This switching between different front organisations is characteristic of the founder and usual spokesman of CAPS (and previously of Catholic AIDS Link), ex-Carmelite priest Martin Pendergast (officially the Executive Secretary of CAPS) who also has the 'Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement' and the 'Soho Masses Pastoral Council' to look after. While not always holding the highest-ranking position within these groups, it is he who usually talks to the press.
The point of having all these groups is that Pendergast and his friends can present different faces in different contexts. As a leading figure of the RCCLGCM, and its parent organisation, the LGCM, Pendergast was the one to read a statement, to be endorsed by their annual conference, condemning the Catholic bishops for their opposition to the Sexual Orientation Regulations; the conference banner described Pope Benedict as a homophobe (see our dossier on RCCLGCM/SMPC). The RCCLGCM could never get episcopal approval for Masses targeted at homosexual Catholics, but the same people calling themselves the SMPC have done exactly that. With CAPS they have gone a step further, being listed in the national Catholic Directory as a 'Catholic' organisation.
Pendergast is well known for his dissent from Catholic teaching. His long-term relationship with Julian Filochowski was formalised as a civil partnership in defiance of the Pope's condemnation of these, and his anniversary was celebrated by his friends with a book full of dissent from Church teaching; recently he has tried to claim Cardinal Newman was a homosexual. Wearing his CAPS hat, Pendergast makes little effort to hide his attitude to Church teaching. In the on-line newsletter 'Positive Nation', he was annoyed to read a letter reminding readers of Christian principles with regard to homosexuality:
I am not going to say my opinion, because the word of the Lord speaks for itself. When we live with a sin or are weak in an area, we should confess and admit our wrong and ask God for strength to forgo that issue. Having sex with the same sex is wrong in the eyes of the Lord, but we all have free will. I do not hate gays, we are all sinners that require God’s mercy and Grace.
All we need to do is pray that God removes us from our weakness. When God sees your willingness to be free from a sin, he will surely provide the strength and will forgive.
But please, gay people shouldn’t think it is Christians who impose this, it is in the word. And the word is our light. Pamela Murshore (see here).
He wrote in reply:
She appears to read the Bible as if it were a book of rules to cover every occasion. Yet the Bible is the collected stories and reflections of peoples moving out of oppression and slavery into ‘the freedom of the children of God.’ It reflects the common human struggle to become more fully human, rejoicing in all that we are, including our sexualities.
Out of the love, caring, respect and solidarity so evident in the gay community’s first responses to HIV (and not just to gay men), is it not possible God might be showing a heterosexually dominant world new patterns of human loving? Catholics for AIDS Prevention & Support would strongly reject the false but no doubt sincere sentiments which Pamela seeks to dress up as biblical doctrine.
Martin Pendergast, Executive secretary - Catholics for Aids prevention and support.
The notion of 'rejoicing' in homosexuality is key to the attitude of the dissident Catholic circle to which CAPS belongs. It is obviously at odds with the teaching of the Church that homosexuality is 'objectively disordered' (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358). It is precisely 'rejoicing' in homosexuality, and more specifically the immoral gay subculture, which the LondonPride march is all about, and it is no surprise to see CAPS as an official participant, sharing a stall with RCCLGCM year after year (here's one report, here's another).
In an interview in Positive Nation, Pendergast tells us that Church teaching is optional as a guide: "Our line, whether in CAPS or the Lesbian and Gay Caucus, is that in reaching moral decisions as Catholics you respect the tradition of the church and listen to what its leaders are saying, but at the end of the day you have to reach those decisions yourself."
There are innumerable groups working with AIDS sufferers which have nothing but contempt for the teaching of the Church. CAPS/Positive Catholics is unusual in attempting to reassure Catholics, who might be in some doubt about it, that the immoral lifestyle which contributes to the spread of AIDS is not wrong even from a Catholic point of view. All of us, not least when we have the reminder of mortality provided by an incurable disease, need to examine ourselves in the light of the teaching of the Church, and to repent and go to confession, but CAPS is doing its best to cut some of the most vulnerable Catholics off from this. It is an appalling situation that their claim to be 'Catholic' is being supported by the Catholic Directory.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 'The Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person', 1986, has this to say: (See here for the full text.17:'All support should be withdrawn from any organisations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely.'
Pseudo-Catholic organisations gain power from their assumed identity as Catholic, and use it to cause scandal. They must be exposed for what they are.