A one-day study meeting — open only to a select group of individuals — took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Monday with the aim of urging “pastoral innovations” at the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family in October.
Around 50 participants, including bishops, theologians and media representatives, took part in the gathering, at the invitation of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of Germany, Switzerland and France — Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Bishop Markus Büchel and Archbishop Georges Pontier.
One of the key topics discussed at the closed-door meeting was how the Church could better welcome those in stable same-sex unions, and reportedly “no one” opposed such unions being recognized as valid by the Church.
Participants also spoke of the need to “develop” the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and called not for a theology of the body, as famously taught by St. John Paul II, but the development of a “theology of love.”
One Swiss priest discussed the “importance of the human sex drive,” while another participant, talking about holy Communion for remarried divorcees, asked: “How can we deny it, as though it were a punishment for the people who have failed and found a new partner with whom to start a new life?”
Marco Ansaldo, a reporter for the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, who was present at the meeting, said the words seemed “revolutionary, uttered by clergymen.”
No one would say why the study day was held in confidence. So secret was the meeting that even prominent Jesuits at the Gregorian were completely unaware of it. The Register learned about it when Jean-Marie Guénois leaked the information in a story in Le Figaro.
Speaking to the Register as he left the meeting, Cardinal Marx insisted the study day wasn’t secret. But he became irritated when pressed about why it wasn’t advertised, saying he had simply come to Rome in a “private capacity” and that he had every right to do so. Close to Pope Francis and part of his nine-member council of cardinals, the cardinal is known to be especially eager to reform the Church’s approach to homosexuals. During his Pentecost homily last Sunday, Cardinal Marx called for a “welcoming culture” in the Church for homosexuals, saying it’s “not the differences that count, but what unites us.”
Also noted were the large number of media representatives. Journalists from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, German broadcasters ZDF and ARD, the Italian daily La Repubblica and French-Catholic media La Croix and I-Media were also present. Their presence was “striking,” said one observer, who predicted they will be used to promote the agenda of the subject matter under discussion in the weeks leading up to the synod.
Monday’s meeting is just the latest attempt to subtly steer the upcoming synod in a direction opposed by many faithful Catholics. A statement on the study day released by the German bishops’ conference May 26 said there was a “reflection on biblical hermeneutics” — widely seen as code words for understanding the Bible differently from Tradition — and the need for a “reflection on a theology of love.”
This, too, is seen as undermining Church teaching. By replacing the theology of the body with a “theology of love,” it creates an abstract interpretation that separates sex from procreation, thereby allowing forms of extramarital unions and same-sex attractions based simply on emotions rather than biological reality. Gone, say critics, is the Catholic view of marriage, which should be open to procreation.
We live in very interesting times.