Pope Francis may open Catholic Church doors for remarried divorcees and gays
VATICAN: Pope Francis was set to sort his allies from
his enemies on Saturday with a Vatican vote on a document drafted at the end of
a fierce two-week debate over opening the Catholic Church’s doors to remarried
divorcees and gays.
The vote will close a special synod of bishops from
around the world which has seen conservatives clash publicly with liberals over
a Francis-backed drive to reform the Church by softening its approach to
Ahead of the vote, the cardinals overwhelmingly approved
a message to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics stressing the value of “unique
and indissoluble conjugal love” but without touching directly on the hot topic
of non-traditional unions.
Several told a news conference they were confident the
final synod document would pass with the necessary two-thirds majority later on
Saturday after Vatican experts raised the real possibility it could fail. The
vote has turned into a referendum on the Pope’s audacious line.
Pope Francis, 77, has called for the Church to take a
more merciful approach to unwed mothers, remarried divorcees and gays, famously
saying of homosexuals, “Who am I to judge?”
A preliminary report on Monday made waves around the
world by suggesting the Church should reach out to homosexuals, who have “gifts
and qualities to offer the Christian community”, outraging traditionalists who
had to be reminded by the Vatican that it was a work in progress.
A fresh report on Thursday summed up the reactions of
10 working groups of bishops, which mixed declarations of respect for
homosexuals with fierce insistence that any opening up to sinners would imply
the Church condoned their behaviour.
The final document is expected to take into account
the bishops’ amendments, but will be written by a drafting committee made up of
perceived progressives appointed by Francis himself.
The fallout in the corridors of power, which Boston
Globe Vatican expert John Allen described as “like a daytime soap opera”, has
already caused at least one head to roll.
Outspoken Cardinal Raymond Burke, currently head of
the Vatican’s top canon law court, confirmed to Buzzfeed that he would be
removed from the job to be made patron to the Sovereign Military Order of
Malta, an honorary post.
He told the US news website, “The Pope is not free to
change the Church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts
or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”
The vote will reflect the attitude of the top echelons
of the Church towards reform -- and ultimately towards Francis's rule, which
has been coloured since his election in March last year by a determination to show
the more humane side of the centuries-old institution.
“The Synod splits over gays and divorcees: there’s a
risk of an anti-pope vote,” read a headline by Franca Giansoldati, Vatican
expert for Italy’s Il Messaggero daily, which described the vote as “a nasty
test for Pope Francis”.
“The risks are high. If the amendments are not
inserted in the text the biggest surprise could come from the vote. The
majority, for now, do not seem to be in favour -- and the count could prove
fatal,” she said.
German Cardinal Walter Kasper, an ally of the pope's
who has been pushing for reform, has said he believes the ‘majority’ of those
taking part in the synod are open to change. Kasper suggested in February that
remarried divorcees should be allowed to take communion under certain
Critical bishops have said the initial document placed
“too much emphasis on the problems facing the family. Many bishops have asked
that the document be thoroughly re-written. There have been such a number of
negative reactions that the risk is it won't pass the vote unless its heavily
revised,” Marco Tosatti, who writes for La Stampa’s Vatican Insider, told AFP.