Vatican synod of family hears about LGBT families, not from them

The Vatican Synod on Marriage and the Family has broken the silence on LGBT couples and families, with mention by the leaders of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council.

According to New Ways Ministry, which has representation in Rome for the synod, Ron and Mavis Pirola told a story about how their friends accepted his son and partner at home for Christmas.

‘The domestic church’ represented by the family, ‘has much to offer the wider Church in its evangelizing role,’ the couple continued. ‘For example, the Church constantly faces the tension of upholding the truth while expressing compassion and mercy. Families face this tension all the time.’ The couple went on to illustrate this with an example relating to homosexuality. ‘Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home too. They fully believed in the Church’s teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three words, “He is our son.”

The story was intended to be an example for how the Roman Catholic Church should treat LGBT people. However, New Ways Ministry didn't think it was much affirmation for LGBT people or their relationships.

The welcome, yes, is very important. And it is admirable that they are encouraging parishes to welcome LGBT people as this couple welcomed their son and his partner. But it is hard to interpret what the Pirolas’ silence about the evaluation of the gay couple’s relationship is.  Does it mean that they accept the couple or that they don’t want to talk about the relationship?  It is hard to say.  The clause “the Church constantly faces the tension of upholding the truth while expressing compassion and mercy” makes me think that their intention is the latter.  When “truth,” “compassion,” “mercy” are all in the same sentence in an official church context, it usually means that the speaker does not support the idea of full equality for LGBT people and their relationships.

However, the mere mention of LGBT people was unexpected. Ultimately, it would be of great benefit for the synod to hear from the people they are speaking about. But the track record of most Christian churches including LGBT people in discussions about LGBT people has been poor. We will continue to follow New Ways Ministry to see when and how LGBT people and their families are referenced.