The three-week-long synod or meeting of bishops at Vatican – one of the most important for the church in the last few decades – ended on Saturday. The meeting – the subject was family – did not deliver much in doctrine; there was no path-breaking change in the way the church looked at issues such as homosexuality, divorce or remarriage.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the head of Mumbai’s Roman Catholic archdiocese, which has nearly five lakh members, and one of the most senior church members in India, was clear that no major theological changes were expected at the meeting. While talking to reporters at a press conference on October 22, he had said: “very clearly this synod is not making doctrine, but it’s really seeing what the pastoral approach is.”
The meeting, however, did make news - for issues other than dogma. Just before the start of the synod, a Polish-born senior church official came out as gay. He was, of course, defrocked, but he accused the church of ‘hypocrisy’ in such matters.
Mumbai has not been unaffected by the event in Rome. Gracias’ interview with a LGBT group ruffled orthodox views in Mumbai. Gracias spoke to the New Ways Ministry, which calls itself a ‘Catholic’ LGBT group. He told them: ‘The church embraces you, wants you…, needs you’.
The archbishop’s office in Mumbai said that the cardinal’s view reflected theirs. Bishop Agnelo Gracias said, “That has always been our stand.”
But some groups in Mumbai are angry at Gracias’ comment. On Monday, a group called Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC), which opposes any change in the stand on homosexuality, conducted a survey and concluded that an overwhelming majority opposed any accommodation of homosexuals in the church. The group claimed to have received over 2,500 responses, four-fifth of which opposed the view that gay people should be treated equally by the church.
The synod document released on Saturday has not mentioned homosexuality. In fact, the document is so ambivalent on debated issues like divorce and annulment of marriages that, as some commentators said, both the liberals and the conservatives can claim victory. The church’s doctrine, or policy, on these issues, remains unchanged.
However, Mumbai groups think the cardinal’s comment is a let-down. While they are not opposing changes in the way the church has looked at divorcees or remarried people, they are against accommodating the LGBT community in the church. “The cardinal can have his personal views on homosexuality, but a lot of people in our parish don’t think it is okay to accommodate gays in church,” said Justin Rayan, the president of Thane AOCC.
“People don’t agree with the archbishop’s statement,” said Savio Miranda from the group, CROSS (Catholic Residents Organisation for Social Service). “Homosexuality is a sin though transgender is fine because it is natural.”
The view in the archbishop’s office is that the groups opposing the cardinal’s comments do not represent the majority. Bishop Gracias said, “A majority of people who I met are in agreement with what the cardinal said. The e-mails that I received support this view.”