Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: Commentary and Announcement

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: [email protected].

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

6 replies
  1. Jane Paris
    Jane Paris says:

    I love Jamie Manson and her writings. I value her perspective greatly. However, I had the same issue with her commentary on this. Mercy is not forgiveness – we need to understand that distinction as you pointed out. Good job!

  2. Thomas Brown
    Thomas Brown says:

    I am a long time reader of Jamie Manson and Bonding 2.0 but a new commentator. I have been attempting to make her point myself and of course she has done the job much clearer than I. Bravo Jamie! I would only add that in my simple definition Justice is getting what we deserve and Mercy is getting what we don’t deserve. We all require mercy and God always stands ready to give it……….but not for being LGBT. What we need from the institutional church is what we deserve………justice.

  3. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    Kudos to Jamie for her concise focus on the problem of how the hierarchy have been trying to deal with LGBT Catholics and how the official Church has failed to bring Christ to the table, To hide the historically high proportion of gay members among the clergy, the hierarchy keeps making it an aberration of God’s making that could only be solved by refraining from it. Why was this gift not given to heterosexual individuals? Oh, it was. Why are birth control and having sex before marriage not being given as much condemnation from the pulpit as homosexuality is? Isn’t this much larger population of those in need to be reminded of their obligation to celibacy just as great?

    Regardless, I have yet to hear any logic about why it isn’t better for two homosexuals to share a loving marriage than to live a life of separate frustration or always seeking loveless one night stands? If marriage is good as most agree, why did God supposedly create individuals who could not participate in it?

    I recently read again then Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1986 letter about treatment of homosexuals which is an historic high water mark of hate sufficient to even blame God for making this disordering element of His creation and excusing the abuse given to homosexuals as to be expected because they make themselves known. That Francis hasn’t been able to distance himself from this kind of disgusting hate mongering is a sin in itself. There should be an inherent dignity in humankind’s members the defense of which should be a prime obligation of the Church. But it is lacking and there will be shame until it is taken up clearly and decisively. Yes lets speak of Justice now. God will provide Mercy on the last day..


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  1. […] Jamie Manson wrote in the National Catholic Reporter several weeks ago, mercy without justice for LGBT may be a questionable or even harmful cause. In […]

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