Letter from LGBT Catholics to the Bishops' Conference
This is the full text of the letter from the LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council to Ms Elizabeth Davies, Marriage and Family Life Project Officer at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales in December 2013.
In response to the recent questionnaire provided to the faithful and the consultation being undertaken , we would like to share the following as regards the pastoral care of LGBT Catholics in England and Wales, and are submitting this for the attention of the Catholic Bishops conference of England and Wales as it prepares to submit its response to Rome by 31 January 2014.
We would be grateful if you kindly confirm safe receipt and that it will be included in the responses from the faithful to the Catholic Bishops conference of England and Wales.
1. In the vast majority of Catholic parishes in the UK there is no dedicated pastoral care of LGBT Catholics. Typical Catholic parishes are very unlikely to mention any pastoral care in the parish newsletter, or even to recognise the needs of LGBT Catholics as a group. By contrast, there are often groups dedicated to various language and ethnic groups, Justice and Peace, Mother and Children groups, etc., all of which is laudable. The effect on the ordinary LGBT Catholic is to feel largely invisible and unrecognised at best, or at worst to feel excluded, merely the subject of distant, hierarchical pronouncements regarding LGBT people as if they do not belong to the community of the faithful. On a day to day basis, in the parish, there is fear of visibly recognising and catering pastorally to LGBT Catholic people.
2. The Church teaching on LGBT Catholics with the use of terms such as “objectively disordered” together with a widespread lack of pastoral care has made many LGBT Catholics feel deeply unwelcome in the Catholic church in which they were brought up and leads in many cases to feelings of deep distress. It is clearly wrong that God’s baptised find themselves in such in an isolated position, making it so much more difficult to practise their faith on their own, away from a supporting and nurturing community. This leads in many cases to suicide, depression and mental, physical and emotional problems. This is a very grave responsibility for the bishops to address. We therefore ask that a comprehensive pastoral process be developed to ensure that LGBT Catholics are supported as much as possible in their faith and life journey, which is a prime responsibility of the Church. ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
3. There needs to be a deep process of dialogue and listening between the hierarchy and the laity. This questionnaire is one attempt to do this and we applaud it. However, unless it is accompanied by a lived experience at the parish and diocesan level between laity, priests and bishops, it will not bear as much fruit as it can. There are many wounds to heal within the Church, as Pope Francis has said, and we wish to deepen the process that LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council has started with the support of the Archdiocese of Westminster, and support this development at a national level.
4. We believe that God’s grace continues to support LGBT Catholics in their faith journey, despite the many obstacles, lack of support and ignorance that many of us experience in our local churches. In our community, we have a number of people from other Christian denominations interested in becoming Catholics. Despite the vitriol sometimes levelled at LGBT people by some members of the Catholic hierarchy, we still witness other LGBT Christians being drawn to become Catholics. We believe that this is a sign from God that He does indeed call all to believe and live with Him in community.
There are many other issues that we would like to share with church leaders related to the experience of LGBT Catholics, and these notes above are just a small part. Meanwhile, we are grateful to the pastoral support for LGBT Catholics that the diocese of Westminster has offered since 2006 and hope to see it spreading and enriching the Church at a national and international level, so that the word of God may truly reach and nourish all hearts.
LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council,
London, United Kingdom
* Background:  The 2014 Extraordinary Synod in Rome will examine a variety of issues, including family life, birth control and same sex relationships. http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19681
© Mark Dowd is a former Dominican friar who now works as a freelance writer and broadcaster specialising in religion. His Guardian columns can be read here: www.theguardian.com/profile/mark-dowd? He is responsible for Communications, PR and Pastoral Planning for LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council.
Select the newsletter(s) to which you want to subscribe or unsubscribe.