Three Synod Reports Highlight How Much LGBT Education Bishops Need

On Tuesday, the synod released the reports from the small groups (based on language).  Since I can only read English well enough to understand these reports, I was limited to the reports from the four English language groups which contain synod participants from countries as diverse as the U.S.A. , Australia, India, Ireland, Canada, Pakistan, the U.K., some African nations, and many others.

Pope Francis with Cardinal Maradiaga in Rome.

However, Crux  provided summaries of the reports from the other language groups.  In the Spanish Language Group A,  whose chair is the Guatemalan Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga and whose Relator (writer of the group’s discussion report) is Panama’s Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, Crux reported that the mention of same-sex issues was linked in a paragraph with gang life:

“[The report] touched on the reality of young people who are members of gangs, saying that their reality cannot be ignored.

” ‘Their only love is that of the group, and it’s not easy to enter in these circles that are so closed and it’s also not easy for the young people to leave these groups,”’they said.

“In the same paragraph, the group spoke about ‘what to do and how to act with homosexuals, who cannot be left out of our pastoral care, and other realities such as marriage between homosexuals, surrogate pregnancy, adoption by same-sex couples: All current issues that are propagated and funded by international governmental institutions.’ “

The report did not explain what the connection between gangs and LGBT issues was, but it had more than a few journalists here scratching their heads.  Equally strange is the reference to LGBT programs being promoted and supported by foreign governments.  This reference seems  to raise the myth that foreign aid is dependent on a country accepting LGBT equality.

Cardinal João Braz de Aviz

Bondings 2.0’s Robert Shine scoured the reports and found another mention of homosexual people in the Portugese Language Group, whose Chair is the Vatican’s Cardinal João Braz de Aviz and whose Relator is Portugal’s Bishop Joaquin da Silva Mendes, SDB. (The following is based on a computer translation):

“It was also commented that the Synod would need to reflect on the vocation of those who remain single with no reference to a particular consecration and to marriage . This is also the case with homosexual people. It is not the mission of the Church to respond to all particular realities, but it is her duty to care for, to accompany, to help the young person to give direction and direction to his own life, to help them to do good.”

It’s a curious comment. It seems to say that the church can’t develop ministries to all sorts of people.  An odd statement from leaders of a church which calls itself “Catholic,” meaning “universal.”   Doesn’t the church want to recognize the needs and the gifts of all the faithful?

The Portugese group added another curious statement to their report:

“Affectivity and sexuality: there was talk about the differences between the teaching of the Church and what is practical among young people. Many ignore, others question, others are influenced by ideology or scientific information in fields where there is not always a consensus.”

I hope that these not references to LGBT issues because it would mean that these bishops see sexuality and gender identity as politically influenced.  Further, it would mean that they do not recognize that there is a strong scientific consensus for understanding same-sex orientation and transgender identity as naturally occurring phenomenon and part of the normal variations on the sexuality and gender spectrums.  However, I am afraid that LGBT issues are at least part of what they mean by “ideology” and “scientific information in fields where there is not always a consensus.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo

In the English Language Group D, whose Chair is the U.S. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and whose Relator is U.S. Bishop Robert Barron, there was an indirect reference to LGBT issues:

“A . . . motif that especially caught the attention of our group is the sharp contrast between an anthropology of self-creation and an anthropology of vocation.  In so much of the postmodern culture, individuals are encouraged to invent themselves and define their own values through an exercise of freedom.  But this is repugnant of a Biblical understanding o f the human being who is called by the voice of God, beckoned to go beyond her own projects and plans and to surrender to the one ‘who can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.’ “

Why do I think this is an indirect reference to LGBT issues?  Mainly because terms like “self-creation,”  “invent themselves,” “define their own values,” and “exercise of freedom” are some of the terms that many anti-LGBT religious leaders use to describe the LGBT experience.  They see the acknowledgment, affirmation, and declaration of an LGBT person’s  sexual orientation or gender identity as a choice one makes or as an act of will.

Anyone who has spoken to an LGBT person knows that this is a totally inaccurate description of how a person comes to understand, accept, and share their sexual orientation and gender identity.  For the overwhelming majority of LGBT people, this “coming out” process is described as a journey of discovery or even discernment.  For many, it involves a process that is very similar to the types of discernment that the synod is proposing.  People weigh their self-knowledge and experiences with wisdom from the church, from science, from their friends, from trusted counselors, from spiritual guides, and from all of this self-examination they come to a point where they realize their true selves.

Anyone who has spoken to a Catholic LGBT person will often hear that their story even goes further than this.  Besides seeing their coming out process as a discernment, many report that they see this experience as a calling from God, a vocation, to live life truthfully, fully, and freely.  They come to recognize that their closeted existence was often a false way of living that caused them pain, distress, and alienation from God and the life of  faith.  Accepting an LGBT identity is not the opposite of a vocation, as this synod report seems to  suggest, but, in  fact, the very essence of vocation:  a call from God to live life in the way that God created them and intended for them to live.  Coming out is a response to the God who is Love to accept the ways that God wants them to relate to other people in the world.

Reports such as the three mentioned above highlight how important it  would have been  for LGBT youth to be represented at the synod.  And, more importantly, how much bishops, in general, need to dialogue with LGBT people to learn about the reality of their lives and of their faith.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 17, 2018

5 replies
  1. Ken Saunders
    Ken Saunders says:

    I can certainly speak to my understanding, acceptance of my self as a gay man has felt like a calling to become who I am meant to be, an invitation to draw closer to God It has never felt like a burden or a punishment.

  2. Sarasi
    Sarasi says:

    Notice the enthusiastic language used to express the need to include and welcome people with disabilities and compare that language to the hesitant, grudging, or frankly hostile language used to describe the Church’s relationship with LGBT people:

    “The second Spanish group, moderated by Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had a paragraph dedicated to young people who have ‘special educational needs,’ understood as the entire ‘range of frailties – physical, mental, intellectual, socio-cultural – and that despite their limitations are active subjects of transformation in their environments. This limitation is a possibility that opens up relations of solidarity and reciprocity, and therefore is a gift for their communities. The Church must receive them, and include them with courage.'”

    Were LGBT people or couples ever described as “active subjects of transformation in their environments”? Was it ever proposed that the Church “open up relations of solidarity and reciprocity” with LGBT people? Were these relationships ever described as what they actually are–“a gift for their communities”? Was it ever said that the Church “must receive” LGBT people and “include them with courage”?

    I don’t think so, and I think it’s worth reminding ourselves what acceptance actually looks like. The Bishops have a very distorted view of LGBT relationships and a saccharine view of male-female relationships. They also know squat about single people who aren’t members of religious orders, and now appear quite anxious to characterize their realities as the result of sin and egotism. That’s actually where I think the paragraph about the “anthropology of self-creation” was headed. The pope has said on many occasions that people are rejecting marriage out of selfishness and an “attraction to the ephemeral.” This may be true in some instances, but there are plain old demographic and cultural trends that they refuse to acknowledge which help to explain the delay or avoidance of marriage and the propensity of young people to create themselves instead of having their “role in life” handed to them by the clerics. For women in particular, the Church’s method has only curtailed and distorted their horizons. Who needs it? Especially when Jesus Christ left no instructions about roles and gender . . .

    DON E SIEGAL says:

    How Much LGBT Education Bishops Need
    There are two points in this report that I would like to address.

    A) “Called by the voice of God” DiNardo/Barron

    “…[T]he human being who is called by the voice of God, beckoned to go beyond her own projects and plans and to surrender to the one ‘who can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.’”

    Statements such as these defy my understanding of my God of love. It is just not possible that when God created me that God had a specific plan about what vocation/occupation that I should choose. And that, only when I choose that particular vocation/occupation would I please God. That belief is contrary to the widely head Catholic teaching that, “There is nothing that I can do or not do that would make God love me more or less than he already does.”

    Rather, I believe God offers us options all of which are good and wholesome. We get to choose among those good options. Personal example: When I entered college, I had two of those options to choose from. I was influenced by two important persons in my life. One was my high school biology teacher and the other was my dentist. Therefore, my choices were to be a high school science teacher or to become a dentist. I ultimately chose to be a dentist. Either of those choices would have been equally moral in God’s sight.

    DON E SIEGAL says:

    How Much LGBT Education Bishops Need (continued)

    B) “…[T]o live life truthfully, fully, and freely.” DeBernardo

    This was clearly my experience in the coming out process that began in 1974 and was a continuing process to the present. After coming out to select individuals, groups, and the military; the church was the only community where I was not living my life as my true self.
    I became aware of the prompting of the Holy Spirit to resolve that conflict. It began with a priest with whom I work in church ministries. He often said in his homilies that everyone must be willing to tell our stories. I said to myself, “All well and good but I am afraid to tell my story.” And then, the promptings of the Spirit became incessant until I said, “Okay okay, now I understand the need to come out to my trusted brothers and sisters.” I chose an appropriate time to make an appointment with a trusted priest to tell my story and thus to live my life in the way that God created me and intended for me to live.

    But, it is not over yet!


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