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Dr. Paolo Ruffini giving a press briefing, October 12, 2023.Michael Haynes/LifeSiteNews

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) –– Members of the Synod on Synodality have been discussing how to be “pastoral” to “gay couples” while also “remaining faithful to the teachings of the Church.”

The assembled participants of the Synod on Synodality are working through the various questions and themes of the Instrumentum Laboris during the event, meaning that these past few days have seen discussions on issues of sexual morality. 

Speaking to journalists October 11, Dr. Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication and head of the Synod information commission, stated that members had been dealing with questions on “sexual identity.”

He stated that the topic was being “addressed with responsibility and understanding keeping faithful to the Gospel and to the teachings of the Church.”

According to Ruffini, the theme for those dealing with B1.2 was “how to incarnate the pastoral in the case of love among gay couples and divorced couples, while remaining faithful to the teachings of the Church.”

READ: Cdl. Burke reiterates Church teaching on danger of receiving Holy Communion while in mortal sin

“As far as this topic is concerned,” said Ruffini, “some people asked for a greater discernment for the teaching of the Church in the field of sexuality, while others have said there is no need for this further discernment.”

Ruffini did not elaborate on what this “greater discernment” entailed. 

“All those who intervened on this topic said we must reject every form of homophobia,” he said, adding how “it was also said that many difficulties come from not knowing the reality and the personal journey of individuals.”

The Synod discussions are divided into five modules over the month-long event, dealing with successive sections from the Instrumentum Laboris. The past few days have seen members look at Module B1, which is itself divided into parts with different tables assigned different themes. 

Organizers of the Synod have not released information regarding the composition of the 35 small circle groups. The members of the groups are changed for each module, but not changed at random, since language and thematic preferences are still taken into account. Consequently, the details of personnel making-up the tables does exist, but has not been publicized.

Part B1.2 contains a preparatory question which raises a discussion of welcoming certain groups of people in a new manner. The question is:

How can we create spaces where those who feel hurt by the Church and unwelcomed by the community feel recognized, received, free to ask questions and not judged? In the light of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, what concrete steps are needed to welcome those who feel excluded from the Church because of their status or sexuality (for example, remarried divorcees, people in polygamous marriages, LGBTQ+ people, etc.)?

Speaking to journalists on October 10, Cardinal Joseph Tobin expressed his personal hope that the Synod would lead to a greater “welcoming” of “LGBTQ+ people” within the Church. However, Tobin did not elaborate further on what that would look like, nor on the content of the LGBT discussions in the Synod so far. 

As LifeSite has reported, the Synod has also taken an active role in discussion those in “polygamous” relationships, as part of the same same module.

READ: Why is the Synod on Synodality pushing to ‘welcome’ those in ‘polygamous’ relationships?

In recent days, Synod officials have been consistently stating that there is no move to change doctrine. Such a question has been raised by critics throughout the previous two years of the process, but in recent weeks and days officials from the Vatican and the Synod itself have been at great pains to downplay the possibility of any change in teaching. 

However, when asked by LifeSite is Synod members had to promise to adhere to Catholic teaching in the course of their discussions, Cardinal Gérald Lacroix refused to affirm this. 

Instead Lacroix – a member of the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops since 2018 – stated how “the object of the Synod, as you know, is not to address doctrinal aspects but to look at our attitudes and way of discerning, to learn to journey together, and once we go home we can face all these issues.”

READ: Synod official refuses to answer whether members must follow Church teaching in discussions

Indeed, while the Synod is discussing “pastoral” care for homosexuals, the matter has already been clearly pronounced on by the Church. In 1986 the then Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) released its document “On the pastoral care of homosexual persons,” which stated that a “truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin.” 

The CDF admonished bishops to ensure they, and any “pastoral program” in the diocese are “clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral.” 

Such an authentic pastoral approach would “assist homosexual persons at all levels of the spiritual life: through the sacraments, and in particular through the frequent and sincere use of the sacrament of Reconciliation, through prayer, witness, counsel and individual care,” stated the CDF.

The instruction adds: 

But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church’s position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.

It is not known whether Synod members have been availing themselves of this text during their discussions.