“I’m not Afraid of New Things,” God tells Pope, but “We’re not Ready,” Catholic Bishops tell God  

images-2As someone who grew up Southern Baptist and was taught that Catholics were not really Christian because they worshipped Mary instead of Jesus and drank actual wine during communion, I find myself about to confess something I never thought possible.

I love the Pope.

With his message of love, peace and compassion, he is an example of a Christian leader that is truly Christ-like.

He has called on the church to adapt to the “changing conditions of society,” and today in his beatification sermon, he followed up a two-week Vatican conference, or synod, of bishops he challenged the Catholic Church with the proclamation, “God is not afraid of new things.”

Over the past two weeks, one hundred ninety-one Catholics bishops assembled at the Vatican over the past two weeks to discuss the role of the Roman Catholic Church and the modern family. At the beginning of the synod, Pope Francis told them, “Speak clearly. No one must say, ‘This can’t be said.’”

In calling for this open dialogue Pope Francis set the stage for a more progressive attitude towards non-traditional families. An early report from the synod adopted a welcoming approach towards gays and lesbians, even going as far as realizing that same-sex unions could provide “previous support in the life of the partners”.

This preliminary draft or “relatio” stated that the LGBT community has “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community” and that they should be welcomed into the church.

But conservatives in the Church rallied and railed. Cardinal George Pell, an Australian archbishop now serving in the Vatican told the Catholic News Service, “We’re not giving in to the secular agenda. We’re not collapsing in a heap.”

Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of South Africa criticized the initial draft because it presented “homosexual unions as if they were a very positive thing.”

American Catholic bishops tinkered with the translation in the relatio so that Italian word meaning “welcoming” got translated into the more clinical “providing for.” Instead of welcoming gays into the church, American bishops are prepared to treat them. And that’s not surprising because the Catholic Church’s official stance is that “Homosexuals are intrinsically disordered.”

At the end of the synod, the language in the final draft of the “gay provision” fell far short of a full welcome, instead saying that gays and lesbians should be met with respect and delicacy/sensitivity.

For progressives at the synod, this draft was insufficient, and enough of them opposed the measure so that it fell just short of the two-thirds needed to pass (118 in favor; 62 opposed).

Disappointed at the direction taken by the synod, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, (one of the leaders of the progressive movement) said that “the church should stress inclusiveness, understanding and mercy. Doctrine should be responsive to new developments and information. [Church teaching] obviously can change. The history of the church is 2,000 years old. Doctrine doesn’t change, but it is understood in a deeper manner.”

Many conservative Catholics criticized the media for their reporting of the synod, but Pope Francis sent a clear message as the synod wrapped up when he approached a group of journalists waiting outside the synod hall. “Thanks to you and your colleagues for the work you have done,” he said. “Grazie tante.”

This was an “Oh snap!” to his critiques and is just one more reason to love him.