08 October 2014

The Synod as an Entmoot, the Australian couple's comments, and much ado about nothing

A lot of people are making a lot of noise about what Mr. and Mrs. Ron and Mavis Pirola said Monday during the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, though, I confess, I'm not sure why.

As one example of what is being said about their words, Deacon Greg Kandra commented, "I can’t imagine this kind of commentary being welcomed, or even heard, at the Vatican just a few years ago."

Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Pirola are to have suggested something earth-shattering, though it doesn't seem so to me. What did they say? They spoke about parents welcoming their son - who has a homosexual inclination - and his "partner" to a family gathering at Christmas:
Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home too. They fully believed in the Church’s teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three [sic] words, ‘He is our son’.
What a model of evangelization for parishes as they respond to similar situations in their neghbourhood [sic]! It is a practical example of what the Instrumentum laboris says concerning the Church’s teaching role and its main mission to let the world know of God’s love.
Why many find these words surprising is - frankly - quite beyond me.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that persons with homosexual tendencies "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided" (2358). The family referenced above, then, simply showed respect, compassion, and sensitivity and did not discriminate. In short, they acted as Catholics should.

To be sure, though, welcoming their son's boyfriend to a family gathering is not the same thing as condoning sexual activity between the two (if the two were engaging in such activity; we do not know). To put it another way, saving a place for the boyfriend at the table is not the same as allowing the son and his boyfriend to sleep in the same bed in the home.

I suspect this is a case of much ado about nothing - or at least very little - and that it comes from a misunderstanding about what the Church teaches about homosexuality, even among those in the Church who should know better.

In its Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (which was issued on 1 October 1986), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained it thus (with my comments):
The Church, obedient to the Lord who founded her and gave to her the sacramental life, celebrates the divine plan of the loving and live-giving union of men and women in the sacrament of marriage [which is explained just before this sentence]. It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behaviour therefore acts immorally.
To chose someone of the same sex for one's sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator's sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.
As in every moral disorder [a homosexual tendency is not the only moral disorder], homosexual activity prevents one's own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood (7).

If you have not yet read this letter, you should.

The same letter went on to say:
It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law (10).
The CDF also noted that,
An authentic pastoral programme will assist homosexual persons at all levels of the spiritual life: through the sacraments, and in particular through the frequent and sincere use of the sacrament of Reconciliation, through prayer, witness, counsel and individual care. In such a way, the entire Christian community can come to recognize its own call to assist its brothers and sisters, without deluding them or isolating them.

From this multi-faceted approach there are numerous advantages to be gained, not the least of which is the realization that a homosexual person, as every human being, deeply needs to be nourished at many different levels simultaneously (15-16).
It seems to me that this is what the family above did.

What is more, the letter affirms with great clarity, that
The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a "heterosexual" or a "homosexual" and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life (16).
What does the Church ask of those who a homosexual inclination? The same she asks of those without it: adherence to Christ and a life lived in full accord with his teachings, which often requires sincere repentance of sins.

Before posting this post (that always sounds odd), I asked a friend to review it for me. He kindly did so and made the following observation:
Really, I think too, too many are too, too eager to reflexively condemn anything associated with this synod. It's insane. Give it a rest, people. Think of the Synod as an Entmoot. They'll talk, and then they'll make a decision, and proclaim it with a loud "Hoom hom."  
That's an analogy I'm sorry I didn't make!

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