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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 9, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 41
Intrigue in the Vatican
Factions feud as Synod on the Family opens in Rome
Section One
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Intrigue in the Vatican
Factions feud as Synod on the Family opens in Rome

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Catholic Church revealed a seamy side of bitter factionalism as opposing groups of bishops fought to publicize their agendas, and even tried to manipulate the Pope as the Vatican's Synod on the Family opened in Rome.

The synod, a meeting of bishops that will set Church policy, opened October 4 with the Church still dealing with the fallout from the Pope's meeting with anti-Gay American Kim Davis.

The Vatican tried to play down the significance of the meeting with Davis, saying she was only one of 'several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him.'

'Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope's characteristic kindness and availability,' a Vatican statement said.

'The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.'

The Vatican spokesperson added that 'the only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.'

Had Davis not made a big deal about her brief conversation with Pope Francis, the Vatican might not have revealed that the 'former student' in question was Gay, and that his boyfriend was included among his family members.

The former student, Yayo Grassi, released a video of the encounter featuring Francis embracing and kissing his boyfriend, Iwan Bagus, without any protest or disclaimer from the Vatican.

At the same time, the Vatican did not walk back the Pope's endorsement of 'conscientious objection' to same-sex marriage. In other words, Francis endorses Davis's actions even if he didn't want to explicitly endorse her.

People close to the Pope also let Vatican reporters know through back channels that Francis would replace the Papal Nuncio, or ambassador, in the United States. The Pope apparently believed that Cardinal Carlo Vigano had set him up by making sure that Davis was in the receiving line when Francis made his public appearance at the Nunciature.

Vigano is reportedly close to Davis's lawyer, Mat Staver from the group Liberty Counsel, and as the Vatican's representative in the U.S. was active in NOM's campaign against same-sex marriage. He was appointed Nuncio by the notoriously anti-Gay Benedict XVI.

The Cardinal is required to offer to retire when he turns 75 in January 2016. Popes often decline to accept such pro forma offers to step down, but Francis is said to have decided to accept Vigano's.

Meanwhile, widely different views on the family - and the possibility of Gay and Lesbian families - emerged from the opening days of the Vatican synod.

According to Vatican spokesperson Fr. Tom Rosica, the bishops recommended that Catholics should 'stop using condescending language such as 'pity' towards homosexuals and find ways to welcome them as sons and daughters of the Church.'

'[The bishops said] there must be an end to exclusionary language and a strong emphasis on embracing reality as it is. We should not be afraid of new and complex situations,' Rosica reported.

'The jubilee of mercy requires a language of mercy, in particular in speaking about homosexuals or gay persons. We do not pity gay persons but we recognize them for who they are. They are our sons and daughters and brothers and sisters.'

On the other hand, one prominent Cardinal brushed off suggestions that there would be significant changes in Church teaching.

'If you have come to Rome with the idea that you are going to witness a spectacular change in church doctrine, you are going to be disappointed,' French Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois told a press conference.

'Nor do you need a synod to work that out. All you have to do is listen to the pope's homilies on the family, week after week at his Wednesday public audiences.'

Vingt-Trois' remarks led Vatican spokesperson Msgr. Bruno Forte to reply that 'the synod has not come together to say nothing.'

In his opening speech to the synod on October 4, Pope Francis said the Church must have 'its doors open to welcome all those who knock' and not 'point the finger in judgment' of others, but later he seemed to ask the bishops to stop arguing about sexuality and 'move forward.'

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