Senior Bishop: “Catholic Church Must Welcome ‘Unconventional Couples’

ROME — The Catholic Church should make “unconventional couples” feel at home instead of making them targets of “de facto discrimination,” the leader of the Italian Bishops Conference and an ally of Pope Francis said this week.

“Couples in irregular matrimonial situations are also Christians, but they are sometimes looked upon with prejudice,” said Bishop Nunzio Galantino, an apparent reference to divorced and remarried Catholics.

“The burden of exclusion from the sacraments is an unjustified price to pay, in addition to de facto discrimination,” he said Wednesday (Aug. 27) in an address to a national conference on liturgy in the Italian hill town of Orvieto.

– full report at  The Washington Post.

Bishop Galantino’s thoughts are important, as he is the head of the Italian bishops’ conference, a post for which he was hand picked by Pope Francis himself. It is inevitable that his voice will be influential at the October Family Synod in Rome. In this interview, he seems to have been referring specifically to divorced and remarried Catholics, or to unmarried couples, but his observations are equally applicable to same – sex couples, especially as this is not the first time he has spoken along these lines. Back in May, he was specific about the need for the Church to take up a more progressive path, including a stronger welcome for gay Catholics:

The Catholic Church should listen to all the arguments in favour of gay relationships, Communion for remarried divorcees, and ending mandatory celibacy for priests, a senior Italian bishops has insisted.

The secretary-general of the Italian bishops’ conference (CEI), Nunzio Galantino, bishop of the southern diocese of Cassano all’Jonio, told the Florence-based La Nazione newspaper yesterday that he wanted church leaders to open their mind to different views on these issues.

He said: “My wish for the Italian Church is that it is able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favour of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality.”

Tablet News, 13th May 2014

A few years ago, I reported that Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna had suggested that it was time for the Catholic Church to stop obsessing over the genital acts of gay people, and instead focus on the quality of their relationships, and also to consider welcoming those divorced people who want to remarry in church, at a time when so many other couples have no desire to marry at all. He was the first to voice such thoughts on same – sex couples, but when the expected reprimand from Pope Benedict, or a pushback from more conservative colleagues simply did not come, a handful of other bishops soon followed with similar sentiments. Later, this early handful became a trickle, then a steady stream. Just in the past month, for instance, Bondings 2.0 has reported on a call by yet another cardinal, said to be “close to the pope”,  for more openness in the Church to lesbians and gays, and also on a wish by an Indian lay leader for the October synod to “bring LGBT people in from the cold“. The gathering mood for reform is by no means limited to Europe and North America.

Meanwhile, the question of a welcome in church for divorced and remarried Catholics has become a major theme for the upcoming family synod. If indeed the synod finds a way, or prepares to find a way, to offer a more authentic welcome for such couples, sooner or later it must follow that a similar, more authentic welcome for LGBT Catholics must also be found. The issues after all, are similar.

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