A college student once asked Dr. Edward Hogan, “Suppose I had a friend who left the Church because they were gay. What would you say to them?”
Dr. Hogan responded, “I would say the same thing I would say to my own friends who left the Church because they were gay: ‘I miss you. I wish you would come back.’”
Dr. Hogan, academic dean and associate professor of systematic theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, will lead a breakout session titled “LGBTQ: What’s a Catholic to Say?” at this year’s Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) Annual Assembly on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Helias Catholic High School, 1305 Swifts Highway in Jefferson City.
“I would say, ‘Tell me about your situation. Tell me about your experience and the loneliness and hurt in that,’” he stated. “But the question is, how can I help you follow Jesus?”
The theme for this year’s Annual Assembly will be: “Five Years of Pope Francis: The Church at the Peripheries.”
Catholics from throughout the state are invited and encouraged to attend the Assembly, which will include lunch.
Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago and co-postulator for the sainthood cause of Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton (1854-97), will give the keynote address reflecting on the first five years of Pope Francis’ pontificate.
Two more steps
Dr. Hogan’s workshop on the Church’s approach to people who have same-sex attraction or who are confused about their gender, will be one of several challenging Annual Assembly sessions focusing on hot-button issues for the Church and society.
It’s likely to generate a lot of interest.
“Just about everyone has a friend or someone in their family who is touched by this issue,” he said. “But few people know how to do ‘both things’ — that is to say, how do you love them and accompany them and also hold onto you own beliefs?”
“We’re going to talk about how to thread that needle,” he said.
Dr. Hogan emphasized that people of faith cannot simply run away from an issue such as this because it’s messy or because it hurts.
“Every messy situation is unique, but there is a way to draw every messy situation back into the Gospel,” he said.
He acknowledged that most Catholics seeking wisdom on this subject could only point to Pope Francis’ oft-quoted statement: “Who am I to judge?”
“That’s just the first step,” said Dr. Hogan.
“Pope Francis has consistently outlined three steps for us to take, including in ‘Amoris Laetitia,’” he said, referring to “Joy of Love,” the Pope’s apostolic exhortation on care for families.
Dr. Hogan said this society has basically lost its ability to disagree in friendship.
“We need to relearn that essential civic skill and pastoral habit of loving someone you don’t see eye-to-eye with and leaning into that relationship and living in the tension of it,” he said.
He believes Pope Francis has provided a template for the Church living and ministering in that state of tension.
“I think he’s laid out some real pastoral genius in some of his writings,” said Dr. Hogan. “It is the role of a genius to provide that template, while others — like theologians — work to refine it.”
Years before ascending to the papacy, Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, helped Pope St. John Paul II compose “Familiaris Consortio,” the sainted pontiff’s exhortation on ministering to families a generation ago.
“When you look back at ‘Familiaris Consortio’ and then look at ‘Amoris Laetitia’ in that light, you see the continuity and the genius,” said Dr. Hogan. “(Pope Francis) lays out for us a clear pastoral method for putting all of this into practice.”
Drawing upon other documents and the long and unbroken line of authoritative Church teaching, Dr. Hogan plans to provide clear definitions of some of the terms the Pope uses in “Amoris Laetitia,’” such as “accompaniment.”
Dr. Hogan noted that nine years ago, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI released “Caritas in Veritate” (‘Charity in Truth’), an encyclical letter offering clear principles for dealing with modern-day social issues.
“You read that and you have to think, ‘Yes, this is the standard, but how do I put it into practice?’” said Dr. Hogan. “Then Pope Francis comes along and lays out for us a process — thoroughly grounded in the Gospels and the Deposit of the Faith in the Church — by which everyone can put that into practice.
“We have to practice it and we have to get good at it,” said Dr. Hogan. “That’s what I want to show people.”
Speaking to friends
Dr. Hogan was first called upon in 1999 to give a presentation on the Church’s response to people who have same-sex attraction.
He approaches the subject from the perspectives of science, medicine, philosophy and theology.
“Whenever I address this subject, I speak in the context of that I have friends who identify as gay and lesbian,” he said.
“I always think of them being in the room when I give a presentation,” he said. “So what I say and how I say it is always in the context of me looking my friends in the eye and having them look me in the eye.
“So I’m willing to say hard things, but I’m willing to say it in the context of my love for them,” he said. “And they may say hard things back to me, but hopefully that will be in the context of their love for me.”
So much to learn
Other workshops slated for the MCC Annual Assembly include:
•the missionary work of Catholic campus ministry;
•how Catholic Charities agencies serve people who are poor and vulnerable;
•legislative victories in protecting the unborn;
•combatting human trafficking;
•the complexities of U.S. immigration law;
•a call for an end to the death penalty;
•a Catholic response to the opioid crisis;
•a Catholic approach to national security, mercy and immigration policy; and
•Pope Francis’ vision of the Church serving people on the peripheries.
Why and when
The MCC, the public-policy agency of Missouri’s four Roman Catholic dioceses, sponsors the Annual Assembly to promote camaraderie, knowledge and action among Catholics statewide.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight requests that every parish in the Jefferson City diocese send at least two representatives to the assembly.
Registration will begin at 9 a.m. in the Helias Commons the day of the assembly, followed by the opening session and keynote in the Rackers Fieldhouse at 10 a.m.
Activities will continue throughout the day, concluding with Mass with Missouri’s Catholic bishops at 3:15 p.m.
Advance registration for the Assembly isn’t mandatory but is helpful for planning.
The first 400 people who register will receive a free copy of the devotional, Pope Francis Celebrates Faith and Family.
Childcare, including activities for children ages 4 to 12, will be available during the Annual Assembly. Sign up for this service by Sept. 23.
Visit www.mocatholic.org for more information about the MCC Annual Assembly and to register online, or call 1-800-456-1679.