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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

November 2, 2023: Courage!

Thursday, November 2, 2023: Courage!

For the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, women participated as co-equals with their ordained brothers and voted at the Synod. This is a moment that will forever change the Church as it opens itself to the richness of women's faith, courage, and love. May their work and memory live on! Watch this wonderful video tribute to the women of the Synod.

Learn more about the final synthesis document from October’s Synod on Synodality meeting:

Curious to learn more about the final synthesis document? Join us on November 9 at 7pm ET as we spend 90 minutes discussing the final document and creating ideas for what we can do to advance women’s authority, preaching, and ministry as we head towards the second meeting of the Synod on Synodality in October 2024.

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Reflection: Part 2 by James Martin, SJ

The L.G.B.T.Q. Question at the Synod

I heard often in Rome that the synod should not be dominated by issues pushed by the media, with the media usually described in negative terms. In response, I said not only that the main way that Catholics find out about the church is through the media (so it would be helpful to work with them) but also that there is a reason that the media covers these topics: People are interested in them.

One of these issues was L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics, particularly since this community was explicitly mentioned in the Instrumentum Laboris twice. It was also mentioned in half of the reports submitted by episcopal conferences from around the world. Many hoped that the synod would find ways to speak explicitly about reaching out to this community in new ways. Also there were unreasonably high expectations that the synod would, for example, somehow ratify the blessings of same-sex unions.

But that second option was never going to happen on that or any other issue; the synod is consultative, not deliberative. The synod does not have the power to change any church practice; it can only suggest.

Still, the lack of any mention of the term “L.G.B.T.Q.” in the final synthesis, called “A Synodal Church on Mission,” was, for many people, including myself, a disappointment. But after a month of meetings it was not a surprise. Here’s why:

While I can’t share the content of the table discussions or the interventions, I can say that we had frequent discussions of the topic at many tables (not only mine, but several others) and that there were several relevant interventions during the plenary sessions. The approaches fell along two lines: First, there were people, like myself, who shared stories of L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics struggling to find their place in their own church, along with calls for the church to reach out more to this community.

On the other hand, many delegates objected even to using the term “L.G.B.T.Q.,” seeing it more reflective of an “ideology” foisted upon countries by the West or a form of “neo-colonialism,” and focusing more on homosexual acts as “intrinsically evil.”

From my point of view, I wish that the synthesis was more reflective of the rich conversation around the topic and admitted our divergences, as was done in other controversial areas.

Because of the fierce opposition the topic faced, the synthesis instead spoke of “sexuality and identity.” Yet, critically, it asks the church to hear the desire of L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics (along with other groups) to be “heard and accompanied” and to make the church a place where they can “feel safe, be heard and respected, without being judged,” after being “hurt and neglected” (15f).

Crucially, the synod says, “Sometimes the anthropological categories we have developed are not able to grasp the complexity of the elements emerging from experience or knowledge in the sciences and require greater precision and further study” (15g). It is important, we synod members say, “to take the time required for this reflection and to invest our best energies in it, without giving into simplistic judgments that hurt individuals and the Body of the Church.”

To some L.G.B.T.Q. people and their families, this may seem like weak tea. And many, like me, wanted a fuller description of the conversations around this issue included in the synthesis. But the text is an open door to further conversation by the synod in our next session and the church.

One experience that I did not expect was to have so many cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, religious men and women and lay leaders share their stories about their own L.G.B.T.Q. ministry (or talk about L.G.B.T.Q. family members) and, very often, ask for advice on this ministry. And when the L.G.B.T.Q. term was dropped from the final report, many shared their support and they said, Courage!

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