The Synod on the Family in Rome today caused an ‘earthquake’ – the word is being used on Catholic blogs everywhere – when it appeared to tweak the Church’s line on homosexuality and second marriages. ‘Line’, please note, not its teaching on the sinfulness of all sexual acts outside marriage, which it does not have the authority to change and will remain intact long after this pontificate.
But the ‘line’ matters, and here it is, unveiled in an alarmingly haphazard fashion in a document called the relatio post disceptationem – a half-way report on the discussions read aloud in the synod hall this morning. As Mark Greaves of the Catholic Herald reports, it has been drafted by synod fathers selected by Pope Francis:
The document calls on the Church to build on the ‘positive aspects’ of relationships that are deemed irregular – such as between remarried couples or same-sex partners – and keep the ‘doors always wide open’ to people in those relationships.
The relatio says that the Church reaching out to divorced Catholics does not represent a ‘weakening of its faith’ but an exercise of charity.
The document cites calls by many synod participants to speed up the annulment process.
Regarding people who are gay, the document says: ‘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? Often they wish to encounter a church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
‘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.’
The document also emphasises the ‘principle of graduality’, the idea that Catholics move towards full acceptance of Church teaching in steps, and that the Church needs to accompany them with patience and understanding.