LGBTQ+ advocates’ reactions to the Vatican’s latest working document for the Synod on Synodality have been largely positive and hopeful. Today’s post includes some of those reactions, as well as insightful remarks from one LGBTQ-positive cardinal. (For New Ways Ministry’s statement, click here.)
LGBT+ Catholics Westminster, a community linked to the Diocese of Westminster (London), welcomed the working document, know as an Instrumentum Laboris (IL). Ruby Almeida, the group’s chair, called it a “document like no other” that puts “before the whole Church many more questions that pre-set answers.” LGBT+ Catholics Westminster’s statement added:
“We are pleased that LGBT+ Catholics’ concerns have been noted in two explicit references in the document’s five Work-sheets, as well as implicit connections made in many other sections. . .We note that in other Sections [foreword, n. 4] repentance is sought, not only for the global catastrophe of sexual abuse, but also the ‘abuse of conscience’ – this is a wound which many LGBT+ Catholics, parents and families, among others, have endured.”
The group also expressed disappointment that “the European Continental Synodal Assembly’s rich call for ‘radical inclusion'” did not make it into the latest IL. LGBT+ Catholics Westminster also noted that the IL’s call for the church to be in solidarity with marginalized people “has special relevance given the oppressive legislation now enacted in Uganda, even seemingly supported by its Catholic Bishops.”
Theologian Ish Ruiz told the National Catholic Reporter that he “rejoiced” at the IL because it mentioned LGBTQ+ people. NCR continued:
“Ruiz, who is a gay Latinx theologian, urged synod participants to not just think about questions of care for and evangelization of LGBTQ+ people, but to ask ‘What gifts do LGBTQ+ Catholics bring to the church?’ and ‘What can we learn from the grace-filled witness of LGBTQ+ Catholics?’
“‘Ruiz added that the working document “continues on a path of decentralization, which is so emblematic of Pope Francis’ papacy and the teachings of Vatican II, and lives into the call to reach out toward those marginalized, including LGBTQ+ persons — bringing them into active participation in the life of the church.'”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, commented on the signifcance of the IL‘s new format which “seems to be inviting synod participants to engage deeply with the material and with one another.” NCR’s report added:
“Duddy-Burke agreed with Ruiz. While she said that it was positive that ‘the synod process is not shying away from the complexities of human relationships,’ she wrote that ‘achieving welcome is a low baseline.’
“‘The aspiration is for full equality and communion for our community, not just not being judged harshly,’ Duddy-Burke, a married lesbian mother of two, said.”
In addition to his initial statement, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, told NCR in an interview: “‘[The topic of LGBTQ+ Catholics] is no longer an issue on the margins. It’s right at the heart of what it means to be a church.” DeBernardo also commented on the document’s use of the term “LGBTQ+” is significant, since the use of simply “LGBT” became controversial during the Youth Synod of 2018. He observed that “”The fact that [this terminology] has now emerged again and in a more expansive, inclusive form tells me that the leaders of the synod are very concerned about being respectful to a group that had been excluded and often talked about using demeaning terms for many, many years.'”
Several church reform groups who are LGBTQ+ supportive also welcomed the IL. Kate McElwee, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, which is a Cathollic feminist group that also supports transgender- and nonbinary issues, said the IL is overall positive, but that the absence of a discussion of priestly ordination for women was a deficiency.
Fr. Steve Newton, executive director of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, tied the IL’s themes of inclusion to the association’s recent assembly. Newton commented to NCR:
“We must be open to our identity changing every time we open the tent and make the table larger. Life is a process of change, and whenever we resist organic change, we are thwarting rather than building the kingdom.”
Russ Petrus, co-director of FutureChurch, called the IL’s question-heavy format “perhaps the most unique and inspired aspect of this working document is the format itself, adding in a statement that “when the People of God are at the table, their Spirited calls for reform ring loud and clear.”
On a lighter note, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, who is the Synod’s Relator General, offered a simpler lens for understanding the IL in a press conference:
“The text is like a cooking book. The chef cooks receive that book together with some ingredients: their mission is to put the different ingredients together in order to please the different palates? An impossible task, you might think… if in the background the Holy Spirit is not guiding to find a new food harmony.”
In another interview, Hollerich also signaled that this synodal process is creating space for Catholics of diverse viewpoints. So often, LGBTQ-positive faithful have been denied full participation in the life of the church. Now, the cardinal explained to Vatican News:
“I think that the Church needs to respect differences. In a world church, it is nearly impossible to have exactly the same opinion. You have to share the same faith in Jesus Christ. We have to live and testify to Jesus Christ. We have to keep up the teaching of the Church and we have to live the Gospel. But that will be done with different colors and different tastes, and that’s fine for me. If we find the unity, if we walk under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, together with Christ, the Church does not need to be afraid.”
For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of the Synod on Synodality as it has progressed since beginning in 2021, click here.
You can find all of New Ways Ministry’s Synod resources, including recordings of the address by Sr. Nathalie Becquart, the undersecretary of the Vatican’s synod office, to LGBTQ+ Catholics and allies by clicking here. Other webinars on synod topics can also be found through the previous link.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, June 23, 2023
Religion News Service, “Vatican confirm synod topics will address questions of LGBTQ+ and women deacons”