Pope Francis held a crucial meeting on Wednesday to address the future of the Catholic Church marking the opening of the three week General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican. Often referred to as the “Super Bowl” of the Catholic Church. This event has attracted bishops from around the world to debate on difficult and sensitive subjects.
Important Subject at Historic Synod:
These subjects include arguments over whether priests should be allowed to marry, the reception of communion by divorced and remarried Catholics, the potential ordination of women as deacons and the church’s stance on problems pertaining to the LGBTQ community.
Even before its opening, this year’s synod held historical significance. It is the first time that women and general people have been granted the ability to vote in the proceedings, but it is worth noting that 80% of participants are still bishops and hence overwhelmingly men. However, the most significant revelation occurred earlier in the week when Pope Francis mentioned the idea of Catholic priests blessing same-sex partnerships.
It is important to underline that Pope Francis placed some caveats to his words. He added that such blessings should not be understood as elevating same-sex partnerships to the same degree of sanctity as heterosexual weddings. Nonetheless, this break from the church’s earlier doctrine, which held that same-sex marriage could not be blessed as “God cannot bless sin” signified a significant move.
In answer to cardinals seeking clarity on the church’s opinion, Pope Francis argued that the church should not merely adopt a judgmental posture that denies, rejects or excludes anyone. In his opening homily during the synod, he emphasized that “everyone, everyone and everyone” should be welcomed.
The change in tone regarding LGBTQ matters was received with delight by LGBTQ organizations, while it generated criticism from conservative groups, within the church who thought that it undermined Catholic doctrine and led to confusion.
Jaime Manson, a women’s rights activist and devout Catholic saw the shift as a welcoming gesture for LGBTQ couples including herself and her partner of four years. She added-“Affirming and embracing everyone only makes the church stronger”, underlining that resistance to same-sex partnerships is a viewpoint held by a minority of Catholics.
On the other hand, Father Gerald Murray, a conservative priest from Manhattan, disagreed with the Pope’s thoughts, claiming that permitting priests and bishops to bless same-sex partnerships defied Catholic doctrine.
The debate surrounding these topics is expected to intensify as the synod progresses.