U.S. Diplomat Criticizes Vatican Assertion that Western Aid Tied to Marriage Equality

November 12, 2015

Randy Berry

Visiting the Vatican earlier this week, a United States’ diplomat tasked with LGBTI human rights criticized the Catholic  hierarchy’s assertion that Western governments tie foreign aid to marriage equality. These remarks come just weeks before Pope Francis journeys to Africa, including Uganda where anti-gay legislation became law last year and Kenya where homosexuality is illegal.

Randy Berry, the U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI People, said of these assertions, recently restated in the Synod on the Family’s final report, “the notion that aid was given on the basis of civil unions is completely false,” reported the The Tablet. He stated flatly: “It is not. Period. Full stop.”

Berry made the comments during meetings with Vatican leaders to discuss about the persecution of LGBT people globally.  He met with representatives from the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.  The Tablet reported:

“Mr Berry stressed he had not come to the Vatican to pressure the Church to change its position on same-sex marriage rather to discuss violence and discrimination of gay people in parts of the world where homosexuality is illegal.”

Citing Uganda, Berry admitted that certain aid had been suspended in response to that nation’s anti-gay legislation but only after extensive reviews “to make sure that US taxpayer money was not used to fund legal structures that would prosecute people based on their identity.” The only aid affected is that which would have strengthened the state’s ability to prosecute LGBT people under the law, which Berry importantly noted, “the Church also opposed.”

The Synod document had reaffirmed this idea that humanitarian and development aid is being tied to marriage equality, stating in section 76, as paraphrased by Crux:

“They said local churches shouldn’t be pressured on the question of same-sex marriage, nor should international aid organizations make the acceptance of gay unions a condition of their financial help to poor nations.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, who heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, also suggested this connection between aid and marriage equality was the case in an interview with Bondings 2.0‘s Francis DeBernardo. The cardinal said that while lesbian and gay people’s identities should not be criminalized, no state should be “victimized” by having aid denied because of anti-gay laws. Turkson has had an already ambivalent record on LGBT human rights issues.

Despite the disagreement of Western aid distribution and “clear differences” on same-sex couples’ legal rights, Berry was clear that the U.S. government and Vatican broadly agree that LGBT people should be protected from violence and discrimination. He called the meetings “quite a positive experience” and “an important first dialogue” from which to build collaborative efforts, according to Time.

That this meeting between high-level diplomats even occurred is historic and a sign of progress in the church. Berry, who is gay and the first person to hold this LGBTI special envoy position, requested the meeting so he could “brief Vatican officials myself.” He was on the continent for a three-week tour through Eastern Europe. Elizabeth Dias of Time commented on the event’s significance:

“It is a sign that the Obama administration sees future opportunity to work with the Vatican after the Pope’s September visit, with the possibility to build on the partnership they have strengthened on climate change and migration. It is also a sign that Vatican diplomatic efforts are willing to take certain amount of risk by talking with the U.S. on this issue, as any LGBT issues thrusts the Church into an often conflicted spotlight.”

Berry has visited more than thirty nations since taking office in February, and he described his role as one of listening as well as advocacy. Affirming Pope Francis’ style of openness, the envoy said:

“That inclusive approach speaks volumes. . .I would hope that be because I think they are completely consistent with what we’ve seen from His Holiness in the past.”

This goal of ending discrimination and violence against LGBT people, particularly their criminalization, is indisputably consistent with Catholic teaching. Uganda and Kenya both criminalize homosexuality because civil leaders have used sexual minorities as political scapegoats. Catholic leaders’ responses have been lackluster, if not quite negative in certain instances. Pope Francis should use his upcoming apostolic visit to speak out for the human rights of all, but note the particular challenges LGBT people face.

In this way, Francis can make clearer his commitment to mercy for LGBT communities and position the Church geo-politically as an ally to those seeking to protect the rights of all sexual and gender diverse communities. No endorsement or even discussion of marriage or civil unions is required.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Synod Day Two’s Question: Who Is Inside and Who Is Outside the Church?

October 7, 2015

This post is the second in Bondings 2.0’s reports from the Synod on Marriage and Family in Rome.  New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo will continue to send news and commentary from this meeting. His first post can be reached by clicking here

Here in Rome, the synod is basically a closed event.  No reporters or the general public are allowed into the meeting room where the bishops are having their discussions.  But every day at 1:00 p.m., the Vatican spokesperson, Father Federico Lombardi, is joined by international staff (including English speaker Father Thomas Rosica, CSB) and a few of the synod participants, to explain what transpired since the day before.

At Tuesday’s briefing,  Lombardi told the assembled reporters that since Monday, 72 bishops had made short addresses to the synod, covering a wide range of topics concerning the family:  economic problems, unemployment, migration, violence against women, care for the elderly, child labor, and others.  The list seemed intended to illustrate a fact that was reiterated several times at the briefing:  the synod would not just be about divorced and remarried Catholics.

Pope Francis presides over the synod.

Lombardi emphasized that Pope Francis had warned the bishops that this would not be a single-issue meeting, just as he stressed that Catholic doctrine on marriage “has not been called into question.  The doctrine is still valid.”

Rosica reported that among the topics covered by the 72 bishops who spoke was a concern about lesbian and gay people.   He said that one message expressed was:  “We do not pity gay persons.  They are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and colleagues.”  He reported that another message expressed about gay and lesbian people was: “These are our children, our family members, our flesh and blood, not outsiders.”

Those messages of affirmation are part of the good news of today.

More worrisome were the remarks by Archbishop ‎Paul-André Durocher, the president of the Canadian bishops’ conference.  Durocher is known as being one of the more pastoral bishops at the synod, and, at first glance his remarks seemed to be balanced.

He explained that many of the bishops see a “growing division between cultural life and and what the church teaches.”  This division can elicit two different reactions, he said.  One way is emphasize what teaching is, so as to make sure that it is not diluted.   The other way is for the church to move away from secular culture, and thus become a ghetto.

Durocher said that  the challenge for the bishops in the synod was “how to hold onto the church teaching and enter into dialogue” with other ideas. Some bishops, he said, will emphasize the teaching and some will emphasize the dialogue.  He described the synod as a “collegial exercise to hold both sides together.”

The problem that I see with this kind of thinking, though, is two-fold.  First, if church leaders want to enter into dialogue, they must do so open to the possibility that their position might change.  Without that openness, they are not really having a dialogue.  They will only be having two separate monologues.  Repeated warnings leading up to the synod have all stressed that there will be no change in doctrine.  If that mantra is serious and not just a message to console conservatives,  then it means that the church leaders really do not want to dialogue with those who hold different opinions from the magisterium.

The second problem is that Durocher imagines that there are only two sides to these discussions: inside the church and outside the church.  He imagines the debate as being essentially between the sacred and the secular,  ecclesia vs. culture.  That simple division is not accurate.

In fact, the most serious debate is not between those inside the church vs. those outside the church, but between those inside the church who want to see changes in certain areas concerning families and those inside the church who want to keep things as they are or even move backward to earlier positions.

It is a serious mistake, one made far too often by church leaders, to see progressives inside the church as being too greatly shaped by secular culture.  If bishops would meet with progressives, they would learn that this group wants change because they have been influenced by the Gospel and the Catholic tradition.  As we say about those Catholics who support LGBT issues, they do so because they are Catholic, not in spite of being Catholic.  They have taken the best principles of Catholic social teaching–equality, human dignity, respect–as well as the best ideas about the goodness of loving relationships for human personal and spiritual growth, and have applied them to the various situations in which LGBT people find themselves.

Although I am most familiar with the LGBT community, I know from talking with others who advocate for the divorced/remarried Catholics and for the equality of women, that the same foundation in Church principles exist.  Faithful Catholic theologians have long argued that the tradition of Catholicism supports changes in the areas of LGBT concerns, divorced/remarried issues, and gender equality.  To imagine that it is only secular cultural forces that want to see these changes is a dangerous mistake which does not recognize how the Spirit of God is moving in the Church.

Among other bits of good news from today, Rosica also mentioned that the problem of terminology also was discussed as a major theme. One bishop said “there must be an end to exclusionary language and a strong emphasis of embracing reality as it is.” A different bishop noted that sometimes “our church can often be a dangerous place,” and suggested the synod explore the question: “How do we make our homes and ecclesial communities welcoming places?”  Though no one referred to LGBT issues, I can’t help but think that this was on the minds of some of the speakers.  Rosica stated: “Some of the interventions suggested we should be more inclusionary in our language, especially in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.” He stressed that some bishops said “The language of inclusion must be our language.”

A reporter asked Durocher about the question of the Church’s prohibition of divorce, inquiring if it was a matter of doctrine or discipline.  The importance of such a question is due to the fact that there have been so many statements that doctrine will not change.  But can a church discipline change?

Durocher’s answer was: “To be quite honest, there might be differences of opinion” on that question, and it “will be debated.  We will discuss it seriously.”   Though the question was asked in terms of the situation of divorced people, it can also be applied to LGBT issues such as the reception of communion, the baptism of children of lesbian and gay couples, allowing transgender people to serve as godparents, and the firing of married lesbian and gay church employees–all of which are matters of discipline, but not doctrine.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

National Catholic Reporter: “Vatican: Pope reminded Synod that divorced and remarried not only issue”

More Details Emerge About Gay Priest Dismissed from Vatican After Coming Out

October 5, 2015

Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa

A few more details and commentaries have emerged about the gay priest serving at the Vatican priest who came out this past weekend

Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa announced he was gay and partnered last week just days before the Synod of Bishops kicked off in Rome, reported Crux.  The news report quoted another news story in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, in which the priest provided some background for his decision:

“[He] was motivated to make his sexual orientation public by hate mail that he received after publicly criticizing a right-wing Polish priest who is strongly anti-gay in the Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny.

The 43-year old priest said he hoped to be “a Christian voice” influencing the Synod on Marriage and Family [which began yesterday] as it discusses LGBT pastoral care among other topics related to family life.

Charamsa, a theologian for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, assistant to the International Theological Commission, and professor at several pontifical universities in Rome, initially came out in interviews published in Italy and Poland. Crux quoted his message to the LGBT community in his coming out announcement


” ‘Do not apologize for what you are,’ he said in comments meant for the LGBT community, ‘because you’re full members of the community, and in the case of the baptized, of the Church. [You’re part of a] civilized community, and the Church doesn’t have the moral right to deny your right to love and get married.’ “

The priest, who has not been laicized although this decision remains in his bishop’s hands, said the decision to come out was “a very personal, difficult, and tough” one because the Catholic Church is homophobic. For this reason, he also said LGBT Catholics should fight for their “dignity and right to happiness” when the Church persecutes them.

Charasma’s announcement led to his immediate dismissal from both the CDF and university faculties.The priest acknowledged these potential sanctions in the Irish Times, but was clear he could not remain silent:

” ‘I am ready to pay the consequences of this but the moment has come for the Church to open its eyes to gay believers and to understand that the solution which it offers to gays, namely total abstinence from a love life, is simply inhuman’ . . .

“Monsignor Charamsa said on Saturday there was a day when ‘something breaks inside you’, adding that God guided him to this decision, ‘which should be the most simple for any homosexual’.

“He said: ‘It seems to me that, in the Church, we don’t know homosexuality because we don’t know homosexuals, yet we have them all over the place. With my story I want to shake the conscience of the Church a bit.’ “

Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi called the priest’s actions “very serious and irresponsible” because they made a “pointed statement” as the Synod was beginning, reported Vatican Radio. Others, however, have welcomed Monsignor Charasma’s integrity and openness precisely because it shakes the church’s conscience while criticizing the Vatican’s expulsion.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, told The Independent:

“Charamsa now joins the long list of people fired from jobs in Catholic institutions because of LGBT issues. It is unfortunate that Church leaders did not see this as an opportunity for further dialogue with someone they have known and trusted.”

You can read New Ways Ministry’s full statement applauding Charamsa’s courage and honesty here.

Michael Bayly, who blogs at The Wild Reed, commented on Charamsa’s firing:

“I remind myself that expulsion is often the cost of true discipleship.”

Before Charasma’s announcement theologian Mary Hunt penned an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun noting that a large number of closeted gay men are involved in church decisions which harm LGBT people:

“Finally, it is time to end the gay charade in the Roman Catholic Church. The sea of men in every church and papal meeting during the U.S. visit underscored a homosocial power structure. It is an open secret that a high percentage of clergy and religious leaders are same-sex loving people, whether sexually active or not. For those same men to collude in anti-LGBTIQ efforts, including legislation and theology, is morally repugnant.”

Monsignor Charamsa’s coming out and dismissal come in a charged week for LGBT Catholics news, as reports surfaced about Pope Francis’ encounter with Kim Davis and a same-sex couple. Even with those items swirling, the gay priest’s announcement cut through and made headlines — a testament, I think, to the power that such a revelation has to move people and potentially effect change in the church.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

New Ways Ministry: Gay Priest’s Revelation Is Big Step for Himself & the Church

October 3, 2015

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa’s announcement of his gay sexual orientation is an important step for him personally and an important step for the Catholic Church.  This Vatican official, who worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,  exhibited courage and honesty in making his orientation public.

Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa

His revelation is an acknowledgement of the truth of the way God has made him, and, like millions of other LGBT Catholics, his self-acceptance and self-affirmation will help him better understand God’s love for him. For the Catholic Church, his news is another step in our growing process of coming to better terms with our LGBT brothers and sisters.

[For news stories about Monsignor Charamsa’s announcement, see the end of this post.  An English language translation of the Italian newspaper interview with him in which he revealed his orientation can be found by clicking here. The Vatican’s response to the announcement can be read by clicking here. ] 

It is sadly disappointing that the Vatican fired him when they learned of his announcement.  He now joins the long list of LGBT people and allies who have been fired from jobs in Catholic institutions because of LGBT issues.  It is unfortunate that Church leaders did not see Charamsa’s announcement as an opportunity for further dialogue with someone they have known and trusted.

We hope that his news will help the bishops of the world gathering in Rome this weekend for three weeks of synod discussions which will include pastoral outreach to families with LGBT members.  His witness to the holiness of the lives of LGBT people and the goodness of their relational lives could help these church leaders discern more appropriate and accepting forms of pastoral care.   His testimony of struggle and overcoming fear should help these bishops see the challenges and joys that many LGBT people and their families face.

The decision to come out is a highly personal one, and one which only the individual can make.  Only the individual can decide when it is safe and responsible to do so, taking into account the possible negative repercussions that can occur in terms of employment, housing, and relationships.  Only the individual can decide when the pressures of the closet have become too difficult for their emotional and spiritual lives. New Ways Ministry continues to support all LGBT people–including priests, nuns, brothers, deacons, bishops–as they discern when is the appropriate time for them to make such a revelation about themselves.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Reuters: “Vatican sacks priest after he comes out as gay”

Huffington Post:  Vatican Fires Gay Priest On Eve Of Synod”


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”

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]


Disappointment and Hope in Vatican’s Working Document on Synod

June 24, 2015

The Vatican has released its working paper for October’s Synod on Marriage and the Family, and while the sections on gay and lesbian issues are either neutral or negative, other parts of the document provide some reason for hope.

Called an Instrumentum Laboris, the document has so far only been released in Italian.  From translations quoted news sources, I’ve been able to piece together some of what the document has to say in paragraphs 130-132 which deal with lesbian and gay people.  [My own unofficial translation of these three paragraphs, thanks primarily to GoogleTranslate, follows my signature at the end of this post; you can read the official Italian version by clicking here.]

The 2014 Synod.

The National Catholic Reporter provided the following translation of parts of that section:

“The document contains a short, three-paragraph section on ministering to gay people, ‘Pastoral attention to persons with homosexual tendencies.’

” ‘Every person, independently of their sexual tendencies, is respected in their dignity and should be received with sensibility and delicateness, both in the church and in society,’ the document states.

” ‘It would be desirable that diocesan pastoral projects reserve a specific attention to the accompanying of families with persons of homosexual tendencies, and of the persons themselves,’ it continues.”

Most dangerous is the use of the term “homosexual tendencies.” Gay and lesbian people view themselves as having a sexual orientation which is a fundamental part of their psychic makeup.  Scientific studies acknowledge the permanence and naturalness of a homosexual orientation.  For church leaders to continue to use “homosexual tendencies,”  which seems to connote impermanence as well as simply a controllable desire to act and not a personality trait, reveals a stunning ignorance of the topic, as well as a disrespectful attitude towards lesbian and gay people.  The document did use “sexual orientation” at one point in the document; they should make sure it is always used when it is accurate.
The only neutral parts of their discussion on homosexuality is the recommendations that lesbian and gay people “should be received with sensibility and delicateness, both in the church and in society,”and “that diocesan pastoral projects reserve a specific attention to the accompanying of families with persons of homosexual tendencies, and of the persons themselves,”  Yet, these are bland and non-committal statements, with no substantive or specific details.   Those details will need to be worked out at the synod, and the result could either be very favorable or much more damaging to lesbian and gay Catholics.
Most shocking in the document is the section on Catholic pastors in developing nations being pressured to accept same-gender relationships under the threat of losing international aid money. This statement is a repeat of the same idea which appeared in the 2014 Synod’s final report. Thanks to GoogleTranslate, and my own admittedly limited knowledge of Italian, the section in the new document reads in English as:
“It is totally unacceptable that the Pastors of the Church suffer pressure in this matter [i.e, concerning legal recognition of same-gender relationships] and that international organizations connect financial aid to poor countries with the introduction of laws that establish the ‘marriage’ between people of the same sex.”
The claim that Catholic pastors suffer pressure from international aid organizations to support marriage equality has no basis in reality. There is not one shred of evidence that this dynamic has happened.  Indeed, on the contrary, it has been shameful that some Catholic bishops have supported laws which allow lesbian and gay people to be criminalized for who they are, making them vulnerable to arrest, torture, and imprisonment.
Moreover, this new document does not reflect any of the positive movement among bishops and lay Catholics which has been occurring over the past few years. The example of Ireland voting in marriage equality is a classic example that Catholic lay people want their Church to approach these matters differently.
Additionally, in reporting on answers to the Vatican’s synod surveys, bishops’ conferences have noted that their nations’ Catholics have responded critically of the official negative attitude toward lesbian and gay people.  And, as Bondings 2.0 has noted time after time, there is a growing movement among bishops, especially since the 2014 synod, on finding ways to accommodate committed lesbian and gay couples.
None of these developments are reflected in the document.
So, what is the reason to hope?
One reason is the presence of an unusually pastoral statement in the document which provides an opening for further discussion.  The National Catholic Reporter, which provided the following translation, referred to this sentence as a call to “open-mindedness:
“A style of communication open to dialogue and free from prejudice is necessary particularly with regard of those Catholics that, in area of marriage and family, do not live, or are unable to live, in full accordance with the teachings of the church.”
If bishops and priests take that statement seriously, and actually practice it, the much needed dialogue on LGBT issues in the Church–as well as so many other gender, sexuality, and relationships issues–could truly begin.
I’m also hopeful because, as I mentioned above, there have been many statements from bishops around the globe over the past few months which indicate an eagerness to discuss pastoral ministry to lesbian and gay people, as well as to discussing the idea of a positive Catholic approach to same-gender relationships and commitments.  A number of these bishops will be at the synod, and I imagine they will give courage to others there to speak out more positively on LGBT issues.
More on this document later in the week. It looks like October is going to be an exciting month!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Unofficial translation of the three paragraphs
from the Instrumentum Laboris which discuss homosexuality
The pastoral care of the homosexual person
130. (55) Some families experience having members with homosexual orientation. Regarding this, we raise the question of pastoral care which is appropriate to deal with this situation by referring to what the Church teaches: “There is no basis whatsoever to assimilate or establish analogies, even remote, between homosexual unions and God’s plan for marriage and the family.” Nevertheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. “In their regard every sign of unjust discrimination should be avoided.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4).
131. We reiterate that every person, regardless of their sexual tendencies, must be respected in their dignity and met with sensitivity and delicacy, both in the Church and in society. It would be desirable that the diocesan pastoral plans reserve special attention to the accompaniment of families with persons of homosexual tendencies, and of the persons themselves.”
132. (56) “It is totally unacceptable that the Pastors of the Church suffer pressure in this matter [i.e, concerning legal recognition of same-gender relationships] and that international organizations connect financial aid to poor countries with the introduction of laws that establish the ‘marriage’ between people of the same sex.”


Vatican’s ‘Defeat for Humanity’ Statement Shows Church Officials Have Not Learned from the Irish Example

May 28, 2015

Reactions to Ireland’s historic referendum vote to establish same-gender marriage in that nation have brought responses from around the globe.  The latest reaction came from the Vatican Secretary of State who said it was “Not a defeat for Christian principles, it was a defeat for humanity.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Religion News Service noted that Cardinal Pietro Parolin made this comment while speaking on Vatican Radio, and that he also noted “The Church must take account of this reality, but in the sense of reinforcing its commitment to evangelization.”

This reaction from a high Vatican official differed from those of someone closer to Ireland, Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who had stated that he thought the Church needed to consider the views of young people on this and other issues:

“I think really the church needs to do a reality check right across the board, to look at the areas in which we’re doing well and see have we drifted away completely from young people.”

Martin also acknowledged that gay and lesbian people would see the new legal option “enriching as the way they live”–a far cry from calling it a threat to humanity.

Parolin’s remarks seem to be part of a shift from the more positive rhetoric that Pope Francis had been employing in regard to LGBT issues. More recently, however, Pope Francis has made it clear that he opposes marriage equality initiatives. His speech at a Vatican-sponsored conference on “sexual complementarity” last fall, and an address about marriage and family during his visit to the Philippines are two examples. Yet, as a Guardian analysis of Parolin’s remarks pointed out:

“Parolin differed from the pope in one respect: the Argentinian pontiff has also used the phrase ‘defeat for humanity,’ but he was talking about war, not the legalisation of gay marriage.”

The heightened rhetoric of Parolin, though, is not only harmful because it is so harsh, but because it shows that Vatican officials have not yet absorbed the lesson of Ireland.  Throughout this past week, commentators have remarked on the significant change that this vote represents.  Even Archbishop Diarmuid Martin referred to it as a “social revolution.”

For instance, the Irish victory has emboldened other nations to go forward, with leaders in Italy and Germany calling for  similar votes.  In Germany, though many in the ruling Christian Democratic Union party  and the Green party are calling for marriage equality, Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken against it. Following Ireland’s example, Greenland’s parliament voted to adopt Danish laws on marriage equality.  The Irish victory has re-introduced the topic of marriage equality into Australia’s parliament. While Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister opposes the discussion, Bill Shorter, an opposition leader asked:

“If the Irish people can vote in favour of marriage equality, the question has to be asked, what is Tony Abbott’s problem with it?”

Indeed, Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist, has pointed out something that we have noted on this blog for a long time:  that Catholic people and Catholic nations have been in the forefront of the LGBT equality movement around the globe.  In speaking of Irish and other Catholic voters, Bruni said:

“They aren’t sloughing off their Catholicism — not exactly, not entirely. An overwhelming majority of them still identify as Catholic. But they’re incorporating religion into their lives in a manner less rooted in Rome.

“We journalists too often use ‘the Catholic Church’ as a synonym for the pope, the cardinals and teachings that have the Vatican’s stamp of approval.

“But in Europe and the Americas in particular, the church is much more fluid than that. It harbors spiritually inclined people paying primary obeisance to their own consciences, their own senses of social justice. That impulse and tradition are as Catholic as any others.”

With such momentum underway on the part of many nations and Catholic populations, Parolin’s extreme language will only continue to alienate people from Catholicism. It seems that he hasn’t learned that such language only pushes people further away. In Ireland, Fr. Brendan Hoban, a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in that country, observed that strong opposition messages from the bishops there worked against the hierachy’s goal.  Hoban stated in an Irish Times article:

“It was clear from the beginning that the bishops’ decision in policy terms to campaign for a blunt No vote was alienating even the most conservative of Irish Catholics. . . . [The referendum results highlighted] the gap between the church and a significant number of its people… It is so out of tune with the needs of the people.”

In the same article, Fr. Tony Flannery, another co-founder of ACP observed how the bishops’ strategy was not only a political, but a pastoral mistake. He said:

“[T]he day of doctrinaire Catholicism is over in this country. The people are no longer willing to listen to speeches and sermons on morality from the church.

“What was ‘particularly sad was to see the bishops in total opposition to a mass movement of the younger generation.’

“The very people whom the church should be trying to listen to, and trying to learn a way of communicating effectively with, were the ones they were driving further away with all their pastorals in each diocese.”

Instead of ramping up the negative rhetoric, bishops and church officials should focus on another form of communication which LGBT Catholics and supporters have requested for decades: dialogue.  Indeed, that was the message of Dave Donnellan, secretary of “Gay Catholic Voice of Ireland,” the LGBT Catholic organization in the Emerald Isle.  In a statement responding to the referendum vote, Donnellan spoke of the joy the members of his organization felt, but also added:

“As gay Catholics this profound joy was, however, tinged with deep disappointment that our own Church opposed this change. Whilst Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s comment that the Catholic Church needs a ‘reality check’ was noted, if this ‘reality check’ does not involve sitting down and having a dialogue with LGBT Catholics in his own diocese then it is of little value.”

If the Irish example teaches anything, it should teach church leaders that dialogue is the answer to how to proceed regarding not only marriage equality, but all LGBT issues.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

(Editor’s note:  There has been so much written on the landmark Irish referendum ushering in marriage equality that it has been hard to keep up with all of it.  Expect another post in a few days with more responses and analysis.)

Related articles

New York Times: “Vatican Official Denounces Ireland’s Vote for Same-Sex Marriage”

Crux: “Vatican: Irish marriage vote was a defeat for humanity”

Gay City News: “After This, No Exile: A Gay Priest Reflects on Ireland’s Declaration of Independence”

Religion Dispatches: “Did Ireland Just Bury the Catholic Church?”

Crux: “Irish voters were not swayed by their Church”

Huffington Post: “The Irish Referendum and the Future of Catholicism”



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