The synod on the family has certainly prompted an immense amount of journalistic response and analysis. Bondings 2.0 has tried to keep up with it in the best way that we can, selecting what we thought have been important articles or responses which highlight significant points. We could not, of course, deal with everything that we found, but we know that some of you may be interested in reading further on this topic. So, we present these “News Notes” on the synod for those who can’t seem to get enough of this important milestone in Catholic LGBT history. This first installment carries perspectives from various parts of the globe:
1. London’s Catholic Herald newspaper editorialized that the synod was like an “unfinished icon,” noting that “Icon painters say that prayer is essential to their work, and so the bishops have paused for a year of reflection, before meeting again for the second, larger family synod. We, too, should be praying that the synod fathers create a compelling image of Christ.”
2. Italy’s Sandro Magister, a veteran Vatican observer, gives an insider’s look as to exactly how two of Pope Francis’ followers were able to open up the discussion in the synod toward a more inclusive view of homosexuality. His analysis is part of La Repubblica’s online faith portal.
3. From Uganda, a nation which the institution and then repeal of a repressive anti-gay law, Nicholas Opiyo, a human rights and constitutional lawyer, penned a CNN.com op-ed noting that “I suggest that this is not a turning point particularly for the African Catholic community, but rather the start of an openness in debate that will take a long time to change the Church’s doctrinal teaching. In a deeply conservative Church that has for a long time viewed homosexuality as ‘an intrinsically disordered, contrary to natural law and cannot be approved under any circumstances,’ it will take more than a Synod statement to arrive at a turning point on the subject of homosexuality. A change in the doctrinal teaching/catechism of the church will take a long time and protracted debate in the Catholic community.”
4. LGBT Catholics in the Diocese of Westminster, the archdiocesan pastoral outreach in and around the city of London, England, issued a response which said the synod’s final report “fails significantly to reflect the welcoming and pastorally sensitive discussions which took place during the first week of the Synod.” However, noting that the vote was close, and that this report is not the final word, the ministry called upon “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.”
5. Filipino gay rights advocate Danton Remoto, had been happy with the relatio’s first draft but, in the International Business Times, he added: “We don’t expect major earthquakes to happen [during the synod] because the Catholic Church is an old institution and change will not happen overnight.”
6. Filipina gay rights advocate Claire DeLeon told GMA News Online a mixed response to the synod’s report: “We are quite disappointed but we are appreciative that this issue has been opened for discussion.” She added that the negative perception of LGBT people seems to be disappearing, and that the future of the discussion in the Catholic Church holds promise.
7. Ireland’s RTE News carried the response of Brian Sheehan, the head of the Irish Gay and Lesbian Equality Network: “It’s disappointing that a majority of bishops at the synod didn’t follow the Pope’s leadership and seek to include lesbian and gay people within the Catholic Church. Elements within the church are out of step in the laity. The reality is that there’s been a huge positive change in attitudes over the last 20 years to lesbian and gay people. And Irish people, the majority of whom are Catholics, warmly embrace their lesbian and gay family members and friends and their loving relationships. It’s a missed opportunity that the church didn’t seek to reflect that reality. ”
8. AsianJournal.com reported on the statement of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, Philippines, who said: “Let us not stereotype persons, countries, local churches. We are here, all of us have something to contribute. But all of us are also learning This Synod is unique because it’s happening in two stages. We have the whole year to continue studying and continue consulting people.”
9. At Ekklesia.co.uk, Savi Hensman reviewed the synod, and included an important quote from Bishops Geoffrey Robinson at “The Ways of Love,” an international theological conference in Rome, which immediately preceded the synod. In regard to sexual teaching, Robinson said: “Why should we turn to some abstraction in determining what is natural rather than to the actual lived experience of human beings? Why should we say that homosexuals are acting against nature when they are acting in accordance with the only nature they have ever experienced?” Hensman concluded the blog post by noting: “Many others too in the Roman Catholic church have been reflecting on how Gospel values can be reflected more truly in approaches to sexuality, and the Synod on the Family has encouraged greater openness about the diversity of views and experiences. What is more, Catholics are part of a wider Christian community where numerous others have been thinking seriously about sexual ethics. Moving beyond the use of depersonalising language and mere assertions which fail to convince, while remaining true to what is richest in the Christian heritage, is a challenging task for the churches as a whole.”
10. In the UK’s Telegraph, Cristo Foufas says that “Gay people shouldn’t care what the Catholic Church thinks.” In this op-ed, Foufas expresses being tired of the Vatican’s traditional attitude toward homosexuality: “Whilst It’s heartening that there finally seems to be a Pope who is trying to build bridges with the gay community, it seems that the suggestion of being respectful, sensitive and welcoming to a minority group was just too much for some conservative Catholic bishops to bear. . . . It should come as no surprise that a good number of senior Catholic bishops in the synod are bigoted homophobes. What other explanation can there be for making a choice not to support and welcome a minority community who have no choice in their orientation at all? It’s exactly the same way that racists choose to hold prejudice against those people who haven’t an ounce of control over their skin colour. Hate rarely has logic.”
11. Australia’s Jesuit online magazine, Eureka Street, carried an editorial by Andrew Hamilton a consulting editor, examined the controversy of the dramatic change between the relatio’s two incarnations:
“It reflected partly an evident failure of the initial document to read accurately the sentiments of the participants. The voting on the amendments shows that clearly. Such failure is inevitable in any such draft: that is why the final document reflects the definitive view of a meeting.
“In this case the controversy reflects another significant feature of transparent public conversation: the influence of the media. After the first draft public comments by the Bishops seemed exercised as much by the common journalists’ view that it heralded a rethinking of the Catholic understanding of homosexual relationships than by the content of the document. At all events they recast the document in order to close the door on these perceived implications of the draft.
“This way of proceeding is understandable, but its disadvantages are also worth reflecting on. When phrases like ‘people who are homosexual must be ‘welcomed’, the ‘gifts and qualities’ of gay people and the ‘precious support’ they can offer one another are pulled from a public draft, the public perception is that they are not simply withdrawn from the text but that their opposites are commended. So people are to be made unwelcome, have no gifts and their support is valueless. The Catholic Church will now have much work to do to persuade people that this is not its meaning. . .
“If Pope Francis’ assessment of the Synod is as positive as I believe it is, we may expect from him dramatic gestures of encounter and compassion to God’s love that will reframe the questions addressed by the Synod in terms of the Gospel. “
12. The UK’s Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement welcomed the synod’s final report with Chief Executive Tracey Byrne saying, ‘The outcome of the Synod represents a significant shift in thinking and a brave move by those willing to affirm their support for gay and lesbian people. A substantial majority of the cardinals, only slightly short of the two-thirds majority needed, voted in support of the draft statement, and it’s being reported that a number who voted against the statement did so because they felt it did not go far enough in its support for gay and lesbian people. Pope Francis is to be applauded for convening the Synod, and for providing an opportunity for Catholics around the world to contribute to this ongoing process of listening and discernment in such an open way.” You can read Byrne’s full statement by clicking here.
13. London’s Guardian newspaper praised Pope Francis for his management of the synod, but also concluded with this cautionary note and call to action: “This is the Catholic church. The surest sign that things are changing will be a barrage of announcements that nothing has changed, can change, or will change. In this view, the doctrine can only be developed into a more refined expression of the same eternal truths, even if its interpretation becomes the exact opposite. But however the official formulation is refined, the practice on the ground, in parishes, must now change. The old and rigid artificial unity is now smashed. In that sense Pope Francis, and the liberals, have already won.”
14. Lebanon’s The Daily Star published reactions to the synod’s final report including one from Ute Eberl, a German family counselor who attended the meeting. She said that the event got the church “out of its comfort zone … to hear about real life for families around the world.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry