Why the New Synod Document Relatio Post Disceptationem is Neither Dramatic Nor an Earthquake
Here is the full text of the document: zenit.org/en/articles/synod14-full-text-of-relatio-post-disceptationem
Let’s go through the controversial homosexuality paragraphs sentence by sentence: “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?” (Relatio Post Disceptationem 50) I can think of several examples of people with same-sex attraction who have offered gifts and special qualities to the Church. The people involved with the Catholic outreach group Courage come to mind, for example, or those who were interviewed for the documentary films “The Third Way” and “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” where Catholics with same-sex attraction defend the Church’s position on marriage and sexuality. It is important that we work together with people who have this attraction to show the world that our Church’s stance is both merciful and holistic. Their special gifts and qualities come to bear in other areas as well. “Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home.” (Relatio Post Disceptationem 50) That is a reasonable wish, and one that needs to be encouraged. People with same-sex attraction cannot find a home in the secular hedonistic culture that is reaching out to them. This is why many of them are asking for the Church to reach out to them. “Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?” (Relatio Post Disceptationem 50) I think the middle part of this statement can be interpreted in two ways, depending on what “their sexual orientation” translates in the original Italian. It may be a loose translation of “their sexual attraction.” If so, then this is similar to what I said about the special gifts and qualities of people with same-sex attraction: they have this cross for a reason, and we need to be able to “kiss the cross” like Jesus is portrayed doing in the Passion. The text does not say that we have to change from thinking same-sex attraction is disordered to thinking it is good. In fact, the very same sentence says we cannot compromise on our doctrine about the family. But it does say that we can value something even in our crosses. “The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge.” (Relatio Post Disceptationem 51) This sentence uses some big words. An educative challenge is a challenge of education. Affective growth is emotional growth. So, how can we educate people so that they can grow emotionally, humanly, and according to the Gospel, when they are confronted by homosexuality? The Church needs to develop programs for this, and efforts are underway. An example in the U.S. is in groups like Courage. Therefore, I think this sentence should be noncontroversial. If people are being challenged about our teachings, we need to educate them, and develop programs for it. Simple stuff. “The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman.” (Relatio Post Disceptationem 51) Obviously. We cannot change our teachings. Yet somehow that’s what people seem to think this document is doing. “Nor is it acceptable 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.” (Relatio Post Disceptationem 51) If the Synod Fathers were caving to secular pressure, they would not stand so firmly against it. The secularists in the United Nations are denying international aid to countries that don’t adopt a secularist attitude toward same-sex relationships. The Synod Fathers condemn this. It is quite a strong statement for a document discussing the pastoral care of the family. “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.” This seems obvious to me, and to my knowledge is not denied by prior documents on the subject. There is a germ of truth in every lie, and this Synod is trying to find that germ of truth in order to reach out on that basis. But look what it says about this subject in an earlier paragraph: “In the diverse cultural realities the possibilities should first be grasped and in the light of them the limits and radicalizations should be rejected.” (Paragraph 30)
In the controversial homosexuality paragraph, these two things are exactly what happens: first, the possibilities are grasped, i.e. that mutual aid and sacrificing for the sake of another is a good thing, and second, the limits and radicalizations are rejected, i.e. we affirm the moral problems connected to homosexual unions.
That’s all the document says regarding homosexuality, and none of it should be controversial.
Cont’d next post.