Edward Pentin, the respected Vatican Correspondent, has brought out a new book, The Rigging of a Vatican Synod: An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. In this, he reports an alarming conversation with a "well-informed source close to the Vatican":
There is a growing sense in Rome that the divorce and remarriage issue is simply a Trojan horse, appearing innocuous and affecting relatively few people, but if passed, would erode a key teaching of the Church and so pave the way for weakening Catholic teaching in other areas such as same-sex relationships. "We all thought this was about divorce and remarriage," one well-informed source close to the Vatican told me. "It's not, it's about gays."
In August 2015 the German Bishops' Conference official website uncritically published an interview with the pro-gay Catholic theologian Prof. Stephan Goertz, in which he asserted that the primary purpose of sex was no longer procreation, directly contradicting Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Ignoring God's condemnation of homosexual sex as gravely depraved, Prof. Goertz also stated the following on the German Bishops' website:
One could ask oneself whether a loyal homosexual loving relationship — one which understands itself as a partnership within the frame of the belief in the God of Israel and of Jesus — could not even have a sacramental character. Homosexual partnerships could thereby find an ecclesiastical approval.
Earlier in the year the president of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, with the presidents of the Swiss and French Bishops' Conferences, held a private meeting in Rome to prepare for the 2015 Synod at which, according to Edward Pentin, no one opposed the proposal that the Church recognize as valid "stable same-sex unions."
Already during the 2014 Extraordinary Synod, faithful Catholics witnessed the scandalous attempt to introduce a positive affirmation of such homosexual "unions" that downplayed the gravely sinful nature of homosexual acts. The Synod Secretariat included the following statement in the mid-Synod report that was rejected by the Synod Fathers: "Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners."
The campaign to persuade the Church to accept gravely sinful homosexual relationships as "positive" continues in the weeks leading up to the 2015 Synod, with Cdl. Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, talking about a "gay friend" in a stable homosexual relationship after a permissive gay life-style:
It's an improvement. They share a life, they share their joys and sufferings, they help one another. It must be recognised that this person took an important step for his own good and the good of others, even though it certainly is not a situation the Church can consider "regular." ... The Church should not look in the bedroom first, but in the dining room! It must accompany people.
It is surprising that this affirmation of a stable homosexual relationship was made by the editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, who has apparently forgotten that the Church doesn't look at the bedroom first, but looks at God's revelation first:
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. ... Homosexual persons are called to chastity. (2357, 2359)
What Can We Expect of Cdl. Nichols at the Synod?
As one of the leading English-speaking Synod Fathers, what can faithful Catholics expect from Cdl. Nichols on this issue? On his return from the 2014 Synod, Cdl. Nichols expressed his dissatisfaction with the section of the Synod's Final Report dealing with homosexuality that re-iterated Church opposition to the recognition of homosexual "unions":
55. Some families have members who have a homosexual tendency. In this regard, the synod fathers asked themselves what pastoral attention might be appropriate for them in accordance with Church teaching: "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family." Nevertheless, men and women with a homosexual tendency ought to be received with respect and sensitivity. "Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4)
In an interview with the BBC, Cdl. Nichols admitted that he thought the Synod's Final Report did not "go far enough" in expressing the need to "respect, welcome and value" homosexual people. He added, "I was looking for those words and they weren't there, and so I didn't think that was a good paragraph. I didn't think it was a good text because it didn't include those words strongly enough so I wasn't satisfied with it." Cardinal Nichols said he wanted more "positive language. That's what we do in the Westminster diocese."
In light of Cdl. Nichols' public commitment to express more positive language about homosexual people at the 2015 Synod, how will he likely respond to any possible moves to express a positive approach to homosexual unions?
In an interview with the BBC in 2010 then Abp. Nichols expressed uncertainty about whether or not the Church would sometime in the future "sanction" gay unions. He was asked the question: "Some of their vicars [Church of England] are also prepared to sanction gay unions. That Church is showing flexibility. Is the Catholic Church not going to have to do the same eventually?" To which Abp. Nichols replied, "I don't know. Who knows what's down the road?"
Here was an opportunity on British national TV to uphold the Church's warning on the harm caused to individuals and society by gay unions, but instead Cdl. Nichols expressed openness to the possibility of the Church blessing gay unions.
During the national debate on the legalisation of so-called homosexual marriages, Abp. Nichols defended the truth that marriage is exclusively reserved to the union of man and woman. However, as part of his argument he proposed that homosexual "marriage" was unnecessary because of homosexual civil partnerships. At a press conference in 2011, Abp. Nichols appeared to overturn the English Bishops' Conference's long-standing opposition to gay civil unions:
We would want to emphasize that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision. ... As a Church we are very committed to the notion of equality so that people are treated the same across all the activities of life. The Church holds great store by the value of commitment in relationships and undertakings that people give ... .
When challenged that his comments directly contravened the CDF's instructions on the immorality of gay civil partnerships, Abp. Nichols clarified that he only intended to recognize the legal reality of civil partnerships in the United Kingdom. But his comments at the press conference appear to go beyond recognition of the facts to express a positive appreciation of gay civil unions.
In the second part of this article I will examine Cdl. Nichols' high-profile support for Masses in London organized by gay activists as a further indication of his possible approach to issues around homosexuality at the 2015 Synod.