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January 10, 2014

Bishops say, ‘Gay? No way!’

Vatican City--The Vatican’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family, charged with making recommendations for next year’s larger, regularly-scheduled synod, ended on October 18, rescinding language aimed at creating a more welcoming atmosphere for LGBT and divorced people within the church.

The relation post disceptationem, or after-debate report, asked if the church was capable of welcoming gay people. It says, “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?”

It continued in that manner for two more paragraphs, and the word was that Pope Francis, who had earlier asked “Who am I to judge” if a gay person wanted to have a relationship with God, was pushing for the changes. While the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis adhered to Catholic dogma. Now, however, as the pontiff, he has greater leeway to shape that dogma.

The language of the final version that was presented to delegates at the synod had been weakened, but conservatives still opposed it. From using the language about “gifts and qualities,” it was changed to simply state that anti-gay discrimination should be avoided.

Despite the conservative opposition, however, it still received a majority of votes in support; however, to pass as a recommendation for next year’s synod, it needed a two-thirds majority, which it failed to garner.

English-language Vatican spokesman Father Tom Rosica noted, “Keep in mind this is not a magisterial document… the Pope asked for it to be made available to show the degree of maturity that has taken place and that which still needs to take place in discussions over the coming year.”

Because it was not a “magisterial document,” the rejection of changes wanted by the pope does not indicate a violation of the doctrine of papal infallibility. The document was allowed to be defeated, in part to push the church towards more debate.

Pope Francis made a speech afterwards discussing the process, and what people need to keep in mind going forward.

“I can happily say that - with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality - we have truly lived the experience of ‘synod,’ a path of solidarity, a ‘journey together,’ ” he said. “And it has been ‘a journey’ - and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting say ‘enough;’ other moments of enthusiasm and ardor.”

“And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned,” he continued. “One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word (the letter), and now allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of Suprises (the Spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve.”

“From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called - today - ‘traditionalists’ and also of the intellectuals,” he noted.

“Personally, I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St. Ignatius called it, if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace,” he concluded. “Instead, I have seen and I have heard - with joy and appreciation - speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage, and of parrhesia.”

LGBT organizations, both religious and secular, were disappointed in the result of the vote.

“Once more members of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church have erred on the side of hypocrisy and fear,” Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, director of Latino/a and Catholic Initiatives for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, said. “The deeply entrenched anti-LGBT forces within the Church prevailed, ignoring Pope Francis’ message of inclusion and respect, and fundamentally rejecting the voices and lives of LGBT Catholics.”

A 2014 survey released by the Pew Research Center found that almost 85 percent of American Catholics aged 18-29 say that homosexuality should be accepted, and 75 percent favor same-sex marriage. For those between 30 and 49, that support only drops to 73 percent and 63 percent, respectively. Even among those 50 to 64, 67 percent accept LGBT people, and 51 percent support same-sex marriage, while only 40 percent oppose it.







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