The Fruits of the Synod: Initial Thoughts

Bondings 2.0 has published today extracts from some reflections on synod 2015 by several bishops, following reactions published last week by commentators and LGBT organizations.

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass to mark the end of the Synod of bishops, in St.Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass to mark the end of the Synod of bishops, in St.Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

I’ve yet to respond in full with my own thoughts, but here a few points that I think are especially important:

* It’s a mistake to look only at what was said specifically about LGBT issues, in the final report, which is superficially disappointing. We also need to look at what was <em>not</em> said, what was said more generally about all “irregular” situations, and about what was widely discussed, but left out of the report.
* For LGBT issues specifically, the language has undoubtedly changed. When even Chaput, leader of the resistance says that “disordered” should be retired, we can be sure that it is doomed.
* While the report says that same-sex unions cannot be equated even remotely with marriage, it does <em>not</em> say that they are inherently sinful or against church teaching. Nor is gay marriage named among the real threats and challenges to marriage and family.
* More generally, the emphasis has shifted markedly, from banging on about rules and sin, to listening, accompaniment, and the “interior forum”. This was spelt out for people who are divorced and remarried, and for cohabiting couples, but is equally relevant for lesbians and gay men.
* The emphasis on listening and the interior forum will in practice be played out differently in different regions. In practice, this will lead to some decentralization, with improvements in pastoral practice moving ahead more quickly in some regions (notably in Northern Europe).
* Vincent Nichols is correct, when he notes that the subjects of homosexuality and the family are two distinct topics. Many of the joys and value of family apply equally to queer families, as do many of the challenges and threats, so queer families do not need special attention. There are some issues that apply specifically to queer families, but before we can really address these, the Church needs better understanding of queer people – and of human sexuality. Many bishops noted during the synod, that such understanding is lacking. (In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis implied that this needs further study). I think that this further study will come, and will include some listening to lesbian and gay people and our experience.
* In time, this further study will lead to improvements in pastoral practice, and at least a softening of doctrine.

One are where the synod was a major disappointment, was its complete lack understanding of gender, and the assault on what it calls “gender ideology”. This ignorant, offensive term is rapidly replacing “disordered” as an example of irresponsible Vatican language which needs to be vigorously challenged,

2 thoughts on “The Fruits of the Synod: Initial Thoughts”

  1. I think the proof of the pudding will be in the Pope’s Exhortation.
    The jury will be out until then, but I hope it is consistent with his closing remarks. If so, it could spell real progress. Let’s hope he can dodge the bullets (quite literally, given the Vatican’s record) until then…

    1. I agree. I’m optimistic that the exhortation will take us forward, but you’re right that we shall have to wait and see. It’s good that it’s been confirmed there will be an AE – and that it will be prepared reasonably speedily.

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