The role that Catholic parents of LGBT people play in advancing justice and equality in the church is a critical one. Parents are often the natural “bridge-builders” between their LGBT children and the institutional structures of Catholicism. It is parents’ natural unconditional love for their children which is the model of acceptance that the entire church needs to emulate and learn.
Fortunate Families, a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, has been providing support and encouragement to parents, as well as inspiring advocacy for equality, since 2004. In the past year, the organization has been hosting a series of regional gatherings around the U.S. for parents to meet with one another and learn from one another.
A recent post on the organization’s blog gives an account of some of these meetings. Of a gathering in the Detroit, Michigan, metropolitan area, convener Linda Karle-Nelson described how that gathering revealed how much change has happened for parents over the last decade:
“Six years ago a similar gathering drew only 14 parents; at the November 9 event there 41 folks who joined together to pray and share stories and discuss how they could advocate for equality for their LGBT daughters and sons.“The biggest differences in the two gatherings were not just the numbers, but the nature of the stories the parents told and the forward looking outcome of the day.“Many had gone through the personal struggles of learning about their child’s orientation and finding their path to understanding that they now knew their children in a more complete way and that this was a blessing. Others had ‘known all along’ and had waited for their child to come out to them. Still others expressed their disappointment in extended family members who were not accepting and rejected them as well as their sons and daughters. Parents in their 30’s and early 40’s (the young’uns!) received the news of their teen-age child’s coming out much earlier in their lives (and perhaps much easier!) than those of us of an older generation.”
On the same day, a similar gathering was held in Atlanta, Georgia, for Catholic parents. Deb Word, the current board president of Fortunate Families, reported on the diversity of people that attended, though united for a common cause:
“Our group ran the gamut from folks who were there ready to start parish outreach to those who had yet to share with family members that their children had married.“A small table was set up in the beginning with photos of our children and simple votive candles. They were never far from our minds as we listened, shared and strategized about making our church more welcoming, ourselves more open, and our families more loving.”
“A unique result of the gathering was one that we were not ready for a few years ago, i. e., the desire of the parents to take action to share their stories in order to persuade their fellow parishioners, their pastors, their bishop, and even Pope Francis that our LGBT children are whole and holy children of God who deserve equality in our Church.“These parents expressed a desire to meet again and again, and each time they meet they will be building a community of people who are dedicated to bringing a new vision of LGBT people to the heart of the Church. . . .”