On Monday, the Vatican released an interim report, known as a relatio, which is a non-authoritative document, similar to an advisory, for its synod of bishops to consider when they next discuss issues related to the family, marriage, divorce and sexual orientation.
The media responded, sadly, as it often has, in a frenzy of inferences rather than researching and reporting facts. Reuters proclaimed the Catholic Church has made a “dramatic shift in tone” about same-sex couples— an “earthquake.” The New York Times reported the Vatican was calling on the church to “welcome and accept gay people.”
The media’s ignorance about religious beliefs is well known but the refusal to actually do their job and report facts is astounding.
The relatio in no way suggested that the Pope supports same-sex marriage. In fact, it says the opposite: the Church should not deny the “moral problems connected to homosexual unions.”
It proposed no changes to the doctrines or moral teachings of the Church. Nor did it suggest any changes to the Church’s position on divorce, marriage, non-marital sexual acts, and same-sex attraction.
Phrases like finding a “fraternal space for homosexuals without compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony,” or offering a “welcoming home” do not equate to acceptance of homosexuality. The relatio was poorly worded, but its usage of contemporary idioms could have easily and more simply just have stated, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
What the media did not report is the Church’s official position on homosexuality. It holds that homosexual orientation is not in itself sinful but homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” (This is quite different from what the Bible teaches and what evangelical and orthodox Christians believe.)
Likewise, the Pope has publicly stated that homosexual priests can still be priests as long as they remain celibate. In other words, refraining from homosexual acts is permissible. (Again, this is entirely different than what evangelicals or orthodox Christians believe the Bible teaches about sin and repentance.)
Within the overall context of Church doctrine, the relatio advises the Church to be kind and inviting to everyone. Archbishop Bruno Forte explained, “the centrality of a person’s [worth is] independent of sexual orientation.” Meaning, a person regardless of any sinful desire he/she may have is to be respected and valued.
With regard to same-sex attraction, “welcoming” is once again understood within the context of the Catechism. It teaches same-sex attraction is “intrinsically disordered,” referring to it as “disinterested friendship.” Disordered sexual desire is compared to “a cross one must bear,” and in this way, a person’s suffering can bring him/her closer to knowing the suffering and sacrifice of Christ.
Welcoming people to the church means that a person seeking to learn and follow the Church’s teachings would hopefully at some point embrace the Gospel. By doing so, this would genuinely lead to repentance and reconciliation to God—which means changed behavior—and—no same-sex relationship, union, or marriage.
Regardless of what people understand about the relatio or the Catholic Church, the God of the Bible has declared since the beginning of time to “choose life.” One need only read what God claims and decide. Choosing between life and death is profoundly different—and infinitely more important—than understanding nuances of church doctrine.
October 15, 2014