Was the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops a win, a loss, or something in the middle? In the day or so since the final report was released, LGBT advocates and Catholic commentators have prolifically tried to discern just what to make of these last two weeks. Bondings 2.0 offers a first round-up of reactions today, with links provided for further reading.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster (London) made news in a post-synod interview, claiming some bishops voted against the paragraphs on welcoming lesbian and gay people because they were not inclusive and welcoming enough. Queering the Church reports:
“Vincent says he can’t remember how he voted (there were 60 votes in under an hour), but that – reflecting the policy in his own diocese of Westminster – he felt the wording didn’t go far enough, because the key words ‘welcome’, ‘respect’ and ‘value’ were missing. The cardinal hopes the next stage of the Synod will encourage a more welcoming attitude to LGBT people.”
Equally Blessed, a coalition of Fortunate Families, DignityUSA, Call to Action, and New Ways Ministry that advocates for LGBT justice and equality in the church, said in a statement that the synod was evidence that “it is past time for the church to reconcile with faithful LGBT Catholics.” The coalition also expressed disappointment at the final report with Fortunate Families President Deb Word saying, in part:
” ‘For Catholics in the pews, LGBT people aren’t just an issue to be discussed and argued over. They are our family members and our friends. They are faithful Catholics who we worship alongside each Sunday…Our church will continue to be broken until we can welcome her lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children as God made them, in His image and likeness.’ “
Call to Action highlighted the “missed opportunities” at the synod, with executive director Jim FitzGerald telling Religion News Service:
” ‘It’s disappointing that some in the institutional church are not yet ready to welcome all God’s children to the table.’ “
DignityUSA executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke released a statement, saying in part:
“What we saw through the Synod process is that there are deep divisions in what the Catholics bishops think about LGBT people, even at the highest levels of leadership…We anticipate that significant dialogue and debate at all levels of the Church will continue for the year leading up to the Synod in October 2015.”
The Human Rights Campaign criticized the final document for withdrawing more positive language about LGBT people found in the mid-synod report as “many in the U.S. Catholic hierarchy continue to use heartless and derogatory language in referring to the LGBT faithful.”
Yet, others within the church remain hopeful that this synod was progress and the positive momentum will continue in the coming year. Christopher Lamb of The Tablet said the synod was a “huge achievement in itself” and said further, according to the BBC:
” ‘We have now got an acceptance that we need a new language in the Church when talking about gay couples and homosexuality in general.’ “
Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese wrote in the National Catholic Reporter that “there is a danger of missing the forest for the trees,” even while changes in language and practice did not transpire. Reese’ evaluation of the synod was more positive than most others:
“The synod was a victory for openness and discussion in the church and the final document is an invitation for everyone in the church to join that discussion. This is exactly what Pope Francis wanted…
“Unlike we journalists, he has not obsessed over the language of the report but has been much more focused on the process. He set the tone at the beginning by encouraging the bishops to speak freely. At the end, in summing up the synod, he showed that he had been listening carefully, and like a good Jesuit discerning the Spirit in the process…The synod was a big win for openness and for Francis.”
Reese also noted that change was evident, like Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama’s clear opposition towards criminalizing homosexuality of which Reese writes, “In Africa, that matters.”
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, who affirmed that doctrine develops and refused to depict same-sex relationships as a black and white issue during the synod, told media: “There have been two steps forward, there may be one step backwards, but certainly not two.”
Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, told media to “watch for a possible ‘revolution’ a year from now,’ according to Australian outlet 9News.
John Allen of Crux looks further out, to the expected apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis after next year’s synod concludes this process, writing:
“At the end of the day, therefore, the only question that really matters is: When this extraordinary two-year process of reflection ends, what will Pope Francis do?”
Bondings 2.0 will continue reporting on the many reactions to Extraordinary Synod of Bishops this week. In addition, we welcome (and not simply provide for, a la the Synod’s language choices) your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.
You can access New Ways Ministry’s statement by clicking here and executive director Francis DeBernardo’s reflection on the synod here. To read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage from the synod, click the ‘Synod 2014‘ category to the right or click here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry