British Catholic Lesbian Leader Meets With Close Papal Advisor

May 31, 2014

Ruby Almeida and Cardinal Oswald Gracias

A British Catholic lesbian leader has met with one of Pope Francis’ most trusted advisors, and she discussed outreach to LGBT people with him, reports QueeringTheChurch.com.  

Ruby Almeida, the chair of Quest, a British Catholic LGBT organization, met with Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, India, while she visited the country on a personal trip.  During her visit with Gracias, who is one of the eight cardinals that Pope Francis has chosen to be part of his closest advisory council, Almeida discussed LGBT experience with him, and received a very favorable response. In a report to the Quest governing committee, she writes:

“On a recent trip to India, I took  some of our new Quest leaflets when I met with a group of local lgbts. We had an in depth discussion about the reality of their lives under a colonial law that does not recognise their rights as Indian citizens. A few individuals were keen to try and set up something similar to Quest, to act as contact point for social and pastoral support for lgbts. Whilst there I was also able to organise a meeting with Cardinal Oswald Gracias who is one of the Group of Eight Cardinals to help reform the Church. I took along a young gay man who is actively involved in lgbt issues there and is also an organiser for Pride in Mumbai. ! ! The Cardinal was very welcoming and interested in the problems that Catholic lgbts face in India. He was honest enough to say that he was not aware of the difficulties and pain that they suffered as he isolated from grass roots issues and only aware of what he is informed of by his advisers. I suggested to him that if he could appoint a priest as a point of contact for the gay community, so that their needs could be addressed and a level of support could be made available. The possibility of a Mass under the banner of ‘all are welcome’ was also something in which Cardinal Gracias showed an interest, and the hope is that this could be the start of something positive for the Catholic gay community there.”

Terence Weldon, who is the editor and main contributor of QueeringTheChurch.comcommented on this encounter:

“What excites me about this meeting, is simply that it took place, and that we’ve had an attentive hearing from a man so close to the pope, and who will surely be influential in the synod on marriage and family.

“What disappoints me (but doesn’t surprise me) is that he confessed to knowing so little about the real hardships faced by ordinary gay and lesbian people, as he is ‘removed from grassroots issues.’ That is precisely the problem with the Catholic cardinals and bishops as a group  they are necessarily far removed from real life issues at the coal face, especially those concerning sex, marriage and family – and yet they continue to pontificate to the rest of us on issues of which they are largely ignorant.”

I agree with Weldon.  I think this is a wonderful and important step for the Catholic LGBT movement!  Cardinal Gracias has already shown he can be courageous about LGBT issues when last year he was India’s only religious leader to speak out against the possible re-criminalization of homosexuality in that country.  The fact that he is also so close to Pope Francis means that his opinion on these matters can have a lot of weight. In addition to being a close papal advisor, Gracias is also President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, so his influence can also be horizontal to other bishops, as well as vertical to the Vatican and Pope Francis.

And we also know that a personal encounter can move someone so much more than any theological or political argument about LGBT issues.  Almeida’s account of the meeting indicates that Gracias’ heart indeed seems to have been opened.  This is certainly an occasion for prayers of joy and thanksgiving!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


British Catholic Leaders Support Marriage Equality Legislation

August 13, 2012

The Times of London, England, has published a letter to the editor today from 27 prominent British Catholics expressing support for the United Kingdom’s proposed legislation to legalize same-gender marriage.  (It is not possible to link to the text on the Times’ website because a subscription is required to access letters to the editor.)

The 27 signatories include James Alison (theologian & priest), Tina Beattie (theologian), Mary Grey (theologian), Bernard Lynch (priest), Martin Pendergast (Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality).

The text of the letter reads:

“Sir,  Not all Catholics share their hierarchy’s stated views against proposals to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. Nevertheless, the submission by the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales  to the Government’s equal civil marriage consultation indicates a growing understanding about legislating for same-sex unions, compared with its 2003 position, when it firmly opposed civil partnerships.

“It seems  to us, as Catholic laity, theologians and clergy, important to uphold some key pastoral care principles used by the Catholic Church in England & Wales. Its 1979 guidelines stated that the Church has a serious responsibility to work towards the elimination of any injustices perpetrated on homosexuals by society.

“In 1997 Cardinal Hume wrote that love between two persons, whether of the same sex, or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected. This respect demands that such loving relationships be afforded social recognition according to social justice principles. He proposed three criteria for considering issues of social policy: are there reasonable grounds for judging that the institution of marriage and the family could, and would be undermined by a change in law? Would society’s rejection of a proposed change be more harmful to the common good than the acceptance of such a change? Does a person’s sexual orientation or activity constitute, in specific circumstances, a sufficient reason for treating that person in any way differently from other citizens? We suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

The full list of signers:

James Alison, Theologian & priest
Ruby Almeida, Chair of Quest (LGBT Catholics)
Tina Beattie, Theologian  
Mike Castelli, Educationalist
Mark Dowd, Journalist
Michael Egan, Chair, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement
Maria ExallChair, Trade Unions Congress LGBT Committee
John Falcone, Theologian
Eileen Fitzpatrick, Educationalist
Kieran Fitszimons, Priest
Mary Grey, Theologian
Kevin Kelly, Theologian & priest
Ted Le Riche, Retired educationalist
Bernard Lynch, Priest
Gerard Loughlin, Theologian
Francis McDonagh, Lay-person
Patrick McLoughlin, Priest
Anthony Maggs, Priest
Lorraine Milford, Lay-person
Frank Nally, Priest                                                                                                                                                                                                       Martin Pendergast, Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality                                                                                         Sophie Stanes, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                       Joe Stanley, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                   Valerie Stroud, Chair, Catholics for a Changing Church                                                                                                                                Terry Weldon, Editor, Queering the Church                                                                                                                                            Matias Wibowo, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                           Deborah Woodman, Clinical Psychologist

Congratulations and many thanks for this thoughtful piece.  Let’s hope and pray that Catholic leaders in other countries, particularly the United States, will speak out as clearly and forthrightly.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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