See Part 1 here.
The question may be asked: “What does a meeting of Catholic Bishops in Rome have to do with Pinoy LGBT?
It must be understood that the church is the origin of prejudice, homophobia, transphobia, HIV stigma, and all the other rejections that stem from sexuality. The church with its long standing teachings influences the whole of society, including the laws of the government.
Just a reminder, we have often reiterated the statement of Rizal to his friend Blumentrit in Europe, “The friars are the cause of all the problems of the Filipinos.” He was referring especially to sex-negative teachings the friars had brought to our shores from their sex-negative church in Europe.
It was the successors of those friars (who had brought excommunication for those who divorced and remarried, and condemnation and denial of communion and Christian charity to those who loved a person of the same gender) who held the meeting in Rome, the Synod on the family. These Christian leaders promulgated their stance that the only family was mama, papa, and as many anak as they could make. Any “same-sex” family was a grave threat to the real families that were accepted by “the church.” (How?)
The Synod could have considered a wide variety of agenda items Christian LGBT leaders had been studying for a long time in their own countries and in preparatory meetings together.
We are fortunate because we have a direct link to the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. The Network gathered in Rome prior to the Synod to discuss and prepare a statement to be presented to the Synod accenting the issues the Network felt most prominently identified the hopes and yearnings of LGBT for justice and compassion and recognized membership in “the church.”
The “mission statement” of the Network gives a peek at the plain ordinary objectives of this very pastoral minded Network.
Mission Statement: “The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) is a global network of organisations and advocates who focus on pastoral care and justice for LGBT people and their families. Through common projects, support, and exchange the Network works for inclusion, dignity, and equality for LGBT people, their parents and families in the Catholic Church and society.”
That could make a Synod in itself, “inclusion, dignity, and equality for LGBT people.” Can you imagine? The Holy Father calls all the bishops to Rome find ways for including LGBT people in the life of the church, for granting them the dignity they deserve along with all of God’s people, recognizing indeed their equality as members of the church family.”
Father JP Heath has for several years conducted workshops on such issues in the Philippines, for bishops and clergy, PLHIV, parish leaders and parishes, especially with reference to pastoral care for persons (often stigmatized) living with HIV. Fr. JP, although he is a theologian for the Church of Sweden, is very much a member of our LGBT Christian community here. Fr. JP participated in the foundational meetings of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics and the preparation of the statement for the Synod Fathers. Sadly, they were not welcomed with open arms to “come on, come on, tell the Synod your concerns.”
The sincerity of the approach of the Global Network was virtually overlooked when the Synod Fathers (with its few mothers) never had a chance to know what the Network had to offer. There was simply no door or window opened. They never took the opportunity to hear the down to earth pastoral concerns people from English speaking, Italian, French, Spanish and German speaking LGBT Christian organizations could have offered for an LBGT agenda in the Synod.
They could have offered a wide variety of agenda items. They had been studying these pastoral concerns in their own countries and in preparatory meetings together.
No door or window of the Synod was opened to hear such down to earth pastoral concerns as:
One item, for example, “The Catholic faith calls us to challenge all structures which treat LGBT people in a discriminatory manner. Civil and church law should protect LGBT rights and equality, not deny them. Any law or practice which oppresses, restricts, punishes, or harms LGBT people is contrary to the Gospel.”
The English report continues, “We work both to eradicate prejudicial attitudes and practices which harm LGBT people and, through education and awareness-training, to enable those with homophobic and transphobic views to be aware that such views and behaviours have no place within the Catholic Church.
“We work to educate Catholic leadership, institutions, and audiences about the spiritual gifts that LGBT people bring to the Church, and how our community is blessed by their presence and experience.”
Another organization which has been studying, working, advocating for the inclusion of LGBT Christians in the life of the Christian church is the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups.
The European Forum of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Christian Groups describe themselves as an ecumenical association of LGBT Christian groups in Europe. The European Forum aims to achieve equality and inclusion for LGBT people within and through Christian churches and other religious bodies and multilateral organisations.
With over 40 member groups from more than 20 countries in Europe, the European Forum works for freedom of religion for LGBT people, for human rights, for the dignity of LGBT people and for an affirmative discourse on human sexuality.
We don’t have any similar organization in the Philippines, but the National Council of Churches of the Philippines has excellent and admirable programs focused to achieve these same objectives of a just society. Even their bishops and pastors take part in discussions of inclusion, dignity, and equality.
This a huge step forward for the enlightenment and emancipation of LGBT Christians from the shackles of hatred and exclusion with which they have been bound for centuries. Over and over, here in the Philippines, we have seen links, for example, from these negative teachings to suicide, HIV, and psychological effects which hinder well-being in society.
In short, if the Synod would have had the will, the intention, the motivation, they could have drawn upon a whole world of ready-made studies for improving Christian life for LGBT Catholics.
And that would have affected millions of LGBT people in the Philippines. As it is, non- action affects us all.
I am receiving commentaries from friends all over the world on “what could have been addressed and corrected.” Among them was Fr. John Chuchman, CDOS, the poet and author of dozens of spiritual reading books on how to live an authentic Christian life
You might say the list of what might have been is voluminous. Just a glimpse at the list:
- A cartoon shows two railroad engines on one track facing each other – one labelled “21st century” and the other “Middle Ages.”
- Women? Oh we’re working on a theology of women. Just because we don’t ordain them doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate them.
- Yes, our men’s theology does include “pray, pay, and obey.”
- We are a welcoming church – to all who obey without questioning.
- The flock is flocking out, but even if they all flock out, the church would stand on its dogma and doctrine. We can deal with stuff like that later.
- Of course Francis said we should not judge gays and lesbians, but we sure won’t talk about marrying them, or welcoming them to communion.
In the last part of this series, we will present the minimal results of the Synod for LGBT people in general and for Pinoy LGBT.
Richard Mickley, CDOS, Ph.D. is Coordinator of The Well wellness program and Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit. Email him at saintaelred@gmail. com