by Queering the Church.com, July 7, 2014.
In just a few more months, the senior bishops of the Catholic Church will be gathering in Rome for an “Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod”, to debate matters around marriage and family. This is extraordinary in several respects. First, in that it really is unusual, outside of the regular cycle of these things. Second, in that preparations for the synod included for the first time, a serious attempt to assess what ordinary Catholics actually believe (a badly bungled, poorly handled attempt, but a serious, groundbreaking one all the same). Third, in that the whole idea of the Church leaving decisions on marriage and family exclusively in the hands of celibate men who have never been married, never raised children, and are not in any long – term intimate relationships of their own, is very extraordinary indeed. Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland, is quite correct to describe the whole idea as “bonkers”.
Even so, the process carries within some seeds that could prove useful. The October gathering is just the start of a longer term process – and they will not, in fact, be taking their decisions entirely alone. The wider church may be formally excluded from the Synod, but will be making their presence felt, all the same, and finding ways to feed information about real families to those inside the synod, both before it, and after.
Shortly before the formal Synod begins, the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, a “global network seeking renewal of the Church” will host their own meeting in Rome “Forum on the Family: Listening to the Faithful“.
This will discuss the same issues of marriage and family, but from the perspective of real families, with some understanding of what those issues really are. Also in Rome at about the same time, will be people from the International Movement, We Are Church, similarly looking for ways to make their own representations to the Synod.
LGBT perspectives will also be represented. “The Ways of Love” is the title of a conference hosted by the Italian LGBT group “Gionata” sponsored by the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, and with an organising team drawn from six countries over three continents. Notable speakers will include, among others, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson and the theologian James Alison.
I plan to be there – but I’ll need help (about which, there’ll be more later)