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Will Pope Address LGBT Concerns at World Meeting of Families?

Will Pope Address LGBT Concerns at World Meeting of Families?

Will Pope Address LGBT Concerns at World Meeting of Families?

LGBT 'pilgrims,' representing different types of families, will attend the event next year in Philadelphia and hope for an audience with the pontiff.

When Pope Francis comes to Philadelphia in 2015, he’ll encounter a coalition of “pilgrims” representing different kinds of Catholic families “that we believe need to be included in the church’s ministry,” says Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBT Catholic group DignityUSA.

During a Vatican colloquium on families, the pontiff announced his plans to travel to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families in September of next year. The World Meeting of Families is held every three years, according to the event website, and during the conference “families can participate in discussion groups on the Christian family’s role in the church and society, led by many distinguished speakers.”

“It will be really interesting to see what happens when the pope comes to Philadelphia. I really hope he will take the time to meet with some of our families,” Duddy-Burke says. “The reality is it’s an uphill battle.”

Duddy-Burke, herself a married lesbian and mother of two adopted children, said that Catholic families come in a variety of shapes and forms — and that everyone seems to know that except for the church hierarchy. LGBT people have been excluded in many ways, she says, and “all of this is deeply damaging for people, and they’re all challenges families deal with.”

“Our hope is to be present, to engage in conversations with lots of people at the event — to give other people who have questions … a place where they can feel safe to voice those and to sort of make these people think about the pastoral harm that’s done by this sort of narrow definition of family,” says Duddy-Burke, who notes that the slated speakers for the World Meeting of Families “really represent traditionalists.”

The event website also reflects traditional doctrine. Posted on the site is a “preparatory catechism — a collection of what Catholics believe about human purpose, marriage, and the family.”

Among the statements from the catechism:

• “Marriage is a uniquely intimate form of friendship that calls a man and a woman to love each other in the manner of God’s covenant.”

• “Marriage is meant to be fertile and welcome new life.”

• “Many people, especially today, face painful situations resulting from poverty, disability, illness and addictions, unemployment, and the loneliness of advanced age. But divorce and same-sex attraction impact the life of the family in different but powerful ways. Christian families and networks of families should be sources of mercy, safety, friendship and support for those struggling with these issues.”

The pope’s announcement that he will attend the World Meeting of Families came during a colloquium on families, gender, and sexuality. Being held at the Vatican, that event includes U.S. evangelical leaders Rick Warren and Russell Moore.

At that event, Francis asserted that “children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity,” the Los Angeles Times reports.  (Kids’ “right” to opposite-sex parents was also recently asserted by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who called same-sex marriage a “sort of Trojan horse.”) 

Pope Francis has famously shifted the church’s tone regarding LGBT people — but tone is different than doctrine, as Duddy-Burke notes.

“Pope Francis is such an interesting conundrum for Catholics and for others,” she says. “The reality is that there has been absolutely no change in policy under the pope.” However, she says, the pope does seem to have an “openness” to talking about the value of same-sex relationships.

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