A pastoral earthquake at the synod

A pastoral earthquake at the synod

In pastoral terms, the document published today by the Synod of Bishops represents an earthquake, the “big one” that hit after months of smaller tremors.

The relatio post disceptationem read aloud in the synod hall, while defending fundamental doctrine, calls for the church to build on positive values in unions that the church has always considered “irregular,” including cohabitating couples, second marriages undertaken without annulments and even homosexual unions.

Regarding homosexuals, it went so far as to pose the question whether the church could accept and value their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine.

(See UPDATE below, calls for clarification already coming from some synod participants.)

While defending the traditional teachings that reject divorce and gay marriage, the synod said the modern church must focus more on the “positive elements” in such relationships, rather than their shortcomings, and open a patient and merciful dialogue with the people involved. The ultimate aim, it said, is to use these “seeds” of goodness to bring people more fully into the church.

It summed up the pastoral challenge for the church in this way:

"It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the Church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations. This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy."

The document clearly reflects Pope Francis' desire to adopt a more merciful pastoral approach on marriage and family issues. It is subject to revisions by the bishops this week, and in its final form will be used as part of a church-wide reflection leading to the second synod session in October 2015.

The relatio emphasized the “principle of graduality” – the idea that Catholics move toward full acceptance of church teachings in steps, and the church needs to accompany them with patience and understanding. And it emphasized the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which leads the church to recognize positive elements even in the “imperfect forms” found outside of sacramental marriage.

The relatio said a “new dimension of today’s family pastoral consists of accepting the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation.” Where such unions demonstrate stability, deep affection and parental responsibility, they should be considered a starting point for a dialogue that could eventually lead to sacramental marriage, it said.

It cited situations of couples who choose to live together without marriage for economic or cultural reasons, or those in Africa who enter into traditional marriages in “stages,” and said that in response the church must keep its “doors always wide open.”

“In such unions, it is possible to grasp authentic family values or at least the wish for them. Pastoral accompaniment should always start from these positive aspects,” it said.

In dealing with broken families, couples who have separated or divorced, the relatio said the church must avoid an “all or nothing” approach, and instead engage in patient dialogue with such families in a spirit of respect and love.

On the question of Communion for Catholics who have divorced and remarried without an annulment, the document left the question open for further theological study and reflection by the church as a whole, especially on the links between the sacrament of marriage and the Eucharist. It noted that some synod participants were against admission of divorced Catholics to the sacraments, while others foresaw Communion as a possibility, perhaps after a “penitential path” carried out under church guidance.

In dealing with divorced and remarried Catholics, it said, the church must avoid discriminatory language. For the church, reaching out to divorced Catholics does not represent a “weakening of its faith” or a weakening of the indissolubility of marriage, but rather an exercise of charity.

The relatio also cited the many calls in the synod for a speeding up and streamlining of the annulment procedures, including the possibility of an “administrative” decision of nullity made by local bishops without the need for a tribunal process. The pope has already named a commission to explore those possibilities.

In a section titled “Welcoming homosexuals,” the relatio clearly rejected gay marriage but stated:

“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?”

"Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions, it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners," it said.

Naturally, the synod framed its “opening” to irregular unions in the context of evangelization – leading people to the Gospel – and nowhere in the text is there a suggestion that basic church teachings are up for debate.

The first part of the relatio presents, in fact, a rather severe diagnosis of the ills that affect the modern family, citing in particular the dangers of an “exasperated individualism” that seems to have replaced family cohesion. Other families are struggling with economic troubles, violence and social upheaval, it said.

In dealing with these problems and failures, it said, the church needs to open a process of “conversion,” not merely announcing a set of rules but putting forward values, recognizing the opportunities to evangelize but also the cultural limits.

On the question of birth control, the synod’s relatio had little new to say. Openness to life is an essential part of married love, it said, and it suggested a deeper reading of Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical that condemned contraception, as well as better promotion of natural family planning methods of birth regulation.

Here, as elsewhere, the text said the church needs to use a “realistic language” that begins with listening to people, and can lead them to acknowledge the “beauty and truth of an unconditional opening to life.” It added, however, that the church also needs to "respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control."

The relatio said that in caring for “wounded families,” what rang out in the synod was the need for “courageous pastoral choices” and new pastoral paths that begin with the situation of the suffering couples or families, recognizing that, often, their situations are more endured than freely chosen.

It called for improvement of marriage preparation for Catholics, saying programs should better involve the church community as a whole. The church also needs to design pastoral accompaniment for couples in the early years of married life, using experienced couples as a resource, it said.

It made a particular point of inviting local Catholic communities around the world to continue the synod’s discussion and offer their perspectives, in view of the synod’s follow-up session on the same theme, which will take place in Rome Oct. 4-25, 2015.

UPDATE: The relatio has already occasioned some pushback. Following its presentation in the synod hall, 41 bishops spoke about the content, and several pressed for clarifications on specific points:

-- Some asked whether, in the section on homosexuality, there shouldn’t be mention of the teaching that “some unions are disordered,” a reference to the phrase the church has used to describe homosexual relations. That information came from Cardinal Peter Erdo, the primary author of the relatio, who spoke to reporters at a Vatican press conference.

-- Sources said other bishops questioned the analogy the relatio drew between the principle of finding “elements of sanctification and of truth outside” outside the visible structure of the church, expressed in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, and the broader idea that positive elements can be found not only in sacramental marriage but also in irregular unions.

-- At least one bishop asked what happened to the concept of sin. The word “sin” appears only rarely in the 5,000-word relatio.

At the press conference, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines emphasized that this text was not the final version and said with a smile, “So the drama continues.”

A TRANSLATION ISSUE: Some people are taking issue with the English version of the relatio (a translation of the original Italian text that was put out by the Vatican press office but which is not “official”) and its treatment of the homosexuality issue. Specifically, this line: “Are our communities capable of providing that (a welcoming home for homosexuals), accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

The Italian text uses the verb valutare, which can mean a lot of things -- to value, appreciate, consider, evaluate or judge. The English translators decided on “valuing.” I think “appreciating” would also fit. Given the context of the sentence (“welcoming” and “accepting”), I don’t think translating the word as “evaluating” or "judging" would make much sense. In any case, the sentence has apparently already caused some fireworks in the synod hall, so it will be interesting to see if it survives the revision process.




27 comments (Add your own)

1. John wrote:
Thanks for your comment John.

It seems the Synod is walking its own talk, namely graduality. Another way of saying they're dancing around the main issue of the sacramental care of the remarried without annulment.

To me this shows a real disconnect. To me, alas, the interim Synod document is posturing. Why can't they bite the bullet?

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 4:01 AM

2. Msgr. Len Badia wrote:
Thank God for Pope Francis who was sent to us by the Holy Spirit. He has guided the Synod into a path of mercy and love for Catholics who have suffered. Pope Francis is another St. Pope John XXIII who opened the Church to a new Era of gentleness and kindness.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 11:16 AM

3. John Servorum wrote:
It seems apparent that according to the new episcopal interpretation of marriage and sexuality no one sins anymore, there are only "wounded" people and "wounded" families who need to be patted on the head and welcomed with open arms, but without any reference to a need for the confession of sins, sacramental reconciliation and a true effort to avoid and reject sin in the future.
If this is so, this is not of Christ.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 11:17 AM

4. Peter wrote:
If those in "imperfect forms" of marriage are conceded access to the Eucharist, then what further role would there be to the inventive "principle of graduality"? More gradual than ever! Under what school of theological double-speak does graduality--now a principle!--displace catechesis and conversion? Fabianism is the New Evangelization?

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 11:49 AM

5. Raymond J. Ryan wrote:
Jesus said at the end " Forgive them Father, they know no what they do" In an earlier case He said to the woman- "Is there no one left here to condemn you ? Neither do I condemn you- Go on your way and SIN NO LONGER." Our God will indeed bless these men in Synod for their sacrifice in their own lives and their Charity toward those who also struggle to solve them in their own lives.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 11:50 AM

6. stephen healy wrote:
God Bless Pope Francis!!

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 12:43 PM

7. Conor Cook wrote:
I don't have a problem with the merciful approach. But if we are going to lead folks "up the steps" (gradually; gradus) of Church teaching, we ought to make the goal clear up front. Otherwise, we are saying something is OK and then later switching the rules. As long as we make lead that it's OK now to be where you are, but that you are taking steps toward a clear goal, it's good. Otherwise, folks will simply leave later.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 12:55 PM

8. Hegesippus wrote:
For those placed on a "penitential path", what exactly is the reason for the penitential journey? For if they are continuing to commit the sinful action (adultery in the sexual act), how does that fit with repenting and amending one's ways?

And for the priest who has been appointed to work with them on this journey, surely the content, support (and probably) length of the journey will be at his choice, enabling liberal priests who have no problem with Communion For All to practically ignore the teaching, while priests following Scripture, Tradition and Sacramental norms will be accused of being rigid, unmerciful and to be avoided. I'm just wondering how that will fit in parishes which experience a change of parish priest...

Considering the current state of in the West can priests properly fit these extra pastoral duties in when some are running multiple large parishes, with potentially tens or even hundreds of couples that need to make this journey. For many it will be no more than ticking a box.

Finally, considering the fact that very many Catholics and practically all non-Catholics are catechised only by the mainstream media's version of Church teaching, how can we ensure that parishes will not be inundated now by divorced-remarried Catholics demanding the Eucharist "'cos the Pope said it was okay now"? Will the fact that doctrine is not being changed even be reported? Almost definitely not - instead the media will tell us that the Church has changed its dogmas, anyone can do what we want and there'll be women priests permitted by Christmas. Exaggeration? We will see!

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 1:27 PM

9. steve wrote:
I find this very problematic language, when the synod fathers ask, "Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

One of the things I've admired and learned from the Church in such a context is that, at least in her formal documents, she speaks more of 'attraction' and even of ordered or disordered attractions; she distinguishes between the attraction (another word for temptation, really) and the acting on it, the behavior. These distinctions are essential! But the authors of this synod document don't seem to get it.

Using a word like 'orientation' suggests that it is a fixed and objectively determined reality --but attraction and temptation are subjective phenomena. It is used to define an identity --but humans cannot be identified with their feelings. It is to legitimize it and conflate it with something it is not. It also serves to imply that alternative 'orientations' are all equal.

So much of the language about sex and sexuality has been hijacked and euphemized by persons and groups with agendas very contrary to the Gospel and the Truth about man, though they have become current --even in Church circles.

Christians, and especially bishops teaching others,should be vigilant in avoiding terms like "homosexual" or even "heterosexual", "orientation", "gay" etc. These terms don't mean what they might think.

Much better to limit ourselves to terms like (awkward as they may be) 'same-sex attracted' or 'persons attracted to the same sex'.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 1:45 PM

10. Wendell wrote:
Where is the appreciation for and trust in the grace of God that is available to help people make substantial changes in their lives? Where is trust in God's mercy and saving grace? Excusing people's transgressions that separate them from God using a principle that tolerates sin merely fosters confusion.

Proponents of the principle of graduality ignore Jesus' clear call for decisive rejection of sin. Jesus provided people clear teaching that challenged sinners to make a choice between accepting His Gospel or rejecting it. Jesus did not run after disciples who abandoned His company over difficult teachings. Nor did Jesus suggest that we should mollycoddle people and tolerate lukewarm commitment (No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.—St. Luke 9:62; I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.—Rev. 3:15-16).

Gradualism plays dangerously loose with the time people have on this earth to repent of sin and accept the Gospel.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 2:05 PM

11. Daniel J. Johnson wrote:
What is the nature of the Eucharist? What is the nature of marriage? What is the nature of sexuality? What is the nature of divorce? What does "being in a state of grace" mean? What is the nature of sin? What is the nature of evil? What is the meaning of "good?" What is the meaning of "intrinsic?" What is the purpose of this Synod--to update the meaning of the words the Church uses in her teachings or to change the faithful's perspective of reality?

Will the outcome of this Synod be that we will do away with the principle that "one may not do evil so that good may result?" Will the Church's opposition to contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and slavery end because the people will be able to take a gradual path away from those "evils" while they remain attached to some small, supposed good in them? Will there be different degrees of "being in the state of grace," no one degree less acceptable than another?

From next year onward will Church discipline, law, doctrine, and dogma--and truth itself--all be defined by public pressure, popular vote, and the badgering of secular media?

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 2:16 PM

12. Kurt Koenig wrote:
Are laymen invited to participate in the Synod or is it exclusively the bishops?

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 2:25 PM

13. eddie too wrote:
thanks john, I found your write up to be excellent in arriving at the gist of the document. I find myself in serene acceptance of the direction the magisterium is guiding the faithful on these matters.

my own sentiment on the issue of disorder and homosexuality tends toward the idea that all sexual relationships that are not between one man and one woman, that are not both permanent and exclusive and that are not open to procreation are disordered to lesser and greater degrees, at least from a human perspective.

fornication, adultery, artificial contraception, as well as same-sex and solitary sexual acts are all disordered. at the same time, it is true that the degree of disorder (in terms of the totality of the acts rejection of the true and pure) appears graver when it is a same-sex interaction. for example, where does rape fall on the scale of sexually disordered acts?

in this regard, focusing the language of disordered primarily upon same-sex sexual acts leaves much room for pastoral development. I see it as more of a change in emphasis than anything doctrinal.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 3:06 PM

14. Suzana Malavasic wrote:
Two points that the Cardinals and Bishops at the Synod are not taking into consideration, which should be discussed are:
1) The struggle that Catholic lay men and women endure in order to remain faithful to the Church's teachings on the Sacrament of Marriage should not be disregarded. They are people who also might be wounded and suffering, but they are driven by their desire for an authentic Christian witness to the Gospel of Christ. In recognition of their devotion, which is accomplished by a belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ and a reliance upon the Holy Spirit and a trust in the Truth preserved in the teachings of the Catholic Church… the Synod must address their existence and worth. Those that fail to be faithful should not drive the Synod.

2) As a lay faithful who has been a member of several different parishes throughout the US, I can attest to the fact that many of those who are divorced and remarry without an annulment, do not abstain from receiving the Holy Eucharist. Recent research surveys have found that 70% of Catholics in America do not believe in Transubstantiation and reject other teachings that the Church holds if those teachings are contrary to their personal beliefs. Pastors need to ask a lot of tough questions before they can make a worthy assessment of how one "gradually" comes to be ready to receive the Sacraments.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 3:39 PM

15. Theresa wrote:
I pray that the Holy Spirit continues to blow down on the Synod with the force of a hurricane.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 4:22 PM

16. James Sapp wrote:
Paradigm shifts are always hard to understand precisely because they are what they are, a true shift, a new perspective, an alternate focus. The point is not to change doctrine or through out anything. The point is to search for deeper meaning, to discern the unfolding fullness of mystery that God reveals. So instead of continuing to analyze sin to death it is an attempt to look for awhile at the opposite end and see what we can learn. Jesus primary command was not negative but positive. Love one another as I have loved you. What does the loving as a human act reveal? What truths are there that we have not fully appreciated in the past? Human beings as such always love imperfectly so there will always be the sin which we have focused on for centuries but there will also be the miracle of grace that in spite of the imperfection people choose to love, often at great personal sacrifice. Some of those persons are in irregular marriages, some cohabiting, some homosexual. And, while the lack may be intrinsic evil the good that is also intrinsic and a place where the church can connect in a positive way with people whose totality it has simply in practice condemned which may then open them to the possibility of ongoing conversion. This truly is about evangelization which is pretty near impossible if all that is ever heard is condemnation as though certain groups alone were sinners. We are all sinners who glory in the truth that Christ died for us sinners before we did anything so that we would never be fooled in to thinking that being good could somehow justify us. The church has been very good at pointing out the sins of others for centuries it is high time it started pointing out the good that is in this world, the love that triumphs and gives hope to all...in whose ever lives it's blessing has been felt. The church would be wise to listen hard and deep to those who have found love where ever they find them, however imperfect their love may be.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 5:06 PM

17. Jack Gordon wrote:
Regardless of what English verb was chosen to translate the Italian, the damage is already done. And speaking personally, I have come to believe that Francis intended this ''damage'' all along. I waited a long time before reaching what I think is an inescapable conclusion: viz. the man is a liberal who embraces the worldview that plagues us since the time of the French revolution and the subsequent bloodletting. His appointments, his demotions (Cdl Burke, for example), his many wandering and imprecise interviews with declared enemies of Catholicism, his choice of words, those prelates whom he has chosen NOT to reprimand for statements denigrating pro-life combatants, etc. We make fools of ourselves to try to explain all this away as mere fortuity. It is deliberate and we must resign ourselves to having an authentic liberal in the See of St. Peter. For me, he is a bad pope finally, a catastrophe in the modern media-dominated society. But this does not undermine my faith, only my optimism. There have been worse popes in the past and I suppose there will be more of them in the future. But I will not waste any more breath trying to find excuses for what Pope Francis says or does. I'm tired of that routine.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 5:34 PM

18. martyred wrote:
god bless papa Francesco for bringing the church to the people.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 6:00 PM

19. Jordan Friedman wrote:
"fornication, adultery, artificial contraception, as well as same-sex and solitary sexual acts are all disordered"

Why do those all belong to the same category? A combination of a spirit-over-letter evaluation of the broader Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the admittance of wisdom from the domains of psychology, biology, and sociology would seem to suggest that only the first two items listed are definitely and intrinsically disordered. The others are only potentially disordered, and the gravity is very highly dependent upon the situation.

When people posit the simple, assured, "settled" wisdom that all of those things are intrinsically disordered, I wonder if they have as their starting point the relatively recently-framed discourse around "natural law" and JPII's theology of the body, or if they really have as their starting point a comprehensive survey of scripture, tradition, reason, science, and experience. A wise professor of Catholic moral theology once said that in intellectually responsible theological inquiry, the current official Church teaching may or may not be our ending point, but it cannot be our starting point. It is supposed to be taught because it's evaluated to be true by each generation of its custodians, in accordance with the moral, spiritual and philosophical progress of their respective times and places. It's supposed to be taught because it's true--not true because it's taught. That is an important difference, because then it remains open to prayerful and reverent, but possibly critical, re-evaluation.

Before the invention of the telescope and Galileo's use of it and application of what it revealed to the inherited wisdom and assumptions of the day, the Church could not imagine such a development. Because there was no precedent for it, and something quite different had been historically taught based on the best information available to the shapers of the tradition, who were men of their time, Galileo was something of a "persecuted prophet" as it were. He paid dearly, but was eventually vindicated and shown to have always been on the "right" side of history and ontological reality. I pray, as a sympathetic outsider who adheres to another major monotheistic faith tradition, that the Church learns to skip the centuries of digging in her heels this time around, and quickly learns to look through the "telescope" of the testimonies of diverse faithful and ask the forgiveness of those she has harmed while some of them yet live.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 6:53 PM

20. Raymond wrote:
I will say a prayer for Past Papa Benedict XVI, oh that he has to go through all this. He and Popes before him have built on such a beautiful truth. They build it up over many years like a great tree with deep roots. But like a great tree grown over hundreds of years it only takes a few hours to destroy it. Saint John Paul II pray for us and these leaders of the Church. Pray for Pope Francis.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 8:30 PM

21. @FMShyanguya wrote:
“Are our communities capable of providing that (a welcoming home for homosexuals), accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”
Words carefully chosen and posed as a question (the technique) to 'test the waters'/ gauge the reception.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 9:28 PM

22. R Rodriguez wrote:
St Ambrose says of the two conversions that, in the Church, " there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance."22 CCC1429

I think the church has failed to clasp sinners to her bosom and at the same time not spoken of sin to the degree that the CCC1428 states. The grace that draws a contrite heart to conversion...the idea that nothing is wrong with me, nothing wrong with you will of course take time to turn around...it appears the spirit of this synod might truly show what has been going on all along... Misplaced compassion casting out truth for sentimentality at the center of it all the ego.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 10:10 PM

23. Doubledad wrote:
My son just excitedly told me that the “Pope supports gay marriage now”.

His mother and I separated when she announced she was a lesbian and completely changed her moral stance on sexual issues. She now lives with her third girlfriend. She has turned him into a gay marriage cheerleader and he has emotionally declared that he will stand for “marriage equality”.

He is twelve and hasn’t really thought it through I know, but It is disheartening all the same that his mother’s brainwashing has been so effective. His response is completely emotional and he can’t be reached by rational discourse, so I wait for opportunities to educate.

I love the Church and have been trying to live as Christ would want and as the Church teaches. I believe the Church espouses the only sane worldview. I have been trying to catechize my sons and maintain my sanity in catastrophic situation.

It does not help when the media distort the reports coming out of the synod. It does not help when the church does not reiterate it’s clear teaching on same-sex marriage so as to dispel any rumors.

I resort, as always, to prayer, but with a sore heart.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 10:11 PM

24. Gregg Williams wrote:
I think that this is a positive step in the right direction for the Church. While it is unrealistic to expect the overall Doctrines to change, there certainly is room for the tone and approach to move in a more inclusive and appreciative direction. The diversity of the entire Church needs to be taken into account, and the message needs to be open enough so that the evolving society that the world has become can still appreciate the genuine Doctrines of the Church, while at the same time be ready to take a look at what constitutes Doctrine as opposed to traditions that have built up over time with little or no Biblical basis, such as the strictures on communion and the like with respect to divorce (that does not mean that the traditions have no place, but they should be distinct from Biblically rooted doctrine). The direction that the Synod appears to be going does credit to the foresight of Pope Francis, and also the continuing relevance of the Church in an ever changing world.

Mon, October 13, 2014 @ 11:06 PM

25. Romanos wrote:
As an Orthodox Christian I have watched Pope Francis with interest and hope. The Church is at a crossroad where opportunity and irrelevance meet. There is too much going on in this synod to comment on, but I want to assert only one point. The last frontier in the evangelization of humanity, is the group of humans referred to by themselves and by others as the LGBT community. In other words, gay people, and a few others that do not fit 'normal' human lifestyles. We have the Bible with its condemnation of homosexual activity, even to the point of death penalty in the Old Testament. Can the Church that selected the books of the Bible and continues to be caretaker of the expression of the Word of God (that is, Jesus Christ the Divine Logos, not the written scriptures) and its application, finally see that humanity, all of it, deserves salvation, and be courageous enough to go to those who, like the dead, are chained in an earthly Hades (churchly untouchability), where we (society as well as the Church) have consigned them for centuries?

The homosexual subculture and various lifestyles that we have known from the beginning of history are the result of our misunderstanding of and mishandling of people who (for whatever cause) are homosexual in orientation. In a society where the majority will always be heterosexual, can there be any danger in allowing the homosexual minority to live openly normal lives, within the common morality we all agree on? Thou shalt not commit adultery has as much meaning to a homosexual couple as to a heterosexual one. Can we as a society and as a Church (there is only One Church no matter how we cut it up) finally accept the freedom of Jesus Christ and His good news, not to engage in immorality, but to live according to pure consciences?

I don't know what such an accepting society and Church would look like, but I think there would still be a set of actions and lifestyles that would be considered sinful by everyone, no matter what there sexual preference is. Yes, children can only come naturally from heterosexual relationships, and it is obviously how God designed it. But it is natural for some men to love men, some women to love women, and both can love and raise children. I think if we really wanted to follow Jesus by doing what we see Him doing in the gospels, we would not be condemning the LGBT community to earthly lives of emotional pain and immorality, but welcoming them as worthy sons and daughters of the Most High, whose image all human beings are, however broken.

May the Holy Father show us how to unbind our own hands to love the brethren we have banished for so long, so that together we may repair the broken image of God, and work out our salvation.

Tue, October 14, 2014 @ 2:34 PM

26. Leo Clearn wrote:
I am very grateful for Francis' commitment to leading the Church into the 21st Century while respecting the importance of the marriage bond, the fragility of and mistakes human being make, and responding thoughtfully and lovingly as Jesus did. Christ's response to the woman caught in public adultery is a case in point. She was a public sinner yet he dealt with her tenderly and honestly. It's a pity we did not see Francis' Jesuit discernment years earlier.

I haven't seen any serious comments that all marriages that end in divorce need to be welcomed back into the fold without deep personally ownership of what happened by one of both involved. But once that work is completed, often thru the healing of a second and successful marriage and good pastoral care, mercy is in order.

So many of the world's bishops were selected by JP2 and Benedict according to standards that were based on rigidity and strict obedience to "the home office" as defined by them both. Hence it is not surprising that many of them need more time to catch up to the realities of Francis' leadership. That leadership is grounded in Christ's example of mercy. After wounded divorced people have come to informed understanding of their history and seek re-connection with the Eucharist they should be welcomed by all. "You who are without sin cast the first stone."

Sun, October 19, 2014 @ 10:31 PM

27. Francis wrote:
I believe that Pope Francis wants the Church (the people of God) to live in faithful witness to the Gospel. The teachings of Father Thomas Keating, Benedictine Monk and leader of Contemplative Outreach International are based on 4 principles: Silence, Solitude, Service and Solidarity. Jesus is the supreme example of these principles. In this synod of course, silent prayer and solidarity stand out. To bring solidarity to the Catholic Church and to the world discerning hearts steeped in silent prayer are essential. We are all connected in God's unfathomable love. Jesus spoke to and dined with the "outcasts" of his day. I do not know how ANYONE, whether Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, Priest, Deacon or Eucharistic Minister can deny a searching heart the Eucharist of Jesus. Who am I or you to cast a stone, to say that someone who has had a broken relationship or lives out their sexual orientation in love has to do severe "penance" before they can receive the Eucharist. What one has to do is love God and neighbor. So much of what I am reading from the Synod is a bunch of gobble-dee-gook. Let's take away all the unnecessary words and discussion and pontificating and return to the Gospel of Jesus, the God-Man, the one who showed us perfect humanity.

Wed, October 22, 2014 @ 10:23 PM

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