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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - A prominent Dominican theologian who facilitated the Church of England's validation of homosexual relationships and called sodomy "Christ's gift" will lead the retreat for all bishops attending the October 2023 synod gathering.
Pope Francis has handpicked Fr. Timothy Radcliffe to preach the three-day retreat, which will be held near Rome on Oct. 1–3, Cdl. Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the synod, told a Vatican press conference on Monday.
On Jan. 18, the Church of England released "historic plans" that allow same-sex couples "to come to church to give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership and receive God's blessing."
The bishops of the Church of England apologized to the LGBT community for the "rejection, exclusion and hostility" they have faced in churches and the impact this has had on their lives, urging congregations to welcome same-sex couples "unreservedly and joyfully."
The denomination reaffirmed its commitment to a "radical new Christian inclusion founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it — based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st Century understanding of being human and of being sexual."
The proposals follow a six-year period of listening, learning and discernment known as Living in Love and Faith. Fr. Radcliffe was a key Catholic facilitator in the process and is extensively cited in the LLF document as an authority favoring homosexual relationships.
The 221-page LLF document offers a summary of Radcliffe's transcripts of his presentation to the LLF working group, hailing the Dominican as delivering an "impressive presentation" and as someone "well known" for his "work on sexual and relational ethics."
In his presentation, summarized in the LLF document, Radcliffe, a well-known preacher and writer whose books have been translated into 24 languages, states that "both this obsession with sex and a stress on rules (are) both relatively late and alien to traditional Christianity."
"We cannot begin with the question of whether it [homosexuality] is permitted or forbidden! We must ask what it means, and how far it is Eucharistic," Radcliffe emphasizes.
"Certainly, it [homosexuality] can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual and non-violent. So in many ways I think it can be expressive of Christ's self-gift," he observes, explaining how "homosexuality can be expressive of mutual fidelity, a covenantal relationship in which two people bind themselves to each other for ever."
Radcliffe, the former superior general of the Dominicans, agrees that homogenital acts are "not understood to be inherently unitive, a becoming one flesh," which is why the LLF document proposes no equivalence "for non-consummation, the becoming one flesh" or "for adultery, which is the denial of that bond."
The Dominican proposes "a Eucharistic sexual ethic that started with Jesus' gift of his body at the Last Supper" that "might help us to overcome the dualism — the splitting of body and soul — which has been a constant problem for Christian thought, especially since Descartes."
"The October 2023 synod on synodality should be re-named the synod on sodomy," tweeted Nick Donnelly, an English deacon and popular writer.
"Cdl. Grech, the general secretary of the synod, is pro-gay. Sr. Becquart, under-secretary, is pro-gay. Cdl. Hollerich, the relator general, is pro-gay. Fr. Radcliffe, synod retreat leader, is pro-gay," Donnelly added.
In 2005, Radcliffe dissented from the Vatican instruction prohibiting bishops from ordaining homosexuals to the priesthood. In a Tablet article, he wrote:
Having worked with bishops and priests, diocesan and religious, all over the world, I have no doubt that God does call homosexuals to the priesthood, and they are among the most dedicated and impressive priests I have met.
So no priest who is convinced of his vocation should feel that this document classifies him as a defective priest. And we may presume that God will continue to call both homosexuals and heterosexuals to the priesthood because the Church needs the gifts of both.
In a 2006 address to the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference, Radcliffe called on the Church to accompany homosexuals by "watching Brokeback Mountain, reading gay novels, living with our gay friends and listening with them as they listen to the Lord."
The Dominican has also supported Catholic priestesses, suggesting that the ordination of women might be possible "with the consensus of the communion of the Church."
In 2015, Pope Francis appointed Radcliffe as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Because they do not permit same-sex couples to get married in church, the Church of England's proposals have come under fire from pro-LGBT campaigners.
"The formal teaching of the Church of England as set out in the canons and authorized liturgies — that Holy Matrimony is between one man and one woman for life — would not change," the Anglican press office clarified.