LGBT Catholics from Around the Globe Gather in Munich

At the beginning of December, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) held its Second Assembly, with almost 100 participants from 35 nations gathering in Munich/Dachau, Germany, for three days of discussion, prayer, support, and camraderie.

GNRC Assembly participants after Mass in historic Munich church.

The main purpose of the meeting, the first since the inaugural Assembly in Rome in October 2015, was to ratify organizational structures, such as a Constitution, Internal Regulations, and electing the first Board of the GNRC.  Since 2015, a Steering Committee of members from around the globe has been meeting at least monthly for Skype meetings to draft the organization’s structure and to plan the German Assembly.

Beyond organizational topics, the meeting also allowed members to work together in committees to develop plans for future projects on pastoral care and spirituality, dialoguing with church officials, developing as an inclusive organization, responding to the anti-gender movement in the Church, and developing better communications among members and with the public.

A key committee focused on developing a Catholic campaign to oppose laws around the globe which criminalize LGBT people.  A pre-conference meeting of the delegates from African nations, where criminalization is a pressing issue, developed a resolution on the topic which they presented to the full Assembly, and it was unanimously accepted.  The resolution read:

“We call upon the General Assembly of the GNRC to request the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church to speak for inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer, (LGBTIQ) people in the Church.”

“We are deeply concerned that over 70 countries in the world criminalize same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults, with the majority of these countries in Africa. Consensual same sex conduct is punishable by death in Nigeria, Mauritania, Sudan and some parts of Somalia. Criminal laws of this kind, whether or not enforced, contribute to persecutory environments and fuel violence against LGBTIQ people. The violence meted out on LGBTIQ individuals ranges from general violence (such as assault) to the most brutal killings (murder).

“We urge the Church hierarchy to commit to teach, preach and act against any laws that undermine human dignity and oppress any and all minorities, including LGBTIQ people.”

32 organizations signed the Constitutive Act establishing the GNRC as an organization.  The network will be registered in Italy, with plans to establish an office in Rome, to have access to Catholic leaders.  The Assembly elected nine members to serve on the organization’s first Board, with representatives from Kenya, Malta, Uganda, United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, United States, and Chile.   For the names of those elected, as well as more information about the Assembly, click here.  GNRC has made a commitment to do more diverse outreach, especially to women and transgender people, and those from the Global South.

New Ways Ministry’s Robert Shine and Francis DeBernardo at the GNRC Assembly

The Assembly’s local hosts were two organizations, the Ecumenical Working Group Homosexuals and Church (HuK) and the Community of the Catholic Queer Church Service Munich (Queergottesdienst). Michael Brinkschröder, who is a member of these groups and who also served as co-chair of the GNRC Steering Committee, was the primary coordinator.  Included in the meeting’s activities were a visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, with a prayer service at the cloistered Carmelite Sisters’ convent adjoining the memorial grounds; a Mass at the Bürgersaalkirche, a historic church in downtown Munich; a stroll through the famous Christkindl Markets set up in the streets of German cities at this time of year; and a meal at a traditional Bavarian restaurant.  The Assembly was held from November 30th to December 3rd, 2017, at the Jugendherberge, a youth hostel in Dachau.

Another local tie-in for the Assembly is that 2017 was the 150th anniversary of a speech given by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs to the Congress of German Jurists in Munich, pleading with them to overturn the nation’s anti-sodomy laws.  That speech is considered the first modern plea for gay equality, and Ulrichs, an attorney, is considered by many historians to be the first gay advocate.  He went on to write many tracts and articles calling for equality.   The Assembly was presented with a short lecture on Ulrichs life by Assembly planner, Miroslav Matavka.

I attended the meeting, along with my colleague, Robert Shine, and I was impressed with the amazing diversity of perspectives that were represented by the participants.  It was eye-opening to learn about the many struggles and successes that are happening in regard to Catholic LGBT issues around the globe.  It gave me a strong sense that my own perspective can sometimes be limited, while at the same time, it also let me see both the challenges and the achievements that are happening, in big and small ways, throughout our world and our Church.

In tomorrow’s post, Bondings 2.o will offer a variety of short perspectives on the Assembly from those who participated.  Stay tuned!

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 21, 2017

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