The Californian Bishop Francis Quinn has used the occasion of Pope Francis’ US visit, and the World Meeting of Families, to call in an op-ed opinion piece for the New York Times, for extensive reform of the Catholic Church on three core issues bitterly dividing the Church: communion for the divorced and remarried, an end to compulsory celibacy for Catholic priests, and the ordination of women.
To achieve this, he proposes a third Vatican Council:
Pope Francis prefers the simple title “bishop of Rome.” So I ask my brother bishop: Should we not convene a third Vatican Council just as ethical and paradigm-shifting as Vatican Council II of the 1960s?
In addition to the three issues dividing the church, this council and future councils would explore the morality of world economies, spiritual life, human sexuality, peace and war, and the poor and suffering.
He does not specifically call for any change in teaching on same – sex relationships, but he has done in the past: he was one of the first to follow Cardinal Schonborn a few years ago, when he said that it was high time that the Church considered the quality of gay relationships, putting aside the obsession with genital acts. Besides, this is implicit in his reference to “human sexuality” as a topic for discussion.
It is of course, significant that Bishop Quin is retired. On the one hand, this means that his opinions will carry little weight among the rest of the hierarchy. On the other, we should remember that it is precisely because he is no retired, that like Bishop Geoffrey Robinson and several others, he is able to speak freely without fear of losing his job – he has none, to lose. What these men are saying publicly now that they are able to do so safely, many others will be thinking privately, holding their tongues – for now.
But Cardinal Schoborn’s off – the – cuff remarks back then about respect for gay couples, and a rethink on those divorced and remarried, have since achieved much wider currency, and were widely discussed at the last family synod, in the intervening year since, and will be again in October.
Change will not come without extensive exploratory debate. What is now clear, is that under Pope Francis, there is now far wider, freer debate about reform to Church practice, disciplines and even doctrines, than at any time under the previous three pontiffs – perhaps even since Vatican II.