Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
There’s rarely a shortage of debate when it comes to the Roman Catholic Church.
The latest debate will start on Friday at Fordham University and will center on the relationship between the church and its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members. In a series of four free conferences called More than a Monologue, academics, theologians and lay people will explore a range of issues starting with the question: how does it feel to be a part of the church and not be heterosexual?
"The church is saying, if we put it bluntly, 'Gay and lesbians are fine so long as they don’t have sexual relations and don’t plan to try to marry,'" said Paul Lakeland, Director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University in Connecticut and one of the conference organizers.
“The objective here is to address issues connected to the life of gay and lesbian Catholics in the church that are not directly addressed by the official teaching.”
While the church has taken a position opposing same sex marriage, organizers say there are still many issues affecting this community that are not being addressed, like how one cares for their LGBT child.
Deborah Word, 58, a self-described "cradle Catholic," is traveling from Memphis, Tenn., to be part of a panel discussing how to negotiate Catholic teachings in the home.
Word is the mother of two boys, including one gay son, who struggled to reconcile the church's teachings with who he is. She said she believes it’s important to talk about how she loves and supports her son.
“I’m straight, and my voice carries in places where other might not," she said. "And I’m not afraid to talk to our bishops and our archbishops.”
Space is full for Fordham conference, but additional events will be held Union Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School and Fairfield University. Topics for the upcoming conferences include youth suicide and Catholic education; same-sex marriage and the Catholic Church; and ministering to the LGBT community.