Sunday, October 19, 2014

LGBT Catholics Respond to Synod 2014's Final Report

A compilation of quotes and links to articles and commentaries about the final report of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, also known as the Synod on the Family.

UPDATED 10/29/14

The respectful language of the midterm report is gone. A return to what we've heard for decades will dishearten LGBT people, same-sex couples, and our families.

What we saw through the Synod process is that there are deep divisions in what the Catholics bishops think about LGBT people, even at the highest levels of leadership. Unfortunately, today, doctrine won out over pastoral need. It is disappointing that those who recognized the need for a more inclusive Church were defeated.

However, we now know there are many bishops who believe in a more welcoming approach to LGBT people, and that they are finally drawing closer to the majority of Catholics who strongly support LGBT people. We anticipate that significant dialogue and debate at all levels of the Church will continue for the year leading up to the Synod in October 2015.

In the meantime, as this just-concluded Synod has shown, the words and actions of Church leaders matter deeply and impact LGBT people and our families every day. Whether a bishop stands against a law criminalizing homosexuality, whether a Church employee in a same-sex marriage can keep her job, whether an LGBT high school student is bullied — all of these things flow from what the Church teaches.

DignityUSA remains committed to the truth that LGBT people are beloved children of God and deserve full inclusion in our Church and society. We intend to be fully involved in discussions leading up to the full Synod.

Marianne Duddy-Burke
Executive Director of DignityUSA
"LGBT Catholics Disappointed by Final Synod Report"
October 18, 2014

The synod's final report significantly backtracks on LGBT issues from the draft released earlier this week, but the synod’s process and openness to discussion provides hope for further development down the road, particularly at next year’s synod, where the make-up of the participants will be larger and more diverse, including many more pastorally-oriented bishops.

It's very disappointing that the Synod's final report did not retain the gracious welcome to lesbian and gay people that the draft of the report included. Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples. Additionally, their further comment about supposed "international pressure" to accept same-gender marriage selfishly views the hierarchy as the victims, not LGBT people who receive unjust and oppressive treatment by governments, church, families, and society.

. . . It’s important, however, to keep two things in mind. First, the paragraphs on homosexuality which did not receive the required 2/3rds vote, and which were more welcoming of LGBT people, failed by only a handful of votes, indicating significant support from a majority of bishops. Second, this report is not the final word, but as a Vatican spokesperson explained, it is still a working document which will be discussed in the coming year.

What was good about this two-week long meeting? The real value of this synod is that it has started the discussion among the hierarchy on LGBT issues which has been going on for decades among the lay people and theologians in the Church. The bishops began to catch up, and I don’t think that the discussion will stop here, but will only continue, with more promising outcomes for LGBT people and their families in the future.

. . . [T]his synod revealed that there are some strong voices for LGBT equality and for change in church teaching, something which was not known clearly before the meeting. Now that these voices have been bold enough to speak, more bishops who think like them will surely follow their example. The biggest problem in the Church up to this point has not been lack of support among the hierarchy on LGBT issues, but lack of courage for those bishops to speak out what they truly think. The silence has ended. Nothing will be the same.

Francis DeBernardo
Executive Director of New Ways Ministry
Excerpted from "Synod Final Report Disappoints,
But Significant Progress Is Made In the Process
Bondings 2.0
October 18, 2014

Many of the reports on the “final” synod document . . . have focused on claims that this is somehow a victory for the conservatives, or a defeat for Pope Francis. Both are completely unjustified.

One clue to why this is so, is in this useful information about the synod posted in the Changing Attitude facebook group by Johan Bergström-Allen: ". . . Very good BBC interview with Cardinal Vincent Nichols . . . who reveals that some of the 72 Synod delegates in Rome who voted against the “welcome to gay people” wording in the final document (with 118 in favour) did so because it either went too far or not far enough. Vincent says he can’t remember how he voted (there were 60 votes in under an hour), but that – reflecting the policy in his own diocese of Westminster – he felt the wording didn’t go far enough, because the key words “welcome”, “respect” and “value” were missing. The cardinal hopes the next stage of the Synod will encourage a more welcoming attitude to LGBT people. Let’s hope the Synod process moves forward with discernment, honest discussion, and a Christ-like passion for pastoral care. God bless Cardinal Vincent for his compassion and balance, and God bless Pope Francis for his wisdom, his collegiality, and his caring heart."

. . . Also worth noting, is that approval for the final text was not based on simple majority vote, but required a two–thirds majority. Reports elsewhere have suggested that on some of the more welcoming passages that were left out of the final text, did in fact have the support of the majority, but just not enough to get to two thirds. Also important, just as words of support were excluded from the bland final document, so too were the harsher words that were proposed by the reactionaries. There were no “winners” or “losers” in this, other than a clear win for open and frank discussion – a major step forward for the Catholic Church.

Terence Weldon
Excerpted from "Synod: So, Who 'Won'?"
Queering the Church
October 19, 2014

Venerable fathers of my Roman Catholic church: you may, if you wish, continue to talk until you are blue in the face about who's worthy to sit at your table. But no matter how long you talk, I will continue to believe that it's God who makes the final decision about who will sit at the table that belongs to God, and not to you. I will continue to believe that all God's children are going to sit at the welcome table one of these days.

And, yes, I'm going to tell God how you've treated me — though I intend to plead with Her not to deal with you as cruelly and mercilessly as you have dealt with me. Because no human being deserves such treatment, and certainly not by those who imagine they are the final judges and arbiters of who may sit at the table that belongs to God alone.

William D. Lindsey
Excerpted from "I'm Going to Sit at the Welcome Table One of These Days:
A Sunday Sermon
October 19, 2014

The synod’s final report backtracked on key issues around admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to the eucharist, and more LGBT-friendly pastoral strategies. Fear had overcome courage and rigidity had strangled the rights of conscientious dissent with regard to church teachings – which were not primary-level doctrines anyway.

“LGBT Catholics! Why don’t they just pack their bags and leave?” some ask. The reason we stay is because our baptism gives us rights, enshrined in church law, as well as responsibilities to inform our pastors of all that builds us up as mature believers, integrating our sexuality, gender and personality as the glory of God in the human person, fully alive. “But you’re trying to change church doctrine!” our opponents state, from inside and outside the Catholic stable.

Enter Pope Francis, not in the autocratic style of some popes, but seeking to change pastoral practice and attitudes. His Latin American experience reflects a different approach to doctrine. He starts from where people are, and develops solidarity – particularly with those whom he sees as alienated or marginalised, whether from church or society. Out of this orthopraxis – consistent action – there is a possibility of developing a rooted theological reflection, orthodoxy – consistent teaching. Such action invigorates reflection, and vice versa. Hence he has strongly insisted on more inclusive practices within the church, rather than starting from abstract dogmas and attempting to impose them on an unreceptive community.

– Martin Pendergast
Excerpted from "Progressive Catholics Still Have Faith in Pope Francis' Vision"
The Guardian
October 20, 2014

This report is not the final word, but as a Vatican spokesperson explained, it is still a working document which will be discussed in the coming year. We now call upon the Vatican and local Bishops’ Conferences to institute Listening Processes over the coming year, to include LGBT people, parents, and other family members, alongside theologians and experienced pastoral ministers. . . . Pope Francis has placed these issues on the table, and all the signs are that his action is irreversible, given the strong statements made in his closing speech to the Synod. If, as on a range of matters held to be controversial by some sections of the hierarchy, there is a move to a more open and listening pastoral practice then this could lead to the development of a richer theology of human sexuality, and a more credible and human face of the Church. In this way we can become credible disciples, witnessing to the joy of the Gospel with which the Pope constantly challenges us.

As it turned out, the final wording was pretty much the same old same old: deeply entrenched anti-body, anti-women ideas that give institutional Catholicism its well-deserved reputation as an unwelcome place for all but the most rigidly observant. . . . Initial statements and the first report contained some very promising possibilities. Then the jousting started as blustering bishops panicked at the slightest suggestion that new ideas would gain traction. What survived the onslaught were “timeless truths” about how to exclude people who experience disastrous marriages. Words of welcome and mercy were replaced with tiresome, offensive repetitions of old teachings on same-sex loving people. Such efforts to micromanage the morals of others find scant welcome in contemporary society.

The voting men were ostensibly horrified by the notion that same-sex couples might have any redeeming features, or that there might be “charity in its caring…” rather than “weakening of its faith…” (par. 46 of the early draft) if divorced and remarried people receive communion. Dear God, what crumbs they quibble over and fall on their croziers to defend. Have they missed the fact that the worldwide pedophilia crimes and cover-up on their watch have left them without a fig leaf of credibility? No wonder no one looks to them to be helpful about the moral issues at stake in Ebola, terrorism, or environmental threats.

– Mary E. Hunt
Excerpted from "Church Synod Recap: Micromanaging the Morals of Others"
Religion Dispatches
October 27, 2014

Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI would have excised [the Synod's discussion on] the outreach to gay people altogether. And the idea of a transparent vote tally – revealing a vigorous internal division on these questions – would have been unthinkable.

The true headline of this past remarkable week is therefore: the Vatican hierarchy cannot find a consensus on the question of pastoral care for gays, the divorced and the re-married, and the Pope is happy for this fact to be very, very public. These remain open questions for a year of continued debate and discussion before the second stage of the Synod this time next year and the Pope’s subsequent summary. That these are open questions is the real result of this Synod.

– Andrew Sullivan
Excerpted from "Two Steps Forward, One Step Back"
The Dish
October 19, 2014

J.R.R. Tolkien once reminded us that "not all those who wander are lost." I would argue that if anyone needs guidance at this point in history, it is the bishops who need to be shepherded by the laity.

Many bishops have spent the last three decades remaining silent on issues related to the family or silencing those who dared to question the institutional church's teachings on sexuality. In the meantime, Catholic theologians, ethicists and laypeople have been pursuing deeper inquiries, listening to concrete human experiences, and developing contemporary moral frameworks grounded in the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Many laypeople have already cultivated their own capacity for moral discernment; they have exercised their God-given gift of conscience; they have managed to grow spiritually without institutional church's constant instruction; they have found that their relationships, which the bishops would label "irregular," are, in fact, deeply sacramental. The synod document suggests that the bishops aren't ready to treat the faithful like the mature adults they've become.

Francis wants the bishops to love us, guide us, and be merciful to us. But do any of these bishops want to hear the truths that Catholic laypeople have discerned and discovered in their own theological reflections on their lives? Or do they simply want to continue to treat laypeople who live in "imperfect" relationships (that is, the vast majority of Catholics) as misguided children in need of a parent or teacher?

One of the unfortunate repercussions of having a popular pope is that the conversation about the empowerment of the laity seems to have taken a backseat. On issues related to sexuality and the family, the voice of the laity, in all of its diversity, could not be more crucial.

– Jamie L. Manson
Excerpted from "Synod on the Family Proves That Father Still Knows Best"
National Catholic Reporter
October 29, 2014

Updates and Recommended Off-site Links:
Pope Francis and Gays Will Win by Losing This Round on Synod Draft — Jonathan Capehart (The Washington Post, October 20, 2014).
Pope Francis’ Talk on Gays Moves Catholic Church Into Modern Era — and Out of 17th Century – Mike Lupica (New York Daily News, October 19, 2014).
Vatican Call for Church to Welcome Gay People Did Not Go "Far Enough" Says Cardinal Vincent Nichols – John Bingham and Andrea Vogt (The Telegraph, October 19, 2014).
How Catholic Synod on Gays Made History, Even With 'Disappointing' End – Mark Sappenfield (Christian Science Monitor, October 19, 2014).
Pope: "God Is Not Afraid of New Things" – Philip Pullella (Reuters via HuffPost Religion, October 19, 2014).
Vatican Bishops Scrap Opening to Gays and Divorced Members – Scott Neuman (NPR News, October 18, 2014).
Bishops Scrap Welcome to Gays in Sign of Split – Nicole Winfield and Daniela Petroff (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, October 18, 2014).
Catholic Synod: Pope Francis Setback on Gay Policy – James Reynolds (BBC News, October 18, 2014).
Synod Report Narrows Open Tone, Pope Calls for Middle Path – Joshua J. McElwee (National Catholic Reporter, October 18, 2014).
The Vatican Cancels Its Earthquake. This is Not Pope Francis’ Finest Hour – Damian Thompson (The Spectator, October 18, 2014).
Synod A Win for Francis and for Openness – Thomas Reese (National Catholic Reporter, October 18, 2014).
Five Things the Synod Just Did – James Martin, SJ (Commonweal, October 18, 2014).
The Backlash Mounts Against Francis – Andrew Sullivan (The Dish, October 17, 2014).
Conservative Bishops Get “Different Translation” Dialing Back Language on LGBT Acceptance – Patricia Miller (Religion Dispatches, October 17, 2014).
Overwhelming 85% of Young American Catholics Support Gays and Lesbians – Carol Kuruvilla (The Huffington Post, October 17, 2014).
“Gradualism” and the Inevitability of Doctrinal Change – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, October 15, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
On the Feast of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Thoughts on Marriage Equality in the U.S. and the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Breaking News – October 13, 2014
Quote of the Day – October 14, 2014)
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality

1 comment:

Mary Lynn Murphy said...

Great post, Michael.

This conversation is now openly on the bishops' table. Too late to take it off. Despite the backtracking, further conversation will have to happen. That's a good thing. Good for Francis!