The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver and Semiahmoo Peninsula’s Star of the Sea Parish have issued an apology to the White Rock Pride Society for “homophobic and transphobic approaches to dialogue” with the LGBTQ2+ community.
The statement, issued Tuesday, coincided with an agreement between the archdiocese, the parish and the society, resolving a complaint lodged by the society with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
The groups have committed to further consultation between them “to share their perspectives, and identify opportunities for further growth and collaboration.”
“It’s a lot more than I ever expected,” White Rock Pride president Ernie Klassen told Peace Arch News, noting the unequivocal nature of the apology.
“Everything went so right because everybody agreed to come to the table and talk – there are a lot of things that can happen when lines of communication are open.”
The original complaint, lodged in June, 2019, alleged discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, contrary to Section 8 of B.C.’s Human Rights Code.
Earlier that year, the parish had refused White Rock Pride’s application to rent the Star of the Sea Hall in White Rock, for the society’s annual Pride fundraising gala, “Love is Love”.
In the apology, the diocese and the parish recognized that “we have not always lived up to our own ideals in our interactions with the LGBTQ2+ community.
“We acknowledge that these actions have resulted in increased divisiveness between our faith community and the LGBTQ2+ community, as well as with the individuals, including friends and family members, who support them.
“We further recognize that members of the LGBTQ2+ community have too often experienced rejection and judgment, and that we must therefore take positive and affirmative steps to avoid perpetuating these harms through our attitudes and interactions.”
In a simultaneous statement from the society, Klassen noted it had been formed to build understanding, support and inclusiveness in the community for people who identify as LGBTQ2+, but also for other at-risk groups.
“This is a huge step forward in creating an inclusive and diverse society,” Klassen said.
“We are extremely appreciative of the Parish and Archdiocese’s willingness to listen, change and work constructively towards identifying further opportunities for support, inclusion and dialogue within the Catholic Church,” he added.
“In the true spirit of reconciliation, the two groups have reached an agreement far better than what a ruling from the Human Rights Tribunal could have achieved,” Klassen said.
“At the beginning of this I would not have believed that we would have reached this kind of resolution,” he told PAN.
“If we had ended up going the route of the Tribunal, there would have been a ruling that the church was wrong – but that would have been all.”
He said he attributes a lot of progress made in “righting wrongs of the past” to Pope Francis’ recent encouragement to priests and parishes to work with their local communities on resolving long-standing conflicts, including – but not limited to – those involving LGBTQ2+ people.
Such dialogue, he said, goes a long way to dispelling ‘us and them’ attitudes on all sides.
“When you’re talking, you get to know each other as people, not as stereotypes,” he said. “There’s still a long way to go, but I believe we’re at the beginning stages of making history.
“We’re very proud to be part of this story,” he said.
“We’re going to carry on building relationships.”