What Would You Say About Marriage and Family at the Upcoming Synod?

familyThe Vatican announced yesterday that Pope Francis has called an extraordinary synod of bishops to take place Oct. 5-19, 2014, and will focus on the topic “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”

According to Robert Mickens in The Tablet:

“The announcement comes less than a week after the 76-year-old Pope held three days of inaugural meetings with his eight-member Council of Cardinals, a group he has assembled to advise him on governing the universal Church and reforming the Roman Curia. . . .

“Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, said on 2 October that Francis was interested in looking at the ‘anthropological theme’ that dealt with ‘the human person and the family in the light of the Gospel.’

“Today’s announcement of the Synod on the family – only third time that an extraordinary gathering is be held since the Synod of Bishops began meeting in 1967 – came as the permanent council of the Synod finished two days of regular meetings.”

John Allen, Vatican observer for The National Catholic Reporter, noted that he thinks at least one controversial issue might be raised during the meeting:

“Given the topic, the thorny pastoral question of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics is destined to arise. On other occasions, Francis has hinted at openness to a greater degree of flexibility on the issue, perhaps along the lines of the Orthodox tradition.”

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

While that is certainly an important topic and one likely to arise,  I also wonder how the synod will address the topic of same-gender marriage and families headed by same-gender couples.   While it is true that Pope Francis has asked bishops not to be obsessed with the topic of marriage equality, I can’t imagine that such a current and politically charged topic will not come up in such a forum.

Not only do we have Pope Francis’ recent “Who am I to judge?” comment and his positive remarks in theJesuit magazines interview, but earlier this year Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, called for protection of families headed by same-gender couples through the passage of civil union laws. So did  Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, and Fr. Federico Lombardi, the pope’s spokesperson.

So, I turn to you, our faithful Bondings 2.0 blog readers, with some questions that I hope you will answer in the “Comments” section of this post:

  • How should the bishops in synod address LGBT topics in this synod on marriage?
  • How can bishops best prepare to discuss these topics in the context of the themes of family and evangelization?
  • Would it be better if the bishops did not even discuss LGBT topics in this synod?
  • Do you think that Pope Francis’ recent positive statements about lesbian and gay people will have a positive influence on the synod?
  • If you were asked to address the synod, what would you tell them about marriage equality, LGBT people and families, and Catholicism?
  • What are your hopes, dreams, fears concerning this synod?

Answer one, two, or more of these questions in your “Comment” for this blog post.

A synod will have a long-lasting effect on the future way that the Catholic hierarchy will address such issues because it will set firm policy about the way to handle these topics.   Elizabeth Dias, writing in Time magazine, described the role of the synod:

“The Synod of Bishops is a general assembly gathering that was created as part of the Vatican II reforms, and regular (ie, non-extraordinary) synods meet every couple years. The synod’s role, Pope Paul VI said, is to examine  ‘the signs of the times’ and ‘to provide a deeper interpretation of divine designs and the constitution of the Catholic Church’ in order to ‘foster the unity and cooperation of bishops around the world with the Holy See.’

“For Francis, issues of family and marriage are the ones that require deeper interpretation given the signs of the times, and dedicating a synod to the topic suggests he wants to unify church teaching about them. When local church offices around the world make their own decisions about marriage and family—especially about serving communion to divorced and remarried Catholics—the global church as whole becomes divided. ‘It is very important that an extraordinary Synod has been convoked on the theme of the pastoral of the family,’ Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi said. ‘This is the way in which the Pope intends to promote reflection and to guide the path of the community of the Church, with the responsible participation of the episcopate from different parts of the world.’ ”

With such an important mission, it will be important that the bishops hear from many Catholics, including those who support LGBT people and issues, so that all the voices of God’s people will be heard.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



18 replies
  1. chuckcolbert
    chuckcolbert says:

    What would I say? It’s quite simple. Marry us. Baptize our children. Jettison all of the sex negativity and imagine the intrinsic goodness of LGBT across the whole spectrum of how we live our lives and how we love.

  2. pjnugent
    pjnugent says:

    “A synod will have a long-lasting effect on the future way that the Catholic hierarchy will address such issues because it will set firm policy…” Forgive me, but I really can’t believe that the obstinate US Bishops will follow any “policy” set in a synod if it does not square with their present public policy positions. I believe that they will wiggle around any change, as they continue to wiggle around Pope Francis progressive statements. There will be no significant change until the present reactionary hierarchy are replaced with a new set of bishops. One can only hope (and pray) that will occur.

    And thanks for using the expression “same-gender” couples. I have found “same-sex” couples troubling.

  3. Lydia Lombardo
    Lydia Lombardo says:

    Pope Francis is very brave and kind and compassionate, but I also believe that he knows he is the church’s leader. His words and actions have already made tremendous changes in how individual parishes are welcoming people into their fold. I have witnessed it first hand. He is being led by the Holy Spirit and I believe he can sway our obstinate Anerican bishops into following his lead. He is the CEO; he sets the “company’s” path. The first issue I would tackle, if I were asked, was bringing back into the fold the divorced and civilly married Catholics who have been denied the sacraments, That would be such a large concession for the church to make and involves the greatest number of people hurt by the heirarchy. I hope it’s not too late and that those thousands upon thousands still care enough to come back. I can see this pope metaphorically embracing these couples and placing capes on their shoulders, rings on their fingers, and ordering the fatted lamb to be prepared. The difference is they are not “prodigals” by choice but could be welcomed back by the great love this Pope has for all humanity. I beleve we are witnessing other Mother Theresas, Dorothy Days, and Sr. Helen Prejeans in our very midst.

  4. Gabor Kale
    Gabor Kale says:

    o How can bishops best prepare to discuss these topics in the context of the themes of family and evangelization?
    – The best strategy to prepare discussion about LGBT topics would be to send e-mail messages to younger bishops asking them to propose the correction of those points of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) which are connecting to the LGBT persons, and same-gender marriage. The older bishops are not interested in any changing, but younger bishops can properly evaluate the importance of this topic.
    o Do you think that Pope Francis’ recent positive statements about lesbian and gay people will have a positive influence on the synod?
    Absolutely, if some active bishops definitely back the changing of CCC.
    o If you were asked to address the synod, what would you tell them about marriage equality, LGBT people and families, and Catholicism?
    The synod should try to understand the real meanings of Jesus’ words about marriage. The bishops should feel free from the present teachings of Catholic Church, because there are a lot of new scientific data about human sexuality, and children’s socialization, which were unknown, when the present teachings were adopted. In the light of these new scientific discoveries (e.g. to be gay is not a disease, LGBT parents are able to raise or foster healthy children, etc.) they should reevaluate the words of the Bible, for better understanding of the real messages of God.
    o What are your hopes, dreams, fears concerning this synod?
    I don’t want to follow illusions, but it would be possible to strengthen the decisions of younger bishops, who are – as I have already mentioned – personally interested in correcting of Catholic teaches, to force it.

  5. Jerry Betz
    Jerry Betz says:

    This news is very hope-full. It seems unlikely that Francis and the bishops would limit themselves to divorced and remarried Catholics when there are so many other kinds of families – not only same-gender but also single-parent families, and families where the older children are raising the younger ones, for example. Even if same-gender families are not specifically included, it would be difficult for the synod to be taken seriously if the bishops were to specifically rule us out.

    Contraception is surely a topic the synod will have to address. That is when the fur will fly! And that is a good thing. My hope is that the synod would come out with a proposal to re-examine the church’s position on sex in general. The church needs to put together a ‘committee’ composed of experts in the fields of psychology, sociology, sexology, medicine, moral theology and other related subjects for the purpose of coming to terms with sexual reality. Such a committee would be composed of experts not only from different disciplines, but also from different cultures and religions. In so doing, the church would be expanding its understanding of creation/God. Future pronouncements would then be based on acknowledged life-affirming principles.

  6. Joseph Gentilini
    Joseph Gentilini says:

    I would encourage them to talk to gay persons and learn what it is like to be LGBT in our Church and society. I would encourage them to listen to us, to think outside the boxes they have created around themselves. Talk to all of us, single and married, to see how love grows and deepens. Talk to us to see the goodness of God in our lives.

  7. Friends
    Friends says:

    It will be very interesting to see how influential arch-conservative Catholics — like U.S. Supreme Court Justice
    Antonin Scalia — react to this Pope’s healing and reconciling initiatives toward gay and divorced Catholics. I don’t think they will like it one bit, let alone accept it. Would they start a schism within the Church over his charting of a new course of healing and reconciliation? Who knows. Historic times await us.

  8. Deborah Kaley
    Deborah Kaley says:

    If I (a straight woman) were asked to address the synod, I would say I was brought up to believe God was my Heavenly Father. My Earthly father was my best friend and loved me unconditionally, even when I was naughty he yelled at me, I knew he loved me. So naturally, I correlated that unconditional love with my Heavenly Father. I believe God loves us all and made us in his own image. Because I am female does that mean I am NOT made in is image…NO! Likewise, every LGBT person, was also made in His image. And, I believe God sent us Pope Francis to right many of the wrongs perpetrated in Jesus’ name by the Church. Jesus wants his Church back and He wants us to live by His command: Love one another.

  9. Todd Tif Fernandez
    Todd Tif Fernandez says:

    I have come to see our struggle as much bigger than LGBT liberation. I believe in liberating LGBT people, we are freeing religions themselves from the grasp of doctrinal application based ultimately in judgment. Homosexuality, ironically, as the focus of religious animosity, is turning out to be our collective and individual salvation. As each person who transcends a misguiding teaching of man to find the love of God for all people, is saved by their own epiphany. And we – the 10% of the world that exists in every corner of humanity – are the catalysts for this soul-searching, challenging the most sacred learned ideas with the more profound journey to oneness with love.

  10. Sean McElgunn
    Sean McElgunn says:

    I thank God I have lived to see this day. I pray that the synod will face the basic question, does the present Catholic church’s theological and moral teaching conform on all points of doctrine to Divine Revelation as taught by Jesus Christ in His words and actions, His compassion? Remember, He is listening. Sean McElgunn


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