(New Ways Ministry is a USA-based ministry that educates and advocates for justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger church and civil communities since 1977. The following article was published on their website on October 17, 2019.)
Catholics in India are celebrating the launch of a new LGBTQ ministry that has the support of a top cardinal who happens to be a close advisor of Pope Francis.
Rainbow Catholics India (RCI) began as an effort to promote the “unconditional, visible inclusion of Rainbow Catholics,” according to its mission statement, The ministry aims to provide resources and host supportive gatherings, as well as plan for a national assembly. Matters India reported on the group’s origins as a local effort in Mumbai that has gone national:
‘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.
“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.”
A group to support LGBTQ Catholics and their families is needed not only in the church, but in society, according to RCI’s Jiby Joyce:
‘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.’
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.
It is significant not only that Indian Catholics have launched this group, but that they have done so with the blessing of one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors, Cardinal Gracias, who has been outspoken in his support for LGBTQ people. Last year, he supported a new hotline to help Catholics struggling with their faith over LGBTQ issues. During a 2015 interview with Bondings 2.0, Gracias has said to LGBTQ people that “the Church wants you, the Church needs you, the Church embraces you”. He was also one of the few religious leaders who publicly opposed anti-LGBT criminalization in India.
Elsewhere in India, Catholics with the humanitarian group Caritas India have begun transgender-specific outreach and other Catholics founded a school specifically for transgender youth. These efforts of the faithful alongside Rainbow Catholics India to build up LGBTQ social inclusion and solidarity will positively influence the church. But they will also have an outsized impact in India, which decriminalized homosexuality just last year, despite Catholics being just two percent of the population. May Rainbow Catholics India grow and flourish in its much-needed mission to create unconditional and visible inclusion!
To learn more about Rainbow Catholics India, you can visit their Facebook page here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 17, 2019