Among first synod discussions: changing harsh language, trying 'graduality'

Briefing reporters Tuesday on the event, known as a Synod of Bishops, Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica said one or more synod members specifically referred to three terms commonly used by the church:

*]“Living in sin”: a reference to couples who live together before marriage;
*]“Intrinsically disordered”: a reference to gay people; and
*]“Contraceptive mentality”: a reference made by some prelates to refer to a society that does not respect life.

“To label people … does not help in bringing people to Christ,” said Rosica, summarizing the synod member. “There was a great desire that our language has to change in order to meet the very difficult situations.”

Synod heard ‘No call to change doctrine, but call to better explain it’ according to spokesman.

I dont understand. Isnt it a work of true mercy to inform the ignorant and to correct our brothers and sisters? Sometimes harsh language can open their eyes to the gravity and magnitude of their situation.

Verrrrry good idea.
He is so right.


I agree. Some posts on (more than one) of the synod threads here actually refer to women in second marriages as “concubines.” Moderating language will not solve all the problems, but it is an easy and cost-free first step.

People realize that this is just a suggestion from one participant, right?

I hardly ever hear anyone referred to as “living in sin,” anymore, or even as just “shacking up.” The new term is “cohabiting,” which sounds more neutral but means the same thing.

As for “contraceptive mentality,” I don’t have any good suggestions. The term really denotes nearly the entire secularist mindset, which has led to the sexual revolution and a host of social ills. If there is a better term that doesn’t sugar coat the reality, fine.

And “intrinsically disordered,” is a useful term. There are a lot of desires that are intrinsically disordered, besides same sex attraction. There is a disordered attraction to adultery, to fornication, to greed, to envy, to every possible bad action under the sun. If we can’t call our disordered attractions disordered, how can we avoid them?

Good quote on “graduality” from Card Nichols:

“The bishops also spoke of the need to use “the law of graduality” when dealing with people struggling to live a Christian life. Cardinal Nichols later noted in the briefing that St. John Paul II invoked the same concept in the 1982 synod, but made a clear distinction: “There is a law of graduality, but not a graduality to the law.” That may end up being the motto of this Extraordinary Synod.”

That’s interesting because that word “graduality” jumped out at me when I read through the VIS summary of the second session this morning.

It immediately reminded me of what Pope Benedict said in that interview book “Light of the World” (which was severely confused by the media):

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants.

It seems to me to basically be an acknowledgement that some actions – even though objectively wrong – are at least indicative that the person is coming along. So, while we cannot condone the act, we can use it as a springboard to talk about moving towards Christ in a positive way rather than using it as an opportunity to condemn them outright with no other qualifications.

There’s certainly plenty of pitfalls to be avoided surrounding such ideas, but it seems like a topic worth developing further. :hmmm:

That is a good quote. :thumbsup:

Jesus called sin a sin. :shrug: But whatever the Synod decides to call it as long as the necessity of confession is conveyed is what counts.

But first you have to get someone to listen. And people who are told they are “living in sin” or their sexuality is “intrinsically disordered” are not likely to listen to whatever follows. Instead they come away thinking the Church is harsh, uncaring, and unloving. Their attitude is “who needs it?” and I can’t really blame them.

I think it differs on who we are speaking to. Someone may hear a soft approach better while another may be better off hearing more of a rebuke. I believe I read a book about or by The Little Flower where she says that she used both approaches when correcting the sisters in Carmelite Convent.

Consider what you said. “Sometimes” If sometimes harsher language is needed, then does this mean it is sometimes not needed? Why not then speak as a Church in a more charitable manner and less emotionally charged language. Then allow pastors and those closer to individuals to hold people accountable with harsher language when needed, or after one is already open to the Grace of God.

“Thus sayeth the Lord…” is useless to one who does not know “the Lord”. For authority to carry meaning it must first be authoritative.

I think that is a good point. I know that I’ve met people (online at least) who said they had a major conversion moment when someone basically called them out in a very blunt way with no sugar-coating. And they responded to that. But not everyone is like that.

I try to do that here (as well as I can over the internet). If I sense someone is blunt, I’ll be more direct. If I sense the person is in a sensitive place, I’ll try to respect that as much as possible. As St. Paul said, be all things to all people to save some.


it calls it an objective disorder The problem is when we do not call it a disorder at all but call it “good.” The homosexual acts are what is intrinsically disordered.

*3. Explicit treatment of the problem was given in this Congregation’s “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics” of December 29, 1975. That document stressed the duty of trying to understand the homosexual condition and noted that culpability for homosexual acts should only be judged with prudence. At the same time the Congregation took note of the distinction commonly drawn between the homosexual condition or tendency and individual homosexual actions. These were described as deprived of their essential and indispensable finality, as being “intrinsically disordered”, and able in no case to be approved of (cf. n. 8, $4).

In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.*

I can see why some may want to make the language more accommodating. But IMO doing that is 1 step closer to accepting a mortal sin as a venial sin, and eventually to not a sin.

Shacking up is a great example. That was the phrase when I was a kid, and everyone knew it was wrong, shameful, and therefore, not very common. It was changed to living together, which doesn’t even imply sex. Little by little it became an acceptable practice to all but the most strict of religious people. IMO couples living together without marriage is 1 of the biggest social problems we have. It lead to pregnancy without marriage which lead to abortions running wild.

I’m an older man and I’ve watched as our society fell apart,and this is a main cause. But I’m just a layman, I’m not clergy.

I sigh a sad sigh when I read this. It’s gentle, charitable and yet so despised. Only the approach of “who am I to judge” is considered pastoral nowadays (and that is not a dig at the Pope btw). We need LIONS in the Church hierarchy willing to take hits so that souls may be saved because at the end of the day, that’s what this comes down to. Saving souls.

May this synod enable Holy Mother Church to shine the light brightly on deception and proclaim the truth bravely, but with loving, motherly tenderness.


I agree. Id really say it depends on the situation on what kind of language is to be used. If a person is already acknowledging their wrongs, there is no need for harsh language.

I see no harshness to the terms that were cited as examples. They come off as neutral and objective, in my opinion.

Using figures of speech and metaphor is one of the greatness-es of language. Using such conveys feelings and meanings in a way that is more understandable than plain words.

Also, everyone uses labels everyday. It’s a human thing and is one of the ways we figure out who to trust and who not to trust. If you lose that facility you are at a distinct disadvantage in life.

Using phrases like the above show that the bishops are thinking human beings. If the words they are using feel bad, maybe it’s beacuse they are associated with situations that are universally thought of as less than optimal.
I’d rather they concentrate on the issues rather than not hurting anyone’s feelings…

Hopefully I am saying the right thing here. But if you are in a conversation with someone of SSA and call them “intrinsically disordered,” it would not only be false but uncharitable as well. You can say kindly that the *homosexual inclination *is objectively disordered and *homosexual acts *are intrinsically disordered.

We as Catholics would do good to have a better understanding of this subject so as not to call someone what they are not. Although atleast in my experience I see the greater problem at this point of the problem of many Catholics who do not even read the Church teachings on this and believe that the homosexual inclination is NOT objectively disordered and homosexual acts are NOT intrinsically disordered or even a sin! :eek:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit