Catholic Church

LGBT Catholics Find Vatican Document On Family Synod Disappointing

by Sean A. Watkins

Leaders of DignityUSA, the leading organization of LGBT Catholics and their allies and family members, called the “Instrumentum Laboris” released by the Vatican in advance of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family “extremely disappointing.” They said the document demonstrates a failure to understand the extent of the problems with official Church teaching on issues of sexuality and family life, and misinterprets the substantial input given by Catholics around the world.

“This document was a blow to my stomach,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA’s Executive Director.

“Many Catholics hoped that the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the Family would be an opportunity for real dialogue with Church leaders on issues that are very important in our day to day life. Instead, what we see is a rigid adherence to existing teaching, and what we hear are complaints that the people of the Church are misinformed or uneducated. This is a gross simplification and incredibly insulting.”

Duddy-Burke said, “Here in the U.S., tens of thousands of Catholics took enormous amounts of time to complete questionnaires or to write to their bishops with honest reflections about the joys and struggles of family life. They spoke eloquently about the profound disconnect between real life and Church teaching, about inadequate pastoral care, and about hopes for an updated theology that would be informed by the social sciences and by people from across the spectrum of family experiences. People are longing for appropriate moral guidance. However, what is coming out of the Vatican here just looks like more of the same. It looks like more hurt, more pain, more exclusion.”

On issues specific to LGBT Catholics and their families, Duddy-Burke said:

The instrumentum laboris is rooted in the same sense of heteronormativity that has characterized official Church teaching for decades. It fails to show any acknowledgement of the profound love and commitment shared by many same-sex couples, minimizes the realities of LGBT people raising children, and fails to offer any hope to families who love their LGBT members unconditionally, but struggle with Church teachings that are too often demeaning. Furthermore, the bishops continue to show a severe lack of understanding of transgender identities.If they begin to truly listening to our transgender kin, they will learn much.

“The hope that so many people have felt in the era of Pope Francis will be greatly diminished by this document,” Duddy-Burke continued.

“It is clear that the Vatican is seeing the great challenge for the Synod as ‘how do we better get our message out?’ The real question they should be asking is, ‘What do the people of God need from their leaders, and how do we better provide it?’ Unfortunately, the humility such a question entails is entirely lacking here.”

Duddy-Burke concluded, “The reality is that Catholics do take issues of family life and sexuality very seriously, and many make decisions out of values that come directly from the Gospel and our tradition. That will continue, no matter what those involved in the Synod think their priorities should be.”

Photo via flickr user Catholic Church England and Wales