Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Vatican Shows Support for LGBTQ Congregation

With Monday’s release of a relatio post disceptationem document, the Vatican has advanced its position of support for gay and lesbian Catholics. Vatican officials updated the original document Thursday, however, revising the English translation of the document to read “providing for homosexual persons” from the original “welcoming homosexual persons.” The Italian version remains unchanged.

Released by a gathering of Catholic bishops at the Vatican, the document shows a shift toward increased inclusion of non-traditional families within the Catholic Church. The report came at the midpoint of the gathering, also called a synod, convened by Pope Francis to discuss the situation of the family in the world today.

In its most notable shift, the report calls for the church to accept same-sex couples into its religious community, the first time the church acknowledged positive aspects of such relationships.

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” the report said. “There are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons.”

The document also expresses approval of aspects of unmarried partnership and calls for reflection on attitudes toward those who have divorced and remarried.

“Not to be overlooked, though, is the attention that the synod gave to the stresses on married families today, with special emphasis — not surprisingly with Pope Francis — on the pressures of poverty on families, as well as the need to prepare couples for marriage and the need to accompany couples as they go through their marriage,” Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., said.

Pointing to the prominent use of the words “mercy” and “accompany” throughout the report, O’Brien explained that the document called upon the church to accompany all its members along the principle of gradualness.

“There is an ideal in the moral life. Sometimes people — which is most of us — struggle to reach the ideal. Therefore the best thing for a church to do is to accompany people as they are striving to reach their ideal and not exclude or condemn them on the way to that ideal,” he said.

The document, called a relatio post disceptationem, Latin for “report after debate,” was unorthodox in that it does not represent the final decision of the gathering but rather summarizes the contentious discussion until the point of its release. After the formal reading of the report at the Vatican, 41 bishops responded, prompting disagreement and contention among them.

“There is a lot of disagreement among the bishops about how to proceed. Pope Francis is not afraid of argument or disagreement. He allows different voices to be heard. Ultimately, he will issue a final report, but he is in no rush to get there,” O’Brien said.

Thomas Farr, the director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, joined about 50 signatories in signing Commitment to Marriage, a letter to the Vatican in opposition to same-sex marriage. The letter addressed several threats to traditional marriage, speaking out against pornography, divorce and cohabitation. It also called for the Vatican to “restore any legal provisions that protect marriage as a conjugal union of one man and one woman, entered into with an openness to the gift of children, and lived faithfully and permanently as the foundation of the natural family.”

He said that the Vatican’s document does not reflect changing ideology, only an active discussion.

“There is very little here that is new other than emphasis and tone,” Farr told Newsweek.

Despite the progress, O’Brien predicted the report would spark tension, regardless of the final result.

“There will be clarity given, and I think that clarity will end up disappointing many, whatever side one comes from, because the tension we face here is that we are trying to maintain the church’s tradition while updating it, while helping that doctrine meet the needs of the people of God today,” he said.

GU Pride Media Manager and Historian Campbell James (SFS ’17) said that, despite the recent change in language, the document still represented a positive step forward.

“I think there’s still an overall positive message that gay people can give a great deal of value to the Christian and Catholic community, but it seemed like they tried not to be so radical in this version of it,” James said.

He applauded the move forward but hoped for further inclusion from the church.

“The eventual recognition of same-sex marriage would just be incredible. That’s not necessarily to say they have to perform these marriages, but it would be fantastic for them to recognize them and treat same-sex couples with the same value of straight couples,” James said.

The release of the document coincides with OUTober, a cultural heritage month which celebrates LGBTQ students at Georgetown. As the report attempts to reconcile Catholicism with evolving identities of the modern Catholic congregation, James named the Georgetown community as crucial to the event’s success.

“What I think is really cool about OUTober is that we have the support of all of Georgetown and all of Georgetown’s offices, including Campus Ministry,” he said. “It’s really cool to think that Georgetown has taken specifically the Jesuit value cura personalis, and applied that to taking care of all Georgetown students and meet Georgetown students where they need to be met. … And Campus Ministry backs us up wholeheartedly on that.”

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