Why won’t U.S. Catholic bishops listen to gay laypeople?

(Originally published on The Advocate.)

November 14, 2014: As the U.S. Catholic bishops met in Baltimore this week, they discussed the synod on marriage and family that took place in Rome last month. That meeting sent shockwaves around the globe because of the frank discussion of birth control, cohabitation, divorce and remarriage, and, perhaps the biggest stunner of all, LGBT people.

Also on their minds was next October’s “part two” of the synod which will continue the conversation. The bishops should prepare for the 2015 meeting by taking their cue from Pope Francis: They should open conversations with the laity in their dioceses. LGBT Catholics and their families have been asking for such conversations for decades, and the pope tried to provide such opportunities. Last year he asked bishops to get input from the laity on the synod’s agenda topics. Not all bishops did so. With few exceptions, the U.S. bishops were particularly lax in collecting the ideas of the laity on these matters which impact their lives so directly and intimately.

That inaction has to end. Last month’s synod was a game changer for the Catholic Church, as it broke decades of silence by delivering honest assessments of how people perceive church teaching on sex and marriage. The public had the rare opportunity to see that bishops differ widely on sexual topics. The robust discussion indicates that more complete input from all in the church is greatly needed to develop doctrine and pastoral practices that better reflect the needs of God’s people.

Since LGBT issues caused so much discussion and disagreement, it will be especially important for U.S. bishops to open a dialogue with LGBT Catholics and their families. This synod showed that there were a majority of bishops who were willing to recognize that lesbian and gay people “have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” in the words of an early draft report. Similarly, that same report noted that the “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice” that same-sex partners offer one another “constitutes a precious support” in the couple’s life. It’s important for U.S. bishops to explore these ideas, and the best way of doing so is to listen intently to those closest to these issues.

In a letter to the U.S. bishops, the Equally Blessed Coalition (a coalition of four Catholic organizations committed to LGBT equality) called on them to immediately initiate a program of dialogue with Catholics across the country on the issues the upcoming synod will consider. LGBT Catholics and their families have valuable insights to offer about sanctity of the Catholic family, and pastors could do more to support the full diversity of families in our church. This is a particularly crucial time for them to enter into dialog with our bishops, and offer to share this wisdom.

Read the rest of the article on The Advocate.

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