The questionnaire for the upcoming Synod for the Family includes the following;
- How can the Christian community give pastoral attention to families with persons with homosexual tendencies? What are the responses that, in light of cultural sensitivities, are considered to be most appropriate? While avoiding any unjust discrimination, how can such persons receive pastoral care in these situations in light of the Gospel? How can God’s will be proposed to them in their situation? (Lineamenta, p.25)
Let’s try to ignore the clunky and awkward language (homosexual tendencies…”such persons”) and focus on the invitation to dialogue. And, a dialogue on the church’s hospitality (or lack of) to LGBT persons is sorely needed.
San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone continues to make headlines with his proposed Faculty Handbook for local Catholic schools. Sadly, his culture warrior approach of doctrinal enforcement is not unique. Instead of proposing dialogue seeking understanding, these tactics turn a diocese into a judgmental community of heresy seeking suspicion.
What does it say to a young LGBT person when teachers or parish workers are threatened with dismissal not only for living in an openly gay relationship, but also for simply supporting those who do? How can a person feel welcomed in a church that judges them as “intrinsically disordered”?
Sam Albano has written a heartfelt and faith-filled essay for NCR titled That all might hear the Gospel and life. He describes his own experience of being asked to resign from active parish ministry. For many, this would be the final nudge out the church doors but Sam writes,
And I remain steadfast in my pilgrimage as a gay Catholic man, trusting in God and striving to follow the way of the Gospel. I continue to love my parish. I continue to love my pastor. And I persist in my love for the church. My service to God and to the church has clearly changed, but certainly not ended.
Those who hope for a “leaner and purer” church are happily holding the door wide open for those who do not live up to their ideals of doctrinal perfection. My hope and prayer is for more women and men like Sam to remain steadfast in their faith and in their belief in a loving God that welcomes all. Their refusal to leave the church inspires others to stay and work together for a more just and inclusive church.
I also hope that the Synod bishops will take time to put aside the lengthy, dense documents and simply sit and listen to more stories like Sam’s. Black and white pronouncements can close minds. The sharing of personal journeys can open hearts.
A positive aspect of the Synod questionnaire is its request for concrete examples of pastoral initiatives. The Marianist Social Justice Collaborative has published an online booklet titled Addressing LGBT Issues with Youth; a Resource for Educators. This resource clearly states current church teachings while acknowledging the complexity of balancing doctrine with real life. Navigating this complexity is not easy. It requires a prayerful, well-informed and discerning conscience.
I was especially impressed with the wealth of practical advice in this short booklet, from intentionally including LGBT issues in more general class-room discussions to how to listen to and support a young person and their family in their “coming out”.
The authors are obviously writing from experience, knowing that simply inviting a dialogue on LGBT hospitality in the church can draw angry responses from some. But, they believe, “The issue is not debating the existence of gay and lesbian students, however, but rather ensuring they are treated with the dignity due all God’s children.”