I began yesterday, with Sr Jeannine’s thoughts on how Pope Francis is directly impacting pastoral practice for LGBT Catholics. There remains the problem of the difficult Vatican doctrine, which at least on the surface, has not changed at all.
To achieve the necessary change, she suggested using a football metaphor, LGBT Catholics need to “run with the ball”
This is because instead of attempting to directly change doctrine, Pope Francis has simply downgraded its importance. Referring to his important and widely reported 2013 interview with Civita Cattolica, she observed that Francis is simply not concerned with sexual doctrine (unlike, for example, his immediate predecessors and some diocesan bishops).obsessed In this interview, he noted that the important thing is that Jesus “has saved us”, which outweighs obsessions with disjointed doctrines.
In this way, the message that Pope Francis is sending to LGBT Catholics, is more powerful than the hurtful doctrine that has so dominated what we have heard from the institutional church in the past. The question then arises, while the hurtful and damaging doctrine remains in place, who are we who are LGBT Catholics, to respond? Sr Jeannine offered here an analogy from American football (or from rugby, where it works equally well: Pope Francis is playing defence, against the damage of existing doctrine. To see real change, it is up to us to run with the ball.
One way to do this, she suggested, is to work with what New Ways describes as the “middle managers” of the church, especially local groups of the religious orders. In their experience, these are frequently well-disposed to LGBT groups, and very willing to assist with direct pastoral support, by making available spiritual direction, retreat leaders, or physical premises for meetings or retreats. These are still in the realm of pastoral support not changes in doctrine, but as has been frequently observed in the past, it is often changed in pastoral practice that lead to changes in doctrine, not the other way around. (With respect to Quest, this is a notable area of opportunity we have neglected in the past. We know that in principle, there are many British religious orders who could provide useful help and support – but we have not yet attempted to make approaches to them).
With respect to doctrine specifically, Sr Jeannine reminded us that we should be mindful of the whole spectrum of doctrine, and not just the difficult bits that refer specifically to “homosexual” people and acts.Doctrine since Vatican II includes a reminder that we are all church, laity as well as clergy and hierarachy, and our voice too is important. We need to internalise this thought, hold fast to the important teaching on the primacy of conscience – and discern what God is saying to us, in our hearts.
And then, I would add, be bold in proclaiming what the Lord has told us, to the rest of the Church: we must claim and own our prophetic voice.
- Sr Jeannine Gramick: What Can WE do?