New Ways Ministry, an outreach effort to homosexuals denounced by US bishops because it rejects Catholic teachings on human sexuality, held its “Seventh Annual Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality” from March 15-17. Among the speakers at the symposium was University of San Diego professor of systematic theology Orlando Espin, whose topic was “LGBTQ’s among Latinos/as and Latinos/as among White LGBTQ’s.”
The University of San Diego identifies itself to the public as “a Roman Catholic institution.” Espin has been on the USD faculty since 1991.
New Ways Ministry, which calls itself “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics,” was founded in 1977 by Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent. In 1999, the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notified Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent that they were “permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.”
More recently, in March of 2011, Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, speaking for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement that said in part, “…in no manner is the position proposed by New Ways Ministry in conformity with Catholic teaching and in no manner is this organization authorized to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church or to identify itself as a Catholic organization.”
At last week’s symposium, not a single speaker accepted Church teaching on homosexuality. In addition to Espin, they included, among others, retired Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia; National Catholic Reporter columnist Nicole Sotelo, a one-time parishioner at San Francisco’s notoriously “gay-friendly” Most Holy Redeemer Church; and author Richard Rodriguez, a self-identified homosexual who has made the issue of his sexual identity the topic of two books, Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father, and Brown: The Last Discovery of America.
Also speaking at the New Ways symposium was Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic who recently signed legislation redefining marriage in his state, despite the pleas of his bishop not to do so.
In addition to his work at the University of San Diego, Espin also serves on the board of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. The CLGS, unlike New Ways Ministry, does not even claim to be Catholic. But like New Ways, the CLGS’s position on homosexuality is diametrically opposed to the position of the Catholic Church.
In September 2011, Espin was one of the keynote speakers at the “International Conference of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry.” The conference title was “Setting the Table for LGBT People in a Diverse Church.”
Although he almost never identifies himself as such, Espin is also an ordained Catholic priest.
In 2007, Espin co-edited, with Fr. James Nickoloff, SJ, a book titled An Introductory Dictionary of Theology and Religious Studies.” Like Espin, Fr. Nickoloff actively dissents from Church teaching on the subject of homosexuality. The book received a rave review from, of all people, another Jesuit, Fr. Peter C. Phan, whose own work has been seriously criticized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Committee on Doctrine.
Espin has been scheduled to present two workshops at the 2012 Religious Education Congress (REC) in Anaheim, scheduled to begin this Thursday, March 22, and conclude on Sunday, March 25.
The REC is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which describes the annual conference as the “largest catechetical gathering in the country.”