Vatican renews commitment to LGBTQs

Christians, world-wide, are now recognising their need to accommodate the views of LGBTQ people in the Body of Christ – as fellow members and no less valuable than those of the majority ‘binary’ frame of gender/sexuality identity. This takes the pressure off intrinisically ‘different’ people to have to conform to the understanding of all humanity being categorised as capable of solely heterosexual relationships – in the mistaken belief that everyone’s natural sexual attraction (where acknowledged) must be limited to one’s opposite sex/gender.

In line with the modern understanding of gender and sexuality, the Roman Catholic Church recognises the need to accept the facts on the ground; that not everyone is either equipped or even capable of being classified as ‘heterosexual’ or, indeed, of being either willing or capable of the capacity to procreate – there being different categories of gender or sexual responses in at least 10% of all human beings.

This is not a new phenomenon, nor has it been unknown throughout the entire existence of humanity. However, amongst certain religious people – including Christians who relate to what they regard as a ‘strictly Biblical’ view of gender and sexuality, where procreation is seen to be the major aim and object of human sexual attraction, desire or activity – any departure from the binary ‘norm’ has been seen as a direct transgression of the intent of the Creator in ‘making them male and female’. However, the biblical text does NOT SAY ‘male OR female’, so that male AND female could indicate there there are certain nurturing characteristics of BOTH male and female in ALL of us. (Jesus, on one occasion is seen to have compared himself to a mother hen, looking after her chickens, for instance).

In this turnaround, from removing a pro-LGBTQ post of the Vatican website promoting the current programme towards the inauguration of Synodical participation in the Catholic Church; the Vatican is now apologising for this action and restoring the “New Ways Ministries” content to the Vatican Site.

It is now well-known that Pope Francis, personally, has great respect for LGBTQ people in the Church and in the world, and has recently declared his support for the state provision of Same-Sex Blessing for committed monogamous Same-Sex Partnerships – without, however, actually committing the Church to S/S Marriage in the Church buildings. So that this turnaround by Vatican officials on the matter of restoring the LGTBQ Outreach Video procduced by ‘New Ways Ministries’, might possibly be seen as a direct wish of Pope Francis.

Father, Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Vatican official apologizes for removing LGBTQ outreach video from synod website

Dec 13, 2021by Christopher WhiteVaticanThis article appears in the Synod on Synodality feature series. View the full series.

A Synod of Bishops' newsletter offers an apology for removing a link to a video by the Catholic LGBTQ outreach organization New Ways Ministries (NCR screenshot)A Synod of Bishops’ newsletter offers an apology for removing a link to a video by the Catholic LGBTQ outreach organization New Ways Ministries (NCR screenshot)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add a statement from New Ways Ministry. 

ROME — An official from the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops’ office has apologized for removing a link to a video by the Catholic LGBTQ outreach organization New Ways Ministries and reversed course by re-publishing the original video in question. 

In a Dec. 12 newsletter, the synod’s communication manager said he had “personally taken the initiative to de-publish a post promoted by the reality ‘New Ways Ministries’ for internal procedural reasons.” 

“This brought pain to the entire LGBTQ community who once again felt left out,” wrote Thierry Bonaventura.

The reversal comes less than a week after the video, “From the Margins to the Center: a Webinar on LGBTQ Catholics and Synodality,” was removed on Dec. 7 from the resources website for the 2021-2023 synod on synodality.

The 75-minute video featured an Oct. 24 webinar presentation by Fordham University theologian Robert Choiniere, who is also the director of adult formation at St. Francis Xavier Church in Manhattan.

According to conservative Catholic media reports, the video was removed after synod officials were informed that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had censured New Ways Ministry in 2010 for its support of civil marriage for same-sex couples.

As NCR first reported on Dec. 8, following the video’s removal, New Ways Ministry revealed that Pope Francis, in a series of written correspondence, had commended the organization for its outreach to the LGBTQ community. The pope also referred to one of its co-founders, Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, as “a valiant woman” who had suffered much for her ministry.

New Ways Ministry executive director, Francis DeBernardo, labeled the original decision to take down the video “a big mistake.”

Now, it seems the Vatican’s synod office agrees. 

“I feel that I must apologize to all LGBTQ people and to the members of New Ways Ministries for the pain caused,” wrote Bonaventura​ in the official newsletter for the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops. 

He went on to express the “firm will” of “the entire General Secretariat of the Synod,” along with his personal committment, “not to exclude those who wish to carry out this synodal process with a sincere heart and a spirit of dialogue and real discernment.”

Along with restoring the video to the website for synod resources, the video was included in the synod newsletter. Bonaventure also invited LGBTQ groups and others who “feel they live on the ‘margins’ of the Church” to share their materials with the synod office.  

“In walking together,” Bonaventura concluded, “sometimes one may fall, the important thing is to get back up with the help of the brothers and sisters.” 

On Dec. 13, New Ways Ministry welcomed the apology and said they would continue their efforts to encourage LGBTQ involvement in the synod process.

“This unprecedented apology from a Vatican office corrects the earlier mistake and amplifies, even louder, the welcome that Pope Francis has extended to LGBTQ people. God indeed works in mysterious ways, turning what could have been great harm into an instrument of greater connection,” wrote DeBernardo. “The synod office has now created a special channel for LGBTQ people to share their stories.  Every diocese should follow this example and set up their own channels of communication with LGBTQ communities.”

In particular, DeBernardo singled out Bonaventura, saying “His actions are an example of the amazing grace which can be brought to life when one practices honesty and humility, and is concerned about how one’s actions may harm other people.” 

“For their own part, LGBTQ people can respond to the Vatican’s apology and correction by participating in synod consultations and sharing the journeys of their lives and their faith,” DeBernardo said. “The church will benefit greatly by LGBTQ involvement.”Related: Pope Francis thanks New Ways Ministry in recent correspondence

Christopher White

Christopher White is the Vatican correspondent for NCR. His email address is cwhite@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CWWhiteNCR.

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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