LGBTQIA+ Catholics and Allies “Tremendously Disappointed” by Erasure in Synod Report; Commit to Raise their Voices in Months before Next Assembly
October 29, 2023. LGBTQIA+ Catholics and their allies are stunned and tremendously disappointed by the failure of the Synod report to explicitly mention LGBTQIA+ people and concerns, according to DignityUSA, the world’s oldest organization within this community.
“The report issued at the conclusion of the first Synod Assembly, A Synodal Church in Mission, fails to live up to Pope Francis’ charge to those gathered to ‘be bold,’ especially regarding the significant concerns of LGBTQIA+ Catholics,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA. “While we know from conversations with Synod delegates and numerous media reports that LGBT issues were discussed throughout the assembly, this is never explicitly acknowledged in the summary, and ‘LGBT’ is never used. This erasure of our presence in the church and the courageous participation of many LGBTQIA+ people, family members, and allies in the Synodal listening process is another example of the way our community is repeatedly marginalized within Catholicism. It is particularly ironic given the report’s recognition that the church has failed to accompany many, which includes members of our community, by making them invisible.”
Duddy-Burke noted that the report lists gender identity and sexual orientation among issues that “are controversial not only in society but also in the church because they raise new questions.” The report states: “Sometimes the anthropological categories we have developed are not sufficient to grasp the complexity of the elements emerging from experience or knowledge in the sciences and require refinement and further study. It is important to take the necessary time for this reflection and invest our best energies in it, without giving in to simplifying judgments that hurt people and the Body of the Church. Many indications are already offered by the magisterium and are waiting to be translated into appropriate pastoral initiatives. Also, where further clarification is needed, Jesus' behavior, assimilated in prayer and conversion of heart, shows us the way forward.”
The report says that addressing these controversial issues “can be accomplished through in-depth discussions among experts of different skills and backgrounds in an institutional setting that protects the confidentiality of the debate and promotes the frankness of the discussion, also giving space, when appropriate, to the voices of people directly affected by the controversies mentioned. Such a path should be initiated in view of the upcoming Synod Session.” In addition, the report said that it is important to listen to the voices of those who have experienced poverty and exclusion in order to understand their causes and work on dismantling oppressive systems.
“We have been asking for openly LGBTQIA+ people and our families to have representation at the Synod Assembly for months,” said Duddy-Burke. “Between now and the next Assembly in October 2024, we will continue to press to be at the table, and to have our voices heard by those who will make final recommendations.”
Duddy-Burke noted that the Synod report recommended bringing forward the “many expressions of synodality in which people are walking together as a community.” Duddy-Burke said, “DignityUSA is a great example of a movement that has over five decades of experience of being a synodal church. Our communities are run by elected leaders who are accountable to the members, very diverse, and loosely coordinated by a national Board that seeks to understand and support local needs. We’d be happy to share our experience with Synod delegates,” she said.
“We know that this is a point-in-time report on a process that is new for our church,” said Duddy-Burke. “What happens over the next year will be important. However, this report raises several concerns, and leaves much of the way forward to national bishops’ conferences to work out. We have already been excluded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in its Synod efforts to date. Unless the calls for engagement are heeded, it is very possible that none of the profound concerns of LGBTQIA+ people will be addressed by the Synod in any way that recognizes and affirms our presence and role in the church and the world.
Duddy-Burke concluded, “Whether the bishops engage us or not, we at DignityUSA will continue to provide spaces that honor the inherent dignity and holiness of LGBTQIA+ people and our loved ones, to support our fellow Catholics in working for justice and full inclusion of our community, and to live our faith in Catholic communities that model welcome and equality.”