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.

Family Synod: Opening Session

There will be no detailed reports from the synod, where the bishops are meeting only in closed sessions. There will be daily briefings at the close of each, with summaries only of the main points. Although there is absolutely no reason to expect any change in church teaching, there are already encouraging signs of a change in style, with an emphasis on listening to the people in their real lives and experience of real families. It remains to be seen, though, whether this worthy aim will extend to listening to LGBT Catholics, and our queer families.

From Vatican Radio, this the briefing for the first day (with emphasis, and limited commentary, added):

The Church needs leaders that are listening to their people, speaking honestly, seeking consensus and discerning new ways of supporting family life. Those were the guidelines that emerged from a press conference held at the conclusion of the morning session by four of the key players in this Synod of Bishops. They were Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, French Cardinal André Vingt-Troi, Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte and Mexican Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes. Philippa Hitchen takes a closer look…

(But will that include listening to gay Catholics (especially those that are “speaking honestly” about their lives, and supporting our families, too?)

Family synod

The Rosary for October: Subversive, Queer.

May is Mary’s month and I
Muse at that and wonder why?
Her feasts follow reason
Dated due to season:
Candlemas, Lady Day
But the Lady Month, May
Why fasten that upon her
With a feasting in her honour?

-GM Hopkins, the May Magnificat

virgin-mary-statue

Why, indeed?  For reasons I have never clearly understood, this is one of my favourite poems by the gay English Jesuit GM Hopkins,  which has stuck firmly in my memory since my school days.  ( It was not even one that I studied in school, but one I found in my own exploration of Hopkins’ work, inspired by those poems we did study. Apologies to GMH if my memory has failed me and I have misquoted him)..

The extract above, and that which follows, are taken from a post I wrote for October a few years ago. The original post drew some encouraging comment, October is still the rosary month, and October 7th specifically the feast of the rosary.

After its original posting, it post drew a comment from the original developer of the Relational Mysteries,  raising some important questions which I think are worth thinking about. Read the opening of the original post for a sense of the original, cross to here if you like for the full post, read the comment after this excerpt,  read my response – and then consider your own reaction.

Joan Chittester, on The Alternate Synod and the Lay Vocation.

In preparation for the bishops’ synod on marriage and family, a global coalition of Catholic reform groups held a “synod” of their own on Thursday and Friday this week. This too, I had hoped  to attend, and in fact was invited to join a panel discussion as part of the program, to offer a gay perspective on the issues. Sadly, my plans fell through – just as well in the end, as medical issues intervened, and had I not withdrawn earlier, i would have been forced to do so at the last minute, and in the process have lost significant financial outlay on accommodation and flights.

Joan Chittister, writing about this gathering immediately before they met, notes that the gathering itself is not all they have done. They had previously written a letter to Pope Francis, and had prepared for the conference itself with extensive regional and on-line consultations. (The outcome of these, you can read in summary form, here.

I wait with interest reports of the actual conference proceedings. For now, read what Chittister had to say as a preview:

Martin Buber wrote once: “All journeys have a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware.” If that’s true, then think about this one.

Catholic Church Reform International, an umbrella coalition of 100 Second Vatican Council renewal groups from 65 countries around the world, will journey to Rome on Thursday and Friday to support Pope Francis and his extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.

But going to meetings isn’t all members of the group do.

In preparation for this event, they also wrote a public letter to Pope Francis, asking him to include representation from ordinary and diverse Catholic families with “appropriate provision for them to share their views, be heard, and to have a vote.”

While in Rome, the group will hold a Forum on the Family called “Listening to the Faithful” to share the results of the regional reports it has collected on the subject from around the world. Together there in Rome, members of the group will then deliver to the synod the testimonies of these groups as well as their insights and suggestions.

I have an idea that the destination of this group is far greater than the naked eye can possibly see. I, for one, would love to be on site to hear this group’s discussions. Then I’d like to compare those discussions to the kind of concerns, the nature of the responses and the quality of the questions the synod delegates themselves see as essential. The distinctions, if any, may well be crucial to the future of the church itself. It will certainly have a great deal to do with the kind of support the church provides the modern family at this moment in history.

Most of all, just to know that this group is in Rome, waiting patiently for the beginning of this special session on the family, is both a great joy and a real disappointment at the same time.

The joy lies in the fact that they are a sign that the church is taking the church in hand.

- continue reading at National Catholic Reporter

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