Bishops Down Under Offer Over-the-Top Rhetoric as Marriage Equality Approaches

July 28, 2015

Australia’s marriage equality campaign logo

Australia’s political leaders are slowly moving towards marriage equality, prompted by successful developments in Ireland and the United States. The political movement has prompted aggressive action from the nation’s Catholic bishops.

Brisbane’s Archbishop Mark Coleridge attacked marriage equality proponents in a piece for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, saying there is “violence” in alleged attempts to discredit and silence those who oppose equality.

Using the language of “same-sex attracted,” Coleridge argued that civil equality already existed, and the push for marriage rights is pure ideology. He called it “a dramatic form of the Western myth of progress which the facts of history have never confirmed,” reported The Tablet.

Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher used equally harsh language during a Marriage Mass, reported The Catholic Herald. His told those in attendance that LGBT advocates:

“…are determined to silence any alternative to the politically correct position in this matter; to bully us all into accepting the deconstruction and redefinition of a fundamental institution; and to relegate questions of what marriage is and is for as secondary to an homogenising ‘equality.’ “

The Archdiocese of Sydney also criticized those responsible for a full-page pro-marriage equality ad published in June, questioning whether corporations should be involved in the debate at all. In a letter sent to the ad’s more than 150 corporate supporters, the archdiocesan business manager Michael Digges claims they “are publicly supporting a strategic, political and well-funded campaign” to change Australian marriage law.

Elsewhere, Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart, who distributed an anti-marriage equality pamphlet by sending it home  with students in Australia’s Catholic schools, has admitted it has not been well received.

That is an understatement given the concerns expressed by many when it was first announced that the bishops were using schoolchildren as young as 6 or 7 for the anti-equality campaign. Rodney Croome, director of Australian Marriage Equality, condemned making these children “couriers of prejudice,” urging parents to report the material to the Office of Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. One letter to the archbishop claims a formal complaint was filed, reported The Australian, and the Office does not deny this.

Still, Porteous defended the “Don’t Mess with Marriage” pamphlet as a “positive contribution” and part of his duties as bishop in teaching the faith, reports SBS.

A former teacher in Melbourne also wrote recently about Archbishop Denis Hart’s 2007 refusal to implement Jesuit Social Services’ Not So Straight report, “aimed at helping teachers respond to the needs of gay teens in Catholic schools. Michael Kelly wrote in The Age:

“I wonder how many students in Catholic schools have spent anguished hours coping with abuse and bullying, how many have secretly hated themselves, how many have attempted suicide since Hart buried that report in 2007. . .The Jesuits’ programs would not have solved everything, but they would have shown a church, and a hierarchy, that cared more for the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health of young people than for rigid doctrinal purity.”

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

The Australian bishops should follow the lead and example of one of their own brethren, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, retired Auxiliary from Sydney, who has spoken rationally and compassionately on the need for the hierarchy to reform Catholic sexual ethics in such a way that allows for the equality of lesbian and gay relationships.

Politically, Australian legislators will introduce a cross-party bill equalizing marriage rights in August. This has a fairly good chance of passage, though it is uncertain. Either way the bishops need to shift course towards a more pastoral and reconciliatory approach.

Australia’s bishops should start putting the best interests of young people, and all Australians, before their campaign against LGBT legal rights. The heavy-handed and hyperbolic strategies of previous papacies must be put to rest, and the only overreactions now acceptable are unconditioned displays of love to those the church has harmed.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Ireland’s Top Bishop Meets with Gay Advocates, Withdraws Marriage Boycott Threat

July 27, 2015

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh

Ireland’s leading archbishop met with faith-based LGBT advocates last week, with the focus of the discussing being on his participation at the Synod of Bishops this fall, and keeping Ireland’s marriage referendum clearly as a backdrop for the conversation.

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the Primate of Ireland, met with representatives from Faith in Marriage Equality (an ecumenical group) and We Are Church (a Roman Catholic church reform group) organizations at his residence last Wednesday. The meeting was requested by the groups before the May referendum in which equal marriage was approved by nearly two-thirds of Irish voters.

At the October synod in Rome, Martin will represent the Irish church alongside Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. The LGBT advocates at the meeting with Eamon Martin asked him to raise the pastoral care of gay and lesbian persons, sharing some of their own stories which were well received.

Brendan Butler of We Are the Church, a Catholic reform organization, highlighted the harm the church’s language inflicts on LGBT people.  He singled out for particular mention, the language in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 letter, which described a homosexual orientation as “an objective disorder and ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil.”   Butler stated:

“If the Catholic Church is to regain credibility not only with the gay and lesbian community but also with the wider Catholic community then existing Catholic teaching needs to change.”

Jim O’Crowley, a gay Catholic, also shared stories in the meeting, following up on a booklet, “To Have and To Hold: Stories and Reflections of LGBT People, Their Families, and Friends,” the archbishop was sent. According to Irish Central, Martin said “he found it helpful to read this book and also to listen to accounts by gay Catholics.”

Faith in Marriage Equality’s Richard O’Leary affirmed the meeting as a “positive step to open dialogue,” building upon Diarmuid Martin’s call for a “reality check” by church leaders in the wake of Ireland’s referendum. O’Leary added:

“We were positively received by Archbishop Martin who said he was committed to continuing dialogue and that he was particularly concerned about the pastoral care of gay persons.”

Martin’s record is increasingly positive on LGBT issues. He publicly criticized Cardinal Raymond Burke’s characterization of the Irish as “worse than pagans” for voting for marriage equality, saying he “wouldn’t use that language.” Preceding the vote, his record was more mixed having said religious liberty was being threatened but also publicly critiquing a fellow bishop who compared homosexuality to Down’s Syndrome.

In addition, the Irish bishops had threatened that priests would no longer grant civil marriages if the referendum passed. Now, Archbishop Martin is second-guessing that stance, reported The Independent, saying church leaders would “monitor the situation to see if it’s possible for us to continue.”

The Association of Catholic Priest’s Fr. Gerry O’Connor said ending priests’ role in marriage was always a “false threat” used against voters. He noted that it would be deeply troubling to do so because it would curtail one of the church’s limited avenues with younger Catholics who comprise the majorities of weddings, while also being largely absent from churches otherwise.

After the Irish referendum in May, commentators from all quarters speculated about the impact the vote had and would continue to have on not only the Irish Church, but the Catholic Church globally.

Archbishop Martin’s meeting may be a first fruit, incarnating the culture of encounter called for repeatedly by Pope Francis but which is still too often denied to LGBT Catholics. Sharing stories and personal relationships have been instrumental in advancing equality, inside the church and out, and their importance will remain to keep shifting culture even as legal rights advance.

Let us pray that Archbishops Martin and Martin will listen attentively to the voices of Irish Catholics, bearing their desires for greater justice and inclusion to the synod in Rome for all the church to hear!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Historically Catholic Nations Lead on Transgender & Intersex Civil Rights

July 25, 2015

Italy’s Palace of Justice

UPDATE: Poland’s parliament passed a bill allowing easier gender identity changes, though these still require “confirmation” from two external sources. Still, it is being hailed as a positive step by advocates. It needs to pass the Senate and receive the President’s signature for it to be enacted, reports PinkNews.

Transgender Italians can now self-declare their gender identity on government records following a recent court ruling.

This progress is yet another sign of how historically Catholic nations are increasingly leading the expansion of rights for trans and intersex communities, as well as gay, lesbian and bisexual ones.

Italy’s Supreme Court ruled that a person may amend their gender identity on records without medical intervention, saying the “right to self-determination is inviolable.” The ruling recognizes the complexities in each person’s life according to Gay Star News, stating:

“The desire to align body and spirit is, even in the absence of surgical intervention, the result of a very personal journey to gender identity, supported by a range of medical and psychological treatments that will vary according to individual personality and need.”

Ireland’s parliament acted similarly in June passing a bill that affords citizens to self-determine their gender, coming only weeks after Irish voters passed marriage equality according to Buzzfeed. Momentum from the marriage referendum caused legislators to remove a clause in the bill that would have required medical permission for any gender marker changes. GLAAD reports the bill should be active by summer’s end.

Malta’s legislature unanimously passed a trans rights law this spring. The Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sex Characteristics law is considered a gold standard by many LGBT advocates, as it includes nondiscrimination protections and defends intersex children by allowing delayed gender identification on birth records. Dr. Helena Dalli, minister for civil liberties, said the law is “for knowledge to reign over ignorance, for justice to reign over injustice and to build a society on the respect of human rights.”

Italy, Ireland, and Malta join only Denmark, Colombia, and Argentina in allowing transgender citizens to self-determine their gender identity on government records. That five of these nations are heavily Catholics proves again what has been witnessed in the expansion of lesbian and gay civil rights, including marriage: where there are Catholics, there’s a strong likelihood for more justice for LGBT communities.

Regarding transgender justice, which is rapidly emerging in social consciousness in the United States and elsewhere, much work remains.

Most nations which allow gender changes require proof of gender confirmation surgery and there are still plenty of hierarchs, like San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone or Bishop-Elect Robert Barron of Los Angeles, making highly prejudiced comments. Even Pope Francis’ record is unclear, though some trans advocates see more signs for hope than previously thought.

One more sign of hope are church leaders like Msgr. Keith Barltrop who come out supportively for trans identities. Barltrop, who is London Cardinal Vincent Nichols’ point person on LGBTQI outreach recently said the church should be “fully supportive” of those who decide to transition and there is nothing doctrinal involved with trans identities.

For more updates on trans Catholic issues, check out our “Transgender” category in the column to the right.  New Ways Ministry will be hosting a workshop about Catholic perspectives on trans and intersex issues in Philadelphia during the World Meeting of Families in September.  For more information, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Kenyan Catholic Bishops Warn Obama: Stay Silent on LGBT Rights During Visit

July 17, 2015

Kenya’s bishops during their ad limina visit with Pope Francis

Keep silent on LGBT rights. This is the message Kenyan Catholic bishops have sent to U.S. President Barack Obama in the days before his planned July visit, a belief shared by their continental colleagues, and a belief increasingly at odds with Pope Francis’ vision for the church.

Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops’ president, said the bishops “are not going to allow same-sex marriage” and debate should end.

Presenting a different reason for not focusing on the marriage topic was Fr. Russell Pollitt, SJ, director of the Jesuit Institute in South Africa, told the Catholic Sentinel:

” ‘There are far more pressing issues’ than same-sex marriage that the church in Africa needs to address…It will be ‘sad and a missed opportunity if the focus of Obama’s visit is narrow…’ “

Such concerns about the topic have arisen largely due to the Supreme Court’s June decision to enact equal marriage rights nationwide, celebrated by President Obama by lighting up the White House in rainbow colors on the night of the ruling.

Bishops in Nigeria weighed in on the Court’s marriage decision, which allegedly threatens Africa because of Western cultures massive influence on nations there. They called marriage equality’s global expansion:

“a sad, unjust and lamentable situation based largely upon a distorted perception of natural law, the will of God and human nature.”

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria president, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, added that decriminalizing homosexuality leads to the “festering of the homosexual culture/sub-culture” as he claims is happening in Mozambique, reported Leadership. Nigerian legislators recently passed a law, supported by 87% of citizens according to GLAAD, that sentences couples to fourteen years in prison for marrying.

This resistance to Obama’s visit and the advancement of LGBT equality is a stark reminder post-Obergefell that much work remains in ensuring justice for all people. The Guardian’s Observer column writes:

“[The bishops’ warnings] serve as a chilling reminder that, globally, the war for LGBTI rights is being fought on two fronts. . .across much of the Middle East, Africa and Russia, the fight takes a crueller [sic] form: for the right not to suffer criminal punishment for exercising the right to love whomever one wishes.

“Across most of Africa, same-sex relationships remain illegal and public attitudes towards homosexuality are the most negative in the world.”

Indeed, as some countries advance, others regress. At least 34 African nations criminalize homosexuality and in places like Uganda, there has been much debate over enhancing such laws to even include the death penalty.

African bishops should better inform themselves about the realities of LGBT existence in their communities before speaking any further on the topic. While nations there face issues related to poverty, climate change, and other papal themes, they must also address as entirely inconsistent with the Gospel the violence and discrimination instigated because of victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity. All of these are “pressing” issues.

Endorsing same-gender marriage may be too much to ask, but preserving the life and the dignity of all people, especially those most marginalized, must become a core part of these bishops’ response to LGBT communities.

Kenya’s bishops were not alone in telling Obama to stay silent on LGBT rights, having been joined by other religious and political leaders. But Catholic bishops in Africa should do better. They could start by looking to Pope Francis in moderating their opposition and striking a different, indeed prophetic tone of inclusion, mercy, dialogue, encounter, and welcome instead.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Paraguayan LGBT Rights Leader Attends Papal Meeting, But Not All Are Happy

July 13, 2015

Paraguyan billboard of Pope Francis’ famous 2013 quote. Translation: “If they accept the Lord and and they have good will, who am I to judge?”

The leader of Paraguay’s national LGBT-rights organization is very pleased at the way his inclusion in a meeting of other civic leaders with Pope Francis has gone.  Simón Cazal, the director of SOMOSGAY (“W,e Are Gay”), was invited by the Paraguayan bishops’ conference to be part of a papal audience of 1,600 leaders from Paraguayan organizational leaders when Pope Francis visited the capital city of Asunción this weekend.

Yet opinion seems divided among some LGBT leaders in Paraguay and abroad over whether it was a good thing for Cazal to agree to participate in the meeting.

According to The Washington Blade, Cazal, who married his husband in Argentina after it became legal because of a law which then-Cardinal Bergoglio [Pope Francis] opposed, offered a very positive and hopeful response to the pope’s address to the selected civic leaders:

“Cazal told the Washington Blade during a Skype interview after the meeting that Francis did not “directly” refer to LGBT-specific issues, but ‘he did mention others in which they are included.’ Media reports indicate the pontiff was sharply critical of Paraguayan Catholic officials.

“ ‘There are no people of first, of second or third class,’ said Francis, according to a tweet that Cazal posted to his Twitter account after the meeting. ‘Dignity is for everyone.’

“ ‘The local church insisted on talking about the family and other conservative issues,’ Cazal told the Blade, referring to Francis’ visit to the South American country. ‘He distanced himself from this discourse and highlighted diversity in its place.’

“ ‘The pope’s speech was very productive,’ added Cazal.”

At least two other LGBT rights groups in Panama received the same invitation, which came from Paraguay’s bishops, not the Vatican, as had been reported earlier. Cazal was the only one who accepted. He explained his decision to The Washington Blade:

“ ‘I am not worried about the opinion of the other activists,’ Cazal told the Blade, responding to a question about any potential backlash his organization could face from other Paraguayan LGBT rights advocates over his decision to attend the meeting with Francis. ‘I think that each person in their context should be able to have the freedom to adopt what they believe are the best strategies. In our case, we are very satisfied with ours.’ “

In an interview with Reuters for their story on the Paraguayan audience,  Cazal made this remark about the pope:

“I left with the impression that the pope really wants to change things.”

The Wall Street Journal also quoted from the prepared text of the speech at this meeting which the Vatican released to the press:

“Pope Francis refers to the need for dialogue among people in general ‘as a means to advance the project of a fully inclusive nation.’ He advocates ‘a culture of encounter’ that ‘acknowledges that diversity is not only good, it is necessary.’ “

Cazal and SomosGay do not seem blinded by this kind gesture, though.  According to a report in Crux:

“The group released a statement saying the invitation ‘symbolizes an openness and progress towards the LGBT community, remembering the ultraconservative context that has always characterized the Vatican.’ “

The Crux article provided the responses of the two LGBT rights groups which turned down the invitation:

“Rosa Posa, head of the lesbian rights activist group Aireana, said she received the same invitation but rejected it because, ‘There is a lot of marketing around the pope.’

“Referring to Cazal and SomosGay, she told local media that ‘If they think he’s going to listen, well, good luck.’

“Mariana Sepúlveda of Panambi said she rejected the invitation because it goes against the organization’s fight to promote a secular state.

“Cazal said he was happy to attend the meeting, even though he doesn’t expect much doctrinal change.”

In an interview with CNNCazal revealed some of what went into his decision to participate in the meeting, and some of his hopes that the meeting could achieve:

” ‘We have to go. Ninety percent of the country is Catholic; they all love the Pope,’ Cazal said. ‘We have to take this step because otherwise we are the ones who are closing the doors.’

“Cazal said he also realized Pope Francis could be a powerful tool in the fight to stop violence against young gays and lesbians.

” ‘We need his strong voice on the side of defending the life and integrity of LGBT people,’ he said.”

Some other international LGBT rights leaders had differing opinions on the invitation to Cazal.  The Wall Street Journal reported:

“Helen Kennedy, co-secretary general of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, the world’s largest gay human-rights organization, said the invitation to SOMOSGAY was significant even if Mr. Cazal doesn’t actually get to meet or speak with the Holy Father face to face.

” ‘They may not have access to the Pope directly, but the fact that they were even invited is very, very symbolic,’ Ms. Kennedy said. ‘I think the local LGBT community can use this as a conversation-starter with respect to anti-discrimination laws in that country.’

“That such an encounter would occur in Paraguay is surprising, said Pedro Paradiso Sottile, secretary general of Comunidad Homosexual Argentina, one of the region’s oldest gay-rights groups.

“While the invitation to Saturday’s meeting was welcome, Mr. Paradiso Sottile said, it would be more significant if the Church were to back measures protecting gay people against violence and discrimination. ‘Until now there have been only gestures but not a concrete action against the horrible things happening every hour, every day, against LGBT people all over the world,’ Mr. Paradiso Sottile said.”

I think it’s important to remember a few facts about this meeting:  the Vatican did not issue the invitation; Cazal was one of a large group of people at the meeting (estimates vary from hundreds to 4,000; we reported 1,600 because that figure appears to have come from Cazal himself);  the pope did not address LGBT issues directly at all.

So, was this meeting important?


Even though the Vatican did not issue the invitation, it did come from Paraguayan bishops, among the most conservative in Latin America.  They must have sensed that this was an invitation that the pope would have wanted to extend.

Even though the meeting was large and not personal, we need to remember that the news coverage on Cazal’s participation has enlarged his presence there significantly, so it could not be lost on the pope and his entourage that a married LGBT rights leader was in attendance.  And yet Cazal’s orientation and marital status did not exclude him from the event, which surely would have happened under the two previous popes.

Even though the pope did not address LGBT issues directly, his message was so absolute in its welcoming and inclusive tone, that people, particularly church leaders, will have the ability to interpret it favorably.

While I acknowledge that Pope Francis has not said enough directly regarding LGBT inclusion, and that he often speaks pointedly in favor of marriage only for heterosexual couples,  I think we need to build on these small steps to help the Church, which is the entire People of God, become more inclusive and egalitarian.

A tip to Pope Francis and his event planners:  The next step is to meet with Catholic LGBT people at the World Meeting of Families, and he can start with Margie Winters, recently fired from a Catholic school for being married to a woman.  Margie and her wife, Andrea, will be right there in Philadelphia when the pope comes there in September, and have already requested that he meet with them..

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Fusion: “He’s the first gay activist to get a public sit-down with the pope”

U.S. News and World Report: “Paraguayan gay rights activist says some opposed him attending papal gathering”




Celebrate U.S. & Irish Marriage Equality with a Pilgrimage to the Emerald Isle!

July 2, 2015

As people here in the U.S. continue to bask in the exhilaration of the new reality of marriage equality across the nation, there have been many exciting ways that people have been celebrating this past week.

Here’s an idea for your consideration if you are looking for new ways to celebrate:  go on a Catholic LGBT-friendly pilgrimage to Ireland, the first nation to enact marriage equality by popular vote!

Jeannine Malta

Sister Jeannine Gramick

New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, has just announced that she will be leading an eight-day pilgrimage to the Emerald Isle in April 2016.  Entitled “Ireland: Land of Rainbows and Wedding Bells,” this journey is a perfect way for Catholics in both countries to celebrate together their two historic marriage equality victories that occurred just about one month apart from each other.

In addition to visiting historic and sacred sights connected to Ireland’s Catholic heritage, the pilgrims will be meeting with members of Gay Catholic Voice Ireland, the national Catholic LGBT ministry, and will participate in a monthly Mass and social in a Catholic parish in Dublin which has been established for LGBT people and their families.

News of the pilgrimage was heralded on Yahoo yesterday, with an article by Jo Piazza, who wrote If Nuns Ruled the World: 10 Sisters on a Missionwhich included a chapter on Sister Jeannine’s ministry with the LGBT community.  Piazza described the trip:

Jeannine, a Sister of Loretto, is a big world traveler. This was just the most recent in nearly two decades of gay and lesbian pilgrimages that she has led around the world. Hers is a highly specialized group tour. It’s targeted to gay and lesbian Catholics and their families and is led by a Catholic sister.

A sister? Yup.

She’s a spitfire of a woman, and I can imagine that she is a ton of fun to travel with.

Piazza interviewed Sister Jeannine about her 20 years of leading Catholic LGBT pilgrimages.  They discussed the February 2015 Italy trip, in which Sister Jeannine’s pilgrimage group were provided with VIP seating at the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square on Ash Wednesday.  Sister Jeannine commented on what that welcome meant to her then and now:

“Of course, there is special significance to this particular pilgrimage we took to Italy. Our 50 pilgrims, that included 7 same-sex couples, were invited to special seats within 25 yards of Pope Francis at the papal audience on Ash Wednesday. Just as LGBT people, their families, and friends were welcomed to the Vatican, the SCOTUS decision on June 26 welcomes lesbian and gay couples into the civil family.”

An image of the rainbow which appeared in the sky over Dublin on the day Ireland voted in marriage equality.

Included in the upcoming pilgrimage to Ireland will be visits to places of Catholic and LGBT importance, as well as those of ancient and contemporary Irish history, including:   Our Lady of Knock Shrine,  Oscar Wilde’s home, sites important to both St. Brigid and St. Patrick, the Book of Kells at Trinity College, the Convent where Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy and where she is buried, murals in Belfast commemorating victims of modern religious conflicts, and a museum dedicated to the S.S. Titanic, built in Ireland.

The Ireland pilgrimage will take place on April 11-18, 2016.  The cost, including round-trip airfare from Newark, N.J., is $2,599, which also covers breakfast and supper every day, all admissions, hotel accommodations, and all transfers.   For more information, please visit the New Ways Ministry website to view and download a PDF brochure for the trip, including registration form.   Or contact New Ways Ministry in one of three ways to request a brochure: email:; phone: 301-277-5674; postal mail:  New Ways Ministry, 4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, MD 20712.

So if you are looking for special and unique way to celebrate marriage equality here in the U.S., consider joining with Catholic LGBT people, friends, family members, supporters, and pastoral ministers in making a pilgrimage to Ireland where your joy will surely be doubled!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



Global Network of Rainbow Catholics Provides Alternative to Vatican Document

June 26, 2015

A coalition-in-formation of organizations which promote equality in Catholic LGBT issues has responded to this week’s Vatican release of the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document of the October 2015 synod on marriage and family.

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) issued a press statement, on the same day as the Vatican unveiled the Instrumentum, which provided an alternative Catholic perspective on lesbian and gay family issues, as well as the important topic of criminalizaiton of lesbian and gay people in nations around the globe.

The GNRC statement was critical of the Vatican’s suggested discussion of lesbian and gay issues at the synod, saying:

“Although ‘suitable attention to the pastoral accompaniment of families in which live persons with homosexual tendencies, and families of these same persons’ is recommended, Paragraphs 130-132 of the Working Document hardly reflect the rich discussions which have taken place, internationally and at all levels in the Church, on the welcome, respect, and value which should be afforded to lesbian and gay people in the Catholic community.

“The inclusion of the unfounded statement that international organisations are pressurising poorer countries to introduce same-sex marriage as a condition of receiving financial aid Para. 132) is scandalously dishonest. Far better for the Church to show its commitment to social justice through the condemnation of global criminalisation of LGBT people, including torture and the death penalty.”

The GNRC also proposed several concrete steps that the synod can take to provide more appropriate pastoral care for lesbian and gay people and families.  One step was that the synod should call for:

“a structured discernment process be introduced, to involve homosexual people, including those living in long-term, stable relationships as well as those who are single or celibate, their children and parents, experienced pastoral ministers, and theologians, as well as relevant dicasteries of the Holy See. Such a process, reflecting upon examples of positive pastoral experience and ongoing theological, anthropological and scientific study,  should be conducted at both global and local levels of the Church for a period of three to five years.”

The coalition also suggested that the synod use language which calls for further study and examination of the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity:


“The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge at all levels of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraphs 2357-2358, 2395). It has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid constitutes a precious support in the life of same-sex partners. Arising from the experience of positive pastoral ministry, this Synod encourages the whole Church to renew its theological reflections on human sexuality and gender identity, working towards the right integration of ortho-praxis and ortho-doxy.”

The statement also suggested that the synod speak out strongly against the criminalization of lesbian and gay people:

“At a global level, people with variant sexual orientation are unjustly criminalised, tortured, subjected to death penalties, and those offering pastoral and practical care in such circumstances are also often penalised. This Synod of Bishops unequivocally condemns such injustices perpetrated on people and firmly opposes such patterns of criminalisation. It urges governments and civil society to respect the human rights of each person regardless of their sexual orientation.”

They also addressed the specific topic of baptism for children of lesbian and gay couples:

“When people living in same-sex unions request a child’s baptism, the child must be received with the same care, tenderness and concern which is given to other children. Furthermore, the Church responds to the needs of children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.”

Underlying all the GNRC’s concerns was a rationale for such actions based on Catholic documents and principles:

“Some families include homosexual members who, with their parents, families and children, have a right to informed pastoral care (The Code of Canon Law: Canons 208-231). As such, they ought to be received with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of discrimination in their regard should be avoided. The language used by the Church in describing its pastoral ministry in this area of human concern should reflect its principles of the precious dignity of the person and its commitment to social justice so that the gifts and qualities of homosexual people may be welcomed, valued, and respected  (Paragraphs 10 & 16, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, CDF, 1986).

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics descibes itself as

“an international network of organizations of/with LGBT Catholics which met for the first time during the Family Synod 2014 in Rome and has since worked together to initiate a global network of LGBTQI Catholics, their parents and families.”

The founding groups include: European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, Associació Cristiana de Gais i Lesbianes de Catalunya (ACGIL) (Catalonia), Comitato promotore dell’associazione Cammini di Speranza – associazione nazionale cristiani lgbt (Italy), 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), Wiara i Tęcza (Poland).  [Many of these organizational links provided by Queering the Church.]

This global network will be officially launched in Rome on October 1-4, the opening weekend of the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.  The founding assembly will be entitled “LGBT Voices to the Synod,” and it will include a public conference “Ways of Love – Snapshots of Catholic Encounter with LGBT People and their Families,”presenting examples of positive LGBT pastoral activities from all over the world.   New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, will be a speaker at this event.

The GNRC’s alternative for the synod was included in news stories around the globe this past week.  You can find links to some of those in the list under my signature.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles

ABC News: “Vatican Sets Stage for Family Debate With Working Document” “LGBT Catholics Find Little Encouragement in Family Synod Document” Outreach to gay couples not on agenda for Vatican meeting

New York Times: Vatican Lays Groundwork for Discussions on Family

Queering the Church: “Family Synod Working Document Disappoints Global Rainbow Catholics”

Daily Mail:Outreach to gay couples not on agenda for Vatican meeting

Christian Today: Synod on the Family will not be dominated by homosexuality, says Pope Francis

Mamba Online: LGBT Catholics disappointed by new church document on family

Quest: Family Synod Working Document Disappoints Global Rainbow Catholics

Famwork: Vatican Ready For Family Debate And Discussing Other Issues

[List of articles courtesy of Martin Pendergast]



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