Two historically Catholic universities, in partnership with two non-denominational divinity schools, are presenting More Than a Monologue, a series of four day-long conferences that will address the often complex relationship between sexual diversity and the Catholic Church. According to their website, the organizers of the event contend that, “for too long, the conversation on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues in the Roman Catholic Church has been only a monologue,” with the institutional Catholic Church as the sole voice being heard. The goal of the series is to bring the Church into the 21st century by encouraging a “more vigorous, honest, and open debate about sexual diversity,” by lifting up new voices, and raising awareness “about the impact of church teachings” on the LGBT community.
The first event in the series, Learning to Listen: Voices of Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church, was a well attended, all-day affair held at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus on September 16, 2011. Professor of Theology and Director of the Francis and Ann Curran center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University, Christine Firer Hinze, believes that the issue of sexual diversity is pertinent to all Catholics stating that, “The time has come for us to learn to listen to all their voices an engage in a more enlightened, compassionate, and honest conversation.” In an article published in the Washington Post, Hinze furthers that the central focus behind the Learning to Listen event at Fordham is to create “opportunities for participants to home the thought and imagination needed to address the often fraught relations between LGBT persons, their loved ones and allies, and the Catholic Church.”
More Than a Monologue organizer and professor of theology at Fairfield University, Paul Lakeland, also spoke of the purpose of the series to the National Catholic Reporter. Lakeland explained that while, “the official church teaching recognizes that what they are calling gay and lesbian Catholics to do is difficult.” Acknowledging that, Lakeland stressed that “none of these conferences has as its agenda to attack the church’s teaching on homosexuality.”
Union Theological Seminary in New York City will host the second lecture of the series, Pro-Queer Life: Youth Suicide, Catholic Education, and the Souls of LGBTQ People on October 1, 2011. The conference will focus on actively working towards implementing best practices in positively promoting LGBT student empowerment. Kelby Harrison, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Social Ethics at Union urging educational institutions to take responsibility for “protecting against the culture and attitudes that contribute to LGBTQ suicide,” furthering that the conference will focus its attention on “where Catholic educational institutions are getting it right, where they need to be better, and where their complicity in the wounding of young LGBT persons is unacceptable.”
Yale Divinity School will host Same-Sex Marriage and the Catholic Church: Voices from Law, Religion, and the Pews, on October 22, 2011. The panels and lectures that will be offered during this conference will focus on discussing marriage equality by taking into consideration “individual rights, sexual ethics, pastoral needs in campus ministries and parish life, scripture, and the role of the laity in ‘living fraternally and cooperating with others’ as directed by Vatican II.”
The Care of Souls: Sexual Diversity, Celibacy, and Ministry, the last in the More Than a Monologue Conference series will take place at Fairfield University in Connecticut on October 29, 2011. This conference will focus on the roles and responsibilities of members of the LGBT community within the Church’s ministries, specifically seeking to address the challenges self-identifying LGBT persons face in their participation in the whole community of faith, and what special graces they bring to pastoral ministry.
GLAAD applauds the More Than a Monologue organizers, as well as the hosting institutions, for cultivating a space to dialogue on issues surrounding sexuality and the church and for raising up the voices of LGBT Catholics. GLAAD encourages our readers to attend, and to share their stories of faith and show support of LGBTQ people. The conference series is presented free of charge, but attendance is limited. You can pre-register for events here.