What the Synod on Synodality’s Continental Reports Say about LGBTQ+ Issues: Part II

Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 offered excerpts from four reports issued by regional assemblies during the Continental Stage of the Synod on Synodality. Today’s post provides information about how the  remaining four regional reports did or did not deal with LGBTQ+ issues.  The post concludes with a brief commentary. To read yesterday’s post, click here. The full reports are available at the Synod’s website here.

North America’s Continental Report

Greater Inclusivity: 26. In the Continental Assembly, as in our national reports, there was a deep desire for greater inclusivity and welcome within the Church. In fact, one of the major factors that was seen as breaking down communion was the experience of many that certain people or groups feel unwelcome in the Church. The groups named during the Continental Stage included women, young people, immigrants, racial or linguistic minorities, LGBTQ+ persons, people who are divorced and remarried without an annulment, and those with varying degrees of physical or mental abilities. While the reasons for experiencing the Church as inhospitable may vary, what is common is the Church’s need to authentically honor the baptismal dignity of everyone. As one participant explained, “we think we are welcoming, but we know that there are people who feel ‘outside’ the Church” (Session III Group 12). Another suggested that this is because “we get caught up in the minutiae of evaluating the worth of people on the margins” (Session VIII Group 14). “There is a need to differentiate between the importance of teaching and the need to welcome those into the Church, especially as it relates to our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters” (Session II Group 4).

Oceania’s Continental Report

Common Themes, Issues, Insights: 45. In parts of Oceania there is a very visible gap between the poor and the rich, between ethnic groups, between migrants and those who consider the country to be theirs, and between people from different islands in the same country or diocese. These societal issues are experienced within the Church: “The gap between the poor and the rich is visible and emphasised even more by priests who offer special treatment to the rich and well-dressed. Different races compete for dominance in parishes, making it almost impossible for racial minorities to participate. Discrimination because of gender seems to be a lingering struggle within the Church, particularly towards the LGBTQIA+ community” (Pacific). There are concerns in the responses about “gatekeepers” in the Church who are perceived to exclude, either overtly or in more subtle ways, those they deem unacceptable.

Common Themes, Issues, Insights: 54. The PNG/SI [Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands] response noted that while there were calls in other parts of the world for greater recognition of same-sex relationships, “Same-sex marriage (DCS, 39) is disturbing the Catholics and those who consider it a sin. LGBTQ is not accepted by the tradition and the society of PNG” (PNG/SI, 3.2).

Common Themes, Issues, Insights: 61. Lack of inclusion of people with diverse experiences of sexuality and gender appeared to affect community life even in small island nations: “The LGBTQ community resonates very strongly in the Mariana islands, a reality that was not evident in the past” (Pacific).

A Note on Africa’s Continental Report

The report from Africa and Madagascar included no specific mention of LGBTQ+ issues, though there were repeated references to the importance of family and discerning how to approach diverse family structures, such as polygamous marriages, single parents, and people who are divorced and remarried. Similar to other reports, there was a desire for greater inclusion, though more guarded in the approach to it than other reports.

A Note on the Digital Synod’s Report

This assembly brought together people active in doing digital outreach during the local phase to discuss what they had experienced and heard. There was a notable, repeated theme about needing to be inclusive and also acknowledge how severe discrimination can be, including when the church encourages it. There was an attentiveness not only to current Catholics, but those who left the church or felt left behind. At one point, the report reads:

“[There] are those who say they want to belong but are often not taken into account by the ecclesial institution because they are divorced in a second union, because of their sexual orientation, because of their position on the value of human life…, in short, because they ‘feel they do not fit’ in an institution that asks them for a way of life to which they are not willing. So a double movement is provoked: they exclude themselves and are excluded.”


As mentioned in yesterday’s post, the range of topics covered in these Continental Stage reports is quite broad from the role of women in the church—a central theme—to indigenous rights, clericalism, youth outreach, interfaith dialogue, liturgy debates, climate change, and so much more. It would be impossible in a paragraph or two to really analyze all that these reports, and the millions of people and thousands of listening sessions from which they emerge, contain. For now, I offer two comments.

First, it is significant that in six of eight reports, LGBTQ+ people are named explicitly as a community that has been marginalized, including by the institutional church. This visibility of queer and trans Catholics is unprecedented in church documents. These reports are also evidence that LGBTQ+ issues are not some Western phenomenon, as is sometimes claimed by opponents, but impact Catholics everywhere. The inclusion of people with diverse gender and sexual identities is—and therefore must be—a topic taken up by the church universal in a substantive way.

Second, the reports also confirm that while the church’s discernment on LGBTQ+ issues is a global issue, there needs to be an allowance for inclusion to be practiced in local and context-specific ways. Issues of gender and sexuality appear differently in different places, and a unique focus will be needed to realize what inclusion can mean in a given area. Catholics in Germany should be able to explore blessing same-gender couples, while Catholics in nations that criminalize homosexuality should be empowered to challenge unjust laws. This path very much follows the unity in diversity approach so fundamental to the Catholic tradition.

The next stage of the synodal process will be two assemblies of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, one in October 2023 and one in October 2024. Notably, these assemblies now will include lay people, including women, who are able to vote alongside the bishops. Sometime in early June, the Synod office will release a working document for this October’s assembly. Hopefully, the faithful’s urgent, repeated, and forceful call for LGBTQ+ inclusion manifest in the synodal process so far will be included—and from there taken up by the assembly as the movement of the Holy Spirit which so many of us know it to be.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, May 16, 2023

2 replies
  1. Joe Jurovcik
    Joe Jurovcik says:

    Does this mean there is no hope of the Church tackling their official teachings flaws, ie, “intrinsically disordered” until the Synodal process is completed?
    Joe Jurovcik

  2. Donna Butler
    Donna Butler says:

    Thank you for this report. Efforts to respect the human dignity of all persons is essential to Gospel living. I am grateful for all the people who responded regarding people who are excluded. The church has to make an authentic effort to heal all the hurt it has caused and to become truly inclusive.


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