Written by Andrea Martin, Media by Jack Wang
Catholic Bishops could not come to an agreement after the end of a two-week summit on how to address gays and lesbians within the Catholic Church, and whether divorced and then remarried Catholics can receive communion. The plan itself was to administer understanding and mercy towards homosexuals, which was presented through a preliminary document started by Pope Francis. The Bishops also could not come to an agreement over a watered down section on ministering homosexuals, which has stripped understanding and acceptance away that was so fully present last week in a draft article. This outcome shows a great division within the Church on how to handle such hot topics that greatly affect Catholic families and households.
Pope Francis’ appointee, Monsignor Bruno Forte, originally wrote the draft, which had fit in with Francis’ new welcoming and non-judgmental attitude. The draft was only supposed to be a synopsis of what could possibly happen, but many conservatives downplayed the draft by declaring it only represented a small minority and overly progressive group. Conservatives originally proposed extensive revisions for the draft, especially in terms of church doctrine, which holds that gay sex is “intrinsically disordered,” but that gays themselves are to be respected, and that marriage is defined between a man and a woman. After the synod vote, Francis addressed the group and said, “Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these … animated discussions … or if everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace.” Pope Francis would come to defend his stance on mercy and understanding to such topics as he called for the Church to adapt to “changing conditions of society.”
“God is not afraid of new things.”
The Draft’s First Appearance and Background
The draft first came to view last week as it looked to address issues regarding homosexuality, divorce and non-traditional families (gay marriage). As stated before, the draft had called for the Catholic Church to be more welcoming of homosexuals, and also of divorced and remarried Catholics within the Church. The document, although very progressive, would not be trying to change church doctrine or ideas. This was, however, a huge step for the Catholic Church in which it may be following the footsteps of Pope Francis. Distancing himself from condemnation, Pope Francis has showed an attitude of openness, mercy, and understanding. From a 12-page report, Pope Francis said that, without completely abandoning church teaching regarding the sacrament of marriage, pastors should be willing to acknowledge that there are “positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation.” Compared to this statement, the church has often addressed such couples to be “living in sin.”
The report’s positive language regarding homosexuality was much more accepting than what the Church has been accustomed to: “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 report had ultimately pitted bishops supporting Pope Francis’ message of acceptance against bishops that insist that the church is at risk of betraying its dominant stance regarding the doctrine of marriage and homosexuality. Archbishop Bruno Forte addressed some of the concerns regarding this new ideology by saying that while the Church does not condone gay unions or gay marriage, it must “respect the dignity of every person. The fundamental idea is the centrality of the person independently of sexual orientation.” The second biggest issue that the report addressed was whether communion can be given to Catholics who divorced or are remarried without having their first marriage annulled by the church, which tends to be a lengthy process. The Church believes that marriage is indissoluble. Bishops had been split regarding the matter, but the Church, ultimately, wants them to acknowledge that those who are divorced or remarried deserve respect and dignity, and shouldn’t be spoken to or thought of in any negative light that may look discriminatory.
Traditionalists have stood firm in where they believe when it comes to divorce. “As Christians, we follow Christ,” Cardinal George Pell, of Australia, told reporters. “Some may wish Jesus might have been a little softer on divorce, but he wasn’t. And I’m sticking with him.” In response to this, it has been acknowledged that this synod (an assembly of clergy) has developed a mindset of “graduality;” certain behaviors, although perhaps contrary to church doctrine, can lead people down the right path. Pope Benedict XVI, a doctrinal traditionalist, declared that it was right for a prostitute with AIDS to use a condom. Though this didn’t change the Church’s stance against birth control (or prostitution), it recognized the importance of taking care not to spread a sexually transmitted disease to others, which was seen as a moral act that lead someone in the right direction. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, of Great Britain, also expressed this idea by saying that graduality, “permits people, all of us, to take one step at a time in a our search for holiness in our lives.”