On October 13, the world's media, from the BBC to the Economist to the Huffingtonm Post, exploded with enthusiastic headlines "A Giant Leap for Gays, "The Earthquake that shook the Vatican", "The Shift to a Softer Tone" and A Sea Change." Just a week later, and after Lustralboy revealed a darker tone emanating from Cardinal Burke, the story had changed to "Vatican Waters Down...", "Vatican Backtracks..." and "Gays still Unwelcome".
Not only was this a huge disappointment to gay catholics who had naively believed that their homophobic bishops were about to undergo a Damascean conversion to gay tolerance, it was also a huge setback for the apparently more compassionate new Pope, Francis, and a top drawer PR debacle of the for the Vatican.
Yes, gay Catholics suffered a roller coaster of emotions in October. First the world's media reported a softening in tone on gay issues emerging from the Synod of the Family in Rome. Then shocking comments by Cardinal Burke suggested that the familiar homophobic Vatican attitudes were as entrenched as ever. This impression was finally confirmed when the Catholic bishops backtracked on the language in the document that had originally raised hopes of a change.
So, unsurprisingly to Lustralboy, the Vatican session ended with the traditional doctrine in place with divisions laid bare on non-traditional unions. Cardinals approved a highly watered-down version of an Oct. 13 draft document laying out the church’s position on family issues and values.
There were over 400 amendments to the document. Crucially three paragraphs dealing with ministering to gays and the issue of divorced Catholics receiving communion failed to win the two-thirds majority needed for full approval, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said during a press conference.
The final report deleted last week’s draft that read, “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community,” and asked whether Catholicism could recognize the value of same-sex couples and unmarried live-in couples. An amended sentence saying “people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy” also failed to secure the two thirds majority.
The tone and language of the first draft had set it aside from previous statements, prompting commentators like Vatican expert John Thavis to call it an “earthquake” in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis had asked that the full document be published with the voting tally on each issue, Father Lombardi had said.
The Pope's disappointment was reflected in a statement apparently made in the aftermath: “Personally, I would have been very worried and saddened if there had not been these temptations and animated discussions." Doubtless, he will be privately very worried that he has been unable to moderate the reactionary beliefs of his senior Cardinals. This came as no surprise to us. Maybe it came as a surprise to him.
He wasn't yet wholly defeated, however. On October 21st came news that The Pope had ousted Burke from his senior role. Already removed from the Vatican Committee last year in favour of the less outspoken Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, he had continued to head the influential Apostolic Signatura within the church – effectively second in command on doctrine.
Burke, howver, confirmed that he had now been ousted from that role as well, after rumours last month that he would leave after clashing with the Pope on reform issues.
He said, “Even though I would have liked to have continued to work in the Apostolic Signatura, I’ll give myself to whatever is the new work that I’m assigned to.”
Unsurpisingly, he wasn't leaving quietly, “The Pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”
Bye, bye, Burke
So we bid a happy farewell to Cardinal Burke, he who believes gay people are “intrinsically evil”, and previously claimed: “[Homophobia is] simply announcing the truth, helping people to discriminate right from wrong in terms of their own activities.”
Lustralboy says "The tectonic plates of Vatican prejudice finally proved resilient again, the Pope's aspirations have been defeated and Cardinal Burke's rants seemed like a truer reflection of the embedded attitudes. Gay Catholics, sadly, will have to embrace the reality of no change at thisjuncture but, with Pope Francis on the job, can perhaps hope for some kind of evolution on the horizon.
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