Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mutual aid to the point of sacrifice

There is an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family being held at the Vatican. It started last week and released an interim report on Monday. Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin walks us through some important details.

There is a section titled "Welcoming homosexual persons." The phrase "intrinsically disordered" is missing. Instead, is the phrase "moral problems" – just a touch murkier. It also, for the first time, acknowledges that gay people have "gifts and talents" and does so without pairing that with our supposed sins.

An even bigger point, the document says same-sex couples offer "mutual aid to the point of sacrifice." Burroway reminds us of how central "sacrifice" is to Catholic doctrine, that Christ sacrificed himself for us and sacrifices, big and small, are to be a central part of a life of faith. That gays, who are usually seen as too self-absorbed to bother with anyone else (and, to defy the will of God so completely to even think of being gay, they would have to be self-absorbed), are described as being capable of sacrifice is revolutionary in Catholic discussions.

Of course, conservatives are outraged and toss around the word "heresy" (though one wonders how an infallible pope can be heretical). The pushback, at least so far, is to make sure the final document clarifies how thoroughly the Catholic doctrine declares gay people to be less than straights and that being gay is definitely not a good thing.

But this is a working document, a first draft. Discussions go on for a couple more days, when a final version is approved (or not) and released. Even that doesn't change doctrine. The synod will reconvene a year from now after the church (the bishops and cardinals) have a chance to discuss the issues. This document is supposed to be a guide to those discussions.

Today, a new English – and only English – translation of Monday's interim report was released. The original Italian and the French and Spanish translations were left alone. There are several interesting changes to the English version. One of them is the title was changed from "Welcoming homosexual persons" to "Providing for homosexual persons." Quite a difference.

Those church watchers whose first language is Italian say the original document, the one deemed official and which wasn't changed, clearly says "Welcoming" and not "Providing for." What's going on?

It appears the English speaking clergy of the Synod are in a panic. They don't want to "confuse" people with this talk of welcome. They want to make sure the doctrine and teaching doesn't change, that the Church still teaches being gay is yucky. Perhaps the change in translation is part of the process of changing the document.

Does this Synod mark the start of a Catholic Church less hostile and more welcoming to gay people? Commenters tend towards saying I'll believe it when I see it. Don't confuse me with mere talk of change.

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