As 2020 Concludes, A Look at the Year’s Best Catholic LGBTQ News

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

2 replies
  1. DON E SIEGAL
    DON E SIEGAL says:

    Concerning Cardinal Wilton Gregory’s Election and Pope Francis’ Statement Supporting Civil Unions

    These were my choices for the two top best events for the Catholic LGBTQ community and in that order. Here’s why. I first knew Cardinal Gregory when he was bishop of the Diocese of Belleville, IL. He shepherded members of my family during his tenure there. From there he became the Archbishop of Atlanta. He made some serious mistakes there; however, he was able to atone and correct those errors. His statements concerning Obergefell v. Hodges was very conciliatory. I remember it well because I was director of RCIA in my parish and I considered that I may be asked what I thought about marriage equality by someone either a catechumen or parish member. Gregory’s statement acknowledged that the decision did not affect Church teaching in any way; however, it did give the LGBTQ community an option that they did not have before and no matter which side of the argument you were on his job as a pastor was to be respectful to both sides. (paraphrase) I printed his statement and kept it in my workbook. If anyone asked me the question, I intended to quote his statement as my belief. If I answered according to a U. S. Bishop’s statement, no one could condemn me. No one ever asked the question. Archbishop Gregory was sent to the Diocese of Washington DC as a problem fixer. One of the first things he did was have an informational gathering at which he listened to several persons from the LGBTQ community. It was at that time that I began to pray that Archbishop Gregory would be elected Cardinal and so it happened.

    Because of the setting of Pope Francis’ statement on civil unions, I did not initially think very much about it. Upon further consideration I realized how powerful it really was. One it provided convincing condemnation of the criminalization of LGBTQ behavior. By making the statement(s) in a secular setting it could not claim to be official Church teaching thus avoiding the possibility of a schism in the Church. As important as this statement is, I still believe the election of Wilton Gregory to Cardinal is the greater good.

    Reply
  2. Christine Zuba
    Christine Zuba says:

    While Pope Francis’ words are powerful indeed, some Bishops unfortunately choose to ignore his leadership. Through change on local levels, from Bishops on down to each parish, our Church will truly follow Francis’ lead with hearts open to Every person, following the path and teachings of our Lord Jesus.

    Reply

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