A lesbian Catholic from Uganda and a former president of Ireland who has supported LGBT equality will be featured at a Catholic event marking International Women’s Day this March, .
Ssenfuka Joanita Warry will be a keynote speaker for the Voices of Faith’s (VOF) “Why Women Matter” event hosted at the Jesuit Curia in Rome. Warry is not only a lesbian Catholic, but the executive director of the feminist LGBT advocacy group Freedom and Roam in Uganda. A VOF press release said of her:
“[Warry] understands the tragedy that can happen when the Church excludes persecuted groups rather than joining them in seeking protection, dignity and justice. As a lesbian Catholic woman she leads the fight for LGBT rights in Uganda, a country where same-sex relations are punishable by life in prison.”
Warry is also the chairperson of the LGBTI Catholic Club and a board member for Sexual Minorities Uganda, the largest network of LGBT organizations in the country. She was recently elected to the leadership board of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics this past November.
The event also features former Irish president Mary McAleese, who is the parent of a gay son and a vocal advocate of marriage equality. In 2015, she said that Church teaching on homosexuality was wrong and that the Church’s language about lesbian and gay people is conducive for homophobia.
Another speaker is Luke Hansen, S.J., a contributing editor at the Italian Jesuit journal La Civilita Cattholica. In 2015, Hansen interviewed Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and asked him to comment further on the cardinal’s statement that there was value in “the case of two homosexuals who have been living together for 35 years and taking care of each other, even in the last phases of their lives.” Hansen followed up with, “What have you learned from these relationships and does it have any bearing on sexual ethics today?” You can read Marx’s response here.
Two other speakers include Joana Gomes, project director with Jesuit Relief Services in Chad; and Alina Oehler, a German journalist and theologian.
“Why Women Matter” is VOF’s fifth event in Rome with the previous events being held at the Vatican itself. Organizers remarked in a press release of this year’s forum:
“We live in times marked by change, but there are places where gender equality is being systematically overlooked. The Catholic Church is one of them. The crises we must confront in our world today demand leaders, women and men, who are prepared to think the unthinkable and who will risk upsetting powerful vested interests and take bold steps forward for the greater good. . .The event brings Catholic women from across the globe to share their experiences and create dialogue with leaders at the headquarters of the Catholic Church on gender equality, inclusion and leadership.”
VOF leaders should be commended for their willingness to include both a lesbian Catholic and a Catholic parent of a gay child among their keynote speakers. LGBT Catholics and their families have been at the forefront of critiquing the harmful and patriarchal gender complementarity teachings promoted by church leaders that oppress all women, too. Such voices have too often been entirely excluded from conversations in Rome when they are in fact so vital to developng church teaching and practice on gender. Hopefully VOF’s conversations will keep expanding to include more and more voices, including those of transgender Catholics.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 19, 2018