Sexuality and more inclusive language on Synod agenda

Sexuality and more inclusive language on Synod agenda- maltadiocese

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.

What are peoples thoughts, particularly on what Lombardi says?

The comparison with Vatican II’s approach to the doctrine of “No salvation outside the Catholic Church” in refining its attitude towards other religions and their followers struck me.

To the passage which you emphasized in bold, I would respond that each of us is created in God’s image and has some understanding of love and morality, though our understanding is incomplete and may have some admixture of error. Therefore I agree that “valid and important elements of true love and holiness can also exist…”


Well said :thumbsup:

The reason I bolded that particular paragraph was to gauge opinion on the forum, since it did strike me while reading it :slight_smile:

Now, could you elaborate more on your viewpoint my friend? Judging by your shock, am I to assume that you think it is a morally relativistic or theologically problematic proposal?

Yes, it is striking, and yes, to me, it smacks of moral relativism in the context of the discussion at the Synod. I don’t have a problem with current Church doctrine on marriage, human sexuality, etc. I am sure, my friend, that you are astute enough to deduce my response to this, as well as my fears as to where it will lead. :slight_smile:

:eek: pretty much says it all…

If needed, I will launch into an eloquent defense of current teaching. :wink:

Did I detect a tone of agreement with this sentiment from you? Or am I misreading? Can you elaborate?

We’re off to a flying start! Expecting a daily dose of zingers like this. Relatism at its best!

We’re off to a flying start! Expecting a daily dose of zingers like this. Relatism at its best!

Dear Follow :slight_smile:

I am fully cognizant of your fears, we must always guard against diminution of the truth and light of the Gospel. After all the path is “narrow” and the “road” hard that leads to life, so we must never shy away from presenting the Good News as a challenge, as it invariably is and should be to every sinner (which includes all of us).

Nonetheless I think I can also see where Lombardi is coming from. If we accept Vatican II (as we must since it was a valid ecumenical council), it achieved something quite extraordinary: no dogma or doctrine was changed, yet the understanding and presentation of it did evolve, the latter quite dramatically. We all know the dogmatic statement, “nulla salus extra ecclesiam” and it is sacrosanct, yet that did not prevent the church from recognizing ‘seeds of truth’ and the presence of Christ even amidst the sin and error present in other religions. The understanding of the doctrine was broadened by preceding decades of theological insight which was endorsed by the Council Fathers.

Was there anyone at Vatican II, among the gathered bishops, who did not believe that outside of Holy Mother Church there can be no salvation? Of course not.

Likewise, do you believe that there is any bishop at the Synod who honestly does not believe in the indissolubility of the sacrament of matrimony, the sinfulness of extra-marital and homosexual acts and so forth?

I hope your answer to that is, “no” for nobody is having a rendezvous with heresy at the Synod.

I feel that we are fundamentally erring in our judgement of this Synod if we see “conservatives” and “progressives” at work. In a Catholic context, such political verbiage is quite meaningless.

There are different viewpoints on how to properly understand, present and apply certain teachings; but disagreement dogmatically and doctrinally is not possible. We should not see disagreements in this light. Both the so-called “conservatives” and “progressives” have valid points, as far as I can tell.

I wish to remind people of what Saint Pope John XXIII once stated in an important encyclical of his:

“…All men, then, should …] be joined in mutual and just regard for one another’s opinions…For discussion can lead to fuller and deeper understanding of religious truths; when one idea strikes against another, there may be a spark…”

- Saint Pope John XXIII, AD PETRI CATHEDRAM (On Truth, Unity and Peace), 1959

Consider what Cardinal Erdo said at the Synod:

Bishops have referred frequently to the theological concept of the “law of gradualness,” which encourages the faithful to take one step at a time in the search for holiness.

It’s an age-old concept for the church, but it has been out of favor for the past two pontificates which focused on making clear church teaching on hot-button issues. Francis, though, has said that with doctrine now well-known, the church must now focus on being more welcoming and forgiving.

**The concept has been applied to couples who are living together but not married, with priests urged not condemn them but rather help them see how marriage in the church can deepen their bond. Cardinal Peter Erdo, a top synod organizer, said the concept should even be applied to married couples concerning artificial contraception.

“There’s the ideal which we love, that we don’t want to weaken, but there’s the concrete reality of people who sometimes can’t yet arrive at the ideal of perfection, but they have the possibility of growing toward a possible good,” Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University in Argentina, told reporters Wednesday**.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said “there are absolutely valid, important and even holy elements” in families that fall short of the Christian ideal of marriage in the church.

I will stick my neck out and state that I do not think what Cardinal Erdo and Lombardi are suggesting, understood within a proper theological framework, is in conflict with doctrinal truth.

I think it is possible to find significant “elements of love and holiness” in family situations and domestic relationships which - while lacking the fullness of truth found in a sacramental, marital relationship in which both partners engage in sex that is fully open to life - represent a “step” in the right direction and can be appreciated for those elements of truth even if we can never recognize them as ‘good’ or ‘ideal’.

Thus I think that pastors can work with individuals in such situations according to a law of gradualism, in a spirit of mercy and compassion.

If we simply say that such people are “living in sin” and try to compel them to make an immediate transformation, while this is objectively true (and I would never dispute it), we may in fact close these people off from any hope of “progression” in the faith, by alienating them from the Church.

I am prepared to be called a moral relativist :frowning: I am philosophically opposed to moral relativism, however all I would say is that I do not think examining the application and presentation of a doctrine is this way need conflict with the doctrinal truth in question.

Sometimes, it might actually aid its effectiveness.

I think you mean relativism friend :wink:

Was it relativism when the Church recognised, in the dogmatic constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), that there were significant “elements of truth and holiness” in the world religions, without thereby endorsing the areas where they diverge from Catholic teaching or recognizing them as being in themselves “salvific”?

If not, then why is it relativistic to say that while people are not living in a way which we regard to be ideal or morally adequate, that we can still recognize elements of goodness and love amidst the sin and try to nourish those elements in the hope that they will bear fruit so as to bloom into something better, by degrees?

Is this really so anathema as pastoral practice? Or is it not more like a caring doctor gently nursing a sick patient back to health?

Sounds like what Pope Francis said several months ago, that we should meet the ethical atheist (one who strives to do good works) where he/she is “… we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little…”

That too stirred up some controversy.

The Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also stoked controversy when he took a similar approach ie

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.

I remember the furore very well at the time.

You can sugar coat this all you want. It’s the wrong approach…this forum frowns upon negative comments with regard to Vat2 documents, so no comment.

I always think of St. Paul’s ‘Mars Hill’ speech to the pagans at Acts 17:

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects."For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.…

He met the pagans where they were at. He started not by saying, “You idolatrous pagans! Convert or take a train ticket to hell!”…no he started by commending them on their religiosity and devotion. He even used an instrument of their idolatry, an altar to an ‘unknown God’ as a means of reaching out to them and gradually in the course of the speech elevating the elements of grace and goodness they had to a higher level, purifying what was already present.

I like that approach.

While I technically agree with what Fr. Lombardi said, I think his is not a good way of talking about sexuality, especially when so many in the Church are already confused about it.

What he says is true: there can be love in a homosexual relationship, or between two cohabitors, but both are a twisted form of that love. Regardless of whether or not it reflects an image of love, however warped, does not make it right - we all know this, but some might get the wrong impression and think that because it has a form of love in it, it is good.

I think instead of refining the language of our current doctrine, the Church needs to first make a widespread effort to make sure that everyone in the Church knows and accepts those doctrines. Then it can refine its language like this without confusing anyone and leading them into sin.

I came back to the Church through a personal conversion as an adult. Nobody “guided” me back to the faith. When I walked into the Church I did it because my faith drove me there. Previously I had been an atheist/agnostic, so it was quite a journey to even get to the door. Before I came back to the Church, I really feared if I could follow Church teachings and to be honest to this day I still struggle with some aspects of doctrine. But I did read the CCC, Bible, and many other Christian works. I felt if I could accept the basic Christian doctrine without question, I was ok, and I did accept it. I will admit that I have grown more orthodox over time. For example, when I entered the Church, I did not oppose contraception (I did oppose abortion and think homosexuality was a sin); I now oppose contraception. I actually am much more aware of my own sins and I work harder not to commit them. I did for some time basically just blow them off in terms of conscience. On the good side, I certainly never judged anyone else.

Because of my experience, I do agree that people need to time to grow in the faith. I am so thankful for the time I was given. So I feel compelled to tolerate others. In other words, I agree with you this far.

My concern is that if we officially institutionalize this practice as “gradualism” it will quickly fall into abuse, a slippery slope that starts out as an act of mercy, but is used in practice as license to allow more and more leniency in terms of adhering to Church doctrine on issues of marriage and human sexuality. This will lead to sinful behavior not only being tolerated, but in fact, condoned. Let’s look at our Protestant sisters and brothers here – quick look into the future. The Anglican Church, perhaps?

Do you feel that people in your parish are actually pushing sinners away? I honestly don’t. Never seen anything even remotely approaching that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

My objections are pragmatic. Again, I feel that the kind of mercy and gradualism for which you are advocating is inherent in the practice of Christianity already, and always will be. What practices do you see changing as a result of this? I don’t know of any practices I believe should change.

I think it is a dual process of dialogue and proclamation. The moral doctrine of the sanctity of marital love reserved for husband and wife in openness to life is not the barrier to dialogue with two cohabitors, for instance, it is the vehicle if properly utilized. The same applies with homosexuals.

Excellent post by the way. True food for thought :slight_smile:

That was part of the legend of St Patricks ministry among the Celts also.

And this from Pope St John Paul II’s book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope”…

"At this point, it seems opportune to recall all the primitive religions, the Animist type of religion, which puts first emphasis on the worship of their ancestors. It seems that those who practice it are particularly close to Christianity. Among them the missionaries of the Church more easily find a common language.

Is there, perhaps, in this veneration of the ancestors a kind of preparation for the Christian belief in the communion of saints, wherein all believers - whether living or dead - form a single community, a single body? Faith in the communion of the saints is, ultimately, faith in Christ, the only source of life and holiness for all.

There is nothing strange, then, in the fact that the African and Asian animists would become confessors of Christ more easily than followers of the great religions of the Far East."

(John Paul II, Varcare la Soglia della Speranza, Milan: Mondatori, 1994, p. 90)

I’ve said this other places, but I think people are way over-reacting to this in both directions.

All we know is that this was one topic, discussed in one meeting, and it got mentioned in the summary. That’s it. This isn’t the new infallible dogma of the Church.

If the Synod’s goal is to get more people to consider Catholic doctrine, then yes…using more inclusive language could have a positive effect. That’s a no-brainer.
This I know for sure; the non-inclusive language usually has a negative effect.
Most non-Catholics that i know–and also, the Catholics I know who do not feel close to the religion–feel a door slamming in their face when they hear the non-inclusive language.
So if they want people to listen and come in for a mass–the more inclusive language they use, the more open doors.


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