After Roman Catholic bishops meeting at the Vatican failed to agree on the issue of homosexuality in the church, Pope Francis appeared barely able to contain his frustration, cautioning the bishops Saturday not to cling to doctrine with “hostile rigidity” and saying the next day that “God is not afraid of new things.”
Back in the U.S., Catholics in one particular congregation were even more vocal.
“I think what we should do is to stop calling the American bishops ‘bishops,’ and start calling them homophobes,” said the Rev. Joe Akus, a priest who ministers to a congregation called Dignity, a network of LGBTQ Catholics with dozens of branches and thousands of members across the country.
The two-week long conference of bishops, known as a synod, was convened to discuss a range of issues facing Catholic families. In a dramatic development midway through the assembly, a draft statement was released supporting almost-revolutionary acceptance of gays, rather than condemnation, acknowledging the “gifts” they had to offer the church.
However, following alarm expressed by conservative bishops, the language was watered down to say that “people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity,” while reaffirming that marriage is only between a man and woman. That revised paragraph failed to garner enough support to be included in the synod’s final document, though there will be another conference of bishops held on the topic a year from now, in which the debate is likely to be rekindled.
“We are paying attention (to the synod) because there is the hope that a change in at least approach will help people who are afraid, and we don’t want people to be afraid–of being gay, of being Catholic, and especially of being gay and Catholic,” said Akus. “But for us here, we’re gonna do what we’re gonna do, and what we’ve been doing here at Dignity New York for the past 42 years.”
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