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Roman Catholic church statements raise, dash hopes of gays

At a high policy level, the Roman Catholic Church just concluded a quite noteworthy week, with both an interim report and then a final document on the same subject matter issuing following a days’-long mass meeting of about 200 bishops from around the globe.

Based on perusal of myriad media reports describing happenings last week in Rome, Church authorities at the highest level of governance are far from unified on fundamentally important matters regarding central tenets of Catholic doctrine that govern parishioners across the world, including in Georgia.

Most centrally, those matters relate to the Church’s stance toward the rights -- if any -- of same-sex Christian couples seeking a closer relationship with the Church. Also at the forefront of interest and concern is official doctrine concerning divorced Catholics and practitioners of the faith who have remarried in civil ceremonies.

There was an explosion of global interest early last week following draft language that seemed to promise changes of immense scope to Church doctrine and policies going forward. A clear indication of liberal adjustments on the horizon was provided by a section in the interim report called “Welcoming homosexuals,” followed by language acknowledging and valuing their sexual orientation. Other harbingers of change were also clearly implied by language signaling new inroads for divorced and remarried Catholics to take communion and Rome’s understanding of the role played by contraception.

Just a few days after the initial draft issued, gay rights groups and other supporters of what seemed promised were suddenly expressing deep disappointment. That discontent stemmed from language in a final report issued over the past weekend that flatly retreated from much of what was written earlier in the week.

As noted in one media account, gone was language “that had talked more positively of homosexuals than ever before in Church history.” It is now replaced by words that note “no foundation whatsoever” for comparing heterosexual marriage -- deemed “God’s plan for matrimony and the family” -- with same-sex unions.

The material modifications to the earlier document are seen as a conservative backlash to voices within the Church who are seeking fundamentally altering changes at what is believed to be too quick a pace.

The pope himself weighed in on the report, calling for common ground between what he termed the “hostile rigidity” of arch conservatives and the “destructive good will” of Church officials seeking ungoverned changes to time-honored beliefs.

Source: Reuters, “Catholic bishops drop moves to accept gays,” Philip Pullella, Oct. 18, 2014

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