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.
“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.
From Vatican Radio, a report on Pope Francis’ reflection on the Gospel for Sunday, the 28th of Ordinary Time (MT 22:1-14)
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?
Read more →
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:
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.
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.
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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.
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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Throughout the first week of the family synod in Rome, there have been tantalising suggestions that the Catholic Church is moving towards greater sensitivity and awareness of the real pastoral needs of lesbian and gay Catholics. Today, that possibility was confirmed, with the release of a formal summary document of the proceedings thus far, which goes way beyond a simple call for welcoming us, but even to raising the possibility of “accepting and valuing” our sexual orientation. There is also, for the first time the significant use of the term “partners” in referring to the couples in same – sex relationships, and recognition of the mutual support and sacrifice the partners give to each other.
Read more →
“Salt and Light” has video highlights from the synod, which you can watch on Youtube:
Day 1 – with reference to the opening remarks of Pope Francis, Cardinal Baldisseri and Cardinal Erdos, and a behind-the-scenes tour of the Paul VI Audience Hall.
Day 2 – Cardinal Sodano makes a special announcement about the Church’s response to the Middle East, a summary of the major themes developing at the Synod, and a special sit-down with Cardinal Pell Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
Day 3 – Tonight on Inside the Synod, the Pope calls Christians to greater unity at his weekly General Audience, and today the Bishops take a closer look at the very practical issues facing families today.
Day 4 – Today on Inside the Synod discussions got heated as the bishops reflected on difficult pastoral situations. Sebastian Gomes brings us the highlights.