Church Changing Colors

Pride FlagCan the Catholic church really change its colors from black and white to rainbow?

In a report by the New York Times, it appears that is exactly what Pope Francis is attempting to do. With a hand-picked group, the paper coming from the 2014 Synod on the family says “that without abandoning church teaching on the sacrament of marriage, pastors should recognize that there are ‘positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation.’” This is a far cry from the stance the Church has taken concerning gay marriage, permitting gays to attend church, accepting couples not married and those who have divorced.

Synod of BishopsThe document reads further to state that while marriage is seen in its most traditional ways, “the Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings.”

This is not without its controversy. As with Second Vatican Council, there are conservative and fundamental Catholics who oppose any change to the Church’s position concerning marriage equality and the fundamental teachings of the Church over the last 2100 years.

Can the Pope’s new position survive the attacks and ridicule of the conservative arm of the Church? It really depends on how strong that arm remains in this time of changing moral of the general public and younger parishioners. If this largest denomination of the Christian faith wishes to continue to maintain its supremacy worldwide, it must change with the times.

Philosopher and author Joseph Campbell once said that the problem with the Western religions is that have no kept up with the changes in knowledge, technology and science. The change in the Church’s position concerning marriage equality, divorce and the acceptance of children from non-traditional marriage is a major change to the convention of Catholicism.  

This also takes in a fundamental change in the way the Church is interpreting scripture. It will recognize that same-sex couples and those of the LGBT community are receiving rights never before imagined by secular authorities. As gay marriage continues to make strides toward legalization in the United States alone, the Church is losing the opportunity to maintain its flock because one segment of the population is being ostracized. By accepting the children of these non-traditional couples, the Church will show its liberal side, a side that reflects more on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth than the conclaves that detest change.

In this respect, the synod writes, “Without denying the moral problems associated with homosexual unions, there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to […] children who live with same-sex couples and stresses that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.”

(It is to be noted here that the Church writes “Children who live with” as opposed to “the children of…” It does not seem to recognize that one can be a “natural” parent of a child while being homosexual or a heterosexual couple living outside of marriage.) 

Should the atheist community be wary of the proposed change? That answer is “Yes and No.” Many have left the Church, declaring themselves as non-believers because of the refusal of the church to change with the times. Some may return to the pews but many will not. This may also signal a split in the Church itself, a split between the liberal and conservative movements.

Will the Church eventually recognize marriage equality? Maybe, but most likely not during this conference of Bishops. However, “”’”

This would include those divorced couples who never had their marriages dissolved by the Church, “avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against.”

It appears, at least from this writer’s position, that the Church is practicing a form of damage control, that the loss of parishioners, especially in the United States, is a cause of much concern.

I believe that if the changes proposed are eventually accepted into Church doctrine, the hemorrhaging of members will slow down. But as Campbell stated, as we grow in knowledge and advance in science, many will continue to question the place and purpose of religion, aside from the social aspect.

I believe that the rate of acceptance of atheism and Humanism will increase a bit more and hold until a major moral crisis alters the precarious balance. This is not whether or not gays should marry or if children of divorced couple can be accepted by the Church, but a moral dilemma where our national morals have not yet taken a stance.

About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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