Wedesday, Michael Sean Winters promised a discussion of hot button issues in the National Catholic Reporter. He seems to have only settled on one, gay marriage (I expect divorce will be discussed tomorrow). As always, read him first at http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/synod-family-part-ii and then read my comments - which this time go beyond what he says - and may be familiar to frequent readers (assuming anyone is reading here and not just on Facebook).
I count only one hot button issue discussed today - homosexuality. Much of the discussion was about the situation in the United States (and believe me, I have much to say about that). The fact of the matter is, this is not an American Synod on the Family or even a Euro-American Synod on the Family - this is world-wide and the global south will be there in force (as you would expect with this Pope). I hope grace touches this body, because gay marriage and acceptance won't have the votes, especially from the Africans who are very Orthodox. Indeed, one reason to have a more Orthodox organization of the Church is so that every national church can address these issues uniquely rather then relying on Rome or the rest of the world. That being said, let's get to work (to quote a certain MSNBC Anchor).
What do the bishops fear? I suspect that they fear that responding to science on homosexuality will be bad PR in the pews. Even if the European Church and the American Church have less opposition, both the Global South and the abuse survivors (especially the teens which are mostly male) will balk. That is short sigthted. If the priest is out and proud, everyone will be looking - its secrecy that breeds abuse. (Abuse of pre-pubescent children seems to know no sexual boundary).
When then Cardinal Ratzinger called homosexuality objectively disordered, he did so because he did not want to yield any ground to the conclusion arising from the science which was proving that gays really are born this way and the new teaching that sex was a gift from God and that it was good, not evil. Marriage equality seemed to be inevitable - in the Church! It took the rather icky business of talking about flavors or sex and many tortured metaphors to justify his conclusions - you see some of these in the last ditch court actions to stop marriage equality - they have not worked in any federal court yet. Of course, he has now put at risk the entire concept of the Natual Order - which is simply a philosophical convenience - mostly to deal with the fact that an all-loving God cannot be hurt by sin - but that his justice requires him to defend the nature he created. When you look at it this way, it is quite silly. I don't think the Synod will dump the Natural Order as a sophistry, but if it really wanted to get honest, it would.
I suspect what the bishops fear more is a loss of priests who are gay and potential priests who are gay and trying to pray the gay away with celibacy in a future life as a priest. They are probably right - because unless they are willing to accept both clerical marriage and gay marriage, the number of priests could really take a hit as gay marriage becomes the norm. I suspect they also fear that gay priests will gladly bless secular gay weddings, whether the local Ordinary approves or not (and gay bishiops just might approve).
Mostly for the American situation, the facts do not favor opposition to gay weddings or gay marrieds in the Catholic workforce. The law now considers gays and lesbians a protected class and marriage a right. You can't deny rights to protected classes - at least not in civil law. What worries the bishops more n the global north is the that the families of gay Catholics will expect the same level of equality from the Church - and they likely have the donor dollars to make their displeasure known.
Doctrinally, when I had marriage class in Catholic High School and again when preparing for marriage with my wife, we were told that the marriage is made by the couple, not the priest. The priest is a legal and eccleaial witness (along with a hundred some guests). We were also taught (and its in the Cathechism) that fecundity is not a requirement for marriage, only potency (the ability to perform sexually). While some may not like how gay couples perform and may have all sorts of silly metaphors about it, the fact of sex to orgasm is well established. You can google gay pornography is you have any doubts.
In discussing divorce, Christ quoted Moses (or the authority of Moses - as Genesis was written much later than even the establishment of the Davidic Kingdom) in talking about marriage. While he did mention that it was between a man and a woman (he was not looking to make news) he went on to note that a couples leaves their parents and become one flesh. That's not just about sex, its about the permanency of marriage as well as how it creates a new family, divorced from both parents. Gays deserve the same moral right - without it, they are legal infants, subject to the rule of their families origin when in extremis - rather than to their family of choice and love. The reason Americans are having this conversation is because Catholic hospitals have been really bad at disregarding the natural rights of gay couples in such situations. If no religious or public hospital had ever denied the rights of long time companions, there would be less of a drive to marriage (although the whole IRS thing and health insurance were rather important as well).
As for the workforce, unless I am missing something, the Catholic Church does not approve of civil heterosexual marriages. They have strong words for any Catholic kid who wants to go down that route (or us oldsters looking to remarry). When it comes time to ensure employees with such marriages, however, they smile and give you the requested enrollment form. (I suspect most Catholic organization HR workers would do so anyway). This being the case, the Church as employer cannot say that it is protecting its workforce policies against sin when it does not do so for homosexual marriage. The conclusion can only be homophobia - or at least the desire to throw gays under the bus to be philosophically consistent. As everyone knows, however, constistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.
I don't expect a sexual revolution in the global south - so there is not reason to expect anything positive about this issue - even though all my arguments are correct. As long as it does not empower the American bishops to double down on stupidity, the Synod can be considered a success for homosexuals.