In terms of the bishops who will be participating, there is a mixed bag on their approach to LGBT issues. Here are some of the prominent names, with a little bit of their history on LGBT topics:
- Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, Paris: When France was debating marriage equality, he warned that the passage of such a law might cause violent protests in the streets.
- Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Bombay: When India was considering reinstatitng criminalization of homosexuality, he was the only religious leader to speak against such a measure. He also met in the spring with a Catholic lesbian woman who is an LGBT leader in Great Britain. He also directed his priests to speak more sensitively about LGBT issues.
- Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, Vienna: When a partnered gay man was rejected from his parish council by the local pastor, the cardinal met with the layman and re-instated him. He has also spoke positively about civil unions and transgender ideas.
- Archbishop Andre Joseph Leonard, Mechelen-Brussels: He spoke favorably of laws that would stabilize and normalize same-gender couples.
- Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Westminster (London): He was one of the first prelates to speak positively about legalizing partnerships of same-gender couples. He instituted an archdiocesan ministry to LGBT people.
- Cardinal Philip Tartaglia, Glasgow: He spoke harshly against marriage equality, and he caused a controversy when he stated that the death of a gay Member of Parliament may have been caused by his sexuality.
- Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Dublin: He has spoken in very strong terms about the need to be more open to the LGBT community. He also stated that the Vatican’s teaching on sexuality is “disconnected from real life experiences of families — and not just be younger people.”
- Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Mechlen-Brussells (retired): Like his successor, Archbishop Andre Joseph Leonard, he has spoken favorably of laws that would stabilize and normalize same-gender couples.
- Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop of Louisville: He did not support a Louisville nondiscrimination bill inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity in 2012.
- Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, New York: A few years ago, as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he spoke out strongly many times against marriage equality and LGBT issues. Of late, he has softened his tone and has even agreed to be grand marshall of the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade with an only LGBT group marching. He also publicly congratulated professional footaball player Michael Sam for coming out.
- Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and archbishop Cape Coast, Ghana: He has spoken strongly against homosexuality and even for a while supported Uganda’s anti-gay law. His 2014 statement that “homosexuals are not criminals” has been interpreted both positively and negatively.
These are only a handful of the more than 250 appointees, and it is by no means an exhaustive list of people with any sort of record on LGBT issues. It only includes names of those for whom I had concrete supporting evidence with which to link. However, others on the list, such as Cardinal George Pell of Australia and now at the Vatican, have a long history of anti-LGBT measures. Similarly, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich-Freising, Germany, are known to be very supportive of LGBT people and topics.
If you are aware of others on the list who have a record, positive or negative, on LGBT issues, please share your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post. Supporting links would be very helpful.
From my perspective, the most important feature from the list of lay observers is that no publicly LGBT person or couple is named. The Synod will be examining pastoral responses to families headed by same-gender couples. Didn’t the Vatican think it would be good to hear from some of them? If the Vatican has invited heterosexual couples to participate, why did they not invite lesbian and gay couples, too?
Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, offers a critical view of the list in an essay entitled “The makeup of Synod of Bishops on the family is disappointing.” Reese is disappointed that so many Curia officials will be participating, and he notes that they should be “staff, not policymakers.” He explained:
“They have all the other weeks of the year to advise the pope. This is the time for bishops from outside of Rome to make their views known.”
Reese observes that the choices of who will be advising the bishops also seems lopsided.
“Half the experts are clerics, which seems strange at a synod on the family. None of the 16 experts is from the United States; 10 are from Europe (including five from Italy), three from Asia, and one each from Mexico, Lebanon and Australia.
“There are more laypeople among the 38 auditors, including 14 married couples, of whom two are from the United States. Many of the observers are employees of the Catholic church or heads of Catholic organizations, including natural family planning organizations.
“For example, one couple from the United States is Jeffrey Heinzen, director of natural family planning in the diocese of La Crosse, Wis., and Alice Heinzen, member of the Natural Family Planning Advisory Board of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
Bondings 2.0 will continue to update you on the Synod as the days of preparation progress, and we will try to provide LGBT-relevant information and analysis once the meeting begins.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry