The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), a coalition of Catholic LGBTIQ organizations and individuals from around the world, will be holding their Second Assembly November 3oth to December 3rd in Munich/Dachau, Germany. Leaders will gather under the theme, “Hear a Just Cause” (Psalm 17: 1) to develop the structure of this young organization and to find the best ways to mutually support one another and to be voice for justice and equality in the church and the world.
In anticipation of the meeting, Michael Brinkschröder, a co-chair of the GNRC Steering Committee, sat down for an interview with Corinna Mayer, a freelance journalist, to provide some reflections about the need for such an organization, and Bondings 2.0 provides excerpts from that interview below.
First, some history about the new organization. The GNRC was begun in 2014 by a handful of Catholic advocates for LGBTIQ people when they were gathered in Rome for an international theological conference on sexual and gender minorities. The 11 founding groups were ACGIL (Spain/Catalunya), Ali d’Aquila (Italy), Drachma Parents Group (Malta), the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, gionata.org (Italy), Fondo Samaria (Italy), Ichthys (Spain), New Ways Ministry (USA), Nuova Proposta (Italy), Westminster LGBT Pastoral Council (UK), and Wiara i Tęcza (Poland).
The coalition held its inaugural meeting a year later, in 2015, again in Rome, where over 80 participants from almost 30 nations gathered to plan the direction and structure of the coalition. The participants of the Assembly elected a Steering Committee (SC) of ten representatives from around the globe and from various diversity constituencies to plan the development of the organization, respond to news events, and plan a second Assembly, which will take place in the fall of 2017. These leaders were Georgina Adhiambo (Africa), Michael Brinkschröder (Europe), Francis DeBernardo (North America), Fernando Gonzalez Bustos (South America), Benjamin Oh (Asia), Tim Smyth (Oceania) as well as Joseanne Peregin, Ruby Almeida, Eros Shaw, and Chris Vella (all diversity representatives). The SC elected Ruby Almeida and Michael Brinkschröder were elected co-chairs. (Pilot Mathambo, from Africa, was eventually appointed to the SC after Tim Smyth resigned.)
Since that time, the SC members have been working on developing an organizational structure for the group, issuing press statements on church developments, planning the 2017 Assembly, interacting with constituents, and raising funds.
One of the first questions that Mayer asked Brinkschröder, who is an academic theologian/sociologist, was why the theme of “Hear a Just Cause” was chosen for the Assembly. He responded:
“First, we decided to take that part from the Scripture because we finally want to get heard. So far the Catholic Church has been numb to the situation of gays and lesbians within the church. This homophobic tradition that has lasted for more than 2000 years, just like the degradation of women, must come to an end. The first important step towards reaching this goal is to start listening to us. A positive example of what this could mean has been shown recently by Bishop Bode who met with transgender people and listened to their life stories. It is decisive for providing successful pastoral care to accept people the way they are and to acknowledge fully the situation they live in.
“Second, we opted for this psalm because we see the criminalization of homosexuality in many countries worldwide as an appalling act of injustice. In many countries that have been majorly influenced by Christianity and whose population is predominantly Catholic, homosexuality is a crime. We want the Pope makes a clear statement on this matter and that he pleads for justice. Proven by many positive examples in the past, the Catholic Church is an important player in the civil society, an agent that contributes massively to the collective forming of a political will in many countries around the world.”
When he was asked to evaluate the current status of gay and lesbian people in the church, he responded:
“Sadly, the official statement is still: ‘Homosexual acts are a sin.’ However, we are in a period of transformation. While the papacy of Benedict XVI can truly be described as an ice age for the cause of lesbians and gays within the church, we see the current developments under Pope Francis as a thaw. This means that there are signs that hint at a change. However, there have been no specific acts or statements that would help gays and lesbians practically in their everyday lives.”
“The fact that Germany has introduced equal marriage for gays and lesbians will hopefully lead to a change in positions within the church as well.”
Mayer asked Brinkschröder to imagine what life for LGBTIQ Catholics will be like in 20 years. He proposed:
“That the marriage of two women or two men has not only become a holy sacrament, but that it is possible to get the church’s blessing for same-sex marriages. I hope the Catholic Church of the future openly supports and helps lesbians and gays who are seen as a normal part of religious life in many parishes worldwide. That might sound utopian to some, but this is already the case in some countries today.”
And what is the reason for his optimism?
“The fact that we already have teams of spiritual counselors for gays and lesbians in many German dioceses. Also in Austria, in the Netherlands, in Switzerland and in Great Britain huge progress has been made in the area of pastoral work.. In the US changes in this respect have gained some momentum. However, these efforts face fierce opposition from the opposite side there. Still, step by step we currently see changes for the better in many places.
“As a project manager of the German initiative ‘Ökumenische Arbeitsgruppe Homosexuelle und Kirche – HuK’ (=ecumenical task force homosexuals and church) I fight for the equality of lesbians and gays in the Catholic Church. By setting up the Global Networks of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) we are able to make the voices of gay and lesbian Catholics from around the world heard.”
You can read the entire text of the interview here.
Bondings 2.0’s Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine will be representing New Ways Ministry at the GNRC Assembly in Munich/Dachau, and will report on the proceedings after the event.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 21, 2017