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The recent 2014 Synod of Bishops on the Family appeared to many as encouraging Catholics to embrace lesbians and gay men (LGBTs). This perceived change of heart and policy is being questioned worldwide.
At the two-week Synod, which ended last week, the working document, referred to by its Latin name “relatio,” created a point of controversy (paragraph 50), which had to do with language translation. Usually written in Latin, the Italian document used the word “valutando,” which has been interpreted by some as “valuing.” The Italian word, in fact, means “evaluating” or “considering” or “weighing.”
The phrase in question
is translated into English as a question. Can Catholic communities accept and (“value” or “weigh”) LGBT sexual orientation without compromising doctrine on matrimony and family. Faithful Catholics may have been confused by the English translation.
There is a dichotomy facing Catholics in the world. One part is to embrace the “stranger” and welcome him or her into the fold as a brother or a sister. The other is to make a clear policy about Catholic doctrine and what is acceptable.
The dichotomy may be widening under Pope Francis. Some are saying that this may be the start of Vatican III. This references the major change in the early 1960s for the Roman Catholic Church in its relationship with the modern world.
The irony is that Pope Francis has expressed the mission of unifying the Catholic Church while encouraging more to join the fold. From the beginning of his Papacy, he has set the tone for inclusion.
From his actions, words, and even his simple garments, he reaches out to those who have experienced alienation from the Church. His openness has inspired large numbers to return to the Church and attend mass.
He has spoken out about including juveniles in detention, about reaching out to atheists, and about denouncing Capitalism. What is most unprecedented is his acknowledgement of understanding the economic benefits of same-sex civil unions.
Followers of Pope Francis appreciate his spirituality and inclusive practice. The impact on them has been called “The Francis Effect.” At the same time, archbishops around the globe are having a hard time explaining the changes to their parishioners.
In an interview with Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk, the capital of Belarus, he recognized the evolution of the Church since pre-Vatican II. Yet, he said that the change is mostly in words, not Church doctrine.
He gave the example of calling non-Catholic Christians brethren now, whereas previously they were called “heretics.” With regard to Synod encouragement for Catholics to now embrace LGBTs, he states that “we have always [respected]… the dignity of these [homosexual] people.” However, he said that he cannot be in favor of “homosexual unions.”
Referencing the Synod, the Minsk Archbishop drew a line between bishops of the East and those in the West, saying that constituents are expressing different expectations. He said that if he were to favor what he called “non-sacramental marriage,” his people would ask, “What have you done?”
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said that, during the Synod, it was not the task of the Church to define doctrine. Rather, it was to identify solutions to problems arising from applying the doctrine. When asked if doctrine can be adapted, the Archbishop said that that word is not appropriate. He prefers to say “updating” doctrine. However, in doing so, one must “[not] conform to the world.”
Therein lies the schism that separates strong believers of Catholic doctrine and those who wish the Church to go forward into the ways of the world in the 21st century. The question is whether the outcome of the Synod can be seen as encouragement for Catholics to now embrace LGBTs in their midst. Time will tell how this will play out.
Opinion by Fern Remedi-Brown
Prior relevant articles by the author:
Pope Francis Church Changes
Easter in an Interfaith Marriage
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