France’s Dioceses Adjust to Marriage Equality By Welcoming LGBT People

Since France legalized same-sex marriage (“mariage pour tous” or “marriage for all”) in 2013, support for LGBT persons in the French Catholic Church has grown immensely. Already 35 French dioceses have “missioned” people to begin to close the wide gap between the LGBT community and the Church.

Many of these dioceses have opened the conversation surrounding LGBT issues and how these topics intersect with Christian beliefs by establishing dialogue groups. For example, the diocese of Créteil created discussion and support groups called “Se parler,” meaning “to talk with each other,” noted the French Catholic news outlet La Croix, which recently published a major article about the phenomenon. Established by Bishop Michel Santier, the groups seek to create a space for church members whose lives have been affected by the Church’s often harsh stance on LGBT issues, and treatment of LGBT persons.

Speaking with group participants, Bishop Sanier told them that they were all “part of the body of Christ.” Additionally, Bishop Dominique Lebrun, of the diocese of Saint-Etienne said,“Welcoming all Christians is an absolute necessity.” said .

A strong welcome is needed because for too long, the Church has only provided lip service. “Gay people and their families have the impression that the Church welcomes them all, but actually places people at a distance,” said Fabienne Daull, a member of Cados (“Chrétiens s’accueillant dans leurs différences d’orientations sexuelles,” or “Christians welcoming each other in their different sexual orientations”) in Nîmes.

Isabelle Parmentier is one of the French Catholics spearheading such initiatives in her diocese. Appointed by Bishop Pascal Wintzer of Poitiers, she accompanies LGBT people, parents of LGBT children, LGBT couples – Christian or not – to rebuild the broken ties between the Church and the LGBT community.

Homophobia, she says, is still present in French society, and “remains one of the major causes of suicide in teenagers.”

“In certain Catholic families, the suffering that LGBT people go through is aggravated by the idea that a gay child is ‘living in sin,’” she noted.

The movement  in the French Church toward inclusion of LGBT persons is trying to change such negative understandings.  The movement has arrived in the wake of Pope Francis’s historic “Who am I to judge?” comment. In France, such discussion groups seek to promote a similar accepting attitude and allow people of all sexualities and identities to feel welcome in their churches.

Many French citizens are Catholic, though the level of church participation varies.

Claude Besson, another leader of these groups, is a major voice for LGBT Catholics and a “pioneer of welcoming gay people in the Church,” according to La Croix. Besson commented:

“Of course, certain people would want these changes to come more quickly, or slowly, but [I’ve been doing this for] ten years, and I never would have thought we’d be where we are today.”

These groups and conversations in France are a hopeful sign that the LGBT community can be integrated without scorn or shame that has so often come from the Church itself. Hopefully, other similar groups can gain popularity, and the much-needed reparation between the Church and the LGBT community can spread worldwide.

To learn more about how your parish or diocese can welcome LGBT people,  check out New Ways Ministry’s webpage on “Parish Life.”   For specific ways parishes can welcome gay and lesbian married couples, check out our list of suggestions.  

Lindsay Hueston, New Ways Ministry, July 2, 2018





2 replies
  1. Lindsey Pembrooke
    Lindsey Pembrooke says:

    I think this is wonderful. We need more of this compassion for people, especially over here in the States.

    This has bothered me for a while, and it finally hit me today how to put it into words. I read an article like this that refers to LGBT people, but in context, it is only using LGBT as a synonym for “gay”. Transgender people also want and need to be made whole in the Catholic Church. We are also as God has made us.

    Best I can come up with is that God intended for some of us to be able to talk to having both male and female experiences so that we could all understand each other better. That is part of our gift. We look at God as Father, implying male, but as there was only God in the beginning, there was no counterpart and still isn’t a counterpart. God is beyond gender.

    Some make the error of assuming there are only two genders as Genesis introduces Adam, and then Eve to the Garden of Eden. But for the time before God made Eve, there was just male. That did not mean there was only one gender. It just meant there was only one gender so far. After Eve, two genders existed, but there were only two people so that is the most that could exist.

    There were more people after that, and who knows when in God’s plan he decided on variation? We know variation is a large part of the plan, as we see evidence of it all around us. I won’t pretend to know the entire plan, or any of it. My prayers and discernment tell me that I am part of that plan – and that is all I need to know to be at peace in my Lord.

    There are many of us under the umbrella of LGBT. God loves and has a place with him for all of us.


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