Irish Synod Report: LGBTQ+ Inclusion Is “The Call of the Holy Spirit”

Members of the Irish synod steering committee when releasing the national synthesis at the shrine of Knock

On August 26, 2022, the Vatican’s General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops will hold a press conference about how the next stage of the Synod on Synodality will proceed. This transitionends the local listening period, the results of which have been reported by national bishops conferences.

Today, Bondings 2.0 features the Irish bishops’ synthesis, which contained one of the strongest calls for LGBTQ+ inclusion from any bishops group. Tomorrow’s post will highlight other LGBTQ-related findings from global syntheses.

In Ireland, the report on synodal events and outreach included a specific section on LGBTQ+ issues, one of 15 themes. Another theme focused on sexuality and relationships generally. The report bluntly stayted that for many participants, “the Church has no credibility in modern society as long as discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexuality exists.” The report recognized:

“There was a clear, overwhelming call for the full inclusion of LGBTQI+ people in the Church, expressed by all ages and particularly by the young and by members of the LGBTQI+ community themselves.”

The report identified three particular aspects of what inclusion would mean: the use of more compassionate language, a development of church teaching, and an apology. Of the first of these issues, the report stated:

“This inclusion would in the first instance involve less judgemental language in Church teaching, following the compassionate approach of Pope Francis which has been transformative and is appreciated, again, by young people in particular.”

Changes in church teaching related to sexuality and gender were included in two sections. According to the report:

“Some called for a change in Church teaching, asking if the Church is sufficiently mindful of developments with regard to human sexuality and the lived reality of LGBTQI+ couples. Others expressed a concern that a change in the Church’s teaching would be simply conforming to secular standards and contemporary culture. Likewise, it was urged that we not treat the LGBTQI+ community in isolation from other marginalised groups. . .

“There were requests for re-examinations of Church teaching and a revision of its understanding of human sexuality in light of recent scientific and sociological research, alongside a recognition of the lived realities of LGBTQI+ and other couples.”

Finally, the specific request from an LGBTQ+ group for an apology by the church was highlighted in this national synthesis, which explains:

“This submission suggested that even though the Church rarely condemns gay people these days, it indirectly creates an atmosphere where physical, psychological and emotional abuse of gay people is tolerated and even encouraged. Indeed, the visceral clarity of this particular focus group gave life to the rather more tentative and generalised positions on inclusion offered elsewhere, pointing to the value of hearing directly the voices of the excluded or disaffected.”

Perhaps most notably, not only did the Irish synthesis include the voices for LGBTQ+ inclusion that were heard during the listening process, but movement towards such inclusion was included as one of the main steps to be taken as “the call of the Holy Spirit.” The synthesis concludes:

“In answer to this we point to the fact that across the various submissions and syntheses many issues emerge consistently, including a strong desire for women’s involvement in leadership and ministries – ordained and non-ordained – and additionally, a concern around the Church’s approach to the LGBTQI+ community and to the hurt experienced by its members. . .

“Simultaneously, the Church in Ireland can explore ways in which the call of the Holy Spirit, as articulated in the Diocesan Phase, can be advanced. Co-responsible leadership needs to be embedded at every level through Parish Pastoral Councils, Diocesan Pastoral Councils and other structures that enable this. At local level we need to ensure the voice of women will be truly integral in our decision-making. We must secure effective participation by the poor and excluded, and other marginalised groups. The recommendations of the document Christus Vivit need to be attended to.[14] Pastoral care of members of the LGBTQI+ community can be enriched.”

Among the national synod reports now being publicized (about which Bondings 2.0 will report tomorrow), Ireland’s synthesis is perhaps the strongest in its unabashed call for the church to end the ecclesial discrimination LGBTQ+ people face. The synthesis is clear that being inclusive means not only pastoral outreach, but real theological reform accompanied by an institutional acknowledgement of the harm being done.

But this synthesis, and its strength on issues of gender and sexuality, do not emerge from a vacuum. Rather, LGBTQ+ advocates in Ireland have been working for years to move the church and the historically-Catholic nation forward. This synthesis is a testament to their efforts, and proof that when Catholics take up their duty to be co-responsible for the church, real change can arise.

Do you know of other synod reports that mention LGBTQ+ issues in them? Send us an email (and copy of the report if you have it) to info@newwaysministry.org.

To read New Ways Ministry’s synod report, “From the Margins to the Center,” specifically on the experiences of LGBTQ+ Catholics and allies, click here.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, August 24, 2022

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