For progressive Catholics, it was yet another resounding victory—or so it seemed. The pope had issued a statement seeking even greater acceptance of gay people and remarried Catholics. Before the media fanfare had died down, though, conservative Catholics responded to the pope’s statement with their own, reworked version at a recent synod, where they rejected the pontiff’s proposal in favor of a more diluted one. Pope Francis may be relatively liberal, but he presides over a conservative majority, and progress toward true equality requires brave leaders taking ever bolder steps in dismantling centuries of dogma.

Church Shifts Gears on Gay People—Slightly

St. PetersThe synod, held in Vatican City, was focused on family issues, specifically “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization”. Although issues such as polygamy, arranged marriages, and remarriage after divorce were among the topics of discussion, perhaps the most controversial topic was that of gay people and same-sex marriage. The pope’s original wording went further than any pope in history had gone before: the document stated that gay people “need to be welcomed and accompanied with patience and delicacy” and that they “have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community”. The pope’s draft also called for Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.

But the pope’s liberal wording—so suggestive of the notion that homosexuality and divorce might not, in fact, be sinful—incited a swift backlash from conservative bishops. Both the proposal concerning divorced people and that concerning gay people were rejected by the necessary two-thirds majority of bishops attending the synod. The pontiff’s bolder original wording was swiftly revised, and his original message of acceptance became diluted in favor of a more moderate approach. Rather than “welcoming” gays and acknowledging their “gifts”, the revised document suggested “providing” for them and offering them “support”—presumably support in abandoning their sexual orientation, which is still regarded as a sin.

Being ‘Surprised by God’

Pope Francis’s rejected proposal reflects a growing ideological rift in the Catholic hierarchy concerning family and sexual relationships. “That’s not what the Catholic church is about—enabling sin”, said Father Allan MacDonald of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Macon, Georgia, adding that the Church is “here to help people experience conversion and forgiveness and a new life”. hand of GodThe pope himself expressed satisfaction over the discussion being raised, telling his bishops he would have been concerned if “everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace”—but he also warned against “hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God”.

At the heart of the Church’s resistance to accepting gay and divorced people is the assumption that a thing is right because it is traditional. Conservative Catholics—like many of those bishops who rejected Francis’s suggestions—believe that Church teaching was correct from the beginning and must not be changed or the church will stray. But we know that a thing is not right just because it is traditional; it is right because it serves people, and resistance to accepting gay people does not serve people—it hinders their happiness. The Church not only needs to adopt a more empathetic attitude toward gay and divorced people; it also needs to embrace the psychiatric literature affirming the healthy nature of same-sex relationships, and of ending relationships (gay or straight) which are not healthy in favor of cultivating new ones.

Many Catholics appreciate the new direction Pope Francis is taking the Church, but even he has fallen short of an outright embrace of gay people, divorced people, and women’s rights. Give us your thoughts. Do you think the Church will ever overcome its fixation on tradition and, as His Holiness himself said, allow itself to “be surprised by God”?


BBC World News




  1. Rev.Whitewolf says:

    I personally consider myself Catholic. Though not Roman Catholic. This is good new as far as I am concerned. It shows that the Roman Catholic church may have the ability to grow within the word of God rather than stay inflexable in the face of time. The bible was written for a society far different than our own and though there are several places in the bible that suggests that homosexuality is not right. It does not outright call it a sin. Jesus never actually commented on the matter. I believe this is because A: He did not have an opinion on the topic and choose to allow his deciples to think for themselves on the topic, B: He did not agree with it but did not see it important enough to comment on. Or C: He did not care enough about the topic to make a big deal over it and he know that others did and he felt that topic would draw away from his main messages. We will never truely know though I think it may be a combination of reasons. But I believe Love is never wrong as long as it is love. Gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian, it does not matter. Love they neighbor. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Judge not less ye be judged yourself! The way I see it if God is against it he will let them know when their time on this earth is up and they meet him. Until then, I choose to care about who someone is, not their sexual orientation. As far as divorce and remarriage. Divorce should be a last resort not a first as it is for many. But one should never remain in an unhealthy relationship simply because they are afraid of offending God. If the relationship is truely bad, I believe God would be more offended by the bad treatment than the divorce. Love, respect, trust, these are the building block of any good relationship. When these are damaged beyond repair. It is better to leave such a harmful situation then it is to stay. More sinfull to allow yourself to continue to be sinned against then the sin of divorce. Though divoce is far to common place these days. Some times they are the best option out of bad options. It takes two to fix a damaged relationship. If one chooses to not want to or if the relationship is abusive. Leaveing may be the only option.

  2. Lewis says:

    “At the heart of the Church’s resistance to accepting gay and divorced people is the assumption that a thing is right because it is traditional.”

    Saying the entire Church opposes homosexuality because it’s tradition is inaccurate, misleading, and a misrepresentation of Christian beliefs on the subject.

    The Church opposes homosexuality because of biblical evidence telling that sexual relations between members of the same sex is not how it’s supposed to be.

    God’s will concerning human sexuality was demonstrated when he first created mankind. God decided that “It is not good for man to be alone” (2:18), and so he created a companion suitable to man (2:18-22).

    God could have created two women for Adam, but He did not. Nor did he create another male to be Adam’s companion. He made one man for one woman for life. That is the divine will—“male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27; cf. Matthew 19:1-9).

    Anything outside of a marriage between one man and one woman is not God’s will. The church resists homosexuality not because it’s tradition, but because it is God’s will that marriage and sexual relations should be between one man and one woman only.

    1. Kevin DeFranco says:

      If there were no Adam, no Eve, no Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. No Moses, no commandants, no Jesus, no Prophets, no Apostles, no scribes no Letter from God which we know as the Bible, there would be no non-believers. That being said; we as Christians believe in all these people and written scripture and they are very real to us. We believe, and caress the joy accompanied with being saved by grace through the blood of Jesus Christ. We understand the scriptures to be a guide book back to the Father and our Savior. They are real, Jesus was and is real for us. God’s Word is real, I believe it as you do. Not all Catholics, disavow scripture, maybe just the so called “higher critics”. I was born a Catholic. I went to Catholic grade school, and High School. We read from the Bible every day. We also read the Baltimore Catechism., where the commandments were, the sacraments were defined, and Catholic Dogma proclaimed. It was made clear to me, that church teachings and the Bible were congruent, and not based on the traditions of men. God left us His scriptures to make it easier for us here, so we didn’t have any road blocks on our path back to Him. “Love thy neighbor as thyself for the love of God” seems to be conveniently cut short, at love thy neighbor. God is spirit, His love is spirit. We are told in scripture to cultivate our spiritual life to get back to Him, and as our spiritual life flourishes so shall our physical life flourish. All scripture that you quoted was spot on. I left the Catholic faith because of secular, traditional beliefs that were not Biblical. Burning incense, praying to statues, believing the Pope is infallible,, limbo and purgatory, etc. Stay in the Word and have a great day.

  3. James P Louviere says:

    I spent fourteen years as a Roman Catholic religious brother, six years in”formation” and eight in the teaching profession in Catholic schools and colleges. My life since I left the Order has been exciting and filled with passion. I discovered in “formation” that my predominant gift is “zeal,”: or passionate determination to do what’s right. As my favorite nephew told the immigration office, ref. by marriage to a younger woman, “I have sometimes doubted the prudence of my uncle, but I’ve never questioned his ethics.”

    One of the hangups I had was the fact that the rules and moral codes reference sexuality were set by Thomas Aquinas, a celibate monk, who followed the philosophy of Aristotle and whose Summa Theologica is the basis for Catholic Canon Law.

    How those venerable ideas could be applied in today’s world, where billions of people are constantly procreating more and more children who will, like their parents, demand a life style similar to that of the “developed” countries (i.e. the western European and United States) where corporations and political parties (in the USA in particular) keep us bound to coal, oil and natural gas, which produce megatons of CO2 that traps heat and lasts a century in the atmosphere and releases the even more heat-trapping gas CH4 (methane) from hidden clathrates in deep, cool seabeds and from thawing permafrost tundra in northern areas of our planet. These problems and the acidification of the ever warmer oceans have been thoroughly documented by countless scientific studies. The pope, Francis I, being a Jesuit, has advisors within the Jesuit community who are highly educated and passionately determined to turn things about and stop the “unbridled Capitalism” that is partly to blame for our environmental nightmares.

    Professed celibate Catholic clergy have no business making rules about human sexuality based on “Catholic tradition,” cobbled together centuries ago before modern science and our current technologies evolved.

    The fact that Pope Francis is setting an example for everyone to be more humble, frugal, pious, and kindly is certainly not a scandal. Faced with criticism from those who have risen to prominence under the oid rules is no surprise. That he is culling the ranks of the misinformed and stubborn “conservatives” is his duty.

    James P Louviere, and on YouTube

    1. Brother Carlos Suarez says:

      Well written Brother, Enjoy life as God intended. Help how many you can along the way.

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