ROUNDTABLE: Has Church Made a “Decisive Shift” on LGBTQ Issues? — Part II

Christopher Lamb, The Tablet’s Vatican correspondent, recently suggested that, in light of recent actions, the Catholic Church had begun to “decisively shift its approach on LGBTQ matters.”

Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 offered the first five of ten responses to Lamb’s suggestion from leading voices in the Catholic LGBTQ world. Today we offer the second set of five responses of this virtual “roundtable.” We have listed the respondents in alphabetical order according to last name. Each person was given a 350-word limit.

We asked respondents to answer either or both of the following questions:

  1. Do you agree that there is significant change happening in the church in regard to LGBTQ issues?  Why or why not?
  2. Whether or not you believe that change is happening, do you have hope for change or further change in the near future?

After reading the Lamb article and the responses, we invite you to offer your own thoughts on these questions in the “Comments” section of this blog post. To read Part I of this Roundtable, click here.


Hilary Howes

Hilary Howes, USA, is the founder of TransCatholic.org

I agree that the change we are currently seeing in the church in regard to LGBTQ issues is significant. If this were politics, what the Pope is doing and allowing others to do are like the ‘trial balloons’ that politicians float in advance of stating actual policy or proposing legislation. These changes could not come soon enough.

Many western nations have already moved on from LGBTQ issues being a question. Young people in these nations the church’s negative messages are a major impediment to participating in the faith community. Just as people are making decisions about where to live and what companies to purchase from based on acceptance of LGBTQ people, they are doing the same in their decisions about participating in church. Governments and corporations have already adjusted for these decisions. Now the hierarchy of the Church needs to catch up with their parishioners and help their less enlightened societies to embrace the marginalized in the way that Christ has always called us to do.

I thought I would not see full inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics in my lifetime, but the changes in the Pope’s tone and administration are important. His 2020 letters to Sr. Mónica Astorga Cremona who ministers to transgender women in Argentina was hopeful. The fact that no settled doctrine has come out yet on transgender issues  (as we had been warned that it may soon) is also a good sign that perhaps the leaders are willing to listen first. Today Catholic theologians and transgender Catholics are working on reconciling church thinking with lived experience and new awareness about gender identities. Their contributions will enrich our faith community. It is a very good time for the Church to be listening.


Martin Pendergast is a founding member of LGBT+ Catholics Westminster, London, England.

Beyond Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” are his reflections on ‘time and space’: “Space hardens processes, whereas time propels towards the future and encourages us to go forward in hope.”

Most hierarchical responses to LGBTQ issues have been about filling ‘space’ with stark and static answers to the wrong questions, so that the process of time becomes entrapped in ‘space’. Official Church teaching on these issues is nothing more than crude ideology dressed up in religious language.

Doctrinal development occurs over time rather than being a fixed position in ecclesiastical ‘space’. This process is graced by the co-creative insights we gain from Wisdom as she expresses herself through the unfolding of human identity, enriched by anthropological, human and social sciences.

Forty-three years ago, the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales pastoral care guidelines stated: “Homosexuals have the same need for the Sacraments as the heterosexual. They also have the same right to receive the Sacraments.” It took until 2007 for such a commitment to become embedded in the pastoral strategy of Westminster Diocese. Now, seven dioceses in England have official, inclusive, LGBT+ pastoral ministries. Change happens!

Theological development and welcoming pastoral praxis models have moved apace on both sides of the Atlantic through the work of scholars and practitioners such as James Alison, Margaret Farley, Jeannine Gramick, Mary Hunt, Mark Jordan, James Keenan, Kevin Kelly, Michael G. Lawlor, Gerard Loughlin, John McNeill, Gareth Moore, Robert Nugent, Todd A. Salzman, James Schexnayder, Elizabeth Stuart – this litany could go on!

The Synodal Pathway offers us a context to bridge the gap between the work on the ground and the often frozen structures of institutional Catholicism, not least the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Even these walls are being broken down.


Joseanne Peregin

Joseanne Peregin is the co-founder and spokesperson for Drachma Parents, Malta.

I am filled with hope for the future of LGBTQ people in the Catholic Church because the laity are waking up to the truth that the church is made up of not only the officials at the Vatican, but of all its baptized members. We are a universal, Catholic Church, and by virtue of the Spirit received at our baptism, more of us will offer a life-giving contribution toward this change.

My hope also lies in people like Malta’s Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Cardinal Mario Grech who have both understood the negative impact some Church documents can have on LGBTQ believers’ lives.

The Catechism and some other official documents do not fully grasp the pain and suffering individuals and whole families experience. If these harmful documents continue to remain unchanged, they continue to give church officials and right-wing leaders a license to oppress LGBTQ persons, and, dare I say, to kill them too (suicide is on the increase).

Church leaders can push for more affirmation of LGBTQ love, by taking example from what us parents have been doing: get out of the comfort zone and stand in defense of our LGBTQ children, ready to face the flack, hostility and stigma, the rejection and the slurs, knowing that Jesus is right here, at the periphery where we are. We are consoled knowing that we are living the gospel message of unconditional love.

Changing the church’s approach to LGBTQ will begin by appreciating the value of nature’s diversity, followed by restoring the beauty of sexuality as God’s gift. In the near future such changes will either happen, or the Vatican will crumble to the ground, redundant and irrelevant. The laity seem more ready to pick up the broken pieces and build a renewed church based on the gospel values of compassion and mercy, where the person, and not the institution, is given most value. We must affirm LGBTQ people as gifts to the church with particular graces and talents to offer and consequently enrich the wider community.


Benjamin Oh

Benjamin Oh is an educator, community organiser and active Catholic community member in Sydney, Australia

The church, defined by Vatican II as the ‘people of God,’ had shifted significantly in recent years in engaging with LGBTQ realities. LGBTQ Catholics and our families have oxygen to draw air, to breathe, and more outward compassion and courage are coming from our non-LGBTQ Catholic siblings who have taken the inclusive Gospel witness of Pope Francis to heart.

Yet, for those who continue to define the Church as an exclusive establishment club for the privileged few, our LGBTQ siblings are sadly still being used as things to create ideological and cultural warfare. As Pope Francis said to Stephen Amos, people are “Giving more importance to the adjective rather than the noun, this is not good… people that prefer to select or discard people because of the adjective – these people don’t have a human heart.”

Many Catholics are joining LGBTQ inclusion campaigns and reaching out to LGBTQ folks inside and outside the church, but some bishops and anti-LGBTQ church-groups are going out of the way to make our lives more difficult by supporting campaigns that discriminate against the civil and human rights of LGBTQ people.

I hope for positive change and transformation in our church in how LGBTQ folks are treated. I know that further change will happen as I see how non-LGBTQ Catholics and LGBTQ allies in the church and the wider world are now owning our challenges, that homophobic and transphobic theology and ideologies are forms of violence, and that they realise that when LGBTQ folks are treated as lesser parts of the body of Christ, Christ’s body is diminished. Just as sure as Resurrection came after the Crucifixion, I have hope.


Yunuen Trujillo

Yunuen Trujillo is is the Religious Formation Coordinator (Spanish) for the Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Is there significant change happening in the church around LGBTQ issues under Pope Francis’ leadership? Generally, I would say yes, but the answer depends on how we define “Church.”

While the church can be defined as an institution, the Church is first and foremost the people the whole People of God, the whole community of the baptized. The people of God have generally been ahead of the institution on LGBTQ issues and change has been happening for decades.

On the ground, families have been grappling with balancing their acceptance of their LGBTQ loved ones with their love for the church. These families have not always found a space within their parish communities to discern their journey or to share their conclusions with others, but that doesn’t mean the process hasn’t been happening. Over time, Catholics have chosen to be more or less accepting, regardless of what the hierarchy says about the topic and the institution’s refusal to openly question or discern its position on LGBTQ issues.

The most significant change, however, is the institution’s newfound willingness to dialogue and discern a more pastoral response to LGBTQ persons and their families. This is a huge change. In making positive statements about LGBTQ Catholics, Pope Francis has opened the door to dialogue, a door that had been shut for too long.

I have hope for change in the future, but as is often the case, change is still fueled from the bottom up. Grassroots efforts will continue to be the engine that brings about change, though such changes would happen faster with support from the top. Pope Francis has pushed synodal efforts that encourage a culture of listening and, in the best of scenarios, the synodal way will prevail even after Pope Francis is gone. However, we have also experienced apathy from some bishops in implementing synod efforts that effectively reach out to most Catholics.

While we can rejoice in Pope Francis’ efforts, we cannot solely rely on efforts from the top down. The Holy Spirit is moving, and significant change is already underway. Let’s hope more of our brother bishops will join such efforts.


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Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, February 2, 2022

1 reply
  1. Martin Pendergast
    Martin Pendergast says:

    The ‘Litany’ of scholars and practitioners in my contribution omitted to mention the late Enda McDonagh, Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology, Maynooth, Ireland. Not only was he responsible for developing theology in a time of AIDS, he also coined a phrase, ‘Honourably gay, honourably Catholic’ when preaching at a Thanksgiving Liturgy following the Civil Partnership of my partner and I in 2006. He also offered pastoral support to an emerging LGBT+ Catholic community in Dublin. The first anniversary of Enda’s death occurs on 22 February 2022 and a Memorial Mass will be celebrated in Maynooth on Sunday, 20 February 2022, 12.00 Noon.

    Reply

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