To our brothers in Christ, the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Much has changed since you last gathered in Baltimore to discern where God is leading our Church and how we as Catholics should respond. Many of these changes are bringing great hope to Catholics, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and our families. We have a new Pope, a man who desires to move the church beyond ideological battles and to emphasize mercy, not judgment, in the way Church leaders govern. A number of high profile prelates in other countries have supported civil unions for same-sex couples. One-third of U. S. citizens now live in states that permit same-sex couples to marry.
But, while much is different, challenges still remain for our community.
Many feel welcomed in the Church only if they remain silent about who they are and whom they love. Faithful Catholics are finding themselves pushed out of the Church that they love because they can no longer square the pronouncements and practices of the hierarchy with their own consciences formed by study, prayer and relationships with LGBT people living faith-filled lives. All of these things fragment the Body of Christ in painful ways.
At this pivotal moment in the life of our church, we, the leaders of the Equally Blessed coalition, invite you into a deeper relationship with LGBT Catholics, their families and their friends. We seek, first of all, simple conversation with you. Rather than speaking about LGBT people, or, worse yet, against LGBT people, we urge you to sit down and speak with LGBT people. We ask you to convene local and national conversations in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families and their friends can tell you about their faith and their commitment to the Church.
The spirit of respect and openness that these conversations could foster would be balm on the wounds of LGBT Catholics and those who love them.
The bishops and LGBT Catholics and their allies have many opportunities to show where our Church is united in its commitment to the dignity of the human person. The bishops have many opportunities to reach out to LGBT persons without violating Church teaching. The USCCB could issue an unambiguous statement declaring that bullying children because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable.
Parishes and diocesan offices could be encouraged to make concerted efforts to include LGBT people in their outreach ministries and other agendas.The Church could make an effort to create pastorally sensitive ministries that would deal with the problem of LGBT youth homelessness and suicide. Together, we are sure we can find other ways to send out positive and mercy-filled messages.
Now is the time for us all to adopt a new approach in dealing with issues of human sexuality, especially in dealing with LGBT people, as Pope Francis seems to be calling us to do. It will take time to rebuild trust between members of the Conference and those who have been damaged by its past policies.
But, if Jesus came that we all might be one, then healing must begin.
So we implore you to sit down with us, to listen to voices from the margins of the Church, and to speak with us candidly about your own concerns. We offer an outstretched hand of invitation.
At a time when Pope Francis is urging the church to move beyond what he calls its “obsession” with sexual issues, we, faithful Catholics committed to equality and justice within the Church we love, pray that you will hear our voices and respond with mercy. Let the dialogue begin.
In Jesus’ name,
Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director, Call to Action
Casey Lopata, Co-Founder, Fortunate Families
Deb Word, President, Fortunate Families
Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SL, Co-Founder, New Ways Ministry