This post is the third in Bondings 2.0’s reports from the Synod on Marriage and Family in Rome. New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo will continue to send news and commentary from this meeting. Previous posts can be reached by clicking here and here.
My time in Rome began last week, before the synod, as I participated in the weekend-long launch of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. Close to 100 Catholic LGBT leaders from six continents and over 30 nations gathered here for meetings to discuss the substance and structure of what this newly formed international association of Catholic LGBT and ally organizations should look like.
The planning began two years ago, done mostly through Skype meetings and emails. I was privileged to be part of this planning process, so seeing the diverse group of representatives gather together for prayer, discussion, and planning was a personally thrilling experience as well as an important step forward in the movement for LGBT equality in church and society.
One thing I learned from participating is how different Catholicism is around the globe and how different the LGBT experience is. It helped me to see that in the United States, Catholic lay people have many opportunities to participate in the life of the church–even though we are still denied participation in many decision-making processes. I also realized how privileged the U.S. LGBT community is. Again, we still have work to do in terms of full equality in employment and other areas, but the level of repression, violence, and state oppression against LGBT people is much greater in many places around the globe.
Gathered under the theme of “LGBT Voices to the Synod,” the Assembly accomplished three main tasks: the establishment of an interim governing structure, the hosting of an international conference on pastoral care with LGBT people, and the development of a letter to the synod on LGBT issues.
The international conference, entitled “Ways of Love: Snapshots of Catholic Encounter with LGBT People and Their Families,” was keynoted by Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland and the mother of a gay son. She strongly critiqued the church’s teaching on lesbian and gay relationships, reported The Guardian:
“Church teaching currently defines same-sex relationships as ‘intrinsically disordered’ and demands gay people live a life of chastity, but opponents argue this fails to address the reality in which the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics are living.
“Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland, which earlier this year legalised same-sex marriage, said on Saturday it was the church’s teaching itself which was intrinsically disordered.
” ‘The gravitational pull of tradition is used as a vehicle for refusing to face the growing reality, accepted by many people in this world, that the church’s teaching on homosexuality is simply wrong,’ she said to rapturous applause at a meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics in Rome.”
The conference’s closing talk was given by Bishop Raul Vera, of Saltillo, Mexico, who has been a long time advocate for LGBT people. Vera told a Crux reporter:
“. . . [T]he Church needs a ‘change in language’ when referring to the LGBT community because as it is, it ‘brings people to define a homosexual as a sinner, degenerate and promiscuous. I think we have to temper our language.’
“Asked if he was in favor of same-sex marriage, he said that’s something for the Church to decide.
“He has little faith regarding serious changes in the Church’s approach to the LGBT community as a direct result of the synod, but believes that in time, things could change.
“ ‘Francis is talking about existential peripheries, going out to meet the people who are being persecuted and damaged,’ the bishop said.”
New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick was one of the featured speakers at the conference. She spoke about the development of LGBT-friendly parishes in the U.S., using Baltimore’s St. Matthew’s parish is a case study. In an interview with Crux, Gramick spoke about the Vatican’s synod on the family, saying that her
” ‘highest expectations would be that gay and lesbian people would be included totally into the Church, and that would include welcome to all the sacraments, including marriage.
“She believes that even though the Catholic Church does teach about the dignity of the person, the message is sometimes muddled because of what the ‘official Church” says about sexual activity and the ethics of sexual activities.
“She wants the Church to not look at the ethics of a sexual relationship from a point of view of the acts, but of that of the person: ‘love, commitment, care; that’s what makes a relationship an ethical one.’ “
Martin Pendergast from LGBT Catholics Westminster spoke about the history of the London Catholic diocese’s outreach to the sexual and gender minority community in that city. The Guardian noted his opinions, stated in an interview, about how Monsignor Charasma’s coming out as gay, which occurred on the same day as (but unrelated to) the conference, may help the synod process:
“Pendergast, a British campaigner on LGBT faith issues, said he hoped Charamsa’s coming out in particular would pave the way for a more open debate at the synod. ‘It may encourage others, particularly bishops who might have been nervous about talking too radically about divorce, remarriage and same-sex relationships, to speak more openly and more honestly,’ he said at the Rainbow Catholics event.”
London’s Catholic Herald printed an excerpt from the letter that the Assembly participants sent to each member of the synod:
” ‘We come from over thirty countries, both as individuals and as representatives of groups, who have been involved with the flourishing of people like ourselves in the lives of our local churches, (as well as with many other tasks),’ the letter said.
” ‘The last years have not been an easy ride! Many in our Church thought that they were serving God by hating us, and some still do, especially among the hierarchy; but we can tell you with joy, that we have kept alive our Confession of the Catholic faith! We have kept the faith under persecution, and are ready to join with you in the joyful announcement of the Gospel to which Pope Francis has called us.’
“It added: ‘Because God is wonderful, we have found that through this life as dregs among the people of God, the Holy Spirit has given us a surprising (at least to us) capacity to stand up and be counted, not to be frightened of those who fear us, not to be resentful of the incapacity for approval, and the bureaucratic meanness of spirit and dishonesty to which we have regularly been subjected. We have learned that it is not what the Church can do for us, but what we can do for the Church that matters.’ “
As the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics grows and develops, Bondings 2.0 will keep you informed of its activities.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
The Washington Blade: “LGBT Catholic groups meet in Rome”
Agence-France Presse: “First global Catholic LGBT network hopes to build bridges”