Following a 2014 Synod of Bishops that drew widespread media attention for its discussions about LGBT people, the Vatican is making preparations for the October 2015 synod, where discussions about marriage and family will continue.
The Vatican this week released a document/questionnaire that calls for bishops to collect input from Catholic leaders and laypeople, according to the National Catholic Reporter. The questions address topics such as divorce and remarriage as well as “pastoral care of ‘persons with homosexual tendencies.’”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of LGBT Catholic organization DignityUSA, said in a statement that she was “deeply frustrated” with the church’s approach.
“There remains no opportunity for openly LGBT Catholics, or for families who delight in their LGBT members, to have official input into the deliberations, or to vote on policies and doctrines that will affect us for decades to come,” she said. “Even the language used to refer to lesbian and gay people (‘people with homosexual tendencies’) is a reversion to the dated and judgmental tone that so many had hoped was fading into the past, given Pope Francis’ apparent comfort in talking with and about LGBT people in a more realistic and respectful way.
“LGBT people certainly need appropriate pastoral care that starts from a position of acknowledging our moral equality with all other people, and that accepts the reality of our lives and the families we create," Duddy-Burke continued. "But we are not a problem for the Church to solve. We are human beings, baptized members of our Church, God’s beloved just as are other members of the Church. We have ‘gifts and qualities’ needed and freely offered to the Church and the world, to borrow language from the previous Synod’s interim report.”
New Ways Ministry, another pro-LGBT Catholic group, also responded to the Vatican document, with a blog post positing that “the questions that relate to this topic hold some promise for productive discussion and possible changes in pastoral practice, as well as some problems” while also expressing concern about some of the language used in the questions.
“Regardless of the merits or drawbacks of these questions, the real import will be in whether bishops actually do the wide consultation that is called for by this document,” wrote Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways.
“In 2013, the U.S. bishops did very little in terms of consulting the laity in preparation for the 2014 synod. Now that they have had more time to consider options, they should have no excuse not to do the wide consultation the Vatican requests. … And, of course, we repeat that the 2015 meeting must include Catholic LGBT people speaking for themselves to the synod of bishops. The 2014 meeting suffered greatly because of that omission.”
In what may be a hopeful note for LGBT Catholics, the Vatican urged bishops to “let yourselves be guided by the pastoral turning point that the  extraordinary synod began to sketch out,” not strictly by doctrine, the Associated Press reports.
The 2015 synod, The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World, is slated for October 4-25.