Outside Synod, Feminist Catholics Call for Solidarity Between LGBT Communities and Catholic Women

View of St. Peter’s Basilica from the WOC event “at the margins”

Catholic women and LGBT people exist almost exclusively at margins of the Synod on Youth’s. That common exclusions is why solidarity between these communities will be key to winning equality, said feminist panelists at an event in Rome earlier this week.

The Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) sponsored a roundtable discussion entitled “Discerning Women: Voices Outside the Synod.” The event featured the voices, witness, and testimony of women called to priesthood, international feminist theologians, and activists calling for a Church that works for justice and inclusion in the world, including LGBT issues.

Paola Lazzarini, author of “Manifesto for Women for the Church (Donne Per La Chiesa)” published in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, said in her opening remarks that young people are ashamed of the way church leaders treat LGBT people. She expanded later:

“The discrimination against LGBT people and the exclusion of women from ecclesial decisions are two sides of the same coin. For this reason, we consider queer Christians our natural allies. [It is] not on the basis of the exclusion we both live, but of the love for the Church that we are not allowed to express fully.”

From left: Jamie Manson, Paola Lazzarini, Zuzanna Radzik, Jacqueline Straub

Jamie Manson, a queer Catholic speaker and writer, said the teachings on gender complementarity are the common root cause of all church exclusion based on gender and sexuality. Manson said most of her exclusions from the church have related to her sexuality with gender as a compounding factor. For instance, when it comes to sacraments, she is denied Holy Orders despite knowing she was called to priestly ministry since a young age. But being queer, she is denied another sacrament, marriage.

Zuzanna Radzik, a feminist theologian and journalist, shared from her context in Poland. The LGBT Catholic community is quite insular there and quite religiously conservative as a result of wanting to remain institutionally affiliated. Indeed, Radzik said the liturgies she attended with the LGBT community were among the most conservative she has ever attended. While helping to facilitate LGBT Catholic retreats, she witnessed how many women involved were upset because men could not see or support the women’s quest for gender equity. But Radzik commended LGBT Catholics as the only group in the Polish church which is organizing itself around a specific cause, which will hopefully teach other Catholics that taking action and speaking out is possible.

The fourth panelist, theologian and journalist Jacqueline Straub, discussed her experiences of being a woman called to priesthood.

Kate McElwee, executive director of WOC, being accosted by police (credit: Jamie Manson)

Earlier in the week, WOC members and allies witnessed outside the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to demand Catholic women be given voting rights at the Synod because two lay men had been given such rights.

Several LGBT advocates were present, including two lesbian Catholic activists Petra Dankova from Germany and Ursula Halligan from Ireland. At one point, Archbishop Eamon Martin and another bishop approached Halligan, a prominent journalist in their nation, for conversation. But shortly thereafter, Jamie Manson reported:

“[The police’s] reaction was swift and severe. . .The scene quickly became chaotic and heated. Police demanded the passports of every protestor and physically grabbed the arm of Kate McElwee, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference. Fellow protestors surrounded McElwee, demanding that the police officer release her from his grip. . .Within several minutes, a police van filled with 10 additional officers pulled up. Wearing berets and bulletproof vests, they appeared ready for battle. As protestors were interrogated during the tense scene, many bishops and cardinals could be seen walking by, remaining aloof to the situation.”

The WOC roundtable discussion on Thursday concluded a week of feminist events in Rome coinciding with the beginning of the Synod. At every event, from the Catholic Women Speak book launch to the public witness to the roundtable, and in the many conversations in between, feminist Catholics were clear that their cause was inseparable from the cause of LGBT equality. And LGBT Catholics and allies showed up at every event to make their solidarity known. To sum it up, Jamie Manson exhorted panel attendees:

“We’re going to get justice together or we’re not going to get it at all.”

Throughout October, Bondings 2.0 will provide coverage direct from Rome, where the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment is taking place.  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.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 6, 2018

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