Care with LGBTIQA+ Catholics in the 21st Century
Catholics interAgency for Ministry, Australia
*This document was launched at a national Symposium on Feb 1 2020. It will remain a fluid document to be amended as new networks, information and strategies appear. It is the result of wide and long consultation. It hopes to fill the gap in the Australian Catholic church where no guidelines have been issued even though many requests have been made to produce affirming, inlcusive and just guidleines and resouirces to support individuals, parishes and agencies in ministry with LGBTIQA+ Catholics.
Purpose of this document
A document prepared by Rainbow
Catholics interAgency for Ministry (RCiA) to identify and explore ways the
Catholic family might include LGBTIQA+ Catholics, their families and friends in
a conversation about their Pastoral Care. This document aims to offer support
for and integration of an approach to pastoral care with LGBTIQA+ people in the
Catholic context. We build on the work of international Catholic theologians,
pastoral practitioners and organistaions such as John J McNeill, Jeannine
Gramick, James Martin, Robert Nugent, Ruby Almeida and James Alison, Dignity USA,
LGBTI Catholics Westminster and New Ways Ministry, and Australian pastoral
practitioners and organisations including Garry Pye and Acceptance. We hope it
will offer support for those seeking to create more inclusive, Gospel-centred
and just spaces in the Catholic church in ways of thinking and acting.
We hope it will generate further
discussion and action. We see it as a starting point in a developing work that
will continue to grow as we reflect upon the gospel and effective and creative
pastoral care practices.
A parable: A man had two sons
This parable, like the other two in Luke
15, is not primarily about how God operates in the world, but more about a
shepherd, a housewife and a father according to Amy-Jill Levine (Short
Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi, 2014,
HarpeOne). What if this parable was about families – ordinary families where
one child is privileged or perceived to be privileged and a father who can’t
count? At the end of the parable of a father who had two sons, the name of the
story given by Luke, we are left with the question – why didn’t the father
think to invite the older son to the party when the younger one returned; who
counts in this story and why does it happen that some are left out? The parable
is about how people count, why they count and what happens when they don’t
count. As a parable, Luke invites us to think about our families and
communities and ask the question: who counts and why are some left out? Whose
stories are privileged and why are some suppressed or erased? How do we lose
count? What mechanisms are at work that silo and silence some siblings in
favour of others and who maintains the silencing? What damage does it do to the
silenced one, the ‘privileged’ one, and indeed, the whole family? Where is the
mother and the feminine perspective? If we fail to count all siblings, no one
gets to the party. The parable finishes without a party – only questions around
how much havoc is wrecked upon a dysfunctional family when someone is left out.
Pastoral care with LGBTIQA+ Catholics is
often non-existent because their story is forgotten or ignored or silenced. The
Church has not invited them to ‘the party’. This document seeks to invite all
to ‘the party’. In this document we will offer a starting point for
developing a model of pastoral care constructed collaboratively with LGBTIQA+
people and siblings who seek to include those with whom we share our faith
family. We intend to count those often silenced, erased and siloed by the language
of some church teachers and documents.
We will begin by naming those we intend to
include and those who voices we intend to count in this document. We will
explore some areas for discussion and growth; some pointers to developing
inclusive language and practice and some thoughts on the way ahead. We will
offer some resources that people hoping to develop LGBTIQA+ inclusive pastoral
care environments might find useful. It is not intended to offer a
comprehensive theology or guide but a basis for on-going development. However,
it will offer a critique of current church teaching and practice where LGBTIQA+
voices and stories have not counted and are not included and are silenced. As
Pope Francis said recently, “I always benefit from criticism. Sometimes it makes
you angry…. But there are advantages. '' (On the plane from Madagascar on Sept
1. Who are ‘LGBTIQA’
In this document we address LGBTIQA+
Catholics, their families, friends and church bodies and ministries. The LGBTI National
Health Alliance (https://lgbtihealth.org.au/communities/) reminds us that when
speaking about our communities, we are careful to be specific about how each
grouping may or may not related to the following key concepts:
Each of these aspects might apply to a
person in different ways at different points across the lifespan.
LGBTIQA: Each letter in
‘L.G.B.T.I.Q.A.’ contains a diverse range of real people, living real lives.
‘LGBTI’ people can be found in all walks of life, professions, faith
communities, political parties, and locations throughout Australia.
When you speak about ‘the general
population’ or ‘the mainstream’, you are talking about ‘LGBTIQA’ people in
those communities, too. LGBTIQA people have many different ways of living their
lives; there is no such thing as ‘the LGBTIQA lifestyle’. There are many ‘LGBTIQA
communities’ (plural!) – there is no single ‘LGBTIQA Community’.
‘LGBTIQA’ in the broadest possible way and
with the intention of supporting as many populations and communities as
possible. We have deliberately acknowledged the limitations of ‘LGBTIQA’
language when attempting to speak about the full breadth of people’s bodies,
genders, relationships, sexualities, and lived experiences.
Lesbian: A lesbian is a person
who self-describes as a woman and who has experiences of romantic, sexual,
and/or affectional attraction solely or primarily to other people who
self-describe as women. Some women use other language to describe their
relationships and attractions.
Gay: A gay man is a person who self-describes
as a man and who has experiences of romantic, sexual and/or affectional
attraction solely or primarily to other people who self-describe as men. Some
men use other language to describe their relationships and attractions.
Bisexual: A bisexual person is a
person of any gender who has romantic and/or sexual relationships with and/or
is attracted to people from more than one gender. Some people who fit this
description prefer the terms ‘queer’ or ‘pansexual’, in recognition of more
than two genders. Although ‘bi-‘ technically refers to two, it is often used by
people who have relationships with and/or attractions for people of more
genders than just women or men.
Trans and Transgender are umbrella terms
often used to describe people who were assigned a sex at birth that they do not
feel reflects how they understand their gender identity, expression, or
behaviour. Most people of trans experience live and identify simply as women or
men; most do not have ‘a trans identity’. In addition to women and men of trans
experience, some people do identify their gender as trans or as a gender other
than woman or man. People from Aboriginal/Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander
communities often use sistergirl or brotherboy. People from societies around
the world with more than two traditional genders often use culturally specific
Intersex: A person with an
intersex characteristic is a person born with physical characteristics that
differ from modern medical norms about strictly ‘female’ and strictly ‘male’
bodies. Intersex is not about gender, but about innate physical variations.
Most people with intersex characteristics describe their gender as simple women
or men, not as a ‘third gender’.
Queer: an umbrella term for
sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or are not cisgender.
Asexual: a lack of sexual
attraction; an asexual is someone who is not sexually attracted to anyone. Such people may not
wish to be categorised.
+: Those seeking to be recognised as
valued without subscribing to binary ways of understanding sexuality and
2 What is Pastoral
Pastoral Care refers to the way the church
community initiates, includes and values its members in sacramental and
pastoral life and especially when members face challenges, difficulties,
sickness and hardship. It is offered through the formal and informal ministries
of the diocese or parish and in the communities where LGBTIQA+ live. Pastoral
care addresses spiritual, emotional, sacramental and practical needs with
compassion, understanding, non- judgement, collaboratively and professionally.
3. Theology of
LGBTIQA+ Pastoral Care
The experience of many LGBTIQA+ Catholics
is that they struggle to reconcile their sexuality, and gender identity
with their Catholic faith. They have learned somehow and somewhere that God
and/or the Church does not accept them as they are and that they are an
‘abomination’, ‘seriously disordered’ and ‘objectively evil’ in scriptural and
church teaching and in some cases advised by their priest to marry someone of
the opposite sex or seek psychological or spiritual ‘guidance’ to address their
problem. Many experience their Catholic faith as the problem and as they come
to accept their sexuality, gender identity and intersex status, many leave the
church. This document seeks to address this tragedy by offering some guidelines
for pastoral care that privilege the dominant teachings of the Catholic
Christian faith such as the universality of God’s love, compassion, justice and
LGBTIQA+ Catholics and their families
should expect the pastoral care available to all in the Catholic church. Many
LGBTIQA+ Catholics search out safe places to practice their faith and share in
Church life, although often in a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ manner. However, as
the countless stories of LGBTIQ+ Catholics attest, LGBTIQA+ Catholics
constantly report harassment, bullying, erasure, silencing, misunderstanding,
discrimination (as clients and employees), spiritual abuse and vilification
based on their God given sexuality, gender identity and intersex bodies. These
experiences are born of flawed church teaching (‘seriously disordered’ and
‘objectively evil’), flawed theology; philosophical, psychological and
physiological ignorance, lack of skill in pastoral care of marginalized people
and public vilification and/or ignorance from the pulpit.
God’s universal and non-judgemental love
of God, Jesus’ inclusion of outsiders in ways that confronted social and
religious norms and the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching to advocate for
those who experience oppression and fight for those marginalized, demonised and
vilified, all testify to the fact that the Catholic church must be at the
forefront of supporting LGBTIQA+ Catholics. This document seeks to explore this
as it applies to pastoral care so that the human dignity and baptismal status
of LGBTIQA+ Catholics can be honoured and that the pastoral approaches by
church ministers and agencies might make LGBTIQA+ Catholics know they are
affirmed and that the spiritual, emotional, psychological and mental health of
LGBTIQA+ Catholics will be protected and enhanced through Catholic pastoral
care and ministry practice, rather than endangering it. Just one statistic is
enough to justify a root an branch overhaul of Catholic pastoral care and
ministry practice with LGBTIQA+ Catholics: the most vulnerable to suicide and
self-harm of any group in Australia today is LGBTIQA+ young people who have
been raised in a faith context.
The theological foundation for what
follows in this document is that “God loves every person as a unique
individual. Our sex, sexual and gender identity as well as our intersex status
helps to define the unique persons we are, and one component of our sex,
sexual, gender identity and intersex status is sexual orientation. Our total
personhood is more encompassing than our sex, sexual orientation, gender
identity and intersex status. Human beings see the appearance, but the Lord
looks into the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7). God does not love someone any less
simply because they are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transgender,
cisgender, intersex, queer or asexual, God's love is always and everywhere
offered to those who are open to receiving it.” (adapted from Always our
Children, United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference <http://www.usccb.org/laity/always.shtml>).
A second principle is Gospel justice which
means all of us must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or
violence that damages the dignity of the human person It is not sufficient only
to avoid unjust discrimination. LGBTIQA+ persons "must be accepted with
respect, compassion and sensitivity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church,
A third principle is that LGBTIQA+
Catholics “should have an active role in the Christian community"
(National Conference of Catholic Bishops, To Live in Christ Jesus: A
Pastoral Reflection on the Moral Life, 1976, p. 19). LGBTI Catholics have a
right to be welcomed into the community, to hear the word of God, to engage in
ministries according to their gifts, to celebrate the Sacraments and to receive
pastoral care. (cf Always our Children, United States Catholic
Bishops’ Conference <http://www.usccb.org/laity/always.shtml>).
3. What LGBTIQA+ pastoral care looks
Any overhaul of pastoral care in the
Catholic church in Australia for LGBTIQA+ Catholics would firstly recognize the
1. We acknowledge
that LGBTIQA+ Catholics are wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God's
very self and their wholeness and holiness. They claim their baptismal status
as presbyter, prophet and of royal heritage.
2. We thank
LGBTIQA+ Catholics for already contributing to the life of the Church, in all
ministries, in all states of life, including lay ministries (liturgical and
pastoral, in church ministry, pastoral care, healthcare, social work,
charities, teaching, and more), religious life as sisters or brothers, and as
Catholics contribute in the ministry of evangelisation, as unrecognised missionaries
within the LGBTIQA+ communities. To society, LGBTIQA+ Catholics bring God's
love, peace, joy and hope to our Australian society through their lives, their
work, their prayer, their witness, their joys and sufferings, experience of
exclusion and discrimination, and experience of strength and compassion.
4. It is a
skandalon (stumbling block) that many LGBTIQA+ Catholics are silenced, not by
God, but by the very Church they love. It is a skandalon that many LGBTIQA+
Catholics are mistreated, looked down upon, disowned, exorcised (both
spiritually and psychologically) by their family and friends who, not in the
name of God, but in the name of the Church, treat them as pariahs, outcasts,
clients and patients who are ill or evil and to be cured or told that they are
bereft of God's love because of who they are. Like many outcasts the Church has
created in our past history, we wonder if LGBTIQA+ Catholics are not unlike
Jesus, whose religious leaders rejected. "The stone that the builders
rejected has become the cornerstone"
LGBTIQA+ Catholic Pastoral Care must engage at every
level of church life – national, diocesan, parish, church agencies, schools and
family and in each ministry area such as youth, health, aged care,
refugees and people living with disabilities. We suggest the following
initiatives as ways that pastoral care might be addressed at any level:
National and diocesan initiatives needed
in LGBTIQA+ accompaniment in all key church personnel positions.
Inservice for people in all agencies and church ministries.
for hospital chaplains and pastoral care workers in health and educational
facilities that is affirming and honours and celebrates the realities and
experience of LGBTIQA+ people. The emerging term of ‘gender ideology’ in church
teaching needs urgent examination and work that includes the input, voices and
lived realities of our transgender and intersex sisters, brothers and siblings.
The potential damage to transgender and intersex Catholics and their families
is paramount post the Vatican document: ‘Male and Female, He made them.’
Guidelines for parishes and church agencies on such issues as how to identify
as LGBTIQA+ friendly; how to ensure the parish or agency is welcoming and
LGBTIQA+ safe, sacramental preparation and sound approaches to LGBTIQA+ people
that are respectful and affirming and how to avoid causing damage to spiritual,
psychological and mental health.
Guidelines for LGBTIQA+ Catholics coming out and questioning.
Guidelines for families of LGBTIQA+ Catholics.
with helpful resources, LGBTIQA+ support organisations and pastoral
the theology of sexuality and how this affects LGBTIQA+ people and their
families. How might the love experienced in rainbow families be welcomed in the
Pastoral initiatives at the local level
Promoting inclusion in parishes through the inclusion and affirmation of
LGBTIQA+ people in parish mission statements, prayers of the faithful, church
outreach projects, special liturgies and training for all employees and
volunteers in being welcoming, inclusive, affirming and accurate in their
Specialised training and ongoing support for priests, chaplains, parish staff,
counselors, youth workers, teachers and other key staff in Catholic agencies
and ministries to ensure that they are able to provide safe, supportive and
skilled pastoral care to LGBTI Catholics, their families and friends
LGBTIQA+ people, their stories and welcoming attitudes and skills are included
in pastoral initiatives such as pastoral council, pastoral workers, liturgy
planning, sacramental programs, school programs, catechetics in the state
schools, aged care, youth ministry, faith development, outreach to the sick,
poor, homeless, marginalised and mentally sick, counselling, pastoral guidance
and marriage counselling.
Welcoming access to the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Initiation for
LGBTI Catholics and children and their partners
Including LGBTIQA+ events in parish liturgical or social events. Such as World
AIDS day, Mardi Gras, Pride Events, Transgender Day of Remembrance, Intersex
Awareness Day, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Wear It
Purple Day, etc
Considering the particular challenges of LGBTIQA+ asylum seekers and refugees.
consideration for the families with questioning children or children of rainbow
families in schools. These might require addressing pastoral support, education,
advocacy, bullying and what is taught. Addressing homophobic and trasphobic
based domestic and family violence.
Producing fact sheets and brochures on special topics (e.g. Pastoral Care of
LGBTIQA+ Catholics; Meaning of LGBTIQA+ terms; Rainbow families).
promotion of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue on LGBTIQA+ topics
Recognition of the diversity of backgrounds, cultures and relationships in our
Church community and avoidance of stereotyping, judgement and marginalisation
Eradication of homophobic and transphobia language, actions and attitudes
LGBTIQA+ persons should not be singled out as presenting a particular risk to
children any more than any other persons in the community and rejecting the dangerous
myth conflating pedophilia with homosexuality or transgender realities.
Recognition and awareness of LGBTIQA+ people and their partners and families at
critical life events and community celebrations (eg birth, marriage, illness,
Development of a resource kit for parishes and ministries and for families with
a child who is questioning or coming out.
Sensitivity in ministry with LGBTQA+ Catholics and their families to the
history of alienation caused by decades of negative statements and actions
directed against them by church officials and ministers.
Let us continue to love each other since love comes
from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with
God. (1 Jn.4:8)
A model inclusive statement for parish bulletins and
documentsBegin each ceremony in the church and/or place on the
church newsletter and website an inclusion of LGBTIQA+ people such as: We
acknowledge the [Aboriginal tribal name] people as the traditional custodians
of the land on which [parish name] stands. We aim to provide a safe place for
all people to pray regardless of age, sex, race, creed, gender, cultural
background or sexual orientation.
Ideas from Fr James Martin SJ talk at the World
Meeting of Families in Dublin on August 23, 2018.
1) LGBTIQA+ parishioners are baptised Catholics. They
are as much as part of the church as Pope Francis. The most important thing we
can do for LGBTIQA+ Catholics is to welcome them to what is already their
church. To remain in the church LGBTIQA+ people have often endured years of
2) LGBTIQA+ people do not choose their orientation.
People don’t choose their orientation or gender identity any more than you
choose to be left-handed. It is not a sin and it is not something to ‘blame’ on
someone, like parents.
3) LGBTIQA+ people have often been treated like lepers
by the church. Never underestimate the pain that LGBTIQA+ people have
experienced in church and society. The highest rate of youth suicide and
homelessness is among LGBTIQA+ youth from religious backgrounds. Some Church
leaders have insisted on retaining the right to discriminate against LGBTIQA+
employees based on sexual orientation, gender or relationship status. Some
priests have refused LGBTIQA+ Catholics the Sacraments and Baptism for their
children. Some preachers offend LGBTIQA+ people from the pulpit and the
respective terms of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questioning,
Asexual (LGBTIQA+) by which they name themselves is hardly ever heard in
church. Why would they feel included or welcomed?
Parents of LGBTIQA+ children face similar rejection
and even blame for their children’s sex, gender identity, intersex statues or
4) LGBTIQA+ people bring gifts to the church. Church
leaders often refer to LGBTIQA+ people as ‘in need of our help’. This makes
them clients of the church. In fact they are members of the church by baptism
with gifts to share like every baptised member.
5) LGBTIQA+ people and church teaching. LGBTIQA+ people
are the only people in church teaching to be called ‘intrinsically disordered’
and ‘objectively evil’ because they are created different to most. All other
minorities and people born with minority characteristics are honoured in church
teaching for their gifts and/or their courage.
6) LGBTIQA+ people are loved by God and seek God as
all Christians do. God loves them - so should we. And what does real love mean:
knowing them in the complexity of their lives, celebrating with them when life
is sweet and suffering with them when life is bitter. Love them as Jesus loved
people on the margins: extravagantly. How can a parish treat LGBTIQA+
people with the virtues that the Catechism recommends: “respect, compassion and
Suggestions for making your parish inclusive
1) Examine your own attitudes towards LGBTIQA+ people
and their families.
2) Listen to LGBTIQA+ people and learn who they are.
Listen to the experiences of LGBTIQA+ Catholics and their parents and families.
3) Acknowledge LGBTIQA+ people in homilies or parish
presentations as full members of the parish, without judgment and never degrade
or humiliate them from the pulpit.
4) Prepare and have an Apology ceremony. It doesn’t
solve everything, but it’s a start.
5) Don’t reduce gays and lesbians to the call to
chastity we all share as Christians. LGBTIQA+ people are more than their sexual
6) Include LGBTIQA+ people in ministries.
7) Acknowledge LGBTIQA+ people individual gifts.
8) Invite everyone on the parish staff to welcome
them. Develop training for all ministers and staff. Does the person answering
the phone know what to say to a lesbian couple who wants to have their child
baptized? At funerals, are the gay adult children of the deceased treated with
the same respect as other children? What about the teacher in a parish school
who has two fathers coming to a parent-teacher conference? How does a deacon
treat the father of a gay man who just died and who wants a funeral for his
son? Is your parish staff educated in the full range of church teaching on
non-discrimination and pastoral outreach?
9) Sponsor special events or develop an outreach
10) Advocate for LGBTIQA+ people. Be prophetic.
11) Supply information for families of LGBTIQA+
Catholics: PFLAG http://pflagaustralia.org.au/
12) Provide a flyer at the back of the church for
LGBTIQA+ Catholics, their families and allies.
Resources for Catholics in ministry with LGBTIQA+
Youth Synod Document Shows Vatican Evolution on LGBT
Topics. Vatican embraces the use of the term LGBT in recent documents.
Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 20, 2018.
Pope’s call for an Apology to LGBT Catholics.(2016)
Global Network of Rainbow Catholics looks at the Pope’s call to support LGBT
Catholics the church may have offended https://tinyurl.com/y8mjphny
Pope says God made you this way. New York Times
reports on the Pope’s meeting with a Chilean gay Catholic. May 21, 2018.
Fr James Martin, Building a Bridge Revised edition,
2018, Harper Collins
Fr James Martin, America Magazine article on church
communicating better with LGBTI Catholics: https://tinyurl.com/yafs452j
Fr James Martin, Talk on Building a Bridge at
Villanova University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNEt2kK60VM
Fr James Martin, When LGBT issues are pro-life
issues America Magazine:
Fr James Martin, Dublin Families pastoral care article
(as quoted from above: https://tinyurl.com/yct5kvhp)
Edmund Rice Education Australia’s Statement on Safe
and Inclusive Learning Communities. Excellent outline of how to create a
culture of non-discrimination in schools but could b eapplied elsewhere.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols on love and
Why do LGBTQI people feel excluded by the
Churches? Sarah Bachelard and James Alison, Audio talk, London,
Transgender: Catholic Bishops of England and
Wales Statement on Transgender people and LGBT Catholics Westminster Response:
20/4/2018. Not yet published. https://tinyurl.com/yboaxzjy
I thought Gay Celibacy Was My Only Option — I Was
Wrong. Patrick Gothman.
Breaking Up with God (2018). Alyssa tells her story of
being Christian and lesbian. https://tinyurl.com/yahbgwbz
Sexuality, Dialogue, and the Church: An Interview with
James Alison. James Alison offers a new anthropology for LGBT theology.
World Youth Day 2008 Forum (Acceptance): Clip 1 of 10:
https://tinyurl.com/yaaef7o3 and Fr Donal Godfry SJ
Owning Our Faith - Catholic family and LGBTIQ
stories: www.owningourfaith.com See:
Acceptance Sydney: gaycatholic.com.au
Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG)
LGBT Westminster Catholics: www.lgbtcatholicswestminster.org
Global Network of Rainbow Catholics:
Equally Blessed Catholics working for LGBTI equality
in USA: equallyblessed.org
Mental Health and sexual minorities: Dr Matthew Skinta
Royal Commission 10 Professional Standards for
creating child safe institutions:
Standard 4: Equity is promoted and diversity
An Apology Liturgy to LGBTIQ People
inspired by Pope Francis' call for an apology by the church
To cry to God to be with us and strengthen us in a time that continues to silence those affected by hatred, misunderstanding, bullying and oppression of human rights.
As people of the christian church, we say sorry for our part in the silencing and for our failure to speak out against bigotry and vilification that fuels violence and fear toward 'the other'.
Development of Pastoral Letter on affirming the place of Catholics identifying as same sex attracted in the Australian Catholic Church
(Originally submitted to the Bishops Conference in 2010)
(Originally submitted to the Bishops Conference in 2010)
A Submission of Newtown Parish Team to the Australian Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life Download full text here
Homophobia at Newtown with LGBTI Catholics
An uncertain world
An uncertain world
Religion for all its poetry and pity
Can sometimes be a place of judgment and complicity
In the cool dark place where real lives struggle
And pray for more than just another haggle
Over words – shouted in market squares
Battles producing endless judgmental stares
Clouting fragile people with blunt exceptionalism
Rather than rainbow colours within the prism
At Newtown on a Friday night
Gay christians gather – not to fight
But in mutual support befriending
And with a quiet voice ascending
Seek hope for a world made anew
Everyone included no matter what the hue
When protested, critiqued by the certainty
Strangely out of touch with all reality
There is a spark breaking free
Hesitating, straining to see
A truth - what self is all about
Accompanied by some healthy doubt
About God and me and us and the world
From a starry mouth gently unfurled
A whisper gently claiming safe space
It is not a federal case
But a celebration of what is God-given
Finding confidence - not hidden
Peter Maher Aug 2012
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Newtown parish responds to video vilifying ministry to lesbian and gay Catholics
After last Sunday’s homily there has been some interest in the thoughts I expressed. Far from judging and vilifying lesbians and gays, as we heard from Michael Voris in his video about the Newtown parish Friday night Mass, I suggested that hearing the stories of lesbian and gay Catholics and how that had influenced my reading in order to better pastorally care for all Catholics might offer a new way of seeing lesbian and gay Catholics as gift rather than “the other” for whom we might feel sorry.
What I learned from hearing these stories was that lesbian and gay Catholics are like all people trying to live their faith – they are searching for meaning and joy and authenticity in and through the Catholic community and the spiritual wisdom of the bible and church tradition. Catholics expect to find guidance and encouragement, as well as challenge, but lesbian and gay Catholics find all too often that they are asked to deny their sexuality or, at best, to be invisible.
Theologians and spiritual writers are beginning to write from the perspective of the world in which we live and the life stories of lesbian and gay Catholics. If sexuality is a gift from God and if psychology and science are correct in finding that homosexuality is God-given, that is not chosen, then homosexuality must also be a gift from God. What might this gift be? Those doing theology with the insight of the stories of lesbian and gay Catholics and modern science suggest such areas as intimacy, friendship, faithful love and personal growth might be a gift to the church and indeed the world.
Where traditional sexual ethics has dominated church teaching about heterosexual relationships and marriage; homosexuals have had to find the meaning for themselves of their God-given attraction and have made some astoundingly good gospel-based spiritual discoveries. While heterosexual relationships are struggling in the current climate of distrust of church teaching; homosexual relationships, lived according to gospel principles of love, seem to be finding a beautiful expression.
But what of the scripture passages that seem so damning of homosexuality? Through scripture scholarship which emphasizes the meaning of the text in context, it seems that all the texts referring to homosexuality, and there are not many – indeed, none in the gospel, all refer to abusive sexual relationships. In times when people did not identify as gay, as they do today, it is reasonable to infer that the texts referring to homosexuality refer to people being used and abused. Scriptural texts do encourage intimate and caring relationships and these can often be found among lesbian and gay couples.
I don’t pretend we have found a path forward yet but there are many within the church exploring these ideas. What we try to do here at St Joseph’s Newtown is to support, and walk with, lesbian and gay Catholics as they try to faithfully live their faith authentically.
Including the outsider is a common theme here at Newtown parish and so it is not so surprising that we might explore such a ministry. Let’s hope the likes of Michael Voris, and his Opus Dei money, don’t destroy this emerging gift for the church.
Peter Maher, Parish priest, Newtown