Synod’s Gross Distortion of International Pressure & Gay Marriage.

There only two paragraphs In the synod’s final “Relatio” referring specifically to homosexuality. The second of these, which was approved by the comfortable margin of 159 to 21, states (in a modified Google translation):

56 It is totally unacceptable that the Pastors of the Church suffer pressure in this matter and that international bodies make financial aid to poor countries conditional on the introduction of laws that establish “marriage” between persons of the same sex.

If this had any connection with reality on the ground, I would find this completely unexceptional I am a firm supporter of the principle of equal marriage in civil law. I am also an African, and deeply conscious of how well- intentioned Western attempts to influence African governments are perceived (all too often, quite justly) as neo-colonial interference. Such efforts can easily backfire, with serious unintended consequences. For that reason, I agree with the bishops that Western attempts to manipulate foreign aid to force gay marriage on African countries is unacceptable – if such pressure existed, or was even under discussion. It is not. In this matter, the bishops are tilting at windmills, a figment of their fevered collective imagination. The tragedy is that in their terror of the imagined threat of gay marriage, they are ignoring a serious reality, which even an African Archbishop at the synod. acknowledged is a real problem – the criminalization of gay people.

There just is not a single government, multilateral agency, or NGO that has ever suggested that aid should be tied to the introduction of gay marriage, or any other legal recognition of same – sex unions. What has been proposed is quite different: using aid to oppose the criminalization of homosexuality, and the victimization of gay people.

Archbishop Kaigama said the Church’s position against criminalisation has been misrepresented in the media:

“We would defend any person with a homosexual orientation who is being harassed, imprisoned or punished….so when the media takes our story they should balance it….we try to share our point of view (but) we don’t punish them. The government may want to punish them but we don’t, in fact we will work to tell the government to stop punishing those who have different orientations.”

- Vatican Radio

I’ve noted before that Archbishop Kaigama’s protestations that the Church’s alleged “misrepresentation in the media” would be more credible if he could demonstrate any actual record of having opposed the criminalization legislation, or other grievous harms against gay and lesbian people in Africa. It is disgraceful that the synod has ignored one real problem, by itself grossly misrepresenting the nature of Western concerns about criminalization and persecution of gay people.

Two (or Three) Steps Forward, One Back Is Still Progress.

Much of the gay/ progressive commentary on the final synod statement has expressed “disappointment” that it omitted the language of welcome that had been included in the interim report released after the first week. A post by Frank DeBenardo at Bondings 2.0 is headlined (in part) “Synod Final Report Disappoints….“. Similarly, a press release by the LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council expresses similar disappointment at what has been left out.

Seen in context however, this disappointment should be regarded as only relative. Instead of comparing where we are today with where we were on Monday, we should be giving thanks for how far we’ve come, from where we were before the Synod began. The interim report got such a strong reception on Monday precisely because it was so very much more supportive than anybody had been expecting. The fact that the same language did not make into the final report therefore, should have surprised nobody – especially when a substantial number of the voting participants were bishops from Africa, joining with the better known Western conservatives such as Cardinal Raymond Burke and the like.

Far more significant than the ultimate omission of the explicit words of support and welcome for lesbian and gay Catholics, should be recognition of just how close the synod came to including them – and how much offensive language that has previously been routine, was also left out.

Synod: So, Who “Won”?

Many of the reports on the “final” synod document in the MSM and at the Krazy Katholic blogs have focussed on claims that this is somehow a victory for the conservatives, or a defeat for Pope Francis. Both are completely unjustified.

One clue to why this is so, is in this useful information about the synod posted in the Changing Attitude facebook group by Johan Bergström-Allen:

Hope group members will be encouraged by a bit of news from Rome..

Very good BBC interview with Cardinal Vincent Nichols (at 05:00 on iPlayer) who reveals that some of the 72 Synod delegates in Rome who voted against the “welcome to gay people” wording in the final document (with 118 in favour) did so because it either went too far OR NOT FAR ENOUGH.

Vincent says he can’t remember how he voted (there were 60 votes in under an hour), but that – reflecting the policy in his own diocese of Westminster – he felt the wording didn’t go far enough, because the key words “welcome”, “respect” and “value” were missing. The cardinal hopes the next stage of the Synod will encourage a more welcoming attitude to LGBT people.

Let’s hope the Synod process moves forward with discernment, honest discussion, and a Christ-like passion for pastoral care. God bless Cardinal Vincent for his compassion and balance, and God bless Pope Francis for his wisdom, his collegiality, and his caring heart.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04m3rrs

“Encouraging news”, indeed – especially (but not exclusively) for those of us here in the UK. Also worth noting, is that approval for the final text was not based on simple majority vote, but required a two – thirds majority. Reports elsewhere have suggested that on some of the more welcoming passages that were left out of the final text, did in fact have the support of the majority, but just not enough to get to two thirds. Also important, just as words of support were excluded from the bland final document, so too were the harsher words that were proposed by the reactionaries. There were no “winners” or “losers” in this, other than a clear win for open and frank discussion – a major step forward for the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis: God Does Not Discriminate (But What About Some Bishops?)

From Vatican Radio, a report on Pope Francis’ reflection on the Gospel for Sunday, the 28th of Ordinary Time (MT 22:1-14)

:

Angelus address

Pope Francis during his Angelus address on Sunday said, “the goodness of God, “knows no boundaries and does not discriminate against anyone, everyone is given the opportunity to respond to his invitation, to his call”.

From the window of his studio overlooking Saint Peter’s Square during his Angelus address, Pope Francis reflected on Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew,  in which the King issues an invitation to a wedding feast which is rejected by some and accepted by others.

- read more at Vatican Radio

This is basic, and familiar. There will have been countless homilies and texts in parish bulletins last Sunday, stressing the importance of accepting Christ’s invitation to the Eucharistic banquet, unlike those castigated in the Gospel for failing to attend, after being directly invited. My own response was rather different: what of those who want to accept the invitation, but are explicitly not invited, discouraged from attending, or are directly turned away? What are we to make of those bishops and priests who are refusing the welcome which is implicit in this Gospel story, as sent out to all? If as Francis notes, God does not discriminate – how can we justify those in the Church, that do?

“Gradualism” and the Inevitability of Doctrinal Change

One of the key themes of the family synod has been the idea of “gradualism”, which has meant in this context, the idea that those whose lives currently fall outside of the approved moral norms, can move step by step closer to ideal moral states. The task of the church then, should be to encourage such transitions, rather than simplistically condemning the initial state as unacceptable. One example which makes clear what is meant, is that of cohabitation, which is clearly unacceptable in standard doctrine. However, cohabitation and commitment to a single partner represents a clear improvement on a single life of sexual promiscuity, with a succession of one – night stands In turn, civil marriage, while not formally recognized by the Church, is a public commitment to fidelity and permanence in the relationship, and so is an improvement on mere cohabitation – and leaves open the possibility of later upgrading to sacramental marriage, in church:

  1. In this respect, a new dimension of today’s family pastoral consists of accepting the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation, taking into account the due differences. Indeed, when a union reaches a notable level of stability through a public bond, is characterized by deep affection, responsibility with regard to offspring, and capacity to withstand tests, it may be seen as a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage. Very often, however, cohabitation is established not with a view to a possible future marriage, but rather without any intention of establishing an institutionally-recognized relationship.

  2. Imitating Jesus’ merciful gaze, the Church must accompany her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care, restoring trust and hope to them like the light of a beacon in a port, or a torch carried among the people to light the way for those who are lost or find themselves in the midst of the storm.

From this perspective, “gradualism” is a one – way process, whereby Catholic practice by individuals and couples, is brought into ever increasing conformity with Catholic doctrine. There is however, another use of the word in Catholic discourse, but one which has not featured in official summaries of synod discussions – that “gradualism” can also apply to slow and incremental change in Catholic doctrine itself, bringing it by degrees into ever closer conformity with real world Catholic practice. This could be why the more conservative bishops are setting themselves so resolutely against significant change in pastoral practice, as well as against change in doctrine. They know, and are afraid, that change in pastoral practice frequently leads to subsequent change in doctrine.

Synodality: “Journeying Together” with the Church

The ” relatio post disceptationem” document read to the synod yesterday by Cardinal Erdo has made the headlines and inspired extensive commentary worldwide. LGBT and other progressive Catholics are enthusiastic, the conservative, rule – book and holier than thou blogs are enraged. It’s important to remember though, that in its content, this is only a preliminary document. The final version, which must still be agreed by a majority of the synod, could be very different – or could vary only in detail. Even that will not be final. That will be distributed worldwide for further discussion, and then considered again at next year’s synod.

Cardinal Erdo

Cardinal Erdo

But beyond the detail and what is said, even if it is changed, there’s another reason to be excited about this remarkable document, and that is the entire process behind it.

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