Posts Tagged As: Roman Catholic Church
August 4th, 2016
Sr. Jeannine Gramick co-founded New Ways Ministry in 1977 with Fr. Robert Nugent. New Ways is “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities.” Both Gramick and Nugent ran into opposition from the Vatican during the church’s rightward turn during the 1980s and 1990s, and in 1999, both were “permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.”
Fr. Nugent returned to parish-based ministry and retired in 2014. He passed away a year later. But Sr. Gramick refused to “collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right (so speak).” She switched orders to the Sisters of Loretto, where she continues her social justice and LGBT outreach work. Last June, she attended a meeting of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP), which was formed five years ago by a group of priests who came of age during and immediately following Vatican II. She went to find out what ever happened to the “priests of Vatican II”:
At the end of June, I found out where many of them had been when I bumped into dozens and dozens of them in Chicago. Most of them were retired now or, as one said to me, “Not retired, just recycled.” They were still concerned about spreading the Gospel and fostering justice issues. …I felt right at home with these priests whose organization was founded to keep the vision of Vatican II alive. As Paul Leingang, the AUSCP communications director, put it, “We make Vatican II not a matter of nostalgia, but a matter of urgency.”
…As if to show that the AUSCP recognizes the value of dissent, the group presented an award to Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a church resister who has publicly supported same-sex marriage.
…The significance of community rang clear in a presentation by St. Joseph Sr. Carol Zinn, past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who spoke on Pope Francis’ second encyclical, “Laudato Si‘, On Care For Our Common Home.”
Zinn explained that our care for humankind, the earth, and all of creation centers around connection, not separation. Our care for our common home is based on community, not individualism. Whether the critique is about exploitation of our environment or various species; the abuse of people made poor by physical, sexual, or economic violence; global warming or consumerism; insufficient or unsafe water; hostility toward ethnic, religious, or sexual minorities; or the numerous other sins that cry out for justice — we need to grasp the fact that the cause of all these evils is the lack of genuine relationships. Laudato Si‘ calls us to get the message that the universe is connected; it is not isolated bits of matter. Only when we see our relatedness will we be motivated to care about all the beings in our common home.
Pope Francis has become something of a Rorschach test. People on the left see the things they want to see in him, as do people on the right, even as they also pine for the days of his two immediate predecessors when things seemed more clear cut. Just this week, liberals were pleased but cautious when Pope Francis created a new commission to study the possibilities of ordaining women as deacons, while conservatives celebrated his anti-transgender comments to bishops in Poland.
Meanwhile, and getting back to the story, it’s a great irony that, at least here in the U.S., the stereotypes of the past have been completely turned on their head. How many movies and sitcoms can you recall in which the older, authoritarian monsignor found himself in the exasperating position of having to deal with the hip, smart, younger priest who was fresh out of seminary and hell-bent on changing the world? That trope no longer holds in today’s church, as Sr. Gramick’s post illustrates. Today, it’s the older priests — those nearing retirement and those working past retirement — who are far more likely to embrace the kind of openness exemplified by the Second Vatican Council. They were those hip young priests in those story lines. (Sadly, and back to the real world, they were mostly sidelined when it came to promotions to diocesan offices and the hierarchy.) That’s not true for today’s crop who have joined the priesthood under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Today’s doctrinaire and authoritarian priests are far more likely to sport hipster beards than wire-rim spectacles.
July 6th, 2016
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has a reputation for being one of the more hardline Catholic prelates in North America. He officiated the opening mass for the annual conference of Courage, the Catholic ex-gay ministry, in 2014. He has also co-sponsored the National Organization for Marriage’s futile and poorly-attended “March for Marriage” rallies Washington, which drew dozens to the nation’s capital to protest against marriage equality. So this latest directive from the Philly Archdiocese shouldn’t surprise anyone:
Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, as well as cohabitating unmarried couples, must “refrain from sexual intimacy” to receive Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has asserted in a new set of pastoral guidelines.
Released Friday, the guidelines instruct clergy and other archdiocesan leaders on implementing Amoris Laetitia, a major document on family that Pope Francis issued in April.
His six-page instruction, which appears on the archdiocesan website, may be the first of its kind issued by the bishop of any American diocese in response to Amoris Laetitia, Latin for “the joy of love.”
Acknowledging that it is a “hard teaching,” Chaput goes on to say that Catholics in same-sex partnerships, those remarried without a church annulment, and cohabitating persons may not serve on parish councils, instruct the faithful, serve as lectors, or dispense Communion.
Allowing persons in such “irregular” relationships, “no matter how sincere,” to hold positions of responsibility would “offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community,” according to Chaput.
Amoris Laetitia is the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation that was the product of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. The Synod opened on a very positive note, with Pope Francis calling on the gathered bishops to provide a welcoming space for gay people in the church. The draft report placed before the bishops proposed: “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?” That stunning proposition was met with fierce pushback from conservative clerics, resulting in a final report that obliterated any recognition of those “gifts and qualities.” Instead, the final version in Amoris Laetitia simply said (PDF: 1.2M/264 pages):
250. The Church makes her own the attitude of the Lord Jesus, who offers his boundless love to each person without exception. During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children. We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives.
251. In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for mar- riage and family”. It is unacceptable “that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex”.
July 5th, 2016
The Washington Blade picked up a report that has played out all over Spanish-language media but hasn’t made much of an appearance in the English language news outlets:
The Vatican announced on Monday that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archbishop of Santo Domingo.
The Holy See said in a statement that the pontiff has named Monsignor Francisco Ozoria Acosta of the Diocese of San Pedro de Macorís as López’s successor.
LGBT media and blogs are, rightly, very interested in this development. López Rodríguez’s extreme homophobia is pretty notable in the Catholic Church, which is really saying something. When President Barack Obama named Wally Brewster, an openly gay and married man, Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, López Rodríguez called him a maricón (faggot) and pajaro (bird, another Spanish perjorative for a gay man) in an interview. After Ambassador Brewster criticized corruption in the Dominican Republic, López Rodríguez said, “That man needs to go back to his embassy. Let him focus on housework, since he’s the wife to a man.”
So when we see a report about a Catholic Cardinal — whose powerful position influences the future direction of the Church, in part, by deciding who the next pope would be — it’s tempting to try to examine Pope Francis’s accepting López Rodríguez’s resignation for signs of a push-back against the Church’s more anti-gay elements. The Blade article makes no attempt to draw any such inferences, but a number of high-profile bloggers have, naturally, juxtaposed this development against Pope France’s comments last week acknowledging that the church “must apologize” against gay people.
Now maybe Pope Francis did choose to accept López Rodríguez’s resignation because he saw in it an opportunity to push out one of the church’s worst homophobes. And maybe Pope Francis did it for other reasons that had little to do with López Rodríguez’s open anti-gay bigotry.
But the way I see it, there are far more reasons to interpret this as simply ordinary housekeeping and not one scintilla more. The official Holy See statement announcing López Rodríguez’s resignation says it was tendered “in accordance with canons 411 and 401 § 1 of the Code of Canon law.”
Canons 411 and 401 deal with the mandatory retirement age of 75 for all bishops in the Church. Upon turning 75, bishops are required to tender their resignations to the Vatican. The Vatican, however, is under no obligation to accept those resignations, and if it does decide to accept a resignation, there’s no requirement that says it has to do so in any kind of a timely manner.
In fact, it’s not at all unusual for there to be a delay of several years between a bishop’s resignation and the appointment of his successor. According to Canon Law, the bishop’s office ends immediately upon the Pope’s accepting the resignation, and so it is standard practice to hold off doing so until a successor can be named. That successor then is the acting bishop until his formal consecration.
López Rodríguez was born in 1936, which means he turned in his resignation four years ago in 2011 (He was born October 31). If he had turned 75 yesterday and the Pope accepted his resignation today, then you could definitely read something into it. But this resignation and naming of a successor has been years in the making, which makes it all perfectly routine and normal. The other thing that’s normal: when López Rodríguez turns eighty in October, he will still be a Cardinal, but he won’t be able to participate in any future conclave after that to select the next pope.
July 1st, 2016
We haven’t had a living ex-pope who became ex-pope of his own volition in more than 700 years, and we haven’t had an ex-pope’s post-poping memoirs in, like a kajillion. But we’ll have that soon. The Pope Formerly Known As Benedict XVI is due to publish his memoir, The Last Conversation, on September 9. The Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera has the Italian newspaper rights for the book’s excerpts, and today ran a long article which, according to Reuters, discusses Benedict’s exploits against a “gay lobby” in the Vatican:
In the book, Benedict says that he came to know of the presence of a “gay lobby” made up of four or five people who were seeking to influence Vatican decisions. The article says Benedict says he managed to “break up this power group”.
…The Church has maintained its centuries-long opposition to homosexual acts.
But rights campaigners have long said many gay people work for the Vatican and Church sources have said they suspect that some have banded together to support each other’s careers and influence decisions in the bureaucracy.
Benedict, who now has the title “emeritus pope,” has always maintained that he made his choice to leave freely and Corriere says that in the book Benedict “again denies blackmail or pressure”.
His Prada shoes declined to comment for this story.
June 27th, 2016
The Roman Catholic Church is often misunderstood as some kind of an absolute monarchy with the Pope undisputedly on top and all of the bishops lined up and acting on the Pope’s orders. If only that were true when we have news like this:
Francis was asked Sunday en route home from Armenia if he agreed with one of his top advisers, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who told a conference in Dublin in the days after the deadly Orlando gay club attack that the church owes an apology to gays for having marginalized them.
…He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being “a bit offensive for others.” But he said: “Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?”
“We must accompany them,” Francis said.
“I think the church must not only apologize … to a gay person it offended, but we must apologize to the poor, to women who have been exploited, to children forced into labor, apologize for having blessed so many weapons” and for having failed to accompany families who faced divorces or experienced other problems.
It’s undeniable that no other Pope has spoken like this in the history of the Church. Just two years ago, comments like this coming from Francis were such a startling break from the past that they seemed to portend some rather huge changes in how the Church approaches LGBT Catholics. I, too, got caught up in that excitement, only to see the conservative old guard come roaring back. So now, I think the more correct perspective is this: when the Church moves, it does so at a snail’s pace, often while leaving a trail of slime behind it.
So while Francis can’t snap his fingers and expect his bishops to fall into line, it does appear that we are starting to see that a tiny number of those bishops are starting to get the message. In addition to Cardinal Marx, we have Bishop Robert Lynch of the St. Petersburg diocese, who wrote in the wake of the Orlando attacks that “sadly it is religion, including our own, that targets, mostly verbally, and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.”
Hardliners are still firmly in charge where they think it matters, in the Church’s governing structures. But hardliners also prevail where they really do matter: in Catholic media and among individual priests and deacons in the local parishes. For those who are looking for reasons to despair, you need look no further than at some of these parishes, particularly those being run by younger priests who were attracted to the seminary under Pope John Paul’s more absolutist papacy. In one of the great ironies of our age, it’s the older priests who came of age in the 1960s and are now reaching retirement age who are far more likely to be amenable to Francis’s message.
But as James Joyce observed when he defined Catholicism in Finnegan’s Wake (“Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody'”), those hardliners are increasingly being seen as out of step among ordinary Catholics in the pews. And that’s where, more often than not, those hardliners make their first real contact reality. And this is where that famous Catholic accomodation takes place. You’ve seen it before, in the way that Catholics in the pews responded to the Church’s teaching on birth control. It’s also the way 58% of them are now responding to the Church’s teaching on civil marriage for same-sex couples: we’ll let you pretend to be our leaders, and maybe we’ll pretend we’re paying attention.
That accommodation worked pretty well with birth control because hardliners couldn’t actually gain entrance into their parishioners’ bedrooms. But it won’t get far with LGBT people because those in charge can — and do — deny marriage rites, baptisms, school enrollment, health insurance, adoption services, and even a spot in the church choir. Far worse still, many of them openly endorse ex-gay programs for LGBT youth. So while I’m always thrilled to see Pope Francis saying these kinds of thing, I’m not going to get too excited and say it is unprecedented or far-reaching or groundbreaking. Nor will I use any other adjective to suggest that change is just around the corner. It was exciting to hear it in 2013. Let’s just say the novelty has worn off since then.
June 13th, 2016
Bishop Robert Lynch of the St. Petersburg diocese penned a surprising op-ed for the Washington Post:
…sadly it is religion, including our own, that targets, mostly verbally, and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.
Those women and men who were mowed down Sunday were all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that.
Even before I knew who perpetrated the mass murders at Pulse, I knew that somewhere in the story there would be a search for religion as motivation. While deranged people do senseless things, all of us observe and judge and act from some kind of religious background. Singling out people for victimization because of their religion, their sexual orientation, their nationality must be offensive to God’s ears. It has to stop, too.
Bishop Lynch has reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 this year.
October 13th, 2015
Despite a poorly conceived meet-up with Kim Davis, Pope Francis has tried to repackage the Catholic Church as welcoming to gays and others who have felt excluded and rejected by the Church. He has endeavored to walk the organization back from the image of arrogance and intolerance that it held under Pope Benedict the Malevolent.
But while the Holy Father is the head and spiritual leader of the Church, he is not dictator. He does not have limitless power to purge voices of dissent and there is substantial infrastructure which has not accepted and does not support a more inclusive or gentler Church. They believe that the Church is God’s sledgehammer to be wielded against political, civic, or religious institutions which reject the teaching of the church.
One such advocate for moral absolutism and conformity is Newark Archbishop John Myers who seeks to limit fellowship in the faith to those who adhere to confirm the teachings of the church. (WaPo)
Even as Pope Francis and Catholic leaders from around the world debate ways to make the Catholic Church more inclusive, Newark Archbishop John Myers has given his priests strict guidelines on refusing Communion to Catholics who, for example, support gay marriage or whose own marriage is not valid in the eyes of the church.
In the two-page memo, Myers also orders parishes and Catholic institutions not to host people or organizations that disagree with church teachings.
He says Catholics, “especially ministers and others who represent the Church, should not participate in or be present at religious events or events intended to endorse or support those who reject or ignore Church teaching and Canon Law.”
I will say this for Myers, he isn’t simply going with the winds of change in public opinion. In fact, it would be difficult to come up with a less popular position.
First, this doubles down on about one quarter of Catholics who have been divorced and the nine percent who remarried. While the church’s teaching has always been a bit touchy in this area, there has been a growing desire withing the Church to emphasize pastoral care over dogma and finding that balance is a large part of the current synod.
Standing in the door of the church with a list of the disallowed – even while the Pope is seeking greater inclusion – not only undermines the efforts of Francis, but serves to disillusion those who have divorced, along with their friends and family.
But more significant than the quarter of Catholics who have divorced and remarried is the denial of communion to Catholics who support gay marriage. In February 2012, prior to New Jersey achieving marriage equality, 52% of Catholics indicated support for same-sex marriage. By June 2013 57% indicated that they would vote for same-sex marriage if it were on the ballot.
In a September national poll of Catholics, 46% said that not only should same sex marriage be legal, it should be recognized by the Catholic Church. It is fair to assume that the numbers in socially liberal New Jersey are at least that large.
And finally, there are those who “reject or ignore Church teaching and Canon Law” on birth control. The poll found that 76% of Catholics believe the church should allow birth control.
Between those three issues alone, even assuming large overlap, any strict enforcement would drive away the vast majority of Americans who identify as Catholic. Add in those who have lived with a partner outside marriage (44%) and you can really cut down on the cost of communion wafers.
This is stupid. Truly stupid. And it’s unlikely to hold much sway.
Myers is set to offer his retirement when he turns 75 next July and the Pope isn’t going to beg him to stay on. Archbishop Bernard Hebda has already been appointed as his replacement and Hebda has a reputation for listening.
But in the meantime, please know that if you are a New Jersey Catholic and you read at BTB, you are almost certainly unwelcome to the Lord’s Table.
May 17th, 2015
As the battle for marriage equality in the US has progressed, it appears to me that increasingly the most significant opponent to equality has become the Catholic Church. Certainly other faith groups are in opposition and conservative politicians remain aggressive and hostile, but from an organizational perspective or visible force, groups like the Southern Baptist Church or the Assemblies of God have stepped away from the limelight on this issue, preferring to espouse their views in the pulpit rather than the newspaper.
With Catholic bishops headlining anti-equality rallies and with dioceses publicly firing teachers, it seems to me that an evolution of perception may be occurring.
At the beginning of the battle, it was often perceived that this was a matter of people of faith verses homosexuals and their secular advocates. However, after several mainline churches stepped up their advocacy, that picture changed.
The next image – driven largely by the Bush Campaign of 2004 – was that this was a fight between Republicans and Democrats. And, to an extent, this still remains true. But within the Republican Party there has been a great softening on the issue.
And as the battle has become an international struggle, US politics cannot define the combatants. Not even the right v. left accurately depicts the lines, with Conservatives in the UK and elsewhere siding with equality.
More and more the vocal opposition has narrowed until it appears that the single global voice consistently falling on the side of exclusion and rejection is the Catholic Church or, more accurately, the Catholic hierarchy and their conservative Catholic supporters (lay Catholics in the US and in “Catholic countries” are often largely supportive of equality).
I think that it is clear that there is a strong movement towards increasing acceptance of gay people – and their family units – within the community of faith both in the US and globally. But too often this is loudly and publicly rejected by Catholic leaders who see it as contrary to teachings of the Church.
For example, this week a Catholic PFLAG mom had organized a multi-denominational conference about welcoming gay people into the body of faith. But at the last minute, the Bishop of Charlotte, SC, refused to allow the meeting within Catholic space.
Myers Park Baptist church stepped in offering a last minute change of venue.
“We are a part of a network of other Baptist churches who have covenanted together to welcome and affirm all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. When the news broke about the bishop, members of our LGBT community reached out. If there’s any church in Charlotte that should be hosting this, it’s us,” said Chrissy Williamson with Myers Park Baptist Church.
The take-away is that irrespective of local parish support, the Catholic Church’s power structure remains hostile and rejecting.
But I wonder whether the Catholic Church’s increasingly leading role has not allowed for more acceptance in non-Catholic circles. As opposition to gay marriage becomes more and more a “Catholic thing”, perhaps this will free some Protestants to be more supportive than they might otherwise be.
As noted above, massive street protests in France were largely identified as Catholic. Joining them were prominent US Catholic anti-equality voices such as Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage. The struggle there was largely Conservative Catholics v. Everyone Else.
I wonder whether this, in some measure, played into the decision today of France’s main Protestant church to allow blessing of same-sex unions. (France24.com)
The United Protestant Church of France, which counts around 250,000 members across the country, adopted the reform during a national synod held in the Mediterranean city of SÃ¨te meant to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Ninety-four representatives of the protestant group voted in favour of the measure, with only three voting against it, a church spokesman told the press on Sunday.
It may well be that by ratcheting up the argument that one must vote against equality because “this is our doctrine”, the Catholic Church may have caused others to recognize “but it may not be mine”.
I don’t think by any means that this means that the Southern Baptists or other conservative denominations in the US are going to change policy on gay unions any time soon.
But I do know that for many Protestants, “what the Catholics do” is reason enough to bring into question ideological or theological positions. And hardcore positions on contraception and divorce have been weakened rather than strengthened in Protestant circles by being so closely tied to Catholic dogma. Perhaps the obstinance of some like Bishop Cordileone may prove to be in our favor.
April 16th, 2015
Salvatore Cordileone is a bit of a superstar in the anti-gay community. He is considered to be the father of California’s Proposition 8, the man who shepherded its drafting, organized the funding for signature gathering, and championed it within the Catholic Church. He is also a on the board of the ex-gay Catholic group, Courage, and chairman of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference’s Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage.
Cordileone’s anti-gay activism served him well under former Pope Benedict the Malevolent. He quickly rose from auxiliary bishop of San Diego (2002) to Bishop of Oakland (2009) and then, in a deliberate slap to gay Catholics, to Archbishop of San Francisco (2012).
In his new exalted position, Cordileone has been quick to display his contempt to those who are more welcoming in their theological approach. Among his first acts was to snub the gay-friendly Episcopal bishop of Northern California at his installation. He quickly followed by demanding that teachers at the area’s Catholic schools be held to the strictest “morality” clauses, recruited a priest who then banned girls from serving at the altar, and spent more than a little time advocating for his anti-equality obsession.
But this has not sat well with some San Francisco’s Catholic community. They don’t like the Archbishop’s heavy-handed ideology and don’t find it to be an approach that appeals to local Catholics or which promises appeal among the younger faithful. The students and parents of some Catholic schools have held protests against the Archbishop and his policies were mocked at a local Irish Catholic event where he gave benediction.
And the Church’s image has suffered. Under Cordileone’s guidance, they have consistently taken steps that put the diocese in unfavorable light. The archdiocese was embarrassed when Cordileone was arrested for drunk driving and the constant friction between the leadership and the lay people tarnished the institution’s image. The latest shame was the media disclosure of the Church’s installation of pipes that would spray water on any homeless people who sought shelter from the night in the cathedral’s doorways.
Now some prominent observant Catholics in the City by the Bay have had enough. They are asking Pope Francis to replace Cordileone with someone more suited to San Francisco’s culture and values.
They first sought to appeal to the structure of the church. But the internal workings of the Church can be excruciatingly slow and the Church’s structure tends to always protect its own. So when that went nowhere, these Catholics chose to appeal to the Pope in a very public fashion. (SFgate.com)
In an unprecedented move, more than 100 prominent Roman Catholic donors and church members signed a full-page ad running Thursday in The Chronicle that calls on Pope Francis to replace San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for fostering “an atmosphere of division and intolerance.”
Cordileone is choosing arrogance as his response. Rather than hear the concern that these Catholic worshipers have for the Church, he is denouncing their voice as a misrepresentation.
A statement by the archdiocese provided to us Wednesday called the ad “a misrepresentation of Catholic teaching, a misrepresentation of the nature of the teacher contract, and a misrepresentation of the spirit of the archbishop. The greatest misrepresentation of all is that the signers presume to speak for ‘the Catholic Community of San Francisco.’
“They do not.”
I suspect that they speak for more of the city’s Catholics than Cordileone would like to admit.
It will be interesting to see if Pope Francis responds to the concerns. While Cordileone is consistent with the style of former Pope Benedict the Malevolent, the new Holy Father tends towards a more compassionate message, designed for inclusion and humility. This may be the decision which defines his image as truly reformative, or illustrates the Church to be irreparably hidebound and corrupt.
[NOTE: revised to correct who did the banning of girls from a parish’s altar]
October 18th, 2014
— Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (@fatherz) October 16, 2014
(Note: Because this is a breaking story, this post has been updated numerous times between 12:40 p.m. and 1:20 p.m. PDT.)
The hardliners have won. The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, which has wrapped up its first session in Rome this weekend, has just approved its final Relatio Synodi in the original, official Italian. An official English translation is not yet available, but Buzzfeed provides this in-house translation:
The pastoral care of people with homosexual orientation
55. Some families live the experience of having members who are of homosexual orientation. In this regard, questions have been raised on pastoral care which is appropriate to deal with this situation by referring to what the Church teaches: “There is no basis whatsoever to assimilate or to draw even remote analogies between same-sex unions and the plan of God for marriage and the family. ” Nevertheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. “In their regard should be avoided every sign of unjust discrimination” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4).
56. It is totally unacceptable that the Pastors of the Church suffer the pressures in this matter and that international bodies condition financial aid to poor countries, on the institution of laws that establish the “marriage” between persons of the same sex.
This represents a complete and utter victory for the Church’s more hardliner wing, particularly the American, African, and Oceanian bishops who angrily denounced the interim Relatio for asking whether the church was capable of providing a “welcoming… fraternal space” for gay people who possess “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.” That statement also acknowledged “cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners,” while also recognizing the needs of the children of gay couples.
The new statement has none of that. It recognizes nothing about gay people or their children. In fact, it doesn’t recognize gays and lesbians at all, but rather restricts itself to addressing families who “live the experience of having members who are of homosexual orientation.” Which means it’s not even meant to address us. This is not just a full reversal from Monday’s statement, it’s not even as minimally positive as the mysteriously revised English mistranslation that was issued Thursday. This is more than just a backtrack. It’s a doubling down on the part of John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s appointed English-speaking bishops, and stunning rebuke of Pope Francis’s attempts to inject a small dose of humanity into the operation of the Church.
Despite the full-on capitulation to conservative clerics, the conservative EWTN-affiliated National Catholic Register still says, “Critics, however, have said the message, published on the eve of the final day of the two-week ecclesial gathering, sends out ‘weak and ambiguous’ signals on the Church’s positions on sexual morality”:
Yet this approach has not been accepted by everyone. Speaking to the Register Saturday, Opus Dei Father Robert Gahl, professor of moral philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, said: “The Holy Father’s silence on vexing questions leaves the Church in suspense.” He added that this suspense “is intensified by the ambiguities” of the interim report on the synod which was issued Monday, “because we all expect our faith to be confirmed by the successor Peter.”
Voice of the Family, a coalition of pro-family groups, criticized the final message for sending out “weak and ambiguous” signals about the Church’s stance on sexual morality. Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida, Brazil, said it should have contained “a clear statement rejecting any openings to homosexuality, cohabitation, so-called ‘second marriages’, or contraception,” especially after the interim report whose content “caused scandal both inside and outside the synod.”
It should be noted however that three paragraphs of the Relatio Synodi did not receive the required two-thirds approval. Two of those paragraphs were on divorce and remarriage, and Paragraph 55 in the section on gay people. Paragraph 55 fell short of the two-thirds majority in 118 to 62 vote. Pope Francis nevertheless agreed to release the full Relatio for the sake of transparency, along with the vote totals at the end for each paragraph. The failure of paragraph 55 to reach a two-thirds vote is seen as a protest by some of the more progressive bishops, who object to watering down the passage.
It’s also important to note that the Relatio Synodi has no doctrinal authority, but is rather a set of discussion points to be considered between now and when the Synod meets again next year. The current Relatio however is being presented as interim guidelines to the Episcopal Conferences, which means that there would be no pressure to change how bishops respond to LGBT teachers and church members.
So what’s next? The Synod isn’t over, but will continue off and on for at least another year. An executive session will meet next month in Baltimore to draft a more detailed report which is expected to become a first draft for next year’s agenda. Meanwhile, the Pope reportedly told the Synod that they have a year to “mature” their ideas “with true spiritual discernment.” When the Synod meets again next October (and assuming the Synod doesn’t get extended further), it will issue a final Relatio, which, again, would not carry any authoritative doctrinal significance, but it would represent a consensus of the bishops. After that, it is customary for elements of a final Relatio to make their way into an Apostolic Exhortation, which, when promulgated by the Pope, becomes an official authoritative document of the Roman Catholic Church. There’s a lot that can happen between now and then:
When the synod reconvenes, it won’t be quite the same. Some who participated in this year’s meeting won’t be back (I’m thinking of papal critic Cardinal Raymond Burke). And Francis will likely select new cardinals come February. Why might a new-look synod matter? Because the sections that failed still had majority support. The paragraph on gay people, for example, failed by just six votes. But the synod fathers who want divorced and remarried Catholics to be able to receive the Eucharist have a longer row to hoe. Those sections failed by larger margins–and they did nothing more than state what had been discussed.
Meanwhile, just outside the walls of Vatican City, the mayor of Rome has registered sixteen same-sex marriages.
October 16th, 2014
There are truly strange things going on at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. On Monday, the Synod released its Relatio Post Disceptationem (literally, Report after Discussions), a sort of a first draft for an upcoming Relatio Synodi, or Report of the Synod. The Relatio Post Disceptationem contained some rather remarkable language under the heading of “Welcoming Homosexual Persons,” which began, “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? ” It also recognized that “without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”
On the negative side, the statement also “affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman,” and denounced international efforts to tie aid to “regulations inspired by gender ideology.” But overall, as I explained on Monday, the positive aspects of the statement represented a tremendous shift in how the Church was willing to look at gay Catholics, and gay people generally.
Almost immediately, there was considerable blowback from the more conservative elements within the Church. Given that almost all of the bishops at the Synod were appointed either by Pope John Paul II or his even more conservative successor Benedict XVI, that blowback is not a small thing. Wednesday, the Synod released its Unofficial Summary of the Free Discussions in the Assembly which took place on Tuesday. That summary of discussions, which is akin to meeting minutes, revealed that one of the concerns expressed within the Synod was that the final Relatio Synodi should not leave “the impression of a positive evaluation of such a tendency (homosexuality) on the part of the Church.” The pushback now was well underway.
Today, that pushback gathered seam as the Vatican’s press office circulated a new English translation of Monday’s Relatio. The new translation now reads, with the substantive changes highlighted in bold:
Providing for homosexual persons
50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing […] them […] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
51. The question of homosexuality requires serious reflection on how to devise realistic approaches to affective growth, human development and maturation in the Gospel, while integrating the sexual aspect, all of which constitute an important educative challenge. Moreover, the Church affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same level as marriage between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that the pastor’s outlook be pressured or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations based on gender ideology.
52. Without denying the moral problems associated with homosexual unions, there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to […] children who live with same-sex couples and stresses that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority. [Emphasis mine]
There are the four substantive changes:
1. In the phrasing above, “Providing for” highlighted in both instances used to read “welcoming.”
2. The phrase “A place of fellowship” used to read “a fraternal space.”
3. The question, “Are our communities capable of this…” used to read, “Are our communities capable of providing that…” in referring to “offer(ing) them a welcoming home.”
4. And the phrase which speaks of couples making sacrifices which are “a valuable support in the life of these persons” used to read “”a precious support in the life of the partners.”
If you scroll to the bottom of the document, you’ll see that the original diffinatve text is in Italian. When you go to the Italian version of the Relatio, you find this (I’ve highlighted the points of contention):
Accogliere le persone omosessuali
50. Le persone omosessuali hanno doti e qualitÃ da offrire alla comunitÃ cristiana: siamo in grado di accogliere queste persone, garantendo loro uno spazio di fraternitÃ nelle nostre comunitÃ ? Spesso esse desiderano incontrare una Chiesa che sia casa accogliente per loro. Le nostre comunitÃ sono in grado di esserlo accettando e valutando il loro orientamento sessuale, senza compromettere la dottrina cattolica su famiglia e matrimonio?
51. La questione omosessuale ci interpella in una seria riflessione su come elaborare cammini realistici di crescita affettiva e di maturitÃ umana ed evangelica integrando la dimensione sessuale: si presenta quindi come un’importante sfida educativa. La Chiesa peraltro afferma che le unioni fra persone dello stesso sesso non possono essere equiparate al matrimonio fra uomo e donna. Non Ã¨ nemmeno accettabile che si vogliano esercitare pressioni sull’atteggiamento dei pastori o che organismi internazionali condizionino aiuti finanziari all’introduzione di normative ispirate all’ideologia del gender.
52. Senza negare le problematiche morali connesse alle unioni omosessuali si prende atto che vi sono casi in cui il mutuo sostegno fino al sacrificio costituisce un appoggio prezioso per la vita dei partners. Inoltre, la Chiesa ha attenzione speciale verso i bambini che vivono con coppie dello stesso sesso, ribadendo che al primo posto vanno messi sempre le esigenze e i diritti dei piccoli.
The Italian version has not changed one iota since its original release on Monday. But when comparing the authoritative Italian version to the revised English, Italian speakers would quickly observe the following:
1. Accogliere means welcoming, no ifs, ands or buts.
I'm very confused by new #Synod14 translation. Italian verb used for section 50 is "accogliere," to welcome, no?
— Joshua McElwee (@joshjmac) October 16, 2014
— Jaweed Kaleem (@jaweedkaleem) October 16, 2014
"Provide for" is the new "consubstantial" #Synod translations into English
— Massimo Faggioli (@MassimoFaggioli) October 16, 2014
2. The phrase “A place of fellowship,” which used to read “a fraternal space,” is renedered in Italian as “spazio di fraternitÃ .” It seems to me the original translation, “a fraternal space,” is far closer to the Italian. I’m not sure what that change in English might signify, but whoever inserted that change certainly had something in mind.
3. The question, “Are our communities capable of this…”, is interesting. It used to read, “Are our communities capable of providing that…” with both pronouns referring to “offer(ing) them a welcoming home.” In this case, “welcoming home” (“casa accogliente”) wasn’t changed, although the meaning of accogliente was changed elsewhere. But even more interesting is that the Italian asks whether “our coommunities are capable di esserlo accettando” — “of being accepting…” a phrase that never appeared in either English translation.
4. And the phrase that used to describe couples providing “a precious support in the life of the partners” is clearly rendered in the original Italian as providing a prezioso support in the life of dei partners.” It doesn’t take much of a translator to see that the original was far more correct.
So what’s going on?
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said English-speaking bishops had requested the changes, arguing that the first translation was hasty and error-ridden.
When Lombardi was shown how significantly the meaning had changed, he pledged to investigate and didn’t rule out a third version.
Lombardi stressed that the original Italian remains the official text, and noted that the draft is being revised top-to-bottom for a final report which will go to a vote among bishops on Saturday.
Michelle Boorstein, the Washington Post’s religion reporter, goes a bit further:
Asked at the news conference Thursday why the document was changed — and only in English — the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said he was simply given the translation from the group of clergy who are working in English and was sharing it.
The Rev. Thomas Reese, a priest-journalist covering the synod, said the clergy are “in a panic. They are afraid this welcoming language will confuse people. They’ll think the church is going to change its teaching.” None of the 190 clergy are pushing for that, he said.
“You get the impression they are very concerned, they want more theology in the document. They want more church teaching in the document. They want more encouragement to Catholics who are struggling to follow church teaching. They are very much afraid if they talk too much about what’s good in these incomplete and impartial relationships that people will say: ‘Then why should I bother doing what the church teaches?'”
What seems clear to me is that the final text will be rather different from the interim report. Gerard O’Connel, writing for the Jesuit news magazine America, spoke with American Archbishop Joseph Kurtz (President of the U.S. bishops’ conference) Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, and Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization to get a sense of what the final document might look like:
From the comments of these three prelates, and others that I have spoken to, it would seem that the section of the interim report which speaks about “welcoming homosexual persons” (Numbers: 50, 51, 52) will be considerably revised, perhaps even re-written. Sources say some statements could be eliminated as they lack nuance and give a wrong understanding of the church’s teaching and pastoral approach.
Archbishop Kurtz said that his group here made an effort “to improve and clarify the notion of welcome,” so that it is close to church teaching and pastoral practice.
Kurtz got his way with the English translation of the interrim Relato. We’ll see what happens with the final Relatio Synodi, which will be brought to a vote on Saturday. A two-thirds approval of the Synod is required for its passage.
October 15th, 2014
CNN says it was a “backtrack“:
Under furious assault from conservative Catholics, the Vatican backtracked Tuesday on its surprisingly positive assessment of gays and same-sex relationships.
…In response to such reactions (from Conservative clerics), the Vatican backtracked a bit Tuesday. In a statement, it said the report on gays and lesbians was a “working document,” not the final word from Rome.
The Vatican also said that it wanted to welcome gays and lesbians in the church, but not create “the impression of a positive evaluation” of same-sex relationships, or, for that matter, of unmarried couples who live together.
Calling it a backtrack is an over-reach in my opinion. To understand what happened, it’s very important to understand what the two documents were and what they mean. The first document released Monday was a Relatio, which is nothing but an interrim report released by the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. Its weight in Catholic doctrine is nil, and its authority in Catholic practices is comparably low. Like all interim reports, it includes (very) preliminary findings, asks a bunch of questions, and proposes points to consider between now and when the Bishops gather again a year from now. But also like all interim reports, it does point to some kind of a direction in terms of how Pope Francis hopes the discussions will follow. I think this is especially true given how unceremoniously he dumped Cardinal Raymond Burke as head of the Apostolic Signatura (a sort of a Vatican Supreme Court) just before the Synod’s start. You may remember Burke. He’s the one who said this during the Synod:
Burke was also among the loudest complainers on Tuesday:
He strongly criticized yesterday’s Relatio … which the Catholic lay group Voice of the Family had called a “betrayal,” saying it proposes views that “faithful shepherds … cannot accept,” and betrays an approach that is “not of the Church.” … The relatio, he said, proposes views that many Synod fathers “cannot accept,” and that they “as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept.” … “Clearly, the response to the document in the discussion which immediately followed its presentation manifested that a great number of the Synod Fathers found it objectionable,” Burke told Olsen.
And Maggie Gallagher was in tears:
I hope to respond intellectually to the synod report. Tears right now are streaming from my face, and it is not about objections to welcoming gay people. There is something more profoundly at stake for me.
Is this me? In the corner?
Conservatives are furious, with some yearning for the good old days of Pope Benedict XVI’s Bavarian rigidity. And in reaction to that fury, CNN saw what they thought was a “backtrack,” which brings us to the second document released Tuesday in Italian. Here’s the rushed English translation (it’s so rushed that I had to correct part of it):
In relation to homosexuals, moreover, the need for welcome was highlighted, but with just prudence [my correction], so that the impression of a positive evaluation of such a tendency on the part of the Church is not created. The same care was advised with regard to cohabitation.
As for the “just prudence,” that likely refers to the second paragraph of the Relatio’s section on “welcoming homosexual persons“:
…The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.
Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions…
Quite a bit of negativity there. I don’t think “a positive evaluation of such a tendency on the part of the Church” is possible when we’re not considered on the same footing as heterosexual couples. But again, it’s important to understand the nature of this second document. It’s title tells you the whole story: Eleventh General Congregation: Unofficial Summary of the Free Discussions in the Assembly. If the Relatio was an interim report, then the Unofficial Summary is akin to minutes of Tuesday’s meeting and nothing more. And those minutes don’t suggest a backtrack, but rather a pushback from some of the more Conservative voices. That pushback may yet force a backtrack, but it hasn’t yet. This week, the Synod is preparing the more final Relatio Synodi, which means that this Relatio is something of a first draft of a final interrim report. It will be discussed on Thursday (another summary of speeches will be published then) and voted on next Saturday. What can we expect in the next several days? It’s very hard to know. Vatican Insider’s coverage of a press briefing after the Unofficial Summary‘s release hints at all kinds of intrigue and suspicions:
Two of the men moderating the discussions spoke at today’s briefing: the South African Wilfrid Fox Napier and the Italian Fernando Filoni. The briefing illustrated further the frank and collegial nature of the Synod debates. “Some within the circle were surprised at the media’s reactions; some seemed perplexed, as if the Pope had said, as if the Synod had decided, as if…,” the prefect of Propaganda Fide said, underlining the “extraordinary richness of the debate”. Cardinal Napier was more critical. He spoke of “dissatisfaction” among Synod participants and said the text had been “misinterpreted” partly because of the media but also because many people’s expectations are perhaps a little unrealistic. Much of the content of the relatio post disceptationem is not very helpful in getting the Church’s teaching across, Napier pointed out. He said he suspected that those leading the Synod are not committed to expressing the opinions of the entire Synod but only those of a specific group. The final document should include a “clarification”. Filoni, on the other hand, said he could not give the exact percentage of Synod Fathers who expressed concern about the text yesterday and today. He underlined that the text was generally appreciated and that the reaction to the text’s approach was essentially positive. But it needs to be improved in terms of contextualization. Regarding homosexuality, Napier said his concern is that the final document will not match the media’s take on the draft, and anything said in the future will simply look like “damage control”.
…The South African cardinal expressed surprise at the decision to publish the relatio post disceptationem, while Filoni said some in the circuli minores wondered whether it had been published by mistake. But Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi explained that the relatio post disceptationem “is always presented the minute it is ready” and this has been the case at every Synod. What probably caused the excitement was the “nature of the issue, which attracted a great deal of attention and raised many expectations.” Fr. Lombardi announced that Mgr. Rino Fisichella and the President of the US Bishops’ Conference, Joseph Kurtz will be attending tomorrow’s briefing. The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and the Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Reinhard Marx will speak in Thursday and Friday’s briefings, respectively.
The two Cardinals given speaking allotments are interesting choices. In 2012, Cardinal Schönborn reinstated a gay man in a registered partnership to a pastoral council after his election was vetoed by the parish priest. Last year, he earned Lifesite News’s wrath when he urged respect for same-sex relationships. Cardinal Marx has also been critical of the Church’s approach to LGBT people, even going so far as to say that he would pray for their relationships.
October 13th, 2014
A stunning change in the way the church speaks about gay people. Synod document speaks of their "gifts" in parishes: http://t.co/t3dWC3Z8aN
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) October 13, 2014
Today's stunning change in tone from the Catholic bishops on LGBT people shows what happens when the Holy Spirit is let loose. #Synod14
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) October 13, 2014
That’s the reaction from Fr. James Martin, S.J. of the Jesuit magazine America to the mid-term report from the Roman Catholic Church’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family which was convene by Pope Francis last week. Stunning sums it up nicely. Others are calling it a “revolution,” but that word will always mean something rather less radical in the very slow-moving Roman Catholic Church, where speed is measured in centuries rather than minutes, than it does in the real world. So keeping that perspective is always advised.
The Synod was called to examine the many changes taking place in the world and the Church’s response to them — or lack of response or inappropriate response, as the case may be. Items for discussion include waht is termed “irregular marraiges,” which include civil marriages that haven’t been sanctioned by the Church (civil marriages of divorced Catholics, for example), cohabitation, and same-sex marriages. These two paragraphs indicate that the Church, under Pope Francis, appears willing to consider lessons learned from “beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries”:
In this light, the value and consistency of natural marriage must first be emphasized. Some ask whether the sacramental fullness of marriage does not exclude the possibility of recognizing positive elements even the imperfect forms that may be found outside this nuptial situation, which are in any case ordered in relation to it. The doctrine of levels of communion, formulated by Vatican Council II, confirms the vision of a structured way of participating in the Mysterium Ecclesiae by baptized persons.
In the same, perspective, that we may consider inclusive, the Council opens up the horizon for appreciating the positive elements present in other religions (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2) and cultures, despite their limits and their insufficiencies (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 55). Indeed, looking at the human wisdom present in these, the Church learns how the family is universally considered as the necessary and fruitful form of human cohabitation. In this sense, the order of creation, in which the Christian vision of the family is rooted, unfolds historically, in different cultural and geographical expressions.
Realizing the need, therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognize those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries. Following the expansive gaze of Christ, whose light illuminates every man (cf. Jn 1,9; cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22), the Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings.
[Note: Lumen Gentium, Nostra Aetate and Gaudium et Spes refer to three Vatican II Council documents.]
The document doesn’t offer much in the way of conclusions. Those won’t come until the Synod meets again in October of 2015. Instead, the report consists mainly of points for consideration, terms which are clearly influenced by Pope Francis’s push for what might be termed a “kinder, gentler church.” I don’t think the Church is about to undergo any significant doctrinal changes, but it does appear open to reconsider how it deals with situations that fall outside of its doctrines. That alone is surprising. But more surprising is what you’ll find under the heading of “welcoming homosexual persons”:
Welcoming homosexual persons
Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.
Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.
It’s interesting to me that the bishops chose to go with the more generic phrasing of “moral problems” rather than the more commonly used “intrinsically disordered” language of natural law. And it’s true that our relationships do pose “moral problems” — for the Church at least, if not necessarily for us. The Church’s moral problem is that it continues to treat gay people as outcasts and lepers. I know, that’s not what they meant when they included the phrase here, and you can also see the Bishops drawing some hard and fast limits on how far they’re willing to go. They are closed to the idea of sanctioning same-sex marriages, and they are sore about tax dollars being tied to nondiscrimination requirements.
But the glass is at least beginning to fill part of the way. This is the first time in the Church’s history that its leadership appears willing to look at our relationships in anything approaching a positive light. The document acknowledges that we have “gifts and talents” without having to, err, “balance” that that recognition with our living in sin. And it recognizes that there are same-sex relationships which rise “to the point of sacrifice” and “constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the word “sacrifice” in Catholic doctrine. It signifies an essential opening to all that is good and holy, whether it’s Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross or the daily sacrifices that we make as we go about our lives. Sacrifice is central to the Catholic understanding. Non-Catholics see it most visibly in the Lenten sacrifices and fasting, but Catholics see sacrifices, big and small, as a daily expression of their faith. Gay people living in same-sex relationships have been hitherto looked upon as selfish and narcissistic, unwilling to sacrifice their sexuality for their faith. And so for the Bishops to acknowledge that gays and lesbians are also living sacrificial lives is to suggest that something good and valuable is happening. That word’s appearance alone in this context is, I think, the most earth-shattering aspect of this statement.
The idea of gay couples offer anything “precious” in their relationships has never appeared in an official church document before. And the phrase “intrinsically disordered,” so reflexively deployed in the past, is nowhere to be found. At a news conference following the report’s release, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Bruno Forte was asked about that section:
Asked if that stance represented a change in understanding of sexual orientation at the highest levels of the church, Forte said Monday: “What I want to express is that we must respect the dignity of every person.”
“The fact to be homosexual does not mean that this dignity does not have to be recognized and promoted,” he continued.
“The fundamental idea is the centrality of the person independent of different sexual orientations,” Forte said. “And I think it is the most important point. And also the attitude of the church to welcome persons who have homosexual orientation is based on the dignity of the person they are.”
Asked how the church would respond to same-sex unions, Forte said such unions have “rights that should be protected,” and this is an “issue of civilization and respect of those people.”
Fr. Martin says those two statements represent “a revolutionary change“:
. Nowhere in the document are such terms as “intrinsically disordered,” “objectively disordered,” or even the idea of “disinterested friendships” among gays and lesbians, which was used just recently. The veteran Vaticanologist John Thavis rightly called the document an “earthquake.”
…The document is just the mid-point summary of the bishops’ meetings over the last week, and is not a final declaration. (Besides, the Synod has another session next year, after which Pope Francis will issue his final apostolic exhortation, which will be his own teaching on the Synod’s deliberations.) But it is still revolutionary, as were some of the comments of the participants during the press conference today. Clearly Pope Francis’s call for openness at the beginning of the Synod has allowed the bishops to listen carefully, to speak their minds and to be open to new ways of thinking. As was the case at the Second Vatican Council, the participants may have gone into this Synod not expecting much openness or change, but the Holy Spirit is afoot.
Joshua McElwee, Vatican correspondent for the independent and often critical National Catholic Reporter, live-tweeted the document’s release and the press conference. He was also encouraged by the Synod’s interim report:
— Joshua McElwee (@joshjmac) October 11, 2014
— Joshua McElwee (@joshjmac) October 11, 2014
Reading this #Synod14 document, I don't know what to say. It feels like a whole new church, a whole new tone, a whole new posture. Wow.
— Joshua McElwee (@joshjmac) October 13, 2014
— Joshua McElwee (@joshjmac) October 13, 2014
Conservative Catholics, on the other hand, are in quite a lather. The anti-gay Lifesite News calls it an “Earthquake” and rounds up the usual dose of conservative outrage:
However, it has also met a sharp rebuke from Catholic activists. John Smeaton, co-founder of Voice of the Family, a coalition of 15 international pro-famiy groups, said it is “one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history.”
“Thankfully the report is a preliminary report for discussion, rather than a definitive proposal,” he said in a press release. “It is essential that the voices of those lay faithful who sincerely live out Catholic teaching are also taken into account. Catholic families are clinging to Christ’s teaching on marriage and chastity by their finger-tips.”
…Patrick Buckley of European Life Network said the report is “an attack on marriage and family” that “in effect gives a tacit approval of adulterous relationships, thereby contradicting the Sixth Commandment and the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the indissolubility of marriage.”
Maria Madise, coordinator for Voice of the Family, asked whether parents must now “tell their children that the Vatican teaches that there are positive and constructive aspects to … mortal sins” such as cohabitation and homosexuality.
“It would be a false mercy to give Holy Communion to people who do not repent of their mortal sins against Christ’s teachings on sexual purity. Real mercy consists of offering people a clean conscience via the Sacrament of Confession and thus union with God,” she said.
“Many of those who claim to speak in the name of the universal Church have failed to teach the faithful. This failure has created unprecedented difficulties for families. No responsibility is taken for this failure in this disastrous mid-way report,” she added. “The Synod’s mid-way report will increase the incidence of faithful Catholics being labelled as ‘pharisees’, simply for upholding Catholic teaching on sexual purity.”
Of course, if the shoe fits, then Pharisees it is.
July 16th, 2014
Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project is an organization in Portland, Oregon, which advocates against the deportation of Latinos who are in the United States illegally and facilitates day employment for such persons. Their website lists various organization with which they ally, including National Day Labor Organizing Network and Oregon New Sanctuary Movement.
Not listed on their site is National Council of La Raza, a group which works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. However, NCLR does include Voz among their affiliates; the relationship is primarily that of NCLR providing financial support for the group.
Voz has also, until recently, received funding from Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a program of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Voz Workers’ Rights Education lost a $75,000 grant in June from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which is the national anti-poverty, social justice program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Catholic Campaign director Ralph McCloud said the group asked Voz to cut ties with the National Council of La Raza, a large Latino civil rights organization that endorses marriage equality, to be considered for the grant. Voz has been an affiliate of NCLR since 2009, primarily as a grantee.
After Voz refused to cut its ties, the organization “self-disqualified” itself from the funding process, McCloud said.
Yes, I know that this makes no sense whatsoever. One would think that the positions of Voz would be what matters, not whether the Catholic Church agrees with every policy of someone else who gives them money.
But the US Catholic Bishops have become so obsessed with their losing battle to deny civil marriage equality, that they have placed it as a higher priority than their own charitable endeavors. As for Voz, they were unwilling to become an anti-gay organization just to receive Catholic funds.
“Marriage equality is not the focus of our work; we focus on immigrant rights. But we work with everyone, we don’t discriminate,” Sosa said. “There may be gays and lesbians among our staff or workers, and we can’t turn our backs on them.”
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I suspect that most organizations who advocate for persons in the United States illegally are in some way affiliated with NCLR. If the Catholic Church applies this standard consistently, they may soon find that they have distanced themselves from all of their allies in their efforts to advance their immigration position.
May 9th, 2014
A BTB reader in Brazil passes along this fascinating tidbit: the Justice and Peace Commission of the SÃ£o Paulo Archdiocese has issued a surprisingly supportive statement in advance of the city’s Pride celebration that’s taking place this week. The statement, which was released on April 30 and citing the Second Vatican Council, states, in part:
…[W]e can not remain silent in the face of the reality that is lived by this population: they are the target of prejudice and victims of the systematic violation of their Fundamental Rights, such as those to health, education, work, housing and culture, among others. Besides all this, they face every day an unbearable level of physical and verbal violence, building up to murders which are true crimes of hatred.
Given this, we invite all people of good will, and in particular, all Christians, to reflect on this profoundly unjust reality as lived by LGBT people, and, guided by the supreme principle of Human Dignity, to dedicate themselves actively to overcoming it.
The director of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese, Geraldo Magela Tardelli, said this is the first time that the commission wrote “formally” in favor of homosexuals. “The committee has a mission, according to Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Ars: ‘we have to give voice to those who have no voice.’ Right now, what we are finding is that there is an increase of violence against homosexuals, so we can not overlook. regarding this violation of human rights,” said the director.
According to him, the realization of the Gay Parade ordered the disclosure of the note.”We think this was the right time to put this note in circulation. We, the Church, are engaged in defending human rights and are not siding with its violation, regardless of color and sexual orientation of people,” said Tardelli.
The full statement is here:
Note from the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of SÃ£o Paulo
Faithful to its mission of announcing and defending the Gospel and civilizing values of Human Rights, the Justice and Peace Commission of SÃ£o Paulo (CJPSP) wishes to make a public statement on the occasion of the 18th LGBT Pride Parade which is to take place on the Avenida Paulista next Sunday, 4th May 2014.
We base ourselves on the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, approved at the 2nd Vatican Council which says “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.”
Therefore the defense of the dignity, the citizenship and the safety of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite and Transgender) people is indispensable in the building of a fraternal and just society. For this reason we can not remain silent in the face of the reality that is lived by this population: they are the target of prejudice and victims of the systematic violation of their Fundamental Rights, such as those to health, education, work, housing and culture, among others. Besides all this, they face every day an unbearable level of physical and verbal violence, building up to murders which are true crimes of hatred.
Given this, we invite all people of good will, and in particular, all Christians, to reflect on this profoundly unjust reality as lived by LGBT people, and, guided by the supreme principle of Human Dignity, to dedicate themselves actively to overcoming it.
SÃ£o Paulo, 30th April 2014
Human Rights Commission of SÃ£o Paulo
[Special thanks to BTB reader James]
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