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African Archbishop Lays Down “Daring” Challenge for Synod on the Family


Diane Montagna - published on 02/25/15

What do you mean by “any form of marriage”?

Take Africa. There are people in polygamous relationships, who were involved in it before becoming Christians. Their family had to make a choice: to let go of one women or two women with all their children without hurting the children, without hurting the wives. So it is an issue.

How do I baptize children of polygamous marriages? What do I teach them? If I’m going to tell them, “Your daddy must let go of your mommy,” will that not hurt the child emotionally, even spiritually for the rest of his or her life, to the point that he or she may even decide the Church is bad because it broke up my family?

I can tell you for sure that there are polygamous marriages where you will be amazed at the harmony between the husband and his different wives, among the different wives, and among their children. It’s amazing. There are many, many other instances where there is so much hurt going on among the different women, among the different children, and these must be brought to the fore. How do we help all of those involved to look at Christ, and to what Christ invites them to?

The Book of Hebrews says: “We keep Christ in view, and we strive towards him.” So how do I help them to keep Christ in view? And how do I accompany them in whatever circumstance they find themselves? 

In Africa — this is the context I’m dealing with — I will not close my eyes to the fact that there are instances in Africa of homosexuals, people with homosexual tendencies, people with lesbian tendencies. Africa has always frowned upon that, because we have always looked at marriage as contributing to the well being of the greater society, not necessarily only to the well being of the individuals. 

So in a way, we may have to say that anyone who had a certain tendency was not happily looked at. In fact, there have been instances when their human rights have been trampled upon. The Church is calling us to understand that. Whether the person has homosexual tendencies or heterosexual tendencies, the person is created in the image and likeness of God, and that image and likeness of God is what we must protect. That is what we must defend. And that is why we must help that individual listen to what God says about his or her state. And I think that is the beauty of what the Church teaches us.

So this period between the Extraordinary Synod and the Ordinary Synod is providing us a period of time, as we view the Lineamenta, to listen, to pray, and to discern. When we meet in October, I believe we are going to state what the Church has always taught. We’re not going to water it down. But it’s going to be stated in a way that it does not in any way at all exclude anybody from the journey and the path towards Christ, who is the fulfillment of our perfection.

In the West, the gay lobby is very strong and has a lot of power in the media. Many people are therefore concerned that, if the language is too relaxed, the Synod will be an occasion where some use vague language to put forth ideas that are contrary to the Gospel. 

For instance, the word “accogliere” [to welcome] was a word used a great deal during the Extraordinary Synod last October. The word, in some instances, has been hijacked to make it seem as though the Church is on its way to approving homosexual relationships. What do the bishops need to say next October in order to communicate both to Africa and and to the West exactly where the Church stands? 

You know, if there is anything I find beautiful about Pope Francis, it is how he calls us back to the question: How would Christ act in this circumstance? 

And I think one of the deepest respects I have for him was when he was returning from Rio de Janeiro and was interviewed by journalists who were interested in knowing what the Pope thinks about lesbians and gays, when he said: “If a gay is looking for Christ, who am I to condemn the person?” 

I think the Pope took the stance of Jesus Christ. For instance, in the face of the woman who was caught in adultery, those who were standing there wanted to stone her to death. And what did Jesus say? “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” The Bible tells us “they went away one by one.” Now if you remember the question Jesus posed to the woman: “Woman, has no one condemned you?” She responds: “No one.” He says: “Then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” 

The beauty of what I like about this is that Jesus first thought he must save this woman and her God-given dignity and the gift of life that God had given her. After he had saved her and made her understand that God loves her, then he tells her: now go and repair whatever is between you and God. I find it beautiful.

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Pope FrancisSynod on the Family
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