LGBT PRE-SYNOD CONFERENCE GETS STRONG EPISCOPAL BACKING
October 7, 2015
Around a hundred people gathered at the Pilgrim Centre “Santa Teresa Couderc” in Rome, for the international conference entitled Ways of Love: Snapshots of Catholic Encounters With LGBT People and Their Families, sponsored by the “Global Network of Rainbow Catholics”, a worldwide network of organisations that, in the name of “social justice”, demand inclusion and dignity for LGBT people and their families within the Catholic Church and society in general. The meeting was attended by Catholic pastoral leaders from around the world, who came together to share, through their stories, their pastoral approach and work in favour of LGBT people within their ecclesiastical communities. In addition to drawing up new action plans, a clear and stated objective of the initiative was to apply some pressure to the impending crucial Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the topic of the Family, which opens in Rome on Monday 5th October.
Presenting the event, two of the conference spokespersons, Andrea Rubera and Martin Pendergast, advocated peaceful dialogue with the community and Catholic institutions, stating:“Taking inspiration from the second Encyclical of Pope Francis, (Laudato Si), we feel that the time has come for us all to build and care for our shared home, the Church, with commitment from every member of the Roman Catholic community. Our shared home does not need struggle or division. We must find a place for each and every one of God’s people, including LGBT people. The experiences that we bring to the conference in Rome on “The Ways of Love” show us that pastoral work, for and with LGBT people, is already a reality in many parts of the world, without creating any problems for the communities in which it takes place. The idea that we wish to put to the bishops gathered in Rome for the Synod is that we can – and we must – find new ways to spread these models of pastoral work and develop new ones”.
Vatican flag on display at conference
The first speech of the day, as part of the “Snapshots of Pastoral LGBT Projects”, was that of Chilean Jesuit priest Pedro Labrin, the national ecclesiastical assistant of the “Christian Life Community” (CLC/CVX) in Chile. Speaking of his initiative “Sexual Diversity Pastoral Padis+”, which promotes the full inclusion of LGBT people within the Catholic Church, Labrin recalled the story of Daniel Zamudio, presenting him as a martyr of homophobia: “The blood of martyrs is still fresh and it is they who help us to understand what the Second Vatican Council meant by the term Church, the People of God. (…) Daniel did not die by God’s will but by the will of homophobes”.
Next, the American nun Jeannine Gramick took the floor: she was the founder in 1997 with Father Robert Nugent, of the “New Ways Ministry” in the Archdiocese of Washington – an organisation founded with the aim of promoting “justice and reconciliation between lesbian and gay Catholics and the wider Catholic community”. In 1999, as a result of her work and in clear contrast with Catholic doctrine Sister Gramick, together with Father Nugent, was the subject of a notificationby the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith through which they were “permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons” and ineligible, “for an indeterminate period, for any office in their respective religious institutions“.
Sister Gramick said she converted to a broader and more authentic interpretation of the Gospel after meeting a lesbian, and she spoke of her tireless work in favour of LGBT people. In particular, Gramick stressed the commitment of her parish in the referendum campaign in favour of same-sex marriage equality, a commitment that has made a decisive contribution to changing the opinion of many Catholics, convincing them to vote in favour of gay marriage. Sister Gramick said that she received the approval of the bishop himself for her work, who, despite being publicly known as a conservative, showed great compassion for the LGBT cause. Following the gay marriage victory, according to Sister Gramick the bishop conceded defeat, admitting: “You have won and we have lost; it is you who talk of love and acceptance and not us!” Then Sister Gramick, hoping that the experience of the “New Ways Ministry” may extend from the United States out into the world, offered those at the conference some guidelines and pastoral advice to put into practice in their own parishes and communities: the importance of direct communication with the bishops of the dioceses; the involvement of parishioners, putting them in touch with their bishops to demonstrate to them the faith of lesbians, bisexual, transgender and transsexual people who need to feel accepted, not only by parish priests, but also by the most senior hierarchies of the Church.
Cardinal Nichols with LGBT activists
Next to speak was Martin Pendergast, a member of the Pastoral Council of Westminster for LGBT Catholics, who shared his own experiences by presenting the project Categories: Uncategorized