IF THE DOOR IS STILL NOT UNLOCKED MAYBE THE KEY IS UNDER THE MAT ?
Pope Francis’s response to the 2014 & 2015 Synods of Catholic Bishops on Marriage & Family, the Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of Love , raises more questions than it answers for LGBTQI Catholics, parents and families, globally. Disappointed by the light touch given to same-sex and gender identity concerns in the papal document, published 8 April 2016, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics welcomes, nevertheless, the fact that the doors of welcome in this Jubilee Year of Mercy have not been slammed shut definitively. However, the GNRC is pleased that Pope Francis offers some clues as to where the key might be found, even if it looks more like it might be under the door-mat!
Pope Francis has opened up new ways for the Church to engage pastorally with the reality of its members’ lives, including all its LGBTQI people of God. The GNRC welcomes the move away from outmoded theological understandings, and emphasis on law and regulations, to strategies which empower all who minister in the Church to stand alongside and learn from those whom it has previously considered ‘irregular’ or even ‘disordered’. A key question now is how The Joy of Love’s principles on personal and ecclesial discernment, primacy of conscience, respectful and justice-rooted pastoral care, and refreshed ways of doing moral theology can be applied within LGBTQI contexts.
The Exhortation reinforces the priority of respect for the human dignity of each person, not only in its rejection of homophobic and transphobic discrimination but in any form of aggression or violence towards LGBTQI people. These general statements need to lead to the Vatican’s active and public support for global de-criminalisation, as well as the condemnation of torture and the death penalty on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Vatican must be vocal in its support for LGBTQI human rights and the GNRC regrets that the unfounded allegation that aid to poorer countries continues to be linked to the implementation of same-sex marriage remains Vatican rhetoric.
Even though the emphasis on pastoral care priorities is warmly welcomed, the GNRC cannot ignore the continuing harm to spiritual and personal well-being caused by the use of untrue and inaccurate theological language such as ‘ intrinsically evil’ and ‘objectively disordered’ . The GNRC welcomes the lack of such vocabulary in The Joy of Love but such categories foster prejudicial stances towards LGBTQI persons and communities, not least in contributing to higher-than-average rates of bullying, self-harm, and suicide among LGBTQI younger people.
LGBTQI Catholics, parents and families cannot continue to be treated as ‘problems’ that challenge the wider Church, but must be seen as active participants in the dialogue to which Pope Francis calls us all, with gifts to bring for the common good. We therefore renew our call for a structured, international ‘listening process’ wherein the Church’s hierarchy and theologians can engage with LGBTQI Catholics, parents, and young people, including children in samesex families, alongside a diverse group of experts in the human sciences. Such a process will enable the whole people of God to develop its vision, language and teaching on human sexuality and gender identity.
A more detailed response to The Joy of Love may be found on the GNRC website.
The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) brings together organizations and individuals who work for pastoral care and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning, and intersex (LGBTQI) people and their families. The Network works for inclusion, dignity and equality of this community in the Roman Catholic Church and society. The GNRC was founded in October 2015 at the Rome conference, “Ways of Love”, with 80 participants from 30 countries. To date, the GNRC represents 25 groups of LGBTQI Catholics, their families and friends from all continents.