As a community, #LGBTQ+ people should celebrate and acknowledge progress in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis’ declaration in support of civil unions is courageous and will surely alienate some Catholics. Yet it also promotes the separateness of LGBTQ people as abnormal, something we ultimately cannot accept.
We also should not forget that the Church continues to promote the “unnatural feature” of homosexuality. This teaching is often at the root of our suffering.
As an example, the Church’s doctrine is directly linked to the now infamous Polish “LGBT-free zones”. It is not a coincidence that Poland is a country still steeped in Catholic custom, the New York Times recently reminded us that “around nine in 10 Poles identify as Roman Catholics, and about 40% attend Sunday mass weekly”.
Similarly, the Vatican rejected gender fluidity as unnatural in several recent official documents, continuing to stigmatize our trans brothers and sisters. Yet, the same Catholic Church in Singapore called last year for acceptance of LGBTQ+ community and expresses support for Pink Dot.
So, what are we to do with institutions two-stepping around our human rights? As the late US activist and author Larry Kramer said in 2007 “[LGBT people] are not crumbs, [they] must not accept crumbs”.
We can both celebrate Pope Francis’ announcement while keeping our distance from an institution that still claims there is something “unnatural” about us. We should also accept that while the Catholic Church is always going to lag behind when it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusion, we can count on it to drive much-needed change on societal attitudes towards LGBTQ equality.
Full acceptance and equality is what we are striving for: our journey is far from over.
Peter Bernholz has described how ideologies and religions with supreme values have used violence to accomplish their goals. We describe the transformation of supreme values through civic engagement and pro-social behavior (dedication to common good, charity, participation in social life) that rejects as unacceptable all forms of violence. Our focus is on Catholicism after the Second Vatican Council, which emphasized the lay faithful’s role in the Church’s mission of salvation in the world and affirmed categorically that the duty of layperson is to serve other people and society. Using data on Poland, we find that the lay faithful try to fulfil those duties. Religious observance measured by participation in Holy Communion and church attendance correlates positively with civic engagement measured by the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).