It’s the last day of 2020, a year that many will be glad to see end. But in the Catholic LGBTQ world, not all the news of this past year was bleak.
As we prepare to bring 2020 to a close, let’s also prepare to begin 2021 with a renewed sense of hope in our work for justice and equality for LGBTQ people in the Catholic Church by reviewing some of the very good things that happened in the past year for those interested in Catholic LGBTQ news.
Bondings 2.0 asked our readers to vote for the Worst and Best Catholic LGBTQ News Events of 2020. Yesterday, we posted the results of the “Worst” poll. Today, we give you our readers’ picks for the “Best” events. The following is their list of top ten choices, ranked by the percentage of votes each item received.
At the end of the list is some commentary about the choices, and you are invited to share your own insights into the choices by using the “Comments” section of this post.
1. Pope Francis creates more LGBTQ-positive cardinals, including Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., who became the first African American cardinal. Other LGBTQ-positive cardinalate appointments are Cardinal Mario Grech, who now, serves as secretary general for the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, who heads the Congregation for Causes of Saints. (70%)
2. A new documentary includes footage of Pope Francis reiterating his support for civil unions that provide legal protections for same-gender couples. (56%)
3. Pope Francis sends his personal almoner (dispenser of charitable donations) to aid transgender sex workers in Italy, many of whom are migrants and/or facing financial difficulties because of the pandemic. Later in the year, the pope sends another letter to Sr. Mónica Astorga Cremona, commending the Argentine nun for her work with transgender women and the opening of a new housing complex for them. (53%)
4. Voters in the U.S. elect Joe Biden, a Catholic who will be the most LGBTQ-positive person in history to hold that office. (52%)
5. Pope Francis tells a group of Italian parents with LGBTQ children that “The Church loves your children as they are” after the parents presented Francis with a new book about their experiences. An English edition of the book will soon be released by New Ways Ministry. (48%)
6. A growing number of Catholic officials in Germany and in Austria endorse church blessings for same-gender couples. (43%)
7. LGBTQ Catholics and allies deepen their engagement with the Movement for Black Lives and renew commitments to working for equality in an intersectional manner. (26%)
8. Resistance to the Polish bishops’ extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric intensifies, including a noted professor’s resignation from a Catholic university and a Nobel Laureate’s refusal to be honored on the same stage as a homophobic bishop. (23%)
9. A U.S. appeals court reinstates the discrimination lawsuit filed by fired gay church worker Sandor Demkovich, allowing for the possibility of legal redress for this injustice. Meanwhile, communities at Catholic schools and parishes continue to organize against unjust firings when they occur. (21%) TIE with #10
10. Germany’s Synodal Way proceeds despite pandemic conditions. Developments included a working document from the sexual morality group that speaks positively of same-gender relationships and the participation of a non-binary Catholic in the public testimonies. (21%) TIE with #9
The most surprising choice of this list is that Pope Francis’ comments supporting civil unions did NOT claim the number one spot. In terms of coverage in the secular, Catholic, and LGBTQ press, this story certainly grabbed the most media attention, analysis and commentary. Instead, a lesser-known story, which, in fact, was first reported by Bondings 2.0, — Pope Francis’ appointment of several LGBTQ-friendly cardinals — claimed the top honors.
Perhaps this seeming anomaly can be explained by surmising that Bondings 2.0 readers see something about these two stories that others do not. While the pope’s civil union comments are a major step forward and can have wide-ranging influence on the Catholic Church’s approach to LGBTQ issues, the appointment of LGBTQ-friendly cardinals ensures that those who will likely elect the new pope after Francis departs will have a greater chance of institutionalizing this ground-breaking pope’s legacy of greater openness to LGBTQ issues.
The list shows that Pope Francis continues to be a trendsetter when it comes to LGBTQ issues. Spots three and five on the list were given to a story about the pontiff’s outreach to transgender people and to news that Francis met with parents of LGBTQ people at the Vatican, strongly affirming their children. The pope’s continued affirmation of LGBTQ people contrasts strongly with the many examples of bishops who made yesterday’s “Worst” list because of their continued and harmful language and policies.
But our church is much, much more than just the members of the hierarchy. And that is clearly evident in the number of times actions by lay Catholics made the list. The election of Joe Biden, who is Catholic and pro-LGBTQ, as U.S. president, the protests by Polish lay people against their hierarchy’s militant opposition to LGBTQ equality, and the advances made by the lay members of Germany’s Synodal Way process all bode well for continued successful and effective advocacy from the people in the pews for moving our church to become more just and equal.
And a special note must be made that lay Catholics are also shaping LGBTQ advocacy itself by working for more intersectional actions in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
What do you see in this top ten list of “Best” news events? Share your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.
And now, onward to sustaining and advancing these achievements in 2021!
—Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 31, 2020