The Diocese of Davenport (Iowa) issued a set of “Guidelines for Pastoral Accompaniment of Sexual and Gender Minorities,” designed to take effect on October 4, 2023. The four-page document was the product of almost three years’ work by the diocese’s “gender committee.” While its doubtful authority goes no further than that diocese’s limits, it offers insights as to the “church” that the radical proponents behind the Synod on Synodality want to see.
The Pope’s Rhetoric of Inclusion
The Guidelines begin with sympathetic rhetoric that ignores two millennia of Church teaching.
“In recent decades, society and the Church have become increasingly aware of people who experience differences in sexual orientation or gender discordance. As Christian disciples, we cannot ignore these realities or cast aside people who experience sexual attraction to others of the same sex or a deep disassociation between their biological sex and expressed gender. The Gospel of Jesus Christ bids us to love such people who feel marginalized and even threatened.”
The Guidelines lists and elaborates on five basic principles. First, it recommends a “fundamental respect” for everyone, recognizing that God created each one in His image and likeness. The second is to accept people’s differences regarding “gender” and “sexual orientation.” The third announces that the first consideration is to love and listen to all people, no matter their experiences or preferences. The fourth criterion—perhaps that most related to the current Synod—is “a commitment to involving others in the discernment process.” The last principle is a commitment to evaluate such situations on a “case by case” basis and to be willing to accommodate them whenever possible.
While the exact authors of these lines are probably lost in the mists of diocesan bureaucracy, their prominence at the beginning of this document means that these sentiments must have the full approval of Davenport’s bishop, the Most Reverend Thomas Zinkula. They must also meet with the Pope’s support, as he recently promoted Bishop Zinkula to be the Archbishop of Dubuque, an office he assumed on October 18, 2023.
Liberal and Radical Applause
The liberal Catholic press, especially the National Catholic Reporter, Is thrilled with Bishop Zinkula’s position. Its staff reporter, Katie Collins Scott, quoted Deacon Ray Dever, a permanent deacon who, according to the article, has a “transgender child.”
“Other dioceses ‘have taken a one-size-fits-all approach that in most cases effectively deny the existence of trans people and exclude openly trans people from the life of the church. I think that any family with a trans child would find in guidelines such as Davenport’s a renewed hope that their child would someday feel welcomed in the church.’”
The article, unsurprisingly, brands the effort as a success.
“[E]arly feedback in the diocese is positive,” according to Marianne Agnoli, coordinator of marriage and family life, “while Catholic onlookers with disparate views laud it.”
Everyone From Left to Far-Left
The disparity of these views is, however, highly questionable. The Reporter article cites two. One is Abigale Favale of Notre Dame University. She is the author of The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory.1 The other is Maxwell Kuzma, “a transgender Catholic from Ohio.” The two have apparently differed, but they both strongly approve of the Guidelines.
OF course, the Reporter cited no one who supports traditional Catholic understandings. The aforementioned disparity, apparently, only goes from liberal to radical.
Less than a week later, the Reporter ran another article praising the Guidelines. This time, the author was Robert Shine, an associate director of New Ways Ministry. That group defines itself as “a Catholic outreach that educates and advocates for equity, inclusion, and justice for LGBTQ+ persons.”
Mr. Shine enthused that “These guidelines rightly name that loving a person is far more important than defending church teaching.”
False Choices Abound
This statement is absurd because it sets up a false dichotomy. It assumes that one must choose between “loving a person” and “defending church teaching.” In Mr. Shine’s mind, these are polar positions that can never meet. In this, he displays two of the many fallacious assumptions many “woke” pundits make.
First, he leaves out any mention of Our Lord and the narrow path to heaven about which He spoke. (See Matthew 7:14 and Luke 13:24.)
Secondly, any such consideration of this scriptural truth would reveal that the loving people and Church dogmas are entirely compatible. Why does Church teaching, even the Church itself, exist? In the most basic sense, the Church exists to help people gain salvation through Our Lord and Savior, for there is no other way.
Coupling Love With Sin
From the earliest days of the Church, sodomy and all other sexual practices outside of the bounds of marriage have been considered grievous and mortal sins, regardless of the motivations behind them. So, to abandon the Church’s traditional teaching leaves those who indulge in these practices in peril of Hell. In no sense does “loving a person” include recommending activities that condemn that person to eternal torment.
Mr. Shine identified the Davenport position with that of the Holy Father. “This sentiment is very similar to Pope Francis’ repeated exhortation that reality is more important than ideas.”
Again, this is a false choice. Reality and ideas are not opposed to each other, as Pope Francis implies. The best ideas develop out of long experience. For two thousand years, Holy Mother Church has observed the attitudes and practices of people both within and without the Faith, as well as their consequences. From those observations, She has developed a set of dogmas that advise people who want to live according to God and his commandments.
That is not what is happening with the Synod on Synodality. In fact, the goal is precisely the opposite. Many particpants of the Synod are looking for excuses to allow practices that violate Catholic dogma. The “ideas” are to be set aside so that people can pursue sinful behavior and call it virtuous. That is the false hope the Synod holds out to a world adrift. These worm-eaten “life preservers” will not keep them above water when the final judgment comes.