Reporting From Rome on Rainbow Catholics Assembly and Synod on the Family

St.Peter’s Basilica and Square

Saluti di Roma!  Greetings from Rome!

I am here in the Eternal City to observe the upcoming Synod of Bishops which will be discussing marriage and family issues, including LGBT topics.  In preparation for the Vatican’s synod which begins on Sunday, October 4, 2015, an international group of Catholic LGBT leaders is gathering in Rome this weekend to launch a global organization to lift up concerns of LGBT people in the church.

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) Inaugural Assembly has been organized by a coalition of groups, including New Ways Ministry, under the leadership of the European Forum of Lesbian and Gay Christian Groups. Representatives from over 30 nations will meet for three days to discuss the governance and objectives of this coalition designed to foster international cooperation, as well as to present a strong united voice of LGBT Catholics and allies to Church officials.  The Assembly’s theme is “LGBT Voices to the Synod,” and it will conclude on Sunday with a statement of pastoral concerns to be sent to the Vatican and to all the bishop participants in the synod.

During the weekend, the Assembly participants will attend an international conference on pastoral care of LGBT people which has been organized by the same coalition.  The conference is entitled “Ways of Love: Snapshots of Catholic Encounter with LGBT People and their Families.”  Among the featured speakers will be Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland and the mother of a gay man; Bishop Raul Vera, head of the Diocese of Saltillo, Mexico, and an outspoken supporter of LGBT equality; and Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder and longtime advocate for LGBT issues.

Sister Jeannine and I will represent New Ways Ministry at the GNRC Assembly.  Also attending from the USA will be DignityUSA Board Members Jeff Stone and Leo Egashira, as well as Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, head of the Human Rights Campaign’s Catholic and Latino/a Programs.

logo GNRC 2The four-day Assembly, with a full program of meetings, will work to initiate joint projects, mutual support and exchange of best practices, while seeking dialogue and serene engagement with the whole Catholic community and institutions.

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) is an international network of organisations and people involved in the pastoral care of, and search for justice for, LGBT people and their families. By means of joint projects, support and interchange, the Network strives for the inclusion, dignity and equality of LGBT people, their parents and their families, within the Catholic Church and wider society. Representing, as they do, a great variety of sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds, the members of GNRC are united in a common Catholic Faith which leads them to pray and work so that LGBT people may be guaranteed full and equal inclusion in all sectors of the Catholic Church, and the protection, by both civil and ecclesiastical law, of their human dignity, rights and equality of treatment may be upheld.

Rooted in the tradition of Catholic Social Justice teaching, the GNRC proposes the equal and intrinsic value of all people, independent of sexual orientation, relationship status or gender identity. According to a press release from the group:

“GNRC members long for a Catholic Church in which ALL the people of God – LGBT and heterosexual people – can live, pray and offer their own service together in harmony.”

The group which organized these events consisted of representatives from:  European Forum of LGBT Christian GroupsAssociació Cristiana de Gais i Lesbianes de Catalunya (ACGIL)(Spain), Dette Resources Foundation (Zambia), DignityUSA (USA), Drachma (Drachma LGBTI and Drachma Parents Group) (Malta), Ichthys christian@s lgtbh de Sevilla (Spain), LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council (UK), New Ways Ministry (USA),Nuova Proposta (Italy), Ökumenische Arbeitsgruppe Homosexuelle und Kirche (Germany), Pastoral de la Diversidad Sexual (Chile), Wiara i Tęcza (Poland).

Following this historic weekend gathering, I will be staying on in Rome to observe the synod proceedings, and, hopefully, to meet with some of the bishop delegates.  Please keep Sister Jeannine and me in your prayers during this time, as we can benefit from your support.

In blog posts in the coming week,  I’ll be reporting from Rome about the GNRC Assembly, the international conference, and, of course, the synod of bishops.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



14 thoughts on “Reporting From Rome on Rainbow Catholics Assembly and Synod on the Family

  1. Gary W. cox October 2, 2015 / 1:57 am

    Is there a paper I can fill out to just quit the church? I have had more than fifty years as a second class citizen in the Catholic faith. Tired of begging. I think the pope’s problem with false friends may be, because He is a false friend, His meeting with Kim Davis is just a final slap in my face.

    • Xandro Berna October 2, 2015 / 4:10 pm

      According to Canon Law you simply write to your local bishop and say you no longer wish to be Catholic.

    • Stephanie Robbins October 3, 2015 / 1:55 pm

      Don’t give up! Look at the change that is already happening! It would be a shame if you left the Church, and missed what you have waited five decades for. 🙂

  2. Sue St Louis October 2, 2015 / 4:56 am

    Good luck to you. I am copying a letter I sent to the Pope a few weeks ago. This should never happen again.

    “His Holiness, Pope Francis
    Apostolic Palace
    001200 Vatican City

    Your Holiness,
    I must write to you, out of great hurt and sorrow. I recently escorted my partner’s mother from this life into the next. During my shift, at the nursing home, as we shared watch over her through the night, she was near the end. At five in the morning, I held her, and said Hail Marys out loud as she took her last breaths.
    Two nights later, after calling hours that saw more than 600 friends and family pass through the receiving line, my dear Erin got an email from the Owego, New York, Catholic Church deacon, Michael Donovan.
    It said, the priest would like to speak to her about a “liturgical matter”. She emailed back the house phone number, (her father’s house). No call.
    The next morning as we gathered at the funeral home for our last farewell before the funeral mass, the funeral director escorted Erin to the priest. ( You know him, he chanted the gospel at your 2013 Christmas Midnight Mass.) Father Peter Van Lieshout, took care of some routine matters with Erin. Then, he said “There is something else, due to the publicness of your relationship with Susan, we ask that you not receive communion.”
    Erin was devastated. I saw her bolt from the priest, crying and shaking. I ran to her, not knowing what was happening. She cried, “Get my brothers, I need to see my brothers!” Then she told me, what the priest had said to her. I was reeling. Her two brothers confronted the priest. All in the family were dumbfounded! How could this be happening? Why? How can you, as a Catholic priest, heap more pain upon the family, at this already difficult time?
    The brothers attempted to reason with the priest. He said they had to do this because we ‘made our relation public in the obituary’. We never met this priest, or have confided anything to him, or this church. Holy Father, Erin’s parents planned their funerals 3 years ago, including the obituary. They had wanted my name to be listed after Erin’s.
    We left it as they wished, when we met with the funeral director on the day Maureen passed. They thought of me as a child. Eighteen years ago, Maureen welcomed me into her family on first meeting. When Erin first told her parents about us, she had one question, “Is she Catholic?” She was a true, open, and Christian person. I will always love her for that. I was worthy enought to be with her as she passed into the arms of Christ, but not worthy enought to receive communion at her funeral mass!
    The deacon and priests of St Patrick’s Church, had to really manipulate the obituary to bestow such non Christian hatred upon us!
    Please, Your Holiness, you have the admiration, and the hopes of the world with you. Let this terrible thing that we went through, bring about a positive change in the church’s policies. As you have said, “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge… it is not right to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”
    Your Holiness, this deacon, priest and pastor did indeed interfere with my ‘spiritual life’, and that of Erin. It is not right, and we hope no one else will have to suffer this, at such a vulnerable time.
    As a final note, our family was so incensed by this, that they declared…’if you can not receive communion, non of us will!’ The priest brought communion to the Dad, at the pew, as we shielded him from this horrible situation at the funeral home. Then, each brother and wives approched the altar for communion, crossed their arms over thier chests, and denied communion. Then Erin and I the same, staring into the eyes of this priest. Each of the six tall, handsome grandchildren, followed in suit. An act of protest, to an un-Chistlike action.
    You are the hope of all that is right, and decent, and Christian. Were the actions of this priest, and this church, “Chistlike”?
    Please, Dear Holy Father, where do we go to ease the hurt?
    With great respect, your humble servant,”

  3. EUGENE October 2, 2015 / 7:50 am

    Dear Frank and Jeannine, Of course you are in our prayers. Dave and I will celebrate our 12th anniversary on Oct 4, so the conference will be easy to remember. Love you! Gene (and Dave)

  4. Bob & Gerrie Burns October 2, 2015 / 8:15 am

    Frank you and Sister Jeannine will be in our prayers and thoughts while you are in Rome.
    God Bless

  5. Dwayne Fernandes October 2, 2015 / 8:17 am

    Dear Frank And Jeannine. Blessings on your work. Will surround you in prayer during your time in Rome.

  6. brian cahill October 2, 2015 / 10:57 pm


    This was in the SF chronicle today and I wanted to share it with you guys. Thanks for the great reporting.

    Brian Cahill

    • newwaysministryblog October 3, 2015 / 3:49 am


      Thanks for your compliment. Please send the link to the SF Chronicle story.

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