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Synod on the Family

Sexuality and more inclusive language on Synod agenda


At the daily press briefing in the Vatican on Tuesday, journalists heard how bishops meeting on the second full day of the Synod for the Family have been discussing the importance of using more inclusive language to talk about people living outside the teachings of the Church. They’ve also been stressing the need for a ‘gradual’ or ‘stepping stones’ approach to couples, and the recognition that elements of truth also exist in those relationships which do not conform to the Church’s ideal vision of family life.


Philippa Hitchen reports…



The head of the Holy See press office Fr Federico Lombardi and his assistants spoke of the many different subjects under discussion on the first two days of the Synod, in particular the need for a more sensitive and inclusive language about family life that will not turn people away from the Church. Canadian Fr Tom Rosica gave some specific examples from the English speaking bishops present at the meeting:


“Language such as ‘living in sin,’ ‘intrinsically disordered,’ or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”


Synod participants have also been underlining the need to apply the so-called ‘law of graduality’ or ‘stepping stones approach’ as they minister to people living in all kinds of relationships that do not conform to the Church’s ideal of marriage and family life.


“Questa tema della gradualità è stata ripresa………non si raggiunge ancora questa ideale.”


Fr Lombardi used an analogy from the Second Vatican Council which led to profound changes in the Catholic Church’s relations with other Christians and people of other religious traditions. During the Council, bishops agreed that while the fullness of Christ’s Church “subsists” only in the Catholic Church, important elements of truth and holiness also exist in other churches and faith communities. In a similar way, he said, valid and important elements of true love and holiness can also exist in a relationship that does not conform to the full vision of an ideal Catholic marriage.


English Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai also shared impressions from the Synod Hall, including the call for a special message for families being persecuted for their Christian faith Iraq. They spoke about Synod Fathers who live in countries where Catholics are a tiny minority and who say the Church has much to learn from the wisdom and experience of other religious traditions.


Cardinal Nichols also described the very open and relaxed atmosphere of the Synod and the importance of hearing married couples share details of their relationships, including the pivotal role that sex plays in the life of most married couples


“The Australian couple were quite explicit and developed in their thought and emphasis on the central role of sexuality and sexual intercourse in their marriage – now that’s not what we bishops talk about mostly! But to hear that as the opening contribution did open up an area which others followed and it was a recognition that it is often central to the wellbeing of a marriage.”


Cardinal Nichols pointed out it’s too early to draw any conclusions from these first sessions, yet it does seem clear that this first Synod of Francis’ pontificate is shaping up for a much more honest and down-to-earth discussion than most bishops have experienced here in the Vatican over recent decades. 


(from Vatican Radio)


Presentations at the CCRI conference


Representatives from IMWAC were pleased to meet CCRI at their conference which took place from 2 to 3 October 2014 in Rome.   CCRI has made recordings of the presentations and panel sessions available.  Find them here



Perspectives of human dignity


The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops is the first time that the Catholic Church will be addressing the issue of same-sex love and partnership from a pastoral perspective. It is a big chance to overcome the outdated theology behind its moral doctrine.


The moral condemnation of homosexual acts in the last decades has ignored the fact that for many lesbian and gay people their sexual orientation is an essential part of their personal self. When the church demands from them that they should suppress any bodily expression of their feeling of love, she is asking for a sacrifice that would make these people unhappy and cause psychological damage in the long term. This moral doctrine has been the reason for many suicides among adolescents, because they can't envision a serene life as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person of faith.


The II Vatican Council has embraced the dignity of the human person as the new cornerstone of moral theology. The Synod should build its pastoral approach on this cornerstone by relating homosexuality and a transgender identity in a positive way to the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Homosexuality could then be seen as the natural bodily expression of love and as a capacity of bonding of gay and lesbian persons in stable and committed relationships. These loving relationships are a place for mutual care and deserve the blessing of the Church. Rainbow families - and especially the children of these families - need to be welcomed by the Church and treated without any discrimination when it comes to baptism or education in Catholic schools.


Homosexuality is criminalized in about 80 countries of the world, sometimes with corporal punishment, with many years of prison - up to life long imprisonments - or even with the death penalty. Applying the perspective of the human dignity of LGBT persons to the issue of criminalization, would make it immediately clear that the Roman Catholic Church as a global player needs to show moral leadership and develop a clear official position against every law that criminalizes LGBT people.


Die Würde der menschlichen Person


Die außerordentliche Bischofssynode ist das erste Mal, dass die katholische Kirche sich aus einer pastoralen Perspektive mit dem Thema "Gleichgeschlechtliche Liebe und Partnerschaft" befasst. Die Synode bietet daher eine große Chance, die veraltete Theologie zu überwinden, die hinter der katholischen Morallehre steckt. Die bisherige moralische Verurteilung von homosexuellen Handlungen hat die Tatsache ignoriert, dass die sexuelle Orientierung für viele Schwule und Lesben ein essentieller Teil ihres personalen Selbst darstellt. Wenn die Kirche von uns verlangt, dass wir jeglichen sexuellen Ausdruck von Liebe und Zuneigung unterdrücken, verlangt sie ein Opfer, das viele unglücklich machen und seelische Schäden hervorrufen würde. Bei vielen Jugendlichen hat dies zum Selbstmord geführt, weil sie sich als Gläubige kein gelingendes Leben als Lesben, Schwule, Bisexuelle oder Transgender vorstellen konnten.


Das II. Vatikanische Konzil hat die Würde der menschlichen Person zum Eckstein ihrer Moraltheologie erklärt. Die jetzige Synode sollte ihren pastoralen Ansatz auf diesem Eckstein aufbauen, indem sie Homosexualität und die geschlechtliche Identität von Transgender positiv auf die personale Würde von Lesben, Schwulen, Bisexuellen und Transgender bezieht. Homosexualität könnte dann moraltheologisch als natürlicher, körperlicher Ausdruck der Liebe und der Bindungsfähigkeit in dauerhaften gleichgeschlechtlichen Beziehungen aufgefasst werden. Auch diese Liebesbeziehungen sind Orte wechselseitige Zuwendung und Fürsorge mit guten und schlechten Tagen. Sie benötigen und verdienen daher den Segen Gottes, den die Kirche ihnen zuspricht. Die Kirche sollte Regenbogenfamilien - insbesondere die Kinder in diesen Familien - willkommen heißen und sie genauso behandeln wie andere Familien, wenn es z.B. um die Taufe oder den Besuch einer katholischen Schule geht.


Homosexualität wird in ca. 80 Ländern der Welt als ein Verbrechen behandelt und z.T. mit Körperstrafen, z.T. mit langjährigen Haftstrafen - bis zu lebenslänglich - und in manchen Ländern sogar mit dem Tode bestraft. Die Kirche verhält sich bislang in dieser Frage ambivalent. Als Global Player könnte die katholische Kirche hier moralische Führungsstärke zeigen, indem sie sich eindeutig für den Schutz der Menschenwürde und Menschenrechte von LSBT einsetzt.


Prospettive della dignità umana


Durante il Sinodo straordinario dei Vescovi per la prima volta la Chiesa cattolica affronterà la questione dell’amore tra persone dello stesso sesso e delle loro relazioni dal punto di vista pastorale. Si tratta di una grande occasione per superare la teologia obsoleta alla base della sua dottrina morale.


La condanna morale degli atti omosessuali negli ultimi decenni ha ignorato il fatto che per molte persone gay e lesbiche l’orientamento sessuale è una parte essenziale della personalità. Quando la chiesa richiede loro di reprimere qualsiasi espressione corporea del loro sentimento di amore, sta chiedendo un sacrificio che renderebbe queste persone infelici causando danni psicologici a lungo termine. Questa dottrina morale è stata la ragione di molti suicidi tra adolescenti, che non potevano immaginare una vita serena come lesbiche, gay, bisessuali o transgender credenti.


Il Concilio Vaticano II ha abbracciato la dignità della persona umana, come la nuova pietra angolare della teologia morale. Il Sinodo deve costruire il suo approccio pastorale su questa pietra miliare mettendo in relazione l'omosessualità e l'identità transgender in un modo positivo con la dignità delle persone lesbiche, gay, bisessuali e transgender. L'omosessualità può quindi essere vista come una naturale espressione corporea di amore capace di legare le persone gay e lesbiche in relazioni stabili e impegnate. Queste relazioni amorose sono un luogo di cura reciproca e meritano la benedizione della Chiesa. Le famiglie arcobaleno - e soprattutto i figli di queste famiglie - hanno bisogno di essere accolti dalla Chiesa e trattati senza discriminazioni quando si tratta di battesimo o di educazione nelle scuole cattoliche.


L'omosessualità è criminalizzata in circa 80 paesi del mondo, a volte con punizioni corporali, con molti anni di carcere – fino all’ergastolo - o anche con la pena di morte. Legare la prospettiva della dignità umana delle persone LGBT al problema della criminalizzazione, renderebbe immediatamente chiaro che la Chiesa cattolica romana come attore globale deve mostrare la sua leadership morale sviluppando una chiara posizione ufficiale contro ogni legge che criminalizza le persone LGBT.


Dr. Michael Brinkschröder