LGBT groups and supporters have sent Pope Francis a letter requesting a meeting when he is in the U.S. in September, saying there is a “compelling pastoral need” for such a meeting, which would “promote great healing and reconciliation.”
“We see so many people we love abandoning the church because of the kinds of indignities and pain that they’re subjected to whether it’s being denied a kid’s baptism or hearing a priest make horrible comments during a homily,” DignityUSA executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke, a signatory to the letter, told The New York Times in a story published today. “Everybody’s got stories of pain and alienation, and those things do real harm to people. And it needs to end.”
The letter, dated June 25, went out under the auspices of DignityUSA, a group that promotes LGBT equality within the Roman Catholic Church, and GLAAD. It’s endorsed by numerous other organizations, including LGBT Catholic group New Ways Ministry, other progressive Catholic groups, the Human Rights Campaign, and Latino organizations, plus several individuals.
“Many LGBT people and family members have experienced a resurgence of hope for full acceptance in our Church as a result of your words and reports of personal meetings with LGBT people,” the letter reads. “We see your visit to the U.S. as an opportunity for you to hear from us how central our faith is to our lives, and to work together towards creating a Church where all families know that we are truly loved and welcomed.
“Currently, our Church’s teaching and pastoral practices surrounding LGBT people are causing an enormous pastoral crisis, as well as upholding systemic, institutionalized discrimination against LGBT people and our families,” it continues. It notes the poverty and violence experienced by LGBT people, along with discrimination in many aspects of life, and adds that LGBT youth are particularly at risk.
Pope Francis has often struck a conciliatory tone toward LGBT people, such as his famous “Who am I to judge?” comment concerning gay priests, but he has also said “traditional” families, with opposite-sex parents, are best for children, and has denounced the concept of gender transition.
“I don’t think he’s going to be the pope that makes the changes we want,” Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, told the Times. “But he’s already taken a number of important steps that will, I think, pave the way for future changes.”
DeBernardo was part of an LGBT contingent that received VIP seating at the pope’s weekly public audience at the Vatican in February. In January, Francis had a private meeting with a transgender man from Spain, and on his recent visit to Paraguay, a roundtable session with civic leaders included the head of an LGBT rights group.
Rev. Warren Hall, a gay priest who was fired as director of campus ministry at Seton Hall University for his LGBT advocacy, has also written to the pope urging him to meet with LGBT Catholics. Others requesting meetings include Andrea Vettori, whose wife, Margie Winters, lost her teaching job at a Philadelphia-area Catholic school because of their marriage.