Some proposals for the synod of bishops

The Organizing Committee of the 3rd Italian LGBT Christian Forum, September 15th 2014

The reason for these proposals. Pope Francis’ pontificate has begun with a strong sign of change for the Catholic Church in its relation to the challenges of modernity. The decision to call an extraordinary general meeting of the Synod of Bishops devoted to “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization” is in itself a sign of the will to get back in tune with a fast-paced, changing world. Moreover, the decision to conduct a survey addressed to the particular churches, before the Synod meets, reveals a clear renewal of method: listening to the base, and starting from experiential data and the real lives of people.

The questions forwarded with the questionnaire to the particular churches bring out where the ecclesial debate really is on issues that are often overlooked or treated with undeserved superficiality.

One of the most important issues at stake is certainly that of families, built on exclusive, faithful and long-lasting relations between two adult persons who are bound to each other. Sometimes these persons opt for civil marriage, sometimes for religious marriage, and at other times – by choice or by necessity – they remain in a non-marital relationship. But in every case the experience is characterized by the human feeling called “love”. The type of institutionalization or rite by which the union is characterized is no guarantee of a relationship’s success or longevity. The experiences of divorced and remarried heterosexual Catholic believers and their families, which raise urgent pastoral questions, are proof of this.

Even more, the challenge that same-sex love poses to Christian doctrine, and the pastoral guidelines flowing from that doctrine, has been too long ignored or treated summarily as a “largely unexplained”1 residual element of disorder and incoherence. By contrast, the questionnaire issued for the preparation of the Synod does touch on the topic of same-sex love and the matters that religious and political authorities should take into consideration concerning same-sex couples and their rights, even considering issues at stake with same-sex parenting and families. Therefore, the existence of same-sex love is no longer a taboo. It has entered by right into ecclesial debate.

Homosexual persons, in their different stages of life, are often marginalized by the ecclesial community, to such an extent as to cause their estrangement from religious practice or even from faith. This circumstance should arouse serious concern among the episcopate. The homosexual question is a forgotten educational emergency that the Church has not always faced up to with due listening and discernment in the recent past.

The real problem is homophobia: the unfounded and demeaning conception that sees homosexual persons and homosexual love as inferior to heterosexual persons and heterosexual love. In this sense, homophobia is comparable to racism and sexism: ways of thought which rationalize the superiority of white people to black people or of males to females. The Church has not been untouched by its own social and cultural conditioning. And this, over the centuries, has indeed produced social stigma against a number of minorities, homosexual people among them.

Our proposals aim to promote an inclusive ecclesial culture that is respectful of the diversity of sexual orientation, starting from the training of catholic educators (priests, catechists, religious education teachers and, of course, parents). With respect to educational and pastoral attention for homosexual teenagers: these should be treated no differently from their heterosexual peers when it comes to discovering their sexuality, being educated for affective relationships, and the framework of fidelity and mutual support that will prepare them for life as a couple.

It pains us, however, to note that, in some cases, it has been the very children of the Church who have fomented prejudices and forms of unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.

LGBT people2 who have kept up their religious practice or at least their faith, despite a heavy burden of marginalization and exclusion from institutional church life, have nevertheless given rise to experiences of community and faith-sharing which are entirely original, having some analogies with those typical of persecuted ethnic and religious minorities. We refer to groups and associations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians in many countries, which have flourished in recent decades and which, through their community service and sister-and-brotherhood, have done something to fill the void in pastoral care to which the ecclesiastical hierarchy has frequently abandoned them.

We pray that the Holy Spirit will be a sure guide for the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and we entrust the thoughts that follow to the participants in the Synod, in the hope that the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation will give full space to more inclusive and loving pastoral guidelines, in order to eradicate the homophobia that threatens, with its pervasive mendacity, the entire communion of our Church.

Rome, September 15th 2014

The Organizing Committee of the 3rd Italian Forum of LGBT Christians
http://www.forumcristianilgbt.it

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1 Catechism of the Catholic Church n 2357
2 LGBT is the acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.

 .

Coming out

When a teenager falls in love and discovers feelings oriented to a person of the same sex, he or she begins to fear possible negative reactions from family, peer group and other adult educational figures, including those in the parish environment.

The long process of acceptance is called coming out. The term indicates an accepting awareness of one’s own sexual orientation and, following on from this a “revelation” of oneself to others, sometimes explicitly, sometimes indirectly.

There is no ‘right’ moment to come out, since the contexts in which we live are very variable. Often, depending on the environment, full acceptance and self-disclosure are postponed indefinitely, because of the lack of role models, because of the silence that often surrounds gay and lesbian people, the feeling of “not being what they wanted us to be”, the fear of a negative reaction from closest friends and relatives. All these may prevent a person from “coming out” with serenity.

Often the teenager or young adult takes for granted this kind of negative reaction, and first tries to meet up with people who are living the same situation as themselves, either through the Internet or by meeting them in associations and bars for LGBT people, if there are any within easy reach.

At the parish, in addition to being made to feel in some way “outside what we can cope with” they notice that their sexual orientation is reduced to the dimension of a ‘disorder’ and their affectivity to ‘sin’. This fact can lead them to leave the community of the Church once and for all. Given that they have enough on their plates with the probably inevitable confrontation that they will face with their parents, the desire to avoid an additional confrontation is scarcely surprising.

The situation unfolds on two levels: with the peer group and with adult educational figures. In the first case there is the risk of more or less overt bullying. This has to be fought with the normal means by which all sorts of bad behaviour are confronted: both those that specifically target homosexuality, and also those common to other types of discrimination. Alongside this, adult educational figures are sometimes thrown off-balance when a pupil “comes out”, owing to a lack of training and understanding of the issues.

Sometimes, faced with an unexpected “coming out”, the adult encourages the adolescent to assess whether his or her feelings are ‘rooted’ or ‘transient’. This exercise should be conducted for the exclusive benefit of the young person in question, rather than to enable the adult to avoid facing up to their own capacity for acceptance, or the difficulties which may arise when the time comes to face other people – for instance, the young person’s parents, or the rest of the parish community. In fact, one of the sure signs of non-acceptance is the fear of a sort of “contagion”. As if the public sharing of someone’s self-perception were a kind of promotion of a ‘lifestyle’ and not an entirely appropriate need to identify themselves in relation to others.

We hope for a Church community that is able to welcome and accompany adolescents in the early stages of their self-discovery and their socialization with other gay people. That our society is full of pitfalls and traps for all adolescents is not in question. The massive presence of social networks and advertising on the internet is a great resource but also potentially a danger, especially for gay and lesbian teenagers who almost inevitably find their first opportunities for having contact with other homosexual people online. The various LGBT believers groups, and the priests who collaborate with them, can help them in avoiding some of the pitfalls. They are able to promote positive models of integration for the young people in question. So these young people can be introduced to an adult lifestyle based on learning a sense of responsibility for who they are, taken in their entirety. In this way their self-esteem will be reinforced irrespective of the sexual orientation that they are discovering as their own. We emphasize that this work is especially necessary in small parishes and isolated villages. In these contexts, self-destructive tendencies caused by isolation are likely to increase considerably.

We hope for a Church community where educational training about the risks of homophobia and bullying is central, in which educators and catechists are capable of self-criticism concerning their own degree of acceptance of homosexual persons and of the possible relationships into which such persons may enter.

We hope for a Church community at the diocesan level that is able to facilitate the visible and positive integration of homosexual persons within the community, at the level of pastoral care directed towards students, youth and family.

A homosexual child

It can be a dramatic experience when a Christian parent finds out, directly or indirectly, that their son or daughter is homosexual. Even leaving aside irrational concerns (a sense of guilt, attributing to themselves an entirely false responsibility for having been the cause of their child´s sexual orientation, a sense of shame in front of friends, family, or community), a strong dissonance can arise between their love for their child and the perception that the homosexual condition has no place in the dynamic of Salvation.

Compared to other minorities (ethnic, religious, etc.), where the family constitutes a ‘mirror’ in which the individual members find themselves reflected and from which they draw solace and comfort, LGBT people are likely to experience a particularly pronounced minority stress3 because the family environment does not recognize and sometimes does not accept the homosexual or transgendered person, who is therefore unable to identify him or herself as “equal among equals”.

There are also cases of parents who have broken all contact with their child owing to their own difficulty in accepting, or their inability to accept, their offspring’s affective life. More frequently, however, parents shut themselves into an embarrassed silence, in which who the child really is has no place within the family’s affective bonds and the shadow of “that which can’t be talked about” spreads until any real relationship is blocked.

Often Pastors are insufficiently trained in helping families towards the full acceptance of their children along with their sexual orientation or their gender identity. Instead of being a source of support, these Pastors find themselves coming up short in their ability to welcome both LGBT young persons and their parents.

There is no shortage of situations where families, often supported by the Pastors to whom they have turned for advice, direct their homosexual sons and daughters towards so-called ‘reparative therapies’. Both the scientific validity and the underlying ethical premises of these therapies have been put into serious question in the academic field. Not only have they failed to produce the promised outcomes, but they have also been found to be violently counterproductive in creating personal equilibrium and self-acceptance4.

We hope for a Church community that knows how to welcome the parents of homosexual people from the outset with words of support and encouragement. Words that help them to see their children as created in the image and likeness of God, worthy of his Love and as vessels of Grace in all aspects of their life.

We hope for a Church community that teaches families to be places of welcome and support, providing them with tools that are genuinely informative and inclusive.

We hope for a Church community that explicitly rejects approaches aimed at ‘changing sexual orientation’. These lack any scientific validity, mislead as to promised outcomes, and above all promote a superficial reading of human affectivity and its inherent complexity, one in which the good of the individual is sacrificed on the altar of ideology and the norm.

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3 Vittorio Lingiardi, Citizen Gay , Il Saggiatore 2012
4 Paolo Rigliano et al. Curare i gay? , Raffaello Cortina 2012

Falling in Love

Human beings in every time and every culture experience attraction and fall in love. In a non-negligible minority of cases, the attraction and falling in love involve two people of the same sex; and that is what we call homosexuality, distinguishing it from the prevailing heterosexuality involving persons of the opposite sex. For both homosexual and heterosexual persons, attraction and falling in love are vital and joyful experiences, sometimes even revolutionary. They meet a fundamental need for reciprocal affection, and in particular, they lead to loving and being loved by a special someone. Together with that person, life can then be shared as an exclusive project. For Christian believers, love becomes the experience, in a limited way in this world, of what will be the limitless joy of heaven.

The Magisterium of the Church does not say anything about people of the same sex falling in love, or about the romantic love between them, although some religious persons and even Cardinals have invited the church to appreciate and respect the love between two people both of the opposite and of the same sex5. A common prejudice is to assume that all homosexuals behave in a libertine and licentious way. This overlooks the homosexual couples who, like many heterosexual couples, are faithful, enduring and generous, leading exemplary lives. Unfortunately, even today, there is a tendency to reduce the extraordinary richness of the relationship between two people who love each other to a partial and vulgar representation.

So there are people who fall in love with a person of the same sex. The pastoral challenge is to respect this fact. To do so it is necessary to promote a way of life oriented to a responsible relationship for those people who do not have a vocation to celibacy, whether these people be heterosexual or homosexual. Nobody can be asked to deny the love he or she feels for another person and, if that love is mutual, to live happily together.

We hope for a profound renewal of pastoral guidelines in relation to homosexual love so that it is understood how good that love can be and how this kind of love can be an example of strength and generosity for all.

We hope for priests and Catholic educators who have learned, as part of their training, how to support gay and lesbian children through the difficulties of adolescence and the season of their first loves, in order to help them to become responsible adults and loving, generous and faithful partners.

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5 Basil Hume, Note on Church Teaching Concerning Homosexual People 1997; Carlo Maria Martini e Ignazio Marino, Credere e conoscere, Einaudi 2012

Life as a couple

During the time when homosexuality was an absolute taboo, gay people’s lives were focused only on concealment and control of everything that was going on inside and outside themselves. LGBT people, unable to be at ease in social relationships, lacking places to go and models for living, were often forced to live a profound dissociation between their affectivity and sexuality. Being homosexual was such a source of embarrassment for the community that its presence was greeted only with stigma and condemnation.

With the decline of social pressure and the increase of information and socialization, LGBT people have more chances to find role models, and the wherewithal to accept themselves and gain a balanced identity. Without these no stable life plan can be imagined.

The imaginative thrust, or spark, that enables anyone to project being able to live out an affective life in a couple emerges in exactly the same way for homosexual persons as for anyone else: through what we learn from models. And such model couples make visible and interpret for us the ordinary nature of day-to-day living, which is what is needed for us to be able to take it on board for ourselves and be inspired to follow. However it is only very recently indeed that the first public models of same-sex couples have become visible. And consequently, for the most part, same-sex couples lack references after whom they can model themselves.

The situation is even more complex for couples of homosexual believers. In Catholic community contexts it is as though homosexual couples simply didn’t exist. Based on what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, the only homosexual who can be part of the community is one who agree to live a life without affectivity, denying him or herself the innermost yearning and expression of a love that is so natural and spontaneous that it can only be neglected or ignored at the price of serious consequences for the person’s serenity. If a same-sex couple were to decide to come out to their parish community, they would in all probability find disinformation and, very often, people who are not disposed to accept them.

Meanwhile this couple, just because of the aforementioned lack of social models to follow, may well need support from pastors and other community members. A support assisting them to channel their affective life, to strengthen it in self-giving toward each other, helping them grow in respect for their partner, and contributing toward the building of a shared whole which is greater than the sum of the two people who constitute it.

Even today, in some contexts of Spiritual Direction, Directors counsel breaking a relationship, instead of guiding it. Relationships are too often viewed as “threats” to the spiritual health of the person undergoing direction.

To this day, we have no knowledge of community resources that contemplate the possibility of same-sex couples being nourished by the same spiritual support and direction as is offered to so-called “traditional couples”.

On occasions when a homosexual couple has decided to come out to their own communities, very often the result is that they are requested to “abstain from the sacraments” (which should be the lifeblood for everyone, especially for those who most need help). And they are excluded from official duties (like being a catechist, or a scout leader…), just as if they were heterosexual couples living together without being married. Nevertheless these latter have a choice as to whether to get married or not, an option denied LGBT couples.

In some very fortunate cases, this consolation of being married does arise thanks to the spontaneous initiative of some inspired Pastor. But the fact can never be pacifically rooted and published in the entire community. The result is that the same-sex couple ends up being dragged away by a centrifugal force, one not generated so much by episodes of explicit rejection, as by the realization that the context is not capable of opening up, understanding, and looking upon the same-sex couple simply as an ordinary couple of people who love each other.

Recently, moreover, a real ideological battle concerning same-sex couples has been unleashed at the behest of certain movements opposed to any form of civil recognition of same-sex relationships. These movements depict lesbian and gay couples as the enemies of traditional families, and claim that to grant them recognition would lead to the end of the traditional family itself.

This ideological battle, launched to oppose the adoption of quite specific pieces of legislation, has effects on the serenity of LGBT people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, which are not to be underestimated. In fact, when a human being hears a fundamental aspect of their life, their affectivity, treated as “an abomination”, an indelible wound is scarred into their psyche.

We hope for a Church community that knows how to take care of people in whom the desire for a partnered life burns strong. A Church that is able to recognize the truth of love between people of the same sex, and starts from the recognition of the dignity of the homosexual person as well as of the affective life proper to that person; able to see that, just like heterosexual people, these persons are also capable of unconditional love, self-giving and spiritual fruitfulness, in partnerships; we hope for a Church that is able to overcome its denial of the loving relationships of these couples. They do exist, now, today, lots of them, and they ask for a hearing, ask to be Church.

We hope for a Church community that is able to include these couples, embrace them, and guide them. One that would be able to extend to them also the courses and activities of couples-counselling; that makes no distinctions when appointing people to pastoral duties, except on the basis of each person’s capabilities. A Church community that knows how to interpret Jesus’ love in such a way as to bring out the best in these couples, to make them strong, stable, capable of bringing inspiration and energy for full and satisfying life journeys. A Church community that is untainted by ideological battles, safe in the knowledge that Jesus’ love is for everyone, and is for everyone the source of abundant life.

Homosexual parents

In Italy there are an estimated one hundred thousand children6 with at least one gay or lesbian parent (born from a previous heterosexual relationship) or with two same sex parents (not by adoption, as only heterosexual married couples may adopt in Italy. Instead such children are born through assisted reproductive technology performed abroad).

Some of these parents are Catholics who want their children to be baptized and so enter the path of life in the community of faith, the same path that played such an important and educational role in their own case.

The fact that these parents want their children to be baptized and want to educate them in the faith of the Church should be an occasion of joy and happiness and not a stumbling block.

Many parishes actually believe, rightly, that strong family involvement is required in the process of transmitting the faith, undergoing catechesis, and being prepared for the sacraments. This can only be achieved if all the families concerned are received with full acceptance and dignity in the life of the parish.

For the moment, many same-sex couples have to carry out this desire for inclusion in their faith community. Although, canonically, the baptism of the child cannot be refused, the request is often met by the Pastor with embarrassment and fear. In some cases the parents are told to go to another parish. The children in question are never denied participation in catechism lessons; however, only rarely can catechists be found who are able to think things through at sufficient depth that they have adequate tools for welcoming these children, without triggering dynamics that tend to deny the reality of the child’s family of origin. The same issue arises, in an even stronger form, when it comes to Catholic schools.

Same-sex families are often portrayed as the result of a “whim”, as if they were laboratories where experiments on the mental and physical health of children are carried out. This flies in the face of the most reliable scientific research in the fields of sociology, psychology and paediatrics, carried out in countries where parenting by same-sex couples has already been a reality for several decades. This research reveals that no difference can be found in the psycho-cognitive development of these babies by comparison with babies born into ‘traditional’ families7.

The result is that, despite more and more of these new families knocking at the door of Catholic communities, only in very rare cases are they completely and happily included. More often than not the prevailing sensation is one of their being strange, and this tends to estrange them.

We hope for a Church community that knows how to welcome the children of same-sex couples and above all that takes the best interests of those children to heart. One that recognizes, as it already does when it comes to matters of adoption8, that it is above all love that turns people into parents. We hope for a Church community that is able to acknowledge that these children are already here among us, and already attend schools, sports clubs and even youth groups. And they need to receive the same support from their community as any other child.

We hope for a Church community that does not exclude homosexual fathers and mothers from its life. They are, after all, the primary custodians of the transmission of the Christian message to their children. A community that has taken to heart the psychological health and the serenity of these children, can surely offer pastoral care that is inclusive of their parents’ lives, and can invite and educate the community of faith to welcome them, without denying what is real about the families within which these children are born and are living.

The Church can and should be a tender parent for these families and these children, giving them a fortifying hug. Those who live as a couple should be able to immerse their children in baptism, should be able to attend Church and frequent the sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion, and should be able to involve their children in catechesis and Christian education without having to disguise either those children or themselves.

_______________________________________________

6 Monica Ricci Sargetini, Corriere della sera, 5 maggio 2008
7 American Psychological Association (Sexual Orientation, Parents, & Children);
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Children with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents);
American Academy of Pediatrics (The Effects of Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership Laws on the Health and Well-being of Children)
8 Vatican II, Apostolicam actuositatem 11

Fighting homophobia

Homophobia, like anti-Semitism, racism and sexism, is rooted in ignorance and prejudice, and can give rise to discrimination, lies, and even physical violence against homosexual and transgender people. The same forms of violence have been, and may still be, directed, against Jews, black people and women. In a number of countries, the homophobic motive of a crime is considered an aggravation of the offence when it comes to sentencing, in the same way as it is for religious or racially motivated crimes.

In Italy, a notoriously overdue bill has been proposed that aims to include crimes motivated by homophobia amongst those considered for stiffer penalties. In fact, every year dozens of murders and violent episodes are perpetrated on homosexual or transgender victims because of who they are. And it is disconcerting that there are lobbies trying to hinder the approval of the bill by any means possible. In addition to political lobbying, we have seen street demonstrations, like those organized by “Sentinelle in piedi”9. Such groups are trying to shift attention away from the very serious issue of homophobic violence by making it seem as though the measure in question risks criminalizing the expression of political opinions opposed to same-sex marriage.

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church proceeds in a way that might seem ambiguous. In fact, official documents condemn the persecution of homosexuals, but in this case they fail to take a clear stance in favour of increased penalties for homophobic crimes.

In addition, it should be noted that some passages contained in official documents, such as the 1986 Letter to the Bishops “On the pastoral care of homosexual persons”10, refer to the homosexual tendency as an “objective disorder” and to homosexual relations, without nuance or distinctions, as “intrinsically evil acts”. But don’t generalizations lead to prejudices? And is it not just such prejudices that fuel homophobic crimes?

We hope for a Church community that is able to recognize the dramatic stories of everyday homophobia that take place in various areas (in the family, at school, at work, during catechesis); one that is able to take a clear stand in favour of victims, creating a respectful and inclusive environment in dioceses and parishes which will lead progressively to the eradication of homophobia. We long for the bishops to promote moments of prayer for the victims of homophobia

We hope for a Church community that actually wants to know the stories of so many same sex couples who are believers, couples who live faithful and enduring relationships of love; we hope that strengthened with this knowledge Church communities can help question the homophobic prejudices that hold back the Catholic Church from expressing all its potential as a credible institution of evangelization in the contemporary world.

_________________________________________________

9 “Watchmen arise!” or “Sentinels on the watch!” would probably come close to the meaning of this group’s title – cf http://sentinelleinpiedi.it (Translator’s note)
10 Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede, De pastorali personarum homosexualium cura , 1986

The persecution of homosexual people in the world

MappaIgla

As can be seen from the map published by ILGA11 in May 2014, and which can be found on their website12, many Western states recognize, at different levels, civil rights for homosexuals and same-sex couples. However, in many other parts of the world the most basic rights are denied, even the right to life. In Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and in parts of Nigeria and Somalia, homosexuality is punished by death; while in Brunei, Iraq, Pakistan and Qatar, the death penalty, even though it is not implemented, is written into the sharia-inspired legal codes.

ILGA furthermore reports that in 78 countries homosexual acts are against the law, while in other countries (such as Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Uganda) laws are either in force, or being prepared, which restrict the freedom of speech of homosexual persons or associations,

In 2011, more than eighty13 countries showed their support for a declaration, originally adopted by the Human Rights Council (OHCHR)14 calling for an end to discrimination and acts of violence against the LGBT community. It pains us to note that the Holy See opposed this declaration, interpreting it as detrimental to freedom of opinion, following its own previous interventions15.

We hope for a Church community that wants to make its own the pain and fear of homosexual and transgender people who find themselves living in countries where they are criminalized, and who face daily risks to life or liberty because of their love. When Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace, said recently that “homosexuals are not criminals16“, he raised the possibility of the Catholic Church taking an official position on this issue. And indeed, the possibility of it taking action, in as far as it possibly can, in saving the lives and peace of mind of people living in those countries: by throwing its weight behind moves to decriminalize homosexuality and transsexuality in every country in the world; by welcoming and helping people who turn to its locally embedded pastors for help; and by encouraging local communities, Catholic ones first of all, to look at such people not with prejudice, but with the eyes of the heart, favouring their inclusion in community life, as a sisterly and brotherly refuge where they can experience for themselves the free love of God, the Father of us all.

__________________________________________

11 International Lesbian and Gay Association, www.ilga.org
12 http://old.ilga.org/Statehomophobia/ILGA_Map_2014_ENG.pdf
13 http://geneva.usmission.gov/2011/03/22/lgbtrights/
14 daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/148/76/PDF/G1114876.pdf
15 http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/secretariat_state/2008/documents/rc_seg-st_20081218_statement-sexual-orientation_en.html
16 http://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2014/03/04/news/vaticano_uganda-gay-80201427/

Transgender people

The term transgender is used of those people whose gender identity or expression does not match their assigned biological identity. Some people choose to bring the two elements together by dressing or living in a manner corresponding to their sense of themselves, while others choose to undergo hormonal treatments, or sex-reassignment surgery.

Trans people are often subjected to cruel discrimination in personal and social relationships and in the workplace. Frequently our society regards them not as people engaged in a complex process of identity construction, but rather as freaks, relegated to a life on the margins. Many are forced into prostitution simply because discriminatory attitudes block their access to other forms of training or employment.

The complex and painful transformation that transgender persons undergo in order to bring their personal identity and their physical appearance into sync with each other is sadly reduced to a “perversion”, rather than being viewed as a path to being set free to become who they really are. Every trans person should be accepted and recognized in the fullness of their dignity.

In historical accounts of some indigenous cultures, transgendered people were seen as gifts to the community. The very fact that they experienced a quite particular identity, one which did not fit comfortably into binary categories of male/female, led people to attribute to them a unique perspective on the human condition. In the Catholic tradition there is no shortage of saints or people of faith who have broken out of traditional gender roles (St Joan of Arc, for one). Scripture itself (Acts 8, 26-40) praises people of undefined gender (eunuchs) for their faith.

We hope for a church community that collaborates actively in the fight against transphobia, one whose Pastors do not foment negative attitudes towards trans people, but are strong allies in their struggle for justice and equality.

We hope for a church community dedicated to knocking down the barriers to trans people becoming full members of society, in just the same way as it has been, and is, dedicated to caring for the rights of racial, ethnic and economic minorities.

We hope for a church community that learns to understand the truth of trans people’s lives. One that, with special regard to liturgical and educational contexts, can acknowledge and respect their journeys. For the journey of each individual, and of every community, is enriched by the diverse experiences of all who share it.

Conclusions

This document is the result of the work of many LGBT Christians from all over Italy. It is ripe with our contributions, hopes and proposals. For the first time we have felt inspired by a new sense of change that has led us to work together for many months, desirous of leaving behind a time of waiting, and moving instead into full participation, affirming our hope in an ever more inclusive community of faith.

Italian LGBT believers have kept ourselves hidden for a long, long time, often in silence, waiting for something to happen.

For much of the time, many among us, looking for a way to harmonise our faith with our sexual orientation, have sought solace in small groups, far from parishes and communities that have not been able fully to welcome us, owing to prejudice and disinformation.

The news of an Extraordinary Synod, on the theme of pastoral care for the family, has triggered among us an unprecedented desire to take part, to tell about ourselves and our lives, to offer a contribution to the Synod itself.

A new sense of hope has come to life among us, an active hope that brings change: one where we are, at the same time, those promoting change and those undergoing it.

This document, then, also bears witness to the birth within us of a new consciousness. One which leads us to participate directly, standing up for our own place within the community of the faithful, putting forward our own lives, relationships and loves as contributions which can stimulate growth in the maturity of God´s pilgrim people.

So many people, so many lives, so many thoughts, so many hopes, so much energy, so many desires! Here, for the first time, these have come together, as we united in writing, producing, and making this proposal to the Synod, our form of collaboration and direct participation.

We long for every Synod participant be able to make these hopes their own, aware from within themselves of the truthfulness, beauty, and sometimes the fragility, of the lives and realities of so many, who have worked so hard, for so long, at this move from waiting to active participation.

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