29 January 2015

Drachma's feedback to the bishops on the Lineamenta

In recent weeks, the Vatican issued a series of questions and points for reflection called the Lineamenta. The Vatican and the local Episcopal Conferences invited Catholic people and organisations to reflect on these Lineamenta and send feedback on the Family and related themes. 

In response to this invitation, Drachma reflected on the Lineamenta and issued the following feedback, which we are now posting on our blog.


21 January, 2015

Mgr. M. Grech, President, Maltese Episcopal Conference, Bishop of Gozo

Mgr. C. Scicluna, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Malta, sede vacante

Feedback on the Lineamenta

We wish to contribute our humble part towards widening the reflection leading up to the October 2015 assembly of the Synod on the Family. In this context we would like to communicate our thoughts that are the fruit of our experience as a group that is already immersed in the LGBTI pastoral field.

We have opted to limit our reactions to Question 40 of the Lineamenta and the corresponding paragraphs 54-55 of the Relatio Synodi (which the Lineamenta erroneously numbers 55-56).

The attached feedback includes a number of proposals that can be brought to the attention of the General Secretariat of the Synod. Some of these proposals can be implemented also locally.

We thank you for your kind attention and support.

With a promise of our prayers,

Chris Vella  and  Joseanne Peregin

Feedback on the Lineamenta from Drachma LGBTI and the Drachma Parents’ Group

Title: Pastoral Attention towards Persons with Homosexual Tendencies

The wording used in the sub-title and in the question itself immediately poses great difficulty since it refers to ‘homosexual tendencies’. This makes homosexuality sound like something pathological or ‘curable’, while it is scientifically proven that homosexuality is neither of the two. Suggested alternative wording: Pastoral attention towards homosexual persons.

The pastoral care of persons with homosexual tendencies poses new challenges today, due to the manner in which their rights are proposed in society.

Again, this wording is fundamentally flawed. The real problem is not ‘the way in which gay people’s rights are proposed in society’. The real problem is the way in which such people’s fundamental rights are being denied by society (sometimes even by the Church).

As Christians we believe that everybody, including gay persons, has the right to live his life in a dignified way, free from all types of persecution and discrimination. In many situations and in many countries it is such a fundamental human right that is being denied. Certainly the efforts being made to have such rights respected are not to be perceived by the Church as causing a challenge or a problem to its pastoral mission!

We think that this sentence should be worded differently: The pastoral care of homosexual persons poses new challenges today, due to the manner in which such persons have been and are being marginalized by society, including by some members of the Church.
40. How can the Christian community give pastoral attention to families with persons with homosexual tendencies?

A homosexual person is a person. He or she is not a person ‘with homosexual tendencies’ – just as much as a heterosexual is a person and not just a person ‘with heterosexual tendencies’. This text should be recast as follows: How can the Christian community give pastoral attention to families with homosexual persons?

Church members must be made aware of the trauma that homosexual persons pass through before, during and after their ‘coming out’. We know from our experience, that many parents find it extremely difficult to accept their children’s homosexuality, often owing to their religious upbringing.

Therefore in her pastoral ministry with families the Church should encourage parents to accept their children’s sexuality – whatever it is. Always our children! In this way, LGBTI persons would find acceptance and love in the place where they most expect to find it – at home and within the Church. Indeed, according to Christian anthropology every human person is a son or daughter of God, made in His image and likeness. Hence before being ‘always our children’ such persons are, first and foremost, always daughters and sons of God. The wording of the previous paragraph 50 is very pertinent here: “Oftentimes, they (homosexual persons) want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation?”

It is a known fact that a significant proportion of suicides is committed by LGBTI persons – often as a result of not feeling or not being accepted by their families. This alone brings out the need for much greater tact on the part of bishops, priests and pastoral workers when speaking of and dealing with these persons.

The Church should take every opportunity (including this Synod) to be perceived, and in fact be, shoulder-to-shoulder with homosexual persons and genuinely concerned by the unjust way in which such persons are treated by society. The Church should stand, and be seen to stand, in their defence in the midst of a society that is all too often hypocritical and hostile towards them.

What are the responses that, in light of cultural sensitivities, are considered to be most appropriate?

We submit the following proposals:

1.     The Church needs to review paragraphs 2357-2359 and 2396 of the Catechism because:

(a) The only place homosexual persons find something written about their reality in the whole Catechism is under the section entitled: Sins against Chastity.

(b) The present text that reads “This inclination is in itself intrinsically disordered” (paragraph 2358) must be removed, especially the words ‘intrinsically disordered’. Nobody has the right to call disordered what God himself has created! In this context the 1997 amendment to the CCC was a step backwards.

(c)  The passages from Scripture and Tradition that are quoted in the footnotes to sustain Church teaching on this reality need to be reviewed as many advances in human sciences and biblical studies can shed new light upon this reality.

2.     The Church should introduce a Ministry for Lesbian and Gay Catholics (including gay priests and nuns).

3.     The Church should acknowledge the positive elements in civil partnerships. In this context the wording of (previous paragraph 52 of) the Relatio post disceptationem were particularly significant: “there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons”. Such unions, rather than undermining the institution of marriage, actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a life-long relationship can find their place and protection and the relevant legal provisions. Such unions can enhance the values of equality and commitment in relationships, to which the Church already is very committed, because it is equality and the reliability of commitments between people that constitute the very basis for stability in society.

If the Church starts using a new language towards homosexual believers living in a stable relationship that is based on the principles of fidelity, care and love, it will open up a new pastoral avenue not only with Catholic gay persons but also with gay persons of other faiths or none.

4.     Catholic LGBTIs should be protagonists in the formulation of the Church’s pastoral care of gays. Such pastoral care should not be about them and for them, but with them and from them. Through their direct and positive contribution, gay persons can be an enrichment to the Church and its vision. “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community” (previous paragraph 50 of the Relatio post disceptationem). The Church can listen to homosexual persons by: (a) inviting LGBTI persons themselves (b) people involved in pastoral work with LGBTIs (c) theologians who have studied this subject, to be part of its commissions and study groups, to address the assembly in October 2015, and to participate in the redaction of Church documents on the subject (see 1 above and 5 below).

5.     We suggest that the Pope opens up a theological-anthropological discussion on fundamental questions such as gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexuality and the Scriptures. Such discussion would be expected to continue even after the October Synod is concluded.

While avoiding any unjust discrimination, how can such persons receive pastoral care in these situations in light of the Gospel? How can God’s will be proposed to them in their situation?

What we understand by the words ‘in light of the gospel’ is: unconditional love, forgiveness, tolerance, openness, acceptance, being non-judgmental. These are Christ’s own attitudes, and we should derive our light from Him alone. Such attitudes should be reflected in the Church’s language, its documents and its ministers’ dealings with gay persons.

A Church that expels its own employees only because they are in a same-sex relationship or because they have entered into a civil union is not a loving, tolerant, non-judgmental, non-discriminating mother and/or sister.

All those in pastoral work, or who are somehow in contact with gay persons and work in this particular field, should be adequately trained.

         Particularly, seminarians’ formation should include training in this specific area. Such training is to be given by competent persons with an adequate background in psychology, since unfortunately there still exist many myths, misconceptions, ignorance and prejudices about this reality.

We would also like to comment briefly on paragraphs 54-55 of the Relatio Synodi.

As a general comment we would like to register our disappointment at the fact that most of the wording, vision and pastoral approach found in the first version of the Relatio post disceptationem (General Rapporteur, Card. Péter Erdő, 13 October, 2014) are absent from the present paragraphs.

54. Some families have members who have a homosexual tendency. In this regard, the synod fathers asked themselves what pastoral attention might be appropriate for them in accordance with Church teaching: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family.”

Is it possible that when the synod fathers asked themselves what pastoral attention is appropriate, the only thing that came to mind was that ‘there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family’?

Is a prohibition the only answer the synod fathers can offer to millions of gay persons? Is this an appropriate pastoral initiative?

We acknowledge that this issue is new to the Church. We also appreciate that the Church has started to debate and study this reality, and for this we are grateful to God.

Nevertheless, men and women with a homosexual tendency ought to be received with respect and sensitivity. “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4).

Although the Relatio states that ‘Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided’ it omits any comment with regard to the unacceptable state of affairs in many countries where homosexuals are discriminated against, persecuted and even killed. It is unfortunate that the Church remains silent and fails to condemn the criminalization of homosexuality and the persecution and harassment of homosexuals. Such lack of solidarity puts into question the credibility of the Church regarding its commitment to receive homosexual persons ‘with respect and sensitivity’.

55. Exerting pressure in this regard on the Pastors of the Church is totally unacceptable: it is equally unacceptable for international organizations to link their financial assistance to poorer countries with the introduction of laws that establish “marriage” between persons of the same sex.

The Church appears to be more concerned that its pastors are being pressured – rather than preoccupied by the enormous physical and psychological pressure that is exerted on gays everyday throughout the world. Therefore, this part of paragraph 55 should be replaced by a new paragraph that categorically condemns all countries that criminalize homosexuality at various levels.

As regards the question of funding: Funding to poor countries by certain organizations is sometimes linked to certain conditions. But such conditions are not exclusively gay-related (e.g. those that exert pressure to accept ‘pro-choice’ laws easily come to mind). Therefore this last sentence of para 55 should be removed from here completely and put in a separate paragraph under a different item and which would condemn all funding to developing countries that carry ties or conditions.

Drachma LGBTI and Drachma Parents
21 January 2015

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