News (World)

Rollback: Conservative Catholic bishops distance themselves from gay overture

Pope Francis attends a morning session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014.
Pope Francis attends a morning session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. Gregorio Borgia, AP

Monsignor Bruno Forte, appointed by the pope as the synod’s special secretary, wrote the section on gays. Forte is an Italian theologian whose writings have pushed the envelope on keeping true to church doctrine while showing mercy to people in “irregular” unions.

The Vatican on Tuesday acknowledged the sharp divisions over the report, hinting at the ideological battle underway over the soul of the final document.

A Vatican summary of the closed-door debate that followed the report’s release said bishops had “appreciated” the report but that some had recommended a host of amendments to balance out the final version.

These bishops suggested that the final report highlight faithful, Catholic families to avoid “a near-exclusive focus on imperfect family situations,” the Vatican summary of the debate said.

On gays, they said “prudence” was required “so that the impression of a positive evaluation of such a tendency on the part of the church is not created. The same care was advised with regard to cohabitation.”

The bishops noted that the word “sin” barely appeared in the document at all and that the final document must better explain the “law of gradualness” – a theological concept that encourages the faithful to take one step at a time in the search for holiness.

Bishops are concerned that an emphasis on graduality can lead to confusion about whether Catholics really must follow church law to the letter on hot-button issues like contraception.

Finally, the Vatican’s summary noted that some bishops firmly believe there is no room for change on the divisive issue of whether Catholics who divorce and remarry without getting an annulment can receive Communion.

Church teaching holds that without an annulment, these Catholics are living in sin and thus are ineligible to receive the sacraments.

Pope Francis has called for a more merciful approach and some favor a case-by-case approach, in which the couple undertakes a path of penance and could ultimately receive the sacraments. But conservatives have insisted there is no getting around Jesus’ words that marriage is indissoluble.

In the summary released Tuesday, the Vatican reported that “it was said that it is difficult to accept exceptions unless in reality they become a common rule.”

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