SYNOD 2015 NEWS NOTES: Keeping Tabs on All the Talk

Bishops gathered in the Synod hall

Keeping up with the numerous news and commentaries tied to the Synod can be challenging.

New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo is reporting from Rome, attending the Vatican’s daily press briefings and tuning his ear to the buzz, but there is also much ink flying elsewhere. Below is a Synod News Notes with links provided for further reading.

Commonweal’s Matthew Sitman titled his piece “Sex and the Synod.” He wrote critically against R.R. Reno, editor of First Things, who claimed the Synod is simply the church figuring out how to respond to the sexual revolution. Sitman asked in response:

“Can we really look back over the last few decades and be unmoved by the (at least partial) redress of the genuine injustices women and LGBT people faced, to take two prominent examples? And can we really disentangle all that from the ‘sexual revolution’?

“If you don’t think the proper response to a gay son or lesbian daughter coming out is reparative therapy, you are living in a decisively post-Stonewall world, and differ drastically from what many Christians believed not long ago. . .

“The task of genuine Christian discernment in these matters is to sift through the gains and losses of the sexual revolution rather than dismiss it in one swoop and reply only with a steadfast no. Christians, and the church, must be able to distinguish between learning from history and experience and simply being fashionable. There really is a difference.”

Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK wrote in The Huffington Post that its time to embrace LGBT people in churches rather than continuing to hurt them, closing with a bit of advice that should be required reading for bishops:

“My advice to anyone who has a hard time accepting LGBT people is to get to know them and hear their stories. . .For me, that means we have to listen to people rather than making assumptions about them. Talk to people. Be open and accept the truth of who people are. That’s all we need to do.”

Gerald O’Connell, who covers the Vatican for America, set out the Synod as the latest conversation about a fundamental choice the church is repeatedly faced with at each moment in history:

“Should the church concentrate more on pointing to the gap between the Catholic moral vision and the lived reality of people in the modern world, or should it concentrate more on walking with men and women precisely in their lived reality, accompanying them and pointing to the moments of grace already present in their lives as the foundation for moving toward the Christian ideal?”

On his blog, Vatican journalist John Thavis agreed  that the not only will the church survive a more open discussion on family life, but that finding a renewed path forward is essential:

“Francis believes, correctly I think, that unless the church changes its language and pastoral approach, it will continue to alienate many of the people it is trying to save. . .At the end of the month, I think we’ll see a final document that is largely positive about the many contributions given and sacrifices made by families today, recognizing that in the modern age the church needs to also work with ‘untraditional’ families in ways that are more welcoming than judgmental.’ “

After one week, Michael O’Loughlin of Crux suggested the Synod may punt on controversial issues altogether based on an interview with Louisville’s Archbishop Joseph Kurtz. O’Loughlin wondered:

“Could national bishops’ conferences come up with their own rules about annulments, Communion, and how to minister to gays and lesbians?”

John Allen, also of Crux, said whatever outcome emerges there is a desire for a positive tone that emphasizes families’ goodness and hopes, rather than failures and despair.

The Synod is still being criticized for who is absent beyond a mass of celibate male bishops and some marginal auditors, which may greatly affect any outcome. Theologian Mary Hunt wrote in the National Catholic Reporter that this “stacks the deck” against women.

What about the bishops themselves? You can read DeBernardo’s daily LGBT-related updates from the Synod and what bishops are saying, available here. Below are some other noteworthy insights, which while not directly addressing LGBT issues, are relevant for how the church is moving forward.

Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton, England questioned the bishops’ ability to address family life, saying a holistic conversation requires female perspectives and expressing concern that “there is a big area that we don’t actually understand,” reported the National Catholic Reporter.

Bishop Johann Bonny of Antwerp, who called for the church to bless same-sex relationships last December, expressed a desire for more “space and responsibility” so that bishops could “formulate suitable answers to the pastoral questions of that part of the people of God which is entrusted to their pastoral care,” reported the National Catholic Reporter.

Bishop Heiner Koch of Berlin said the church’s teachings “do not silence the questions in the hearts of people” and said denying Communion makes people doubt God. Though speaking about divorced and remarried Catholics, according to the National Catholic Reporter, his words seem readily applicable to LGBT Catholics and their families too.

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–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

3 replies
  1. Tom
    Tom says:

    Sr. Simone Campbell has it right, of course. If only she was allowed to address the synod. What will it take to shake these bishops out of their comfort zones? To me, it smacks of anger and judgment, neither of which is necessary or helpful.

  2. lynne miller
    lynne miller says:

    Hooray for Gerald O’Connor! Michael O’Loughlin – I fear that national rules on such issues wouldn’t be acceptable. It seems that for the Church it has to be a universal thing.


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