by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Only one day after a special meeting of Catholic bishops released a statement urging the church to be more conciliatory to LGBT Catholics, the Vatican walked it back, reminding the faithful that the statement was only a 'working document.'
In an October 14 statement, the Vatican said that although it wanted to welcome Gays and Lesbians into the church, it did not want to create 'the impression of a positive evaluation' of same-sex relationships, or, for that matter, of opposite-sex relationships outside of marriage.
'The message has gone out that this is what the synod is saying, this is what the Catholic Church is saying,' said Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, referring to the previous day's announcement by Cardinal Peter Erdo on behalf of the special synod - or meeting of bishops - on family relationships.
'It's not what we're saying at all.'
Napier is Archbishop of Durban, South Africa, and a member of the synod, but not its official spokesperson.
That office belongs to Cardinal Erdo, who said on October 13 that Gay Catholics have 'gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.' The synod's statement also praised elements of same-sex partnerships.
'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 synod said.
'Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing them fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home,' Erdo asked.
'Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony?'
The synod's statement also said the Church must grasp the 'positive reality of civil weddings' and even cohabitation among straight couples, with the aim of steering the couple towards a church wedding.
The initial report from the synod was immediately attacked by conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke.
Burke told the Jesuit-run Catholic World Report (CWR) that the approach laid out in Cardinal Erdo's report 'is certainly not that of the Church,' even though it was presumably backed by Pope Francis.
'While the document in question purports to report only the discussion which took place among the Synod Fathers, it, in fact, advances positions which many Synod Fathers do not accept and, I would say, as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept,' Burke said in the CWR interview.
'The document lacks a solid foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium,' Burke continued. 'Magisterium' is Vatican-speak for Church teaching.
Burke, who was demoted by Pope Francis in a recent shake-up of Vatican offices, went out of his way to offend LGBT Catholics in a recent statement arguing that they should be excluded from family gatherings.
'If homosexual relations are intrinsically disordered, which indeed they are - reason teaches us that and also our faith - then, what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?' Burke asked rhetorically.
'We wouldn't, if it were another kind of relationship - something that was profoundly disordered and harmful - we wouldn't expose our children to that relationship, to the direct experience of it. And neither should we do it in the context of a family member who not only suffers from same-sex attraction, but who has chosen to live out that attraction, to act upon it, committing acts which are always and everywhere wrong, evil.'
Burke was soon joined by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, who told 'CBS This Morning' on October 15 that the synod's statement 'needs some major reworking.'
'All of this is almost like antipasto to help the Holy Father arrive at a fresh new way to teach the timeless teaching on marriage and family,' Dolan added.
'I know there is remarkable unanimity and enthusiasm in backing the Holy Father's attempt to present the teachings of the church in fresh, exciting and engaging new ways, but there might be some good, deep discussion on the way that is being expressed.'
LGBT Catholics cling to hope
In spite of the Vatican's back track, Gay Catholic organizations said they still had hope that the synod's original announcement reflected a new and positive direction for their church.
'I actually don't think this is as much of a back track as we usually see!' said Marianne Duddy-Burke, head of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity USA.
'I think that response to this report was swift and intense, and I'm sure many bishops want to be sure people aren't reading more into it than is there,' she continued. 'However, it is undeniable that there has never been any Vatican document that made positive, respectful statements about same-sex relationships, so that is an undeniable breakthrough.'
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, echoed that sentiment.
'Regardless of the fact that this is a working document, it is still significant in that it reveals a strong current of affirmative attitudes at high levels in the church towards lesbians and gay people,' he said.
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