Christopher J. Hale, a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, is asking a big question following a year of semi-relaxed treatment of homosexuality by the Church: is the Catholic Church really evolving on the issue of same-sex marriage? Are we on the precipice of a larger revolution? Evolution, yes, revolution, no, according to Hale, who believes that sensitive leadership from Pope Francis may bring Catholic leaders into a warmer, more tolerant phase but doubts we will see said leaders approving of gay marriage anytime soon.
Last week New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan gave his okay to the St. Patrick Day Parade Committee’s decision to allow a gay group to march in the 2015 parade under their own banner. This was a remarkable shift from one of Dolan’s predecessors Cardinal John O’Connor who in 1993 declared that to allow a gay group to march in the parade would be a slander to the Apostle’s Creed.
This closes a remarkable summer in which a number of high-ranking Catholic prelates have signaled that Pope Francis’s more open posture on gay issues has permeated through the Catholic world. In May, a top-ranking Italian bishop said that the Church should be more open to arguments in support of same-sex marriage. And just a few weeks ago, one of Pope Francis’s closest friends Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes said in an interview that he “didn’t know” whether Jesus would oppose gay marriage.
High-ranking Catholics from around the world will congregate at the Synod of the Family this October, and Hale believes that therein lies a chance to communicate the need for acceptance rather than cold dismissal of homosexuals. After a 1975 declaration that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered," a somewhat liberal backlash forced some Catholic leaders to reconsider the harsh rhetoric of the church.
In 1997, the American bishops grew concerned that the language from Rome had grown too cold and in response published the pastoral letter Always Our Children.
In it, they write: “God does not love someone any less simply because he or she is homosexual. God’s love is always and everywhere offered to those who are open to receiving it.” It says Church ministers must “welcome homosexual persons into the faith community, and seek out those on the margins. Avoid stereotyping and condemning. Strive first to listen.”
Hale believes that Pope Francis will bring this ideal to the Synod of the Family and continue a quite public, very evident evolution of homosexual ideology within the church.
His is only one opinion, though not without reason. And many will still argue that a slow "evolution" is not enough. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.