During the Synod assembly this month, much of the focus is on what is happening in the hall where participants meet or what is said during the daily press briefings. There have been, however, a number of external happenings in Rome, too. Today’s post covers some of the LGBTQ-related events.
Whoopi Goldberg Meets the Pope
In a wild card, Whoopi Goldberg met Pope Francis last week. According to the National Catholic Reporter, U.S. comedian and actor known for the movie Sister Act, brought up LGBTQ+ issues:
“Goldberg shared details of the meeting on [television show] ‘The View,’ saying, ‘He was quite amazing. He is exactly what I hoped he would be, which is a pope for all people regardless of religion, which I really appreciated.’
“‘I wanted to thank him for all of my gay friends and for all of my divorced friends because he basically has said, “Listen, God loves you no matter what, come back to the church.” I appreciated that,’ she said.
“Goldberg told Vatican News Oct. 12 that she believes inclusion is the path to healing and that exclusion, rejection and marginalization fuel hatred.
“Saying ‘no, not you’… that’s what fuels hate in the world; the real answer is ‘Yes, them! And you, and you, and you…,'” she said.”
Reform Advocates Gather for Lay-Led Synod
A conference titled “Human Rights in the Emerging Catholic Church” was held in Rome over two days in mid-October. Coordinated by the reform network Spirit Unbounded and pitched as a lay-led synod, about 100 Catholics gathered for presentations on numerous issues of justice in the Catholic Church. In addition, a group in Bristol, England joined online.
The conference program included a panel on LGBTQ+ faithful featuring Miroslav Miroslav Maťavka, member of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, Mark Guevarra, a gay theologian and Bondings 2.0 contributor, Miki Herrlein, a leader in Germany’s #OutInChurch campaign, Mara Klein, a member of Germany’s Synodal Way, and Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA. Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, moderated. The panelists shared their perspectives on where the church is at when it comes to LGBTQ+ people, and what the relevance of the Synod on Synodality is for equality advocates.
Klein, who is nonbinary, explained that during the Synodal Way several delegates came out as transgender, nonbinary, or intersex. “No one had anticipated” addressing gender identity, yet the testimonies of LGBTQ+ people compelled bishops to act. Klein also appealed for solidarity between LGBTQ+ advocates and those seeking gender equity, saying, “queer rights and women’s rights are interconnected,” adding, “A church of the future must be a church that defends plurality and the human rights of others.”
Guevarra spoke on the hope that he and others have for the synodal process. He focused on the need for reconciliation though, given how the church has harmed many people: “My first hope is for an official apology.” Then, Guevarra said, the church needed to lament the pain, and ultimately reform teachings and policies that wound. Marginalized voices must, he explained, “not be simply consultative, but binding.”
Mary McAleese, the former president of Ireland and a forceful advocate for equality in the church, gave a keynote address, along with Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister. McAleese spoke on a discipleship of equals, framing her remarks around international human rights commitments. At one point, she stated:
“In our time we have heard the insistent voice of Pope Francis strong in defence of social justice. . .Such sentiments and insights are unfortunately absent from the internal Church sphere where members encounter the full blast of the double-standards of the Church’s magisterium. It is time to turn the human rights spotlight inwards to magisterial teaching, to canon law, to governance structures, to decision making bodies, to discern and to ditch what is problematic and to do so in a thoroughgoing dialogue with the faithful.”
“Equality for All” Vigil at Vatican Includes Unfurling Nonbinary Flag
Members of We Are Church International, a network of church reform groups, held an “Equality for All” vigil in St. Peter’s Square. About 30 people from 13 countries participated in the October 12th vigil, some of whom were detained by police towards the end. As part of the vigil, two young people from Germany, Mara Klein and Miki Herrlein, unveiled a nonbinary flag in front of the basilica.
We Are Church later released a statement saying Pope Francis’ efforts at reform have “already changed our Church.” The group cited specifically the inclusion of lay delegates at the Synod assembly, adding the coming year is a time to “foster the reform spirit that has become visible inside and outside the Synod hall.”
Ordination Advocates Include Trans and Nonbinary Vocations at Protest
The Women’s Ordination Conference and its international partners held several events at the Synod assembly’s outset to advocate for people of all genders to be ordained. The events included a woman-led prayer service at the Basilica of Saint Praxedes and the unfurling of their symbolic tent near the Vatican, which read “Ordain Women.” The groups call for priestly ordination to be opened to not only cisgender women, but nonbinary and transgender people, too. (For theologian Barb Kozee’s reflection on Bondings 2.0 about the interconnectedness of these causes at the Synod, click here).
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, October 24, 2023