A Massachusetts bishop and Catholic LGBTQ+ advocates have co-authored a call for their diocesan church to be more inclusive, inviting the faithful to become involved.
Bishop William Byrne of Springfield, Massachusetts, and Catholics for Inclusion, a local group, wrote an op-ed in the Daily Hampshire Gazette about how the Synod on Synodality prompted them to advance efforts for LGBTQ+ inclusion based on what Catholics said during that process. Already, since about 2018, Catholics for Inclusion had been meeting, at times joined by the bishop. The op-ed continues:
“Drawing from these conversations, during a September audience with Pope Francis, Bishop Byrne asked the pontiff how we should confront this challenge. Without missing a beat, Pope Francis said with deliberative repetition that, ‘everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone should be welcomed. We are all brothers and sisters seeking the Lord.'”
“In that spirit, the bishop and members of CFI have met to discuss how the Catholic churches in our area can become genuinely welcoming to all people. We believe this includes joining together to create an open and loving community that is more welcoming to LGBTQ+ people. Discernment, education, and above all prayer are required to help us all arrive at a place where we are a community that is worthy of the trust of those who have been treated as outsiders in their own faith.
“To this end, the bishop strongly encourages all parishes and schools to welcome everyone into your community, particularly those who feel excluded from the church, including the LGBTQ+ faithful. Let’s work together to share and learn from each other as fellow disciples of the Lord.”
The op-ed concludes by affirming the need “to try to walk with and approach one another with compassion, rather than discrimination or harsh judgments,” as Jesus did.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, commented on the collaborative op-ed released this week:
“The joint statement from Bishop Byrne and Catholics for Inclusion testifies powerfully to how church leaders and lay people can make our Church a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people by collaborating. Their statement is a true example of how a synodal church can expand its horizons and seek to right past wrongs and exclusions.
“How to welcome LGBTQ+ people arose persistently in synodal discussions worldwide, and Pope Francis’ message to welcome ‘everyone, everyone, everyone’ has been pervasive. No excuse exists why every diocese can’t do what the people and leaders of Springfield have done.
“Catholics for Inclusion’s work preceded the synodal discussions. The steadfast and dialogical efforts of this group deserves the highest praise. Such work by the laity has occurred in parishes and dioceses for decades now, sometimes successful and sometimes not. Now is a time to praise the efforts of all the laity who have been persistently and gently who have called on their leaders to welcome LGBTQ+ people into church, not as a special exception, but as an obligation of our call to be Catholic.”
Bishop Byrne’s collaboration with Catholics for Inclusion is notable given just three years ago his predecessor, now-Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski, prohibited a gay singing group from performing at a parish event.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 7, 2023
Looking to start or develop LGBTQ+ministry at your parish? Consider hosting New Ways Ministry’s “Next Steps” discernment workshop or order a copy of New Ways and Next Steps: Developing Parish LGBTQ+ Ministry, information about which is available here.
New Ways Ministry maintains a list of LGBTQ-friendly Catholic parishes and faith communities. If you are seeking a welcoming church, the list can be found here. If you know of a parish or faith community that should be included on the list, click here to let us know.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, December 7, 2023