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Cardinal Nichols hopes ‘valuing’ language will return to next Synod doc. on homosexuality

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Cardinal Nichols said he had been 'disappointed' at the wording of the final document. Catholic Church of England and Wales website

The final document of the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the family did not “go far enough” in expressing the need to “respect, welcome and value” homosexuality, the cardinal archbishop of Westminster has told the BBC.

“I was looking for those words and they weren’t there and so I didn’t think that was a good paragraph,” Cardinal Vincent Nichols told the BBC this weekend. He added, “I didn’t think it was a good text because it didn’t include those words strongly enough so I wasn’t satisfied with it.”

Speaking on Sunday to BBC Radio 4’s Sunday program, Cardinal Nichols said that he still had hope that the next session of the Synod, scheduled for October 2015, would return to the language of the mid-term document.

The original draft of the Synod’s “relatio,” as published half-way through the Synod, had asked, in a section originally titled “Welcoming homosexuals,” whether “accepting and valuing [homosexuals’] sexual orientation” could align with Catholic doctrine. It also stated, “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.”

It went on to add, “Without denying the moral problems associated with homosexual unions, there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons.”

This language was heavily criticized by many of the Synod fathers, both in public and in the Synod hall, and it was voted out of the final version of the relatio.

Cardinal Nichols said he had been “disappointed” at the wording of the final document. However, he said, he is hopeful because the final document is “not an end” but only “the starting point for the next Synod.”

As it was approved by the bishops, the final document speaks of accepting persons “with homosexual tendencies” and avoiding “every sign of unjust discrimination.” It also clarifies, however, that “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family.”

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Asked if he wanted to see “much more positive language,” Nichols responded, “Well of course I would. That’s what we do in the Westminster diocese.”

The Synod’s mid-term “relatio” had been enthusiastically welcomed by the secular world, including homosexualist activists who called it a “total reversal” of previous Catholic teaching that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered” and that homosexual acts are always gravely sinful.

Nichols praised Pope Francis for creating the Synod’s process, and said the pope has “torn up the rulebook” to facilitate a “process of dialogue and discernment for the future of the Church.” In particular he praised the fact that three contentious paragraphs that failed to achieve the required two-thirds level of support from the Synod Fathers were nevertheless kept in the final document.

“By the rulebook,” Nichols said, “those votes should have removed those paragraphs from the [final] text if it were the end of the Synod.”

The three paragraphs included language supporting the idea of allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion after “a period of penance,” and receiving homosexuals in the Church “with respect and gentleness.”

Asked if he expected that the next session of the Synod would insert the language he was hoping for, Nichols responded, “I would hope so. And I would expect a similar level of honest, open, pensive and very, very charitable exchange of views in order to discern a way forward.”

Nichols added that the “views” of “traditionalists,” those who opposed the language of “valuing and accepting” homosexuality, were listened to by the pope and the Synod.

It was widely reported that a significant majority of the Synod’s bishops were alarmed at the tenor of the mid-term relatio and the general direction of the proceedings on the issue of divorce and remarriage and homosexuality. 

Traditionalists, Nichols said, “are people who have a very profound dedication to the Church, who give their life to the Church and see, in their understanding of the coherence of faith, continuity with the tradition to be very, very important. That’s a very proper part of being a Catholic.” But “so too is being open to the [Holy] Spirit,” he added.

Nichols’ hopes for the next session of the Synod were echoed by Terrence Weldon, the author of the “Queering the Church” blog and a director of the notorious Soho “gay Mass” association in London. He wrote on Sunday as the Synod was closing of “a notable absence of the tragically familiar language of ‘gravely disordered,’ or any reminder that the only sexual expression is within (heterosexual) marriage, or any claims that gay sex is all about mere indulgent self – gratification.”

“Nor is there the use of the insulting term ‘same – sex attraction,’” he added.

Weldon wrote, “If the more welcoming/progressive bishops failed to retain the positive language originally proposed, for us or for those who have divorced and remarried, because they only just failed to secure the required two–thirds majority, it is far more important to note the far more dismal failure of the reactionaries to secure even a simple majority.”

He quoted the Westminster archdiocese’s local Catholic homosexualist organization, the LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, a group approved by Cardinal Nichols, who said of the final document, “This report is not the final word, but as a Vatican spokesperson explained, it is still a working document which will be discussed in the coming year.” 

“Pope Francis has placed these issues on the table, and all the signs are that his action is irreversible, given the strong statements made in his closing speech to the Synod,” the group’s statement said.

Weldon continued, “The report is in fact most remarkable not for its content, but for its blandness… What this is, is simply a starting point for further reflection, study and discussion, There will be much more of this over the next year, at all levels of the Church.”

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