In a commentary at Commonweal, Paige E. Hochschild uses Amoris Laetitiae in an attempt to interpret what Pope Francis thinks about love and marriage.
What is striking in this analysis for lgbt Catholics, is that almost everything she describes as Francis’ thinking on the value of marriage, is equally applicable to same-sex couples and queer families – and almost nothing in it excludes us. There are passing references to the expectation of children, but these are almost throwaway lines There is furthermore, a note that for Francis, this is not the pre-eminent concern:
Francis warns that marriage is often seen as a “mere spontaneous association…a private affair,” rather than a “firm decision to leave adolescent individualism behind.” As such, marriage is a “social institution…a shared commitment, for the good of society as a whole.” In this regard, Francis is closer to a Thomistic understanding of sexual intimacy as ordered to the common good than to the emphasis on the “unitive-procreative” nature of the conjugal act characteristic of recent theological reflection.
Earlier in the text, Hochschild is even more explicit on what she sees in Pope Francis’ as the essential attributes of love – and these can apply equally to same-sex couples:
Francis’s thinking becomes clearer after reading the first three chapters. Love and marriage, he notes, are not identical, but marriage is the appropriate home for love precisely because the essential character of marriage is indissolubility. More important, the end of marriage is conformity to Christ. These two theological ideas—indissolubility and growth in the likeness to Christ—sum up how Francis thinks about love
In the pursuit over marriage equality around the world, LGBT Catholics have been accustomed to a range of standard arguments used by many bishops and other Catholic opponents of same-sex marriage. As our own advocates have regularly countered, many of the claims presented in support of these arguments are either unsubstantiated or just plain misrepresent reality. Others simply miss the point.
We now have a powerful ally in support of our counters to these “Catholic” defences of supposedly traditional marriage: Pope Francis.
The Synod of Bishops’ three week assembly on marriage and family has now concluded. It’s now two years since the process began, and it’s not over yet. (We still must wait for Pope Francis’ response, which will be published as an Apostolic Exhortation). Meanwhile, LGBT opinion on the results of the assembly and its implications for ourselves, are sharply divided. Some see the the near total absence of even any reference to LGBT concerns as a disappointing “no change”, while others see this very silence as a promising sign, that bishops recognize the need for real change, after dialogue with lesbian and gay people, and sound theological reflection.
Whichever interpretation turns out to be correct, three notable responses suggest that for Quest, the synod assembly has opened up a major opportunity, which we should be ready to use: the English bishops’ representatives have returned with supportive statements, James Alison has written of his belief that the bishops’ avoidance of the subject in the final document is a sign that they recognize the need for further real engagement, and Cardinal Kasper has said that although there has been no change in doctrine or the rules on communion for the divorced and remarried, nevertheless, doors have been opened. Taken together, we may conclude that at least for British lesbian and gay Catholics, a door has opened up a crack. It is now up to us to force the opening wider, and make our way through it.
For the Feast of All Saints on Sunday, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, issued a pastoral letter to be read in all churches of his diocese. Drawing attention to the synod’s emphasis on mercy and accompaniment for those in difficulty, he included in his letter a clear apology to “all those who have left in tears.”
An international group of LGBT Catholics, their families and their allies, sees reason for hope in the final report from the Bishops’ Synod Assembly on Marriage and Family. Acknowledging that there are some disappointments in the text, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics nevertheless expects that the proceedings of this assembly will lead to a fresh, more sensitive approach to pastoral care.
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.
For LGBT Catholics, possibly the most important news I’ve seen coming out of the Synod assembly on marriage and family, is a speech that Pope Francis gave on Saturday, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops.
It’s been widely reported that he spoke in favour of “decentralization”, but there’s much more of great importance. Not only is he speaking in favour of decentralization, but also reminds the bishops of the importance of listening, and of the “sensus fideii”, and of collegiality at all levels of the church — from the top, down to parish level. He also describes the structure of the church not as the usual pyramid, with pope and bishops at the top and the rest of us down below – but as an inverted pyramid, with pope (and bishops) at the bottom – because their job is service, not control. I see this as the most important, most exciting news to have come out of the synod thus far. (I’m working towards an English translation, which I’ll publish later at my website, “The Queer Church Repository”, with commentary on the blot, “Queering the Churcch”)
Here at the Queer Church, restructuring continues – and we’re also expanding our ministry.
I began my activities in LGBT ministry by volunteering at the Soho Masses, and went on to begin writing about LGBT faith matters here at Queering the Church. I also became involved with Quest as conference speaker, webmaster and now Quest Bulletin editor, took on additional webmaster responsibilities for the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, and for the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. I have also facilitated successful workshops for Quest, and on “Next Steps” in expanding LGBT ministry. During the build up to the introduction of UK equal marriage, I was a regular participant in radio and television programmes as an openly gay, Catholic advocate for equality.
A few years ago, it was German speaking theologians from Europe who hit the headlines when they signed a letter asking for far-reaching reforms on Church teaching and structure.
Now, a group of mostly Spanish language from Latin America who have asked the Synod for far more radical reforms. They ask for full LGBT equality in Church (including equal marriage), an end to the absolute ban on abortion, admission to the priesthood for married men and women, and access to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.