Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation is called “Amoris Laetitia” – The Joy of Love. Written in response to the 2014/15 Bishops Synods’ Assemblies, it’s not really about love specifically, but about the wider issue of marriage and family, their joys, difficulties and challenges they face – which had been the theme of the assemblies. This is why, to the surprise and disappointment of many LGBT Catholics, there was little attention, in either the assemblies or in Amoris, to the subject of homosexuality – except with reference to families having LGBT people within them.
Lifesite News once again have their knickers in a knot over how the mainstream church is promoting an alleged “homosexual agenda”.
The six-part program titled “Amoris: Let’s talk Family! Let’s be Family!” contains explicit promotion of homosexual relationships as a form of family, saying that such relationships provide “mutual support” for active homosexuals.
This would be great news if it were true – but in fact, the picture described is greatly exaggeration, depending on a single picture of two women embracing, and a line that refers to “other forms” of union, which Lifesite chooses to interpret as applicable specifically and exclusively to same-sex couples. In fact of course, Amoris Laetitia (on which the entire World Meeting program will be based) recognises a great number of relationships outside of lifelong heterosexual marriage. Same-sex couples are just one of these.
Nevertheless, even if Lifesite fears are exaggerated, there is indeed good news for gay and lesbian couples, and queer families of all shades, in the study material and in the general planning for the World Meeting of Families. Just as the line to which Lifesite objects does not necessarily apply only to same-sex couples – it most certainly could apply to us, alongside many others. In the same way, some of the other images in the material could apply to us – or perhaps not. This one for instance, is quite clearly of two men. Are they a “couple”? That is not spelled out.
The bishop of Limerick, Bishop Brendan Leahy, has made explicit what has previously been implied – that gay couples must be made welcome at next year’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin.
….speaking after his diocese launched its preparation programme for WMF2018, an international event which promotes traditional Catholic teaching on marriage, Dr Leahy said the event in August 2018 in Dublin would be a missed opportunity if the Church did not embrace family in all its variety.”We are living in changing times and family too is changing,” he said.”We’ve had the referendum in favour of same-sex marriage and a lot of people voted in that referendum and all are equally welcome to join in this celebration of family.”Everyone must be made feel welcome next year. We all want to build a good family network of support in Ireland at all levels.”
Last Sunday, I picked up a little book at the Soho Masses bookstall called “Christians and Sexuality in the Time of AIDS“, a useful little book, which I bought at a ridiculously low bargain price. Some of the insights have little to do directly with the main theme, and it is one of these that is relevant here, an observation made by James Alison in his introduction, writing about Pope Benedict XVI and the nature of his theology. James has frequently observed that when we respond too quickly or too superficially to the pope’s reported remarks, we often underestimate his thinking, which is substantially more nuanced than we usually recognize. In his position, he argues, Benedict cannot do other than repeat the well-worn, established magisterial positions on topical issues.
The really interesting questions surrounding what a pope is doing are never the politically immediate headline grabbers, but always the small, apparently insignificant tinkerings around the edges which are either going to make change possible over time, or try to block it.
When I read these words, they brought into focus for me the speech that Benedict gave to a group of Italian politicians and public officials last Friday, which has been widely interpreted as an attack on gay marriage. This is not the way I interpreted the speech: instead, I wrote (in the post below) that the reference to “marriage between a man and a woman”, and to the forces undermining it, were curiously minor. The main thrust of the speech was more usefully seen as in praise of strong families – which could equally well apply to the families of same sex parents as to any other. After reading James Alison, I thought how perfectly his warning applies to the present case: well, of course he made the obligatory noises about marriage between a man and a woman (how could he not?) – but the headline writers have missed the main points. With just a little “apparently insignificant tinkerings around the edges”, this attack on gay marriage can instead be read as a statement in praise of all families – including those which are queer.