Pope Francis’ election in 2013 prompted a new conversation on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church, one which has sometimes been challenging to keep pace with given its many developments. That is why, at different intervals, Catholics have paused to take stock of where the conversation is, and where it is going.
New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium this past April was one such pause. John Gehring of Faith in Public Life wrote about the event, which focused on LGBT Catholics in the age of Pope Francis. In an essay for Commonweal, he described it as a “complex conversation.” Gehring wrote:
“The most painful stories I heard came from gay and lesbian Catholics who have been fired from Catholic schools or other Catholic institutions. . .Margie Winters, a long-time religious education director at Waldron Mercy Academy in Philadelphia, was fired in 2015 after a disgruntled parent outed her marriage to another woman. ‘I loved and still love that community because it’s a part of my heart,’ Winters said at the Chicago conference. ‘It was like a death. This kind of firing is a trauma. The sense of exile has been hardest for me.'”
Gehring also attended a focus session on family issues, commenting, “Bishops who can cite the fine print of the church’s teaching on sexuality should also be listening more closely to the raw, honest stories of Catholic parents.” Gehring quoted presenter Deacon Ray Dever, who was speaking about his transgender daughter, Lexi:
“The hard part is seeing one of your loved ones endure self-hatred. . .When the word suicide comes into play, your life changes. We wanted to get her through her junior year alive. There are so many families who reject their LGBT kids and that’s tragic, especially when that is done in the name of faith. I’m no expert but what these families need to hear is God created these kids just the way they are and that God loves them.”
Included in his Commonweal piece was Gehring’s account of another meeting, this time at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit school. Catholic educators joined by other experts met there to discuss how LGBT students could be better supported in church-affiliated education. Gehring explained:
“Michael Duffy, director of the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education at the university, pulled together the meeting in part because of his experience at some Catholic workshops and conferences, where discussions about LGBT issues have often been unhelpful and narrowly defined.”
Also taking stock of LGBT issues in the age of Francis is America’s national correspondent, Michael O’Loughlin. He wrote an article specifically on how the U.S. church is evolving on such issues.
One notable shift has been friendlier bishops like Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, Newark’s Cardinal Joseph Tobin, and Bishop John Stowe, O.F.M. Conv. The last of these bishops offered two Scriptural reflections at the Symposium in April, which were very well received. Asked by O’Loughlin why he agreed to speak at the event despite intense criticism, Stowe replied:
“Pope Francis talks about a culture of encounter, and that requires a lot of listening. . .What I’ve seen among gay Catholics in my own diocese is a real desire to live their faith and the challenge to do so within a church that is not always accepting or labels them as disordered.”
Subscribers and regular readers to Bondings 2.0 know there is no shortage of LGBT Catholic news, enough for daily (and sometimes twice daily) posts. Gehring is spot on calling this a “complex conversation” because there are so many ups and downs in this age of Pope Francis. What is clear is there is new energy for this conversation, and church leaders are increasingly willing to listen.
For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of the Symposium, visit the “Symposium 2017” category to the right or click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 4, 2017