From our experience, we have found that some people are lucky to have found parishes and faith communities where they are welcomed and included. Unfortunately, we do have some participants who have had bad experiences. Some of them choose to leave the church altogether because of their experience of homophobia, transphobia, ignorance, hate, and discrimination in church contexts.
LGBTIQA+ Catholics often hear anti-gay and anti-trans slogans, advice and language from church people or their religious families and it leaves them traumatised for its insensitivity, poor pastoral judgement or ignorance. Church teaching about sex and sexuality must also be read alongside church teaching about God’s love for all, human flourishing, relationships and conscience.
The church’s teaching on sex and sexuality is challenging and challenged by many Catholics today. So, it is not surprising that many LGBTIQA+ Catholics who follow church teaching in general, find the church’s teaching on sex and sexuality both outdated and unhelpful, even damaging to their life and loves.
Just as the church’s teaching on conscience informs all Catholics on difficult and complex moral decisions, so is the case with some complex issues raised by the church’s teaching on sexuality for LGBTIQA+ Catholics. Catholics of diverse sexualities, genders or who are non-binary and who value their God-given identity as gift to be celebrated may find the anthropology, psychology and moral theology of the church damaging to their sense of self-worth and their relationships. By invoking the church’s teaching on conscience to resolve the conflicted conscience, they will choose the better path for their spiritual and mental health that promotes human flourishing as LGBTIQA+ persons. They will also value life-giving loving relationships as a matter of conscience. The assistance of a good and wise pastoral guide maybe needed to navigate this sometimes difficult territory.
The doctrine of the ‘primacy of conscience’ means that people must follow their fully formed conscience carefully and responsibly. The teaching from Vatican II in Dignitatis Humanae (#3), states: “They must not be forced to act contrary to their conscience. Nor must they be prevented from acting according to their conscience, especially in religious matters.”
Gaudium et Spes states: “Deep within his conscience a person discovers a law which they have not laid upon themselves but which they must obey. For a person has in their heart a law inscribed by God… conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary. … There they are alone with God whose voice echoes in their depths” (#16). This teaching is found in Thomas Aquinas, Cardinal John Henry Newman and Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Newman famously wrote that “Conscience is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself; but it is a messenger from Him [God], who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ [another phrase that means ‘original Pope’], a prophet in its information.”
Newman also wrote, “I shall drink to the Pope, if you please, still, to conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.”
It is Catholic teaching that one must follow their informed conscience. Our conscience is formed through prayer and study applying the principles of Catholic teaching and gospel wisdom to specific complex decisions.
Acceptance Perth respects the rights of LGBTIQA+ Catholics and their conscience decisions as taught by the church. Our community welcomes all gender and sexually diverse individuals, couples and their children. We also welcome families of LGBTQA+ Catholics and others seeking to support us, learn with and celebrate with us. We also welcome those discovering or questioning or transitioning. As the Pope says: “Who are we to judge?”
We also realise some LGBTIQA+ Catholics are finding their way back to the church after a time. You are welcome to journey with us, your LGBTI family, without conditions or expectations – we are happy to share our lives with you.