Queerness Is Integral to Catholic Discussions of Family and Amoris Laetitia

U.S. Catholic has published a wide-ranging essay on the need for the church to rethink sex and family life.

There’s just one problem: where are LGBTQ issues?

The essay’s author, Don Clemmer, is a freelance writer and editor of Cross Roads, a magazine for the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. He brought together a variety of voices of Catholic pastoral ministry leaders and theologians. He argues that this year, which Pope Francis has designated as a time to reflect on his exhortation on family, Amoris Laetitia, marks a unique opportunity to grapple with real and messy pastoral concerns regarding sex and the family.

Clemmer is hopeful that “the church has the doctrinal and pastoral resources going into the synodal journey to creatively rethink sex in a way that places the dignity of the human person at its center. And that has the power to better reflect to one another God’s love.”

As a graduate student of sex and family ethics, I agree with Clemmer that our Catholic intellectual resources  and the direction that Pope Francis and theologians are directing us is promising. We are centering the lived experience of family as an important source of moral authority, uplifting familial practices as sites of ethical reflection, and listening to a diversity of experiences that are redefining what we mean by family and marriage.

However, as a queer Catholic, I have to ask: whose dignity is centered in this recent commentary on the family? Why is there just one singular mention of LGBTQ identity in Clemmer’s essay when this question is not only a live issue in the fields of Christian sexual and family ethics, but also when a quarter of adult Catholics have considered leaving the church because of its position on LGBTQ issues?

As we as a church celebrate the Amoris Laetitia Family Year and enter into the global synodal process, it is important that we do not perpetuate cultures of silence around LGBTQ aspects of sex, marriage, and family. I am tired of queer identity only entering the Catholic conversation on the family during sensational events, such as controversy over same-sex union blessings. I am frustrated with the siloing of queer people as subjects of sexual ethics in a way that often is more for the service and understanding of straight people than for our own benefits or moral guidance.

These trends serve to erase our unique, creative, and holy perspectives on deeply Catholic topics such as the family. I have a radical hope that moving our church forward on issues of sex and the family lies in allowing queer Catholics to narrate our experiences that are deeply tied to family such as coming out processes, finding chosen family, redefining and queering sacramentality, embracing healthy attitudes toward sexual integration and intimacy, and more.

Dear Catholic theologians and writers: it is not enough that your commentary on family issues implicitly includes an LGBTQ-friendly framework and approach to sex, marriage, and family. Queerness needs to be urgently centered and made visible as we listen and learn from the body of Christ, especially considering the persistent and troubling statistics regarding queer youth homelessness and mental health. These statistics render the work that I am calling us to life-saving. For these reasons, a bold Amoris Laetitia Family Year and synodal process must include open and vulnerable discussion of LGBTQ issues.

New Ways Ministry will be holding a webinar, “From the Margins to the Center: LGBTQ Catholics and Synodality,” on Sunday, October 24, 2021 at 3:00 – 4:30 pm Eastern U.S. Time. This 75-minute webinar featuring Dr. Robert Choiniere will look at how all Catholics, especially LGBTQ people and allies, can help make sure that every voice is heard and recorded during the Synod on Synodality these next two years. For more information or to register, click here.

Barbara Anne Kozee, New Ways Ministry, October 4, 2021

1 reply
    DUANE SHERRY says:

    The Church needs to begin by supporting families with LBGTQ+ children, by helping make sure children are appreciated in their families of origin, and helping parents and siblings learn how to be supportive.

    I certainly see the need for support after these children become adults, and search for ways to create new families, but the Church would do well to start at the beginning, when children are finding their gender identities and sexual orientations.


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