As Global Synod Progresses, LGBTQ+ Inclusion a Prominent Issue in National Reports

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

Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 featured the Irish bishops’ synthesis, noting that it was one of the strongest calls for LGBTQ+ inclusion. Today’s post highlights LGBTQ-related findings from other national syntheses (in alphabetical order, by nation).

Australia: The national report by the Australian bishops highlighted calls for a church that is welcoming and inclusive, including for “Indigenous Australians, migrants and refugees, women, those of different sexual orientations, and the poor and vulnerable.” The text continued:

“‘In some instances, the church was seen as placing barriers of exclusion by its teachings and the application of those teachings. . . [the need is to] welcome back to the eucharistic community those who had left the church, those who felt discriminated against and those who felt unwelcome because of seemingly restrictive church teachings. Instead of “talking at” those who no longer feel welcome, there was a desire for the church to be ‘walking with’ them, expressing inclusiveness through respectful listening and dialogue.'”

Belgium: The synthesis of the Bishops’ Conference of Belgium included a call for some form of formal recognition (“ritual and social”) to be developed “for cohabiting couples, for same-sex couples and for people divorced and remarried,” which would be “based on an interpretation of relationships and sexuality more conformable to the commandment of love.”

England and Wales: The National Synthesis Document prepared for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales references the marginalization of LGBTQ+ people as being “singled out or made unwelcome” and “subject to prejudice and hostility” in the church. The document said the “model of a welcoming Church” was “particularly compromised” because groups were excluded. Language of “intrinsically disordered” was identified as problematic, and a diocesan report was quoted as saying, “a widespread view was that people shouldn’t be punished because of who they are attracted to.”

European Forum: The Roman Catholic Working Group for the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, which includes 20 member groups from 12 countries, issued a report from its process. The report cited differences in how LGBTQ+ people were treated in their local contexts, ranging from diocesan invitations to explicit rejection. Similar calls for a reform of church teaching on gender and sexuality were included, as was a request for a global listening process focused on LGBTQ+ Catholics and allies.

Luxembourg: The Archdiocese of Luxembourg issued16-page report drawn from nearly 4,600 respondents which, among other calls for reform, seeks a change in church teaching on homosexuality carried out by the universal church. Notably, the archdiocese’s head, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, withdrew from the process because of his role as the upcoming synod’s relator general—though he has spoken previously in support of developing the church’s sexuality teachings.

New Zealand: The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference issued its report synthesizing the diocesan reports. The bishops’ report includes the follow text:

“It hurts to see family members and friends leaving the church because they feel they are unacceptable because of gender issues, being divorced and remarried, or in a same-sex relationship. Some participants, including young people, expressed deep personal hurt caused by their perception of being excluded because of their sexual identity or that of a friend or family member.

“‘The Maori concept of turangawaewae’ is ‘often translated as “a place to stand,” a sacred or special place where people can be themselves and are most connected. Participants want the church to be turangawaewae — home, a place of welcome — for them personally and for others.'”

Scotland: The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland released its 12-page synthesis based on diocesan reports, including a call from the Diocese of Motherwell to ensure in the church that “everyone has an equal place irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, or age.”

Spain: A network of 12 groups for LGBTQ+ Christians sent a collective submission, citing the fact that just one diocese sought formal involvement with an LGBTQ+ group, while many other dioceses ignored such participants. The report comments at one point, “We are told that we are in sin. Yet for that reason, who knows better than we what it is to persevere in the love of the Father.” The report, like others, calls for a reconsideration of church teaching, enhanced listening to LGBTQ+ people by church officials, an institutional apology, and inclusive access to the sacraments, among other concerns.

Switzerland: A report from the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, drawn in part from a Synodal Assembly last May, recognized that “the denial of equality for women and the experience of the exclusion of people with LGBTIAQ* identity and divorced people who have remarried are understood as an inner contradiction to faith and baptism.” Church teachings on gender and sexuality are “perceived as derogatory and exclusionary,” and there is a call for a re-evaluation of such teachings in “synodal dialogue with the experiences of the people and in reception of scientific and empirical research.”

United States: An analysis by the National Catholic Reporter showed LGBTQ+ issues surfaced in a number of diocesan reports. Interviewed for the article, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, offered the following reason why such results are not surprising:

“‘I think what church leaders have not recognized about LGBTQ issues is that they do affect almost everyone in the church beyond LGBTQ people because almost everyone has a family member or knows an LGBTQ person, either as a co-worker, a neighbor or friend, but often as a family member, and they see the terribly shabby way that they often get treated in church and church settings.'”

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 [email protected].

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 25, 2022

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