GNRC declares: The exaggerated rhetoric of Pope Francis against “gender” exposes the contradictions in his pastoral care for LGBTI people

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) appreciates that Pope Francis has made major acknowledgements of LGBTI persons and their families during his last official trip to Georgia, and later in the press conference on his way back to Rome.

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The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) appreciates that Pope Francis has made major acknowledgements of LGBTI persons and their families during his last official trip to Georgia, and later in the press conference on his way back to Rome. His words contain very important messages about the way Pope Francis envisions pastoral care for LGBT people as an accompaniment on the way to Jesus which needs a huge sense of proper discernment.

His intention of reviewing the particular conditions and life experiences, of LGBTI persons, case by case and in their particular expression recognizing that life is life, gives an important testimony. “The Pope claims that the pastoral care for LGBTI is always his number one priority. He offers a pretty good example of it with the story of the Spanish transgender man, which demonstrates his empathy and respect for LGBTI Catholics”, says Ruby Almeida, Co-Chair of the GNRC and Chair of Quest in the United Kingdom.

While the emphasis that Pope Francis puts on pastoral care for LGBTI persons is clearly a step forward in the Catholic Church, it also has a shadow side. This gets visible when he uses the expression “gender ideology” as he has recently done in Krakow during the World Youth Day and now again during his travels to the Caucasus. This highly confusing terminology is currently used by the Catholic hierarchy all over the world to push back the efforts towards acceptance and moral equality of LGBTI persons. “The different statements during his journey to Georgia and Azerbaijan have fully exposed the contradictions within Pope Francis’ strategy for dealing with the issue of LGBTI people”, declares Dr. Michael Brinkschroeder, Co-Chair of the GNRC and project manager of Homosexuelle und Kirche in Germany. “If the pastoral discernment is not based on the acceptance of the LGBTI person and on the recognition of her moral equality, but is combined with an exaggerated warning for gender theories, it creates double-bind messages. Double-bind messages are confusing and produce psychic harm. If Pope Francis really wants to be a good pastor for LGBTI persons, he needs to make up his mind about which message he wants to send.”

We need to  see an urgent change to move away from terminology of the ‘Homosexual Tendency’ or ‘Homosexual Condition’, still referred to during the press conference, to the more real and proper one of ‘Sexual Orientation’. “ Pope Francis has softened his words when talking about sexual orientation and gender identity diversity. Nevertheless, in what he says, the Pope does reveals a level of  prejudice and a level of misunderstanding of the life experiences of LGBTI persons. GNRC would be most happy to start a dialogue with the Pope to enable  him to get a more holistic understanding of our community’s spiritual and pastoral needs,” says Ruby Almeida.

Global Network of Rainbow Catholics 2016

Website: www.rainbowcatholics.org Mail: rainbowcatholicsassembly@gmail.com

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The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) brings together organizations and individuals who work for pastoral care and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning, and intersex (LGBTQI) people and their families. The Network works for inclusion, dignity and equality of this community in the Roman Catholic Church and society. The GNRC was founded in October 2015 at the Rome conference, “Ways of Love”, with 80 participants from 30 countries. To date, the GNRC represents 25 groups of LGBTQI Catholics, their families and friends from all continents.

GNRC News Summary: May – September 2016

This is a summary of Catholic LGBTI News around the world between May and September 2016. We receive constantly more News for this section so check it weekly for updates.

English / Español

Note: Due to the huge amount of available information, this section won`t be translated from its source original language. If you have any contribution to include in this section, please get in contact with us through our e-mail: rainbowcatholicsassembly@gmail.com /

SEPTEMBER 2016

lgbt-catholics-logoEngland: The Church of Westminster is planning a Pilgrimage to Rome on February  2017 – Are you interested? 2017 might seem a long way off, but now’s the time to start saving up for an experience of a lifetime! The 2015 Rome pilgrimage, at the beginning of Lent, exceeded their expectations – great company, moving experiences of prayer and liturgy, Papal Audience, seeing some LGBT aspects of Rome, past and present!  2 Pilgrims’ comments: “Just loved the pilgrimage , from a personal – and a community aspect – sharing experiences with LGBT Catholics whom I had met only in a church context. I enjoyed the warmth and care we felt for each other. Meeting the New Ways Ministry group and local LGBT Italians gave us a feeling that we are part of a bigger family. We were privileged to have special insights and places to visit beyond what ‘Rome Pilgrimages’ would normally offer due to Martin’s immense knowledge of the city.” andBeing in Rome with Pope Francis for the commencement of Lent was wonderful and made even more special and significant by being there with a group of people with whom I was able to relax and be myself. The places we visited inspired us and the liturgies we shared moved us. I would certainly want to go again if another pilgrimage is organised.”. You can get more information of the 2017 Pilgrim in the Church of Westminster Website or contact them by e-mail lgbtcatholicswestminster@gmail.com for more details.

12yearoldMéxico: Many Mexican Bishops, supported by Catholics conservative groups, started a campaign of misinformation and attacks, after the proposal of President Enrique Peña Nieto on the national extension of Equal Marriage beyond the Federal District. At the beginning of August, they released a Press Release that included the mention “When the State turns something legal doesn´t make it moral”. By mid september a massive anti-marriage equality protest was made in several cities across México, but the picture of the peaceful response from a 13 years old kid turned viral and represented many people who see the inclusion of LGBTI people in society as a worthy value. “Our country and those people that belongs to the sexual and gender diversity of our society, including their friends and family, suffer, feel anger and watch with horror the polarized and extreme climate that Catholic conservative groups has recently created”, says Lilia Ruiz from the LGBT Catholic Group Sembrando Unidad en la Diversidad (Seeding Unity in Diversity).  For more information read a detailed article of the Massive Protests from ABC and the Support from Mexican Bishops to Reparative Therapy from Bondings 2.0 (courtesy of New Ways Ministry).

logotipoPortugal: CaDiv (Walking in Diversity) is a Catholic LGBT Community from Oporto (Portugal) that welcomes all LGBTI people that would like to join them as well as their families. CaDiv is also open to al those men and women that identify themselves with the human cristian values from the Gospel and would ike to get a closer approach to its practice. On October 17th, during the conmemorative liturgy of Santa Margarida Maria Alacoque, they will also celebrate the foundation of their group. For further infotmation of CaDiv, you can get in contact with them through the mobile phone (00 351) 918 273 798 or the e-mail caminharnadiversidade@gmail.com.

CDSItaly: On the eve of the Family Day*, Cammini di Speranza, the first National Italian Association of LGBTI Christian, took its first steps towards launching #chiesaascoltaci (“Church, listen to us”), a campaign of real life stories, directed at a Church home for everyone, and which could be able to ensure harmony, dignity and equality within the Catholic Church itself and society. Each chapter of the campaign includes a photo portrait by Simone Cerio, a well-known Italian photographer who offered his art to give a visual to the written story/campaign/cause, who actually appears in Chapter 17 of the Campaign. Check monthly for the updates as more members, families and friends of Cammini di Speranza gives witness and testimony.

AUGUST 2016

west-africaAfrica: We are happy to introduce the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (ID NoWA), which was founded on august 2016. The ID NoWA is a regional network of activists, faith based individuals, LGBTQI persons, advocates and individual activists working for inclusion of diverse persons to create a world governed by respect and dignity. They seek a day where all persons irrespective of religious beliefs become great allies in the quest for a safe and free society for all humans. The convener of the network strongly believe that humans are born free and equal and should enjoy their full human rights and achieve their full potentials in a safe and loving society. Irrespective of your background, belief, they hereby invite you to help connect and contribute to building this beautiful world we envision for all. For more information of ID NoWA you could get in contact with Davis Mac-Iyalla-Co-Chair (UK/Nigeria : dmaciyalla@gmail.com ) or Ngozi Nwosu-Juba-Co-Chair (Nigeria : ngonwosu@yahoo.co.uk ).

litury-of-forgiveness-australiaAustralia: Pope Francis called for an apology to gay and lesbian people and a Catholic church in Australia has responded. The Rainbow Catholic Interagency for Ministry held a ‘Liturgy of Apology’ to LGBTIQ people at St Joseph’s Catholic Church Newtown on 12th August 2016. The historic event acknowledged the hurt caused by the action and inaction of Catholic and Christian people and churches. “Last night’s historic ‘Liturgy of Apology’ to LGBTIQ people was warmly and lovingly received, it is the beginning of a reconciliation process.”, said Benjamin Oh, member of Acceptance Sidney which is also part of the Rainbow Catholic Interagency of Ministry. Get more information detailed information about this important liturgy from Fr Peter Maher Blog or the review made by the Sydney Star Observer gay newspaper.

otras-ovejas-iconoColombia: The repercussion of the Church intervention in Educational Policies about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity issues are profound. A direct meeting, between the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference and the Colombia´s President Juan Manuel Santos, concluded with a Press Conference where the President declared that the State would not support anything related to “Gender Ideology”. So some Bishops feel empowered, by this recent and dangerous speech. Fidel Ramirez from Otras Ovejas (Other Sheeps) and project DeGenerando, declares “Sadly, the common link is a great lack of mercy and a lot of prejudice, especially after Pope Francis´ mentions of Gender Teachings on Schools, which reflects that our previous concerns of their negative impact just can´t be underestimated”. Check a detailed article about this issue from Bondings 2.0 (courtesy of New Ways Ministry).

homosexuality-and-religionSpain: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Christian Association from Catalunya (ACGIL: Asociación Cristiana de Lesbianas, Gays, Bisexuales y Transgéneros de Cataluña) participated in a workshop, during the Circuit Festival in Barcelona, called “Homosexuality and Religions: Perspectives and Dialogues” on august 2. The representative of ACGIL, Jordi Valls declared during the workshop: “What happens to us, as LGBTI community, is that we have been mistreated by the religions, so we have ran away from them with fear” but on the other side “if we slam the door to them we would be also rejecting spirituality as a plenitude bringer element”. ACGIL is a space of gathering and freedom for all the LGBTI Christians that want to share their life experiences, find a consensus between his faith and sexuality, and then reach their personal growth. Get more information of ACGIL on its Website.

 

JULY 2016

wyd-logo-2016-krakowPolland: World Youth Day arrived, end of July, and we considered this a perfect opportunity to give visibility to the lives of LGBTI people, especially Catholics, in Poland. At the midst of this event, the LGBTI Christian group Wiara i Tecza developed a Young Pilgrim`s Haven and one of the GNRC youngest member had the chance to share with us his WYD pilgrim experience. Get more information about how the Young Prilgrim´s Haven was propposed and implemented in the New Ways Ministry Article.

pope-francis-v1Vatican: In July, the Pope made a strong statement about the so called “Gender Ideology”. A concept we don´t share as it´s part of a major missunderstod ligated to ignorance and the lack of empathy with Gender Identity Diversity. We gave our response trough a PR about Gender Identity teachings on schools and got more contributions from Dignity USA and New Ways Ministry. Not stopping there, we think it`s a good time to talk about inclusion of Transgender and Intersex people in the Church.

Togo: Afrique Arc-En-Ciel is a Non Governmental LGBTI Organization that fights against HIV and promotion for rights equality for everybody and specially for the sexual diversity minorities. For more information, you can get in contact with Sheba K. Akpokli lafleursheba@gmail.com . She is a Togolese residing in Lome, and supports the association as Legal Assistant. “Our main statement is Equality, Respect and Inclusion”, says Sheba making reference to the association Mission and Values.

Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Catholic Diocese has criticized a lawmaker’s proposal to amend a law so that same-sex couples married legally overseas can reclaim the ashes of their deceased partner from a columbaria — a place where urns are stored. “We hope those who oppose the amendment should look at the issue with empathy. Do not [let] it become an issue about legalizing same-sex marriage in Hong Kong,” the LGBT community said. Cases of same-sex spouses trying to claim the ashes of a deceased partner are rare “but the issue itself reflects how discussions on LGBT issues have turned irrational,” a church worker who wants to remain anonymous added that “Pope Francis has reminded us many times that the church should offer pastoral concern to gay people. There seems to be a trend for people to turn a small issue into a big one,”.

GNRC LogoGNRC World: The Pride parades of 2016 was celebrated around the world and many of our members joined it, you can see the images of them all on the Pride 2016 Gallery. Also a gay Catholic theology graduate student from Singapore, who is studying in the U.S., reflected on his first Pride participation, and what meant coming so soon after Orlando in the New Ways Ministry Article.

 

JUNE 2016

GNRC Memorial AlbumUSA: With deep sadness at the tragic News of the Orlando Shooting last June, we wrote a letter directed to the Orlando Community and started a Signature Campaign to express our sorrow and solidarity. We called on our LGBTI Catholic community to share their respects and commiserations through vigils and masses.

 

dignity-usaVatican: The Pope made a very important statement in June, “Christians should apologize to the gay persons whom it has offended”, so we wrotte a PR related to it. Additionaly Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive Director of DignityUSA, made an article about How an Unexpected Aspect of “The Francis Effect” May Further LGBTQ Equality considering all the positive signs could indicate that the Catholic Church may be on its way to becoming a more affirming, or at least accepting, place for LGBTQI people.

padisChile: The statement of Bishop Juan Ignacio González from San Bernardo County in Chile, during a TV interview on June 15 and only 3 days after the Orlando Shooting attacks, “you may understand that this kind of Legislation what they do is to corrupt more the social structure of our nation”, when referring to Equal Marriage social discussion, generated a lot of media noise and also the reaction from many LGBTI advocacy groups. Even if this is not the first time that Bishop González makes agressive statements over the LGBTI community, his words “create a strong impact on many LGBTI Chilean Catholics” declares Cecilia Ramirez, Director of PADIS+ (Pastoral de la Diversidad Sexual).

13892294_281394845572815_2392434603705795154_nChina (1): 153 LGBT Christians and their families gathered in Hangzhou (Zhejiang province), between June 8th-11th in the same city where the G20 summit was held, to participate in a retreat organized by China Rainbow Witness Fellowship (CRWF). They came from Mainland China, Hongkong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. In the last day of the meeting, Fr.Francis celebrated a mass with some Catholics and other Christians to offer the rainbow Christians to our lady of seven sorrows.

Chinese gay Catholic community logoChina (2): On June 3, the feast of Sacred heart of Jesus, the China Catholic Rainbow Community (CCRC) started the first time online rosary pray. The pray will continue every Wednesday and Friday at 9:00 pm using “QQ” a very popular online tool in China.

 

ichthys-sevillaSpain: Ichthys Sevilla had a strong Activities Calendar Between May and June. A Vigil for a World without Homophobia was celebrated, on May 20, creating a respectfull environment for praying and testimony sharing. Then on June 4, they enjoyed the exposition and workshop “Who am I to judge? A Sacramental Perspective” directed by Father Pep Baquer sj. Finnaly on June 11 they gathered an ecumenical meeting with special guest Ain Karem,a very talented religious music group composed of Sisters Carmelitas. Ichthys Sevilla would like to recall that since October they will beging a periodical Tuesday Silent Praying, so if you´d like to join them please get in contact through their e-mail comunidadichthys@gmail.com

Australia: Australian Non-Binding $160+ million Plebiscite on Marriage Equality. LGBTIQ affirming Catholic group Acceptance Sydney, advocacy organization Australian Catholics for Equality and LGBTIQ pastoral care coalition Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry have all raised concerns on the dangers of a plebiscite on civil Marriage Equality in Australia. “A plebiscite on Marriage Equality will produce a public discourse that risks continuing vilification and hurt within the LGBTI community through ignorance and dishonesty such as connecting it to the anti-bullying safe schools project or surrogacy for money. It will be another example of straight people talking about LGBTI people, and not with them, on issues that are about basic rights for LGBTI people,” said Father Peter Maher. Peter is part of the pastoral care coalition Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry and has expressed similar sentiments in the editorial of The Swag, the quarterly magazine publication of the National Council of Priests of Australia. Benjamin Oh who is part of Acceptance Sydney said that “LGBTI Catholics and their loved ones are already marginalised, silence and threaten. Pope Francis recently reminded and call out to the church to apologise for the hurt that have been inflicted on gay people, acknowledging the vulnerability of LGBTI people being constantly subjected to vilification, ignorance and prejudice. Given the divisive nature of a plebiscite, a free vote in parliament granted by the Prime Minister is the most appropriate manner to resolve the matter.”

acceptance

MAY 2016 

merlb-bishop-smiling-copyright-kairos-catholic-journal-2Australia: Newly installed Bishop of Parramatta Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv’s in his inaugural homily preached that “Pope Francis urges us to be a Church where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the Gospel. There can be no future for the living Church without there being space for those who have been hurt, damaged or alienated, be they abuse victims, survivors, divorcees, gays, lesbians or disaffected members.” The statement was warmly welcomed by LGBTI Catholics around the country. In a public statement, Australian Catholics for Equality congratulated the prelate, saying that “These are such welcomed words for so many of us, especially LGBTI Catholics and their loved ones who have been marginalised and deeply ‘hurt, damaged and alienated’ by the faith community they love. With such warm words, we look forth to the accompanying actions.” Vincent Long Van Nguyen came to Australia as are refugee from Vietnam and has a record of being outspoken on issues of social justice. Parramatta is the fifth-largest Catholic Diocese in Australia.

711Bangladesh: The Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Dhaka in Bangladesh has joined rights activists in condemning the murders on April 25 of two leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates. “The church always supports the demands of LGBT people for equal rights and opportunities as ordinary citizens,” said Convenor, Father Albert Thomas Rozario the priest who is also a Supreme Court lawyer. “We call on the authorities to ensure justice is meted out for the killings, and also to take steps to end discrimination against this community,” he added. The public statement came after suspected Islamic militants hacked to death Xulhaz Mannan, one of the founders of Bangladesh’s first and only LGBT magazine Roopbaan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, an actor and fellow gay rights activist in the capital Dhaka. Rosaline Costa, a Catholic and executive director of Hotline Human Rights Trust Bangladesh, said religion, social norms and the legal system can’t be used to disenfranchise the LGBT community. “God has given us freedom of choice and nobody is allowed to persecute people for their sexual orientation because of so-called traditional values based on conservative religious norms. A truly democratic society can’t accept abuse in the name of religion,” Costa said.

phillipinesPhilippines: Geraldine Roman became Philippines’ first transgender lawmaker. In the mostly Catholic country, Roman has been mocked and abused in the campaign trail in the lead up to the election win.  Roman said that “If Jesus Christ was alive today, he would not approve of discrimination. I firmly believe that.” Geraldine Roman comes from a political family, where her mother has served as congresswoman for nine years. Know more about Roman from the Articles released by CNN and Bondings 2.0 (Courtesy of New Ways Ministry).

drachmaMalta: Drachma (LGBTI Pastoral Care Group, composed of LGBTQI Catholics and their families) launched a book, on May 17, called “Uliedna Rigal”, on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Addressing the occasion, President of Malta Marie Louise Coleiro Preca spoke of the need to continue raising awareness of violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons around the world. “The ILGA Europe recognized Malta as number one, when it comes to LGBTI rights in Europe,” she said, adding that there is more to do among families, communities and societies. The book offers answers to fundamental questions that were asked within this group, she explained. It will give strength to LGBTIQ parents who look to understand the experiences of others. The book is the fruit of eight years of work by Drachma Parents Group, together with the experience of the wider Drachma community. Joseanne Peregin, Coordinator of Drachma Parents Group said “Over the years, we have tried to answer our own questions, and it wasn’t easy. When meeting with other families, we realized there are common questions”. Chris Vella – coordinator of the Drachma LGBTI, thanked the parents who wrote down their experiences, and all those who helped make this dream a reality. He recalled that in a number of countries, the criminality of homosexuality is still practiced.

Pride parade 2016 Album

GNRC members joined the Pride Parade 2016 making public their presence in society and inside the LGBTI community.

We would like to thank to all the people and groups that contributed in the development of this álbum. If you or your group want to be part of it, please do not hesitate to send pictures via email at rainbowcatholicsassembly@gmail.com . They may include complementary information such as: date, group name, allocation and any inspirational idea or feeling you shared on that date.

GNRC-SC Chair`s Election

The GNRC – Steering Committee (SC) held an open nomination and election for its office bearers’ roles on July 2016.

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After months of working together, once we have developed a clearer organizational structure and definition of office bearers’ roles, as tasked by our assembly gathered last October 2015 in Rome, the GNRC – Steering Committee (SC) finally held an open nomination and election to have those roles properly filled. The election was a very organic, collegial and assertive process, as we were all quite focused on how to support each other in our strengths and gifts, in order to further develop our Global Network to grow. We are a community in action, but we also join in prayer.

Just a short summary to what amount of work we have put in together so far:

  • We have had 6 SC committee meetings which each time derived into meetings in 3 separate subcommittees: Organizational Development, Next Assembly & Funding and Communications & Public Relations
  • We have since issued 4 Press Releases: on the GNRC Foundation (October 2015), about the Catholic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (April 2016, complemented by a 4 pages extended response), our Call to Pope Francis to condemn all LGBTQI Hate and Violence (June 2016, followed by a support and solidarity letter to the Orlando LGBTQI Community) and on the Pope`s apology to Gays (June, 2016), alongside 2 Newsletters (January and May 2016), all in multiple languages to assure the accessibility for all.

For all this, we coordinated work and meetings across 7 global time zones, that requested us in different hours of the day, beyond the countless informal meetings and work groups across time and place. It`s been a miracle! It is obvious that we wouldn’t have been able to do this without each other, without the input from the Assembly; your affirmation, contributions, thoughts and prayers have been the thing that has kept it all going.

So here is the outcome of the election of the Executive Team for the GNRC:

Co-Chairs:

Ruby Almeida (Quest, UK) is from India and was a Media Lecturer and worked at London Metropolitan University and West Thames College and is now a Freelance Trainer, and Chair of UK Catholic LGBTI group Quest.

 

 

Michael Brinkschroeder (Homosexuelle und Kirche, Germany) is a German theologian and sociologist, working for the Ecumenical Working Group “Homosexuelle und Kirche”. He was founder of the “Study Group Gay Theology” (“Schwule Theologie”) and of the Queer Catholic Service in Munich. He was Co-Chair of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups 2011- 2015 and coordinates its Catholic advocacy activities.

Secretary:

Benjamin Oh (Acceptance, Australia)

Treasurer:

Chris Vella (Drachma, Malta)

Media and Communications:

Fernando González (Padis+, Chile)

We wish them all the best for mannaging the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics!

As part of contingency planning, to ensure ongoing executive function if an office bearer had to be absent, deputy roles were also nominated and elected from the Steering Committee: Deputy Secretary: Tim Smyth (Acceptance, Australia) / Deputy Treasurer: Joseanne Peregin (Drachma, Malta) / Deputy of Communications: Eros Shaw (CCRC, China). We work closely as a team, and we would not be able to function wholly and properly, without the awesome work, hearts and minds of our Steering Committee members Francis De Bernardo (New Way Ministry, USA) & Georgina Adhiambo (Vowek, Kenia).

Kindly continue to hold us all close in your thoughts and in your prayers, as we too offer our prayers for our brother and sisters, friends and colleagues around the world who risk so much of themselves, to bring about the kingdom of God that celebrates justice, peace wand love for LGBTI Catholics and our loved ones.

We would like to thank too all the responses and feedback, after the election process, from all the different groups and individuals part of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.

Best regards,

GNRC Steering Committee

Ben – Eros – Fer – Geo – Jos – Tym – Mic – Rub – Chris – Fran

Transgender and Intersex people are invited to the table of the Church

The unique and rich gifts of LGBTI people for the Church comes from the diversity of Sexual Orientations as well as Gender Identity.

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Transgender (T) and intersex (I) persons, same as lesbians (L), gays (G) and bisexual (B) people, do not choose their gender identity. Gender identity is discovered, not chosen. Human nature has proven to be more diverse than the usual definitions of heterosexuality and the connection between gender and the biological sex recognized at birth. If we want to fully understand the definition of Gender Identity we must also know the meaning of being a transgender or intersex person:

  • Gender Identity: Refers to each person’s internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve a personal decision, due to gender dysphoria, for a modification of bodily appearance and/ or functions by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including name, dress, speech and mannerisms.
  • Transgender: Relates to a person whose gender identity does not correspond to that person’s biological sex assigned at birth.
  • Intersex: A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male bodies.

Most transgender and intersex people walk the same path of coming out, like that of LGB people, so the idea of a “choice”, with all the risks and potential rejections that involves the process, is hardly an option but indeed the result of a long inner and personal process. If schools or any other institution taught that gender is a choice, as the Pope argued in a meeting with Polish bishops during the WYD in July, then indeed, the curriculum would have to be changed. The hard work and efforts towards the inclusion in the society of transgender and intersex people, in school education programs on gender identity, are not part of a postmodern trend or a biased lobby that searches to review the traditional teachings of the Church or to destroy the fabric of society. When the Pope makes references to the erroneous concept of gender ideology, he creates confusion and misunderstanding inside and outside the Church.

The reality of transgender and intersex persons has been a part of humanity´s history from the beginning; evidenced in artistic, literary and numerous other representations in many cultures and religions around the world, whether Christian or not, e.g. America, Polynesia and Southeast Asia. The major difference is the current available research and evidence, based on serious biological, psychological and psychiatric studies, that supports the idea that a person´s gender identity might differ from his or her biological sex at birth.

We understand the big advances and signals shown by Pope Francis, regarding visibility and acceptance for LGB Catholics (Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual), inside the Church. Sadly, transgender and intersex Catholics, and their families have not yet received the same treatment – despite the Pope’s meeting with a transgender man from Spain at the beginning of 2015.

For example, to believe that inclusive educational policies will make children or teenagers believe “that everyone could choose their own sex” is an erroneous reading and understanding of scientific evidence and interpretation of what transgender and intersex people are. Bullying, depression and suicide, especially among teenagers, is tragically high among transgender persons (41% higher compared to other teenagers of a similar age). Therefore, addressing this topic in schools has to be the very place to attempt to protect young, vulnerable lifes. Messages like the one released by the Vatican, only add to the pain and isolation of TI Catholics, reinforcing prejudices and discrimination in countries or regions where the Church has sometimes even supported or been a silent witness to the persecution and criminalization of LGBTI people and their families.

The life of a transgender woman in the Church

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Joleen J. Mataele leading the morning prayer during the Ways of Love Gathering in Rome in October 2015

Joleen J. Mataele is a Catholic transgender woman from Tonga whom we all had the pleasure to meet during the inaugural meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. For many people, she is a living example of the diversity and richness that LGBTI people could bring to the Church. Usually the LGBTI Catholic movement is led by gays or lesbian, so her presence among us provided a new and holistics perspective of what full inclusive pastoral care should be for everyone.

During the 4 days event, she gave witness of the LGBTI Catholic reality in her home country and played an active role in leading morning prayers, mass and kept up the energies for everybody during the pressing agenda of the event. She considers herself as a Fa’afafine, which is how Tongan society describes transgender women. “In my country the concept that your male and female role should be consistent with your biological sex came with western colonialism. For us your gender expression is something natural that effectively is discovered trough your life´s journey and is mostly respected and accepted by our traditional culture”, says Joleen when asked about how it is to be a transgender woman in Tongan society.

She is a dedicated activist as Chairperson and Co-Founder of the Pacific Sexual Diversity Network (PSDN), Advisor and Founder of the Young Catholic Transgender Association (YCTO), Public Relation Officer of the Catholic Women´s League Committee (CWLC) and the Choir Conductor in the Nuku’alofa Parish Youth. “I´m more than an activist. I consider myself also an entertainer, singer and a lover of the life that God has blessed me with. If we are here, together, to bring fresh new air to the Church, we should be happy”, she says whenever people ask her about her natural charisma and personality. She also said that there is no problem for a LGBTI person to join in the regular aspects of Catholics pastoral life in Tonga. “When we celebrated a Vigil to honor the Orlando shooting victims, there were many members of our LGBTI pastoral care group there as they are also part of the Catholic Youth, which is one of the major organizers”. 

“I´m also the proud mother of 5 children. Each different and unique. I know and understand how it feels to be someone who is not part of the standard gender identity models, specially when I´m out of my homeland, but that doesn´t restrict me of being a Catholic, woman and mother”, she concluded.

New Hopes for Inclusion

Even if the transgender and intersex scenario for TI Catholics seems delayed, compared to the LGB Vatican or Catholic agenda, there are many people who are raising their voice for advocacy and inclusion. Most of the traditional sexual diversity pastoral care groups are moving from their initial definition of LGB Catholics to LGBTI Catholics. This responds to the full understanding that sexual orientation and gender identity diversity are part of the same route of inclusion and justice on the Church. The presence of transgender and intersex members is still very limited, especially in Western countries, as their stories of suffering and discrimination deeply assigned to them from early stages of life and which are frequently linked, directly or not, to the Church.

Another reason is that only a few religious men and women from the hierarchy have provided direct pastoral care for them. They themselves declare “gender identity is something that we don´t speak of or discuss on the seminary as we do with other subjects like homosexuality. It was a whole new world for me when the first transgender person came for guidance and pastoral care assistance”, says Father Pedro Labrin SJ from Chile. But good news are coming from priests and nuns who are expressing their empathy for inclusion of transgender and intersex people in the Church. Along this lines, priests and nuns like Father Bryan Massingale from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have made strong statements such as “The Church must not abandon transgender Catholics!” on August 2016 to express their support and empathy for TI Catholics.

Currently on the frontier line there are even religious, men and women, that are openly taking on this personal challenge. The testimony of Sister Monica Astorga, a Carmelita Descalza Nun in the Neuken County of Argentina is a living testimony of this. She has been blackmailed, due to her public support for transgender women, but she still claims “The one who is making a mess in here is Me”, referring to a talk she had with Pope Francis on 2015.

We earnestly hope and pray that the Church will show more mercy and respect for TI people. We also wish to express our readiness to support the Church in this process. We willingly desire to share real life stories and testimony of transgender and intersex Catholics and their families. They will inform and advise us about their faith, lives, identity, suffering and hope, all in the spirit of the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation.

We would like to recall that the Church is the “House for Everybody” and this includes our transgender and intersex siblings in faith. We are all on the same search for recognition, inclusion and justice in our Church. We walk the same path for a more truthful merger between our faith and our sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Note: Even though intersex people are mentioned several times in this article, this article is focussing on trans-people and can’t do full justice to the complexity of issues that intersex people can have with their gender identity.

 

#CHIESAASCOLTACI : “Together let’s find a place where we meet and get to know each other”

Cammini di Speranza’s Communication/Advocacy campaign for the year of Jubilee of Mercy.

Andrea Rubera

 

By Andrea Rubera  – Italian journalist, activist of the Italian Catholic LGBTQ Group Cammini di Speranza and GNRC media collaborator.

English / EspañolFrançaise / Italiano / Portugues

On the eve of the Family Day*, Cammini di Speranza, the first National Italian Association of LGBTI Christian, took its first steps towards launching #chiesaascoltaci (“Church, listen to us”), a campaign of real life stories, directed at a Church home for everyone, and which could be able to ensure harmony, dignity and equality within the Catholic Church itself and society.

#chiesaascoltaci is a storytelling campaign that each week of the year of the Jubilee of Mercy presents a story or a cause launched by not only LGBTI Catholics, but also by their parents, relatives and friends. It is addressed to the whole church, because it aims to finally make it a house of inclusion and acceptance for everyone.

Meet a few Cammini di Speranza´s brothers and sisters calling “Church, listen to us”.

The central idea of the campaign is to rediscover the public squares, not just the real ones but also the virtual ones, offered by social networks, as places to meet. This at a time when it seems that the logic of barricades and ideological opposition is the only way for people to behave or respond.

In the year of Jubilee of Mercy, it seems clearly possible that in the light of this Mercy every person, every story, every emotion should find a space with equal dignity, equal respect and without prejudice.

Pope Francis invites us to build bridges and we are here to pick up this call. We want pastors to aknowledge our “smell of sheep” on their clothes, a smell that has been carefully avoided for so many years.

Each chapter of the campaign includes a photo portrait by Simone Cerio, a well-known Italian photographer who offered his art to give a visual to the written story/campaign/cause.

Julia writes to the Pope in the first chapter of the campaign: “Pope Francis, God does not make mistakes, but for many Catholic people those who live homosexual lives, they are as an objective error. Yet, if I were not a lesbian, my faith would be dull because it is my homosexuality that led me to make a spiritual quest and to try to live in Christ. If I were not a lesbian I would not have known the fear of being judged and then I would not have learned respect for what we do not know. If I were not a lesbian I would not know love because it is the Lord who sent me the person I love. Pope Francis, in my opinion God does not make mistakes: He made me a “different” person because he knew that for me it would have been the path to happiness. And He also knew that diversity is wealth for the whole Catholic Church, the “universal” church for all”.

The campaign will be active until the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, on Twitter and Facebook through Cammini di Speranza’s social networks accounts.

* Family Day, an event organized by some fundamentalist Catholic and right wing associations, that took place on January 30th 2016 at Circo Massimo in Rome to protest against the Civil Union Bill that was being discussed at the Italian Parliament at the time and has now finally become law.

For information and contacts about Cammini di Speranza:

Website: www.camminidisperanza.org          Mail:           info@camminidisperanza.org

Twitter:   Cdisperanza                                    Facebook: Cammini di Speranza

Tags: #chiesaascoltaci #camminidisperanza

Spokesperson: Andrea Rubera (cel: +39 335 7510922)

CDSCammini di Speranza is an association of Christian people, from various backgrounds, paths, age, sexual orientation and gender identity all engaged in welcoming anyone interested to study issues regarding faith and homosexuality to promote respect, dignity and equality of LGBTI people within the churches and society.

Simone Cerio was born in Pescara in 1983. He has specialized in photojournalism and multimedia story telling. After writing many reports in several countries, in 2014, he completed an assignment in Afghanistan, in cooperation with Emergency ONG, which was exhibited all around Italy to illustrate the history of the first Italian graduate student to finish his studies in a war territory. Winner of the Perugia Social Photo Fest 2014 and of the Ong category of Fotografia Etica of Lodi Festival. Simone also contributes to important national and international magazines such as Vanity Fair, Il Corriere della Sera, Donna Moderna, Gioia, Alibi, Rogue, His Life China, Russia Behind the Headlines, Shutr, Internazionale,D La Repubblica, Panorama. For more information visit www.simonecerio.com

 

Orlando Vigils and Masses Album

Gallery

This gallery contains 28 photos.

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics called their Members, at the beginning of July 2016, to request for their living testimony of faith for the Orlando Shooting Attacks. We would like to thank to all the people and groups that … Continue reading

GNRC WYD Special – Part III : A Young Pilgrim Experience

Universality, Unity and Inspiration were three values that the WYD assistant Eros Shaw found in his trip to Polland.

English / EspañolFrançaise / Italiano / Portugues

Chinese gay Catholic community logoBy Eros Shaw – Chinese missionary, activist of the Chinese Catholic LGBTQ Group China Catholic Rainbow Community (CCRC), GNRC Steering Committee member and participant of the China Rainbow Witness Fellowship.

 

I participated in the World Youth Day from its beginning and till its end, including all the preparatory activities during the previous week, from July 19th – 31st in Warsaw. Considering that this was my first WYD, there were a few points that had a profound impression on me.

  • The first one was the Universality of the Church/ Let´s remember that this is the original meaning of the word Catholic, where so many young people from different nations gathered in one place with no boundaries of race, gender or sexual orientation! About 1.5 million people attended the Pope Francis’ closing mass, according to the Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, so I couldn’t stop wondering how many LGBT people were among them.
  • The second point was Unity. Many of the assistants came from countries or regions with internal/external geopolitical conflicts, but the Catholic young people gathered there shared in the basis of a common faith and prayer. This is the thing that touched me the most. I´m a young pilgrim from mainland China, but I had the great chance to spend time with brothers and sisters from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
  • The third and last one was how Inspirational it was for me was to meet so much people expressing their love for God, their devotion for the Virgin Mary and respect for the Pope. In China, we Catholics, are a minority compared to the other Christian churches or religious practices, and so I often hear criticism and negative voices about us. The fraternity in Krakow fueled my beliefs for my personal mission, with so many lovely, young people united and on the same path.

I also participated in a LGBT friendly Café, organized by Wiara I Tecza, with Michael Brinkschroeder and Anna Kuliberda from Germany. There we shared the experiences of our LGBT Catholic local communities which was followed by a panel discussion. Even with so many people visiting Krakow we only had 20 assistants, many of them bravely carrying their WYD backpacks. This is a reminder of how much work we still have to do for Visibility and Inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church. I had a Gay Catholic friend from Hong Kong in the WYD that couldn’t join us because he was afraid of the exposure. Anyway, having had such a amazing opportunity to participate makes me feel really grateful.

For further information of the Climate around LGBT in the Polish Church, read Marcin Dzierżanowski´s Article. For An alternative perspective about the experience of the LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven activities, read Michael Brinkschroeder´s Article.

Chinese gay Catholic community logoChina Catholic Rainbow Community (CCRC) in an inter-regional mutual aid organization for Chinese Roman Catholic LGBT people. They provide counseling and spiritual companionship for LGBT Catholic believers.

 

 

13892294_281394845572815_2392434603705795154_nChina Rainbow Witness Fellowship (CRWF) is a LGBT Christian fellowship grounded in love and faith. The fellowship was established in 2009 in Beijing, with further groups established in Shangai and Hangzhou.

 

GNRC WYD Special – Part II : LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven in Krakow

English / EspañolFrançaise / Italiano / Portugues

M BrinkschoroederBy Michael BrinkschroederGerman theologist, activist of German Catholic LGBTQ group Homosexuelle und Kirche (Homosexuallity and Church), GNRC Steering Committe Co-chair and member of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups.

 

During the World Youth Day, the Polish group “Wiara i Tęcza” (Faith & Rainbow) has organized an “LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven” in Krakow. The meeting point was located in the lovely cultural centre “Ogniwo” in the Jewish quarter. The LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven, co-organised by the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, was not included in the official program of the World Youth Day although Wiara i Tęcza made several attempts in this direction. However, the interest of national and international media was very high and brought a lot of attention to the issue. The police was guarding the entrance, because there were serious threats before the event, but fortunately nothing happened.

The program contained documentary films from Brendan Fay (Dignity, New York) about John McNeill and Mychal Judge, lectures from Jim Mulcahy (USA/Ukraine) about spirituality and relationship and from Michael Brinkschroeder (Germany) about “Queer Reading of the Bible”. A creative workshop lead by Marcela Kościańczuk (Poland) on “God’s Mercy” built the bridge to the theme of the World Youth Day and the Holy Year.

WYD 2

During the Pilgrim´s Haven meeting we enjoyed the presence and expositions from Michael Brinkschroeder (Germany), Marcela Kościańczuk (Poland), Marcela Kościańczuk (Germany) and Eros Shaw (China).

A workshop on “Queer Catholic Activism” started with input from Anna Kuliberda from a German Catholic Youth Federation who started a blog with few other LGBT Catholic youths and earned a lot of attention when they distributed stickers during a pilgrimage of their diocese. Eros from China presented his work as a gay Catholic missionary in Beijing and Shanghai where he started LGBT Catholic groups. Recently, he has collected stories of Chinese LGBT Catholics (in China and surrounding countries) and is going to publish them in a book. Michael Brinkschroeder presented the initiative for a monthly Queer Catholic Service in Munich.

The following discussion in small groups brought some interesting results about the spiritual needs of LGBT Catholics: Most important was the access to role-models and the encouragement to come out of the shadow. Some were asking that priests should not hide themselves behind an official doctrine, but tell their own, personal opinion about LGBT issues. But on the other hand it was asked, if the spirituality should come from the church or from us? One response to this question was, that we should understand spirituality which awakens and nurtures activism as a Catholic form of spirituality.

Altogether, the LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven with all its opportunities to talk and learn from each other was a huge success and definitively a good and much needed example for such a nurturing Catholic LGBT spirituality.

For further information of the Climate around LGBT in the Polish Church, read Marcin Dzierżanowski´s Article. Read also about the experience of a young pilgrim in the WYD in Eros Shaw´s Chronicle.

HuK_smallSince its foundation in 1977, the Eucumenical Working Group Homosexuelle und Kirche (Homosexuals and Church) has been working for full participation of LGBTQ in social and church life. As a community of witnesses of the liberating biblical message, it campaigns for the abolition of prejudices and discrimination against LGBTQ in churches, for the full professional equality with cisidentic heterosexual men and women, against discrimination against HIV-positive people and AIDS patients, for spaces for LGBTQ spirituality, and for the recognition of Christians in the LGBTQ community.

logo-efThe European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups is an ecumenical umbrella organisation of 46 member groups. It was initiated in 1982 by the French Catholic priest Emile Letertre. The Forum started only with gay Christian groups. Since the end of the 1990s, lesbian women become very active in the Forum and the name was changed to “lesbian and gay Christian groups”. Now the European Forum recognizes bisexual and transgender Christians in its name, as well.

GNRC WYD Special – Part I : Better Climate around LGBT in the Polish Church

wyd-logo-2016-krakowWithout any spectacular breakthrough, the World Youth Day still brought a tangible climate change over the presence of LGBTI in the Polish Church

English / EspañolFrançaise / Italiano / Portugues

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By Marcin Dzierżanowski – Polish journalist, activist of Polish Christian LGBTQ Group Wiara i Tęcza (Faith and Rainbow).

 

“Pope Francis preaches the Gospel, and the Gospel is for everyone. The World Youth Day is an open formula, homosexuals are also invited to take part”, stated Fr Piotr Studnicki, the spokesperson for Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, several days before the Pope’s arrival to Poland. Cardinal Dziwisz, long-time closest associate of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican and Metropolitan of Krakow after the Pope’s death, holds a special place in Poland. It is thanks to his efforts Krakow became the host city for the World Youth Day 2016.

It is little wonder therefore that the words of Cardinal Dziwisz’s spokesperson spread like a wildfire through the whole media world of Poland. In Poland, the statement that would have not caused so much stir in Western Europe or the US, came as a bombshell. Until now, the Polish hierarchs have not spoken of LGBT in a positive way or have acknowledged the presence of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders among the faithful children of the Church. Quite the contrary, the last several years have seen a series of exceptionally unfavourable declarations of the Church’s representatives regarding LGBT, in most cases framed in the context of fighting the so-called ‘gender ideology.’ . Unfriendly atmosphere in the Church is amplified by the unhealthy political climate. In terms of legal status of LGBT, Poland seems to be stuck right in the middle between East and West of Europe. While LGBT organisations have been operating freely, there is still no legal recognition of same-sex unions. Situation is aggravated by late last year’s assumption of power by the right wing resorting to national-Catholic rhetoric.

Against such background, any form of inviting or welcoming homosexuals at the World Youth Day by the Polish Church seems to be a glimmer of hope. Undoubtedly, this results from the work of the Wiara i Tęcza (Faith and Rainbow) Group of Polish LGBTQ Christians that has been actively advocating for the improvement of the situation of LGBT in the Church in Poland since the announcement of the Family Synod by Pope Francis. One of the aspects of that activity was gathering responses of some 130 Catholic LGBT from all over Poland regarding their situation in the Church. A summary of these responses was delivered to the representatives of the Polish Episcopate. Members of Faith and Rainbow have also met several bishops, including the aforementioned Cardinal Dziwisz and his two auxiliary bishops. One of those hierarchs was Bishop Damian Muskus, the general coordinator of the preparations for the World Youth Day in Krakow.

That meeting had to do in particular with the preparations for the major youth event. At the initiative of Faith and Rainbow together with the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, an LGBT Pilgrims’ Haven opened during the WYD. Over several days in one of Krakow’s cafes, volunteers hosted an informational and pastoral point where homosexual, bisexual and transgender pilgrims could pray together, watch the broadcasts of the central celebrations with the Pope and share their life experiences. The programme included meetings with priests and psychologists, workshops, discussions, movie screenings and worship, both Catholic and ecumenical. Special guests of Haven were pastor Jim Mulcahy, Eastern Europe coordinator for the U.S.-based Metropolitan Community Churches denomination, Brendon Fay, human rights activist and filmmaker from New York and dr Michael Brinkschröder, catholic theologist and sociologist from Munich, activist of the “European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups”.

“World Youth Days gather people every couple of years in one of the world’s major cities. Until now, the only WYD where a safe space initiative for LGBT pilgrims was organised was Cologne 2005. We thought it would be a good idea to do something similar in Poland”, explains Misha Cherniak, one of the project’s coordinators. “Bp Damian Muskus was informed of our plans and noted them in a friendly manner. Yet, as he advised us, there was no chance of including our project into the official WYD programme”.

“Over the six days of the Haven’s operation, we have had between 50 and 60 visitors”, says Artur Barbara Kapturkiewicz, one of the co-founders of Faith and Rainbow who was also actively involved in the Haven project. “We were very happy to see so many quite young pilgrims. For many of them this was the first occasion to share their problems of reconciling their faith and being an LGBT person. Besides Poles, we have welcomed pilgrims from Germany, England, Russia, China and Canada. Our visitors were particularly interested in the lecture on the non-discriminating reading of the Scripture or the workshop on Divine Mercy. We also celebrated the Eucharist together”, says Artur Kapturkiewicz. “We have enjoyed the pastoral care of friendly Roman Catholic priests and ministers of other Christian denominations”, he adds.

Unfortunately, the expectations of some in the LGBT community that the Pope would apologise for the sins against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders never materialised. Even though he spoke extensively of excluded and marginalised persons, he failed to mention LGBT explicitly. Yet, in his last homily speaking of Zacchaeus he noted three barriers that a believer has to overcome on the way to Christ. These words are remarkably relevant for LGBT.

The first of these obstacles is smallness of stature. The Pope said that sometimes “we don’t feel big enough, because we don’t think ourselves worthy”. The second obstacle is shame. Zacchaeus “knew that, in trying to climb that tree, he would have become a laughingstock to all.  Yet he mastered his shame, because the attraction of Jesus was more powerful”. The third and the final obstacle that the Pope listed was the resistance of the people around Christ. “It was the grumbling of the crowd, who first blocked him and then criticized him: How could Jesus have entered his house, the house of a sinner!”, said the Pope.

For the Faith and Rainbow Group of Polish LGBT Christians, the experience of the World Youth Day and the LGBT Pilgrims’ Haven open during the WYD was in fact an act of surmounting that third barrier. Judging by the high interest that the pilgrims and the media took in the project and by the generally positive tone of most of ecclesial commentators, Faith and Rainbow overcame this challenge quite successfully.

For further information of the LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven activities, read Michael Brinkschroeder´s Article. Read also about the experience of a young pilgrim in the WYD in Eros Shaw´s Chronicle.

WiT_smallWiara i Tecza (Faith and Rainbow) is a group of Polish LGBTQ Christians, their families and friends. Changing awareness inside church, WiT works for increasing tolerance—and thereafter acceptance—in the entire society, as well as for supporting kindness among people. Most of the members are of Roman Catholic denomination, but WiT welcomes Christians of any denomination—in ecumenical spirit. WiT also invites people, who are in search of their faith, who are agnostic or atheists, for community and dialogue.