So much for this past week’s news that the Catholic Church might be willing to extend a more welcoming hand to LGBT families — called, euphemistically, “irregular unions” — or to “regular” families with LGBT children. What had been widely interpreted as welcoming paragraphs in a draft report from the bishops’ synod on the family were first watered down and then stripped away entirely.
Begone lesbians and gays! Poof!
Conservative bishops and cardinals won the day apparently, although not without some interesting wrinkles thrown in by Pope Francis — who, of course, has been seen as prodding, if not pushing, for a more compassionate stance. Here’s a great report from the Washington Post. Perhaps one of the most interesting wrinkles is that one of the most virulently anti-gay cardinals, Raymond Leo Burke, has now been demoted by Pope Francis. Burke, who used to be archbishop of St. Louis but of late has been heading the Vatican’s top court on canon law, protested the synod’s draft vehemently and even attacked Francis publicly, saying that he had no right to disregard (Burke’s presumed interpretation of) canon law and Catholic doctrine. Burke will now go from being, in essence, the Vatican’s chief justice to being “patron of the Knights of Malta.” The title says it all. Here’s a story from the Gay Star News.
The “Being LGBT in Asia” project supported by the United Nations has been busy the past few months churning out report after report on LGBT issues in Asia — all of which make fascinating reading. They provide background on traditional understandings of sexual orientation and gender identity as well as current efforts to promote equal rights.
So far six reports are out: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. You can download then from the “Being LGBT site.”
The Vatican may finally be moving toward a more contemporary understanding of what a “family” is and, as a result, toward more compassion toward LGBT citizens throughout the world. A preliminary report from the current synod of bishops being held to discuss Catholicism’s approach to family is calling for more acceptance of gays, unmarried couples, those who have divorced or are cohabiting — and even toward cultures such as in Africa where polygamy is still common.
A 12-page report contains three paragraphs that particularly apply to and seem to shift the tone of the Church toward lesbians and gay men. Will the tone remain once it has been debated by the bishops? That’s hard to tell since the church of Pope Francis is torn between those who want to maintain the traditional doctrinal hostility toward LGBT folks and those who want to move toward a more pastoral stance of supporting all of us. Even the three paragraphs reflect this, the first and last being more supportive than the second:
“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”
“The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.
“Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.”