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ROME, October 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — An international coalition of lesbian, gay and transgender groups are striving “to take advantage” of the Youth Synod to pressure the Church to change her teaching and pastoral approach on homosexuality, it has emerged.

This international “LGBT” coalition has been lobbying the Church since the first family synod in 2014. It has expanded into what is now collectively known as Equal Future. Its stated aim is to convince bishops of the “damage done to young people as a direct result of the Catholic Church’s anti-LGBTQ teachings and practices.”

Equal Future unites radical US-based LGBT activist groups such as Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD with dissident Catholic groups such as New Ways Ministries and Dignity.

But arguably the greatest threat comes from a handful of influential Church officials who appear to be actively encouraging the normalization of homosexuality in the Church — or at the very least not teaching the fullness of the Church’s doctrine on the issue.

Support from the C-9 secretary?

LifeSite discovered this global “LGBT” coalition after news this week that Pope Francis’ secretary to the C-9 Council of Cardinals had delivered an address to one of its Italian affiliates near Rome.

Speaking at Italy’s 5th Forum of “LGBT” Christians on Oct. 6, Bishop Marcello Semeraro took up Pope Francis’ image in Amoris Laetitia, n. 299 of the Church as a welcoming mother who desires to integrate divorced and civilly married Catholics, and broadened it to include those in the “LGBT” movement. The bishop, however, failed to reassert the Church’s teaching regarding homosexuality, saying that he “wasn’t [there] to give lessons on … morality.”

Such silence runs contrary to a Letter to Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1986 under then-Cardinal Ratzinger, instructing them that “silence about [the Church’s teaching] in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral.”

The Oct. 6 event, held in Bishop Semararo’s diocese of Albano, featured a video message by Fr. James Martin, SJ, a consulter to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications since 2017.

In his talk, Semeraro, who in 2016 expressed support for same-sex civil unions, also reassured the group that synod organizers had incorporated their contributions into the synod’s working document [Instrumentum laboris], in paragraph 197:

LGBT youths, through various contributions that were received by the General Secretariat of the Synod, wish to “benefit from greater closeness” and experience greater care by the Church, while some [Bishops’ Conferences] ask themselves what to suggest “to young people who decide to create homosexual instead of heterosexual couples and, above all, would like to be close to the Church”.

Reading the passage aloud, the bishop of Albano invited the group to “trust in the Spirit” who “speaks in the Church especially when they all gather together in one place.”

Semeraro’s comments shed light on remarks made last week by Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat of Communications, who told journalists that the “LGBT” acronym’s inclusion in the synod’s working document was based on the contributions of some “episcopal conferences” and “individual groups.”

Ruffini’s remarks were a pivot from a previous claim by the synod’s general secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, that the “LGBT” acronym was quoted from a pre-synod document compiled by young people — a claim that proved untrue.

What “episcopal conferences” was Paolo Ruffini referring to in his remarks? Recently the Italian Catholic agency, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, reported on a “gay tsunami” that has hit Italy since the Youth Synod began. They cited Bishop Semeraro’s conference in Albano, an Oct. 13 conference in Bari on “Christian Faith and homobitransexuality” with greetings from the local ordinary, Bishop Francesco Cacucci, and other related events. Given the support such initiatives receive in the official newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, Avvenire, it is likely that the Italian episcopate is one of the “episcopal conferences” Ruffini refers to.

In his speech, Semararo also referred to an earlier talk he had given in May to their umbrella group, the European European Forum of “LGBT” Christians – a coalition actively working to normalize a homosexual lifestyle in the Church. Fr. Martin had also addressed that annual meeting, during a public conference called “Towards the Youth Synod.”

A growing coalition

What is the European Forum of “LGBT” Christians, and how did it expand to become part of Equal Future?

Founded by a gay activist Catholic priest in Paris, in 1982, the European Forum of “LGBT” Christians is “an ecumenical association of ‘LGBT’ Christian groups” in Eastern and Western Europe, including Italy. Its stated aim is “to achieve equality and inclusion for LGBT people within and through Christian churches, other religious bodies and multilateral organizations.”

As Bishop Semeraro was addressing the Albano meeting on Oct. 6, the European Forum of “LGBT” Christians was working to defeat a referendum in Romania to define “family” as a married man and woman. The European Forum said it was “appalling” that the Romanian Orthodox Church should support the referendum and urged the Orthodox Church to “withdraw its support for such a divisive, discriminatory proposal.” The Forum succeeded in its goal and the referendum was defeated, because not enough voters turned out to the polls.

The European Forum’s future activities include a Nov. 9-11 training session in Versailles, France, on how to dialogue with Roman Catholic bishops and clergy. In the Forum’s own words: “It is becoming ever more clear that one of the most effective ways to bring about change in the Church is by sharing our personal stories as LGBT people of faith. When we do this with clergymen in smaller circles, then in turn, with time, it will help influence the whole church hierarchy reaping longer lasting results.”

Lobbying a synod

What was the next step in the European Forum of “LGBT” Christians’ expansion? 

In 2014, at the extraordinary Synod on the Family, the European Forum of “LGBT” Christians partnered with other groups around the world to found the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) coalition. One of the chief aims of the GNRC is to work “for the inclusion, dignity and equality of this community in the Roman Catholic Church and society.”   

The GNRC assembled in Oct. 2015, in Rome, in the lead up to the Ordinary Synod on the Family.

At the conclusion of the 2015 synod, the GNRC said its final report marked the “beginning of a new era of inclusive pastoral care for and with LGBT people.”

However, they expressed “regret” at the report’s assertion that a child’s best interests “requires parenting by opposite sex couples.” And they “strongly rejected” what they called the report’s “baseless accusation that financial aid to poor countries is conditional on the introduction of laws that institute marriage between same-sex people (n. 76).”

Summing up their remarks on the 2015 synod, the GNRC said: “The door for a more sensitive attentiveness to LGBT issues in the Church has been opened through the Synodal processes of 2014-2015 and, despite opposition, cannot now be closed.”

Enter ‘Equal Future’

Perceiving an open door, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics in 2018 partnered with influential “LGBT” and dissident groups around the world — including Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and New Ways Ministry — to launch the ‘Equal Future’ campaign. 

Equal Future stated aim is to strive “to take advantage of” the Vatican Youth Synod’s request for “feedback from people of all faiths (and none)” to “help” the heirarchy “consider the damage done as a consequence of the Church’s teaching on LGBT, and to reconsider the teaching itself.”

The ‘About Us’ section on the Equal Future website features two young girls in an affectionate embrace, and just below, an aerial view of the Vatican.

Equal Future provides an online platform that allows people to identify the bishop who is representing their country or region at the Synod and invites them to send an account of their personal story. It also encourages people to “pledge never to give a child or young person the feeling that being LGBT would be a misfortune or a disappointment.” And it uses poll data gathered for itself to convince people in the Church’s hierarchy that the majority of practicing Catholics in the world’s 8 largest Catholic countries want the Church to “change its damaging approach to LGBT young people.” 

Tiernan Brady, the Campaign Director of Equal Future, recently called the Youth Synod a “once-in-a-generation moment” and the “closest thing the church gets to a democratic process.”

A varied response

At a Vatican press briefing on Thursday, LifeSite asked Archbishop Bruno Forte — who is likely to be the principal drafter of the synod’s final document, and who infamously smuggled into the 2014 interim report a highly controversial passage on homosexuality — about the influence the LGBT coalition is having on the Synod, and what his hopes are for the final document.

Archbishop Forte responded by saying “the point of departure is that the dignity of every human person regardless of their sexual orientation should always be respected. This is a fundamental point of the biblical message and of the Gospel message in particular.” He added: “Therefore, every human person, whether homosexual or not, should feel respected by Mother-Church.”

Forte continued: “Clearly, in the plan of God as we recognize it, even in the structure of human sexuality there is a male-female reciprocity that we regard as a fundamental value. And it is necessary not only for the sake of procreation but also for the full realization of the human person.”

“Attention towards people who are homosexual does not mean that the Church can simply equate the homosexual experience to a male-female sexuality lived in marriage and fruitfulness,” he said. “They are two different realities and they ought to be considered with a different attention and different pastoral approaches.”

“What counts is that the homosexual person knows that in the Church he will find listening and also a desire to understand the challenges that he carries but also to announce the Gospel as we do for any human being.”

Addressing the issue of “inclusion” at a synod press briefing today, U.S. Bishop Robert Barron reaffirmed past statements that a baptized Catholic with same-sex attraction is “a beloved child of God who has been embraced by the mercy of Jesus Christ and has been invited to a share in the divine life.”

But he immediately added that “the Church also calls people to conversion.” 

“Jesus calls, but he always moves people to the fullness of life. And so the Church also has a set of moral demands for everybody, and she calls them to conversion,” the auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries said.

“My hesitation is that ‘inclusion’ is more of a secular term,” he added. “I use the word ‘love.’ The Church reaches out in love, and love is ‘willing the good of the other,’ and sometimes that means calling people to a change of life.”

“I think that’s where the Church’s attitude is situated, in including both of these moments: of course, of outreach and love, but acceptance and inclusion doesn’t mean that we don’t call to conversion.”

The debate over this issue is likely to take center stage next week when paragraph 197 of the Instrumentum laboris is discussed on the floor of the Synod.