Hundreds of Catholic Parents Write to French Bishops Asking for LGBTQ+ Dialogue

In France, an organization of Catholic parents with LGBTQ+ children has opened a dialogue with the French bishops conference (CEF), asking for greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ people.

In 2021, the parents sent a letter to every bishop in the nation, signed by over 500 people, calling for dialogue and pastoral welcome. Since then the parents’ organization, Reconnaissance, has had regular interaction with three theologians appointed by the bishops conference’s National Family and Society Service, and are awaiting a document which will draw about homosexuality which will draw on the human sciences and the experiences of queer people.

La Croix International reported:

“‘We see a willingness on the part of the CEF to move forward on this issue,’ said Florence, one of Reconnaissance’s founding members. ‘As parents involved in the Church, we are a bridge to the institution,’ explained Nathalie de Williencourt, another founding member. ‘In concrete terms, the Church is often in rejection: there is still a fear of gay people, certainly linked to a lack of knowledge,’ she said.

“‘The Church says it welcomes homosexuals, but on condition that they don’t talk about it and don’t have romantic relationships,’ indeed Florence. ‘Is that a true welcome?’ she asked. ‘What the Church has to welcome is their homosexuality,’ insisted Nathalie de Williencourt. Hence the need for ‘open speech’ and ‘visibility.’”

Recently, approximately 200 people gathered in a suburb of Paris for Reconnaissance’s third colloquium. French journalist and author Philippe Clanché has pointed out that there is a progression of acceptance regarding homosexuality in the church within the past ten years. He accredited this progression to Pope Francis. Despite the progression of acceptance, the issue now lies in the current-day interpretation of doctrine. Clanché wondered about the best way to “manage the gap between a pastoral ministry that is opening up more and more and a doctrine that is not moving.”

Some of the parents who make up Reconnaissance acknowledge that accepting their children’s LGBTQ+ identities has been a struggle for them, and for that they thought they were “the worst parents in the world.” Coming to accept the reality that their children are a part of the LGBTQ+ community has been a work in progress for these parents.

The parents formed a discussion group in 2014 with therapist Yolande du Fayet de la Tour. She recognized that there was a recurring theme of parents struggling between their relation with the church and accepting their children for their authentic selves. These parents felt as if they could not balance their membership with their church and their concern for public scrutiny led them to take the “shame of their children.”

Recognizing that love for their children clashed with their religious beliefs, the parents “recognized the need to reconstruct the conversation on homosexuality,” the therapist said.

One couple who spoke to La Croix International under conditions of anonymity recounted their personal story:

“When 68-year-old Irene and 72-year-old François (not their real names) learned that their son was gay, they understood that ‘he had suffered a lot’.

“‘He was afraid that we would reject him because of our social background and our membership in the Church,’ Irene recalled. The couple’s participation in the protests against same-sex marriage in 2013, paradoxically, was the thing that opened their eyes. ‘We understood that homosexuality was not chosen,’ they said.

“Since then, they have learned to talk about it. ‘We are aware that if it had not happened to us, we would be a little homophobic: we had misconceptions, caricatures in our minds,’ they said.

“The couple has since heard shocking speeches in the Church, and would like it to change its teaching. ‘But it is also in the Church that we were able to find support in this discussion group,’ Irene pointed out.”

In the U.S. and around the globe, Catholic parents of LGBTQ+ people are among the strongest advocates for pastoral care, justice, and equality. Their voices have helped to move church leaders toward more positive statements and toward establishing programs of welcome. They are truly the prophets in the church, calling it to live up to its best ideals of compassion and human dignity.

Blessed Parents: Experiences of Catholic Parents with Lesbian and Gay Children is a short book available through the New Ways Ministry website. If you would like to learn more about the book or order your copy now, please click here.

Anushah Sajwani (she/her) and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, January 23, 2023

1 reply
  1. Judith R Schiavo
    Judith R Schiavo says:

    Thank you for posting the physical, psychological and spiritual truths about the LGBTQ Community. The more people hear what is true in nature and in spirituality, the more they will understand.–Judith

    Reply

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