Catholic bishops endorse Pope Francis’ call for more open-hearted church

Pope Francis closed a three-week meeting of Catholic Bishops on Sunday that focused on the church's position on family issues. The Bishop's expressed a more tolerant view toward divorced Catholics, but blocked any reconsideration of the church's stance on gay marriage. Philip Pullella, the Vatican correspondent for Reuters, joins William Brangham to discuss.

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    Today at the Vatican, Pope Francis closed a three-week-long meeting of Catholic bishops focused on the church's position on family issues.

    The bishops expressed a more tolerant view toward divorced Catholics, but blocked any reconsideration of the church's stance on gay marriage. In comments widely seen as critical of church leaders, the pope said, in part, quote: "A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts."

    Joining me now via Skype from Rome is Philip Pullella. He's the Vatican correspondent for Reuters.

    So, Philip Pullella, this would seem to be a very contentious meeting these last few weeks. Explain what was going on there.

  • PHILIP PULLELLA, Vatican Correspondent, Reuters:

    Well, for the past two weeks, the bishops were discussing — bishops from around the world, about 270 of them, plus another 50 or 60 delegates and observers, were discussing family issues.

    They discussed a whole range of issues. But the key — the two key elements that emerged as the most contentious was how the church could be more merciful to those Catholics who divorced — the church doesn't recognize divorce — and then remarried outside the church, without having a church annulment.

    Now, a good number of them want to return to the church completely and want to be allowed to receive communion. But, as things stand now, they can only receive communion if they abstain from sex with their new partner. Otherwise, they are considered to be in an adulterous relationship.

    Now, there has been a lot of controversy about that, and a lot of requests, particularly from the German bishops and other bishops conferences in Europe, and even one or two bishops in the States. So, the proposal was to allow local bishops or a confessor to decide together with the Catholic on a case-by-case basis whether he or she feels that, in good conscience, they can go to communion.

    Now, this was approved as a possibility by the synod. It that has to be developed a bit. But this was clearly a victory for the progressives, who wanted this to be — who wanted this to be possible. But we will see what the pope decides himself when he writes his own document.


    And on the issue of homosexuality, there was — was no movement.



    The progressives would have wanted more welcoming language on homosexuals. The church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful, but that homosexual acts are. That is not going to be changing for the foreseeable future.

    But what progressives wanted was more welcoming language, calling homosexuals our brothers, our sisters, our colleagues, and perhaps even some language that said that there are certain — that positive aspects to a gay relationship can be seen in a loving, lasting relationship, that — this issue was so contentious the last time the synod met a year ago, where some of the very, very progressive language was absolutely thrown out by the synod, that, this time, they decided to just sidestep that issue almost totally.

    And the only mention of homosexuality is how to — how to deal with a homosexual who is part of your family in a loving relationship, et cetera. But it restated the church's position that a homosexual marriage, a homosexual relationship cannot be considered in any way, even remotely — excuse me — comparable to a marriage between a man and a woman.

    So, the issue has been sidestepped completely.


    All right, Philip Pullella, thank you very much for joining us.


    Thank you very much.