19 October 2014

Galileo, the Roman Inquisition and the Extraordinary Synod on the Family

Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642) [Wikipedia]

Catholic synod: Gay rights groups 'disappointed'

As I write this at 07:45 GMT/UTC, Sunday 19 October, the above is the main story on the website of the BBC. It was also the lead story on BBC World when I watched the news there at 22:00 Saturday and again at 04:00 today. Both bulletins featured two men in Rome living together, one of them speaking fluent English and telling of his desire to raise the three young children that they have as Catholics. The 04:00 bulletin also included an interview with a representative of The New Ways Ministry, described on the BBC website report as 'a US Catholic gay rights group'.

James Reynolds' report on the BBC website begins with this sentence: Catholic gay rights groups say they are disappointed after bishops rejected a call for wider acceptance of gay people, which had the Pope's backing.

That is the current main story on the website of The Irish Times. The opening paragraph of the report by the paper's Rome corrspondent, Paddy Agnew, reads: The Vatican Synod on the Family wrapped up tonight with a final document which appears to backtrack on the mid-Synod Relatio document concerning homosexuals issued on Monday.

Mr Agnew later refers to the other “celebrity” issue, namely the ban on the divorced and remarried receiving communion

The opening paragraph by Lizzy Davies in this story on the website of The Guardian/The Observer (London) reads: Pope Francis appeared on Saturday night to have lost out to powerful conservatives in the Roman Catholic church after bishops scrapped language that had been hailed as a historic warming of attitudes towards gay people. This report has a reference to the synod’s other highly controversial subject – considering whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried should be allowed to take holy communion.

No Consensus at Vatican as Synod ends is the more sober headline above the report 
on the website of the New York Times by Laurie Goodstein and Elisabetta Povoledo who being their report this way:  A closely watched Vatican assembly on the family ended on Saturday without consensus among the bishops in attendance on what to say about gays, and whether to give communion to divorced and remarried Catholics.

Meanwhile the Vatican itself more than a year ago saidVatican City, 8 October 2013 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today announced that Holy Father Francis has convened the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in the Vatican from 5 to 19 October 2014, on the theme “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation”.

I don't know to what extent that theme was actually discussed at the Synod.

The family as I have known it, what I might call the 'normative family', has a husband and wife who, as a consequence of being such, usually become parents. Jesus Christ gave the Church the gift of the Sacrament of Matrimony to enable a man and woman to commit themselves in his love until death do us part and to raise as Christians, followers of Jesus, the children they co-create through God's sharing of his creative power with them. In other words, they are called to be the first and most important evangelisers of their children.

The media coverage before and during the Synod has hardly looked at or reported on the theme of the Synod. Before the bishops and others came to Rome the media was looking largely at marriages that had broken down. Some prominent bishops seemed to have had that focus now.

Yes, there were some married couples invited to address the Synod but again some of the reporting seemed to reflect the notion that priests and bishops have no idea whatever of what marriage and family are, as if they had never grown up with parents and siblings, as if they had no married friends, no married brothers or sisters, no nephews or nieces.

One would think that persons with same-sex attraction were not allowed to enter Catholic churches. One would think that persons with same-sex attraction were exempted from some of the Ten Commandments. 

Wedding Banquet, Jan Brueghel the Elder
Museo del Prado, Madrid  [Web Gallery of Art]


I have found the Message issued at the end of the Synod. I had to read it three or four times and check a link on another website to make sure that this was what all the negativity was about. I found it to be an uplifting document, focused on marriage and the family as Christians have always understood it until recent decades. [I have highlighted parts of the quotations below.]

The Message excludes nobody: Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.

Here is how it sees marriage: This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigor and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13). In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.

And I recognise in this part of the Message what I have seen in 33 years of involvement with Worldwide Marriage Encounter: This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God—a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.

Note that that paragraph puts being husband and wife, being spouses, being a couple, before anything else. Parenthood, in God's plan, is a consequence of a man and woman being spouses. This is the norm. The Church, ie all of us, has to support and encourage lovingly and practically those who find themselves parents without being spouses, often being heroic in the situation where they find themselves.

Having read the full text of the Message I'm confirmed in what I wrote below a few hours ago. 

The reporting of the Message reminds me of an infamous main headline in the Times Journal, a Manila newspaper - the media were controlled at the time by the Marcos dictatorship - the day after the funeral of Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino in 1983: Lightning kills 1, injures 9 at Luneta. The story was true and was a tragedy for the man who died and for his family. But the victims were among the more than one million who watched the funeral procession - I was among them -  and were in the branches of a tree in the main park in Manila to get a better view. The paper ignored the much wider reality of what was probably the biggest ever gathering until then in the history of the Philippines and the reason why the people had gathered. The first three headlines above and their accompanying stories are of the same genre as that in the Times Journal.


And where do Galileo and the Roman Inquisition come in? Galileo taught that the earth and the other planets revolved around the sun while many scientists of his day, and the Church leadership of the time, said that the sun revolved around the earth. The Roman Inquisition sentenced Galileo to imprisonment but commuted it immediately to house arrest. He spent his last nine years or so in that situation.

Looking at the reporting on the Synod it would seem that Galileo and those who condemned him were all wrong. I'm coming to think that not only the earth, but the whole universe, revolves around the 'Gay Lobby', which is not at all the same as the many persons with same-sex attraction who are struggling to live chaste lives, as followers of Jesus who are attracted to persons of the opposite sex also have to do. It was those struggling to live chastely according to God's Commandments that Pope Francis had in mind when he saidIf a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him? The Pope's words have been distorted countless times by journalists.

Many in today's Western world, including some Catholic Church leaders, have bought The King's New Clothes that the 'Gay Lobby' offers, the 'new clothes' being the absurd notion of 'marriage' between two persons of the same sex.

1 comment:

Manny said...

Ha! I was wondering where you were heading with Galileo. I think the whole synod was a disaster, a big waste of time and energy while all our divisions and sore spots were exposed. What did it accomplish? Nothing that I can see. Thank God it ended with the right positions but it's only a few more Liberal Bishops away from endorsing homosexuality. I'm really having big doubts about Pope Francis.