With opinion polls consistently showing that young people are accepting of same-sex marriage and other rights for L.G.B.T. people, there were questions how the ongoing synod of bishops focused on young adults might approach the subject. In the early part of the nearly month-long meeting, one U.S. archbishop made headlines when he suggested that there is no such thing as “L.G.B.T. Catholics,” setting off a debate over whether the final document produced by the global meeting should include the phrase.
The issue has not been a primary topic inside the synod hall, but at a press conference in Rome on Saturday, three archbishops responded to questions from journalists by saying the topic has arisen and that the young adult delegates have largely urged church leaders to be more welcoming to L.G.B.T. people and their families.
“We take people where they are, walking with them, moving forward,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said.
“We have to make sure that we don’t put obstacles in the face of God’s grace. We take people where they are, walking with them, moving forward,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said in response to a question. “Sometimes in that journey they stray or they take a step back, but we’re still with them in order to keep that journey going.”
Pope Francis handpicked Cardinal Cupich, who heads the Archdiocese of Chicago, to attend the meeting, which is beginning to wrap up its work in preparing a final document to submit to the pope next week.
Another synod delegate, Cardinal John Ribat of Papua New Guinea, said that the young people present at the synod talk about L.G.B.T. issues “freely,” urging church leaders to address L.G.B.T. people in their preferred way. He said the lay delegates “are really helping us to understand, to really see where they are at, and how they [want] to be heard, recognized and accepted.”
And Australian Archbishop Peter Comensoli suggested that L.G.B.T. Catholics should not be singled out.
“Very simply, aren’t we all sinners? And aren’t we all looking to be found by God? And being found by God, how we might then find our lives in him?” he asked.
Responding to another question later, the archbishop added that it is important for church leaders to respond in a Christian way to members of the L.G.B.T. community.
“When my friends who might be homosexual or lesbian or struggling with their gender, when I speak with them, I speak with them with the friendship of Christ as I ought to, and as a friend I say, how do we progress together toward the foot of the cross?” he said.
Some Catholic bishops have advocated inside the synod that the church not use the phrase “L.G.B.T.,” a preferred acronym by many gay, lesbian and transgender people, because it connotes a political ideology. They suggest using phrases such as “persons with same-sex attraction” instead.
Earlier this month, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said during his presentation, “There is no such thing as an ‘LGBTQ Catholic’ or a ‘transgender Catholic’ or a ‘heterosexual Catholic,’ as if our sexual appetites defined who we are; as if these designations described discrete communities of differing but equal integrity within the real ecclesial community, the body of Jesus Christ.”
Reports released on Saturday show that members of the English-language working groups are grappling with how to address L.G.B.T. issues. One group wrote, “no one, on account of gender, lifestyle, or sexual orientation, should ever be made to feel unloved,” but added, “and this is why authentic love by no means excludes the call to conversion, to change of life.” Another group proposed the creation of a new document about ministering to L.G.B.T. people.
According to Crux, one of the German-language groups reported, “We want a serious discussion with young people in the Church on issues of sexuality and partnership,” while a Spanish-speaking group called for the church to accompany all people, “including those of different sexual orientations, so that they can grow in faith and in their relationship with God.”
The topic of sexuality had been raised earlier in the week as well.
Archbishop Matteo Zuppi, head of the Archdiocese of Bologna, said in a press conference on Oct. 18 that pastoral care for L.G.B.T. people is “an important topic” but he warned against making it “an ideological problem.”
And Silvia Retamales, a lay delegate from Chile to the synod, said in a press conference on Oct. 15 that gay people “should feel as children of God, not as problems” in the church.
“The church has to be more inclusive,” she said.