Fr. Tony Flannery, CSsR,a Redemptorist priest from Ireland, joined the growing group of voices asking the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland to include LGBT families.
Writing in The Irish Times, Flannery reported on recent gathering of the International Church Reform Network, which occurred in mid-June. (Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, represented New Ways Ministry there: Ruby Almeida represented the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.)The group planned to take up a number of issues, including LGBT equality. Flannery explained:
“The LGBT movement will have a strong voice there [at the Church Reform Network meeting], led by the remarkable Sr Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry. They are coming with a statement, for which they will seek enforcement from the conference. It concerns the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August.
“One quote from that statement sums up their thinking: ‘What arrangements are being made to guarantee that at least one of the five families who will give witness at WMF will be an LGBT family?’
“‘Will the programme include any parents who have LGBT children? Will a same-gender couple testify about the joys and difficulties of raising children? Will participants hear from a transgender person about their experience of family? Will even one such event happen?'”
The World Meeting of Families will take place this August in Dublin. In recent months, a number of Catholics and Irish leaders have raised similar questions about whether the Meeting will be LGBT-inclusive or continue the exclusionary direction of the last World Meeting of Families held in Philadelphia in 2015.
Flannery added his own commentary about equality in The Irish Times essay, saying “the most radical aspect of the teaching of Jesus was the way he treated all people as equal.” The priest continued:
“This notion of oneness, of radical equality, was central to the teaching of Jesus and the life of the early church. Unfortunately, after a couple of centuries, and as the church grew in numbers and influence, it began to model its leadership structures on those of the Roman Empire.
Those in authority became distinguished by their power and control, rather than their service of the community. It was out of this very unfortunate development that what is now known as “clericalism” developed, the attitude of superiority which Pope Francis recognises as one of the major cancers of the church.
“The network believes that the future of the church depends on returning to the radical equality of Jesus and the early church.”
In 2012, the Vatican attempted to silence Flannery, in part for his affirming views on LGBT issues. But rather than being “terrified into submission,” in his words, he began speaking out. Flannery published a book, A Question of Conscience, and spoke about the draconian process of his investigation and attempted silencing. Flannery has been an outspoken church reform advocate since then.
This November, Fr. Flannery will lead a retreat for New Ways Ministry titled “New Language for Old Truths.” LGBT Catholics, families, pastoral ministers, and allies are all welcome for the weekend, which explores new ways, new language, and new images to make sense of the Gospel message in the modern world. The retreat aims to provide a sound theological and spiritual base for people involved in LGBT Catholic issues, even when the road ahead is stormy. For more information on the retreat and to register, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 16, 2018