English Bishop’s Apology to LGBT community.

In a joint press conference on the Family Synod with Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton issued an apology to the LGBT community, that this important issue had not been properly addressed. A report at Christian Today includes this:

He (Bishop Doyle) also apologised that the Synod had not had time to deal with the issue of homosexuality. “I’m very sorry for the LGBT good people who were looking to the synod for something. It was really hard for people of same sex attraction. It wasn’t blocked. There was just so much to deal with.”

There are a number of points here that deserve to be highlighted.

This apology is limited in its extent. It is an apology only for the lack of attention to LGBT issues during the synod, not for previous or continuing injustices. There was however at least one such apology during the synod assembly, made during the German speaking small group discussion on part III of the Instrumentum. (There may have been others made in personal interventions, or in private conversations, that have not been publicly disclosed). In the wider Catholic and other Christian communities, this is a growing sentiment. We should expect to see more such apologies in future.

Previously, during the synod itself, Bishop Doyle had criticised the synod for the same point. Yesterday’s apology softened from criticism to a statement of regret, saying that he didn’t believe it was deliberate, but there just wasn’t time. Other bishops disagree. The Belgian Bishop Bonny, an outspoken advocate for LGBT inclusion, complained that in his French group, Cardinal Sarah actively suppressed such discussions. Pressure of time was real, and a partial explanation for the lack of discussion, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that some at least are trying hard to avoid dealing with the subject, possibly because they know that once it is addressed really seriously, the Church will have to make a number of concessions and changes in its practice, and even in doctrine on these matters.  The subject cannot be avoided indefinitely though. A proper review will come, and when it does, there will be changes – just as there have already been in so many other Christian denominations.

It’s also worth noting that his words of apology included both “LGBT”, which like “gay” is a term more usually avoided previously by Catholic bishops, and  “good people“. This echoes a theme spoken of more and more by the bishops, especially those who have actually met directly with us: that our lives, loves and commitment to the Church can be as worthy as those of others. The Catholic catechism speaks of “respect, sensitivity and compassion” for lesbian and gay Catholics, but in the past has too often been mere lip service. From more and more bishops, expressions of “respect” are becoming genuine and sincere.


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