Tag Archives: Family Synod

Moral Theologian: Same – Sex Couples Deserve Sexual Expression of Their Love

First, it has to be said that same-sex oriented people have the right, in their lives – and that includes, too, the fact that like all people, they are sexual beings – to be recognized.

– moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff

Eberhard Schockenhoff, Theologe und stellvertretender Vorsitzender im Deutschen Ethikrat, spricht am 19. Mai 2015 in München.
Eberhard Schockenhoff, Theologe und stellvertretender Vorsitzender im Deutschen Ethikrat, spricht am 19. Mai 2015 in München.

Finally, an influential, mainstream Catholic theologian has faced the elephant in the room. More and more cardinals, bishops and others in the Catholic church have come to accept that same – sex couples deserve to have legal recognition of their relationships. Some have said so publicly, many more now agree, but are keeping their opinions firmly to themselves. Some have said they see positive value in such civil unions, others are more reluctant, seeing them merely as something to be accepted as a lesser evil than full marriage. But in all the many observations on the subject I have seen, there’s one crucial point no-one has yet dared mention publicly: can the Church accept that couples in such same – sex legal, committed and loving relationships, may express their love sexually?

The German moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff has, in effect, answered with a clear “yes”. He’s done so not in so many words, but that is the clear implication of his words, quoted above. Continue reading Moral Theologian: Same – Sex Couples Deserve Sexual Expression of Their Love

European Bishops Discuss Improved LGBT, Divorced Ministry

In welcome news from Europe, Le Figaro has reported on a Rome meeting of cardinals, bishops and lay theologians to discuss improved methods of pastoral ministry for homosexuals and those who have divorced and remarried. The meeting was called by the three presidents of the bishops’ conferences of Germany, France and Switzerland – including Germany’s Cardinal Marx, who is in Pope Francis’ inner circle of 9 cardinal advisors.

eveques-et-cardinaux

The full report is behind a Figaro paywall, but Liberation and other sources are carrying a useful (French) summary from AFP, loosely translated below:  Continue reading European Bishops Discuss Improved LGBT, Divorced Ministry

Contraception and the Synod.

A  surprise feature of the family synod last October, was the prominent place given to language about LGBT people in the Church.  That was welcome – and is likely to feature even more prominently in the main synod, this year.

Equally surprising, but less welcome, was the absence of any discussion about contraception. This is important. The insistence that every sexual act must be open to procreation underpins so much of the rest of Vatican sexual doctrine, and most specifically, the steadfast opposition to same – sex loving relationships.  Remove the cornerstone of opposition to contraception, it becomes far more difficult for the institutional Church to justify its opposition to our relationships.

I was expecting the question of contraception to be central to the discussions in Rome last October, but that was not to be. Instead, this central issue was met by – deafening silence.  Yet we know, that the vast majority of Catholics the world over, simply reject Vatican teaching on this core issue. A cross – cultural survey before the last synod, found that only two of the fifteen countries surveyed, agreed with the Vatican position, and that by only narrow majorities, In contrast, in many countries surveyed, opposition was overwhelming.

The acceptance by the synod of the institutional view can be attributed to two main causes: in the first instance, because the limited number of lay married couples invited to the synod, were there because of their active support for this view. Contrary thoughts were simply excluded.

The second cause can be summed up in a word, encapsulated in this assessment from Commonweal:     Hypocrisy!

Perhaps the most important moment of last October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family occured at its very beginning—when Pope Francis insisted that “speaking honestly” was the bishops’ basic responsibility: No topics or viewpoints should be out of bounds. “It is necessary to say all that, in the Lord, one feels the need to say: without polite deference, without hesitation.”

I doubt that everyone present was able to live up to that plea. For not a few bishops, self-censorship has become second nature, especially when speaking publicly with other bishops, and infinitely so when in the earshot of the pope.

Fortunately, that was not true in many cases, or the synod would not have made headlines with the several highly controversial topics served up and batted back and forth: reception of Communion by the divorced-and-remarried, cohabitation, even same-sex relationships. But could engrained inhibition have accounted for the glaring gap in the synod’s work? I refer to the apparent lack of attention to the question of contraception. Why did the synod appear to treat so perfunctorily the issue that was, and is, the starting point for the unraveling of Catholic confidence in the church’s sexual ethics and even its credibility about marriage? To which, of course, one could add further questions about this baffling silence: Does it even matter? And if it does matter, are there grounds for hoping that the bishops who will be gathering in Rome next fall to complete the synod’s work can do better?

A lot rests on the answers to these questions. A synod that grabs headlines about remarried or cohabiting or same-sex Catholic couples but says nothing fresh about the spectacularly obvious rift between official teaching and actual behavior in Catholic married life is an invitation to cynicism. It could prove to be a crucial test of Pope Francis’s papacy.

full anaysis at Commonweal Magazine.

Swiss Catholics Call for Blessings for Same-sex Partnerships

In a remarkable document published by the Swiss Bishops Conference, it is noted that in Switzerland, there is strong support for the recognition of same – sex relationships, including blessings of such partnerships.

Following a comprehensive national consultation with the nation’s Catholics, in which more than 6000 people participated, the Swiss Catholic bishops have reported that Swiss Catholics want to see blessings for same – sex partnerships, and also a change in the teaching on communion for divorced and remarried people.

Swiss consultation

Continue reading Swiss Catholics Call for Blessings for Same-sex Partnerships

From Africa and the Philippines, Signs of Hope for LGBT Catholics!

At the family synod 2014, some African bishops were prominent in opposition to the more welcoming tone towards lgbt Catholics, proposed by some of the Europeans, and included in the mid – synod interim relatio. From this it would be easy to read the struggle for lgbt inclusion as a contest between “progressives” of Europe (and North America), and conservatives  of the so-called “developing” world, in Africa, Asia and Latin America. That would be a mistake, as recent news reports illustrate:

Commonweal reports on a fascinating interview with the African Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana, in the conservative website Aleteia, His responses should be warmly welcomed for the hope they imply for greater inclusion of both lgbt Catholics, and those who have been divorced and remarried. (There could also be some schadenfreude in noting how the responses clearly discomforted Aleteia’s interview, who did his best to get Palmer – Buckle to modify his words – to no avail).

In a wide-ranging, at points jaw-dropping interview with Aleteia, Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana, signaled his openness to finding a way for remarried Catholics to be readmitted to Communion–and suggested the church might reinterpret Scripture to allow the “unbinding” of marriages. Palmer-Buckle, who is sixty-four years old, was selected by his brother bishops to represent Ghana at this October’s Synod on the Family. Early in the interview, the archbishop makes it clear that he takes seriously Pope Francis’s call for open discussion of the challenges facing Catholic families today.

via Commonweal Magazine.

In Asia, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has issued a statement in support of a government bill to prohibit anti-gay discrimination. At the Filipino blog Catholic LGBT (Catholic gay and blessed), there are two posts quoting sections of the statement, in which Archbishop Socrates Villegas, President, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, sets out the bishops’ opposition to homophobia, and support for greater lgbt inclusion in the life of the church.

On homophobia, Villegas is forthright on condemning parents who inculcate homophobia in their children:

The Church has much to contribute towards the education of Catholics to be more accepting of others and to see through appearances the Lord present in each brother and sister There can be no more approval of parents who imbue in their children the loathing and disgust for persons with a different sexual orientation or with gender identity issues. In Catholic institutions, there should be zero – tolerance for the bullying and badgering of persons in such personal situations.

On lgbt inclusion, he is equally clear:

[We] call on all pastors throughout the country to be as solicitous of the pastoral welfare of all our brothers and sisters regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their exclusion from the life of the Church, their treatment as outcasts, their relegation to the category of inferior members of the Church worthy only of derision and scorn certainly does not conform to Pope Francis’ vision of the Church as the sacrament of Divine mercy and compassion”

To be sure, it’s not all rosy in the garden.  A longer news report at Rappler also describes how Villegas, while opposing discrimination, reserved the right to contiue discriminating in its own hiring and selection procedures for the priesthood, and the Church’s firm opposition to both homosexual “acts”, and gender transitions. Like many other bishops, he has no desire to change Church teaching – but just like the 2014 Family synod, this signals a clear desire to adjust pastoral practice, in  a more sensitive, caring direction. That augers well for the 2015 synod, and in the longer run, that will undoubtedly lead to some modification of the core doctrine, itself.

Mary – the Annunciation and Visitation (Luke 1:26-56)

This passage, the third in the English bishops’ suggested texts for reflection on marriage as part of the consultation process for the Rome Family Synod 2015, is the familiar story of the Annunciation,  Mary’s subsequent visit to Elizabeth, and her song of praise, the “Magnificat”.  (The  text may be read  here, at Bible Gateway)

Fra Angeilico, “The Annunciation”

In my lectio divina practice, for the passage, I went through this as three distinct reflections. For each, I give the phrases that most struck me,  followed by my reasons. Continue reading Mary – the Annunciation and Visitation (Luke 1:26-56)

The Bishops’ Call to Reflect on “The Gift of Marriage and Family Life”

As preparation for the 2015 Synod on Marriage and Family, the Bishops of England and Wales have invited their people to make submissions on their experience of the institution.  In their invitation, “The Call, the Journey and the Mission”, they pose six questions to be answered:

  1. What are your joys and hopes of marriage and family life today?
  2. What are your struggles and fears of marriage and family life today?
  3. How can we better understand marriage as a vocation?
  4. How does your marriage enrich you?
  5. How does your family life enrich those around you?
  6. In what way, through the abiding presence of God, is your family “salt of the earth and light to the world,” and a place of and for handing on our faith?

We could simply go directly to the questionnaire, and dash off some replies. However, they ask that we first reflect on a selection of scripture passages (the links in the headings go to the sections of the bishops’ website, where they suggest specific questions for reflection. The links following the references go to the actual texts at Bible Gateway, NRSV Catholic edition):

bible2

Continue reading The Bishops’ Call to Reflect on “The Gift of Marriage and Family Life”