Saturday, November 01, 2014

180.4 - Update: Catholic Church tells gays and lesbians "Never mind"

Update: Catholic Church tells gays and lesbians "Never mind"

We have some more Not Good News, this one in the form of an Update.

Last week I mentioned a Vatican discussion document described as "an earthquake" in the Church's attitude towards gays and lesbians and their relationships. While not questioning Catholic doctrine on the "intrinsically disordered" nature of homosexuality and its opposition to same-sex marriage, it was far more open and welcoming than current practice.

Alas, it was too good to be true.

The first sign came just three days later, when the Vatican issued a revised version of the English-language translation of the official version, which is in Italian. The new translation was significantly cooler and more distant than the original.

For one example, where the original said that same-sex relationships can provide "precious support in the life of the partners," the new one says such relationships constitute "valuable support in the life of these persons." The support is no longer "precious" and the people are no longer "partners." While the original referred to "welcoming" and "a fraternal space in our communities," the new version talks about "providing for ... a place of fellowship."

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said English-speaking bishops - I think we can guess who, I think "English-speaking" is PR code for "American" - had requested the changes on the grounds that the first translation was hasty and error-ridden, even though it was closer to the original Italian than the revised one.

(By the way, the English version was the only one changed.)

The cloud that cast over the discussion paper became a full-blown storm when Catholic bishops met on October 18 to consider the document, one of several on different aspects of the institutional church's attitude toward the family in a synod called by Pope Francis.

The bishops scrapped the whole thing, refusing to accept even a doubly-watered down version of the paragraph on providing gays and lesbians "a fraternal space in our communities," which was changed to the vapid statement "people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy."

The vote was 118-62, considerably short if the 2/3 majority needed to pass. What wasn't clear was if the "no" votes on the section actually included protest votes by progressive bishops who refused to accept the watered-down language, wanting something stronger. What was clear is that there is a real division within the institutional Catholic church on its relationship to gays and lesbians, including - even if church won't admit it, they are there - gays and lesbians who are Catholics.

Francis DeBernardo of the New Ways Ministry, a leading U.S. Catholic gay rights group, tried to make lemonade, calling the latest developments a "mixed bag."

"It would have been nicer if they kept the earlier version, but the fact that we’re still speaking of 'valuable support' is positive," he said, adding that this was only the beginning of a process to get the church to accept homosexuals.

Good luck on that, my brother.

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