Fr. James Martin, LGBT Groups, Others React to Pope Francis’ “The Joy of Love”
[Another rundown on another topic in Amoris Laetitia: sodomy and sodomites]
Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
April 9, 2016
Fr. James Martin, LGBT Groups, Others React to Pope Francis’ “The Joy of Love”
Yesterday’s release of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family whose title translates as The Joy of Love, has provoked a tremendous amount of news reports and commentaries that will surely continue as this more than two-hundred page text is digested further.
Today, Bondings 2.0 provides an initial round-up of reactions as they relate to LGBT issues.
Fr. James Martin, S.J. tweeted that Amoris Laetitia offered a welcome to LGBT people and set issues around sexuality and gender within a global context, saying, in two separate tweets:
“To LGBT friends: Pope says ‘before all else’ you are respected, and inveighs against violence against you–a huge challenge to Africa, e.g.”
“Good to remember that #AmorisLaetitia is addressed to the whole world. So his comments on LGBT people are challenging to many cultures.”
Martin also highlighted the renewed emphasis on conscience present in the document. You can read Martin’s “10 Takeaways from Amoris Laetitia” in America.
Equally Blessed, a coalition of Call to Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry, expressed disappointment in its statement:
“While the Pope acknowledges the complicated issues facing Catholics on the margins. . .[he] ultimately reinforces existing harmful church teaching that characterizes LGBTQI people as unable to reflect the fullness of God’s plan for humanity. Specifically, the Pope continues to condemn same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex parents, and he refuses to acknowledge the complexities of gender identity.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said many had “hoped for much more” and continued in a statement:
“While the Pope acknowledges the Church has been too rigid in other areas, there is no repentance when it comes to LGBT people. We need to see changes in teaching and practice before we can move forward. . .Clearly, Church officials, up to and including Pope Francis, still have little idea of the reality of LGBT people’s faith, lives, and family situations.”
Call to Action said in a statement that, despite the pope’s call for clergy to “see Grace at work in all life’s complicated and complex forms,” the organization was:
“. . .deeply concerned this document results in an institutional and ecclesial status quo that does not make real substantive changes in Catholic structures and practices (e.g., an end to the unjust firings of LGBT Church Workers and discrimination against women, to name only a few examples).”
Terence Weldon of Queering the Church was similarly dissatisfied with the document’s approach to LGBT issues, but saw hopeful elements as it “created the conditions for change”:
“Closer examination however, reveals some cause for optimism, certainly in the longer term. What is not said may be more important than what is explicitly stated. Most notably, there is no reference at all to the offensive term ‘objectively disordered’, or any hint of opposition to same-sex relationships (as long as they do not claim to be “marriage”). Although there is a forthright objection to same-sex marriage, this is not listed among the many problems and dangers that are said to threaten actual families, or even the institution of marriage itself.”
Commenting on Pope Francis’ renewed emphasis on the “internal forum,” Weldon added:
“Drawing on a passage from the great theologian Thomas Aquinas, the conclusion we may reach is that even though those who remarry after divorce, or who live openly in same-sex relationships, may appear to be living in conditions of objective sin, their particular circumstances may negate that conclusion.”
Michael Sean Winters, columnist at the National Catholic Reporter, commented on several aspects including the following point relevant for LGBT Catholics and their families:
“[T]he Holy Father does not believe the pastor, still less the magisterium, should tell people what to do, but that a pastor should accompany people so that they can discern God’s activity and calling in their own lives. The pastor encourages spiritual maturity, not memorization of a hodgepodge of canonical requirements.”
Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., also writing for the National Catholic Reporter, defined success for Amoris Laetitia differently than other commentators. Though he critically engaged the text’s content, he concluded:
“This is a papal document well worth the time to read and reflect on. Parts are dull; parts inspire and delight; parts will give hope; and parts will infuriate. If it brings the conversation about families out of the synodal hall and down to the parish and families themselves, then it will be a success.”
Some Hope But Not Much Joy for LGBT Catholics in Pope’s ‘Joy of Love’ Document: Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on marriage and family life
While Pope Francis’ latest document, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), contains some hopeful passages, it does not inspire joy in LGBT Catholics and their supporters. As far as sexual orientation and gender identity issues are concerned, the pope’s latest apostolic exhortation reiterates church formulas which show that the Vatican has yet to learn from the experiences and faith lives of so many LGBT Church members or their supporters.
Though the pope calls for church leaders and ministers to be less judgmental and to respect individuals’ consciences, he has not provided a new pastoral approach to LGBT issues or people.
On other family topics such as divorce and co-habitation, Amoris Laetitia, offers some hopeful advice—and if this advice were simply applied to LGBT issues, which would not be incompatible to do, this document would have been much more positive. Pope Francis calls for non-judgmental pastoral care, assisting people in developing their consciences, encouraging diverse pastoral responses based on local culture, and calling church leaders to be more self-critical. All these things, if applied to LGBT people and issues, could produce enormous positive change in the church.
Instead of listening to more progressive voices at the synods who called for greater understanding and dialogue with the LGBT community, the pope simply repeated church condemnations of same-sex unions, adoption by lesbian and gay people, and the complexities of gender identity.
Most egregious is his repetition of the synod fathers’ false claim that international aid to developing nations is dependent upon openness to marriage equality. No evidence exists for such a claim. Randy Berry, the U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI People categorically denied this claim last November during meetings with church officials at the Vatican to discuss the persecution of LGBT people globally.
Moreover, Pope Francis’ one statement discussing pastoral care to families with lesbian and gay members is included in a section entitled “Casting Light on Crises, Worries and Difficulties.” Such a classification reveals an assumption that LGBT topics are simply problems to be surmounted, and it does not recognize the giftedness and grace that occur when a family accepts and loves its LGBT family members.
While Pope Francis repeats church teaching condemning discrimination and violence against LGBT people, the fact that there is no elaboration of this teaching concerning countries that are criminalizing sexual and gender minorities makes these words ineffective.
Many in the Catholic LGBT community had great, but realistic, hopes for this document. While not expecting a blessing on marriage for lesbian and gay couples, many were anticipating that Pope Francis would offer an affirming message to LGBT people, and not the same ill-informed comments. Many were hoping for something more pastoral from this pope known for warm gestures and statements. Where is the Pope Francis who embraced his gay former student and husband during his U.S. visit? Where is the Pope Francis who invited a transgender Spanish man for a personal meeting at the Vatican? That Pope Francis is hard to find in his latest text.
The two synods in 2014 and 2015, as well as the wide consultations among the laity which preceded them, served as the research for this new papal document. Unfortunately, as far as LGBT issues are concerned, there is nothing in Amoris Laetitia that indicates the great call for new approaches to these issues that occurred during these discussions.
Perhaps there is hope in the suggestion made by some bishops at the 2015 synod that the Vatican hold an entirely separate synodal discussion on the issues of sexuality and gender. While this document has a lot to offer on a variety of important family topics, it did not give adequate attention to LGBT family issues that deserve serious examination by church leaders.
Given the new general pastoral direction of this document, there is potential for further development in regard to LGBT issues. Much more faithful witnessing of LGBT Catholics and their supporters, as well as continued steps toward dialogue with Church leaders, will further this goal.
In one of the more hopeful parts of the document, the conclusion of chapter 8, Pope Francis actually calls for the continuation of such a dialogue:
“I encourage the faithful who find themselves in complicated situations to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay people whose lives are committed to the Lord. They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth. I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church.”
Such dialogues can transform those in so-called “complicated situations,” but they can also transform the Church’s ministers and leaders. This process is a proven method for the development of doctrine in the Catholic Church.