Addressing new bishops in September, Pope Francis invited them to be more respectful of people’s consciences and address people’s concrete realities rather than just pontificating theory at them. He told those gathered, as quoted in the National Catholic Reporter:
“We must force ourselves to grow into an inclusive and incarnate discernment, which dialogues with the consciences of the faithful — that are to be formed and not replaced in a process of patient and courageous accompaniment. . .
“Authentic discernment. . .is a process that is always open. . .[It] does not reduce itself to the repetition of formulas that ‘like high clouds release little rain’ to the concrete person, [and] are often immersed in an inflexible reality of black and white.
“The pastor is called to make available to the flock the grace of the Spirit, which knows how to penetrate the folds of reality and take account of its hues and shades to make emerge what God wants to realize in every moment.”
Catholic advocates for LGBT people have long encouraged respect for people’s consciences and listening to personal stories as a way by which church leaders can proceed on issues of gender and sexuality. Too often the response from bishops has been a refusal to listen or, in worse instances, actions of those like Bishop Robert Morlino whose Diocese of Madison has sought to bar married lesbian and gay Catholics from receiving funerals in the church. It is clearly a positive step that Pope Francis is not only appointing bishops who are known to be more pastoral, but encouraging them to go not practice legalism but loving service to all God’s people.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 5, 2017