Vatican Meeting with LGBT Advocates Is a “Great Step Forward,” But More Action Needed

April 5, 2019

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response to a meeting between Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, and international LGBT groups.

The Vatican’s meeting on April 52019 with lawyers and leaders from international LGBT human rights organizations is a great step forward for improving the relationship between LGBT people and the Catholic Church, but more urgent statements and actions are needed.

The meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace could be the beginning of a new era of dialogue between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community by working together for the common goal of ending discrimination, violence, and legal penalties against LGBT people around the world. That is a step forward for the lives and well-being of LGBT people who suffer because of draconian laws.

We had hoped for a stronger statement from Cardinal Parolin in response to the information presented by the LGBT advocates on human rights violations.  Parolin reaffirmed church teaching on human dignity and opposition to violence of any sort, and he promised to inform the pope of the meeting and to remain in touch with the leaders.  But, the Vatican, and especially Pope Francis, need to speak out more strongly against laws which criminalize LGBT people and cultural attitudes which support and promote violence against them. Vague generalizations will not suffice, nor will they be effective.

Awareness of this scourge has been public for at least a decade.  For decades, Catholics in the pews have been calling on church leaders to speak out against laws, practices, and attitudes which harm LGBT people. Catholic social justice teaching on the dignity of all humans, on equal treatment under law, and on non-discrimination for LGBT people have been firmly established in church documents, including the Catechism.  This strong call from the people and the clear mandate of Catholic teaching means that at today’s meeting Parolin should have provided a much stronger statement condemning laws and violence against LGBT people.

Unfortunately, in many countries Catholic bishops have shamefully been either silent, or worse, supportive of measures that criminalize LGBT people, often with inhuman punishments.

(For a full record of Catholic statements and actions in both support and opposition to laws which criminalize LGBT people, click here.)

As a next step, Vatican officials and Pope Francis need to clearly and forcefully denounce LGBT criminalization laws.  Decisive action is needed to respond to this terrible scourge which destroys lives and erodes human dignity.