Sexual Diversity Pastoral – Santiago, Chile.
Before answering the questions from the organisers of the Ways of Love conference, we want to tell you a bit about our country and its pending tasks in the field of inclusion. We come from a land where discrimination to who is “different” is structural. We can see it and identify it in relation to indigenous peoples, migrants (especially afro-descendants), and those impoverished socially, culturally and economically.
In relation to sexual diversity, Chile has undergone a considerable opening in the last years. Part of this process is evidenced by the draft legislation on civil unions between homosexuals (and heterosexuals as well), awaiting approval by Congress, and a law on gender identity. Currently, Congress carries out its work amidst political and religious discussions, while there is still no explicit regulation on the matter and while transsexual people remain vulnerable in the social weave.
With a heavy heart, we acknowledge that in our country – in 2012 and 2013 – two young gay men were brutally beaten, which resulted in their passing. That, without considering the cases of our brothers and sisters brutally abused and discriminated because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity. Such cases do not even always make the news or seldom, the headlines.
In the ecclesial ambit, we can perceive the same homophobia characterising our society, despite the Chilean Episcopal Conference recently condemning, rather energetically, homophobia as expression of an attitude not coherent with the Gospel or the person of Jesus Christ. However, the bishops have opposed both pieces of draft legislation mentioned above.
The Sexual Diversity Pastoral (“PADIS”) saw the light in the Christian Life Community (CLC) of Santiago in late 2010. It was a response to the longing for accompaniment and reception in the faith that gays, lesbians and bisexuals of different ages and in different stages in their process had experienced. Some of them were members of CLC and found a space for their quest. From its inception, we have firmly believed this has been a true and coherent response to the action of the Spirit, as well as the Good News announced by Jesus Christ.
Initially, the group was formed by some 20 people, including two Jesuits (ecclesiastic advisors of the CLC) who were companions to the group. Back then, the initial proposal was meeting three times, evaluate the fruits and challenges of the meetings and discern together the possibility of continuing with the initiative in the following year. All of them confirmed the decision to continue, extend the call and add a sister of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the companions’ team.
Since then the group has grown. Women joined and -today – some 80 gay, lesbian and bisexual people from different spiritual traditions within the Catholic Church are part of it. It has achieved visibility, especially within the CLC and, today, is part of the larger CLC community of Santiago, Chile.
At the same time, the need arose for designing a similar space for fathers and mothers of gays, lesbians and bisexuals, which materialized in mid-2012. The motivating intuition was similar to that experienced initially by the GLB Group: fathers and mothers also need companionship, listen to each other and walk together in the process of recognition and acceptance of the sexual orientation of their sons and daughters.
As a result of this process and of the increasing visibility that we have been assuming within our families, the Church and Society, we discerned as PADIS to take part in a story published in a magazine of public circulation in our country. The reception was most positive, both within the Church and the Society. This allowed us making ourselves known to and open our doors to others, extend our circle and reach places we never dreamed of. The piece is also available in English.
Who we are? What do we do?
We are men and women of different ages and spiritual traditions form the Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals group, and we have opted for staying within the Church and/or reencounter her. We also opted to live our faith together with others and share our lives in a space of fraternity, community, prayer and discernment. We have witnessed the passing of God in our lives and of the Good News that others have been able to recognise in PADIS.
In practice, we are a welcome group, a space of support before the challenges of life and discrimination in particular. To share the faith in Jesus me meet fortnightly in a space of formation, common and personal prayer that allows us growing together in faith and sharing our experiences from various dimensions.
Since we are a group where various charismas and particularities meet, we have made available our knowledge and viewpoints so to enrich the formation process we have set out as journey. Our journey is made by means of formation cycles on spiritual, ecclesiological and social matters. We strengthen personal and shared reflection; spiritual, apostolic and community life and advocacy, for we sense these are the “places” where the God of Life speaks to us. Moved by the desire to serve, we want to go out and share with others the Good News of our baptism and of our belonging to the Church.
Driven by our consciousness of being God’s sons and daughters, we seek living our lives in faithfulness to the different calls God inspires in our consciences, attending the invitations reaching us by our varied realities and responding generously to the challenges we feel in our Church and in Society.
The Parents Group, formed by fathers and mothers of gays, lesbians and bisexuals, feels the need to share their experiences as parents, accompany their sons and daughters and be Good News for the Church and our society. It is also a space to grow in respecting and accepting unconditionally their sons and daughters, driven by the desire to contribute to society and the Church moving forward in respect and inclusion of sexual minorities.
The homosexuality of sons and daughters impacts the families, just as it also impacts the Church itself. Many times there is no knowledge as to how to accompany them, how to talk with them and also among parents. In some cases there is an experience of discrimination of their son or daughter in the Church and, as a consequence, distance is caused as they make their own the pain, frustrations and desires to grow and be happy of their son or daughter. We want to take in those experiences and open new ways for reconciliation, respect and acceptance.
In practice, the group meets once a fortnight in a space of formation and accompaniment of the experience that as fathers and mothers of homosexual sons and daughters we live. The encounters have allowed learning from others and updating our knowledge on homosexuality. This has facilitated a wider and healthier understanding of the reality that our sons and daughters live.
We are hopeful, despite the difficulties we also find in the way, for PADIS is a space within the “official Church”. This has allowed many of us to feel again members of the Catholic Church and to be empowered due to our condition of Sons and Daughters of God. Also, both groups have been able to start a fruitful dialogue with the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference, sharing the desire that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals are recognised and accepted by the pastors and by lay people in the Church. We are most grateful for the support we have received, from the outset, from the Chilean CLC.
What do we expect from the Conference? What was our motivation for participating?
When we heard of the conference, members and companions of PADIS felt immediately that we should participate, that a delegation from us should travel to Rome. We want to share with others our short albeit intense history as PADIS, the graces we have received and our particularity, cultural and social, as Latin Americans.
We want to share our experience as lay people in the Church, building, directing, discerning and driving a pastoral community within a lay movement, in collaboration with priests and women religious.
The desire to learn from and knowing of other experiences drives us. We are happy to be able to take part in the discussions, listen, see and, maybe, contribute to the reflection process on the message the Conference wants to deliver to the bishops meeting in Synod. We expect taking back to Chile inspiring conversations, bonds of solidarity, hope and faith that we wish will be also Good News for others: LGBTI people, their families, the Church and society.
Council Pastoral de la Diversidad Sexual – Santiago, Chile
 The piece is found in this link: La pastoral de la diversidad sexual. For its english version, here: The sexual diversity pastoral community.