Praise has been heaped on three church leaders by Mexico’s Catholic LGBTQ equality organization for the leaders’ efforts to minister to the country’s LGBTQ population. The group was pleasantly surprised by the clergy’s commitment to embracing LGBTQ Catholics, as well as tackling the various obstacles that impede LGBTQ inclusion in the church and society.
The Mexico Network of Rainbow Catholics (REDCAM, the acronym for their name in Spanish) recently participated in a virtual conversation with Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López of Monterrey, Father Edgar Alvarado of Monterrey, and Father Hernán Quintero of Villahermosa.
REDCAM anticipated that these church officials would be unfamiliar with the obstacles faced by the LGBTQ community, and therefore necessitate an intense educational discussion on the high levels of discrimination and prejudice experienced by LGBTQ persons. The archbishop’s warm welcome and affirming pastoral approach quickly dispelled those expectations and concerns.
Carlos Navarro and Antonio Ortiz, REDCAM’s co-coordinators, commented on Rogelio’s desire to connect the LGBTQ community and the church:
“There was no need to carry out such an effort or fulfill such a high endeavor. . . . ArchbishopRogelio gave us a fraternal welcome and also made us see that he not only knows our community, but also highly appreciates it. He made it clear that he is willing to establish communication with us.”
Navarro and Ortiz also reflected on Rogelio’s compassionate ministry to LGBTQ persons, summarizing his remarks:
“‘[H]e has always wanted priests to serve the LGBTIQ+ community with charity and respect’, just as the Catechism of the Catholic Church requires. In broader terms, he expressed how difficult it is for many to assimilate this cultural change and this openness. ‘It is neither easy for the civil institutions nor for the ecclesiastical institution,’ he told us.’”
The archbishop also acknowledged the spiritual harm that church officials have inflicted on LGBTQ Catholics and the wider community. Navarro and Ortiz reported:
“‘I understand that after rejection, after injury, many decide to make their way apart,’ Mons. Rogelio told us, referring to the LGBTIQ+ community. With his attitude and through his words, we perceived a level of empathy very rarely shown by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Mexico.
Moreover, Monsignor Rogelio emphasized the importance of listening to the concerns of LGBTQ Catholics while simultaneously rebuking conversion therapy, the discredited practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, saying:
“‘Many live their Catholic faith in silence, few do so openly. We are on their side and we do not enter into the debate for the conversion of people.’ . . .
“Fr. Edgar Alvarado confirmed that this [LGBTQ ministry] would now be one of his responsibilities. Edgar was very happy to know that he will have ‘experienced partners’ who will help him understand – and to serve – the LGBTIQ+ Catholics in his archdiocese now ‘as God intended.'”
Turning to their point of view, Navarro and Ortiz shared their delight in response to Monsignor Rogelio’s recognition of REDCAM’s efforts towards LGBTQ inclusion, pastoral care, and structural reform of the church .They described the archbishop’s positive response:
“We perceived Archbishop Rogelio’s joy in learning that there are already lay people committed to this mission and – very important! – an organization, a structure, a method to implement these new pastoral efforts. In response to our presentation, he affirmed: ‘We have to go about this change institutionally. That is the task that priests have, above all, to help in achieving this goal. That there are no forgotten margins in the Church and in society.’”
In reflecting on the virtual conversation as a whole, Navarro and Ortiz were buoyed by Monsignor Rogelio’s concluding reflections:
“‘There are accelerators that we must favor: Pope Francis has set us at a different speed.’ We must learn to take advantage of these favorable current circumstances to achieve concrete and effective benefits for LGBTIQ+ Catholics. It is our turn to change the world and even through small steps, we will be persistent and we will keep the Holy Spirit on our side.’”
This meeting is an example that the endeavors between LGBTQ Catholic advocates and local church leaders can merge together in furtherance of cultivating social justice spaces. Rather than working in opposition to each other, we see a genuine openness towards mutual respect, conversation, and harmonious collaboration. In doing so, the archbishop incorporated the example Pope Francis has demonstrated towards the LGBTQ community.
It is a delight to report that senior church officials are receptive to and affirming of the LGBTQ community. Their strong advocacy and support is indeed something we should all celebrate.
The original press release in Spanish can be found here on REDCAM’s website.
–Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, September 19, 2020