I will let Romish bloggers wade through the details. But Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Synod on the Family has issued a statement - a Relatio is the Popish name for it – that among other problematic things recommends that gay orientation is to be “valued” in the church.
I am sorely tempted to insist my still randy heterosexual orientation be valued, too. But I will instead point out a pattern I have noticed. In this particular case, orthodox Roman Catholic bloggers have run to their keyboards to say this is not as bad as it looks at first glance. They have said the Relatio is not a final statement. (True.) That there may be a misunderstanding due to translation. That press reports are wrong. That the statement does not reflect the views of all the bishops. (True.)
But this is not the first time I’ve seen this sort of episode. Not only have we seen this under Francis, we saw it again and again under the Archbishopric of Rowan Williams, to wit:
1. Rowan/Francis or allies act or speak in a manner that undermines orthodoxy or the orthodox.
2. Orthodox who project their wishes onto Rowan/Francis and have a reservoir of good will toward him spin the act/statement into something not so bad. Moreover, they may read something positive between the lines or behind the scenes. (And I recall that I did this myself in more hopeful days for the Anglican Communion. - ed.)
And that Rowan emitted a lot of fog and that Francis speaks freely and off-the-collar in unofficial settings certainly gives room for the orthodox to create positive interpretations and calming disclaimers. Moreover, Rowan and Francis are likeable personalities. Heck, I still like Rowan Williams in a way even as I deplore what he did to the Anglican Communion. It is natural for Christians of good will to give them the benefit of the doubt and more.
Further neither Rowan nor Francis discourage(d) the orthodox in their wishful spin. They may even make noises to encourage it.
3. Rinse. Repeat.
4. But, alas, the passage of time and/or a more final act/statement dashes the hopes of the orthodox. It turns out the leadership of Rowan/Francis really was as bad as feared with distressing consequences for the church. And all that orthodox spin is exposed as wishful thinking indeed.
With Rowan, it got to this point by Lambeth 2008, if not before, when he invited all the consecrators of Gene Robinson and turned Lambeth into a useless indaba session rightly boycotted by over 200 bishops.
We have not yet gotten to such a point (i.e. 4.) with Francis. Nor do I ever expect 200 bishops to boycott an invitation from him or any similar RC split. But I see the same pattern with him and the orthodox as I saw with Rowan Williams. And I do expect that one day Francis or a gathering under him will act or speak in such as way and with enough finality that it will gravely wound the orthodoxy and the orthodox of the Roman Catholic Church.
So forgive me if I call him Pope Rowan.
I do honestly hope I am proven to be mistaken and unfair in so doing. I pray Francis does not prove himself worthy to be called much worse.