Pro-LGBT Catholics Are Disappointed and Hopeful After Synod on Youth

A number of reactions and commentaries on the Synod of Youth have appeared since the gathering’s conclusion just over a week ago, many of which touch on LGBT issues. Today’s post highlights some notable pieces from LGBT-positive voices, with links provided for further reading. Tomorrow’s post will examine how Catholics more critical of LGBT issues are reacting.

Deborah Rose-Milavec

Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch who reported from Rome during the Synod (you can find her insightful daily analyses here), commented on the controversy over the term “LGBT” which had appeared in the Instrumentum Laboris (synod working document) but was not used in the final report:

“My earlier grief about the excising of the language of LGBT has been replaced by hope knowing that the voices at the pre-synod meeting and in the synod hall will not be written out by the bishops. And while Pope Francis respects the voices of his brother bishops, he does not want their voices to blot out the voices of the young adults who called the church to new forms of justice and respect. The LGBT language came to life through difficult conversations in the struggle toward justice at the pre-synod meeting and found its way into the pre-synod document.  That language became part of the Instrumentum Laboris, another sign of respect by those who drafted it.  And, even though the bishops left it out of the final document, it will remain an important part of the synod’s ongoing dialogue and process.”

Liz Dodd of The Tablet was less optimistic, saying the removal of “LGBT” from the final document was “a missed opportunity for the Church. . .that was sacrificed to a reflexive obsession with preserving the status quo.” Dodd did not entirely discard the Synod’s work, saying the calls for a reexamination of sexuality and church teaching, along with the call to accompaniment were positive signs (even if accompaniment “can come across as overbearing” at times). Still, she concluded her piece:

“There’s no denying that this is a scant offering for a community that had hoped for more from Pope Francis. Few progressive Catholics would have dared to dream that Synod might open a conversation about ‘intrinsic disorder’, or that it might acknowledge that even the acronym LGBT excludes queer, intersex and asexual Catholics. What is, perhaps, most heartbreaking is that LGBT Catholics pinned their hopes on so little: being discussed in a language that wasn’t overtly offensive, with words that will – for many gay people – trigger memories of bullying and harassment. The Synod made much of its aim to be Christlike, to accompany young Catholics like Jesus accompanied his disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Jesus spoke to the marginalised and suffering with love and respect: against that benchmark, the Synod fathers have fallen very short – but there is cause for hope.”

Two women religious who participated in the Synod opined on the “LGBT” language controversy, reported Crux:

“‘This synod did not have ready-made answers,’ said Salesian Sister Lucy Muthoni Nderi from Kenya, who works as a psychologist and educator, adding that it’s important to take time to research and study.

“‘We as a Church cannot discriminate [against] or incriminate anyone who finds themselves in these situations,’ she said.

In concrete terms, [Spanish Sister Maria Luisa Berzosa] Gonzalez, who works with homosexual Catholics in Madrid, said the goal should be to put that person in touch with God.

“‘It’s a really sensitive topic,’ the Spanish nun said, but ‘we cannot abandon people living in in certain conditions,’ which she says includes also divorced and remarried couples.

“‘We must continue the synodal path toward a Church that accepts more widely,’ she said, ‘not to exclude, not to throw away.'”

John Gehring of Faith in Public Life wrote in Commonweal that the Synod could have been a space where bishops learned from LGBT people, but opposition from some church leaders stymied efforts to promote inclusion:

“Of course the Catholic Church doesn’t condone this abuse [against LGBT people]; in fact, the Catechism explicitly denounces it. Nevertheless, some bishops and other church leaders foster a toxic culture that scapegoats and demonizes LGBT laity and clergy. Former Vatican ambassador Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who has called for Pope Francis’s resignation, warns of “homosexual networks” with the “power of octopus tentacles” that are “strangling” the church. “It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord,” Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, wrote in a letter to Catholics in his diocese. Such language only tills the soil for potentially violent acts. As James Baldwin wrote: “It is a terrible, an inexorable law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own.” When the church continues to deny LGBT people their full humanity, isn’t that the risk it takes?”

What do you think? Was the lack of “LGBT” in the Synod’s final document a sign that this gathering did little to advance equality? Or are there signs of hope despite the linguistic change? Let us know in the “Comments” section below.

To read New Ways Ministry’s analysis of the Synod, click here. For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage from Rome of the Synod on Youth, please click here

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 8, 2018

1 reply
  1. Lindsey Pembrooke
    Lindsey Pembrooke says:

    Thank you for all of your great columns talking about the Synod as it unfolded. As a Catholic, I like seeing any discussion of LGBT and where we fit in the Church. Unfortunately, even with the positives you describe here, most of the time when I see LGBT being discussed, when you read the conversations in context, they seem to be equating LGBT = LGB or even just LG.

    Issues impacting transgender, intersex, non-binary Catholics also need to be seriously discussed. I read and often feel erased. People like me are ignored as long as we are quiet and when we shout “Here I am!”, we are sometimes told we should not exist or that we are not real. Or that knowledge of our existence is something children should be protected from.

    We are here, just as God has made us. It wasn’t by accident that we were created. There is much beauty in setting aside preconceived notions and quietly listening to the beauty in the messages God sends to humanity through our existence.


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