SYNOD: What Are Catholics to Make of the Last Two Weeks?

Martin Pendergast

Martin Pendergast

Catholics are still sorting through the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops’ happenings and documents from the last two weeks to discern just what happened and how to proceed on LGBT issues. Bondings 2.0 offers a second round-up of reactions from all quarters of the church and world with links for further reading. You can find the first round-up here.

We also want to know blog readers’ thoughts, which you can leave in the ‘Comments’ section below.

UK Catholic LGBT advocate Martin Prendergast writes in The Guardian that, despite some reports, many progressives remain committed to Pope Francis and his vision. He notes the synod’s re-introduction of theological gradualism and a “richer theology of human sexuality, gender and relationships” that emerged, and he notes:

“. . . [T]he 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.”

Tom Nelson

Tom Nolan, one of the first openly gay elected US officials, who was raised Catholic and attended seminary at one point, responded positively to what Pope Francis’ agenda, telling SF Gate:

” ‘It’s thrilling to hear this–and very different. . . . This pope is just amazing, and exactly what the church needs. It’s a breath of fresh air. And it’s astounding the influence that one leader can have on the whole world.’ “

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

Journalist Michael O’Loughlin of Crux reports that another synod prelate said some bishops voted against the LGBT paragraphs in the final report because the words were not welcoming enough, following similar comments by London’s Cardinal Vincent Nichols.   Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, who heads the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said:

” ‘Why did some Bishops choose not to approve a text which only repeated the Church’s received teaching?…I have the impression many would have preferred a more open, positive language. Not finding it in this paragraph, they might have chosen to indicate their disapproval of it.’ “

Brandon Ambrosino

Blogger Brandon Ambrosino also reports on these document-related controversies, highlighting the translation issues of the English version of the mid-term report, which changed “welcoming homosexual persons” to “providing for” them. Of this controversy, he reports at Vox:

“Of course, ‘provide for’ is not a correct translation of the Italian word accogliere. As Patrick Ryan, Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University, quipped to me in an email when I asked if the word could ever be translated as provide for, ‘Whoever is telling you that does not know Italian.’ “

John Becker

It is worth noting that not all LGBT advocates see the synod as progress, as John Becker writes at The Bilerico Project:

“In a stunning victory for the Catholic Church’s conservative wing and a rebuke to both Pope Francis and progressives, the bishops…scrapped language that called on the church to ‘welcome’ gays and lesbians

“Today, the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church didn’t just yank the welcome mat out from underneath the feet of gays and lesbians — they rolled it up and bashed them over the head with it. So much for ‘Who am I to judge?’.”

David Cloutier

Finally, there is the question of whether the church is “evolving” on LGBT issues, as it is vogue to say of American politicians who have evolved on same-sex marriage. David Cloutier, a theologian and editor of the blog Catholic Moral Theology, writes in the Washington Post:

“So are the bishops, too, evolving? Are they gradually realizing that their work has manifested only a partial following of God?…Clearly, something is happening within the church. Church leaders and members, like the members of any other community, have been influenced by the experience of having friends, relatives and neighbors who are living admirable lives after divorce, or who are in committed, loving same-sex relationships. The pope and the bishops meeting in Rome are also acutely aware of increasing secularization and decreasing membership.

“But this is not the same as what happens when individuals or societies “gradually” change their views on a given issue…

“The ultimate aim is not to mandate or resist social changes, but to accompany people; not to fantasize about being ‘kings and queens’ (as Bergoglio chided his clergy in another talk), but to encourage and shepherd people starting from where they are. Indeed, if there is a real loser in the synod’s discussions, it is the bishops who sought a high-profile position in the culture wars. Francis wants the church to be a ‘field hospital’ for those wounded in our culture and who seek healing, not a mighty warrior whose actions may well add to the wounds.”

Taking in all these commentaries and the vast (largely digital) ink spilled in the past two weeks over the minutiae of the Catholic hierarchy’s inner workings, what are Catholics to make of the last two weeks? One clear way of discerning the synod’s impact is to listen to the voices of the faithful. We warmly invite your thoughts and reactions in the ‘Comments’ section below.

You can access New Ways Ministry’s statement on the synod’s final report by clicking here and executive director Francis DeBernardo’s reflection on the synod here. To read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage from the synod, click the ‘Synod 2014‘ category to the right or click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

5 replies
  1. Terence
    Terence says:

    There is a huge danger in trying to assess where we are now, with where we were a week ago – which will give the impression that we have somehow gone backwards. It’s more important to compare the present with where we were before the synod process began. From that perspective, we’ve moved forward immeasurably. The most positive words in the interim Relation have been removed, but they’ve been spoken, they’ve been discussed at the highest level, and that cannot be taken away. Also what cannot be taken away, are some even more positive words spoken in some of the small groups, in private conversations, and in statements by individual synod participants.
    Even more important will be an even longer perspective – where we could be a year from now, after the next synod, and a year after that. This open conversation was inconceivable during the papacies of JPII and B16, but has a long way to run before the full fruits will be known, but I’m confident that in the long run, its impact will be profound.

  2. Alvaro Alcina
    Alvaro Alcina says:

    When I saw the Monday’s document, I was shocked and as a LGBT+ person a big smile of hope was set on my mouth during the whole week. Friday’s document erased that smile in one shot. Deception was the word. But days passed and I realized that just before the Synod I would have never ever imagined that 110 bishops would have voted in favor of the paragraphs on the Monday’s Document. And just half of them (62) voted against it. This wasn’t my feeling before the Synod. Hope is back in my heart, not as a smile, but it is there.

  3. Sean Karees
    Sean Karees says:

    Most of the bishops are consequently held in contempt of us, the Church with extreme prejudice. We look forward to the coming year when the hierarchy would be expunged from Ratzinger’s stiff-necked regressive, conservative bishops who refuse to change. If they are not culled, the Church would remain Christlessly archaic and out of touch with its original mission and one with a heart of stone.

  4. cathypearce2014
    cathypearce2014 says:

    It would be amazing if one day everyone realizes that all love flows from God. The love that we love with IS GOD’s love and knows no gender. Love is LOVE period. Love is creative and life giving, therefore is realized and lived in same sex marriage and heterosexual marriage. If compassion and forgiveness are virtues from God, then how could the love be considered “intrinsically disordered”? Let everyone continue to love with compassion and forgiveness. Love WINS every time!!

  5. winterhavenlarry
    winterhavenlarry says:

    My reaction is still “Wow.” Words were spoken that had never even been whispered before. Even without the required two-thirds quorum there is a majority that are in favor of a more welcoming Church. What I hope that this majority will do is to continue the conversation and talk with those who voted against. In this way, they would have the opportunity to open those hearts.


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