In the introduction to “Amoris Laetitia”, Pope Francis warns against reading it too quickly. Indeed, there are dangers in rushing to a quick assessment – but unfortunately, it was inevitable that the first responses to be published, would be based on relatively quick judgements. There simply was not time for close reading and full reflection, between the first press look becoming available on-line at 6 on Thursday evening, and noon on Friday, when the text was officially published. I suspect that some of those early responses have suffered, from an insufficiently close reading.
For myself, I have found that the more I think about the text, the more I look closely at the words, and the more I read and reflect on how others have responded – the more optimistic I become that for all the superficial disappointments that others have pointed out, hidden beneath the surface are many reasons for lesbian and gay Catholics to celebrate. (I’m a little less sure though, about trans or intersex folk, so restrict myself here to “LGBQ” not LGBTQI).
In their considered response, which I know was the outcome of lengthy deliberation by a large team of people, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics observe that Amoris Laetitia raises more questions than answers. Some of these questions are of critical importance, and it may be possible with close reading, to deduce Francis’ own answers to them, even if they are not directly spelled out. If may guesses are sound, then they represent good news for LGBQ Catholics – and if I am wrong, they still offer good material for us to use in countering our critics, and important questions we can (and should) be putting to our bishops and pastors, as we nudge them on the path to full lgbt inclusion in the Catholic Church.
Among those questions are:
Amoris Laetitia is eloquent in praise of the family and the joy of love (including physical love): but just where and how are LGBT Catholics to experience that joy and love?
My suspicion, prompted in part by an astute observation by Stephen Lovatt in a Facebook post, is that Francis has signalled his support for same-sex civil unions, as distinct from actual marriage. The principle of gradualism is suggested, as a means to lead people in “irregular” situations, to more complete compliance with God’s will for them – which is assumed to be permanent, faithful marriage open to procreation. But for gay people, heterosexual marriage is not appropriate. Further. AL is critical of those who out of selfishness, avoid marriage. Could it not be that the same principle of gradualism could be drawing single gay people,to a life of commitment and self-giving in a same-sex marriage, and raising adopted children?
If we are to take seriously the reaffirmation of existing doctrine that conformity with conscience is of greater importance than outward signs of conformity with doctrinal rules, can we therefore expect those bishops who have been attempting to use those rigid rules as a test of acceptability for Church employees, and parish ministry? Can we see an end to the spate of employment terminations, and even see those already dismissed rehired, with compensation paid for wrongful dismissal?
Similarly, if we are to take seriously the reaffirmation of existing doctrine on respect for the dignity of all, including LGBT people, and the firm opposition to unjust discrimination and violence, can we now expect African bishops to be told to reverse their support for criminalization, and to speak up strongly against persecution of sexual and gender minorities?
And the most important question of all: Instead of sitting back, waiting for “the Church” to implement all the positive elements in the Exhortation, what are we going to do ourselves, as LGBT people and as full and equal members of the Church, to move the process along?