Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church Working Group (RCC WG) of the European Forum of LGBTI+ Christian Groups met in October in Rome during the synod of the bishops, that has marked the start of the final phase of the synod on synodality initiated by the pope Francis back in 2020. The meeting was a result of ongoing work of the RCC WG on the synod and you might have seen the statement of the group after at the end of the first stage of the synod here. During the recent meeting in Rome our representatives took also part in the Spirit Unbounded conference, about which you might have read here.
Now we want to share with you personal reports of the members of the RCC WG on their experience and hope that it might encourage you to get involved in the last stage of the synod either in your own local church or in the works of the EF through the RCC WG on international level.
Individual statements from participants of the meeting in Rome:
Susanne from Switzerland:
This is the second time that we as RCC WG, together with the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics came to the place of a synodal meeting. Having already made some connections in Prague in February proofed to be helpful. Some of our contacts have been among the delegates again and helped us spreading our invitation to the plenary. Unfortunately, the delegates were busier here in Rome and the meeting was less open. But still we discovered that some delegates were at the Bonus Pastor center, where we were able to talk to them at lunch or in the evening. Our invitation got thumps up. So, the most important message about the existence of rainbow Catholics, who are waiting for full inclusion, found its way to them. Meeting coconspirators (as Jamie Manson called it) was nourishing and inspiring. And I am looking forward to putting into practice, what we planned together with our hosts from Italy.
10 years ago, I went to Rome with church reform groups from three continents. When I went for a walk, I saw four young Swiss women discussing the Vatican walls. They commented on their thickness and how they were built to keep women out. Coming here again now in 2023, I am glad to know that the work of so many finally has brought women to the table. And they can vote! As an out queer person I still have nobody in there representing me. We need to continue work we started in Prague and here in Rome.
Miro from Slovakia:
The aims of the current synod had grown on me more and more throughout its individual stages from the local to the global level. It has not been easy, for me as a gay catholic, to get involved into the synodal consultations in my home country Slovakia. Having the chance to work with representatives of LGBT+ Catholics from other countries and meeting with many involved people of God during our days in Rome was a true experience of communion, participation, and mission in our church. I only hope and pray, that the synodal delegates also use their experience for the benefit of ALL in our church!
During the time of our meeting in Rome, on the 12 th of October 2023, in my home country Slovakia anniversary of a 2022 hate crime in front of a gay bar has been remembered. As I was following some events in Bratislava via online broadcast while sitting in Vatican, I was thinking of the killed Matúš and Juraj who still have not been remembered properly by name in Slovak churches. It hurts to realize, that my church is so exclusive and not even death of innocent people can’t open the frozen hearts of its representatives to some proper reflection… That is why I want to continue work at the international level to help bring some advances in inclusion from abroad to my home country. This synod is a perfect tool for that.
Michael form Germany:
With the first global Assembly in Rome, the Synodal Process of the RCC has come into its final phase. LGBTIQ Catholics have made many contributions on the local and national level. A group from the European Forum and the GNRC had been present during the Continental Synodal Assembly in Prague in February 2024 and could talk to several delegates. Even though it looked in advance that only the synodality of the church as such and the role of women would become the main issues, it has already become clear that LGBTIQ issues again are a topic of controversial discussion. Given this, it is a grave mistake that they talk about us without us. Not one single openly LGBTIQ person sits at the famous round tables of the audience hall of the Vatican. And we all know that a personal presence and storytelling makes the crucial difference. The ”Instrumentum laboris” mentions us among those “who do not feel accepted in the Church” and asks “How can we create spaces where those who feel hurt by the Church and unwelcomed by the community feed recognized, received, free to ask questions and not judged?”
The answer would be very simple:
– By changing the language of sexual doctrine on sexuality in general and on
homosexuality and trans identities in specific from “sin” and “disorder” to “love”
– By no longer putting shame and guilt on us instead of unconditional acceptance and
love as was promised through baptism.
– By making LGBTIQ people co-workers in the pastoral field of LGBTIQ ministry instead
of only working for them.
– By no longer making non-male sex, sexual orientation or gender identity an obstacle
for becoming priest.
– By a persistent opposition of all national Catholic bishops’ conference against laws
that criminalize LGBTIQ people.
The delegates shouldn’t come back home with less than that in October 2024, but it is a long way to get there. Therefore, it was very helpful that the RCC Working Group and delegates of the GNRC could discuss together the roadmap for achieving these goals during the next year which is one of the rare windows of opportunity to change the church. The results of our discussion were inspiring for me and still need to be deepened and expanded by including more people from different regions.
What can we do in the coming year?
– The most important is that as many LGBTIQ Catholics as possible have personal conversations with their delegates, so that they get a better understanding of our situations and are fed with ideas for solutions.
– I also envision that the EF and GNRC could arrange a series of webinars in which theologians and LGBTIQ Catholics articulate together helpful proposals for the Synod which could then be fed into the Continental Meetings that were announced for next spring, e.g. on issues such as best practice guidelines for LGBTIQ ministry, blessing liturgies, changing the doctrine on homosexuality and gender identity,
Catholic contributions to decriminalization.
– We should use a Catholic pre-conference at the annual conference of the EF in Varese/Milano to prepare our activities in Rome in October 2024 together with other partner organizations
Ana from Portugal:
The synodal process proposed by Pope Francis in 2021 has been growing and so has the RCC working group of the European Forum and GNRC. After taking the proposals of the LGBT+ Catholic communities to the local bishops’ conferences and the General Secretariat of the Synod, we closelly followed up the Continental phase (Prague) and now the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (Rome). Now in Rome, we’ve once again had the opportunity to speak to delegates of the Assembly, which, while on the one hand made me happy that the (broad) topic of LGBT+ Catholics was being on top of the table and beeing listening to, on the other hand it seemed to me that first-person testimony during the Assembly would be lacking. There’s still a lot to do. It was very important to have the opportunity to share local experiences with other representatives of LGBT+ Catholic groups, to network with local groups (some of them secular) and to show the delegates that we are also here to build Church. We defined strategies for continuing to be a presence for LGBT+ communities in this synodal process.
Inspired by what Miro said in a casual comment during our Synodal work in Rome I went to Assisi. There I realized how the life of Francis of Assisi could be an inspiration for de LGBT+ community. That was, for sure, what happened to Blessed Carlos Acutis, a young boy touched by Francis life. Let’s build a better future for all and let us by inspired by those who followed Jesus!
Martin from the UK:
Some of us older folk have waited 60 years since the close of Vatican 2 for this ! Although our opportunity to discuss with Delegates was limited, I valued the opportunity to meet one of the theologians. He gave us more details of what is happening in the Synod Hall. He also answered some of the questions which arose in our Sunday discussions, that Synod Delegates for 2024 would be the same as 2023, that there will be a discernment process over the next year with theological accompaniment, and the Report from this Synod Assembly will be short, identifying areas of agreement and where there is need for further study, all underlined by key Synodal Principles. This should form the basis of our activity, globally and with the Italian groups, over the next year.
If you have some valuable inputs from synodal progress towards LGBT+ inclusion in your country or you would like to get involved in the work of the RCC WG of the EF, get in touch with Miro via firstname.lastname@example.org