In Part 3 of this series on Pinoy LGBT and the Synod, we will discuss the progress, the application, the possibility of change for LGBT people as a result of the deliberations and conclusions of the Synod of Roman Catholic bishops with the pope that just finished in Rome.
We all know the negative impacts, the wounding that comes directly from ”the church” as of now and indirectly from the control of the church of the now over government and society.
But let’s look at the “crumbs” that fell off the table of discussions.
Let’s start with a glimpse at an overview of what came out of the Synod. Fr. JP Heath was in Rome and took part in the Global Network discussions. The following in his own words is the brief analysis of Fr. JP on what actually happened in connection with this Synod.
“In this Synod Pope Francis did what many feel uncomfortable with; he opened for discussion much of what conservatives did not want to discuss. While there is no specific paragraph changing language, etc. on LGBT issues, in para 76 there is a clear call to give special attention to families who have LGBT members. This at least gives room to maneuver.
“This synod has also meant that some bishops present have said that the topic of the family is too broad to be explicit in LGBT people, and they have called on a synod to specifically address LGBT concerns; a place where our voices and our families and our relationships can be seen and listened to. There is no guarantee.”
In Part 2 of this series we listed multiple hints at the type of items such an imaginary Synod might tackle. Because “same-sex marriage” would provide such a repulsive convulsive reaction in the vast majority of the bishops, it is not even mentioned for a Synod topic.
Unfortunately there is little basis for optimism. Even as Rainbow Catholic activists (clergy and lay) from 31 countries were meeting in Rome, the Holy Father was implying that “same-sex” marriage was a “passing fad” for which he had no use.
It was reported that the Pontiff insisted the church cannot be “swayed by passing fads or popular opinion.” (This is a new wording for “Roma locuta, causa finita est”: It implies, “when Rome makes a statement there’s no opening for passing fads or even the common sense of the people.”) He emphatically and prophetically proclaimed: “God’s dream for his beloved creation [is] to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self.” By proclaiming “God’s dream” he surely was speaking as a prophet of God.
Having no invitation to directly address the Synod, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics wrote an open letter to the Bishops of the Synod.
It says: “We are a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Catholics, and along with our loving families and friends, we have spent the last few days not far from you, in Rome, consolidating two years of work.
“We come from over thirty countries, both as individuals and as representatives of groups, who have been involved with the flourishing of people like ourselves in the lives of our local churches…”
The last years have not been an easy ride! Many in our Church thought that they were serving God by hating us, and some still do, especially among the hierarchy; but we can tell you with joy, that we have kept alive our Confession of the Catholic faith!
“We have kept the faith under persecution, and are ready to join with you in the joyful announcement of the Gospel to which Pope Francis has called us.”
It adds: “We write to you to wish you encouragement for these days of your Synodal gathering, as well as for the months and years to come as we all begin to live the hints of the new that are coming to birth, discovering new ways of celebrating the family, rather than condemning wine that threatens to burst old wineskins.”
That was a very Christian message in the arena of glaring rejection.
Many still experienced great hope. It was not as if the Synod had said, “Ok, it’s time for us to discuss the long delayed ordination of women,” That would be earth-shaking indeed. Nor did they say, “when the Holy Father calls for mercy and compassion towards all who are wounded and in some way treated as outcasts, it’s time for us to see what we can do to bring the wounded LGBT people whom we have treated as outcasts into full recognition in the life of the church.” It didn’t happen.
So we had to obtain our hope from the loving words of the Holy Father. We would not want to call him hypocritical for not including LGBT, so in our charity, we can see a glimmer of hope that when he says things like, “who am I to judge?” he does indeed open a window for a future of equality, for example, that would be comparable to ordination of women, or the ordination of LGBT for that matter.
The most optimistic summary of all is seen in these lines chosen from Global Network’s media release at the end of the Synod.
It made reference to Pope Francis calling repeatedly for mercy and compassion. He had already granted a small measure of compassion to Catholics who wanted to remarry after an unsuccessful marriage.
For the first time in history, I presume, the words gay and lesbian were mentioned in a world meeting of bishops without all the connotations of “homosexual sin.” Unfortunately the “liberals” and “conservatives” were intensely divided on every aspect of this issue, so that it was never a major item for “solution.” Any mention was a reminder that for well over a thousand years “Roma has locuta,” Rome has spoken on this matter, and it is sin forever. The agenda was kept “safe.”
Some compassion was shown for people in the unhappy position of being “displaced persons” because of not loving the one the church tells them to love. We want to examine if there was any hint of compassion for LGBT who are on the” displaced persons” list in the church because they do love the person they love.
The tone was cautiously (in spite of his lapses) set by Pope Francis himself before the Synod, in speeches he made throughout the three weeks, and this one from his closing message:
“We are with Jesus but we do not think like him. We are in his group, but our hearts are not open. We lose wonder, gratitude and enthusiasm, and risk becoming habitually unmoved by grace. We are able to speak about him and work for him, but we live far from his heart, which is reaching out to those who are wounded. . . . A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid [dry] and, rather than oases, creates other deserts.”
In response, “A new era for inclusive pastoral care of LGBT people is going to start after the Synod,” The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics notes after the Final Report was published of the 2015 Synod of Bishops on The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.
The response continues, “We are encouraged by the Pope’s Closing Address to the Synod, not least his comments that ‘it was also about laying bare those closed hearts, which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families .
“It was about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible.’
“It is clear that the Bishops have been unable to reach a more positive consensus about the inadequacy of previously used terminology to describe variant sexual orientation.
“However, we (the Global Network) see clearly in the Synod’s Final Report (Paragraph 76) the beginning of a new era of inclusive pastoral care for and with LGBT people, and their families, which will hopefully be enacted by Dioceses across the world.
“Since it is explicitly mentioned that ‘specific attention should be paid to families that have a member with homosexual tendencies,’ there is, therefore, no longer any reason not to include same-sex couples themselves, as well as children with same-sex parents in such a pastoral focus.
“Even though the 2015 Synod did not manage to bring itself to develop a stronger statement of LGBT acceptance, we value the expressions of apology during the Synod. There was a language of apology for past harmful and inaccurate language addressed to LGBT people and their parents together with a desire to pursue a more intensive study and reflection on the realities of same-sex relationships and family life.
“The door for a more sensitive attentiveness to LGBT issues in the Church has been opened through the Synodal processes of 2014-2015 and, despite opposition, cannot now be closed.”
There is no doubt: history has been made. The unmentionable has been mentioned.
The subject of gays and lesbians and bisexual and transgenders in the church has been ever so discreetly mentioned. Pinoy LGBT Catholics are not going to hear any pulpit welcomes, but maybe, just maybe, Pope Francis has set an example of Christian attitude that will begin a whole new era of moving toward inclusion, dignity, and equality.
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