Only the Foreigner Returned: LGBTQ+ Catholics on the Synodal Path

Today’s post is from Bondings 2.0’s managing editor Robert Shine, whose brief bio can be found here.

Today’s liturgical readings for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time can be found here.

Only the foreigner returned.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is depicted healing ten lepers, people shunned by society whose maladies were understood to be the consequences of sin. Yet, Jesus draws near to the lepers, heals them, and in other stories even touches them. More remarkable, here Jesus heals a Samaritan leper among the ten, a person doubly ‘othered’ by Jesus’ community.

Healed by Jesus, the lepers depart, ostensibly to go “show yourselves to the priests” as he instructed. But the Samaritan, the foreigner, the outcast among outcasts—this person returns to glorify God and give thanks for the healing. And it is this demonstration of faith by which Jesus says the now-healed leper is saved.

In October 2021, Pope Francis launched the Synod on Synodality, a two-year journey the Pilgrim People have undertaken to learn or, more accurately, re-learn how to be a faith community in discernment, taking collaborative responsibility for the church. The synod process will culminate in October 2023 with a meeting in Rome. At our halfway point, today’s readings are fitting for reflection.

Last spring, some 1,000 LGBTQ+ Catholics and allies participated in New Ways Ministry’s  Spiritual Conversations for the Synod, where people shared their experiences and faith. The fruits of these conversations resulted in New Ways Ministry’s synod report, “From the Margins to the Center,” which was submitted to many church leaders.  (For all of New Ways Ministry’s synod resources, see the end of this post.)

LGBTQ+ issues have also appeared in diocesan and national synod reports worldwide. In sometimes stark terms, the People of God have made clear that LGBTQ+ issues must be addressed urgently.

As I read the line from today’s Gospel, “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” I think of the past year’s journey.

Being LGBTQ+ in the church today still can mean being treated as a leper, an outcast, a foreigner. We carry the wounds of discrimination and exclusion that others inflict on us. But we know, too, the ways Jesus draws near to us and invites us to healing and to faith.

Jesus offers healing to all who are wounded, namely every person. But fewer return to give thanks. This synodal process has exposed me in a new way to just how often LGBTQ+ Catholics are the foreigners who returned. In our synod report, themes of joy, hope, gratitude—and that faith which saves–were more powerful than the wounds. Perhaps we glorify God and give thanks so fervently because, like other marginalized peoples, we know just how deeply Jesus’ healing is.

The synod’s second year now begins with a path that is less than clear. Journeying together may become more difficult as we move from listening widely to synthesizing and, eventually, implementing. Wherever this journey takes us, we, as LGBTQ+ Catholics and allies, must remember to be like the foreigner by always returning to Jesus to glorify God and give thanks.

I hope this synodal journey also brings us closer to a church where we are not foreigners—because no more are there any foreigners, lepers, or outcasts (Eph 2:19). I dream of a church, to quote Pope Francis recently, “that excludes no one.” Until then, I glorify God and give thanks for every effort so many of you take to realize that dream a little bit more.

–Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, October 9, 2022

Upcoming Program: Continuing the LGBTQ+ Synod Conversations

Earlier this year, New Ways Ministry held a series of LGBTQ+ Spiritual Conversations that helped shape its report for the Synod. Many participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share their stories with one another and foster solidarity, and requested further conversation opportunities. This fall, New Ways Ministry is holding two virtual sessions for prayer and small group discussion about how LGBTQ+ people and allies’ to further share their experiences and faith.To register or learn more, click here.

Other Synod Resources

Webinar: A Rainbow Synod: Global LGBTQ+ Perspectives on Synodality So Far

This webinar featured a panel of global advocates to converse about their experiences of this synodal process so far. The 75-minute webinar is a tool to pause, reflect, and consider next steps. Participants explored questions like: Which insights were most pronounced? What lessons have been learned? How do we proceed from here? A recording is available by clicking here.

Webinar: Synodality as a Path to Reconciliation with Sister Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ

This webinar by the undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican considered how synodality can be put into practice as the Catholic Church becomes a listening and inclusive church. A recording of the 75-minute presentation and discussion can be viewed by clicking here.

Webinar: LGBTQ Catholics & Synodality with Dr. Robert Choiniere

This webinar explored how all Catholics, especially LGBTQ people and allies, can help make sure that every voice is heard and recorded. A recording of the 75-minute presentation and discussion can be viewed by clicking here.

Webinar: Celebrating Synodality: Synods as a Spiritual Practice with Dr. Brian Flanagan

This webinar examined the spiritual foundations of synodality, as well as how all Catholics, especially LGBTQ Catholics and their supporters, can prepare for and prayerfully engage in the synod. A recording of the 75-minute presentation and discussion can be viewed by clicking here.

For all of New Ways Ministry’s synod resources, click here.

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