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May 31, 2017, Chicago – While the Catholic Church has not changed its dogma on homosexuality, Pope Francis has issued “an invitation to be more pastoral” to brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community.
That was the take of Sister Virginia “Ginny” King, OP, who attended the New Ways Ministry’s New Life Symposium. Held at the end of April in the Hilton Rosemont Chicago O’Hare Hotel, the symposium focused on “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.” New Ways Ministry, which focuses on ministry to the LGBT Catholic community, hosts the symposium once every five years.
Speakers included Lisa Fullham, Associate Professor at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, “Sexual Ethics and Same Sex Marriage”; Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, “The Catholic Church, Criminalization Laws, and the LGBT Experience in Uganda”; Leslie Griffin, Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, “Religious Liberty, Employment, and LGBT Issues”; and Father Bryan Massingale, Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University, on “Pope Francis, Social Ethics and LGBT People.”
Sister Ginny said she was particularly struck by Father Massingale’s talk. He pointed out that, while the Catholic Church teaches about the human dignity of homosexual persons, the Church also discourages them from acting on their inclinations. “In other words, we don’t condemn you for your homosexuality, but don’t tell anybody and you’re OK,” Sister Ginny said. “That denies people their rights.”
Father Massingale encouraged the audience to look at people as humans, Sister Ginny said. “Everyone should have the right to live and to work and to pray where they are called to do these things,” she added.
Sister Ginny also took away from the symposium the idea that, while Pope Francis has not changed the Church’s dogma or laws regarding homosexuality, he brought about “an invitation to be more pastoral” to people who so often hear negative and rejecting words about themselves. Pope Francis has shed a “pastoral light of appreciating people,” she said.
Sister Ginny also sees the need for people to become more educated on issues of sexuality, including LGBTQ issues, and to have more open conversations about these topics. For example, she said, New Ways Ministry sponsors a dialogue between lesbian women religious and people in the religious communities and in formation work. One such dialogue will be held in 2018. “These are opportunities for people to engage in these conversations,” she said.