In October 2014, just four years ago, at the conclusion of the Synod on the family, I wrote an article entitled “The Synod on the family and the gay mouse“. The title alluded to the fact that after the great expectations raised by the “Instrumentum laboris”, that is from the preparatory document, the “Relatio post discerptationem” had greatly reduced things, and the “Relatio Synodi”, the final document, had definitively mortified any expectation, limiting only to the material repetition of the contents of the “Considerations regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons” signed by Joseph Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in June 2003. The mountain, after a long and stressing labor had given birth to the mouse but the Synod fathers had remained so terrified to hurry up to devour it before it left the Synod hall. But “Sic transit gloria mundi!”
On August 28th of this year I wrote another article “Pope Francis does not know what homosexuality is” when Pope Francis, on his flight back from Dublin, speaking informally, as he usually does, answering a question about the attitude that a parent should take in front of the coming out of the child, expressed himself this way:
“In what age does this concern of the child manifest itself, it is important, one thing is when it manifests as a child, there … there are so many things to do … with psychiatry or …, or … to see how things are. Another thing is when it manifests a little after, twenty years or something …”
I was amazed that the Pope had absolutely no clear idea of what serious Psychiatry says about homosexuality, even if, objectively, homosexuality doesn’t appear and certainly is not the fundamental theme and even least the obsessive thinking of Pope Francis. It should be noted, however, that apart from this sudden nod, in the personal attitudes of Pope Francis the tones of the anti-gay crusade typical of Benedict XVI are absent, attitudes to which the Synod on the family of 2014 was also inspired.
From a few days the Synod on young people has concluded and I will try to follow its development on the theme of homosexuality.
The pre-Synodal Final Document, expresses itself on the theme this way:
“Problems like pornography distort a young person’s perception of human sexuality. Technology used this way creates a delusional parallel reality that ignores human dignity.“
“There is often great disagreement among young people, both within the Church and in the wider world, about some of her teachings which are especially controversial today. Examples of these include: contraception, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation, marriage, and how the priesthood is perceived in different realities in the Church. What is important to note is that irrespective of their level of understanding of Church teaching, there is still disagreement and ongoing discussion among young people on these polemical issues. As a result, they may want the Church to change her teaching or at least to have access to a better explanation and to more formation on these questions. Even though there is internal debate, young Catholics whose convictions are in conflict with official teaching still desire to be part of the Church. Many young Catholics accept these teachings and find in them a source of joy. They desire the Church to not only hold fast to them amid unpopularity but to also proclaim them with greater depth of teaching.”
“We, the young Church, ask that our leaders speak in practical terms about controversial subjects such as homosexuality and gender issues, about which young people are already freely discussing without taboo. Some perceive the Church to be “anti-science” so its dialogue with the scientific community is also important, as science can illuminate the beauty of creation.”
I would like to focus on each of these points in particular.
It is a clear fact that pornography distorts the perception of sexuality and not only that of young people, but the Church also condemns the undistorted representation of sexuality as pornography. I have often insisted on the fact that pornography doesn’t represent sexuality correctly but I believe that a realistic representation of sexuality, which doesn’t trivialize it and doesn’t reduce it to mere performance, is not only useful but necessary to understand that sexuality can be expression of a profound affectivity, but it can also be lived in a light way but respectful of the other, and can even turn into a form of abuse and violence and this is true both in gay and straight field. I hear many gay guys use expressions like: “I prefer a thousand times to see a gay love story with a little sex than a porn, which in the end makes no sense and was built for commercial purposes only.” We should meditate on the idea of a sexual education (also of adults) built on reality to leave no room for the sole exploitation of sexuality, but on this ground the Church has never expressed itself seriously.
Regarding the disagreement among young people, both inside and outside the Church, on issues that are now particularly debated, among which there is also the homosexuality, it must be said that the disagreement doesn’t exist only among the young people but also among persons of mature age and even within the same hierarchical Church. When the preparatory document speaks of “young Catholics whose convictions are in contrast with the official teaching of the Church, who wish nevertheless to be part of it” it affirms that one can feel Catholic and at the same time contrary to the official teaching of the Church and this happens precisely because it is believed that this teaching is not in conformity with the evangelical spirit and is vitiated by prejudicial visions, by legacies of other eras that should be radically revised in the light of a vision scientifically founded on reality, for this purpose I remember that the Catechism of the Catholic Church and papal documents concerning homosexuality speak of “grave depravity”, “fatal consequence of a rejection of God”, “lack of normal sexual evolution”, “pathological constitution”, “intrinsically bad behavior from the moral point of view”. Saint Pius X, in his Catechism of 1910, classifies the “impure sin against nature” as second by gravity only to the voluntary homicide, among the sins that “cry revenge in the presence of God”.
All these things, besides being dangerous, are even ridiculous for those who have a minimum of knowledge of the reality, such judgements are very distant from scientific objectivity, are the result of pure prejudices and should be radically reviewed with intellectual honesty. The idea of homosexuality as “guilt” or “pathology” is a legacy of the past and has been archived by the scientific community a few decades ago. The statement according to which “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered“, contained in the art. 2357 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church strongly clashes with the statement many times repeated by the World Health Organization, according to which homosexuality is “a natural and non-pathological variant of human sexuality”.
The preparatory document states that the Church’s doctrine is for many Catholics a source of joy. From what I see every day among young gays, the Church’s doctrine on homosexuality is one of the basic motivations for which gays abandon the Church, sometimes migrating to other religious confessions. Young gays abandon a Church that condemns them as severely depraved, as people who pay the fatal consequences of a rejection of God, as sexually non-normal individuals, pathological cases that put into practice intrinsically bad behaviors from the moral point of view, of such gravity that only voluntary homicide is worse! I wonder how it is possible to feel joy in the face of these statements that are not only dangerous and violently homophobic but radically anti-Christian.
In the preparatory document we read: “ We, the young Church, ask that our leaders speak in practical terms about controversial subjects such as homosexuality and gender issues, about which young people are already freely discussing without taboo.” I stop on a single element whose presence is surprising: the “gender”, a modernized species of “Arabic phoenix” of metastasian memory, something that everyone talks about but that no one has ever seen! Benedict XVI speaks about “gender” in an insistent manner, and this doesn’t surprise too much, but even Pope Francis has expressed some concern for the theory of gender, that anyway has no scientific evidence, neither Sociology nor serious Psychiatry have ever spoken of this phantom topic and even less in the absolutely improbable manner described by the acts of the catholic Church. The so-called gender theory is an invention of Mons. Tony Anatrella. “The “gender” theory prepares us for a world where nothing will be perceived as stable,” says psychoanalyst Tony Anatrella. «The damages caused by the divorce are nothing compared to those that can cause the LGBT ideology» (https://www.tempi.it/e-vietato-dirlo-ma-col-sesso-non-si-gioca/#.WBRzvPmLSUl). I add only by the way that Mons. Anatrella is accused of sexual abuse and Mediapart’s article: “De nouveaux témoignages accablent Mgr Anatrella et ses thérapies sexuelles” provides ample information about it. I wonder how it is possible to give space to the extemporaneous theories of Mons. Tony Anatrella neglecting all that the World Health Organization has been repeating for several decades. And one should be amazed that someone can accuse the Church of anti-scientific attitudes? Galileo docet: “the wolf loses the fur but not the vice.” [an Italian way of saying that reminds us that what happened once will most likely happen many times]
I now come to the examination of the final document of the Synod on the parts concerning homosexuality.
I start with an observation: in the final document all references to the theory of gender are completely omitted, and it is a big step forward, like saying that the fight against witches has stopped!
I must add that the full reading of the document, which requires time and attention, leaves the reader with some impression of novelty. The references to the magisterium of Benedict XVI are rare, the underlining of the intangibility of the doctrine is replaced by some timid openness to the need for a deepening, the tendency is to dialogue and not to castling, the document doesn’t identify an enemy in those who don’t share certain elements of Catholic morality, but an attempt is made to keep a dialogue open.
The Vatican has also published the results of the voting on the individual articles of the document. It is significant that the art. 149 and 150 that deal with sexuality have registered the highest number of non-placet in the Synod. Art. 149, which deals with sexuality in a generic way has obtained 214 votes in favor and 26 against, the art. 150, which deals more specifically with homosexuality “without tones of crusade” obtained 178 votes in favor and 65 against, the maximum number of votes against among all the articles of the Synod.
I remember that to be approved an article must get 2/3 of the votes. Article 150 has passed but with the minor quorum compared to all the other articles.
There are some references to the dark side of the web: “a channel for the dissemination of pornography and exploitation of people for sexual purposes or through the game of gamble.”
The reference to sexual abuse and sexual scandals within the Church, which could provoke controversy, hasn’t been omitted.
It is stated that “Along with the persistence of ancient phenomena, such as the precocious sexuality, the promiscuity, the sexual tourism, the exaggerated cult of the physical aspect, today we see the pervasive diffusion of digital pornography and the display of one’s own body online.” Church therefore becomes aware of objective and objectively dangerous things.
It is possible to note the embarrassment of the Church in presenting and defending its own sexual morality and it is stressed that: “In fact, sexual morality often causes misunderstanding and estrangement from the Church, as it is perceived as a space of judgment and condemnation. Faced with social changes and ways of experiencing affectivity and the multiplicity of ethical perspectives, young people are sensitive to the value of authenticity and dedication, but are often disoriented. They express more particularly an explicit desire for confrontation on issues related to the difference between male and female identity, to the reciprocity between men and women, to homosexuality.” And here too there are no judgments.
The mention of authenticity as the underlying value of sexuality had never been present in the official documents of the Church.
The final document refers to sexual exploitation, to rapes of war, that are deeply considered by secular morality. In essence, the distance between secular and Catholic morality seems to shrink at least marginally and perhaps not only, because many of the great Christian values are also great secular values.
I quote hereinafter in full the art. 149-150 which are more closely related to homosexuality:
Sexuality: a clear, free, authentic word.
Art. 149. In the current cultural context, the Church struggles to convey the beauty of the Christian vision of corporeity and sexuality, as emerges from the Holy Scriptures, Tradition and the Magisterium of the last Popes. Therefore, a search for more adequate methods is urgently needed, that can result concretely to the elaboration of renewed training paths. It is necessary to propose to young people an anthropology of affectivity and sexuality capable of giving the right value to chastity, showing pedagogically its most authentic meaning for the growth of the person, in all the states of life. It is a matter of focusing on the empathic listening, the accompaniment and the discernment, on the line indicated by the recent Magisterium. For this reason it is necessary to take care of the formation of pastoral workers who are credible, starting from the maturation of their affective and sexual dimensions.
Art. 150. There are questions concerning the body, affectivity and sexuality that need a more in-depth anthropological, theological and pastoral elaboration, to be carried out in the most convenient modalities and levels, from local to universal. Among these emerge in particular those related to the difference and harmony between male and female identity and sexual inclinations. In this regard, the Synod reaffirms that God loves every person and so does the Church, renewing its commitment against any discrimination and violence on a sexual basis. Equally reaffirms the determinant anthropological relevance of the difference and reciprocity between man and woman and considers it reductive to define the identity of people starting only from their “sexual orientation” (CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter to the Catholic Church Bishops on pastoral care of homosexual persons, October 1, 1986, No. 16).
There are already in many Christian communities accompaniment walks in the faith of homosexual persons: the Synod recommends encouraging such paths. In these ways people are helped to read their own story; to adhere freely and responsibly to one’s baptismal call; to recognize the desire to belong and contribute to the life of the community; to discern the best forms to make it happen. In this way we help every young person, no one excluded, to increasingly integrate the sexual dimension in his personality, growing in the quality of relationships and walking towards the gift of oneself.
[I translated the text from Italian, because the official English translation is not yet on line]
I limit myself to observe that the reference to the Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on Pastoral care of homosexual persons, drafted by Ratzinger in 1986 is purely in style and cites one of the less substantial elements of that document of the most radical obscurantism, which aroused, to say the least, big perplexities. The final part of the art. 150 contains a deliberately neutral formula of openness, addressed to all, no one excluded, that doesn’t point out any condemnation or exclusion.
In summary, the final document of the Synod seems, at least in language, and perhaps not only in language, to contain some opening towards a way not only more scientific and objective but also more evangelical of conceiving homosexuality. It is still true that a swallow doesn’t make spring and that the wind (even that of the Spirit) blows where it wants and could always change direction, but it seems that the yeast is beginning to ferment all the dough, or at least good portions of it. Time will allow us to understand if it is only an episodic event or it is really the beginning of an opening, on which I still maintain all my reservations, because common sense and experience lead to restrain enthusiasm and follow the example of St. Thomas.