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Fractious Synod Offers Little for LGBT Catholics

Conservative Dominance means Contentious Issues Not Addressed

Boston, MA. October 24, 2015. The final report from the Vatican Synod on the Family offers little that is positive for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people says DignityUSA, a leading organization of LGBT Catholics. The document tells families with gay members to welcome them with respect, but adds "there is no foundation whatsoever to assimilate or establish even remotely analogous between homosexual unions and God's plan for marriage and the family." It also affirms the “right” of children to grow up in families with a father and a mother, and decries the “ideology of ‘gender’ that denies the difference and natural reciprocity of men and women.”

“The final report from the Synod is essentially an endorsement of the status quo,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA. “It is deeply disappointing to anyone who hoped that new ground would be broken in how the Church deals with a whole range of family issues.

“It is clear that there was deep division among the bishops participating in the Synod on LGBT issues, with many recognizing the need for significant changes in doctrine, language, and pastoral approach. That was evident in the daily reports and summaries of the language group discussions. However, it is also clear that those who refused to consider any possibility of change managed to delay any significant movement towards greater openness,” said Duddy-Burke. “Unless Pope Francis chooses to introduce new doctrine on his own—which is unlikely given the way he spoke about what constitutes marriage and family in his closing remarks—we will see no change in how the official Church deals with LGBT people.”

“This document means that transgender and gender non-conforming people, lesbians, gay men and bisexual people will continue to see the Catholic Church stand against civil and moral equality for our community. Our dignity and safety will not be guaranteed. Our relationships will continue to be treated as inferior. Our ability to parent is called into question. I expect we will continue to be seen as ‘threats to the family,’ rather than recognized as already fully integrated into families,” said Duddy-Burke.

There were calls from a few bishops to hold another Synod specifically on LGBT issues. “Perhaps if the bishops had the chance to hear directly from LGBT people and our family members from many countries and cultures, they would be more open to the reality of our lives,” said Duddy-Burke. “Catholics who have listened to their LGBT relatives, friends, and members of their communities generally become supporters of greater inclusion and equality. Whether through a Synod or other channels, having Church leaders listen to us is a necessary step for positive change to occur,” said Duddy-Burke.

“We do see some hope in the Synod document’s recognition of and indication of respect for an individual’s ‘internal forum,’ the process most Catholics already use to make decisions about their relationships and families within the context of their faith and values,” said Duddy-Burke. “The document recognizes this as it applies to people who are divorced and remarry. There is no reason the same construct could not be applied to LGBT people.”

In summarizing DignityUSA’s sense of the Synod, Duddy-Burke said, “Essentially, this body of celibate, exclusively male Catholic leaders has retained incredibly limited and unrealistic definitions of marriage and family. They have refused to respect the voice of God in the testimony of tens of thousands of Catholics from around the world who spoke to the inadequacies of current dogma and pastoral practice. We will continue to see people leaving the Church in frustration and pain. This Synod has become a tragic missed opportunity for the Church to have demonstrated a real commitment to address the challenges families face in the world today.”