In the mid-1990s, the U.S. bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family Life drafted a pastoral document addressed to parents who have lesbian or gay children. During the many revisions of the document, Bishop Joseph Charron of Des Moines, Iowa, who chaired the committee at the time, appeared before the 60-member Administrative Board of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to present the draft.
He returned from one such meeting very discouraged. The board had gutted a section of the document that spoke about the role of conscience in making complex decisions. In frustration, he complained that these men had no understanding of what it meant to show pastoral understanding in the face of difficult life situations.
That's how I felt when I heard the news that the bishops at the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family backtracked on the cordial tone of the interim document released after the first week of discussions. Do these bishops know what it means to show a pastoral face? Wasn't this synod called to discuss "pastoral issues"? Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people and their allies did not make excessive demands. They were seeking some kind words of welcome.