The Vatican is busy this week, full of prelatess gathered for a consistory and the creation of twenty new cardinals appointed by Pope Francis (along with a visit from New Ways Ministry’s pilgrims!). Today, Bondings 2.0 reviews what some of all these new cardinals might mean for LGBT issues in the church.
First, Pope Francis seems to be shifting the College of Cardinals through his globally diverse appointments. These new cardinals will impact not only the next papal election, but more immediately through their increased influence in local churches. The Advocate researched the appointees, fifteen of whom will be eligible to vote in the next conclave and five who are already past the voting age of 80. While most had not spoken publicly about LGBT issues, four are on the record, though split in their approach.
Most positively, Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington, who heads both the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania, spoke favorably of more pastoral language regarding lesbian and gay people at last October’s synod. He wanted the language to express “hope and encouragement.” It is also worth noting he called the church’s ban on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics a “source of scandal” as early as 2005.
Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who replaced Cardinal Raymond Burke as head of the Apostolic Signatura, has made ambiguous remarks about respecting conscience. In 2013, when the Vatican criticized a 2013 European Court of Human Rights ruling protecting equality laws. Mamberti said:
“Every person, no matter what his beliefs, has, by means of his conscience, the natural capacity to distinguish good from evil and that he should act accordingly. Therein lies the true freedom.”
Among the cardinal-designates, there were two negative records identified by The Advocate. Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Ethiopia, head of the Association of Member Conferences in Eastern Africa, said in 2014:
“We strongly condemn same sex unions and other deviations that go against human nature and natural laws. We urge for the protection and defense of family at all costs as that is the beginning and pillar of human life and society.”
In Mexico, Archbishop Alberto Suárez Inda of Morelia had the harshest comments which exhibit a pastoral deafness, saying:
“It’s one thing to tolerate conduct contrary to what is commonly accepted; it’s another to want to legitimize that which goes against nature itself… I know many cases of children and young people who are deprived of a father or a mother … because of this, they have a great emptiness and are sometimes traumatized for life.”
It is worth noting that this crop of cardinals is being celebrated for its diversity in particular, with media like The New York Times and The Washington Post leading with this fact. The direct benefits for greater LGBT welcome and acceptance are unknown, but the church’s theology and pastoral ministries always benefit from expanded and diverse participation. Indeed, many of Pope Francis’ appointees come from the Global South and possess an acute sense of caring for those on the margins and being a “voice for the voiceless.” For the most part, these are pastorally-inclined bishops in the style of Pope Francis.
This reality means that LGBT advocates have an opportunity to open cardinals’ eyes more and more to the discrimination and violence faced by sexual and gender diverse minorities, as well as the tremendous goodness and gifts these communities offer the church and the world. Touched by the Spirit and moved by mercy, this shift in ecclesial leadership could signal a moment of growing openness to creating a church that is truly, as Pope Francis wants, a “home for all.”
A full listing of the cardinal-designates is available here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry