Inclusive Study Material for World Meeting of Families.

Lifesite News once again have their knickers in a knot over how the mainstream church is promoting an alleged “homosexual agenda”.

The six-part program titled “Amoris: Let’s talk Family! Let’s be Family!” contains explicit promotion of homosexual relationships as a form of family, saying that such relationships provide “mutual support” for active homosexuals.

This would be great news if it were true – but in fact, the picture described is greatly exaggeration, depending on a single picture of two women embracing, and a line that refers to “other forms” of union, which Lifesite chooses to interpret as applicable specifically and exclusively to same-sex couples. In fact of course, Amoris Laetitia (on which the entire World Meeting program will be based) recognises a great number of relationships outside of lifelong heterosexual marriage. Same-sex couples are just one of these.

Nevertheless, even if Lifesite fears are exaggerated, there is indeed good news for gay and lesbian couples, and queer families of all shades, in the study material and in the general planning for the World Meeting of Families.  Just as the  line to which Lifesite objects does not necessarily apply only to same-sex couples – it most certainly could apply to us, alongside many others.  In the same way, some of the other images in the material could apply to us – or perhaps not. This one for instance, is quite clearly of two men. Are they a “couple”? That is not spelled out.

Then there’s another, of a man doing some laundry. There’s nothing at all to indicate either his relationship status, or his orientation – but it could, quite obviously be a single gay man. Or not.

The point is, that while the printed material for the most part  is not explicitly inclusive of LGBT and queer families, it equally does not exclude them.  An important part of the program not yet available, is a series of short audio clips that will be inserted later, in which individuals from a variety of family situations will speak of their personal experience of family. Is it too much to hope that these clips will include at least one or two gay or lesbian people, or their parents? I don’t think so.

Similarly, the planned  program for the actual week-long meeting, includes time for individuals to address the entire throng about their personal experience. Once again, the plan is for that to showcase a range of family situations. I have already written to organisers, arguing that this should logically include an experience or two of queer families (either headed by LGBT people, or with LGBT offspring).

The right-wing objection to the WMF program is the allegation that it is promoting a “homosexual agenda”. In fact, all it is promoting, is the orthodox Catholic teaching that gay men and lesbians must be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”, and the sentiment from the Bishops’ Synod assemblies on marriage and family, that people in unconventional family situations must be “accompanied”, and treated with discernment. An obvious corollary is that our voices must be heard.

There is now abundant evidence, from senior bishops involved in the planning, from the planned program for the week, and from the parish study guides, that organisers want our LGBTQ voices  to be heard. The only real question is, can our representative groups (the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, or our regional and national organisations) get our act together, to ensure a strong presence?

For too long, what passes for Catholic debate about LGBT people and families, has presented it as yet another binary choice: to be pro-family, it has been assumed, is to be hostile to LGBT inclusion and equality. It is beyond high time that our LGBT people put the record straight; just as Cardinal Schonborn has now said, in one of the preparatory meetings for the World Meeting – same -sex couples also need (and deserve) families. In defence of marriage and family, we can in fact be on the same side.

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