This week, Bondings 2.0 has covered what a theologian, a bishop, and lay people anticipate from next week’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops tackling marriage and family life issues, and also some of the wisdom that these groups would offer to the participants in this Vatican meeting.
Today, we highlight the voice of longtime LGBT advocate and co-founder of New Ways Ministry, Sr. Jeannine Gramick.
Gramick is in Rome for the Synod and attending a conference beforehand sponsored by the European Forum of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Christian Groups, and which New Ways Ministry helped to organize. To prepare for her journey, she asked LGBT and ally Catholics what their hopes and expectations are for the synod, writing up these responses for the National Catholic Reporter. Gramick begins:
“Not surprisingly, none of them looked to the synod for self-affirmation. Not the Australian gay couple who worked for the institutional church; not the lesbian woman who had been in a religious community but was ultimately rejected because of her sexual orientation; not the gay man who had been heterosexually married for most of his life and came to know and accept his gay identity much later; not the mother who counts the Sunday collection in her parish and loves her gay son; not the 24-year-old who is struggling to understand their own gender identity; not the lesbian politician who came to realize that she needed to hear Jesus’ voice, not the hierarchy’s, in discerning, ‘Can I be a good Catholic and a lesbian?’ “
After many years of hearing “condemning messages from church leaders,” LGBT Catholics do not rely on the official structures to integrate their identities. Instead, Gramick notes that those with whom she spoke highlighted the importance of affirming communities, personal integrity, and following one’s conscience.
As for what the Synod might offer, hopes mostly centered around positive outcomes for those “most susceptible to harm,” like all too vulnerable LGBT youth or church workers unjustly forced out for marrying a same-sex partner. Gramick summarizes:
“The hopes of LGBT Catholics are crystallized in Marty Haugen’s song, ‘All Are Welcome.’ They long for positive words from their church leaders, instead of hurtful messages of rejection. Some feel accepted in their own parish, but they know that acceptance of LGBT people in all parishes depends on sympathetic words from higher authorities.
“LGBT Catholics hope that the synod will recognize the variety of families in the Christian community and include all kinds in its pastoral ministry. After all, if Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, the Holy Family was a nontraditional one. Families are all brought together by love, not biology…
“Pope Francis, they believe, has a caring and welcoming instinct and sees that his flock is hurting. He has told his bishops to ‘smell like the sheep,’ to feel for their flock, and to care for them when they are in danger of being bullied or denied work or a place at the eucharistic table just because of who they are. If the bishops are to ‘smell like the sheep,’ their response can only be, ‘All are welcome.’ “
While I certainly hope that Pope Francis and the bishops gathering in Rome will expand the message that all must be truly and unconditionally welcomed, it remains unknown just how the synod will address LGBT issues. If we truly believe that we are the church, then we must follow the lead of LGBT people who do not rely on Catholic officials for permission or support to flourish and instead charge ahead. Whatever the Synod’s outcome, LGBT Catholics and their advocates must keep building up affirming parishes and challenging unjust structures where we can and how we are able.
To read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of the Extraordinary Synod, visit the ‘Synod 2014’ category to the right or click here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry