An ‘Intrinsically Disordered’ Cardinal.

At the synod, there have been numerous indications of a coming shift in tone and more sensitive pastoral practice in treating lesbian and gay Catholics and their relationships, including recognition of the harm done by the language of “intrinsically disordered”, a married couple’s recommendation that same – sex couples need to be welcomed by their families, and an observation by Cardinal Marx that we need to differentiate between “a faithful homosexual relationship that has held for decades” and endorsing “homosexuality as a whole” (whatever that means).

One cardinal however, is having none of it. Lifesite News and others of that ilk are celebrating Cardinal Burke’s absolute rejection of any tolerance for what he persists in calling an “intrinsically disordered” condition.

Cardinal Burke

Lifesite may rejoice, but numerous other sites have responded by slamming Burke’s response, sometimes in colourful language.

Synod Told of the “Dignity” of Homosexuals in Africa. Really?

Wednesday morning’s Synod session began with the very moving story of a Catholic woman from Ivory Coast, married to a Muslim man. That personal testimony set the tone for much discussion about the very practical problems facing Church leaders in Africa as they deal with a wide variety of complex and country-specific problems.

How should they react if a man with many wives and children becomes a Catholic? How should they respond to pressures from international organisations linking financial aid to the need for population control? And how can they uphold Church teaching on marriage while defending the dignity of gay people who are criminalised in a number of African countries? 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

archbishop-kaigama

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria

This sounds encouraging coming from a bishop in Africa, where so many countries have been promoting or applauding harsh criminal sanctions against homosexuality, It would be more impressive though, if his record in his own country had shown him demonstrating his commitment to defence of homosexual dignity, and not endorsing or congratulating his government on the criminalization legislation that he now claims to reject. 

Today’s Mass – a Lesson for the Synod on “The Law” and “The Spirit”.

I trust that the bishops in Rome were listening carefully and reflecting prayerfully, on the first reading in today’s Mass, from Galatians:

Are you people in Galatia mad? Has someone put a spell on you, in spite of the plain explanation you have had of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Let me ask you one question: was it because you practised the Law that you received the Spirit, or because you believed what was preached to you? Are you foolish enough to end in outward observances what you began in the Spirit? Have all the favours you received been wasted? And if this were so, they would most certainly have been wasted. Does God give you the Spirit so freely and work miracles among you because you practise Law, or because you believed what was preached to you?

Galatians 3:1-5

What was preached to us in the Gospels, and also by Pope Francis, quite clearly demonstrates the primacy of love over scrupulous insistence on adhering to every detail of religious law Were you listening, bishops?

Synod: 2nd Day Highlights for LGBT Catholics

The press briefing after the second day of the family synod, together with other reports, included much to offer some hope for LGBT Catholics.

These included:

Recognition of the harm done by disordered language

The head of the Holy See press office Fr Federico Lombardi and his assistants spoke of the many different subjects under discussion on the first two days of the Synod, in particular the need for a more sensitive and inclusive language about family life that will not turn people away from the Church. Canadian Fr Tom Rosica gave some specific examples from the English speaking bishops present at the meeting:

“Language such as ‘living in sin,’ ‘intrinsically disordered,’ or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”

The bishops heard from real life experience of the “joy” of sex- and it’s messiness

The head of the Holy See press office Fr Federico Lombardi and his assistants spoke of the many different subjects under discussion on the first two days of the Synod, in particular the need for a more sensitive and inclusive language about family life that will not turn people away from the Church. Canadian Fr Tom Rosica gave some specific examples from the English speaking bishops present at the meeting:

“Language such as ‘living in sin,’ ‘intrinsically disordered,’ or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”

The importance of “graduality” in dealing with relationships that the Church regards as irregular.

Synod participants have also been underlining the need to apply the so-called ‘law of graduality’ or ‘stepping stones approach’ as they minister to people living in all kinds of relationships that do not conform to the Church’s ideal of marriage and family life.

“Questa tema della gradualità è stata ripresa………non si raggiunge ancora questa ideale.”

Fr Lombardi used an analogy from the Second Vatican Council which led to profound changes in the Catholic Church’s relations with other Christians and people of other religious traditions. During the Council, bishops agreed that while the fullness of Christ’s Church “subsists” only in the Catholic Church, important elements of truth and holiness also exist in other churches and faith communities. In a similar way, he said, valid and important elements of true love and holiness can also exist in a relationship that does not conform to the full vision of an ideal Catholic marriage.

 

Synod Hears of the Harm Done by Disordered Language

The press briefing after the synod’s second day begins with this notable observation:

The head of the Holy See press office Fr Federico Lombardi and his assistants spoke of the many different subjects under discussion on the first two days of the Synod, in particular the need for a more sensitive and inclusive language about family life that will not turn people away from the Church. Canadian Fr Tom Rosica gave some specific examples from the English speaking bishops present at the meeting:

“Language such as ‘living in sin,’ ‘intrinsically disordered,’ or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”

For lesbian and gay people, this is nothing new, but it is something that the bishops needed to hear. Indeed, even some of those who are already aware of the harmful effects and warning against them, may not realize the depth of the damage that is done. They may understand that it is one of the factors that turns many our community away from the Catholic Church, as noted in the press briefing – but do they understand that it is also quite literally, destructive of lives, especially young lives?

Saints Sergius & Bacchus, Patron Saints of Gay Marriage?

As the bishops in Rome continue to deliberate on marriage and the family, while largely ignoring queer families, it’s appropriate to recall that the synod coincides with the memorial of two saints, Sergius and Bacchus, who remind us that the Christian Church has not always so studiously avoided any recognition of same – sex relationships, but has in fact blessed and even celebrated them. In the widely discussed deliberations around communion after divorce, Cardinal Kasper has drawn attention to the important fact that current practice of absolutely forbidding communion for those who have divorced and remarried, has not always been the case. In the earliest church, and in the Orthodox church even today, there was in certain cases, some room for recognition and acceptance of people in second relationships, without going as far as treating those relationships as marriage. Perhaps,if the synod accepts the lead indicated by Cardinal Kasper and (less directly) by Pope Francis, we will see similar recognition of the historic recognition of same – sex relationships, and with it, greater nuance in the pastoral responses.
Sergius and Bacchus are by a long way the best known of the so-called gay or lesbian saints – unless we include as “saints” the biblical pairs David and Jonathan, and Ruth and Naomi.  We need to be careful with terminology though: the word “gay” can be misleading, as it certainly cannot be applied with the same connotations as in modern usage, and technically, they are no longer recognised as saints by the Western* church, as decreed by the Vatican – but they are still honoured by the Orthodox churches, and by many others who choose to ignore the rulings of Vatican bureaucrats. The origins of saint-making lay in recognition by popular acclaim, not on decision by religious officials.

A modern icon of Saints Sergius and Bacchus by...

 
Whatever the quibbles we may have, they remain of great importance to modern queer Christians, both for their story of religious faith and personal devotion, and as potent symbols of how sexual minorities were accepted and welcomed in the earliest days of the Christian community.
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