Jamie Manson is certainly one of the best journalistic observers of LGBT issues in the Catholic Church. Her award-winning column in The National Catholic Reporter, in which she comments on a variety of church issues, often carries insightful perceptions on LGBT matters that elude other commenters’ grasps.
Manson has been a somewhat lone voice in the wilderness, suggesting to Catholics and others that Pope Francis’ gestures and statements are not as hope-filled as most headlines proclaim. In her latest column, “LGBTQ people need justice, not mercy, from Pope Francis,” Manson asserts that the pope should be acting for justice concerning LGBTQ people, not simply offering mercy, which to her ears sounds like the pope is implying that LGBTQ people are sinners.
Manson’s column is worth reading in its entirety, and you can find it by clicking here. Particularly strong is her conclusion:
“We need an institutional church that has the courage to admit that all people, regardless of sexual orientation, relationship status, or gender identity, have the same potential for goodness, wholeness and a sacramental life. Until that day comes, we will not achieve true dignity and full equality in our church.”
Regular readers of this blog will know that we, like Manson, have often pointed out that Pope Francis needs to be clearer about what he means when he discusses outreach, encounter, and accompaniment of LGBT people. We’ve suggested, as she does, that justice needs to be added into the equation of outreach. Simple friendly gestures do not suffice.
Where I differ slightly from Manson is in regard to the need for mercy. Mercy is a key ingredient in renewing the Church’s approach to LGBT issues. Unlike Manson, I don’t view Pope Francis’ call to mercy as primarily a call to forgive people who are perceived as sinners. Instead, I understand mercy as an attitude of humility to which all people are called in their encounters with others–especially those who are different or marginalized. Being merciful means walking humbly.
Such humility can help to change the Church’s attitude about sexuality and LGBT issues by helping people realize that the persons they have perceived primarily as sinners are in fact full human beings endowed with dignity and equality.
The discussion of the need for both justice and mercy are so important that New Ways Ministry has adopted these two virtues as the title and theme of our Eighth National Symposium on LGBT Issues and Catholicism, which we are announcing today.
Every five years, New Ways Ministry sponsors a national gathering of Catholic leaders, ministers, and other interested people to discuss the state of LGBT issues in the Catholic Church. Since our last meeting in Baltimore in 2012, much has changed in the Catholic discussion–primarily due to the exit of Pope Benedict XVI and the arrival of Pope Francis’ new (though somewhat still ambiguous) approach to LGBT issues.
So, on the weekend of April 28-30, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois, New Ways Ministry will host its Eighth National Symposium entitled, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Era of Pope Francis.” Symposium speakers and participants will be exploring how these two powerful concepts interact, and how they are both needed for further progress in the Church on LGBT issues. (Please note the date: the symposium is NOT happening in 2016.)
Please mark your calendars now for this important event. We already have some top-notch speakers lined up, and we are in the process of finalizing the schedule.
We will be updating blog readers about the Symposium in the months to come. The best way not to miss any details is to provide us with contact information for updates. If you would like to receive information about the Symposium once materials are ready, please send a request, along with your contact information, to: info@NewWaysMinistry.org.
For Bondings 2.0 readers, during the Symposium, we will be having a small informal gathering of blog readers, commenters, and contributors. If you attend, you’ll have the opportunity to meet in person some of the people with whom you’ve been conversing electronically!
I hope that many of you can attend. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry