Below is the next installment of Bondings 2.0’s reports from the Synod on Marriage and Family in Rome. New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo will continue to send news and commentary from this meeting. Previous posts can be reached by clicking here.
One of the things that I am learning from covering the synod here in Rome is that there are a lot more questions and perspectives on family than I would have ever imagined existing. Similarly, and perhaps more importantly, there are a lot more pastoral strategies possible to address this diversity, and some can have an impact on LGBT issues, even if they are not directly intended to do so.
At the press briefing today, Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, reported on the interventions and reports made by synod English speakers on Saturday afternoon. Part of the challenge of getting information from the synod discussions is that any materials comes through one of of several language reporters, who summarize what was said, though without identifying who said it. While not an ideal situations, it must be said that of the four language reporters (Italian, English, French, Spanish/Portugese), Father Rosica is always the most thorough and detailed in his reports, providing what I consider the best information.
The downside is that since we don’t receive the full texts of comments or even who said them, we are left to wonder if the remarks are intended to address a particular issue, leaving us to speculate.
Rosica reported today on an interesting pastoral observation and strategy presented by one of the synod fathers. The unnamed speaker pointed out that there seems to be a “nothing or all” mentality in the synod, meaning that either the bishops should change nothing about the church’s approach to certain issues or it has to change everything about that approach.
The speaker indicated that neither is a real option, and suggested that the bishops look at a “great scope of pastoral possibility and creativity” available as responses to certain pastoral situations.
Of course, my ears perked up at this suggestion, immediately thinking that there are many creative pastoral possibilities that bishops can institute in regard to LGBT issues.
My speculation that the speaker may have been referring to LGBT issues was confirmed as more was said about this idea. The speaker suggested that the pastoral approach of proclaiming a Church truth in public,while privately and pastorally bending and being merciful to individuals no longer holds. He also added another insight: the difference between sin and sinner doesn’t work any more for sexuality. As I understood this last part, you can’t separate “sinner” from “sin,” loving one, while rejecting the other. Or , to say i another way: you can’t condemn sexual behavior without also condemning the person, or perhaps, stated more positively, you can’t accept a person, without accepting their sexuality.
Whether or not the speaker was addressing LGBT issues is impossible to say for certain, however, even if he wasn’t, I don’t think it is much of a stretch to see how these concepts are naturally applicable to such issues.
Fr. Rosica also mentioned a number of other ideas presented that seem applicable to LGBT issues, regardless if they were intended as such:
- For God,no human being is a stranger.
- The sexual act and human sexuality represent only one part of family and marriage
- The Church must be an accompanying mother who reaches out to all
The biggest surprise for me was hearing that a bishop described the need for the Church to recognize that in the contemporary world there are new “family structures,” such as single parent families, mixed faith families, families separated by migration, families which include caring for grandparents, families where grandparents are the primary caretakers, and–here’s the surprising part–families of same sex couples. Rosica reported the bishop’s thoughts:
“Many families are simply left out of our pastoral strategies and we have to develop pastoral strategies for the many different situations that families find themselves in today.
“We have to reach out to those that do not fit our traditional categories. New families can no longer remain alienated from the church and the church cannot remain absent from these new situations.”
The diversity of perspectives here has made me realize that there may be a variety of approaches to more positive pastoral care for families with LGBT members. Pope Francis has said that God is a “God of surprises.” Perhaps a positive response on LGBT issues from this synod may surprise us all in the creative way it is formulated.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry