Dramatic move as Synod Fathers set out new pastoral care for gays, cohabiting couples and divorcees

A major shift in the Church’s pastoral care for gay Catholics was put forward today at the Vatican’s Synod on the Family on Monday.

A document released at the halfway point of the gathering said that gay Catholics’ orientation should be valued and that they have “gifts and qualities” to offer parishes. The document also praised elements of same-sex partnerships.

“Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing them fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home,” the document, presented this morning by Cardinal Peter Erdo, the relator general of the synod, stated. “Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony?”

It goes on to explain that while there are “moral problems” with homosexual unions, “there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners”.

The text also calls for the Church to recognise the “seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries” to cohabiting couples, civil marriages and to Catholics who are divorced and remarried.

It adds that civil marriages and cohabiting relationships that have stability and deep affection and the responsibility of children, should be seen as “a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage”.

This point reflects the law of graduality – the notion that an individual can come to the fullness of church teaching over the course of their lives – which has emerged as a theme at the synod.


The Tablet is a heretical rag. Can this article be trusted?

It appears to be pretty accurate.

One view on the document:

Today the Synod of Bishops issued a document that represents a stunning change in the way that the Catholic church speaks about the LBGT. The Synod said that gay people have “gifts and talents to offer the Christian community.” This is something that even a few years ago would have been unthinkable, from even the most open-minded bishops–that is, a statement of outright praise for the contribution of gays and lesbians, with no caveat and no reflexive mention of sin. And, regarding same-sex partners, the Synod document declared, remarkably, “Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.” That any church document would praise same-sex “partners” in any way (and even use the word “partners”) is astonishing.

The Synod also asks questions, challening dioceses and parishes: “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

This represents a revolutionary change in how the church addresses the LGBT community. Nowhere in the document are such terms as “intrinsically disordered,” “objectively disordered,” or even the idea of “disinterested friendships” among gays and lesbians. The veteran Vaticanologist John Thavis rightly called it an “earthquake.”

The Synod’s document also turned to several other important questions related to families, including birth control, here reminding the church of the “the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control,” that is, the need to respect the personal conscience of the individual. And the Synod’s document recommended the idea of “gradualness” when it came to “cohabitation.”

The document is just the mid-point summary of the bishops’ meetings over the last week, and is not a final declaration. (Besides, the Synod has another session next year, after which Pope Francis will issue his final apostolic exhortation, which will be his own teaching on the Synod’s deliberations.) But it is still revolutionary, as were some of the comments of the participants during the press conference today. Clearly Pope Francis’s call for openness at the beginning of the Synod has allowed the bishops to listen carefully, to speak their mind and to be open to new ways of thinking. As was the case at the Second Vatican Council, the participants may have gone into this Synod not expecting much openness or change, but the Holy Spirit is afoot.


An interim report from the Synod of Bishops has called upon Catholic pastors to recognize the positive elements of all family situations, including those at odds with Church teaching. The …


The link below is to the full text of the “Relatio post disceptationem” delivered in the synod hall this morning by the General Rapporteur, Cardinal Péter Erdő. This is being considered the Synod’s mid way report:



(Vatican Radio) As discussion at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family got underway Monday morning, it was announced that the second phase of this process – next year’s Ordinary Synod – will be held October 4-25, 2015, and will have theme: The vocation and mission of the family in the church and the modern world.

Following the announcement the General Rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdő, presented the mid-term report outlining the main questions highlighted over the past week of General Congregations which will now be examined in by the bishops, fraternal delegates, auditors and experts in the ‘minor circles’ or small working groups.

Cardinal Erdő began by highlighting that the Synod Fathers spoke of how Jesus looked at men and women with love, accompanying them patiently and with mercy. He spoke of how Jesus Christ, "the Truth, became incarnate in human fragility not to condemn it, but to heal it”. Jesus – he said - taught marriage was indissoluble, but showed understanding of those who didn’t live up to this ideal.

In the mid-term report the Synod Fathers speak of how it’s the task of the Church to recognize those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries. They appeal to the “law of graduality,” as a reflection of the way God reached out to humanity and led His people forward step by step.

The need was noted for further reflection on whether sacramental fullness doesn’t exclude the possibility of recognizing positive elements even in imperfect forms. For example, whether there are positive elements in irregular marriages. The Synod Fathers make the point that when a civil marriage is stable, shows deep affection and care for children, then the Church should work to accompany it toward Sacramentality.

Card. Erdő spoke of the need for a missionary conversion, that the Church cannot stop at an announcement that is merely theoretical, but must go beyond. Christian marriage has to be a vocational decision taken with the proper preparation in an itinerary of faith. This because the Gospel of the family is the response to the deepest expectations of a person.

In the report the Synod Fathers state that the Church is particularly called to recognize suffering of abandoned spouses and how children are the real victims of family breakups.

Many synod members expressed the need for reformed, simplified procedures for annulments . Card. Erdő spoke of how this annulment reform will require diocesan bishops to take on new responsibilities and perhaps delegate a specially trained priest.

Regarding divorced and divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, the report speaks of the need for "courageous pastoral choices” and “new pastoral paths”. The report calls for case-by-case discernment according to law of graduality, particularly regarding access to the Sacraments. Card. Erdő said dialogue on this topic will continue in local Churches over the coming year and responses will be brought to next years Synod.

The report noted that the question of cohabitation might indicate commitment-phobia, but also a choice that is taken "while waiting for a secure existence” such as a steady job and income.

The question of homosexuality was then addressed, with a call to serious reflection. The Synod Fathers noted that homosexual persons have gifts and talents to offer the Christian community and that pastoral outreach to them is an important educative challenge.

In the report, the Synod Fathers also reaffirm that same-sex unions cannot be considered equal to matrimony. And it is unacceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

Finally, stating that openness to new life is essential part of married love, the Synod Fathers affirm the message of Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae regarding the need to respect dignity of person in moral evaluation of methods of birth control.

Concluding his presentation of the mid-term report, Card. Erdő said that in imitating Jesus’ merciful gaze, the Church must accompany her most fragile sons and daughters marked by wounded and lost love.


“The Synod’s document also turned to several other important questions related to families, including birth control, here reminding the church of the “the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control,” that is, the need to respect the personal conscience of the individual.”

“The need to respect the personal conscience of the individual” is a faulty analysis of the meaning of “Dignity of the person in the moral evaluation.” The dignity of the person refers in context to all church teachings on the subject of sexuality, and that any artificial separation of sex and procreation is contrary to God’s plan. I can deal with media outlets reporting on this, but when they start putting in their own opinions on the meaning, they always get it wrong!

This document seems to be a bit of an earthquake for some people. What do you all think?

For those reading the document, the news is in part III

I agree that gay people have a lot to contribute, and that one has to look past their glaring sin (if they are in a sexual relationship) to see that they are humans and that many are trying to reconcile their sexuality with a faith in Jesus.

The Church has to move past it’s “Culture War” position toward people who have serious impediments to full communion with the Church. The impediments are valid - but the people are children of God, as well.

I keep re-reading it and don’t believe my eyes. On the surface the message resembles our faith but has really done away with the reality of sin and the need to radically live for Christ even if it costs us. What is this? Can someone please tell me if I am completely off base and explain what is going on?

I don’t think anyone is trying to get rid of the reality of sin. But I think the idea is that you need to minister to the person from where they are, not where you wish they would be. Another way to say it is that pastors and teachers need to be facilitators and mentors not gate keepers. We will never be able to save some souls if we present so many obstacles to them that they never want to walk into a church. Also before anyone can mentor anyone, they need to listen to them to understand where they are; find the good in what they do, and build upon that. I could be wrong, but the document, to me, conveys the tone that we need to find the good even in imperfect relationships and reinforce that while gently leading a person to the full faith. Or something like that.

Conservative Kathryn Jean Lopez from National Review Online states, “strikes me as a loving conversation with both mercy and truth”

We have a pretty intelligent group here at CAF and I await other reactions.

What you see is what you get. It’s horrific.

I think it’s a very good idea to convey the sense that all three of these groups have a similar problem with sin, but don’t lose their innate dignity as persons as a result of their temptations. EVERYBODY can relate to the temptations of at least one of these categories. Equating them combats the genuine homophobia that occurs in some places in the church where both the sin and the sinner are despised as if members of a completely different (and more heinous) class of sin.

I’m not sure what people consider “new” about the idea that “parts” of same sex relationships are genuinely good, moral and virtuous. I was taught way back in grade school about how the English word “love” covers at least THREE words in ancient Greek: Filia, Eros and Agape. The fact that physically erotic forms of love have no moral or constructive place in a relationship between two people of the same sex doesn’t remotely negate the virtues of Agape or Filia in those relationships. This, in fact, is probably why actively gay people have such a hard time accepting Christian teaching on the matter. In too many places, they are told that their relationships have no redeeming value whatsoever, an assertion plainly untrue in their own experience. (I wonder if this is also why lesbian relationships, at least, tend to rather quickly phase out of the erotic phase of the relationship?). In any case, this seems less to me like something “new” and more like a re-emphasis on something very old.

I do, however, still have a very grave concern that in attempting to be pastoral, some church leaders are still naïve in terms of assuming that their actual ideas will be given fair hearing in the public and press rather than snippets being taken out of context by people wishing to rationalize their sins into virtues. Nuance is a good thing, but it cannot be grasped by people who have not yet begun to comprehend fundamentals. And it especially won’t be understood well by those unwilling to comprehend fundamentals.

Thank you for the two responses. I first edited my comment and then deleted it because I honestly don’t know what to think and don’t just want to rant in vain. :frowning:

I was hoping that the church was finally leaving the decades of confusion and bad catechesis behind, but it seems we will go even deeper now.

Do we belong to an exclusive club for the righteous, or are we in a hospital for sinners?

If the latter, which I believe we are, how do we minister to those at the fringes of the Church who have never really been made to feel welcome? How do we inspire a genuine conversion process in their hearts?

I agree.

When my daughter was Baptized and Confirmed we didn’t have a chance to really discuss Confession in RCIA because we missed that day due to illness in my family. So, the sister who acts as Pastoral Assistant arranged a special meeting a few weeks ago with a priest assigned to our parish for the next year to discuss the issue. He mentioned that Eucharist removes sin. So I asked why we were supposed to be in State of Grace before receiving if Eucharist would remove sin anyways. The response I got was “We’re moving toward resurrection theology.” :shrug:

I saw a comment from somebody who replied to a post about the report who basically said if it was followed it would be an end to the Catholic Church.

Fr Alexander Lucie Smith has a post titled, ‘Sorry, but the synod’s draft report is no earthquake,’ but he does not comment on some of the things that are causing concern among Catholics in the report:



From the document:
“The Church has to carry this [the announcement of the Gospel of the family] out with the tenderness of a mother and the clarity of a teacher (cf. Eph 4,15), in fidelity to the merciful kenosi of Christ. The truth is incarnated in human fragility not to condemn it, but to cure it.”

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