“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”
That question sticks with me as the new year begins. With 2015 underway, Bondings 2.0 wonders what sources of hope Catholic LGBT advocates look to for the coming year. What is the reason for our hope?
One possibility is the church’s bishops, whose corporate identity is shifting under Pope Francis. He recently announced twenty new cardinals to be incardinated in February, whose names you can find here. Of this Joshua McElwee writes at the National Catholic Reporter:
“Continuing to diversify global representation in the most select body of Catholic prelates, Pope Francis announced Sunday that he will be creating 20 new cardinals from 18 different countries — with several from places never before included in the elite group…
“While historically cardinals have come from certain larger cities known for their Catholic populations or global importance, Francis has sought to diversify representation in the group — choosing men from places long underrepresented or even not represented in the College of Cardinals.”
Beyond the global diversity, John Allen of Crux notes these cardinal-designates include “a couple of high-profile moderates but no one with a clear reputation as a doctrinal or political conservative.” None of those named have been featured on Bondings 2.0 since we began in 2011, which is to say their records on LGBT issues specifically may be sparse. Additionally, no Americans were named and only one was a Vatican official. Clearly, Pope Francis’ choices reinforce his preference for bishops who are foremost pastors rather than hardened cultural warriors on LGBT rights and other sexual issues.
As 2014 ended, several church leaders were sources of hope for LGBT advocates. For example:
- Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium made history by calling on the Church to recognize and bless committed same-gender relationships;
- Deacon Ray Dever wrote for this blog about his family’s experience of loving their trans* daughter on the Feast of the Holy Family;
- Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco met separately with DignityUSA and New Ways Ministry in two bridge building moments.
Perhaps your source of hope does not depend on clerical leaders. You may feel like Heidi Schlumpf who says she has “stopped pinning my hopes on prelates.” Writing in the National Catholic Reporter about the transition in the Archdiocese of Chicago from Cardinal Francis George, who “inspired fear,” to Archbishop Blase Cupich, who is being celebrated in progressive circles, she explains:
“The reporter in me should have been more excited when the announcement came in September that Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash., would be the next archbishop of Chicago. But I stopped pinning my hopes on prelates a long time ago…I’m not pessimistic, but neither am I hopeful. I have learned the hard way not to put my faith in church leaders. I prefer good ones to bad ones, but they are not the most important people in the church to me.”
Instead, Schlumpf would likely consider herself among the many Catholics whose hope for the church rests in the laity
Since December began, Catholics laity in the U.S. and other parts of the world have stirred our hopes by standing up for LGBT justice as a constitutive part of Christian faith. This witness includes:
- An Indiana Knights of Columbus council’s decision to welcome a same-sex couple to their banquet facilities after pro-LGBT voices, including Knights, protested initial discrimination;
- Gay Catholic Voice Ireland and others mounting a pro-equality campaign as that nation considers a referendum on marriage;
- Students teaching adults about LGBT justice — from 6th grade through college, and being sure to include trans* rights in these efforts;
- LGBT Catholics in New York who spearheaded efforts to save one parish amid that archdiocese’s massive closings.
So where are you placing your hope for 2015? Is it in Pope Francis and church leaders who are becoming more pastoral and merciful? Is it in the lay people who continue witnessing to an inclusive Gospel? Is it a combination of the two or something else entirely? Let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below!
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry