Catholic “Earthquake”

Vermeer, allegory of the Catholic FaithCatholic church: not quite as blindly wicked about sexuality as before? Here is the relatio. It is a summary and suggestions after discussion, to be submitted to the Pope, not new doctrine; but there is some hope here.

It suggests “accepting and valuing gay sexual orientation”. So no-one would be ostracised simply for setting off someone’s gaydar. Would they still be excluded from training for the priesthood? The Vatican currently “cannot admit to the seminary… those who present deep-seated homosexual tendencies”. It thinks being gay hinders people from relating correctly to men and women, and is a state of emotional immaturity.

That reference to “affective maturity” helped me understand the relatio’s following sentence: The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. This could be read as agreeing that queers are immature, and need to be educated to maturity- straightness. Not quite as Earthquakey as Reuters suggests. Or perhaps Catholics will recognise that many gays cannot be made mature through education, and look on them with pity, like other disabled people. Still, that is better than blaming us.

It goes on, Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions– gay people have sex, and that is bad of them- 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. Wow. Having a partner is good for you. Tell that to the priests!

No earthquake on contraception. Being open to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love. The drop in the birthrate weakens the social fabric, it says. Human maturity means rejecting contraception, and the church must educate people to see this. Rather than simply stating that gays and those who use contraception are Wrong and Bad, the Church must say why, and educate people into maturity as far as possible. This recognises that the Catholic position is not self-evident, which is a good Vermeer, a maid asleepthing, but does not indicate any change otherwise.

What of divorce? We are all sinners. The Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings. We are on a spiritual journey, and are not yet perfect. The Church holds up the ideal of life-long marriage to cohabiting couples, hoping they will mature into that ideal.

The church approaches the divorced person in love. The relatio quotes the Pope: The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment”, which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Es 3,5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our  compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life. That is, the priest is more gentle with the lost sheep, not merely condemning, but still has the aim of bringing the other to living in accordance with traditional doctrine. The divorced who are not remarried would be admitted to communion. Some of the remarried might be admitted, after a period of penance. Not an Earthquake, then, but a slight movement towards health. But hear the conservatives whine and scream about it!

2 thoughts on “Catholic “Earthquake”

  1. Been following this story on Twitter most of the day. Curious to see how this all plays out. Honestly, I am shocked by how quickly society and several denominations have been moving on this issue. I know it is a reflection of a long history, but so many organizations seem to be going from vocal and firm absolute no’s to much more open positions must faster than I had expected. I figured the Methodists would be next, with a several year gap before the Catholics.


    • It is a slight improvement. Catholic churches should not drive gays out. But they still see us as immature and in need of education, and the end of that education would be that we would voluntarily embrace celibacy because they are right. I like the Pope on approaching the other with sandals off for holy ground- it seems incompatible to me, I need context.


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