New Book on Catholic Women Includes LGBT Issues Discussions

Starting today and continuing through October, Bondings 2.0 provides coverage direct from Rome, where the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment begins tomorrow.  Associate Editor Robert Shine will do most of the coverage this week.  Editor Francis DeBernardo will take over on October 8th until the synod ends on October 28th. To receive daily updates, subscribe to the blog entering your email address in the “Subscribe” box at the top of the right-hand column of this page.

Catholic Women Speak book launch attendees at the Pontifical University Antonianum

A new book about Catholic women that includes chapters on LGBT issues was launched in Rome yesterday in anticipation of the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational discernment that begins this week.

Catholic Women Speak, a global online forum for Catholic women, hosted a daylong symposium to launch its book, Visions and Vocations, edited by theologian Tina Beattie and scholar Sister Diana Culbertson, O.P. Several speakers touched on LGBT issues, including Ursula Halligan, an Irish lesbian advocate,  Sr. Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, and young women from a British Catholic high school.

In a panel on power, abuse, and sexuality, Halligan, who is a Catholic involved with We Are Church Ireland (WAC), told attendees:

“I had a lot I was angry about the church, but I found I too could not leave it. . .I resolved to stay but not to remain quiet because I believe it is our silence and failure to speak out that has contributed to dysfunction in the past. . .I believe its time now for all lay Catholics to cry out, to speak up, to speak out.”

Halligan, who came out in 2015 during Ireland’s marriage equality debate, addressed the fact that WAC was excluded from exhibiting at the 2018 World Meeting of Families (WMF), which took place in Dublin this past August. She commented, “We’re all for dialogue, but how do we talk to people when we’re not even included in the room.”

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, left, with Ursula Halligan

Sr. Jeannine Gramick spoke at the conference on a panel about women religious. She said her vision of religious life was bringing God’s love to people, but that she had been confronted by the politics of the church after being investigated for doing LGBT ministry. She commented:

“We need to confront the men of the church so that women have a voice that’s respected. Our voices are discounted. We need to stand up and say, ‘we need to be heard, and believed, and followed.’ The prophet must remind the institution of what it was founded for.”

Reading from a chapter entitled, “A Letter to Pope Francis—From Ten Young Catholic Women, Ages 14-17,” students from Ursuline High School in Wimbledon, England read part of the Letter to the conference participants:

“In our generation, we are influenced and inspired by Catholic social teaching and our society to be open-minded to all our peers and accepting of everybody. Therefore, many of us find it hard to conform to the teachings of the Catholic Church, which, although it strongly preaches equality of all, subtly encourages division among those of different sexualities and genders. LGBT Catholic teens feel trapped within the walls set by this division, causing some of us-because of the teachings that contradict our experience, our sense of our own experience- to feel disconnected from our faith. Which makes us wonder, do we exist in the eyes of God? Will my Church accept me? Individually, some of us believe God accepts everyone, but it seems as if the Church is saying something different. So what am I supposed to believe? Can I still go to church?”

Two chapters in Visions and Vocations addressed LGBT issues specifically. The first as an interview by Tina Beattie of Gramick and Ruth Hunt, executive director of Stonewall UK. In one section, Hunt spoke about her own adolescence, noting how she lacked LGBT role models anywhere in her life and therefore had to figure out sexuality on her own:

“[W]hat the Catholic Church provides is an anchor, a moral anchor, a Christian anchor,an anchor where God can express himself [sic] through you and with you and in your deeds and in your words. A whole community is bereft of that love, and denied that love, because of an antiquated idea about exactly what St. Paul meant when he talked about sex.”

The other LGBT chapter was by Nontando Habede, a theologian from southern Africa who wrote on the violence inflicted on LGBTQI people, particularly lesbian women. Habede opened with the story of Eudy Simelane, a famous South African soccer star who was killed during a “corrective rape” after living openly as a lesbian. The theologian wrote about the dangers LGBTQI people face in African contexts and beyond, and the ways that church teaching contributes to this violence. But she included one positive note: a report by the Other Foundation found the Catholic Church to be one of the institutions most open to dialogue on homosexuality.

Visions and Vocations is Catholic Women Speak’s second anthology.  The first collection which has the title Catholic Women Speak, was published for and presented to bishop-delegates during the Synod on the Family a few years back. Hopefully at least a few bishops will pick up a copy of this latest book and be moved by the testimony of Catholic women through whom the Holy Spirit speaks.

To order copies of Visions and Vocations, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 2, 2018

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