A few weeks ago I wrote a post expressing concern about the Vatican’s upcoming Synod on Families, hoping that the event would not serve as another opportunity for Catholic bishops to rail against same-sex marriage and non-traditional families. I didn’t expect the church to reverse itself on homosexuality, I said, but I had some hope for perhaps some positive statements affirming all families.

Have my prayers been answered?

As National Catholic Reporter reported yesterday, the Vatican is seeking input from Catholics in the pews about a range of family issues, including divorced and remarried Catholics, single parents, and yes, even pastoral services offered to families headed by same-sex couples. David Gibson explains more here, including the murkiness of why American bishops might not seek input from parishioners, like the church in the UK is, but instead report to the Vatican only what the hierarchy in the US sees on these issues.

But one Catholic group here in the US is encouraging US bishops to seek input.

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a progressive-leaning organization that exists to promote “public policies and effective programs that enhance the inherent dignity of all, especially the poor and most vulnerable,” has created its own online survey and is encouraging its members to share their thoughts. Chris Hale, a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance, said that survey results will be sent to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as Vatican officials, including Pope Francis.

Since the survey was launched earlier today, Catholics in Alliance has collected over 300 responses, with many citing Pope Francis’ apparent openness to gay and lesbian Catholics more fully into the life of the church as an opportunity for reform. Hale says that the survey is meant to assist bishops, not challenge them. “We want to provide a model for how bishops could engage their flock on these important questions about the life of the Church. We want the lay faithful to be tremendously involved in the upcoming synod, and we think this is a great way to begin that process,” he told me.

James Martin, the Jesuit writer, wrote on the blog of America magazine that he expects at least some bishops to poll Catholics in their dioceses, and suggested that the “Holy Spirit is at work in her church and in her people. And she will let her voice be heard, this time through these polls, because she desires to speak.”

In the documents prepared by those planning the synod, they ask, “What pastoral attention can be given to be people who have chosen to live” in same-sex unions? Further, “what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith” to the children of parents in same-sex unions?

Vatican officials want to know, from those living and working and worshipping in Catholic parishes, how to offer pastoral care for married gays and lesbians, and how to serve their children. I could not have imagined that the church would recognize gays as human beings even a few months ago, never mind ask for ideas on how to serve them, and their children, better. It’s truly revolutionary.

And what’s not there in those questions is just as amazing as what is. There’s no mention of sin. Nothing about intrinsically disordered desires. The children aren’t called illegitimate.

Instead, there’s language that recognizes gay and lesbian Catholics as human beings, as people who long for lives of faith and meaning.

Pope Francis has spoken personally about not judging gays and lesbians, he’s recognized that some of his priests are gay, and he’s rightly noted that we must stop defining gay and lesbian people through a lens of sin. He calls us to look at our gay brothers and sisters as brothers and sisters, no different from anyone else. And now, he’s apparently led some Vatican bureaucrats to adopt his pastoral style in how they speak and interact with the world in regards to those who have been marginalized and hurt, specifically gays, the divorced, and others not living in a traditional family.

Will this outreach lead to a greater sense of compassion in how the church approaches gays and lesbians? Divorced and remarried Catholics? Those who have felt hurt or pushed aside or not welcome? We’ll wait and see, but that these questions are being considered at all is a remarkable, and encouraging, first step.

16 Comments

  1. Trish Irving

    Where are we going? This is promoting a sinful lifestyle… Are we crazy. I have always loved my Catholic faith, so i am shocked at this response! What about the children…?…2 Daddy’s ..2…Mama’s ? We are going to give the okay to
    corrupt children by allowing them to be adopted by homosexual couples, and further confuse them. Does sin mean anything anymore?????

    • It’s people like you are destroying this world. It is not a “sin” to be gay, although, it IS a sin to judge others.

      Also, as Jesus had said: “You must love thy neighbor as yourself”. So shuttup if you have nothing nice to say

      • “Open thy mouth and judge rightly.” Book of Proverbs

        Admonishing the sinner is the first work of Christian Mercy. – It is not
        merciful to see two homosexuals comfortable with unnatural sin and say nothing.

        As Jesus said, “Go and SIN NO MORE!”

        • Margie Evitts

          Seriously? You’re going to choose Proverbs 31 as your out of context justification for judging someone else’s sin? The first half of that proverb is all about speaking up for the oppressed minority – for ‘the least of these’. The second half of that proverb is about a virtuous woman – who ironically was quite often among the least of these in biblical times. Puleeze. Nowhere in scripture does it say that the Almighty Creator of the Universe needs YOUR help to convict anyone of a sin.
          And your second verse reference…the becoming all too overused “Go and SIN NO MORE!” (emphasis completely yours)…how conveniently you and those of your ilk skip over the portion where Jesus illustrates who may condemn the adulterous woman of her sin…it is the One among them who is without sin. Is that you? Is it me? I’m pretty sure not. So pipe down and back off. How about if you focus on what you were asked to do – Loving your God, loving your neighbor as yourself, and sharing the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel with the ENTIRE, WHOLE world.
          It’s all complicated because we try to do God’s part instead of our part. Love wins. We just need to get out of the way. Be blessed.

          • Margie I love some of the things you said… I think we could tell the pope and bishops that we want to minister to gays and lesbians by reminding them of God’s unconditional love. That whenever they find themselves feeling like the “least” or fear for the less than God’s love for their children we will stand by their side and help the world to see that they are not alone or abandoned. We need to remember the promise of Jesus that whenever we stick up for, or sand in solidarity with the least of our neighbors we do it for Jesus!

    • No that would go starkly against Gods will and created order. I think the pope is simply taking the temperature of the church to determine what they should teach and focus on.

    • The only thing we need to give children are guardians who love them wholeheartedly and have their best interests at heart. Who keep them out of harm’s way and teach them to love and to respect everyone regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other qualifying criteria that might make you scoff.

      I doubt there’s ever been a child who was ‘harmed’ because a Mommy loved a Mommy, or a Daddy loved a Daddy… unless, of course, that child’s bigot parent taught them to also fear what they don’t understand.

  2. The Church’s teaching on marriage and family life is good but is poorly communicated because it tends to come across as judgmental pontifications. Rather than fulminating anathemas to persons who have sex outside of marriage, or married people using contraceptives, the Church should preach the virtues of chastity and nuptial commitment. But this will be impossible to do as long as the hierarchy of the Church remains patriarchal and projects an image of male hegemony.

    Welcoming of divorced and separated persons is fine but patronizing. Exclusion from receiving communion should be explained as a sacramental sign rather than as a sanction. Any opportunities for membership and participation will remain confusing and ineffective until the sacramental restrictions are better explained. Same comment applies regarding the pastoral care of gay people.

    Current issues of family life cannot be resolved as long as the Church portrays the patriarchal model as normative. Having a male-only hierarchy is not a matter of faith and is increasingly becoming an obstacle to evangelization and restoring the original unity of man and woman in both the domestic church and the universal church. Celibate women should be ordained to the priesthood as soon as possible (clerical celibacy is a separate issue). My experience is that most Catholic men will continue trying to exercise male hegemony as long as we cannot have women priests, with disastrous results for family life.

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