Marriage & Family

And in the end, some Vatican synod news reports hint that 'sin' exists after all

And in the end, some Vatican synod news reports hint that 'sin' exists after all

I promise -- honest -- that the following post is not a covert Sunday school lesson. You see, I have a journalistic reason for taking us into the Gospel of St. John, chapter 8.

As you read the following passage, journalists, try to figure out who might be who, in terms of interpreting the Vatican synod that has dominated the Godbeat this week. The story begins with Jesus arriving at the Jewish Temple in the morning:

... (All) the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. 
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 
Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”

Now, the reason I brought this up was because a reference to this passage showed up -- imagine that -- in the New York Times story about the end of the synod.

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As the Vatican turns: Dramatic talks about faith and family get soapy

As the Vatican turns: Dramatic talks about faith and family get soapy

Trust me, I am well aware that there are plenty of Catholic GetReligion readers who do not understand my consistent appreciation for the work of reporter and columnist John L. Allen, Jr., formerly of the liberal National Catholic Reporter and now the ringmaster at the new Crux site at The Boston Globe. It's really quite simple: He constantly reports tons of on-the-record information, even when he is writing prose that is clearly labeled "analysis."

Now, let me end this crazy day in Catholic news land -- click here for Dawn's earlier piece -- by pointing readers toward the sources and URLs contained in two rather dispassionate pieces of Allen analysis. It's hard to get more blunt than this:

ROME -- Every day, the 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family, a summit of 260 bishops and other participants convened by Pope Francis, seems more and more like a daytime soap opera. Today brought more surprising turns on multiple fronts.
For one thing, the bishops made the unprecedented decision to release internal reports of small group discussions about a working document released Monday that became a sensation due to its positive language about same-sex unions, couples who live together outside of marriage, and others in “irregular” situations.
The reports photograph a vigorous debate within a divided synod, with one camp seemingly embracing a more positive vision of situations that fall outside the boundaries of official Catholic doctrine, and another clearly alarmed about going soft.

And the perfect, killer quote for a synod on family issues?

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For those paying close attention: 'Tone' of this Vatican rough draft may sound familiar

For those paying close attention: 'Tone' of this Vatican rough draft may sound familiar

Let's pause for a second and think of the many different Catholic camps -- we will leave the secular world out of this for a moment -- that exist when discussing a subject as complex as the moral status of sexual activity outside of marriage. I hope that this will help us dissect the celebratory coverage of the current Vatican talks on family issues.

This typology is my own (reminder: I am Eastern Orthodox, not Catholic) based on my observations of Catholic debates and media coverage of them.

* First of all, there are Catholics who believe that the church has been far too quiet in defense of its own teachings on sexuality. They note that, at the crucial level of local pulpits, Catholics hardly ever hear controversial teachings discussed, let alone defended. People need to hear the bad news before it becomes the Good News, in other words.

* Then there are Catholics who truly believe that, when viewed as a whole, the church's teachings are fine, but that the hierarchy has done a terrible job of presenting them in public. Bishops have talked only about sin, with little to say about confession, repentance, grace, mercy, forgiveness, healing and salvation (in other words, the entire world of the Sacraments).

Let's pause for a second and look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in its specific language about homosexuality (and read it all, not just the "intrinsically disordered" part).

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Reuters and religious freedom: When a two-sided news story really only tells one

Reuters and religious freedom: When a two-sided news story really only tells one

At first glance, this week's Reuters story on "a new battleground of religious freedom" appears to be a fair and balanced account.

But upon further review, here's the problem: While the story quotes two sides, it really only reflects the perspective of one.

Consider how the story is framed:

CHICAGO (Reuters) - With the U.S. gay marriage battle looking increasingly like a lost cause for conservative opponents, a last battleground may be their quest to allow people to refuse services to gay men and women on religious grounds.
Some conservative groups have seized on what they consider religious freedom cases, ranging from a Washington state florist to bakers in Colorado and Oregon who are fighting civil rights lawsuits after refusing to provide goods and services to gay couples.
"You'll have more instances where religious liberty will potentially come into conflict with this new redefined way of understanding marriage," said Jim Campbell of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group established to defend religious freedom.
Campbell represented New Mexico's Elane Photography, a small company that was sued after the owner declined to provide services for a same-sex commitment ceremony.
Such cases, experts said, will likely become more common after action by the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts this week extended gay marriage to more than half the states.

Did you catch that? Conservative religious types want to "refuse services" to gays. That's the narrative throughout the story, and certainly, that's how same-sex marriage activists portray the situation.

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Rabbi comes out! Washington Post is first with the shocking non-news!

Rabbi comes out! Washington Post is first with the shocking non-news!

How newsy is something if everyone knows about it and agrees with it?

That's the unasked, unanswered question in a breaking story in the Washington Post, in which a leading D.C.-area rabbi announces -- drum roll -- that he's gay.

These days, coming-out stories are about as unusual as entering-rehab stories. But here goes the Post:

The leader of one of the Washington region’s most prominent synagogues on Monday came out as gay, telling his thousands of congregants in a brutally personal e-mail that a lifelong effort to deny his sexuality was over and that he and his wife of 20 years would be divorcing.
“With much pain and tears, together with my beloved wife, I have come to understand that I could walk my path with the greatest strength, with the greatest peace in my heart, with the greatest healing and wholeness, when I finally acknowledged that I am a gay man,” Rabbi Gil Steinlauf wrote to members of Adas Israel Congregation, in Northwest Washington.

The announcement follows activities by Steinlauf including the first gay wedding in that synagogue and an article in a Jewish newspaper called "The queerness of love: A Jewish case for same-sex marriage." The 800+ -word Post story reports also that Steinlauf has been nudging his movement, Conservative Judaism, to embrace same-sex couples. And the rabbi's coming-out gets a nod from two top officials of the synagogue.

So, um, where is the news? Apparently it's the e-mail that the rabbi sent to all 1,420 households in his congregation. The  e-mail tells of a struggle with homosexuality going back to childhood.

He married his wife, Batya, "out of a belief that this was the right thing for me," Steinlauf says in the email.  He doesn't say how long she's known, or whether they discussed the effect of his double life on their three teenage children. He just calls her a "wonderful woman" who has "supported me through this very personal inner struggle that she knew to be the source of great pain and confusion in my life over decades."

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Outing Britain's gay (whatever that means) Anglican bishops

Outing Britain's gay (whatever that means) Anglican bishops

The Daily Telegraph ran a story this week under the headline “One in 10 Church of England bishops 'could be secretly gay' -- says bishop” that suggests the term means an individual who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex and who acts upon those attractions. Yet in the context of the story it could just as well mean an individual who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex but who lives a celibate life.

Temptation is not sin, the Church of England teaches. It is immoral to act upon homosexual desire, but the desire itself is not immoral.

That point escapes theTelegraph, which reports that in a forthcoming book the Bishop of Buckingham Dr. Alan Wilson charges his episcopal colleagues with hypocrisy for opposing same-sex marriage even though a dozen of them are “gay.”
 
The article quotes him as saying:

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WaPo does a thumbs-up (maybe) report on the Vatican family summit

WaPo does a thumbs-up (maybe) report on the Vatican family summit

As Pope Francis holds his two-week Vatican summit on family issues, Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post zeroes in on one of its topics -- marriage, divorce and annulment -- in a story that is non-sensational but personal and intelligent.

Her 1,400-plus-word story focuses on Catholics who continue to attend Mass and consider themselves close to the church, although they haven't gotten their divorces and/or remarriages legitimized in church eyes.

Boorstein's piece starts out on a familiar tack -- a sympathy anecdote a woman who "kept close to her Catholicism," even though she has married twice outside the church, following in her divorced parents' footsteps. She and others in the article talk out their feelings of ostracism.  And they vent frustration at what they see as rigid, outmoded rules of marriage.

Many stories would make that into a One-Note Samba, then close with a judgment on how hidebound the church remains. Boorstein's piece doesn't. With typical thoroughness, she helps grasp complexities as well as basics.

For one, she shows churchmen themselves as humans who, like the laity, wrestle with dilemmas of keeping faithful to the church while trying to adapt to changing times. Here's a quote from a veteran churchman -- a comment that is at once informed, intelligent and heartfelt:

“This synod will be very important. All of the issues regarding the family, the ones that trouble people the most [about the church] will be on the table. All the neuralgic issues — the ones that cause you pain,” said Monsignor Fred Easton, who led the Indianapolis Archdiocese’s tribunal for 31 years. “And it’s not just rehashing for rehashing’s sake. It’s: When we put them all together, do we need to make any sort of course correction?”

Another plus: Monsignor Easton is from the Midwest, not reporters' favorite source pools on the east and west coasts.

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Got news? Shocker in Anglican Communion is news, other than in North America

Got news? Shocker in Anglican Communion is news, other than in North America

There is this old saying that wits have long used to describe life in the modern Anglican Communion: "The Africans pray, the Americans pay and the British write the resolutions." Readers will also see variations on that final clause such as, "the British make/set (all) the rules."

But you get the point. Of course, the archbishop of Canterbury is also supposed to be the person -- as the first among equals -- who gets to call the most important meetings (while setting the rules for what goes on).

But what if (a) the Americans were to face an incredible budget crunch, in an age of imploding membership demographics, and (b) the Africans were no longer willing to pray (or more importantly, share the Sacraments) with Western progressives who have an evolving view of key elements of the Creed and centuries of Christian moral theology? 

At that point, there could be a big -- actually, "historic" is the operative word -- story in the world's third largest Christian communion.

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Say what? The Catholic church now officially backs same-sex unions?

Say what? The Catholic church now officially backs same-sex unions?

Sometime -- was it this summer when I was away? -- homosexual acts lost their sinful character according to the Roman Catholic Church.

Surprised? So was I when I read an article published on Sept 15, 2014, in Brazil’s largest daily newspaper Folha de São Paulo.

True, the article Mais tolerante igreja cobra compromissos de candidates is in the paper’s Elections 2014 section. It looks at the interplay of politics and religion in the forthcoming presidential elections and not at the moral doctrines of the church. However, some of the assertions made by Folha de São Paulo presume that change is in the offing, if not already here.
 
Folha de São Paulo is not unique in assuming that a change is in the air. 

From the beginning of his papacy Francis has had an unusual amount of support from journalists in the secular press, who have contrasted his comments on morals with his predecessor. However, comments to reporters in the back of airplanes do not define doctrine and not everything a pope says or does is assumed to be without error.

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