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Monday, October 13, 2014

A New Take on the Infallibility of the Pope: But will they practice what they preach?

Over the past 50 years it has been easy for the conservative self-righteous to insist on Church doctrine - the infallibility of the Pope and to all times to support, follow, love and respect him not matter what he asks of His flock.  But after today's Vatican announcement of mercy and love, will they follow what they have preached?

Today, the Catholic bishops synod in the Vatican, as reported by Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press, "a seismic shift" by the Catholic Church toward gays after the conference of bishops said homosexuals had gifts to offer the church and that their partnerships, while morally problematic, provided homosexuals with "precious" support.

In a preliminary report half-way through a Vatican meeting on family life, the bishops also said the church must recognize the "positive" aspects of civil unions and even Catholics who cohabitate, with the aim of bringing them to a lifelong commitment in a church wedding.

The report summarized the closed-door debate that Pope Francis initiated to discuss a host of hot-button family issues such as marriage, divorce, homosexuality and birth control. No decisions were announced, but the tone of the report was one of almost-revolutionary acceptance rather than condemnation, and it will guide discussions until a final document is issued Saturday.

"For the LGBT Catholics in the United States and around the world, this new document is a light in the darkness - a dramatic new tone from a church hierarchy that has long denied the very existence of committed and loving gay and lesbian partnerships," said Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign, the biggest LGBT rights organization in the U.S.

The Bishops clearly took into account the views of the pope, whose "Who am I to judge?" comment about gays signaled a new tone of welcome for the church. Their report also reflected the views of ordinary Catholics who, in responses to Vatican questionnaires in the run-up to the synod, rejected church teaching on birth control and homosexuality as outdated and irrelevant.

The bishops said gays had `'gifts and qualities" to offer and asked rhetorically if the church was ready to provide them a welcoming place, "accepting and valuing their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony."

"This is a stunning change in the way the Catholic church speaks of gay people," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author. "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."

The bishops repeated that gay marriage was off the table. But it acknowledged that gay partnerships had merit.

"Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions, 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," they said.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group said that though the report repeats doctrine about gay marriage, "the move toward accepting and valuing the gifts of gay and lesbian people is a major step forward."

Bishops also called for "courageous" new ways to minister to families, especially those "damaged" by divorce. The document didn't take sides in the most divisive issue at the synod, whether Catholics who divorce and remarry without an annulment can receive Communion.

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

Pope Francis has called for a more merciful approach to these couples, but conservatives have insisted there is no getting around Jesus' words that marriage is indissoluble.

Servants of the Father of Mercy

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