A remarkable document, known as a "relatio," was released by the Vatican on Monday, concerning a significant shift in attitude to homosexuals. A relatio is not an official change in doctrine, but it was prepared following the first week of a two-week synod called by Pope Francis, an assembly of 200 bishops to discuss issues concerning the family.
How significant was the statement? Vatican expert John Thavis, who wrote the bestselling The Vatican Diaries described the relatio as "an earthquake" in relation to the Church's position on the subject.
"Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities?" it asked. "Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?"
The document didn't affect to the Church's official denunciation of homosexual acts or gay marriage, but deals more with practice within the Church itself and was far more sympathetic in nature than Catholic attitude towards homosexuality has long been. The relatio will be the foundation for continuing discussion during the synod's second week.
There is another synod planned for next year, so the document is expect to be part of the discussion in preparation for that.
The relatio also said that it hoped the clergy would find "a fraternal space" for homosexuals inside the Church.
It will not come as a shock that the response in the Catholic world -- indeed among all bishops at the synod -- was supportive of the relatio.
John Smeaton, co-founder of Voice of the Family, called it "one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history." But then, he's not Pope, who is considered infallible within the Church, so the scale isn't especially balanced in that debate.
The far-right Catholic website, Rorate Caeli, didn't agree either, and wrote that "The words of Our Lord and the New Testament are in absolute opposition to the new doctrine above. Because what the Church has always taught she received from the Lord directly and through the Apostles."
Forgetting for a moment that this relatio isn't doctrine, another thing that the Church has always received from the Lord directly is the position of Pope, starting with Jesus naming Peter the first bishop of Rome and leader of the Catholic Church. And actual Catholic doctrine has changed over the years -- though, again, this isn't doctrine, it's pretty much just telling the clergy, "Y'know, homsoexuals have done some pretty great things over the centuries and are human beings, so how's about you treat them with kindness like you would any person and welcome them."
Yeah, talk about the worst official document in history, and contrary to the worlds of Our Lord, who taught goodwill towards all men.
It all reminds one of a statement that Archbishop Desmond Tutu made last year.
'I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.' And then added, "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say, 'sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.'"
At a certain point, I think it's not unreasonable to say to some intractable people --
"Do you believe that God is all-powerful and all-knowing and watches over all mankind and rules the world pefectly? Well, if so, why don't you let Him do His job, and not try to do it for Him, so you can free yourself up to living here on earth in peace and joy? Life is hard enough without trying to be God and do His job for him. So, why not trust Him to know what He's doing without you getting in the way? If there are good things and bad on earth, don't you think God can deal with them? You just worry about paying your mortgage, buying your groceries, putting enough aside for retirement and worrying about who'll win the Oscars. If God needs you're help, He'll ask. But don't wait up. And don't worry, you'll know. The last time with Noah, He flooded the world. You couldn't miss it. And for all that, He just asked one guy. God really don't need much help. He pretty much just wants you to love your fellow man. Which should be a hint that He's okay with homosexuals."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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