New Ways Ministry: Synod Report Greatly Disappoints, But We Must Have Hope

The following is a statement from Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, following the release of the Synod on Synodality General Assembly’s final report.

In the Synod on Synodality’s first two years, Catholics worldwide expressed a strong desire for the church to engage positively with LGBTQ+ people. Today, the final report of the Synod’s first General Assembly disappoints by simply reaffirming the hierarchy’s status quo.

With no positive statement on LGBTQ+ issues in the document, and with only two references which simply state what was known when the Synod began, Catholics globally will be greatly disappointed. After two years of calling on the church to have a more positive approach to LGBTQ+ people, repeated over and over around the globe and in every phase of the Synod consultations, it is clear that Catholics want a more inclusive church.

Stating LGBTQ+ issues are controversial in the church does not raise new questions, as the report suggests, for this fact was known well before the Synod even began. Church leaders have had decades to learn about scientific and theological developments about gender and sexuality. Likewise, acknowledging people excluded by the church because of identity or sexuality seek to be heard is well-known. The questions the report claims are now are not, in fact, new.

The only acknowledgment that the church needs to grow is a single sentence which admits that current Catholic anthropological categories do not sufficiently respond to new information which is being discovered from experience or scientific knowledge. Yet the vagueness with which this acknowledgement is described does not provide sufficient confidence that change can be envisioned.

While LGBTQ+ Catholics and their supporters will be disappointed, we pray that they will not also become discouraged. When New Ways Ministry’s co-founder and staff met with Pope Francis this month during the Synod assembly, he counseled us never to give up hope, quoting St. Paul: “Hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5).

The Catholic LGBTQ+ community must take Pope Francis’ message to heart. The report’s shortcomings are an invitation to speak anew about their joys, their sorrows, and their faith during the remaining year of this synodal journey. Now is not a time to despair. Now is a time to continue living in hope, and to make that hope come alive through action.

It is progress that LGBTQ+ issues were openly discussed, further dissolving decades of silence–or worse, only negative and harmful messages– from high-ranking church leaders. Catholics who desire a renewed approach to gender and sexuality in the church will continue to pray, dialogue, and hope in the Synod’s final year and beyond.

One encouraging message from this first General Assembly of the Synod is the reportedly sizable number of delegates who supported a more positive approach to LGBTQ+ issues. The Roman rumor mill made clear that some participants strongly urged changes in Catholic practice, language, and teaching related to LGBTQ+ people. One delegate spoke powerfully about a bisexual loved one who died by suicide after facing rejection by the church. This final report does not recognize these participants’ contributions.

Nothing in Catholicism changes overnight, but change never comes to any institution if there is not free, open discussion. For decades, Catholic theologians, pastoral ministers, and advocates who spoke out in support of LGBTQ+ people were silenced and dismissed. With this meeting, the universal church has begun an institutional LGBTQ+ dialogue, ending decades of obstinate suppression of the issues of sexual and gender identity which are so essential to human flourishing, and so important for the Catholic Church to live up to its best ideals of being an enlarged tent where all are welcome, all are respected, and all are treated equally.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 28, 2023

12 replies
  1. JP
    JP says:

    Meanwhile, they found space to include a paragraph on the accompaniment of people in polygamous unions 😳 I guess those are one man + multiple wives, hence straight, so that helps. By including such a paragraph but no mention of LGBTQ+, this synod report just delivered the best proof of blatant homophobia in this Church.

  2. Loretta Fitzgerald
    Loretta Fitzgerald says:

    Ignoring or intentionally forgetting a participant’s witness of a bisexual person’s suicide because of rejection by the Church saddens me deeply. As you say, we live in hope because I know God wins.

  3. Sister Rebecca White
    Sister Rebecca White says:

    I appreciate your candid assessment of the report and am very grateful for your reminder to keep hope alive and work toward bringing about a church that welcomes us. Thank you.

  4. Mary Dodson Brown
    Mary Dodson Brown says:

    Thank you for the report. It is realistic to think that the inclusion of LGBTQI in the Catholic church will face resistance. I believe many of the clerical participants were indeed threatened by the Synod. They are not accustomed to being in a position of listening to their laity, when histically they have had the final say in all things Catholic. That is a great deal of power to expect them to share. Still I agree that during the Synod, a conversation has been started. We must continue to speak out, to keep hoping for change. I believe Jesus calls us to do so. It is right and just!

  5. Joan and Jim Riley
    Joan and Jim Riley says:

    Too disappointing. All we can point to is the epigraph in Italian in the novel “All the King’s Men”, by Robert Penn Warren–” Mentre che la speranza ha fior del verde”. The verse, which comes from Canto III of Dante’s Purgatorio, means “So long as hope retaineth a thread of green”. But we wonder how many can wait for that green thread to sprout–for much needed change. JRJR

  6. Joe Connell
    Joe Connell says:

    Adding my voice to the outrage of millions of LGBTQ+ others skirmishing to remain hopeful, I am beyond feelings of mere disappointment.

  7. Tim MacGeorge
    Tim MacGeorge says:

    Thank you for this quick commentary on the Synod’s final document (at least for this phase). Yes, this is truly disappointing that LGBTQ+ issues and concerns are not more fully addressed. It is good, however, that it seems that these matters were raised from many quarters during the Synod processes thus far. That said, the absence of any significant references in this most recent document raises the question of to what extent these concerns were heard.

    We are told that the Synod is, at heart, a process of listening. Did those who do not share these concerns about including LGBTQ+ persons more openly and fully in the Church listen to and actually hear these concerns? Did such concerns fall on deaf ears, of were they heard and rejected? If rejected, then on what basis?

    As the Synod members return to their homes throughout the world, hopefully we will learn more in the days and weeks ahead about how and why such an obviously important issued shared across the globe seems to have been put on the back burner, if not shelved entirely.

  8. Bernadette M-T
    Bernadette M-T says:

    Very disappointed at the apparent lack of importance given to LGBTQ + concerns. I had hoped to have something to show my sons that they were finally being seen and heard by our church. Unfortunately this will not do it. I will keep on praying and hoping that the work of New Ways Ministry and others of good will throughout the world will come to fruition through the power of the Holy Spirit.

  9. Mary Dodson Brown
    Mary Dodson Brown says:

    As a fellow pride mom, I am with you. Even though my daughter says she is atheist, I still want her to have a welcoming church if one day she wants to return!!! We baptized them and raised them in the church and the doors should be open for them!


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