Monday, October 13, 2014

Airing out the welcome mat

I had one similar to this outside my dorm room in college.  Could it be we Christians who have acted as if this was our sentiment de facto, if not de jure, might start throwing our personal mats away?

I haven't much to say about the pronouncement coming out of the synod in Rome just now, except to note there's another week to go and let's wait and see what else is said (will the other shoe drop, in other words).  I'm sure Fr. Martin is right, and "This is a stunning change in the way the Catholic church speaks of gay people."  I hope he's also right, and it means "The Synod is clearly listening to the complex, real-life experiences of Catholics around the world, and seeking to address them with mercy, as Jesus did."

That's the interpretation going around, and it's a very hopeful one.  This Pope is making a pastoral effort in the church, at a time when pastoral efforts are needed in the world.  So I am hopeful.

I'm also interested, because the statement from the Synod:

"Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home," said the document, known by its Latin name "relate".

"Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?" it asked.
Echoes my own concerns in theology as a pastoral effort; the centrality of the idea of hospitality. No, I'm not congratulating myself.  I'm intrigued that this idea is becoming a focal point of institutional pastoral interest by the church.  When I was in seminary the focus was on "community," so my attention to hospitality not a credit to me, but to my teachers.  As I read this statement from the Synod, I'm fully in accord with it.  As they clarify their position over the next week, I'll pay attention.

But it is clear to me, in this day and age at least, hospitality is the key to Christian community,  Christian life, and the Christian gospel.  This new language, inasmuch as it at least marks a change in emphasis, is a good thing.  It could also be interesting.


  1. "let's wait and see what else is said (will the other shoe drop, in other words"

    Considering what was said is really a modest (though not insignificant) improvement at best, yes, let's see if even THIS gets watered down

    [My nomination: "mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners" gets stricken, or radically dehumanized. Yes, I'm cynical. Have watched Rome too long.(Remember, Humanae Vitae started out SUPPORTING birth control, until that "other shoe dropped"!)]

  2. JCF--I'd like to think at least putting emphasis on pastoral concerns above doctrinal ones is a step in the right direction.

    The Jesus I encounter in the gospels is a pastor first. Even though my own bent is toward theology (and so doctrine), I remind myself pastoral concerns precede all concerns about who has the right ideas about what.

    So even a small shift in that direction would, I think, be a good thing. And if it influences American Protestants to likewise shift their focus, then it will be a very good thing, indeed.

  3. rmj, can the Gordian knot of the pastoral and the doctrinal be so easily cut?

    To wit, this (the final line of the section on homosexuals):

    "Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority."

    So, the pastoral priority is "the needs and rights of the little ones" (Must you be so schmaltzy, Rome?). So does that mean "don't diss their gay parents to kids in RC schools"? Or, ala "Manif Pour Tous" (French homophobes) et al, "every child has the RIGHT to a mother and a father, so don't let those Icky Gays adopt/Get-keep custody"? See what I mean---pastoral to WHOM?

    ...and, as we both surmised, the back-pedaling is under way. Only Papa Francesco can say for sure where it'll end up...

  4. JCF--as ever, the devil is in the details. Warning came over the weekend from "conservative bishops" that what had been released was preliminary, not final.

    Still gotta use "best interests of the child" to insist on no-same sex couples, huh? Rather a retrograde definition, says the ol' family lawyer in me.

  5. Called it!

    The first version said homosexual unions can often constitute a "precious support in the life of the partners." The new one says gay unions often constitute "valuable support in the life of these persons."

    Despite the fact that secular people probably think of the word "precious" in terms of Gollum and LOTR, I KNEW that its significance in Roman theology (see re "Precious Blood") was going to cause Curial heads to ^EXPLODE^ when used in connection to Teh Gays.