“WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?” is Bondings 2.0′s series on how Catholics–the hierarchy and laity–can prepare for the Synod on Marriage and Family that will take place at the Vatican in October 2015. If you would like to consider contributing a post to this series, please click here.
Since before the synod in 2014, New Ways Ministry, along with other Catholic reform organizations, has been calling for Vatican leaders to include diverse families, including those headed by LGBT people, to offer testimony about their faith journeys and relationships to the bishops assembled at these important meetings. Now, New Ways has joined with 31 other national and international Catholic organizations to encourage Catholics around the U.S. and the globe to sign an online petition asking the Vatican “to widen the circle of people invited to participate in the upcoming Family Synod 2015.”
The petition states:
“We urge the Vatican Synod office to make every effort to include a wide diversity of Catholics, especially those from the constituencies being discussed including divorced and remarried people, co-habitating couples, interfaith families, impoverished families, single parents, families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, same-sex couples, and families torn by the violence of war and abuse. These women and men can share their lives and stories in a way that creates greater understanding among the bishops who will, in the end, make critical recommendations about the Church’s priorities and pastoral practices for years to come.”
The deadline for signing the petition is March 3, 2015. In addition to mailing and emailing the petition, a representative of the coalition of endorsing groups will hand deliver the petition to Cardinal Baldisseri at the Office of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. The list of the 32 endorsers can be found at the end of the petition.
- Host a listening and discussion session at your parish or faith community to examine the issues that members face concerning marriage, family, and sexuality. The website has resources for facilitating such a meeting.
- Meet with your local bishop. The website offers a template of a letter requesting such a meeting, as well as a list of tips for speaking with your bishop.
- Contact the synod delegates and share your family’s story with them. The names of the U.S. delegates, along with some background on them, can be found by clicking here. Their addresses, as well as addresses for Vatican officials, can be found by clicking here.
A press release from the coalition offered the following perspectives:
“Pope Francis wants a synod that is characterized by a ‘culture of encounter.’” said Sheila Peiffer, Coordinator of Catholics Organizations for Renewal, a leadership forum of US organizations inspired by Vatican II. “He wants the synod fathers to recognize ‘the Lord’s gratuitous work, even outside customary models, ’” she said. “That is a powerful mandate that is only achievable if Catholics whose experience has a direct bearing on the issues being discussed are invited and heard at the synod.”
“Listening to Catholics who know the issues being discussed from the inside, from experience, is essential for meaningful dialogue,” said Deborah Rose-Milavec, Executive Director of FutureChurch, an organization promoting the rights and responsibilities of all Roman Catholics. “That kind of listening and dialogue will create greater understanding among the bishops whose final recommendations to Pope Francis will likely impact our Church’s pastoral practice for years to come,” she said.
The coalition is also maintaining a list of potential speakers that are being recommended to the synod. Those which have New Ways Ministry connections are:
Reverend Joseph A. Brown, S. J., a professor of Africana Studies at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and a speaker on African-American Catholics and LGBT issues at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity/USA, a speaker at New Ways Ministry’s Fourth National Symposium in 1997. She is being recommended with her wife, Becky Duddy-Burke.
Deacon Ray Dever of St. Paul parish, Tampa, Florida, who recently penned a Bondings 2.0 blog post about his family’s acceptance of his transgender daughter.
Hilary Howes, a transgender woman, who with her wife, Celestine Ranney-Howes, spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012 about their Catholic marriage, before, during, and after Hilary’s gender transition.
Mary Hunt, a feminist theologian, who co-founded and co-directs the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual. Mary served on New Ways Ministry’s Board in the 1980s. She is being recommended with her wife and ministry partner, Diann Neu.
Tom and Linda Karle-Nelson, parents of gay sons, who helped establish Fortunate Families, a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT children. The Karle-Nelsons are frequent participants at New Ways Ministry programs.
If you choose to write to your bishop, or to synod delegates and Vatican officials, you might consider sending your own recommendations for who would be a good speaker. If you have some suggestions you would like to share with our readers, please post them in the “Comments” section of this post.
New Ways Ministry is proud to support all these efforts, and we hope and pray that the synod in the fall of 2015 will be much more representative of the Church than the synod in 2014 was.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry