Catholics Worldwide Ask Vatican to Withdraw Its Opposition to LGBTQ Refugee Protections

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) has asked Pope Francis and other ranking church officials to have the Vatican withdraw its objections to a United Nations report seeking better protections for LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees.

GNRC issued a press release in response to comments from the Holy See’s representative at the United Nations’ Geneva offices, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič. The archbishop had objected to use of the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The GNRC statement also issued two other requests of church leaders:

“GNRC calls on Pope Francis and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin to withdraw the Vatican’s objections to the UNHCR report, and to assist the bishops of Poland in working with the LGBTIQ+ community in that country in a way that helps protect people from being marginalized and harmed. Furthermore, GNRC calls on the Vatican, the bishops, and Church officials everywhere to end any support for so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ which has been discredited as harmful by nearly all credible social science and therapeutic organizations.”

Christopher Vella, a GNRC co-chair, said the developments in Geneva and Poland are “deeply distressing” and “literally a matter of life and death for some.” Ruby Almeida, GNRC’s other co-chair, noting the network’s recent report on anti-LGB oppression in the church, commented:

“Our Church cannot simultaneously claim to honor the dignity of all people and actively support the continuation and even expansion of oppression against our Rainbow communities.”

GNRC’s release included additional comments from representatives of  two of its member groups:

“Junko Shimada, part of the GNRC member group Nijirono Tomoshibi from Japan, which supports in particular LGBTIQ+ refugees in Kenya, declared that ‘even if Church officials can’t understand concepts such as sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBTIQ+ refugees exist, and they are arrested under the same laws which prohibit same-sex relations, so they are discriminated against and prosecuted even inside the camps where they are supposed to seek asylum.’ . . .

“Carolyn Minchin, part of the Australian-based GNRC member group Rainbow Catholics Interagency for Ministry, stated, ‘I believe that assisting LGBTIQ+ refugees is critical to their survival, due to the intensity of the violence and discrimination they suffer at every turn in their journeys as refugees. . .Integration and invisibility [in family and in community life] are impossible for them, and silence on the question of how to improve safety for LGBTIQ+ refugees is costing lives on a daily basis.'”

These statements follow a recent open letter to Poland’s bishops from GNRC after the bishops released a document on LGBTQ issues in which they erroneously claimed that church teachings on homosexuality are infallible and seemingly endorsed conversion therapy, a charge one church leader in Poland tried unconvincingly to deny.

GNRC rightly identifies the very real dangers posed by statements like those of Archbishop Jurkovič and of the Polish bishops. The hierarchy’s teachings are not exercises in theory; in too many instances, they become weaponized to justify anti-LGBTQ discrimination, criminalization, and even violence. Catholics worldwide should echo GNRC’s concerns, and add their own voices to calls for Pope Francis and Vatican leaders to intervene on behalf of some of society’s most marginalized and vulnerable people.

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics through its member groups, including New Ways Ministry, works for the inclusion, dignity and equality of LGBTQ people in the Roman Catholic Church and in society. For more information, visit www.rainbowcatholics.org.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 10, 2020

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