lesbian & gay ministry in the Catholic Church
– a vision for the future
a statement by the Roman Catholic Caucus – Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement
As Catholics who put their faith and hope in the God who created the world through an almighty Word, redeemed the world through the Word made flesh, and sanctified the world through tongues of fire that speak intelligibly for all types and conditions of people, we are impelled by the Gospel to speak for justice with and to the lesbian/gay members of our Church. The Christian message has entered its 3rd Millennium, and yet for much of that time the needs, concerns and gifts of lesbian and gay people have been shrouded in silence.
At the 2nd Vatican Council, Church leaders called Catholics to open up to the reality of the world, to respond readily to those who are oppressed and marginalised, and to speak the Gospel boldly to a world that aches for a hopeful message. As Catholics renewed by Vatican II, we have been called out of silence. We pledge our solidarity with our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers. We call upon Church leaders at all levels to pledge to find new ways to communicate the truth of Christ to lesbian and gay people. Specifically, we ask that:
1) The Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England & Wales, Scotland, and Ireland initiate a serious and sustained national dialogue with gay and lesbian people, with individual bishops doing likewise in their own dioceses. For our church to grow in fullness of life, we need to hear all voices that discern the call of the Spirit. No effective pastoral ministry can operate if the Church’s shepherds do not know about the painful and joyful events that lesbian and gay people experience as members of the Body of Christ.
2) Diocesan and pastoral leaders develop ministries to gay and lesbian people and their families that are part of the mainstream of the worshipping community’s life. Lesbian and gay people exist everywhere, so the need for pastoral ministry exists in every diocese and parish. Educational programmes that affirm lesbian and gay people and that eradicate fearful and prejudicial attitudes should be developed vigorously. Social and spiritual programmes that explain and satisfy the human needs for relationship, friendship, intimacy, and participation need to be an integral part of pastoral ministry.
3) Theologians, bishops and scholars devote serious time and study to the ethics of same-sex relationships. As the world witnesses loving, devoted and faithful same sex couples within a relationship paradigm of friendship and equality rather than power and dominance, it is becoming increasingly obvious that scholastic answers no longer convince. Church theology and teaching need to engage in dialogue with the lived experience of lesbian and gay people of faith, academic disciplines, and secular cultures.
4) Religious educators, teachers, youth workers, and publishers develop materials and programmes that reflect accurate images of gay and lesbian people. Homosexuality can no longer be cloaked in lies, stereotypes, and jokes. Education about homosexuality should be an essential part of any sex and relationships education curriculum that seeks to prepare students to follow Christ’s command to ‘love one another.’ We urge institutions, education and youth service administrators to ensure that their communities are safe and supportive spaces for gay and lesbian young people.
5) School, college and university chaplains, and youth workers foster a climate among young people that is knowledgeable and respectful of lesbian or gay reality. Young people beginning to experience the gift of sexuality need to know that Church facilities and ministries are open to discussion about their concerns. Educational and spiritual programmes on sexuality must include discussions of homosexuality, with appropriate and honest accommodations made for different age groups, maturity levels and cultural origins. Pastoral ministers need to lead by example so that gay and lesbian people, especially those in their midst, will be valued.
6) Pastors, directors and personnel managers in church related work places provide supportive atmospheres so that lesbian and gay Church personnel – clergy, religious and lay – can disclose their sexual orientations to colleagues and constituents, if they so choose. Dioceses, parishes, and other places of Church employment should adopt public policies and commit to good practice regarding diversity legislation and non-discrimination as a first step towards a supportive work place. Within the Catholic community, visibility and self disclosure should be the prerogative of all. Lesbian and gay people have enriched the Church’s life for centuries. Our church would be bereft without their presence.
7) Seminary rectors, formation teams, vocation directors, priests’ formation advisors and vicars for religious provide educational and personal/spiritual development programmes for priests, religious, seminarians and candidates. Celibacy does not negate sexuality or sexual orientation but calls for people to learn new and healthy ways of intimacy. All clergy and religious, regardless of orientation, need to be educated and sensitised to the gifts and needs of their lesbian or gay peers.
8) Pastoral counsellors, therapists, confessors and spiritual advisors provide a supportive environment for people who are coming to terms with a homosexual orientation. These ministerial settings are often the first place where people speak about their homosexuality. These ministers need to exercise professionalism, integrity and compassion, avoiding any suggestion that a gay or lesbian person is inferior or that a sexual orientation should be changed or reversed by therapy or prayer.
9) Marriage and family life co-ordinators be attentive to the needs of parents and families of Gay and lesbian people. Families are primary communities of God’s love and care. Church ministers need to help families understand that sons’ or daughters’ disclosure of a homosexual orientation may, due more often to external factors in society and Church, be a time of grief, but certainly of grace. Family members should be empowered to minister one to another.
10) Diocesan and parish social justice and welfare co-ordinators advocate for the rights of lesbian and gay people and encourage Catholics to protect the human, civic and baptismal equality of all God’s people. Catholic social teaching requires that the dignity of every human person be respected and promoted. All people should live free of the threat of discrimination, oppression, hatred and violence. Gay and lesbian people should not be harmed by individuals, groups, the media, political parties, or governments for reasons of diverse sexual orientation, and their rights must be protected by law.
11) Lesbian/gay Catholics continue their ministry to one another and their prophetic ministry to the Church and wider society. We urge gay and lesbian Catholics to remain within the eucharistic community of the Church. We ask them to find Catholic communities that will sustain their faith. The Church needs their prophetic witness and challenge, as well as their struggles, joys and gifts.
12) All Catholics and people of good will respect and celebrate the diversity of people with which God has blessed us. We encourage all to reverence the gift of sexuality and life that helps us share our love creatively and joyously. We recommend that all Catholic institutions make explicit welcome to gay and lesbian people. We ask lesbian and gay Catholics, as they are able, to ‘come out’ to the Church so that we as one Body, rich in diversity, may image Christ more effectively to the world.
We urge all Catholic individuals, organisations, religious communities, parishes, institutions, schools, associations and societies to join in making this vision a reality by endorsing this statement with their names, by living the policies and principles it recommends, and by praying for the healing and renewal of the Church.
please duplicate this statement and circulate it to others
please return your endorsement to RCC, PO Box 24632, London E9 6XF