New Ways Ministry Praises New Synod Document That Includes LGBTQ+ People

The following is a statement from Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, regarding the working document for Synod’s October assembly, which was released today.

It is nothing short of an amazing and true blessing that LGBTQ+ people were mentioned twice in the Vatican’s working document for the assembly of the Synod in October, which was released today. The language and style of the document, called the Instrumentum Laboris, is highly generalized, mentioning very few specific topics, so getting not just one, but two mentions in the document signifies that LGBTQ+ issues are priorities that cannot be ignored as the Synod participants continue to reflect on building a church that, as the document says, welcomes all and respects diversity.

Simply using the term “LGBTQ+” is progress. In 2013, Pope Francis was the first pontiff to use the word “gay.” In 2018, the working document for the Synod on Youth, used the term “LGBT,” the first time that acronym occurred in a Vatican document. In this current document, the use of “LGBTQ+” indicates that the Vatican is not only respecting the terms that members of this community prefer, but is also being more inclusive of various gender and sexual identities.

For LGBTQ+ Catholics, who for decades have called on the church’s leaders to have a conversation, this synodal process has signaled the beginning of such a process. Today’s document emphasizes that the excluded “are bearers of Good News that the whole community needs to hear and that “whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God.” LGBTQ+ people are indeed bearers of Good News inviting the church to learn more about God.

The synod will certainly not resolve all the issues that LGBTQ+ Catholics have raised, but this document indicates they are taken seriously by church leaders. The document’s promise for respecting diversity, encounter, and dialogue ensures that LGBTQ+ Catholics will continue to be included in the synodal journey, with their concerns being taken seriously by church leaders. All of this paves the way for ongoing conversations in the future.

As we have seen throughout the synodal process, which began in October 2021, LGBTQ+ issues were one of the most mentioned and discussed topics not only in the U.S. and other Western nations, but around the world. Along with concerns about the role of women in the church, clericalism, and colonialism, LGBTQ+ issues were one of the few topics that had resonance in discussions worldwide.

As the Synod progressed from the local phase to the national phase to the continental phase, and now arrives at the global phase, we have also seen that the language of the documents at each of these phases has become increasingly and necessarily more general, moving away from specific topics to address themes that underlie the challenges and desires for developing the church’s community. Discussing the church’s relationship with LGBTQ+ people has survived each of these levels of generalization, however, and has appeared as an item in the successive reports, indicating that concern for this issue will be a major and critical topic of discussion at the October assembly.

The Catholic Church, however, need not wait until the synodal process is concluded to grow in its relationship with LGBTQ+ people. Today’s document insists the church “stand alongside the most marginalised in public debate, lending a voice to their cause and denouncing situations of injustice and discrimination whilst seeking to avoid complicity with those responsible for injustice.” LGBTQ+ people, particularly where they are criminalized and persecuted, need the church’s solidarity now—including an end to discrimination in the church. The document is clear: non-discrimination is already a Catholic value on which we can act.

Overall, the Instrumentum Laboris offers a promising outline for the next phase of the Synod. By identifying three critical areas—communion, mission, and participation—the Synod leaders have selected topics that desperately need to be addressed for the church to continue to become a more synodal institution, a promise that was made over 50 years ago at Vatican II.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 20, 2023

4 replies
  1. Barbara P. Cotter
    Barbara P. Cotter says:

    I am grateful to hear this news, know I am praying for continued forward progress of Inclusion of everyone from the synod.

  2. Carolyn
    Carolyn says:

    As long as the church keeps calling gay people ‘intrinsically disordered’, and transgender people a threat to civilization, nothing will ever change in the Catholic church regardless of the ‘image’ the hierarchy is trying to portray.

    • Jim
      Jim says:

      You’re so right, Carolyn, and don’t forget “grave depravity,” and the reference to our “condition” in paragraphs 2357 – 2359 of the Catechism, where it also says we are “called to chastity” — meaning, of course, not to have sex. Nothing will change until ALL of that wording is banished or transmuted into words of understanding and welcome.

  3. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    That is surprising good news.
    It occurred to me recently if using the clinical term gender dysphoria might help move the conversation away from how an individual looks or acts and focuses on a reality that has been identified by the World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health, including renowned institutions like Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, etc. In other words, people see people who look different and then an unreflective impulse might be fear, anger, visceral resistance and from that reaction people subconsciously form erroneous beliefs. I remember doing that as a child when I saw a person with Downs Syndrome. So I’m wondering if we focus on educating ourselves and using language that is medically documented maybe, just maybe, the focus will shift away from denouncing people to seeing gender dysphoria as a real medical reality. When I think of the angst of young people dealing with gender dysphoria which too often leads to familial rejections or suicide, I can’t help but wonder how we would respond if Down Syndrome adolescents were being rejected by family and committing suicide. My point is changing the conversation a bit. Maybe it already has and I just missed it.


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