Synod: More Questions than Answers?

Reporting from the Synod 2015 Assembly on Marriage and Family at Bondings 2.0, Francis DeBenardo asks, “Why Didn’t the Synod Have a More Robust Discussion of LGBT Issues?

He writes:

Yet, I think it is remarkable that in a synod on marriage and family,  2/3rds of the groups did not think it was worth it to discuss what is clearly, by many bishops’ own words, one of the most significant developments in family life in human history:  the recognition and acceptance of same-gender marriage and families headed by same-gender couples.

DeBenardo notes that this could be either a good sign, or a bad, and admits that he “just doesn’t know”.

I agree that it’s not feasible to make premature judgements, but it does seem to me at least possible, that in the long run, this could well turn to be a positive sign. Many of the bishops are finally acknowledging that they just don’t have the knowledge to deal with it, and so they backed off.  Concerns about time are also valid – I’ve read comments that the “family” (narrowly defined) includes so many issues that needed discussion. This idea for this synod first arose from some discussions some years ago in Pope Francis’ council of cardinal advisors when they discussed threats to the family.   Gay marriage, and other LGBT concerns,  were not among them.

When the documents for the first round of consultations went out before the 2014 assembly, and in the assembly study documents, homosexuality barely featured. When the topic of LGBT ministry and welcome became such a hot topic in that assembly, it came as something of a pleasant surprise.  In light of the very obvious disagreements that arose, its perhaps not a surprise that this time around, the bishops have backed off the contentious issues, in favour of discussing more fully the very real threats to the family.

I tend to agree with the view reported by some, that “homosexuality” is a separate subject to that of marriage and family. Just about anything that can be said about the value of family, and about the threats to family, apply also to queer families. However, it does not make much sense for bishops who have no real understanding about sexuality, to debate queer families, without first grappling with the bigger question of same – sex orientation itself, consulting the evidence from social and natural science, and hearing testimony from LGBT people and theologians.

In the opening of the otherwise wide-ranging “Evangelii Gaudium”, Pope Francis wrote that some topics had been left out, because they needed further study. Homosexuality was one very obvious omission from that document – one which quite clearly does need much deeper study by the Church. My hope is that with the topic once more left on the back burner, Pope Francis will finally do what is urgently required – commission exactly such a further study.

Cardinal Gracias, one of the council of cardinal advisors, and also one of the team that will be drafting the final assembly report, has said in an interview that we should not expect that report to be giving “answers” to all the questions – but that it will be formulating questions that need addressing, and will be providing at least some direction towards finding those answers.

We must wait and see.

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