Pope Francis’ efforts to inculcate a more merciful approach to homosexuals and divorced persons within the Catholic Church have failed to win the support of the majority of Bishops at the synod on the family. Conciliatory language used in a draft report, which many commentators hailed as a historical move towards greater acceptance of homosexuals, was voted down by the Bishops and will not appear in the final text, the Guardian has reported.
As Breitbart London reported earlier this week, the ‘relatio post disceptationem’ (‘report after the debate’), included a passages with references to the “gifts and qualities” that homosexuals could bring to the Church community. Some Bishops decried the language as a misconstruing of what was actually said during the proceedings, with the American cardinal Raymond Burke saying “A great number of the Synod Fathers found it objectionable.”
As a result, the final report omitted reference to the gifts and qualities, and also removed recognition of the “precious support” that same sex partners offered each other. In addition, a paragraph previously entitled “welcoming homosexual persons” was rebranded “pastoral attention to people of homosexual orientation”, and included the opinion that there could be “not even a remote” comparison between gay partnerships and heterosexual marriages.
“Nevertheless, men and woman of homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity”, the report read, adding that homosexuals should not be discriminated against.
Despite the toning down of the language, these passages still failed to gain the two thirds support needed to be included in the final text, although, as the vote was anonymous, it is unclear whether it failed due to a protest from more liberal Bishops who preferred the more accepting version. The vote fell by 118 voting for the text to 62 voting against, falling short of acceptance by just two votes.
If the Pope was disappointed by the result, he did not make his feelings known. In his closing speech at the extraordinary synod, the first to take place for thirty years, the Pope said “Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these … animated discussions … if everyone had agreed with one another or had kept silent in a false and acquiescent peace.
“God is not afraid of new things. That is why he is continuously surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.
“The Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.”
He also suggested that the question of attitudes to homosexuals may be revisited next year, saying “May the Holy Spirit, who during these busy days has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity, continue to guide the journey which, in the Churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015.
“We have sown and we continued to sow, patiently and perseveringly, in the certainty that it is the Lord who gives growth to what we have sown.”
His closing remarks were met with a four minute standing ovation from the gathered Bishops.
If the Pope was not disappointed, others in the Catholic Church were. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group in the United States, told Reuters that it was “very disappointing that the synod’s final report did not retain the gracious welcome to lesbian and gay people that the draft of the report included”.
“Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples,” he said.
The only other passage to fail to win a majority vote was a section on Catholics who have divorced and been remarried should be able to take holy communion. The Pope made his feelings on the matter clear last month when he married a number of couples living in sin, including divorcees.
However, according to Thomas Rosica, English language assistant to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, the two sections had not been “completely rejected”. He pointed out that the report was “not a magisterial document”, but “a work in progress”, proving a basis for further discussion at next year’s synod.