A number of organisations and advocates who focus on pastoral care and social justice for LGBT people and their families, working to form a Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), is disappointed by the 14th Ordinary Synod of Bishops’ Working Document (Instrumentum Laboris) on “The Vocation & Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World”, published on 23 June 2015.
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.
We strongly regret 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 (paragraph 132). 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 therefore offers the following reformulation of the Synod text referring to same-sex relationships, families & parents as a more positive contribution to further discussion and discernment:
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).
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, emphasising that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.
This Synod proposes that 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 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.
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.
The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics is an international network of organisations of/with LGBT Catholics, which met for the first time during the Family Synod 2014 in Rome and have since worked together to initiate a global network of LGBTQI Catholics, their parents and families. 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), and Wiara i Tęcza (Poland).
The GNRC is in its formation stages and will be formally launched at a foundational assembly in Rome, 1–4 October 2015 under the title “LGBT Voices to the Synod”. The assembly coincides with the opening weekend of the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family. Part of the GNRC program will be 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.
Photo by flickr user SimonQ錫濛譙