This latest development within the Roman Catholic Church by the prestigious ‘Wijngaards Insitutute for Catholic Research’ which has issued a Report with a foreword by a former member of the CDF, Rev. Dr Krzysztof Charamsa. willp prove an important tool in the Catholic Church for a radical reassessment of the official CDF attitude towards those who are intrinsically different in their sexual orientation from the binary norm.
Prompted by the recent Vatican Document from the CDF, which reiterated the official view of the Church that homosexuality is ‘a grave sin’ (while yet asserting that people who are homosexual need to be treated with care); this community of scholars at the Wijngaard Institute has drawn attention to new research which overturns the former assessment – by both the Church and the medical world – that homosexuals are in some way responsible for their condition; needing both spiritual and medical healing.
No doubt, Pope Francis’ recent insistence on the formulation of local synodical groups throughout the Catholic world – open to the Faithful Laity as well as clergy and bishops – is his personal response , in part, to the findings of the Institute; which will become part and parcel of the discussions that it is hoped by Pope Francis will take place in the broader context of the whole Church – before the next world Conference of Bishops that is now scheduled to take place in Rome at some future date.
Naturally, the more conservative people of the Roman Catholic hierarchy – in Rome and elsewhere, are nervous at the possible implication of Pope Francis’ determination to broaden the current concept of ‘synodality’, which, for Roman Catholics has hitherto meant an exclusive gathering of Bishops to discuss the faith and witness of the Church from their hierarchical point of view. (n.b.this tradition may be said to have been changed by Pope John XXIII’s invitation to Lay ‘periti’ (observers) at Vatican II).
(It took the Anglican Church in New Zealand in the 19th century to implement first the idea of involving the ‘Faithful Laity’ (the unordained) in the synodical process, with each person having having speaking rights and a vote on the outcome of the Synod – thus extending to the laity a share in the government of the Church. This, biblically, can be discerned as following the concept of Baptism into Christ being the primary preparation for any ministry in The Body of Christ – the Church. Only by including all of the Faithful in the administration of the Body, can it be said to be the more perfect Institution).
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
New Research from the Wijngaards Institute
The Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research says:’Ground-breaking new study annuls Christian homophobia as theologians appeal directly to Pope Francis: Announcing the launch of the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research’s: “Christian Objections to Same-Sex Relationships: An Academic Assessment”.’Christian theologians and academics have joined forces to produce a new interdisciplinary and ground-breaking study that disproves Christian objections to same-sex relationships. We are calling for an urgent change in Roman Catholic teaching based on these academic findings which should serve as the final nail in the coffin of biblical and other arguments justifying homophobia.
‘The Wijngaards Institute’s study is being launched shortly after the recent statement from the Vatican doctrinal office – the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – that upheld the ban on blessing same-sex unions stating: “You cannot bless sin”. This reinstated the decades-old papal teaching vilifying same-sex attraction as ‘disordered’, which has been causing untold harm worldwide. No kind words or “pastoral” gestures can heal that wound: only a change in teaching will. And in light of the deeply flawed arguments behind that stance, such a change is long overdue.
Pope Francis has often insisted on the need for church authorities to listen to Catholics in general, and theologians and other experts in particular. He has expressed both in words and deeds his preference for discussions of contentious theological issues to take place openly and frankly. And he has encouraged decisions about them to be taken democratically and in a decentralized manner, in synods and other representative church gatherings at every level of the Roman Catholic Church, from the ground up.
Finally, he has repeatedly underlined the obligation to take the side of the marginalized and discriminated against.’We welcome such an attitude, and in that spirit, we present the main recommendation of our Academic Statement, backed by a research report and endorsed by more than sixty prominent scholars: that the competent authorities in the Catholic Church set up a transparent, independent consultation process on these findings.’The absolute condemnation of same-sex relationships as ‘intrinsically disordered’ is not shared by most Roman Catholics worldwide. But it is still papal teaching: all CDF documents only have authority because they are endorsed by the Pope.’Therefore, in virtue of Pope Francis’ position, and in light of his record of welcoming words and pastoral attitude towards gay people, he has a unique duty and responsibility to kick-start such an independent study to revisit the teaching he has inherited from his predecessors.’
Supporting this call for change is the author of the foreword to our report – Rev. Dr Krzysztof Charamsa. As a former Official of the CDF, Dr Charamsa is well qualified to challenge their flawed theology and introduces this study as: “A message of hope in an hour of wavering certainties: This Academic Statement is a gift and a commitment to the Church. Theologians, aware of their scientific and Christian responsibility, address themselves to helping the judgment of the Church to mature… By presenting the progress of the humanities and biblical sciences, the signatories perform an act of intellectual honesty and trust in the Church.”
‘Another high-profile signatory of our academic Statement, Professor Mary McAleese, writes: “This international collaborative research project is the first serious attempt to use the tools of interdisciplinary scholarship to challenge, probe and interrogate church teaching in the area of homosexuality. The People of God have needed this to help convince a blinkered magisterium to open its eyes and ears, to see and hear the damage inflicted on good people young and old by teachings that run counter to science and counter to the love of the Creator.
Download the Research Paper