Catholic laity begins to sway church hierarchy on LGBT issues

Francis DeBernardo and Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry note that lay Roman Catholic laypeople are exerting a certain democratic and very positive influence on church leadership regarding same-sex relationships. Writing at Huffington Post, they observe:

Faced with mounting evidence that the hierarchy is rapidly losing influence in Europe and the Americas, and alienating the faithful in the process, some leading bishops are seeking to soften the hard line that Benedict XVI drew when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. Their argument –articulated by prelates from Colombia, France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and within the Vatican itself — is that marriage, even civil marriage, must be defined as a relationship between one man and one woman, but that legal recognition of same-sex relationships is permissible or even desirable.

This new position is not one that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their friends and families will endorse because it falls short of full marriage equality. Nor is it clear that members of the hierarchy will maintain this stance if they determine that it is no longer useful to appear moderate on this issue. But this moment is worth studying and celebrating nonetheless.

Reform-minded Catholics are often told that the church is not a democracy. In the conventional political sense, that may be true. But the church ministers in democracies. And in country after country, Catholic voters have gone to the polls, ignored the often heavy-handed lobbying of their bishops, and voted in favor of marriage equality, or legislators who support marriage equality. They are changing the teachings of the church by changing the culture in which the church functions.

DeBernardo is executive director and Gramick is co-founder of New Ways Ministry, a member of the Equally Blessed Coalition, which works for LGBT equality in the Catholic Church and the wider society. Read full post here.

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5 Comments
  1. Peter Pearson

    Although this is a step in the right direction, it’s too little, too late for most GLBT folks who walked away a long time ago. The Vatican should stay out of defining our civil law and should confront its own hypocrisy, especially with regards to sexuality. Yes, there is some anger in my opinion. So many have been crushed by these men’s heartless pronouncements.

  2. Apps 55753818692 1675970731 F785b701a6d1b8c33f0408

    I second Peter Pearson’s evaluation. It’s a positive step, but too-little too-late.

    Cullin R. Schooley

  3. Gary Paul Gilbert

    My impression is that the Roman Church supports civil unions only if civil marriage equality is under consideration by the state. In any case, second-class citizenship should not be celebrated nor is an ecclesial body meddling in civil law. All persons should be equal before the law.

    Gary Paul Gilbert

  4. tobias haller

    The surest sign that things have changed is when people insist they haven’t or they can’t. Whenever I hear someone claim that the “definition” is what is important, I quickly remind myself that on the contrary it is what is defined that is important — and that words change their meanings as the world they describe changes. Few things have changed as much as “marriage.”

  5. IT

    I think this article is wishful thinking. I see no evidence that the pro-equality sentiment of Catholic laity has affected the hierarchy.

    Indeed, in this country, the Bishops have come out against civil unions in most cases as a “gateway” to marriage. The only exception appears to be in states that already have civil unions, that are considering marriage, as in CA with Prop8– a purely tactical decision. It worked in CA, not so much in NH.

    Timothy Cardinal Dolan and his fellow bishops may try to dress up with nicer words, but they are still relentlessly opposed to rights for LGBT people. They continue to fire employees who are gay.

    The Roman Catholic laity continues to practice “don’t ask don’t tell” in regard to their support for our civil rights. When they do come out, they are slammed back–like the boy denied confirmation because he supported equality in MN, or the family told to deny their lesbian daughter. That’s quite the contrary to their views “moderating” the hierarchy.

    And of course, much of this is shutting the barn door after the hoofbeats have faded away. One in ten Americans is an ex-Catholic. But based on my unscientific observation, quite a number of them have swum the Thames. I’ve heard it said more than once that the spirit of Vatican II is best expressed in the Episcopal Church.

    Susan Forsburg

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