One of India’s top Catholic leaders has given his blessing for an LGBT hotline to help struggling Catholics, and he promised as well to encourage clergy to be more compassionate toward LGBT people.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of the Archdiocese of Bombay gave his support to the phone project during a private meeting with internationally-known fashion designer Wendell Rodricks, the person behind the hotline intended to help LGBT people and allies become closer to the church. The Hindu reported Rodrick’s words on the meeting:
“‘I was moved to tears when Cardinal Gracias not only gave his total approval and support but also agreed to advise his clergy to be more compassionate and less condemning of the LGBTQ community. . .At the end of our meeting, His Eminence placed his hand on my head and blessed me in a special way: “Christ bless us for the work we are doing for society”. Suffice to say I felt blessed, grateful and immensely joyful. In smog-filled Bombay, my heart felt a rainbow in the sky.'”
Gracias has previously spoken publicly in favor of LGBT pastoral accompaniment, saying to the community, “the Church wants you, the Church needs you, the Church embraces you” in 2015, during an interview with Bondings 2.0. He was also one of the few religious leaders who has publicly opposed anti-LGBT criminalization in India. This openness is likely what led Ruby Almeida, a co-chair of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics and chairperson of Quest, a UK Catholic LGBT group, to encourage Rodricks to meet with Gracias. Almeida commented on the hotline:
“‘The local group set up in Mumbai will be working closely with Wendell Rodricks to address the needs of LGBTIQ Catholics initially in Mumbai and Goa. . .We very much hope other [religious] groups can look to us for support to [address] faith amongst the LGBTI community which had been overlooked till now.'”
The hotline comes from Rodrick’s own experiences of exclusion in the church and the personal damage an LGBT person experiences when not accepted by their religious community. The Hindu expressed reported the reaction of one LGBT Catholic:
“But 29-year-old Mark, a design professional, is hopeful that Mr. Rodricks’ plans will help young queer Catholics like him. ‘I felt like I was sinning,’ he says, reminiscing his childhood. ‘I remember confessing having feelings for another man to a priest and he told me it’s okay to feel the attraction but acting on it is a sin.’ Mark doesn’t go to Church any more. ‘I still have a relationship with God and Jesus but I don’t think [being gay] is a sin.'”
This endeavor is a fine example of what can happen when church leaders allow and even affirm the initiatives of LGBT lay people to create inclusive projects. If the world’s bishops really want to live out the rhetoric of accompaniment and synodality so prominent at the Synod on Youth, thenthey must back lay initiatives on all matters, including LGBT equality.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 5, 2018