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Woman to Lead Ministry of Lesbian and Gay Catholics

July 20, 2002|LARRY B. STAMMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Frances M. Ruth, an administrative assistant who has served in the Ministry of Lesbian and Gay Catholics for the Roman Catholic Church's Los Angeles archdiocese, has been named to lead the group following the resignation of Father Peter Liuzzi.

"As a Catholic who happens to be lesbian, this ministry is very dear to me, and it is my goal to keep it running full throttle," Ruth wrote in an e-mail announcing her new job. She said Cardinal Roger M. Mahony continues to fully support the ministry, which has drawn fire from conservative Catholics.

Ruth, 54, said this week that the ministry--whose budget, like other departments in the archdiocese, has been cut--is especially important in view of the sexual abuse scandal that has swept through the American church.

"In light of the scandal, I see this ministry as one of education, education, education," Ruth said. "People need to separate words like pedophilia and ephebophilia [sexual attraction to post-pubescent youth] from homosexuality. They do not have anything to do with each other."

Liuzzi, who led the ministry for 10 years and disclosed last year that he is a celibate gay priest, stepped down several months ago to take a sabbatical. He said he will not return to the ministry.

Last year, Liuzzi wrote a book dealing with his ministry to gay men and lesbians. That book, "With Listening Hearts," is now under investigation by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The book sought to adhere to Catholic teaching about homosexuality while being pastorally sensitive to the needs of lesbians and gays. The church teaches that a homosexual orientation is not itself sinful but that homosexual sex is.

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