PRESS RELEASE – 15 August 2023
Pope Francis congratulates Acceptance, an Australian LGBTQ+ Catholic group on its 50th anniversary
Acceptance, the world's second oldest LGBTQ+ Catholic organisation, is delighted to have received a special message of congratulations from Pope Francis in June on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.
Pope Francis’ greetings were both a surprise and a delight to Acceptance members, their families and supporters across Australia.
An Acceptance representative stated that “None of us expected such a greeting, but Pope Francis is such a wonderful Pope, why were we surprised?” “His welcoming, pastoral and caring interaction with LGBTQ+ people, extending back to his time as Archbishop and Cardinal in Argentina, is a powerful signpost and his greetings on our 50th anniversary reinforces his genuine concern for those marginalised in the Church”.
The congratulations came via Sister Jeannine Gramick, an American nun who has ministered with the Catholic LGBTQ+ community since 1971 and maintains contact with Pope Francis. Sr Jeannine told Pope Francis about the Acceptance group in Australia and its 50th anniversary this year. Pope Francis asked Sr Jeannine to convey to Acceptance his personal congratulations.
In a recent message to Acceptance, Sr Jeannine said Pope Francis told her to pass on his “happy greetings at this time of your anniversary” and to advise that he was praying that Acceptance members would every year “grow closer in love with our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Since its founding in 1973 in Sydney by the late Garry Pye, Acceptance has been an advocate for LGBTQ+ Catholics, worked closely with other Catholic groups seeking an inclusive and welcoming Church, supported persons living with HIV/AIDS and made submissions to the Australian Plenary Council and the global Synodal process underway.
Acceptance stated that “The greeting from Pope Francis is a significant milestone for Acceptance in Australia and the wider LGBTQ+ Catholic community. It reflects a message of welcome, inclusivity, compassion and acceptance, affirming the important role Acceptance has played in supporting LGBTQ+ people of faith over the past five decades”.
Acceptance has written to Pope Francis to express its deep gratitude for his warm and encouraging message and the support it provides to continue its mission of providing a welcoming ministry of LGBTQ+ Catholics, affirming their dignity and Catholic faith.
"We are humbled and grateful for Pope Francis' greetings on our 50th anniversary," said Fr Claude Mostowik, former National Coordinator of Acceptance. "His message of support and recognition validates the importance of our work in creating a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ individuals within the Catholic community. This milestone inspires us to continue our advocacy, fostering understanding, and promoting dialogue between LGBTQ+ people of faith and the Church.”
Benjamin Oh, Chair of Rainbow Catholics Interagency Australia, said, “Pope Francis' greetings serve as a powerful affirmation of the resilience and contributions of LGBTQ+ Catholics in our society and church. Celebrating Acceptance’s 50th anniversary is a momentous occasion for the entire Rainbow Catholic community.”
Acceptance will continue to celebrate its 50th anniversary over the coming year with a series of events and initiatives to further raise awareness, encourage dialogue and promote understanding within and beyond the Catholic community.
Acceptance has communities in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth. Acceptance continues to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ Catholics to celebrate their faith and know that they are part of God’s family. With the Pope’s congratulations on its 50th anniversary, Acceptance looks forward to continue working with allies and supportive parish communities creating a welcoming space across the Australian Catholic Church.
The Catholic world mourns the loss of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who passed away today, 31st December 2022. Benedict had been a close adviser to Pope John Paul 11 and succeeded him as Bishop of Rome in 2005. His eight years as Pope will be remembered for many different reasons. He was a power house with his wide range of deep and profound thinking and theological writings, which at the last count was over 60 books and 3 encyclicals. So, the Catholic world has lost a great theologian and a man who deeply loved his faith, and who was a great lover of music and an accomplished pianist.
Benedict was a rather shy person and was not well versed or comfortable with addressing the complex emotions of the human condition. Marianne Duddy-Burke, GNRC´s Co-Chair said “And this is where he fell well short in his inability to understand the holistic aspect of, and needs and reality of being a sexual minority. The LGBTQIA community had yearned for words of understanding and compassion in his works and words towards us but they were never forthcoming.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict was a man who will be remembered for promoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church on homosexuality that has caused our community so much hurt and pain. GNRC´s Co-Chair Chris Vella said “While we note that his track record with the LGBTQ community is not positive, his inspired decision to resign the Papacy was instrumental for the more inclusive papacy of his successor Pope Francis with his unequivocal commitment to open up the Church to the people of the periphery.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a faithful servant to the Catholic Church and now is the time to celebrate his many good works as a theologian and to pay our respects for his life of service to the Church. GNRC offers its prayers for the repose of his soul. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. In the name of Jesus. Amen
This article is sourced from the GNRC website:
Peter Maher, Sydney priest and editor of The Swag, National Council of Priests of Australia Quarterly Magazine.
This article is inspired by the Acceptance Reflection on August 6, 2021
Acceptance Sydney's Response to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Statement regarding Blessings of Same Sex Unions
Acceptance Sydney conveys its deep sadness in the recent statement by the Vatican’s Responsum ad Dubium of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dated 15 March 2021, on banning blessings of same sex unions.
While the statement conveyed the message that this "does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations”, it nonetheless does much to damage the relationship that faithful LGBTQI+ Catholics, their family and friends have with the Church. Many may see it as yet another example of where the Church acknowledges the ‘dignity’ of LGBTQI+ people, yet refuses to give them that dignity by not affirming their relationships.
Acceptance Sydney, formed in 1972, has a proud and long history of championing and supporting LGBTIQ+ Australian Catholics in the reconciliation of their faith and sexuality, providing a pastoral ministry emphasising the authenticity and dignity of LGBTIQ+ Catholics through liturgy, witness, and fellowship.
Groups like Acceptance Sydney evangelise and bring LGBTQI+ people back to the Church, yet this message only serves to drive people away. This is our sadness.
Jesus often used doctrine to challenge religious leaders of his time and understood the law; the doctrine, to be made for people, not people to be made for the law. Jesus’ response was always pastoral. We do, however, maintain great hope in Pope Francis. He, like Jesus, understands and upholds the doctrine of the Church but his response is also often pastoral. You can see this by his actions. In the 2020 documentary “Francesco” we discover his support for the recognition of our relationships.
Our key message is to pray for the Holy Father and the Church. Not to throw away one’s faith, but to embrace the message of the Gospels that God’s love is deeper than any doctrine. Through prayer and contemplation of the scripture, God’s message will continue to burn in our hearts and give us strength and courage to live our lives according to God’s plan for us; for those who are LGBTQI+, this is God’s plan.
We are encouraged by news reports of Pope Francis’ recent comments in a documentary “Francesco” in which the Pope provides support for same gender unions.
Pope Francis’ comment that "Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family’ goes a long way to reconciling the LGBTIQ+ community with their faith by providing pastoral support for the legitimacy of their relationships. This can only be a positive step that paves the way for future statements from the Church that underscores that we are all children of God who are loved.
The GNRC's 3rd General Assembly was hosted with Dignity USA in Chicago coinciding with their 50th Jubilee Celebrations. Australia was represented by 3 organizations - Acceptance Sydney, Australian Catholics for Equality and the Rainbow Catholics Inter-Agency for Ministry. During the General Assembly, there were several keynote speeches that were powerful points of reflections; we have sought permission to share them with Acceptance Sydney members.
We've included prominent theologian Mary E Hunt's opening address to the GNRC General Assembly, please enjoy.Read more
Bishop calls homosexuality ‘gift from God,’ seeks to end ‘prejudices that kill’
[Scroll down to the bottom of the page for details about our MSC confrere bishop]
A Brazilian bishop said July 30 that homosexuality is a “gift from God.” Seeing the reaction his homily generated, Bishop Antônio Carlos Cruz Santos of Caicó then released a statement saying that his only scope was to “save lives,” after learning about the high statistics of suicide among the LGBT community.
“If it is not a choice, if it is not a disease, in the perspective of faith it can only be a gift,” the bishop of Caicó in the Rio Grande do Norte state said during his homily at a Mass closing feast of Santana de Caicó, always marked on the Sunday following the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne.
“The gospel par excellence is the gospel of inclusion,” said the bishop. “The gospel is a narrow door, yes, it is a demanding love, but it is a door that is always open.
“When you look at homosexuality, you cannot say it’s an option,” Cruz said, adding that a choice has to be made freely, while sexual orientation is something a person discovers “one day.”
However, he said, a person can choose how to live his or her sexual orientation, “in a dignified, ethical way, or in a promiscuous one. But promiscuity can be lived in any of the orientations.”
The bishop then said that homosexuality hasn’t been considered as a disease by the World Health Organization since the 1990s, and given this, and the fact that a person doesn’t choose to be gay, same-sex attraction can only be “a gift from God. It’s given by God. But perhaps our prejudices do not get the gift of God.”
During his homily, Cruz said that when slavery was accepted, black people weren’t considered human, “they said we black people didn’t have a soul,” because of “prejudices.”
“Just as we were able to leap, in the wisdom of the Gospel, and overcome slavery, is it not the time for us to leap, from a perspective of faith, and overcome prejudices against our brothers who experience same-sex attraction?” the bishop asked.
Prejudice, he said, is a “concept before an experience,” and it’s what blinded generations to slavery, and what blinds Europe today to the “drama of refugees.”
Cruz, appointed bishop by Pope Francis in 2014, after he served in some of Brazil’s most infamous favelas, or slums, said the Argentine pontiff is sometimes accused by “some who want to be more Roman than the pope,” of wanting to water down the Church’s teaching, “they say we’re selling ourselves, that he’s selling the doctrine for something cheap.
“In truth, what Pope Francis wants is to make mercy the starting point of Catholic doctrine,” he said. “And mercy, people, is not cheap: Mercy is very expensive. Christ paid a high price for mercy.”
Cruz also quoted Francis’s famous line “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?” adding, just as the pope did at the time, on the flight back from Rio de Janeiro in 2013, that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that gay people are not to be marginalized from society.
“It’d be good for orthodox [Catholics] to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
The prelate also quoted Francis’s document on the family, Amoris Laetitia, in which the pope talks about “accompanying, discernment and welcoming” families in irregular unions, acknowledging that even though it was addressed to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, it could apply to gay people too.
The bishop began his homily talking about a radio interview that really affected him. The host was talking about a professor who did his thesis on the prevalence of suicide among transvestites and transsexuals.
On hearing this report, he said, he began to think about “so many brothers and sisters with a homosexual orientation who feel misunderstood and unloved by us, who are Church, by their families, by their society and even by themselves, as it was in the days of slavery.”
The bishop’s homily, available in video on YouTube, was praised by some and criticized by many others, who even call his words a heresy and demanded the Vatican to get involved.
Seeing the many reactions, Cruz released a statement on the diocesan website on Sunday, a week after his homily. In it, the bishop stood by his remarks, saying that his goal was to “save lives, contributing so that we can overcome the prejudices that kill.”
The bishop said that he did not want to induce anyone to make a mistake, but that he followed the guidelines of the church and of Francis.
“As Pope Francis told us many times, people already know by heart the doctrine of the Church about abortion, divorce and homosexual acts,” Cruz wrote. “He asks us not to be obsessed with sin, increasing the wounds of these people, and insists that the doors of the church are open to welcome, instruct, discern, love in order to bring salvation to all without exception.”
The bishop also wrote that his intention on addressing the issue was merely pastoral, and that he’s not challenging the teachings of the Catechism. Furthermore, he quotes point 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible,” the section he quoted in full says. “This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
Following this statement, Cruz said his reflection as a pastor moved by the “weaknesses of his flock, without wanting to minimize the doctrinal and moral dimensions that the subject matter involves, my intention is to save lives, helping to overcome prejudices that kill and enter into the dynamic of God’s mercy that respects, rescues and saves people.”
Bishop Antônio Carlos Cruz Santos, M.S.C.
Many of us will have heard the recent news about the Vatican rejecting a trans* man as a godparent. The man, Alex Salinas, is a faithful trans* Catholic. This is a story that began in Spain and went to the Bishop then to Rome.
The story is well summarised on the New Ways Ministry website here: Vatican Intervention Causes Bishop to (Again) Reject Trans* Man as Godparent. I think it is worth noting that other Church-affiliated news about this tend to refer to Alex as 'a transsexual woman, who considers herself a man'.
The story is discussed this week on ABC National on the Religion and Ethics program. After transmission, it can be listened to or downloaded online at any time. The program airs on Wednesday 5:30PM and again on Thursday 5:30AM (Sydney times). Father Peter Maher was interviewed for this program.
Program details can be found on the ABC website here: Religion and Ethics Report.
(This article is a stub. I'll update this article after the program airs. Stay tuned! If you're wondering why there are asterisks in this article (i.e. trans* man), then this link explains.)
— Chris Price, 08 September 2015.