Now that the Synod on the Family is concluded, much is already being written about an event The New York Times called the “most momentous, and contentious, meeting of bishops” since Vatican II.
Below, Bondings 2.0 provides some early commentaries and reactions related to LGBT topics. (For a good general overview of what the Synod’s final document contains, see Joshua McElwee’s article in the National Catholic Reporter.)
In a statement released on Facebook, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), launched just before the Synod with representatives from more than 30 nations, predicted : “A new era for inclusive pastoral care of LGBT people is going to start after the Synod.” This is due to a door opened on LGBT inclusion through the synodal process that cannot now be closed. The Network said further:
“However, we see clearly in the Synod’s Final Report (Paragraph 76) the beginning of a new era of inclusive pastoral care for and with LGBT people, and their families, which will hopefully be enacted by Dioceses across the world. Since it is explicitly mentioned that ‘specific attention should be paid to families that have a member with homosexual tendencies’, there is, therefore, no longer any reason not to include same-sex couples themselves, as well as children with same-sex parents in such a pastoral focus.”
GNRC criticized elements of the report, including the “baseless accusation that financial aid to poor countries is conditional on the introduction of laws that institute marriage between same-sex people” and the bishops’ failure to publicly object to anti-LGBT criminalization and violence.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, viewed the Synod as a start as well, telling The Washington Blade:
” ‘The synod’s final report focused its discussion of LGBT issues solely on families with lesbian and gay members in them. . .This is a step in the right direction, but it must not be the last step.’ ” [For New Ways Ministry’s full statement on the synod, click here.]
DignityUSA’s evaluation of the final report commented that it “offers little that is positive” for LGBT people and that the synod was a “tragic missed opportunity.” Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke said in a statement:
” ‘The final report from the Synod is essentially an endorsement of the status quo. . .It is deeply disappointing to anyone who hoped that new ground would be broken in how the Church deals with a whole range of family issues. . .Our dignity and safety will not be guaranteed. Our relationships will continue to be treated as inferior. Our ability to parent is called into question. I expect we will continue to be seen as ‘threats to the family,’ rather than recognized as already fully integrated into families.”
Nicholas Coppola, a gay Catholic from New York forced out of parish ministries after marrying his husband in 2012, told The New York Times there was “no hope in this document, none whatsoever.” But he also noted “that they will work with divorced, heterosexual couples proves that they do vote on things and they do change what they call God’s law,” suggesting that the same could happen for LGBT people.
Journalists and columnists have varied their opinions on the Synod, too.
Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese admitted in the National Catholic Reporter that his prediction of the synod’s failure was too pessimistic. Comparing this synod to Vatican II, he said it “achieved consensus through ambiguity” which frees Pope Francis to act as he chooses in the future. Reese listed the losers as those seeking to “emphasize the law over mercy” who opposed all change, while suggesting that “Catholic families of all types” were among the winners (along with the drafting committee and Pope Francis).
Reuters correspondent at the Vatican, Philip Pullella, told PBS that homosexuality “has been sidestepped completely” at the synod, most plausibly because of how contentious it was at the 2014 synod. Vatican observer Maro Politi went as far as suggesting to The Washington Post that this synod fully revealed two churches:
” Francis’s church of forgiveness, mercy and being close to people where they suffer, and the church of the doctors of the law, that in this synod came across as the majority.”
Religion News Service’s David Gibson offered five points for interpreting the synod, including that “silence on gays is preferable to harsh words.” He wrote:
“The absence of any breakthrough language on gays was a tactical retreat by progressives who saw that they did not have the support in the synod to get close to a two-thirds threshold. . .
“Conservatives, on the other hand, painted themselves into a corner at the synod by arguing that the only satisfactory outcome was for the synod to reiterate current church teachings and practices and bar any future flexibility. That didn’t happen, and they are left trying to explain.”
Jesuit Fr. James Martin said the final report is a “very subtle document, and it’s also just the first step,” since we still can expect that Pope Francis will write his own recommendations based on the synod report. He told The New York Times:
” ‘The overall message is a message of welcome and a desire to help people in those situations be reconciled to the church, which is fantastic. . .[On ministry to families with LGBT members, the report] might not sound like a lot to American Catholics. . .but it may sound like a lot to, for example, Catholics in sub-Saharan Africa.’ “
There is certain to be more written about this synod as days and weeks progress and Bondings 2.0 will provide further updates on LGBT-related reactions as they emerge. We hope to find more commentaries from women and LGBT people, so if you read any, please send a link to [email protected].
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry