Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 reported on how LGBT topics were addressed at San Diego’s diocesan synod on the family, basically b recommending greater pastoral outreach, and greater education about conscience development. While LGBT topics were only tangentially discussed at the meeting, there is a sign of hope that they will be aired more fully at the diocese’s next synod in 2018.
The reason for that optimistic outlook is that the diocese has already set the topic for that synod: young adults. And as surveys and general knowledge show, LGBT issues are a big concern for this demographic, and are some of the main reasons that many youth leave the Church.
At least one diocesan official has already acknowledged the importance of LGBT concerns for the younger generation. The National Catholic Reporter spoke with Fr. John Dolan, vicar for clergy and pastor of two San Diego parishes, about the synod process, as well as about LGBT outreach:
” ‘There are two different forms of doing church,’ he said. ‘One is very dialogical, from a dialogical sense, and the other is from a monological sense. And we have dealt with that monological world: Things come from on high, they get shelved in some pastor’s corner, then there’s some thought that comes down, but ultimately it’s all “We’re going to tell you what to think.” ‘
“Dolan, whose two parishes overlap the Hillcrest area — understood to be the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual center of the city of San Diego — added that the lack of attention to that population at the current synod was ‘the elephant in the room.’
” ‘Young adults have an acceptance of the LGBT experience. It is simply a part of their world, and they look at us, and say, “What is the problem?” ‘ Dolan said.”
Interestingly, Bishop Robert McElroy, who initiated the synod process in San Diego, said he was surprised the LGBT topics were so strongly voiced by the delegates at the family synod which just ended. He told The National Catholic Reporter:
” ‘There were a number of surprises, but … a great surprise to me was where the LGBT question would come up,’ McElroy told NCR. ‘In the five issue areas I had laid out, evolving from Amoris Laetitia, it wasn’t easy to see where it properly falls in. It doesn’t exactly fall into marriage, and it doesn’t exactly fall into children, although certainly how you deal with that [gay and lesbian] question with kids is very important, and young adults and teenagers.’
“He continued, ‘But where it came up, which is so interesting to me, it came up in the spirituality of marriage.’ “
The synod delegates recommended that the diocese establish an office of family spirituality, and that outreach to LGBT people be a part of that office’s ministry. McElroy explained the group’s recommendation to him included that the name be inclusive of LGBT and other non-traditional families. He said they told him:
“[D]on’t call [it] your Office of Marriage and Family Life, call it the Office of Family Spirituality.”
“And they had a pyramid … which was a very inclusive notion of what family means. And they said, ‘This is not a sociological declaration … our Catholic spirituality of family says family for us includes this.’ People who are gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual, whatever … they’re part of our own families, this is part of what family life means.”
One of the theological advisers to the diocesan synod, Emily Reimer-Barry, chair of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego, acknowledged that LGBT voices themselves were not heard at the meeting which just ended. The National Catholic Reporter captured her thoughts:
“Reimer-Barry agreed that at present, the LGBT community and specifically those in same-sex marriages are substantially excluded. But she said she felt inspired by McElroy’s opening homily, in which ‘he looked at the story of Mary and Joseph in Matthew’s Gospel as refugees who were looking for safety. Judgmentalism must be banished. The church is not for the pure, but for all.’
” ‘Divorced, married civilly, a member of family being deported,’ Reimer-Barry continued. ‘So many instances of families hurting in our context. Just reiterating church sayings is not enough. Focusing on the church as a field hospital and mercy, from Pope Francis’ recent exhortation, is just a really provocative way to think about being the church here in San Diego.’ “
Bishop McElroy can and should remedy that omission for the next synod, where LGBT issues will certainly be a front-burner topic. He has already made some important gestures to the LGBT community generally, and to the Catholic LGBT community in San Diego, in particular. The Union-Tribune reported that Monsignor Richard Duncanson, pastor of Rancho Santa Fe’s Church of the Nativity, acknowledged that the local church must start a conversation about LGBT issues, noting:
“How do we deal with people in irregular unions–the gay and lesbian loving relationships? How do we recognize the good there without recognizing this as a marriage?”
The newspaper also reported that LGBT Catholics stand ready to be part of such a discussion:
“This is a welcome conversation, said Patrick Ambrosio, vice president of the San Diego chapter of Dignity, a national LGBT Catholic group.
“Dignity was founded in San Diego in 1969. Yet contact between the local group and its home diocese had been virtually non-existent until recently.
“Last summer, Ambrosio said, the diocese invited Dignity to attend a ‘Catholics Night’ at a Padres home game.
” ‘That’s one of the first communications we’ve ever received,’ Ambrosio said. ‘Ever.’ “
The synod on youth in 2018 will be a great opportunity to discuss LGBT issues for the San Diego Catholic Church. But why wait that long? The diocese has already made a welcoming invitation to LGBT Catholics to a baseball game. Can church leaders take the next step and now invite them to sit down and dialogue with one another on important pastoral concerns?
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 10, 2016