A Catholic women’s group has opposed Vatican efforts at censorship by relocating an event where a lesbian Catholic and the Catholic mother of a gay son are scheduled to appear.
Voices of Faith (VOF), an international Catholic women’s group, has held a women’s event at the Vatican annually since 2014, but this year’s event, titled “Why Women Matter” is being held instead at the Jesuit Curia in Rome. News of Vatican censorship and VOF’s resistance that broke this week now explains the relocation, reported Crux.
VOF’s managing director Chantal Götz explained that Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who heads the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, refused to approve three speakers for the group’s International Women’s Day event. Those unapproved speakers included former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, the mother of a gay child and Ssenfuka Joanita Warry, a lesbian Catholic advocate from Uganda.
Bondings 2.0 had already reported about the appearance of these women at the conference, but, until yesterday, no explanation had been made public as to why the event was not being held at the Vatican this year.
Götz said the cardinal’s reasons for rejecting three of the proposed speakers are unknown, but observers speculated that McAleese and Warry’s vocal support for LGBT rights likely played a role. McAleese’s spokesperson said she would not be commenting, other than to say she had reached out to Pope Francis on the matter and would wait to hear from him.
Farrell’s refusal left Götz “surprised and disappointed” because, “Under Pope Francis authentic respectful dialogue has made a very positive impact in the life of the Church. We believe this event to be in that spirit.” But rather than submit to Farrell’s restrictions, VOF organizers simply rescheduled the event for another church space, and asked McAleese to keynote.
McAleese’s address is titled, “Time is Now for Change in the Catholic Church.” She has been a persistent advocate for LGBT equality, including criticisms this week of exclusionary practices at the 2018 World Meeting of Families set to take place in Dublin this summer. The mother of a gay son, she previously endorsed marriage equality, and, 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.
Warry is not only a lesbian Catholic, but the executive director of the feminist LGBT advocacy group Freedom and Roam in Uganda. She 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.A VOF press release said she, “understands the tragedy that can happen when the Church excludes persecuted groups rather than joining them in seeking protection, dignity and justice.”
When Bondings 2.0 first announced the “Why Women Matter” event, I commended VOF for including the voices of both a lesbian Catholic and the Catholic parent of a gay child among their speakers. I noted then how LGBT people and their families have had their voices excluded from formal conversations in the Church despite being so heavily affected by destructive church teachings and practices. I now commend VOF even more for refusing to participate in that exclusion, even as it has meant ceding the privilege of hosting an event at the Vatican. Through both this witness and soon the messages of their speakers, Voices of Faith has given the Church a great gift this week.
At the same time, Cardinal Farrell’s rejection of such qualified speakers dampens hopes that a true and open dialogue on LGBT topics will soon be possible in the church. We pray that other Church leaders will step in to provide platforms for such dialogue to happen, as the Jesuits did in this case.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, February 3, 2018