The head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life has finally spoken out as to why he was not allowing an international Catholic woman’s conference to be hosted by the Vatican.
Cardinal Kevin Farrell had not made a statement last month when it was revealed in the press that the reason the annual Voices of Faith conference was not being held at the Vatican, as has happened since 2014. Conference director Chantal Götz said at the time that Farrell had told the group that he objected to three of the conference’s speakers, including former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, the mother of a gay son, and Ssenfuka Joanita Warry, a lesbian Catholic advocate from Uganda.
At a Vatican press conference for the launch of a new book about Pope Francis, a reporter asked Farrell about the decision not to host the women’s meeting. Crux reported on his answer:
“Events held within the Vatican, Farrell explained, are ‘presumed to be sponsored by the pope’ and people assume that ‘the pope is in agreement with everything that is said.’
“After being told ‘what the event was about, it was not appropriate for me to continue to sponsor such an event,’ he said.”
The cardinal’s reasoning here is reminiscent of those in the Gospel stories who criticize Jesus for interacting with people that were not favored by the religious establishment. In fact, association does not equal agreement.
The cardinal then made a gesture toward dialogue. but his final comment muddied the waters, especially because of its incomprehensibility:
“However, Farrell said that while he could not sponsor the event, the Church is ‘always open to listening and we are always open to dialogue.’
” ‘It would appear sometimes that we are not, but this is one case when I would say the circumstances don’t correspond to what some people would like to make out that we don’t want to listen,’ the cardinal said.”
I’ve read that final statement about a dozen times, and I do not understand what he is trying to say. Perhaps the cardinal was having a bad day. Perhaps, though, the incomprehensible language is a reflection of the cardinal’s flawed reasoning. Logically, he can’t say that he is open to dialogue immediately after saying that he could not host a conference where there would be voices that might disagree with him. Dialogue means listening to different perspectives. It doesn’t necessarily mean that any party has to change their positions. Dialogue is not only about persuasion. It also helps opponents understand each other better and can also help to clarify thought.
It’s a shame that Cardinal Farrell and the Vatican have foregone such a promising opportunity for dialogue. The Voices of Faith conference isn’t until March 8th. Perhaps when Farrell reads his comments in print, he will see the illogic of his thought and welcome the meeting back to the Vatican.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, March 2, 2018