“A NEW ERA FOR INCLUSIVE PASTORAL CARE OF LGBT PEOPLE IS GOING TO START AFTER THE SYNOD”

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics notes the Final Report of the 2015 Synod of Bishops on The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World. We recognise that the Bishops’ submission to Pope Francis is but one step in the Synod’s process and awaits a fuller response and reflection from him in the way which he will determine.

GNRC logo

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 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.

We regret the implication that the best interests of a child, in adoptive or fostering situations, necessarily requires parenting by opposite sex couples. Such a statement flies in the face of considerable social science research and denigrates the generosity of lesbian and gay couples, as well as single parents, in caring for unwanted children. (Paragraph 65) It is also unfortunate that the Final Report gives serious credibility to the term, ‘gender ideology’, created, even without any scientific evidence, by those who seek to find an excuse not to listen and respond pastorally to the realities of LGBT lives, and those of parents and families (Paragraph 8).

We strongly reject the baseless accusation that financial aid to poor countries is conditional on the introduction of laws that institute marriage between same-sex people, (Paragraph 76) and are dismayed by the failure to reject the criminalisation, torture, and death penalty inflicted on LGBT people in too many countries.

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.

Inspirational Opening Day for LGBT Catholic Global Conference

It’s been a superb, inspirational day in Rome, at the foundation conference of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.

We began early with morning prayer (before breakfast), structured around some biblical texts on the importance of listening, followed by two reflections, and prayers of petition.

GNRC opening day

Following up on last night’s brief introductions, today our delegates introduced themselves, their countries and the groups they represent, speaking particularly to three topics:

  • What are the challenges you are facing?
  • What has been your greatest success?
  • What support / help do you need?

After these group presentations, we were invited to reflect on, and digest what we had heard. Continue reading

THE FIRST LGBT CATHOLIC INTERNATIONAL MEETING

ROME: THE FIRST LGBT CATHOLIC INTERNATIONAL MEETING TO BE HELD FROM 1ST– 4TH OCTOBER   AHEAD OF THE SYNOD ON THE FAMILY

Harmony, dignity and equality in the Catholic Church and Society

(Rome 28/09/2015) –  The first Assembly of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics – (GNRC) will take place in Rome, 1st-4th October 2015 – on the eve of the opening of the 2015 Synod on the Family.

GNRC logo

The inaugural Assembly of the GNRC brings together representatives from more than thirty countries. They will meet for the first time to inaugurate a global network of organizations and individual Catholics involved in pastoral care and in the search of social justice, inclusion and dignity for LGBT people and their families, within the Catholic Church and society in general. The four-day Assembly, with a full program of meetings, will work to initiate joint projects, mutual support and exchange of best practices, while seeking dialogue and serene engagement with the whole Catholic community and institutions.

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) is an international network of organisations and people involved in the pastoral care of, and search for justice for, LGBT people and their families. By means of joint projects, support and interchange, the Network strives for the inclusion, dignity and equality of LGBT people, their parents and their families, within the Catholic Church and wider society.

Representing, as they do, a great variety of sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds, the members of GNRC are united in a common Catholic Faith which leads them to pray and work so that LGBT people may be guaranteed full and equal inclusion in all sectors of the Catholic Church, and the protection, by both civil and ecclesiastical law, of their human dignity, rights and equality of treatment may be upheld.

Rooted in the tradition of Catholic Social Justice teaching, the GNRC proposes the equal and intrinsic value of all people, independent of sexual orientation, relationship status or gender identity. GNRC members long for a Catholic Church in which ALL the people of God – LGBT and heterosexual people – can live, pray and offer their own service together in harmony.

ways of loveSaturday 3rd October 2015 from 15.00 until 19.00 – at the Centro Pellegrini “Santa Teresa Couderc”, Via Vincenzo Ambrosio 9/11 – will take place the conference entitled “WAYS OF LOVE: Snapshots of Catholic Encounter with LGBT people and their families, sponsored by European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups.

Participants: Mary McAleese, ex president of the Republic of Ireland, interviewed by journalist Robert Mickens, director of Global Pulse, Raúl Vera OP, a Catholic Bishop from Mexico, Sr. Jeannine Gramick (USA), Pedro Labrín SJ (Chile), Martin Pendergast (UK), Pino Piva SJ (Italy), Rungrote Tangsurakit (Thailand), Sr. Anna Maria Vitagliani (Italy) and a priest who works in Africa whose anonymity has been requested by his superior. Conference spokespersons: Andrea Rubera and Martin Pendergast.

Secretariat

Rainbow Catholics Assembly

rainbowcatholicsassembly@gmail.com

rainbowcatholics.org – www.waysoflove.wordpress.com

#rainbowcatholics  #waysoflove2015

Press Office

Emilio Sturla Furnò +39 3404050400 – info@emiliosturlafurno.it

LGBT Catholic Voices from W Africa: Ghana

ghana

I arrived safely in the city of Accra, Ghana on the 14th of March 2015. The last time I was in Ghana was in 2008 and I still have many friends there. The day after my arrival was Sunday and Mother’s Day, and I went with some friends to mass in Accra. After mass I was introduced to some of the LGBTI people present at church, some of whom sing in the choir. Some were very happy to share their stories with me, while others were more reticent out of fear that the information might find its way to the authorities and bring trouble for them. Under Ghanaian criminal law, same-sex sexual activity among males is illegal and can result in long prison sentences. The situation with lesbians is less clearly defined, but still highly problematic.

Rosebud, a Christian, lesbian and midwife who works for the government hospital, leads an informal group of Catholic lesbians. It started among fellow lesbians at her church, but women from other churches are discovering her group. She currently has members from the Anglican, Presbyterian as well Pentecostal churches. Although the group is based in Accra, it is growing to be Ghana wide. They have not given the group a name, but come together once a month to pray and listen to each other’s stories. With little support from their churches on the issues that their sexuality raises in society, the group has become their only means of support as they discuss and help each other on LGBT issues. They organize parties and social events, but have to be very discrete, so as not to incur the wrath of the authorities.

Rosebud thinks that in a homophobic society, “the churches should be the first places to welcome LGBT people, not persecute them.” She commented that lesbians cannot immediately identify each other, “people usually become friends first, and then when it is appropriate, a friend will ‘come out’.” She was not aware of the on-going Family Synod in the Catholic Church, explaining that in Ghana people only hear what the church leaders want them to hear. “Church matters are conveyed in an authoritarian manner as orders rather than issues up for discussion.“ Although the internet is available in Ghana, it is not cheap and frequent electricity blackouts make its use problematic for many people − making international media unavailable to most.

Rosebud has a son who is 14 years old. She has brought him up a Catholic and feels strongly that the church should see her and her son as a normal family, despite the fact she is a lesbian. “I know that God loves me. If I was standing face to face with any of the bishops who preach discrimination against LGBT people, I would look them in the eyes and tell them that I did not choose my sexuality.” She believes that God made her gay and trying to change her sexuality is like changing the will of God.1

Still in Ghana, I met Kelly, who identifies himself as a Christian Charismatic, bisexual man. Kelly let me record him, and concluded by telling me that he hopes support and education can be given to Ghana’s LGBT community, and particularly education regarding blackmail. Blackmail of LGBT people is on the rise because of an increase in the use of gay dating websites. Sometimes people pretend to be LGBT online, setup a victim and then blackmail them for money. With unemployment on the rise, youths in Ghana are being driven to raise money in this manner and sometimes, even LGBT people have raised money in this way. Sometimes the Ghana police have gone undercover to trap and arrest LGBT people in a similar manner. He said that the decriminalisation of homosexuality would be the best way forward to providing safety for LGBT people, but he has no idea how it can be achieved. He also thinks that education in areas of inclusive theology would be useful for the Ghanaian context.

Also see:

“Voices from LGBT Catholics in Western Africa” – Davis Mac-Iyalla

Conclusions

LGBT Catholic Voices from W Africa: Benin

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In Benin, I met with three people who identify as transsexuals and are also Christians from different backgrounds. They wanted to be interviewed together. Their words were heartfelt as they told me that all they wanted from the society and the church is acceptance. Benin does not have any anti-gay laws, but LGBT people are often disowned by their families, if their sexuality becomes known. People who are known to be LGBT are seldom employed.

The three explained that the Catholic Church, which is the dominant faith in the country and holds great power, influences social attitudes and fuels homophobic prejudice. The thing, which saddened me the most, was to hear that if a known homosexual dies, he or she is buried in a different cemetery from everyone else, a place where outcasts are buried. Marginalised and hated in life, marginalised and hated in death. The three interviewees wept as they spoke. One of them named Abib asked me to be honest in my reply and to tell them that if they died would they go to hell or heaven? “Priests say that transsexuals are demons in the kingdom of the devil.” This was very shocking for me to hear. In my years living in Nigeria and Togo I have heard much homophobia, and know well the negative attitudes of church and society towards gay people, but this priest’s words still shocked me. At this point I stopped interviewing them and spent the rest of our time together teaching and reassuring them of the unconditional love of Christ, and telling them that all baptised members of the church regardless of their sexuality, sex or gender identity are welcomed into the Kingdom of God.

Mary is a parent of a 21-year-old gay man living in Port Nova. She is a practising Catholic and told me that she knew that her son was different right from the age of 12. “He always wanted to play with girls and never with boys, loved wearing girl’s clothes and often told me he was a girl.” Initially Mary was worried about his behaviour and consulted her priest who advised her to give him time to grow up, but continue to pray for her son. She once was told by a fellow parishioner that her son’s female behaviour was because of a lack of a father figure in his life. This was so offensive to Mary that she reported it to her priest, but nothing happened as the priest agreed with what the parishioner had said. She feels angry about the attitudes of the church towards homosexuals and 4 single parents. “I love my church and my country, but I love my child more and I will do everything to protect him.”

Many LGTB people fear that their family will disown them if their sexuality was ever known. Many are subjected to pressure from their parents to get married and have children especially if they are the firstborn son. Dossou, a 39-year-old travel agent, is so concerned about this that he is currently trying to get a job in Nigeria where nobody knows him. He understands that Nigeria is also a difficult place to live if you are homosexual, but is not planning to come out any time soon. “I want to stay in Nigeria, improve my English and then find a way to travel to Europe where I can be free to be myself.” He feels that the church, which is supposed to be a place of hope, has taken the lead in discriminating against people like him. He ends by saying, “I will always be a Catholic, just as I will always be a homosexual. I know that I am loved by God.”

Also see:

“Voices from LGBT Catholics in Western Africa” – Davis Mac-Iyalla

Conclusions

 

 

 

LGBT Catholic Voices from W Africa: Nigeria

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My next journey was to Nigeria, and I had to be extremely careful at this stage of my journey for my own safety and security. It was not easy crossing the border of Benin and Nigeria since the Nigerian Presidential election was coming up in few days time, so security was very high. I had wished to visit northern, southern and eastern Nigeria but could only visit Lagos, which is in the South West. However I did meet and speak to people from all regions of the country as Lagos is the most diverse cultural city of Nigeria.

In Nigeria, the church and the government both persecute LGBT people. On the 7th January 2014 the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, signed The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act into law. This Act imposes lengthy prison sentences of up to 14 years on any person who attempts to enter into a same-sex marriage or civil union; who participates in a gay club, society or organisation; or who makes a public display of affection with a person of the same sex.

Rashidi is a trained science laboratory technician and an unapologetic human rights advocate especially for persons marginalized on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. He was brought up as Catholic. The strict observance of religion and faith in his family led him to begin to study the Bible at an early age, but the experiences and realization of his sexuality made him more questioning of the scriptures. As a young man, he was scared he was going to be consumed by fire whenever he stepped up to the altar. He feared that his homosexuality would be revealed to the church and he would become an object of mockery amongst his peers. He remarked, “Many homosexuals within the church in Nigeria still have those same feelings and are scared about people finding the truth of who they are.”

Rashidi expressed his anger over The Same Sex Marriage Act. Many LGBT Catholics in Nigeria were very disappointed to read in the press that The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria made statements in support of the bill saying that the law was a “step in the right direction for the protection of the dignity of the human person”. Rashidi angrily commented, “I cannot understand how the church could support the persecutions of LGBT Nigerians and still call itself Christian.” There had been an increase in violent attacks against Nigerian LGBT people since the bill was signed into law. Painful for him is the lack of pastoral care and support from the Nigerian Catholic Church towards its LGBT members. While the Bishop pays ‘lip-service’ to human rights and equality, the Catholic Church does not seem to put these ideals into practice.

Rashidi followed the Catholic Family Synod through the international media. “Why the Catholic Church can’t be more like Christ to give everyone a place, I do not know,” he muses. He hopes to see the Nigerian Catholic Church becoming more open and welcoming to everyone. While the priests and bishops in Nigeria are publicly opposing homosexuality, he asks, “Does this mean that there are no homosexual priests or bishops in the Catholic Church of Nigeria, or are they just too afraid to accept themselves and speak out the truth which is first and foremost their calling?” He would love to see brothers and sisters from Europe and other parts of the world visiting Nigeria, sharing their stories and supporting the LGBT of Nigeria in their journey of faith. “What is needed most in Nigeria is material that teaches liberation theology,” he concludes.

I also met Grace, a Lesbian from Ojota. She is a Christian who discovered that she is a lesbian at a very young age. She is currently unemployed but does lots of voluntary work to support the LGBT community in Lagos. She is still very much in the closet but friends and family members often comment on how she dresses like a boy and behaves like a man. Her mother constantly reminds her that a woman’s place is under her husband and says she is praying for Grace to find a good husband. Since the passing of the anti-gay law in January 2014 Grace has become more careful. She recounts a story about an undercover policewoman who joined an online dating group to trap unsuspecting gay women. The policewoman met a female doctor who she subsequently reported to the authorities. The doctor lost her job and was forced to relocate outside of Nigeria. “Many people are using the anti-gay law to blackmail people for money,” Grace explains. In her eyes, Nigeria is a mob country where people are violently persecuted for being homosexual. She said, “I believe [LBGTIs] are one family and I hope that the worldwide Catholic Church and all Christians will come to realise this truth too.”

For many LBGTI persons, the only source of information is the press, which, on most occasions, condemns homosexuality. This can lead to a feeling of self-loathing, an inferiority complex and often a feeling of inadequacy in LGBTs. The condemnation of homosexuality by state and churches as well as the fear of being outed force LGBTs to hide their real sexual identity for a long time. Cynthia was one such person. The acceptance of herself only started when she found an online-group for same gender loving women. Through this group of lesbians, she became aware that love is natural and the greatest commandment of Jesus Christ. She feels that most LGBT Nigerians don’t know the full component of the anti-gay law. “The damaging effects of the anti-gay law are ‘crazy’: gay bashing, suicide, blackmail, rape and more is on the increase against Nigerian LGBT people since that law came into effect,” she explains. Cynthia wishes there was one bishop in Nigeria who was bold enough to stand up and challenge the church and government on their views and attitudes to homosexuality.

Cynthia explains, “I am born and raised Nigerian, if there is anything Nigeria needs it is answers to why a nation so blessed with natural minerals resources, is lacking and dying in poverty. What Nigeria needs is good roads, steady electricity supply, good healthcare and good social services. The problem for the ordinary Nigerian is how to have a daily meal.” In her eyes, the only people who are asking for anti-gay laws are politicians and religious leaders who are using LGBT Nigerians as a scapegoat for the problems in the country.

She asked to help drive education within the Nigerian LGBT Christian communities. This education should cut across spirituality, self and career development, and include legal and human rights. She wants LGBT Catholics from all over the world to keep close ties with the Nigeria LGBT Christians communities.

Also see:

“Voices from LGBT Catholics in Western Africa” – Davis Mac-Iyalla

Conclusions