What Participants for the 2023 Synod Have Said About LGBTQ+ Topics

Updated as of September 19, 2023

If you know of further updates to a participant listed below or of another participant who should be added, please email [email protected] with that information.

This July, the Vatican announced the list of participants for the next assembly of the Synod this October, the latest step in the Synod on Synodality, as this global consultation is informally known, that Pope Francis began in 2021.

New Ways Ministry expressed both hope and disappointment about the list: disappointment because no openly LGBTQ+ person was appointed, as far as we know (though we also speculated that perhaps a synod participant will choose to come out), but hope because there are a number of LGBTQ-positive church leaders and lay people on the list.

Below is a new resource that documents the LGBTQ-related records of Synod assembly participants. The resource highlights public statements and actions that have been supportive, negative, and everything in between.

It seems certain the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the church—a consistent theme in previous stages at the local, diocesan, national, and continental levels—will carry through to October. This resource hopefully can inform efforts to further that conversation in Rome.

Approximately 50 of the bishops chosen to be members of the October assembly were found to have a public record on LGBTQ+ issues. Many, perhaps the majority, of these bishops’ records have supported LGBTQ+ people. As research continues, more participants may be added.

Pope Francis, the President of the Synod, has opened up a new era of dialogue and positive actions on LGBTQ+ issues.  His full record is available on New Ways Ministry’s website here.


Bishop Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester (United States)

Also known for his leadership at the conservative Catholic media group, Word on Fire, in 2023, Barron called for a boycott of the Los Angeles Dodgers because the baseball team honored an LGBTQ+ charitable group, which Barron described as an “anti-Catholic hate group.” In the same year, as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, he wrote to Republican legislators in the U.S. Congress in support of their bill to prohibit trans women and girls from participating on female sports teams. He also joined USCCB leaders in asking Congress to stop the Equal Rights Amendment, in part because it would offer better non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people. In 2022, he joined USCCB leaders in a letter to Congress asking them to vote against the Respect for Marriage Act, which expanded marriage equality protections in the U.S., saying the law was a threat to religious liberty. Barron has also claimed that transgender identities are a modern form of Gnosticism, an ancient Christian heresy, and he compared transgender people to pedophiles. In 2017, he emphasized pastorally welcoming LGBTQ+ people, but in 2018 he said that such a welcome should also be a call to conversion. He previously participated in the 2018 Synod on Youth while an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Barron was chosen by the U.S. bishops as one of their five representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Bishop Georg Bätzing

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg (Germany)

Bätzing has been president of the German Bishops’ Conference since 2020. During the last few years, he co-chaired Germany’s Synodal Way process, which saw remarkably positive documents that approved the need for blessing queer couples and requested “concrete improvements” in the church’s treatment of transgender and intersex people. In 2023, the Diocese of Limburg, with Bätzing’s full support, issued new guidelines for sex education that were quite positive and science-based. He has said repeatedly that he is “firmly convinced” church teachings on homosexuality will change, even speaking about same-gender relationships in positive terms. When the Vatican banned blessing such relationships in 2021, Bätzing emphasized his support for the blessings, saying as president of the bishops’ conference, that he was “not happy” about the ban, even while he objected to blessing ceremonies being used as a form of protest against it. Indeed, as far back as 2019, his diocese launched a process to explore how such blessings could proceed locally. He also defended a Jesuit theologian in Germany whose appointment to lead a seminary was stopped by the Vatican due the priest’s positive views on homosexuality. Bätzing was chosen by the German bishops as one of their three representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Archbishop Timothy Broglio

Archbishop Timothy Broglio of Archdiocese for the Military Services (United States)

Immediately after his election as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2022, Broglio re-emphasized his 2018 comments claiming clergy sexual abuse was directly tied to homosexuality. In 2017, he supported then-President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender members in the military, framing LGBTQ+ identities as “personal choice” that resulted from an “incorrect social attitude.” In 2013, he issued guidance for military chaplains which banned them from participating in activities that included same-gender couples and mandating they exclude people in such relationships from lay ministries. He also decried the military providing benefits like housing and healthcare to same-gender couples. The previous year, he objected to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Broglio was chosen by the U.S. bishops as one of their five representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, S.D.B., of Perth (Australia)

Costelloe has had a significant role in this current synodal process, as well as previously being president of Australia’s Plenary Council, a decision-making church process that is synodal in nature. He is president of Australia’s episcopal conference. In 2022, the archbishop helped draft the working document for the Continental Stage of this Synod, which included several mentions of LGBTQ+ inclusion. He serves on the planning committee for the upcoming October assembly. In a recent interview, he said the Synod was Pope Francis’ invitation for “the Church to recognise these realities – the question of women, for example, the LGBTQI+ question but many others as well– and say ‘okay, how do we deal with these very pressing questions in the light of the Gospels and in the light of the ongoing presence of the Spirit.” In 2018, Costelloe, as chair of the Australian bishops’ Commission for Catholic Education, backed then-Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, who had threatened to fire church workers entering same-gender civil marriages. Costelloe later clarified that it would be up to individual bishops, and not the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, to decide how to proceed on church employment policies. In 2015, as Australians considered marriage equality, the archbishop said it was not appropriate to suggest opponents were “homophobic, intolerant or in some way lacking intellectual depth.” Costelloe was appointed as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly by Pope Francis.(Full record here.)

Cardinal Blase Cupich

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago (United States): In 2023, Cupich celebrated a Mass to mark the 35th anniversary of the Archdiocese Lesbian and Gay Outreach (AGLO) ministry in Chicago. He also suggested that the Catechism’s language about homosexuality should be reconsidered. In 2021, he described as “ill-considered,” surprising, and unprecedented, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statement attacking President Joe Biden on Inauguration Day, in part for the president’s LGBTQ+ support. Responding to the Vatican’s 2021 ban on same-gender blessings, Cupich said he appreciated “the understandable reaction among many . . .  will be disappointment. This should prompt us in the Church and in the archdiocese to redouble our efforts to be creative and resilient in finding ways to welcome and encourage all LGBTQ people in our family of faith.” Later that year, Cupich joined New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan in writing an op-ed that opposed Biden administration plans to advance transgender non-discrimination protections in healthcare. In 2019, at the Vatican’s summit on clergy sexual abuse, Cupich firmly rejected any link between gay priests and abuse, reaffirming similar comments the previous year in which he said clericalism, not sexuality was to blame. In 2017, he invited LGBTQ+ Catholics to dialogue, saying he wanted to “know more about what’s happening in their life.” He was one of the few U.S. bishops to make a statement of sympathy and solidarity to the LGBTQ+ community after the 2016 Pulse Nightclub mass shooting. At the 2015 Synod on the Family, Cupich stated that he thought bishops there should have listened to  the voices of lesbian and gay couples, and acknowledged that he did exactly that in his own pre-synod listening sessions. He also spoke out against denying communion to lesbian and gay people, recommending that pastoral ministers respect individuals’ consciences. In 2014, when asked about queer couples on a national television broadcast, he said that all families deserve legal protections In 2012, as bishop of Spokane, Cupich called for greater respect and dialogue in the debate over marriage equality. Last year, Pope Francis appointed the cardinal to the Dicastery for Bishops, making him a major influence on U.S. episcopal appointments. Cupich was appointed by Pope Francis to participate as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J., Prefect, Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development (Vatican City)

In 2015, as the priest-secretary for the now-defunct Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, he joined the council’s president, Cardinal Peter Turkson, in meeting with two representatives from the European Forum of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Christian Groups to discuss criminalization laws. Czerny previously headed the Vatican’s section on migrants and refugees, as well as founding and leading the African Jesuit AIDS Network. He was a member of the 2018 Synod on Youth and one of two Special Secretaries for the 2019 Synod on the Amazon. He has held several other Vatican positions, including in the areas of evangelization and interreligious dialogue. Czerny is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because he heads a dicastery in the Roman Curia. (Full record here.) 

Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha

Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha of São Salvador da Bahia (Brazil)

In 2021, da Rocha celebrated a Mass in memory of the many LGBTQ+ people killed in Brazil the previous year–violence that was particularly intense in his region of the country. At the Mass, which was requested by two LGBTQ+ groups, the cardinal said such violence is a “sad signal” for society and that the church suffers alongside victims. The liturgy included a performance of “Ave Maria” from a drag performer. Advocates were particularly moved that da Rocha, who is the Primate of Brazil and a former head of the Episcopal Conference of Brazil, used the full term “LGBTI+”. Earlier this year, Pope Francis named da Rocha to the influential Council of Cardinals, who are among the pope’s closest advisors. He served in the key post of Relator General during the 2018 Synod on Youth. Da Rocha is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because he is presently on the Ordinary Council of the Synod. (Full record here.) 

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan (Philippines)

In 2021, as president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, David published a letter defending Pope Francis’ support of civil unions for same-gender couples, saying the pope is “not out to destroy our morals and orthodoxy,” but that he “valued being kind and compassionate more than being right and righteous.” In 2019, as vice president of the Philippines’ bishops’ conference, David said the conference supported the since-failed SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) Equality Bill, which would have enhanced non-discrimination laws, as a “Christian imperative.” David underscored at the time that the Philippines’ bishops had long supported protections and recognition of LGBTQ+ people in the highly-Catholic nation. David was chosen by the Philippines’ bishops as one of their three representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Jozef de Kesel

Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, Archbishop Emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels (Belgium)

Cardinal De Kesel was a leader in the Flemish bishops’ 2022 publication of an LGBTQ+ ministry initiative that included a liturgy to bless same-gender couples. Later that year, following the Belgian bishops’ ad limina visit to Rome, De Kesel, once the Primate of Belgium and president of the country’s episcopal conference, said “the atmosphere has changed” at the Vatican, including the ability to dialogue with officials in the Curia about how and why the Flemish bishops saw such blessings as needed. The cardinal added that “celibacy is a charism, a gift that is not for everyone,” so the church needed to be “realistic” that gay people will seek “a partner with whom they can share their lives.” Created a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016, De Kesel first expressed support for blessing same-gender couples back in 2018. He was a member of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, and remains a member of the Dicastery for Culture and Education. He resigned as archbishop in June 2023. De Kesel was appointed by Pope Francis to participate as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York (United States)

Dolan defended the inclusion of LGBTQ+ groups in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, and told lesbian and gay people, “I love you, too. And God loves you.” The cardinal has been a leader in the U.S. bishops’ initiatives against LGBTQ+ equality in society. As chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Religious Liberty, he has joined other conference leaders in opposing a federal effort to better protect LGBTQ+ students, the Equality Act, the Respect for Marriage Act, the Equal Rights Amendment, and an executive order by President Biden enhancing LGBTQ+ protections in the government workforce. In 2022, he published an op-ed with Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, also a Synod participant, claiming that providing certain forms of healthcare to LGBTQ+ people was an attack on religious liberty. He lauded efforts by the Trump administration to allow social service agencies and healthcare providers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ clients. In 2013, while he was serving as president of the USCCB, Dolan wrote a post on his personal blog that lesbian and gay people should “wash their hands” before coming to church, like a child does before dinner, so there are “no dirty hands.” That same year, he claimed the hierarchy was “out-marketed,” and thus losing on LGBTQ+ initiatives, but remained silent about rising anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes in New York City. In 2012, Dolan led an apostolic visitation of an Irish seminary that he criticized for being “gay-friendly.” It was under his leadership that year that the USCCB launched its first “Fortnight for Freedom,” a national campaign promoting a form of religious liberty which would end up discriminating against LGBTQ+ people. When he was asked about Pope Francis’ 2013 “Who am I to judge?” comment, the cardinal said it was indeed acceptable to judge people’s actions. Dolan was chosen by the U.S. bishops as one of their five representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Archbishop Paul Etienne

Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle (United States)

Etienne established an archdiocesan commission to develop guidance for LGBTQ+ issues in Catholic education, though its findings were considered a “mixed bag,” particularly in the area of employment. The commission came after several firings of LGBTQ+ church workers in Seattle, which Etienne initially defended. After Pope Francis made clear his support for same-gender civil unions, the archbishop said the pope was providing a distinction between church teaching and public policy, and he said that the church’s approach to LGBTQ+ people should always begin pastorally with the human person. Etienne was chosen by the U.S. bishops as one of their five representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Kevin Farrell

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect, Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life (Vatican City)

In 2021, after the Vatican issued its ban on same-gender blessings, the cardinal stated the church sought to accompany all people, even if it upheld a heteronormative standard for marriage. In 2018, the cardinal rejected a women’s group’s request to hold a meeting on Vatican grounds as it had done in the past in part because some of the planned speakers were LGBTQ+ advocates. That same year, during the Synod on Youth, he implied the inclusion of “LGBT” in the final document would not be ideal. 

Farrell has endorsed Fr. James Martin, SJ’s, book on LGBTQ+ issues in the church, and he seemed to re-affirm such a bridge-building approach when asked by Bondings 2.0 about LGBTQ+ pastoral care during the 2018 World Meeting of Families. A lead organizer of that event, Farrell remained silent about the exclusion of LGBTQ+ Catholic exhibitors despite saying earlier that no one should be excluded from the Meeting. Farrell has publicly rebuked some U.S. bishops who used Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia to release guidelines restricting the involvement of LGBTQ+ Catholics in the church. He specifically called out Philadelphia’s former Archbishop Charles Chaput for doing so. Farrell is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because he heads a dicastery in the Roman Curia. (Full record here.)

Archbishop Anthony Fisher

Archbishop Anthony Fisher, O.P., of Sydney (Australia)

After Australian legislators legalized marriage equality in 2017, Fisher called it a “horrible year.” He said the postal survey results preceding legalization, which showed popular support for equal rights, were wrong, claiming that some Australians did not participate and that many pro-equality voters had been pressured to do so. Before the survey, the archbishop mailed hundreds of flyers to churches and published articles against marriage equality in an effort to encourage Catholics to vote no. It was reported that he threatened to stop archdiocesan business with companies which came out in support of marriage equality. In 2022, he defended rugby players who refused to wear Pride jerseys, and in 2021 he opposed Sydney city officials holding a pro-queer concert in a municipal plaza adjoining the cathedral. At the 2018 Synod on Youth, he mentioned young people who struggled with sexual identity as part of an apology for the ways the church fails people. At a 2015 Mass, he said LGBTQ+ advocates sought to “silence any alternative to any politically correct position. . .to bully us all” who oppose equal rights. In 2014, he said marriage equality would lead to polygamy and incest. Fisher referred to the 2014-2015 Synod on the Family as a “dangerous strategy.” Fisher was appointed by Pope Francis to participate as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Bishop Daniel Flores

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville (United States)

Flores chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, which this past March released a note on why Catholic hospitals should deny gender-affirming care to transgender patients. That note is likely to inform recommendations from the committee about revisions to the bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives, which dictate the services that Catholic healthcare may or may not provide. Flores has also overseen how U.S. bishops implemented synod consultation in their diocese, with some dioceses offering robust programs and some offering very little. In that role, he wrote an introduction to the U.S. conference’s synod report that, while mentioning people’s concerns about LGBTQ+ inclusion, was less than accurate in describing LGBTQ+ people. Flores was chosen by the U.S. bishops as one of their five representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.) 

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan (Poland)

In 2021, Gadecki said protests against the country’s proposed ban on abortions were due to influence of “cultural Marxists,” Netflix, and social media, because they allegedly promote “homosexuality, hedonism and promiscuity.” In 2019, as president of the Polish Episcopal Conference, Gadecki defended Krakow’s Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski, who said in a homily that Poland suffered from a “rainbow disease” similar to oppressive governments in the country’s past. Gadecki described Jedraszewski as a persecuted “prophet” attacked by “ideological totalitarianism.” That same year, Gadecki was hesitant to condemn violent attacks against a Pride march, stating the celebrations incite “hatred for the church and its clergy.” In 2015, ahead of the Synod on the Family, he encouraged people with “homosexual tendencies” to seek therapy, and chaired a meeting of bishops from Eastern Europe to build opposition to any pro-LGBTQ+ and other welcoming proposals. Gadecki was chosen by the Polish bishops as one of their three representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Bishop Felix Genn

Bishop Felix Genn of Münster (Germany)

In 2022, after a transgender man was murdered during Pride celebrations, Genn called it a “barbaric” and “insane act,” strongly condemning discrimination and violence, including such acts directed against LGBTQ+ people. He responded well to the #OutInChurch initiative, in which 125 LGBTQ+ church workers in Germany came out publicly, saying no one in his diocese would be fired for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. A defender of non-discrimination protections, Genn also has encouraged the church to apologize to lesbian and gay people, and said that “critical questions” informed by science must be asked of the church’s teachings on sexuality. Reversing a 2017 decision he made to ban a pastoral minister from blessing a same-gender couple, the bishop said in 2021 that church workers should not be sanctioned for offering such blessings. At the 2018 Synod on Youth, Genn led a German language working group, and said that the church should seek to have a “serious discussion” with young people on “issues of sexuality and partnership.” Genn was appointed by Pope Francis to participate as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Bishop Felix Gmür

Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel (Switzerland)

In 2019, Gmür said that it is necessary for the church “to find meanings for these connections [same-gender partnerships] as well,” though upheld that sacramental marriage was heteronormative. However, that year a spokesperson for the Basel diocese, which is Switzerland’s largest, said that diocese welcomed Swiss legislators’ efforts to legalize marriage equality. The spokesperson, almost certainly with Gmür’s permission, said that such couples deserve “stable and reliable legal cover,” as do their children. Gmür was chosen by the Swiss bishops as their representative to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal William Goh

Cardinal William Goh of Singapore (Singapore)

In 2022, in a national discussion about repealing Singapore’s criminalization law, Goh said the church was “neutral so long as our rights are protected.” This neutrality reversed Goh’s original opposition to the repeal of the law, known as Section 377A. He had earlier claimed that decriminalization would have had “long-term and irreversible” consequences which are “dreadful,” namely the approval of marriage equality. At the same time, Goh stated in 2022 that LGBTQ+ individuals should be included in the church, urging Catholics to focus on “compassion and inclusivity.” Previously in 2014, he apologized after writing that being lesbian or gay, which he referred to as a “lifestyle” was “contrary to Christian values.” Goh was chosen by the bishops of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei as their representative to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Archbishop Jason Gordon

Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon of Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago)

In 2021, Gordon referred to so-called gender ideology as “diabolical,” while offering qualified support for Pride celebrations, saying they are “a statement from that [LGBTQ+] community that they will not tolerate prejudice anymore. This in part, is a social justice cause.” In 2018, he twice voiced his support for decriminalizing homosexuality, but at the same time harshly condemned marriage equality. Later that same year, he again condemned hate speech against LGBTQ+ people while suggesting certain rights for the community should be resisted as “American values.” Gordon was chosen by the Antilles Episcopal Conference, which covers the Caribbean, as their representative to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Oswald Gracias

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay (India)

Just months after Pope Francis’ 2013 election, the cardinal told priests that they need to be more sensitive in their language about sexual minorities. In the same year, he advocated publicly for the decriminalization of homosexuality, long before India’s Supreme Court struck down a colonial-era law banning same-gender relations in 2018. He was the only major religious leader in India who opposed an initiative to re-criminalize LGBTQ+ people. Gracias, the former head of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, spoke out for better LGBTQ+ pastoral care during the 2014 Synod on the Family. During that meeting, he also stated an “unequivocal yes” that gay people are welcome in the church. In 2015, in an interview with Bondings 2.0, he said to LGBTQ+ Catholics, that the church “embraces you, wants you, needs you.” In terms of pastoral care, the cardinal was instrumental in the launch of both Rainbow Catholics India and a hotline to help LGBTQ+ Catholics. Earlier this year, Gracias was named by Pope Francis to the Council of Cardinals. He led an English-language working group at the 2018 Synod on Youth, and participated in the 2014 Synod on Family. Gracias is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because he is presently on the Ordinary Council of the Synod. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Mario Grech

Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General, Secretariat of the Synod (Vatican City)

Grech is second only to Pope Francis in leadership of the Synod. In 2015, as bishop of Gozo in Malta, Grech said Catholics in same-gender civil unions should “of course” be welcomed in the church because “there can be different forms of relationship” beyond marriage, and further, “the road is wide open to those truly seeking to follow God’s footsteps, regardless of their sexual orientation. (Notably, these comments were made years before Pope Francis offered his own support for civil unions.) In 2014, at the Synod on the Family, he gave a speech calling church leaders to be more sensitive in their language about lesbian and gay people. Grech also shared that, before the synod, he took time to listen to parents’ of LGBTQ+ people so that he could better understand the reality of their lives. At the time, it was reported that Pope Francis told Grech that he approved of his talk. Leaders in Malta’s Catholic LGBTQ+ community have repeatedly expressed appreciation for Grech’s willingness to dialogue. Grech is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because he is Secretary General of the Secretariat of the Synod. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Wilton Gregory

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington (United States)

In 2019, Gregory told a transgender Catholic at a public event that “you belong to the heart of this church.” As archbishop of Atlanta, Gregory invited Fr. James Martin, S.J., to speak, despite some public opposition to the Jesuit, and Gregory has acknowledged that the church needs to improve its pastoral care for LGBTQ+ people. In 2018, during a talk on new forms of discrimination, Gregory decried “the brutality that an individual’s sexual orientation often fosters and justifies.” He has suggested the work of the 1960s civil rights movement continues today and that work includes efforts for lesbian and gay protections. In 2016, Gregory supported the Georgia governor’s veto of a “license to discriminate” bill that would have expanded anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. In 2015, when marriage equality was legalized in the U.S., Gregory called for all sides to be respectful and civil. In 2014, he appointed a deacon to pastoral ministry with the LGBTQ+ community, suggesting at the time that the distinction between orientation and activity the church makes on homosexuality “needs reexamination and development.” Gregory was appointed by Pope Francis to participate as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., Relator General of the Synod and Archbishop of Luxembourg (Luxembourg)

In 2023, Hollerich, who also holds leadership posts in European episcopal networks, expressed concern with the Catechism’s use of “intrinsically disordered” to describe same-gender sexual activity. He said sexual orientation should not be conflated with sexual acts, adding, “But how can you condemn people who cannot love except the same sex? For some of them it is possible to be chaste, but calling others to chastity seems like speaking Egyptian to them.” At one point in 2022, Hollerich called for a reconsideration of the church’s teachings on homosexuality, but later walked back his comments a bit. In October of that same year, Hollerich condemned discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in strong terms during an interview with the Vatican’s official newspaper. He made similar comments earlier in 2022, and he supported church workers in Germany’s #OutInChurch initiative, a movement to make LGBTQ+ church workers more visible. In 2021, Hollerich expressed openness to blessing same-gender couples. In 2019, at the Vatican’s summit on clergy sexual abuse, Hollerich defended gay priests scapegoated for the abuse scandal. Hollerich was recently named to the Council of Cardinals, who are among Pope Francis’ closest advisors. Hollerich is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly as its Relator General. (Full record here.)

Archbishop Martin Kivuva Musonde of Mombasa (Kenya): In September 2023, Kivuva criticized the Kenyan Supreme Court’s decision to mandate an LGBTQ+ group be legally recognized as a non-governmental organization, saying the group’s existence would promote homosexuality and suggesting that humanitarian donors to Kenya were forcing the decision.

Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer

Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., Prefect Emeritus, Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (Vatican City)

As head of the doctrinal office until 2023, Ladaria was involved in several LGBTQ-related controversies. In 2020, that office asked Fr. Tony Flannery to sign four oaths of fidelity so he could return to ministry after being barred over his support for marriage equality and LGBTQ+ people generally, as well as women’s ordination. In 2021, Ladaria wrote to U.S. bishops asking them on behalf of the Vatican to pause proposals to deny Communion to President Joe Biden and other politicians, in part because the politicians’ support LGBTQ+ rights. In 2018, the Spanish language group at the Synod on Youth that Ladaria led encouraged a “welcoming and cordial attitude…including [to] those of different sexual orientations,” though rejected any possibility of changing church teaching. In 2013, as Secretary of the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ladaria joined the Vatican’s investigation of U.S. women religious, in part because of their LGBTQ+ support. Ladaria was appointed by Pope Francis to participate as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Bishop Brendan Leahy

Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick (Ireland)

Ahead of the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Leahy said that “everyone must be made to feel welcome” at the meeting, including people from many types of families because, the bishop acknowledged, society’s understanding of family was “changing.” In 2016, Leahy led the Diocese of Limerick in holding a local synod with 400 delegates. The harm of the bishops’ opposition to marriage equality in that country, as well as the need to better include LGBTQ+ people was a prominent theme of the synod. Leahy acknowledged the church must admit “the failure and disappointment. . .in all that has not been right in the Church” by excluding many people. Leahy was chosen by the Irish bishops as one of their two representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga

Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., Archbishop Emeritus of Tegucigalpa (Honduras)

In 2016, Maradiaga, once a close advisor to Pope Francis and a top Latin American church official, said that a “gay lobby” existed inside the Vatican. Speaking about the 2015 Synod on the Family, the cardinal labeled suggestions that church teaching on homosexuality could change as ”crazy,” and said treating LGBTQ+ issues is “very complicated” given the staunch opposition to equal rights that exists in some places. Maradiaga was appointed by Pope Francis to participate as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Robert McElroy

Cardinal Robert McElroy, Diocese of San Diego (United States)

In a 2023 essay, McElroy objected to the “profound and visceral animus” towards LGBTQ+ people found in some parts of the church, describing this anti-LGBTQ+ reaction as a “demonic mystery of the human soul.” He also wrote that issues of gender and sexuality would very likely be discussed at the October assembly of the Synod, framing the topic as a “pre-eminently a pastoral question.” In 2021, he was one of the first bishops to sign the Tyler Clementi Foundation’s statement of encouragement to LGBTQ+ youth which declared “God is on your side.” In 2018, McElroy publicly refuted the way gay priests were scapegoated for the clergy sexual abuse crisis, saying that such abuse was a matter of power, not sexual orientation. That same year, he supported Aaron Bianco, a gay pastoral worker in his diocese who was threatened with harm by traditionalist churchgoers because of being married to a man. In 2017, McElroy criticized a decision by Springfield’s Bishop Thomas Paprocki to deny Communion and church funerals to people in same-gender marriages. McElroy also defended Fr. James Martin, S.J.’s LGBTQ+ work, saying right-wing Catholics’ attack on the priest “must be a wake-up call” for the church to purge itself of anti-LGBTQ+ prejudice. In 2016, he was the first (and one of just a few) who offered condolences to the LGBTQ+ community after the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, saying the tragedy was “a call for us as Catholics to combat ever more vigorously the anti-gay prejudice which exists in our Catholic community and in our country.” That same year, McElroy supported Pope Francis’ apology to gay and lesbian people, and he called for greater affirmation and welcome for the LGBTQ+ community. In 2015, after marriage equality was legalized in the U.S., McElroy said that the diocese would still honor heterosexual marriage as unique, but “do so in a manner which profoundly respects at every moment the loving and familial relationships which enrich the lives of so many gay men and women.” McElroy was appointed by Pope Francis to participate as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Gerhard Müller

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect Emeritus, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Vatican City)

In 2023, Müller, who led the Vatican’s doctrinal office until 2017, appealed to Pope Francis to possibly dismiss German bishops who had supported LGBTQ-positive proposals, such as blessing same-gender couples, during that country’s Synodal Way process. He received no public reply. In 2021, Müller compared the hate speech trial of two priests in Germany to Nazi persecution, despite the priests having used anti-gay slurs in their writing. In 2020, Müller said the LGBTQ+ movement meant “to relativize and ultimately destroy marriage and family, and encouraged Polish Catholics to resist it, as they had resisted the Nazis. In 2018, he linked the sexual abuse of children to homosexuality, saying that LGBTQ+ issues have “no place in Church documents” because they are “an example of the creeping influence of atheism in the Church, which has been responsible for the crisis of the Church for half a century,” and listed the term “LGBT” as among the “propaganda phrases of the homosexual lobby.” That year, Müller also denied the reality of homophobia, saying it was rather a “hoax that serves to threaten people” and “an instrument of totalitarian dominion over the minds of others.” He has compared the movement for LGBTQ equality to the totalitarian regimes of North Korea and the Soviet Union. Müller has been extremely critical of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and he was a central figure in the Vatican’s investigation of U.S. women religious, whose support for LGBTQ+ people was one of the reasons for the inquiry. Müller was appointed by Pope Francis to participate as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Sean O’Malley

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., of Boston (United States)

In 2021, after the Vatican issued its ban on blessing same-gender couples, O’Malley stated that the church needed to proclaim its teaching on marriage. In 2020, his comment on Pope Francis’ support for same-gender civil unions did not address the topic, but stressed pastoral care for LGBTQ+ people. In a 2014 conversation with Bondings 2.0, O’Malley said the trend of firing LGBTQ+ church workers “needs to be rectified,” becoming the first U.S. bishop to critique such discrimination. In 2013, he banned the Austrian church reformer Fr. Helmut Schüller from archdiocesan property over the priest’s views on, among other topics, LGBTQ+ inclusion. In 2010, O’Malley welcomed children of LGBTQ+ parents to Catholic schools, after a dispute arose in his archdiocese. He was recently re-appointed to the Council of Cardinals, who are some of Pope Francis’ closest advisors. O’Malley was appointed by Pope Francis to participate as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen and of the Military Ordinariate of Germany (Germany)

In 2021, Overbeck published an essay questioning current church teaching on sexuality, saying he rejects adherence to an ethics that “wants to practically deny people who love someone of the same sex the possibility of a successful and fulfilling relationship. The life experiences and deep feelings of those who are homosexual or transgender have touched me very deeply. Church teaching must integrate these concrete testimonies of life.” Elsewhere, he said the church needs to fundamentally reassess its approach to homosexuality. In 2021, after the Vatican issued its ban on blessing same-gender couples, Overbeck said “why not” when asked about them, and he has expressed his support for such blessings several times. The Diocese of Essen under the bishop’s leadership held a virtual symposium on the topic following the ban. That year, Overbeck said personally that no priest who participated in Germany’s blessing protests would be sanctioned. In 2019, Overbeck defied the Vatican’s ban on gay men in the priesthood. He allowed the story of a married gay church worker to appear in the diocesan magazine the following year, too. In 2010, when first appointed a bishop, Overbeck spoke more negatively about homosexuality. He explained in 2019 that his reversal on the issue was because he had  “come to new insights through my personal encounters and an in-depth discussion of this topic.” Overbeck was chosen by the German bishops as one of their three representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle

Archbishop Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle of Cape Coast (Ghana)

Palmer-Buckle serves as vice president of Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which in 2023, endorsed legislation to further criminalize being LGBTQ+, saying the “abominable practice” of homosexuality should be illegal. The law also promotes conversion therapy. In 2015, at the Synod on the Family, Palmer-Buckle responded to a question from Bondings 2.0 about criminalization laws that LGBTQ+ people do indeed have human rights and should be welcomed in the church. He then appealed to “be patient with Africa” because “we are growing,” and change to more accepting attitudes could not happen “overnight.” Palmer-Buckle was chosen by Ghanaian bishops as one of their two representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, Holy See (Vatican City)

Parolin has had a central role in Vatican attempts to slow the Synodal Way process in Germany for its LGBTQ-positive proposals, including blessings for same-gender couples. In 2023, he reminded journalists of the Vatican’s 2021 ban on those blessings, and argued local churches do not have the authority to take such steps. However, he rejected that the German church was in “rebellion,” saying “there have always been tensions and differing positions” in the church. In 2021, Parolin was involved in a controversy over the Vatican’s historic intervention in Italian politics against a proposal to enhance non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people. Parolin later defended the move, though also said such discrimination needed to be addressed. In 2019, Parolin met with fifty LGBTQ+ advocates to discuss ending the criminalization of homosexuality and conversion therapy. Previously, the cardinal described Irish voters’ passage of marriage equality in 2015 as a “defeat for humanity,” and he has said it was “essential” that Italian law reflect a difference between same-gender civil unions and marriage. Parolin is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because he is the Secretary of State for the Holy See. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes

Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico City (Mexico)

In 2020, Retes said “I completely agree” after Pope Francis endorsed civil unions for same-gender couples, though he previously campaigned against marriage equality. In his 2020 comments, the cardinal encouraged parents to love and accept their LGBTQ+ children, saying “all are members of the family, and if we’re fighting so that families are united, regardless of their conduct, they don’t stop being our children. . .Because if, as it happens unfortunately, a son in a family declares himself openly homosexual, then they don’t want to have anything to do with him. And that can’t be, it just can’t be.” Retes was appointed by Pope Francis to participate as a member of the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Bishop Kevin Rhoades

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend (United States)

In 2023, Rhoades, as a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine, helped prepare a doctrinal note on preventing gender-affirming care at Catholic hospitals. That note will likely inform upcoming revisions by the same committee to the U.S. bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives, which dictate Catholic healthcare norms, revisions which could ban gender-affirming care outright. In 2022, Rhoades, who has held several top roles at the USCCB, was elected to chair the conference’s Committee on Religious Liberty, which has led the bishops’ anti-LGBTQ+ rights work. A main figure in the 2021 effort by some bishops to deny Communion to President Joe Biden, in 2016, he objected to the University of Notre Dame honoring then-Vice President Biden in part because of the vice president’s support for LGBTQ+ equality. In 2014, Rhoades criticized a decision by Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College to offer benefits to employees’ same-gender partners. In 2013, he joined USCCB leaders in opposing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act because it would have included protections for LGBTQ+ people. That same year, he said the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to welcome gay members did not conflict with church teaching. In 2012, Rhoades, as chair of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, signed onto an interfaith letter claiming marriage equality was a grave threat to religious liberty. Rhoades was chosen by the U.S. bishops as one of their five representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, O.P., of Vienna (Austria)

In 2021, Schönborn said he was “not happy” with the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples, and that if such a couple approaches the church with an “honest request,” then “this blessing will not be denied to them.” The cardinal explained his position by observing that people should be encouraged to live out human virtues for a successful relationship, even if the relationship is not the church’s ideal. In 2018, he sharply condemned a fellow Austrian prelate’s claim that same-gender blessings were comparable to blessing a concentration camp. In 2020, Schönborn hosted a third fundraiser for HIV/AIDS work at Vienna’s cathedral. He responded to critics of the event that the first question asked by Jesus would not be about one’s sexual orientation, but how one cares for the poor. The cardinal also led a World AIDS Day memorial service in 2017, acknowledging that his friendship with a gay HIV/AIDS activist had “melted away” prejudices against lesbian and gay people. In 2017, Schönborn said that the church must meet and welcome all families where they are, including same-gender couples. That year, he said that Austrian courts would be denying reality if they legalized marriage equality as it “ultimately harms everyone.” In 2019, he reversed course and endorsed civil marriage equality, and in 2013, he had previously expressed support for civil unions. In a 2015 interview, Schönborn called a close friend’s same-gender relationship “an improvement” as the couple shares a life together, even if the relationship is considered irregular by the church. After the 2015 Synod on the Family, Schönborn admitted LGBTQ+ advocates were likely “disappointed” by final report, but said “cultural differences must be respected.” At the 2014 Synod on the Family, Schönborn spoke about a same-gender couple that “was saintly” because of their love and care for one another. That same year, Schönborn spoke positively about the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, a drag performer known as Conchita Wurst, saying, “As we all know…Not everyone who is born male feels he is a man and the same applies to women,” and such people “deserve the same respect we all have a right to.” In 2012, Schönborn reinstated a gay man to a parish council after the local pastor had rejected him. Schönborn is a noted advocate of gradualism, or the idea that people proceed slowly in building up virtues rather than being instantly perfect, and he has said Amoris Laetitia does in fact show church teaching develops. Schönborn is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because he is presently on the Ordinary Council of the Synod. (Full record here.)

Archbishop Charles Scicluna (Photo by Francis DeBernardo)

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta (Malta)

In 2022, Scicluna encouraged parents to accept LGBTQ+ children as a mandate of the Gospel, saying, “[A]ccept your children as God the Father has done. Jesus is looking at your children – as he looks at each and every one of us – when he tells us that he is giving us a new commandment to love one another.” That same year, he met with LGBTQ+ advocates in Malta. He also rebuked a priest who made anti-gay comments, going so far as to threaten the priest with sanctions if the harmful rhetoric continued. In 2019, at the Vatican’s summit on clergy sexual abuse, Scicluna repeatedly rejected any link between gay priests and abuse. In 2015, Scicluna did not punish—and even affirmed—the LGBTQ+ outreach ministry of a priest who blessed a same-gender couple’s union. He has said the church should apologize to LGBTQ+ people (though opposed civil unions), and he condemned “conversion therapy” with an apology for a church report which had supported it. Since 2014, Scicluna has participated in IDAHOBIT events. In 2013, while he was an auxiliary bishop, he called for the church to respect gay people. He gave a soft defense of love in same-gender relationships, saying at one point, “Love is never a sin. God is love.” Scicluna was chosen by the Maltese bishops as their five representative to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect, Dicastery of the Causes of Saints (Vatican City)

In 2018, Semeraro addressed the meeting of Italy’s National Forum on LGBT Christians with a message emphasizing inclusion, welcome, and a shared equality because of baptism. Semeraro stated, in part: “You are Christian groups and this means a title of fraternity. ‘Christian is my name’, wrote Paciano of Barcelona in the fourth century: this allows all Christians to call each other by name. This is the title for which I recognize you as siblings.’” Semeraro is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because he heads a dicastery in the Roman Curia. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Tagle (Photo by Francis DeBernardo)

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect, Dicastery of Evangelization (Vatican City)

In 2018, Tagle offered ambiguous answers at the Synod on Youth on whether the term “LGBT” would or should be included in that synod’s final document, as well as on whether gay men should be accepted into seminary. In 2015, as archbishop of Manila in the Philippines, Tagle told a gathering of young Catholics that the church needed to learn from the damaging attitudes and acts it had inflicted on marginalized groups, including lesbian and gay people. Tagle is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because he co-heads a dicastery in the Roman Curia. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Joseph Tobin

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.SS.R., of Newark (United States)

In 2023, ahead of a vote by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to revise healthcare directives, including items concerning gender-affirming care, Tobin said it was essential to consult with transgender people in that process. In 2021, he joined a dozen other U.S. bishops in signing the Tyler Clementi Foundation’s statement to end bullying against LGBTQ+ youth. In 2019, Tobin said the language the church uses in its teachings on homosexuality was “very unfortunate” and should evolve to be “a little less hurtful.” In 2018, Tobin described LGBTQ-related church employment issues as a “very difficult question.” Back in 2016, he said that church employment concerns should be charitably dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Tobin was reportedly asked by the Vatican to mediate a dispute between the current archbishop of Indianapolis and Brebeuf Jesuit Prep School over the school’s refusal to fire a gay teacher. In 2017, Tobin welcomed a group of LGBTQ+ pilgrims to Newark’s cathedral, telling them in a message before the event, “I am delighted that you and the LGBTQ brothers and sisters plan to visit our beautiful cathedral. You will be very welcome!” On the day of their visit, he greeted the pilgrims warmly, an experience one attendee said “felt like a miracle.” That same year, he publicly challenged the USCCB’s decision to make its Committee on Religious Liberty, which often leads the conference’s anti-LGBTQ+ work, a permanent structure. In 2016, he criticized the USCCB’s priorities, which focused on marriage and religious liberty, as being inconsistent with Pope Francis’ vision. In 2013, as archbishop of Indianapolis, Tobin defended the right of Catholics to follow their conscience on a vote to ban marriage equality. In 2010, he defended U.S. women religious when the Vatican launched its investigations against them, in part for their support of LGBTQ+ equality. Tobin is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because he is presently on the Ordinary Council of the Synod. (Full record here.)

Cardinal Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, O.F.M.

Cardinal Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, O.F.M., of Manaus (Brazil)

In 2014, Steiner endorsed civil unions for same-gender couples while serving as an auxiliary bishop in Brasilia, saying such couples “need legal protection in society,” in addition to support from the church. He cited Pope Francis and the Catechism as the basis of this stance, commenting further, “Acceptance and walking with them are necessary to reflect on what fits or doesn’t fit the reality experienced by homosexual people and what, in fact, is rightfully theirs, for their own good and that of society.” Steiner was chosen by the Brazilian bishops as one of their five representatives to the 2023 Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Bishop Sanctus Lino Wanok

Bishop Sanctus Lino Wanok of Lira (Uganda)

In 2023, on Ash Wednesday, Wanok warned in a homily not to “lure anybody into the sin of homosexuality as it is not human; it is death, which humanity must repent against.” He added that it was “mocking the Church” to request blessings for queer relationships for “the Catholic Church will not accept homosexuality.” Wanok was chosen by the Ugandan bishops as their representative to the 2023 Synod assembly (Full record here.) 

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna (Italy)

Zuppi has been head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, chosen personally for this role by Pope Francis, since 2022. In 2020, he wrote the prologue to a book on homosexuality which featured interviews with theologians and LGBTQ+ Catholics. Zuppi wrote that communities need to “truly begin to look at people as God looks at them, then homosexual people — and everybody else — will begin to feel, naturally, a part of the ecclesial community.” In 2018 at the Synod on Youth, Zuppi was asked by Bondings 2.0 whether the bishops were advancing on LGBTQ+ inclusion. He replied that such pastoral ministry is “an important topic,” referencing a gay Catholic group in his archdiocese that has existed for more than three decades. Zuppi added that issues of gender and sexuality are experienced differently across the world. That same year, Zuppi wrote the preface to an Italian edition of Building a Bridge that approved of Fr. James Martin, S.J.’s, use of the term “LGBT” as “a necessary step for beginning a respectful conversation.” Zuppi is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because he is presently on the Ordinary Council of the Synod. (Full record here.)

Laity, Vowed Religious, and Clergy

Sister Nathalie Becquart, X.M.C.J.

Sister Nathalie Becquart, X.M.C.J., Undersecretary, General Secretariat of the Synod (Vatican City)

In 2022, Becquart made history as the first Vatican official to address an audience of LGBTQ+ and ally Catholics when New Ways Ministry hosted a webinar for her to talk about “Synodality: A Path of Reconciliation.” More than 1,000 people from 37 countries registered for the event. Becquart acknowledged that a divide existed between many LGBTQ+ people and the institutional church, but, she said, “with the Holy Spirit, we can find ways of reconciliation..if we truly believe it is the church of Christ, we are the body of Christ.” Becquart is a member of the 2023 Synod assembly because she serves as an undersecretary for the General Secretariat of the Synod. (Full record here.)

Thierry Bonaventura

Thierry Bonaventura, Communications Manager, General Secretariat of the Synod (Vatican City)

In May 2022, Bonaventura wrote the introduction to the Synod office’s newsletter that month, which focused on LGBTQ+ people in the synodal process, and included stories about queer couples. Bonaventura used the “metaphor of the frontier” to explain that where the church should have built bridges, it at times erected walls. He added that “our attitudes toward these ecclesial communities [LGBTQ+ people] has too often been marked by emphasizing difference and erecting barriers, rather than bearing witness to the merciful love of Jesus who makes no distinction between his disciples.” In 2021, Bonaventura apologized to LGBTQ+ people after a New Ways Ministry webinar was removed from a website of resources for the Synod. The webinar was later re-posted. Bonaventura is a member (non-voting) of the assembly because he is on the staff of the General Secretariat of the Synod. (Full record here.) 

Father Philippe Bordeyne

Father Philippe Bordeyne, President, Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences (Italy)

In 2021, Bordeyne published an academic essay arguing that, in view of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, blessings for same-gender couples should be considered, though in a private form that is not conflated with marriage. Since becoming president of the Institute, which Pope Francis re-organized entirely, Bordeyne has also said the church “must be more humble before the mystery of the family” because the church “has not always been humble enough to recognize that there are important changes in the way families are formed.” He added, “We theologians cannot continue to assert certainties about the family when we see the transformations it is undergoing today.” Bordeyne works for Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who has made gay-positive comments. Bordeyne will serve the Synod assembly as one of the experts/facilitators. He is not a voting member. (Full record here.)

Father James Martin SJ

Father James Martin, S.J., author of Building a Bridge and editor at America Media (United States)

Martin is well-known for his LGBTQ+ ministry. He has been received in audience by Pope Francis three times as a show of support for the priest’s work. A number of other church leaders have voiced support for his work, too, pushing back against conservative criticisms and boycotts. In 2016, Martin was given New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award, which honored the priest’s inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in his ministry as a writer and social media figure. His address upon receiving the award was developed into a book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, a second edition of which has since been published, and translated into many languages. In 2018, he was invited by the Vatican to speak on LGBTQ+ pastoral inclusion at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. In 2016, Martin said that respecting transgender people was a “fairly simple thing to do.” In 2020, he launched a series of Outreach conferences on Catholic LGBTQ+ issues, as well as a related website from America Media in 2022. Martin was appointed by Pope Francis as a member of the Synod assembly. (Full record here.)

Julia Oseka

Julia Oseka, student, St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia  (United States)

In 2022, Oseka advocated for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people and expanded roles for women in the church during a synodal gathering. Oseka, who identifies as feminist, helped organize some of the first synodal conversations on her campus, and eventually participated in synodal meetings of Philadelphia-area Catholic colleges, where LGBTQ+ inclusion was among the strongest themes. Originally from Poland, Oseka had  Archbishop Nelson Perez’s personal support for helping the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s synod process. She later represented the archdiocese at the North American Continental meetings in 2022. Her college major areas are religious studies and physics. Oseka was chosen as one of ten representatives for the Canadian and U.S. episcopal conferences. (Full record here.)

Father Timothy Radcliffe, O.P.

Father Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., former Master of the Dominican Order (England)

Radcliffe has an LGBTQ+ record dating to the 1990s. In 2016, Radcliffe said Catholics should focus less on what others were “doing in bed” and more on helping people find God along their own path, though he also objected to marriage equality. In 2014, conservative Catholics boycotted a conference at which he spoke because of the priest’s LGBTQ+ pastoral work. Radcliffe responded with these words about same-gender love: “Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual and non-violent. So in many ways, I would think that it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift.” In 2013, he wrote an essay about “A New Way of Being Church” in view of Pope Francis’ leadership. Suggesting the pope had opened up a new path on LGBTQ+ issues, Radcliffe commented, “If we dare to really see people, in their dignity and humanity, then we shall discover the right words to say. Who knows where this will take us?” In 2012, he wrote an op-ed opposing marriage equality, but added, “This is not to denigrate committed love of people of the same sex. This too should be cherished and supported, which is why church leaders are slowly coming to support same-sex civil unions. The God of love can be present in every true love.” In 2006, Radcliffe called on the church to “stand with” gay people by “letting our images be stretched,” which means, “watching ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ reading gay novels, living with our gay friends and listening with them as they listen to the Lord.” In 2005, Radcliffe defended gay priests after a Vatican instruction barring gay men from entering seminary was released, saying, “I have no doubt that God does call homosexuals to the priesthood, and they are among the most dedicated and impressive priests I have met.” Radcliffe later said in 2019 that “despite my reservations” Catholics “should be grateful” to author Fréderic Martel for his book on homosexuality at the Vatican. In 2017, Radcliffe called for the church to better accompany people living with HIV/AIDS. Radcliffe will serve the Synod assembly as one of two spiritual assistants. He is not a voting member. (Full record here.)