04/14/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Cardinal George Attacks 'Gay-Positive' Ministry Ahead Of Protests

Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago denounced a D.C.-area ministry that describes itself as "gay-positive" and seeks to build bridges between gays and the Church.

"Like other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of church teaching, New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church," Cardinal George said in a Feb. 5 statement. The group, George said, does not offer "an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching."

Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways, posted a statement on the group's website saying the cardinal "will not impede or slow us in our efforts to work for justice for lesbian/gay people in the church and society."

In the statement, DeBernardo claims that the Church hadn't contacted the organization about its work, and it wasn't even contacted by George about his statement, only finding out when the document hit the press.

"If the [Conference of Catholic Bishops] had concerns about our ministry, why didn't they contact us before a judgment was made?" he asks. "Why was New Ways Ministry not given an opportunity to explain our positions?"

The fracas comes just days in advance of a planned Valentine's Day Protest on the Holy Name Cathedral, demanding more equal treatment from Cardinal George and the Catholic Church, sponsored by the Gay Liberation Network. Andy Thayer, co-founder of the GLN, said of the cardinal, "In Illinois, Cardinal George and his predecessors over the years have worked behind the scenes to vehemently oppose every piece of equal rights legislation for gay people that has ever been proposed."

Meanwhile, New Ways urged its supporters "not to give up hope in the Catholic Church, but to continue to pray and work for the day when lesbian/gay people are welcomed as full and equal members in our beloved Church."