The “Chain of Discipleship” image showed five Catholics celebrating in a church, including a woman in priestly vestments and a person in a “pride” T-shirt with rainbow letters shouting “We are the youth of the future and the future is now.”
This art from the Philadelphia Catholic Synod of Higher Education shook Catholic social media, especially when it appeared on the Facebook page of the Synod of Bishops, linked to the ongoing Synod on Synodality that began in 2021.
Catholics at the local, regional and national levels are sending information to the Vatican about the future of the church. A North Carolina parish presented the testimony of “Matthew (not his real name),” who had been recognized as the most popular teacher in his Catholic high school. While he “hid his homosexuality from him”, he married “his partner from him elsewhere”.
“As a couple, they decide to foster, love and adopt young children internationally,” says this report. “Mateo’s greatest sadness is that he has to hide his sexuality to keep his job in an ecclesiastical institution and that he does not feel welcome in the Catholic Church precisely because of his sexuality, which he considers given by God, and this despite his attempt to love to the poor and homeless through their pro-life decision to adopt.
Case studies of this kind recently led the Belgian bishops to approve a document, “On Pastoral Closeness to Homosexual Persons,” which contains a rite for priests to bless same-sex couples. The bishops appointed a gay layman as the interdiocesan coordinator for LGBTQ care in a country where 3.6% of baptized Catholics attend Mass on an average Sunday.
In the meantime, it’s important that a Vatican working document include the term LGBTQ and even LGBTQIA in discussions of topics once considered off-limits, said Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights network that was left behind. aside during the era of Pope Saint John Paul II.
“The fact that LGBTQ inclusion is raised in this document indicates that this is an issue of global concern, not just the workhorse of some Western nations,” he told reporters. During the New Ways Ministries synod meetings, LGBTQ Catholics showed “their willingness to participate in the life of the church they love so much… They trusted that Pope Francis really wanted to hear from them.”
While Catholic progressives have praised synodality as part of the “Spirit of Vatican II,” Germany’s Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, a powerful voice in Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate, believes that some elements of this process resemble an “occupation of the Catholic Church”. or a “hostile takeover of the Church of Jesus Christ.”
Some synod leaders believe “the doctrine is just like a political party program” and they can “change it according to their votes,” said the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The result is a process that resembles to the “hermeneutics of old cultural Protestantism and modernism” in which “individual experience” has the same level of authority as “objective revelation from God,” he told EWTN.
It is crucial that, under Pope Francis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2021 said that church authorities do not have the power to bless same-sex unions, said Cardinal Francis Arinze, a former prefect of the Congregation. for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
“This is what the Flemish bishops, and indeed all bishops and priests, should be teaching. They should be blessing, not homosexual couples, but duly married unions of one man and one woman,” the Nigerian cardinal said. . “Human beings have no power to change the order established by God the Creator… This includes calling people to repentance, sacrifice, chastity and perfection.”
The Belgian bishops’ word is different: that Catholicism is learning and evolving through contact with modern believers seeking changes in marriage, sexuality, divorce and the ordination of women, argued Father Jos Moons, a Jesuit professor from the University of Leuven.
“The Flemish Church is repositioning itself,” he argued, writing in La Croix, an independent Catholic newspaper in France. “The bishops opt for a warm pastoral closeness, without judgments, warnings and prohibitions.”
The synod document, he stressed, is “thoroughly Roman Catholic” based on Amoris Laetitia (“the joy of love”), a 256-page document by Pope Francis. “The Flemish bishops emphasize conscience. By this they mean the personal dialogue with God, which is formed in dialogue with the teaching of the Church, fellow believers, society and one’s inner being.”
Terry Mattingly is the editor of GetReligion.org and Senior Fellow of the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi.