reuters reported the group’s presence at the Pope’s Wednesday Audience around the world and the story fits with the narrative that things are changing in the Church regarding homosexuality. David Gibson, a reporter for Religion News Service told the New York Daily News that the group’s VIP treatment at the Audience represented a “substantial change of direction for the Catholic Church and not just a symbolic move.”
However, it appears the reports are mistaken, out of either ignorance or malice, and represent little more than wishful thinking and PR fluffery.
Catholic News Agency reports, “A source in the Prefecture for the Pontifical Household told CNA that ‘no requests are rejected’ for the general audience seating in the so-called ‘reparto speciale,’ which has a capacity of about 500 people.” In other words, there is no vetting of the people or groups sitting there.
“The ‘reparto speciale’ section of St. Peter’s Square is not considered part of VIP treatment. The seats are available on a ‘first come, first served basis,’ and no chairs are specially reserved for a group of pilgrims,” CNA reported.
Another Vatican source told CNA, “The press office knew nothing about the presence of the group at the general audience” and pointed out that “the group was treated as any other group of faithful in the square.”
The Papal Household said, “This declaration is simply misleading, as any of the faithful can access general audiences: they simply ask the prefecture for tickets, which are free.” Special access to the Pope at his audiences, where pilgrims are able to greet the Pope and kiss his hand, is handled differently, and the Papal Household decides “whether to grant a request to attend.” Neither the group nor its leaders was in the group invited to meet the Pope personally.
New Ways Ministry is part of a coalition of groups that has received funding from billionaire Obama bundler Jon Stryker and his Arcus Foundation, established primarily to promote the LGBT agenda. The group received money to “influence and counter the narrative of the Catholic Church and its ultra-conservative affiliates.”