Des Moines, IA- In a speech following beatification of Pope John Paul IV, Pope Francis said “God is not afraid of new things,” but the Synod of Catholic Bishops were reticent to change the church’s position on divorce and homosexuality.
Liberal Catholics felt certain substantive changes to the church’s position on divorce and homosexuality were on the horizon after the first documents released from the Vatican Synod on the Family contained language suggesting that the largest Christian church in the world was ready to be more inclusive.
The Synod’s midterm report, Bishops wrote of the church’s need to be more accepting of the “gifts and qualities” of gay Catholics and called on pastors to “avoid any language or behavior” that could discriminate against divorced Catholics.
However, the language in final documents released from the three week-long conference, Bishops changed the more liberal language, dashing any hopes that the Catholic Church is willing to change their stance towards homosexuality, and leaving the matter of divorce unresolved, for the time being.
In the Synod document released Saturday, the bishops said, “No grounds whatsoever exist for assimilating or drawing analogies, however remote, between homosexual unions and God’s design for matrimony and the family.”
“The pope, more than anyone else as the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth,” American Cardinal Raymond Burke told BuzzFeed from Rome Saturday after the official document was released. “The pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”
While the council was clear about their stance towards homosexuality, the Bishops were unable to come to a consensus about the whether to allow divorcees who remarry are allowed to receive communion, an important rite for people of the Catholic faith. Some of the Bishops agreed that the issue of communion for divorced members of the church should be approached on an individual basis.
Pope Francis also called for a progressive view of couples that cohabitate or are part of a civil union.
The Bishops said in the final document, the church’s view of divorce demanded “greater theological study” and “further consideration.”
Pope Francis requested that the midterm documents be included in the Synod’s final document so that those issues could be discussed over the next year until the Synod reconvenes for another conference next year.
Following the Beatification of the Pope John Paul IV, Pope Francis said that those in the church who refuse to accept homosexuality or divorce are indulging in “hostile inflexibility,” according to UPI.
While there are more progressive Catholics who were disappointed by the lack of change, some say the fact that these issues were even discussed was a step in the right direction.
The Synod’s decision on divorce and communion was closely watched by liberal Catholics and divorce attorneys alike, but it appears as though they will have to wait until next year before they get a definitive answer from Catholic leaders.