Global Network of Rainbow Catholics Provides Alternative to Vatican Document

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”

Advocate.com: “LGBT Catholics Find Little Encouragement in Family Synod Document”

Reuters.com: 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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WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Widen the Synod Circle with Diverse Voices

“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.

The coalition has a website, OurCatholicFamily.org, which includes other ways that people can influence the synod organizers to plan a more open synod:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

 

 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Theologian Fr. Charles Curran Calls for Change in Church Teaching

Fr. Charles Curran

“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

In a new interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Fr. Charles Curran openly calls for the Catholic church to rethink and, ultimately, change some of its moral teachings on sexuality, including gay and lesbian relationships.

Most reflections during and after last October’s synod were concerned with pastoral practices and a slow doctrinal developments, if any, but Curran’s proposal is more straightforward.

Acknowledging what he calls “creeping infallibility” by the hierarchy in recent decades, Curran highlights the possibility of change in church teaching:

“In my judgment, there never has been an infallible church teaching on a specific moral issue. The reason is that these issues are removed from the core of faith and deal with many different specificities and complexities…if there is any doubt about it, it cannot be infallible teaching…

“The fact that the church has changed its moral teaching in a number of very significant specific issues is proof that such teaching is not unchangeable and what is taught today as noninfallible teaching can also be changed in the future. Perhaps the best explanation of why such teaching can be changed is simply looking at the language. Noninfallible really means that something is fallible!”

Among those teachings which have changed, Curran notes, are understandings of sexuality and marriage. He proposes a rethinking of sexual ethics that incorporates the good of the dignity of the human person and their relationships. Rejecting the current papal teaching which demands that “Every single act, therefore, must be open to procreation and expressive of the love union of husband and wife,” Curran continues:

“The problem with the Catholic approach is using the nature of the faculty [of sex as procreative and unitive] as the criterion for discovering whether an act is right or wrong. One can never see the power or faculty of sexuality apart from the human person and the human person apart from one’s relationship to other persons. Thus, for example, for the good of the person or the good of the marriage, one could and should at times interfere with the procreative purpose of the sexual faculty. In the same manner then, one could justify homosexual relations and unions on the basis of what is good for the human person and the human person’s relationships.”

On the theological concept of gradualism, raised anew at the synod and Pope Francis’ new pastoral approach, Curran comments:

“The primary role of any minister in the church, including the bishop of Rome, is to be a pastor. The pastor has to be close to the people and to know and experience their joys and their sorrows, their laughter and their tears…

“The pastoral approach in a very true sense should embrace all that the various ministers of the Gospel do, but it certainly also has relevance to very practical moral problems that people are experiencing. I have already mentioned that with regard to gradualness. This brings to mind one of the statements that was found in the first summary of what went on in the synod: ‘The truth is incarnate in human fragility not to condemn it, but to cure it.’ “

Commenting on the synod itself, Curran praised open discussions between members of the hierarchy but expressed disappointment that no teachings were changed, a position defended by “even those who were in favor of pastoral change.” Looking ahead,  Curran concludes with more practical considerations on how the church should proceed:

“I think it is necessary for the papacy to admit that some of its present teachings on sexuality are wrong. But that is going to be a very difficult task to do…Without doubt, it will be very difficult for papal teaching to admit that its teaching in the past has been wrong…On the other hand, history has shown that such teachings have been wrong. Perhaps the problem has been that the papacy has claimed too much certitude for its own teaching…

“I recognize all the problems and difficulties in the way of recognizing that past and present papal teaching has been wrong, but this is the real problem that we have to face. However, in facing it, in light of what we talked about earlier, I am certainly willing to accept some kind of gradualism …

“But with this acceptance of gradualism, there comes a warning. In the past, the Catholic church had a long time to deal with the possibility of change, or what it preferred to call development in its teachings. But because of instant communication today, the church no longer has the luxury to take that long. There is an urgency to change the present teaching for the good of the church.”

Fr. Curran was the first recipient of New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award, which recognizes individuals who, through scholarship or pastoral actions, help to promote justice and equality for LGBT people.  He also wrote the introduction to the book Building Bridges:  Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church, by Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founders. He has also spoken at New Ways Ministry’s national symposiums.

To read the full interview, which delves far more deeply into the theological underpinnings of Curran’s desire to change church teachings, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry