The local phase of the Synod on Synodality is well underway in dioceses worldwide, and LGBTQ issues are part of those discussions in many places. One columnist is exhorting church leaders in Asia to take such issues seriously, including the question of same-gender unions.
Ben Joseph, a journalist writing in UCA News, highlighted ways in which the synodal process begun by Pope Francis has allowed LGBTQ people to be heard. These include the posting of New Ways Ministry resources on the synod office’s website and the apology from a synod official after the resources were first removed then re-posted. But Joseph suggests a similar openness is not happening in Asia, writing:
“The Church in Asia often does not take the LGBTQ issue seriously, presuming it to be a Western-centric cause. Just like synodality is universal in nature, the campaign to make the LGBTQ community a part of the mainstream is also global. Many Asian governments have already started enacting pro-LGBTQ policies.
“The hierarchical Church in Asia will also face the LGBTQ issue during the synodal process at continental level from September 2022. Prior to that, it can act to stave off some of the ordeals faced by European and US dioceses.”
Joseph highlights the growing pace of Asian nations, led by Taiwan, of legally recognizing LGBTQ peoples, commenting these developments are “moving fast.” Nations ranging from Japan to India to Nepal are currently taking up the question. The author continues:
“The hierarchy ignoring these developments and keeping quiet on such issues in the synod will only make the Church irrelevant in modern Asia. . .
“While scores of Catholic parishes are doing outreach to LGBTQ people and a number of bishops and priests are blessing lesbian and gay couples, the Church has yet to get its act together on same-sex unions.”
Joseph concludes by broadening his analysis, suggesting that by the time the Synod of Bishops meets in Rome in 2023, “the Vatican will be forced to make its stand clear on the LGBTQ community and its place in the synodal Church.”
As social and governmental views shift on LGBTQ issues in the Asia-Pacific region, the church risks increasing its irrelevance in this part of the world by ignoring the needs of the LGBTQ community. Pope Francis’ model of accompaniment and pastoral care, as well as the example of pro-LGBTQ Catholics in Germany and elsewhere illustrate the possibilities for a more positive way forward. Right now, local dioceses and then Asian church leaders at continental meetings should examine how to help all Catholics, including LGBTQ ones, flourish through a commitment to synodality.
—Angela Howard McParland (she/her) and Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, March 1, 2022