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Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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Liberal ‘Catholic’ newspaper praises Church in France for opening doors to homosexuality

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

FRANCE, May 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Five years after the legalization of same-sex “marriage” in France, homosexuals are finding more “openness” and “space” in the Catholic Church. To date, 35 of the 93 dioceses in continental France have entrusted collaborators with the mission to “suggest initiatives relating to homosexuality.” 

According to Claude Besson, who authored a book in 2012 in which he advocated for a change of attitude on the part of the Church towards homosexuals, saying that asking them to be chaste was “ineffective”, this situation would have been unthinkable before the law. Claude Besson himself cofounded a pioneer program, “Reflecting and sharing”, in Nantes (on the Atlantic coast) in 2000 with the aim of welcoming homosexuals and the families in the Catholic Church.

“Of course, some people would like to see these proposals progress more quickly and go further, but ten years ago, I would never have imagined we could have reached where we are today”, he said, speaking to La Croix, “The Cross”, a liberal Catholic daily widely seen as “the bishop’s newspaper” – it belongs to the Augustinian Assumptionist Fathers.

His statement was quoted in a recent article titled: “Church and homosexuals: the door is opening.” Five years to the day after the “Taubira law” on same-sex “marriage” was first adopted by the French parliament on April 23, 2013, La Croix remembers how divisive the text was for Christian communities in France. According to the paper, this is what triggered a number of dioceses to become aware of the problem and to organize ways “better to welcome homosexual persons”.

Not once does this lengthy article recall the Church's moral teachings about homosexual activity and lifestyle. But while it does speak about people with homosexual leanings, it also strongly implies that recent pastoral programs in the 35 aforementioned dioceses are fine with homosexual couples, “married” or otherwise, with or without children.

La Croix gives many details as to the initiatives that have been popping up these last five years. Bishop Michel Santier of Creteil, in the suburbs of Paris, it says, decided to set up a support group when he realized how divided the parishes were as to the homosexual “marriage” debate. Under the leadership of a lay deacon and his wife, homosexual persons, whether they be alone or living as couples, in civil unions or even “married”, and also parents of homosexual children can meet and talk together. No specific mission has been assigned to the group, whose only purpose is to “bear witness to the fraternal presence of the Church” by the sides of the people concerned, and to be “the sign” of that proximity within the diocese.

After the first year, in which many “wounds came to the surface and were healed”, the diocese organized a march for the group during which the bishop himself told the participants that they were “part of the body of Christ”. Some of them “had not heard those words for a long time, and they cried”, the deacon recalls.

La Croix goes on to say that for many Catholics, the heated debate about same-sex “marriage” revealed deep-seated suffering in homosexuals who felt “rejected” by the Church. This prompted a number of bishops to commission laypeople, deacons and even priests to analyze the situation and to offer pastoral pathways, “completing the work done by Christian homosexual movements” that include organizations favorable to same-sex “marriage” such as “David & Jonathan”. La Croix also quotes secular local associations that help homosexuals with their “coming out” and life in society as outed LGBT’s.

What has changed, according to the Catholic daily, is that stories are now surfacing about homosexuals all over the country being ostracized in their parishes and even “relieved of their responsibilities” once their homosexuality became known. It also speaks of parents who worry about how their child could have become homosexual: “Will he be able to be happy?” is the main concern.

In the diocese of Saint-Etienne, near Lyon, Loïc and Delphine Hussenot, in charge of the pastoral care of people concerned with homosexuality, deplore the fact that “many felt that they were being attacked by the demonstrations (of the Manif pour Tous against same-sex “marriage”) which they found even more painful because they had the feeling that the Church was behind them”. So, is opposing same-sex “marriage” an aggression against homosexuals? In some French dioceses, it would appear so.

In the historic diocese of Poitiers, erected in the third century, Bishop Pascal Wintzer entrusted the outreach to homosexuals to Isabelle Parmentier in 2013. She is quoted as saying that “homophobia” is still very present in society and “is still one of the major causes of adolescent suicides”. She is in charge of helping homosexuals, their partners and their parents, and of leading them to reconstruct their relationship with the Church if they are Catholics. “In certain Catholic families, the suffering is even worse because of the idea that a homosexual child is ‘living in sin’”, she told La Croix

The newspaper also quotes the fears of some Catholics who are afraid that welcoming homosexuals would “trivialize” homosexuality and lead young people to say to themselves: “Why not?”  Some priests, the article says, are wary of joining pastoral groups for homosexuals – like the one who told a fellow priest: “Oh, you, you would be capable of marrying a gay couple!”

But according to La Croix, things are getting better: priests are welcoming homosexuals more openly, especially since Pope Francis said: “Who am I to judge!” More and more dioceses are offering propositions such as the “Thurdays for difference” cycle organized by Isabelle Parmentier in Poitiers and now also by a priest in Nantes.

The idea is to “say and repeat that it is possible to be Christian and homosexual, that it is not incompatible or contrary to the faith”, says one pastoral worker. In theory, that is quite correct: all Christians, including those with homosexual leanings, are called upon to “find God in their lives”, in the same way as all sinners – our shared condition – need pardon and forgiveness. But these particular words just do not appear.

The objective is rather to “help homosexual persons to be integrated into parishes”. “It must be remembered that they can take up responsibilities there, that their children can be baptized, etc.”, writes La Croix.

As to requests for the blessing of same-sex “married” couples, “practices still differ from one diocese to the other, and even from one priest to the other”. In Saint-Etienne, Bishop Dominique Lebrun is all for welcoming all Christians as an “absolute necessity”. While reminding priests that they should tell these couples that there is a contradiction between their life choice and the position of the church when they ask for the baptism of a child, he offers couples a “time of prayer” with a pastoral worker “in order to entrust their love to God”, albeit “outside of a church to avoid all confusion”.

Says La Croix: “Progress has been made these last five years, but this work is only beginning.”

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