"Nobody is kicked out of the house, much less for being homosexual"
Carlos Navarro Fernández
August 21, 2020
When we began our virtual meeting with Monsignor Rogelio Cabrera López, Archbishop of Monterrey, Nuevo León (one of Mexico's northernmost states, bordering Texas), our expectation was to be forced to "illustrate" him, to show him how little he knew about the LGBTIQ+ Catholic community. Our greatest responsibility, we thought, would be to remove the blindfold, to make him see!
There was no need to carry out such an effort or fulfill such a high endeavor. On August 12, 2020, Mons. Rogelio gave us a fraternal welcome and also made us see that he not only knows our community, but also highly appreciates it. He made it clear that he is willing to establish communication with us.
From top left, clockwise: Carlos Navarro, REDCAM co-coordinator; Antonio Ortiz, REDCAM co-coordinator; Monsignor Cabrera, Archbishop of Monterrey; Fr. Hernán Quintero, advisor to the Betania Community, in Villahermosa, Tabasco; Fr. Edgar Alvarado, from the Archdiocese of Monterrey.
The thing is he spoke to us about being aware that "this reality is a challenge." Do we know this to be a fact! That is why, he explained, "he has always wanted priests to serve the LGBTIQ+ community with charity and respect", just as the Catechism of the Catholic Church requires. In broader terms, he expressed how difficult it is for many to assimilate this cultural change and this openness. "It is neither easy for the civil institutions nor for the ecclesiastical institution," he told us.
"I understand that after rejection, after injury, many decide to make their way apart," Mons. Rogelio told us, referring to the LGBTIQ+ community. With his attitude and through his words, we perceived a level of empathy very rarely shown by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Mexico. We were almost ready to grant him "honoris causa" membership to our beloved Mexico Network of Rainbow Catholics (REDCAM). He added: "Many live their Catholic faith in silence, few do so openly. We are on their side and we do not enter into the debate for the conversion of people." How comforting to hear him speak like this: "We want someone to be there to talk to with the respect that each one deserves. Find a way to say everything that happens in life." Just what we at the REDCAM want to offer, not only to the Archdiocese of Monterrey but to the Church throughout Mexico. We believe that there must be positive, respectful, and truly spiritual options to replace the harmful "conversion therapies" that we have heard so much about recently.
So that not everything would remain as nice theoretical and philosophical concepts, he told us that he has appointed three priests from the Archdiocese of Monterrey to "serve diverse groups." What we call a work of Pastoral for Diversity. Fr. Edgar Alvarado confirmed that this would now be one of his responsibilities. Edgar was very happy to know that he will have "experienced partners" who will help him understand - and to serve - the LGBTIQ+ Catholics in his archdiocese now "as God intended." That was a very special moment, very significant for us who have spent years working hard for this type of efforts to start, expand and become stronger.
"Nobody is kicked out of the house, much less for being homosexual." With these forceful words, Mons. Cabrera explained to us, for example, the decision he made six years ago to designate a specific chapel in which to extend the baptism to the children of homosexual couples. It is our opinion that it is an appropriate decision for the times, although definitely not the ideal one just yet. It seems to be a good option that the institution can use to welcome LGBTIQ+ people as true Catholic faithful, particularly including their children, who should also be able to become Catholic.
Our time to speak had come. The archbishop listened carefully to our presentation and voiced his gratitude and congratulations for what the REDCAM does throughout Mexico. They are achievements that belong to all of our constituent groups, to their creativity, their courage and their many spiritual fruits. When we told him about them, we perceived Mons. Rogelio's joy in learning that there are already lay people committed to this mission and - very important! - an organization, a structure, a method to implement these new pastoral efforts. In response to our presentation, he affirmed: "We have to go about this change institutionally. That is the task that priests have, above all, to help in achieving this goal. That there are no forgotten margins in the Church and in society."
Fr. Hernán Quintero spoke of the work he is carrying out in Villahermosa and his desire to offer true pastoral care to LGBTIQ+ Catholics in Mexico's southeast. He described young people who do not want to give up their Catholic evangelization but who often do not find the "official" channels to conduct it, to contribute and to grow as they truly are. Mons. Rogelio told us about his time in the Diocese of Tapachula (Chiapas, on the Guatemalan border) and about the diverse cultural ways of the Mexican southeast. He agreed that there, too, it is necessary not to lose for the Church those many young LGBTIQ+ Catholics.
We certainly agree with Mons. Rogelio that there is much work to be done and that the institutional Church changes ever so slowly. He compared the joint work that we have pending to the construction of a large building: "It is a difficult terrain, but you have to move on. Like those who started the Gothic cathedrals; never sit back, never say it's not possible."
These are points with which the REDCAM agrees. We have experienced it firsthand and - as individuals and as groups - we know very well what we are talking about. When telling him about our preference for Saint Francis or Saint Theresa - who fought to change the Church rather than abandon it – Mons. Cabrera was very empathetic with our reasoning: "You have to start with the foundations at this time. Know how to be patient. The patience of the martyrs and the saints. We must not complain but move on. Patients do not fold their arms, they do not stop walking."
However, as a good shepherd, he did not cease to encourage our hope about today's world, so agile and so well communicated, where certain changes are already taking shape more quickly: "There are accelerators that we must favor: Pope Francis has set us at a different speed." We must learn to take advantage of these favorable current circumstances to achieve concrete and effective benefits for LGBTIQ+ Catholics. It is our turn to change the world and even through small steps, we will be persistent and we will keep the Holy Spirit on our side.
Mons. Rogelio thanked the REDCAM for the initiative to contact him to start the dialogue; it took him just a few hours to accept our invitation and open the doors to his archdiocese. He promised to meet us periodically and, eventually, to think about tools that can be adopted by the Mexican Conference of Catholic Bishops (CEM), which he is now presiding, to bring the institutional Church closer to LGBTIQ+ Catholics. In the spirit of an ongoing communication, cooperation and change, we said goodbye certain that very positive signs will arrive in the near future.
At the end of the meeting, Hernán asked Mons. Rogelio for his blessing, which he happily gave us. We are full of hope and grateful to God for allowing this meeting to take place in which a lot of generosity - and a lot of openness - was shown by all the participants. A robust bridge of dialogue, understanding and Christian charity was crossed in both directions. May it happen again!
PS: My thanks to Antonio Ortiz for his copious and detailed notes, which were very helpful in writing this chronicle.