Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Church Doctrine Remains the Same

Much controversy has surfaced about the recent release of relatio post disceptationem, translated to “report after debate.”  This month, the Synod of Bishops met to discuss topics related to family and evangelization.  The key word here is discuss.

The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution of the Catholic Church, formed after Vatican II in order to continue the discussion and communion present at the Vatican Council.  The pope can call for the Synod at any time he sees it necessary to consult the world’s bishops.  The most recent meeting resulted in the document relatio post disceptationem, which gave rise to news and web articles titled “Vatican signals relaxed stance on gays, birth control, and divorce” and “Will the Catholic Church change its stand on marriage and divorce?”

When relatio was released, the jaws dropped of liberals and conservatives alike.  The public had reactions that “rivaled the rollout of Obamacare,” describes editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, Robert Royal.  Much of the public sector along with the media misunderstood this document as a reversal of Church doctrines on gay marriage, divorce, and birth control.

That is far from the truth.  This document is not a set of conclusions, a change of age-old teachings, or a solution to current issues.  Instead, it is a modern discussion of debates the Catholic Church faces everyday.  Pope Francis, in his conciliatory manner, is approaching the subject of homosexuality “with a spirit of embrace, of mercy, and not with sin,” according to TIME magazine.  His tone is revolutionary and his writing is ambiguous, but the Synod has confirmed “the relatio presented on Monday was wrongly seen as a set of conclusions, when it is in fact a work in progress merely intended to guide further discussion,” says South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier.  The document reaffirms “at several points that marriage is between a man and a woman. Substance on that point is not changing (TIME).”

The document begins to discuss current questions of controversy.  Pope Francis believes homosexuals “need to be welcomed and accompanied with patience and delicacy,” with their “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.”  According to National Catholic Reporter, even the pope admits that the document needs some clarification.

Pope Francis is not reversing teaching or rewriting Church doctrine.  Instead, he is sticking to a theme he has held is entire papacy: to love one another.

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