Mumbai, September 19, 2019: Recently India’s Rainbow community celebrated the first anniversary of the reading down of Section 377 of the Indian Constitution, decriminalizing same sex partnerships.
Rainbow Catholics and their allies in Mumbai were also gladdened when last October, Wendell Rodricks and Ruby Almeida of Quest UK, met with Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, to seek his blessings for a start of an outreach program to Catholic LGBT+ persons.
While the teaching of the Catholic Church is rooted in Scripture which states that “God created man and woman in His image and likeness” (Genesis 1:27), and leaves no room for recognition of the spectrum of LGBT+ persons, Pope Francis who is a very pastoral Pope with his ear to the ground, has tried to open the minds of Catholics to recognize the existence of LGBT+ persons and to reach out to them with compassion.
His famous response to a journalist’s question on the subject, “Who am I to judge?” has opened a chink in the closed-door attitude towards the existence of LGBT+ persons.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who is a member of Pope Francis’ advisory committee, does resonate with the Pope’s openness and it was reflected in the openness he showed to Wendell Rodricks and Ruby Almeida when he met them almost a year ago in Mumbai about outreach to this community in the Church in India.
However, the Catholic Church is clear that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. As it claims that the aim of marriage is procreation and can only take place with the union of a biological man and woman.
This strict teaching and closed-door approach of the Church, contrasts with the lived experience of gay and lesbian Catholics, and has led to a lot of confusion for parents and even LGBT+ persons themselves about their status in the Catholic Church.
Our Secretary, Jiby Joyce points out, “Though same-sex relationship and marriage has been legalized in many parts of the world and LGBT+ rights have become part of the mainstream public discourse in ways that would have been unimaginable even a decade ago, yet discrimination against sexual minorities in India continues to be very strong. The force of judgements gets even harsher when religious groups and organizations project their homophobic attitudes towards Rainbow faith followers, rendering them vulnerable to attacks and at risk to mental stress and suicidal tendencies.”
As a result, many Rainbow Catholics feel that we are not allowed to participate as fully as we can in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church. Homophobia continues to influence many Catholic communities who fail to welcome and embrace LGBT+ Catholics as fully as they should.
Rainbow Catholics Mumbai (RCM), was formed following the meeting of Cardinal Gracias with Wendell Rodricks and Ruby Almeida.
“We set up this group to reach out to our alienated LGBT+ Catholic communities. As we approach our first anniversary we look forward to working with our Rainbow and Catholic allies to build bridges and platforms where the pastoral needs and voices of our faithful LGBT+ Catholics are heard. Our greatest desire is that our Church becomes a welcome and inclusive space for all of God’s children,” affirms Ruby Almeida. We had a series of meetings and made connections with Rainbow groups in Bangalore and Kerala.
Though the group initially started in Mumbai, we have decided to call ourselves Rainbow Catholics India, with chapters in various regions of India. A Steering Group has been formed.
We have drawn up a broad and bold vision statement: “A Church with Unconditional, visible inclusion of Rainbow Catholics”. Among the objectives is a determination to create awareness about LGBTQ+ Catholics by creating resources, gathering experiences, and having programs in the future. We seek to increase our outreach to all Rainbow Catholics in India to create safe spaces for us to express ourselves and seek support.
Rainbow Catholics India is still at a very nascent stage being the first organization of its kind that aims to create a safe environment for Rainbow Catholics in the Archdiocese of Bombay and the country to eradicate discrimination against our community.
We have created international affiliations with Quest UK, and the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC). A member of RCI Steering group has represented us at the GNRC 3rd Global Assembly in Chicago in July 2019 and another will represent us at the next Assembly of the International Catholic Reform Network (ICRN) to be held in Poland.
Our group has chalked out an ambitious plan comprising an Annual Conference, gathering resources both literary and theological to help create awareness and create safe spaces for Rainbow Catholics.
Our group is also cognizant of the fact that families of Rainbow Catholics play a significant role in bringing about their acceptance in the community. Hence, there is an important discussion underway to design strategies on how to work with parents and family members of Rainbow Catholics.
Our official Facebook page: @lgbtqcatholicspace, leverages the power of Social Media and utilizes this platform to spread awareness on Catholic LGBTQ+ issues through posts, online banners, votes and other social media campaigns. In the long run, RCI aims at having direct dialogue with the Catholic Church to encourage them to welcome LGBT+ persons. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
To sustain these efforts, RCI is committed to learn and share from other inclusive Christian groups, organizations and NGOs that are devoted to the promotion of Rainbow faith followers. We also hope to shed more light on Catholic thinking and belief through tapping into scientific research and findings on LGBT+ persons, so that the Catholic Church will grow towards our vision of inclusion irrespective of gender identity and expressions.