Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Listening Is Good. Hearing Is Better": Valuable Commentary on the Synod on the Family Document (2)

Here's commentary about the relatio published yesterday by the synod on the family that seems to me well worth reading (for the context of this opening remark, please see the preceding posting, of which this one is a continuation):

On her Facebook page, Heidi Schlumpf* notes that several comments Jamie Manson has made recently on her own Facebook page sum up for Heidi her reaction to the synod (as they do for me, too): 

I've been silent on the Synod on the Family so far. But Jamie L. Manson has pretty much summed it up for me (I'm reposting three of her FB posts below:) 
Reading my newsfeed this week feels like drowning in a deluge of male-privilege and hetero-normativity. #‎synod14 
The Catholic media needs more white, privileged, ostensibly hetero men to explain this Synod to us. Otherwise, how will we ever get the unbiased viewpoint? #synod14 
Yay! Another day of straight folks telling me how great the news from the Vatican is!

At National Catholic Reporter, Colleen Baker responds both to the relatio and to Father Tom Reese's article on how it is offering Catholics a new way of being church:**

"Are we capable of welcoming 'these people.' I would say absolutely not, if you can't even say 'welcoming these our brothers and sisters.'

Mark Dowd at The Tablet on that same passage from the relatio:

"Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home." 
You don't have to be a genius to conclude that this is tantamount to a confession: that we have very often been denied such fraternity and welcome. But this brings with it the call towards a new visibility and openness for LGBT Catholics in the life of the Church.

Agni Ashwin at NCR responding to Joshua McElwee's article about how the relatio calls for a new tone in the church accenting mercy and listening:

Listening is good. Hearing is better.

Because what each of the preceding commentators says seems so self-evident to me (there is a real need in the Catholic church to listen positively to the experiences of gay people, precisely because we who are gay have been treated in many Catholic communities in anything but a merciful and welcoming way), I confess myself stunned to hear Chicago deacon Jim Pauwels inform Commonweal readers of Grant Gallicho's posting about the relatio that "Catholic parishes have been doing most/all of these things, in most cases for many years now."

Some listening! And some hearing.

Jim Pauwels, 
While much of this is part of de facto Catholicism if not in de jure Catholicism, the long series of stories about gay and lesbians being fired or being denied communion shows that they are only a pastor/bishop's whim away from de jure Catholicism. Having a clear signal in favor of tolerance from on top would help people fight back against those who insist on abstract purity above all else.

And, though Deacon Jim Pauwels has now responded to a comment that Carlo Lancellotti made later in the same thread, he has totally ignored Ryan Rowekamp, as if the walls had spoken. As if Ryan is just not there, and as if there is no need to listen or respond to him — even when the topic is, in Deacon Jim's summation, how wonderfully the church has been listening up to now!

Some listening. Some hearing. 

At NCRRobert Mickens sketches in detail the kind of listening that the bishops should call themselves to do now that they have published their relatio, in the period leading up to the final session of the synod:

[T]he experts ("periti") the bishops should be calling upon to be involved in the intersessional seminars, studies, conferences and consultations should principally be the Catholic faithful of all walks of life and of varying experiences, not just priest-theologians. There are many hundreds of married male and female Catholics today in theological faculties around the world. They should be included. And so should gay Catholics, including those in stable partnerships and leadership roles in the church. They exist and should be recognized openly.

If they do not engage in this kind of listening now, they'll certainly be susceptible to the critique of articulate, get-to-the-point observers like Jerry Slevin, who wrote yesterday at his Christian Catholicism blog site, 

Cutting through the scholastic smokescreen of "graduality" and "mercy", the Bishops have in effect decided, it appears,  at the direction of Francis and his Vatican clique, obviously, with no effective input from 99.9% of the world’s Catholic faithful,  that "sinners", included the divorced and remarried, those who rely on the Pill to responsibly plan their families, and gay couples,  should not be called "sinners" so often or so loudly.

For me, that critique dovetails well with what Paul Collins wrote yesterday for Global Pulse:

This [i.e., an interview given by Melbourne archbishop Denis Hart to Vatican Radio] indicates the difficulty Pope Francis faces when he asks the bishops to act collegially with him, but collegiality presupposes a genuine sense of responsibility. The simple fact is that many bishops just don’t have the ability to assume that level of leadership. For the last forty-five years the papacy has essentially chosen 'yes men' as bishops. We are now reaping the consequences of this with a cadre of bishops more used to obeying than taking the kind of initiative that collegiality demands.

In a similar vein, here's John Prior writing in that Commonweal thread I link above, responding to Grant Gallicho re: the relatio:

While mercy is being recommended for Catholics in difficult situations, let us not forget the bishops, who are intellectually in the hardest circumstances of all. They see that large numbers of the faithful are rejecting or ignoring their magisterial pronouncements on sexual morality as irrelevant, repellent, or just plain wrong. But unlike those whom they presume to teach, the bishops cannot simply turn away from outworn ideas. They are confined in an iron cage built by Aristotle, Aquinas, and many other men—mostly men—who had the self-assurance to believe that they could decide the one true way for all people in all circumstances for all time. They have not the freedom of the fallible to say, "We were wrong. We're sorry." They are in great need of mercy, though they do not know it yet. 
And so there will be paragraphs full of "kerygma" and "kenosis" and other deliberate obscurities meant to dazzle and overawe the masses with sheer verbal firepower. There will be the usual august and mellifluous passages, a style that the Church has brought to perfection, and then a little way beyond, to the border of parody. And apparently there will be much talk of gradualism, as if humanity had not found out eons ago that life is a long learning and a rare getting-it-right. 
I could truly feel some pity for the bishops' plight but for one thing. They are trying to shift responsibility for the Church's troubles from their own shoulders to the backs of ordinary people, who are burdened enough already without being condescended to as weak, childish, or stiff-necked. But then, checking my censoriousness for once, I reflect that the bishops too are in a narrow place not entirely of their own choosing, and perhaps deserve a measure of mercy.

And a final word from Charles Pierce at Esquire, who finds reason to hope, with the long-overdue baby steps: 

Yes, long overdue and baby steps, I accept that. But look at what his committee did there. They admitted the possibility that cohabitation, gay or straight, has its positive aspects, and it gave permission to pastors at the local level all over the world to welcome gay men and women, married or single, into the fellowship of the sacraments and the full life of the Church, if they should wish to do so. It is a wink and a nod to the Church at the grassroots level. That's not everything, especially in the year 2014, but it's a lot more than nothing. Also, it is the clearest formal demonstration yet that this pope wants the Church to stop defining itself by its centuries-old madness concerning human sexuality."

*I'm assuming that both Heidi Schlumpf's and Jamie Manson's Facebook comments are shared publicly, since I can read Heidi's, though I'm not her Facebook friend. I am a Facebook friend of Jamie. If I have mistakenly assumed that these postings were shared publicly by either or both Heidi and Jamie, I hope someone will tell me that — and I would certainly sincerely apologize for sharing publicly material that is private.

**As Chris Morley recently noted, the links to comments made at the NCR site don't lead you directly to the comment when you click the link. If, however, you click the little box under most every NCR article which says "Show Comments," the comments thread should open, and the comment to which the link points should appear at the top of the thread with a vertical yellow line to the left of the comment.

For information on the graphic, please see the first part of this two-part posting.

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