For the homosexuals.
Those two words mark the tone of the preliminary position paper drawn up by the Vatican synod. To many people, this represents a shift in the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church, which has traditionally seem homosexuality as immoral and depraved. In 1986, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote (with the approval of Pope John Paul II):
3. Explicit treatment of the problem was given in this Congregation’s “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics” of December 29, 1975. That document stressed the duty of trying to understand the homosexual condition and noted that culpability for homosexual acts should only be judged with prudence. At the same time the Congregation took note of the distinction commonly drawn between the homosexual condition or tendency and individual homosexual actions. These were described as deprived of their essential and indispensable finality, as being “intrinsically disordered”, and able in no case to be approved of (cf. n. 8, $4).
In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.
Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.
It was deemed morally impermissible to accept people being openly gay. Homosexuality was considered a tendency toward intrinsic moral evil. Those are vile words. Those are homophobic words. Those are words derived from an archaic interpretation of a book of mythology (and a poorly composed one at that). But are they a significant departure from the new “radical” Catholic position?
Halfway through the Vatican synod on the family, Pope Francis has scored a first quiet victory.
He has convinced many Catholic Church leaders to moderate their formerly strongly critical language about gay unions, and to admit that homosexuals may have “gifts and qualities to offer”.
The tone of a preliminary position paper drawn up by about 200 bishops after a week of closed-door discussions shows compassion and understanding not only towards people in single-sex unions, but also to heterosexual couples who live together without marrying and divorced couples who enter a second marriage without bothering to obtain a Church annulment.
The bishops made it clear that there can be no change in basic Catholic teaching on the permanence of the marriage bond, and insist that a valid marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
Not so much. Without a change in the basic Catholic teaching, there isn’t going to be the progressive change needed to treat homosexuals with full equality. Anything less than that change is nothing but hot air. I’m tired of people falling for the Pope’s rhetoric. That’s all it is: talk. He’s not actually treating gay people any better. He’s not advancing equality for gay people. He’s not advocating marriage equality, spousal benefits, or an end to homophobia. He’s talking about how the Church needs to talk to gay people nicer. Fuck that noise.
Sadly, people are falling for that noise. They think this is a dramatic shift, an earthquake even, in the RCC, all because they’re recommending a change in tone. Thankfully there are people who realize this is nothing but a lot of hot air:
The relatio reaffirms at several points that marriage is between a man and a woman. Substance on that point is not changing. The Vatican has been repeatedly clear that this Synod will bring no changes to doctrine, or even a final document with new rites. To “welcome gays” does not mean the Church is no longer equating “gay” with “sin.”
Instead, tone—as it has always been with the Francis papacy—is what is on the table. The style that Pope Francis lives is one that starts with a spirit of embrace, of mercy, and not with sin. It begins with figuring out at what points embrace is possible before determining the points at which it is not. That may be one reason why people like top Vatican watcher John Thavis are calling this mid-synod report “an earthquake.”
But it is also important to remember that the Synod on the Family is almost a two-year-long process, and this snapshot is just that, a snapshot of one week in that process. There will be more such snapshot documents in the coming months. The conversation started earlier this year when bishops around the world surveyed their congregations about family life, it kicked off more formally last week with the gathering in Rome, next the bishops will take the conversations back to their communities, next summer there’s the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia (a traditionally conservative American diocese), and then finally next fall there will be the second Synod with even more bishops from around the world with even more discussion.
Looking for revolution can be misleading. It can mar the actual story of what is and what is not happening. Casual Vatican observers—especially those in the United States, where conversations about sexuality have a different trajectory than in the Vatican or in many developing countries—should be careful to not read into the conversation what they want to hear. The interest in a relatio, a relatively obscure document, does however point to another shift: people actually care about what a group of bishops is doing.
I love how-once again-people are hanging all over mere words as if they mean a damn thing. At this point none of this is written in stone. These are only recommendations from the Catholic Synod. They’re talking about how the church should be kinder to gay people. They think that shifting their tone could be beneficial, while in the same breath saying that homosexuality is still a sin. How the hell is this progress? How is this something to be appreciated? How is this the “massive shift” in the RCC?
All they’re doing is saying “we’ll tolerate your presence, but you’re still not our equals”.