NEWS NOTES: Synod Perspectives from Catholic Writers and Commentators

News NotesContinuing to follow-through on our promise to provide links to the wealth of opinion and analysis that the synod on the family has generated, we offer these links to articles from the Catholic press or by Catholic authors and commentators:

1.  In The Washington Blade, Kathi Wolfe offers her views on the synod, noting that Catholic feminist theologian Mary Hunt pointed out an important shortcoming of the synod participants who were all celiibats men: “They don’t make the mature adult decisions that you make when you’re part of a family unit – with spouses and children.”

2.   Women-Church Convergence, a coalition of feminist Catholic groups, issued a statement affirming the holiness of all families, and criticized the synod for failing to include the voices of women in the decision-making process, saying in part: “A group of men who fail to protect the children of our Church from sexual abuse, and who repeatedly sacrifice children to shield the offenders, has no credibility saying anything about what families need. A group of men who have no need for contraception has no standing to deny women access to appropriate reproductive health services. A group of men without experience of wedded life has no right to legislate who should and should not be married. The egregious omission of women and families in forming Church policy has a devastating impact on Catholics and others worldwide.”

3.  Writing at AlJazeera.com, Nathan Schneider observes that part of the reason LGBT issues were not more positively accepted at the synod is because the call for equality still remains a Western value: “The conversation about same-sex partnerships has hardly even begun on the Catholic time scale, and in the context of a global church. Just because some of us in certain parts of the world are sold on an idea doesn’t mean we can impose it on the whole church; that’s a habit of the church’s colonizing past that needs to be put to rest. The Roman Catholic Church has stretched over the centuries to incorporate the gifts of non-European cultures, and it still has much stretching left to do.”

4.  Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a commentator for America magazine, wrote about “The Promise of Synod 2014,” pointing out a number of important contributions the synod process made, including these three:

  • “The 2014 Synod elevated the conversation. Whispered questions about why Aunt Jane never goes to Communion and why Uncle Jack never married have made it into the parlor. The presence in the church community of people who divorced and remarried without an annulment and lesbians and gays found a healthy acknowledgement. . . .
  • “The church acknowledges there may be pastoral solutions to long-standing problems. Nothing heals better than fresh air. For many, the pain silently endured by people forced to the fringes has developed individuals beloved in their families for their generosity and kindness and particular sensitivity. Now they just might receive some of the generosity, kindness and sensitivity they’ve offered others for years.
  • “There is proof that doctrine is not dead. What’s dead does not change; what is alive does. So long as doctrine addresses current reality it shows it is alive and holds meaning for people today.”

5.  At Crux.com, Michael O’Loughlin presented a variety of opinions about the synod from Catholics concerned about LGBT issues, including Deb Word, president of Fortunate Families, who said:  “The conversation that began at the Synod on the Family isn’t over — in fact it’s just beginning. . . .[P]ro-gay Catholic groups will keep reaching out to the bishops to offer suggestions about how the Catholic Church can better minister to Catholic families like mine.”

6.  Jesuit Father James Martin has been quoted widely in the religious and secular press on the synod’s report and processes.  In addition, he has written two online essays which provide insights:

  1. In an America magazine blog post, “Five Things the Synod Just Did,” Martin notes that the meeting brought a new conversation to the Church, and that the pope’s process very much reflects the Jesuit value of “discernment.”
  2. Fr. Martin elaborated on the above theme in a separate essay for Reuters.com, in which he discussed “What the Synod of Bishops that discussed divorced, LGBT Catholics did – and didn’t – do.”  In both essays he stresses the point that the real answers will be discussed at the 2015 synod.

7.  In a National Catholic Reporter blog post which carries the opinions about the synod from three Catholic academics, Julie Hanlon Rubio of St. Louis University, author of Family Ethics: Practices for Christians, stated: “The major shifts I see at work in the document released today are these: a willingness to see the diversity of Catholic families and listen to their ideas, a desire to find creative pastoral solutions that allow the church to welcome everyone, and a willingness to see good in the imperfect. All of shifts seem rooted in a more fundamental move to imitate Jesus, especially embracing his call for mercy.”

8.  The Baltimore Sun reported on a group of about 30 Catholic LGBT advocates who held a prayer vigil at the city’s Basilica of the Assumption of the BVM on the day that the synod’s final report was issued.  The event was organized by the Human Rights Campaign and Call To Action.

9.  During the synod, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) ran a series of blog posts written by Catholic leaders about their hopes for the meeting and the future of the Church.  These posts were written by HRC’s Lisbeth Melendez Rivera,  the Pacific School of Religion’s Bernard Schlager, DignityUSA’s Jim Smith, Call To Action’s Ellen Euclide, transgender leader Hilary Howes, Cincinnati’s Anna Brown, and  New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo.

10.  In a National Catholic Reporter blog post.  Sister Christine Schenck, CSJ, former executive director of FutureChurch, offered this suggestion: “It is my sincere hope that church leaders will actively seek out the lived experiences of divorced and remarried and gay and lesbian Catholics before making any decisions about pastoral practice. They should also listen carefully to Catholic parents using unapproved methods of family planning.”

11. Catholics in San Antonio, Texas, responded to the synod in an article in The San Antonio Express-News.  Members of the local Dignity chapter expressed their views, and Fr. Stephen Bernal, a local pastor offered the hope:  “We believe the Holy Father is very simply wanting us to look at all people the way God looks at them — with love and understanding and compassion — that everyone is a precious gift.”

12. In a very tongue-in-cheek essay on Philly.com, Orlando Barone says that the synod’s unfinished business leaves him in a quandary about whether or not he should invite lesbian/gay people and divorced/remarried Catholics to his Thanksgiving dinner.  He ends, however, on a very serious note:  “My imagination falters in its efforts to conjure anything more awful than lifting the Bread of Life and turning it into a rock to throw at the lost sheep, the prodigal son, the woman caught in adultery. I could never allow such a horrible thing to happen at my Thanksgiving table. I pray the church, following its pope’s lead, will not allow such a thing to happen at its Thanksgiving table, the Table of Jesus, the Bread of Life.”

13. Fordham University theology professor Patrick Hornbeck penned a CNN.com essay in which he explains that neither the first draft nor the final report of the synod went far enough in dealing with LGBT issues.  He concluded:  “Many believe that the synod reversed course with regard to LGBT people and same-sex unions. But that reversal seems much less dramatic when one considers the full implications of the synod’s much-celebrated initial document. Far from accepting and celebrating same-sex relationships as the signs of divine and human love that so many people — gay, straight, Catholic, non-Catholic — are finding in them, that document actually charted a path where those relationships could at best have only been tolerated in the church. It is clear that by avoiding a more searching examination of the presumptions about gender and sexuality that Catholic theology has inherited, the synod members did not fully confront the truly seismic anthropological, cultural and theological shifts that have occurred in the past few decades.”

14. In an essay on NJLive.com, Father Alexander Santora, a pastor in Hoboken, praised the synod’s attempts to affirm LGBT people, and noted that though a rocky road is still ahead, there is reason for hope:  “. . . [T]his process is filled with land mines, most notably some conservative prelates, even in the Vatican curia, who do not want any change in tone, theology or teaching. But that also happened at the Second Vatican Council and St. John XXIII dispatched them graciously. Francis has been compared to John and some see his two-year synod process as almost important as the teachings that emanated from Vatican II.”

15. Dignity/New York voices were featured in a CBSNews.com report on synod reactions, including the opinion of longtime member Brendan Fay, who said: “We may not personally need the affirmation [of Vatican bishops] because we have found that among ourselves.”

16. Though much of the synod headlines focused on LGBT issues and divorce, National Catholic Reporter columnist, Jamie Manson, a Catholic lesbian, asks the question: “Why isn’t anyone talking about the synod’s paragraphs on contraception?”

17.  Gay Catholic blogger Terence Weldon, who posts at  QueeringTheChurch.com, summed up the synod with the headline: “For Gay Catholics, Nothing Has Changed – Everything Is Changing.”  At the conclusion, he notes: “Above all, what has changed is the simple fact that what for so long was presented as “constant and unchanging tradition”, delivered from on high to a meek and acquiescent laity, is now firmly up for frank discussion. That has already occurred at the synod in a manner that would have been unthinkable under the previous two popes, and will now be starting worldwide, at all levels of the Church.”

18. USA Today queried college students about the synod in an article entitled “New Vatican document stirs discussion and hope among Catholic students” and found that they welcomed the meeting and its open discussion.
19.  New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo and DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke gave their responses to the synod’s final document in an article by The Advocate entitled “After Catholic Synod: Disappointment, Yet Hope Remains.”
20. New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo gave further reactions to the synod when he appeared on MSNBC’s News Nation with Tamron Hall.  You can view that segment by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

One thought on “NEWS NOTES: Synod Perspectives from Catholic Writers and Commentators

  1. Jerry Betz October 27, 2014 / 6:51 pm

    Thank you, Professor Patrick Hornbeck, for pointing out the flaw in all the hoopla about the Synod’s supposed softening toward homosexual persons. Yes, the Institution needs to stop depriving people of their livelihoods because of whom they love and, yes, the institution needs to be more respectful of homosexual persons by at least being nice to them when they are attempting to worship with other Christians, but do not tell me that I must either live a heterosexual existence or swear-off ever having a deep love with one person in order to be a good Christian. I am not second-class. I will love as God intended me to love by the wonderful gift of homosexuality God gave me. Until it recognizes that fact in its theology, the institution will only be paying lip service to welcoming me. I am not buying it.

    St. Paul did NOT write, “God is heterosexual Love”.

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