LGBT Catholics Are Hopeful in the Age of Pope Francis
By Jeannine Gramick
Although the rain came down in a deluge all weekend, the 300 Catholics gathered at a Chicago hotel April 28-30 didn’t seem to be bothered. Inside it seemed like a rainbow of participants and presenters who discussed the theme “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.”
“What a wonderful, enlivening gathering of people of great heart and great hope,” said Anna Koop, who represented Loretto at the gathering. The Loretto Community, along with 50 other LCWR and various national organizations, proudly endorsed the event.
The opening keynoter, Brian Massingale, professor of theology at Fordham University, dealt with the conundrum that many LGBT Catholics and their allies face about Pope Francis. Unlike any other pope, Pope Francis uses the word “gay.” Unlike any other pope, he invited a transgender man to the Vatican. Unlike any other pope, Francis extended his blessing to an Italian LGBT group that wrote him a welcoming letter in 2013. Unlike any other pope, Francis responded to my letter to him by giving our 50 LGBT pilgrims VIP seating at the Ash Wednesday audience in 2015.
Despite these and other examples of his welcome and concern about LGBT people, Pope Francis has not changed the official Church teaching on sexual ethics, which is so hurtful to LGBT people. This is the indictment continually raised against this good man, who encourages the world to show mercy and justice to all.
Massingale used a good American image to unscramble this puzzle. Imagine, he said, that the Church is a big football field and that Pope Francis is on our team, but he’s playing defense, not offense. He’s blocking and holding the opponent who would trounce us. He’s clearing the way so we can move forward and gain a touchdown. Francis is saying, “You’re the Church. I’ll help, but you score the points.”
This analogy especially resonated with the younger folks. Matt Myers was impressed by the people in their 20s and 30s who attended. “They give me hope for the future of the Church,” he said.
Bob Shine, a 20-something former Loretto Volunteer, was busy snapping photos of Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., a “Francis” bishop, who gave scriptural reflections during prayer services.
Bob’s camera was also on Lisa Fullam and Leslie Griffin, professors of moral theology and law, respectively, who addressed same-sex marriage and employment of LGBT people in Catholic institutions.
Frank Mugisha, the director of sexual minorities in Uganda, spoke of the Catholic bishops’ fueling the African laws that would make it a crime merely to be gay.
With workshops dealing with LGBT Church workers, parish ministry, transgender and intersex issues, Hispanic, young adult ministry and LGBT people in priesthood and religious life, there was so much to discuss that many participants arrived early to attend a daylong retreat given by Sister Simone Campbell of “Nuns on the Bus” fame.
All who came brought “hope and frustration,” Massingale said. They were hoping for a more favorable reception of LGBT people by the institutional Church, but they felt frustrated because that full acceptance has not arrived.
Massingale repeated what his father used to say, “We ain’t where we wanta be, but we ain’t where we used to be.”