The Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family has released a relatio, its mid-term report, and it has encouraging statements. The entire text of the relate is here: press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2014/10/13/0751/03037.html .
Below is the response of New Ways Ministry's Executive Director, Francis DeBernardo, to this news:
"The relatio offers some very hopeful directions in the way that Church leaders should address lesbian and gay people and their families. I hope that local bishops and pastors will respond to therelatio's challenges with new ways of welcome and acceptance.
"The most significant aspects are that Catholic communities are offered the challenge of 'accepting and valuing' lesbian and gay people's sexual orientation, and the recognition that lesbian and gay people 'have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.' These recognitions are total reversals of earlier church statements which labelled such an orientation as "objectively disordered" and which viewed gay and lesbian people in faith communities as problems and suspect persons. Though the relatio also speaks about the importance of not 'compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony,' the move toward accepting and valuing the gifts of gay and lesbian people is a major step forward.
"Although same-gender marriages are not recognizedwhich is not a surpriseit is very significant that the relatio recognizes that gay and lesbian couples offer one another 'mutual aid to the point of sacrifice [which] constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.' This recognition of the holiness of gay and lesbian couples is an important development, and I think it can lead to further developments of full recognition in years to come.
"What is also significant and hopeful is what is not said. In stating that same-gender marriages are not accepted by the hierarchy, there is no vicious condemnation of them, as previous hierarchical statements have. We don't see the gloom and doom and apocalyptic horror that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and their followers have foretold because of the advent of same-gender marriages.
"Most worrisome, however, is the suggestion that international bodies should not 'pressure' pastors to accept 'gender ideology.' Gender ideology is an empty, catch-all phrase to mean anything that church leaders don't want to accept about gender. Yet, the influence that many international bodies are trying to exert is that of protecting the civil and human rights of LGBT people, so that their identities are not criminalized, and so that they don't suffer penalties and violence. It's very disappointing that therelatio doesn't make this distinction and that the human rights of LGBT are not explicitly mentioned as worthy of defending. Defending LGBT human rights is a pro-life and pro-family measure.
"I hope that the statement of accepting the children of lesbian and gay couples will trickle down to parishes where such children have been excluded from sacramental life and educational opportunities.
"Perhaps the most welcome statement, in terms of general approaches to marriage, family, and sexuality, is the admonition: The indispensable biblical-theological study is to be accompanied by dialog, at all levels.'
"This call to dialogue has been absent in church discussions of sexuality for way too long. It presents the hope that future changes that are even more welcoming and accepting of lesbian and gay people and their families can develop down the road. Once church leaders engage in dialogue with lesbian and gay Catholics, I am confident that these leaders will see the deep faith, love, and witness to the Gospel that is active in their lives and loves."
Press Release: Equally Blessed agrees with Synod that LGBT Catholics bring gifts to the church, pray that those gifts will be honored in the Catholic workplace
October 13, 2014: Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholic organizations committed to justice and equality for LGBT people in the church and society, released the following statement in response to the Synod on the Family's recently released midterm report, which states that "Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community":
We are thrilled that the Synod is recognizing what Catholics in the pews have long known: that LGBT individuals are a sacred part of our parish communities and bring immeasurable gifts to the church. We hope these words from the synod will inspire the US Bishops to celebrate the contributions LGBT people make to Catholic schools, hospitals and parishes. In recent years, dozens of dedicated Catholic employees in the United States have been fired because of their gender identity, sexual orientation or marital status. We pray that these strong words from the synod will make these witch hunts a thing of the past, and will encourage Catholic dioceses and institutions to more fully celebrate the unique gifts LGBT employees bring to the workplace.
While there is much to applaud in the synod's recently released midterm report, it is also a reminder that we still have a long way to go before LGBT people will reach full equality in our church. As long as the institutional church continues to reiterate its flawed teachings on same-sex relationships, these valuable members of the church will be kept from offering the fullness of themselves and their gifts to their communities. In order to truly welcome and celebrate LGBT Catholics, the church must also recognize the sanctity of LGBT couples and families. We pray that this document will bring us one step closer to the day when LGBT families will be unconditionally welcomed, supported and celebrated by our parish communities.