Catholics bishops in France have released a positive-leaning document amid that nation’s intensifying marriage equality debate. The document, from the national episcopal conference’s Family and Society Committee calls for dialogue about same-sex relationships and severely condemns homophobia. This document seems an acknowledgment by the bishops that current episcopal practices and teaching fail a pastoral, and perhaps, theological test.
The writers at Bondings 2.0 will continue seeking an English translation for further commentary, but until then the bishops’ writing is available in French here.
Terence Weldon at Queering the Church makes the following preliminary observations based on his translation:
“Based on my reading, these are the features of the document that make it really worth careful attention:
- the simple fact of a call for constructive dialogue – together with a genuine attempt to begin it.
- a firm rejection of homophobia in any form, and insistence on respect for all
- a call to listen attentively to the concerns and needs of homosexual people themselves
- thoughtful attention to the findings of science, leading to -
- the recognition of the value of loving and committed same – sex partnerships.
- an acknowledgement of the value of the symbolism in marriage, and the weaknesses of civil union legislation.
- a proposal to strengthen the existing civil unions legislation, to improve the symbolic value, and repair its weaknesses.”
Weldon contrasted the different tenor in this document from typical writings over marriage equality from the Church hierarchy, as both part of a growing trend towards civility and compromise and a leap from precedence:
“One of the tragic features of so much of Vatican and episcopal responses to marriage equality, is that it has too often been couched in language so extreme, or made such outlandish and completely unsubstantiated claims, that it is too easy to dismiss it as being on the outer fringes of crazy town – and has left little room for serious, constructive debate…
“There have been some exceptions. One of the few silver linings in the dark cloud of the recent Vatican onslaught on marriage, is that the attacks have been specifically on extending to us the word “marriage”, while refraining from attacks on our relationships themselves. As a tactical device, some bishops have notably even supported civil partnerships or civil unions, which they had previously opposed, as a more palatable alternative to full marriage equality…
“This latest move by the French bishops is part of a trend – but in fact, it goes further – much further, and deserves close attention.”
If indeed the French bishops seek reconciling dialogue over same-sex issues that respects gay and lesbian voices and acknowledges the good found in committed relationships, this would be a major forward step for the Catholic hierarchy. Further admissions that the Church fails LGBT persons by discriminating against them and by not forcefully acting against homophobia would be equally welcomed.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry